Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holly Berries, Holly Leaves, Holly-day Brazilian Dimensional Embroidery

A lot of us have discovered the really wonderful, helpful and educational stitches and projects shared by Mary Corbet of NeedlenThread. You can click on the link here, or on the left side of this page where I've listed "Blogs We Like".

Today Mary shares the Criss-Cross Satin Stitch that I wrote about in my book, Take A Stitch, and have used on numerous designs. It's my favorite circular stitch -- and you all know that you need to always outline any circle first with stem, outline or back stitch first for a "perfect" finished shape.
This website offers a circular version of the Rhodes Stitch, too. I believe the Rhodes Stitch is often used in needlepoint. You'll find more information and inspiration here.

If you have a chance, try the Criss-Cross Satin Stitch using EdMar's 100% rayon floss weight Cire.

Leaves. A while back, I wrote on this blog about another way to stitch holly leaves with the beautiful dimensional center vein. You can see the tutorial here.
I call this technique the Ridged Blanket Stitch, but it's actually a Ridged "Buttonhole" Stitch because stitches are very close together.

In my most recent book, "An Artist's Garden" by Rosalie Wakefield (picture/blatant advertising ahead) . . . which I have LOTS of "Little" designs - stitched mostly in lighter-weight floss such as Iris and Glory, I've included a small "Holly" pattern and I'd like to share it here if you want to stitch it for a holiday whatever. 
The pattern is approximately 2" tall, stitched with Iris 170 (green), and Glory 152 (Christmas red) and Glory 206 (Black). If you like the heavier-weight Cire, just enlarge the pattern:
1. Stitch the leaves with Ridged Blanket/Buttonhole Stitch.
          Read the link above, which explains that you'll stitch across the entire leaf, but lift the stitch so the top "bar" of the stitch slides to the center vein. Keep stitches very close together.
2. The red berries are stitched with Criss-Cross Satin Stitch.
3. With black Glory weight, add a 2-wrap French knot to each berry -- there's a perfect spot for this knot where the satin stitching ends.

You can stitch this little design onto a holiday print cotton, cut it out and add other holiday trims, ribbons, charms, and make a pretty little greeting card. Stampers can enjoy unlimited creativity in making little cards or gift tags with these designs. (I have a sample photo on my previous post about the Li'l Christmas Tree.)

By the way, I think I mentioned earlier that the Ridged Blanket Stitch (space between stitches) worked with our textured Boucle weight floss in green makes beautiful ferns.  TIP: Use the #15 milliners needle when working with Boucle.
This version is stitched with Iris:
  (The little "bugs" are the ones you find in the garden that roll into a circle like little "bowling balls" - my name for them. They are made with double cast-on stitches. If you stitch them with red floss, you can add little black French knots and call them "ladybugs".  We are nothing here if not flexible!)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Remembering the Littlest Angels

Everyone is thinking about the little angels we lost today, and all of the others we've lost in the past few years, and praying for them and their families that they can find comfort and peace for their pain. Someone asked if there was an angel available to stitch.

This picture is my Millefiori design #838, "Angels Wings" - basic Brazilian dimensional embroidery stitches. The wings and her dress are made with caladium leaves and her hair is stitched with bullions (several variations are included with the pattern), and she has red freckles scattered across her nose. See:
If you'd like to stitch her as an ornament for your Christmas tree, it will help us all to remember what has been lost. She's not on my website yet, but you can get details - price, plus postage - by emailing me.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Tree - Stitch This Brazilian Dimensional Embroidery Design

OK, the concept of hanging a Christmas tree ornament on a Christmas tree seems redundant, but I had this idea . . .
You can stitch this speedy little design faster than you can go into the forest with your trusty axe and hew down your own tree. Any thread will do: rayon floss for Brazilian dimensional embroidery (I used Boucle), Candlelight, Rainbow Gallery, silk ribbon or any other fiber. You can make an ornament, greeting card, fabric postcard or even stitch this Millefiori design on your holiday vest or sweater. 

This tree is made with a row of lazy daisy stitches, each slightly longer than the one before, and is finished with a row of backstitches for a center trunk and to hold the lazy daisy stitches in place.

I call it "Li'l Christmas Tree" and would like you to share it with your stitching friends. Just let them know where you found it. If you like, drop me a note to let me know what you think. I even have a pattern here for a Christmas Tree, Lot.
There are lots of pictures, so let's get started.

You'll need a ruler and a pencil (so few lines, there's nothing to wash out). And some fabric, some thread and some beads.
Step 1.  Make a vertical line, 1 1/2" long
Step 2.  Make a horizontal line, 1" wide, about 1/4" up from the bottom.
Step 3.  Lightly draw dotted lines from the tip of the tree to the Step 2 line.
 The first tree shown at left in the top photo is made with Boucle. I used #214, which is a dark forest green.
You can use a darner or the #18 chenille needle (the large one that comes in the pack of silk ribbon embroidery needles), or you can use the #15 milliners needle, which is my favorite for working with Boucle.
Now we're ready to stitch:
Start at the tip of the tree and make a horizontal lazy daisy stitch, just under 1/4" long. Continue to the lower horizontal 1" line, making the lowest lazy daisy stitch 1" long.  That's it! You're done with this part.
Next, I doubled a strand of Glory #214 into my #5 milliners needle. Starting at the base of the tree, I worked a row of backstitch from bottom to tip.
I had enough left over to add a little star bead at the top.
Then I stitched some #11 seed beads here and there along the tree. Here's the finished Li'l Christmas Tree made with Boucle:
I used bullions and a cast-on stitch to make the little tree stand. For one of the other trees, I used satin stitch.

Remember that I mentioned you need only one row of lazy daisy stitches if you are working with Boucle? Even though I didn't do it for this "prototype", I'd make one stitch in one direction, the next in the opposite direction. Like this:
In the photo above where I'm showing the back-stitched center tree trunk, I used green Candlelight fiber. You'll see that the lazy daisy stitches go each way, one east to west, the next west to east.

I stitched this tree on red fabric using white Candlelight:
The base of the tree is made with a row of stem stitch and I added a detached buttonhole stitch in each. I made one row of detached buttonhole stitches "up", and a second row "down".  The star at the top is a stitch I developed which I call "Star-Fill". I think I posted it earlier, but to save you searching, here it is again:
I used Gold thread (DMC on spools, from the craft section at JoAnn stores - but any will work). Star-Fill is like the five-point stars we drew in grade school.  Just follow the numbers of the Needle Path through the fabric (oops, some of the numbers are missing!) Start at the lower left. With your needle, you'll follow the star path two times to get all of the lines on the fabric. To finish, just whipstitch 2-3 times around the center and add a bead or a French knot to end.

Here's a picture of a collage card I made with the white-Candlelight-on-red-fabric embroidery:
When I do this kind of "adventurous stitching", I wander around the house looking through crazy quilt trims, fabric bits, ribbons, beads, for upcycling ideas.
Since we are into the holiday season, you can often find earrings that you can un-do and stick to your design with either glue (my favorite is Fabric-Tac, also from JoAnn's) or needle and thread.
I added these charms to the Li'l Christmas Tree I stitched with green candlelight, and I used purple seed beads to "garland" the tree:
Oh. Before I forget, here's an idea for finishing your ornament. I cut two circles from 1/4" foam core board (if I do this again, I'm going to look for wooden shapes at Michaels Craft Store). Cutting foam core board into even circles with a razor blade is a real challenge!  But I wrapped the fabric around, pinned it into place. Then I glued the second piece on (you'd want to tuck a hanging ribbon between the layers first), and pinned the trim around the edge.
You can see how easy these are to make, and you are limited only by your imagination - and your time.

Speaking of time... If you had SO much fun stitching your Li'l Christmas Tree, how would you like to make a Christmas Tree LOT?  Here's a pattern. Just remember the larger trees use that 1-1/2" center line. You can make the other trees smaller. And if you check your buttons, beads or old holiday earrings, you might find some little critters or Christmas presents to tuck in at the base of the trees. 
Have fun! Happy Holidays to all.

Mom Nature and Her Sauna

Mother Nature has been really busy here in western Oregon this past week - we have had enough rain to make puddles in the Portland area.  BIG puddles. Well, "Mom" calls it a sauna, and you can see that the little finches are really enjoying themselves.

Yes, that's a nasturtium that decided to finally take off and grow - just in time for a frost, whenever it comes - probably in January.

Cuthbert is skipping the birdie show, which he calls "Television for Cats" so that he can help me finish this mindless jigsaw puzzle.
I'm working on a freebie design for you to stitch - just need to get the photos looking reasonably nice. It will be in my next post.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Exhaustion Has Set In

Not me.  The cat ... the cat.

Cuthbert is exhausted. . .
after watching me stitch Brazilian dimensional embroidery seminar class proposals for the past month or so. 

And yes, I DO have a lifetime supply of 2" tape for easy cat-hair removal.

While I'm on the subject of Brazilian embroidery, I did discover an interesting bit of information. I threaded up a strand of EdMar's Frost-weight rayon thread into my #3 milliners needle.  We all do that, right?  The smallest needle we can find ...
    Actually, that was not such a good choice. My floss kept fraying and kinking and being generally disagreeable.  So I switched to the #1 milliners needle (the one we usually use for Lola). It made my job soooooo easy. That's a picture of a hosta that I stitched, all in Brazilian outline stitch (floss below the needle when using Z-twist threads for that nice even, rounded line). 

I also find that when I have overlapping petals, you can separate them with the shadow line of darker floss, or you can leave the thickness of a needle's worth of space between leaves. These leaves are fairly small, so I opted for the shaded line.
Cuthbert asks, "What's next?" (Oh, yes, he talks to me...)

   I told him I have my new Millefiori designs all stitched and my next project is to update my website. I'll also start sharing my design pictures here as soon as they are all edited and pretty. --and I'll let you know as soon as I have them all ready for you to stitch.


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.