Monday, 31 December 2012

Balancing act

I love comments, and especially from critics with an eye for details.

Marjolein of Threads and Patches has the eye, and pointed out that my cq block was a bit out of balance. I took a good look, and found that she is absolutely right. I have now tried to rectify the problem, with denser stitching and a sprinkling of sequins in some areas.

She also suggested that the Indian ornaments do not belong to this block because of their dominance of yellow. 
For me, these ornaments have such a story (read this, this and this) and removing them is non-negotiable. Instead I tried to add splashes of yellow and gold to other parts of the block for a better balancing act.

Below you can see what the block looks like now. As it is the last day of the year I will 'call it a day' (or year) and do no more.

See you all tomorrow, i.e. in 2013!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Work In Progress Wedn... - no it's Saturday!

We are nearing the end of the year. Here in Japan Christmas has been 'packed away' and everywhere preparations for the new year is in FULL SWING. Cleaning, sorting out, cooking, paying bills, finishing odd bits and pieces....

For me an odd 'bit and piece' is the crazy quilt block I started in summer. I have now completed the decorations and what remains is to put a frame around the block itself.
Anyway here is the un-framed block:

It is rather overworked, don't you think? 
It was made just for fun, using a kit of fabric and trimmings I bought from Hideko Ishida and her quilt group's charity wagon at Yokohama International Quilt Week last year. I have then added a variety of memorabilia from 2012 and a number of the TAST stitches we have covered this year.

These are the latest additions:
An undulating line of Chain stitches, a few spiky straight stitches in green metallic thread (which was hard to work with) and Pistil stitches for filling.

Golden pearls to fill out an empty space next to the Indian ornaments.

Pistil stitches and a line of Stem stitches connecting the Triple Lazy Daisy stitches.

Christmas light have been taken down and the night sky is very dark. That is why I changed the background of this blog to black to reflect the winter darkness. Soon, and new bright year is approaching!

For more Work In Progress, please visit Sharon's blog Pintangle.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

TAST test - lack of time, quality control and unfortunately, memory!

Last night I settled down for the  TAST test (see yesterday's post).

I had miscalculated the time needed and was not able to complete the test within three hours. One reason, if I should put the blame on some external factor, was that I did the various stitches at random and had to move the hoop around the 'test paper'. The other was of course, hesitation.
It took me another 30 minutes to finish.

Then I had done 46 of the 48 stitches. There are two blank squares, (and there is a button on the three squares where we had a catch-up week). For my life I could not remember how to do the Knotted Cretan and the Cast On stitches and had to give up.

When I checked I found that I had done all the other stitches but one correctly! What's that, a test result of 96%? Not too bad, but I would have done considerably worse if I had not crammed a lot of the stitches.

What I flunked on was the Linked Double Chain, oh, why had I not crammed that stitch? I remember when we did it in summer, I was sitting at the airport  in Amsterdam and thought how appropriate to make something that looked like tulips - and I was working them incorrectly. They should not look like tulips! Or have I created a new stitch, the Amsterdam Tulip Stitch, ha, ha?!
This is what I did in August - all wrong!

Now on the test I had made another mistake; I had forgotten the Chain stitch linking the 'tulip'.

All wrong!

Testing is good to draw attention to a mistake. I am sure I will now learn to do this stitch correctly.

Back to revise the Cast On and Knotted Cretan as well, then I add the three stitches to my 'test paper' tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Cramming for TAST test

As I mentioned before, December is a month with term tests in Japanese schools.
My reason for joining TAST back in January was to learn, but what have I actually learned?
The best way to find out is of course to have a test.
Luckily Sharon is not a strict teacher and is not testing anyone.
I can, however, test myself, on my own terms. You might think I am a real odd-ball, but I am enjoying this challenge!

First thing to do is prepare a test 'paper' and the rules:

I took a piece of cheap cotton and divided it into squares with the name and weekly number of each TAST2012 stitch.

Here are paper slips with the corresponding stitches.
Don't you just love the charming basket, starched with sugar and decorated with red silk ribbons, my friend and excellent quilter  Rosemary Hillman has given me?
Taking a lucky dip test question from this basket will make the test fun!

1) take a slip of paper
2) work five stitches for each stitch variety, except the ones like Buttonhole Wheel Cup or Buttonhole Eyelet Flower that are already a unit
3) leave a blank if I can't remember
4) try to finish all within 3 hours
5) check the result, gulp!
6) unpick the incorrect ones and revise them
7) take a break of one day
8) redo the blanks

Now I am busy cramming for the test.

The flesh coloured embroidery thread is from Sweden and very old (from grandmother's stash?). It is of inferior quality with knots!!!! linking the strands. Useful for nothing but cramming!!!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

TAST2012 - Week 51

Then end of the year is a busy time. We all seem to have a lot to do. Many will want to spend time with family and friends. All sorts of businesses and schools have a Winter or Christmas vacation and 'TAST School' is out, too. 
I therefore take this opportunity to wish you all a 

and look forward to seeing lots of wonderful TAST stitches again in 2013.

I truly enjoyed using this stitch but it was a bit of a hurdle to 'get it'. Usually I check my various embroidery books and stitch dictionaries to learn variations, look for an easy graph to follow and see if there is a name of the stitch in other languages. 

In this case I found instructions for 
a) working from top to bottom, i.e. stitching towards you, 
b) stitching in the opposite direction (Japanese Totsuka) but I thought it very hard to work away from me, and finally
c) going from right to left. Here I found a good flow and worked quickly (but not very neatly).

This is definitely a stitch I will use again, and again.

To all fellow TAST members, and especially to Sharon, THANK YOU for making 2012 such a wonderful year for Queeniepatch.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Work In Progress Wednesday - Berry stitch

I have made use of the Berry stitch for decorating the areas on either side of the water colour pencil dyed lace I added last week.

They look a little bit sad and I need to do something to stop them 'floating'. Busy this week so I hope to work something out before next week Wednesday.

Sharon has taken a holiday from her WIPW but others might post so do swing by there and check.

Monday, 17 December 2012

The magnet

As I am sure you have seen on many quilt blogs, a lot of quilters take pictures of floor tiles, carpet designs, iron gates or other sources of inspiration they find in daily life. Ami Simms has a space, Watch Your Step, on her blog where readers can contribute with pictures of interesting designs. There is much that can be used for embroidery pattern as well.

For me, it is rather fabric and embroidery that catch my attention. Last week I was walking along and my eyes were drawn like a magnet to this piece of antique goldwork:

The whole exquisite piece was framed and behind glass:

Now where on earth would you find such a jewel? 
Below is a hint. 

Well, the piece of goldwork is on the wall of a corridor inside this building! 
Where are we? 

Here is another clue. 
Japanese gondoliers!

Could it be any other place than - DisneySea in Tokyo?!

 The piece of goldwork is one of many framed fragments of antique embroidery used to decorate the Hotel Miracosta which is located inside Tokyo DisneySea amusement park. The hotel is quite stunning and I was lucky to spend a short pre-Christmas holiday there last week.

The dinner show was on a fabric related theme, too. The story was about a stage show where props and costumes had gone missing and the clever cast used other things; the curtains in the first picture became gowns (can you see the tassels?) and instead of hats they used lampshades (in pink and orange).

I had a nice time and was so happy to see some authentic embroidery in this Disney world of make-believe.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

TAST2012 - Week 50

Week 50!? Already? Times has passed so quickly. I wonder how many of the stitches I can remember? Bonnet stitch, what does that look like? Would I be able to distinguish the Oyster and the Berry stitches from each other if I looked at an embroidered picture? Would I manage to make a Palestrina stitch without looking at the instructions?

These thoughts come to me as it is Term Test season in Japanese schools. Every morning I see the children at the local school pass by, they are tired after sleepless nights filled with cramming and revising. Every afternoon I see them on their way home, relieved or burdened with feelings of doubt and failure.
Oh, I am so glad there is no TAST test!

