September 8, 2010

N is for Neville

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 9:55 pm by Pam

After hurrying through my final embroidereading piece, I needed a little time off from needlework. But only a few days later, on September 3rd, Stitching in Public day rolled around, and of course I wanted to participate. I’ve been wanting to embroider this panel from Edward Gorey‘s Gashlycrumb Tinies for ages, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.

As I started planning this piece, though, I thought it might not work. The original drawing is so heavily shaded, and I wanted to keep this fairly simple. Even after I traced over the original to create my own template, I thought it was too simple and that it wouldn’t look anything like the original when I was finished.

But I went ahead with it anyway. I hooped up the fabric and headed out to Starbucks. I took one of the big armchairs right next to the register so that everyone would have to go past me and see what I was doing (plus, they’re more comfortable to stitch in). No one even gave me a glance, though. Maybe because, in the early stages, this piece just looked like a bunch of intersecting lines?

In the end, I’m insanely happy with this piece. It only took me 3 hours to make, shorter than most of my things, and I never reached the stage where I just want to be done so I don’t have to look at the piece any more.

Plus, how great does this little guy look?!

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September 3, 2010

Embroidereading

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 10:29 pm by Pam

I get a lot of my inspiration for embroideries from song lyrics and poems. So when I saw Checkout Girl’s contest back in July, entitled “Embroidereading,” I knew I had to submit something.

I thought long and hard on this, and while I’m often inspired by words and even use words in many of my pieces, I was having a hard time thinking of a specific quote that I wanted to immortalize. I eventually came up with one of my favorite quotes from the Travis song “Side” – “Life is both a major and a minor key, just open up the chord.” I shortened the line, though, which I think makes it a little more bittersweet.

It’s a bit hard to see in this picture, but the cotton floss is variegated in blue and purple – it was my first time using variegated floss, but I liked the effect and look forward to using it again. Because the script (embroidered in my strange variation on back stitch) is fairly simple, I used a lightly patterned white cotton for the background. The flower details on the fabric are much more visible in this picture than in reality.

Halfway through stitching the Travis piece, though, real inspiration struck. I read Catullus in Latin class in college, and he quickly became my favorite ancient poet (because yes, I’m the kind of girl who has a favorite ancient poet). His poems are known by number, and 64 (LXIV if you’re as geeky as me) is known as his “little epic.” Little because, at just over 400 lines, this poem can’t even hold a candle to true epics like Virgil’s Aeneid (which is 12 BOOKS or roughly 10,000 lines). But what the poem lacks in length, it makes up in strength and impact. It tells the story of the wedding of Anchises and Thetis (Achilles’ parents), including a lengthy description of the embroidered coverlet on their wedding bed, which shows Ariadne after she was abandoned on an island by Theseus. I especially liked picking this poem because the subject is something embroidered.

I picked my favorite lines from 64 – “Nulla fugae ratio, nulla spes. Omnia muta, omnia sunt deserta, ostentant omnia letum.” They’re horribly depressing lines, used by Ariadne to describe the bleak landscape she has been left on – “There is no means of escape, there is no hope. All is silent, all is deserted, all speaks of death.” I didn’t choose it because it was so depressing but because I love the repetition of the “nulla”s and “omnia”s.

I wasn’t entirely thrilled with how this one turned out. I was a bit rushed to get it in before the contest’s deadline, and in fact, this is the second version of this that I made. I was an idiot on the first one and made a huge mistake. I used a dark heather gray wool and thus couldn’t draw the design on, so I put the design on some tear-away interfacing and started sewing. The embroidery turned out perfectly, and I loved what I thought it was going to look like. When it came to removing the interfacing, though, it just wouldn’t pull away. My stitches started pulling and warping as I tried to carefully remove it with tweezers, and after trying to clean up a tiny section for a few hours, I gave up and decided that a second embroidery was a better bet. I opted for a shiny purple/gray fabric that pulled more than I had hoped, and I used a combination of light blue cotton and gold metallic floss to produce a bit of a variegated look (that’s the one part of this that I’m really happy about). I still have my first embroidery, and if I get bored sometime this winter, I may give cleaning it up another try. A detailed shot, where you can see the variations in the floss, is here.

