Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stand back. Work in progress.

Sometimes I think I do these projects just for the pleasure of mixing the pretty ingredients. 

At this stage, the WIP box is still prettier than the WIP.

But maybe not for much longer. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New book -- Andean Folk designs

The last of my newly-acquired books I'm ready to share with you, and in some ways, my favorite.  Andean Folk Knits: Great Designs from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador & Bolivia by Marcia Lewandowski. 

"I didn't know you knit!" you say.

"I don't!" I say.   

But I do love bright colors and bold patterns.  See these cute little llamas?

And if you look closely you can see on the right side of the photo, that the charts for this style of knitting are so, so easily used as patterns for other forms of needlework.  Wouldn't those little llamas be a fun and the border easily adapted into little cross-stitch sampler, for a kids room or something just a little different?  If you looked closely in the first photo, you can see a similar llama on a bag my sister-in-law brought me from her travels in Bolivia. 

This book is packed full of projects like that, as well as lots of lovely photographs of the people and geography of the Andes.  Plus, there is a section on the meanings of different motifs.  I'm always fascinated to see how so many similar motifs appear in different cultures. 

See that eight-pointed star up there, that looks like it could be straight out of an Ackworth sampler?  According to this book, that's the Summer Sun.  And the narrower motif immediately to the right of the star is the Winter Sun.  Wonderful!  Maybe comparative meanings in motifs is a topic or two for a future post.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tiny leaves and moss - Green color study

A break from books. 

You may have caught on, green is one of my favorite colors.  And despite being the middle of January, it's still a pretty good time to go outside for inspiration.  Yes, even though the yard and lawn look terrible.  Because when it stops raining for a brief moment -- there's still tiny life to be found in wonderful forms, if you bend down and pay attention.

So I plucked a few little pieces and took them in to my silk sample book.

I heard a rumor that spring will come.  But I suspect it might be awhile.  For now, a green experiment is sprouting!  (haha).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Scandinavian Motifs and Samplers -- New Books Part 2

Moving forward in history a little bit from yesterday's Celts and Vikings... out-of-print books of Scandinavian cross-stitch designs!

Left to right, we have:  Scandinavian Charted Designs (Cross Stitch, Needlepoint) (Dover Needlework), from the archives of Lindberg Press, Scandinavian Cross Stitch Designs by Jana Hauschild Lindberg, and a French title, Motifs Scandinaves Traditionnels, by Valerie Schira.

Scandinavian Charted Designs (Cross Stitch, Needlepoint) (Dover Needlework) is one of the Dover Needlework Series, and like all of the Dover series from the '80s, it has hand-charted motifs in black and white.  A few color examples are shown inside the front and back covers.  This title focuses on floral and folk designs.  The folk designs are small, and there is one smallish folk sampler.  I don't know if there is anything I will stitch in this book, but it is a good reference, was inexpensive and I do like this little horse quite a bit. 

Scandinavian Cross Stitch Designs is a larger book (128 pages) and includes larger-scale patterns from the Dover title, and has some beautiful full-color photographs.  The patterns are varied, and range from designs based on ancient Viking sources, to designs based on Scandinavian embroideries and folk art, people in traditional dress, and more modern Christmas motifs.  The charts are large and well-charted, and the projects themselves are varied, ranging from large wallhangings, tablecloths, and chair covers, to bookmarks and small framed pictures.  Some of these are on my "someday" list.

I purchased Motifs Scandinaves Traditionnels (no Amazon link) from Mad Samplar Books, a great source for those hard-to-find books like this one.  I've purchased several old European stitching titles from her, but this is one of the prettiest.  Why is it that everything the French produce automatically feels more 'special' and sophisticated?  Seriously, could the cover be any prettier?

This is a gorgeous book.  I can't read a word of it, but that doesn't matter.   Full color photographs are at the beginning of each section.

The motifs range from animals, to geometrics, to buildings an people, and even Amager samplers.  They are are all charted in one or two colors, I love this style, and the freedom to pick your own colors and make it 'yours'.

SO PRETTY.  Next time, some non-traditional 'stitching' books!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Celtic and Medieval -- New books part 1

So many wonderful new books have found me over the past few weeks, I'm going to have to do this in a few posts.  In case you're wondering, I purchased all these books myself (most of them on sale, though, girl loves a bargain!) and am not affiliated with any seller or author.  First up, a couple very different books with a theme of celtic/medieval stitching.

On the left, Here Be Drolleries: Hundreds More Patterns Graphed from Medieval Sources, by Nancy Spies (Arelate Studio).  This is her second book of charts based on medieval illustrations, from illuminated books and other sources.  On the right, Celtic, Viking & Anglo-Saxon Embroidery: The Art & Embroidery of Jan Messent

These two books are very, very different.  I'd say the only thing they have in common is the author's mutual love of ancient sources. 

Here be Drolleries is a collection of graphs designed for cross stitch.  Like all Arelate Studios patterns, the charts are black and white, well-done and clear, but the book format really makes them shine.  Colors may be suggested for each chart, but these really lend themselves well to personalizing with your own ideas for colors.  The charts are interspersed with quotes from old manuscripts, and each design's source is given.  Most are from medieval Europe and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean.   

One of my favorites is a fantastic Byzantine winged horse:

That little needlebook on the right, that wasn't from either of these books, but I threw it in because it was nearby and matched the theme.  The labyrinth pattern on the cover is from a Dover book of charts, Celtic Charted Designs.

In addition to fantastic animals, the Arelate book also includes charming charts of people, geometric designs, and flowers, like this one.

Jan Messent's new book Celtic, Viking & Anglo-Saxon Embroidery: The Art & Embroidery of Jan Messent is completely different, and, to put it mildly, gorgeous.  A full-color, glossy-page coffee-table book filled with history and tiny-tiny details.  It is oversized and filled with fabulous color pictures of her amazingly detailed embroideries inspired by the Celts and Vikings. 

In the early pages of the book, Ms. Messent describes how even though textiles do not last when buried for hundreds of years in the ground, the surviving artefacts and fragments "have built up a picture of how those textiles were produced, and from what fibers, how they were dyed, the kind of garments being made and worn and, occaisionally, the embroidery on them....With this knowledge, today's embroiderers can go even further, imagining the decoration that could conceiveably have been used as well as some that might not." 

This is the point where Ms. Messent jumps off into creating works, that might be somewhat familiar to a woman of Celtic Britain; perhaps, "she might turn the needlecase over and over in her hands and say, 'ah yes, I had one very like this."

My own pictures of this book's pages can't do them justice (again, it is the awful dim light of the winter in the northwest), so if you want another taste of these pictures, I recommend using Amazon's "look inside this book" feature. 

Ms. Messent's explanations of the inspiration and construction of her works are wonderful, and include an idea of the historical context and a general idea of what materials and stitches were used in each piece.  Not a "how-to" project book at all, but just the thing to inspire when I get a hankering for another freestyle embroidery experiment.

  Tomorrow: a couple titles on Scandinavian embroidery!

Friday, January 21, 2011

By request

For Karen:

Proof I read all your comments!  Karen wanted to see a photo of the fibers for my newest canvaswork project, so here's an up-to-date WIP photo and fibers for Tuscan Midnight.  Click to see larger version.  YUMMY.

I've been scarce the past few days, more sick kids and heavy workload around here...BUT good news, I've been getting lots of wonderful new (or new-to-me) books in the mail the last few days.  Look forward to reviews this weekend!

Monday, January 17, 2011

"New" stitching chair!

When we went to IKEA last week, the girl got a new fun swinging chair that hangs from the ceiling.  So, we had to move the rocking chair from her room.  Backing up a step, six years ago (yesterday!) when my son was born, he arrived two weeks early and the nursery wasn't finished I send my mom and husband out to get a rocking chair and they found this ugly but sooo comfy one at an office supply store of all places.  It was waiting for me when I got home from the hospital and was so comfy for recovering from c-section, nursing, and reading stories.  I am obviously attached to it and don't want to throw it out.  It now gets to be MY stitching chair in a bright corner of the living room!  Yay! 

In this corner the chair gets wonderful natural light, but I will need a standing ott-light for the evening  (I am considering asking for this one or this one for my birthday).  Too bad the poor thing is sooo ugly.  The six years of daily use (plus all that spit-up in the early years) have not been kind to it.  You can't see it in this photo, but the grayish brown covering is not leather, not even faux-leather, just a plasticy covering over white cotton backing, and is peeling off.  Anyone know how to recover a metal-framed chair?

In honor of the new chair, and because I finally finished the forest, and because the fibers came in the mail and they were just SO PRETTY that I had to use them RIGHT THEN, I started this canvaswork piece over the weekend.

OK it's not much to look at yet, but this is the beginning of Tuscan Midnight by Needle Delights.

I should be working!  But I can't go without showing you the birthday cake I made for the boy's birthday yesterday:

Yellow Lego!  Yum.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Scissors on Display

When I was at Michaels Crafts the other day buying the shadowbox frame for the forest, I also bought a "Collector's Case" for display of some of my pretty scissors that I don't often use.  The case is similar to this one available on, but a different size and color.  It looks like this model is not available on the Michaels website.



The scissors are just held in place with a few pins.  Martha Stewart says any collection can look great as a display, I think she's right.  About that part, at least.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Forest, Finished!

The Grand Unveiling:

Done!  Yay!  This is one of those rare stitched pieces that really can't be considered complete until the framing is complete, too.

This forest is DK Designs' "Enchanted Forest" brazilian embroidery design, using the recommended EdMar threads.  But what I liked best about it was the freedom, she lists the stitches used and the approximate placement, but it is really up to your own eye where you put them precisely.  My version is really pretty different from the photo of the model included with the instructions.

EdMar threads are rayon, with a "z-twist", which is backwards to the twist of most other threads, so they can be slippery and tricky to work with.  However, they are really tough and you don't need to be afraid to use a lot of force on the bullions and other tough stitches.

A few really fun things I hadn't tried before were what attracted me to this design.  The first was the use of Shiva Paintsticks to create the background image on which to stitch.  The other is the use of actual rocks attached to the work.  How was that done?  Look closely at the rocks below and see if you can figure it out.

Fun, huh?

I am really glad I did this piece, it was a great learning piece and stretched my skills.  My perfectionist brain knows where I would have done a few things differently, but I mostly did it for the experience, anyway.  I'm itching to work on one of my own original designs again now, which is really cutting down on progress for my older WIPs, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stitching at IKEA

We went to IKEA the over the weekend for a bookshelf for the boy, who (proud mom moment) just discovered reading chapter books and novels -he is currently working through the 'How to Train Your Dragon' series- and has been reading them in his bed at night, and needs a shelf for his loft bed (/proud mom moment)  Anyway, as always I did take some stitching along in my bag 'just in case', but it never came out.  HOWEVER, I was so surprised at the number of stitched items for sale!  None of them were handmade, of course, but several were made to look handmade, if you know what I mean.  Lookie:

A pillow with some 'crewelwork':

close up:

A pillow with 'cross stitching' (Little Lena decided it would make a good pillow for the puppy):

They call this pillow the "Birgit Linje".  Hee!  A close-up:

I actually really like that red pillow but talked myself out of buying it. 

But what took the cake was a slipcover for a couch:

That has printed cross-stitches!  I am wondering who is buying that one.

I also saw some embroidered lamp shades, but dang, it is difficult to take decent pictures inside a crowded, dimly-lit warehouse building. 

Back to work, hope you are all having a great week!