Friday, May 31, 2013

May 2013 Project

It took me a little while to decide on a theme. I wanted to do something that reminded me of the softness of spring. New leaves, new flowers, the warmth of the sun as it gets higher in the sky each day, the sweet songs of the birds as they mark out their territory. There are always lots of ideas to choose from, but this time it ended up being the cherry tree that got my attention.

This is a free embroidery project that I let develop. I had an idea of a tree.

I used some painted strips of linen for the grass. I pulled out some threads from each strip, so they looked a little grassy.

For the tree I couched down some wool yarns. I wasn't quite sure the best way to do the branches, but I ended up unraveling the yarn at the ends. They are a little loose at the ends, since it was impossible to stitch down where they thinned down.

For the leaves I cut up bits of a specialty yarn and just sewed them down irregularly.

You can see the details in the closeup photo:
This project was fun. As I said, I let it develop freely. No pattern lines or templates. I told myself not to pick out any stitches as I went along too! Everything is as it was stitched. It's good practice in moving past perfectionism.

Cherry blossoms
Sparrow with nest material

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I've tried something a bit different with this project.

I was reading somewhere about someone with a site where you can leave your secrets anonymously. The site doesn't matter, but it got me thinking about the subject of secrets. We all have them. We try to bury many of them deep down in dark places, but often they lie just below the surface, covered by a thin veil. Sometimes people that know us can see through the veil.

Secrets, some of them are necessary for peace in our relationships and emotional and physical survival. They are not always "bad", sometimes they are silly like little beauty secrets. But some of them are sores that continue to burn us and are a  heavy burden to carry. Unloading them on others can be a relief.

Another thing about secrets is the fascination. We love to find out secrets about others. But have you ever stopped to wonder why? Is it make us feel better to know someone has things to hide that really only show that they are human?

Anyways, to the artwork. This is a great example of how painting is helping me with my needlework. I would have never thought of this sort of project otherwise.

This is one of my favorite ways to work to paint. There is freedom in it. And there is something else. I learn about myself and the world. What I do is to think of a subject, a thought, a feeling, something and without words, I get out the colors and brushes and just paint what comes. It is a little surprising sometimes what comes.The analysis of secrets above came after the painting, by the way, not before. I don't think I could have put those things to words without letting my brushes and paints go to work first.

When I looked at the finished painting, I just though the swirls were a little flower-like. I suppose we often associate gardens with secrets. Not just because of the Secret Garden book, which I haven't read since I was a child. The idea must be older than the book, but I have no idea, really. I added the bits of white paint around the edge later because I just felt the painting felt too open with out it.

So with this painting, I decided to try a needlework. I tried making some swirls in various ways, but I didn't like them, so I went with more traditionally-formed flowers. (The painting reminded me of them, as I said!)
As you see I have added a border around it, but there is some fabric left hanging to the left. This is because I am hoping to make some kind of fiber book. I have no idea what the "best" way to assemble one is, so I will make it up as I go, and I might need the extra fabric.

The lock and the key I added mostly for fun, but they are in keeping with the theme. I'm finding that I really like adding layers and textures with yarns and stitches. I will continue to try new ways to use the materials.

It's time to move to this month's journal project. I have some ideas, so I had better get to work!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bee Purse

Finally, here is my bee purse!
And the beehive side:
It's a little work to sew these frames on, but it isn't hard.

This is part of my effort over the past year or so to take the embroidery "off the wall".  Or perhaps in my case, out of the box. I have 3 boxes now. It's starting to feel a little silly with the boxes, but I have made a lot of projects that need protecting. That's all fine, but what I have done here, is taken an embroidery and made it something you can interact with, and that's the key. A little purse is just one possibility, there are many more. I will keep looking for other objects that I find interesting to construct.

Time flies, it's hard to believe May is here. May is a busy time for the yard, but there is always time for more projects! And I'm writing it down, since I have already committed to it in my mind, but I have decided to run another summer stitch school. I'm not sure if it will be like the previous one or a little different. I have a few weeks to decide, but as I said, the commitment has been made!!

Saturday, April 27, 2013


These are the sides to a new small purse I have been working on.
I've already sewn it all together, but my photos weren't so great (they were terrible in fact!!), so I will be back with it all sewed together soon.

Just some fun stitching. The tiny bees were probably the best part! I'm sure they will an appearance in other projects too!

Otherwise, spring is finally here. It's late April, but the crocuses and snowdrops are still in bloom!!  The crane migration was late too, but they did eventually come in all their grace and beauty.
At the most this year there were 10,000 at one time. Tons of barley are put out for them to eat every year.
Of course it isn't just the cranes that love to enjoy a meal.
Swans, geese, ducks of different varieties come too!

And not to forget the small birds!  This place is a haven for gulls, terns, larks, and many, many other birds, including these charming house sparrows that I saw in the bushes. Sparrows are common birds that often go unnoticed, but they have beauty too if you just choose to see it.

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 2013 Journal Project

Time for another embroidery journal project!

I call this one Night Flyers.

There is a story behind this project. One night we were outside putting out the pellets for the ducks as we always do. We weren't quite quick enough, so the ducks were already flying. (They live down in the river nearby.)

They won't land though if we are out moving about though, so we moved over to stand by the wall of the old house. The moon was a crescent, it was an icy, cold, starry night. I tried to capture this in an embroidery.

I limited the number of ducks to 6, but there are many more that come! You can hear the whistle and quacking as they circle about. They always come just as the last bit of light fades or in the morning just before the sun rises.

 Another project done, time to think about a new one!

Friday, March 15, 2013

World Wide Web Embroidery

I've had this design sitting around for a long while. I even colored my vector drawing.
It must have been at least a year ago that I did this. But the time was finally right to make it into a project.
I was inspired by the way the web has transformed connections between people. Wires are literally wrapped around the planet and are now zipping our messages to their destination at amazing speeds.

I thank you for dropping by. I'm very busy on a different sort of project hoping to get it to some state of ready in the next month or two. It's putting the squeeze on everything else! There is only so much time to spread out.

But I have found myself in a different place now. I've realized this thing we call life is a temporary condition, and we have to think of that when we divide up our time and energy, so we focus our time and resources on what truly matters.

That's a deep thought, and I leave it open to you to contemplate, but I will be returning to this theme in the future.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 2013

I have finished my embroidery journal project for this month. I had the idea at the end of February, so I went ahead and started it.

I got this idea from watching the birds, of course, as I often do. These blackbirds love to eat fruit. Apples are a favorite, but I think they like the raisins even better.

I added the tangle of branches around the little bird, since they spend their days hiding out in the bushes.  The males are jet black which makes the orange ring around their eyes really stand out.
The snow and ice continue melting. The winter has been long and oppressive. The sun is starting to be strong enough to warm us. Now we wait for the days to grow long enough for the blackbirds to break out into their sweet song.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

For embroidery lovers only

I think that must have been true then as it is now. You certainly have to love embroidery to make it through a project of this size!!!  This project is nearly 2' x 2'.

I have come back to my reproduction wool embroidery that has been pushed to the side for a very long time. I started this a year and a half ago, and I am determined that this year it will be done. To be honest I am a bit ashamed that it was left sitting so long. I will keep at it, although I do intend to go back to my other projects as well!

I've mentioned this project before, but I will again. It's been a long time. This project that I bought (it wasn't one of my own creations) is after an old pillow that was found in the south of Sweden. It's very typical with the colors and the folk-arty themes, as well as the black wool fabric too. Black was highly prized and a sign of wealth, since it was hard to make black.  The cushions were meant for use, not just for decoration like mine will be. The seats were hard wood, so a cushion was very welcome.

I've been a fan of these old embroideries for a while now. To me they tell a story of the joy of embroidery and decoration, as well as the joy in the creative process. I find them fascinating to look at and ponder.  The reproductions are fine and all, but the next one I do will be of my own design, because I think it's more important to use our arts and crafts to tell our own stories.

Now for some true cuteness. Around here, the little long-tailed tits are pretty much considered to be one of the cutest birds in existence! Whenever I hear them out there, I always stop to watch them because they are just so fun to watch!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 2013: What is there to be afraid of?

That's the real title of my latest project but I will come back to that in a moment.

Last week I had a serious case of stitcher's block. Actually it's still there, but I can't let it stop me. It's not a lack of project ideas or designs or anything, but it's a matter of finding something that makes me want to actually pick up the needle. It's not a problem with motivation, it's a feeling that is grounded in something else.

So I tried a different approach. I picked up some materials that felt interesting to work with and used that as my start instead.

This is my free embroidery for February's journal project, and I call it Art from the heart. I didn't know what I was going to make when I started.  I started with a heart and went from there.

It wasn't at all inspired by Valentine's day. There was something else I was trying to remind myself of. And that is what is there to be afraid of? As the ongoing stitcher's block reminds me, what is stopping me from picking up my needles and materials and making something that flows out of me.

The lines on the heart represent how I feel about perfectionism. They trap us in, imprison us and prevent us from being ourselves. As I mentioned, I created this to remind myself not to let the mindless pursuit of perfection stop me.

I chose to do this project as a traditional Swedish style crewel embroidery, wool on wool. Thick wool felt is a popular material to do wool embroidery on here in Sweden. 

There is resistance where the thread meets the fabric, I can definitely say. And I won't say it's impossible, but exact, perfect stitches are hard to manage on this type of material. You have to accept that the overall effect is more important than the individual stitches.

We've had a little visitor a couple weeks ago!! This was exciting since owl-sightings are so rare.

This little pygmy owl stopped by one morning and sat in the bird box for about 10 minutes. I saw it go in. 

The owl is smaller than a cardinal. So small, but yet this bird is a predator of other little birds and small mammals.

No doubt it was here looking for breakfast. The peanuts and sunflower seeds flow freely here, so the little birds are always at hand.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January Embroidery Journal Project

Here I am finally! This time I have my embroidery journal project along with me.

This year I decided to give myself more freedom with the size of the project to allow the size to suit the project instead of the other way around. I like the 4 x 4 inch format though, so I will return to it in other projects.

This  little project I call Let your heart sing.  First a short mention of the techniques. I used an acrylic ink wash to color the fabric. Then I have coming crewel embroidery with raised embroidery.

I had the idea in my head, but it didn't quite take it's full shape until one of the commenters on Stitchin Fingers left a comment on the Folk Art Crewel Bird that it made her heart sing.

I thought that was such a nice thought that I decided to make it my theme for this month. This project is about joy. Find where your joy comes from and show it to people near you and especially yourself.

And don't forget to hear the bird's songs. They are full of the joy of living.

And by the way, you can find the tutorial for making beaded berries on my site.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fall 2012 Blog Tour Stop

It's neither fall nor 2012, but I did have one final stop I lined up before Christmas. The holiday got in the way though, but it's always better late than never.

This final stop is Ann's lovely blog called Harvest Moon by Hand. Ann does quilting and embroidery and a good many other crafts. One of my favorite things about Ann's blog and work is how she finds ways to make everything personal. Symbolism and meaning in so much of what she does. It's a great way to help steer you through life. Ann was kind enough to answer a pile of questions I sent to her.

How long have you been embroidering? 
I learned how to embroider when I was in junior high school - about 35 years ago. At that time, cross-stitching was very popular so that's what I began with.

Why did you start?
I was in 4-H and it was one of the projects I enrolled in. It was a new hobby and skill I wanted to learn.

How did you learn to embroider?
I taught myself how to do cross-stitching. Then, after I adopted my daughters I began making handmade toys for them. I learned how to do other embroidery stitches by looking at pictures in books. This would have been in about 2003 or about 9 years ago.

During the past year - 2012 - I did the Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge. Each week for one year, a new stitch was presented. I learned how to do the stitches presented or found ones I wanted to learn when the stitch was too complicated or I knew I wouldn't use it again in the future. So, in 2012 I learned about 50 new stitches which was fun. The internet has been a valuable resource in terms of step-by-step instructions and/or videos for some of the more complicated stitches.

What are your favorite projects?
I definitely like combining embroidery with quilting; and some of my favorite projects are of this nature. I made a quilt a couple years ago that used sashiko embroidery. By the time I was done, I had done more than 10,000 stitches.

I also am happy to have done the Embroidery Journal Project during 2012. I did a 12"x12" quilt square each month that featured some of the activities and highlights of the particular month. During 2013, I'm going to sew the embroidered squares together along with other fabric to create a quilt of memories.

What inspires you?
Nature definitely inspires me. Living on a ten-acre farm, I'm always surrounded by nature and wildlife. I also am inspired by the work by other crafters and artists whose work I see on Flickr or Pinterest.

You've joined in the embroidery journal projects this year.  Have the projects been a help for you and if so how?  
Yes, the Embroidery Journal Project was a huge help to me this year. My father died on January 5, 2012, so the year started out on a difficult note. I wasn't sure what I would do with the EJP, but after my Dad died I knew that I wanted to focus on the positive elements of the year. This helped me deal with grieving and loss issues throughout the year. I feel like I have a positive quilt filled with lots of good memories to look back upon...despite the difficulties I was going through.

Do you have any advice for people who would like to learn more about personalizing their projects?
I try to look at the positive things that are happening in my life rather than dwell on the challenges. In that way, whatever you create radiates joy and good memories. 

You have some young children, do you think it's important to pass on the handicraft/making tradition to them?
Definitely! Both Sophia and Olivia learned how to do embroidery and other handicrafts when they were young - starting at about 5 years old. Teaching them basic and practical skills that will last their lifetime is important to me.

What else do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy reading, traveling, photography, bird watching/feeding, nature, and sewing.

You can also find Ann on Flickr and Etsy. Be sure to stop by her blog and say hi!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

More Crewel Embroidery

Here I am once again with a new finish. The first for the new year! Although I have cheated by working on this during December too.
It's already been nearly a week since I finished this.
The color choices caused me great pains. I somehow managed to pull it together well enough for it to look alright, but my problem isn't that I don't know the colors I want to use, it's that I don't have them! I will keep collecting crewel colors until I have want I need!