Friday, June 27, 2008

Kumihimo: eight bobbin flat cord

I tried a new kumihimo pattern. This eight bobbin pattern was more fun than the last one I tried. I used crochet cotton because it is cheap. At the end of the cord I split it into two group of four cords and made a four bobbin cord from each one. That has interesting possibilities. It looks a little different on each side; I like the zig-zag side better.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A quickly written Needlebook Tutorial

Someone posted a request on h-needlework about how to make a needlebook. I do not have any information on the historical accuracy or use of needlebooks in period (SCA, that is) but the books I make are small and practical. I would love to hear from anyone that has information about needlebooks in period.

I have made several as it is a great small way to try out a pattern, material or technique and get a usable item as a result. They also make great gifts. My first needlebook had many pages and I still use it, but it is a bit bulky. The small roll up design (from an older post, below) is great for tucking into my purse for a carry along project. At least it was until I lost it recently. The little roll up model, some thread, embroidery scissors and a small project (like another needlebook) fit easily into a small ziplock bag.

The design I make now has only two pages which are actually one piece of fabric folded in half and stitched through the middle to the lining. I like to put the same size needle on each page and I have different needlebooks for different types of needles. I keep one book for the needles of my current project. I also make my needlebooks with a little pocket on the inside. The pocket holds my needle threader so it is always in the same place as my needles. It is less easy to forget things when they are all together!

A small needlebook that is big enough to hold most needles need only be two inches by three inches (or 5 by 8 cm) when closed. Or make one as big as you want.

The picture above shows different views of my most recent needlebook. The cover is two pieces of linen sewn together; one has the blackwork and the other is plain red linen that matched the wool I used for the lining. The inside picture shows the pocket attached to the lining with the pages turned to one side. This needlebook is approximately 2.5 by 4 inches.

Needlebook cover

The cover can be a single embroidery folded in half, two embroideries, or half embroidery and the back side plain fabric. Do whatever you want, there are lots of options. The "spine" can be left plain or have a ribbon or cord attached so as tie the book onto a belt.

Lining the needlebook

I line my needlebooks with felted wool. It is thick enough to give the book structure so I do not have to add cardboard or some other stiffening (keeping it simple). For embroidery that will cover the entire surface of the base fabric I use linen congress cloth because it is stiff enough that it can be easily worked without a hoop (fits into my purse) and provides some additional stiffness to the needlebook.

Cut a piece of felted wool the same size as the cover; stitch together. Leave a gap in the stitching where the cords to tie the book together will be placed. It will be much easier to attach the ties by sewing them into the seam if there is a little gap for them to fit into. Or, don't leave a gap and learn this the hard way. Sometimes that is the only way some of us learn.

The pocket is a piece of fabric cut exactly half the size of the lining. Turn under the edges 1/4 inch (or 0.5cm) and stitch to the lining. I place the opening of the pocket towards the center of the book rather than the edge. That way things don't fall out and get lost.

Now cut another piece of felted wool slightly smaller than the finished size of the book (about 1/4 inch or 0.5cm), and stitch it to the lining down the middle to create two pages. Trim any excess as needed. The nice thing about using felted wool for pages is that the edges do not have to be finished in any way because the wool does not fray (again, keeping it simple).

Tying it together

I use ties of the same cord as the edging to tie my books together. Just make sure to think about where the ties will go before stitching the cover to the lining or finishing the edge seam. I like to stitch the ties in before I finish the edges. Sometimes I get excited and forget, then when I realize this I say curse words.

Another method of closing is to use a loop and button. Here is an opportunity to use a pretty button!

Finishing the edges

When the outside and lining are stitched together there is a seam edge which may be left plain or the edge can be finished in various ways. I think a finished edge adds a special touch.

One way to finish the edges is with an embroidered braid. There is an excellent tutorial on the Medieval Silkwork blog here:
This technique looks nice and has period documentation. I fingerlooped a matching cord to tie the book shut using only two loops.

Another technique is to sew a ready made cord to the seam. I have tried fingerloop braid and kumihimo. I generally use kumihimo because it is so much easier for me to do and my kumihimo looks nicer than my fingerloop braiding.

A third technique is to use tablet woven edging. Maxlu179 has a very nice photo of this type of edging in progress on a pouch he made:

I hope this information is helpful to anyone who is interested in making a needlebook. They are really fun!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Starting a new project - an embroidered bag

There was a convergence of two things for me: a bag I really wanted to make and the material I wanted to make it with. I fell in love with this bag the first time I saw it at diu-minnezit but didn't want to make it until I had a little more embroidery experience. Then Renee of the Mists gave me this wonderful spun silk thread that she dyed herself. She probably thought I was never going to use it because months went by and I never did, but I was just waiting for the right time because I knew I wanted to use it to make this embroidery. I used to draw basketweave patterns in high school when I was bored in class and I still love them. I have seen this pattern a couple of times in period embroidery so now I am going to have to track down exactly where I saw it.

Materials: 24 count linen, spun silk from dyed by Renee with fustic and brazilwood with alum mordant.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blackwork cat... on a needlecase!

I first remember seeing this cat depicted in a needlework sampler a while back before I ever thought of doing any blackwork myself, so I didn't make any effort to remember it. Then I saw the picture again in Liadain's Practical Blackwork blog and I knew I had to make it. The picture can be found on the V & A website; it is museum number T.326-1921, a sampler found in a burial ground in Egypt dated to 14th to 16th century in silk on linen. The little cats were missing some stitches so I had to do a little reconstruction but I think it came out pretty well. I took more liberties with the tree because it had to fit into my design area.

It didn't come out perfect; I made a mistake on a couple of the leaves and the flower things at the end of the two branches are not identical because I wasn't sure which way I wanted to do it. I liked the one on the right better. Still, it came out pretty good and I just had to make it into another needlecase. My friend Renee likes cats and I have been wanting to give her a needlebook but didn't think the others I've made so far would be right for her; this one is perfect.

I make the other side of the book red linen and lined it and made the "pages" of the book out of red wool. The ties and seam edging are black and white silk four bobbin kumihimo cord.

Materials: 28 count evenweave linen, single strand Soie d'Alger silk floss in "Noir".

I love the little cats with their crowns so much I will probably embroider them on something else but I'm not sure what.

No sense throwing good effort after bad...

I decided to make another embroidered pouch, this time using wool. In the past I have done all my brick stitch embroidery with cotton or silk. I used two strands of Medici wool on 24 count linen congress cloth. As can be seen in the photo the coverage was not the best. I could have used four strands and it wouldn't have been too much. At first I was going to keep going because I didn't want to throw away the work I put into it, but I likely would not want to use the finished piece because of its substandard appearance so that would be even more work wasted. I still want to work in wool, I just need to plan better.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Good photo of Vyncent, bad photo of blackwork

I swear I am such a dunce sometimes. I think because I have seen it with my eyes that I got it in the picture. Here is a lovely photo of Master Vyncent after his Laurel ceremony. Congratulations, Vyncent! He looks wonderful in slashed silk satin and in the photo you can see the collar and cuffs of the blackwork shirt I made but not the fancy part, aargh! So I still have no photo of the finished piece.

A&S was fun with many great classes. I learned about beading so maybe that will be an upcoming project. I had planned to finish my dress for A&S but was sidetracked making the shirt, however I did get the hem sewn on for real. Last time I wore it I had tacked the hem down with one inch stitches!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Blackwork shirt is finished!

Last night some of the people who are making Vyncent's Laurel outfit got together to work on their various projects. I managed to finish the blackwork shirt I was working on - thanks Crystal for hemming it and Cin for making the rest of the ties. It looks great with the rest of the outfit. His doublet is amazing! Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures after it was finished so this weekend at A&S I will be sure to bring my camera and take some photos.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Another needlecase....finished!!

I am supposed to be finishing the blackwork because my deadline is this week but I so very much wanted to see how this would turn out that I went ahead and finished it. My front garden is looking really lovely right now and the weather is so beautiful so I posed the needlebook outside. I took a picture of the inside so it is possible to look at how I make the inside. It is lined with wool and has two wool pages which are one long piece sewn down in the middle. There is a pocket on one side with the opening towards the center so things don't fall out. I like to store a threader in there; it is so handy to have one right with the needles.

So, now that I've had my bit of fun it is back to work and the next post will be the completed blackwork shirt.


24 count linen congress cloth
DMC cotton embroidery floss, four strands for embroidery and six strands per bobbin for edging and ties
wool scraps from my garb material box for lining
kumihimo - four bobbin cord used to cover edge seams and for ties

Friday, June 6, 2008

Another needlecase...

Thanks Helene! (see the link to Helene's blog in the "Blogs with neat stuff" list at right) Helene patterned a motif from a German embroidery similar to one I had been thinking of patterning. Now I don't have to. In the picture of the original I noticed that the motif I wanted was also in the embroidery. I looked at her pattern and saw how I could easily adapt it for what I wanted. I used four stands of DMC cotton embroidery floss on 24 count linen Congress cloth (which is quite stiff). I am going to make a needlebook out of it. Yes, I keep making them but I find it is a nice way to try something out because the size is small and I like to make usable things. I don't want a bunch of stitching samples that I just keep in a box. Since I liked the pattern I am going to do it again, this time in wool and it will be a pouch, I think. I am still working on Vyncent's blackwork shirt but this little project was my carry around project to fit in my purse. I worked on it during free time/breaks at work. I couldn't take the shirt there so it doesn't count as a distraction, really!

And the colors are really that bright. They will show up nicely against my navy blue wool dress. It looks better in person than in the photo.

The cord next to it is a four bobbin kumihimo cord made with the DMC floss (six strands per bobbin). I am going to use it for ties and to cover the seams.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Wood painting bridge for illumination

I realized it has been two weeks since I last posted. I have been busy sewing Vyncent's blackwork shirt but I won't post pictures of it until it is done. He has to wear it in less than two weeks, so that will be soon. As a diversion (because I get bored doing any one thing for too long) I decided to finish up a couple old projects.

This is my first woodworking project. It is a bridge for illumination painting. One places the hand holding the paintbrush on the bridge instead of the paper, keeping the work clean. It is made of poplar with walnut dowels and stained with natural color finish and paste wax. The bottoms of the feet are covered with brown felted wool.