Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Project, As Promised!

So, evidently, there is a bit of interest in what exactly I am up to at the moment, so I feel a little bit sheepish in announcing that my new project is spinning off from Monarch (which, as most of you will probably recall, was a design generously gifted to me by Jeanne Dansby at WyrdByrd Designs, and is now available for purchase at Ant of Sweden!). Remember when I said I thought that Monarch might be nice finished as the cover of a treasure box?

Well, I've decided to do it! One of the unfinished boxes I had in my stash is square, with the perfect sized opening to insert Monarch into! I've never actually done a box finish before, but I am looking forward to trying my hand at it. I'm going to paint it black, but am unsure of the finishing as of yet. I have been looking for a fabric to line the box bottom and top with, but although I found a few possibles, I haven't found anything with my colours in a pattern (or even a solid, unfortunately) that I love. But I do know what I'm putting in it!

I'm making myself a set of stitcher's tools!!!

Don't know what I'm talking about? That's perfectly okay, as I really hadn't heard the term either until I started reading stitching blogs regularly. Mostly, it refers to very small finishes, also known as "stitcher's toys", of the sort featured on the popular gallery blogs The World's Largest Collection of Smalls and The World's Largest Collection of Smalls, Too. Often, these are made and given as tokens of friendship, and are very popular in stitching exchanges (or so I've heard, having never actually participated in one).

Stitcher's tool sets can vary, but most follow the general form of this jaw-droppingly gorgeous set from Victoria Sampler, stitched by blogger Anna-Zont and featured on TWLCOST on March 30th, 2011. This set has a pincushion (in the distinctive French tufted fashion known as a "biscornu"), a scissors' case and scissors' fob, and a needlebook.

Honestly, despite my admiration of stitchers who work with smalls, I've always thought them to be a bit fussy; great for decorations, or keepsakes, but not really practical for the everyday. So, I have decided to basically meld form with function and attempt to assemble a practical set of stitcher's tools to help me while I work. It sounds strange, I know. I have never seen a stitcher's set actually made to work with and stand up to use. But my Great-Grandmother had a maxim that 'just because something is useful, it doesn't mean it can't be pretty', and my Mother has taken it to heart over the years, resulting in many lovely things in unexpected places throughout the house, much to my ever-lasting horror and protest ('It's too good! You can't use that! It needs to be framed! All that beautiful work!').

And to my secret delight, of course. For I do so love pretty, shiny things :)

Therefore, I am going to make some usable stitchery! Right now, I basically work with a plain pair of scissors, a small magnet for my needles, a pincushion that hates tapestry needles and only works well with sharps, and my thimble. On whatever surface (usually my little lap desk) that is currently holding my stitching pattern. And although I have thought of making pincushions many times over the years - and in fact made two, for other people - I have never once thought of making one for myself.

And Monarch is so lovely that I didn't want to put it away until I could find a frame (my usual practice). I want to look at it every day and see the sun shine on all its sparkles! And when I started thinking about the stitcher's tools, I knew I wanted them to complement Monarch. I was going to try to adapt one of Jeanne's free designs, but eventually decided that since this is likely the only set I'm ever going to make (seriously), I might as well do it right, and so I have taken Jeanne's excellent advice about motifs to heart and have embarked on making all sorts of Monarch smalls to fit in my (yet to be made) Monarch treasure box! As of now, I've charted out a pincushion, a scissors' fob and a scissors' case.

And here is the Scissors' Fob Stitching Progress and Finishing!

