Thursday, 29 November 2018

Alien 1990

Not part of the ALIEN franchise.

What can I say? No more toy making? I fell off that wagon. In the late 1980's ALF, short for Alien Life Form, appeared on our TV screens. Someone bought the pattern and someone else made it up. ALF disappeared from our screens and from our house but is rumoured to be living under an assumed name in quiet obscurity, somewhere in the east of Scotland.

Beyond admitting guilt for making him, I really have nothing to say about ALF, so moving swiftly along...…..

Saturday, 24 November 2018

The Chapter

In an earlier post I mentioned some of the projects I am working on. This is one of them.

Instead of dotting the story of this piece throughout my blog I have created a page which I will add to as I work through the project. I am regularly asked why I stitched a particular design and how long it took, so I will be commenting on that and on my trials and tribulations as I progress (or don't).

I know, I'm probably certifiably nuts to do this. So many things can go wrong. The design might not work, the colours might not fit together the way I expect, and I may just fail to count correctly. In short, it could be a disaster!

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Tea Anyone?

Inspiration can come from all sorts of places. In 1987 I was given a present of a small book of examples of Japanese woodcuts in the Ukio-e (Pictures of the Floating World) style. One of the woodcuts was by Utagawa Toyoharu (1733-1844) and was titled "Interior and Winter Landscape: A gay party, men and Geishas".

Despite my lack of experience I decided that I would like to render the image in needlepoint.

I began this project in March 1988, starting from the 6 inch by 4 inch, postcard sized picture in the book. Not quite as clueless as heretofore, I realised that the figures were very detailed and that to do them any justice they must be stitched on a high count canvas, with a finer thread. The rest of the picture did not feel, to me, as though it needed the same level of detail. Somewhere along the line I made the first design decision. I would work the figures on 22 count and the rest on 11 count. Not being particularly aware of other flosses or yarns, I stuck with Appletons Crewel and DMC Medici.

Back then, with no computers, limited access to photocopiers and no digital nothing, it all had to be done by hand. I have alluded to my lack of ability to draw, but if you seek hard enough you can find a solution. My solution was the pantograph. Using one, I traced the outlines of the figures onto graph paper expanding them to the size required, and filled in the detail by eye. Each figure was charted and stitched separately apart from the two overlapping figures on the right which were completed as one piece. All the figures were worked in tent stitch on 22 count canvas using 2 strands of DMC Medici and appliqued to the background.

The background was drawn out on graph paper by hand and eye. It was stitched on 11 count using 3 strands of Appletons. The background is mostly tent stitch, but with a flash of bravery (or boredom?) I essayed into different stitches for the Tatami matting and the bamboo porch behind the figures. The completed project, not including the mount and frame, measures 27 inches by 13 inches. The standing Geisha is about 11 inches in height.

Was there a lesson to be learned?

First, let's start with frames. Scroll frames are a pain. At no time can you see the whole canvas, and every time you move the canvas you have to re-lace it, and keeping it suitably taut and even is not as easy as it looks. I found that the further on I got with the project the more I was struggling to stop the canvas going out of shape. I partly solved the problem by padding the unstitched areas, but only partly! It was some time later that I discovered the joy of stretcher bars and thumb tacks.

Secondly, there's size. Size matters! I failed to leave sufficient extra space beyond the area to be stitched. At times I was working so close to the side bars that I had difficulty in controlling the needle and ending threads. (Of course that might just have been me.) Now I always leave at least a two inch space between the edges of my design and the edge of the canvas on all sides. (That extra couple of inches also means that you can do quick doodles in the corners if you don't have a doodle cloth handy.) That extra two inches can mean the difference between satisfaction and frustration.

I also learned how fiddly it is to try and join two pieces of canvas invisibly, though I did cheat by planning (or more likely by luck?) to have the join run vertically behind the standing figure. I also discovered that in general, picture framers have little experience of framing needlepoint.

I started "Tea Dance - Nippon Style" in March 1988 and did not complete it until June 1989. I learned so many things about designing and stitching during this project, and though today I can look at it and see many things I would do differently now, it still hangs in our sitting room and I am still proud of it. One day perhaps I will revisit it. I still have the original design sheets somewhere!

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Gopher It

I really can't think why I made Gordon The Gopher except that it was a rest from a large project. He may have been purchased at a charity event, or perhaps he was intended as a present, but somehow once he was finished he decided to take up residence on the bedpost and he's still there.

Gordon T Gopher was a character in a popular children's TV show in the UK in the 1980's. The design is by 'Kid's Stuff'.

When I finished Gordon I returned re-invigorated to the large project I was working on, Tea Dance.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Pineapple Progress

The Passionate Pineapple is completed!

The only decision I need to make now is how to display it. I can't decide whether to frame it or to make it the centre of a cushion. I'll probably go for the former, but wouldn't four of them look good in the centre of a larger cloth, maybe edged with a row of smaller versions?
Trapped into another large project? Sigh!

The pineapple is worked ono 28 count linen using DMC perle 12 and 8. The fruit is worked in eyelets and satin stitch and the border is Nun's Stitch. I wasn't at all sure about it when I chose this as one of my classes for the ANG Seminar in Washington DC, but I have really enjoyed working on this piece.

Passionate Pineapple was designed and taught by Sandi Cormaci-Boles.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Fools Step In

In 1988 we inherited a partly stitched tablecloth. Only one corner had been started, there were no threads and no instructions.

Freestyle, I thought, not a countable ground, I thought. Why not, I thought? You have to give it a try, don't you! So what did I know about this style of embroidery? Nothing, but we had books of stitches and the most important of my embroidery resources, Jane-Beth.

I didn't so much step as leap in feet first.

I did have one guide, the outline was printed on the linen.  A small portion had been stitched, but even to my untutored eye the stitching was poorly executed, too loose in some places and so tight in others that it pulled and puckered the linen. I carefully unpicked what had been done, carefully pressed out the puckers and started again.

The cloth is about 3' square, the floss is stranded cotton. I learned how to do running stitch, chain stitch, satin stitch and French knots and how to secure my ends on the reverse. I discovered that French knots are a pain in the neck and it takes a lot of practice to make them all the same.

The quilt behind the tablecloth is Jane-Beth's handiwork, a full floor to floor double bed quilt in 1" hexagons, all done by hand!

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Do I qualify now?

I have always claimed that I only work on one project at a time. Apparently that's JUST NOT RIGHT!
Apparently you can't claim to be a real embroiderer unless you have multiple projects on the go.

I just had a count up in my head. Currently I am working on:
The Passionate Pineapple (Whitework)
Have You Not Seen My Lady (Full sized bed quilt in 1" squares) now at the quilting stage.
Untitled (Possibly for ANG Seminar 2019 or 20) (Needlepoint on congress cloth) at the design stage.
Chapter House (Needlepoint) at the design stage
I also have a pile of knitted teddy bears to sew up and stuff
And there's a bit of a quilted bench runner somewhere.


Totally unrelated, on Tuesday we went to an exhibition of Scottish samplers from the Leslie B Durst collection and the National Museums of Scotland;
Lots of samplers and an interesting video presentation. Worth a visit if you live close enough.