The first worktop bin was such a success that I decided to do another one.
This time the bin itself is a cardboard drum that used to contain chocolates. It’s rather bigger than my sawn-off milk bottle, and furthermore, the canvas is finer (I’m only using two strands of Paterna in the needle, not three), so the canvas is going to take a little longer to do.
I’m staying with browns, and with diamond patterns, and starting with this diamond lattice pattern. I’ve had enough of the creamy beige wool to work the framework, and since it is only two strands, I should have enough of it to work the edging and seam as well.
But there is a lot more dark brown to come and I may very well find myself combining threads to stretch my varieties of dark brown to fit the pattern. Never mind, I will then have made some Stashbusting Progress!
Has anyone else noticed what a very inexact science stashbusting is? You embark on a project, full of hope that it will consume vast stores, only to find that the Stash in question has shrunk not at all…
Right up until the project when you rely on that happening….
When I’d finished the stitching of the canvaswork for the Form Cushion, it was a little puffy and warped, and badly in need of blocking, but being long and thin I had nothing suitable for blocking it on. Until I had an inspiration – use the form itself!
We covered the form with an old towel, and then worked on alternate sides of the form. I’ve put an old length of cotton curtain header over the canvas, so that when I come to remove the staples, it will be fairly easy to do.
It took quite a lot of heaving and tweaking, and the combined efforts of my mother and myself (for a client, she’s having to put a lot of effort in here, isn’t she! – she’s started on renovating the form too.), but in due course we managed to get the canvas firmly attached, and stood back to look at it.
It didn’t look nice and smooth as it does here. It was bumpy and lumpy, and not very happy at all.
So I steamed it gently, using a steam iron but not letting it touch the wool. Very, very carefully, and slowly..
It started looking a great deal better (even upside-down), but then we set it aside, still stapled in place, for a few weeks. We wanted to be sure that it was very thoroughly dry before we moved on to actually making the cushion.
And besides, I’m not entirely clear on the type of cushion it will be!
So here is the completed traycloth, laid on a convenient tray and assisted by the hand-me-down cutlery (from my grandparents) and the hand-me-down Willow Pattern (from my cousin). We were very entertained (and very pleased for them!), when going around a stately home last year, to find that Willow Pattern was the servant’s hall crockery, although I don’t know quite why.
I didn’t attempt to stitch the two motifs identically. The original sketch of the patterns didn’t look identical, and to my mind that form of perfect repetition is overrated in any case. This shot also shows the machined “satin stitch” border, of three very narrow bands. I suspect they may be padded in some way because the bands are very heavily ridged.
I chose to use very few colours – a yellow, two oranges, and two greens. The stitchery is simple, too, stem stitch and satin stitch, with bullion knots for the stamens. I don’t much like doing bullion knots (a holdover from early attempts) but sometimes they are simply and unarguably, the right stitch for the job.
They didn’t take long, and the completed traycloth does have a very cheering look to it!
There’s been a bit more tidying up going on, and this appeared, ready prepared and kitted up. Presumably by the very same lady – or, given what embroiderers are like, possibly acquired from someone else who’d decided not to do it after all. I’ve found all sorts of half-completed needlework projects on Embroiderer’s Guild stalls!
The design was in a copy of “New Stitches” magazine, but heaven knows how old it is. At least eight years, because we’ve had it tucked away that long!
There’s not much of it done, so one of us will have plenty to keep themselves occupied with.
In spite of Topsy, my mother is talking about taking it on. She’s much better at counted work than I am, so I’m likely to leave her to it, although I must admit it does look rather charming, and blackwork is a style I’ve yet to tackle!
Look at all the different stitch patterns here! So intricate…
If ever either of us gets this finished, I’ll be sure to let you know…
This teacloth was worked by my mother as a schoolgirl.
The design came from a transfer, and there was another girl in her class that was working the same one. With rather a difference. Her flowers were all lazy daisy stitch, and anything else was stem stitch, apart from the edges, and she got the whole thing finished in a term.
