Thread Storage Is Not For Sissies!

Whether your passion is embroidery, quilting, knitting, or mixed media, storage is a problem for any fiber artist .  But when you live in a space that is 27 foot long by 8 foot wide, the issue of storage is a problem whether you’re a fiber artist or not!  From the beginning of our time on the road I have been searching for the perfect solution.

Initially I had  been “alotted” the space under the bed (queen sized and 17 inches deep) and one half of the cupboard area over the couch (about 8 ft wide and 14 in deep by 14 in tall).

Since Jeff and I have consistently been trying to decrease the weight we carry in the trailer, I am now using about ½ the under the bed space and ¾ of the living room cupboard space.   This has taken a lot of work and a lot of honesty, not to mention a fair amount of growth in the realm of non-attachment—for both of us.  (The dogs refuse to make any changes at all!)

A couple of things have helped to make this downsizing possible.

  • I decided what projects I really want to have done in a year that could realistically be completed given my stitching history.
  • I picked a couple UFOs to focus on, keeping in mind if I finish them before the end of October I can always pull out a couple more.
  • Given these choices, I picked out which reference materials would be critical to carry with me.
  • Everything else was put in  the front of the storage unit and labeled very clearly for ease in sorting next spring.
  • I found a way to store all the thread that doesn’t fit neatly on floss cards (without spending a small fortune for some fancy new “System.”)  Yup!  I did!
My new thread storage system

My new thread storage system for items that will not fit into my DMC floss card boxes.

I found a photo album that has archival quality photo pockets.  The pockets are divided by acid free paper.  They are supposed to hold a photo that is about 4 X 6, so are perfect for perle cotton weight thread.  I labeled each pocket front and back with the thread company, thread weight, and color number. (Each pocket will hold two skeins.)

Photo album for 4 x 6 photos, perfect for Perle Cotton weights

Ends close to rings stapled to prevent escapees!

I also found archival quality pocketed storage sheets meant for the older, smaller baseball cards.  The little pockets are perfect for Rainbow Gallery thread cards, Weeks Dye Works flosses, and other smaller skeins of thread.  Again, I labeled each pocket with relevant info.

Smaller pockets for smaller threads

Intended for smaller baseball cards but perfect for my smaller thread skeins and cards.

I like this because it’s flexible.  As I add a color, I can take off the labeled info and rearrange as necessary.  I have loads of extra pages so I can add as my inventory changes.   And it’s easier to maintain my Excel inventory of threads.  Most importantly,  I can easily pull colors from different companies to create my color palette.

There are still a few oddball items, particularly spools.  Those I have in two boxes, one a tin for metallics and the other is a Shaker box (made by Allen Fannin) that I use for my balls of Perle cotton.

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

Take a Stitch Tuesday 2012 : A Meditation Sampler Emerges

Whew!  Didn’t think I was going to catch up on the Challenge.  This week the challenge was the feather stitch, another member of the buttonhole stitch family.  I think it is one of my favorites.  It’s great to use to make seaweed, or branches and twigs, or vines of all sorts.  (Please, please check out these links–the artistry is incredible! The first is a Sharon Boggins project and the other two are Week 3 participants The Smallest Forest and CrazyQstitcher.)  It would also make cool ripples in the water or in clouds.  I used it to make–of all things–feathers!  I also decided that since this is a sampler, there’s no reason I can’t put some “verse” in it.  Instead of the traditional Proverbs or Psalms that little girls of old would be trying to learn, I decided to add some reminders of Buddhist ideas that I want to keep front and center in my brain.  Truth be told, stitching is a kind of moving meditation for me.

For some reason unknown to me, I immediately thought of angel wings when I thought of feather stitch.  (Maybe it’s because my thoughts fly all over the place when I meditate!)  So I googled “images of wings” and got lots of ideas for how to proceed.  At first I thought I would put a pair of wings on either edge of the bottom of my year banner.  After I got started, I decided that–like most things I plan–I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew.

I also was finding that the wing wasn’t showing up as nicely as I would like.  When Jeff couldn’t identify what it was without me telling him was a real big clue!  So I kind of put a heart under the wing, sort of like a tattoo.  Here’s what I ended up with. (As always, click image for larger photo.)

The whole sampler so far

Sampler so far

Close up of winged heart

Winged heart close up

I used two threads for the wing:  YLI Ribbon Floss Shimmer Blend #101 Icicle Super and Weeks Dye Works Overdyed Cotton #1086 Icicle.  I was going to use Weeks Snowflake, my favorite white thread of all time, but the bluish cast of the Icicle worked better with the YLI.  (Another color way I thought about using was using the Snowflake with Rainbow Gallery’s Treasure Ribbon PR10–those two have a more pinkish cast to them.)  I used Anchor cotton floss #13 for the heart and filled it in with a stem stitch.

The text was something I threw in to help me remember something I’ve read three times and keep forgetting.  I thought if I stitched it, it would stick in my head a little better.  In Zen Buddhism, students may use Koan’s to help understand their lessons and enhance their Path.  In Tibetan Buddhism, slogans are sometimes used in Lojong practice, phrases to help one train the mind and open the heart (see the embroidery connection!) and thus live Buddhist ideals on a daily basis.  The first slogan is “First, learn train in the preliminaries.”  I kept forgeting what the distinction between the four preliminaries were.  Now I know!

(Having a human body that does not live in extreme poverty, disease, etc, thus is free to pursue enlightenment makes a human body a “precious human body.”  Impermanence speaks for itself.  The futility of Samsara, is about the futility of chasing pleasure, perfection, or other “Earthly Illusions” as it never leads to happiness, only a desire for more or dissatisfaction of some sort.  Actively considering the cause and effect nature of Karma helps one to make choices that are healthier for self and others.)

Take a Stitch Tuesday 2012: Update

I mentioned before that I’m participating in Sharon Boggon’s Take a Stitch Tuesday 2012 challenge.  For those unfamiliar with what this is about, every Tuesday Sharon shares an embroidery stitch with the group.  She gives detailed instructions on how to complete the stitch for those unfamiliar with whatever the stitch of the week is.

For those who have some experience with the stitch, she provides inspiration and a challenge to play with the stitch and see if you can use it in a different or creative way.  She gives photo examples of how she has used the stitch, often in one of her crazy quilt blocks or from one of er own stitch samplers.

We are now at the end of week two.  I struggled to get started as I needed to decide how I wanted to proceed with the stitches.  You could just work up a doodle on your collar.  Or you could stitch/paint a landscape.  Or you could do a crazy quilt block.  Or you could do a traditional sampler.  Or you could do a sampler like Sharon’s Sampler of all Samplers!

I decided to do a more traditional sampler.  We’ll see what happens over time.  I used the buttonhole stitch from the Week 2 challenge to couch some pearl trim into a square to place my start date.  I used the Week 1 challenge fly stitch to write out “2012.”  I’m using a 28 count linen for the ground.  The buttonhole was worked with Weeks Dye Works #1278, Holly.  The fly stitch was also Weeks overdyed cotton, but # 2266, Turkish Red.  I thought since I’m starting this in the winter, I’d use wintery colors and let the colors in future stitches reflect the passing of the year.

The results so far:

TAST Week One and Two stitches together

Buttonhole stitch border to couch strung pearls and fly stiched numerals

What do you think?  I kind of like it!