Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

As I sit on this bitter cold dreary January day, I find myself pondering many things.  Unemployment has provided me the opportunity to catch up on things, not the least of which are my Embroidery projects.  One of those projects -- though not strictly Embroidery -- is this blog.  I have so many things I meant to share last year, and now I can!

The first thing to share is an announcement -- I have successfully completed the Embroiderer's Guild of America Master Craftsman Program in Crewel!!   I am an official Master Craftsman.   I'm often asked "what does that get you?" and other than sore fingers from five years of stitching six different projects, I can honestly say PRIDE.  Pride in accomplishing a long and difficult goal, pride in knowing that my embroidery is judged to be excellent by people who are trained to know, and pride in knowing that I learned well from my Mother. I only wish she could have loved long enough to know that I made it.

My final piece sits on the blocking board (for the third time -- ugh!!) 

Later this week I'll lace it onto Acid Free Foam Board in preparation for framing, and then go select a frame for it.   Steps 4 and 5 also await framing, but this piece is going to Woodlawn this year to see how it fares in that competition, so it needs something worthy.   Once framed, I'll post a final photo.

While waiting for my final notification on the Master Craftsman Program, I tried my hand at a slightly different technique -- Needle Painting.  This technique is done using a single strand of DMC floss on muslin fabric (VERY different than what I'm used to!) in mostly long and sort soft shading.   The result is intricate life-like detail of animals, birds, and flowers, such as my little bluebird below:

Luckily, this design is only about 3.5 inches across!  I needed stronger glasses to work this, but I really enjoyed doing it, and plan on doing another next month as part of an online class with the deisgner, Tanja Berlin (   It's a Red Fox and I think it will be fun, especially as I have at least one friend who is doing the class as well, so we can share our progress!

Anyone else want to join us???

My plans for posts coming soon are ...

Instructions for washing and blocking your crewel work (this for my EGA Chapter friends!)
Recaps of the first several steps of the Master Craftsman Program
An overview of the Jacobean Program I designed for my chapter
Progress reports on my new projects (Red Fox Needlepainting, Goldwork, and of course, more crewel!)

If there is something you would like me to write about, or a question you may have, please let me know!  And if you have any friends who would be interested in this blog, feel free to share and pass it along!

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

And The Winner Is ...

One of the things I love the most about Crewel is that I can put any stitch anywhere I want on my piece.  Even when I am stitching a commercial design, I can pick my colors and my stitches.  Some people prefer to have a chart or a specific map of where everything goes, but not me....   except for that darned butterfly on my Master Craftsman Step #6 piece!   

As I said before, I have never had a single motif give me more trouble.  My original intent was to have a monarch butterfly, orange and black.   Early on, I decided that there was too much detail to fit into the small butterfly I had for all the intricacies of the monarch pattern, but I could use the colors.  So this is what I stitched:

I was a little concerned that it was too bright, and the judges agreed with that.  I tried looking for the same color family but just a bit softer hues, but I didn't have anything (and I have almost every color of Appleton Crewel wool made!)   I looked for totally different colors -- a blue, perhaps?  Nope.  Peacock?  Nope.  Scarlet?  Ick!!  After hours of pulling colors out of my cabinet and laying them on the piece in various light conditions, I finally reverted back to the same colors in the surrounding design, the yellows, pinks and purples.  

With that decision made, Next was a question of what stitch to use.  For some reason, I moved away from the bands of Satin Stitch and tried my old standby Long and Short (right side in the photo below.)   I liked it, but it just looked a little too much like a flower petal and not a butterfly wing!  So I tried the Satin Stitch bands (left side below) which I liked, but I couldn't get the edges as crisp as I wanted, and I was worried that there was not enough contrast between the yellow and the linen.  

That's when I tried adding the outline stitch, both in the Bright Mauve below, and then in the Bright Rose Pink further below.  Neither of those was quite the effect I wanted. 

Out it all came AGAIN.  By now, I was beginning to worry a bit about the linen fabric getting a bit frayed from so many attempts and having to rip them all out, and resorted to my Doodle Cloth!  (I'm not sure why it took me so long, especially since that's the name of my blog.)  I stitched a Satin outside band, with two lines of outline in the Bright Rose Pink, and the center is Satin in Bright Mauve.   It's hard to tell from the photos, but the wing below is on oyster linen (almost white) and the actual piece is on a darker background.  I really liked this combination, as long as it would have enough contrast! 

