Thursday, May 13, 2021

Elizabeth Pincushion Doll - Finish

Remember this? At the end of March last year, I was gathering materials for finishing the trunk and then never mentioned it again. There is a reason for that, more on that later. 

For now, I want to share how I did the finish for this lovely porcelain half doll by Brier Rose. I won't be sharing exact measurements here, unless they are pertinent, as those are included in the instructions. However, I did want to share pictures as I found it very hard to follow the instructions. My struggle may help someone else who is also trying to figure it out.

There are three parts:
  1. the underskirt/body of the doll
  2. the skirt, embroidered fabric
  3. the purse

First step is to make the body of the doll. For the base, I cut out a circle of heavy cardstock. I'm not sure what kind this is, it was given to me by a friend who gets them from her husband's work. It's the type used when folding fabric. This circle is centered and glued on top of the green felt. The felt is then gathered and more glue is involved to stick the hem to the cardstock.

Second step is to make the "body" of the underskirt. They give measurements for the fabric, but double check the length to the diameter of your final circle. I used my sewing machine to sew the edges to form a cylinder, but first I folded the edges at the top and bottom and pressed them. The bottom of the cylinder is pinned to the base and stitched together.

For the body, it says to fold the upper hem so you end up with a height measuring 7 inches. I found that 7 inches may have been too much for the height of the skirt I had. I wish I had measured my skirt first and took that into consideration, as I have more green showing beneath the skirt than I would have wanted.

Once the hem is folded, sew along the edge but don't pull yet. This is a good time to put in the stuffing. The body of the doll is meant to be a pincushion, so it needs to be firm.

Third step, I set the body aside to get the half-doll ready. All it needs is a hot glue gun and a wooden stick. I used a chopstick for mine. My chopstick needed to be trimmed (not shown below) so that it fits with the 7 inch height set for the body. Again, something else that I wish was better adjusted.

Step four, stick the half-doll in the stuffed body and gather the hem around it. To maintain the gather, I made a few knots. Then I stitch the doll to the body with the same thread (bottom right picture). The half-doll should sit on top of the gathered hem. 

Now for the skirt. The first thing I needed to do was add a backing. I had some ecru silk dupioni in my stash that was perfect for this. I put the two pieces of fabric, right sides together and pined them. I hand stitched the two pieces together along the sides and bottom, leaving the top open. The instructions say to baste the edges and sew along the basting lines. I didn't do that. Instead, I used the even weave linen as a guide to make sure my line is straight.

Once they're stitched together, I trimmed the edges leaving a hem. Turn the skirt inside out and iron. Fold in the top of the linen and silk. I folded my lined, leaving 6 strands of linen from the stitching, and then matched the silk. I used a ladder stitch to stitch the top edge closed, instead of sewing below the the upper edge. It gives a cleaner finish. 

The instructions also say to leave a small opening on the sides, but I didn't do that. It's meant to be used to gather the skirt, but I could never get it to sit nicely on the doll. After doing some research online, I found a post by California Stitcher that solves this. The stitcher also deviated from the instructions. She ended up stitching below the hem and gathering the fabric (one step instead of the two I did).

So that's what I did, but before I pulling too tightly and finish off the thread I wanted to join the edge of the skirt. This is easier to do while the skirt is still loose. Finish gathering the skirt and knot the thread. The last touch is a bit of ribbon wrapped around the waist and tied in a bow. When I cut the piece of ribbon for the bow, I made sure to get the section with all the green. This helps camouflage the edge of the doll where it meets the underskirt and the skirt.

The last item to finish is the purse. There was no template so mine came out a little wonky. I sort of eyeballed it for the felt and then used it as a template for the rest. The embroidery is glued to a piece of interfacing. The handle and tassel are stitched to it and then this is covered with a piece of ecru wool. I only had white, but as it's on the inside it won't be seen.

Here is the front and back of the "front" part of the purse.

You can tell I got sloppy towards the end. I didn't have a lot of green felt and didn't want to waste what I had to cut another piece that will not be seen from the front.

The purse is meant to hold scissors. I had a pair of petit gold scissors that were perfect for taking pictures.

Now for the eye candy. I asked my sister to take pictures for me. She always plays photographer for my finished pieces and enjoys putting scenes together. We lucked out with the soft lighting.

