Thursday, March 31, 2016

More a walk than a stroll

Hello, everyone.

Yesterday we went over to the Scenic Wetlands Center and Butterfly Garden in Edinburg. (For my out of area readers, this is how the town's name is correctly spelled. The town is in south Texas.)

We found some neat birds and some neat flowers.

Zoomed in from across the large holding pond: white egrets and something else. (Top left one moved his head!)

Tulipan, a native hibiscus of the region

Prickly pears (also called nopal) in a less-common color set.
Some of these flowers are outright red! (Most in this area have yellow flowers.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

It might be ADD?

Hello, everyone.

There are multiple things going on around my "studio" these days.

There is the fitful beading based on making a necklace out of an orange glass catseye and a mix of turquoise/green/assorted beads. The catseye has been captured into a peyote setting and a small peyote strap has been added to the back. The idea is currently to have a group of strands that meet in that little strap, but have assorted accent bits between the turquoise seed beads. That's the relaxation from the other two projects.

The second project, actually been on the stove a little longer than any of the others, is a sort of feasibility exploration of a pair of matched book covers. The books don't actually match in their dimensions, but they're a set, so the possible covers should at least closely resemble each other, right?
That one is at the stage of making stitch samples to explore the way the threads, and maybe beads, behave on linen. (I already know how beads behave on several other fabric types. But maybe there should be exploration of cotton stranded floss on those other types too.) The latest stitch exploration looks like this:

The cream part is satin stitches.
The bottom half of the Rho is horizontal stitches. I'm less than enthused about that part. The top part has the satin stitches at an angle and it looks better. I also got all excited and tried out some beads along the edge of the satin stitches. These are almost all #11 sead beads in various colors of glass. No silver linings, as the silver has been known to tarnish.

And then there are the quilts. There is the Pink Explosion that was planned out and pinned and labeled but not stitched together. (I had intended that to be finished over summer.) And there is now a baby quilt in grays and pinks. That is in the fabric exploration and pattern testing phase. (I have given up on the way-cute pieced whale from the Better Homes and Gardens book _501 Quilt Blocks_ as it's been a nightmare to get all the little angled bits to go together and be the correct size. In either the 4" size in the book or a supposedly easier 8" size!)

Fabric color play. These are a mix of a few new pieces and an assortment of older pieces. With any luck, in the next several days something will sort itself out and a plan will form!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Double Easter goodness this year

Hello, everyone. And to all of my readers who keep the Latin-version religous calendar, may you have a blessed Easter.

To all of my readers who keep the Orthodox-version religious calendar, may your Lent blossom fruitfully and your Easter be wonderful when it comes.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A pleasant stroll

Hello, everyone.

Today, since a cool front had arrived and brought sunshine and drier breezes, we took an after-lunch walk. We explored the McAllen Nature Center.



The Nature Center has been in the city for many decades. In the last few years the city has taken steps to make it more pleasant for visitors. (It had been neglected for quite a while.) They have a cactus garden, a few picnic tables, and some bird-watching benches in the brushy area. Some of the benches are convenient to bird feeders.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Test-driving some ideas

Hello, everyone.

Continuing on from the last post, about the mockup of a book cover, there has been some test stitching done on the hooped bit of linen-with-muslin.

Various experiments with thread
The little white fish was interesting, but I think it's a little too fussy to do anything big with: a lot of tiny cross stitches using the weave of the linen for the grid. Though if I'd had a chart or made some marks it would have been okay.
The yellow fish was a failure.
The white fleur de lis seems to me to lead the way: two strands, and make a line of simple stitches at the edge of the area before beginning to fill anything in.
The yellow round blob is a collection of french knots. Like the white fish, too dainty. The two star/daisy things are okay but they would need to be part of something larger. And I'm not convinced that a grid with "stuff" in the holes is the way to go. Though if decision makers are thrilled with the thought when I show stitch and fabric samples, then it can be made to come out okay. Possibly by means of laying down a thicker thread and using couching stitches to hold it straight and firm up the intersections of the threads.

