Thursday, August 6, 2020

Travels and Updates!

It has been a crazy month in the Through the Needle's Eye world. Thanks to many of you, our Woolen Oak mystery block was a great success! The time leading up to our reveal and the reveal week were incredibly busy, but certainly well worth it. Now that things are slowing down a bit, we thought we would share a little travel inspiration as well as some sneak peeks of what what we have coming up for you on the blog and on our website.
From palaces to nature,
this trip was not lacking in inspiration.
Since Europe has started to open up for travel, my husband and I (Kara) have tried to make the most of it. We have a large European map on our wall with pins for all the places we have visited and we realized that we had not been to many eastern European countries while we have been over here. I planned a rather elaborate road trip that would have us go to three countries for the first time, along with a few stops in Germany and Austria. As always when I travel, I am often looking for inspiration for our stitching designs.  

Our trip began in Germany and then continued in a very large loop through the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and then ending on a small, glacial lake in Austria. Please enjoy just some of the things I found inspiring on this road trip.

A beautiful, historical timeline made completely of Meissen porcelain tiles.

Stunning appliqué on the inside of a Turkish tent.

Appliqué close-up

These amazing, porcelain flowers decorated a 6 foot vase!

These lilies were on the grounds of Ksiaz Castle in Poland. 
I had never seen this color before.

Can you see a quilting pattern in this ceiling?

The bouquets in this wallpaper would be lovely done in appliqué.

Inspiration can be found in simple things—like a pillow at your hotel!

Ceiling decorations that could be translated into quilt borders.

This makes me want to stitch some bluebells and ferns.

Some mountain heather would be fun to stitch as well.

If I made a landscape quilt of this picture, it would be called "Sunrise on Gosausee

Now that I am back from the road and Teri has very ably managed all the details of our Woolen Oak block, it is time to get back to work on some of our upcoming projects that we will be sharing with you in the very near future.  Soon we will be showing you what we will be doing for next year's Academy of Appliqué, and then we will be introducing some brand new patterns!

A little embroidery from just one of the four projects that will be available
at the 2021 Academy of Appliqué, in Williamsburg, Virginia

While we won't be teaching our Baltimore Fraktur at Baltimore on the Prairie this year
because of COVID, we will be introducing the pattern on our website in the coming months.

This, along with four other patterns, will be coming to the website soon!

These little guys will be part of a project that we can't wait to show you!!!

Travel plans this year for many have had to be cancelled or postponed. I feel very fortunate that my husband and I have been able to see some of the beauty that Europe has to offer, and I hope that you have enjoyed some of our travels as well—my designing mind was whirling with ideas and inspirations for future projects. 

We also hope that your interest has been piqued with some sneak peeks of what we have in store for you and that you will check back next week to see our Academy reveal. Again, it's not too late to join the Woolen Oak Mystery Stitch-A-Long. You can head to the Woolen Oak Facebook page to join and you can find our Harvest Basket block, seen below, on our website. There are still 2 more blocks that will be revealed so their is definitely time to join in the fun!

Stay safe and keep stitching!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Pekinese Stitch

One of our favorite stitches is the pekinese stitch, which we used for the large stems on our Harvest Basket Block. I (Teri) have done a short video showing you how to do the stitch, but we also wanted to share the versatility of the stitch. You can achieve many different looks, depending on the kind of thread you use, the thickness of the thread, how tightly you weave the stitch, and whether you pull the loops to one side or keep them centered. The possibilities are endless!

I hope this video is helpful and you will want to try the stitch. Then take a peek at some of the ways we have put this stitch to use below and be inspired to give it a try. Enjoy!

These stems on the Violets block from In the Garden are stitched with Weeks DyeWorks #5 pearl cotton.

Valdani #12 pearl cotton creates the stem for this velvet violet on our Lovely Botanicals quilt.

And the same stem treatment here on a new design we are working on, Alsatian Urn, also with Weeks DyeWorks #5 pearl.

The Alsatian Urn also has the pekinese stitch woven much more loosely, creating petals on these daisies. Here, we used Thread Gatherers Aurora thread.

Two more examples of loosely woven, loopy pekinese stitch. The first flower has two strands of Weeks floss for a frilly effect, and Painters Threads #5 pearl is used for the flower petals around the button in the second picture.

A loose pekinese stitch with Weeks DyeWorks crewel wool makes nice furry boots. 
Stay tuned for more about this block in the very near future!

Rows of loosely woven pekinese stitches with two strands of The Gentle Art wool thread create a headful of curly hair. In these examples, the loops were left loose on both sides of the backstitch.

And the same technique is used for the geranium leaves on these flower boxes, using Weeks DyeWorks crewel wool thread.

And finally, we used silk/mohair yarn with the pekinese stitch to create this bird's luxurious tail feathers.

Isn't it a wonderful stitch? If you have tried it and would like to share one of your creations, please share it with us on our Facebook page. We'd love to be inspired by you!

And if you haven't joined the fun at the Woolen Oak Mystery Stitch-A-Long, it isn't too late! Patterns 1-9 are available for free download, and there are three more lovely designs to come. Our group on Facebook hold tons of inspiration, tips, and fun. Get them while they are free! You might even see a kit or two you would like to order.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Harvest Basket: Our Wool Appliqué Methods

It's finally time to reveal our block for the Woolen Oak Mystery Stitch-A-Long! It has been SO hard to keep our Harvest Basket block a secret. We hope you enjoy making it as much as we did! To download your free pattern, click here. Just add the free download to your cart, be sure to add the promo code FREE when you go to the checkout, and the price will revert to zero. Best way to shop!

In honor of our Woolen Oak Block reveal, we thought it might be nice to show you how we prepare our wool for appliqué. Both of us use a variety of methods based on a few variables—the size of the piece, the type of wool, and truthfully, our mood for that day might dictate which method we use. Sometimes we use the same process, but most often we stick to the method that works best for each of us. I (Kara) like to use freezer paper for my templates and for many projects, I will use fusible. Teri goes about her prep a little differently, so today we thought would each show you our favorite methods. 


I start out with my template page, a glue stick and a piece of freezer paper.

I apply glue to the back of all the template pieces (or the whole sheet of paper).

Next I place the template sheet on the matte side of the freezer paper.

Then I cut out a chunk of the templates, so I am working with a smaller piece,
and then cut out the individual pieces.

Cut out and ready to iron onto the wool.
An easier to manage chunk.

If I am using fusible, I make sure that my wool has the fusible already applied with the paper still on. Then I iron on my freezer paper template to the wool.

After the template is ironed, I cut out each shape.

Once I have used my templates, I keep them in a bag and then I am able to use them again, or if I need to change out a color, I just pull that template out.

This is just one way of preparing wool for appliqué. I like using this method because I always have the templates available to use whether I choose to use fusible or not. If I am not using fusible, I will staple my pieces to my background. I am not a very good tracer, so I tend to stay away from tracing and my brain doesn't like to reverse images accurately, so this method works well for me. I keep the template bag in with my pattern, in case I decide to make the project again. It is not necessarily the fastest method, but it is important to find the method that works best for you and your brain!


While Kara has the tidier brain, mine tends to want to find the way that offers me more efficiency. (Translation: I am "lazier" and don't like to go back and forth to my ironing board if I can avoid it.) There are certainly times that I find Kara's method to be the best, but for the most part, I have a much closer relationship with my stapler than my iron. (Again, it is more portable, so I can stay in my living room chair.) It may also have to do with the fact that my hand hurts more if I am cutting through multiple layers of paper. I can find excuses for anything... 

The Harvest Basket block involved several elements that required a different kind of attention, so I used several methods. Most of the time, I do not use fusible; I staple the units onto my block. For this block, the two sections I knew that I would fuse were the basket (video to follow) and the grapes, since there were so many of them and they were small. So I ironed the fusible to the back of the brown for the basket and the purple for the grapes. The rest of the pieces, I left naked. This is how I approached prepping the block for appliqué. 

First, I cut out one of each unique template. For this block, I cut out all the smaller basket templates, and then realized I really only needed to cut one, as they were all the same, so for the longer templates, I cut one and reused it.

I bend the staple as pictured below, which makes it pretty easy to remove. I can then restaple the template onto the wool to cut another identical unit, if needed.

The grapes were a bit different. Since there were so many of them, I thought I would use Kara's method, as stapling might have been more challenging. So I glued the templates to freezer paper and was ready to start cutting. Then I noticed that there were only two sizes of grapes, so rather than cut all the templates, iron them on, and cut the grapes, I just cut one of each size and traced the required number of each sized grape onto the back of the fusible. Cutting was then easier on my hand. Having glued the template onto freezer paper did give me a stronger template for tracing.

For the rest of the templates, I stapled them onto the wool, cut out the units, and reused the template when needed. You can see the multiple staple marks on the templates in the picture below.

For the yellow flowers, I cut the template first to ensure better accuracy, since the petals were small. But I often just staple as below and cut only once. I have a designated pair of sharp scissors that I use when I'm cutting through paper as well. I was so excited about stitching my Harvest Basket block that I neglected to stop and take pictures for you, so here is an example from our Hopeful Bluebird

I also keep all of my templates in a bag with the pattern, in case I want to make the block again. I include the pieces I haven't used, in case one wears out from too many staplings. I haven't had that happen often, though.

Appliquéing the Block

For this block, Kara fused everything down before appliquéing. I (Teri) fused the basket and the grapes, but I stapled the rest of the pieces in place and then appliquéd. If there are layers, I staple and appliqué the bottom layer, like the pumpkin first, and then staple the leaves in place. We both use an appliqué stitch with matching thread or one strand of matching floss to appliqué our pieces in place, as typically, we want the focus of our stitching to be on the embroidered embellishments. 

The staple holds the pieces in place while appliquéing, and does not catch the thread as a pin would. They are easy to remove and leave no marks on the fabric.

No evidence of the staples

In some situations, if we have a more loosely woven wool, we might use a blanket stitch with matching floss to help to smooth the edges a bit. The green for the leaves was the only wool we used which was not hand-dyed, so we blanket-stitched it to give it a cleaner edge. We wanted the focus to be on the embroidered veins, so you can't really see the blanket stitch, as it melts into the matching wool.

The most unique aspect of the appliqué on this block is the basket. Since many baskets are woven, it gave us an opportunity to weave some wool. Kara made a video to demonstrate how she created the basket. We hope you enjoy it!

Be sure to watch out for videos throughout the week on our Facebook page, giving tips about the Harvest Basket block. If you haven't joined Woolen Oak Mystery Stitch-A-Long group on Facebook, you're missing out on a lot of inspiration and fun!