Change in progress (I)

The design process: an idea – paper & pencil / charting program – a finished design. Right? Well, sometimes. There are times when an idea just flows from the head to the paper to the fabric, and it works. Ah, bliss smiley.

Often, however, a design changes between idea and chart, and again between chart and stitched model; the stitching is as much part of the design process as the charting. This goes for big complicated designs as well as for itty-bitty mini designs like the ones I did for the wooden pendants I picked up recently. The ginger cat acquired whiskers following the suggestion of a stitching friend, for example. When looking at the designs again in preparation for stitching the tulip on the second wooden pendant the leaves, in a single shade of green, looked rather flat, so I quickly pencilled in shaded areas of darker green. And the small lines on the petals of the small flowers were changed from a lighter shade of the flower to the yellow of the flower centre.

Three slightly changed designs for the wooden pendants

All three are now available as freebie charts, and if you would prefer to have a whiskerless cat, flat tulip leaves or less yellow flowers then feel free to stitch them exactly as you want them! here are my versions:

Cat cross-stitched on a wooden pendant Tulip cross-stitched on a wooden pendant Small flowers cross-stitched on Aida fabric

More suspense (well, suspension)

Some time ago I showed you a filling stitch which consisted of a sequin suspended in the centre of a cut area by means of a sort of spider’s web stitch without the woven spider’s web bit. When I showed it on the Cross Stitch Forum without adding a description of how I had done it, one lady commented that she liked the way it was suspended using a square filet. This was interesting, and it made me look at the suspended sequin again. Yes, it could probably be worked that way – and that would be rather nice because it would mean the pair of designs in Heart’s Treasure would both use a variation on the square filet (the other one being the two-coloured variety).

So I set to work trying out various ways of suspending a sequin by means of a square filet. As the original spider’s web method I used was rather fiddly, one of the square filet ones was a very straightforward method of every time coming up through the sequin in the cut area and going down into the fabric in a corner, but that produced rather spreading holding threads instead of the slightly cord-like look I was aiming for.

That method didn’t work because there was no twist to the stitch, none of the “catching the loop” that is so characteristic of the square filet. But for reasons I won’t go into here doing exactly what you would do in a standard square filet didn’t work either; it needed an extra twist.

First bring the needle up in one corner of the cut area and thread on a sequin (picture 1 below), then take the needle down into the fabric into the next corner (picture 2) – this, by the way, can be either clockwise or anti-clockwise; either is fine, as long as you consistently stick with your choice throughout the project. Bring the needle up in the cut area in the second corner and catch the loop (picture 3), then take the needle over the loop and down into the gap again (picture 4). Don’t pull the thread too tightly at this point, and you will have to stabilise the sequin with your non-stitching hand during the first part of the stitch.

Bring the needle up in the cut area and thread on a sequin Take the needle down into the fabric into the next corner Bring the needle up in the cut area in the second corner and catch the loop Take the needle over the loop and down into the gap again

Now bring the needle up again through the sequin (picture 1 below), then take the needle down into the fabric in the next corner (picture 2). Come up again in the gap in the same corner, catching the loop (picture 3), take the thread over the loop, go down again into the gap and come up through the sequin (picture 4).

Bring the needle up again through the sequin Take the needle down into the fabric in the next corner Come up again in the gap in the same corner, catching the loop Take the thread over the loop, go down again into the gap and come up through the sequin

Continue like this until you come up though the sequin from the fourth corner, then take the the needle underneath the very first part of the stitch before going down into the fabric in the corner where you started. Hey presto, a suspended sequin in a square filet! Incidentally, this example was worked using two strands of stranded cotton, but one strand works equally well – it just shows a bit more of the sequin. Floche or another thin indivisible thread like #12 perle is also suitable.

A suspended sequin in a square filet

Stitching on wood

Although thread on fabric is still the most usual combination for needlework, there is no reason to limit yourself to that – you can stitch on all sorts of things! Fortunately for those of us who find car doors, slices of bread or tennis rackets a bit too challenging, there are non-fabric ideas which are a little less daunting. Pre-drilled wooden pendants, for example. Some of them are so small that they will take only a few stitches, others have a bit more room to play with, although that may make them a little less wearable too. Even so, I went for the latter, mostly because even though I like small projects I wasn’t sure I’d be able to design anything memorable in 4 x 5 stitches.

Wooden pendant

I really liked the look of the pendant when it arrived, but then I noticed it was damaged – a small chip had come off one of the scallops. Fortunately Sew & So were very good about it, as usual; not only did I get a replacement but I was told to keep the other one! I’ve since coloured the chipped edge to blend in with the rest and so it will be fine for experimenting with.

