Friday, July 22, 2016

Lavender Fields Pattern and Open Chain Stitch Tutorial


Do I need to say more?

Even the Arizona desert cottontails love it.

I listed this pattern awhile back but had not gotten around to stitching it. I finally finished it last night. Here is my version of this modern lavender landscape. It reminds me of July monsoon in the Sonoran desert.

And here is a customer's Instagram of the making of the lavender.

The pattern is pretty open-ended so you can use stitches of your choice. I did use an open chain stitch in that lovely magenta/red and thought I could teach that to you.

New Stitch:

Open Chain Stitch

Open chain is worked pretty much like chain stitch is, except the loops are held open and wide and boxy rather than seed-shaped. 

On my lavender embroidery pattern, I have a some outlines of the tops of the hills so I decided to use a couple of the lines as guides for open chain stitch.

It isn't necessary to have two lines, but it makes it easier to make the stitch neat.

Bring the needle up at the bottom of the first chain and to one side and bring it down right across at the other side..

Bring the needle back up on the first side (in this case the left) where the next chain will begin.

Pull on the loop just a bit and place the needle in on the right side where the end of this first chain will be "caught". Don't pull too tightly yet.

Again, bring the needle up above and on the left where the third open chain will begin.

Bring the needle back down on the other side. 

This is when you can gently pull the chains tighter as you go along.

When you get to the end of your row, you can use a simple normal chain to end the row. It will look a bit pointed like this:

Or you can keep the boxed look by taking a couple of tacking stitches to hold the shape of the last open chain.

Now go smell the lavender!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Make a Sampler Tablecloth Tutorial

Remember the dining room? No, not the place where we eat all our meals now, but the separate room with the china hutch and credenza where the "good" dishes and etched crystal goblets waited for "company". Remember the drawer with the silver? 

My grandmother had one such room. Not a large one. It was just big enough for that table and chairs and the hutch, but it was where we ate holiday and event dinners. The table had two leaves to extend it. And there was always an embroidered tablecloth brought out for special.

Most of these, my sister now has stored away in her home. My family has moved far too often to be able to keep many heirlooms. And these days, decorating is more modern, more abstract, more playful; decor more open and airy.

But still I wanted a tablecloth for "company". So I decided to create a sampler tablecloth using running stitch circles and a variety of simple stitches. 

The tutorial is here at Sew Mama Sew.

Just grab some hoops and thread and your basic stitches here at Embroidery School and follow the steps to create your own Sampler Tablecloth.  

And don't forget to send me some pics to share when you get your going!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review - Reader's Digest Embroidery Stitches

The Readers' Digest Complete Guide to Embroidery Stitches is one of my new favorite reads right now. I got a copy from the library but might have to put this on a Christmas wish list.

One of the things I like about this book is that it's not just a guide to stitches but also types of embroidery such as pulled stitches, smocking, and embroidery on canvas often called needlepoint.

It's a cmplete instructional guide with helpful sections on needles, hoops, and fabrics, as well as stitch variations and skills building.

The how-to illustrations are very clear and there's also a color photo of each stitch. There are more than 260 stitches explained in the book.

I even found a very rarely taught stitch I'll be using in an upcoming magazine project I'm designing: the knitting stitch. It's not knitting but looks just like it!

The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Embroidery Stitches was published in 2004 and this seems to be a printing from 2006. I'm shocked, though, that this particular book looks brand new. I'm going to have a card written up so I can put it on a Reader's Choice shelf at the local library.

This book gets a thumbs up from me!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Watermelon Embroidery and Bullion Stitch Tutorial

Winter is firmly entrenched in the Glass House Mountains and brings cold fog and rain or sunny days with freezing nights. Even so, Australia is mainly populated along the coasts, and it's beach weather somewhere so summer is never far from the mind.

Today's bone-chilling pea-souper fog has led me to warm myself up by putting together a tutorial for a summery watermelon embroidery. It doesn't get much sunnier at heart than watermelon and a couple of bright and buzzing bees.

The watermelon is made using chain stitch and the seeds are lazy daisies which are really just individual links of the chain. The little bees are made using bullion knots, french knots, and lazy daisy stitch. We learned how to make chain stitch in Embroidery School's Lesson Four and lazy daisy stitches and french knots stitches in Lesson Six. For this tutorial, I've included how to make bullion knots so you have all the skills you need.

Materials needed:
5" embroidery hoop
6" or 7" embroidery hoop
white cotton embroidery fabric
colored pencils (optional)
DMC stranded cotton embroidery floss: 
310 black (seeds: 6 strands/ bee: 3 strands)
3058 pink (6 strands)
3831 salmon (6 strands)
732 green (6 strands)
726 yellow (3 strands)
972 gold (2 strands)
Blanc (6 strands)

NOTE: The work is done using a larger hoop and then the finished embroidery is framed in the smaller hoop.

My watermelon uses two colors for the fruit because I realized I was going to run out of the pink. You can use one or both colors or another pink of your choice. I rather like the two colors together.


To make the watermelon:

1) Prepare the fabric by tracing the inside of the 5" hoop on the wrong side of the fabric. Using sewing thread or a single strand of any embroidery floss, baste a line of running stitches along the traced line. This is just to give you the perimeter of the circle without having to mark the right side of the fabric.

 2) Using the inner ring of the 5" hoop, lightly trace the outer edge of the ring to make the area for the watermelon. Just leave enough room for the bees outside the area designated for the watermelon.

3) I used colored pencils (Staedtler children's colored pencils) to darken the rind and fruit areas of the watermelon. This is optional. At first, I made it too light and then darkened it up. I think I could have made it much darker. Experiment! Or do without.

4) Start at the top edge of the juicy pink fruit and chain around the shape of the watermelon in an arc. At the end of the first arc, finish off the stitch and then start a new row going in the opposite direction. Continue working chains until the fruit is filled.

5) Stitch 2 or 3 rows of Blanc chain arcs above the pink fruit.

6) Stitch 2 or 3 rows of green rind above the white. 

7) Make a few randomly placed black lazy daisy seeds adding a single stitch in the center to loosely fill the stitch.

Before we make the bees, we have to learn to make the Bullion Knot.

New stitch:

Bullion Knot

Bring the needle to the front of the fabric at A. Insert the needle at B and bring the needle halfway out at A. The distance from A to B is the length of the stitch. Be careful not to split the thread.

Wrap the thread around the tip of the needle five or six times and pack the wraps down evenly around the needle. 

Hold the wraps in place around the needle and pull the needle through the fabric and the wraps.

Pull the thread towards B and push the wraps into place. This should tighten the stitch onto the fabric.

Insert the needle at B and bring the thread to the back of the fabric.

To make the bees:

Each bee is made of 6 bullion knots (small to large), 2 french knots, and lazy daisy wings.

1) Lay down 3 black bullion knots leaving some space between. Wrap the smallest 3 times, the middle knot gets 5 wraps, and the largest gets 7 wraps.

2) Then use the yellow to make the alternating bullion knots of 4, 6, and 8 wraps.

3) Make two french knot antennae, wrapping just once to make a small knot. Add lazy daisy wings, four for each bee.

Pull the basting thread out and mount into a 5" hoop for display or giving.

Bonus lesson!

How to change thread during chain stitch

In Lesson Four of Embroidery School, I showed how to change thread while working blanket stitch. Changing threads during chain stitch is very similar. You might need to change threads to change color or because your have run out of thread.

The keep your chain stitch continuous while changing threads, bring the thread to the back of the fabric, leaving the loop extra large. Leave the tail of the thread at the back side of the fabric.

 Thread the needle with the new strand and bring it out the front of the fabric where the end of this chain will be.

Continue to make the next chain stitch, tightening the large loop by pulling gently on the tail. Knot the leftover tail or weave in the tail if you are using the no-knot method.

I feel warmer already! A summer design for a wintery day down under. And if you're in the middle of your summer, enjoy this juicy treat!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Is the Craft Magazine a Dinosaur? - an editorial

I have read several articles over the last few months asking if the internet is killing off print craft publications - books and magazines.

Long analysis short, the answers are premature. Yes, some magazines have come and gone, such as Craftseller (UK), Interweave's Stitch magazine, and Stitch Craft Create. 

But there are always new start-ups and then many, many long-lived standards of the world of quilting, knitting, crochet, sewing, and embroidery healthy enough to stay in print.

Magazines have certainly come and gone. Everything changes. But the internet did not discover craft and the DIY revolution is not one. Millennials did not revolutionize handcraft. 

What millennials have done is use the most immediate global communication tool to make visible the printable ice cream cone and pom poms. They did not reinvent the crocheted granny square but they made it possible for everyone to get the pattern. They did not discover the chevron, nor owls, nor pennant flags. But they did invite millions to draw them, sew them, and play with them.

So are magazines going to go by the wayside if tutorials and patterns are so readily available?

In my opinion, no, not for some time. And here's why. 

Meet an internet trend:

Web locations have lost the creativity they wish to bring to their readers. They all look the same. They all use a handful of templates that are remarkably similar. A system is designed (such as this blog page or my newsletter template) and the content is stuffed into it regardless of the mood, season, or style of the content. 

And more often than not, site B will simply copy the craft of site A because if it's trending, you might find site B on Google when you search the trend. So a trend isn't a trend at all. It's just a bunch of copycats who want to be found on Google so they can sell you a product or idea. 

In the case of Scandi decor, the minimalist ideal is there to sell you the feeling that you don't own much and are not a materialist. This feeling will cost you several weeks' pay. That's a remarkably creative irony.

You can buy a pattern or bookmark a tutorial on your phone but you still need to sit down with a computer to download the printable or pattern. And that's cool, but it's no different from photocopying a page from a library book without having seen the rest of the book. The experience is easy and doable, but there is no depth. It's the fast food of the craft world. And we all know fast food gives us a temporary feeling of satisfied bloat, but we're hungry again in an hour or so.

Magazines, on the other hand and IN the hands, are the rest of the book. They contain articles, meet the makers, supply sources, variety of projects, instructions, and the patterns already printed and ready to go. They are not just a project, they are an actual product.

In the world of magazines, content is taken seriously. The magazine is designed around the content. Content is written and chosen before layout is designed, before headlines are written, and paragraphs are designed to complement images which are carefully chosen to convey the story and teach technique.

Magazines have respect for your brain. They aren't telling you a felted owl iPhone case is definitely cool and you would be too if you "liked" it. They put that felted owl iPhone case among a variety of possible options and let you choose. They appeal to many tastes. Like a restaurant with menus and waiters. Maybe even tablecloths.

So why exactly do I think magazines won't die an agonizing death in the face of fast craft web-designated trends? Because most actual handworkers are still between the ages of 45 and 70. And we are a hands-on, readers of paper generation. We love a good digest of projects. We love to be enticed, romanced, engaged. We love the choice.

And if magazines go by the wayside in deference to online tutorials it won't be until most of us are gone. And I don't know about you, but I'm planning to stick around for quite some time.

I was just about to think of a conclusion for this post, something about how cool we are, a photo of crazy handworkers doing needlework in front of a stack of magazines, but this JUST came into my inbox and this is the first thing I saw when I opened it.

Seriously? This is all I've seen in Bloglovin's emails for weeks now. I'm going out to buy a magazine.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Second Most Visited Page on the Blog

I don't use or buy a lot of plastic, but it is inevitable that some plastic bags and food containers or wrapping will come into my house and go out via the trash can. I suspect it's the same at your house. We all do our best to reduce plastics use.

But the unadvertised toxicity of both the manufacture and use of soft plastic textile fibers, like polyester and acrylic, disturbs me because I feel it takes away our informed choice.

I have one tutorial that is the most often visited page on my blog. The second most visited? The page tab of natural fiberfill vs. polyester fiberfill.

Polyester fiberfill is listed in the US Toxic Substances Control Act as an inert but toxic fiber. I won't rehash the whole thing. I'll let you read up on how it can cause a carcinogenic avalanche in pet and infant lungs and intestines and create endocrine disruption. You can do some more research into the water and air pollution caused at polyester fiber plants and the cancer rate among workers. 

And while you're at it, check out "oilcloth" which is no longer actually cloth soaked in linseed oil, but vinyl coated cotton fabric. Almost all vinyl contains lead. So much lead that Washington state banned lunchboxes because the lead was leaching into schoolchildren's lunches. 

Polyester fiberfill has only been patented as a toy stuffing since the mid-1960s. You know, back when DDT was being sprayed on our food and smoking was "good for you". Natural fibers are history's standards; plastic is the alternative.

And really, I don't judge: I created a project recently for a magazine shoot and didn't want to have to fill it with $30 of wool stuffing. I bought an brand new $3.50 cushion insert at a local thrift store and used that. It's the first time I've used polyester fill in 20 years.

So I'm not pointing fingers at anyone or waving eco-flags. I'm a real person just like you facing the issues the best I can.

Did you know there were this many delicious natural choices out there? I didn't! I encourage you to play with them. Have fun!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Let's Do the Limbo

Well, I am still in limbo concerning a new website. I admit, I know nothing about the process, but I am waiting excitedly to see the big reveal.

Anxious to get back to putting thread to all my new embroidery designs, impatient to see the new website and give you all new links to tutorials, and working like mad the last two weeks completing magazine craft project commissions, I have now managed to throw my back out.

Today, I'll be moving slowly. My goals - and oh, yes, I still have them for nothing keeps a stitcher down - are to finish several commissions and start posting the follow-up to Embroidery School which I introduced in the last post. Then, gosh, I have so many embroidery designs dancing in my head like Christmas sugarplums, and I can't wait until I can get to those.

I really have to thank Helen Dickson of Bustle and Sew for featuring me in her project-packed magazine this month. Because of her article and newsletter, I have had a huge increase in newsletter sign-ups and some new blog followers. 

I feel a little sheepish that the last few weeks have produced so little for you while the new website is being built - you know, you don't want to start something new if you think it's all going to change tomorrow.......and then 5 days down the road, you're still thinking "tomorrow, right?"

But Rome wasn't built in a day! And while we wait for the unveiling of the site, I invite you to check out a few posts on my blog.

Free pattern - Embroidery project tote

The dangers of polyester fill and the joys of natural fill

The most downloaded tutorial - Amish Puzzle Ball 

Ta da! Embroidery School of course

Your most frequently asked questions  

What's on the work table right now? Oh my gosh! I wish I could show you!! But I've been working on magazine project commissions and I can only give the peeping Tom view such as the country doll bits (above photo) and some zentangled necklaces. 

But I do have some lovely sampler embroidery patterns coming up such as the fish in the first photo above.

I call them samplers because they use the most basic stitches learned in Embroidery School. Other stitches used will always come with a lesson. E.g. the Button Sampler pattern - when I listed this for sale, I also posted on the blog a how-to for the blanket stitch variations used.  

And then there's the ever popular Amish knotted rag rug wooden needles I make from reclaimed pine and reclaimed hardwoods. This batch is now finished and waiting to be sent off to happy customers.

Let's be in limbo. Waiting means being able to not be in a hurry. Which is kind of the essence of time for YOU, to sit, to stitch, to daydream, to design. Enjoy!