City and Guilds – Twigs and Linear stitches

Continuing on the theme of the woods that surround me, I decided to do the next sample for my City and Guilds course using twigs from our trees. After every storm there are twigs all over the ground. One day I picked one up that caught my eye and saw the texture and gentle colours and decided that my linear stitches sample would be inspired by twigs.

Every morning in the late fall and winter, when I wake up, I look out a narrow window in our home to see the silhouette of the trees in our woods against the lightening morning sky. In the photo of my sketch book, above, you can see photos I’ve taken of the view through that window.

The next step was to gather twigs and draw them in my sketch book. I love drawing things I’m going to stitch because it helps me see them better.

After looking at fabric and thread choices, I decided on a moss green linen I bought years ago in Belgium and different “woodsy” shades of Appleton’s wool. Then I did a test embroidery using short twigs. When it was finished, I was NOT happy with the result and almost abandoned the idea. It look too much like a camp project! Fortunately, I got advice from an artist which made all the difference.

She suggested a limited colour palette of moss green – the fabric and the wool thread. That seemed to me like it would work based on the one twig I’d stitched in the sample using that colour of thread. The next step was to arrange the twigs on the fabric. I knew I would embroider this sample in a hoop, not on a frame, since the size would fit perfectly into a 10″ hoop frame. Using the frame as a guide for placement, I worked out where I wanted each twig to be in the finished design.

Then the fun began! Choosing which outline stitch to use where, was guided by the twig more than anything. The longest twig, which is towards the middle, seems to be perfect for a line of stem stitch that extended beyond the end of the twig. The gnarly twig at the bottom left cried out for clusters of French Knots.

When the embroidery was finished, I mounted it on a piece of pine board covered with batting. The pine board means that the embroidery can stand on a table or shelf so the twigs and the stitches are the focus rather than the frame.

The best part is that it passed and my tutors liked it! Only 8 more to finish…

A Christmas Ornament for you!

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic and, like all of you, I imagine, I’ve been looking for something festive and simple to stitch. I’ve always wanted to make an ornament for our tree but, as you all know, counted work it not my forté and most of the ornament patterns out there are counted work of one variety or another.

So, I decided to create my own ornament using surface embroidery. Many of you are familiar with the shape of a strawberry pin cushion. It occurred to me that this would be a perfect shape for a simple embroidered ornament.

The first ornament uses a simple holly and berry motif. I love holly and always draw holly sprigs on my gift tags every year. I decided on red holly shaped leaves made from boiled wool for the top of the ornament. 

The second ornament is a pine branch and pine cone motif. Although we don’t have pine trees on our property, I love seeing them here in Iowa, covered with snow. They’re so festive! I made simple green leaves from hand dyed felted wool for the top of this ornament.

Although I love boiled wool, it just isn’t easy to find here in the USA in the colours I wanted. I needed something for the green leaves of the pine cone ornament so I zipped over to Etsy and found some absolutely beautiful, soft, intensely coloured felted wool from Ruby Mountain Dye Works. It is gorgeous fabric! I loved it so much that I ordered more just to have it in my stash for a day when I would use it as a ground fabric for a piece of embroidery.

I ordered this selection of green wool for the leaves of the pine cone ornament and used the darkest green for the leaves. However, I am confident that regular felt will work just fine as well!

At the end of this post you will find the pattern for both ornaments, including a pattern for the leaves. 

Here are brief instructions for each ornament. The stitches are simple and there are tutorials on the internet to help you if you aren’t sure about how to do them. There is a link below for the raised leaf stitch used on the pine cone ornament from my blog.

Holly: the holly leaf outlines are worked in tiny stem stitches. The veins in the middle are worked in back stitch/straight stitch. The berries are first outlined in split stitch and then satin stitched. 

DMC thread colors are 304 (red) and 3345 (green).  Use 2 strands.

Pine cone: The pine needles branches are worked in fly stitch. The pine cones are worked in raised leaf stitch.

DMC treads colors are 3345 (green) and 801 (brown). Use 2 strands.

Cut the shape on the solid line and stitch the shape together on the straight dashed lines (the sides). The top must be gathered, pulling in the entire curved edge. There are loads of instructions on the web for how to make a strawberry pin cushion.

Cut three of each of the leaf shapes for the top of each ornament. The three shapes should be arranged on the top of the strawberry so each of the 6 outside tips of the leaf shapes are equally distributed. Stitch down the center where they all meet and then add a few holding stitches part way down each leaf to secure it to the side of the ornament. Look closely at the photos above and you will see my holding stitches.

Use a piece of DMC floss to make the hanging loop. 

Here are the links to the PDF ornament patterns. Holly ornament will be found here. Pine cone ornament will be found here. I hope you have a lovely holiday season and enjoy making these ornaments!

Crewel work – old and new

Years ago my mother gave me a large remnant of crewel work fabric left from when my grandmother had a chair reupholstered. The fabric has traveled with me to Germany and then back again to Iowa when we returned in February. I always knew I’d do something with it but wasn’t sure what that would be..

The chair below is one that my grandmother purchased in the early 1960’s. It’s made by the Stickley Company and was originally upholstered in a solid coloured fabric. At some point during my childhood (I can’t remember when) she had it recovered in the beautiful crewelwork fabric you see; the same crewelwork fabric that I have had for years but done nothing with.  One of my favourite things about my family is that we all tend to choose things that are made to last and then, because they do last, we use them from one generation to the next. We also save fabric from chairs, curtains and bedspreads just in case we might use them again in the future. Obviously my love of textiles is inherited!

The chair is now with one of my brothers and he loves it and will cherish it so it can be passed down to the next generation at some point. But the fabric is still in my stash, waiting to be used in a new project. Until now!

In 2012 I embroidered The Marriage Pillowe designed by Phillipa Turnbull. That piece has been stored for all this time, carefully wrapped in tissue, waiting to be made into a pillow. You can read more about that project here.

About a month ago, it was time for both of these textiles that had been waiting for so long to be brought to light. I was looking for a way to brighten up our new bedroom and wanted pillows and perhaps a bed runner for our bed. (Who knew there was a name for that piece of fabric you see at the foot of a bed in many hotels today!)

I called my new friend DJ Lauritsen who owns Brackets Custom Window Covering in Ames, Iowa and told her I had an idea I needed help with. As she and I spread out the piece of crewelwork fabric and the Marriage Pillow top we were amazed at the way the colours and the styles matched! It was as if they were made to be together.

Together we chose a fabric for the reverse side of the pillows and bed runner and a deep navy velvet for the piping. They were finished about a week ago and we are thrilled with the results!

DJ and her team had quite a challenge working with crewelwork fabric that was so old. There we a few moth holes and some stains so she had to consider and plan carefully how to use as much of the fabric as she could. Some of the threads were quite brittle and the fabric creased even though it was stored rolled up, not folded. However, the team did a marvellous job using the remnant from my grandmother’s chair to create something new for our home.

It’s so lovely how the colours and the patterns coordinate. Traditional crewelwork is timeless and the combination of the old and new in this project proves that!