Saturday, March 28, 2015

Happy Spring!

Even though the leaves are just starting to come out and the patio furniture is still covered, it is spring at my house. The little embroidery that I teased you with two weeks ago is done and back from the framer early. I'm so excited because it turned out wonderful.

This tiny landscape was was a multi step process--painting silk, stiffening fabrics and threads, embroidering backgrounds, and working with water soluble fabric. It was all new to me, but I love the results. My landscape may be a little overwhelmed by flowers, but that is because I was trying all of the techniques outlined in Creative Hand Embroidery and Hand Embroidered Country Scenes by Sue Newhouse. Since this is a practice piece, I wanted to practice as many flowers as possible.

The finished piece is just 3 inches by 4 inches.


I've had these two books for at least a dozen years, but it was working on the Inspirations piece that I did in December that made me want to explore landscapes in a more determined way.


Sue's books are fantastic. My piece is a conglomeration of the meadow practice pieces that she has in each book. Between the two books, she goes step by step with you through the process of creating your own little scene. I loved the details on making grass and flower heads with stiffened thread. I had no idea how they would turn out, but they are fun to do and really fun to work with. I also loved embroidering the daisys on water soluble fabric, washing out the fabric and then attaching stems and re-stiffening them. It was a lot of steps, but worth the effort. Now that I've tried the techniques I can't wait to do more, and just one look at the wonderful projects her students have done, which fill her books, provides plenty of inspiration on dealing with tricky subjects.

I've plucked half a dozen landscapes off the internet over the last three years that I eventually want to explore in stitches. They range from what I think are easy subjects to much more complex. I'm looking forward to the challenge and since I bought three more shadow boxes, I'm ready to start.


Finally, I am giving a shout out to Michaels in Belmar, west of Denver. I was quite nervous about dropping this piece off to be framed there, but since it was a practice piece, I figured I would try. They did a FANTASTIC job and it was inexpensive since I bought a ready made frame. I'm thrilled! You will definitely be seeing more little world's come to life this year.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Needlework Fiction--The Tenth Gift

The Tenth Gift Jane Johnson (2008)

*** 3/5 stars Check out GoodReads for more reviews of this novel


When Julia Lovat is given a seventeenth-century embroidery pattern book as a break up gift, her life changes in more ways than she can predict. The book once belonged to young Catherine Ann Tregenna, who used the spaces between patterns to record her hopes and dreams of being a master embroiderer. Kidnapped by Barbary pirates along with her Cornish church congregation in 1625, the diary takes a black turn as Cat records the terrors of the voyage and her attempt to begin a new life as a slave in the Moroccan city of Sallee. Julia gives up her own struggling embroidery business to follow the lead of this intrepid young woman and finds more than she hoped for on the northern coast of Africa. It is a tale of love, loss, friendship and fate beautifully told, with some interesting descriptions of seventeenth century embroidery. For obvious reasons dictated completely by the plot, the embroidery takes second stage at points. For those of us who can't get enough of the stitching life, however, it provides plenty of inspiration while showcasing a little known time in history when millions of Europeans were systematically being sold into slavery in Africa.


Resources about places and people in this novel

Jane Johnson provides some historical perspective on the inspiration for her novel at the following link.


Kenegie Manor, where Cat lived before being kidnapped is a real place. It now boasts holiday cottages where you can stay.


The castle where Cat dreamed of living is also a real place.


A little history of Sallee.


And a 17th century map of the port.


Sallee is across the river from Rabat, but not as much of a tourist destination. It was difficult to find photos, but you can see some here.


Before Cat is kidnapped, she is working on an altar frontal. This link has a picture of a Spanish or Italian frontal from the same time period.


The novel discusses Embroidery in Africa as well as England. Use Amazon's "Look inside this book" feature to see some wonderful photos from Moroccan Textile Embroidery.


This short article provides some interesting history of English men who joined forces with the Sallee Raiders.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A little preview

I am so excited having just finished my first Corded Brussel-stitched wired slip! This is for a project I've been working on over the last two weekends. It has many new techniques I've never tried before. In addition to my little slip, I've been painting and stiffening silk and threads. I'm eager to show you how it is all going together, but you will have to wait until I am all done! It won't be long. I hope to have it framed by Easter.

I've always liked detached buttonhole stitch. Now I am in love. This was good practice for my First Night partridge in a pear tree--but that is not what it is for.


