Category Archives: Take It Further

May TIF – Coming Soon?

SharonB’s question for the May Take it Further Challenge is “what do you call yourself and why?”

If I am honest, I have to call myself a procrastinator.

May is more than halfway through, and I haven’t even started this month’s challenge. But I’ll get around to it – really!

I love the color scheme for this month, though –

Very spring-like, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and much more to my taste than last month’s darker brown palette.

April TIF

I’m a little late, but I’ve gotten to the April TIF – the question about change.

I don’t particular like change. I generally think of changes to the worse, not to the better.  Intellectually, I know that isn’t true, but emotionally – that’s a different issue.  When I read the Sharon B’s challenge for April, I immediately thought of black, gloomy things with lots of torn threads, or maybe mud-colored stitching of a bottomless pit (although it does raise the interesting question of how best to portray a bottomless pit in needlepoint. Which stitches to use?), or perhaps a piece of linen with scorch marks.

But maybe this had something to do with the winter. When in 3 weeks, things can change from snow and ice and misery, to

then suddenly things don’t seem quite so bad.

It has been a terrific month for daffodils here. Many years we get a final frost and they get killed off too soon, but this year the weather has cooperated (although still another two weeks to the last frost date, when it is safe for planting). This year, the flowers have been bright and showy and exuberant.  I wanted to stitch  something related to the flowers, and something with a lot of bright, bright yellow.

I took an image of a daffodil and enlarged a small portion of it, and started stitching.

I wanted to see what I could do with just one color, to feel like spring.

I’m not satisfied with the result. The piece is about 2 inches square, and includes chain stitch, detatched chain, stem, satin, couching, back stitch, buttonhole, and rice stitch, and leaf stitch (a poor choice). A little more planning would have helped, a lot.  But spring is here, and it is suddenly too beautiful to sit inside stitching.

April TIF

Sharon B’s Take It Further challenge for April is “How do you see change?” I’m having a terrible time trying to come up with ideas for this.

There are various levels of change. There is change on the broader, public scale – global change, political change, technological change. There are changes in fashion (not that that would be my strong point). Then there’s change on the personal level – changes in job, in family, in where you live, in lifestyle.

At a loss, I looked up “change” in the thesaurus.  I found “change” as in money – pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and in Canada, loonies and toonies.

There are synonyms for change – in the sense of  “alteration”, there is: about-face, addition, adjustment, advance, break, compression, contraction, conversion, correction, development, difference, distortion, diversification, diversity, enlargement, innovation, metamorphosis, modification, modulation, mutation, novelty, permutation, reconstruction, refinement, remodeling, reversal, revision, revolution, shift, surrogate, switch, tempering, transformation, transition, transmutation, turn, turnover, variance, variation, variety, vicissitude

“Innovation” has a positive connotation; correction a negative one (as in a “correction” in the financial system).

I’m probably obsessing about this.

There are the cute linguistic quirks of English – change one’s underwear, change ringing, change a tune, sea change, short change, small change, change for dinner, change your mind.  None of this is getting any stitching done, but it is an amusing off-shoot.

In general, I’m not a fan of change. At first, reading Sharon’s challenge, my image of change was a deep black box, with something unknown at the bottom. Black on black on black – not a very positive image (although a stitching challenge….).  but as I explore “change,” I’m just starting to see other options.

March TIF

Do you remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz where the old house has been tossed and turned by the cyclone and dropped out of the sky, and Dorothy is standing in the dingy, black and white and grey weatherbeaten, worn-out house, and she opens the door and there is Oz, in gorgeous Technicolor?

That is spring.

At least, that is what spring can feel like.

Don’t mistake me – spring hasn’t made it to Ontario yet. We still have snowbanks along the driveway, and our composter is frozen solid, and there is snow in the forecast again for the next few days.

But in a few weeks, it will be here.

That is what I was thinking of in doing this TIF piece for March. As I wrote in an earlier post, one of the first signs of spring is when the winter aconite shows up. These are very tiny, bright yellow flowers, which suddenly pop out and are very vivid against the background of dead grass and last year’s leaves.

Here’s my piece:

I printed a b&w photo of dead leaves using the instructions I found here. I then added some flowers – some buds, some in full bloom – using french knots, oyster stitch, chain stitch, and fly stitch. The flowers don’t particularly look like winter aconite, but they do capture that bright, intense yellow that jumps out through the dirty brown, drab late winter landscape.

If I were spending more time working on this I would add some texture to the leaves – possibly running stitch and outline stitches, to emphasize the layers of leaves. But as this was an experiment for me (and I probably won’t get to do much more before the end of the month), I’m happy the way it is.

This was the first time I’d tried printing on fabric, and I was surprised at how easy it was. I ironed the fabric with freezer paper, ran it through the laser printer, and then let it sit for an hour or so before peeling off the paper.

One question – the instructions I used didn’t specify how to fix the image. I’m not sure if that is the correct term – maybe I mean stabilize? What I mean is, how do I keep the image from smearing or wearing off, or is that an inevitable problem with laser printers, as opposed to inkjet? Can someone advise me what to do?

Dorset Buttons again

Making these buttons is a bit addictive. Here’s a few more experiments. The black, in the black and red one, is no. 8 perl cotton, which was a little too thin for this. The blue used no. 5 perl, which was much easier, and faster, to work with, and I wove this like a spider web, rather than wrapping each spoke.

To give an idea of size, each button is about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) in diameter.

More small things

While procrastinating on stitching, I tried a small thing I had been curious about – making Dorset buttons. Dorset buttons are made from floss or yarn wrapped around a ring-shaped base. What could be smaller than a single button (well lots of things – snaps, hooks and eyes, to start with, but don’t take me literally) .

I learned that originally the bases for these buttons were made of circles stamped from horn, but mine are made from plastic curtain rings. A site called The Sampler has a good tutorial. The British Button Society has a page illustrating a number of varieties of buttons. Here is a link to some history on the buttons.

Here are my efforts:

These buttons were made with craft thread from the dollar store. I think that using yarn, perl cotton, or other any unstranded heavy floss might work better. I tried a couple of different patterns to wrap the centers, and added beads to one of the buttons.  The most awkward part for me was aligning the spokes so that they meet in the center of the ring;  I need some more practice on that – mine are slightly off-center.  I can imaging many ways to further ornament buttons, using beads, mixing threads, wrapping the center in a metallic thread, embroidering (french knots and lazy daisy in the center), wrapping with multiple threads, etc.

I found this an amusing task for several evenings. Reading through the history though, one thinks of the women who made a gross (144) of buttons per day to earn their living – not so amusing.

When I was in high school I played the bassoon. One summer I learned how to make bassoon reeds, one step of which involves wrapping the end with thread to form a sort of ball. In a way, making these buttons reminded me a bit of that. I was much better at wrapping reeds than at the rest of the steps involved in making reeds – and far better at wrapping than actually playing the instrument.

Buttons are such trivial things these days. I can go to the drug store, grocery store, or dollar store – not to mention any fabric or craft store – and buy buttons in any range of sizes, colors, makes. Plastic, wooden, shell, metal, etc. Imagine a time when buttons were all handmade, when they were a craft rather than a commodity.

More thoughts on March’s challenge

I forgot to mention the colors for March’s challenge.

Actually, I didn’t forget – I just ignored them. This palette as a whole doesn’t do much for me. I will probably work a green and brown into my piece for this month, but I’m not sure it will be these particular shades.

I’m still thinking about the winter aconite, and other small flowers that announce spring. In lieu of actual stitching (because even with a foot and a half of snow this weekend and staying indoors, except to shovel, my motivation is sort of low right now), I’ve been playing with images, looking at different ways to interpret flowers. Starting with:

I turned it into this:

and this:

and this (which would be truly disturbing to see on a spring morning)

Why (other than wasting time) was I doing this?

When I first thought of embroidering flowers, I was thinking of something very traditional, and frankly, sweet – satin stitch for the petals, perhaps outline stitch on the leaves, with some couching and french knots for the inside of the flowers.  But there are other ways I could do this.   The second image, with the blue flowers could be done with applique.  The next image, in black and white, could be translated into blackwork.  The last image, with the hot pink flowers on blue background, could be printed on fabric, with some overstitching.