Sunday, October 7, 2012

Getting on Track

It's been a good summer in some ways; we've had lovely weather, unlike the last two summers. I haven't been very productive, but I'm making incremental progress.

If you, too, have trouble sitting down and doing something because you feel there isn't time, check out the 10 Minute Muse. I now have a sketch that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

(I would feel more apologetic about the quality if it didn't actually improve the picture, in that it makes the pencil look more like the ink wash I actually wanted to use but did not have the energy to accomplish.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I've been "organizing" again, which at this stage is essentially moving boxes around, with very little that feels like tangible progress. But I did repack a couple of boxes - a few things to throw out, some to recycle, some to give away, and three boxes now fits into one (admittedly a tiny bit larger).

Anyway, one of the things in it was an art project from seventh grade, so maybe about 1982 or 1983, yikes... I made a house for Yoda.


Interior shot, with fireplace (yes the chimney is real, so the fireplace would work) and hearth rug, and the bed:

The other side of the house, with the counter and storage areas:

A close-up of the accoutrements - lightsaber, the flying training ball [did Yoda even use one in the movie? I don't remember] and yes, stone utensils, made of shale:

And lastly, the Jedi master of the house. I was INTENSELY bored in Home Ec, which was when Yoda got a new wardrobe and soft goods.

(To further define intensely bored: 10 girls, two sewing patterns. You couldn't go on to the next step until EVERYONE had caught up. It took WEEKS to make one boring simple shirt.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

TAST 16: French Knot (etc.)

I am very fond of French knots. Take a Stitch Tuesday and highlights.

Started and finished today! Continuing the botanical motif as long as possible. Colors are waaay off in the photo; the background is more of a teal blue.

I'd kind of wanted to do a color gradation thing with the French knots, but that would have taken longer...maybe another time. I did already try it - yikes, about seven years ago, just about when the embroidery bug bit for the first time. In a Fibers class at OCAC the light went on: oh! embroidery does not have to be boring little floral things! And it turns out that how embroidery is pleasing is related to how drawing with a dipping pen is pleasing.

[Re-reading that it sounds funny - I was not enamored of the old floral embroideries to be found on family doily-type things; my OWN flowers are obviously okay.]

Anyway, here is the old sample:

And I finished painting the Vision Board:

I added some of the non-shiny paint to the in-the-way swirlies in hopes of integrating them. Dots, more rays. Anyway, it is not supposed to be art, it is supposed to be energizing. Horror vacui: yeah. I added bits until it seemed as balanced as it could get, and called it good.

After two nearly instantaneous failures of tape (including packing tape!) I gave up and thumbtacked it to the wall - outside the studio room, as it happens, where I will pass it coming and going, and can also see it from my bed.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

TAST 15: Stem Stitch (plus lots of other things)

I finished this over a week ago:

(Get it? Stems out of stem stitch.)

I have strange issues with stem stitch. Like, I tweak it so it looks a little more like I want. A few years ago Kim was working on a really intensive embroidery project. She had decided against stem stitch because of some issue, and I said strange, I don't have that problem; I just change it thus and so, and she gave me a Look (we may have been on the phone, I don't recall, but I'm sure there was a Look) and said, "That's not stem stitch."

Anyway, when I started this one, I decided to change the stem stitch so I had a wide stem. About halfway down, I realized I was not doing stem stitch. It was satin stitch. So I was VERY CAREFUL and did the skinny stems really using stem stitch.

Lovely examples at Pintangle.

I have spent some time off and on with this old fabric painting/embroidery sample. At some point I picked it up again (Needs To Be Finished) and realized it was boring because of the colors. Added orangey red; much happier. (Need to re-start TAST soon, before I lose more ground in my catch-up.

I did some painting - these are stages one and two of my Vision Board, started during the Midsummer Muse teleconference with my favorite Muse. I need to finish up this weekend, but I will have to visualize very hard to channel sun energy because it is totally overcast with intermittent sprinkles and I am wearing a sweatshirt in order to be warm enough to have the windows open. My bare feet are on the chilly side, but not past the threshold where I need to give in and wear socks.

[this is one of those times I get really annoyed at blogger; it keeps rotating the picture]

I made the little spirally squiggles mainly because I intensely needed to use the shiny watercolors. I was sorry after I did because I soon discovered they are definitely in the way.

Last weekend, I went to the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon and had to bring some yarn home. It made me inspired to finally get the white warp finished and off the loom so I can weave ORANGE:

(Purple and green had to come along with orange.)

I cranked through the plain weave, but then I had to do something cool for the end - and wove twelve narrow tabs. It was time-consuming: two hours to weave three inches. The start was the slowest because I had to pay very close attention so that I did not accidentally join them together. Eventually it occurred to me that there were 24 selvedges instead of 2; not really a problem in 8/2 cotton, but it could be a challenge with finer threads. There were lots of tension problems for the last bit of the warp, but I didn't agonize over it, and as I hoped, it seems to have evened out after washing.

The tabs make me very happy.

Marking out the spaces:


Making progress:

Nicely-posed, nearly done:

Off the loom:


Sunday, June 10, 2012

TAST 11, 12, (13) *AND* 14

Bioluminescent crinoids at midnight:

Since I thought of a great title, I had to prepare the flimsy cloth properly - lightweight stabilizer is ironed on the back, and it helped a lot. That is the Take a Stitch Tuesday 11: whipped wheel. I'd done wheels before, but hadn't thought of partial wheels. They're kind of a pain because of having to finagle the turns. It would have worked way better in perle cotton; I used four strands of DMC instead of two for the tallest one, and it helped a little.

TAST 12: barred chain and alternating chain

Not inspired much by this one; it's more about the exciting colors. I think it could be good worked very tiny to make tangly bushes and vines.

TAST 13 was a catch-up week. There were two mini challenges - to make a piece using 3-6 of the stitches covered so far; I originally wanted to, but now it is much more imperative to catch up. I'm kind of fixated. So I will do the second mini challenge: share tips on how I manage my time and space.

To which I say, HAH.

It is easy to get sucked away and not do anything - one of the reasons I'm doing TAST is to have a source of external motivation, so I work on stuff. And I've been wanting to do finite things, so I have at least the illusion of progress. I get more done when I have a plan - I sometimes avoid working on things because of the danger of getting in my good mind place, because that is dangerous after work. ("Whoah, it's HOW late, and I haven't even had supper?!")

I don't have family to plan around; work can be draining. There's a lot of creative stuff I lack energy for...a good reason to eat and sleep and exercise.

Workspace: not soothing. I still don't like it much; I sometimes think my favorite thing is the tulip tree outside the least when it has leaves. But the organization is improving incrementally - organization aids production; I will work on things if I can just grab the ingredients. I don't mind rummaging in one drawer...but if multiple boxes are involved, I will not look. I will remain frustrated and not work on anything.

Summary: I will continue to work at planning, and at organization. Making art and projects needs to be a regular, normal part of everyday life.

TAST 14: satin stitch

Only the moon is actually satin stitch. The water is just long stitches. Satin stitch - would work better with slightly more thread (like a silk, instead of one strand of DMC) and a slightly looser weave. The long wobbly stitches would be better if this were mounted on a sturdy interfacing. But I like it anyway.

(See? One of the results of TAST is training me to focus on designing finite thingies. That is why I need to produce volumes of artifacts. One of these days I will excavate the final series of drawings I did for a class at OCAC - they are amazingly minimal.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

TAST 10: Running Stitch (and other tidbits)

Trilobite speeding through clear, still water:

I decided I had no actual desire to experiment with making running stitch decorative; I wanted to draw with it. I much prefer the samples that are pictures, especially when they are so fast - this is another one-day wonder! It would have been just as fast and a bit more satisfactory if I'd drawn the trilobite outline. (This seems to be a theme.)

Take a Stitch Tuesday has, as always, marvelous examples. I've tried the pattern darning before; maybe I'll do a threaded running stitch another time. I think that to be more inspired to do decorative seam things, I'd actually need some seams to decorate - it might work to pre-make a pieced item, and decorate it. (Not this TAST, however!)

The camera decided on the murky brown all by itself; actually, the fabric is a nice chocolate color. I love the camera, but I need to figure out some way to photograph my stuff how *I* want. NOT how the camera decides. It has to learn to like photographing art and projects as much as it likes photographing nature.

So, a recap of the first nine; with lots of colors, the camera is forced to acknowledge that what it sees is really what is there.

The delightful tulip tree (liriodendron tulipifera) outside my third-floor studio window:

I highly recommend this tree if you have room for it. Just don't plant it near where you park your car - it produces prodigious amounts of sticky sap and flings it everywhere.

And one more random tidbit: a tuber duck!

(If there are barnacle geese, there can certainly be tuber ducks.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

TAST 9: Couching

I broke the chain stitch record - this one, start to finish, was done Monday night.

(Maya tuber glyph?)

Herringbone couches the top ribbon, and interlaced chevron stitch the bottom, which was basically not worth the effort to do in one color because it looks very much like herringbone. The spiral is a leftover bit of DMC Cébélia No. 20 I found on my table and plied. The weird glyph shape is more of the same, but two strands knotted together. I knotted knots together towards the bottom to make extra big knots, where the couching switches from buttonhole to fly stitch. (I think I'm a little bored with flat photography; yay macro.)

Astronomical aside - Venus transit observation today! Despite the recent eclipse viewing, I was not prepared for solar photography, so once again I just drew a picture in my little sketchpad. Labeling it was important, because the sketch looks like a circle with a dot on it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Technical Revelation

Earlier this evening, I wandered over to peer idly at the boxes stacked in the living room, wondering what to do next. Last weekend, I switched the boxes and the loom, moving nothing more than three times to accomplish this feat. A large part of the reason for that exertion was an effort to fool myself into getting interested in sorting papers again: make it look radically different, because different is interesting to artist brain.

Idle contemplation zeroed in on the loom. I don't remember quite how I folded it up to move, but it involved a wrench. I drifted over to the loom and contemplated further.

I found myself contemplating the little brackets that hold the treadles. They can be pretty irritating, because one or the other will swing out to the side, thus dropping the treadle contraption loosely to the floor. Aggravating.

But lo, then I revelated.

The original owner put it together wrong.

The bracket that's on the right should be on the left, and vice versa. So obvious in hindsight, and what a simple fix to avoid future annoyance!

EDIT: I was wrong. The brackets are too far apart if they are switched. I was able to tighten them more than I expected, and will just have to pay closer attention in the future.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

TAST 8: Chain Stitch

Record speed on this one - started Tuesday, finished Wednesday, posted Thursday!

I like chain stitch. I also like making pictures better than rows of stitching.

The big plant is mostly open chain stitch, tapering down to "regular" chain stitch. I was thinking of the charming horsetails plant, but the little plants look as much like asparagus spears as horsetails. They are "magic chain stitch" where you thread the needle with two colors and use them alternately.

The big plant was originally intended to have flowers, but it turned into a slightly different plant than my idea. Not a flower plant. It probably reproduces with spores.

Take a Stitch Tuesday on Pintangle: Chain Stitch

Horsetail (Equisetum) from the trip two weeks ago:

Special lizard bonus - I was hoping for a snake, and got a lizard! I was SO excited. The lizard escape technique is to dash madly for about a foot, and freeze unblinking as the hiker peers at you and takes pictures.

(We did see several snakes and a second lizard.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

TAST 7: Detached Chain Stitch

As I neared the end of the chevron stitch sample, I had a revelation: I was not enjoying it. These are SAMPLES. They are supposed to be fun. I do NOT need to cram in as many stitches as could possibly fit.

So, for this one, I left lots of space, getting around twinges of horror vacui by placement and just plain being tired of fanatical cramming. And presto, it was more fun to do - for one thing, I think I just like detached chain stitch better. Also, as its other name of lazy daisy stitch indicates, it is great for flowers and I had just seen lots of lovely flowers on last weekend's hikes.

This is the clearest embroidery-inspirer; I knew what stitches were coming up (since I'm so behind!) and this little flower was perfect.

Take a Stitch Tuesday
- detached chain stitch page.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TAST 6: Chevron Stitch

One more down for this year's Take a Stitch Tuesday.

