Thursday, January 31, 2008

Knitting With Fabric!

While counting the hours until tomorrow and eagerly awaiting the next TIF Challenge, I realized that in becoming a blog junky as a result of joining this activity and seeing so many gorgeous things done in different media, but with a common denominator (the colors), I saw "batik" fabric mentioned several times. I do admire these - both the real things done with wax resist, and what is sold now in quilt shops as "batik." These are vat dyed, so there is no right or wrong side to deal with, as with printed fabrics. Several years ago I got the urge to re-create a thing I enjoyed back in the 80's - cutting fabrics into strips and knitting with them. I think the ladies in the quilt shop kind of winced when I told them what I was doing, as I accumulated yet another fine stash of raw materials ( yards and yards of gorgeous fabrics). I think the most enjoyable project I came up with was making these little tote bags for my grand daughters to enhance the "poor girl" look. (I will have to say, this poor girl thing gets rather expensive, from the looks of the shopping bags they bring home.) The challenge in designing this tote bag, which was knit (except for the I-cord strap) all in one piece - gussets included, was making the chart. I have graph paper that I can print out to my required size in the format for knitting (a bit different, as they aren't square), but had to remind myself after a dumb error or two, that some of them had to be upside down when arriving past the bottom and starting on the opposite side. Also, I found it easier on the ones, like this one, that weren't symmetric, to make a mirror image of the pattern to make it easier and less confusing. Anyway - the only thing on this bag that isn't batik is the heart - I like the kind of "tweedy" look of the knitted batik fabric around the stronger, solid color of the central motif. Pillows are also quite wonderful done with fabric strips, and are achieved in a minimum amount of time, due to using large needles - up to size 13. The look isn't Shabby Chic, but rather "Raggedy Chic" in that they aren't faded and worn looking - just a bit rustic due to the mottled appearance of the fabrics when knitted, and the little fibers that unravel on the edges. The "lodge look" maybe?? The three geometric looking pillows are knit in patterns from the Barbara G. Walker TREASURY OF KNITTING PATTERNS - Mosaic knits. They look complicated, but are extremely easy to work, and very entertaining. I am hoping that at least one of the challenges this year will include something that may be adapted to fabric strip knitting, as I do enjoy diversifying. I do not believe in forcing any art medium, fiber or otherwise, to do something not natural to its inherent qualities, but do believe I could do a bit of "enhancing" of some sort on the knitted tote bags. Interesting thought.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Purple and Green!

I found this piece yesterday, which apparently I had done several months ago and forgotten about - I used one of my favorite color schemes, which is coincidentally very close to Sharon B.'s TIF Challenge palette. Interesting! Anyway - the response to my "crazy quilt" needlepoint things has been tremendous - very gratifying, so I have decided to soon offer the patterns and instructions via e-mail, in the form of "e-patterns" (on my web page) which will be sent in PDF form to be printed out and enjoyed for creating one's own projects in the colors of choice, preferably just pulled from one's own stash. This is easier for everyone, I think, as there is no waiting for a package to arrive in the mail, and the thing will be quite inexpensive besides, as it involves no painted canvas, no trip to the post office, no printing expenses, on my end of it. Also, if you spill your morning coffee or afternoon tea on it, you can just print out another one. My web page is undergoing yet another revision, as I have not tended it like I should - and it looks a bit shabby and incomplete and disorganized at the moment - but this too shall pass. P.S. Please note, when enlarging this picture for a better view, that the French knots are quite tidy and nice looking. So far, nothing has fallen out.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

TIF January - All Finished!

This could be titled "an exercise in French Knots" - or "futility." I remember a needlepoint shop owner about 25 years ago chortling in glee over the fact that I cannot make nice French Knots - and if I achieve one, it usually falls out. I have studied and examined the best - watched fine tutorials, and taken advice from experts - but it just doesn't happen. Anyway - it seemed to me that French Knots were the thing for embellishing this piece, as I didn' want to use a lot of petaled silk ribbon flowers, due to the sophistication of Sharon B.'s color choices. My goal with this was to do the surface embroidery without losing the character of the work, but making it interesting and pretty. The little pink/orange flowers were added at the end, (Thread Gatherer silk ribbon overdyed) as it really really needed that bit of color to jazz it up. I never pre-plan the embroidery part of these pieces in needlepoint, as I have learned from experience that it doesn't work anyway - so I just start out by taking a deep breath, threading my needle, and getting started somewhere with a vague idea of what I want - and the rest just happens. It's kind of like painting free form, as I can add and subtract as needed - and one area done seems to suggest the next. Lots of fun and very creative - but kind of scary at times, as I'm never sure how it will turn out. I may take this out of the box in a few days, and decide it needs a little something else. Anyway, I really enjoyed this challenge, and look forward to the next one. When Inge returns from Sweden next month, I will send this off to Dallas to her to have it made into a zippered moire' jewel case as a very special gift for a good friend who keeps me inspired and encouraged and motivated.

Friday, January 25, 2008

TIF - The seams are "treated"

It's almost done now. The seam treatments do just that - they cover and decorate the jagged, irregular edges of the patches that are created by the textured stitches. I don't plan ahead for these - only a kind of vague idea of what will be done, as I learned from experience that it works better to just build as I go. This piece needs to stay rather subtle, as are the beautiful colors. The fun part will begin tomorrow when I'm not tired - and again, it will just build bit by bit as the design suggests itself. Out comes the silk ribbon and Kreinik metallic stuff!!! Then it's almost instant gratification, and, as usual, I will have a real problem declaring it finished and stopping. The stem stitch seam treatment on the light purple patch was done with Thread Gatherer overdyed 4mm silk ribbon in "berry melange." I do like the effect!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Needlepoint from Antique Porcelains

This is one of my favorite designs of all time that I have done in my life's work as a needlepoint designer. The major body of work in the 70's was drawn from plates and bowls from the period of about the mid 19th century, and earlier when I could find it. Besides the Japanese Imari, which I loved, there was also the Chinese Celadon, Rose Medallion, Canton Roosters - and even a bit of Gaudy Welsh. A lot of research into symbolism and even into the glazing methods made it all the more fascinating. This piece is the one I will do if I live long enough, as I have never actually finished one of my old, classic designs. A long time friend of my mother's brought me a plate sometime in the mid 70's - that she had purchased in Japan in about 1920, and wanted me to paint a canvas for her - I did, added it to my wholesale line, and it became "Nellie's Imari." Beautiful thing it was. I painted this canvas about ten years ago, as my sister had stitched one waaaay back then, (and loaned it to me to copy one for myself) - but all in Paternayan Persian, which is what we had at that time. Now we have gorgeous silks and metallics to use, so I'm glad I waited. Maybe I will assign myself this to stitch simply because I want to sometime this year. I don't often have that luxury!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

TIF Stitching the "Fabrics"

The handicap with this project is that it is rather slow having to stitch the "fabrics." I wanted to stick to the five beautiful colors selected for this Challenge by SharonB. for this month - but when I got to what I call "eggplant" - the dark, gorgeous purple, (Splendor silk by Rainbow Gallery) - it turned almost black due to the way the light is broken up on the surface by the small stitches. Sooooo I had to rip it out and replace with a lighter purple that didn't look so harsh. For the yellowish green patch, I used Soie Cristale silk by Caron in "double" stitch, but put little stitches of Kreinik metallic ribbon in the blank spaces instead of the silk - it almost looks like a netting over lame' to do it this way. The Petite Very Velvet light purple patch is basketweave, which is about all one can do with this fiber - and I love it!! The other two patches, the dark green and the blue/green are YLI Ribbon floss. The dark is Scotch stitch, which I work diagonally to prevent warping the canvas, and the lighter blue/green is done in Nobuko. Great effect with the light on it!!. I will finish stitching the patches in a day or two after I get my other work done, and then the best part of this challenge for me - the embellishment!!! By putting it away for a day or two, it will probably "speak" to me when I'm not so tired of looking at it, and when I'm more relaxed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Small Things

About ten or eleven years ago, I had just begun to discover and play around with the sparkling fibers for needlepoint that would make wonderful "jewel" effects. At the same time, I found a great source of pictures of antique jewelry featuring bugs of all kinds. Soooo, loving bugs and butterflies, "jeweled" bugs evolved from that, but, as usual, I ended up with a drawer/closet shelf/box full of the things I had no idea what to do with. Vikki used to like to go through these items and snag a few to take home to experiment with in her fabulous finishing. This picture is of a small, sparkling and saucy looking evening bag she made with a little rectangle of black canvas featuring a jeweled butterfly - and, of course, beads on the openwork background. She added the fringe she made with faceted black beads on the bottom for added personality. I am loving this thing, and wish I had a party to go to - wearing a little black dress, of course. (I don't think this would be as effective as it was 40 years ago.) Anyway, I tired after several years of producing these things for the commercial needlepoint market, and put away the patterns and pictures. Lately, however, as I have had such great response from the laces, trims, and ribbons I have done, I am thinking I could also offer the butterflies and bugs (and even a spider or two) as "e-patterns" on my web page that people could do for themselves and bypass the expense of the painted canvas - and also my labor. E-patterns are a new thing to me, and I think they are great - the expense is cut to a minimum, as it is a do-it-yourself project, eliminating the high price of painted canvas, and also the additional cost of the shipping, etc. They are delivered by e-mail in PDF form so can simply be printed out at home. If you spill coffee on one, you can print out another one. It's time, I think, to go dig in the boxes and the back of the filing cabinet again to see what else I can find - maybe even a trip to Vikki's house.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Filet Lace in Needlepoint

