Sunday, June 18, 2017

Gone Fishing

In honor of Father's Day, I thread-sketched fish to make greeting cards for all the Father's in our family.  King Sailfish Mounts allows use of their images of mounted fish.  There are so many beautiful images, I spent a lot of time perusing their site trying to decide which fish to use.  I stayed true to my normal materials and process, adding color to the fabric before stitching, then using machine free-motion to stitch the images.  The cards are posted here with very little explanation.  I hope you enjoy.
Peacock Bass
Anyone familiar with free-motion quilting will recognize the pebble stitch used here to give the illusion of scales.  Several layers of very small pebble stitches and running stitches allow colors to blend.  Stabilizer is key with so many stitches.

King Salmon
The hardest part to stitch on the King Salmon was the small black spots.  Each spot was stitched separately and the thread was cut between each spot.  It is important to ensure the threads are secure so they do not pull loose.

Mutton Snapper
Many, many tiny shell and pebble stitches.   

I selected this bluegill because it reminds me of the little bluegill and perch we caught as kids fishing with Mom and Dad in Arizona.  F
ree-motion shell stitches create the illusion of scales.
Striped Bass
This is the only fish not found on King Sailfish Mounts.  It was inspired by the artwork of Duane Raver Jr.  

Beautiful Portland summer months lure me away from my sewing machine.  Armed with my trusty iPhone camera, I plan to take advantage of the dry weather to capture stitchable pictures of our neighborhood.  I may sneak a project in here and there, so check back occasionally for updates.  Pictures of most all my projects are posted on my Urban Stitcher Facebook page.  Thank you for visiting.  Please come back!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thread-Sketched Wristlets: Orange You Special and Out of the Blue

As much as I enjoy thread-sketched pictures and cards, embroidered bags and clothing do not appeal to me.  A recent shopping trip to NW 23rd proved that, regardless of my feelings, embroidered clothing and accessories are very popular.  There were many cute and unique bags of all sizes and shapes, I was inspired to make a couple of small bags decorated with thread sketches.  I will share in this post how I modified a favorite pattern to make two new wristlets, "Orange You Special" and "Out of the Blue."

I have used the Sew4Home wristlet pattern many times.  Because of the number of pattern pieces, the Sew4Home wristlet can be intimidating.  However, the instructions are well-written, has many pictures, and it is free.  It is good to remember, that patterns are simply suggestions.  A starting place for the imagination.  

Out of the Blue bag is made with fewer pieces and is slightly larger than the Sew4Home wristlet.   The orange bag is not only larger, but construction is very different than the Sew4Home.  It is construction of the orange bag that I will explain here.  I have tried to keep my explanations brief.  When my pictures and explanation are not clear, try looking at the Sew4Home wristlet pattern, or, you can always send me email with questions, suggestions and comments.  

Size and Design

I wanted the finished bag to be approximately 6 inches tall and 8 inches wide.  After putting the blue lady on the zippered side of the first bag, I decided to try putting orange girl on the back (the side without the zipper).  After finishing both bags, I really have no preference on which side the thread sketch appears.  Size of the thread sketch must be a consideration if it is placed below the zipper.

Thread sketch on zippered side

Un-zippered side of Out of the Blue

For both bags, 10 oz. painter's canvas was used for the thread sketch and denim for the remainder of the outer bag.  A light cotton fabric was used for lining.

Here are the dimension of the pieces of fabric used for Orange You Special:

Thread sketch canvas: 5"x 9" (Cut larger than needed and trim to size after completing the sketch.)
Top front fabric: 3"x 9"
Bottom front fabric: 6" x 9"
lining fabric: 9"x 12-1/2"
Strap: 2"x 14"
Loop: 2"x 4"

All pieces were backed with lightweight fusible interface.

Thread Sketch Design

The inspiration for thread sketching these ladies came from my sister.  She suggested I sew one of my Nola Hart dolls onto a larger bag.  I may try that another time, but it gave me the idea to thread sketch a design with similar outrageous features.  Paint, buttons, rules!

Simple drawing for tracing onto water soluble stabilizer.

Fabric dampened and scrunched to create wrinkles.  Dry brush with a bit of paint to highlight the wrinkles.  Ironed flat.

The top is my original pencil sketch.  The middle is a photocopy that will be cut up for applique patterns.  Bottom is the traced water soluble stabilizer.

I applied fusible web to the back of  applique fabrics and traced around the patterns.

Here are the pattern pieces and the fabric with fusible web on back.

I positioned the stabilizer with picture on top of the canvas and pinned across the top so I could fold the stabilizer back. I peeled the paper backing from the fusible web on the applique pieces and used tweezers to position the pants and shirt pieces to match with the stabilizer drawing.  

When the applique pieces matched the drawing, I ironed them in place.

Thread sketched as usual, making sure to catch all raw edges of the appliqued pieces.  Once completed, cut the thread sketched canvas to size, 5"x 9" in this case. 

 Bag Construction

With the thread sketched canvas face up on the work space, place the 6"x 9" bottom front fabric face down on top of the canvas fabric.  With right sides together and bottom edge even, stitch along the bottom edge.  I used 3/8" seam.  Press the seam allowance away from canvas.

Similarly, place the 3"x 9" top front fabric face down on the canvas.  With right sides together and top edge even, stitch along the top edge with 3/8" seam.  Again, press seam allowance away from canvas.  I used a decorative stitch and embroidery thread to top stitch along both seams.  This not only adds a finished look, it anchors the seam allowance in place.
You can see that the outside fabric is the same size as the lining fabric.  If they are not the same size, you can trim the larger of the two so they match exactly.

Now...deep breath....the zipper.  I did not take pictures of the zipper steps.  Although not complicated, it is hard to explain without a picture.  The picture below is a re-creation using scrap fabric and bright zipper to make it easier to understand. When making my own patterns, I pin or baste, and audition each step to ensure the expected result.  

Place the outside fabric face up on the work table.  Place the zipper face down on the right side of the outside fabric.  Place the lining fabric face down on top.  The zipper will be between the two fabric pieces with the long edge of the zipper aligned with the top of the two fabric pieces.  I used a 10" zipper so had plenty of room to position.  I like to position the pull tab 3/8" from the edge  to allow for seam allowance.  That leaves about an inch at the zipper bottom that extends beyond the seam allowance.  We will deal with that later.  

Using a zipper foot, stitch through all layers 1/4" along top edge, moving the zipper tab as necessary to stitch evenly.

Lining fabric folded back to reveal outside fabric on bottom (right side up), zipper pull tab facing down and lining (right side down) on top.
 After sewing the top edge, flip the fabrics down to reveal the zipper.

  One side of zipper installed!  Yay!  
For the second side of the zipper, fold the bottom of the outside fabric to the top matching the edge of the fabric to the top edge of the zipper.  Flip it over and fold the bottom edge of the lining fabric to align with the top edge of the zipper and outside fabric.  

It looks a little odd, but it works.  This picture shows that when the fabrics are folded up properly, the wrong sides of the fabric are showing on the outside.  

When the fabric edges are aligned with the remaining edge of the zipper, use a zipper foot and stitch through all layers 1/4" along top edge.  You can easily reach between the layers to move the zipper pull making it easier to sew along the edge.

The zipper is completely installed.  Reach between the layers to unzip the zipper.  Turn right side out.      

I like to carefully press the seam allowance away from the zipper and top stitch the fabric along both sides of the zipper.  A hot iron will melt plastic zipper teeth, so take care to not touch the iron to the zipper.

Before sewing the sides of the bag, you need to decide how the strap will be attached. The Sew4Home wristlet uses a D-ring  and loop on the bag, but that is more hardware than I care to use.  I prefer to use just a loop or I sometimes sew the ends of the strap directly to the bag.  Play around with it to find a look you like.   

Here is a small wristlet with the strap sewn directly to the bag.  The ends of the strap are placed side by side rather than stacking them, reducing bulk and making it easier to sew together.
Strap and loop (if using) are created similarly. Fold the pieces lengthwise so edges match and press with an iron.  Open up the fabric and fold the edges to the center crease and refold down the center, pressing as you go.  You end up with something like bias tape.  Stitch the long edge together and you are ready to attach the loop or strap to the bag.  

Turn the bag inside out with lining facing out.  It is important to remember to open the zipper about half-way before stitching the sides.  You will need access to the pull tab so you can unzip the zipper to turn right side out.  

Place the loop on the side of the bag where the tab would be when closed. Center between the zipper and the top of the bag.  The ends of the loop should be sticking out to the side and the folded part of the loop toward center of bag.  Make sure there is about 1/2" loop inside the seam allowance.  If the raw edges of the loop are too long, you can cut them after you sew the seam.  Pin in place.  If you are stitching the strap directly to the bag, use the same method as loop.  Raw ends of strap should be even with raw sides of bag and the folded end of the strap toward opposite end of bag.

Make sure all the edges are even.  Seams matching, stitch 3/8" from the edge on both sides.   If you have extra length at the bottom of the zipper, reinforce with a few more lines of stitching in the seam allowance and cut the excess zipper even with the seam allowance.  After closing the sides with straight stitch, you can zig-zag the seam allowance to keep it tidy inside your bag.  I use a serger to finish the edges, but a sewing machine works well. 

Unzip the zipper and turn the bag inside out.  Slip the swivel hook onto the strap and sew the ends of the strap together.  Turn the strap so the seam allowance is inside and move the swivel hook over the seam.  Stitch the strap together close to the swivel hook.  A zipper foot helps.  


I hope you can see the possibilities and try making one on your own.  Please come visit again!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Auditioning with a Portland Street Musician

The extraordinarily cold and wet Portland winter has made me reluctant to go out exploring for interesting street scenes to thread sketch.  Without pictures of my own, I turn to Wikimedia Commons for photographs that people have taken and posted for others to enjoy and use.  There are many beautiful photographs on Wikimedia Commons.  It is a great place to find inspiration.

I recently came across a picture posted in 2014 by photographer Henricus Hirschdorfer, entitled Musician in the Pearl District Portland Oregon.  I loved the picture and decided to try stitching it.   I started the sketch a few months ago and worked on it intermittently.  I followed my usual steps of cropping, printing, and transferring the image to stabilizer.  

My 8x10 version needs more detail.
By HenricusHirschdörfer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Once the objects in the original photo were stitched, it reminded me of a page from a coloring book.  I set it aside to work on other projects.  Picking it up again last week, I decided it needed more background detail.


Working with a photocopy of the thread sketch makes it easy to audition elements before stitching.  This is especially helpful when adding objects that require proper scale and perspective.   

Objects can be drawn, erased and redrawn as many times as you like without marking the fabric or picking out stitches.  The objects can also be drawn on separate paper and cut out for audition.  

The table and chairs are drawn onto the photocopy.  The seated person was drawn on separate paper and added.  A dab of glue stick keeps her in the chair while tracing to stabilizer.

Once satisfied, the objects are transferred to the water soluble stabilizer.  Using several small pieces of stabilizer allows for adjustments in position without impacting other objects.  It is also a great way to use scraps of stabilizer left over from other projects.  

The permanent ink on the stabilizer can make it difficult to see your stitches, especially on small objects.  Follow the lines on the stabilizer with a single line of free-motion stitches and rinse the stabilizer away before adding color thread.

A little acrylic paint added for background shadows completes the picture.

  If you are familiar with Portland, you may recognize the Biketown bike and one of Portland's "eye"conic bike racks in the upper left.  

Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Basket Weaving

Basket weaving is one of the oldest known art forms.  Nearly every native people, dating back thousands of years, used a variety of organic materials to weave baskets, mats, even rafts.  

I had a chance to make a basket a few years ago when a friend of our daughter visited while we were visiting.  She brought all the supplies and patiently instructed while everyone participated.  It was great fun, but not an art form I could easily do living in a condominium.

The idea to thread-sketch woven baskets was sparked while working on the stitched interpretations of the F. Abel paintings.  The basket weave seemed perfect for thread sketching.  Shapes and designs would be limited only by the imagination, and as complex or simple as you like.  I completed four sketches.  Three of the sketches will be framed or used as cards.  One of the baskets turned into a learning experience.  Because I am unfamiliar with "basket weaver" terminology, I have included many pictures to help explain what worked for me and what did not. 

Flaw to Feature


Because the free-motion stitches are almost impossible to remove, mistakes need to be worked into the final design.  This first basket looks quite different than I originally intended.

The initial pencil sketch featured simple patterns around the body and the neck.  

