tools

French Knot Sampler: Milliner’s needles?!

Hi, guys! (*waves*) How have you been?! I so very much enjoyed my week-and-a-half-ish off from the world – if you’re an Instagrammer, you may have seen me spending the week cranking out a million little pouches / project bags, enjoying a sewing day with my sewing peeps, basking in the awesomeness of the Festival of Quilts, piecing a giganticus vintage sheet quilt top … lots of stuff I never get to do during normal weeks.

You probably didn’t see me doing many french knots. Erm. So, now I have about a week to go for my August sampler – the French Knot Tulip Field Sampler and I have pretty far to go. Like, kind of most of it. Oy vey! I know the lovely Jessica from PaperStitch has been stitching along and she’s definitely ahead of me — looks like my weekend’s going to be chock-full of french knots!

Milliner's needles?!

I do have one sampler-related thing to share / discuss though: milliner’s needles. I have to admit, I just don’t get it. I’ve read (from a very reputable source!) that milliner’s needles are good for a smooth french knot experience. Supposedly, their eyes are less shaped than the average embroidery needle, so they will go through your knot more smoothly. Hmph. In the photo above, the very left needle is a plain ‘ole embroidery needle, which is what I used for the first half-ish of my first section of knots. The middle needle is an unused milliner’s needle. The right-most is the one I switched to halfway though my knot section – not only is it all bent to hell, I absolutely didn’t find it any easier to use! Really really not. It was quite anti-climactic, to be honest. Perhaps my milliner’s needles are sub-par, or perhaps I’m using a smaller size than I should? I’ll continue tonight with a larger size and let you know how that goes.

In the meantime, have you ever used milliner’s needles? How’d that go?

Tools & Toys Tuesday: Homemade Lace Pillow Carrying Bag

Lace Pillow Bag

This one’s a little cheeky because I made this myself – but it’s still a tool! I’ve had my lace teacher’s equipment on loan since I started learning, at her insistence, under the theory that it’s better to be sure you actually like a craft before you sink money into it. But I think it’s clear I’m going to stick with it now, so I’ve been gradually buying my own tools and returning hers.

Lace Pillow Bag

One of the main things I needed to get was a carrying bag for my lace pillow, which is both large and relatively heavy. So it has to be sturdy and I was hoping it could be super-pretty too. I looked around online and couldn’t find anything that looked remotely like my style, so I decided to make one myself. With absolutely idea how to do that. I winged it.

Lace Pillow Bag

A lace pillow bag is about 21″ square-ish, and has zippers going up both sides so that the pillow (with lace-in-progress on it, usually) can be taken out and placed in carefully. It can basically be opened completely flat, then zipped up around the pillow. The zippers were quite a challenge and involved some hand-stitching, but I basted every step first and sewed very slowly, and it’s turned out to be the first thing I’ve sewn that doesn’t *look* like I made it myself, you know? Nothing’s a little wonky, the lining isn’t just a wee bit bunchy. And I’m so pleased that my lace can be carried around in such a happy bag from now on!

Lace Pillow Bag

And even better: the lace bags I’ve seen on eBay and the like are going for about £25, but all the materials for mine came from stash, so the only direct cost was about £5 for the zippers. SCORE.

Vintage Sunday: 1950s Sewing Box

I’ve been thinking for a while that if I want my blog to represent me (rather than just some projects), I need to include some of the other things I love. One of my major loves is vintage, in nearly any form, which is something I really only touch on from time to time. So I hereby introduce Vintage Sundays, where I’ll share some part of my vintage love: a project, some awesome thrifted find, a recipe – who knows?! It could get crazy up in here, 1950s-style! My love of anything from the 1930s all the way to the 1970s is widespread, so I don’t want a limit on what might appear here, just trust that it will be of the past.

My new 1950s sewing box!

Good timing for this new post too, because I went out with my pals to the local Vintage & Handmade Market yesterday and was (easily) convinced to take this beautiful sewing box home with me. I’ve been thinking for a while now it’d be nice to have one on legs (these are detachable, which is very handy feature), to be level with me and easy to reach while I work, especially since I do more hand-sewing now than I used to. It’s a little bit of a fixer-upper: it’s got a few dings and scratches and the hinges are a little rusty. But who loves a project more than me?!

My new 1950s sewing box!

I think I’ll give her a coat of paint and maybe replace the hinges – weather permitting, I’ll tackle this project at the end of the week / next weekend. Right now I’m thinking white on the outside, with a light aqua / robin’s egg blue on the inside for a nice 1950s look, but I’ll think on it and do a little research before I decide for sure. I hope I can share a revamp with you for Vintage Sunday next week!

Bobbin Lace, Lesson 6

First finished piece of bobbin lace

I have now finished one whole piece of lace! Woohoo! This little edging was finished off during lesson 6, last weekend — I had to ask my teacher to show me how to stop or else I was just going to have to keep on until the end of time. You’ll notice a bundle of thread ends there; my teacher explained that if I was going to apply the lace to something that would be used, I would have to learn how to sew in ends and deal with them properly. That was enough incentive to just frame this, my first finished piece, for which I only have to thread those ends through my backing fabric, tie off to secure, and hide them back there that way. I won’t do anything permanent until I find the right frame, but I plan to back it with this charm square of Denyse Schmidt fabric.

I should’ve taken a close-up of just that corner, with the threads, but if you click through to the larger version on Flickr, you can actually see the improvement I made over the course of this project. The ‘heart’ directly below those loose threads was where I started, the ‘heart’ to the left is where I finished. My tension improved enormously as I worked, I’m so very proud! (By the way, the fabric in the center is a tiny piece of Liberty Tana Lawn, and the 20p coin is to show how very small this bit of lace is. The center is only 1.5″!)

First finished piece of bobbin lace
Bobbin lace bookmark WIP

Now I’ve started working on a bookmark in red and pink, with a different kind of fan along the edges. For this, I was given written instructions and told to try and follow them myself – I got a little confused at first, but kind of understood, and I’m proud to say that I managed to remind myself with the written pattern when I got home and had forgotten what to do.

Bobbin lace bookmark WIP

Again, I can already see improvement as I work here – I don’t know if you’ll be able to squint past the pins, but if you follow the red curves on the fan edges, you can see that they’ve become much less messy already. I worked the top left fan first, and those curves are all over the place; the most recent worked was the bottom right, which has much neater and, well, curvy curves.

Bobbin Lace tools

I’m also very proud to report that I have now made enough progress to have tools of my very own! My teacher was kind enough to lend me spare tools until now, to make sure I actually enjoyed doing bobbin lace before investing money into equipment, which was so sensible. I’ve done enough now to know for sure that I want to continue, so my teacher arranged some second-hand tools for me and I treated myself to the above tools from the very kind Paul at PDH Woodturning. Paul’s handmade tools are so beautiful and special, I’m so excited to work with them! Not related to lace, but maybe the handiest tool of the bunch is that little stand that my spool of thread is sitting on – I don’t know if these have a special name, but it’s basically exactly as it looks – it holds my spool handily while I hand-sew, and I’ve already been using it as I stitch the binding onto my now nearly-finished Mod Sampler quilt. More on the quilt very soon, but seriously, anyone with any hand-stitching to do should have one of these spool holder-thingamys in their sewing box!

Tools.

I did it! I finished the cowl before bedtime (just) the other night, and it’s even pinned out to block now. It’s pretty squishy though, so I expect it’ll take a while to dry. I’ll be sure to show it off when it’s done. Since I finished the cowl, I’ve been knitting on Terra a lot – but even though I’ve almost finished the garter-y body section, it basically looks the same as in the photo I posted last week, only larger. Also, I did frog Umaro and restarted, but haven’t gotten past the moss stitch border yet.

Since my knitting has gotten suddenly unexciting, and since I hope to return to that darn stalled Sajou G tonight, and since we are planning (photo-worthy weather willing) to release our last couple of Little Dorrit & Co. Brothers Grimm embroidery patterns later this week, it seems like a good time to get back to a little stitchy posting.

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On one of my recent posts, a commenter (hello blog-less Natasha, if you’re out there!) asked about the fabric we stitch on. Well, it’s a funny story, kind of. For years, neither my mother or I could find a fabric we were happy with for embroidery. They were all too thin and see-through-y and never felt substantial enough. But I do like Ikea’s cheap linen for less delicate projects, it’s got lovely texture and comes in a good range of colors. That and a similar fabric we’d tried from John Lewis made us try Robert Kaufman’s Essex linen – a nearly 50/50 cotton/linen blend. We love it – it’s got the subtle texture of fine linen, but handles more like cotton. It doesn’t crease like crazy, washes nicely – works perfectly. We should probably be buying it by the bolt!

No one asked about this, but while we’re on the subject, we use these Pilot Frixion pens for transferring designs. Guys, have you tried these pens?! We’re new converts – until a few weeks ago, we just used those insanely blue water-erasable markers. But the blue was making it hard to match colors, everything looked clashy against it, and I found recommendations for these Frixion pens on several crafty blogs. SNAP, these pens are awesome! Because they’re just normal pens, they write a lovely thin, crisp line – and in colors that aren’t horribly distracting to your work. But the awesome part is that your marks will disappear with just the tiniest wave of the iron – they’re heat-activated but will wipe clean even on a really low iron setting. This is The Bomb for embroidery, because erasing the pen has so little effect on your work. Really, I’m kind of shocked that Pilot hasn’t caught on yet and re-marketed these as crafty products and started selling them for twice the cost. Not that I’d want to give them any ideas.