Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chicken Scratch Sampler, On Aida!

NOTE: This post has been updated to include a direct .PDF download link, please see the end of this post more information :)

After I finished stitching my Chicken Scratch Heart a while ago, I knew right away that I wanted to try a little experiment :) As you may remember, I had trouble with the twist that showed in my Circle Stitch with my beloved DMC floss, so I decided to try using a thicker single-ply thread instead and this Sampler was the result!

It was actually super fun to stitch because I didn't plan anything out - I started with a design for the middle row (sketched out on graph paper) and the rest just grew from there!!! And that's a Big Deal for me because it's one thing to do a little Spontaneous Stitching but it's another level *entirely* to do some Spontaneous Designing LOL ;) This could so easily have been a catastrophe, but it wasn't and I actually like it!

Here it is in it's entirety, in my 6" Hoopla. I used the same DMC Prism Craft Thread (colours from the Sweetheart and Rockstar packs) that I had leftover from my Floral Umbrella embroidery, which is comparable in thickness to Pearl (Perle) Cotton #5. Because it's not mercerized, like flower thread, the matte finish and pastel colours give the pattern a sweet vintage feel :) I used a larger Aida than usual - 11 count in White - and a big #20 Tapestry Needle, which worked like a charm!

I've never done big, chunky stitching like this before and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it :) This was a really quick and easy stitch but the neat unusual stitch combinations kept it interesting for me, and I highly recommend trying this stitching on a larger scale if you're interested in the Chicken Scratch technique! It really lets you see how all the stitches are formed and the thick single-ply thread makes the needleweaving a breeze - the twists don't show and so the stitches look smoother.

Also, it gives the work a fabulous raised texture:

It's really fun to glide your fingertips over the stitching and feel all the differences ;)

Although all the elements were inspired by traditional Chicken Scratch stitches and vintage designs I've seen online, working on Aida meant that I wasn't limited to the checkerboard squares of the gingham fabric that is the basis for this "lace" work:

The heart and flowers in the header row, for example, don't follow the spacing of gingham, but I think they fit in with the rest of the stitches really well! The needlelace filling on the heart came about after a LOT of fiddling around, and it's a little wonky around the edges, but I'm proud of how it turned out :) And speaking of weaving...

...where has the Woven Cross Stitch been all my life?! Those are the little blocks worked in two shades of purple. Serious, this is an absolutely AMAZING and astoundingly simple stitch and I'm just bewildered that it isn't more widely used or known!!! I came across the stitch in this post by Sharon Boggon of Pintangle, as part of her "Take A Stitch Tuesday" (TAST) challenge and I think it has all kinds of possibilities that I can't wait to explore further in the future!

Like these cute little flowers I stitched up on the edge of my sampler, using Woven Cross Stitch, French Knots and Lazy Daisies :) Speaking of Specialty Stitches, I have an embarrassing confession to make - you know those lovely things I've been calling "Algerian Crosses" all this time? Um. They're actually "Smyrna Cross Stitches", as I found out when looking up new-to-me stitches for the Sampler. And the worst thing is that I *know* I knew this at some point, but managed to forget completely LOL!

Honestly, I have no idea how some stitches get named! The Algerian Eyelet is exactly the same stitch in eyelet form so the Algerian Crosses thing always made sense to me. And to make matters even more confusing, in Chicken Scratch they're called Double Cross Stitch and Snowflake Stitches! Argh. Since I've discovered otherwise I can't seem to think of them by their "proper" name but I still like stitching them all the same ;)  In fact I had so much fun Scratchin' that I've already started in on a little bookmark using a variation of the center row:

The only aspect that was a little difficult was the issue of starting and ending threads. It's just not feasible to start and end on every block although I guess it could be done. Instead, I carried threads across rows and borrowed the "travelling" method from embroidery (running threads under the backs of other stitches to reach a new area):

The back does look a little messy, but a lot of that is just the thickness of the thread. Speaking of which, I found it helpful to leave longer tails when starting and ending the thread for darning so that I could weave the tails more firmly back into the work.

I think Chicken Scratch is a really interesting needlework technique that seems to have had limited range historically (aprons and table linens) but that holds a lot of possibility with modern materials like Aida! I included some links to information in my Chicken Scratch Heart post but although I did a lot of searching online for more information I found very little. Unfortunately, it's clearly a craft in decline!

One thing I abhor is seeing craft methods fading away, because once practice stops, that knowledge is often lost forever. Thankfully, this tragedy can easily be prevented with increased awareness! Because of this, I have decided to offer the pattern for my Chicken Scratch Sampler for free, even though the design is very simple.

If you'd like to share this pattern (thank you!), please consider using this graphic:

I've included some more information on the stitches I used and an online Resources list along with the chart, which is a .PDF document. Please e-mail me for a copy (my address is in my sidebar, under the pretty postage stamps), and feel free to share it with others who may be interested :) Hopefully this little Sampler will inspire you to try some Scratchin' of your own, and if you do, I'd love to see it!

UPDATE: Please click here for the direct .PDF download!

After trying a few different methods, I signed up with Dropbox. You should not be required to sign in and should easily be able to save the file to your computer. If you have any problems downloading, please (pretty please!) let me know :) And if you'd rather receive the pattern by e-mail, just send me a message. Thank you!

Have you tried Chicken Scratch? Would you like to?! Any thoughts are appreciated!

Before I go, I'm very excited to announced that I have a Special Surprise in the works for my Door in Jo's Advent Calendar Hop, which starts this Sunday! My day is December 4th, so please make sure to visit on Wednesday for a Holiday treat :)

SECOND UPDATE: I was invited to participate in Allison's great Link Party this week, my very first! Please click on the image below for more information :)

Dream a Little Bigger

THIRD UPDATE: Allison very kindly featured this project in her Link It or Lump It #16 at Dream A Little Bigger! Please click on the image below for more information :)

Dream a Little Bigger


Zeb said...

That is so pretty! But it may be because it's 6.30AM and I haven't had my morning cuppa tea yet, but I can't find the download to the sampler XD

I've started teaching myself hardanger embroidery, and like you I love the raised effect the Perle gives. Want to run my fingers over it, but know I must resist! XD

Meari said...

I've never tried chicken scratch embroidery. Yours turned out really pretty.

Lesley said...

So pretty.Your spontaneous stitching is lovely:-)

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks so much for the lovely comments Meari and Lesley!

@ Zeb: LOL! Thank you so much for your comment, it inspired me to recommence my search for a direct download option, and I think I've finally found one that works! I've updated the post with the new link :)

Cloud CouCou said...

Such a beautiful piece. I love those stitches they are really interesting. Chicken scratch embroidery is a completely new concept to me....sounds a little odd, but looks pretty!!

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks so much Amy :) The name is pretty off-putting, but it's a really fun embroidery technique! Supposedly, the backs of the stitches look like little chicken feet tracks, but mine don't LOL ;)

Allison @ said...

Ooh, I love this so much! I hope you'll consider entering it in my link party, Link It or Lump It (you're a shoo in for a feature :)

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks so much for the invitation Allison! I love your blog and am happy to join in :)

Karen said...

Love the sampler and the bookmark! Great idea to try Chicken Scratch on aida. :) Definitely not something I would have thought of.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks so much Karen :) It was really fun to work on Aida, but I love your CS on gingham, it's so pretty!

Brandy Pettit said...

Hello! I'm new to the world of chicken scratch, but just saw an idea on Deonn Stott's blog and then came across yours via the DMC blog and I'm inspired! I printed off the PDF, and have some Aida from the cross-stitching I do, and plan to give it a go. But I have to finish my quilt project first my husband says over my shoulder... lol! It's been a long time since anyone in our family gave out stitchery for Christmas, so that's my plan, to either whip out some towels or maybe just some ornaments, depends on how the winds in my mind are blowing that day. Thank you for sharing your gorgeous work!

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Brandy, thank you so much for your wonderful comment! I'm very happy you found your way here (sorry this reply is late!) - I know *exactly* what you mean about multiple projects ;) Chicken Scratch is really quick to work up once you get the hang of it, and there's endless variations you can do with the simple stitches. They would look wonderful as a towel edging, or another gift idea might be an apron hem. Really hope you enjoy Scratchin', and if I can help please let me know!