Saturday, September 22, 2012

Overthinking things, and all I know about Tambour embroidery so far

I over-think things sometimes, and I know I over-think, I over research, I overplan, and as a result I most certainly over-think  Today I thought I had one example of over-thinking, but when I sat down to blog ... I realized that there were at least two overthunk projects to report. First up is my over-thunk knitting, I made a start on my modified Tempest, using the Contiguous top down method, and because of the overthinking I am about to make a second start. Second is progress on the Pirate socks, I am turning corners - or as it is a sock, the heel. Lastly is a Tambour update - or sort of info sub-page, what I know now that I didn't know before, and that might be useful to someone out there looking. If you have come for a brief summary of Tambour resources on the net --- that information begins after the knitting content.

Knitting and overthinking, well last thursday I cast on for my top down contiguous cardigan in the style of Tempest. I had a gauge swatch and the instructions and diligently worked out how many to cast on. cast on, looked at the number of stitches. I decided the cast on edge was too short, so added a few stitches, then frogged and added more. Then frogged and added even more, thinking about how the neck band would take up some of the edge so the cast on needed to be longer. Finally last night, when I had worked 4 or five cm's  and saw the shoulder sam developing, I  realised how huge the back neck edge saw the light and rethought my cast on numbers.
I found a favorite cardigan, a Nom*d Momma Jack, one of the few cardigans I have that has a shoulder seam. Measured it has exactly the measurements I started with when I was planning my tempest! So I'm setting aside the amended start and starting again with strict instructions to myself not to overthink this time.

Little cubs Pirate sock is doing well, I'm half way through the heel flap, worked as per the first in a k1s1 offset pattern. Dividing my time between several knit projects means that each seems to grow even more slowly, I may have to manage my time so one is finished soon just so I have that buzz of finishing something.

Tambour, this is a specialized form of needlework, worked using a hooked needle. When done the work looks like a stitched chain. Chain stitch can be worked many ways, the most usual seems to be with a short length of thread threaded through a needle and stitched. Tambour stitching looks the same but is worked from a spool of thread, so long unbroken lengths of thread, with a hooked needle, and on fabric stretched tight across a hoop or frame. Little cub pointed out tambour is a like a row of knitting stitches, and it is, and I guess the free form of tambur is crochet, worked with a hooked needle and no fabric support, instead the chain stitches become the fabric. Way back in 2009 I took a weekend workshop with Katya, from, and learned the basics (blogged here). Since then I have  Tamboured off and on as the mood to improve takes me, each return to practice seems to leave me a little more able to work the stitches without snagging fabric or fingers.

Here is my last practice piece, worked on a scrap of blue woolen fabric.  I planned to continue to work and improve my chain stitch, no beads just yet. I wanted to practice working an even and neat chain stitch and placing the stitches next to each other to make a fill pattern. I also had a play with different threads, and with working corners or changes in direction. I read about working back over a chain with a zig-zag pattern, and tried that on the last ring of the work. I find working the smallest curves next to each other hardest - they pull away even when I think I have the needle right next to the previous line of chain.

As with everything, part of learning new techniques is a parallel search for information online and in books. I found several sites online that are useful for building up knowledge and skills, and thought it might  be a good idea to list them here.  This is the second example of over-thinking in this post, where I am pulling together all sorts of information from all sorts of different sources to help me build a picture of what Tambour is like, and how it can be done. So for those who came for the knitting, now is a good time to stop, no need to read to the end, for those who came for some Tambour information read on.

take care
na Stella

Sub-heading - most of what I have found out online about Tambour Embroidery as of September 2012 (updated Sept 2013). 

First up Tambour work is known by a several different names around the world. In France the name Luneville seems to be the most common, and there is a famous emboidery firm/school the House of Lesage, said to provide much of the couture beading and embroidery for design firms.
This seems to be the best beginner video tutorial online, from Bob Haven, a teacher trained at Lesage. Bob has several videos online, and all seem valuable, he even provides  a large scale serries of photos showing really clearly the way the chain stitch works.

