Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A "Merry" Dishtowel

I think the whipped running stitch is a secret too well kept from beginning embroiderers. Even the newest newbie can produce lovely results with this stitch. The running stitch is the easiest to learn and so we start beginners with this stitch, but because the stitches are often uneven and rough, we sometimes consider their early effort to be “just practice.” Adding the whip stitch covers the irregular stitches to some degree and helps even a young embroiderer complete a beautiful project.

The first step is to find a pattern. Simple shapes without too many tight corners work best. I'm laughing at those holly leaves - maybe not the best example! Look in coloring books or online clip art. You can even consider drawing a pattern yourself. Words and sentences are fun. Just use your imagination and keep the curves wide and fat, if you can. Use a black marker to draw or trace so that you have a nice contrast to then trace onto the fabric. My favorite transfer method is to use a cold water transfer pen to trace the pattern onto the fabric. If I don’t like it for some reason, I can always wet the ink and begin again.

Use the running stitch to outline the design. I used four strands of cotton embroidery floss, so that the design lines would be thicker than usual. Then, using a cross-stitch (blunt) needle, simply whip a contrasting colored thread (also four strands) from right to left under each of the running stitches. Changing from a sharp needle to a blunt one prevents you from accidentally catching the threads of either the fabric or the other stitches and allows the thread of the whipped stitches to lay smoothly against the running stitches.

Obviously, the stronger the contrast in the threads, the more this stitch shines. I used less of a contrast on the holly leaves, but the stitch still looks good. A little crookedy, but that is part of the charm of the stitch.

If you are a more experienced embroiderer, don’t overlook the ease and speed at which this stitch can help you create a beautiful handmade gift or complete a set of items for the hope chest. I quickly made the “merry" dishtowel to be part of a gift for a December bride.

Here’s a tip on presentation for this single item in a group. After I washed the towel, I ironed it with spray starch to add body to the fabric and to make it ultra smooth. Be sure to iron on the back of the towel so that the embroidery is not flattened. Because a dishtowel has so little natural body, I also placed a sheet of white tissue paper inside the towel before I folded it. The tissue also smooths the appearance and the crackly sound just makes it seem like a special part of the gift.

I’m anxious for somebody to try the whipped running stitch. If you do, I hope you'll add a comment to this post. Check back soon for a pattern sheet of Christmas embroidery designs, including the "merry" dishtowel, from Miss Abigail’s hope chest.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More Ornaments for the Hope Chest

This felted wool chile pepper ornament is a treasure that Abigail and I found in October at the Wool Festival in Taos, New Mexico. I just love the way the yarn pulls and twists; it looks just like a crooked chile pepper.

This is a beaded snowflake ornament that I made for Abigail last year.

This is the first ornament Abigail made for her hope chest collection. She used a chenille stem and alternating red and white triangular beads - very easy. We're always looking for fun handmade ornaments to make. Do you have any good suggestions or links to share?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Punched Tin Christmas Ornament

Each year I help Abigail make an ornament for the Christmas tree. I also make a handmade ornament for her, and we're always on the lookout for special ornaments at craft shows and boutiques. Hopefully, she will have a nice collection of ornaments by the time she gets married. Abigail made this punched tin ornament last year.

We used a recycled metal juice lid, a small sized nail such as a picture brad, a hammer, a scrap of yarn for hanging the ornament and a scrap of adhesive paper to finish the back. We first drew a pattern of a heart (you could use a star, tree, mitten, etc.) in dots on the back of the lid in permanent marker. Be sure to put a wooden board under the lid so that nothing gets ruined when the nail punches through to the other side. We wanted some of the punches (holes) to be larger than others, so we marked these dots a little bolder and used a slightly thicker nail to punch them.

Abigail used the hammer to punch the nail through each dot on the pattern. She used a thicker nail to punch a larger hole in the top of the ornament. She pushed the yarn through this hole and tied it into a bow on the front of the ornament.

We cut a scrap of adhesive paper into a circle to fit inside the back of the ornament. This covered up the markings and made a nice finish for the ornament.

edit: I found a great tutorial for another ornament (magnet or gift tag) using a juice lid. They are easy enough for Abigail and beautiful. Take a look here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beaded Thanksgiving Napkin Rings

Abigail made these beaded napkin rings to use on our Thanksgiving table last year.

These napkin rings are very easy to make. I simply showed her how to use the round nose pliers to make a stop in the wire and then turned her loose with the beads. We started with a fairly long length of wire, put the beads on, and then wrapped the wire around the napkin to see how long we should make them. Once we decided how long the wire should be, we measured and cut the other lengths of wire to match the first.

A set of six napkin rings makes a nice addition to her hope chest.

Welcome to This Blog

In the small Mormon community where I grew up, the significance of motherhood and the advantage of domestic skill persisted for many years after the wider world gave them up as old-fashioned nonsense. Girls in my community had many opportunities to learn homemaking skills from their mothers at home, from leaders of church activities, in community 4-H clubs and in real, honest-to-goodness home-ec courses at school. My heart’s desire was always to be married and to have a home of my own. In spite of the strong, liberating messages of the world beyond mine, I really wanted to be a mother of children, and to nurture and care for them at home.

I appreciate the tradition of the hope chest. When I was young, many of the young women in our community made a display of the contents of their hope chest at their wedding reception. I loved to look through all of the things that were exhibited; beautiful quilts, tablecloths, needlepoint pillows, embroidered dishtowels, crocheted potholders, aprons, dishes. I dreamed my dream of having a home of my own someday, made all the more comfortable and cozy by pretty, handmade things. I learned how to crochet, how to embroider, how to sew and cook. I worked at making different items and put them into a special cardboard hope chest that my ingenious mother fashioned out of an apple box. But by the time I got married in 1979, the custom had faded. Although I was married in a dress I had made myself, I didn’t display my hope chest.

My domestically gifted mother-in-law also worked to assemble a wonderful accumulation of handmade articles as a wedding gift. I was thrilled to receive several sets of beautifully embroidered pillowcases, two full sets of dishtowels, a crocheted afghan, a bed quilt, and a large basketful of pantry items. This gift was so meaningful to me! Other women in our extended families offered handmade gifts as well. Crocheted afghans, quilts, comforters, and kitchen linens have enhanced my home for the past thirty-one years.

This legacy is what I want for my daughter. I so want her to feel the love that goes into such a gift. I want her to continue to feel my love as she unpacks and uses these handmade items sometime in the future. I want her to see the value that I place on domestic work. I hope that she will learn these same worthwhile skills and, by so doing, learn the significance of making a home.
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