Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baby Kimono, Cap & Coverlet

A new package arrived in the mail containing the latest installment of the 2010 Wendy Schoen Embroidery Club. This one is the fifth in the series, meaning they are a bit behind in shipping the lessons and kits. There still is yet another to come. I'm even more behind as I'm still working on the Bullion Wrap Dress, which is the second in the series.  I can't believe I haven't posted about it since August.

This kit is absolutely adorable! It consists of all the materials to make a kimono, cap, small blanket or coverlet, and a pillow cover.

The threads are DMC Coton a broder, which is absolutely lovely to work with. The little pieces of felt are for the bunny and flowers that are appliqued onto the coverlet.

This is the drawing from the web site. The blue ribbons on the coverlet and pillow cover are actually bias tubing, see the middle photo above, that is machine appliqued onto the fabric. That should be pretty easy to do!

And the best part is that my niece is expecting a baby in September, but we don't know if it's a boy or girl yet. If it's a boy, I may just order the blue kit and make that instead of the pink one I have.

I'm going to go hide in my sewing room for the rest of the weekend. I'm determined to get my heart sachet finished.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Caught in the Snow

Last Friday I needed to make a quick trip to Detroit, Michigan and thought I would return Sunday night.
"Thought" is the operative word, right? What was supposed to be a 2-3 inch snowfall with some freezing rain on Sunday evening turned out to be 9-12 inches with no freezing rain. All flights out of Detroit Metro were canceled on Sunday, and we were only able to return on Tuesday morning.

At least there was no freezing rain, and we had another day and a half to visit with relatives. This is the patio of my uncle's condo. Pretty, isn't it? Especially if you don't have to shovel it.

So I'm back in Sunny California and will post as soon as I get out from under the emails from missing two extra days of work.

Happy Stitching! 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Elizabethan Sweet Bag No 2

Way back in June of 2010 I entered a post about an  Elizabethan Sweet Bag that I made from a class taught by Susan O'Connor.  I mentioned that if I ever finished the other one I was working on I would show it you. Well, I haven't made a bit of progress but decided to photograph and share it anyway. This one is called Flowers for Elizabeth and can be found in Inspirations Issue 51. My last issue is No. 68 and it comes out quarterly, so that would mean Issue 51 came out in 2006. As I bought it at a SAGA convention a few years later, at least I didn't have to spend a small fortune on shipping from Australia.

The piece is worked on silk broadcloth using Soie d'alger silk embroidery floss, which I absolutely love. It's so fine that it lends itself beautifully to shading, although the only shading in this piece is in the leaves, and a bit in the pansies. Elizabethan embroidery always seems to have insects on it, and this piece has a ladybug on a leaf and a pretty caterpillar-type bug in the center. I say "type" because it has wings, and caterpillars don't have them, as they are larvae for various winged insects. So I have no idea of what this one is.  The strawberries, honeysuckle, white rose of York and the strawberries are all done in padded satin stitch, with a bit of gold on the strawberries.  I cheated a bit on these as I worked the padding in matching cotton floss, so I would save the expensive silk threads for surface work. As the silk thread is over ten times the cost of the cotton, this amounts to quite a savings if there is a lot of padding. I still have a bit of work to finish on it, namely the side edging, tassels for the loops on the bottom and the carrying loops. It's been sitting around for years, namely because I just don't like the finishing bits. But at least the bag is constructed!

Now here is the really difficult part - I actually had to design this portion myself! On the back of the bag, Susan had worked an S for her name. Now since my name doesn't begin with S I couldn't use her design, meaning I had to come up with a design for a C. Oh no, this hurt my brain so much! I worked very hard to come up with this C, and I have to admit it looks a bit bottom heavy with the three strawberries. But I sort of like it. 

Now I just need to finish it! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Silk Embroidered Heart Sachet Progress

This past weekend I have managed to make a bit of progress on the Silk Embroidered Hear Sachet. First of all, I stitched the bias rose colored silk heart to the background using Point de Paris, or pin stitch. I love using this stitch as it adds a lovely old fashioned pulled thread look to the piece. I used as #7 between for the pin stitch, but you can also use a #28 tapestry needle. Then I added a chain stitched heart outline around the bias heart, then interlaced the outside of the chain stitch with gold thread. The silk floss for the chain stitched heart is the same as the darker floss in the Smocked Hanger Cover, Soie d'alger 4622.

The gold thread is DMC Metallic Thread, Light Gold. I have found it is best to use fairly short threads to keep it from getting kinked, separated, and otherwise pretty miserable. The needle I used is a #28 gold tapestry needle. This is the first time I have used a gold needle, and it's pretty darn nice! I'll have to get more if I ever do any more cross stitch, which I know I will as I have a few projects lined up. In the picture above you can see how the gold thread is a bit lumpy and skewed in a couple of sections on the right, so I ended up taking it out and redoing it. I've found that if something like that bothers me, I had better rework it, as it will most definitely not get any better looking over time.

After the chain stitched heart was completely interlaced with gold, I figured I had better get rid of the blue washout pen, so after outlining the seam line with machine sewing thread, I rinsed the piece in water, patted it with a towel to get the moisture out, and let it dry for a few hours. Luckily, the weather has been so dry here with relative humidity in the 20-30% range, that the fabric dried fairly quickly. 

If you look very closely on the right hand side of the bias heart you will notice that is where I joined the beginning and end of the rose silk. To disguise this I added a stem stitch stem to artfully drape over the seam. There will be a big bullion rose in the center of the heart, with buds at the ends of the stems and leaves interspersed here and there.

I am still thinking about what to put between the chain stitched heart and the seam line. Definitely some beads, but not sure what else. This is a project that I am designing from scratch, and it is very painful for me. I am a follower of patterns and a buyer of kits. Designing does not come easy, but I am forcing myself to try.

I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine's Day with their special Valentine. We certainly did.

Now for a Severe Weather Warning in Southern California:

Isn't that great?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is Valentine's Day, and as I usually don't get too terribly excited over it, I did want to make something related to the day.

I was messing around in the sewing room and made this little felt heart. Well, actually I was inspired by the heart from Martha on her blog Southern Matriarch. Mine is nowhere near as adorable, but as I spent maybe two hours on it, it isn't bad. The Battenburg heart was something I picked up visiting an heirloom sewing shop near San Diego. All the embroidery is done with floche from my complete collection. I think I have enough floche to last me the rest of my life! The chain stitch around the appliqued fabric heart is interlaced with a lighter shade of pink floche. It's pretty hard to see as the lighter shade is too close to the white felt.

This little project taught me a good lesson: Pick my colors more carefully, and use dark enough colors to show against the background.

For a bit of history of Valentine's day, see this link, complete with a picture of the Saint himself:

Then I found this quote from Chaucer about birds finding their mates in the middle of February:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.  Chaucer, Parliament of Foules

I hope you have a wonderful Valentines' day with your loved ones!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Silk Embroidered Heart Sachet

The Smocked Hanger Cover is at a bit of a standstill until I attend the next SAGA chapter meeting and pick up my hanger so I can finish the project. So I decided to make an embroidered Heart Sachet to go with it. This is one of those "figure it out as I go along" projects so please bear with me, and feel free to offer suggestions.

I used the same ivory silk dupioni that I used on the hanger cover as a base. Then I made a strip of bias binding using a 6 mm Clover bias tape maker and very carefully shaped it into a heart on the ivory silk. I made the bias binding with some leftover rose silk dupioni that I had used for the Silken Rose dress.  After steaming the daylights out of the bias heart I basted it to the ivory silk and removed the pins. This is as far as I've progressed, so what to do next?  Pin stitch, or Point de Paris, around the bias heart, of course. I love working pin stitch on heirloom projects as it is so lovely and relaxing to stitch. I definitely want to add some beads, and maybe some featherstitching, or how about some bullion roses? I'll think about it while I'm working the pin stitch. Any ideas for me?

By the way, I made the heart shapes using cookie cutters. Somehow I'll make a pocket on the back of the heart to slip a teabag full of lavender buds into.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Smocked Hanger Cover - Smocking Finished

This last weekend I managed to wrench my back, so I've been spending quite a lot of time sitting in my sewing room with a heating pad pressed to my lower back.  This has an unexpected side effect - I  finished all the smocking on the Smocked Hanger Cover. 

Here it is pinned on my ironing pad to block it to 15 inches wide. What looks like stains in the center and upper right hand portion are just wet spots where I sprayed it with a bit too much water. All the blue washout pen markings have disappeared, but I think a total immersion in water might be necessary to remove the dye completely, and I'm really not ready to spend so much time ironing the ruffles again. It is so time consuming as I can only iron a few inches at a time with the tip of the iron. Remember how I mentioned that I pleated the fabric end to end and was left with lots of empty pleats and needle holes? Luckily, though, the pleating has pretty much been ironed out and the holes are almost completely closed.

In the first post about this project, I was undecided about which silk floss colors to use.  I decided to go with the Soie d'alger floss colors of 4621 and 4622. These are somewhat "antique" or dusty colored, which goes very nicely with the ivory silk dupioni.

This project was given by our local SAGA chapter, which provided the kits consisting of batiste fabric, floss and hanger. As I didn't attend the last meeting I used my own fabric and floss. Now all I need to do is to get my hands on the hanger, cover it with batting, and sew the smocked cover on. But I'll have to attend the next meeting for that to happen, which will not be for a couple of weeks yet.

The good news is that I am recovering from my back wrench (that's a technical term) by taking plenty of naproxen, using my heating pad and stretching several times a day. I hope to be back to normal shortly!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

White Dresses

It is late Sunday morning and I'm feverishly working on my Smocked Hanger Cover, but I thought I would take a break and share a few photos from the LACMA exhibition I recently attended and wrote about in the last post.  These photos are from the first part of the exhibit as you walk into the pavilion, and consisted solely of white dresses. As you probably know, white dresses were quite a status symbol as they showed the world that the wearer was rich enough to wear a dress that would show dirt quite easily and therefore be cleaned often. I'm presenting them in chronological order, but my details are sketchy, as I didn't photograph the descriptions nor did I buy the book. Big mistake! I may yet buy it off the website.

This is a great example of an empire dress, named for Empress Josephine, who popularized the style. That places it roughly at the beginning of the 19th century during the time of Napoleon. The scarf is silk and from Turkey. I can't imagine walking outside in this dress and getting that train dirty!

This dress is from roughly the first half of the 19th century, and has some amazing embroidery on it. I believe the embroidery is all hand worked, as the machine embroideries didn't become common until later.

This is from around 1860-70, due to the bustle which became fashionable around that time. Many of the clothes were made by the early sewing machines, and I think that the embroideries on this dress were made by machine.

I hope I haven't made too many mistakes on the descriptions of these dresses. Have a great Sunday!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Starting on the Smocked Hanger Cover

Last weekend we drove into Los Angeles, which gave me a few hours in the car, so I thought I would be clever and take along my Smocked Hanger Cover project.

First of all, you may notice that I withdrew several of the pleating threads on the top and bottom of the piece. This is because I didn't read the directions very well and pleated the whole width of the fabric by mistake. Since this is silk, I'm now left with pleat creases and holes in the fabric that are the dickens to get out. You can see at the top that I only have the first two rows and about 2/3 of the third row completed. With over three hours in the car I should have had a lot more done, don't you think? It's been my experience that I find my mistakes on the second row of smocking, since then it is easier to count and see how the pattern goes with the first row. And boy did I find them. I must have unpicked parts of that first row five times. Moral of the story: smock the first row at home, concentrating hard on getting it right. The little straight part in the middle is the buttonhole for the hanger.

The good news is that with some careful spritzing and steaming, the pleats are coming out and the holes are closing up. After ironing I can barely see the holes, and that's with using my very strong reading glasses. With the bare eye, and especially under some clothes (it is a hanger, after all), they won't be visible at all. 

The reason we went to LA was to see the exhibit Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915, now showing in the Resnick Pavilion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) through March 27. This exhibit was a fascinating collection of European clothes, with an especially good selection of men's clothes, showing how suits evolved from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.  Take a look at the goldwork on these two items!

This is a mantle from Paris, ca. 1891, of wool plain weave and silk velvet with silk and metallic-thread embroidery, glass beads, and ostrich-feather trim.  One thing that really struck both of us, not evident here, was how small the people were. We are all much bigger (and heavier).

Here is a man's suit from France, ca. 1760, The coat and waistcoat are of wool plain weave, full finish, with sequins and metallic-thread embroidery; the breeches are of wool plain weave, full finish, with silk and metallic-thread passementerie. I'm copying the descriptions right from the web site, that's why they sound a bit stilted.  It's amazing that this suit survived the French Revolution. Most of them had the gold stripped away and melted down.

This exhibit was so well curated and interesting that even my husband liked it. There are almost two months to go on this exhibit so if you are in the LA area do try to make it!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Color Choices for the Stumpwork Initial

The title sounds like a home decorating show, doesn't it? But I am in something of a quandary concerning the colors for my Stumpwork Initial flowers.

I did manage to complete the embroidery on the initial, and even stitched the vines in whipped running stitch. So that's progress, at least.

But it is the flowers that have me stumped. The kit came with lengths of Gumnut Stars Silk Floss in Pale #010, Medium #013 and Dark #016, all of them in the Watermelon line. They look lovely, but I ran out of the floss as I wanted to make quite a few more flowers than I had floss.


This one is made with the Pale and Medium shades, and I think is pretty quite nice, although it could use a bit more filling, which I will add eventually. I did save enough of the floss for that.

The flower on the left is made with Pale and Dark shades, and I'm not sure I like it very much at all. But what really bothers me are the buds, the little heart shaped pieces to the right of the flower. They are made with Madeira stranded silk floss in shade 504. I don't think that this shade of pink matches the Gumnuts shades at all, which has a bit of peachy shade in it.

And here is a flower made with Madeira stranded silk in 2404 beige, and 504 dark pink as shown in the buds above. I don't like it at all, as there is too much contrast between the beige and the dark pink. This will be a flower to stack under another, smaller, flower to hide the contrast a bit.

Just as I was giving up for the night I rummaged around in my silk floss box and found a lighter pink, No. 502, which I think will be a nice transition between the beige and the dark pink. I hope to stitch a few flowers using it and maybe shading it a bit with the darker pink. But even with this lighter shade of pink the flowers stitched with the Madeira silk still don't match those stitched with the Gumnuts Stars. I mentioned before that I plan on making two initials, one for me and one for the lovely granddaughter, so this will give me the opportunity to separate the flowers made from the two brands of threads. Please bear in mind that the differences in shades are only due to what happened to be in the kit and what I have on hand. Gumnuts Stars come in many different colors, some of which may match the Madeira very well. In fact, it looks as though the Sweet Pea group may match what I have just fine, but I don't happen to have them. But luckily for me, on Friday I can zip up to Needlepoints, Ltd in Garden Grove, only 25 miles away, which carries the most of the Gumnuts threads. And I can even visit my mom on the way!