Tuesday, January 7, 2014

practicing embroidery stitches

My favorite stress reduction is, what else, embroidery, but more specifically, the sort where it really doesn't matter so much what the finished result looks like because it's meant to be playful and a means to polish skills or try new stitches.  So I like to shred and cut and machine stitch bits of fabric together that catches my eye from my stash, and then embroider over them following the patterns of the fabric.  In this little sample bag, I have been wanting to experiment with a new perle cotton that is made in Spain which I recently acquired at a local quilting shop.  Herringbone stitch in green perle cotton and buttonhole stitches.

Here is a buttonhole stitch in a wheel pattern, with a smaller double wheel in the middle.  It was stitched over wool and the outer wheel kind of pulled in on itself so I anchored it with a straight stitch ending in a french knot.

The reverse side-- scraps of fabric machine stitched down and then with feather stitch added in purple.

And my favorite look-- buttonhole stitch wheels with french knot cluster middle.
I make lots of these and they are all different stitch combinations, mostly randomly chosen from an old copy of Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches.  And it's relaxing!

Christmas 2013 is behind us but not the light show.  Many people in our neighborhood still have their lights up, which tickles me to no end because our apartment is too small and lacks windows for decorating, so I have to rely on others to entertain me.  Here are a few of my neighborhood favorites.  I love very colorful, whimsical decorations, where the lights are randomly placed but somehow it all comes together in a pattern that stops me in my tracks.  Can't you see sequins and beads in the place of these beautiful lights?  Inspiration is everywhere!

LOVE the pink flamingos!  This tree also has tiny snowmen that pulse with light and a few stars that change color six times over.  I love it!

Me and our dog Buddy enjoying the light show...  This neighbor added Valentine hearts to his Christmas lights!

My husband got a new camera and has been playing with it.  It's quite extraordinary what he has come up with, including all the photos on this post, although due to a hard drive crash on my Macbook, and a subsequent overhaul, I have yet to load Photoshop back on and didn't crop or alter any of my photos.

Hope everyone had a happy Christmas and has a healthy 2014!  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

NY City Tambour Embroidery Class

Last weekend I traveled to New York City to teach a two day intensive class in tambour embroidery.  I spent some time stitching up a sampler piece for the class to examine and work up and also a class piece to work on some in class and the rest on their own.  The class piece is pictured above, a heavily beaded piece I found in a book of French embroidery designs.

Here are a few shots of the sampler-- tiny green beads worked in vermicelli stitch in a small, tight square.

Bugle beads in a pave rectangle, single strand DMC thread worked in a brick stitch, single lines of beads and sequins, and samples of how to turn a corner with a nice sharp 90 degree line in thread and bugle beads.

Above, some beautiful moonstone seed beads worked in a padded pulled stitch.

This is on a different piece, but I loved the sequins so much, I wanted to add it to this post.  3 mm pale turquoise sequins that are leftover stash from Lesage worked opposite a pulled stitch line on a leaf.

Speaking of Paris, the day before I left for New York, an order I placed from a bead supplier in Paris arrived.  Look at all this luscious beauty!  Sequins in pale greens, bugles in various sizes and hues, mostly greens and teals.  And some of the prettiest pink beads I ordered just for the sheer courage of the color.  :-)  I'm so excited to start using these.  I don't know what this company does with the making of these beads, but they truly are superior beads and sequins.  They literally seem to pulse with color!

Here I am a number of weeks ago, taking a photo at the start of working up the piece for the New York class.  The small flower petals in the middle are single strands of DMC thread.  The base material is silk organza.  The piece called for a slate grey, but I chose the colorless organza for ease of learning.  These small pearls are 3mm Swarovski and I used gold metallic thread throughout the entire piece.

Unfortunately I could not get a good photo of the back of this piece but here it is anyway, in its finished state, with all ends not cut close to the stitching and glued, as is typically taught, but woven and knotted into each backstitch so the beads have zero possibility of pulling loose or pulling out.  Amazingly, this technique was not taught to me in school at Lesage or in the U.S., but by a professional couture embroiderer in the UK, a lesson for which I am very grateful, as although it is a time consuming process, it is necessary for keeping couture embroidered garments free of glues & loose snipped ends, and also for keeping a very clean finish.   I am all for hard work staying put and maybe getting a little zen meditation in at the same time.  Weave, knot, weave, knot, weave, knot-- snip!  And again on the next loose end of thread...  :-)

Here are my students hard at work pinning the silk organza to their twill tape.

