Boxes!

Do you like Lolcats? Some of them can be rather silly, but many put a smile on my face (which is why I have a folder full of them on my computer which are shown on my desktop in random order). None of them are generally even remotely relevant to my stitching, but today I felt rather like this:

Box with boxes

And why? Because the lovely people at the Viking Loom sent me this:

A box full of boxes from Viking Loom

Looks tempting enough even when it’s all wrapped up, doesn’t it smiley? But then I got to take them all out of their plastic coats and see them in their full glory.

Satin display and jewellery boxes from Viking Loom

The theory is that this will help me clear out some of my stack of Ghost Projects by turning them into Useful Boxes To Put Things In. In practice, some of them are just crying out for those small goldwork designs I’ve been doodling and scribbling over the past few months…

Star bright

Having completed the Kelly Fletcher Christmas tree freebie and not yet having enough time to make a solid start on the Jacobean goldwork flower I decided to have a go at one of the star designs I had transferred onto two shades of Normandie fabric. For no particular reason I picked the ivory one, and as there probably wouldn’t be time to do both (I’m proofreading a friend’s thesis at the moment, not to mention being up to my ears in bits of kits) the threads simply had to be the Threadworx Vineyard silks. They are gorgeous! Not only are the colours full and deep and rich, even in the pastel shades, but they are some of the most strokeable threads I have ever come across, soft and luxurious with a lovely bounce. Do you know that feeling when you walk barefoot on thick springy moss? You get the same spring when you gently squeeze a bobbin of Vineyard silk.

Yes, all right, I admit it – I’m the sort of stitcher who squeezes bobbins of silk. It’s soothing. It’s good for my blood pressure. Anyway, moving swiftly on, let’s discuss stitches!

I wanted to try a variety of stitches on the various concentric stars, in a sort of rainbow of colour, starting with a small yellow star in the middle. This started out as a French knot surrounded by stem stitch, but that looked a bit empty so I added the various straight stitches later. One of the stitches I particularly wanted to include was raised chain stitch, which is worked over a straight stitch foundation stitched between two lines; that meant I was one line short for the number of colours I wanted to use, so I inserted an uncharted dotted line of more French knots, in green this time. Blue for the raised chain, with a foundation of Caron Wildflowers. Raised chain stitch is not ideal for very sharp points, but it looks OK and the texture works beautifully in the Vineyard silk. Then a line of pinky-red Portuguese knotted stem stitch and finally the outer line in purple Mountmellick stitch. Again not an ideal stitch for sharp points and corners, but I actually rather like the look of the “teeth” in the peaks and troughs. I did briefly consider working 10 separate lines of Mountmellick from the tops to the troughs, but decided it would involve far too much fastening on and off – this was meant to be a relaxing stitch, after all!

And here is what it looks like, once photographed in bright sunshine – brilliant to show the colours, but lots of sharp shadows as well – and once in the shade, which is probably better to show the stitches.

The finished star photographed in full sunlight The finished star photographed in shade

Incidentally, it was quite interesting to have a look at the back and see how different the stitches look there; Mountmellick looks like a very elongated rake head, and stem stitch becomes back stitch!

The back of the MC star

And finally a close-up of the stitches, to show off the lovely sheen and texture of the threads.

Close-up of the stitches used in the MC star

Last of the three freestyle workshops for the Church’s building fund tomorrow; a full house with some children and young people as well! Not all of them will be stitching, but just in case they change their minds I’ve made sure I’ve got enough kits with me for everyone.

Two wandering stars

As I was getting together the charts and materials for my little goldwork project and the impromptu Christmas tree, I came across some charts for ornaments by Mary Corbet. They consisted of a circle, a heart and a star, each with ever smaller concentric circles/hearts/stars inside them. I hadn’t saved any picture of what MC had done with these, but they looked just right for some unplanned, do-whatever-feels-right sort of stitching – exactly the sort of relaxing project, in fact, to take to my monthly craft group meeting at the library, so I transferred the star design onto two pieces of Normandie fabric (white and cream), hooped them up and put them with the Christmas tree. And as I couldn’t possibly stitch the stars using only the green, reds, yellow and brown I’d picked for the tree, a selection of other threads was added to the communal project box. I ‘m particularly looking forward to working with those jewel-like threads in the top left compartment, overdyed Vineyard silks by Threadworx.

