Archive for the ‘Stitching’ 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 »

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 »

On Tuesday I went to a neighbor’s apartment for a private showing of her quilts. Little did I know what was in store for me. Deborah showed us 14 quilts she had designed and made and some other needleart of hers. First up was one of her earliest quilts, a crib quilt for a granddaughter made 20 years ago. (Click on the images to enlarge.)


In this detail, you can see the heart-print fabric and ribbon included in this quilt.

Heart detail

Below is the label on the back of the well-worn quilt.

Next came her entry in the Hoffman challenge, an annual event in which people are invited to submit textile art using a particular Hoffman print fabric.

Here’s the print with which Deb worked. She described it as hideous.


But after she had cut it up and pieced it in her own design, it looked like this.


In this detail you can see the hand stitching she added for texture and to modify the colors.

Challenge detail

Here’s the label on the back of the challlenge quilt.

Label on challenge

Next she showed us the H quilt she had made for granddaughter Hannah, whose favorite color is green. Notice the interlocking “Hs”. This is a double-bed size quilt. I could not get far enough away to photograph the whole quilt.

H quilt

Then came this gorgeous full bed quilt made with neckties. When Deb’s sister’s husband died, he left a huge collection of neckties, which the widow wanted to use as a quilt. Never having made a quilt, she sought Deb’s advice but she simply couldn’t do it. Finally Deb, who had not wanted to take away this grief-work from her sister, delicately asked whether she would like Deb to make the quilt. Her sister said, “I thought you’d never ask!” To the 100+ neckties sent to Deb, she added some blue and blue star-printed material—all silk. And she found scores of poems about stars which she sent to her sister, who chose ones she most liked. Deb embroidered these poems as part of the border.


In this close-up of a corner of the quilt, you can recognize the tie silks.

The design is Deb’s.

Necktie close up

Here’s one of the poems:

Star quotes

Each time the word “star” appeared, Deb highlighted it with metallic thread.

After that we saw another large bed quilt made in celebration of her grandson’s high school graduation. Like my own sons, he’s been sailing all his life. Because I had my camera on the wrong setting, I failed to get a picture of most of the quilt, but I can show you the central motif—an historically accurate representation of a sailing ship, worked after much research.

Sailing ship

All the details of masts, sails, and rigging are correct. There were waves below and a starry sky above.

On the back of the quilt  Deb had created two little sailboats to carry her words.


Sail label

Here she credits the source of her image.


Also on the back of the quilt is a message in semaphore.


Each character was pieced.

Pieced semaphor

One of Deb’s sons had a leaky fireplace—in winter it leaked heat out and in summer the heat leaked in. He asked Deb if she could create a quilt to use as a fire-screen. Here’s the summer fireplace quilt:

Summer fireplace

and here’s the winter fireplace quilt:

Copy of Winter fireplace

Since the edge of the fireplace is iron, Deb put magnets on the backs of the quilts. They hug the fireplace smoothly.

Here’s a detail of the fire, made with satiny shiny and metallic fabrics.

Fireplace detail

For the son who had no use for a quilt, Deb made this little pillow. She printed a photograph of his children on fabric, then used tiny straight stitches to outline some of their features, creating the illusion of three dimensions, In fact, the baby’s nose is actually dimensional.

Photo pillow_edited-1

Another pillow was made from a paper collage Deb created and photographed or scanned into her computer, then printed on fabric and stitched to outline.

Here’s the paper collage:

Collage paper

Here’s the pillow:

Collage pillow

After Hannah’s mother died a few years ago, she asked her grandmother to make a quilt in her memory. Hannah had very definite  specifications. She wanted the quilt to be exclusively red, black, and white. She had some concepts she wanted represented on one side and on the other side she wanted images of memories she treasured of her mother.

Deb rendered the concepts symbolically as a stylized flower.

In memory of mother

On the other side of the quilt she created four images. This  one is of Hannah’s mother dancing in the kitchen with Hannah in her arms. Deb’s finger is pointing to the tiaras worn by mother and daughter.


In this close-up you may be able to see the joyful expression on Hannah’s face and her mother’s high-heeled shoe she is wearing.

Dancing close up

Another memory of playing with her mother, wearing the tiaras again.

Close up

Beneath are shoes, which both of them especially liked.


This image was based on a photograph of mother and daughter on a beach.


Hannah’s mother loved polar bears, so Hannah wanted one on the quilt. Deb added the cub, much to Hannah’s delight. The bears are a light-weight velvety velour, as best Deb and I can describe the fabric.

Polar bears

Four years after his wife’s death, Deb’s son asked her to create a quilt using his wife’s clothing, which he still possessed. He delivered several bags full of clothing for Deb to work with. She made this wall-hanging quilt:

DIL memorial

The fabrics are embellished with buttons from the clothing, with other ornamentation from the clothing such as lace, with charms and pins of special meaning, and with beads and Swarovski crystals. Some details follow.

Detail 1Detail 2Detail 3

This shoe pin was one of several that Deb and her DIL exchanged with each other.


The image on the other side of the quilt was cut from the DIL’s t-shirt. A nurse, she admired midwives and this image celebrates midwifery. Although Deb didn’t intentionally do this, the concentric hearts design reflects back to the heart crib quilt at the beginning of this show.

DIL memorial back

Deb makes things other than quilts. For her bat mitzvah Hannah asked her grandmother to make her a prayer shawl, a talles. As with the memorial quilt, Hannah knew what she wanted on her talles—the Biblical story of Miriam, Moses’ sister, who saved his life. On one end of the shawl, Deb created the scene of Miriam placing the infant Moses in an ark among the bullrushes where the Egyptian princess bathed. The bullrushes are silk ribbons.

Talles 2

On the other end of the talles she created the scene of Miriam and other women singing, dancing, and rejoicing after the princess took Moses to be brought  up in the palace.


A close-up of Miriam and another woman with the infant Moses in the bullrushes:

Talles detail

Over the mid-section of the shawl, Deb placed branches with buds on one side and full blossoms on the other. The bat mitzvah signifies that a girl has become a woman in the eyes of her community. Here are some buds:

Talles detail 2

Silk ribbon embroidery, I think.

And here is Hannah wearing her talles. Note the opened blossoms on her right.

Hannah in her talles

That’s not all. Following is a shot of Deb’s husband, Dr. Phil London, wearing a shirt pieced by Deb.

Dr. Phil London

And the artist herself, wearing a mob-cap made by her sister while her hair grows out following chemotherapy.


After the show, we enjoyed refreshments and good conversation.


What a delightful afternoon!

Read Full Post »

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


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.


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:


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.


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.

Read Full Post »

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


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.


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.


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

No mail.

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 »

Older Posts »