Band sampler: Chain stitch

Mal | Band Sampler,Handmade,Media,Sewing,Stitching,Works in Progress | Friday, July 24th, 2009

Band Sampler: Chain Stitch

I picked up my band sampler again last week, and scanned the list of embroidery stitches I intend to learn and/or practice. Not to be all emo-14-year-old, but the chain stitch jumped out at me as a nice way to reflect the experience of the past month.

Band sampler: Chain stitch (closeup)

I free-handed the text and stitched it on the subway to and from work for a few days using Sharon B‘s hand-dyed mulberry silk. The variagation is so vivid! I really enjoyed the process.

Band sampler: Chain stitch close-up

I was surprised at how well the chain stitch handled curves, but a little disappointed in starts-and-stops. Still, I got good practice with it.

If you’re interested in giving chain stitch a try, here are some good tutorials:

Phat Quarter Swap: Anatomy

Mal | Embellishment,Finished Projects,Handmade,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Anatomy of a stitcher

Here’s my contribution to the Phat Quarter recent swap. The theme was anatomy.

Anatomy closeup 2

I wanted mine to look like an x-ray film, a bit blurry and fuzzy. So I used a single strand of embroidery floss and did a sloppy stem-stitch to give the effect.

At times it was a bit surreal — spooky, even — to look down and see my hand in the same position as the ghost hand, and to ponder the bones and veins beneath the skin. It was a pretty cool process, I have to say.

Anatomy closeup of needle

I even like how the hand looks as though it is sewing down its own binding.

Anatomy tilted

I’m sure my choice of an x-ray image is partially motivated by my work at a hospital. Hope Ben likes it!

Intermittent Inspiration: French Knots

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Stitching | Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Inspiration: French Knots

I finished the french knot section on my band sampler, but have been collecting pictures of french knots for a few weeks.

Some people use french knots as outline, as ”fill stitch” or as a physical construct (i.e. tiny eyeballs or cherries on trees, which look just like french knots). Some are packed together tightly, like a carpet. Others are sprinkled sparsely to good effect. There are french knot hairdos, french knot flowers, french knot bacteria… I mean, really. There are lots of french knots out there. Don’t be scared.

Click the image for more details on the artists of these wonderful creations.

Band Sampler: French Knot

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Resources,Sewing,Stitching,Tutorials | Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Band Sampler: French Knot

I completed the French Knot portion of my band sampler last week.

 

 

 

 One of the things I do with my clients a lot is give them a little distance from their artwork. I hold up a painting far from their face, which provides a new perspective and sometimes facilitates insight.

Band Sampler: French Knot (closeup)

Looking at these photos of the section (a form of distance) lends itself to some funny realizations. For instance, I see how some of my confusion and consternation from last week may have seeped into the work.

I had originally intended to do some sort of starburst or circular pattern with the knots, but this image kept coming back to me. Almost like molecules or birds rushing toward some intended end but running into an invisible barrier. Ideas and thoughts and scenarios getting backed up — stopped up and hung up — to impede any progress at all. People rushing for an exit, in danger of being trampled. Something that seriously needs to get unstuck.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at french knot, here are some tutorials:

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.

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?

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?

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:

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?

More personalized gifts

Mal | Art Therapy,Finished Projects,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Monday, February 2nd, 2009

 I finally got access to the photos of my holiday gifts, so here are a few more examples of what I worked on during my early embroidery rush.

Pencil roll

This pencil roll was made as a gift for another friend who was present for me many nights in the hospital. She is also an art therapist and brought me my journals and some art supplies because (as instructed) all I had taken with me to the hospital for my allegedly-outpatient surgery was my cell phone and a pair of flip-flops. I wanted to repay her for her kindness in an art-supply kind of way.

That’s one of my favorite quotes. I sort of love that none of the colored pencils have erasers — just to emphasize Mr. Davis’ point!

True Love Motorcycle

This is a poor picture but I loved this project. A friend of mine has been transferred to a new branch of his job and had to exchange his daily motorcycle rides for a car. This, naturally, had him pretty upset. So, I designed this illustration and made it into a CD Poket to hold music and books on tape. I also bought him a trial subscription to audible.com to help ease the hours of carpooling. Of course, I wanted his car to be perfectly clear on where his true affections lie — he will always be a biker boy.

OK — we’re almost done posting photos taken with my awful camera. Stay tuned for the final embroidery installation!

More embroidered aprons

Mal | Finished Projects,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Sunday, February 1st, 2009

I mentioned before that during my convalescence I was drawn to fabric arts and, particularly, embroidery. Fortunately, this coincided with the holidays and I was able to handcraft every single one of my gifts for Christmas and Hannukah. With one exception (a book I bound), all of the gifts were made of cloth (though even the book was bound with a cloth of my choosing), and nearly all of those had some personalized embroidery that I designed.

Awesome apron

This is the first of the aprons that I made — and was given to my older sister. She had rushed to my side from far away to be with me when I was hospitalized. She kept extending and extending her stay until I finally sent her away. I’m sure her family of husband and three kids (including 2-year-old boy!) appreciated having her back. I didn’t know how else to express my deep gratitude and admiration for her after that experience. I sort of hope that when she wears it, her children roll their eyes.

Helpful apron

Another apron — this one mentioned when I posted about its mate — was for my brother. I totally adore the halo and smiley face on this one. All the aprons are reversible with snaps on the neckstraps so they can be adjustable.

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