Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yeah, I can't draw.

I wasn’t originally planning a blog post about these earrings, but…well, it’s been a little while since I’ve posted something, and I’m inordinately proud of this design, so here goes!

In my continuing efforts to make bobbin lace more accessible to the masses, I decided to make some Valentine’s Day earrings. After all, if lace doesn’t go with Valentine’s day, I don’t know what does! While I was at my former desk job, I had a tendency to doodle little pictures of items I want to make. On my last day, I gathered up all the little notes on my desk that had as-yet-unrealized sketches and took them home with me. One was for some bobbin lace hearts.

Once I actually started trying to make the pricking for the hearts, I came to a grave realization: I can’t draw a heart. If I tried to make it symmetrical, it came out uneven. If I tried to make it asymmetrical and whimsical, it just looked weird (and got very complicated when drawing in the filling ground). I even tried drawing half a heart on my computer, then using digital magic to copy and mirror the other half. That didn’t look right, either. So I resorted to lessons learned in childhood: I folded a piece of paper in half, grabbed my scissors, and cut a heart. The first one seemed a little too big for an earring, so I cut it down a bit more.

After a few revisions, I held the paper prototype up to my ear and decided it looked about good. I then placed my little heart under some tracing paper, copied the outline, and drew another line for the other side of the braid. (I did that freehand, but it was much easier since I had a reference). Again, it took me about three attempts to get the dots for the filling ground marked and looking good. Once I had it the way I wanted it, I just cut out the section of tracing paper, taped it to a piece of file folder, and poked all the holes with a pin. (Yes, I’m just using a pin to prepare my prickings at the moment. I am planning to make a set of tools, including a proper pricker, a matching sewing hook, and maybe even a pin lifter if I can find a congenial jeweler to help me with that.)

This is the type of lace that cookie pillows were designed for. I pinned the pattern to the center of my circular pillow, and turned the pillow as I worked my way around the motif. I worked the first pair in pink, but didn’t take pictures. So the in-process pictures are of the second pair, which is red and white. Because of the small scale of the lace, I used Coats and Clark Cotton sewing thread. I used a simple but pretty four-pair braid for the outline, with extra twists at the outer pair. For the red and white hearts, I used white for the outer pair of the braid, red for the inner two passive pairs and the worker pair, and white for the ground. I found it easiest to hang in the filling pairs as I worked the braid, and added an extra twist of the worker pair at each pin that would later be used for anchoring the ground threads. This made sewing in and finishing much easier. The filling is a simple half-stitch ground (hs, pin, hs, tw, ).

This is the first pattern of this type that I have drafted from scratch, so I am quite pleased with it! I think I’ll try doing a similar pattern with rose ground, just because that is my favorite ground. I also need to dig through my stack of sticky-note sketches and find the one that I thought would be good for black hearts…
(Click the picture to see where you can get your own pair!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I don’t know, what color do YOU think it is?

A little while ago, I decided to join the Fiber Arts Street Team on Etsy. The main thing that interested me was their monthly challenges. I figured the challenges would be a good way to encourage myself to stretch a bit beyond my usual work. The January challenge this year is to make something in a color that is new to my shop. While I was brainstorming on this, I realized that I have always worked with solid colored thread. Not just thread, but even in my crocheting, I always used solid colored yarns. So I decided that for something different, I would use variegated thread for my challenge piece.

In crocheting, knitting, sewing, and other single-thread crafts, use of variegated yarn/thread results in blocks or sections of color that blend from one to the next. It is an interesting effect, although not one that has generally appealed to me—hence the fact I have never used it. However, bobbin lace is different. Since so many different threads are used, with most of them at different points in the color blend, I knew there wouldn’t be definable color sections. But I didn’t know how the lace would actually end up looking. I chose to work a bookmark, so that there would be plenty of chances for the threads to move around and the color changes to become evident. I worked it in embroidery floss (2 strands to reduce risk of breakage), DMC 4140. Because separating off strands for the lengths I needed is difficult, I decided to work the fans in half-stitch to eliminate the need for vastly longer threads on the worker pairs.

As I started, it was interesting to see that the first fan was predominately brown, and its opposite was predominately pink. As I continued through, the colors mixed more and color sections were not so well defined. I think I need to reevaluate the number of twists I use when working this design. Usually, when working in continuous half-stitch (the fans), the thread traveling across gets switched out every row. However, I noticed after a while that the same bobbin was always the one in that position—which isn’t good when you haven’t wound on enough thread for one to continuously weave back and forth! So I kept an eye on my bobbins. Whenever one seemed to be getting low, or I just felt like changing the colors in the fan, I’d add or drop a twist at the edge in order to ensure that the other bobbin in the pair was now the one travelling. I don’t know how obvious this is when looking at the lace, but at least I didn’t run out of thread and have to hang in any new bobbins!

Because the colors sort of remind me of milk chocolate and strawberry cream (and because of an entertaining thread on the Etsy forums which suggested that items with food names seem to get more attention), I’m calling this a Strawberry Chocolate Truffle bookmark. Yum.