Thursday, January 19, 2006

I've never been particularly good about making sure I start with the same amount of fiber for each spindle and this time I wound up with an unconscionable amount of single left on one spool. This lead to searching for information about an Andean plying bracelet which I found here and that led to this which looks like a mess around my wrist, but which in fact is such a plying bracelet and worked perfectly.

This was actually my second attempt at the technique and having succeeded once, I had to get fancy. The red/white/blue had been done as a three ply and for whatever reason, I had run out of one bobbin altogether and had about half as much on the second bobbin as the third. So, I did a bracelet with the long single and plied it together with the short which worked out very nicely as far as singles length went but I will say that three plying using a bracelet for two of the plies and a single from another bobbin rather calls for having three or four hands for tensioning purposes instead of just two. I suppose it would get easier with practice but the experience didn't leave me with the burning desire to run out and get more practice so I'm not sure it will get any easier. It was, however, successful. The red/white/blue is done and I get to move on (back) to other things, like plying the silk and angora and plying the wild raspberry and...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Having gotten to the jaguar, I realized that I never really finished collecting up threads for this project. I knew I was missing one of the oranges - the source of the little dots left here and there in the upper portion of the head. I didn't realize I was missing all four of the greens for the eyes. Those I went and collected today.

While looking through the bag o' threads to decide which ones I had vs. needed, I found a lavender-y purple. Why is that in there? I ask as I toss it back in the bag. I made my list of threads needed and trundled off to the local Jo-Ann's (chosen from the list of possibilites due to the need for ordinary sewing needles as well). I ran down my list of threads while pawing through the jumble of lazy susans with floss-on-sale. The last thread on the list, once I found it, was the lavender purple I had rejected without checking its number.

So, where exactly does lavender purple go on a jaguar?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The jaguar has finally moved somewhat beyond the stage of its last picture, and of today, we have the sketches of eyes. This is important, because just beyond the eyes is the halfway point of the piece. It will be several days work to finish up just to the eyes, however.

Working over-one, I find it important to observe little niceties of stitching that I sometimes like to ignore in stitching over-two. It's not that it isn't important in stitching over-two, it just doesn't make as visible a difference. One is that it is important that all stitching moves in the same direction - start at the top and work down or start at the bottom and work up but don't change direction.

Another is that when stitching over one, it makes a huge difference for me if I stitch a row of stitches (all the same color) one half at a time and then return stitching the other half. Much neater tidier work. Oddly enough, this is not true with stitching over two. Then I do tidier work stitching one complete stitch at a time. Based on comments from others when this was discussed in a stitchery forum, many people find this dichotomy to be true, thus proving (again) that when taking or giving advice, it's necessary to be very careful you know what the basis one is working from.

A third thing that helps is making sure that one's thread is not too long. This may sound simplistic, but every time you start or stop a thread, you have to worry about the process of doing so. Repeatedly threading one's needle gets on some people's nerves. And WASTING THREAD is the bugaboo of some people's lives. I've seen people explain at great length the contortions that they go through to preserve a piece of ripped thread for re-use.

I'm sorry people, life's too short. Thread has a maximum number of passes through fabric before it visibly frays. This maximum number is based on how rough the fabric is, how close together the holes are and how many other stitches have already passed through that hole. I'm using 1/6th of a section of floss, cut in approximately 15 inch lengths. Floss comes 6 yards at a time and costs between 30 and 50 cents per hank. I use short lengths, and if it tangles or goes wrong and has to be ripped, I get a new piece.

The last thing that's true about stitching over-one really applies to any counted stitchery: Count and count and count again. Right now, at the bottom of the left hand side, there's another run of black stitches that needs to go down about 15 or 20 stitches. I'm tempted to just keep going with black, finish it off and be done with that color. I won't do it though - past experience tells me I'm going to get burnt if I do.

Counting for counted cross stitch works much better when you can count in two dimensions. When a new run starts down out into unexplored territory, it works much better if you can triangulate your work so that it has been count checked in both horizontal and vertical space. For example, when I started the left eye, I positioned it based on the orange bit just above it. As soon as absolutely practical, I confirmed its position by counting sideways to the bit coming down the nose. The bit extending south of the left eye is now confirmed only in one dimension. Any further extensions past that point are past my comfort zone for one dimensional exploration. It doesn't sound like much, but it means quite a lot when you get down farther later on and discover that one dimesional exploration was one stitch over and two stitches too long. How much other stuff have you got based on it by then that now has to be ripped?

Cross stitch is not particularly a creative outlet for me. I love doing it, but it's all about precision and following a pattern and making it look right. There's a part of me that is very satisfied with tweaking the surroundings of a pattern to make it mine and then being able to go with the flow that someone else has prepared. I used to do ccs during my break when I was working at one software company. My program manager one day asked me why, and I told him I enjoyed it because it was a lot like programming - very precise, very neat, and often very detailed. It was better than programming because I never had to rework it based on changing requirements.

I've noticed that I go back to doing ccs when other parts of my life are chaotic, with ever changing demands on my time.

Monday, January 02, 2006

So. 2005 is gone and 2006 stretches before us. "Resolution" time. The only problem with that is that I made all the resolutions I wanted to about 2 months ago and now the only resolution left to make is to get myself back on schedule tomorrow. The relatives have been visited, the tree is coming down today, the kids and the husband head back to their respective places and I need to get my butt in gear to finish Homework 3 and Project Section 1 before next week Monday when class resumes.

The house is somewhat cluttered with the debris of the past two weeks, but all in all I have hopes for the next month. The biggest thing that happened in the past few weeks is the acquisition of new storage units. The book shelves are put together and the books are out of the boxes in the dining room and into the shelves. This left room available for the dining table to actually go into the dining room and the china cabinet to go as well. There are 3, count them, 3 drawers in the cabinet, which is wonderful as, while I love the new kitchen, the only thing it really lacks is drawer space. I knew I didn't want a desk, I wanted cabinet space but I let them overrule me, and now I'm paying for it. The only real point of the desk was to have a place for a phone and when they screwed up and didn't put in the phone jack, well, whachergonnado.

My sister was a sweetie and turned me loose in the local spinning/yarn store to pick out my present. I waved her toward their specialty shelves and said anything there would be just dandy. So I now have a bump of merino/bombyx and two bits of flash to play with. I hadn't ever seen the flash in person - it's fun stuff. I have to get her a spindle to play with. I check out their bumps and recommended one for a beginner to try. All she needs is a decent spindle to start with. I'm sorry, but I don't recommend an Ashford boat anchor for beginning. Oh, Sheila...

It's snowy outside but beginning to rain and I doubt by tomorrow that there's be much white left. It's been a white Christmas for once but the better part of our snow season lies ahead of us, not behind. (The year we moved to Rochester, it was 60 F the day John arrived on 2 Jan. The next day it turned cold and it snowed for 34 days in a row after that.)