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Posts Tagged ‘embroidery’

People often ask me: Tom, how do you manage to do so many projects? The answer is very simple: I love stitching on the train. My daily thirty-minute commute means I have at least one hour a day of crafting time, and I’ll have something to work on during lunch hour, too.

However, there is a limit to what is manageable on the train. My Foula Cardigan is making good progress, which is great news, but it does mean it is now becoming somewhat unwieldy.

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Foula Cardigan in progress

So I have been looking for a smaller project to take on the train. When I met Sandra Manson and Martin Curtis during Wool House back in March, they asked me to work on some cushion covers, using Jamieson & Smith’s Heritage yarn. The Heritage yarn is a bit different from their regular jumper weight yarns: first of all, the colours are based on jumpers from the Shetland Museum and Archives collection. This means they are all flat colours, as opposed to the current trend of heathered shades. Secondly, the Heritage yarns are worsted spun. Therefore the yarn is smooth, and stronger than the woollen spun jumper weight yarns: perfect to indulge in a spot of embroidery.

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Shetland wool cushion, embroidered with Jamieson & Smith Heritage yarns

An easy project to take on the train, and it’s something I can do free-style. No need for patterns or charts to refer back to once in a while. No need to count stitches. I couldn’t help but use a stitch which I have been using a lot in darning lately: Scotch darning, although there are some other names going round for this stitch, too.

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Meta-embroidery: the lot numbers of the ball bands found their way into the design

At work I have a scrap paper doodle pad, as I find that doodling helps me think through things, and often I end up incorporating words I hear, or numbers I see on my computer screen, and this habit is hard to supress. Indeed, I ended up stitching the lot numbers of the ball bands.

Erica Wilson’s Embroidery Book is endlessly inspiring, and I was intrigued by the square fillings used in crewel work:

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Patches of square filling stitches

Once you understand the principle, it is very easy to create your own variations. As the cushion cover fabric is very forgiving due to its thick, felted surface, it’s easy to try something and, if you don’t like it, to undo it again. No holes or other marks remain! I have made every patch free-handed. No measuring out or marking the fabric beforehand. This feels very natural, as my doodles are also often made up of grid-like structures that I fill in one way or another, and I relish the slight wonkiness this creates. To me it makes the rigid grids more alive.

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Couching, back stitches, French knots, weaving, and satin stitches

As you can see, the needles have not been put back in their needle case. I don’t think this cushion cover is quite finished yet. So keep an eye out on the train, you might see me stitching away, adding a last flourish to this cushion.

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When I was a wee lad, I dabbled in all sorts of needlecraft, greatly encouraged by both my grandmothers. One was always happy to make good use of my tiny crocheted doilies, the other loved my “properly done” cross stitching. And although I have taken the Knitters Path, I still have a soft spot for embroidery, as evidenced by the following mends:

These jeans were starting to wear very thin in the seat, which incidentally, I totally blame on my cycling to work every day, and I wanted to reinforce the area. There are many ways to create a reinforcement patch, but I decided on the following technique. First I basted in place a piece of jeans fabric on the inside. Then I used a lovely shade of golden yellow for a coarsely executed running stitch. I wasn’t too concerned about being neat and precise, as I wanted a slightly random look. I made sure to go through both layers of fabric, to hold the patch in place. Then I went over the whole area again with a running stitch, crossing over the stitches from the first round. As Adrienne said on twitter: “it looks like the sun is shining out of your… ACE!” I’ll refrain from any comments!

My second mend is the best of both worlds: Pattern Darning. It’s a darning technique that nowadays is mainly used for decorative purposes, but it comes from repairing certain weaves in fabric. There are many examples of to be found of darning samplers, and one day I hope to make one such sampler myself so I can learn more about this technique. But for now, I tried to used it on a knitted fabric:

The elbows in this shop-bought merino cardigan had worn so thin a tiny hole appeared in one of them, so I first had to close the hole. I tidied up any loose threads, then ran some threads of black yarn through the live loops to create a little framework, to be used later. After working out where the fabric required reinforcing, I picked up one side of the “V” of the knit stitches, to run my darning needle across the fabric. I slowly worked my way up, and tried to stick to the herringbone pattern as closely as I could when I came to the hole.

It was not possible to exactly continue in pattern, but I like it that the mend shows evidence of what is being mended. It adds a second layer to the visibility of this repair. After finishing this, I mirrored this patch on the other elbow, this time using a different pattern:

In case you are wondering what lovely wool I used for this darn, it may come as no surprise that it is Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift. This heathered shade gives the patch a tweedy look, which is a nice reversal of the usual tweed jacket with elbow patches in a contrasting material. I’m mightly pleased with the results of the pattern darning, and I hope to be able to employ this technique again soon!

 

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When I taught my first darning class at Super+Super HQ, I noticed Amy’s cardigan, as it has some delicately embroidered details on shoulders and cuffs.

Amy has had the cardigan for about 18 months now, and at first, she wore it everywhere she went – she was that excited about this beautiful merino fine knit garment. But as often happens when the candle burns too brightly, the novelty soon wore off and the cardigan suffered from Familiarity Fatigue and ended up in the back of the wardrobe.

She was in dire need of a Fashion Intervention, but it took a while before inspiration struck. However, when she found out about Karen Barbé’s embroidery style, it was not long before the Eureka! moment happened.

Mainly whilst sat in bed watching Mad Men Series 4, nimble-fingered Amy embroidered and embroidered and embroidered. She claims the colours used ‘were just lying around’ – she’s done a great job putting them together using running stitch, cross stitch and straight satin stitch. They remind me of Italian ice cream, the ones that are put into a cone with a spatula as it’s too soft to scoop.

The sleeves were a little bit too long, and Amy always wears the cardigan with the cuffs turned up. She decided to turn that into a permanent feature and embroidered them in place; a job she found particularly satisfying.

As you can imagine, after putting in all that work, this cardigan has turned into a firm favourite once more, and it’s shows how with a little bit of embroidery in the right places you can put your own mark on what used to be a perfectly nice, if somewhat unremarkable cardigan.

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