Coral Stitch and Beaded Coral Stitch

Coral stitch is a funny little thing.  It definitely takes some practice and if you screw up the knot, it can be a bitch to undo.  I first learned of it in Inspirations, where they used the beaded version to trip the edges of a small box.  As with a lot of the projects in that magazine, the techniques and articles are more interesting to me than the actual pieces.  They’re all so… girly.  Still, I pour over each project, looking for techniques I can incorporate into more modern, less frilly pieces.I was enamoured of the beaded coral stitch, and after a quick curved test, I decided to try something slightly mad: I wanted to use beaded coral stitch as a filling stitch.I had recently picked up a grab bag from Darrell Thomas Textiles, a store in Ottawa that has a great selection of apparel fabrics and a button collection to die for.  The owners make grab bags of fabric samples they no longer carry and sell them for five dollars a piece.  The money all goes to a local cat rescue.  The pieces in the bags vary in size and texture, but most are at least a fat quarter and some are super expensive if you were to buy them (we’re talking 50$ a meter and up!).  I got a fabulous pink gingham with large squares and a lovely weave.  And then I went mental.

Between each coral knot, there is a bead.  As much as possible, I tried to stagger the beads and the knots so that it could be as tight as possible.  The beads are still able to roll on the thread, making the piece similar to a worry stone in a soothing, tactile way.

The stitching is nowhere near perfect, but I adore it.  Mary Corbet of NeedlenThread has a fabulously clear video that really helped me figure the stitch when I was starting out with it.  Beading it only means threading a bead after each knot.The key to nice coral stitch is to pull your knot in the direction you want it to go every single time.  The knot will want to twist, but if you keep gently tugging it the direction of your line or curve, it’ll come back and behave.

Although traditionally the beauty of the stitch is measured by the even spacing of the knots, it could be fun to play with the spacing, three tight ones, two spaced out, three tight.  It could be an interesting filling stitch, a cute way to illustrate patterned or lacy tights on a pretty lady.

Stitching Box Cleanup

I moved last week, which meant I really wanted to clean up my stitching stuff before lugging it to the new place.  I keep most of my bits of fabric, extra hoops and ribbons and threads in a giant plastic tub with a locking lid.  Why?  Because of this little guy and his brother:Tibbles is a ferret we are currently forever fostering from the Ferret Rescue Society of Ottawa.  He has a deformity in his mouth which although could be serious, is under control with regular teeth brushing.   After six months with us, his horrible rotten tooth fell out, his gums are lovely and pink and all the tartar has fallen off.  We have straight up adopted his brother, Whodini.  Both are fabulous fuzzy weasels with not fear and a never ending sense of exploration.  A tatting bag with a six inch needle in it?  Let’s see if we can get in!  A faux leather case with scissors in it?  Chew that thing up!  A 300 meter ball of crochet thread?  Quick, unwind most of it around yoursel!

Keeping the ferrets safe has been a learning curve for sure.  One thing they are super interested in is any containers, boxes and hiding spots.  I have a soft sided container for smaller bits that, once out, becomes a ferret magnet.

Anyway, back to cleaning: this is the before picture of the crazy box.

It has tons of different coloured twills (my favourite fabric to stitch on), pretty bits I got for five dollars a bag at a local fashion fabric store (including some fabulous Ralph Lauren gingham!), loose skeins of thread, unwound bits of ribbons and a miscelany of needles.  It took me nearly an hour to fold all my fabric nicely, throw out any bits that were too small to use, and unwind any bits of thread that were too wee to keep.  I wound up my ribbons, put all my needles in a felt book inside a small tin (can’t be too safe), and sorted piles of all the skeins I still need to roll onto little plastic cards.  I am dying to try this method, using a drill!

When the whole thing was clean, I put it on the floor to get a better view and went to the table to get my camera, came back, and this is what I found:Sigh.  That’s Whodini.  He is ours for keeps, and deaf as a post.  So even if yelling at him to get out of my sewing might work, there’s no point.  So after pulling him out, I took the official picture. Tada, nice and clean, now to snap the lid back on and keep my boys safe.  Have you ever had mishaps with pets and/or children?  I mean, my grandmother once sat on her knitting and had to be taken to hospital to get them removed, but that was the sixties.  😉

Buttonhole Stitch in Crewelwork Embroidery

Before I talk about buttonhole stitch for a third week in a row, I need to introduce one of the smallest, most awesome books about crewel I have ever read: The Anchor Book of Crewelwork Embroidery Stitches (Eve Harlow, 9780715306321).   I borrowed it at the library on a rainy afternoon and renewed it so many times I ordered a copy online to keep for myself.  The book explains 48 typical stitches, with each stitch featured in an accompanying crewel piece.  Wool, silk and cotton are used in the different pieces, showing yothe impact different threads can have.  The best part of the book is the patterns at then end.  Although not every design has a pattern, it has about twenty of them represented in clear black and white outlines.  The book is an inspiration and a fabulous ressource.  Whenever I start a new piece of crewelwork, I flip through it,  looking for a cool effect or a texture that catches my eye.  Both pieces below are from the book, although I did not copy the book’s stitch choices in all cases.  The nice thing about these patterns is that they are open to interpretation and could be done in a million different ways.

First off is this pomegranate piece, in yellows, pinks and greens.  I used stem stitch on the stem and the tiny tendrils.  The outline of the big leaf is satin stitch over two lines of straight stitch.

The smaller leaves are a mix of stem, chain and buttonhole stitches.  The fruit is mostly chain stitch, with stem and backstitch bordering and satin and seed stitch on the inside.  I worked on it in a busy Starbucks on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Although the colours are a bit unconventional (I am pretty sure there aren’t any bright yellow pomegranates around), I adore how bright and juicy it looks.

This pink flower is almost all buttonhole.  The stitch takes curves so well, especially when stitched tightly, that the flower and the large leaf look super smooth, even though both curve and wave liberally.

The bottom of the stitch makes an edging that splits the colours up and makes the petals nice and chunky.

The leaf has four colours of buttonhole, a stem stitch border and the reverse of the leaf has a simple satin stitch filling.

The smaller leaf is coral stitch, which is and isn’t harder than it looks.  It’s easy to screw up, but once you get the hang of it, it goes quite quickly.  The tiny flowers are a long french knot, which is made by stabing the french knot down a small distance from where you originally came up.  It reminds me of webbed frog toes and looks dainty.  The stamen in the large flower is simple straight stitches in a single strand of floss.

Crewelwork can be intimidating, but if you plan it out, sketch out the colours and stitches you want to use, it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Crewelwork patterns are blank slates, ready to be filled in with any texture and colour imaginable.