Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer Bloggin': LED Embroidery with Rebecca Greco

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

I hope you'll all join us today in welcoming Rebecca Greco from Hugs Are Fun! Rebecca last visited us to talk about better hoop habits. Today she's here to tell us about her experiences with an LED Stitching Kit. I don't know about you guys, but I've never tried this myself, so I'm excited to hear what Rebecca has to say about it!

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

I have a confession to make, I am a craft supply hoarder. I love getting exciting new supplies, but actually using them makes me nervous. I obsess over finding the perfect project so I don't "waste" them. I've had this LilyPad LED stitching kit from Sparkfun for well over a year and have only just now used it.

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

There are kits available that allow you to program the LEDs to do things like flicker, but I just used the basic kit. The kit includes conductive thread, a battery pack, LEDs, a button, and a switch. 

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

I wanted to do something space related for it, what better way to use LEDs than stitching them as stars? I finally designed a pattern of Saturn and got to work. The cross stitch was the easy part, the LEDs were much trickier than I expected and I ran into quite a few problems. The first thing I realized was that if I attached the components directly to my cross stitch it would show the stitching on the front. 

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

The battery pack is quite large and there are a lot of different pieces, all of which need to be stitched into place and there needs to be a string of stitches making the connection with the conductive thread. I decided to stitch everything onto a piece of fabric and attach it onto the cross stitch Aida cloth after.

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

I followed the instructions on the website exactly and the button lit up two of the LEDs, but I could not get the switch working to control all of the lights. I enlisted my husband's help and he explained the changes I needed to make. I can't even count the amount of times I had to take out the stitches. The frustrating thing is not knowing if it will work until everything is stitched into place. I would finish the last stitch and cross my fingers that it would work, unfortunately more often than not I ended up having to take out the stitches and start over.

Once I finally got the LEDs working I used a needle to make the holes in the Aida cloth wider where the LED was going to be showing through. Once everything was in place I used black sewing thread to attach the fabrics together. It isn't the most ideal situation but it isn't too noticeable. 

I do wish I had more LEDs to use for this, the kit came with 5 but one of them was broken when I got it. I would love to do a cross stitch of the galaxy with dozens of twinkling lights!

Have you ever tried out using an LED stitching kit? Did you find it as confusing as I did?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer Bloggin': Creating interesting surfaces

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Today we are joined by Jane from Flaming Nora, a costume maker and textile artist. She will show us a technique to create interesting surfaces using a very simple ingredient. Do make sure to visit Jane's blog - especially if you're a fan of fancy frocks; you don't want to miss this post. Flaming Nora is also on Facebook.

Thank you, Jane!

Today I want to share with you a very simple technique to help both create interesting surfaces to embroider on and to blend fabrics together tonally. It is a process I use all the time in my day job as a costume maker.

In the theatre, white doesn’t work, it reflects the lights back at you and makes that part of the costume be it a lace trim or an apron “shout”. Costumes are not always supposed to look brand new, we are creating a character and that could be anything from an old tramp living in a hovel to Queen Elizabeth I. The costumes we produce often need to look aged and worn, or just fit in with a period colour palate and modern fabrics sometimes look just that, modern.

And our quick fix solution to all these problems can be summed up in one word.

Flaming Nora 1
The nations favourite drink, cheap, cheerful and on hand in more or less all of our kitchen cupboards.
So here is a quick how to on instant ageing for your modern fabrics.
You will need the following:
- teabags
- bowl
- kettle
- fabric

Flaming Nora 2
Boil the kettle and make a very strong brew in your bowl. The more teabags you use the stronger the colour will be. I used 5 in this batch

Flaming Nora 3
Put your fabric in to the tea solution and leave it to soak, take it out, rinse it under the tap to remove any excess and you are done.
The longer you leave the fabric in the tea solution the darker the colour will become.
Here is the range of tones I used to make the above piece. They range from a very quick dip to an hours soak. The background is the fabric in its original state.

