Showing posts with label Celtic Spring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Celtic Spring. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Some Beads for Celtic Spring

I decided that I didn't want to be stuck with all the beads at the end, so I have started to add some as I go along. It has been very rewarding:

Unfortunately, I have also found that I have a tendency sometimes to sit there mesmerized by all the sparkle instead of stitching!

The instructions do not include any information about which threads to use with the beads. Here is what I've been using:

  • Mill Hill beads 62037 (lilac) - DMC 209
  • Mill Hill beads 3025 (purple) - DMC 327
  • Mill Hill beads 3012 (dark green) - DMC 936. These "green" beads are actually half olive green, half dark purple or blue, which gives some unexpected results sometimes. You can see that in the wreath around the figure's head, where many of the "leaves" have turned purple. I think it adds interest, so I have left it:

  • Mill Hill beads 3054 (pearl gold) - DMC 676
  • Mill Hill beads 557 (shiny gold) - DMC 676 or DMC 3822, depending on the location. If the beads are surrounded by the metallic gold Treasure Braid, then I found that 3822 is a better match. If there is a mix of shiny gold and pearl gold beads, then I do them at once with 676. That's what I did in the side border:

It has been very challenging to get decent photos! The colour in the first one is probably the truest - the fabric is the Willow Green Cashel linen. You really have to see it in real life to get the full impact. It is surpassing my expectations!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Backwards and Forwards on Celtic Spring

There has been a fair bit of work done on Celtic Spring since the last time I showed it, but it has not all been forward progress!  Once I decided to stitch all the gold braid double, I also decided to remove most of the previous gold stitching that had been done single.  This necessitated taking out some of the other stitching around those areas as well.  The main areas that were affected were the left side border, and the front of the underskirt.

The gold sure looks nice, though:

I also decided to keep all the backstitching to just a single strand.  When I squinted at the small blurry picture that comes with the chart, it seemed to me that the backstitching had been done double. But, when I tried it both ways, I preferred the more delicate effect that a single strand achieves:

The chart also calls for a dark quarter stitch to fill in the eye, but I left it unstitched to give the effect of a highlight.

I am very keen to start putting in some of the beads.  There are lots!  But I don't want the stitching to become awkward to hold, so I think I need to give that some more thought.  I know from experience that doing all the beads at once can be tiresome too, so balance is key!

I'd rather hoped to be further along on this by now, but, you know, life gets in the way sometimes!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A New Way to Secure Thread Without a Knot

(Update 02/13 - Apparently this is called a loop knot.)

This is a technique that Alex Anderson demonstrated in an early episode of The Quilt Show.  I can never find the exact episode, but if someone knows please put the details in the comments.  Alex used the technique for redwork, but I have found that it adapts very well to cross stitch.

This technique works whenever you are stitching with two strands of floss in the needle.  I am stitching Celtic Spring 2 over 2, so it has been perfect for that.

Start by cutting the thread twice your normal length.  If you usually stitch with an 18" length, cut your floss to 36".  Pull off one strand, fold it in half so it is double, and thread the cut ends through the needle:

I have used a shorter thread for the demo.  Leave the loop at the end of the thread.

Start your first stitch by coming up from the back.  Don't pull the thread all the way through!  Make the first diagonal stitch of the cross and go through to the back without pulling the thread all the way through.  On the back the folded thread will form a loop:

Run the needle through the loop (you are still on the back of the work), and pull tight:

The loop will snug down flat against the working thread, and secure the whole thing with no knots and no loose ends.

Like everything, this method has pros and cons.

  • Reduces the number of loose ends on the back of the work
  • Quicker and easier than a waste knot when you are stitching in a new area
  • Slippery threads like gold braid won't work loose later
  • Only works for an even number of threads
  • Doesn't work when different threads are blended in the needle
  • The two lengths in the needle are running in opposite directions.  If your thread has a nap this may reduce the sheen of the finished piece.  It may even increase snarling in dense stitching or fabric.

For Celtic Spring this method has been fantastic.  In the borders especially you are frequently starting  new colours in isolation, and the waste knots are tedious.  Plus I have been finding that the gold braid tends to work itself loose, which is eliminated with this method.

I also like it in places where there are many colours in a small area, because it reduces the bulk on the back. I start with a shorter length when there are fewer stitches to make.

