Merry Christmas!

Our family Christmas tree:

It’s ribbon embroidery on chicken wire. Ours is twenty four years old – we replace any faded ribbons every year.

I always wonder why more folks don’t have embroidered Christmas trees. It’s such a fun project, and they don’t take up much floor space. Plus they’re easy to store.

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Castelo Branco Bird: Body

After troubleshooting the earlier problems with the project, I continued stitching away at the bird.

I think it’s looking great. Portuguese bird designs are so much fun. Here’s a close up of the bird body.

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Castelo Branco Bird: Difficulties

Well, folks, (previous project post to jog your memory) I started back on my Castelo Branco bird. There were some unfortunate mishaps. The lighter yellow to the right is earlier work. You can see the sudden color change where I started back up. I’m not sure what happened – did I pick up the wrong yellow? It’s definitely a possibility, because it’s been a while since I touched the project. Oops.

Since I already needed to fix the problem, I thought I’d begin again more carefully at the left, with two strands instead of three. I don’t know if it’s all the practice I’ve had stitching since last time, the change in the number of strands, or that I started using a thread conditioner (which I love), but it looks much, much better. So, that’s staying and the older work is going.

One last photo for the post, and then I’ll rip the right half out.

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Christmas Card

Look what I made!

It’s a Christmas card for some friends of mine. I’m pretty sure they don’t read my blog regularly so I’m posting even though I haven’t given it away yet. It’s worked in two strands of rayon (DMC satin floss) and silver thread on 32 count linen. I used thread conditioner to make the rayon easier to work with. It’s very, very, very shiny, but the weather is  cloudy so it’s hard to get a good picture of that.

The tree is worked in Castelo Branco stitch with the silver thread couched over it (I really, really like Castelo Branco stitch). The star is fly stitch. I’ll show you  some in-progress photos, so you can see how it’s done. Maybe you want to make one!

The next two photos show the first step of Castelo Branco stitch. See how there’s no stitching on the back (except for starting and ending threads)?


After you work enough of the first layer, you can start tying it down.


With the tree and star finished, all that’s left is adding tinsel (couched silver thread), and writing Merry Christmas across the base.

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One Hundred Birds: Part 3

Here is the final installment of photos of the “One Hundred Birds Adore the Phoenix” embroidery (see Part 1, Part 2). Plus I want to tell you a little more about Chinese embroidery.

To follow up on the translation of the writing in the embroidery, given in Part 2, I’d like to mention that including Chinese characters in artwork is very common. In classical Chinese art (in painting and other media as well!), the words inscribed are as important as the picture.  There is a very close interplay between the two.  Often the words are from a poem.

Now I’d like to discuss Chinese embroidery in particular. The characters for “embroidery” are “刺绣.” The first character, ci, means “thorn.” The left half of the second character, xiu, means silk.  So the two characters probably tell you about ancient Chinese embroidery: they used a thorn needle and silk thread.

One of my dad’s teachers spoke almost reverently of the great and ancient tradition of Chinese embroidery.   She especially recommends two-sided Chinese embroidery.  Current Chinese embroiderers greatly fear that this tradition is being lost as machine embroidery becomes ever more common.  She says the time to visit the embroidery studios is now while there are some still around.

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The Big Green: Part 2

Today we have a guest post from Laura (my mother), with further progress on The Big Green.

When last seen, The Big Green was mounted on a stretcher frame. Clearly the background appears stark and bare compared to the exuberance of the crocheted flowers. Goal: Fill in the empty spaces. Intermix crochet and embroidery. Make the background as interesting as the foreground.

Something at the top might be nice – certainly the space under the pink flower cluster on the right is empty and needs filling, as well as the left side under the goldfinch. The big blue delphiniums are not as prominent as they might be. Solutions to these concerns follow.

Seed stitch and fern stitch in a variety of greens enliven the dark flat green of the supporting material. The red crocheted flowers have chain stitch stems and leaves of floss.

I filled the background around all the crocheted flowers with interesting textured embroidery stitches (colonial knots, French knots, cross stitch, detached chain) and small flowers (straight stitch, detached chain, buttonhole)…

I embroidered flowers and leaves using the same acrylic yarn that the flowers are crocheted from. The pink is buttonhole in the outer ring, chain and straight stitches surrounding a green center of French knots. The leaves are outlined in stem stitch and filled with seed stitch.

Enough for today. There is more to come.

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Leaf Color Scheme Decision

Well, I thought over all y’all’s comments on my earlier post, Leaves for the Bluebird Floral. Here is the photo of the three sample leafs from before, just to remind you.

I concluded that the lower leaf really was too dark. I didn’t like the left leaf much, but I could have set up a better variation of it using those types of grey-green colors. I could also have tried out some olive green and brown leaves. However, I still liked the upper leaf best. It was inspired by the color scheme used in my Plas Teg Bellpull project.

In the end, I made my decision by thinking about what adjectives I would like people to use for my project. The emerald greens and blues in the top leaf are exuberant. I think with grey-greens or olive-greens I might be closer to elegant. That’s not a bad place to be at all! But I want this particular project to be exuberant. In fact, I think I will rename my version Bluebird Joy. How does that sound?

I liked the suggestion in the comments to vary the leaf colors, so they are not all identical. To this end, I selected three shades of emerald green and two shades of blue (the lightest green isn’t represented here). You can see that the leaf on the left swapped a blue for a green. With five colors available, I can create a range of interesting leaves while still maintaining continuity in design.

I also added another flower and started work on the stems. The knotty effect is the Portuguese stem stitch, which seemed perfect for working branches.

One last question – I have some faint dirty hoop marks to the side of the embroidery. I switched to my Q-snap frame now, but what do I do about the marks? Should I just try rinsing the edge of the fabric out before I go further? What does one do about a little bit of dirt?

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