Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Project - Herringbone Embroidery Stitch

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to start using more embroidery stitches than my usual outline stitch, lazy daisy, and french knots.  Last week I showed you what I did with bullion stitches, this week I finished embroidering on a denim dress for little c using a herringbone stitch.

Herringbone stitches work very well for covering seams in crazy quilts or filling in long expanses, like I had on this dress.  I worked it in two different colors and then filled in with french knots to add a little more pizazz.

Here's how to work this stitch:

1. This is one stitch that is much, much easier to do if you draw parallel lines first.  I use a disappearing fabric pen, but chalk would also work.  Bring your needle up at the left end of your piece.

2.  Hold the embroidery thread where you want it to intersect the top line.  Insert the needle under the thread and come up directly over the last spot on the bottom line you came up.

3.  Your work should look like the picture on the left.  Next, hold the thread where you want it to intersect the bottom line.  Insert the needle under the thread and come up directly under the last spot on the top line you came up.

4.  Your work should look like the picture on the left.  Repeat - hold the thread where you want it to intersect the top line.

5.  Insert your needle under the thread and come up directly over the spot on the bottom line you last came up.

6. Your piece should look like the picture on the right.  Repeat to the process ...

7.  And keep repeating until you reach the end of your lines.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Inspiration - Save Our Quilting Stories

 I heard from Meg Cox of the Alliance for American Quilts this week, letting me know about their Save Our Stories (SOS) program.  If you enjoyed looking up the history of different quilts last week, you'll love browsing through this site!  This oral history program is archiving (at the Library of Congress) recorded interviews telling the stories of quilters.  The website has written transcriptions of over 1,000 interviews with all types of quilters.  Honestly, I can get lost in reading the histories of these men and women!

A couple of examples:

 An interview with Dena Crain, a quilter from Kenyan, can be found here.  Ms. Crain explains how she uses events in both her personal life and the world in creating her African quilts.  She has several different series.  Her "Terminal - Smoking May Be Hazardous" quilt tells the emotional story of her mother's passing from lung cancer and now hangs in the oncology department of the hospital where her mother died.

I love pieced star quilts and am going to have to get one going soon!  In the meantime, read about Betty Boehm's (age 80 at the time of the interview) first quilt she made here.  She was 11 years old and pieced the Texas Star design from scraps of fabric leftover from the dresses made for her and her sister.  Her story of what quilting has meant to her throughout her life and how she passed the art down to her daughter and granddaughter is fascinating.

Anyone can get involved and submit recorded interviews by following the instructions on the website here.  Do you have a neighbor, grandmother/father, great-grandmother/father, ... someone who has a quilt with a history or who is a quilter with a story that needs to be saved for posterity? 

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday Sewing - Grandmother's Flower Garden Pillowcases Part 1

I had a wonderful weekend sewing away on Grandmother's Flower Garden blocks!  And I'm still addicted!  If you've also been making the flower blocks (see last week's post here), now's the time to start putting them together into fabric.  This could be for a quilt top, tote bag, about anything - I'm making pillowcases.  If you're making something else, the directions for these can be adjusted to make different sized fabric.

*15 Grandmother's Flower Garden Blocks (instructions here)
* 120 connecting hexagons
*1 yard cotton muslin
*1 yard low loft batting
*1 1/2 yards wide eyelet lace to go around the pillowcase opening - any wide width you like will work

When I put together my first pillowcase, I somehow got off on the white connecting hexagons causing quite a bit of ripping out (hate that)  and much gnashing of teeth (also hate).  For the second pillowcase, I made a diagram on hexagon graph paper showing how many white connecting hexagons need to be sewn onto each flower block so that everything matches up.  The heavy black lines show one flower + its connecting hexagons.  This is designed so that when side A is sewn to side A, you will have a tube of fabric.

I've also put this in a pdf file available here in case you want to print it off.

1.  Lay your flower blocks out, arranging where you want the different colors to go.

2.  Using the chart, sew connecting hexagons to the first flower block.  Just like when you made the original flower blocks, do not sew over a seam (go right up to it, though) and lock the sewing when it begins or ends at a seam.  This will keep your points sharp.

Move on to the next block.  Again, using the chart to see where they go, sew the correct number of hexagons onto the second flower block.  Pin it to the first block.

3.  Continue on in this way until you have all the blocks pinned together.

4.  Sew the expanded blocks together.

I'm quilting my pillowcases, so I'm not going to connect side A to side A until I have that finished - I've never tried to quilt a tube, but it doesn't sound real fun!  If you're not going to quilt yours, you can go ahead and connect the two sides now.

