Thursday, November 22, 2012

Handling lots of different colored floss

A few years ago, I finished up Angel of Cross Stitch. She had, I believe, 391 colors of DMC floss in the whole project. One of the big questions I got from other stitchers was about managing my thread. How did I organize it? Did I use one needle or several needles threaded with different colors? Well, with that project I just pulled my boxes of DMC floss (I keep it on cardboard bobbins in plastic boxes) out and stacked them on the ottoman in front of me and pulled out what I needed as I needed it.

But Baby Ghosts is different. I only have to deal with 73 colors, most of which need one skein or less with a few needing two or three skeins and then 16 skeins of black floss. So how do I keep the colors straight? First, I decided to buy fresh floss for the whole project. It will take a long time and it drives me crazy when a color is unavailable because it's stuck in another project. I also won't have to worry about little dye lot changes. Then I looked at how the colors were used on my chart. I saw that most of the colors were used in either large areas or over multiple areas of the chart. That means that I'll need most of my colors easily available for the entire project. I have a number of the size 26 needles I'm using for this project in my stash and can get more quite inexpensively in bulk from my local needlework shop, so I can have a threaded needle for each color.

I bought some bobbins and rings. Each thread color except black goes on a bobbin. Each bobbin is marked with both the DMC number and the chart symbol. Then the floss is put on the big rings in the same order as they are on the chart. I pulled out my Pako needle organizer and will use that for all the colors except black. I have a second Pako I'll have to use since each only holds fifty needles. When I use a color for the first time, that threaded needle will go into the correct opening on the Pako. I have the green tomato pincushion for the black floss.

By cutting down on the time needed to find and change out my thread, I hope to have this project move along a little faster. All the needed floss is in one place in a form that's easy for me to find when I need it. In the meantime, the scotch has worn off and I've come to my senses. Someday has come but it's gone as well. So this project is going back in my kitted projects while I finish up my more urgent WIPs. I want to complete "To Honor Elsa" and then get "Cleopatra's Cat" finished in time to send it in for evaluation.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I did a bad thing....

....and started a new project. I have been trying to work my way through my existing Works in Progress (WIPs) and being careful to not purchase any new projects (though somehow acquiring a free one from someone else's stash reduction doesn't seem to count). But the other night, after relaxing with a scotch on ice, I got the brilliant idea to pull out a kitted-up project and get it started.

And it's a big project. BIG.

Some of you may know about the trend over the last decade or so toward computer-generated charts. A designer will start by importing an image into a computer program which converts it into a stitchable image. A GOOD designer will then fine-tune the image to improve the balance and color issues. In the early days of this technology, the goal was to create an chart that was similar to the old hand-drawn charts and to feature an image stitched with a lot of background fabric still showing. Over the past few years, however, the goal has been to recreate artwork in it's entirety with a chart that requires the needleworker to completely cover the fabric. In a way it's like the old tent-stitched needlepoint charted projects except that there typically are a lot more stitches per inch so that the design is more detailed.

A few year's ago, I was at Stitcher's Paradise in Las Vegas. I highly recommend stopping by if you have a chance. This piece called Baby Ghosts by Mystic Stitch was on loan to them by a customer. I loved it! The only problem were those little words at the bottom: "stitches: 250 x 352." What does that mean? Well, we multiply those numbers together to get the amount of little x's you're gonna have to make to finish this chart.


Using 73 different colors.


Looked like I would BE a ghost by the time I finished this one. But it was so cute! So I got the chart and started collecting the DMC floss (including the 16 skeins of black) needed for this. I dug out some 18-count aida that I'd picked up at a sale and decided to baste a grid onto the fabric. I thought it wouldn't take more that a couple of hours to work out and stitch the gridding. It took two full days. However, I expect that I'll save time being able to easily locate my stitching location.

Here is my fabric with the grid on it. I used three colors of thread: yellow for the 10 x 10 stitches grid to match the chart, dark green for the edge of each of the 25 (!) pages of the chart, and red to mark the middle of the overall chart. As I reach a basted line, I cut and remove just that part that's in the way so that I don't end up stitching into it and having trouble removing it later.

Here is a close up of the area near the upper middle of my chart. You can better see the different lines. Note that the page edges are often off from the general 10-stitch grid area. After I finished getting the grid on, I put the whole thing away for "someday." As you can see by the stitching on it, someday arrived.

After getting this big project gridded, I had to decide how to handle 73 floss colors. I'll talk about that later.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Been to Santa Fe

Since my last post, I've been quite busy. I did not finish the Spooky Halloween Mantle so it went back into the UFO pile for awhile. I finished up another project I can't talk about yet (Christmas gift). I've also been working on a local EGA chapter project. But most of my time has been taken by my trip to Santa Fe for the EGA national seminar.