It is important that the horizontal "reeds"  of the basket be drawn evenly across the basket.  This picture shows the lines in the neck of the basket were not evenly spaced creating an unintentional feature.

I first set my machine to a zig-zag stitch and used free motion to create the decorative features of the basket.  Because my reed lines were uneven, it was easier to use straight stitch setting and move the fabric back and forth to create the woven look.

Design elements were added and changed as I went.  The uneven lines in the basket neck became a featured flaw.

Loose zig-zag stitches were added to the neck.  I was satisfied enough with this first attempt to try a few more baskets.

Lessons Learned

Normally, tracing the design to the stabilizer is a quick step, transferring only a few lines as a guide.  Taking care to create even lines across the basket made it more time consuming.  My confidence was high, so I tried a bit more difficult decorative pattern.  You may recognize the insect wings as my logo.  

I started with black twill fabric as the canvas.  I thought I could stitch the reeds and the black fabric would create shadows and definition.  I set my machine to zig-zag stitch and used free motion to stitch the rows.  It did not work for me.  I lost the curve of the basket and it looks messy.  At this point, I still had hope of saving it.  However, because the decorative pattern was no longer visible under the zig-zag stitches, I had to re-draw the pattern onto a second piece of stabilizer.  egads!

A bit of frustration and a mile of thread later, I decided it was a lost cause.  Perhaps more practice using the machine zig-zag stitch in free-motion. 

Back to Basics

Not as confident after the last basket, I found a photo I could follow rather than making my own design.  I traced the shapes and reed lines onto the stabilizer.  I used free-motion with a straight stitch to create the reeds.  The white spokes, or perhaps they are called lashing, were stitched next.  They are long back-and-forth free motion stitches.  The final black stitching added definition and dimension to each row of the basket.  

Basket Composition

I do not have a trained eye for composition, so started with a pencil sketch and a very large eraser.  Looking closely, you can see remnants of a lid leaning against the basket on the right.  The lid created a busy feel with too many lines.  The eraser took care of the lid and the gourd ladle was added in its place.  

The pencil sketch and first layer of water soluble stabilizer with basic shapes and reed lines.

Before applying the layers of stabilizer, I treated the fabric by dampening it with a bit of water and scrunching to create wrinkles.  I gently straightened the fabric and while still damp, used acrylic paints and a dry-brush technique to highlight the wrinkles.  I ironed the fabric removing as many wrinkles as possible.  Once dry, I used an adhesive tear-away and a second layer of tear-away stabilizer on the back.  Make sure your fabric is completely dry before layering the water-soluble stabilizer on top!  The traced picture will dissolve with any moisture!

It is hard to see, but the basic shapes are stitched.
Easier to see on the back side

The reed lines were filled using free-motion and straight stitch setting.  

To create the decorative designs, I photocopied the original sketch and played with patterns on the copy until I found a combination that appealed to me.  Using the copy allowed me to audition and erase without erasing my original lines.  

Just the decorative elements on the stabilizer.  Precision is key.  If your stabilizer stretches or your stitches have puckered the canvas, the second layer of stabilizer will not align with what you have already stitched.  

A few shadows were added to the baskets before proceeding to the decorative stitches. Now, it is time to layer the second piece of water soluble stabilizer over the stitched basket shapes.  Using tape rather than pins to hold stabilizer in place made it easier to match all the lines. 

The stitch patterns can be seen in these close-up photos.  All stitches were free-motion on straight stitch setting. The black pattern lines on the small basket, and the rust colored pattern on the medium basket were created like satin stitches, moving the fabric back and forth multiple times with the needle inserting directly on the horizontal lines of the basket.  It takes a little practice, but does not need to be perfect to produce satisfying results.

I found that the free-motion satin-stitch type sewing requires same or similar color thread in the bobbin.  Pulling the thread across the fabric exposes some of the bobbin thread.  I like that look for some projects, but it was not something I wanted for this picture.

Re-stitching the horizontal lines with a dark color created contrast and draws the eye away from any errant needle entry points.  

The basket thread sketches are time-consuming and a little tedious.  It feels somewhat therapeutic, like,,,, well,,,,, like basket weaving!  I think there is a more fun, and therapy, to be had with thread sketching baskets.  Watch my Urban Stitcher Facebook page for more thread-sketched baskets.  

Thank you for visiting!