Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Meet Annabelle, my Autumn Songbird!

Annabelle, the Autumn Songbird
Adapted from a Free Vintage Transfer (Vogart)
Tester for the Blue Washable Marker and Lazy Daisy Stitches

I have been in love with the vintage embroidery pattern that inspired this beautiful bird - whose name was chosen because Annabelle is Gaelic for "Joy" - for YEARs now:

Three Birds in a Tree
# 10007 / Animals & Insects / Vogart at

Although it doesn't appear to have been updated since 2016, Needlecrafter is one of the best sites online to find free vintage embroidery transfers, and it is home to the pattern that I used for my first-ever embroidery, Bluebirds of Happiness.

I wanted a tester to try the Blue Washable Pen I recently used for Sammy the Squirrel. I was interested to see if having the full Lazy Daisy outline marked would help make my stitches rounder. When I'm using a permanent transfer method - lead pencil, fine-tipped Sharpie marker or iron-on pencil - I usually only put dots in place of the bottom and top tips on each petal.

This is because I find it difficult to make my stitches perfectly match the lovely even teardrops of the pattern designs. But when you have a lot of Lazy Daisy stitches close together, all those dots can be a little confusing, especially since I usually have French Knot dots marked in the middle of the flowers too. It's like playing Connect the Dots - and sometimes it's frustrating to figure out where everything goes 😂

Please click the image to enlarge and save at full resolution

So I decided to focus only on one bird; this is my variation! I made some changes: altering the branch, adding another tail feather, changing the beak and adding extra French Knots and scattered Detached (Single) Lazy Daisies in the body for some extra colour. I also added another leg, because only one didn't look quite right!

You may notice the colours look a little familiar. That's because I loved the colour palette from my Lolli & Grace Autumn Leaf SAL so much that I just had to use it again! I made some minor substitutions in the original colourway and I kept those for this project. If you'd like to stitch your own Autumn Songbird, here is the Colour & Stitch Key:

Please click the image to enlarge and save at full resolution

The Blue Washable Marker (mine is the Unique Brand, from Walmart, that I used for Sammy the Squirrel) worked like magic again! A quick dip in a plastic container of cold water and Abracadabra! Shazam! Bibbety-bobbity-boo!!! A beautiful, joyful Songbird!

One teeny tiny minor quibble: my fabric choice was not the best. I have seen this pretty and unusual mustard yellow colour everywhere this Autumn, and when I found some fabric on the bargain wall, the same type of linen I used for The Joyful Jester, I was thrilled! That project was felt applique, so I've never actually embroidered on this fabric before. The loose weave means that it's easy to overstretch, and although I tried very hard not to do so, I distorted the fabric. Significantly.

I was SO proud of my Satin Stitch in this project, especially the Tail Feathers:

Smooth, right? This was the first layer I intended to use as padding but it worked out so well that I kept it to the single layer. The leaves were Satin Stitched inside as well. Out of the hoop, unfortunately, that fabric distortion means that all my painstakingly-stitched Satin Stitch went wavy and wonky 🙄 So it has to be stretched in a hoop or a frame.

Lesson learned!

Thankfully, my other major achievement - the Bullion Knot feet - emerged relatively unscathed 😊 Those teeny tiny toes are so cute!

Verdict: The Blue Washable Marker wins again! I'm so impressed with this embroidery transfer method. It really did help take the guess work out of my Lazy Daisies, although again the linen was not a good fabric choice. The nubby texture means that it was harder to mark the fabric and I had to go over most of the lines twice. Also, because I couldn't mark smoothly on the textured surface, I couldn't really get the teardrop shape of the Lazy Daisy stitches and they ended up more like straight lines LOL!

I really love the flexibility this marker gives you - you can change elements, as I did with this project when I reshaped the beak, you can add or omit parts of the pattern. Not having to stick to the pattern lines gives you so much stitching freedom!

And my Lazy Daisy stitches do look a little rounder than normal, which is a definite plus since mine usually turn out kind of skinny. In all likelihood, this had nothing at all to do with the marker and just happened because I was paying extra attention to them, but I'll take all the help I can get 😄

I'm so pleased with how Annabelle turned out, and I think she's lovely. A little songbird to sing a happy, joyful tune on these golden late Autumn afternoons while the leaves fall, reminding us that Spring will come again once Winter has its turn 🍂🕊🍁

Monday, October 29, 2018

Pilot FriXion Tester: Vintage Pumpkin

Vintage Pumpkin
Test Piece for Pilot FriXion Pen Transfer Method

Following my success with using a blue Washable Marker to transfer an embroidery pattern, I decided to work up a small tester with another very popular transfer method I've never tried: The Pilot FriXion Pen!

The FriXion pens are not meant for use on fabric. They are ink pens that come with an eraser on the bottom end (and wow, do I ever wish these had been out when I was writing exams in school!). They are very popular among quilters but are controversial in the embroidery community. Mary Corbet of Needle N' Thread very succinctly sums up her reasons for not using these pens to transfer embroidery patterns.

Namely, the ink does not really disappear. It can leave "ghost lines" that usually re-emerge if the embroidery gets cold, which is something to keep in mind if you are sending your work through the mail. So this is not a flexible transfer method like the Washable Marker - you have to intend to cover most of your lines.

Last year, a good friend sent me a black Pilot FriXion pen to try. They come in several different types and sizes. Mine is the extra fine 0.7 ballpoint, and I love the way it writes! The line is clear but thin, and the ballpoint glides over the fabric. Like the Washable Pen, you need to be able to see through your fabric to trace your transfer.

Most articles on using FriXion pen for embroidery transfers say that you need to iron the ink out. Since I usually iron embroidery from the back (placing the front on a thick fluffy towel so the stitches aren't squashed), I was a little nervous about ironing on the front. Then, a few weeks ago on Instagram, a stitcher said she used a hair dryer. Genius!

So that's what I tried, and it worked a treat! I'm afraid there are no good Before-and-After shots, because I did stick very close to the pattern. A few little bits around the curly vines were all I had to go by, but one blast of heat and they vanished. Obviously, this is something I will have to experiment with a bit more, but I am optimistic that these pens would be a good method for quick, casual patterns.

I really like that the line is easily visible but that you do not need to wash the finished embroidery. And although the FriXion pens do not give you the flexibility of Washable Markers, they do give you a tiny bit of wiggle room versus a lead pencil (my usual method). You need to be sure of your design and stick close to the drawn lines but if you do have an "oops!" moment, you can blast it away with heat.

I am looking for a transfer method that gives fine, non-smudging, easily visible lines that are thin enough to be covered by outline stitches, and this pen seems fits that bill!

Project Details

◾ Vintage Pumpkin from online freebie, unfortunately no longer available
◾ 4" wooden embroidery hoop
◾ 100% quilting cotton, Ecru
◾ DMC Floss:
Pumpkin: 900 (Dark Burnt Orange), 6 strands, Stem Stitch
Leaves: 986 (Very Dark Forest Green), 4 strands, Split Stitch Outline, and Backstitched Veins
Curly Vines: 988 (Medium Forest Green), 2 strands, Stem Stitch

All in all, I'm very happy with how my little Pumpkin turned out! I'm having fun right now stitching up these little transfer method testers, and the next is a pretty little bird that will try out the Washable Marker on Lazy Daisy stitches 🌼

Have you used a Pilot FriXion pen to write on fabric? How did you find it?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Meet Sammy, the Vintage Squirrel 🐿

Sammy the Vintage Squirrel
from Vintage Embroidery Transfer
(from an online freebie that is no longer available)

This fun little squirrel was my first experience using a Washable Marker to transfer an embroidery pattern! My pen is the Unique brand, and I bought it at Walmart for less than $5 CA. DMC makes a popular one as well.

The blue is nice and bright and easy to see! It has a felt-pen like tip which gives a pretty thin line. Unfortunately, it doesn't really write like a pen. I found it more effective to use quick, short strokes - much like using a pencil or pen to transfer.

These types of Washable Markers are very popular for embroidery transfers because you don't have to worry if your lines don't quite match your stitching, which also gives you some flexibility. If you want to omit or change the shape of an element you can! This would be incredibly helpful with stitches like the Lazy Daisy. There's a great article by Cheryl Fall about using washable pens for embroidery transfers at Spruce Crafts.

For cross-stitchers, these have some use too. I have recently seen someone on Instagram (@moiraestitches; see her #StageCoachInTheWoods for progress) use one of these markers on Aida, to outline a monotone (single colour) pattern for easy stitching. I think this is a fantastic idea, and saves you from having to constantly consult a chart for simple designs or for large blocks of colour in more complex designs. You could also use them to mark the center of a design or to help mark borders for accuracy!

I followed the lines pretty closely, but I still had a tiny bit of blue showing:

Here's a close-up - the red arrows point to visible marker lines:

I have to admit that I was nervous to wash Sammy, especially with the black and white eye! But a quick dip in cold tap water (I used a sandwich container) and it was like magic: when the marker lines hit the water, they vanished! No scrubbing at all!

Presto, changeo! Abracadabra! Ta-DA! I'm totally impressed, and can't wait to try this marker again 😊

Project Details:
◾ Fabric is 100% quilting Cotton, light beige
◾ 4" vintage wooden hoop
◾ DMC Floss: 919 (Fur), 3833 (Ears), 310 (Nose and Eye), 001 (Eye highlight), 780 (Acorn) and 938 (Acorn Cap)

I used 3 strands of floss for most of the stitching. I used 2 strands of white for the teeth, and also for the white Eye Highlight, with 1 strand of black for Split Stitch to define the outside of the Eye. First, I tried stitching the Eye with all black and adding the highlight with a French Knot, but I didn't like the way the Knot stood out. So I took it back and made a tiny circle with Satin Stitch for the highlight, with a Fly Stitch border:

I like it a lot better! The other place I struggled was Sammy's tail. I wanted a floofy, fluffy, floomphy tail, and I considered using Turkey Stitch first. I worked some samples in the top left corner of the cloth. After a LOT of hemming and hawing, I eventually settled on doing the outside lines on the tail with 6 strands, using Stem Stitch:

It wasn't as fluffy as I wanted but it gave me a nice bit of extra lift:

Ultimately, I think a Turkey Work tail would have overwhelmed her. This was a super fun stitch and a successful experiment in transferring using a Washable Marker! I'm hoping to do another little tester using the Pilot Frixion Pen transfer method soon 👩‍🔬

🍁🍂 Sammy the Squirrel says Happy Autumn! 🍂🍁