Category Archives: Uncategorized

THE DOODLE NAPKIN PROJECT

A few of you have asked about the doodle napkins – a set of eight, all coordinating, but each one different.  With six now stitched and number seven on my frame, I attempt to answer.

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A while back I wrote about the pre-finished napkins and tablecloth I bought from Wayfair.  While I note that neither the KAF Fete napkin set nor the Toscana tablecloth is still in their inventory,  there are several similar products available from them and from Target, Overstock, Amazon and other sources.

Be warned!  Prewashing these is an absolute necessity.  They are linen-look cotton, or linen/cotton blends, and can be expected to shrink appreciably.  So toss them in a nice, abusive load – like a hot wash with some other light color towels or sheets, and have at it.  Compare them when they emerge, and if some are not quite as shrunken as the others (as happened to me) run them through again just to be sure.

My almost even weave napkins firmed up quite a bit, becoming even closer to a true even weave count, which was a surprise.  But I didn’t change my plans for all of that.  I always intended to work my stitching along one edge only, eliminating the need to turn corners, or worry about skew counts.  I’d present them at table as shown, folded in quarters.

Now.  How to begin…

First, I had to have designs.  Simple for me.  I am drawing mostly from my forever forthcoming The Second Carolingian Modelbook, playtesting more of the designs, and using the experience to flog myself towards getting over the hurdle of publication.  I’m working directly from those pages, and am not bothering to rechart anything specifically for this use.  Not even the narrow companion borders (more on this below).

I am also being quite cavalier with layout on the napkins.  They are pre-hemmed.  I am trying to use the same north/south orientation for all of them, keying off the placement of the brand tag on the back, but I am examining the two candidate ends closely, to pick the one that is the most “true”.  By that I mean the one whose hemming runs closest to being true on the count.  There are a couple of napkins that are hemmed slightly skew, and I wanted to make the stitching on them look to run as parallel as possible to the edges.

OK.  With my chosen side to embellish identified, I folded the napkin carefully in half, and used a pin to mark the center point.  Then I measured in from the inner edge of the machine-stitched hemming detail, and placed another pin perpendicular to the first.  I admit I eyeballed the first one, then just used it as the paradigm for placing the second pin on the subsequent napkins (no actual measuring tape was involved).  Pin placement is shown below, with the napkin mounted on my sit-on hoop.

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Once the center point and work boundary are established I begin.  That’s it.  No basting guide lines, no other prep.  Just grabbing my threads and going.  I admit that others may enjoy working with basted guidelines, but for something this small, where the only point of reference is the center, I don’t bother.  Feel free to castigate me for lazy prep.

Threads…  Hmm.  Which did I use?

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The red was easy.  When we were in Paris, I bought a box of Sajou four-strand cotton embroidery floss in red.  I had always intended on using it for a set of napkins.  I had bought linen there, too, but decided that I wanted to use that linen for other pieces that would be less “endangered” by gravy than dinner napkins.

The Sajou Retors du Nord cotton floss is put up on cards of 20 meters.  I am using a red, #2409.  I started with a box of five cards, and have used about half of my yardage on just the four napkins.  For the green napkins, I’m using plain old DMC cotton six-strand floss in #890, in standard pull skeins of 8.7 yards (just shy of 8 meters).  I am stitching with three plies of each thread, even though the Sajou is a tiny bit thinner than the DMC.  I am enjoying using the Sajou because it is finer, shinier, and smoother, but I am simultaneously disappointed in the maker’s quality control.  Each of the three Sajou cards I have used so far has had component plies with knots, shredded sections, or snags – where the individual plies are kinked and not all of the same length in a given span of thread.  While the DMC thread is more matte and a bit rougher in finish, in over 50 years of using it, I have never run into a less-than-perfect skein.  It’s possible that I bought a box of Sajou made on a bad day, but three out of three cards with faults is not what I expected.

OK. The thread is ready, I’ve got my main design in hand, I’ve got the napkin mounted on my frame, with the center point and top limit of my design marked.  Now what?

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Starting at the center (red arrow above on Napkin #7, showing the point indicated by the now removed pins), I begin playing with one of the narrow edgings – usually something less than four units tall.  I pick one from the book, or I make on up on the spur of the moment.  In this case, I’m using a pretzel edging of my own devising, also in T2CM.

Using a separate thread for the companion edging, I work three or four repeats off in one direction – usually to the left (for no reason in particular), then I move the working thread out of the way (sometimes winding the excess on a temporary pin), and using another thread, begin my main motif strip – also working out from the center, stitching over a 2×2 thread grid.  In the example above, the weird double leaf meander.  The threads trail off at the upper left because I don’t want to re-position my hoop until I absolutely have to.  Once I move it over, I’ll take each of those stragglers up in turn, and use it to completion.

After I’ve gotten a bit laid down, I re-evaluate the narrow companion border.  If I don’t like it, I pick it out and work another of the same width. Once I’m happy with it I also work it below the main motif.  It’s obvious in the photo above, that I tried out the pretzels, liked them, and went on to stitch up my first length of thread in the strip of it above the main motif, and am now working on its sibling, below.

After I’ve gotten my design established continue on, happily, working my main motif, and eking out the companion borders as I go along but lagging a bit behind, until I’ve stitched the main motif close enough to the end. Once a full repeat of my main motif is on the fabric, I rarely refer to the printed pattern again, working instead from the already-stitched bit.

When I get to the leftmost edge, I take up the companion borders again and improvise a corner turn for them.  If I’ve kept count true the upper left and lower right corners should be matches, as should the lower left and upper right.  Or if I’m very lucky, all four will match.  Or if my improvised corner is looking awkward, I’ll just butt the ends.  In any case, I am not agonizing about the corner treatment.  I’ve seen enough period artifacts where it’s clear that the historical stitcher didn’t invest much agony in them either. (When I’m done with all eight napkins, I’ll post on improvising the corners, because this note is getting too long.)

As to which patterns to do on the next napkin, or what to use on the coordinating tablecloth – it’s all whim.  For the tablecloth, I will probably pick one or more of the largest all-over designs from my books, either to work as a large rectangular medallion in the center or three evenly spaced smaller areas, but I won’t be working strips around the entire perimeter, nor will I be working stripes across the whole width of the table.  And that’s the only advance planning I’ve done so far.

Stay tuned!

IT’S FEBRUARY, AND I HAVE A CURE

It’s February.  That means that the weather is still dreary. We are all looking forward to some sort of escape, so it’s time for my annual Shameless Self Promotion post.

First Beach.  Glorious beach.

Sitting warm on the sand, or on a deck with a grand view, sipping a favorite beverage, and watching the tide march in and out.  Yes, the shoulder seasons and summer seem far off now, but bookings for the best places are already picking up.

Our beachside condo in North Truro, Cape Cod, right on the bay side, close to the Provincetown line is now available for booking for the summer 2019 season.

Above left is the view from the deck looking back towards Wellfleet, and sunset over Provincetown is in the opposite direction (arrow on the map below is back towards Wellfleet).

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We are at Beach Point, with parking for two cars, right at a bus stop for the local shuttle to Provincetown – a quick trip to restaurants, galleries, theater, and night life, with or without your car.

The condo is on the second floor, with a covered deck (the one with the red deck chairs, below).  The Shoreline development has its own private beach, and offers picnic tables, lounge chairs, kayak and bike racks, and grills to all who stay.

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The apartment itself is two bedroom, with a full kitchen (full size stove with oven, fridge and microwave, sink, coffee maker, toaster, blender, lobster pot).  It is air conditioned, and also has a washer and dryer, and a full bath with shower and whirlpool tub.

There is TV in the living room and each bedroom, cable, and WiFi.  The bedrooms each have a queen-size bed, and the living room sofa also converts to a queen size bed.smallfloorplan.jpg

Pricing and availability are listed at the agent’s website.  Prices vary by week, with significant savings in the shoulder seasons.

So, come and pull up a chair.  Put your feet up, pull out your knitting or a good book, and feel the relaxation!

A good book?

Even for those who need more immediate escape, and can’t wait until warm weather, I always suggest a good book.

It’s no secret that The Resident Male writes books and short stories.  Here’s his lead offering – the first of what we hope will be a science fiction/mystery series.  Of course, I’m biased, but I do recommend it highly.  It’s a good read, full of compelling characters, alien cultures, heroics, and intrepid investigations – with a dash of sarcasm thrown in.FS

It’s available on Amazon, both in Kindle and paperback editions.

Meet Blair.  Meet Terendurr. While you can’t quite share that favorite beverage with them, after getting to know them I’m betting that you will wish you could.

 

MUDDLING THROUGH MIDWINTER

It’s doldrums here at String Central.  Younger Daughter is back to university.  Others are back to work.  I fill my time with nosing around for grant and proposal contract assignments, and my various projects.

First, my sanity project – the doodled decoration on the pre-finished napkins I bought on sale from Wayfair, using the cotton four-ply embroidery floss I picked up when we visited Sajou in Paris (stitching with three plies).  I can show a modicum of progress.  I’m just picking out random designs from my books and doing them rather informally, with a different design along a single edge of each of eight napkins.  The first of my mismatched set is complete.  The second in process.

The linen is soft and once washed, a bit mushy.  That makes count work a bit more troublesome than it otherwise would be, especially on so coarse a ground.  But it’s still rather quick work.  The first napkin with the interlace took three evenings (about half shown).  The in process photo shows only one evening’s worth of work.

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On to knitting.  I finished a pair of socks, packed up and sent to the recipient before I remembered to take a photo.  They were my “briefcase project” – the thing I always have with me to work on while I wait on telephone hold, on line at the post office, or for appointments.  Since I ALWAYS  have a pair on the needles, the next pair is already cast on and sitting it its bag, itself waiting for me to be waiting.  This pair however is special.  Younger Daughter picked out this yarn with the proviso that I knit something for myself with it.  I comply.

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And my project of long suffering guilt.  I promised these Octopus Mittens to my niece late last winter.  It was inadvertently destroyed, then was re-started with new yarn, and is now sitting next to my project chair, chiding me that it is being neglected.  I plead laziness, lack of inspiration, and frustration with stranding using two strands of DK, knit at sock yarn gauge for warmth.

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I MUST finish these.  I promised.

How do you flog yourself back into working on a sidelined project?  All suggestions gratefully accepted.

Oh,  And if you know of anyone looking for a project manager/writer/editor specializing in high tech grants and proposals – send them my way, please.

OFF THE SHELF TABLE LINENS AS STITCHING GROUNDS

OK.  Just before the Thanksgiving holiday we decided to get some new table linens, so we would have a nice table setting for the finished dining room’s holiday debut. Given the busy green floral wallpaper and intricate rug, I wanted something monochrome for contrast.  Also something that presented more of a hand-made  welcome rather than stark white formality was in order.

I looked around a bit and settled on these affordable cotton or cotton/linen blend washables from Wayfair:

 

On the left above is the tablecloth, showing a corner, and on the right, one of the napkins.  Although they aren’t a matching set, they are close enough in color and texture to coordinate, plus both sport a small openwork detail. For the record, the napkins are branded “Fete” and are cotton.  The tablecloth is branded “Toscana” and is a polyester/linen blend.  Both are machine wash, machine dry cool/low.  The tablecloth is no-iron.

You can see from the tape measure on the napkins, I had an ulterior motive.  I always have an ulterior motive…

Eventually I intend to do some embroidery on these.  My thought is to do a strip of a different voided or linear design on each one, in a deep, wine red, using the thread I bought at Sajou in Paris when we were there.  But there was no time to begin before the holiday, so on the table they went.  Thankfully all of the linens survived turkey, wine, cranberry sauce and the rest, and were then sent through the recommended gentle wash/low dry cycle.  And it’s a good thing that I did so.

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Blurry photo aside, you can clearly see that the four napkins I used have shrunk considerably when compared to a napkin from the other set-of-four, as yet unwashed – the bottom one in the stack.  The tablecloth did not shrink appreciably.

As far as thread count on the napkins – in the before state they were approximately 18×22 threads per inch.  The count of the most-shrunken one is now much closer to 24×24 threads per inch.  The tablecloth remains very close to 30×30 threads per inch.  I won’t guarantee that either are true even-weave, but for me, they are close enough.

In conclusion, I do recommend a hearty pre-wash and deliberate shrink prior to any counted stitching, if that’s what you want to do on these.  And I may end up touching up the napkins with an iron before I use them again – embroidered or not.

For the time being, this project is taking a far-back, back seat.  I have a ton of holiday and bespoken gift knitting to complete, first.

THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 6

At long last!  The end of the talk from 2014.  I hope it inspired you to look up some of these examples, and perhaps, start your own piece of work in one of the styles presented.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 5

In the off chance I haven’t sent folks screaming off into the woods, here is the penultimate installment of images from my chat on historical counted thread embroidery, given back in 2014.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 4

And even more.  Continuing on with the visuals from my 2014 talk on historical counted thread embroidery.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 3

More from the 2014 Schola talk on historical counted thread embroidery.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are the next ten images from my Schola talk on historical counted thread embroidery, originally given in 2014.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 1

Roughly four years ago I was invited to give a talk on historical styles of counted embroidery at an embroidery Schola (day of lectures and workshops), held under the auspices of a regional group of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

I put together some talking points and visuals and gave the chat.  I think the audience was a bit overwhelmed, though because I didn’t get many questions or much feedback.

Today I was going through some old files and came upon my talk’s slide deck.  I share it here now.  Note that some things have come to light since I spoke in 2014.  Most obvious among that is the reclassification of several patterns by the holding institutions, moving them from uncertain provenance or continental/southern European 16th/17th century provenance to their proper place in Morocco.  I’ve written about this group before, but they are represented in the talk, in their “before” incarnation.

In any case, here are the images from my talk.  It’s long (no one ever accused me of being concise when it comes to discourse on my fave subject).  Therefore, I’ll break the thing up into roughly six parts over the coming days.

Enjoy!

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