Friday, March 25, 2016

Gifted Gorgeousness: Floral Blackwork

Happy Easter to you all!!! Best Wishes for a Wonderful Spring :) The days here are getting longer, and we've had a lot of lovely sunny afternoons lately where the light has been bright and perfect for stitching so I've been busy with my needle lately! This has been a welcome surprise, since I'd been in a bit of a slump since Christmas ;) 

Speaking of which, for this post - my first for Jo's great Gifted Gorgeousness SAL for 2016 (if you'd like to join, you can do what I've done and just jump in whenever you want, isn't that wonderful?!) - we're actually going back in time to the Holidays.

It all started when Santa kindly gifted me with the December 2015 issue of JCS...

...and I promptly fell in love with Elizabeth Almond's Blackwork feature, a quartet called "Christmas Treasures", which you can see here:

I choose the design on the far left-hand side, which is a bit of a black sheep in the family as it is lacking some stitch features that the other three Treasures share.

Here's a closer view of the center square (without the floral border):

I just love the very center section with the geometric flowers within octagons! The original designs were charted in red with gold metallic and gold beads, which is a beautiful and classic combination for Christmas, but I wanted something that I could hang up all year around. So I chose a deep burgundy, DMC 3685, for my floss and a beautiful dusky pink -DMC Light Effects E316 - for my metallic:

And I'm very happy with the way it turned out, even though I made a lot of silly counting mistakes and was very frustrated with it for a while :)

Another silly thing - I had left all my stitchy supplies at home because I didn't think I'd get the time to stitch while we were visiting family! Thankfully, due to gifts of needles and thimbles from my Stitchy Guru Mother (who is truly awesome at finding stocking stuffers) and some money from my Groovy Grandparents that I spent in part to buy the fabric and hoop at a local quilt shop, I was able to kit myself out! I actually finished the entire center section shortly after New Year's Day.

And then I hit the Floral Border. That was actually what drew me to the designs in the first place, but while I was stitching one side I realized that the center of the floral sprigs did not align with the points of the center diamond. They were offset by one stitch, and although they were mirrored in the border, this mismatch was all I could see when I looked at the piece. It created a tension that constantly drew the eye, which may have been the the designer's intent, but it wasn't working for me.

So, after a lot of deliberation and a few tries at recharting the sprigs, I decided to give it up and ripped out what I had stitched. And then I took the geometric flower motif from the center square and drew up the border that I used, and although I wasn't sure about it while I was stitching, it ended up being my favourite part of the project!

Here is a close-up of the geometric flower motif from the center:

And here is a close-up of the lovely eight-petal flower that I used in the corners:

I really like the way the center pulled into an eyelet! The fabric is a white 28-count Evenweave, by a brand called Unique that used to manufacture a lot of sewing notions here in Canada (which has largely been taken over by H.A. Kidd). It is lovely to work with, but unfortunately the packaging was older and I suspect that it is no longer available. It came in a flat pack, with a blue insert.

One of the fun things about small independant quilt and fabric stores is that you never know what you might find, but often - as is the case with the store I visited - some of the stock is usually older and may not be in production anymore.

The other changes I made were to not add the beads (gasp! shock!) - I know that's unusual for me, but I didn't have any that matched either thread and I didn't want to add a third colour. But I made up for it by adding lots of the metallic, using it a little differently than the pattern suggested. 

My favourite section to stitch using the metallic thread was the Algerian Eye/Star Stitch checkerboard you can see in this close-up of the center section; it's a super simple fill treatment but the stitch really shows up the shine on the metallic, and this is a great idea that could be adapted to other projects. I tried to show up a bit of that fabulous sparkle in this photo, but it's so much prettier in real life:

And there you have it! I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to final-finish this off yet. I was originally thinking of following the project finishing instructions for the sort of overlarge flatfold ornament with the corded trim, but I may do something different. It's a little bigger than I expected; I started with a 6" Hoopla and had to move up to the 8" you see in the photos.

I also made a little mistake at the beginning - I started working it in hand, because I have always heard that it's harder to get hoop marks out of Evenweave than it is with Aida. But because the center has all these long stitches, the fabric distorted no matter how careful I was, so I bought the hoop and was very glad I did so. When I do get around to finishing it, I think lacing it over mat board will take out any remaining uneveness (at least I hope so!) - and the hoop marks weren't bad at all.

Also, a note to anyone thinking of stitching this design: although most of the stitching is all done with one strand of floss, you use a LOT of it. The only exception is the two mini-borders of cross-stitch, which are done with two strands (and which I chose to outline with added backstitch, using 1 strand, to make the lines more solid).

I only had a few tiny ends left of the burgundy - although I did lose quite a bit of thread ripping out the original floral border - and about 1/3 of the metallic skein left.

Thanks very much for reading! And be sure to hop on over to Jo's annual Easter Blog Hop - follow along at the stops to see lots of lovely Spring-ish stitching and collect the letters for the special mystery phrase! And have a Very Happy Easter :)

Blog News: Due to some Reader Requests (a BIG thank you to those who took the time to write to me with this suggestion), I've added the "Follow by E-mail" function to the blog, over in my Sidebar. If you try it out and have any problems, please let me know!