Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Punch Needle Embroidery

In my last post I mentioned that I was starting to explore "Punch Needle", (also known as Punchneedle, Needle Punch, and Russian Embroidery). You may have heard of it before, or remember it from years back... I remember it back in the '70's when I worked at a craft store as a teenager. We sold the needles, and I bought one. Unfortunately it came with no instructions outside of how to thread it and I could never figure out what to do with it. (How did we survive before Google?!)

I had all but forgotten about punch needle until the other week when I was at the Lancaster, PA.  AQS Quilt Show and happened to wander into a booth selling punch needle supplies as well as little pieces of beautiful folk-art style punch needle pieces.
I was instantly smitten and my head spun with design possibilities. 

Above is my first attempt. The punch needle tool is that blue pen looking thing. Yarn or floss is thread through the hollow tube and the hollow needle. A design is usually marked onto a piece of cloth. It's recommended that one uses "weaver's cloth" which is a poly/cotton blend. The weave is very strong and forgiving, quickly closing up after the needle is removed, helping to hold the punched threads in place. I did buy some, however seeing that a piece smaller then a fat quarter cost $3.00 and being of frugal mind, I was determined to try other, not recommended fabrics. The above piece was done on  some old and stained utilitarian osanaburg cloth I had. I'd read that this type of fabric wouldn't work, but I had no major troubles with it. I have since visited a wonderful fabric warehouse near where I live, and although they didn't have any weaver's cloth I did find some great poly/cotton blends that work fabulously and were a mere .63 cents a yard! 

(Oh my... "great poly/cotton blends"...who'd of ever thunk those words would come out of my mouth!)

The fabric must be stretched onto a hoop, and it is recommended that you use a hoop that has some sort of non-slip "locking" ridge inside of it. I did take that piece of advice, and although I was promised that the fabric would stay perfectly snug once in the hoop, 
I still have had to re-adjust the tension at times. 

The design is worked from the backside, (in other words the back of the cloth is what is facing upward in the hoop.) In the photo above you can see the running stitches that were made as well as the punch needle tool inserted into the fabric. This is the backside of the work. Notice that there are no knots. The thread tails are simply cut off close to the fabric. They basically are held in place from the weave closing in around them, but fabric glue can be used on the back of the work if one is worried about them coming loose.

Here is my second attempt at punch needle. This time I only sketched the perimeter of the piece onto the fabric, working the inside in an improv manner. I used a variety of 80/2 perle cotton threads that I previously was using in my handwoven work. The look of the piece was inspired by old hooked rugs... the kind someone's grandma might have done using up left over bits of cloth. 
I worked the piece from the outside perimeter inwards and the wonkiness of the inner part was something that just happened organically.

I'm going to digress for a moment here...
Speaking of handwoven, I haven't done any in a long time as unfortunately tying the warp threads very tight, as one must do, was immensely painful on my hands... and speaking of hand pain, I am THRILLED to say that the punch needle is not aggravating the pain, so YAY!!!! 
I was concerned about it, but the woman who sold me the supplies told me she also had arthritis but had no problems with this particular needle craft. 
So, anyone missing hand work due to hand pain... this might just be your ticket!

One of the things that I love about this form of embroidery is how easy it is to add random bits of color here and their. Very suitable to working in an improvised manner.

Here is my third piece. For this one I did mark a simple geometric outline onto the cloth, and filled it all in with many different colored yarns, again, in an improve manner. 

Here's a shot of the various colored yarns that went into the piece. (Forgive the quality of some of the process photos. They were taken on my Android and I just pulled them off my Instagram feed.) You can see again the fabric in the hoop, the punch needle tool, as well as the back of the work. 
This piece was worked on another type of osanaburg cloth, which had a more open weave, 
so I backed it with some interfacing for more stability. 
(The interfacing did make it stiffer to punch through, so for me, it isn't an ideal way.)

Finished pieces can be framed or mounted onto some sort of background. Or not. For my three pieces I simply cut away the excess fabric, leaving an inch or so, which I then pressed to the backside. I then  hand stitched another piece of fabric to the backside, turning in the raw edges. Two hanging hoops were sewn onto the back using some twill bias tape the local fabric store was literally giving away, (I now have a huge stash of various colors and sizes!) Then I inserted a little flat wood dowel. 
If later I, or someone else, choose to mount or frame a piece that I finished this way, 
the dowel can simply be removed.

The final piece is very sturdy and the dowel is simply place over a small nail. 
Simple, and clean.. I like it!

Even though this is relatively new for me, (save that long ago failed attempt back in the 70's) Punch Needle itself is a very old craft originating back to the Ancient Egyptians, who apparently used thin, hollow bones from bird wings as their needles. The craft form continued through the Middle Ages and onwards throughout parts of Europe and eventually made it's way here via a group of Russian immigrants called "Old Believers" who were seeking refuge from religious persecution.

I'm looking forward to exploring this craft more, and hope that you will all stay tuned!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tiny Stitches


Completed this little stitched piece just a few days ago, which I named "Blue Barn with Red Poppy" (It sold within a few hours of posting it in my Etsy Shop, before I had a chance to show it here.)

This piece gives a definite nod and wink to Janet Bolton, whose work always delights, 
and inspires me when I wish to go really small. 
It only measures 6" x 6", so details are very important!

One might think that a small piece like this whips up quickly. On the contrary, as I have mentioned before... a very small piece like this needs to be worked slowly and thoughtfully. Not over burdened by heavy stitching or elements of any kind, 
I find that everything that does go into it needs to be intentional and deliberate.

Working this way is truly one of my favorites, as it makes me slow down and simply meditate on the bits of fabric I am working with and the small stitches I choose to make.
It is a calming and soothing way to work.

Hope to be doing more of these soon, 
but I have also just stumbled upon a new needlecraft obsession...
Will post about that very soon!
(If you are following me on Instagram, you are already seeing me post about it!)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Waiting for Spring

 Posts have been very sparse here on my blog, and I blame it on the winter! It's been so darn cold, that I just want to stay curled up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. While patiently waiting for Spring's arrival, (ok, not always so patiently) I have been stitching the whole while, but mostly little appliqu├ęd doodles and experimental ideas... nothing that really rocks my boat, (although I have posted a few little things over on Instagram if anyone is truly curious). 

Yup, all in all this winter has been one of quiet activity, lot's of thinking and wondering, but not much in terms of finished product. And that's ok, because I have faith that with the Spring thaw, more abundant creativity will come. If not, I've got a few choice words with a certain groundhog over all this prolonged cold and the effects it has on one's brain cells. 

The piece above is my latest pondering, which I actually did finish just today. It was the result of playing around with some new thoughts on construction methods. 
Hope to explore a bit more on this, but first I need another cup of hot tea!
Stay warm everyone, Spring will be here before we know it. 
(I hope, I hope, I hope!)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Quilted Beads and a Cross Quilt, too!

These past two weeks I have been revisiting some favorite paths. First I stitched up this newest Cross Quilt. I used some lovely "Aged Muslin Cloth" from Marcus Brothers, in varying shades of blues and grays, and quilted the piece in an all-over irregular grid pattern

My favorite part of this work are the little subtle bits and pieces of fabric, added here and there!

Next, I stitched up a few new sets of Quilted Fabric Beads...


It's been a while and I have really missed making these! 
My hands have been doing fairly well as of late, so I decided to give it a go...


This time around I used some pretty woven fabrics from India that I found at one of my local quilt shops. The weave is a bit more easy to needle then some of the quilting fabrics I previously used.


I love the results, but alas, after sewing a few batches, the hand pain is returning... of course I went at it like a mad dog, stitching up a bunch all at once, (I stitched more then twice as many as what I am showing here) and so I need to take a break again... and learn to pace myself! 

(Maybe the key is simply stitching one or two a week.) 
(Note to self: Need to work on moderation.) 
(Hey! That can be a New Year goal!)

And remember, if you want to try your hand at making your own quilted beads,  you can find my Quilted Fabric Bead PDF Tutorial Pattern in my Etsy shop.

Hope Everyone's New Year is off to a great start!
Happy Stitching!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hard Times and Tough Choices

2/11/15 UPDATE on the post below: I am happy to announce that Etsy has stepped up to the plate and will be handling the collecting and remittance of the VAT tax. While they, (Etsy) are still working out the final details of which I will be paying close attention to, they have given the ok to resume sales, so I am once again able to sell my PDF patterns to everyone. My apologies to anyone who was inconvenienced, and many thanks for your patience and understanding!

Hello Everyone. Over the last 24 hours I have been working hard  to catch up on the European Union VAT Tax laws, and how they will effect my sales of PDF patterns and how and where I sell them. If you are unaware of what all this VAT tax is, you are not alone... I was completely caught off guard until yesterday... very late to the party was I. Thankfully I started  to see posts and links on Instagram about this, including a well written one from Esch House Quilts. (You can read her well articulated post for a better idea of what I am talking about.) It's a confusing, but serious topic that is impacting the livelihoods of many independent sellers who sell electronic/digital files, such as myself. If you wish to delve into some of the discussions you can visit a bit of the raging debate on the Etsy blog, here.

As of now, here is where I find myself...

Due to changes concerning the European Union VAT Tax laws and how they apply to PDF patterns sold to European Union customers, and due to the limited options currently provided through Etsy and Paypal including ability to control what, who and where I can sell to, I am at this time regrettably being put into the position of only selling to US customers. It is with a sad heart that I do this, and I wish to thank my very wonderful international customers for all of their past support. Please know that I will be keeping an eye on these new laws and any new developing solutions that will work for both myself and my international customers, including the possibility of no longer selling PDF patterns on Etsy and only selling them on platforms, such as Payhip, that will handle the collection and the payment of all VAT taxes. (Something Etsy should be doing but at this time isn't.)

Keep in mind, some of the "solutions" at this time, may be but a mere bandaid, as there is talk of more countries following a similar path, as well of word that come 2016, the EU will expand this law to ALL items sold to residents of the EU. So, if small independent sellers and businesses are to survive, the platforms that are supposedly in place to support independent seller's efforts, need to step up to the plate and deal with these issues in a responsible and legitimate way, or we will all be going out of business, including you Etsy.

While these new laws take effect January 1st 2015, I will be completing all necessary changes to my shop sometime tomorrow. Again, my deepest apologies to my international customers. Hoping effective and workable solutions come soon.

My very best wishes to you and all of us for a happy, health, peaceful and prosperous New Year. xo