Thursday, March 31, 2011

***Technical Difficulties***

I am very sorry to report that Eglantine Stitchery will be going on a completely unplanned hiatus for the time being, as my modem has died and gone to the great Junk Heap in the Sky. And, unfortunately, the soonest that a replacement will be issued is in the entirely unhelpful "3-5 business days" standard, which - as it is nearing the weekend - means not until sometime next week, in a best-case scenario, and possibly longer. Argh! 

Technology. Constantly making all our lives easier *rolls eyes*.

So - no e-mail, no posting, and I won't be able to follow the latest blog news. I think I might suffer from withdrawal :) NOTE: For the time being, as a precaution, I have enabled word verification on the comments. I know it's a pain, and I apologize for that, but I'm just trying to keep the spam to a minimum, since I won't be able to monitor the blog regularly.

On a happier note, I have just started on a very exciting (for me, at least) new stitching project, and so I will have lots of photos and news to share whenever I am able to get back online. Which will hopefully be sooner rather than later.

Thanks very much, in advance, for your patience in this matter.

I wish everyone very happy stitching, and a wonderful weekend! :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

WIP: Twilight Angel - More Overskirt!

I got in a few nice afternoons last week, wherein the sun decided to come and machete-hack its way through the ever-present jungle of grey clouds and shine on my stitching for a while. This made the conditions perfect for a little more Twilight Angel work!

Last time I posted, she looked like this:

And now, she looks like this:

As you can see, this piece is hard to photograph, due its subtle colourations. Once I move past the overskirt, things will brighten up.  The most challenging part of this for me wasn't the fractional stitches (I had to learn to come to a sort of stalemate with them a few months ago when stitching a large floral work for my Grandmother for Christmas, whereby I pleaded with them "I hate stitching you but I need you" and they sort of smugly said "of course you need us, and so you must stitch us, like it or not!" and so I had no choice. Doing something over and over may not mean you'll ever love it, but it does mean you learn to at least tolerate it when necessary, though it does not guarantee you'll do so with good grace).

No, the most challenging part of these few stitches for me was the half cross-stitches. Obviously, I can stitch them. But I've never liked the look of them. Here's a closer view:

The half cross-stitches are in the middle of the picture above. They are white, like the neighbouring whole cross-stitches to their right. Do you see what I mean? Half cross-stitches always seem, well, incomplete. I know half cross-stitches are an important tool in the kit of any stitch designer, and that they can be used very well to artistic effect, as I hope will be evident when I finish this piece. But I've never been able to stand leaving them as they are, and so in patterns that have called for them before - even in one where the background was essentially all half cross-stitch - I have gone back and filled them in with the other half, making them whole, despite my good intentions to resist doing so.

In Twilight Angel, half cross-stitch is everywhere - in the blue background, in the wings, and in the dress. And so I am doing my very best to stick to the design. When I first put these in, I thought they wouldn't stand even a few hours. But when I started stitching the white whole stitches around them, I could better see the effect that they will have. I think, when it's finished, that these half-stitches will serve to provide more gentle transitions between the shade colours of the overskirt and the bright highlights of the white folds. I hope.

So, for now, I am trusting in the great wisdom of Dimensions, and will leave them as they are. When the Sun sees fit to break out of its prison again, I will happily sit and bask in its welcome glow with my needle and my Angel in hand. However, as we are now in the middle of a raging blizzard, methinks it will be a while before that happens. Ah, Winter!

*flings back of hand to brow dramatically*

Hope this weekend provides lots of happy stitching times to you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stitchy News! With Great Giveaways!

The Rhode Island Stitchers, a community group that holds stitch-in nights at their local library, have a wonderful and generous Spring giveaway under way! The huge package includes DMC flosses (including some Light Effects!), a large group of fun Easter and Spring stitch charts, a lovely piece of opalescent Laguna, cute bunny thread holders, a fun and funky pair of stork scissors and a whole set of stitcher's tools in the cutest little birdie fabric! The deadline is April 15th, 2011, and winners will be announced the next day. Open internationally! To enter, comment here.

NOTE & DISCLAIMER: There are three ways to enter; post a comment on the site, post about it on your blog, or visit with the group. This post on my blog does count as a second entry to me. But don't worry - if, by some chance, I do win, I promise to share :) However, methinks there will be *tons* of entries on this one!

