Thursday, October 31, 2019

Going a Little Mitten Crazy With a New Pattern!

Shorter nights and cooler temperatures are sure signs that winter is just around the corner and winter coats, boots, and mittens are being dusted off in anticipation. Long winters can make me a little crazy, and I (Kara) would rather stitch mittens than wear them. For my upcoming USO class, I decided to create a mitten ornament with a few crazy quilt stitches as embellishment. Then I thought if one mitten was great, why not five, and a new pattern was born! I like having decorations that can stay up after Christmas is over, so this little panel can brighten a dreary day after the holidays have come and gone.

Five little mittens adorned with a few simple crazy quilt stitches

As an added bonus, we have included the instructions for the mitten ornament with the panel, so you get two projects for the price of one!

This can be used as an ornament or even a gift tag!

Two patterns for the price of one!

A mitered, wool border frames the mittens, with a bright red herringbone stitch in the seam to highlight them. Timtex™ stiffener inside allows it to be propped on a small plate rack, but a simple ribbon hanger would work for hanging it on a wall. All the threads used were Valdani #12 perle cotton. The mittens don't have to be red either—other color schemes would be lovely as well!

The pattern comes with templates, embroidery guide, placement pattern and detailed instructions to get you started. If you head over to our website, you can instantly download this pattern and whip a few up for gifts before the holidays begin.

Have fun making these winter woolens!

P.S. No kittens cried or were deprived for this pattern. 😁

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Butterfly Wings and Trilliums

Yesterday, on our social media pages (Instagram and Facebook), I (Teri) posted this flower center with the caption "Guess the flower!" We didn't get a lot of guesses, but that wasn't too surprising to me. When we decided to add this particular flower to our new Woodland Reverie quilt designs, I confess that I had to do some research, as it is a flower I don't know very well. But Google is a wonderful resource, and I was able to find some excellent photos to use as models for my flower. 

But first, let's look at some butterfly wings. 

One of my favorite parts of the entire process is choosing colors and materials. We love to try new fibers or learn a new technique to create a flower, or whatever design element we are stitching. One of the new blocks in our new design includes a butterfly. I thought it might be fun to create one with dimensional wings, but with fabric rather than using stumpwork to make the wings. Thus, my quest for a fun fabric to fussy-cut for wing designs.

This Jinny Beyer border print was my first try. I created window templates cut out of paper to audition fabrics. The hard part was to find prints with symmetry, so that the wings could be flipped to make mirror images.

I really liked this design, but it was a bit too dark for my overall block design.

This Jo Morton fabric was the one that I finally settled on using. Once I had the wings traced, my next task was to determine how to embroider them to enhance the print. I had a vision, but I wasn't loving the wings I was stitching. And I learned that some threads unstitch easier than others. So I started playing with similar areas on my fabric to experiment, as I hate reverse stitching!

My initial idea was to use a #4 metallic braid by Painters Threads to fill in the negative space with a feather stitch. After several attempts, I wasn't pleased with the look and decided to attempt to outline the paisley. I practiced with the backstitch and switched to an outline stitch, neither of which was giving me that "Ah-ha" moment I was seeking. Finally, I remembered that I had recently purchased some tiny beads that matched my fabric perfectly, so I used the seed beads—rather than a seed stitch—to fill in the negative space. 

I used a matching piece of fabric for the back of the wing and then used that metallic braid around the edge to give it the hint of shimmer that I wanted. 

For days, I just stared at these wings trying to figure out how to embellish them. Sometimes, it just takes time to let those creative ideas bubble around in my head before the right solution comes to me. 

My butterfly now has wings (shown above from the back and the front), but his body is still bouncing around in my head. Some possible threads for his body are being auditioned here, but I'm not sure how he will be stitched yet. Time will tell!  

As its name would suggest, a trillium has three petals, with three leaves behind those petals. Often, they are white, but I found this stunning red one, which I knew would be perfect for my color palette. This photo, found on the American Meadows garden website, served as my model. I knew I wanted to use wired ombrĂ© ribbon, but I had to play with the ribbon to get the right measurements and colors. 

My first attempt was close, but I had to overlap the petals in the center to size it correctly, which would have precluded embroidery in the center. And I wanted a warmer color for the petals.

I adjusted the size a bit and manipulated the ribbons and was more pleased with the results. I pondered the center for days before determining how to do the center. 

And here is my trillium. I may have to order some (real ones, not ribbon) and plant them in my garden—I think they are rather lovely!

Sometimes, I find that creativity comes easily, and then there are those times when I just have to puzzle and ponder awhile, until the right stitch or fiber jumps into my mind. But that is the fun of it, isn't it? The sense of satisfaction when you are happy with your butterfly wings and trillium—or whatever it is you are stitching!


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Library Candy

We live in a digital age which is quite convenient in many ways—especially when it comes to books. I (Kara) read exclusively on my Ipad for a multitude of reasons; one of which is the fact that my eyesight is not what it used to be and I can make the print as large as I want. Another reason is that my husband got tired of having me pack heavy books when we would go on vacation. But as easy as it is to get digital books these days, I will always buy the paper version when it comes to stitching. Seeing beautiful pictures of embroidery, quilting, and other needlework just isn't the same when I am looking at them on my electronic device. Two of my most recent purchases were first seen on Mary Corbet's site Needle n' Thread. Mary does a very thorough review of the books and I was smitten with these both.

The first is Di van Niekerk's The Art of Felting and Silk Ribbon Embroidery. Wool and ribbon are two of my favorite things so this purchase was a no brainer. The book is laid out well and the projects are just fantastic. I was really interested in learning how to wet felt and I wanted to make moss for one of the Woodland Reverie blocks we will be teaching at the Academy of AppliquĂ© in Williamsburg, Virginia next March. The instructions were very clear and with a little trial and error, I was able to achieve the desired result.

My felted wool 
Another look

My finished moss!

Wet felting instructions

Let me mention again how gorgeous the projects are! The ribbon work is amazing and the felted wool and ribbon complement one another so well.

The supply list is quite thorough.

Clear instructions for the ribbon fuchsia

If you go to Di van Niekerk's website you can even purchase kits for some of the projects. I loved how inspirational this book was and it will definitely be used for more than learning how to wet felt.

Another book that I recently purchased was Chloe Giordano's The Embroidered Art of Chloe Giordano. When Mary Corbet posted the review on her site, I immediately pre-ordered it. Chloe's embroidered animals are a delight to view and it was interesting to read how she stepped into the world of embroidery.

The cover itself is captivating.

The book tells Chloe's embroidery story and the techniques she developed to achieve her vision. She uses sewing thread to create beautiful woodland animals and gives them such life!

The beginning of a sweet fawn.

I love the vines and flowers.

This fox is precious!

This book is going on my coffee table just so I can pick it up from time to time to be inspired. You can learn more about Chloe on her website: Chloe Giordano.

It's always fun to add to one's stitching library whether it is for learning something new or just  for gazing at another creator's inspirational work. Have you read any new stitching books lately? If so, let us know so we can read them too!

To read Mary Corbet's book reviews, please click on the links below:

Thursday, October 10, 2019

When the Unknown Surprises You!

As we have shared in the past, Teri and I (Kara) are novice quilt collectors. We started with a few quilts that we inherited and picked up a few here and there as we wander the antique malls—one of our absolute favorite things to do together! A few of those inherited and purchased quilts have been shared on the blog (you can read about them by clicking on the links at the end of this post). Over here in Germany, there are not many antique quilts to be found, so I have formed a habit, albeit not necessarily a financially savvy habit, of perusing some online auction sites. 

My first purchase of a quilt online started with finding a quilt that I kind of liked because it was different. The description was minimal at best and read, Late 19th century pieced quilt, hand-stitched and hand-quilted, 7'2"x7'2". I knew I liked the quilt for the colors and the pattern, and that was about it—my expectations were low for the most part. I had it sent to Teri because it was simpler than shipping it across the pond. When the quilt came and Teri opened it, we were both in shock as to the quality of this quilt, the perfection of the hand piecing, and the density of the quilting. 

This view doesn't do the quilt justice as far as how it was made or its size. It is on a king-size bed and measures 87"x 86".

At the time of this purchase, my fabric dating knowledge was very limited, so I assumed that the auction house was correct in that this was a late 19th-century quilt. Much to my surprise, the appraiser dated the quilt at around 1830, based on the fabrics, with one little piece dated at 1810! This quilt is best appreciated in person, but since that isn't possible in a blog, here are some close-ups with more information from the appraisal.

The quilting from the back side.

The tiny 3/8-inch grid stitches

A near perfect diagonal grid

The pattern is King David's Crown,—#3649 in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

Each block is 14 3/8" square.

The blue in this fabric caught my eye and was one of the reasons I purchased the quilt.

For the most part this quilt, from a fabric perspective, appears to have been very thoughtfully laid out. But for some of the blocks at the bottom of the quilt, the maker had to resort to picking some pieces out of her scrap bag.

Here, all the component parts of the block are uniform.

The first dip into the scrap bag

The one block that has quite a few different fabrics

One of the earliest fabrics in the quilt

And one of the others

The pink that was used throughout

Another fabric with the blue that I love

This fabric has such an interesting pattern.

A beautiful brown

The quilt is in excellent condition for its age with some staining, fading, and migrating colors. There are also a couple—very carefully done—vintage repairs, but you really have to look for them. 

The one fabric that has experienced some disintegration and color migration.

Another thing that is wonderful about this quilt is the precision piecing. All her points meet perfectly, and the blocks are pieced so beautifully!

Here you can see just how close she was able to get the points to meet.

Alas, I have no provenance for this quilt, other than it came from an estate in Massachusetts. Having it appraised gave me so much more information, thanks to Phyllis Hatcher. The maker of this quilt was obviously a highly skilled seamstress, but as far as why it was made, for whom, and where, we have to make suppositions. I would have loved to have sat by her side as she made it to see her techniques—and maybe get some hand quilting tips!

I thought I was buying a late 19th century quilt for which I didn't spend an exorbitant amount. Much to my surprise, I purchased a much older quilt and one that far exceeded the value of what I spent; however, the monetary value is not what I treasure. Being able to see the thoughtfulness in the maker's fabric selection, her attention to detail in all aspects of the quilt, and owning such a wonderful representation of a quilt made so long ago—that is where the real value lies.

To see some of our other antique quilts, please click on the links below: