Needle Sketched Mucha

025 I have always loved Mucha’s art style.  I think it’s elegant and curvy.  So did I base this embroidery off his illustration? Not exactly.

I own a lot of art colouring books. These are works of art translated into simple line drawings so that they can be coloured by adults or enthusiastic children.  I have a few of vintage posters, a Mucha one, and a bunch of modern ones as well, where I liked the art style and could imagine them as embroideries.  Dover is a great source for adult colouring books.  I’ve picked up a few of their floral and art nouveau illustrations too.

Imagine my surprise in the last few weeks when Mary Corbet showed her latest inspiration, a book called Secret Garden; I totally own that book too! Stitchy minds think alike!

029The great thing about using various art books as inspiration is that the drawings are generally already simplified, which leaves you with clean lines that you can trace, but still allows for creative stitching and filing.  I like using this needle sketching method because it emulates a pencil drawing, but there is no reason to not use the fanciest stitches known to man!



WTF? Three Letter Monogram!

Mary Corbet of Needle ‘N Thread has been posting tons of pretty monograms on her Pinterest lately.  They are all beautiful and classical.  She then posted this frame on her website; it’s so pretty! I wanted in on this monogram stuff.

So what to do?  My initials?  Nah, I have the same initials as Kraft Dinner.  Not so hot.  My husband and I?  No.  It’s either Kraft Dinner or Donkey Kong.  Sigh.

Then I had a flash: a vague memory of an awesome monogram font I had seen, somewhere online.  It took a while, but I found it! I really love how this font looks.  It’s from 1923 but it still feels snappy and fresh.

Traditionally, you use the first and middle names on either side, and the last name/word last.  So the name Mary Beth Smith would be mSb, for example.  While that is adorable for names, it doesn’t really read for acronyms, so I decided to throw that convention out the window when drawing up my monogrammed acronym.

My satin stitch…  Needs work, I know.  Maybe something slightly less rude next time.  AFK? BRB? LOL? OMG?  So many choices!

Mind Blown: Reverse Chain Stitch

First off, look at that pretty chain stitch.  So pretty!  Now prepare to have your mind blown: it’s backwards and it’s easy.  Boom!

Jenny Sublime recently posted an awesome how-to chain stitch on her blog where she shares a trick a student showed her.  To get chain stitch to be tidy and to get it exactly where you want it to go, just follow her easy tutorial.

This free Czech Inspired Folk Flowers pattern is from Mary Corbet’s Needle’n’Thread.  Look how good the chain stitch filling looks!  I started them with a tiny stitch at the bottom of the flower and they took the curve super well.  My french knots now…  Well, let’s master one stitch at a time, all right?

Wild Olive’s Summer Stitching Club pt 1

20130610-174414.jpgI signed up for Wild Olive’s Summer Stitching Club last week, and I am already having a blast with it. I decided to go with pinks and yellows for the surrounding hexagons, and to alternate cream and pink cottons for the embroidery. Hopefully it’ll be cute!I’m not sure how I am going to finish this quilt, since I really like how the unfinished edges look. Maybe I will have to try something completely different to what is in Mollie’s pattern, which will be cool too.

Make sure to check out how everyone else is doing on the Wild Olive Flickr group!

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.

Pretty Poison Hemlock (How I Drew Up My First Real Pattern)

I recently just went on maternity leave, which although nice for all the rest I am getting, is boring as hell.  I am so bored I keep losing days!  So in an attempt to ward off this terrible boredom that I’m sure will be cured once the baby pops, I started a PDF pattern shop.   I wanted to talk about how I created the patterns and what tools I used to do it, in case someone else wanted to give making their own patterns a shot!

I knew I wanted to do something pretty and floral, but there are so many plants around, I didn’t have any idea where to head.  I’ve always loved poisonous plants, so I started there.  I borrowed a book called Wicked Plants, by Amy Stewart (isbn 9781565126831) and read it cover to cover, noting down the names of any plants I liked the sound of, looking them up in Google images in order to get a better idea of what they looked like.  A few stuck out to me for their interesting physical characteristics or their apparent innocent-ness.

Poison Hemlock is adorable; cute little bunches of tiny white flowers, tidy bright green leaves, and the name even sounds dignified, if you leave out the poison part!  I knew I had to simply the design if I wanted to stitch it up.  I could have reduced all the blooms to french knots and concentrated on the plant as a whole, but I liked the five little uneven petals and wanted to feature them.

