Thursday, January 21, 2021

Hopeful Flowers—Week One

Our Hopeful Flowers Stitch Along is here!

We are thrilled to be able to share this free project with you over the course of the next two months. This wallhanging came about because we wanted to create something that focused on going beyond the blanket stitch for wool appliqué. The inspiration for the palette came from the amazing Tres Jolie lawns from French General that I (Kara) purchased this summer. We knew right from the start that this would be a great second project for our little Hopeful Bluebird Facebook Group. Little did we know that this small group would quickly grow to almost a thousand members in the course of two weeks! 

Each week, we will share one of the blocks and the stitches we used. The more unique stitches will be shown with detailed pictures and links to videos of those stitches when possible. Everyone learns in different ways, so we want to show as many formats as we can to help everyone grasp how to make a particular stitch. Our go-to videos for learning stitches are from Mary Corbet at Needle 'n Thread. Mary's videos are a great resource that we use often, and we honestly don't think we could do a better job than she does! The blocks will be free to download and will include the full size block pattern as well as templates needed. If you need the supply list for the project you can find it in the links listed at the bottom of the page here.

Just a few notes before we begin:

There are many methods used for wool appliqué, and even Teri and I don't always use the same one. I like to make freezer paper templates because I am a terrible tracer. A bonus to having freezer paper templates is that if I decide I want to change up a color or even make the project again, it is quick and easy to pull a template out of my baggie for that particular project. I glue stick my templates to the freezer paper and then cut the templates out. If you like to keep your pattern intact, just print out two template sheets.

My baggie full of templates.

Once my wool pieces are cut out, I keep all of the pieces on my small ironing mat so that way I can keep better track of them. Between jumping up and down to let dogs in and out, invariably I end up wearing a piece or dropping it on the floor. This is just one way of preparing the wool, but feel free to use whatever method you prefer. A tip for learning the stitches would be to get a piece of scrap fabric so that you can practice before you actually stitch on your project.

Block 1 (Yellow Flower)

For each block you will need a 9" background piece of fabric in a neutral color. All the stem embroidery is done before the wool appliqué, and hooping the fabric will give you less puckering. It can be challenging to hoop with the wool already stitched down, thus doing the stem embroidery first is encouraged. 

Stitches used:
Heavy Chain, Blanket, Stem, Lazy Daisy

The Heavy Chain stitch is used for the flower stems on this block. It is a simple stitch that gives a nice rope-like effect. Here are some detailed pictures of how it is done and the video link will be listed at the end of the post.

At the top of line, take a small stitch.
Bring your needle back up on the line
a little bit below the previous stitch.

Take your needle down and to the back
as shown.

Bring the eye of your needle through
the first stitch.

It should look like this.

Bring your needle up on the line a 
little bit below the previous stitch.
Again, take the eye of your needle 
through the very first stitch.

Take your needle down and to the back 
as shown.
Bring your needle up on the line a 
little bit below the previous stitch.

Bring the back of your needle through
both of the chain stitches.
Continue on in the same way down the 
rest of the line.

The blanket stitch is a standard stitch that is well loved in the world of wool appliqué. We are going to take the basic blanket stitch and zoozh it up (I checked—that is actually a word in the dictionary). Going around the circle twice with the blanket stitch gives a lace-like effect. Just remember not to pull too tight or the stitches will curl up.

Start a blanket stitch around the 
flower center.
Continue stitching all the way around 

When you get to the end, complete the
circle and bring the needle to the back.
Bring the needle back up under one of the
bars and then start another blanket stitch.

Continue making blanket stitches around 
the circle until you reach the end.

Keep your tension even and not too tight.

To get your free download, follow these instructions:

1. Click on the link below that says Hopeful Flowers Block 1
2. You will be directed to our What's Happening Page. It may ask you if you would like to go to that page and if so click the link provided.
3. Scroll down until you see the Hopeful Flowers wallhanging.
4. Follow the directions there for downloading your free pattern.

We can't wait to see everyone's blocks, and we hope you will share your progress and questions in the Hopeful Stitchers Facebook group. If you haven't joined yet, you can do so by clicking the link below. 

Have fun stitching!


Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Few of Our Favorite Tools

Last week, Kara filled you in on our upcoming Hopeful Flowers Stitch Along, and we were delighted by the interest. Our Facebook group grew by hundreds of eager stitchers wanting to learn some new embroidery skills! Thank you all for your participation; we hope you are as excited as we are to get started next week!

