Wednesday, June 27, 2012

All Done!

After being somewhat of a constant companion of mine for 2-plus years, the last stitch is in place! I thought I would be completely overjoyed, but I have to admit I was a bit sad when I pulled the last of the thread through the back and finished off.

But such sadness doesn't last long. After all, there is the next project to plan and jump into. Plus there is the work of cleaning, stretching and framing for this piece. So it's still hanging around ...

I have not seen the top of this project for 2-plus years! I forgot how light the top buds are in comparison to the large leaf base.

And I thought it would be easy to take the piece from the frame where it spent the past 2-plus years. It actually took some work.

The frame uses self-sticking velcro as the means of attaching the fabric. The hard scratchy portion of the velcro is adhered to the back of the linen and then stuck to the base on wooden dowels. The excess fabric is then rolled onto the dowels which are tighten with knobs on the outside of the frame, keeping the fabric nicely taut.

The problem, however, after 2-plus years of adjusting and daily tightening the fabric to remain nicely taut had caused the sticky on the strips adhered to the back of the linen to migrate.

<--- Resulting in this.

Oh no!!  Nasty rogue glue on the back of my pretty even-weave linen! And it showed on the front side of the piece so I could not ignore the ugly mess.

Talk about a moment of panic. So what to do next? I thought: "Goo Begone!" ... but no, that would leave an oily residue which may not be easy to wash away.

"Ice cubes!" Um, no, that may work on gum, but this is a glue, not a gum, and there is some difference.

That's when it hit me: "My Stampin' Up thingee!"  I love Stampin' Up ... they have all sorts of thingees. Some of them quite useful for other stuff than just card making and scrapbooking. They sell a "glue eraser" that picks up and removes all sort of adhesive. Naturally, it works really well on card stock, but would it work on fabric too?

It took a bit longer to work the glue off a fine, even-weave linen than it does from off cardstock, but eventually I got most of the nasty, ugly glue off. There is a hint of it remaining on the backside, but it cannot be seen on the front, so I count this as a success.

Next step is to clean, stretch and frame. The cleaning is the part that has me a wee bit nervous. I have to research what the best cleaner would be to use. Hopefully the gal who owns the high-end fabric store here in Plano will be able to guide me to the right product.

If only I had a few more days before I leave on my BIG summer trip! My daughter and I are taking a 3-week long road trip through the heart of the Rockies to visit my Mom who lives in western Montana. I will probably take this piece along for the ride and use Mom's help and wisdom is getting this beauty into perfect shape for the perfect frame so it can finally hang in the perfect spot, wherever that may be.

In the meantime, I have oodles of laundry to do and the house to prepare for the menfolk to "batch it" for three weeks. And I have plenty of hoping that a huge rain storm covers the states of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana to douse the raging forest fires. Fire in the Rockies is the norm during the summer ... and there are all sorts of benefits to the forests when fires burn, but not the towns and cities nearby. So my heart goes out to the folks in Colorado Springs, and in other areas. I realize rain would require a miracle at the moment since the conditions are not favorable; so my hopes are that all the brave folks who are actively fighting the fires be successful in their hard work! We who have mountain blood know putting fires out is virtually impossible, but containment is achievable ... when the wind does not blow. So go away wind! May containment become a reality ... and soon.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Almost done!

... with UFO Project #1! When I look below and see where I was and see where I am now, I'm feeling quite skippy, even though I'm about 1 week behind schedule. But as they say, stuff happens.

No picture of the progress included here (other than background in the picture below); that will wait for the final stitch. But as I've been frantically working to complete this project before the end of the month, I realized just how much I have learned over the past several years of working this.