I drew inspiration from my many books on basic crewelwork, simplifying the plant down to it’s very basic parts: one example of the leaves, two of the circular bloom bundles.  I sketched out what I wanted, played with it for a little bit, then scanned it in.

My husband previously helped me with a couple patterns by translating them from sketch to vector design in Inkscape.  This time, I wanted to do it all myself.  He gave me a quick crash course in drawing lots of different vector lines and off I went.  Every once in a while I would yell something along the line of “David!  My lines keep going funny, come and show me what I’m doing wrong!” and he would helpfully show me a setting I had ticked on or off or whatever.  When he wasn’t there, Google became my husband, with excellent searches such as “Inkscape how to make this thing always be that line thickness!” which helped.  Because Inkscape is open source, there is a great community of forum users who have already helped noobs like me.  I managed to get all my questions answered in no time at all.

The key to working with Inkscape is layers.  You want to put your sketch on the bottom layer, and then in a new layer with a reduced opacity (so you can see your sketch lines through it) you can start drawing.  When you’re done tracing everything and you’re happy with where your lines have ended up, just delete/hide your sketch layer, pump up the opacity on your trace back up to 100% and bam!  You have a pattern.

The great thing about vectors is that you can change the size at will and it will stay nice.  So I could have stitched my design teeny tiny without losing any of the crispness in the lines.

After printing it out and tracing it out with chacopaper, it came together very quickly.  There are five shades of “white” in the flowers, although I can really only identify four of them when all is said and done (oh well!) and there are five different shades of green in the leaves, stems and centers of the flowers. I love how the flowers aren’t all the same shape, which was achieved by actually tracing my sketch instead of tracing one flower and cutting and pasting.  Having some flowers be a bit more messy and wind tossed makes the piece interesting to look at and adds naturalness to the piece.

If you decide to either stitch up my Poison Hemlock pattern or to design your own pattern using Inkscape, I would love to see it!  Leave a comment or shoot me an email!

Six Onesies, Or Finding (non-pattern) Patterns

I am currently 32 weeks pregnant and slowly but surely amassing an epic amount of adorable baby clothes (as if there was any other kind).  I have a little hat with a monkey face, stripey socks, and a pretty stripe-y black and white dress amongst other things.  But as my husband and I were sorting the clothing by size, we realised that although we had lots of 3-6 and 6-9 month clothes, we were seriously lacking in 0-3 months, which we kind of needed first.  Seems like an excellent excuse to go shopping and embroider something adorable!

I went and picked up 6 identical white onesies, for about 25$.  Super plain, boat neck, snaps at the crotch, etc.  Now what to put on them?I’ve had something up on my Embroidery & Patterns I Like Pinterest board for a while now, and this was the perfect opportunity to use it.  But it’s not really a pattern.  It’s a font.

Are they not super adorable?  The font is $4 for a private license, which is all I needed to stitch them onto onesies.  I played with them for a while, eventually choosing three per design.  They came together in a slow afternoon.

Stitching on jersey is harder than I thought it would be, just because of how stretchy it is.  You need to be careful and not stitch too tight or too fast to make sure that your stitches stay nice and you don’t ruin the fabric.

Tracing out the patterns was also a bit more difficult than on a more sturdy fabric, but I found that if I put my rotary cutting board inside the onesie, it wasn’t too bad and I could get a good impression.  I definitely used a tracing stylus (from Sublime Stitching) instead of a pen, cause the soft fabric tended to lead to torn paper and I didn’t want to mark up my work.

I used mostly split stitch, with little straight stitch legs and beaks, and a few little lazy daisies for certain feathers.  I had to make the beaks and eyes a bit bigger to be able to see them properly in stitches, but that’s all good.

I definitely recommend you look at more of Miss Tiina’s work and the whole Sugar Hill co. website.  It has tons of vector doodles that, although intended for digital scrapbooking, could be easily and cheaply adapted to embroidery.  Make sure you read each artist’s Terms of Service, to make sure that what you plan on doing with the design is fine by them (especially if you plan to sell anything you stitch – some designers may not allow it, or may ask you to pay a different price than if you are using it for personal means).

A few adorable mentions include these Blooming Doodles, these metal dress forms and even these Christmas light strings!  Scrapbooking sites and colouring pages (both online and in real life) can be great resources for embroiderers.  QisforQuilter made a beautiful redwork Hello Kitty quilt for her daughter using over 30 different images from a colouring book.  It’s super cute!

Hopefully you’ll get an update later this summer when she wears them, unless she looks like Winston Churchill.  Bah, who am I kidding, there’ll definitely be an update.