I started by stitching the center Monarch medallion in inverted blackwork on two squares;

And then I filled in the blackwork, using the same metallics and stitches as in the original piece. I did make one change; instead of using the DMC Jewel Effects I used in the star for the corners (as I did in Monarch), I added the gold so that I could have the full range of colours represented. Here are some close-ups:

Before Fill -

After Fill -

As you can see, one side has turquoise diamonds, and the other has purple. I had initially meant to do both sides in turquoise, but really, where's the fun in having the front and back the same?! This way, to get a different look, all I have to do it flip it over. And I also know which side is the 'front' which turned out to be helpful in the finishing :)

Also, I should mention here something that I forgot to talk about before; the Smyrna Crosses and Algerian specialty stitches I used to fill are the Eyelet Variations, which I stitched instead of the regular ones in my enthusiasm and, quite frankly, entirely by accident at first. When I realized my mistake (like halfway through the work *oops*) I was going to take them out. But then I decided that I quite liked the look of eyelets and how they sort of echo the eyelet naturally created in the middle of the star stitch. So I kept them :)

I am going to spare you the painful process of assembly. Oh, I had studied all sorts of tutorials, which I'm not going to link to here because none of them tell you how @#&)*^! hard it is. Sufficient to say, several unladylike words were uttered that day. And it was a "day". It took me a whole afternoon and a substantial part of one night. What the pictures don't show is that this thing is tiny. I only have one pair of scissors, after all, and they are rather small. And so I just didn't see the point of making some huge awkward quasi-pincushion to forever be elbowing out of my way.

The stitch count, to the border, is 18 across and 18 high. Even on 14 count Aida, it's small.

But the teeny-tiny nature of my fob was not the problem. No, it was the whipstitching. The evil, thrice-damned, utterly-impossible-if-you-are-not-an-octopus whipstitching. Which is unfortunately the prized method of stitching together smalls, if all these happily-whipstitching tutorial makers are to be believed. "Oh, whipstitching is sooooo fun!" they joyously exclaimed. "Oh, whipstitching is sooooo fast!" they exulted, smug in the fact that they were sharing all of the steps and none of the pain, thereby passing the torture onto other unsuspecting stitchers new to this whole "finishing" game. 

Nay. Whipstitching is not fun. It is not fast.  I now loathe whipstitching with a deep and abiding passion. And so, I will have to stress my creative thinking and come up with alternative ways of finishing the rest of my tools, hopefully less painfully. Nevertheless:

I finished it! It was a miracle. And I'm glad I got one, because I am never making another!

So much thanks goes to whatever divine being happened to take pity on me. Not only did I spend forever trying to close it, but I had to take it all apart - twice - and restitch the sides in an effort to get the ribbon to set in right (!). It's still a bit off, but oh well. I was not redoing it a third time. I know they say it's the charm, but by that point I was ready to burn the thing.

 This is how it looks when united with its proper mate, my stitching scissors:

Once I stepped away from it for a while, I could even admit it's pretty (try squinting a bit if you don't believe me, lol). I'm trying not to wince, even as I type this, at how bumpy, lumpy and unattractive my pitiful whipstitching is. And that's another good thing to remember: whipstitching, as well as being neither fun nor fast, is not pretty in the least. Not. At. All.

Here are some close-ups of the edging, just so you know I'm not being overly nit-picky:

So there you have it! My non-Internet hiatus was productive in the sense that I finially got something finished and have a great deal more somethings coming up soon! I am now the proud owner of a small stitcherly decorative finish that will hopefully be practical and enable me to locate my scissors better while I stitch (they tend to slip under the pattern pages, and slide off into my lap, and so forth)! It may be wonky. But's that's all right. Because wonderfully wonky things are most welcome wherever I am :)

Next up: my Monarch-inspired Pincushion! With no accursed whipstitching!!! *Whew*


Karen said...

Ohh my! I'm sorry to hear you had such a hard time putting your scissor fob together. I enjoy stitching smalls mainly because they're instant gratification. When assembling I don't think I have ever whipstitched the pieces together. I ususally just place the wrong sides together and sew them up, either by hand or with the machine and leave a small hole to add the filling and then blind stitch (I think that's what it is called) the hole.

After all the work and effort you put into it, I'm sure you'll appreciate your little fob even more. I think it looks adorable, and I actually like the white whipstitched thread that you used. It's a great accent. As to how you can stitch on so much black material! That's a mystery to me. You must have awesome eyesight!! ;)

Flossy said...