You will not only be able to use those new embroidery techniques in our Hopeful Flowers project; we are also participating in two Mystery quilt groups. As they are mysteries, I (Teri) can't say much, but you can join the respective Facebook groups to see what has already begun. And here are just a few tiny hints.

Button fun and a few of the threads we will be offering: lovely hand-dyed pearl cotton by Painters Threads, and Kreinik metallic braid.

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If you did not receive our newsletter, "Are You Ready to Stitch Along?", click here.

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Which brings us to tools: "these are a few of our favorite things" that we have found helpful in our stitching projects, all of which we used in preparing these projects for you, and all of which can be found in our website store.

Martelli Light Box

The Martelli Light Box is perfectly portable, with bright LED lights beneath plexiglass and a reversible cutting mat, with measured markings on one side and solid on the other. It is lightweight and has suction cups so that it will stay in place as you work. It will be perfect for taking with you to classes (thinking optimistically here), but it is also easy to move around your studio if you need to. Mine lives on my ironing board, readily accessible for all my tracing needs.

We thought we'd show you a couple of examples of using the lightbox, including  the obvious tracing of patterns or lines for embroidery.

Here, the pattern is pictured with a piece of wool on top. You can see that it is bright enough to trace through that heavy fabric, if you chose. (We actually traced it onto PressN'Seal for that embroidery, but this shows you how bright the light is.) 

I laid my Harvest Basket pattern on the light box and then lined the basket up with the pattern to help me place my grapes. 

When I made this block, I used the light box both to trace the circles for the spiral trellis stitch, and to trace the tiny inked vines. To see the block, click here

And indeed, Kara traced the stems for embroidery on the Hopeful Flowers blocks!

Martelli Tweezers

Another favorite tool of ours also happens to be made by Martelli. We love their tweezers, and use them often. They come in two styles: Ergonomic and Pin Point. I use both, and can't say that I have a favorite. Both are pointy and both are comfortable.

The tweezers are perfect for removing PressN'Seal wrap that we mark for embroidery. This technique is especially useful when stitching lettering. We also find them incredibly helpful when working with wired ribbon, making flowers or leaves.



Milliners needles are essential for many embroidery stitches. Any wrapped stitches will be SO much easier to create and manipulate with this kind of needle, because the eye is the same size as the shaft of the needle. So when making a knot, for example, pulling the needle through those wraps of thread is much easier when a larger eye isn't hanging up as you tug. So when creating a bullion, drizzle, or cast-on stitch, you can imagine how much easier it would be. The first time I made a bullion, I was using a chenille and thought I would never make that stitch again. Now, it is one of my favorites—IF I use a milliners needle!

Probably our favorite go-to embroidery needle is the chenille needle, because it has a larger, flat eye—making it perfect for threading larger threads like heavy pearl cottons, or silk ribbons. I am especially "needle threading challenged," so a big eye makes me a happy stitcher.

These are but a few of our favorite tools. What would you add to the list?

Thursday, January 7, 2021

A Hopeful New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! Our New Year's Day here in Germany was pretty quiet, due to our current lockdown. So far the lockdown has given me (Kara) extra time to stitch—especially for our latest Stitch-Along, which will kick off in just a couple of weeks. 

Last year, we created our Hopeful Bluebird wall hanging as something to do during the first quarantine. Our Facebook group started out small but has grown quite a bit since then, so now it is time to introduce another little project. Whether you are in lockdown or not, this project is made up of simple wool appliqué blocks that are brought to life with some interesting, not your run-of-the-mill, stitches. We have created four blocks that will help you broaden your stitch repertoire and make your appliquéd flowers sing! Here is a sneak preview of what's in store!

The Hopeful Flowers Stitch-Along will go for 5 weeks, although those weeks will not all be consecutive. There will be a few weeks in between block 2 and 3 so that we can have a little time for catching up—and because those two weeks will be the block showcase weeks for the two mystery stitch-alongs we are doing: Potted Petals and Winter Wonderland. The fifth week will cover the finishing of the wallhanging. Each block will be free to download until April 15, 2021. After that, we will have the full pattern available to purchase on our website. There may even be a giveaway along the way!

We are really looking forward to our Hopeful Flowers Stitch-Along start date of January 21, and we think it is going to be a great time to learn some new stitches and look forward to spring as we are stitching. Follow the link below to join—and please tell all your friends about it so they can join in the fun!