Saturday, July 31, 2010

Progress on the Counted Cross Stitch Biscornu

I've been laid low with a cold this week (in July no less!) so I haven't wanted to stitch anything that is too terribly demanding. I stayed home from work for two days, but went in on Friday, which was a big mistake. I left early and came home for a nice nap. This evening I've managed to break two different glass bottles on the kitchen floor (I have tile), and it's now time to leave the kitchen for several hours and get some rest. For this same reason I've left the dresses, June Baby and Bullion Wrap Dress pretty much alone, and have concentrated on the Biscornu borders. These are fairly repetitive, and therefore, somewhat mindless and easy to follow.

OK, enough blather and on with the stitching!

I have finished the borders of the crown side of the biscornu. You can see the double row of four sided stitch all around the piece. It is still a bit puckered but I hope it will not show once I get the pillow constructed.

I have just started the second border on the date side of the biscornu, so have quite a ways to go.  On my post on July 14, I said that I would try to finish the borders in four weeks, so I am well on my way to my goal!

As I have mentioned before, this is my first attempt at any kind of counted cross stitch, and here I am using silk threads on 40 count linen. I think I must have been mad at attempting this! But it is coming out fairly well, if I do say so myself. the only really noticeable errors are in the green outer border, and it's not too terribly bad.

I cannot wait to finish this as it has really been a challenge for me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bashful Bunny Diaper Clutch

About a year and a half ago, that would be November, 2009, I took a class with a local heirloom embroider teacher Kathy Awender. Kathy, if you remember, designed and taught the Smocked Pockets Tote Bag I wrote about back in May.

We made this cute little diaper clutch, out of white cotton batiste with some fairly simple embroidery. The bunny is outlined in half wrapped chain stitch. We made the bunny outline in chain stitch using white, then wrapped the outer loop in pink. This gives the outline a bit more texture which is needed when using light pink and white floss on white fabric. I suppose gray or brown would be more realistic, but I can't see it in this setting.  A brown bunny just wouldn't look right.

Most of these stitches are fairly standard, but a couple deserve mention. The blue hollyhock is made with a buttonhole stitch. The stitch is really quite simple and easy to execute, but the purl on the outer edge of the flower really gives it a nice texture. But my favorite is the Twisty Rose using silk ribbon. I can't really describe it other that it involves twisting the ribbon, folding it in half and pulling through the fabric. The ribbons twists into this lovely rose, all it needs is a bit of tacking with matching floss or thread.

I love featherstitching on this type of fabric, and will always try to add lots more. The pattern called for double featherstitching on the front, but I continued it all the way around the back as well.

We were supposed to make a buttonhole loop for the button, but mine kept twisting around and looked terrible. After three tries I gave up, sewed this very nice mother of pearl button on to the fabric, and tacked velcro under the rose to fasten. It's easier to use the velcro anyway.

This was a cinch to put together. We lined it with more of the batiste, and enclosed the edges with bias binding. It even has a little strap on the back for ease of carrying.

A note about cost. This kit cost $28, and included all material plus the needles. That seems a lot for a little diaper clutch, but we are an heirloom sewing group and we love to use fine materials. You could make this much less expensive by using an inexpensive eyelet edging instead of the lace, and all floss instead of silk ribbon. By making bullions for the roses, single chain stitch (lazy daisy) for the green leaves under the bunny, substituting a polyester/cotton blend for the fabric, and using a plastic button, you could make the whole project for around $10. Less if you have the fabric and floss in your stash. I point this out so everyone knows that you don't have to spend a lot of money to create really darling embroidery projects.

If you wish to purchase a kit, email Kathy at: 

So this is supposed to be for a diaper clutch, and I was going to give it to my daughter, but I just couldn't part with it. Besides, the baby should be out of diapers soon.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Altering the Purple Tote Bag

You may remember the Purple Tote Bag I made for my mom back in May. She actually uses it, unlike the Embroidered Stumpwork Bag I had made a few years ago. Since she uses a walker, the bag hits the floor and gets banged around by the wheels.

So I shortened the bag by several inches. This will make it much easier for her to handle and to get things into and out of it.

With the leftover strap fabric I made a tiny pouch, big enough for a few bills but small enough to fit into a small pocket. I did promise to make some accessories with the leftover fabric, so at least this is a start.

Since I forgot to take a picture of the tote bag with the zippered pocket extended, here it is.

This is such a nice bag, I'll need to make one for myself! However, my granddaughter is coming in less than a month and I still need to finish June Baby and the Bullion Wrap Dress, so the bag will have to wait.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Flower Parade Dress

Two years ago our local SAGA group held a great workshop with Lezette Thomason who taught us how to redraft a pattern to make it your own. Lezette is one of the founders of Children's Corner, an heirloom sewing shop for children in Nashville, Tennessee. Now isn't that a niche market!

We started with Children's Corner pattern #242 Charlotte. Follow the link and scroll all the way down the page to see the photo of the pattern. Lezette walked us through drafting a new front pattern piece to make the closure asymmetrical.

The pattern is really simple, consisting of the two front pieces, the back and the little flower applique. It is fully lined and edged in rick rack around the neck and armholes.

Isn't that flower button cute? You can also make this in a dark red corduroy with holly shaped leaves to use as a Christmas jumper.  Or you can make it in a pastel with all sorts of hand embroidery around the leaves. This dress was so easy, I finished it that evening. I made it in a size 5, so my niece wore it the rest of the summer. Now I just need to put a size label in it so I'll remember it for my granddaughter.

Lezette is also featured on the Bernina blog, as she teaches with Berninas and is actually certified to repair them. If you follow the link, you will see her in the photo, standing on the far right.

Children's Corner patterns are very well explained, easy to use and available on-line. If you have a problem, you can call the store and they'll help you with it. Isn't that great customer service?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Counted Cross Stitch Biscornu - Continuing the Border

Right now I'm stalled a bit waiting for my daughter to give me granddaughter measurements so I can put together the June Baby dress. While waiting, I've been working on the Cross Stitch Biscornu borders, and boy are they boring!

I have finished the first row of four sided stitch around the edge of the "crown" side of the piece. Since it is a pulled thread stitch, the piece looks a bit puckered on the edges. But I think it won't show once it is assembled and stuffed. After all, a biscornu is a pillow. On the left side I have made a start on the second row of four sided stitch. This is going much, much faster than the first row.

With this view from the back you can see why. I cut the excess fabric so that only three threads worth of fabric were left so that the second row enclosed the cut edge of the fabric. With only one thickness of fabric on the bottom of the row, and the holes already created by the first row, this is really zipping along.

I also trimmed the fabric from the date side, folded it back, and started on the first row of the (very slow) four sided stitch.

On my last post on this project, back in late May, I was just starting the border on the crown side. That was six weeks ago! So I'll make a goal for myself, to get all the borders done in the next four weeks.  That may be asking a bit much, but I'll give it a go!

Monday, July 12, 2010

French Acadian Christening Gown and Bonnet

Several years ago I took  two classes from Jeannie Baumeister of Baton Rouge, LA. These were a 12 hour (2 day) class to make the French Acadian Christening Gown, and a 6 hour (1 day) class to make the French Acadian Christening Bonnet. What is especially lovely about this gown and bonnet, aside from the wonderful laces and Swiss Batiste fabric, is that it is made entirely by hand!

Every pintuck, feather stitch, hemstitch, seam, and on and on is done by hand with a needle and thread!

Look at the hemstitching in the center. Now this is Swiss Batiste, a very finely woven fabric. Hemstitching is usually done on linen, which is quite a bit coarser and therefore the threads are much easier to remove. Luckily I happened to have a Microtex machine sewing needle with an especially fine tip. This made it much easier to pick out the first thread to remove. The rest came relatively easier. But all of the hemstitching had to be done through a magnifier, as it was so fine. Also notice the lace. We had to sew the lace in by hand, which was pretty easy with a running stitch, but then clip the fabric behind it and roll and whip the edges by hand. Not so easy.

Compared to the hemstitch and roll and whip stitching, the bullions and feather stitching were a cinch!

Notice the three rows of pintucks between the featherstitching. They aren't too difficult, but you do need to  stay on the straight of grain, which is very painstaking.

Now the bonnet. Isn't is sweet? In some way this was more difficult than the gown, as the front panel is such a small piece of fabric.

So why am I grumbling so much? This was a very challenging project, but well worth the time and effort. It came out just beautifully! There is something very satisfying to know that you can make a complete baby garment, dress, bonnet and slip, entirely by hand. This was a pretty big project, and took me several months to complete. At the time I was traveling quite a bit for work, but would take the dress and an Ott Light with me where ever I went. I would grab a quick bite for dinner and sit in the hotel in the evenings and work on it while watching TV.  This did not endear me to my coworkers, who all wanted to go out in the evenings for a nice dinner and drinks. Oh well, they survived.

This particular dress, much more than any others I have made, boosted my confidence in my own sewing ability. I think that it was because it was made entirely by hand - no sewing machine at all. Now I just hope I'll have a grandbaby who can wear it. My one and only granddaughter has never worn it and is now much too big for it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Embroidered Stumpwork Bag I

Yesterday when visiting my mother I remembered a stumpwork wool bag that I had made for her several years ago. So I got it out of the drawer where it was lying unused and took a few pictures. This is from a class I took from Jan Kerton, an Australian embroidery teacher and proprietor of Windflower Embroidery. She doesn't get to the US very often, but it's definitely worthwhile taking a class from her if you are lucky enough to do so. She will be in the US next February, at Sewing at the Beach, an embroidery event sponsored by the Stranded Smockers and Stitchers of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. You can find the contact information about this on the SAGA Calendar site.

The bag is made of a wonderful wool blanketing and has a bunny sleeping in the raspberries. The raspberries are made of felt stuffed with polyester fiberfill, then covered with french knots and a few beads for sparkle. Jan's classes are not only instructive, but very entertaining. She has many stories to illustrate her points and to tell about how she comes up with ideas.

This is a closer image of the bunny on the other side. The bunny is made of a piece of beige wool, also stuffed with fiberfill and sewn onto the bag. The details are added just by stitching through the stuffed bunny before attaching to the pocket of the bag. The fluffy tail is Turkey Work, or Ghiordes Knot, trimmed and fluffed with an eyelash brush. I now keep an eyelash brush in my sewing supplies just for this use. The leaves are flystitch, which I particularly like, and the flowers and buds straight stitches with some subtle shading.

The other two pockets are much simpler embroidery. The inside has several pockets for keeping your items in order, and is topped with a drawstring closure.

The materials to make the bag are all very nice, very high quality. The bag itself is a lovely Australian wool blanketing, and the threads are mostly wool, some Appleton and some Kacoonda. Kacoonda is an Australian brand that's almost impossible to get in the US.

Jan no longer sells the kits for this bag, but she has many other items on her website, some of which I have made and will describe in other posts. Please visit it - she ships to the US!

Now to get mom to use the bag.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Independence Day Weekend

As I mentioned in my previous post, I managed to get a four day weekend for the Fourth of July, or Independence Day to the non-Americans. I am sure you are expecting a huge amount of stitching progress, but I'll have to disappoint all of you. I spent a great deal of the weekend on gardening, but did manage to sneak upstairs to my sewing room for some much needed quiet time with needle and thread.

I made some progress on the hem trim for the June Baby dress, mentioned in my last post. I am not including a link as it is on the right hand side of the blog page, and is pretty easy to find. Same idea with photos, it is just not instructive to show more of the same violet scallops that I had in the last post.

So to make this post mildly interesting, I will show another little project that I just had to make. Some months ago I came across this pattern for an Arm Chair Sewing Caddy by Maureen Greeson. I finally made it in some cat fabric that I collected several years ago, but without all the lovely crazy quilting that makes Maureen's pattern so enticing.

Now, mind you, my version is pretty dull, but it does fit the bill for having sewing supplies close at hand. It has pockets on both sides, a pincushion on top and drapes easily over an armchair. This photo is over the back of my sewing chair. Not I won't be tempted to put the pins in the armchair any more!

Then, just last week I came across this pattern for a bookmark/reading glass combo at Sew Many Ways which the author, Karen, calls an Eyemark. Strange name, but really useful idea.

It is an eyeglass case with a bookmark ribbon attached, so we old types can have our mark our places in the current book with our reading glasses close at hand.

Much better photo, without the book. I happened to have a button shaped like a tape measure to hold the bottom of the ribbon down. Same cat fabric. I still have a lot of that fabric left, what to do with it now? I've already made several little quilts for them to sit on, which they studiously ignore. Unless I seed it with catnip.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Working on June Baby

By an odd scheduling quirk at my job, we managed to get a four day weekend, with our Independence Day Holiday on Monday, and today, Friday, off as well. Last night I finished the scallops around the sleeve trim and the collar pieces, which meant I need to do some prep work before I could do any more work on the dress.

This is actually the violet cotton organdy, the same fabric as the sleeve trim and the collar. I marked the scallops all along the length of it, but then decided that I wanted to cut out the entire dress first. I want to know exactly what the finished circumference of the dress will be before I start embroidering the scallops on the hem trim.

I marked off the back pieces of the dress on the linen, then realized I would want to finish sewing the back pintucks first.

These tiny pintucks are very easy, but they need to be marked exactly. Then I creased each group of four, and sewed them in with a tiny running stitch only 2 threads away from the fold. You can see in the previous post how they will look. They are in the first picture in the upper left. Once washed and ironed, they will look much better.

Working on this dress today has been somewhat frustrating. My sewing room is becoming so disorganized I am having to step over projects on the floor to get to where I want to go. Then I lost the needle pack that came with the kit, and still haven't found it after searching for over 10 minutes. I also lost the cap to the marking pen, but eventually found it. I can sit and sew for quite a while, but at some point I have to get up to move around to get the kinks out of my back and hands. You can be sure I'll be putting things away when I do. I may even uncover forgotten projects to write about.

It's now Friday morning, we'll see how much I get done this weekend, what with the Fourth and various errands to run.