22 November 2010

at least she had time to finish her project

This was published today in the Rochester, MN Post-Bulletin:
A St. Charles woman was sentenced to 30 days in jail by Judge Burt Eaton for stealing 20 cents worth of embroidery floss.

According to the Consumer Price Index, that's $3.13 in today's prices. Just an interesting bit of embroidery-related news to brighten your day :)

20 October 2010

embroidering on gingham

Gingham can be a great fabric to embroider on, and not just for working chicken scratch. It's already got a perfectly square grid so any patterns designed for cross stitch will work equally well on it. Use the corners of each small square (or skip over a few if the squares are very small) for your needle entry and exit holes.

rooster aprons

I found these two aprons recently at an antique mall—one pink gingham, the other yellow. Both have a row of brown and red chickens along the bottom. I'm including the pattern here — it's been a while since we've had a freebie! Enjoy!

Click the pattern image for a larger version.

19 October 2010


Cross stitch sometimes gets a bad rap, especially here in the U.S., with the predominance of cutesy kits in craft stores and overly sweet projects in magazines. There's the exception to be sure, but in general, I haven't been impressed with what I've seen.

So, I was happy to be asked to review the redesign of Cross Stitcher magazine. My big concern, since this is a British magazine, was whether we could buy it here in the U.S. They assured me that it's available in some Borders stores (although, sadly, not in mine) and also by subscription for £79.99. Or you can purchase digital editions— single issues for £6.70 and a 13-issue subscription for £60. But, with the exchange rate currently not in our favor, the best deal is at Magazine Nook for $23.39 with free shipping. If you're located in the UK, of course, you shouldn't have problems finding it on the newsstand. The redesign debuts with the current issue (Issue 232 November 2010).

CrossStitcher Magazine

I'm still awaiting my printed issue to arrive by mail but I got a chance to preview an online sample. I'm impressed, both with the colorful and fun design of the magazine and with the projects. The magazine opens with a free chart for embroidering gingham heart sachets (each issue includes a free project pattern). Following are lots more fun projects—like felt baby booties (so cute), a realistic Jack Russell cushion, covered buttons, the ever-popular owls, and designs for Christmas cards. Every issue has a section called The Savvy Stitcher—this time it features applique, using Bondaweb, stitching basics, and alphabet charts for personalizing your projects.

Savvy Stitcher

Be sure to visit their website, sign up to receive their newsletter, and become a fan on Facebook. They offer lots of freebies on all of these and a chance to interact with other readers and stitching fans.

23 September 2010

reading patterns

Stamped-for-embroidery projects originally came with a printed sheet that had color suggestions and instructions for which stitches to use to complete the design. Or, if you purchased your project at a department store, it came with a free booklet of instructions for all of that season's designs. This is what the Vogart Fall 1957 booklet looked like—

Vogart Embroidery Color Charts Fall 1957 Page 13

That's great but, it's fifty years later. What if you find a vintage piece, and the instruction sheet has been lost, or there's no accompanying booklet? Color is personal and you'll have your own preferences—we'll save that subject for a future post. Let's talk about the stitches.

Here are a couple of pieces from my collection that I haven't started yet (click through to the larger versions on my Flickr page if you need to see them larger). The designs are printed on the fabric surface and will almost always wash out after the embroidery is completed. Let's look at some of the standard "symbols".

rooster pattern

cat pattern

A- All of the outlines in a design can be done in either stem or outline stitch. You could use any stitch with a continuous line—like chain or split stitch—as long as it's not too wide. You want to cover the line but not intrude too much on the space around it.

B- Any straight line that is less than 1/2 inch or so should be done in straight stitch. Anything longer and you run the risk of the thread lying too loosely on the surface. And that can lead to snagging.

C- Leaves and flower petals are always done in detached chain stitch, commonly called lazy daisy.

