Tag Archives: blackwork

LAZY CENTERING

I continue along with what has been nicknamed The Dizzy Grapes sideboard scarf. I successfully rounded the second group of main motifs, and am up to working the small one in the center of the field.

As you can see, there’s plenty more to stitch, including the border. And you can also see the slow rise problem I described earlier. The cloth is flipped from the last set of photos, but the repeat on the right is one unit skew to the one on the left – an inevitable complication of this design.

So. That center unit. Given that it doesn’t align perfectly with the previous one, how to go about placing it. The most obvious way is to pick an easy to spot point on the established stitching, and now that I’ve done one, just count over the same number of stitches to a similarly distinctive spot on the motif to be stitched, then just start in.

But I’m lazy, know that long stretches of counting blank linen are one of my weaknesses, and given the long span, extreme variation in the thickness of this linen’s threads, and frustration after several false starts, I decided to try something different.

Its easy to determine the center point of the large floral motifs. It’s the centermost stitch in the dark center “knot” around which the branches are symmetrically inverted. That aligns with the dark stripe in the grape motif that’s closest to its stem. But those centers are all offset from each other, so just using a simple ruler or single straight edge is problematic. Instead I picked the same spot on each of the four motifs that bordered the field in which I wanted the smaller X pattern to appear, and quick basted a line across that field. One basted line for each big floral produced a 3×3 area. The center unit of that 3×3 area became the center of the large dark spot in the middle of the X pattern. (Yes, if you zoom all the way in you’ll see that one of my basted lines was off by one thread, but I compensated).

You don’t see the basted lines on the full piece, above because once I did that centermost stitch, I removed them. I never stitch over my guidelines, I always snip them away from the work as I approach.

I did this for the other placement of that center X, too, but I didn’t think to document the process. I did try the count in and start method for the second one. You may be able to see the remains where I picked out my three false starts, but the basted line method turns out to be vastly quicker, less fraught, and more accurate.

I am still aiming for full coverage – not just these two repeats centered on the otherwise bare cloth. Now its time to go into hypergear and finish designing the companion border. Once I’ve got that and have my distance from repeat worked for the long sides, I can establish that line and then work my field up to it with confidence.

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 16

MERCY

After the last band, everyone who is still sticking with this project deserves something simple.  Very simple. This would also be a useful learning exercise for someone wanting to try a first strip in double running or back stitch.  There are no surprises here at all.

Time Factor 1 for a nice, quiet, symmetrical repeat that returns us to alignment with the indicated project center line.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 17 debuted on he Facebook Enablers group today and will be echoed here on 19 July.

#EpicFandomSAL

STITCHING ON THE GO

I’m moving right along on the Don’t Be sampler. The cross stitched letters zoomed by. And over the past three days I’ve gotten a good start on the border, as well. Whole piece photo so you can see the overage I’m leaving to facilitate both stitching and final framing, plus the quick hem job.

Note that my observation on the skew weave was correct. Those first couple of leaves on the return under the letters are differently proportioned than the leaves in the edge’s vertical part to the left of the motto. That will become more evident as I march along. I don’t remember exactly where I got this piece of pre-packaged ground, or how long it has sat in stash – possibly purchased, possibly as part of a supply salvage gift from a friend who passed it on to me, but certainly not recently. As it is, I will not use anything from defunct company “MCG Textiles” again. Ground sold as evenweave should be exactly that (ok, plus or minus a smidge I will forgive), but a 16% difference between the number of threads in warp and weft is flat out misrepresentation.

The corner is incomplete. I forgot to pack the correct shade of my garnet floss, so the little berries/grapes in the corner will be done later tonight. On the one green leaf, I’m still deciding whether or not to fill in all or some of the leaves. I used plain old cross stitch with one strand of DMC floss for that, flat out skipping partials, and only working full cross stitch X-units. It’s passable. It’s also tedious. When I am done with the double running I’ll make the grand decision. Every leaf, alternating leaves, or none at all.

Now. Where was I that I was working “on the go”?

