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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Initialled denim shorts

I wanted to embroider some denim shorts for my grandson - to replace the ones with the dragon that graces the background of my blog above, which no longer fit. I bought some quite soft black denim shorts - much easier to work if they are not stiff.

I decided to adapt something from the Dover book of Celtic designs that I reckon I have owned for at least 35 years.

There was no suitable initial, but a very clear drawing of the Winged Lion, evangelist symbol for St John, drawn from the original in the Book of Kells.

The Dover outline was crisp and clear. I managed to adapt this to a letter 'F', by reversing the image and manipulating the front legs and one wing.

I then traced it on to Solvi - not my favourite method, but the only way I could see to do it on dark denim.

I then went to Hettie's Patch and supplemented the threads I had with a range of lion colours. They had a new range of Cosmos stranded thread, with some really rich colours.

The Solvi worked fairly well.

I used mostly stem stitch but also tried out a double chain, some buttonhole bars and fly stitch to give texture to the wings.

 I added Ghiordes knots for the brush at the end of the tail for good measure.

The teeth and mouth gave me most trouble. Mine does not look as fierce as the original.

I realised I would need to explain a bit about winged lions, evangelist symbols and illuminated manuscripts, so I did a bit of online research, found a few photos and created a photo book that hopefully gives a bit of context.

I am pleased with the result and Fionn likes it too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another dress from that pattern

I love reusing patterns to get different effects but the same fit. Given the success of my McCalls pattern on a top and a dress, I took the plunge and cut out a dress from a piece of ikat I bought in Indonesia 4 years ago.

 It came from Pertenunan Berdikari in Singaraja, a small hand-loomed weaving factory that specialises in traditional designs and has supplied ikat to all Indonesian Presidents in the last 20 years.

At the factory you can watch the whole process from base thread dying,

through tying, pattern construction

to weaving.

I bought three pieces of cloth - one cotton and two silk. This is the cotton coming off the loom. It was this cotton that I tried out first.

I went to Hetty's Patch to find a contrasting plain cotton, and tried the version of the pattern with a V yoke and hem border.

I think it worked really well. The colours are great and it is really comfortable. I wore it to lunch on my birthday.

I now have plans to make up the silk pieces with further variations on this pattern.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Girls' Tops

This Christmas I decided to make smocked tops, rather than dresses, for my granddaughters. This was really a choice amongst the kits in my stash chosen not so much for immediate wearability, but for what might be useful in a few months' time, since they have quite a stock of summer dresses.

I really liked Temily, in AS&E issue 80, and bought two kits, figuring I could reverse the thread colour to make 2 distinct versions for Veronica and Niamh. I could see them wearing it over jeans around the time they start school,  later in 2012.

The magazine version has an orange picture-smocked abstract flower, with purple around the centre, so I did one like that and one with purple and orange reversed.

There is a neat running stitch around the frill and seams. Unfortunately, in the Christmas rush, I didn't take photos of the finished garments. Once it is cool enough for the girls to wear them, I will rectify.

For Brigid I made Free Spirit, from AS&E 92. It has a smocked yoke and a little bit of smocking to bring in the three-quarter sleeves. I am happiest with designs, like this, that use smocking for functional, rather than merely decorative effect.

The colours and design of this top are very pleasing. I thought it might be more autumn than summer, but Brigid has worn it a lot since Christmas. She says it is comfortable and cool.

My quick iPhone snaps give her an impressionist portrait look!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Smocked dress from my versatile McCall's pattern.

This is the second top from my McCall's pattern. The fabric is Mali cloth that I bought from Weavers of the World a year or so ago. This time I thought I have a go at smocking from this pattern.

I cut out a dress, adding about an extra 18cm in the front and the back -  a bit of a guess based on the first top I made from the pattern.

I then stitched in the sleeves and pleated it as I would a bishop. It pleated quite well although it was a lot of cloth!

 I pleated 9 half space rows and chose a smocking design that gave me a bit of an echo of the circles, while opening out at the bottom to the gathers. I used three strands of DMC - pretty sure it would have been easier to stitch in perle, but it worked.
I realised when I came to gather and stitch the frill that I hadn't added any fabric to the frill to compensate for the additional fabric front and back for the smocking. It was,however, quite enough of a frill! I seem to have spent quite a lot of time lately gathering and stitching frills!

I also cut the neck binding a few centimetres shorter than the original top. It still fits over the head easily but comes a little higher on my shoulders.

It worked. I feel a bit like Mma Ramotswe when wearing it. It's been great in our current weather.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Amazing Birthday Present

Today is my birthday and I wanted to share a present that I received from my just-about-lifelong friend, Vivienne. We met at primary school when we were 10. We were in the same class for 2 years then went to High School together for a few months until Vivienne's father's job took her family many miles away.

We wrote to each other regularly thoughout high school, then met up again at university, kept in touch by letter when first teachiing, then marriage and children moved us to different parts of the country. In the last decade our correspondence has shifted to electronic communication. It is a great thing to have a friendship as long as this - longer than a long marriage and older than adult children. 

Vivienne is a knitter and knitted me an amazing scarf for my birthday today. It immediately put me in mind of Jenny Joseph's poem, Warning: When I am an Old Woman I shall wear Purple - as indeed Vivienne had intended.

 I couldn't figure out how the scarf was made.Fortunately, Vivienne had anticipated this and taken some photos. 

It is magic - knitted with one ball of acrylic yarn like thick mesh ribbon .Vivienne used Katia, a Spanish brand.
The frilled effect is achieved with seven stitches on number 7 needles, knitting into the top of the yarn, teasing out the yarn as you go to make the ruffles.  

I can't wait to try this yarn myself.

In the meantime, however, I have a beautiful ruffled, decorative scarf that I wore to lunch today with Jim and Adelaide friends of 39 years standing.

It is wonderful to have reached this age, to have friends and family who share my journey with its experiences, joys and sorrows - and to be in touch with so many others who share my interests.

I feel very blessed. I am also on the look-out for a red hat.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Celtic Snake Cross-stitch Box


After my success with the Han Phoenix cross-stitch box lid, I decided to work a lid for another box I had stored, this one for my granddaughter who is interested in snakes, using a design from a book of Celtic Cross Stitch. The book has four designs based on intertwining snakes, and I chose one based on a figure 8 and four snakes.

My first challenge was to reduce the size of the finished work to the size of the box lid. The design was for 28 thread linen, and I calculated I needed to stitch it on 22 thread fabric to get the fit. A bit of searching led me to hardanger fabric, which is, I discovered, commonly 22 threads per inch. I found a sand coloured 22 thread hand-dyed linen at Stitches and Spice ordered a fat eighth for $15 and had it two days later.

To be sure of fit, and to keep myself on track, I gridded up the fabric to fit the design.

Following my Han Phoenix success, I wanted to use silk threads for this, so I began the outlines with a really dark brown Madiera thread I already had, following the 2 thread instruction (designed, of course, for DMC!). I soon worried that I should have used a single thread - both for economy and because it seemed so heavy, but once into it I decided to keep going and dashed off to Country Bumpkin for more thread.

I ended up using a variety of silks to fill the snakes - Madiera, Gloriana and Gumnut Buds. The variegation of the hand-dyed ones  worked well for the snakes.

There were some tricky bits around the faces.
I also had some difficulty removing the grid threads in some places. Maybe next time I will be confident enough to work with only centre tacking lines.

The finished piece looked good - and just fitted the lid as I had hoped. 

I then used some gold thread to outline  my grand-daughter's initials - BSDK- in the twists of the snakes. 

It was very subtle - too subtle, I decided, for an eight year old, so I added initials in cross-stitch in the lower right-hand corner and mounted the embroidery into the box.

I lined the box with the same felt I had used for my phoenix box.

This has taken quite a while, but been a very satisfying project - again, it has the variation of tasks that I like.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monogrammed needlerolls

I thought this project, in Inspirations 69, would make a good Christmas present, so I worked on one for each of my daughters.  It is worked on ecru linen with DMC.
The monograms worked well. They are worked in stem stitch, with split stitch outlines. The circle surround is eyelet stitch with granitos for the flower leaves. There are three padded circles in the design - a new technique to me.

I had quite a bit of trouble making up the first roll. It took me several attempts to get the pockets right. I had trouble distinguishing between the lining fabric and the outer fabric to get the right bits attached to the zip - a case of more haste less speed, as usual. The second one went more smoothly, but I ended up with the top of the big pocket a bit crooked.

The ring roll is meant to be secured by a stud. The stud came with the kit, but not the tool to attach it, and the instructions were 'attach the stud'. It is a long time since I used studs, and never this kind.
After I had destroyed one stud completely (with a hammer in my hand I don't think 'gentle'!) I decided to use press-studs with a button on top. The two buttons I used were 1940s ones from my mother's stash.

However, I then realised that a small ring (as opposed to my own larger rings) would not fit over the buttons - so more unpicking!

In the end I settled for bullion roses in the white thread.

I also added a small loop to the outside so the ribbon can tie without going around the whole roll and obscuring the monogram. I'd also like to get one of those tiny irons to iron around motifs like this on linen. It is quite hard with an ordinary iron to get into the little corners.

In the end they came up well and made good presents.