Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Starburst Blackwork Birthday Card

In my Autumnal Update post, I mentioned that I’d completed a spur-of-the-moment Blackwork project. Earlier on in the month, I decided that I would make a Blackwork birthday card for a friend. The design I chose is called Starburst, and is actually for a Blackwork biscornu (an ornamental pin cushion), which I stumbled across on Kincavel Krosses. I realised the design was somewhat ambitious, especially when compared with the Blackwork designs I’ve previously stitched. In hindsight, it had also been incredibly ambitious of me to think that I could get all the stitching done, and the card made up and posted within a week!

Had I not opted to add couching to the design, I would have been more-or-less on track to meet my self-imposed deadline. Below is an image of the stitched piece when it was almost completed… or so I thought.
After finishing off the couching, I had washed the stitched piece, and it was at this point that things started to go spectacularly pear-shaped. I had used several strands of DMC Metallic Sewing Thread for the pink couching (shade 4018), which obviously hadn’t liked being washed because it looked utterly dreadful. The only option I had was to unpick the pink couching and start again, using DMC Precious Metal Effects (shade E168) instead of the pink DMC Metallic Sewing Thread.

Could things get any worse? Well, yes!  When I was ready to position my stitched piece, and adhere it to the card, I discovered that I was running low on glue, meaning that I had to apply more pressure when squeezing it of the bottle. This resulted in considerably more glue coming out of the bottle than I required, which then spread to visible areas of the Aida. Admittedly, it wasn’t by much, but enough to be a problem and cause me to promptly separate the Aida from the card, and then attempt to remove the glue. Now, if you have ever attempted to remove glues containing latex from Aida, you will know that it can be a complete nightmare. The advice I read on the internet was to spray WD40 on the glue to loosen it, and although I didn’t have any WD40, I had an equivalent, which worked an absolute treat. However, the stitched piece absolutely reeked of the stuff I had used, meaning that it had to be washed for a second time. I then decided that I really wasn’t happy with the quality of the silver couching, so ended up redoing it, along with the green couching.

After what had seemed like a labour of love, this is what I eventually ended up with.
Front of card
Back of card
Stitched label on back of card
Changing the subject, I PASSED the ITQ/ECDL Presentations module on Tuesday, with a result of 94%. Although I felt pleased and immensely relieved, I didn’t experience the same sense of elation that I’d felt when I passed the Word Processing module exam, and the Databases module exam. I’ve now got two months in which to complete the Spreadsheets module.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Cross-stitch software evaluation

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had purchased and downloaded a PDF file from Artecy, consisting of charts for nine Blackwork Christmas Motifs. After studying the designs, I found myself thinking that it would be great if I could find some software, which would enable me to experiment with different shades of metallic thread. My reasoning was that this would enable me to get a rough idea of what the designs would look like, before I committed myself to stitching anything, and used up valuable stitching supplies.
In the past, I have downloaded evaluation versions of cross-stitching software, and although good, they haven’t included a palette for metallic threads, which on this occasion was what I wanted. As luck would have it, I stumbled across a website for StitchCraft. The StitchCraft software is available to purchase in three formats (Home Edition - £95), Designer Edition - £496, and Publisher Edition - £1,548). Each version of the software allows the user to save charts as a PDF file, and includes a palette for metallic threads, from the DMC Light Effects range. Needless to say, I wasted no time in downloading an evaluation version of the software, and was suitably impressed. It’s just a shame that in order to purchase the Home Edition (never mind the other two editions), I would need to rob a bank, or else find myself a wealthy, generous boyfriend!
During the course of last night, and the early hours of this morning, I was in my element experimenting with the software. As with most evaluation software, I was unable to save my work, but I was able to take screenshots, which I then cropped.

On the chart for the images below, the design was stitched using 1 strand of DMC 498 (red), on white Aida. Using the evaluation software, this is what I came up with.

Metallic Black and Metallic Gold
Metallic Blue and Metallic Silver
Metallic Pink (NOT from the DMC Light Effects range) and Metallic Silver
Metallic Purple and Metallic Silver
Metallic Red, Metallic Gold, and Metallic Silver

On the chart for the two images below, the design was stitched on white Aida, again using 1 strand of DMC 498 (red). In addition, the ribbon wasn’t filled, so I thought it would be good to see what it would look like if filled with cross-stitches, and fractional cross-stitches.

Metallic Purple and Metallic Silver
Metallic Red and Metallic Gold

Finally, on the chart for the bell below, the design was stitched using 1 strand of DMC 699 (green), on white Aida. The hook on the bell wasn’t filled, neither was the clapper (the bulbous part, at the bottom of the bell).

Metallic Gold and Metallic Silver

Friday, 23 September 2011

Autumnal update

Since my previous post, I haven’t managed to get quite as much stitching done as I feel I ought to have done, despite Rainy Day Crafter repeatedly threatening to crack the whip, so to speak. Considering I have a secret project that I had ideally wanted to complete a few months ago, it is rather ill-disciplined of me. However, I am pleased to report that I recently finished an impromptu blackwork project, which I intend to publish a blog post about sometime next week (after the recipient has received it). 

During recent weeks, I have been continuing to keep myself busy with my ITQ/ECDL course, and am due to sit the exam for the Presentations (Microsoft PowerPoint) module on Tuesday. Whilst I am confident that I will (I hope) pass, I have an overwhelming feeling that I will achieve a slightly lower result than the Databases (Microsoft Access) exam. Given the existing knowledge I have of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Access, I had honestly thought that I would find the Presentations module to be an absolute doddle, but this has turned out not to be the case. In my defence, I’m blaming my age and my hypothyroidism, which both contribute to my inability to retain information as well as I was previously able to. Lol.

Several weeks ago, I became aware that the nights were starting to draw in, followed by a noticeable chill in the air, making it feel very autumnal. Although I don’t dislike autumn, it would be fair to say that I always feel sad (and much more tired) when summer comes to an end.  I miss the sun not rising as early, and not setting quite as late. In addition, I miss the warmth generated by the sun during the summer months. For people like me, who feel the cold easily and find it difficult to warm up, the cooler months of the year are quite frankly, a major inconvenience. 

On a brighter note, me and my son were recently treated (by my parents) to a trip to Oakengates Theatre in Telford, to watch a performance of Time Gentlemen Please!  by The Demon Barber Roadshow. The performance cleverly combined hip hop with clog, sword, and Morris dancing. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect, I honestly didn’t believe that combining hip hop with traditional folk dancing could work together. Well, it proved to be one of the most enjoyable performances I’ve seen to date, and I would go as far as to say that I found it to be 100% awesome! The atmosphere inside the theatre was absolutely electric, with plenty of foot-tapping, clapping, and laughter. The souvenir programme states, Clog, Sword and Morris meet Beatboxing, Popping and Krump, in this humorous and unmissable visual feast. Think Riverdance with a false moustache and Stomp with bells on! 

Recently, I have been eyeing up festive-themed Blackwork charts, and have even purchased a few. Thanks to Aurelia at Eglantine Stitchery, I really seem to have developed an intense liking for Blackwork, and now feel it would be fair to say that I'm finding it to be more enjoyable than cross-stitching. To be honest, I hope my love of Blackwork doesn't completely take over, especially as I have unfinished cross-stitch projects, plus ones I've yet to start!

Last night, I treated myself to a collection of nine Blackwork Christmas motifs, designed by Tereena Clarke, and available to purchase and download (as a PDF file) from Artecy.  In addition, I also treated myself to a chart (also a PDF file) for a festive-looking Blackwork Robin, from NeedleworkTips and Techniques, by designer Carol Leather. There are some lovely Blackwork charts available (by PayPal) on this website, but there is one thing that really lets it down. Previously, when I’ve purchased charts via PayPal, I have been notified that I will be automatically redirected to the download page, or that I will be e-mailed with further instructions. However, after I had committed myself to purchasing the Blackwork Robin chart, it was not made clear that I was required to select the option to Return to Merchant, which is what I had omitted to do after purchasing the charts for the Blackwork Star, and Blackwork Bell. I have since contacted Carol Leather, who has kindly supplied me with links to download the two charts. Going by the e-mail I received, it would seem that PayPal is automatically meant to redirect customers to the download page, but has recently been failing to do so. 

Before I get started on stitching any festive Blackwork designs, I really need to stock up on bling (AKA) metallic threads), as my existing supply is somewhat limited colour-wise. When it comes to Christmas and colour themes, it has to be said that I’m traditional and predictable, and am drawn to red, gold and green. However, I feel I need to start experimenting with colours that are not necessarily to my liking. For example, I have a chart for a Blackwork bauble, and I’m thinking that in addition to red and gold, purple and silver would be an excellent combination, along with black and gold. If you can think of any other festive colour combinations (using metallic threads), please feel free to share them with me. 

Finally, I have some exciting news to share with you. Aurelia at EglantineStitchery is hosting a Christmas giveaway (her first), which includes a delightful array of stitching-related goodies. Entry for the Christmas giveaway ends on October 12th, and the winner will be chosen on October 13th. For further information about the goodies, and to read the Rules and Disclaimers, please click the image below.  Unsurprisingly, there has already been plenty of interest expressed.