Monday, April 29, 2013

Little Block Embellishment - Block 3 (and 4)

This block started out easy - my favorite stitches in my favorite thread.  I outlined both the pink cotton flower and purple wool center with Bullion Stitches using Silken Pearl #5 in Berry Spritz.  But what to do with the gold wool petals?

 Whenever a stitch doesn't come to me easily, I pull out my Right Handed Embroiderer's Companion or for you lefties, the Left Handed Embroiderer's Companion and browse for inspiration.  The Double Pekinese Stitch was the answer.  Double Pekinese may look complicated but is actually quite easy.  I began with Back Stitch slightly inside the gold wool petal with Silken Pearl #5 in Sweet Peas with an equal number of stitches on each side of the petal.  Next, Silken Pearl #5 in Pond Scum was used for the weaving.

Between the petals is Fly Stitch with a long "leg" that is couched in 2 places so it doesn't move, again using Sweet Peas with Colonial Knots in Berry Spritz at the top.

The green cotton leaves are outlined in Coral Stitch with Valdani Pearl Cotton, Size 8, color M26.

that was so easy let's do another one.........

Notice that I used 7 petals cut from varying shades of orange wool and 1 from a cotton dot.  I think it is fun to add something a little different (maybe because I'm a little different).

Bullion Stitches in Valdani Pearl Cotton Size 8, color M37, outline each petal. 

I cut a wool roving ball in half and appliqued it to the center and randomly stitched multi-colored seed beads in place.

Silken Pearl #5 in Soft Apricot Drizzle Stitches with 12-17 wraps surround the center. 

If you are interested in purchasing any of the threads you may call me at 801-706-4671.  Out of the USA just send me an email at

Monday, April 22, 2013

Little Block Embellishment - block 2

My students often tell me they have a little trouble deciding what threads and stitches to use to embellish their applique.  This is the second in my 8 part series of how I embellished the blocks for my new bucket.  I hope this gives you some ideas for your next project.

The background of this block was pieced from 2 Japanese cottons and freezer paper templates were made using the same method as outlined on an earlier post.  Here's a tip when making your templates:  Note that the two large leaves on this block are mirror images of each other.  Just draw 1 leaf and then fold your paper so you have a double layer, with the shiny sides together.  Cut on the drawn line and you have both templates with just one cut.  I confess that I hurry through every step possible so I can get to the fun part - embellishment.  I will sometimes cut through 8 layers of paper rather than drawing the shape 8 times.  Before cutting through a lot of layers, staple close to the outside of the pencil line to keep the layers of paper from shifting as you cut.

I began embellishing this block by using Chartreuse Sea Grass to Back Stitch around the base (green part) of the flower.  Next, I added Bullion Stitches using Size 8 Valdani Pearl Cotton, color M37 on the outside of the flower and along the top of the cotton print.

Above the cotton print, Lazy Daisy (detached chain) and Straight Stitch create the leaves and stems of the flowers.  Silken Pearl in Berry Spritz was used for the Bullion Loop flower blooms and Straight Stitches inside the leaves.

Valdani Cotton Pearl, Size 8, Color M26 was used for the Whipped Back Stitch that outlines the large leaves as well as the Feather Stitch in the center of each leaf.  Colonial (or French) Knots were added to the Feather Stitch with the Berry Spritz Silken Pearl.

Using a straw needle with cotton thread, randomly stitch seed beads along the top of the green flower base.

After all my blocks were finished I sewed them together for my new bucket and added stitching and an assortment of buttons and charms to the strips between the blocks.  I hand-painted large ric-rac and appliqued it above the blocks, then Back Stitched with Sea Grass on both sides.  Buttons were layered and stitched on top of the ric-rac.
You're probably thinking, "hand painted ric rac???".  Don't be too impressed, it was easy and here is how I did it:
  1. Lay out a strip of freezer paper, shiny side UP to keep paint off the table.
  2. Mix Fabric Medium and acrylic paint, both available at craft stores, and thin down with water.  I didn't measure anything, just squirted it in a paper bowl and mixed with the paint brush.  It is better to have it quite thinned down with the water as you can always add more color but you can't take it away.
  3. Mix up a few colors that you like.
  4. Now just paint it on white or tan ric-rac, blending the colors together where they meet. My ric-rac was polyester or some other type of synthetic. 
  5. See the dark blotches above the bird and dragonfly?  That was little globs of paint where I hadn't mixed it enough but I like the way it turned out.
  6. Let dry and then "set" colors with a hot iron.
  7. I only painted one side.

This is the 5th bucket I've made and I love every one of them.  Patterns for the Country Bucket and City Bucket are available in my Etsy Shop along with the handle kits.  If you would like a pattern for the Little Blocks I used in my new bucket just email me at and I will send them to you for free.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Soap Making Day

Sometimes you just have to take a break from stitching to take care of life's other necessities.  A few days ago my sister, Paula, and I spent the day together making 4 pounds (about 18 bars) each of Sweet Berry, Lavender, Mango Tango and Rosemary Mint soap.  When it is gone we will have another "Soap Day".  Our soap doesn't make you feel "itchy" and I even take a bar with me when I travel.

We use the hot process method of soap making which is about the only recipe that works for me in my crockpot.  Yes, it is a lot of measuring and time on your feet but well worth it.  Why you ask?  OK, I will give you more information about soap that you ever wanted, but here goes......

Check the label of your favorite commercially manufactured skin care soap.  Do you understand what any of those ingredients are?  Most likely, there isn't one natural oil that is actually good for your skin - but only chemically synthesized ingredients.  Not convinced?  Look at the ingredients in Dove soap.  If we labeled our soap you would understand the labels, all purely natural oils.

The environment and old age do enough to harm our skin so a few years ago we developed formulas for soap, lotions, and balms.  We don't sell our soap but Paula does have many other wonderful skin care products made by her own 2 hands at In Your Bonnet.

If you don't want to make your own soap, try checking out the local Farmer's Market for a vendor and read the label before you buy.

p.s.  Don't be afraid if you see Sodium Hydroxide (lye) on the label.  Sodium Hydroxide is necessary to harden the oils and when properly formulated, no lye remains in the soap.  Sorry, can't explain it better than that - I'm not a chemist.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Little Blocks Embellishment

 Last week I posted photos of the blocks designed and stitched for my new bucket.  Thank you to everyone who requested a copy of the patterns and if you would like them, just send me an email at and I will send them out - free.

I thought it would be fun to share how I embellished each block and which threads I used.  Let's start with the dragonfly block as everyone seems to love this one and it was sooooo easy.

The background is a Japanese cotton fabric but any fabric, cotton or wool, will do just fine. Hand-dyed wool was used for the leaf and flower. 

The leaf and flower are traced onto the dull side of freezer paper then cut out exactly on the drawn line.  Iron the freezer paper templates onto the wool and cut out very close to the edge of the paper.  Peel the paper off and keep it as the templates are reusable.  A few clover applique pins will hold the wool in place while stitching - no fusible is used - and applique in place with Aurifil wool thread  in a #24 Chenille needle, using a small whip stitch. 

Two of my favorite thread colors were used for embellishment - Valdani size 8 pearl cotton in color M26 for the leaf.  The Thread Gatherer dyed a special color of Silken Pearl for me, Berry Spritz in size 5 for the detail on the flower.  You will notice I used both of these threads on 3 of the blocks.  The flower center is Valdani Size 8 cotton pearl color 12.

Palestrina Stitch outlines the leaf and Back Stitch for the veins of the leaf.
Colonial Knots (or French Knots) are stitched in the flower center.
Pistil Stitch in Silken Pearl radiates out from the flower center.

Those are easy stitches with dramatic results.  Now, the dragonfly is just as easy!
Make freezer paper templates of the wings and iron onto ribbon.  I used an inexpensive synthetic ribbon that was rather sheer and I liked the color.  My ribbon didn't fray but if your's does, use a very thin line of Fray Check on the edge.

Pin the wings in place and stitch with a tiny Buttonhole (Blanket) Stitch using a very fine metallic thread.  I purchased the thread at the craft store (Joann) and it was very inexpensive, kind of a silvery metallic color.  Next, Feather Stitch with the same metallic thread on the wing.

I also purchased inexpensive beads at the same craft store.  1 round black bead for the head, 2 dark silvery/black ovals for the body and an assortment pack of the blue bugle and seed beads used for the tail.  Of course, I couldn't buy just 1 round head and 2 oval body beads as they were on a string.  But, they were inexpensive, perfect for a dragonfly, and sure to be used in the future.  The beads were just stitched in place over the wings using cotton thread and a straw needle.

The Valdani pearl cotton, Thread Gatherer Silken Pearl, and the Right Handed (and Left Handed) Embroiderer's Companion are available in my Etsy Shop

Monday, April 8, 2013

Finally - The Big News!

I promised weeks ago that there would be some big news on this blog.  With just a few glitches on the way, it arrived.  What is it?

Aurifil 12 wt. Wool Thread

This wool thread is the absolute best thread to applique your wool.  Its "wooly-ness"  matches the applique pieces in both texture and sheen.  

I'm excited to now offer 32 colors of Aurifil Wool Thread in my Etsy Shop.  The full collection is a wonderful palette of colors including yellows, oranges, reds, pinks, purples, blues, greens, browns, tan, grey, white and black.  The thread is wound on a small spool of about 54 yards each.

If you're not ready for the full set, color groups are available in 4 different collections:

 Sunshine Collection

 Garden Collection

 Meadow Collection

 Clouds Collection

I find that nothing helps me stitch with my Aurifil wool thread quite like the Clover Size 24 Chenille Needles.  The needle is a critical tool in our stitchery but it often seems as though we pull any needle out of our bag and try to make it work.  Believe me, the needle is as important as your sewing machine and much less expensive.  These chenille needles have a large eye that is easy to thread, a nice length for handling and they glide through wool.  I also use them for many of my embellishment stitches.

Thanks for your patience in waiting for my "Big News".

Friday, April 5, 2013

More Little Blocks

I just finished the last block for my new bucket.  Sorry for the photo quality - I'm not at home and took it with my phone.  Just couldn't wait to share.  I've wanted to stitch a dragonfly for a while and finally found the right beads and threads.

I cut the wings from ribbon and appliqued them in place using buttonhole stitch with a fine metallic thread.  Another metallic thread, a bit larger, was used for feather stitch on the wings.  Two oval beads for the body, a round bead for the head, small bugle beads and a seed bead for the tail.

Several of you have requested patterns for my "Little Blocks" and I'm happy to share.  Send me an email with your request to and I will email the patterns to you - no charge.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Little Blocks

I have made 4 buckets.  The "first" which was my prototype that has a funky bottom and no outside pockets, a City Bucket and 2 Country Buckets.  The prototype is the one I carry around because the "good" ones are on display at stores.  Whenever I go to class an explanation is required that this isn't one of the "real" buckets.  So, I'm making a new one just for me and here's what I have so far:

The backgrounds are scraps of a few of my favorite cottons and linens, with several being pieced because I just had tiny pieces left.  Each block will finish 5" square to become the outside pockets of a bucket.  Two of the blocks follow City Bucket designs but I couldn't resist adding some new ideas. 
I love working on these little projects as there is such a sense of accomplishment when each one is quickly  finished plus they are easy to put in a little bag and travel.  If you haven't made a Country Bucket or City Bucket you can find the patterns and handle kit in my Etsy Shop.
This project is a perfect outlet for your creativity.  Whenever I teach the Bucket classes, students are tentative at first but come to the second class with amazing projects.  Go ahead, start your own and don't forget to share photos.

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