28 June 2010

eat your veggies

Or, maybe I should say, embroider them :)

If you're also a reader of my Primrose Design blog you may have seen that I'm working on quilted patchwork pot holders with food themes. I've run out of vintage linens to cut up so I'm embroidering some of the motifs myself. Today I showed some examples of peas and carrots that I found originally on a vintage apron; there was a yellow squash, too. And I decided to offer the patterns for free here at Stitch School in case you'd like to try them for yourself.

Each of the designs would be super cute on aprons as they appeared originally or perhaps on tea towels or framed pictures on your kitchen wall. All are super easy and shouldn't take more than an hour. No need to trace these onto to your fabric—just count the stitches for your cross stitch and do them first, then go back and freehand draw the stem/outline stitched parts. I used an even-weave linen/cotton blend (from an old tea towel) but you could use Aida if you like.

Click each photo for a larger version on my Flickr page.

peas embroidery

peas pattern

carrot embroidery

carrot pattern

yellow squash embroidery

yellow squash pattern

08 June 2010

move completed

You're probably wondering why all the posts today. I'd been putting off completing the move of all Stitch School posts from the Primrose Design blog, but decided to devote the necessary few hours to getting it done today. And I did it. If you go to the original posts you'll be directed here, so I guess that means we're all moved in! There might be a few missing items here and there but I'll be checking for problems over the next few days. Then it's time for some new stitches!

Woven Filling Stitch

The woven filling stitch, also called Queen Anne stitch is really more of a technique than a stitch. It starts with a series of parallel straight lines done in straight stitch and then the thread is woven back through to form a basketweave texture. I have a couple of stamped-for-embroidery projects with baskets of flowers and I'm going to try this technique to complete them. It really does look just like a basket!

I used a coarser linen for this because I found it easier to keep the weave even by counting threads. You could mark your fabic first or do it by eye—if it's not absolutely perfect it will look like a rustic basket :)

First make a series of vertical straight stitches, close together but not too close. You'll need enough space between the lines to do your weaving. And use all six strands of embroidery floss for a fuller effect.


Bring your needle to the front just to the right of the last vertical line and very close to the top.


Now weave your thread over the last vertical stitch and under the stitch next to it.


Continue weaving under and over the stitches, taking the needle to the back just to the left of the first vertical stitch and level with the line of weaving.


After pulling your thread through bring your needle to the front just below (I counted three holes) where your thread emerged.


Now start back, weaving from from left to right and working under and over the opposite threads from last time.


Keep going back and forth, going down at the end of a row and up again to start the next. I found that it helped to use the needle to pack the threads in tight against the previous row, like you'd use a shuttle for actual weaving.


Here's what it looks like finished.


I love the texture of this and can't wait to try it on an actual project. Because each row is secured by taking the thread to the back, you can see how easy it would be to have this conform to an irregular shape—like a basket with curved sides.

Wheatear Stitch

The wheatear stitch, which resembles a sheaf of wheat when finished, is usually worked in a short, straight line. Drawing a vertical line on your fabric will help you to keep it even and, instead of working sideways as we usually do, we'll do this one working from top to bottom. As with most stitches, you can vary the appearance by lengthening or shortening the "ears" or by varying their placement.

We'll use gold thread to get the full wheaty effect, but this would also be pretty for a border in other colors, too. Bring your thread to the front to the left of the top of your drawn line. Then take the needle to the back on the line and about 1/4 inch down towards you.


Pull the thread through and come up again 1/4 inch to the right of the drawn line, directly opposite the first stitch. Take the needle to the back using the same hole as your first stitch.


Pull the thread through, forming a V shape. Come up again on the line about 1/4 inch below the bottom of the V.


Slide your needle from right to left behind the previous two stitches at the base of the V, being careful not to pierce the fabric.


Take your needle to the back again using the same hole in the fabric and forming a loop under the point of the V. Pull your thread through and bring the needle up to the left of the loop and in line with the beginning of the first stitch above it.


Repeat, using the hole at the base of the V for the end of each stitch and looping your thread through each time.


Continue working down the line and take a stitch to the back at the base of the final V. Here's what it looks like finished. Cool, huh?


Try this with a V that's less wide if you want a more compact-looking wheat sheaf—the loops and side pieces blend together more.

Vandyke Stitch

The Vandyke stitch is another of the braided-center stitches. It's traditionally used as a border (and I'll show it done this way) but could easily be adapted to fill leaf shapes by varying the width as we did here and here.

We'll be starting with a cross stitch that's narrow at the top and wider across the bottom. Draw some guidelines to help keep your stitches straight if you like. Start by bringing your needle up on the left outer line then take a small stitch from right to left directly above it (needle down on fourth line and up on second).

Pull the thread through, then take a diagonal stitch from the right line back to the left line directly underneath and slightly below the beginning of the first half of the cross.

You can see the finished cross a little better in this picture. Now slide your needle behind the crossed threads being careful not to pierce the fabric.

Pull your thread through and this will be the beginning of your second cross. Take another diagonal stitch from the right line to the left slightly below the previous cross.

Pass your needle underneath but this time be careful that you only go under the previous stitches and that you don't catch any threads from the stitch above it. It makes quite a mess if you do. It may be a good idea to work this stitch with a tapestry needle—it's blunt tip will make this part easier.

Continue making crosses and passing your thread behind them until you've completed your length of stitching. When you come to the end take your thread to the back at the bottom right of the last cross.

