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, 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!

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