Friday, February 24, 2017

The Embroiderer's Little Book of Hints and Tips

At the last guild stitching meeting, we were talking about embroidery books and Natalie of Sew By Hand (you should check out her page, she has lovely original designs) mentioned wanting to see Alison Cole's The Embroiderer's Little Book of Hints and Tips. This made me realize that no one ever actually reviewed this book. So here it is.

The book is really handy. It's nice and compact so you can bring it along to classes if you wanted to.

Alison signed mine =D 

Here is a peek at the table of contents pages. The book covers everything from materials to getting started.

There are sections on general embroidery and both Goldwork and Stumpwork which are Alison's specialties.

My favorite is the Oh, No! section. We've all had those moments. In this section Alison covers how to fix the more common issues she's encountered during the classes she's taught. She even has sections on preparing for classes, what to look for when framing your pieces and even how to properly photograph them.

Through out the books there are little squares giving extra hints.

The great thing about this book is the paper. More often the paper is really shiny and it's really annoying when you want to add notations in it. If you use pen it takes forever to dry and rubs off making a mess, pencil isn't any better because it slips too much on the surface. This little book has excellent paper for writing. You'll forgive me if I don't demonstrate as I like to keep my books pristine :P These pages can be found at the end of each section so you can add in those new tips you discover along the way.

The very last section of the book is on needles. Here you can find images of all the different types of needles that we could use and the multiple sizes they come in. The pictures are the actual size of the needles so you can easily match an unknown needle and figure out which one it is.

More pages for notes can be found at the end of the book. This book is really a work in progress because new tips are found all the time as stitchers try out new things.

I really love the back cover of the book :) The colors are so vibrant.

I'm really glad I bought this book. It's almost like having Alison in the room with me when I stitch on her Butterfly.

Speaking of Pearl Butterfly, Lesson 3 came out yesterday so I will have lots to do this weekend. I finished one of my secret commissions (I will share more once it's been given to the recipient), so I can now spend the rest of the weekend guilt-free. This lesson, we're working on the body of the butterfly, stitching with whipped plate and adding pearls.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Finishing Homework

My main goal on the weekend was to make sure lesson 2 of Pearl Butterfly was finished. I had two wings left to stitch and by mid-week I managed to get one of them finished. I got home Friday eager to get the last one done, but things just weren't working out.

The stitches looked really off to me, I put it aside and decided to sleep on it. Saturday morning I still hated it and unpicked it all and left it alone for that day as well.

I had posted a picture on Instagram and got lots of advice on how to proceed (I love Instagram!). This meant that by Sunday I had a game plan. The advice that kept coming back was make guidelines in the stitching area. This helps you stay on track and get the right angles to your stitches. The next advice I got was Trish Burr's long and short stitch tutorials. These are great step by step videos showing you how to stitch all the different layers.

This wing definitely took longer than all the others. I stitched on it on and off all morning until I got it done. When it was finished, my sister looked at it and told me it looked better than all the other wings o.O

Lesson 3 coming out this Thursday!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Stash from Reflets de Soie

In honor of Aiguille en Fête, Reflets de Soie was having a 20% special on their website. I really didn't need more stash so close to seminar but I couldn't resist. By the way, their shipping offer is really good. Free international shipping for orders over 35 euros and the delivery is really fast. I placed my order on February 3 and received it on February 10.

I got two carpet pattern and a third pattern I've had my eye on. This third pattern is about the same size as Bramble and the Rose and would make a great accompaniment to it. When I finally get the chance to finish it :P

I decided to kit only one of the carpets just to make sure it's something that I will want to get into. We're talking stitching on 40 count silk gauze with one thread over one. The highest count I've ever stitched one over one is 32 count, so this will be a challenge piece for me.

The carpet I decided to start with is Kaiseri (the left most pattern in the picture above). I love the geometry of the second pattern, but the colors in Kaiseri just pop at you. Reflets de soie has two thread kits for this carpet: Au vers a soie's soie surfine thread or Sajou's Retors du Nord cotton thread. Although the Sajou's cotton is really nice, I decided to go with the silks. I love the shine of silk carpets, don't you? I can't wait to get started on this kit.

I wanted to make sure I had the right needles to stitch on this, so I also got a needle pack. Everything is so prettily packaged.

What's this?

Reflets de soie had included a little extra something in my package :) I love getting surprises like this. That needle minder is just perfect.

I really, really want to start this kit :| But I know I can't! I have to keep up with Pearl Butterfly, finish a baby gift for next week (so far I have a head, torso and one arm). I also have a cross stitch project I need to finish in time for my trip to Washington in April, not to mention my seminar kit should be coming in in about a month and I will be busy with that. I also don't have the right frame for it (as if that ever stopped me).

Side note: Another package came in the mail yesterday. This time books!

If anyone is interested, let me know which book you'd like me to show you and I'll write a post about it.

  • Beginner's Guide to Mountmellick Embroidery 
  • Schwalm Whitework: The Exquisite Regional Embroidery of Germany
  • Kumi Himo: The Essence of Japanese Braiding
  • Portuguese Whitework: Bullion Embroidery from Guimaraes
  • Goldwork Embroidery: Designs and Projects

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pearl Butterfly Lesson 2

We got snowed in this weekend! I dislike snow, except for the time it gives me alone time to stitch ;)

Saturday morning I got the chance to really start working on lesson 2 of Pearl Butterfly. For this lesson, there was more couching to be done this time with a gold twist thread.

The thread was really nice to stitch with and you can bend it this way and that much more easily than the purl pearl. This thread is one of the ones that need to be plunged into the fabric.

To keep things neat, I stitch one wing at a time making sure to plunge and clean up as I went so I wouldn't have any threads snagging. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the back to show you before I moved to the next step.

The final step of lesson 2 is long and short stitch using Au vers a soie silks. I've never stitched with this thread yet. I'd bought some when I was in Paris and I'm so happy I did. The thread is heavenly.

There was a lot of dithering before I started stitching. The last time I tried long and short stitch it didn't go very well at all. It was in 2013 at the Creative Festival and I couldn't figure out how to get my threads looking right. It was a very discouraging experience. I've since read up a lot on the subject and the one thing that stuck in my head (can't remember from where) was this: don't think of it as long and short stitch, think of it as long and longer stitch. And it worked! Maybe at the end of this project I'll finally have the courage to give needle painting another go.

I'm so happy with how it turned out. I still have the lower wings to stitch. This part, by the way, is very tiring. I can only do one wing a day and now that it's the work week I'm not sure how much progress will happen on it. Luckily I have two weeks to do it until the next lesson comes out.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Boring Week

Well this week has been kind of boring. I worked on a few things here and there but nothing I can share on the blog. Thank God Alison has released the next lesson for Pearl Butterfly a day early. The lesson has been printed and the first step done.

In lesson 2, we will be stitching with 2% gold 1 1⁄2 twist and embroidering the white sections of the butterfly with Au vers a soie.

Last night I only marked out the areas in preparation. Hopefully today I can start couching the gold twist. It's really hard to work on this at night. My craft light makes everything too shiny and casts a shadow, so most times I can't even see where I'm stitching.

Monday, February 6, 2017

La Broderie de Perles - De Rose Vêtues Finished

Friday I came home to find not only my bead order from Artbeads is here but also my copy of Inspirations magazine.

And I've already set my sights on another whitework piece ;) This is another Schwalm piece by Deborah Love the same designer as Eidelweiss.

But I digress. So my order of beads coming in means I can go back to working on my bead embroidery piece De Rose Vêtues. The bead I was missing was the green at the middle. I still don't know how I missed it in the first order. I've gone through the beads for the other patterns and double-checked everything so I should be okay now.

The last time I showed this piece I had stitched the pink tulips. I then spent the weekend just staring at it and having the sensation that the color was just wrong.

The sensation quickly turned to dislike as I found the color too close to pepto bismol pink rather than the lovely pastel pink in the original photo.

Luckily when I ordered all the beads, I happened to throw in an extra pink. A habit I find myself doing often when ordering beads ;) The pink is a paler pink than the other one and has a lovely shine to it.

I decided to restitch the flower on the left, since I wasn't very satisfied with it anyways. Side by side, I liked the left one better but just to be on the safe side I decided to put it aside until I got my missing green beads in. That was two weeks ago.

Friday night I started stitching the stems and leaves. This is stitched using the stem stitch. Once I put in the green I was even more convinced that I preferred the pink on the left.

So out came the scissors.

I'm so proud, I was able to do this and not lose a single bead =P When I cut out the left one I lost quite a few to the floor that I was never able to find.

I put in the last bead on Saturday. If I take out the time it took for me to redo each flower twice and the week I had to wait for the beads to come in, this project would have actually taken a day of stitching at most. All the stitches are simple and the beads covered a lot of ground very fast.

Since the piece is so small, I decided to try out a new finishing technique. This is something I've been wanting to do with finishes that I don't want to frame as a frame would be too bulky for storing them. I had even bought an acid free mat board last summer, but I chickened out >.< But after seeing Catherine's blog post it gave me that boost I needed to go forward with the experiment.

