One of the disadvantages…

of insomnia is that the next day or two my brain – shall we say, underfunctions. So it took me six attempts to get the penultimate row of this section of sampler right. By the end I was determined to do it, which is odd, given that I accepted the errors in the previous row and couldn’t be bothered correcting them. Maybe I just like wonky wheels?

It has taken also several attempts to get WordPress to post this image the right way up. I blame WordPress for that, not by brain.

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One of the disadvantages of insomnia…

is that the next day my brain is like mush and I keep making mistakes. I unpicked the penultimate row of this bit of the sampler 3 times yesterday and 3 times today. (Maybe that should be ‘the next days my brain is like mush’.) By the end I was determined to get it right, and not to put up with ‘near enough’. Odd, because there are errors in the previous row, and I felt no need to correct those. Maybe I just like wonky wheels?

There are not many advantages to insomnia…

but one is the opportunity it gives for quiet, uninterrupted embroidery. I got quite a lot done last night.

I also realised that when I come across an idea I want to remember, I can add it to the sampler straight away, rather than saving the image and never looking at it again. Which is, apparently, the purpose of the early spot samples I so admire. Perhaps mine will get as complex and beautiful as those, given time.

The end of the beginning.

I’ve completed the first section of my band sampler: I’m so enthused by this I can’t put it down.

The fabric is quite clean, the blotches are the result of photographing it is artificial light.

These are all the stitch patterns on the first plate of Simple Stitch Patterns, plus a couple of my own. Having tried a couple of Brandon Jones ideas in both thick and then threads, I definitely prefer the corner ones, at least on this Aida, which is about 5 threads to the cm (12 to the inch?).

On to plate 2!

More thoughts about samplers.

I’ve been looking through more of my old needlework books, in search of ideas about samplers. First up was Samplers and Stitches by Mrs Archibald Christie. Like Anne Brandon Jones, Christie’s book dates from the 20’s. There’s a contemporaneous review of the book here. I doubt the Spectator reviews embroidery books these days.

I think the title is misleading, as it is more of a stitch dictionary than a book about samplers. Unlike Brandon Jones, Christie feels that samplers should be decorative as well as functional: she suggests you try stitches out to find out how you feel they should be used, then design something which will showcase them. This is an interesting idea, but is the result really a sampler? The examples she shows are beautiful (colour images of some of them here) but not what I think of as a sampler.

Christie also recommends keeping an embroidery notebook, in which to keep notes on stitches as well as ideas, drawings, found images etc.

This is also suggested in the other book I’ve been looking at, The Stitches of Creative Embroidery by Jaqueline Enthoven, published in 1964. It resembles Christie’s book in several ways: for example, it is also a stitch dictionary, and includes images of finished embroideries using some of the stitches. The illustrations in Enthoven are better, unsurprisingly given the changes in printing technology between 1921 and 1964.

Enthoven also believes that samplers should look good, although hers are much simpler in design than Christie’s. They resemble historic spot or band samplers, unlike Christie’s resolved designs. Enthoven suggests that you practice the stitches before adding them to the sampler, on what she calls a ‘doodle cloth’.

Enthoven’s book gives detailed instructions for making samplers, and how to finish them. If you are thinking of trying a sampler of your own, I think this book will be more helpful than Samplers and Stitches, despite the name.

My own sampler is making slow progress. This year has been a really shitty one, and we had more disappointing news yesterday, which always affects my creativity.

All the stitches so far, apart from the lettering, come from the first plate of Brandon Jones Simple Stitch Patterns, mostly combinations of detached chain and fly stitch. And for all bar the first one, the little buds, I’ve looked at the photo and thought ‘that doesn’t look very good, shall I miss that one out?’ But in each case I’ve tried them, and decided the illustration in the book doesn’t do the stitch justice. Partly, I think, because I prefer my colour choices, but also because I am using much finer threads. So what I’ve learned from this exercise is to always try the stitches even if I think I won’t like the result.

I haven’t used a doodle cloth either. There has been some unpicking, but that was mostly in order to line up the stitches nicely. Plus mistakes. But then these are very simple stitches, it’s the combinations that make them interesting. Which is an observation I ought to go and write in my (non-existent) embroidery notebook.

Samples and samplers

A few months ago, I followed a short on-line course with Sue Stone, which outlined her way of experimenting with embroidery stitches. Since then I’ve made lots small samples, variations on some basic stitches (straight, running, couching and French knots). I’ve been mounting them on larger pieces of fabric, and fastening the larger pieces together to make books. I’ve enjoyed the process – I’ve always liked playing with ideas and techniques, much more than setting out to actually make a thing.

It dawned on me yesterday that what I was doing was making samplers – and that perhaps it was time to try a different approach. Looking in more detail at Sharon Boggon’s Love of Stitching sampler, I noticed that amongst the stitch samples, she includes notes on things that have happened in her life, or in the world generally, which I found quite an appealing idea. So is it time to move on from books of samples to a band sampler?

I’ve made a start. For someone who doesn’t do cross stitch, I have an awful lot of Aida fabric. And why have I got so much green thread, and so little red? You may detect a seasonal influence here.

I’ve also decided to work my way through at least one of Anne Brandon Jones’ books, starting with Simple Stitch for Embroidery, but not sticking rigidly to her examples.

This is despite being half way through embroidering a fabric book about amulets, and knitting a pair of socks and a hat I haven’t touched for a week because I kept making mistakes. So I really need something else to do. (Procrastinate? Me?)