Monday, October 29, 2012

Eeeeek!!! I Have Mice . . .

....and WHERE are those cats when you need them??
It figures.

Here's the mouse:
It's a little blurred because it's so tiny (and I got too close with my camera, eeeek). This little mouse is approximately 1/8" high and about 1/4" long. I stitched the body of the little guy with 2 strands of Glory -- and whenever you stitch with two strands of floss, it's really important to "lay" your threads so they will be perfectly parallel. The color I used is Glory #147, a very pale wedgewood blue. I'm not into gray mice. I could have stitched the mouse in pink or baby blue, but this color works well.

So if you want to tuck a little mouse into your embroidery, just draw a little teardrop shape and flatten it out on the bottom. There's a little red pile of floss over there on the right; we'll talk about that in a minute.

Double your Glory floss in a #5 milliners needle and fill his little body with horizontal satin stitches.  (If I wanted a mouse with a bigger bun, I might have added extra vertical stitches or a bullion at the parking end.)

Next, thread up Glory #206 (black). Make a 2-wrap French knot for his nose and a 1-wrap French knot for his little eyeball. You could substitute a size 14/o seed bead if you like your mice to have sparkly eyes.

The tail of the mouse is stitched with very tiny Brazilian outline stitches -- floss held below the line of stitching when using Z-twist floss for that smooth, even line, and remember -- the smaller the stitch the neater the line.

OK. Mouse is done.
       The little red (Glory #009 - shaded tangerine) shape will be a ladybug. Stitch her in the same manner as you did the mouse, but make a 2 or 3-wrap French knot for the nose and for her spots add very tiny (over one strand of floss) seed stitches - itty bitty stitches.
Here they are, both finished. I hope - if you like garden vermin (--oops, er... I meant critters.  CRITTERS.) in your embroidery, pop them in little hidey places. They add interest to your work and people will enjoy them for long enough that they will soon ask, "What IS that?" and when you say, "Brazilian dimensional embroidery," they will be super-excited for you to teach them how to do it.

Here's the finished mouse and ladybug, not quite the same scale, but the mouse is a VERY little mouse. (And remember, they do NOT have to be gray)
I STILL can't get Cuthbert to pay attention. Some mouser HE is....
This cat has NO guilt.

      Well, I'll bet you would like to see another Brazilian dimensional embroidery design. This is a design called "Meowsers" and will be taught by Mary-E. Crichton and Gayl Ratigan at our 2013 BDEIG Seminar next June. This is a great class, especially for anyone who wants to learn the basics of Brazilian embroidery -- including lots of tips and hints and a separate little booklet written by Gayl Ratigan that you won't find anywhere else; it's filled with helpful B.E. information. Be sure to check the BDEIG website often; seminar classes will be featured in the February, 2013 issue of our newsletter, The B.E. Wrap-Up.
I hope you are enjoying these designs and the information is helpful. Write any time if you have questions. Thanks for reading!

The Rare Mirrored Finch

Just before I got my camera, this birdie feeder was covered with little finches. One of them ended up eating at the foot of the table.
Others parked up and down along the thistle feeder. The thistle seeds that fall to the ground are a special treat for the little doves that stop by every now and then.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Brazilian Embroidery - Stitch Techniques That Work for Me

I have decided to start with my finished flower/motif. Today I'm going to write about some Brazilian dimensional embroidery stitch techniques that work for me. Each stitcher has their own best way of working with the floss and stitches and different teachers will have different ways of showing others. My suggestion is to learn from all and then do what works best for you.
Most stitchers who are familiar with my Millefiori designs know that I like to make really long bullions, cast-on and other dimensional stitches (For sure, there is a reason why Brazilian embroidery is also called "dimensional"!). I also work with a hoop or frame (1" wooden stretcher bars) so my fabric doesn't "bend" like it will for those who do not use a hoop.

For this design (one of my new projects for BDEIG Seminar 2013), I've also backed the embroidery with Thermolam-type batting (Don't use cotton; it will shrink unless you pre-wash it!) because it will be suitable for an art quilt or cushion/pillow. I usually use a backing fabric to keep floss tails from shadowing through.

So you can see from the picture above that I'm getting ready to make a long bullion. I bring my needle up from the fabric, leaving just the eye of the needle anchored, and I can begin wrapping or cast-ing on (easily).
Sometimes my bullions are fat back there at the start of the wraps. When that happens, just slip the needle under the bullion's "tummy" and tickle by bringing the needle in one direction, toward you, one or two times (on the picture above) .  This will even out your wraps.
      By the way, if you somehow make your wraps so tight that they are gasping for breath -- way too narrow on one end -- just take your thumb and pointy finger and roll the bullion wraps back and forth a few times to loosen them.
After a few bullions, you'll notice that the floss from the needle will twist after lots of wraps.
To get rid of those twisties -- and save yourself ALL kinds of grief, and time, working with the floss -- simply turn your work over and pull ALL of the floss through that eye of the needle that was anchored in the fabric, and then back it out again to a 3-4" floss tail. You'll find it's very easy now to settle your bullion in place.
     The bullion may also be too fat. This is a good time to work with it. I usually lift it (right side of fabric again), pull the core thread, lift it again, pull again, and settle it in place when the bullion diameter is even all along its length. Easy as pie. Give it a try!
Sometimes you'll have trouble pulling the threaded needle through the bullion. If you've moistened the end of your floss, it doesn't like to cooperate. If you have raveled floss (see that picture above), you can also have problems. Simply take your scissors and snip off those raveled ends and continue on your merry way.
Well, now! Doesn't that just look like a plate of cooked spaghetti? Dimensional stitches (anything more than a faction of an inch above the fabric) can position themselves this way and that. Especially on wearable items, after laundering, you might find your finished flower looks like it's REALLY been through the wash.
     You'll have happy cooperation by any circular flowers you make with dimensional stitches if you try something that I thought up ages ago (and have written and illustrated in my books, first Take A Stitch by Rosalie Wakefield, and almost everywhere else). It's a technique I call "Wrap 'n Gather".

Bring your threaded needle up from the fabric near the center of the flower. Weave the floss around the center 2-3 times.
Pull snug, gathering those dimensional stitches and getting them to stand at attention. Then just go down and out. Best (and easiest) thing ever!!

OK. I've still got stuff to share (maybe if I posted more often, I could keep these messages short).
Now I'm going to talk about cast-on stitches for a while. When we make Lola bullions, we like to have them snugged down to the diameter of 2-3 strands of Lola floss. It's a little different with cast-on stitches. I think (personally) the beauty of these stitches is to have the loops showing, not pulled tight to the needle.
      Off the subject for just a sentence or two -- some stitchers cast-on with two hands. I first learned to cast-on with my left hand only. There actually is a front and back to cast-on stitches (same as for bullions; and the floss unwinds for the two-handed cast-on -- or the second part of the alternating cast-on - tatting stitch when you are using Z-twist floss).

To continue with the discussion about the picture above -- I'm planning to make one cast-on on each side of the bullion so that the bullion will look like a flower petal's center vein.  The a-b-c-d Needle Path will be in a straight line to make the petal stand up, and the b-c points will be a couple of threads away from the a-d points. That's why you see the needle coming up between the blue and coral floss in that photo. I'm going to lay this cast-on stitch AWAY from the bullion center vein:
To do that, I place the floss behind the needle. Again, I'll hold those loops in place on the needle before going down and out at Point "D". I'm also being sure that I've pulled all floss through the needle eye and then backed it out. This way I'll have nicely untwisted floss and no kinks at the "d" end when I settle the stitch in place.
 See how nicely it works!
I wrote about this earlier, but see how I can space the "width" of my cast-on stitch by coming up between the blue and coral stitches. Point "c" will be just to the right of those coral "wrap 'n gather" stitches.
Sometimes we are almost finished with our flower and suddenly find a bullion or cast-on we've just made that is all wonky. Well, you can UNDO a cast-on or bullion very easily like this:
Go back to Point "C" in your Needle Path. This is the last place where the floss came UP from the fabric. Slip the eye of your needle into that spot and jiggle it a bit to loosen the floss.
To UN-DO a bullion or cast-on stitch,
pull the floss OUT
from the last place where the needle came UP.

I made it bold because it's one of the best tips ever!
I learned it from Virginia Chapman of Floss Flower Plus (see below).

Now I'd like to share a tip about knotting off that I  also learned from Virginia Chapman of Floss Flowers Plus. (Her book, Floss Flowers Book 1 should be in every B.E. stitcher's library, in my opinion.) Virginia is a master of technique and is always willing to help if anyone has questions.

Here's a picture:

To finish -- a note about color. These aren't my favorite colors, but with 200 colors of EdMar's rayon floss to choose from - solid, shaded, variegated and over-dyed, we have lots of choices. For this design I tried colors I don't ordinarily use. I'm still deciding if I like them, but most colors go together anyway.  I have decided to call it "Being Adventurous"!

As I wrote earlier, every B.E. instructor and many stitchers have their own best ways of working with the floss and stitches of Brazilian dimensional embroidery. We can all learn something from each of the rest of us, and then do what we want anyway. It's called Being Creative.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tropical Flower Garden

As many of you know, I sold out of my book "Tropical Flower Garden" this summer. I've had so many requests that I have decided to do a new printing. I'm hoping to have the book available before the end of the year. Thanks, everyone, for your support. I'll post a notice here as soon as it's ready.