RST is thrilled to welcome Cloud 9 fabric designer and illustrator Sarah Watson back today for a guest post! Sarah has just released her book, Pen to Thread (Interweave Press), with more than 750 hand-drawn embroidery designs and instructions on how to create your own stitchy projects. Here’s Sarah, with a fun tutorial for the quilting crowd!
Hello there! It’s me, Sarah Watson, coming to you with a fun embroidery tutorial, plus free motif from my new hand embroidery book, Pen to Thread. The book is chock full of fun, imaginative, sophisticated, masculine, and silly motifs. Something for everyone, really!
I love embroidery because it is a simple hobby that, with little practice and a few materials, can yield wonderful, lasting results. If you use high-quality materials, your embroidery can be passed from generation to generation. Because you lovely readers at Right Sides Together are mostly quilters, the project I’ve prepared for you today is a quilt label (good idea, huh?).
- A needle (an embroidery needle, or any sharp needle that you are comfortable using and able to thread)
- Thread. If you are a beginner, try DMC threads; they are widely available and come in a beautiful range of colors. If, like me, you already have a messy stash of threads, choose a heavy weight for the envelope border, medium weight for buttons and words, and a lighter weight for the running stitch.
- Pen to Thread and your motif! I’ve provided the motif for you here today, but if you are interested in more projects, trust me, this book is a ton of fun.
- A pencil, pen, or other tracing utensil (I recommend pencil)
Here are excerpts from the book, as well as illustrations, on backstitch and satin stitch:
The backstitch is a great simple stitch. It can be done in a smooth motion that keeps your stitching going quickly, but if you have trouble with it at first, don’t feel bad about breaking the motion into individual steps. Often when I am working around edges or curves, I break my backstitch down into single movements.
Insert needle at A (Fig. 12), and pull thread through. Reinsert needle at B, and one stitch length past, back out at C (Fig. 13). Make sure your needle exits along the pattern line you are working on. After pulling your needle and thread completely through, you’ll see that you will now have to go “back” to finish your stitch, hence the name ‘back stitch’. Insert needle at B (Fig. 14). Continue in this manner, coming up again at a new A (Fig. 15). Backstitch can be used as an outline stitch, or a wonderful filling stitch when lined up closely in rows.
Satin stitch is an elegant, professional-looking stitch. It might take a little practice to get it perfectly smooth, but keep at it: it’s worth it. For beginners, it is easier to start with satin stitch in small areas so that you can get the feel of how the thread will sit on top of your fabric once it is finished. After you have a good feel for how the stitch works, start experimenting with it in larger areas. If you are having a hard time lining up the edges of your satin stitch, do a quick back stitch or satin stitch around the outline of your motif first, to help guide you around the edges. Stitch on the outside of this outline.
Bring needle up at A (Fig. 16). Bring needle down at B (Fig. 17). Just behind where you came up at A, bring your needle up again, following your pattern (Fig. 18). Continue in this fashion along your desired shape (Fig. 19).
Print out the envelope motif at 100% (do not scale, unless you’d like to). If you can, use the back side of already used paper. I used white fabric, so could easily see the motif through the paper. It’s helpful to tape your printed motif to the back of your fabric, so that it doesn’t shift while you are tracing. I used pencil, because even with the best intentions to cover all of my traced lines with threads, we sometimes make mistakes. You can remove the paper motif after you’ve traced it, and save it for another use (color it in, make a card out of it, save it to trace on another project).
After I traced the motif provided, I added in my personal touch. I’m not sure who this quilt label will go to yet, but I do know that I will be the maker. So I hand wrote my name and the date on the ‘From’ line. I read a post a while back about a woman who found an amazing quilt in a thrift shop and was able to trace back the maker’s heritage using the name on the label. I think this is amazing, but no one better send the quilts I give them to thrift shops!
Time to start stitching! Start with the outline of the envelope, which is a rectangle, plus the flap on the left side. I used a backstitch for this. The photo below shows the directions that I stitched in, to minimize carried threads on the back of the project.
After you’ve finished the envelope outline, start on the buttons. I used a version of a satin stitch here. To create a smooth rounded button, make one full length stitch (from the outside of the button to the inside hole of the button), and then a half length stitch (from the outside of the button halfway to the inside hole of the button. Continue around the circle until you have completed it. If you want to make a simpler button, you can use a backstitch with this, too.
The address lines are in a lighter grey backstitch, and the string to close the envelope is in a lighter teal backstitch. If you use a color similar to the grey I used, and white fabric, don’t carry your thread on the back of the embroidery from line to line. Once you’ve finished stitching a line, knot off or stitch your tail to secure it, and start new with the next line.
Next are the words, which are probably the most time consuming, but really easy if you have a little patience (and reading glasses if your sight isn’t that great). I used a backstitch, but with teeny tiny short stitches where the letters are curved, such as o’s and s’s. Be patient, and again, make sure not to carry your thread from word to word if you are using dark thread and light colored fabric.
Then, look at that, you’re done! Already! Or are you? I finished the embroidery, and decided I wanted a little more color, so used my fine wool thread and a straight stitch to add some color.
When you’re done, lightly press your embroidery on the back with a cool iron, and add it to a cherished gift, a pillow, quilt or bag. Whoever receives it is a lucky duck!
As a note on the threads: I’ve used four kinds here, which I chose based on color. I used pearl cotton for the letters, thick tapestry thread for the border of the mailer, a fun Genziana wool blend thread for the running stitches, and Sajou French cotton thread. I tend to not worry about spending a little more money on a specialty thread or quality fabric. When I embroider, I know I’m putting a certain amount of time into the project, so want to make sure it looks great and is going to stay that way for years to come.
Check out #PentoThread on social media for more projects, and please post your work too. I hope you loved the project as much as I did. Happy stitching!
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