A Decision About Notions

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What is better than shiny new buttons, mirrors and sequins? Using them!

I was reading hugsarefun.com recently when something Rebecca said struck a cord:

I also have another project that I can’t decide what to do with. I got this teeny tiny embroidery hoop from Dandelyne on Etsy with the intention of making myself a necklace. Now that I have it, I just can’t commit to anything! It’s such a cute little hoop, I want to make sure it goes to good use… Does anyone else have this problem? Do you have supplies or projects on hold because you just can’t make up your mind?

Yep!! In an attempt to shame myself into doing something with them, here is most of my stash of lovely lovely bits that I bought because I couldn’t resist, and then proceeded to do nothing with:

Beautiful Shisha mirrors068

More laser cut cross stitch pendants (like this one!)064

This adorable purse clutch066

These round frames I got at a garage sale069

And that’s just what I can see sitting at my desk in front of my computer!

I already have a plan for the Shisha mirrors, but I’m going to try and use all of these this year.

Crafting resolutions are so much easier than health ones. 😉

Cheap Needlepoint Frame DIY

It can be difficult sometimes to start a new craft project.  You may not have all the materials, and especially if you are not 100% sure you will love it, it can be daunting to spend money on the “right” equipment.

040I wanted to try bargello, and I was okay with buying the canvas and the yarn, but you can’t hoop up needlepoint canvas – it’s too stiff.  It is almost stiff enough that you could do without a frame of any kind…  almost.  My local shop didn’t carry anything that could help me out, so I decided to improvise.

043I went out to a nearby craft store, grabbed four 11 inch stretcher bars (about $1.50 a piece) and put them together.  These are meant to be used with fabric in order to make canvases for painting.  But if you use a staple gun to staple your canvas to it, it works great for needlepoint.

One remark, though, staple it on one side of the frame, and stitch on the other.  That way, when you are working your threads underneath the in the back, you don’t have the frame in the way at any point.  I worked on the same side as the staples the first time and ran into a few difficulties tucking in my ends near the edges; it was tough getting the needle to not run into the frame.

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The staples do not damage the canvas, and only 8 staples (in each corner and in each middle) is enough to keep the tension.

It’s so much easier to try a technique when you don’t have to invest too much money first; I always find that it I order special supplies, I’m so scared of screwing up that I never do anything with them. Real Shisha mirrors, laser cut cross stitch pendants… Maybe I’ll gather them all in one place soon and actually DO something with them. 😉

Silkscreen Printing With Embroidered Accents

My husband and I recently did a silksccreen printing workshop with the nice people of Spins & Needles, which was super informative and fun.  If you are in the Ottawa region, I definitely recommend it.  The results were stunning, the instructions were simple and Melanie, our teacher, was full of energy and knowledge.Not knowing what to expect, we picked two urban threads designs that I had already purchased.  My husband really liked the typewriter keyboard (he spends most of his days at a keyboard) and I thought that book love would look great on a book tote to take to the library. The nice thing about using urban threads designs is that we have the right to sell what we make with them if we choose to.  In this tricky world of copyright and vintage patterns, it’s nice to have certainty.

We had tons of fun that day, and our daughter Zoe behaved (for most of the five hour class) and was adorable.  There was a bit of baby juggling, but we didn’t get paint on her, so I consider that a win.

My husband printed on a tshirt and on a notebook, and I printed on three different sizes of tote bags; one for me, one for my sister’s goddaughter, and one very little one for Zoe.  From the get go I wanted to see what I could do to combine embroidery and silkscreening.  I ended up doing a quick and dirty long and short fill stitch in the hearts on the bags, and it looks amazing!

When I asked my sister what her goddaughter’s favourite colour was, she answered “Outside”.  Not super helpful, so I went with a greeny-blue.  Mine is dark red.  I’m not sure what colour to make Zoe’s yet.

These will make great Christmas presents.  I’m super tempted to go buy other bags and make tons more of these to give to all my book loving friends.  After investing the time to make the screen, the actual printing takes very little time, and the stitching is messy and quick but looks super nice anyway.  The next step is to try to fill the heart with rainbow colours, or maybe french knots.

Give screen printing a shot!  It’s fun and messy, totally worth learning.

Old Navy Twill (or stitching when stressed)

I am a tense individual.  I tend to joke that I’ll relax when I’m dead, which although technically true, isn’t much help on a daily basis.  The few times I attempted to learn how to knit, I had to cut the work off the knitting needles with an exacto knife – that is how tightly I knit.  I was no longer able to move the links around, much less try to insert two needles into one link to knit.

When I started embroidery, I worked on lots of different fabrics, but mostly quilter’s 100% cotton.  I mostly stuck to backstitch and stem stitch, because if I tried to use any filling stitches or any stitches that pierced the fabric too much, I tore it.  I would do a block of satin or long and short stitch and end up seeing daylight through the fabric around the filled in area.  Sometimes, like above, my stitches would bunch up the fabric and no hooping could fix it. (Pretty deer pattern by UrbanThreads)  My French knots would rip right through the piece to the back of the fabric (and those are absolutely the worst to try and fix afterwards!).

As I was browsing at my local big box fabric store with my mother, my eye landed on Old Navy Twill, and I fell in love.  It’s typically used to make uniforms and blazers.  It has a great weight to it, and different textures on either side of the fabric.  One side is more even, and one has small lines across it.  I left the above file pretty large, so if you click through you should be able to see the difference between the first fold, which is the even side, and the lined ones below it.  I have found it in about 10-15 colours, though my favourites to work with are the slightly off-whites.  EDIT: I have also seen it once called Galaxy Twill, which may be a brand name for it, but may help you find it/ask for it in fabric stores!

It’s not normal fabric for embroidery.  It’s probably not really recommended.  What it does for me is allow me to use whatever stitch I want and whatever technique I want without worrying about being as gentle as possible in order to not rip French knots through the piece or pull the fabric part at the figurative seams.  It takes pencil and chacopaper marks well which is always fabulous.  It lets me play with my work instead of stressing about it.

What shortcuts/tricks do you use to make embroidery fun and less stressful?  I’m also totally guilty of using quilter’s knots to start my threads (click the link for an awesome tutorial).  Aren’t I a rebel?  😉

Cross Stitch Pendant from the workroom

IMPORTANT NOTE: The workroom is currently sold out of the wooden pendants, but their website says they’ll be restocked on June 20th!

As soon as I saw the wooden pendants from the workroom on the needlework section of Craftgossip, I knew I had to have one.  I was even more pleased when I found out they were from a Canadian shop from Toronto, since that means I can go down in person next time I am down there!  Anyway, the pendant arrived shortly after I ordered it, along with an adorable little pair of scissors I also fell in love with.  Part of me wants to wear the scissors as a pendant too; it’s just that pretty.

The pendant is light but sturdy and I couldn’t wait to stitch something on it… and then hit a wall.  What did I want to do?  Something girly and floral?  Something geometric and bold?  I didn’t want to waste this beautiful piece on a design I wouldn’t want to wear over and over.  I also don’t know how well the piece would hold up to restitching, so I wanted to get it right the first time.

It took me a few months and and three four cross stitch design books at the library to find what I was looking for.  Searching “small cross stitch designs” in google is less helpful than one might think.

I finally hit the jackpot in the Better Homes and Garden book, 2001 Cross Stitch Designs (isbn: 9780696207808).  A lot of the designs are really super corny and girly, but most of them are quite small and a lot of them are very nice too.  The floral section is seperated by colour, which is nice, and it also includes flowers for each month and all of the US State flowers.  I found the flower I stitched in the borders section of the book; it was a little less realistic than some of the flowers in the floral section, and it also looked like it could work without adding the backstitch that was so popular in a lot of the other flowers. I wasn’t sure how the pendant would take backstitch and didn’t want to risk it.

The design is a bit off center, but I am still happy with it (it really doesn’t show when I am wearing it).

Playing with Sequins

Here’s a funny fact: if you order ten dollars worth of sequins, you will get a package in the mail with approximately 15 000 sequins in it.  Although it doesn’t look like that much, the math works.  It’s lovely and overwhelming all at once.  I bought seven different colours of 3mm sequins for the actual pitcher plant, and a pack of red 5mm sequins to play with and learn from.  Baby steps.

These are the first three forays into sewing with sequins, in tidy straight lines.  I am using contrasting thread in order to see where each stitch landed.  The first on the left is what I learned from this video, which I also linked in my last blog post.  It comes together pretty fast, but uses a quarter more sequins than the next two methods.  I’m not sure this is a problem, but it’s worth keeping in mind.  The sequins have a little bit of horizontal mobility but tend to snake together when they move, keeping the line tidy.  This is definitely my favourite method.

The the middle row, two sequins are held down by one stitch across both holes.  It was a bitch to put together since the second sequin was not actually properly held down until I had added an extra sequin to the sequence.  The sequins have serious mobility, and I am not happy with how the stitch line doesn’t stay straight because of that.  Overall, this method is sloppy.

The last row is similar to the last one, but with each sequin being held down by two stitches on either side of the hole.  Although the stitching is more consistent with this method, the sequins still have more mobility than I would like.  It is also more time consuming than the other methods since each sequin requires two stitches.

The other problem I have with the last two techniques is how much of the background fabric is visible.  I like the tightness of the first method too much to give that up even if it isn’t as economical.

My next step was seeing how well my chosen technique would take a curve.  I tried a soft curve, then a very tight one, and both took quite well.  I have a feeling that the smaller sequins would look even better on a curve.

The final step in my testing was trying to see if I would be better off stitching my outline and details before and filling in with sequins, or whether I should do the reverse and stitch after all the sequins were down.  On the first curve, I stitched the stem stitch afterwards.  The second one was stitched first, and I started adding in sequins afterwards.  As you can see, I gave that up pretty quickly.  On the first curve, the stitching actually holds down the sequins, making the edging smooth.  The sequins on the second curve are just sitting on top of the stitching, hiding half the stitches.  It looks much less finished and less interesting to me.

So that’s what’s I’ve been experimenting with.  If you are starting a new project, do you dive in or try out different things to see what works or doesn’t first?  Next step, getting a drawing/pattern I am happy with.