Embroidery News

embroidered bag bottle branch blogRemember this? If you’ve been around here a long time, you’ll recognize this piece of embroidery I made in March of 2015 and posted here. As part of my campaign to tie up loose ends this summer, I finally turned it into a finished product: a little drawstring bag to hold future embroidery projects.

finished embroidery bag for bottle branch blog

I’ve written before about how I don’t particularly love sewing. So, the irony of my sewing something to hold more future sewing projects is not lost on me. Or, as someone might say, its just “so meta.” (Who, exactly, says things like that?!)

pinwheel flower fabric samples hanging

And… remember these? In April of 2015, I posted these painted watercolor fabric designs I had printed up on Spoonflower. I chose the scattered flowers print, front and center in this photo, to use as a lining fabric.

embroidery bag ready for use bottle branch blogThe final product thrills me in a way that only handmade can, and so I’ve already lined up and started my next needlwork project: learning Sashiko. I’ve been so inspired by the lovely stiching posted by kinomi_5 on instagram, I just had to give it a try. As you can see, I’ve even bought special needles and thread. Wish me luck!

New year, new projects

frost on window bottle branch blog

Hello! Happy New year! I love January, because it feels like a blank slate. With cold, cold, weather here in Boston, I’m forced inside and have a chance to explore the indoor projects that often get put on hold when there are weeds to be pulled, perennials to be moved, or flowers to be cut.

Right now, I’ve got lots of projects cooking happily in my creative kitchen, and I’d like to tell you a little about each of them.

white line wood cuts on bottle branch blog

First of all, I’ve returned to white line woodcuts and started trying out new designs. With a few tips from Lisa Houck and Amy MacGregor Radin, I’m feeling a little more confident in my execution so I’m working on some final, best prints to submit to an upcoming show. The deadline for submissions in February first, so wish me luck!

cosy blue embroidery bottle branch blog

Second, I’ve started a new embroidery piece. Life doesn’t feel complete unless I have something to stitch, especially in winter. But since I’ve been busy with other projects, I haven’t designed anything myself. Instead, I decided to buy this adorable sea captain design from Cozy Blue on etsy. It was one of the first things I ever pinned on pinterest in 2012, so I’ve been waiting a long time to give it a try.

garden planning on bottle branch blog

Third, after mooning over seed catalogues for a few weeks, I’ve just ordered flower seeds for my 2016 garden. I chose a few familiar stand-bys, like snapdragons, cosmos, and nigella. But I’ve also added china asters, sweet peas, and globe thistles. Pretty soon, my sunny windows will be filled with trays of sprouting seeds. So excited!

Finally, I’m working on new photo card designs. I am trying to bump my tiny new business along, even if I don’t have any flowers or foliage from my garden for inspiration. If you’re with me on instagram, you’ve probably seen some of them already, but I’m also planning to reveal my new cards in an upcoming post. So, stay tuned!

 

Confessions of a lucet owner

using a lucet

Have I told you I’m the owner of a lucet? Probably not. It’s not the kind of thing that comes up in conversation. Or blogging. Also, it’s not exactly the coolest subject. But here it is – a simple little tool used to make cording.

On a trip to colonial Williamsburg last summer, I first caught site of a lucet, alongside thread winders, knotting shuttles, and other nearly-obsolete notions. Like this 18th century ‘pocket book‘, I knew I had to give the lucet a try.

I bought mine here, and struggled with various online tutorials to figure out how to use it. (If you ever find yourself wanting to learn, I liked this tutorial.) Most recently, I used my lucet on this embroidered felt needle book.

needlebook and needles

If you’re a regular reader, the embroidery will look familiar to you. This one, I made for myself, so I could throw out the plastic bag I’ve been using to store embroidery needles.

I jumped into the project without fully planning it. In the end, I had managed to design and execute the entire needle book without considering how it would be held closed when not in use. That’s where the lucet comes in.

needlecase with button

I found a button to apply to one side and then used my lucet to make a little cord loop to go over the button. So there you go, it might be a bit frumpy and obscure, but that little lucet came in handy after all.

needlecase with needles

On historically-inspired embroidery, and moving from project to project.

lattice whitework detail

Are you familiar with the children’s book, If you give a Mouse a Cookie ? It concerns a pesky little mouse who moves from one activity to another, eating a snack, cutting his hair, drawing pictures, and more, until he eventually comes full circle, back to the first activity of eating a snack.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like that mouse, as one project inspires to another project, which then leads to another project. (Also, there has been snacking, but that’s not what this post is about.)

whitework pattern

A few weeks ago, I posted about these embroidery patterns, drawn by my three-times great grandmother in the early 1800’s. I neglected to mention that I was working on this stitching project based on one of those patterns.

detail lattice whitework

Initially, I was excited to work with all white treads on the colored linen, to lighten and simplify, and to adapt the design, rather than re-create historic work. I had planned to stitch most of the historic design, including, the elegantly looping dots, which are clearly meant to be French knots. But after writing the post on the history of these designs, and looking more carefully at historic embroidery, I’m already thinking about what I will do differently next time.

detail of whitework petticoat

The whitework example I have from my 3rd great grandmother is more fully filled with satin stitch, rather than executed it in the open stitches I’ve used in my piece. In fact, I’m guessing this whitework might also be considered crewel work, since the threads look like wool. And there are other examples of historic embroidery here and here and here.

hanging embroidery sample

Though I’ve learned from it, I’m abandoning this, my first historically inspired embroidery piece. Only, I won’t exactly abandon it. The embroidery is finished enough to make into something, and, in keeping with the historic needlework theme, I decided to make a reticule (O.K., a drawstring bag).

