Thursday, August 27

Easy Applique Tutorial

As I was adding applique balloons to my Party Bear Embroidery,  I thought I'd make a quick tutorial for easy applique. It's really an applique tutorial for embroiderers-that-don't-sew. Combining applique and embroidery can give such fun results and it's very easy to do, even if you don't have any sewing tools or materials. I used some materials from my sewing cabinet for the tutorial but I will suggest alternative supplies that most embroiderers have in their tool kit. And yes, I know 'applique' is spelled with an 'acute accent' but I can never find those quickly enough on my keyboard! (Tips are welcome)


For applique I use:
- Fabric to sew your applique on (obviously!).
- Fabric for your applique
- Heat 'n Bond Iron-on adhesive (or a pin)
- Scissors
- Needle (regular sewing needle or small crewel embroidery needle)
- Thread (or Embroidery Floss)

Attaching applique to fabric

You can simply cut out the applique shape you want and temporarily attach it to fabric with a pin. However,  I almost always use Heat 'n Bond because it holds your applique perfectly in place which makes the end result neater. It's an iron-on adhesive that you use on the back of your applique fabric. Iron on the Heat 'n Bond, making sure the side that feels rough is facing the wrong side (back) of your applique fabric. You can either cut the shape you need from the Heat 'n Bond paper before you iron it onto the fabric. Or you can cut out the shape afterwards (which is what I did). Put an old tea towel underneath to be completely sure the adhesive doesn't stick to your ironing board. 

Peel off the paper and you end up with an applique with a sticky backside. Put the applique glue side down, onto fabric and iron it on. It's a really quick method and it probably takes more time to read my instructions than to prepare your applique piece this way. :)

There are more complex ways of preparing an applique, where you fold sides under so you are not left with unfinished edges on your fabric but as this is an Easy Applique Tutorial we are going to leave the sides as they are. So please know that depending on the fabric and whether you use and adhesive the fabric can unravel a bit. The Liberty fabrics I used on the blue balloons didn't unravel at all but the quilt fabric I used for the lighter balloons did look a bit rougher on the edges. That is, before I used the Blanket Stitch to sew around the balloons. 

Sewing the applique on

I like to use Blanket Stitch to sew appliques onto fabric. It's a versatile, decorative stitch that is also used in embroidery. It's also a nice way to finish your unfinished fabric edges.

Let the needle and thread come up on (not through) the edge of the applique fabric (A) and insert it into the fabric at B, diagonally from the point where the needle came up first. 

Pull needle and thread through, but not entirely. Make a loop, and let the needle come up again from underneath, through the base fabric (not the applique fabric) at C

Pull needle and thread through and you've made the first blanket stitch! Continue all the way around the shape. The next step is to make the diagonal stitch again, then the loop etc etc. To follow the curves of a shape neatly with your stitches, take care not to make space between stitches too wide.

You should end up with something like this! I hope this tutorial was useful to you. If you have any questions let me know....You can find the Party Bear Embroidery Pattern in my shop. :)

Friday, August 21

My Bernina Minimatic

Best buy ever. A couple of months ago I read about the Bernina 707 on Kerry's blog. Out of curiosity I checked a popular Dutch Market place website to see if I could find any locally and there it was: for just 50 euros. Even though I didn't need an extra machine, I couldn't resist the bargain and I'm so glad to have acquired this little gem of a machine!

The Bernina 707 Minimatic is an incredibly solid, reliable avocado coloured machine. I had no idea that I could actually sew neat, straight seams until I got this machine. My new-ish Husqvarna produces seams with a slight wobble and I always thought my sewing skills were to blame. Apparently not. This 40 year old machine simply does it better. And with about 8 years of sewing experience I now know I don't need a machine that can do 463 different stitches that I'll never use. Just the regular ones will do, thank you. I have also learned that I should have looked (and tried) other brands before instead of sticking to the one I happened to have had my first sewing experience with!

I'm still in the process of getting to know the machine. I've already replaced the light bulb (the only non-working bit) which wasn't that difficult. But I still frequently need to look in the manual to check how to wind the bobbin and put it in the bobbin case in the correct way. I've used this machine quite a lot in the past few months, for piecing the blocks of my Spider Web Quilt (it's coming along nicely!) and it's been great so far! As to the colour, well avocado and cream has a nice retro-feel to it doesn't it?  :)

Monday, August 10

Two days at the Royal School of Needlework

Last October I signed up for a two day course at the Royal School of Needlework in July. As the date came closer, I began to get a little bit worried. The Inn where I booked a room, turned out to be quite far from Hampton Court Palace (where the RSN is located). I also wasn't sure whether I was 'good' enough to participate and whether I would fit in. Everything turned out fine though. Yes, the Inn wasn't close, but two busses and a short walk later, I arrived way too early at the Palace on a Thursday morning in July.

Armed with a visitors pass and following, what seemed to me, a maze-like route to the top floor (I'm easily confused) we found our way to the class room. The class room had an amazing view and it was a good thing I couldn't see much while seated, or it would have been quite a distraction.

The course was hosted by Nicola Jarvis and she did a wonderful job. Nicola was very patient (threaded my needle a zillion times) and helpful. And she was also honest when things didn't look fabulous. The whole atmosphere in class was friendly and relaxed which was really nice as well.
I had no experience with Crewelwork or Gold work and I'm glad to say that after the course I'm pretty confident stitching with wool now! I found Gold work a bit trickier so maybe I need to book another course someday to try and master the technique properly.

From the Couture Birds collection I chose the Starling. I think I was the only one in class who did. The other birds (I also bought the Green Woodpecker kit) were possibly more delicate in colour and appearance but I thought the Starling really had character and I liked the dark tones.

After the class ended on Friday I stayed in the UK for another two weeks (Wales and Cornwall) with my family and I continued working on my Starling project. This is the last photo I took of my progress.

I'm very happy that I took the plunge and decided to book the class at the RSN. Although I was already familiar with many of the stitches used for Crewel work, as they are the same in shading and 'regular' embroidery', stitching with wool is really a whole different experience. It also inspired me to think of doing projects on a bigger scale and/or stitching with other materials.

There are many classes available to book for this and next year at the RSN. You can check details here. The Couture Birds and other beautiful kits by Nicole Jarvis are available here.

p.s. a little reminder that the code for free shipping (FREESHADINGSHIPPING) on my Simply Shading Class ends on Wednesday!

Monday, August 3

More Simply Shading!

I have so many things to share with you: about the wonderful class I attended in July at the Royal School of Needlework for example and the new/old sewing machine I got for a bargain a couple of months back... But first I need to tell you about the new Simply Shading Workshop that starts mid September!
Example from one of the lessons

You can read all the details here but the long and short of it is: it's an online workshop for 'the uninitiated' about shading with regular six stranded floss. We'll talk colours, stitches and techniques and it's an excellent starting point if you want to know more about shading.

From personal experience I know that there is no greater gift you can give yourself than to learn a new skill!  And, if you use code FREESHADINGSHIPPING * you get free shipping for your kit so even more reasons to sign up soon. :) The kit includes the iron-on Flower and Bird pattern, a floss organiser, fabric and needles.

The workshop concludes mid October so there is  plenty of time to use your new skills to make some extra awesome hand stitched goodies for Christmas. Hope to see you in class soon!

* free shipping offer ends August 12, 2015

Wednesday, July 8

Bee & Hive

There's an extra pattern in my Simply Shading Workshop, based on a quote from the Lorde song 'Royals': "You can call me Queen Bee". It's fun to stitch, it has shading and lettering and some shiny satin stitches too.

Right now I feel more like a worker bee than a queen bee though. A very tired worker bee. Tomorrow is the last Shading Workshop. I really put a lot of energy into writing and revising the Workshop. I got help with editing the text which was such a good decision! All the Dutch-isms and other odd things were weeded out by a native speaker/reader. :)

Then suddenly, last week, amidst all the busy workshop-last-minute-editing and end of the year at school activities, our youngest was admitted to hospital. She's back home now and on the mend but it was all a bit worrying and unexpected. It has definitely tipped the balance and I'm going to take a break for a few weeks. I'm go to tend to the 'hive' more than anything else now, and read,  do crafty things for fun and play lots of games with the youngest. Hope to see you all back in a few weeks. :)

Tuesday, June 23

A squirrely update

No, my Blue Squirrel isn't on fire or victim of a vicious attack. The orange thing underneath him, is supposed to be some sort of toadstool, something similar to this.  The colours are fairly bright and a little out of my comfort zone, but it's good to challenge yourself sometimes. The only regret I have, is that I used just a scrap of fabric to stitch on. It's a bit of a hassle with that tiny hoop... The squirrel is from this retired pattern. Looks very different in blue doesn't it?

In other news: my Shading Workshop started last week and the good news is that I'm running it again this Fall! Sign up will be open early August. :)

Thursday, June 18

Secret Garden Embroidery

My stitchy friend Sophie (aka What Delilah Did) has released a new book called Secret Garden Embroidery and it's really lovely so I'm excited to share some of the wonderful projects with you today. The best thing about Sophie's books is that each book is a little different from the one before, but still has the same timeless, unique style that many of us love. Secret Garden Embroidery is no exception and with its 15 projects a fabulous resource for both beginning and more advanced stitchers.

One of three Lace Wing Butterfly patterns in the book
Sophie's first book, Storyland Cross Stitch had a lot of her signature style silhouette designs in mostly muted colours. Stitch the Halls, the Christmas book, featured more colour and lots of fun stitch ideas for Christmas decorations. Secret Garden Embroidery is all about botanical and garden themed projects, framed in stories about Miss Merriweather's Thistledown Farmhouse. The book is elegantly illustrated by Katt Frank and the beautiful photography is by Rachel Whiting.

Are you ready to join me for a short walk to Thistledown Farmhouse and have a look around? Be prepared for lots of delicate stitching and gorgeous muted colour palettes!
First, we visit the Vegetable Garden...

And are some cute bugs (and a spider too)!

You cannot leave Thistledown Farmhouse without meeting Miss Millicent Hare...

The first chapter of Secret Garden Embroidery deals with stitches and supplies used for the book's projects. All of the projects are counted embroidery or cross stitch. The larger patterns are included in an envelope at the back of the book, the other patterns are printed in the book.

I think the real fun is in how to make the lovely designs work for you. If you are not into belts you can stitch the pattern on a bag. And colours are easily changed too. The bugs look fabulous on a magnet but would look great on a table cloth or on napkins as well.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into What Delilah Did's Secret Garden! Secret Garden Embroidery is published by Pavilion Books and available now. You can buy the book from Sophie's store (and have it signed too!) and many other bookstores.