Saturday, January 12, 2019

Embellishment Thread How-To

I love using different fibers to embellish my wool applique.  Silk, cotton, mohair, linen, all have a different texture and sheen to bring your project to life.  My newest design, Nocturne, was completed with a selection of hand-dyed threads from The Thread Gatherer and Painter's Threads from Threadnuts.

While making Nocturne I kept careful track of each thread to prepare a list for the pattern and how much of each color to include in kits.  Below is a list of tips for handling your threads so you don't run out.

The first tip is quite obvious - don't use the thread included in the kit to practice or on a different project.  Keep a scrap of wool in your sewing box when you need to practice a stitch and try to use a similar weight of thread.

Here's how I get my thread ready for stitching:

The above photo is a skein of Silken Pearl #5 from The Thread Gatherer tied to a tag showing the color and yardage (15 yards) in the skein.

First step is to cut the thread tied to the tag.  Don't cut into the twisted skein of thread.  

As you "gently" untwist the skein you will see that the 2 ends of the skein are knotted together.  Although there are 15 yards of thread, it is just 1 piece of thread that is 15 yards long, looped and the ends tied together.

Don't be scared. Cut through the entire skein where the ends are tied.  Now you have 15 pieces of thread that are each 1 yard long.

Forget what Grandma told you - we are going to thread a needle with a full length of this thread.  That's right - a full 36" length.  This is strong, quality thread and shorter lengths waste more thread.  And who wants to stop and thread a needle?  Not me.

Thread one end of the threads through the tag and store in a plastic bag until you need it.  I like to use the small bags sold in craft stores.  All of the threads used in Nocturne can be handled in this manner. 

I hope you're getting excited to get started.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Nocturne - A Magical Nighttime Garden

Nocturne is my new wall hanging design featuring felted wool applique with embroidery embellishment.  I had a lot of fun designing and stitching this project and hope you plan to join me either by registering for a block-of-the-month (bom) program or using your own stash and my pattern.

Midway Wool is offering a bom for Nocturne with kits beginning in February.  If you are interested in just the pattern, it can be purchased through Midway Wool or my Etsy Shop.  

There are many good embroidery stitch books available and my favorite is "The Right Handed Embroiderer's Companion", by Yvette Stanton which is also available in a Left-Handed version, available in my Etsy Shop.

I used 100% hand-dyed felted wool (not felt) for the background and applique designs.  A complete list of colors and sizes is included in the pattern.

The embroidery is the "whipped cream and cherry on top" finish to Nocturne so I selected only the finest silk, cotton, wool and metallic fibers.  The pattern includes a listing of the threads and colors used for each block.

I will post tips for making each block "my way".  Now I know that some of you may have used different methods in the past.  Of course you can do it "your way" but your results may be a little bit different than mine.  

Are you ready?  Let's get started.  Read the pattern for block 1.

First up - I said it's OK to do it "your way" but I really want you to try "my way" and PLEASE don't use any fusible product on the back of your block or the applique designs.  Any glue or fusible interfacing will make it more difficult to stitch through and you will lose the wonderful texture of the layered wool.

The pattern includes full-sized drawings of the applique designs.  Trace the applique designs onto the matte side of freezer paper with a pencil, cut out each design on the drawn line and iron the freezer paper to the appropriate colored wool.  Cut out each piece right along the edge of the paper.  The freezer paper will peel right off without leaving any residue on the wool.

Notice in the above photo that I have included the beak and the portion of the wing that extends above the bird body.  This gives a foundation for adding the stitching on the beak and also gives a reference point for wing placement.  The wing will be placed right on top of the bird and appliqued in place giving some nice dimension.

Here you can see that I've drawn the circle berries using a circle drawing template and pen - so much easier than drawing on freezer paper then cutting out.  My templates for the Large Bell Flowers include the entire flower from this color.  

Now I have cut away the top and bottom portions from the freezer paper template and ironed only the center strip to this color.

I've layered the purple wool on top of the flower shape.  By using this method the strip fits exactly and I don't have to fiddle matching seams.  Again, I have some good dimension in the flower.

Cut the background block the size shown in the pattern, 11 1/2" x 15 1/2" for block 1, which includes the seam allowance.  There's no need to "oversize" the block before applique.  Just don't pull your stitches too tight.  If you decide to wait and cut the block down after it's finished, you may find that the ruler smashes down the embroidery.

Note:  Take a close look at the photo of the finished
Nocturne.  Block 1 is at the top left.
The center tree will be placed on top of the
center seam after all blocks are sewn together.
It's very important to leave enough room to place the
 tree trunk which we will do in Block 11.  

I traced my block drawing onto Vellum paper and pinned it along the top of the block, leaving room on all sides for the 1/4" seam allowance.  By lifting this (see through) paper slightly, I was able to place each applique piece exactly where it should be.  

Note:  don't cut a template for the tree trunk
from the block drawings.
This is a separate pattern that will be added in Block 11.

All of the pieces have been cut out and pinned in place on the background with small applique pins.  Notice that I have also cut out the top leaf and will save it to applique in place when I work on Block 11.

I prefer using a small whip stitch to applique each piece in place with matching thread.  I use a wool/acrylic blend thread in a #24 Chenille needle for this step.  There are several brands available including Aurifil, Wonderfil and Genziana.

You don't have wool thread?  No worries, a cotton thread will work just fine.  DMC embroidery thread comes in every color and is a good alternative.  Just remember, we want to hide the applique stitches and show-off the embroidery stitches.  Make the whip stitches small and don't pull so tight you crimp the edges.

The Nocturne pattern includes detailed instructions for embellishment, including the thread and needle used for each stitch.  In addition to the book referenced above, another excellent resource is Mary Corbet's Needle n Thread for online video instruction.

Please join my "Kerry's Crazy for Embellishment" Facebook Group to ask questions and share your progress.  

Most importantly, relax, have fun, enjoy every stitch of the journey.

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