N Is For… Needlepoint!


This is one of the earliest pieces I’ve worked in needlepoint.  It’s comparatively early in my stitching career, since I did it when I was sixteen to seventeen; it took me about eighteen months in total.  It was, at the time, my most ambitious piece.  Sadly, it was damaged by the recipient when it was removed from the frame and returned to me; however, the fine folks at North Shore Needleworks were able to help me start the repairs (which is why their tape is around the edges, stopping the canvas from unraveling).  It’s incredibly difficult to age-match colors, let me tell you; but North Shore helped me do so in a way that will look good in the final design.

This piece is characterized by long floats, where the yarn is brought several inches across the canvas.  This is to simulate the difference in texture between the water, the objects in the picture, and the sky.  Most of the stitching is just satin stitch, which made it a pretty easy piece and certainly something a beginner can work.  It was originally from a kit, though I no longer recall the company’s name that produced it.  I like it because it reminds me of Coyote Point near San Mateo (it’s actually in San Mateo County, though not the city itself).

What about you, Dear Reader?
What crafts did you do as a child that make you nostalgic?  Or, if you weren’t into crafting, what places did you visit?

N Is For… Needlepoint!

2015-04-16 NI’ve got a sister post up at Knoontime Knitting, showing you some of my needlepoint. But since it was one of my first arts, I wanted to share some more thoughts about it.

To get started in needlepoint is a snap.  It’s a great art to try if you find stitches intimidating.  The basic method is that you color in a grid using single stitches, and “painting” a design with the threads.  There are, of course, very fine designs with teeny-tiny stitches; but you can also find nice big grids that aren’t at all difficult.  There are even stiff plastic grids that you can get and use them to make physical objects like boxes and, yes, really ugly tissue box covers.  🙂

I love making boxes, actually.  There’s no reason one has to use ugly, fake-looking, cheap yarn to make a box.  One can just as easily use nice yarn and pleasing designs.  Making small boxes isn’t difficult, either, which is part of the appeal.  And here’s a mind-bender:  select a nice overdyed yarn (one of those multi-colored yarns) and you don’t even have to “paint” the design – the yarn does it for you.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What would you put in a needlepoint box?

B Is For… Bargello!

Today’s letter, B, can mean many things. My favorite in terms of crafts is Bargello, the Italian needle art that resembles flames and waves. The image to the left is a common style, with the colors undulating back and forth across the canvas but all relating to each other in their pattern.

It’s a simple pattern to work, because it’s essentially vertical or horizontal. There’s no fancy stitchwork involved, just carefully placing the stitches neatly one beside the next, offset in order to create the characteristic wave or flame effect.

A quick search of Google images reveals many, many modern interpretations of this relaxing art; I recommend wandering around or, if you’re ready to take the plunge, grab a kit and try it for yourself. For the brave at heart, you don’t even really need a kit. Just select some colors and play with the wave effect across a swath of mesh fabric.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What’s your favorite craft that starts with the letter “B”?

Stash Sunday

I am working on the Emerald Keep scarf for the Keepsake Tour, which of course means that I instantly want to play with something from my stash. Doesn’t that always happen?

So here’s what’s on my desk right now, that’s not the Keepsake scarf:

Top left is my character binder for the novels currently in progress, (Sealed by Duty and Sapphire Dream, in case you’re curious).  Under that is my Franklin Planner.  On its side is some pretty Caron Simply Soft Paints yarn, which I bought when I bought the yarn for the Emerald Keep scarf but am not using in it.

Which begs the question, what shall I make with it?  ~rubs hands together~

Next is my keys.  This is important.  Hard to get into the house without them.

Don’t ask me how I know that.  I don’t want to talk about it.

Moving right along, we come to the Caron ball band for the light green yarn in the Emerald Keep scarf.  The glue failed and it fell off, so I brought it in here to make sure I have it up on Ravelry before I discard it.

The grey is for a possible pair of Quill’s Socks, which were featured in Emerald Fire and remarked upon by every editor who worked on it as well as several fans.  Yes, Teeka finished the socks, yes, Quill liked them, and yes, I’ll feature a pattern for them when the website redesign goes live – and I might even make a pair of them to give away at some point.  Though, in all honesty, I probably won’t have time to make them for this Keepsake Tour.

Next is the yarn I bought to make Rachel a pair of fingerless mitts she can use in the hot climate of the Nevada desert.  I’ll use some kind of lace pattern on them, probably but right now I’m just sketching with it.

I realized I caught the edge of my little post-it note with Rule #11 from NCIS:  “When the job is done, walk away.”

On the right of my desk, I have two needlework kits that I’m looking forward to starting.  One is a ladybug which is in honor of the fictiious Ladybug Bed and Breakfast.  The other is a lovely peacock I bought while visiting Rachel last month – I adore peacocks.

What’s in your stash?

Round Like a Triangle

I decided to try a triangular box, with more or less successful results.  A couple challenges presented themselves:

  • 3″ triangles
  • the grid on the triangles themselves
  • getting the rectangles to match up with the triangles
  • edge stitch

Taking them in order, the first issue is that the largest triangles I could find are 3″ on a side.  I checked the internet but that’s the largest one available that I could see.

I tried cutting the rectangular grids into a triangle, but the hypotenuse isn’t supported enough and it’s not straight.  It’s like cutting a diagonal line across a piece of graph paper.

Because the base is 3″, the box is only 3″ in size.  I decided to start with the lid and make it small. It worked well, as you can see, but then I got the idea to make the base very tall as an experiment:

I made the base much taller and I like how the base came out.  Unlike the square box, I made the base with the “right” side facing out, since the inside is so narrow.
The next problem from a design standpoint is that the grid on the triangular pieces isn’t square, it’s successive triangles.  
I decided to use a simple tent stitch on it, but it wasn’t easy to make it even and cover the plastic evenly.

The last two problems are part of each other.  The first was getting the rectangles I used for the sides to match up with the triangles.  It worked, sort of, but will take practice.  The second is what to use for the edges.  I used the edge stitching for the top of the box, pictured above.  For the bottom, I used simple overcast stitching.  The overcast stitching, which not as pretty, is much better to use for the project.

In all, it’s a successful experiment but I’m not as happy with the box as I want to be.  I’ll have to try it again and see what works better.

Round Is the New Square

Chapter Two in the Great Box Experiment is underway with… drum roll please… a round box!

The first challenge is to find round plastic disks to work with.  Fortunately for me, I’ve used them many times before.

But, apparently, I didn’t read the instructions ver well because the first disk I made is an inch and a half bigger than the pattern.  Uhps!

The round box is a lot of fun to make because has a liner inside the box and under the lid.  I used an edge stitch around the lid, but the directions call for overcasting but I used an edge stitch, which is prettier but bulkier.  This means the lid is a little too big.

Maybe I should try reading the instructions, eh?

I took a picture of the box but it’s hard to see how small it is; here’s another shot next to my ballpoint pen so you can see it.

If you set the lid on top, you can’t really tell that it’s too big, but the inside lip of the lid doesn’t really fit inside the piece below it.  I think there’s two problems at work here:  first, I used a 4.5 inch diameter disc and cut it down to 3 inches; and second, the stitching is too thick for the lid.  In the next attempt, I’ll make a new base for this lid and a new lid for this box.

The underside of the lid is pretty too; this is a second piece embroidered and then attached to the top.

Here’s the piece with the lining removed so you can see all the parts.

And finally, a close-up of the lining back inside the box.

I had a lot of fun with this one.  My inner critic is jumping up and down because it doesn’t fit correctly, but that’s okay.  My inner critic doesn’t get a vote.

What do you want to make next?

Needlepoint Box

I have written before about fabric boxes.  If you’re curious, there are four other articles here:  OneTwoThree, and Four.  I am enthralled by boxes, be they polymer clay, needlepoint, or wood.  Recently I decided to revisit the boxes of Meg Evans, which I’ve made before.  This time I decided to play with her exact design.  And therein started the problems.

Hand-Stitched Boxes:  Plastic Canvas, Cross Stitch, Embroidery, Patchwork, by Meg Evans

Ms. Evans’ book is a delight.  She has instructions for many different types of boxes, including some fun ones that fall open in a sort of puzzle-like fashion that I’m dying to make.  They’re above my skills, and then it hit me: practice!

I bought supplies to make all the easy boxes with the exception of the kleenex box covers, since I’m not  a huge fan of them.  I started with the square box since I’ve made it before.  How hard could it be, right?

This is the beginning of the design.  It uses crewel wool and pearl cotton, held double.  I had fun working out the cover and then started doing the central diamond.

Only one problem: I misread the instructions and was supposed to do a square 30 bars wide, but I cut it 30 squares wide.  By the time I caught it, it was too late to fix it without taking the entire thing apart.  

I figured, to heck with it, I’d just finish the top.  In the image below, the top is along the top row, on the right.

Then I started working the bottom piece.  This time, I added two extra lines of ivory squares to make up for the mistake in cutting the boxes too large.
I finished the design and realized that I’d forgotten to put in the center squares on two of the parts of the diamond.

I worked the walls of the bottom piece last and laid them out so you can see the design.

It sewed up fairly quickly.  Here it is with the first wall up.

As I finished the rest of the sides, I realized something.  You can see it in the image below.  There’s a little face!

I showed this to a friend of mine and she said it looks like a little cat face.  I think it looks like a little robot.

I used the dark blue to finish the top of the bottom part of the box as well as the edging along the top.  It came out quite striking, especially when you see both pieces side-by-side.

This is the completed box put together.  
I learned a lot from this project, but nothing I expected.  I don’t really have a better idea of how to put the complicated boxes together, but I learned to accept my mistakes and keep going.  The only part I took out was the one side I put on too tightly; the rest of it, I let stand because it made the box unique.
See, here’s the thing:  I do this to relax, not to make perfect boxes.  I don’t need to do make a box exactly like the instructions, I can play around with it.