And hard at work learning the stitching process..  Note I teach framing up with a large hand made slate frame and pinned twill tape lashed to the side bars.

One of the students was kind enough to introduce Dean and Deluca cookies into my life both days of class!  Nomnomnom!  Cooookiiiieees!!  OMG- so.good!

After the two days of class, I had one day in New York to run around like a lunatic, looking at everything, before taking the train home.  Instead of the tourist meccas of Times Square and Macy's and looking at shop window displays and the Rockefeller Center tree, I decided to just get off the subway in the East Village and wander.  Here is a terrific shop selling vintage architectural gems (above)...

And a fabulous bakery with Marzipan Santas and Snowmen- so cute!  I have to admit, mostly I went shopping.  I know-- so lame!  But, whatever!  I needed supplies.  So I went to Purl Soho for hand dyed needlepoint yarns and Japanese linen fabric off the bolt.  And then to another bakery for more pastries  every fabric-a-holics dream come true-- Mood (of Project Runway fame), where I was so overwhelmed that I didn't even buy that much in the end.  It was amazing just to wander.  I must say I was happy to find hexagonal cotton tulle fabric, which is very difficult to find in the U.S., for a fairly reasonable price, to use for a tambour lace class I am teaching next year in Gettysburg.  For anyone who wants to look into the online sites, here are some of the haberdashery & fabric shops I found with terrific prices and huge inventory-- www.pacifictrimming.com, www.MoodFabrics.com, and www.bandjfabrics.com.  I went to a few others (my aching feet and back...) but they didn't have websites.  One of the better shops I found in the garment district was Sil Thread- 257 West 38th St.  

Now my husband and I are off to visit my family in the warm sun of Florida for the holidays and I can't wait to hit the road!

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tambour Embroidery Project Updates, Class Offering & Needlelace

I've been off the blogging world lately but I have been busy behind the scenes creating tambour embroidered pieces as well as some other needle-y pursuits.  I've finally taken the care to order some business cards from Moo cards- www.moo.com.  I got some regular sized ones and some of the mini size ones, of which I have quite a collection (because they are so cute!) from artists I have met or ordered from.  Now I'll have my own cute little cards to pass out.  This photo above is what I put on the front of one of the cards.  It is a tambour embroidered wheel using bugle beads, all metallic threads, and a Swarovski crystal center.  The threads are really unique in that, other than the gold thread, they are each actually two colors.  The green is green when you tilt it one direction and yellow, the other.  Blue is green one direction and blue the other.  Lilac and silver, etc.  I got these threads, which are machine embroidery threads, thus showing that in tambour one can use almost any thread, at a quilt show and am sorry I didn't get one in every shade of every color as they have proven to be so useful, with limited fraying or tangling and are very, very sparkly.

I usually don't really have a tremendous idea of what I am going to be stitching when I start.  Some embroiderers can mock up the sketch, measure it out, plan it very eloquently.  But I have a general idea and make it up as I go along.  Here is an example of this.  I'd planned for this wheel to be a large flower with sequins and a french knotted middle to match a small flower I'd already made.  But I went to a bead show and also had bought a bead spinner.  If any tambour embroidery people out there are reading this and do not own a bead spinner, run out and get one and start spinning all your non-hanked beads onto thread!  The bead spinner is my new BFF!  I love it.  So easy to use and I have a much bigger supply of beads to draw from that were not on hanks previously.  They don't work with bugle beads, alas, so you have to thread those yourself if you want to use up stash.  This is what I did with these pretty green bugle beads I got at a bead show in Hampton a few months ago.  But I am off track-- I went to a bead show and brought home a whole bag of beads, but none of them on hanks, and put them in the bead spinner and Voila!  Instant stash.  I wanted to use some of the beads I got because they were very iridescent and these are the beads that are attractive to me right now.  The green bugles were calling my name.  For inspiration, I like to look at architecture, and in my neighborhood there is one particular window that is above a door that is a half moon sectioned into clear glass panels.  I took a photo of the half moon, downloaded it, enlarged it on the computer and then used it as a template for this wheel.  The window is very old and the panels are not evenly spaced.  This is why, on the tambour embroidered wheel, some sections are slightly larger or more narrow than others.  I traced one side of the printed photo on to my fabric, turned it around and traced the other side, and then went from there.  This is how I work.

The beginning of the wheel.  Note close proximity to flower that does not match the wheel.  This was the flower I'd intended to match and is now rather a pain in the rear I am contemplating as I hate to frog my work, but it really doesn't match.

