Thursday, June 14, 2018

"In the Garden"—Hydrangea

The gardens are bursting forth with blooms as the first day of summer rapidly approaches. This month's block in our In the Garden BOM series is the Hydrangea. I (Teri) have always loved the bountiful blooms of a hydrangea, and I am particularly partial to the blue/purple ones. I was excited to create these flowers, capturing their dimensional beauty.

We will be creating the mophead or French variety of hydrangea, the most common type. It has a large, rounded flower head that is composed of many single blossoms. I cut my purple wool into a pile of one-inch squares, each of which became a single flower.


I folded each square in half and cut a small triangle, curving a bit, from the fold toward the top, as pictured above, and then repeated on the bottom of the fold. 

I opened the square and folded it in the opposite direction, and repeated to create the shape pictured on the left, making a pile of petals. You may choose to use a variety of purples or blues and mix them together; I chose two colors. The petals were set aside. (I did not worry about keeping the colors separate; I just made a randomly mixed pile.)


After cutting out the leaves, I placed them on the background and attached them by embroidering the veins.  Since they were not fused or appliquéd, it helped to give a bit of puff or dimension to the leaves.



Now, I was ready to create the blooms. My first thought was to give the flower heads a lot of dimension, so I basted concentric circles of batting to the area where the flowers would be stitched. This way, the center of the flower would be higher than the outer edges. In theory, this was a great idea. And it worked to achieve that end, but in hindsight, white batting was not the best choice.




I gathered my pile of petals, a matching thread, and the beads I had chosen for the center, and I started to stitch them onto the batting base, randomly picking petals of different colors, not planning it out too carefully. To be sure that the white batting didn't shine through, I had to stitch them pretty densely. It really did give them dimension; in fact, they almost appeared to be spherical in shape.




The shadow indicates the dimension of the finished flower.

The finished block...first time around

I loved the block, and the roundness of the hydrangea blooms were pretty realistic, but as I looked at it beside the other blocks, I thought I might just have a bit TOO much dimension. It didn't seem to balance the other blocks, appearing a bit too heavy. So while this method would be a viable option for making the block as a stand-alone project, like a framed block or a pillow, it needed a bit less density for the quilt we are planning for our In the Garden blocks. So I made another one.

This time, I just used one circle of purple wool as a base for the flowers, so that I didn't have to worry about the color shining through. This meant that I didn't have to pack those blossoms as tightly together, which also meant the beads could be seen better.

The finished block, the second time around.

This time, the hydrangea didn't outshine the other blocks, balancing the overall dimension nicely. 



This past weekend, I taught the Hydrangea class at Primitive Homespuns Wool & Needleworks, in Frederick, Maryland. As always, I learn as much as I teach in these classes—sometimes more! We were discussing what we might do with the pile of little wool snippets left over from snipping our squares into petal units. One lady, Deborah, thought she would like to add the extra dimension and stuffed some of those wool scraps behind her purple base before basting in down. What a brilliant idea! It worked rather well, we all agreed.

There is nothing better than enjoying the company of sister-stitchers and getting to know new people while doing something you love. We shared many stories and laughs through the afternoon.

An almost-finished flower. Another happy "mistake" on my part: I had used size 6 beads, but I was unable to find them in that size for the class, so I provided size 8 beads. It turns out that it was a far better size to use, because they are a bit more visible. Yay!

Nancy, proudly showing her first flower, all finished!!

It's never too late to join us In the Garden! All the patterns are available on our website (www.needleseyestories.com), and the hard copies of the patterns include any ribbon needed to complete the block. To read more about our other blocks in the series, click on the links below.



Thursday, June 7, 2018

Throwback Thursday and a Free Pattern

Sometimes it's fun to take a look at the past and remember the different steps in a journey. The first pattern we listed on our website, Marcia's Flowers, came about through the inspiration of a friend's jacket. From that same inspiration, we also created a needle book that we gave to the owner of the inspirational jacket. This Friday, I (Kara) am going to be teaching a class in Germany, using that same needle book pattern. I could never have imagined, when stitching the first needle book, that two years later, I would be sharing it and teaching wool appliqué on a different continent!

As I put together this second needle book, I knew that I wanted to create a more earthy palette than the previous one. Kelly, at DKW outside of Munich, provided some lovely wool from which to choose, and the second version of the needle book was finished.



Wool appliqué is not much of a thing in our area of Germany, so I am on a quest to create a few more converts. With that in mind, my friend Karen, has offered to host a mini-class in her home, and we have  five ladies ready to learn. Because some people prefer a bright palette, I have put together two different kits.

Earthy palette
Bright palette























The kit all ready to go!

Hopefully the ladies will fall in love with wool and the wonderful things you can do with it. We thought it might be fun to re-post the original story about the jacket and its inspiration—and you can still download the free pattern/design! You can use the design for a needle book or whatever you like.

Teri and I have had a wealth of experiences since we began Through the Needle's Eye and hopefully you have enjoyed reading about them. Please enjoy our little trip down memory lane!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Progress In the Garden


I (Teri) love to spend time in my garden, or in any garden, for that matter! My garden is much different in our new home, but one thing remains constant: I have portulacas planted along my sidewalk—a long-standing tradition as a tribute to my great-grandparents' garden. (See A Walk Through the Garden.) We have had a rather odd spring this year, with warm temperatures late in arriving and such a plethora of rain that sunshine is sparse. But my hostas and coneflowers are huge and already sporting flower buds, so they must be happy. And when my garden is happy, I'm happy!    
        

