Crewel work owl

We have been so sick over here for nearly two weeks with bronchitis, sinus infections, and general respiratory misery. It would be a grand gift of time to work on my secret peerage scroll, but the meds make me loopy and shaky. Detail work being out, I decided to start another crewel project. I’ve got a couple of owl designs in the queue, so I popped one on some orange scrap linen.

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I’m still using the colors from the deer project, and I’m not sure about my color choices, particularly the green. The oranges are too close to the ground fabric to really shine. I think I’ll just use it to practice techniques and stitches for the real deal.

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I really like the seeding and chain stitches in the eye area. Lattice might be nice for the pupil, especially with the grid of chest feathers that it would echo. On the deer, I didn’t get experimental with the wide range of stitches traditional to crewel embroidery. Consistency can really make or break how good even simple things look, which I’m learning the hard way.

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The feathers are alright, but I got too many colors going. The outlines on the body feathers (above the tail in red, blue, and green) create the rhythm through the body, but only if the lines stay really straight and their widths consistent. Straight doesn’t blend well and gets awkward at angles. Stem is lumpy and ruins the angularity.

Complete: Modern Crewel Deer

Kevin came down with a cold in a major way while we were in Boston for him to have a job interview at a university there. While it was sad to spend a paid-for day in a great city we’ve never visited in our hotel room, it’s sadder still that he was contagious. Yuck. The upside to this is that it’s been the perfect opportunity to turn my dull brain and idle hands to finishing my entry into crewelwork. The deer got finished last night during a Sons of Anarchy marathon because I’m just that hardcore with my needlework. The colors are milder in person, but it’s squirrely to photograph… I guess I’ll frame it up and plan on having a collection of modern crewelwork to grace a bathroom or something.

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Crewel deer

20131016-185849.jpgI needed a no rules project. Every other thing I have my hands on involves stacks of research books from the library at UT, journal articles from all over the place, binders of examples and tutorials. There are complex stitches that require focus and good lighting. They’re going to be given as awards or put in to be judged in competitions.

A midnight stumbling upon a really cool site with great patterns I could download for only a buck sealed the deal. I was going to do some crewel work that I could frame.

Modern crewel embroidery has been whispering my name for a while now. I have a few pounds of superb cobweb weight wool yarn that’s undyed and waiting to become anything other than a monstrous knitted lace project. Some got dyed with cochineal, turmeric, wildflowers, and false saffron last fall. It’s too fine to weave with, so I’ve been thinking of over-dyeing it to create related and complex color palettes.

In the bottom bowl, the red and yellow to the left are my stater colors from last fall. In the top bowl, the pale purple color was dyed in the exhaust bath of the cochineal. The rest are over-dyed with washes of Kool-Aid or food dyes in a light vinegar solution. If you’ve never dyed wool with Kool-Aid, you really should because all you need is a Pyrex measuring cup, some Kool-Aid packets, and a microwave. This is the absolute best site ever for how to do it – and they give you like 136 different color combos you can get.

20131016-185918.jpgSo far, it’s turned out really well! I did have to go to eeeebil Walmart to find the blue flavor of Kool-Aid. For some reason, my Target only has pre-sweetened drops of the stuff, not the powder envelopes. DO NOT DYE with the sweetened Kool-Aid.

You just mix the stuff with water, put yarn that’s been soaking in water in, nuke it for a few minutes, and let it sit till it’s cooled to room temperature and the dye bath is clear. Rinse and let air dry. If you’re a control freak or a cheapskate, this is the secret skill for you! I saved a TON of money being able to do this, and I still have probably two pounds of yarn left, which is basically a lifetime supply if it’s going to be used for embroidery.

So! On to the part where I embroider things! Wool is pretty fantastic. It goes quickly, holds vibrant color, and looks so nice and full with not a lot of work. I love this deer, and I’m really excited to finish him up and get started on the beautiful and unusual owl patterns I downloaded from the same place.

This is Abraham, and he has been my faithful partner in dyeing all of this yarn (I think I’m up to 14 shades now?). Not even once has he gotten it confused for his ball and tried to make off with it.

I’ve been on and off the cusp of getting sick from wearing myself out, so Avi and I took a mandatory weekend of rest recently to hang out on the couch, learn about the wonders of embroidering with wool, and start watching the X-Files because neither of us have ever watched it. Here’s what I got done lazing around over the weekend and a couple of weeknights:

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