Awesome post! I'm still loling at the whipstitch rant ;) your fob is very pretty though, well worth all that nasty whipstitching hehe!

I like making small things but agree that the finishing can be a tad frustrating to say the least :)

CrazyStitcher said...

I love reading your posts, and this one in particular did not disappoint. Your rant was so amusing to read. Don't worry! I'm laughing WITH you, not AT you. Lol.

I think your plan to use Monarch as a cover of a treasure box is a truly excellent idea! I also think it's wonderful how you have used part of the Monarch design for your Scissors' Fob. It's so beautiful! x

Ági said...

This fob is so pretty, I really love the metallics in it. Sorry you don't like the whipstitching, I do... but I am crazy in a way, I even like doing backstitch that most people dread :D

Can't wait to see what you other tools will look like. :)

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thank you all so very much for the lovely encouraging comments :)

Karen: You are a Stitcherly Sage! That is totally what I'm going to try to do in the future. Sewing!!!

Ha! @ "instant gratification". For you maybe, but definitely not me *rolls eyes*. Perhaps in the future when I find The Magic Finishing Method (which very well might be what you suggested; I'll have to try it out to see!).

I'm very flattered you think it looks adorable :) About the black: the ironic thing about it is that I work better with it at night! Must be something about the lamplight that makes the holes easier to see. Although, it is lucky I'm working with 14 count; any smaller, and I'd go blind. After the stitching tools, I may be putting the black up for a while, to give my eyes a much-needed break ;)

Flossy: Thank you very much :) I'm so pleased that you think it's pretty! Although, truth to say, nothing can be worth the frustration of my dreaded evil foe Whipstitch. Never again!

I hope I can start to enjoy finishing smalls, as I do so love the look of them. Cute little miniature cross-stitches have more charm than their larger counterparts sometimes!

CrazyStitcher: Aw! That's so nice to hear! Thank you very much! Glad you made the distinction of laughing with me there ;) I didn't even realize how much the whole thing bothered me until I wrote about, but now at least I can see the funny, since all my fuming and frustration have been worked out. Ranting as therapy, perhaps? Lol.

I'm also very happy that you like this project idea, and aren't disappointed at more of the same, since I had you on pins and needles there for a while :) Let us hope I do not have as much trouble with the box. Especially since when I paint anything, the paint seems to get everywhere except where it needs to be (despite my best efforts otherwise, unfortunately!).

Agi: Welcome to the wackiness here at ES! Thanks very much for your lovely comment.

I'm beginning to think that whipstitching is one of those things you either love or you hate, like backstitching, and you know which side I fall on now :)

Strangely enough, I quite like backstitching, and it never really bothered me, although I know a lot of stitchers can't stand it. Now, French knots are another story...

I'm glad to hear that you like the project :)

Rainy Day Crafter said...

Lol, oh dear, it sounds like this was something of a labour of love for you with the whipstitching! I do feel your pain as finishing items is definitely one of my least favourite things at the best of times, but I don't think I could have managed all that whipstitching and still stayed sane!

That aside, it really is VERY pretty (I love the thread you've used in the central star!) and extremely cute - especially when you realise just how small it actually is in the photo where you're holding the fob! And from what I can see, the whipstitching was definitely worth it as having that white stitching around the edges sets the whole thing off just beautifully - it's the perfect finishing touch! :)

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks so much for your nice comment Rainy Day (and sorry I've been so long in answering)!

Lol @ "labour of love"; that's just about right!

I'm so very happy you think it's pretty! I'm also very flattered that you think it's cute, despite everything! Honestly, I was trying to come up with ways to disguise the whipstitching, like beads and ribbon, and in the end thought it would only draw attention to it! I'll have to strategically tilt it on my stitching board to avoid having to look at the seams *rolls eyes* ;)