Little women, in stitches

My current work schedule leaves me only a few precious hours for personal pursuits, especially the large projects like my weaving or fine needlepoint. I miss the feeling of satisfaction that comes from making a big idea into a big finished work. So in the evenings after work I am focusing on smaller projects to give myself the boost that only comes from seeing a finished project. I’ve been doing some quick embroidery sketches.

Just as in my family painting series (four of which are languishing neglected on my easel), I like to try to give my images in fibre bold lines or exaggerated traits. I’ve started a series of women quickly sketched in black lace-weight thread. Then with each woman I target one thing about her to highlight.

Women are defined narrowly in popular culture. By our beauty, our hair, our lips, our eyes , or our clothes. I decided to run with that and define each of the sketches by one of those things.

The series is below. I’m enjoying not only the more immediate sense of accomplishment that come with the speed of the work, but also the textures I can create. Whereas in painting I can add only line and colour, in fibre I’ve begun working on textures like hair in addition to colour and line. It’s pretty to test stitches and thread weights.

I’ll be working on this series for a while yet because it makes me happy, and because it’s helping me improve my embroidery skills. I consider this training up to tackle some really big ideas kicking around my head.

                            

                          

 

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A room of my own

dotingI am blessed with a doting husband. When we looked for our current house he never hesitated to add ‘art room’ to the list of spaces our home must have.

For the past five years I have made ever expanding use of this a glorious room of my own. It has windows on three sides, a fireplace, and view of my garden.

I right away installed a gallery art hanging system on the 11 foot wall so I could display what I created.

I have stainless steel tables for playing with clay, and ink, and paint, which also serve as my desk.

I have cabinets for my stuff.

I have a big easel in a corner.

I have a an old door made into a table for my loom, for which I will eventually get a glass top cut for so I can use it to keep weaving samples on display.

I have my grandmother’s old vanity holding my painting supplies.

I have a spot for my laptop and a iPod player.

I have a brand new sewing machine which has a table and window all to itself.

And I have a fireplace to keep me toasty warm.

The room was almost perfect, except that the walls were an uninspired dingy cream.

So I decided to make it perfect. Choosing colours came first.

I chose a colour that is somewhere between Tiffany blue and Birks blue. You could call it robin’s egg blue. I call it gorgeous.

It took me five days to get it all painted, then one more to put the room back together. It is a huge improvement on the shabby beige it used to be. My time spent here was always fine, but now the time spent in this room of my own will be sublime.

(Take a little tour here)

This winter we’re taking advantage of a forced remodel of the basement due to a spring flood to make my hubby a room of his own. I’ve offered to paint it any colour he chooses. I hope his happy space turns out as well as mine.

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Weaving cloth

My youngest son says I have loom madness. I think I’ve just found my calling.

Since getting my 36″ rigid heddle loom for Christmas I have been weaving non-stop.

I signed myself up for some very helpful classes on Craftsy.com to help me master the craft more quickly. The first couple months I got a feel for some basics; warping the loom, making the edges even, and finishing the top and bottom ends off neatly.

I must say though, my favourite part is playing with colour and texture. I have woven some really nice plaids and stripes. My next project will be a check or a log cabin pattern.

I only have one reed and it is fairly large, so I initially only worked with number 4 yarn. It turned out nice but the resulting cloth is a heavier weight. I did some small placemets, then moved on to some larger pieces of the heavy cloth.

My husband calls this the camo plaid.

I made three pieces of it.

My hope is I can turn it into a cape style coat like another coat I have, but with a slightly different collar. I’ll be fiddling with making a pattern from that coat over the summer. No rush for a coat right now, after all.

 

I also made 165cm long piece of blue plaid. Initially I though it could be a table runner, but the number 4 yarn is too coarse.

I have a good amount of this yarn left so I may weave more and make myself another jacket. I found a pattern for this one. It’s a flapper style and I think it would look good with this fabric.

 

Then I decided I needed to branch out from the heavier cloths. In one of my craftsy videos the instructor mentioned that she doubles the warp thread for some cloth. So I bought a gorgeous number 1 yarn and doubled the warp threads.

This was my first doubled thread cloth made from the finer yarn. It is incredibly soft and it drapes beautifully.

I intended it to be a table runner, but it almost a shame to use it that way. At 36″ my loom makes cloth just barely wide enough to make a wrap.

This is for my mom, so she can decide.

 

This is the same yarn, different colours.

