Tag Archives: design

Blackwork embroidery

beginning of a blackwork map It was time for a tutorial on the local fibercraft blog I co-write, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for a locally-themed project, the kind I would worry was uninteresting to most readers here. I settled on a map of the area in blackwork embroidery and set to work. Over there you’ll find information about blackwork and stitching this pattern; here I want to discuss the design process.

Originally I wanted to partition the map into what we really think of as towns, which are smaller, more numerous, and more irregular than what the state governments regard as towns. The large boxy shapes date back to at least 1860, though, and I determined it would take me months to draw other boundaries. Drawing my own borders would also result in many arbitrary decisions about what was in or out of town.

I also didn’t intend to include 46 towns in the final map, but again, restricting would have required arbitrary decisions. The towns I included comprise the beat of the local newspaper, so any arbitrariness to the boundary is well in the past now.

To make the town outlines I imported an area map into MacStitch (of which I still owe you a full review) and traced the edges with backstitch. Deleting the cross-stitches was easy since none of them were black, so I was able to simply remove each color and its stitches from the palette. I then adjusted a number of the edge lines so all town corners would be at grid corners, in case anyone wants to make their own arbitrary exclusions.

I asked for and was granted permission to use fillings from Kim Brody Salazar’s wonderful blackwork fillings collection, but between asking and receiving I had the idea to make fill patterns out of the initial(s) of each town, and couldn’t let go of it. That meant 46 different fill patterns, 7 of which had to be built from the letter C. That is not a letter that has much difference between upper- and lowercase, or print and cursive. Also difficult were 3 Ws plus WF and WW. Oddly enough, the solitary F and E gave me more trouble than, say, the 4 Ss. Many evenings of sketching while watching the hubs play Skyrim passed as I designed letter fills and then slotted them into their locations.

A few more evenings passed while I stitched the beginning of my sample, shown above. I don’t have time to continue to be so dogged about this, so it will be some months before I’m done, but you’ll see it again then. I’m working on 32-count linen (over 2, for an effective count of 16) with a single strand of black embroidery floss (DMC 310). The stitching I’ve done is all six strands of a 2–2.5 foot length of floss.

There are a few useful links in the pattern post that are also now on the ideas and inspiration embroidery page, halfway down, where I’ve added a blackwork entry to the slowly growing directory of embroidery techniques.

Stitching vistas

Through the Sew-Op, I had the chance to take a two-part course from one of my fellow teachers, Sally Munro, on landscape quilting. We used the method in the book Accidental Landscapes, by Karen Eckmeier. I chose a photo of sunset as seen from my grandparent’s backyard when I was growing up (appearing in speckly scan form below). See what you think of the interpretation:

Williams Bay sunset finished landscape quilt

I took a few progress photos to give you a sense of how it went together.

landscape materials

The sky and water were made from pieced fabric, through a technique called texturing where you cut a slightly wavy edge, press it down a quarter inch, and topstitch it to the layer above. After trimming the lower layer to a quarter inch below the stitching, you can add the next one. Cutting a wavy edge rather than a straight one gives a more organic feeling to the piece. The perfect colors miraculously came out of Sally’s fabric stash.

The tree was black fabric on Steam-A-Seam cut out by hand with a previous copy of the photo on top of the fabric. It is on top of the sky but extends below the top edge of the water, for extra security.

landscape unbound

The binding is one continuous strip, joined into a loop after being sewn on three sides and a couple of inches into the fourth on each side. It is turned to the back and hand-sewn down. I used corner pockets for a hanging rod; the binding is what’s called a French twist and is supposed to create its own rod casing, but the fabric I used was too narrow to accommodate anything but the tiniest of dowels, with virtually no overhang at the ends.

landscape quilt back

Unfortunately I basted by machine, which was not Sally’s intent, and couldn’t get the needle marks out. It’s a good thing I had basted with the direction of the design! I will know better next time. It was a wonderful learning experience, though, and I am more than happy with the way it came out.

Comic gifts

Late last fall I got the idea to stitch up some of my husband’s drawings and make him a zippered pencil/hook case for Christmas. Well, here we are now and the stitching is done but not the case.

oh you banner Oh You stitching

contemplation contemplation stitching

Oh You! A Periodical is the hubby’s zine, and the first picture is the banner for the accompanying blog. The other is from an individual blog entry. Click the pictures to go to the blog and the entry, respectively.

He made both originals on the computer, the unicorn with a program that allowed pixel-by-pixel control (so the pattern is a literal representation, though I made a minor error in the stitching), and the man by drawing with the trackpad on his laptop (!!!). I printed a large version of the man and went over it with graph paper to turn it into a cross-stitch pattern.

The stitching is all half stitches on 28-count evenweave with two strands of floss. Full cross stitches were too difficult at that scale.

His birthday was yesterday and I gave him the finished embroideries with a request that he tell me whether he would actually like them made into a pencil case, or into something else. He chose the pencil case, and we’ll be designing it to suit his use. I’ll show you when it’s done!

First Friday

Back despite a lack of popular demand! As you may recall, First Friday was a place where I wrote about something other than a project I was doing; links around the web and craft inspiration show up, as well as sneak peeks at my work. This month I want to talk about fonts and crafting.

There are an almost ridiculous number of free fonts available. Dingbat fonts seem to have limited practical use, but if you stop thinking of them as fonts and start thinking of them as clipart you can scale cleanly up and down indefinitely, without a vector graphics program, their horizons expand. For example, you could make a coloring book, or design your own embroidery patterns. An easy way to make embroidery patterns is to trim tracing paper down so it is slightly smaller than printer paper, tape it to a piece of printer paper at the leading edge (usually the top), and feed it through so the tracing paper gets printed on (usually loaded into the tray in with the tracing paper down). If you have larger solid areas of ink they take longer to dry on the tracing paper, but it is otherwise very easy. Taping it to a piece of printer paper ensures the tracing paper gets picked up properly by the printer, an idea I got from a tutorial about printing onto tissue paper to apply to candles.

Fontspace has a lot of fonts tagged with keywords, and as a bonus, a filter option to show only those fonts licensed for commercial use (it even tells you how many you’re missing out on with the filter on). If you want to sell what you make or just cover your bases for all potential later decisions, stick to commercial use fonts (of course this does not give you license to sell the font itself, just the things you create using it). Here are some designers and particular fonts I found browsing Fontspace recently.

  • I drooled over Dieter Steffmann’s calligraphic, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and other historical-looking fonts for quite some time. He also has some fun ones, like Typographer’s Holidayfont, a multi-holiday collection of dingbats, and Drift Wood, letters drawn as though made out of rough boards that have been nailed together. All of them are wonderful and gave me no warnings in Font Book (a rarity in the free font world).
  • West Wind Fonts has a lot of dingbat fonts available for commercial use. I love Kitchen Kapers, a font of outline letters with kitchen-related images (that match the letter). It would be perfect for a child’s coloring book but for the fact that X’s picture is butter melting onto popcorn – and the only guess I’ve seen for what that means is X-rated movie! You could mix and match with AlphaPikture ‘Bet by Nght’s Place, which punts on the vowels but does a good job with the consonants. It is also an outline font with pictures, good for coloring.
  • I noticed dustBUST because of Invaders, all the beautiful pixellated Space Invaders graphics. It would be fun to make a cross-stitch pattern with. (Of course you could go with a font that is already cross-stitch, such as Goodbye Crewel World – note I don’t know about the commercial use status of that font.) I also quite like Dreamland, though maybe not so much for embroidery.
  • Another designer with a LOT of fonts is GemFonts. A small selection: Multicasion, a holiday dingbat font, Culinary Art, a food dingbat font, and Fantasy Clipart, a collection of highly detailed illustrations of mythical creatures, treasure, and adventure.
  • Getting back to decorated letters, Xmas Alpha and Holly are both Christmasy, the former outlined capitals with Christmas-related images (unrelated to the letter), and the latter a decorative font in which part of every character has been replaced with a holly leaf (or in the case of some punctuation, made to look like a holly berry). The kerning is not good in the holly font – some letters overlap and some have big gaps – but you could fix that in the design process. A lovely non-holiday decorated font is LSLeaves.
  • Back in the realm of children’s alphabet coloring books is Alfabilder by Peter Wiegel. This is a dingbat font (pictures only) where the name of the object in German starts with the corresponding letter. There is nothing that starts with Q in English, and there may be other letters missing, but many objects have the same initial in English as German and others can be rearranged. I realized upon looking at it a second time that many if not most of Nina’s Animals match their letters, though there are some glaring exceptions (some of which could be rearranged – for example, v is a snail, but b looks like a vulture). It is very cute, though; check out the rest of GorillaBlu’s fonts.
  • So as not to go on too long, I’ll close with two more designers. Blue Vinyl gives us Lucky Charms (the superstitious kind rather than the cereal), Sugar Coma (worth it for the gumball machine at R/r alone), and Trick or Treat BV (a wide variety of Halloween images). Intellecta Design has a lot of complex dingbat fonts, such as Random Dingbats (includes a lovely turkey, phonographs, old-fashioned silhouettes, a UFO, and much more), Zooland (lovely animals as though out of a children’s book, many holding blank signs), and Barber Poles (the font you never knew you needed).

