Come Stitch With Me!

My Life Expanding Sampler

Oh my goodness...I'm finally finished!
I was beginning to wonder if this day would ever come. I never gave up on it. I just kind of pushed it aside for a bit. My original intent was to learn something new with each little segment. I really didn't want to just fake it and add things I already knew. So, instead of keeping to my schedule, I kept to my intent. I'm so happy with all the little things I learned and I love the charm of the finished work. I've been seeing my sampler, unfinished on Pinterest. I really hated that it wasn't done, but I was so thrilled with how it kept showing up on some really neat boards.
I did these little pin wheel flowers about a month ago. It is said to be the easiest and fasted flower in embroidery. I have to say that it was fun and very easy! All you do it to create an wheel with each spoke the length of the finished flower. Just wind the floss or thread around, going through each spoke to anchor it.
I used fishbone stitches for the leaves, using a variegated thread. I then added french knots to the center of the flower. Its very cheery and quaint in the end.

I adorned a square I did in February. It just seemed too bare. Maybe its spring eating at my spirit. I just had to add a little sumptin sumptin.

My post today is about doing the things we dream about. I wanted to learn how to applique the old fashioned way. I thought I wouldn't have the patience. Turns out I do. My first project was my sampler. I created a sweet little pansy. I really love it and hope to add applique to many of my shop items on Etsy.

My last square involves a stitch very similar to the bullion stitch. Its called the cast on stitch. I liked it more than the dizzle stitch because you don't have to re-thread the needle. Its like the bullion except the shape you get from casting on instead of winding the row of dimensional stitches. Its very easy. I added some bullion stitches to the outside, just to give it a soft edge. Its kind of small, but very sweet.

The final touch was to sign the sampler and date it.

I think I am going to frame it in a shadow box frame. I'll keep in on display to remind myself to keep learning and honing my craft. It will remind me to be curious and to attempt things I'm not sure I can do. What happens when I fail... the earth still spins and I just need to try again. I hope you enjoyed this project and that you try a sampler of your own.
I'll be posting a tutorial on how to applique later this week. Thanks for Stitching with Me!

March 14, 2012
My (ever) Expanding Life

One of the reasons I took on this sampler is to not only learn new stitches, but also to practice some techniques used by my favorite fiber artists. I think by studying the works of others, we absorb some of their wisdom. While it is very important not to copy, it is okay to reflect their vision and express it through our unique point of view.
I love the work of Sue Spargo. I would love to be a student in one of her classes. She has a style that is totally unique to her vision. But she shares her point of view with so many. To be so talented and so generous is such a gift to those who create. You can visit her blog by clicking on her name above or look for her on my blog list. I have another example of her work at the bottom of this page. Scroll down to see a bunch of her lovely embroidered leaves.

Sue has a nice balance of being very traditional in her stitching, with a new twist and real heart.

Here is an image from her last class-

Here is how my "Sue Spargo" leaf looks on my sampler.
To create my version, I used a few recycled wool pieces from my scrap stash. The idea is to do a bit of layering with simple shapes and enhance them with complementary embroidery stitches.
I liken my own aesthetic to hers in that I think it's important to respect and learn from those who really stitch well and then to practice your craft until you feel comfortable and proficient. However, I love to see an artist reveal her or his vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies to the viewer. I guess what I mean is that an artist should know the craft, but not be too proud to allow his or her heart to show now and again.

I can see that I have some practicing to do with this technique. Hopefully, through this exercise, I am one step closer to adding another embroidery tool to my box of stitching tricks.

March 3, 2012

This little square should have come first, but better late than never. I had to use my favorite go-to back stitch for the lettering. Wish I had room for "ever" on that little square of linen. Linen is a beautiful fabric to stitch on. The weave is loose making it so easy on the fingers. The irregular spaces make for a sweet, natural look. Some linens are tightly woven and hard to get through, but this is my favorite. I have some lovely yarns that I like to untwist. I removed the glittery black strands and was left with this bumpy, bright synthetic scrap. I couched it onto the square with a minimum of stitches. I think it works.

Ribbon Embroidery....oooh aaaah. I just got a few colors in from Stitching Bits and Bobs. I had to jump right in and give them a try. I watch Martha's Sewing Room at 5:30am on PBS and they always feature a group of very adept embroidery experts. I've watched them stitch with ribbon and I've seen it done on-line and I guess I couldn't resist ribbon one more day.

