Saturday, January 31, 2015

Design Your Own Redwork or Blackwork Embroidery on Evenweave Fabric

Redwork or blackwork butterfly in different colors and stitches
Blackwork or Redwork Made in Blue and Brown Stitches

Redwork and blackwork embroidery are a form of cross stitch using evenweave or Aida cloth with embroidery thread. If you’re a counted-thread cross-stitcher, you’ll pick this up quickly and probably enjoy trying thread colors other than black or red.

You can make your own pattern using a scroll saw pattern book, a child’s coloring book or a picture you like. It’s best to keep it simple to start because the embroidery is fancy, and you only need the outline. Here’s how to make the butterfly design. You’ll need to make some decisions along the way -- fabric type, thread colors and stitches to use.
Half butterfly design created on graph paper to transfer to evenweave fabric
Graph Paper Design of Half Butterfly for Blackwork Embroidery

Make a pattern on grid paper that is one-half of the butterfly design and fold it to trace the opposite side by holding it up to a window. Use tracing paper to transfer the completed outline of the design to 11-count evenweave fabric or a fabric of your choice.

Eleven-count evenweave has eleven blocks or stitches to an inch. Fourteen-count works just as well because the size of your drawing determines the size of the design, unlike counted cross-stitch where the design size is smaller with 14-count fabric. You can also use 22-count and work over two squares to get the same result with a finer fabric.

Choose your color or colors. You’ll notice the example here is in blue and brown, and there are blues and browns in the outline. Decide how thick you want the stitching. Embroidery floss comes in six strands, and you can separate the threads in one, two or three strands. Fine work uses only one strand of thread, but you may want the outline stitching to be heavier, using two or three strands in the needle. You may also choose to outline with a sharp-pointed needle instead of a tapestry needle. You'll need a dull point needle for the fill stitches.

Blue and brown stitches show creative alternative to redwork or blackwork embroidery
Completed Design Shows Different Stitches for Blackwork Embroidery
Outline the design in a backstitch or double running stitch. Double running stitch requires two passes through the outline path. Backstitch only requires one pass through the outline, but each stitch is forward and back. You may decide not to outline an area you don’t want defined. Notice we didn’t outline where the wings attach to the thorax of the butterfly in the example. We also completed the antennae at this time, since we were backstitching with the dark brown thread.

Select stitches you’d like to try. These embroidery stitches are repeating designs, but you can design your own or use pictures for ideas. Notice we didn't fill in all of the light blue design at the bottom of the wings.

Blackwork embroidery stitches for butterfly on evenweave fabric
Close-up Shows Stitches Used on this Design

Fill in the backstitched areas so that each side is the same or at least similar. If you choose a subject from nature (like the butterfly), it doesn’t have to be exactly the same on each side, but needs to be similar.

Butterfly in blackwork or redwork shows creativity
Outline Colors Correspond to Stitching Colors in this Butterfly

Create your own style. Notice that the lower wing design in the example isn’t complete to show shading in the bottom inner lobes. The inner wings are designs like scales on a fish, while the exterior wings are “x” patterns. The top wings are both blue and brown, while the second set of wings is brown and the bottom wings are shades of blue. The thorax or body of the butterfly is knobby and uses all the shades of brown. You'll miss some of the style with creating your design in all red or black, but the overall impact of a solid color is what gives redwork and blackwork its name.

Enjoy needlework crafts while the weather keeps you inside. See ya soon!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Shopping for Crafts, Quilting or Sewing Supplies

Basic outline of butterfly design can be from scroll saw patterns
Scroll Saw Designs Make Applique Patterns

When you need something for crafts, quilting or sewing, you probably head to the nearest Hancock or JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Interesting and useful crafts and sewing supplies are available elsewhere -- places you may not look.

For example, Harbor Freight has a 4-inch and a 6-inch magnetic parts holder that’s ideal for pins and needles. You can also find measuring tools -- like a T-square -- that are handy for quilting, and a plastic lightweight pick up and reach tool that saves lots of bending over when you drop something. 

Lowes and Home Depot have similar tools that work for crafting, sewing and quilting. The scroll saw books have simple shapes easily adapted to appliqué. A metal tape measure works better for large projects than a yardstick and is more accurate than a cloth tape. Staples has an inexpensive paper cutter that works well for paper crafts.

The next time you’re at a home supply or office supply store, look at the possibilities for your crafting or sewing supplies. You’ll find useful items not available in the crafts or fabric stores.

See you next year.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seminole Patchwork Piecing -- Quilting with Strips of Imagination

Completed Seminole patchwork strip with cutting board and rotary cutter
Seminole Piecing Strips Made With Rotary Cutter and Board

Seminole patchwork from the various Seminole Indian tribes creates strips of patchwork quilting designs often used as borders for skirts, pillowcases or even curtains. You can make this patchwork with strips of fabric instead of squares, cutting hours of time off your project.

You’ll need at least two different fabrics -- a solid and a print will show the design best. For this example, we used 2 1/2 inch strips that were the width of the fabric. We use 1/4 inch seams and the result is 2 inch squares for the Seminole patchwork. We use a rotary cutter and cutting board for precision and speed.