We ran away to our place on Cape Cod for a last weekend before the renters descend. We went with some long time friends, so it was doubly fun. And I brought this project with me. Folk have asked before how I pack and bring projects, so here’s a thumbnail. Note that I didn’t do it perfectly this time – after all, I ran out of garnet. 🙂

First, the container. The plastic zip bag below (shown both sides) is something I saved the last time we bought a full set of queen size sheets for our bed. It’s rectangular, with an interior pocket, and a zip all the way around one end. It’s also a very tough plastic.

Here you see the main components of my travel kit – the three pieces that make up my sit-upon frame, the project itself, a zip pouch containing essentials (threads, beeswax; my third-best pair of scissors on a retractable spool and a laying tool, both attached to a beaded badge holder; my needle nose electrical assembly tweezers); a little magnetic stand/folder (with magnetic needle minder attached); and a spare in-hand hoop.

Note that the stand itself is an easy assemble/dissemble, and fits in the pouch with the project. I bring the spare hoop because it’s not always comfortable or possible to use the sit-upon, and because the sit-upon features a fixed hoop-on-stick, it’s cumbersome to use without full assembly.

When I stitch on the beach I leave the magnetic stand folded in the interior pocket of the see-through plastic pouch, with the pattern page on top. If necessary I have a place-keeping magnetic strip that can grip the board through both the plastic and the paper pattern. That way I can keep my pattern safe from dampness and wind on the beach. The supplies/tools zip stays safe in the transparent plastic bag, too, although I do either wear the beaded “chatelaine” around my neck, or clip the retractable badge holder that minds my scissors to my beach chair.

ANOTHER OPENING…

I offered to make one of my nieces a pair of socks or an embroidered bit – noting that I would be happy to stitch up any saying, no matter how profane it might be. She was amused and intrigued by the thought of naughty embroidery, padded off to think, and eventually returned with a request that I’d term more cheeky than offensive. True to my word, I’ve plunged in. The pearl-clutchers who sent me private notes decrying my lack of taste for the Covid sampler and removing themselves from following this website are no longer here, so at this point there should be few left to object.

First a method description because folk have asked how I go about starting a new piece.

I selected a piece of ground from my stash – a piece of 32 thread per inch evenweave with the branding “MCG Textiles.” Well, it claims to be 32 tpi, but it’s really 32×38, so some distortion is expected. I did this first so I knew roughly what size I was going to be designing to fit, rather than starting with the design then questing in vain for a piece of cloth of the correct dimension.

Then I and Target Recipient had a chat back and forth on the general aesthetics. We established that green was a favored color, considered overall composition choices, and looked at some candidate alphabets and strip patterns for the borders. Once we had general agreement on the direction for the piece, I set in, using my chosen computer-based drafting method – a home-grown solution based on the freeware drafting and image editing program GIMP. I offer a tutorial for that (including templates) here on String (read up from the bottom because the blogging software only allows newest at the top organization.)

This is what I came up with.

The charts below are deliberately blurred because while they are good enough for me, they would need to be cleaned up for use by others. Plus I am not sure if I want to add them to the permanent collection here. Target Recipient would have to give permission, for one.

For the record, the leaf and twist border is available in Ensamplario Atlantio II. The alphabet used for the initial caps is from Ramzi’s Patternmaker collection of pre-1920s European leaflets, Sajou #160. The body text from an older book on my shelf – Creating Historic Samplers, by Judith Grow and Elizabeth McGrail, Pine Press, Princeton, 1974. Original elements of this piece not published before include the supplemental embellishment around the words, adapted from the flowers on the initial caps, and the corner for the leaf and twist border.

The next step was to choose my colors – DMC 890 for the darker green, DMC 320 for the lighter green, and DMC 816 for the tiny flashes of garnet red.

