Saturday, August 15, 2015

Free - Berlin Woolwork Rose Medallion

Based on an Historical Embroidery Design by Sarah Bland

Download the FREE .PDF Pattern from my Dropbox: Rose Medallion

Please Note: You may see a screen asking you to create a Dropbox account, but you do NOT need to create an account to view and save the file; just click the grey "x" at the right top corner of the screen to go to the file. If you have any problems downloading, please let me know - my e-mail is in my sidebar :)

This lovely little rose is actually an old project from 2013! On one hand it's hard to believe that it's been so long since I made it, and on the other hand it's something I treasure so much that it sort of feels like it's been a part of my life forever ;)

It all started when I was searching through the wonderful online collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), and came across this Berlin Woolwork pattern that is part of a larger personal project album designed by Sarah Bland (1810-1905):

Image used for non-commercial purposes © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Isn't it amazing that a design drawn over 100 years ago still looks so vibrant today?!

I was very taken with the rose filling motif, and recharted my own version:

This was actually the first piece of Berlin Woolwork that I've recharted and stitched; the second was the Key and Ribbon I shared last year as part of the Stitch From Stash (SFS) Challenge - it's tiny because it's stitched over 1 on 28 count Evenweave:

As a matter of fact, I actually chose most of the colours for the Key from this project!

I wanted to keep the feel of the original octagonal medallion, and although at first I considered keeping the orange, yellow and turquoise at the corners, I eventually decided to add gold corners in the style of Victorian photo-albums as a frame:

Before Background Fill / After Background Fill

And then I filled in the background with solid white, which finally gave the rose the proper needlework look! Berlin Woolwork was worked with brightly coloured wools that contrasted so strongly we would consider them clashing on needlework canvas, and so the backgrounds were almost always fully stitched with patterns or solids.

So leaving the Aida cloth (14 count white, all cross-stitch with three strands of floss) unstitched made the work look unfinished. With that in mind, I also added a row of white outside the frame, so it would be filled edge-to-edge.

While I was stitching this project, I took lots of photos intending to make a step-by-step tutorial - unfortunately, most of them did not turn out, which is why I decided not to post about it. It wasn't until recently when I was talking to Karen about fine crochet and final-finishing that I remembered how much I loved this rose :)

But after some digging, I was able to find some photos of the process to share!

I made a basic Padded Ornament, just like I did in my Blackwork Snowflake Tutorial:

It was a total accident that I left my opening at the side instead of the top!

But I did something entirely different for the edging, and crocheted into the Aida blocks! I used size 10 South Maid crochet cotton in White and a 1.00 mm (size 10) hook. I worked a row of single crochet all around as a base and then added simple Shell Stitches for the trim and a little hanging loop at the top:

It was fun to work, and was the perfect finishing touch for the rose :) I backed the ornament with a scrap of the beautiful gold velveteen I used in my Floral Heart.

And that's it!! Out of all the many projects that I've made over the years, this sweet simple rose is one of my very favourites, and ever since I finished it, it's been hanging in my living room on a little brass picture frame hook and cheering me up everyday :)

If you stitch up a Berlin Woolwork Rose Medallion of your own, I'd love to see it!

Thanks very much to Karen, for her interest in this project, without which this post would very likely never have been written ;)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

PC: Blackwork Floral Bookmark Finish

My recent post on the wonderful thread known as Perle (Pearl) Cotton brought an old, unfinished project to mind, and I'm happy to say that I final-finished it at long last! I first wrote about my Blackwork Floral Bookmark way back in 2013, when I was running the ES Bookmark SAL and intended to write a tutorial on making the tassel. I never did get around to it, but there are lots of tassel ideas in that post :)

Perle Cotton (PC) is not just for useful for embroidery - it's amazing on Aida cloth too! I used a 14 count for this project, and at first I wanted a dark colour to show off the gorgeous Anchor variegated PC #8 (1315), which has pinks, oranges and yellows all mixed together! It's very tropical feeling and cheerful :)

At the time I was stitching this, the only dark hue I had that even remotely matched was the tan, but after I put the first few stitches in, I thankfully switched to white instead! Unfortunately, the white was a remnant from a bad batch of Aida, which I didn't realize when I chose to use it. Also, it was really far too narrow, and I now know from experience that it's better to leave a little extra than to be too short!