D- When you see a shape with a series of lines across it, this tells you to use satin stitch. Or, you can simply outline the shape and just go over the crossed lines with straight stitch. You'll see this used for facial features, such as the eyes, noses, beaks, and tongues of animals.

E- Little crosses symbolize cross stitch. There aren't any in the first example but there are lots in the second. You'll want to bring your needle up and down in a space halfway between the printed ends of the crosses; sometimes they're printed with a bit of space in between and you want to cover the printing completely in case it doesn't wash out.

F- Little open circles mean French knots. Commonly used for flower centers, random polka dots on clothing, and for making lambs look wooly.

That's about it. Don't feel that you need to learn all the advanced stitches to get started with embroidery. Most designs will use only these five or six stitches; some even less. Advanced stitches are nice when you're ready to add to your repertoire, but certainly not needed for most of your projects.

Having said that, you could try fly stitch for the Vs on the roosters neck or blanket stitch instead of the straight and outline stitches along his feathers and comb. The yarn ball in the kitten design could be done in a stitch with more dimension to make it fuzzier. Don't be afraid to try something different!

16 September 2010

color your world

In the premiere issue of Amy Powers' Inspired Ideas, Piper Wise shows how to add color to embroidery, a technique she learned from her husband's aunt. She uses the duck design from my Party Animals pattern to create a motif on a little girls dress.

You may have seen some of the vintage Vogart stamped-for-embroidery projects with colored areas already printed within the design. Here are a few examples:

flower girl


Using Piper's technique you can mimic this effect yourself. Another way to add color is to use acrylic paints. Acrylic paints are plastic-based so the paint fuses with the fabric and becomes water-resistant when dry. The nice thing about acrylics is that you can dilute them with water if you want a softer, more watercolor-like effect.

Generally, with stamped embroidery projects, you embroider the outlines of shapes; adding color helps to fill in some of the empty spaces in your design.

15 September 2010

embroidery in the news

A few interesting embroidery-related articles for your reading pleasure—

Whimsical Pillows Embroidered ... by Convicts
Stitch in Time: The embroidery of the Ahirs of Kutch

Sorry for the lack of posting since July (yikes, it's a wonder anyone is still reading). I've been busy this summer and not doing much embroidery myself—I rarely do when it's hot outdoors. But, as the weather gets cooler I find myself turning back to it again. I'll try to be better about posting again.

06 July 2010

cross stitch trims

Today's patterns are courtesy of Sandro Ilg who lives in Berne, Switzerland. Sandro is a recovering English literature major who decided that wasn't the career for him and now plans to study fashion design instead. He sews and loves to shop for thrift store goodies—clothing, fabric, trims, and buttons. Especially buttons, which he admits he has an addiction to (me, too). Like we couldn't tell from the name of his blog, Mr. Buttons :)

Sandro found these vintage trims while thrifting and asked if I could turn them into charted patterns to share with my Stitch School readers. Of course!

original trims

The original trims are embroidered on white linen that's been hemmed top and bottom. I'd probably embroider them directly on a finished item rather than on something that needs to be attached. But, that will depend on your project. The flowers would be cute for a little girl's dress; the cherries for an apron, tea towel, or how about a row along the bottom of curtains in a cherry-themed kitchen?

cherry pattern
(Click through for a larger version)

The only change I made is to add a few yellow crosses in the center of the flower—it seemed to need something there but you can leave it out if you like. Done in a medium purple-blue colored floss, they look very much like a flower we call periwinkle or vinca. Use whatever colors you like. Try brown centers with a yellow flower (like black-eyed Susans).

flower pattern
(Click through for a larger version)

Thanks Sandro for sharing your treasures. If anyone else has a vintage hand-embroidered item they'd like to share, let me know. I'd be happy to convert it for you. And I'm always happy to post photos of your finished embroidery projects as inspiration for others. Let's spread the embroidery love!

28 June 2010

eat your veggies

Or, maybe I should say, embroider them :)

If you're also a reader of my Primrose Design blog you may have seen that I'm working on quilted patchwork pot holders with food themes. I've run out of vintage linens to cut up so I'm embroidering some of the motifs myself. Today I showed some examples of peas and carrots that I found originally on a vintage apron; there was a yellow squash, too. And I decided to offer the patterns for free here at Stitch School in case you'd like to try them for yourself.

Each of the designs would be super cute on aprons as they appeared originally or perhaps on tea towels or framed pictures on your kitchen wall. All are super easy and shouldn't take more than an hour. No need to trace these onto to your fabric—just count the stitches for your cross stitch and do them first, then go back and freehand draw the stem/outline stitched parts. I used an even-weave linen/cotton blend (from an old tea towel) but you could use Aida if you like.

Click each photo for a larger version on my Flickr page.

peas embroidery

peas pattern

carrot embroidery

carrot pattern

yellow squash embroidery

yellow squash pattern

08 June 2010

move completed

You're probably wondering why all the posts today. I'd been putting off completing the move of all Stitch School posts from the Primrose Design blog, but decided to devote the necessary few hours to getting it done today. And I did it. If you go to the original posts you'll be directed here, so I guess that means we're all moved in! There might be a few missing items here and there but I'll be checking for problems over the next few days. Then it's time for some new stitches!

Woven Filling Stitch

The woven filling stitch, also called Queen Anne stitch is really more of a technique than a stitch. It starts with a series of parallel straight lines done in straight stitch and then the thread is woven back through to form a basketweave texture. I have a couple of stamped-for-embroidery projects with baskets of flowers and I'm going to try this technique to complete them. It really does look just like a basket!

I used a coarser linen for this because I found it easier to keep the weave even by counting threads. You could mark your fabic first or do it by eye—if it's not absolutely perfect it will look like a rustic basket :)

First make a series of vertical straight stitches, close together but not too close. You'll need enough space between the lines to do your weaving. And use all six strands of embroidery floss for a fuller effect.


Bring your needle to the front just to the right of the last vertical line and very close to the top.


Now weave your thread over the last vertical stitch and under the stitch next to it.


Continue weaving under and over the stitches, taking the needle to the back just to the left of the first vertical stitch and level with the line of weaving.


After pulling your thread through bring your needle to the front just below (I counted three holes) where your thread emerged.


Now start back, weaving from from left to right and working under and over the opposite threads from last time.


Keep going back and forth, going down at the end of a row and up again to start the next. I found that it helped to use the needle to pack the threads in tight against the previous row, like you'd use a shuttle for actual weaving.


Here's what it looks like finished.


I love the texture of this and can't wait to try it on an actual project. Because each row is secured by taking the thread to the back, you can see how easy it would be to have this conform to an irregular shape—like a basket with curved sides.

Wheatear Stitch

The wheatear stitch, which resembles a sheaf of wheat when finished, is usually worked in a short, straight line. Drawing a vertical line on your fabric will help you to keep it even and, instead of working sideways as we usually do, we'll do this one working from top to bottom. As with most stitches, you can vary the appearance by lengthening or shortening the "ears" or by varying their placement.

We'll use gold thread to get the full wheaty effect, but this would also be pretty for a border in other colors, too. Bring your thread to the front to the left of the top of your drawn line. Then take the needle to the back on the line and about 1/4 inch down towards you.


Pull the thread through and come up again 1/4 inch to the right of the drawn line, directly opposite the first stitch. Take the needle to the back using the same hole as your first stitch.


Pull the thread through, forming a V shape. Come up again on the line about 1/4 inch below the bottom of the V.


Slide your needle from right to left behind the previous two stitches at the base of the V, being careful not to pierce the fabric.


Take your needle to the back again using the same hole in the fabric and forming a loop under the point of the V. Pull your thread through and bring the needle up to the left of the loop and in line with the beginning of the first stitch above it.


Repeat, using the hole at the base of the V for the end of each stitch and looping your thread through each time.


Continue working down the line and take a stitch to the back at the base of the final V. Here's what it looks like finished. Cool, huh?


Try this with a V that's less wide if you want a more compact-looking wheat sheaf—the loops and side pieces blend together more.

Vandyke Stitch

The Vandyke stitch is another of the braided-center stitches. It's traditionally used as a border (and I'll show it done this way) but could easily be adapted to fill leaf shapes by varying the width as we did here and here.

We'll be starting with a cross stitch that's narrow at the top and wider across the bottom. Draw some guidelines to help keep your stitches straight if you like. Start by bringing your needle up on the left outer line then take a small stitch from right to left directly above it (needle down on fourth line and up on second).

Pull the thread through, then take a diagonal stitch from the right line back to the left line directly underneath and slightly below the beginning of the first half of the cross.

You can see the finished cross a little better in this picture. Now slide your needle behind the crossed threads being careful not to pierce the fabric.

Pull your thread through and this will be the beginning of your second cross. Take another diagonal stitch from the right line to the left slightly below the previous cross.

Pass your needle underneath but this time be careful that you only go under the previous stitches and that you don't catch any threads from the stitch above it. It makes quite a mess if you do. It may be a good idea to work this stitch with a tapestry needle—it's blunt tip will make this part easier.

Continue making crosses and passing your thread behind them until you've completed your length of stitching. When you come to the end take your thread to the back at the bottom right of the last cross.

It's really pretty easy although the fabric I used (cotton toweling) was a bit too soft for this stitch. I found it very hard to keep the tension right so my center braid and outer edges (even following the guidelines) are not perfectly straight. As with most of these more complicated stitches, they take a bit of practice before they feel comfortable. And, in this case, a stiffer fabric.

Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch

This is a variation on the standard buttonhole stitch (which I called blanket stitch—same thing). There are actually quite a few variations (who knew?) and I'll try to show you some of them in the coming months. Here's the diagram from One Hundred Embroidery Stitches (yes, the second diagram is upside down. I should mention that you can hold your work any way you want—sometimes its easier holding it sideways or upside down—do what works best for you):

And now to the photos. Begin on the bottom line as for regular buttonhole stitch and pull the thread through.

Holding the thread with your left thumb, insert your needle on the bottom line and take a stitch straight up and alongside the previous stitch.

Pull the thread through in an upward motion. You'll see the little loop at the bottom tightens to hold the stitch. Take your thread back down through that little loop.

Repeat, and continue along until you've completed your length. Take your thread to the back and finish off.

Here's what it looks like when complete. If you look at this upside down it looks like little tassels—that might be handy for something in the future.

Twisted Chain Stitch

Twisted chain stitch is a variation of the basic chain stitch that we learned earlier (see Lazy Daisy which is really a detached chain stitch). You work it the same way except for one slight difference and that difference makes the chain twist and form a rope-like chain. The closer together you work the stitches the more texture you'll get. I worked them spaced apart so you can more easily see what to do.

Here's regular chain:

And here's the twisted variation. Can you see the difference?

Begin as you would for chain stitch by bringing your thread to the front. Now, instead of inserting your needle into the same hole where your thread emerged, insert it slightly to the left. Take a small slanting stitch and come up on the drawn line. Your thread loops over and then under the needle.

Pull the thread through until it tightens and the loop rests on the emerging thread. This is the first link in the chain.

To begin the second link, take the needle from just outside the loop down to the drawn line. Again, keep your thread under the needle or it won't twist. With regular chain stitch you would take your needle down inside the loop not outside of it—that's the difference.

Continue making links in the chain and when you come to the end take a small stitch to tack the last loop down.

Here's a side view. Remember that it's OK to hold your work in any direction that works for you. I started this working top to bottom like it was shown in my book but quickly switched to working from right to left. Much easier.

The finished twisted chain:

There are quite a few chain stitch variations so I'll probably show you more in the future.