Friday, July 31, 2015

Vintage Embroidery Pattern Resources

After my last post about my little Happy Bluebird, which I stitched from a vintage iron-on transfer "tester" design, I'd thought I'd share some of my favourite places online to find free vintage embroidery patterns! The photo above was my very first attempt at embroidery, my Bluebirds of Happiness, and it is also a vintage design :)

If you're interested in vintage embroidery patterns at all, this is the place to start! Although you do have to create an account to access the group, it's free and easy to set up and once you do you can search the giant collection of over 8,000 images!

The group is the gift of many members dedicated to scanning and sharing digital images of mostly iron-on transfer sheets - from as early as the late 1800s to about the 1970s - and most photos have been digitally cleaned up into line drawings that are ready to print and use! Here's a quick overview of how to search the Pool:

When you sign in and go to the Hoop Love Group Page and then to the Photos tab, you get this screen that shows the most recent image additions at the top:

To search within the images, use the search box directly across from the blue "Add Photos" button, next to "Contributors". If you use the search box at the top of the page, it will search all of Flickr! I searched for "bluebird" and here are my results:

From this page, there are several ways to narrow your search, including by colour or pattern, but these don't apply since the majority of results are all B&W designs.

I selected the first pattern, which takes me to the page for that photo. From here, you can Download the image by selecting the icon of a down arrow over a line at the far right hand corner of the screen, which brings up a drop-down menu where you can select the size of the photo and save the file to your computer. And that's it!

To edit or re-size the photo, I suggest using an imaging program on your computer, such as Microsoft Paint or a free online program like Pixlr Express.

Some of the contributors to Hoop Love also host patterns on their own sites/blogs.

This is a wonderful site that, while unfortunately no longer updated, has some of the cutest patterns out there! Including the Alice Brooks pattern "Bluebirds on a Branch" that was the basis for my Bluebirds of Happiness :) And there are two other designs in the same set: "Bluebird and Birdhouse" and Bluebird and Fountain".

It's searchable by keyword and also has themed categories you can browse.

This is a blog dedicated to sharing public domain craft patterns, including crochet, knitting, quilting and sewing. But the majority of the content is embroidery related. It has a post search box, and also a very detailed list of categories that make for happy browsing :) The Flowers section is large, and includes this pretty posy.

There is also a helpful Embroidery Stitch Guide that uses vintage stitch illustrations!

Although all of the over 300 patterns she has shared are on Flickr in her Vintage Embroidery Transfers Album, this is the personal blog of Gina, a graphic designer, Etsy seller and fervent thrifter. She includes vintage patterns in some of her posts, so the best way to find them is to browse her Embroidery blog tag, which also brings up all kinds of contemporary embroidery inspiration, her own work and fun posts.

It's well worth spending some time looking through her blog because Gina has shared some of the most unusual and interesting vintage transfers out there!

This amazing button hoop is one of my very favourite projects of all time, and has been high near the top of my To Be Stitched (TBS) List forever and a day :) Although it has a lovely vintage feel, with the pretty flowers, it's a new design of her own.

Floresita, who is also on Flickr and blogs for Feeling Stitchy, has compiled her vintage patterns in this easy-to-use blog format. It features category tabs across the top which are a quick way to browse. She specializes in the cute - like this pretty little kitty - and quirky, and has scanned several Days of the Week dishtowel sets.

Tipnut was a free weekly newsletter filled with household tips and projects that started in 2006 but stopped updating a few years ago. This section of the site shares whole sets of scanned vintage patterns, including several for stamped cross-stitch. Most are for dishtowels, including Days of the Week sets like these cute Busy Bees.

Martha makes beautiful quilts, many with hand-embroidered squares, and has some great vintage transfers on her blog, including an unusual trio of picture frame designs and this glorious peacock!

The Antique Pattern Library is a fabulous resource for all things vintage and crafty, and although I've spent lots of time on the site in the last few years, I know I've only just scratched the tip of the iceberg. The sheer amount of information can be a little overwhelming, especially since the Embroidery category includes counted thread work (like cross-stitch and Berlin Woolwork) and specialty techniques.

The major problem is that all the listings are for books - many of which concern multiple techniques - and not for the individual patterns themselves. And most of these patterns are really old, in a very different style, but even if they're not to your taste or suitable for following exactly, they can serve as stitchy inspiration :)

Mary Corbet of Needle n' Thread recently wrote a great post about her favourite books on APL for embroidery, and has some good tips for navigating the site. She also has an interesting post about her process for digitizing old embroidery patterns.

Finally, for an intriguing look at how the vintage paper transfer sheets actually are before being scanned and digitized, see this post, and this concise history of iron-on transfers and the companies that made them, along with a free pattern!

I hope you enjoy these resources and find them helpful. And if you have any other sites to suggest I'd love to hear them :) Happy Vintage Embroidery Pattern Hunting!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Wonderful World of DMC PC!

Hello, hello! And a very Happy Day to you :) It's so hard to believe that Summer has not only arrived, but that it's already half over. I know most stitchers are already thinking about Christmas, but I'm trying to hold on to flowers just a bit longer ;)

I'm still experimenting with Ribbon Embroidery, but I took a break to stitch up this cheerful little Bluebird of Happiness and it provided an excellent opportunity to talk about the absolutely brilliant thread that is DMC Perle (Pearl) Cotton!

But first, the pattern is a lovely vintage design from Workbasket magazine kindly shared by Love to Sew on Flickr in the Hoop Love Vintage Transfers group. If you're interested in these kinds of patterns, this is a great resource, but please be aware that you do have to sign up with a Yahoo! e-mail to view the image pool.

Available to Download in several sizes on Flickr here

It's a "tester" or "trial" pattern, which is a small motif usually included on an iron-on pattern transfer sheet for the purposes of testing the iron on the fabric. They usually matched the theme of the full-size pattern set. They were meant to be discarded after being used and were a practical way to make sure the transfers would work. I'm not sure if anyone actually stitched them, but they make wonderful stitch testers!

I traced over the pattern on thin notepad paper using my blue Sulky Transfer Pen (the same way I did for my Floral Umbrella), but this time I only put in little dots to represent the bottoms of the music notes and the ends and centers of the flowers. I find it very hard to get my Lazy Daisy loops to match up exactly to drawn ones, so this saved a lot of frustration and allowed some flexibility while stitching :)

And here's the back - isn't amazing how the flowers look like stars?! -

It's challenging to start and end so many colours in a pattern this small (the black was especially ornery) but I used the "travelling" method of winding new threads along the backside of old ones, and it made things considerably neater. I even find myself doing this for cross-stitch these days, and it's made a big difference!

Thanks to a very generous gift from a friend and to my Stitchy Guru Mother's Stash, I now - at very long last - have representatives of every size in the DMC Perle Cotton line!!! Although the "Perle" spelling is French, I've always heard it pronounced and sometimes spelled "Pearl", so that's how I think of it too :) I usually just call it PC.

I am a HUGE fan of this thread, as you may remember from my Floral Heart:

This project was stitched entirely in DMC PC #5, on gold velveteen

In my opinion, DMC PC is a criminally underutilized thread!!! Especially because it's absolutely perfect for embroidery! Unlike DMC Floss, which is six-stranded, PC is a single non-divisible strand of thread with a pretty twist and a lovely soft sheen.

It's actually that gorgeous luster that garnered it the name "Perle" (Pearl) in the first place! It not only makes stitching easier but it also, I think, shows off stitches better.

Mary Corbet at Needle N' Thread has some great posts explaining the differences in common embroidery threads that are well worth reading: Thread Comparisons, which covers PC, Floche and Floss; Thread Talk! Sizing Up Cotton Threads that goes into more detail, including PC sizing, and a two-part post Comparing Cotton Threads, Stitched and Embroidery Thread Comparisions which show stitch samples.

But as I was embroidering my little Bluebird of Happiness, I realized that I had never seen a picture showing all of the PC Sizes as they come, in Skeins and Balls, so I made this little chart to visually demonstrate the differences (feel free to share!):

That tagline, "The World's Most Beautiful Thread", is actually used by DMC online and in advertisements, and I really have to agree :)

Skeins: PC Skeins are probably the most widely available, with #5 being much more common in my experience than the larger #3, which seems to be mainly marketed for needlepoint use. According to the DMC Product Website for Art. 115, both are available in 292 solid colours with an extra 20 variegated hues made in #5.

