I finally broke through the wall and started playing around with muslin and threads, today. What I found, which was surprising, is that my own handwork differs from the handwork I’ve seen in my main text, for now — Embroidered & Embellished, by Christen Brown.
I picked up this book, as it was advertised to me before the date of its publication, and I’d been waiting on seeing it before I bought it. It’s a very pretty/inspiring book, and I ended up checking it out of the library and reading it all the way through. I found out that it seems to be geared towards beginning embroiderers, given the (limited) spectrum of “traditional” stitches which it features, which seem based on linework. There are also some stitches for more advanced needleworkers, which fall under the chapter on “raised & textured embroidery” — though I wouldn’t have known about the difficulty level, except for reading in other embroidery texts.
Despite the linework bit, which really reminded me of drawing with fineliners as versus markers (ribbonwork?) or painting — I went out and bought a copy of this book today, because it does say (out of the great plethora of options) what needles to use with what thread or floss, and things are easy enough to understand, and limited enough, that it’s relatively non-intimidating. It also seems that the later stitches often build upon simpler stitches learned early-on. So while this isn’t a thorough reference by any means, it is a good teaching tool and introduction to embroidery, as it shows different results given with the same basic skill set, based on using differing materials.
I’m really glad I finally got up the nerve to try and practice. I don’t know what it is, but starting is always the hardest part, for me. I think there is a fear there that I’ll try it but not like it, or that I’ll try it and fail. What happened today is that I tried it, and I liked some of my errors more than I liked what I was supposed to be making!
For example, there is something called a lazy daisy flower — while trying to do this, I accidentally started making a lazy daisy maple leaf. I actually like the maple leaf better than the flower! It all has to do with variations in proportion and spacing. Color doesn’t hurt, either — I’ve been intentionally avoiding pink, and so came out with a bunch of red maple leaves. (And one flower, after thinking to myself that I really should try to make one.) ;) Note: when using a French Knot as the center of a flower, make the knot first and then stitch the petals. The needle has been punching holes all through the center of the flower, and so your knot may pull all the way through the (now-weakened) fabric, otherwise. So unless you want an eyelet with a knot hanging off the back, don’t do that!
There are a few other things to mention. One: how one holds the thread on the right side of the work while stitching, really does matter. I’ve had more luck with making a stitch and then looping the floss over the needle, rather than stitching with my floss leading in some general direction, however. Two: it’s difficult to make a finishing knot when working with a small embroidery hoop. I think mine is about 4-5″ across, and that’s not enough when you want to finish a thread (requiring one to make a French Knot and pull the [thick] needle straight through taut fabric) and the needle is facing a wall.
The third bit is related to #2; and that is, when stitching an outline using a backstitch, it really does matter whether the floss falls above or below the needle. Randomly, one gets an offset, broken pattern, though this can also be done intentionally; always holding the thread above the needle, however, gives an overlapping pattern.
The last thing I wanted to mention: proportions. I genuinely like my own proportions better than the ones shown in this book. I am not sure how much of this has to do with having practiced writing kanji, but my staggered blanket stitch (called the “short-long-short blanket stitch” in the book) really looks like I was writing yama, yama, yama over and over again. (The Japanese character [or kanji] for “mountain” reads, yama; it shows three peaks next to each other, not unlike the staggered blanket stitch.)
That’s as far as I’ve gotten, for now. I did, however, find a book on tatting, which is a method of lacemaking. I’ve gotten the idea in my head to make garments with 3/4 sleeves, and lace edging the sleeve openings. However, I’ve really got to find a good, simple book on tatting which will teach me the fundamentals. I’d never been exposed to it before, and so while a lot of what I saw, looked basically like a lark’s head sinnet which was looped around and upon itself — I had never even seen a tatting shuttle before, and I don’t know how to use one.
There is a place I know of which I can go to in order to look at laces, and they probably have a library there. And it’s probably much greater than the one book I found on the shelf, today. ;) I didn’t pick that one up; it’s called New Tatting. It focused mostly on doilies, which is not really my end goal. My end goal would be something more like making trims for garments. But again, you know, maybe it’s just meant as a course for learning the basics. I’ll just have to research it more.