Now, what to stitch on them? I had a vague idea that perhaps I could use the little peacock I designed some years back, but that turned out to be too big. So I drew six outlines in my charting program, to make sure I wouldn’t stray outside the stitchable area, and set to fitting something attractive into a smallish space, preferably an animal or something floral. I ended up with a ginger cat, two small flowers and a tulip.

Three designs for the wooden pendants

You will notice that there is a problem with the above designs: there are three of them, and only two pendants. That is why one of the stitched models will be done on fabric. But they will definitely all fit the pendant!

I decided to start with the ginger cat because I like pussycats smiley. The pendant is a little over 11ct so as I wanted good coverage four strands seemed called for, with the added advantage that I’d be able to use a loop start. The size 24 needle I would normally use on a low-count fabric with four strands turned out to be too thick – wood is much less flexible than fabric, in fact it’s got practically no flexibillity at all, and the needle got stuck trying to pass through holes with previous stitches. A size 26 worked better, although it was still a bit of a fiddle when doing the whiskers and coming up in holes where four stitches were crowded in already. Those whiskers, by the way, were a bit of an afterthought – you may have noticed they weren’t in the original design shown above. Then a lady at my embroidery group, on seeing my ginger Tom, said he was lovely but could really do with some whiskers. A moment’s consideration showed her to be absolutely right, so I added them there and then.

Cat cross-stitched on a wooden pendant

On the chart I’ve lowered the cat by one hole, as it seemed to be a bit too high up, but you could also use the space at the bottom to add some initials or a short name. If you’d like to stitch your own pendant using the ginger cat design, or if you’d like to use it for some other purpose, head to the Freebies page where you can download it; the other two will be added once I’ve stitched them.

Daylight table top lamp

Oh dear. It’s time to admit it: middle age is creeping up on me! I used to be able to work quite happily on 36ct without any special light or magnification, but I’m beginning to find anything over 28ct a struggle, unless I take off my glasses altogether and work in extreme close-up – which is fine for a few stitches but not for a whole evening, especially when I’m trying to follow NCIS at the same time. As I needed new glasses anyway, and the optician had said that reading glasses might be a good idea (even though I could read the finest print at the bottom of their reading chart without any problems), I looked into varifocals. After a lot of discussion with the very helpful gentleman at Vision Express (and some experimental stitching at their premises) we decided that was not the way forward. Plain glasses plus a pair of stitching glasses, a little stronger than the reading glasses the optician had recommended.

Getting used to my new glasses (or rather my new frame) has been a bit of a struggle, and is taking a lot longer than I had expected, so I’ve tried the stitching glasses only a few times, but they definitely help and I will probably use them when working on anything very fine or detailed like goldwork – projects that need concentration, and that I’ll be working on without any distractions. Not for my usual evening’s stitching, however, as I can’t see the telly very well with them, and I tend to combine the two (did I mention NCIS?)

Obviously an additional aid was needed, and after some research I settled on Daylight’s table-top lamp. It has quite a few accessories which I’m not using at the moment, and it would have been nice if the lamp were available at a discount without them, but it isn’t – I rang the company and asked. Fortunately I found the lamp on offer at Sew & So at a price well below any others I could find, so it doesn’t feel like I’m paying for something I won’t use, and anyway, I may well feel the need for a magnifier, a chart clamp and a storage tray some time in the future.

And does it make a difference? Yes it does – a lot! Not only does it help me see smaller stitches, but the colours are more true to life, meaning I can choose fabrics and threads and beads in the evening and actually find the next day that they still match smiley. It does also show up in rather ghastly detail that our chairs could do with re-upholstering, or at the very least a good wash…

Daylight's table top lamp, off Daylight's table top lamp, on

So all hunky-dory then? Well, no. As you can see the shade is a milky white, and when the lamp is on, even after we’d changed the 20W bulb for a 12W one, the whole shade becomes a big glowing blob of whiteness. It’s a bit distracting to me, using it (I would prefer all the light to be on my stitching, not radiating all around), but even more so to my husband, who sees it not only from the corner of his eye, but also reflected in the television screen. Did they do dark shades for them, he asked. Alas, no. Some lateral thinking was called for.

I temporarily draped some black Lugana around the shade, and this made a noticeable difference, but the light still shone quite fiercely through the holes. Right, a fabric without holes then. Felt! Fortunately the lamp doesn’t get very hot, so that shouldn’t be a problem. After playing about with some paper templates and full circles of felt (felt does not pleat very successfully…) I managed to cut out a shape that wrapped cosily around the shade without too much ruffling. Another one followed, as even the felt could not contain the lamp’s output with one layer. Because felt sticks to itself I now have a double-layered lamp jacket which is easily put on and removed. Marital harmony preserved by a piece of felt!

The lamp with its felt jacket, switched off The lamp with its felt jacket, switched on