Monday, October 31, 2016

Swedish Weaving: Part 3

"Right" (top) & "Wrong" (bottom) sides
Swedish weaving, or “huck” weaving, is traditionally done on a closely woven cotton toweling fabric called “huck” (shortened from “huckaback”). If you If you examine the fabric closely, you will find that one side is rough to the touch, while the other side feels smooth. Since the purpose of a towel is to dry something, the rough side is the “right” side of the fabric. Look closely and you will see rows of raised stitches running horizontally across the cloth, perpendicular to the selvage edges ( ). Turning to the smooth, or “wrong”, side of the cloth, you will notice pairs of upright (vertical) threads running parallel to the selvage edges (⌡⌡ ⌡⌡ ⌡⌡). these slightly loose threads are called “floats' or “slubs”. The “floats” alternate position in each row, so that one “float” that is directly above another is in the second row of stitches above it not the first. It is with these “floats” that Swedish weaving is done. This makes it a rare type of embroidery done entirely on the “wrong” side of the cloth!

Horizontal and diagonal stitches
It has been several months since we discussed this topic, and some of you are new readers, so some of this material will be repetitive. We concentrated in the first two sessions (March 11, 2016 and March 31, 2016) primarily on horizontal stitches and diagonal stitches and the patterns which can be made with them. Vertical stitches were shown only as connections. These stitches, however, are decorative on their own. They are also useful in making tall, columnar patterns and four-sided designs. To make an upright (vertical) pattern stitch, run the needle right to left under the first float. Move up to the float directly above and again run the needle under the float from right to left. Continue until your column is the desired height. This produces a “wrapped” appearance to the stitches. A block of upright stitches gives texture to a design. Upright and horizontal stitches combine well. The red patterns will give you ideas for simple patterns you can do with this stitch. In the purple patter, each upward and downward vertical stitch skips a float in the center of the stitch.

The step stitch combines a horizontal stitch and a vertical stitch, and moves diagonally upward and downward across the fabric Multiple rows of this stitch produce interesting designs, particularly when a different color is used for each row. To do this most easily, begin with the bottom row of the design and work each following row directly above it. The rows can also be worked in reverse to make a larger more complex design. Do all the upper rows first. Then turn your fabric upside-down and repeat the pattern, starting once again with the bottom row. A diamond-shaped space is created in the design when it is done this way. If you like, you can put initials or tiny embroidery designs in these spaces.

A simple step-stitch pattern, repeated two different ways
 Another useful basic stitch is the loop stitch or circle stitch. Begin with one or more horizontal stitches. Slip your needle under a pair of floats from right to left. Point your needle in the opposite direction. Move up to the floats directly above the one you just worked. This time pass your needle from left to right. Return to the lower stitch and once again run your needle under the same floats from right to left. Pull the thread gently until it makes a loop or circle. Tension is very important with this stitch. If you leave the thread too loose, your stitches will be irregular and not look like even loops or circles. If you pull the thread too tight, you will distort (pucker) the fabric. Practice until it feels right. Spacing the loops differently in parallel rows makes different patterns. To make reverse loop- stitch rows, turn your fabric upside=down and proceed normally. Loop stitches and horizontal stitches combine attractively, as you can see in this border. Here the loops are alternated, with the top of each loop passing under the same float as the spacing stitch either above or below it. If you want to have even lines of loops, try them two ways: evenly spaced so that the loops intersect, or lines of loops spaced a row of floats apart so they do not intersect. You will be surprised how much difference this makes.

Aqua/turquoise loop-stitch design
There is another loop stitch that you might like, called half-loop stitch. It is used for up-and-down borders, stems, etc. Work from right to left, make a couple of horizontal stitches, and pick up a float. Then, working from left to right, insert the needle under the float directly above the one you just picked up, but complete only the right half of the loop by picking up the float above. Complete the left half of that loop by crossing under the middle float with the needle pointing from left to right. Complete the right side of the bottom loop, working under the first float again. You can make the column of loops as tall as you like by working in this back-and-forth manner. Make at least one horizontal stitch between loop columns. The stitch gets its name because it is made a half loop at a time. To make the pattern below, begin with a couple of straight stitches. Make a loop stitch and a spacer stitch, then make a column of two half-loop stitches. Continue making columns of half-loop stitches in increasing sizes, with spacing stitches between them, for as long as you like. Then repeat the stitches in the reverse order to the end.

Dark blue half-loop stitches
Finally, there is the long stitch. This is a very flexible stitch which can be used in a variety of ways. It is primarily used to create diamond shapes. In the top example, a long diagonal shape is created by skipping more floats horizontally than you skip vertically. One long-stitch row is worked across the design. Then a second long-stitch row is worked as a mirror-image of the first row. Where the rows intersect, both threads pass under the same floats. The second set of diamonds is more open and the diamonds are square. The same number of floats are involved, both vertically and horizontally.