Adding metallic threads, which are worked on the surface of the design.  In tambour embroidery, beads and sequins are worked from the bottom with one hand pushing up the beads and the opposite hand working with the hook from the top.  It takes a little getting used to but after a billion stitches it becomes second nature.  Ha ha.  Each segment stops and starts with the thread turning into a tangle of spaghetti until each strand is pulled through with the hook to the wrong side.

And the metallic threads are all in place, very tiny stitches indeed.

What to do with the middle?  I knew I wanted to put a Swarovski crystal in the center as it would catch all the metallic thread colors very prettily.  First I started with sequins that matched the lilac shaded threads.  After two rows, I knew that wasn't going to look like I wanted, so I frogged them.  Then I hand sewed the crystal in the center and started a pulled stitch (pointe terre) radiating around the crystal.  That, too, wasn't the best choice and was frogged.

Here is what I went with for the finished middle:

This is just to say that there is a good deal of playing around with threads, composition, color, texture, and piece placement in tambour embroidery.

A little while ago, I started offering a beginner class in tambour embroidery.  In the class, I try to cover as much territory as is possible in two days and twelve hours.  Here is my student (hi, Marina!), having driven up from North Carolina to spend time learning this fascinating art form.  We work together, one on one, and she learned to frame up her fabric using two methods- threading the sides and also lacing the sides with twill tape as is done in France.  She learned how to properly hold a tambour hook, how to insert and tighten the needle, how to correctly tension the thread, basic surface chain stitching, how to make straight lines, starting and ending the thread, turns, rows, circles, etc.  From there she started to learn how to use beads and sequins, and started a small flower using all the elements of our class.  Many questions arise and it is very beneficial to have one teacher, one student, to maximize the experience of learning with full attention placed on the student.  Here she is at her frame:

And doing very well at home, I might add.  I am very proud of this busy lady making alot of time for keeping up her skills and advancing at a very good rate.  Good job, Marina!

And here is our class project, a small flower that has wunder under added for a backing, and then cut from the frame and fashioned into a small pin.

If anyone is interested in taking my beginner class, I offer a two day class in Richmond, VA or will travel to your location if several students are interested in taking class.  Contact me at jenstumpf@gmail.com or jennstumpf@yahoo.com.  I'd be happy to teach you!  I am also available subsequent to our in person session via Skype for further instruction, questions or advice on problem solving your work.

Tambour embroidery is my first love, but I also am completely enthralled with other needlework.  Right now I am learning needlelace.  It is so portable, I take it with me everywhere I can and work on it whenever I have some time to sit and ponder my books and manuals, as, once again, there are very few teachers in this needlework anywhere in the U.S., let alone anywhere near to where I live.  So I rely on books.  This leaf is my first project.  Here is the pattern laid out with two strands of perle cotton thread, couched down 1/8" apart.  All that is needed is a base sandwich of fabric, some craft paper, clear book cover film, a crewel needle, a tapestry needle, and thread.  Everything else is left to needle and thread and knowledge of the stitches, plus alot of work on tensioning properly.  This first skeletal portion is called the Cordonnet.

I worked several sections, some of them more than once, or twice or three times, before I was more satisfied withit.  The sections worked are:  Top left- Single Brussels.  Middle left- corded Brussels with small diamond.  Bottom left (so far)- Pyramid stitch.  Top right- corded Brussels with small diamond (which I learned from an online lace guild was worked much too loosely so I tightened up the following attempts).  Right middle- Pea Stitch Variant Number 3.

Today I finished the next section down on the right, and added another corded Brussels section with small diamonds as well as Gros Point diamonds, until my eyes started to cross and I had to go back to a single small diamond and plain corded brussels.  There is a quarter in the upper left corner for size reference.

A close up of what I have worked so far:

Now I must figure out what stitch will balance these.  The idea is to have balance-- lacy next to closed stitches, and so on.  It's challenging but I am really loving it.  When it is finished, more thread is added and then the entire cordonnet is buttonhole stitched very closely to hold it all together.  Then the final step is snipping all the couched down threads, picking them out and, voila!  A whole piece of finished lace.  :-)

A final note for today is a question no flower-o-phile I know has been able to answer.  What on earth is this flower?  There are masses of them located behind the museum near where I live but no one knows what they are.  Any thoughts?  I'm stumped.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tambour Flower Clutch Bag Finish

Finally there are some photos of this piece of tambour embroidery, transformed into a clutch purse.  Here is the front of the bag.  I chose a beautiful periwinkle dupioni silk for the base fabric and loved it so much, I split the tambour worked silk organza into a seam at the bottom to show off how pretty is the fabric underneath, on the back (below).

