Monday, May 31, 2010

hand embroidery is love

When her children were very young, my mom used to do a lot of embroidery.  Cross-stitch, mostly.  I remember watching her sew and I remember her finished pieces framed and hanging on the wall.  Over time, she lost interest I suppose and I ended up with her embroidery floss.  Two boxes, this size, of which I have used sparingly over the years: 

It's kind of exciting, having this rainbow of thread ready to use at a moment's notice!  Thing is, I never want to use it (because if I use it, it won't be there for me in the future) and besides, I seldom have a use for it.  Then I started working on a quilt for Elvie, my friends' brand new baby, and the quilt required embroidery in two blocks.  Here is a tiny peek at one of them:

I can't reveal the design until Elvie and her parents receive the quilt, but I am so excited about it!  I really love embroidery.  Everyone talks about how relaxing it is... to me, it's relaxing because it allows me to sew while I am doing something else, usually watching a movie with my sweetheart.  My sewing machine is located directly across the room from the couch; oftentimes I find myself gazing longingly at my machine, my fabric, my projects-in-progress rather than paying attention to the television.

I used a simple split stitch to embroider the letters.  The stitch looks braided and textural, which is why I chose it over a backstitch.

If you don't use John James needles already, do your fingers a favor!  They are nickel-plated steel and incredibly strong.  I don't know what size needle you're supposed to use, but this was my only choice at the store.  It's a bit large but I worked with all six strands of floss and the eye accommodated the bulk just fine.

Also useful was this odd-looking spring embroidery hoop.  It's marketed to machine embroiderers, but works just as well for hand work.  My old hoop was this crummy plastic number I bought at a chain store.  It didn't fit together well in the first place, was difficult to load, and only seemed to keep the fabric stretched taut for a few stitches.  Enter the spring hoop!

Step one:

Lay your fabric on top of the outer plastic hoop.  (You may want to load it right-side down so your fabric sits toward the top as with a traditional hoop.  I find it doesn't make a whole lot of difference, as the hoop itself is rather slender.)

Step two:

Squeeze the metal ring by its little handle things and lay it inside of the plastic ring.  Release and ta-da!  Your work is perfectly stretched and ready to be embroidered.  And it took about two seconds.  These hoops appear to be kind of rare in internetland, but you can ask for them at your local quilt shop.

Do you all have any embroidery tips to share?  Notions you can't live without, stitches you love, techniques that are real time-savers?  And how do you secure your stitching--do you knot it or do that thing where you weave your thread ends through other stitches?  What about six-strand embroidery floss vs. perle cotton?  I still don't really understand why you would use one or the other.


  1. i love your blog. beautiful pictures, great ideas. thanks for sharing. i added you to my google reader.

  2. hi,
    i love your blog, beautiful pictures, great ideas. i've added you to my google reader.
    thanks for sharing.

  3. I have always loved doing embroidery. Pillowcases from the Five and Dime when I was 12. I always have an embroidery project to work on, can't watch TV without one. Right now I am completing a found cross stitch kit quilt from the 60's-70's. I love to do the old patterns in redwork. Love redwork quilts. Fun, fun.

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