Go on, tell me I’ve ruined it…I suspected as much.

green horse

Not much to say about the green horse journal cover, now. It’s done, I think…”quit while you’re ahead,” the old wisdom goes; I might have to ammend that to “quit before you fuck it up any more.” The blue fabric pen will fade in time, not that this will make the dots on the spine of the book look any sexier. Just sayin’.

So now that you can see what I went and did, tell me what I should have done, instead. I’m interested to hear about the different ways you would have handled the horse’s background, because I hope to learn something from this experience.
Right. Ready! I’m listening…


Week 16 ✂ French Knot (TAST 2012)

This week’s stitch for the TAST Challenge 2012 is the French Knot. I know I will never finish what I started—not in time for the round up on Sunday, anyway—so here is my sample, in all its half-assed, slacked-out glory:

An old doyenne of the great unfinished project, I’ve actually got a few stitch samples that I never posted on here because I didn’t finish them in time.

I gave up on Satin Stitch, because I messed up the background fabric, tried to ‘fix’ it with white gesso, which made things worse. I took this shot, then destroyed it, because it pissed me off...

TAST 2012 Satin stitch

There was Herringbone Stitch, which was going along okay until the “permanent marker” I used to draw the letters ran. And I didn’t manage to get the black to slowly blend into brown the way I’d hoped. Shame because I adore this stitch, which is also known as “Witch’s Stitch” (the German word for herringbone stitch is ‘hexenstich’ – literally, ‘witches stitch’) and is used for casting spells and sealing magic into clothing. Variations of Herringbone are in the almond shapes, and the two white triangles on either side of the word ‘bone’ are (left) Crow’s Foot and (right) Sprat’s Head. I was very disappointed in myself when I didn’t finish this one in time and the paints bled. This one I kept, out of respect.
TAST 2012 herringbone (unfinished)

From way, way back, this is Cretan Stitch, which I did a lot of work on, then ran out of red thread. There wasn’t a single bit of red thread left on the boat, this pig of a stitch gobbled it all up. I tried using other, reddish threads (more like orange) and it looked awful, awful! I think I was leaving for Malaysia around this time, so I just abandoned it. Looking at it again, I decided I would never finish it, and didn’t like the way it was headed, so I threw it out.
Cretan Stitch (TAST 2012) WIP


According to Sharon B., Week 15 marked an ending of the basic stitches, and stepping onto the threshold of stitches that become “more complex or less well known”. So it is time for me to decide whether I am going to continue the way I have been or not. Obviously I am not keeping up; that for me is a sign that I have once again ignored the huge discrepancies between what I want to do, and what I am capable of. The typography + stitch thing has not always been a great combination…some stitches, like the Whipped Wheels of week 11, while not impossible to work as letters, looked pretty damn ugly as letters. Seemed to defeat the purpose. I am defeated.

I have to also take into consideration the amount of time that these samples take up…last month saw me bitterly, bitterly broke. I should be making journals and stuff that I can take to the craft markets which are starting up in town now that the good weather of winter is moving in…I need the embroidery project to function as more than a solipsism.

I’m marking an end of my own—not to TAST, which I will keep doing because there really are a lot of stitches I haven’t tried my hand at yet—but to the stitches + typography samples. I’ll be trying now to use the weekly stitch to both learn and embellish my bookbinding and other projects. While I love the idea of  a personal book of stitch samples, it is a luxury and a fanciful project for someone in my position. I don’t really need one (especially not of stitches that I have long been familiar with, which so far is what we’ve covered in TAST) and can’t afford the time to be making such a thing; the projects I spend time on must serve some second, more practical, purpose.

And did you sign up for TAST this year? How are you doing? I really do hope you are faring better than I!

