TAST Week 7 – Detached Chain Stitch

I’ve really cut things fine this past week and only just managed to get my sample stitched in time!

Although I’ve always admired old traditional samplers I’ve never felt the urge to stitch one but I’m really getting a feel for the repeating patterns that are possible. There is something very satisfying in the rhythmic nature of the patterns and the negative spaces created.

I’m sure there are more variations I could have come up with, I had in mind to use detached chain as a couching stitch but ran out of space; I also deliberately stayed away from variations of chain stitch itself as I’m saving those for next week!

Our Young Embroiderers start back next week and our focus for this session is ‘weather’, we are starting with sun and looking at working sunflowers so I’ve been incorporating some of the TAST stitches into a few samples.

I’ve also managed to add some more stitching to my Zentangle inspired sampler; I’m enjoying using some of my newly found stitch combinations to fill the spaces.

I still find myself on an academic timetable so with the schools back this feels like the start of a new year ………….. so lots of stitching to plan!


TAST Week 6 – Chevron Stitch

Well chevron stitch, whilst similar, proved a much less troublesome stitch than herringbone! ūüôā

I love the shapes achievable with chevron stitch, I especially like the half chevron worked sideways both in rows and mirrored. The mirrored stitches reassemble eyes.

When I started out I chose to work quite small scale samples, two reasons for this, the 1st being that it will be easier to maintain and see the challenge through and the 2nd that I can eventually make these up into a reference book. Now I am finding the potential of some of the stitches I want to do more and more, especially when I see some of the samples from others doing the challenge.

One of my favourites to catch up with each week is Sarah from Knitting_and.com¬† Sarah’s samplers show an amazing number of stitch variations all beautifully worked, every week she has at least one variation I haven’t thought of.

There are 1,816 members of the TAST Facebook group from all around the world and there are quite a number of us that post samples each week. A number of countries know the stitches by different names and have unique ways of working them. It is also interesting to see the fabrics people choose to work on; some have constructed quilt blocks, others work on patterned fabrics and a number have dyed/painted their own fabrics. Lots of people are working pages for stitch sampler books and many are adding the stitches to larger pieces of fabric either highlighting areas of the printed cloth with each stitch or building up large samplers.

I hope Sharon is pleased with our contributions, it is quite something that she has started! I thought I had a comprehensive stitch bible until I discovered Pintangle.com! The site is an inspiring resource for beginners and experienced embroiderers and there is a good mix taking part in this challenge all encouraging and learning from each other, pop over to the TAST Facebook page and take a look.

TAST Week 5 & Scaredy Cats!

Here is my week 5 sampler for the TAST challenge – Herringbone Stitch:

The first sample on the third row (left) is threaded double herringbone stitch, this proved a real challenge! Even with the instructions in front of me I had to rip it out and do it again 4 times!! I just kept getting the the order of which threads were on top and which underneath wrong so when I came to thread with the contrasting thread they¬†wouldn’t lie correctly – I ran out of my purple thread but I was so frustrated by then I just left it.

My guidelines had disappeared before I completed the bottom line and you can really see the difference when attempting to stitch a regular pattern –¬†the regular repeating / flipped / mirrored stitches look much better when accurately¬†spaced.

The tufted stitch at the bottom is created by working 3 layers of closed herringbone stitch in 6 strands of embroidery cotton, one on top of the other. The stitches are then cut through and trimmed – this is known as Victorian Tufting.

I have also added some more stitching to my Zentangle inspired sampler.

Scaredy Cats!

Earlier in the year my daughter found this wonderful Timeless Treasures fabric called Scaredy Cats which she decided she would like made up into a blazer style jacket…………… she has a very unique fashion sense!

From a distance this just looks like a nicely patterned jacket but when up close and you see the wonderful expressions on the faces of the cats it really makes you smile.

I used a covered button and picked out my favourite face: 

I wasn’t sure about this but my daughter liked that it is one cat’s face on another when the jacket is buttoned up!!!

I think she likes it………….

TAST Week 4 – Cretan Stitch

Cretan Stitch

I wasn’t terribly inspired by this stitch¬†and¬†have been a little unimaginative in my samples. The beauty of the TAST challenge though is in encouraging creativity with unfamiliar stitches¬†that opens your eyes to their potential.¬†There are a lot more permutations to be explored but for now this¬†is what I produced.

  1. I have used straightforward cretan stitch; closed cretan stitch; a curved line of closed stitches and a leaf shape.
  2. I turned the stitches to produce a tree shape by gradually increasing the stitch width; I widened the central crossed area to couch down a piece of ribbon and overlapped rows of stitches.
  3. The square on the right contains layers of cretan stitch worked completely randomly in a variety of threads, the uppermost layer of stitches are worked into the other stitches without going through the ground fabric at all, these stitches are pulled slightly tighter than normal almost like a lacing. I like this layering of a single stitch, it creates a lot of depth and interest.

Inspired by¬†‘Zentangle’¬†

I’ve begun adding stitching to my ‘Zentangle’ inspired canvas:

Zentangle Canvas

I started with the challenge stitches but couldn’t resist adding some extra stitching –

  • Left – Feather Stitch
  • Center (top to bottom) – Cretan, Buttonhole & Fly Stitch
  • Right – Back Stitch in purple woven with yellow alternated with lines of Cable Chain Stitch

I’m really enjoying the TAST challenge; it’s nice to focus on hand stitching for a while and the range of samples produced every week are inspiring.

Colour, colour everywhere!

I think Summer is passing us by here in Edinburgh, it’s been mostly wet and cold – we even switched our heating on – IN JULY!!!!!

Frustration with the weather has spilled over to my torn strip sample, it isn’t really going anywhere! Since last time I have worked on the areas that didn’t feel right and added some more strips.

Torn strip sample

Torn strip sample

It is interesting how looking at a photograph helps me to see things I don’t notice looking directly at the sample – the yellow strip on this bottom left layer needs to be trimmed back.

Where now though? These are the ideas I’ve had going around in my head:

  • I’ve been playing around with some ideas in Photoshop using circles and squares/rectangles, the idea being that these would be¬†stitched in heavier threads using a solid line – back stitch most likely.
  • Another thought I had was to take a variegated thread and stitch loads more horizontal lines of running stitch over the whole thing.
  • Shisha mirrors! As I’ve said before¬†I love stitching Shisha mirrors, is there room for some here?
  • Maybe I should just cut the whole thing up and use strips of it elsewhere!

All that colour has me a little uncomfortable, I tried converting the image to black & white and have to say the tones looked okay. I keep thinking that I need to add something really dark, maybe the shapes?

As you can tell I’m very undecided. Do you have¬†any thoughts?

Take A Stitch Tuesday 2015, Week 3

Okay so I know it’s Monday but I’m just getting around to posting last weeks TAST stitch sample – Feather Stitch.

TAST 2015 Week 3, Feather Stitch

The unusual looking light green sample is Spanish knotted feather stitch, this is a completely new variation of the stitch to me, to the right, just above the 2 coloured sample, is a closed version of this stitch – it’s like a heavy braid and looks quite different to the open version.

I’ve been stitching these samples in a quite formal way, using an air erasable pen to draw lines to keep my stitches neat and even as this will give me a good reference to look back on. The lovely stitched samples being posted have inspired me to think of a more decorative way to display my stitches though.

As someone who is uncomfortable with drawing/sketching I have occasionally been practicing Zentangle patterns and this seemed a good way to utilise many different stitches on one piece of work. I’ve started by creating a pattern to work to –

Stitch Tangle Design

Stitch Tangle Design

The design is 60cm square so plenty of room for lots of stitches! The fabric is a lovely heavy calico donated by my sister in law, I haven’t backed it but it is almost a canvas weight so should stand up to some dense stitching.

I hope to have made a good start on this by the time this weeks sample is complete, wonder what the new stitch will be?

Take A Stitch Tuesday & Not a stitch sampler then!

Take A Stitch Tuesday

Some time ago a friend was working on a wonderful crazy quilt sample that she was doing as an online class with Sharon B;¬†this was my introduction to¬†Pintangle. Sharon’s blog is dedicated to hand embroidery and crazy quilting with lots of patterns, tutorials and templates and the very popular TAST – Take a Stitch Tuesday.

Back by popular demand, I decided to to join in with this latest TAST challenge which is to produce and share a sample using the stitch of the week with a new stitch given, as the name suggests, every Tuesday. I thought this challenge might prove a distraction from/inspiration for my torn fabric strip sample!

Week 1: Fly Stitch


Week 2: Buttonhole Stitch


I already had these strips of calico backed with wadding so thought I would work as many varieties of the¬†stitch on each one to eventually make up as a stitched sample book. Others are embellishing patterned fabrics or producing pictures and fabric books, there is such a variety and it’s lovely to see everyone’s ideas and beautiful embroidery.

I don’t think it is too late to join the challenge……………

Not a stitch sampler then!

I eventually decided to add some more torn strips to my sample, sticking with running stitch to attach them.

Torn Strip Sampler

Think I need to trim some from the 2 attached at the top that have long expanses of yellow & purple Рthey unbalance everything.

I have some thick threads that I dyed at the same time as these fabrics so I’m thinking I might couch some down, just need to think about the design. I also like the idea of adding some shisha mirrors – just because I love stitching them!

Any other ideas would be very welcome.

Work in Progress

So I’ve been dipping into my stash of procion dyed fabrics and decided to use up some of the smaller pieces that I just couldn’t bear to throw away.

I really enjoyed making torn strip¬†samples on a workshop with Ruth Issett and, as much of my stash includes fabrics dyed following this workshop, I thought I’d make a larger piece in this style.

I started by gathering together my torn strips in varying sizes and colours then tacked them randomly to a ground of calico fabric.

I then thought ‘what now’ and sat around just looking at it for a while! Do you ever have that feeling, you get so far and then lose momentum?

I thought about free machine stitching everything in place in order to catch in all those frayed edges but I quite like them, they add a soft texture. So I decided that I would make this a hand stitched piece and I would use only my own dyed threads.

My starting point has been to use a simple running stitch to secure everything in place; I chose an orange shade as this contrasts nicely with some colours and tones in with others.

Close up of stitched strips

Close up of stitched strips

What to do next is the question.

I’m thinking some kind of stitch sampler but I will need to be careful that this background doesn’t just become distracting –¬†possibly a layer of organza on top to¬†knock back some of the colours a bit?

Thinking cap on till next time!

Experiments in Rust Dyeing

For some time now I’ve been interested in having a go at rust dyeing and have been looking out for suitable rusty items.

At home we had a partially rusted spade and I was able to leave some bolts and a BBQ grate out in the elements, then our car went in for a service and I spotted this large spring that the mechanics at West End Skoda in Edinburgh were kind enough to let me have. A search through my Father in Law’s garage yielded a couple more treasures and with the purchase of some washers and garden wire I was all set to go.

I started by wetting¬†a mixture of cotton and silk¬†fabrics with a solution of water and white vinegar; some articles I’ve read suggest this should be 50/50 but I didn’t measure this accurately. Some fabrics I wrapped around the rusty items and others I simply draped onto the surface and weighted¬†them down with other rusty items. Everything was put into a polythene bag that was left open so¬†that air could circulate and it was left outside and checked daily.

After a few days I unwrapped the fabrics, rinsed them in a weak saline solution to stop the rusting process then put them through the washing machine. These are the first samples drying on the line.

The shibori type markings were achieved by¬†gathering¬†bolts up into the fabric and wrapping wire around to tie. The wire gave some very strong markings particularly on a heavyweight cotton that didn’t take up many marks but did colour nicely all over.

Beautiful results were achieved on the silk habotai that was simply draped onto the surface of the spade and weighted down – it was repositioned a couple of times during the process.The best results were using the silk, cotton poplin and calico; I was quite surprised that cotton muslin didn’t give better results. Although all the fabrics took a good all over colour some took hardly any markings.

I am very pleased with these results and will definitely dye some larger pieces  Рmy daughter has already requested a shirt! Now I just have to come up with some projects to use these samples.

Inspired by Lynda Monk

As well as¬†designing and making my entry for the Hillarys Craft Competition I have continued to work on samples using techniques in Lynda Monk’s books.

This particular technique is quite magical!

Lynda Monk Sample 1

I have used a base of pelmet/craft Vilene (S520 or S80/240), that is coloured with water based paint – Brusho Crystal Colour in this case. When dry Bondaweb is used to fuse a layer of transfer foil on top then a sheet of tissue paper is lightly adhered using PVA or acrylic medium before more PVA/acrylic medium is rubbed liberally into the surface. As it dries the colour on the Vilene migrates through to the surface.

This sample has a lovely pitted Sample 2asurface that arose by accident, I think my iron was too hot when transferring the foil so it lifted some of the Bondaweb off. A happy accident as I really like the distressed look.

Not such a happy accident Рthe highlighted area on the image shows a tear in the tissue paper Рyou have to be quite careful when rubbing the medium into the surface to avoid holes in the tissue. Depending on your project this could easily be covered up with an embellishment.

I have used my samples to make a couple of books and practice my bookbinding stitches.

The red book has four signatures and I have used basic long stitches but twisted each pair 3 times for added interest.

The yellow book has 8 signatures stitched in a zigzag line diagonally across the spine, 4 lines go one way & 4 the opposite way giving the diamond pattern down the centre of the spine.

I used 120gsm paper in this yellow book; in order to use it as a sketchbook it really needs a bit more support to give a firmer cover.

Lots more sampling to do I think!