Now we get to the fun part – setting up the cloth to begin stitching. The first thing I did was to square off the cloth. I unraveled the thing around the edges, removing all partial threads until I had a full span of both warp and weft. Then I carefully trimmed off the remaining “fringes” left from the unraveling process. I’ve written before about the poor quality control on the MCG packaged product, and this sample was no different. It was quite skew in cut and desperately needed this squaring to determine true grain and useable size. In this case, I lost about an inch of width in one direction and about a half-inch in the other. Having done that I cut the piece allowing a generous border all the way around the stitched area dimension.

Cut piece in hand, next I had to make sure it didn’t unravel further. I have to say am not a fan of taping the edges, and I’ve had equivocal results using zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine to secure them. I’ve had the whole zig-zagged strip pull off. I don’t have a serger, so I stick with old fashioned hand hemming. For this small project that took about an hour to do a finger-pressed double turn hem, a little less than a quarter inch deep all the way around. I followed the ground threads as I did this, so my hems are (mostly) even. Since this will be framed or otherwise finished so that the edges won’t show I wasn’t super-exact about mitering the corners perfectly, as I would be with a handkerchief, napkin or placemat.

The last step of preparation is determining the exact center point and adding the basted orientation guides for both the vertical and horizontal center lines. I use a light color plain sewing cotton for this, and I don’t bother to make the basted stitches any particular length long (some people carefully stitch these over evenly counted blocks of the ground threads). Just having the simple lines are good enough for me. You can see them along with a bit of the hem in this work in progress shot:

Now it’s just a matter of transcribing my graphed out design to the cloth, using cross stitch for the wording. I’m using two strands of the DMC floss for maximum coverage.

When I get up to the surround I will probably switch to double running, and work the outlines and veining of the ivy leaves and twist in the dark green. I am thinking of using one of the more open fillings, diagonal, boxy, or steps, for the infilled areas, and doing them in the lighter green. We’ll see if I change my mind and do something else when I get there.

All in all I expect this one to be a relatively quick stitch. It’s not large or complicated. Here’s progress as of last night. Considering I started this on Friday night, it’s flying.

I hope this step by step on beginning a project is helpful to someone. And as ever, if you enjoy my designs, free broadsides stitch-along and books, and my published books, please post pix. Obviously I’m in this for joy, and few things make me happier than seeing my designs being worked up by others.

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 15

MAY THE FLOSS BE WITH YOU

The tribute here should be obvious. But there’s always room to insert yourself into the action, and this band is designed specifically for that. Obviously, the chart bears my initials over a ribbon, but it’s easy to modify to include yours there instead. Or instead of big initials, you can include a smaller set, bracketed by tiny AT-ST walkers. Or you could draft up a short saying, dedication, or motto to fit the spaces left and right of the center helmets. Or you could either doodle something else entirely to put in those spaces, or use the extra motifs I provide.

The whole idea of this strip is to help to make the piece uniquely yours, either through selection of the provided elements, or by taking that step into modifying a design or even drawing up your own bits for those two spaces. To that end there’s a worksheet on the last page of this band leaflet. I offer the layout, two sample alphabets (one large, one small); a panel with spaces to draw in your final design, plus a few “rehearsal” slots below with the corners of the available space drawn in, and those extra motifs.

Time Factor 5+ entirely for the accompanying layout and design task, plus the long straight stitch runs. (I can hardly wait to see what people dream up).

134 stitches wide x 17 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip. If worked as a stand-alone continuous band, one full repeat in 134 units, plus one blank unit in between the full iterations.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 16 will debut on the Facebook Enablers group on 21 June and will be echoed here on 5 July.

#EpicFandomSAL

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 14

SNACK BREAK

Another respite from evil. We take a snack break, complete with pretzels. Or a twist that makes me hungry for them. Think of this as a seventh inning stretch. There’s a lot more game to come, and quite a bit of excitement left. When you see Band 15, you’ll appreciate coming off this bit of rest.

Time Factor 1, but stay awake! There are twists and overlaps to keep sorted out. But through it all, I promise – NO partial stitches.

