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February 2012

January 2012

Hem No1

A number of people have asked how I did the hems on my January TAST samples.  So I have put together a few tips.   Firstly I have to say that this type of hem takes a bit of time to stitch about 3 hours for each sample which measure 6" X 8 1/2".  The time taken can be considerably less than this if you are using an open-weave even count linen, (the needle-book).  This type of linen is great for drawn thread work but not so good for other types of stitching.


The other good thing about this type of hem is that it allows you to use under sized pieces of fabric.  By that I mean a piece of fabric that would be too small if you turned a normal hem

It gives a firm, non frayable edge but does require an even weave fabric to get the right effect.

To begin, I withdraw a thread at what I want to be the outside edge, on all four sides.


To start my stitching I run a small number of running stitches on the edge that I intend to turn under.  (I will stitch over these when I get to the four sided stitch.)


 I use a 24 tapestry needle and a 12 perle cotton, it the fabric is of a lower thread count I sometimes use a 8 perle cotton.


 In the space left by the withdrawn thread I gather 4 thread with a back stitch around the whole piece.  When stitching this you need to have some tension on your thread as this line of stitching will form the picot edge.


At this point I cut back the hem edges so they are about the same width, no less than 1/2" if possible.  As I want my four sided stitch to be as wide as it is high I withdraw the 5th and then 10th thread from inside the line of back stitch.  (You could make this the 4th and 8th theads if you are running short on fabric. I find any less than this is unsuccessful.)


The fabric is then turned under so that the back stitch stands proud.  I like to turn the two short edges and then the long, ironing them in place.  I then start with a back stitch over the 4 threads in the space left from the withdrawn thread and through the turned over fabric held at the back.  Pull this tight.  Doing this forms the holes and holds the fabric in place.


Take the thread up between the picots and 4 threads further along from your last back stitch.  This holds the fold in place and accentuates the picot.


Sometimes the thread may catch and pull out of position.  Use your needle to lay it in the right position and then pull tight. 


Continue with these two steps around your fabric.


When you get to a corner you will need to stitch through a number of layers.  The best way to do this is with a stabbing motion. 


The needle will take the thread through all the layers and hold the corner firm.


The next row uses the same stitches but is a lot easier as you don't have to worry about the picot.


When starting and finishing my thread on the edge, I use the channel formed by the stitching to hide the ends.


To finish off, turn your fabric to the wrong side and trim back the fabric to the stitching.


Hem finished

TAST 2012 January 24th

Week 4 - Cretan Stitch

Again, one of those stitches known, but seldom used.  Now after experimenting a bit with it I'm rather shocked at the fact that I have over looked this stitch for so long.

I dragged out all my reference books to see what I could find out about this stitch.  One book said work from the right another said from the left.  From this I conclude that you can work the stitch in either direction.  Books publish during the last 5 years or so didn't really do the stitch justice, it was in those older books that I found inspiration.  Both Mary Thomas and Jacqueline Enthoven covered the variations of the stitch in some detail. 

In both of these books I found a reference to the fact that this stitch was used in embroidery on petticoats from Crete, hence the name.  It was after a search for images that I came to the realisation of what wonders these petticoats were.  Even better than a twirly skirt.  Oh how delicious to have owned one of these petticoats.  They would have made the wearer feel invincible.

With this in mind my application at the bottom of the sampler is inspired by a shape which appears to be a constant in this type of work.  A wonderful filling stitch and not just for leaves.

What I haven't explored yet is the use of the stitch in Traditional Kutch embroidery from India.  Another whole area that uses this same stitch.


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New Samples

I am working on some embroidery designs for the Saturday Children's Creative Embroidery Classes.  In the process I'm trying to build in some structure to the learning and document how they should be taught and why, whilst still allowing choice for the students.  Difficult when you have a range of abilities and ages, from 8 years to 14 years. 

After our holiday class which was based on a sampler I have decided that the children could select a shape and then fill it with different stitches.  This could then be used as a panel in a small bag to hold their stitching.  I selected a bird shape but it could be any shape that you can draw lines in.  I also selected a cotton Osnaburg fabric which is inexpensive and almost an even weave.


Because the fabric is such an open weave I layered it over a piece of very thin pelum and put it into a hoop for stitching.


The other thing I have found is that most children like stitching in an embroidery hoop.  But there are a few things that must be taken into consideration.

The hoop should be no larger than 16cm (61/2") in diameter.  This will mean that the child will have to move it around the fabric to stitch.  In reality this means the tutor or parent will need to do this.


The embroidery hoop should have a screw that can be tightened with a small screwdriver so that the work can be held tight.  Again, this will require an adult with a small scredriver in their sewing kit to help.


Because this piece is for children I used lots of bright colours in No 8 perle cotton and a crewel embroidery needle.


( Download Untitled     I have enclosed a copy of the pattern which has a heavy outline, no need for a light box.)

The new Liberty Collection

Every little girl needs a smocked dress made of Liberty Fabric.  I had one, a few in fact.  I made 2 or 3 for my daughter and now is time to make one for my grand daughter.  I use the lawn because it is just the right weight for our weather and great to smock.

When I went to their website I found this video about the current collection.  The inspiration and the designers.



I was very interested to see that they had incorporated some Digital prints.  This form or printing has been threatening for a number of years.  The high end pieces were made in Italy, so this is an interesting addtion.

For me, with the exchange rate so good for the Ausi Dollar, now is the time to buy.  But which print?  May be more than one.

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Mabel Mc Alaster was one of the founding members of the Queensland Embroiderer's Guild and most of her work has past into the collection.  I continually go back to her work to get ideas and always come away with something new.

She started with this fairly heavy printed fabric.  I don't think it was a dress fabric, rather a soft furnishing weight from the 1960's.

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She made this fabric into place-mats and embellished with simple embroidery. 



So simple yet so effective.

The little cotton sleevelss shirt & a video link.

When stitching my Feather Stitch TAST sampler this week  I remembered that the last time I had used this stitch was on little sleeveless shirts I made for my babies.  I thought they had all been thrown out but I found one in the cupboard.  I didn't have a working sewing machine at that time so they were all sewn by hand.


I drafted my pattern so that the only seam was at the shoulder. Hand rolled hems at the neck and bottom with blanket stitching around the armholes.


  All the buttonholes were hand stitched ,


then a bit of embroidery to finish off.


Most had feather stitch around the armholes, neck and hem.   Although this was washed and ironed before I stored it I see that 'baby dribble' has discoloured the neck.

I made seven for each baby and another seven to give to the Nuns at the hospital for another mother that didn't have enough clothing for her new baby.  The only reason this one survived was because it was girlie, no feather stitch here.

This video on the V&A site was very interesting.  I bought the book about the Quilt exhibition but actually seeing one of the quilts like this was fascinating.  I think  Tracey Chevaliers new book she is researching is pretty interesting as well.

Tast 2012 January 17th

Week three - Feather Stitch

I don't use this stitch very much so have had to start to learn it all over again.   When did I last use it? 

Back when I had new babies.  We lived in Cairns where the Monsoon (the wet) comes through each year and people are known to "go troppo".  You have to have lived through that kind of weather to understand it.  Both of my boys where born in Cairns one in February the other in November, one just before and one in the middle of the wet.

Even singlets were too hot, no air-conditioning in those days.  We bought a pedestal fan and positioned it near the bassinet.  We were starting a new business in the early 1980"s and money was tight.  I bought a couple of metres of cotton batiste from an Asian trader in Rusties Bazaar and made little sleeveless shirts.  I didn't have a sewing machine so they were all sewn by hand and most were decorated with Feather Stitch.  

I enjoyed learning this stitch again and I find it a lot easier to do on even weave fabric and get the stitch looking balanced. I used the stitch as bird feathers, looks alright but could be better.  What I forgot when I ironed the finished piece was that over-dyed cottons are not colour-fast.  I sprayed the piece with water and the colour went everywhere, especially the red.  As this is a teaching piece it is a good demonstration of what can go wrong, so it stays.


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