Monday, April 18, 2016

Piecing April: Quarter Square Triangles

So, our dryer broke. We have a clothesline, which is great! And I really enjoy hanging laundry up on the line because I get to be in the sunshine and feel productive at the same time. I like folding and putting away laundry somewhat less than I enjoy hanging it, but it's not a terrible thing. Unfortunately, because Husband is generally the one who takes care of the majority of the laundry duties and those have now fallen to me, that means a serious cut into my blogging and crafting time so that I can make sure everyone has clean shirts.

I did make time for a couple of blocks last week and worked on using the quarter square triangle. Like the HST, you do have to be aware of bias distortion and a walking foot would be very, very useful for avoiding it (alas, I still haven't one). Unlike the HST, the bias is on the right angle and not on the hypotenuse. Confused? Here's a diagram:


I hope that clears up the geometry a bit. This means that the triangles will be right triangles like the HST, but that they will also behave a little differently when you're sewing them.

This week, I did some Ohio Stars:




I'm hoping to do some Isosceles triangles this week, if I don't get buried under the laundry again.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Piecing April: Half Square Triangles

Aaaah, the good ol' HST. It's easy to put together into a variety of patterns either by itself or with other shapes. It's a quilting standby and rightly so, being that the right triangle is fine upstanding citizen of the Pythagorean realm. 

I'm doing a quilt for Miss Bu, since her elder sister's is closer to completion and if I don't get started, I won't finish hers before she goes off to college. 

Sure, it seems like I have a lot of time now, but I thought that about Iris' quilt, too. Best get busy on it. 
She's a shining star.
For Iris, I decided on a rainbow quilt. Iris means rainbow, hence rainbow quilt. For Phoebe, which means "bright and shining," I'm doing stars. There's a lot of potential for using different techniques using star-themed blocks and one of the simplest is the HST.

The simplest HST block is the pinwheel, which to me looks like the rays of a sun. It can also be used as a component in other blocks, so I thought I'd get a little practice in on this.

Before I show you the other ones, I feel it's necessary to pause for a public service announcement:

Bias distortion is real. If you or a friend has experienced bias distortion, don't despair. There is a solution. 

When you are cutting HSTs, the sides that form the right angle are often on the grain and the cross-grain. That is to say that those cuts run more or less parallel to the vertical and horizontal threads that compose the fabric. Therefore, the long side will be on the bias. The bias is stretchy and goes all wonky (that's a technical term) when you stitch it, meaning that your squares will go off-square.

What I want to have to solve this problem is a walking foot. I do not have a walking foot. I do, however, have junk mail. A bit of paper under the seam keeps the feed dogs from stretching the fabric out and tears away easily. It's not an ideal solution, but it's better than nothing. Tear-away stabilizer would work fine too, I imagine, but I didn't have any of that, either.

This is the friendship star, which is just a 9-patch using HSTs and plain ol' squares. It has a satisfying star shape and is easy to assemble. The whole square is mean to be 9", finished, so 9 1/2" unfinished. Each of the smaller squares, then, is 3" finished and 3 1/2" unfinished. For the HSTs, make a square that's the desired finished width plus 7/8, and cut it corner to corner to make a triangle the correct size.

You can fancy it up with fabric choice and by changing up what you're doing with the smaller squares. 
I'm fond of the wee little mini-9-patches. This brown one was a practice piece and will become something that is yet to be determined. They might be large potholders or a table runner or something else. The fabrics were a recent gift from a friend (Thanks, Robbie!) and I'm super tickled to start using them with some of my old stash. 

The last one (below) is my favorite of the whole batch and I'm infinitely pleased with how it turned out. 




There are more HST blocks to be had, but for next week, I'm going to do some more difficult geometry. There might even be trapezoids; you don't know what could happen!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Embroidery March: Bonus Wrap-up Post!

March has an extra Thursday in it, so I thought I'd look back on this month and see how some of my attitudes and perceptions have changed about embroidery in general and to show you some progress I've made on the various projects for the month.

Freestyle will be my first love as far as embroidery goes. I'm getting better at satin stitch, which I previously hadn't made much use of, and at doing more with fewer colors and stitches, such as with the snowdrops hanky from earlier this month.

I love the freedom of it and the ability to have all the tools of embroidery at my disposal. A++, would go again.

