stitches

Giveaway!!! &Stitches, Scandinavian Issue!

Comments are now closed and our winner will be announced shortly!

I don’t know how this happened, but I have somehow not yet mentioned that I am now a regular blogger over at the fantabulous embroidery blog, &Stitches!! Wha’?! Y’alls might remember that I did a guest tutorial series for them over the summer, and now I’m blogging there about once a week. It’s seriously super-awesome!

If you’ve never been there, &Stitches is pretty fantastic. Co-creators Carina (of Polka & Bloom) and Nicole (of Follow The White Bunny) offer such wonderful tutorials, patterns, stitch and style explorations, and so much more – their approach to embroidery meshes really well with my own. I really enjoy the research into different techniques and cultural traditions, the best uses for stitches and what they can do, etc. The geeky, technical stuff. So I feel really lucky to be able to join them on their blog and write about some of that stuff over there. Please, go check it out – if you like stitching, you won’t be sorry!

Today marks the release of issue 4 of the &Stitches digital magazine: Scandinavia &Stitches. It’s a pretty fantastic issue, you can trust me on that. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s got gorgeous patterns by both Nicole and Carina, as well as a lovely cross-stitch pattern by Emily Wilmarth of Floss Box, a gorgeous felt project by Anne Mende (preview above), book reviews, color inspiration, and … oh, yeah, wait … *I* have something in it too! I contributed a small article to the Scandinavian issue – I do hope you’ll go check it out! Really, there’s even more than that, and it’s so wonderful. I’m so proud that I got to be even a little involved!

You can head over right now and buy yourself a copy of Issue 4 (which you should totally do), but you can also stick around here and take your chances on winning a copy! Those lovely &Stitches gals have offered my readers a giveaway copy, so leave a comment here – just say hi, or tell me about a project you’re working on, or a joke, whatever you like really – and I’ll pick one winner by random number generation at noon, UK time, next Wednesday (the 24th of October). Go, go, go!

Lazy Daisies and their petals

Fun with Lazy Daisies

While photographing my Big Books of Needlecraft the other day, I noticed that one of them included instructions for lazy daisies with eight petals. For some reason, this struck me as both totally adorable and highly unusual. Maybe it’s just me, but I always, always do lazy daisies with five petals. I have no idea why, it’s just what I’ve always done. I checked some other vintage needlework books and, sure enough, several of those show lazy daisies with either six or eight petals as well.

Lazy Daisy instructions
Lazy Daisy instructions
Lazy Daisy instructions

From the top, these pages are from: my later 1940s / early-1950s copy of Odhams Big Book of Needlecraft, Odhams Encyclopedia of Needlecraft which I think is from 1954, and Mildred Graves Ryan’s Complete Encyclopedia of Stitchcraft from 1981. The last page is obviously not showing a complete lazy daisy, but from the placement and angle of those first two petals, I think we can conclude it is intended to have eight petals in the end. Or that’s my very CSI-like deduction, anyway.

Fun with Lazy Daisies

So I thought I’d do a little lazy daisy experiment and stitch a few with eight and a few with five, side by side on some small scrap of fabric. A quick little thing on whatever I had lying about, just to play with the difference. Not even a whole project, just an example. But it was fun and, um, I got a little carried away. They’re so adorable!

Fun with Lazy Daisies

So, how many petals do you put on your daisies?

The Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

Here’s a little project that went so fast, I never got a chance to show you anything in progress. Plus, it was all hush-hush because it was a gift for my father. Even though he totally knew about it. Anyway, Dad is, let’s just be honest here, a math nerd. He studied and taught math stuff (fancy math, not addition and subtraction, and don’t ask more because I don’t really know) and he gets geeky about it the way I get geeky about yarn. What are you gonna do?

Since I make samplers, modern samplers and whatnot, he asked me to make one for him, of a ‘magic square’. I suppose other math nerds will already know what he was talking about, but for the rest of us: a magic square looks a bit like a sudoku board, but the point is that every row / column / diagonal in it has to have the same sum. Apparently, there’s not many, and the one he wanted embroidered is the ‘classic’ magic square. If you want to know more, there’s a crap-ton of information here. (There’s a lot of info there, I haven’t even read it all myself.)

I sort of waited too long to get this started, so I was desperately stitching on – and past – his birthday, but I also had a little mis-hap.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

I got as far as four numbers stitched when I decided I really hated it. It seemed good on paper: the cute fabric, pearl cotton, blues – except that the more I looked at it, the more it looked like it belonged in a little’s boy room, teaching him his numbers. Sigh. So I started from scratch with more grown-up materials.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

Ah, much better. I was fine with the stitches I used in the first version, or at least a couple of them, so I (re-)started there. Then just sat with a stack of my stitch dictionaries and flipped until I found the right stitch for each number.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)
Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

There were a couple of do-overs – like the 5 I did entirely in tiny satin stitch, only to decide it was lumpy and pull it all out. Picking stitches for each letter / number on a sampler is both incredibly frustrating and extremely rewarding. The 5 in satin stitch would’ve been lovely, but it was way too difficult to get the curve exactly right, especially on a fairly loosely woven linen like this (from IKEA). Some stitches work better on curves, some look great on straight lines. Sometimes you can tell just by looking at it, sometimes you have to do a little trial-and-error and risk wasting time.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)
Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

For the most part, I used 4 strands to make the numbers a bit more chunky (and manly!) than, say, my Sajou sampler. And if you’d like to know which stitch I used where, here’s a little list (from top left to bottom right):

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

4 = coral stitch, 9 = raised chain stitch band, 2 = chain stitch, 3 = threaded backstitch, 5 = twisted chain stitch, 7 = fern stitch, 8 = threaded chain stitch, 1 = Portuguese stem stitch, 6 = double buttonhole stitch. The grid is just simple split stitch, and then I did a herringbone ladder stitch border around the whole to frame it. (Thanks to encouragement from some lovely Tweeters and Instagrammers. I wasn’t so sure about that herringbone border, but they convinced me it was good enough. Thanks, guys!)

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

Big Week Off: Stitching

It’s been a while since I showed off any progress on my Sajou sampler – mostly because I got so stuck on that G! After the last photo I shared, I decided to continue on that path and see how it went, but I guess my heart wasn’t quite in it. All those little angled stitches were so slow to get just right, I couldn’t quite bring myself to put in all the time and then have to rip it out again. But I really, really wanted to move on to the H and beyond, so I just dug in my heels and got on with it … (click away for bigger versions on Flickr)

Sajou Sampler  - WIP

… and it worked out pretty well in the end, don’tcha think?! Even after I’d done all those little stitches, I still wasn’t totally convinced — until I started the split stitch outline. That made all the difference. Now, after all that fussing and avoiding, I’m in love with it.

Sajou Sampler  - WIP

Because that one was, let’s just be honest, a big pain in the ass, I went with something a little more straightforward for H. I first saw thick, dimensional couching like this on a William Morris piece (at the William Morris house) and loved how it made instant texture. I’m a big fan of texture-y stitches. I don’t have a photo, unfortunately, but the pattern for this H was done as a double outline. Thick couching seemed the obvious way to go.

Sajou Sampler  - WIP

This is two full lengths of floss – 12 strands total – with two strands holding it in place. Couching is so fun!

Oh, and before I forget, I never did show you D, done entirely in back stitch, except for tiny bits of satin stitch and two dainty french knots. Starting this one was kind of pesty, I had to keep starting over and over to get the back stitch just right for this letter. Back stitch is so beautiful, so perfect in its charming simplicity, but it is absolutely dependent on finding the exact stitch length that is just right for your project, and then consistency in stitch length throughout. It took, literally, about seven tries to get it right.

Sajou Sampler  - WIP

I really wish I could wash out the blue on this one, it’s too close to the floss color to get a really clear look. Because we’ve started using those iron-out Frixion pens, I think I will go over the grid (which is fading anyway – I don’t understand how but I find it very annoying) and then give it a goodly spray to get remove the blue for good. In the meantime, I have a few other projects that need my attention for a few days, and I’ll have to have a think on how to stitch the I.

Sajou Sampler  - WIP

The flower just has to be a big lazy daisy stitch / french knot combo, I think, but I’d like the letter itself to be filled somehow. If you have an awesome idea, shout it out!

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