Friday, December 18, 2020

Aspens in Autumn

 This fall we were at the cabin and I was watching the colors of the leaves turn. The difference was very noticeable from one day to the next. I had never really studied just how the green just fades away and leaves only the golden colors of the aspens. I started picking a few of them so that I could study them. It has been several months since I got them and found it was interesting that the colors stay stable until they turn fully gold and then they start to turn brown even after they are picked.

I matched colors of DMC stranded cotton to the colors of the leaves so that I could stitch them. I wanted to be able to see both side of the leaves have the light shine through them so I decided to stitch them on a very sheer silk organdy. I was not sure that the fabric would hold up to all of the stitching but it worked really well. I mounted the silk in a hoop, traced the pattern on and then colored the silk with Copic pens to match the colors that I wanted. I stitched a wire around the edge to make them hold their shape and then used one strand of thread to stitch the veins of the leaves and wrap the stems.

After they were cut out, I used either the same color of cotton or invisible thread to attach the leaves together. They only have a few stitches where the leaves touch and form a cylinder that changes from green at the base to sunlit yellow/gold at the top. I really like the way that the colors move up and the way that the light makes the top leaves glow.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Ceci n'est pas une poisson or Sweet Lips

This the final project from my couching class with Natalie Dupuis. We were to take the knowledge that we had gained in class and create a piece of needlework with as many of the couching techniques as we wanted.

As you already know, I love the art of James Christensen. One of the best things about his art is that it has a sense of humor and makes you smile. He usually included a floating fish in his paintings. They symbolized magic and wisdom, kind of an unexpected insight into the meaning of the whole design. Reminding us to look at more that just the surface but what it was trying to tell you.

The best kind of art appeals to us on many different levels. It creates beauty but also has room for us to find our own meaning in the creation.  An understanding of the technique that you are using is necessary to the final design. I have always told my students that they need to know how the do the stitches correctly so that when they do them differently there is a reason for it.  It is rather like the support from which to take flight and soar. Not all of  the areas have traditional couching techniques. I just sort of made some of them up as I went along. Of course not every work that we do has such deep meaning, sometimes it is just to play with shape, color and texture. Part of this design is the title. Ceci n'est pas une poisson  means This is not a fish. At least not any that swims in nature but one from a flight of fancy so a bit of fun with words for those who understand the meaning.

Here is the final drawing for the fish. By this time I had decided on colors and some of the stitches.

The design is transferred to the silk. Some of the details are drawn on with pen. I started some of the couching on her belly.

I used copic pens to color in some of the areas. The vermicelli needed a darker aqua as a background and for the other areas it helps when there were tiny gaps in the rows of stitching there was color behind it.

The top band of Ceci uses a 371 thread that changes color when the viewing angle changes much like a real fish. The eye is a thin piece of Paua shell that was glued to a white cotton and stitched in place.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Couching class with Natalie Dupuis - why take classes?

 I have been an embroidery teacher for over 30 years and I still take embroidery classes. basically there are three reasons why I take a class. 

Some times it is because I want to learn a new technique or find out more about one that I already know how to do. Even if you know the basics of a technique, it can be like taking a graduate level class where you get so many new tips about how to stitch in ways that you might not have thought of or you secretly do something and lo and behold others do it that way also. So much of embroidery is self taught unless you are lucky enough to have been able to attend an embroidery school and there are always new things to learn.

At other times it is because you want to learn from a certain teacher. You like the things that they design or have been told that they are a fabulous teacher and want to take a class from them. I have taken classes where I was not too fond of the project but it was worth the cost in time and money just to study with them. Plus you always learn some new tip that makes it worth it.

The third reason is that you fell in love with the design or project. You may already know how to do it or have taken from the teacher before but the project just sings to you.

I am now involved in an on-line class about couching. It is a brave new world that we live in. Some of the ways that we have always done things are not possible right now. Personally, I hope that on-line teaching stays around. It is not the same as an in-person class but has some genuine advantages. In the hands of a well prepared teacher you get a wealth of information both about the history and uses of the technique and how to actually do it. The classes can be recorded so that you can refer to them later and there is a place to ask questions during class time.  This may the only way that you will have the opportunity to study with a teacher because it is impossible to get to an in person class. All those things are good but in person classes have other good things going for them. The personal interaction cannot be duplicated if you are not there because you can connect on a one to one level in class.  Everyone learns a little differently and only in class can you get a unique answer to your question. 

These are two of my stitched samples.

Has this class been worth it? Oh yes, it has. Natalie Dupuis has been a wonderful teacher and has managed to make a large class feel personal. I have learned so many new things, tried some new techniques (one which I never intend to do again) and perfected ones that I had done before. A good class pushes you to expand and grow as an embroiderer. 

Here are two of the projects that I have finished in this class. The first one is a pomegranate couched over silver Japanese thread using Chinese flat silks. The couching threads run horizontally across the design with the design threads running vertically.

The second one is a pear and the gold Japanese threads are couched in a circle using shades of brown, gold and green #50 sewing thread for the design. I had always wanted to couch something that had the threads going in a circle.

