Tips Blog

05/2017 TIP - 1949 REVISITED!

I actually published this amusing piece of history several years ago, but there are so many new people visiting (and signed up for my newsletter), that I thought they'd enjoy reading it - and those of you who've seen it before will get a kick out of reading it again, I'm sure...

So, this is actual advice from a SINGER SEWING MACHINE MANUAL, back in 1949.  Enjoy!

Prepare yourself mentally for sewing.  Think about what you are going to do...  Never approach sewing with a sigh or lackadaisically.  Good results are difficult when indifference predominates.

Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade.  When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing.  When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible.  Put on a clean dress.  Keep a little bag full fo French chalk near your sewing machine to dust your fingers at intervals. 

Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on.  If you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home, and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing.

OK, whatcha' think?  Personally, I don't wear lipstick at any time, LOL, I've never considered any 'housekeeping chores' URGENT, and I didn't know what the heck French chalk was until I googled it (it's a soft white talc used by tailors, and dry cleaners for removing grease spots), so I don't think I'll be taking this advice any time soon! 

Back at you next month... happy stitching!

04/2017 TIP - 3/4 vs 1/4 (2)

S0 a QUARTER STITCH is literally 1/4 of a full stitch - just one of the 4 arms of an X, worked from the corner indicated by the symbol on your pattern, into the centre of the stitch.  Unfortunately, this does not always provide the best coverage.  For example if you have a line of quarter stitches all together, as shown in the graph to the left below (which includes backstitching), they would look similar to the example on the right, when stitched:

As you can see, there's a LOT of fabric showing with this type of stitch.  Now one way to remedy that is to increase the number of strands being used.  More floss equals better coverage, which is one of the reasons I just LOVE using 3 strands of floss (3X) in my designs...  However, if you do a THREE-QUARTER stitch, rather than a quarter stitch, you get the kind of coverage shown below:

Quite a difference isn't there?  Well, let me share the best way to do a 3/4 stitch, LOL, as there is a great 'trick'.  Make a HALF-STITCH in the direction of the 2 diagonal symbols on the graph, then work the quarter stitch from the remaining corner, OVER the half-stitch, into the centre, like this:

The best reason for doing this is that it anchors the stitch, so if you have backstitching, none of the stitching will slip out from under the backstitched edges and blur your outlines.  That's it for this month... happy stitching!



 It's been a while since we looked at ways to finish our needlework other then framing... and boy, is there a lot to consider!  What about... pillows, sweatshirts, Christmas stockings, bibs, hand-towels, box lids, ornaments, and one of my favorite finishes for small designs - cards!  In this blog, let's take a closer look at cards...

While you can frame a small design, using the card as a mat, these also make excellent gifts or remembrances, that are sure to be treasured - and since they're small, they're also very easy to stitch!  X's & Oh's has a good assortment of cards with different size openings - square, rectangular, round, oval, and even heart shaped... most of which come in large or small card sizes - and even include an envelope, so you can mail your finished gift to a friend.  We also have a couple of charts of designs that are suitable for the larger cards, but we also have what we call STITCH NOTES, which are a card, perforated paper (to stitch on), envelope, and design, all in one package!

I mentioned perforated paper, and this is one of the best options when making cards.  While you CAN use fabric, it is harder to keep it in position and stretched flat, than the paper, which is made for this purpose.  This evenly spaced heavy stock paper comes in various counts - just like fabric - though it can be hard to find sizes other than the most common 14ct!  While a cream color is most popular, we have some sparkly silver or gold in stock (perfect for holiday stitching), and other colors can be special ordered if desired. 

The cards themselves are "tri-fold", which means they have 3 folds, with the extra fold holding the stitching centered in the opening on the centre fold of the card.  Since the stitching is attached to this extra side flap, when it is folded over (so the stitching shows through the hole cut in the centre), the other side of the piece the stitching is attached to, becomes one side of the inner card, which leaves the other fold to form the back leaf of the card (booklet style).  That might seem more complicated than it really is... basically, one side of the card is folded in half, with the stitching sandwiched in between - so the face of the card is a double thickness (even more if you count the stitching).

If you are using Aida, be sure the fabric is firmly attached to the inner card with tape, applied so only the fabric and stitching show through the opening.

If you want to make your own card (a plain book style card with only 2 flaps), make a fringe around the edges of the stitching (by removing some of the edge threads).  This way, the fabric can sit on the face of the card and look quite decorative.  You may want to work a zig-zag or hemstitch around the edges (at the base of the fringe), or apply a bead of white glue at the base of the fringe on the back of the fabric, to stop the fabric from fraying.

We've also been playing with the Kreinik IRON-ON braid on cards for a Make-It-Take-It project for the Creativ Festival, but that's something for another tip!  Happy Stitching...


Last month I told you how to work a BUTTONHOLE or BLANKET stitch... so this month I want to give you another handy trick for working with this stitch - how to add a new strand of fabric (or finish off the last stitch after working all the way around your stitched piece).

This technique actually works best with TWO needles, as it saves time moving the needle back and forth between two strands of floss.  Take a look at the stitching diagram from last month, to remind yourself how to begin.  Basically, you come up in the hole BEFORE the one you work the first stitch in, and to add a new strand, you do exactly the same thing!  Adding a floss strand is shown in three steps below.

