Intermittent Inspiration: Back Stitch

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Resources,Stitching | Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Inspiration: Back Stitch

I posted the back stitch section of my band sampler (with links to tutorials) a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve collected some happy examples of back stitch created by other people to show you. (Click on the image above to learn more about the artists.)

Back stitch is a very simple outline stitch, and you can see from these examples that it is one of the easiest (and most popular) ways to convert a simple line drawing to cloth. Because of that, you’ll see back stitch used by lots of illustrators as it is the nearest thing to drawing with a pen.

What about you? Have you ever used simple stitches to convert a drawing to embroidery?

Return of the machine

Mal | Embellishment,Finished Projects,Media,Sewing,Simplicity | Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Sewing Machine

“…the evil of machinery is largely a question of whether machinery will use men or men shall use machinery.” (Ernest Batchelder)

It was nice to have a reprieve from making things by machine for the past few weeks, but I pulled out the ol’ Husqvarna Viking last night to finish a gift for a friend.

Fixed tea wallet

She has been giving up coffee and trying to drink more tea. When I found the tutorial for a tea wallet over on Christy’s Creations, I knew it would be perfect for her.

Even though she is one of my best friends, assembly of her gift came at the end of my great and grand handmade holiday list last year, and so it had some problems that were created by rush, short-cuts, and sloppiness. Sure, it has a snap, but not even my obsession with snaps can override the gross errors in this piece.

Teatime

In fact, I think it was my precious love for snaps that made this project go wrong. I wanted it to be in just the right place, but didnt plan correctly for it. So, here’s how I spent time the other night — re-doing, slicing, and fixing a previous work. In spite of what I may have said yesterday about proudly being an imperfectionist, I feel strangely satisfied.

Perfectionists and imperfectionists

Mal | Stitching,Works in Progress | Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Hope in progress

For reasons which will be incomprehensible to many people who read this entry (but are nonetheless real), I have been broken up with my ex-boyfriend since June of last year.

I mention this in part because of how grateful I am that we have remained friends; we see each other often, and have a deep caring and concern for one another. When I ended up hospitalized after my “same-day surgery” debacle and needed someone to not only take emergency custody of my dogs but also to speed over and hold my hand, he was the first person I called. When I’m having a bad day, have a ridiculous idea, or need someone to geek out with, I reach out to this wonderful person and he is there. I love him.

When he saw me working on my cross-stitch Obama a few weeks ago, he got so excited that he wanted to make one, too. I was happy to oblige by teaching him how, but he had some special requests.

First, he wanted the final product to be big. I mean, he wanted it to be big. He also wanted even fields of color, with no white spots peeking through. I explained to him that the pattern was created for a small end product and that the nature of cross stitch was for some of the fabric to show through the stitching. Still, we employed some tricks in the service of his vision:

  • We bought 11-count Aida cloth.
  • He is stitching over two squares for each X, which makes it essentially 5.5-count Aida cloth.
  • He is using two full threads of DMC floss in every needle, for a total of 12 strands in every stitch.

The end result will be a piece of about 8″ by 13″, with a deep pile and a rich texture. Dear Manbroidery, I think you may have a new brother. (MrXStitch, you certainly have a new fan.)

You have to imagine this punk-rock, bespectacled, Converse-wearing Mexicano stitching up his Obama with rapt attention. It is pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Since this is his first experience with handcrafting of any kind, he has understandably encountered some frustrations. But, for the most part he is enjoying the process and I think will be very pleased with the outcome. When we sit together, stitching, he calls me “Mother” and insists that I call him “Father.”

It’s always interesting to teach and observe someone else in a skill that you have employed for a long time. He is so careful in his stitching — he wants the back of his stitchery to look immaculate. He is very interested in the idea of embroidery contests and judging (such as when my brother-in-law and nephew enter their cross-stitched pieces in the county fair) and wants to be sure he is doing everything right. I try to explain that “there is no right” (and especially not on a first-time project!), but he’ll tear out rows of stitches if he feels that one is a little too loose or too tight.

