How to Display a Hand Embroidery Sampler

embroidery-sampler-preparation

 

The joy of going through my things is that I discover many of the tiny sample pieces I did for various projects. This hand embroidery sampler was for a class I was running bringing with it memories of many happy hours making it. It seemed such a pity to leave it forgotten in a box, so I decided to mount it on a canvass and turn it into a piece of artwork.

 

I added a 2 inch fabric border around the outside just to frame the sampler, and then I added some contrasting plain fabric to the bottom and top, as my little canvass was a bit too long for my piece. I also had a number of felt flowers and hand made buttons in the box so I added them to the top for a little more interest.

felt-flower

I padded the back with a little wadding and quilted a couple of small areas, before mounting it to the small canvass with a hot glue gun. It’s not easy, I found I had to hold the fabric quite firmly – I should have left more material so I could have secured it round the back instead of round the sides.

spring

The colours are much more garish in these photographs, the whole project is done in muted pastel shades which seem to have changed a little when photographed!

I love the spring colours – it adds to my little Spring Display. I found the bird ornament in a charity shop and could not resist it.

I am delighted that I can admire all that hard work – and that it is now a piece of artwork and not crumpled forgotten in a basket.

 

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Liberty Prints at the London Museum of Fashion and Textiles

 

Liberty Artistic Dressing

London Fashion and Textile Museum Liberty Exhibition 2016

There are not many chaps out there who are willing to encourage a fabric obsessive like me but the lovely Mr D asked me if I wanted to visit the Museum of Fashion and Textiles  as he had noticed there was a Liberty exhibition! I leaped at the opportunity! We headed off by train early on a chilly Saturday morning, after a short pleasant journey,   I found myself stepping through the glass doors and bright interior –  a world of Textiles  -Heaven on earth!

 

The exhibition was organised chronologically: this display of kimonos dates from the early years of Liberty around 1870. The exquisite hand embroidery was simply, divine. The butterflies and iris adorn exquisite silk kimonos and you can see in the bottom left an example of wallpaper that inspired  the kimono decoration.

I was thrilled to be able to get up close to the exhibits eager to feast my eyes on construction,  finishing and techniques used. I am fascinated by design details – and spent a great deal of time noting and photographing in order to create a reference at home. Having recently taken up hand embroidery it was inspiring to see it utilised in high end fashion it tends to go in cycles. The two items above were  examples of the dress reform movement. Women wanted clothing that was more practical, the late Victorian period where the S curve was in Vogue this was revolutionary! The dress on the right had exquisite pleating that simply followed the curves beautifully – a good 60 years before the 1930’s bias cut.

I spent a great deal if time taking in the wonderful construction details of the 1930’s to 1940’s stand. I particularly enjoyed the way the red flower dress was thoughtfully made. The neckline is trimmed with appliquéd flowers, the sleeve cap is full typical of the 1940s and has a lovely velvet ribbon detail running down the centre finished with a little bow. The velvet ribbon detail is repeated at the front placket, and the overall placement of the red/pink flowers is skilfully done.

The 1970’s saw a revival in ‘folk’ costume especially the use of smocking. The whole of the seventies section brought back memories of warm summers wearing gypsy skirts! I the brown  dress,  fabric is entirely shaped using this technique it allows so much movement that you can put the clothing on without the need for zips or darts! The wedding dress reminded me of the 1980s.

Art Nouveau had a revival in the 1960s prompting the use of more romantic folk styles classical empire lines, Victorian Butcher sleeves – updated with modern prints and fabrics. The wonderful detail of the corduroy dress yoke was a delight to my eye!

There were lots of displays of the patterns used and I did not realise Kate Greenaway had designed for Liberty (centre)

 

It was a wonderful exhibition – I took a lot more pictures that I shall use for reference there were so many examples of different construction techniques and embellishment ideas that I am still buzzing days later. I can’t wait to include them in my sewing.

The Museum of Fashion is just a short walk from London Bridge Station it is a real treat for any lover of textiles or fashion.

Mindful stitchery – hand embroidery

 

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Turn of the sewing machine and settle down to a more sedate pace, the gentle art of hand embroidery is creative mindful meditation. Far more transportable than machine sewing, hand embroidery can be enjoyed while watching a good film, sitting in a waiting room or travelling by train. You only need a few skeins of thread, small embroidery hoop and a good long needle.

While embroidery techniques might seem outdated they are essential to the dressmaker, couture sewing is always hand stitched – these techniques can give your garment a high end finish!

There are two forms of embroidery that delight me, the vintage style spring pastels on cotton and the glorious vibrancy of folk art on wool.

I am planning a hand embroidery afternoon – with tea cake and stitchery, so I thought I would create a few samplers.

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One of the most challenging aspect is to create evenly spaced stitches especially on cotton this sample is only 6inches wide by 8inches long on a 100% cotton.

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This close up shows the weave of this cotton – getting the spacing right is essential especially for stitches that are woven.

As you can see the couching, weaving and cross-stitches need to look uniform so there is a great little trick I can offer you.

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Create a grid using washable marker pen, the guidelines will help you to create even stitches but they can be washed away after the project is done! (You did not see them in the earlier example!) once you have completed a few stitches with the grid, you will get a feel for the distance needed and will be able to stitch evenly without.

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Using wool felt creates a whole different effect, like folk art, this piece was created some time ago by eye!

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And it is easy to use ribbon weaving to create a nice frame for stitches, this time using tapestry wool.

If you fancy an afternoon of Tea, Cake and embroidery I am running a class on Friday 11 March 2016 – details here.

ttfn x

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again … adventures with Embroidery Software

time for fun

Hello, isn’t it wonderful sewing weather? Just right for settling down in a cosy corner, radio playing softly in the background and the little bernina singing away…bright bobbins of thread, pretty little pins and a large steaming pot of tea at the ready.

I was doing a little calculation – it has been nearly 11 years since I bought my sewing machine; one of the new wave of embroidery options and an odd sort of love affair ever since – mostly because I haven’t spent time exploring the software and playing with the machine.

A couple of prompts  put it higher on my to do list. We met an inspirational textile artist on the Art Trail this year,  using machine embroidery and I also sat at the sparkly shiny new Brother version at the Three Counties Quilting Show; but there have been a few bumps on my journey to sublime stitchery.

It was a hefty investment but I was flush with funds and wanted something significant rather than simply frittering it away.  The machine cost £1500 and there were many embroidery designs you could buy at the time, but I wanted to design my own.  The software was another £1000 – I decided to go for the cut down version at an eye watering £700.  I notice the software is still around the £1000 mark, I am guessing this might be because it is still not widely used. There is a cheaper alternative called Embird – which creates designs that you save into the relative format for your machine, currently its only about £200 with add ins. 

Vintage thread

At the time I was teaching ICT as well as being the network administrator for the school, so my confidence in my IT skills was running high but the software was really baffling – completely different from any other software I had used before. The manuals did not help – they referred to buttons and icons that only existed in full version. It was shelved, I used the machine to make things and forgot all about machine embroidering.

A few years later I bought designs – but it was still a hit and miss process, getting the design centred to the exact spot was a challenge and it was impossible to hoop a quilt despite the advertisements. I have a quit top  but it started to go wrong – months of work ruined. It was shelved again!

Two years later I dusted it off and tried again – it stopped half way through the design, each time. I took it to a sewing machine service shop  I was told the board had gone in the machine and it would cost £1,000 for a new one. In the end Bernina UK took it back and replaced the board for free, which was great of them as the warranty had long past. Luckily the machines record time spent using them and I had only used the module 72 hours in 7 years!

Bernina Embroidery Software

Yesterday I decided to have a much needed play day, so I fired up my ancient laptop, and opened up the programme. It has three useful elements, one is for embroidery, one is for creating cross stitch and one is for designing quilts and will also create pattern templates to print. I thought I would try my hand at cross-stitch. I have collected quite  a few lovely pattern books and thought I would start transferring some of them into digital format.

Cross-stitch maker

The cross-stitch software is quite exciting to use: you load in your thread colours using the drop down menus and then you have the option to decide what type of stitch, from outline, cross, double cross, upright cross, etc. At the click of a mouse you create a stitch, with a sweep of a mouse you create lots of stitches! I tried to replicate a pattern but it was making me cross-eyed! It is a laborious process – all the time I was wondering if it might be quicker to simply stitch it myself. However, once it is created you can stitch it out easily and quickly.

Design your own embroidery with Bernina Software

So.. a little while later I have my design. I  I cheated a little, it was so much easier to simply draw out my design than copy an existing chart – but it looks ok. The software has options for you to scan material and use it as a back ground which will give you a great idea of how the embroidery will look. (you can do this with the quilting programme as well).

transferring the design to the machine

Sending the design to the machine is yet another simple click of the button – I have a long lead that goes from computer to machine, but the later versions have USB connectors now.   I know when I saw the brother machine at the Quilting Festival,  you could simply place a drawing in the scanner and it would simply stitch it out from there, things have become even easier. However, I quite like watching it make its merry way down the wire!

the stitched out version

In a relatively short space of time the design is finished.. oh dear! I think I used the upright cross for this and it hasn’t stitched out as well as I would have liked. I like the darker green leaf at the bottom but the rose has not come out very well at all.

stitched out design

You can see some thicker darker thread on the green – this is some vintage thread I bought in a garden sale last summer, it is slightly thicker than the normal thread.

I learned the following:

  1. Upright crosses give a grid like effect to the pattern – which is not as pretty as I had hoped.
  2. The cross-stich size look good – the software gives you many options for sizing from 10 stitches per millimetre upwards. I wanted a ‘hand’ done look so went for a medium size.
  3. The threads are too thin – there are options for 2, 4 or 6 strands of thread per stitch so for ordinary thread it would be better to use a 6 strand. However the vintage spool of thread looked perfect so I thought I would try another design using those.

Star style cross stitch

This time I used a star-stitch with the thicker thread it made the stitches sit very proud. The stitch is built up by the machine gradually getting bigger so they form a pretty dome. Watching the machine stitch out is quite magical and mesmerising! Hours of hand work done by machine in 10 minutes.

cross stitches

This sample taught me a little more:

  1. I did have a lovely blue border round this design, as well as some outline stitch to bring this rose to life – but I decided to stop there as I was rather pleased with the stitching but not the design. The definition of the rosebud is not there, as I mistakenly used the same colour twice so the mid tones are lost. It is a good idea therefore to keep a chart or a note of the colour order.
  2. Mindful that I also had a limited supply of the vintage thread – I did not want to waste it on experimentation.
  3. I had an iron on stabiliser – which was excellent at keeping the fabric rigid to take the design. Without it the fabric begins to move and the accuracy goes down.

A more open design

I thought I would try a more open design – I love the pretty star shaped stitches so combined them with the double crosses. Then I used a outline stitch for some wording.

The stitched out design

From this sample I learned:

  1. The distance between stitches created long threads, that got caught up in the stitching of the following colour. To rectify this a little – I took the risky decision to stop the stitching and remove the frame and cut the tails off.
  2. Its probably not a good design to have just one stitch here and there.

Stitching the design out

  • The removal of the frame did not affect the alignment of the stitches and the design lined up perfectly.
  • Tails did however make this embroidery a bit of a challenge afterwards.

Stitching is fast and easy

  • Cutting the stitches did leave them a little furry, so it is better to do a small group rather than a single stitch when designing.
  • You can see how raised these stitches are – the pink eight point stars look very effective but I will experiment with stitch size next time and maybe with a thinner thread to see if the stitch becomes more defined.

Single outline stitch is very effective

I really love the outline stitch here – it has a hand made quality that thrills me, as I was hoping to have the nature and feel of hand stitched with the speed of machine stitched.

All in all an interesting way to spend time – and I am beginning to fall in love with my embroidery module – if at first you don’t succeed try again, and again, and again..

ttfn x

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Upcycling Jumper Project – Cosy Cashmere Cushion

Upcycled-jumper-project

There is nothing more satisfying than creating something new from an old jumper discovered in a charity shop. I was initially attracted to the pretty shade of pink, but it was far too big for me. It was back in the Autumn when the nights were drawing in – when my thoughts turn to cosiness, wooden blankets and log fires that I decided to upcycle this unloved jumper into a cushion to feather my winter nest.

I have not seen smocking for a long time, but the idea for this front panel came when I was flipping through some old sewing books – the smocking method was lengthy and (to my mind) laborious. I thought it would be fun to play around with the technique to make it a little simpler as well as make the most of the texture of the jumper.

up-cycled-jumper-smocking

I started by using the front piece of the jumper for the smocking panel. I wanted to create a deep raised pattern so I made 1cm pleats across the panel. Then I marked across at 2cm intervals along the folds using a washable pen.

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The pleating and marks made it very simple to create a honeycomb pattern across the jumper panel. I would alternate the pleat joins so that it ended up with regular diamonds. I liked the pale green Perle cotton – the shade was in harmony with the pink.

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As with all things hand sewn, it was such a relaxing panel to do that I often wonder why I don’t do more embroidery. Watching TV with my fabric on my lap, tea within reach the panel was done in no time at all. Despite the sewing book instructions making it seem laborious, it was quickly and easily achieved and I loved the texture.

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The smocking does reduce the width of the front section of the jumper by around a third so I used the sleeve sections either side to create a square panel. The ribbing at the bottom of the jumper created a nice frame bottom and top, so the front section was completed.

Up-cycled-jumper-cushion

I used the back of the jumper to make the back and stitched it loosely closed. If the cushion needed to be washed it would only take minutes to unpick. I also did not want zips or buttons to interfere with the softness of the cushion.

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I felt the cushion needed a little more decoration so I made a few suffolk puffs (or yo yo’s as our American Cousins Call them) and utilised the ribbing off one of the sleeves. I also embroidered leaves and stems with wool. (Also pre-loved).

Up-cycled-jumper-cushion

I am rather thrilled with the finished cushion, its so lovely to sit against (or lie next to as my dog prefers). It is quite easy to work with knits, just a case of selecting a straight stitch with a little zig zag in it and a ball point needle.

Vintage Napkin Recycling – Needle Case

I simply struggle to resist the little napkins and tablecloths that are on the shelves of charity shops for pennies. They are the refugees of an era where families all sat round the dinner table and ate with napkins and linen table cloths. I am so pleased that the crisp white linen table cloths had long gone as my children could never keep their spaghetti on a plate! How they managed to keep the linen in such white pristine condition with no washing machines shows they had skills way beyond my abilities even with my eco bubble samsung!
I love to find new lives for these poor refugees, and this one is a little needle case. You can gauge how small it is by the size of the stitches. I cut round the appliqué leaving a seam allowance and then used a modern vintage styled fabric that was in keeping, fabricland has lots of different varieties at the moment, all thanks to Kath Kidston. I backed it with the extra stiff iron on interfacing you use to make curtain pelmets it gives the needle book a good solid shape. The button was from my stash, and like everything I remember buying it at one of those craft outlets in Dorset, a small sideline for a potter and so lovely.

Tweed cushions for Autumn

Tweed made a huge impact on Autumn interiors, (it is a recurring theme) our leather sofa needed something warm, nothing is nicer than tweed and wool.
I decided to make a set of cushions working loosely with deer, so created this little friendly chap. The blue is an dissolvable pen which disappears once the embroidery was done, in a little water.
Hand embroidery is a pleasurable delight, while slower than a sewing machine, I love the connection with creating each stitch – there are times when hand made is nicer to do than machine stitching,  I love the irregularity outlining the deer in blanket stitch and using stem stitch to follow the curves of the antlers.
Then it is a case of trimming the tweed to a square and edge strips to frame it.

I love the way the deer’s body is a diagonal while the strips are fairly straight, it creates a lovely contrast.

The back was made easily; lay a zip under the folded bottom edge, stitch in place. Fold the top piece with a deep fold, (enough to cover the zip). It is simply a case of following the bottom stitched edge for about 2 inches, then going vertically up until you reach the other zip edge. Stitch along until you are 2 inches away from the side, stitch vertically down over the zip again and then stitch along to the edge. It creates a lovely concealed zip effect on the back keeping the cushion nice and soft with no hard zipper.
I always push stuffing into the corners of the cushion, it creates a nice neat edge then add the cushion.
I made another three cushions with the tweed, creating a trio. The left hand deer is a machine embroidery pattern, the patchwork squares were angled again to give a more interesting effect.  The blanket is a beautiful blue welsh wool we bought at the Country Living Christmas Fair.
Now the sofa is a cosy warm place to watch the crackle of the log fire hearing the wind and rain pelting against the window, a perfect winter’s evening.