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Thursday, 5 October 2017

Tutorial- free machine stitch with soluble stabiliser

Hi Everyone,
Last time I posted I showed you a free machine embroidered leaf which I had stitched using water soluble stabiliser and promised a step by step tutorial. Well, here it is! This time I made a butterfly.

You will need

organza or other fine fabric
soluble stabiliser with adhesive backing
machine embroidery hoop
sewing machine with feed dogs lowered and a walking foot

The first thing you need to decide is what image you are going to make. For this technique I feel that something delicate is appropriate. Maybe a decaying leaf, insect or a flower. You probably have ideas of your own and I would love to know what you create.

First you need to draw the image on to the stabiliser. If the image is complicated or you are not confidant at drawing I think you could probably trace something as the stabiliser is quite thin.

Next peel off the sticky backing and adhere to your fabric. Being careful to avoid
creases in your fabric.
Here is mine in the hoop. The image needs to be well away from the sides of the hoop or the sewing foot will catch. If the whole image does not fit don't worry as you can re position within the hoop as you go. Be sure to lower the feed dogs on your machine and if possible use a walking foot. You need to be able to move the work in every direction not just forwards and backwards.
Next stitch around your pencil outline. I prefer to use black or a dark coloured thread. Be aware that the bobbin thread will show through when you have finished so make sure it is the same colour as the top thread. If you want to make gradual colour changes you can do this by keeping the bobbin thread the same and changing the top thread only. As you may see in this photo I had some problems with my tension at first. I usually stitch on felt and had to tighten the bobbin for this much thinner work.
When you have completed the area in the hoop move to the other area.
Next comes the colour. Begin to fill in your image one colour at a time.
Continue with each colour in turn until your image is complete. Don't try to cover every tiny gap. Those tiny gaps create the delicate, lacy effect. You should, however try to ensure that your stitches all meet up with another stitch especially around the edges.
Can you see the light shining through the small gaps I have left?
Almost there now. Remove the work from the hoop and fill a sink or bowl with warm water. Immerse the whole piece in the water. The paper will magically dissolve and you will be left with your embroidery on the fine fabric. You can soak for a fairly short time and the embroidery will retain some stiffness which can be a good thing if you want it to stand proud when you mount it. The leaves I made were only sewn to the paper down the centre vein. If you want your work to be soft you may have to soak several times in clean water.
Here is my embroidery once the paper has dissolved.

Now leave it to dry and then carefully cut the excess fabric away. I prefer to use small embroidery scissors for this as it can be quite fiddly and you need to be sure not to cut the stitching.
Here she is all dry and cut free from the surrounding fabric! I haven't decided if she will be part of a felt, mounted on Khadi paper and framed or perhaps be turned in to a brooch. I will be sure to let you know what she becomes when she grows up.
One last thing I should mention is that it is possible to use this method to create an embroidery with no fabric at all. Your stabiliser will not need to be sticky and you must be absolutely sure that all of the stitches interlock.
Have fun and if you have any questions please feel free to ask.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Free machine stitching with soluble stabiliser

Hi everyone,
Recently I have been experimenting with water soluble stabiliser. It's really useful to create something light and lacy with free machine embroidery. I wanted to create some autumnal leaves and thought it would be perfect. Here are some photo's of  one. Framed and a close up.
I used white organza as a base which peeps through the stitching and gives the effect of a light dusting of frost sparkling on the leaf. They are mounted on Khadi paper which has a wonderful texture and is made in India from recycled cotton rags. Although they could just as easily be mounted on fabric this creates a nice contrast. If you would like to see more photos pay a visit to my etsy shop.

I plan on making more and will take step by step photos so I can post a tutorial for anyone who wants to give it a  go.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

studio and craft room organization.

Hello everyone. Today I thought I would give you a peek in to my studio and tell you about an easy, inexpensive storage solution I found on pinterest. First I will show you a video of my studio. Apologies for the grainy images.

As you can see, I have separate areas for felting and stitching. That way I have the luxury of leaving half finished projects out. I love the simple merino storage. It's just a rod suspended on cup hooks with the merino batts draped over the rod. I can see what I have at a glance and the vibrant colours really brighten the room up. I have a big, old cabinet for paperwork, mounts and general bits and pieces. Did you notice the under stair shelving? That is what I want to tell you about.

Until last weekend all the baskets , the old sewing machine, Gloria (the mannequin) and everything else were scattered around the worktops in my studio. I even had some under the table and to be honest it looked a mess! I couldn't find things and always seemed to be moving things from place to place to make room. So I visited my favourite inspiration site - Pinterest.

There were loads of amazing and very inventive storage solutions but many were not suitable for my needs and others were just too expensive. Until I came across this brilliantly simple idea.
 Apple crates!

