A Surfeit of Violets

In my misspent youth, I purchased a printed cross stitch kit, worked about a third of it, and never finished.  Flush with vernal free time and a determination to finish the dratted thing, I picked it up again some two months ago. Here is the result.violets

It was stitched on linen of, by my rough count, some sixtyish threads to the inch using DMC cotton embroidery thread. Three strands were used for the crosses, which were done over between four and six threads (more on that later) and one strand for the backstitch on the stems and edging. The location of the stitches was printed onto the fabric but there was also a chart supplying such details as stitch color.  It’s made by a company called Princesse (based, I believe, in France, where I bought it). I used a nice hardwood hoop for the work — it’s possible that a square frame would have been artistically better, but I wanted it to be as portable as possible. The finished work is some 10.5 inches on each side.  Detail shots of the central bouquet and the boundary work:

violetsdetail1violetsdetail2

It turns out that printed cross stitch is rather difficult if one is accustomed to counted; or at least, I found it so. The main issue was that the printed crosses didn’t quite line up with the vertical threads on the fabric, with the unfortunate result that I had often to shift which threads I was using as the edges of the stitches every few rows. Hence  very careful planning of each flower or leaf was necessary, on pain of failing to cover all of the stitch marks or needing to finish up with peculiarly shaped stitches. I ended up slightly revising one of the leaves and one of the flowers to preserve stitch shape. The vertical green lines in the border yield a convenient quantitative description of the alignment problem: the stitches shifted over by a thread roughly every three stitches, or something like once a centimeter. The esteemed SKH, who has more experience with printed stitchery, informs me that this may be a problem of the kit rather than endemic to the art form. The backstitch, of course, was unaffected, and as usual a great deal of fun. (Whee! Pictures form quickly!)

I also had a couple of comically awful problems with the kit — for example, the color chart called for green flowers and purple stems on the border, in contrast to the picture provided. I decided this was a little too surreal for the tone of the work. Moreover, it provided thread in rather wacky amounts: there was as much yellow in the kit as all the greens combined, despite only four yellow stitches appearing in the pattern. It also didn’t note the identifying DMC numbers of the colors, which led to sundry thread-matching shopping expeditions. But despite all this havoc, I’m rather pleased with how it turned out.

Next step: very careful ironing and framing.

Advertisements

Mini 2

Well, I managed the more symmetric tail. And maybe the legs? But the head, despite the more careful folding at the beginning, got almost completely lost when I had to reverse-fold it at the end and couldn’t find the middle. Oh, well. Too bad I don’t really like gum. Anyway, Elisabeth asked for a better gauge of how big the dragon is, so here’s the second attempt guarding its treasure and the pair trying to fend off a larger relative (one of my favorites, made from 9″ square paper).

Autumn Leaves at Albany Airport

I was walking through the Albany airport a couple of weeks ago, when I looked up and saw one of the most brilliant artistic concepts I’ve seen in a while.

The artist cut maple leaves out of gold foil and suspended them from a skylight by transparent threads. Since each leaf was only attached to the ceiling by a single thread at its center of balance, the leaves rotated in the slight breeze generated by the airport’s air currents.

The effect of autumn leaves slowly fluttering down from the sky was altogether convincing (and all the more striking for occurring in the middle of a sterile modern airport). But it’s the simplicity of the technique that I find the most striking. No virtuosic skills would be required to make something like this–any of us might easily replicate it with scissors, nylon thread and gold paper. The genius of the artist rests almost entirely in his having seen that easily acquirable materials might so easily be combined to create this evocative natural effect.

Here are a couple of pictures, courtesy of the Albany Airport website


So…does anyone have a suggestion of another exquisite application for these effects?

Mini

As a dragon, it’s hard to be awe-inspiring when you’re only an inch long. For instance, unless your folder was really, really careful, you probably won’t have any legs. Or eyes, for that matter. But on the whole, I think I did pretty well with this one. Of course, it doesn’t have any legs or eyes, really, but it’s almost too small to be able to tell that they’re not there. It’s made from a 1.75″ square piece of gum wrapper, and, except for the head, it’s probably about as precisely folded as my first attempts at this model (on 9″ square paper). I admit, I used a pin to help with some of the smaller folds (especially having just cut my fingernails, my fingers just don’t get that precise), and the foil backing helps tremendously.

minidragon

I ate another piece of gum today, so maybe I’ll try again. Maybe this time I’ll be manage eyes and legs, and perhaps I’ll even try for a more symmetric tail.

Coffee stirrers are meant to stir coffee, not to be made into baskets.

Bored on a coffee break between playing sessions at Bennington, I was irritated at how bendy the wooden coffee stirrers became when they got wet. And I thought, “you know, I bet I could make a basket out of these.” Somehow, I convinced esqg that this was actually a good idea (note: as you will surely soon see for yourself, neither of us knows the least bit about basket-making). Anyway, we found a bowl, got some hot water from the tea urn, and soaked a bunch of coffee stirrers. Soon we had a nice little 2″ x 4″ section of woven basket, no problem. Of course, coffee stirrers don’t get any longer than 4″. But what to do with it?

basketoutsideOn the theory that if we staggered the stirrers (which we hadn’t) we could weave more stirrers in and thus enlarge the project, we took it apart and started over. This time we left some room on the edges of the “warp” stirrers, and managed to weave in another set in, and another. By this time, some of the stirrers, perhaps insufficiently soaked, perhaps just faulty (they were only coffee stirrers, after all), were starting to fray where they’d been bent. But we pressed on, and managed to complete a circle, four stirrers deep and 18 around.

basket bottom
But baskets have bottoms, so we set to work trying to connect the free ends of the 18 stirrers to make a bottom. We ended up taking groups of three evenly spaced around and interlocking them so as they’d hold together. This at least gave the basket a bottom, if not a particularly nice looking one.

basketinside Then we wanted to add more substance to the bottom. Since coffee stirrers don’t bend widthwise too well, we broke some in half and stuck them in–rather haphazardly. At this point, our hands were getting wrinkly, and the basket was starting to fall apart as much as it was being put together, so we decided to leave it at that. Not bad, for a first attempt, given coffee stirrers as materials? Well, pretty bad.

But it was fun and, perhaps more importantly, disabused me of the notion that making a basket out of coffee stirrers would be a good idea.