About finishing and “finishing”

The English language is generally rich and varied, but every now and then it is disappointingly lacking: there is a distinction in life which can’t be expressed succinctly in language because one word is used for both phenomena. As you may guess I have a specific case in mind.

I am, on the whole, quite good at finishing what I start (in needlework at least). I like finishing projects, that sense of completion and the anticipation of starting something new. All right, it took me six years to finish a tiny goldwork bee, and I will admit to a small number of UFOs (UnFinished Objects) lurking in a drawer, but generally I do see a project through to the last stitch. Finished!

Except of course in one sense it isn’t. Because it is only when a project has been finished (meaning #1) that you can finish (meaning #2) it. Turn it into a cushion; frame it; mount it in a box lid; make it into a duvet cover, a table runner, a set of napkins. Finish it.

Finishing isn’t my forte. Except cards. Lots of my projects get made into cards. But that’s not much good for anything over 3½” or so, or for anything you want to keep yourself.

Then an occasion arose (I will tell you more about it some other time) for which I simply had to finish three small projects as ornaments. They came out quite well; not brilliant, as with some of those wonderful and versatile finishers of whom I stand in awe, but definitely usable, and spurred on by this success I finished Frosty Pine in the same way.

Frosty Pine finished as an ornament

A brief aside here about Hardanger ornaments – you can’t just do the normal ornament thing of sewing together the stitching and the backing right sides in and then turning it inside out and stuffing it, because the stuffing will come out through the cut parts. (Depending on the design this may actually be quite effective; a fluffy Hardanger lamb or bunny?) But if you try to sew the Hardanger, lining and backing together in one go, you can’t see where to stitch as the project will be sandwiched between the other two layers of fabric. So I first attached the silver lamé lining to the Hardanger with running stitch, then used the running stitch as a guide for sewing it to the backing (making sure to insert a ribbon in the appropriate place, the loop pointing inwards; there’s a lot to remember for an inexperienced ornament maker…). For one of the ornaments I sewed wadding to it at the same time – here is the resulting sandwich.

All the layers of the ornament stitched together

Oh, and remember to leave a big enough gap for turning the ornament inside out. You really do not want to see your precious Hardanger like this:

Turning the ornament inside out through a small opening

Anyway, encouraged by having produced a quartet of perfectly respectable ornaments, I moved on to frames. My husband and I were in Coventry last Saturday for a recording of Songs of Praise (I’m in the second row among the tenors, wearing a green jumper) and as we got there early we went into town for a bit, where in one of the charity shops I found two square frames in a pleasant distressed blue shade for a pound each. These were added to my stock of second-hand and bargain frames, to be used at some future date. Yesterday I decided the future date had arrived, and framed one of the Gingham Gems, the smaller Frozen Flower, and the smaller Flodgarry.

One of the Gingham Gems (I) framed The smaller Frozen Flower framed The smaller Flodgarry framed

Feeling terribly virtuous, I can now go back again to turning things into unadventurous-but-useful cards and coasters for a while smiley

An exercise in patience

Did I say last time that I enjoyed designing? I must have been out of my tiny little mind!

No, it’s not that bad really – but sometimes it can be quite frustrating. I’ve just finished Gingham Gems (I), and am now stitching (no surprises there) the two designs of Gingham Gems (II). Kloster blocks in two shades of beige, fine, some surface stitches inside the Kloster block pattern, fine, fan stitches in the four corners, not fine.

I’d charted these corner fans as partial ribbed spiderwebs. The complete version has a number of spokes (usually, though not always, eight), and the thread is taken round the circle, encircling the spokes as you weave so that you end up with very pronounced "ribs". Surely, if you do a quarter of a circle, you end up with a ribbed fan? It turned out not to be quite so simple.

For one thing, the two spokes at the outside of the fan can’t be ribbed. It’s simply not possible, unless you take the thread down the fabric every time you get to the outside spokes, which I didn’t want to do. It also turned out to be extremely difficult to make the ribs nice and even. I finished one fan, decided I didn’t like the look of it at all, and unpicked it. I then tried weaving the fan, simply going over and under the spokes. This looked a lot neater, but also very very solid, and far too heavy for the rest of the design. Hoping to save something from the wreckage, and bouncing several ideas off my ever helpful husband, I tried partially filling the fan, then filling it in a staggered pattern, but neither looked at all attractive. I unpicked the whole thing, and also the spokes in the other three corners.

Now what? I was still rather keen on the fan shape, because it fits the corners so nicely. What about herringbone ladder stitch? That has rather a nice braided appearance, and although it is usually stitched straight between two parallel lines there is no reason why you shouldn’t have the stitches squashed together at one end and fanned out at the other. I tried one corner.

Herringbone ladder fan

Oh well. Better than the solid woven fan and the irregular ribbed fan, but not quite what I had in mind. I think the bottom end needs to be narrower. So the next attempt will have a single backstitch for the bottom (instead of three arranged in a curve, as here), and all the herringbone stitches will cluster together in it. I’ll let you know if that’s any better – but don’t be surprised if Gingham Gems (II) eventually goes live with a completely different corner stitch!