Sunday, March 22, 2015

To knot or not to knot, that is the question?

When I set up this blog it was with the intention of posting something at least every 2 weeks or so. Well that didn't happen!  I guess sometimes life just gets in the way, right?

Anyway, I thought I would let you see a design I finished in 2013 to teach at The Creativ Festival that is held in Toronto.

'Rosa Blanda' was really quite a lot of fun to stitch and while I was happy with the finished result at the time I would now like to make a few changes to it.  Maybe some day.

One of the interesting things I was asked at this class, and at many others actually, was - 'how important is being neat at the back of your work? Can I use knots to start and finish my thread?'  My answer, yes it's quite important to be neat. For me anyway.  I invariably end up having my pieces framed and if you're doing this then lots and lots of knots and thread ends at the back of your work can make it very difficult for your framer to make a good job keeping the front smooth and shadow free.  For me, it is also a matter of pride in my work. If I'm going to make such an effort to make sure that the front looks good, then it only makes sense to me to have a tidy back as well.

Now, having said that, if you are an impatient stitcher and you are not too particular, or you just find it easier to put knots in, well I say go ahead.  If you are going to be stressed about starting your stitches without knots and they don't bother you, why not?  Although I am a bit of a stickler myself I do feel that one of the most important aspects about doing embroidery as a hobby is that you enjoy yourself. If you are going to be putting your finished article into a show for judging or for display, or you are a professional embroiderer - well then certainly you should go that extra step, but for most people stitching is a hobby and having fun is more important in the long run.  

Now this next picture is the same piece as above, but the reverse view

I think this is the only piece I have finished that I have taken a picture of the reverse.  It's interesting to see what it looks like. I think it's fairly neat and tidy.  I still had a few ends to cut on the stem there, but it wasn't too bad and I don't think I had any knots, but ..... you never know, and I have been known to knot every now and then when I'm in a hurry - only when I'm using single strands of DMC though, any more and the knots do get quite big. 

So, to knot, or not to knot? I think it is more important to be neat, than not to knot. No-one is going to send the embroidery police after you. Mind you, I think you'll feel better if it's neat on the back but just make sure you have fun stitching.

Do you agree with me that it's more important to have fun?  Let me know what you think.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Round Robins

Have you ever participated in a round robin?  I've been in 2 or three now and they are all a little bit scary to start, but well worth it in the end. This one above was stitched over a year with my Monday morning stitching group.  We've been getting together now for years to enjoy each other's company and stitching knowledge.

When we decided to start this round robin we decided to try something different and not the usual sampler type.  I started in the centre of this one by stitching the little house and then 11 others worked the garden around it.  After the main stitching was finished I added a few little bits and pieces to tie it all together like extending the roses on the garden wall and adding the little paths in.

I was extremely pleased with the final result, even if the perspective does defy logic in some places.  It is a lovely memento from my Monday mornings and I smile every time I look at it.

For those of you who haven't heard of a Round Robin, let me tell you about them.  All it takes is a group of stitching friends who are willing to stitch something that will be given to someone else.  Each person decides on a theme for their piece - mine above was cottage garden.  Then you all decide what type of design you want - a sampler, a picture (as above), indiviual small motives - the possibilities are endless really.  Then it is very important to decide how long you are going to take to stitch the piece.  In this instance we decided on one year, with each person having each piece for one month. It is very important to stick to this schedule, so if you don't think you can stitch a small motive a every month for 12 months, then let your fellow stitchers know this.  The idea is that you meet regularly and pass the pieces along to the next stitcher until everyone has stitched on every piece.

It's a nice excuse for a group to get together once a month and have coffee or ice cream.  Since our group met every Monday anyway, it was really easy to pass along our pieces.  I have participated in one where the person to whom  the piece belonged was not allowed to see it, after their initial work was done, until it was completely finished.  We took almost two years to finish that one.

Another nice idea is to have a diagram of the piece that travels with it, and have each person sign in the appropriate place on the diagram.  It is really hard to remember who stitched what when it is all over.

Round robins are great fun to participate in, but you have to be aware that you have no control over what will be added, so you must be ok with that, and they will take a huge commitment on everyone's part, but the end results are usually well worth it.  A few years ago my guild did one where each piece was shaped like a tree, but not all were for Christmas.  One was a Halloween tree, another was a tropical beach tree - they were all so beautiful.  I didn't participate in that one, and I was very sorry when I saw the result.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Spring Blossom Stumpwork

I was out  one day  a few years ago at Walmart to pick up some more Anchor threads and there was a free cross stitch pattern available.  For some reason it spoke to me and I could immediately see it as a stumpwork design.  I took some time to get permission to use the original pattern as the basis for my project, and then started work. What you see above is the final result.  

