Needle felted memories and Paper stitch adventures

This month’s travelling book page – Memories of Mexico

This month’s travelling book belonged to a lady I don’t know at all, so I felt a little unsure of what to do, especially as the book was entitled “memories’. I leafed through pages of complete work, where happy childhood memories were celebrated in stitch – it isn’t a happy place to go – so grumpily I put the book aside for a few days. In the end, I was browsing through my photos on my external drive and came across my photos of Mexico.

My grumpiness forgotten, I was lost in fond memories of warm aqua sea, white sand and blue skies – except they weren’t always blue skies – what I loved was the way suddenly black clouds descended, then there would be an absolute downpour. Normally I would run for cover, but not this time, because the rain was delightfully warm. Oh, I cannot express my joy at being in a warm rainstorm! It was short lived, in no time at all, the black clouds had skudded away and we were back to glorious blue skies again.

So, at last, armed with my barbed needle and some delightful wool in various hues of blue and white, I set to work.

I love the texture you can achieve with needle felting.

I had signed up for a day’s workshop with the Portsmouth Embroidery Guild – on one of the hottest days of the year! I have to admit, I was stepping well out of my comfort zone, never having combined paper and stitching before. I did not know what to expect as there wasn’t any ‘examples’ to see, the artist wanted us to spend time playing… there were no rules.

So – turned up I did with bagfuls of tissue paper, napkins and all kinds of threads, needles… I wisely took my own fan and some cucumber to chop up into a jug of cold water in the fridge. (Try it, it really is blissfully refreshing!)

paper and stitch combined.

I must admit, a lot of the machine stitching was done at home, we were supposed to do all hand stitching – but I made the mistake of using a type of cork backing paper, then built up areas of tissue paper and then followed it by watered down glued mulberry paper – while I loved the effect – seen in the cloud above, it was horrendous trying to hand stitch through all those layers! (I did take my awl, but it was hard going!)

Free motion embroidery workshop

I decoupaged areas with floral napkins – which created a contrasting texture to the stitched areas which were quite chunky wools, and thick paper couched in place.

Free motion embroidery workshop

I loved the thick wool contrast in the flower heads, but it was tough! To be honest, the day flew by – most of us quietly working away – I was amazed at how quickly the time flew.

Machine embroidery

I didn’t take pictures at the end of the day, but spent a very happy Sunday afternoon free motion embroidering over the top. I had forgotten the sheer pleasure of the way the stitches just flow in rapid succession!

As an experiment, it was successful although I have to admit, I really did not love it enough to carry on any further. I found the stiff cardboard too difficult to stitch. I just love the softness of cloth… but sometimes it is good to explore other mediums.

I learned a great deal about my machine embroidery through this sample, I am in love with variegated threads that flow from one shade to another, because the artist in me loves the play between tones.

Ring of Roses – Silk Ribbon Embroidered pincushion

All assembled ready to go!

I took a lovely relaxing silk ribbon embroidery class recently – it is such a wonderful medium for capturing flowers. The ribbons are 100% silk – which allows them to flow through your fabric easily. However, the ribbon roses are weaved through cotton Perle – so any ribbon can be used to make these roses!

If you think there maybe no room in your life for rose frippery, just imagine having these lovelies stitched onto your lingerie, they add a luxurious touch, or make a beautiful padded coat hanger for a special occasion dress. These things might seem old fashioned, but we have lost a lot of grace and charm – these little lovelies lift any item of underwear into a high end feature. Who doesn’t want a little bit of girlie luxury next to the skin?

I had the velvet passed to me among many vintage fabrics, it is a lovely deep blue, which compliments my little Japanese blue and white pot; which is the inspiration behind this project, it is beautiful but needing a purpose – a vintage tea cup would work just as well. I thought I would use the 4mm ribbons, as I wanted to keep the project quite dainty. Alongside you might need a little cotton Perle – I used green and pink. You also need stuffing to pad out the pincushion.

Create wheels with odd number of spokes

The ribbon effect is created by weaving the ribbon through cotton Perle spokes – in order for this to work effectively the number of spokes needs to be odd.

Anchoring the silk ribbons onto the needle

Use chenille needles, they should have a wide hole that runs within the needle shank and a sharp point, so that the needle can glide through the fabric easily. After you have threaded the needle, turn it back on itself and run the needle about 5mm from the point, (as shown by the light ribbon) pull this through to form a knot (the darker ribbon). The ribbon is now anchored – tie a knot the other end and begin as close to where your Perle spokes meet in the centre.

