Monday, May 30, 2016

Summer Time; A time for some light hearted stitching.

While enjoying the summer weather, we all like to take life less seriously, even if we are a dedicated stitcher. Lets leave counting squares on cross stitch charts and stitching with wool threads for when the weather is inclement and we are stuck indoors. Instead, why not try Silk Flower Conversion just for the novelty and the fun of it. This is described in more detail in my last book, Stitching Idyllic: Hand Stitch Recognizable Summer Flowers but you can try it out using only the directions here. I thank Pat Harwood for these examples and for letting me publish them again.

Artificial silk flowers are available in dollar stores and in craft stores such as Michaels. They are made of a textile. Look closely and you will see the weave. This make them relevant to Textile Arts. It is better to purchase better quality flowers that have a bit more body to them. The flimsy ones are harder to work with. Have an idea of what you would like to make and then go to the store and purchase one spray only of each of the flowers you are going to play with and change in some way to be something else. It is easy to get carried away by the huge variety of flowers available. Though I have not yet tried it, I think that the flowers could be painted with acrylic paints if you wish to colour the edges of the petals for instance. You may even have some of these flowers already. They may need a wash first!

Topiary Tree (original size 7 1/2" x 5")


Hibiscus Blossoms are bright and vivid. They thrive in the Caribbean Islands and remind us of vacation time. We try to grow them in our northern houses but they usually do not thrive though may last a few years. Pat used the petals of tulip and lily flowers both of which are large and can be cut up to be changed to whatever is needed. The background is a piece of multi-coloured batik cotton. The large pot is padded and covered with bronze leather. The trunk of the tree is a cord of twisted DMC Floss. Behind the tree is a circle of felt covered with dark green cotton. This is the first time Pat has worked with leather, padding and twisted cord. In fact, everything about this project was a first for her.

The patterns


Draw circles 1" in diameter (or the size you choose) on the reverse side of the petal you are using. Avoid the thick part at the base of the petal. Because it is on the reverse side, you can use a pencil or a ball point pen for this. Cut them out, fold in half and mark the edges of the petals as indicated in the second diagram. Unfold. Snip a short distance inward toward the center five times as shown. Snip right to the centre on the sixth cut. All one colour flowers are good as are several different colours. Now you are ready to stitch them in place.

Use one thread of Floss and a fine needle such as Crewel 9. Overlap the two petals with the long cut between them making a five petaled flower. Attach to the tree with some small stitches along the join line. If the thread is a suitable colour, you can use it shade the centre of each petal. An alternative way of doing this is to overlap the two petals and secure the join while the flower is still in your hand. Pat added stamens using Pistil stitch. The pattern for the leaves is on the right. Cut as many as you need to cover the backing fabric and secure using two stitches invisibly under the flowers or other leaves.

Up the garden path
(original size 11" x 14")


Pat's second creation bears no resemblance to anything grown by nature. It is in the section on Funtasy Flowers. When using artificial silk flowers, you can do anything you want. How nice to be as free as your fancy. She used an artist canvas, available at a craft store, as a base. Purple cotton was secured onto this. She laid a variety of blossoms out on her table and played with them. This is the result. There was a need for a connection between the lower and upper parts. The path achieves this. Pat couched it down with a variegated wool thread. When the final flower spacing was decided, she applied small dabs of glue to secure the flowers and leaves in place and then attached them with small invisible stitches. You may not notice this, but she couched a feathery green braid to the edge of the path to indicate grass edging. The purple variegated wool edging contained and finished the project.

Look at this piece carefully. Notice the balance and triangulation of colour, how textures are varied and that there is a lot of interest for the eye. This piece is worth looking at carefully as the construction, detail and balance are worth it. If you do not like what you create, put it away for 4 - 6 months. The time gap changes subjective vision to objective vision and you will see your creation as other people do.

There are other flowers included in the book - clematis, hollyhocks, petunias and leaves. You will also find Passion for Poppies and Organza Extravaganza plus some coasters in the Funtasy Flower section
This is a good technique for greeting cards. You may find even the smaller flowers a bit large, Trim them or use a larger card. Anything is possible with these two techniques.

Try them and, have some summer fun.

Further news from here is that Hand Stitching Recognizable Spring Flowers 2nd edition should be available very soon. You will hear when it happens on this blog. There is a huge amount of work in getting a book ready for publishing. I have also been sick again which slows me down and is annoying. I am allergic to many medications and infections keep coming back. Today is a much better day though my typing is horribly inaccurate.

Thank you to Pat for letting me share this with a wider audience of readers.

All good creative wishes from

Ann B.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Leather Application - a Tutorial

Stitch leather down securely and almost invisibly. This is not difficult - it just takes a bit of know-how.

For leather without padding: Trace the shape onto the reverse side of the leather using a ball point pen or, preferably, a fine black ink marker. If it is white or a light colour, use a pencil. If it is an irregular shape, take care to not get the pattern reversed during this process. Use sharp scissors and cut right on the marked line. Check the cut out piece on the right side for any bumps or nicks along the edge. If it is a straight line use a metal ruler and a quilting fabric cutter or exacto knife.

Lay the piece of leather in position and attach it to the fabric background with long stitches over the top of the leather. These stitches go from top to bottom and from side to side and securely attach the leather in its correct position so that it will not shift while being stitched. Use dressmaking thread. Diagram 1: The piece of leather in the shape of a row boat for instance is just to show how to apply leather that is an odd shape. It would be preferable to stitch 1 and 2 at the centre first and then the stern and then the prow and come back and add some more in between. Odd shapes need some forethought.

Attach the leather piece to the fabric permanently as follows. Take a longish piece of thread that matches the colour of the leather. Wax it for strength. I use Gutermann's Polyester Thread in that the thread is fine in diameter and strong. All Purpose thread is OK too but it does need to be fine. Thread it into as fine a needle as possible - hopefully a Crewel size 9 or 10. Place a stitch at the centre top of the piece of leather, then at the centre bottom, next, midway down the right hand side and then, midway down the left hand side. Diagram 2: The basting threads are all still in place at this time but are no longer shown in the diagram. Guttermann's thread is fine for our use but we are not working on commissioned projects which are meant to last hundreds of years.

Bring the needle to the front of the fabric immediately outside the leather with the needle vertically straight. Diagram 3a..

To take the stitch through the leather from the front of the leather, position your needle on a diagonal as close to the edge of the leather as you are able to enter and still secure it. The angle of the needle means that the stitch on the surface is very short and becomes much longer as it goes through the leather to the underside and through the fabric. This is what fixes it securely and almost invisibly. Diagram 3b.

The next four stitches are placed midway between the previous four stitches, And the next eight stitches are midway between the all the previous ones. This will prevent the leather rotating and skewing itself out of position. Continue placing some stitches in each of the spaces and proceed around the leather in a clockwise direction. Remove the basting threads as they get in your way.

The stitches should be about 1/8" to 1/4" apart. Watch that there are no humps in the edge of the leather which means that your stitch spacing is too far apart. Remember, with every stitch that your needle enters the leather diagonally; short on top and long as it gets to the lower surface of the leather and through the fabric. If the earlier stitch, number 2 on the diagram for instance, is not in the right place, snip it out and replace with a more correctly placed stitch. Marsha did a perfect job of applying this piece of leather including getting the points sharp. It is padded.

Padded leather: Use felt of an appropriate colour such as gold or yellow. Decide on how many layers of padding is appropriate. One layer stops it looking flat. Two layers gives it a contour. Three layers is a definite protrusion and four makes it high rise. Cut out two or more patterns of the shape in paper. Use one pattern to cut the correct shapes in felt. The largest is a almost the full size of the shape. The second and third ones are each smaller and the last one is a lot smaller. Lay them in position in sequence, smallest first to largest and check that they will pile up on top of each other and finish up the correct size and shape for the padding. Stitch the smallest one down first with one or two stitches, The second and third layers need enough stithes to secure them accurately without moving. The largest one should be stitched in position following the directions above making sure that the edges are just within the marked line of the shape. Trim if necessary..

The leather: Using the second paper pattern piece, draw around the pattern on the reverse side of the leather as above. Cut it out leaving 1/4" all around. Lay it in place and check the exact finished size you will need. Usually, cutting just outside the marked line edge of the marked line obtains an accurate size but you may need to cut it slightly larger than that. See above on how to stitch in place. It is essential to baste the leather in place first with the long vertical and horizontal stitches.

Gail has attached gold leather to this complex shape very well. It is highly padded. She left the points on the right to last and then trimmed them to fit. This design has four of these golden horseshoes and each of then should look identical - which they do.

Frances did something quite different with the leather. She applied two sets of padding leaving the vein area unpadded. She cut the leather wider than you would think normal, basted it into position and then stitched through the central vein with a back stitching. She then followed these directions and trimmed the leather as and where necessary while stitching it in place.

This method is also appropriate for fabric applique especially when it is padded.

Wishing you happy stitching. As always, Ann B.

To Diane Cadd - Bunka is a Japanese method of hooking thread through fabric. The kits and supplies come from Japan.






Tuesday, January 12, 2016

More Students' Gold Work

The Gold Work class held in Guelph, Ontario last spring produced some varied pieces of work. This was an Intermediate class in that the participants had already learned how to handle the threads. These are their first attempts at designing and stitching their individual creations. The creations of the other students was posted previously in Gold Work Brag Time.


Contemporary Leaves stitched by Pat Harwood

Look at her work closely and you will notice that she has tried out many different ways of using Gold Threads. She was careful to balance the density of the fillings and to make each leaf different. She even tried SSSing in the top leaf on the right. This is one of the more difficult stitches in this medium.


In a Mind's Eye stitched by Nancy Green

Nancy doodled this design thus making it totally original. A design that involves curves is easier for metalic threads than is a geometric design. The navy blue background shows off the gold well. She included a lot of techniques. The plain areas of padding are a good rest for the eye. Sequins are used in moderation. A lot of sequins look fine on a ballgown but are not so attractive in gold work. The photo was taken prior to completion.


Russian Odyssey stitched by Janet Sunderani

St Basil's Church in Moscow is a favourite subject for Gold Work. This rendition is unfinshed. A year ago, Janet tripped over the cat which resulted in a broken arm. Stitching has not been an option until now. Those curved lines of the roofs are difficult to get spaced correctly. Again, she also has the leather pieces stitched down really well. This photo does not do justice to the quality of her stitching. I am looking forward to see this piece completed.



Golden Shoe stitched by Susan M. Knight<

The 18th Century Golden Shoe was stitched by Susan M. Knight for her gold work certificate course at the Royal School of Needlework.  It is stitched on antique blue dupioni silk having being inspired by a picture about 18th Century Fashion.  The techniques used were chipping, couching  plus stitching pearl purl, bright check, twist and spangles.  P.S. from Ann. The flat sequins/spangles are specifically for gold work. The faceted ones are for dressmaking. We are very happy that Susan has joined our Guild.


The Cat with Blue Suede Shoes stitched by Connie Dorion

And now for something completely different. The background is pale mauve silk. Mr Wellington is stitched in rows of novelty ribbon outlined with twisted gold thread. The face is leather and would not be so effective if it had been padded. One can still see the basting threads used in fabric preparation . These will be removed before mounting and framing. We hope that this one brings a smile to your face which is its intention.

The next Blog will be on stitching leather in position almost invisibly.