Sunday, April 29, 2012

An Oops on the Waterfall Christening Gown

Every once in a while I pull out the Waterfall Christening Gown and get to work on it when I have a few minutes. This is one of those projects I can work on while riding in a car, so it's a good project to have around. So far, I've put together the sleeves, bodice and skirt, but now am working on the band at the hem. It's a plain white band that will attach to the dotted Swiss of the skirt with entredeux and will have gathered lace at the bottom. You can see how it's supposed to look in the Christening Gown version in the photo above.

Can you see my oops? When I rolled and whipped the fabric edge, I pulled too tightly and made ever so gentle gathers in the fabric. I've tried but I can't steam them out. There's only one thing to do, and that is to cut the edge off and start over. Drat!

I found that the entredeux comes of quite easily using a seam ripper, but there is no way on earth I can unroll a rolled and whipped edge. In fact, I can't even tear it off as this fabric, Bearissima I, doesn't tear well on the lengthwise grain. Most fabrics don't, I've found. They tend to tear much better on the crosswise grain.  Instead, I'm pulling a thread as you can see by the slight wrinkles on the left and cutting very carefully with my fairly new and still very sharp Gingher scissors. After I finish this I'll start over again with rolling and whipping the edge. At least I can salvage the entredeux.

The good news is that my carpooler will be back from her two week vacation tomorrow and she will drive at least two days next week, so I'll get a bit of stitching time in. But this time, you can be sure I'll be paying attention to my thread tension. To follow the project all the way, please click here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Some New Stitches

I've made just a little bit of progress on Garnet, the handbag I'm embroidering from an Inspirations kit that I picked up last October. This piece has a lot of new stitches in it, at least they are new to me. The middle stem above is Heavy Chain Stitch, in which each stitch is overlapped onto the previous stitch, making a nice, firm line. The leaf outlines, shown above are Chain Stitch - Back Stitch combination. On the left is the chain stitch, on the right is the completed combination.

Here I'm working the back stitch into the chain. you can see that the addition of the back stitch gives a nice texture to the chain stitch, while also spreading the chain out a bit on the sides and filling the center to make it solid.

The large flower is made using a Double Chain Stitch. You can see my first effort is uneven, as I couldn't get the width right. Then I realized why. That pink pencil I used is just not dark enough to see properly. So out these stitches went!

Here you can see that I drew in the outline using a Pigma pen and believe me, it is such a relief to be able to see the markings. My stitches are much more even and the dark red perlĂ© cotton covers the lines beautifully.  You can bet that I'll trace over the rest of the markings before starting a new section.

This project is coming along slowly, what with all the new stitches. It's also been somewhat hectic at work so I've been coming home later at night. That, with my carpooler being on vacation makes for a tired girl with not much energy for stitching in the evenings. I have a doodle cloth set up in a hoop that I practice the stitches on before working on the purse, so that makes each session a bit longer. But it's definitely worth the effort to get the stitches done in my mind so I know what I'm doing. The center of the flower is supposed to be a Ghiordes knot, or Turkey work, but I don't like the look of it in the photo so I'll try to come up with something different. The flower at the base of the design has a spider rose which looks very nice.  If I can't think of something really great it will probably be French knots. But it definitely needs to be something solid to cover up my anchoring stitches.

I hope to get a few hours in today, maybe finish the petals and start on the filling. If you remember, in the last post I mentioned I have absolutely no business starting a new project what with all the unfinished projects I have. Well so much for that idea. This upcoming Saturday I'll be taking a class from Kari Mecca called Bits of Bullion Bubble. It will be perfect for my great niece this summer. I've mentioned before that we here in Southern California have quite a few heirloom sewing and smocking teachers, and Kari is definitely one of them. Please visit Kari's website, she has a lot of great items for sale.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Garnet Bag

So here I am with the next project, which I have absolutely no business starting as I have so many unfinished projects to work. But when I saw this kit at the SAGA Convention Market last October in the Country Bumpkin Booth, I had to have it. The project is called Garnet, and is a purse worked in Presencia perlé cotton and cotton floss in Color No. 1915, a deep blood red (or garnet!) on natural linen. The linen is fused to a lightweight interfacing for stability. I'm not an expert on types of embroidery, but this looks to me like a variation of Deerfield Embroidery, which is a Michigan version of Jacobean Embroidery, but worked all in blue. If anyone of you out there knows better than this, please feel free to correct me.

Here are the first of the stems, stitched using a heavy chain stitch. The stitch is made heavy by passing the needle through two chain stitches at a time, instead of one.

I'm sure you are wondering why you can barely see the lines on the fabric. I can barely see them myself. I used this new Sewline pencil, in pink, to draw the lines. I learned about it at the SAGA Convention so ordered one for myself. I think it is probably better suited to fine fabrics, not dark or nubby fabrics such as linen. I can see the lines, but as I said, just barely. I will probably have to refer to the photo of the embroidery quite a bit as I progress.

Now here is the best part of the project. I have it mounted on my new Needle Needs Millennium Frame and the Necessaire Floor Stand.  I'm sure you have seen this described in other blogs, such as NeedlenThread and The Unbroken Thread so I won't repeat it here, but will say that this is one very, very nice stand and frame.  Look at the smile on Kathy's face on the Unbroken Thread post! That's just how I feel, and I'm no way as tall as Kathy. I just love how easy the frame is to mount and tighten the work so it is stretched taut for embroidery.

So I'll be working this project in the evenings, now that it's a bit lighter due to Daylight Savings Time. I mentioned last time that I have carpooling projects, and it caused a bit of confusion. I have a fairly long commute to work, 65 miles each way. So I carpool with a coworker, and we trade off each day who is driving. We have virtually no public transportation to where we need to go. On the days that I don't have to drive, I have a hand sewing on which to work in the car. It can't be too exacting, as there are too many bumps in the road for really precise work. But I can still get quite a lot done.

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Finishing the Golden Pomegranate

When I last posted on this project, I was adding the pearl purl to the outlines of the leaves. I found it so fiddly that I could only work about two of them at a sitting before I had to geI t up and do something else. I was pretty glad to finish them and move on to the bright check. Here I'm adding the bright check to the calyx, but if you look hard, you can barely see that the thread is showing on some of them. I ended up taking them all out right after I took this photo.

By placing each piece very, very carefully, I was able to hide the threads. Much better! I finished with the bright check, added the beads, 

and I was finished! In the last post I mentioned that some of the tendrils weren't drawn too well. In fact, one or two of them were pretty thick and I was worried that the pearl purl wouldn't cover the pencil marks. This kit came with three different sizes of pearl purl, so I had just enough of the largest size for the first three tendrils. I then used the medium size for the next three, and the smallest for the rest. Luckily, I was able to cover up all of the pencil marks. Note to self: be more careful when transferring the design.

Here's a side view, showing the sparkle of the gold a bit better. Now to mount it. I'm thinking of a roundel to display it on a plate holder, but I'm open to suggestions. I think I also need to straighten those red beads so that all are sitting on their sides.

Likes and dislikes of this project:
It's a beautiful design, with lovely materials, what's not to like? The kit came with full skeins of Au Ver a Soie, Soie d'Alger and enough of the gold, beads and spangles so I couldn't possibly run out. The designer, Margaret Cobleigh, was in the Persian Peony Tile class I took, so I got to see the original. (Hers looks much better).

The only thing I didn't like was my execution, which is certainly not the fault of Margaret or of Country Bumpkin, which published the design and put the kit together. The stem has a funny bend to it right before the first leaf, and I found that the pearl purl really takes some skill to manipulate it properly. This being only my third goldwork project I've ever worked, it's understandable that I don't have much familiarity with the materials.

To see all of the posts about the Golden Pomegranate, just click here.

So what's next? I have more kits that are waiting so I will set one or two of them up so they are ready to be worked. I have my two dresses to finish, but those are carpooling projects and will take a while to finish, especially as my carpooler is on vacation for the next two weeks. Back in February I took advantage of the sale at Hedgehog Handworks and bought silver materials to match my Silver Swirls project from when I visited the Royal School of Needlework last year. I'm starting to formulate a design to use the materials in a companion piece.

Now I'm off to fix dinner. Have a great rest of the weekend!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Small Smocking Project

One of the local SAGA chapters that I belong to has been having some pretty interesting projects lately. This one is of a smocked cell phone case from the August 2006 issue of the now defunct Creative Needle magazine. Look at that old fashioned cell phone - there aren't too many of those around any more, so our teacher is modifying it to fit an iPhone 4. Our teacher is Connie Moses, and if you follow Australian Smocking and Embroidery, you'll find many of her designs published in that soon to be defunct magazine. This pattern is designed by Barbara Meger, who will be teaching at the SAGA Convention in Atlanta this fall. Barbara is a very talented needle artist and teacher, and you can visit her website to see all of her beautiful designs designs.

I've decided not to smock this in the pretty colors shown in the magazine, but rather to keep the black/ecru color scheme that I've been making so many accessories in to coordinate with my Smocked Pockets Tote Bag. The problem is that a width of fabric is supposed to have 130 pleats to be large enough for the iPhone, but my width of fabric only has 117 pleats, which may not work. I'm using ecru floche for the smocking, to match what I used on the tote bag. Besides, I have two full skeins of the stuff, so I want to use some of it.

So, what to do about the width of the fabric? Rummaging around the sewing room, I found that I had started outlining this appliqued Celtic C, so I'll finish that and maybe use it for the back of the phone case. Here I'm using Coton a Broder No. 25 as it's a bit finer than the floche and perfect for the small scale of the letter. This letter C is from the same alphabet as the letter G (yes, that is a G) on the tote bag, and it was a free download from Needle 'n Thread. Here is the link to all of Mary Corbet's free downloadable alphabets.  Thanks, Mary!

Tonight is a meeting of the other SAGA chapter that I belong to. We are a pretty small chapter and don't have programs, but we all get together at our hostess' house and work on whatever we feel like doing. Everyone is available to help each other with the various questions we may have about our work. It's a great environment, very relaxing, and I love it. Since we are all in the other chapter, the one doing the iPhone case, I'm hoping someone will bring the project and we can compare notes. I want to be up to speed for the meeting of that chapter next week. (this isn't too confusing, is it?)

I really don't need yet another project to interfere and keep me from working my main projects, but this one is too cute and useful to pass up. Besides, I have a large part of the work done. The silk dupioni had already been pleated, and the initial is about 1/5 finished. Working on this will get an unfinished project out of the way, and help clear up my mess in the sewing room.

You may be wondering about the white stuff on the edges of the smocked piece up above. That is a product called Seams Great, a tricot knit that comes on a roll and is great for binding raw edges together. I don't have a serger and silk dupioni is notorious for ravelling, so after pleating the piece I flattened it out and attached the Seams Great. And you know what, it is great! No raveling at all. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Needlecraft Easter Basket

We don't have small children in our household any more, so there are no Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies or marshmallow peeps for us. Instead, here is a whimsical crocheted Easter basket made many years ago by my grandmother.  She also knitted the chick, which can cover a real or chocolate egg. The springtime rubber duckies came from an import shop. Just so you know, there is no plastic green grass in that basket! When the kids were small I would still find pieces of it around the Fourth of July.

I'm cheating a bit with the basket as I have a small casserole inside to keep its shape and some batting scraps for the ducks and chick to sit upon. There are also some egg shaped candles in the back. If you want some crochet projects for next Easter, visit All Free Crochet for several free projects. In fact, it doesn't take much time or effort to find lots of free patterns all over the internet for all sorts of crafts, if that's what you like to do. For myself, I'll stick to embroidery and sewing, although I do have to admit to not doing much of either for holidays lately.

We are having a quiet Easter, but will barbecue a leg of lamb later on and have some fresh vegetables from the garden as accompaniment. The cat has settled down for his eight hour nap in the linen closet, and I plan on getting some work done on the Golden Pomegranate or maybe the Rosebuds and Hemstitched Baby Dress for a few hours.

My darling little granddaughter and daughter came down with pinkeye on Friday, so no Seder dinner (dad's Jewish), no Easter egg hunt at the park and no church today.  Poor baby.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hemstitching and Lace

One of the problems with having so many unfinished projects lying around is that I get distracted quite easily. I tell myself that I'll work on a certain project, but then something that's been lying around for months catches my eye and I just have to work on it. Back in October 2011 I showed you the progress I had made on the Rosebuds and Hemstitched Baby Dress that I took as a class at the SAGA Convention. This past weekend I just had to pick it up and work on it. I finished all the hemstitching on the block of fabric that would become the sleeves. Here's a little step by step tutorial on the hemstitching as taught by out teacher, Jeannie Baumeister of The Old Fashioned Baby. First, slip the needle under four threads and loop around the thread.

Pull the thread up and give it a bit of a tug to make a little thread bundle.

Then bring the needle around to the left of the thread bundle and bring under two horizontal threads just above the withdrawn portion,

and pull up to secure. Repeat, repeat and repeat! This is a very soothing and relaxing stitch, and I found I didn't want to get up while I had any length of stitching left. I had to force myself to stand and stretch out my shoulders. The middle row has the hemstitching on both sides of the withdrawn threads, but the two outer rows just have one row of hemstitching.

After all the hemstitching was complete, I added the lace edging to the front of the dress. The pattern calls for gathering the lace and stitching it to the edge of the lace insertion that had already been added to the dress. I pinned the lace to the dress, making little loops between each pin for the gathers.

Then I pulled a thread from the header of the lace insertion, and it gathered and lay down nicely. I didn't pull all the gathers from one end, but pulled from each end, gathering half the length of the lace at a time.

You can sew this down by machine, but Jeannie recommends doing this by hand, as it gives you much more control. And you know what? She's right! I know I would have said some very naughty words doing this by machine, but by hand it's nice and relaxing, and really doesn't take that much time. Besides, speed is not the key here. As I'm stitching, I'm able to even out the gathers with my thumb.

After all the lace was applied, I started in on the bullion roses that the dress is named for. These are on one of the sleeves. Now I won't be posting about this for a while, as I have over 60 of these little guys to embroider. They do work up quickly, but 60 is still quite a few!

I've only made two posts on this dress, but click here to see them both.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

More Hand Sewing

I am really finding that hand sewing a christening gown is extremely relaxing and satisfying, as with the Waterfall Christening Gown. Especially when working with such a wonderful fabric as Bearissima batiste. It's fairly tightly woven, not too fine, and finger presses beautifully. Now that dotted Swiss is another matter altogether. Those dots are a real pain to sew through, as shown above, especially when I leave the thimble at home. I have several holes in the third finger of my right hand, along with all the little pricks from the needle's tip on the same finger of my left hand.  Luckily, though, I haven't bled on this dress at all. I'm working my way through the side seams, which are french seams. These, as you know, are first sewn wrong sides together, then trimmed and pressed well with right sides together. The seam is then sewn, enclosing the raw edges.

One of the techniques of hand sewing that I have trouble with is hand rolling a hem. It's hard enough to do it on plain cotton batiste, but that dotted Swiss brings the challenge to new heights. But still, it came out acceptable. I certainly won't win any awards with this sewing.

Luckily for me, I have a great deal of hand rolling left with which to sharpen my skills.  I need to add an extension on to the bottom of the dress, which will be hand rolled on both long ends. Oooh, my fingers are aching in anticipation!

To see the complete project, just click here

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Boingy Leaf Outlines

When I last left the Golden Pomegranate, it was late September of 2011 and I had finished couching down the stem. About a week later, I took the class on the Persian Peony Tile and so put the poor Pomegranate on hold. But at least I planted a pomegranate tree.  Originally, I had this project in a hoop but took it out when I realized I would not be working on it for a while. But this week I put it into an Evertite frame, and what a difference that makes! Now the fabric is stretched tightly, with no off-grain pulling anywhere. I definitely recommend these frames - they make stitching an exacting project such as this so much easier than using a hoop, even one of those sit upon hoops.

As you can see, I'm now at the point of outlining the leaves with pearl purl, couched down with yellow machine sewing thread. I pulled the pearl purl just a tiny bit, so it won't be so boingy and will be easier to work with. Thanks, Mary, for that tip! Well, it's still pretty fiddly and not at all easy to work with, although stretching the pearl purl ever so slightly does seem to make couching it a bit easier. The thread pops right into the coils very easily, becoming quite invisible. 

I've only managed to complete three of them before I had to quit and go do something else. I'll do a few more, then maybe move on to the bright check for the dot between the leaves and the bottom of the pomegranate. I know there are biological names for these parts, and I'll look them up eventually. The tendrils between the leaves are supposed to be couched in a thinner pearl purl, but look at that awful drawing of the tendril above! We'll discuss that in another post.

Please click here to see the complete progress of the Golden Pomegranate.