So I actually stitched this design twice:

At top is my final finish, and at the bottom was my first attempt. Things were going along fine until I turned it, at which point the top edge of the Aida frayed apart so badly that there was no way of fixing it. I tried stitching the frayed parts together -

- but unfortunately I wasn't able to salvage it. I used a different backing fabric for this one, a dark pink polyester cotton that also frayed badly at the seams inside.

It was a mess, and I was so disappointed with it that I put it away for a long time :(

Thankfully, I remembered it when I was writing my post on PC, and I worked up the courage to try again! I had already restitched the bookmark and still had the tassel, so it was just a matter of assembling everything, which is always the scary part ;)

The green PC I used is also seems to be #8, from an old unlabelled ball in my Stitchy Guru Mother's Stash, which was a huge tangle when I found it. So I wound it around an empty Gutermann thread spool to keep it neat. It's a beautiful colour!

The variegated PC was so lovely that I went back in and added a few simple filling stitches to the pattern just so that I could see more of those tropical tones. The flower is one of the prettiest motifs I've ever seen, and was fun and quick to stitch. Also, I love the way the stitches resulted in a little pulled eyelet at the center!

I am glad that I used a different backing fabric, because the thicker cotton was so much easier to stitch and was more comparable to the weight of the Aida, making for a smoother look. The first fabric I used was so thin and flimsy that every stitch pulled a little at the seam. Never buy anything with polyester if you can help it!

I think my favourite part of this project is the tassel :) PC makes wonderfully thick and shiny tassels!!! Instead of making cording for the tie, I made a simple braid, and the extra texture is pretty. I would love to try a fancier beaded version ;)

Finally, here's my Blackwork Floral Bookmark in an actual book:

This is the first novel in Mercedes Lackey's updated fairy-tales series, and although I haven't read it yet, it's been highly recommended so it's at the top of my reading list!

I only added one layer of quilt batting as filling this time (versus the two-layer padded insert I used in my SAL Bookmark) and I'm much happier with it :) It's quite a bit flatter, and a single layer adds little bulk beyond that the seams naturally add.

As for my first botched bookmark, I've kept it even though I'm not sure exactly what to do with it! My Stitchy Guru Mother suggested cutting it down into a band to use on the top of a scissors case or needlebook, but I would like to keep the length out to the two cute little hearts on either end. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Vintage Embroidery Pattern Resources

After my last post about my little Happy Bluebird, which I stitched from a vintage iron-on transfer "tester" design, I'd thought I'd share some of my favourite places online to find free vintage embroidery patterns! The photo above was my very first attempt at embroidery, my Bluebirds of Happiness, and it is also a vintage design :)

If you're interested in vintage embroidery patterns at all, this is the place to start! Although you do have to create an account to access the group, it's free and easy to set up and once you do you can search the giant collection of over 8,000 images!

The group is the gift of many members dedicated to scanning and sharing digital images of mostly iron-on transfer sheets - from as early as the late 1800s to about the 1970s - and most photos have been digitally cleaned up into line drawings that are ready to print and use! Here's a quick overview of how to search the Pool:

When you sign in and go to the Hoop Love Group Page and then to the Photos tab, you get this screen that shows the most recent image additions at the top:

To search within the images, use the search box directly across from the blue "Add Photos" button, next to "Contributors". If you use the search box at the top of the page, it will search all of Flickr! I searched for "bluebird" and here are my results:

From this page, there are several ways to narrow your search, including by colour or pattern, but these don't apply since the majority of results are all B&W designs.

I selected the first pattern, which takes me to the page for that photo. From here, you can Download the image by selecting the icon of a down arrow over a line at the far right hand corner of the screen, which brings up a drop-down menu where you can select the size of the photo and save the file to your computer. And that's it!

To edit or re-size the photo, I suggest using an imaging program on your computer, such as Microsoft Paint or a free online program like Pixlr Express.

Some of the contributors to Hoop Love also host patterns on their own sites/blogs.

This is a wonderful site that, while unfortunately no longer updated, has some of the cutest patterns out there! Including the Alice Brooks pattern "Bluebirds on a Branch" that was the basis for my Bluebirds of Happiness :) And there are two other designs in the same set: "Bluebird and Birdhouse" and Bluebird and Fountain".

It's searchable by keyword and also has themed categories you can browse.

This is a blog dedicated to sharing public domain craft patterns, including crochet, knitting, quilting and sewing. But the majority of the content is embroidery related. It has a post search box, and also a very detailed list of categories that make for happy browsing :) The Flowers section is large, and includes this pretty posy.

There is also a helpful Embroidery Stitch Guide that uses vintage stitch illustrations!

Although all of the over 300 patterns she has shared are on Flickr in her Vintage Embroidery Transfers Album, this is the personal blog of Gina, a graphic designer, Etsy seller and fervent thrifter. She includes vintage patterns in some of her posts, so the best way to find them is to browse her Embroidery blog tag, which also brings up all kinds of contemporary embroidery inspiration, her own work and fun posts.

It's well worth spending some time looking through her blog because Gina has shared some of the most unusual and interesting vintage transfers out there!

This amazing button hoop is one of my very favourite projects of all time, and has been high near the top of my To Be Stitched (TBS) List forever and a day :) Although it has a lovely vintage feel, with the pretty flowers, it's a new design of her own.

Floresita, who is also on Flickr and blogs for Feeling Stitchy, has compiled her vintage patterns in this easy-to-use blog format. It features category tabs across the top which are a quick way to browse. She specializes in the cute - like this pretty little kitty - and quirky, and has scanned several Days of the Week dishtowel sets.

Tipnut was a free weekly newsletter filled with household tips and projects that started in 2006 but stopped updating a few years ago. This section of the site shares whole sets of scanned vintage patterns, including several for stamped cross-stitch. Most are for dishtowels, including Days of the Week sets like these cute Busy Bees.

Martha makes beautiful quilts, many with hand-embroidered squares, and has some great vintage transfers on her blog, including an unusual trio of picture frame designs and this glorious peacock!

The Antique Pattern Library is a fabulous resource for all things vintage and crafty, and although I've spent lots of time on the site in the last few years, I know I've only just scratched the tip of the iceberg. The sheer amount of information can be a little overwhelming, especially since the Embroidery category includes counted thread work (like cross-stitch and Berlin Woolwork) and specialty techniques.

The major problem is that all the listings are for books - many of which concern multiple techniques - and not for the individual patterns themselves. And most of these patterns are really old, in a very different style, but even if they're not to your taste or suitable for following exactly, they can serve as stitchy inspiration :)

Mary Corbet of Needle n' Thread recently wrote a great post about her favourite books on APL for embroidery, and has some good tips for navigating the site. She also has an interesting post about her process for digitizing old embroidery patterns.

Finally, for an intriguing look at how the vintage paper transfer sheets actually are before being scanned and digitized, see this post, and this concise history of iron-on transfers and the companies that made them, along with a free pattern!

I hope you enjoy these resources and find them helpful. And if you have any other sites to suggest I'd love to hear them :) Happy Vintage Embroidery Pattern Hunting!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Wonderful World of DMC PC!

Hello, hello! And a very Happy Day to you :) It's so hard to believe that Summer has not only arrived, but that it's already half over. I know most stitchers are already thinking about Christmas, but I'm trying to hold on to flowers just a bit longer ;)

I'm still experimenting with Ribbon Embroidery, but I took a break to stitch up this cheerful little Bluebird of Happiness and it provided an excellent opportunity to talk about the absolutely brilliant thread that is DMC Perle (Pearl) Cotton!

But first, the pattern is a lovely vintage design from Workbasket magazine kindly shared by Love to Sew on Flickr in the Hoop Love Vintage Transfers group. If you're interested in these kinds of patterns, this is a great resource, but please be aware that you do have to sign up with a Yahoo! e-mail to view the image pool.

Available to Download in several sizes on Flickr here

It's a "tester" or "trial" pattern, which is a small motif usually included on an iron-on pattern transfer sheet for the purposes of testing the iron on the fabric. They usually matched the theme of the full-size pattern set. They were meant to be discarded after being used and were a practical way to make sure the transfers would work. I'm not sure if anyone actually stitched them, but they make wonderful stitch testers!

I traced over the pattern on thin notepad paper using my blue Sulky Transfer Pen (the same way I did for my Floral Umbrella), but this time I only put in little dots to represent the bottoms of the music notes and the ends and centers of the flowers. I find it very hard to get my Lazy Daisy loops to match up exactly to drawn ones, so this saved a lot of frustration and allowed some flexibility while stitching :)

And here's the back - isn't amazing how the flowers look like stars?! -

It's challenging to start and end so many colours in a pattern this small (the black was especially ornery) but I used the "travelling" method of winding new threads along the backside of old ones, and it made things considerably neater. I even find myself doing this for cross-stitch these days, and it's made a big difference!