I can't tell you how many hours this one butterfly has cost me.  The original orange one not withstanding, this new version -- between thinking and pondering and planning and trying and ripping out and trying again -- probably took ten or twelve hours.  I like the results (close-up below, in context further down.)   

Do you?


I have now made all of the requested changes to the piece, washed it, and it's now blocked and drying.  Sometime in mid-September, it will be on it's way for final judging, and hopefully a successful outcome. 

Now, on to the small piece I have designed as a program for my Local EGA Chapter (Bucks County).  I'm really excited about this project, and there are 10 people signed up for it already!  It's a small design (the linen is 9" x 9", the design about 4 1/2 - 5") that incorporates motifs from Jacobean Crewel, with a nice variety of stitches.  I'm going to put a complete kit together, and I'm writing a nice instruction booklet complete with photos of me working each stitch.  Stay tuned, and I'll write more about it in my next post!

Happy 4th of July!! 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Master Craftsman Step #6 Judging Results

I see I have fallen behind in my blog posts again.  I will admit that life events have thrown me off track for a few months, but I am working to get back on schedule with things, and this is one of them.   

Quick update on Master Craftsman Step #6 -- it was returned to me as "Provisionally Passed" which means the judges wanted some things changed and/or improved before they would pass it in full.  Sometimes I think they just do that to feel powerful <g> but this time their objections were legitimate.  I had take a chance including metal threads, and my hunch was right.  The judges' comments were that they COULD have disqualified the piece entirely because of that, but they felt is was so  'exquisite' that they would allow me to just remove the metal threads.  Okay, I can live with that!    They also didn't like the two bigger butterflies, feeling that the bright colors were a bit overdone, and I agree with that!  I was under the time crunch and was not happy with them but sent the piece in anyway.  So I guess it would have been better to follow my hunches and just held off sending it in until I was totally happy with it!

So the past few weeks I've been making the corrections requested.  Had I known how difficult it was to remove the metal threads, I would have thought twice about taking THAT chance!  Good heavens, that was a chore!   Here is the hummingbird, re-stitched without the metal threads (I think he looked better with it, but then it's technically not crewel!):

Here is the new butterfly at the top of the piece -- I tried to lighten him up a bit since the comment was the stitch I had chosen was too heave.  Here, I am going for almost a dragonfly look:

And here is the new butterfly at the bottom of the piece -- again, replacing the bright orange I had originally with something a bit lighter and more in keeping with the overall piece:

I have a whole blog post planned around this butterfly -- no one piece of embroidery has ever given me as much of a challenge!!

I also neatened up the edge of the large leave you can see to the left of the butterly -- another criticism I agreed with.   The only other change they wanted was the make the raspberries round.  I will add a knot or two, but raspberries are not round!!   They are supposed to be bumpy edged and irregular, and that's the way I want them.  

So now, the next step is to wash and block it again, and get it ready to go back to the judges in September for the October 1st judging deadline.   Hopefully after that, I will be able to say I am an EGA Certified Master Craftsman in Crewel!  Fingers crossed...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Final Phase of Master Crafstman

I apologize to my legions of followers (all 8 of you -- ha ha!) for not staying active in my blogging!  I don't know how good bloggers do it, and wish I could!   I had every intention of doing step by step updates of this final phase of my Master Craftsman journey, with photos as I went, but I really wanted to finished it in time for the April 1st judging deadline, and that meant head down concentration and no time for anything else in my life for several months.  

It is now finished.  I think.  The problem with original designs is you always want to tweak and add things!  I have added several things in the last week to help balance the colors and the density to white space ratio.  Unless someone points out something glaring, I declare it finished.  There are a few things I am not 100% pleased with (and I won't say what!) so it will be very interesting to see if the judges point any of those out.

Here it is, the whole piece, and some close-ups of each section.  


I am pretty happy with it. 

One thing it has taught me is that I enjoy desgning original pieces!  I have loved stitching designs I have obtained over the years, but there are so many other versions of the same design out there.  Doing an original raises it to more of an art, in my mind.  I sometimes wonder if there would be any market for original works of "needleart", like original paintings?  I might have to give it a try!