That’s when I started to feel like that mouse in the story, because in planning how to make this bag, I was drawn into another creative project. And it was not snacking-related. That project will be the subject of a separate upcoming post.

 

Update on March 29th:

My eminently wise and more-historically-knowledgeable mother says:

 I don’t think EBVH’s embroidery could possibly be done in wool because it wouldn’t have survived on the Eastern Shore with the moth problem that is endemic.  I think it is far more likely that the thread is hand-processed linen.  Modern machine-processed linen is smooth and has a sheen because the short hairy strands are removed.  Historically, I think, because the processing was done by hand, shorter strands remained and gave a hairier look to the thread.  That may be what you are seeing.

She’s probably right.

Giveaway winner!

kitchen table giveaway

Wow! Giveaways are fun. I loved hearing from everyone one who entered last week’s embroidered phone case giveaway, even if I feel that I’m bribing you, my friends and readers, to speak up and show yourselves. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to leave a comment – it was so fun to read your responses!

I’m happy to hear there are other tea-drinking, home-organizing, idly snacking, book reading procrastinators out there. Also, so many of you are knitters… who knew?! I see the appeal of those fluffy and colorful yarns and the cozy things one can knit, though knitting has never been a strength for me.

I wish I could send something to everyone, but alas, that level of crafty output is out of my reach. So, I’ve picked one winner.

wrapped giveaway

I made a list of the 14 entries (social media shares were listed twice), numbered them, and then used a random number generator to pick a number… and the winner is Grace! Thank you all for reading and participating. Have a great weekend everyone, hope you find lots of time for knitting, taking photos, crocheting, procrastinating and talking about good books.

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Fronds and Umbels Embroidery Giveaway!

embroidered umbels case

Sometimes I spend hours making something, set it aside, and then forget about it. And that’s exactly what happened with this embroidery project. Yesterday, after finding it in a mess of embroidery supplies, I reacquainted myself this little object, which I stitched in December, during an obsession with making small pouches inspired by a project in Aimee Ray’s book Doodle Stitching.

detail embroidered umbels

I’ve been calling this design “fronds and umbels” because, well, the fern-like frond motif, and the umbrella-shaped flowers, which are botanically speaking, umbels, like queen anne’s lace or allium. 

embroidered felt case

Stitching on thick wool felt was both satisfying and liberating. With no way to transfer a drawing or pattern onto the thick fibers, it was true free-hand doodle-stitching, and it was so much fun.

If you’ve beeen reading this blog for long, you will not be surprised to learn I made this piece into an iphone case. (I have a slightly alarming history of making iPhone cases.) I lined it in a soft blue-grey 100% wool felt and added  divider so there are 2 compartments. It closes with a magnetic snap. It is deliciously touchable and cozy and I do love it. The problem is, that I don’t need a phone case. As I recently related, I lost, then found my beloved needlepoint phone case in December. After that tearful reunion, I don’t plan on replacing it anytime soon.

embroidered ihpne case with flowers

So, I’ve decided to give this embroidered phone case away to one lucky reader. It fits an iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and probably a few other make/model phones. (And of course it does not have to be used for a phone.) I’ll even throw in a carabiner clip to go with it.

embroidered phone case with carabiner

For a chance to win this hand-embroidered beauty, leave a comment below. (If you share this post on facebook,  twitter, or instagram, tag me, and you’ll get an added shot at winning for each post.)

No need for flattery in the comments, just tell me your preferred craft, hobby, artistic pursuit, or favorite form of procrastication. If you engage in none of the above, you can tell me your favorite book. (How is it possible to name a favorite book?! More shockingly, how is it possible not to engage in procrastination?!)

I’ll post the randomly-drawn winner on Friday, March 6th 2015. Go ahead, give it a shot – your chances of winning are good!

Dreaming of the past and 19th century whitework

white work embroidery petticoat 1800s

In June, I wrote about growing up in an 1830’s house filled with antiques and artifacts – top hats, handkerchiefs, tortise shell combs, musty books, and one delicately-embroidered whitework petticoat. After that post, my mother gave me a box of aged papers – embroidery designs, hand-drawn by my several-times-great grandmother, the creator of the whitework petticoat.

whitework patterns 1800s

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to write about these designs, because I was pretty excited to leaf through the box. The papers are yellowed, and crackly and the drawings are light, sweet, charming.

whitework pattern

Many are hand-sketched in pencil, others in ink, and two are printed designs, clipped from an unidentified publication. So, when I recently stumbled across this post by E.K. Duncan on regency embroidery patterns in Ackerman’s repository, I knew it was time to sit down and write about this little cache of history.

