Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer Bloggin': Working with interesting surfaces - part 2

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Jane from Flaming Nora joins us with the second part of her 'interesting surfaces' series. You can find the first part here - it was pretty cool, wasn't it?

Thank you, Jane!

In my last post I spoke to you about one of the cornerstones of modern society and how to use it to great effect on your textiles, namely tea. Today I want to talk to you about an altogether more distressing aspect of the kitchen cupboard. Cheese graters. In these articles I am drawing on nearly quarter of a century of experience as a costume maker for stage and screen. This is another of our go to techniques to age or break down costumes, which can help create unusual, textural and organic surfaces to embroider on to.

To explore this technique you will need the following equipment:

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Grater with a rough section for grating nutmeg.

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You will also need a selection of fabrics of different weights and thicknesses and I find a piece of a heavy fabric such as drill that you can roll up in to a pad handy.

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Select one of your fabrics, I used one of the tea dipped pieces from my last post. Roll up your heavy fabric and place the fabric to be distressed over it. Using the nutmeg section of your grater start gently rubbing it over the surface of the fabric.

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Don’t be scared; remember frayed bits and holes are good!

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By using the fine grater section you can also create some finer more delicate textures.

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A really amazing textile to use in this process is scrim. If you haven’t come across it before scrim is a very loose weave fabric like a much less substantial muslin. You can buy it here.

Because of its loose weave you can more or less pull it apart with your fingers.

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Using existing old pieces of embroidery can also produce some great results.

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When you think your fabrics are distressed enough, arrange in a pleasing manner over a piece of background fabric, I used an old tablecloth. Try draping the scrim over and around the other fabrics. Place interesting scraps of fabrics with a little bit more colour or pattern behind the holes in your distressed fabrics to add highlights to your piece. Pin in place

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Once every thing is arranged to your satisfaction machine is all down using the free embroidery function on the sewing machine. I stitch a wandering loopy line all over it making sure every thing is caught down but doesn’t look too hammered flat.

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I was going to trim up the edges of this piece to make it have a more uniform size. But once I have stitched this little squirrel onto it I found I preferred the random edges of it.

What do you think? Are you going to try the grater method for your next embroidery? Tell us about it in the comments!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Eureka! Floss length


To many of you this tip might seem obvious but it is something I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. It can be annoying having to keep threading your needle when your floss runs out, so why not use a really long piece of floss so you don't run out as often? Well being pulled back and forth through the fabric is pretty tough on a length of floss. The longer the floss the more times the bit at the end has to pass through the fabric and unfortunately this can leave it looking a bit ratty and well... sad. When the floss starts to get worn you might find your stitched lines don't look smooth and will be thin and irregular.


Find your happy floss length; for me it is just longer than from my fingers to my elbow or if I am going to use a lot of a certain floss on a project I take the skein, remove the paper bands so it is a big loop and snip through all the strands off floss (just once) to give me lots of pre-cut floss at a nice workable length. Bingo!


What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer bloggin': Don't Fear the Fair (Part 2)

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Today Jorie concludes her Summer bloggin' with &Stitches with her second post about her experiences entering embroidery (and other) work to the Iowa State Fair Fabric & Threads competition. You can follow Jorie on her blog Embroider Elaine

When we last ended, my friends and I had just dropped off our entries to compete in the Fabric & Threads competition at the Iowa State Fair.  What were the results?  First of all, I did manage to eat a chocolate-chipped cheesecake on a stick, along with other wonderful fried fair foods.

Second of all, I’m proud of what I accomplished. My knitted snip-stitch afghan won a 3rd place ribbon.

My Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery Woodland Sampler  also won a 3rd place ribbon. That is not only a full place higher than what I earned last year, but I actually won enough money to cover my $5 entry fee (along with money left over for a $3 potato skin bowl.) 

My Furry Nice Class polar bear did not win any ribbons, but he still looked very adorable and cheerful. 

My friends won some honorable mention ribbons for pillowcases and handkerchiefs. The results for all of the competition are available online.

On the comment sheets, the judges gave mostly positive comments, such as complimenting the colors I used in my afghan and the shading on my polar bear.  The one negative comment was that the frames on my cross-stitch sampler could have been straighter, but the unevenness could have been the result of how it was framed or the natural variations in the linen I used.

The change I made in this year’s preparations that made the most difference was simply to enter more items.  The polar bear was the only item I made with the intention of entering it, and the other two were ones I decided to enter at the last minute—but those last minute entries ended up winning ribbons.  I’m glad I entered these items, and I’d like to enter a higher number of items next year.  For $5, I can enter 1 to 10 items, so there is no reason not to enter all the items I can!

Regardless of how well our items did, my friends and I are glad we participated in the competition.  Angela’s goal was to simply to enter the competition for the first time.  She explained, “There are plenty of projects on my list of ‘things I'll make someday,’ so I am proud that I actually followed through with the plan this time.

Cassie wanted to enter the competition to show off her work.  “Once you have a reason to go to Fabric and Threads at the fair, it’s hard not to want to enter.  It becomes Something People Do, not a completely impossibility. And when I had that ambition, of course I was going to weird the fair.”

All three of us wanted to enter to shake things up—use unusual colors, updated designs, and different techniques.  But as Cassie says, we don’t want to turn the State Fair into a “bastion of furious hipness.”  “It’s a balance between earnest and ironic, and the best part is that you can swap between the two without skipping a beat or changing what you’re doing in the slightest.  That goes for your pork chop on a stick and your quilts.”

Ultimately, we participate as a way of celebrating our chosen crafts.  We walk around the competition and are proud of the work accomplished by our friends.  We marvel at the ingenuity and technical prowess of strangers.  We see entries that make us want to try new ideas.  Not everybody wants or needs to compete, but the State Fair is one outlet that we have found to both bond as a group and to have a goal to work towards.

