Sampler #7-8 Update(s)

Crewel Shading Sampler Progress

Well, d’oh. I didn’t finish. I did finish the peachy heart, as you can see – I’m really pleased that its shading shows up in this photo, I was sure photos would never pick it up. It’s not dramatic, but I think the colors are lovely! Anyway, still the gray to go, so I’ll have to keep working on this one as I start Sampler #8: canvaswork.

I haven’t started stitching anything yet, but I have done a little research and made some decisions about my sampler – most importantly, that I won’t be making any decisions about this sampler. Part of the process each month is planning out a design that will suit the embroidery style. But that’s my least favorite part – I need a break! And I never really do any stitching that kind of just goes along as it goes, with no plan to worry about. How lovely it sounds to just sit back and stitch away, not thinking beyond the wool in my hand. Yum!

So that’s the plan for this one – no planning. I have a bit of a neutrals-and-lights color scheme in my head, but I’m just going to wing the specifics. I have gathered together just a few basic resources for us to get started with:

  • Because I’m going all improv with this sampler, I won’t do a whole week-by-week stitch-sharing thing. I hope that if you join in, you will just go with the flow with me! But to share stitch ideas and inspiration, I’ve made a Pinterest board just for Needlepoint. (If you check it out now and it’s very sparse, definitely go back later on – Pinterest seems to be having some technical difficulties today and I couldn’t bear to fight with it any more. I’ll keep adding to the board as I go!)
  • For further stitch inspiration, find DMC’s needlepoint / canvaswork stitch guide here
  • … and’s here.
  • This might not seem like much of a tip, but be sure to scan your stitch dictionaries for canvas stitches – they aren’t always separated into their own section.

I’m going to assume for the moment that if you’re reading this and interested in stitching along, you’ve probably done at least a little cross-stitch, which will give you plenty of background about starting and finishing threads and those sort of basics. But if you do have any questions, please shout – I love to help!

Vasilisa Crewel Embroidery Illustration (WIP)

Vasilisa Crewel Embroidery In Progress

I’ve been hinting for a few weeks – here and on Instagram, where I’ve shown a few sneaky peeks – about a big crewel project I’ve started. This is why I’ve chosen now to focus on crewel in my sampler project, I figured I could use the practice before I really got stuck into this one. (Please excuse the rumpled look in these photos – this is a WIP, after all.)

Vasilisa Crewel Embroidery In Progress

And when I say ‘I’ve’ started this big project, I really mean ‘we’ – this is, in fact, a project by the Little Dorrit & Co. team (myself and my mother, Chris), our first big non-pattern embroidery as partners. This embroidery is an illustration of the Russian fairy tale, “Vasilisa the Beautiful”. Mom says she’s wanted to illustrate this tale for years; coming from a part-Russian family, she read it as a child, and then I did as well. So this how we decided to work on it: together! We love the illustrative aspect of Little Dorrit & Co. – the joy of getting the right tiny, funny detail in place and getting to stitch up our favorite characters is what we enjoy most and, I think, what we’re best at. But we wanted a project that we could really go to town on, not holding back at all, which isn’t something we’ve done together before now.

Vasilisa Crewel Embroidery In Progress

If you don’t know the story (and I imagine most don’t), you can read the whole thing here, but here’s a little synopsis:

Vasilisa is beautiful, lovely and sweet, but she has a horrible stepmother and stepsisters and a father who is away a lot of the time. Luckily, her mother left her a magical little doll before she died, and this doll comes to life when Vasilisa needs help, offering advice and doing chores for her. When her step-family move her out to the forest and send her to their nearest neighbor – the evil witch Baba Yaga, who has a house that stands on chicken legs and a fence made of human skulls (that part really captured my imagination as a child, I could picture it so vividly!) – to get candles, she is held prisoner and made to be Baba Yaga’s slave under the threat of being eaten up! With the help of her little doll, Vasilisa is finally allowed to leave with a glowing skull as the light her step-family needed. And in a wonderful ending twist, the skull’s light burns the stepmother and stepsisters, punishing them for their cruelty, until Vasilisa kindly buries it and returns to her father.

Vasilisa Crewel Embroidery In Progress

So back to the embroidery: this piece will show Vasilisa and her doll, and there will be a second piece, to hang next to this one, of Baba Yaga and her spooky, witchy house. Mom has already drawn them both and she’s really outdone herself on them – you can see the basic Vasilisa design (it’s about A4-size) above, though Vasilisa herself will involve some appliqué so I haven’t transferred that detail yet. This is generally how we work together – we discuss detail and design, then she goes away and draws something wonderful. I generally take on most of the embroidery, because it’s what I love most, and she guides me on colors and we tweak as we go.

