I update this sign on my door with the seasons. And I thought it would be cute to put up something for Valentine’s Day.
So I shopped around some of my favorite machine embroidery sites, looking for a charming Valentine’s Day design.
I was confronted by a trashy array of cupcakes, lips and kissing pigs. (OK, I know some of you would love the kissing pigs.) But it’s not what I was looking for at all.
And the hearts .So many hideous hearts. Big, ugly, hearts with loads of swirls and ornation. Gathered in multiples, in solid colors, outlines, curving, distorted, nouveau, deco, modern, punk, angry, broken, baroque, and dipped in gnomes.
I hated it all.
Truly, this is a message to all machine embroidery designers: You can do better on Valentine’s Day.
I would have settled for one of those vintage red trucks with a load of flowers and sweets…tastefully done, with some script. Or how about all the charming old school Valentine’s from the forties? Wouldn’t it be cute to have a line of those in embroidery? Or how about those old Victorian Valentine’s Day cards? Tell me you couldn’t create some designs that played off of those? Or anything cozy? After all, we’re still in the dead of winter.
Anything other than the selection that’s available now. Which is gag-worthy.
And I say that with love in my heart for artists and designers.
So after all of that, I settled on a design that barely hints of Valentine’s Day, but is warm, inviting and sweet. And it will look just as good on February 15 as it does right now. In fact, it will even carry into spring.
It’s a bit stitch heavy, but looks great against the black.
I did the design on black Kraft-tex, which is surprisingly good at supporting machine embroidery. The trick is to use two layers of cutaway stabilizer.
I still have to figure out how to create a Valentine for my husband this year. Sadly, it won’t likely be machine embroidery, though I had hoped to find something charming. I thought about the kissing pigs, and then decided against an off-color joke about our pandemic weight gains.
I have other tricks up my sleeve, though.
So carry on, sewists. Surround yourselves with bright colors and whatever helps get you through the day.
I have watched the YouTube videos. I have studied people moving those needles in and out. I purchased the right fabric. I can sew, machine embroider, hand embroider, knit, crochet, do hand quilting. I’m not afraid of stitching by hand. But for the love of all that is good, I cannot figure out how to cross stitch. I. Cannot. Do. It.
Using Bernina Embroidery Software 8, I got the idea into my head that I could run a border of these gorgeous cross stitch patterns around the outside of a very simple tree skirt I was making.
But as always, it was not an easy task. Like Tina Turner, I never do anything nice and easy. I do it nice, and rough.
It starts with a scan of the pattern, which needs to be trimmed to the exact pattern size in some sort of graphics software. I’m used to working in Adobe, so that’s what I used. But Bernina’s software comes with Corel, so you can use that too. Then it gets imported into the Cross Stitch application in the software.
Now comes the tedious part. Every single stitch gets reconstructed with a click, and a color choice. If you look closely enough at the above image, you can see that some of it is filled in with color, and some of it still has the cross stitch symbols shown. It took me about an hour to get everything filled in for that design.
The next step is to move it into the embroidery program. The software then converts every click that you made in cross stitch into machine embroidery stitches. And it’s pretty magical. One moment it’s just a weird looking drawing, the next minute it’s stitches that my machine will understand.
And I am absolutely loving the way these turned out.
I still have a long way to go on this tree skirt, and each design from start to finish probably takes about three hours. Could someone do it by hand in that time? Maybe someone who knows what they’re doing. That would not be me, when it comes to cross stitch. But I am just so taken in by their charm and sweetness.
I hope you are tolerating this difficult holiday season.
I leave you with this December thought:
“Someday soon we all will be together If the fates allow Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”
I am not ashamed to say I had a rough summer. Between the pandemic, and a kid who’s still in the school system, I managed to fall while taking pictures. Hard. On my knee, but did a number on the ankle too.
Wound up in the ER, and x-rays were fine, but still healing. On top of that, I have the usual “You know, at your age…” health issues. But hard as I tried, I was not able to avoid going to a doctor until coronavirus is eradicated….as I had hoped. Who am I kidding?
So layer on top of that all the societal and natural disaster issues we’re facing and I made a decision:
TO PAINT MY FRONT DOOR CORAL.
Why? That’s a good question. I was all set to go with teal. And then I randomly saw a pic online of a coral front door. And I couldn’t get it out of my head. You need to know that my front door is a very dark, forest green. It has been that way for 18 years.
But it suddenly became my obsession. A primal scream, I think. I NEED A CORAL FRONT DOOR.
Since then I have discovered, to my surprise, that a front door that faces south should indeed be red or orange according to feng shui principles. Who knew. (Not me.) So, apparently, I did the right thing.
It was not my favorite. It went on kind of gloppy and was a semi-gloss. I’m generally a satin girl. And please note, that while I was doing this I was NEVER sure it was going to work. My only thought was that if I ruined the front door, we needed a new one anyway.
The first coat was pretty hideous. It was a lot of work just to get that far, and needed several hours to dry. I had to keep going back and smooth over places that wanted to drip. At this point, I was really torn. Give up now and paint it black? Or forge ahead and see where I end up. Anyone in their right mind would have hired a professional to salvage what they could.
I went for it.
Two more coats later.
My husband strolled by while I was in the process. “You’re making the front door pink?”
“IT’S NOT PINK, IT’S CORAL!”
He and my teenage son exchanged glances and backed away. They don’t really care.
But at least here’s where I get to the sewing part. Now I needed something to put on the door.
I have some black Kraft-tex, and so anyone who’s read this blog in the past, knows I love my Kraft-tex. I wanted a round doorhanger, but one that I could update seasonally. Or just when I got tired of it.
But the tool has a maximum circle size of about 8.5 inches. Not nearly as big as I wanted it.
So I approached my husband with the tool, and I told him what I wanted to do. He has a mill and a 3D printer. I wondered if he could help me find a way to get bigger circles.
He sniffed around the tool for a bit, while I went off to make dinner. An hour later he handed me an extender. Then he attached it.
He simply fitted it to the device, added a screw and bolt to hold it together and, like magic, I can now make circles about twice the size. It was amazing! And it worked perfectly. My new circle was somewhere near 18 ” acorss, almost the entire length of the Kraft-tex paper.
Now I just stitched my embroidery out and attached it with a single stitch to the the circle. I made slots so that I could switch out the seasonal part at any time.
I finished it up with a ribbon and hung it with a flourish.
I have no idea how anyone else is coping. I hope you are doing well.
I highly recommend doing something you’ve been afraid to do. (Let’s not get reckless here, I’m talking about painting a door, or a room, or yikes! a dresser.)
I didn’t know I needed this color in my life. Nor do I know how long I will want it. But it showed up at the right time for me.
This year, since I have Kraft-Tex in abundance, I made another small project for him combining machine embroidery and a really simple bag design. Seriously, it doesn’t get any simpler than this. Here’s a link to the video from Mr. Domestic.
A couple of things:
I used a zipper foot when sewing in the zipper. I think this is just personal preference. I like to see where I’m headed and I thought it was just easier.
Two layers of cutaway, with the Stabilstick cutaway on top were almost enough. As you can see in the following picture, I still had a problem because the design had so many stitches it perforated the Kraft-Tex. It was no big deal because it was only in one area, and I stitched over it, and all was fine.
The reason this occurred is because I did not have the Kraft-Tex fit the hoop so it was hanging over the side and pulling just enough to rip the fabric.
I cut out the design in a rounded square and stitched the whole thing down onto one side of the bag.
After that, I just followed the directions in the video. Other than the embroidery design, seriously, it took minutes.
In the video, Mr. Domestic uses pre-washed Kraft-Tex, and I used unwashed. I want to try using the pre-washed at some point.
I do want to point out that Kraft-Tex is biodegradable, but doesn’t fall apart in the wash. In the ground, it detriorates after two weeks. Compare that to 100% cotton fabric, which may take around 5 months, and synthetic textiles including polyester, spandex, nylon, and rayon may take between 20 to 200 years to fully biodegrade*. Kraft-Tex is OEKO-TEX certified, which is standard in the textile industry in that the end product is certified to be non-toxic. It also holds an FSC accreditation (Forest Stewardship Council) Essentially, this means that the product is regulated to be using forestry resources responsibly as defined by the highest industry standards.
So that explains one of the reasons I try to use Kraft-Tex when I can. I wish I could make clothes out of it, but that’s for the chemists and engineers to figure out how to make it just a bit softer.
* I got this info from a website called Edge Expo. It is targeted to sustainable fashion.
Tell me why you sew, and I’ll tell you who you are. Isn’t that the truth? These wonderful ladies, friends of mine, wanted to learn machine embroidery. We won’t talk about how long they have had their embroidery units neatly packed away in boxes with all the best intentions in the world.
We’ve been talking about getting together for years to learn the ins and outs, tips and tricks of the trade. Finally — we did it.
They came over to my house for a day and and I gave them the basic Embroidery 101 lessons. Someday, I will write it all down in lesson form for this blog. I know there are plenty of others out there who have an embroidery unit packed away somewhere, hoping that they will use it eventually. Or maybe you gave up on embroidery entirely.
I am here to re-inspire you. Machine embroidery is truly fun. And the more you know, the more you can experiment, and the more you are inspired to try new things. The hardest part? Getting started.
You can see from these pics that one of the biggest impetuses (is that a word?) for machine embroidery is, wait for it, grandchildren. And children as well . But I think the grandkids get the machine embroidery lovin’. Why? Because they are fun. The things we do for them is done with pure love with no expectations for anything in return.
That’s also why I teach. I want to share what I know, so that others can enjoy this craft. I also want us to use our hands, machines, brains and ideas to make things and to inspire each other, and maybe that will spread into the world and make a difference.
I don’t know if it will. All I know is that they will be coming back for another lesson next week. I hope it inspires you to dig in, as well.
The old saying goes “You can’t take it with you.”
No you can’t. But with any luck, we can quilt it, sew, it, embroider it and leave some of it behind and hope it does some good.
A friend had been struggling with adding the Wisconsin fight song to a quilt she did for her son. It was made of flannel and very cozy. It had a 2 inch inner border which really was ideal for the words of the fight song. She had already pieced it, and had it quilted professionally.
Over breakfast one day, several of us were talking about the best approach. My friend had purchased some minky-like yarn and was hoping to create the words by couching it. I suggested using the Bernina free-motion couching foot. It seemed like a good approach, but she was not sure she had the foot or knew how to use it. I thought I would test it out for her.
As you can see on my test-out, disaster ensued. The #43 couching foot let the yarn slide around too much to catch it, and basically the thread did not grab the yarn. So then I thought I would try the Bernina stitch regulator on zigzag using the free-motion foot. Slightly better results but still horrific. My experience with the couching foot has been to use very specific sizes and yarn has never worked well. I’ve had much better results with cording, which neither of us had.
I then suggested embroidery might be the best way to go.
After finding a font that was similar to what she wanted (cursive) I then created embroidery hoopings for all the words to go around the quilt. It had to be spaced decently so that it would be readable.
From the above pic, you can see that I positioned every phrase and laid it out on the quilt so that I would have a guide for spacing. The quilt was about a twin size. This took 17 hoopings, all done in the software from a TrueType font. I matched the bobbin thread to the back of the quilt, so, while you could see the embroidery on the back, it did not noticeably stand out. When finished, the embroidery words actually acted more like quilting.
We needed a satin stitch because a plain stitch of the words –or even a triple stitch–was just not visible.
In the end, I think the words ended up looking sharp, and added a lot of personalization and interest to the quilt.
Could we have managed the same result with couching? Maybe with cording, but almost certainly not with yarn.
I have seen that Bernina now offers couching inserts to attach to the #72 ruler work foot and I’m interested in seeing how easy that is to use. For our purposes, I think embroidery ended up being the best result.
Can you have too much Elvis in Graceland? Too many lights in Vegas? Too many labrador puppies?
I think not.
And you can’t have too much cute in Kimberbell. If you are going to do these designs, then you might as well go all the way. Get the dingle balls, the glitter paper, the froufrous and the doodads. Go all in.
I purchased the ornament designs recently to make for a group of quilty friends.
After one attempt, I realized that if I wanted them to be perfect, I needed to find not only the proper shade of gingerbread felt to highlight the features, I also needed the hoops, the accessories, glitter paper, a hot glue gun, and some patience.
Kimberbell is an exercise in excess and if you can’t do it at Christmas, you can’t do it at all. I am understanding the addictiveness of the Kimberbell phenomenon, but I don’t think it’s my permanent state. I love it at the moment and for special occasions. I’m not sure it’s my style forever and always.The same with Elvis and Vegas and labrador puppies.
Maybe you can have enough.
But for now, I’m on cuteness overload.
Have yourself a Merry Little Holiday.
Used a glue gun in 2019. Check. On to 2020.
P.S. After all the elaborate accessorizing of Kimberbell, I went back to simplicity for my holiday wrapping. I’m a realist. This stuff needs to be reduced, reused and recycled. Simple brown paper with scraps of fabric. The fabric can be saved and made into a quilt at some point, and the paper can just be folded and reused or recycled. I think we, as sewists, can balance adorable with sustainable. At least I’m going to try.
Through the years, I’ve come across a lot of machine embroidery books. Most of the time, I find they are complex, stuck in the weeds, focused on things that are not important, or are just plain hard to get through.
But this new book from Bernina really works. Because it is written and edited by Bernina educators, I thought it might simply be a hard sell for Bernina products. And make no mistake, it has no shortage of Bernina machine specifics.
However, it really gives a good breakdown of everything you need to know about machine embroidery, including tips and tricks that make life easier.
The images, graphics, tables and info in this book are all really easy to read. And the spiral binding is helpful. Nothing worse than anything step-by-step that won’t stay open.
Don’t get me wrong.
Wherever you purchase your machine, you should be sure to take the free classes they offer so you become comfortable with your machine (and all good dealers do that.). I don’t care how many books you read, you will not learn to hoop your fabric properly by reading. You can only learn that by doing.
When I teach classes, I tell my students that there are 3 variables in embroidery:
The density and size of the design
Any of these could and should change based on the others.
The book addresses all of these right up front. But more than that, it gets into techniques, and stitching on different types of fabric. Want to learn about minkee? It’s in there. In-the-hoop projects? Free-standing lace? No problem.
I’ve done all of these things, so I read with a critical eye. And I have to admit, all the categories are thorough and succinct.
Will you read the book and be an expert? No. I tell my students that they will only become experts after making their own mistakes. No book can tell you what to do when your machine is acting up. Or if your thread is breaking or you haven’t cleaned your machine in awhile. These things come from experience and the only way to get that is to stitch.
But I’m putting this one on my top shelf and keeping it handy. It’s new this summer and is available anywhere Bernina machines are sold. It’s a solid resource for any machine embroiderer.