Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Winding Down

Now that I've recovered from the weekend, I thought I'd share with you another aspect of my job as a designer of counted stitch patterns. This one involves attending fairs and markets which I'm sad to say is rapidly coming to an end for me as the sales are not enough to warrant the expense of travelling to them. My one exception is the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering as I'm getting the distinct impression that demonstrating my work there is popular. If nothing else, my demonstration imparts a sense of how much time and work goes into the arts and crafts that are entered each year in the competitions. This year's entries were again of the highest quality that I have come to expect of the competitions at the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering. All that hard work and the way they are displayed after judging really make this competition stand out in my opinion. Keep up the good work!

So, what is involved with demonstrating at an event such as this? Well, there are weeks of preparation time before I even head out the door. First of all, I try to come up with a design that relates to the Gathering in some way, whether it stitcks to the current theme or incorporates some of the 'characters' who regularly attend. I've already written about my designing process elsewhere so I won't repeat it here. The only point to note is that it takes a lot of time. I'm getting quicker with experience but the computer doesn't save nearly as much time as I would like it to. I work from my own photographs and they just don't convert readily into the cross stitching software. A lot of manual adjustment is needed before the pattern looks reasonable enough for me to use. I could cut a step and work directly from a grid over the original picture but that requires more concentration than is really possible while stitching in public. So, I spend a lot of time in the planning stage in order to make life easier at my table in the craft exhibition hall.

I also find that blackwork suits itself better to public demonstrations than does cross stitch. Blackwork uses just one colour so I'm not tied to the pattern as much as I am with colour changes in cross stitching. The silhouette pieces I do in blackwork involve cross stitch but I just need to start at one line and end at the other, thus eliminating the need to flick back and forth to the pattern. Where double running stitch comes in, I just need to find the starting point. After that, I'm repeating steps until I hit the other line before reversing the steps on the return run. So again, there is no need to spend a lot of time referring to the charted design. It's easy for me to stop what I'm doing for a chat because I can pick up where I've left off without needing to work it all out again. You have no need to worry about interrupting me at all!

As the 'day' approaches, there are also practical matters to consider. Is the car filled up with petrol, the tyres with air and the windshield washer bottle with liquid? Have I packed all the bits that I need? Do I have the right change for parking? Am I going to need my thermals or will it be rain gear this year? (ha! ha! ha!) The list is endless.

One thing I don't do is prepare a script of what I am going to say at the event. I know my own designing process and how I tackle the various elements involved in my work well enough to wing it. I judge your interest in what I am doing and build from that point. This means that I can get through the entire weekend still sounding fresh and enthusiastic instead of turning into a robot. I really do enjoy my work and I want you to go away believing that I mean it!

Starting time for me is pretty early each day that I'm demonstrating. I prefer to start my day with a substantial breakfast so I can just keep going all day... saves sticky fingers when working with fabric and thread later on. Sometimes it just gets too busy to actually wash my hands and the wipes aren't always enough. The first day also includes setting up time so the days are long.

My day doesn't end when the exhibition doors close either. I spend each evening stitching as well so the design grows enough over the weekend for you to see the difference each time you return. I thought I'd have this one nearly finished by the Sunday but the linen I'm using for the design of the bondager costume is not co-operating. It isn't as even a weave as I thought so the counting side of things is rapidly going out the window! However, I will post a picture of it here when it is completed... I'm working on it every day so hopefully that won't be too much longer. Finishing up a proper pattern for sales purposes will be a bit longer though. I prefer to stitch as I design my patterns so I'm sure I'm achieving the effect I have in mind. They simply don't look quite the same on paper as they do on the fabric. That way I can make adjustments to better suit the fabric. I leave the instructions for stitching the design until I'm happy with the fabric side of things.

So, that's what it takes for me to provide you with a demonstration of blackwork. I have yet to have anyone take me up on my offer to guide you through a difficulty you've encountered with a pattern... it doesn't have to be one of mine... but maybe that will happen the next time we meet at the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering. Meanwhile, I am learning lots from you as well. One of this year's conversations of note revolved around the Quaker tapestries. Others involved national costumes - many thanks to Lesley Bentham for keeping me straight with the bondager design. Hopefully some more designs will surface for next year... I'm running some ideas through my mind while I'm finishing this one. All in all, I've had a most enjoyable time and I hope it has been the same for you.

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