Thursday, March 31, 2016

Swedish Weaving: Part II

Swedish weaving example
Vintage Swedish weaving example
Here is another example of Swedish weaving or huck embroidery. It is worked selvage-to-selvage on pale pink huck toweling in red and shades of violet embroidery floss. It could easily have been done with other materials, such as cotton crochet thread or fine acrylic yarn. As you can see, the patterns of spires are worked alternately in both directions. A square this size is suitable for a decorative pillow top.

Below are more patterns done on huck toweling. Some are linear, while others are all-over designs. You can repeat elements of a design indefinitely to make wider borders or cover larger pieces of fabric. You can also combine elements of two or more designs to make a more intricate design. Try several. Who knows? You may come up with a unique design of your own.

Swedish weaving on huck
Sampler, Swedish weaving on huck

If you don't have appropriate fabric on which to practice your stitches, try doing them on plastic canvas. Look closely at the samples of pattern darning shown below. See how the two exposed bars of plastic resemble the two “floats” on the huck fabric? Note how this very simple design changes when you do it in one, two, or three colors. You can practice many linear designs on plastic canvas. Your samples will be durable and easy to file for future reference. Also, it is easy to pull the yarn out if you make a mistake. Diagonal designs are more difficult, but many can be done with a little practice.

Simulating Swedish weaving on plastic canvas

Swedish weaving on Aida cloth
Sampler, Swedish weaving on Aida cloth
In the first post of this series, I mentioned in the introduction that this type of embroidery could be done on a number of fabrics other than huck toweling. My first choice for this would be Aida cloth. The fabric seen here is #14 Aida, the most popular and readily available kind. It comes in a large range of colors. It is most commonly used for counted cross-stitch, but is useful for a number of other techniques. The set of stitch patterns on this piece of gold Aida were adapted from samples used in describing Holbein embroidery. Be careful with the pattern done in orange: it is more difficult than it seems.

Needle technique on Aida cloth
Needle technique on Aida cloth
To make the stitches, run the tip of your needle under the small squares made by the weave of the Aida cloth, just as you would under the “floats” of the huck. Some needleworkers recommend that you pick up only the center pair of threads in each square, to make it more like picking up the huck “floats”. You may want to try this for yourself. At this small scale, I prefer to pick up the entire square of four threads. The fabric is double-layered, allowing you to keep all your stitches on the surface of the fabric as you do with huck. It takes some practice, however, to pick up only the top layer of threads, leaving the bottom layer undisturbed. It is important to keep your stitches level as you do repeat motifs like the stepped diamonds done in green on the gold Aida. Because the squares on the Aida cloth are so small, it is easy to accidentally move up or down and stitch in the wrong row. I use my needle as a “pointer” to check that my stitches are in their correct row. I check both horizontally and vertically. Now I would like to revisit two of the patterns from the first post in this series.

Swedish weaving pattern with large open spaces
Swedish weaving pattern with large open spaces
Patterns like this, which leave part of the background exposed, are very useful for adding monograms or names to towels, linens, inserts for clothing, etc. Just embroider a single letter in each open space, using your choice of embroidery stitches. Words, too, can be decorative particularly when framed. Some years ago it was quite popular to place colorful and decorative signs everywhere, encouraging everyone to “THINK!” Perhaps that is an idea whose time has come again. Why not do it in embroidery? A future post will be on the subject of the decorative possibilities of words.

Here is another simple open-work pattern which can be adjusted to the size you desire simply by adding or subtracting stitches. It could be used for words, phrases, or even entire signs. Place punctuation marks in the same spaces with the letter they precede or follow. Another use for this type of space is to frame tiny cross-stitch or other embroidery motifs (like the Holbein “doodles” you can download from the August 20, 2014 post).

Simple pattern for framing
Simple pattern to use for "framing"

Stitch away!

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Latch Hooked Butterflies for Summer, and a Pattern for You

Iris Wall Hanging
Iris Wall Hanging
Those of you who follow these posts regularly know that I like the theme of the Four Seasons. I have previously shown a latch-hooked snowflake wall hanging for Winter and provided a pattern for you to follow if you like (January 28, 2015). For Spring, I did a hanging with three iris flowers and gave you an iris pattern to do in colors of your choice (June 18, 2015). My choice for Summer was to do pictures of three butterflies. All are different species, so I have put a pattern for a ‘generic’ butterfly for you at the end of this article. The black or dark brown border is given and you can the fill in the wings with any colors you prefer.