I took a four-day class taught by Marnie Ritter called "To Honor Elsa." When Elsa Williams ran her needlework school many years ago, Marnie started first as a student and then became a teacher for Elsa. Marnie received permission to redesign one of Elsa's classic crewel designs for silk. I really enjoyed the class! Here is a photo of the model over my partially-finished piece. The twill Marnie used for this project is wonderful for needlework.

 Here is a close-up of the top flower. The petals are outlined in chain stitch, a big irregular cross stitch is used to fill in the outer part of each petal, and then straight stitches are used for the center of each petal. Fishbone stitch is used to make the two pink and the green center of the flower. See how I've left just a little bit of stitching detached at the top of the center stem? One of the elements Marnie talked about was keeping things open, even a little detached.
 Here is my partially finished bottom flower. You can see some of the satin shading stitches for the pink petals. That line around the orange petals is a buttonhole satin stitch, as is the multicolored metallic on the right.I really like that effect.
Then these fun little guys were worth the class alone. They're whipped spider web flowers with a bead in the middle. The droop is french knots, some wrapped twice and some wrapped only once. All these stitches (except the metallics) were done with a single strand of silk floss. I thought it would take a long time but it actually went surprisingly fast.

I'm more comfortable with counted thread work but overall was pleased with how this project progressed. Now that I'm caught up on my EGA chapter basket band, I need to finish this up while the techniques are fresh in my mind. Between the class, meeting with other stitchers, and the merchandise night I really enjoyed the seminar. I'd never been to Santa Fe before and I thought it was a beautiful little city. I had great green chile stew and sopapillas, bought a turquoise necklace from a native artisan at the governor's palace and did a little Christmas shopping. Overall it was a great trip.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spooky Halloween Mantle

I am enjoying a few days of stitching bliss. 

Day 1 start. This kit from Bent Creek actually came in three parts. It's done on 18-count linen over 2 threads with pearl cotton so it goes pretty fast. That a photo of the finished design at the bottom.

Here is the end of day 1. My owl now can fly and see and the cat must contend with a spider. I'm stitching in hand (without a hoop or frame). I may switch over to a charity project because I have time constraints on that and, since I won't get this done in time for Halloween this year anyway, I should save it for doing on an upcoming plane trip.

I'm really proud that I've finally figured out how to update my blog from my iPad. Now I can update when I'm out of town!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Just a quick post

I wanted to let you all know about the blog I write for the Baldy View EGA chapter I joined a few years ago.

I've spent a lot of time today trying to figure out some stuff on my smartphone and feeling a little dumb about it so not a lot of needlework is happening right now. In the meantime, here's a non-needlework picture of my daughter's dog Thor just because he's cute. I'm going to bed now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Halloween Stitching

With the weather cooling down at my house (which here means falling below 100° F.) I feel like Halloween is on the way. Here are some of my current and past Halloween projects.

Kerry Ince from We, Of The Needle in Brea framed "Ghoul School" by Glendon Place for me. I added glow-in-the-dark blending filament to my ghosts. The characters were easy because all their heads are buttons.

  Next is a project I'm planning to start called "Corn-elia" by Ann Strite-Kurz. This is designed to be an ornament but someone in Inland Empire EGA has already finished it as a needle book. It's just the right size for a scissor case, too.

Some past Halloween Projects:

I don't remember the designer but I did this a few years ago. I added the red letters over the cat. Isn't he fierce! He's framed in a shadowbox with Halloween accents.

 "Remember Me" by Birds of a Feather. This was my first time stitching with over-dyed thread. The motto is one of my favorites. It's usually in some flowery Victorian-style sampler but it really rocks with a witch and skeleton. This was framed by Bob at Needles and Niceties in Upland.

 This little Mill Hill kit is stitched on paper. Again, I added glow-in-the-dark to the ghost. It was the first time I'd done that and I felt so clever.

This Mill Hill kit is stitched on fabric. I liked the look of it on the stretcher bars so much that I just left it on.

"Scared Silly" by Bird's of a Feather.  I like her designs. I bought a frame to put this in before I started stitching it. Yeah, I stitched it in 2010 and yeah, it's still not framed. Now THAT'S scary.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Wedding Sampler is Done

My daughter's wedding sampler is done!

 This is the 1Corinthians Wedding Sampler by Stoney Creek. As with most needlework, the photo can't capture what the piece actually looks like. For instance, both the doves and the bells look like they are the same white but they're not; the doves are the natural soft whites and grays you'd expect but the bells are stitched with a white metallic blending filament to look more like painted metal. The gold upper part of each bell is stitched with gold thread and iridescent pearl blending filament while the same gold thread is stitched with a gold blending filament to create the gold bands and clappers. Iridescent stitches are randomly placed in the greenery to look like dew drops. The two hearts on the top are stitched with the iridescent gold colors on the edges and then filled with gold metallic back stitched lines. The effect is a soft shimmer balanced with the matte of the roses and doves and is quite pleasing.

I recently went to see a Lichtenstein exhibit and realized how easily his work translated into photographs because it was, like the graphic art that inspired him, flat and uniformly finished. Really, when you've seen a good quality photo of his work you've pretty much seen the piece (though you should go to an exhibit if you can because his art really is fun). However, so many other artists make texture and finish so much a part of their work that even the best photo can't truly capture it. I remember the first time I saw Van Gogh's Starry Night. I'd seen that image all my life but the real piece was so alive in comparison. Needlework is like that too. While my piece is done in a uniform cross stitch, the gloss of the floss laid in uniformity contrasting with the gleam of the metallics against the matte of the fabric make a contrast that can't be well translated into a photograph.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Project Safe

I've been working on Cleopatra's Cat. It will have to be done by early January and between that and some other stitching I have to get working on it.
This is after two days of stitching. She is outlined in smryna stars and the counting is more difficult than I'd anticipated with some of the stars moving up by only one thread, some by two threads, and some are 1/2 or even 3/4 stars. Once I've got all of them done and know that the outline is correct I can begin to stitch the filling of each section. I am happy that we started up at the top because I like seeing it already looks like a cat.

As a big project, I know that this piece will float around the house at times so I decided to make a project safe for it. A project safe is like a book cover you make that protects your mounted canvas from getting dirty or stretched. Not long after I joined the American Needlepoint Guild I received their September 2010 magazine "Needle Pointers" that had a great article about building an inexpensive project safe from foam core. This idea is from Judy Rager. She presented this at the Indian Wells seminar in 2008 and, since I hadn't had a chance to learn about it there, I was very happy to find the instructions.

I started with foam core, something to cut it with like an exacto knife or box cutter, a long ruler or t-square, and duct tape. Here are my supplies:
I bought the foam core on sale but a friend gets it at a dollar store.

First cut out the front and back covers the same size as your stretcher bars, cut out 1-inch strips to make the "well" and a piece the length and depth of your mounted piece + 2 layers of foam core for the spine. Glue the strips onto one of the cover pieces to hold them in place. Trim 2 inches off the top and bottom well pieces so they fit between the side strips.

Wrap the edges of the other cover piece with your duct tape to keep the box from crumbling. I used red tape. There is a lot of pretty duct tape that you can use for fun or you can use standard silver tape. It's okay if your tape is wrinkled or not quite straight.

Then tape the edges of the first cover. Put tape over the outer edges and then put another strip over the edges of the well. Here I have the second piece on the left and have only the first out piece on the top. Trim the tape in the well corners to help it lay flatter.

Now cover your spine piece. Center it on a strip of duct tape about 2 inches longer that the spine and wrap the edges around the ends. Trim the sides if you'd like. Then put your safe together. Lay down the "well" piece well side up. Lay your project stitching side down so the well space will protect your stitches and beads from getting smashed. Then put the flat cover on top. Push the spine up next to the stack tape side in. Tape the stack together by running tape down the length of the front cover with the tape half on the cover and half on the spine. Then flip the stack over and run tape down the length of the back cover with the tape half on the cover and half on the spine. Remove your project, open the safe and lay it down open and flat with the outside on top. Run another length of tape about 2 inches longer than the spine down the length of the spine and wrap the extra over the top and bottom.
It sound more complicated that it is. You're just making a cover like a notebook cover for your piece. Add a latch by laying down a few inches of tape on the front edge. Tear off a piece of tape about 10 inches long and stick about 3 inches of it on the back at the same height as the piece on the front and wrap it around to stick to the tape piece on the front. Fold the longer end over on itself to make a tab. Open up the latch, put another 3 inch piece of tape on the inside of the latch sticky side to sticky side so the latch won't get adhesive on your piece.

See the latch piece pulled out on the table? The light gray is the sticky part of the tape. The red by my stretcher bars is the extra sticky-to-sticky piece. I have extra tape on my cover because I got the angle wrong to I just stuck another piece in a better spot. I also made my safe about 3/8 inch too small as I didn't allow for my expanded Evertite stretcher bars. Who cares?! It still works fine. My piece is protected from damage while I'm working on something else.

 I've made other project safes before. They say leaning up together in the back of my closet. I'm not going to show you that because my closet is too messy but I will put them on a chair to show them off.

Here is "Goldie the Mermaid" by Dorothy Lesher. Her stitches aren't getting smushed or stretched because she's facing the "well" in her safe. I like that tape, too.

 Here are three safes. I wrote the project name on the front so I don't have to open them to see what's inside. Even when they're stacked on top of each other the project inside is protected. I ran out of the pretty tape on the middle one so I finished it up with blue.
Of course you can stand them on end just like they normally are in my closet. Assuming that I EVER get any of these projects completed, I'll just toss my project safe in the trash. A project safe is good for any project on stretcher bars whether it's canvas or an evenweave fabric.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Around the World Side Project

Some weeks ago, I explained here why I was restarting Around the World in 80 Stitches. That meant that I had a partially finished project. At first I thought I'd make the hearts into Christmas ornaments until a friend suggested an alternative I hinted at here.


I am so pleased with my box! After Denise suggested that the piece would be a great box top, I went to Hobby Lobby and found this wooden box. At a Baldy View EGA meeting, Laurie M. showed us how to use paint and Briwax to turn an inexpensive wooden box into something pretty. The mirror was already in the box. I painted the box light brown and then painted the outside with two coats of ivory. I sanded down the paint to let some of the brown show through, put two coats of dark brown Briwax on the outside and clear wax on the inside, and then lined the interior boxes with pretty paper and felt.

The box in process

I was happy that I could turn what I thought would be a loss into a really pretty gain. The pictures don't show how nice the finish looks. Thank you Laurie for teaching me how to do this. That skill let me turn a - get this - $7 BOX into something this pretty. Yup, seven whopping big ones after my 40% Hobby Lobby coupon. Another few dollars for the paint, some Warm&White and sandpaper while everything else came out of my stash.. I did buy the Briwax but I'd planned on getting that for something else anyway and wanted it for my stash too.

Cleopatra's Cat
Several of the local EGA members are doing a group correspondence course by Mary Long. This is a whopper (for me) project that is mounted on 16 inch x 20 inch stretcher bars.

The designer planned the project in blues but I have much more reds that blues in my stash so my cat will be red. It uses a lot of that pretty gold thread as a laid stitch under each section. Basically you lay gold thread across each row then stitch over it so that the gold peek out from between the more matte threads on top. It's a very pretty effect. I'm using the recommended canvas of eggshell and metallic gold too so it will really shimmer. I'm thinking the green for my kitty's eyes.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Another Part Complete

Here is Around the World in 80 Stitches, Part 4. It's smaller than the previous parts and I thought it was nice to have a bit of a "breather." It's so nice to have this all current.

Here is the whole piece so far. I think it has a bit of a garden feel.

This is "Area 2" of Part 4. The blue diamond is Romanian stitch and the butterflies and hearts are variations of Hungarian stitch.

Here's "Area 2" of Part 4. The leaves are Romanian leaf stitch and the yellow flowers are Hungarian stitch. The pink square "flowers" on both parts are a simple ray stitch. I like that! When I think of a flower it gets really complicated in my head, but here are essentially several simple straight stitches that overlap each other and yet  translate into "flower." I find that interesting.

I'm still working on that box project. As soon as I FINALLY have it completed I'll post pictures.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Around the World Part 3

Here is Part 3 of Around the World in 80 Stitches, a 24-part stitch-a-long from Papillon Creations.

Remember I mentioned that I'd done the plaited fly stitch wrong? I'd misread the chart and thought that some of the stitches had longer "legs." That was actually part of the cutwork stitching. Soooooo, once again, I had to restitch it...again as I'd already messed up and restitched once before! I really am having fun with this project despite (or maybe because of) my errors.

I'm having so much fun with it that I decided to buy a special q-snap cover from Christine in Hanna, Indiana. I saw Debbie's at a get-together and really liked them. I think this print complements my project. I picked up two more for more pieces I'm working on. The covers are well made and were delivered super fast. Sure, I could make one myself, but by the time I dug through my fabric, got my machine out, measured, cut the fabric, messed up the cutting, realized that I didn't have any fabric I really liked after all, went to the store for more fabric, stitched it up, looked for my elastic, went back to the store for more elastic, struggled to get it into the cover properly, and finally got it finished, it really is faster (and cheaper) to buy from Christine.

I've been working on a side project and thought I'd give you a hint. I'm having fun with this too and it's going surprisingly fast. I'll share more later.