There are different methods used in ribbon embroidery. For instance, a little ribbon is gobbled up quickly. Wish I had ordered more. The good thing is that you use it sparingly. The ribbon is attached to the needle before you begin so you don't need larger pieces to work with.

I recently ordered some pretty silk ribbon, a long overdue luxury purchase. I ordered just a few colors, and I wish I had ordered more. There is something so traditional and vintage to silk ribbon embroidery, no matter how modern the artist.

I then hand dyed some vintage seam binding. Its 100 % rayon and took the Sei Tumble Dye well. I use this quick and easy dye to customize many trims, fibers and fabrics. Take a look at how easy it is. This tutorial can be found on my Tutorials page.

I began stitching on some lovely recycled cream colored wool from blazer I found at the Goodwill.
I dove right in and fell in love with how easily the ribbon glides thru fabric. This lovely 4mm ribbon is hand dyed.

I stitched this directly onto my sampler using embroidery cotton and a blanket stitch. Wish I had some tiny vintage trim to slip behind the edges of this patch. It would add the perfect touch.

I used the wider, seam binding to do another form of hand embroidery. Its not so much couching as it is tacking. I created the flower by cutting a 5-6" piece of ribbon. The short ends are sewn together to form a loop of ribbon. I then used the wire in the ribbon, only on one side, to scrunch and gather the middle of the flower closed. I then stitched the flower shape onto one of my sampler patches, tacking it down with french knots and beads. A few long stitches and french knots form the drooping stamen.

I took another piece of ribbon and manipulated it into a bit of a swirl. I tacked it down with french knots and beads.

You can combine cotton or floss with ribbon embroidery. The pretty rose you see is built on a version of the star stitch. You simply weave the ribbon in and out of the spokes and the rose magically appears.

The red flower next to the rose is made with the ribbon stitch, which is so easy. The leaves you see are the same stitch! With the leaves, you put the ribbon taut, the flower has very loopy stitches. Here are some stitch lessons from Better Homes and Gardens.

This shows how the ribbon is attached to the needle. You simply thread the ribbon into the eye of the needle. Poke the tip of the needle into the ribbon about 1 inch from the end of the ribbon, (near the threaded needle). Hold onto that short little tail and pull the needle until the knot is up against the eye of the needle.

This image also shows the ribbon or straight stitch. Come up thru the fabric. Decide how long to make your leaf of petal. Poke the tip of the needle through the ribbon at that point and push it thru the fabric as well. Gently pull the ribbon through. As you get to the end of the pull, the ribbon will form a lovely "v" at the entry point of the stitch. If you want to make a fluffy flower petal, do the same stitch, just don't pull it taut.

I found this ribbon work on Pinterest. It comes from Better Homes and Gardens.

And here is the sampler as of this weekend. Only a few more patches to go!I can't believe that I am nearing the end of this project.

I can't say its in my typical speedy style. I wish I had the time. I will say this project was very necessary to my moving my skills forward at a lover of embroidery. I tinkered with new materials. I learned many new stitches, which I've applied to other projects as well. It is given me a sense of real accomplishment. It has taught me that working without pay, is play. I have been lacking in play time lately. Its about time I had some fun.
I can't wait to get started on that large blue spot. I want to do something special there. Its time to decide what that may be!
When all the patches are filled, I want to do some stray stitches here and there. I have some beautiful vintage buttons to add and lots of pretty little beads to attach.

How are you doing? I'd love to see your work!

February 17th

Time....I need more of it. Either I am squeezing in late night stitching sessions or I am struggling to record, photography and post my progress. What can I say? I'm sure you can relate.

I love how my sampler is coming along. I am learning so many new stitches! I am rediscovering my stash of fabrics, which is such a treasure trove of inspiration and I am finding so much delight in seeing this project finally come to life!
So where do I start? I guess I'll begin by showing you the blocks I've completed and list the stitches I used for each one. I also have a few stitch tutorials to share with you and more to come.

Here are the blocks I've completed so far. My goal is to learn new stitches. I have about 7 favorite stitches that I tend to use over and over. I'm happy to say I've used some stitches I know but rarely use, and I've learned some new stitches I can't wait to use again!
I love this block. I used a light blue batik cotton on top of a dark blue cotton fabric. The block is attached to the base using french knots. I framed the patch with a lovely little bit of french lace I had. I think it looks like a little translucent window.
The stitches used on this block are easy. The wings of the larger birds are bullion stitches, (click to see Mary's video tutorial). Its a variation of the french knot. You can see this and other video tutorials on Mary Corbet's Needle'n Thread Blog. She has so many wonderful video tutorials on her site.
The smaller bird are simple straight stitches with french knot bodies.

This block is rather simple and is itching for some beading or companion stitches.
The fabric is flannel which has been hand dyed to a bright yellow. I attached it to the base with simple running stitches and sewing thread. I added a little patch of yellow print fabric from my stash.
I used a coral stitch to create the stems and branches on this little tree. I found this and many more wonderful stitch tutorials on the Hand Embroidery Network. Created by Sarah Whittle, one of my favorite stitchers, the Hand Embroidery Network is a lovely community of fabric artists who love hand embroidery. Its easy to join the group. Take a look and see if you would like to belong...

This block is a simple tree using back stitches with a fern stitch on the tip of each branch. The Fern Stitch is very simple. I'll be adding my own tutorial soon, but you can find this stitch on both websites I've shown above. I worked these stitches on a scrap of recycled wool. It is attached with blanket stitches. You can find this stitch, the back stitch and many other stitches by clicking on Stitch Tutorials.

I really love this block. It was created by stitching a series of Open Picot petals in pink. They are attached to a scrap of red cotton for the center. I added yellow french knots to the center as well. The tutorial for the Open Picot stitch is on my blog on the Stitch Tutorials page.
I stitched this flower on the same yellow cotton print fabric I used before. I added some outline stitches to create some playful swirls. A few french knots in pink finish the block off. You can find the outline stitch on my Stitch Tutorials Page.

I really like this sweet flower. I stitched it on a lovely pastel batik cotton. I used some pretty yarns to create the stem. Some ribbon yarns were used to create the rose and the leaves. I'll show you how I did this in a tutorial. I added the larger beads on top while I was stitching some lazy daisy petals. The tiny glass sead beads were done after the flower was complete.
The patch was attached with a simple blanket stitch.

The last bit I have to share with you are a few simple touches I added using some vintage crochet pieces and glass pearls. I love how vintage bits and pieces add a bit of history to new works.

Thats all for now. I'll be adding those tutorials soon. Check out my Stitch Tutorials Page for my favorite old stitches and a few of the new stitches this sampler has inspired! I hope you are creating your own sampler. Don't forget to let me know about your work. I'd love to post it on my blog!

February 10th

Here is how my awful computer sketch has translated into fabric. I'm so excited! I can finally envision what I want to do. Thank goodness the days of indecision are behind me!

I am using a color palette that is rich and varied. I love each and every one of these fabrics. These are the base pieces. I just sewed them down, (bottom layer only. I mostly used a simple straight stitch on my sewing machine. Where the edges will show, I used a fun zig-zag and some sketchy triple stitching. I the patches down with a spray bottle and ruffed up the edges to give them a more worn-in look. I would suggest a run through the washer if you really want the edges to get ragged. I'll photograph it when dry.

I have 2 stitched pieces finished. The stitches used are shown on my Stitch Tutorial section. Click here to see how to stitch my 7 favorite stitches.

As each sampler piece embroidered, I'll add it onto the base.

This sweet leaf features 3 very easy stitches you will find in my stitch tutorials. The leaf is outlined with a back stitch. The top section contains a few chain stitches, or lazy daisy stitches. I added a french knot in the center of each flower.
The bottom section is filled with satin stitches.

This fun little bird contains many of the same stitches. The fishbone stitch I used on the wings is new so a tutorial will be added. It is basically a satin stitch. Instead of it going down a single column, it alternates between the right and left side. It reminds me of a feather.

February 4th
Well, my deadline is here. I think if I didn't have these deadlines, I wouldn't be moving forward. Deciding on one design was excruciating. I didn't get my squares done, but I did a lot of sketching this week. I wasn't sure how to share that whole design process with you. My most productive and visually vibrant way of working was on Photoshop. I created 3 different ideas. Each has a very loose interpretation of what I want to do. I am not fond of drawing with a mouse. But I wanted to work on the line work on a different level than the color work, so Photoshop it is.
My criteria is as follows. I need to have the freedom to incorporate both lines and solid color elements. That way my use of stitching is virtually unlimited. I didn't want to obliterate the foundation. I really love those fabrics, so I want to be able to stitch on my base fabric and add more fabrics.
I also want to include some machine stitches. I love how some artists are using the machine to draw with thread.
Here are my 3 ideas-

This image has all the benefits of the bird idea but it is more airy. I think it has a sampler feel to it, while the first image is more of a stitched picture.

If I really want to keep give it a sampler feel, I need to break up the elements more. While many samplers have a lot of squared off edges and areas, I wanted mine to have a different, more original flavor. I ran across an adorable illustration. It was a springboard for this last idea. This is such a messy version of what I picture in my head.
Time to finally dig in and get some real work done! I want to shrink the image area and stitch in a simple border. Each color block will be a different fabric. This will allow me to have complete freedom in how I stitch each block. If I mess up and it doesn't fit, well, then it can be replaced. I can't wait to finish this one and try the other 2 ideas. I think they will all be fun to create.

This design process has pointed out some real issues I have in what I create and how I create it. If a project is going to be a long term commitment, much like this sampler, I have a real problem finalizing my design. A part of me wants to have an out, in case I work for 50 hours and then do something so horribly wrong that it ruins the entire project. To tell you the truth, I can't tell you when and if that has ever happened to me. Often I make mistakes and then correct them. It may come from my days of painting when my commission work came at a high price. Especially when working with oil paint, errors were hard and sometimes impossible to fix.
I have to remember that one of the things I love most about stitching is that nearly ever mistake can be pulled out and restitched. No big deal. Fix it and move on.
I'll post my 2 sample elements soon. I also have some nice little stitch tutorials to share with you. I hope you enjoy them. They will be posted on a separate tutorial page.
I hope you are starting your own sampler. I'd love to see it if you are.


January 29th
Well, It took me 3 tries and finally, last night as I faced my deadline to get this started, I just began. Whew! Why was that so darn hard?
Here is the base fabric for my sampler.

I decided that this sampler should be made from recycled and re-loved fabric and clothing. I have so much on hand. I want to do my part to respect our planet. So, I stared with a piece of 12" x 12" cotton, (bleached muslin from a previous project).
I ripped and cut pieces of linen, cotton and brushed cotton from my scrap bag, I add cloth from a vintage table cloth and fabric from a blouse I found at the Goodwill. I love the white. It gives it a blank canvas feel. The many layers of recycled cloth infuse it with history and texture.

This is actually one of 3 attempts at starting this sampler. My first idea was to simply use a single piece of felted wool. I like the softness and the loft of wool felt. Needles just seem to glide through it with ease. But, it just didn't seem special enough for this project.

My second attempt was to use recycled and re-claimed fabrics from my stash. I love the color blue.

I think I will save the blue patchwork for a future project.
Back to my lovely white background.....

I simply cut pieces of white fabric into varied squares, rectangles, strips and parts. I placed them haphazardly on top of the muslin until I liked what I saw. I didn't worry about traditional piecing methods. I like raw edges. So I just cut and pinned the fabric down. I then sewed along the edges of each piece of fabric. I mainly used straight stitches. I added a sweet rick-rack type of stitch from my basic sewing machine stitches.
Now on to my stitch samples!
Stitching is not a problem, especially when working small. If I don't use a square for this project, I can use it for another.

Its important for me to remember to learn new stitches. I fall so comfortably into the old. For instance, the back stitch. Its so fast and easy. So I decided to honor it.

I then moved onto a new stitch. But I wasn't very good at it. I think the flannel I used was just too flimsy. In retrospect, I should have ironed on a piece of interfacing or stabilizer. But, I just happened to stitch this piece at the laundramat. I do a lot of stitching there. I had to add a few tiny stitches in the center to keep the star from getting too wonky. I used a metallic thread from a little sampler pack I found at Hobby Lobby. I like the antique look of the tarnished gold color. Since I was creating stars, I added a moon and a few tiny french knots to give my stars some depth.

My little blue bird stitch scrap on recycled woven wool is one of my favorite happy images. I used back stitches, satin stitches (beak only), seed stitches for the body and I added some beads to give it a bit of sparkle.

I'll be posting some quick little tutorials on the stitches I used this week.
My goal for next week is to focus in on a final design. I was just so happy to have finally jumped in and started my sampler.
I can simply add one little square after another, but I'm not sure I will be happy with how it turns out. Having a vision of what I intend to express in my sampler- a theme...a style...a color palette...these are elements that make a good idea - better.
I'll add 2 new stitch samples to my project as well. My next deadline is Saturday,February 4th.
If you are just finding me, please feel free to join me. I'd love to hear from you. If you want me to add your images to my blog, send them to me. Lets have some fiber fun!

Enjoy these samplers I found on Pinterest. i think the one thing that makes them so amazing is that they have a pattern, a plan, a rhythm and continuity. That is what I will be aiming at this week. I hope they inspire you as they inspired me!

Medical Sampler

Jillian Tamaki Embroidered Monster Quilt

Jennifer Bee Stumpwork Kits

I see so many lovely samplers and I have avoided creating one pretty enough to stand alone as an embroidered piece of art. I went to a lovely blog called 39 Stitches. Each tiny square is a little piece of art in itself. I love that idea. I love the joyfulness of each little stitch. She is such a talented fiber artist.
I see so many samplers not quite as organized as this. I love them equally. Here is an sampler I found on Pinterest. It was created by Kelli and it can be found on her blog My Lovely Life. I hope you visit my "A Stitch in Time" Pinterest Page. I find so many inspiring works there that I'd love to share with you.

Things I have decided on.
Since I have been putting this project off for a lack of time, I am just going to have to make time for this. It makes me crazy to think that I have lost the time I once used to simply please myself. I forgot to play without the results somehow being integrated into a new Etsy shop item. I love to share my playtime with others- don't get me wrong. However, play for play's sake is something even more joyful. I will simply make time each week to add 3 new stitches to my sampler in whatever form I finally pick.

My sampler will feature new stitches that I want to learn. It will be a reference sampler to use in my creative design process. I have a number of little stitched fabric scraps laying about the house. I use them as backgrounds in my Etsy Shop and also as a tool to apply what I've learned to my new work. I often think how nice it would be to have these little scraps in one place to reference over and over. Of course, I could make myself one of my Stitch Diaries. Somehow I have not found the time for that either!

Its so easy to fall into a rut using the same tried and true stitches over and over again. I often find and learn new stitches. Using those little lessons is a whole 'nother matter. How do those each stitch work in combinations with others stitches? Could a repeat of this stitch be a great border? How about the colors? The possibilities are endless. But one stitch, alone on a scrap of fabric is usually not terribly useful. That is why a sampler is a great idea for stitchers who love embroidery. I am hoping that seeing a stitch on white and then a patterned fabric will offer some inspiration for something original.

If you would like to learn new stitches, I have two wonderful websites to help you. I love Mary Corberts site Needle 'N Thread. She shows each stitch in an image, often with other stitches and multi-color threads. She has both a photo tutorial and a video image of each stitch. My other favorite stitcher is Sarah Whittle. She features Stitches A-Z. Here stitch list is long and I find her directions easy to follow. Sarah is also the founder of The Hand Embroidery Network. Its a great place for stitchers to get together, share their work, find supplies, etc.

My greatest obstacle has been indecision. There are just so many options! The above samples are so lovely in their traditional approach to embroidery. After all, these stitches have been stitched for hundreds of years.

However, there are so many lovely contemporary approaches!

Here is a cloth by Jude Hill, of the Magic Feather Project. Her philosophies about cloth and personal markings are really lovely. She may be of this day, but her creative soul is of a slower, more patient time. I love her work!

What if I chose to do some tiny vignettes? Here is a bit of embroidery from The Fabric of Meditation blog by Sara Lechner. I could attach them to patchwork blocks and create a 12 x 12 piece and display it in a shadow box. Each piece could have dimension and I could even add objects! Hmmmm.

I could do new stitches, each on a leaf or a flower- very Sue Spargo inspired. She always makes me feel like stitching.

More dimensional fabric art. This is by Sally Mavor used in book illustrations for children. What if flowers could be created like this? Oh no! Here we go again. Idea overload!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And then...indecision creeps up and stops me from starting.
Dang. I have to get past this and just start.

I'll keep you posted on my progress. A tutorial will be available once I'm finished. If you would like to join me in this sampler challenge, let me know! I'll add your link to my blog. HAPPY STITCHING!


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