Moonsilk Stitches recently conducted her first designer interview with her friend Lin Vanderberg over at her self-titled blog. Although lengthly, it is well worth a read, as Lin covers a great deal of topics ranging from her teaching of embroidery to others to her studies in ancient textiles. A few days later, Moonsilk put up a giveaway for one of Lin's charts on Latvian folk motifs. There are 5 charts up for grabs, and to enter you simply must leave a comment on this post. The contest ends on April 4th, 2010, when Moonsilk gets back from her travels in London. Open internationally!

Moonsilk's latest post on her travels, with lots of interesting photographs of the antique textiles and clothing in the British Galleries of the famous Victoria & Albert museum is really nifty reading too! To enlarge the photos, just click on them (as you do here).

Blu, over at Therapy By Thread, posted another impressive finish recently, of a 15-sided Biscornu wrought in white on black. Happily, this work is based on a free design from the Stitch Creations blog. Although the posts on this site are not often written in English, there is a wealth of free designs to find in the archives. The 15 small patterns used for the Biscornu are very versatile and have been made into scissors fobs. You could work five or six blocks one atop the other for a bookmark, or work four in a square for a regular Biscornu. Because of the myraid possibilitiesfor these little motifs, I have linked to each:

Side 1 (geometric floral and stars), Side 2 (art deco-ish), Side 3 (geometric floral), Side 4 (plus signs/geometric crosses), Side 5 (squares), Side 6 (diamonds), Side 7 (celtic knotwork), Side 8 (flowers), Side 9 (geometric crosses and stars), Side 10 (thistles), Side 11 (pinwheels), Side 12 (art noveau-ish), Side 13 (geometric blocks and stars), Side 14 (geometric cross) and Side 15 (leaves). Also, see the Assembly (not currently in English, but with plenty of photographs) instructions and the examples of different Variations (stitcher-submitted photographs of finished works).

I am rather taken by her new blackwork Biscornu, and the matching Needle Roll (which could just as easily used for the cover of a Needle Book). Both are a part of Anita's current Stitch Along (SAL), and hopefully there will be more patterns with these designs to come!

Speaking of ongoing free design series, Lady Kell of Kincavel Krosses in well underway on a whole new bunch of cheerful and funky cross-stitch projects perfect for Spring. These designs started with her Birds and Blooms cross-stitch, starring a long-tailed purple Bird of Paradise surrounded by stylized floral blossoms in bright turquoise, magenta and tangerine. This was followed by the Birds and Blooms Bookmark, which gave way to the Birds and Blooms Alphabet Sampler. A coordinating line with only three brights (tangerine, grass green and magenta) soon followed: Floral Bookmark, Floral Bookmark 2, Floral Bookmark 3, Floral Biscornu, and, most recently, Floral Square 1. The title suggests that there will be more, so keep checking back if you like this series!

In more freebie news, Flossy over at Flossy Bobbin has recently posted up two designs: a funky little pink and turquoise Owlet and a very neat design based on the old Super Mario Bros. 3 videogame. If Mario leaves you feeling nostalgic, try heading here to play the game!

And finally, Mary Corbet of the always interesting NeedleNThread embroidery blog is giving away one of the new Silhouette cutting machines she recently reviewed in this post. To enter, visit the giveaway post and leave a comment. The contest closes Thursday, March 24th and the winner will be announced the next day. The rules for entry on this one are a bit more complicated than usual, so visit the giveaway announcement for more information. As far as I know, this giveaway is open internationally, although to be sure you may want to e-mail Mary.  Silhouette is also hosting a special promotion for readers of the blog, with significant savings off of materials for the cutting machine. The promotion runs from March 21st to the 27th, and information can be found on the giveaway post.

Happy Stitching!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Long-Lost Dragon! And a Unicorn!!

Recently, Blu over at Therapy By Thread posted an excellent finish of Dragon Dreams' epic fantasy-inspired The Runekeeper Saga. What I especially love about this post is the really nifty slideshow Blu made showing a picture of the work after each colour was added. I've never seen anyone work this way before on a large scale, and I imagine it takes a great deal of dedication and quite a lot of patience.

