Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gifted Gorgeousness: Silk Lovebirds

Thank you all so much for the lovely comments you left on my last entry (the first this year) into Jo's Gifted Gorgeousness 2016 SAL, my Floral Blackwork Variation :)

I forgot to mention in my post that the designer, Elizabeth Almond, also generously offers many freebies - mostly in Blackwork but with some other techniques too - on her Blackwork Journey website (which is also linked on my Free Patterns page, but that section needs updating ASAP). She is currently running a free multi-technique SAL called "Pandora's Box", and I've considered doing a small version of her cute and clever "Box of Delights" - inspired by chocolates! - for a while now.

This month, I tried something I've never done before - I worked with silk floss! And it was an AMAZING experience!!! The pattern as it was designed is the angled square you see above, but I will final finish it into an upright diamond like you see at the top. The pretty dusky blue fabric in the photos is the 100% cotton I've chosen for the ornament backing, and I'm hoping to make some floss cording for the edging.

I was, of course, hoping to get the final finishing done before this post, but the best laid plans often go astray, as they say ;) Maybe next month! Here's the pattern:

This little pair of lovebirds is a charming old-fashioned monochromatic design, part of an unnamed trio of traditional Scandanavian motifs (the other two squares are roses and tulips) featured in the "Focus on Evenweave" section in a vintage Cross Stitch & Country Crafts magazine. It's from the September/October 1990 issue.

The three patterns were designed to fit into squares on a (then) new pre-finished afghan product, called Lady Elizabeth from Coats & Clark. My square is done in blue on the white afghan at the front and in red on the afghan folded on the stool at right.

Afghans like this with the special Aida panels for stitching seemed to be very popular from the early to mid-1990s but then died off. I've never understood how you could make the back neat and secure without adding on some kind of backing fabric, so despite the many patterns I've seen for them, I've never been tempted to make one :)

Anyway, this might seem a strange pattern choice, but I deliberately chose a design that was monochromatic with simple motifs to highlight the Star of the Show:

*drumroll please*

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Airlie, an absolutely beautiful overdyed silk floss from Dinky-Dyes, an Australian brand now located in the US:

#95 in the product line, Airlie is still in production according to the DD website.

Airlie was a wonderfully generous gift from my friend Karen, and she also sent me the lovely buttercream yellow 14 count Aida that you can see I used to stitched the Lovebirds on. It was part of a whole roll of ornament cuts (a great and incredibly useful gift idea for any stitchy friend who likes smalls!), and it happened to match the light gold in the overdyed thread perfectly. Stitchy Karma was at work here :)

It is so hard to capture how luminous this thread actually is in real life.

Here's a closer view:

The silk has this indescribable sheen to it, a little bit like a perle (pearl) cotton but somehow softer, if that makes sense? And it feels entirely different from regular cotton floss too! It's spring-y, with a bounce that makes each stitch plump, lofty and round and in the very rare instance that it does knot, it is easy to untangle.

Here is my attempt to show up some of the special shine in the silk:

The silk floss is six-stranded just like DMC cotton floss, and I used three strands to stitch with. I did consider using two strands to save on thread use, but I prefer the fuller look of three strands of cotton for 14 count Aida and with the overdyed I think this extra strand helped make the colours more vivid, especially in the paler sections.

This also had the bonus of creating a pair of twinned strands with the same colours - as the colourway changes are closer together and more random than those in variegated cotton threads - which I then used to "mirror" the design as I stitched.

At first, I was changing out the needles and switching from side-to-side until the bright idea hit me to use two needles, which made everything so much easier:

I effectively split the pattern down an imaginary axis in the middle, and when I had stitched so far laying out a "thread trail" in the pattern on one side, I would put that needle down and replicate that trail on the other side before switching back. This way, I had one thread that was a "trailblazer" and one that was a "follower".

Switching back and forth enabled me to replicate the same sequence of stitches which is what creates the colour reflection. To get this mirror effect, I had to make each cross stitch individually, so even though the design is small and simple the stitching was sometimes complicated and very involving and it took a while to finish.

It was also unexpectedly FUN - the only way I can explain it is to say that it was like the stitching equivalent of putting together a jigsaw puzzle where the only image you had to work from was a blur of colours and you had no idea what the image actually was until you had finished putting it together.

I mean, I could obviously see the colourway of the floss, and make some general guess as to how it might work out and even manipulate the colours in small ways (for example, I started with the hearts and stitched from the end starting with a bright pink so that the hearts would definitely have some pink in them) but it was a total mystery to me exactly how it would work out in the end.

That not-quite-knowing was sometimes nerve-wracking but incredibly addicting :)

I also learned another very valuable lesson from this project. It was not something I had planned to start. At the time, I was having a very difficult week and I just wanted something to concentrate on and cheer me up a bit.

So I looked through my Very Special Stash - all the pretty things that I've saved for that Special Project that has very rarely ever happened - and chose the brightest, most Spring-iest thread that I had, which happened to be Karen's wonderful gift.

In all honestly, my fingers had been itching to stitch with it ever since Airlie first came to live with me many months ago. But Airlie is Silk, and I had never stitched with Silk. Indeed, I've always seen Silk as the Most Exulted and Elegant of all the Specialty Threads and I have been intimidated by it's beauty, it's rarity and it's expense. I have been afraid that I am, frankly, Not A Good Enough Stitcher for Silk.

Silly, I know. Sound familiar? If it does, please rest assured that you're not alone!

Saving treasures for Very Special Projects is certainly valid and often very wise, but somewhere along the line I also started pushing the very idea of any Special Projects far, far away off to Some Nameless Day Yet To Come when I would be Good Enough to Stitch With Them. Or have a Better Project to Use Them With. And so forth.

And I just realized that that Day is never going to come ;) I learn something different, be it for good or ill, with every little project I stitch and the work I'm so proud of today will no doubt embarrass me with its obvious flaws at some time in the future.

It's totally reasonable, in my opinion, to be concerned about wasting your Stash on projects you don't totally love (there are some treasures you will never get again) but when that leads to not using your Stash at all - then there's a problem. Right?

So I have made a resolution to myself to Have More Stitchy Stash Adventures :) None of us will be around forever, and time and Stash wait for no Stitcher LOL!

P.S. I searched Google for Stitchy Stash, and this came up:

The Dowager Countess, Lady Violet, from "Downtown Abbey"

Very sage advice, I must say ;)

You might also like this freebie by Kincavel Krosses which reads:

"Money can't buy happiness
But it can buy
And that's kind of
the same thing"

Have you ever worked with silk floss before? How did you like it?
If you're reading this post in your e-mail, please visit the blog to leave a comment!

Gifted Gorgeousness is a monthly SAL hosted by Jo @ Serendiptious Stitching! It is a fun and relaxed way to thank those who have given us Stitchy Gifts and show off what we've made with those generous gifts. It's never to late to come and join us!


Stitching Noni said...

Stunning! I love how you did this.... what a beautiful finish :o)
You can never have too much stash... and sometimes we do just have to use it and not save it for that special project!!
Hugs xx

Lynne Frankham said...

I enjoyed reading about your success with silk - I have always been afraid to try silk thread, but maybe I should be brave and give it a go. Your threads look so beautiful.

Lesley said...

What a beautiful finish,gorgous silk thread.

Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

Thanks for taking part in GG this month.

This is a beautiful design and I love the way you described how you got the two sides to match so well. Very clever!

Funnily enough I was using silk at the weekend. I don't often use it because of the cost in the UK and the fact that I have a full set of DMC (finally!). I don't mind it, it's not difficult to stitch with but I don't get excited about it the way some people do. I get more excited about the variegated threads (of either silk or cotton) to be honest, and I love this one you used!

Katie said...

Beautiful piece. I'm glad you used it and stopped pushing it off. Great job!!! I've used them before and they are beautiful and so soft. The expense keeps me from using them more but some projects are extra special and deserve them.

Julie said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment.
Dinky Dyes are so soft to touch, I have a couple of skeins that were gifted to me, but they sit in my stash and have not been used .... I should use them!

Mini said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment.
this turned out beautiful. I have used silks long back but not for cross stitch. However they looked so different from what you have shown here.

Brigitte said...

Oh, what a nice project you stitched with this wonderful silk thread. I love how you stitched the two birds just the some way with the variegation in the threads. Very cool.
I have also stitched with silks but I never order them for a project. I just love my DMCs :) But I had kits that contained silk threads instead of cotton floss. And it was really nice to use the silks.

Kaisievic said...

A fantastic finish, my dear, so pleased that you finally did it - used your very special stash. Silk threads can be very lovely to work with.

Emma Lenton said...

Hello! It's been a little while since I've visited your blog. Happy to see your beautiful stitching as usual. ^_^

Karen said...

It turned out beautifully! I love the pattern you chose because it seems to highlight all of the colour variations perfectly. I used to stitch with silks a lot, but they've just become too expensive to justify now. I'm perfectly content to use the silks that I have in my stash now and kitting up future designs with cotton. :)

Stitcher S. said...

Silk thread is wonderful, and I too just recently tried it but on just a very small project. I stitched a Lady Elizabeth afghan, and it took me 24 years to finish it. I don't worry about the back--it is what it is. For now the afghan hangs on a chair in our bedroom.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thank you all so much for the amazing comments on my Silk Lovebirds! If I'm ever lucky enough to win the lottery, I'm going to send a skein of silk to every stitcher I know just so they can try it guilt-free at least once :)

@ Stitcher S: It's amazing that you actually stitched a Lady Elizabeth afghan, that is so cool! Glad you finally finished it, a heirloom for sure :)