Thursday, August 9, 2018

Lovely Botanicals—The Academy of Appliqué 2019 Class Offerings

Some of us are fortunate enough to live near friends who share our stitching passion, and we can regularly gather to stitch and share needle stories. Others of us have to work a bit harder to create those opportunities. One perfect place to gather with others who love to appliqué is the annually held Academy of Appliqué, in Williamsburg, Virginia. We are honored to be on the teaching faculty at the Academy; March of 2019 will be our third year as teachers, and we are bubbling with excitement about our classes this year. We hope you will be, too!

The class catalog is now posted, so you can study the class offerings and select your spots. Here are a few photos of what we will be teaching.

Botanical Beauties
Monday–Wednesday, March 4–6, 2019

In our first class, we will stitch zinnias, a lily, sweet peas, and tulips. If you look closely, you can see that the flowers are joined by a butterfly and ladybug. These four blocks were inspired by vintage botanical prints and were created using a variety of materials—wired ribbon, sari silk, bias silk ribbon, ultrasuede and more.  The blocks could be put together in a small quilt or each block could be given to friend who loves that particular flower. Or maybe you add these blocks to an album quilt. There are so many options for these four floral beauties!


Details of block: zinnia and lady bug


Detail: lily bloom

Sweet peas

Detail: Sweet pea blooms


Detail of tulip

Lovely Vase
Thursday–Saturday, March 7–9, 2019

Our second class is inspired by a block in an antique Baltimore Album Quilt in the Lovely Lane Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. 

When we first saw this block, we both knew that someday we would re-create it. There was something about it that tugged on both of our hearts. We also knew, however, that it would have our own stamp on it. So we set out to explore different techniques and textures to replicate this lovely vase from Lovely Lane. To read more about the antique quilt, click here to read Lovely Lane.)

Textures include cotton, silk dupioni, wired ribbon, silk ribbon, velvet ribbon, ultrasuede, pearl cotton, wool, floss, gimp, metallic thread, and silk threads, as well as some padded elements.

Detail of rosebuds and aster

Detail of violet and aster

Detail of sunflower

Detail of stumpwork bee

Detail of white rosebuds

Detail of honeysuckle

Detail of vase

We stitched our vase on point, and appliquéd a frame around it. The vase became the center medallion of a quilt, and we used the four small blocks from our first class as corner blocks for the quilt. Appliquéd vines and flowers added the finishing touches to our quilt top, and it is ready to be quilted!

There are so many options here for how you could put your blocks together. It is always fun for us to see how our students finish their blocks. One of our greatest joys is to receive pictures of projects from one of our classes!

Let us show you how much fun we can have manipulating ribbon into beautiful blooms. You, too, can create such lifelike blossoms—and insects, too! While we will teach you a lot of skills, we strive to provide a stress-free and enjoyable learning environment. Our classes have been known to be heard laughing by passers-by down the halls, wondering what fun we are having! 

Registration for the 2019 Academy of Appliqué opens on Labor Day. You won't want to wait—classes fill fast! Last year, our class filled in an hour. So check out the class catalog, choose the perfect class(es) for you, and be poised at your computer at noon on Labor Day, September 3, 2018. And get ready for one of the best weeks of your life—well, one of the best stitching weeks, for sure!

See you next March!

Lovely Botanicals 
©2018 Through the Needle's Eye

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Free Block of the Month 11—Bellflower

A field of wildflowers just for the bees!
We are coming up on almost a year of stitching the flora and fauna that I (Kara) see over here in Germany! It has been so interesting to see what new wildflowers pop up along the way; or what insect or bird emerges as the landscape changes through the seasons. I am learning new things every day as I walk through the countryside. Something I recently discovered was that some local farmers wait to cut the hay until the wildflowers have finished blooming in the orchard fields. Why? Because it gives the bees more time to collect what they need from the flowers. In more than one location, I have noticed entire fields of intentionally-planted wildflowers. This careful consideration of the bee population is wonderful—and certainly needed.

As spring and summer have rolled along, the stitching choices have been plentiful. It is hard to pick what to stitch each month! This month I chose the bellflower, as it has been on display in a variety of forms. Some varieties are quite large, while others are delicate but hardy.

Along the forest path
A close-up 

A different variety, found bravely growing on a mountaintop castle

Cotton Block

This month's block is simple in its design and will focus on a couple of new stitches for the stems. It will also give you a chance to work on those pesky inner and outer points. Gathering the supplies for this block was not too difficult, as I only used one piece of fabric—a piece of hand-dyed, marbled fabric was perfect. Some silk ribbon, hand-dyed wool, and perle cotton, and I was ready to get started.


The flowers are appliquéd and my embroidery lines are drawn.

For the calyxes of the flowers, I used a 4mm silk ribbon and made 5 ribbon stitches on the flower and two straight stitches, horizontally at the top of each flower. 

To keep my ribbon straight stitches straight, I put my finger or a pencil
in the loop to keep it smooth before pulling it all the way through.

The two straight stitches at the top are on top of each other.

Using a #5 perle cotton, I created the main stem with the Palestrina stitch. (Click here for a great tutorial by Mary Corbet.) I placed my knots close together to get a nice thick line.