Thanks to a very generous gift from a friend and to my Stitchy Guru Mother's Stash, I now - at very long last - have representatives of every size in the DMC Perle Cotton line!!! Although the "Perle" spelling is French, I've always heard it pronounced and sometimes spelled "Pearl", so that's how I think of it too :) I usually just call it PC.

I am a HUGE fan of this thread, as you may remember from my Floral Heart:

This project was stitched entirely in DMC PC #5, on gold velveteen

In my opinion, DMC PC is a criminally underutilized thread!!! Especially because it's absolutely perfect for embroidery! Unlike DMC Floss, which is six-stranded, PC is a single non-divisible strand of thread with a pretty twist and a lovely soft sheen.

It's actually that gorgeous luster that garnered it the name "Perle" (Pearl) in the first place! It not only makes stitching easier but it also, I think, shows off stitches better.

Mary Corbet at Needle N' Thread has some great posts explaining the differences in common embroidery threads that are well worth reading: Thread Comparisons, which covers PC, Floche and Floss; Thread Talk! Sizing Up Cotton Threads that goes into more detail, including PC sizing, and a two-part post Comparing Cotton Threads, Stitched and Embroidery Thread Comparisions which show stitch samples.

But as I was embroidering my little Bluebird of Happiness, I realized that I had never seen a picture showing all of the PC Sizes as they come, in Skeins and Balls, so I made this little chart to visually demonstrate the differences (feel free to share!):

That tagline, "The World's Most Beautiful Thread", is actually used by DMC online and in advertisements, and I really have to agree :)

Skeins: PC Skeins are probably the most widely available, with #5 being much more common in my experience than the larger #3, which seems to be mainly marketed for needlepoint use. According to the DMC Product Website for Art. 115, both are available in 292 solid colours with an extra 20 variegated hues made in #5.

The "How to Use" section of this page shows how to unwind and cut the skeins for use. Unfortunately, they are tricky to store as the thread is too large to be wound onto floss cards. I've used old ribbon spools and even small pill bottles for this purpose, but mostly just rewind the skein and tie the colour number onto one end.

There are also two metallics (Art. 315) - Silver and Gold - in #5, that I haven't tried.

Balls: Now, somewhat confusingly, PC #5 is also available in Balls! In the photo above, that green is actually a vintage ball from my Mom's Stash. I've never seen it sold this way, and I'd thought it was a discontinued line. But according to the DMC Product Website for Art. 116, there are still 5 solid colours - no wonder it's rare!

My Stitchy Guru Mother can remember a much larger colour range of these once, so that's something worth keeping in mind if you're thrifting or buying vintage threads.

Here are all the beautiful bright colours of PC #8 that I used in my little Bluebird:

According to the DMC Website, #8 Balls are available in 206 solids and 18 variegated shades! I also love using this thread for Blackwork on size 14 Aida cloth (like I did for my Metallic Monarch Variation). Unfortunately, it's availability seems to be limited. My local Michaels carries only White, Ecru, Black, Navy and a Burgundy.

So image my delight when a friend kindly sent me these wonderful COLOURS:

This was my first time embroidering with #8, and I am hooked!!! It makes a finer line than the #5, and although it is more delicate, this makes it ideal for fitting more stitches into a smaller area or working more detailed stitches.

This Bluebird is pretty small - I sized it to about 3 inches tall and 4 inches wide before printing my pattern - and the #8 PC allowed me follow all the fine curves of the back feathers while still mostly covering the permanent Sulky Transfer Pen lines!!!

Now, #12 Balls seem to be even less common than the #8! DMC says they make 40 solid colours, but I have only personally seen white retailed in this size.

DMC has a number of free projects for PC listed under Cotton Embroidery, mostly designed by Carina from Polka & Bloom (who has some more freebies here), my favourite of which is the Bird of Paradise :) There's a nice alphabet available too.

Here's a closer look at all four sizes of DMC PC together:

Although #12 doesn't look all that much finer, in person the difference is much more noticeable. Whereas #8 works well with size 14 Aida, #12 could be used on a size 16 or size 18 Aida! It's really too fine to embroider with, unless the design is very small or incredibly complex. But it is often used in combination with #8 for the accent details - like Wrapped Bars and Dove's Eyes - in Hardanger stitching.

#12 is also a great size for larger-scale Tatting - making lace with a shuttle (or, less commonly, with a needle) - which happily seems to be making a comeback. DMC also says that all four sizes of PC can be used for Crochet, but that would be an expensive proposition for anything bigger than a pair of earrings or a brooch!

PC is also very popular for Crazy Quilting, and there are companies like Colour Compliments that make gorgeous hand-dyed variegated versions of the threads.

I also wondered about the Colouring System for PC. All DMC Threads share the same Colour Numbers, but the difference in materials can affect the way the dyes absorb. PC is a little prismatic - because of the luster, the colour seems to shift slightly in tone depending on the direction that the light hits it. So I compared three of the brightest shades of PC #8 with their coordinating flosses, and you can see my results below:

The closest of the three was the pink (3689, which is a favourite of mine!), with the yellow (445) also being nearly indistinguishable. The blue (996) was actually further off than it looks in the photo - the floss was noticeably deeper. But in general I think it's safe to say that most Floss colours can be substituted for PC.

And finally, if you'd like to stitch your own little Bluebird, here's a Stitch Guide:

Please click to view Full Size to Save or Print

Of course, the really wonderful thing about small designs like this is how easy it is to experiment with them, so feel free to make your own substitutions!

I hope this overview of DMC Perle (Pearl) Cotton (PC) was helpful, and I really hope that you consider trying it out the next time you embroider, or experiment with adding it to your cross-stitch. It's a really beautiful thread that is so fun to work with, and if more stitchers use it and buy it, hopefully it will become more readily available in the future :) Or at least not get any scarcer LOL! What do you think of PC?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Gifted Gorgeousness SAL - Month #1

The Gifted Gorgeousness SAL is hosted by Jo at Serendipitous Stitching! It's a yearly SAL with monthly check-ins, but thankfully Jo has provided a great drop-in option for slower stitchers like myself. Here is my first entry this year in the SAL:

Flower Series #2 - Rose / Rose Afghan Motif
Free Pattern from The Janlynn Corporation

The motif is part of six floral and foliage themed blocks intended for an afghan. This is my own brighter colour variation. The original colours are much more muted:

I started working on this little rose when I was home at Christmas, so I waslimited to the colours that I had with me, which were mostly festive. The beautiful blue 14 count Aida was a generous gift from a friend that I had intended for a night-sky ornament, and I think all complimentary designs are, in a way, a gift to the stitcher :)

The 6" pink Hoop-La is also a gift, as I bought it with holiday gift money from my family, and the two blues I used for the Forget-me-Not flowers were Anchor that I bought at the same time. Please excuse the green Painter's Tape - it's a great quick solution to keep the edges of the fabric from fraying :)

The design is actually brighter in person - I had a hard time getting it to photograph properly. Although it doesn't show up clearly, I really like the shading in the rose:

And I adore this cute little realistic rosebud:

I find that a lot of rosebuds aren't rendered in detail, and I like that this one looks ready to bloom :) This was a quick design to stitch, for the most part, but the Forget-me-Nots were a little confusing. The petals are all overlayered, but some of the edges were very square, so I added in three-quarter stitches here and there.

Although there are a lot of colour changes, most are in sections of three stitches or more, so I didn't mind so much even though it took quite a bit more time than I had first expected. It was fun to work on this, sitting in front of the lighted Christmas tree, putting in two or three small blocks of colour at a time in between festivities.

But even after I had the stitching completed, it didn't feel finished. Something was missing. So it languished in my travelling stitching tin until I decided to add a border. And this super simple border ended up being my favourite part!!!

To make the border, I just stitched large cross-stitches over two threads all the way around. It looked a little too casual, so I added Backstitches in the middle, which naturally made Algerian Stitches in the corners! Simple to stitch, and super fast too :)

The border is definitely something I will try again in the future. And I really like the Forget-me-Nots, even though the Backstitching sort of fades into the fabric. Overall, I'm pleased with this project, and I'll probably make it up into a padded ornament :)

In the meantime, I am still thinking about my Sampler of Samples! I know it's getting late in the game, as far as the year goes, but I want to take the time to do it right ;)

P.S. Rosey at Ishkabibble is generously hosting her first Giveaway, in a series of three! The second Giveaway, for a lovely little Mill Hill kit, is currently open until May 17th, so drop over and say hi :) I've entered for myself, because I love MH!