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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Toy Chest Etui: Black horse end

Each end of the Toy Chest has an arched panel featuring a rearing horse - based, I seem to remember Betsy Morgan saying, on her own horses. One horse is black and one white and they are designed to face the front of the etui.

I began, as before, with the framing stitches, then moved to the horse and to the ribbon pattern on the drawer at the bottom.

As suggested, I outlined the horse first, then filled in. A couple of lines across the body of the horse enabled me to better count the stitches.

I found filling in the horse extremely tiring on my eyes, probably  because it is black as well as being one-thread stitching over a consolidated space.

I tried Betsy's suggestion of using tent stitch instead of cross stitch on the horse, but thought it left gaps, so reverted to cross stitch.

It is a very pleasing design to see emerge, but I had to keep taking breaks. It has been the hardest piece so far.

  It's going to look good on the chest, though.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Toy Chest Etui: Lid

The lid of the Toy Chest is the last of the three "large" pieces in the project. Even though the order of embroidery doesn't matter at all, I decided I'd feel I am making more progress if I finish the pieces for the chest itself and then move on to the smaller items.

I am now into a routine of border outlines, followed by the figures inside. This is my favourite piece so far. I really like the elegance of the design - so much grace in the fall of the branches.

I played around a little with the green of the leaves (originally to cover an error in the thread I used, but then for effect).

This photo of the finished lid is a bit washed out and there is a tiny adjustment needed on one of the top leaves.

I like the design a lot, however and am looking forward to constructing the lid in particular. It has a curved shape that will be interesting to create.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Toy Chest Etui: Chest sides

After the needlebook, I went to the other end of the piece of linen on my frame and began on the Toy Chest itself.

I began with the framing stitches, which are over two threads. The rest is over one thread.

I like the touch of the shadow at the bottom.

The second side, with its tiny alphabet, was not quite as hard as I imagined. It was very handy while doing the ribbon and border work on the first side to be able to use up thread still in my needle on a letter or two!

The thread is lovely. The variegation sometimes creates a slightly uneven look in infill, such as the hearts. It's very effective, however in the shadow.

I was worried that I'd baulk at so much petit-point stitching. It is demanding on the eyes even (especially?) with a magnifier. It takes my eyes an hour or so to adjust after I have worked on this for a length of time. However, I find myself addicted - wanting to get back to it when away from it, and soothing myself to sleep thinking about the next section.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Toy Chest Etui Embroidery: Needlebook

In the suggested layout of the pieces of the Toy Chest Etui, the first two pieces were the covers of the needlebook, which will be constructed as a magic wallet.

The threads are Gloriana silks, used as a single strand. On 32 count linen, this is quite a challenge for me.
It takes a while to get into the swing of such fine and accurate counting - and I can't do it without additional magnification.

I began this piece using the magnifier attached to my floor light. It was quite difficult to position the frame and the magnifier to give me the clarity I need to do this work.

Eventually I tried a magnifier that attaches to my glasses. I had purchased one of these, but not tried it. I notice in classes that some women use them a lot. It looks a bit odd. If you talk to someone wearing them, their eyes look huge.

My own reading glasses have a 2.5 magnification built in. I added a clip-on 2x magnifier and found it worked really well. It takes a lot of concentration, and I need to rest my eyes every half an hour or so, but my accuracy has improved.

Even so, the photos revealed a row of missing stitches on the right hand acorn that I will fix before construction!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Getting organised for Toy Chest Etui

Betsy Morgan's Toy Chest Etui project has a number of pieces. The chest holds a scissor keep (in the form of a doll outline), a thimble keep (the ball-cup of previous blog), a needle case (magic wallet), a waxer box (in form of a drum), a button box and a pin cushion (in the form of a primer). The kit for the BATB class contained materials for all these pieces.

Betsy has since added a hobby horse laying tool cover, a jack-in-the box emery and a paint box needle threader case, all of which were available during her class. I gave in to the temptation to buy them at the time - much easier than deciding later and buying by mail.

So altogether, a very large project, albeit a very small one in terms of dimensions.

The linen for the project - 32 count Prairie Grain - comes as one piece with a suggested layout. My first decision was whether to cut the pieces individually, which would enable me to complete one piece at a time, or to lay out and stitch the whole piece, meaning that all the embroidery would have to be finished for the base set before any construction could be done.

In the end I went for the latter. Stitching such fine work on tiny pieces of fabric means either a tiny hand hoop - really bad for my left hand - or no hoop, which may or may not work for so many pieces. So I decided to outline the individual shapes on the fabric, mount it in a scroll-frame, and do all the embroidery first. However, I couldn't get my scroll-frame to sit firmly in my floor stand, so I ordered the Doodler Frame that I have had my eye on for a while and waited for it to arrive from Nordic Needle.

So several months later, I was set to begin!

Using the layout suggested in the kit, I outlined all the pieces in backstitch, using the perle thread in the kit. I couldn't tell from the ambiguous notes I had made in class whether this was the recommended first or last step, but it was the easiest way to get my layout. The whole piece takes up three 'screens' of the Doodler Frame.

It does mean that some pieces are sideways on the frame, but I find lap-frames pretty flexible. Luckily I had other stitching projects to get on with while all this preparation was going on.

I have actually done some stitching on the Toy Chest Etui - evidence is coming!

Monday, October 8, 2012

BATB - Toy Chest Etui

view from the classroom window
It's nearly six months since my Beating Around the Bush class with Betsy Morgan, for her Toy Chest Etui. I didn't write about the class at the time (big mistake!) but I did write about the preparation. I now need to catch up, so I can write about my progress.

The class was quite different to the Alison Snepp hussif class. To start with, the class concentrated on the techniques of construction, rather than the embroidery techniques, so we had prepared one piece of embroidery for the class.

As well as constructing that piece (the thimble keep in the form of a child's ball-cup) we learned construction techniques for other pieces.

We had quite a lot of fun making a model magic wallet from skirtex and paper strips, ready for the real thing on the needlebook.

We spent the best part of an afternoon going through the construction notes for all the various bits of the chest and its contents.

The time was, I thought, pretty well paced. Our work in constructing the thimble keep, using the piece we had embroidered in preparation, was quite detailed, including practising the joining stitch, cutting skirtex circles for the ends of the thimble cup and learning to roll the silk lining around the plastic spools that form the inside shaping. The same technique applies to the drum (which holds wax).

We finished our thimble keep by the end of the two day class and went away armed with a lot of linen, silks, charts and instructions for the rest of the etui and its contents. It has taken me several months to get organised and prepared to continue the work - but it is underway and will provide quite a few more blogs soon!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Yet another Duftin Bag

I mentioned that two interstate friends visiting last weekend. One is the friend for whom I made the blingy Christmas penguins. I decided the other friend would like one of the embroidered Duftin bags I have in my stash, so last week I suspended other stitching activity to cross-stitch another of these.

I chose a flowered one in black.

These are easy projects to carry around - no instructions needed. The bags are pre-made, very strong, grosgrain fabric, and the thread, scissors and needle go inside the bag for convenient carriage - a take anywhere project. The thread comes in long precut lengths, so you can even manage without scissors if you are taking it on a plane, as I in fact did.

The challenge is to keep the thread going in a direction that will not involve cutting as the pattern twists and turns.

As simple as it is, the design is lovely, cleverly exploiting the spaces created between the cross and the back stitch.

My friend was delighted with her bag and used it for her many purchases in Adelaide over the weekend. I got the pleasure of making it, and of seeing it used. Very satisfying.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Penguin Bling

I have a friend who likes penguins. She and another friend from university days visit Adelaide for a few days each year. Earlier this year a kit of penguin Christmas tree ornaments caught my eye in one of Herrshner's weekly sales so I bought it and worked on it in between other projects.

I rather like these felt ornament kits - pretty simple to do, take shape in front of your eyes - and exceedingly blingy.

They are all absurd - carrying candy canes, wearing top hats, scarves and bow-ties - and hurling snowballs.

The connection of penguins to Christmas? Snow, I guess. Given that penguins are Southern hemisphere animals and snow is a Northern hemisphere phenomenon in December just adds to the absurdity - in for a penny, in for a pound of absurdity I say.

My only complaint about this kit is that it comes with a reel of nylon thread, assuming that all the stitching, not just the beading and sequins, will be done with it. I persevered with the nylon thread for several penguins before digging out some stranded cottons and using it for the remainder - much easier on the eyes, and much less slippery in the needle.

My friends were in Adelaide last weekend - and  Pat was very pleased with her penguins. I reckon anything that makes us smile as these do is well worth making.