Chevron stitch is nice enough, but I liked herringbone better. Not enamored of the lavenderish background color. It's a really loose weave, so I held muslin against the back as I stitched. The weave was clear enough to help a bit to align the stitches, but yet again, this is a stitch that would potentially be more pleasing to execute on an evenweave fabric. Alas, my cleverness in preparing dozens of pre-cut bits of fabric may be at least partially in vain. I think I will end up needing a bunch of evenweave.

Least appealing color experiment yet...I've started the next TAST already and like it much better. It is heavily influenced by wildflowers from the hiking trip last weekend. More about both some day soon.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TAST 5: Herringbone Stitch (& other stuff)

Still trailing along behind. This time I looked at some of the posted examples on Pintangle before I completed my own sample.

Oh, I also haven't mentioned my main references:

Jacqueline Enthoven, "The Stitches of Creative Embroidery" (Reinhold Publishing Corp. 1968)
- a vast array of stitches, including unusual ones like Breton stitch, and many suggestions for use; diagrams are decent but basic, well-supplemented by written explanation.

Grete Petersen and Elsie Svennas, "Handbook of Stitches" (Van Nostrand Reinhold 1970)
- really great diagrams, no written directions. This small format book is my favorite for taking along if I imagine I will need diagrams. The left-hand page has the diagrams, and the facing page an embroidered sampler with all the stitches in use - labeled so you can tell what they are.

(Years back I figure out that I'm a diagram person, not a photo person - I wondered why I unhesitatingly bought some bookbinding books, while others didn't appeal even if they had nice things in them. Diagrams vs. photographs.)

In German, herringbone stitch is Hexenstich. I'm a bit rusty on my cases, and had to peruse the dictionary in order to decide that is feminine plural genitive, i.e. "witches' stitch." (Nice examples at Handarbeitswelt, which I discovered while testing that my recollection of "Hexenstich" was correct.)

Still having trouble with the photography, but here it is.

The stitch is kind of witchy magical, looking like that on the front, and like this on the back:

* twill: not good if you are still stubbornly trying to do even stitching without marking anything. I worked the top four rows, then started at the bottom and worked up. For the purple and green bit I drew pencil lines with a ruler, band that helped. I also drew the fish outline. (I had to do a fish, for the herringbone stitch. I hoped it would look sort of fossilized, but it looks more grilled.)

As a bonus, today I looked through the stacks of little drawings (even a few watercolors and collages) that I did back in 2006. There are 365 of them, one for every day. Kim told me about some "one piece of art a day" challenge (catch-up days allowed) and I *did* it. I'm pondering what to do with them so they are more accessible - I don't think I'd looked at them since I finished them. There are several pretty good things in thing I learned in art school: if you make a LOT of stuff, you will also make some good stuff. The main thing is to make stuff.

And a completely unrelated thing - my bellydance veil arrived today! I ordered it from A'kai Silks and it is gorgeous. (Of course, someday I want to make my own, but I am learning to be sensible. Now is not the time.) The first one went astray in the mail, and she had to make a replacement - and included a scarf with it! I can't wait to try it out in class. I started classes back in January, and recently I feel like I'm beginning to be somewhat coordinated. It's fun. If I can figure out how to take a picture that does justice to the luscious colors of the silks, I'll post one.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TAST 4: Cretan Stitch

Ever since being on the cast of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" about 15 years ago, the word "Cretan" always triggers the line, "Oh no, a religious Cretan."

I really liked this stitch. It would be great for embroidering a trilobite.

Certain bits about the back were also surprisingly pleasing (the center area, behind the pods).

(Cotton, DMC 777)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ethnic Textiles: Turkoman

This for Sarah, because of the superb abundance of finishing treatments (for Complex Weavers).

In November this textile clearly indicated it should come home with me. The lady at the booth said it had been in her collection about 20 years; I don't know how much older than that it might be. It is Turkoman, and the wide part at the top is wool yarn done in the braid that tends to be called "fingerweaving." Six braids sewn side by side, and splendiforous fringe: wrapping with thread, wrapping with beads, tassel heads covered in what look like some sort of needlelace. Battered (tin?) beads - one of them has only its white (plaster?) core left. The fringe on the little tassels is thread over-twisted back on itself, so little beads and sequins can hang from it, and it doesn't have fuzzy cut ends. It delights me.

P.S. I belatedly realized I omitted measurements:
The width of the whole thing ranges from about 4 1/2" (right above the tasselage) to a bit over 5 1/2". The individual braids range from under 1" to a bit over 1" - they do not all have the same number of strands. I don't know if it shows very well in the photo, but there are actually several distinct shades in alternating braids; one of the reds is more intense, and one of the blacks is more blue. I wonder if it is really different dyes, or (bearing in mind something from Barber's Mummies of Ürümchi) if some of the yarn could be overdyed brown yarn instead of white.

The tassels are almost 7" from top wrapping to bottom bead. The braids themselves are hacked off irregularly at about 27-29"; fingerweaving tends to be worked from the center to one end, then reversed/upended to braid the other half. This leaves a distinctive diamond-ish pattern in the center, which is completely absent in the bit I have, so I don't know how long it may originally have been.

I also don't know what it might have been. It was made with love, but the yarn is kind of coarse. An animal trapping? Seems too stiff to be a sash, and in a cursory look at some pictures in Janet Harvey's Traditional Textiles of Central Asia and online does not seem to indicate any such thing.

Friday, April 27, 2012

TAST 3: Feather Stitch

This post is timely; embroidery finished yesterday.

Feather stitch:

Bottom row - test samples.
Top row, left to right:
*spaced feather stitch would be a good border
*intertwined feather stitch would be good for plants (I have several books with embroidered gardens which are quite appealing, though I doubt they would assuage the gardening fever that hits hard every spring...somehow windowsill flowerpots aren't quite satisfactory)
*back-to-back straight feather stitch - probably could be a border, but it first made me think of a fish skeleton (vertebrae)
*closed feather stitch would be good for a palm tree trunk.

And because I've been missing her extra again the last few weeks, a bonus kitty picture of Princess happy in the sun last summer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

TAST 2: Buttonhole Stitch

A little behind on this post - I finished the embroidery (buttonhole stitch) on April 8. In the meantime - no more embroidery, but I do have a lot of pieces of fabric cut to size (4x6) so I won't get sidetracked on that. Probably.

The colors are way off; the green should be more yellow-y, and the mauve isn't (it should be light orange). Parts of this are okay; I like the circle at the top right (I traced a thimble), and I liked the vertical embroidery on the orange rectangle until I added the darker over it. It came out kind of crowded. The patterns could work if I actually marked them instead of trying to do them freehand. Using evenweave fabric would help that,too.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

TAST 1: Fly Stitch

Last time I mentioned that I had belatedly encountered Sharon B's Take a Stitch Tuesday and felt compelled to trail along behind. Today I finished the first one, fly stitch.

It's on blue linen, two scraps pieced together and stitched with DMC. The purple really doesn't show well on my monitor (#814) and the cloth itself is really a bit darker. I think some of the pattern attempts would work better on evenweave fabric; I do like using fly stitch for plant-like things. (I opted for a slightly worse photo with slightly better color; may try re-photographing if I get energetic.)

And a bonus picture from a walk a few weeks ago - I wish the stalks/stems hadn't been in the way, but otherwise I really like the colors, especially in the ripples:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring? and Plans

Mother Nature was doing spring cleaning, and she found...some leftover winter.

To answer Elmsley Rose's question - yes, there is another project planned. This is what it looks like now:

(You're right, it doesn't look like anything - at this stage it is just bits of ironed cloth. It has been at this stage a couple of weeks and I'm starting to get ready to do the next bit...I seem to not like the orderly preparation stage, and I expect I will progress much more rapidly once I get to the fun part.)

Of course, there are lots of other things I could work on, instead - here is a peek into one of my new drawer units (a lot of organizing happened in January) - one collection of unfinished embroidery things:

Unfinished projects are truly a lot more inspiring when they are in a drawer, easily accessible, rather than stacked in small boxes and baskets, which always end up under things or in another box.

And lastly, soon I hope to write the long-planned post, which has to do with this item (now finished, but that picture is for the "real" post):

Oh, and P.S. Monday I was looking at Sharon B's blog Pin Tangle and this time I feel compelled to do Take a Stitch Tuesday, even though I'll be over three months late starting. It will get me to test out all those stitches I've read about but never tried, and make samples like I've been kinda wanting to.

And that REALLY is it. I need to go to bed. Good night!