Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stitching Workshop 1

We've had so many questions recently about "how to" this & "why?" that, so I've decided that now might be a good time to share answers & tips that I normally give in my classes!

First, let me make really clear that... if you're comfortable with the methods you already use in your preparation for stitching or your stitching itself, GO FOR IT!!! If it's working for you & you're having fun, that's pretty much all that matters!! I'm going to give you MY opinions, MY methods, MY experience. None of it is written in stone, & I'm not trying to pass myself off as "Master Embroiderer Woman" ! Hmmmmm....... wonder how I'd look in tights & an embroidered cape.............. OMG!!!!! THAT'S an awful picture! LOL!!!! : )

Q: Why do you put muslin of the back of the stitchery?

A: The muslin will stabilize the stitchery fabric which really comes in handy when you're going to use it in a project where it will be stuffed (such as a pillow) because it cuts down on "the Lumpies" and stretching. For the most part though, I put it on the back so that I don't have to be so careful about being neat & tidy on the back side. Knots, tails & short cross-overs won't shadow through & show on the front of your work. MUCH more fun!!!! Oh!... forgot to tell you that we hand baste the muslin to the back of the stitchery & stitch through both layers!

Q: What length of floss should I use?

A: Well.... whatever length you'd like! A lot of people say to use no more than 18" because if it's any longer it will fray, tangle, & the world will come to an end. If you're using silk ribbon, silk floss, or metallic floss that rule is absolutely true!! If you're using regular, good quality embroidery floss that rule is a bunch of hooey. I usually use about a 4 to 5 foot length without any troubles at all. But then..... I'm kind of lazy & I don't like to constantly knot off & re-thread my needle! That brings us to the next question.....

Q: What kind of needles should I use?

A: Good quality needles (I'm madly in love with "Scarlet Today" needles which we sell on the website). There are several good brands. The ones that are really cheap that you find in the craft store or grocery store are NOT good brands. Their eyes will have burrs that cut or fray your floss, they won't be as sharp & smooth & they'll be frustrating!!!! YIKES!!! The old needles that were in grandma's sewing basket might have sentimental value, but they're probably pitted with age & rough......... which makes for rough sewing! Also very, very important is that your needle is the correct size for the floss size you're using. You need the hole that the needle is making to fit the size of the strands of floss so that it pulls through smoothly & doesn't fray or fuzz. #7 or #8 embroidery needles work well for 2 to 3 strands of floss.

SO.... you need good quality embroidery needles that are smooth, sharp, have smooth eyes & are the correct size (#7 or #8)

Q: How do you separate the strands of floss?

A: There are alot of different ways to do it, usually people have learned this from mom or grandma (one method even involves your tongue!) I'll show you the way that I was taught. It seems to work well but it's definitely not the only method!

One thing I DO want to talk about though, is the notion that you have to separate the floss into single strands & then put them back together. At some point, someone who was hopelessly obsessive/compulsive decided that this was the "primo" way to go about it. Holy Mackerel!!!! What a waste of time! (Yes, that's just my personal opinion.) The stitches don't look any different if you separate them or not. With the strands separated & put back together you will have a little bit more tangling (yes, personal opinion & personal experience )
If you separate hand dyed or variegated floss this way, be really careful that you keep the strands going in the same direction when you re-join them or the variegation will be lost or the colors muddied. So... just don't do it because it's a complete waste of time........

To separate the strands ( the way I was taught to do it ):

1. Cut a piece of floss & separate 2 strands (easiest if you pull two out about 2" or 3" from the end.
2. Hold the strands you're separating between your thumb & forefinger and the rest of the strands between your ring finger & pinkie of your left hand.3. Place the end of the floss loosely in your right hand as shown with your forefinger between the separated strands. 4. Pull your finger down gently to separate the strands. If the end at the bottom tangles (it will naturally twirl around) don't let go with your left hand unless it's just to move closer to the point where the strands meet & simply run the fingers of your right hand down it to straighten & smooth it. Then continue as before.5. Hand dyed flosses will be a little bit harder to separate because of something that goes on during the dying process (sorry, don't know exactly why!) but they just take a little more smoothing of the ends when you're working with them.

Q: What is "stitchery background fabric"?

A: The fabric you choose to embroider on. I like to use subtly patterned or tone on tone 100% cotton quilting fabrics. You can choose to use linens, satins, wool, ANYTHING you'd like!!!

We'll have "Workshop 2" in a few days!


Perri said...

Meg, thank you so much for sharing your tips!
Happy stitching, P

CuteStuffInside said...

Thank you.


knittinbrit_in_wi said...

Oooh, am so looking forward to these workshops. I do everything here pretty much that you listed, with the exception of using only 18" of thread. Hmmm - will have to try and use more and be a little braver.

Also, I have religiously always seperated my threads individiually and then rejoined them together because that is how I was taught. I don't think I ever even questioned why - which is very unlike me. I feel a little cheated now that I've been wasting my time on this procedure for so long. Thank you for enlightening me.

Karla said...

Oh, Thank you for your tips, showing along the way is very helpful. I have been stitching for years but I like to know if I am doing it right or not. Plus if you have a better way of doing something I am all for that. I really do appreciate all you are doing. Thanks...

K Cotton said...

Thank you so much for the workshop. Nobody taught me how to stitch and I was just doing my way. Made me feel better when I found out that I'm not way off from what you do.

sandie davis said...

THANKS SOOO MUCH for sharing your tips and taking the time to post pics and all! Your work is soo beautiful and so any tips or hints you wanna share to help us are greatly appreciated!
I was familiar with much of what you were saying today- however, I do have one question- and maybe I just didn't read the paragraph closely- but when you use the muslin for the backing-- ?? do you do that before stitching and then stitch thru two layers of fabric or afterward?? One thing I have gotten used to using is warm and natural as mu backing! I love it! and it gives such a nice finish to the piece... hides any knots and threads and gives it a nice smooth finish!
Thanks again!
Sandie from Idaho

susanm said...

Love the great work that you do here. Also all the sharing. How do I go about joining in this group as I love stitcheries.

Threeundertwo said...

Thank you for sharing your tips, I'm looking forward to the next installment. I'm a "grab a strand and pull it up between your fingers fast" sort of gal myself.

I still haven't tried muslin behind my stitcheries. Next project I will.

Carrie P. said...

thanks for sharing the tips.

Betty K said...

Hi Meg. The best thing I learned from your workshop was to baste a piece of muslin for backing of the stitchery. It works. And I love your patterns.

fotomom6 said...

wow~ thanks for the info...When I read on some instructions to seperate.. the floss? I about came unglued! lol.and thought ARE THEY CRAZY?!!!!
anyhow I am going to try the muslin backing...AND the other ideas you offered...thanks again!

Hi! My name is erica. Would you be my friend? said...

I've never been able to get more than one thread out of the bunch at a time! It's always created a tangle. I'll have to try it your way though...

I just hold all 6 with one hand, then pull out one by the end. So I guess I do separate each one before I put them together...not on purpose. In fact, I'd never heard that before!

I absolutely loved the workshop that I attended! What fun to sit around and stitch with a bunch of fun gals!

Deborah Hays said...

Thank you for placing such clear and concise pictures for all to see.