I teach the project as a beginners piece because the shape of the leaves and petals is very simple and the petals are stitched with long and short stitch with extra colours added later as highlights, rather than true thread painting. Students also get the chance to progress from small shapes to larger ones and learn how to change colours while doing the buttonhole stitch on the edges.

This was actually the first stumpwork project I designed and is still a favourite for teaching.  It can easily be covered in a one day class and is actually kind of fun to do.

If you are tempted to use someone else's design as a starting point for your own it is very important to make sure that you get permission to do so if you're planning on publishing.  If you are just doing a design for yourself, well then it's not so important

On a side note, I notice after looking at this photo that my fabric is beginning to look a little the worse for wear, and has a couple of marks on it.  The grey marks under the stem are actually slubs in the fabric, but the piece has been handled so many times now that I notice a couple of very small stains.  I don't put glass on most of my finished pieces, nor do I panic if someone wants to touch the petals or 'feel' the stitches, which I find happens frequently when I'm teaching.   How do you feel about people touching your work?    I stitch and teach because I love the process and I don't kid myself that many people will be holding their breath to own a piece of my work when I'm gone.  I figure if someone wants to have a really close look at it, well why not.  I take it as a compliment.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hurray for Trish Burr

This piece above is one of the Trish Burr patterns I stitched before taking her online class. I was particularly pleased with the way this one turned out as it was a gift for my parents.   It is called French Rose and demonstrates her red palette of colours in her book 'Colour Confidence in Embroidery'  Although I see the piece when I go home to England for a visit, this picture is all I really have to remember it.  I often think I would like to do a second one for myself.

Colour Confidence in Embroidery
Trish is an absolute master at putting colours together to develop a sense of realism. If I remember correctly she has an artists background, and it certainly shows in her work.  One of the things I love is that she freely admits that her techniques have changed over the years as she continues to learn her craft, and that you may see different instructions in her books.  As an embroiderer there are many techniques I enjoy, but part of the fun is continuously learning new and different methods, and improving on what I have already learned.  My previous post showed my first attempt at designing a thread painting, but I still have a long way to go to reach her standards.

This particular book should be an absolute must-have for any painter or embroiderer.  It has fabulous examples of colour palettes, detailed embroidery stitch instructions and full instructions for 13 embroidery designs.  The last design in the book is called the Sacred Kingfisher and I am trying to work up the courage to try it.  It is a work of art.

She has also written 'Long and Short Stitch Embroidery: A collection of Flowers'; 'Redoute's Finest Flowers in Embroidery'; Needle Painting embroidery: fresh ideas for beginners' and Crewel & Surface Embroidery; Inspirational floral designs'.  If you haven't seen any of her books yet, find them.  They are all worth a long look.

I was asked if the picture above is the one from the book?  No, it is my finished work, but thank you for the compliment.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Welcome to Curlypow Embroidery

Hi anyone, and everyone.  Perhaps some day there will be legions of followers who are champing at the bit to see and read my next embroidery related words, but I won't hold my breath.  Not everyone can be a Mary Corbett, but her amazing following is a wonderful goal to aspire to.

I love to embroider, and to teach embroidery and my wonderful and very talented co-stitchers at my embroidery guild have been encouraging me to start a blog for quite some time now, so I decided to take the plunge.  If I ever want to expand my teaching horizons, I have to have somewhere for people to go to and this will be it.  At this point in time I have no set ideas for what I will show on this blog, but for today and the next little while I'll just let my work speak for itself.  If you like it, then I'd love for you to tell me so.

This piece above was the first piece of thread painting that I designed myself.  It was a rather daunting prospect, I must admit.  I had taken an online course with Trish Burr and her comments were beautifully encouraging.  She basically told me that my next step was to design a piece myself - and this is what I came up with.  I love poppies in all their infinite varieties, but the colours are what really speak to me.  This one was stitched in Anchor cotton thread, which I prefer to DMC although it is somewhat harder to find, and I used a simple heavier weight quilting cotton as my background fabric.  

I will try and update the blog regularly and to add a page with some teaching information, but for now, that's it.  Talk to you later.