Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SAL Update, Site News & Giveaways!


Just another quick post to share some wonderful news: two SAL participants have finished their bookmark stitching already!!! I'm amazed and greatly impressed by both beautiful works, and must pick up my own needle and get to stitching LOL ;)

First, I need to apologize toEmma (at EveningEmma) since I completely missed her beautiful finish between her posts about her London trip! (oopsies)

Emma's variegated threads in purples and yellows worked up wonderfully, and happily she liked the design so much that she's going to stitch the pattern *again*!

As I mentioned on her post, stitching two patterns up is an easy way to make a reversible bookmmark with completely different OR coordinating colours on the other side! I've seen this done before and think it's a really interesting idea ;)

And Karen (of Karen's Colourful Creations) has a lovely almost-finish along with a bit of a conundrum - she's not sure about one of her colours! I think it looks great, but I'm looking forward to seeing what alternatives she digs up from her stash :)

As mentioned in a previous post, Karen is using orphaned threads - leftovers from other projects - for her bookmark so her colourway is an adventure in the making! Please hop on over and help her out - let her know what you think of that light pink!

ES Site News!

The Radical Revamp of Flickr:

You may have heard this already, but last week the photo-sharing service Flickr was unexpectedly "updated". No notice was given, except evidently to paying Pro Users. This is a complex issue (quick summary here), and one I may discuss at length later, but the bottom line is that there is a HUGE backlash against the service and users are abandoning their profiles in droves. The reaction is overwhelming negative.

Although I am keeping my account for the time being, the site is not functional right now - everything is so very slow to load - and I'm waiting to see if adjustments will be made to the overhaul. I joined for the crafting communities, and that aspect of the site has been greatly minimized and seems to be an afterthought in the redesign.

Time will tell if the groups can recover from the loss of so many members. I am willing to wait to see what happens before giving up on the service completely, but I won't be uploading any new content until I see where the site is going.

The Planned Google Reader Closure & ES:

Other important tech news is that Google is closing its Reader service on July 1st, 2013. This *includes* the Blogger Dashboard, the service that automatically shows the blogs you have signed up to follow in your Dashboard (if you are a blogger on Blogger, LOL). There are many alternative sites, all with very different features.

The most popular seems to be Bloglovin', and I am now officially "claiming" my blog by posting this code link here, after which you can follow ES with Bloglovin' (I'll put a link in the sidebar): Follow my blog with Bloglovin

However, I personally found Bloglovin' a little hard to use, so I'm taking Anne's advice and trying Feedly for my own reader. I'll let you know how that goes :)

"Floral Umbrella" Featured!

I'm still working on adding my new Embroidery section to the site, and one of my very favourite embroidery blogs is Wild Olive, run by the crazy-creative Mollie Johanson. Here's one of the site's logo buttons:


Mollie designs the most adorable patterns, with her trademark smiley faces that are always cute but not coy, and she offers lots of freebies (like this) on her blog!

I greatly admire her work, and have been following her on Flickr, so imagine my surprise and elation when I received a lovely comment from Mollie tonight on my Floral Umbrella! Not only that, but Mollie has kindly pinned my project to her beautiful and inspiring Lovely Embroidery board on Pinterest :) Thanks Mollie!

Which brings me to an important new site update:

Changes in ES Copyright Policy:


Previously, the ES Copyright policy found in my sidebar under this label asked that neither text nor photographs be copied without permission, available by e-mail.

Obviously, this isn't practical most of the time, especially with the constant sharing on social networks, and I've been meaning to change this for a while. However, I was unsure of how to word it. Now, instead I ask only for attribution - for a link back to ES (or a specific post when possible) - UNLESS large amounts of photos/text are to be borrowed, in which case I *am* still asking that you seek permission by e-mail.

Hopefully, this will also clarify matters for other bloggers as well - anyone sharing my content with attribution (ES links) and in fair use can be confident in doing so!

If you have any questions, or have an unusual proposal for use of my content, then by all means e-mail me (in my sidebar, under the pretty postage stamps >)! I'm very reasonable, and all use inquiries are welcome and will happily be considered ;)

Great Giveaways:

Before I go, I want to spotlight some awesome blog giveways you may want to enter:


Anne, at Doll's Musings, is having a special 300 Followers Giveaway that is open Internationally and closes on June 2nd, 2013! The lovely prize is this beautiful blackbird box, presented by Titus, Anne's handsome kitty and Quality Control expert :) There will also be some mysterious surprise goodies! I've entered ;)

Jo, at the wonderfully named blog Serendipitous Stitching, is having a 400 Followers Giveaway! This closes today, May 29th, 2013, but is open Internationally. To enter, you play a fun game centered around a sampler of Jo's and answer a question. The prize is a surprise package with lots of goodies! I've entered this one too :)


Finally, Mii @ Mii Stitches is giving away one of the very popular Bothy Threads kits featuring the little black-haired girl Gorjuss - "Ruby" - in which she's wearing stripey stockings and sitting on a swing with a cute kitty cat :) You'll have to hurry for this one too - the deadline is also May 29th, 2013 (as the winner will be picked on Mii's birthday, June 1st). Like the other giveaways, you must be a Follower to enter :)

Good Luck!