This is the pattern image from the site:

Many years ago, when the designer (Jennifer Aikman-Smith) released these squares as free designs, I stitched the Dragon and the Unicorn.  I originally planned to do a triptych, with the Castle in the middle, but I never got around to it. I'm not sure if all of The Runekeeper's pieces were released as freebies, but I believe they were, as I remember the Sword and the Wizard; I'm sorry I don't have the exact date, as I do not have the patterns here with me.

A few months ago, I discovered my can of small unfinished stitching works, and among them were these two long-lost (well, not really; I knew handy-abouts where they were, but haven't had them with me for a while) favourites. So, I present Mr. Dragon, in all his glory:

And Ms. Unicorn, in all her splendour:

Now, these are as they were, right out of their plastic bag, where they've lain in my stitching can for well nigh a decade now. They need to be cleaned, blocked and ironed before any framing takes place, so this is hardly a grand reveal. But I thought they would be interesting examples of the ways that you can interpret designs differently.

For example, I changed the colourways of both designs pretty dramatically. I wanted both to be bright, and I wanted them to coordinate, as they were intended to be facing each other from across the castle in the center. I omitted the stars from the Unicorn and added the butterflies instead (so that there would be some element to reflect back on the Dragon's smoke). I also omitted the moon behind her horn, as I wanted the emphasis to be on the gold of the horn and the gold on the claws of the Dragon. The blackwork borders were my invention as well, although I can't precisely remember where they came from. I do recall designing the arch at the top of each work, as I wanted something gem-like in the middle, but I think the sides were from another pattern.

It wasn't until I took them out to photograph them that I realized I had goofed! The keen-eyed among you may notice that I forgot to add the bottom line to the center of the bottom Unicorn border. Oops! Something to be remedied at a later date. Thankfully, the colour is famaliar, as I used my go-to backstitch shade for these - DMC 3371. Referred to as "Black Brown" in the DMC Colour Charts, this colour is an unusual shade that is dark and rich yet not as harsh as black is against white. I've heard it compared to bittersweet chocolate, which is about right, but it really looks a bit different depending upon the viewing angle.

So, here they are! I may get around to doing the Castle one day, if I find my stitching box with my patterns in it, or I may just frame the two of them in a butterfly frame (one of the ones with two frames connected by hinges; I know there's a proper name, but that's what I've always called them). At the very least, I'd like to clean them up a little bit soon :)

As for my Blackwork Bookmark, I've put it on hold for the moment. I intended to stitch it together by hand, but my Mother suggested that stitching it on the sewing machine will lend it more strength and longevity. Since I'm hoping it won't abandon me anytime soon, I've decided to wait until she has some time free to show me how to do it. You see, the sewing machine and I have a complicated relationship. While a great friend of my Mother, I am wary of it and it is wary of me in return. And so we mostly take care to stay out of each other's way. I am deeply dubious that this has any chance of working out well, but we'll see.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Making of a Marker

At long last, I have finally decided on a marker for my blackwork bookmark!

Initially, I had all these visions of sparkly gold charms or beads to pick up the metallic gold in the fabric and the stitching. And I had some gold floral beads in my bead box that, in theory, were perfect. Only, when I pulled them out and tried them against my work, they didn't look quite right. I tried experimenting with glass beads, with pearls, with amethyst chips. But every combination I came up - no matter how nice it was on its own - did not mix well with my work. I was in quite a quandry.

Especially since I couldn't decide on what type or colour of ribbon to use either! I had purple ribbon, pink ribbon, gold mesh ribbon - and, like the beads, each looked right on their own and wrong with my bookmark. In exasperation, I appealed to my Mother for help. And she suggested wooden beads! Now, this isn't as out of left field as it might sound.

A few years ago, when a local fabric store changed ownership, they had a huge inventory clear-out and, among the odds and ends (and some were very odd, like doll's eyes and pom poms), I found this fabulous basket of wooden beads in all kinds of different colours that called out to me to take them home. Partly, it was the price (I only paid, if I can remember correctly, $10 for the lot - and it was a large lot, so big that I have to keep them somewhere other than my bead box) but mostly it was the unusual colours and the multiple applications for them that I dreamed up. At the time, I had visions of embroidered tote bags beaded with these wooden beads in flower shapes. Needless to say, that has not come to pass. Yet.

Anyway, for our purposes here, it is sufficient to say that I have a great many round wooden beads, in roughly 6mm and 4mm sizes, in all sorts of colours ranging from nigh-on-neon to natural. And, to my complete and utter surprise (and the smug satisfaction of my Mother), there were beads - in the larger of the two sizes (the 6mm) - in shades that almost exactly matched the purple and the magenta in my blackwork bookmark! And what's more, since wood is absorbent by nature, when these beads were dyed, they ended up with some colour variation, much like the colours shade from dark to very bright in the design of my backing material! At first, I worried that they were too simplistic and kitschy.

But, when I went back to first ribbon choice (a simple black grosgrain) this happened:

And the funny thing is that after all of the hours I spent fussing (the better part of two days, actually) I was finally pleased. By a simple black ribbon and a few wooden beads! Believe me, I'm still amazed by that. So, in keeping with the less-is-more dictates of this particular bookmark, I finished my marker simply - two overhead knots at the bottom and top of each stack of beads to keep them in place, and some quick stitching to keep the ends of the ribbon from fraying. My hand sewing needs work, as it's still a bit wonky, but it'll probably never be perfect. And if I can do it, anyone can do it. Seriously.

Here's a close-up view of the top of the marker (sorry for the shadow!):

As you can (hopefully) see, all I did was tuck the raw ribbon end into a little loop, and used Guterman 100% Polyester thread to sew the loop down, after which I used my stitching scissors to trim the excess close to my stitches. To be a little more fancy, you can first loop the raw edge back on itself and secure and then do the top loop, leaving no raw edges at all, no matter how neatly trimmed. Of course, this only occured to me after I finished off the second ribbon *rolls eyes*, so this is a trick I'll be trying sometime in the future.

Although this particular ribbon is double-sided, or "double-faced", meaning that it has the same finish on both sides, I added a few quick stitches at the bottom of the ribbon loop to secure the direction of both ribbons, so that the front side of my stitch loops would be showing instead of the back. Here is a close-up of the bottom of the marker:

There, on the right-hand side, you can see - if you peer at it closely and squint a little - the small line left by my stitches. I started at the bottom of the overlap and added about eight stitches, enough to keep the ribbons in place. The marker is a little long - I added the extra deliberately so I have some excess to play around with when sewing it in. You could cut off and sew in two entirely seperate ribbons, but having the overlap keeps them more secure and will make it easier to sew them in. Or at least I think it will.

Soon marker, bookmark and backing fabric will be united happily together to live out a long and useful life as the Very Important Keeper of My Pages. The stitching together is up next.

Wish me luck! :) 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stitchy News!

I don't have much progress of my own to post about at the moment, so I thought I would share some interesting posts I've recently come across:

Designer Jeanne Dansby of WyrdByrd Designs has recently announced that her new blackwork patterns will soon be available from the online retailer Ant of Sweden! The patterns soon to be launched include the beautiful Monarch Variation (which I recently stitched) and her lovely new design Gloria, which was also inspired by stained-glass windows. So if you're interested in Monarch, or any other of the new retail designs, be sure to keep checking Jeanne's blog for more information!

Moonsilk Stitches has a great new post up about an antique book from the early 1900's entitled Mrs. Christie's Samplers and Stitches, with detailed information about the contents. Happily, this book is now available for download in a wide variety of formats through the Internet Archive, and Moonsilk provides the link in her post (direct access here). You can also view the entire book online before you download. Although primarily an embroidery resource, it is also of interest to cross-stitchers - like myself - who wish to learn more about specialty stitches. Some of the designs are very unusual and many look quite modern, so it's well worth checking out.

I've also recently discovered a great collection of copyright-free antique books for all kinds of crafts, including cross-stitch, over at the Antique Pattern Library. Although I had trouble displaying the home page in my browser and the copyright date is 2007, it appears that the library is still being updated as there are several new editions dated November 2010. Although I haven't yet had time to go through this catalog in detail, I am greatly looking forward to diving into the archive and seeing what I can find that might be to my taste. All books are .PDF files, and require Adobe Reader version 9.0 to view; if you do not have the reader, or need an update, there are links to the free Adobe software on site.

That's it for now; I hope that you'll find some of this information to be useful!

Stitchwise, I am still working on finishing my Blackwork Bookmark, and have put in a few more stitches on the overskirt of my Twilight Angel. I'll hopefully have some more photos to post up soon :) Until then, Happy Stitching!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Blackwork Bookmark - Now In Colour!