Again, made with a table linen in mind but certainly soft enough and just wide enough that is would make a nice wrap.

This one is for my mother-in-law’s 75th birthday.

I’m on a one week weaving hiatus right now, but I don’t expect it to last long. I have a large wicker basket full of yarn calling my name.

I have a gorgeous number 2 charcoal yarn I want to weave with, and some lovely pastel pink and blue number 4 cotton yarn I want to make a checkered fabric with. I have several balls of burgandy and cream number 4 yarn. I have orange. Navy. Taupe. Mustard. Light brown. Dark green. Bright red.

So many options!

I am going to watch the video for the log cabin pattern one or two times more then try some different weaving patterns, finger weaving, wrapping, and adding beads.

And I’m pretty sure I’m getting some add-ons for the loom this Christmas so it won’t end there.

 

Stitches and more time, please (a tale of too many projects)

Hubby and I have spent a good portion of the winter sitting in our cozy living room working on our personal crafty projects. He makes things out of leather, I make things out of fibre. Crafty couples are happy couples.

I’ve made progress on several projects.

  1.   Needlepoint Table Runner                                                                                                 I made a sketch on craft paper to use as a guide, then stitched together three, three foot lengths of Aida cloth. The finished project will be a runner just shy of nine feet long. When it’s done I will edge it so it will likely end up about 15 inches wide.             It’s taken me just over a year to finish a 27 inch long section. It’s definitely a multi-year project.             feb-8-2017-crop-brighter
  2.   365 Day Embroidery Challenge                                                                                         I got this idea from an article on Facebook. I started on Jan 1, 2017 with my embroidery co-conspirator Ashleigh.                                                                                 I make some basic stitches with thicker strands of thread. Looking at Ashleigh’s finer work I decided I was falling behind because my inability to focus close (old age sucks) so I bought some cheaters and am now able make the finest stitches. As I chose the project because I wanted to master the satin stitch, the cheaters are a blessing.                      feb-8-2017-crop-brighter
  3.   Woven Placemats                                                                                                               My always doting husband bought me a 24 inch rigid heddle loom for Christmas. After weaving a few throw away bits of cloth I decided my first full project would be a set of placemats.                                                                                                                 I bought five skeins of yarn in complimentary colours and tried to sketch some pattern ideas in crayon, but in the end just ended up warping the loom with no plan. The resulting plaid was gorgeous.                                                                                       So far I have five placemats done and five more on the loom.                 plaid-1
  4.   Celtic Cross-stitch Triptych                                                                                               I came across a half finished cross-stitch of a Celtic inspired boar in a dusty box last year. I finished it up on planes and in airports.                                                           It pleased me. As my husband has often noted I tend to do things in multiples, and in true form I decided to make a triptych.                                                                   I started a raven on planes and in airports over our Christmas holidays. We go to New Orleans soon and I’ll be taking the project with me. On some future trip I will stitch a salmon.                                                                                                    feb-8-2017-crop-brighter

Winter isn’t over, but a spring deadline for the interior arts looms large. I figure I have until the crocuses bloom to work on these projects un-distracted.  

 

 

 

 

Dream weaver – my new rigid heddle loom

I had a rather unpleasant junior high school sewing instructor and because of that I img_20160626_224632resented sewing, yet was obviously drawn to it.

I made doll clothes and little pillows from collected scraps of fabric and yarn.

I was and still am fascinated by colour and texture.

I even collected art books about the textile arts.

My final year high school art project was to choose an image and depict it in four different media. I created my image in pastels, watercolours, as an etching, and I cut shapes in coloured denim and stitched them together to make a geometric representation of my image. I got an A+ and a special img_20161231_143219compliment on the innovative use of fabric in fine art.

For some reason even with that success, I dropped my pursuit of textile crafts. Until now, that is. Now, approaching 50 I have shaken off that bitter home economics experience and am diving headlong into my love of fabrics.

I’ve written about my cross stitching, embroidery and sewing. This blog is about learning to weave.

For Christmas my doting husband bought me a 24″ rigid heddle loom. To help me get going I ordered an img_20170117_151945instructional video from Craftsy.com.

I started weaving with some spare yarn I had left from a costume I made for my son a few years ago. Once I got the feel for the loom and managed to get my edges pretty straight I decided I would make placemats for my
dining room table.

img_20170118_144459I was going to do simple stripes, but one yarn lead to another and I ended up creating a plaid. The test mat turned out really nice. I love the way the colours work and they look great in my dining room – which has a paprika red feature wall behind the fireplace.

I plan to spend the next month or two slowly working on 12 place mats. I say over two months because I will be weaving in between cross stitching the table runner, my 365 day embroidery project, some paintings of my family, painting my upstairs hallway, painting the downstairs bathroom and some small sewing projects I have on the go.

Hopefully I get it done before early spring when I’ll want to move outside to work on some garden decoration projects. I’m pretty sure I’ll die with 20 unfinished craft projects. What a wonderful way to go.

 

Another day, another stitch – 365 days of embroidery

Ashleigh's first day.
Ashleigh’s first day.

I have been cross stitching for years, but I have never sat down and really mastered the related art of embroidery. So when I came across a blog recently about a person who had stitched every day for 365 days I decided this would be just the project for me.

I shared my crafty plans on Facebook and a young woman who is friends with my son said she’s like to stitch along with me.

I have everything we need. I have two unused embroidery hoops. I have a large scrap of cloth that would work well for embroidering on. I have plenty of colourful bits and bobs of

Darcy's first day.
Darcy’s first day.

embroidery yarn from past projects. And best of all, I have an accomplice.

I’ve looked up the various stitches. I cut the fabric to fit the two hoops. Beyond that I have no plan. The plan is not to plan, just to do. Chaos lives in poorly thought out plans, but creativity lives in well thought out spontaneity, right?

Here we go, Jan 1, 2017. Day number one of 365.

 

 

See below for some stitching guidance if you want to try this yourself.

http://www.molliemakes.com/cra…/library-embroidery-stitches/

https://www.craftsy.com/bl…/2014/…/hand-embroidery-stitches/

Stitches and time

My husband thinks I am obsessed. He may be right.

Almost every night I sit on the couch for two, often three hours working on my latest cross stitch project with half an eye on the TV. I completely lose track of time.
I reignited my off-again-on-again passion for this hobby when I decided to clean out the basement. I lugged a dusty file box upstairs and discovered a forgotten store of fabric crafts I had done when my son was young. Most notable among the box contents were three things.

pillow seatA pillow with a Beatrix Potter poem embroidered on it. That is now sitting on my chair in my library.

IMG_20160130_235437-COLLAGEA cross stitch made from my own sketch of two canaries perched on a vine. I had it framed, and hung it in my bedroom.

A partially complete
Celtic inspired cross stitch of a boar which I finished up on a recent road trip to and from northern Saskatchewan.

boar cross stitch doneFinishing the boar just reminded me why I had taken stitching up. I am not a sitter. I even have difficulty sitting through a movie because it just feels so unproductive. I need something to do with my hands. Lastly, and pretty significantly, it gave me the perfect way to spend a long, dark, cold winter night with my husband. He watches a lot of TV. I could be sitting happily next to him. I figure that’s a perfect way to transition into our old age.

IMG_20160131_121056I started a new, and very ambitious ‘ten year’ project. When it’s done it will be a table runner about 9 feet long. I originally thought this would be something I’d only do during the winter, but it is summer already and I’ve yet to put it down.

From November to April I worked out a design and then stitched to secure the edges and seams in the fabric – it’s made of three, three-foot lengths. That mid-winter effort wasn’t really something I could point to as an obvious accomplishment, so I kept going because I wanted to see some of the vision begin to show.

I have been working on the spruce trees since May.

tree cross stitch 1x workingtree cross stitch 1x almost doneThey sit on the seams and anchor the project so were a good place to start.

The most difficult part was the seam because the fabric didn’t line up 100% so I wasn’t just sliding the needle through a hole, but pushing it through two tough layers of fabric.

I stitched the tree design free-hand, based on my drawings. I tried to make each tree look similar, but didn’t try to make them match exactly. Have you ever seen a forest full of matching trees? Neither have I.

done treesfirst tree cross stitch 2x startedI’m done the trees now. I think my next step will be to ring them with one complete row of the background colour, and then start on the moose to the right of each tree.

It’s July now. It’s warm and the sun doesn’t go down until nearly 11 p.m. so I have less reason to sit on the couch.

My pace may slow as I spend more evening hours outdoors. I have a dog to walk. I want to make some time for painting. I have two dresses cut and waiting to be sewn. I have a plain denim dress I am hoping to embroider. I found a product to make a mould from my old clay statues.

I have a lot of projects on the go, but this is the only one that really allows me to sit and relax so I don’t think I will really put it away.

 

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