I LOVE talking about blocks, studying blocks, and playing with them in Photoshop... I am always on a quest for great blocks and trying to figure out what makes them so great ... So I started this companion blog that will be devoted to this quest. But also check out my regular blog at http://olderrose.blogspot.com

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Surface embroidery does not need to be abstract...

Surface embroidery or surface texture does not need to be abstract in nature.  In my opinion it just need to fill an area..  This is a piece of mine which I have shown before.  There many awkward little patches I chose to ignore as individual pieces and covered the entire area..
This another of my pieces which had a bunny in an awkward corner and I used surface embroidery to make him a "thicket."  You might want to notice how I staggered the daisy clumps lower left so they filled the triangle.. Although not easy to see the lavender patch is filled with crystal rain drops from the cloud.

This next piece is by Sharon Boggon who is an absolute genius at surface embroidery.  I took this photo of the actual quilt in CT last spring.  What a treat to see the it "live."

This incredible piece was in my files and I have no idea who stitched it or how it came to be in my files.  If I had a name I lost it. If anyone knows, could you let me know because I am in love with it...

Note:  The mystery is solved here and I should have known...  This work was done by Ritva in Finland and I just talked about her exquisite needleskills yesterday..  She and I have been in many round robins together.

Not related to stitching but the kind of thing you remember once you become friends.... Ritva has a lovely very old church in her village and it is painted yellow...  I saved the picture as I intend to paint it on a button one day...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

More surface embroidery

After I posted Laurie's CQJP I received this comment from Ritva in Finland who used surface embroidery for her TAST challenge.  "What a coincidence! On my CQJournal challenge block I have made some surface stitching, which has been my passion lately. I used the new TAST stitches."

On the left is the beautiful surface stitching she did with the Cretan stitch.

Here is more of her surface work on another block.... Also Ritva's seam work is extraordinary...Go to her Flicker album to see the work she has done. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ritvap  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Surface embroidery should be on your to-do list.....

I was so excited when I saw this block and even more excited when I realized that there might  be 11 more as part Laurie Burgesser's CQJP 2012.  You might have seen it on her blog or on facebook,  but even if you did see you might not realize how unique it was...  You need to file this piece this away, pin it on your wall or put it by your work area as a reminder...

Laurie description of this block was:. 
"All the  fabrics except the red/white stripe started out as solid color pieces. I liked the idea of the geometric surface embroidery juxtaposed with the curves of the patches and the seams"

The key words here are "surface embroidery"  This technique can be the answer to many of the problems stitchers have with a block...  I've always referred to it as "surface texture" but I like Laurie's phrase much better...   Last fall I was giving some advice to Flora to use this technique

November Post: I think the idea of a bird in a nest is a great idea because, as you mentioned,  it would complement the bird button.  But if you stuck it in the corner brown patch it would be corralled by that curved seam. and isolated from the block...  But if you perch the nest just above the patch on a branch..  it becomes a working element in the block and part of a path that moves your eye around the block...
Then you are still left with that brown patch and I'd recommend expanding your seam treatment right down into that patch to give it both texture and interest... "

Maybe a patch or area is in an odd position or you need to accentuate your focal point or you just need that "little something" extra or you want some technique that adds interest but is not overwhelming...  Well surface embroidery can solve all these problems...  When you run into one of these problems, remember Laurie's block..  Laurie chose to use contrasting colors but the technique is also effective in coordinating colors.

Laurie is one of my very favorite stitchers because she  has such a keen sense of humor which shows in her work and because she is so talented and creative. Her blog is http://dontcallmecrafty.blogspot.com/2012/01/cqjp-2012-january.html   Unfortunately she doesn't blog that often but I follow so I never miss one...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Help with a block?

Hi Gerry, I am wondering if you can help me with my Swedish Country block  I have lots of ideas   but not sure how to decide where to put them. I have attached a pic of the block so far and also pics of the elements I want to add.  The flag is blue and yellow, so those are the main colors, but a dash of red and green will also be added.
I added the silkie because it was by a national artist (Larsson) and the right colors for the block, but now I am afraid it is too small and my idea to add the piece of light blue to the top to "extend the sky" is causing problems. Do you think I should cover the pic and add it elsewhere?
 Any suggestions you have would be appreciated.  Thank you so much. Darlene

Well this is going to be a little long because there are some interesting points.  You were very clever to pick Carl Larsson as the artist for this block... He is a contemporary of our Norman Rockwell and both focused heavily on family and everyday life..  You were right in the the silkie is too small and really makes no impact at all...  I looked for that particular painting with no luck...

Often when making silkies the option of severely cropping can be a big asset...  Most of the time the image chosen is just too busy to make an impact on a block...  Focusing on just the elements that are relevant to your block makes a tremendous difference.

Since I couldn't find your painting I chose another winter scene.  You can see that the picture as a whole is too complex, but if you crop out everything but the child it is much more suitable.
Since the elements you chose are quite simplistic and lovely, if I were you I would follow along with this throughout...  I love the birds (big surprise) and not only would I use the larger white one which you already have on the block, I'd repeat with several of the smaller one.  You had thought of adding skates but why not also add mittens, hats and scarf in one cluster... The scarf and skate lace could make fantastic directional elements.  Be sure to do your flag "waving" so it add additional movement to your block.

Just an added thought or two... I adore the twiggy blue and red things by the dala horse and encourage you to use them... Also I googled Swedish needlework and it is a goldmine of inspiration for seams. You might also consider a snowflake or two or maybe even some norther lights...
So using all your choices and a couple of mine  I whipped this rough draft  up in photoshop and hope it gives you some directions...

And that's my 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Embellishi​ng busy blocks

An email from Lauri Nuske this morning:

"Hi Gerry,
I participate in rr's and dyb's and have fun embellishing the different blocks. Most blocks I send out are solids or light patterned.  So when I get a block that is heavy patterned, like lots of flowers and calicos and dark prints, I get stumped as to what to add that won't get lost in the print.  Any suggestions?"

Well Laurie this is always a problem for me also...  We all want to do our best and have it show... but as you say it is difficult, if not impossible, on busy blocks...

First you have to be bold and willing to modify the block.. Consider using all-over stitching or  large clusters such as Cathy L. used here.  If it doesn't have a silkie, add a large one...  If it does have a silkie,  embellish a 2" frame around it to make it the focal point and draw attention away from busy prints. Look for laces to cover areas, large motifs, very wide ribbons and even patches of fabric. I covered an entire patch on a block last fall. Tulle or organza can soften difficult areas nicely.  

Sharon B. incorporates some large busy prints in her work but balances it with large dramatic buttons, dense floral clusters, and heavy and/or textured threads.

Everything you use or do will have to make a statement stronger than the prints.  The next time you get such a block send me a picture of it and I will see if I can give you some ideas...

But personally I find a whole block of busy prints extremely discouraging and it makes my work much less enjoyable..   Last spring I did two posts on this very subject and how Cathy K. and Janet P. handled busy blocks head on.



Note: My life is finally settling and in a week or two things should be back to normal...  I missed doing this blog and noticed several emails for it.  I will catch up as I can..  Stay tuned.