Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My own drummer

I’ve been thinking about something recently. Whenever I finish a project (usually a big project), I get the same questions from people. 

1. What are you going to do with it?

2. Are you going to sell it?

I never quite know how to answer them in a way that will satisfy them. I usually end up mumbling something about not planning to sell it or “do” anything with it. Inside I’m thinking, I did it because it didn’t exist before. It wanted to be made so I made it. Sometimes I make something that starts out as a doodle or a learning piece - I want to learn a new technique and you learn new techniques by doing the new technique until it becomes yours, a tool in your toolbox. 

I don’t see them as my “baby” that I can’t be parted from. If I could make a living from it, I’d be all over that. I don’t have that luxury or issue. 

I display them in different ways, I enjoy them and I don’t see a need to ask more of a project than that. 

I sometimes find our culture a bit weird and muddling, feeling like we have to monetize everything. Everything has to pay for itself. I guess that’s just the sound of my own drummer that I seemed to have marched to all my life. And I’m okay with that. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017


Last Christmas I pulled out a book I'd picked up on my travels called, "Handbook of Stitches" by Grete Petersen and Elsie Svennas. It has instructions/illustrations for families of embroidery stitches along with a project that can be used to practice the stitches. 

I haven't done much embroidery since I was about 12 years old but this book peaked my interest again. I had a large cotton tea towel and I thought that would be the perfect practice canvas. 

It's been fun and relaxing and challenging all at the same time. There are a couple more techniques to practice but I still have room. 

Oh, yeah, I also practiced some color work from another book. 

Definitely more to come on that. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

And so it goes

Anyone who knows me knows I love the connection my work makes with all the crafter las who came before. I love the continuity it gives. When I found an article in a 1931 magazine giving an old pattern from Godeys, it made me feel even more connected to the ancestors who were also suckers for an old pattern. 

I've been wanting a crochet project for quite a while, so when I came across this pattern I knew it was meant to be. It's been such a joy to work (even if I actually made enough stitches for 2 projects, with all the ripping out I had to do). Keeping your eye on the prize over 110 blocks across was quite the challenge. Ha!

Although it's now called filet crochet, when this pattern was first published, it was referred to as "block" or "block and space," or so says the accompanying text. 110 blocks by 110 blocks is daunting but, as you can see, very worth it. 

I was just going to do a couple of rounds with single crochets and be done with it but now it's done, I realize it should be a centerpiece for a larger project. It will be very easy to surround it with panels of floral designs that could eventually be a bed topper or something similar. 

But for now I'm quite happy about how it came out and can feel the same pleasure of those ladies in 1865 who completed it back then. For that matter, I can feel the pleasure my Grannie would have felt had she attempted this pattern. And so it goes. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Years in the making

Many years ago in what seems now to have been another life, I made feeble attempts to learn to do tambour embroidery. I did okay with my size 14 crochet hook and open weave linen. But then I had an ambition. 

The book had a pattern that I think was supposed to be a doily where the pattern would be mirror imaged for a long rectangle. But I saw it as a purse. I got the fabric, drew out the pattern and then realized the crochet hook wasn't really working with the material. I got frustrated and distracted onto something else. 

But I never took the material out of the frame. I packed it away because someday I was going to work it. Someday. 

In 2017, the technique caught my eye again when I found some YouTube videos by Robert Haven demonstrating tambour beading. I had to find that piece. 

Do you know how happy I am that I got frustrated and distracted that decade ago?  At that time I didn't have the skills or know how to do what I've now done. It was waiting for just the right time, just the right motivation to do this. 
As I was finishing the tambour embroidery section at my Mom's a few weeks ago, I started trying to see what the purse might look like. During a trip to the local Joann's where the staff and customers were so lovely and helpful in helping me decide colors and materials, I envisioned…well, this!

It's not often that a design happens exactly as I see it in my mind, but in this case it absolutely did. There are a couple of things I would tweak if I could but this is what I saw in my mind. 

I didn't like the purse handle to begin with but it was the only one I had or could find that was wide enough to fit and now I love how it works. It's not competing with the pattern, it's just fulfilling its function and staying out of the way. Perfect. 

The easiest thing to do with a purse is to ruin the look by how you sew the material into the frame. Again, I decided on subtle. I used the silver glass beads to hide the stitches and carry on the bead scheme and I think it works. So much tidier that visible stitches would have been. It's all hand stitched using silk thread (initially because that's what I had handy) and I couldn't be happier really. 

So there you have it. A decade in the making and from my point of view, worth the wait. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Old becomes new

Several years ago I started teaching myself Tambour embroidery/beading. I did a few projects and started on a more elaborate design that was going to be a purse. I didn't make much progress on it so I put it away. 

Forward to the present and I've gotten re-energized on Tambour work and what did I find in my sewing stuff but this project. The material I was using was completely inappropriate to my skill level but I still had the paper pattern so I decided to use a material that was more my speed. 
You can sort of see the pattern laid out here as well as the working side of the seed and bugle beads I'm using for part of it. 
And a close up of the front side of the beads.  In this style, the work is done from the back side of the material, which is why having a sheer fabric makes life so much easier for the beginner!
You can see the pattern a little better from the paper master. Some of it will be worked with beads and sequins and some with thread. Might take a while, though!  

The pattern was taken, I believe from this standard book, now sadly out of print. 
Unfortunately with these more obscure techniques, there aren't a lot of printed materials. We treasure the little we can get. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Now that I finally feel more confident about warping, I can't get enough of weaving. 

I finished my warping class project made from linen. 
It's washed and and put away now. I have a plan for it but I'm not ready to start. 

Then I did a project with tencil and some hand spun. 
Again, finished, washed and put away. 

Now I've just finished warping for a scarf, which if I can get the hang of the beat, will be beautiful. Merino wool and silk yarn. Soooo soft. 
The warp will be the dark blue shown here as dividers between the color strips. God willing and the creek don't rise, it will be this. 

I managed to warp the loom with 3 colors and very few tears. Good start!

I've also started playing again with Tambour Embroidery again. I first saw it practiced at Lincoln's New Salem but I've put it away for quite a few years. Now I've come across a YouTube Channel by Robert Haven that has me excited about it again. 

First steps:  

It's on a sheer piece of material so I can see what my hands are doing. 

This site gives a little history and some photos. You actually work from the back and it can include beads and sequins but it can also be just thread. It's a beautiful technique most often used in haute couture design. It's kind of like me - a bit different but nice!!  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

An Error and a Home Run

As I continue the section called, Decorations in Half Stitch, I've hit a sample that I just couldn't figure out and could not find any additional information on. 

It's referred to as Gravenmoersche appears to be a half stitch ground that has a little different orientation than a regular half stitch ground. Honestly the variation seemed almost indistinguishable but I gave it a go. And then took it out and gave it another go. And so on. I finally admitted defeat and finished the piece with the old standard. 
Even if I couldn't do the proper stitch, that would have looked like this
It's still a lovely pattern. 

Fortunately, that miss was followed by a lesson on something I've long wanted to learn - how to start and end a piece with a border that runs all the way round. There's a fan I'm going to do one day that needs to start like this. 

On this technique the diagrams were very clear indeed and I'm so happy to have this reference point for the day I begin The Fan. 

This lesson had a whole array of variations for the ground sections that could so easily be substituted for basic rose ground and add a little bit of fancy to any pattern. Trails, border, grounds. This one had a bit of everything!

And what does tomorrow hold?  Perhaps the warping of a loom?  Perhaps the start of a new lace?  Time, as they say, will tell.

For now I'm happy with whatever comes.