Wednesday, May 18, 2016

GG SAL: Silk Lovebirds Final Finish!

I'm so happy to report that I realized my goal from April's Gifted Gorgeousness SAL and final-finished my Silk Lovebirds off into this pretty diamond ornament for the merry month of May! Although I struggled a bit with the finishing process, I am very pleased with the result :)

For the full project details, please read my last GG post here. A quick summary:

~ Pattern from Cross Stitch & Country Crafts magazine, Sept/Oct 1990
~ Worked on gifted 14 count Aida in a pretty buttercream yellow
~ Stitched with gifted overdyed silk floss, the gorgeous Airlie (#95) by Dinky Dyes
~ Stitched using the Mirror Technique for Variegated Threads

Recently, I've been experimenting with ornament making methods! One of my long-standing stitchy ambitions is to get better at final-finishing so I'm pushing myself to try new things :) My usual go-to method is using a quilt batting insert with fabric backing and corded edging, such as I did with my Blackwork Snowflake.

Although in the past I greatly preferred store-bought cording, like the navy cording I used in that tutorial, I'm hand-twisting my own lately, which is harder to attach but has the great advantage of being a perfect colour-match to the stitching!

For this ornament, I used two squares of mat board and wrapped them each with a piece of quilt batting, which I hot-glued to the back of each mat board square.

I used a beautiful dusky blue 100% cotton for the backing fabric:

Then I laced each side around a mat board form, and sewed the two halves together. Because of the padding, and the stiffness of the mat board, both sides turned out to be rather thick and it was difficult to sew them together. I ended up using a curved upholstery needle for the first ladder stitch pass, stitching about 1/4 inch in from the edge, and then did a second pass close to the edge like usual.

The first pass brought both sides together loosely while the second pass tightened the seams and brought both sides together fully, giving me a more even surface for attaching the cording. Although this was more time consuming, it worked well!

Tanja Berlin of Berlin Embroidery Designs has a great photo tutorial showing how to lace work onto mat board, and there is a close-up look at lacing small squares here.

Vonna at The Twisted Stitcher calls this style of mat board finish a basic Flat Ornament and has a few interesting variations (the Layered Flat Ornament and the super cute Layered Felt Mounted Ornament) on her popular finishing blog.

Mary Corbet of Needle N' Thread finished a goldwork embroidery ornament much the same way back in 2008 and had the same troubles with extra thickness that I did! She greatly reduced the thickness by remaking the ornament with a thinner board.

This great tutorial, with a style similar to my ornament, suggests using comic book boards instead of mat board, as it is much thinner but still stiff and of archival acid-free quality, and that's something I'm definitely going to check out :)

You can see the thickness mostly at the corners, like this:

Thankfully, the cording mostly covers it and it's not really noticeable at all once the ornament is hanging up! I do like the nice, crisp corners that mat board makes.

I also added some small squares of batting in the middle of the ornament to fill in the lacing gaps and make sure the center was flat and even:

This photo also shows the cording join at the bottom left, right above the start of the tassel. That was the single most troublesome part of the finishing, sinking the end of the cording back into the ornament and making it look as seamless as possible.

You can definitely see the join, obviously, but it was the neatest I could make it (and I redid that part over a dozen times!). Eventually, I reached that dangerous point where I needed to stop fussing with it and let it be or take it apart altogether and start over, and I am glad that I decided to stop and take a step back.

I really find that when you're working closely with little details for a while that they can overwhelm you with dissatisfaction, but if you take a break and then look at that detail in larger context, it may not be nearly as big of a problem as you thought :)

Here is a close-up of the tassel, which is my favourite part:

I love tassels! As I mentioned, I made the cording by hand, and I also made a smaller corded hanging loop and the cording loop that was the basis for the tassel. In all, I used 6 full skeins of DMC 3803 - 3 skeins for the cording, 1 skein (split evenly) for the two cording loops, and 2 skeins for the tassel. I wanted both the cording and the tassel to be extra thick, and I really like the way it turned out :)

I tied the tassel with a bit of the silk floss I had left (amazingly - and sadly LOL - this project used nearly all of the 8 meter skein of Airlie silk!) and simply wrapped it around the tassel, securing it in the back with some stitches through the wrap:

I love the rainbow effect, and the sheen of the silk against the cotton floss!

Initially, I had planned to use a metallic gold cording, and I'm really glad that I went with a simple floss instead. When I first decided on floss, I was thinking of a light buttercream yellow to match the Aida but I couldn't find an exact match.

Although the burgundy 3803 is not actually used anywhere in the stitching, it's a darker match that is close to the deepest mauve in the overdyed silk and I think it really sets off the lighter colours and subtle tone shifts in the variegated thread.

My Stitchy Guru Mother has a rule for colour-matching a sewing thread to fabric - when in doubt, go with a darker thread instead of a lighter one - and I think it applies to choosing finishing trims like cording as well :)

What is your favourite way to final-finish stitchy ornaments? I'd love to know! If you're reading this post in your e-mail, please visit the blog to leave a comment :)

Gifted Gorgeousness is a monthly SAL hosted by Jo @ Serendipitous Stitching! It is a fun and relaxed way to thank those who have given us Stitchy Gifts and show off what we've made with those generous gifts. It's never to late to come and join us!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

UT Contest Update: Winners Chosen

Update: Official Winner Announcement @ Urban Threads

Just a quick note to say a HUGE and heart-felt Thank You! for all your support - your votes and kind comments - for my entry in the Hand Embroidery category of the Urban Threads "Craft Is Art" Contest. Your encouragement means the world to me, and although I didn't win, I'm still happy to have been a Top 5 Finalist and have garnered 19% of the popular vote, with an astounding 298 votes! Wowzers!!!

Given that I'm not connected to social media, and that the poll seemed to register only one vote per computer, that means that not only did a lot of my stitchy friends vote for me, but quite a lot of total strangers must have voted for me too.

Although there is only winner for each technique, I came in at third place in my Hand Embroidery category which I think is pretty good for a contest this size, which is by far the largest I've participated in to date.

So I'm going to consider my project the winner of an invisible bronze medal LOL ;)

As I mentioned in my project post, this was the first time I've tried Crayon Tinting the background of my embroidery, and it was so much more fun than I expected.

It's definitely something I'd like to try again, so keep watch for future experiments!

Thanks again to everyone who generously supported my entry, and most especially to my family! My Stitchy Guru Mother and my Groovy Grandparents are awesome and thankfully they appreciate all my creative endeavours, small and large, even when they seem to come out of nowhere like this project did :)

I honestly do believe that Craft is just as good as, if not better than, Art! It's an age-old debate and is a very complex issue that affects the way society and culture view creative projects, but I believe that all pursuits of creativity and imagination are wonderful and worthwhile! Go out and make something new, just for the joy of it :)

Like many of the things I've made, this project was really just a whole series of Happy Mistakes that in the end created something totally unexpected but amazing :)

In all honestly, it's a little different to enter something you've stitched in a contest precisely because it is a competition that invites criticism and comparison in a way that sharing that same project with stitchy friends on your blog does not. It was a bit nerve-wracking, and I almost didn't enter because I knew winning was such a long shot, but I did so much better than I ever anticipated thanks to your support!

Here's a nice quote that applies to both Craft and Art LOL:

Source (Chalkboard Sign)

P.S. In case you didn't know, Urban Threads regularly offers a free pattern, in formats for Machine Embroidery and as a simple outline for Hand Embroidery. 

Currently, the freebie is this cute piece of cake with spirit! Free until May 22nd :)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Please Vote For Me in the UT Contest!


I made it to the Top 5 in the Hand Embroidery Category of the Urban Threads Coloring Contest! You probably already know Urban Threads (UT) as the designers of amazingly cool machine and hand embroidery patterns, and may remember their last Coloring Contest held 2013 with the Create theme.

Although I'm fairly new to embroidery, and this is my first time doing an embellished piece like this, when I saw the theme of this contest design - which is "Art is Craft" - I was very inspired by the sentiment and decided to try a version of my own. 

I deliberately chose to use more "crafty supplies" - craft thread, buttons, beads and sequins - to enhance the message. All of them were inexpensive, and pretty common.

The two satin butterfly appliques and the fanciful peacock-inspired Feather were added to symbolize Creativity, and the idea of "Letting your imagination soar!"

The coloring method I used was Crayon Tinting (learned from this tutorial with a very cute pair of pears on the UT site), and the outline was entirely hand-stitched using a variety of stitches, and heavily embellished with beads and sparkle :)

There are two categories in the contest, the first is Machine Embroidery which has 10 Finalists and Hand Embroidery, my category, which has 5 Finalists. I'm so thrilled to be considered as a Finalist, and I would really love to win the amazing prize pack. 

Please - pretty pretty please! - consider visiting the contest and voting, as there is so much talent on display and all the interpretations are very different!

To see all the entries and to vote, please visit this page:

Voting is open to everyone and takes only seconds - and you do not need to sign-up or enter any personal information! The winners will be chosen entirely by popular vote, so I'd really appreciate your help :)

Voting closes May 10 at Noon, Central Time

As a stitcher, I always enjoy learning more about the maker's creative process and reading about how a project develops! So I'd like to share some more information about my entry, including materials and stitches. First, here's some detailed photos:

Here's a view from the side to show the dimension the beads add to the design

Here is a close-up of the fanciful Feather, filled with beads and sequins and an acrylic heart gem, which is super sparkly! This ended up being one of my favourite parts :)

And this is a collage showing my stitching progress, from Crayon Tinting to Stitching to the start of Beading to the Final Embellishment. I learned so much along the way!

