Archive for the ‘hand embroidery’ Category

Still plagued by symptoms of ADHD, despite intermittent relief, I took Jacqueline Enthoven’s wonderful little book from the bookcase next to my recliner and paged through it.

Her variations on basic stitches are delightful, for example:

The spiral binding and compact size makes this book not only a treasure trove of ideas, but one that is easy to use, anywhere.

I decided to work my way through it, making samplers of each of her basic stitches. Here’s my first sampler, worked on Lynda cotton fabric with mostly DMC cotton pearl #5 and a little ribbon lacing (or threading).

Obviously, this is the running stitch and double running stitch, AKA Holbein–threaded, stepped, and interlaced; slanted stitches and vertical with horizontal stitches.

I see interesting spaces created by variations of running stitch, spaces yearning to be filled.



Read Full Post »

In my mailbox on Saturday I found a small padded envelope from Spain.

It could only be from Neki. Inside was this fabulous little card:

It is 4 1/4 by 3 3/4 inches. The ground fabric is needle felted. I’m sure Neki either painted or dyed the fibers she used to make it. I absolutely love these colors. Then she applied some gold metallic paint, machine-stitched circles and added hand-stitched herringbone lines. I’m not sure whether the zig-zag edging stitch was done by hand or machine. Finally, two pieces of net were layered on top. The bottom layer may have been fused, but the upper layer is attached by machine-stitched circles and an outline of blue straight stitches–like basting.

The back of the card is a red and blue fabric, like a tweed.

With this vibrant card was another tiny card

It is actually about 2 inches square and deeper red. When asked, Neki told me that it is “handmade paper made with sisal pulp, then painted and stitched”–just tiny blue straight stitches, sometimes called seeding stitch when used in this way to fill an area. On it she wrote, “Hugs.”

This sweet gift couldn’t have come at a better time, as I am struggling to adjust to Ernie being in assisted living, having relapses into symptoms I thought were gone for good.

One of the things about these pieces and about much of Neki’s work that appeals to me is that she leaves it unfinished. It’s raw, imperfect and at the same time strikingly original. Over and over I wonder, “how did she think of that?” And then I always wonder, “how did she DO it?”

Neki spins, dyes (often using natural materials as dyes), weaves, stitches, and makes all kinds of mixed media works. Go to her website and see what I’m talking about.

Read Full Post »

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.


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.


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.


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.

First to last_edited-1

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


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.


These are the threads I used in truer color.


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.


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.


But success came at last:


I made my labels match the original jacket label.


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.


With the jacket closed:


I think it looks terrific on him.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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


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.

Read Full Post »

Having solved the design problems of the main design element by doodling on paper and on cloth, I’m now working on the technical problems of executing this design. The next step is getting the design transferred on to the fabric.

The first problem is the fabric. My doodle cloth is a nice, fine, smooth, firm linen. The jacket is made of Deva Cloth, described in the Deva catalog as “a sturdy, medium weight textured cotton loosely woven with a natural crinkle.” You may be able to see the texture of this fabric as it is shown in the catalog.


It is not smooth and firm. It gives. It stretches.

Second problem: the construction of the border. I don’t want the back of my embellishment to show. I want the inner part of the border to cover that stitching. To that end, I have deconstructed the borders, opened them up, so that I can put the design on the outside and stitch the outside only.

My first attempt to transfer the design involved my light table. I tried to place the jacket over the drawing and trace it with a white pencil. As you can see here, the top of the border is still partially connected to the collar, making a corner that I could not flatten enough to get a good tracing.


Not acceptable.

Next I tried drawing around the edges of the pinned paper shapes with the white pencil. My tools:


That also yielded unacceptable outlines. It is not possible to draw accurately with pencil on this stretchy fabric


Fortunately, I know several ways of transferring designs to fabric. The method I resorted to requires tracing the design on tissue paper with a marking pen, attaching the tissue paper to the fabric, then stitching a line of stitches through the ink line into the fabric. It is a tedious process, but it worked. Here you see one of my tissue paper tracings taped and pinned to the fabric with white stitches following the marked lines.