1.   First, stitch until you're near the end of your first piece of floss.  Leave enough floss on the needle to work at least one more stitch and run the tail under - but don't do that yet, LOL.  Pull the floss out of the way, and park the needle so it holds the floss away from the area you're working in (#1 on the diagram below).  Don't pull it too tight, you don't want to distort the fabric or your stitches.

2.   Using a SECOND needle and a new length of floss, begin a new strand, the same way you did the previous one (so use a WASTE KNOT (see last month), and come up in the NEXT stitching space, then work the first stitch in the space after that.  Basically, you're leaving one stitch unworked (#2).  Work a few buttonhole stitches to anchor the new floss, then park this new floss/needle, and go back to the FIRST needle.

3.   Bring the FIRST needle through the starting loop made by the beginning of the new strand (#2).  This fills in the 'skipped' stitch (#3-#4). 

4.   Push the FIRST needle down through the fabric at the position marked by the black dot (#5), and end the floss strand by running it under the stitches on the back of the fabric, and clipping the excess floss close to the stitching..

Suddenly you can't tell where the first length ended, and the new one began!  Still using the FIRST needle, run the tail under on the back of the fabric, clip the old length close to the stitching.  Remember that WASTE KNOT?  Well, you can now use this needle to anchor the waste knot tail from the new stitching length as well.  

IMPORTANT:  DO NOT run the very first beginning tail under until you have worked all the way around the project. Why?  Look at the diagram above... see how the floss at the beginning of the second and third graphics has an extra 'over' thread at the beginning?  When the entire project edge is stitched, and the first stitch has been reached, slip the needle through that extra starting loop (the same way you did in steps 3-5), seamlessly completing the very first stitch.  Once again run the tail under the stitches on the back, and clip the floss close to the stitching.






It was pointed out to me recently that I've been doing this blog for several years now, and that there are a whole new group of stitchers reading it now, who might not go back through years of tips, and that I should start re-cycling some of the better tips, to move them up the blog list. So I decided that might not be a bad idea, and since I use it a LOT, I thought I'd start with a very useful finishing stitch that is good for more then just Hardanger - it's great for afghans, bellpulls... anywhere you need a finished edge (rather then framing a piece), but don't want to hem. I have also updated my instructions, and (hopefully) made them easier to understand.

This will be a 2-part lesson, so in this blog I'm going to explain how to work a Buttonhole Stitch (also known as a Blanket Stitch), and next month I'll tell you about a little trick for beginning and ending strands when working this stitch - so be sure to come back for that, as it's an easy (but little known) technique that will make using this stitch even simpler! 

BUTTONHOLE or BLANKET stitch is quite easy to do, and can be worked from right to left, or left to right (our diagram shows right to left), however, whatever way you begin, you must continue all the way around the project in the same direction!!

Work across 3-4 fabric strands, because this is an anchoring stitch, preventing the edge of the fabric from unraveling.  Begin with what is called a WASTE KNOT - another Hardanger technique that's useful for more than Hardanger!  Start by making a knot in the end of your first stitching length.  Push the needle down through the FACE of the fabric, at least a 6"  away from the area you will be stitching.  The object is to leave a long enough tail to run under later. Once you finish stitching with the first length, go back to the beginning, cut off the knot (waste it - get it, LOL?), pull the tail to the back of the fabric, thread it through a needle and run it under.  Remember to check out BUTTONHOLE CONT'D next month, for more tips on beginning and ending tails!

Come up in the starting position (#1 on the diagram), but you'll actually work the stitch over one fabric strand (in the NEXT stitch).  Note that you can work to the right or left, but once you begin you must complete the whole edge in the same direction.  Push the needle down at the bottom of the stitch (#2 on the diagram), with the tip of the needle coming out at the top of the stitch (#3 on the diagram), and slipping THROUGH the loop of the floss (made by 1-2).  Gently tighten the strand coming out of the fabric, so it pulls firmly in place but doesn't distort the fabric (refer to the diagram). Using the thumb of your opposite hand, hold the floss strand against the fabric, pulled out of the way and taut (but not too tight), while you repeat steps 2-3 (see 4-5 on the diagram).  Work over every fabric strand, or every other strand, depending on the weight of the floss being used. 

To turn corners, there are 2 things to remember... for INSIDE corners, simply move 45 degrees, and work the stitch as above, SHARING a corner hole (see the diagram below).  OUTSIDE corners have 3 extra stitches worked around, stepping over 2 fabric strands vertically for the first stitch, over 2 more vertically to the corner, and then over 2 fabric strands horizontally for the 3rd stitch.  ALL of these stitches share the corner hole of the last individual buttonhole stitch.  Move over 2 more fabric strands and continue working individual buttonhole stitches, (generally in groups of at least 5).  Note when turning an outside corner, that FIVE STITCHES will share the same inner corner hole, while the stitches step down and around the corner across 2 fabric strands (as shown on the diagram below).  TIP: Never begin or end a floss length on a corner.  If necessary, change the floss before the corner is reached.

Here's a bonus tip for you... if you strip excess fabric strands from the long side of your fabric (for the longest stitching lengths), your stitching will be almost invisible, since the 'floss' is the same as the fabric!  Remember to come back next month, and I'll tell you how to do invisible beginning and ending of strands.  Happy stitching!




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