03 September 2011

My world of needlecraft

I began my lifetime affair with needlework 22 years ago when an acquiantance introduced me to Needlecraft in Gosford, New South Wales and I ordered my first tapestry canvas of a Geisha girl. Six months and numerous hours of stitching later, I accomplished my first project.

For 21 years the Geisha girl hung proudly in all the homes I lived in. She has been reframed three times, each time to reflect my changing tastes and perhaps maturity. The final frame has a Japanese influence which suits it much better. Today, Geisha is resting in storage whilst I live abroad.

Truly inspired it did not take me long to find the next project. With red as my favorite colour you can imagine that I couldn't resist the Spanish dancers Rodriguez and Carmen. Stitching Carmen's dress was so much fun. With each stitch sewn the red, orange and yellow were weaving a most wonderful kaleidoscope of colour. The monotonous background colour was certaily the least fun and took a while to get through. It was difficult to maintain momentum but persistence and a desire to see them completed was sufficient to keep me going.

Both are approximately 19 years old and for at least the last 16 years they have been waiting for classier framing. One day it will happen.

For my 21st birthday my aunty from Italy sent me a tapestry canvas with wild horses in pastel colours. Having just completed three tapestries in very bright colours, I found the Wild Horses a bit boring. It sat in my cupboard for a year before I decided it was time to undertake the project and off I went.

What I did not anticipate was the length of time it would take to complete. Given that I could only work at nights and the colours blended together under yellow light, I found the project difficult and at times frustrating. Eventually I realised I had to pen mark the outline for each colour so I could work more quickly and efficiently. Once I completed the easy colours such as the black and browns, I started taking it with me on the train during the day. An hourly train ride to work each way under natural light eventually helped with finishing the tapestry.

It took me five years to complete but I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome and whilst I never intended to keep it, for 13 years it hung in my house until its recent storage.

About half way through I desperately needed a break from the pastel colours and completed a small tapestry with red roses on a black background. It was just what I needed to freshen me up and return to the Wild Horses.

Several other tapestry projects were made over the years as gifts and unfortunately have no record of them but at some point I switched to cross-stitch. Now any cross-stitcher out there would know that one must be committed, have great vision, an eye for detail and the patience to count and recount the chart, the stitch placement and the quantity of stitches. Where tapestry is easy because the image is printed on the canvas, counted cross stitch is another kettle of fish. I will leave the cross-stitch tales for another blog.

So fast forward to 2010, several cross-stitches later and a desperate desire for an easy project. In my brilliance, I chose a Seaside Cottage with thatched roof and cottage garden for my Aunty's birthday. A timeframe of eight weeks seemed reasonable and I placed the order with Fox Collection not realising that the project would have a bumpy start.

I prefer cotton floss over wool when working on tapestries (except for cushions due to wearability). So to my dismay when I received the canvas, I had the listing for Anchor wool. I use DMC floss. So imagine my attempt to convert Anchor wool to Anchor floss to then convert Anchor floss to DMC floss. I searched and searched on the net for conversion charts and came across a few but once converted nothing matched or worked.

In the end I picked up my own collection of DMC floss and matched it myself. It was a great way to use up some of my excess threads and with trepidation I soldiered on and hoped it would work out just fine. The outcome was a pleasant surprise, particularly since I finished it with two weeks to spare.

I have touched on many different crafts: jewellery making, photography, latch hook, paper tole, scrapbooking, however, tapestry and cross-stitch remain my true constants.  Needlework gives me peace and quietens my mind, whilst accomplishing an end result.