it’s that time (again)

Yes. We are moving. Well, actually, packing in preparation for moving.

Yes. We are moving. Well, actually, packing in preparation for moving.

About an hour and a half up the coast, to Pacifica. Very excited for new beginnings, very sad to depart the Soquel hills and the superior Santa Cruz County climate.

Finding a new house (oh, and working) is why I’ve not been doing any building the last few months. But I have been stitching — sometimes late or in the middle of the night — on the Animals rug, and a new, smaller rug project: Peacock.

Peacock, designed by Roger Bell in 1913–14.

Peacock, designed by Roger Bell in 1913–14.

I came across this remarkable book, Bloomsbury Needlepoint From the Tapestries at Charleston Farmhouse by Melinda Coss. It is both great art history and charts of designs by Duncan Grant, Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell.

You want this book.

You want this book.

Roger Fry’s original 1914 design was worked on 10-count double mesh canvas, and measured 22 xx 15 inches (55.9 x 38.1 cm).

Roger Fry’s original 1914 design was worked on 10-count double mesh canvas, and measured 22 x 15 inches (55.9 x 38.1 cm).

My version is on 49-count silk gauze with Gütermann silk, 227 x 153 stitches, 4.625 x 3.125 inches (11.75 x 7.9 cm). And although I wish Gütermann had more and better shades of greens and blues (especially), this piece gives me the comfort and focus I need right now. Thank you, tiny needlepoint!

 

Animals rug: carrying on

animals_061414-2

Things being what they are, the Animals rug is pretty much the only thing I’ve been working on, and I love it (still). It’s been made somewhat easier with my acquisition of a Needlework System 4 stand, which I also love. I had a personal best breakthrough when I managed to stitch an entire flying saucer-paisley motif correctly (main border, left middle). Compare to the other two, and you’ll see the, um, variations. There are three more to stitch, so we’ll see how that goes.

The area below the blue birds is about to get very interesting, as I work the swirly-jagged yellow border reversed at the bottom. I think the terminal flowers might appear behind the blue birds’ tails. After I get that border in, I’ll be able to determine what else will go in the background.

Here’s a closer view of the center panel:

animals_061414-1

I felt very clever using the flower colors on the big blue birds’ tails. There is a garland of small flowers in the center shape with a yellow background, and I’m undecided what colors to work them in, likewise with the wing-shaped leaves.

Details: 49-count silk gauze, 281 x 398 stitches — well now a bit more (5.75 x 8.125+ inches, 14.57 x 20.63+ cm); DMC cotton and Gütermann silk. Original design by Natalia Frank.

 

Animals rug: all four corners

The perimeter is secured

The perimeter is secured

The Animals rug has been my project of choice lately, interspersed with work on the Great Green Room, the new build for the HBS contest, and ongoing additions to the Sea House Pavilion. Miniature needlepoint stitching is tremendously absorbing and satisfying, and I’ve been searching out pattern books from the library and used bookstores.

I got this from the downtown Santa Cruz Friends of the Library bookshop, primarily for the cover:

“…a modern breakthrough book in the technique of the ancient, joyful, and beautiful craft of needlepoint.” from the 1970 foreword by Clare Booth Luce

“…a modern breakthrough book in the technique of the ancient, joyful, and beautiful craft of needlepoint.”
from the 1970 foreword by Clare Booth Luce

Needlepoint by Design by Maggie Lane, 1970. As it turns out, the cover design is not included in the book, but there are several other motifs graphed — a fish, a stag beetle, a tortoise, a frog — that I look forward to incorporating in something, some day. Well worth the US$4 price.

Then there is this, Needlepoint Designs From Oriental Rugs by Grethe Sorensen, published in 1983:

“Perhaps, unencumbered by outer distractions, the mind’s eye turns inward to the world of color, shape and symbolism to which human imagination first awoke.” Grethe Sorensen, 1981

“Perhaps, unencumbered by outer distractions, the mind’s eye turns inward to the world of color, shape and symbolism to which human imagination first awoke.” —Grethe Sorensen, 1981

This book. This book is luscious. There is a great history and discussion of design elements, rich full-page photography, and well-drawn charts. I am daydreaming a simplified version of the cover’s outer border, without the squiggly bits, as part of the next major rug after Animals is done.

