Saturday, May 21, 2016


latch hooked butterfly wall hanging
A reader recently wrote: “I love butterflies! Your wall hanging is so pretty! Thank you for the pattern. How do you go about designing and how do you make charts from your designs?”

I love butterflies, too! Thank you for the compliment, and you're most welcome for the pattern (March 21, 2016). It can be used for several types of needlework. You have asked about one of my favorite subjects designing. Before I get started on a new design, I do research. I look at photographs of my subject, as well as scientific illustrations (if it is a living thing), paintings, even cartoons. Each photographer or artist sees and emphasizes something different in his or her pictures, so I get more details from looking at many sources. This photograph shows some of the things I looked at while I was considering butterflies.

butterfly samples pictured

I wanted butterflies of three different shapes and sizes for the wall hanging. Once I made my choices, I made enlarged cutouts of their shapes. To make the butterfly shapes show up even more, I glued them to sheets of dark blue paper.

butterfly silhouette on blue paper

Before I did that, however, I traced the butterfly outlines onto pieces of quarter-inch graph paper.

butterfly silhouette on graph paper

Then I made the squares of graph paper match the curves of the designs as well as I could sometimes stopping just inside the butterfly outline, sometimes drawing just outside it. I marked the squares with letters or symbols representing the colors of the butterflies. Then I made a little “key” for each butterfly, telling what each letter or symbol represented.

butterfly pencil chart on graph paper

I then filled in a second graph paper silhouette for each with the colors of the butterfly, making small adjustments as needed. I used markers because the colors are more vivid, but colored pencils are easier to erase, so you may choose to use them. 

butterfly chart colored in

Then I used my paper patterns to make the latch-hook pictures. I chose colors of cut rug yarn that were the closest color matches for the marker shades. If I wanted to do the same designs in counted cross-stitch, I would start with graph paper that had much smaller squares so I could get much finer details into the picture.

latch hooked section done from colored chart

When we get a little time, I’ll ask J.D. to work his magic and turn my simple chart into a professional color-coded chart that you can download. Look for it in a future post.

Another reader commented:”You mentioned sewing tabs on the reverse applique butterfly (April 10, 2016). Can you show me what you meant?”

Certainly. Here is a  pictures of the finished butterfly ready for framing or to be prepared for hanging. I decided to make it a small wall hanging. The first thing I did was to cover the back of the entire rectangle with another piece of felt. This made it feel solid and caused it to hang straight and flat.

butterfly reverse applique

I then cut straight strips of the darkest color of felt, folded them in half, and sewed them to the back of the rectangle. I planned to glue wooden beads to a small-diameter wooden dowel and slip the beaded dowel through the felt tabs. Once I had it centered, I would have inserted a screw-in hanger into the top center of the dowel and it would have been ready to hang on the wall. However, I purchased a black wire hanger on sale from that seemed just right for the butterfly. You can see the finished project below.

butterfly reverse applique with tabs and hanger
As you can see, this butterfly is not like any living species! Butterflies and moths have such intricate patterns that they stimulate the imagination. It is easy to dream of fantastic ones.

butterfly pillow top
Here is a picture of a fantasy butterfly made in French longstitch with back-stitched outlines, against a striped “sky” done in tent stitch. For more information about French longstitch, see the post for March 8, 2015. The piece was designed for a pillow top.

butterfly transparency in hoop
And for a butterfly that can really “fly” in an open window or doorway when there is a breeze, look at this little “Window Wonder”. For the directions to make one like it, see the post for April 29, 2015.

And, finally, a picture of a real, live butterfly, courtesy of J.D.'s sister, J.J., who is also an enthusiastic photographer.

Best wishes to butterflies and butterfly lovers everywhere,

colorful butterfly photo by jljardine

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Designing from Coloring Books

A local (and loyal) reader asked me: “You said we could use a child's coloring book to make designs for needlework (April 10, 2016). Are you going to write a blog post about that?”

I'd be happy to do that. The picture I planned to use was from Landolls, Inc.'s Let's Color coloring and activity book, © 1993. (I never throw anything useful away!) But, to prevent any possible copyright infringement*, I'm substituting a sketch of one of my puppets in a similar pose. The advantage to such drawings is their simplicity, with large open areas. I've added back legs and feet, which wouldn't show on the puppet, and moved the front legs downward and the tail partially around from the back.

lion puppet
Lion puppet
Once I had a working sketch, I erased all the unnecessary pencil lines and traced the sketch on tracing paper with a wide-pointed permanent marker. I ran this through the copier to get an outline picture like those you might see in a child's coloring book. Click on the outline below to download it.

Now that I have the outline, how would I use it for needlework?

1) The use for applique seems obvious, especially in felt. Felt does not need to have its edges either turned under or overcast with stitches. It holds its shape well and comes in a wide range of colors. The first thing you have to know about felt applique is that you cannot just cut your picture up and use it as pattern pieces. You need to decide which pieces will overlap others and which pieces need to be cut out, even if they will never be seen. I used tracing paper again to make a set of the shapes I would need to pin to the felt to cut out the pieces for the applique. The picture is formed in layers with the shapes from the back layer sewn down first. You then work forward toward the front of the picture, overlapping pieces as you do so. To make this easier to visualize, J. D. took photographs at four stages in the development of the appliqued picture.

lion applique sequence
Lion applique sequence, steps 1 through 4
2) As for embroidery, the outlines could easily be done in plain chain (October 31, 2015) and the eyes, nose, teeth and tongue in satin stitch. If something more complicated is desired, the outlined sections could be filled in with solid chain stitch (Beauvais embroidery, January 31, 2016). Or do the picture in cross-stitch, or Spanish blackwork, perhaps on baby-checked gingham. Embroider each section in a different diaper pattern (October 6, 2013).

Transfer pencil on tracing paper
Transfer pencil on tracing paper
Do you want an easy way to transfer your outline to your fabric? Make a hot-iron transfer. Trace your outline on tracing paper with a hot-iron transfer pencil. These red pencils are made by several companies. I use Aunt Martha's®, 2 to a package for $2.99. Each pencil will make many transfers. Keep the pencil point sharp and go over the lines firmly until they look dark. Cut and press a piece of quarter-inch checked gingham about two inches larger on all sides than your outline design. Pin your transfer pattern (red-penciled side down) to the gingham, centering it with the checks. Press the transfer pattern on the back with a hot, dry iron (no steam). Press hard and go back and forth several times, but don't scorch the paper. It takes at least 5 seconds to get a good transfer. Unpin one corner and lift it carefully. Peek under it to see if your lines transferred. If not, re-pin it in the same place and iron over it until they do. Remember that your picture will appear reversed on the fabric, so avoid lettering or anything that looks “wrong” if reversed. The red lines will wash out of the fabric with warm water and a mild detergent once your project is finished.

Lion outline transferred to gingham
Lion outline transferred to gingham
I plan to do this sample in Holbein embroidery, which is done in blackwork patterns, but in many colors of embroidery floss. The transfer was ironed onto light yellow-green baby-checked gingham with a dry iron set for “cotton”'. You can use a transfer pattern on many plain-colored fabrics, too, but be sure to try a small sample transfer on the fabric first. Not all fabrics will accept a transfer. If you go over a transfer pattern again with the transfer pencil, pressing firmly, you can often use the pattern again. I file and save mine.

Lion latch hook front
Lion latch hook,  front
3) Draw the pattern on rug canvas, to be filled in with latch-hook knots (June 16, 2013). Ordinarily, I would work the background of the latch-hook picture as I made the picture itself. This time I did the picture and will fill in the background later. (These are all works-in-progress; I will show the finished items at a later date.)

Lion latch hook back
Lion latch hook, back
If you look at the back of the latch-hook lion and disregard the vertical lines of canvas, you can get a good idea of how the picture would look if it were done in tent stitch on quickpoint canvas.

I'm sure you can think of many other possibilities. Of course it is not necessary to use a cartoon animal as a design. There are many coloring books with more detailed, realistic pictures of birds, flowers, houses, automobiles, and nearly anything else you desire. Dover Publications has enough of those to keep you busy for a lifetime! If you want something more elaborate, look at some of the beautiful and intricate adult coloring books which have become very popular during the past year.

*These simple coloring book designs are perfectly acceptable when you are making projects for yourself and your household or for gifts. If you plan to sell your work at craft shows or shops, however, do not use any copyrighted materials in your designs. The legal complications can be awful. I will continue to give you suggestions in these blogs for creating your own original designs.

Thank you all for allowing me to discuss one of my favorite subjects. Now, design something of your own!

 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.