Winding up and what next?

February 16, 2009

Winding up

Winding up chicken scratch has been fun. I loved the round up post Sharon b did on the January Stitch Explorer. I thought I had been keeping up with all those participating. But I found some new participants and some posts from others that I’d not seen. 






What is next?

Sharon b’s February’s Stitch Explorer Challenge is the trellis stitch. If you haven’t joined in the challenge yet, why not try this stitch? As Sharon says, it adds texture. Please click on her link in this paragraph to learn more about the stitch and the SE challenge.

I learned this stitch last year after reading Jeanne‘s stitch study posts on the spiral trellis stitch. Jeanne recently finished a beautiful sampler using the spiral trellis stitch in three different spots, I think. It is well worth seeing as is her tutorial that Sharon mentions. Many thanks for teaching me, Jeanne.

The stitch fascinated me then and I did a few tests. But I didn’t do a lot of exploration at that time. I did have a lot of ideas about what I wanted to try…sometime.

One interesting thing I found out yesterday is that the chain stitch may be used as the base stitch. I found this information in Darlene O’Steen’s The Proper Stitch. Many thanks to Darlene for that book that has been so useful to me for a number of years now.

The reason I like the thought of using the chain stitch is that then there are two useful loops around the shape. The outside loop may provide a fininshed look to the edge with out additional stitching. Or it may be used for the start of additional shapes in the opposite direction. For instance, petals surrounding the center of a flower.

Improvements? always a questionable subject

February 12, 2009

If something states “new and improved” on the box, it’s always an open question in my mind. I’m no doubt mumbling, I see for myself. And just the case with my embroidery, I’m always questioning if I’m making improvements or not. Perhaps the boxes at the store should be labeled: Alert! Changes made. That’s the state of my embroidery today. I’m not sure everything was an improvement but changes have been made. I’ll let you judge the improvement angle for for yourself.

Here is a line from my previous post.


I only made a minor adjustment at first and did the peaks and valleys opposite of each other.


I thought it played up the check pattern better but I’d noticed that the only way to have the red stitching fall in the same colored square each time was to stitch it into the mid-value squares that would naturally accommodate the pattern.

I did that and changed the looping. this is one of my favorite changes. I see so many possibilities in it, both as a fill and a border.


Now remember this row? The area between the four petal flowers looked awkward to me.


I tried two ideas on this. I liked the first better than the second. I just didn’t know that until I tried it.


And the final one drawn from the last post for today’s post is below.


What did I think could be improved? The separation of the thread in the figure 8 looping. Would it be possible to eliminate the double looping by using a Perle 5? And then I got this additional idea that really changed things. What if I used a red double cross stitch rather than a boss stitch.


This reminded me of a snowflake and a stormy February day.

Improvement and improving

February 9, 2009

My chicken scratch samples from the past few days are needing improvement. I thought it would be fun to take some of those that didn’t turn out well and see what could be improved in the next few days.

Here are the samples.


This is one above is going to be my top target for improvement. The one below I’m not sure what to do with yet. I’d been wanting to try some dots in the middle of the squares for loops. This was my first try. Definitely room for improvement.


The little design below appeals to me but it has no spark. It may be the ground or … I just thought of an idea. I have to dig out the needle and thread and see how it works.


Back to borders again with this line below.  I’m out of my red perle 8. The substitute which is the thread I was using on the fabric above doesn’t seem sufficient for this blue check fabric or the white perle 5. But I like the basic border idea. And more could be done with that, too.


Next is the one attempted improvement in today’s post. It is a corner from the last post. I can see it working as a fill. Still not thrilled over the eights.  I think they may need to be reworked. It may be a place for my dot in the middle of the square. And scrapping the interweaving would help. 


The last one? I tried a new thought out on this. The wrap on the cross stitches is to carry the color more fully. I woke up having dreamed of a very simple improvement for this. I’ll have to see if it helps. The middle is made up of fly stitches and cross stitches top and bottom rows. The white squares in the middle don’t have cross stitches only intersecting fly stitch tails. Maybe I could change them to cross stitches and use a dot in the middle…



Loops around chicken scratch

February 4, 2009

I’m dreaming of loops around chicken scratch. In my dreams, they all look perfect. When I wake up some work and some don’t. I keep right on going and trying a few more. As you may notice despite the dreams, this is school girl mode with a couple of  stitches–rice, fly and reverse fly.


I threw in a couple of French knots but wished for beads. If the bead store had been open, I would have jumped in the car and been there.


Another corner a variation on the theme.


This one above still needs something. It may need to be more than a corner before I see whether it should live or die.


This one seems so plain in many ways. It could easily be beaded up. Perhaps I’ll wait until I can find red beads for the centers of the reverse fly stitches. Or three beads each for the center loops in the bottom and top rows. In its plainness, it survives as my favorite even in morning light.  


Stitches and chicken scratch

February 2, 2009

Neki Desu asked me a great question more than a few days ago. How she patiently puts up with me I never understand, but I’m thankful for it. If you aren’t familiar with her work please do swing by to see both her website and blog.

Her question was in response to reading this post about color and fly stitches. She wrote: hmm so you can practically use any stitch,  can’t you? 

I’m a break-or-bend-the-rules kind of person in so many ways when it comes to stitches and how to make them. So it seems like I should say yes. But I surprised myself and said, no. I don’t think all stitches can stand up to the tension lacing puts on them. And not all stitches provide places for loops in convenient places.
Playtime with chicken scratch in Sharon b‘s Stitch Explorer challenge is about half over and I still see more stitches I’d like to use in experiments. I’ve been keeping a little grid to the side of what I want to try. Of course, some I’ve already worked with, while others have not been put to the test yet.
Right now my thoughts are too limited. That why it is great to be working along with a whole group of stitchers.  Annet over at Fat Quarters posted a comment that took me skipping over to see what she’d done with stars. And it helped me solve the problem I was struggling with in my blue diamonds where I needed to make white loopings that contrasted with the red. Many thanks, Annet.
Please do run over to see the wonderful work Annet is doing with chicken scratch, if you haven’t already seen it. It is here, here and here.
Leslie at is doing great work with chicken scratch here. This is one of those pieces I look at and wish I could reach right out and touch, too. Great textures.
And Valerie did an intriguing piece that I love here.
Every time I mention some of the inspiring work I’ve see, I’m leaving out so much more so please do keep checking back with Sharon’s original post. And if you’re working with chicken scratch I hope you’ll post a comment there so we can find you. 

Hearts and color

January 29, 2009

Somehow the loops I started making with the hearts in the last post lead to more thoughts along the same line. My time is has been limited in the last few days. However, thankfully I’ve hit some wait points along the way. That allowed a little time for trying out some of those thoughts.


These loops remind me of little bows.


Two more hearts. I didn’t have any red perle 5 handy, so I tried doubling the perle 8–sadly not very skillfully.


In the areas with the white double cross stitches, I was able to try a more delicate looping in the red perle 8.


I’ve been mentioning that I’m planning to make color one of my study topics this year. Here are two links I found interesting in that regard.

The first in chicken scratch experiments.

Virginia at Luna’s Baublebilites did a post using a lovely vintage fabric and great experiments with chicken scratch in this post.

The second in regard to the broader subject itself.

Orna Willis at Ornamentshas just started a weekly series on color. Do please stop by to read the announcement and see what’s going on, if you haven’t already seen it.

Many thanks ladies!

And many thanks to all of those continuing with chicken scratch experiments. One I was particularly excited about was Mandie’s work with lettering in this post. Please keep checking back with Sharon b‘s original January Stitch Explorer’s post for more chicken scratch work. I’m so pleased with what I’m seeing popping up there as people add their comments with links. Here I’m passing over so many others that are excellent and have been inspiring to me, I’m thankful for everyone linking back to Sharon.

Corrections and hearts

January 26, 2009

Sorry to have been absent from the blog the last several days. My dad has been rather unsettled but things are looking up and he has some new things to try. In the meantime, I’ve done very little other than make some corrections to the chicken scratch posts. I think I’ve corrected all the references to eyelet stitches to double cross stitches now, but if you find any I missed please let me know.

Do you ever have dreams that wake you up knowing you have to fix or attend to something? That’s what happened to me on this. I knew the stitch but I was calling it by the wrong name in my all the posts. The dream was so startling that I woke and sat bolt upright, sure enough the dream was true. Please forgive me if I’ve caused you any confusion.

Just before this turn of events for my dad, I’d had the opportunity to go to a local fabric store. I was looking for material for chicken scratch. I wanted a slightly larger check than the charcoal and cream fabric provided and something that was substantial enough that it didn’t have to go into a hoop like the aqua gingham.

This is what I found.


I like the weave. This photo doesn’t pick it up entirely but there are two different weaves. It is most easily seen on the navy threads going vertically as opposed to those going horizontally. On the other side of the fabric there are very dark lines and very light lines so that the checked pattern is less pronounced.

Here is the chicken scratch that I tried.


I’d seen so many patterns with the chicken scratch squares being filled in to make heart shapes that it made me curious to see if it would work for the looping also.

And as you may notice I’m still using this to further some of my color study objectives for this year. I’m learning more about what makes chicken scratch work and so much of it revolves around color.

Giving chicken scratch butterfly wings

January 22, 2009

For some reason the contrasts between chicken and butterfly wings make me want to laugh. But doodling around with chicken scratch last night, I tried out butterfly wings. They may need more perfecting but here are two versions (upper left/ lower right). The others are just doodles.


As you may have noticed the lower row is trying out a pattern of two mirrored and one off set row of double cross stitches. I like the flower shape that came out of that.

Some other doodles.



A few experiments with arrow stitches and a couple of other thoughts.  Maybe you will pick out a triangle or tear drop shape. The stitches above the tear drop work like fly stitches tied down by a detached chain…I think…maybe not I might need to think that over…

The central valley is gray, wet and rainy today.

Color and fly stitches

January 20, 2009

To me one of the appealing things about chicken scratch on the traditional gingham is the way the stitching may void out some of the three color blocks. The minimum grid is four blocks, one block each of color # 1 and color # 2 and two mixed blocks 50% of each color. And colors can pop one way or another depending on the thread color and stitching pattern.

I had fun with this concept and working with the fly stitch rather than the traditional double cross stitch or cross stitch.


The sample above shows one third of the dark and three fifths of mixed blocks knocked out by the stitching in the five gingham rows of this pattern.  


Above, the stitching tends to knock out all the 50% blocks and leaves the extremes. In this case the cream and charcoal blocks. Now imagine what would happen if I used a black or white thread instead of the red. 

This next pattern with the cross stitches knocks out the dark blocks, cuts through the light blocks and preserves all the 50% blocks. What if I’d laced with a white thread and what if all the stitching was with the white thread? It is not only the change the stitching makes to the stitched squares but in contrast to the rest of the fabric. If you didn’t follow this link in Sharon’s Stitch Explorer post, Linda at Chole’s Place has an inspiring collection of chicken scratch photos that address this visually. Many thanks for making this collection and many others available to us, Linda.


And turning back to the fly stitch, where did the idea of using the fly stitch come from? It was from seeing the work of my friend, Anne Gailhbaud, with the heart shape in her chicken scratch. Many thanks Anne for helping me to see more possibilities. As someone wrote me in a comment, I love the metamorphosis from where we start to where we end up. Me, too.

And what inspiration I’m receiving from looking around at various blogs. I hope everyone interested will keep checking back on Sharon’s original Stitch Explorer post. There is such good and innovative work with chicken scratch out there to see right now. If you haven’t jumped in and tried it I hope you will.

Shifting gears

January 18, 2009

I was busily working my long cross samples when Sharon b‘s January Stitch Explorer post popped up. I knew I wanted to start learning and experimenting with chicken scratch. But for some reason, I kept stitching those long cross stitch samples and thinking about how I should be pulling out fabric for chicken scratch. And suddenly my mind engaged with my stitching. Why not try rice or boss stitches for cross stitches and double cross stitches. They give places for loops to slide through, too.

Here is the photo of where I shifted gears in my sampler and started running with the chicken scratch.


The photo below shows where I was trying various loops. And in the top area (right side of photo above) I have a grid prepared for testing more.



So many other ideas are popping into my mind, I must do more trials and see what happens.

Now I have saved the best for last.

My friend Anne Gailhbaud sent me an email with cheery, inspiring photos of her work with chicken scratch. Anne’s embroidery is so bright and full of good ideas. I love the beads added to these hearts. It is my joy that she shows me her work and increases it by giving me permission share these photos with others. If you aren’t familiar with her work please swing by her website where you may see a fuller range of the work she does.


A close up



Please do keep checking back with Sharon b’s post. As I’m finding more people working on this January challenge, it is so exciting. I love the energy of the ideas that are flowing from so many fellow stitchers.