Monday, July 8, 2013

My Michigan Find

I hope you all had a wonderful, safe 4th of July weekend.  Parades bring out so many emotions in me--excitement, looking . . .

I went to visit a friend at her new home in Michigan.  It was the first time in a while I was going on a true relaxing vacation, with no sites to see and no reason to hurry.  My friend is a fellow crafter--we have fond memories of making friendship bracelets as children, and knitting/crocheting while snarking at old Beverly Hills 90210 episodes as adults.  She knows about my growing interest in embroidery, so she advised me to check out a needlepoint store nearby.  Her mother had gone there to buy thread for a cross-stitch project.

While I am interested in picking up embroidery-related souvenirs on my travels, I was nervous about visiting a needlepoint store.  I do freehand/surface embroidery and counted cross-stitch, not needlepoint.  All of these are different crafts under the banner of "embroidery," since they all use a needle and thread on fabric; however, they are distinct crafts with their own techniques.  The best comparison I can make is that if surface embroidery is like drawing, then needlepoint is like painting--the stitches cover the entire canvas, and it uses thicker thread or yarn.  When I started looking into places to buy embroidery supplies, I discovered that there are entire stores devoted just to needlepoint.  They provide needlepoint patterns and thicker thread and yarn that will look the best for that craft.  There is nothing stopping me from just buying the thread for projects, but it seems odd to me that a store would focus solely on one technique.  To me, that's like a yarn store that focuses entirely on crochet while ignoring knitting.

I walked into the store, and it was filled with thread of all kinds--thick, thin, glittery, variegated.  I didn't know what to say when the owner asked me if I was interested in needlepoint.  Maybe someday, but I have a lot in my crafting basket now!  (I also feel awkward going into a small, one-person store without buying anything.)  I meandered over to the book case, thumbed through the selection . . . and came across a book that made my eyes pop out of my head.
Oh.  Dear.  G-d.
It was an entire book on bullion knots.  This is a type of elongated knotted stitch made by wrapping the yarn around the needle several times.  There are about seven steps involved.  The first time I stitched them was in the Dropcloth Original Sampler.  I was able to get the hang of it, but I made a bad color choice and they looked like . . . um . . . rat droppings.  You can see them on the lower right corner of the following picture.
Did my friend's rabbit confuse my sampler with his litter box?
I learned to like them more while working on my knotted stitch sampler, but I still wasn't terribly excited about a stitch that was in constant danger of looking like animal scat or maggots.  Just looking at the cover of this book was enough to change my mind and open up an entire world of stitching possibilities.  I had absolutely no idea that bullion knots could be used to make images of actual things.  Cute things.  

The owner told me that this book is only printed in Australia, and she bought a stack of them while she was traveling.  Luckily, the book was not a store copy and I bought it.  The book begins with detailed instructions on how to stitch basic bullion knots and common variations. Every step is accompanied by a color photograph, which is especially useful for showing how to make such a complicated stitch.
Instructions for the Classic Bullion Rose.  There are two more pages of steps after this.
The rest of the book shows how to use bullion knots to make pictures.  They specify the number of bullion knots, the thread colors to use, the placement of the knots, and the number of times to wrap the thread around the needle for each knot.  Some patterns also include embellishments made with other stitches, including feather stitch, couching, and even (gasp!) shadow work.  There are sections for fruits, toys, and Christmas decorations.  Because this is an Australian book, local animals receive special attention.
My favorite is the lounging kangaroo.  I like his style.
The section on flowers is especially beautiful.  It makes me want to buy delicate handkerchiefs so I can stitch dainty rose bouquets on them.
Oooooooooooh
The needlepoint shop had some other "A-Z" books.  I looked it up and it turns out that this is an entire series put out by Country Bumpkin Publishers in South Australia.  There are some books in the series about other crafts, but most of them are about specific embroidery techniques.  These include bead embroidery, crewel embroidery, goldwork, and smocking.  In addition to the titles listed on their website, I have found other out-of-print books on Amazon.  The company also publishes an embroidery magazine, Inspirations, and sponsors an international embroidery conference.

This is why I want to make a point of finding local embroidery spots when I travel.  I end up finding more ideas and resources, ensuring that this is a hobby where I can always find something new to hold my interest.  What cool craft experiences have you had while traveling?  And if you are traveling to Australia anytime soon . . . can I ask you a favor?

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