More happy things

Can you believe it?  Touch wood, technology finally seems to be on my side again!  I am the proud owner of a new laptop, and revelling in the fact that I no longer have to sit at my desk to type, but can instead make use of the lovely, comfy chairs and sofas in the downstairs part of the house!  I also now have a keyboard that can type all (yes, that’s ALL) of its letters at first touch, so in future, any typos you come across are just the result of my being a bit haphazard, rather than the keyboard randomly omitting letters I have actually requested.  Hurrah!

But the BEST thing about it, is that IT HAS USB POINTS THAT WORK!  Finally, for the first time since summer, I can attach my printer, and therefore print off documents, and scan things again.  This means that in addition to the new weaving kits, I can finally get going with the stitchery charts and kits again.  Well, actually, I’ve decided on a slight change of direction, and the needlework charts are going to be available in book form, in the future, rather than as kits, with some still available as individual charts.  I will be re-vamping the needlework pages in the near future, so watch this space!

So this lovely little laptop is making my life a LOT easier, just now.  Forgive the excess of capital letters in this post, but I’m very excited about it!

Oh, you know what else I’m happy about?  Okay, December is a busy month; but I’ve decided not to worry about re-launching the needlework books until the New Year, which means I have a good few weeks in which I can spend any spare time weaving.  You would think I had done a lot of that in the weeks running up to the craft fair, but actually, the last couple of weeks were all about the preparations, with VERY little weaving time.  I have my eye on some lovely new yarns to play with.  This month, despite Christmas madness going on around me, I plan to RELAX…  Wish me luck!

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!

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!

Needlepoint with Knitting Wool

Not too long ago (just a few weeks, in fact), I was sitting on my sofa and contemplating a ball of wool.  As you do.  Well, it was Noro wool (Kureyon), and the colours are beautiful.  I bought it because I was using it for some small-scale bagweaving projects, but as needlework has come back to the fore for me lately, as I was looking at it, I started to wonder why it couldn’t be used for needlepoint.

I asked around, but couldn’t find anyone who had tried it (not with Noro, at least), or could offer any practical advice re. canvas gauge for different wool types.  A couple of negative replies just said no: the fibers of the wool would not stand the abrasion of the canvas, or no: the inconsistent thickness of the wool would prevent even coverage.  Having already decided I wanted to try it, that wasn’t sufficient to stop me.  So after thinking about it awhile, I decided to see what would happen.

Guess what?  It works!  Okay, you have to use shorter lengths of yarn, because it will fray and break with repeated friction against the canvas.  For the same reason, longer stitches (eg long stitch, satin stitch) are more successful than short or layered ones, which just fluff up – of course, you could always invent a design which embraces this feature, and then it is no longer a drawback.

I actually used Noro Silk Garden, in the end, just because the colours were better suited to the design I had envisioned.  Kureyon is a similar weight yarn, though, and should work just as well.  I stitched onto 11ct canvas because it was what I had.  Luckily, I would say this is about right.  A higher gauge would definitely crowd the stitches.  The satin stitch gave very even coverage on 11ct.   A lower gauge canvas would probably also work, and potentially give greater flexibility in stitch variety.  The yarn can withstand a little careful unpicking, but will fluff up and/or break with repeated unpicking.

I cut down the yarn from the ball into lengths of about 18″ each, and separated it into colour groups.   I ended up with about 10 different colours (with some variety in each ‘colour’, due to the tweeded colour blending of the yarn).  I didn’t use all of them in my project – in fact, I probably had about half a ball left of unused colours, which could be easily used in another small project.

I was really pleased with the results, and it was fun to work around the limitations of the quantities I had of each shade.  I normally work on a much finer gauge canvas with ‘normal’ (overdyed) embroidery threads, so this was an interesting experiment for me.  I can’t say I have been totally converted & will only ever do needlepoint with knitting yarn from now on; but at least now if I see a yarn in colours that inspire me, I don’t have to feel limited by what the label says it is for.

It is actually a very economical way of needlepointing, as one ball of Noro wool costs around $8, whereas individual skeins of overdyed needlepoint wool/floss cost up to $5 or $6 each.  To buy full skeins of each different shade I needed to stitch this design ordinarily would have cost around $30, and I would have had lots of unused thread left over so this was a bargain.  I will probably create a small series of needlepoint designs specifically for use with Noro wool, taking care to ensure the colour areas are not too large (there is nothing more frustrating than finding you do not have enough of a colour to complete a particular area).

I will also be re-charting the design for ‘regular’ needlepoint, using overdyed floss on 18ct or 24ct canvas.  The limitations imposed by the quantities available of each colour meant that I could not take the design quite as far as I would have wished.  The re-charted pattern has an additional border around the outer edge.

Needlepoint using Noro Silk Garden 247 on 11ct mono canvas. Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008
Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008. Needlepoint using Noro Silk Garden 247 on 11ct mono canvas.

An intro to TangleCrafts & me

A predominantly self-taught stitcher, I have recently decided to venture out into the world to market my own counted thread designs. I’ve been designing for 6 years, & have more patterns & ideas than time in which to stitch them (or in some cases, chart them).  Luckily, I have managed to build a little team of model stitchers who are helping me make some headway.  I can’t – of course – kit a design until I have a photo of the finished stitched pieces to show on the packaging, so this is an essential part of the process.  It also helps me gauge the quantities of thread & fabric to include in kits, find out if instructions need clarifying (something that’s harder to do if I stitch my own models), and in some cases, see things I want to change in the pattern itself.   It’s a great learning curve!

I do a lot less stitching myself than I used to, but I really enjoy the process of the designing, & stitch small samples as I go along, just to make sure things work.  I have lots of ideas I haven’t had chance to try out, yet, but with my stitchers’ help, that mythical day when I will have time to get around to everything is hopefully getting slightly closer.  At the moment, my time is spent mostly fine-tuning existing charts, typing up instructions, & perfecting the layout of the chart/kit packaging. I enjoy designing the packaging almost as much as the patterns themselves – just another aesthetic aspect of the job, I guess.

Of course, the problem with spending a lot of time charting, means that I ALWAYS get sidetracked & see how a spin-off pattern could work, or it will kick-start another idea entirely.  It’s fruitful in one way, but not necessarily productive in terms of actually getting done what I intended to!  But I have limited time for all this work, so I do have to be strict with myself, & prioritise things I would otherwise leave until later.  The ideas & planning notebook is ever-expanding…

There are related projects such as dyeing my own threads & colouring my own canvases which are on the really-need-to-get-done list, too. The charting & kitting has to take priority; but being able to supply my own hand-dyed threads would be a great addition – & I may even have to get some charts re-stitched using the, depending on how successful they turn out to be.  And canvas colouring, although not essential to the current wave of model stitching, will again play a large part in ideas I have for the future.

Why can’t I do everything at once?  I’m sure if I just had a few more hands, & a few more hours in every day, life would be so much easier!