Now you may ask "But what about the trunk?". It's still there. I actually made it up last year. Looks pretty doesn't it. From afar...

Not exactly pretty when you take a closer look. I ran into a construction issue with the lid. The instructions were really confusing and I'm pretty sure the measurements were off. Like the purse, it would have been more helpful if they had included templates that could be used for tracing. I was so irritated with it, I didn't bother to make the tray that goes inside.

Setting all that aside, the construction of the base is pretty good considering it's my first box. So not a complete fail. I haven't decided if I will write a post about it or not. It might be worth just to log where I failed, if only to help another stitcher.

All in all, I have a pretty finish. I enjoyed stitching with the Gloriana silks. I'd love to stitch another project with them, but I will most likely not buy another Giulia Punti Antichi pattern. A pretty pattern is useless if the instructions that come with it are bad.

Thursday, May 6, 2021



Had lots done last month, so my TUSAL jar has lots of color. Mainly orange from all the work on Karahana. Sadly, except for stitching on the weekend I've been neglecting my stitching. Luckily, Karahana doesn't require a lot of thinking, just lots of mindless couching. I'm currently on the fourth petal.

I do have a finish from last month that I need to share, but I still have to write the post. I'm hoping I'll have more energy (and interest) once we finish Ramadan. Only 7 days left!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Bramble and the Rose - A Disaster and a Finish

This is really a finish and disaster all wrapped in one. I completed the stitching on Bramble and the Rose about a week and a half ago. As this piece has been ongoing for almost 8 years and has been everywhere, it needed to be washed. I was also hoping to get the streaks of purple out from the water bottle accident in 2019.

I did the usual cold water bath with some liquid dove soap (it was the softest I could found at the shops near me). The lines of purple didn't come out so I took the loss and rolled it up in a paper towel to dry.

I like to iron my pieces while they are still a little damp, so about three hours later I unroll the piece and find this disaster.

It immediately went right back into a cold water bath to soak and stayed there for three days. I was obviously in a panic and went to Instagram for advice.

There were many solutions suggested, the one that came back a lot was using a color catcher. I did end up purchasing a box and trying it out, but it didn't change color. By the time I received it, the fabric had been soaking for three days, with a refresh every few hours. There was nothing left to catch but it was good to know 100% that there was no more excess dye.

I did a lot of research on my end as well, on how to save embroidery that's bled and the ice water bath seems to be the best one. You can read more on it here. The most important thing is to be patient and not iron the piece. Once it's ironed, the colors will set and you can't get it out. The soaking process could take weeks. Proof, the little streaks of purple I was willing to leave are now gone because the piece was soaked the time it needed.

A bit more information on the threads I used. It's a cotton overdyed thread by Threadworx. I purchased and started the kit when I was first starting out. I'm pretty sure it's the first dyed thread I used. I've never washed any of my cross stitch projects as they usually contain beads or kreinik threads. They also don't go traveling with me. I've only ever washed whitework pieces before this.

All in all, this was a good learning experience. I initially decided I would never use this thread again (I think I still have a few skeins left unopened), but I don't want to limit myself. Not to mention I plan on stitching the companion piece and I'd like to use a similar thread. There is some literature on Threadworx website that I'll put here for the future:
  1. If you plan on washing the final piece, before starting to stitch: un-skein the thread and soak it for 2-3 minutes in cold water, with 2 tbls. table salt and 2 tbls. vinegar. Remove, blot with a towel and let dry. I'd recommend braiding the thread once it's dry to keep it from tangling.
  2. When the piece is completed, don't wash it in hot water and don't use steam or a damp cloth when ironing, as it could reactivate dyes and cause bleeding.
  3. Throw in a color catcher when washing the piece if you're worried, but cold water should be enough. Leave it to soak for more than a day.
  4. If the threads bleed, soak it in ice water until the colors bleed out. Have some ice cubes ready to rub over problem areas before soaking it again in fresh ice water. Repeat the process until the area is cleared. As I mentioned earlier, this could take many days. I can attest it does work!

Despite the disaster, I'm super happy with the results. I learned something new and know how to solve it. I also have a beautiful piece that is now on display in the living room.