A test of a design: will something like this work? Is it doable in
a reasonable amount of time?
This Chi-Rho is from Mary Corbett's delightful book of church embroidery designs, which is available as an ebook from her blog, Needle n Thread. (See the sidebar if interested.) The palm leaves were just sketched in as ideas, while the Greek letters were traced. I used Sulky Solvy to trace the letters from a sheet of paper and then basted the Sulky Solvy to the linen. This is the same method that was used a couple of years back to mark the bead embroidery for DD1's wedding dress bodice pieces. (Yes, that is water soluble Flair pen on the transparent stuff.)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A possible new project

Hello, everyone.

The wedding dress being done, and delivered, it's time to be doing other things.

Some studying is being done on a possible new project.

Proof of concept:

It doesn't have quite all the layers of fabric under consideration, but the layout and the method seems to work fairly well. Two layers of the flannel on the front and back cover, 1 layer at the spine, 1 layer of the muslin between the linen and flannel.

And the cover stays on when the book is opened.
Using a hymnal that was on hand--a hard cover book with some thickness to it--to stand in for the possible book to be covered, I tried out the pattern for the cover and most of the layers of padding, underlining, and outer cover. This is some green linen that was left over from another project, with quilting muslin under the linen to firm up the grain for stitching and some cotton flannel underneath so the stitches will have somewhere to go when the book is opened up on a hard surface.

I tried out stitches on another piece  of the linen, using painter's tape to get some straight lines, and also tried out some colors of cotton floss and a couple of stitches.

The 1" (2.5 cm) tape gives a straight line, and the blue tape is easy to remove and reuse. (It's a low-tack tape.)
I'm not sure that the tape is the way to get a good diamond grid, though--perhaps just use the ruler to make the lines?

Pale lavender: 1 strand, outline stitch. Pale green: 2 strands, chain stitch.
Dark green: 2 strands, outline stitch. Purple: 2 strands, chain stitch.
It's not clear yet what the design will be. If the project goes forward, it will be a nearly-matched pair of covers, for a set of similar-sized books. I'm leaning toward the linen for the face fabric, just because it's so easy to clean and accepts the stitching easily.

Other fabric options have been suggested, like polyester doupioni or light polyester jacquard. I think the second might be harder to stitch through. And the first, while it's interesting to look at, might have a scary affinity for hand lotions when it's in use. It's not always easy to get oils out of poly fabrics. The linen can soak in Oxyclean, get a gentle rinse, and then soak in soap, followed up with a rinse bath or two in bowls of clean water. Then get drip dried--not tumble dried--and have almost no wrinkles at the end of the session. There will be too much built-in structure for machine laundering and drying of the covers.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Hello, everyone.

As y'all know, I've been up to the neck in finishing off a big dress. Part of that is, this time, hand stitching on the hem. It's poly doupioni backed with poly organza: slick. But once you finally get it pinned in place it's reasonably compliant. I used a (LONG) strip of bias organza to cover the fabric edge at the hem and hand stitched the fold of the organza down for the hem. Used poly machine-embroidery thread for this, as it's a really good match in color and sheen for the dress fabric. And got a knot in the thread that was impossible to get out.

Hemming in process--had to take breaks.
The knot was too close to the fabric for me to cut the thread and rethread the good part to knot it off. At least with that needle, which was probably 2 inches long. (5 cm for our metric cousins) I decided to look in the package of spiffy French needles I'd picked up along the way.
My package of lovely needles--the betweens are covered by the left edge of the packet.
There on the outside end was a short little thing, a Big Eye Between, which was just perfect. The length was about 1.25 inch or so. I was able to end off the thread, cut the knot out of the remaining portion, and use most of the remaining portion. I used the between needle to finish off the hem. It was a dream to work with, having a sharp point along with the easy-threading big eye.

This was one time that the stash came in handy. I'd bought the needles as part of a gift certificate from Amazon, just to see what they're like. Ms. Corbet at Needle n Thread has written a lot about needles and this is one of the brands she's fond of. I can see why.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Bead auditions

Hello, everyone.

This is one of the long series of R's dress posts, specifically some "audition" pictures of the redone lace yoke.

The new yoke has a new underlining fabric: Sewin' Sheer. It's a beige sheer knit with lots of stability and very little weight. Not stiff, but doesn't have the urge to stretch, nor the urge to let the fabric dissolve on narrow bias bits like the poly organza did.

Here it is assembled at the shoulder seams, with half of the needed hidden dart included there, and with the organza bias half-sewn in place, then pinned into its final placement. I'm tryng out ideas for a sprinkle or a row of subtle beads that will bring a bit of sparkle to the dress and also distract the eye from the stitching that will seal down the bias strip on the underside of the bodice. (Just letting it be there and hoping nobody notices the little line is still in the running here. But with the darker shade of the Sewin' Sheer compared to the former ivory organza, I'm not nuts with letting the row of stitiching just be there. The match is great with the lace, but will show wherever there is an opening in the pattern. And it's lace! The very definition of the fabric is "lots of little holes.")

Overview of the bodice with spaced-out clear iridescent beads on the proposed stitching line.
(Not proposed, really, the line of stitches has to be there.)
They're almost invisible, but light will catch and sparkle from them.

Close-up: The center of the front, with a the same size 11 beads along where the line of stitching would be.

The beads here--towards the right--are more of a line than a sprinkle.

Trying out some size 8 pearly-white beads in between the transparent size 11's.
Also a closer look at the line in the previous picture.
 The size 8 beads are very close (in size, but not really in shape) to 3mm perles, which there are still a couple hundred on hand from DD1's wedding dress a couple of years back. And a line of perles on this edge--the color is a good match--is very much in consideration.
With some clear 4mm bicone beads here-n-there. A line of the size 11 with interspaced bicones maybe?
The bicones would add some discreet sparkle, and they don't stick out noticeably from the dress fabric.

I am not auditioning sequins--impossible to dry clean--nor the rhinestones that were used in the belt tulip ornament. (That was solidly embroidered tulips in mostly the clear beads and some two-cut beads, with accents of perles and the rhinestones and a sequin or three. But the belt is removable before the dress goes to the cleaners. And the belt could, if absolutely necessary, take a bath in a pan of warm water and maybe a drop of soap to clean if contingencies should happen to it. Followed of course by two or three rinse dips.) And I don't think R is a loads-of-sequins kind of girl.

One of the changes with the new, more stable underlining is the loss of the discreet sparkle that the ivory organza had. The lace now will seem much more like it's on its own at the top of the dress. Of course, the lace is still a perfect match for the rest of the dress.

Maybe I'm just overthinking the whole thing. We're down to the wire now on this project, so possibly the only answer that is true is to lay off the "analysis paralysis" and finish already.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spring is springing

Hello, everyone.

The other day I carried the camera outside--the one with the good zoom, not the little one--and wandered around a bit while fetching the morning paper. The pecans may not be leafing out yet, nor the deciduous oak either, but the shrubs and perennials are convinced that spring is here.

First gaillardia of the season!

Agarita in bloom

The mango tree has loads of foamy cream-colored flowers and the new leaves are red.
 Last year we got some fruit from the mango tree. They were wonderful.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Progress on lace

Hello, everyone.

There has been progress on stabilizing the lace dress yoke. There are now pinned-on pieces of lace motif that, one hopes, will stabilize edges and prevent shape changes.

An extra leaf here, and accept that the tip of it will overlap the underlying round leaf in the underarm area. (Won't show.)

An extra triangle-bit here, as the seam is a high stress area, and see comments about perles on the actual tulip nearby below maybe.
There are some other places where the loose-knitted net will just be stabilized with a stitch at every junction and some others in mid-thread where the jumps are long.

The real question is, should there be tiny beads added to the main design lines, or just sprinkled here-n-there? I'm thinking of size 15 or 11 clear, ivory, or white beads, no sequins, just to add some sparkle. But it may be gilding the lily to add them. Or for that matter lines of 3mm perles, of which I have some left over from DD1's wedding dress embroidery. That big tulip leading up to the shoulder might be a place to add lines of perles on the main re-embroidery lines of the lace. It would be almost like a corsage in its placement--but not so attention-grabbing and certainly not sticking out in a big lump that would catch when dancing.

Must consider.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A little bit of a stroll in the neighborhood

Hello, everyone.

One of the ways that Camino has changed us is that we think of "walking distance" as anything that doesn't take more than a half-day. And longer if we're on a pilgrimage, of course, but around home we've been walking places that we might have driven before.

We walked to our local polling place recently. It was a pleasant stroll, around 2 miles round trip, and we saw a little bit of wildlife on the way.

Native cormorant overlooking the pond at the park

Turtles--which didn't want their picture taken
I was carrying the little Olympus tough camera instead of one with a good zooming feature, so these are a bit small.