Trying out a gauge.

My second Anne Brandon Jones book, Stitch Patterns and Design for Embroidery, arrived on Saturday. The gauge she suggests in that is slightly different – it’s a full circle, with additional marking points. So of course, I had to make one.

Folding and cutting a full circle of heavier weight Lutradur proved to be harder work than making a semicircle. So, as you can see, it wasn’t very accurate. It would have been better to try something lighter in weight, or to draw the gauge on to the Lutradur and punch out the holes, which I may do tomorrow.

For the last few months I’ve been making experimenting with a variety of stitches, and I’ve now reached French knots. I have found lots of ways to vary the previous stitches (straight, running and couching) but French knots seem to offer less opportunity for experimentation. So I thought I’d try my new gauge. And apart from the wonky circle and the rubbish attempt at pistil stitch, As Brandon Jones says in Colour Patterns, some things can only be learned by making mistakes.

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Making gauges.

Yesterday I described my discovery of Anne Brandon Jones, and mentioned that I had made, but not used, the gauges she suggests for planning embroidery. Thereby hangs a tale.

I knew I wanted to make the semicircular gauge out of something more robust than the paper Ms Brandon Jones suggests. My first thought was Vilene. (When I tried to type Vilene, autocorrect suggested ‘vileness’ which is pretty much what I think of craft Vilene, but I was thinking more of dressmaking weight, the heaviest I could find in my stash of stuff left over from things I no longer do.) However, in the box of stuff left over from things I no longer do, I found some stuff I probably bought because it seemed like a good idea at the time but I don’t remember doing so. (Anyone who did C&G Stitched Textiles who doesn’t have such a stash either has immense self control or is lying.)

In this case it was some heavier weight Lutradur. I don’t loathe Lutradur quite as much as I loathe craft Vilene, but I’m not especially fond of the stuff. However it seemed like a good idea to use it for the gauges. So skillfully translating Ms Brandon Jones’ inches into centimetres, I cut out the semicircles, folded them as suggested (with some difficulty, a bone folder helped), and made a selection of semicircular gauges.

Then it was time to find some rug canvas. I knew I had some – that’s in the category of I had a purpose for it when I bought it but the purpose – in this case latch hooking – turned out to be not as interesting as I thought it would be. I thought the rug canvas was in one of the rolls on the top shelf of the cupboard where I put things I’m pretending I never bought. But it wasn’t.

I remembered cutting off a chunk recently, some of which I used for a running stitch sample. I thought the rest was probably in the 7 stacked boxes in my workroom cupboard. (There are more than 7 boxes in there, but the others are on shelves. I knew the canvas was unlikely to be in those, because the stacked boxes are stacked in front of them so I only go into them when desperate.

Because the stacked boxes are, as their name suggests, stacked, I had to move most of them, because of course the boxes the canvas was most likely to be in were near the bottom.

While doing this I realised that the boxes were not stacked in a sensible order. The things I used most were, of course, at the bottom. So I decided to rearrange them. In the process I realised that one of the boxes, full of the fabric scraps I use frequently, was marginally bigger and wouldn’t stack on top of the others. So I had to swap its contents with those of the bottom box.

Some time ago, in a Pink Pig sale, I bought 3 kilos of sketchbooks. As you do. If 3 kilos sounds like a lot of sketchbooks, it is. And I have a lot of them left. They had to be at the bottom because of the weight. So I had to take them out of the box they were in, replace that box with the biggest one, and put the sketchbooks in that. And then put the former contents of the biggest box in the slightly smaller one. Did I mention I have an arthritic back?

After that, replacing the other boxes was straightforward. Except that after I’d put the last one in, I remembered that I’d been going to go through them to look for the rug canvas. Fortunately, the most likely boxes were now more easy to access. I looked through them, but no rug canvas. (I’ve since remembered I used it to make some woven 3D – er – things.

In desperation, I went back to the roll of stuff I’d first looked through. Where, of course, I found the canvas.

Page 3 – not like the Sun page 3!

This is the third page of my sample book. I’m much happier with it than page 2. I thought I’d finished with straight stitches, but when I realised that pulled thread embroidery is essentially straight stitches, I added some experiments with those. Some were more successful than others – pulled stitches don’t really work with chunky wool – but that’s the point of sampling.

The other reason that I prefer these samples to page 2, is that I like the colours. I discovered recently that Mondrian didn’t like green. I don’t dislike it, but I’m not wild about the particular shade I used on page 2, especially with brown.

The final section, bottom right, is mainly for fun, but perhaps being more relaxed led to more interesting ideas?

Page Two

of the four (so far) pages of my sample book. Still straight stitch. 

Things I learned:

1. If you are using a thick or awkward thread, like  bouclé or chenille, use a bigger needle than you think you need. You need a big hole to get the thread through without shredding it.

2. Being determined to use something, (like that ribbon in the final sample) is a bad thing. Someone once said to me, if I design isn’t working, take the thing you like best out. They were right. 

3. Making stitches over a pencil is fun, and the results seem more resilient than I thought they would be. Mind you, I wouldn’t do it on clothing.

4. Linen stays crumpled, no matter how often you press it.

5. I went off this colour scheme pretty quickly. But sampling is still fun.

Don’t believe all you read on the internet.

