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

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!

Button, Button: What do you think of my crossed buttonhole stitch?

Button Button Six Inch TAST Quilt Square

Not sure what the final orientation will be, but I kind of like this.

The TAST 2012 Quilt Continues!

This time my six inch square is covered with crossed buttonhole stitch.  And what goes better with any buttonhole stitch but buttons.  That’s where I started.  Given the stitch, the attachment was given.  Even though the vintage or old buttons I’ve brought with me reflects only a small amount of my button collection, there are still a huge number of choices to consider.  Off to the sketch pad.

Studio Journal Sketch for crossed buttonhole stitch

A quick sketch thinking of button bands on a sweater

The buttons I brought on the road from my stash

A small sampling of my stash

Given the sketch, I knew I needed a variety of button sizes to provide movement and interest.  Keeping the buttons within a color family is also necessary so there are not too many variables to grab the eye.  I want the buttons to enhance the stitching not compete for top billing.  After trying several possible colors, I found my selection of red buttons gave the effect I was looking for.  On to the next variable—threads.

I played around with some threads in colors complementary to the buttons.  Again, it felt like there was a competition going on between stitch and buttons.  Okay, monochrome it is!  But that doesn’t mean the threads can’t sing a bit on their own.  I chose different textured cottons.  And then I played around with numbers of plies of the cotton.  Thus the variability and color intensity of the buttons is reflected in the threads.

As for the stitch, I have not done this stitch before, so I had to practice a bit as my brain worked to cross sides as effectively as the threads!  I used a DMC #5 Perle Cotton scrap from my stash.  I also decided upon DMC variegated cotton floss #115.  I love Caron threads and chose a stranded pima cotton (Watercolours) called appropriately Flame.  Another of my favorite threads is Weeks Dye Works.  Don’t you love the color name?  Louisiana Hot Sauce!

I would have to say of the variations in the crossed buttonhole stitch that I tried, the one that looks like cross stitches with bars was the trickiest.  Not sure why.  Maybe more practice will answer that question.  I have presented photos of different orientations of the block in my photo album at Stitchin’ Fingers

What do you think?  Like the block?  What variation did you try?  Like best?  Are you loving TAST 2012?  What do yo think the next stitch will be?

The Dark Night of the Soul Births Creativity

The Last Straw

Murder Hill claims another victim

Jeff, the girls, and I arrived at our summer camp on Sunday, April 22 having barely survived the trip from hell.  I have left it to Jeff to write about those experiences as I don’t really wish to relive the experience.  When he completes his documentation I’ll reblog.  It took me two days in bed to decompress once here.  Another couple days to begin to engage in life fully.  And two days ago I went to Pin Tangle to see what the stitch for this week was.

I have over 30 six-inch squares of 14 count Aida cut.  They were for Kissing Pillows, but I’ve slowed down on stitching them since there are fewer troops being shipped out (supposedly.)  So what to do with all those extra squares?

I pulled out my Studio Journal, and sketched out the wheat ear stitch to get a feel for it. (I also ordered a tin of pencils of varying density to aide my sketching from Blick Art Supplies.) Then I did some doodles beginning with a small sketch of a wisteria tree.  It was a little too fiddley for me to get into so I started putting some lines in a square.  Yup, a six-inch square.

Then I saw a zipper that I had salvaged from one of Jeff’s favorite sweat shirts that was no longer wearable, one of the mindless tasks I did while I was restlessly trying to put the trip behind me.  I liked the zipper a lot.  The pull is kind of cool and has a nice feel to it, a nice weight and shape.  A little different.  People are doing cool things with zippers these days.  I wanted to do something cool with a zipper.

I also need to have get some brightness, so lively color in my hands, in my heart.  So much so that I made Bar Sugar Cookies just to play with sprinkles!

Bar Sugar Cookies with lots of colorful sprinkles

Bar sugar cookies with bars of color

Bar Sugar Cookies Cut and Arranged

Bar Sugar Cookie Collage

I pulled out the brightest variegated DMC floss I had.  I was being lazy, my first thought was to use Caron’s Cranberry Water Lilies, my favorite Caron color—well, one of them anyways!  But that would mean I had to get up and dig in the overhead storage to pull it out.  I had my box of DMC 000 – 500 at my side.  So I went kind of random.

My doodles included lime green, orange, fuchsia, red, purple.  You’ll see some of those colors in the beginning of my new baby, The TAST 2012 Quilt!  Block One is not done yet, as you can see.  I’ll show it to you when it’s done, too.  And you’ll see the other limbs of this new baby as they develop.  Since TAST will most likely run over into January, this baby has the traditional nine months to go.  I’m sure there will be additional development once delivered!

TAST Week 17 Wheat -Ear Stitch

TAST Quilt Block One

TAST Week 17

Wheat-Ear Stitch

I’m thinking there will be a theme tin addition to TAST with this project.  Something regarding attachments.  For me Dark Nights of the Soul often involve my relationship to attachments and loss.  This trip from hell involved the possibility of loosing our home and the ability to fulfill our dreams.  We were also in life threatening situations a couple of times.  We had to spend everything we’d saved to live on for the rest of the year to make it home.  And my special puppy who I’m very attached to started with the symptoms that have erupted into a horrid flu-like illness that she is currently struggling with.

