Sue Spargo’s Textured Embroidery Craftsy Class

You might recall that I signed up for two Craftsy courses earlier this year. Today, I present to you my first finished project, from Embroidering Texture and Dimension from Sue Spargo.

I ordered her fabric kit but could not justify spending an equal amount on the threads (once I become “pro”, I won’t mind spending for upgrades!). Instead, I used what I have left of a starter pack of cheap stuff Boy bought me many moons ago. Honestly, that wasn’t a terrible idea – most of the colors worked well and were chunky enough to stand out from the felt. Shrug.

My first challenge with this course is that the course itself was not what I expected. I am new to Craftsy and did not understand two important things: 1) that the cost of the class does not include supplies (this was a “DUH!” moment, considering how cheap the courses are), and 2) more related to the class itself, I had expected a step-by-step guide of how to replicate one of her pieces. What she offers is the inspiration to go at it yourself, explaining how she chooses combinations of colors and textures, and she does show you step-by-step on some stitching. In the end, that method of teaching is more valuable as it teaches you critical thinking skills on how to pull something together with your own imagination, but until I realized that, I was uncomfortable!

But my second (and largest) challenge was that my imagination is picky. Though I do enjoy looking at Sue’s bold and vivid work and I relish in her texturizing, overall it is not my personal style. I am not a fan of butterflies, and I felt very uncomfortable having so many “clashing” colors in the fabric kit without explicit directions of how to put them together so that they look as great as Sue’s. And toss that in with no step-by-step, use-these-stitches-together guide and I found myself squarely outside of my comfort zone. For a while I was frustrated (not with the class – with myself!); ya’ll know me: I generally whip out projects as fast as I can (sometimes too fast!) because I have clear ideas of the final product. This? Not so much. I didn’t even know what I was going to do with it once I got it done because I just sort of kind of hated the whole thing (no offense, Sue!)! Give me color combinations I swoon over, or shapes I collect in my mind’s inspiration vault, and I’ll go to town with ideas! But this… this was a challenge, for sure.

I figured a good inspriation would be to order Sue’s Creative Stitching book and make a small practice sampler of them. It probably helped, but honestly I am not quite sure how to explain that, somehow, it all did eventually come together. I cut out all the felt butterflies, and then continued to hold off working on the project. I finally added the cotton appliqué to them, and then sat on it. I began figuring out the background embellishments and was able to finally begin stitching on that. But then once the background of soft oranges was completed, guess what? It was shelved once again. Finally, I made the bold move to Just Make.

The background was the easiest part. I just had to keep things in the same general color family and hue. Here are just a few things I worked on for that: bullion knots couching twine as a border; small seed beads arranged around the edge of a micro-fiber cloth (found object from some tech item, I’m sure); and finally colonial knots anchoring ric rac along a pinked strip of felt as well as colonial knots decorating printed fabric, attached with the buttonhole stitch. Other stitches for the background were simply quilting (running stitch) and backstitch on cotton, varying sizes of Algierian eye stitch on cotton, flystitch outlining cotton, seed stitch on velvet, couched yarn along a piece of upholstery fabric, and ladder herringbone stitch along a ribbon with variegated thread. Look for them in the close-ups of butterflies below!

Adding the stitches to the butterflies seemed daunting at first but really once I started, the process just went. I stopped stressing over it – the idea was to learn, and surely I was doing just that! I will list a few, if not all, key stitches used in the individual butterflies below each photo. All the bodies were outlined in outline stitch, stem stitch for the antennae, topped off with colonial knots. (Note: I did not keep a record as I made each one, so it is entirely possible I have some mismarked!)

Stem Stitch, Whipped Woven Circle, Crested Chain, ZigZag Chain Stitch

Buttonhole Scallop, Stem Stitch, Back Stitch, Bullion Rose, and what I call “reversed” Blanket Stitch

Stab Stitch, Colonial Knot, Outline Stitch, Pekinese Stitch

Double Laced Running Stitch, Scroll Stitch, Colonial Knots, Split Stitch, Straight Stitch

Italian Knotted Border, Colonial Knots, Straight Stitch, Scroll Stitch

Colonial Knots, Straight Stitch

Straight Stitch, Bullion Knot, Back Stitch, Chain Stitch, Stem Stitch, Crested Chain Stitch

Closed Fly Stitch, Staight Stitch, Coral Stitch, Split Stitch, Woven Wheel Stitch

Split Stitch, Scroll Stitch, Seed Stitch, Blanket Stitch

Triple Chain Stitch, Detached Chain Stitch, Chain Stitch, Straight Stitch, Stem Stitch

Woven Circle Stitch, Straight Stitch, Palestrina Knot, Chain Stitch

Chain Stitch, Colonial Knot, Bullion Knot, Coral Stitch

Colonial Knot, Straight Stitch, Split Stitch, Pearl Stitch

Bullion Rose, Colonial Knot, Stab Stitch, Chain Stitch, Buttonhole Scallop Stitch, Straight Stitch

Double Whipped Chain Stitch, Colonial Knot, Stem Stitch, Straight Stitch

Some stitches were much easier than others, and some took a lot of work. Many people who have seen the pillow ask how much time it took. I estimate, based on the number of Netflix shows I watched, that each butterfly took about 2 hours to embroider (not to cut out, and not to appliqué). The rest of it was done in piecemeal throughout much of the year, so it is hard to really know, but I would hazard a guess of maybe 60 hours, give or take. Cutting, ironing, planning, seam-ripping, youtubing/reading for instructions, and so on – maybe I should hazard a higher guess, huh?

And once I realized my new window seat just had a boring white pillow, I checked the measurements of the panel and realized that with a little top and bottom border (reclaimed from fancy faux suede napkins), I’d have a pillow case. Tada!

 

leather book cover

This project has been floating around my house for quite some time. Frankly, the idea of sewing leather was scary to me, so I hemmed and hawed a lot, but eventually I got through it! I had a swath of green leather from years ago, waiting for an interesting project so when my friend asked to make a book cover for her to keep records of her weaving endeavors, I decided now was the time.

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I had the feather inspiration from Maureen Cracknell Handmade, and used hers as an outline. My version is intentionally not as delicate as hers with the idea that the chunky-ness would work well with the leather. Now that it is done, I am not so sure, but I would rather not copy someone else’s work exactly anyway.

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My first hang up was cutting the leather itself. See, as I mentioned, this was stored in my closet for years, so it wound up with some creases and wrinkles. Can you iron leather? I am not sure – the internet says yes and no, so I tried a few methods on some scrappy edges and just couldn’t tell if it was working or not. Another problem is the nature of the leather itself – there are parts of it that just do not lay flat because that was not how the leather grew… I did have enough of it where I could cut a fairly flat piece out, so that is what I did (it was not the way I would cut if I was trying to get the most out of my yardage, if you know what I mean!). I will say it cut like butter, though:)

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I used my rectangle hoop to stitch the feather onto the leather after I had embroidered it. I delayed here for a long while also because I was not sure how I wanted to do the outline. I tried a few methods on a scrap piece, and settled on using an outline stitch that I had just properly learned for the Zelda crest mug rug I recently made. I did vary between six and three strands, but you can’t really tell. I am still learning embroidery, you know. Plus, I could not find a hand-sewing leather needle that was straight. Mine was not only gently curved at the tip (a feature I actually fell in love with and will search for embroidery needles of like kind) but also had a 90 degree bend before the eye. That made the motions a bit trickier, as you can imagine.

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Then, I delayed even longer yet because I was not sure my machine would appreciate sewing through leather. I did buy heavy duty needles, but since they did not specifically state “for use with leather”, nor did they have a cutting shape to their point, I was concerned – but it was all I could find at the store. Lucky for me, my leather was very thin and supple, so as long as I went slowly over where the leather was folded, it sewed great! I used my little clothespins to hold the layers together. Since both the leather and fabric was thin, I used a heavy-weight stabilizer to make it feel sturdy, and a brown ribbon for the marker.

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I used my quick & dirty method so I only had to sew two straight lines, adjusting for the size of the notebook obviously. I only chose this method because I didn’t want to put my machine through any more torture than necessary.

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I included a standard composition book; in the event she fills one up and needs to add another, it will be easy for her to find a notebook that fits.

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It feels really nice in your hands! The leather gives a nice grip but is so very soft!

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And now, I embark on another hexagon project! Yay! This was the first time I have ever cut squares in bulk – I felt like a quilter. While cutting, I asked myself if I would like to quilt yet – my family all does it so maybe I should join them. But the idea of having to cut more than this tiny stack (which felt monstrous while cutting) still has me holding off on that venture… for now.

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Crafternoon: Felt flowers

Over the weekend, I hosted another crafternoon. I printed out several templates from around the web and between my friend Ashley and I, we supplied felt, scissors, glue, thread, needles, buttons, and beads. Sites included How Joyful, Make & Do Girl, Lines Across, and some general ones I found through google image search that I can’t locate the original site for.

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Everyone also brought a snack. We had cheesy turkey quesodillas, blueberry muffins, peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes, zucchini chocolate muffins, fresh blueberries, and fresh chips with queso and salsa.

There were four of us, a small group, and I wondered at how many I had actually invited and what would have happened if that number had been doubled. Out of everyone I know, I have the largest table (easily seats 8), and we certainly filled it with just the four of us!

Ashley made flowers to match the theme of a shadow box she is making and sent me a photo:

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Some flowers were much more time intensive than others, and so I decided I am too impatient to make the more complicated ones. I did enjoy learning some new tricks, like how to make flat 2D flowers more 3D. Oh, and how easy some of them turned out to be!

Mine were just randoms, so I could learn the process, though I might use that embroidered one for a book cover:

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I forgot to take photos during the crafternoon, so I do not have any more to share. Katie made her new niece and nephew (twins!) a little gift: flowers for a headband and a small little bowtie. Courtney was creative and made the little cloud flower out of two different colors and added a button in the center, then she stacked a bunch of complimentary colors together for one of the 2D versions. Everyone’s flowers was pretty awesome and it’s a shame I didn’t take photos. Hopefully next time!

If you’ve been following, my hexagon pillow top is complete, and I bought a pillow form. But life came up and once again, it looks like I will not be finishing a project for a while. We have changes around the house (siding, windows, HVAC system, and a lot of other smaller jobs), I am in an intense gross anatomy workshop, my summer class began about two weeks ago, and it dawned on me the other day that the fall semester is almost upon us and I still have classes to prep for that. Oh, yeah, and a grant application for an archaeological project.

But I hope to squeeze time for some crafternoons, at least once a month. We floated around several ideas and it looks like paper quilling might be next!

Lysa’s match needle book

Here it is! This is the result of a pattern I tested for Lysa, the most generous gal to have given me a free kit to make my own (serious goodness, right there!). I truly felt that this little needle book was one of the most clever things I’ve seen around. I just had to have one, and I am so grateful she is so awesome to make that happen:)

Here you can read about the SMS Giveaway she hosted with books she crafted herself. I did not find the pattern troublesome so I am optimistic that she will have it ready at her shop soon enough so you can make your own match needle book! I also enjoyed using such a thick stabilizer; I had never used anything other than stiff interfacing and having something like stiff felt was brilliant. I am going to totally look into this option for future projects.

(Read on if you wish to hear a story about lightning, the evil doer.)

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This project was also perfectly timed. It is late June, but Mother Nature doesn’t realize it, so we have been enduring storm after storm after storm (I am listening to thunder as I write this). Thursday circa 9pm, lightning hit our house. Of course, Boy has installed all the high end surge protectors one could possibly own, but lightning is a force in itself. Apparently, and who knew, lightning can use the internet back door. It looks as if Comcast (the cable internet people) did not ground the cable outside our house, and the jolt of electricity came in that way, zapping anything directly connected to the internet (the modem, router, all the switches and miscellaneous devices to make the internet work in the house, the Vonage phone box, possibly the main phone, a smart tv, a PS4, and two media boxes). So, without the ability to do much work, or watch movies on Netflix, or play video games, I sewed!

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We thought it had also damaged our Wii U, and PS3, but when Boy brought home some equipment from the office the next day to get back online, they both magically turned on and were also able to connect to their networks. Phew. (Seriously, is there anything worse than losing all your saved games??) Now, something we cannot figure out is why our Onkyo receiver is fried as well, not being an internet device and all. But, who can say we puny humans will ever understand the force of lightning?

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the letter J

Another wedding, another letter! My friend Ashley loves aqua and her bridal shower was naturals and bird-themed, which is how I chose the design. I did not have the exact color of felt I wanted, but in the end I am very happy with how it turned out! I began with an off white yarn, using the same technique employed for the letter P. It was slightly trickier because the hanging ribbon needed to be in the same place, but I figured it out. Then I used a stick pin to keep it out of my way while I wrapped the letter.

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After wrapping it in the off white, I wanted to give it a little character so I added some brown twine to it for that natural feel.

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I used the same felt flower technique, this time pinning them with white pins. I used another one of those weird champagne colored plant baubles for the large flower.  I was even able to sew the little eggs into the nest (they were soft plastic, and I happen to own a curved needle which made it very simple). I pinned the nest in with two pins that were tied together with thread (so that they wouldn’t just slip between the little twigs).

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I would have stopped here, but Boy convinced me to add some ribbon around the top of the J. It was a great idea and I love that I had some scraps that happened to match!

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And the final touch, some embossed felt on the back just to make it have higher quality.

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the letter P

Our friends recently got married, and Boy was one of the groomsmen. We had bought them stuff for their shower but I still wanted to give them something handmade. Their wedding colors were peacocks and browns, but I also get the feeling they like things like Mardi Gras and whatnot, so that is how I chose the colors and feathers.

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I did a quick search online on how to do it – were there any tricks I should know? Why, yes, there are! Some letters are much more difficult than others if you want the yarn to look in sync across the whole letter (rather than most of it going one direction with a small portion going a radically different direction). There are several ways to tackle that, and so I just made up my own way. Thank goodness I investigated – I wouldn’t have put nearly the same amount of thought into how I would wrap a letter otherwise. Here is how I made the letter P.

I cut some ribbon to hang the letter (just eye-balled what looked good) and then taped with duct tape. Then, I folded it a little and taped it with scotch tape so that it didn’t get in my way or end up accidentally wrapped with yarn. I started with the inside area first, and simply taped the beginning length and wrapped around until it was covered, taping the end.

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I cut another piece and began wrapping for the bottom leg of the P. When I got to the bottom, it was a little tricky getting the yarn to stay put and not slip off the bottom. I used tape just at the corners to secure them down. When wrapping horizontally like this, only the sides mattered. The front (and back) would be recovered with vertical yarn later.

cardboard_letter_P_wreath4Then I knew I needed to wrap the portion of where the curve of the P met the leg of the P (do parts of letters have proper names?). I thought on this for a while and decided the best course of action was to have a block of yarn that I could simply attach and came up with this idea: wrap the yarn around my phone (because the width and length made the appropriate size) and then cut. The first time I did this, I did not think ahead far enough. You’ll want to do what I did here in these photos – include something like a manicure stick so that you can actually get your scissors under the yarn to cut. But, before you cut, you slap a piece of tape on there to hold everything together. Then reinforce the edges with another piece of tape on the reverse side.

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I then taped these two sections where they needed to go. Remember, they were only necessary for the side of the letter.

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Next, I needed to move the brown ribbon so that I could begin wrapping the curved portion. Once I wrapped so much of it, I had to reposition it again. This is why I chose scotch tape – it does not stick well to cardboard as we all know! That usually frustrates me to no end, but for a project that needs repositioning, it was perfect.

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Finally, some long wrapping for the stem of the P so that the directions of the yarn was a smooth transition. It hid all my duct taping too.

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Now, in the image below you can see that corner did not get covered so well. Eh, it would not matter because it was to be hidden by some purple and black feathers.

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I wanted to tie in brown, so I decided to make some felt flowers. I have made these in the past – my favorite type, though, are cutting scallops out of spirals like this:

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The large flower is made by using both of those cuts, and then the small flowers are made by a single color each. You simply wind them up, and voila! For the big one, I wound it from the inside out, but then I remembered that through experimentation, I decided I liked winding from the outside in instead. That is how the small ones are wound. You just need to scale the scallops accordingly – its very simple and since flowers are organic, perfection is not required. I tidied the bottoms up by sewing them all together.

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The large one got a piece of I-don’t-know-what. It is a champagne colored ball from a fake floral plant. I cut it so that it had a stem and just pushed it through the middle.

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I attached them with black stick pins. No glue required! (In fact, I was taken aback that they stayed in place at all – who would have thought, pins in cardboard?) I added a little ribbon trim just for fun.

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I also added some embossed felt to hide the duct tape on the back and just up the feel of quality overall. It will also protect the yarn from whatever it sits against, whether on a door or a mantel.

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Oh, and Sasha helped me measure the ribbon…..

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Keeley is DONE

Soooo long in the making, but I was stoked to finally ship her off to her creator. I’ve posted about her here, here, and here, but here’s the final piece!

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Also, I had a dilemma to solve – how to add her “pow” markings by her fist? I knew my embroidery skills were not up to the task. Then I had an epiphany – I could draw them on the plexiglass that frames her! I tried my favorite over-the-counter pen (Pilot’s Precision V5) and a trusty sharpie, neither having the results I envisioned. Then I dug around my craft room and found black puffy paint. Bingo!

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Keith blogged about her here, and you can see in the first shot that I had trouble getting her in the frame without bunching up the background. But under the right lights, that isn’t noticeable. If I were to do it all over again, I would have a lot more structural planning. For this project, I just jumped right in. I had no plan on the outcome – I was relieved that it fit in a standard record frame, but that was utterly by accident. Without planning for how it would end up, I made due with what I had. And I would totally do this project again – Keeley is one of my favorite things I have ever done!