The next SAL post will explore Bookmark finishing techniques! Please stay tuned :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

SAL Update: Backing Fabric Success!

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net / Bill Longshaw

As I rather cryptically mentioned in my last post (thanks Karen!), I have been on a Great Backing Fabric Hunt - for my SAL Bookmark, I meant :) Sorry for being Miss Mysterious there, it was totally an accident! Anyway, we actually had sun yesterday (gasp!), so I spent an afternoon happily wandering through my local Fabricville.

Actually, I was a little disappointed in the quilting cottons this time, there was a lot of dark and dramatic batiks and some cutesy stuff (the little lobsters were adorable, I must admit) but not much in the way of pretty. It's prom season though, so there was lots of sparkly special occasion fabrics to gawk at! There's a lot of sequins this year ;)

Before I went, I stitched up a little snippet with all my colours on it as a reference to take with me! I've learned to do this through trial and error, and it really is handy :) I can't even tell you how many times I've thought I found the absolutely perfect fabric for a project, only to take it home and realize that I was completely off the mark.

It's so frustrating when that happens! So this little method helps reduce that chance. When I first had the "take along my threads" epiphany, I used to cut off a few strands of floss and tape them on a small piece of cardstock, but I've found that the colour of your stitching fabric can really affect the way that your threads look!

So this is what I do now:


As you can see, I used the same snippet I stitched my practice Rhodes Heart on, which I cut a little big for this very purpose :) Then I simply stitched my other colours in. There was no design here - I like to use long stitches to show the floss colour better, and I just added some tacking stitches over the middle of these three:


I was in a hurry, stitching this literally right before I went out the door, so I didn't bother to smooth my threads and you can see the tangles, but perfection really doesn't matter here. That said, I kind of like the way these little stitches turned out!

When it came to the dark green, I stitched it on the other side near the Heart since those two colours are close together (the tulips!) in the design. I've also noticed that often neighbouring threads can affect how the other colour looks too! Sometimes they wash each other out, or - like in this case - they make each other stronger.


Since this little snippet is so small, it easily fits inside my purse and when I'm in the store, I lay it on my prospective fabrics to see how they match :)

Although there weren't that many firm choices for my colourway, I did end up with a trio of close matches and it took a little bit of deliberation before I was able to chose, but I was happy with my choice :) Honestly, I also took my Stitchy Guru Mother along, because fabric stores are her natural environment, LOL, and she has a great eye for colour too! It helps to have another pair of eyes along if at all possible.

All three fabrics were small floral prints. One was pink and green on white, but looked a little faded. The other was the same fabric I bought only with a green background, which would be more visible on the bookmark sides.

The fabric needn't match exactly, it's only going on the back after all and it's only a little bookmark!, but I wanted something to coordinate and blend in, and this is it:


There's no manufacturer on the fabric, or print name, it just says it's "Exclusive to Fabricland/Fabricville". Here's a close-up of the pretty vintage-looking print:


And here's the snippet, next to the selvedge (edge) print of the fabric colours:


Most fabrics sold by the meter have these little dots, which are references for the printer, somewhere along the edge. Rarely, I've seen squares. It's worth trying to look for them and get them included in your cut if possible. I was lucky, as this fabric had close repeats and this portion was near the bolt end. But I have seen fabrics with very long repeats so it doesn't hurt to check your fabric before you have it cut.

They are very useful when you're trying to match your colours! As you can see, most of the dots are a little lighter than my threads but close enough in tone to harmonize.

Another useful thing to look for - if the colour is outside the little shape guidelines, that means the fabric was printed wrong and it's an offprint - and therefore a second. There's nothing wrong with using offprints, as some of them are very close to the original or look interesting, but you shouldn't pay choice print prices for them!

While I was at the fabric store, I also looked at ribbon for my marker (like the one I made for my Blackwork Bookmark, which I *am* going to finish someday soon!) and found to my great surprise I discovered *this*:


Initially, I was hoping to find a pink, but the red was a perfect match :)


It's grosgrain, which is my favourite ribbon to work with because the edges don't fray and it looks the same from both sides. There was a similar colour I could have bought on a spool, but one of the advantages of buying ribbon by the meter is that you don't end up with tons left over! And it's less expensive, generally. This is a whole meter, I bought extra in case I make a mistake (hey, it's been know to happen, LOL).

And, as another wonderful gift from The Stitchy Karma Gods, when I was taking these pictures today I paused to rummage around in my big stash of wooden beads:


And found another perfect match (thank you, SKGs)! It's a good thing I didn't find pink ribbon after all! These are the same size as the ones I used in my last marker, and I love the chunky look. I was thinking about trying a tassel this time, but I think the ribbon works well with the cheerful simple colours and fabric I've chosen :)

So, very happily, I'm all set to start stitching! Normally, I usually stitch and *then* worry about finishing, so it's refreshing and a bit of a relief to have found all of my materials and decided on a finishing technique beforehand. I'm now greatly looking forward to starting in on my bookmark, hopefully tomorrow!

I'll try and take some pictures of the Marker assembly this time around too ;)

Before I go, I want to mention that Erica (of Erica's Stitches) has written a great post about her colour choices, and she's trying something entirely different: an Autumn colourway! Her colours are gorgeous, and I admire her sense of stitchy adventure :) She's also got some gorgeous white-and-yellow tulips blooming!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Quick SAL Update!

Just a quick little post to share the links to two exciting Spring Garden SAL updates:

Emma, at Evening Emma, has chosen her colours, and she's stitching with variegated threads in lovely purples, yellows and greens! As I mentioned in my comment on her post, her colourway reminds me of pretty little violas and pansies :) Her fabric is a blue-grey Aida, and it's a wonderful combination. Read all about it here!

And Karen, of Karen's Colourful Creations, has started stitching!!! That reminds me, I need to pick up my *own* needle and thread soon, LOL :) Karen's using a beautiful ivory linen scrap from her stash and some lovely silk threads leftover from kits, and picking her own colours as she stitches! You can read lots more here, see a picture of her bookmark in progress and learn some useful tips for storing oddish stitchy bits!

Also, Erica (of Erica's Stitches) mentioned in an e-mail to me that she's trying to finish up a WIP before thinking about her thread choices, and that's completely fine! 

I should probably make it a little bit clearer here that although I'm going to try and stitch a little bit faster, because I know it's my finishing that's going to drag me down, the idea is to stitch however and whenever you likeSeriously, that's it ;)

The dates are just a goal, something to look forward to with the hope that you'll be able to get your project finished by then, a sort of instant gratification project, LOL!

Whether you want to feverishly stitch and finish over a weekend, or take a few weeks as I intend to do, you can choose the stitching methods that work for you :) 

I know a lot of SALs have dates that you have post a photo of such-and-such by, but since this is supposed to be a nice relaxing SAL, I'll leave it to you to post whenever you like, as much  or as little as you like! It would be really nice to see a photo of the finished bookmark if you can, and it's always interesting to read about the stitchy process, but you can choose what you share, whatever you're comfortable with ;)

A great idea is to do what Karen did, and what I hope to do!:  use some aspect of the SAL as a jumping off point to talk about something else - the way you choose colours, how you store your threads, your thoughts about blackwork, what you think about bookmarks - the sky's the limit! Feel free to integrate your updates into your blog posts - you don't have to write anything special if you don't have the time :)

However, I do GREATLY appreciate the special posts too! Thank you so much to those who have spread the word about the SAL and those who are planning to do so!

In other news, my Great Backing Fabric Hunt has yet to commence. I was really hoping to get out today, but it was threatening to rain all afternoon and finally started at suppertime. Maybe tomorrow will be the day - the third time's the charm, right?! 

If you're just reading about the BW Spring Garden SAL, please click the banner >>> for more information, and feel free to join in! Any questions? Please e-mail me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SAL: Update & Choosing My Colours!

If you're just learning about the SAL, please visit the announcement post for more information (or click the banner at right >)! You're welcome to join in anytime :)

Sorry I'm accidentally a day behind, LOL! I meant to post yesterday, but time just got away from me. That really goes to show - this is a very relaxed SAL, and you can stitch and post at your own pace :) I'm going to try and put up a progress post at least once a week for the duration, but you can post whenever and however you feel like!

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has joined in! Your support and enthusiasm mean so much to me, and I honestly (and obviously, LOL) can't do this without you. As CS mentioned in her post, hosting a SAL has been something I wanted to do even before I started ES, and so in a real way this is a dream come true for me :)

Karen also wrote a wonderful post about the SAL too! Both Karen and CS have been my major cheerleaders behind the scenes on this adventure, and are in effect my co-hosts, or rather my stitchy co-conspirators in crime! If you have any questions or problems though, please direct them to me, okay? That's why ES is on the banner ;)

Currently, we have six stitchers, including myself, who are stitching for sure (I've written these in the order of joining, so I can add new stitchers on the end if needed):

1. Aurelia @ Eglantine Stitchery (me!)
2. CrazyStitcher (CS) @ Crazy Cross-stitcher
3. Karen @ Karen's Colourful Creations
4. Emma @ EveningEmma
5. Jeanne @ Byrd's Nest
6. Erica @ Erica's Stitches

This is amazing, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what you all create!

Over the weekend, I took my time and thought hard about what colourway I wanted to use, but after playing around with a few ideas, I kept coming back to the Original Colourway! This surprised me greatly, since I was fully intending to sparkle it up with some metallics as usual, but I think it will be more serviceable this way.

My poor bookmarks do get a LOT of use, LOL, so they need to be sturdy :)

However, I'm going to try something I have never done and use a pretty pastel Aida for my fabric! I found a lovely and really cute lemony yellow in my stash:


Like most of my coloured Aida, this was inherited from my Stitchy Guru Mother, and the brand - Regency Mills - is one I've worked with before. I really like their fabrics, they came in lovely colours including a very pretty Copenhagen blue, which you can see in this active E-bay listing. Unfortunately, they've been out of business for years.

As you can see, I cut off a little snippet and stitched my first Rhodes Heart! I was anxious to see how the adaptation I had designed for the bookmark pattern would stitch up, and I'm pretty pleased with it :) I used three strands, like I did for my original Spring Garden Square, but two strands would give a finer look!


Proper Rhodes Hearts, from what I can find, usually don't have borders, but the outline fits in with all the other elements really well. I think it adds more shape too!

Here's the little snippet with the skeins from my colourway (the original colours):


That poor little card of dark green isn't very photogenic, LOL, as you can see I'm getting low on the 699 :) I actually almost didn't take the photos because it looks so sad, but hey, partial skeins are a stitchy fact of life right?

This will actually likely be enough to get me through the bookmark, but I'll pick up an extra skein just in case ASAP. I'm hoping to make it to the fabric store sometime this week to pick out my backing fabric! And maybe some ribbon for the marker.

I had a fabric in mind from my stash - a gardening print with little itty bitty gloves, trowels, potted plants and watering cans - but (wouldn't you know it? argh!) almost everything matched except the greens. And I wasn't inclined to stitch teal leaves ;)

While we're talking about project set-up, here's how I keep my working threads:


Fancy, it is not, LOL. But it works. I keep that nice white cardboard from various things (this one is, I must confess, from the box of the most delicious Lindt Lindor chocolate bars, which never touch the food since the bars are wrapped in foil).

I use a hole punch to put in as many "parking spaces" for my thread as I need (and often a few extra) and then use my fine-point Sharpie marker to label the top with the project info and the sides with the thread numbers. I cut off lengths as I need them, and I store the bobbins for the colours I'm using on binder rings until I'm finished with them. Then I put them back in my floss boxes until the next project!

This one is actually from my Spring Garden Square, but since I'm using the same colours I'm not going to bother to make a new one. I'm lazy like that, LOL ;)

Here's another view of it, with all my supplies so far:


The wonderful news is that if this method appeals to you at all, Mollie at the Wild Olive embroidery blog has just offered a free colour printable of the cutest Thread Organizers ever! They're shaped like floss bobbins with Mollie's trademark smiley faces, and happen to match her free printable floss bobbins from a while back!

If I had coloured ink right now, I'd totally have these printed off :) While not really practical for large projects, they're a really cute way to perk up small little stitching projects like the SAL bookmark! There's also some cute lovebirds and a kitty cat in this set of printables. If nothing else, they'd be a great conversation starter.

While looking around online, I found some other interesting bobbins: meant for the fridge, these clever magnetic floss bobbins would work wonderfully with magnetic pattern boards. And with this tutorial, you can make your own fancy bobbins out of scrapbook paper! These Flossy wooden animals sold at Etsy are super cute too :)

And since we're on the topic, this is a simple but genius way to label plastic thread bobbins (or even cardboard ones really), and this is a great tip about cutting a plastic drinking straw as protection for the sharp edges of plastic bobbins. I have a set of them that I was given as a gift, but the edges were very sharp and so I haven't used them much. I don't think it's great for long-term storage, but it might work in a pinch!

But enough about bobbins :) Here's some REALLY interesting news that I should've saved for the next Stitchy News but just couldn't wait to share: Over the last several months Sublime Stitching, the embroidery company run by Jenny Hart, has released several interesting floss collections, including colour-blended "Mingles" and a truly neon Glow-in-Darks. And now SS has just introduced Reflective Thread!!!

This was pretty much my reaction, LOL: Ooh -


There's also an interesting blog post on how to use it. The post states that "it's the stuff that glows like crazy in the dark when light hits it", like safety patches on clothing, and it will require special care to use. But how neat is that?! It's only in silver right now, but wouldn't it be great if there were different colours available?

Unfortunately, I'm not likely to get my claws into any Reflective Thread soon, but I do think it's such a neat idea. So that's my exciting news for today :) I'm hoping that The Great Fabric Search will commence tomorrow, I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The ES Blackwork Spring Garden SAL!


I'm so happy to share this exciting news!!!

For a while now, I've been wanting to pick a pattern and stitch it with some friends. Karen (of Karen's Colourful Creations) and CrazyStitcher aka CS, (of Crazy Cross-Stitcher) and I have been putting our heads together over the last month or so and gotten serious about making a SAL a reality this Spring :) I took on hosting duties, but they'll be stitching along with me and you're welcome to join in too if you'd like!

Coincidentally, I've been noticing tulips everywhere this year, which is strange because they've never been a particular favourite of mine or even in the family. But there's a lovely street near where I live that is lined with huge old trees, and several homeowners have planted tulips - of the most remarkable colours! - in rings around the tree trunks, and it has been such a pleasure watching them start to bloom :)

Since I've come to like those pretty flowers so much, I started scribbling some tulip shapes on graph paper, which led to this little square that I called "Spring Garden":


As you can see, it's pretty tiny, roughly 2.5" square:


It was cute, but really small, and I felt like it was missing something. I wasn't pleased with my choice of fabric either. I used that "oatmeal" colour I always think of as "rustic", imagining that it would sort of look like burlap and very garden-y but it just made the pattern hard to see and the beads I added at the last minute clash with it.

Both Karen and CS really liked it though and thought that it would be a good pattern to stitch for Spring! When Karen suggested a bookmark, everything finally fell into place! The square became the center and I added "brackets" at the top and bottom:


Happily, this also gave me the perfect excuse to add in some Rhodes Hearts, which I've been wanting to try for a really long time! I think the whole Rhodes family is very pretty, and I'm really looking forward to working these!

The SAL will run from Monday, May 20th to Thursday, June 20th, 2013. In other words, it will end on the last day before Summer starts :) There's lots of time so that everyone can stitch and finish their bookmark at their own pace!

How to Join:

Please leave a comment on this post if you intend to stitch along, and then send me an e-mail (my address is in my sidebar at right, under the postage stamps).

I know a lot of people don't have a problem with leaving their e-mail address in the comment sections, so you can do that too, but it's not the safest thing to do so it's better to let me know where I can find your address - for example, in your Blogger profile. I need your e-mail so I can send you the files as a .PDF attachment. If you have any trouble opening the file, please let me know! If you don't already have the latest Adobe update for your computer system, you can download it for free here.

There's three versions of the chart - the original Colour version, a Black and White version and a Custom Colour version (to help you graph your own colourways!) - and I've added in some graphs detailing the way I stitched the three "specialty stitches" in the design, in case you'd like to do the same!

This is a great little project to use up scraps of threads leftover from larger works, and perfect for some stitchy experimentation ;) It's a quick stitch too!

If you have any questions, please ask away ;)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Floral Umbrella, From Start to Finish!


After my last epic post about Floral Heart, the last thing you probably want to read is another epic post about an embroidery project, but here we go again! ;) Honestly, I meant to blog this project as I was working on it, but before I knew it the deadline was only a few days away and I only JUST managed to finish in the nick time!

The Flickr group New Embroidery with Vintage Patterns, who hosted the contest my Floral Heart won its category in, also organize non-competitive monthly SALs (Stitch Alongs) with different themes each month. For April 2013, there were two themes to choose from, "Earth Day" and "April Showers", and I chose the latter :)

The only requirement is that you have to use a vintage pattern, the rest (materials and techniques) is up to you! Serendipitously, I had favourited this lovely umbrella, shared by mmaammbr, in the Hoop Love Vintage Transfers group some time ago:

MKT 1083 ba

I knew I wanted to try applique, so the stitching was less intensive this time. But I kept putting it aside for other things and just squeaked in on the last day, April 30th!

Because of the time limit, I had to post some photos of my finish on Flickr first, but that won't be an normal thing, so worry not! I have lots of new details to share :)

I've already covered how how I transferred my pattern with a blue Sulky Transfer Pen in detail, so this post will cover the process of appliqueing and stitching!

A word of warning: this is going to be another very long post with lots of pictures!


This is where we left things after the last post, with both parts of the umbrella - the background blue fabric and the yellow umbrella - transferred and ready to be joined together. At first, I intended to sew the applique on by hand, but my Stitchy Guru Mother strongly suggested using an iron-on interfacing called "Stitch Witchery".

I had seen her use it in projects in the past, but had no experience with it myself. My Stitch Witchery was made by commercial company HTCW Inc., which is now HTC Retail, sold by the meter in sewing supply stores (I got mine from Fabricville).

Confusingly, there is also another product sold under this name made by Dritz, the quilting company, who have merged with Prym. This is a tape used for binding hems.


Here is the product as it comes, with the instructions wrapped in the middle. The complete copy of these instructions are available on the HTC site (direct .PDF link here). The product info for Stitch Witchery states: "It is a polyamide fusible web material that permanently bonds two layers of fabric together without sewing."

Here is the piece I cut off from from the bottom to cut the umbrella section out of, laid against some dark paper so you can see the texture:


And here is that same little bit doubled over itself, so you can see how sheer the webbing is and how it goes nearly opaque layered over itself:


I realized after the fact that I should have trimmed this snippet to a neater shape, but honestly I really dislike to waste fabric on anything and I really am that nippy, LOL :) I trimmed the umbrella applique to size, and pinned it to the Stitch Witchery. Then I used a little pair of sharp sewing scissors to carefully trim the webbing to shape.

Here it is after the trimming:


Now, the cool part is that you only have to take out the pins, line up your applique and webbing, lay both layers in place on your backing fabric, cover with a light dry pressing cloth (to protect your iron's surface and your transfers), and then iron it on! And, once again, the actual process was so super-quick that I didn't even manage to get a picture. I was sure that the edges would lift off a little, but it took right away!


(This photo looks turquoise because I took it in direct sunlight - oops!)

I was really impressed with this product, I really do think it is wondrous! In the same time it takes to do an iron-on transfer - a mere half a minute! - you can permanently layer fabrics together! I'm not a natural iron user, having to hold such a hot surface always makes me nervous. But the iron-on Sulky Transfer Pens and the iron-on Stitch Witchery are both well worth trying, for ease of use and lasting results!

I've always thought that applique was very fiddly, but this process results in an even finish from edge to edge. I did have some very slight lift in the top left corner of the umbrella, but since I didn't notice it until I started stitching I left it alone. I wasn't concerned because I knew I'd be stitching through the edge of the applique, but you will want to check your edges for lift if you aren't planning to sew them down.


Then all I had to do was hoop up! I used my 8" Hoopla for this project. I also didn't bother to serge the ends of my fabric since this was a quick stitch, and the edges will be cut off anyway in finishing. To my surprise, the fabric held up well and I really didn't have any major problems with the edges unraveling!


This photo was taken at the end of stitching (and meant to be cropped, please excuse the lack of background), and you can see that there was very little fraying!

Before I get into the nitty gritty details about the stitches I used, I want to mention the materials I worked with, especially the thread which was new to me:

As I mentioned previously, the fabric I used is blue 100% cotton, the same material I used for my Bluebirds of Happiness, and the yellow I used for the umbrella applique was also 100% cotton. If I were to do this again, I would use a heavier cotton or add a stabilizer (a lining fabric or interfacing) because the heavy fill stitches stretched the cotton in places. You can see it in this photo, on the left between the pink flowers:


Thankfully I was able to cover most of the stretching with the leaves, but it was very difficult. Part of the problem was that the thread I used - DMC's Prism Craft Thread - stitched up a little heavier than I expected, especially in the flowers.


This thread is meant for friendship bracelets, but I fell in love with the pretty colours in the "Sweets" package above (the green and beige came from the "Rockstar" pack)! It is twisted like DMC Perle (Pearl) Cotton but without the shine, with a matte finish like flower thread. I'm going to do a review post of my experiences with it soon.

Both packs have 36 skeins, with "Sweets" having three skeins of each colour and "Rockstar" having more of a mix. The nine colours I used were as follows:

In "Sweets": Yellow, Blue, Dark Pink, Peach
In "Rockstar": Green and Beige
In both "Sweets" AND "Rockstar": Lilac, Light Pink and White

For stitching, I used my new favourite Clover needles, the large Gold Eye Chenille Needles in #20. For this project, I was most interested in adapting the filled daisy technique I had discovered while stitching my Floral Heart to smaller flowers and coloured threads, and the ribbon bow is also an adaptation of the one from FH.


So because I already knew how I wanted to stitch most of the piece, and was okay with improvising the rest, I didn't use test pieces this time around. While I think testers are really helpful for trying out new techniques and materials, there is something to be said for spontaneous stitching as well :) It was fun to just go for it!

Case in point: The umbrella. I wanted a relatively thick outline. As I mentioned in my other post, I had left out the lines between the umbrella ribs that was in the original transfer. These were supposed to add shading, I think, but I was undecided about them. However, I knew that if I did add them to the design, I was going to use simple straight stitch, and I wanted a thick outline to contrast.

Once I had experimented and discovered a stitch combination that I was happy with (really, I just kept adding layers until I liked the result!), I grabbed my camera to try and show the process. So in the pictures that follows, the lower curve of the umbrella is already worked, and it is the top line that will show the changes.

I decided on Chain Stitch as my outline, but I felt it was too open:


So I worked a line of Backstitch inside of the Chain Stitch:


And then I whipped the Backstitch (making it Whipped Backstitch):


This was better, but still too messy, so then I whipped the Chain Stitch too!:


And here is the finished umbrella, with the ribs worked too:


Can you see that I changed the direction of the whipping on the ribbing?:


To "whip" a stitch just means to wrap your thread around it! So I kept wrapping from the same direction all along the outside of the umbrella. But when it came time to stitch the center ribs, I thought it would be neat to keep the whipping symmetrical, so I did the two ribs on either side in the opposite direction from each other. Only the right two ribs are stitched differently - I wrapped from the left instead of from the right. It's a subtle touch, but I think it fools the eye and adds a bit of dimension.

There is officially a Whipped Chain Stitch, but I don't think this is really how you're supposed to work it. But hey, it's a variation! I love that you can do that :) I haven't the faintest idea what to name this stitch though, any suggestions?!

After I finished the umbrella, I moved on to it's handle, reasoning that the flowers might overlap it. I started off by stitching the teeny tiny spoke at the bottom:


It's a very good thing I did, because I had to cut out this element twice!

First, I tried filling the middle with Padded Satin Stitch and outlining it in Backstitch. The idea was to make the handle stand out in a little half-circle and have it look three-dimensional. One layer didn't make any difference, and two layers just made the inside of the applique look really flat. So I restitched it in plain Satin Stitch and outlined it in Backstitch, which I Whipped to echo the umbrella outline:


The hardest part was the crook at the top:


As you can see from this angle, I had to overlap the stitches tightly in the center to get around the curve, and I discovered that it is much harder to curve Satin Stitch in small spaces without padding! The slightest overlap shows up, which is very vexing.

However, once I had the handle finished, I happily turned to the flowers! This is what I was most eager to experiment with, after the applique, and as I mentioned above, I simply scaled down the technique I developed for Floral Heart.

I think I might call this variation the Upsy Daisy, since the padding adds so much height, LOL :) But the center just wasn't working. Here is the first flower I stitched:


It wasn't too bad, but I didn't like it. So I moved over to the other side of the handle and stitched my second flower, this time only using a French Knot in the center:


You can see that the center of the pink flower looks a little bulkier than that of the lilac flower. But when seen from an angle:


That little becomes A LOT. If I had loved the look, I might have kept it. But I didn't.


So out it came! I used my embroidery scissors to carefully cut under the outer loop and the knot, and teased the threads out to save wear on the fabric.


Much better, right?! I did three wraps for each French knot.


Here's the Before and After, side-by-side:


There was still a gap between the flower and the center, but I planned to fill that later on with a Detached Chain Stitch, as I had done previously, but instead of whipping the tacking stitches I intended to keep them plain. Which I actually did (gasp!) ;)

Just for fun, here's the new side view:


And here are all the flowers worked:


I initially intended to use the dark violet and the dark peach too, but I decided they were too heavy. I would like to say that I noticed that there were five daisies on each side of the handle and that I plotted them out accordingly, but the truth is that I just stitched them randomly. I started with the bigger eight-petaled flowers first, leaving the two half flowers above the spokes until last, and when they were done, only then did I move on to the six-petal ones! I like the way the colours turned out though :)


As you can see from the close-up above, I did wrap the centers of the large flowers with the same colour, and besides filling in the gap this served another purpose: it helped the two half-flowers stand out from the umbrella! Because their centers were right up against the spokes, all you could see was a lot of yellow! So the little bit of colour helps them to stand out, as you can see with the peach flower above :)

The next logical step would have been to stitch the leaves, but at this point I only had three days left until the deadline, so I decided to tackle the most intensive stitching first, which was the ribbon bow. Although much smaller than the one in FH, it also had more detail packed into a very small space, in the form of inner loops which had to be filled and a center line running down each end:


I started with the inner loops, which I decided to stitch in beige to make them looked "shadowed". The beige was an unexpected addition, since at first I planned to stitch using only the pastels in the "Sweets" Prism pack. But I just couldn't do mint green leaves, no matter how truly vintage that would be, so I broke down and bought the "Rockstar" pack for the green threads. Happily, the beige was also in the pack, so I added it to what was supposed to be an all-white bow, and I'm so glad I did because that little bit of shading is what makes the bow work! Here it is:


The inner loops were worked in plain Satin Stitch, but every other part of the bow was worked in Padded Satin Stitch. When it came to the lines in the bow and the ribbon ends, I padded around these with straight stitches so that there would be a little furrow that I could later stitch through. For the bow loops, I used a single Long Stitch in the middle, which lay gently on top of the stitches:


And for the ribbon ends, I used a line of Backstitch, which I pulled tightly, so that it was close to the fabric, to make the dimension provided by the padding more visible:


And then I outlined the little dot in the center:


For this, I used close Couching, aka Straight Outline Stitch (a variation of regular Outline Stitch, which is worked at a 45-degree angle), an adaptation of the ribbon center from FH. This ribbon bow was the hardest part of Floral Umbrella because there were a lot of stitches so closely packed together - by the end, I was having trouble pulling my needle through! You can see that the fabric puckered a little on the left. The outline of the center was not as smoothly rounded as I would've liked, but it was the best I could manage. Here's what it looks like from the side:


And here it is with the flowers, all ready for the leaves:


When I chose the pattern, I had a vague idea about downsizing the Oyster Stitch to see how small I could get it, but after the flowers were finished, I decided I wanted something very simple that wouldn't detract from the detail of the petals. So the leaves were stitched completely spontaneous - I threaded my needle with green and just went for it! I used stem stitch for the stems (naturally, LOL) and the leaves are simply a Lazy Daisy (Detached Chain Stitch) with a smaller Lazy Daisy inside:


To do this, I placed my first Lazy Daisy, making the tacking stitch a little bit longer than normal and leaving some slight slack in the loop, and then I came up right inside the bottom of the Lazy Daisy, passed my needle through the bottom of the tacking stitch, and brought it back down next, making the inner loop! Both loops lie flat, and the inner loop adds colour and depth without added bulk.

This combination ended up being my second-favourite discovery during this project (the first being the Umbrella outline stitch), as it's so simple and fast! I honestly don't know why this isn't more common. I don't know what to call this stitch either, though, maybe the Double Daisy?! It's definitely a combination I'll be trying again :)

I think it would make nice small flower petals too, perhaps with a Backstitch down the middle for added shape. Here's the leaves "growing" over to the other side:



Here's all the greenery, except for the sprigs, in place:


I left the sprigs on either side until the end, and I ended up extending them slightly and moving the leaves further out on the stem (I think it adds a better balance):


All finished! And here, because I know you're curious!, is the back of the work:


Embroidery really differs from cross-stitch here - in cross-stitch, we are taught never to carry our colours, to end and start each section anew. In embroidery, that just isn't possible most often and so you have to wrap your threads around others to move from stitch to stich! I've also learned to leave a little stubby tail when I cut my threads so that if I need to take out that element, I'll know where it starts and ends. Not cutting them too close also prevents unraveling.

The overall result is a little messy, but I'm starting to get used to it! I've always been a firm believer that it is better to firmly anchor and darn threads than it is to worry about "excess" thread on the back, and this is doubly true for embroidery, where a loose end might mean stitches coming loose too! It's a USEFUL mess, LOL ;)

Now, if you're still reading, I applaud you! You deserve yet *another* pretty shiny metal for sticking it out this far, but since I don't have any at hand to give, I'm afraid you'll have to settle for some more pictures instead (oh, the hardship!):

Starting from the top down, the ribbon bow and three large flowers:


Here's some close-ups of the small flowers and leaves:


For a different perspective, here's a tilted view from the bottom:


Here's another one from the side:


And VOILA! - here we are back at the start again!


There you have it! As we all know, April Showers bring May Flowers, and "Anything That's Green and Grows!" is the theme of the May 2013 NEwVP SAL (you may have to sign up to Flickr to see the discussion), although I think I'm sitting this month out. However, there's lots of time left if you'd like to stitch up something small yourself :)

Any ideas about what I should name the Umbrella outline stitch combination?!