Edit: I didn’t win the Embroidereading contest, but I’m not surprised, considering how great the other entrants were. Luckily, the Embroidereading Flickr group is being left open as a gathering place for all embroidered quotes. Check it out – I’m in love with the concept and am sure I’ll keep adding to the group.

August 2, 2010

Celtic Cross Embroidery

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 5:01 pm by Pam

After I made my mother a pillow for her birthday, she mentioned to me that my sister-in-law had really liked it. Of course, when she told me that, I already knew what to make.

I knew I wanted to go with a Celtic design of some sort, as my sister-in-law is part Irish, and I spent days poring over design books, many of which spent pages explaining how to design your own Celtic knots. I finally found one that was simple enough to stitch without looking cluttered but complex enough to still have that knotted look.

I stitched this with a dark green outline stitch on a light green background. The dark green really stood out, but I wanted to add a touch of gold to make it look more special. I used a metallic gold thread to whip the stitches. Whipping is when a second color of thread is basically wrapped around the embroidered stitches. The whip stitch is passed under the stitch but not through the fabric, like in the picture above. Always begin on the same side of the stitch so that the second thread looks like it’s wrapping around the first thread.

July 8, 2010

All Glory To The Hypnotoad

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 6:17 pm by Pam

When I asked my brother what image he might want embroidered to hang on his wall, he immediately said “Hypnotoad.” I have to admit, that wasn’t what I expected him to say, but I was happy to comply.

For those who might not know, Hypnotoad is a random minor character from the alive-again Futurama. As his name implies, he hypnotizes crowds with his crazy eyes. My favorite Hypnotoad moment, an extra from one of the Futurama movie DVDs, is here:

I did a quick online search to find a Hypnotoad image and was overall unimpressed. I felt that no matter how I did this, there would be no way I could get the eyes right. But further searching led me to this picture, a Shepard Fairey-inspired Hypnotoad, and I knew this image could convey all that is Hypnotoad, even without the sound.

The final piece is 8×10 and has roughly 6 billion stitches in it, mostly outline stitch and back stitch. If I ever say I want to make something this big, completely filled in, again, please slap me.

May 24, 2010

Fruit F*cker

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 8:47 am by Pam

Back in March, my friends and I attended PAX East. PAX is a gamer (and general geekdom) conference that takes place in Seattle every September, hosted by the folks at Penny Arcade (hence the PA). This year, they decided to try hosting an east coast version of the con. Since there were no travel fees associated with it being right in Boston, I knew it would be a low-risk way to see if this was my kind of thing.

From what I had heard about PAX, I knew there would be a lot of lines and downtime when most attendees would be playing on their Nintendo DS or playing Magic: The Gathering in groups. Neither of those are my thing. So I decided to create a con-appropriate embroidery that I could pick up whenever I needed to keep myself busy.

I had just finished reading through the Penny Arcade archives on the website (no easy feat), and decided I’d go with my favorite character: the fruit f*cker. He is a juicer who, uh, has his way with oranges and the like. With his shifty red eyes and claw-like hands, what’s not to love?

I made my first stitches within minutes of arriving, as we sat on the cold concrete floor of the Hynes Convention Center, waiting for the doors to open so we could get seats to hear Wil Wheaton give the keynote address. By the end of the second day, I had finished outlining everything (except the hump lines, which were the very last thing I did – like setting him into motion). Apparently sometime on Saturday, a news crew even got a shot of me working on it, and I was surprised to see my lil’ fruit friend on the news on Sunday morning. I got lots of weird stares (Come on, geeks! Don’t we get enough weird glances in life in general?!), a few knitters who talked geeky crafts with me, and a couple of people who had no idea what in hell I was doing, but who thought it was pretty cool nonetheless.

The fill work (all in split stitch) took a while to do, and as I was working on the orange itself, I decided that I could make it even more like a souvenir if I put the PAX logo right in the middle of the orange. That was a little tricky to add on – I traced the design on another small piece of fabric, then stitched it right into the piece. The edges of the second piece of fabric are still showing through a bit, but I’m probably the only person who would notice it. There are a few more detailed shots of the finished piece here and here.

Overall, I love how he turned out. I love that I have a souvenir of this great con that no one else has. I’m already looking forward to next year, at which point I’ll be reading the discussion boards ahead of time and will know when the knitters and other crafters are meeting up.

The rest of my PAX photos are here.

April 25, 2010

Self-Winding Yo-Based Toy

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 10:28 am by Pam

Do you ever have a day where you see something and immediately think that you HAVE to have it? Usually, it’s stuff that’s easy to obtain – food, clothes, books, etc. But images?

A few months ago now, I was watching an episode of The Simpsons with friends (The Color Yellow, in which Lisa researches her family’s place in the Underground Railroad). The episode has been pretty well panned since airing, but I loved it – I laughed out loud more during this episode than I have at most recent Simpsons episodes. In the middle of the episode, Milhouse disputes Lisa’s claims, and uses his distant relative’s journal as proof. Flashback to a very-Milhouse-looking boy reading “Mr. Thomas Jefferson’s Marvelous Inventions.” The page he had open was for a Self-Winding Yo-Based Toy, complete with copy about the wonderful things it can do.

From first glance, I was smitten. I loved the design and the simplicity, the old-time feel, the cross-hatching – all of it. I wanted this on my wall. I tracked the episode down on Hulu and took screenshots of the image, then set to work.

I crayon-tinted the fabric, although looking at it now, I probably would have been better off doing some sort of fill stitch for the black areas (I’m quite happy with how the yo-yo itself turned out). It was very detailed work, especially the lettering, but if anything, this taught me patience 😉

By the way, the lettering, which is my favorite part, reads “This device, which will astound that natural scientist, delight the wizened crone, infuriate the feeble-minded, can be manufactured with a mere six months of whittle-work and hemp winding. It can perform tricks most unnatural, including exercising the hound, oscillating the infant, and lunar cannonading.” A close-up shot of the stitching is here.

March 12, 2010

Spoon!

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 4:47 pm by Pam

One of the big things that has gotten me so enthusiastic about embroidery is the needlework groups I’ve found on Flickr. I like the setup of Flickr for these communities better than discussion boards because it’s built around the image – the thing you’ve made – rather than the words. Ask a question and you’ll get answers, but I’ve found that the best way to learn this art is to pay attention to what other people are doing, and their pictures are a perfect way to do this.

My favorite group right now is Phat Quarter, which is the Flickr pool for readers of Mr X Stitch. The people posting in this group are just my kind of people – they’ve all put their own modern spin on embroidery, and I love almost every piece that gets posted. So last month, when the details for a Comic/Cartoon-themed swap were announced in the Phat Quarter group, I signed up before I could realize that I didn’t know the first thing about swaps.

No worries – swaps are just what they sound like. You make something and put it in the mail to someone else. You get something else in return. Easy. I ended up mailing this Tick piece off to Giddy Girlie, who herself makes amazing pop culture pieces (not just embroidery, but paintings and more!). The piece I got just came in and I’ll post about it soon.

Why the Tick? It was one of my favorite cartoons when I was a kid. I think it was on when I was in middle school, and I used to quote it daily (I still quote it, just not that often). My favorite line is “Today is my birthday – I think I’ll celebrate by inventing agriculture.” The live-action show that was on later was short-lived but fantastic – you can watch it on Hulu. There are just so many amazing moments, and I went with the iconic moment when the Tick chooses his battle cry – Spoon!

For this piece, which is about 5×7, I used crayons to tint the fabric, then used satin stitch and my own weird version of outline stitch* (there are a few stray straight stitches and French knots in there too). I’m really happy how he turned out, and I’m feeling like I might need to make another one just for me.

*I say my own version of outline stitch because I kind of figured out how to do it on my own and it’s more of a back stitch than the real thing.