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Monday, May 16, 2005

Embroidered Embellishments--A Review

Embroidered Embellishments: Innovative Ideas for Machine Embroidery by Lynne Redman. Published 2005 by the Embroidery Studio. 82 pages, spiral-bound soft cover, full-color illustrations. Includes CD with three designs used in the book in the following formats: .csd, .dst, .exp, .hus, .pes, .pcs, .jef, .sew, .art. The CD also includes a JPEG file of each design with thread colors using Robinson-Anton thread colors. This book is self-published and is only in available from The Embroidery Studio.

This is a delightfully different book on machine embroidery from somebody who is a self-declared "terrible seamstress." Coming from a long background of doing many assorted crafts, Lynne Redman has developed her artistic ability into both embroidery design and embroidery embellishment. Other than the machine embroidery itself, many at the designs in this book have no sewing attached to them. Lynne has developed them using different glues or other sewing aids. She uses her embroidery designs to embellish scrapbook pages, photo albums, Christmas ornaments, and other decorative items. With this book you will learn to use many of your bits and pieces of craft items such as beads, extra fabric, vintage linens and other supplies from your craft area to create unique and exquisite projects.

In this book the author assumes that you already know how to embroider, so there's no discussion on appropriate needles and stabilizers and how to hoop. She does discuss some basic techniques that she uses in making her projects and also some items that are handy to have for the different projects in her book such as rubber stamps, decorative scissors, plastic templates, different types of glues and adhesives, and her favorite Steam-a-Seam. She also tells you how to make an inspiration Journal, using pictures that you find in magazines, different fabric and threads, beads and assorted other bits and pieces.

She has found that she uses the same creative process as she works through her projects and explains each one of them in a different chapter with projects that illustrate the concept. They include layering, embellishing, composing, and coloring. She is not afraid to combine several different techniques in one project, which makes them look like they were very difficult to do, but they are not as she explains the techniques. Many of them are fairly quick and easy once you understand the philosophy and technique behind them.

I was especially interested in the chapter on coloring, as it explains the color wheel philosophy, and why depending on your background color, you may need to change the colors in your embroidery design. I know many people are scared to take that leap and change things from what they're told to use. But sometimes just changing the shade of a color will make all the difference in making a designs stand out.

At the back of the book is also a one-page bibliography of books that she likes to use for instruction and inspiration. Most of them have to do with color.

I enjoyed reading the book and found it quite inspirational. I would highly recommend it, especially for those who want to use their embroidery machine but do not want to be sewing up large projects. The fun of an embroidery machine many times is letting it do most of the work while you concentrate on designing your project. I look forward to using some of the techniques in this book for my own projects.

Please remember this book is only available from the embroidery studio web site.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Counted Cross Stitch

Still more struggles with my newest counted cross stitch project. I kept miscounting and ending up with stitches where they didn't belong. God bless my husband David. He took my chart and increased the size on our computer, printed it out, taped it carefully back together so that all the lines match and now I can see it. Since it is now on it's own piece of paper instead of in the magazine, I can now use my magnetic board and straight magnets to keep me even more on target. Husbands like mine are wonderful things.

I also managed to finished my quilt top that I am working on with machine embroidered and appliqued roses on the border. Now I have to get some batting and enlist my hubby to help me pin it together so I can machine quilt it.

It is so nice now to have several creative options available to me depending on how I feel and what is happening in my life. I just never knew how much I missed doing embroidery by hand. I continue to be excited about needlwork as I have been selling a lot of counted cross stitch and needlepoint kits out my ebay store Rodgers Book and Craft Sales. I'm glad to see that other people are still as enthusiastic about the needlearts as I am.

All About Machine Arts: Decorative Techniques from A to Z

All About Machine Arts: Decorative Techniques from A to Z from Sew News, Creative Machine Embroidery, and C&T Publishing. 2004 C & T Publishing, ISBN 1571202277, Soft cover, 256 pages, full color illustrations.

This book is a wonderful reference source for anyone with a serger, sewing or embroidery machine. It is a compilation of articles from Sew News Magazine, Creative Machine Embroidery Magazine and other C & T Publications. If you are a subscriber to those magazines then some of the information you will have seen. With all the other information that has been added plus the logical layout of the book, you will find that this book is a handy reference to keep close while working on projects especially those requiring an unfamiliar technique.

The beginning of the book shows a gallery of projects to get your creative juices flowing. Then you get to see some famous sewers sewing rooms—and will see that not all ‘big league’ sewers have huge studios!

Then one of my favorite sections is a stitch dictionary. If you have a sewing machine that features decorative stitches, this is a handy guide for what the common different type stitches are and how to use some of them with page references to other projects in the book that feature some of them.

There is a whole section on embroidery and machine basics with handy reference charts for threads, needles, stabilizers, scissors and other supplies.

Then the A to Z section. Want to know how to appliqué? Turn to the A section. Not only will you find pages of instruction for how to appliqué using different stitches, you will also find “Follow this thread” spots with page references to information important to the particular technique that you are using. Learn about bartacks, bridge stitches, couching, ergonomics, hemstitching, lace, metalwork, pintucks, sequins, tassels and much more in this very informative book. At the back of the book is also a list of suggested reading and websites to visit to learn more about this wonderful hobby.

My only complaint with this book and others like it, is they never give a source for the magic fairies that will come clean your house and do your other chores so you have more time to devote to sewing!

Machine Embroidery: Inspirational Quilting Techniques

Machine Embroidery: Inspirational Quilting Techniques by Jenny Haskins. 1998 Aussie Publishers, ISBN 187636405X Soft cover, 88 pages, full color illustrations.

I have always loved Jenny Haskins designs and admired the work that went into them. In this book using her ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ quilt as an example, she takes us step by step into sewing one of her wonderful projects. For those who aren’t ready to attempt a large quilt project there are smaller projects also, all of which will lead to a frilly romantic looking decoration for your home or as a gift.

Jenny describes the basic equipment needed to make the quilt. Be careful though, as she uses Australian terminology to describe something is be sure you know what she is talking about. Not only does she talk about the presser feet that she uses there are photographs of each one. She discusses color and thread choices as being one of the most important steps when starting a project.

You do not need an embroidery sewing machine to makes these projects as long as you have a machine that has a fair amount of decorative stitches. You can purchase doilies and lace and appliqué them onto the quilt as needed. Realizing that not everybody has the same type of sewing machine, she has an illustration chart of each decorative stitch she uses with an assigned number. Simply compare the stitches to those available on your machine and choose the most appropriate stitch. When she calls for stitch #4, for example, then you know to use your stitch #26. Jenny is a great one for ‘stitch building’ and you will see some really detailed pictures of what she does with explanations of how to do it yourself.

This is a truly inspirational book. You may never have a desire to make one of the projects in the book, but next time you want to make a project where you pull out all the bells and whistles of your machine, this book will be a great resource.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Stitching Along

Before I started my current counted cross-stitch project, I had forgotten how relaxing it could be to just sit and stitch. Because of my physical problems, I am very limited in how much time I can sit in front of my sewing or embroidery machine. Now, with starting to cross-stitch again, I am extending my creative time. While I thought my biggest problem with stitching would be pain in my hands, I am finding that my real difficulty is looking at the chart and back to the stitching with bifocals! I can’t believe how many times I’ve had to ‘unsew’ some of my work. Then last night while doing the backstitch around a flower, I realized I was three squares off. Still trying to figure out how I got that far out of sequence. I do know how to count after all! Oh well, the design still looks good and unless you compare it to the chart nobody will really know.

This morning I got up to an email from an embroidery site that I realized I haven’t mentioned yet. ABC Cross Stitch Patterns is the perfect site for those who like to do counted cross-stitch by machine and also by hand. They just realized a freebie for Mother’s Day that can be downloaded in several machine formats and also as a chart. All come as .zip files. I downloaded both the machine format and the hand format. For stitching by hand you get a chart with estimated floss usage, thread chart in both Anchor and DMC floss, stitch size and size of design depending on the thread count of your fabric. You also receive both a color and a black & white chart for working the pattern. The machine format downloads a color chart based on DMC floss colors and converts them to Robinson Anton Rayon or Sulky embroidery threads. You also will find out how many thread colors are used, how many color stops, size of design and of course the design itself.

Not only does this company have their cross stitch designs, but they have a ‘sister’ company for regular machine embroidery designs. This is a site that you definitely need to visit.