Stitch School: Overcast Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Overcast Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.


Darth Amaya?

Here's a funny picture of my cat to tide you over until I get a chance to post again.

funny cat

Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, both of the magazines I design were due to the printer yesterday. That's not supposed to happen but an editor was on vacation, ads wouldn't print, etc. etc. Problems galore, and it's been so nice outside that all I want to do is be out there. I have a conference call/phone meeting at 10 and then I'm going to take a walk.

We had some fruit trees (two plums and a peach) and blueberry bushes to add to our growing orchard delivered yesterday, too, and I need to get them in the garden temporarily until we can plant them properly on the weekend.

Hope you're all getting a chance to enjoy the spring weather that we're getting—finally :)


more embroidery Q & A

I'm off to Philadelphia tomorrow so won't have time to do a full Stitch School post. But I have more embroidery questions from readers and this seemed like a good time to answer them.

I wonder if you could explain how to do the lazy daisy flower with two contrasting threads. It's the last picture in your lazy daisy instructions. That flower is so beautiful! Just love to be able to learn it.Irene Heikes

This is the flower that Irene is referring to:


And this is what it looks like on the back:


I didn't do this embroidery so I can't be 100% certain of this, but it looks to me like it was done with two needles and two colors of thread. The technique is the same (see lazy daisy post) except that you'll need to hold the loop while you maneuver the second needle to make the small stitch that catches the curve of the loop. That may be a little awkward—it even sounds awkward. My other thought was to do the stitch as you usually would and go back over the catch stitch with your second color. I'm not sure it will cover completely and might be kind of lumpy.

I don't use a hoop. Is that wrong? When I use a hoop, I tend to push up the fabric to get the needle through. I do have a Q-Snap hoop. Maybe I should pull that out of the attic and try again. Will it make the stitches neater?Appliejuice

Everyone has to find their own best way of doing things and if you've found that embroidering without one works for you, then it's not wrong! Personally I think you get better results with some tension on the fabric but there are some things that I don't use a hoop for—like quilted baby bibs that have enough weight to them already. I do find that some stitches are a bit harder to do in a hoop and often will use a "stabbing" effect with the needle rather than a "skimming the surface" technique, which can cause the fabric distortion that you mentioned. As for neatness, I think that has more to do with the person doing the embroidery :)

I had a question about embroidering on pillowcases and I thought maybe you could help. Embroidering is so much easier when a hoop is used, and with my first three projects I have been able to use one without any problem, but what does a person do when you embroider on either pillowcases or flat sheets when the embroidery is on the edge and you can't get all the fabric in the hoop? How do you keep it taut?Carrie-Lee

They make very small embroidery hoops that might work for this, but I find that the area they contain is so small that you have to constantly move the hoop. You could try a stretcher frame. But there is another way and this will work for anything that's too small for a hoop. Take some wide strips of fabric and sew them (with long basting stitches so they'll be easy to remove later) onto the edge of your piece. Complete your embroidery, then remove the strips.

Since I began writing this I've received several more questions. So, if you haven't heard back from me, I haven't forgotten you. You'll be in the next batch!



Look at this cute little package I found in my mailbox today. Wonder what it could be?

It was wrapped so prettily that I had to take a picture first. Isn't that tag perfection?

vb swap 1

And inside was a great batch of buttons courtesy of my vintage button swap partner, Mandi. I participated in the first swap last year and was thrilled to sign up again this time. The swap is sponsored by Sally at shim+sons and 170 people from all over the world signed up to be partnered with another button lover. You send 12 buttons and you get 12 buttons back. And people often send extra goodies, too. Like the row of vintage trims in the back—the pink one has kitties on it. And my own package of those sweet little tags—wheee!

vb swap 2

So, how did Mandi know that I love flower buttons? This wasn't a surprise thing so I asked her what she liked and she did the same. She was redecorating her kitchen with yellows and oranges so that's what I sent her, along with a tea towel trimmed with vintage feedsack fabric and rickrack. Every kitchen can use a pretty tea towel.

vb swap 3

If you want to see some of the other buttons, head over to the Flickr group. And if that doesn't make you want to sign up next time I don't know what will :)

poor birds

I took this photo on Monday in the thick of the snowstorm that dumped 8 inches of wet, heavy snow on northeast Pennsylvania.


I've never seen so many birds at our feeders—and not just the usual chickadees and cardinals. Cowbirds, goldfinches, and red-winged blackbirds all made an appearance. All are birds that you see occasionally but that prefer other foods than birdseed. I'm not sure what the robins did. I saw a few of them trying to dig through the snow early in the day but they had to give up later.

Last year at this time I was posting pictures of pussywillows and commenting about how warm it was getting—LOL!


Stitch School: Interlaced Band

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Interlaced Band Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.


what happened to spring?

Sorry for the lack of blogging lately. All this weird weather (it's actually snowing a little here today) has left me feeling kind of blah. I want to be working in my garden and getting inspired by nature. Instead I'm stuck inside, mostly on my computer doing not-so-creative things.

I did get back to Hancock Fabrics yesterday and spent at least an hour going through the entire store. I didn't buy the iron I set out to buy because it was a display model that looked like it had been sitting out for years. They aren't allowing returns on anything and I didn't want to take the chance. But I did buy a professional model to replace the one I bought last year - it's been leaking and spitting a lot lately and I fear it's days are numbered. I got lots of great fabrics, buttons, embroidery floss, and crib quilt batting, too. Our store will be open until June but it's already getting pretty picked over in some departments.

I found out a little more about the bankruptcy. They filed for Chapter 11 which allows them to remain in business but to reorganize the company. Part of that effort is to close 134 stores. They have 400 so it's possible that they won't be closing the store near you. I haven't heard anything about their plans to continue to publish Cutting Edge—if you have a subscription I imagine you'll be hearing from them if they decide to fold.

While I think its sad that they're closing our local store, the market where I live is too saturated. Joann, AC Moore, Michaels, and Hancock Fabrics—all within minutes of each other—is too much for an area that doesn't have a lot of sewers and crafters. Two very old fabric stores closed here in the past couple of years because they couldn't make it any more.

Because we're part of the crafting community and crafting seems to be the hot thing these days, we assume that everyone is doing it and there must be a market for more craft/fabric stores. I think that must depend on where you live—it's certainly not true here. That's OK, though. Computers have opened up the whole world as a source of supplies and there are so many wonderful online shops to buy them from. Shops that can stay small, offer excellent customer service, and focus on what they do best.


get thee to Hancock Fabrics

If you have one near you, that is. The company has filed for bankruptcy and is closing hundreds of their stores, including the one that just opened a year ago at a mall near where I live. I think someone posted about this on their blog but I didn't make the connection until I stopped there today and saw their windows plastered with giant store closing signs.

So, yes, everything is on sale and most things for 50% off! I needed to get back here today so I quickly grabbed a basketful of stuff that I knew I'd use, including the fabric I stopped for. You can bet I'll be heading back very soon—like tomorrow perhaps. I have my eye on a professional Rowenta iron (the one with the separate water reservoir). There will never be another opportunity to get one at 30% off! And it's a good chance to stock up on basics, too—like thread and embroidery floss.


some questions...and some answers

I have to meet with my accountant this afternoon to review my taxes, and am feeling a little rushed today, so I'm going to use today's Stitch School space to answer a few embroidery-related questions from readers and to show off that amazing towel I bought on Saturday.

"My problem is the hoop marks. How do you avoid having hoop marks on your finished projects?"
I always use the heavy plastic hoops that you can buy now. Hoops used to be made of metal or wood, both of which can be a problem. Metal rusts and can leave spots that likely won't come out. Wood can pick up dirt and, if constructed cheaply, splinter and crack. With plastic, if it gets dirty, you can just wash it off with a sponge and some mild soap. Keeping your hoops clean will help to avoid transfering dirt to your work.

There's a technique for binding a hoop with strips of fabric (cut on the bias), woven cotton tape, or bias binding ironed flat, but this seems to be more about getting a firmer tension between the hoop and your fabric. You do it by separating the two sections of the hoop and wrapping the strip around and around the edge of the bottom (or inside) ring, making sure it doesn't crease and taking a few small stitches when you reach the end to secure everything. I suppose this could work to keep your hoop clean, too, but you'd probably need to wrap both rings.

And don't set your project aside for weeks on end in the hoop. I know, you intend to get right back to it, but will you really? Remove your fabric from the hoop after you're done working for the day and that ring-shaped crease won't have a chance to set in.

I do a lot of stamped embroidery projects and always wash them when I'm finished to get out the stamping. Getting the fabric wet generally takes care of any creasing that occurs while I'm working. If you don't want to wash the entire piece, you could try spraying it with water and ironing the creases out. I keep a spray bottle near my ironing board for this very purpose.

"I am planning an embroidery based on a free print of a chickadee, and I am wondering if a part of the head is black, do I outline it in black? And also when part of the head is white, do I then do that in white? Or do I do it all in black as an outline? Hopefully I didn't confuse you."
I'm pretty sure I know what you mean here, and the problem is really with the white embroidery floss. If you're embroidering on white fabric and using white floss to render a white object, how can you see it against the background? It's personal preference somewhat, but here's what I'd do. If I could use a fabric that had a bit of color in it—like a natural linen—then I'd use white for the part of the head that's white. If I had to use white fabric I'd probably outline with black so it stands out from the background. Even if you outline the whole thing with black, there will be open white areas within the design, giving the illusion that the head is white. Or, I'd use a floss color that's almost but not quite white—ivory, pale gray, or that very pale silvery blue color—all would work for a chickadee.

If this isn't what you meant (and I truly am confused), leave a comment here and I'll explain further.

OK, for you cross stitch lovers, this is a stunning example of art deco design done in black and turquoise on heavy linen. The embroidery is completed in a wide band across the bottom and features two monogrammed letters above it. Flawlessly done. I wouldn't normally pay $17 for a tea towel but this was just too beautiful to walk away from. And no, this will not be cut up for a pillow. I may even frame it!

If you click on the photo there are some closeup photos on my Flickr page. Stop back next week for a new stitch!


happy Easter


This is a vintage Easter card I found at an antique mall yesterday. The top shell is hinged at the corner so it can be closed at first, then opened to reveal the chick inside. Love the art! It's very similar in style to an old embroidery book I have from the 1930s so I'm guessing it's from that era. It was a great shopping day—lots of buttons, pretty trims, and a really spectuacular embroidered towel that I'll show you soon.

Hope you all have a happy Easter!



So many people asked about where I buy towels after yesterday's post so I'm going to share my source. There's a great online company called Embroider This and they carry a wide variety of what are called embroidery blanks—everything from baby bibs to hemstitched linen tablecloths. I like the McLeod Tea Towel in white (also available in cream, chambray blue, and with colored stripes). They also have 100% cotton Flour Sack Towels in sets of three, Natural 100% Linen Towels, and Huck Towels with and without hemstitching. All of these have a slightly different texture and weight but work equally well for embroidery.

Their prices are reasonable and you can save even more by buying larger quantities. That may be too many if you just want to make a few towels for your kitchen, but comes in handy if you're making a lot and need to keep your costs down.

While you're there check out some of the other categories. They do sell embroidery supplies but the emphasis is on machine embroidery, something I consider cheating. It's so satisfying to do embroidery by hand and (in my opinion) doesn't take much skill to set up a machine to do it for you. Sure, it's faster, but I think I prefer the slight imperfections in hand done work. You know the person who created it was personally involved in the process.


blueberries can dance?

Of course, they can. Especially when they take center stage on a tea towel! Last week I finished a custom order for one of my Blueberry Ballet tea towels. I started decorating and selling tea towels last year and sold out of the ones listed on my site. They take a while to make and I haven't had time to restock my supply so I usually do them as custom orders. This design is one of my favorites.

I start with a purchased towel and add coordinating fabric along the bottom edge—in this case a realistic blueberry print. And I slip in a row of blueberry-blue jumbo rickrack as I'm sewing the top edge—the bottom scallops catch in the stitching. You could sew it on top, too.

The blueberry motif is from a vintage Vogart iron-on transfer pattern that I got on Ebay several years ago. Lucky you—you don't have to go through the trouble of finding it. It's called Happy Fruits and you can buy copies at Patternbee. It's a cute design and there are others in the same set that feature all sorts of fruits, each with a funny saying if you want to include it with your finished design. The drunken pear ("Stewed Fruit") and the kissing apples ("Apple Sauce") are really too funny.

The embroidery goes quickly—it's mostly outline and straight stitch with a few lazy-daisy leaves and satin stitch eyes.

Really easy to do these yourself, but, if you don't feel like going to the trouble, I'll be happy to help you out. Unfortunately I can't promise a speedy turnaround at the moment as I'm getting kind of booked up for April. I'll probably write about some of my new projects here during the next couple of weeks. When you have a blog anything and everything becomes fair-game for a post.

Stitch School: Vandyke Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Vandyke Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.