Taking the plunge!

No wedding dress update this week, although I’m hoping to have a lot to share next week.

Instead, I’ve got something very exciting. I’ve put my first embroidery pattern up for sale! You can find it here.

Swedish Flower by needle and cloth

I originally designed this as a biscornu, but it would look great as a framed design or the centre of a patchwork cushion.


And as a special thank you to my blog readers, I’d love to offer you 20% off! Just enter the code HAPPYSTITCHING for your discount.


Ombre Embroidery Sampler Tutorial

Ombre Sampler Tutorial by needle&cloth

I love ombre. Whether it’s on a dress, or on a wall, I just love the effect. And for a while now I’ve been mulling over the idea of creating an ombre embroidery sampler.

(I should add here that WordPress wants me to correct “ombre” to “hombre”. I think that would be a very different piece of embroidery.)

What’s great about this piece is that you could achieve very different effects by changing the thread colours, or even the background fabric. For a really dramatic look, you could try pink threads on a black background, or else orange on white would have great retro look.

If you’d like to make a sampler of your own, here’s what you need:

A piece of natural cotton-linen blend fabric, at least 20x25cm (8×10″)
15cm (6″) embroidery hoop
Size 4 or 6 embroidery/crewel needle
Sharp embroidery scissors
Water-soluble fabric marker
Line Placement guide
Stranded embroidery thread in five shades (unfortunately I’ve misplaced my threads, so I’m not sure exactly which colours I used – but just pick five shades that form a nice colour run).

Hints: You can use any type of fabric, but working with an evenweave fabric such as linen means you can stitch along the grainlines to achieve a neat, straight result.

Ombre Sampler Tutorial by needle&cloth

Getting started
Firstly, if you’re worried about your fabric fraying, you can stitch along the edges with a zigzag stitch the secure them. Next, fold your piece of fabric in half so that the two long edges meet. Press the fold with your fingers so that the centre line is marked with a crease. Crease the horizontal centre line in the same way.

Using the water-soluble marker, rule a line down the length of the fabric, 5cm (2″) away from the long centre line. Make sure it runs long the grainline of the fabric. Rule a second line the same distance away on the other side of the centre line.

Print out the line placement guide. Tape it onto a lightbox or bright window, and tape the fabric over the top. The lines you just marked should line up with the vertical lines, and the line marked with the arrows should align with the horizontal centre line.

At this point you have a choice. You can either mark the full length of the lines using the water-soluble marker, or you can just mark the starting points down the left-hand line and work across the grainline to the other side when you stitch. I chose the second method, but it’s completely up to you.

The last thing you need to do before you start stitching is mount the fabric in the hoop. You’ll note that the whole design won’t quite fit in the hoop, so just start with the hoop at the top and move it down as necessary. If you’re using a bigger piece of fabric, you can obviously use a bigger hoop, in which case you won’t need to move anything.

It’s important that the fabric is mounted drum-tight in the hoop, so that you don’t get puckered fabric when you stitch. To do this, it helps to have a good quality hoop that you can tighten with a screw, and bind the inner ring (you can find a good tutorial on this here). Put the fabric in the hoop, and tighten the screw almost all the way. Then pull the fabric along the straight grain (horizontally and vertically) until it’s as tight as you can get it. I find it helpful to put my hoop on the edge of the table and hold it in place with one hand while I use the other to pull down on the fabric. Finally, tighten the screw all the way.

As much as possible, try to start your embroidery with an away waste knot and finish by weaving the thread tail into the back of your stitching. I found with some stitches, such as scroll and coral stitch, this was really difficult as there was so little stitching to weave through on the back. I just had to start and finish these stitches with a regular knot – it’s considered such a no-no, but sometimes you just have to do these things!

It’s also important to work with short lengths of thread so that the thread doesn’t get tangled and worn. I usually measure lengths from my hand to my elbow.

Take your embroidery threads and organise them in colour order, so that the lightest thread is Colour A, and the darkest thread is Colour E. Then you can start stitching! You might find it easy to print out this picture to refer back to when you’re stitching, so you know which stitch is which.

I won’t go through the stitches step by step, as there are so many better resources out there. I always refer back to Country Bumpkin’s fantastic A-Z of Embroidery Stitches and A-Z of Embroidery Stitches 2, as their instructions are so easy to follow (full disclosure: I used to work for them until recently, but I was a big fan of the books long before that). If you can’t get hold of the books, there are also some great resources online, such as Sharon B’s stitch dictionary and Needle ‘n’ Thread’s stitch videos.

I worked all my stitches along the grainline, and over either 5 or 10 fabric threads to make sure they stayed an even length. It’s also important to pay attention to what’s happening to the thread on the back of your work as, especially with six strands, it’s easy for the thread to get all knotted and tangled.

Row 1: Running stitch – 6 strands of colour A
Row 2: Back stitch – 4 strands of colour A, 2 strands of colour B
Row 3: Split stitch – 2 strands of colour A, 4 strands of colour B
Row 4: Stem stitch – 6 strands of colour B
Row 5: Coral stitch – 4 strands of colour B, 2 strands of colour C
Row 6: Scroll stitch – 2 strands of colour B, 4 strands of colour C
Row 7: Palestrina stitch – 6 strands of colour C
Row 8: Cable chain stitch – 4 strands of colour C, 2 strands of colour D
Row 9: Chain stitch – 2 strands of colour C, 4 strands of colour D
Row 10: Whipped back stitch – 6 strands of colour D
Row 11: Portuguese knotted stem stitch – 4 strands of colour D, 2 strands of colour E
Row 12: Heavy chain stitch – 2 strands of colour D, 4 strands of colour E
Row 13: Hungarian braided chain stitch – 6 strands of colour E

And there you have it! To finish, all you need to do is wash in cold water to rinse out the water-soluble marker, and leave flat to dry. To display the piece, I laced it over a piece of acid-free mountboard and placed it in a ready-bought frame. This tutorial gives you a good idea of how to do this, although I omitted the wadding, and also used pins along the edge to hold my fabric in place.

Ombre Sampler Tutorial by needle&cloth

Weekend Round-up: 19 January



I can’t believe how long it is since I’ve posted one of these. It’s surprising how much value I get from going back and seeing what’s appealed to me over the week.

The photo in this week’s header was taken in the Botanic Garden at O’Reilly’s, south of Brisbane. It was lovely to wander through the rainforest, and I’ve got some other photos to share soon.

I discovered these beautiful silk threads from Mulberry Silks through Laura at the Mason Bee. I’d love to buy some, but since I’m trying to save for the Mister’s birthday next month (not an easy thing to do when you’re not working!) I’m going to hold off for now.

How gorgeous is this embroidered lampshade tutorial? I’ve actually been sitting on an idea for embroidered lampshades for about a year now – maybe this will be the motivation I need to start it.

The Mister and I love putting together a good cheese platter, but I always feel sad about the little leftovers that get forgotten in the fridge. This recipe for fromage fort seems like such a great solution – I’m extremely keen to give it a go (and not just as an excuse to buy cheese).

I wanted to finish with this post about the Private Moon project. It’s easily one of the most inspiring things I have seen in a long time, and I wish it were possible to buy prints of the photographs so I could hang one in my house.

In which I am very slack

Remember when I started Mason Bee’s gorgeous Hi Honey embroidery pattern? I had fully intended to finish it within a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the move threw things into a lot more disarray than I’d expected, and I didn’t manage to get it finished until the beginning of January. And then, with my parents visiting, it was hard to find time to photograph it. But finally:

Hi Honey by Mason Bee ~ needleandcloth

It’s still in the hoop, and I don’t have any construction plans for it at the moment. I can picture it as the front panel of a really sweet cushion, but it’s not something I’d use at the moment, so I’m going to leave it as it is for now.

I did have a few problems transferring the design (mostly due to the slightly ribbed nature of my fabric). So my stems, for example, are nowhere near as complex as in the original pattern – but I kind of like the clean aesthetic I ended up with, which is why I chose to omit the leaves.

Working with the Renaissance Dyeing wools was a delightful experience. Being a little finer than a standard crewel wool, they produce a lovely line.

Hi Honey by Mason Bee ~ needleandcloth

The colours are also fabulous. Some of them are so vibrant that it’s hard to believe they were dyed with natural materials.

Hi Honey by Mason Bee ~ needleandcloth

If you’re looking for a fun embroidery pattern to bring a little sunshine to your day, this is a great one to pick up. New embroiderers will find lots of handy tips to get them started, while more experienced stitchers can add their own twist to the design. You can buy the pattern from Laura’s Etsy shop, and to make it even better, 50p from every sale goes to the British Bee Keepers Association!

Wedding (not the) Dress Wednesday: Invitations


It’s been a busy week here at Chez Needle & Cloth. Not only have my parents been visiting, but it was the Mister’s last week at home before three weeks away at work. As a result, there has been very little progress on the dress.

I did a fitting with my mum’s help, and we decided the best solution was to raise the entire waistline by 4cm (just over 1.5″). This will give the dress more of an empire line appearance, which I think will be more flattering for my not-so-tall figure. Plus, there’ll be less bodice for me to embroider!

I might try to take the waist up this morning, so that I can do another fitting before my mum leaves this afternoon.

In the meantime, I’ve got something I’d really like to share with you. We had planned to have our wedding invitations made for us. Unfortunately, for reasons that I won’t go into, this fell through in the last few days. We had planned to get our invitations out by the end of the month, so this threw us into a big panic trying to find invitations online that we liked, and wouldn’t cost a small fortune.

After the tenth hour of looking, I idly said, “Why don’t I have a go at designing something?” Bearing in mind I have the graphic design experience of a walrus. But I opened up my copy of InDesign, consulted with the Mister as to the invitation features he liked, and eventually came up with this:


It still needs a bit of tweaking to make sure things are aligned properly, and I’m not entirely sure about the little ornament thingy, but overall I’m pretty proud of myself. We’re going to add a wine stain to the corner of each invitation, and back them with the red version of this printable wrapping paper from Style Me Pretty, which I’ve just warmed up a bit in Photoshop so that it contains the same warm red tones you see on the invitation.

Now I just have to design matching cards for the directions, registry and RSVP while the Mister is away, so that they can be pretty much ready to send out when he gets home. Hopefully people will like them!

Wedding Dress Wednesday: Getting Close



I really wanted to do some more work on the dress this week, so I convinced the Mister to pin me in (not an experience he enjoyed very much). My guess from last week was correct – it was definitely too big.




Yup, definitely way too baggy. Actually, it wasn’t too bad across the hips, but then the skirt isn’t my priority here. So I decided to go down a size to the size 8. I actually traced out the curvy fit skirt as well, but I didn’t have enough fabric for it, so I just cut out the bodice and attached it to the existing skirt, easing in the excess.

The Mister swallowed his hatred of pinning and secured me in the new dress.

fitting03 fitting04

Obviously it’s still a bit wrinkled in the back, although I’m not sure how much of that is just a pinning issue. There is also a little excess fabric in the centre front panel, and some diagonal wrinkles in the side panels. I’ll have to do a little research to figure out how to address them – I’m not sure where the best spot is to take in the excess.

Well, that’s all until next week. Fingers crossed I’ll have lots more progress to report!

Wedding Dress Wednesday: New year, new approach edition


Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you’re all having a great start to 2013 – it certainly looks like being quite a momentous one over here.

Sorry it’s been a while between updates. Between the work of getting our new home set up, and the fun of my birthday and Christmas, my days have been filled with a lot of distractions!

You might remember that in my last post, I commented that the bodice I had been trying to use for my wedding dress just wasn’t working out for me. So I decided to go back to the drawing board. My original plan had always been for a sleeveless, scoop neck dress. I wanted a low-cut back, but on looking through a lot of pictures I realised that actually I would be happy with just a mid-scooped back. That has the added bonus of allowing me to wear a bra, which I wouldn’t have been able to with the previous dress.

My next step was to attempt to draft my own sloper. The front looked OK on paper, but the back looked ridiculous. I must have messed up in my measurements, and I just couldn’t get it to work. So I decided to turn to a ready-made pattern. A browse through the local craft shop led me to Simplicity 2648:


This pattern has a lot of rave reviews, which isn’t surprising when you see the fantastic results people have achieved with it.

My plan was to use the sleeveless view and adjust the front and back necklines to my liking. Obviously the skirt will be completely different, but I decided to make my muslin with the existing skirt, so that I could use it in the future if I wanted (although to be honest I tend to prefer an A-line or circular skirt, as a quick glance through my Pinterest will attest).

If you’re not familiar with the pattern, it has a slightly different construction method than a standard pattern, to help you achieve your preferred fit. To start with, you choose from an A, B or C cup bodice, and a slim, average or curvy skirt. I took my measurements and opted for the size 10, with the B cup bodice and average skirt.

The dress is then constructed by basting the princess seams on the bodice, stitching the princess seams on the skirt front, and the back bodice and skirt darts. The front and back are then individually stitched together at the waste, before the side seams are basted together. This makes it easier to adjust the fit, as the princess seams and side seams are the most likely to need adjusting.

It was a fairly straightforward process, and I managed to cut out and sew the dress in an afternoon.


As I’ve already discovered, solo fittings are not the easiest thing in the world. My parents are visiting next week, so hopefully my mum will be able to help me do a proper fitting. In the meantime, I think I’ve already spotted a few problems:


Apologies for another scummy bathroom mirror shot! As you can see, the bodice just looks too big. I think I’m going to have to go down to a size 8. It’s a bit snug through the hips, but that might partly be because the waist is a bit low. Obviously I’m not going to worry too much about the skirt for now, but I’ll come back to it later.

This process has definitely refined a few things for me. Firstly, I really need a new iron. I had trouble easing the side panels in along the princess seam line, and ended up with some puckers. I had a look in Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques, and she says to stitch three lines of basting along the seam to be eased in, draw it up to the desired length, then steam the fabric to shrink it size. Unfortunately my iron doesn’t steam, so I think a new one is in order.

I also decided that, rather than line my dress, I’m going to use the couture method of backing the fabric, and finishing the openings with facings. Not only do I prefer sewing facings rather than linings, but I should be able to get a much neater result. Plus, if for some reason I need to adjust the fit closer to the big day, it should be easier (but hopefully that won’t happen).

So, lots of progress in the last few days! I’ve also made some decisions on the embroidery for the bodice, but I’ll save that for another post.