Thursday, December 15, 2016

Unfinished Business

I hope all of you who live in cold regions are staying safe, warm, and dry this winter. We have fog this morning, but have missed most of the snow so far. It is very dry here and fire danger is still high. It is quite cold, so I'm happy to stay indoors and try to answer some of your questions.

sunflower needlepoint
Sunflower needlepoint, September 16, 2016 post
This isn't a question about needlework. It's a question about flowers. When you did the article about making the needlepoint sunflower, you said something about it being a composite made up of two different kinds of flowers. I don't get that. Can you explain it to me?”

I can show you what I was talking about. Not all of the family of flowers called Composites have two kinds of flowers in each flower head. Many of the familiar ones, like sunflowers, daisies, asters and marigolds, however, do have this condition. Look at these three photographs, taken from the 2006 Easter Seals calendar (many thanks to that wonderful organization). See the ring of small flowers in each one? Those are the “ray” flowers. Each one is attached at its bottom to one of the showy strap-shaped or tongue-shaped parts that we call “petals”. The little flowers may be male and produce pollen, they may be female and receive pollen, or they may be sterile. Their major function in the flower is for the bright petal-parts to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Composite flower photos from 2006 Easter Seals calendar
Composite flowers, © 2006 Easterseals

Now look at the center of each flower. There are masses of tiny tubular flowers. Those are the “disk” flowers. They produce pollen and nectar and receive pollen from other disk flowers. If you touch them with a fingertip, you will often find that they feel sticky. That stickiness catches and holds pollen carried by bees and butterflies that have visited other flowers of their kind. The disk flowers are the ones that produce the flower seeds, including the sunflower seeds I like salted and toasted.

If you look closely at a dandelion, on the other hand, it has only ray flowers. They are both male and female. The male ray flowers produce pollen. The female ray flowers receive pollen and make the seeds and the little “parachutes” that carry them far and wide. I hope this answers your question. To me, it is one of Nature's little miracles.

Is the red sweatshirt with the flowers and butterflies a jacket? I can't tell from the picture, but it looks like it. If so, how did you make it?
Yes, it is a jacket. I can't take credit for it, however. It was a gift from teachers at the school where I worked before I retired. I never met the maker. I can tell you how I would make one like it.

1. Turn the sweatshirt inside-out and mark the center front from top to bottom. Pull the shirt over an ironing board. Iron on a lightweight backing material to cover several inches on both sides of the center line to reinforce it.

2. Turn the shirt right-side-out and replace it on the ironing board to give yourself a firm, flat surface to work on. Lay out your pre-cut appliques along the center line from the top of the collar to the bottom of the hem or cuff until you have an arrangement that pleases you. Leave a 1/8-inch space between appliques where they interlock so that you can later cut them apart without damaging them. You can then trim this more closely if you like.

3. Glue the appliques in place, one at a time, with a good fabric glue (or stitch them down by hand or machine). Let the glue dry thoroughly, preferably overnight.

daisy applique on red jacket
Detail of a daisy applique on the red jacket
4. Go over the edges of each applique with a good dimensional tube paint. You can use the paint to emphasize such features as flower centers and butterfly eyes and antennas. The close-up photo will show you how this looks when it is done. Let the paint dry thoroughly.

5. Cut very carefully between the appliques to separate the front sides of the jacket. Turn back the two sides and lay a bead of the dimensional paint along all the cut edges on the inside of the shirt. If you use a paint the color of the sweatshirt, it will hardly be noticeable.

6. Let everything dry and enjoy your new jacket.

FOR AN EASIER-TO-DO VERSION:  Make a straight cut down the center of the front and separate the sides. Hem or bind the raw edges. Place the cut-outs wherever you like and glue or sew them to the shirt. Trim them with paint, rick-rack, braid or embroidery.

What can we look for after New Years?

Revisiting old favorites like blackwork, Holbein embroidery, and Assisi embroidery. Designing with words. More eye-catching bargello designs. A companion piece for the reverse applique Siamese fighting fish. Beginning trapunto. More optical illusions. I also plan to begin a new series connecting styles of painting to art needlework, beginning with still life, where we will group simple objects in pleasing patterns to be done in counted cross-stitch, folk embroidery, applique, bargello and more. I'm eager to get back to work.

I hope you are, too.

past projects showing techniques coming in 2017
A sample of past projects showing techniques Annake will return to in 2017

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