We have one final project that we get to design. In it, we are to use many of our couching techniques. It is still in the "how am I going to make this work" stage but I am excited about doing it.

Monday, August 17, 2020

More Copper and Angels

 I have finally finished with working the copper critters. The last two are finished but I had to wait until I ordered some more copper pearl purl. You would think that I had enough thread for many more and I do but sometimes you want just that certain thread and nothing else will do. The final two are a bee and a snail.  I already have the frames so now I just need to get them framed to hang on the wall. 

Here is the bee in progress with a mock up of the wings while I waited for the copper screen to come, and finally the finished bee.

The last critter was the snail. I decided what I wanted to do and then started stitching and found that it was a bit more work than I assumed it would be because the shell is solidly stitched with either copper threads or a base of cotton for the gears. I just did the clockwork sections of the shell in a random pattern that turned out to be lots of fun to do. I arranged them in the section and then started stitching them down and had to rearrange as they shifted or went flying if they got bumped.

Now the copper is finished I have plans and ideas for some butterflies in silver.

I have seen pieces worked with a combination of gold and silver metal thread so I will keep the copper stash in mind and think about a gold, silver and copper piece. 

I also have been making good progress on Faith, Hope and Charity. I am on the top row and decided to fill in  the wings and the background around the head and halo for all three of the angels. I decided that it would be easier if I did all of those at one time so have incentive to finish the many shades of green background. Who knew that there are so many shades of spring green?

Sunday, July 26, 2020

copper critters

When I was purchasing the supplies for the original embroidery of copper bugs and butterflies, I went a bit overboard. I mean how do you know what or even how much you are going to need when you are making it up as you go along? Plus as my grand-daughter puts it "oh shiny". The threads are so much fun to look at and play with that I have a great stash of shades of copper - from rose gold - light to bronze - dark.
We spend a week at the family cabin where I was able to work on them for more hours a day than I usually get to stitch so they progressed nicely. I was missing the final elements for two of them but thought that I had the supplies to finish when I got home. Well, I came home and put the screen on the fish to check the color and decided that bright brass metal screen would not work. So now I have two almost finished designs and nothing to finish them with. Hooray for the internet and the ability to hunt for unique things. I was able to find and order small amount of copper screen to see which was going to work better. When they came, I decided that one size was better for the fish and the other was perfect for the other critter.
I originally thought that I would do 5 critters  and put them in a row but now I an going to add one more and have two rows of three. The first two are finished and posted. The next two are finished and I will post them now. The fifth one is mostly finished and the final one is still in the idea/design stage.
This is the bird that I did. She has some fun techniques but I love the way that her legs turned out.

This is the fish that needed the copper screen for the fins. It was so much fun to do that as I was stitching, I thought, how would it look if I changed this part? So the fish may end up in something else eventually?

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Clockwork Jellyfish

Here is the next of the copper critters. I have always liked the way that jellyfish look and how they move. It has been fun to try to use threads to interpret the shape and movement of the tentacles of the jelly fish.  Now on the the next one.....

Friday, June 19, 2020

Copper Butterfly and the angels

I am steadily working on my angels. Faith, Hope and Charity are getting much closer to being finished. I now have just 8 full pages and they are done. I ordered the mat and frame, so they are here and waiting. This is the row with the faces and will make the whole piece come alive.

A while ago I bought some fun fabric. It is a thin layer of cork on a fabric backing. I was not quite sure what I was going to do with it but it was too fun to pass up.  In addition to the copper bugs and butterflies, I wanted to do some copper critters that were a bit bigger and more in a steampunk style. Kind of funky with watch gears and fun to look at.  The cork fabric ended up being the perfect background. It is nice to have stash to draw from.
The Clockwork Butterfly is the first to be finished, although I have other shapes designed. They start with an outline and kind of grow as I stitch them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Simply Irresistible and some blackwork

Seems like I have been on a binge lately working on designs from Cynthia Jackson.  It is true, but her designs not only look great but have so many fun and unique techniques that how can I resist?
The last finish is called Simply Irresistible and features sweet peas and leaves. She has used some very old but spectacular techniques from the late middle ages. The layering allows the metal threads to just peak out of the color and adds such sparkle to the motif. The stitching is not perfect but that is how we learn. We try and then we get better.

I have been stitching some other things during this time of pandemic that I can't share with you yet. It is for a class that is hopefully far enough away that it can be held. For now I will share one of the bits of blackwork with gold added. I love the way that the gold adds such a nice highlight to the pear.

It is fun to see a design grow from an idea to a stitched and finished work of art. I have been doing some reading about historical embroidery and how it was considered a high art and much more valuable than painting. I have done both and one is not necessarily harder than the other but just different. The play of light on silk and metal threads is wonderful to see and the feel of the threads in your hands is such a tactile delight. Japan has not lost the high regard for the textile arts that we have in the western world.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Munaudiere and Klimt

Some months ago I took a class from Mike Parr. He is a great designer and teacher from Canada. The project was called Sheryl and is a small evening purse that was inspired by Gustav Klimt. I couldn't resist changing the design because I wanted more gold and brighter colors. My inspiration was a painting of poppies from Klimpt although I did study a number of his paintings to get ideas of what I wanted.