Box Loff – The Extended Cut

I found some more pictures.  (Can you tell I’m finally cleaning out my photo folders?)

I finished the stitching on the pieces, and have actually sewn the bottom of the box.  I need to get going on finishing it so I can move on to the next project, but here’s some more pictures of the process:

Here are the four pieces for the sides.

I varied the green, rather than the blue or the brown, in order to get the width I wanted.  I’m using the green to sew up the box, in order to provide contrast and give the design ‘pop.’

Detail of one of the side pieces.  I doubled up on the brown yarn, since it was more of a DK weight than the other two, which were worsted weight (the green, even, seemed a little on the bulky side).

Here are all ten pieces.  The set on the left is for the top, and the right is for the bottom.  The box top will sit down over the entire part of the bottom.

I’m making the box to hold my essential oils from Jeanne Rose, because my cat, Boria, likes to toss them all over the table when I have them all nice and organized.  (Necessity is the mother of invention?  Whoever said that never had a cat!  Defense of one’s things is the mother of invention!)

Here is a close-up of the top of the box:

It’s got quite a bit of loft from the yarn.  Since I’m doing a standard needlepoint stitch, it’s as thick on the bottom as it is on the top.  It gives it a lot of padding.  The plastic mesh, though, isn’t very strong, so it wouldn’t be a good candidate for a box to be carried in a purse.  I’d like to see if there are materials (metal screen, maybe?) that would be good for that.

This is the bottom of the box.  You can clearly see the extra row around the edge where the top of the box, once it’s sewn, will sit down over the bottom.  The outer edge of the bottom will just have a satin stitch around the edge.

Here are both pieces side-by-side; they are 3″ square.

This is the in-process view of the sides for the top of the box.  I did the brown design first because I wanted to see how it would look in the finished product; the reason we used brown was to match the table that it will be sitting on and I wanted to see if that worked.  It does.  I don’t yet have a picture of the box on that table, but will get one once the box is completed.

It’s a little out of focus, but here is a detail of the brown yarn.  It’s held double, whereas the green and blue are just single.

Here is a little better shot of the same detail where you can get a good look at the plastic mesh. 

Here is a detail of all three colors interacting together.  It’s not an arrangement I would have thought of just off the cuff, but I’m glad we decided to put them all together.  I think the finished design is pleasing and it matches the table, so it’s a success all around.

Box Loff Revisited

As you know, last year I experimented with needlepoint boxes.  When Rachel visited in July, I showed her the box in my office. Later on, we got to talking and came up with a design for another one.

I have several images that I’m tardy in posting, but here are a few.

This first one actually has nothing to do with the box itself, exactly; it’s one of two shots from the impromptu artist date I took the morning I had my perio cleaning.  I was very upset about having to do it, scared and sad, and I decided to go to the park to sit and try to relax and ground.  This was one of the views from my chair:

This is part of the Forest Preserve of Cook County, a huge green space that rings the city of Chicago.  It’s quite beautiful.  We’re lucky to be surrounded by such green; and in fact, the motto of the city is Urbs in Horto, or City in a Garden.

The camera on my telephone doesn’t do a very good color balance with the sun, but the view this direction went into a little shaded grotto-like space I could imagine all sorts of little fairy-like creatures inhabiting.

My chair and the calligraphy set that I bought myself as a present.  It’s not actually a very good set of pens, but I did at least support my art.

Inside the famous knitting bag.  It’s getting very ratty now, and is going to need some surgery on the handle, but I still like it.  (My mother, who died in July of 2000, made it.)

This is the top and bottom of the box, and the side I’m holding is the back-side of the bottom to show the stitches.  The brown matches the brown on my table at home, and the blue is a Brede’s Knot, a symbol of the Goddess, Brede.

Here are the two pieces side by side, to get an idea of the pattern.  We drew it out on paper first, coloring in the boxes, and had a couple different drafts before settling on this one.

Birthday Project

Happy birthday to meeeee! (Actually, my birthday is May 8th, but still…) I received some money for a gift and took myself to get a Bucilla needlepoint kit. I didn’t realize this, but Bucilla is now owned by Plaid Online, a collection of a number of handicraft providers.

I selected “Oriental Crane,” a lovely pattern of painted canvass needlepoint. It comes with crewel wool, floss, metallic thread and beads. I’m looking forward to working on it. I haven’t completed it (I’ve only just started separating the yarns), but I’m enjoying the colors.

The only complaint I have is the instructions are awful. They are written in about six different languages and it appears that in trying to solve the problem of being an international company, they’ve missed the mark. While there are six languages, the actual instructions are so skimpy that if I weren’t an experienced needle worker I would be lost. For example, if I handed the kit to my husband, who is good at needlepoint but not very experienced, he wouldn’t know how to complete the kit. It’s a shame.

I’ll post more in-process pictures once I have something interesting to look at, but here’s the design so you can at least see what I’m doing.

I’m thinking I might frame it and hang it on my wall at my office. We’ll see.