I received an email last night from Penny in Australia:
I want to learn how to cross stitch fairly simple designs onto a plain linen cushion. How can I go about doing this? I want to do my first one with a capital “L” on it.
Penny, I’m going to guess that you’re new to embroidery. That may or may not be true, but that’s where I’m starting.
Next, I wonder if you have your materials already, or if you have yet to purchase them. If you have the linen already, is it “countable”? That is, how fine is the weave? If it has 40 or fewer threads per inch, it is fairly easy to count the threads to make consistent cross stitches. Fabrics with more than 40 threads per inch can still be counted, but it gets harder and will probably require magnification, unless your eyes are your secret superpower or something.
Where Do You Start?
The only proper answer to this question, in my opinion, is “anywhere you like.” Unhelpful? Maybe. True? Definitely.
If I knew nothing about embroidery, I’d start by threading a needle and stitching. I can give you countless examples of how I jump in blind and learn by doing. It’s how I learn most things: It’s how I learned Hardanger; it’s how I’m learning to make fudge now.
If, however, Mike knew nothing about embroidery, he’d start by reading everything he could find on the subject. He wouldn’t start stitching until he had a clear plan and had some sense of the “proper” way to begin. Both are legitimate ways to start.
If you’re already fidgety, Penny, and eager to get going, find some fabric and thread and start stitching. Give us a shout when you run into a problem, and we’ll help you through it. If, however, you’d like to make a general or detailed plan before you start stitching, read on.
Depending on how fine your fabric is, you might stitch over four threads instead of two, or you might not count threads at all.
Creating a Pattern
I can think of three ways to create the L shape that you will stitch on your cushion:
Draw, trace, or baste an outline of the letter on the linen surface itself.
Create a pattern on graph paper or with computer software and follow it by counting the squares on the graph and stitching them onto the linen.
Winging it. You know what an L looks like, and it’s a fairly simple shape, so just start stitching.
You can use a specialized fabric marker or pencil (sometimes these are permanent; sometimes they fade over time; sometimes they wash out), transfer paper, or a regular writing pencil to draw or trace an L onto the fabric.
You can outline the shape with a running or basting stitch, which you can remove later, stitch over, or leave in as an outline. Or use a backstitch as described in the video.
Execute a running stitch by bringing the needle up at 1, down at 2, up at 3 (and all odd numbers), and down at 4 (and all even numbers). This makes a sort of dotted line. The diagram shows the stitches going over 2 threads, but you can go over as many as you’d like.
You can draw your pattern on graph paper and transfer it to the fabric by counting your stitches. You might be able to use printable graph paper with the same number of squares per inch as your fabric has stitches per inch, reducing or eliminating the need for stitchy math to determine finished design size. (We have a tutorial for calculating design size in cross stitch.)
In the introductory video, we talk about how every symbol on a chart equals a stitch on the fabric. Every square you fill in on the graph paper becomes a stitch on the fabric.
This is the method I’d use. If you need help creating a pattern or figuring out an appropriate size, give me some more information (fabric count and the size you’d like the cushion and/or letter to be), and I can provide more detailed help.
Alternatively, you can skip drawing a pattern on the fabric or graph paper and just start stitching. If you have a lot of fabric, or if you don’t care about the finished size, you can center or place the stitched L after it’s stitched by cutting the fabric accordingly.
That’s my advice at this stage. Is it enough to get you started, or does it raise other questions? I’m happy to help, so ask away!
The third and last video of the series to date. I hope there will be more to come. And soon!
A tip I just learned: See that little gear on the bottom of the video box? Click it and set the quality of the video to 480p. The pics will be much better. If you want to see them larger, go to the YouTube site and watch it there. I’m pretty sure I used 640 as my maximum width on the images, so no need to try to go higher than that.
I wish you all peace and lots of dreaming in the days and year to come!
Four years ago, I asked my nephews and niece for a holiday gift: I wanted them to sing a song for us. They did, and they recorded it. They’re all good singers, and it was fantastic. Best of all, they enjoyed doing it. The recording made the rounds to all the family, evoking smiles, warm hearts, and even a few proud tears.
The following year, I asked for the same thing. The recording, even better than the first, arrived to my email on Christmas Day. Unbeknownst to the nephews and niece, Mike and I selected a bunch of his Alaska images and combined them with the music in a video. This was the result.
Making a holiday video has become a Stones/Weber tradition. There are now three videos which were originally uploaded to Facebook. Recently, last year’s video resurfaced in our Friends’ news feeds because someone commented on it, and it occurred to me that I might re-release them all here during this holiday season. I hope you enjoy them.
