Saturday, February 20, 2016

Winter Questions and Answers, 2016

Your embroidered plain chain stitch looks a lot like crocheted chain stitch. Is there a way to use crocheted chain stitch as embroidery?

Yes, there is. It looks good on things like sweatshirts, heavy sweaters, caps and mittens, too. Because it can only lie on the surface of the fabric, however, you will need to couch it down with embroidery stitches in the same yarn or a contrasting one. If you use contrasting yarns, you can create borders that are attractive in both color and texture. Some embroidery techniques are shown on top of crocheted chain in the samples below. The first group is done in a single color. These are: back-stitched chain, couching between the “links” in the chain, alternating couching worked from the centers outward at right angles, whipped chain and plain chain on top of the crocheted chain (like “double chain” in crewel).

crocheted chain sample 1

crocheted chain sample 2
Click picture for larger view
 The second group are done in two colors and some can easily be done in more. These are: crocheted chain with double running stitch (red and blue); alternating couching of the crocheted chain in two colors (yellow and green); crocheted chain couched, with back-stitch over it (purple and blue); crochet chain back-stitched in red and then threaded in green; cross-stitch between “links” of the crocheted chain, with running stitch over the crosses (blue and purple); and two parallel rows of crocheted chain, back-stitched in red and interlaced in gold. Work all of the stitches in one color before going on to the next color. I find it works well to stitch one color left-to-right and the other color right-to-left. The green threaded and gold threaded stitches may be couched down. I would do this on a garment or any article that will get a lot of wear. Use tiny stitches in one strand of the yarn or floss, or use a matching sewing thread.

I suggest you place practice fabric in your hoop and make a chain a yard or meter long in order to practice each stitch pattern across the full width of your hoop. Leave a long “tail” when you begin your chain. Later you can thread this end into a crewel needle, take it to the back of your fabric and secure it. Cut your crochet yarn far enough beyond the last link in your chain that you can thread that end into a crewel needle, take it the back of your fabric and secure it. Pin the chain to the fabric every inch (2 ½ centimeters) or so. Don't stretch the crocheted chain out of shape. Don't pull couching stitches so tight that they disappear in the chain. You can use lighter or heavier weights of yarn for the embroidery if you wish. Or you can use crochet cotton, embroidery floss, or other materials.

What is the difference between the optical illusion block you showed last month and a 4-way bargello?
That's a very good question! The major difference is that the optical illusion (and the quilt block it is based on) are figured out in advance and the areas are drawn on the canvas before the stitching is begun. You may or may not put in the horizontal and vertical center lines and the diagonals depending on the pattern. Ordinarily you would begin at the center and work your way out to the edges. The design will be basically the same whatever canvas and yarn you use. Back-stitching is often an important feature of the design. For me, the challenge is in drawing the design precisely in order to get the effect I want.
The 4-way design is not unchanging like the optical designs; it changes and evolves as you stitch. It is best to begin all such designs by drawing in the vertical and horizontal center lines and the diagonals. A 4-way usually begins with a pattern line, rather than a shape to fill in. (There are exceptions; see Hearts Afire”, December 22, 2014 post, which does depend on a definite shape, for example.) A four-way usually begins several (sometimes many) rows of canvas from the center. Instead of being worked outward from the center, it is worked both outward and inward from the pattern line. The design changes rapidly often in surprising ways. Back-stitching is not regularly used. I get the most pleasure from starting with a pattern line which surprises me as it unfolds.

There are similarities between the two techniques, however. Both need to be centered on the finished canvas. Both tend to be square when finished. Both use the upright Gobelin stitch. Both may benefit from being turned ninety degrees as you work on the various parts of the design. Both depend on a careful selection of shades of color for their best visual effects. Neither leaves empty squares of canvas in the design; stitches share canvas squares. Both are fun to do and satisfying to complete.

I really like the optical illusions from quilt blocks. They look like fun. But they're square, and I hardly ever see square frames. Are you going to do any that fit rectangular frames?

King's cross pattern
I've just adapted the “King's Cross” design for a rectangular frame. The sketch will work with any three-color combination as long as the white sections are in the lightest color, the pencil-shaded sections are a darker shade of the same or a similar color, and the inked-in triangles are in a very dark color. You will notice that the pairs of triangles are not quite the same. Also, the shapes that were parallelograms in the original pattern are now polygons. These are large areas, so use a heavier yarn than usual or double your regular yarn to cover the canvas completely. Once again, I recommend doing the triangles in basket-weave, starting at the center points and working outward this time. Any irregularities where two colors of yarn join, or at the edges, may be covered by back-stitching if you choose.

king's cross diagram
Click on diagram for larger view
I did this pattern for a 5-inch X 7-inch frame (13 X 18 centimeters), but I can show you how to adapt it for any rectangular frame. Turn the frame upside-down on your canvas and draw around the opening with a pencil. Remove the frame. (If necessary, use a ruler or straight-edge to square the corners and make the sides straight.) Leave extra canvas around the rectangle so that you can tape the edges. Find the center of the rectangle and mark it with a dot (O on the diagram), continuing to use a pencil. Find the centers of the top and bottom the short sides and mark them with dots (A). Find the centers of the long sides and mark them (B). Mark the four corners (C). Mark the centers of the lines between the A's and the center O (D). Mark the centers between the B's and the O (E). Mark the centers between the C's and the A's (F) and the centers between the C's and the B's (G). Now connect the dots as follows:

  • A-O-A
  • B-O-B
  • Both C-O-C's
  • Both E's on the top and bottom with the nearest D
  • Both G's on the sides with the nearest E
  • You may then erase the A-D and the B-E lines if you wish to do so.

Now you are ready to begin stitching.

If you like squares and rectangles, just wait until we get to hexagons!

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