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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Columbia Gorge Hotel

During our last visit to Columbia Gorge Hotel, I took snapshots that I thought would be fun to thread sketch.  I can't believe that was four years ago and I am just now returning to those photos.  This is the first of two or three of the pictures I plan to use for  8" x 10" thread sketches.

I am still playing with watercolors, so I made my initial sketch on watercolor paper and finished it by experimenting with a watercolor splatter technique.  It was an extra step, unnecessary to complete the thread sketch, but provided a lot of entertainment! 

After taking the watercolor as far as I wanted, I followed my normal process tracing the basic lines onto clear water soluble stabilizer.  The clear stabilizer with the drawing was taped to white canvas that had been prepared with an adhesive stabilizer and a tear-away stabilizer. 

Once all the lines were stitched with black embroidery thread, I removed the water soluble stabilizer by cutting away the larger pieces and rinsing in warm water to remove the smaller bits.  I dried it flat and pressed it preserving the tear-away stabilizer on the back.  Additional stabilizer can always be added if it is damaged or too wrinkled. 

I used acrylic paint thinned with a bit of water to color some of the areas. 

The rooftops and shaded areas have more stitches than other areas increasing the risk of stretching and puckering.  For that reason, I started stitching the rooftops and shaded areas near the center of the canvas and worked outward...just as you would with a quilt.  Rather than stitching straight lines to fill in the color, I applied the thread as you would paint with a brush, that is, with swirling lines and shapes to help distinguish the different areas of the building, greenery and sky.   It takes miles of thread, but it is very therapeutic.  No rules! 

I used multiple colors in each area for depth and interest. 

After all the color is added, I finish by outlining some of the elements with black embroidery thread.  Windows, doors, detailed roof tiles, etc.  It is personal preference.  Perhaps it is the same instinct that makes me want to use ink and watercolor.
I just like the look.   

All done!  
I had fun.  I hope you enjoyed following along.  Please visit again.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sewing a Martingale Dog Collar

Panzer is a beauty.  
As a rescue greyhound, he is spending retirement in a loving home.

We recently visited family in Kentucky.  One of our Kentucky families has a rescue greyhound, Panzer.  They asked if I would make him a new martingale collar.  Having never been around greyhounds, I was unfamiliar with martingale collars.  They provided an old collar to use for sizing and hardware.  I was excited to give it a try. 

Because there are patterns and tutorials available online, I did not need to struggle with reverse engineering the old collar.  Even with a good tutorial, several failed attempts resulted in a few changes to accommodate the products I could find. 

This blog is not a step-by-step on how to make the collar.  My intent is to explain my selection of products, as well as how and why I made minor changes to the pattern.  There are a lot of words, so you may prefer to follow along with the photo captions until you find something of interest.  


The old collar was made of nylon webbing, with a soft lining inside and decorative jacquard ribbon outside.  It was two inches wide with sturdy hardware.  I did a little research to understand what makes a good martingale collar.  It seems the best rated collars have three primary attributes:
  • Sturdy webbing or fabric that dries quickly with no irritation to the dog's skin
  • Strong hardware that will not rust or pull apart
  • Attractive
The pattern I used is free online at Country Brook Design.  It is step-by-step, with pictures and good explanation.  Although they have a chart for sizing the collar, I used dimensions from the old collar.  As in anything, there are many ways to accomplish the same task.  The changes I made helped eliminate bulk and provided a more polished finish with my products.  

Beautiful solid brass D-ring and triglide sliders.  The tutorial calls for one triglide and two rectangles.  I used all triglide slides because that is what the old collar had.
I am sure both work equally well.
This hardware is shown on the black cotton twill fabric used for the final collars.

The lightweight fleece will be more breathable and dry more quickly than regular stabilizer.

I will say up front that Country Brook Design has webbing and hardware.  Strapworks in Eugene, is my go-to for good hardware, so that's where I purchased mine. 

The two-inch durable and decorative ribbon was more difficult.  I could not find it locally and turned to Etsy.  Since I could not examine the ribbon closely, I decided to stick with a two-inch woven jacquard ribbon as used in the old collar.  I found a limited variety on Etsy and purchased one yard each of two different styles.  I also purchased a small amount of soft flannel to use as liner.     

Trial and Error

Too bulky and stiff with untidy stitches.
The black hardware is attractive and strong, but it is plated.  I did not want to risk chipping, especially at the D-ring where a leash or tags might hook.

When the supplies arrived, I sewed a test strip layering the flannel, webbing and ribbon.  It was too thick and bulky. The webbing was very smooth, so I eliminated the flannel.  I felt confident enough to proceed with one of the jacquard ribbons.  That was a mistake.  Even after eliminating the flannel, the webbing and ribbon were difficult to sew and still too heavy and stiff.  I can re-use the hardware, but the ribbon and webbing are ruined.

On the third trial collar, I used cotton fabric (from my stash) with a good lightweight fleece stabilizer.  It went well enough that I completed it with hardware.  

Reasonably successful prototype using cotton fabrics and solid brass hardware.

It comes together

Finally, I used a black twill fabric with a two-inch strip of lightweight fusible fleece.  The lightweight fleece should be more breathable and dry more quickly than regular stabilizer.  

The stabilizer and straps are sewn differently than in the tutorial.  This method will reduce bulk resulting in sturdy flat strap ends.  No raw edges to deal with in tight spots.  Read on for more explanation.....

I cut one 20"x 5" twill rectangle for the large loop.  One 12"x 5" twill rectangle for the for small loop.  These dimensions accommodate 1/2" seam allowance on the long edge and 3/8" seam allowance on the ends.  You can use whatever seam allowance you want.  Simply adjust your fabric rectangles accordingly.  The lightweight fleece rectangles measure 20"x 2" and 12"x 2".  Fuse the fleece down the center of the fabric.
Fold the strips lengthwise.  With edges even, stitch the long edge leaving about 3 inches open in the center on the long tube and about 2 inches on the short tube.  The ends are still open.

Press flat with seam down the center.  Sew the ends and clip corners.
You will see later that it creates a neat and tidy end that is easier to work with than folding under raw edges.
The strips turned right side out using a handy tube turner.

For demonstration, this picture shows the interior lightweight fleece.  
 Once the fabric straps were turned right side out, I pressed again making sure the fabric at the opening meets in the middle.  You should not be able to see the stabilizer inside.  I stitched about 1/4 inch on both sides of the center seam.  This seam will be covered by ribbon, so it was not necessary.  However, the extra lines of stitching will add a little strength, ensure the lightweight fleece will not shift, and keep the width of the strap consistent when you are attaching the ribbon.  

The the lines of stitching along center seam are visible from the back, but not offensive.  Turn the ends of the ribbon under, and sew the ribbon to the twill by stitching close to the edge all the way around. 

Front side of long strap.  Back side of short strap.  Tidy ends - no bulk.

Now it is time to look back at the Country Brook Design tutorial.  The hardest part is stitching the small loop together.  You need to sew secure seams inside the small loop.   

A general sewing foot will grip and move the heavy fabric better, but makes it difficult to sew against the hardware.
A zipper foot makes sewing against the hardware a little easier.  You can sew a box and "x" pattern, as I did here, or several lines of straight stitches.  I carefully sew over the lines of stitching several times to ensure it will not come loose.
Follow the Country Brook Design tutorial to thread the tricky adjustment triglide slide.  The tutorial uses rectangle slides on the side of the small loop.  I used triglide slides because the original collar used triglides. I am sure they both work equally well.  

That's it!  A lovely martingale collar.  

Look at those sleek, flat seams!  

I enjoyed making these collars.  It was an interesting exercise.  This blue and black collar may become available in my Urban Stitcher Etsy Shop.  For two reasons, it is probably the only one I will make to sell:
  • After purchasing nice jacquard ribbon and solid brass hardware, my costs were very near $20.  There are many competitively priced martingale collars on Etsy.  Perhaps they buy in bulk, or have a local source of ribbon and hardware eliminating shipping costs.  Scrimping on less expensive hardware would risk chipped finish, rust, or worst case, a lost dog because the hardware failed.  
  • The second reason is sizing.  Collars made custom to fit your dog would be ideal.  Accepting orders for custom collars, even with a reasonable turn-around is not something I would be comfortable doing.   You never know!....I might be in the middle of a clay doll project!  

That's it!  My experience and minor contribution to making a martingale collar! 

Thank you for visiting.  Please come back again.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Brief Hiatus

I am taking a short break to explore creative avenues!😉 
 Please come back soon to see what I have been up to.  
In the meantime, follow 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Double the Fun Bunnies

Years ago, I made a cute little Easter centerpiece using a small red clay pot, a little felt, and a few fluffy pom-poms purchased at the craft store. I know you have seen them....the felt and pom-poms are glued to the side of the clay pot to make it look like the bunny is head first into whatever you are displaying....candy or flowers. 

I recently came across a picture of one posted online, and it inspired me to make Easter cards with bunnies in pots.  I had no other projects in the works, and thought it might be a good time to experiment.   I added mylar, fluffy yarn, chalk, and a water color pad to my normal routine.  

I had not originally intended to blog about the Funny Bunny Easter cards, so there are only a few in-progress pictures.  Hopefully, it will be a light on words and heavy on inspiration!  

Mylar and Chalk Accents

I have been playing around stitching mylar. It is a common practice when using a machine embroidery module.  Until recently, I had never tried it with free-motion.  My favorite mylar is a transparent opalescent.  I could not find it locally, so purchased a single sheet from Etsy shop StitchednFaith.  It seemed expensive, but it turned out to be well worth the price.  I have made several cards and still have quite a bit left, so you will be seeing it in future posts.  

For the thread-sketched Easter cards, I used a combination of gold and the opalescent.  The gold is opaque and requires a little more handling, as demonstrated here.  

After drawing the image on my sketch pad, and transferring the image to water-soluble stabilizer, I cut a small piece of mylar to fit where the large candy Kiss would be stitched.   I added the gold mylar first.  It is opaque making it impossible to use the stitched lines as a guide.  

I will mention here that this bunny was originally drawn on my regular sketch pad.  I eventually drew it again on the water color pad for the painted bunny.  More about that later.

The candy Kiss was stitched first.  Before stitching anything else, the excess mylar was removed so it would not interfere with surrounding objects.

I carefully lifted the water soluble stabilizer, removed the excess mylar, and continued stitching the rest of the image.  
After transferring the outline to the canvas, I filled in with colorful thread.  A bit of the opalescent mylar decorates the Easter egg.  Fluffy yarn was stitched to the head and tail. After stitching was completed, a small paint brush was used to add a little pink chalk to the ears and face, and yellow chalk to tulips.  

As with all my cards, the canvas and card stock border are affixed to 4-1/2 x 6 inch folded greeting card.  The stitched card is done, but the fun is not over!

Water Color Paper

When I first started free-motion thread sketching, I used scratch printer paper to sketch, or in some cases, trace the images.  As I became more comfortable with drawing, I switched to sketch pads, now filled with hundreds of images that I will probably not use again.  I recently purchased a water color pad at our local Blick store and decided this would be a good time to give it a try.  Double the fun regardless of how well they turn out!  If it works out, more cards and fewer sketches cluttering my sewing room!

There were some gotcha's for me.  First, I use a lot of eraser on my sketches.  The erased lines and damaged paper do not affect the end product when I am transferring the image to stabilizer.  However, my sketches need a lighter hand and very little eraser to keep the water color paper in-tact for paint. 

This sketch was made on the water color pad.  Even though I tried to keep the pencil light, there were areas where I got carried away.  Because I like to draw over the pencil in ink, the dark lines do not matter as long as I do not erase. 

I currently have only water color pencils because that is what I like to use on my canvas thread sketches.  However, It was my experience that the water color pencils took a toll on the water color paper.  Perhaps, again, it was my heavy hand.  Although happy with these first efforts, I am anxious to try regular water colors.  

Since fraying is not an issue with the water color paper, a clean, simple stitch works to adhere the card to the border card stock.

Here is the same sketch stitched in thread with a little chalk accent.

For each sketch, two cards and a lot more fun!  

There are four water color cards available on my Urban Stitcher Etsy Shop!  A video featuring the cards can be viewed on my YouTube channel.  

Thank you for visiting!

Happy Easter!  

Monday, February 18, 2019


Pearl is my latest muse.  She occupied my time for four weeks.  Her journey is much different than my other paper clay dolls.  Rather than beaded joints, she has a wire armature that allows her to hold a pose.  Instead of Creative Paper Clay, I used ACTIVA La Doll Premier Natural Air Dry Stone Clay.  I will share pictures and a few words describing my experience with the wire armature, clothing, and finally, the new clay.

Pearl is 16 inches tall.  Her body, upper legs and upper arms are fabric. Her head, lower legs, feet, forearms and hands are paper clay.


The stranded electrical wire was purchased for a dragon I made in 2016, Sew Happy   I cannot remember the wire specs, but it was purchased by the foot at our local Ace Pearl Hardware.  I chose it over single wire for durability and safety.  A single wire would allow a more exact and stronger pose, but would not hold up as well with repeated flex and movement.  I also considered that should the wire break over time, although the joint would no longer hold a pose, it would continue to be flexible without a solid wire protruding through the clay or fabric.   

One drawback with using a one-piece wire armature vs. the beaded joints is that the doll is constructed all in one piece.  Each clay part had to be added sequentially and allowed to dry before going on to the next part.  This limited the amount of time I could spend on the doll at one time and added a number of days to the process.  

The initial plan was to use fabric for upper and lower legs.  But the fabric lower legs (shown left) looked a bit lumpy under the tights.  I decided to build the lower legs using clay (shown right).  I also added stretch fabric at the joints to provide shape under the tights.


I measured and drew a pattern for tights.  I copied the pattern to lightweight interfacing so it could be pinned to my stretch fabric.  It took a bit of trial and error to get the size right.

A silky scarf was used for the blouse and skirt lining.  I drew a guide for pin tucks using my favorite marker, a Pilot Clicker erasable marking pen.  It disappears with a little heat.  This picture shows the front of the blouse (on the left) and the two sleeves, one completed and one ready for pin tucks. 

The "fishtail" waistcoat is made of decorator fabric.  The lining and collar are made from a silk tie.  Although the waist coat is not removable, lining was the easiest way to add a collar and the gathered fishtail back.  

The silky skirt lining and a sparkling tulle fabric were cut in a square and sewn right sides together.  I cut a hole in the center of the square just large enough to fit over the hips.  The fabric was turned right side out and the circle finished with a zigzag stitch.  A few gathers were necessary to fit it to her waist.  Lace was layered over the top of the tulle and silky skirt.  A small piece of matching lace was used as an undergarment.  
Gathered fabric at the waist can become bulky, so care was taken to cut and fit the garments to limit gathers.

A crochet edge with glass bead accents was hand-sewn at the hem.  

Shoes were trickier than usual because they were added over the tights.  Her ankles swivel up and down, but do not hold a pose.  It was necessary to pay attention to how how the shoes would be added without limiting that movement.  The fabric of the tights was hardened with PaverPol where the shoe would fit.  Clay shoes were molded over the tights.  Tulle fabric was glued over the clay shoe.  A crochet and bead trim completed the shoes.  I like how they turned out, but it was pain-staking.  I will not do that again!
Pearl's head piece is hand crochet with glass bead accents. 

New Clay

Finally, the clay.  I really like the ACTIVA La Doll Premier Natural Air Dry Stone Clay.  It is about the same price as Creative Paper Clay.  I will continue to use La Doll for for several reasons.  I am slow to work the clay and often add water to keep it from drying.  Water is also a good way to smooth the surface.  The Creative clay can crack and shrink if you add too much water.  I did not have that problem with the La Doll clay.  In fact, I did not need to repair any cracks while making Pearl.  

I like the white color better than the gray Creative.  Less fuss with the color wash added for skin tone.  

I have read that La Doll is stronger than Creative and it may well be.  When making a bead-jointed doll, I add hands last because they are small and fragile.  Pearl's hands had to be built onto the armature early on.  They survived, including garment fittings, without issue.  She also experienced, without breaks or cracks, an active photo shoot for her video on Urban Stitcher® YouTube Channel.      

After four weeks, I have become attached to Pearl.  If I can bring myself to part with her, she will be listed on Etsy Urban Stitcher Shop.