This e-book contains all eleven of the Let There Be Night Stitchlings.
Our first big digi-pat conversion! You’ve been asking, and now you’ve got it: the Let There Be Night Stitchlings in digital download form.
Save the patterns on your hard drive or a thumb drive and print only the pages you need. Use scrap paper then fold the pages, write on them, let the kids play with them; you can always print another copy if you lose or destroy the first.
Even better, we’ve put all eleven patterns together in a single file. How convenient!
Better still, buying the whole collection is cheaper than buying the patterns individually.
And best of all, we’re joining the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday hoopla and putting the whole package on sale! We’ll call it our
From Black (and White) Friday through Cyber Monday, November 26, you can get the complete Let There Be Night Collection for more than 50% off. Individually, the eleven patterns are normally $66, this weekend you can get them all in the e-book for $30.
No standing in line at midnight. No racing for a limited quantity. And no shipping charge. No puzzle to solve. No secret back-door entrances. No convoluted steps to take.
Nope, it’s all pretty black and white.
If you’ve ever wanted some or all of these patterns, now’s a great time to go get ‘em.
The time has come the Stitcher said, to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and French knots made with strings…
What can I say? I am nothing if not one to take liberties with literary quotes.
One popular way in which stitchers Make It Yours is by substituting beads for French knots. It’s a great idea, one I chose it for The Trail Home. However, I learned that some stitchers choose beads because they can’t make French knots. Oh no! Let’s see if we can unravel the mystery of French knots.
To make a French knot, bring your needle and thread up through the fabric where the knot belongs. I grasp the thread with my non-stitching (left) hand 1-2 inches from the fabric, and hold the thread taut.
I wrap that 1-2 inches of thread twice around my needle tip and insert the tip back into the fabric.
I don’t go down the same hole I came up through. Rather, I go over a thread intersection or poke through an Aida square. Going down the same hole I came up allows the knot to slip through the fabric more easily.
With the needle tip heading back down through the fabric, I use my left hand, which still holds the thread 1-2 inches up from the fabric, to tighten the wraps around the needle. I think this is important! Keeping the wraps taut helps make them tidy. Of course, your needle eye has to pass through the wraps, so they can’t be too tight. Adjust the tension accordingly, but keep the wraps snug.
Gently pull the needle and remaining thread through the wraps, and tighten the knot. I pull the thread slowly so that it doesn’t tangle before it gets through the wraps.
Some people place a fingernail on the wraps just as the needle eye passes through, thus holding the wraps onto the fabric while the rest of the thread snakes through. I don’t find this necessary, but it might work well for you.
Isolated French Knots
Silent Night cross stitch from the Let There Be Night series. The stars are isolated French knots. See Orion?
If you’re familiar with our Let There Be Night Stitchlings, you know several have isolated French knot stars. What a pain, eh? If you carry the white thread behind the black fabric, chances are it will show through. So what do you do?
Knot thread tails on the back side and clip short. A knot on the back side?! Horrors! Bah humbug. I’d choose a knot on the back side over droopy or wandering French knots on the front side.
Use beads attached with thread the same color as the ground fabric.
After all other stitching is done, sew a piece of thin cotton fabric, the same (or similar) color as the ground fabric to the back of the work. Stitch French knots through the two fabrics and carry the thread between stitches. The backing fabric will hide the carried lengths. Caution: Wrinkles in the backing fabric will show when the piece is mounted, so no wrinkles allowed.
Instead of French knots, stitch crosses over a single thread intersection. Use a single strand of white floss in the needle and make three stitches on one diagonal (/ / /), then top those with three stitches on the other diagonal (\ \ \). This gives the appearance of using three strands of floss for the cross. Then, tie a tiny knot on the back side. If you use three strands of floss, the knot would be bulky. By using a single strand, the knot is unobtrusive. You could dab the teensiest bit of glue on the knots with a pin before cutting the tails very short.
And lest you think I’ve lost any of my Nuttiness…. Warning: If knots on the back side horrify you, you probably shouldn’t read this idea. Ready?
