Saturday, August 10, 2013

Final Finish: A Snowflake In Summer!

Wooeth of the Hooeth! I have some very exciting news to share today - I finally finished my Blackwork Snowflake!!! It's only been, oh, two years (?!) in the making!

I am SO very proud of how this turned out, and that I managed to finish this well before Christmas, LOL! (Um, okay, it's actually looooong after the first Christmas it should have been finished for, but hey - now it's so late, it's early! Always look on the bright side, right?!) You can read all about this beautiful pattern - a freebie from WyrdByrd Designs - and my stitching choices in A Very Special Snowflake :).

It wasn't until after I had written that post that I realized my snowflake was actually more than a year old. Like, more than twice that. And, as of that post, I intended to finish it soon, like by the next week - that was in April. *looks incredibly sheepish*

The Final Finish and I, we are not such very good friends. (A big thanks to Karen @ Karen's Colourful Creations for that term!) But I'm hoping that will change soon :)

You know what else I'm hoping to master? The Fine Art of the Tutorial. Seriously, I really tried with this little snowflake! I wanted to do the whole step-by-step thing, like I did for the ES Blackwork Spring Garden SAL Bookmark Finishing Tutorial. Alas, it was evidently not to be. But at least I have some progress pictures to share!

Before we get to the photos: this type of finish is the standard Stitched Christmas Ornament in my house, taught to me by my Stitchy Guru Mother who is amazingly adept at making them in a wide variety of shapes, including circles. Me, I stick with squares, for obvious reasons, LOL! It's so much easier to just follow the Aida lines :)

The definitive element is the cording, which is unwound and fluffed out to make the tassel at the bottom :) Everything - from the tassel to the top hanging loop - is only one piece of cord! And this looks even prettier with metallic cording. In fact, I had bought silver cording but decided it overwhelmed my little snowflake - it made the beading look dull - and so I went with the plain navy instead.

Usually, we stuff our ornaments with polyfill, but this time around I did a square insert made from two layers of quilt batting, just like in the Bookmark Finishing Tutorial. Most of the steps are the same and can be easily adapted :) So I'm just going to skim over most of the steps; for more detail, please read the bookmark tutorial.

But what I am going to try and describe in depth is the cording attachment process!!! This has been - by far - the hardest part of making ornaments like these for me, and I hope that this post might help anyone else who has problems with cording too!

Note: To see any photo or collage LARGER, just click! It will open in a new window.

Tutorials are made for sharing! Please use this image and link back to this post :)

Here are the supplies I used for my Blackwork Snowflake Ornament:

~ Stitched Motif (September Snowflake variation, freebie from Jeanne Dansby)
~ Backing Fabric (metallic snowflake print, V.I.P. Fabrics, from an old collection)
~ Fabric Scissors - Large and Small (both shown above are Fiskars)
~ Matching Sewing Thread (navy)
~ Matching Cording (navy)
~ Quilt Batting (for padded insert)
~ Hand-Sewing Needle - sharp (I used one from my Singer assortment)
~ Coloured Pins

Not pictured: Poker-outers for turning (I used a pen and plastic cuticle pusher)

I started by roughly cutting out my backing fabric:

And then I pinned it to my stitched motif, right sides together and wrong sides out:

When working with dark fabric, it's hard to mark your outline with a pencil (like I did on my bookmark). Instead, I use guideline pins. Top Row: The red and light blue pins mark out my boundaries - there are four stitch blocks between them, and my outline will run down the middle line between the two blocks (1). These pins only go through the Aida (2). Bottom Row: The yellow pins mark my actual outline (3), and pin through both my Aida and backing fabric (4), keeping the layers together.

This is just a quick and easy no-measure way to make sure that your stitching is even. I used to just eyeball it, but after a big goof (not realizing until it was finished that one side was larger than the other on one of my first ornaments), I got into this habit :)

Then I threaded a long sharp needle from my Singer assortment with navy thread...

...and got to stitching :) This is the boring but necessary part!