I have some very exciting news to share - my blackwork bookmark now has some colour!


and After:

Neato, hey?! I'm so very happy with the way the colours turned out. I really wasn't sure how they would look, as pulling a colourway was a bit harder than you might think. You see, the backing fabric has four basic colours, which is obvious from these photos - a purple, a teal, a magenta and a hot pink, with a highlight of metallic gold. But it's not so easy to see that within each section, there is a gradient of light to dark tones that really provides three different options - a dark, medium and light colourway. I went with the brights, pulling the lightest highlight tones from the fabric, even though my initial impulse was to land in the middle. I'm glad I did though, as the the brights look very cheery against the black. 

I love, love, love this design! This is a freebie that you can stitch yourself, designed by Jeanne Dansby of WyrdByrd Designs. Jeanne has a generous collection of excellent blackwork charts available on her website, and as she recently wrote in a wonderful post that I highly recommend reading, although most of her designs are large and complex, they are composed of individual motifs. And the best part is that you can pull out those individual motifs that take your fancy and make smaller projects with them!

Although her post talks about starting with one motif and adding more to make a larger design, I essentially did the opposite - I started with her larger pattern called Robin's Nite and made the bookmark out of just the center square medallion, with two repeats, using the beautiful (and fun to stitch!) geometric floral motif as a connector in the middle.

The only real change I made was to make the sides of the squares straight to fit the narrow design area of my bookmark. You may notice I was a bit skimpy with the Aida; I'm using a scrap leftover from Monarch, and so the fit is a bit tight. Although I usually don't bother to do so, I took the time to do a running stitch around the edges to prevent fraying before I started so that I could maximise the space available on the fabric strip. You may want to leave yourself a little more wiggle room, though, if you decide to stitch this too.

As this is my first cross-stitched bookmark, the finishing is going to be an experiment! I'm thinking of using a ribbon for the marker, but that may change. I'd like to add a charm of some sort to the marker as well, something pretty and shiny :) I'm going to have to dig in my bead box and see what I can come up with! I'll have more photos when I'm done, and I will post a full stitching review then.

This is a wonderful project to try if you're new to blackwork, as there are no fractional stitches, and you can just sort of follow the lines with your specialty stitches; instead of trying to fit a predetermined stitch type into the design, I just made it up as I went along.

Spontaneous specialty stitching is fun! ;)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Project! Blackwork Bookmark

As predicted, I couldn't resist starting on another blackwork project, this time a quick-stitch bookmark using one of the excellent free designs from Jeanne Dansby at WyrdByrd Designs. I'm using the same inverted white stitching/black background as Monarch to show off colourful specialty stitches, this time in cotton floss instead of metallic.

So far, I have the blackwork frame worked (and will have photos soon!) but haven't yet started in on the specialty stitches. I'm just going to fill as I go, with whatever takes my fancy. This is not the way I usually work, but I'm finding it to be very exciting :)

I have picked out a cotton backing fabric, in a colourful print highlighted with metallic gold, and a quick shopping trip with a snippet yielded four good matches to the main colourways. Here is a photo of the fabric and the colours, with numbers, I'm intending to use:

The beautiful fabric is not new to me; it's been a part of the large treasure trove my Mother has cultivated for sewing and other creative projects over the years, and has long been a particular favourite of mine. So I'm thrilled to finally be making something with it!

Surprisingly, this will actually be my first cross-stitched bookmark. I love to read, and have always loved bookmarks, with their lovely tassels and pretty pictures or sayings. In fact, I like bookmarks of all types, from lowly plastic-laminated to those made of pewter.

However, there has always been one problem: I keep losing them! No matter how careful I've been with their placement, they just magically vanish soon after I start using them. And this has gone on for years. I'm not the only one in my family, so I suspect it must be some sort of genetic quirk, but this has resulted in a sad lack of bookmarks in my life.

About two years ago, when I caught myself tearing off random strips of paper (!) to mark my place, I thought enough was enough, and went shopping with determination. It took me a few months to find something that wasn't overly childish or drearily sentimental, but I eventually found and bought myself three lovely bookmarks. Nothing really special - just plastic - but with artwork by an artist whose work I have liked for a very long time. I never intended to cross-stitch a bookmark, but lately had an "aha!" moment and decided that I would treat myself to a small piece of stitching that would be useful as well as decorative.

Providing, that is, that I don't lose it ;)

Happy Stitching!