Friday, November 27, 2009

Argyle Applique Ornament Tutorial

I think I have already expressed my love for plaid but I'm also quite fond of the equally classic argyle. These were so much fun to make and it would be a perfect first project for someone who wanted to try applique. The stitching is so basic that embroiderers of all skill levels could take this on. Plus, it is simple enough that you could stitch it up while watching "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ some evening this holiday season. So, without any further delay here’s how it’s done:

You will need:
A pattern printout (available here)
Three different cotton fabrics (I used red and aqua kona cotton and brown corduroy)
Fusible web (I use Wonder Under but heat n’ bond works well too)
Stabilizer (optional)
A three-inch wooden embroidery hoop (I can usually find these at my local Hancock Fabric store but they are also available on-line)
Embroidery floss in two colors of your choice
An iron, scissors, and pencil

On the printout you will find a pattern for the appliques, a number list for organizing your pattern pieces, and a stitch guide template. You can configure your colors any number of ways. When I made mine I searched around online quite a bit for an argyle "rule" about how the colors should be arranged and found that there was a lot of variety out there. So I just picked a configuration that I liked and went with it. You can use the same or come up with your own.
You will need to decide which fabric will be the base fabric (I chose the aqua for mine) upon which you will iron your appliques and which two fabrics will be the appliques. For the base fabric I use a square that is about 7 x 7 inches. For the other two fabrics you will really only need about a 4 x 4-inch piece.
Once you decide which fabrics you want to go where you can use the number list to help keep track of your pieces. Next, you will be tracing the applique pieces onto the fusible web. If it’s easier for you to cut out your pattern pieces and then trace them, do that. If you prefer to just trace them directly from the pattern that works as well.
(normally you would reverse your pattern before tracing but for this design it doesn’t matter)

So, now you have a piece of fusible web for each of your two applique fabrics. Follow the directions that come with the fusible web and iron the two pieces onto the backside of your two different fabrics.

Once the fabric has cooled carefully cut out your pieces.

Now this part is fun. Peel off the paper backing and arrange your pieces in their correct configuration. Of course you don’t have to peel off the paper backing first but I always hate to get things positioned correctly only to have to pick them back up again to peel off the paper on the back.
Carefully iron your appliques pieces. This activates the adhesive and bonds them to your base fabric.

Next use a lightweight stabilizer and trace the stitch guide onto it. Position it onto your fabric and pin (or iron, depending on the stabilizer) it into place. Then you are ready to stitch your lines.
* You can also use an air erase fabric marker to draw you lines on too – whatever method you prefer will be fine)* blogger insists that this photo be inserted sideways and no amount of futzing on my part could fix it - I apologize for that!
I used three strands of floss in two colors. I used one color for the lines going in one direction and the other color for the lines going in the other direction but again, you can decide how you want to do that part.
After you stitch your lines carefully remove the stabilizer.

You can be done at this point but I like to add some backstitching along the edges as well.

Finally, you can place your embroidery in the 3-inch hoop and trim the excess fabric.
I usually tuck the edges under and adhere them to the hoop with some adhesive.

Add a ribbon and you are done! You did it!
I hope you will enjoy this project, I sure did. Let me know if you have any questions or problems with these instructions. I’m still learning how to put tutorials together so if there is anything that is not clear just let me know and I will do my best to correct it. Thanks!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

so much to be thankful for

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays. It's not the food that makes me say that (although my sister is bringing a marble cheesecake - yum!). I have always liked the fact that Thanksgiving is all about family but isn't complicated by gift-giving like Christmas can sometimes be.
I also love that people might take a moment on this day to reflect on the things they are thankful for. I know I should do that everyday but I don't. A healthy, happy family, an awesome husband, a chance to stay home with my boys, a little creative space squeezed into all of that - what more could I ask for? I mean, 'for what more could I ask?' Yep, it's going to be a great day.
I will be back tomorrow with a tutorial - yea!
And stop over at my friend Amy's blog then too for a SeptemberHouse giveaway!