Here's a closer look at the hem. The inner border (12 threads) is wider than the outer border (8 threads), so I went with a double and single peahole. I liked the simplicity of the stitch. The finishing took a while but was well worth the effort. I'm glad my mom suggested it. I was initially going to cross stitch some flowers in the corners but finally decided I like the clean border.

I now find myself with no counted project to work on. Maybe it's time to pull out my hardanger project again to see if I can finish it. Or I may be tempted to start something new, we'll see.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Karahana - Lesson 3

Last Saturday we had our final lesson on Karahana. We had two elements left to cover on this piece. 

The first one is the leaves, there are three total, which are stitched using the woven effect. This isn't a new technique for me as I covered it in Hiogi. It's done in four steps, but instead of silks we used a twisted metal thread.

It looked ok at the beginning but at some point it started looking funny and I wasn't sure it would look good at all.

Thankfully by the time all the steps are done it looks really nice. I still need to outline it in metal thread. That will help hide any imperfections in the shape.

The second and last thing we covered is the single thread "to and fro" technique to complete the petal turnover. This technique is very similar to a basket weave, with some slight differences. Instead of a pair of metal threads, we are using a single strand. We're also going back and forth, turning at the edges instead of ending the threads.

It was really hard getting that first line straight, so I put in a temporary guideline to help me eyeball it.

Another difference from the traditional basket weave is we don't alternate where the thread is couched down after every row. Instead, we're forming rows of 6mm before we change where we couch.

So after four weeks here is where my piece stands. My homework: finish this piece by June. The reason for this is that I have a class scheduled in June and I need the frame. I could buy another frame but I'm not sure our woodworker will be able to get it ready before then. So finish it I must.

Here's my to do list:

  • trefoil stems, I'm still trying to decide if I will do them in #1 gold or #1 twist
  • outline the bottom leaf
  • stitch and outline the other two leaves
  • outline the stem
  • stitch the petals - add spacing and couch round and round
  • stitch the turnovers - add spacing, pad, couch to and fro
  • remove spacing
To throw an added complication, Ramadan started yesterday. If you'll remember I didn't do too well on the stitching side last year. So I'll take it by ear and see what happens.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Karahan - First Petal

I took the day off on Good Friday to extend the long weekend and meet with my Japanese embroidery group. We meet once a month, but there is a smaller group that meets on Fridays and I really wanted to work stitching that first petal.

This petal is the largest of the bunch and needs to get stitched first as we always work from foreground to background. Before starting thought, I put in a thin karayori thread to help maintain the empty space. It's the little purple thread that's sticking out.

Spacing isn't the only important thing in this piece, curves and edges are very important as well. The sharp edges, when stitched correctly and maintained throughout, will give a lovely "vein" to the petal.

It takes a while for it to come out, but after about six rounds it starts showing up. The picture below is my progress from Friday. 

One of my objectives for the long weekend was to complete this petal by Monday, so I continued working on it on Saturday. This was supposed to be a few days work, but I got so into the flow of things that I just kept going. Every time I wanted to stop, I'd look at what was left and just keep going.

Until it was all done. Just to give you an idea, that petal took around 14 hours of stitching. I deeply regret doing it in two days, it's too much goldwork for the eyes. At the same time, the big hurdle is over and the rest of the petals should go a little quicker.

Looking at the list of items to do before class on Saturday, I have the important stuff done. I could work on the stems for the trefoils as I picked up the missing threads. On the other hand, I need a break from this piece so maybe I won't. If I do work on it this week, it would be to put in the karayori thread to prep the petals on either side of the one I just completed.

  • Complete padding the turnover - Done
  • Put in the karayori spacing between the turnover and the petal - Done
  • Start and complete the first petal. Once I start, I have to commit and complete it as we need the #4 gold for lesson 3 - Done
  • Stems for the trefoils elements. I need to pick up some twisted gold for this - threads were picked up
  • Extra: if the first petal is completed and I have time, stitch the curled stem that is next to it
I received a question on my last post from an Unknown commenter, asking where I purchase the patterns and pieces. All the Japanese Embroidery I've worked on so far are phase pieces and can be purchased from the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta. Keep in mind tuition is not included when you buy a kit. If there is interest, I can do a separate post to explain how it works for a student starting up.