The "How to Use" section of this page shows how to unwind and cut the skeins for use. Unfortunately, they are tricky to store as the thread is too large to be wound onto floss cards. I've used old ribbon spools and even small pill bottles for this purpose, but mostly just rewind the skein and tie the colour number onto one end.

There are also two metallics (Art. 315) - Silver and Gold - in #5, that I haven't tried.

Balls: Now, somewhat confusingly, PC #5 is also available in Balls! In the photo above, that green is actually a vintage ball from my Mom's Stash. I've never seen it sold this way, and I'd thought it was a discontinued line. But according to the DMC Product Website for Art. 116, there are still 5 solid colours - no wonder it's rare!

My Stitchy Guru Mother can remember a much larger colour range of these once, so that's something worth keeping in mind if you're thrifting or buying vintage threads.

Here are all the beautiful bright colours of PC #8 that I used in my little Bluebird:

According to the DMC Website, #8 Balls are available in 206 solids and 18 variegated shades! I also love using this thread for Blackwork on size 14 Aida cloth (like I did for my Metallic Monarch Variation). Unfortunately, it's availability seems to be limited. My local Michaels carries only White, Ecru, Black, Navy and a Burgundy.

So image my delight when a friend kindly sent me these wonderful COLOURS:

This was my first time embroidering with #8, and I am hooked!!! It makes a finer line than the #5, and although it is more delicate, this makes it ideal for fitting more stitches into a smaller area or working more detailed stitches.

This Bluebird is pretty small - I sized it to about 3 inches tall and 4 inches wide before printing my pattern - and the #8 PC allowed me follow all the fine curves of the back feathers while still mostly covering the permanent Sulky Transfer Pen lines!!!

Now, #12 Balls seem to be even less common than the #8! DMC says they make 40 solid colours, but I have only personally seen white retailed in this size.

DMC has a number of free projects for PC listed under Cotton Embroidery, mostly designed by Carina from Polka & Bloom (who has some more freebies here), my favourite of which is the Bird of Paradise :) There's a nice alphabet available too.

Here's a closer look at all four sizes of DMC PC together:

Although #12 doesn't look all that much finer, in person the difference is much more noticeable. Whereas #8 works well with size 14 Aida, #12 could be used on a size 16 or size 18 Aida! It's really too fine to embroider with, unless the design is very small or incredibly complex. But it is often used in combination with #8 for the accent details - like Wrapped Bars and Dove's Eyes - in Hardanger stitching.

#12 is also a great size for larger-scale Tatting - making lace with a shuttle (or, less commonly, with a needle) - which happily seems to be making a comeback. DMC also says that all four sizes of PC can be used for Crochet, but that would be an expensive proposition for anything bigger than a pair of earrings or a brooch!

PC is also very popular for Crazy Quilting, and there are companies like Colour Compliments that make gorgeous hand-dyed variegated versions of the threads.

I also wondered about the Colouring System for PC. All DMC Threads share the same Colour Numbers, but the difference in materials can affect the way the dyes absorb. PC is a little prismatic - because of the luster, the colour seems to shift slightly in tone depending on the direction that the light hits it. So I compared three of the brightest shades of PC #8 with their coordinating flosses, and you can see my results below:

The closest of the three was the pink (3689, which is a favourite of mine!), with the yellow (445) also being nearly indistinguishable. The blue (996) was actually further off than it looks in the photo - the floss was noticeably deeper. But in general I think it's safe to say that most Floss colours can be substituted for PC.

And finally, if you'd like to stitch your own little Bluebird, here's a Stitch Guide:

Please click to view Full Size to Save or Print

Of course, the really wonderful thing about small designs like this is how easy it is to experiment with them, so feel free to make your own substitutions!

I hope this overview of DMC Perle (Pearl) Cotton (PC) was helpful, and I really hope that you consider trying it out the next time you embroider, or experiment with adding it to your cross-stitch. It's a really beautiful thread that is so fun to work with, and if more stitchers use it and buy it, hopefully it will become more readily available in the future :) Or at least not get any scarcer LOL! What do you think of PC?