Sunday, January 31, 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

WiP: Veggie Shark

Almost done the veggies in his mouth! Only 17 more veggies to go after this... Oh dear.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mini orchard-vineyard

This summer we made it a family project to clear the front property boundary in order to plant some grape vines that we had rooted from cuttings the previous summer. This was the most reliably sunny part of the yard, as the trees shade the back and side yard too much for most fruit/veg production (our poor partly shaded vegetable garden! *sigh*). We also decided this project would be a great opportunity to finally plant some apple trees. We had been gleaning apple trees from our next door neighbour for a year or two, but he had plans to cut his trees down (they were planted by a previous owner 20+ year earlier and had started to crowd his house). The front yard is a cut-through for our local deer herd, however, so we knew we had to do something to deter this ungulate highway if the trees were to have any chance of surviving (they did sustain some deer damage over the summer but are currently protected in cages of old fishing net, which will almost certain stay for the next few years!). The solution to the deer highway was essentially a blockade -- a fence situated on the very edge of the ditch that the deer would have trouble jumping. This plan was semi-successful. One bold deer did change her habits to walk along the road and cut around the edge of the fence, but her companions cut up along the neighbour's driveway you can see in the photo below, thereby remaining ignorant of our tasty apple trees and perennials.

Here's the before:


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Vegetarian Shark WIP

A project I started for a lovely friend with a seriously green thumb. About 4 or 5 hours of stitching in, over the course of about two weeks since I set the project up (frame/pattern design/tracing). I get distracted!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Trish Burr Purple Pansy

One of the embroidery kits I received as a Christmas gift is Tanja Berlin's Red Fox needlepainting kit. Berlin lists it as an intermediate level kit on her website, and since I have never done any needlepainting, and don't have the funds to invest in a beginner kit, I decided to attempt a little needlepainting before tackling the fox by completing one of Trish Burr's free patterns. 

I decided to start with the simplest pattern, Burr's Purple Pansy. I used Burr's recommended colours on the flower, DMC 3747, 341, 340, 3746, 33, and 727. I made two changes in the colour selection, using DMC 3051, 3052, and 3053 for the stem, and 469, 470, 471, and 472 for the leaf. I also didn't have the green she recommended for the single french knot, so I subbed in 472.

Purple Pansy was definitely a good introduction to needlepainting for me. In the "walk before you can run" vein, I think it was very useful to try and figure out how to get stitches to lay flatly and smoothly beside each other before I attempt to purposefully place them askew/at angles to each other, for instance in representing fur. Burr also recommends using two strands of floss for the outside row of long-and-short stitch, which I liked for how it added weight to the object being depicted. However, there is of course a reason that satin stitch and long-and-short stitch is generally recommended to be done in one strand of floss/thread, and it was a challenge figuring out where to come up through the fabric, and go back in to it, in a way that got both threads to lay flat. I was not entirely successful at this, but I did learn at least one trick, which is if I divided the threads with my needle as I went down in to the fabric, I could prevent them from twisting together on the surface of the fabric.

Other long-and-short stitch lessons: I don't know how embroiderers maintain the long-and-short nature of the stitch with any sort of regularity. The appearance of long and short stitches and where they should be placed was obscured very quickly for me, which meant I was actually using "stitches-of-various-lengths" stitch rather than long-and-short. I also noticed that the outline of my shapes ended up being more exaggerated as sewn rather than as transferred to the fabric, so I need to figure out what I do at the split stitch or first row phase that exaggerates that. Perhaps I don't come directly up into the fabric along the split stitch, and then compensate with subsequent stitches to get them to sit smoothly along the first stitch, thereby crowding the split stitch and changing the outline shape? A final observation, I need to work at colour blending if I want to recreate the original patterns. Although my colour changes appear pretty well blended, they do not match Burr's, specifically, the distinction between the dark rear petals of the flower and the significantly lighter ones is not as clear on mine. Aesthetically, anyone looking at my flower might not realize a "problem," but since I was trying to represent Burr's pattern accurately, I know that I need to know instinctively just where a colour gradation will appear, based on where I place my new colour into the previous row of stitches.