First Latch-hooked Butterfly
First Latch-hooked Butterfly (bottom)
I have discussed latch-hooking before (June 16, 2013), and you may want to look at that post. On re-reading it, however, I thought of a number of suggestions and/or cautions that I would like to pass along to you. I have done so in this post. The best canvas for most latch-hook projects is a jute canvas. I have used the nylon mesh for soft projects like pillows and for items that have to be washed, but it is too fragile for rugs and most wall hangings. The best jute canvas is marked off with horizontal and vertical lines so that areas are outlined that contain 100 squares of mesh (10 squares x 10 squares). If you must use unmarked canvas, take the time to use a yardstick or meter stick and a permanent marker to put these lines on the canvas. It will make the placement of your designs much easier. The canvas is very sturdy, but it is also very rough on the surface. To protect my hands from this roughness, I wear crafting gloves with the ends of the glove fingers cut off. If you don't have such gloves, you may want to wear adhesive bandages (such as Band-Aid®) on the parts of your hands that come into contact with the canvas.

Second Latch-hooked Butterfly
Second Latch-hooked Butterfly (middle)
I begin my work at the bottom of the canvas and work upward one row at a time. As I make a row of knots, I examine each knot to make sure the two cut ends of the knot are even. If they are not, I pull gently on the shorter end until they are the same length. Sometimes I need to remove a knot. To do so, I press the cut ends upward against the unworked canvas and pull the loop of yarn at the bottom gradually until the knot releases. If the yarn is undamaged, I use it to re-make the knot; if it is damaged, I discard it. Once a row is complete, I use the back of my hook to press all the knots downward evenly. This gives me another opportunity to look for and correct imperfect knots. As the project grows long enough to come close to my knees, I want to protect it from any lint, dust, hair from the shop cat, etc., that might brush off of my clothing. For a wall hanging, I tape an open pillowcase or plastic trash bag to the edge of the work surface and slip the work in progress into it. When I'm working on a rug, I can keep a clean tablecloth spread across my knees.

Third Latch-hooked Butterfly
Third Latch-hooked Butterfly (top)
Once a section with a butterfly was completed, I took the time to put away the pattern for that butterfly and any yarns that I would not use again, I discarded damaged yarn. I brushed the loose fibers from the surface of the butterfly. To do this, I use the side of my hand or a soft hairbrush. I begin at the top center of the work and brush the surface of the work in long strokes to the edge of the canvas and off onto the worktable. I work my way to the bottom of the panel a few rows of knots at a time. Then I repeat the process from the center to the opposite edge. I'm always surprised by the amount of “fuzz” I need to remove! Then I clean the tabletop and check the floor for stray yarn. Finally, I put out the next pattern and the colors of yarn I will need to use for it. This keeps the table relatively uncluttered and puts everything within reach.

Back of First Butterfly
Back of First Butterfly
Once the design was completed, I turned the work over and examined the back of the canvas. I was looking for knots I might have missed or put into the wrong place in the pattern, damaged ones, and anything else that needed to be corrected. The tops and bottoms of wall hangings have the most stress on them. I fold these edges under for several rows of mesh and make the knots of yarn through both layers. You may do this with the sides, too, but it isn't really necessary. The raw edges can be turned under and sewn to the back of the finished knots. I back the finished hangings with felt, leaving enough of it at the top to make a pocket for a dowel or other type of hanger. J.D. then completes the hanger.
Now, here is a butterfly pattern that you can download for free and work in any colors. The pattern will also work for cross-stitch, tent stitch, blackwork and a number of other techniques. The outlined squares should be worked in black or very dark brown, unless you are doing a fantasy butterfly (in which case you should use your imagination). The bodies, marked with an X are usually some shade of brown or gray, but black also works well. The row of dotted squares indicates where the wings meet or overlap. If you are doing a solid-colored butterfly, you may want to do this row in black or dark brown to match your outline. If you are using different colors for the upper and lower wings, chose one or the other to do this row. (In Nature, the upper wing is the one more likely to overlap.)

May your summer be bright with butterflies,

Finished Butterfly Wall Hanging
Finished Butterfly Wall Hanging

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Introducing ... Swedish Weaving!

As Annake promised in our 3rd anniversary post, here is the first in a series of tutorials on Swedish weaving (huck embroidery)

Vintage Swedish weaving sample
Vintage Swedish weaving sample
This type of needlework (there is also a type of loom weaving with the same name) goes back at least as far as the 1600s. It was widespread in Europe, but probably is called "Swedish" because the best surviving samples of it may be found in Swedish museums. It has many names, including Nordic weaving, huck embroidery, and huck weaving which is what it was called when I learned to do it. It was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s and has come back into fashion several times since then. The latest surge in popularity has been for monks' cloth afghans; but that is quite an undertaking for a beginner, so I'm going to focus on smaller projects like linens, pillows, framed decorations and decorative inserts for clothing.

The “huck” in huck weaving comes from huckaback, a type of linen woven with loose surface threads called ‘floats’. The embroidery is done on the surface of the work and does not go through to the back of the fabric. Huck toweling is still the best fabric for this kind of work. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find it and it is expensive. It customarily comes in white or cream color. Here is a close-up of huck toweling showing how a blunt-pointed needle (so you don't split the float threads) is used to lift the pairs of floats. Needles with long, narrow eyes are preferred, because they don't pull the floats out of shape in the way needles with rounder eyes do.

sample with blunt needle

Many other fabrics may be used, as long as you can count the threads and lift them with your blunt-pointed tapestry needle. One of the best is Aida cloth, which is available in several gauges from many sources, and comes in a wide variety of colors. Monks' cloth comes in a few gauges and is commonly available. It also comes in a wide variety of colors. However, it is loosely woven, so it must be pre-washed because it shrinks and pre-hemmed because it frays. Also, some of the dyed versions are garish and the dye is uneven; examine them carefully before you buy them. I have discussed monks' cloth in previous posts (see the posts for February 27, 2014 and April 30, 2014). If you have been practicing embroidery chain stitches with me, you may be able to use the same practice material for this weaving. Below is a sample of it done on decorator burlap.

There are a number of pattern books and teaching DVDs on this subject available in shops and online. These are expensive and many of the patterns are confusing. Check with your nearest library to see if you can check out the books or order them through inter-library loans before you purchase them. Also check the back issues of the library's needlework and craft magazines for useful illustrated articles. I'm assuming that you would prefer not to spend a large sum on a craft which you may decide you don't want to pursue, so I will suggest inexpensive alternatives. If you are a regular reader, you know that my intention is to show you basic stitches and patterns like the ones below and to encourage you to to go ahead to develop your own designs. If you decide you really like the technique, then is the time to invest in materials, books, DVDs, and so forth.

Sampler of traditional huck weaving stitches
A sampler of some traditional huck weaving stitches
The most basic stitches in this technique are straight horizontal and diagonal ones. You can make a number of patterns using these alone. Diagonal stitches can move either up or down and either backward or forward. Even the simplest lines of horizontal stitches make an attractive border if they are done in a pleasing arrangement of bright colors or graduated tones of the same color. Each line is identical to the one before it, so you can follow easily and the pattern develops quickly. The patterns are traditionally worked from right to left, but will work equally well from left to right for left-handed people. I often work one row one way and the next row the other way. Although I usually prefer to do embroidery with a hoop, these linear patterns are easier to do without a hoop. Click on the sample patterns below and enlarge them to make them easy to understand. Remember that your thread or yarn should lie lightly on top of your fabric. Do not pull your stitches tight and distort the material.

More simple huck weaving samples
More simple huck weaving samples on Aida cloth
Do you want an easy way to make your borders more interesting? Just double the pattern. Put in a pattern as you have practiced. If it starts with a baseline and reaches upward, turn your fabric 180 degrees. Repeat the pattern. You may want the two straight sides to join, or you may want to leave one or more unworked rows of thread in the middle, or to put in a row or two of running stitches in a contrasting color. If the pattern starts with a baseline and reaches downward, turn the fabric 180 degrees and do the pattern again, deciding whether to join the two halves together or to separate them with running stitches or a small amount of space. The examples below show how this is done. Experiment with other patterns you have learned.

simple stitch pattern repeated two different ways
A simple stitch pattern, repeated two different ways
We are going to concentrate on stitches and simple patterns for a while; later we will discuss preparing the materials, beginning and ending rows of stitching, estimating the amount of thread for a single row of stitches, finishing the edges of projects, etc. I will show you more patterns, done on Aida, monks’ cloth, decorator burlap, and so forth so you can compare them.

Be creative,

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