Like my bookmark, I used backstitch because I'm comfortable with it. Leaving a gap at the top for turning (roughly two inches), I anchored my thread at the top right, stitched around in a square shape following my outline pins, and ended my thread at the top left. As I stitched, I removed my guideline pins, leaving the top pin until last.

Then it was time for the close cut! I counted Aida squares and pinned in my outlines again for easy cutting (the red pins), leaving a little extra at the top (the yellow pin is the actual line). I've learned that this really helps when sewing up the opening later:

When it comes to snipping the corners, a little quick pinning can help to get them even too - the light blue pins are on the same three-Aida block diagonal...

...which makes the snipping a breeze! And a little less nerve-wracking, LOL ;)

Then I removed all my pins and turned my ornament out and stuffed it!

These are exactly the same steps I used for my bookmark (which are covered in detail in the tutorial), just a square instead of a rectangle! Top Row: here are some photos after the Topsy Turn-Out, before the corner Poking-Out :); Middle Row: showing the making of the padded insert - I used two layers of quilt batting and Blanket-Stitched the edges, securing the layers with lines of Running Stitch; and the Bottom Row: shows the padded insert being folded and stuffed into the ornament.

After I spent some time smoothing the ornament with my fingers to make sure that the insert was lying flat and filled out the corners, it was time to sew up the gap. For that, I used the Invisible Ladder Stitch that I explained in my bookmark tutorial, and here is that graphic again (it's really rough - sorry! - but feel free to share if you like):

Here I am anchoring my thread - I *had* to put this one in because of the beads -

Didn't they turn out so pretty and sparkly? And then I turned the ornament around, so that the Aida seam was facing up (as in the LS diagram) because I find it easier to place the stitches this way, and placed a red pin as a guide along my stitch line:

And here is the ladder stitching pulled tight!:

At this point, you can get creative and use any type of edge finishing you want! This is a great basic way to make a padded ornament :) I thought about trying a beaded edge, but I was on a roll by this time and wanted to final-finish my snowflake off!

A word about cording: Commercial cording comes in many different types and sizes, and I buy mine in the trim section at my local fabric store (when it's available!).

Here are some examples from my - er, my Stitch Guru Mother's - stash ;)

The top two examples attached to bands are meant to be sewn into (rather than sewn onto) a seam, and so are hard to use for small projects - like this ornament - that need to be hand-stitched and turned. The middle cord - the burgundy and gold twist - is an example of my favourites type of trim, the combination and the metallic (the gold is sparkly). But it's harder to hide your tacking stitches with a two-tone cord! And the two at the bottom are plain cording, like the navy cord I used.

You can also make your own cording with floss, which is great for colour-matching to your stitchery!, but I do find that the tighter twist of the commercial cording is easier to tack down. So I recommend the commercial cord for the first try at least :)

Now, for a near-invisible join, it's best to match your sewing thread to your cording as closely as possible. So I used navy thread with my navy cording. However, that didn't make for very good pictures! LOL :) And I have had so much trouble attaching cording in the past that that's the part I really wanted to show you!

So I decided to make a little test piece and do a demonstration; unfortunately, this really close-up stuff is where my photographic skills fall short :( Although that makes the process more confusing than it should be, I hope the basic concept gets through:

In these photos, I'm using red thread with navy cord. Top Row: Anchor your thread (1) and come up through a twist in the cording (2), then take a stitch into your seam (3). Middle Row: Complete the stitch (4) bringing your needle through the fabric, place thread over cording (5) and tug gently until it settles into the space between the twist (6); Bottom Row: Tug firmly until thread "pops" into place (7), take your next stitch (8) - sewing back through the seam - and prepare to loop again (9).

