Friday, 28 March 2014

Stephanie's Block - The Burgundy Mermaid

Well, this one was, without a doubt, the most complex and fiddly one I have done for a long time, but I do like the final result. Let me introduce you to the Burgundy Mermaid.

Unfortunately I just didn't seem to be able to get a really decent photo. None of them captured the vibrant colours, instead she looks rather 'washed out'.

I started this block the usual way, by doing the seam treatments - a small one in purple detached fly stitch (which ended up looking like zigzag stitch) with purple seed beads, and a long one in a rich rust chain stitch wave with dark red seed beads. This one ended up getting rather lost under the mermaid's hair.

My vision for this one was a mermaid pulling at a fisherman's net, so the first thing I did was sketch it out. 
The stitching was started with the net, done in a beige No. 10 purl, and the needlelace stitch used was knotted buttonhole stitch. Normally needlelace is started on a leader thread, but I didn't want that solid straight line across the top. Rather, I wanted to give the impression of the net extending up past the edge, so I knotted the first row directly onto the fabric, to give it that 'open net' look.

The next step was to transfer the body shape to a lovely flesh coloured piece of silk, and the tail shape to a burgundy satin. These were then cut out, and placed into position. Rather than appliquéing using a tiny turned seam, I used an outlining thread instead, for both pieces, as I liked the definition it gave better. Once this was decided, the outlining threads (both No. 10 purl) were couched into place with small stitches.

I chose some beautiful facetted 'dusky rose with gold tones' sequins from my stash, and stitched them in place with 'antiqued gold' seed beads. I have to say - wow! Who knew it took so many sequins to cover a mermaid's butt! Once all the sequins were placed, I added extra seed beads up her back and on her tail.

Finally, the hair was added, This was done in two stages. The first was carefully stitching the hair yarn in close parallel lines to cover the head, using tiny stitches, and being very careful not to catch any of the wispy bits. Second was stitching the flowing strands, again using tiny stitches, and being careful not to catch any of the wispy bits. Then, viola! The Burgundy Mermaid. I hope Stephanie is happy with her.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Maire's Block

The final stitch on the final seam of the final block of my first Round Robin is finished. I have completed my work on Maire's block.

As there were so many seams left (9 in total, although, granted, several of them were very small seams), I did 4 seams instead of the usual 2 we had been doing with the RR. Here is the completed block (except for the seams left for Maire to do, of course).
All the work I did was done in the threads Maire provided with the block.

The first seam I did is a row of bullion roses with ivory pearl centres, and a stem stitch border underneath with bullion rosebuds. The second seam is a row of wisteria, done in blush ivory beads, and pale pink and medium pink French knots, on stem stitch branches with detached chain leaves.
These two seam were my original ideas for this block when I first saw the naked block pic at the beginning of the RR. The first thing I thought when I saw it was "roses and wisteria". Of course, wisteria is normally purple, but when the block arrived, Maire stated in her booklet that she wanted the work to be in the colours of the block, and there was no purple in the block. Fortunately, I have seen pink wisteria.

For the third seam I did this wonderful beaded Buttonholed Cable Chain from Sharon B's TAST. The buttonholed cable chain was done in a lovely variegated fine purl thread, and  "antique gold" seed beads were added to the centres of the chain. Then straight stitch tripods (I don't know what else to call them) with the "antique gold" seed beads were done underneath, to extend and accentuate the border. The only other beads on the block are the pretty, tiny gold beads in Rose Anne's tatted lace, on the top right, so by putting this beaded seam on the bottom left, it kept the balance.

The final seam is a row of feather stitch, with each terminus topped with a beaded cast-on flower. These are terribly fiddly and time-consuming to do, but I just really love them. Normally I use a much smaller seed bead for the centre, but I used the same ivory pearls to cast the flowers onto that I used in the roses border, to give balance to the piece. That way the two seams with pearls are bottom right(ish) and top left(ish), nicely opposing the two beaded seams. I like how they turned out with the pearl centres.

Maire's block was a joy to work on, being all in silks, and such lovely delicate colours. It will head on home to Maire on Thursday.

I have enjoyed this - my first - RR, and learned a lot from it. Thank you to all the ladies who were a part of it.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Baby Asparagus

Time is marching on faster than I can keep up now. I have only just finished saying "what happened to last month?' and another month has whizzed by!

Among the preserves I have done for the coming winter are an old favourite, and a new one.
Last year, even with being careful, I ran out of my wonderful pickled (fermented) peppers way too soon. This year there is a glut of capsicums on the market - usually around $3 each, they are going for $5 a kg at the moment, (which averages 10 peppers). Whoopee!
So I have been putting a few jars of those up. Wonderful in salads, tapas plates, and on pizzas!
The new one this year is Batinjan Makdous (Preserved stuffed baby eggplant). My soil was finally good enough this year for the eggplants to produce, so I have done this wonderful Mediterranean preserve - baby eggplants stuffed with chopped walnuts and garlic, and marinated in olive oil. Yum!

Always looking to extend my garden repertoire, I decided I would do asparagus this year. Normally grown from 2 year old crowns, which take another 2 years until first harvest, I wasn't able to get crowns, so decided to go the harder route (of course!) and try growing them from seed - which takes 4 years (they are very much a long term thing). I went out this morning, as I do every morning, to survey the garden, and lo, the asparagus has finally popped up! Teeny tiny asparagus spears poking out of the soil. Thank goodness for macro lenses on cameras!

My next garden addition - mushrooms! I found a place where I can get the mushroom spawn, so I am going to give those a try. I will start with Oyster mushrooms, then field mushrooms, then I want to do the large Burgundy, and the Shaggy Cap. Once I am confident with these ground growing mushrooms, I hope to give the log growing varieties a try - Shitake, and Poplar (a native NZ variety).

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Beth's Block

Wow! Here it is, the middle of March already. The time is just speeding away!

I have completed my work on Beth's block for the UTS1 (Under the Sea 1) Round Robin.
Beth orientated her block with the rocks at the top rather than at the bottom, so I visualized it as a rock shelf or outcrop, like the type I have seen many times when scuba diving, and chose to do the 4 patches on the top right. I started by laying down the seam treatments in stranded cotton floss and seed beads, in colours complimentary to the patches.

Beth said she envisioned "the light shining down into the water", so I ran with that idea and couched metallic gold 'rays' down the green patch, to represent that.

On the 'rock' patches, red branching coral was worked in seed beads, and a small kelp was done in long needle woven bars with No.8 purl, and carefully tacked down in a few places to give it the wonderful 'floating in the water' look. Next I made a needlelace Sea Lettuce type seaweed, in a variegated green No.8 purl, and attached it with a gold pearl in the centre.
Then came the orange sea anemones. These were done in a variegated orange No.8 purl. I started by making 3 rolled couronne, attached them with small tacking stitches, and put a single colonial knot in the centre. Each couronne was then surrounded by a circle of long drizzle stitches for the tentacles.
The final work on the 'rocks' is a collection of different types of small non-branching corals and polyps that typically cluster on reef rocks, done in sequins, seed beads, bugle beads, and pearls, interspersed with small green seaweed done in solid green No.8 purl.

Under the rocks is a small school of silver fish, like those that often hang around under rock shelves, done in silver metallic thread. 

I hope Beth likes it.