Have you entered your embroidery work in competitions? Share your story with us in the comments. Thank you for two fabulous posts Jorie!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spotlight: Shiny Fabulous Darling

Even though I spend quite some time reading about embroidery online and visiting blogs and websites I somehow never before came across the wonderful Shiny Fabulous Darling site of UK based artist Robin Amy Darling. Pictured above is just a snippet of the embroidery goodness that can be found there (as well as other creative things) so you really need to visit the site to see it all. You will not be disappointed. :) 

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer Bloggin': LED Embroidery with Rebecca Greco

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

I hope you'll all join us today in welcoming Rebecca Greco from Hugs Are Fun! Rebecca last visited us to talk about better hoop habits. Today she's here to tell us about her experiences with an LED Stitching Kit. I don't know about you guys, but I've never tried this myself, so I'm excited to hear what Rebecca has to say about it!

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

I have a confession to make, I am a craft supply hoarder. I love getting exciting new supplies, but actually using them makes me nervous. I obsess over finding the perfect project so I don't "waste" them. I've had this LilyPad LED stitching kit from Sparkfun for well over a year and have only just now used it.

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

There are kits available that allow you to program the LEDs to do things like flicker, but I just used the basic kit. The kit includes conductive thread, a battery pack, LEDs, a button, and a switch. 

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

I wanted to do something space related for it, what better way to use LEDs than stitching them as stars? I finally designed a pattern of Saturn and got to work. The cross stitch was the easy part, the LEDs were much trickier than I expected and I ran into quite a few problems. The first thing I realized was that if I attached the components directly to my cross stitch it would show the stitching on the front. 

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

The battery pack is quite large and there are a lot of different pieces, all of which need to be stitched into place and there needs to be a string of stitches making the connection with the conductive thread. I decided to stitch everything onto a piece of fabric and attach it onto the cross stitch Aida cloth after.

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

I followed the instructions on the website exactly and the button lit up two of the LEDs, but I could not get the switch working to control all of the lights. I enlisted my husband's help and he explained the changes I needed to make. I can't even count the amount of times I had to take out the stitches. The frustrating thing is not knowing if it will work until everything is stitched into place. I would finish the last stitch and cross my fingers that it would work, unfortunately more often than not I ended up having to take out the stitches and start over.

Once I finally got the LEDs working I used a needle to make the holes in the Aida cloth wider where the LED was going to be showing through. Once everything was in place I used black sewing thread to attach the fabrics together. It isn't the most ideal situation but it isn't too noticeable. 

I do wish I had more LEDs to use for this, the kit came with 5 but one of them was broken when I got it. I would love to do a cross stitch of the galaxy with dozens of twinkling lights!

Have you ever tried out using an LED stitching kit? Did you find it as confusing as I did?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer Bloggin': Creating interesting surfaces

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Today we are joined by Jane from Flaming Nora, a costume maker and textile artist. She will show us a technique to create interesting surfaces using a very simple ingredient. Do make sure to visit Jane's blog - especially if you're a fan of fancy frocks; you don't want to miss this post. Flaming Nora is also on Facebook.

Thank you, Jane!

Today I want to share with you a very simple technique to help both create interesting surfaces to embroider on and to blend fabrics together tonally. It is a process I use all the time in my day job as a costume maker.

In the theatre, white doesn’t work, it reflects the lights back at you and makes that part of the costume be it a lace trim or an apron “shout”. Costumes are not always supposed to look brand new, we are creating a character and that could be anything from an old tramp living in a hovel to Queen Elizabeth I. The costumes we produce often need to look aged and worn, or just fit in with a period colour palate and modern fabrics sometimes look just that, modern.

And our quick fix solution to all these problems can be summed up in one word.

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The nations favourite drink, cheap, cheerful and on hand in more or less all of our kitchen cupboards.
So here is a quick how to on instant ageing for your modern fabrics.
You will need the following:
- teabags
- bowl
- kettle
- fabric

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Boil the kettle and make a very strong brew in your bowl. The more teabags you use the stronger the colour will be. I used 5 in this batch

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Put your fabric in to the tea solution and leave it to soak, take it out, rinse it under the tap to remove any excess and you are done.
The longer you leave the fabric in the tea solution the darker the colour will become.
Here is the range of tones I used to make the above piece. They range from a very quick dip to an hours soak. The background is the fabric in its original state.

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You can also then build up layers of stain using different types of tea.
First I dipped this piece in green tea, which gave a lovely lemon yellow colour. Then whilst it was hanging on the line drying I slowly poured a strong brew of pg tips down it a tea spoon at a time.

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Basically anything that makes you fed up when you get it down the front of your clothes because its going to be difficult to wash out can be used to stain fabric to give it extra texture and depth.
My kids had quite a lot of fun making a brew out of the blackberries they picked in the garden and then painted on to tea dipped fabrics.

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Coffee also works well, but will leave your fabric smelling of coffee, which I guess some won’t find such a bad thing!

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This technique works equally well on patterned fabrics giving them an aged quality.

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And finally here is a collection of fabrics and trims new and old dipped and un-dipped that have the same tonal quality and work sympathetically together.

They will form a single distressed textile piece, which will become the background to an embroidery, if you come back next week I will show you how this is done!

Have you dyed fabric with tea? How did it go? Please let us know in the comments or share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Found on Flickr - Embroidered chocolate!

Found on Flickr

don't eat and sew
This made me actually laugh out loud when I saw it in the &Stitches Flickr group. Anne/Pumora has this very good advice: don't eat (chocolate) and sew. You don't want to risk getting chocolate on your embroidery. But I guess getting embroidery on your chocolate is a different matter! :-)

Awesome stuff.

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!