Those pesky knots happen all the time even though I take what I think are the right steps to avoid the knots. The first step is something I learned from reading a book, The Alabama Stitch Book, by Natalie Chanin. (Google her name and take a look at her beautiful and amazing designs ... all of them 100% handmade, including the stitching of the seams!) Step #1 is to show some love to the thread. After I separate out a single strand of DMC embroidery floss from my appropriate-length cut, I hold it up by one end, repeatedly and gently stroke down the length of the thread causing it to relax its twist a bit. A relaxed thread is a good thread! In stitching, relaxed is good. But then, I guess in most things in life, relaxed is good.

Step #2 is to keep an eye on the twist of the thread as I'm working it on the project. I have no idea how or why the thread ends up getting itself all twisted and in a nest or a knot, but it invariably does after about a dozen stitches. I guess it gets twisted in the simple act of stitching so I learned to compensate by "spinning" my needle a couple of turns counterclockwise to restore the thread to its relaxed state after taking a few stitches. That works when my brain is focused ... which is NOT all the time! Especially since I tend to have a good movie, an interesting documentary, or the news on the television as I stitch.

So the inevitable happens.  A knot. A pesky knot. When I completely neglect the twist of my thread, the knot could start out as one of the dreaded "bird's nest" of threads. Those are really ugly. *cringe*

If a "nest" occurs, the mission is to reduce it down to a single knot as pictured to the right. If you try to tug on the threads, this knot has a tendency to hold itself into place. It's a slip knot, but it's a tough one!

Thankfully, it is only a slip knot. What to do next?

Over time, I discovered that if I place a needle into the loop and tug at the loop, instead of tugging at the threads, the loop closes up on itself. Then I remove the needle, tug on the threads and knot slips away.

Give the thread some additional "love" and continue stitching.

This works in about 98% of all knotting I encounter. As for the other 2%, because I am only using a single strand of embroidery thread floss, I minimize the knot best as I can and yank the thing through so it stays on the back of the piece. If the knot is small enough, and somewhat high up on the working thread, I'll keep stitching and give the thread a gentle yank to get the knot through each hole until it is close enough to the fabric to leave it "parked" on the backside. The thought of yanking a knot through fabric is nothing new to those who hand quilt, but to all others, it may be a bit disconcerting at first. But when working with natural fibers in an even weave, it's not damaging. Just make sure you are inserting your needles into the crossroads of the weave, not splitting any fiber. Also, one has to get over the initial feel of tugging a knot through fabric ... just like medical personnel get over the feel of pricking another person's skin with a syringe. *cringe*

Of course, knots are best avoided. Loving the thread and working with an appropriate length is a good start. When I was a newbie to cross stitch, I would cut my threads too long, thinking it would save me time by not having to finish off and restart a color more than once. But threads that are too long are begging to set into nests and knots. Now I work with a thread no longer than 18" and try my best to give the thread its counterclockwise twist every third stitch.

Another problem you will encounter if your thread is overlong is the wear and tear that friction has on the thread as it is stitched in and out of fabric. I found if I worked with a thread longer than 18" I ended up discarding the last few inches because it was so worn and frayed by friction.

Hope that by this weekend, I'll be removing this piece from its frame and prep it for stretching and framing! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thread Candy

Yum! Yum yum!! I can only imagine how my eyes lit up when pulling these drawers of thread candy out to view the rainbow of colors. And they are size 16! I was so glad to discover of local source of the finer perle cotton thread in such a large array of color.

Happiness is Quilting is one of my favorite quilt shops in my area for the fabric selection, but how I overlooked this bounty in the back of the store, I have no idea.  I guess it was the fabric that kept my eyeballs firmly fixed on bolts and bolts of cotton gorgeousness that these threads escaped my notice.  But I found them now!  And the blue that is third from the right on the third row is now home with me.

 Some additional eye-candy from the shop:

Dutch Reproduction Chintz
They have lots of it. It's expensive, but gorgeous and the fact they are 60" wide helps to soothe the ouchiness of the price. It lends itself to good ideas for garments in addition to quilting.

This is a portion of a rather large quilt that caught my eye hanging on the wall of their classroom space. They offer this Jacobean Applique as a class. This particular specimen that was hanging on the classroom wall was made by one of the students and it was awarded a blue ribbon at the Dallas Quilt Show.

I spoke with the teacher briefly commenting that she must be one very good teacher for her student to win such an award (one of her students who happened to be there affirmed my comment). She told me that all but one of her students has won awards.

I see a quilt class in my future!

Here is a general shot of a portion of the store.

There are a number of reasons why this is among my favorites: I like the owner's choice of fabric. Quilt shops reflect the personalities and tastes of their owners, as well they should, and the fabric lines carried here suit mine. I was able to find a good amount of prints to use in broderie perse ... not an easy task to find these days.

Also, the store is located in the "downtown" area of McKinney, TX which has been a favorite spot of mine since I discovered it over a decade ago. It has grown and changed over the years into quite a destination shopping area.

I appreciate shopkeepers who use the antiquated look of these older buildings. Rather than repair or replace the plaster facade on the brick walls, many use the "shabbiness" of damaged plaster to a very chic effect. I assume the tin tiles on the ceiling are either original or close to original, even though the paint is fairly fresh. Some of the tin tiles are corroded but that only lends to the shabby chic-ness of the space. And frankly, I love the stained and polished bare concrete foundation floors! Plus the use of natural lighting is appealing. I realize that sunlight is no friend to printed cotton fabric, but it makes the seeing of the fabric so much easier. All combined, the decor is warm and inviting and the focus remains where it should ... on all the lovely threads!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Threaded House Guest

For a whole week, this lovely spinning wheel has been sitting on my living room floor. It coordinated with my decor beautifully (sort of an Artsy Craftsy type of decor). And it was beyond fun to play with!

We went outside for the photo session to take advantage of all the lovely sunlight pouring down from above. I did a great job of ignoring the building heat and humidity. The heat index is supposed to hit 105F later today. That's summer in Texas!

As part of our spinning lessons, Cindy let us take home one of her babies to play with.  This one is an Ashford Traveller and I want one.  Like, seriously. I really, really want one. Definitely in my Bucket.

In the meantime, I'll be happy with my new drop spindle! While I appreciate very much the recycled CD one that came with my class fee, there's something about wood that makes me happy. And this is a particularly pretty piece of wood. Look at that grain! Yummy! And it's nice and heavy and spins like crazy with very little effort.

What's not too pretty about my brand-spanking new drop spindle is the spindle itself. My dog decided it would make a good chew toy ... for about 3 seconds before I realized what was happening and snatched the thing out of his mouth. He had it just long enough to put his mark towards the top of the spindle. :(

Meet Mud.  No, that is not his real name, but for the discussion of chewing on the spindle of my brand-spanking new drop spindle, his name is Mud. Doesn't he look guilty? I mean, look at that face. Can't even look me in the eye.

Actually, that is Nino, the last of our critters for the time being.  He's not too terribly fond of 4-footed furry critters (well, that's not quite the truth ... he really enjoys the thought of EATING them for breakfast) so he'll be our solitary critter until the inevitable comes.

Oh, almost forgot!  Here is the bobbin filled with my newly spun yarn! You can tell it comes from a beginner, but still, I am more than pleased with the outcome. For the most part, I was able to spin fairly thin with the occasional bump of extra thickness, especially where I joined the next piece of fleece to the already spun tail.

Unfortunately, when I was showing off for my granchildren, I lost the tail. It's buried in there someplace and I tried and tried to find the tail end to no avail. Not sure what to do next so I'll have Cindy, my teacher, figure it out for me. Hopefully there will be a way to take this off without randomly cutting into the spun ply. Teaches me not to show off to the grandchildren again!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Broderie Perse

Literally translated, broderie perse means Persian embroidery, even though there is not a whole lot of embroidery involved. Practically speaking, there is no embroidery involved unless you want to call the applique stitch used in the process "embroidery."

Simply put, broderie perse is an applique technique where one cuts a pattern from one piece of cloth and appliques it to another. It originated a few centuries ago when women cut patterns from elaborately printed cottons, most of which came from India at the time, and sewed these onto whole cloths that were used as bedspreads. Some of the bedspreads were quilted, some where not. A good write up of the history behind this technique, complete with an explanation of the economics and politics behind the creation of this technique can be found here. Funny how market-driven greed can result in a whole new form of art and craft!

One of my all-time favorite quilt experts, Barbara Brackman, has a post on her blog with some pictures of gorgeous examples.

On my first try at this technique, I used some printed cotton fabric I found at Hancock Fabric. I fused a sheet of Fuse and Fix onto the back of the printed fabric, cut out the bouquets, peeled the backing off the Fuse and Fix and laid them down on a fat-quarter of quilter's cotton. I love the Fuse and Fix products because you can experiment with arrangement before finalizing the pattern with sewing. I used my machine's blanket stitch, the "double" one where the machine over-sews the blanket stitch a second time to add some texture along with extra strength. I reduced the stitch length and used a variegated King Tut quilting thread to give some added interest to the "framing" blanket stitch.

This is another UFO sitting up in my sewing room! I plan to add a ruffle from the same fabric from which I got the bouquets and make a pillow as the final result.

For me, the broderie perse technique is a fast and easy way to applique something special. On Barbara's blog, there is a photo of a piece that combined both broderie perse and conventional applique into a masterpiece of a quilt.

I'm planning on going up to McKinney, TX to one of my favorite quilt shops with a good friend tomorrow and will be specifically looking out for fabric that will be perfect for broderie perse!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Making Threads

My new badge!

I've been connected on Facebook with some really cool people for a while ... some own sheep and alpacas and other critters that offer humans the bounty of their winter coats after they are sheared for the summer.  Others take that bounty and clean and card and dye and spin into wonderful yarns.

I have resisted the urge to take up spinning yarn up until now.  I connected with a wonderful gal just up the road from me and I've fallen off the precipice of resistance into a huge vat of soft, gorgeous wool.  (And some really good eggs!)

When I pulled into Jacob's Reward Farm, I was greeted by some lovely sights, one of which is to the right here.  I forgot to ask Cindy for their names! Hopefully I'll get better acquainted when I go for my next yarn spinning lesson.

Inside the "Red Barn" I found wondrous things ... like natural spun yarns you see to the left.

And New Zealand Wool Roving. Sort of looks like cheese, doesn't it?

Four of us were taking our first spinning class that day and each received a package that included one of the balls of roving (above) and our very first "drop spindle" made from recycled CDs complete with instructions and the arrow to remind us which direction to spin!

Here is my very own ball of roving ready to split and "pre-draft" in preparation for the actual spinning.

Pre-drafted roving.

And here is my very first attempt at spinning yarn. You can tell, too, by the chunkiness and the lack of a good twist in some of the portions. Cindy had the four of us raise our right hands and swear an oath that we would allows ourselves to make "ugly yarn" for our fist several attempts. Regardless of ugly, it was definitely FUN!

I must confess, though.  I took this off the spindle when I got home and restarted, using some of this ugly yarn as the "leader" yarn to start a new spin.

I would have loved to take photos of the actual spinning process, but unfortunately that would require at least four arms and a much larger brain! There are some great videos on YouTube, however, that show the entire process.

All in all, I was quite happy to learn this new craft! Using a drop spindle makes the craft portable and I do like portable. I'm not good at being idle so I always have something with me wherever I go to stay occupied when I find myself in a state of waiting. In this day and age, and with a 17-year old daughter, in a state of waiting is something I often find myself.

Of course, I know I shall soon be ready to go beyond a drop spindles made from recycled CDs. This caught my eye when I was surfing the worldwide web after signing up for "spin class." And, of course, one of these is most likely in my future:

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