Sunday, January 31, 2016

Interlaced Hearts: Chain-Stitching Around Curves

Embroidered Vest Pocket
Embroidered Vest Pocket
You have now practiced several different kinds of chain-stitch, along with a number of ways of modifying those stitches. There will be more varieties of chain-stitch in the future, which I recommend you continue to practice along straight lines of pulled thread until you have mastered them. It is time now, however, to use what you have already learned and to practice it in an actual design.

Embroidered Vest Back
Embroidered Vest Back
One of the most popular characteristics of chain-stitch is its flexibility. This makes it ideal for embroidering curved shapes and loops like the ones embroidered in silk on this decorative vest. Look, for example, at the detail in these pictures. Now it is time for you to take a pencil or a permanent marker and draw a variety of curves and loops on your practice fabric. Place the fabric in an embroidery hoop or a frame and embroider the curves and loops with the stitches you have already learned. This will tell you which ones follow curves best, as well as showing you which ones you most enjoy using.



Bird in Beauvais Embroidery
Bird in Beauvais Embroidery
Plain chain is also very useful for filling blank spaces and the insides of closed shapes. This kind of solid chain stitch is sometimes called Beauvais embroidery. The bird on this purse is an example of that. Draw a closed curved figure circle, oval, heart, etc. on your practice fabric. It should be at least a couple of inches (4 to 5 centimeters) across. Embroider around the outline in plain chain, turning your work as you go. But don't join the last stitch to the first. Instead, keep stitching just inside the finished chain stitches, getting as close to them as you can. Continue in this way until the entire shape is filled solid with stitches. Carry your yarn to the back of your work and secure it under finished stitches. It is possible to start in the center of a shape and work outward, but I find this more difficult to do. Remember to keep turning your hoop or frame as you work.

Iron-on Transfer
Iron-on Transfer
In the May 12, 2015 post, I promised to make a design based on one of the free-hand painted patterns on my Costa Rican cart. I have done a simplified outline design which you can download and copy. You will find it at the end of this post. I then made a hot-iron transfer of the design and ironed it onto light gold Aida cloth. (There are other ways to transfer a design, but this is one I use regularly.) For more information on making your own hot-iron transfer, see the post for October 6, 2013. The transfer is pictured here.


  


Interlaced Hearts, Step 1
Interlaced Hearts, Step 1
I made a completed crewel picture, emphasizing the heart shapes in the design. You will see stages of the work, in progress. For the first stage, I outlined the heart shapes in various chain-stitches, using a variety of reds ranging from a dark maroon to a bright pink. I also filled in small empty sections with Beauvais embroidery, using the same reds.

Interlaced Hearts, Step 2
Interlaced Hearts, Step 2
In the second stage, I worked various sections in other colors, using more chain-stitches. I employed a number of techniques, such as back-stitching, lacing, double-stitching, etc. Once this was done, I washed the piece carefully in lukewarm water and a gentle liquid detergent to remove all traces of the transfer pencil. I hung the fabric to dry and later pressed it on the back with a warm iron and replaced it in the embroidery hoop. (Pull yours taut in the hoop to keep the fabric from wrinkling. This will make it easier to block when it is finished.)



In the last stage, I added details and embellishments with a fine white yarn. I like to do white embroidery last on a project. This means that the work is not handled as much and that there are fewer chances of the white yarn or thread getting dirty or discolored. Finally, the design went to J.D. to be blocked, backed, and framed. Here is a picture of the finished project.
Interlaced Hearts Embroidery, Finished and Framed
Interlaced Hearts Embroidery, Finished and Framed

Embroidery Pattern
Click to Download Embroidery Pattern


And here is the pattern to embroider in your choice of fabric, yarns or flosses, and most of all your favorite stitches. I added a few details to my finished embroidery that are not on your pattern. I would expect you to do this also to your project to make it a one-of-a-kind piece that is uniquely your own.

Happy hearts to you,








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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Still More Optical Illusion Needlepoint: Folds, Wraps, Interlocks and Mitered Corners

Gobelin stitch zig-zag

Colors produce the illusion of folding in the first pattern. The dark sections seem to be slanted away from you, and the light sections slant toward you. The effect is one of looking at something that has been folded into equal sections and partially unfolded. The pattern is done in upright Gobelin stitch, the basic stitch of bargello, and is repeated below in continental tent stitch. Each upright line of the Gobelin is a stitch over 5 threads (or bars) of canvas. The stitches ascend and descend by one thread at a time. The upright lines of the tent stitch are 5 continental stitches in a vertical row. Because of its slanted stitches, that pattern requires an additional row of canvas squares. The Gobelin rows were worked from left to right and the tent stitch rows from right to left. Both cover both sides of the canvas; however, the tent stitches require 2½ to 3 times as much yarn to cover the same amount of canvas as the straight ones. This is a good design to work with two needles, one for each color. When a color section is complete, let the needle and yarn drop down the back of the canvas, holding the yarn out of the way with your free hand.

tent stitch zig-zag

Gobelin all-over from zig-zag

These are linear patterns, suitable for borders, frames, and narrow objects like belts and straps. It is easy enough, however, to make them into all-over patterns. Let me give you a couple of examples. In the first example, the pattern row is repeated over and over, but the colors are reversed in every other row. The three-dimensional illusion has been lost; nevertheless, it is still an attractive pattern. As always, when you approach the edges of your all-over pattern, you may not have room for a complete pattern row. In that case, do as much of the pattern row as you can, ending with straight edges.

Gobelin zig-zag with lozenges

The colors are also reversed in the second example. Here the pattern rows meet only at the highest and lowest points, leaving small blocks of empty canvas between them. Since the points are offset slightly, the empty blocks are not diamond-shaped as one might expect. The parallelogram-like segments of the pattern are sometimes called “lozenges”, used frequently in bargello patterns. I worked all of the pattern rows first. The odd-numbered rows are identical. The even-numbered rows are identical to each other, but differ slightly from the odd-numbered rows. This causes the lozenges to point to the right in one row and to the left in the next. Each lozenge is worked over this pattern of threads: 2, 4, 6, 6, 4, 2. I used a third color to fill in all the lozenge shapes. This pattern does have an optical illusion effect.

wrapped bar samples

The next pattern produces the illusion of a ribbon or heavy cord wrapped around a bar. The “bar” is made up of lozenges in Gobelin stitch over this pattern of threads: 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 1. I worked all the lozenges of the “bar” before starting on the “ribbon”. Use the picture as a reference to complete the pattern, enlarging it if necessary. Again, the pattern is repeated below in continental stitch. To make this easier, I've made a typed pattern below with the number 1 representing the “bar” and number 2 the “ribbon”.
wrapped bar pattern
To do this as an all-over pattern, I suggest you leave a couple of rows of empty canvas between each two repeats of the pattern. When all the repeats have been completed, fill all the empty squares with a third color, preferably in a tent stitch, to make the “bars” and “ribbons” stand out even more.

interlocked links sample
This next pattern shows interlocked links, as of a heavy chain. The motif is done in continental tent stitch. Some background has been added to make the stitches easier to count. You should be able to work the design from the picture. If you want to do it in Gobelin stitch, simply substitute a short upright stitch, over a single thread, for each of the tent stitches. This motif, repeated in rows or scattered, works nicely on a large project. Do you also see how the links can be manipulated to form the capital initials C, D, G, J, O and Q? With a little work, you can also make B, P, R and U.

mitered corners sample
Some of you may have done sizeable pieces of all-over patterns and may now wonder how to finish the edges neatly. One way is to make a “frame” with mitered corners. Work a band of upright Gobelin stitch along each side of the piece, leaving several spaces open on both sides of each of the corners. Work the corners as shown below. The number of stitches in the miter will depend on the length of the stitches in the band. Make sure the stitches used in the miter end in the same square of mesh each time. Back-stitch both the inside and the outside edges of the band with the same color or a contrasting one. Turn fabric canvas under along the edges. Trim plastic canvas just outside the “frame”.

Finally, let's revisit the twisted ribbon pattern at the end of the November 16, 2015 post. Use the picture as your guide, but choose your own colors. Skip the first 5 squares of mesh and begin in the sixth one. Each upright stitch covers 4 threads or bars and the stitches ascend or descend by moving up or down 2 threads at a time. No space is left open between stitches. There are 5 open squares between the top two (blue and red) stitches and 5 more between the red stitch and the other edge of the canvas.

twisted ribbon sample
Here's a similar design done in tent stitch, along with an alphabet chart to help you place the stitches. This one uses 5 shades for each “ribbon”. The one that begins and ends on the left has shades A, B, C, D, and E; the one that begins on the right, shades F, G, H, I, and J. You may assign any colors you like to the letters. You may want to print out the chart and outline the two “ribbons” before you begin. You may also want to back-stitch around the two sections when you have finished stitching them.
twisted ribbon pattern
Experiment with colors,


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Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Chain-Stitch Family, Part II

(This post continues the series on crewel embroidery that Annake began in October, 2015.)

fabric stretched on picture frame
If you are a new reader of this blog, or if you haven't done any chain-stitch lately, you may want to read the previous post about chain-stitching (October 31, 2015) before reading this one. I suggested using a firm, but loosely-woven, fabric for your practice stitches. That advice is for this series of stitches as well. The fabric does not need to be wool. In fact, some of the wool/polyester blends are preferable for our purposes. You can use other fabrics, such as decorator burlap, too, but it is important that you can pull out a single thread easily without damaging the fabric. Work with the fabric in a hoop if possible. You can also stretch fabric over an empty picture frame and use overcast stitches to hold it in place.

Pulling threads for guide rows
Pulling threads for guide rows
In our first session, we stitched a series of plain chain-stitch samples, then embellished them with back-stitching, overcasting, couching, etc. This time we are going to do a group of variations on the plain chain itself. I strongly advise you to use the pulled-thread method to learn each variety of chain-stitch and practice each one until you can make neat, evenly-spaced stitches before you begin an embroidery project. I don't expect any of you to like all of the different stitches, but I do urge you to try each one. The first is similar to plain chain, except that the number of threads skipped with each stitch is not the same. I'm not aware of a name for this stitch, so I will call it Long-and-Short Chain.

long-and-short chain stitch
Long-and-Short Chain stitch

Start with a waste knot. Begin as you did for plain chain, but skip 5 threads instead of 4 to make the first stitch in the chain. Skip only 2 threads for the second stitch. Repeat the 5/2 pattern to the end of the row of stitches. Pull the short stitches tighter than the long ones, but not so tight that it pulls the fabric out of shape. You can vary this stitch pattern in many ways: 5/2/2, 5/5/2, 6/4/2, etc. Be sure you use the same grouping each time, and try to end the row with a complete group, rather than a partial one. The short stitches appear nearly round, while the longer ones are oval or teardrop-shaped.

Double Chain stitch
Double Chain stitch

Our next chain-stitch is a Double Chain. You will need a heavy yarn, floss, or perle cotton and a light one in a contrasting color. You can even use crochet cotton and plain sewing thread, but remember it needs to be yarn to qualify as genuine crewel embroidery. With the heavier strand, make a rather loose plain chain across the fabric (Row A), secure the end, and cut the strand. With the finer strand, start just outside the beginning of Row A and make a chain stitch that ends in the center of the first loop of the first stitch in Row A. The second stitch should pass over the joining of the first and second stitches of Row A and end in the center of the second stitch. Continue in this way across the row.

Zig-zag Chain stitch
Zig-zag Chain stitch

You will need two pulled-out strands that are parallel, with 4 to 6 threads separating them, for the Zigzag Chain. Begin on either open row. Instead of ending the stitch on that row, however, point your needle diagonally so that the stitch ends on the second open row. Your second stitch will begin on that row and end on the first row. Continue alternating in this way, while trying to keep your stitches the same length each time. This takes a little practice, so don't get discouraged. This stitch makes a nice border. If I am doing it on a garment or any piece that will get heavy wear, I “cheat” on this stitch. I couch each loop down with the tiniest stitch possible before bringing my needle up inside the loop to make the next stitch. This makes the row of stitches harder to snag and easier to launder and iron.

Magic Chain stitch
Magic Chain stitch

Our next stitch is called Checkered Chain or Magic Chain. You will need two contrasting colors of yarn, floss, thread, etc. They should be of equal length and weight and similar in texture. Use single strands of yarn and not more than 3 strands of floss to begin with. Knot both strands together for your waste knot and thread them both into the needle. Start a beginning plain chain, but loop only Color A under the needle tip. Make sure that Color B stays on top of the needle. You may want to hold it to one side with your thumb, making sure it does not pass in front of or below the needle's tip. Pull both strands through the fabric. Only one color loop should show (Color A). For the second stitch, loop color B under the needle tip and keep Color A out of the way. Continue on in this pattern. As I come close to completing the loop, I gently pull the hidden color strand through the fabric first. Be careful to keep the strands from twisting around each other as you stitch. When you see that you will run out of one color, pull both strands through the fabric, secure them, and cut both. Start with two new strands of the same length, beginning your first stitch inside the last complete loop. This stitch can be bold or very dainty.

Cow's Head stitch
Cow's Head stitch

The next stitch has a number of names, including Wheat Ear Chain, Chain and Fly Stitch, and Tete de Boeuf (Cow's Head). It can be worked either horizontally or vertically. Start at one end of your open row. Make two short, slanted stitches: one on each side of the open row, with the pair meeting in a V at the same space in the open row. Bring your needle up just inside the point of the V and make a chain stitch. Couch it down with a short stitch. You have made the first “link” in the chain. Make another V so that its point is directly below the couching stitch of that link and complete it with a couched chain stitch. The slanting lines in each V should be parallel to the slanting lines in the first V and should be the same length each time. The chain should not show any fabric between the links.

Tete de boeuf variant
Tete de boeuf variant
This picture shows a variation of the same stitch. Instead of two slanting stitches, start with one long straight stitch that you do not pull tight. Make your chain stitch over the straight stitch and at right angles to it. Pull the chain-stitch loop tight enough that it pulls the center of the straight stitch into a shallow V. Couch the loop with a small straight stitch. Make the next straight stitch across the end of this small couching stitch. Repeat.


Detached Cow's Head stitches
Detached Cow's Head stitches
Do you remember the Lazy Daisy Stitch from the previous lesson in this series? It was a single, couched-down chain stitch that can be used to represent flower petals or other elements of a design. The single Tete de Boeuf (V and couched chain stitch together) can be detached in the same way. It is a good small motif for fillings and diaper patterns. (Use our Search Engine feature to find out more about diaper patterns.) I must say that these detached stitches look more like little rabbits to me than cow's heads.

cable chain vertical
Now I'm going to ask you to turn your hoop or frame ninety degrees. The Cable Chain, one of my favorites, is easiest to learn top-to-bottom. I'm going to teach you a two-handed way to make this chain, so rest your hoop against a tabletop –- or your knees. (Later you may want to try twisting the thread around your needle one-handed.) With your stitching hand, bring your needle up at the end of your pulled row. With the thumb of your other hand, pull the thread straight down and hold it. Run your needle horizontally underneath the taut thread and lift it a tiny amount. With your free hand, wrap the thread around the needle from back to front and around again. With the needle held vertically, pull the thread snug against the fabric until it covers two or three threads of fabric Insert the point of your needle just below the wrapped thread and make a chain stitch. Pull the loop to the size you want and hold the thread down with your thumb to repeat the process. This is shown in the picture of the deep purple stitches. The picture of white stitches on a blue background shows the Cable Chain worked from left to right. Keep the links the same size.

cable chain horizontal
Cable Chain, horizontal

Happy stitching,





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