Trim the edge of the fabric so that it’s straight and square at the corners. Press if necessary. Cut strips horizontally on the folded fabric from center to selvage. We used 2 1/2 inch strips for both fabrics.
Six strips of fabric stitched together to form alternating design
Six Horizontal Strips Stitched with 1/4 inch Seams

Alternate the fabrics for stitching. Use 1/4 inch seam allowance. We stitched six alternating strips to make this design.

Press the seams toward the darker color. Unlike garments, we never press seams open in quilting to prevent batting from coming out or showing at the stitches.

Cut into vertical strips the same size as the horizontal strips
Check Measurements and Cut into Strips Vertically

Place the six sewn strips on the cutting board and cut in 2 1/2 inch strips vertically. Assemble these cut strips like a ladder, pinning at every cross-seam. Stitch together with 1/4 inch seams. Press all seams from the backside.
Stitch strips together with 1/4 inch seams to make ladder design
Create a Ladder or Steps with the Cut Strips

Place the laddered strip straight on the cutting board. Cut a diagonal from the top left edge of one solid-colored square to the bottom right edge of the laddered matching square on the bottom. Move the ruler over and cut another square, skipping the dark block. Our cuts are 2 1/2 inches apart. Continue until you have only scraps remaining.

Fabric stitched and on cutting board ready to make diagonal strips
Stitch, Press and Lay on the Cutting Board for Diagonal Cuts

Stitch the pieces together to create one long strip of Seminole patchwork. Press the seams from the backside.

Stitch the diagonal strips together to make long strip of Seminole patchwork
Cut Strips Fit Together to Make a Long Strip of Seminole Patchwork

Trim the edge of the patchwork if necessary and it’s ready to use for pillows or home décor, skirts or wearing apparel. You can also make a belt or use it for a purse handle or design. You may want to use light fabric for a backing to add to the strength of the Seminole patchwork if you’re using it for something that requires a sturdy fabric.

Place completed Seminole patchwork on cutting board and trim if needed
Trim Seminole Patchwork Strip for Accuracy if Needed

Once you’ve worked with this awhile, try different combinations or colors and three or four color strips. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

See you soon!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Use a Double Needle for Sewing and Hemming New Stretch Fabrics

Kenmore Sears 1974 sewing machine with double needle and multi-purpose foot
1974 Kenmore Has Everything Necessary for Double Needle Stitching

Sewing Stretch Fabrics and Knits with a Double Needle

Pants and jeans are skinny again, and stretch fabrics are back. If you’re short, you probably have to hem every pair of leggings, jeggings, jeans or whatever name we’re using this year. Even if you have mechanical sewing machine (not electronic) with straight stitch and zigzag, you can use a double needle to sew stretch fabrics and it’s worth the needle purchase to have double stitching that will stretch with the garment.

A double needle has one shank, so it fits in the needle slot just like the single needle. You need two spool holders for thread and a presser foot that will accommodate a double needle. My 1974 Kenmore will sew with a double needle, although it didn’t come with one.

Schmerz makes a universal double needle that you can find at Hancock, JoAnn or maybe even Michaels or Hobby Lobby. It should work in your sewing machine if you have two spool holders. Buy two double needles in case you damage one while sewing (they’re less than $5 each).

Remove your single needle and replace it with the double needle. Replace the presser foot with one that allows zigzag stitching -- you need the width for the double needle stitching. I use the Q-Foot or multi-purpose plastic foot for this with the best success.

Close up of threaded double needle in sewing machine
Double Needle Has Two Needles on One Shaft

Place a spool of thread on each of the spool holders. You may find that stitching works best with thread coming from the front of one and the back of the other. Thread the sewing machine with one of the threads according to the machine instructions, but when you get to the eyelet just above the needle, you may have two channels for thread. Choose one and thread the needle closest to the channel you choose.

Run the thread from the second spool in the same guides as the first one, including the tension guide, until you get to the eyelet above the needle. Place the thread in the unused guide and thread in the empty needle. Pull both threads to the back. 

Thread the bobbin as usual, and pull the thread up through the soleplate by easing the wheel forward slowly until the double needle goes into the bobbin, catches the thread and comes back up. 

Use a piece of fabric to see how the double needle works, and check the tension. You may need to adjust the tension for knit or stretch fabrics.

Close up of double needle sewing showing top stitching
Front of Fabric with Double Needle Stitching
Your stitching should appear as two lines on the front and a zigzag on the backside of the fabric. 

Sample shows backside of double needle sewing
Backside of Double Needle Stitching is Zigzag Stitch

For stitching leggings or stretch pants, you’ll need to pin the hem so you can sew from the front to the back, since you want the double stitching to be on the front. Use a seam gauge to make your stitches about the same distance from the edge all the way around the pants leg. Hem the other pants leg the same way. The double needle sews a stretchy stitch so the hem won’t rip out as easily. 

Close up of stitching in progress with double needle on knit pants
Sewing Knits or Stretch Fabrics with Double Needle from the Top

You can’t pivot with a double needle in the machine, so it won’t sew to the end of the row and turn to stitch the same area again. You can backstitch with the double needle in place, but it’s easier to go forward and overlap stitching. Once you’re familiar with double needle stitching, use it for topstitching and crafts projects.