“Hello…It’s Me…

…I’ve thought about us for a long, long time”  (sing along with Todd Rundgren)

Yup.  I’ve thought about us for a long, long time.  Through two computers, in fact.  I have killed two computers in one year!  And frankly dealing with anything computer-ish has been sickening for me!

Actually, I have been loving being computer-free!  I’ve had a lot more time for stitching and reading.  I’ve participated in a few stitch-alongs (SALs).  A couple have been blackwork!

One of three blackwork finishes in the past year.

One of three blackwork finishes in the past year.

Banu Demirel SAL

This is the beginning of a SEBA SAL around Xmas 2013

 

Currently…

I’m working on three SALs and in the last two weeks of a design class with Sharon Boggon.  The first project in the class was a monotone piece.  I used a kaleidoscope image of one of the patterns in the chess board that I made for Jeff.  Here’s the finished class piece:

Modern take on old form

Some old blackwork fill patterns mixed with some modern threads, a few canvas stitches, some embroidery stitches, and some beading!

Would you like to join me in the two blackwork SALs I’m doing?

Both are year-long projects.  One is a quick to stitch canvas take on Sashiko, very much like blackwork.  You could be caught up in less than a week.  The pattern is updated on the first of every month and is FREE.  You can find it (and a lot of other cool patterns) at Blue Dogwood Designs.  I am using my own colorway.

Pattern by Kay Fite at Bluedogwood Designs

My own rainbow colorway.

The other SAL is more time-consuming but a true joy for the blackwork freak (a non-derogatory 1970s term for someone loves something almost to the exclusion of all else!)  You will learn oodles and oodles about “journeys.”  You don’t have to do this as a reversible piece; in fact, I don’t think you can.  But you can practice tracking journeys so your backs will be very neat so when you want to do a reversible piece, you will feel more than ready.

In fact, for the first blocks I will be posting pics and notes about how I tackled each block so you have as few dark threads crossing as possible on the back side.  So if you’re anxious about how to tackle the more complex pattern, we can talk about it here.  We can help one another!

The best news is that the piece is designed by Elizabeth Almond, one of my blackwork heroines!  The design is called “Saving the Stitches.”  Here’s a bit of my work.  I’ve gotten quite a bit further on, but don’t have it photographed yet.  But, I think this will entice you to try your hand at this free pattern, too.

Elizabeth Almond's SAL

This the first 3 blocks. Not all metallics have been added yet.

Save the Stitches close up

Shows work a bit more clearly. I am loving stitching this. You will, too!

Are you convinced yet?  Get the pattern at Elizabeth Almond’s website with new installments on the first of the month every month for a year or so!  When you are ready to share your progress send me a note so I can link to your blog or website!

 

 

Blackwork SAL Starting May 17

Avis of “Oh Sew Tempting” is organizing a Mystery Stitch Along at her blog.  It will feature a design she has created.  Get the details at her blog.  I don’t think you have to do anything to join.  Just show up!  I’m going to!

I just finished my Seba Claire93 SAL that Avis mentions.  You can read about it and see it on the latest The Shop Sampler post.

Blackwork Journey

Ort Box with reversible blackwork

Reversible Blackwork: stitching the same on both sides of the canvas

The word journey keeps coming up for me these days.  Of course, thinking about the word journey leads me to think about blackwork stitching, especially reversible blackwork. (We’ll look at blackwork journeys much more closely in the future.)

It also makes me think of my two blackwork design projects, the mystery sampler and the thread sampler fabric book.

Since I’ve started my virtual apprenticeship with Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo to learn the process of creating Tibetan Buddhist thangkas, I was reminded that concentrating on the end product is not as valuable as attending to what is learned in “the journey.”

This is so true when I consider my impetuous and rather simple-minded plan to design a blackwork sampler.  By the time I’ve completed the design I will have learned about

  • thread and it’s interaction with ground fabric and one thread’s relationship to other threads
  • shading in blackwork by working with different numbers of strands of thread as well as different weights of thread
  • the process of design, kind of like how a child learns plaids don’t necessarily go with paisley
  • cultures that have been using blackwork in their designs for centuries
  • innumerable resources.that I can catalog and share here
  • and I will have met quite a number of people

Already I have learned

  • to slow down and look more closely at details, the small bits.  (I’ve always been a big picture kind of person.)  This requires a bit a patience
  • to accept that this blog is about sharing with others and documenting my process and interaction with blackwork embroidery.  It is not about producing something that will earn me followers and get big numbers.  (Although it is always nice to know you are not the Lone Ranger!)
  • loads about balance, not just in design, but in daily life.  I’ve always been kind of an all or nothing sort of person.  But so much is missed when you don’t follow “the middle way,” looking all ways along the way.

I am enjoying this journey.  And, after all, stitching is supposed to be fun!

What does your stitching life teach you?  How has stitching changed your life in little ways or big?  What kind of Journey are you taking?  Are you on the Blackwork Journey with me?

Blackwork Thread Sampler Continues

I have stitched my first stitches on my Blackwork Thread Sampler!  Feels good!  Of course, I’ve already had my first snag.

I was going to use the Trebizond for the cover because it’s so shiny and pretty.  But I didn’t like working with the silk.  Let me be more specific.  I did not like working with stranded Trebizond.  I will do some more research to find out if there is a way to handle stranding the twisted silk so it will handle more neatly in the stitching.

Instead I decided to use an old faithful—Mori stranded silk from Kreinik.  I have used this before and enjoyed it.  It is soft, but strong.  It does not fuzz up while you’re stitching, nor does it break as some threads do.  It is a matte finish, but I can live with that.

So, what exactly am I stitching?  Let me back up a step or two.

I mentioned before there are some factors to consider before laying thread to fabric.  And these are the factors:

  1. The threads should be identified clearly in the sample or there should be a legend that will never be separated from the sampler.
  2. The threads should be used as fully as they would in any worked piece.  In other words, if the thread is a stranded one, then strand usage should be incorporated to the piece.
  3. The sampler should answer any question a person might have about the thread as used in any type of work.
  4. The threads sampler should show very clearly the differences between the various thread samples.

I also said that I wanted this work to be like the Encyclopedia Britannica of blackwork thread usage.  For those who don’t know what the Britannica was, it was a reference book, the oldest English language encyclopedia in fact.

So, I’m making a book!  A fabric book!

It took me a while to find information about how to construct a fabric book.  I had a basic Idea, but I really am not interested in trial and error when it comes to finishing.  I want a fail-safe method that will make me proud to show my work to others.  I found a very nice answer at Shade Tree Art.  My model will be my take on Shade Tree’s model.

  1. My cover will be the title stitched in black silk on linen.  This piece will be bordered with the “cover fabric.”
  2. Each page of the book will be devoted to one thread.
  3. There will be a Table of Contents identifying the order of the threads sampled.
  4. I will leave several end pages to accommodate threads that will come to market in the future.
  5. I’m not sure if I want each page to be the linen with the thread sample or a muslin page that I appliqué the stitch sample onto.
  6. If I do attach the sample to a foundation page, I will embroider the page number and identifier info onto the foundation fabric to show how the thread handles on a different ground.

Boy, this is a lot of work to do just to stitch a sampler!  But I’m loving every minute of it, truly a labor of love energized by passion!

What do you think about item 5?  Should the stitched sample be applied to a foundation page or be the actual page itself?  Tomorrow I’ll show you where things are at with the cover.  And for now I’m going to go stitch on it some more.  Feedback, people, feedback!

Synchronicity and Thread

Do you believe in synchronicity?  I do!  Especially when I put a question out to the Universe and the answer is sent to my e-mail box!

Yesterday I shared my Thread Sampler thread list with you and asked for input about any threads that would be good additions to my list.

Today I got my daily e-mail from Mary Corbet’s website, Needle ‘n Thread.  And what was she writing about but,Trebizond!

I’d forgotten it’s on my wish list of threads to buy and try.  It is a lovely, shiney 3-ply twisted silk from Access Commodities.  Your finer embroidery suppliers will have it or know how to get it.  Or you can click on the links in Mary’s article!

I’m adding it to my list!

The Thread Sampler Threads

This Coptic motif is 34 stitches by 34 stitchesWhile we consider if there are other questions I have missed (see previous post), I thought I would tell you about the threads I’ve gathered to sample.  

  1. Caron’s Impressions, color 0020—This thread is 50% silk and 50% wool.  It is soft, slightly fuzzy, and has 3 plies.
  2. DMC’s Medici, color noir—Another soft, fuzzy thread which is considered a fine weight wool that is not divisible.  Wool threads are non-reflective so will provide a very matte finish.  And it’s mothproof!
  3. Vineyard Silk Classic, Jet Black—While this thread is 100% Chinese silk, it feels like the Caron’s Impressions.  It is non-strandable and supposed to not untwist when you’re using it, nor get dented by the needle.
  4. Needlepoint Inc. Silk, color 993—This 8 ply thread is 100% Chinese Silk.  Since it is reeled as opposed to spun the fibers are longer and should hold together better.
  5. Belle Soie, Noir—French for “Beautiful Silk, black” really does describe this 12 stranded spun silk.  The color is not quite as intensely black as the others, perhaps because it is hand dyed.
  6. Baroque Silk, Witching Hour—This company’s colors are so rich, I’m looking forward to stitching with this hand dyed 3 ply thread.
  7. Splendor, S801—Rainbow Gallery threads are probably familiar to the average stitcher of today.  Splendor is their 12-ply hand washable silk thread that is manufactured in France.  While I haven’t used this color, I have used the thread in several projects and I love working with it.   This is what Rainbow Gallery has to say about the product:  This is a 12-ply silk floss with an unusual construction. It has three bundles of four strands each. It is easiest if you pull the bundles out first and then take out each strand. The twist of each individual strand is tighter than most silks. This makes Splendor easier to use. It will not snag on all but the roughest hands. Be careful to ply and lay the silk to keep the nice shine. I have also stitched with each bundle as it comes. This silk is perfect for people who have been afraid of silks. Many of the usual problems experienced with silk will not occur with Splendor. Anyone that stitches with cotton floss will have no problem with it.
  8. Mandarin Floss, M801—Have you played with any of the newer untraditional threads?  I have used Sea Grass with success and now love it.  Mandarin Floss is in this category for me.  It is 100% Bamboo and has 6 plies.  It feels so nice that I may start with it!  This is what Rainbow Gallery has to say about their product:  “It lays better than cotton because it is softer and yet is still quite strong. You can use slightly longer stitching lengths since it wears better too.  It is less costly than silk but has many silk-like properties. Its semi-matte finish doesn’t overpower your other stitches.  Most matte threads lines have gone off the market and Mandarin floss works well as a  substitute. Blends well with with metallic filament for cross stitching.  Great for French Knots, Turkey Work, tassels and twisted cords.”
  9. DMC Cotton Floss—I’m sure everyone is familiar with this 6-ply thread
  10. DMC Cotton Perle #3, #5, #8, #12, color #310—Everyone is most likely familiar with these, too!
  11. Sulky Cotton—This is my favorite sewing machine thread.  I have also used it for hand quilting.  I like working with it so thought I would add it to my list.

What threads would you have on your list?  Any recommendations for one or more that I really should add to mine?

Blackwork Experimental Sampler In Progress

This Coptic  motif is 34 stitches by 34 stitches

Please ignore the arrows. This motif is 34 stitches by 34 stitches. It would make a charming border

This little project is a marriage of my love of blackwork and my love of samplers.  Anyone who has been following The Shop Sampler blog will know that I have been playing with samplers and stitch practice for this year through the Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge at PIn Tangle and with the support of the Stitchin’ Fingers community.  I have also joined the Yahoo group The Sampler Life.  (As if I didn’t already have enough internet reading to do!)  It is also a good group that is supportive and very creative as well as opening up even more of the international stitching world.

I mentioned in my last post that I am an avid fan of the Antique Pattern Library and have joined that Yahoo group, too.  It’s the best way to keep up with what’s new at the Library.  Also an international community of stitchers, I’m expecting that anyone needing help with translations can find someone there.

So, here’s the deal.

  1. I have struggled with what thread I want to use for my Mystery Sampler project.  I’ve looked at and bought a sample of every black thread out there.  I have read about different people’s preferences.
  2. I have been playing with different (colored) threads in my TAST projects and it is very clear how certain threads work for one desired effect and some threads will not work in the same situation.  Like twisted thread works well for Double Twisted Chain, but stranded thread just looks messy in that stitch.
  3. It is clear—Thread matters!
  4. Samplers are the tried and true method of testing patterns!  Hence birth of a new sampler!

Oh boy!  You would think you could just pick up your fabric and start stitching.   WRONG!

Well, maybe a little right.  But I want this sampler to be useful, to be a really good reference, like the Encyclopedia Britannica of blackwork thread usage.  Or Wikipedia entry of blackwork thread usage for those of you who are younger than Baby Boomers!

So what features should be incorporated into this sampler for it to be eternally useful?

  1. The threads should be identified clearly in the sample or there should be a legend that will never be separated from the sampler.
  2. The threads should be used as fully as they would in any worked piece.  In other words, if the thread is a stranded one, then strand usage should be incorporated to the piece.
  3. The sampler should answer any question a person might have about the thread as used in any type of work.
  4. The threads sampler should show very clearly the differences between the various thread samples.

And another thing—

  1. How does ground affect the thread usage?  How can I work this into the sampler?  Certain fabrics tend to “eat up” the pattern.  Like Aida 14 or Fiddlers Cloth just don’t show silks off at all, in my opinion the fabric is too heavy and overpowers the delicate strength of the silk.  [Are there fabric/thread combinations that you simply would never use?]
  2. How does the thread work with colored threads in the case I want to get into the latest thing in blackwork—Colored Monochrome?  I don’t know about you, but I have experienced how different colored threads behave differently than the exact same thread in another color.  Because the dye has an effect on the fiber.  I have found reds can sometimes be rather knotty to work with.  [How about you?  What thread colors have you had weird experiences with?]
  3. [Can you think of other questions that should be considered in planning this sampler?]

I have answered some of these questions, in fact many of them at thigs point.  But before I tell you what I have figured out, I want to hear from you.  How would you answer these questions?  What other questions do you think would be important? You tell me then I’ll tell you.  Deal?!

I’ll give y’all a couple days to mull this over before I post again!