The world, breaking its own heart.

 A man beat from a bunch of men in the city center. Athens, Greece 2012 Photograph by ENRI CANAJ
A man beaten by a bunch of men in the city center. Athens, Greece 2012 Photograph by ENRI CANAJ

Portrait of the world, breaking its own heart. Again and again and again and again.

Poring over some haunting photo journalism by photographer Enri Canaj, following a link that a friend shared.

Sobering. I almost titled this post”A wake-up call”; but, to be honest, I believe it may be too late for that.

A eulogy, then.

During the election in Greece. The Golden Dawn members which today are deputies in the Greek parliament. Athens, Greece 2012 Photos by Enri Canaj

We are so cruel to each other.

We are sloppy sacks of misery and intolerance and hate. So fearful of what we don’t understand. So quick to condemn, so slow to show compassion.

So alienated from the spirit of the universe that we have had to invent our own gods and tell ourselves stories about being chosen, righteous, better than, saved.

Scrunched up all the time…like fists, like cramps, like wads of worthless paper thrown together, on a planet that is increasingly like a compost heap.

We chase entertainment and material goods as though they were of lasting pleasure and importance…loathe to admit that their effects live only briefly…the flare of a matchstick, and then gone again, leaving us in the dark once more.

Even the most wealthy, the most beautiful, the most famous, the most powerful among us seem to hover always on the brink of hysteria, anger, despair, madness.

We think ourselves superior to animals, but the most ordinary earthworm is happier than any of us, knows its place and purpose better, and is more assured of grace.

Humanity. Our viciousness and ugliness and stupidity…


So let’s get it over with, then…the sooner we’re all out of the way, the better we’ll all feel.

And here’s a funny thing: I don’t feel like discussing this with some online Pollyanna, so I won’t.


TAST Week 32 ✂ Cast-on Stitch

cookie, doily, flower...

It’s been 23 weeks since I last posted something for the Take A Stitch Tuesday Challenge; I didn’t just fall off the wagon…it’s like I then rolled off the side of that steep mountain pass and fell a thousand feet into somebody’s backyard garden in another county, where I took up turnip farming.

I’m only posting this now because I happen to have some old projects that show the week’s stitch to good effect…and not because I have managed to organize myself enough to work a new sample for the challenge.

But an old entry is better than no entry. If I hadn’t vainly insisted on making a special sample for each stitch, I wouldn’t have missed so many of the weekly TAST posts…I probably have examples of most embroidery stitches, forgotten and unappreciated on small pieces buried at the bottom of various drawers  in my home.

Week 32 features Cast-On Stitch, a highly dimensional stitch that reminds me of crocheted loops and picots. I often use it to imitate doilies.

These cookie-sized thread confections were worked on circles of felt bonded to the ground fabric. I made a varied bunch of them, and then forgot about them. I know they’re in a box of craft junk somewhere on this boat…I came across them a week ago, winced a bit in guilt, and carried on looking for a bottle of white acrylic ink…
cookie, doily, flower...

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This small embroidery sample is for the Take a Stitch Tuesday 2012 Challenge, of which I am a very sporadic and hopelessly disorganized participant.

Kantha see I’m busy? Week 10 ✂ Running Stitch (TAST)

Tast Week 10: Running Stitch

Week 10’s stitch on Take A Stitch Tuesday is Running Stitch…

Possibly the simplest stitch of them all, and yet…who, among embroiderers, is not indebted to this stitch? From basting, easing, and smocking to outlining, gathering, filling, quilting, and pattern darning, running stitch can do it all.

And does it quickly! Please *ahem* note that for once I am not posting my TAST2012 sample at the last possible moment. This piece took the good part of a day to do (it was the pattern darning that slowed me down, and I was plenty distracted) but that’s not too bad,when you count how long some of the others took me.

 This first bit of my sample shows some pattern darning. A simple line of stitches worked over counted threads, (evenweave fabric, using a single thread and a tapestry needle) was built up into a band so even that it almost looks woven. There was going to be a whole field of this darning, but after four repeats of the pattern I got bored (heh heh) so I tore the strip from its mother fabric, and mixed it with other torn pieces of fabric for a patchwork, instead.

Tast Week 10: Running Stitch

My favorite use of running stitch is in the Indian and West Bengal embroidery called kantha. In the best examples of this technique, the entire cloth is covered with running stitches, often used to fill in shapes of animals, plants, and people. The effect of so many running stitches is a subtle, delightful crinkling or rippling in the fabric, and a contrast between puffed-up and stitched down areas that resemble quilting. Kantha embroidery is both decorative, and serves to hold all the pieces of a patchwork down, and if several layers are used, is also a quilting stitch to hold all the layers of a blanket (or somesuch) together, at the same time.

I work this dense running stitch quite a lot. Here it is on a patchwork-covered journal…
book 913 with hand-embroidered kantha quilting

and on a simple felt journal
puff (no. 908)

BUT I am digressing…this here is a detail of my running stitches for the TAST sample. The shimmery pink organza is particularly effective when it is puckered up by the running stitches, letting the light play on its crinkled surface.

I didn’t do anything special to hold the pieces of fabric down—like bond them to the ground fabric, or spray them with adhesive—except some very large basting stitches (removed afterwards) running both vertically and horizontally across all the loose pieces. The edges were left torn or cut. As I worked the running stitches—first vertically then horizontally, forming crosses—I tried to catch and hold down the raw edges of the pieces. Don’t know if I would dare to launder such a thing, but for a static embroidery sample, the kantha seems to do the job of securing everything well enough.

Tast Week 10: Running Stitch

The text is very crude on this one, I didn’t think it would turn out so ordinary. I’ve used running stitch for the letters, which I then whipped with the same color. Kinda ‘meh’. I tried to set the word off better by running a few lines of tiny white running stitches around it. Maybe I should have filled the entire word-shape with white running stitches. But it’s colorful, and pretty, has a rich texture, and I like it a lot, anyway!
Tast Week 10: Running Stitch

I love running stitch…it’s so simple, and versatile, and it instantly gives a design that earthy, “made by hand” feeling.

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This small embroidery sample is for the Take a Stitch Tuesday 2012 Challenge. The idea was to combine my love of embroidery with my love of typography.

Week 9 ✂ Couched and laid threads (TAST)

I have missed about 5 weeks of the TAST challenge…at this rate I may never catch up! But I’m pushing, this late Sunday afternoon, to upload my stitch sample for the current week. Week 9’s stitch on Take A Stitch Tuesday is Couching.

It’s not completely done, but I’ll be damned if I am going to miss yet another week’s stitch! Not after I nearly lost my mind today, working this diabolical Turkish basket-weave couching with Japanese gold thread. Five tries, and I really thought it would do my head in! It’s harder than I thought it would be…I’d never tried couching metal thread before.

couching stitches— for TAST 2012 (detail)

(Incidentally, the pink-couched black cord is a prime example of Baluchi work…sort of on the opposite end to the skill of the Turkish emboroiderers, Baluchi women do a very coarse couching, using big, visible stitches in contrasting colors.)

Jacobean couching, below, along with satin couching, long and short couching, and thorn stitch couching…
couching stitches— for TAST 2012 (detail)

Bayeux Stitch (a.k.a. Algerian, or Italian couching)

couching stitches— for TAST 2012 (detail)

and, to the right of it, a spiral of single metal thread couching, worked in Japanese gold #4, and again in Kreinik metallic pale pink.
couching stitches— for TAST 2012 (detail)

This started out as zig-zag or to-and-fro couching of a length of mohair yarn…but the resulting puffball was such an unruly little thing that I tried to pull it in with a trellis reminiscent of jacobean couching.
couching stitches— for TAST 2012 (detail)

Bokhara couching
couching stitches— for TAST 2012 (detail)

And a very exciting (to me, at least) couching technique employed by Japanese embroiderers: a foundation of laid threads are couched down securely using the same color thread ( I have used a dark purple, to show the stitches) and further embroidery is worked over this foundation. Embroidery over embroidery is probably the one thing that really sets Japanese embroidery (nuido) apart from the rest of the world’s.
couching stitches— for TAST 2012 (detail)

Okay, the more experienced among you will call my bluff right away…no couching involved here, not really. I ran out of ideas and steam…laid the threads one way, and then started to fool around with needle-weaving in the other direction. Pretty textured effect and pattern, yes, but not couching. 😉
couching stitches— for TAST 2012 (detail)

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UPDATE 10 March 2012:

Okay, it’s done! I just filled in the remaining circle, and continued the laid and couched line that spirals around the design.

In the circle below, I tried my hand at making patterns with the couching thread…this reminds me of friendship bracelet patterns. Bordering the circle is a black cotton yarn couched using blanket stitch, then I snuck in a couple of bullion stitches, and when that didn’t thrill me I shifted to a wrapped couching technique (three wraps, one couching stitch, three wraps, and so on).

I also turned the tables on goldwork by couching the cotton yarn down using Jap gold…

couched and laid3

Over on the other side, just a length of bead couching, to round the bunch of techniques off.

couched and laid1

If you know of a couching technique that I missed, please let me know! I found this sample a great learning and discovery process, as I’ve never really given couching much thought before. Definitely a family of techniques that I will enjoy adding to my repertoire of working stitches. I’ve replaced the bottom photo with one of the finished sample:

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This small embroidery sample is for the Take a Stitch Tuesday 2012 Challenge. The idea was to combine my love of embroidery with my love of typography.

Week 3 ✂ Feather stitch (TAST)

Feather TAST - 04

Week 3’s theme was the Feather stitch.

I started by painting the fabric with a thin wash of acrylics,

feather underpainting

I was genuinely curious about this stitch…I don’t use it often, as I associate its open, sort of mesh-like appearance with crazy patchwork seam decoration.

I like dense stitches, and I wanted to see if I could get some solid meat out of this stitch…use it as a filling for shapes, and how well it would depict those shapes. Of course it worked fine…that’ll teach me to judge a stitch by the way it looks in stitch dictionaries—which are, of course, open and simple for instruction’s sake.

It’s quite a versatile stitch, when you work it close and play with its rays. I’ve actually managed to cram 9 different stitches into this sample…

the regular Feather stitch, followed by wide and dense Cretan stitch…

…Slanted Feather stitch, and 2-needle Feather stitch (I made this one up for myself, which is not to say it hasn’t been done before, I’ve just never seen it),

…long-and-short feather stitch…

I attempted (and bungled) a kind of French knot+Feather stitch…forget this one…not all experiments work!

…Spanish Knotted Feather stitch, and Ribbed-For-Her-Pleasure feather stitch… 😀 I was getting well and truly sick of the feather stitch at this point, hah!

Then, under the name, I worked Chained feather stitch,

and Türkmen stitch.

Feather Map TAST - 02

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This small embroidery sample is for the Take a Stitch Tuesday 2012 Challenge. The idea was to combine my love of embroidery with my love of typography.

Week 2 ✂ Blanket (Buttonhole) stitch (TAST)

blanket (aka buttonhole) stitch—TAST week 2

Week 2’s stitch—buttonhole (aka blanket, which I chose because it’s a shorter word, and incorporates the letter ‘K’)—went very quickly for me, thanks to lessons learned from Week 1’s awkward Fly stitch.

For one thing, I like this landscape format of the page much better than the portrait format; it allows the typography to expand and fill more of the page, without a lot of space at the top and bottom.

blanket (aka buttonhole) stitch—TAST week 2

Also, I messied-up the ‘page’ before stitching—using watered-down acrylic paints and ordinary wax crayons—and doing so took away that “faced with a blank page” nervousness: confronted by a pristine white surface, my creativity tends to go into an overly-cautious, formal mode. I concentrate so heavily on every little mark I make on such a clean sheet, that I usually don’t have any fun.

And this time I made sure to have fun. Used the hot colours that I love, kept designs abstract, used different threads, made random marks…on the whole, I didn’t take this week’s sample too seriously, and am much happier with the results.

It helped that this is one of my favorite stitches. The use of buttonhole can impart a rustic, almost naive look to hand embroidery. Something to do, perhaps, with its associations with woolen blankets, homemade velveteen rabbits and bedroom slippers, and kids’ summer camp leatherwork projects.

Personally, I love using this stitch for its enclosed or bordered field of thick stripes.

blanket (aka buttonhole) stitch—TAST week 2

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This small embroidery sample is for the Take a Stitch Tuesday 2012 Challenge. The idea was to combine my love of embroidery with my love of typography.