Posted tagged ‘hand embroidery’

A Fresh Round of Embroidery and Quilting Books

May 5, 2017

I saw a couple of embroidery and sewing books that seemed to have a fresh approach so bought three of them for my collection.


1) Modern Folk Embroidery: 30 Contemporary Projects for Folk Art Inspired Designs by Nancy Nicholson

I have often admired Nancy’s patterns on Etsy, but thought I’d get more patterns in her book so was pleased to finally buy it when it was published. It’s so nice to see books on hand embroidery coming out for new generations who want to pick up the craft.

2) Tilda Homemade & Happy by Tone Finnanger

She is quite prolific and I’ve seen lots of her designs around, but I liked some of her reindeer and pigs and sheep in this.

3) Zakka Embroidery: Simple One- and Two-Color Embroidery Motifs and Small Crafts by Yumiko Higuchi

These are tiny motifs and I was interested in her ideas for small purses using purse frames and embroidery. I have several purse frames on hand so want to use them up. There are lots of small cross-stitch motifs around but not many for hand embroidery, so this looked good for my library.

I was able to buy a new sewing machine, the Janome 9400, and I’m hoping it will enable me to quilt about 12 to 14 quilt tops that are languishing here. I took all the quilts and quilt tops out of the Rubbermaid trunk they’d been stored in for two years while we were selling our old house and moving and they reeked of plastic.

I spent some weeks washing and airing them and bought a nice wooden blanket box to store them. As I was confronted with the old tops, some dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, I felt the imperative to finish them. I cleaned up and reorganized my sewing area and now I have the fabric cupboard to deal with.


There is another Rubbermaid container in there, so I’ll have another round of airing fabric, but I particularly wanted to get my fabrics and scraps organized by colour and sew up some simpler quilt patterns. I have been quilting since 1984 so I have many magazines and books on the subject, and I’ve given away many more but I liked the fresh look of these publications and many of the designs.


1) Sunday Morning Quilts: 16 Modern Scrap Projects – Sort, Store, and Use Every Last Bit of Your Treasured Fabrics by Amanda Jean Nyberg and Cheryl Arkison

2) No Scrap Left Behind: 16 Quilt Projects That Celebrate Scraps of All Sizes by Amanda Jean Nyberg

3) Scraps, Inc. Vol. 1: 15 Block-Based Designs for the Modern Quilter Compiled by Susanne Woods

4) Scraps, Inc. Vol. 2: 15 Block-Based Designs for the Modern Quilter Compiled by Susanne Woods

I am not in good health but things are improving, so I want ideas and projects and happier creative endeavours to look forward to. That should sort me out (pun)!


Another Round of Books and Art

January 28, 2015

With a bit of money coming in February I wanted to get a couple of books I had on my wish list. They weren’t available in used editions for less, so I bought new paperbacks.

Fear by Thich Nhat Hahn is one I’ve been looking at. We have several big things going on this year, the principal ones being selling our house and a cross-country move of 4500 kms. So I need to deal with fear and impermanence, and I can start now in preparing myself!


Mary Corbet on the Needle and Thread blog has been using a book of illustrations to do up a large surface embroidery piece on linen. The book is Secret Garden by Johanna Basford, an illustrator from Scotland. I was interested in using snippets of this as inspiration for small embroideries.


As well as larger motifs she has a charming mix of smaller motifs and trees, birds that I liked. Here is a partial look at a page:


I love line drawings and ordered this book and another one called Animal Kingdom: Color Me, Draw Me by Millie Marotta that I had been saving up for. She is an artist from Wales and has so many birds, animals and flora in this that it really knocked me out.


As an example here is a beautiful heron, I am nuts about herons. I can see where filling something like this in with embroidery would be a knockout, particularly in subtle, heron-like shades of blue, cream, grey, and beige.


The one that decided it for me was her exquisite moths. I like anyone who draws moths and to interpret these in embroidery on a small coin purse or handbag really interested me. I’m not sure if she has a full page or single motifs of several moths but there is so much you could interpret in thread for these in beautiful greys, taupes, browns, and creams or a bit of red and blue—whatever.


These books will be on back-order for some weeks, which gives me time to save more money, but they are some of the only illustrations I have seen that just thrill me for interpretation in fabric and thread.


Little Turtle Pin Cushion

November 20, 2014

I have been wanting to make this for months and finally found an excuse when I was reviewing a pretty deck of cards with artwork of animals. It was designed by Kathy Shaw from Shawkl Designs and is a free pattern.

I decided my turtle would be a sea turtle and chose sea green and reedy looking fabrics accordingly. I suppose he really looks more like a tortoise but that’s imagination for you. Gus is wondering about the mess on the drafting table behind him, wondering why I don’t tidy it up. It’s a mystery of life Gustifer, just swim with it, roll with those breakers of baffling human behaviour.


Gus’s underside.


His name is Gus for two reasons: When a friend’s husband was dying of a brain tumour and had gone into hospice care, he said his little dachshund Gus (who had died some time before) came to visit him. I suppose the tumour was pressing something in his brain and caused the hallucination, but it has always been my hope that perhaps it WAS little Gus and he had come to comfort his Dad.

His is also named Gus for Gus Ryder, the swimming coach of Marilyn Bell, the first person to swim Lake Ontario in 1954. My Mother had a terrible fear of water and if she couldn’t touch ground when in the water she would cry and start to shake. So every time she went in the water she would invoke a bit of swimming advice from Gus Ryder and toodle around doing the breast stroke.

Here’s to Dan and Isabel, two great people no longer with us. Gus is for you.

I wanted the pincushion to be a bit smaller so I printed it at 70%. I had fun embellishing it with silk ribbon and various silk and cotton threads and beads. The nice aspect of a project like this is that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s a useful object, no matter what it ends up like.


Here is Gus with the Turtle card from The Messenger Cards by Sandra Kunz, the card that inspired me to sew him. Oh, it looks like a small figure of a sea turtle has come to join him in the celebration.


Swim on in the Sea of Life Gus.




Helen M. Stevens Embroidery Books

November 2, 2014

You would never know it, but I was a passionate quilter for 30 years before I became interested in doing more embroidery, principally because quilting now hurts my back and knees. I still quilt but not as passionately; I will always quilt.

I’ve been looking for embroidery books by Helen M. Stevens because she does so many animals, birds, plants, and insects. Some of her books are quite pricey, even on the secondary market. Her book on embroidering birds is an astronomical price. That’s the one I wanted but it’s not available at a reasonable price.

One of my new embroidery books recommended two of her titles on the inside back cover, and when I looked them up I found older editions for about $1 from various UK booksellers. So I ordered the two for a total cost with shipping of $13 CAD. As I found with several other titles I recently bought used, older editions are available at a much, much lower cost.


I have bought several art history books in older editions. It doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m not paying a premium price for them. I find it uplifting to look at history and creative books but the edition isn’t important for my purposes.



My Final Kick at the Book Can

September 4, 2014

These are the last ones I’ll be able to buy for a long time due to having limited retirement funds. In an effort to cover all the bases of emotion and health I used a recommendation from another blogger to buy these books:


1) Living with Your Heart Wide Open: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Unworthiness, Inadequacy & Shame by Steve Flowers and Bob Stahl

2) Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness & Compassion Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear and Panic by Jeffrey Brantley

3) Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment by Ezra Bayda. I ordered this on inter-library loan first and liked it so much that I wanted my own copy.

4) Buddha’s Book of Sleep: Sleep Better in Seven Weeks with Mindfulness Meditation by Joseph Emet. I refer to my bed as “the pit of torture” due to insomnia and chronic pain, so here’s hoping this gives me a way through that.

Since I am doing so much embroidery lately and have extensive stashes of thread and ribbon, I thought I’d buy a new book on crazy quilting. I do like this sort of thing for purses, but I’m not too keen on quilts using this technique. Small items look great to me. What I liked about this book is that she actually tells you what needle to use with what thread and has some inventive insects and animals to embroider. She also uses a lot of beading and silk ribbon and I have tons of that on hand.

5) Foolproof Crazy Quilting by Jennifer Clouston


These were on a separate order from some time ago but they both have interesting information on colour and technique.

6) Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color by Felix Scheinberger. Scheinberger’s book was originally published in German and he has a very European approach, and an interesting technique with colours which is bold. I like the storytelling aspect he speaks about too.


7) Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques by Thomas Thorspecken. “Composition, line work, color, mood, speed and impact for sketching buildings, people, cars, bikes, streets, public spaces, and the world that surrounds you.”


Both books are similar to what I have, but a bit heavier on staying loose and colour. I like illustration books more than painting books so I like to have a few of these. They are great for browsing through and simply enjoying the art of other people.

I could probably enjoy the art of other people in the books I own for 1,000 years, but I do like a visual!



Choosing Colours for Embroidered Purse Flap

August 23, 2014

I am trying the Valdani perle and wanted to buy some Presencia Finca perle to try too but with shipping it was too much money for 3 balls. The shipping cost almost $17 (more than the $12 order), so it’s well above my means. Canada Post is going to put many small business owners out of business at those rates.

Fortunately I had the manufacturer’s registration marks for all the colours on the selvedge of the main fabric. From there, I pulled out several suitable colours which you can see in the top tier.


Top tier from left to right:

Valdani perle cotton #12 – Maroon Moss – 524
DMC 154 – Red Vy Dk
Valdani perle cotton #12 – Rich Plum – 86
Anchor 218 – Pistachio Green Vy Dk
DMC 3350 – Dusty Rose Ult Dk
Weeks Dye Works Hand Overdyed Cotton – Rum Raisin – 1270
DMC 367 – Pistachio Green
DMC 502 – Blue Green
DMC 598 – Light Turquoise

On the bottom tier are a few odd things to mix in for a bit of zing. I find threads that are too matchy-matchy lack zip so I like to mix in some subtle blends and pops of colour.

Bottom tier left to right:

Silk Twist #12 – Vicki Clayton/Hand Dyed Fibers – Holly Berry
Silk Twist #12 – Vicki Clayton/Hand Dyed Fibers – Pansy
DMC 208 Lavender Vy Dk
Threadworx 1083 Hand Overdyed Cotton – 1083 – Romantic Wedding

I am using the Valdani Maroon Moss with occasional dashes of DMC 154 (which is a deep purple-red) for the variegated outlining in chain stitch and single or double stem stitch. So far it looks great, I like the extra subtlety of the DMC adding a purplish tone among the black and maroon of the Valdani.


I managed to scrounge up a package of proper crewel needles. I was finding the needles I had were shredding the Valdani, so needed something bigger with a large eye. I am slightly disappointed in the Valdani, nothing really beats the sheen and durability of DMC floss, and they have such a gorgeous palette of colours.



Finally That Handbag!

August 21, 2014

I bought the purse pattern A Pocket Full of Sunshine by Natalie Ross in April 2013, and hauled it out again in May 2014. After buying embroidery patterns from Kate & Rose, I realized I wanted to use them instead of the pattern that came with the the Natalie Ross pattern. Then I got sidetracked making practice pieces and a birthday present but I’m back to this now since I need a new purse for winter.

I felt the patchwork and ruffles were a bit cutesy for what I wanted, so I’m cutting the purse in two main prints only. The main black print with the grapes and leaves is a lovely, heavy polished cotton I bought to make decorative pillows ten years ago. I never made them because I knew the cats would wreck them, so it sat until a recent re-discovery. It’s perfect for an autumnal purse.

I found her flap pattern slightly off in symmetry from left to right, so I scanned the right half into Photoshop and flipped it to get a second side, and re-did the labels and got rid of the distracting linework for the embroidery. After printing and taping the two sides together, I glued it to a heavy board for tracing onto fabric and batting.


I outlined the template onto tracing paper so I could use the printed motifs from the Kate & Rose Bewitching Botanicals, and move them around to decide how to place the embroidery on the flap.


Having finished, you can see that it’s less twee, a bit more classic than the original embroidery design. I’m in my fifties, I don’t do cute.


Serendipity: I decided to flip the design when tracing it on my flap fabric, a softly monochromatic botanical print. I traced the outer line in a fine permanent marker since it will eventually be cut off and I used an HB pencil for tracing the motifs. I needed a fairly dark line in order to see it on the coloured fabric. I placed it to get the print of the fabric to fill in some of the open areas at left and right to balance the entire look of the flap.


The soft green is a quilting cotton but it seemed a bit light so I decided to baste a layer of thin cotton batiste under it since this will be fairly heavily embroidered. I basted around the motifs and edges of the flap to keep it from puckering.


I tested it in my embroidery hoop and it seems to be nice and flat, so I’m ready to go. I will be trying out my new Valdani perle cotton for outlining this, so it’s exciting to finally get going.


I use a 6-inch hoop because I’ve tried larger ones and just don’t get the tautness and control I need. Embroidery frames are hard for me to use with my tendinitis, so I use what works for me. This little hoop and I have created many interesting things over the last two decades.