Saturday, 24 April 2010

@ cushion - the appliqué process part I

The big project at work is going well but is taking up a lot of my time, so today is the first time in over a week that I've had a chance to do any sewing at all.  I've started the appliqué for the first of my character cushions, the @ cushion.  To recap, here's the design for it:

I'm not a big fan of Bondaweb or similar interfacings, which are often used in appliqué to stick the applied fabric to its background.  To me, this makes the fabric stiff and lifeless, and takes a lot of the softness and feel out of it.  It may prevent fraying and so make cutting out fiddly shapes easier, but as far as I'm concerned, it's not worth it.

As fiddly shapes seem to be inevitable in my work (I don't know why,they just do), I need some other method of cutting them out and controlling fraying.  I do this using a felt shape as a basis.

For this cushion, I printed the design out full size, and using 505 spray glue for fabrics, stuck it to some craft felt.  I've always had good results with 505; I've been using it for years and have never found anything I've used it with to have been marked or discoloured, but any traditionalists among you may prefer to pin your design onto the felt instead of taking the risk.  I find pinning more difficult the more complex the design and the greater the chance that the final cut out shape isn't accurate, but this is just a personal preference.

Once stuck, I then cut it out carefully:

Do not use sewing scissors for this!  Cutting paper blunts scissors, so always use craft or general purpose scissors.

Once the shape has been cut out and the paper carefully peeled off, I have my felt shape to use as basis for the appliqué:

Using 505 spray glue again, I stuck this to the back of some black satin.  Remember to attach the right side of the felt to the wrong side of the appliqué fabric:

I then trimmed the satin round the felt (rather badly, I'm afraid, but never mind), leaving a margin all round:

Taking a length of a few centimetres (two or three inches) at a time, I snipped the satin from its edge almost but not quite to the edge of the felt.  This allows me to turn the margin over the felt without it becoming too bulky.

I turned each of these sections of the satin over the felt in turn, and tacked them in place with ordinary sewing cotton.

Remember to start and finish the taking stitches on the front of the appliqué piece, as they won't be removed until the appliqué has been attached and the back will no longer be accessible.

So, here's the shape from the back, with all the snipped sections turned over and tacked down:

And the same shape from the front, and the right way round:

That's the trickiest bit done.  Next, I'll stitch it to the background, which is far easier!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

@ cushion - marking up

Firstly, an apology in advance: I'm in the middle of a major project at work, so I don't think I'm going to have much time for either sewing or blogging.  I'll do what I can with both, but you may not hear much from me for a week or two. Sorry about that.

I haven't been able to make as much progress with the cushions as I'd have liked, but I'll show you as far as I've got.  I'm doing the @ cushion - hey, geeks need soft furnishings too!  The fabric was mounted onto a floor-standing frame:

and then the design was stitched over from the back, to mark it up on the front:

Here's the design close up:

I quite like it just like that, actually!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A couple of character cushions

I thought I'd have a break from goldwork, and for no particular reason am going to make a couple of cushions.  Firstly, the materials for them:

Some of these should look pretty familiar!  I've got quite a bit of the silk matka left from the Spirograph I hanging, but not enough to make another one, so I'm going to use some of it up as the main background background fabric.  I'm also using more of the same old linen sheet to line it, plus black silk satin for the appliqué, and a plain black cotton upholstery fabric for the cushion back.  There's also craft felt to pad the appliqué, black sewing thread to stitch it down, and black stranded embroidery cotton to edge it.

I've previously posted about some calligraphy cushions that I made a while ago; these will be along the same lines, but instead of being Chinese characters, will be Western ones: hence, character cushions.

I've decided to do an @ symbol and a &.  There's not much design work required here - it was just a case of finding versions in a font I liked and blowing them up.  Nice and easy!  Here they both are:

As ever, I made transfers from them, tracing them onto tracing paper taped over the top with a transfer pencil:

The cushion pads I have are 41 x 41cm (16"x16"), so I cut out two squares of linen, slightly larger. I want the designs in the middle of each cushion, so I marked the centre of each square:

 Using this as a guide, I tacked the transfers onto them, face down:

Using a hot iron, I ironed them onto the fabric.  By tacking the transfer down rather than pinning it, you can get much better coverage as you don't have to lift the iron to avoid any pins, though in my experience some areas always transfer better than others, and there'll probably be some smudging.  It's a good job they're going on the back!

Here are both squares, with the slightly patchy back-to-front designs ironed on:

I'd also cut out squares of the matka the same size as the linen.  I stitched the matka to the top sides of the linen squares and neatened the edges using an overlocker:

I just need to mount the first one on a frame, and I'm ready to begin!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Spirograph I - goldwork finished

All the goldwork embroidery on the first of the Spirograph hangings is now finished! Here's the final spiral, completed:

I've now taken the hanging off the frame, so we can finally see the whole thing. A warning first, though: it hasn't been stretched or pressed yet, so it's not looking its best. I'll damp stretch all the hangings later, when I come to assemble them. Anyway, bearing that proviso in mind, here it is:

I'm pleased with it, overall. It'll look a lot better stretched, but even so, I think it's worked out well.

To have a change from goldwork for a bit, I'm going to make a couple of cushion covers next, just for fun!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Spirograph I - couching goldwork

As the final spiral is bigger and so it's easier to see what's going on, I thought I'd show you the whole process in more detail. To start with, here are the threads I'm using:

I use two strands of the passing thread, Japanese Gold no. 8, and by running them straight off two reels I can use as long a length as I like (well, up to the amount left on a reel!) and don't need to cut lengths. This saves on starting and finishing, and gives long unbroken lines, which I like. The 'Sulky' machine embroidery thread is used to couch down the passing thread. It's an excellent match for the colour, which is great as the couching stitches then become almost invisible, though it does mean you're going to have to peer quite hard at some of the photos to see what's going on. Sorry about that!

If you recall, the design is formed of five overlapping seven-pointed stars, and I'm working each one separately, to make life easier for myself. Here, I've already worked two of them, and stitched the third one through from the back, to mark it out:

This is what I'll be couching the passing thread over.

To start off, I leave an end of about 2.5cm (1"), and stitch the passing threads down close to where the design crosses another line:

I then stitch down the two passing threads with small stitches of the 'Sulky' couching thread, with each stitch about 0.5cm (about quarter of an inch) apart.

By stitching on either side of the tacking stitches marking out the design, I can completely hide them.

As well as the regular stitches along the length of the passing thread, I also always put a couching stitch where two lines cross:

This helps keep the crossings - and there are a lot of crossings - nice and sharp. I also need to keep the passing threads parallel and flat - at no point do I want them to twist or overlap. Mostly, this isn't a problem as the design is actually formed by long sweeping curves; the exception is the top of the loop at the end of each point. This is quite tight, so to keep the threads parallel, I couch each one down individually. I stitch down the outer one first, bringing the needle up between the two threads:

and taking the stitch to the outside of the loop:

To couch down the second thread, I bring the needle up behind it, in the inside of the loop, and stitch it down next to the first thread. By angling the needle so that it goes slightly under the first thread, the second one is pulled tightly up to it:

This means that the two threads lie next to each other nicely, with no overlapping:

With each star, I'm heading round in the same direction each time; this means that with each one, the same cross-overs happen in the same direction, making a neater finish. This is probably most obvious with the cross-over at the bottom of each loop:

Once I've gone right the way round in this fashion, I end up back where I started.

I've finished off the couching thread firmly, then cut the passing threads, again leaving ends of about 2.5cm (1").

These now need to be taken through to the back of the fabric to be finished off. To do this, I use a thick needle with a short, double length of sewing thread through the eye, forming a loop. I put the needle through the fabric where I want the passing thread to go through, and then put the end of the gold thread through the loop:

I then pull the needle through, taking the gold thread with it. It helps to leave a loop of the gold thread as you do this if you can, rather than dragging it through from the base, which is both more difficult and can strip the gold foil from the thread core. Here it's partly pulled through, with the needle pulled to the back, but the passing thread end still a loop on the surface:

Trying to describe this process is a lot harder than actually doing it - if you give it a try, you'll see what I mean. All that's left to do now is to give it a good hard tug, and the thread is pulled through the the back of the fabric, where it can be caught down and trimmed.

Here it is with all four ends pulled through and (hopefully!) it looks like any other point where two lines cross over, completely hiding the start and finish:

Here's the full thing, with the third 'star' completed. Can you spot the start/finish line?

Just two more of the 'stars' to do, then all the embroidery for the first hanging is finished!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Spirograph I - not quite according to plan

As I mentioned last time, the largest, final spiral is a little more of a problem than the others have been. As you may remember, the design is on the back, so turning the frame over, this is how it looked:

There a few things wrong with this, but the most obvious one is that you can't see all of it. I'd thought I could get all of the design visible on the frame at the same time, but unfortunately I was wrong. I've done all I can with it laced up the way it was, but in order to stitch the final one, I need to unlace the sides, take the stretchers off the side bars, move everything on, and then lace the sides up again. This is not a job I like at the best of times, and with a large frame like this, it's a real chore. Still, I've done it, so here's the full final spiral:

Much better, although this does have a knock-on effect on some of the work I've already done:

One of the earlier spirals is now partly wrapped around the stretcher bar. I need to get the final spiral finished off quickly so that it's not held like that too long. I don't think it'll stretch, but there's no need to take unnecessary chances. In case you're wondering why the back looks a little odd, I put a piece of muslin over the designs to prevent any of the transfer rubbing off onto the front fabric rolled onto it.

Back to the last spiral. If you look back at the picture above, it's quite clear that some of the transfer is very faint. The paper I used to make the transfer was two pieces of kitchen parchment stitched together up the centre, and I think that it was where they overlapped - where there was two thicknesses of paper - that the transfer hasn't come off too well. Also, despite my best efforts to keep everything in place, the transfer must have shifted slightly as I was ironing it, as it's smudged in some places and in others I have two lines where I should just have one. Not a good idea in a design like this!

After a bit of work with a pencil, though, I now have a design I can use:

Much clearer! I can now start on the goldwork.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Spirograph I - the fourth spiral

Apologies for not having posted in ages, and apologies in advance for this post being a bit short. I have been busy, but as all the spirals look identical I felt like I was running out of things to say about them, and you were probably getting fed up with me saying them!

Anyway, the fourth spiral is now complete, and here it is, next to the third one:

This one is about 20cm (8") in diameter, so they're getting bigger. Here they all are together (and to prove that I really am doing different ones!)

That's sideways on - the two smaller ones are at the bottom of what will be the hanging, and the larger ones at the top. The final one, and largest of all, will go next to them. I'm going to have more to write about that one, but unfortunately this is not altogether a good thing, at least not for me. I'll explain why next time.