I wrote here about my discovery of bargello embroidery and some of the practical uses I’d found for my finished projects. My favorite aspect of bargello is the endless combinations of color, and how the colors one chooses play off of each other in unexpected ways. A second foray to Churchmouse Yarn & Teas this summer gave me an opportunity to play with color combinations from Churchmouse’s huge wall of threads, and I thought that the FOs looked so much like art that I should use them for . . . art!
I found a very great framing company on Etsy, Signed and Numbered out of Salt Lake City. These are some of the coolest custom made frames I’ve ever seen – nearly endless options of frame designs and styles, coupled with a huge variety of colors and degrees of distressed finish. The end result is a vintage frame that’s mellowed with age to a soft patina and a chance to choose colors that perfectly complement whatever you’re framing.
For my bargello squares, I went with a slightly distressed finish in a simple white, so as not to compete with the thread colors, and a double matted style to really frame and focus on the “art.” I picked my thread colors with no real plan or organization in mind – just as sets of color that I liked together – and, once complete, I framed them up and hung them on the wall.
I’ve never tried Bargello embroidery before, but I was lured in by an everything-you-need kit from Churchmouse Yarn & Teas. I haven’t really been inclined to try different patterns – instead, what captures my imagination is all of the different color combinations. I had a chance to visit Churchmouse a few weeks ago and I stood in front of their wall of Silk & Ivory threads, in color heaven! Traditionally, in Bargello you use three gradients of the same color (light, medium, and dark) and then a pop of a different color, so that’s what I’ve been sticking with.
My first project was on a six-inch square canvas, which I then sewed a fabric backing onto (I just sewed three sides on the sewing machine, as close as possible to where the stitching ended and the grid began, and then hand sewed the fourth side closed with a whip stitch). I made a simple tote with this pattern, changing the dimensions to 18″ square, out of some leftover duck canvas in my stash. I ordered a pair of 22″ leather handles here, although I’m not that crazy about them – the listing says that it’s leather, but it doesn’t look like real leather to me. However, I do like how it looks attached by rivets, instead of sewn on.
For my second attempt, I picked up a zippered pouch at Churchmouse that requires no finishing work – one side is mesh, you simply embroider on the mesh, then zip the sides of the pouch together, and you’re all done!
Now I’m working on four six-inch grids, all in different color combinations – I’m going to frame them in simple square frames and hang them on the wall as art. This gives me a chance to experiment with multiple color combinations, and not worry so much about if the FO will be “useful”
If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know that I’ve been working on this project for months; I finally finished all of the embroidery blocks, and after all that work, putting the blocks together into a quilt was the easiest part of the entire project. Each block had a different size and shape, so I followed the layout from Crabapple Hill Studios when sewing them together. I decided I wanted the quilt to be approximately twin-sized, so I added white borders 5-7″ wide to give me the right height and length dimensions.
I wanted some kind of rainbow effect as the backing, so I used stash fabric to create a “rainbow runner” down the back.
Finally, I wanted to keep the quilting very simple, so as not to distract from the embroidery. I used a zigzag stitch and stitched over each of the seams between the blocks. I liked the zigzag better than just stitching in the ditch, because it shows up more and creates some demarcation between each block.
The finished quilt is absolutely gorgeous, but not something I would want to put on a bed, because the hand embroidery is so easy to snag. I’ve decided to hang it on one of our huge walls, where people will walk by and be able to appreciate the fine detail of the design and the work right at eye level.
Finished! With the embroidery part of this project, at least. Here are the final blocks from Crabapple Hill Studio’s garden alphabet embroidery. “S” for spring and summer (apple blossoms and apples):
“Y” for yarrow:
and “W” for winter (with “X” cleverly worked into the snowflake design):
Even though this project has been very time-consuming, I’ve really enjoyed it – there’s something so satisfying about hand embroidery, getting to work with all of the colors, watching the design grow stitch by stitch – and as slow as it is, it’s a lot faster than knitting! I’ve been very impressed by these patterns, particularly the attention to detail an the clever use of different stitches like french knot, lazy daisy, etc, to create different effects. For instance, take a look at the chain stitch below, used to create the effect of snow on the branches:
Of course, it was a heck of a lot of chain stitch – a stitch I discovered I’m not very good at! – but I love how it looks in the end. Next step: assembling the blocks into a quilt.