Kara and are are always looking to gardens for inspiration for our stitching, as I'm sure you've noticed if you have been following our two block-of-the month series. Our In the Garden series is really coming along! Have you been stitching along with us? We know quite a few who have ordered each pattern, and are likely wondering what we have planned for them. Well, the time has come for us to start assembling them into a quilt! We have only two blocks left to complete (four more to release), but we thought you might enjoy seeing the progress thus far. And it is never to late to jump on board the garden wagon!!


Let's take a peek at the quilt progress. The captions include links to the original post with more about the blocks. It has been such fun seeing the blocks go together. I can hardly wait until it is finished!

A mix of seasons! This section of the quilt includes the next two patterns to be released:
 Hydrangeas in June and the Butterfly Bush in July.



Such a colorful garden!

"in the Garden"—Hummingbird and Fuchsia




    


    





I'm getting so excited to finish putting it all together; but alas, I have to take a short break—to work on our new designs for the Academy of Appliqué . . . so many fun things to do. We have such a "hard" job!! I wouldn't trade it for the world!

So, here is our quilt top at this point, with floor shining through where the two missing blocks will go. One is made and en route from Germany, and the other is still in progress. It won't be long now!

 

We would so enjoy it if you would join us In the Garden! Patterns are for sale on our website (www.needleseyestories.com) and are available in digital format as well as in hard copy, which includes the ribbon needed to complete the block. Oh, and fear not, we do plan to create a quilt pattern, with directions for assembling the quilt from all your blocks. Of course, you may wish to create smaller projects from your blocks, which is another garden path you can take.

Hope to see you In the Garden!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Free Block of the Month 9—Poppy

Everything is green, green, green, here! It seemed as if I (Kara) blinked, and all the trees had leaves. The orchard and fields are laden with wildflowers of all kinds—buttercups, daisies, yarrow, and so many more. On each walk with the dogs, I discover a new flower in bloom.















With so many flowers to choose from, it was a bit difficult to decide on this month's block; however, when I saw this patch of poppies the other day, I knew that they would win the monthly flower contest.

Such a vivid red!

Cotton Block 

Our guild had a yard sale the other night, and one of our members was selling her silk collection. Of course, I had to help her out by buying a few pieces. She had a beautiful red silk that was perfect for a poppy. 

Poppy bud out of green cotton
Appliquéd and ready for embroidery.

Doing the black pistils around the center seed head in turkey work, was a no brainer as that stitch with black wool or alpaca,  would be perfect. You can watch a great video tutorial on that stitch here.

I drew a small circle in the center. 
Turkey work loops done around the drawn circle.

Loops clipped and ready for a trim
I trimmed carefully and separated the strands to fluff them.

I knew I wanted the seed pod in the center to be dimensional, so I created a stuffed seed pod with a few stitches, some gathers, and a little poly-fill.






I cut a small 2" square of green fabric and used a slightly smaller than 1" circle to trace around the outside and inside of the circle. (I used Karen Kay Buckley's perfect circles.)














I used pencil for the outside circle and white for the inside circle.

















Using the inner circle as your guide, make 6 straight stitches, forming a star shape as shown.

















Trim excess fabric around circle.














With strong thread take running stitches around the outside edge of the circle to gather. 

Add a small amount of poly-fill before gathering, and then pull stitches tightly. 












Take a few stitches through the gathers to secure them. 

Knot off your thread but leave your needle threaded.
















Attach the seed pod to the poppy by taking the needle through to the back.

Take 2-3 stitches to secure, making sure to catch the fabric of the seed pod with your stitches.

















Using two strands of light green floss, make a series of straight stitches on the poppy bud as shown.











Finished cotton block poppy

Stitches and Threads Used (Cotton Block)

Stem—Painter's Threads, 4mm silk ribbon, Cezanne: stem stitch
Pistils—Black, alpaca, sock-weight yarn: turkey work
Seed pod and bud—Weeks Dye Works, Dried Sage, 2 strands: straight stitches

Wool Block

The wool block was put together the same way, although I used a chain stitch with perle cotton for the stem, instead of a stem stitch with silk ribbon. 

I love this bright, hand-dyed, wool from DKW.
Chain stitched stem with #8 perle cotton.

Finished block

Stitches and Threads Used (Wool Block)

Stem—#8 perle cotton, variegated green: chain stitch
Pistils—Black, alpaca, sock-weight yarn: turkey work
Seed pod—Weeks Dye Works, Dried Sage, 2 strands: straight stitches
Bud—Gentle Arts Simply Wool, Dried Thyme: straight stitches

Poppies are so cheerful, and this block goes together quickly. Hopefully you will enjoy stitching this little bit of brightness and will add it to your flora and fauna collection. Only three more blocks to go in our series. If you have stitched any of the blocks, we would love to see them!

You can download the Poppy block HERE

To see the other blocks in our Stitch-Along:
Quince Blossom