Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Pekinese Stitch

One of our favorite stitches is the pekinese stitch, which we used for the large stems on our Harvest Basket Block. I (Teri) have done a short video showing you how to do the stitch, but we also wanted to share the versatility of the stitch. You can achieve many different looks, depending on the kind of thread you use, the thickness of the thread, how tightly you weave the stitch, and whether you pull the loops to one side or keep them centered. The possibilities are endless!

I hope this video is helpful and you will want to try the stitch. Then take a peek at some of the ways we have put this stitch to use below and be inspired to give it a try. Enjoy!

These stems on the Violets block from In the Garden are stitched with Weeks DyeWorks #5 pearl cotton.

Valdani #12 pearl cotton creates the stem for this velvet violet on our Lovely Botanicals quilt.

And the same stem treatment here on a new design we are working on, Alsatian Urn, also with Weeks DyeWorks #5 pearl.

The Alsatian Urn also has the pekinese stitch woven much more loosely, creating petals on these daisies. Here, we used Thread Gatherers Aurora thread.

Two more examples of loosely woven, loopy pekinese stitch. The first flower has two strands of Weeks floss for a frilly effect, and Painters Threads #5 pearl is used for the flower petals around the button in the second picture.

A loose pekinese stitch with Weeks DyeWorks crewel wool makes nice furry boots. 
Stay tuned for more about this block in the very near future!

Rows of loosely woven pekinese stitches with two strands of The Gentle Art wool thread create a headful of curly hair. In these examples, the loops were left loose on both sides of the backstitch.

And the same technique is used for the geranium leaves on these flower boxes, using Weeks DyeWorks crewel wool thread.

And finally, we used silk/mohair yarn with the pekinese stitch to create this bird's luxurious tail feathers.

Isn't it a wonderful stitch? If you have tried it and would like to share one of your creations, please share it with us on our Facebook page. We'd love to be inspired by you!

And if you haven't joined the fun at the Woolen Oak Mystery Stitch-A-Long, it isn't too late! Patterns 1-9 are available for free download, and there are three more lovely designs to come. Our group on Facebook hold tons of inspiration, tips, and fun. Get them while they are free! You might even see a kit or two you would like to order.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Harvest Basket: Our Wool Appliqué Methods

It's finally time to reveal our block for the Woolen Oak Mystery Stitch-A-Long! It has been SO hard to keep our Harvest Basket block a secret. We hope you enjoy making it as much as we did! To download your free pattern, click here. Just add the free download to your cart, be sure to add the promo code FREE when you go to the checkout, and the price will revert to zero. Best way to shop!

In honor of our Woolen Oak Block reveal, we thought it might be nice to show you how we prepare our wool for appliqué. Both of us use a variety of methods based on a few variables—the size of the piece, the type of wool, and truthfully, our mood for that day might dictate which method we use. Sometimes we use the same process, but most often we stick to the method that works best for each of us. I (Kara) like to use freezer paper for my templates and for many projects, I will use fusible. Teri goes about her prep a little differently, so today we thought would each show you our favorite methods. 


I start out with my template page, a glue stick and a piece of freezer paper.

I apply glue to the back of all the template pieces (or the whole sheet of paper).

Next I place the template sheet on the matte side of the freezer paper.

Then I cut out a chunk of the templates, so I am working with a smaller piece,
and then cut out the individual pieces.

Cut out and ready to iron onto the wool.
An easier to manage chunk.

If I am using fusible, I make sure that my wool has the fusible already applied with the paper still on. Then I iron on my freezer paper template to the wool.

After the template is ironed, I cut out each shape.

Once I have used my templates, I keep them in a bag and then I am able to use them again, or if I need to change out a color, I just pull that template out.

This is just one way of preparing wool for appliqué. I like using this method because I always have the templates available to use whether I choose to use fusible or not. If I am not using fusible, I will staple my pieces to my background. I am not a very good tracer, so I tend to stay away from tracing and my brain doesn't like to reverse images accurately, so this method works well for me. I keep the template bag in with my pattern, in case I decide to make the project again. It is not necessarily the fastest method, but it is important to find the method that works best for you and your brain!


While Kara has the tidier brain, mine tends to want to find the way that offers me more efficiency. (Translation: I am "lazier" and don't like to go back and forth to my ironing board if I can avoid it.) There are certainly times that I find Kara's method to be the best, but for the most part, I have a much closer relationship with my stapler than my iron. (Again, it is more portable, so I can stay in my living room chair.) It may also have to do with the fact that my hand hurts more if I am cutting through multiple layers of paper. I can find excuses for anything... 

The Harvest Basket block involved several elements that required a different kind of attention, so I used several methods. Most of the time, I do not use fusible; I staple the units onto my block. For this block, the two sections I knew that I would fuse were the basket (video to follow) and the grapes, since there were so many of them and they were small. So I ironed the fusible to the back of the brown for the basket and the purple for the grapes. The rest of the pieces, I left naked. This is how I approached prepping the block for appliqué. 

First, I cut out one of each unique template. For this block, I cut out all the smaller basket templates, and then realized I really only needed to cut one, as they were all the same, so for the longer templates, I cut one and reused it.

I bend the staple as pictured below, which makes it pretty easy to remove. I can then restaple the template onto the wool to cut another identical unit, if needed.

The grapes were a bit different. Since there were so many of them, I thought I would use Kara's method, as stapling might have been more challenging. So I glued the templates to freezer paper and was ready to start cutting. Then I noticed that there were only two sizes of grapes, so rather than cut all the templates, iron them on, and cut the grapes, I just cut one of each size and traced the required number of each sized grape onto the back of the fusible. Cutting was then easier on my hand. Having glued the template onto freezer paper did give me a stronger template for tracing.

For the rest of the templates, I stapled them onto the wool, cut out the units, and reused the template when needed. You can see the multiple staple marks on the templates in the picture below.

For the yellow flowers, I cut the template first to ensure better accuracy, since the petals were small. But I often just staple as below and cut only once. I have a designated pair of sharp scissors that I use when I'm cutting through paper as well. I was so excited about stitching my Harvest Basket block that I neglected to stop and take pictures for you, so here is an example from our Hopeful Bluebird

I also keep all of my templates in a bag with the pattern, in case I want to make the block again. I include the pieces I haven't used, in case one wears out from too many staplings. I haven't had that happen often, though.

Appliquéing the Block

For this block, Kara fused everything down before appliquéing. I (Teri) fused the basket and the grapes, but I stapled the rest of the pieces in place and then appliquéd. If there are layers, I staple and appliqué the bottom layer, like the pumpkin first, and then staple the leaves in place. We both use an appliqué stitch with matching thread or one strand of matching floss to appliqué our pieces in place, as typically, we want the focus of our stitching to be on the embroidered embellishments. 

The staple holds the pieces in place while appliquéing, and does not catch the thread as a pin would. They are easy to remove and leave no marks on the fabric.

No evidence of the staples

In some situations, if we have a more loosely woven wool, we might use a blanket stitch with matching floss to help to smooth the edges a bit. The green for the leaves was the only wool we used which was not hand-dyed, so we blanket-stitched it to give it a cleaner edge. We wanted the focus to be on the embroidered veins, so you can't really see the blanket stitch, as it melts into the matching wool.

The most unique aspect of the appliqué on this block is the basket. Since many baskets are woven, it gave us an opportunity to weave some wool. Kara made a video to demonstrate how she created the basket. We hope you enjoy it!

Be sure to watch out for videos throughout the week on our Facebook page, giving tips about the Harvest Basket block. If you haven't joined Woolen Oak Mystery Stitch-A-Long group on Facebook, you're missing out on a lot of inspiration and fun! 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Big Woolen Oak Mystery Reveal Prep

Twas 4 nights before reveal day and all through Teri's house,
all the kits were in boxes with the help of her spouse.
The thread kits were bundled and inserted with care,
and the names on the list were checked off without err.

The wool for the kits has been carefully dyed,
and the fabric and threads were chosen with pride.
We can't wait for the hands to move on the clock,
so we can show you our Woolen Oak block!

Wow! We can't believe the response to the participation in the Woolen Oak Mystery Stitch-A-Long. The amount of faith everyone has in our unseen block has surely humbled us, and we are so excited that our reveal time is almost here. 

The kits have been assembled with the gorgeous hand-dyed wool made here in Germany, along with the cotton background fabric. Teri is playing Santa Claus by making the list and checking it twice to make sure that everyone's pre-orders are correct. 

It's not too late to pre-order your wool and/or thread kit to have it shipped on Saturday before the reveal on Monday. That way you can get started right away! 

Stay tuned for our block reveal on Monday. We have lots to share with you during the week. And thank you again for your faith in us!! 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

A Little More Lavender and a Free Pattern!

Last week we traveled to Provence to see the amazing fields of lavender, and this week we are going to put that lavender into stitch form with a free pattern! This little circle of lavender can be stitched onto just about anything—a hand towel, an ornament, or a sachet—which is what I (Kara) am going to show you today.

Lets get started!

The first step was gathering my threads. I love it when I can use my Valdani threads, so I chose one of my favorite greens for the stems and then a solid black and a variegated gold for the little bees. It always seems that though you have lots of threads, you don't have the right one for a particular project. That was the case with my purples, so I made one up by using 2 strands of the lighter purple floss and 1 strand of the darker purple. This created the depth in the purple shades that I wanted.

Valdani 12 pearl cotton and Weeks DyeWorks floss

Using the pattern, I traced the circle onto a 4" piece of linen and then drew lines for the lavender. You can just mark the dots for the French knots as they are shown on the pattern. Then I used the green pearl cotton and did a stem stitch around the whole circle and added lazy daisies for the leaves. After that was finished, I added the French knots for the lavender. The bees were made by making a 3-wrap bullion knot using a strand each of gold and yellow threaded together. When you wrap the threads around the needle, wrap them carefully so the two colors alternate, and then pull through. White sewing thread and a lazy daisy stitch make the wings.

Stem stitch

French knots with 1 strand of dark purple, and 2 strands of light purple

Tiny bees!

Once the embroidery was finished,  I cut a 4" square backing piece to match the front. Then I marked a 3.75" circle on both pieces making sure I centered the lavender circle in the middle. When I cut out my circles, I left a 1/4" seam allowance on both. I put right sides together and used the drawn circle on my backing as a stitching guide, making sure I left an opening to turn.

4" squares front and back.

A 3.75" circle is drawn and then cut out with a 1/4" seam allowance.

Use the drawn circle on the backing as your stitching guide.
Leave a space open for turning.

Once I had turned the sachet, I dampened it to remove the blue marker and then let it dry before I stuffed it with the lavender and poly-stuffing. When it was dry, I gave it a bit of a press as the linen likes to wrinkle. I used a funnel and wooden skewer to put the lavender in the sachet. I only used about 4 tablespoons of lavender and then filled it with poly-stuffing until I was pleased with the shape.

I bought the lavender on Amazon for under $10
and should have plenty for more sachets.

I decided I wanted to add a hanger so it could be hung in a closet if needed. I cut a 2" piece of velvet ribbon and inserted the ends in before I stitched the opening closed.

All stuffed and ready to insert the hanger and stitch it closed. 

The finished sachet!

Voila! The sachet is finished! While I made mine as a circle, making a square would work as well. This will make a sweet and functional little gift, and for me it also provides a scented memory of my travels to Provence. 

You can download the pattern below. If you stitch this up, please send us pictures of your finished lavender. We would love to see them!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Lovely Lavender

Here in Germany, things are starting to open up after some pretty strong COVID prevention measures. Several countries that border Germany have opened their borders, and my husband and I decided to take advantage of this opportunity by fulfilling one of my bucket list items—seeing the lavender fields of Provence, France. 

Lavender is one of my favorite flowers as it is beautiful, smells good, and as an essential oil, it is good for relaxation, burns, and so many other things. To see it bloom in such abundance was such an inspiration visually for me. Come along as I show you some of the stunning views of Provence, France, as well as a little inspiration from the French Alps.

We began our travels and worked our way through Switzerland, stopping in a tiny village just north of Lake Leman. We stayed at a hotel that was once used by the Templars and pilgrims as a resting place as they made their way to the Holy Land.

As I looked up at the beams, I marveled 
at the fact that pilgrims from the Middle
Ages looked up at the same beams.
The tiny village of La Chaux.

Once we entered the south of France, the lavender fields started popping up and a hint of their fragrance was in the air. It wasn't until our second day in France, that we saw the vastness that is the lavender fields of Provence, and because of COVID, the normal crowds at this time of year were non-existent. Seeing in person what I had only ever seen in pictures, was the highlight of all my adventures here in Europe.

While this flower was pretty, its scent was not!

Provence stole our hearts, not just with the beauty of the lavender, but with the quaint towns and villages that were so clean and picturesque.

This color blue was everywhere!
A lovely old door.

More Provence blue—and I really liked the name of this shop!

Not all the inspiration from Provence was on the outside—our Airbnb had these lovely tiles all throughout.

On our way home, we traveled to the lovely ski town of Chamonix, beneath the shadow of Mt. Blanc—the tallest mountain in the Alps. The town was lovely and provided some typical alpine inspiration on the buildings.

With travel limited these days, hopefully you have been inspired in some way by this little Provencal journey—I know I sure have! I am already picking out threads for a little lavender project in the future. 

Stay tuned!