Next Wednesday, we'll machine quilt this piece and finish up the pillowcase.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Project - Embroidered Blackberry Vines

Have you been practicing your bullion stitch?  I finished the embroidered overalls I was working on for little c and have the blackberry vine pattern and tutorial for you!  If you're just joining us today, see last Monday's post here.

*something to embroider - I'm using denim bib overalls
*embroidery thread in green, purple, cream, and light yellow
*embroidery needle - if you're embroidering on denim, use a heavier needle than what you're probably used to using
*small pair of pliers if you're using denim - these are useful for pulling the needle through heavy seams, especially if you have achy fingers like me!

Some hints on embroidering denim:  Use shorter (about 12 to 14 inches) lengths of thread.  After awhile of pulling the thread through the heavy denim it begins to wear and get a big fuzzy, making your stitches look off.  I use a heavy needle and a small pair of pliers to stand up to the denim and its heavy seams.

I embroidered these without tracing a pattern onto the overalls.  I drew out the patterns I ended up with that you can download or view if you want, or just look at the tutorial and follow the sequence I used.  If you want to see patterns, they are here.

1.  Using six strands of green, embroider a wandering vine using a stem or outline stitch

2.  Next, add in the leaves using a lazy daisy stitch and six strands of green.  Add in spirals and offshoots every so often.

3.  Add the flowers, again using a lazy daisy stitch and three strands of cream.

4.  Put three french knots in the center of each flower, using two strands of light yellow.

5.  Make blackberries using a bullion stitch and 6 strands of purple.  I wrapped the needle 4 times for some of the stitches and 3 times for others.

6.  Here's the finished side seam:

The finished side pocket:

The front bib pocket:

The back pocket:

And the finished front:

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Inspiration - The Quilt Index

If you like quilts and/or history, have I found the site for you!  While researching the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt pattern, I came across The Quilt Index.  A partnership of the Alliance for American Quilts, MATRIX Center for Humane Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Online, and Michigan State University Museum, the Index is an on-line catalog containing thousands of quilts from the 1700's to this year.

You can search in several different ways, including type of pattern, time frame, and even by which state the quilt was made.  Each quilt has a basic and a detailed history - some quilts have a lot of information, some have just a bit.  All work on my Grandmother's Flower Garden pillowcases came to a complete halt the afternoon I discovered the site!  I've been back several times - I think it'll take years to work my way through.

A few highlights to show you what information is available:

This is the quilt that first led me to the Index - I love the way the hexagon shapes have been arranged into stars!  It was created by Mary Hopkins Haynes circa 1825 from imported cotton chintz.  English template piecing was used to put the blocks together.  The quilt was made in North or South Carolina for Mrs. Haynes' first grandchild and has been passed down through the family ever since.  When her great-grandaughter moved to Texas (by wagon) in 1866, she brought the quilt with her.  It is now owned by the quiltmaker's great-great-great granddaughter.  There's a lot more information on its history here.

This is a fascinating quilt!  It was sewn from wool by Elizabeth Kobler circa 1778.  Her husband was a tailor in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.  This quilt was made with scraps from uniforms he made for soldiers in the Revolutionary War.  There is also embroidery on the quilt, but it's hard to see unless you use a magnifier.  Did you notice the quilter's initials on the left hand side?  Learn more about it here.

This amazing mosaic quilt was hand pieced (using English template piecing) by Albert Small in the 1930's.  Mr. Small was an explosives handler at an Illinois quarry with an obvious talent at piecing!  You can see two more of his mosaic quilts here - this one and those were quilted by his wife and daughter-in-law.

The Quilt Index also has several lesson plans that involve quilts, essays on quilting in general and on specific topics, and information on how you can become involved in the project.  Time for a coffee refill and back to browsing!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday Sewing - Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt Blocks

I think I found a new addiction!  There's something about cutting and sewing these hexagon pieces that makes it hard to stop.  Just a few more, oops - how did it get to be that late??!  I've been at it since last week and have amassed a giant garden of flowers.  This week I'll show you how to cut the pieces and put the blocks together.

