Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Inspiration - Blackwork Embroidery

Blackwork embroidery is one of those things I've always known about but have never really looked at much - until I needed to background filling stitches for the moth piece I'm working on.  If you've never heard of blackwork or are like me and never really paid much attention to it, Jane Zimmerman has a great history of it here.  It has a long and royal past!

In more modern times, artists are using blackwork for some very interesting pieces.  Mary Corbet has a wonderful fish that uses so many different stitches it could really be considered a sampler.

Helen Cox uses different numbers of thread strands to get the amazing shading in this embroidery of a horse.

And blackwork doesn't necessarily have to be black!  Maria del Valle has a YouTube video showing how she turns photos into embroidered portraits using blackwork stitches.  Update:  Maria was kind enough to send me a high quality image of Rosita and a photo of the drawing she made from a 1915 photo that inspired this work -  thank you!!


After looking at all these, I'm back to working on the moth.  I'll have more to show you on Monday!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Northwest Weekend

I didn't accomplish much sewing last weekend, but did help make a dent in the pile of Ikea furniture we have waiting to be assembled - we now have a huge number of little allen wrenches!  It rained all day Sunday so yard work was out, but luckily Saturday was one of those gorgeous Northwest summer days that make you wonder why anyone would want to live anywhere else - at least in the summer.  We packed up a picnic dinner and went into Portland for a John Prine concert.  He's one of those people you are shocked by to discover all the songs of his you really do know, but were covered by someone else.  And it was a wonderful concert - one of the best I've been to!

The sundogs (just visible a little in this photo, but brilliant in real life) let us know we should enjoy the weather and that rain was on the way for Sunday.

I did manage to get a little further on my embroidery assignment.  For those of you who wondered, I'm taking Sharon Boggon's Sumptious Surfaces class online.  If you're not familiar with her, you might want to spend some time looking at her beautiful work.  She does a lot of embellished crazy quilting and layered embroidery and also has a very helpful stitch tutorial guide here.

I'm currently working on putting in all my outlines and will then use flat stitches in the open areas to lay the foundation for the layered work that comes next.  I'm outlining the moth in a buttonhole stitch - when you use a buttonhole stitch along curved lines, it's much easier to do if you first sew a running stitch along the lines.

It looks like this week's shaping up to be rainy, so I may actually get more work done on this!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Inspiration - India Flint Bundle Dyeing

In one of the fibers classes I took last year at Arizona State, the professor had us try wrapping gathered leaves and flowers into bundles and simmering them overnight in a light dye bath - I think it was onion skins.  This cotton piece turned out the best of my experiments.  It was lots of fun (opening the bundles the next day is a little like Christmas!) and I've been meaning to do a lot more of it .... but you know how that goes!  So now here I am, surrounded by tons of plants - I'm still trying to figure out what they all are.  I'm starting to gather some interesting leaves, etc. to try out.

This technique is actually India Flint's - an Australian textile artist who works with natural dyes and dyeing methods.  Her website is a gold mine of inspiration and she also has a blog, Prophet-Of-Bloom, that is lots of fun to follow.  Basically, you lay a piece of fabric (silk, linen, wool, cotton, hemp, ...) out flat, lay plant parts on it, and roll or fold it up tightly, binding it with yarn or string.  The bundle is simmered in a dye pot for differing amounts of time.

India travels extensively, gathering materials and giving workshops - taking one is on my wish list for someday and if it's on yours you can check out her schedule for the rest of 2013 and for 2014 here.

I'll let you know how my experiments go!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An Agreeable Tiger Moth

I've been enjoying deliciously foggy, rainy days - so different from Phoenix!  The forest smells wonderful after a shower and little c and I head into it every day for explorations.  It's a giant playground for her with the added benefit of a few wild strawberry treats.

And there's been this moth sitting on the side of the house for almost a week now.  I finally gave him a close look and he's amazing!  Shimmery white, a few black dots, and a furry white head.  I looked him up and his name is as cool as he is - an Agreeable Tiger Moth.  So, so much better I guess than the Argumentive ones!  I'm taking an on-line class on layered embroidery and decided to make him my first project.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, June 17, 2013

Icelandic Wool

I've had some Icelandic roving  from one of these beauties since last fall's Oregon Flock and Fiber Show and finally got around to spinning it.  

It turned out a gorgeous color, but hmmm ... it is a lot more rough and scratchy than I'd hoped!  Icelandic sheep have two layers of fleece - a soft under layer called the thel and a coarser outer layer called the tog.  The roving I bought had the thel and tog mixed together.  