The inside is a very slippery lavender silk- very soft and feminine, with a small pocket for a credit card, business card or lipstick.  After the initial intimidation dissolved into determination, the most difficult part of creating the purse was getting the glue into the recesses of the purse frame, without getting the glue on my hands or on the silk on either side.  And then making sure the glue was holding all the way around both sides of the frame.  Most difficult!  :-/

Closeups of the stitching, using a number of thread types and brands...  This purse is now stuffed with paper to keep its shape, and put into a bag of presentation pieces.  Time to frame up another piece of silk and get back to work!

As usual, Mango is in the middle of everything! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tambour Embroidery Progress

 Projects, projects.  I have too many of them in the works....  Here is a tambour embroidered piece I just finished.  It is going to be sewn up into an evening bag later today.  This is the pattern I got out of an old art deco book of designs.  You can see it was intended to be very monochromatic.  I intended to follow the colors as exactly as possible.  But as it turned out I could not find a yellow I liked for the bottom curved part and it did not translate so well with so much pink all over.

Here is the piece, all laced up on the frame.  I work on a frame and not a hoop to maintain good strong tension on the silk organza fabric base.  Here you see the pattern all drawn out onto the fabric.  I used a soft white chalk dressmakers pencil that rubs off with a bit of water.  As the piece progressed, I had to go back over it with the pattern underneath and pencil on top to retrace parts of the design because my arm rubs the lightweight chalk off.  You can see the flower on the bottom right is buggered right now due to this and has not been blotted and retraced yet.  I used a basketweave stitch technique (with the tambour hook) that I just learned last month for the inside of the curve.  I love this stitch- it gives such dimension!

 Just for show and tell, I ordered a bunch of skeins of silk from Japan to use in tambour embroidery.  It is rather a crapshoot when receiving these orders-- some of the silk is too thick for using the hook but most of this was very fine and very usable.  Isn't it gorgeous?  They stitch up so beautifully and the sheen is amazing.

Another photo just for show and tell-- this is my wee work station.  My husband built this folding frame stand for me and it works perfectly in this little bedroom corner where I keep all my supplies.  The light is a clip-on Ott lamp and works extremely well in this dark corner.  You can see I keep alot of things right on my frame!  This is how I like to work.  The only thing I try to keep off the frame is my scissors although sometimes I forget.  Oops-- there they are on the fabric.  :-/  So far-- no accidents!  I worry more about my fabrics than myself, though!  Looking at this photo-- I have an array of threads that I used for this project.  On the upper left of the frame is a box of Sulky rayon threads and Sulky metallic threads.  On the right are bags of very fine art silks- really a fake silk as they are Rayon but they look like silk and it is almost impossible to tell the difference on the finished piece.  Some of the bags hold real silk, too.  I use several tambour hooks but mostly I prefered to use a size 70 on this piece.  And my pencils and pattern are there.  I have a habit of having to have a pencil clamped in my mouth while I am working on something.  Nerves, I guess!  If I don't have one to chomp on, I end up biting the inside of my cheek.  Weird, I know!

Ok, I am getting somewhere with this.  The original pattern called for small stem petals and I drew them on but frogged them out after I finished one.  It just looked weird, so they got rubbed out and just the larger stems remain.  The green is Sulky 40 rayon thread.  The pink is silk from Japan.  The periwinkle blue in the basketweave is Sajou embroidery thread from France- one strand.  And the bugle beads are a gorgeous blue/grey color I bought in Paris last year.

Basketweave in metallic thread on one flower.  :-)

Heading down the home stretch, putting different colors of silk dupioni fabric underneath to see how the colors look against it.  So much planning and pondering goes into every piece I make.  

Taking a break with my sweetheart in Williamsburg!  We enjoyed a rare day out without throngs of tourists last week.

Our dog Buddy was captivated by the horses & carriage!

Home and back to work.  The flowers are completed and I am using a point terre, or pulled stitch, to set the bugle beads in a 90 degree angle from the flower tops.  Also added another top curved line of bugle beads underneath, above the pink silks.

Finito!  Ta-da! Today I have my outer fabric, interfacings and silk lining all cut out and ready to sew up into a bag.  Stay tuned for the finished bag! For all you Valentines out there, have a happy day of love! <3