This needed to be finished before I continue work on my TIF pieces, and before it falls into the UFO box instead of just being a WISP (work in slow progress). A simple thing - and stitched in perle cotton both for economy and for quick cleaning, as it is for a child - my little grand daughter Sophie. (and for portability on the airplane, as I can still see 13 mesh canvas without a magnifier) The idea of the lace edging actually dates back to my work in the 70's, when I was trying to produce "special effects" to add interest to my painted canvases - and also for simple things, such as monograms, quotes, names, quilt patterns, etc. Crocheted lace is such a mathematical thing in its construction that it is fascinating for me to work with on needlepoint canvas. I especially have loved the filet lace, as it reminds me so of a little pillow case edging my great grandmother made when I was a baby - with a row of ducks on it. I like to just make the "grid" of tent stitches, and then fill in the design portion with smyrna crosses, as the little "bumps" stand out. The background color in the lace is filled in with just plain mosaic stitch. This is the only thing I ever use graph paper for in my needlepoint designing - it's so easy to just pencil in a pattern into the little squares - Try it!!! Incidentally, being a bit lazy, and stitching for relaxation and pleasure, I draw the pattern onto canvas with my permanent Pilot pen so that I won't have to count from a chart while stitching. In the past, I have made my needlepoint lace white or ecru, as this is traditional in the Irish lace I love to replicate - but now that I have fallen under the influence of the art crazy quilters, I am LOVING doing colored lace - even with overdyed threads and/or metallics. Great fun and great effects!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Beginning the Project

This is how it begins! I was having a bit of trouble deciding what shape to use for this, as I am weary of hearts, and a small square would be boring, and this pallette is really not suitable for an ornament - and then it came to me! A crazy quilt top for a jewel case (in needlepoint, of course) - like the Talavera cases I am to stitch before April. (oh dear). Anyway, starting with the beautiful color selections for the January TIF Challenge, I had already filled a bag with threads from my stash. I had a lot, as this includes my favorites! Now to begin to plan a design, put it onto canvas, and eliminate and/or exchange some of the fibers. I'm sure I will do this several times before it is done. I need a circle 4 1/2" diameter, plus a few threads all around for the seam allowance - and am fortunate to have a little plastic bowl exactly those dimensions to use as a template. I won't paint the thing for several reasons: 1. I am too lazy. 2. I would rather stitch on bare white canvas anyway. 3. I will probaby change my mind about color placement anyway, as I always change the plan when I get started. I have been saving the pictures of A. Aller's laptop bag she made for the Houston Quilt Show a while back - so of course went straight to that, as I love the embellishments (don't I always?). It is from her work that I learned that the seam treatments may be just that, but other embellishments may dance around the piece, leading the eye where it should go (according to the artist) and then back again. It's rather like an exuberant and joyful dance, sometimes. I especially like the needle lace flowers (Oyas) from Turkey on this one - thanks to our friend Rengin in Istanbul, who sent them to Allie. Anyway - Hopefully I can get started on this tonight!! What fun. And then on to Dallas to Inge for a wonderful zippered jewelry case.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Needlepoint Jewel Cases

Stalling a bit here, as I still haven't decided on a design for TIF Challenge. These were made by Creative Needle, - the brainstorm of my friend Inge Wooley from way back in the 70's ("the good old days"). The first ones she did were amazing - zippered cases with moire' ruching around the gusset, and very beautifully made. Motifs from some of my Imari designs were used, as well as other things in more recent years, such as the Faberge' enamel design motifs. Now she is using my latest passion - the Talavera of the exuberant, and somewhat gaudy, Mexican style. I originally drew these two pieces with tree ornaments in mind, or even "kissing balls," as they would be so much fun to put beads and other assorted glitter and sparkle to jazz them up a bit. The pillows painted from this source of design are entirely too busy in pattern and color without the use of novelty threads and textured stitches - but Inge saw jewelry case tops - so has sent me these, hoping I will have them stitched before the market in Dallas in April. YIKES! but busy is good! (so I'm told) The deal with these things is that they are already "finished" and don't have to go anywhere to get them ready for giving or just keeping for oneself. Incidentally, this is one of the projects for which I have really enjoyed the use of the Kreinik metallic ribbon for the tent stitch outlining - the navy in a High Lustre type. In the braid, sometimes the HL is a bit too stiff for effective stitching of this sort.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Challenge!

