Tips Blog

TIP BLOG - APRIL/2018 - DORSET BUTTONS

Once again you can thank my needlework guild for this months blog!  One of the ladies asked me to find her some 'how-to' written instructions for DORSET BUTTONS, and I had such fun researching it, I thought I'd share them with you. 

These are basically covered and woven rings, that can be made large or small, and which you can use for actual buttons, or for ornaments, or for earrings!  There are some great tutorials on-line, but the one I would recommend is at a website called craftstylish.com, which had clear instructions, with lots of step by step pics.

For beginners, a larger ring (1.5 - 2.5") is recommended.  You can use 6-strand embroidery floss; pearl cotton or yarn to cover the buttons, so a lot of variety is possible, but we're going to call it YARN here, no matter what you use.  The only MUST is that the ring has to be solid - no breaks in it, which is why the curtain rings available from craft and fabric shops are perfect for this.  You will also need a tapestry (blunt) needle, with a large enough eye to accommodate your yarn.

I'm going to cover this quickly, so I do recommend following the link above, to see step by step pictures.  You want a long length of yarn, so you don't have to add pieces and hide tails.  4X the length of your arm has been suggested, or roughly 100 inches.

Cover the ring very completely with BUTTONHOLE or BLANKET stitches (see my tutorial on this stitch, if it's unfamiliar). 

Once there is no ring showing anywhere, and notice that you have a ridge all around the outside edge of the ring.  Gently work at rotating the yarn, so that outer ridge is IN THE CENTRE of the ring. The 'tail' of the thread will be dangling down, inside the ring.

Wrap the yarn around the ring several degrees apart, to form spokes.  For beginners, start with 8 spokes, though for larger buttons you can add additional wraps.  Note that one side will look like a wagon wheel, with nice even spokes, but the other side will have wraps closer to the outer edges.

When all the spoke wraps are complete, turn the button over, so you're working on the side where the wraps are not even (the BACK of the button). 

Slide the needle under the two spokes closest to the edge, and give a tug.  Pull the yarn to gently tug the off-centre spokes into the centre, and repeat with the other spokes, until the spokes on this side is lined up as well as the FRONT.  Note that you will have to hold the yarn tightly until a bit of the weaving is completed.

Flip the button to the right side, and begin weaving by bringing the needle up from the back on the LEFT SIDE of the nearest spoke, and going down on the RIGHT side of that spoke.  Pull the yarn snug.

Now move to the next spoke to the LEFT (yes, you are going counter-clockwise, past your starting position - this is what give the 'raised' look to the stitch), again, come up on the left side of the spoke, go down on the right side of the spoke, and move to the next spoke on the left.  Repeat until the entire button is covered in weaving, pushing the stitches on each spoke together every once in a while, to be sure they are nice and tight. 

When the stitching is complete, run the tails under on the BACK of the button.  To attach, simply stitch the centre of the button, to anchor.  Enjoy this stitch - I'd love to see what you make with it!  Happy stitching...

 

TIP BLOG - APRIL/2018 - FANTASTIC FRENCH KNOTS!

Not sure if I mentioned this, but I'm re-cycling some of my blogs from years ago, as they are still relevant, but getting lost in the growing annals of tips, so hard to find!  However, one of the things I hear most often from stitchers, is that they hate doing French knots - they come out misshapen, with loops of thread sticking up, or any number of other imperfections... so it seemed like a good time to tune up and re-cycle a PERFECT FRENCH KNOT tutorial... enjoy...

Actually, French knots aren't really difficult at all, though they can take some practise, as it's a 2-handed job - the trick is in the TENSION.  When you come up from the back of the fabric, pull the floss gently but firmly away from the base of the stitch with your free hand, and keep the tension on that strand during the rest of the steps.

Now, I'm right handed, so I'm going to tell you how I work a French Knot right-handed.  If you are left-handed, simply reverse these instructions.

Holding the floss several inches from the base with your left hand, and pointing the tip of the needle in the same direction (away from the base of the strand, along the length of the floss), wrap the floss 2-3 times around the needle.  Most instructions call for a double wrap, but when I want a larger / thicker knot, or if I'm using very fine floss, I have been known to wrap 3 times.

Keep holding the floss strand firmly taut, while you turn the needle away from your left hand at a 45 degree angle, and slide the needle down the floss until it's almost touching the fabric (see Figure 3 below). 

Still keeping the floss taut, so it doesn't loosen and gape on you, push the tip of the needle back down through the fabric to the back.  If the floss is fairly thick, you may go back down in the same hole you came up in, and the thick knot will sit on top of the fabric.  If the floss is thinner, or the fabric is loosely woven enough that the knot may easily pull through the fabric, then go over one fabric strand from your starting position, before inserting the needle.

Gently draw the floss strand tight, forming the knot, keeping the tension on the floss strand, but allowing the strand you're holding to feed down through the opening, until a small tight knot is formed.  Refer to the graphic below if any of this is unclear.  I suggest getting a scrap piece of fabric, and practising until you are comfortable making fantastic French knots!

 

Now, here's a tip you may like even better <wink>.  If you really, really, really hate French Knots, you can replace them with seed beads of the same color!  This simple trick keeps a uniform size and shape to all 'knots', while giving a very similar look to the French Knots.  That's it for this month... talk to you later...

 

TIP BLOG - MARCH/2018 - LET ME NEEDLE YOU!

Well, I was browsing through my BLOG NOTES, a little book I keep handy to jot down things to share with you... and I'm getting near the bottom of the well of things I had noted, LOL, so if anyone has anything they think others would like to know about, please let me know - I'm always looking for inspiration!

This month's tips were inspired by a newsletter from my needlework guild (Quinte Needle Arts Guild, out of Belleville), and offers some tips about needles... here are some of the hilites of that article by Judith Best, along with some thoughts of my own:

There are different types of needles, as most of you know... SHARPS are used for embroidery, and have a sharp tip and long eye, allowing them to ease through tightly woven fabric, like cotton.  These are great for surface embroidery.  BETWEENS are similar to SHARPS, but shorter, while CHINELE are also similar to SHARPS, but shorter and thicker (they're good for heavier yarns, such as those used in Crewel work).

DARNERS are also like SHARPS, but they are longer, and the eye is not elongated.  Being longer, they are great for running stitches, or any 'darning-like' stitch.  QUILTING NEEDLES have sharp tips as well, but they are shorter, to resist bending over long periods of use.

TAPESTRY and CREWEL needles are also a bit thicker (like the CHINELE), but they have blunt tips.  I tend to use mainly a #24 or #26 tapestry needle myself.  When you're using linen or Aida, which is made for needlework, you actually want a needle that WON'T pierce the threads, but will fit in the openings left by the weave of the fabric, so most counted work, drawn thread, pulled thread, or needlepoint etc., are done with this type of needle.

There are even more kinds of needles, but those are the main ones you are likely to run across unless your doing specialty needlework (like the BODKINS used in Swedish Weaving).

Needles aren't (as a general rule) very expensive, so don't be afraid to toss them out!  I know stitchers who select a new needle at the beginning of every project.  But needles rust, so don't leave them in the face of your work for any length of time, and store them in a dry place.  Some stitchers create 'needle books', with felt pages, to keep the different sizes and types of needles together.

To choose a needle, try dropping it (point first) through an opening in the weaving of the fabric.  The needle should slip through with the eye barely moving the strands aside.  If you use too thick a needle it will make gaps around the base of your stitches, which will look unattractive... but if you're using thick floss (like tapestry wool), or several strands of floss (I like to use 3X myself), then you also want a needle that will make a large enough hole for the thread to pull through the fabric easily!  Do a test on an out-of-the-way area, or scrap, to ensure the needle you've selected is right for both the fabric and the floss.

Judith's final admonition is to always purchase good quality needles, LOL... happy stitching!

12/2017 - TIP - MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Yes, I said MERRY CHRISTMAS, LOL! And that's about all I'm going to say this month, as I've decided we're all too busy at this time of year to learn anything, LOL.

So just a quick note to wish you all the best for the holiday season, and here's hoping 2018 is full of all the wonderful things you dream, and work for!  Lots of changes - both definite and possible - coming for us in the new year, so check out our WAS'SUP and newsletter, to keep in the know!  Talk to you next year...

11/2017 - TIP - PAPER EMBROIDERY

Since I recently released a new design on PAPER EMBROIDERY, I thought I'd spend this blog giving you a "brief history and how-to" on this interesting technique!  Paper piercing has been around since the 1700's, though originally designs were created by making larger and smaller holes, with actual stitching being added later.  In the 1970's Pierre Bezier set out to prove you could make a curve using a series of straight lines, and to teach this theory, school teachers invented string art!!  While you can use almost any type of embroidery stitch on paper, the style that has me most intrigued is that influenced by string art!

OK, so that's your history... now for some how-to!  I print my templates (or patterns) right on the back of the cardstock I want to use for my stitching, and will have kits available before Christmas, if you're thinking of a stocking stuffer (wink).  However, you can also purchase reusable templates, or download them off the internet and print them on regular paper.

If you're using paper, lightly tape the template in position on the back of the cardstock, so it DN shift as you punch.  Lay the cardstock face down on a piercing pad - you can purchase a pad, or use an old mouse pad or piece of cork - I use 3 layers of felt, on a clipboard, so it is both cushioned and mobile!

When you begin piercing, hold the tool as upright as possible, and pierce at each dot on the template as accurately as possible.  Again, you can buy a piercing tool, or you can use a long needle (though I found that very hard on the hand).  We made our own tools by inserting a fine needle (like a #26 tapestry needle) in the end of a small length of dowel!  Hold the cardstock up to the light from time to time, to check that all holes have been pierced.  BE SURE ALL THE HOLES ARE DONE BEFORE YOU REMOVE THE TEMPLATE!

Note that most patterns for paper embroidery are small - card or ornament sized - because you can't clean and press the paper once you're finished, so the background has to be kept as clean and undamaged as possible!

Because the patterns are small, one strand of embroidery floss is often enough - though you may want to play with the look of various numbers of strands, to make a particular design pop!  There are no knots on the back of the work, tails are fastened in place with tiny pieces of scotch tape!  Since you're using a heavy paper to stitch, the thread won't show through, so try to anchor outside the stitching area as much as possible.

Stitching instructions are generally provided in cryptic notes, such as 1-6.  This means come up in the first hole, then count six holes from the starting point (NOT including the starting hole), and that is where you go down to the back of the cardstock, and that is how long each stitch on that particular motif will be.  If there is a mirror image motif (that DN have instructions), it is stitched the same way (or reversed).  If you're working on an open curve, start at one end.  If you're working on a closed motif, and a starting position is not indicated, then you can start anywhere on the circle, but work all the way around.  You will often find that every hole maybe used twice (on a closed motif), or that some holes .

Let me give you a little diagram to follow, to make the next part easier (wink).  The diagram (below) has a stitch length of 1-11, and is being worked clockwise.  This means we started at the top (1), and counted 11 holes clockwise, before going to the back of the cardstock, and all the stitches will be this length.  However, unlike say Satin Stitch, we are not going to go back to the starting position, instead we will continue to the NEXT HOLE clockwise (3), then cross the motif on the face of the cardstock, to go down in the NEXT HOLE clockwise (4) from our starting position (1).

We'll continue in this manner, moving one hole clockwise from where we went down (at 4), to come up (at 5), and we'll move clockwise to the next hole (6) from the last stitch on the opposite side (3), to go back down.  We'll keep stitching in this way all the way around the motif.  By the time we reach the bottom hole of the diamond, holes (1) and (4) will have to be used a second time, so the design may call for you to continue around until EVERY hole has been used twice, before stopping.  (Just a designing note, in case you want to make your own template... a pattern with 2 less holes on the left side of the diamond would end with the final bottom stitch in that last unused hole before (1)!).

So when you look at the back of your stitching, there is a bare minimum of thread - it's all on the front!  Also remember that the template on the back is a mirror image of the face of the stitching, so if you want the stitching to go clockwise, you have to count COUNTER-clockwise on the back!

One final tip... if you run out of floss and are adding a new strand by end on the back and starting the new strand in the next hole, wait and tape the ending tail down at the SAME TIME as your new starting tail, to keep the amount of tape on the back to a minimum.

Here's a wee pattern for you to try out.  Print the template so it's about 2" high.  The different stitch lengths will let you see how the length affects the look of the stitching.  And if you enjoy this new technique, watch for additional designs coming soon!

 

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