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This is a wonderful site that, while unfortunately no longer updated, has some of the cutest patterns out there!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!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Booklet Review: Ribbon Stitches

Ribbon Stitches by Mary Lou Wright and Suzanne McNeill for Design Originals

Although this little booklet is currently out of print, and probably has been for a few years, I'm making an effort to review some of my thrifted stitchy stuff like this so you can keep an eye out for a copy on your own treasure hunting adventures :)

It's a lot easier to find something you're interested in if you know what to look for!

When hunting about for craft booklets like this, I often find them stuffed in with magazines of all kinds in thrift shops and used book stores. Although the sticker price is $3.00, I only paid a dollar, and that's pretty typical for these, so booklets like this can be a very affordable way to experiment with a new technique.

I've always loved the look of ribbon embroidery, and I've read quite a bit about it over the years. Although this guide is small, it packs in a lot of content and is actually better, instruction-wise, than some of the full-length books I've read on the subject!

Like most booklets, it's a project book, with 15 small floral designs finished off as ornaments and wall hangings. The front and back cover and a two-page center insert are full-colour while the rest of the book is black-and-white.

As you can see from the photo above, each project includes a B&W photo, a drawn illustration to use as a pattern guideline, fabric cutting templates and a list of materials. Arrows labelled with the stitch name point to each area of the illustration.

And these names correspond to the Stitch Diagrams given at the front of the book:

Besides illustrating how to lock the ribbon on the needle before stitching - which was incredibly helpful! - there are 17 stitches shown, most with multiple parts. All seem clear and concise, although I did try folding the Concertina Rose several times with disastrous results; I suspect there's a trick of the wrist somewhere in there!

But by far the most useful feature is indeed the "Full-Color Stitch Sampler Inside!":

I've never seen anything like this before and it's amazing to see the stitches laid out "in progress"! Some even have the needles still in place, which is cute touch ;) Most compare the same stitch in floss and silk ribbon, and some show multiple steps, like the beautiful yellow Bradford Rose at the top right (which I'm hoping to try soon!).

The recommended materials are regular DMC cotton floss and YLI Silk Ribbon, which seemed to be the most popular supplier of the Silk Ribbon Revival in the mid-1990's, which was right around when this book was written in 1994.

As a kid, I spent lots of time happily trailing along after my Stitchy Guru Mother in fabric stores, and I remember seeing all the cards and bundles of shiny, pretty ribbon on the pegboard shelves, long before I ever thought about picking up a needle :)

Unfortunately, the lack of availability of silk ribbon - and it's expense! - is the biggest stumbling block to Ribbon Embroidery today. But I've been experimenting with polyester "satin" ribbon, and while it lacks the soft drape of silk, I like the look!

Here's a selection from my Stitchy Guru Mother's stash of practice threads; like me, she was hesitant to use the silks she bought and started with these, but other things came along and she never did try the real thing. She may still have some silk ribbon somewhere, so if I get good at this I may try that for something VERY special ;)

Meanwhile, I tried my hand at a Spiderweb Rose, using the diagram in the booklet:

You can see the ribbon I used here, in the original skein and wound on floss cards.

And here are my roses! The weird blobs in the middle are French Knots, which definitely need some work (and aren't any easier in ribbon LOL). The rose on the left has the floss base recommended in the booklet, and the larger one on the right is worked over a base made with the same ribbon, which is usually how it's done.

I'm really pleased with how the floss-based Spiderweb Rose turned out, and I'll be using this method in the future! Small tidbits of information like this can make a HUGE difference when it actually comes to stitching, and I'm so glad that The Great Stitchy Karma Gods brought this little booklet my way! Highly recommended.

Finally, here's my favourite project in Ribbon Stitches, which is also the simplest:

Elegant and pretty, this bouquet features a Bradford Rose and Loop Stitch flowers with Lazy Daisy leaves! I really love that Ribbon Embroidery is so rich and lavish looking yet most of the stitches are basic surface embroidery ones you may already know. It all very much depends on the ribbon you use, and your tension.

Over the next few weeks I'll be letting my imagination run rampant with ribbons :) Hope this little review was helpful. Have you thrifted anything stitchy lately?!

(And if you're Spring Cleaning your craft closet, please consider donating to a thrift store near you! It's a great way to help old supplies and projects find a new home.)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Easy & Fun Embroidered Easter Eggs

Hello, hello! It's so hard to believe that it's officially Spring now :) It still feels very much like Winter here, but the days are slowly getting longer and Mr. Sunshine is happily making more appearances LOL! I've been under the weather on and off since Christmas, so although I had Big Plans to start my Sampler of Samples in January, things have not exactly gone as expected. I'm still thinking about the SOS though!