As this posts I am at an open house at the Sew-Op, trying to drum up some more teachers and students and workshop users. Happy December!

Der Blaue Rooster

chickens in a restaurant yard

I bought a telephone chair last summer, that looks a lot like this except with a seat, uninspiringly upholstered.

After contemplating all the embroidered linen and upholstery-weight fabric in my stash (not an extensive collection), I decided needlepointing (or cross-stitching, or crewel-working) a seat cover for it is the way to go. I thought about koi, Chinese brush painting, art deco, art nouveau, and stained glass. After more consideration I had my decision: I want to design and stitch a Franz Marc rooster.

Roosters and abstract art meet on my dining room wall already (though in the picture below they’re still on my living room floor).

rooster wall hangings

My man Marc was a member of Der Blaue Reiter artist group (whose most famous member was Wassily Kandinsky, an unfavorite) and I discovered his existence in Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne. He painted a lot of animals: Deer in the Forest; Piggies; Birds.

Small roosters appeal to me the most. I will draw from Nankin Bantams and Japanese Bantams with a bit of this probably mixed-breed beauty stirred in.

Wish me luck. What big ambitions do you have in the artistic realm?

Fibeenacci stained glass

Did you know the members of each successively earlier generation of a bee’s family tree are counted by the Fibonacci numbers? Starting with a drone or worker, one bee, there is one parent, the queen. The queen has two parents, a queen and a drone, and between them they have three parents, two queens and a drone. Among those three bees they have five parents, three queens and two drones. And it goes on: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …

I learned this from a lovely page on the Fibonacci numbers generally, that I found years ago while looking for teaching resources, and it came to mind when quilting friend of mine said she would love to make a Fibonacci quilt, but didn’t have a pattern.

My first design test is a stained glass quilt square. In stained glass quilting, the fabric is bordered by black or dark gray material (usually bias tape) to look like panes of stained glass. My square is 8″x8″ plus a 1/4″ allowance. Except for one corner, all of my “leading” was in straight lines, so I was able to substitute black ribbon for the bias tape I didn’t have. I attached everything with fusible web: Wonder Under for the contrast fabrics and Stitch Witchery, cut into thirds, for the ribbon. Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) kept me company.

Fibonacci bee family tree stained glass quilt square

I started at the top, and was able to hide all cut ribbon ends under other ribbon without any folding except for that lower right corner out in space. That took a fair amount of manipulating and some extra Stitch Witchery, and made me grateful for my retractable tweezer fingers.

My other ideas are more traditional quilt formats, and hence less intriguing to try out, but will follow in later installments.