In India the term Zari is used, and the embroidery worked with a hook that looks more like a tiny crochet hook in metal and is called an aari needle. The Aari needle is different to a Luneville and Tambour styles where the hooked needle is held in a handle and able to be removed and changed. Zari embroidery is explained in a serries of Youtube videos by Expert Village, here. The commentary is a fairly broad, without too many detailed hints, but if you watch closely there is a huge amount of technique that can be learned around how to make the stitches work, especially when working Satin type stitches. Watching the Expert Village Zari embroiderers I learned that to work corners, and turns and satin stitch I need to place two or more tiny stitches to before changing the direction I stitch in. this is just one of seventeen videos on show demonstrating the technique by ExpertVillage.

I've been seeing all sorts of methods and techniques as I have been looking around for free-online information on Tambour and other similar methods. I switched out the blue woolen fabric for some finer white cotton and tried some other stitch arrangements. I used a thicker white DMC cotton, denier 25, and a finer yellow Mettler cotton denier 40. I tried different hook sizes and finally settled on a 90 or 100 for using with these threads. The 100 leaves a punch hole, the 90 sometimes snags ... long term I suspect I will improve my technique and be able to consistently use a finner hook/needle. I especially like the statin stitch worked over a few close rows of chain stitch, the result is like a fancy braid. I also tried following a light pencil line as a guide, first with a word, and then with the flower and the paisley shapes. I bought some fine Batiste cotton, and the next stage might be to decide on pattern and see how I go with working to it. As I was working this little cub has been very interested, enough to try, but she abandoned it as too-tricky for now. Interestingly she noted the similarity between the chains in this work and those of knitting, she said that I hadn't knitted the middle of some of the shapes yet. I like that,  and part of me is wondering how I can develop a design that links the knitting to the tambour work.

One of the differences between Western Tambour /Luneville embroidery technique and Indian technique seems to be in how beads are included in the work. In Tambour and Luneville the beads or sequins are attached on the underneath side of the work, opposite to where the chain stitch is formed. In Zari work the beads or sequins are attached to the uppermost side of the fabric, where the chain stitch is worked. In the Bob Haven video above you can see how he is placing a bead under each stitch as he works, in Zari work the bead(s) or sequin(s) are placed on the hook as shown in this video. There are lots of other videos showing beading this way, some with dozens of beads or sequins stacked up the needle ready to be worked, some in which the worker picks up one bead at at time like in this video.

Tambour embroidery is called other things in other places, Mary Corbert's site has a post by Margot that  lists even more variations on names
Tambour embroidery is known by many names: Carrickmacross (Ireland), Limerick (Ireland; there is also a needle version of this lace), Coggeshall (England), Lier (Belgium), Lunéville (France), and there are probably many more whose names I've forgotten.

Tambour work seems to be worked on a huge variety of fabrics, sheer organza for French Courture beading, both sheer and opaque fabrics for Zari work, on net or mesh as a form of lace, white-on-white as a form of texture work on cotton or linen, and on warm soft opaque wollen fabric in heavy stranded yarns to form warm shawls and wraps.

Tools, Supplies, Handles and Hooks -  I have at the moment found three sources, the most commonly referenced source of Tambour Handles and hooked needles is Lacis. Lacis also list 'vintage' hooked needles, from the UK and Germany.  There has to be other sources, I've found two more, several blog posts suggested that the Tambour handles from Brodely are a shape, finish and balance,  that is nicer to use. I can't say myself (yet), I've ordered a handle in Violetwood and a smaller handle in Ebony, something about the fact that there is a choice of wood and sizes seems to offer a more technical choice than Lacis. Update - I received Handles from Brodely and they are lovely, imho nicer than the Lacis ones but that may be just having a choice of wood. I do like how there are two sizes, which means the hook is held more centered with the handle, the hook in  my lacis handle tends  to lean at an angle due to the tightening screw pushing it out of alignment. Broderly have a wider range of hook sizes.  Lacis do also list several latched needles, which some sites and videos class as Tambour hooks. Brodely seems a good source for PomPoms (!) of sequins, if you are feeling like a little bling, they have sequins as small as 3m in flat and cupped. And yes apparently a loop of sequins is officially labelled as a PomPom, that just makes me want to buy a PomPom or two if only I could decide what colour, size, finish and what on earth to do with it. the third source is here, where the handle and hooked needle is called a Beavais or Luneville Hook and listed as 'for beginner'. I have one of these on the way as well  and will update and post reviews when all the hooks arrive. This hook is inexpesive plastic and the hook is set permanently into the handle, perhaps a good choice for teaching, as the hook is a bit mellower, less of a sharp snag than the Lacis and Brodely hooks, but not as nice to own.   I do have to say that shipping across the world, from Europe to New Zealand was good value, at Euro 6, flat rate from both sources, no matter what I put in my cart (yes I put a lot of pompoms in and then took them out just to see what the shipping would be). Ages ago I was sent a link to beautiful hand turned Tambour hooks, and I am currently searching my email archives to locate the source (Suzanne if you remember I'd love to update this sources list). There are of course vintage hooks on Ebay, some are more like a Aari hook, in the hook is fixed into the handle, others are simply stunning but out of my league (sorry link will probably expire when the auction closes- I've linked to my Pinterest in the hope the hope the link continues to work).

Threads, well I've not found much online about threads, I have started a Pinterest Board, called Embroidery, where I've been clipping all sorts of images relevant to Tambour, Zari, and Luneville. There seems to be a variety of threads used, thicker ones for when the stitches are the feature, thinner ones for attaching beads and sequins. On one of my searches, I found Shirlee Fassell's blog, NeedleandHook, where she posted about identifying the thread that Lesage use. Madeira Number 30, and also a french source of Sequins. I had also been told that One-G thread is one of the better ones to use for tambour beading, as the thread is strong enough to take wear and tear from both the hook and the beads, and snags less. I've one spool from  a local crafter, but I'm sure you will find a stockest near you as there are lots for sale online.

Books, well as far as books go, many peoples 'go-to' books that are recommended are shown here, I've seen any of these in person so can't comment, except to say any book is usually better than no book, and it is not a common topic to find books on.  A long way to say, I'd pretty much buy any book that was affordable. There is a newish book out published by Lesage, in French but with apparently amazing photos, link to photo of page here. I'm trying not to buy it, along with Katya from, who is not helping me not buy it, as she suggests we share shipping on two, one each.

More info, there are other blogs out there that do a much better job of showing you the Tambour work they have done, especiallly when the authors have attended workshops by Bob Haven or at Lesage, blogs like EmbroideryAddict, and Stitching in the pursuit of happiness. Both blogs cover tambour work and what they are learning in more than one post, EmbroideryAddict posts go back several years, whilst Stitching in the Pursuit of happiness has only just attended two Tambour workshops there will be more to come. There are a whole host of bloggers  and posters out there to discover as well, in english as well as german and french, as a quick google search will show.

Update October 2013: searching YouTube for combinations of Zari, Aari, Maggam, satin stitch and filling stitch, or long and short stitch will lead to a number of videos  showing various technique, this one shows the satin stitch, and this one long & short stitch.
I was recommended the book - Emboidery with Beads by Angela Thompson, the images are dated but the chapter on Tambour contains some of the clearest instructions i have come across on how to start and finish tambour stitching - I have yet easily work the finish know - but understand how it works and with every attempt my working is improving. My copy was a less than $3 on Ebay. 
Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread site also has some fantastic information on Tambour work, and Mary is much more experienced at teaching embroidery than I.  

So sorry, this is a much a longer post than usual, but I felt the need to round up all I've been finding and learning, it at all it could be useful to others.
na Stella

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A new hat

One of the best things about being part of a group of knitters who met to explore techniques is sometimes I am introduced to projects that I would not have discovered on my own. This weeks finished project is a case in point, a hat in a magazine I have had for ages, but which I had not noticed. I suspect that this bat has been missed by many others as well, for when I started there were only four projects linked to the pattern on ravelry. Today there is the finished hat, and a gauge swatch which means plans are being made, and even some no-knitting content.

My new hat
My Viking cabled hat is done, this was an exercise in cables that begin in a purl background, starting with lifted increases. I liked the cable, and I loved the construction. First the head band is knit, and then joined, after that stitches are picked up for the crown, and slight increases worked, just for a few rows. Then the bulk of the hat is knit, which is rather long, five inches in addition to the band before decreasing. The long crown makes for a lovely slouch. Pattern Atle beret by Elizabeth Lavoid.

The crown is decreased at eight points, with pairs of decreases around two stitches. In the end my gauge came out at 6 stitches to the inch, and six cable repeats gives a nice fit on my 22 inch head. Knit measurements after blocking of course. Because photographing ones own head is a tad difficult, I enlisted younger cub as my hat model.

Swatch 3 mm needles 28 stitches in four inches
With the hat done, I felt the need to cast on a new project, and a local knitter, K, asked if I wanted to work Tempest as a KAL. We have had a few emails back and forth fine tuning the details, hers will be handspun, mine in fine possum merino silk. For a wee while we both considered Slanted Sleeven, but we would need to regauge, and I'm not up to that sort of calculation with a new method right now. My gauge is 28 stitches to four inches on 3 mm needles, fine but not to fine. The possum flooooffs up when washed, or in knitter speak 'blooms'. I might have mentioned before, I will be using Tempest as a guide, mostly for the shape and colour work, but constructing top down using the contiguous method developed by SusieM. I have a cone of this yarn in grey, and another in blue (I also have one in red but that is more vibrant than I want for this cardigan).

And another needle in my hand this week has been the tambour needle. Two students are wanting to bead parts of their garments and I felt a tad guilty at not being more practiced at this. Ages ago I decided to practice with just thread until I was comfortable with the technique, the add beads. I've played with different hook sizes, and thread types and even with using a fine vintage crochet hook just like is used in videos of Zari embroidery online. Each thread and hook combination teaches me something, and for now I am feeling in control, I plan to add beads to the ext piece. As for what this is - pure practice, nothing more as evidenced by my random corners. Turning crisp corners in tambour work is a knack I have yet to master ....any suggestions? My best guess is to shorten the stitch length near the corner just like in machine stitching a collar.Once I have the middle filled in and added more to the edges ... 'cause with practice more is better, I will switch out the fabric and play with beads.

take care

Na Stella

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I may have created a monster ....

Today, there is knitting, and knitting news, but mostly the post is about what I have been doing instead of knitting the past weekend. First up, I cast on a new project, not a new cardigan, but a hat. Saturday was knitters study group class and the 'study' was on cables that grew out of increases. I'm working Atle Beret by Elizabeth Lavold from March/April Piecework 2012. Little cub is working one to, hers will be a headband, mine a hat. She felt a headband would be more useful, and she probably is right.

Viking cable project
My yarn is handspun, blue with shades of warmer purples, a cabled yarn slightly Aran in weight. Beyond that I know nothing, I really should keep better yarn records - and thought I did.

Vintage pattern

Ages ago I bought this pattern, and little cub, Bear and I found fabric. I cut the pieces out and made a start, then lfe got busy(when is it not I ask?) and the mostly made dress hung around behind a bedroom door for weeks, months maybe. Last Sunday little cub had a playmate, elder cub had a rowing session, and I dug out the sewing machine, all the bits and pieces and settled in to finish the dress.

Monster ish

Here is little cub, proudly modeling the finished dress. After dropping her off at her playdate, Bear and I popped into town to buy suitable 'legs' for the dress, we thought brown. We found nothing in brown, fashion here seems dominated by black, grey, and pink. Bear did find the perfect orange.

Ladies have matching nails
We had a little fun once the dress was done, and worked on a manicure to match. Brown and orange with Mary quant style flowers on some nails. We even used vintage buttons to finish the belt.

A hat to finish things off

That was all well and good, but the next morning look what little cub emerged from her room with. She hastened to assure me she had not made it the night before when she should have been sleeping, but instead had set her alarm so she woke up early to finish it before breakfast. She has covered an Alice head band with ribbon and attached a felt flower from her craft kit.

I have the feeling that I may just be encouraging a monster. This is the same wee girl who complained that other people wore jeans and tee shirts to the Royal New Zealand Ballet, that they didn't dress up. She of course had her gold and black lurex dress, black and gold kitten heels, and a silver padded bomber jacket all bought second hand that morning for less than $10 at her insistence. The same girl who suggested many of her school mates really didn't take care when they dressed and just wore track pants to school not dresses. This girl is ten years old and already coordinates better than I do, and I suspect with more flare and drama. I might have created a monster, and I have no idea how she will handle the school uniform that is part of high school life in New Zealand.

Still - I can't help smile, and worry that perhaps maybe I am one of those mothers who dress their kids funny.

Take care - na Stella

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Socks mended ... Not much else going on

This week has been slow and fast all at once, Bear is away in Christchurch up-skilling and helping out. It's the two year anniversary of the first canterbury quake and he had mixed feelings about being there at all. Still, Bear, is a brave sort, and he is dealing with it. Meanwhile I finally stopped procrastinating about visiting my medic about my oddly stiff shoulder. Seems I have a frozen-shoulder, a sort of random thing that happens to people, mostly women in their forth and fifth decade. Exact cause is unknown, possibly damage or injury, the stiffness or 'freezing' is the body immobilizing the shoulder joint so healing can take place. Current medical opinion is that treatment could be steroid injection, therapy, massage, surgery and plain old time. Apparently latest news is that there is no significant difference in rate of improvement between all those treatments or the shoulder being left to heal on its own. Good news is that it's my left shoulder and I'm right handed. Bad news is there are three stages, and I have no idea which stage I am in and overall it could be somewhere between five months and three years. Optimistically I suspect I've had this for some time already and hope I am in the frozen or thawing stages.

In amidst all of that, I've been solo parenting, which is fine, usually I am the one who abandons the other parent, so seems fitting it is my turn. I've finished the sock repair. I nearly frogged the first sock top and reworked it to match the repaired sock ... then common sense kicked in and I realized that a repaired sock has value, and is fine as it is.

Cabled sock yarn
Then there is the spinning, after my last weekend of knitting marathon, I've felt the need to spin. I've finished and plied the sock yarn and I love the way it looks. There is 300m, and it is slightly thicker than commercial sock yarn but just fine. I am looking forward to seeing how this knits up and have a cunning plan to make these special socks for a particular person who has cold feet of one kind or another. Enough said, if I say more ... you know, I will have to kill something or change my mind about who the socks are for.

Lastly is the next project, Tempest from Knitty 2008. Modified, of course, in the round defiantly, maybe top down and possibly contiguous construction. I have three skeins of a wonderful blue faced leister sock weight yarn, in a red orange named Elizabeth Bennett. All I need to do is source enough of a second yarn, tonal rather than contrasty, and do the math, and swatch ... and

The list goes on ....Bear is back Friday, away again soon after that, knitting tomorrow night if the cubs are willing ....homework done and they don't wear me out.

Take care, na Stella

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sunday, September

September, when did that happen, it was only a a few days ago that August was beginning, and now we are in September. Today there isn't much to show, a new spinning project, and a mending project. There has been knitting, a few rounds knit and frogged on my pi shawl. The frogging was the price I paid for leaving it un-attended and then forgetting if the row I marked on the chart was the one I had just done, or the one I was to start with.

Plied singles
Here is the spinning, plied singles from a sock blend, pencil roving in Forest Mist by Vintage Purls. 75% super wash merino and 25% nylon. I spun the singles as fine as I could and with this pencil roving that feels very fine indeed.

Here is the centre pull ball of singles, I am plying two ply, one end from the centre and one from the outside. So far I spent all of last night plying, and only managed half the singles. Tonight I finally finished the second half. There are two reasons the plying took so long, first I will then ply this again on to itself, to make a four ply cabled yarn, and second - which I hope to be true, that I spun the singles fine enough that I might even approach something like a four ply sock yarn. That was one of my goals when I took up spinning, to spin sock weight yearn. Maybe I might be close with this fibre?

And mending, these socks, probably knit way back in 2008, and worn a lot since. Oddly the cuff has died, and the toes and socks are looking thick and intact, and just one cuff has died. I can't remember the yarn, either Regia or opal, I suspect Regia, but it has worn well. I do remember taking considerable time to get just the right gauge and stitch count so the printed yarn would work up into the pattern. As for the mend, seems the socks are toe up, with a fairly standard chain cast off at the cuff. My plan is to frog the cast off back past the wear and tear, find a suitable scrap of sock yarn, pick up the stitches and rework the cuff and cast off. The scraps from this sock are long gone, used up in my fish blanket.

So Sunday night there, time to go and knit .... or rather frog then knit the top of the socks. I thought mending was supposed to be a chore, but I am looking forward to seeing how the mend goes.

Na Stella