Blackwork is limiting, not only because it's entirely black, but also because it's a counted-stitch method. It's the opposite of my preferred freestyle embroidery, but limiting my toolbox, as it were, allows me to focus on how the weight of the thread and the density of the pattern affects the look of the design. Where freestyle is more like painting, this is pen and ink.

As an extra added bonus, I get to play with repeating geometric designs, for which I have an unnatural fondness.

A++, would go again.


Previously, I thought cross-stitch to be one of the, er... lower forms of embroidery. I sort of have a bias against the creepy large-eyed children and schmoopy sayings that tend to be done up in cross-stitch. Those and the Thomas Kinkade style pictures have never really been the sort of thing I like to do.

My own design based on illustrations from old books? That I can do. I will admit to liking the design process better than the actual stitching, but I like the stitching much more when it's a design that doesn't make me want to barf.
B+, won't ever be my favorite, but I'm enjoying what I'm doing.

Whitework is seriously hard to photograph, but looks pretty bitchin' in person. There's just something about white-on-white that gives me heart palpitations. Because, like blackwork, my embroidery toolbox is much more limited, I can focus on a different element of the whole embroidery picture. In this case, it's the way texture is affected by the structure of the stitch. I suppose this would be more like relief sculpture than anything else because whitework makes use of light and shadow playing off of the three-dimensional stitches. I've opted to go for something more like Mountmellick embroidery first because cutwork makes me feel woozy. When I can manage it without fainting, I'll be able to make use of negative space, too. I'm not there yet, though.
A++, would go again.

Bonus:
I like seed stitch. You could do a whole piece in seeding and it would be like some kind of embroidery version of pointillism.

This piece is giving me fits, though. These shapes between the flower petals and the petals themselves are very uneven. I still haven't decided if I'm just going to roll with it or take it out in a fit of pique. It's having a cool-off period for now.


And so we have come to the end of the first quarter. I'm going to keep working on these (except for the blue thing, which is in time out), but we're going to look at some new stuff in the second quarter as I continue to try to get the da Vinci Disorder under control.

April will be for Quilt Piecing  and I wish it were more alliterative and clever, but hey, whaddya gonna do? We're going to make some quilt blocks is what. I have quilt-based aspirations that need a good swift kick in the pants.

After that, we'll be participating in Me-Made-May, sort of. Not officially. You can do that here. Mostly, I want to do a retrospective to see what I'm actually using of the things I make. It's also an excellent excuse to get caught up on some of the projects I've started in the first quarter. May also tends to be a little wackadoo for us, so I'll need a breather for sure.

Following Me-Made-May in June is the Outfit-a-long, hosted over here by Ms Lladybird. Again, I won't be officially alonging, but I'm going to sew something to wear that I'm actually going to wear, then I'm going to knit something to go with the something I sewed.

See you at Stitches!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

FO: A bit of this, a bit of that


To be honest, I'm not sure what all went into this skein. There are bits of cashmere, a fair bit of unknown wool, some llama, a bit of merino, and probably a smidge of silk up in there. Beyond that, there could be unicorn fuzz for all I know. These batts had a bit of everything.

I've been reading up on the mechanics of spinning (of which there are many) and trying some different things with my wheel, so I wanted to use some fiber that wouldn't make me cry too much if I messed it up. Turns out I prefer double drive to Scotch tension, but my bobbins were backwards. I think I've got it sorted now.


So here's 3.6 ounces of about sport weight: A bit of this, a bit of that. I'm not sure of the yardage yet, but it's probably somewhere on the order of 250ish yards. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Embroidery March: Whitework


This is all of the whitework I have ever done in the world, so this is going to be a short post.

Using the very most basic definition, whitework is any embroidery where only white thread is used and usually on a white ground fabric. Generally, though not always, it's a surface embroidery rather than a counted thread technique. As it turns out, whitework could mean any number of techniques, many of which involve cutwork, which is just fancy-pants holes you put there on purpose. I'm not quite ready for cutwork, so I'm working this next hanky in what might be called Mountmellick embroidery, which generally doesn't have holes, but might have a knit edging. That I can do.

Since it's white-on-white, the key thing that I'm going to have to remember is texture. As a fine artist, I'm a painter and not a sculptor, so it's easier for me to think in terms of the relationships between colors than in the ways three dimensional shapes  or textures come together. I can do it, but it's not my strength. One of the reasons I've likely waited until now to try whitework is because it's monochromatic. My favorite color is all of them, so working with subtlety will be a little bit of a challenge.

But I have life goals and those life goals include a whitework tablecloth.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

FO: Snowdrops Hanky

I do still need to wash and iron this hanky before I call it done and send it out into the world, but the embroidery is done, so I'm calling it good for the purposes of blogging.


This one is done on one of Husband's old work shirts, poly/cotton blend, with cotton embroidery floss in satin stitch, stem stitch, double running stitch, and a smidge of long-armed cross stitch and chain stitch.
This image, snerched from the British Library's Flickr. was the inspiration for this piece and is in the public domain.

Embroidery March: Cross Stitch

Image copyright Victoria and Albert Museum
Once again, my blog schedule is wonky. I'm hoping this cold will pass soon and that I can have my brains back. So, without further ado: Cross Stitch.

I've tried cross stitch before, but haven't ever been able to stick with it. Generally, I get bored and wander off and I'm not sure why. As a result of Embroidery March, I've been poking it with a stick to see what it's made of and why I didn't have the attention for it before. Now, it's perfectly alright not to like every single craft in existence, but after a little bit of effort, I've discovered what's fun about cross stitch. While I feel like the slowest dot matrix printer in existence (probably the source of my previous boredom), once the design begins to show, I get that giddy feeling that you get when you're working with a self-striping yarn and you come to a color change.

As a stitch, the cross stitch has been around since approximately forever, but designs done entirely or almost entirely in cross stitch are slightly more recent, about five hundred years or so. It's hard to say exactly when it happened, but it's probable that cross stitch designs were influenced by the rising popularity of blackwork, according to the Cross Stitch Guild's article Threads of History.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has the earliest example of a cross stitch sampler, produced by a Miss Jane Bostocke in 1598. That place has everything. I haven't found a reproduction of it yet, but I'd certainly love to see one.

I also found out that the most fun part for me was to create new designs, which is easy-peasy with Stitch Fiddle. The following image is from the British Library's Flickr account, which has been an endless source of amusement for me. I love me some public domain images.

I thought this would make a fine design for one of those kitchen towels with the band of cross stitch across the bottom, so I colored it:


And then imported this image into Stitch Fiddle. I'm working the design now, making edits here and there as I go. When I'm done, I'll have a workable chart and a fancy towel. I can't think of anything better than that.
I love it when a plan comes together.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Embroidery March: Blackwork (reprise)

I've alternately been under the weather and distracted by nice weather. Last Thursday's blog post just escaped me entirely. I had meant to do a reprise of the blackwork post from back in January, so here it is, albeit a few days late.

Back in January, I talked about blackwork as a means of repairing weak fabric, but not really as a decorative art and that's what I want to talk about today. There are some really great pieces at the Victoria and Albert Museum, such as this woman's waistcoat that show the decorative potential of blackwork.

Image copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 
If I had a higher resolution image, I'd be copying the heck outta that. I have been working on a small sampler and trying out  some different techniques.


The top left and bottom right designs came from my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework and the top right and bottom left designs are from my own brain. I'm pleased with how it turned out and I kind of want to do some more samplers just to see if I can't figure out some designs that are both in the Spanish style (reversible designs in Holbein stitch) and in the English style (non-reversible, organic designs like the waistcoat above).


I'm about as pleased with the back of it as I am with the front. The hexagon design did very well on the reverse, as did the picot on the top and bottom. I'm still working on starting and finishing threads more neatly, but I'm pleased overall.


My next challenge is going to be to figuring out how to use the density of the pattern to produce values of dark and light over a larger design. I'll let you know how it goes and if it all goes well, I'm considering writing up the little bird as a pattern.

I'm loving the simplicity of blackwork, though it's just about the opposite of my usual free style stuff. I'm used to working without counted stitches and in all the colors, but using only black reminds me a lot of pen-and-ink drawing. In the 17th century, they used woodcuts for inspiration.


The only thing that changed is that I grabbed this image from four thousand miles away and never had to leave my living room. This coming Thursday, I'll talk about cross stitch, which I have yet to successfully do. It'll be an adventure!