Spec’s: 49-count silk gauze, 281 x 398 stitches — well now a bit more (5.75 x 8.125+ inches, 14.57 x 20.63+ cm); DMC cotton and Gütermann silk. Original design by the fabulous Natalia Frank.

animals rug: turning the third corner

We have turned the third corner!

We have turned the third corner!

Been spending quality time with the Animals rug again. And with progress comes change. I had been in a quandary over the outer border, and finally solved it by adding an entire additional motif to the length. I had also not been satisfied with the design of the bottom center panel, so adding just a bit to the overall length will allow me to flip the whole yellow flamey curlique border with the spotted doves and poppy pods around and put that in on the bottom, replacing the various sun and flower motifs of the original design. It will fit behind and under the larger birds’ tails. And on the outer border, I’ll flip the horse, elephant and the two stripey lions around, so in effect we have birds and animals coming and going. Or something. Makes sense to me.

This is the portion of the center panel I’m working on now:

The upper part of the Animals rug center panel

The upper part of the Animals rug center panel

And you can see I’ve made some other changes to the colorways and pattern as well.

Center panel detail with a few pattern and color changes

Center panel detail with a few pattern and color changes

Spec’s: 49-count silk gauze, 281 x 398 stitches — well now a bit more (5.75 x 8.125+ inches, 14.57 x 20.63+ cm); DMC cotton and Gütermann silk. Original design by the fabulous Natalia Frank.

the great green room: tiger skin rug

In the great green room is a tiger skin rug, but it is not said goodnight to

In the great green room is a tiger skin rug, but it is not said goodnight to. Discuss.

The tiger skin rug has deviled me from the start. First of all, the whole idea makes me very sad. Then there is the truncated illustration, and as always, ineffable questions of interpretation and medium.

My first solution is literal; my task is but to replicate. As with the fishing bunny picture frame, I fiddled with tracing it in Illustrator and Photoshop, but determined that a freehand interpretation was truer to the spirit of the great green room, and WCHWD.

I hated it. It’s black Sharpie on a yellow microfiber cleaning cloth. It may be too soon to depose it, before I’ve got the rest of the bedside pieces made, but when I look at it, I flinch. I put it on the backburner of things to consider.

Time is running short of the mid-March completion date. I thought, perhaps go literal a different way, and I bought a quarter-yard of a tiger skin print fabric.

Printed tiger skin?

Printed tiger skin?

I didn’t even have the heart to cut it out and ponder edge treatment.

I had always considered doing a needlepoint version of the rug because, hey, I love needlepoint, but I am also keenly aware of the time constraints. And also, WWCHD? There are a few miniature tiger skin rug charts out there, but when I happened across Susan McBaine’s Miniature Needlepoint Rugs for Dollhouses, something went, um,  something inside.

tiger3

The design has an integrity seemingly missing from other charts I have seen. And if I’m going to depart from pure re-creation of Mr. Hurd’s illustration, there has to be a compelling — or whimsical — reason.

Trouble is, the charts are drawn by hand and smudgily printed in black-and-white (the book was published in 1976, a simpler time), and reading them is harder than stitching on the 49-count silk gauze I will use. My solution: photocopy and enlarge it, then color in with Prismacolor pencils. Very 8-bit :)

Bigger and more colorful!

Bigger and more colorful!

I think I’ll have an easier time stitching from this chart. It’s 150 stitches wide, which translates to 1.5 inches (38 mm) on 49-count, which is a bit wee. I need to order the two tiger-colored threads (I have the black and ecru) from Red Rock. What to do, what to do?

back to the animals rug

Tiny stitching has resumed

Tiny stitching has resumed

Spending quality time with the Animals rug again. It had been supplanted by work on the Sea House Pavilion, then (and now) by the Great Green Room and the Baluchi prayer rug.

The center design is absurdly complex. Whereas the borders have independent motifs, the interior is all tangled up together, and I have a dozen threads going at once, which of course jumble themselves every other stitch no matter how cleverly I try to keep them out of the way. Part of the challenge, I guess.

Still. I love working on this rug and seeing it come to life. I may have coined a new term to describe those who do miniature needlework: needlepointilist :)

The reality check: 49-count silk gauze, 281 x 398 stitches (5.75 x 8.125 inches, 14.57 x 20.63 cm); single strand of DMC cotton and Gütermann silk. Design by the fabulous Natalia Frank.

2013 grand prize winner

Inviting you into the Sea House Pavilion, in a magic carpet way

Inviting you for tea or cocktails at the Sea House Pavilion, via magic carpet

Having the Sea House Pavilion win the Grand Prize award in HBS’s 2013 Creatin’ Contest feels like this pic: dreamy, delightful, unbelievable. Completely unexpected. Truly an honor.

Come sit down

Come sit down and hang out

And it has afforded me the opportunity to learn to spell pavilion correctly (I still keep wanting it to have two Ls).

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made a tiny version of my notebook, open to some of my first sketches done in April 2013 (seen above, on the couch).

Computer, enhance.

Some of my sketches and notes for the Charming Cottage

Some of my sketches and notes for the Charming Cottage

I spent most of last year getting our house in Rhode Island ready to sell, then packing it up and driving across the United States in a 31-foot motor home with my husband, our very large dog and two disgruntled cats, to return to Northern California, where I am from. (We shipped all our stuff, except the guitars.) The starting kit Charming Cottage in blue tape dry fit was as far as I had gotten before the move until Mid-September, when I was able to unpack my studio, try to decipher my notes and begin to build in earnest.

I worked on it nights, weekends, holidays and vacations right up to the deadline. I was so happy when I learned we could make a digital contest submission this year.

SH_Pavilion_side

The sun is starting to set. Might we get some rain?

The Sea House Pavilion is part of a compound in coastal Northern California, in the same town where Loft No. 1961 is, my first-ever build and a First-time Entrants’ Award winner in the 2012 HBS contest. More about that later :)

Enge_Loft_003

Loft No. 1961, the studio of a woman writing a book about her father’s death

The loft bed where she can sleep when she’s worked late

The loft bed where the writer can sleep to dream

You might notice some themes that seem to carry through my builds :)

Tiny Baluchi prayer rug: finished

Baluchi miniature rug

Finished stitching the tiny Baluchi prayer rug. Because I worked without a hoop, it was way skewed.

Blocking the tiny Baluchi prayer rug

Beginning blocking the tiny Baluchi prayer rug

I gently washed it with mild soap in warmish water, blotted out excess moisture on a microfiber towel, then pinned it to a piece of foamcore covered in cotton batting and old soft cotton sheeting, gently stretching and re-pinning it into square. Then waited impatiently for it to dry.

I trimmed the excess silk gauze to 3/8 inch and folded to the back, mitering the corners.

Binding the edges, with scary dinosaur fingers

Binding the edges, with scary dinosaur fingers

Using a doubled length of blue Gütermann silk (the outermost color in the border), I stitched through both layers, from back to front, with a few extra stitches in the corners to square them out. I cut a piece of Pellon featherweight fusible interfacing a bit smaller than the rug, and ironed it on the back. This both protects the gauze and stitching, and ensures that the rug lays flat. (And hides a less-than-elegant backside if you’re a novice needlepointilist like me :)

Inviting you into the Sea House Pavilion, in a magic carpet way

Inviting you into the Sea House Pavilion, in a magic carpet way

Not sure where it might ultimately reside, but I really enjoyed making it. As I mentioned in the first post, it’s stitched on 49-count silk gauze with six colors of Gütermann silk, with a stitch count of 81 x 126, adapted from a design by Meik and Ian McNaughton. Finished size is 1.5 x 2.5 inches (38 x 64 mm).

Now I can get back to the Animals rug!