*fabric - I'm using leftover batik fabric scraps, except for yellow - I didn't have any of that, so I bought a yard
*hexagon template pattern here
*ruler and scissors or rotary cutter

1.  Cut out one of the hexagon templates.  I just used the paper, but you can use it as a pattern to make a cardboard template.  I'm using fairly large hexagons because I want to machine piece the flowers together.  If you want a different size, use the hexagon generator at Incompetech's site here

2.  Depending on the size of fabric you're using, either cut hexagons individually from small scraps, layer several pieces or folds of fabric and cut several hexagons at once or make strips of fabric.  Make your strip width equal to the hexagon's diameter-  from side to side.  For my template this is just a hair under 3 inches.  Layer several strips, place flat sides of the template along the edges of the strips, and cut the remaining sides.

3.  Decide on a color for your flower centers and cut those pieces.  Traditionally, this fabric is the same one used for the "paths" that will border the flowers.  I went with a white polka dot fabric I thought I had a lot of.  You'll need a LOT of these hexagons when you start putting the borders on - I had to go buy more!

4.  Begin piecing by taking a center and sewing a petal to every other side (right sides together).  Don't worry about securing thread ends on these seams.

When you have all three petals on, it'll look like this:

5.  Next you'll sew the remaining petals onto the center.  Pin right sides together, matching the ends of the petal and center pieces.

Sew between the two lines of stitching you already have from putting the previous petals on.  Don't cross these seams or your petals won't lie flat.  You need to secure these ends - I just took one stitch forward, one backward and one forward - you can also stitch in place a few stitches if your machine does this easily.  And you can always tie the ends if you enjoy that sort of thing!  Just don't do a lot of backstitch/forward stitching or you'll get a thick layer of thread that makes it hard for your petal to lie flat.

Your block will look like this from the front.

6.  Add the last two petals in the same way.

7.  Next, sew each petal to its neighbor.  Match the petals edges, twisting the sewn end a bit until you get it to lie flat.  Pin the unsewn end.  Begin sewing at the already sewn seam line and secure the beginning of your stitching (since it's a finished corner - you can tell finished corners because you begin sewing at an already sewn seam), but you can just sew through the end.

8.  This is what it will look like with all the petals attached.

Now just iron and you have a finished block!

Next week, we'll put the path around the blocks and sew them together to make a larger piece of fabric.  I have pillowcases in mind for my fabric, but these would also look great made into tote bags, aprons, ... and of course, quilts!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Project - Bullion Stitch Embroidery

This all began with blackberries. . .  I love late summer in the Northwest when the air just smells sweet with the ripe purple berries.  When we lived there, we had a love/hate relationship with the vines - they're really quite invasive!  But it was always nothing but love for the fruit.  There's nothing better than homemade blackberry jam on fresh biscuits - yum!

I've been embroidering on denim jumpers and overalls for little c and came up with the idea of designing a blackberry vine with blossoms and fruit.  I thought I would make the fruit from french knots, but they just didn't look right, so I began thumbing through my embroidery books.  I know I tend to use the same embroidery stitches over and over - it was time for something new!

The bullion stitch (also called a bullion knot) looked like a good candidate.  I have to admit, the first few I attempted were pretty bad looking - I got better with practice!  I think the other problem was sketchy instructions.  This is not a hard stitch, but the instructions I had were hard to make sense of.  I've put together a photo tutorial that I hope will be more helpful.

1. Bring your needle up through the fabric.

2.  Insert the needle a short distance to the right of the spot you first came up and then bring the needle out right next to where you first came up.  This distance (the piece of fabric on the needle) will be the length of your bullion stitch.

3.  Wrap the thread around the needle anywhere from 3 to 5 or 6 times.  More wraps equals a plumper bullion knot.  You're going to bring the needle through these, so don't wrap real tightly.

4.  Hold your left thumb tightly against the wrapped needle and pull the needle through.  You want to keep holding the wrapped thread down so it keeps its coils.  This is one of the places that took a little bit of practice - hold it tight enough but not so tightly that you can't pull the needle through!  A few times and you'll get it.

5.  Keeping your thumb on the thread coils, put the needle through the fabric at the second spot you inserted it - it's at the end of the thread you see when you peek under your thumb. 

Going back to the photo from step 2, you're putting your needle down through the fabric at the arrow.

6.  This is what you'll end up with - the stitches in the photo on the right had 5 wraps, 4 wraps, and 3 wraps (from left to right).  This is the second tricky spot you may have.  You have to pull the thread through tightly to get the coils to lay down right - and I had to push threads around with my thumb a bit and repull on a few of them.

I'm still working on the complete design and will post it when finished - here's a preview.

I think the bullion stitches were a good choice for blackberries!

Happy Creating!  Deborah