This project has been a marvelous experience for me, and it wasn't easy. I had to totally rethink my approach several times. I started off with the idea to invert the design colors and stitch a white outline on black fabric, and color it with sequins, but that didn't work out. It's so hard to transfer an embroidery design onto dark fabric!

So by necessity I needed a light fabric to trace the design on, which finally lead me to using a basic white polycotton. Because it was a little thin, after tracing I backed it with iron-on interfacing from Pellon. This made it sturdy enough to stitch on!

After pondering many different ideas on how to add color, and nearly giving up all together a few times, I remembered Crayon Tinting and looked up some tutorials online. In addition to the UT tutorial, which was my main inspiration, I found some others at Wild OliveLittle Dear TracksPimp Stitch and A Girl In Paradise. All the tutorials say that you should use light pressure, so you can build up the color, and short strokes to keep it even, and there is an interesting video showing this here.

There is also an alternate White Background or Foundation method developed by Crabapple Hill Studio for quilts with embroidered blocks, which is illustrated in photo tutorials at Blueberry Backroads and Sew Mod. A video for this is here.

Both methods use a hot, dry iron to set the wax, which then seeps into the cloth. It is semi-permanent, and so Crayon Tinting is not recommended for washable items.

Here are some testers I made: White Background at top, Just Color at bottom

After Ironing: White Background on left, Just Color on right

As you can see, I found that the White Background method did not work for me. The white wax seemed to saturate the fabric, making it difficult to color over and leaving streaks, and when it was ironed, the coloured wax bled badly outside the lines and made the fabric very stiff. It also faded the color and made it look blotchy.

So I recommend coloring directly on the fabric, though coverage will depend on the materials you are using so doing quick testers like these might be a good idea. The one thing everyone seems to agree upon is the superiority of Crayola Crayons.

So I dug out my trusty old 64-pack tin; I was gifted this new in 1993! I collect tins, and I've always loved this one. It's been years since I've done anything with crayons, but the smell of the wax immediately took me back to my childhood :)

After some scribbles on scrap fabric, I chose some colors to match my thread:

I used Loops & Threads Craft Thread (the Michaels Brand), which is like a coarse version of Perle (Pearl) Cotton. I loved the fun, bright, vibrant colours and they were easy to work with with! In the end, I didn't use the Lavender in the photo above but added a Dark Green J. P. Coats Craft Thread, so I used 12 different colours in all.

The seedbeads I used to outline the letters - which was done by mostly by Couching - are inexpensive large "E" glass beads, with a pretty transparent AB (Aurora Borealis) finish. As you can see, I actually bought them at the dollar store :) I used all of the colors (7 total) except the gold at the bottom right.

I really love the extra dimension these beads added, and the way the variations in the AB coating shimmer with different tones of color, and they seem to glow in the sun! They are so sparkly in real life that the photos don't really do them justice.

Close-Up of Buttonhole Wheel (Yellow) Flower Center

Hand Embroidery Stitches Used Include:
1. Back Stitch
2.  Stem Stitch
3. Long Stitch
4. French Knots
5. Blanket Stitch
6. Buttonhole Wheel
7. Detached Fly Stitch
8. Chain Stitch
9. Heavy Chain Stitch (used on the Feather outline, learned for this project)
10. Scalloped Buttonhole Picot Trim (also learned from this project, variation of this trim by Mary Corbet worked over Back Stitch instead of Chain Stitch)
11. Cross-Stitch (used to sew on the buttons)
12. Couching (the majority of the beading)

Close-up of Scalloped Buttonhole Picot Trim Flower Petals

Finally, after the stitching and beading was finished, and I had filled in the fanciful Feather with sequins secured with smaller coordinating seedbeads and bugle beads, I added some embellishments. I used three colors of basic shirt buttons as accents. 

Then, a serendipitous thing happened: while sifting through the tin where I keep my sequins and fancy trims, a little bag of puffy satin butterfly appliques fell out! And I suddenly remembered buying these appliques many years ago when I was about eight years on, a trip to Florida to visit my Grandparents. 

Butterflies have always symbolized creativity to me, and when two of the appliques just happened to match perfectly, I just couldn't resist adding them!

To sew them on, I used coordinating Craft Thread and took Long Stitches over the wing joins and then made antennae using Long Stitches and French Knots! I hope they bring me a little luck in the Contest :)

So there you have it! My Craft Is Art embroidery from start to finish. Overall, the best thing about this project is that once it got going, it was FUN. Working with the bright colors of the crayons and the chunky threads all brought me back to the many very happy hours I spent coloring and crafting when I was a child ;)

I know Adult Coloring is a huge trend right now, and I even bought a book to try, but I don't think it's for me. But this method of "coloring" embroidery with threads and embellishments is something I can get behind, and I may try it again in the future!

Please consider voting for me!
I would greatly appreciate your support :)

If you have any questions about my entry, feel free to ask away in the comments! What do you think about Crayon Tinted Embroidery - would you try it?