I’ve made it to the letter “P” in the Crabapple Hill Studio’s Gardener’s Alphabet embroidery series . . . this one took a while, it’s easily the biggest block in the series so far, and so much detail! I loved getting to work with all of the different colors, and the poppies really “pop” right off the fabric
and English Daisy (a small block, but each of those petals is a lazy daisy stitch – hundreds of them!)
They don’t look that great yet because they’re not pressed or trimmed, but I love the designs and the colors. I’m working on pacing myself, so that I don’t get obsessed and try to spend all day working my way through them – sometimes it’s hard to remember that with hand crafting, it’s the journey as much as the destination!
I recently completed letters “A” and “C” in the twelve-block hand embroidery series from Crabapple Hill Studio. Here’s the “C” block with some gorgeous real-life carrots I bought at the farmer’s market this weekend:
The carrot tops are all lazy daisy stitches – I definitely got better after this particular stitch after doing all of these, but it took a very long time.
Unfortunately, it’s the wrong time of year to get a pumpkin from the garden to photograph with the “A” block:
Having finished the months-long knitted squares blanket marathon, I’ve started another long-term project, this time via hand embroidery. Twelve beautiful garden-themed patterns make up Crabapple Hill Studio’s “A Gardener’s Alphabet,” and the combination of a garden theme, hand embroidery, and beautiful bright colors was too much for me to resist.
I started, logically enough, at the beginning, ordering the A and B blocks – the B block caught my eye first, so that’s where I began. I went with the pattern-recommended embroidery thread colors and ordered those from Crabapple Hill Studios, as well. I used a plain white quilter’s cotton as my fabric base, and did not try the color tinting called for in the pattern – it looks intriguing, but I’m not ready to add another layer to this project right now. Instead, I just wanted to enjoy the peace and calm of the hand embroidery.
I love how quickly a hand embroidery piece comes to life (compared to knitting, that is), and how I get simple pleasure out of using each new color. I’m pacing myself, only doing a little bit of each block every day, otherwise I tend to get carried away and I can’t put it down!
After “test driving” this first block, I’m hooked – I went ahead and ordered the rest of the alphabet, and started on the A block. When they’re all finished, I’ll piece them together to make a quilt. Stay tuned!
This is a project that took me a LONG time to finish – one of those that doesn’t look like it will be near as time-consuming as it turns out to be. I’ve been wanting to make some simple but beautiful placemats in a neutral palette to go with some of the brighter colored dishes I’ve collected, and this seemed like the perfect project. Reversible sashiko placemats, a free pattern on Purl Bee, gave me an opportunity to use Robert Kaufman’s Essex, which looks like linen, but at 55% linen and 45% cotton, it’s more cost-effective and machine washable.
I bought Essex wide-width in color Flax – I can’t even remember how many yards, as I had to re-order twice once I decided I wanted eight placemats instead of six, and then that I wanted to make cloth napkins, as well. I bought Sashiko thread in color White 01, and Sashiko needles, as well (because you really do need large, long needles to make the embroidery work). I followed the pattern exactly, and quickly found that the embroidery took a really long time – plus, I couldn’t just churn out placemat after placemat, because it got to be a little dull. I decided to pace myself, and worked on finishing the embroidery for one placemat every two days. Then Christmas projects intervened, and the placemats were set aside for a while. In all, it took me over two months to get the eight placemats done.
I bought a hera marker for marking the grid pattern on each placemat, but I didn’t find it to be very effective, so I stuck with the chalk. I used craft-size batting between the placemat front and back, which gave it just the right amount of loft and was still easy to embroider through. Although I have a bias tape maker, I’ve never really figured out how to use it, so I just made the bias tape by hand by pressing it with the iron.
I do love the finished product, though. The hand embroidery is just rustic looking enough, without being too kitschy, I love the flax linen with the white thread, and both sides of the placemat are equally attractive. I struggled a little with the binding directions, particularly the mitered corners and joining the two ends of the binding together, but with eight placemats (32 corners!), I had ample opportunity to practice.
The finished size of each placemat is approximately 16×20. Because I wanted a complete set, I made napkins to match – a simple process, I just cut two 20″ x 20″ squares for each napkin, sewed the squares together with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a 2″ opening for turning, cut the corners, turned the napkins and poked out the corners, and then top-stitched 1/8″ from the edge, which also sewed closed the opening. Then I carefully pressed each napkin (the placemats required a fair amount of pressing, too).
Overall, I’m glad that I did this project, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to put in a significant amount of time, or unless you’re just making a set of two or four placemats – that would have made for a lot less embroidery!
Isabella now has her own business up and running: Alphabet Animals Embroidery! All twenty-six letters of the alphabet (and their corresponding animals) are available on T-shirts in any size, from newborn through adult. Custom made to order, the recipient can choose T-shirt size, letter/animal, and color scheme. Below are all of the available patterns:
The T-shirts are white, 100% cotton (the colored borders in the photos are not on the T-shirts). You can request any color(s), including multi-colored hedgehogs or yaks:
You can also order either a large (8″ x 8″) or small (6″ x 6″) canvas square wall hanging, in any of the letters/animals and color schemes:
Crewel embroidery is my newest obsession – something about the finesse of the work, the endless color combinations, all the places crewel can be used to create or embellish – anyway, I love some many of the designs in New Crewel: The Motif Collection that I’ve had to work at finding uses for them all! As a companion to an earlier, similar project, I embroidered the sea anemone motif – twice, actually, once in shades of blue, and again in shades of purple. Then, working with organic cotton duck canvas (color ice blue) and Kona cotton (color mulberry) (both from my fabric stash), I put together a one-of-a-kind tote bag.
The embroidery yarn is Appleton Crewel Wool and the fabric is linen twill in oyster white. The cotton webbing for the handles is available at Purl Soho. The tote pattern is the quick and easy Forty-Minute Tote, free on Purl Bee. The pattern is so enjoyable to sew, and the fabric combinations are endless – I could make dozens of tote bags and not get bored!
For these two jackets, I went with a little more complex design, incorporating multiple images, but I think it would also look good to just use a simple design (daisy, sunflower, etc) along the mid-back of the jacket.
I didn’t have any difficulty embroidering on the jean jacket material, and I love how the colors pop on the denim. You could also try embellishing the cuffs of jeans, the hemline of skirts, etc, although you need a very sturdy fabric (or interfacing underneath to support the stitches).
I designed this tote bag around the firecracker pattern from New Crewel: The Motif Collection. No more throw pillows – I think that bags see a lot more use, and don’t clutter up my couch and bed! I used Appleton Crewel Wool and linen twill in color natural. I flip-flopped the colors – on one firecracker, the pinks are in the center and the oranges on the edges, and vis versa for the other firecracker.
These design motifs are from New Crewel: The Motif Collection. I used the colors of Appleton Crewel Wool recommended in the book, and linen twill in color Oyster White for the fabric. Instead of embroidering each china plate separately and wall mounting them in wooden hoops, as the book suggested, I embroidered them all on one piece of fabric and mounted it to an 18×24″ canvas board.
I’m not completely satisfied with the layout of the design – it was very hard to visualize how it would look as a completed collection, so I made this one as a prototype to get a feel for it. I’d like a layout that wasn’t so orderly – more of a random placement of the motifs, with some overlapping and/or some halfway off the canvas. However, every time I tried to put together a random layout, it looked too intentional.
This was a time-consuming project, since I worked on only one china plate a day, and the final product takes up a fair amount of wall space; it might be a better idea to work with a smaller sized canvas when experimenting with design placement. The only issue with size is that if you either reduce or enlarge the motif too much, it becomes very difficult to work on (either the details are too tiny to manage, or they’re so large that any satin stitch or straight stitch isn’t feasible).
The white pillows are fronted in linen twill (color oyster white) and backed in orange and white geometric fabrics I purchased here; for the blue pillow, I used linen plain weave (color dark turquoise) for both front and back). The larger pillow is 14″ square, and the smaller two are 12″ square.
If I wanted larger size pillows, I would do a pattern repeat like the 14″ one here – you could enlarge the dainty doily pattern easily enough, but a larger hollyhock pattern would mean a larger area to cover with satin stitch, which is time-consuming, yarn-consuming, and doesn’t look as good on a large scale.