Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Right Tools - Mellore for Goldwork

Mellore -- This tool is used primarily in traditional goldwork. When you need to nudge a thread into place, use the mellore. When you need to make the stiff gold bend into a nice tight turn, use the mellore. When you need to straighten a recalcitrant thread, use the mellore.

The sharp point can be used like an awl but mostly the edges of the mellore are used to persuade the stiff metal threads to behave. The edges are gently curved to allow the persuasion without damaging the fragile metal threads.

My mellore is from the Royal School and is sterling silver. I had a hole drilled in the end to allow me to put a lanyard through to attach it to my kit. I also had it engraved with my initials; as a class room full of mellores can lead to them wandering around. It is my third hand and my goldwork would not be the same without it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Costume College Recap & 15th Anniversary

Details on my LJ since most of my costuming friends are there. I have pictures of Will and I and a bit about our activities. Enjoy!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Running with Fiber

Running fast these days - but what's new with that :)
I am trying to take a fiber break every day - knit, embroider, etc.

Had a blast at the Griffin Dyeworks Retreat. We made the right choice to motel even with the 20 minute drive to site. My sinuses, my body, and my general diet health was better by having options not available at site. Even managed to get Will excited about the dyeing :) Drove down Thursday - Fri/Sat/Sun went to camp :) - Sun evening family time with Will's Mom - home Monday. Nice amount of time really away!

Tie Dye Indigo - can't keep my hands out of the dye pots and overdyeing is even better :)

Cochineal - LOVE the color you can get

Mushroom - who knew about the reds and golds, but I was late to the party and all that was left was brown :(

Lichen - one was a yellow/gold and the other yellow/green that is a brilliant chartreuse.

Chemical dyes - using resists, overdyes, and "dust dyes". I now know how most of the colored roving I buy has been done. I know how to choose better and when it is worth paying the $$ or doing it myself. I also know more about blending the roving to spin.

I am not a chemist so having dye pots I can just play in rocks!

Learned to spin thick & thin intentionally and add in additional "accent" threads.

More Pictures on Facebook

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Right Tools - Needles for Embroidery

One of the things I don't get asked is what are the right tools. The right tools and the right materials make embroidery fun and a whole lot easier. Makes me wonder when I see people "just making do" or look at a needle curiously when I put it into a kit.

The Right Needle for the Job:
Not so long ago I would just pick up the needle that felt right or could make do for the job at hand. No longer! There is a lot to learn about needles - the shaft diameter, overall length of the needle, the eye type, etc. Just as having the "wrong" end of the thread in your needle makes for knots, having the wrong eye on the needle or wrong diameter for the needle, makes passing the thread through your fabric harder or destructive to your thread.

Some of the learning comes from experience. However, there is one tool which I think can help. As most of you know, I usually don't endorse anything but there are exceptions and this is one. The Valley Quail Chapter of EGA puts out a Needle Index. This spiral bound book has information about most types of needles - pictures of them so you can determine their number/size, words about what they do best, and a piece of felt to place your needles. It runs under $10 and many local needlework shops carry them. Or you can get them from Needle In a Haystack .

The other thing I am quickly learning is that the quality of the needle makes a difference. While I like gold or titanium needles, they are not as necessary to me as a well made steel needle. Yes I used to buy "cheap" needles for kits, but not any longer. The cheap needles wear on your thread, have burrs which marr the fabric, and dull faster. Unfortunately some of the larger needle companies have taken to outsourcing the production of their needles. Now I look at each package to make sure that they are made in England or France.

The one exception is the handmade and specialty Japanese needles. These are a true luxury. In the US they are available through the Japanese Embroidery Center . They too have very specific jobs which they perform beautifully if you are doing certain types of goldwork or fine silk "painting" embroidery.

As you may have guessed by now, this will be a periodic series of columns about tools. If you are curious about a particular tool or type of embroidery and its tools - leave a comment. Hopefully this series will help some of you overcome issues which have kept your embroidery from being the best it can be.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Very Special Weekend

This weekend I was admitted into the highest Arts order for my medieval hobby in recognition for my embroidery - the Order of the Laurel. Details of the weekend can be found on my Live Journal post .

There are pictures linked to my Facebook page as well. I know more will follow. At some point I will do a webpage with all the info and picture summary, but for now...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Week with Original Thinkers

Realized that I had not yet posted about my wonderful adventures with Jean Littlejohn and Jan Beaney - aka Double Trouble . I was fortunate to attend one of their rare week long retreats here in the US. On their website they state their philosophy of teaching as "Our aim is to give students the confidence to design and create their own unique work". They sooooooo live up to this.

They gave us exercises and then we proceeded to do them. They would come around and check on our progress. They brought and shared examples that they had done which utilized bits from the exercise so we had concepts, ideas for application and examples of execution. What was really wonderful is that no one in the class proceeded to get the same result. Some student pieces were so out of the box and wonderful that it added quite a depth to the class. Also each of us in the class came from quite different backgrounds and had different focuses for our art.

Each exercise was designed to give us a tool, concepts about creating additional similar tools, and a jump start for a project. In the past I had looked at their books - mostly at the pictures and little bit at the words. Now I am reading their books and seeing how they applied and developed the concepts that they shared in the class. The books may be "thin" in pages and contain lots of pictures - BUT take the words to heart. There are layers of advice contained within them.

These 2 ladies have taught college level textile arts for 30 years. They produce art constantly with several showings each year. The don't accept that there are rules unless they have played with all the possibilities. That is what the class and their thinking is all about - the possibilities.

Will have to let the ideas percolate for awhile. Sorry no pics - nothing is finished and I am not comfortable showing unfinished work. I will tell you that we played with natural fabrics, creating our own block stamps and using them, gold foil transfer, various stitches, soluable fabrics, scrim (similar to cheese cloth), silk waste, yarns of all types and sizes, threads, poly sheer fabrics, The Embellisher, #14 Chenille needle, lots of layers, and our imagination/interpretations of things in nature. I am not sure I will ever look at objects, shapes, nature in the same way again.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Project

This a a very well wrapped front and partial back of my Elizabethan Pouch Project. Well wrapped due to weather constraints :)

About a year ago some friends pushed me to do a historically documentable project. After a number of false starts and several rounds of consultation with my friends this is the result. The inspiration is a purse dated 1600 and shown in a magazine published by Lanto Synge as editor. It includes a very detailed photo of the center of the original and a to scale photo - 6"x6" of the purse. Today the purse resides at the Burrell, although I did not know that when we went to visit in 2007.

In January, I finally started a process of working 5-6 days a week on this piece of embroidery. Mornings were reserved for doing "business" and afternoons and evenings for stitching. The back will only be braid since the cost of materials and time is high. It will have twined braided cording around the opening, finger loop braid pattern drawstrings, coiled loops for the pull tabs and the tassel holders, and silk tassels. Thank-you to Jacquie Carey for showing me how.

I learned a lot on this journey. I would do some things differently and will apply that knowledge on future work.

The piece was presented at our medieval organization, the Society for Creative Anachronism, Kingdom of the West March Crown Arts and Sciences display. After the peerage meetings, I was honored to be offered (and accepted) entrance into the Order of the Laurel - the highest arts/sciences honor we have for the organization. The ceremony will be at our Beltane event with celebration to follow.

In the next month or so, I hope to finish the project so I can wear it for the ceremony. I also planned a treat for myself - a class with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn. My brain my have whiplash but it is all fiber and therefore all good.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catching Up with This and That

On the Stitching front -- I am working on a BIG project. It is big in that it takes - bloody forever to get the work done. It is a small project in size - the whole thing is 6" x 6". The medium is seed pearls (in the truest form - 1 - 1.5 mm) and bullion on silk with various padded levels. It is quite the learning experience. I will blog more about it and the process of working the piece when it is done.

The frustrating part is my mind is going a million miles an hour on designing some new multi-fiber pieces. I don't do well with Visual Journals, but will probably resort to one just to get some of these ideas out of my head so I can keep the forward momentum on the pearl/bullion project. My muse sooooo very much wants out to play!

My guild meets next week and we get to play with Nancy Nehring and her Dorset Buttons. These are a Victorian button style that probably has its roots back in Renaissance times. It uses a ring which is covered and then decorated with needle lace techniques. Should be fun and no we are not doing them in single silk ply thread so sanity will be maintained.

Was asked to give an evaluation of the Cosmo threads by Lecien. The quilting shops have adopted the threads for decorating quilts with embroidery. It is slowly seeping into the regular embroidery world. My bottom line is - like the floss better than DMC - the quality of the colors and the handle of the thread is a treat. The 2 ply spools, hmmmm, I rarely use 2 ply so it will have limited use for me but does make a lovely outline stitch. Haven't tried the pearl cotton yet, but think I will enjoy it. I use pearl on Temari balls (for which it has numerous followers in New Zealand and Australia), some CQ, and for teaching needlelace techniques. The price is higher than its competition, but I don't mind paying more for better quality working materials. After all if it is worth my spending time working with them, then I want high quality materials.

Treating myself to a couple workshops this year. Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn are coming to my area and I was fortunate to land a place in their 5 day workshop. I am looking forward to expanding my mental horizons as well as my techniques. Then down to the LA area for a fiber retreat through Griffin Dyeworks. Don't know what the classes are, but I really don't care. Bjo Griffin will be there with her dyepots and there is so much fun and knowledge to absorb that the classes will only be a bonus. Lastly we are going to Costume College again. This is where we met in 1996 and we periodically make the trek back.

The muse is tugging at me now, so off to note stuff in the Visual Journal before I plant myself back in front of the sewing area. Think about 4-5 hours for 1" worth of work.