Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Don't You Just Hate It?

When you have plans and good intentions, but never get around to fulfilling them? I had a four day weekend that just ended and I didn't get much done at all - sewing wise, that is. I had planned on working on my son's black and white Log Cabin quilt. But somehow I got ensnared into making this little wedding cake pincushion I found on the DMC blog. So I'm messing around with this and adding a few little extra touches, just so it won't look quite the same as on the directions.

I'm adding a chain stitch edging to the pink felt, then will just see what I come up with. It is sort of fun, in a way. My pincushion seems to be rounder than the sample, but I'm using wool felt instead of the craft felt specified in the directions. That may refer to the stuff made from plastic bottles that you find in Joann's and Michael's, but I don't know that for sure. I attached a circle of Peltex (very stiff interfacing) to the bottom to make it stand up a bit better.

I spent quite a bit time outside this weekend working on gardening. The weather was fairly cool for late May but generally lovely.

The catnip is growing beautifully! At least, Oscar certainly likes it.

It's Tuesday morning and time to get ready for work. Have a great week!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stumpwork Initial Finish

Last weekend I had another finish, the Stumpwork Initial! I am so pleased to get this done. It started life as a class at Beating around the Bush in Adelaide, Australia, in October 2009.

In the last post about this project, I had pretty much finished with the flowers. In fact, I had had enough of them. Sometimes you just get tired of a project and have to finish it. Here are the flowers, leaves and two of the butterflies cut out. I thought they looked a bit dingy, so I took a deep breath and washed them in a mixture of laundry detergent and oxygen bleach. Remember, these are all made of silk. The brands I use are Kirkland High Efficiency powder (available only at Costco in the US) and OxyClean. After swirling them around for several minutes I rinsed them in a sieve and set them out to dry in my laundry room.

I think they do look a bit better here, so I stitched them onto the initial.

I'm still not particularly happy with the white flowers, so I think I'll send it off to Bobbi, who runs our local dry cleaning shop and is used to my silk embroidered items. It took me three tries to get the butterfly body right. It's a 20 wrap bullion knot with three strands of cotton floss. It's supposed to have yellow spots on the darker blue portion of the wing, but I forgot to add them.

This is the photo of the original project. You can see I don't have quite as many flowers, as I just got so tired of them.

I haven't quite figured out what to do with it. I'm seriously considering adding a round border and mounting it as a roundel. That will take some doing, but I have an idea of how to go about it. So I guess this project really isn't quite finished, and you may be subjected to another post about it.

Likes and dislikes:
This is a kit and a class by Jan Kerton of Windflower Embroidery in Victoria, Australia. Jan is a delightful teacher, and all of the materials are very high quality. This kit had Madiera, YLI and Gumnuts silk floss, silk fabric, and even silk organza for the base of the cut out shapes. She provided a CD of all the initials, so we can assemble more materials and make any one of the initials. Also included are the materials for making strawberries, blackberries, and a beaded dragonfly.  Unfortunately, she doesn't have a distributor in the US, so if you want a kit you'll need to order from one of the shops in Australia listed on her site. She may be coming to the Koala Conventions in Seattle and Atlanta in 2013, but that is quite a long way off.

The only think I didn't particularly like was that the shapes to be cut out are drawn in black ink. This isn't an issue with the leaves and the butterflies but I had a hard time covering the lines with the while floss.  I have combined the shapes all onto one sheet of paper so I can copy them on to transfer paper, but I will try to lighten the lines first.

I mentioned in one of the previous posts that I want to make one for my granddaughter, and this is still on my list of things to do. Someday.

If you would like to read all of my posts on this project, just click on "stumpwork initial" in the labels cloud and they will all pop up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lavender Sachets


Today I'll share with you my technique for making lavender sachets. These are the very utilitarian kind that I use for storing my fabrics and threads, and throwing into the dryer to lightly scent the clothes.

I buy empty tea bags online, these are from the Monterey Bay Spice Company, and are pretty inexpensive, only costing $3.20 US for a pack of 50. You can also get a case of 5,000, but that's more than enough for my lifetime, so I stick with the pack of 50.

After filling with a heaping 2/3 cup of lavender buds (OK, 1/2 cup), seal the edge with a hot iron. The ironing board cover is a bit lumpy as it just came out of the dryer (I finally washed the disgusting thing). I grow my own lavender, so there is always plenty of it around. This is English Lavender, which has a very loose bud form and is easy to separate the buds from the stems. Last summer I grew a type of lavender that had a lemon pound cake sort of smell to it. It was absolutely delicious, but it died with all the winter rain we had (lavender likes well drained soil). Next weekend I'll try to find more of this type plant them in the garden.

These bags are made for making tea, not throwing into dryers, so it really helps to sew the sealed opening closed. I found that the presealed sides say put, but not the iron sealed side. And it is so much easier to sew the opening after it has been sealed.

Here is my jar, all filled. (Where's the lid? My DH broke it)  Each bag lasts for about five dry cycles, so this batch will last several months, as we have about four to five loads each week. I also have them scattered all around my sewing room to help keep the bugs away, especially with my growing collection of wool threads. I put them in my dresser drawers, in luggage, the linen closet, the (grown) kid's rooms; you get the idea.

When they start looking like this, with little holes opening, throw them out. Otherwise they will come apart in the dryer, and believe me, you don't want that. Many times I have had to stick the slim wand vacuum cleaner attachment all over the dryer and down the vent area to suck up the little lavender pods.

Warning: these are tea bags, so if you do use them for tea, do not overfill. Tea expands exponentially! Can you tell that this advice is from experience?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chinese Flower Project Finished

I did it! I finished the Chinese Flower Project, the online correspondence course I am taking from Trish Burr. If you remember, the last time I posted I was a bit worried about the banding on the bird's abdomen, but after reading all the advice on the blog postings, emails (thanks to all of you!), and the evaluation from Trish, I added a few more stitches to better blend the colors. I think it worked out pretty well. I went absolutely crazy on the project this past weekend, not wanting to stop working on it at all.

There are several points that are definitely very different from the original project, at least from my point of view. You can see Trish's rendition of the project and compare it with mine. The biggest difference is the stitch direction on the upper abdomen just below the eye. I have the stitches radiating from the eye, but Trish has the stitches radiating from the base of the beak. I suppose it is fairly subtle, but I think it is significant. Also, I made the buds on the top of the image much lighter than the original design. It doesn't look bad, just different. I'm sure there are several more that you can pick out, I am just sharing the glaring differences.

I have a couple of tips to share with you. The first and most important is to use a piece of interfacing over the embroidery design when using a hoop, and carefully cut away the interfacing. This helps to keep dirty hoop marks down to a minimum. See how the interfacing on the left is getting a bit grubby? This particular interfacing was too heavy; I recommend a lighter one.

Second, and I got this from the Royal School of Needlework video of working on the Royal Wedding Dress, is wash your hands every 30 minutes.  This is the piece taken directly after removing from the hoop. There are no hoop marks, but you can definitely see a beige (grubby) cast in a faint circle around the embroidered area. 

After washing and ironing the piece dry, the grubby area is gone. (I may wash it again to make sure). Third, many teachers and books tell you to iron on a thick towel. No! Don't do this! Iron the piece face down on three to four layers of cotton batting. If you are not a quilter with yards and yards of the stuff left over from quilting, you can always buy a piece or two when it next comes on sale at Joann's (or with your 40% off coupon!) The works so much better than a towel as it keeps the surface of the fabric smooth and allows the embroidery to pop right out at you. I was amazed at the difference between ironing on a towel and the batting.

Likes and dislikes:

I love the design, colors and threads. Anchor floss is just a bit different from DMC. It seems to be a bit finer, so shorter thread lengths are definitely in order to keep the thread from fraying. The directions were very detailed, and as I mentioned in a previous post, and all packaged together beautifully. Trish prints her fabric with medium grey lines, not black, so it is much easier to hide the lines under the stitches. I know I could never figure out which threads to use with so many to choose from, so I am so pleased that Trish publishes so many of her designs with the thread recommendations.  But the best part is that Trish thinks I did fairly well on this project, that I have gotten the hang of it! She says she will be publishing two more kits similar to this one. So I will purchase those, work them, and have two or three beautiful pieces to display together. I haven't decided if I will frame them or work them into cushions.

Dislikes? Not really any. The threads are Anchor, which are not readily available locally. So I was forced (forced!) to drive into Laguna Beach to buy them. As I mentioned previously, I could have used DMC floss, for which Trish kindly gave a conversion chart, but I wanted my version to be as close as possible to hers.

All in all I just loved working this piece and taking the course. I highly recommend it! In fact, one of my stitching friends will be taking the next course in June. If you are interested in taking a future course, and I don't know when or what will be offered, please follow Trish's blog.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Crocheted Baby Blankets

On her blog The Old Fashioned Baby, Jeannie Baumeister recently had a two part post about her friend Miss Carole's Crocheted Baby Blankets. I saw this, was enchanted with the idea and rushed right out to gather the supplies to make my own. Above are the fabrics I found, the left is from Joann's, the right from a local quilt shop which is going out of business. I had some flannel yardage and scraps but decided to buy more as my family has a couple of babies ready to be born sometime in July and September.

 I found a scrap of pretty pink flannel with white hearts that was big enough to make a burp cloth. Here it is from the shop, don't you just hate it when the fabric is cut with such ragged edges? And this was from a relatively nice quilt shop, but also gone out of business. 

I managed to cut a 11 by 21 inch rectangle and rounded the edges using a circle tool. This is about six inches in diameter. I then proceeded to make the holes in the fabric edge using an old wing needle and no thread. After several false starts with the machine angrily beeping at me I realized I had to have a bobbin in the bobbin case to be able to stitch more than three stitches without any thread in the needle.  I then proceeded to try to crochet into the holes but found that the holes kept closing up and I couldn't get the hook into them.

So to the ironing board I went, and gave the edges a good dose of spray starch, and ironed it till dry.

The starched fabric seemed to take the stitching much better, but I decided to mark the holes just in case they tried to close up again. The blue marks plus the larger holes made by the fabric pen helped to keep the holes from closing.  I used a stitch length of 4.0, and kept the edge of the fabric in line with the edge of the presser foot, which made the holes about 3/8 inch (10 mm)away from the fabric edge.

So here I am crocheting away. I used bedspread weight cotton thread, which is size 10, and a steel crochet hook size 7, or 1.65 mm.  After crocheting the first row in white, I added a second row of single crochet in pink, then the scallops in white. I made the scallops with three double crochet in one loop, skip a loop, single crochet, skip, then the three double crochet again.

And here's the finished product! I found that the scallop patter I used was just a bit tight around the rounded corners, even though my tension was pretty loose. But this does make for a good practice piece, and best of all, it kept my mind off the Chinese Flower project for a few days. Next I'll make a full size 41 inch square blanket using the Joann's fabric and an ecru/pink thread combination. I did order some DMC Cebelia Cotton thread size 20 in several colors so I'll try that out on the other flannel (right hand side in the first photo).

Thanks to Jeannie and Miss Carole for their instructions!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Koala Conventions in the USA

In May 2013, Koala Conventions are coming to America, in both Seattle and Atlanta. What on earth are Koala Conventions, you may ask? It's a company that puts together Needle Arts events, generally in Australia, with emphasis on embroidery. I've never been to one, having only been to Australia once, but I've heard plenty about them. When I attended the Beating Around the Bush Convention (BATB) held by Country Bumpkin in Adelaide in October 2009 many of my fellow students raved about the Koala Convention classes they had taken.  In fact, many of the teachers hold classes at both conventions, and some have come to the USA to teach at the SAGA Conventions. In all cases, the class projects are exquisite and the teachers extremely knowledgeable. These conventions are a great way to learn new techniques, meet people and build your skills.

I realize that it's a bit early to be talking about a convention two years away, but Koala Conventions just sent out their first USA newsletter. If you'd like to receive a copy, just sign up on their contact page. The program will be published this December, a full 18 months ahead of the Convention. All of the workshops are run in two day segments, so you can really sink your teeth into the project, so to speak! Personally, I'd like to take some goldwork classes. There will also be a few events in the US later this year, it's all on the site.

Country Bumpkin will be holding another Beating Around the Bush Convention in April 2012, in lovely Adelaide, South Australia. If you would like to keep up to date with them, sign up for their newsletter.

Please note that both Koala Conventions and Country Bumpkin are for profit institutions and I am in no way affiliated with either of them. I just happen to like their products and want to share the information with you. SAGA is a non profit organization that I am a member of, but am not a spokesperson for them. I am also a member of the Embroiderer's Guild of America (EGA), but have only been to one meeting and to none of the conventions.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Scalloped Pillow Cover

My Chinese Flower Project is coming along very slowly right now, so I thought I would show off a pretty pillow cover I made. This is another SAGA Convention project taught by Nona Pontiff that I took several years ago. It's a simple envelope style pillow cover but what makes it special is that it is made of lovely materials and constructed with heirloom techniques. The main part of the cover is made with cotton batiste, and the envelope portion is cotton organdy with Kona cotton making up the scallop and hem. This was a cold, rainy day yesterday when I took this photo, thank goodness for the ability to lighten the picture in Photoshop Elements. You can just barely see my Chinese Flower Project on the left, sitting under a shower cap to keep it clean.

The beige hem is edged with machine pin stitching. The "fluffy" part is silk ribbon interspersed with beads. The ribbon is threaded through a zigzag stitch and twisted so it gives a nice textured effect. The pillow is constructed with French seams, so there are no raw edges anywhere on it. I liked this so much I bought another kit so I have two of them on my bed. I wash it on the delicates cycle in a mesh laundry bag, then let it air dry. I starch and iron it, careful to avoid the silk ribbon. If the ribbon ever looks a bit mashed, I can bring it to life again by lightly spritzing it with water, then ironing the damp fabric around it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Time for a Decision

As you can see, I'm hard at work on the kingfisher portion of the Chinese Flower Project, the online correspondence course I'm taking from Trish Burr. But I'm not entirely satisfied with the shading on the bird's breast. It looks a bit too "banded" to me, especially when I compare it to the photograph that was enclosed in the kit. It also seems a bit too dark, as though I made the stitching in the lower row to long, So now I'm trying to figure out what to do. I could add a few more stitches of the intermediate and light threads to increase the blending and make it a little lighter overall, but I'm not sure that will do it. Of course, I could just rip it out and start the body over. I'm reasonably happy with the portion of the body below the branch, although I think that part could use more of the lighter stitches in it, too.

Any comments, suggestions? In any event, I plan on letting it sit for a few days, not think about it, and approach it with a fresh outlook.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Embroidered Blue Baby Dress 2

While I'm plugging away on the Chinese Flower Garden Project, I will try to keep you entertained with either some earlier projects or my London Vacation textile related photos. This is another Old Fashioned Baby pattern from Jeannie Baumeister.

The fabric is blue satin batiste with ecru embroidery, and it certainly looks old fashioned. The embroidery is very simple, just feather stitching with bullion roses using one strand of either DMC or Anchor ecru floss.

The bonnet pattern is different, and I may have played around with it a bit, adding lots of feather stitching. 

But the real reason I made the dress was to go with this slip. It's from a class I took at a SAGA convention several years ago. In it, Jeannie showed us how to take a standard slip pattern and draft the changes to add fullness with the gathers. This is called a Gertrude slip, and I'm sure there is a reason, but I can't remember it. The neck and armholes are finished with a shell edge by hand, but the side seams and lace were added by machine. Again, very simple and sweet embroidery.

Jeannie will be teaching at the SAGA Convention in Anaheim, California in October this year. I have signed up to take a two day class from her. She's a popular teacher, and her classes fill up fast!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chinese Flower Project Lesson 4 Finished

Lesson 4 is complete! This one was difficult. Not the leaves, as I had already stitched three of them, but the lanterns were very curved. Those are the acorn shaped things on the lower left. I had to make much shorter stitches and make 1 1/2 rows. I also checked the finished photograph every few stitches to make sure I was getting the stitching right. But they seemed to come out reasonably well.

Our teacher, Trish Burr, has this planned out quite well, as we started with reasonably easier elements and are now into more difficult pieces what with all the curves. Next up is the kingfisher in two lessons, and I have a bit of trepidation about it. It looks fairly difficult, but Trish says not to worry, that it's actually easier. The stitches can be placed much more casually so they resemble feathers.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cross Stitch Linen Tablecloth

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mom's out there! Today, in honor of the day, I'll show an old tablecloth that I worked on with my mother back when I was fairly young, definitely not yet high school.

It was worked in two shades of green floss, and has some stains for shaded interest.

You can see that even though it is worked on a fairly even weave cloth, the stitches on this four leaf clover are not lining up well, and they don't all go in the same direction. But from afar the tablecloth doesn't look too bad.

My mother even signed it, but neglected to add the year. This is how she makes her initials when signing her name on paper, by the way, and so do I. Such a copy cat, I know, but sometimes we do things a certain way just because we always have, and very often we inherited those ways from our mothers.

Today is overcast and slight drizzly, our "May grey" here in Southern California. When the sun comes out a few more hours in the day, around late June, I'll soak this in a paste of Oxy Clean and Tide to try to work on those stains and then dry it in the sun. I know the floss is colorfast as it's been washed several times.

Again, Happy Mother's Day! I intend to spend several hours in my stitching room researching a new project. But first I think I'll make myself a nice cappucino.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

SAGA Convention in California - Update

I've just registered for the SAGA Convention to be held this fall and want to show you the photos of the projects. The first is by Jeannie Baumeister and called Rosebuds and Hemstitched OFB Dress (OFB stands for Old Fashioned Baby, the name of Jeannie's company). It will be in blue linen with white laces, sized infant to 6 months. The class will cover two days to really learn the hemstitch and bullion rosebuds. I'm not too bad on the bullions, but I can certainly use the time learning the hemstitch.

This class is by Suzie Gay and will the first time I've ever taken a class from her. It's a padded hanger cover and will be useful for using up scraps to make hangers to match special dresses. Suzie is very talented (well, all the teachers are, or they wouldn't be teaching!) and has won design contests in the past.

This is a Schwalm Heart Needlebook by Claudia Newton. A few years ago I took a class from her when she visited our local chapter and she showed us a beautiful baby bonnet made with this heart on it. The bonnet would be too long for a class so she made it into a needle book using Ulster handkerchief linen. I've never done any Schwalm work before, and it certainly is beautiful!

This is also by Claudia, and is just the ticket for a short, three hour class. It's a darling little bookmark with some simple embroidery. 

As I've mentioned several times before, the SAGA Convention will be held in Anaheim, California, less than 20 miles from where I live. I haven't gone to a Convention in several years so this will be a great deal of fun. I wold like to get a few of my older projects finished before I start all these new ones.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

TV Project - Crocheted Afghan

Even though I prefer to spend hours alone up in my sewing room working, often I'll watch TV or sit on the patio with my husband. It's especially nice to sit on the patio and watch all the birds, bees and butterflies going about their business. For these times, I need a project that doesn't take much concentration, light or many thread changes to work on. So I decided to make a crocheted afghan for my youngest son after seeing the yarn on sale at Joann's Fabrics. In January, practically all yarn is on sale throughout the month. After looking at all the yarns for what seemed like hours, I finally settled on Patons Classic Wool in colors Arran and New Denim. This is a washable wool, but requires drying flat (which I very much doubt my son will do, he will probably just throw it in the dryer).

I have 48 squares of the Arran complete,

and 39 of the new Denim, with only nine more to go.  The squares patterns are from the Bernat Mystery Afghan Crochet-Along held on the Bernat blog last fall. I worked the Arran in Clue #6, a shell stitch square, and the New Denim in Clue #3, a V-stitch square. I'm using an I/9 crochet hook and found I had to make the V-stitch squares a bit bigger, starting with 28 chains instead of the 25 in the instructions and adding two extra rows. You can see from the first photo I'll have a bit of blocking to do as they don't quite match up! I plan on adding the Clue #10 edging all around it. You can still download all of the clues to make the afghan, or just pick and choose which ones you prefer as I'm doing.

Now for the credit: I didn't think this one up myself, but got the idea from Mary Grace on her Hooked on Needles Blog when she joined the Crochet-Along (or CAL, as they call it). Here is her last post on it, and you can see it all finished and ready to be sent off to the lucky recipient. Also, check out the Bernat's Flickr page where many who participated in the CAL posted all their finished afghans. It's quite a variety of colors.

Soon this will be finished and I'll have to find a new project!

Monday, May 2, 2011

North American Smocking - Correction!

 When I first published this post in March 2011, I mistakenly called this style of smocking lattice smocking. Well, that was very wrong of me, it's actually lozenge smocking.  Thanks to Nona Pontiff for emailing me and telling me about my error! Corrections/additions are in italics.

I haven't been getting much stitching in lately, and probably won't this weekend either, so I will show you a couple of projects from long ago.

This is a small photo album cover done with lozenge smocking, which is a variant of North American or Canadian smocking. I took this class at the SAGA convention in Dallas, I believe (they do tend to run together in my memory) from Nona Pontiff.  Ms. Pontiff is a very accomplished teacher who is a Master Artisan in Smocking from SAGA.  You can find out more on the Artisan program from the SAGA website. What I really liked about this class is that we were able to finish the project in the six hour class, which is very unusual for SAGA classes. Generally we start a project, learn the new techniques and finish (or not) the project at home.

Then last year our local SAGA chapter had a little project to make a needlebook using lozenge smocking. You can see in the photo that the scale of the patterns are a bit different. If I could find the instructions from the photo album, I could tell you why.

Here is the inside of the needlebook, with a few leaves of wool flannel purchased from The Wooly Thread, way up north in Washington State. 

This type of smocking is done on the back of the fabric and does not have the elasticity of English smocking, which is what most of us are more familiar with. There is not a lot of information about this technique on the web, but I did find a tutorial that explains it nicely. Two books to try are: The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff, available on Amazon, and Lattice Smocking by Laura Jenkins Thompson, available from her own website. Ms. Thompson's book has projects and patterns to try, whereas Ms. Wolff's book is more about all the very different ways to manipulate fabric.

I can definitely see using this technique for some nice throw pillows, or maybe drapery tiebacks.

In two and a half weeks we take off for London! So I had better get the taxes done this weekend. No stitching for me.

And I did get the taxes done!

Have a great weekend!