This process had to be repeated five times.  Then I carefully removed the tissue paper, in tiny fragments, leaving the white stitches on the jacket as my guidelines. In the process, I realized that the bottom Ss should not reach the hem, and so I repositioned them up an inch, which  meant I had to reposition the middle Ss.


At last, the S shapes are on the jacket, ready for stitching.


Getting this design transferred to the fabric has taken ten hours.

The next problem to solve is how it stitch the top Ss which are partly in the corner of the collar. I can’t hoop the fabric. Will I be able to keep it stable enough to couch the copper braid over the outline?

Read Full Post »

At last I’ve embarked on a serious, designed project—embellishing another jacket. Here’s the inspiration:


This beadwork is on a knit jacket I saw daughter-in-law Carolyn wearing at Thanksgiving. It includes bugle beads, seed beads, and wooden beads, all in copper tones. Immediately I knew I wanted to have something like it. That’s why I carefully photographed it. Soon after, I bought, or maybe I already had bought, a black jacket, sleeveless top, and pants from Deva. But I couldn’t do anything with this inspiration until I had finished teaching the two Elderhostel courses I’d committed to offer here at Charlestown.

Here’s my jacket. It’s cotton Deva cloth, which is textured, kind of crinkly.


It has a stand-up collar, a two-inch-wide self-border down the front, and pockets. I plan to embroider the border, the tops of the pockets, the hems (or cuffs) of the sleeves, and maybe the collar, depending on the technical challenges that part may present.

As soon as I’d done all the sample doodle cloths I needed for the class, I began gathering materials for the jacket, first from my stash, then online. Here are some of the threads, beads, and copper metal threads I had on hand. You can also see some of my pencil and ink doodling.


Looking for design inspirations in books that included beadwork, I decided that I wanted to use silk ribbon embroidery as well. While I waited for the ordered beads and ribbons to arrive, I began doodling with pencil and paper. It didn’t take long for my favorite shape—the S, to appear in my doodles, but it did take a while for me to figure out how to draw it so I could stitch it and how to make a border design featuring the spiraling S.

After a lot of pencil design, I decided on the size, shape, and placement of the S, cut out paper Ss, and pinned them to the jacket, thus:


But an evening of looking at this arrangement made me realize that the Ss should be facing each other, thus:


(In these shots, the jacket is hanging over a white t-shirt with the collar pinned together in the lower one.)

As soon as I had a fixed S shape, I transferred it to a doodle cloth for experimenting with threads, beads, and stitches. The effect I want to achieve is of copper-colored Ss when seen at a distance, but I want a lot of texture and shading to achieve that effect. Here’s my doodle cloth showing a copper S on black linen.


Up close it looks like this:


And even closer, you can see the variety of materials and stitches I’ve used.


This is by no means what the final shapes, the final stitching, will look like. This is a doodle cloth. I’ve been trying out different ideas, seeking the look that most appeals to me. It isn’t finished. Also, I have not been able to get the color right in these photographs. In reality, the darker stitches are less red, more copper-like. Despite appearances, there are no blue beads: all are copper-toned, or pearl, but some are iridescent.  Now I think I know how I want to stitch these Ss–basically, at least.

And, by the way, there’s going to be silk ribbon stitching between the Ss. That part I haven’t designed yet, but I do have the silk ribbons in the colors I want to use. (Think I want to use.)


If I fill in six Ss in this textured manner, the project will probably take all year. And when I’ve finished working the Ss, I may not want the silk ribbon embroidery. Maybe just some copper beads. That’s okay: I’m working on something purposefully, knowing what I want to do, instead of just randomly, wildly, stitching.

Although I’m not “normal” yet, I’ve calmed down quite a bit. Now I can finish a task I begin without jumping up to do something else. I still feel kind of panicky and tremulous at times, especially in the evenings. Then I do not feel good. But I expect that this, too, will pass.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »