The Rosebud Box 3 – SAL Update

May 22, 2016 at 9:36 am | Posted in Embroidery | 11 Comments

As I suspected, last week’s travel left me with quite a bit of stitching time, so I made good progress.

I went from here:


to there:


I got all the flower motifs done as well as most of the blue stitching. I’m currently in the middle of adding the golden trellis stitches. I like the effect, stitching with the metallic thread is a pain nevertheless, but I’ll persist. After that is finished, there’s another row of dark blue half-crossstitches to add, and some blue backstitching. I hope to be able to finish the embroidery part of this project for the next update, then it’s off to the finishing, which I suspect will be a major part of this project.

Here are the other members of the SAL who are posting today. Make sure to check out their work, it’s amazing: Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Wendy, Lucy, Jess, Sue, Kate.

If you would like to join in please contact Avis, who will give you full details.

Afghan Embroidery – How do they do it?

May 8, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Posted in Embroidery | 3 Comments

Last week I had the opportunity to see the Forest for Ever exhibition – one of a series of projects coming out of a German-Afghan non-profit initiative that aims to strengthen and preserve the traditional needlework skills of Afghan women while giving them the opportunity to earn some extra money with their stitching. You can learn more about this project at their website.

I admired the embroidered pieces as well as the creative uses the European needleworkers and quilters had made of them, and as is inevitable at those events, fell in love with a set of embroideries that were for sale together with the invitation to take part in the next such project.

Here’s the piece I ended up with:

Afghan embroidery motifs

While most stitching consists of some variation of satin stitch, these ones were special in using a kind of openwork in the left two motifs, and I think that is what drew me to them. Here’s a close-up of one of them:

Open-Work Apple

Most of the stitches used can be recognized immediately: There’s satin stitch, buttonhole stitch for the edges, some stem stitch and chain stitch for creating lines. Things got interesting when I took a closer look at some of the wider satin stitch areas that were obviously tacked down in some way in the middle. Looking at the variegated areas you can see that the stitch is worked line-by-line and not in several passes.

Afghan fruit with zigzag

When looking at the zigzags on the left, you can see the blue one in satin stitch, and the brown, yellow and green ones below with that little tacking stitch in the middle. When looking at the backside in order to find out how exactly this was stitched, I was surprised that there were no stitches at the backside in the area where the tacking stitches are:

Afghan motif with zigzags - backside

I was stumped for about half a day until I remembered running across a stitch like that when looking for ways to decorate my raw-edge appliqué a while back. I found it in Art in Needlework, a needlework book published in 1900 that I prepared for Project Gutenberg together with other volunteers from Distributed Proofreaders a few years ago. The stitch is fittingly called “Oriental Stitch” there. Looking at the oriental stitch sampler, you can see the same effect we see on the Afghan motifs, especially on letters A, B and C:

Art in Needlework - Oriental Stitch Sampler

Here’s the backside:

Art in Needlework - Oriental Stitch Sampler - Back

And here’s how it is worked:

Art in Needlework - How to work Oriental Stitch

Fits the evidence perfectly, doesn’t it? There’s a reason why I’m passionate about preserving those old needlework books! I don’t think I have seen this stitch anywhere else, and that includes the very thorough Encyclopedia of Needlework.

So, now the riddle is solved, what am I going to do with those pretty little pieces of art? I already have about half of a crazy idea, so watch this space for more!

The Rosebud Box – SAL Update

May 1, 2016 at 9:31 am | Posted in Embroidery | 7 Comments

Not a whole lot to show this time, I fear. Last time I was here:


About 5 minutes after I published the post, I realized that I hadn’t in fact finished the narrow border for the lid – half the metallic embroidery was missing! I added this and promptly was out of motivation to continue for a couple of weeks. I finally got around to at least make a start on the wider border for the box itself and stitched the background for the first of four flower motifs:


I’ll be busy for the next weeks, but there’s some travel involved, and due to its tiny size, this project does travel well, so I hope for some more progress.

Here are the other members of the SAL who are posting today. Make sure to check out their work, it’s amazing: Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Wendy, Lucy, Cathy, Jess, Sue, Kate

If you would like to join in please contact Avis, who will give you full details.


Flanders Lace – another Finish

April 23, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Posted in Lace | 6 Comments

With the weather not being very cooperative right now, I got the chance to finish another project carried over from last year today.

The strip of Flanders lace I started after my vacation to Belgium last year is 110 cm long:

Flanders Lace - Finished

Here’s a closeup, so you can see the details in this delicate lace:

Flanders Lace - Bean Pattern, Detail

The little “beans” are surrounded by a thicker thread, which is one of the characteristic traits of this kind of lace, together with the background patterning. I enjoyed making this very much and am already playing with the thought of making another strip in this technique, with a different pattern.

Embroidery SAL – First Update

April 10, 2016 at 7:49 am | Posted in Embroidery | 11 Comments

I’ve been on a major cleanup spree in my craft room, and while I was at it, I have found several half-done embroidery projects that sat almost forgotten in a box. So, decision time: Finish them or give them away to somebody who appreciates them more? Having made that all-important decision, there’s the additional problem that I need to do something with the intention to finish them instead of putting them back in the box. Accountability to the rescue! Avis has been running an embroidery SAL for a while now, and I’ve been admiring the participants’ progress from afar. Time to join in in the fun and make some progress of my own, I think.

So, the first project I’m working on is a tiny little box kit I bought at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham <cough> years ago: The Rosebud Box. The finished box will be only 4.5 x 4.5 x 3.5 cm large, so you can imagine the tiny scale I’m working on here. But that’s not the reason the project was stalled, as I soon noticed. Here’s the “before” picture, which is actually taken after I did some needed surgery I’ll explain in a minute:


The box lid on the left was already finished, and I had made a start on the sides of the lid on the right. Unfortunately, I had blindly followed directions to leave at least 1.5 cm around the motives on all sides and had started to stitch the lid sides 3 cm to the right of the top. I noticed after a bit that there wouldn’t be enough fabric on the far right to finish the strip. That was the point where I put the thing in a box and forgot about it for a couple of years.

So, before I could start making actual progress, I needed to take out the start of the strip and position it correctly. The red thread in the picture is the guide, and it looks as if there’s enough space after all to get the whole strip in! A few hours of stitching in front of the TV later, and the sides of the lid are actually finished:


It doesn’t look very impressive, and that’s another challenging aspect of this project: There’s a lot of stitching with dark blue thread on dark blue fabric. Working with the metallic thread for the cross-hatching is also fiddly. The thread is fairly high quality, and I’m using much shorter lengths than normal, but I still struggle with it. On top of all that, all the stitching is done with only one strand of embroidery cotton. But I do like the result, so I’ll march on. Next up: the sides of the box, which is a strip of the same width as the strip for the lid, with a smaller version of the flower motif from the lid on each side. Let’s see what I can get done till the next Update!

Here are the other members of the SAL who are posting today. Make sure to check out their work, it’s amazing!

Avis at
Claire at
Gun at
Carole at
Wendy at
Lucy at
Cathy at
Jess at
Sue at
Kate at

If you would like to join in please contact Avis, who will give you full details.

Mexican Bird – New Project!

March 28, 2016 at 9:10 am | Posted in Patchwork, Quilting | Leave a comment

It is almost a tradition by now that my patchwork group uses a couple of days on the long Easter weekend for sewing. Having finished my challenge project for this year, I needed something new to take along. A couple of things came together to create the idea for this one:

First, I got a set of Inktense blocks from my quilting friends as a birthday present. Not generally being somebody who uses paint of any kind on her quilts, I was a bit stumped what to use them for.

Second, I have a couple of beautiful folk art paintings from South America on my living room wall, and a couple of weeks ago my mom remarked (not for the first time) that one of them would make a beautiful quilt:


I agree with the suitablity of this one for a quilt, but wouldn’t want to appliqué all those bits and pieces, and what about those feathers? So when my mom brought this up again a couple of weeks ago, things suddenly clicked. This would be a perfect opportunity to try out my Inktense blocks! There would be some challenges involved, for sure, but I can easily imagine for this to make a very effective quilt. So, I spent most of the weekend making some samples:


Most of the shapes on the original painting are outlined with a dark colour, and I choose to quilt the outlines with dark grey thread. I also got myself a set of Inktense pencils in addition to the blocks, so I would be able to draw finer lines. You can see the lines below the quilting on the frame on the left side of the sample. When dry, Inktense acts a lot like pencil, but to fixate it and bring out the beautiful colours, it must be made wet. When you’re not careful, this can lead to bleeding, which you can most clearly see on the blue shape on the left.

I decided to try to recreate the white shading on the blue leaves and the structure of the feathers by quilting heavily on top of the finished colour field, and I quite like the effect. The colour underneath the white quilted feather is a bit weak on this sample to bring out the quilting nicely, though.

I finished all the painting first on this sample before starting to quilt. In order to possibly contain the bleeding a bit better and to try out a few more things, I created a second sample:


Here I put the grey quilt lines in first, and painted on top of the already quilted piece. My thoughts were that the quilt lines would possibly form a natural barrier for the bleeding, and the batting would soak up some of the water instead of it spreading out into the fabric. This mostly worked, and I like the effect. There’s only a little bit of strong bleeding on the brown twigs at the top. This sample showed me another potential problem, though. The white quilting on the blue leaf on the left suddenly isn’t white anymore, it’s blue! Looks like I need to be very careful to properly fix the pigment into the fabric before quilting on top of it, especially when using white thread. It also matters how much paint I use and in which way: painting with the Inktense sticks on already wet fabric gives a strong colour, but a higher tendency for bleeding out and the necessity to use even more water to fixate the paint.

So, definitely more adventure ahead when making the full quilt, but I have a much better idea now what to be careful of. I have now transferred the whole pattern to the fabric and am currently basting the quilt – it’ll be a few days before I can show much progress!

Challenge 2016 – Let’s go to the Fun Fair!

March 19, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Patchwork | 3 Comments

It’s a tradition by now that our quilt group does a challenge every year for our exhibition. Coming up with themes and fabrics doesn’t get any easier, so this year’s was a bit unusual. Here’s the fabrics we had to use, sorry for completely forgetting to take a “before” picture, so you’ll have to make do with the scraps:


The light green fabric isn’t a traditional patchwork fabric, but a waxed cloth like you’d use for a tablecloth that you can clean easily. The red was selected as a contrast colour for this, and there was a big green bead as well.

With this as a starting point, the result was sure to be very different from last year’s challenge quilt:


The green fabric reminded me of one of those pretty balloons that are for sale at fun fairs, and from there I came to the idea to create an image of the fun fair by night. I used lots of beads and sequins to try and capture all the blinking lights. Here’s a detail of the Ferris Wheel, so you can see the beading a bit better:


As always, I’m trying to make those challenge quilts with materials I already own, as an added constraint. I was pretty good with this one, I think I only bought the dark green sequins specifically for this project.

Embroidery Stitches for Raw Edge Appliqué – Buttonhole Stitch

February 14, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Posted in Embroidery | Leave a comment

As shown in my last post, I’ve been playing around with using different embroidery stitches for securing the raw edges of the reverse-appliquéd circles. The traditional method of doing this is using buttonhole stitch, so let’s start with this one.


Normal buttonhole stitch, simple and effective. But just by varying stitch length and the distance between stitches, we can get different effects:

Here the buttonhole stitches are arranged in groups of two:


Here they are spaced equally, but short and long stitches alternate:


And in the next two examples, both spacing and stitch length are varied for further effects:



What happens when we slant the stitches instead of keeping them perpendicular to the edge?


Another nice and easy to work variation!

I think that’s enough buttonhole stitch for the moment, but there’s more to come next time!

All the Colours of the Rainbow

January 23, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Posted in Embroidery, Patchwork | 2 Comments

I am currently in the process of finishing a project that has been in the works for more than two years. It’s the second in a series that I started after taking a course with Ruth Issett at the Schwäbischer Kunstsommer at Kloster Irsee in 2013. While looking for the post about the first quilt in that series I realized that I didn’t actually ever post a picture of that quilt, and neither have I shown you the things I created at that course! That definitely needs to be rectified. So let’s start with that series I wanted to show you.

The course was named The Puzzle of Colour, and given that title it was no surprise that we discussed the different colours and played with them all week. After returning home, I was full of more ideas to try out, and started to create the bits and pieces needed for this quilt:


You can see that the different rows run through the colours of the rainbow. I layered two adjacent colours on top of each other, created a pattern with running stitches and then cut into the upper layer to reveal bits of the layer below. You can see this a bit better in this detail shot, although I have to admit that this quilt refused to be photographed nicely:


Within the individual rows, the pattern gets larger from left to right. After I finished this quilt, I immediately started to work on another one. This time I was going to explore how the different colours look like with a light, medium and dark background. While it is still a work in progress, the effect is already there:


The coloured fabric is layered horizontally behind the white, grey and black front, and the circles are cut out. While I secured the edges with the sewing machine before cutting them out, this is still basically raw-edge appliqué, and I tidied up those edges with different embroidery stitches. This ended up as another research project, since I tried out many different stitches to see what would work in that function, and what wouldn’t. I’ll go into more detail on my findings in another post. For starters, here’s a close-up of the very first square I embroidered on that quilt:


Thimble (or Money) Pips

January 10, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Other Crafts | 1 Comment

My nieces are not so little anymore, so in addition to their traditional book they tend to get a bit of money from me these days. Since just putting the money in an envelope is boring, I’m always on the lookout for nice ways to package things. Luckily, with enough time left before the holidays, I stumbled over this tutorial for thimble pips.

I immediately realized that those would be perfect to package a bill or two, and I’m sure teenage girls have always a little something to put into a pretty container. So off I went, and here are the results:


Just a few scraps of a pretty fabric are enough to make one of those. They are a bit fiddly, but I followed the tutorial pretty much exactly and they came out great.

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