Needless to state, as her mother’s daughter, and with the spectre of Miss Hunter in the background, my mother wasn’t going to use a stitch with “lazy” in the name.
She did all the edges in blanket stitch – which with my recent experience with the Azorean Cutwork has me extremely impressed. It takes so long to make any noticeable progress with it!
The leaves are all in feather stitch, and they’re beautifully shaped, and the flowers are satin stitch – very neat satin stitch, which again is one of my least favourite stitches, and one I only do neatly in short bursts and with something else to do in between!
Of course, my mother didn’t get her teacloth done in a single term – but her teacher was so impressed with what was finished that she took it home and handwashed and pressed the completed corner to put in in the end of term exhibition.
In spite of the fact that I very much doubt whether the teacher had contributed anything at all to my mother’s skill in the matter!
I’ve reached a sort of sticking point with the Modern StitchOff project, so I’ve decided to pause and think about it.
I took the blanket outside (all four and three-quarter pounds of it!) and hung it on the washing line to stare at, and photograph for you.
This is the reverse side – that is, the side you don’t see when sitting at the embellisher, trying not to break needles.
This is the front. It can be quite fluffy – the hexagonal net keeps fibre in place while embellishing, but at the cost of sometimes failing to realise it hasn’t been firmly enough attached. I’m learning that I need to make a first pass with the net, trying to be thorough, but then take off the net and go over the same area again.
I’m also noticing that although I used two different types of felt for the leaf shapes, and they behave differently under the needles, the effect on front and back is sufficiently similar that in future I will pick the felt which felts easily (if you follow me!).
The reverse has a rather intriguing spotty effect. When there’s only one layer of embellishing it is easy to see that it is one tiny dot of colour for every needle (which makes sense!). The front varies rather more, sometimes flat and densely textured by the needles, sometimes fluffy and fly away.
My challenge now is to work out how to extend the colour and texture to the rest of the blanket, and then to decide, do I add some lines of roving, and if so, how. Although if anyone suggests using a hand-embellisher, my howls of outrage will be heard by NASA’s “Juno”!
One of the few things that made being poorly tolerable when I was a small child was the way my food arrived – on the good china, on a tray, covered with a traycloth. A hand embroidered traycloth, no less!
It wasn’t enough to encourage me to malinger, I hasten to add. But anything to give the invalid a lift…
Not surprisingly, the family stock of traycloths is somewhat reduced since those days, many of those traycloths having disintegrated after long and faithful service, so I though that I would use some of the flower sprays found among the Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off patterns to embroider some more.
I decided to make my own transfers, and promptly discovered a forgotten hazard that I should have added to that post on Transferring Designs. Whatever you do, if you are using a steam iron, Switch Off The Steam! Not only is the transfer not usable again, it didn’t work the first time!
Once I’d got the steam switched off, things improved, and I got two sprays transferred onto diagonally opposite corners of a traycloth I found lying around, unadorned. It’s linen, too, so I’m amazed it has taken me this long to embellish it!
I’m no botanist, so I can’t hazard a guess at the flower this is intended to be. It may not be intended as anything up a pretty combination of shapes, of course, in which case any eccentricities of stitching are unlikely to matter very much..
I’ve decided to go for some bright, cheerful yellows – to cheer up any invalids who might see it!
I’ve been gradually accumulating the skills needed to wrangle my embellisher successfully. It was worth buying the extension table that fits around the arm of the machine – that began to make the whole thing seem possible.
Using the net to hold down the fibres made a huge difference, and so did piling up props to keep the weight of the blanket from pulling on the needles. The props then worked better again when I covered them, and the table, with a slippery plastic tablecloth to stop them getting caught up.
I’ve also found that on my wooden sewing table, the embellisher “walks” with the vibration of its movement. Two layers of heavy batting on the table seem to have fixed that particular alarming problem, and then I bought some spare needles (20 of them!) and relaxed a little, which made it easier not to jerk at the fabric and break needles.