Flaming Nora 4
You can also then build up layers of stain using different types of tea.
First I dipped this piece in green tea, which gave a lovely lemon yellow colour. Then whilst it was hanging on the line drying I slowly poured a strong brew of pg tips down it a tea spoon at a time.

Flaming Nora 5
Basically anything that makes you fed up when you get it down the front of your clothes because its going to be difficult to wash out can be used to stain fabric to give it extra texture and depth.
My kids had quite a lot of fun making a brew out of the blackberries they picked in the garden and then painted on to tea dipped fabrics.

Flaming Nora 6
Coffee also works well, but will leave your fabric smelling of coffee, which I guess some won’t find such a bad thing!

Flaming Nora 7
This technique works equally well on patterned fabrics giving them an aged quality.

Flaming Nora 8
And finally here is a collection of fabrics and trims new and old dipped and un-dipped that have the same tonal quality and work sympathetically together.

They will form a single distressed textile piece, which will become the background to an embroidery, if you come back next week I will show you how this is done!

Have you dyed fabric with tea? How did it go? Please let us know in the comments or share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Found on Flickr - Embroidered chocolate!

Found on Flickr

don't eat and sew
This made me actually laugh out loud when I saw it in the &Stitches Flickr group. Anne/Pumora has this very good advice: don't eat (chocolate) and sew. You don't want to risk getting chocolate on your embroidery. But I guess getting embroidery on your chocolate is a different matter! :-)

Awesome stuff.

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Colour inspiration from Pantone

inspired by Pantone
Did you know that this year's Pantone colour of the year is Radiant Orchid? I thought I'd find a colour combo using that colour, but I don't think there is a DMC colour that matches it perfectly. Instead I put these together which  are a good place to start I think. DMC: 554, 553, 3607 and 718.

And why would you stitch with just one colour/shade anyway, when there are so many pretty ones to chose from? ;-)

I must admit that I am not a big fan of lilac and purple colours, but these are actually quite pretty.

What do you think of Radiant Orchid? Love it or leave it?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Bloggin' - Don’t Fear the Fair Part 1

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Jorie shares how inheriting supplies from family members set her on a course to enter her embroideries at the Iowa State Fair. Visit Jorie's blog, Embroider Elaine.

Thank you, Jorie!

Lurking between the carnival rides and farm animals, at the Iowa State Fair, is a celebration of craftsmanship. During my first visit in August 2011, I stumbled upon the Fabric & Threads department and was both surprised and humbled by the entries on display. There were dresses that belonged on runways, double-knit jackets swirling with color, and room after room of quilts. I left the fair thinking about all the beautiful objects I saw and the hard work that went into them, but I never considered the idea of actually entering the fair myself—even though I had been knitting since the age of six.

Several months later, my grandmother died and my parents cleaned out the apartment she had shared with her sister, my great-aunt. My parents discovered a bag of my great-aunt’s embroidery supplies, including an unfinished project.

They asked me if I could complete this project, and I accepted the challenge. In August 2012, I found out that my local craft store, Home Ec. Workshop offered embroidery lessons. I learned enough stitches to complete the project . . . and I haven’t stopped stitching since!

During the store’s weekly Saturday brunch, I was working on my great-aunt’s project when a regular customer came in with a box. She had entered dozens of knitted items to the 2012 state fair and had just gotten them back in the mail. She pulled out the projects, most of them festooned with blue ribbons (which was not surprising, considering she is the only Master Knitter in Iowa). As we marveled at these prize-winners, my embroidery friend Cassie turned to me and said, “You will enter the state fair this year.” I couldn’t believe what she was saying. I had only just learned how to embroider, so there was no possible way I could win!

She explained, “There are two reasons to enter the fair. One is to win ribbons. The other is to just see your work up there with the others, to know you accomplished that, and maybe get some helpful critiques.” Every year, the store’s patrons talked about “taking over the state fair”—to add some modern flair to needle craft categories that were often old-fashioned—but now it was time for someone to actually do it.

In the month before the 2013 fair, I worked on a matzah cover that was in my great-aunt’s supplies. I definitely should have started earlier, but I got it completed in time to submit it to the fair in person. I ended up being the only new person from my crafting circle to submit an entry. I submitted it in the Embroidery Division, in the class of Embroidered Holiday Decorations, where it won a fourth place ribbon. I was disappointed at first because there were only four items submitted in that class, but I learned that the judges award ribbons based on a point system. They gave me a ribbon because I had achieved a standard of excellence. It almost made up for the fact that they hung my project upside-down!

This year, I am changing my approach to preparing for the fair. My first entry, my version of the Polar Bear from Follow the White Bunny’s Furry Nice online class, was one I decided early on would be a fair entry.

I allotted much more time to complete it. Last year, I was rushing to finish my matzah cover on time, and that lead to more mistakes I had to fix. It was such a relief to have the finished project at the framer’s with plenty of time to spare. I am submitting it in Division-Embroidery, Class-Picture. My other two items are ones that I did not make with the intention of submitting them, but so many people complimented me on them that I figured there was no harm in trying!

One is a slipstitch afghan (Division-Hand Knitting, Class-Afghan). The other is the Woodland Sampler designed by the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery (Division-Counted Cross Stitch, Class-Picture 15-25 inches worked on linen).

As you can tell, the classifications for entries are extremely specific. It is very important to look through the rule book, or “premium book,” to figure out which categories your item might fit. The Iowa State Fair is fairly comprehensive when it comes to craft categories and item types, but it doesn’t cover everything. They might define terms differently from the way you do, or add and subtract categories.

Every year, the fair organizers meet competitors who drive all the way to Des Moines to enter the competition without even looking at the book to figure out if their items qualify for competition. The book also contains information on deadlines, cleanliness, and how to attach the entry tags. If you categorize your entry incorrectly, or it violates any other rules, it will be disqualified.


Another change is that I finally have friends who are submitting entries, too. I started a Facebook group, “State Fair Takeover,” to remind potential competitors of important deadlines and provide a forum for people to ask questions and encourage each other. Thanks to the group, Angela is submitting towels embroidered with Sylvia Plath quotes (Division-Embroidery, Class-Towels) and pillowcases embroidered with messages advocating sexual consent (Division-Embroidery, Class-Pillowcases).

Cassie is submitting Hitchhiker’s Guide-themed towels, a wedding handkerchief she made for her cousin, and pillowcases embroidered with verses from an Egyptian poetess.

Will more entries mean more ribbons? What will the judges think of our contemporary style? Will I finally eat some chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick?

Find out in Part 2 . . .

Have you taken part in a fair with your stitchy projects? How did it go? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Summer Bloggin': Part 2 of Exploring Transfer Methods with Cate Anevski

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Today Cate Anevski of Bee's Knees Industries will continue her exploration of pattern transfer methods - in case you missed it, catch up with Part 1 right here

In addition to the transfer methods I described in the last post, I wanted to test a few methods that don’t require any sort of special equipment. Sometimes, you just want to get started on a project without a trip to the craft store or a long wait for supplies you order online. These two methods can be done with common household items.

METHOD 1: Graphite Pencil



You can use a regular graphite pencil to trace your designs. This works best with softer lead, like a #2 pencil, but the graphite is very difficult to remove from the fabric.

I wasn't able to find a method that completely erased the lines, but a [kneaded gum eraser] managed to lighten them pretty well without leaving behind any eraser residue. All other erasers I tried left a bigger mess than I had started with, and water didn’t remove the graphite at all.

This method doesn't require any special equipment. You can find a pencil just about anywhere.
As long as you use a sharp pencil, this will give you a tight line that stays put for detail work.

The pencil doesn't wash out entirely. You need to be conscious of this in choosing your stitches, since stitches that do not cover the line, such as running stitch, will allow the pencil to show through. I'd recommend testing your stitches on a small scrap of fabric to ensure that you like the final result. For instance, the pencil under the running stitch in my sample hardly shows at all.
If you make a mistake in tracing your design, you will need to cover up the extraneous marks with stitches, as you won't be able to erase them.

METHOD 2: Tissue Paper





If you don't want to transfer your design directly to the fabric, you can also draw out your design on tissue paper and then stretch that in the hoop with your fabric. I just used regular tissue paper that was left over from wrapping a birthday present.

When you're finished stitching, carefully tear away the tissue paper. The stitches will perforate the tissue paper, giving you an easy way to tear it away from the stitches. You can use small scissors and tweezers to remove any stubborn bits of paper.

You can use this method for any fabric type. I used it for black felt, which is very difficult to transfer designs to, and I think it would work well for some crimson velvet I have in my stash as well.

This method requires an extra step for some fill stitches. Since I didn't want any bits of tissue paper left under my satin stitches, I first traced the shape with a split stitch, then filled in the area with satin stitch after I removed the tissue paper. This is a good method for satin stitch as it helps define the edge of the shape, and I found it particularly useful on the felt since it is difficult to embroider felt with precision. It takes a little more time, but it gives a very nice result.

Since you aren't transferring the design directly to the fabric, you need a way to affix the tissue paper to the fabric. For a small project, simply stretching the paper in your embroidery hoop with the fabric works well. For larger projects, you could use pins or basting stitches to hold the tissue paper in place.

Thanks so much for exploring these methods for us, Cate! Do you like to use a completely different method to transfer patterns to fabric? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer Bloggin' - How to Use Stem Stitch as a Fill with Teresa from Daisies for Violet

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Today we're joined by another fantastic Summer Blogger: Teresa from Daisies for Violet! Teresa blogs about yarny things and thready things and has some very fun patterns and tutorials available for both! Today Teresa is going to share her method for using stitch stitch as a fill - so let's get started!


Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be a summer guest blogger for one of my absolute favorite and most useful sites. I’m going to share with you how I use a simple stem stitch as a fill.

You can use this technique for any line work that just a single line won’t fill. The stem was the first stitch I learned and used it for years before I even realized there were other stitches or that it had a name at all. It’s still my favorite and the most comfortable for me. So I had to figure out a way to fill space since, apparently, I never saw any other stitches. I tend to use stem stitch a lot recently for lettering. You will create a beautiful, smooth texture with a tight group of stitches. As you see above, it can swoop or be sharp. So many possibilities!

There are two important things to know about this technique:

1. How to hold your excess floss,
2. Where to insert your needle.

Grab your fabric, hoop, floss, needle - and if you are like me, reading glasses. 'Cause this might get a little tight.


Please note in the following photos I’m using all 6 strands of DMC floss to more easily show the specific textures. Normally I use only 2 strands in my work. Three if I’m feeling adventurous.

First of all, stitch a good old fashioned row of stem stitches.


Done. Good.

Next, begin your second row right up against your first. Use your thumb to hold the floss ON THE SAME SIDE of the hoop every time. This keeps it out of the way of stitching and creates the effect of the stitches leaning on each other. This is what you want and the only way the “fill” will effectively “fill”.

If the floss isn’t positioned the same for each row, it doesn’t matter how closely you stitch to the last row, there will be a slight space, just because of the nature of stem stitch.

I hold my floss over my existing stitches. Easy to remember to do every row and just becomes habit. Like this:


The next very important thing is where you insert your needle.


... at the little divot created by the last row. This will stagger the insertion points and create a braided or rope effect. Each row will snuggle right up to the last.

If all goes well, and I’m sure it will, your stitches will have this type of effect:


The area is smooth to the eye and silky to the touch.

I created this next design to show the possibility of the stem as a fill. I created the word “make” using two strands of DMC. This type of embroidery feels like painting to me, the flow and the ease are relaxing. And c’mon, it’s really pretty.


I hope this information has been useful!

Happy stitching!

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!