One way to use up leftover thread…

I got around to organizing my embroidery threads the other day…putting all the untouched hanks, little paper bands and color codes still on, in one organizer, looping the working hanks of thread around plastic thread card thingies, and gathering all the odds and ends of leftover threads (short lengths, minus a few skeins)

If you do a lot of embroidery, chances are that you have a small (or medium…or humongous…) mass of embroidery threads left over from all those other stitchy projects. Could it possibly look anything like my own thread bunny, here?…or am I more slovenly than most of you? >:)


I hate to throw anything even remotely usable away, but I know that I will not remember to rummage through my tangled thread monster for a particular shade of thread when I am working on an embroidery design, so the solution—for me—has always been to create a project specifically to use up my leftover threads.

Years ago I drew diamonds on an A4-sized piece of white linen using gold gutta, and whenever I had time to kill I would take some leftover thread and fill a shape or two in with satin stitch. I ended up turning the finished piece into trading cards and swapping them away. I only have this one crappy photo, pretty much to scale, but you can see what I mean.


It was time for another one of those projects:

A simple geometric grid on the fabric (old white cotton bedsheets, in case you were wondering)…nothing too complicated.

Inch-sized squares halved on the diagonal. I’ve kept each shape smallish, just the right size to use up the verious 16-inch lengths, 3 or 4 threads to a skein, of each color. Any bigger and I would have to pull fresh thread from the other piles, and I am trying to use the snarl up, not create more leftover thread.

I’ve filled the triangles with a simple satin stitch…alternating between horizontal and vertical stitching gives textured patches of glossy and matte threads.

I started out by using the regular satin stitch, but realised that some of my thread lengths were so short that I wouldn’t have enough to fill even one triangle, so I shifted to surface satin stitch—leaving almost no thread on the back of the embroidery.

front / back

Once I use up this tangle of  leftover threads I hope to always keep a piece of fabric, with a simple grid like this, ready in a hoop, so that I can stay on top of the thread situation, working a triangle here and there alongside my real embroidery projects.

It doesn’t really matter that I don’t know what I’m going to do with this piece of cotton when it’s full of embroidery…there are a million ways it can be used, and I’ll just decide that when it’s done.

I call it Lentil Stitch…


Working on my embroidery last weekend, I wanted to fill a shape with little nubbins of stitch, but didn’t want to use french knots—a bit too small.

I started working the circles in satin stitch, but found that not only were they disappointingly flat (I could have padded, I know), but the horizontal tension squeezed the circle, making it a bit oval or egg shaped. Not a big deal, of course, but at some point I started to play with my stitching, to see if I could come up with something better.

WIP "Misses Ellen & Margaret Would Not Approve"

I thought of something I’d used a few months back: Rhodes stitch. This square-shaped filling stitch has a raised center, a little like a faceted stud, and is rarely used in crewel embroidery because it is described as a needlepoint and counted-thread stitch…for working on canvas or similar meshy fabrics. Don’t see why one can’t freehand a canvaswork stitch onto finer fabric—they’re essentially the same thing, after all, so I went crazy and used Rhodes stitch along with satin stitch to fill this part of the same embroidery, pictured above.

I reasoned that I could use the same technique to work circular studs, so I started doing that on my embroidery. And holy crap, I love the results! Because the stitches rotate around the shape, the tension pulls the circumference in evenly, keeping the circle shape very nicely. But what I love most of all about this adapted rhodes stitch is the way it forms a raised center in the circle, making a really pronounced little nubbin, very much like a split pea or lentil.

So I’ve decided to call my little “discovery” Lentil Stitch…at least until somebody *gently, gently! I’m attached to it, you know…* points out to me that this is a common and widespread stitch, and that it’s name is ________. If you know this stitch, please tell me what it’s called and where you’ve seen it.

Otherwise, “Please, please Mom, can I keep Lentil?” 😉

UPDATE: You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Looking back I realize how silly it would be for such a simple and obvious stitch not to exist. Hahaha, a right and silly goose, I am. Julie THompson, over on Stitchin’ Fingers, has very gently and…almost motherly…informed me that this is called the Circular Rhodes Stitch (duh, someone didn’t do a proper search of the internet before she claimed discovery!) and it is worked on plain fabric, not canvas.

diagram for circular Rhodes Stitch

Back to the drawing board! (I mean the embroidery hoop.)

lentil stitchI call it Lentil Stitch...