Saturday, May 31, 2008

Can't leave well enough alone!

The only trouble is I am definitely not sure that this is well enough to start with. After sleeping on it and spending the morning coming back to have another look I feel that I should do something -I have tried adding some of the blue contrast among the flower sprays. I am in two minds whether to pull out the French knots in the butterfly (I am not sure that butterfly is not the perfect example of a "sore thumb") and redo it in a noncontrasting colour and not in knots, or, whether to keep it as an example and stitch the design again - I tend to the latter as I really like the basic shape and would not mind trying it in different colours with a few minor changes.
Any thoughts , gentle reader?
Here is another scan in portrait mode and with the addition of a few blue knots. In portrait the pulled satin looks loads better as well. What a learning experience!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Phew! A day to spare!

My TIF challenge for May just made it. What do I call myself? Well, as I said last post I am a weaver. However, over my life I have played with many textile forms. I began with French knitting on a cotton reel with nails and made yards and yards of knitted braid. Did I use it for anything? Probably only food for clothes moth!
I progressed to 'real' knitting - white cotton face washers.
Primary school samplers were disastrous however in my teens I tried 'fancywork' as it was then called. Traced designs on linen in bright colours.Later came learning how to crochet and tat. Dressmaking became all important and occupied most of my spare time.
About 25 years ago I learnt to spin and discovered a Visual Arts course offering a semester of spinning instruction- sheer heaven! However next semester the subject on offer was weaving. A new challenge! And one that was meant for me. The spinning wheels sat idle. There have been forays into bobbin lace and kumihimo - all to be used for embellishments for fabric from the loom.
About 18 months ago with an enforced break from the loom I was bored and while web surfing I discovered Sharon Boggon's "Sumptuous Surfaces" course on line. I just had to learn how to make that gorgeous sea horse. After nearly 50 years break from embroidery my hands won't behave as they should but that has not diminished the enjoyment very much. Improvement comes slowly at my age but it comes.
All that history is a roundabout way of saying I consider myself a dabbler in textiles - just as the little butterfly grub samples as many leaves as possible I have sampled many textile experiences over my lifetime. For quite a long time I was totally wrapped in my weaving - rather like the grub in his woven chrysalid - when suddenly I was unable to weave there turned out to be other textile experiences to enjoy. I am just a happy venturer in this wonderful world of textiles.
Am I happy with the piece? Sort of! I had originally intended to stitch this piece in May colours but after starting out I decided that it wasn't working for me. The colours are lovely but for some reason I couldn't make them work. Colour can be difficult. I did want to stitch something in the challenge colours so will keep them in mind for another biscornu when I ahve some spare time. I enjoyed working with two Anchor variegated cottons. I was not sure whether they would be satisfactory for the purpose but was delighted with the result. I also used a variegated Stitches and Spice stranded cotton that I bought at the Craft Show - practically my only purchase on that trip. I tried bullion stitch yet again and this time it has improved sufficiently for me not to unpick - something that has been necessary for the last couple of months. If I can try a new stitch each month I am happy.
The butterfly in French knots - well, I am not exactly delighted with how it turned out. In future if I need to do an area in french knots I will back that section of linen.
Next month and the new challenge are only just around the corner and there is the stitch-along on stitchin fingers to keep me occupied. And I keep promising my loom I will be back weaving soon! Not enough hours in the day!

Friday, May 16, 2008

TIF Challenge for May

What do I call myself and why? While I have been stitching the parterre I have been considering this question and have to admit that I feel a little like Paula from The Beauty of Life and wonder why I have to call myself anything.

However until quite recently I was quite happy to call myself a weaver as that was how I spent all my spare time. While I still think of myself as a weaver I have not done any weaving for 18 months. Hopefully this situation will change in the near future.

My challenge piece for the theme for May is the photograph above. This is a jacket I made from my handwoven twill fabric . (Is that cheating? Never mind!)

I am very fond of this jacket. I find it very versatile and can wear it with a black dress (handwoven cotton huck lace) or with trousers. The dress is fully lined but the jacket has only lined sleeves. Since I am a slow sewer and since weaving is not a particularly fast exercise anything I weave and sew for myself has to have longevity. Who mentioned 'slow cloth'?

This twill draft was derived using a random number table from the internet. There are some lovely 'snowflake' twills available but I wanted something that was uniquely mine. I am always looking for different ways to use my weaving software. The inspiration to use a random number table was borrowed from an article I had read in a scientific journal in 1986. The 'organic' jumper had been knitted with cables that changed direction and size according to the numbers on such a table. I did try this as knitting exercise and produced the front of a jumper . However the cables, which were quite exciting, made the jumper front much too tight so it was necessary to unpick the whole front and start again - this time I settled for stocking stitch- not nearly as interesting but much more predictable.

For the cables I found the random number table in a textbook but now there are some amazing sites on the internet that will generate random numbers any way you like. This draft was a much simpler exercise than knitting cables - to derive the it I used ascending twills for half the numbers and descending for the others. Having got a reasonable section of draft it was then reversed for symettry and woven as drawn in. I wrote an article on this for the Complex Weavers CAD study group and can dig it out if anyone is interested.

Offhand I can't remember exactly what the sett was but I did set the 2/20 cotton closer than I would normally for twills as I wanted a fairly firm fabric. The black dress underneath is also of 2/20 cotton and that would have been set at 30epi.
So I think I still call myself a weaver but I am happy to try anything that interests me in textiles - at the moment that is embroidery.

Hot off the hoop!

Well, my parterre is finished at last. It still needs to be washed. The scary part!

I have enjoyed this exercise and learnt a few things. One of the reasons I don't follow instructions (beside the fact that I am basically a rebel) is that I feel I learn from my mistakes. I certainly hope so.

What have I learnt?
1. The silk and wool twill fabric, although lovely to handle, was probably not as suitable as calico may have been.
2.I need to make sure I pull my thread firmly for each knot.
3.Colour choice was a little haphazard. My plantings were not chosen with any great plan in mind (typical of my gardening style!) I think the brick colour for the pavers is a tad dark.
4. There is a right way and there is a wrong way to thread a needle, especially a #10 crewel.
5. And finally, I like doing this work and want to try again sometime.

Friday, May 9, 2008

On the right path?

I have finished the flower beds and started on the paths - I think they help. This is slow especially as I only work in the morning to maximise the daylight in my workroom. However it is a very relaxing pastime.

Despite working in bright daylight I am not sure my knots have improved very much. The only thing is - I am managing to keep all the knots on the front of the fabric! A relief!

The fabric I used is not calico as recommended in the book but some silk and wool twill fabric left over from a previous dressmaking exercise. The fabric is fairly closely woven and comfortable to stitch into.

I am quite excited! Yesterday I found a copy of Christine Harris' French Knot Pictures at a Lifeline store - a great bargain at $9! It is in pristine condition - dustcover and all. Now I have some ideas for a picture but need to finish this piece first.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Maggie's garden grows.

I am not sure my pansies are all that successful. I have been studying my gardening books for colour combinations to use. While the pansies' colours were accurate, combined in such a small space they didn't look as good as I had hoped. I found some variegated thread for the nasturtiums and heliotropes. I leave it to your imagination which is which.
Since my last blog entry I discovered another book by Christine Miller - French Knot Pictures . She uses the same techniques and produces some beautiful garden landscapes - again, all in French knots. Maybe I need to stitch a landscape at some future date!
Sharon's TIF for May is available. The colours are soft blues and pinks so the palette should be enjoyable. The concept is "What do I call myself? And why?" I am not sure this one is for me. However I am still trying to decide whether I will take up that particular challenge or not.