Monday, July 28, 2014

Tea Wise

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time finding real, honest to goodness tea-towels in my local store.  That may be because the only local store is a Walmart, and at best all I can find is Martha Stewart branded fluffy crap.  Or cheap Chinese crap.

When I got on my new embroidery kick, the first thing I did was get a pack of plain Aunt Martha's 28-Inch by 28-Inch Flour Sack Dish Towels  and washed them all.  I know they say they are pre-washed, and they appear to be, but that doesn't mean there isn't a trace of some kind of icky factory goo on there, so I washed 'em again.  And promptly put them in craft storage for a couple of weeks because I was busy stitching other things.

But this past weekend I dug them out and started in on them.  They're nice towels.  There's a hanging loop hidden in one corner, so I made sure to put my decoration on the opposite end.

The top towel is a design from  which, to be honest, by the time I reduced it to the proper size for a tea towel was far too intricate for the project, but I forged ahead anyway.  That one will be for my personal use, as there was a small black grease stain near one of the edges.  The other two are for the shop eventually.  I took three motifs from the Doodle Stitching Motif Collection book and lined them up together.  Over the weekend I also sketched my own original design, and plan on doing that one either today or tomorrow.  It's an homage to one of my favorite tee shirts (and favorite foods).  I've been mentally calling it "BLT Buddies" but that's for convenience.

Sample portion
Creating my own design has taught me two things.  One, I really, really need to clean the surface of my flatbed scanner.  You do NOT want to know how many flecks of dirt and dust I needed to Photoshop out of that image.  And two, don't ink a drawing for embroidery with a brush pen.  You just can't get a fine enough line, and you need consistency.  It's a good thing I kept the original pencil sketch.  Fortunately you can clean up all the line weirdness when using a light board to trace the design onto a tea towel.  

I had originally planned on using iron-transfer pencils for all my designs, but found that you had to wait far too long for the iron to heat to proper temperature, and I felt guilty wasting the electricity for what ended up being a five-minute ironing session.  That and the transfer pencil just didn't transfer dark enough.  So I've landed on two methods for my embroidery transfer... lightboard and soluble pen, or printing on a piece of tracing paper and just stitching straight through the paper.

Stitching through paper, even light tracing paper, presents its own problems though.  I found it really hard to do satin stitch through paper.  I need to be able to see the fabric threads while I'm working.  And even with the thinnest paper possible, it left my stitching very loose on the fabric after tearing it away.  I'm hoping that goes away after I wash it (that's how I did the intricate stitching on the top towel) but I fear it won't.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Coin Purses

My latest obsession is hand embroidery.  I have suddenly gotten on this kick of making these tiny coin purses.  Two things I discovered while making these:  one, transferring a pattern onto black cloth is not easy, even with a light pad that shines brighter than the sun and two, a thimble is a very necessary thing when stitching through two layers of fabric, a layer of stabilizer, and a layer of padding material.  Especially when stitching at a weird angle, like the frames create when attaching them.  I broke a needle at the eye at one point.  :(

Not a beauty shot.

These are mostly prototypes at this point.  It's difficult to find a working pattern for the *exact* purse frame you've purchased... there are dozens of sizes and types.  Some square, some arched, two inch, three inch, etc.  And a lot of "tutorials" out there basically tell you to trace the frame and wing it on the rest.  So very helpful (!)

But I do like the amount of time it takes me to make one (if I keep myself in gear and not take an antihistamine nap in the middle of the workday) because I can finish one in about a day.  That includes all embroidery prep, turning seams and stitching into the frame.

These little motifs are from the new book "Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection".  I like the book for the most part, especially that it includes a CD with all the motifs on it so you don't have to break the spine photocopying it for a transfer, but it's a little difficult to find a motif if you're looking for something specific.  It was hard to find the Matryoshka dolls when they're in the "Fairy Tales" section.  And I have no idea how to spell it properly, either.

I'm going to be moving away from purchased motifs, however, as I am never comfortable putting out product that has someone else's artwork on it, even if I'm using it for the exact purpose it was intended.  This means I have to start yet another sketchbook (what a bummer) and draw my own, if I can find a pencil that hasn't been chewed to splinters by the dog.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Personal Time is Over

Yesterday I finished up my second embroidered pillowcase for my own personal use, so it's time to head back into items for the shop.  This was fun, though, and I can totally see embroidered items coming to my shop very soon.  I didn't think embroidery would be as relaxing as knitting or crochet, but the threading of the needle and weaving in ends didn't bother me nearly as much as I thought they would.

Excuse the photo, I was trying to get this taken and uploaded in ten minutes before our internet went kerplonk for the day.  Never, never commit yourself to a two-year contract with a service provider that has a monthly bandwith cap.  Bastards.

And because he's cute, a picture of a much-healthier Mr. Pickles one month after we rescued him from behind a dumpster at hubby's work.

I'm going to be crocheting a trim on the floral pillowcase I did earlier this month.  There are several new workflow processes coming into play... adding my own hemstitching, crocheting onto fabric, etc.  It helps to do it for something personal first to see if I want to add it to items for the shop.  Some things you'll only do for yourself, and are too frustrating or time-consuming to make it feasible for sale items.  The crochet trim might be one of those items.  We'll see.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Third World Household

These past two weeks were the weeks to feel like I was living in pioneer times, or a third-world country.  We had five days in a row where it rained nearly continuously, and when it rains our satellite internet goes out completely.  Then our power went out for four hours one morning and I scrambled around trying to save the frozen meat and produce, not knowing how long the outage would last.  Now, for the last three days, our water pressure slowed down to a trickle, and then completely went out yesterday afternoon.  We are reassured by the utility company that there is a "leak in the area" and that a technician will be coming out to check it out sometime today.  Not to fix it... check it out.  Meanwhile I'm washing my hands with water from a jug and the dishes are piling up... again.

So it's natural I start thinking about my zombie apocalypse skill set and how I could support myself when society breaks down.  Honestly, not much will change... except I can't watch through the X-files for the billionth time while I spin yarn or stitch.  We'll have to re-live the episodes verbally, like campfire stories I guess.  "This one time, Mulder was tracking a guy who could stretch and fit himself through impossible openings like a bat.  Only instead of getting caught in your hair, he'd eat your liver..."

So anyway, what I've been doing since my last post... I've accomplished quite a bit, actually.  I *finally* finished a doily I've been working on for a week, and thought I would be done with before the holiday weekend... but wasn't.  Yeah, I procrastinated.  What finally gave me the impetus to finish was the thought that I could work on a few personal projects when I was done.

Ever since I was diagnosed with several allergies, I've been using a special pillow protector and changing the outer pillowcase religiously every week.  I decided that was a good enough excuse to make myself some really pretty embroidered and crochet-embellished pillowcases, and if I find a new item to sell in the Etsy shop, all the better.  This pillowcase was from a cheap stamped kit I found on Amazon, but now that I've found out how drop-dead easy it is to transfer drawings for embroidery (which I will share with you in another post), I'm going to start doing some fancy patterns I've purchased in the past, and then move into embroidering my own art.  Hey, I could have 52 pillowcases and still not use them all in a year, so I think this is a medium I could explore for quite a while.  If I were to break it down, it took me three work-days to finish embroidering that pillowcase.  If I choose to crochet the edging, possibly five days total.  You can add at least a day to that, because my crochet always takes longer than I think it will.

Yesterday, before I started a new embroidery project, I felt it was really important to have a pincushion.  So I started a new embroidery project to make one.  I know right?  I have the embroiderer's equivalent of "cast-on itis".  But it only took me a day to take this cutie out of the book  Doodle Stitching: Embroidery & Beyond: Crewel, Cross Stitch, Sashiko & More and make it real.

My selection of felt was limited, so my green isn't grass green, but after discovering a long-lost stash of DMC floss in the garage amongst the items we moved into storage after Hurricane Katrina a few months ago, I was able to match my floss colors.  I may design my own pincushion later and add a nice big neodymium magnet to the bottom.  And now I have someplace to park my embroidery needle!  Here's hoping the new doggie doesn't decide this is a great chew toy... this little guy chews on aluminum cans when I'm not watching, so I won't put anything past him.

I have two doilies that need to be listed in the shop, but since setting up for decent photography takes a bit of time, I may be waiting until I have a few more items to snap before I put them in.  Plus I got a new light set and I want to clear out my photography corner a bit and run a vacuum over the dead bees that collect there (long story) and it's exhausting just typing that out, much less doing it.  I'll keep you posted.