For my part, I am much more interested in the process than the product. If you look closely at my Obama, you’ll see gross errors in counting, alternating, and snipping. I try to make the back of the piece tidy, but sometimes I run out of steam for starting-stopping and will skip around a bit. Still, the overall effect is pretty good and it suits my purposes well enough.

But no — oh no — no such flojera will be brooked with that guy. He is precise and careful and determined. The back of his piece is so beautiful it would make both of my grandmothers proud. Incidentally (and, this will probably not come as a surprise to you), describing these differences in our stitching style encapsulates some of the main differences between us as people.

What about you? Are you more likely to obsess over the process or the product? Are you a perfectionist or an imperfectionist? Do share.

Pushing toward hexagons

Mal | Quilting,Resources,Sewing,Tutorials,Works in Progress | Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Pink hexagons

Yup. I’ve started on a hexagon project of my own.

When I posted inspirational mages of hexagon quilts last week, Christine asked:

Hi, I’m planning to do a part-hexagon quilt soon. I was hoping to be able to do it by machine, but if it needs to be by hand, so be it. In your searching, did you come across any instructions/tips and tricks for hexagon quilts?

I’ve had a few other emails about it, so I thought I’d post some of the great tutorials I’ve found to get me going.

While I’m at it, here is one more mosaic of inspirational hexagon projects I’ve found since my original posting. Click through for more info on the artists.

More hexagon inspiration

Intermittent Inspiration: Running Stitch

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Resources,Stitching | Sunday, March 8th, 2009

My creation

Since I completed the running stitch section on my band sampler, I have been tuned into examples of running stitch all over the place. If you’re wondering how this stitch can be put into practice, there are some wonderful examples above. Click the image to learn more about the artists who made these wonderful creations.

I’ve especially been inspired by the way this stitch can become so textural. I always considered it an outline stitch, but when used as a texture, it’s really interesting. Also, you can see running stitch on lots of applique and 3d projects, too, which is something to consider next time you feel layer-y or sculptural.

Band Sampler: Panel 1 Complete

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Resources,Sewing,Stitching | Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Band Sampler: Panel 1 Complete

With the completion of the counted cross stitch Obama, the first panel of my band sampler is finished. Again, I hid my full name in the header for privacy’s sake.

I’ve had some questions about band samplers in general, so here’s a bit more info:

When I caught the embroidery bug late last year, I decided that I wanted to move beyond my early education of cross stitch, back stitch, and french knots. I found tutorials and stitch dictionaries online and became excited at the prospect of learning traditional embroidery stitches.

I began to read up and found that old classic samplers (you know the ones — an alphabet, a bible quotation, a cross-stitched house with trees) once functioned as part of the education of young girls and women — to teach stitches. I figured that if I could learn about the standard form of traditional samplers, I could design my own mod sampler (like this one, by Mary Corbet) with the same purpose of learning.

In my reading and research, I came across SharonB and Annie’s band sampler projects. A band sampler (a long strip of fabric) was sometimes created by women who were learning stitches. It could be rolled up and tucked into a sewing box, where it would serve as a future reference. SharonB and Annie both include little biographical and current-events snippets in their samplers, and this thrilled me, given my long history of journaling (both written and visual).

So, that’s how I got into the band sampler and, for me and my style of working and exploring things, it seems pretty perfect. It suits my rhythm of exploration and it satisfies my desire to document change and progress. All in all, I am really enjoying it.

Especially now that I am done with that darn cross stitch.

Band Sampler: Counted Cross Stitch

Mal | Band Sampler,Current Events,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Band Sampler: Cross Stitch

I mentioned before that I burned out on counted cross stitch when I was a teenager. However, at the beginning of my band sampler I wanted to document all of the stitches I already know. Naturally, this includes cross stitch.

Cross Stitch Obama, close up

My aversion to it was so strong, however, that I had decided to count my name at the top of the sampler as my homage to counted cross stitch. That is until I found out that Julie from Subversive Cross Stitch was offering a pattern of Shepard Fairy‘s iconic Obama poster for free.

Cross Stitch Obama, note

Because I’d like the band sampler to also function as a kind of visual journal, and because I was so moved and elated during the time of the election, I knew it would be a great inclusion. So, here is the counted cross stitch portion of my band sampler.

200903038049

If you’d like to try your hand at cross stitch, here are some tutorials and links:

I sped through this project, and there are lots of errors and missteps. But, it’s done and I can walk away from cross stitch again, for now.

How about you? Do you have any media or projects that you dislike? Have you ever moved past dislike back to enjoyment?

Intermittent Inspiration: Hexagon Quilts

The march toward more handwork and less machinework continues. While collecting patchwork inspiration a few days ago, I was drawn (and who wouldn’t be!?) to this little pincushion made by duniris.

Duniris's hexagon pincushion

It took my breath away and I have since stared at it for what seems like hours.

I have always enjoyed looking at hexagon patchwork, but never got too far beyond lamely wondering how it was done. Well, it turns out that the only good way is by hand — cutting, piecing, and stitching them together with needle and thread.

Well, then there was no stopping me. Look at all the delicious hexagon inspiration to be had.

Intermittent Inspiration: Handpieced Hexagons

What about you? Have you ever done hexagons or other hand quilting?

Sewing room disguised as kitchen

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Stitching | Friday, February 27th, 2009

Sewing room, disguised as kitchen

Recent social obligations (out-of-town guests, dates that I knew would end up at my place, drop-by visits from the neighbor’s kids for playdates with the dogs, etc.) have necessitated a quick and temporary return to regular, adult living.

What I mean by this is that I have temporarily reclaimed my kitchen. Sadly, my sewing machine (which had resided on my kitchen table for months) has been packed up and put away for the past couple of weeks.

Sewing room, disguised as kitchen

No more late-morning hem repairs as I run off to work. No more lauching into elaborate patchwork projects “because I have a few minutes.” No more midnight sewing marathons to buzz away my insomnia or inexplicably-motivated Adventures in Buttonholes.

Maybe that’s okay, though, as it has allowed me to turn my attention to more handwork, embroidery, and other machineless modes. I’ve finally started the band sampler and hand-bound the baby quilt. I’ve been exploring a bit with hand-pieced quilting and such. My hands have needlepricks and callouses where there was once fingerprint.

I may pull the machine out again this weekend to do some finish work and some mending. A part of me kind of hopes not, though. I’m enjoying the quiet.

Someday, a two-bedroom apartment.

How about you? Do you have a dedicated workspace, or do you double-dip rooms, as I do?

Band Sampler: Back Stitch

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Stitching | Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Band Sampler: Back Stitch

Continuing with the idea of starting the band sampler with stitches that I already know, I dive in to the Back Stitch. For many years, Back Stitch and French Knots were the only stitches I knew, besides Cross Stitch. I did this up in an evening (note the little pop of orange) a few days before the Academy Awards.

I only mention the Academy Awards because why isn’t everyone talking about that one backdrop on the ceremony stage!? During the presentation of the awards for Best Documentary, there was an amazing, art-deco-esque, scrolled thing that was really beautiful and reminded me of my Back Stitch motif.  

manonwire_documentaryfeature

Maybe we were all too dazzled by the feats of human strength performed in front of it — but this is the only photo I could find of the backdrop (and it came from the Academy Awards official website). Although the video quality is very poor, you can also see the entire segment on youtube and drink in the deliciousness of a scroll-y, swirl-y stage.

If you’d like to try your hand at Back Stitch, here are a few tutorials:

In the meantime, please share! Do you love scrolls and swirls? Do you hate them? Are there other good stitching tutorials online?

Baby Guilt

Mal | Finished Projects,Media,Quilting,Sewing | Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Cartwheel Quilt Blocks

I’ve about finished the baby quilt I’ve been working on. It’s the one patterned off of the mini rough draft quilt.

20090219-cartwheelquilt5

A friend of mine from grad school will be having a baby girl next month. I’m happy for her, and a little bit jealous of the baby! My friend is sweet, and smart, and creative, and good-hearted. That lucky baby will have such a good mother.

20090219-cartwheelquilt2

I grew up in a culture where children and family were valued above all else. Many of my peers married and began having children when they were very young. Some of them have told me how they envy my life.

Cartwheel quilt close-up

I have two dogs, a career that I love, and an interesting, challenging life. I have the luxury of focusing on myself and my own development. I get a good night’s sleep and ponder the meaning and purpose in life.

Cartwheel Quilt Close-up

But I have no husband and no babies and no white picket fence.

Cartwheel Quilt Almost Done

In some ways, making this quilt stirred up some of my feelings about all of that.

Tutorial Roundup: Non-quilt Patchwork

Mal | Quilting,Sewing,Tutorials | Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

 Patchwork, but not quilts

This week I’ve also enjoyed seeing lots of projects made from patched-together fabrics which weren’t necessarily for quilts. I guess once you realize that patchwork can be used anywhere that plain fabric can, there’s no stopping you!

Below, I’ve linked to some tutorial sites if you’d like directions on how to make non-quilt patchwork projects.

 Have you made a non-quilt patchwork project? Please share!

Band Sampler: Running Stitch

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Stitching | Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

BS: First and Running

Made some progress on the band sampler this week. I decided to start by documenting the stitches I already know — the very most basic, beginning with running stitch.

BS: Daisies and First Stitches

I like this tiny font, and I feel like it’s going to let me narrate the work as I go. The flowers, leaves, and dots were done with some thread I bought from a bazaar in Mexico a few years ago. It’s very fuzzy and textured.

BS: Running Stitch

The first stitch I chose was running stitch — the easiest stitch of all. I was heavily influenced by Mandie’s sampler, and used variegated floss for the first time. In fact, I pretty much used every variegated floss from my collection!

If you’d like to try your hand at running stitch, try these tutorials:

I ended up doing about twice as many rows of running stitch as I originally intended. As I got into it, I got sort of swallowed up into it. Like knitting, it was easy to get lost in the repetitive, meditative quality of this repeating pattern. If you look closely, you’ll see spots where I got off the track and this usually happened if I lost focus for some reason or started to fatigue. I had to decide whether to go back and un-do and re-do. For the most part, I decided not to. After all, I reasoned, the purpose of the sampler is to practice and learn. It’s always good for me to start a project by accepting its imperfections.

How about you? Is it difficult for you to accept imperfections in your work?

Band Sampler: Beginning

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Monday, February 16th, 2009

Band sampler detail: header

I finally got a jump on the band sampler and finished a simple header. This picture shows it before I finished cross-stitching my name, but I thought it was neat that I could photograph it to look like my blogging handle, Mal*. When the full name is completed, all of the words are flush right with the “2009” and the “Band Sampler.” Although it looks great finished, I am trying to keep my full name off of this blog for now.

Band sampler detail: spiderweb

I had read that quilters traditionally stitched a spiderweb into their quilts for luck. I thought it might be nice to start off this project on a lucky foot, but didn’t want a cartoon-y, Halloween-y spiderweb. Instead, I studied some photos of real spiderwebs in corners, then used Annie’s spiderweb tutorial to make it all hang together.

Band sampler detail: spider

The spider is made from two beads and I think he turned out pretty well, but a bit cartoon-y and Halloween-y because I didn’t take the time to study pictures of real spiders. I used to be a real arachnophobe, but I started to do art of insects and spiders and it helped me get over the fear to see them more as beautiful and intricate.

Other people doing band samplers who have inspired me:

Intermittent Inspiration: Pieced Quilts Edition

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Quilting | Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Weekly roundup: Pieced quilt edition

There’s so much inspiration to be found on flickr. Lots of amazing quilters out there showing their piecing skills — both traditional and contemporary. (Click through to see the list of artists.)

Media and Meaning

Mal | Art Journal,Art Therapy,Media,Sewing | Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Ingredients

Jennifer, over on Craftstylish, posted an essay about the meaning of making. As an art therapist, these are the types of philosophical questions that are on my mind daily, so I was happy to read them as phrased by someone else and Jen did a great job with a focus on the reputation and perception of people who engage in certain crafts. Behold (emphasis mine):

 

 I haven’t dipped my toe into the world of scrapbooking [. . .] As I ponder the profile of the scrapbooking enthusiast, I think it’s for folks who like to bring order to something and create a perfect world even if their lives are chaotic and messy. Come to think of it, I could use some order. Cue the jones for acid-free paper…

The opposite of pristine and controlled, silk screening seems gritty and radical. I desperately want to try it. It seems counter-culture, very Haight-Asbury in the ’60s [. . .]

After seeing Erika Kern transform a T-shirt in a couple of hours through the magic of embroidery, I view embroidery fiends as not only traditional and elegant but also meticulous with a side of inventive. Or maybe that’s just Erika.

 

Art therapists are trained to consider the inherent qualities in various art media and use them to their advantage when working with clients. What’s interesting is that I can trace the thread of my own psychological growth through the labyrinth of my meanderings in arts and crafts and media.

I mentioned before that I had a meaningful love affair with pottery when I lived in Boston 9 years ago. At the time I was profoundly depressed, lonely, untethered, and riddled with anxieties. In hindsight, I realize that working with clay, smelling the earth, allowing myself to get messy, and working on the wheel were exactly what I needed at the time. The process of centering — of muscle-ing a hunk of clay into a stable position on a spinning wheel — of finding stillness in the midst of chaos — was a big part of my transformation. Then, once you had crafted the “perfect’ piece, you glazed it and offered it up to the kiln god. The kiln, that paragon of unpredictability, would either accept your offering and bless you with a beautifully glazed bowl, or it would chew up and destroy whatever piece you had devoted your hours to. Dealing with that unpredictability reduced my anxieties; it had to.

I later went through a bookbinding phase. This was sparked largely by my first love: writing. (Writing’s purpose? To incubate my rebellious and revolutionary thoughts quietly, until I could escape my repressive upbringing.) I made journal after journal out of boards and papers and fabrics, as though I were a robin building a nest. The beauty and richness of my current life has hatched from the “eggs” I laid in those journals. There, I questioned, experimented, railed, accepted, cried, destroyed, exulted. And then, at the end of the day, I could close the book — contain it all neatly inside — and move on. It was the only way I could make it through grad school. I would go to the books, make a tremendous mess of things, and then close them up so that I could go about my work.

Other phases have included watercolors (letting go of absolute control, learning to “go with the flow”), screen printing (productivity, planning), self-portraits (body image issues, self-exploration), altered books (questioning authority), and more.

My current phase is very textile driven — sewing, quilting, embroidering. I’ve postulated that there is a sort of healing taking place — a stitching back together after the ripping-apart of a difficult breakup, the physical effects of a traumatic surgery, and a long convalescence. 2008 was a time of yanking and pulling and tearing. I enter 2009 with needle and thread in hand, ready to follow wherever the line of stitches leads.

What about you? What do you gain from the things you make?

Applique tote bags

Mal | Finished Projects,Media,Sewing | Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Bad photos with my old camera. I made these two for gifts — the initials belong to the intended recipients, of course.

L Tote

I love the leaves on this one, and the little bird with its legs all spread out. These aren’t usually “my colors,” but I must say I love how this one came together.

GG Tote

Wish you could see how cute that fabric is on the cursive G — it’s black and grey leopard print, kind of a suede texture, with adorable pink flowers and tiny green leaves. I love it and am using it on all kinds of projects at this point.

Worth the effort

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Sewing,Stitching,Works in Progress | Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

…all the short, and cheap, and easy ways of doing that whose difficulty is its honour — are just so many new obstacles in our already encumbered road. They will not make one of us happier or wiser — they will extend neither the pride of judgment nor the privilege of enjoyment. They will only make us shallower in our understandings, colder in our hearts, and feebler in our wits. And most justly. For we are not sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts. We have certain work to do for our bread, and that is to be done strenuously; other work to do for our delight, and that is to be done heartily. neither is to be done by halves nor shifts, but with a will; and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all.

—John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Getting ready to start a band sampler

Made progress last night toward starting a band sampler: edged the 6″ strip of linen (backed with light cotton), sank a center line for anchoring, got a good night’s sleep.

Knowing is not enough

Mal | Art Journal,Band Sampler,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Monday, February 9th, 2009

Knowing is not enough 

I learned to embroider when I was a very young girl. As a sometime-farm-girl, I learned all of those skills necessary to become a good, midwestern housewife. Most of the skills stuck (though I do still struggle with knitting and tatting, and have never canned produce without an older relative providing guidance) and I go back to them, periodically, in their turn.

My exposure to embroidery, as was true for most crafters in the 80’s, was comprised mostly of cross-stitch. I did learn to do simple backstitch (mostly to define the facial features of my cross-stitched Precious Moments figures) and running stitch. My grandmother taught me to do french knots, and called it candlewicking. But, after completing a large piece at age 14, I burned out on cross-stitch and put the needle down for good.

Well, I put it down until a couple of months ago, when I suddenly became consumed with stitching. I also googled for tutorials, and found blogs like Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread and Primrose Design (especially her Stitch School). It didn’t take me long to realize that while I had been taught a few embroidery stitches (and I had become adept enough at making my own designs out of straight stitches and knots), there were huge gaps in my actual embroidery knowledge.

Stitch dictionaries

Knowing that samplers in Britain and the US were used to teach young schoolgirls how to stitch, and wishing I could go back and learn/re-learn the basics of traditional embroidery, I decided to seek out a sampler pattern. That way, I reasoned, I could be learning while I make something purposeful.

I found one sampler online that interested me, designed by Mary Corbet.

Then I found Sharon B.’s Pin Tangle and Annie’s Crazy World blogs. These women, real-life friends, each work on a band sampler. In her archives, I read Sharon’s musings about autobiographical textiles — the use of stitching as a journal. Annie does it, too and, are you kidding me? A combination of stitching and journaling? I am in love!

Linens

It’s time for me to pull out the linen I bought before Christmas and finally start work on my own band sampler. After all, Knowing is not enough; we must apply. (Goethe)

Embroidered names

Mal | Finished Projects,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I also did a lot of personalizing with names on gifts this year, which was a satisfying and quick way to make handmade objects freel more special. One of the best parts about making all of these gifts during my recovery was that it really helped me to be reaching outside of myself and thinking about other people, without having to overexert or do more than my body could handle.

Yoga Mat Bag Strap

Inside the strap of a yoga mat bag, loosely based on this tutorial. I included eyelets and drawstrings on the ones I made, and they really added that nice, professional touch. Like most of my gifts, these were made with drapes and leftover sheets.

Coffee cozies

And, finally, although I don’t drink coffee or tea myself, I felt this would be an appropriate gift for my employees and coworkers. There are bright, eye-popping fabrics on the reverse sides of these, with names stitched on the outside. Inspired by pink milk and fairycakes’ tutorial.

Tell us — how do you add that little personal touch to handmade gifts?

« Previous Page | Next Page »

Powered by WordPress | Theme by Roy Tanck | Free SEO by Court's Internet Marketing School | Get Tranquility White WP Theme

Technorati Profile SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline