Sunday, December 29, 2013

Santa was reading!

For all of you doubters out there, Santa, or at least his elves, was reading my blog! I received buttons for Christmas, just as I wished for! I already have ideas. Some of them will become fish on my crazy quilt block and I am looking forward to looking through the rest and finding all sorts of uses for them. THANK YOU!

Here is just a small selection of the buttons I received. The ones in the top left are calling out to be flower centers. The ones next to them are perfect purse closers. Beneath them are a small selection that will definitely make it into my crazy quilt, and I am still mulling over ways to use the Scottish thistles and military uniform buttons. They are a fantastic find!



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to all

Merry Chistmas and all happiness to you in the new year. (And thank you again to Mary Corbett whose tutorial on embroidering holly leaves I still find intriguing!)


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Embroidering Kent for Christmas

Isn't it funny how the best ideas for Christmas presents come when there isn't enough time to execute them to the best of your ability? That happened to me shortly after my first marriage. I had moved from western New York State to Massachusetts and would be spending Christmas with my in laws. I wanted to make something special for my parents and I started thinking about their favorite artist--Rockwell Kent. I couldn't afford a Rockwell Kent print and they had many books with his illustrations, but his etchings were done in such a way that I thought they would make a wonderful embroidery.


Quickly I went to my local library to find a book of Kent illustrations. I picked out two that I thought would be perfect and bought some fabric and black floss. By then it was Thanksgiving and when I looked at the illustrations I despaired. There was no way I could finish these by Christmas. Back to the book. This time I found a tiny pattern of a new pine tree growing out of an old stump. It was less than 2 inches square, but simple enough that I was confident I could adapt the etching into an embroidery.


Using one strand of floss and cursing that it was too thick (I never thought of using sewing thread instead) I started embroidering. I used stem, straight, seed and satin stitched to copy the lines from the etching as closely as I could. Some areas became more interpretation than exact copying, which I found exhilarating. When I finished, I laced it up, framed it and mailed it to my parents, along with a photocopy of the original etching so they would know what it was.


I'm not sure my parents knew what to think of it. The embroidery was life-size, but it was still tiny. Even so, it has been on display ever since and I think that they have come to appreciate it. I still enjoy seeing it when I go to their house. It is tangible proof for me that I could execute an idea as well or better than I thought I could. Still, I should find those other two etchings to embroider. I probably owe my parents that--especially now that they know they were somewhat shortchanged after all!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ready to mail

The coasters I embroidered during the government shutdown are all sewn together. Here is a photo that shows each design with its backing fabric.

And here they are ready to mail!


The fifth set was a little off centered. I should have pulled threads out of the linen to make the coasters all exactly the same size and help me with the placement of the motifs. I'll definitely do that next time. In the meantime, we get to keep these!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: Beading Artistry for Quilts: Basic Stitches & Embellishments Add Texture & Drama

Beading Artistry for Quilts: Basic Stitches & Embellishments Add Texture & Drama Thom Atkins (2012)


Last month I had an idea that I might want to do some bead work on my crazy quilt square, so before I left Colorado for Thanksgiving, I ran to the library for a beading book, and read it cover to cover on the plane. Beading Artistry for Quilts is a stunningly beautiful book with clear and concise directions for fastening beads to fabric. Thom Atkins describes just 4 basic stitches (seed stitch, back stitch, couching, and lazy stitch) along with some fancy edgings and fringe directions. The magic of this book though is not the stitch directions, but the inspiration he provides. The photos of his work and the process by which he is inspired is fascinating and works well with my own creative process. For example, I like that he sometimes simply embellishes the fabric he is working on, while other times, he lets the beads drive the design. His detailed, yet casual approach to beading, makes it so much less scary than other beading books I've looked at that teach you how to create specific things and require you to have certain beads. Just looking at the photos of the quilts he has embellished has inspired me to try to use beads in new ways. I know, for example, after seeing one of his mermaid quilts that I will be beading seaweed onto my crazy quilt, and I can't wait to try. The basic instructions are just enough to make me feel confident that I can use beads exciting ways, and his folksy description of how to do a beaded bezel, takes a lot of fear out of that prospect as well. It is a great book for beginners like me.


To see many of the quilts he depicts in the book, as well as additional inspiration, check out Atkins' website. His work is magnificent.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Vintage embroidery symbolizes friendship then and now

Today my husband and I are going up to New Hampshire to see a close friend of mine who I've only seen once in the last five years.

Last Christmas she sent me the most precious set of vintage pillowcases. She knows I am a huge rabbit fan, so these silly little rabbits conducting their private orchestras were a perfect gift--sure to make me go gaga. What I didn't realize until I went to use them was how very very well they are stitched.


Look closely and you will see that the rabbit is not done in straight stitches, as I had assumed, but in itty bitty stem stitches. Even the music clef is done in stem stitches so small that you can't see any stitch tails (those annoying stitch ends that stick out when you try to stitch a curve). There are no loose stitches that could get caught on a sleeping body or in the wash. Whoever did this embroidery, stitched it to last.


She also made them with great precision. Look at the back. It is almost a mirror image of the front. And the fine crocheted edging is gorgeous and expertly applied.


I think that this was a very special gift for a special person. And even though I am not the person they were embroidered for, I know my friend took just as much care picking these pillowcases out for me, as the stitcher took with her embroidery.


Now, they grace our guest bed. It is my way of continuing to share the friendship they so vividly display with our friends and family.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What I want for Christmas is...

Sometimes it is hard finding the right presents for family and friends since I live so far away and am never sure what they have or need. Additionally, as we all get older, we just buy what we need and have specific requirements for what we want, which makes it even more difficult to find the perfect gift. I really don't want people to spend a lot on me or have to worry about gift giving.


What I REALLY want for Christmas this year and next year and likely the next, is buttons! Buttons have gotten so expensive and so cheap looking, that it is hard to find interesting ones that you can afford. Yet, I’ll bet that there are canning jars and candy boxes full of buttons hidden away in antique and thrift stores, and garage sales going for a few dollars. That’s what I really want. I want buttons for purse closures, but more importantly, for my crazy quilt! I found the cutest book full of crazy quilt motifs, with several revolving around buttons. I’m dying to try some of them.


Of course when you WANT to find buttons they aren't anywhere to be had. I recently scoured my local antique store and found one jar of buttons--but they wanted $45 for them! Maybe it is still a deal, but I think I'll try a thrift store first and ask my friends and family to keep an eye out for stray ones.


I do have SOME buttons. Years ago I bought a bag of assorted old buttons and I have used them for tons of different projects, but my supply is running low. So little 50 cent bag of buttons—or lace trimmings, or old upholstery discards—THAT is what I really want for Christmas!

Ten years ago I made Christmas ornaments for coworkers using my stash of buttons. This one is coming apart a bit I probably should have sewn them on the machine andjust used the blanket stitch for decoration.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

A pillowcase for Simon

Earlier last month I gave you a sneak peak into a project I was working on with crayon and stranded DMC cotton for my nephew's birthday. Simon turned 6 on Friday and here is the pillowcase I made him with all of his favorite things embroidered on it to encourage sweet dreams!


As you can see, he really loved it! So did I. It was one of those rare projects that turns out even better than the vision in your head.

I first conceived of this project last year with a poem I made up:

Simon says, "It's time for bed!"

Simon then lays down his head.

Simon will have happy dreams

'til the sun again does gleam.

I printed the words on my computer and then embroidered them in back stitch with 3 lengths of stranded DMC cotton.


Then I looked on the internet for coloring book pages of things Simon likes. Trains were his favorite thing for years, but they now pale in comparison to tigers! And since my sister and brother-in-law own a cottage in the Adirondacks, hiking is a big part of his life. I traced these images onto the pillowcase using a light stand. Because the pillowcase was white I was actually able to see the lines through both layers of fabric.


I then colored the images with regular crayons. At first I colored too lightly and had to go back and color them again. Some people have told me to color with a white crayon first or with fabric crayons, but regular crayons work well. The pillowcase went through the laundry once with no loss of color.


Once they were colored, I sandwiched each image between two pieces of printer paper and ironed them on the cotton setting to set the color and melt out the wax. Then I embroidered each motif.


Sleeping Simon is outlined with two strands of cotton in stem stitch, with details in chain and back stitch.


The mountain lake is just stem stitched, with back stitch for the sun's rays.


The train was going to be outlined like the rest, but I got carried away! The freight cars and caboose are satin stitch with straight stitch and french knot accents, but the engine body is mostly stem stitch, with some chain stitches thrown in for accents. It took longer to do than I envisioned, but turned out so much better than I had hoped.


Finally, the tiger is all stem stitch. First I outlined him with two strands. Then I filled in the stripes with three strands. I really wasn't sure how he was turning out until I put in his green eyes. Then I knew he would work.


This was an extremely fun project to stitch. It was like being a kid myself to color these images. AND since two pillowcases came in the pack, I gave the second one to Simon to color for himself. I'll embroider it and send it back to him.

Happy birthday Simon!