Sunday, February 26, 2012

Herringbone sampler framed

My little herringbone stitch sampler is done. It was inspired by the Stitch of the Month currently in progress at the Cape Embroiderers' Guild monthly meetings as well as The Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge on Pin Tangle. My idea was to put my sampler in a small 5"x7" frame so that it didn't end up lying around in a drawer and here I am trying it out in an old photo frame.

Mmm... no! It looks too squashed in. I think the embroidery needs a bit more space around the edges. So I take another family portrait out of its frame and lay it over the sampler.

This time I like the effect of the unworked linen around the edges. The embroidery  seems to have more breathing space in the bigger frame.

The problem is that when I started the sampler, I was quite certain that it would go into a 5"x7" frame, so I drew a pencil line onto my linen - just beyond the 5"x7" perimeter where I thought it would be covered by the frame. Only now, I have changed my mind! I want to use a bigger frame and the pencil line shows. Its almost impossible to remove a pencil line - if you have any tips about this do let me know - so its onto plan B: a stitched border to cover the pencil line.

The same dark blue thread used in the sampler seems to work best to visually contain the stitches.

And stem stitch makes a neat line.

Finally, I laced the sampler onto a backing board and slipped it into a frame.

That little project didn't turn out quite the way I'd expected, but I did learn a valuable lesson, again. Do not use a pencil to mark your linen unless you are absolutely sure you will stitch over it. In future I will go back to tacking my outlines even if it does take a bit longer. A little patience in the beginning can save a lot of time later on, especially on larger projects and most especially when you are working on a fabulous linen fabric.

Happy stitching!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Herringbone Stitch - Stitch of the Month

The Cape Embroiderers' Guild is going all out this year to encourage members to take part in it's Stitch of the Month programme. The idea is to challenge members to come up with a variety of variations of a particular stitch that they would not usually use.

Then the further challenge is to put the samples together in a special stitch reference file or book - the subject of a much anticipated upcoming workshop by Penny Cornell. I for one have dozens of little samples all over the show that I wish I had been disciplined enough to put together in one place where I could refer back to them when I need them, so the idea struck something of a chord.

February's Stitch of the Month is Herringbone Stitch. Over the years I have seen some wonderful variations and uses of the stitch, especially those tantalisingly pretty ones used for crazy patch. Have a look at Sharon Boggan's Blog on PinTangle, especially the Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge (TAST), for some beautifully presented inspiring stitches. My idea was to make a mini sampler of herringbone stitch variations and frame them in a simple ready-made frame so I can hang the sampler up on the wall in my sewing room without too much fuss and it will always be easy to find.

It wasn't long before I realised that I could probably fill at least three mini samplers with all the ideas I want to record! Anyway, here's my herringbone sampler in progress. It doesn't record nearly as many variations as I would like, but it is fun to do.

The last row in the above photo is my version of a variation that Mary Corbet shared on Needle 'n Thread. I just love the little French Knots on the silk ribbon. They remind me of little roses on a garden trellis.

For the project I challenged myself to use up fabric and threads in my stash - a fine dress-weight linen, a variegated Anchor thread (that turned out rather brighter than I'd expected), little  lengths of DMC stranded threads I couldn't bear to throw out and a small length of green silk ribbon. I decided that I would work to a 5"x7" (12.5cm x 18cm) standard size photo frame and I was set to go, stitching row by row as I found another Herringbone variation wanted to record.

Can you spot the mistake I made when setting out the project? A clue is that I now want to use a larger photo frame. I have enough fabric along the edges of the sampler to do so, but...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stitched Felt Ball - tips

In my last post I showed you the start of my little felt ball project. I found the pattern in the book by Margaret Hutchings called Modern Soft Toy Making.

This was the kit I assembled ready for stitching on the plane during my trip to Bangkok. I pre-cut lengths of thread and wound them back onto their spools so that I didn't need to carry scissors with me on the flight. Any trimming of threads would be done afterwards as I have never got around to buying one of those nifty thread cutters that pass airport security checks.

It is a straightforward project, but it does need a little extra care to make sure the 8 points meet up neatly at either end of the ball. Here's how I made the ball and some tips that I found useful.

1. Cutting out: Cut out the felt pieces accurately!

2. Starting (and ending) a seam

Work out where to start and end each seam and do it as accurately as you can. To do this, decide on your seam width. Then picture where the seam lines of the segment would cross. For example, the starting point for the segment pictured here would be at A, exactly. (I'll refer to "point A" again later when new segments are added.)

Start at A with a few secure back stitches. I used a small knot as well for extra strength. Stitch to the end of the seam and picture exactly where the two seams would cross and end on this point. Whatever you do, don't stop short of the end point, finish on it. Backstitch the end securely. I also take a few stitches back long the seam before I cut off my thread.

3. Stab stitch: I stitched the first two segments together using a tiny stab stitch and a 2mm seam width. I check the placement of each stitch on the front and the back as I go along for a neat seam.This is because the felt is quite thick and it is easy for the needle to come out at a slight angle and be way off of your 2mm seam-line.

To check the placement of each stitch: Insert the needle 2mm from the edge on the front of the work, then turn the work over and make sure that the needle emerges 2mm from the edge on the back of the work and pull the thread through.Then still looking at the back of the work, put the needle into the felt 2mm from the cut edge, and as the needle comes through make sure it comes out 2mm from the edge on the front and pull through.

I also pull each stitch quite firmly so that the stitches are pulled down slightly into the felt. This way they don't show along the seam when the ball is turned right side out.

4. Adding another segment:
Place the next segment against your work right sides together. Carefully check that the end points match up exactly with the piece underneath. Use one or two pins to hold the two pieces together. Now check again that the end points match. If one piece protrudes beyond the other, ease the pieces together until they match exactly at both ends.

To get a good start here, I found it useful to slightly lift the new segment so I could see to bring the needle up at point A (on the green segment below). Notice that point A is now at the join between the two already joined segments.

Then insert the needle into point 'A' on the new segment. Back stitch and continue carefully for a few stitches. Look on the inside of your work and if you are not satisfied with the start, now is the time to unpick! See how the green piece seems to fit into the two blue segments. This is a good join. Remember to picture where the seam lines start and end, and be accurate when you start and end your stitching.

Add segment four in the same way.

 This completes half of the ball.

5. The best tip I got while making the ball was to make up the ball in two halves.  Its much easier to join two halves of the ball than to keep trying to add on segment by segment. I once tried to keep on adding segments until it got impossibly fiddly and the result was a mess. Joining two halves gives a much better finish and is easier to manage. Here is the other half as I'm joining on the 4th segment.

Now join the two halves.

The important thing here is to carefully match the end points of the seams and stitch the joins at the top and bottom of the ball accurately. Keep looking at the inside of the work to see if the points are matching up neatly.

Watch that those end points match up. Did I say this before?!

Leave  about 1/3 of the seam open in the centre portion of the last seam. To do this you will have to stitch from each end towards the middle and end off about 1/3 of the way along.Now turn the ball right side out and fill with stuffing. I used foam chips. The bag of stuffing below is enough for 2 balls. If you pack them in firmly, the ball will have some bounce to it.

Finally I used a ladder stitch to close up the opening.

Enjoy making your own felt ball. It's a lovely gift for a 1 year old.