I knitted up a small sample and I think it'd make wonderful outerwear like outer sweaters or caps and probably long lasting socks.  However, I wouldn't want it anywhere that touched my skin!  So I'll be making a trip to a Northwest farm that has thel roving and also some that has a little bit of tog mixed in and give those a try.  I did read that one of the traditional uses of finely spun tog was as embroidery thread, which sounds very intriguing - I'll definitely have to try that!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Inspiration - Older Needlework Books

One of my many fiber related addictions is collecting older needlework books - I have quite a few!  At first glance, many of the patterns seem dated, but just making a few changes can make them more current.  The first thing I generally have to do is imagine using a different color - I have several crochet books from the '70's when avocado, orange, and yellow seemed very popular!  It's amazing what the same item looks like in a nice delft blue or forest green.  Changing size or type of yarn/thread is another way to make nice updates.

Where do I find these books?  Used book stores and yard sales are good sources, as well as online websites such as and  Amazon doesn't actually carry older and out of print books, but has a group of book sellers who list and mail them.  I've had good luck with using these!

My latest find is a Leisure Arts book Crochet Collection, printed in 1994 (ISBN 0-942237-46-3).  I love the cover afghan and  the same techniques could be used to change it into the flag of other countries.  I can just see cozying up on the front porch with this on July evenings!

I've been wanting to make a couple of bedside rugs that look like giant doilies, have looked at several patterns and this is the one I'm going to use.  It calls for a worsted weight yarn - I'm thinking I'll use a washable cotton.

When I was growing up, all my grandmothers had needlework scarves on their dressers - it seemed very elegant to little me!  I love this one, but to make it less "chunky" I think I'll change the thread from size 10 to 20 and add more squares to put the length back in.

I love these pineapple coasters!  They'd look great using some of the newer thread colors.  I've found the best selection of colors on Red Heart's website here.

This stuffed witch doll would be really cute in a soft acrylic/wool blend yarns, like Plymouth Encore (one of my favorite baby afghan yarns too).  This seems to be a common yarn in several yarn stores I frequent, but for a full array of colors go to

And finally, my favorite pineapples again, this time in an edging.  I've been working on a pineapple edging off and on for over a year and haven't been able to get it quite right.  Here it is already done!

Hmmm .... this should keep me busy for a long time!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, June 10, 2013

Something New ...

 I'm in the middle of an adventure that has made it hard to do as much on my fiber work as usual, but then adventures sometimes do that!  We bought a small "farm" in Northwest Oregon and are moving us in for the summers and family in for year round.  This is a dream we've had for a long, long time and to have it actually happening is somewhat unreal!

So .... we have this land now with pastures,

ponds, and forest.

And big plans!  We have chicks who are rapidly becoming big chickens ...

and are planning on sheep, maybe Icelandic, 

and perhaps a couple of Pygora goats.

I see many days of happy spinning ahead!  So bear with me as we get ourselves a little more situated!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Inspiration - Carol Arnott's Fiber Art

Crail Harbour
I'm always fascinated with fiber art that is inspired by photographic work.  Scottish artist Carol Arnott's fabric art focuses on fishing villages along the Scottish coast, using different textured textiles and embroidery stitches.  

Fisher Street
Be sure to look through the many examples on her website and the photos that she worked from!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, June 3, 2013

Child's Dress Refashion

Little c is crazy about anything Disney and I think Disneyland is her favorite place on earth!  When we were thrift store shopping we found this XL sized t-shirt she HAD to have - okay .... what on earth can we do with that?!  I was thinking of a plain tank dress, but then saw a pattern that gave me a little different idea.

Since I worked on this after I got back to Arizona and didn't have little c handy for fittings, I bought a pattern to use as a guideline.  I used New Look 6478 - just the front and the little cap sleeve for dress A.

1.  First cut the sleeves off the t-shirt and cut up the sides - don't cut apart at the shoulders, though.

2.  Fold the t-shirt in half, making sure there are no wrinkles on any of the layers.

3.  Lay the front dress pattern piece on top, putting the neck line on the t-shirt's neck top and the fold side along the shirt's fold.  Cut out - you now have the front and back of the dress, hooked together at the already sewn shoulders.

4.  Cut out the cap sleeve, putting the bottom against the hem of the sleeve.  I cut on the dotted lines so that my entire sleeve would already be hemmed.

5.  Next, pin and sew both side seams.

6.  Fold the sleeve in half and make a small snip at the half way point on the unhemmed side.

7.  Pin sleeve to armhole opening, matching the snip in the sleeve with the shoulder seam.  Since this is a little cap sleeve, it won't reach all the way around the armhole.  Sew in place.

8.  Finish the rest of the armhole by rolling under 1/4 inch twice, pinning in place, ...

9.  ... and sewing.  Continue up and over the sleeve top to give a nice topstitching look.

10.  Trim the side seams on the bottom, roll hem under twice about a quarter inch, and sew in place.

Happy Creating!  Deborah