134 stitches wide x 15 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip. If worked as a stand-alone continuous band, one full repeat in 15 units.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 15 debuted on the Facebook Enablers group today and will be echoed here on 7 June.

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 12

We continue, this week’s offering is rest and relaxation again after the last band.  Think of the fabled treasures sought in so many books, movies, and series:  the sparkling gems, items of destiny, and priceless bric-a-brac.  You don’t need to be a dragon to have your own hoard.  Just stitch this up.

Time Factor 1 – it’s very simple.  The only big challenge here would be all those ends if you succumb to my temptation to do this in multicolor In plan monochrome it would make fabulous trim, and would be even more special if worked in several jewel tones.

134 stitches wide x 8 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip.  If worked as a stand-alone continuous band, one full repeat in 28 units. However, if you want to work just one unit of graduated stones, starting and ending on either side with one complete smallest gem element, the count would be 32 units.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 13 debuted on the Facebook Enablers group today, and be echoed here on 26 April 2022.

#epicfandomSAL

AMENDS

Modern Assisi work vs. historical voided work. I know that the counted thread stitching community lumps them together, but they are not exactly the same thing. What I call “modern Assisi” is the 19th century revival of voided stitching, that draws heavily on Italian folk and church embroidery styles, which in turn trace their roots back to Renaissance era voided pieces. And that late 19th century revival was again echoed in the 20th century, with the collection and republication of many patterns, and issue of new books on the subject.

Yes, both Assisi and earlier styles include prominent outlines usually done in double running or back stitch. And both feature largely unstitched foregrounds (sometimes with additional ornamentation) that contrast strongly with a stitched background.

One of the key defining characteristics of modern Assisi is the use of cross stitch for the background. That’s “plain old cross stitch (POCS)” – not long-armed cross stitch. The Renaissance era voided styles use many different ground stitches and approaches, but so far after looking at hundreds of extant examples, I haven’t seen any in POCS.

Which is why I got very excited when I stumbled across this piece. Now before you get excited too, I did NOT find the unicorn of POCS in pre 1650-era voided work.


“End of a Tablecloth” 15th-16th century. Italian, Sicilian or Spanish. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession 08.48.132

I made the mistake of idly browsing on my phone with its tiny screen, and jumping the gun I posted about the piece before I got back to my laptop and high resolution monitor. Obviously, once I was able to zoom in I corrected my mistake, but I did look like an idiot.

So to atone for my egregious lack of judgement, I charted the design in question, and make the chart available as a broadside, for your own personal, non-commercial use. Please do not republish my redaction or include it in other pattern collections.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A PDF BROADSIDE OF THE CHART.

Some notes on this piece.

My redaction is not true to any one repeat of the design. Instead I averaged all of them, evening out replication errors as best I could, to arrive at a single, uniform representation of the motifs. All design elements are there, in correct proportion and placement to each other, but there will be small deviations between the chart above and any one of the artifact’s pattern iterations.

The background is not worked in POCS. It was worked squared and unlike every other example of the squared filling on historical works I’ve seen, the stitches were pulled very tightly, bundling the ground cloth’s threads together. Meshy techniques for grounds were very popular in the 1600s and 1700s, but every other example I’ve seen has completely covered the bundled threads with stitching, making a very hard-wearing totally overstitched square mesh ground. In this case the ground cloth’s weave does show through.

The squared filling was worked up to but not touching the outlines of the foreground motifs. A one-unit “halo” was left around them. I’ve tried to represent that on my chart. There was considerable “fudging” in the way the filling was carried into the nooks and crannies of the foreground design. I’ve chosen the least acrobatic of them to include in the chart. Note that there are a couple of deviation points where a diagonal stitch was used to carry the ground thread up into a narrow area of the design.

Colors. Your guess is as good as mine. The outlines and the ground fill are clearly two different colors. If I had to guess, I would probably opt for black for the outlines and madder red for the fill. But other color combos do exist – not every historical piece was done in black and red.

The outlines – double running or back stitch? It’s impossible to tell from just looking at the front. I do note however that the spots on the leopards are all connected to the outline. There are none just floating in space, which makes the piece easier to execute in double running than a piece with discontinuous bits. The only minor challenge in this one if worked in double running would be that little hunting dog. It’s a small area not connected to any of the rest of the design.

And finally, the complementing edging. Note that the squared background is terminated with little “fingers” that slant up and to the right on the top of the strip, and down and to the left at the bottom. I tried to get the whole repeat on the chart, but I ran out of room. For absolute fidelity, work the bottom fingers exactly as tall as the ones on top. Don’t truncate as I was forced to do.

The moral of the story? Check, double check, and do so on the highest resolution display device you have to hand. Never let your excitement run away with you.

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 9

Bug eyed monsters waving ray guns in their tentacles!  Mid-century era finned spaceships!  Coming and going! Run!  Hide!  It’s an invasion, for sure and cheesy peril abounds.  Or capture them for all time, frozen in your stitching.  I recommend the latter. It’s far more relaxing to sit and embroider than it is to bolt away in terror.

Time Factor 2 – not particularly complex nor wide as the featured odd number strips go, but there is one small tricky bit.  Note that the rockets flip and are symmetrical.  BUT the little monsters mirror, alternating orientations where they are firing ray guns to the left or right.    

134 stitches wide x 16 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip. If worked as a continuous band, one full repeat in 23 units.

SamplesFabric UsedStitchThread Consumption/
Notes
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 ply
18 count AidaBack stitch, 1 ply
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 plyAbout 2 yards
28 count evenweaveDouble running,
2 plies
About 1 yard of red,
1 yard of green,
.75 yard of blue,
remnants of yellow
Top to bottom: Renditions by Beta Testers Heather, Danielle, and Callie plus Kim

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 10 debuts on the Facebook Enablers group on Tuesday, 15 February and will be echoed here on 1 March 2022. Happy zapping until then!

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 7

We roar back with Band 7 – So Sue Me! What can possibly be more anachronistic than this?

Every movie with a ravenous T-Rex in it looms in front of us now.  Let’s see, aside from the obvious, there’s the original King Kong, Lost World, Fantasia, Prehistoric Beast, Land Before Time, Night at the Museum, Land Before Time, Dino Riders, several Dr. Who episodes, and many, many more.  How could we continue without including an iconic dinosaur?

And the title?  Named after Sue, a very famous Tyrannosaurus Rex specimen now on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.

If desired this band, like the Pirates band can be worked voided – with the background filled in using long-armed cross stitch or plain old cross stitch, squared or stepped filling, diagonal filling, or another fill as desired.  This is highly optional – no pressure here because the T-Rex strip would look good either way. 

If voiding is chosen I think the design would show to best advantage if the background fill was done in a different color than the outlining, because if both were worked in the same thread the slender stems of the flowers curled in the tail would disappear. Remember – voiding eats both time and floss in direct proportion.

Time Factor 3 for height and flip/mirror complexity if only the outline is worked, but Time Factor 4 if voiding is chosen.
134 stitches wide x 30 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip.  If worked as a continuous band, one full repeat in 57 units.

SamplesFabric UsedStitchThread Consumption/
Notes
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 ply
18 count AidaBack stitch, 1 ply
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 plyAbout 8 yards
for outlines,
6.5 yards for voiding
26 count evenweaveDouble running,
1 ply
28 count evenweaveDouble running,
2 plies
1.5 yards blue,
1 yard, green,
0.25 yard red,
2 yards of
light red
for voiding
Top to bottom: Renditions by Beta Testers Heather, Danielle, Callie, and Guest Beta Tester, Robert; plus Kim

The second from the bottom, by guest Beta Tester Robert (known to some of you as Master Geoffrey d’Ayr of Montalban) is actually part of a strip of the design he worked as cuff and collar trim for a shirt – proving the point that many of these designs can be worked as long band repeats.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people.

Band 8 will be released here on or about 18 January 2022, giving you ample time to romp with this one.

%d bloggers like this: