Thursday, December 20, 2018

'Twas the Week Before . . .

I've been inserting a hand-made holiday ornament in each of my Christmas greeting cards for at least the last 10 years. The challenges are many:
  • To create something small enough and flat enough to go into a greeting card and be sent by mail
  • To generate an idea that I don't mind repeating about 40 times to complete my holiday card list (one year I made mittens - they were really cute, but every ornament required TWO!)
  • To start early enough to execute said idea in stated multiples without making myself nutzoid by December 24th!

This year I hit the jackpot!

I've been experimenting with blackwork (see this post from earlier this year about biscornu), and with a little online research, I found a couple of small patterns suitable for some scraps of even weave linen, some fun variegated threads, and double sided fusible foam batting.

And, most importantly, an EARLY start!

I started stitching the little motifs in the summer months, and took threads and linens with me on vacation to Europe. Lots of long plane, train, and bus rides, as we traveled overseas and from city to city, made for good chunks of dedicated time with a needle in my hand.

First I created the stitchery, each just over 1" square. Then trimmed them down, leaving about 1/4" of fabric around the stitching. Then, I sewed the stitchery to a sandwich of fusible foam batting and festive fabric prints on front and back (shown above). I suppose I should have used a zigzag stitch for the sewing, but I used a straight stitch. It's an ornament, and will likely never be washed, so the loose week linen should last acceptably well. 

And finally, I removed rows of the linen threads up to the stitching point, creating a fringy edge.

Making lots of linen thread scraps. Perfect for nesting season, even though that's several months off, at this point.

And repeated the process about 40 or so times.

I trimmed the sandwiches with pinking shears to fun-up the ornament edges, and added a hanging thread.

Ready to pop into a card and into the mail. . .and with time to spare!

If you're thinking something like this would be suitable for you. I have to say, I struggled a bit to find information about blackwork embroidery so I could learn more. This book (aff.) by Lesley Wilkins only recently crossed my attention, and I haven't really given it a good look-through just yet, but I plan to find a quiet moment beside the tree in the next few days to really take it in.

You can find lots of images on social media, Pinterest for example will generate lots of blackwork images on a search, but, I found, many of those links for more detail lead to dead ends.

If you want to tackle something like this, for next year, for example. Do plan ahead so you can relax and savor each stitch. The technique is worthy of your best relaxation time. Stressy deadlines are counter productive with any kind of hand stitching, in my humble opinion.

In fact, I'm already looking ahead to 2019. No real plans for my ornaments yet, but Hardanger embroidery, or white work (even though I'm not using white thread in this sampler I'm working on), has my attention at the moment.

Whitework has a strong foot hold in Europe, but not so much in the US, or at least that's what I've found.

So I'm currently looking for some more sources to learn and hone this handwork method. How different can it be, you might ask? Hardanger is very big on texture. Several of the classic motifs include cutting and withdrawing threads from the base linen fabric, then 'decorating' the openings with more thread. I haven't quite managed the hang of it (that's kind of 'punny' isn't it?! Groan!)

As long as I'm taking a mini inventory of my current projects, this little number - a table runner - I started a few months back with *plenty* of time to complete by the holiday appears to be earmarked for Christmas 2019 at this point.

Rolling my eyes, and jus' keepin' it real, folks!

Have a lovely, wonderful, stitchy, holiday! Merry Christmas! And. . . 

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Something Legendary

In almost every culture, dating back to biblical times, the raven - a large, intelligent bird completely covered in black feathers - has earned a legendary reputation as trickster, provider, secret-keeper, and conspirator.

In scripture, the raven is said to have been the first bird Noah sent from the ark to look for land. In Norse mythology, Odin had two ravens that would serve as his eyes and ears and report daily to the deity. In England, according to legend, the presence of ravens in London, particularly at the Tower of London, ensured that the British empire was secure.

For indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest, the raven is revered as a trickster. In an ancient story, the Raven, originally with white feathers, stole the sun, moon, fresh water, and fire from Gray Eagle. While flying away with the firebrand, the ashes turned the raven's feathers black. 

I know you've heard me blabbing on about Your Nest Organizers before. But with less than two weeks until Christmas, I don't want you to miss an opportunity to polish off your gift list with a little something different.

Raven is one of the three newest colors of Your Nest Organizers, and perhaps, in my humble opinion, it's the most versatile.

Similar the trickster it's named for, the Raven Your Nest Organizer is a clever desktop organizer. Even though it was developed to hold your most-loved sewing tools, it's great in other environments as well - office, dormitory, kitchen, craft room, work bench.

Raven--black--goes with just about every decor; it's a hot decorator color, it's gender neutral, and it looks sharp! It can be collegiate (Did you see the Army / Navy game last weekend? Yay, Army Black Knights!). It's just a cool little gadget that keeps your stuff handy.

My favorite feature is the scoop placed diagonally across one corner. A rotary cutter fits perfectly in there, but that's also a perfect resting place for a cell phone! 

And it's the perfect size for a stocking stuffer.

Plus it's in stock - all seven colors - including Raven. And it'll be there in time for the holiday, but only if you order soon.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

A Belated Wedding Gift

Back in September, just before we left for our vacation to Europe, Dave and I attended his second cousin's wedding. I purchased this adorable kit from Little Beach Hut in England. and it arrived only a few days before the wedding. The couple have a pet hedgehog named Pickle, so this sweet little cross stitch was perfect.

I knew that there was no way that I would get the project done in time for the wedding, but I began stitching anyway.

The surface area of the stitching is only about 4" in diameter.

Then travel happened, first for vacation, then to Houston for the quilt shows.

Well, I'm happy to say that I finally finished this little project! I purchased a wooden embroidery hoop at the local craft store, grabbed some felted wool and perle cotton and got busy. Basically, I followed this tutorial to secure and cover the back of the stitchery.

Add a little ribbon for hanging and. . .Ta done!

I was motivated get my act together to finish this little project because another of Dave's cousins had a baby shower this past weekend (different cousin), and I knew the newlywed cousin would be in attendance. . .

The stitchery has now reached its destination.

Now, for that unfinished baby quilt that didn't quite make it to the shower. . .

Happy Stitching!