Finished! And the Mysteries of Life.
16.5" x 9.5" Punch needle embroidery. The pattern is Green Mountain Gala, ©2022 to the Old Tattered Flag. They offer both a pattern and a pre-planned kit, but I opted for just the pattern and used my own color plan with variegated sock yarns and lace weight yarns in the UltraPunch medium needle set on #2. With 2 painted wooden buttons added. Isn't the pattern elegant? Julie Thomas from OTF is a genius designer.
I've done a zillion punch needle embroideries and truly love this one. Imagine my surprise when the foundation (an excellent quality weavers cloth from Old Tattered Flag) began to shred. I had this happen on another piece years ago and ended up patching and re-punching the shredded part with no problem--but on this piece, for some reason, I couldn't get the patch to hold and tried at least 6 different methods to re-punch with no luck. In the end I sewed on the 2 wooden buttons at the bottom of the piece to hide the shredded foundation. The only other option was to throw the piece out. Wow.
What a puzzle! All the rest of the piece went just fine. I do NOT attribute this to Old Tattered Flag's foundation as all their material is superb quality. And it only "went wrong" in those 2 small areas. I suspect that the yarn I was using--which worked fine everywhere else in the piece--might have had a thickness change at that point and caught in the needle. But I'll never know. One of life's mysteries.
A Wee Preview
There has been a change in my recovery rate this week and I'm starting to feel somewhat better. I just have to wait things out while my body heals. Probably one more month.
Not being a patient person, it ain't easy. I am still not getting much (any) drawing or tangling done, but I have been able to resume work on my punchneedle embroidery project. I'm beginning the outer border, so here is a preview of a tiny section. It'll take awhile to finish, so this is all I can show. This isn't the best photo but "good enough."
Total Textile Enjoyment
I've been working on this for months and finally finished it today. What fun this was to do, especially as it was one of the only art projects I could handle during my recent medical adventure. Thank you, E, for the permission you gave me to adapt your design.
19 1/4 x 9 1/4" punch needle embroidery, adapted, color planned, punched, and finished by me in 2022. I used a medium UltraPunch needle set on #2 and a wide variety of sock and fingering yarns (all wool) plus some crochet cotton and cotton floss. The design is copyright to Elizabeth Stagl, a good friend who designed and hooked this in other colors as a gorgeous rug at least a decade ago, based on art she'd seen on her travels in South Africa. Elizabeth kindly gave me permission to hook a copy of her rug and I first did this embroidery as a prototype. I'm now working on my own rug. The design is NOT available as a pattern so please respect the copyright.
A close-up. Someone has said that punch needle is "the only activity where repeated stabbing is legal and permissible." So true.
And of course, the repetitive action is totally meditative (but I must admit that stabbing action does feel good at times--ha.).
This still needs a bit of tweaking, as you can see from the close-up. I'll get to doing that later today.
Before you ask, "How long did it take to do that?" the answer is: I don't know. There were weeks/months when I wasn't well enough to work on it, and you can see yourself how many stitches go into this one small section, so multiply that by the total dimensions above. It doesn't matter. It's so much FUN!
Final Bits Before the Big Reveal.
...and yup! Here it comes. I'm closing in on the end of this piece. Today I spent time doing some re-punching (quite a bit, actually) and then trimming the edges, folding them over, and clipping them before doing the final hemming. Then it's a quick steaming and being sure to sign & label the piece, and I'm done.
This is a punchneedle embroidery version of what will be--in an entirely different color scheme--a larger hand-hooked rug. I wanted to punch a smaller version first to get to know the pattern. I began hooking the rug in early May, but all hooking has had to wait for 3 months until I'm recovered from my medical adventure. I am pleased with this mini-punch version, and as soon as I get it done, all shall be revealed.
Almost Good Enough to Eat.
Well not really good enough to eat, unless you enjoy a mouthful of wool?
This morning I went looking for some sock/fingering weight yarn for my next punch needle embroidery project and what should I happen upon but this hugely expensive, luscious-looking hand-dyed skein. I'll be building my next textile piece around the colors in this yarn. Plus a few other colors. Stay tuned. I hope to be back to full speed soon, with more rug hooking, rug punching, yarn dyeing, drawing, and who knows, perhaps even some beadwork.
I don't own undyed yarn in this weight, so I can't dye any myself. This gives me a great excuse to stand in the yarn store and drool over what other people create, and then buy some. Hey, anything to buy more yarn, right? I will file this under the inspirational category, Other People's Work. Gorgeous!
