Blackwork Embroidery update

Well, I’ve found my scissors, so I’ve been able to actually do some embroidery.  I’ve been working away at this project for the past week now.  I’ll be the first to say that I’m not the fastest in the world at doing this stuff.  But it’s not a bad pace for me, considering I have a tendency to stop and pay attention to other things throughout while working, or just walking away when I need to take a break.

So, the first thing I did was to work on this little scrolling leaf boarder.  It’s about 2 3/4 inches in length, so it’s not a huge boarder piece.  But it’s very easily repeated if a longer length is desired.  I’m very pleased with the overall size of this corner piece as it is, and felt it worked just right for the project.


I was originally hoping to find different corner pieces, but I ended up with only this one piece.  So, I decided to just run with it, and place one in each corner.  It should help give it an overall unifying effect as I work on the rest of the piece.  It also helps really define the edges I have to work within.  This ended up taking me two or three days to work on.


I mentioned previously about the large knotwork pattern that was going to be placed in the center, because of how large it is.  Well, here’s the knot.  I had just finished the outline of the knotwork here, taking me about two days to complete it.  Rather plain, I think, at this point.  Not much to really attract the attention to it, other than that it’s a huge piece in the midst of a vast expanse of nothingness.


And, just to get a better idea of what I was working with, here’s the knot itself.


And after another three or four days of work, I finished the fill work on the knotwork.  Now, this looks much better.  It has depth and dimension, and actually looks like the bars really do pas over and under each other.  The hardest part at this point was just figuring out how to run the design so it went smoothly with as few hitches as possible.  It took a few attempts with the short bars, but I finally figured out, and pretty much zoomed through the rest of it.  But it’s a lot of detail work in those bars, and it was very fiddly detail work.  After getting three to four bars finished, I’d find myself needing to quit for the day.


Well, that’s it for now.  I have more embroidery to work on for the next update.  I’m pretty excited now, and can’t wait to see the field begins to fill up with my patterns.


Layout and patterns for Blackwork Sampler Pillow

Well, it turns out I wasn’t quite done writing.  Since I can’t actually work on this project due to not being able to find my scissors, I decided I’d explain a little bit about the layout of the designs I’ve chosen, how I decided what will go where, and show you a few samples of the designs.

First, the layout.  My working space will be 18 inches by 18 inches.  So, everything has to be able to fit in there, somehow, somewhere.  Yay!  I love trying to figure out how to make things fit!  It’s sort of like playing Tetris.  I ended up with a total of 26 designs, though I’m only using 25.  One of them, a boarder design, I decided I really didn’t like.  I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it when I came across it, but decided to graph it out anyways.  Afterwards, I was even more certain I didn’t like it.  It looks sort of like a rope leading up into a palm tree, then back down.  It’s not bad over all, just a bit more nautical and tropical than what I personally like.  All the other elements, I like, so they get the pass.

In a previous post, I was discussing trying to convert the patterns down to scale.  I realized, after, that I didn’t need to do anything.  I had already done all the work.  Each line on the patterns equals one stitch, thus 1 inch equals 14 stitches.  Nothing more needed to be done.

Here’s the overall layout I came up with.  I’ve used a scale of one square equaling a half inch.  So for an 18 inch pattern, I have a grid of 36 squares to a side.  After that, I needed to figure out how to scale each design pattern down to this scale so I could place it on the grid.  Since the designs are not done in multiples of 14 stitches, it required a bit of math, but I think I got it figured out.  I ended up turning the designs into boxes.  I didn’t feel the desire to try to replicate each design this small, nor do I think I actually could have.  It’s also easier to work with an overall box shape than with a bunch of random squiggles when trying to figure out how much area a design covers.

Once I knew about how many squares a design element would cover, it was a matter of figuring out where to place them.  A few were easy, I actually have a couple of designs that are 14 stitches across.  Yay!  That’s a 2×2 square!  One is 64 stitches across.  That comes out to 9 squares across.  Everything else is somewhere in between.  There’s still some empty spaces, and a few elements seem to crowd into each other.  I just keep reminding myself, on the full size piece, the crowding should resolve itself, as what appears to be an almost nothing space will end up being a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of space between elements.  The empty spaces I can freehand a design.  I’m toying wit the idea of trying to see if I can do some scrollwork.