Two kinds of diamond shapes
The weaving is done with a small tapestry needle. Tapestry needles have blunt points that can slip under the floats without breaking the float threads. The smallest needle that will hold the type of thread being used for the embroidery and slide under the floats without breaking them is the one to use. If the “weaving” is done properly, the needle never dips through the huck fabric and no stitches are ever seen on the other side of the cloth. (NOTE: This is not possible when doing the designs on other fabrics like monk's cloth or Aida; you will always see some thread on the reverse side of the cloth.)

Practice your stitches and patterns, please, because we will soon begin a project with them.

Have fun.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Autumn Questions and Answers, 2016

Butterfly reference samples
Butterfly reference samples from May 21, 2016 post
Why do you use so many photos, drawings and even fabrics for reference?

Because every photographer, artist, and designer sees something different in the subject and consciously or not emphasizes that difference in his or her work. Viewing their differences causes me to look much more closely at the subject than I might have done on my own. I always see things that I never noticed before, even about very familiar subjects. After absorbing as many impressions as I can, I choose the characteristics that I want to emphasize in my own work. On another day, I might look at the same collection and make entirely different choices. That was a good question!

I'm a fairly new reader of your blog. I went to your archive and have been working my way through early posts. I really like the Spanish blackwork, especially the onion domes. (February 27, 2014) I copied the patterns and would like to do some pictures, but I have a couple of problems. I can't draw so I need some kind of outline to work with. I don't want to use children's designs like you suggested from coloring books and I don't care much for flowers. What kind of things do you think would look good in blackwork and where do I find patterns for outlines? (This is condensed from a longer message.)

Gymnasts 'flower' mandala
Gymnasts 'flower' mandala
Welcome to Annake's Garden! What a delight it is to have such a thorough and enthusiastic reader! I hope you find many techniques to enjoy in past, present, and future blog posts. For now, however, let's consider the blackwork. My first thought was of mandalas. These are traditionally circular designs. My gymnastic “flower” (August 31, 2016) is a mandala. They were originally inspired by intricate designs made for Buddhist and Hindu religious ceremonies. You may have seen Tibetan monks on television creating an elaborate mandala sand painting.

During the current era of popularity for adult coloring books, there are whole volumes devoted to mandalas. These can feature anything from cats to Cleopatra, trees to temples, or flags to fancy desserts. As interesting as these are, however, the areas are much too small to show off blackwork patterns. You would want a simple design with fairly large sections something like this framed quilt block (courtesy of J.D.'s sister J.J.). You could then fill in the sections with different blackwork patterns instead of these pieces of printed fabric. 

Mandala-like quilt block

Onion Domes blackwork on monk's cloth
"Onion Domes", blackwork on monk's cloth
Now let's think about topics. You liked the architectural look of the onion domes. You might want to do a picture of a Victorian house like the famous “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco, California; this was the subject of one of my earliest blackwork pictures. If you are more mechanically inclines, you might want to look at some Steampunk patterns. There is even a steampunk mandala adult coloring book. We recently had a parade of antique cars and trucks here in town; I thought at the time that some of them might be good subjects for a blackwork picture. There is always costume to explore, from wearable fashion to theatrical costumes (masks, too). For inspiration, check your library for a book on the work of Gustav Klimt, an artist who made masterful use of areas of intricate design in his paintings.

Antique automobiles coloring book
A good source for designs for any of these topics is Dover Publications. They have books of black and white line drawings. Just remember to copy only the basic outlines, not the tiny details which you plan to put in with embroidery. Calendars are a rich source of pictures of animals, landscapes, still-lifes, etc. I collect inexpensive ones from the dollar stores for my picture files. My friends are generous with their used ones at the end of the year, too. Keep in mind that the more stitches there are in a blackwork (diaper) pattern, the darker the area will appear when it is stitched. Good luck with your blackwork project. Have fun!

I've been practicing bargello patterns on needlepoint canvas and I think I'm pretty good at them. Now I want to make Christmas ornaments with the patterns on them. I have some cute cookie cutters to use for outlines. Can I just do a square of the bargello design, draw the cookie cutter outline on the back and cut it out?

No, no, no, no, NO! Never cut into a finished piece of stitched needlepoint! The cookie cutters are a great idea. Draw the outline on the front of your canvas. Stitch your pattern baseline somewhere near the center of the piece and work both upward and downward from it. Work right up to your drawn outline, using partial stitches where there is not enough room for a whole stitch. I've done a simple bell design to show you what I mean.

Bargello bell shape
Bargello bell shape, ready to turn into an ornament
Place your needlepoint face down on felt or another non-woven fabric and pin it in place. Stitch along the outline by hand or machine, leaving an inch (3 to 4 cm) or so unstitched so you can turn the ornament right-side-out. Cut around the outline, leaving about ¼ inch (1 cm) of canvas between the cut and the outline. Turn the ornament right-side-out. Use a smooth, blunt object like the handle of an aluminum crochet hook to push the outline smooth from the inside. Stuff the ornament if you like. Turn under the raw edges and stitch it closed. Thread yarn into a tapestry or darning needle and make a tied loop at the top of the ornament to act as a hanger.

Keep those questions coming!

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