Here's a close-up of the looping process in action:

From the top down: taking a stitch through the seam (1), pulling the loop gently until it's lying snug into the twist (2) and tugging firmly until the tacking stitch "pops" - you'll feel it! - into place (3) and starting the next stitch. And that's it - just repeat this stitch-loop-tug-pop-stitch process as long as needed! This is what happens:

In these photos, I've pulled the stitches loose (1), looser (2) and loosest (3), LOL, so you can see the actual stitch formation that happens! When pulled together tightly, this is how it looks - as you can see, very little red thread is showing:

Pretty amazing, isn't it? And when you use a coordinating thread, the stitches blend in so well they're virtually invisible! I hope that this process is understandable :)

Back to my ornament! Measure your cording around your ornament, including enough for the hanging loop and tassel tails - and then add a little bit extra, just in case you need it! Tie the ends of your cord before you cut it, and pin it into place:

Anchor your thread and then start sewing your cord on:

When you arrive at the hanging loop, stitch through the front and back cords where they join several times to secure them and then keep on stitching as usual:

Once you get the hang of it, cording attachment actually goes fairly fast! Before you know it, you'll reach the end - but don't cut your thread just yet:

There are several ways you can tie the knot at the bottom, but I always go for a basic overhand knot; make sure your cord ends are even and parallel for a smooth finish:

Because commercial cording is stiff (this part is easier with hand-made floss cording), your knot may not come together on the first try - just keep tugging at it gently and smoothing it out with your fingers until you like the look. Then pick up your needle and take a few random stitches through the knot to the bottom seam, adding as many as you need. These stitches will help your knot to sit right and keep it's shape!

And now for the fun part - the FLOOFING!!! Honestly, this is always my favourite part ;) Depending on how the cording is made - and what materials it's made of - it will unwind differently. In my experience, metallics unwind the smoothest and look the prettiest. You can test this before you choose your ornament cord by rolling one of the ends between your fingers; if it starts to untwist easily, it will likely unravel well:

From here on out, all you have to do is untwist! This can take a while but it's really fun to watch :) You'll wind up with something like this:

Super Floof Explosion! LOL :) Depending on how funky your ornament is, you could leave your Floof untamed, or you can comb it down with your fingers (a little eyebrow comb also works great!) and give it a trim...

...for a more manageable tassel:

So there you have it! An easier-than-it-seems - honest! - ornament finish :)

If anything's a little hazy, just ask and I'll try to help! I'll leave you with some sparkle:

I used this photo in the original post, but couldn't resist adding it again :)

Have you tried a corded finish before? Do you think you might like to try one now?!

Although finally final-finishing (try saying that three times fast! LOL) my snowflake did not, unsurprisingly, bring snow - alas! - it did bring some much-needed rain and cooler temperatures :) But maybe if I stitch up an actual snowy landscape...? Nah ;)


Karen said...

Great finish! Your ornament turned out beautifully! I always struggle with the cording. I have a "thing" to make cording from floss, but have never used it. I just use the store bought stuff.

I'm very thankful that your ornament finish didn't bring snow!! LOL

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Aw, thanks so very much for your kind words Karen :) My SGM can make lengths of floss cording in minutes, and she's tried to teach me many times but I haven't got the hang of it! One of the major things that stalled my Twilight Angel is that I have to hand-make cording - out of a few strands of metallic sewing thread (eek!).

Re: snow - I don't know, I was ready for some today, LOL, and the temps are headed up again. Maybe your stocking will bring some ;P

Mii Stitch said...

Lovely ornament & great tutorial :)

Karen said...

Very pretty snowflake ornament, Aurelia, and the tutorial was very interesting as always! Thanks for taking the time to do this for us!

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks so much for the lovely comments!

@ Mii: That is very kind of you to say, I'm so happy you enjoyed the tutorial!

@ Karen: You're very welcome ;) I just glad you enjoyed reading it! Thanks so much for your kind compliments!!!

Stitching Noni said...

Thank you for a great tutorial. Love the snowflake design :)

Stitching Noni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aurelia Eglantine said...

You're very welcome Noni :) Thanks so much for all your lovely comments, I'm very happy you like the snowflake too, Jeanne does such lovely designs!