Materials for some do-as-you-please stitching

As it happens I only got some work done on the Christmas tree, and not an awful lot at that. Well, it isn’t a very long meeting and there is also a certain amount of chatting going on, not to mention cake eating… So here is what the Christmas tree looked like at the end of the craft session, with a slightly wonky basket and various not-quite-round baubles. I originally started with the green stem stitch but then thought it might be a bit of a squash to get the baubles in afterwards so decided to finish the green last.

First session with the Christmas tree

Incidentally, I now know that stitching on the non-fuzzy side of the Rowandean fabric first time round was definitely a sound decision. The fuzzy side looks nice, rather soft and, well, fuzzy, but it is a magnet for any bit of thread fluff (not to mention cat hair) that comes within half a mile of it. Working on it with a very dark and rather soft thread (Caron Watercolours “Sable”) I found after a while that there was a film of dark thread shreds clinging to the bottom of my work, which, for lack of sticky tape, had to be laboriously removed with a wet finger.

There are still little fuzzy remnants clinging to the fabric, but they will just have to remain there I’m afraid; this was only ever a small amusing project for my own enjoyment, and it’s unlikely to be made into anything – it’s too big for a card, and I dislike sewing ornaments so I only do it if there really is no other option. For now it will live in my “designs by other people” folder, where it will spend its time discussing with the other pieces why most of them have at least one wonkily-stitched bit.

I enjoyed stitching this design, and making up the baubles as I went along; some of them are buttonhole, some chain stitch, some French knots, there are a few in satin and Rhodes stitch, and I’m sure I’ve missed at least one there – ah yes, fly stitch. The fishbone stitch star is embarrassingly uneven, and my only excuse is that it was stitched late at night because I wanted to have it finished before going to bed. If I were to do the basket again I’d choose one of the three stitches and do all three lines in the same stitch; the raised chain stitch would make quite a convincing basket, I think, as would the fly stitch if worked a bit more regularly. It might be fun to work a very small version in single strands of silk, or a very chunky one in #3 perle – perhaps as a seasonal cushion? But for now the stars are calling me, not to mention my little Jacobean goldwork project!

The finished Christmas tree

A goldwork indulgence and a cheeky Christmas tree

Right. The most urgent deadline stuff is out of the way, with the next one not due until October (except for getting all the workshop kits ready, but I’m going to devote a large part of the coming weekend to that), and there is nothing that I absolutely Have To Stitch Now. This means that for my next project I can choose whatever I jolly well like – luxury!

At this point, my mind went blank and I had no idea whatsoever as to what I wanted to stitch. The only thing I did know was that I didn’t want to do anything that would need photographing or monitoring or tweaking or serious thinking. This ruled out any of my own designs. Well, I have quite a few designs by other people tucked away in my One Day folders, so I had a good rummage through those and found just the right thing. You may remember that earlier this year I saw a little goldwork pincushion on a magazine cover shown in Mary Corbet’s blog and fell completely and unreasoningly in love with it. I eventually managed to get the chart, but then used it not for goldwork, but for two crewel wool experiments: one with Renaissance Dyeing crewel wool and one with Pearsall’s Heathway merino wool.

The SANQ goldwork design stitched using Renaissance Dyeing crewel wool

The SANQ goldwork design stitched using Pearsall's crewel wool

So now is the time to actually get it done in goldwork. One of my favourite stages in any project is getting the materials together – I love playing with stash and have been known to put project boxes together for projects that subsequently didn’t get stitched. No problem, everything just gets put back into the storage boxes and I have the pleasure of doing another project box when I do get round to that design!

My usual project boxes, the ones with little compartments, don’t really work for goldwork; for one thing, the acid-free glassine envelopes that the various precious metals are kept in won’t fit unless I fold them over, and some of the reels of thread will only fit at an angle, taking up a compartment each. I resorted, therefore, to borrowing a small lunch box from one of the kitchen cupboards. Here it is with the tools and metals and threads – doesn’t it look inviting? And this picture was taken in a shady spot; the one I took in direct sunlight had so much sparkle and shine on it that it was unusable smiley.

Project box for the SANQ goldwork

Of course it takes more than the threads and metals; we need fabric too. I decided on some cream satin dupion, stitching on the shiny side. I transferred the design with one of my fine drawing pens, but unexpectedly the line bled rather severely, leaving a much thicker line than I wanted although it may still work. To see if a different method would work better I did another transfer using an ordinary pencil, and this came out better. It did take a lot of going over the lines to make them visible enough, though, and the tip of the lead occasionally got caught in the fabric. I’ll have to see if there is a more effective method for dupion, and I also want to try transferring to the less shiny side, to see if that makes a difference. Another thing I would like to experiment with is to draw the design on the calico backing in black, to see if it will show through the dupion sufficiently to work from. In that case, if a transfer goes wrong, I’ve only wasted a bit of calico, not my pretty fabric.

So here is the whole caboodle, everything that is needed for the project, including both transfers. I’ll need to decide which one to use, then iron the calico and attach the dupion to it with herringbone stitch, and mount it on my Millennium frame. By the way, you may have noticed that there are two green threads, and that not all the goldwork materials are gold. The original design used a variegated silk by Pearsall’s which unfortunately has been discontinued – in fact, all their embroidery silks have been discontinued *sniffle*. There are two candidates to replace it: a Vineyard Silk Shimmer in a light greyish green with sparkle (which, incidentally, seems to have been discontinued as well) and a Treenway 8/2 reeled silk. I may use both as they are equally lovely.

All the materials for the SANQ goldwork

The reason for the silver and copper purl getting in on the act is because I’d like to try some shading in the chipping used on the flower head. Yes, once again I just can’t seem to work the design as originally intended. Oh well. I’m also seriously considering using overstretched purl with a silk core for the stem, and I’ll probably attach the spangles using tiny petite beads instead of chunky purl chips. I’m sure it’ll still be recognisable. More or less.

One disadvantage of the goldwork project is that it isn’t exactly portable, even using the lap stand, so it’s not really suitable to take to the monthly craft group meeting at the local library tomorrow. Another project was obviously called for, and as I was going through my One Day folders this Christmas tree freebie by Kelly Fletcher cheekily suggested that it was Just The Ticket and that it was about time it got stitched. I’ll do this on Rowandean’s cotton fabric, which I got at last year’s Knitting & Stitching show. Interestingly, it has a plain side and a slightly fuzzy side; last time I used the plain side, so I’ve decided to go fuzzy this time. The threads are Caron Watercolours and Wildflowers. I may use different stitches for the baubles from the ones Kelly Fletcher suggests, and definitely will do on the bucket/basket in which the tree sits. Let imagination roam free!

Materials for Kelly Fletcher's Christmas tree

The Ghost of Projects Past

In a room upstairs where few dare to enter (because it is the storage room and there is a real danger of being knocked out by boxes of Jiffy bags or spring shackles tumbling down from their precariously balanced stacks) there is a chest of drawers. Like all chests of drawers, it has a bottom drawer. Unlike most chests of drawers, its bottom drawer is haunted. It houses the Ghosts of Projects Past.

I love designing, but not everything I design gets stitched. Well, not immediately. There are designs which have been waiting for years to be tried out in fabric and thread. There is only so much stitching time, after all. They do get some attention, though, as they tend to get tweaked every now and again while waiting to be stitched.

I love stitching, but not everything I stitch gets finished. I don’t mean I stop before the last stitch (although that happens too, occasionally), I mean it doesn’t get Finished. Those of you who have followed FoF for a while will know that I am not one of nature’s Finishers. When the last stitch is in, the project gets photographed for my records and then stored. In, you’ve got it, the Haunted Bottom Drawer. A few of them get framed, a few get made into ornaments, one or two are mounted on boxes, but most of them languish forgotten, poor ghosts wailing accusingly at me whenever I open the drawer to put in a new companion.

So it is with awe and admiration that I open my monthly email from Sheryl, one of the stitchers participating in the Round In Circles SAL. Not only does she stitch the monthly design, but she immediately makes it into something beautiful and useful. So far there have been two ornaments, a tape measure cover, a purse, a needlebook and a rosary bag. Others have sent in Finishes, and very pretty they are too, but none so consistently as Sheryl, whom I hereby crown Queen of SAL Finishers!

Sheryl's finishes of the Round In Circles SAL, January to June

Now perhaps I should get one or two of those ghosts out…