A couple of weeks ago I posted an in-progress shot of a bit of crewel embroidery I was working on. Here’s a wee photo to remember it by:
Well, I’ve finished it. And in a fit of creative energy, I didn’t just finish it: I turned it into something usable.
I had started this with the intention of possibly giving it away in an exchange I’m participating in on Flickr (I was waiting for some zippers to come in the mail before making the thing my partner actually requested), in which case it was going to be a needle-book. Well, the zippers arrived and I didn’t mangle them whilst installing them into some pouches (I’d never used zippers before, and they were less horrible to work with than I’d imagined, except for that first bit of sewing up near the zipper pull, where even my zipper foot doesn’t get in very close to the zip), so I had this spare bit of embroidery and I had to decide if I was just going to hoop it and hang it or to go on with the needle-book idea. Obviously I went with the needle-book, largely because I can use one. I have random needles all over the place. There’s one (with a very long filament thread in it) tucked into a book on my bookshelf. There was one stabbed into the mattress near the foot of my bed (which I can’t find now! and it was an enormous needle!). There were three in the edge of my ironing board. And, well, I needed a single place to put all those loose needles that came from I don’t know where and always seem to end up in strange, strange places. A needle-book made sense.
Before I show the rest of the needle-book, though, I want to talk a little about the embroidery. The embroidery on the front is done using Appleton Crewel wool, but unlike typical crewelwork, has obviously not been worked on linen or cotton/linen twill. I used quilting cotton, which I stabilized with a layer of fairly heavy interfacing. (I don’t know what it was – just something I had laying around for no apparent reason, but which I probably bought for something I never quite got around to and then just forgot about.) I haven’t done a lot of crewel embroidery, but everything I’ve done prior to this was done on linen and my cotton/interfacing solution seemed to work out pretty similarly. It felt the same stitching and the wool thinned down at approximately the same speed it seems to when I work with linen. (One of the annoying things about crewel embroidery is how thin the yarn gets from pulling it through a heavy material like linen. Annoying because I always want to cut my yarn lengths longer but can’t because it’s just a waste of wool once it thins down too much to continue using.) I liked being able to use a more colourful and interesting background than typical linen (which, yes, comes in many colours, but is not the same), so it was a good experiment.
The pattern itself comes from Katherine Shaughnessy of Wool and Hoop fame. As far as I’m aware, this pattern isn’t in either of her books (I have The New Crewel: Exquisite Designs in Contemporary Embroidery, but not New Crewel: The Motif Collection), but it is available for free at Makezine. If you open the PDF (linked at the bottom of the article) you’ll see I used the second version, but adapted it just a little for my own purposes.
Obviously I changed the colour to rainbowify it, though I could only figure out a way to squeeze in six colours. I probably could have done seven, if I’d changed that central spider web a little, but it worked out all right because I didn’t have two worthwhile purples to use anyway (nothing in the zone of an indigo at all). And I changed that central spider-web anyway: I’d tried doing it with just a French knot in the centre, as in the original pattern, but it didn’t have enough impact, so I did several rounds in purple before starting in on the blue. The green and yellow got two rows of stitches (worked in my favourite, the split stitch) in a lot of places so that it would have more impact, and I added the second row of orange petals to fill it all in just a little. I didn’t draw them on, just winged it as I stitched, and they are… varying in quality as far as their roundness goes, but I like what they added to that circle of the rainbow.
For the needle-book itself, I didn’t follow a pattern. I looked at several on-line and thought about what I’d like in one, and figured out my own method. I don’t have a photograph, but it buttons closed on the back (with a red button that matches the one on the interior) since I didn’t want the clasp to interfere with the pattern on the front.
The left-hand side has two pockets. The smaller red pocket was built specifically to hold a little packet of Needle ID cards from Access Commodities. The larger pocket has no specific intended use, but since I put in a button/loop to keep things in place, I think it’ll be a great place to keep small scissors, since they’ll be less likely to fall out and get lost.
The felt is actually bamboo felt, which I buy from TaDaa Studio Felt. I find it softer than regular felt, although I don’t know how it stands up in quality. It looks as good as typical wool felt, but I do have a square of really amazing Scottish wool felt that’s about twice as thick as the felt you normally find and is unbelievably lovely. (That’s intended for another needle-book project of mine, which you can see a little of here, but I’m stuck on that project – I keep having to pick out the second bird and I’m scared of ruining the linen if I mess it up again. I’m taking a break.)
The right-hand side has just the one large pocket, which is where I plan to store booklets of needles. The pocket was constructed of some fabric scraps and an embroidered patch I’d bought from someone I used to know on-line. Jenny Henkelman used to have a shop on Etsy, once upon a time, where she sold necklaces made of buttons and some really cute patches she’d embroidered. It’s been years since she closed the shop and I never did find out if she’s selling elsewhere. Anyway: the robot is her work. I had recently found this patch (and a second one of a kid in a snowsuit) in a box that I’d packed up ages ago, and this seemed like an appropriate place to put it to use.
So that’s my needle-book. It’s probably a bit larger than standard, about 5.5-inches square, and was completed on 29 August 2012.
Now to collect all my spare needles and get them in there.