I still haven’t heard anything from the job interview I went to last week, but I have been asked to interview for another position this afternoon. Fingers crossed I will here some good news soon.
In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about my embroidery, and I have A Question:
When you’re learning something new – say a sewing technique, or an embroidery stitch – do you prefer to learn from photos or videos?
I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this.
Lastly, I thought I’d leave you with a photo that’s making me wonder whether I should rethink my wedding dress skirt. It’s just so beautiful …
OK, famous might be stretching it a bit far, but I am beyond thrilled to be featured on Mr X Stitch. I’m a big fan of the blog, so when I posted the tutorial for my Ombre Sampler, I wanted to send the link in (what can I say, I’m pretty proud of it!). To be honest, I just emailed it off on a bit of a whim – I never really expected to get a response. And to be featured … it genuinely is a bit of a dream come true.
(On a side note, I have a job interview today, so I’m hoping this luck continues!)
Since this is a bit of an embroidery day, I thought I’d share a sneak peek of the next project I’m working on.
It’s going to be another sampler! And I’m pretty excited about this one. It was partly inspired by an image I found on Pinterest, which it turns out is from a Design*Sponge post on UK illustrator Kat Heyes’s gorgeous home.
I’m assuming the picture is by Kat herself, but I don’t really know. Ever since I saw it, though, I’ve been playing around with this sampler idea in my head, and it’s great to get down and start stitching it up. Can’t wait to show off the final result!
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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:
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.
The colours are also fabulous. Some of them are so vibrant that it’s hard to believe they were dyed with natural materials.
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!
Life is a little stressful at the moment, to say the least. We’re meant to be moving in just over three weeks, and we have nothing organised – we don’t even have anywhere to live. So I’m finding solace in nice things at the moment – like the lovely Rennaisance Dyeing wools that showed up in my letterbox today!
I ordered the Elizabethan range, which is created using the natural dyes that were used during Elizabethan ranges. The yarn is beautifully soft, and the colours are so rich and gorgeous!
It’s really interesting reading the information about the various dyes on the website. But the bit that made me laugh out loud (at work, no less!) was hidden down the bottom of the page:
We have named the crewel hand embroidery thread where possible as they would have been called in the time of Elizabeth the First. Azure and Blue Regue being but 2 of the 15 woad blues produced at the time. We have spared you the dubious honour of producing your hand dyed wool or embroidery thread work in colours such as ‘puke’, ‘dead Spaniard’ and ‘goose-turd-green’.
I can’t wait to get stitching with it! Fortunately I have just the project too. Laura over at Mason Bee put a shout out the other day for test stitchers, and I was lucky enough to be selected. I’ve got the design traced and mounted in my hoop – now I just have to finish up the last bit of stitching and construction on the biscornu I’m making for a swap, and I can get started. Bring on the weekend!
You know how in interviews you always get asked what your biggest weakness is? And apparently everyone says “perfectionism”, but you’re not meant to say that because it’s not really a flaw and it just sounds arrogant and pretentious. Well, my flaw isn’t perfectionism (I can be a perfectionist when the occasion suits, but it doesn’t rule me). No, my friends, I am a procrastinator. I’ve learnt techniques to manage it at work, but when it comes to my hobbies … there’s the pair of socks I promised the Mister for his birthday at the beginning of February this year (I’ve barely turned the heel on the first sock), the vest I’ve been knitting for a year, the jumper I’ve been knitting for two.
And then there’s the piece of embroidery I’ve been stitching for work … for months. It’s such a simple piece – and perhaps that’s why I’ve never been able to find time for it. But finally, the last French knots have been added, and the stitching is done! All I have to do now is construct the final piece. Here are a few glimpses:
(The threads are gorgeous variegated threads hand-dyed by Pam from Cottage Garden Threads.)
Finally I’m free to move onto some of the other projects that have been bubbling away in my mind. I’m kicking off with a biscornu for a swap I’m taking part in over at Ravelry. I spent a few minutes in my lunch break sketching up a design: