Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Natural Dye Tutorial Roundup

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a new feature we're adding to the blog, Back Stitches. All of us here at &Stitches have an interest in the historical elements of the media that we use, and we will each be exploring many of these techniques in the coming months.

Something I've been experimenting a lot with lately is natural dyeing, which is the way people used to color their embroidery floss and fabric. It's a fun way to combine fiber arts with chemistry. When using natural dyes, you have the option to purchase readymade dyestuffs or to forage in the wild or grow your own supplies, which is a very different experience than buying colorful thread or fabric in the craft store. It's a process that definitely takes more work and planning than using commercially dyed items, but the results can be quite stunning. The colors have some wonderful subtleties that work beautifully together.

I haven't had the chance to do much natural dyeing in recent months, mostly because many of the processes involve simmering very smelly ingredients for hours, and, well, there's only so much I'll put up with for the sake of art. However, I've been doing lots of research as I plan for summertime outdoor dye projects, and I wanted to share some of my favorite tutorials with you.

Red: Cochineal and madder
Orange: Onion skins
Yellow: Dandelions, Goldenrod, & Marigolds
Green: Black Eyed Susans & carrot tops
Blue: Indigo
Violet: Logwood
Brown: Walnuts & tea

Have you ever dyed your own fabric or embroidery floss? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Monday, March 2, 2015

My Favourite Tutorial Posts Round up

We started 2015 out well on the &Stitches blog with lots of tutorials in January and February. Hopefully they inspired you to discover and try out new stitching techniques! Each &Stitches team member (and one guest blogger) shared some of their Stitchy Knowledge in these 'My Favourite Tutorial' posts.

We started with a colourful guest post about Crayon Tinting by Aimee Ray.

Julie loves to stitch text and her post was all about how to choose and lay out Text for Stitching.

The versatile Roumanian Stitch and Roumanian Couching Stitch starred in the post I wrote and a tutorial for the simple but effective Star Stitch was brought to you by Carina.

Cate wrote about blending colours/shades using the seed stitch while Rebecca shared a useful tutorial about using water soluble canvas for cross stitching.

Sophie showed us how to stitch adorable tiny padded hearts in February and the fascinating Or Nue technique in January.

Christine's introduction to Ribbon Embroidery is a great way to get acquainted with this technique.

This month we'll be having a few colour themed posts for you and behind the scenes we are planning and discussing some fun other themes and events for the rest of 2015!

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Friday, February 27, 2015

How To: Easy Embroidery Display with Studio MME


Today we're excited to host a guest post from Megan Eckman of Studio MME. You may be familiar with her embroidery patterns (and kits) of landmarks of the US East Coast. 

Well, now Megan has put together an ebook of West Coast embroidery patterns. I have had a peek at the book and it is a lovely collection of illustrations of famous spots in this part of the US. Do check out the West Coast Love embroidery book. (You can also find the patterns individually.)

In her post today, Megan shares how to put together a quick way to display all those embroideries you have made. It only requires a few materials that you may already have to hand.

Thank you, Megan!


* * * * * *

Ever since I started embroidering a few years ago, I've been a huge fan of displaying my work on the wall. That way I don’t have to bring people into the kitchen to show off my tea towels. Plus, with a bulletin board, you don’t have to punch holes in your wall and can pin up tickets from your trip or other mementos.

Final image
I grew up in a state that doesn't manifest much pride in its residents. It wasn't until the now famous movie, Fargo, was made about my hometown that anyone even knew the state of North Dakota existed. However, after four years of living all over the West Coast of the United States, I realized that the people here have a lot of pride in where they live. That’s what inspired me to create a series of embroidery patterns and kits that showcase the local landmarks.

After stitching up a few pieces featuring landmarks of my new resident state, I realized that I wanted a fun way to display them. So I created a bulletin board map! A bulletin board map makes a great display for any local stitchery, postcards, and more.

