Thursday, October 26, 2017

Free BOM Block 3: Fly Agaric

Welcome to Block 3 of our free Block of the Month Stitch-Along! This month's block is the Amanita muscara or the fly agaric. It is definitely one of the most iconic mushroom varieties out there; it even has it's own emoji!🍄  I really wanted to see one of these on our walks so that I could take a picture of it and turn it into a block for the Stitch-Along. One parameter that I set for this series was that each block would always be designed based on something I had seen here in Germany on my walks with the dogs. Having a real picture side by side with the block was part of the plan for each blog post. 

I see a lot of different mushrooms and toadstools on my meanderings with the furry beasts, but I had not come across this particular one on our local trails. My eyes were always scanning the woods for a sighting, but to no avail. On one of my walks, I did spot this cute little guy, but he wasn't the classic red and white spotted mushroom of storybooks.

This mushroom was almost hidden by the moss.

At my local guild meeting, I was sharing my mushroom issues and received all sorts of advice as to where to find them—most of those places were quite a distance away. I despaired of seeing any this year, as many told me it was late in the season for them, but one of the ladies from the guild heard my plea and took this lovely picture for me. 


What good eyes to have seen this one!

Hooray! I may not have taken the picture but the point was to use a picture of the mushroom taken here in Germany. I was thrilled to be able to offer this as our next block, but before I prepared the design, my husband and I took a trip to the Black Forest. We took the pups with us on our hike, and then planned to have a slice of Black Forest cake as our reward for our exercise. While we were walking, I looked down...and there were the mushrooms I had been seeking! Right there in all their red and white glory. The dogs didn't understand my excitement, but my husband did, since for the last month, I had been talking about finding them. On to designing the block, with plenty of pictures now for inspiration.

In the bright sun, these almost looked metallic!

Cotton Block

Finding just the right fabric for the cotton block was going to be a bit of a challenge, or so I thought. I selected three good possibilities, but I thought there was just enough of a red section in the sunset fabric to fit the pattern, so I decided to go with it.

Doesn't seem like it would work?
All good options.






Another challenge I faced was how to get the cream colored stem to stand out on a light background. I chose a piece of ombré cream ribbon for the stem as it had a different sheen than cotton, however it still blended in a bit too much. Thinking it needed a some more shading, I got out my oil pastels, and with a piece of muslin, lightly shaded one side of the ribbon.

I gently wiped the cloth onto the ribbon until I had just enough.

Did the sunset fabric piece work? It sure did, and I was really pleased with the way the colors gave the mushroom top some depth. Even with the pastels, the stem needed to stand out a bit more, so I used one strand of light tan floss to stem stitch around the stem (no pun intended!)

The sunset fabric was perfect for this!

Then it was time for the copious amount of French knots. I used The Gentle Art Simply Shaker Wool, in Toasted Marshmallow, for the knots. The white spots from the real mushroom are scattered haphazardly and vary in size, so I tried to do the same. Some of the knots have two wraps and some have three, and I also varied the tension of the wraps to change the shape up a bit.

So many knots!

A little greenery using three rows of stem stitches

The finished mushroom.

Stitches and Threads used (cotton block)
Cream wool, The Gentle Art Simply Shaker Toasted Marshmallow for French knots on mushroom cap
Tan floss, 1 strand Weeks Driftwood for stem stitch around stem
Green #12 pearl, Valdani O560


Wool Block

On to the wool block we go! I really only had one choice of wool in my stash for the cap, so that made choosing a color easy. My freezer paper didn't make the move so I finally restored my supply, as it is my go-to method for cutting out wool appliqué patterns. I like to glue my pattern pieces to freezer paper, cut them out, and iron them onto my wool for cutting out the appliqué pieces. I could probably run the freezer paper through my printer but I save some paper this way as I can use scraps.


Ironed onto the wool.
Pattern pieces ready to cut out.








Cut out and ready to be placed on the background.

The cream wool for the stem showed up a little better on the linen background, but I wanted it to give it a little more depth. A little shading, again with the pastel, did the trick.

Just a little color on the edge helps.

Padding the cap with a little batting, cut slightly smaller than the wool, added some dimension.

I cut the batting the same size as the wool, and then trimmed it smaller.

I stapled the pieces down and proceeded to sew around them using one strand of Weeks Parchment for the stem and one strand of Weeks Red Rocks for the cap. Matching sewing thread would work as well.

The stem sewn in place

And once again it was knot time. For the knots on the wool, I decided to use floss instead of wool thread to add another texture, so I used two strands of the Weeks Parchment for knots. Again, I varied the size of each knot by tension and wraps; sometimes two wraps, sometimes three. As I finished each knot, I made sure not to yank too tightly as I brought my thread to the back, in order not to compress the batting with all those knots.


The finished wool block

Again, I used a light, tan thread (Weeks Driftwood)
around the stem to highlight it. 

Stitches and Threads used (wool block)
Tan floss, 1 strand Weeks Driftwood for stem stitch around stem
Cream floss, 2 strands Weeks Parchment for French knots on mushroom cap.
Green #12 pearl, Valdani O560


This block will definitely be one of my favorites since finding the mushrooms to take their picture was such a challenge. A friend of mine mentioned that I might be obsessing over a mushroom that isn't even edible, but it was worth the hunt. Hopefully, you will enjoy stitching this woodland gem that led me on such a chase. If you have made either of the two previous blocks we'd love to see pictures!

Download the Fly Agaric pattern here

To see the other blocks in our Stitch-Along:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Introducing "In the Garden," A BOM Series: Cornflowers

For some time now, Kara and I (Teri) have wanted to design a Block of the Month series. We discussed a number of different themes, but we finally settled on a garden. Before Kara left for Germany, we mapped out our plan, and worked with Kathy Makers of Primitive Homespuns Wool & Needleworks to select our palette of wools for the project. We love to mix different materials, so we will be combining wool, a variety of threads, ribbon, and even some beads. The blocks will vary in size, and ultimately, we plan to create a quilt out of the blocks. But you might wish to used the blocks independently in some other way—your creativity should know no bounds!

I will be introducing a new pattern each month in a class I'll teach at Kathy's shop in Frederick, Maryland. After the class, I will blog about it, and the pattern will be released on our website, needleseyestories.com. Any ribbon needed to complete the block will be included with the pattern. Of course, if you want to source your own ribbon, you can simply purchase the digital version of the pattern. If you are interested in purchasing wool and thread kits, you can do so through the Primitive Homespuns website, linked above.

The first block: Cornflowers (or Bachelor Buttons)

The Cornflowers class was held this past Sunday. Our first step was to appliqué down the wool unit for the leaves. Most of us did the leaves as one whole unit and used the embroidery to delineate the separate leaves. A couple people cut the leaves into separate units and appliquéd them down. Either method worked just fine. We worked on outlining the leaves with a stem stitch using Valdani pearl cotton, stitching fairly densely.





We all enjoyed making the bias silk cornflower blooms. The flowers are made with 1.5-inch Hanah bias silk ribbon, which is frayed, folded and gathered. 

Here is a brief tutorial for how to make these flowers. You will need to make two flowers.

Cut a 9-inch piece of ribbon. Fray the edges of both sides
of the ribbon with your thumbnail and index finger.

Fold the ribbon in half lengthwise. We didn't press it,
but a few ladies in class said that they would, because the silk is slippery.

Bring the two ends together. Starting at the fringy edge, backstitch
the two ends of the ribbon together with matching or neutral thread.
You should now have a loop.

Open the loop and take running stitches along the folded edge until you
get back to where you started. Your stitches need not be tiny;
ours were anywhere between an eighth and a quarter inch. 

Don't knot off the thread yet!
Pull the thread gently to gather and take two small backstitches
in the folds to secure the gathers.

The budding bloom on the right of the block is made the same way, with two exceptions. You start with a 4.5-inch piece of ribbon, and rather than opening the loop, you just stitch straight across through all the layers on the fold and gather. We started the class with a fun technique—what is more fun than the magic of turning a piece of ribbon into a beautiful flower? We set our blooms aside to create stems.

Our next task was to tackle the Hungarian Braided Chain stitch, used for the stems. I love this stitch, but it can take a while to feel comfortable with it. Some of us were wishing we had saved the ribbon fraying for after this stitch, so we could fray our stress out! We all agreed that we would master that stitch, but maybe not in one day. ☺

When I do this stitch, I am reminded of French braiding my daughter's hair. I would get the parts of the braid in place and then tug to secure it. As I stitch, I can almost hear her squealing. (Believe it or not, my adult daughter loves braiding her hair now; she might be gentler on herself than I was.) 

Here are a few photos of my method to help you out. For a really wonderful tutorial, check out Mary Corbet's video by clicking here. (And please don't compare my method with hers!)

1)  Start by making a lazy daisy stitch. Bring your needle up to the front a stitch-length away from the bottom of the lazy daisy.  Carefully take the needle through the tack stitch on the opposite side of the stitch.

2)  Pull the thread through the tack stitch, but do not pull tightly, yet. Take the needle to the back of the work precisely where the thread came to the front. Bring the needle back to the front a stitch-length below.

3)  Using the eye of the needle, so you won't pierce other threads, take your working thread under the stitch in the
middle of the loose stitch.  So your needle is over the outside stitch and under the previous stitch in the middle.
Keep the needle in place for the time being.

4)  This is where I give the working thread beneath a little tug. (Imagine a squealing little girl.)
Pull the needle through, eye first, but don't pull the thread tautly yet.
Repeat steps 2 through 4 until you have created the length of stem you desire. 

Because I was using size 12 pearl, I decided that the taller stems were too skinny for the big flowers, so I stitched another row right next to the first. It gave the stems a cool texture. But of course, you could always swap out a size 5 or 8 pearl if you wished. Or, as always, you might just want to sub in a totally different stitch! And that's okay.


To create the buds, I first appliquéd a piece of green wool in the shape of my bud. This gives the bud dimension, and it insures that if any color shines through the stitches, it is not the cream of my background. I used a periwinkle satin stitch to cover the point, and then I created random, overlapping fly stitches, shaped like a V, pointing to the tip of the bud—first in purple, and then green at the bottom. 

Now we just need to place our flowers and work the centers. To stitch the blooms in place, take some tack stitches into the folds of the blooms. I only stitched in the center, so that the petals would still move freely—like they're blowin' in the wind. In the center, I stitched French knots, using periwinkle floss with three wraps. I surrounded the center with a circle of purple French knots. Finally, I used black floss to make pistil stitches, radiating from the center, adding a bead to the knot. The beads, of course,  are optional. 






We are having a great time designing this quilt, and would love to have you join us! We have twelve garden-themed blocks coming, and ultimately, a border and plan for assembling them. Won't it be fun to garden all year long? We would love to have you join us—In the Garden!


Monday, October 16, 2017

"Potts" of Ribbon Flowers

We have written about the Margaret Potts quilt many times in the past, and we have enjoyed teaching several workshops based on the blocks of this antique quilt, patterned by the Baltimore Appliqué Society. Last year, Kara and I (Teri) taught a Block of the Month series at our then-local quilt shop, Patches Quilting and Sewing. When it ended, the class wanted more, so we began a new batch of blocks—this time embellishing with ribbon. I thought you might enjoy studying our approach to this block, along with some highlights of our class. My intention was to include some photos of our class time, but with Kara in Germany, I had no "down time" to think about taking photos; we were having too much fun stitching! 

As before, since our focus was embroidered embellishment, we fused the blocks and covered the raw edges with stitches. Of course, the same effect could be achieved with needle-turn appliqué if you are totally opposed to fusing. The buds, calyxes, leaves, yellow flower centers, and vase were all fused, and then we were ready to begin embellishing.

A rectangle of yellow was fused beneath the window cut out of the blue vase fabric—what a "cheater" method of reverse appliqué! In fact, the light fusible creates a bit of a firmer surface for inking. In the original quilt, a name was inked in the center; I chose to simply write the date, but most people in class yesterday said they would probably write something different. I used Weeks Dye Works variegated floss to outline the edge of the vase with a scroll stitch.



The bud and calyx were outlined with a chain stitch. On the bud, I first outlined the center petal, and then the outer two petals to meet it. The leaves were all "veined" with a blanket stitch. For the larger ones, the edge of the blanket stitch creates the center vein, and the spokes go toward the leaf edge; a stem stitch covers the raw edge of the leaf. On the smaller leaves, the edge of the blanket stitch is on the outside of the leaf, covering the edge, and the spokes go toward the center of the leaf, creating the illusion of a center vein. To see a tutorial on these leaves, read Anna Scott's blog post, here.


The stems were made with River Silks 4mm silk ribbon, using a stem stitch. We played with this in class a bit, to see the difference the size of stitches make in the look of the ribbon stems. It took of bit of expectation-adjusting; everyone commented on how different the look and feel of the stitch is when compared to doing it with floss or pearl cotton. That's part of the charm! ☺



The flowers bloomed out of wired ribbon. We actually started the class with our flowers—why not start off with a bang? We had quite a lovely garden in no time at all. A whole lot faster than waiting for a real flower to bloom!


 If you would like to try these flowers, I've included a tutorial below. Have fun!

With tweezers or the tip of sharp scissors, bend the ends of the wires
to prevent them from getting lost in the ribbon.

Fold the ribbon in half, and securely stitch the ends together. 
I used a backstitch to create a seam, creating a circle out of the ribbon. 
Open the ribbon into that shape.

Using your fingers or tweezers, pull the two ends of the wire
on one side of the ribbon. They should be side-by-side
on one side of your seam. Gather them as tautly as you can. 

Wrap the wire near around your tweezers or scissors tips to secure the gathers, 
and trim the excess wire. You now have gathered the center of your flower.

The ribbon from the back

Checking the size with the pattern     

Pull the wires on the outside edge just about an inch. Secure and trim.    

From the back with trimmed wires

Adjust the gathers so they are even around the ribbon.

On a piece of cardboard or Styrofoam, use pins to manipulate the
outer wire into petal shapes. Start with the top and bottom,
then each side. Place pins where the wire is indented.

Divide each of the four sections in half. Use your finger to hold one half
of the section and drag the pin toward the center, creating two petal shapes. 

You might use two fingers to hold the petals and drag the pin between them.    

You should end up with 8 pins for 8 petals. 
(A smaller flower could have 6 petals.)    

Carefully remove the pins and secure to your background,
over the yellow center.
    

Don’t worry if the shape shifts a bit. As you are appliquéing it down, you will be able to manipulate it into the shape you want. It’s wire…YOU are in control! With matching thread, appliqué around the inside and then outside, catching the wire and adjusting the gathers to look the way you want to as you stitch. Don’t be afraid to fuss with it! Use French knots around the inside edge, or beads, if you want sparkle. Have fun!    


We hope you'll try one of these flowers and let us know what you think. Enjoy!


Previous posts about Margaret Potts

"Potts" of Flowers

A Potts Palooza—Part One