Monday, May 31, 2010

Finished - The Embroidered Notebook Cover

Happy Memorial Day to all of you in the US! 

As I mentioned in the last post, I changed the flowers in the original monogram to match those in the fabric.


I made the flowers into generic bullion rosebuds with little French Knot buds along the stems.

The finished notebook.

So, what do I like/dislike about this project? First the likes: I managed to match the silk floss with the fabric roses pretty well. I think the rosebuds came out quite nicely. I made the cover to fit a larger notebook an 8 1/4 inch by 5 inch Moleskine. It also covers the same size notebook by Gibson, which are generally more readily available at large office supply stores. It fits quite well, as I made a muslin to figure out the sizing for the pattern. It's pretty much the same pattern as I used as a child covering my schoolbooks with brown paper bags, just sewn together instead of taped.

Now the dislikes: I really need more practice in satin stitch monograms. This isn't too bad, but it's not great, either. The thorns could be sharper and the curves smoother. But as practice makes perfect, I'll have to set up another project soon. I used silk threads on linen, with cotton floral. Now the darn thing has to be dry cleaned. I think I'll just keep it for taking notes at my needlework guild meetings, that should keep it fairly clean. Since it covers a black notebook, I could have lined the monogram oval with a heavier interfacing. But that I can remedy, I think I'll stitch a piece of the beige linen to the back of it to give it a bit more opacity.

So there it is! While it's not a completely original design, it isn't copied line for line from a pattern. This is as much of a semi original design that I've ever done, so it's been a stretch for me. Maybe this will encourage me to design something a bit more original.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Embroidered Notebook Cover

I am not much of an original designer. In fact, I almost always follow patters word for word, line for line, and I love using kits. This project shows my attempt to take ideas from several sources and combine into one project. 

Last December I decided to make a notebook cover. This is a combination of ideas from two sources, one of which is the Nicole French Maid Needle Book offered by Access Commodities. This was described by Mary Corbet in her Needle n' Thread website last year, only she worked the initial in surface stitch, not cross stitch as instructed in the kit.  Here's the link to the first article she wrote about this project. I liked the project quite a bit, but wanted a notebook cover from looking Australian Smocking and Embroidery, Issue 89. The project is called Melody, a smocked and beaded notebook cover for a Moleskine ruled notebook which measure 5 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches. Country Bumpkin still has kits available on their website. They are a bit pricey, but very convenient if that is important to you.

So I had two ideas, a needle book with an embroidered initial and a tiny notebook cover.

I received this lovely book last Christmas, Letters and Monograms from the House of Malbranche.  It has the loveliest monograms, and you can order it from Wendy Schoen, among other places.

This is the monogram I decided to use, the letter G from the English Chiffres collection in the book.

I found some floral fabric in my stash, heaven only knows where it came from, and some beige linen with a hint of yellow in it. In keeping with the style of the needlebook, the monogram is worked in Au Ver a Soie, Soie d'Alger, only in a very slightly padded satin stitch. Note the interfacing around the linen to protect it from my grubby hands!

I changed the flowers to match the fabric, and attached the linen to the floral cotton with a pinstitch worked by hand. The pinstitch is not completely finished here, and you can still see some of the blue pencil markings.

The next post will have the finished product.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shirley Temple Dress - Finished the Scalloped Border

I haven't mentioned the Shirley Temple Dress since April when I started this blog, so I'm giving you an update. After all, this dress, and the others in the Wendy Schoen Embroidery Club 2010 is the whole reason I started this blog.

I managed to finish all of the scalloped edging. If you recall I used blue DMC floche, which came with the kit. There wasn't quite enough in the kit to do all of the scallops, but this may be because I used a backstitch for the outline. I had to dip into my stash for the rest of the floche, but this isn't a problem as I have every color available, so my supply will probably outlast me! Stitching an even buttonhole scallop edging is not easy. Especially as I wasn't as careful as I probably should have been marking and stitching the outline. So it's a bit uneven here and there. The stitching over the seams is particularly uneven. Once I wash it and play with it a bit it may come out a bit better. But all in all, I look upon this dress as a skill builder. This coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend in the US, and I have four days off - Friday being a day off for me (my work schedule gives me every other Friday off). So I hope to get a lot done, maybe even finish it. I need trim the scalloped edges using a pair of duckbilled applique scissors I got for Christmas. Then buttonholes, buttons and the hem and it will be finished. I can't wait to see my granddaughter in it!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Counted Cross Stitch Biscornu - Starting on the Border

I have finished the alphabet on the second side of the Counted Cross Stitch Biscornu.