I read somewhere that you can use OHPs for sun printing – print a design on them, layer them over fabric painted with silk paints, leave them somewhere warm and come back to find the design printed on the fabric.


As you can see, it doesn’t work.

I did have doubts about whether it would.  Sun printing works by evaporation, and I suspected the liquid wouldn’t evaporate under a sheet of plastic, whether it was printed or not., only round the edges. I should have trusted my instinct. It would probably work if I cut stencils from the OHPs, so I may try again later. It does prove, though, that it’s warmth that makes the print, not light.

I do have 4 rectangles of fabric with paler centres and a darker frame, so it’s not entirely wasted. 

Samplers, samples and experiments.

I’m really enjoying this Year of Stitches sampler. I’m much more process than product driven, so I like this sort of piece, where I just get started and follow the ideas that come up as I’m working. It doesn’t always work – it didn’t for the first Year of Stitches sampler, but I’ve realised that it works better if I put down some guidelines when I start, though I am very likely to change my mind later. This one started with wave-like lines across the fabric, but as you can see, they morphed into leaves and petals.

Unfortunately, the Frixion pen I used to draw the lines has left marks on the fabric so it’s a good job I’m not so worried about the product. I’ve had it happen before on coloured paper, but not on fabric. This is hand-dyed with Procion, so maybe Frixion and Procion don’t get on – I know Procion is supposed to discharge with bleach.

The experiments didn’t work. I’ve had some alcohol inks for ages, and never done much with them, so I decided to have a play. They worked OK on various bits of plastic, spread with some felt in a bulldog clip, but I wasn’t wildly excited by the results. I read somewhere that you can drip them into water and marble them, so I gave it a go. 

The results were so awful I didn’t even take photos. I think the ink set as soon as it hit the water. The white just went into clumps,   and the other colours  were reluctant to marble. I did dip sheets of plastic into the mess and some ink was picked up, but as it dried it just flaked off. So I put the results down to experience and in the bin.

The knitted samples aren’t very exciting either. I’ve found when I make my SKO’s that I tend to use the same few base patterns and some of them don’t  lie flat.


So I’m working my way through Nicky Epstein’s ‘Knitting in Circles’. I shan’t try all 100, because:

a) some have seams and I refuse to sew up seams;

b) some of them, like the really lacy ones, are probably unsuitable – although it might be interesting to try one or two;

c) I shall get bored. 

The icord knitting hasn’t gone away. I currently have 4 on the go. The 7 metre blue one is in the process of being coiled into a bowl/basket, but the process is hard on my arthritic hands, so it proceeds slowly. The yellow one has been sewn into a loopy thing (in both senses of the word) and is awaiting the addition of beads and French knots. The shorter blue one will be wired, unless a better idea comes to me. And I have a brown one on the needles, which is progressing slowly for icord. In theory if I slip stitches at regular intervals it should become kinky – although there is no sign of it doing so yet. The problem is that, to ensure the slip stitches come in the right places, I have to chant ‘1 2 3 slip’ as I knit – there are 3 stitches so this means that the slip stitch moves one stitch over each row. Should be easy? It isn’t. It’s a bit like meditating in that my mind wanders, and I find myself just counting ‘1 2 3’. Which does not work.

The openness photographs have fallen by the wayside a bit, but I hope to find a few more before I move on the next topic in the middle of the week. There is this one, though. Guess which book this is?

Still here, still sampling. 

Plus some embroidery, and winding of balls. Of wool, you understand. And some photography. I’m fascinated by the reflections in our wet car, but it’s difficult to take photos without them turning into selfies. However the iPad conceals quite a lot.

These are the previous three samples, finally shrunk. The polypropylene ruffles on the left remind me of those wonderful chickens with amazingly feathered heads, which is probably why I’ve been sketching bottle-shaped SKOs with feather necks. 

You knew I was weird, I hope?

 This is the current sample – more polypropylene, but in loops and bulges this time. I got carried away with various ideas from Nicky Epstein’s  ‘Knitting Over the Edge’, but I think the loops are my favourite. 

This afternoon I’ve been balling up hanks of yarn for future SKOs. This is Airedale’s wonderful Poodle Super Gimp, which looks and smells nicely sheepy. (That’s not a criticism – I love the smell of real wool.) I have no idea how you would use this for conventional knitting, but I see stripes of it on an SKO in the future. Or the sides of an SKO. Who knows?

 I shall sample it to check needle size and see if it felts, though I suspect it will.

This, on the other hand, probably won’t, as it contains a high proportion of nylon. It was an irresistible bargain from my local Oxfam shop – 400gms for £3.96. I shall sample it just to confirm it doesn’t shrink, and then  probably space dye it for use as a non felting yarn with some all wool Aran. I think from the labelling and Google that it is getting on for 40 years old, but it seems in good condition- clean, and no sign of moth. 

And I’ve started a new Year of Stitches piece. I’ve decided that today will be my last day with the beige one, I really don’t like it, so why carry on?  New month, new start – though I jumped the gun a bit. This is an old bit of handdye, plus some hand-dyed and commercial threads – and one of my favourite sayings. I keep telling myself to work small but it doesn’t seem to happen.