The Perfection of Imperfection
While I'd love to be moving full speed ahead into my former art activities, I can't. I can only do what I can do (isn't this always true?), so today I surprised myself by getting back into the old punch needle embroidery piece I was forced to abandon a bit over three months ago. And: YAY, I am well enough to do this. Finally. So I've been working on the border.
What you see above is unfinished. It'll need a lot of poking and trimming and filling in spaces before it's done, as well as a final hemming and steaming. It will never be perfect, as nothing hand-made can be perfect. But it will have "the perfection of imperfection," the irregularities all handwork has. There are so many parallels to our human lives--I don't even have to say them here; you already know what I'm saying.
The steady rhythmic punching is the ultimate in meditative motion. I find the work incredibly soothing and have missed it during my enforced rest.
It feels absolutely wonderful to be working on this again even though I'm nowhere near done. Perhaps within the next two weeks I can begin more frequent drawing and even rug hooking. A routine, non-serious medical issue forced me to give up all art projects. What a relief to be able to pick them up again.
Forced rest. What a concept!
Patching Things Up
While working on a different project (punch needle embroidery) I had a minor textile collapse when the foundation fabric shredded all the way through. Eeeeek! Although I knew what I had to do--patch it--I have been putting it off for days. I've never had to patch anything before and it was intimidating.
This morning, after a bit of tangling and a lot of meditation, I took on the task and as with many intimidating things, in actual practice it was easier than I thought. And I learned a lot.
Things I Learned:
No need to draw on the patch first, or to pin it in place. It can be done by "feel." I did lengthen the loop length by 1 (went up from a 2 to a 3). Go slowly, be prepared to back up a bit if needed. Check how it looks on the other side frequently. Afterwards, be ready to clean up well, and trim off the extra. Here are the steps (sorry I didn't take a "before" picture). Imagine a blank spot with no punching and holes in the fabric where the patch now sits:
Well of course as I was patching this up I was thinking of all the times I've screwed up in other life issues and had to try to make repairs. Oftentimes it's been quite successful. Occasionally, not.
Don't we all have to patch things up in relationships from time to time? Seems like the guidelines are the same: You cannot plan everything perfectly in advance, although you have to think things through. Then, you have to do it by "feel," going slowly and being prepared to back up occasionally. Checking frequently with the other person to see how it's going, and if it's successful (not always or immediately guaranteed), cleaning up afterwards by following through. Finally, it really helps to learn from our mistakes by analyzing what worked well and what we could have done differently.
If only we as humans could get better at patching things up. Especially in this very messy scary world right now. Someone once said, "Life is the art of drawing without an eraser." And yet--even with no eraser--it is often possible to keep going and turn a mess into an eventual triumph. Let us hope we can do that in the current situation. May we all treat each other with respect, compassion, and generosity.
If you're a runner, you'll certainly recognize what this refers to.
(The dime is just there to indicate the size of the piece)
I punched this with Valdani thread as a prototype for a friend who wants to learn to punch. This teeny piece is relevant to a project she is creating. Before I teach her, though, I needed to figure out the right tools to loan her. She will be punching many small pieces for her project and I wanted to make it as easy on her hands as possible. After a few hours of testing various threads and needles, I think I've got it worked out. A little textile mystery that was a very fun experiment.
Well shame on me--it took me weeks to get around to just putting a hem on this but I got it done today and it was extremely easy and quick. I don't know what took me so long. Nice to have this done at last. 9" x 20" hemmed.
This is what happens when I run out of black Micron 01s and still want to tangle. Spynes, which I tried for the first time yesterday, is a really fun tangle for experimentation--I couldn't resist this second try.
The Stone House Runner is nearly done; just the usual finishing steps left. Here it is:
One Stitch at a Time
And here it is, my current punchneedle embroidery project. You've seen the progress in the past few posts, from the beginnings to the middle and now it's about 2/3's done.
This is a relatively large project. It will be 9"x20" when completed.
Slowly but surely I am getting there; punch by punch by punch. There will be thousands of punches by the time I reach the end.
In meditation, we go breath by breath. I often think I was well prepared for meditation by the textile pieces I did as a teenager, so many years ago. Stitch by stitch, breath by breath. Cultivating an ability to stay with each moment, with each stitch. With each breath.
I have more done than this shows, but to make a better photo, I had to cut out some of the parts that are partly-done but mostly-undone. This is the Stone House Runner in progress (from The Old Tattered Flag, links in my previous post), a punchneedle embroidery pattern using cotton Valdani threads. I haven't cleaned this up in any way yet so it's still raggy-looking but it's coming along. It's also the reason I haven't been drawing--I've been obsessed with getting this underway.
It's a pure pleasure to be punching this piece.
(There are a lotta p's in that last sentence, eh?)
Another new project, with all the excitement of a new beginning. This piece is one I've had my eye on making for years, literally...it's called the Stone House Runner and it's also from Old Tattered Flag. Julie, one of the owners, is such a great designer. You can get this as a punch needle embroidery piece OR as a full-sized stunning rug design. At some point, despite wanting to focus on my own designs, I may also want to make this as a rug because it's so beautiful. Here you are just seeing a small part of the entire design. I've put off punching this for 5+ years and now is the time.
Beginning again with projects brings so much excitement. Unless, that is, I have to pull something out and totally re-do something (start over), in which case it can bring another emotion entirely, one that's less fun.
Still, I'm reminded of that most basic instruction in meditation: When the mind wanders, just notice that, and begin again. Without judgement. Oh yes, that's the hardest part: without judgement! Both in meditation and when re-doing a project at work or in a hobby or in art.
And yet, there is always, always something fresh and interesting when we start over/begin again. Always something to learn. As I practice this in both meditation and art, I get enormous pleasure from those learnings. Just as I am with this new piece. It's excitement AND contentment, all rolled into one.
The birds they sing at the break of day...'Start again,' I hear them say.
When It's Done But Not Finished
Why "done but not finished?" Because this is the piece that I'll be using to demonstrate finishing at the class I'm giving a couple of friends on punchneedle embroidery. The punching is done; the finishing will wait for the class.
If you look at this sample, there are some loose threads that have popped up on the front and need to be trimmed. That's one part of finishing a piece. On the back, which can't be seen here, there are many loose ends to trim. And there are two other major finishing techniques waiting to be done--I'll use this sample to demo at the class.
This pattern is GREAT for beginners--not only do you learn to punch, but there's some additional hand embroidery involved (the red petals on the echinacia flower), plus the border is punched using a deeper height on the needle, which gives newbies a chance to see what punching much longer loops will feel like. The design is simple enough for a beginner. This is the Old Tattered Flag's design called Under the Blooms. You can even buy it as a kit with all the threads required. Highly recommended if you want to learn punchneedle embroidery, or if you plan to teach it.
In just a few weeks I'm going to be teaching two good friends how to do punch needle embroidery. They are both ordering kits from The Old Tattered Flag in New York. One has ordered a kit called "Under the Blooms," so I am making up the kit in order to have an actual finished model for them to examine.
Here we have the start--the two crows under what will eventually be an echinacea plant. Since students always have a lot of questions about proper spacing and about frames, needles, threads, it'll be useful for them to have something real to inspect and should prompt even more questions. A very good thing. And I am enjoying the process as usual. This particular textile art is totally relaxing.
Hot off the punchneedle--this is a small piece (5"x15") I just finished last night and steamed this morning. It's ready for hemming. Every bit of the punching was enjoyable. The pattern is called Cupboard Flowers from The Old Tattered Flag, and I punched it in Valdani cotton thread, doubled, using an UltraPunch medium needle on a #2 setting.
Julie Thomas is such a good designer, and I deeply appreciate her creativity and color planning. Sometimes , in these stressful times, all one can do is sit down and do something simple, designed by a kind talented person who makes it easy to complete. Thank you, Julie.
Dutch Tulip Framed
Yay, here is my finished piece, matted and framed. I'm pleased.
To see the piece before framing, and read a bit more about it, see my November 21 post.
The Dutch Tulip
I do love punch needle embroidery. This is my wildly different interpretation of The Old Tattered Flag's Dutch Tulip Pattern. I needed to be doing something that was meditative during the last couple of weeks, and this fit the bill.
I have two partly-finished textile projects underway. One is the punch needle embroidery piece above (this is a partial photo of the edge of the piece--just a teaser). I'm liking it a lot.
The other is a rug. I'm getting pretty close to finishing the rug, but don't want to show it until it's done. There's quite a story behind it and I look forward to sharing that.
And I just finished punching a 16" square piece that will become a pillow. As soon as I get it into the pillow form, I'll reveal that one as well. Lots of textile work going on around here. Feels good.
Antique Coverlet, a pattern by The Old Tattered Flag. I did this in red and beige hand-dyed cotton last spring, and this spring I thought i'd try it again in brown and beige hand dyed wool, using an Ultra Punch needle, medium tip, set on 2. This was great fun and I'm still debating how best to display it.
To contrast this version to the previous version, click HERE.
Slow Progress But Progress
I'm working on two mammoth projects, neither of which is related to textiles or drawing. Alas. So not much artwork can be done for awhile. But I am sneaking in occasional minutes to do a little of each on the sly, and here is the progress of my textile work, a punch needle embroidery I've been working on.
This is a partial photo as only half of the center is done. I am truly missing my art work but I know I need to put my nose to the grindstone (where DID that expression come from?) and work at the other projects until they are done. Although I suspect I'll have the occasional jailbreak along the way, in rebellion.
I have managed to grab a few minutes here and there for some creative work, which feels wonderful. Not enough, however!
Here are some of the things that have been accumulating.
This is the result of a short voice-guided meditation class with Molly Hollibaugh of Zentangle®. She took us through three voice-guided tiles last Saturday in a two-hour workshop. This tile was the first one that we did. All of us heard the exact same verbal instructions, yet look at the mosaic below--it's always so interesting to see how people interpret things on their own.
On a totally other track, I am doing some punch needle embroidery and here is the progress on the piece so far. The entire piece is about 9"x9" and you can see the start of it in my previous post. It is very different than the one I did exactly a year ago (same piece, different colors and I did it in cotton last time; this is wool).
It feels so good to sneak in some creative work. Makes all the difference to me...
Ahhhhhh...I can feel a giant sigh of relief as I begin this 9"x9" piece on my punch needle frame. While I knit every night, and that in itself is calming, there is nothing like textile work--punch needle or traditional rug hooking--for relieving creative tension. A dilemma which had been building for days because of too many other obligations.
How is it that just the feel of cloth or thread moving through my hands brings such a sense of release and equanimity? It works like a charm for me and for so many other textile artists.
I did the same pattern last year in another colorway with cotton (Valdani) threads, but I know I'm going to prefer it this way, done in wool. What is it about wool? I love it.
Art has to do with the arrest of attention in the midst of distraction. (Saul Bellow)
The Secret Project
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I bought three t-shirts, each with a different design I absolutely adored. Each one was like a mandala to me.
[Ok, so it was actually only 2 1/2 hours' drive from here and only about 20 years ago. But I do love these t-shirts.]
Slowly but surely they are all starting to wear out. I got the idea to use the designs for a series of 3 punchneedle embroidery pieces (see the other two designs below), and have just completed the last of the trio. The designer, Rob McLellan, gave his t-shirt designs titles, and the title of this one is "Elksong." Many thanks to the folks at University Silkscreen for giving me permission to interpret these designs in my needlework. I'm really happy to finally be able to share what I've been working on all summer.
Below are the two previous works in my series, Midnight Pony and Redwing Blackbird. Rob McClellan was an artist who lived in Ohio in the late 20th century. He died in a car accident around 2005. A fascinating man, he was adopted by the Cheyenne Tribe and much of his art reflects that.
A Solstice Color Wheel
A HAPPY SUMMER SOLSTICE TO ALL
(in the northern hemisphere)
This was my way of celebrating the Solstice and our gorgeous weather. I took ten skeins of fingering-weight yarn, each ten ounces, and dyed around the color wheel using the Wooly Mason Jar Dyeing Technique. Below they look even better, dried and rolled into yarn cakes.
This is the first time I've ever dyed the entire color wheel in one go.
I was trying for variegated yarn, which I prefer. I didn't succeed with the three primary colors (check out the evenly-dyed red, yellow and blue skeins at one o'clock, five o'clock, and nine o'clock), but I adjusted my method and am very happy with the variegation in the other nine skeins. I'll be using this technique to dye for my punch needle embroidery work, and also for future rug hooking.
Thank you Lucy Richards! (originator of this technique) Lucy should be canonized for answering all my dumb questions up to this point. Unfortunately I'll undoubtedly be sending more dumb questions her way in the future. But what fun, and I think I've finally gotten the hang of this. It can only build my confidence for future dyeing adventures.
If you read the previous post titled "A Good Yarn With a Sad Story," you'll know that a few days ago a friend and I took a very confused-looking cone of wool yarn from WEBS, carefully turned it into skeins, and made it glamorous.
Well, I went back to WEBS for more of the Sad Story yarn, because there was just one cone of fingering-weight yarn that I knew would be perfect for punch needle embroidery. And if you didn't already believe me about the sign on the shelf, here is a photo of it:
Unbelievably, the cone that I bought was in even sadder shape than the cone my friend had bought last week. Here is my cone on the shelf as I saw it:
It was this very yarn that I turned into the color wheel above.
I know it's much happier now. Me too.
The sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with base notes, or dark lake with the treble.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society