Successes: It's pretty neat how you can actually see the development of my knowledge level, from the first bit of stitching done on the leaf, where I didn't know how to change the direction of stitches well, or how closely to place them, to the final petal, the far front one. As well, this flower is small, about two inches top to bottom, and I like the details I added to the flower in an off-white that matches the ground fabric, an unbleached muslin. I also taught myself forbidden stitch for the knot details, since I know my french knots are not yet as uniform one to another as I would like them to be, and in any case I wanted a knot that would sit flatter to the ground fabric. I think these added details make this little pansy sampler a proper frame-worthy motif.

I never meant to write quite so much about a small embroidery project, but I do want records of my projects, and I would never write this much about it in my project journal, so it's good that I have recorded it here. To any non-embroiderers who stumble across this, it will at the very least be a testament to my personality. I do love details, and knowledge, especially the knowledge I can get from trying something out myself.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Embroidery set-up.

One of the great things about embroidery is that at the entry level, it can be very cheap. I was keeping my floss in ziplock bags in an old cardboard whisky tube. For projects I wanted to travel with, I would cut lengths of floss and put them on cardboard thread holders and put those and my folding scissors (inherited with my grandmother's sewing box) in an old sunglasses case. That setup is not particularly handy now that I am balancing more than two projects at a time, though, and I wanted my floss options more easily available, especially for one particular project where I am choosing colours as I go.

This is my solution! Two packs of metal shower curtain hangers from the fabric store (about $5 for 24) to organize thread by colour and/or project (the DMC colours for my Canevas Folies kit are organized by letter group) and my home made pasta hanger! I seriously love this solution at the moment, though of course in the future I will want to keep the dust and light away from my floss, at which point I will probably invest in one of those tool/fastener organizers from Canadian Tire when they go on sale.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Taking up embroidery

I mentioned embroidery in my last post. This is a craft that I recently took up,  and I absolutely love it.  So far I have concentrated on making gifts for other people as a way to learn stitches and techniques. Soon I will start two kits for myself, with a view to determining what my personal embroidery "style" is. That will inform the designs I come up with for my personal enjoyment.
This is my first big project (unframed when photographed): Two decorative initials for a friend's young daughters, with motifs adapted from an old Therese de Dillmont book. My friend had chosen bright pink for an accent her daughters' room, and I tried to extend the 'life' of the piece (as far as age/decorative value) by choosing more grown-up coloured threads. The stitching is all done in 1 strand of DMC floss--a lot of work!--but it needed to be that fine to accomplish the design.

Divided

I've recently realized that my social media presence has sort of ossified into my separate interests in a way that means I feel unable to share anything that isn't consistent with previous posts (presumably the reason people decided to follow me), or with my publicly searchable online identity (I am still job searching after all). Twitter is for nature and environment and history; Instagram is where I post nature/landscape/garden photos, ditto for tumblr, plus landscape design. My Wordpress portfolio/blog has so many expectations attached to it, I can never come up with a post that belongs there. I even felt like I was breaking the rules when I created a Flickr album to hold embroidery pictures. 

My point? Well, I think I'm going to start using this old blog to park random thoughts as well as photos of my miscellaneous activities and hobbies. Yes, it's sort of funny that I'm doing this here only because I feel safe that no one is actually going to read this blog**, because then what is the point of posting online? But lately I've been feeling a bit nostalgia for the heady days of ten years ago when frequently-updated personal blogs abounded on the internet. Plus this saves me the effort of coming up with yet another online presence that I will feel bound to apply rules to about content and intent etc. etc. Past baggage is actually very freeing in this case! For instance, I'm not even going to bother cleaning up this phone-composed blog post for public consumption, I'm just going to post as-is.

**Edited to add, yes, I may have a handful of blog followers here still. Hello! I would be very pleased if something I post in the future interests you; I just want to warn you that much of what I post might not interest you in the slightest, but it will probably interest me.