Thursday, 5 December 2019

Ursine Insinuation

As intimated in my post back in January, Mr G Bear continues his attempt to achieve world domination through Teddy bears. The latest group of 29 recruits have been fully trained in 'Looking Cute', 'Snuggling', 'Comforting', and, apparently, standing on each others shoulders.

Once again I had the fun of sewing them up, stuffing them and giving them faces. Each face is slightly different. That's not intentional on my part, but being bears they demand a certain amount of individuality.
It probably takes a couple of hours to sew up the seams, fill and face each bear. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that each bear took about seven hours from start to finish. But it's fun doing them.

And as for this group;

They are off today to Africa, to Little Libraries via Craft Tea who meet at Leo's Beanery on a Wednesday afternoon. Our bears go where they are needed. Or perhaps their destination is decided on by the mysterious Mr G Bear and they are a 'Ninja Cuddling' squad, a furry Fifth Column in his quest for World Domination by Teddy-Bear.

And that's what I've been doing this week.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Creme de la creme

I don't usually repeat a design but this is an exception.

Crème de la Crème is a reworking of "Fawny of Eight", which appears earlier in this blog. I chose to take the unusual step of reworking an older piece because the Embroiderer's Guild, of which I was a member at the time, was holding a Regional Day in Edinburgh in 2008 and wanted entries for their exhibition of members' work. The theme was Crème de la Crème.

I was asked by one of the organisers if I had anything to submit. There are not many men in the Embroiderer's Guild so they were keen to have something in their exhibition. So I said "We'll see," and had a brief think.

I concluded that in the time available I probably didn't have time to work up something totally new, but I had enjoyed working on Fawny of Eight and was sure I could do it much better second time around.

My memory (not infallible) tells me that this must have been done on 18 count canvas as my notes say I used 4 strands of DMC Ecru. I tried white, but it was too was too stark and cold. The Ecru was just a touch warmer in feeling.
The stitches used are; starting at the top left; Basketweave, Woven Stitch, Twill Variation, Upright Gobelin, Scotch Stitch, Dinaken Stitch, Hungarian Variation (Diagonal) and Upright Brick. The outer border is Satin Stitch.
Because I already had the design, it only took me 30 hours to stitch this, and it was completed in time for the Regional Day.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Earthnight, 27th November 2000

I made this for a competition in Scotland in 2008. The theme was Night and the sub-class was an embroidered cushion, The title comes from the inspiration, a NASA photograph of the Earth at night, dated 27th November 2000.


I was fascinated by the strings and clusters of light and the areas with few or no lights and as it fitted, in my mind, with the theme I decided to create a cushion with a wrap-round map of the earth at night. I did not want the bright areas to be 'in your face', nor did I want a contrast in the colours of the land-masses. During daylight hours the earth is a series of bands of colour, but they don't show up in the same way at night. After some consideration, head scratching and fiddling with options, I decided to keep it simple.

The ground is grey linen, the continents are outlined in running stitch and the infill is cross-stitch. The only exception is the Antarctic which shows as lighter that the other continents. I worked that in a zig-zag running stitch. All the stitching is done with the same (DMC) black stranded cotton.
I then added white beads, packed or spread to reflect the values of the bright areas in the NASA photograph. I secured the beads by sinking them between the arms of the cross stitches AND strangling them. I was determined that they would stand proud and not wiggle!

The finished cushion is about 15" tall and 8" across. If it was a picture it would be about 25 inches wide. It took 109 hours to complete.

And the competition?
I'll admit I was disappointed. It wasn't that the piece did not get placed, I don't think this was some of my best work. What disappointed me was that in the show guide, the hundreds of beads I had so carefully sewn on were described as 'pins stuck in'.
That's what comes of not having Artist's Statements. We may hate having to write them, but at least its our chance to describe our work and how we did it, in our own words. 'Pins Indeed!'

Thursday, 7 November 2019

B is also for Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland, was the venue for the 2007 American Needlepoint Guild Seminar. How could we not go? History and embroidery, lots to see and lots to stitch.

It was August and it was hot, but we were not deterred. We braved the heat to walk around and look at old buildings and monuments, and we learned that Peabody is pronounced Pibidi (with short vowels). We also discovered an amazing piece of sculpture, The Katyn Memorial. It is a memorial to the Poles who were murdered in the Katyn Forest in 1940. I was overwhelmed by it, artistically and emotionally. My picture doesn't do it justice so I have included a link to the website.

We did not get to Fort McHenry, but we did climb Federal Hill. We even adventured beyond Baltimore to Annapolis. The Chapel at the United States Naval Academy has some beautiful embroidery, and the town is a delightful concoction of Late Stuart, Queen Anne and Early Georgian buildings.

The Chapel at Annapolis was interesting for both the embroidery and the architecture, and of course down beneath it is the grave of that well known and respected founding father of the US Navy/Pirate, John Paul Jones. (Delete as appropriate, I suppose it depends whose side you're on.)

Aside from the Seminar and the sightseeing, three things stand out in my memories of this visit. First, the lightning. We had a number of stupendous lightning storms. Second was being able to sit outside ion the warmth and listen to a "The Wailers" concert. I remember when it was "Bob Marley and...". The third is that at the banquet we sang "The Star Spangled Banner". It surprised some at our table that we knew the words (well some of the words).

What about the embroidery?

Having tried and enjoyed Traditional Japanese Embroidery, I had the opportunity to take a class in Rozashi with Margaret Kinsey. Rozashi is the style of embroidery worked by the Ladies of the Imperial Court and other high ranking households. It is worked in hand, with pre-twisted threads - no need for stropping and laying and no need for my trusty tekobari. The ground material is Ro, so a fairly easily countable ground, and all vertical stitches.

The design is called "Ribbons" and utilizes traditional Japanese designs. This was a relaxed and informative two day class during which we learned the basic stitches of Rozashi and where they might be used.
"Ribbons" is 6" square and took 68 hours to stitch.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

B For Bear

I stitched this in 2007 for the American Needlepoint Guild Charity Auction 2008. I don't like to hurry and it still had to go to the finishers to get made up into a 'something'. Since I didn't know how it would be finished - pillow, stand-up, applique, I decided to stitch only a few rows of background, but I included additional background thread in the package when returned it.

I don't know who the designer was, the only indication on the canvas were the letters AT. Whoever it was, thank you for the fun, I really enjoyed working this Bear. He was such a fine fellow I decided he needed a ribbon (which was well secured at the back so that it could not be pulled out) to match his Mouse friend's. 

The Bear took 38 hours to stich. I can't remember the size - it was a long time ago and I didn't make a note of that.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Dying Flames

I stitched this piece shortly after completing "Earth, Fire and Water". It was done specifically to enter the Handcrafts Competition at the Royal Highland Show in 2007. The class schedule, as I recall, was for "a piece of completed but unframed canvas work" on the theme of Fire .

The fan was based on the design I used in "Earth, Fire and Water", with the addition of the fan stick. I wanted a wide range of reds and purples to represent the darkness within a dying coal fire so I chose three Needle Necessities overdyes for the flames and a dark blue for the background of the fan. To make the fan stand out I stitched the background  with a lighter blue-grey overdye. The flames are worked in vertical straight stitches, staggered to reflect the flickering of flames. The background is bargello in three tiers, all worked in the same overdyed floss. I liked the colour changes and the way it pushed the fan forward.

Dying Flames was stitched on a blue 18 count canvas and measures 11.75" x 8.5". It took 113 hours to stitch.
And it took First Place, which was a pleasant surprise.

Thursday, 17 October 2019


This summer, as reported in my entry of 27th August, we attended the American Needlepoint Guild Seminar in Houston, Texas. One of the classes I attended while we were there was "Allegro". This was designed and taught by Debbie Rowley of DebBee's Designs.

I had various reasons for choosing this class. We met Debbie in Edinburgh in early 2019. We had an enjoyable lunch at the National Museum of Scotland and talked for ages about embroidery. After meeting her I thought it would be fun to go on one of her classes. When the class schedule appeared on the ANG website I liked the look of Allegro, I think it was the shapes and colours that attracted me. The piece uses a number of Jean Hilton stitches. I had never tried Hilton stitches, so that was a third good reason for selecting the class.

I finished Allegro this week. It measures 8" square on 18 count canvas and it took me 62 hours to stitch.

Did I enjoy the class?
Immensely. Debbie is a great teacher. I loved that she used videos to demonstrate the stitches, projecting them large on the screen, working them at an angle where her fingers never obscured the stitch she was demonstrating.

Did I like the Jean Hilton stitches?
I think I am going to have a love-hate relationship with them. I really like the way the curves are created by using quite long straight stitches, but I had major issues with counting and thread length. Once I had worked out that if you keep the shape in your mind the first stitch is the only one you need to count. After that the others follow it round in sequence and the Jessica Stitches become less terrifying.
I think my main difficulty was with the thread lengths. I tend to use the 'finger-tip to elbow' measure when preparing threads for stitching, Hilton stitches need longer lengths. I suffered from knots, fraying (mainly because I had to keep unpicking) and loops.

Did I enjoy stitching Allegro?
Yes and no. Overall, I loved it, but it was a struggle. I thought the 'Double Fab Doubled' in the centre was difficult until I started on the Parallelogram Jessica Stitches (the dark green ones). It's not that the method is any different from the smaller Jessica, but to do each one with a single thread requires a length of over 100 inches. I just couldn't handle that, but after numerous knots, curses and restarts I found the best way was to use half that length and do each one in two parts. It was still a very long thread compared to my usual, but definitely easier to control. (Though no doubt I looked silly with my arms stretched out to keep the thread taut and stop it knotting, twisting or unravelling.) The Parallelogram Jessicas alone took nearly 14 hours.

Will I use Hilton Stitches in my own designs?
You never know! I may have found them frustrating at times, but Debbie has made Hilton Stitches interesting and less daunting by creating and teaching this beautiful design.