Bent-pole Structures!

One of the things I did this summer was work down at the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, as I mentioned before. It was a blast on so many levels, and I just realized that I did help craft something amazingly huge! Two things, actually: bent-pole structures!

Bent-pole structures were often used by native peoples (and still used by some people around the world, let us not forget), so you might be thinking this goes more in line with my anthropology blog, and it does, but you’d be wrong to ignore such craftsmanship!

Behold, a domed structure. After a day of cutting and collecting saplings, it was put together in a single day by an average of maybe 4 people. It’s roomy and spacious, and I hope to one day build one in my garden, planted with some woody vines (next year perhaps, if I can find enough trees!). Super cool, amiright? The cattail matts were added to it during the event, as it was part of the cattail demonstration. But this thing is strong enough for 4+ adults to be standing on it during construction, without fear at all of damaging it.

bent-pole structures

We also built this rectangular bent-pole structure, also in a day, despite only having an average of 3 people. Though shaped differently, they have roughly the same floor space and height. We only put on a small sample of roof thatching just to give a sense of what it might look like once complete. I think the dome one would be stronger over time (and looks cooler), but it is a little more challenging to create. Should I ever make one, you can bet on finding out about it here!

bent-pole structures

These were part of two demonstration booths at an event called Living Archaeology Weekend. If you are ever in the area during Kentucky’s archaeology month of September, be sure to check it out! I had an absolutely tremendous time there.

Sue Spargo’s Textured Embroidery Craftsy Class

You might recall that I signed up for two Craftsy courses earlier this year. Today, I present to you my first finished project, from Embroidering Texture and Dimension from Sue Spargo which is a lesson in textured embroidery.

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

I ordered her fabric kit but could not justify spending an equal amount on the threads (once I become “pro”, I won’t mind spending for upgrades!). Instead, I used what I have left of a starter pack of cheap stuff Boy bought me many moons ago. Honestly, that wasn’t a terrible idea – most of the colors worked well and were chunky enough to stand out from the felt. Shrug.

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

My first challenge with this course is that the course itself was not what I expected. I am new to Craftsy and did not understand two important things: 1) that the cost of the class does not include supplies (this was a “DUH!” moment, considering how cheap the courses are), and 2) more related to the class itself, I had expected a step-by-step guide of how to replicate one of her pieces. What she offers is the inspiration to go at it yourself, explaining how she chooses combinations of colors and textures, and she does show you step-by-step on some stitching. In the end, that method of teaching is more valuable as it teaches you critical thinking skills on how to pull something together with your own imagination, but until I realized that, I was uncomfortable!

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

But my second (and largest) challenge was that my imagination is picky. Though I do enjoy looking at Sue’s bold and vivid work and I relish in her texturizing, overall it is not my personal style. I am not a fan of butterflies, and I felt very uncomfortable having so many “clashing” colors in the fabric kit without explicit directions of how to put them together so that they look as great as Sue’s. And toss that in with no step-by-step, use-these-stitches-together guide and I found myself squarely outside of my comfort zone. For a while I was frustrated (not with the class – with myself!); ya’ll know me: I generally whip out projects as fast as I can (sometimes too fast!) because I have clear ideas of the final product. This? Not so much. I didn’t even know what I was going to do with it once I got it done because I just sort of kind of hated the whole thing (no offense, Sue!)! Give me color combinations I swoon over, or shapes I collect in my mind’s inspiration vault, and I’ll go to town with ideas! But this… this was a challenge, for sure.

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

I figured a good inspriation would be to order Sue’s Creative Stitching book and make a small practice sampler of them. It probably helped, but honestly I am not quite sure how to explain that, somehow, it all did eventually come together. I cut out all the felt butterflies, and then continued to hold off working on the project. I finally added the cotton appliqué to them, and then sat on it. I began figuring out the background embellishments and was able to finally begin stitching on that. But then once the background of soft oranges was completed, guess what? It was shelved once again. Finally, I made the bold move to Just Make.

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

The background was the easiest part. I just had to keep things in the same general color family and hue. Here are just a few things I worked on for that: bullion knots couching twine as a border; small seed beads arranged around the edge of a micro-fiber cloth (found object from some tech item, I’m sure); and finally colonial knots anchoring ric rac along a pinked strip of felt as well as colonial knots decorating printed fabric, attached with the buttonhole stitch. Other stitches for the background were simply quilting (running stitch) and backstitch on cotton, varying sizes of Algierian eye stitch on cotton, flystitch outlining cotton, seed stitch on velvet, couched yarn along a piece of upholstery fabric, and ladder herringbone stitch along a ribbon with variegated thread. Look for them in the close-ups of butterflies below! I had a lot of fun experimenting with textured embroidery.

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Adding the stitches to the butterflies seemed daunting at first but really once I started, the process just went. I stopped stressing over it – the idea was to learn, and surely I was doing just that! I will list a few, if not all, key stitches used in the individual butterflies below each photo. All the bodies were outlined in outline stitch, stem stitch for the antennae, topped off with colonial knots. (Note: I did not keep a record as I made each one, so it is entirely possible I have some mismarked!) The effects of the textured embroidery really make the pillow come together.

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Stem Stitch, Whipped Woven Circle, Crested Chain, ZigZag Chain Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Buttonhole Scallop, Stem Stitch, Back Stitch, Bullion Rose, and what I call “reversed” Blanket Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Stab Stitch, Colonial Knot, Outline Stitch, Pekinese Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Double Laced Running Stitch, Scroll Stitch, Colonial Knots, Split Stitch, Straight Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Italian Knotted Border, Colonial Knots, Straight Stitch, Scroll Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Colonial Knots, Straight Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Straight Stitch, Bullion Knot, Back Stitch, Chain Stitch, Stem Stitch, Crested Chain Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Closed Fly Stitch, Staight Stitch, Coral Stitch, Split Stitch, Woven Wheel Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Split Stitch, Scroll Stitch, Seed Stitch, Blanket Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Triple Chain Stitch, Detached Chain Stitch, Chain Stitch, Straight Stitch, Stem Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Woven Circle Stitch, Straight Stitch, Palestrina Knot, Chain Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Chain Stitch, Colonial Knot, Bullion Knot, Coral Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Colonial Knot, Straight Stitch, Split Stitch, Pearl Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Bullion Rose, Colonial Knot, Stab Stitch, Chain Stitch, Buttonhole Scallop Stitch, Straight Stitch

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

Double Whipped Chain Stitch, Colonial Knot, Stem Stitch, Straight Stitch

Some stitches were much easier than others, and some took a lot of work. Many people who have seen the pillow ask how much time it took. I estimate, based on the number of Netflix shows I watched, that each butterfly took about 2 hours to embroider (not to cut out, and not to appliqué). The rest of it was done in piecemeal throughout much of the year, so it is hard to really know, but I would hazard a guess of maybe 60 hours, give or take. Cutting, ironing, planning, seam-ripping, youtubing/reading for instructions, and so on – maybe I should hazard a higher guess, huh?

And once I realized my new window seat just had a boring white pillow, I checked the measurements of the panel and realized that with a little top and bottom border (reclaimed from fancy faux suede napkins), I’d have a pillow case. Tada!

Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow Textured embroidery (Sue Spargo) - butterfly pillow

A huge thank you to Sue for her textured embroidery course!

Quilt Guild Mug Rug

I attended a free class at the county library hosted by a local quilt guild, Heritage Quilters (very similar to the one put on by my embroidery guild). Some of the embroidery guild members are also members of that guild, and I had been interested in seeing what they have to offer so it was a good time to do that! Plus, my neighbor (Boy’s stepmom) is a newish quilter so I knew she would enjoy meeting the ladies.

We were given a small kit that included safety/pins and needles (a quilting, between, and crewel), a thimble, “light and dark” fabrics, batting, thread, a slip of felt (for stashing the pointy bits), and a chance to win some mini-scissors (alas, neither of us won).

It was a very basic introduction to quilting and sewing in general so I knew most of it already but that bothered me none. I was more interested in learning about the guild anyway. But I did learn a thing or two! I can now make a quilter’s knot (previously, I did the lick-the-end-of-the-thread, loop-around-finger-and-twirl method which sometimes leaves quite bulky knots!). I had tried to do this a while back but hadn’t realized that I was pointing the thread in the wrong direction (which results confoundingly in no knot!). Google it – there are a lot of resources to show you what I am talking about. I must still practice popping it through the fabric though, as I tend to yank it all the way through and back out again. Boo.

We couldn’t stick around to finish our little mug rugs, but I whipped mine up today. It is not my best work by any stretch (especially the sad binding!), but I did learn some technique in planning. It was suggested to “stitch in the ditch” between each fabric, “straight stitch” across the corners of the “dark” fabric, and then quilt a shape in the “light” fabric. I can’t help but embroider sometimes, as before I even realized what I was doing, I had embroidered a red flower with whipped stem stitch. Oh well!

And I had been talking to my MIL about embroidery projects; she said that back when she was really into it for a stretch, it was quite common to date pieces (and even sign them with initials) but that she doesn’t see many people doing it today. I know I think it’s rad to see photos of old embroidery with stitches like 1874 or something. That’s probably the anthropological side of me, sweeting on the history of objects. So, I dated this one!

And totally unrelated, but if I ever got to name a quilt guild, I think I would name it Quild. Just sayin’. (And maybe Embroguild? It could work…)