So what with one thing and another, I’m beginning to feel as though I might be getting to grips with the embellisher!
I’m also beginning to learn which fabrics work. Obviously, the hexagonal net gets shredded and doesn’t get pulled into the fabric. Dense commercial wool felt doesn’t felt in well, in fact it seems to pull itself back out again; but real wool tweed and the lofty “pre-felt” pieces felt in like a dream, and end up looking almost as though they were part of the fabric.
The fibres seem to remain quite lofty and furry, even after being fairly thoroughly felted in, although the merino becomes flatter than some of the other fibres. The more I work with the embellisher, the more I realise that there is rather more to it than meets the eye!
A lot more….
At the moment, the colours aren’t quite working, but my next stage is to start to add details, and tweak the colours a bit. I need to add the teals and greens that are part of the fabric pattern that gave me the colour-scheme, and also help some of the edges and lines of the pattern to come to life..
But I might also choose to use the back… The spotty, “dithered” effect is very like the overall effect of the fabric I’ve mentioned, so I need to consider whether to continue adding to what is at present the “front”, or to start adding tweaks to the “back”.
I mentioned in the first post about this project that I was planning to use what are technically referred to as “intimate blends” of fibres to create a more subtle colour range. If you click on the picture you will get a better sense of the varieties I am putting together.
If I were planning to spin these blends, I wouldn’t start from here. Some of the colours are lovely silky-smooth, long staple, Falklands merino, and others, labelled “Nepal Wool” in my local shop, are short staple, and very curly and springy. I’ve even got some very wiry undyed Devon and Cornwall Longwool, bought last Autumn at the Lost Gardens of Heligan (go, if you get a chance: we had a wonderful day out there!). So the characteristics are very different, and that matters quite a lot with yarn, although there is a way to do almost anything if you have the time to make it work. It matters less with felting, so some of my blends would make my spinning master splutter something like “Didn’t I teach you anything?”.
Fortunately, what I am attempting is based entirely on the colours.
The blanket became very unwieldy at this point. I’ve since found the label and discovered it weighed four and a quarter pounds before I even began!
However, that wasn’t really the problem. I didn’t want to have pins within the area I was working, because they’d be certain to get caught up and cause more breakages (by the action of what my father refers to as the Law of Maximum Cussedness). The central section is about two foot in diameter, so a lot of as-yet-unattached fibre was rather more free to move under the netting than I would have wished. Furthermore, because of this I was finding myself tensing up and pressing harder on the foot pedal, and that was when I would get out of sync and break a needle or two.
Hexagonal net laid over the fibres helps to keep them from around the “foot” for want of a better word, of the embellisher. I’ve pinned it down, inside and outside the ring, and spent a lot of time struggling with a piece of blanket which seems to get larger every time I go back to it.
The challenge with an embellisher is to move the fabric when the needle unit is up, because if the needle unit is down when the fabric moves, needles get broken.
And I can assure you, they break. Eight, I think, by the end of my first serious day of using my embellisher.
The blanket got heavier and more unwieldy, but by the end of the day I was beginning to feel I might be getting the hang of it.
This might be in part because my sewing table was gradually accreting some props. I covered it with plastic tablecloth, to help the material slide, and stretched the plastic tablecloth over a clothes horse.
That in turn helped to raise the main weight of the blanket – the bit I wasn’t working on – so that it was no longer dragging down on the section I was working on.
I even piled up some of the blanket on the windowsill, and I do rather wonder what anyone passing by might have thought of the net curtains swishing tempestuously with no person in sight!
What was definitely not feeling better by the end of the day was that hardworking and hapless net. It doesn’t get felted in – that’s why it’s such a useful addition to the armoury of the user of an embellisher – but it does get pretty thoroughly shredded. This may be in part because I’m not yet experienced enough to know when I can dispense with it, or it may be because I’m working on small parts of the piece at once because it is so big and heavy.
Fortunately I bought a couple of yards of it, for precisely this purpose!