Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Tablecloth

I belong to a Yahoo forum newsgroup and every year they host a Christmas ornament exchange. I watched it happen for years when I lived in the States, but it took moving to France for me to join in the yearly fun.  

This is now my fourth year participating. This year I had been waffling about what to make. I had decided that I was going to do an ornament that resembles the ones I had seen in Alsace France.  On one of my trips to Strasbourg I had even gone as far as buying a meter of a fabric I thought would be perfect for the design I had in mind. I had drafted the design, simple as it was. I had even cut one out and was in the process of experimenting on how best to sew it together along with thought on what type of embellishments it might need.

Well with some good plans, something unexpected comes along that just falls into place and says it is better the better choice.

A couple of months ago I was in a second hand store in Ludwigsburg Germany (near Stuttgart). In the stack of linens in the back room, I found a table cloth.  It was no longer a beautiful tablecloth, although it once had been. It had been given to the second hand shop with wear on it saying it was once well loved and used. Near the center of the tablecloth was a large stain that had been either coffee, or most likely red wine. The stain looked to be permanent and showed the fading that goes with an attempted cleaning process that had gone very wrong.  The table cloth was made out of a damask fabric. At equal intervals along with the pattern of the fabric there was a medallion of cross stitching in a darker color than the base color of the tablecloth. The tablecloth was light pink.

Pink is an unusual choice of colors unless of course you live in Germany. Germans have an interesting eye for color. Where France degrades into grey and black as the days get shorter and darker, the Germans refuse this lack of color. Pink therefore was not a surprising color to see for a tablecloth for use in any season.

In the second hand shop I laid out the tablecloth looking at it for some sort of idea of what I could do with it, if anything. The stain made it unusable for use as it was initially intended. The repurposing part of my brain sprung into action. Suddenly it occurred to me what I could do with it. Into my bag it went for the trip to the checkout counter. At checkout, the cost of the tablecloth was 50 euro cents or about 65 US cents. Worst case, I thought at the time of purchase was that I was out nothing, really, in cost since it made a great wrap for some wine glass I bought. A wrapping which would keep the glasses from breaking on the way back to France.

Thinking about it for just a moment, it is funny what is sold at second hand stores. Here was a damaged tablecloth, and it sounds crazy, but I bought it! Now it was to become the base to my Christmas ornament.
Fast forward... A couple of weeks ago I was in the Stuttgart area again for the weekend. A friend and I decided to go the Zweigart Factory outlet store. The last time I had been there it was actually in part of the old factory, It has been twenty years since my last visit. Now it is in a refurbished area capable of heat and good light. This was a vast improvement!
In the back room of the store, one can buy fabric by the kilo. All sorts of fabric sorted by type and fiber content  As I walked around this part of the shop, I could not help but notice the fabric and the design. I suddenly realized that my tablecloth and my soon to be Christmas ornaments for the exchange was made of Zweigart fabric! Suddenly I understood why someone did what they did embellishing the tablecloth. I am betting it was a kit. How fun.! If I knew who they were I would thank them for doing all that work for me so that I could cut it up. They did donate it to the second hand store after all so they cannot be mad about a little bit of scissor action.
I love cross stitch but it is one of those thread art forms I cannot do. I think it is because I can't count. In my defense, I can't knit or crochet either. These art forms take the same sort of counting that my brain does not want to do willingly. Very frustrating, but I am beyond that now. there are so many other things I can do and some of them well, so why dwell on what I do not find fun and appreciate someone else's workmanship. 

I cut out one of the designs, a simple heart, and started to play.
A French friend suggested a way to finish the edges. I needed beads so I was able to buy some nice ones that match in both France and the US. Most amazing and I suppose lucky, I bought 3 types of beads without having the fabric with me and all 3 matched!
Here is a picture of the prototype. As usual it is a far cry from the finished item. Frankly it was pretty horrible.
The cross stitch was not shown off very well, the ruching, although pretty needed something. Finally the tassel at the bottom was anemic.
I went back to the pattern and tried again. This time improving on the design.
Much better! This is the final design.
This ornament is a HUGE departure from what I normally do, but I like it. It is simple, interesting, light weight, European vintage and well, pink. The top tie is pink 1/8" silk ribbon that was threaded through the center bead.
The ruching was surprisingly easy to do . Shown is Step 1 - a running stitch curved in to a sort of half moon shape that extends in about 1/4".
Step 2 - Gather the half moon, take a stitch to secure it so it does not come un-done and then to add a bead and repeat with another half moon of running stitches. This is repeated all the way around the heart. I used a pink coordinating floche, not the black thread shown. It held up well and did not break.
Step 3 - Once all of the gathering and beads were in place, the tassel was made.
Tassels are done in many different ways, this is how I do mine. First I love texture so I used 7 different threads. I tossed in a metallic for a little shimmering effect. The threads are anywhere from 30 to 12 wt.
All 7 threads were wrapped around a piece of cardboard 30 times. The left over floche from the beading and ruching ( I did not cut it off when I was done) was then looped around the top of the wrapped thread and tightened into place before the card board was removed,
The thread was slid off of the cardboard and then holding the thread loop tightly, a threaded needle, this time with 3 of the threads was inserted though the center of the tassel. A half loop is made and the needle is inserted back in the same place it is in the picture. This was repeated twice so that when pulled the threads did not pull out.
The thread was then looped around the loop of thread 4 or 5 times. the needle was sent through the center, looped around again and then looped back through the center. One last loop and the thread is then inserted though the center to the bottom of the loop, the side away from the heart. threads were then clipped to make the tassel.
 I repeated this process making 5 hearts. Completing them all, they are now on their way to the other Christmas ornament participants. I hope they like them.

1 comment:

  1. Great Job, Jean! They are lovely, and your re-purposing is fabulous. Merry Christmas!