I’ll be showing a lot of these embroideries as we work, which I expect will take many months, so I do hope you go read the full tale if you’re interested in seeing them come together as illustrations. It’s such an odd story with crazy details, my little bare-bones synopsis just doesn’t do it justice!

I have to say, I’ve never loved a project the way I love this – it’s simply the most fun I’ve ever had stitching, and that is not hyperbole. I’m loving crewel embroidery more than anything else I’ve worked with and I love having the chance to get lost in the stitching of it. And to have a design this beautiful to work with?! Sigh!

More about the actual stitching in my next Vasilisa update!

Tools & Toys Tuesday: Embroidery Seat Frame

Tools & Toys Tuesday: Embroidery Seat Frame

Do you guys ever stitch with a seat frame? This is absolutely my favorite embroidery tool right now – I find it vital for crewelwork, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately, as you know. In case you’ve never used one, it is basically a hoop on a stand, and you slip that flat paddle-esque bit under your thigh and sit on it. This allows your hoop to sort of hover over your lap, leaving both hands free to manipulate thread.

Tools & Toys Tuesday: Embroidery Seat Frame

This isn’t the most photogenic scene, but this is generally where I stitch and how I sit. I can shift the frame from side to side and raise or lower it, as well as tilt the hoop itself to give me the angle I need. I don’t know why exactly I find my seat frame so invaluable for crewel stitching – I’ve never been one of those stitchers that can keep one hand above and one below the fabric. I’m much too awkward for that, but I suppose I do use both hands for crewel to position threads more than I would for other embroidery types.

My seat frame sat mostly unused for a long time, but I wouldn’t be able to live without it now that I’ve started using it more. I even bought two new hoop sizes for it when I was visiting the Royal School of Needlework shop at Hampton Court Palace recently!

Do you use any sort of special tools like this, stitchy peeps? Tell me about ’em!

Crewel Shading Sampler Progress (and so happy!)

Crewel Shading Progress

Much, MUCH better now. This project was bumming me out last week, but we’re much happier together now. I’m loving this crewel stitching so so much, it’s all I can think about!

The shades are still not showing great in photographs, but I did fix the first heart (the lighter blues) by bringing the lighter shade down further and treating it like a two-color heart. And since this is a sampler, it actually worked out ok to see how to work two-color shading in a shape, and how to deal with a thread color surprise on the fly. I’ve included the photo below, despite the nighttime-lighting awfulness, because it actually shows the shading in that first heart better than any of the daytime photos I’ve taken:

Crewel Shading Progress

The next blue heart, with three darker shades, worked just like it was meant to (shown below in progress). This one I shaded from top to bottom with no curves, and it was an absolute joy to stitch!

Crewel Shading Progress

Now I’m starting the third heart in soft peach-y shades, which I kind of suspect will be very, very close to each other but hopefully different enough to be visible. I’m quite addicted to this sampler now, I expect to be finished by next Monday, so only slightly behind schedule!

Shading Sampler update

Crewel Shading Sampler Progress

Oh, dear. It’s the 22nd already and this is all I’ve done?? Yikes. This is starting to look like one of those samplers I don’t finish in a month!

More importantly, this is all I’ve done and I’m really unhappy. Can you see what’s happened?

Although I chose consecutive numbers on the Appletons’ color card, these shades haven’t really worked out quite right. The bottom two shades (darkest and middle) do look right in the skein, but in stitch-reality, they are too close to each other and blend far too well. There is no real difference. And then the lightest shade did the opposite, taking a large jump, so it doesn’t blend so much as just overlap. Oy vey.

Crewel Shading Sampler Progress

(These aren’t great photos, I know, but the color difference showed better in lower light. And the truth is, the difference / non-difference is much worse in real life.)

Totally figures it’d be on the first heart I filled, making sure to crush my mojo for the rest of the sampler – but it does do a nice job illustrating the technique I’m attempting. You can see how my stitches are attempting to blend. If the shades were closer, you’d get a subtle effect so each single stitch wouldn’t stand out.

If this had been for a more formal project, I’d have stitch-tested my shades on a scrap before committing to them. As it is, I’ll probably have to treat this as a two-color heart and bring that lightest shade down to try for a more gradual / gentle blend. I’m not sure if that’ll actually work, but I do know that I cannot continue to work on this at night, which was part of my problem working on this first heart. This shading absolutely needs natural light!

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