Forget the backing fabric, forget back side knots, throw caution to the wind, and carry that white thread long distances across the back. You rebel, you! Then, on the back side, slip a piece of scrap paper temporarily between the carried thread and the fabric. Ink the carried thread with a black, archival-quality scrapbooking marker. I have no evidence to support this, but my hope is that the qualities that make these markers endure in the scrapbooking world, will carry over to the embroidery world, and the ink will not eat away the fiber. It’s been several years since I tried this, and my models are holding up fine. I can’t tell and I don’t remember which one or ones I did this way. Caution: The ink “bleeds” through the cotton floss, so don’t ink too close to your knot, or the ink will turn your knot gray. You want the color on the back side only! (And remember to remove the scrap paper when the ink is good and dry.)
What tips do you have for stitching French knots, stitching isolated French knots, or working around French knots?
The Ari’s Garden tagline is “Growing great ideas,” a concept I love. This is clipart that illustrates that concept AND provides a hint of what’s coming later this week. A big hint.
We’ve had many requests for digital versions of our patterns, and not just from our international Nuts. I’m thrilled so many of you are on board the digital-pattern wagon. Oh yeah, that’s going to have to be shortened to “digi-paddy wagon”! I call dibs on that name! I wonder if it’s already being used?
Digital patterns offer some nice advantages.
They can be stored on a hard disk or thumb drive. No more binders or boxes or…let’s be honest…individual patterns scattered under the bed, between books on the shelf, stuck in bags in the closet.
Digi-paddy collections are easier to dust than print pattern collections.
No abbreviated instructions because space is limited.
Print only the pages you need. Save trees! If there’s not a pattern app already that allows us to highlight stitched parts of patterns, there soon will be. (If you’re developing said app and want input, please contact me.)
When the dog snatches your pattern and runs away, or when the kids trample it in the backseat, or when you spill your chai on it, you can print out a clean copy.
Digi-paddies don’t get bent or wrinkled or faded or torn.
Digi-paddy pages are always in order.
Digi-paddies cost less nothing to ship.
Indie shops don’t have to use precious space to stock gazillions of patterns. They can focus on fabulous fibers, luscious linens, and useful stitchy tools.
Of course, the very best part of going digital is that we get to say “digi-paddy.” And I get to say it now.
Coming soon—as in on an obvious day later this week—we will unveil our most-requested digi-paddy. I spent the weekend making the conversion. One more run through to proof, and I’ll put it in a pdf and upload it.
Can’t wait to share! And can’t wait to hear you all saying “digi-paddy”!
Last week, we resurrected the Clownfish Puzzle pattern. I told you it was intended to be the first in a series of patterns. Does Puzzle Pisces come to mind? Well, that’s not it. Nope, Puzzle Pisces was already in print when we designed the clownfish.
The Story Behind the Stitchery
The Colorful Critters tree frog stitched as a puzzle with two pieces missing.
In the beginning, the clownfish pattern was to be the first of the Colorful Critters collection, which initially was intended to be a series of puzzle patterns. Indeed, I stitched the frog and butterfly as puzzles before deciding to scrap the puzzle angle.
One reason for dropping the puzzle aspect was that we didn’t like missing pieces being stitched in white because the raised texture seemed all wrong for what should be a hole. But we didn’t like leaving those pieces un-stitched, either; something about the fabric color—which I loved—just wasn’t working with the idea that there was supposed to be a hole there. We wanted it to be white or some color different from the fabric.
Also, perhaps more importantly, with the butterfly, we lost the puzzle pieces in the black pattern of the wings. I could imagine the complaints, “All that backstitching and it doesn’t even show up???”
The black lines of the puzzle pieces get lost in the black patterns of the wing.
So we decided to try the animals without the puzzle lines, and ultimately decided we preferred them that way. We cut the clownfish out of the mix and added an angelfish instead. Goodness knows there’s no shortage of cool colorful fish to choose from, right? (Someday, I’m going to stitch a parrotfish. I love parrotfish!)
These two models continue to sit in my collection of rejects waiting their turn to be useful. Don’t be sad: My reject collection is a lovely, hopeful, and cherished thing.
My Partridge Family Critter Pillow!
Recalling the origin of the Colorful Critters collection inspires me to have some fun with them. We’re going to bundle them all together and offer the collection at a special rate. The normal price is $6.00 per pattern or $30 for the collection of five patterns. Now, when you purchase the bundle, you can get 33% off: that’s all six patterns for $20.
I like the wolf on the right. He looks brighter and more alive to me. The difference? Two itty-bitty white stitches on the pupils. That’s it! Those are the “sparkles” in the wolf’s eyes.
When light shines on real eyes, they sparkle. We may not consciously be aware of it, but it makes a difference. Artists are taught to add similar marks to paintings and drawings, and they are just as effective in needlework.
In The Lord of the Rings movies, one way Galadriel is set off from the other elves is by the light that reflects in her eyes. Designers built a special light, made of Christmas lights, rather than a single bulb, to use for her close-up shots. The effect is a bunch of shimmering sparkles in her eyes. She appears brighter, or lighter, than the other elves. Now, did I notice that the light in her eyes was different when I watched the movie? Nope! But I did get the impression that she was special, light, ethereal.
It’s a cinch to make two itty-bitty white stitches on a pupil, but getting them to look just right can be a trick. If there are two eyes (a straight-on image rather than a profile), the sparkles need to coordinate—to appear as though they come from a single light source. And more than that, they need to be a similar size and placed well. How do you do that? Well, I’ll tell you: I don’t know. I stitch and rip until I get a look I like! Trust me, you’ll know when you’ve got something that works.
So there you have it. Next time you stitch a person or animal, even if the pattern doesn’t include them, stitch sparkles in the eyes and see what happens. If you’ve got some white, sparkly metallic fiber, give that a go.
Don’t judge a stitch by its size; sometimes a small stitch has a big impact.
A few weeks ago, I heard from our fellow Nut, Leta. Someone on the 1-2-3 Stitch! message board had finished and posted a cute clownfish pattern, and Leta wondered where she might get it. The stitcher said it was an old Funk & Weber freebie. I like to think Leta did a cartwheel and shimmy at that point, maybe a few fist pumps, because, you know, she’s a Nut! And she knew it would be a snap to track the pattern down.
I knew the pattern, of course: It was the pattern we gave away during the Funk & Weber Designs Live Trunk Show Tour in 2003-04. What I didn’t know was if that pattern ever made it onto the new (now six years old) computer or into the Funk & Weber archives. My systems of organization and storage, though far from perfect, are way-yonder better now than they were then. Some things have been lost over the years.
This pattern, it seems, was one of them. My search uncovered a picture of the finished piece, but not the pattern or pdf handout. Bummer. I like that pattern!
So I grabbed the (dusty) model off the shelf in the loft and tossed it into the craft case that went with me out to the lodge in September/October. I re-charted the pattern from the model. It was faster and easier than I expected; the pattern and layout were done in a couple of days.
What was hard was finding the colors we’d used. First, I neglected to take my fiber color chart with me to the lodge, so I had to wait until I returned home to even try to figure it out. Second, that poor neglected model has been in and out of storage, traveled more than 35,000 miles, and been collecting retirement dust for years. Honest-to-dog, I couldn’t figure out the light yellow-orange color. Nothing matched, and we have every DMC color in the arsenal. Mike to the rescue!
There’s probably a lesson here about taking good care of our needlework, but I’m not going there. Ahem.
The sad, sorry, saga continues with us relocating to Anchorage for two weeks where I had hoped to put together this post and upload the pattern, but—doh!—I didn’t take the model with me (the pattern was done), and the only image I had was on the desktop computer at home. I failed to get it on my go-with-me hard drive. Without the model to show you what the pattern looks like, how would you know if you wanted to stitch it? Ah, the trials of a mobile lifestyle, eh?
Still, it hasn’t taken that long. And now I’m so happy to resurrect this pattern and make it available again.
If you want, you can put the pieces back into the clownfish and skip the whole puzzle part. Right, Bev?
There’s a story behind this stitchery (isn’t there always?). It was going to be part of a series, but the pieces that followed changed, and this was left hanging on its own. I’ll tell you about that another time.
News and nonsense about needlework, reading, writing, life in Alaska, and any other ding-dong thing that strikes my fancy. From project tutorials to books on my nightstand to gardening to travel to sourdough bread and waffles to wildlife and photography--it's all fair game. "Focus Schmocus" are the magic words here.
Keep In Touch
The Needlework Nutshell
...or The Nutsletter. Get notices of updates, news, tutorials, specials--all the good stuff--in your Inbox.
And now when you subscribe, get a free copy of Bookmark Tips, Tricks, & Brilliant Ideas, chock full of stitching and finishing ideas, patterns, templates, and tutorials.
I am ahuge fan of The Great Courses. They are great for watching or listening while stitching. And they're great in the car, on the mp3 player or iPod while gardening or picking blueberries, etc.
Join us as we stitch bookmarks and encourage kids to read. Visit your local needlework shop, guild, or the Stitching for Literacy website to see how you can get involved.
Jan teaches Riley to stitch a bookmark during a Stitching for Literacy outreach program at an Anchorage Public Library.