Embroidery Instruction for the Road

The Open Canvas cover

The Open Canvas, by Carolyn Ambuter

I showed you the fabric, threads, and bare-bones supplies I brought with me to Africa, but there’s something I forgot. I also brought one of my favorite stitching books—er . . . well, I brought part of it. It’s my go-to travel embroidery guide: The Open Canvas, by Carolyn Ambuter.

This volume is divided into six separate “books” detailing techniques for six different styles of open-work embroidery:

  • Pulled Canvas
  • Needleweaving
  • Hemstitching
  • Filet
  • Hardanger
  • Reticello and Hedebo

I love this book to bits and pieces. Literally. I have separated the book into six sections so that I can take a single section with me when I travel and don’t have room for the entire book.

My book, separated by sections.

My book, separated by sections.

This is possible, in part, because each section contains all the information needed for that section. If a technique is used in two different embroidery styles, say Hemstitching and Hardanger, it is demonstrated thoroughly in both.

Each of the six sections includes a table of contents, an introduction with some history about the style, and a sampler or two with detailed instructions for working it from start to finish. Most of the book is black and white, but there are color images of all the samplers in the center of the book.

Two of the samplers in color.

Needleweaving and filet samplers.

Color images of the samplers in The Open Canvas

Hardanger and Reticello/Hedebo samplers.

I’ve never made one of the samplers; that’s not how I use the book. Instead, I read it and pull out techniques and stitches that I want to use, designing my own pieces or simply experimenting with scrap materials.

I find the book easy to understand and follow. Along with the color images of the samplers, there are black and white images and keys labeling the different stitches and lessons where they are diagrammed and described.

Pattern key for one of the samplers

Each sampler is shown in black and white with a key to the different techniques and lessons.

Large images and diagrams of the stitches are super easy to read: No squinting, magnifying, or enlarging required.

A sample of interior instruction pages

Instructions include large images, patterns, and diagrams.

And the illustrations are well done, clearly showing twists, wraps, and other hard-to-draw steps.

More image and diagram samples from the book.

More image and diagram samples from the book.

The Reticello and Hedebo section from The Open Canvas

Section Six: Reticello and Hedebo

I’ve had a thing for curves recently. So much of counted thread embroidery is square, I’ve been looking for ways to make curves. So the section I brought with me to Africa is the Reticello and Hedebo section.

I’m working on something else at the moment, but last night I began planning a new project that will include some curvy Reticello and/or Hedebo.

If you want to treat yourself with something stitchy this holiday, or if you receive a book gift card, I highly recommend this book. It was published in 1983, so it’s been around for a while and can be found at reduced rates in many places.

What’s your favorite embroidery book? Do you take an embroidery book with you when you travel? Have you ever ripped apart a book you love? Leave your answers in a comment; I want to know!

Buy The Open Canvas from Powell’s.
Buy The Open Canvas from Amazon.

Embroidery On the Road: What To Take?

You’re going away from home for five months. Because you’re flying and you have a specific way you prefer to fly (light!), you’re limited to two bags, both of which are small enough to fit in an overhead bin (even though you plan to check one) and weigh no more than 35 pounds. In addition to clothes, tent, computer, camera, binoculars, and other essentials, you plan to take embroidery for midday stitching as you wait out the sweltering heat and brutal sun.

What do you take?

That was precisely my situation a couple of weeks ago. This was my answer:

Fabrics, threads, hoop, needle, scissors, . . . and a belt.

With very limited space and weight, these were the embroidery supplies that made the trip to Africa.

In winters past when we packed for eight months of caretaking, I would select and kit up a number of projects. I had patterns, a plan, and everything I needed to complete each project.

That’s not the case this time. I have no patterns, few plans. I simply brought some of my favorite materials and a determination to wing it from there.

What made the cut?

I went with a number of hand-dyed linens from Picture This Plus and a selection Dinky Dyes silk threads—all in fairly bright colors. Of course, with six-strand silk, I also have matching pearl in any size I might want. I also tossed in a plain white Zweigart linen because you never know. I brought one lightweight plastic hoop, an assortment of needles (tapestry, crewel, sharp, milliners), and my scissors. Oh, and a pink belt from the thrift store. (You’ll see. Maybe. If it works.)

Do you think I have enough to keep me busy? I do. Would it be enough for you? Any thoughts on what you might do with these materials? (What? Me . . . fishing for ideas? Meh, maybe.)

Last Call for the Creative Christmas Bundle

I did a lot of Bundle exploring during our long hours of travel, and there is so much I’d like to share, but, alas, today is the last day to get the Creative Christmas Bundle.

Here are some quick ideas and resources if you’re still on the fence about whether this is something for you or not.

Bundle Video: See What’s Inside

First, Lisa has put together a six-minute video detailing all 15 projects in the Creative Christmas Bundle. I think it’s the best way to get an overview of all that is included.

As you will see, the designers and products are mostly scrapbooking and paper-craft based. What I have been doing is using the Bundle classes and projects with embroidery, marrying different crafts for a fun, stitchy adventure—and I’m having a blast! I’m not going to quit once the sale is over: This is my Christmas gift to me, and I’ll be using the Bundle throughout the holiday season.

Santa’s Helpers Workshop

At the moment, I’m focused on Lisa Harris’s Santa’s Helpers Workshop which has 10 quick-gift tutorials. The projects are all paper based, but could easily be adapted to fabric and embroidery—though they’ll take significantly longer to make. Embroidery is slow, in case you haven’t noticed. Or we can combine paper and fabric to hybrid project that might be faster than all embroidery.

Lisa has a two-and-a-half-minute video about her Workshop showing all the projects.

I’m looking at the first project, the Cozy Tea Holder (not to be confused with a tea cozy).

Cozy Tea Holder Cover

The cover of the Cozy Tea Holder

This is the cover of the Tea Holder. Fancy, eh? Now imagine the white center piece with the message “Wishing you the merriest Christmas” embroidered on fabric, maybe with a fringe or hemstitched edge, rather than the printed paper. If you’ve got patterns and magazines in your stash, you’ve got alphabets galore to mix and match for a cool-looking message. The small, simple embroidery could be grab-and-go project throughout 2015 so that you’ve got a bunch when Christmas 2015 rolls around.

Check out the Tea Holder interior.

Cozy Tea Holder Interior

Two pockets inside the Cozy Tea Holder hold two packets of tea.

Two pockets inside the little booklet hold packets of tea, and, of course, could hold something else when the tea is gone. In fact, if the whole thing were made of embroidered fabric, it could become a needle book with a needle threader in one pocket and something else in the other.

Now, I don’t have a paper cutter, paper scorer, or a circle punch, but I do have a blade on my rotary cutter that I use for paper; I have a ruler; and I have scissors as well as a glass around which to trace a partial circle. As for scoring before folding card stock, well, I’ve folded printed embroidery patterns that aren’t scored, and I think a ruler and a blunt knife edge or stylus might do the trick. Having paper-crafting tools might be fun and make the project faster and easier, but I don’t think they’re strictly required. Where there’s a will there’s a way and all that rot, you know?

As a fan of interesting and exotic teas, I love this gift idea and can envision making several to store for last-minute giving.

And that’s just one of ten projects in the Santa’s Helpers Workshop. The other nine projects can be similarly adapted to include embroidery or, like the popcorn wrapper and breath-mint holder, be made entirely of embroidered fabric.

Take a look at Lisa’s video to see the projects in the Workshop and let me know what embroidery ideas they spawn for you.

Last Call

Remember, today’s the last day to order the Creative Christmas Bundle for just $29.99. It’s a gift for you that will provide gifts for others this year and for many Creative Christmases to come.

Scrapping Stitches

While awaiting my flight at Dulles International Airport in D.C., I had time to open and play with the Little Feet Digital Designs contribution to the Creative Christmas Bundle. It’s a digital kit for scrapbooking—my first one!

I confess I’ve wanted to see and play with a scrapbooking kit, either digital or paper, for a while now, what with hanging out with scrappers and paper crafters. The kit contains a number of file folders with a gazillion “papers” and “embellishments” and “masks.”

Digi-scrapped embroidery

The Funk & Weber Silent Night pattern embellished with digital scrapbooking bits.

“What are those?” you ask.

They’re images in PNG format so they can have transparent backgrounds. This enables users to layer them on each other and personal photos to create interesting and sometimes complex pictures. This is digital scrapbooking, and I’m using it to make interesting digital images of my needlework that I can then use in holiday cards, letters, video, and to share online, etc.

I can also print the scrapped embroidery I create, embellish the printed paper with stitches, and use them as ornaments. There’s something crazy that appeals to me about going from embroidery to paper and then back to embroidery. In the picture above, I envision the flower and leaves in the lower right corner embellished with stitches and beads.

Janet Carr is the designer behind Little Feet Digital Designs. In addition to image goodies, she offers some great photography tips including the following:

  • Top 10 tips for better holiday photos
  • 13 Tips for using angles to add impact to your photos
  • Photo prompts

These are intended for scrappers and general crafters, but many of the tips can be applied to photographing embroidery, tips like shooting close up, at angles, and without a flash indoors, if you can swing it.

“That’s lovely, Jen,” you say, “but you lost me at ‘PNG format’ and ‘layer.’”

Digi-scrapped embroidery

Silent Night again embellished with digital scrapbooking. Can you imagine this as a Christmas card? I can!

I hear you. While I’m not a scrapper, I have been playing with digital images for years and know my way around PhotoShop. But if you aren’t familiar with image editing, this is where Melissa Shanhun comes in. Melissa is the Queen of Digital Scrapbooking HQ, where she teaches digi-scrapping with PhotoShop Elements, a smaller, easier, cheaper version of PhotoShop.

Melissa’s contribution to the Bundle is a collection of 31 layouts along with another digital kit (we know what those are now, right?) as well as samples to look at for ideas and inspiration and video tutorials to help us use them. Ding-ding-ding! That’s the ticket right there!

“Again, Jen, that’s lovely,” you say (you are so polite and patient), “but I don’t have PhotoShop Elements.”

That’s okay. Adobe offers a 30-day free trial of the software. Melissa will tell you how to access it. This way, you can try it out, put together some cool holiday images, and see if it’s something you’d like to buy. I recently saw that Costco had the PSE program for sale for $50, which is the lowest I’ve ever seen.

And that’s my latest adventure with the Creative Christmas Bundle, on sale now through December 1.

Janet’s kits and tips and Melissa’s kit and video workshop are just two of the fifteen products in the Bundle. You can see the complete contents and get your own Bundle here.

It’s Here: The Creative Christmas Bundle

It’s here! Get crafty this Christmas: The Creative Christmas Bundle contains 15 crafty offerings from 15 crafty designers—including moi!

Participants and Projects

  • Lisa Harris - Santa’s Helpers Workshop – quick, inexpensive gifts
Creative Christmas Bundle Project by Lisa Harris

Ten paper-based holiday gift projects which can be combined with embroidery in countless ways.

  • Melissa Shanhun - December Scrapbook Album Template/Sketch Kit with Digital Supplies, inspiration, and tutorials (Melissa is a PhotoShop Elements superstar)
  • Jen Wright - 12-Day Advent Envelope Project Tutorial with Bonus Advent Cards
  • Kristie Sloan - Art Journaling Basics online class
  • Beth Soler - Cricut Cut Files/phone tutorial
  • Carole Cassel - Calendar Making Class
  • Alison Day - December Daily Cut Files and video
  • Margareta Carlsson - Digital pack of holiday pocket page cards and photo overlays, everything both for digital scrapbooking and as printable pdf files for hybrid scrapbooking
Upcycled Christmas decorations and gifts by Gina Zee

I can think of loads of ways to add embroidery to these projects. I especially love the wreath project and can envision it as a display for stitched ornaments.

  • Cara Vincens - Printable Christmas Cards
  • Connie Hanks - Printable Advent Calendar w/activity list
  • Gina Zee - Upcycled Christmas Workshop
  • Mary Moseley - Photo Gifts for the Holidays
  • Janet Carr - Be Jolly digital scrapbooking kit
  • Karen Fitting - Flower Calendar with Bonus Tutorial on tips for using Artisan beyond scrapbooking
  • Jen Funk Weber (Hey, that’s me!) - Silhouette cross-stitch patterns

All of these projects are digital downloads available immediately when you purchase. Many include bonuses and coupons, as well.

Creative Christmas Bundle Sale

What is this stuff?

This Bundle contains all sorts of craft goodies, including classes; project tutorials; printable cards; printable calendars; family activities, digital files and embellishments—oh, and a couple of cheery, counted cross-stitch patterns!

Art Journaling Basics with Kristie Sloan

I’m in this class!

You know what cross-stitch patterns are. That’s what we do here—and don’t worry; that’s not going to change.

You may also know what art journaling is. I started an embroidery journal some time ago but set it aside and haven’t gotten back to it. I plan to use it in this class.

I’m sure you also have a sense of what the calendar-making classes and projects are about, as well as Santa’s Workshop (making quick, crafty gifts), upcycling, and printable Christmas cards.

But what are “cut files,” “digital and hybrid scrapbooking kits,” and “overlays”? Are they of any use to embroiderers?

Of course! There aren’t many things that can’t be used with embroidery.

Cut Files

Cut files contain motifs that can be printed, transferred to fabric, and used as embroidery patterns. Some of the larger motifs can be used to make frame windows for ornaments, cards, bookmarks, and doo-dads. Cut the windows out of Ultrasuede or felt or handmade paper or something else, and sandwich embroidery between the window and a backing.

Scrapbook Layouts and Kits

Digital scrapbooking kits contain layouts that scrappers use to set up pages of pictures, embellishments, and journaling in fun, attractive ways. Embroiderers can embroider the layouts, using partial crescent stitches as photo corners to attach photos to the fabric. We can use the layouts to record and show off images of our embroidery projects. We can print the kit embellishments on paper or fabric and stitch them partially or entirely.


Overlay on digital images

The red tree and text is an overlay image from Margareta Carlsson which I added to my own background and embroidery images. Cool, eh?

Overlays are digital images that can be layered over other digital images, adding decorative motifs and words, blending the whole into a more complex and interesting image. We can add overlays to pictures of our embroidery for cards, other printables, and to share on social media.

The Creative Christmas Bundle

This barely scratches the surface of what’s included in this Creative Christmas Bundle. We’ve been working for some time to put it together, and now at last it’s time to get creative and crafty. I’ll share some of my adventures here between now and Christmas, but you have just a week to scoop up your own Bundle. This sale runs through December 1.

Treat yourself with this Creative Christmas Bundle, then treat family and friends with Creative Christmas cards, gifts, calendars, and more. See further info here.

Creative Christmas Bundle Sale

How would you marry some of these digital and paper projects with embroidery?