In the meantime, I've been having a lot of fun experimenting with embellishing felt Easter Eggs with sparkly sequins and beads, and a bit of embroidery too. This is a super easy technique, so if you're looking to quickly whip up some Eastertide Cheer before the Holiday next week, you might want to try this out yourself:

Here are the four Eggs I've made so far! The wonky little pink one on the left was my first attempt, and I should really have cut it up but I didn't have the heart. The felt wouldn't have been reuseable anyway, because the center daisy was so thickly stitched, so now it's serving me as a cheerful festive pincushion :)

Although I measured the flower petal placement, the leaves and the stripes, nothing turned out quite right. I had high hopes for the Herringbone Stitch I attempted at the very top, but it turned out a bit oddly. The daisy is made the same as those in my Floral Umbrella. My favourite part is this interlaced diamond stitch thing I made up:

A quick word about the supplies I used: Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of that magical wool felt locally, so I used dollar store felt. Some colours were thicker than others, with the lavender being the plushest (and therefore easiest to work with) and the dark purple being the thinnest. But I think it worked fine for these small projects.

The thread I used for stitching, the Buttonhole Stitch edging and the Twisted Cording hanging loops is craft thread by Loops & Threads. It's the Michaels brand, and I'll be doing a Review in future. The bright colours are prefect for this time of year!

The pretty pastel sequins are from a container of all kinds of mixed colours and shapes from my Stitchy Guru Mother's stash. They've been around ever since I can remember - they're likely older than I am LOL! It's nice to finally find a way to use them :) The bright colours are from various dollar store assortments - my advice is that if you find some you really like, buy extra because sometimes sequins aren't coloured or punched out right. Look for shapes you can layer, like I did here:

All the sequins are attached with seedbeads. For the lavender Eggs, I used a pretty iridescent white but for the brighter violet Egg, I used silver-lined clear for extra sparkle :) To keep the attachment subtle, I used the quilter's friend, Invisible Thread, but you could use fishing line, or a thread that matches the base of the Egg.

You can see the silver Toho seedbeads I used here; they are super bright and sparkly! For the center band of this Egg, I sewed down a bit of pretty trim. It's a silver metallic lattice threaded with semi-transparent iridescent plastic bands with a greeny-purple flash of colour that is really pretty in person. It's from an assorted all-silver card I bought on sale, for 50 cents a card, at Michaels after Christmas:

These are the different colours I bought, they're called "Midnight Jewel". I was drawn to the metallic rickrack originally, but the rest of the trims are interesting too.

My very favourite Easter Egg is this one, which is my first ever attempt at Ribbon Embroidery! The center flower is a Spiderweb Rose, and I used a thin polyester ribbon in pink and green from WalMart. They were just 50 cents a spool, so it's an economical way to experiment! I really had fun stitching this one - it's a LOT easier than it looks; the leaves are only Lazy Daisies, and the "buds" are French Knots:

I was going to add sequins to this one too, but after I stitched the Rose, I wanted something with a little more texture to match the raised flower:

So I ruched some of the pink ribbon, adding some pretty plastic pink pearls at regular intervals. I used a sewing thread to match the ribbon for this, and it worked out great! I ruched each length as one long stripe and then couched it down across the Egg to secure it. I think this would make a really nice edging too, for something special!

So there you have it! My Eggstravagantic Experiments so far LOL :) I have another lavender felt Egg cut out, so I'll try to finish that up over the weekend. These could easily be adapted to whatever sparklies, beads and other pretties you have around!

I think that about covers the whole process. Oh, to get the shape, I folded a piece of paper in half and cut the half-oval out, Valentine Heart style, and then when I was happy with it I made a cardstock template to use with the felt. You could also print off a blank Egg shape to use - there are tons, like this one from a garland tutorial, online.

If you do decide to make your own Embroidered Easter Eggs, I'd love to see them :)

Another quick project would be the Chicken Scratch Easter Egg I shared last year:

Please note that you do NOT have to create an account to download the freebie; just "x" out of the New to Dropbox screen, and then you can view and download the .PDF like normal. If you have any trouble, just e-mail me (my address is in the sidebar, under the pretty postage stamps). Enjoy, and Have a Very Happy Easter!!!