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Cool!

Josh posted this shot on his Facebook page with the caption “Gram’s Graduation Present :)”

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It’s not all kayaking; I’ve been stitching, too. I couldn’t blog about it because it’s a gift. Grandson Josh is graduating high school this spring. He has everything on earth he could want or need. He definitely doesn’t need money. Casting about for what I could give him, I thought about embroidering an article of clothing for him. He likes my needleart a lot. When I asked him, he said that he loved the idea and he would be thinking about what he would want me to embellish with stitching.

On April 2nd  he showed me two jackets and told me I could choose which I wanted to work on.

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I chose the military-style tunic. It is dark brown, sort of grayish-brown. When I asked Josh whether he had any ideas, requests, preferences, or specifications, he said he wanted me to do whatever I wanted with it, as that is the way he does his best work. He did mention, however, that maroon is the color of College of Charleston, where he will matriculate this year. To my question about wearability, he said it had to be dry-cleanable, as he likes to wear it regularly.

As soon as I had decided on the tunic, I got out all my darkest red threads and draped them over the jacket. DMC cotton pearl 902 looked wonderful against the dark brown—subtle and rich. Putting stitching on the button tabs and epaulettes seemed obvious. But to do that, I’d have to be able to remove the tabs from the tunic. Immediately I set to work to see whether I could do that. It was scary. What if I damaged the tunic? What if I got it off and couldn’t get it back on invisibly?

With my seam ripper, I cautiously, slowly, found the stitching behind the cording and clipped the stitches.

Removing tab

So far, so good. At this point I was trying out ideas to see whether they would work. Just to find out how stitching through this very dense, heavy fabric would be, I began to chain-stitch with DMC pearl cotton #8 along the cording, over the line of visible stitching you can see above. It looked great so I continued, but the pre-existing stitching began to come out. What effect would this have? Was it necessary to the construction of the tab? I just kept on. It was the stitching I had snipped.

First border

Next I thought about trying a row of diamond stitches down the middle of the tab.

Now the diamond stitch is a complex stitch requiring seven steps to complete. The examples below are from Sharon Boggon’s TAST 2010, where I learned it.

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As you can see, working this stitch precisely requires evenweave fabric on which you can count the threads. The jacket is definitely not evenweave fabric.

Since I needed to refresh my memory of how to do the diamond stitch, and because I wanted to see how it would look, I got out a piece of brown raw silk noil—the  fabric closest in color I found in my stash, and practiced the stitch. Since it is not evenweave either, I used waste canvas to keep my stitches even. Waste canvas is an evenweave material. You stitch over it, then remove it—one thread at a time, from under the stitching. I tried two weights of thread—pearl cotton #5 and #3.

Practice cloth

This project is a learning process, technically challenging, all the way. At each step, I’ve had to figure out how to do what I wanted to do. Tweezers were an important tool for this project, as you will see—tweezers and magnifying lenses.

Eager to see how this stitching would look on the jacket, I pinned waste canvas to the tab I’d outlined in chain-stitch and began making diamond stitches. But the waste canvas had shifted a bit and the line wasn’t straight.

Trimmed waste canvas

That was very obvious after the waste canvas had been removed. I unstitched and tried again.

Removing waste canvas, one thread at a time:

Removing waste canvas

After I had stitched the row of diamond stitches on the second tab, I saw that it was not identical to that stitching on the first tab, which I had spent 1 1/2 hours re-attaching to the tunic. Uh-oh, I thought, I may have to re-do this stitching, too, and so I pinned the tab to the tunic. Then I unattached the next tab and chain-stitched the border.

Production

Okay, this was good. I decided to keep doing that—getting the tab off the tunic, tweezing out the snipped threads, and putting in the chain-stitched border. In production mode, I chain stitched around all the tabs.

Then I went into production mode for the diamond stitching—attaching waste canvas to all the tabs and putting diamond stitch on all of them. Once I had figured out how to get perfectly straight rows, it was easy to do; but it took me a long time to get there. I know. It looks so easy.

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When I’d stitched all the tabs, it was clear that the second tab was, in fact, not acceptable.

Unacceptable

I unstitched it and did it again.

Taking out

Here, all the tabs have been embellished and attached to the jacked.

Tabs done

Next I embroidered the epaulettes, using #3 pearl cotton and making the stitches larger. The thread is not this red. It is deep maroon, but I couldn’t get that with my camera.

Epaulette

These are the threads I used in truer color.

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Around the collar and cuffs, I chain-stitched a line of #8 pearl cotton against the cording. Getting the needle through this tough fabric sometimes required pliers. And making sure the stitches went only through the outer layer of fabric was fiddly work. Very slow.

Pliers

Okay, the exterior was finished. Inside, I wanted to put Josh’s name and mine. I tried several ways of stitching the names:

Label trials

On the black fabric (which had had a previous life as the lining of a suede belt) I stitched over Sulky tearaway foundation, then found out I couldn’t get the Sulky out of the inside of these small letters. Not for love nor money nor an hour of trying. Why didn’t I think of white transfer paper first, instead of last?

After I finally got Josh’s label satisfactorily stitched, I struggled with my signature, having to completely unstitch the tiny single silk floss stitches I’d used to couch #8 pearl cotton in trailing stitch.

Unstitching

But success came at last:

Labels

I made my labels match the original jacket label.

Inside

Done at last.

All done

I gave it to Josh yesterday. He loves it. Here he’d just discovered the detail of the stitching on the cuff  and was exclaiming over it.

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With the jacket closed:

Closed

I think it looks terrific on him.

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One magnificent gift

From my gifted friend in Austria, Elisabeth Preininger, has come a fabulous bag she created. When she showed it on her Flickr site in August, I left a comment that I coveted this bag. What I meant by that was an expression of my appreciation for this work of art. But Elisabeth wrote me this Flickr message:

Dear JoWynn,
many thanks for your nice comment. It will be exposed at Quilt-Fest in Linz in October 2010. After this event it will be sent to you in Baltimore! Hugs Elisabeth

Here’s her bag at the exhibit.

Yesterday it arrived. Not having looked at the photos since August, I was awestruck when I opened the box. It couldn’t be more spectacular, and the craftsmanship is superb. The work of a master craftsman.

When I showed it to Ernie, who has also exchanged messages with Elisabeth, he exclaimed, “That’s you!” And it is, too. These are my colors. To show you, I spread some of my clothes out on my bed.

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Then I placed the bag with them.

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I love this palette!

Now for a closer look at the bag.

Isn’t that a great design?

And look at the ends, or sides of the bag.

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Terrific print, don’t you agree? What a great choice.

Inside there’s even a zippered pocket.

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And Elisabeth’s label. It includes her address, telephone number, and e-mail address, but I don’t think I should show that information on the web.

Am I fortunate? Am I blessed? I can’t thank Elisabeth enough for this beautiful gift of herself.

Go to her Flickr site. Don’t miss seeing more of her glorious textile art and other photographs. Her photographs of the bag are much better than mine, truer to the actual colors.

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A few days ago I completed filling in the first S shape on my jacket.

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When I began working on these shapes, I intended to make them as similar as possible, adding the same element to each of the Ss. But as I began filling in around the larger beads and the feather stitching, I realized that I can’t really do that. First of all, the transferred shapes are not identical, and secondly, I need to see how the effect develops as I add threads and beads.

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A last minute decision, after I had done all the filling, was to sharpen and smooth the outline with copper super pearl purl. That looks like this:

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Here the end of the purl has been stretched, as it is for couching down. For comparison, that’s #5 DMC variegated cotton pearl thread shown with the metal thread. The super pearl purl is slightly finer than the #5 cotton pearl.

Now this is up close and personal.

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It took over 12 hours. I forgot to start keeping track of the time I spent at the beginning so I don’t know exactly how many hours went into filling this S.

Five more to go. And each will be distinctive, unlike the others.

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Since I last posted about my jacket embellishment project, I’ve begun filling in the S shapes with beads and stitching.

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As you can see, the bottom left shape is still empty. I ran out of the silk ribbon and had to order more. Meanwhile, I’ve been filling the other shapes by adding one element at a time to all of them. (I hope I can retrace my steps when the silk ribbon gets here.) I’m sorry the next shot is fuzzy. I took lots of pictures with different settings, with and without flash and this is the best I could do.

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So far, in addition to the silk ribbon feather stitching, I’ve added coppery iridescent bugle beads, large gold glass beads at the tips, heishi shell beads held in place by a coppery seed bead, and stitching in variegated gold DMC cotton pearl thread. Here are the materials.

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Onward. I wonder whether we will have mail delivery today…..

No mail.

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After I had couched the copper braid over all the outlines, I forgot to photograph the jacket. Putting the white guide line stitches in (over the tissue paper, as I’ve described) was tedious, but taking them out was a real pain. By the way, after I’d couched five more Ss, I’d become more skilled. This means that I had to remove the first couched S and replace it with a better version.

Here, as you can see, I’ve already begun to fill in the S shapes. The silk ribbon feather stitching will virtually disappear as I add other stitches and beads.

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I’ve couched the copper braid around the first S.

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My concern was not about the give and stretchiness of the fabric, but about the jacket itself. Could I hold it in my hand in a stable enough manner to be able to couch the copper braid? Could I deal with the underside of the border and the edge that is still attached to the collar? It was difficult. It took two hours. This is crazy!

As you can see, I took some liberties with my white stitched outline to get the shape closer to what I wanted. The remaining white pencil lines will either be stitched over or removed with water. And of course the white stitches will be removed.

If I live long enough, I think I can do this.

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