They could, of course , be arranged in different ways but this fitted well into that wasted space. They cost 6.00 each from a local hardware shop. All I did was sand them down and give them a couple of coats of clear varnish. They could be secured together but I wanted the freedom to be able to move them and rearrange them. They are firm and stable just as they are.
Can you see Gloria looking after the knitting needles?

The neat little chest of drawers was a plain Ikea one which I painted years ago. Perfect for stationary.
I hope this has given you some ideas on how to sort your craft room out.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Hand spun art yarns now in my shop!

I have a confession to make. I have become addicted to spinning designer art yarns!

This is quite a long post so get a cuppa and sit down. I will tell you how this came about.

It's almost shearing time and I decided to use up last years fleece I would spin it and make myself a cosy sweater for next year. I learned to spin about 20 years ago but have always found it a bit boring. Felt making is much more exciting. I spun my yarn. Just a plain white 2 ply with some hand dyed pink and blue stripes for a bit of interest and knitted my sweater. I've never been a great knitter but to my surprise discovered I have finally learned enough patience to finish something and in about 4 weeks had my cosy sweater.

Then some friends in the village asked if I wanted any alpaca fleeces because they had some spare. I didn't want them to go to waste so said yes and ended up with a white fleece, a brown fleece, a beige one and a black one! My next door neighbor also has a few sheep and also spins but knew she wouldn't use the fleece before shearing and hey presto I have ANOTHER fleece to spin!

This was getting silly. Am I mad? Better make another sweater. This time I carded the brown alpaca with some brown soay which I had left. I also found some light brown shetland in my stash and threw that in the mix. I ended up with a rather nice tweedy sort of brown. I dug out a spinning book that has been gathering dust for years and found a yarn which the author had spun using a hand spun singles plied with a fine commercial thread. Mmmm I have a mill end of rust, silk fibre on the shelf. I plied my tweedy brown hand spun singles with the rust silk and ended up with a really nice yarn!

After knitting the front of my sweater I decided that it needed something to jazz it up a bit but don't like knitting fancy stitches or dealing with multiple balls of yarn so I scoured the internet for ideas. This is when I discovered ART YARN. Perfect. Lots of texture and multiple colours all in one ball. However, when I looked more closely they were too - well big. Too thick and too much texture to look right on my sweater so I decided to make my own. Lots of reading and many you tube videos later I  began. Of course I wanted to try lots of techniques and experiment with adding silks and Wensleydale locks and..........

I ended up with this lot
They are all beautiful. Chunky but not too thick to knit, crochet or add to a weaving comfortably. 
I think these are my favourites
Or is it these?
It would take me a month of Sundays to use all of these yarns and I 'm still spinning so I've added a new section to my shop for them. If you need to expand your stash or want something for a special project visit the new yarn section by clicking here       so far I've only listed a few but more will be coming in the next few days. Happy creating!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Bed hangings - to keep out the cold!

I was recently asked to make some felt bed hangings for a little girls bed which was in a drafty room. The customer had previously commissioned a picture for the side of the bed and now wanted one for the head end and one for the feet end. Each one had to be 102cm x 68cm .

We had a lot of fun designing them together and these are the results.
Felts of this size require an awful lot of rubbing and rolling and certainly gave my arms a workout! I'm sending them off tomorrow and hope she loves them.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

How to make a hexie quilt using English paper piecing.

Today I thought I would give you a little tutorial on English paper piecing.

I used to make lots of quilts but my favourites are getting worn and needing to be patched so I decided to make a new one. There's nothing quite like snuggling down with a quilt on the sofa on a cold winters night to watch a good film. I have made some 'clever' quilts in my time with intricate designs but realised that I prefer the plainer, more traditional ones so I decided to go with a scrap hexaginal quilt with a vintage feel to it. It turned out I didn't have enough scraps so I did end up buying fabric but only in fat quarters to retain the scrappy feel.

This method of quilt making is not for the faint hearted or anyone that wants a quilt in a hurry. It's a slow process but if you enjoy hand stitching it can be pleasurable. It is also very portable!

Many of these quilts are made with tiny hexagons but I didn't want a UFO on my hands so I have used hexagons with sides that measure 3 inches. This is how far I've got so far. It is about five feet long and still has some growing to do.
Paper templates are the first thing you need. Each one needs to be the size you want the finished patch to be, without seam allowences. These can be purchased already cut or you can make your own. I prefer to make my own and use paper from old magazines. If you decide to make your own and don't know how to draw a hexagon there are many tutorials online. I would suggest that you make a template from cardboard and use that to draw around. If you draw around papers that you've already cut they will slowly get bigger.