Ackermans table of contents

Published in London from 1809-1829, Ackerman’s Repository was an influential journal that covered arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics. As needlework was still quite fashionable at that time, Ackerman’s  included a needle work design, or as listed above, a muslin pattern. (Hat tip to Jennifer Jermantowicz for compiling this handy index to Ackerman’s repository, and to archive.org for making this amazing resource available to everyone!)

The relationship between the Ackerman’s designs and these hand-drawn designs is clear. Both show medallions, fantastical flowers, and dainty scalloped edges.

The creator of these drawings and the petticoat, Elizabeth Victor Hammond, lived 1800-1870. After she found herself a widow in 1832, she moved from a nearby farm to what became our family house in a small Maryland town. In the late 1970s, living in the same house, my parents found the drawings packed in a wooden box, along with the petticoat, Elizabeth’s wedding shoes (dated 1820), another piece of whitework, and a few unfinished pieces of a brown calico quilt.

That’s the story of these objects, as I know it. As for Elizabeth Victor Hammond, she spent the rest of her life in the same house, with leisure enough to engage in needlework but certainly not at the height of fashion. She never remarried, outlived three of her four children, but lived to see her youngest son prosper as the town’s doctor.

EVH wedding shoes 1820

I know those rough outlines of Elizabeth Victor Hammond’s life, but when I handle those tiny delicate shoes, or sift through those drawings, I yearn to know more, to see how she handled and cared for these objects, to feel the texture of her life. In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund deWaal traces the history of his grandmother’s family through objects, specifically a collection of Japanese netsuke. At the outset of this book, deWaal writes,

“I want to know what the relationship has been between this wooden object that I’m rolling between my fingers… and where it has been.… I want to walk into each room where this object has lived, to feel the volume of the space, to know what pictures were on the walls, how the light fell from the windows. And I want to know who’s hands it has been in, and what they felt about it, and thought about it – if they thought about it. I want to know what it has witnessed.” 

close of of embroidery pattern ink 1800s

So, what about all those papers filled with carefully rendered designs? Were these the cherished creations of Elizabeth Victor Hammond’s youth, saved and carried to her new home? Were they packed up after the death of her husband, when she moved to town, and then left in the attic? Or was embroidery a lifelong occupation and pastime? Did she continue to design and stitch whitework later in life, even as styles changed?

details from whitework petticoat

And what about that petticoat? Since it was stored with her wedding shoes, I like to imagine she wore it on her wedding day in 1820. Did she wear it under a gown like this? Or this? Or this? Or possibly under many different gowns at different times in her life? What else did she stitch? Handkerchiefs? Waistcoats? A reticule like one of these?

However she wore the petticoat and whatever these objects meant to Elizabeth in her lifetime, these papers, petticoat, and slippers are a source of mystery and inspiration in mine.

Botanical Embroidery Pillow

botanical embroidery on pillow

I’ll admit that I am often caught up in the excitement of new projects at the expense of finished or nearly finished work. So while not actually making any type of new year’s resolution (not my type of thing) I have been making a conscious effort to finish off projects which are nearly complete but stored on a shelf, waiting to be made into something or otherwise employed.

side view embroidered pillow

My first successfully finished item of this year is this pillow made from a piece of botanical embroidery I posted last November.

piece a pillow

Quite honestly, I did not love sewing this piece. I was in over my head with trying to set the embroidered linen into the surrounding fabric. Not a quilter, I had to work hard to make the angles and corners work out. (If I had included myself in this photo, you would see the crazed look that was in my eye at that point.)

side view of embroidered pillow

I can thank this extremely thorough tutorial on making welting for the relative ease with which I accomplished that part of the project. (I always knew to make welting on the bias, but now I know why!)

Overall, the experience confirmed the troubled relationship I have with my sewing machine, but I am thilled to have it finished, off the shelf and sitting primly on a chair.

embroidered galium on pillow

Hello, New Year… and a December projects round up

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Hello. Happy new year!

Another December has passed, and I spent the month making things, but not posting here about anything at all, let alone creative projects.

I blame introversion: the hustle and bustle and social activity of the holiday season are too much. I’m all tapped out at the end of every December day, and I’ve got nothing, not even a single word or photo, left for the virtual world.

But I’ve missed you, my internet friends! I’m happy to be back and I’d like to share a few of the projects I made during the month of December.

I’ll start with a wreath. I made this and many more wreaths for my church’s annual Christmas Market. Every year, I plan to post about the creative frenzy of this greens workshop, but every year, I end up too tired to put the words together, so here it is, a month late. (And there, on my front door, this wreath remains and will remain, possibly until Ash Wednesday.)

less traditional wreath 2014

Next, I made an embroidered felt pouch for one of my neices, inspired by a slightly different project in Aimee Ray‘s book Doodle-Stitching. It was a chance to use pink and be girly, and I loved free stitching on the soft wool felt. In fact, loved it so much, I’ve already started some new projects… to be posted soon.

 

And finally, I painted one more silk scarf, which ended up under the tree and in the hands of one of my sisters-in-law. I’m holding back one more December project, because it comes with a story. That project and the story of my own tiny Christmas miracle will be the subject of my next post.

painted silk scarf blue green