I measure out my piece giving a half inch margin on three sides and about an inch at the top and cut a piece of mat. Since my embroidery is already backed with muslin I didn't have to cut another piece to go over the mat board, but I did pull out some fusible wadding. I cut the wadding piece slightly smaller than the mat board so the that embroidery will sit nicely on top of it.

After fusing the wadding to the mat board, I pinned the muslin to the board and started lacing it. I placed a beading mat underneath it so I don't accidentally disturb the beading at the front.

Once it's all been laced, I started stretching and pining the main fabric to the mat board.

I personally like to have the corners mitered. It just comes out much neater that way.

The main fabric is then stitched to the muslin at the back using the Herringbone stitch exactly the same way Catherine did.

I obviously couldn't leave the back like that. Luckily I had a lovely blue-gray satin fabric in my stash. I stitched it to the finished piece using a ladder stitch. The fabric is a little puckered here and there but it looks nice regardless.

The finishing took all afternoon. I think if the piece was bigger I would have done this in stages over a couple of days. I was so tired when I finished framing it that I didn't end up doing anything else that day. Also, I don't think I would use a satin fabric for the backing. It looks lovely but it's very slippery. I'll have to stick to a nice cotton.

I really like how it looks using this finishing technique. I can see why embroidery teachers use it a lot. It's very practical for storage and it looks lovely. I just need to find some acid free plastic sleeves to store it in so it doesn't get dirty.

For this week, I haven't decided what I want to work on. I really want to start another of the bead embroidery patterns from the book, but the next lesson for Pearl Butterfly comes out Thursday. I don't know if it would be practical to start something new. Decisions, decisions...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pearl Butterfly Lesson 1

Friday night, I got the chance to start working on Alison Cole's Pearl Butterfly cyber class. Before I show you my progress on the piece, I wanted to share what an Alison Cole cyber class comes with.

The first thing is obviously the kit.

The kit contains everything you need: fabric with muslin for backing, felt and wool for padding, Gutterman thread for couching, Au vers a soie thread for embroidery, all the goldwork thread and for this project pearl beads.

Other than the typical things you need for embroidery, here are things you definitely need but doesn't come with the kit:
  • Scissors: You need a pair for cutting goldwork. You can use an old pair (never your good ones!) but I bought a pair of scissors with a serrated edge from Golden Hinde which are specially made for goldwork embroidery.
  • Beeswax: This one is very essential! I bought mine from Amazon here.
  • (optional) Mellor: Since I was ordering the scissors, I figured why not get this too. I read it helps with moving and shaping metal thread.
The fabric by the way is GORGEOUS! It's a delustered satin and is great for stitching, especially hiding your tiny stitches in between the weave. I'm definitely going to have to place an order for more of this fabric.

Lessons are published on Alison's website in PDF form. The password to access the lessons is given to you by email when the class begins. For support, you also get a user login to a forum so you can submit questions and get advice. I like to print out my lessons in case I want to add in notes.

So now to start. I first began by tracing the template onto tracing paper.

To transfer it onto the fabric, I got this product by Clover. It works much better than the other product I tried last week.

It's very faint and I did find it hard to see the white on the fabric because it's so shiny. But once I got to applying all the felt it gets easier.

Friday night, I concentrated on transferring the pattern and cutting out the felt pieces.

Saturday I took the time to study up on stitching down felt padding. Luckily I had some great resources:
  • On my tablet is Craftsy's Goldwork class Embroidery: Essential Techniques with Lucy Barter. It's a really excellent class. The class covers every part of goldwork and Lucy shows you exactly how to do each technique from anchoring the thread till the very end when you end the thread.
  • Hazel Everett's Goldwork: Techniques, Projects and Pure Inspiration. This is a great book to accompany the Craftsy class as it contains a thorough explanation of supplies and techniques.
  • Alison Cole's The Embroiderer's Little Book of Hints and Tips. This book is great for those uh-oh moments you experience when you're first starting. Plus it covers both goldwork and stumpwork as those are Alison's specialties.
  • RSN's Goldwork book. It's a nice little book but doesn't have a lot of details. I use it mainly for the picture examples of each technique comparing it to the other books.

The butterfly had two layers of padding.

This part was great fun to do. I really love how it comes out.

Sunday, I started with gold threads for the first time. As we all know Kreinik and DMC metallics don't count. The thread below is pearl purl and comes coiled. It's usually stretched out and then couched as an outline around goldwork designs.

It was really scary touching it for the first time. All the experts kept saying you shouldn't touch them too much. This was repeated so many times, that I was scared to touch it. Having to pull on it made it more nerve wracking!

But I quickly got over it. It's actually quite fun once you get into the rhythm.

I still have the lower wings to do, which should be done before the end of the week and then it's a long wait till the next lesson in two weeks. It will give me time to catch up on other projects.