The first step is to collect your materials:
Bulletin board (if you own your own walls or have a nice landlady, you can also put this right on your wall)
Brown paper (or your choice of fun wrapping paper)
Black ink
Push pins

Pin paper
Cut your brown paper to fit on your bulletin board.Then, pin your paper to the board. Double stick tape also works well along the edges to keep the paper up.

Pencil Map
Pencil in the outline of your state or country onto your paper. The shape of your state or country may well determine which way you hang your board.

Paint Your Map
Now comes the fun part: inking! Using your brush and a nice bottle of black ink, paint in the outline of your state or country. I like to use a Sumi brush because it gives you such nice lines but any round brush will do.

Fully Painted Map
Hopefully you have a fun state that lets you draw lots of little islands or lines. Adding in lakes and rivers would also be nice.

Pin Embroidery
Once the ink is dry, pin up your embroidery. I pinned up my pieces to correspond to their actual location within the state so that it’s even more like a map.

Halfway decorated
Making a pair of these would be a great display piece at a wedding reception or as a way to commemorate all of your moves.

How do you display your embroideries? Do let us know in the comments or share pictures in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tutorial: Simple ribbon embroidery

My Favourite Tutorial - post header
I love the look of ribbon embroidery and the texture and depth of colour the silk ribbons can give to a project. If you’ve not tried it before, consider a super-easy way to introduce some ribbon interest to your next piece of embroidery: the simple straight stitch.

For example, let’s look at a landscape I’m currently stitching. I created the felt landscape at a wet felting workshop, then I began to embellish certain sections with embroidery.

Early stages with pistil stitching, French knots and couching.
As I build up the various plant life in this corner, I vary the floss colours and the number of strands I’m using for the stems and grasses. Silk ribbon adds another important dimension to this.

For this project I’m using 4mm silk ribbon (which you can find in some haberdasheries or online, for example here or here, or even eBay!). In addition to the ribbon, the only other tool you need to start stitching is a ribbon needle. The eye is longer than the standard embroidery needle eye to allow for the width of the ribbon.

Embroidery needle on top, ribbon needle below.
When threading the needle, cut the ribbon at a sharp diagonal to make it easier to thread through the eye. Then secure the ribbon to the needle (or else it will slide out every time you pull it through the fabric, it’s slippery!) by sticking the needle through the end of the ribbon end:

Tie a small knot in the other end, and you’re ready to go!

Try some long, straight stitches to mimic grasses and leaves. Go a little crazy and add a twist before you bring the needle back down, and hey-ho, you’ve added some movement to your piece:


Make a little curl at the top, like a frond unfurling, by bringing the needle back down through the ribbon, pulling carefully to keep the curl from pulling through.

Change the length of the straight stitch and the colour, and you have yourself some pretty flower petals:

And that’s all you need to know to get started with ribbon embroidery! I have tried using satin ribbon rather than silk, but it is much stiffer, and I never managed to actually pull it through the linen I was using. Satin ribbon isn’t as pliable or fine as silk ribbon, but if you are determined to use satin, then I would suggest trying a very loose-textured linen or an aida with large holes to allow the ribbon through.

My felt landscape is still a work in progress, I am still building the flower corner and deciding if I can leave the grassy corner alone...

Let us know if you give ribbon embroidery a try and if you’d like to see more ribbon stitches.

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Monday, February 23, 2015

&Spotlight: &Stitches on Pinterest!


You might dimly recall that your &Stitches pals once had a Pinterest account, where we liked to share inspiration for competitions and amazing needlework we came across. It seemed obvious to use Pinterest to share more of what we love with you all, but we never really did get the hang of how best to use it.

But huzzah! We have dusted off the neglected pinboards and brushed away the cobwebs and will be bringing you more beautiful inspiration through Pinterest - from the whole &Stitches team - from now on!

Go follow us over here - &Stitches' Pinterest Page - for even more stitchy fun!