Friday, November 20, 2009

tips for teeny tiny text

I promised a post about stitching text based on a questions posed in my comments section by ‘JennyCNo3’. I thought it would make a good topic because I stitch a LOT of tiny letters on my Christmas ornaments and figured it might be helpful to share some of my trial and error experiences and results. Another friend, Glenda also referred me to a wonderful series over on all about stitching text. Check it out – it is so helpful and the stitching will amaze you.
As the title implies this is focused on small text (like less that a half inch tall - whoa!) Stitching small text has it’s own unique challenges and it can be enough to make you want to skip it all together. But since so many embroidery projects are small and so many patterns lend themselves to the addition of a verse, quotation or name, it's worth it to at least give it a try.

1. Choose the right font
For text that is large (1.5 inches and up), I think just about any font will work fine.
For smaller text, consider how complicated the letters are before choosing. A sans serif font is going to be easier but a serif font is not out of the question either. (serifs are just those little extra bits on the letter ends - I circled one in my image below) It’s not a bad idea to try stitching a few letters on a piece of scrap fabric before you decide on a type style. Good sources for free fonts online are fontgarden and dafont. Do you have a favorite source for fonts? Share in the comments section, won't you? I also recommend keeping notes on fonts you have used and liked. It can be hard to remember months later what exact font it was you used on a project.

2. Layout your text in a favorite software program.
I use Adobe Illustrator.
Font size: If you can stay above 20 point that is ideal. Anything lower than that can be too small (depending on the font) to be readable when you stitch it. But if you aren’t sure print it out and take a look.

Be bold: When you embroider your letters the width of the floss is going to be thicker than the line width you see on your screen. I recommend changing your type to bold to get a better sense of the line thickness.

Track and Kern: Now is when you are going to start to see letters that might look too close together or some that might look too far apart – especially if your text is not laid out in a straight line. If your software program allows it, you can adjust this right on screen making the spaces between letters larger or smaller based on you needs. In the screenshot above you can see where this function is available in Adobe Illustrator. (click to enlarge)

3. Print and transfer your text to your fabric
I am pretty religious about using solvy stabilizer when I stitch letters. I can trace my letters right on to the stabilizer, iron it on (depending on the type of stabilizer), and stitch. I have tried a lot of methods and I honestly feel like I get the best results this way. If you are going to do this here is what I recommend: Use a very sharp pencil with a thin line and take your time and trace slowly and carefully – you will be glad you did.

4. Choosing your stitches
For text this small I almost always use a backstitch. With larger letters a stem stitch looks beautiful but for letters this small a stem stitch can look a little awkward.
Also, I never use more than 2 strands of floss.

Now after you have stitched your letters you have to carefully and slowly remove the stabilizer. If you use the tear away kind then you will have to carefully pull away the stabilizer from your stitches. This can be tedious but it's important to take it slowly. Try to go too fast and you can end up really yanking at your stitches. It is time consuming but worth it, in my opinion. There are also water soluble and heat soluble varieties of stabilizer available.

So there you have it – my tips for itty bitty stitched letters. I hope this is helpful for anyone stitching up little tiny letters!
If you have any tips to add to this please feel free to contribute in the comments section. I would love to hear what has worked for you!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

my favorite gift so far...

I am so excited about giving this gift this Christmas! I am going to just take a leap of faith and assume my two and six year old boys do not read my blog so I won't be spoiling the surprise but I have to trust you all not to tell them, okay?Vince said this gift is "nerdy" but I think what he really meant was "brilliant". Back in October I gushed a little here about the Ken Burns series, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Peter and I watched the whole series and fell in love. I don't think you could watch it and not feel a sense of urgency about seeing the parks and more importantly, taking your children to see them.
In one of the episodes they spoke about the stamp/seal program. You see, you just get yourself one of these handy dandy guides and inside there is space to collect stamps from each park you visit. I knew right then as I watched that episode that my boys would each have one of those books.
So, am I just asking to be pestered about visiting these destinations? Probably, and to that I say, "bring it on". Sometimes I need to be prodded a little in these matters. I need to be pushed outside of the day to day once in while in order to do some of the 'big picture' things that I know need to be done; things that I will regret if I don't do them.
Is this the gift that will send them jumping and hooting for joy in their jammies on Christmas morning? um, big fat 'no'. Is it one that they will still treasure decades from now? I hope so!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

snow dinos and sore fingers

What does a little boy who loves dinosaurs do on cold snowy days?
Build snow dinosaurs of course. This little guy was part of a custom ornament I made recently. I am especially in love with the scarf. I have wanted to make something that had chain stitch "knitting" ever since I saw it in a children's book illustration and I finally got my chance.

I just finished a whole batch of ornaments and am working on another group. My fingers are a little sore and my eyes a little tired but I am still loving it. What keeps me stitching at all hours these days? I think it's a combination of love for embroidery, my kids' Halloween candy (don't tell), Pandora, and a LOT of coffee. My 5 month old coffee maker even bit the dust this week (over-use perhaps?) So if anyone can tell me exactly how much money I need to spend to get a dependable and durable coffee maker I would appreciate it!

Even though the ornaments are keeping me busy I still want to make sure I pop in here once in awhile. I am working on a post about stitching text so look for that soon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

sweet little dress for a sweet little girl

This was just too much fun. I definitely see more teeny tiny embroidered dresses in my future. This one is just about two inches tall so those were some itty bitty stitches. This is one of the custom ornaments I have been working on this week and what fun it has been. I just love having a chance to make girly things like this once in awhile - probably because I live in a house full of boys.
And umm... tiny dress embroidery pattern anyone? Oh I would love to do that!!

I also wanted to share some ideas I posted over on the HEN (Hand Embroidery Network) blog recently. I was thrilled to be invited to post there as a guest blogger last week. It's a list of ideas for handmade holiday gifts. There are lots of tutorial links for fun things to make and embroider. Now if only I could find the time to actually do some of them myself!

While you are there look around at some of the other great information. You can also learn tons of new embroidery stitches. It's a wonderful resource.

(Speaking of sweet little things check out this giveaway over at my friend, Ellene's blog!) Who's feeling lucky??

Sunday, November 1, 2009

and so the torch passes

I don't remember every Christmas morning we celebrated when I was growing up, or every first day of school or even every family vacation. But I do remember every Halloween costume my mom sewed up for me. Every October (and then again at Easter) my mom turned into a sewing superhero - staying up until who-knows-when stitching up costumes for her four girls. Admittedly I grew up dreaming of sewing costumes for my own children. I would have to say that it became part of my very definition of motherhood. As my sewing skills grow a little each year the costuming has become more fun and more laborious.
here are this year's efforts.
Aang, from the show, Avatar. That's the answer to the question you are all asking right now. And to answer your other question, yes, we did shave his head just for Halloween. For some reason that seemed to shock a lot of people. We didn't even give it a second thought, I mean it grows back, right? In a previous post I referred to this project as a fiasco and here's why. I had such a confidence crisis in my own clothes-sewing skills and I tried so hard to make this in the easiest possible way. I had it in my head that all I needed to do was alter some sweatpants, a sweatshirt and a turtleneck shirt. As I scoured (and scoured and scoured - ugh!) the city for those things in the right colors and sizes and came up empty handed I knew what I needed to do - start from scratch and without even a pattern to guide me.
I was terrified.
But for some reason, it all worked out. Call it crafting karma, call it the power of love, call it the Halloween spirit. Whatever it was, it was guiding my sewing machine as it probably guided my mother's all those late October nights.
Don't worry everyone, Adam's turn is coming soon too. One day I'll be fretting and sewing and fretting and sewing for TWO little trick or treaters. But this year he got a costume from the Goodwill. And boy was he cute!