Why follow directions?

To be honest, I almost always read and follow the directions. However, there are certain situations which require… straying from the printed page. For instance, recipes. The number of recipes I have followed to the letter on first try is incredibly small. My most recent stitching project was one such situation.

If we backtrack, you might remember that in 2009 I promised to not pick up any new hobbies. I was incredibly successful at this on paper. However, in February (only the second month of the year!), I discovered crewel. I wanted to try it. I must. I loved it. I could have rationalized that it’s really the same thing as embroidery, but I did not (fyi, crewel is really a subgenre of embroidery, since the same stitches are used, but the work is done with wool thread on linen, whereas embroidery is not picky about materials). I stuck to my guns and drooled over pictures on Flickr, watched eBay auctions (without bidding), and dreamed.

Well, it’s no longer 2009, is it? No, it’s not. So you can be sure that in January, to eBay I went, buying some crewel projects. I had learned that it is nearly impossible to buy crewel wool in stores, so I picked out some complete projects that included the stamped picture on linen and the necessary thread.

The first one I won was a lovely floral motif.

I paid $1.99 plus shipping for this baby. Love the eBay.

The picture on the auction was terrible (very pale and washed out), so I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting. Here’s a better view of the photo from the packaging:

Hrm. Purple, creams, and pale greens don't exactly match any decor in our house. It should be noted that the fabric that this came printed on looks nothing like what they used for this pillow.

What was a girl to do?

Well, this girl decided to hop online, find a store that sold crewel wool, and make some substitutions of her own. It was a bit tricky, figuring out what the colors actually looked like, since two of the stores I browsed had very different photos of the same exact colors, so I bought several versions of the colors I was looking for, and ended up with one of each that would work.

I had decided that the crewel needed to coordinate with the color scheme I’ve been using in the living room. It’s based on Joel Dewberry’s Deer Valley fabric line, and while lovely, I will be honest that these colors are ridiculously hard to find outside of these prints. That red? It’s just a bit more orangey than you might think. And that turquoise? No, it’s actually quite green. (The tans, creams and browns I have no complaints about. They’re lovely.) Sidenote: while shopping at Hancock Fabrics a few weeks ago, I found two lovely remnants of dupioni silk (again! the first time I found a 3-yard piece in chocolate) in this exact shade of turquoise/green. I guess that room can have curtains afterall. (Also to note: you can get dupioni silk for $3-7/yard on the Hancock remnants table. Since it retails for $14-$30+/yard, this is an exceptional deal. Don’t pass it up if you find it.)

Home Dec Collage 2
Fronts on tops, with the corresponding backs below them. You've seen these before, but I thought a photo was necessary to remind you. My favorite one is the front of small one in the upper right corner, even though it's upside-down in this picture. I worked really hard to make that deer appear just as I wanted it to.

After figuring out what colors should be substituted in the pattern, I started working. I did follow the directions as printed, color substitutions aside. Let me tell you that the stamens, all those French knots, that was awful. It took me forever, partly because the wool was rough on my hands and I could only do so much at a time. But, I did finally finish it on Spring Break.

These colors are much better, don't you think?

Yes, that is two different colors I used on the "blooms," or whatever they are. It was an oops, but I stuck with it. I'm pretending that the sun is shining down on the flower from the right, and that's what's causing the color disparity. Seriously, there are a bajillion French knots here, and once they were done, I wasn't ripping them out for anything. The centers are done in cream embroidery floss, and the outsides in crewel wool, just like the pattern dictated (just slightly different colors - the original pattern has the centers of the smaller ones green, and the centers of the larger ones cream).

Satin stitch, in red crewel wool, on cream linen, is not very pretty. I had to outline it so that it would be tolerable. I think it turned out well, all things considered.

For some reason, I had no difficulties whatsoever with the satin stitch in the pale green. However, I was not too fond of those gigantic French knots. They are not my favorite. The leaves in general, though, I do like. Very artistic, and yet still leafy.

I love the cream falling leaves in the background. I wasn't sure that I liked it (they are in the original color) as I was doing it, but once I saw the overall effect, it was a nice touch.

I haven’t decided what to do with it yet. Originally I was thinking it could be used as a chair cover, but all those French knots seem incredibly impractical (and perhaps uncomfortable) for that (it should be noted that crewel is considered to be much hardier than standard embroidery because of the materials used). So now I’m thinking I should just stretch it over a canvas and hang it on the wall. The instructions note that it is not to be washed under any circumstances, but you can take it to the drycleaners. Well, I have no plans to take my embroidery to be dry cleaned, so it will just have to stay as-is. Forever. (Really, who takes embroidery to be dry cleaned? This seems highly impractical. I didn’t want to do the washer-dryer thing, just run it under cold water and let it dry, and then iron the non-stitched parts, just like I do all my other embroidery pieces. Fussy, fussy.)


One Reply to “Why follow directions?”

  1. Crewel is notorious for not being color fast (wool?) so the colors will run and ruin the rest of your work. I like your idea of putting it in a frame, without cover glass, so you can admire it and not worry about cat barf, sweaty friends and relatives. Nice piece and I approve of your substitutions.
    If you always read and follow directions but never when you follow a recipe, where are you following directions? You always were a creative cook…

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