Only a month late, but I have finished the first lesson in the Red Fox online class I am taking with Tanja Berlin. I have to say, I have learnt a lot about long and short stitch and needle painting already, and I am much more confident about the process now, though there is a long way for me to go yet.

You may recall that Tanja advised I should re-do the second row, and that is perhaps one of the most sensible things I’ve done in a long time! Until Tanja had guided me back onto the straight and narrow, I really just didn’t ‘get’ it completely – almost but not quite. I was taking a far too random approach to the whole thing.

unpicking in progress

My first misunderstanding was on the colour placement, and I am so glad I sent off the photos when I did, as it forms the basis for the rest of the rows. I had been a little haphazard in my approach to colouring the fox, rather than following the sensible pattern of colour placement outlined by Tanja. By never having the lightest and the darkest colours adjacent to each other, and by stitching the darkest colour on top of the lightest colour in subsequent rows, a more realistic impression of the fox’s fur is achieved. Definitely something that has stood me in good stead for the subsequent rows!

row two wrong colour and stitch length patterns

My other major problem was my long and short stitch. You frequently hear long and short stitch being referred to as longer and shorter stitch, but this also didn’t help me! I now much prefer to think of it as ‘up and down stitch’. Now, before you go thinking I’ve completely lost the plot (yes, I know for most stitches the needle goes up and down through the fabric!), my reason for this is that each stitch is the same length. One stitch is not longer or shorter than the other. It is all to do with where you start each stitch. One stitch will start on the ‘row’ line, the next ‘shorter’ stitch about half a row length down. This gives the illusion that the stitches are longer or shorter to each other, but they are actually the same length. This took me longer than it should have to work out, but I now feel I understand it, and am much more confident with the stitch.

 

My last problem was with the stitch direction lines towards the top of the fox’s throat. Tanja had said I could work with them, but I just wasn’t happy with the result. So I unpicked just the one row I wasn’t happy with, and started over with it. I felt my change in direction around his neck was too severe and abrupt.

wrong direction lines

I am so glad I did, as even though the second attempt is far from perfect, I am a much happier cookie for doing this! I have really changed. I would have previously done anything to avoid unpicking and having to re-stitch. Now, I feel like I do more ‘reverse stitching’ than I do ‘forward stitching’! Whilst these are the only two rows that I have completed and then unpicked in entirety, there are many more stitches that I place, and then decide it’s not right, so out it comes. Mostly I seem to be picking it up as the stitch is popped into place. Sometimes though I power on, only to discover that several stitches ago I messed up the system, or I put the colour in the wrong spot, or the stitch direction is just wrong. So back out they come and then they go in again, hopefully more accurately second time round!

So how am I finding the online course? I love it! Tanja obviously puts a lot of time and effort into these courses over and above the putting together of the kit (that can be purchased without the online course from her website). I am really surprised at just how quickly she gets back to you with her critique. One very organised lady! Within a day (and usually a few hours, but that would be time dependent on where you are in the world compared to Canada), she has uploaded your photos, enhanced them, and ‘drawn’ on them (if need be) any corrections to your stitches, clearly noting where you need to change things slightly. If it was the colour that you didn’t get quite right, she will use different coloured lines to demonstrate where you went a little of course. If it is the direction lines, she will draw in where your stitches should have lay. Your original photo is always underneath these drawings, so you can clearly see where you need to make changes, before either noting it, or un-doing it and starting it again. And her course notes! Each lesson has very detailed notes that you can download and save to your PC, or if you are like me, print out, that guide you carefully through the work required. I do find I use the course notes in conjunction with the design notes in the kit, which means you have ample information to digest and understand the task at hand. Her photos are clear, and well zoomed in, so you can see very detailed examples of her work.

Now, onto the second lesson! I do need to get my skates on, as the third lesson came out yesterday, and the course finishes at the end of June, which will be here before we know it! I am much more comfortable now though, and feel that I can work through several rows at a time before sending off for critique to make sure I’m on the right path. Fingers crossed by the end of the week lesson two will be all done!

I hope you are all enjoying your weekends! Definitely a stitching weekend here – summer has gone on another holiday!

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