A mail art embroidery

I don’t know why, but I have really been drawn to bird-related imagery recently.  Just before moving house, I started working on this small embroidery, which I charted from an illustration by Jay van Everen (from the book ‘The Laughing Prince’ by Parker Fillmore, c. 1921):

I completed it after the move, and although I’m not entirely happy with the lower left quarter, I can’t imagine re-charting/re-stitching any time soon, so this will suffice, for now!  I thought the adaptation worked really well, overall. 🙂

(I will probably release the chart in zine form, at some as yet unspecified future point.)

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Something different

It’s a long time since I’ve done any embroidery or design thereof, but recently, the urge has started twitching at me, again.  My charting program was a sacrifice I made for the greater good when I switched to my new laptop last year (because the new laptop does not have a disc drive, and my charting program was on disc) – but even so, in the last 2 weeks, I have managed to chart 3 different designs using a painstakingly longwinded method I devised using Open Office Draw.  It’s almost as painstaking as drawing it out by hand on graph paper, but slightly easier to amend errors & try out alternatives.  Anyway, I managed it!

This is the second design that I charted, but the first one that I stitched, as the first charted design is quite complex, and having not stitched anything for so long, I thought I would ease myself in gently!  This one is adapted from an illustration by Jay van Everen in a collection of Jugoslav fairy tales by Parker Fillmore (c. 1921).  The story is called ‘The Laughing Prince: the story of the boy who could talk nonsense’,  and the image is part of a larger illustration featuring different elements from the story (right).  I believe this section of the illustration relates to the this part of the story; “the dampness had made the millet grow so well that its tops now reached the sky” – but I may be wrong, so don’t quote me on that!  I just loved the weeping willow-esque shapes.  And the bird.  For some reason I seem to have been drawn to bird imagery more than usual, lately…

Anyway, definitely time to invest in a new charting program (downloadable, this time) and make life a bit easier for myself!  But I’ve surprised myself by enjoying the manual process, in the meantime.

A quiet week?

Despite a lack of blogging activity here which may suggest the contrary, I have been busy busy busy all week!  Well, I took a week’s holiday from ‘real’ work – caught up with a friend, saw my mum & dad (my dad has been in China for the last 6 months or so, so that was an especial treat), and went on a day trip with Corey – the highlight of which was probably when he left his umbrella behind on the train there, but found it again on the train back!  But around these brief outings I have been working non-stop.  There are some new things very nearly ready to tell you about, but the most immediate, are 2 new zines (& something else a bit different), now available in my Etsy stores:

Contours cover shotThe first is ‘Contours’, my first art zine, which is all about doodling.  This is where my brief encounter with Zentangling led me.  I suddenly realised how the majority of the patterns I have designed as an adult all stem from one basic doodle that I used to doodle all the time.  The zine looks at how that doodle has emerged in the various crafts I have worked in, considers the possible origins of the doodle, and leaves lots of spaces for you to doodle away to your own heart’s content.

tiffanyacorns1As you can see from the photo, there are some extras included – hand-doodled bookmark to stitch, and a hand-doodled ‘fingerprint’ of lino to carve & print.  Inside the zine you will also find a 4-way Acorns cross stitch chart, Bobbin Along freeform bargello pattern, plus 4 postcards (2 printed, and 2 blank for you to doodle yourself) printed on gummed paper, freeform-bobbin-alongso that you can turn any piece of scrap card into a postcard, (these come with 4 postcard reverse labels which could also be used as envelope re-use labels, if you prefer).  Check out the TangleCrafts Etsy Store for more details.

Papertrail #2 cover shot Hot on the heels of Papertrail #1, you can now also find Papertrail #2.  Papertrail #2 is a zine full of questions and books and reading habits, with answers/opinions from me, Corey, and spaces for your own responses, too.  It’s all about books, and how we live with them.  Alongside everything else is a Papertrails ‘map’ of routes you can take from novel to novel, spaces to design your own book jackets, plus copy-&-cut bookplates & bookmarks.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, Papertrail #2 also includes a free membership pack for the Papertrail Reader’s Club!

The Papertrail Reader’s Club is there for everyone who loves to read.  The Basic Membership Pack includes:Club Package

  • 2 pre-gummed Ex Libris plates
  • 2 recommendation bookmarks left blank for you to personalise
  • and the Member Book:

The Papertrail Readers’ Club Book is a membership card and reader’s record book combined! It is a 20 page, staple-bound mini-booklet, printed on high quality recycled sugar papers. Each book will be personalised with your name and membership number, and date stamped with the start date of your membership. It includes spaces to list all the books you want to read alongside dates started & finished, and there are even pages to fill in with your own mini-reviews! Club Book

Each month, a different book is chosen as a feature title, with review printed inside the back cover.  Club members are eligible to submit their own reviews of the club titles which may earn them a free Papertrail zine!

If you buy any issue of Papertrail, you will receive free membership to the Reader’s Club, including the current month’s club review.  If you don’t want to buy the zine, you can still buy a one-off membership to the club with a Basic Membership Package.  And if you fill your record book quickly, or just want another, a Renewal Membership Package is available at a reduced price.

Told you I’d been busy ;-).  And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

All quiet…?

It’s been a quiet weekend for me in terms of blogging, but I’ve been working non-stop on all sorts of fun things, some of which have made their way onto the catalogue pages, and some are just still little kernels of ideas, waiting for the right time to (or more accurately, for me to have time to let them) grow.

Anyway, be sure to check out the Latest Additions page for all the bits & bobs I have finally got sorted, including a FREE ‘How to Weave a Bookmark‘ PDF, a FREE counted thread chart, and a fun new kit added to the Friendship Weaving page.

Enjoy, and keep checking back, as I have lots more still to come 🙂

Freeform Bargello WIP

The long train journeys yesterday gave me the luxurious opportunity to actually spend some time stitching, so I started working on the canvas work (/needlepoint) adaptation of my Noro knitting wool oak leaf design (see earlier entry for pic).  This time I used 18ct canvas and Carrie’s Threads 6-ply cotton, which has given me a little more flexibility with the design, in terms of both colours and stitches.

I’m really pleased with the ‘knobbly’ effect of the acorn cups, and I think the purples work well as a contrasting background colour to the autumnal greens.  I’m stitching the background area in freeform bargello.  By this I mean that instead of following a fixed, charted (or standard) bargello pattern, I have actually used the base lines of the oak leaves as the starting bargello line, so that the background complements the foreground & emphasises its natural contours, rather than detracts with an entirely independent pattern.  In terms of bargello, I am ignoring the acorns, and just following the contours of the leaves to avoid unnecessary complication in the pattern.

It’s a very relaxing form to work, as once the central design has been stitched (which in itself doesn’t take an incredible amount of reference to the chart given its 4-way repeat) there’s no need to refer to a chart at all – you literally just stitch the bargello around the outer edge of the leaves.  I stopped after 2 rows, as I need to work out the placement of the border before I continue – but it was an ideal project to work on while travelling.

Oak Leaf Panel with Freeform Bargello Background, (c) TangleCrafts 2008
Work in Progress: Oak Leaf Panel with Freeform Bargello Background, (c) TangleCrafts 2008

I must confess I am a little annoyed with myself, as I got married earlier this year, and the theme of our wedding stationery was oak leaves (based on a verse about the oak and the cypress from Kahlil Gibran that we used in our vows).  I had wanted to stitch a design to use, but at the time – with all the other wedding organisation pressures – I just didn’t have the time or inspiration.  In the end, I drew a design, instead, which is – actually, essentially, anyway – a freeform bargello design, and we used the coloured ink drawing onthe stationery, instead.  I’m annoyed now, because I seem to have oak leaf stitch patterns practically dripping from my fingers – I just couldn’t do it at the time when it would have been quite appropriate.  Still, it doesn’t mean I can’t go back to the wedding stationery design and re-interpret it for stitch now, and I hadn’t thought about that until I began writing this, but I think, actually, I will.    That’s that settled, then!

Inspirational Blackwork

I don’t know if I’m legally allowed to post pics of somebody else’s work, but just in case, here are the links to the work of two different designers, both producing stunning charts and kits for graduated blackwork.  I haven’t stitched from somebody else’s kit for years, but I will be purchasing from both!

http://www.patextiles.com

http://www.berlinembroidery.com/blackwork.htm

I have been inspired to go back to blackwork embroidery after a long absence.  I don’t think I can produce anything as impressive as these, but it’s going to be fun to experiment, too!

Blackwork Potential

Years ago, I found a blackwork kit at one of the big needlework shows in London.  It was by a company called Needle Needs, and the design was a cat’s face, called ‘Tabatha’.  It was beautiful, very detailed and delicately graduated to convey all the shading accurately.  I no longer own the stitched piece, and although I once had a photo on my PC, several house moves & a PC change later, I can  longer find that either.  The company does not seem to existny longer, and on this vast world wide web, I can’t find any other images of the design, either.  Oh, well.

It ruined me for blackwork.  It was one of the first blackwork projects I stitched, after a couple that were much smaller.  I loved the design too much to be daunted by its complexity.  After that, though, I could never find another blackwork piece approaching the same level of design quality and moved on to her stitch techniques.  The market has grown a little, since then – although graduate blackwork is still not exactly common – and there are some good designs about (Derwentwater to some interesting landscapes in blackwork using different colours; and Tanja Berlin has some stunning peacock & butterfly designs); but like I say – the stitching ship has sailed, for me.

What ‘Tabatha’ did do, was inspire me to experiment with graduated  blackwork myself.  I did a few small pattern studies, then leaped straight in to try charting my own cat, ‘Colin’.  I’ve lost the original photo I worked from, but I’ve added a pixelated cross stitch chart version below, as well as one of the variations of a blackwork version (I did a few, using different filling patterns, as the patterns make quite a difference to the overall effect).  I didn’t really pursue the idea any further.  ‘Colin’ was no competition for ‘Tabatha’, and my own stitching was leading in different directions, anyway.

Recently, though, the subject of cats (and blackwork) came up with a couple of my model stitchers, so I sent through a couple of my old charts of ‘Colin’ – completely without instructions; I had had no thoughts or intention of kitting them at all.  The charts were well-received by both stitchers – one of whom suggested an idea to me that had never crossed my mind, but actually, is very worthy of consideration.

She asked if I had thought about taking commissions and charting other people’s cats (/pets) for blackwork.  Well no, I hadn’t!  But actually, why not?  The principle is fairly straightforward – a photo is cut down into it’s varying shades of light and dark, and then insead of cross stitch, blackwork filling patterns of varying density are applied, instead.  I’m surprised that in these days where photo-charting computer programmes are commonplace, that no-one has invented a programme  that will do it automatically.  (But perhaps they have, and the news just hasn’t filtered through, yet…)

In the meantime, though, I’m going to give it a trial run, and see what happens.  I don’t know that commission  work is necessarily a direction I want to go in, but I’ll see if I can recreate the apparent success of ‘Colin’ before I need to think about making that decision.