All Done

My quick embroidery project is done; stem stitch and French knots in thread several times thicker than buttonhole twist goes pretty fast, once you get the hang of it.  I don’t think I’ll bother sending it back to Shauna, though;  might as well just take it to Pennsic, since that’s its final destination anyway.  Of course I’ve got a full card of each of the three colors I bought, so I’ll have to try to get to the needlepoint place during some of the very limited business hours.

Picture to come, if I manage to get ambitious enough to pull out the camera.  In the meantime, I’ve gotten Boreas out again.  And of course there are socks, but there are always socks…


No More Projects!

Four Arts and Crafts style embroidered doilies, arranged verticallyI love the doilies in this picture (which links to the website I got it from, by the way).  My favorite is probably the blue and green one at the bottom, and I can’t decide between the white flowers at the top and the orange ones second down.  The little nosegays of white second from the bottom are kind of dull, in my opinion, but the other three are all fab in their own ways.

The thing is, I could totally duplicate these if I wanted to.  The patterns are fairly simple and stylized, and I could get myself some tan linen and some bobbin lace and draft things out.  It wouldn’t be an exact match, if for no other reason than that there’s absolutely no indication of size in the photo, but I can make some educated guesses–those green solid crescents, for example, are unlikely to be more than an inch thick lest the satin stitch start going funny.  It’d also be a pain to exactly match the lace, but an exact match wouldn’t be required to produce the correct effect.

But then what would I do with them?  I don’t have an embroidered-doily kind of house, sadly, and I find it unlikely that I’d be able to sell each one for the roughly $150 it would cost me in materials and effort¹.  Plus, really, I have enough crafts projects floating about as it is.

I think I’ll just have to keep the picture around and examine it longingly from time to time.

1: Actually, at the rock-bottom rate of $10 an hour it’d probably be more like $300, once all was said and done.  I’m looking at it thinking, hmm, that’d be maybe 10 hours of embroidering, which means it would probably be 25 to 30 once I got going.


I’ve got a project to work on for a friend; it’s a matching set of embroidery pieces, one a runner and the other a square tablecloth.  They’re both missing the same bit of embroidery; there’s an outer ring, then large elaborate leaves in the corners, then an inner ring, and on both the inner ring is missing, though printed on.

So if I’m going to complete this embroidery, I need to match the thread used.  Being a good little fiber geek, the first thing I did was burn test, from long ends that are knotted off on the back of one of the pieces.  The trouble is, the burn test is not giving me sensible results.

I got slow burning with an orange flame that self-extinguished after a few seconds, with a smell of burning paper, that left soft black ash and several seconds of ember; no melting.  The result that matches the most of that is wool or similar, but the smell is wrong and also this stuff is vastly too shiny to be wool.   The smell wants it to be rayon, but rayon is supposed to leave grey ash, not black; the ash wants it to be silk, but again it didn’t smell like burning hair.

I think I might just punt to matching looks and not caring about the actual fiber content, so there’s a trip to the needlepoint store in my future; JoAnn’s limited selection of DMC rayon floss has nothing of the right thickness or color.  Actually I fear matching all the colors may be impossible, as one is a very odd gold-olive kind of shade I’ve never encountered in embroidery floss.

If anyone has better Google skills than I do, the print on the thing is “Grayona Needlecraft Corp, No. 8186/11”.  I just need to know what kind of floss was in the original kit.

Needle Envy

It’s blogs like this that make me want to cover my entire house in embroidered stuff.  Handkerchiefs, wall hangings, pillowcases, tableclothes, you name it.

I doubt I would actually like the effect, but that doesn’t stop me wanting to make the stuff.

I’ve Got a Use for This

I’ve picked up the Neverending Tablecloth again, despite the fact that there’s a sock sitting around here somewhere half-done. In part I was inspired by another box from California, which included the book that the pattern’s in–I had forgotten how hard these patterns were to decipher, too, as the language varies between spelling every little thing out in excruciating detail and assuming that you’ll understand a vague allusion to “the last one”.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about the decorative versions of fiber art. Knitting, for example, can make perfectly functional things: sweaters, socks, bags. Of course it can also make frilly and decorative things like wedding ring shawls and beaded purses, but when it comes right down to it knitting is a Useful Skill. Other things in this category include weaving, crochet, sewing, netting.

Tatting really isn’t Useful. Everyone can live without lace edges on their pillowcases and snowflake Christmas ornaments. Even the Tablecloth would be more useful–that is, more likely to protect the surface of the table–if it were solid cloth rather than lacy. Tatting’s tougher than your average lace, making it theoretically suitable for garment construction, but nothing made solely of tatting is going to be particularly warm, protective, modest, or anything other than decorative. Indeed, the kind of dense work you’d have to do to make a useful tatted purse would really defeat the purpose of having it be tatted at all; you’d be better off using the thread to crochet with. I suppose one might make a tatted dishcloth…but then who would use it? The big techniques here are the various laces–tatted, bobbin, needle–beading, and embroidery. These are things you do to prove you had the leisure to do them, or have to prove you could afford to buy them.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for pretty for the sake of pretty. I think it’s a shame that the world today has so little concern for making things attractive; I think there’d be less graffiti if more walls had murals, and I’m highly in favor of whoever it was who decided that the lightpoles in my neighborhood needed to have flowers painted on them. There’s definitely a place in my worldview for embellishment.

But this, I think, is the reason that some techniques are never going to be big: in order to embellish something, you have to have a functional object first. A length of lace, no matter how beautiful, isn’t going to do any good without a dress to put it on; a pair of embroidered gloves is great, but you have to have the gloves first. And there are only so many pincushions, bookmarks, eyeglass cases, needle books, and wall hangings one person needs to own. A bridge-table cloth with the symbols of the suits in tatting is not an item that any sane person would consider a necessity of life; a pair of socks might be. There’s a great trade in “useful items to embellish”, like baby’s bibs made of evenweave fabric for the crosstitchers.

I do believe I’ve stumbled upon one of the reasons crafty people have a reputation for giving away their work: their own walls are already covered in Teresa Wentzler dragons, so to keep enjoying their craft they have to find other people to take the results. It also likely has something to do with the Victorian tendency to embroider or attach lace to anything that didn’t run away fast enough–here were all these middle- and upper-class women with nothing much to do but nonessential needlework, and after a while they started running out of obvious things to do with it.