Cells, stem stitch


Cell stem stitch

A quick post today. I’ve put aside the stitched electronics for a while after feeling inspired by the cell images I posted earlier. I’ve started *something*. Maybe a needle book, maybe a little pouch, I’m not sure yet. There will be lots of french knots on this too. Lots and lots. I’ve already started the knots and they look lovely… and feel loevly – I’m enjoying running my hands over the surface and feeling the bobbliness. Plus I love the way ‘rough endoplasmic reticulum’ rolls off the tongue, It *feels* bobbly.

And maybe there’s a visual pun in here somewhere… cells, stem stitch…

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Thinking, drawing and cats

Warning: many images in this posts: cats, doodles and ideas.

This week, I went to the Cat Cafe in Melbourne with some friends from work. You can read about the cafe here, but for the purposes of this post, I’m just going to throw some photos I took while I was there. It was a strange experience, but the cats were beautiful.

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Okay that’s enough cats. ;-)

This week has been more of a thinking week than a stitching week for me. I’ve been mucking around with my ‘electronics’ pieces, adding little components as I feel the whim. This is fun, but I’m in the midst of thinking about something larger – more significant and closer to my current line of thought.

Confession time. I’m a doodler. I have lots of ideas when I’m doodling but they are lost in a million different work notepads. So I’m going to start to keep my doodles in one book that I take with me everywhere (including boring meetings).

This is the kind of thing I doodle:

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Repetitive, rhythmic, patterned but also organic.

So yesterday I went to the library in search of a book about cell biology, and started browsing. So many inspiring textures and images:

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I sketched as I browsed and now I have a myriad of ideas that I can’t wait to stitch.

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Getting over myself

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I’ve been playing with my new coton a broder threads: they are delightful, glossy and strong and bright. I bought a handful of colours and some lovely linen twill from Hedgehog handworks. They took a while to fly their way here from the US, but it’s all so beautiful. I doodled some little test ideas on a small piece of cloth, but now I’m in flight on something slightly more substantial.

But I’ve also decided that it’s time that some of my doodling was my actual work, and my work was doodling. I’ve been overplanning… even procrastinating starting because I’ve been afraid that my work won’t be perfect. This has to stop.

I’ve always worn my “Hello my name is A Perfectionist” badge with an air of pride. I now realise that this is foolish, as it’s stopping me from doing what I enjoy: stitching, blogging, everything. It’s time for creating to be a joy again: an act of experimentation and learning. I need to *stop* saying “I can’t start until it’s all planned out”. I need to be spontaneous. I need to be improvisational. I need to play.

A few things have lead me to this place. Strangely it was discovering Iris Grace‘s art work that started the cracks in my facade. No fear, no inhibitions. Joy, playfulness, beauty. Why couldn’t I do this?

One thing led to another and I was reading Robin Atkin‘s free book “One bead at a time” and it resonated within me. The cracks grew.

The next and chink fell when I discovered Karen Ruane‘s amazing embroidery. It was an epiphany for me. Spontaneous, playful, beautiful work could still be structured. I can still create coherent pieces that speak to me as they grow that have the order, rhythm and repetition I crave as I work.

And finally today, this article from the Slow Stitching Movement appeared on my blog feed “Letting go of Perfect and Jumping into Creative” (via Nuts about Needlepoint). The camel’s back may have found its straw.

So. Back to my current piece. I’d been putting off starting for so long as I didn’t have the perfect ‘circuit board’ in mind, sketched, charted, planned. After days of procrastination my partner finally suggested I just lay the components out as if they were decsontructed: pullled out from a circuit. “Then you can lay them out however you want” he said.

“Then you can lay them out however you want.” This shouldn’t be a revelation, but it is. So I’ve started. I’ve roughly tacked out some areas to guide me, but I’ve already ignored them a couple of times when they didn’t suit me. I’ve stopped when I feel like ‘that’s enough’, and changed colours on a whim. Just because. I’m enjoying the satin stitch capacitors so much I may make a lot of them. Maybe hundreds. We’ll see where the piece takes me.

I’m enjoying stiching again.

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Recent dabblings – including kogin

I recently took a break from my office work (eight weeks!) partly as an attempt to get my health back on track, and partly because work has been so quiet it was driving me a bit crazy. But the break gave me some time to sit and stitch and experiment. Some positive stitchy things came out of this:


I decided that poor old Jack would need to be started again. the fluffy nature of the linen I was working on was distracting, and the ‘disappearing ink’ I’d used to mark out the pattern was giving me nightmares.

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So I bought new *good* linen and a very fine archival pen to mark him out anew. I’ll also probably do him half size this time and then perhaps plan out a King and Queen to accompany him. We shall see. Work hasn’t begun on this yet.

Tambour needles

I bought some tambour needles and started practicing with them. A little every day and I’m still slow, but getting there. I have crocheted for years and so expected the tambour movement to flow naturally for me – but this feels very different to crochet. I am clumsy still! No photos of my tambour yet!


I bought some Coton a broder in a small handful of colours, to try with my tambour work. I love this thread! I played with quite a few stitches including some knotted stitches, satin stitch and darning…
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… and although it is nice to tambour, I think it’s much more flexible than that, so I’ve started hunting down more and have a slightly larger shipment of coton a broder on the way.

But in experimenting with the Coton a broder, I re-discovered Kogin embroidery.

Browsing through the beautiful photos of others’ work on the web, my partner walked past and said “why have you never done any of that?” Good question!

So I started charting up some of the patterns that I liked. And dug through all (yes, all!) of Caro-roses’s Hishizashi patterns, picked a few out and stitched.

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And stitched and stitched.

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Trying different threads and fabrics and patterns and… ordered some Japanese books on the subject and yes. And some beautiful vintage Japanese fabric and some Olympus thread.

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Got a bit carried away.


For anyone keen to follow up on Kogin, this is a nice read for the cultural and historic background to this stitching technique: http://jtex.wordpress.come/categor/kogin/. But there’s heaps of great information and examples out there.

Ah well, I’m back at work now, so I will need to get used to the work-stitching balance again. Perhaps that will calm my kogin frenzy.

But probably not :-)

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Wren brooch, finished

Quick post to say I’ve finished my little wren brooch for a friend:

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It’s my first go at needlepainting, and my first time using timtex/interfacing to make a brooch, so I’m pretty pleased with the experience.

I was tempted to make a stitched/beadwork edge, but decided to leave it simple.

Things I’m not pleased with:

  • the positioning on the oval, the weight of the piece is too far to the right,
  • and the wire he sits on is too close to the edge
  • the wing is a bit ‘outliney’. I used three different shades, but I wish I’d softened the edges more
  • It’s altogether a little larger than I’d like for a brooch

Next time I’d make the whole thing smaller, not only would this make it smaller (duh) but it would also be easier to position inside the oval so that its centre of gravity was balanced. Also, extra white space would give me some room for a pretty border.

And for those interested in birds (like me!) he’s one of these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superb_Fairywren. A cute little wren native to where I live, southern Australia. Gorgeous birds with delightful behaviours. I miss seeing them on the lawn since I moved to  Melbourne from Tassie.

Buuuut, pleased with him anyway. My first embroidery of this style and my own design, and a commission/request from a very special lady, so I’m looking forward to giving it to her tomorrow.

Reference image for my stitching is here, for anyone interested: http://dadirridreaming.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/superb-fairywren-2/

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Wren brooch – work in progress

I’ve promised a superb wren brooch to a work colleague months ago, and have only just set down to do it properly after some false starts. (“Superb” is the name of the wren, not what I think of the stitching haha).

So a couple of work in progress shots.

Just starting:

Part way through (a bit of a funny angle going on here)

And the wren bit complete. Still have to do a border and back him for the brooch yet though.

Hopefully will finish him this week :-)

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Pintangle: Take a stitch Tuesday

I just discovered this glorious embroidery challenge: Take-a-stitch-Tuesday. I know, I’m VERY late on the scene :-)

For anyone else new, it’s run by sharonb over at PinTangle, and the idea is to create a space where embroiderers can try out new stitches or push the envelope a little on stitches they already know. It has a group on flickr that form part of the record of the group’s creativity, as well as a web ring and regular spotlights from sharonb on PinTangle. I recommend you check it all out!

I think it’s a wonderful idea, I’m inspired just by reading through the entries. Part of me is tempted to jump on board at week one and stitch up a storm… but I don’t want to derail my current project, I’m trying to be disciplined about how many things I have on the go.

So my plan is to refer to the challenge in bits and pieces on my side-cloth as I see the opportunity. And maybe when Jack’s complete I can throw myself at the challenge from the beginning.

*twitchy needle hand* ;-)

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Embroidery, patterns and sight-seeing

Another little update of my stitches and life in general.

I’ve been working on Jack this week, but most of that’s not been on Jack himself but on the samplerish side-cloth where I’m testing out ideas:


I’ve sketched out the colours and fill ideas for each area, but it’s not till I’ve tried it with different threads, strands, textures that I know which one has the best chance of working. While stitching my last project, I spent a lot of time unpicking and re-doing areas. I don’t mind that so much, but having a side-cloth to test things on gives me more freedom to try variations side by side and compare them, and then choose the one I think will work best. I still foresee some unpicking, but hopefully less.

Anyway, I’m having fun with the side-cloth as well, so it’s all goof fun and learning.

Here’s where Jack is currently at:


I’ve settled on some larger fill areas now after playing on the side, so the next update should be a bit more colourful. Oh! And I did my first ever ‘laid work’ in the little blue triangle fill area, so I’m pretty proud of myself. :-) Even if it’s just a tiny bit, it was fun and something new. Jack might turn into a large sampler at this rate :-O

Out in the real world, we have a menagerie of creatures that inhabit (or visit) or bustling street: galahs, corellas, lorikeets, the occasional rosella, possums, bats… and over the last couple of weeks: ducks!


I love ducks. They aren’t very exotic, I know, but we don’t see them often, and these ones are so tame! I had to step over this guy when I was going for a walk. Crazy!

I’ve been hideously busy with work. I tripped to Sydney and back yesterday for two meetings. The meetings went well and aren’t worth relating here, but I had two hours between when I had some time to wander the city.

My first meeting was down near the water somewhere. I don’t know the area, but it was beautiful in the morning sun:


And then over the lunch break I wandered in the city centre.

The Strand arcade is beautiful:


And then I had lunch at QVB, and took a few photos, but this one is the prettiest:


And then off to my second meeting followed by a train to the airport and then home. It was a long tiring day.

I shared some of the silly patterns I’ve been making in my last post. I’m afraid to report that I’ve just been getting sillier and sillier with them. I borrowed a stylus from a friend, it’s made iOrnament a whole lot more fun :-)

Interleaving fours:


Girls with scarves and mittens (clearly the cold has been getting to me):


Cat faces:


Mooses (meese?):


Ducks. Or rabbits. Or rabbitducks:


That’s enough silliness from me :-)

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Updates: knitting, embroidery, food!

I’ve been busy! But not posting as much as I’d like, so here’s a pretty huge dump of some images from my last month or so.

I’ve been knitting almost every day. Some lovely Kinfolk hand dyed yarn into socks:


And some delightful squishy madelinetosh yarn into a beanie. This resulted in my man asking if he could put in an order for a black one. Which I subsequently knitted, but didn’t photograph, because … well… black knitting never photographs well.

Knitting a hat

I’ve also knitted another hat, and started a new scarf… winter is pretty much over here though, so I’m not sure how much longer I’ll have the knitting bug. Links to all my projects are in my Ravelry library.

Related to the winter weather, my man and I have been cooking lots of Japanese hot pots together. he bought a lovely book on Amazon (this one, I swear it’s not a sponsored link! ;-) The recipes are surprisingly approachable, so we’ve been making one every weekend. One hot pot feeds s for a couple of nights.

This is a duck hot pot:


And this is a mushroom hotpot on the stove. Mmmm, mushrooms.


And to go with our Japanese dinners, we’ve also bought a little batch of sake from this great Melbourne supplier of all things sake: http://www.sakeonline.com.au/


And finally back to crafting. I’ve been playing with a couple of design/creative apps over the last month or so.

iOrnament allows you to make repeating patterns using all 17 of the wallpaper groups. (I’m a maths nerd, so I love this). I bought a little stylus for my iPad, and am having heaps of fun with this. Not sure how it will translate to embroideries yet, but I have some lovely screensavers and backgrounds I’ve made myself :-)



I’ve also downlaoded a cute isometric app called… Isometric :-) It allows you to place diamonds on a grid to create isometric patterns. I’m really into triangles at the moment, so my designs are tending to be not very isometric and more triangle-y. But I’m having fun:


And finally, I’ve been working on my new big embroidery project. I’ve done a whole lot of history research, and looking at hundreds of examples of playing cards. And then sketching up and playing with my own designs.


I’ve finished mapping out (mostly) what stitches go where, and have started the actual stitching. But photos will follow once it’s fleshed out a bit more :-)


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Solar system embroidery

I finished a large project this week, so a few photos to celebrate, and explain some of the process and thoughts behind my latest space embroidery.


This embroidery is a depiction of the inner solar system: the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars. I placed them in their (approximate) correct position according to where they were on the day I started.

Yep, I know it’s not to scale. The orbits are roughly right, but the size of the actual bodies is all over the place. I just made them the size I felt happy with. And they do, they do make me happy.


Conceptually, this piece started with the idea of the Sun radiating its energy outwards into the void. But the void is not empty. It’s a complex, structured space – gravitational and magnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, dust and debris surround the system. Debris like us.


I started by mapping out the orbits and the planetary positions, and transferred that to the fabric by tacking through a sketch. I then tacked on the radial lines and the planets. Using the tacking as a guide, I then filled in all the blackwork blocks. I started with darker colours near the sun, then faded in intensity further away. I decided on a blackwork pattern for each sector as I went, this meant lots of unpicking as there were some I was unhappy with after I’d surrounded them.

Next I couched down gold cord around the sun and stitched in the planets. I then couched down white cord for the orbits and sectors, and used outline stitch to border each sector in between – again fading to lighter colours on the outside sectors.


With its infinite variety of structured pattern, the blackwork technique just felt ‘right’ for the piece. And so I present the blackness of space rendered in blackwork, with not a black thread in sight.


Another project done, time for framing. It’s like finishing a good book: I’m feeling a little lost, but ready for a new project!


  • fabric: 40 count permin linen
  • threads: cotton and metallic
  • dimensions: 35cm circumference
  • started: May 5, completed: August 12, 2013
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