At this point, it was just a matter of deciding where to place each box, trying to balance out how heavy or light, simple or complex, and overall size a design was.  I started along the edges, placing in various boarder designs, and a few non-boarders, that I felt would work in that place.  Long rectangles were great in these places.  Since I have a rather large element at 64 stitches across, I decided it should go in the center.  From there, it was a matter of just filling in, trying to keep everything balanced.

Overall, I think I succeeded in this phase.


These are some simple little designs I came across and really liked how they feel.  These will be pretty small, only about an inch across.


I love knotwork, and decided I had to have at least one knotwork pattern to work up.  I ended up with two.  This is the smaller, and more simple of the two.  The larger one is actually the center piece.


This one appealed to me for it’s simple interwoven lines that give it a more complicated feel then is really there.  My graph paper wasn’t large enough to complete the pattern, but it won’t be hard to mirror the top half.


The next one I got this one from a finished embroidery piece I found online, and used as a pattern for this.  The original had a different thing happening in each quadrant.  I love symmetry, and while the overall had the appearance of symmetry, as I began transcribing it, I realized it was not.  So a few tweaks here and there, a reduction of variations, and I have a design that I’m quite pleased with.  While I don’t consider myself a great fan of country arts and crafts, I am enamored of the little heart flowers.

Below that on the same chart, is a small element I that I find very pleasing to embroider, four little flowers.  They make a great boarder on clothing when lined up in a row.  I have this design embroidered on the sleeves of a chemise I use for my SCA garb.  It’s simple, yet quite pretty.


Well, that’s it for tonight.  One frustrated crafty person, who has been waylaid on their plans to start a project, all because a pair of scissors went missing.

Project delays

Well, I was hoping to have an actual update to post later today or tomorrow.  I actually got started on the project, have the fabric measured out and trimmed up, and boarders marked in.  Had grabbed my thread to do a quick whip stitch along the edges of the fabric to bind them, and then was going to do a quick basting stitch along the boarder so that I could see where it was on the front side of the fabric, then get the first element stitched in.  But…  I can’t find my embroidery scissors!  I know I had them when I was working up a sample of one of the patterns, but I can’t find them now.  I thought I had set them aside with my currently very meager embroidery supplies, but they weren’t in the bag that I’m using.  I can’t find them anywhere around where the bag was resting for a couple of months.  They have simply vanished.  I think I’ll blame their disappearance on that pesky gremlin that seems to like to steal anything I’m wanting to use.

As it is, I’m actually at a good point to get a picture of the fabric, with the boarders marked in, put up, to give an idea of the overall size of the project I’ll be working with.  This will be the largest embroidery item I’ve ever worked on to date.  Until this pillow, everything has measured no more about 8 inches to a side.  It’s a bit intimidating, yes.  But also exciting.  I’m glad that I’m able to break it up into smaller pieces and can work on one element at a time.  That should make it a lot easier to work with, and hopefully won’t leave me feeling so overwhelmed on everything.

In the mean time, I’m going to keep fuming, and looking for, my missing scissors.  Nothing is more frustrating than being able to sit down and finish up the prep work on a project, or start the project, and not being able to take that next step because you’re missing a key supply item.


Here’s the fabric I’m working with, approximately 20 inches to a side, with a working area of 18 inches (to allow for seam allowance and extra fabric before the design actually begins).  The lines marked within the fabric are to indicate where the working space of the project will be.  This will give me a clear boarder to start the designs at, as well as keep me within the working space.  I would hate to have a beautifully done design, only to have a portion cut off as it gets sewn onto the pillow backing.



Finally beginning the pillow

I know, I know, I’m not the best blogger in the world.  It’s been quite some time since I last talked about the blackwork pillow I’m planning on.  What’s that?  Yes, still planning.  I’m rather slow at the moment, so many other things taking up my attention and time.  And soon, I might even have less time!  I’ll be starting classes this fall, and will be taking on a full course load.  Between that, and possibly a part time job (will have to see when school starts what my options are), I may not have much time or energy to do anything crafty.  But we’ll see.