I really like the Algerian Eye Stitch used in the alphabet, but since each letter is so big, I could only get to U, so we're missing a few on this side. The first size has the almost the whole alphabet, missing only J and U (or V, can't tell which). The photo of the first side is on the first post.

As you can barely see in this photo, I have managed to get almost three quarters of the way around the whole design. This is a terrifically boring part of the project, as it entails working a triple back stitch over four threads. The other parts of the project were so much more interesting because I could get a section done and have a sense of accomplishment. That's hard to do with a border. Next I'll fold down the edge right on the pulled stitch line, then work more of the pulled backstitches. So it will be a while before I post again on this project. I can only stand working on this part so long, and then I'll have the other side to do, too!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lions and Tigers and ... !

Now, I am not a bear person. I know many people who are, but I'm not one of them. But I do have to admit that sometimes than can be somewhat cute. SAGA, to which I belong, has a wonderful Wee Care project in which members make baby gowns for seriously ill infants. At the annual convention there is a big display of all the donated gowns, many of which are on bears. And they do look nice, especially since they are wearing such lovely embroidered gowns. But I am just not one of these people who get all gushy about stuffed bears. So I really surprised myself by signing up for a bear class at the last Beating around the Bush Needlework convention in Adelaide, South Australia, last October. Yes, I went to Australia! And what a fantastic place it was. But more about that in another post. I took a class called "Mother Bear and Baby" taught by Beth Allen. It was a one day class on the first day of the convention, and it really caught my eye.

Beth is an absolutely wonderful teacher. She gave us a kit with all of the fabric, felt and different DMC flosses, which were wrapped around cardboard bobbins with bear heads on them. She also provided the crocheted hat, handbag handle and knitting sample to go into Mother Bear's handbag. This was way too cute. And very inexpensive, as the kit cost only $30 AU. This was a real bargain, especially since the US dollar was down at that time (it's doing a bit better now, but not much - I monitor these things). One of my classmates was a bear enthusiast who took every class at the convention from Beth. She ended up making three bears, including this one.

This looks as though it is difficult, but in fact it was fairly easy. The felt pieces went together using a glove stitch, and the embroidery was for the most part fairly simple. The bullion roses would be a bit difficult if you are new to them, but I've been making them now for a few years, and enjoy them. Probably the hardest part was putting the Mother Bear's dress together, although starching and pressing the fabric made it easier to handle.

After I got back from Australia Inspirations #640 arrived, with another of Beth's bears. This was a tea cozy, and I decided that I just had to make it!

I made a few changes, using whatever materials I had on hand. The original pattern called for Colourstreams snowflake sequins, but I just used whatever beads I had on hand to make the flowers.  I also substituted bullion roses for the cast on roses Beth recommends. Being somewhat lazy, I skipped making the purse w/ tea bag.  According to the article, the cozy will fit a teapot 20 inches in circumference and 4 3/4 inches high.  Mine is a bit bigger than that, so I adjusted the skirt to fit. As you can see, the fabrics nicely complement my china pattern. I may start looking through old Inspirations issues to find more of Beth's lovely projects to make.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Very First Counted Cross Stitch Project

Last October Country Bumpkin of Australia issued No. 64 of their Inspirations magazine. They have a series in the magazine called "Pocket Project", which I guess is supposed to be small, easy to carry around, and relatively simple to work.

This Pocket Project is a counted cross stitch biscornu, a type of pillow made from two squares of embroidered fabric. Now this particular project is most definitely not small, easy to carry around, etc., but in a good way. I love the  colors and the design of the embroidery, and the project sort of niggled at me until I decided that I just had to try it.  Since this is worked on 40 count linen, this is definitely not a beginner's project, and with counted cross stitch, I most certainly am a beginner. But I forged on ahead anyway. I ordered the fabric, a lovely natural linen, and the threads, Au Ver a Soie, from Needle in a Haystack, in Alameda, California. I even visited the shop when my husband and I drove to Sacramento to attend a nephew's wedding this past January. We went into San Francisco for lunch and a bit of sightseeing so I just had to stop in Alameda to visit the shop. It's a great shop, the owners are very friendly, so please stop by if you happen to be in the area.

These are pretty ragged looking because I'm more than 3/4 of the way through the embroidery.  I promise I'll learn to take better pictures! Notice the card - I bought a craft punch and punched holes in cardstock, labeled each hole with the floss color and the corresponding alphabet tag from the pattern. This is a great help in keeping the threads organized. I snip off 18 inch lengths and loop them through the holes as I need them.

I have finished the first side, and managed to change the date from 2009 in the pattern to 2010 all by myself, without direction. I worked all the embroidery in a hands free hoop, and around the edges there was a distinct darker ring. I had to send this off to the dry cleaner's and even though you can't see it in this picture, it still is there, very faint. Luckily, it will be all cut off in the final project.

For the second side I stitched muslin strips to the sides of the linen, and placed all in a larger hoop with a top layer of lightweight interfacing. Then I very carefully cut away the interfacing all around where the embroidery would be, leaving a protective layer around the edge of the hoop. You can't see it in the photo, but I can see where the interfacing is getting a bit dirty, thereby saving the linen. And this is with washing my hands every time before I come even close to it. The photo shows that I'm working on P, but at the time I write this, I have finished Q. Once I complete the alphabet I will work on finishing the edges using a pulled thread technique. I have no idea what that is, but the directions in the magazine look pretty clear so I will show you as I get into it.

I am finding that I somewhat like this technique, even though for some odd reason I didn't think I would. I like the bargello effect around the date and the satin stitch alphabet on the first side. The green cross stitch border is a problem, on both sides. It's hard to see, but the section just under the B on the first side is a bit off. On the second side the top and bottom centers have an extra cross stitch as I just didn't count quite right. Oh well, I've heard that even experienced cross stitchers sometimes have their counts a bit off. The second side alphabet is worked in Algerian Eye Stitch, which is a very pretty stitch with a pulled center, creating a bit of a hole in the fabric.

I started this project in early February, and here it is mid May. I'd like to finish this by late June, because I'll be starting another new project then.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wool Felt Embroidery Envelope

Since Mary Corbet posted her blog this past Sunday on Needle 'n Thread regarding wool felt, I thought it might be  appropriate to share some projects of my own using wool felt.

 A few years ago I fell in love with this pattern, 812 Arlyn's Embroidery Envelope, from Crabapple Hill Designs. It is an embroidery envelope, or mini sewing kit, to take along to work on various sewing or embroidery projects. It sat in my sewing room for quite a while, until I uncovered it while cleaning. Since it was so cute, I decided to make it up then and there. I put the felt into hot water and dried it, to give it that "boiled" look.  I embroidered it in DMC Floss, using various patterns from Country Bumpkin's A to Z of Embroidered Flowers.
The instructions with the pattern called out wool felt applique for the heart flowers and the large leaf, but I didn't have the proper color of scraps on hand, so I substituted other designs, even adding a few beads here and there. I used a scrap of vinyl under the scissors case, and would have for the pin cushion if I had thought of it. Cute, isn't it? Later I'll post some bears that I've made.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Finishing the Purple Tote Bag

I finished Mom's purple tote bag today! As I mentioned before, I followed Mary Grace's Tote Bag Tutorial, but made a few changes. I managed to get to the fabric store to buy more of the stork fabric so I could make a zippered pouch on the inside lining. I did take a picture of the pouch, but deleted it somehow, so I don't have it for you to see.

When I attached the lining to the outside shell, I made an 1 1/2 inch mistake, and ended up making the bag the same amount shorter. (I still haven't figured out how I did this. Does this ever happen to you? Of course not!) This mistake made the zippered extension on the inside a bit too big for the bag, but I left it as is. I used a sport zipper as Mary Grace suggested, which makes the bag much easier to open and close. I used fusible fleece throughout, fusing it to the outside and inside pockets, and to the lining and the shell. I made all the pockets double sided, which took quite a bit more fabric. But the stiffness the fusible fleece gives to the bag more than compensates for the extra fabric used.

This is a great pattern, and very easy to follow. Thanks, Mary Grace, Mom loves it! I may make it again, but will fiddle around with the zippered inside pouch so it will look a bit more professional than my hack job. Mom doesn't see too well, so she won't notice. I have some left over fabric, so may make a few accessories, such as a zippered pouch for coupons. I did have some trouble with the measurements not matching up exactly, but I decided that this was because my sewing table is so crowded I cannot get my fabric spread out on it for accurate measurements. If I make it again, I may use home decorating fabric, which is quite a bit sturdier than cotton quilt fabric.

I have now made four tote bags in the last 10 months, and frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of them! Believe it or not, I started this blog to chat about my embroidery. But I got sidetracked on this tote bag thing. I'm now finished with it, and will now concentrate on embroidery and heirloom sewing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Smocked Pockets Tote Bag

Last summer my local SAGA chapter held a class to make a Smocked Pocket Tote Bag. Our teacher was one of our own members, Kathy Awender, who also teaches each year at the SAGA Convention and will teach classes to various chapters on demand. Several of the class members organized a field trip to the garment district in Los Angeles to buy the silk dupioni for the bag, but I happened to have about 3 yards of lovely black dupioni that I had purchased at Joann's. Kathy's pattern calls for a silk ribbon bow in the center, but as it was a bit too cute for me, I substituted an appliqued initial G instead.  Kathy is teaching this class at this year's SAGA convention!

I got the pattern from Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread blog, in which she posted a monogram alphabet in the Celtic Knot style. This is the link for the letter G that I used. I made the monogram into the size I needed for the space available on the totebag, then printed it out, traced it onto fusible web, and fused it to ecru silk dupioni. It was pretty tricky to cut out, I had to get my nail scissors from the bathroom to get all of the little spaces cut out properly. I then fused the ecru initial to the black silk, and outlined it with a chain stitch in ecru floche. For the lining I used a black on white flower pattern, but since I wanted the ecru color, I dyed it in coffee. I've found that dying white fabric, whether cotton, silk, or linen, in coffee will exactly duplicate the DMC ecru. Using tea gives the fabric a bit of a yellow cast, so I stick to coffee, usually leftovers from my husband's morning cup. I also dyed the silk ribbon used for the flowers in the bottom row. Unfortunately for me, everyone seems to think this is really an initial C, not a G. My mom wanted this tote bag, too, as her last name begins with a C.


I made a few accessories, a business card holder, a passport holder, and a name tag holder that we use for the SAGA conventions. The passport and business card holder are free patterns from Amy Butler Designs. Actually, the passport holder is the smaller of the Sweet Greetings Portfolios, but the business card holder is no longer available on the website.  The passport holder also holds a small notebook and a tiny pen, which is very handy for quick note writing. The name tag holder pattern is designed by one of the SAGA members and used to be available from the SAGA website, and if I can ever find it again I will post it. The name tag insert was from a program of our local chapter, Sandcastle. It was designed by Connie Moses, who may be familiar to all of you smockers out there as one of the designers of lovely smocked dresses for Australian Smocking and Embroidery. Connie's in our chapter! Aren't we lucky! Be sure to check out her Tangerine Twirl in the current 90th anniversary issue. It's a dreamy dress for older girls.

I made the name tag holder after I attended the Dallas Convention in 2007, but haven't been to one since. I made the tote bag and accessories last year, so have not used all of the items together. Which is a shame, since they go so well together. In 2011 the Convention will be in Anaheim, very close to home. I'll get to use my goodies then!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are we tired of tote bags yet?

This past year I have made three tote bags, two of which I made the mistake of showing to my Mom. I say mistake because she really likes them, but doesn't want to come right out and say, Make me one!  So she just sort of tugs at them. I decided to go ahead and make one for her, in beautiful purples, to match the red hat outfits she and her friends wear.

Here are the fabrics, lovely, aren't they? I am following the tote bag tutorial from the Hooked on Needles Blog by Mary Grace McNamara, and am already running into trouble. Mary Grace used duck fabric, which is pretty stiff. I'm using quilt fabric, which is not. To make my quilt fabrics stiffer, I starch them fairly heavily, which also helps to shrink them. I did not prewash the fabrics as the water in the starch will give me any shrinkage to be had, and I put a "Dry Clean Only" label inside. I find that once a tote bag is washed, it's never the same as when newly made. But to increase the stiffnes, I also want to use somewhat heavy interfacing with all of the fabric pieces, which means I have to line the pockets. This means more fabric. I didn't see any yardage requirements, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. I bought one yard of each fabric, and quickly ran out. Another issue is that I want to put in a zippered pouch on the inside of the bag, just as you would see on a purse. Which means more fabric. What I really need is more of the stork fabric, so I'll have to wait until Friday to buy it. ( I can't make it to the shop before closing) Oh, and I ran out of interfacing. And I need two zippers, one for the pouch in the lining and one for the zipper extension of the bag itself. After all, this is one of the major reasons I chose this pattern! I really like being able to zip the bag closed, and I know Mom will, too. So, off to Joann's and the quilt store to purchase more supplies, then I will continue sewing and writing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Little Blue Bird Dress

I started this blog to chronicle my embroidery lessons from the Wendy Schoen Embroidery Club for 2010. The first kit, the Shirley Temple Dress, arrived in early April, and I knew I would never have it finished in time for our trip to Colorado for our granddaughter's second birthday on April 21. So I rummaged through my stash of kits from when I was a member a few years ago and found a kit from 2007, Scalloped Yoke Baby Dress & Bonnet, or Little Blue Bird Dress. As always with Wendy's kits, the fabrics and threads are lovely. This one has blue and white baby lined cotton pique with all of the required embroidery threads. These are DMC Floss Color Variations and DMC Floche. This lesson is on shadow work, and Wendy has very specific instructions on how to work it including needle size, use of hoops, etc. If you follow her instructions carefully, your embroidery will be lovely.

The embroidered yoke is an overlay on the dress. I added the featherstitching all around the edge because I really like it. Wendy's instructions say to topstitch the yoke, but I think the featherstitching adds a bit more color.

The finished dress. Isn't it cute? Unfortunately, the kit is no longer available, but the pattern is. Wendy does not have the fabric, but it is available from Kari Mecca on her website, Kari Me Away.

And here is Bridget in her dress!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Another Tote Bag

I decided to make a fairly complicated and large tote bag for me to use on weekend shopping expeditions.

The pattern is the Lemon Zest Produce Bag, from the Mount Redoubt Designs Market Fresh Produce Bag Collection. I didn't use the recommended fabrics, but rather the Farm Fresh (Fruits & Veggies) collection from Timeless Treasures, because that's what my local quilt shop carried.

The finished bag has a large pocket on the front, and pockets on each side of the bag for glasses, keys, phone, pen and a water bottle, all very handy. Pretty colorful, isn't it? The pattern is somewhat complicated, what with all the pockets, but the instructions are, for the most part, fairly clear. A good idea is to cut out all of the pattern pieces in the beginning, and label each on, preferably with a post-it or a small sticker. I didn't do this, and realize that I should have done so. I was measuring each and every piece, sometimes several times, to figure out which one I needed to use next. The pattern calls for some applique on the front pocket, which I didn't do. A few comments about the instructions: 1) the strap directions were a bit odd, the strip was 6 inches wide, and the pattern said to fold it in 1 inch on each side, then fold in half for a 2 inch wide strap. Since this would have made a strap of uneven thickness,  I fused interfacing to the 6 inch strap, then folded the sides to meet in the middle, and folded again for a 1 1/2 inch strap. It was fairly thick, but at least it was even. But as I used  thick fusible interfacing, it may not have mattered much at all.

2) The bag has a vinyl bottom, and the lining has vinyl on the inside bottom and two thirds up the sides of the bag. The organizer strip is pretty loose, with no bottom on it. I think the idea is that whatever you put in the organizer will sit on the vinyl bottom of the bag. It's rather difficult to see in the photo, but the organizer is essentially a set of tubes sewn onto a strip that spans the length of the bag. I'm thinking of sewing the bottom of the tubes to the strip, but I'll try it out for a few weeks to see how comfortable I am with it.

I decided to sew in a key clasp. I know, the sewing is a bit messy, but at least it's secure. After the bag was finished I decided to add two more features.

The first is a zippered pocket, which I made and hand stitched to the lining.  Then, as I forgot to add a magnetic clasp while I was constructing the bag,

I made a strip of the binding material and looped it around a button. I can't claim credit for this idea, as I got it from Hooked on Needles, somewhere on the post - I can't find it now.

All in all, it's a great bag! It took me about a day and a half to make, and I'll test drive it next weekend to see how it works.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you Moms out there!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day Tote Bag

On our way to the Denver airport on our recent trip to Colorado, we decided to stop in Longmont to visit a needlework shop, which I will cover in another post. After going to the needlework shop, I noticed a quilt store across the street, so naturally I had to stop in and look around. The Quilter's Studio is a very nice, albeit small shop, with lots of tote bag kits for sale.  Since I had noticed that the bag my daughter has been using was becoming rather threadbare, I purchased a Shoulder Tote Kit.

The pattern is from Quilts Illustrated, designed by Penny Sturges. You can buy patterns, kits, and even finished bags from her web site. This particular kit was made up in The Quilter's Studio. I love the purple/teal color combination, and I know my daughter will, too.   This was an extremely easy pattern, with very clear instructions. I did make two changes, the first one using plastic mesh - you know, the kind used for cross stitching, instead of the cardboard called out in the patter to stabilize the bottom. I like using plastic mesh - it is washable and dry-cleanable. I also added a button and loop closure at the top of the bag opening. Here's the finished product:

I'm not sure if you can tell from the photo, but the pocket is a bit wobbly. Next time I make this up I will use interfacing in the pocket to make it a bit firmer. I attached the pocket to the bag using a small buttonhole stitch, which is my favorite method of machine applique. This only took 1/2 day to make; that's a pretty quick gift. I mailed it off this morning, so I'll find out Saturday if she likes it. But she's my daughter, she likes everything I make! I made the mistake of showing it to my Mom, so now she wants one. I'll have to make hers in the red/purple combination that the Red Hat Club favors.

After finishing this tote, I started on one for me - only it's much more complicated, with several outside pockets, an inside organizer, vinyl bottoms and so on and so forth. It is taking quite a bit more time and effort. I'll show you that one soon, then I will switch to some embroidery projects that have been sorely neglected these past few weeks.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Marathon Sewing Session

I've been back from Colorado for several days now, but have been trying to get the work backlog down to a manageable level so I haven't made it into the sewing room until this weekend. During the trip I did make a fair bit of progress on the Shirley Temple Dress, finishing the buttonhole stitch on both armholes and starting on the neckline. Now however, I've set that aside (something I do frequently) and started a new project, having just realized that Mother's day is just around the corner, on May 8! My mother lives in an assisted living facility in which all the residents hang a personalized name sign on their doors. I've been wanting to make something for Mom for some time, but never could come up with an idea until recently.

Two weeks ago, I happened to be looking at the website of a local quilt shop which had a picture of a table runner made from the book, Everymonth by Jeri Kelly. This book has a table runner pattern for, as the title states, every month of the year.

The quilt shop, A Time to Sew in Mission Viejo, made up kits for the May pattern, shown in the center top row. You can visit their website here.


This is the kit, which includes everything but thread and batting. I certainly have enough batting scraps for this project left over when I was doing some serious quilting several years ago.


Since this is a wall hanging, and not a table runner, I decided to make it slightly longer than half the specified length, but with only one of birdhouse scene. The directions specified appliqueing the fabric to the striped background using a narrow satin stitch, but I've always had problems with that method. Instead, I used a small blanket stitch, L=1.5, W=1.5 in colors to match the fabric.

Then I cut out the letters of my Mom's name using the extra blue fabric, and appliqued them above the birdhouse. I sewed the front, backing and batting together, turned all right side out, closed up the turn opening, and topstitched 1/2 inch around the edges to make it look a bit like a binding. After adding a hanging loop I was done. I hope she likes it! I may make the July runner as well, it has a star in a sort of a fireworks motif, to celebrate Independence Day.