Wednesday, June 15, 2011

LHQ - Embroidery Basics

LEFT-HANDED QUILTING - Embroidery Basics

Note - these instructions are written in LEFTISH.  If you are right-handed - just reverse the directions.

BY SPECIAL REQUEST - this post will show you how I do a couple of basic embroidery stitches.  One of my followers is working on a pattern with some appliqué and embroidery.
The pattern has no directions for the embroidery part so she asked for my help.  WOW!
I am so honored when someone asks me how to do something!  Maybe this blogging thing is working after all!

First let me tell you about this terrific site that has  STITCHES FOR LEFTIES – Sublime Stitching.  Jenny has some wonderful diagrams and directions that you really should check out.  I love the fact that she does her French Knot stitch EXACTLY the same way I do mine.  Smart girl!

Quick story –

A few years ago - my husband and I were driving back from a quilt show.  He was driving so I thought I would take the opportunity to read through a new book I had just bought with a bunch of Embroidery Stitches.  After a few minutes – I tossed the book over my shoulder into the back seat.  He looked at me and said, “What???”  I said, “The damn thing is right-handed!”
He understood completely.  We have been married a very long time.

Anyway -

There are two basic embroidery stitches that I use a lot –

1.    French knots - good for “eyes” - flower stamens - and "dots" in clusters.
2.    Stem stitch - good for outlining stuff – any time you need a straight line.

I won’t show you the French Knot because, like I said before – Jenny does an excellent job of showing you how to do it – and I do it EXACTLY the same way.

But – since I do the Stem Stitch a little differently – I will show you How I Do It.

Before I get into that – let me tell you some very basic info in case you don’t know.  Some of you may not have had mothers or grandmothers who were into some of these hobbies of ours.  Besides, I like to talk.

First you will need some supplies –

Needle – embroidery needles – big eye to hold multiple strands of thread (called floss)
Thread – DMC floss is good – and available in hundreds of colors
Hoop – get a 5” or 7” hoop – that should be big enough - I used my 8" hoop in the photos below

The thread is called “floss” and comes all looped up and wrapped with little paper bands.

Pull out the loose end and cut off a length about two or three loops worth – 12”-18” is good.  As you do it - you will get a "feel" for whether this length is too long or too short – but this should get you started.

Separate the six strands – I use three strands for “regular” stuff.  (You can use fewer strands or more strands depending on the effect you want – finer or heavier work.)  To separate the strands take three in each hand and hold it up so the bottom just dangles.
(Sorry - I can't do it and take the picture at the same time - but it will make sense in a minute.)

Gently pull apart the two sets and let the bottom just 'twirl" until you get them separated.

Thread the needle with all three strands – do NOT double your thread/floss – just pull the thread through the needle and leave a long tail on one end and a short tail on the other.
(If you have trouble getting all three strands through at the same time - cut them at a slant - moisten them a little on your tongue and pinch the ends between your fingers - to flatten them out - and try again.  I know it may seem icky to some - but it works!)

We want to put a knot on the long tail - I use a QUILTER’S KNOT-

Once again - I can’t make the stitch - and take pictures at the same time – so bear with me.
I used white thread so you could see it in the pictures – it shows up better on the dark fabrics –

Take the end of your thread

and wrap it around your needle three or four times (clockwise - counterclockwise - doesn't matter - whichever direction feels natural)

and the scrunch the wraps together - 
then – holding the wraps securely between your left thumb nail and index finger (you don't want them unwrapping) –

pull the needle (and the thread with it) through with your right hand until it knots on the end.  Straighten out the thread and cut off any little excess "tail" if you have one.

Voila! A Quilter's Knot! 

STEM STITCH – good for outlining stuff and straight lines

I stitch my stem stitch from right to left.

I start at the far right end of the line – bring my needle up at the end point

Stick the needle down about ¼ inch to the left of where I came up
And back up in the middle and at the bottom of the stitch I just made

Then back down about ¼” to the left again
And back up at the end of the last stitch

All the way to the end of the line
This next stitch is a bit too long - sorry-
I should have gone down a bit more to the right - closer to the last stitch -

See how that last stitch wasn't quite right?
If I had gone down a bit more to the right on the last stitch - it would have looked better -
the end of that stitch would have been more in the middle of this one -

One more stitch -

Turn your work over (Flip it - ;))
Run the needle through the last few stitches and make a little knot.

Cut off the thread –
(You can see in this photo - how much of the Quilter's Knot "tail" I left on at the beginning.)

Turn it back over to the front - (Flip it - ;)) - you're done!
(See that one long stitch? - You want to try to get them even.  Do as I SAY - not as I DO!)

There are tons of other stitches – but these two should get you through most of the simple stuff.

You can get a variety of effects by using fewer or more strands of floss - and by varying the length of your stitches - and by playing with whether the needle comes back up at the end of the last stitch - in the middle - at the middle - at the middle at the top - at the middle at the bottom - you get the idea.  Just play with it - it's not nearly as hard to do as it is to explain!

A couple of things before I let you practice -
  • Some of the darker floss colors may run - especially red - (maybe not now - but they used to) - so after you cut your length of floss - place it on a white paper towel and dampen it with water - check to see if any color shows on the white paper towel - if so - dampen it - dry it (blot it with some more towels) - dampen it - dry it - etc. - until it stops bleeding.  If it's going to bleed - you want it to do it on the paper towel - not on your quilt!  If it still bleeds after a few of tries - don't use it!  Throw it away!
  • Some people don't believe in putting knots in your embroidery at the end - they just weave the needle in and out and around the stitches before cutting the thread/floss.  That's probably OK if your project is never going to be washed - but - if it is - you need a knot in that thread/floss so it doesn't work it's way loose!  You don't want to have to redo your stitching because it came out!
  • And - be careful when you use dark colors on light fabric - that the thread/floss doesn't show through - when you skip from one stitch to the other.  Sometimes - like with French Knots - there's one here - then there's another one over here - and another one over there.  When you jump from one to the other - some thread/floss might show through between the stitches.  Before you work on your "actual" quilt - put together a test piece** using the same number of layers and colors of fabric that you used "for real".  Do some test stitches to see if they show through.  Sometimes the multiple layers in the applique are thick enough to prevent the "show though".  If not - you might have to weave through other stitches or add another layer of light fabric underneath to hide the stitches.  (**The test piece can just be scraps sewn to a larger piece of muslin if you don't have enough to fit the hoop.)

OK - that's all I can think of now.  If you have any questions - or if any other experienced quilters out there can add anything to what I have said - let me know.

One last thing - it’s not easy to find left-handed instructions – so if you come across any – PLEASE tell me – and I will pass on the information.  Thanks!!

Talk to you later – gotta go – gotta sew -


Katie M. said...

I can't remember who taught me to embroider. I know it wasn't my mom or grandma, neither one of them were crafty. Reading your instructions and looking at your pictures makes me want to take out Sunbonnets of the Week that I started to hand embroider eons ago. Having an embroidery machine makes one lazy....... or is it impatient????

Bea said...

Wow! This is great Kitty. I will try to follow it as best I can. I don't suppose you would consider doing any little demo videos... that would be awesome.


Judee said...

This is really detailed! Good post for all those lefties.

A Left-Handed Quilter said...

Katie M. - Maybe you could show your granddaughter how to embroider - she might like that! Another "memory" moment, perhaps???

Bea - I wish I knew how to do little demo videos - that would be so cool - maybe one of these days!

mainer - Thanks - I sure hope so! We lefties just don't have the resources you "righties" have - and take for granted. (smiley face) You wouldn't believe how long it took me - or how many failed attempts it took for me to figure out how to do this "left-handed"! So I tried to pack in everything I could think of that might help someone just learning. Those "right-handed" books are useless to us - and - unless you are left-handed - you may not "get" our dilemma. I know that you try, though - 'cuz you're you! Thanks!

Vivian said...

Kitty, when I decided to get back into embroidery, I saw that Judith Baker-Montano's "Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool" book said it had illustrations for Right AND left-handed stitching. I've done some small embroidery projects but have to admit I haven't consulted the book yet because I haven't advanced to doing any of the complex stitches yet. Just letting you know it (and a few other older books) are out there.

A Left-Handed Quilter said...

Thanks, Vivian - I have a book by Judith Baker Monsanto - "Elegant Stitches" - published in 1995 - and out of 176 pages - there are exactly 6 (six) pages in the section called - "Stitches For Left-Handers". The first page is a lovely Chapter Title/photo page - and the next 5 (five) pages have 9 stitches shown for Left-Handers. Maybe the book you're talking about has more stitches for Left-Handers - but I thought that 9 (nine) was a very small number when compared to the number of stitches shown for Right-Handers - but then again - it's probably just me - ;))

Library Gal Quilts said...

Look up both West Coast Wool (Beth Upstill) and On The Other Hand (Ariane Zurcher)


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