Weave your ribbon through the spokes

Weave the ribbon round the spokes, going over one and under the next, in a rotation. You should end up alternating – so that the ribbon goes under the spoke in the first round and over the spoke in the second round etc.

Stages of ribbon roses

If you twist the ribbon between the spokes, you will find you get petal like effects. You can even begin with a lighter/darker colour in the middle and change shade when you get to the outer petals.

Pure silk ribbon embroidery

Pulling the ribbon tight – creates a smaller rose, (left) or leaving it looser makes it more fluffy, (middle).

Ribbon embroidery, roses, ring

To make a ring, first draw a chalk line to follow – I then did a ring of Perle fly stitches along the line. My initial intention was to alternate roses inside and outside the line, but on this small scale it was better to keep them central.

Alternating inside and outside is losing the line

Keep making roses until the ring is complete – you can add little rosebuds by making two petals together.

ring of roses completed,

Because my pot was ceramic, I had to use a glue gun to secure the fabric in place – it is quite a tricky job. I stuffed it with wadding before stretching the velvet over. Making sure the ring was central to the pot.

Silk ribbon embroidery

I gave my cushion a real dome – this pot is only 5cm across, so it is tiny! But it looks very old fashioned and romantic, but then who doesn’t need a bit of romance in their lives?

spring flowers ribbon embroidery

This is the sampler from the workshop – as you can see you can make some delightful spring flowers – in no time at all!

I did my course with the very inspirational Lorna Bateman, you can see more of her wonderful work here, she also does a lovely ribbon rose pincushion kit if you want to make one of your own. Lorna has also written a wonderful book illustrating this fantastic medium available here. Or there are some wonderful silk ribbon embroidery books available. I can’t tell you how much I love this – while slow needlework is soothing to the soul, silk ribbon embroidery is really fast and fun!

There’s no place like home … mini Hand Embroidered Quilt from vintage linen scraps

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

I began this project back in March when the snow was thick on the ground and we were still hoping for signs of spring! Like my previous quilts – it is made up from the scraps of tablecloth I bought in a charity shop a couple of years ago. The backing was a little vintage napkin with a beautiful edge.

As much as I find I cannot resist buying crisp linen napkins in charity shops when ever I see them – they inspire domestic dreams of beautifully laid tables and elegant dining, another age when there was time to do things with grace.  The reality is that for every day use it it just doesn’t work. I have watched too many of these pristine white surfaces be smudged with pasta sauce – by guests who gave them as much thought as they would a throw away napkin. These things should be treasured – and this napkin measured just 15cm square the perfect size for another mini quilt.

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

The little scraps of fabric came together delightfully – the square of blue has come out much darker than it does in reality – it is more of a soft winter blue. I used a blue washable ink pen to write out the words, I wanted the embroidery to be in my own handwriting. It did take a few revisions until I was happy with the words, they needed to be larger than normal to accommodate the stitching.

I liked the way the home ended in a little heart. I needed a strong blue to stand out – so I chose this beautiful winter blue – it is a vintage shade that I have combined with red for Christmas – so it made sense to use it for a winter quilt. I wanted the blue embroidered words and the house block to be the only colours.

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

I chose the phase, ‘there’s no place like home’  because I am so contented in my life and I am a real home bird there is no other place I like to be. Our home is the first time I have lived in a Georgian house – the high rooms and tall bay windows make every day a pleasure. Only 8 years ago I was homeless – living in a friend’s spare bedroom – which has made me appreciate having my home much more.

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

I think it was the right hand side piece of lace that inspired the quilt – it looked so much like the sun – all the other elements fell into place. Including the house roof – which came from another napkin – the curves also made a lovely detail for arched windows.

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

Allowing a project to evolve over time – is one of the delights of making things for yourself. Having written for magazines I always felt restricted by the original idea – which I had sold to the editor – they expect it to be delivered exactly as you proposed it – which ended up restricting my creativity. Don’t get me wrong, it was delightful to see something in print, but it was a bit like in the Wizard of OZ – once you see behind the curtain you see all the illusion for what it is, and it changes you, forever. It was wonderful at the time – but it did have its downsides – like making things for Christmas during the August. So allowing a project to evolve is something I relish and this project has changed over the last few months.

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

As the quilt grew I made brief decisions about what to stitch next – just going by what I felt like at the time. I followed the edges of the entredeux with a blanket stitch and chain stitching.

The centre sun outline was raised using couching, I had some charming fluffy wool that was a chunky knit in pale cream. It raised the centre sun panel swirl nicely and I love the added dimension it gives the quilt. The only difficulty with that is that you cannot see it from a photograph!

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

I repeated the same couching around the flower in the garden,  you can see it half done in this photo. I also widened the lace pathway to make it more artistically pleasing.

It was then I noticed the house was not square and I was not happy with the windows, I used a couching/blanket stitch which made the struts of the windows look chunky. I also did not like the effect of the door. I only had one small square of blue so I tried a new piece of fabric for the house this time an aqua stripe.

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

I made the door from a weaved stitch and did the same to make a dome like addition to the windows. But I really did not like that either. The vertical lines were too dominating so I unpicked it and unpicked all the windows from my original house and began again.

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

I worked on the garden and the sky for a while – to give myself time to think about it. In the end I went back to the original, but the lovely curves looked far too chunky – I did not have any more linen to begin again so I just have to make the best of things.

Mini Quilt - No place like home vintage Linens

I really enjoyed making all the little daisies – for me the joy in this piece is that on the surface it just looks like a white picture – its only when you get up close that you can see the white stitching on the back ground. It adds dimension to the quilt, and the way the daisies dimpled the centre – added to the quilted effect.

No place like home quilt

I did a cloud like shape around the words, but just used a simple quilting running stitch over the sky, following the outline of the sun. I also couched the lose shapes in the rays to bring them under control a little more – as they were going out of shape. I would have liked the curl of the sun to be a little more regular but then perfection is not as important as the hand finished effect. I am not happy with the windows, they are still too chunky, but I’m ok with that.

No place like home completed

So here is the whole thing now completed with a crochet edge boarder. I am not really sure how to mount it yet, its on the blocking board ready to go when I have decided what to do. I don’t think embroideries should be behind glass because the pleasure of textiles is that they are touchable.

Its been a lovely journey – I think I am at the end of my mini quilt phase for now. Its taken three months to complete – but that has not been a constant project – just one I have picked up and put down between other projects.

I have to admit that while it is delightful to finish this – it has left me with a bit of gap now and I will have to find something else to do. I love embroidery because it is so portable – you can stitch sitting on the sofa together rather than being at the sewing machine on my own. I am going through my craft supplies and rescuing various UFO’s – who knows what I will find to do next.

Thanks for popping by, it is always such a joy to read your comments will be back with more when I have something to show.

 

 

A Spring Chicken… fabric panel Sweet tweets

Spring Chicken

I saw this cushion made up at my local fabric shop the Jolly Stitcher – I loved the combination of colours and I thought this fabric panel would be good fun to sew. I decided that it would make a lovely addition to my spring decorations.

The instructions were very clear – and easy to follow and pretty soon I was looking for ways to personalise it.

Sweet tweets bird cushion

I thought the pattern of flowers over the bird could do with a bit of embroidery – it would give me a little practice to hone my skills and try out new stitches.

Spring Chicken

I decided to quilt and embroider at the same time, as I wished to outline some of the pretty leaves as well as embellish the flowers. It was a fairly easy task accomplished in a few evenings while watching TV.

Sweet Tweets

I used a combination of weaving stitches, chain stitches and buttonhole stitch – trying to match the beautiful colour combinations as much a possible. I think the colours used was what excited me most about this project.

 

I thought the little fabric yoyo/ Suffolk puff came out beautifully when made, however, I wasn’t to sure about covering up the pretty eye design on the fabric.

Eye detail for cushion

In the end I opted to embroider the eye rather than cover it up with the yoyo/ Suffolk puff.

Sweet Tweets eye

It looked so pretty with the lovely colours and a nicer detail. I also struggled a little with the bird wings – they also covered up the pretty flower design but they looked so nice when they were sewn on.

Sweet Treats Embroidery bird cushion

Matching up each side of the cushion was tricky on the sewing machine – and the beak ended up virtually impossible to match without some white showing – so I ended up hand sewing the beak.

Spring bird cushion

this is the un-embroidered side and it looks lovely as it is – maybe I didn’t need to do all that embroidery after all – but then I always like to add a little bit of my own design into everything I do.

This was a lovely panel, easy to do and nicely put together – there is a smaller bird to go with this one – that I will make at a later date.

 

Rest – all is well Vintage linen Mini Quilt

Mini quilt - from Vintage Linens Relax all is well

I don’t know about you, but I simply adore vintage linens. I have a piles of white doilies and placemats as well as pretty tea trays and tablecloths.  I love the romantic notion of eating meals on white crisp linen, and have even used pretty napkins – until I saw someone spread the delicate white with tomato sauce!

Inspirational embroidery of gentlework

I came across the delightful embroidery of gentlework on Pinterest and followed the link to her inspirational blog. What bliss! The soulful embroidery made me feel inspired to make a little message of my own. I had felt rather poorly in the last few weeks, and a little burnt out so I decided to make a little wall hanging.

Vintage Linen mini quilt embroidery

I discovered a pack of lace pieces in a bag in a charity shop a few years ago – I snapped them up. Despite having piles of linen I simply cannot bring myself to cut them up but this time someone had already done this for me. The linen was white and fresh, it felt like sacrilege to age it so I left it white. I wrote the words using a blue wash away pen.

Vintage linen mini embroidered quilt

I added a few more embroidered flowers – daisy stitches and button hole rounds. The whole thing was approximately 6 inches wide by 10 inches long.

Hand Embroidery on Vintage linen

I used variegated thread for the word rest, but I could not decide how to do the all is well. I had to re-write it as the writing was too small to embroider effectively.

Mini Vintage linen Quilt Embroidery

The word ‘is’ ended up lost, so I whipped stitched it. I kept on unpicking and re doing – in the end I decided the pink was too pale.

Mini embroided quilt

I had a lovely piece of scalloped edging which I used to connect the top piece – it was a little different in colour, but I liked the effect. I then quilted it with various stitches using white Perle – I loved the way they created texture without detracting from the coloured embroidery.

Making tassels for edging - mini quilt

I crocheted an edge and decided to add tassels – it gave the quilt a little weight to change better.

Vintage Linen quilt

It is rare that I allow myself to simply play around – but it was enjoyable letting the little quilt evolve. I didn’t like the ‘All is Well’ part. I think next time I will use cotton Perle quite thick rather than embroidery floss.

It has been a soothing exercise, and quite addictive!

 

Moon Gazing Hare – Ostara Celebration

Moon Gazing Hare Embroidery

The Spring Equinox will be on the 20th March this year – it has felt like a long slog from January to Spring and so it is delightful to be looking at the signs of new life everywhere. This little embroidery was so quick to do, yet satisfyingly pleasurable – I am really getting into slow sewing!

The inspiration came from these two little hares in my Pinterest feed – the delightful movement of Angela Daymond’s Running Hare is beautiful in its simplicity. The embroidery is called Kantha stitching – comprising mostly of running stitch. Angela produces a number of kits that are simply wonderful.

While the design was stunning – I did not want to simply replicate someone else’s design so I came up with my own. I love the concept of the Moon Gazing Hare, there are images all over the internet right now – because it personifies Spring so well.

Moon Gazing Hare Embroidery

I bought a cut up vintage table cloth in a charity shop – the linen is well washed and is a delight to embroider on. I roughly traced my design with a blue washable pen and simply stitched round. It’s like colouring in – such a lovely meditative practice.

Moon Gazing hare outline

There is a delightful sewing shop not far from me called the Jolly Stitcher they run knit and natters on a Tuesday evening – I am hoping to go along soon because the shop is a delight. They had a wide range of Anchor and DMC threads – I wanted the circles around the moon to deepen in shades of blue. They had the most beautiful silver DMC E168, that was just perfect for the centre of the moon. I used Anchor blues ranging from 178 to 120 although I had to be careful – I picked out a lovely shade from another section – but it was more of a green blue and did not match the others at all.

Moon Gazing Hare Embroidery

I began stitching with a two strand thread, as you can see from the picture above but it idd not really give the effect I was looking for – so I ended up doubling up with four strands. I kept the stitching quite short and did a sort of back stitch on the wrong side, because I wanted the stitches to be quite close to one another.

Moon Gazing Hare Kantha Embroidery

I used the darker blue for the curls in the sky and filled it with a lighter blue in between. It gave the piece more depth of colour. I found that the direction of the stitches were important – especially spiralling around the leg of the hare.

Backing embroidery hoop

I used one of those hanging display hoops – and simply glued the fabric tightly against the inner frame. Once dry, I was able to trim the fabric back. I decided it needed a felt covering at the back to give some protection for the wall.

moon gazing hare embroideryThere are some elements of it that I feel could be improved, I would like to explore further the effect of closer stitching has on the overall tone of the piece. As a first project of this very effective stitching – I am pleased with the results.

Spring won’t be too far behind – hopefully!

ttfn x

 

Looking for a pincushion? Ask Fred..

sewing items sausage dog pincushion

Oh how I am missing the Great British Sewing Bee… Heather’s lovely little sausage dog pincushion was always sitting next to her sewing machine. When I saw the patten in Love Sewing Magazine I decided to make one of my own

Sausage dog pincushion 3

 

I had some lovely pink tweed left over from a project I made 6 years ago! As the pattern was for a door stop, I decided to decrease it a little. Everything is so much easier to hand sew – especially when you are working with tiny fiddly pieces like the head gusset and tiny ears.

Sausage dog pincushion 8

I decided to embellish him a little with some lazy daisies and fly stitches along his back.

Sausage dog pin cushion 7

He is a very friendly chap!

 

 

Burda Skirt 6834 – perfect for hourglass, curvy girls and sway backs!

 

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Home fires will be back on our screens soon – I love the show and quietly  coveted the beautifully fitted wool suits the ladies of the WI wore – so this was the inspiration behind this skirt. I wanted to challenge myself to make a really fitted garment without using stretch fabric.

I am an hourglass – while it might be the ideal body shape, it tests fitting skills to the max! Not only is there a 6 inch difference between my waist and hip measurement, but being short the height between waist and full hip is only 4 inches! If you think about an hourglass it is a rounded shape, so it not just goes in at the sides but also the front and back – so a sway back is part of the challenge (not to mention the rise of the middle aged tummy!).

 

If, like me, you are curvy, the traditional A line skirt ends up with huge deep darts at the back but the six piece skirt, like this pattern, offers more opportunity to accomodate the bulk over six seams – so this is an ideal pattern for curvy ladies!

As you can see from the toile the waist has to be reduced by quite a lot, but each seam can divide the overall reduction – giving a lot of opportunity to refine the shape.

I had to add a few inches at the hip – it is easy to do, just draw a straight of grain line in the centre of the pattern piece and add inches. As long as you do this inside the pattern lines you won’t alter any of the pattern edges so it should all line up.

Burda 6834 toile second fitting

The waistline of the second toile needed some adjustment but you can see that this pattern makes enhances curves! As I am fairly short, I decided to go for a slimmer flute at the bottom.

Burda 6834 skirt

I had this beautiful purple wool fabric in my stash – we are not into summer yet and wool is such a great fabric to wear – it seems to maintain an ambient temperature. I wanted this project to test my fitting abilities – and wool is the ideal choice because you can shape it so easily with steam.

 

The left hand picture shows the skirt seam before it is steamed – I used my dummy to maintain my shape as I gently held my steam iron about 4 inches away. Then using a pressing cloth to gently work from the seam outwards- look how beautifully the seam lays open – but also because you can stretch and shape the wool – it hugs the body nicely.

In order to avoid the ‘librarian’ look I wanted my skirt to be a bit edgy, so this embroidery design by urban threads was ideal. The top left is the design on white, but when I tried it as a sample on the fabric the black was not enough of a contrast to do the embroidery justice, so I used lime green!

Burda 6834 lining

My first lining fabric was a nightmare I chose it because it was fushia pink and made a great contrast but  it was way to flimsy and ended up fraying so I had to completely rip it out and re-do the lining. I had this lovely weighty oyster polyester silk which complemented the skirt nicely I decided to end the lining at the straight edge rather than the frill. I hand stitched it between the skirt facing, (while watching England play Wales in the Rugby) again on the tailor dummy to maintain the shape. Hand stitching gives you so much control – I am addicted to it. Years ago I avoided it – wrestling with my machine to get the fabric under the foot. Then unpicking it because the seam was off – now it is just a case of placing a stitch exactly where I want it and no unpicking!

 

I love my fancy machine stitches and never find much use for them – so it was nice to use a patterned stitch at the edge of the lining.(top right)  I made little chain tacks using in soft cotton Perle it holds the lining in place but allows for some movement. I also embroidered a tiny loop for my top closure using buttonhole stitch – my hand embroidery skills come in useful! It is these tiny details that give me such satisfaction. I don’t want my sewing to be the same as a shop bought skirt – I want it to be better! These details have mostly disappeared as clothing is made as fast and as cheaply as possible.

I love my skirt – it was a painstaking effort in all it took me three weekends to make but it was worth it. The lining slips around beautifully and it is so warm and figure hugging – I could never buy the same fit, I am just too oddly shaped!

The fitting took a lot of time but that was the challenge of this exercise and I have my toile to make more skirts!

I would recommend this pattern – its the first time I used a Burda pattern – having learned a few couture techniques I thought wrongly that Burda patterns did not include a seam allowance, but they have changed.  I think Burda have some great styles and the instructions are straight forward, although I have to admit, I didn’t follow them!

ttfn x

 

 

 

 

 

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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Little Lingerie Bag – Appliqué

There are times when I am rushing through a project and my sewing machine is going great guns  it is all about getting the project done but hand sewing seems to be the opposite. It means that you have to take your time, enjoy the process of creation one stitch at a time. I made this project one sunny afternoon in our little caravan, the appliqué is entirely hand stitched right down to the beads and ribbon bow, but the bag itself is machine stitched.  I use it to keep all my tights handy as they seem to end up all over the place. It is unashamedly girlie but then I am a girl after all.

Fabric Portraits

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Its wet and cold outside, so there is nothing more delightful than having a little time sewing and being able to kick back and play a little. I am teaching a couple of workshops and one of those explores free motion embroidery but I thought I would also try a hand at appliqué portraits as an option.

It is a great way to use up scraps as you only need small amounts of fabric. It can be quite interesting to play around with the fabric direction to enhance the shape. I really liked the way this brown flower piece seemed to create an interesting top detail.

Free motion embroidery is addictive! its just a case of dropping the feed dogs, (the metal teeth that move the fabric past the needle), most machines have a little button, most likely your manual will tell you where to find yours. Use a embroidery needle, its not just sharp but also has a strong shank.

Self portrait

I used this picture as a template – I wear a lot of hats and so it is a recognisable feature.

You need to print your picture out roughly the size you want to stitch.

While this photo looks a good choice, the tilt of my head creates an angle for my eyes, and my mouth is slightly tilted you can see what problems crop up in the stitched portrait.

As it is just playing I decided to go with it.

Stitched portait

You can get something called dressmakers’ carbon paper, its used to transfer embroidery designs or simply use ordinary carbon.

Iron your fabric so that it is free of creases it should be larger than the picture.

Lay the carbon paper on top – make sure the transfer side is face down onto the fabric – finally place the picture on top.

Carefully trace the features, eyes, mouth, hair and nose. It helps if you use a ball point pen that shows up in the photograph so you can see what you have traced. Its important to check you have all the pieces because once you lift the picture off, you cannot re-do it.

begin stitching

I find it easier to back the fabric with some iron on interfacing, and a hoop. It prevents the fabric from shifting and wrinkling as you stitch.

Drawing with your sewing machine is easy but different to using a pencil. The needle stays in place and you move the fabric to create the lines rather than the paper staying still and the pencil moving!

Use a darning foot – you can see easier and the loop of the foot prevents the fabric from being pushed through the holes in the footplate.

You may find it easier to work backwards and forwards, moving the fabric quickly results in large stitches, or slowly creates tiny stitches.

applique shapesOnce you have created the features, you can trim it and then assemble the appliqué shapes.

Use the photograph to create the appliqué templates, such as the hat, and the dress.

Use the lines not just to highlight the features, but also to give shading to the hat.

rose applique

Finally I added a rose appliqué, another feature I often have is a flower brooch in my hair – this was a tiny flower on a scrap of fabric, but it really brightens up the whole picture.

I think it is best to simply follow a few lines, rather than go into too much detail. I could have put in the cheeks and little dimple that you can see in the photograph, but it can go drastically wrong! less is more.

As you can see, the tilt has meant my eyes are at a slight angle. I think I can get away with it, but maybe next time I shall try and get a more level photograph.

I do hope you will try this, its so much fun – frame them in an embroidery hoop and hang on the wall.

ttfn x