And it's great for redwork too!  Although for redwork you start with the loop on the top of the stitching, and it works better for stem or outline stitch rather than back stitch.  But it makes a very clean back!  I think I owe a post on that some day...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Celtic Spring Instructions

We had our first official heat wave (3 days or more over 32C) this week, so I haven't wanted to turn on the sewing machine and iron.  But it has been a great time to do some cross stitch.  Celtic Spring is progressing well:

There is a striking lack of instructions with the Celtic Spring pattern.  At the top of the key it mentions, in brackets no less, that the piece is stitched 2 over 2.  It's not clear whether the gold braid is also meant to be stitched double.  It's also not clear whether the backstitching is meant to be stitched with two strands.  In my experience, backstitching is almost always stitched with one strand.  But at the very end of the backstitching instructions it mysteriously says, again in brackets, that the gold braid backstitching should be done with one strand.  Does that mean everything else should be done double?

I decided it was open to interpretation.  I tried cross stitching the gold braid with a single strand, and it looked good to me.  I also did the backstitching under the hand and along the outer border with one strand, and that looked good to me too.

Recently, though, I have been using a new way of securing a new thread, which requires a double thickness. I'll show you that tomorrow.  I like it so much that I tried stitching the gold braid with a double strand too.  Stitching it double has pros and cons, but overall, I like it better.

When the gold braid is stitched with a single strand, it lies flush with the other stitching.  When it is stitched double it has a raised effect, which actually is pretty nice.  The amount of sparkle seems to be the same.

Changing my mind halfway through the piece is challenging, but I don't think it will be insurmountable.  The only place where the difference may show is in the side borders.  The right side border is too far gone to completely replace, but I may redo the left border.  The gold in the bodice can stay the way it is, and fortunately I hadn't done much gold in the skirt, so I have already changed that out.

I am also wondering if the backstitching around the face is meant to be stitched double.  I may try it both ways to see what looks best.

I am glad to have this decided now because it has been worrying me.  It will be easy going from here!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Celtic Spring Progress

Yesterday I showed you where Celtic Spring stood a week ago before I took it out of the frame.  This is what I've managed to achieve with four or five days of steady stitching:

Taking it out of the frame has turned out to be very motivating!  It is SO much easier and more comfortable.  I am fairly strong despite my dodgy back, so I was able to hold the Q Snap frame for about three hours before my left wrist became tired.  Out of the frame I was able to sew for much longer.

It is also much easier to stitch accurately.  With the work in hand, it is easy to come up through the fabric in the right place because your left hand can help guide the needle. As I mentioned yesterday, I am still stab stitching the cross stitches, because my stitches just aren't as neat when I stitch entirely from the front of the work.

When I stitched the aida there was no difference between the stitches worked in hand or on the frame, but on the lightweight linen evenweave there IS a slight difference.  It is harder to get the two strands of floss to lie beside each other rather than overlapping.  If you look closely on the photo you can see the stitches on the skirt below the line are not quite as smooth.

But that is a price I am willing to pay, because everything else about it is better.  It also seems to put less stress on the gold metallic thread, so that actually looks better in the new part of the stitching.

The other challenge with this project is that there are a lot of beads throughout the entire work.  I couldn't imagine how I was going to bead the whole large piece in a frame. Now I don't have to worry about saving the beads to the end, I can alternate between beading and cross stitches to keep everything fresh.

Sometimes you will see someone's cross stitch that has been puckered or distorted because they worked it in hand.  I haven't noticed any problem with that.  The wrinkles in the photo are just from handling the linen.  It may be that because I am stab stitching rather than stitching entirely from the top it is easier to maintain the correct tension.  I am sure there are practiced stitchers who get beautiful results that way, but I am not there yet!  But I can say that I am retiring all my frames for the foreseeable future!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cross Stitch Without a Frame

I am so, so far behind with my blog posts!  I have been busy but disorganized.  Now, though, I am going to start catching up!

I have been going through a cross stitch phase again recently.  Celtic Spring kind of ground to a halt around late February when I filled up my 11" x 17" Q Snap frame and debated the best way to proceed from there.  Up until a week ago it looked like this:

In the past I would have done a large project like this on a scroll frame.  However, when I discovered Q Snap frames I swore I would never go back to scroll frames.  Scroll frames are so heavy, and I am constantly either banging my arm or catching the thread on the knobs.  With my dodgy back I have to lean back in my chair, so I can't use a seat or floor frame comfortably.  This project does fit into a 17" x 20" Q Snap frame, but the frame was so big I couldn't fit my arm around it!  So as an interim measure I put it into this 11" x 17" frame which was easier to manage.

