Charmed by Silk

I mentioned recently how much I loved working with silk threads. The little project below, called "Charmed by Silk", was a delight to make. All the threads used are Kacoonda silk in various weights and styles. I am very fond of the tape measure: 

You can find the pattern in the current issue of Handmade magazine:

There is a beautiful sheen on the silk. Some of the threads are smooth and delicate and others have a twist which makes them 'bouncy'! I'm also in love with the effect of the fused pearl beading around the edge:

July is the month we normally 'head north' for a holiday where the weather is warmer.  It just didn't work out this year that we could go away.  Oh well ... thankfully the weather here hasn't been too cold.  In fact yesterday was a perfect sunny, warm day, just how I love it!

My husband and I are keen bird watchers, and we try to go out each Saturday to spend a couple of hours in one of the local conservation areas seeing what birds we might be able to spot. 

A Great Egret developing breeding plumage and colours.

This month, seeing we should be 'on holidays' we decided we would extend our time out, take or buy our lunch and spend the day together relaxing and doing what we love.

A Magpie Goose

We have seen some wonderful birds and animals lately. This Jacana 'walks on water':

We live in an absolutely fantastic area - a piece of paradise hubby calls it!  We were exploring the area a couple of Bays up from us when this guy came by:

Spoonbills (the bird at the back) are one of my favourites. They are like 'mine sweepers' spooning their bill through the water, sifting for food:

Recently we saw the Rakali below in the lake two doors down from our home. It is the Australian equivalent of an otter. It was the first time I had ever seen one, so great excitement!

So even though we're not on holidays, there is plenty to keep life enjoyable and we are being refreshed by our series of mini-breaks.

And on the stitching front, I am revelling in two new projects!  

Happy stitching.

Beyond Backstitch

I was only a child when my mother taught me all the basic embroidery stitches.  There was stem stitch, satin stitch, lazy daisy, chain stitch and blanket stitch. They were reinforced at our school sewing classes and I can remember being very proud of some embroidery I did which included a very colourful Mexican scarf in satin stitch.

What I cannot recall learning is Backstitch!  We just didn't use it!  We did what was called 'fancywork' - embroidered stitches over the top of a printed design on linen.  I loved it and still have heaps of doileys that I embroidered for my "Glory Box"!

Jump a few decades - I retired and picked up the needle and thread again, only to find that the most common stitch used was ... Backstitch!  

I worked it in dozens of my designs:

After a while, I yearned for a bit of variety, so I whipped the Backstitch.  You can see the gold blending filament whipped over the green stitching:

Then I was a bit adventurous and chose to weave over and under the thread instead of whipping it.
See the water where the swan touches it? I wove a black thread up and down over the blue/green backstitched water. It gives definition to that area.

Then one day, I took the plunge and decided to revisit Stem stitch.  I really prefer this stitch for curved shapes and so the scrolled frame of my "Coming up Roses" is in stem stitch.

Then I discovered that if I whipped the stem stitch, it would give a lovely rope-like texture.  The scallops and outline of the fan were worked in stem stitch with three strands of thread in a medium lavender, then whipped with one strand of dark lavender:

Sometimes there are situations where I have wanted an outline to really stand out so Chain Stitch is a really great alternative for that:

Of course you can whip Chain Stitch too for another interesting effect.

For a line that is even wider, Feather stitch fits the bill.  The top line on this ornament is Feather and the lower one is in Chain Stitch.

For something different, I have some times worked a line of French Knots.  It is so much more effective than Backstitch on this Easter egg:

And how about a plain Running Stitch for some variety:

The design below has a bit of everything!  The clothes line is actually a couched thread, there are rows of feather stitch on the dress and around the hole, a cross-stitch and dash pattern on the towel and chain stitch on the tea towel:

I hope you'll consider going beyond Backstitch in some of your own stitching! As they say, 'Variety is the spice of life'.

I've been able to cross off another couple of commission this week.  I'm almost ready to start thinking about a new design!!!!

Happy stitching!

Free BOM - Apples of Gold - Block 7

I have Block 7 in the free Block of the Month quilt, 
"Apples of Gold" 
for you today.

There's plenty of sweetness about our thought this month:

Honey itself cannot compete with well-framed words. 
Proverbs 16:24

The block includes a sweet little honeypot with some very simple piecing to complete the block:

Block 7 can be downloaded here.

If you have chosen to make the modern version of the quilt, you will need to download the modified template for this block as it is a different shape.  Download here.

Talking about honey, I have a confession - I don't eat it! I'm not at all a fussy eater.  I enjoy all food and I can only think of two things that I don't eat.  And honey is one of them. My mother could not tolerate the smell of honey; it actually made her retch. Combine that constant sight in my childhood with the fact that if my brother and I ever had a high temperature and were feeling terrible, we were given a crushed aspirin in a teaspoon of honey, and you can imagine the aversion to honey that increased with each year ... and I still can't eat it!

Back to "Apples of Gold" - I want to tell you about lots of apples that have been in my kitchen lately.  They are not the golden type, but one of my favourites, the Granny Smith. I love their 'sweet  tartness' or 'tart sweetness' and they are such a fabulous apple for cooking. They are one of Australia's gifts to the world!

I find their story really interesting and you can read some of it in my grandson's fabulous blog, Ten Random Facts.

My husband and I love to have stewed fruit on our cereal for breakfast, so I bought a case of Granny Smiths while they were at a good price.  A few hours of peeling and chopping later and I had 14 lovely bottles of fruit preserved. That's another three months of breakfast fruit!  They will be rotated between plums and peaches - yum!

There have been a couple more 'finishes' on the sewing side - Chocolate Muffins, a lot less fattening that the real thing:

Another Christmas project with a lot of silk indulgence - silk fabric, silk threads and silk ribbon:

There have been a couple of other bits and pieces too which I'll show you some other time.  Happiness is having completed projects to show!

Have a great stitching week.

Fabric and flaws

I've been struggling with some of my stitching lately! I should have known better, but I used some synthetic fabric in a wall-hanging I am making. Even worse, it is in a section that has a lot of embroidery on it! 

When I first started out on my patchwork and quilting journey, I used to read pattern instructions: "It is recommended all fabrics be 100 per cent cotton ...". My reaction was, well, I don't know whether I want to spend a lot of money on 100 per cent cotton, and I don't see any reason why I can't use some of the lovely polyester fabric that I have. It didn't take long to realise the wisdom of the pattern advice. Synthetic fabric makes lovely tops, skirts and dresses, but it is just not ideal for patchwork and stitcheries. 

After using 100 percent cotton fabric for a long time now, I had forgotten just what synthetics are like to sew! On the particular piece I am using, every stitch is a pain. The needle just does not slide into and through the fabric. I have to give the needle a shove to even get it started on its journey. Sewing on the machine is no better. The synthetic slips and slides and just doesn't work in piecing. You would think I would have just pulled out the offending section and used a different fabric, but I had done a heap of applique on it and I just didn't have the heart to start again! 

All this started me thinking about some of the problems I have had with different fabrics. I loved the fabric below with little 'picture frames' surrounding dragonflies, bees etc. It was ideal for cutting out individual frames and appliqueing them on this cup bag:

Have you tried using frames and printed panels? - you will know the problem then! Some of those frames are just not printed SQUARE on the fabric. This happens with even the most expensive fabric. The only solution I have is to cut around the frame so that it is complete, give it a bit of a pull to try to get it into shape and use it in a way that the 'out of square' is not going to matter too much.

Then there are checks. I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are so great for giving a 'cottage' feel to a project, but they are NEVER squarely printed on the fabric. I'm a perfectionist and I hate not having those checks lined up:

Recently I made an apron. The floral fabric was one of the first fabrics I purchased when I began quilting. It was on sale and it was cheap ... and I liked it. 

When I cut out the fabric for the apron, I noticed a slight flaw but didn't think it was really noticeable. The apron was finished and I was giving it a last-minute press before I packaged it to be sent off to a magazine. It was then that I saw it in a new light. I don't know whether you can see it in the photo below but there is a great long white vertical line down the middle and then close to the bottom a horizontal one adjoining it:

It looks as though the fabric had a crease when it was printed and so there it is - a big flaw right in the middle of my apron. There was nothing to be done but to pull it all undone and start again with new fabric!

And what about Velvet? I love the feel of the fabric - it just calls out to be stroked. However, it's not for the faint-hearted; it frays unbelievably and you can't see through it to trace a design: 

Then there's silk - luxurious, soft, beautiful. Silk too, is not very easy to work with. It frays, slips, some types resist the needle, but it always looks gorgeous!

So there are some of my reflections on fabric and flaws. My number one choice is definitely cotton for patchwork, and a fine linen as a beautiful base on which to work stitcheries.

Talking of threads gliding through the fabrics with ease, these gorgeous Kacoonda silk threads are an absolute dream to work with. Silk threads on linen - the ultimate pleasure: 

This parcel of hand-dyed threads, along with silk ribbons and wool felt arrived recently and I am counting down the projects till I can start using them on a special design I have in mind. Last week there were five commissions on the go, all at different stages of development, so I won't let myself start anything else new! I completed one project last night, so the count-down has started.

I hope you have many hours of 'thread gliding through fabric' this week.