So now it's on to the washing and blocking phase, then all the paperwork (I need to create a stitch diagram, where I indicate on a copy of the design every stitch along with thread samples and every color used.  That takes forever!) for submission.  It must be in the judges hands by April 1st which is not a problem at this point -- I'm usually doing all of that in the last 3 days and then paying for priority shipping!  Hopefully, I'll be announcing a "Passed" decision soon!

I did take a small bit of time out a month or so ago, and shipped two completed pieces off to the Woodlawn Needlework Exhibit in Alexandria, Virginia.  This is one of the largest exhibits in the country, and is actually a competition.  I have no idea if I have won anything, despite the judging being complete, because the group that does it is apparently not very good about posting results or advertising!  Personally, I think that's deplorable in this day and age -- how hard could it be to scribe the results and post them online?  I plan on driving down to see the exhibit the weekend of March 16/17, and will report back any news. I'm not sure photography is allowed (the exhibit is in a Historical Home) but I'll see what I can do.  Stay tuned!

Here are the two pieces:

An old Elsa Williams Jacobean Design, one in a set of six. 

A Deerfield Early American Design

My next blogging goal is to go back and share the Master Craftsman Certification experience from the beginning!  I'm also designing a small project to be taught at my local EGA Chapter later this year that I'm really looking forward to.  I'll share that as well.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Step #5 Provisionally Passed

My goodness, I can't believe I have not posted anything since mailing in my pieces for judging back in April. Where has the time gone?  I do apologize, and on this sweltering hot July day, will try to make amends by bringing things up to date while sitting in the air conditioning.

I received my package back from the Master Craftsman judges, to find that my Step #4 (the parrot/peacock that I needed to fix stitch direction on the tail feathers) was passed on re-submission (Yeah!!) so they moved on to judge Step #5.  This was the Elizabethan original design.  I was relatively confident that it would pass, and must say was a bit disappointed to get only a "Provisional" pass.   I sometimes feel like they believe they can't pass people on the first try!

I went through the comments carefully to see what they wanted changed, and was thinking to myself "really??"   Then I got to the end of the comments, and even the judges admitted that the changes were "nit-picky".   I knew they wouldn't take long to fix, and put it aside to begin thinking about my design for the final piece (they send the instructions for the next piece as long as you have a provisional pass.)  I think that's what threw me off course -- I hit design block!  More on that later.  For now, I'll concentrate on Step #5, what they wanted changed, and how it looks now that I've changed it. 

The things they wanted changed were:

  • The Coral Knot tendrils at the top that had the knots too far apart
  • Some small areas of Satin Stitch that seemed bulky and rough
  • The color on the big Tulip (this was a suggestion only, not a requirement)

First, the Coral Knots.  Here is a photo of what they looked like originally.

I have placed arrows to show the knots, and how far apart they are.  I have not read anything in any of my books that says you should only have space between them for one knot, and I liked the look of them spaced out like this, but the judges said I needed to change them to be closer together.  I have done so, and the picture below shows the result.


It's a different look than what I wanted, but okay.

The next issue they pointed out was the uneven Satin Stitch at the mouth of my little bell flowers.  To be honest, I was not totally happy with those myself, and it didn't surprise me that the judges pointed that out.  I have a vision of what those flowers should look like, and could never quite realize that vision, although the new version is closer.  

Here is the before...

And here is the after:

 Finally, they didn't like the satin stitch stem of my purple tulip.  They also suggested that I replace the inside of the tulip petals with yellow to provide better color distribution.  Again, I was careful to balance my color distribution, and didn't think it was really necessary.   Here is the original, and you can see the thick stem and the all purple tulip.  I have arrows pointing to the petals they suggested I change.

I replaced the stem with a line of chain flanked by rows of outline, and it is a much smoother look.  I was trying to replicate the stem of a tulip flower which is thick and round, but I can see how it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the design.   As for the color suggestion, I opted to compromise.  Since their commentary was a "suggestion" it meant I was not required to make the change.  I decided to add some yellow instead of replacing the purple entirely with yellow.  Again, not sure it was necessary, but at this point in the process I've learned (to a certain extent) to just give the judges what they want!  

Luckily, all of these changes took me less than 2 days to accomplish, and the piece is now finished.  All I need to do now is re-wash and block it and send it in for the October 1st judging deadline.  I sure hope I don't wait until the last possible day and end up having to pay extra for Priority Mail like I normally do!  

That will be the only thing I send in for October.   I made a huge amount of progress yesterday and today on my design, and finally have one I am happy with (my next blog post will be about that design.)  It's a  very ambitious project at dimensions of 13" by 27".  I still have a few things to tweak on the design, then get it onto linen (can you believe I have a piece of linen exactly the right size!!??) then select my color scheme, and THEN I can start stitching.   This is a bad time of year for me to concentrate on stitching, because so much of my time is spent training our horses and going to competitions over the summer.  So at this point, I am not even going to put pressure on myself.  I'll be happy to finish it over the winter, and send it in for next April. 

Let me know what YOU think of the changes the judges asked for.  Do you like the results?  Would you have left it the way it was?      

Monday, April 9, 2012


I am proud to say that Step #5 is finished and in the mail for judging! Here is the finished piece, washed and blocked but not yet laced. The shadow is from the fabric hanging with a tiny bit of undulation to it. Once I get it laced, that will go away and I'll get a better photo:

I must say it came out better than I expected. It's not my favorite style of embroidery, but it is pretty, and has grown on my a bit. I'm proud of the design, as intensive as it was to come up with! I think I like doing designs from scratch, but I'm not totally sure. It brings a whole new dynamic to the art of embroidery. It's one thing to plan stitches and colors to complete a design in front of you. It's an entirely different thing indeed to have to come up with the design first!

Now, of course, I am worrying about all the things that the judges might not like. My biggest concern is my color scheme, which is not one that fits neatly into a defined scheme of "complimentary", "split complimentary", "analogous" etc. but I chose to approach it more as a woman of the time might, using threads she may have had on hand from home dyeing. I doubt Elizabethan women had color wheels! My use of the Renaissance Dye wools which are historically accurate colors will hopefully support that decision.

Waiting is so nerve wracking. I'm so close to the end of the journey, and if I pass this step, I can begin designing (yes -- an original design is required again!) the final step. If I can do that now, I think I can have something finished by next April's judging deadline (they only judge twice a year -- April 1 and October 1.) If I have to re-work this one first, it may take me longer.

At the moment, though, I am trying not to worry, and keeping busy doing an easy project from the last EGA Chapter Meeting, and will hopefully finish Mom's last piece soon.

Wish me luck and successful judging!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Final Elements

I'm on the homestretch! The only elements of any significance (not simply stems connecting things) remaining were the carnations at the bottom. I've been pondering what to do with these since the beginning, because the stitches I would normally use and have used in the past -- the New England Laid stitch or the Romanian Stitch -- are not historically accurate to the period, at least not from what I've been able to research. I also can't use Long and Short soft shading, which would also be a prime selection, for the same reason.

I wanted to keep at least part of these flowers open, in keeping with the other elements which all have an open airy feel to them. So I segmented each petal, and decided to alternate sections of satin stitch at the tips and the center of the petals, with seed stitch in between to provide the airiness I was going for. I started by putting lines of split stitch to help me keep a sharp edge -- something I don't normally do, but with the sharp angles here, I needed all the help I could get!

I opted to use the two shades of rose color, as the blue and purple seemed a bit too heavy and would throw the rest off balance in my eye. Here I have finished the edges of the alternating petals in the lighter shade. The two inner petals will be in the darker shade.

And the finished product is here:

The edges of each petal are outlined in the split stitch which is a bit lighter in weight than the outline/stem stitch and less obtrusive in this use. The seed stitch really pulls it all together, I think. I am very happy with it!

I did make one little minor "error" which it took me a while to figure out, something that just didn't quite look right to my eye. It's very minor and I'm not planning on changing anything. Can you see what it is?

Now the challenge is to duplicate this on the mirror image carnation on the other side! Then, some nice rows of shaded chain stitch for the bottom of the flowers, and pull it together with the stems, and I'll be finished!

I had a question the other day about one of my earlier posts, from the beginning where I was stitching the Tudor Rose, and didn't know what I was going to do in the center! Sorry for keeping you hanging :-) I opted for a simple padded satin stitch. I don't have a photo of just that, but when I post the photo of the whole piece, I'll point it out. Thanks for asking!!