Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Creative Use of Stitches: Part 2

This lesson featured Cretan Stitch and Buttonhole Stitch. For me, these two stitches did not blend well together and, next time, I will combine Cretan with the other leaf stitches.

Cretan is one of my all time favourite stitches. It can be so fluid and adaptable. Try listening to or singing the waltz 'Die Fledermaus' by Strauss to get the flowing and moving inspiration started. I have renamed this way of stitching it, the Cretan Waltz. The pink and mauve areas are silk rovings needle felted in position while the more solid mauve/purple areas are dyed dryer sheet. The bits of gold and copper are chocolate wrap.

Buttonhole Stitch is much more rigid. It can flow and move though I have not done that on this sampler. It does adapt well for couching. The coiled metallic cord is held in place with straight stitches.

The third sampler in this edition is Cross Stitch with added beads. I used beads in small amounts here and there to add interest and some sparkle. The light mauve velvet background absorbed colour and did not give contrasts in texture or colour their due respect.

The next entry will feature Chain Stitch and Trellis Work.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Creative Use of Stitches: Part 1

I have just finished teaching a class on the Creative Use of Stitches and I promised to share the results with you. The students are all good and enthusiastic textile artists using mostly machine stitching. They wished to know basic hand embroidery stitches and their variations. They did wonderfully well and produced a wide diversity of creative results. I will be featuring their work, with their permission, but will share my own first.

Six classes each featured one or more stitches. I chose to use them for individual samples which meant that, at the conclusion, I had eight samples of totally different size and expression though the colour range was congruent. What to do with them? Some light mauve velvet seemed to be a unifying possibility.

This is the trial layout. Completed size is 31" x 19". And that is large! I had to mount it on my standing frame for assembly and stitching the final stages.

Our first lesson was Running Stitch and its many variations (bottom left). I included French Knots to give the students a nonlinear stitch to include. The Laid Work was added later and is shaded. The fabric for the samplers is dressmakers weight linen backed with an open weave fabric of undetermined fibre.

Threads are mostly DMC Perle 5, DMC Floss and various oddments of thread and wool. Better fabrics such as linen are not easily available in this area and backing fabric such as factory cotton has suddenly become scarce. DMC Floss is available as well as a limited range of DMC Perle. I had to supplement the colour range by ordering from the USA. Rejoice, all you fortunate stitchers who are able to access other and more interesting threads.

Next was Stem Stitch and its variations. There are fewer variations though this stitch does create beautiful curves and adapts well for closely packed areas. We included Sorbello Stitch which is great for adding texture and interest. The bright turquoise metallic cord is a crafting item useful in this piece because of its colour and its brightness. Couching was one of the included stitches. Much of the time, I pierced the cord with a fine needle and stitched with a cotton dressmaking thread that matched the background. It adapted nicely to curves and loops. In some places, I did more interesting stitches which you will see in following blogs.

The next few blogs will continue the analysis of this project and will feature work done my students.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Antique Standing Frame and Protecting Your Embroidery

In the 1940s, I inherited an antique embroidery frame. Probably made in the late 1700s, the roller bars are 36" long and the vertical posts are 32" high. The frame will pivot on the hinge at the top of the vertical posts allowing the frame to be tilted to a comfortable angle for stitching. The fabric to be embroidered is stitched to the edge of the tape on the roller bars and then lashed to the side bars with string in the same manner as setting up a slate frame. Although I have not used it very much, it has been used extensively in the past. This is evident as this is the third tape replacement. It was used to stitch English Country Garden and, currently, to assemble Creative use of Stitches.

When embroidering on fabric mounted on a standing frame, a slate frame on trestles or using a stretcher bar frame supported by the edge of table, the following procedure is recommended to keep your embroidery both clean and undamaged during stitching. This is how the professionals do it.

First, place clean white cotton fabric on the surface of your fabric for embroidery and roll both of them together around the roller bars. If your piece of embroidery is too wide for you to be able to reach the centre comfortably while stitching, this is how it is narrowed enough for it to be functional. You will have deduced that an unstitched section is rolled onto the rollers initially and that later, the completed part is rolled onto the other roller exposing the unstitched section. The completed portion in particular needs this protection.

While actually stitching on embroidery mounted on a standing frame, a slate frame or a stretcher bar frame, I always protect both fabric and completed stitching in the following manner. Place one or more pieces of clean white or pastel coloured cotton or pillow cases over the fabric on the frame. 

And here are the reasons:

Protection from you
1) Protects your completed area of your embroidery
2) Prevents any wear from your arm resting on the embroidery
3) Prevents thread snags from buttons, a watch strap, rings or bracelets
4) Prevents any grease or oil from your skin getting onto the embroidery

Convenience for you
5) Provides a convenient place upon which to keep threads and stitching equipment
6) Helps to locate needed items which tend to get lost on the stitched surface
7) Ability to lift the cover with threads and tools off easily thus keeping them together
8) Covers completed work allowing you to focus on the section you are working on
9) The cotton surface feels cool and comfortable under your forearm

Protection from others
10) Keeps pets off your work
11) Prevents others from touching unless you are there showing it to them

When not stitching
12) Cover the whole setup with a large piece of clean cloth or a towel
13) When you return, nothing will have been disturbed
14) If you are away from your work for a period of time, it is a dust excluder
15) Habit

The frame is light and I can hook my foot under the base bar and move it right or left thus repositioning the stitching for easy access.  Or, when necessary, I can sit at the end of the frame.  I use a height adjustable office chair with good back support.

There is a delay in researching and writing about the student experience at RSN. RSN is trying to find for me some specific 1951 press photos and this may take some time. The story will continue as soon as possible.