Monthly Archives: June 2009

Needlepoint Cat

Needlepoint Cat

Needlepoint Cat

This time last year I was busy sewing this chap.  See, every year I enter something into the village show and the last couple of years I have successfully won prizes – which means that I have to come up with something different every time!

I had initially wanted to make a fully joined needlepoint teddy bear, but the mono canvas is so unforgiving and a little bulky, so I wasn’t sure how well it would work out.  Instead I opted for a basic cat like shape and see how it wrinkled out.

As this was for the needlpoint class, I couldn’t use too many traditional embroidery stitches, but that didn’t matter because there are so many different needlpoint stitches out there.  Add colour, shading and texture into the mix and you have hundreds of stitches to choose from!

What I really liked about this was that I could use my favourite colours, from fresh aqua to a deep raspberry pink.  I had fallen in love with the DMC Rayon range (which they have now discontinued) which worked well on the canvas as well as the DMC Light Effects, both Anchor and DMC cotton floss, Soft Floche and Pearl.

As I am an inpatient designer, I started work on it before I had planned out where most of the patterns would be.  What I knew for sure was that I had wanted him to have tabby facial markings and a striped tail.

It was difficult to find eyes that matched the colours in the design, so they were handpainted using a clear glass eye and purple nail polish!  To define his features I used some of my bear making skills and did some needle sculpting around the eyes and nose.

I very rarely keep my embroidery and needlework, but I couldn’t give this one away so now he sits on my book case.

Back of the Cat

Back of the Cat

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Make Up? Break Up

That embroidered bag I was talking about before? Well, yesterday I decided to set to work on it, except when I started to read the instructions again (specifically the bit about cutting out each petal, which contradicted itself in the next paragraph saying that you shouldn’t cut out 5 of the petals) I went from being confused to being angry (blame that bit on the hot weather).  See, that isn’t the best way to start a project because every time you hit a problem or fall out of love with it, you end up hating it even more and create bad memories associated with the item.

Until it occurred to me, I could take the idea of the drawstring bag and make my own design for the petals.  Duh.  Who says that you have to follow someone else’s (badly written) instructions?  So now I can make a beautiful jacobean design and use glowing jewel like colours and embellish with tiny pearls instead of make something from a book that irritated me from the beginning.

Watch this space…

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Instruction headache

I saw this book in an old needlework magazine and fell in love with the bag on the front, it is a perfect mix of goldwork and embroidery that would test my skills.  So I tracked down the book (which, of course, is out of print) and started reading the instructions.

Then re-read them.

Then re-re-read them.

Now, I think I am a pretty accomplished needlewoman and have followed hundreds of intructions so this shouldn’t be a problem, but it didn’t make sense.  I even asked Mum to look over them and she couldn’t understand them either – this was a relief, I know that I am on a lot of painkillers which can make my head foggy, but not that foggy.

The embroidery itself doesn’t seem that difficult, neither does the interior drawstring bag, but the way the petals are made seem almost impossible.   Then last night at the asscrack of dawn when I couldn’t sleep it came to me.  You make ten petals then sandwich them together to make five, using couched gold braid to hide the edge. Hooray, why couldn’t she have said that instead of assuming that the reader knows what is going on in her head.

Now I understand what is going on, this seems OK, but using a backing fabric with evenweave seems a little irritating – then using two thick layers of vylene also seems like overkill…

All I need to know is where the hell I get Pongee material…

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Needlepoint

Needlepoint Bookmark

Needlepoint Bookmark

When I first started to embroider back when I was 7 what I loved most was the different stitches, and sat for hours with my Mum’s embroidery books making up samplers.

This is why I find needlepoint so frustrating.  While there is a certain elegance to the repetitive nature of the designs, it still doesn’t get away from having to do the majority in tent stitch.  I don’t think that I’d ever be able to tolerate doing a large needlpoint tapestry!

Every year for the village show I dig out some needlepoint designs and start sewing.

This was a bookmark using a kit by Sue Hawkins who does a lovely range of unusual items using a range of needlepoint stitches.  You can also easily adapt her designs using different colours and patterns as her colours are often a little muted.

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Bearly Changing times

Last year I went to a Teddy Bear fair and with Mum’s encouragement, I ended up buying a pattern and some beautiful curly mohair.  This was the start of my fascination with bear making.

As I hate machine sewing, I did everything by hand and I really enjoyed myself.  The most tedious thing is when you have to trim the fur around the edge so it is easier to sew, which means you get bits of fur everywhere.

After calling her a he throughout the sewing process, as soon as I put the head on the body, I knew that it was a girl.   Her joints are very loose and I am not sure about her nose, but as my first bear I am really pleased with the way that she looks, especially wearing my costume jewellery.

Bear making is a strange business, I often feel slightly embarrassed about it, but when I have given the bears as gifts, they have always been received with lots of smiles.  Secretly, everyone likes a teddy bear – I think that the trick is to make sure that the bear fits the personality of the owner.

Since my first bear, I became prolific in my bear making and bought many patterns.  Each time I made one, I became more and more aware of the subtleties of design, down to ‘pulling paws’ to make the toes curl, needle sculpting which is making a series of small stitches pulling into the stuffing to shape the head, and not to mention scissor sculpting which is snipping away at the fur to change the face.  You can just use one pattern, but can finish it in so many different ways to create a different personality and style.

At Christmas, everyone had a bear and for birthdays too, when I ran out of pattens, I slowed down making the bears and starting to plan  my own designs.  Already I have tweaked arm and foot length and now I know which head shapes I prefer, but it is taking the plunge into the unknown.

It is an expensive hobby, mohair costs a lot so you need to be 100% sure of your design before you start cutting out, so it is suggested that you make the bear out of calico to make sure that it looks OK.  Of course, it would be easier to do this on a sewing machine, unfortunately I tried and failed, with sitting up to the  machine hurting my back and the 3mm seams too small to accurately sew.  So the calico design is on the backburner for a while.

Now, I have gone back to doing some embroidery.  I had forgotten the meditative state that the stitches have on me and the lack of the shedding mohair is refreshing.  Of course I can’t leave the bear making design behind and as I sew the thought ‘maybe I could cover bear paws in french knots’ creep into my mind…

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