Anyways, here I am, looking at all my patterns I’ve drawn up, and trying to figure out what’s going to go where.  Initially, the pillow was supposed to 20 inches.   The overall size is going to be just a little smaller, closer to 19 1/2 inches.  Here’s my thinking so far.  I have a 20 inch piece of cloth (well, technically, a 20×24 inch piece, that I was going to trim down), so that’s the maximum size I have to work with.  When you account for a 1/4 inch seam allowance on all sides, that will drop the finished size to 19.5 inches on a side.  Accounting for space between the edge of the embroidery, and the seam, a working area of 18 inches seems pretty decent to me.  Next, I need to figure out pattern placement.

I’m working off of patterns that I’ve sketched up on graph paper that measures 5 squares to an inch.  So my final designs will be much smaller than what I’m seeing on paper (this is one of the reasons I want to get my hands on smaller graph paper).  A part of me is wanting to just say “Oh, screw it!  Toss the designs on wherever they’ll fit!”  And while that’s not a bad idea over all, it can end up looking rather sloppy, unorganized and uncohesive in the end.  Not to mention, if I don’t plan it properly, some elements might not have space to done up properly.

So, yes, I’m at the point where I can begin working on the pillow, even if that work is just planning.  Thought it’s actual planning now, not just gathering ideas.  We’re at the technical phase now.  Back to the graph paper I guess as I try to figure out what elements to place where.  What I think I’m going to do is draw up a mock of the working area, and then block in spaces for each element, based on it’s overall size.  This shouldn’t be too hard, right?  Right.

Also, I know, no pictures yet.  I can’t find the cord to hook my camera up to the computer to download pictures.  Things got shuffled around recently, and all my small electronics lost their cords (I can’t find the one for my mp3 player, so no music when I’m not next to the computer *sad*).  Hopefully, next posting, I’ll have some pictures to add.

Blackwork Sampler, thoughts

I started to take a beginning blackwork class at my local SCA meeting a couple of weeks back.  Why beginning?  Well, even though I’ve dabbled with it a little, I still consider myself a beginner.  Besides, it’s always good to get a refresher in basic techniques, you never know, you might learn something new, some new technique that makes it easier to work on a project.

I did learn something new too at this class: a better way of starting and ending my threads.  It’s still going to take some practice to make it perfect, as one of the ideas of blackwork embroidery is no knots.  And I’m horrible at not using knots when I don’t have a good way to secure the thread.  This should be workable though.

After doing some practice stitches, and looking through a library of patterns that the instructor had, choosing one, and tracing out the pattern ourselves on graph paper, we were told what our homework was: go find patterns that we found interesting, but not to complicated (I fail on that part, I like complex patterns, probably a little too much), and copy them down on graph paper.  Next time we were to meet, we’d begin on our project, a 14”x14” sampler made up of our own patterns that will become a pillow.

Well, I haven’t been able to make it back for various reasons, so I decided to take the idea and just run with it.  We were to be given the pieces needed for the project – thread, needle, the aida cloth, and instructions on how to turn it all into a pillow.  As well as technical and design help for piecing the patterns together.  I have the needle, some thread (can easily pick up a few more skeins), and now I have a selection of patterns that I’ve diligently traced out on my 1/4” graph paper.  All that’s needed, for the moment is some aida cloth to work up the designs, and then a pillow form.

I need to invest in 5 or 6 squares to an inch graph paper…  Oh, or maybe the super tiny 8 or even 10 squares per inch!  Uhm, yeah, you may have noticed a trend here, I like TINY graph paper!  It makes working up patterns and designs so much easier.

I’d attach some images of the patterns I’ve been working up, but I’m not liking the quality of pictures my phone takes currently.  Need to find the cable for my camera, and then I’ll be able to take better, more consistent, pictures to show my wonderful inked line drawings.   As I work on this project, I’ll make periodic updates to show how it’s progressing.