Back to basics, and back to tradition

Could you do without stitching? I would definitely feel a little deprived not to have my lovely, colourful, relaxing hobby, and fortunately it is not a question I really need to ask myself. It is one of the many things in my life that seem either an essential part of me, or too obvious to need any thought. Of course there is always a bit of needlework ready for me to pick up when I feel like it. And of course there is always a cup of tea to sip (often with a little something to nibble, too) whenever I want it. But last weekend I learnt that it is possible to do without an awful lot of things which once seemed essential or obvious, when I joined eight teenagers and four adults in our church’s Slum Survivor challenge. It’s remarkable, but you don’t really miss your stitching when most of your time is taken up by building a slum dwelling to live in, doing jobs to earn money, getting water, keeping warm, and trying to make something palatable for your family out of rice and lentils when all you have to add to it is a little garlic powder (no salt!)

We were lucky. After two nights we could go home, have a hot shower and any food and drink we liked, and look forward to a nice, warm, comfortable bed. Many millions can’t. The experience helped us all to look a bit more closely at what is essential to us and what we could do without in order to help others, and to appreciate all the more those wonderful non-essentials that make life so pleasant.

As for going back to tradition, this is about a design I finished some time ago. You could say that Wedgwood goes back to two different traditions. Its use of only one thread colour harks back to Hardanger’s origins when the Norwegian women of the region used only the white or cream threads they spun themselves, while the coloured fabrics echo the English pottery that the designs were named after. But what I especially like is the use of three thicknesses of one colour in these designs – the different ways in which they catch the light when you look at them at an angle is evidence that you do not need lots of colours to provide variation.

Wedgwood 1 Wedgwood 2

Does this mean that from now on I will forswear my lovely hand-dyed and other coloured threads, or beads, or other colourful additions? Uhm, no, as this sneak preview of Treasure Trove (finished! finally finally finished!) clearly shows smiley.

Treasure Trove finally completed

A neglected Treasure Trove

Remember the materials below?

Materials for the red/gold version Materials for the blue/silver version

They’ve had a change or two, but they are pretty much what is needed to stitch Treasure Trove in two colourways. Treasure Trove was meant to be my next project – something a little larger after all those Floral Lace models, with the added spur of trying something new: padded gold or silver kid with a border of Jessica stitch. All very enticing. But somehow I keep putting it off with all manner of excuses. We had a new carpet put in the living / dining room last week, with all the upheaval that entails, so it seemed sensible to start something that I could work in a hand-held hoop; Treasure Trove will need to be held in my Lowery stand, so I picked one of the three Wedgwood designs.

Wedgwood 1, on blue

And now that I’ve done the first of the set of three, well, it makes sense to do the other two before starting something new, doesn’t it? And so Treasure Trove languishes. Don’t worry though, it will get stitched eventually – because I am looking forward to trying that lovely soft metallic kid.

Wedgwood, cross stitch and unexpected designs

You may remember my two cream/white on green and blue Round Dozen variations which gave me an idea for some Wedgwood-inspired idea, although really I should call them Jasper, as that type of Wedgwood is known as jasperware. The two variations were stitched on 28ct Jobelan, and I wanted to stitch the new designs on my usual 25ct Lugana. Unfortunately, being made by two different manufacturers they don’t come in the same colours, and all I could find was a rather paler moss green, and a rather brighter blue. Lugana does come in a shade called Wedgwood Blue, but that is lighter than I had in mind, and when I looked into jasperware a bit more I found that the Lugana shades I’d picked were actually closer to the pottery than the Jobelan used for the variations!

Fabrics considered for the Wedgwood designs Wedgwood pale blue and sage green jasperware

So I started designing and at the end of the afternoon somehow ended up with three instead of two designs. Fortunately there is pink jasperware too smiley.

Three shades of Lugana Wedgwood pink jasperware

Floral Lace is coming along nicely, but I wasn’t absolutely sure that some of the small cross stitch motifs would work as charted, so I tried them out on a spare piece of material for shape and colour. This turned out to be quite useful as it showed me that the alternatives I’d charted for my corner tulip didn’t look nearly so nice as the first draft (I’d worried that the top of the tulip looked rather flat as originally charted. It didn’t.) and also that the colours of the tulips were far too dark. I eventually went with pinks that were much brighter than I at first intended, but in real life they just look a lot better.

Trying out the cross stitch motifs for Floral Lace

Some things, however, you can’t tell even from a trial piece because it’s not the individual motifs but the way they work together that is the probem. In the picture above there are two identically-shaped smaller blue motifs, one with more dark blue and one with more light blue. My first draft used the darker version, but after stitching it I felt it looked a bit too dark. I re-charted and stitched a lighter version next to it. It looked much nicer so I decided to go with that one. I stitched all the larger blue corner motifs first, then the dark-blue centers of the smaller motifs, and then I completed them with light blue.

When I’d completed one corner of the design, both my husband and I felt that it looked too cluttered and chunky, whereas the unfinished corners with their small bits of dark blue actually looked rather more elegant. But I didn’t like the shape and distribution of them. What if I made them smaller still, and added a third in the middle so that they formed a shallow arch curving in the opposite direction of the beads in that quarter? The picture shows the original corner (top left), two corners with the dark blue of the original motifs (top right and bottom left) and the new design with three tiny dark blue flowers arching around the corner motif (bottom right). It took a lot of unpicking, but all corners now use that last version and I think the design looks much lighter for it. But you’ll have to wait and see what the final result looks like!

Floral Lace 2 gets a make-over

Designing doesn’t always happen intentionally. Floral Lace started out as a set of three designs but rather unexpectedly acquired a fourth when I thought of a small cross stitch pansy design. I charted a diagonal corner design and an upright one, which was going to be used on either side of the corner pansy. But I soon realised, even on paper, that it would suffer from the same cluttered feeling as the blue Floral Lace, so I designed a teeny-weeny pansy (at six stitches in total it’s so small it’s hardly recognisable as a flower, but it uses some of the same colours) and hope that that will look more balanced. Watch this space…