Blackwork Discovered


Before you think, what a terrible job of framing, it’s not framed yet, but still in the Q-Snap.  Last year, I rekindled my interest in Cross Stitch, and that soon led to Blackwork. If you’re not familiar with Blackwork, take a look here, or Google “Blackwork embroidery”. Although the name comes from the fact that long ago, it was stitched with only black thread, today’s Blackwork is vastly different.

I loved the uniformity of it, it’s relationship to Cross Stitch, and all the intricate “diaper”  (or filler) patterns.  Curious as to why the stitching within a section was called a diaper pattern, I found this definition:   

    Definition of diaper

  1.  1:  a fabric with a distinctive pattern:a :  a rich silk fabricb :  a soft usually white      linen or cotton fabric used for tablecloths or towels

  2. 2:  an allover pattern consisting of one or more small repeated units of design (as geometric figures) connecting with one another or growing out of one another with continuously flowing or straight lines.

Examples of diaper patterns:diaper-patterns

I happened on Blackwork Journey, Elizabeth Almond’s site, and could not believe the fabulous pieces I saw there.  Imagine my delight to find she had oodles and oodles of free patterns I could try.

Never one to start out small, I discovered she was soon hosting a new Stitch a Long (SAL) called Pandora’s Box.  I joined it, and the photo at the top of this post is the result!  This was a case of where the “the journey is as enjoyable as the destination”, as I thoroughly enjoyed the creation of the piece.  Now to get it framed.

Next Blackwork related post will be on the SAL just started!


December CQJP – You Light Up My Life

The last CQJP block design, that of December, came easy for me.  How could you have a Journal Crazy Quilt without December’s block being about Christmas?  However, Christmas is rather low key in Cactus Gardens without any family there.  And even though we are not with them at Christmas, the family is much in our thoughts.

I decided to design a Christmas tree with the family portraits as the ornaments.

A couple of years ago, I designed a paper pieced pine tree for a quilting project.  With some small modifications, it would become the basic pattern for the tree.

Original pattern, set on diagonal:

pine tree

After modifying:

pine tree2_edited4

I had decided to use a tatted angel for the top of the tree, so there had to be another background strip added at the top to provide room.  I chose 3 different green prints for the tree itself, and a lighter green print as a background.


In order to incorporate my white-on-white fabric common to all the blocks, I added two packages under the tree.  The embroidery stitches for the month (TAST) were Knotted Cable Chain, Berry Stitch, and Buttonhole Eyelet.

I used the first as red garlands on the tree, and the others as as the bows on the packages. 

After finding an appropriate photo for each family member, I cropped them into circles using Photoshop Elements, then grouped them together and printed them on Tailor Print ‘n’ Press Transfer paper.

family photos

It took a while to appliqué each of the photos, but I was pleased with the block when finished.

You Light Up My Life (December)

All of the blocks for 2013 CQJP are now complete.  I’m not sure how I will set them together, or whether they will become a wallhanging or a quilt for the bed.  I have thoroughly enjoyed both the CQJP and TAST challenges, and have learned a lot from each.  This is a photo of the blocks together, pinned to a green covered bulletin board in our rec hall.  Keep in mind, they were designed to be 3 columns wide by 4 rows tall.  The bulletin board’s size would not permit me to display them that way.

2013-03-05 - AZ, Yuma - Cactus Gardens Quilt and Art Show -001

November CQJP – Best Loved Tales

As I thought over all the many activities we had engaged in throughout November, I realized it was going to be very hard to choose just a few to highlight for my monthly CQJP block.

I help keep our small RV park library organized by sorting and shelving books.  As the main librarian had not arrived yet, I spent quite a few of my spare hours in November working there.  It occurred to me that I had seen quilt tops portraying book shelves, why not create a bookshelf for my block, with each book representing a different activity.

I love computer graphic design, so this became one of my favorite blocks to design.  Here is a screenshot of some of the early planning on MS Publisher.

bookcase planningI searched online for texture images, and used a different one for each book spine.

texture6 texture7 texture11 texture15 

bookcase planning2

Once I had decided on all the book titles, and laid out the books, I had to decide how to incorporate the TAST stitches for the month, and a piece of tatting.  The tatting was easy, as a book worm came to mind.  For the stitches, the Open Base Needlewoven Picot just had to become leaves, so a potted plant would grace a shelf.  The other stitches, Arrowhead stitch, Portuguese Border Stitch, and Magic Chain Stitch became bookmarks, stitched on separate ribbons.

The final planning screen looked like this:

bookcase planning3

In order to create the fabric block, I first found some fabric with a wood grain like print.  I decided it would be too hard to appliqué the books individually, so I decided to print each shelf on Tailor Print ‘n’ Press Transfer paper, then machine pieced the block with strips of the wood grain fabric.  The flower pot was cut of the white on white material common to each block.  I really liked shaping the plant from the Open Base Woven Picot stitch.

P1310745To make the bookmarks, I cut short lengths of ribbon, stitched with the embroidery stitches, then sewed them to blank book spines at the top with a drop of fabric glue at the bottom of the bookmarks.


The bookworm is simple tatted rings

Best Loved Tales (November)

And here is the finished block, Best Loved Tales, with titles such as Autumn in the Desert,Thanksgiving Dinner Shared with Friends, New Friends, etc :

Best Loved Tales (November)

October CQJP – Yuma Sunrise

October brought us “home” to Yuma.  In 2007 we sold our place in the country in southern Indiana to live fulltime in an RV.  Our family is beginning to scatter, but many members are still in Indiana.  However, we’ve now spent 7 winters in Yuma, AZ, so it has begun to feel like home as well.

Yuma is a city of contrasts.  RV parks sit next to commercial establishments which exist side by side with the lettuce fields.  Yuma probably grows more lettuce than any other state.

2006-03-02 - AZ, Yuma - Lettuce Fieldsb 

The area is low desert, elevation of 200 feet above sea level, yet is bordered by the foothills to the east.

Sunrises and Sunsets can be beautiful. 

2006-03-04 -1- AZ, Yuma - Cactus Gardens - Sunrise  2007-02-11 AZ, Yuma - Sunset

Often at sunrise, you’ll spot hot air balloons in the sky.

I wanted to portray both the foothills and the lettuce fields in my quilt block.  I decided to include hot air balloons as well.

First task, sometimes my hardest, was to choose fabrics.2012 October block (2)

I had thought to do a landscape pattern including the foothills and lettuce fields, but when I began laying it out, there were just too many colors when I included the different shades of green.   I decided to use desert and sunrise colors, but to lay a patch portraying a vintage postcard on top of the block. 

This would be a way to show the lettuce fields with a “Welcome Back to Yuma” theme as well.

Using Photoshop Elements, I created my postcard from two photos I had taken earlier, one of the lettuce fields and one of a sunrise (I used the colors of the sunrise to form the fill for the letters of “Yuma”.  I really enjoy playing with Photoshop.  Once I had the design, I lightened it to “age” it and printed it on Tailor Sew-In Colorfast Sheets

  AZ, Yuma - Lettuce Fields Vintage Postcard old look_edited-2

Here, I’m still choosing among colors and trying to decide how to create a sunrise effect.  I loved the patch with the cacti, but had a hard time deciding how to make it blend in with the other colors. 

2012 October Block-002

It was now time to design the balloons and decide on their placement.  The highway common to my “travel” blocks would come to an end with our arrival in Yuma.

2012 October block-001 (2)

At this point, the colors did not seem to be working well together, and my idea of a sunrise was not coming together.  Trying to decide what I could do to make the fabric colors blend together better, I finally went to the fabric shop and purchased a very sheer apricot organza.  I overlaid it for the top portion of the block, trying to simulate the hazy glow that appears just at the moment of sunrise.  This seemed to be the element I needed to make the block work.  I stitched down the fabrics to the backing.  Here it has not been trimmed at the top yet.

2012 October Block

I wanted to include my white-on-white fabric common to all my blocks, so I cut the balloon fabric from it.  For the baskets, I used cream colored Aida cross stitch fabric.  The TAST stitches for the month would create the design on the balloons.  They were Buttonhole Wheel Cups (balloon on left), Closed Base Needlewoven Picot (Balloon center), Italian Border Stitch, Knotted Loop Stitch (both on right balloon), and Beaded Hedebo Stitch (baskets).

October balloonstatted hummingbird for October One more element left to include…some tatting.  After quite a bit of thought, I decided to create a hummingbird.  There are always a few flitting around in our park.  A few beads created it’s luminescent wing.  A little bit of glitter paint created sunrays on the organza.

Finally, Yuma Sunrise was complete.

Yuma Sunrise (October)

September CQJP – The Best Roads Traveled

In September, we began the journey west for the autumn/winter season.  We stopped to visit friends, Allura and Lynn in Kansas, joined friends Bernice (also a CQJP and TAST participator) and Hoyt in Oklahoma, and then Bernice and Hoyt traveled with us to join friends, Rusty and Lovetta in New Mexico.  It was a great way to end our summer of travel, so I decided to dedicate the block to the idea, “The Best Roads Traveled Are Those Leading Back to Friends”.

I hadn’t really done a traditional Crazy Quilt block for the project, so that became my pattern.  Here’s a pictorial record of the block construction:

September Block -001

I chose royal blue and cranberry as my colors for the block.

I folded the patches and played with them until I liked the layout.

September Block -001b

Bernice has a sewing machine with an embroidery feature, so she offered to stitch the names for me.

I printed the phrase on Tailor Sew-In Colorfast Sheets.  It was to be my focal point.  I added a border to it, and started with it in the center of the muslin backing.

September Block -002

Using a stitch and flip method, I began adding the patches.  Most of the edges could be stitched by machine, but a few angled sides had to be blindstitched down after sewing the block.

September Block -003September Block -004September Block -005September Block -006 September block -007 September block -008 After the block was stitched and trimmed, it was time to add the tatting and TAST stitches.  In keeping with the floral design of the patches, I used one of the embroidery stitches of the month, the Drizzle stitch to form a flower with a button center.  This was an unusual stitch, and not one I’m likely to use again.

drizzle stitch     

The remaining stitches, sheaf, pistil and knotted buttonhole, I stitched as highlights for the names.

For the tatting accents, I created hearts and flowers from different patterns.

hearts and flowers1 hearts and flowers2

All that was left was to add the highway running through the block.

Best Roads Traveled (September)

While in Oklahoma and New Mexico, we hiked in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Reserve and  in the El Morro National Monument.  To read the posts about those locations, see our travel blog, Wichita Mountains and El Morro.

August CQJP – On the Road Through the Northeast

We continued on with our trip into the Northeast.  After finishing the drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we continued up along the Skyline Parkway through the Shenandoah National Park.  As we would be covering so many miles through several states, I decided to show our progress on the CQJP block as a map with the highlights pictured.

Using my Delorme Street Atlas and Photoshop, I created the map.

August Map for block The photos are as follows:

Virginia – Skyline Drive;  New York – Country Music Park (where we square danced);  New York – Niagara Falls;  Ohio – Lake Erie; Indiana – Auburn Automobile Museum.

To read about our travels, check our travel blog posts, beginning with the Shenandoah National Park – Skyline Drive, and then continue by  clicking on “newer post”  below each post.

I printed the map on Tailor Print ‘n’ Press Transfer paper and transferred it to cloth.  In order not to detract from the  map with a busy pattern, I chose a simple log cabin design using warm and cool colors from nature.  Once I had several solids chosen, I cut them into inch strips and laid them out in a log cabin design.

2012-10-02- CQJP - September Block Planning 2012-10-02- CQJP - September Block Planning-001

The map was bordered with the white-on-white print common to all of my blocks in the set.


Then the highway that has been running through the travel block was sewn in with the first seams.


The August TAST stitches were Algerian Eye, Cast On Stitch, Linked Double Stitch, and Pekinese Stitch.  I worked each one along the bands of color, mirroring each on the opposite corner.  For my tatting this month, I added 5 butterflies from different patterns.August in the Northeast (August)

July TAST and CQJP – in September

Yes, that’s right…  my July block is finished, and I’m only 2 months behind now.   🙂   If you not interested in all the details, you’ll find the photo of the block at the bottom of this post.

If you are a follower of my travel blog, Traveling Dancers, you know that we traveled in the east all summer.  (I’m also behind about a month with posts to it as well).  I didn’t spend as much time on my crafts as usual.

Picture2 Before we left for our summer journey, we had Christmas in July with our family in Indiana.  Had a great time.  My CQJP is meant to be a journal of my year, so Christmas in July had to be a part of the block.  I found the pattern, Tatted Christmas Tree on the Be-Stitched website.  I added red, white and blue beads.  This is the tree on my blocking board.

Now the big job was to design my quilt block.  We traveled the full length of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, during July and the first of August.  The beautiful mountain scenery had to be my focus.

I started with a photo of the mountains.  This is screenshot of the photo inserted into MSPublisher.

photo in Publisher

Next, using the freeform line tool, I sketched over the mountain ranges.  I drew a square box, and moved it over the sketch until I found the section I wanted to portray in the block.

line drawing over photo

Deleting the photo, I was left with this line drawing for a pattern.

pattern for block

Needing a full size 12.5” pattern, I cropped the drawing into quarters and printed each separately.

drawing a    drawing b

drawing c    drawing d

I taped the four prints together, then traced each segment (reversed) of the pattern onto freezer paper.  I ironed each onto my chosen fabrics allowing 1/4” appliqué seam at the top of each and making sure the bottoms would overlap.

Starting with the top piece, I added each part of the block, appliqueing just the top of each, and then removing the freezer paper.  Leaving the paper gave me an edge to turn under the fabric against, helping to shape the curves.  After the appliquéing was finished, this was my block.


While traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the stops we enjoyed most was at Mabry Mill.  The site contains a reconstructed pioneer village around the original mill.  The view is so iconic, some states have actually stolen the image for their own advertising.

While there, we purchased a bag of freshly ground grits, one of Ron’s favorite foods.

P1250793I noticed the bag was  made of cotton, as  the flour sacks of the early twentieth century.  I thought it would be fun to include it in my block.  After ripping the seams, I colortested it and found that it didn’t fade.  I then cut a rectangle from the front of the bag.


This became the focal point of my block.   Running behind the patch is the “highway” I have used in my months of travel this summer.

Then, using Picasa, I took 4 photos from the month, and gave them an old Polaroid look.  Using Publisher, I added a script font to each to resemble someone having labeled them by hand.  I then reversed the images and printed the photos on Tailor Print ‘n’ Press Transfer paper.  I wanted this as opposed to the printable fabric, as you can get a glossy look to the transfers, making them look more like real photos.


The photos were scattered randomly along the edges of the Mabry Mill patch and appliquéd.  A white on white fabric has been the common factor to all my CQJP blocks.  I cut a circle from it and used it as a background for the tatted Christmas tree.

Finally, I was ready for July’s TAST stitches.  The first, Bonnet Stitch, I used to outline the Mabry Mill section.  I really liked working this stitch.


I also really like the Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch.  I used it along the edges of the “Polaroids” and the Oyster Stitch (which I don’t like) on each corner.


Finally, the Palestrina stitch was used to create a red, white and blue border around the circle containing the tatted Christmas Tree.  To make it tri-colored, I threaded 3 needles with the threads, then took the stitches alternately.


The four stitches are also portrayed in my sampler sections for this month:

P1290472 pussywillow Oyster Stitch … Pussy Willow catkins are one of the first harbingers of spring.  Bringing a few branches inside always makes the lingering winter days pass quicker.

NM Up and Down Button Hole … although a stitch given in July, by the time I stitched this section, it was September and we were hiking at El Morro, NM.  The stitch seemed perfect to me to stitch  the New Mexico flag symbol.  It is a sun symbol used by the Zia, an ancient Native American people.

wreathI had problems visualizing the Bonnet Stitch in some way related to nature, until I came up with the idea of an evergreen wreath.  And what better way to portray it than with the red, white and blue of our July Christmas?

cosmos2 The Basque Stitch forms the colorful Cosmos, one of the easiest summer blooming annuals to grow in the Northwest.

And finally, July is finished, only a little over 2 months late.  Here is the finished block, “Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway”.