I'm running behind already this month - have been ill with a bug I acquired on the plane returning from my wonderfull holiday with a son in north Florida. Antibiotics are as highly regarded by me at the present time, and as necessary as the internet and blogs. I had a bit of trouble with light today, as the cloud cover keeps shifting and the sun peeping through - but here is what I have pulled from the heaps and heaps of great fibers (and some not so great, but treasured anyway) in my stash. The colors are included in my repertoire of "favorites" - that purple used to be called "eggplant" in the 70's, and then became "plum" at some point. We had no fine name for it in color theory, but the variations of purples available in needlepoint threads is unbelievable. I remember Maggie Lane in her book NEEDLEPOINT BY DESIGN describing choosing a color scheme for her elegant work by just dumping out a trunkful of yarn and letting things fall where they may. I do remember her description of one of her favorites - "eggplant" with soft blue green. In this array, I chose for texture also, as the almost sheer Spark Organdy by YLI, the Petite Very Velvet by Rainbow Gallery, and of course the Kreinik metallic ribbon that I so enjoy. Of course I have chosen to do my usual - a needlepoint version of Art Crazy Quilt - my new kind of design that has been totally inspired and encouraged by the ladies (mainly Allison Aller) who create art with fabrics and embellishments. I spend more time cruising these blogs than I do on the ones about needlepoint. The next step will be to draw a design and start pulling threads!!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Ceramic Hurricane Blessing

Just a short note - to my delight, as I could find no way to contact Denise Broussard, who makes these lovely things, I just received an e-mail from her, giving me a contact address: You may send inquiries to her here. I am trying to get her to send me a picture or two of her other work, as well as the double palm tree cross, which is done for Katrina/Rita. Please see the post below "HookWreck Henry's" for the history and significance of the palm tree.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hook Wreck Henry's - phase II "my trip"

It is said that the artist sees the world through different eyes - and I believe in my case it's entirely true! I get such great enjoyment from the simple things - nature and also the picturesque. I will start off with a picture of the back of my T-shirt that Jason gave me at his Dockside Cafe - Hook Wreck Henry's. I wore it with pride yesterday when I went to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment of a bit of walking pneumonia I acquired from a lady next to me on the plane back to Austin. (it's good to be past 60, and allowed to be a bit eccentric). It was soooo good to see this boy (man now approaching 40) who was so very bad along with my Charlie since they became friends at age 14. I got several really fine, heartfelt hugs from him. It's good to see them all happy and doing well and behaving, etc. Miraculous! This is the back of the place, as the front is on the water. It looks like any other little fishing village restaurant, but the food and interior are quite different. There is no fried food - Jason went to culinary school, so serves the finest of seafood dishes - beautifully prepared and presented in this rustic setting. The pier runs along the front by the open air eating area, which includes a bar in a "Tiki" shack with hidden gas heaters to keep visitors warm on chilly, dreary days while sipping and dining outside. The flag says Surrender the Booty, which, of course, my little grandson loved when I showed him the picture. ( My daughter frowned.) Oh well. Isn't that what grandmothers do? closeup of the flag: The fishing boat (Denny's) came in while we were there, as did a flock of pelicans that were, I swear, posing for a picture for me to paint. Denny goes out to catch fresh grouper for the restaurant. YUM! This place is just up the street a bit from what I call the Rainbow House - in my previous post. I am determined to go back, rent that house, and set up my computer and painting studio. It was good for the soul, and stimulated some creativity I thought I had lost.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Hurricane Blessing in Clay

"It is good to know the truth, but it is better to speak of palm trees." (ancient Sumerian proverb.) This beautiful cross was a gift to my daughter-in-law (north Florida) from her mother, who joined us, to my delight, for Christmas. - she lives in Lafayette, La. where crawdads are referred to as "crayfish." She assures me that the difference is that crawdads grow in creeks where little boys catch them for fish bait - and crayfish are carefully cultivated in rice paddies. Anyway, there were some wonderful dishes prepared (to the tune of a lot of laughter) while I was there - with names I can't pronounce. This cross was made by a ceramic artist in Lafayette - Denise Broussard, and has a brief history of the palm tree, which is new to me. They were cultivated in Mesopotamia as long ago as 6,000 years, and in ancient Egypt, they were embossed on Hebrew coins as a symbol of strength. In Biblical times, the palm was a symbol of victory and well-being, and so became the symbol of the victory of the faithful over the enemies of the soul - by the Christians. The stately palm tree remains today still as a symbol of protection, strength, and victory. Consider that the palm tree bends with the storm, but doesn't break. I believe this charming cross was purchased at Natalee's gift shop in Lafayette. Anyway - this is a bit of interest I wanted to present, as I am enchanted with both the clay sculpture and with the history, of which I was unaware. It will also buy me a bit of time while I am still planning the second installment of my trip to Florida - adventures at Hook Wreck Henry's. A footnote: This is also available with two palm trees, which stand for the hurricanes Katrina and Rita. My DIL's mother lost her brother during Katrina. I am also glad to see a "hurricane blessing" on the wall at Charlie and Marion's house, as there was much damage done by Ivan - especially at Panacea, where I had so much fun at the "rainbow houses."