I have learned that such situations are part of the cycle of life and also the creative cycle.  Just as wild fires clear the brush to allow for new growth, human life crises lead to a kind of soul cleansing making room for new ideas, new vision, and a heart that is more open and available to input.  Humans are creative beings unless we get bogged down with minutia rather than process, routine as opposed to ritual, and habit instead of awareness and engagement.  Sometimes it takes a lot to clear out those barriers to be free to create.  Whatever gets us to that place is a blessing.  That is what I have experienced so that is what I believe!

What do you think?  What frees you to be creative?

More Satin Stitch Images

Gallery

This gallery contains 7 photos.

I didn’t want to overload you the other day with a plethora of photos of projects with Satin Stitches.  So, I’ll overload you today!  During the following slide show you can click on the buttons at the bottom of the … Continue reading

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Satin Stitch Easter Basket

I had so many ideas for what I’d do with Satin Stitch, the 13th stitch in Sharon Boggon’s Take A Stitch Tuesday challenge.  First I was going to do some musical notation for the song “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” but found it was copyrighted.  Then I was going to make a band of bunny ears in various states of awareness.  But that seemed kind of boring.

I also thought about not stitching at all because I have so many projects that have Satin Stitch in them.  But, this is not just about learning the stitch, it’s about challenging one’s self.  And truth be told, I hate Satin Stitch.  I’m always worried about coverage and pulling too tight.  I want it to be perfect.  I like using it in needlepoint on canvas or congress cloth because I use a laying tool.  For some reason using a laying tool seems kind of heavy-handed on linen.

Satin Stitch Easter Basket with Eggs
Satin Stitched Easter Basket

So, I challenged myself.  I tried to do a design that was 100% Satin Stitch.  I almost did it.  But then the handle and rim of baskets are often different in texture than the basket (or so I rationalized.)

I used DMC 3858 (2 ply) for the basket.  I wasn’t happy with the coverage so I increased it to 4 ply for the rim and handle.  The eggs were done in four different Caron Waterlilies.  The two furthest back I’m not sure which Waterlilies—leftover threads from other projects done long, long ago.  The one on the right front is 013 Peach Sherbet.  The one to the left of that is Tropic Seas.  The directions for Waterlilies says to use 1 ply for 22 count linen.  Since the Sampler is done on 32 count linen, I used 2 ply for the first egg I stitched, the one in the very back.  I didn’t like the coverage, so I used 4 ply on the egg in the front right.  That seemed kind of puffy, so I used 3 ply on the remaining eggs.  I think that was the best coverage.

What do you think?  What would you do to improve this little design and my Satin Stitch?  Please do leave a comment as I think I need to do more work on this, but am not sure what exactly is needed.  Help!

Blackwork Bow Tie: TAST Bonus Challenge

Blackwork Black Tie

Black Tie Nap

This week there is a break in TAST 2012 to give stitchers whose lives have gotten really busy a chance to catch up.  After all, if you get frustrated and so behind the challenge might just become another UFO!  And Sharon Boggon is all about setting people up for success!

For those who were up to date she offered two bonus challenges.  One of them was to create some “Bling,” some eye candy to inspire others using from 3 to 6 of the stitches from the challenge list to date.  For some reason “Bling” hit me.  And when I think of Bling I think “Black Tie.”  And, with my interest in Blackwork, my mind obviously jumped to Blackwork Bow Tie.  Here is what I quickly stitched up (based upon a sketch in my Studio Journal.)

Blackwork Bow Tie

TAST Week 13 Bonus Challenge: Blackwork Bow Tie

I have used these stitches:

I will be posting more details later this week on my blog, Blackwork Lessons, after I create a clean copy of the pattern and directions.  Followers of Blackwork Lessons and The Shop Sampler who leave a comment requesting a copy of the pattern will receive it, gratis, of course!

Take A Stitch Tuesday Catch Up

Sampler To Date

Sampler effective March 24, 2012. Looking good!

Now that the Studio Journal as Designer’s Workhorse class is done, I’ve taken the time to catch up on my TAST stitching.  I’ve combined five weeks into the sampler band I’ve done this week.  So what stitches did I use?

Spring is definitely happening here in Southern Alabama and this inspired me to create a little fantasy flower garden and fresh, feathery, green garland.  I tried to follow an idea put forth by Mary Corbet to given my flowers a kind of raised center, but I did not have much success with this.  Guess I’ll have to keep on trying.  But I’m not disappointed with my results.  There is a lot of texture to my flowers.  And I had fun while learning two new stitches!

Fantasy Flower 1 Fantasy Flower 2 Fantasy Flower3
  • Padded Center DMC 3821
  • Detached Chain “spokes” DMC 3814
  • Whipped Wheel DMC 3835
  • Detached Chain surface petals DMC 3607
  • Padded Center DMC 3821
  • Detached Chain “spokes” DMC 3814
  • Whipped Wheel DMC 353
  • Amethyst 11° seed beads around center
  • iridescent Amethyst bugle beads outlining flower
  • Padded Center DMC 3821
  • Running Stitch/Straight Stitch spokes DMC 3814
  • Whipped Wheel DMC 3607
Four TAST Stitches
Garland wrapping three Fantasy Flowers
  • Alternating barred chain interspersed with chain DMC 3814 (1 strand) and DMC 3813 (2 strands)
  • Detached Chain DMC 3821

So what do you think?  Which is your favorite Fantasy Flower?  Or do you like the Garland best?