Sunday, November 15, 2015

Snowflakes II: Guest Post with Gioja Ralui

Last year Gioja Ralui, author of the books Sardinian Knot Stitch (in English) and Punto Annodato Sardo (in Italian) appeared here and elsewhere as a guest to present a freebie snowflake pattern, this year she goes a step further to present a project of snowflakes! If you would like to read this post in Italian, please go to either blog: ricamo e... altro or TuttoRicamo. I turn the blog over to her, so she can tell you all about it:

Christmas Table Mat

As was done last year, also for this Christmas 2015 I would like to offer my Sardinian Knot Stitch pattern. It is a table mat on beige Assisi linen embroidered in the classic Christmas color: red.

As you can see it is a cascade of snowflakes of various sizes, each one different from the other. They are all enclosed in a frame of a simple zig zag with the 'gruxittasa' (remember that the 'x' must be read as the French 'j') pattern in each corner and in the middle of each side. [gruxittasa means 'the crosses' in Sardinian] Finally, to complete the project, some drawn-thread work (removing two fabric threads): the simple hem stitch for securing the hem and along the edge, the arches with picots that make up the classic edging of Sardinian Knot Stitch works.

Information on how to realize the hem with the mitred corners and the simple hemstitch can be found in large quantities in the internet. I limit myself to a couple of suggestions:
mitred corners
simple hemstitch
However if these do not seem comprehensive enough, type in a search engine 'tutorial mitred corners' and 'tutorial simple hemstitch' and you will find everything you need.

Some of the snowflakes on this embroidered table mat were published in my book Sardinian Knot Stitch and are not repeated here. I would like to remind readers that in it you will find all the instructions for the work, both with regard to the stitch execution and the needle lace edging. Remember too, that the proceeds from sales go to charity. Last year over $2,500.00 US dollars were donated to the Catholic Mission of Camp Garba in Kenya allowing kids to to attend school in the area. I wonder if this year you will help me achieve the same result?

As I mentioned above, for the execution of the table mat, 28ct Assisi linen fabric in beige with Anchor Ritorto Fiorentino no. 12 pearl cotton, colour no. 47 was used. The dimensions of the fabric are: 41 cm x 33.5 cm which includes the 1.5 cm to be folded back on each side to form the hem.

In the photo below, numbers have been assigned to facilitate the recognition of the snowflakes in relation to the corresponding patterns:

Due to space limitations and in order to not go on too long, the patterns indicated with numbers: 1, 2, 3a and 3b are not included here but can be found, respectively, on pages 55, 53 and 56 of the book.

Below are the patterns of the other previously unpublished snowflakes:

Snowflakes numbered 4, 5 and 6.

Snowflakes numbered 7 and 8.

And finally, snowflake number 9 and the patterns for the frame of zig zag with gruxittasa which is executed 1 cm to the inside of the drawn-thread work hemstitching. 

One last tip: although I realize that each of us has his own method of working: I do the hemstitching first (but the arches I leave until last) because it helps me with the placement of the rest of the embroidery... but it is not written in stone that you must do it this way!

Of course the placement of the snowflakes may be distributed in different ways depending on personal tastes, or the composition may also be reduced with regard to the number of snowflakes themselves. Furthermore they may be used differently: to decorate placemats, for example, or used individually (obviously only in the case of the tiniest ones) to make small Christmas gifts such as bookmarks or Christmas tree ornaments... Projects to achieve all of these suggestions can be found in the book Sardinian Knot Stitch.

Happy Stitching!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Crochet Cotton for Needlework

Using Crochet Cotton thread for needlework is something that different types of Italian needlework call for. Crochet Cotton is a twisted mercerized cotton thread. It is not shiny the same as Pearl Cotton but does have a sheen to it. It gives a different effect to the embroidery. There are various weights and I've done some experimenting with it for tassels, using DMC Baroque and Natura but until recently, I've never tried it for embroidery.

DMC Babylo #10 ecru thread on 38 ct Sotema 20L linen.

Here is a sample of Sardinian Knot Stitch done on 18ct fabric with Anchor Crochet Cotton and DMC Pearl Cottons (click on the photo for a closer look):

When telling you about Giuseppa Federici's new book here, I mentioned that it called for Crochet Cotton and that in Italy (and other parts of the world) both DMC and Anchor offer a decent colour range in their crochet cottons. Alas they do not offer the same threads in North America and so I set about hunting down some Crochet Cotton in lots of colours.

A kind friend from Italy sent me some Anchor Freccia #12 which is similar in weight the #10 Crochet Cotton we can find in North America. Then I found some DMC Babylo #10 on a UK website that I have ordered from often for other things. They appear almost identical in thickness. Pretty close to Pearl Cotton #5 but a bit thinner. Please note that I could not try all of DMC's products like Cebelia and Traditions or Coats Aunt Lydia's because I could not find them locally in colours that I wanted and there were only so many funds I wanted to spend on online ordering for an experiment. The point of my experiment was really to find a #10 Crochet Cotton in the widest range of colours possible. There are other products available in North America that you can try.

An internet search led me to a website called Handy Hands which sells a line of various weights and colours of 100% Egyptian cotton cordonnet thread called Lizbeth. It comes in 102 solid colours, 87 variegated colours and 10 colours which are a mix of three different colours twisted together. Handy Hands is based out of Paxton, Illinois, though they do not have a bricks and mortar storefront.

Now, Anchor or DMC #10 Crochet Cotton which is what I was looking to match, is made of 3 threads twisted together. Lizbeth thread is made of 6 threads twisted together so obviously the look of the Lizbeth thread is a bit different but I decided to see if it would be a suitable substitution.

I wrote and asked them if they could help me match some samples of Anchor and DMC colours that I had gotten from Italy. They answered right away and gave me some matches but it's difficult to match from photos so in the end, I mailed them my thread samples because there just isn't anything better than having something in your hand when you're trying to match colours!

I have to say, Handy Hands' customer service is excellent. They must have looked up the colours as soon as my samples arrived because, allowing for cross-border mailing, it was no time at all before I received colour-matches for all the colours I asked about. These colours are for a project which I will tell you about in a different post.

The Lizbeth #10 thread is the same thickness as my Anchor and DMC threads but because it is made up of three sets of 2 threads twisted together, it's a little like stitching with a cord instead of a thread.
I did three lines of stitches: stem stitch, chain stitch and Palestrina Knot stitch. The top or first line of each set is the Anchor Freccia and the other is the Lizbeth.

Anchor Freccia #12 and Lizbeth #10 on Zweigart 36 ct Edinburgh linen.

There is a bit of difference in sheen and of course the twist, but overall, I'd say it's an excellent substitute! I love the way the thread sits up on the fabric for a very textural embroidery. I'm thinking Palestrina EmbroideryParma Embroidery, Umbrian Embroidery, even traditional embroidery when you want to create a more rustic, raised effect.

Lizbeth thread is distributed worldwide, they have a list of distributors online for a store near you or you can order directly from their website. Signing up for their newsletter before December 31, 2015 gets you free shipping in the US.

Much thanks to Barbara at Handy Hands for her infinite patience, valuable insight and quick, efficient service!