Week 50's stitch is the Berry stitch, which basically is a double Chain stitch. Sharon's instructions are here and my sampler is below:

It is my feeble attempt at making lingon berries or cowberries. You can read more about them here and learn about the craze for this Swedish delicacy.

What I am actually trying to capture with this embroidery is the frame of a special calendar; the Lingon Almanacka. It is old and traditional and looks like this.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Work In Progress Wednesday - 'Thieving'?

I have to confess to some 'thieving'.

On my crazy quilt block there is not much space left, but one piece of pink sateen had space for some kind of decorations.

I was reading this post on Marjolein's blog Threads and Patches. She used water colour pencils to dye a piece of lace. What a neat idea I thought and did the same. It was easy peasy and I didn't need much to dye this piece of lace:

Then I added a few golden beads for some shine.

Now is this stealing someone else's idea? I have written to Marjolein and she says she does not mind. On her blog you will find lots of tutorials so I was convinced she would be happy to share the water colour pencil trick as well. I warmly recommend a visit to her blog.

Another place you should visit is of course Sharon's Work In Progress Wednseday where you can see what progress she and others have made.

I hope to have time to continue embellishing this pink piece of sateen before next week.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

TAST2012 Week 49

The TAST stitch for week 49 is Buttonhole Eyelet Flower, a charming combination of a Buttonhole Wheel (full, half or just a quarter) and Bullion Knots. See Sharon's instructions on Pintangle.

Life threw a lot of obstacles in my way this week and I am sorry to post my efforts late. I wanted to make something like lace or tatting and ended up with this:

I strongly recommend you to click on the links in the Comments field on Sharon's blog to enjoy what other TAST participants have made. 

One of them, Isabelle of pierrespapierscuseaux, asked for advice about how to deal with the tricky Bullion Knots. I don't know if this is of any help, Isabelle, but here is how I go about it:

1) First I make sure I am using a needle of even width, a so called Sharp or Milliner's, like the one on the left.

The needle on the right has an eye that is wider than the shaft and that makes it difficult to pull the thread through, so avoid that kind of needle.

2) I insert the needle a small distance away from where the thread came out.

3) I am using an S-twisted thread, and wind the thread  clockwise around the needle.

4) To make it easier to wind the thread I lift the needle off the fabric with a finger. 

5) When I have wrapped the thread enough times around the needle I hold the wraps tightly while pulling the needle through. 
The needle ususally slides through easily, but should it be hard, I then twist and turn the needle slightly to ease its way through.

6) Once the thread has been pulled through I am sometimes left with a bit uneven 'leg'.

7) I insert the needle in the hole of the 'leg' and pull the thread to the back of the fabric.

8) Should I still have a loopy 'leg' I will need help.

9) That help comes in the form of a pin, or a crochet hook. While stretching the Bullion Knot outwards I pull the thread underneath.

10) The 'leg' slips inside the wraps  and evens out the Bullion Knot.

To read more about needles, S- and Z-twist and the Bullion Knot, and a good instruction for how to make the Buttonhole Eyelet Flower, I can recommend 'A-Z of Embroidery Stitches 2'.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Work In Progress Wednesday - The Butterfly that Escaped

It is Wednesday and time to report Work In Progress. December is here and that can be seen in Sharon's block over at Pintangle. What progress have I made?

Many pieces of fabric and embellishment on my crazy quilt block come from a kit I bought last year at Yokohama International Quilt Week. It was eight months after the devastating tsunami and many traders would give some of their profit to the victims. One 'Wagon Trader' (selling on a smaller scale) was run by superb quilter Hideko Ishida and her group of crazy quilters. They are located in Sendai, a city hit badly by the earthquake and tsunami. I have given support to the  victims of the disaster in many ways but this was one of the most enjoyable. Every time I take out my cq block and work on it I think of Sendai.

This week I fastened a butterfly from that kit on one of the few free spaces left - the block is soon complete. It is winter and I feel like this is the Butterfly that Escaped the Horrendous Wave, and in the midst of winter still struggles to get on with life - just like all people in Tohoku.