Painted and stiffened silk and stiffened knotted threads. I was surprised at how crinkly the silk feels--like a thin version of a cereal box liner!



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Finished sampler with pulled-work border

My recent work trip to Virginia went well. Beautiful weather, relatively short flights, and well- defined working days left me with time in the evenings to embroider in my hotel room with no distractions. As a result, I finished the trellis, pulled-work border on my little sampler. Having never done pulled thread work before, my attempt wasn't without mishaps. For example, I finished pulling the first line of threads, secured them and cut them, only to discover the next morning that I had only pulled up to the inside edge of the vertical border. It was a little harrowing unweaving the secured threads, pulling six more and re-securing them, but I had just enough thread. After that, I pulled from each direction before securing any threads at the corners. The trellis work was challenging as well. The directions I was following weren't detailed, so I wasn't sure if the working thread stayed to the outside or the inside of the loop that hugged the groups of fabric threads. I worked it both ways and didn't see much difference, but finally decided that the working thread stays to the outside. After I finished the entire inside border, the stitching became easier and easier, until the last two sides flew by. I very much enjoyed the repetitive stitch, but I will admit to hating the pulling and securing of the threads. It probably wouldn't have been so bad on a lower stitch-count linen, but on 32 count, it was hard on the eyes. Still, I love the result and look forward to working this technique again.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Le Geste Napolitian

During my last weekend in Rhode Island it was miraculously warmish (almost 40 degrees) and not snowing. For those of you who don't know, we got 65 inches of snow in February, which was much more manageable than Boston's 106 inches. But it was still enough to keep us caged in since the snow always came on Saturdays and Sundays. My poor husband spent several weekends shoveling snow off of roofs and hacking away at ice dams, while I got to know our grandson better. But finally, a nice weekend. So of course, we got out of the house.

This photo is from only Half way through the month!
Roger had to shovel just to get out of the house. No wonder we didn't go far from home in February.

It started with a nice lazy breakfast at a local orchard and coffee house where I finished last weekend's blog while Roger snapped my photo and did some electronic manipulation. Isn't this great?! Then it was out to a buffet lunch at an Indian restaurant in Providence, to the used bookstore at our local library, and finally up to Worcester, Massachusetts to the Worcester Art Museum--a real gem.

As we explored, I was attracted to the painting below. Le Geste Napolitian was painted in 1757 by Jean-Baptiste Grueze, a french painter in Italy. The description card said that Grueze was known for his moralistic, story-telling paintings. Unfortunately, the story, either French or Italian, that explains the action in this painting is lost, but the young woman is sending away her aristocratic lover who is dressed as a peddler. I wish I knew why! I have to take the Worcester art historian's word that her gesture is one of dismissal, although it looks hard wrought to me.

What caught my eye about this painting is peddler's wares. Do you see? His basket is full of embroidery silk, silk ribbon, and lace bobbins! What a wonderful haul. I wish I could pick through it myself. It made me itch to stitch, but I was leaving the next day, or so we thought.

Sunday I packed my bags and we headed to the airport, only to find out that my flights were cancelled. Yes, it was snowing again. But the real problem was that it was snowing in Baltimore, where my connecting flight was supposed to be. As a result, I got another whole day in New England and didn't leave until Tuesday morning. It was a long trip, with another connecting flight cancelled and my rebooked flight late, but I made it back to in Denver 12.5 hours door to door. Unfortunately, that really exhausted me, so there was not much stitching last week. And this week I go on a business trip to Virginia, so I don't expect to accomplish much for awhile. I will bring my little sampler and at least work the hem in the evenings. Cross your fingers that there will be no more cancelled flights--the weather is supposed to be good.

In the meantime, I'll daydream about the maiden and the silk peddler and think of all the wonderful things I could stitch if I had door to door floss delivery. No, mail order just isn't the same!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Not quite done

Last week I thought my little sampler from Cross Stitch Antique Style Samplers (June Greenoff 2005) would be done by today. Not quite. I had a work trip to New York City in the middle of the week, which slowed my stitching. Even so, just working in the evenings while we watched tv or my husband read to me I've almost finished the cross stitching. One little bird is left to stitch, then I can do the drawn work. It is pretty simple hem, but I've just never done drawn work before so I don't want to rush through it. After that I'll mount the piece over colored fabric--maybe green so that I can use this as a Christmas decoration. What do you think?