The Palestrina stitch

Use a stem stitch to attach the flowers to the main stem.

The finished block

Stitches and Threads Used (Cotton Block)

Stems—Palestrina stitch and stem stitch; Oliver Twist Fibres, blue/green, hand-dyed, #5 perle cotton
Calyxes—Ribbon stitch and straight stitch; Thread Art, 4mm silk ribbon #629
Petal Lines—Stem stitch; Painters Threads wool, Kirchener

Wool Block

For the wool version of this block, I used a light purple scrap piece that I had laying around. The ribbon for the calyxes was a beautiful hand-dye from Thread Gatherers. Since I was going to use an interlaced chain stitch for the stem (tutorial here), I needed two different thread colors—a light green, #12 perle and two strands of dark green floss.

I began by stitching down the wool flowers, and then I marked my stem lines. The interlaced chain is done by making the stem with a chain stitch in one color and then interlacing the chain stitches with a second color—first going down one side and then the other.

Interlacing the right side

The effect here is subtle but it adds a nice dimension.

Once the stems were finished, I added the petal lines with two strands of floss in a stem stitch. After that, I made the calyxes in the same way as the cotton block, and just like that, the block was finished.

The finished wool block


Stitches and Threads Used (Wool Block)

Stems—Interlaced chain stitch, chain stitch, stem stitch; Weeks Dyeworks, Juniper, 2 strands, Painters Threads #12 perle, Turner
Calyxes—Ribbon stitch and straight stitch; Thread Gatherer, 4mm silk ribbon, SR4 O25
Petal Lines—Stem stitch; The Gentle Art, Blueberry, 2 strands

As you can see from the previous photos, this flower comes in all shapes and sizes and is a lovely pop of blue/purple in the landscape. Hopefully, you will enjoy stitching this simple little block, and you will give the new stitches for stems a try!

You can download the Bellflower block HERE.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Few Teasers—Birds and Bees, Flowers and...

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you figured that instead of stitching, you would rather sit at the computer and fight the cyber world gremlins? Me neither, but that's what I (Teri) did for most of the week. Still, I'm happy to say that our website, which was abysmally out-of-date, is now pretty current. Web design is really NOT my thing, but I try to approach it with the mindset of "I'm designing a quilt." Sometimes that works, but not always... I applaud those who choose to do this for a job—it is an integral part of our world today—but I would much prefer to work with people. Or needles and thread.

We would love for you to take a minute or two to check out our humble little site  ( and see what is going on in our needle-world. Our list of class offerings in now updated, with lots of additional options for workshops. But enough about websites. On to some more fun news!

Over in our Facebook world, we celebrated reaching 2000 likes on our page with a little giveaway of some of our favorite things. It was such fun to read about everyone's favorite stitching spots. It appears that many of us stitch better with a little birdsong as background music. It sure works for me! Our Facebook page is a good way to follow our antics, and sometimes get a tip or two. To see what is going on there, you can click here.

My passport's packed and I'm ready to go...well, I guess I should wait until I have my bags packed. Where, you ask? I'm off to meet my partner in crime stitching! First, we will meet in Birmingham, England, to attend the Festival of Quilts Exhibition 2018. We may do a bit of English countryside exploring when we are not eyeing the quilts or visiting the vendors. Then we will have about a week, during which my tour guide, Kara, will take these tired bones everywhere we can pack into one week. Of course, we will be "working" the entire time—everything we see will be a source of inspiration, or at least an opportunity to talk about inspiration for new projects!

Fall is looking busy, with several local workshops and a trip to Long Island, NY. There is little better than meeting new people and sharing our stitching passion. To find out more detail about these classes, you can check our website!

The third block in the series I am teaching for the Baltimore Appliqué Society, based on Mildred Tahara's quilt, In Praise of Jane Austen, is Lyre Wreath in Bloom. Mildred's block is on the left, and my rendering is on the right. There will lots of options for embellishment in stitching this lovely block. (Pattern by Elly Sienkiewicz from Baltimore Elegance.)

I will be teaching this Flower Basket workshop again this fall, this time at Patches Quilting and Sewing, in Mt. Airy, Maryland. (Pattern by Elly Sienkiewicz from Spoken Without a Word.)

I am thrilled to be able to teach this block again. This elegant block is based on one from a quilt in the Lovely Lane Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Pattern by Elly Sienkiewicz from Spoken Without a Word.) The workshop will be held on Long Island, New York, with the Evening Star Quilters. I've met several of the guild members in classes at the Academy of Appliqué, and I'm looking forward to what I know will be a fun weekend.

The original block—you can read more about this quilt in our blogpost, Lovely Lane. 
Now, that brings us to our really exciting news—something we have been working on tirelessly for months. A new quilt! But what is most thrilling about this quilt is that we will be teaching it next March at the Academy of Appliqué in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is always such an honor to be invited to teach in this special venue, surrounded by people who love what we love—appliqué and all things needle. The class catalog comes out on August 3: that is next Friday! Be sure to check it out. Registration opens on Labor Day, and classes can sell out pretty quickly, so you'll want to be ready.

We cannot divulge the whole scope of the wonders we will have in store for our students this coming year, but here are a couple of teasers to get you pondering. It would be our honor to meet you in class and stitch with you! 


If you know anything about the work we design, you can probably imagine what some of the other elements of our blocks will be. 😊

Be sure to check out the class catalog for the Academy of Appliqué next Friday,  August 3, to see the entire projects. We are planning a lot of fun!

Well, that's about all for now. The Flora and Fauna block for July may show up the first of August, but it is coming soon—promise. I am ready to close my computer and pick up a needle. Won't you join me?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"In the Garden"—Monarch and Butterfly Bush

Who doesn't love a monarch butterfly? It reigns over all in its species; well, at least its name implies royalty. But indeed, it is a beauty to behold. This week, we add to our In the Garden series with a monarch and a butterfly bush bloom. That, of course, sent me (Teri) on a quest to search through my photos to see if I had any suitable models for my butterfly. Alas, I had none perched on a butterfly bush, but a couple on lantana blooms—enough to get me started. So we hope you will enjoy the latest flower in our garden, along with its visiting monarch! 

This past weekend, at Primitive Homespuns Wool & Needleworks, we gathered in class and stitched some lovely blossoms to begin our butterfly bush blooms, and made some headway creating butterflies, as well. Here are some highlights of this block. 

First, I appliquéd the stems and leaves with matching thread and then appliquéd a piece of purple wool for the background of the blossoms. I realized after I got started that the wool I had was a bit dark, so I would recommend using a lighter wool, so you can stitch the blossoms a bit less densely if you choose. 

A backstitch creates the center vein, with feather stitches on either side. I didn't use a strongly contrasting green thread, but you might want to create more distinction.

To create the blossoms, I used 7mm silk ribbon, 4mm silk ribbon a shade darker, and floss for the tips. With the ribbon, I made French knots, but after I wrapped the ribbon around the needle, I took a couple of running stitches before taking the needle to the back, as pictured above.

When I do knots, I like to use a pillow. That way I can place the needle into the pillow, freeing both hands to adjust my threads or ribbon and pull them as taut as I want, and in this case, to adjust the petals created by the running stitches. Then, when I pick up my work from the pillow, I can hold it at the base of the needle when pulling it to the back, which creates a smoother knot. It is important to note here that since we are working with ribbon, a chenille needle is needed, so we can't wrap the ribbon too tightly, or it will be difficult to pull that wide eye through to the back. And don't expect every single knot to look the same—each will be as unique as each blossom on a real butterfly bush! Embrace the uniqueness. 

I created these blossoms randomly, with more of the lighter and wider ribbon at the bottom, mixed gradually with the darker and thinner ribbon toward the middle, and finally blending and finishing with regular French knots using all six strands of floss at the tip of the flower. I would caution you to be mindful that if you pack the knots really closely together at first, it's hard to spread them out after you've started. (Ask me how I know.) With the lighter purple wool in the back, it would be fine to spread your blossoms out a bit. You can always fill in gaps with more knots later if you want it to be denser, but you probably won't want to take out your ribbon knots. 

To stitch the butterfly, I cut two pieces of wool in the shape of the butterfly; I set one piece aside for the back and placed the other on a piece of muslin while I embroidered it. My iPad was primed with a photo that I followed as I embroidered. (The pattern gives you the design to stitch, so you don't have to create it as you go.) I used chain stitches to separate the top and bottom wings, and stem and straight stitches for the rest of the design on the wings. 

After all the black lines were embroidered on the wings, I did the body. When I stitched it, I started with the turkey work and then filled in with bullion stitches. The better way is definitely to stitch the bullions first, and fill in with turkey work, which was what we did in class. 


When I trimmed the turkey work, I left the threads around the body longer but trimmed the threads toward the bottom of the section very closely. White French knots on the sides of the bullion knots add detail to the body.

After trimming the muslin to the shape of the butterfly, I backed it with the other butterfly-shaped piece of wool and did a dense blanket stitch in black all the way around. To create the dots, I did a running stitch with white thread through the black blanket stitching around the edge, burying the knot between the layers. A few random straight stitches in pale yellow added the rest of the accents. 

A black flower pistil folded in half and stitched to the back of the head creates the antennae. 

I attached the butterfly to the flower by taking a few stitches with black thread through the center of the body. The wings are left free to "fly." 

 Our wonderful class stitching butterflies!

As I was writing this post, I realized that I had no good photos of a butterfly bush. My neighbor has just planted a beautiful butterfly garden, so I asked her if I could take a picture of her butterfly bush. When I was thanking her for the photo, I told her the only thing that was missing was the monarch.

She responded with a photo that she took of her newly planted garden with a monarch in flight, right next to the butterfly bush! How timely and perfect. Thanks, Joni!!

Photo by Joni Bittner

I cropped it to zoom in on the butterfly—isn't it lovely?!

The pattern for the Monarch and Butterfly Bush is now available on our website, If you haven't joined us In the Garden yet, we'd love for you to pay a visit. Maybe you can stitch your own garden!

All the patterns are available on our website (, 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.