Prayer Flag Project Announcement

I know that many of you  who check in on this site work with a variety of creative media.   Given that, you may be interested in participating in a special event recently announced by the Prayer Flag Project:

CALL TO ARTISTS

PRAYER FLAG PROJECT

Give visual voice to your prayers by creating a prayer flag and submitting it to OMA’s Prayer Flag installation on view at Oceanside Museum of Art October 14 through December 31, 2012. Artists are invited to design a unique flag made of fabric and other materials that reflects their current and future hopes and dreams. Flags should be approximately 5” x 8” with a 3” sleeve on the top-backside of the quilt and must arrive at Oceanside Museum of Art by September 21. Please include your name, date and the desired prayer on the back of the Flag. It is suggested that the artist uses an iron on fabric label for this information.

Please address or deliver Flags to following address

OMA Prayer Flag Project

Oceanside Museum of Art

704 Pier View Way

Oceanside, CA 92054

Artists are responsible for mailing and/or delivering their prayer flag. Flags will only be returned if the artist includes a self-addressed and stamped envelope. All other flags will become property of the museum.

From my TAST 2012 Sampler

Basic principles I try to keep in mind

I am trying to think what I wish to focus on in the flag I’m going to make for this .  Since Prayer Flags are a part of Buddhist tradition and since that is how I am so inclined, that is the direction I will head in.  Will keep you posted!

Drop a line if you are going to participate in this, too!

Antique Almost Crazy Quilt

Antique Almost Crazy Quilt

Almost Crazy Quilt

The fact that I purchased this quilt in a dark little antique store in Burlington Square in Burlington, Vermont does not make this quilt an antique. Many things sold in antique stores are merely old. What does make this antique is the fact that every single piece of fabric on the front is from most likely the 1940s according to Allen Fannin (my former partner) who taught the business aspects of Fashion at Syracuse University until his tragic death in a head on car collision.

The back of one square on the Almost Crazy Quilt

The back of one square showing the hand stitching

What makes this quilt interesting is that every single square is hand pieced. Quite a few of the blocks are put together by hand, but some are also machine stitched. I don’t think that detracts from its charm at all.

Four Pointed Star motif

While the Four Pointed Star Motif seems central, in fact it is created at the corners of four attached blocks

There is a very definite pattern to each square. The quilter used a four pointed star for the basis of each block. Then the 12½ inch squares were filled in.  All 56 of them!  It has been suggested that the fabric came from either dresses, shirts, or robes.

Fabrics are most likely rayon

Can you see the shine of the fabrics?

What makes this an “Almost Crazy Quilt” is the fact that there is not a single stitch of surface embroidery on it. That’s why I bought this little beauty. My plan was to do the embroidery and finish it.

The question is where do I start? What do you think? All suggestions are more than welcome!

ISO Info on working with Silk Gauze

A reader, Susie, is looking for info on working with silk gauze.  I am still looking for the specific article in my stash of the American Needlepoint Guild’s Needle Pointer for a specific article I remember seeing.  I have also found this little blurb from Shakespeare’s Peddler.  And I found a tutorial by Janet Granger on mounting silk gauze for miniature needlepoint.  And Mary Corbet can always be counted upon to have tips and tutorials, even for working with silk gauze!  You’ll find Mary’s tutorial on transferring patterns to silk gauze here.  She has several other posts about the topic as well.  Even About.com has info on working with silk gauze.

If anyone else has any tips that might help Susie, comment away!  Susie, it would be helpful if you describe the problem you’re having to help direct comments.  Unless you found some help over at Stitchin’ Fingers.

 

By the way, I’ve added some sayings to the “Sampler Sayings” page.

A Chain Stitch Sampler

Chain Stitch Sampler or Ribbons, Ruffles, and Chains

Chain Stitch Sampler or Ribbons, Ruffles, and Chains

This past week TAST 2012 is taking a “catch up” or get crazy creative break.  I focused on my Attachments Quilt Blocks (and UFOs) to create a sweet little sampler. Something I call Ribbons, Ruffles, and Chains.

I’ve been pretty good about keeping up, sometimes at the expense of other projects.  But I have no other serious obligations.  And, I see the TAST Challenge as well as the Stitchers’ UFO Challenge as a means to reestablish  discipline that has waned since leaving the Social Services Rat Race.  I’m looking at it as “practice,” as in meditation or spiritual practice.  I really want to create my own designs and stitch them instead of always enjoying the fruits of other people’s’ creative endeavors.  As a follower of “The Artist Way” for decades, I know there are many ways to get to the creative source in one’s self.  One of them is to engage in play.  Another is repetitive activity that frees the mind from clutter.  A very important way is to lose one’s attachment to perfection or preconceived notions of what is good or bad, pretty or ugly, worthwhile or useless, and so on.

I am learning a lot about that through the TAST Challenge.  Taking the Studio Journal As A Designer’s Workhorse really helped, too.  There are a lot of ugly images in my journal, but the images represent something quite beautiful in my mind’s eye.  I don’t draw well, nor do I have a whole artist’s studio at hand.  So my journal is full of reMINDers of things I want to stitch.  And some of my embroidery is not necessarily pretty either.  Case in point is the TAST 2012 Attachments Quilt Block I did with safety pins.  Even though no one will say, “Oh, that is so gorgeous, I must have it!,” the piece communicates exactly what I meant to say about attachments to unhealthy things.

Same thing with my Ribbons, Ruffles, and Chains sampler and/or Attachments Quilt Block. It is a reminder to myself that an abiding affinity to ribbons and ruffles and a pretty world is not only living with blinders on, but will keep your heart chained from the experience of compassion and the opportunity to relieve any suffering in the world.  Attachments make it hard to have a heart that is open to full life including true love.

The layout of the stitches on Chain Stitch Sampler

A schematic of the stitch layout
(click for larger view)

This block is also about practicing a stitch in an array of its variations. The Chain Stitch.  I had A LOT of fun with this.  And learned a great deal.  I even have a couple new favorite stitches.  I especially like the stitches in the lower right corner of the sampler.  Overall I used 11 chain stitch variations:  chain, twisted chain, barred chain, butterfly chain, wheat ear stitch, braided chain over one stitch, braided chain over two stitches, open chain, heavy chain, raised chain, and cabled chain.  I especially liked the tutorials at Sarah’s Hand Embroidery.  She has a section of nothing but change stitches that you can find in the right sidebar.  I’m thinking I’ll do another sampler with the variations that are not on this block.  Here is a schematic of the stitches I did use.

I hope these close-ups help you pick a few variations you might like to try.

Ribbons, Ruffles, and Chains Close Up Left

Close up of upper left corner of my Chain Stitch Sampler

Scan of lower right of my Chain Stitch Sampler

Lower Right Corner of my Chain Stitch Sampler

My favorites are the raised chain, the braided chain, the cable chain, twisted chain, and wheat ear stitch.  Which do you especially like?  Which one have you never done but will now try?

Stitchers’ UFO Challenge Update

I know it’s been more than a month.  Like every other stitcher out there, been busy.  It’s like you have a choice.  Blog or stitch.  I’ve been stitching.  Well, not true, I’ve also been updating two of my other blogs as well as this one.  (Relatively Ryan and Site Sniffing)  Sadly, my favorite blog is the one that gets the least attention.  That may be about to change though.  Thanks to the Stitchers’ UFO Challenge.

Followers know that I have been very busy with Take A Stitch Tuesday, the Pin Tangle sponsored weekly challenge.  In spite of this, I have been very actively working on two UFOs and a Pilot Project that I’m completing for the American Needlepoint Guild.  Although I’ve done all that I really need to for the Pilot evaluation, I’m enjoying the piece so much that I want to complete it.  I don’t need another UFO to add to the stash!  I’m writing the designer to see if I can post pics of the piece because it is such an incredible design, I think people would be excited to see it.

I am close to completion on my Blackwork Chess Board!  When it is complete I will get back to my Mystery Blackwork Sampler designing.  At this point all I have to do is  launder the piece and fringe it.  Jeff plans to actually use the chess board, so I’ve personalized it to his specifications.  He’s as excited to see it nearing completion as I am!

The other piece that I’ve almost completed is a Shepherd’s Bush Christmas Stocking.  I was going to make it for my new grand-niece, but decided to make it for her mother instead.  Of course I had to purchase another stocking pattern for my grand-niece!  The stocking front is complete except for adding hair.  I will do that when I add the other embellishments.  Before I add the embellishments, I want to stitch the front and back together, so it lays flat as I push it through the sewing machine.  As soon as it stops raining here I can do that as I use the picnic table for my sewing machine wherever we are camping.  Not a lot of room in this travel trailer!

Do you like the gallery type of photo display or the slide show in a previous post?

So, by next month I will be able to cross these off the list and mark another UFO as picked up again!  Look at the list.  Is there something you’d like to see in its completed form?  Tell me, help me make up my mind what to pick up next!

Stitch Challenge: TAST OR Math?

There are a few stitches that challenge me more than others.  And Sharon Boggon from Pin Tangle’s Take a Stitch Tuesday (TAST) has included more than one in her weekly challenges.  This week in fact!  The Knotted Cretan Stitch is lovely.  I love the texture.  I don’t love the math.

I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if I drew lines on the fabric rather than counted threads.  But the threads ARE lines so it really shouldn’t matter.  Actually a basic line of Cretan (or chevron or herringbone) stitches isn’t a problem.  The problem is when I try to layer them.  The second layer takes a few minutes to figure out my new count and placement.  But the third and fourth are killers.  It feels like I’m using my left hand instead of my right.  Is this a Right Brain vs. Left Brain thing?  Can anyone tell me how to make this easier?

I can fold egg whites into a batter without loosing a molecule of air, but I struggle beyond belief with multiple layers of these stitches.  I can take the sugar out of a recipe and make the item taste like a thousand calories.  I love the texture of  layered stitches.  And when I look at other peoples’ work, it all seems so lovely and effortlessly layered.

I know it’s about multiples.  That’s kind of like permutations—right?  Could someone please write a blog about this for we mathematically challenged stitchers and send me the link?  Or will this not really matter when I pull my antique crazy quilt out of storage and start the embellishments that were never done?

One thing I have learned this week with the Knotted Cretan is about when to end the thread if you didn’t start with enough.  End at either far end of the stitch (A or D per Sarah’s pictorial tutorial.)  Bring the new thread in at the point where the stitch will be bisected, the middle point, the C point if you use A-B-C-D notation for a stitch.  If you end your thread in the middle, you have to introduce the new thread in the same space and it looks messy.  Thank goodness I DID learn something.   Everything else was kind of accidental!  But I DO like what I did and think I could recreate it.  What do you think?  How would you further embellish this?

Knotted Cretan Stitch in four threads and different lengths

Knot sure what I did here!

Oh, and I played with threads.  This is the first weekend for picking strawberries here so I was thinking about fruity colors.  Colors related to cherries for the bottom two rows.  Grape and watermelon for the top two.  I was going to add something for blueberry, my favorite, but pooped out.  There’s a variety of silk, stranded cotton, and perle cotton in this sample.  Here’s the cast in order of appearance:

  • DMC Perle #5 3042
  • Weeks Dye Works floss #2262 Watermelon
  • Caron Wildflowers #081 Black Cherry
  • Caron Waterlilies #149 Cherry Cordial

Butterfly Chain, A Real TAST Challenge For Me

TAST 2012 Sampler

This is not exactly how I envisioned this would go, but it is a sampler!

I may alienate many people with this statement, but I have to take the risk:  I don’t like butterflies.  I used to like spiders because of the Greek mythology connection and because they eat other insects.  But then I found out that they are cannibals.  Now, I must simply say that while I respect the place of insects in Nature, on the whole I simply am not interested in sharing space with any of them, no matter how delightful the coloring.  Butterflies are too much like moths.  Bottom line they are creepy, crawly, wormy things before they mature.  I’m really more of a flora than a fauna person!Consequently, I was not thrilled with the idea of a stitch that is called Butterfly Chain.  But as I have committed to this year-long challenge offered by Sharon Boggon at Pin Tangle, this “little” thing called Take a Stitch Tuesday, I must tackle this stitch.  BUT, I have a re-frame, good little strategic therapist that I am!  My little chains are not creating the lovely body of butterflies out of my straight stitches, they are instead gathering together stalks of corn or wheat or some other grain that looks like liquid gold in a field!Ahhh, relief.  Now I can stitch!

And stitch I did.  Except…

When Jeffrey looked at the work I had done, he said, “Oh, are you stitching a fence?”  I said, “Oh, yeah,  that’s just what it is!”

Thjree layers of butterfly chain stitch embellished with seed and bugle beeds

Wisteria Fence

I didn’t start with a sketch this time.  I just kind of had an idea in my head.  It’s better to start with a sketch as it’s much easier to erase on paper than it is on fine, 32 count linen!  (That’s what my 2012 TAST Sampler is stitched on.)  The following slide show reveals the evolution of what I’m calling Wisteria Fence.  You’ll see why as the pics progress.

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The Bullion Stitch, Not To Be Confused With Bouillion Cubes!

I have to wonder if I have ESP.  Last week when I posted about French Knots, I mentioned I much prefer the Bullion Knot or Bullion Stitch.  And what do we have for this week’s TAST Challenge?!  Yup…The Bullion Stitch.  I decided to make a spray of wisteria on my Sampler.  The Bullion Knot is perfect for such drapey flowers.  I’d be interested to hear from you what other flowers this stitch would be good for.

Swag of wisteria in Bullion Stitch

Yet another Spring Swag…this one with Bullion Stitch, Stem Stitch, and Chain with Bullion Stitch tip

It was interesting to look at the different tutorials available for this stitch.  Using my own Stitch Diagram reference page, I found Sarah’s tutorial to be most useful to me.  I really needed a refresher, too!  The last time I did bullion stitches was in (about) 1996 when I was determined to learn ribbon embroidery while I recuperated from surgery.

Sharon’s recommendation to use a needle whose eye outer diameter is the same as the needle shaft to the point is right on.   As she says on Pin Tangle:

People either love or hate bullions, but most of the problems associated with working them is that people use the wrong needle.

I recommend milliners or straw needles because most embroidery needles have an eye that is wider than the shaft of the needle. Milliners or straw needles have an eye and shaft that are the same width which makes sliding the wrapped bullion knot along the needle easy. Try it as it does make a difference. (Sharon Boggon)

She’s so right!  This is important because not only does the needle have to go through the thread you wrap or coil around the needle, but you also need to drag the doubled thread through the coiled thread, too.  I did not have the perfect needles on hand for this, so I tried to compensate by allowing the coils to relax as I wiggled the needle and thread through the coil.  I think that may have given me my little problem of the bottom-most coil being a tad loose.

I used three types of thread to work my bullions—a silk ribbon (the green), a rayon loosely woven ribbon (the darker purple on the left), and DMC #5 Perle Cotton (the light purple on the left and all purples on the right.)  It was definitely easier making the bullions with the cotton Perle.

Close up of chain stitch with bullion ending tip

The leaf on the right is a fair example of the Chain Stitch with ending done in Bullion Stitch. The Silk on the left leaf was somewhat twisted while wrapping the needle.

There are actually three stitches in my sample.  First, I made a “branch” with stem stitch using two plies of cotton floss.  Then there are the bullion wisteria flowers that I made with the Perle cotton and the rayon silk.  The green leaves are a composite stitch made up of a chain stitch where the anchoring final stitch is completed as a bullion stitch.  It gives a nice shape to the leaves, I think.  What do you think?  Come on  Don’t be shy!  I can take it!

Half Chevron Stitch, TAST Challenge, and the Meditation Continues

I looked many places to find tutorials on the Half Chevron Stitch.  It is not a well documented stitch.  If anyone has any info on how this stitch was developed I would love to know about it.

I did, however, see numerous blog posts about the half chevron.  Most were in reference to the TAST challenges.  Interesting.

My approach to this stitch was to consider additional “notions of attachment.”  One person has commented on my play on words.  I’m not sure others understand the intended stitching pun!  I’m sure all stitchers understand sewing notions and things we use for attaching to fabric.  But I was also alluding to notions meaning ideas and the attachments I meant were the attachments that impede spiritual progress in Buddhism where attachments are considered the root of all suffering in life.

image of shakyamuni buddha

Buddha

For years, indeed decades, stitching has been a meditation for me.  It began when the only stitching I did was counted cross stitch.  I came to see that each stitch was the equivalent of one breath.  One half the cross is a breath in.  Completing the cross is the exhalation.  Maneuvering the thread and positioning of the hand and work is the space between breaths.  And in this way, each embroidered piece is ALIVE!  Then when you give that piece away, you are giving a very real part of your essence.

Part of traveling a Buddhist path is to look carefully for any impediments along the way to reducing suffering in the world and ultimately reaching a state of enlightenment.  There are so many ways of accomplishing this.  One of the things that is a chronic problem for me on the path is attachments, things that keep me stuck in one place, things that make me feel too strongly in one direction.  I have been successful to a large extent in giving up my emotional attachments to “things.”  For example, when the box holding my bone china collection fell in the storage unit last summer, Jeff apologized for a week as he had heard the tinkle of breakage when he grabbed the box.  I had a moment of profound sadness.  But only a moment.  I felt the feeling and then it was over.  Jeff was more upset than I was.  This summer we will open that box and toss out what is pointless to hang on to as we continue to downsize.  It will be work.  It will be a job.  That’s all.  No drama.

When traveling North and I thought that we were going to lose our truck and our lifestyle.  I was devastated.  Primarily thinking about the possibility of moving into a situation that would not allow me to keep my dogs.  I am INCREDIBLY attached to my dogs.  It is an extreme emotional response.  This is an Attachment that stands between me a living a life of Nonattachment according to Buddhist principles.  It is something I struggle with every day.

Safety Pins Attached via Half Chevron Stitch

Pinned: The attachment of addictions might look like this

Hence my TAST 2012 Attachment Quilt block that I have named Pinned, like pinned to the wall, pinned down. I began with the notion (and the idea).  Would it be snaps or pins?  With the half chevron stitch I decided safety pins would be the better choice.  After all the chevrons are spikey like the pins.  I tossed the pins and let them sit where they landed on my sketch pad within the six-inch square.  I traced the heads of the pins to capture the orientation.

Sketch for Half Chevron Stitch Safety Pin Attachment Block

Outline of how safety pins fell into place

Following the diagram, I attached the safety pins to the six-inch square of Aida cloth (14 count.)

Half Chevron Stitch Safety Pins Attached

Half Chevron Stitch Safety Pins Attached

Okay, now what?!  Color.  I decided to go with some approximation of primary colors since the attachments I have been meditating on are very basic, primal if you will.  Each of the three colors would follow a different path and end up where it began, the danger of all unexamined attachments.  See how messy it can get!  And those half chevrons, they look so prickly.

Safety Pins Attached via Half Chevron Stitch

Closer view of Pinned

Does any of this make sense to you?  Does it resonate with your connection to stitching?  Does stitching help you think or problem solve?  Or pray?

It Began on Interstate 65

Replica of I-65 sign

A French Knot For Every Five Times I Saw This Sign

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our dreadful experience of traveling North from Alabama this spring.  That post was about where I ended up from a stitching/TAST perspective.  Just a reminder, TAST is Take a Stitch Tuesday, a weekly stitching challenge sponsored by Sharon Boggon of Pin Tangle.  While we were on the road the stitch challenge was French Knots.

Map Highlighting Interstate 65

Thank goodness we didn’t drive the whole of I-65!

I find french knots tedious.  I know how to do them.  I think I’ve stitched a million in my lifetime.  I prefer bullion knots.  They are less tedious and more interesting to look at.  Nothing was more tedious than driving on Interstate 65 this spring.  We picked it up in just north of Mobile, Alabama, followed it through all of Tennessee, and up to Louisville, Kentucky.  I have spent way too many nights stitching the tedious french knot into a sign all too (unfortunately) familiar to me.  Now I-65 is out of my system.  Well, mostly!

If you want to hear more about the trip, Jeff has done a wonderful job describing the trek.  He keeps a blog called OddEssay.  Normally he adds to the end of his entries.  But this trip warranted its own separate click.  I called it the trip from hell.  He is nicer than me and called it “Murder Hill:  The Trip No One Should Have To Travel”

If you are like me, you talk to the TV, to the dogs (and for the dogs), to the clock, and all kinds of things that don’t have conversational skills or abilities.   I also make up silly songs to familiar tunes.  When I sing the dogs think I’m happy and it’s time to play.

Lately, I  talk to our truck, offering her compliments and encouragement during our very short and focused trips to the grocers, vet, and laundry.  We are still waiting for our new engine to arrive.  I decided our truck, affectionately called Betsy (after Davy Crocket’s rifle—ask Jeff, that’s on him!), but also known as “The Beast,” needed her own song.  After all, I have songs for both of the dogs.  I’ll post them if you ask!)  Following is the song Jeff and I came up with in honor of Betsy.  Make sure you’re alone, then sing it loud and sing it proud!

Betsy, The Beast
by Jeffrey T. Elmore in collaboration with Julie Castle and the Girls

(Sung to the tune of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.)

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

She was born in Detroit in nineteen ninety-five,
Always served her Master, wherever he would drive,
She tackled Murder Hill, but couldn’t handle the weight,
Lost the piston lobe on cylinder eight.

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

For twelve hundred miles she gave it her all.
Pulled our home up every hill, no matter how tall,
But that half mile peak was just a bit too high,
Almost to the top, she collapsed with a sigh.

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

The last eighty miles, she was so ashamed,
Towed all the way home like some animal tamed,
They all thought she had died and could haul no more,
Till they went looking down at the new truck store.

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

When the sticker shock settled, their plans they rethought,
Betsy might be older, but she’s already bought,
Said, “We’ll get another engine, that’s what we will do,”
Then The Beast will haul again, almost good as new.

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

Happy travels, y’all!