Friday, November 17, 2017

Mount Hood Home

Mount Hood Home

Our condominium social committee recently hosted an art show for the residents.  It was a fun event for everyone and a non-threatening way for residents to show their work as artists and crafters.  I was amazed at the number of ultra talented people in our building.  As I set up my own display of thread sketches, I did not know if I should be inspired or give up and go home!   

I stayed, of course, and the feedback was very generous.  I was flattered and, as always with a commission, a little intimidated when a neighbor asked if I would stitch one of her own photos.  At completion of her thread sketch, she agreed to allow creation process pictures to be posted here.   Each step is described with a few words.  Please feel free to post or email questions about the process or products used to create this thread sketch.

The home and a few background items were traced onto water soluble stabilizer.  I created more detail on the stabilizer than usual to maintain perspective as I stitched.  Two layers of stabilizer were used on the backside:  one layer of adhesive stabilizer and one layer of tear-away.  In a less detailed thread sketch, the tear-away is not required at this stage.

Here, the basic stitches are in place and the soluble stabilizer rinsed away.

Back side after the initial stitch lines were completed.  The adhesive stabilizer is intact, but the tear-away was removed.  It tends to wrinkle when wet.  Another layer of tear-away was added before continuing to stitch.  

I always start with mid-range color. Fabric and thread seem to absorb light and can seem flat.  I like to use many colors of quality machine embroidery threads to add depth and sheen to the sketch.
Acrylic paint with a little sparkle added to the sky.  

There is a lot of detail in the structure of this house.  Stitching too much detail can pucker the fabric and look messy.  The stitches cannot be removed, so it is best to plan ahead on how much detail to include.
Snow scenes can be tough, but the original photo had beautiful color.  Acrylic paint was used to duplicate the colors.  In the final thread sketch, additional lavender and salmon colored threads were used to add detail to the snow areas. 
The back side of the final thread sketch. 
When the thread sketch was completed, card-stock paper was stitched to the back using a decorative zig-zag stitch around the edge.  The paper protects the bobbin threads and the zig-zag stitch keeps the canvas fabric from fraying.  I typically use scrapbook paper because it comes in large sizes, it is acid-free, and while heavy enough to give extra body to the thread sketch, it is lightweight for my sewing machine needle to penetrate.    
Not sure you can see from my photo that a few metallic and glittering threads were used to highlight glowing windows and sparkling snow.  

I was honored that my neighbor asked me to create this thread sketch for her.  I enjoyed the project.  It provided challenging subject matter different from what I may have tried on my own.  Thank you, Fran!  

Up Next, I hope to post short video of the free-motion thread sketch process.  Please visit again soon!

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Bridge For All Seasons

The Tillikum Crossing Bridge featured in my last post was the start of a thread sketch bridge binge.  These 8"x10" thread sketches are derivatives inspired by the photographs of others.  Because they were stitched in a time of healing, I made no pictures or notes documenting their creation.  I hope you will enjoy this simple tour of some of Portland's bridges decorated by the seasons.    

Fremont Bridge - Autumn Leaves

St. John's Bridge - A Winter Fog
Broadway Bridge - Spring Cherry Blossoms
Fremont bridge in background

Burnside Bridge - A Summer Sail

An additional thread sketch based on a vintage postcard of the Steel Bridge is posted on my Urban Stitcher Facebook page.  

Thank you for visiting.  I hope you return soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tilikum Crossing in Thread

The Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, opened for general use on September 12, 2015.  It is open to MAX, Portland Streetcar, TriMet buses, pedestrians and bicycles.  Public vehicle traffic is not allowed.  It is a sparkling beauty during the day, and breathtaking at night with a mesmerizing light show.  One of the best ways to view the bridge is on the Portland Aerial Tram.  This TriMet web page has great video of the lights and interesting facts about the science behind how the lights work.  

I was so intrigued with the lines of the bridge, that I completed two thread sketches from the same photo posted on Wikimedia Commons by Steve Morgon, 2016.  Some of you have already seen the second thread sketch posted on my Facebook banner.  Each thread sketch was created in a slightly different manner.  A few pictures and captions prove there are many ways to achieve similar end results.  

First thread sketch completed, approximately 6"x9"

Tilikum Bridge Thread Sketch #1

I used light pencil marks to define the background buildings and bridge structure.  Careful to leave bare where the bridge would be, the background colors were added using acrylic paints.    

After the background paint was dry, I layered water soluble stabilizer with the bridge lines marked in permanent ink. The lines were stitched and stabilizer removed.  Some of the acrylic paint washed away while rinsing away the stabilizer.

I added blue thread stitches to the sky to create a little more interest.  Even though some of the background colors are muted, the result is satisfactory.  

Tilikum Bridge #2

I followed my usual method to trace the main lines of the background structures and the bridge on water soluble stabilizer.  These basic lines were stitched entirely in black.  After rinsing away the stabilizer, blue sky and water were painted with acrylic paint.

Instead of acrylic paints, I used watercolor pencils to see if I could obtain more detail in the background structures.  I had never used watercolor pencils prior to this and was unsure how they would work on the canvas.  It is not clear to me that the detail is any finer than the original sketch using acrylics.  Perhaps a little more practice is required!   

The bridge, water and riverside landscapes were stitched.  Bare canvas showing through the blue sky paint created enough interest that I felt stitches were not necessary.  This second thread sketch is currently showing on my Urban Stitcher Facebook banner.  

Up Next

Thank you for visiting.  I am working on more Portland bridges using a couple new techniques and products.  I hope you will stop by again.    

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Iris and Tea

Our beautiful weather has made it hard to find motivation to return to the sewing machine.  When that happens, I usually find inspiration with bags or dolls.  Although I have a stash of fabrics perfect for bags, my heart wasn't in it.  I found new inspiration with two new dolls made from the old Nola Hart doll pattern that I have used for years.  Iris, the first doll, is entirely based on the Nola Hart pattern, but received a new look at the end.  Tea, the second doll, is my design based loosely on the Nola pattern.  She is jointed and her wardrobe is made of non-traditional materials.  Here are pictures and a few words describing the evolution of these dolls.  


The first doll, Iris, is noteworthy because she had a makeover after I thought she was complete.  

These before and after pictures show the makeover.  the facial features on the left were created using free motion stitching on my sewing machine.  Her face is too dark and the features a bit too large. 

 Her boots are painted and have thread laces.  The gold net fingerless gloves were later replaced.

The Nola pattern makes a doll with head and body in one piece.  There are probably many ways to replace the face, but I chose to remove only the facial features and hair.  This left a stable neck to support a new head. Some of the stuffing was removed so the new head would rest in place. The new head was sewn to the body taking care to place my sewing stitches where they would be covered by hair.  The face was painted with a slightly lighter color of purple than was used for the body. The new head gives the doll a bit of a chin.   Her new hairdo is made with eyelash yarn crocheted together with red and purple embroidery thread.  

After painting new facial features, her new look was nearly complete.  The original gold net fingerless gloves were replaced with black fabric screening material.  I love this stuff!  It is inexpensive, versatile and easy to sew.  I use it for many sewing projects, including interior pockets for bags.

Iris is a younger version of her earlier self!


By the time I completed Iris, ideas for a new doll were keeping me awake at night.  The Nola dolls are jointed at the shoulder and hip. Tea would be jointed at knees and elbows as well.  

Pattern created for jointed doll

Pearls from an old costume jewelry necklace were used at the joints.  Carpet/button thread was used to string all the parts together.  It is a tedious process.  An extra long needle helps, but because the holes in the pearls would not accommodate the threaded needle, the needle was removed each time the button thread was passed through the pearl.  Once through the pearl, the needle was threaded again before passing it through the doll's body part.  The thread was passed twice through the pearl at each joint.  You can expect sore fingers after this step.

The body parts are more easily painted before sewing the doll together, but the painted fabric is hard to push a needle through, so I chose to paint after she was sewn together.  I wanted Tea to look more vintage, so I used a darker paint at the joints and seams.  A lighter paint was used elsewhere.  

Perhaps by now, you have guessed why I call her Tea.  I used an old box of teabags to stain cheesecloth for the skirt.  After the staining process, I had a bunch of used tea bags that seemed a waste to throw away.  Without knowing how I would use them, I hung the tea bags to dry so they would not mold.  After they dried, I cut the the end off and brushed away the used tea, leaving only bag and string.  The small bit from the end was saved and later used for her shoes.  The crimped edges of the bag add a decorative touch, almost like a ruffle.  The strings actually gave me the idea of using them for a corset.  I played with many different folds and fittings, and finally decided that folding in half lengthwise would best suit my purpose.  

 It happened that the size was right to fit one tea bag on each side.  They were tied in the middle at the back and the string wrapped around to the front and tied again.  Once I had in mind how I would make the clothes, they had to be added in a certain order.

I first secured the stained skirt to the doll.  Small cotton crochet trim covered the top of the skirt.  Starting at the waist, the tea bags were added, one on top of the previous.  Once, all were tied in place, I used a mixture of glue and water to stiffen the bodice.  I curled the edges of the bags to give them a ruffled look.  

Flowers at the top front and back of the bodice were made by singeing the edges of small squares of ribbon, then layered and sewn together.  Remaining tea bags were used for shoes. 

Hair was created by crocheting pink and white eyelash yarn together in a circle large enough to cover the back of her head. 

A second piece of trim was crocheted and sewn to the bottom of her skirt.  Lastly, the skirt was stiffened with a mixture of glue and water.  It was a bit tricky to shape the fragile cheesecloth and add glue without allowing the glue to touch her legs and arms.  A lightweight plastic bag and a blow dryer were useful tools.

I hope you enjoyed reading about how these dolls were created.  Please visit again soon to read about my next project.

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!