It's really pretty easy although the fabric I used (cotton toweling) was a bit too soft for this stitch. I found it very hard to keep the tension right so my center braid and outer edges (even following the guidelines) are not perfectly straight. As with most of these more complicated stitches, they take a bit of practice before they feel comfortable. And, in this case, a stiffer fabric.

Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch

This is a variation on the standard buttonhole stitch (which I called blanket stitch—same thing). There are actually quite a few variations (who knew?) and I'll try to show you some of them in the coming months. Here's the diagram from One Hundred Embroidery Stitches (yes, the second diagram is upside down. I should mention that you can hold your work any way you want—sometimes its easier holding it sideways or upside down—do what works best for you):

And now to the photos. Begin on the bottom line as for regular buttonhole stitch and pull the thread through.

Holding the thread with your left thumb, insert your needle on the bottom line and take a stitch straight up and alongside the previous stitch.

Pull the thread through in an upward motion. You'll see the little loop at the bottom tightens to hold the stitch. Take your thread back down through that little loop.

Repeat, and continue along until you've completed your length. Take your thread to the back and finish off.

Here's what it looks like when complete. If you look at this upside down it looks like little tassels—that might be handy for something in the future.

Twisted Chain Stitch

Twisted chain stitch is a variation of the basic chain stitch that we learned earlier (see Lazy Daisy which is really a detached chain stitch). You work it the same way except for one slight difference and that difference makes the chain twist and form a rope-like chain. The closer together you work the stitches the more texture you'll get. I worked them spaced apart so you can more easily see what to do.

Here's regular chain:

And here's the twisted variation. Can you see the difference?

Begin as you would for chain stitch by bringing your thread to the front. Now, instead of inserting your needle into the same hole where your thread emerged, insert it slightly to the left. Take a small slanting stitch and come up on the drawn line. Your thread loops over and then under the needle.

Pull the thread through until it tightens and the loop rests on the emerging thread. This is the first link in the chain.

To begin the second link, take the needle from just outside the loop down to the drawn line. Again, keep your thread under the needle or it won't twist. With regular chain stitch you would take your needle down inside the loop not outside of it—that's the difference.

Continue making links in the chain and when you come to the end take a small stitch to tack the last loop down.

Here's a side view. Remember that it's OK to hold your work in any direction that works for you. I started this working top to bottom like it was shown in my book but quickly switched to working from right to left. Much easier.

The finished twisted chain:

There are quite a few chain stitch variations so I'll probably show you more in the future.

Split Stitch

Split stitch is another stitch that is useful for outlining. I learned recently that this stitch was used extensively in the Middle Ages for embroidering faces because it lends itself to subtle shading when it's worked in rows as a filling stitch. It's also sometimes called Kensington outline stitch. Here's how you do it.

Bring your thread to the front, then take the needle to the back about 1/8 inch away.


Pull the thread through, then bring your needle up in the center of the first stitch, splitting the thread with the needle. This will work best if you use an even number of strands of embroidery floss. I used 4 but you could use 2 for a fine line or 6 for a heavier one. Pull the thread through to complete the first stitch and begin the second.


Again, take the needle to the back 1/8 inch away.


Pull the thread through and emerge in the center of the second stitch. Continue working your stitches in the same manner. Hide the thread at the back when you're finished with the line.


This is the first time I've done this stitch and I found it very awkward. My line looked better as I went along, but I still think it looks too much like chain stitch. And I don't think it's supposed to. So I think I need to practice this one a bit more. I'll revise these directions and pictures if I come up with an easier way to do it.


Last week I showed you how to do satin stitch with a drawn line. Another way to do it, and one that maintains a sharper line, is to outline your shape first with split stitch. Then work over the top of it, taking your thread over the outline so you're covering it completely, and angling your needle slightly towards the center. Like this—


I usually show examples from vintage linens that I own but I couldn't find any that used this stitch. Split stitch is not something you see that often and I'm not sure why. Maybe because it's underneath all the satin stitch :)

Spider Web

The spider web filling stitch is another stitch from my 1964 Coats & Clarks booklet One Hundred Embroidery Stitches. It's also shown in another of my embroidery books but done with ribbon instead of thread and it resembles a rose much more than a spider web. So feel free to experiment with the material you weave through—it doesn't have to be the same as the base threads, which will be completely covered by the time you finish.

Start by drawing a small circle on your fabric—mine is about the size of a quarter. Mark the center and five evenly-spaced points around the outside edge. Bring your thread up in the center.

Take five straight stitches from the center out to each of the five points that you marked. Bring your thread up again in the center in between two of the "spokes".

Without going through the fabric, weave the thread under and over the five straight stitches, making sure to alternate between spokes.

Because you're working with an uneven number of spokes, the next time you come around the circle you'll be doing the opposite of what you did before, so each spoke will alternate under and over. As you go around, guide the thread around the previous one with your thumb. You can keep the thread tight near the center but make it looser as you work outward. Otherwise, if you pull too tightly, it will pull over the previous thread. This is a little hard to explain but you'll understand once you start working this stitch.

When you want to stop, take your thread to the back slightly under the edge of the outer thread and near one of the spokes. This will help to hide the end.

Here's what it looks like when you stop the woven threads partway out and keep the ends of the spokes showing. (I've used a fade-away marker for my circle, so the lines will disappear in a day or so).

And here's another version with a second color in the center (just stop one color and start another) and the weaving taken all the way to the edge. The weaving creates a raised-off-the-surface texture and would be a cool way to do flowers!