Once I started using the metallic gold thread and I realized how important it was to maintain the crinkles in the thread, I started to worry about what would happen to the gold thread when I had to move the frame over the already stitched areas of the work.  I thought about doing a test patch, but I never got around to it.  While I was dithering about that I decided to work on something easier:

This may well be the first cross stitch pattern I ever bought.  I bought it back in the mid 1990s from June Grigg herself.  She and her husband had come all the way up from Atlanta to Toronto to have a booth at the Creative Sewing & Needlework Festival, which is now called the Creativ Festival.  I remember because they were both very nice.  It seems to me that the festival used to be more fun back then, with a wider range of vendors.  It was before Christmas, and I think it was held in the old Automotive Building at the Ex.  The whole place was strung with white fairy lights above the vendor stalls.  My friend and I went up to the mezzanine where you could look out over the lights and the entire festival - it was quite a sight!

These patterns have always been reasonably high on my cross stitch bucket list, but when I had another look at the leaflet last fall I worried that the large flat areas of colour might be too boring.  Then I realized that sometimes easy is a good thing, so I went ahead and bought the materials.  Another tv project!  I put it into a small Q Snap frame.

What I discovered, though, was that stitching the 18 count aida actually took more concentration than I wanted to give it.  For some reason, when I did my Kittens project on 18 count last fall I didn't notice the concentration needed to make the stitches, probably because I was already concentrating a lot on the counting.  The whole thing was feeling awkward, and I was remembering how much easier my redwork became when I took it out of the hoop, so I took the plunge.

The very dark brown and the green parts here are cross stitches, and the mahogany on the left and pale yellow and green on the right are half cross stitches.  I did the half crosses entirely from the top of the fabric, going down and up in one motion.  With the cross stitches I found it was better to still do stab stitches even with the fabric in hand.  When you look at the mahogany part especially you can see that the stitches are not too even.  However, it is so much faster that I will probably continue that way!  With the cross stitches you cannot see the difference at all between the stitches worked on the frame and the stitches worked in hand.

I have gone on for long enough now, so I'll show you how this worked on the linen evenweave of Celtic Spring tomorrow!

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stitching with Metallic Threads

The Lavender & Lace Celtic Spring design that I am currently stitching is positively encrusted with gold metallic thread.  The pattern calls for 4 cards of Rainbow Gallery's Petite Treasure Braid:

I have heard many complaints about how difficult it is to stitch with metallic threads, and I thought I would report on what is working best for me.

The main principle is to reduce the drag on the thread as much as possible.  I'll give you the summary first, and then the details:

  1. Stitch the metallics first.
  2. Pull the thread straight up and straight down.
  3. Keep the tension a little looser.
  4. Slow down.
  5. Use short lengths of thread.
1.  Wherever possible, stitch the metallic stitches before you stitch any adjacent stitches.  If you have already stitched the surrounding stitches, the fabric will be much tighter and there is a lot more pressure on the metallic thread.  On Celtic Spring I left all the gold crosses on the dress until the end, and it is chewing up the thread.  I'm not sure that I had any other choice, though, so I am just using very short lengths.  On the hems, though, I am doing all the gold first, and it works much better.

2.  If you pull the thread to the side when you stitch, there is more drag on the thread.  Eventually it will fray, but even before that the thread gets flattened, or "ironed out," very quickly.  The Treasure Braid gets its sparkle because it is crinkled, a lot like old Christmas tree tinsel.  This is not a great photo, but it gives you the idea:

As soon as the thread gets flattened it loses its sparkle.  So with that in mind,

3.  Keep the tension loose.  The braid has a tendency to spring up, but pulling it too tight to counter that is a bad idea.

4.  Slow down.  While the crinkles in the braid make it sparkle, they also tend to catch on the fabric.  Slowing down your movements decreases the chance that a strand will snap as it catches.

5.  The universal advice that you hear is to keep the thread lengths short.  I usually use an 18" length of cotton floss when I am cross stitching.  I started with a 14" length of braid, but it had already frayed when there was still 8" on the needle.  When I am able to stitch the gold with no surrounding stitches, I find an 11" length works well.  I am using an 11" x 17" Q-snap frame, so I just measure against that.  For the crosses in the dress where I have already stitched the other stitches, I am using just enough to stitch one cross at a time, which is a little painstaking, but worth it to keep the bright gold sparkle against the dark purple dress.

Another common piece of advice for stitching with metallics is to use a thread conditioner.  Right now I am not, and I am coping pretty well.  I'm not sure what a conditioner would do to the crinkles, so I am not in a rush to try it.

The gold thread looks much better in real life than in any photos I have seen.  Even though it may seem daunting, it is well worth a little extra effort!  For me the best thing is to do a little at a time - two or three lengths of gold, and then back to the cotton floss for a while.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Basting Grid Lines before Cross Stitching

Are you a perfectionist?  I admit that I am, somewhat.  I hate to redo anything, but I will take the extra effort to do something right the first time.  I know that is what is delaying my start on Sedona Star, but more on that later.

Many stitchers like to baste the grid lines on their cross stitch fabric before they start a project.  Usually the lines are five or ten stitches apart.  This can make counting much easier, and allow you to skip around to different parts.  However, it can be difficult to get the grid lines out after the project is finished.  For me, this is a deal breaker.  I recently saw a photo of someone's quite large cross stitch project, which would have been several months of work.  It was beautiful, except you could still clearly see the red grid lines even after it was framed.  I would be ill, and I know very well that after a few months of agonizing it would end up in the trash.

One alternative would be to take the basted lines out before you stitch the adjacent stitches.  My approach is to start in the middle and gradually radiate out from there.  Sometimes though, you have to take a leap across the fabric.  I know that once I start counting above 10 I will not be accurate, so I will use a temporary gridline just to count out the space correctly.  It looks like this:

Now you see it...
I count out every four threads (two stitches) with a running stitch - four up, four down.  Each up/down pair is then eight threads, or four cross stitches and four squares on the chart.  In this case I needed to jump 16 cross stitches (16 squares on the chart), which was exactly four of my running stitches.  Once I've placed the new stitches correctly, I can take the basting out right away: you don't!
If I only have to use a grid line here and there where I really need it, I save myself all the prep work of basting the lines beforehand.  But the big bonus is that I will save myself the heartache of having visible grid lines when the piece is finished, and still feel confident that everything will match up at the end.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Even Weave vs. Aida

Last week was pretty much a write-off for me.  We had to get the plumber in, and you know how much of a disruption that can be!  I didn't sit down at my sewing machine once.  The only thing I've been working on is this:

Celtic Spring - Two Weeks
You can see I've got a lot done since last time.  It's actually been hard to stop long enough to take a photo, I keep wanting to do a little more.

I am really loving working on this Cashel linen 28 count fabric.  This is the first time I've used it, and I feel like it is about to become my favourite.  My Juin sampler is also linen, 32 count even weave.  The fabric came with the kit by Bonheur des Dames, but I think it is probably the Permin linen.  It has finer threads and larger spaces, and is stiffer.

I've always loved linen in many different contexts - linen clothes, linen drapes and upholstery, linen tablecloths of course, and even linen knits.  This Cashel linen seems to have more of that natural linen feel than other fabrics I've used, and I am constantly admiring it as I stitch!

I am also finding it easier to stitch.  I know there is great debate in the cross stitch world about even weave versus aida fabric.  Aida is supposed to be easier to stitch, but I disagree.  Aida is easier to count, but it is much easier to make neat stitches on even weave.  With aida it is very easy to accidentally split the thread of the fabric, and you never know it until you come back on the next row and realize the stitch is off.  There is no splitting the thread with even weave.  If you do put the needle in the wrong place, you know right away and it is simple to fix.

So I am finding this piece to be very relaxing over all.  There have been some challenges with the pattern and the metallic threads, which I will talk about in the next posts, but no huge problems.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Celtic Spring

Well, I'm feeling much better now!  I started a new project last night, which has proven to be the ideal thing, AND, my fabric finally arrived today!  Tomorrow I will wash it and take photos for you.  In the meantime, this is what I've been doing:

This is the project, Celtic Spring by Lavender & Lace:

And these are all the gorgeous threads:

This project has been just the ticket to get my energy flowing again!  It is a dream to stitch.  The fabric is 28 count Cashel linen in Willow Green stitched 2 over 2, and after the 18 count aida of my kittens and the 32 count linen of my Juin sampler, the stitches seem positively huge!  Both my other counted thread projects became quite heavy to stitch as the threads built up.  This one has hardly any resistance at all as you stitch through the fabric.

This is my first Lavender & Lace project.  I could see right away that it would be nice to stitch, because the colours flow so logically from one to the next.  There is no "confetti" that requires you to scatter the colours all over.  I can often memorize several rows at once, e.g. "four rows of four," or "three rows of five."  With the kittens piece I had to consult the chart with every row.  I have a feeling this new piece is going to go very quickly!  Yes, there will be three more seasons after this one...  You can see them here.

As a rule, purple is not my most favourite colour.  I never go into the fabric store and see a purple fabric that I "have to have."  But I really am loving the beautiful purples in this project.  When you see them in real life they are mouth watering!
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