Next you must cut your fabric out. To get the correct size pin a paper template on to the reverse side of your fabric and cut it about 1/4 inch larger.
Now using the paper template as a guide turn the edges of the 
fabric and stitch to the paper with large tacking stitches in a contrasting thread. These stitches will be removed later.

Before you know it you will have a stack of hexagon patches basted to paper and ready to be joined!
This is the tricky bit! Hand stitching is not usually as strong as machine stitching so your joining stitches must be tiny and very close together. 
Take two patches and place right sides together. You need to stitch along the edge where the fabric turns over the paper. Try not to stitch in to the paper. I have used a neutral cotton on this quilt but if you are using strong colours you may need thread to match. Use a good quality thread which is strong. I always make two stitches in the corners or even a blanket stitch as this will be the weakest point and more likely to come apart as construction commences. I've taken a photo of the tiny stitches but am not sure if they will be clearly visable.
You can join your hexies in rows or you may prefer to start with a central patch and work out from it. Remember every time you come to a corner to add an extra stitch or two for strength. When a patch is joined to another one on all sides you can undo your taking stitches and remove the paper. Do not remove the papers from the outer edges which have not yet been joined to another patch.

Whilst you are stitching all of your patches together you will have plenty of time to think about edges and borders. I intend to have a plain, cream border and then some more patches outside that but haven't decided on the edge yet. It can be squared up or left with a sort of zig zag edge which is what you get with the hexagons. If you want the edge squared up at any time. Either for joining a border or for the edging you will need some half hexagons to fill in the spaces. Just cut your papers in half and proceed as normal.

Before you embark on a project of this kind I recommend that you search for images of hexagon quilts because there are many patterns which can be made from them. Pinterest is always a good resource.

Oh yes I forgot to mention that I wanted my quilt to be a little different and slightly quirky so a few of the patches are made up of more than one piece of fabric. Some almost look like crazy quilting. I have kept this to a minimum but they are there on close inspection. See if you can spot any in this pic.
If you have any questions please ask in the comments box and I would love to see your creations as well. I will keep you updated but don't hold your breathe because it will take some time.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Different types of felt

My blog has been sadly neglected for a while but I'm now trying to get back on track.
Many people are confused about the difference between craft felt, needle felt, wet felt and nuno felt so I thought I would explain the differences for you.

                                                             Craft felt

We are all familiar with craft felt. It comes in brightly coloured squares and is often used in card making. This is actually not made from wool as true felt is. It is made by machine using man made fibres. Great for using with children and an affordable option for collage and crafting but not great quality.I don't have a photo of craft felt because I never use it.

                                                              Needle felt

Needle felting is a fairly new method of making felt. It is made from wool and made by repeatedly stabbing a special needle with a barbed end in to the felt to tangle the fibres together. The more you stab the firmer and more stable the felt becomes.

The wool is easier to place and keep in the position you want it. It is not messy. It does not require too much energy and can be done sitting down.

The fibres are not permanently tangles together. If you pull them they can come apart. This is not a problem if you are buying a piece of artwork to go behind glass but I would not recommend using it for unprotected artwork or anything else that could get snagged. Anything made by needle felting has lots of tiny holes in it from the needle being inserted.

Wet felt
Wet felted wool is the oldest known textile to man. It predates woven fabric and has been found in ancient tombs. It is made from wool. The woolen fibres are placed in layers and covered with a net to hold them in place. Warm water is then poured over them and soap rubbed in. The whole lot is then rubbed with the hands to tangle the fibres together. It is then rolled up in a bamboo mat like a swiss roll and rolled backwards and forwards to add extra strength. It is then rinsed in cold water and thrown repeatedly on a table until the density required is achieved.

Wet felt is extremly strong and can not be pulled apart or torn. The fibres are permanently bound together to the extent that it can even be used to make shoes or slippers. Artwork can be displayed in any way prefered. With or without glass It has a smooth appearance. It can be stitched on both by hand and machine without clogging the sewing machine up with loose fibres.

It can be a messy job with water getting everywhere. It requires quite a lot of effort and needs the maker to be able to stand. The fibres are more difficult to control when making detailed work.

Nuno felt
Nuno felt is a term used to describe woollen fibres wet felted on to fabric. It can be on both or just one side of the fabric and is made in exactly the same way as wet felted as described above but with the addition of a layer of fabric.

This method enables the maker to make a very strong yet lightweight fabric which drapes well. It is perfect for clothing.

It is not suitable for detailed work. There is more shrinkage than the other two methods described. It is even harder work than ordinary wet felting.

I hope that this post has been informative but if you have any question please do not hesitate to ask in the comments box and I will be happy to answer.