Here is the original paining.

Here is the front of my purse.

And this is the back of it.

The embroidery part was fun to do because of the bright contrasting colors.  I wanted something on the back that was in keeping with the front but not in color. So I did swirls of gold and put a tree of life inspired by one of his in the center. The finishing was not difficult but cutting and then gluing my embroidery was a bit disconcerting. However it it finished and I love it. The name minaudiere makes me smile and I finally learned how to pronounce it.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Boleyn Bloom

My friend and super talented designer has created a piece called Boleyn Bloom. Here is her post about it.

 I, probably like many of you, have been doing my part by staying home, staying safe and staying healthy and feeling quite helpless. I have been working on the instructions for a very pretty embroidered flower, the Boleyn Bloom and trying to think of what I could to do to make a small contribution. It’s a very pretty piece and I have had several inquiries about when it might be available. I will be making the pattern and instructions in PDF form available to anyone who would like to have it. All you have to do is make a donation of any size to your local women’s shelter or food bank and send me an email to say indicate that you have (honour/honor system) and I’ll email the instructions to you. There is a lot of gold and silk in the supply list but I encourage you to substitute things you already have in your house. Remember, stay at home! I’ll be working on a suggested list of threads that you can substitute and it will be included in the PDF. You can contact me at
I had donated, so I let her know and she sent me the PDF of the pattern.
I had most of the threads although I did have to substitute a few of them. 
Here are photos of my work in progress.

Probably the trickiest part was the gold looped border. By the time that I was part way through, I figured out a way that would have worked better but over all I like it.

This is the finished piece.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Cabinet of Curiosities - Case

Since we have been social distancing, I have had time to get to something that has been on my "to do" list for a number of  years. Before you can adhere the embroidery to the wooden casket, you need to glue a layer of paper to the raw wood. I had done this with the Goldfish trinket box so I thought I knew what to do. Turned out to be a bit harder that I thought.  I studied the videos of the steps to cover the box with paper first, then either decorative paper or fabric. After looking at several samples I decided that some it was just whatever you want to do. All of the samples were unique.
So I started in on the cream paper for the outside of the drawers and the case. That went fairly smoothly but I did use a lot more glue that I thought I would. I used rice glue because I figured that the usual wheat paste would not do my Celiac any good.  The rice glue has been used in Japan for centuries so I knew it was stable and would glue paper and fabric to wood.

Here is the whole case covered. Since the paper takes up more room than you might think, the top lid will not fit in place yet. I will have to think about just how to adjust  the pieces but for now it is what it is.

These are the various drawers, lids and bits. Some of them have marbled paper on them. When we traveled to Italy a number of years ago. We went into a fabulous shop in Florence that had drawers of hand marbled paper and I found the greatest paper.  Other parts have silk Duponi  and silk velvet is in the bottoms of just a few drawers. I have been lucky to find paper, Duponi and velvet that match.

Here is the main case with the ink well, pounce pot and pin cushion in place.

I wanted something to decorate this front panel of the case. You can't see it with the other sliding panel in place but the thought of it being there makes me happy. I used period appropriate flowers and painted them on paper before I glued it in place.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Gold work and other thoughts

I once heard of a way to curse someone and it was: "May you live in interesting times." I think that the state of the world right now would qualify. We certainly are living through a unique time in history.  For most generations there is a defining event that everyone remembers and can tell you where they were when it happened. Think of  - pick your generation - Kennedy's assassination,  Reagan getting shot, the space shuttle, the world trade center, and the tsunami. Right now it is not a single event but a pandemic that will change our life totally in the short term and who know what it will be like in the future. My daughter asked my Mother who is 98 this year if she was concerned and she said not really. She has lived through the great depression, World War II (and too may other wars to count), several strains of the flu,  and all of the disasters I mentioned and many more.
Just after I wrote the original post, we woke up to an earthquake. Literally had just woken up and was still in bed at 7:09 when a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck a few miles from here. I spent the rest of the day with the news on so I could learn what was going on. Felt a couple of the after shocks during the day.
Life changes but it goes on. We need to remember the important things like love and service. Kindness will help all of us get through this better.
Cynthia Jackson is a fabulous designer and a friend. She was kind enough to let me pilot stitch one of her new pieces for EGA seminar  this year.  It is a Mariners' Compass that is stitched with gold threads.  Some fun new techniques and interesting effects with the black and gold. The arrow on the compass is attached with a pin so it will turn.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Faith, Hope and Charity and a goldwork Bee

This has been a rather eventful January. After putting it off for about 5 years,
I finally had a knee replaced. I am at the still not sure it was a good idea place in my recovery, but it is getting better every day and I am told  that the recovery is normal. Time will tell but it was getting worse so...
I have done some more work on Faith Hope and Charity. I am stitching on it for a few weeks a month and it should be done in about a  year if all goes well.

When Alison Cole came to town to teach, I bought a kit for a goldwork bee. It worked up quite quickly and looks good.