Fabrications – Straw Flower Blossom

Spring has given way to summer weather here in the mountains, and flowers are in bloom everywhere I go. Over the Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I drove to Virginia and enjoyed the most beautiful scenery the entire trip. Red poppies filled the medians along highways, while private gardens offered a rainbow of floral colors. It’s inspiring!

Well, my little Straw Flower embellishment isn’t the most colorful bloom of the season, but it sure is fun to make.

First, let me say a few words about scrim since it frequently solicits questions from those who haven’t worked with it. You can find my previous entry on scrim here if you would like more information.

Scrim Yardage

Scrim comes in many forms, but the one used is fiber art is a loosely woven 100% cotton. Drapery stores sell it on large rolls, and it’s quite reasonably priced. You can dye it, paint it, stitch it, and manipulate it any way you see fit.

To make the Straw Flower, you will need some fabric paints, a gel medium (found in art stores), white cotton scrim, embroidery floss, craft felt, and a brooch pin.

Paints and Gel Medium

Prepare a work area for painting, covering the surface with plastic sheeting. Cut two circles out of scrim the size you want your flower to be. Place them on a piece of plastic. Mix your fabric paint with a little gel medium and paint the scrim. I mixed yellow, violet, and white to get the nice golden tan color that I desired.

Painted Scrim

If the paint mixture is too thick, add a touch of water, but not too much. Allow the painted scrim circles to dry.

Gel mediums are very useful in fiber art. Once dry, your scrim circles should have a firm body, yet be quite flexible. The gel medium will dry clear, leaving only the paint color behind. Best of all, the scrim will no longer fray since the medium acts somewhat like a glue.

When your circles are dry, draw two chalk lines to mark center. These are simply visual aides for the next step.

Mark Center

Thread a tapestry needle with embroidery floss. Choose any color you like, using all six strands. Do not knot. Working with one circle at a time, stitched from the outside edge towards the center, weaving your needle in and out about every quarter inch. Stop short of the center, pivot, and stitch back towards the outer edge, creating a “V” with the floss. Leave a tail on the floss that extends beyond the scrim edge and clip. Repeat this process until the entire circle is filled with floss.

Stitched Floss

In part two, we’ll complete the flower.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Old is New (part four)

I saved my favorite leaf for last. After free motion stitching a center vein, I worked three loops of outline stitches. I then appliquéd the leaf down with a feather stitch. I think the feather stitch creates a really nice edge finish for the wool pieces.

Feather Stitch

The final section of the circular design consisted of a center bud motif, two petals, and two leaves. Using a dark gold embroidery thread and a decorative seed stitch, I worked a diagonal crosshatch pattern on the surface of the yellow bud, something often seen in crewel work.

Crosshatching

I then finished the edge by couching yellow perle cotton with a blanket stitch.

Couched Perle Cotton

Next, I positioned the red petals in place and secured them with a decorative triple-circle stitch down the center.

Decorative Center Vein

The edges were appliquéd in two stages. First, I worked a reverse blanket stitch in a matching embroidery thread.

Reverse Blanket Stitch

I then switched to a green embroidery thread and couched lime green perle cotton next to the previous round of stitches.

Double Edge Finish

The third and final step of the motif was the leaves. After free motion stitching some veins down the center of each leaf, I raised the feed dogs and couched green perle cotton around the edges.

Free Motion Veins; Couched Perle Cotton

I added a simple scroll design below the bird, which I free motion stitched with dark green embroidery thread.

Free Motion Scroll

As the final embellishment, I beaded the bud motif between the crosshatching. I also added beads to several of the leaves and the scroll below the bird.

Beading

This particular design will eventually become a pillow, but I’m sure I’ll be using the same technique to embellish other items with these fun-to-make felted wool appliqués.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Old is New (part three)

To define the bird’s wing area, I chose a scallop stitch, which I stitched across the center of the wing and satin stitches to define the lower feathers.

Wing Detail Work

I then satin stitched around the entire wing with a matching gold embroidery thread.

Wing Detail

To give the bird’s neck a little more detail, I chose a decorative stitch.

Neck Detail

The three yellow petals were created the same way as the tail feathers. First, I attached them with a free motion straight stitch.

Next, I finished the edges with a blanket stitch using yellow embroidery thread. Red perle cotton was couched under the stitching. The red and yellow contrast so beautifully with each other in this little motif. I think a full-petaled flower in the same colors would make a wonderful embellishment for another project.

Couched Perle Cotton

Each of the leaves received individual detailing. For the first leaf, I stitched some veins and then gave it a trailing vine. The edges were appliquéd with a decorative stitch.

Leaf Detailing

Using a dark green embroidery thread, I gave the second leaf a center vein and then thread painted a stem base. A lime green perle cotton was then couched down with a dark green blanket stitch around the leaf’s edge and stem.

The third leaf was detailed in gold, beginning with a decorative stitch center vein and an outer border of couched gold perle cotton. For a little more contrast, dark green perle cotton was couched with gold embroidery thread next to the previous couching.

Double Rows of Couching

In part four, this project will receive the finishing touches.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Old is New (part two)

As a base for the felted pieces, I choose 100% linen, which I stabilized with a piece of starched craft felt. I attached the craft felt to the linen with a light spray of 505 temporary adhesive.

If you have an embroidery machine, you may have noticed that many commercial digitizing companies use felt as a base for their samples. Felt gives the stitches plenty of substance to wrap around. Several years ago, I experimented with felt as a stabilizer for dense embroidery designs and found that if I starched and ironed it (which makes it thin and crisp), it worked beautifully as a cutaway stabilizer.

Next, I used a standard size dinner plate and chalk marker to draw a circle on the linen. The circle would later serve as a placement guide for the flower and leaf shapes.

Placement Circle

The felted pieces had a little more loft to them than I wanted, so I sprayed them with some distilled water and pressed them with an iron set on the “wool” setting for about six seconds. This resulted in nice flat pieces, perfectly suitable for appliqué. (Lots of potential here!)

After Pressing – Before Pressing

After locating center placement for the bird, I began stitching the tail feathers with orange cotton embroidery thread. First, I free motion stitched each feather in place.

Free Motion Stitched Tail Feathers

I then changed to an open toe foot, raised the feed dogs, chose a blanket stitch on my sewing machine at a 2.8 mm width, and couched a #5 yellow perle cotton around the edges of the tail feathers.

Couching with Blanket Stitch

Next, I positioned the body of the bird and blanket stitched around his head.

I then changed to a dark gold embroidery thread and used a triangular shaped satin stitch to form the bird’s beak.

Satin Stitched Beak

Using the same color thread, I finished the edges of the bird’s body with a perle cotton-filled satin stitch.

In part three, my little bird will get his wings, and I’ll begin filling the chalk circle with some flora.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Old is New (part one)

Seventeenth-century “fiber artist” used their creative imaginations, wool yarn, and linen to produce wildly popular crewel work designs. Colonial woman carried on the tradition in the eighteenth century. Crewel work continues to have a following today and even shows up in its high tech form via computer digitized embroidery.

I’ve always been drawn to the design elements: the fanciful leaves, flowers, and fauna. The hand thread painting with its beautiful shading gives us much to emulate in our own work.

Although original crewel work used a twisted 2-ply wool yarn, I decided to needle punch some wool roving shapes and see where they led me. I also choose to needle punch on air rather than using a stabilizer. Usually, I have a definite design plan in mind before I begin a project, but that was not the case with Old is New.

First, I pulled a little wool roving and formed it into a lightweight ball by repeatedly pulling the fibers and then compacting them.

Next, I needle punched the ball with the Babylock Embellisher, beginning in the center and then manipulating the fibers into a desired shape. I found a bamboo stick to be quite helpful in the shaping stage.

Here I am forming some yellow petals.

Here is one of the leaves being shaped and felted.

Here is the bird’s head area being formed.

This is the beginning of the bird’s wing, starting in the center and then working outward.

As the pieces slowly accumulated, I positioned them around an imaginary circle until I was happy with the basic design setting.

In part two, I’ll continue sharing how the project evolved.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – Cutting Up

I love the term “fiber art” because it’s so broad and inclusive. Normally, I think of myself as a quilter since I’m forever sandwiching things together and stitching through layers. For me, it’s difficult to say where one ends and the other begins. This little project blends the two nicely and could become a wall quilt, pillow, or some form of wearable art.

For the top fabric, choose a bright large print. Cut it to the size that you need for whatever end you have in mind.

Top Fabric

Choose a solid fabric for the under layer. This fabric will show through to the front. Cut it about three inches larger than your top fabric. Stabilize the back with a heavier stabilizer such as Decor Bond.

Under Layer Fabric

Place your solid fabric on a moveable base object, such as a large quilting ruler or foam board. With a sharp pair of scissors, begin cutting pieces of your top fabric in a freeform fashion and positioning them on your solid fabric (about an inch in from the edge). Cut one piece at a time and place it next to the previous piece, sort of like a puzzle. Leave a space between the pieces (about 3/8 of an inch). You may have to trim the last few pieces to fit them properly.

Puzzle-like Top Layer

When you are finished placing all the pieces, you should be able to see the original printed pattern, only now in a slightly fractured form.

Take your two layers to a well-ventilated area. Working with one top piece at a time, spray the back of the piece with a little 505 temporary adhesive (or similar product) and place it back in its original position. Repeat this process until all pieces are secure.

Thread your sewing machine with a variegated decorative thread. I used a Valdani cotton. Stitch around each piece about 1/4″ from the edge.

To prepare your project for the decorative stitching, add one more backing layer. I used a piece of craft felt cut to size. A piece of flannel would also work well. Attach it with a light spray of temporary adhesive. (I recommend 505 because it lessens the problem of skipped stitches and sticky needles.)

Choose whatever decorative stitch on your sewing machine that you like, and stitch in all the open spaces between your cut pieces.

After you complete all the decorative stitching, wash your project on the gentle cycle, using cold water. This will allow the raw edges to fray, giving your project a little dimension. Next, place it in your dryer on a short heat cycle.

Clip any extra stray or uneven threads from the surface and finish the edges according to the type of project you are creating.

This method is a great way to use those large prints that don’t work so well in other projects. Another idea would be to use a monochrome color scheme. Additionally, you could embellish the cut pieces with beads, buttons, or ribbon. Whatever choices you make, I think you’ll enjoy the process.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Angel Petals (part two)

Angel Petals is a three-layered flower consisting of a felted wool center sandwiched between two layers of Angelina. To create the Angelina layers, pull some fibers from a mix of Angelina “Hot Fix” colors, and place them on a piece of parchment paper or a Teflon pressing sheet. I used Raspberry Sparkle, Cotton Candy, Sugar Plum, and Violette Crystalina. Pull enough fiber to create two flower layers. Better results are usually obtained when colors are mixed well.

Angelina “Hot Fix” Fiber Mix

Place a piece of parchment paper on top of your mixture and press at a “silk” setting for about 3-4 seconds. Let cool and then check to see if all the fibers bonded. You should have a nice piece of flat iridescent fabric.

Angelina Fabric

For the next step, make a new four-petal flower template a little smaller than the template used in step one. Place the template on the Angelina fabric and cut out two flowers. If your piece of Angelina isn’t large enough for two flowers, simply repeat the previous step for the second flower. (Remember to save your scraps for future projects.)

Cut Angelina Petal Layer

Attach the Angelina layers to the top and bottom of your flower center with a tiny dab of fabric glue placed strategically at the outer area of the flower centers. Offset their position so that the petals fall between the felted flower petals. Just a slight touch of glue will do the job since the edges of the cut Angelina will naturally want to adhere to the felted wool. Also, you will be felting the center of the flower, so keep the glue clear of this area.

Sandwiched Flower Layers

Next, cut a small circle of craft felt for the flower backing.

Craft Felt Backing

Attach it to the back of your flower using the method above. Just a touch of glue will do the job since this piece will be secured by the felted center.

For the fluffy center, cut six short strands of yarn in a contrasting color. I used a yellow boucle. Any yarn that can be pulled apart should work well.

Position two strands in the center of your flower front, forming an “X” shape. Lightly felt them in place with you needle punch machine, keeping the flower stationary and only felting the very center.

Felting Yarn Strands

Now take two more strands of yarn and wrap them with a coordinating color of Angelina. A few twists should do the job.

Angelina Wrapped Yarn Strands

Place them in an offset position on top of the previous felted strands of yarn and needle punch them in place. Use the last two strands of yarn to fill inany open areas.

Check the back of your flower to make sure the yarn has felted through to the back. Using your fingers, pull the yarn strands apart until they fluff up and fill the center. You can cut the strands to any length you desire.

Felted Through to the Back

To complete your flower, sew a brooch pin on the back, using a strong polyester thread. I like to place a little glue on the pin before sewing so that it stays in place.

You now have a beautiful little flower to give as a gift or to embellish your summer wardrobe.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Angel Petals (part one)

Embellishment Village now offers a new crimped “Hot Fix” Angelina in twenty colors. The individual fibers are finely cut and wavy.

New Crimpled “Hot Fix” Angelina

Their website states that the crimped Angelina has a softer texture when bonded and drapes nicely. Additionally, the colors are more intense, adding a little more glitz to your projects. I’m not so sure Angelina really needed more glitz, but someone must have thought more is better at EV.

I received a shipment a few weeks ago and have been excited about using the new product in a project. I believe I ordered all twenty colors!

To make the Angelina felted flower, you will need a few colors of roving (mine drank the Kool-Aid), a few colors of Angelina (regular or crimped), and some yellow yarn, such as boucle.

Angelina and Wool Roving

Begin by drawing a simple four-petaled flower to use as your template. Give it enough of a center to attach other pieces during later stages. Draw around your template on a piece of lightweight stabilizer. I painted my pink so that it would blend with the flower. ( A used dryer sheet would work.)

Template Outline on Light Weight Stabilizer

Pull out a small amount of roving with which to fill in your felted flower. Mix in some Angelina strands, using pulling and folding motions until you have a well mixed ball. Shape the roving mixture to fit within the outline as you needle felt it with your Babylock Embellisher or other needle punch machine.

First Layer of Felting

When you complete the first color, pull roving and Angelina in a second color, mix it as described above, and felt it around the inner part of the petals to add more visual interest.

Second Layer of Inner Petal Felting

Cut your flower out with a sharp pair of craft scissors, removing the outline as your cut.

In part two, we’ll create the Angelina petals and fluffy center.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Tips – How to Secure Bobbin Threads

Happy Mother’s Day! I plan on spending a wonderful extended weekend surrounded by my children and grandchildren. If you read some of my previous posts, you know that I was blessed with two grandsons in March and April. I made photo transfer gift pillows this week to commemorate their births, which I will be giving to my children on Sunday.

Additionally, I created the little pink flower in the opening photo and will share the directions with you next week.

While working on the embroidery for the pillows, it came to me that some of you may like to try my method for securing those pesky thread ends on your bobbins. You can obtain products commercially that accomplish the same result, but I have a lot of bobbins to secure, so cost would be a factor.

Instead, I purchase a length of clear tubing at the hardware store. You can take a bobbin sample with you to make sure you buy the correct size. (I believe mine is about 3/8″ circumference.)

With a pair of heavy duty kitchen or utility shears, cut pieces of tubing the interior width of your bobbin. Next, cut through the circle to create an opening.

Simply slip the tubes around your bobbins and thread tails will be a thing of the past.

Blessings to you and have a wonderful weekend.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – Mayflower Medley (part four)

We’ve arrived at the final stage of Mayflower Medley. The furry-edged little flowers are fun to create and share continuity with the grassy knoll.

First, outline the shape of your flowers at the top of each stem, allowing a little of the stem to remain in the interior. I used a compass to form my circles, but you can use anything you like. Use a marker the shows up well on fabric.

Flower Outlines

Next, attach a tailor tack foot to your sewing machine and thread the needle with a heavy embroidery thread in a color that contrasts with your flowers. I used Valdani #35 cottons. Set your machine at 1 mm stitch length and 1.5 mm stitch width. As in part three, test to make sure these settings work for your machine.

Sewing the fringe is a little tricky since it’s difficult to see your sewing line. I find it helpful to move slowly and keep my eye one the line ahead as I turn the fabric. Sew the fringe around all of your circles. Use as many thread colors as you like. You can even sew several rows of fringe around each flower if you’re really adventurous.

S ewing Fringe with Tailor Tack Foot

For the center of the flowers, choose colors of Angelina “Hot fix” fibers that you like. I used Lemon Sparkle and Raspberry. Pull enough fiber to make a small ball and place it on parchment paper or a Teflon pressing sheet. Top with parchment or fold your pressing sheet over the Angelina ball. Set your iron on the “silk” setting and press for about three (3) seconds. Check to see that the fibers have bonded. If not, press again for another second or two. Do not over heat. Allow to cool before removing the Angelina.

Angelina “Hot Fix” Fiber

Mark the bonded Angelina circles with the same shape as your flowers. I used my compass, which left a slight indentation as a cutting line. Cut out each flower center.

Always save your leftover Angelina scraps for another project. They can be rebonded to other Angelina fibers, cut up and used in fabric collages, appliquéd here and there for a little bling, sandwiched with other fibers to create new fabric, etc. I find Angelina to be one of the most versatile and easy fibers with which to work.

There are several ways you can attach your flower centers. I used a dab of fabric glue to position them and then marked the centers and embellished with beads. You could also free motion stitch the surface, work some French knots at the center, or embellish in other imaginative ways.

Marked Centers

Bead Embellishment

For the final step, thread your sewing machine with a green embroidery thread and attach a free motion foot. Lower the feed dogs and stitch some leaf shapes next to the stems.

Your project is now complete. I hope you enjoyed playing with the tailor tack foot and discovering its many possibilities for fiber art.

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[Note: One reader voiced concern that the tailor tacking would unravel. I always begin and end decorative stitching with a few securing stitches. However, I tested the fringe without security stitches at the settings I stated in the above tutorial and could not get the stitching to unravel from either end. This would probably be a problem with looser settings, in which case you could add the line of straight stitching I previously mentioned. Also, you could knot the thread ends and pop them into the stabilizer in a way similar to hand quilting. A third alternative would be to iron a fusible interfacing over the stitching on the back side of your work. Keep these remedies in mind when working with decorative stitching.]

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – Mayflower Medley (part three)

With our knolls in place, we are now ready to add grass between the chenille cut furrows. This is accomplished with a tailor tack foot, sometimes called a marking foot. Your sewing machine may have come with this accessory (myBernina 1230 did), and possibly you’ve wondered what to do with it.

The tailor tack foot has a raised ridge in the center that forms loops on the surface as you zig zag stitch. It can be used to mark darts and seam lines when constructing garments, for hemstitching, and for making fringe. By adjusting the width and length of your stitches, you can alter the resulting appearance of your thread work.

Tailor Tack Foot: Generic, Bernina, Husqvarna Viking

Tailor tack feet differ in ridge heights between sewing machine companies. For example, the Bernina ridge is higher than the Husqvarna Viking ridge. I prefer the higher ridge when using this foot for decorative work, such as the grass in our present project. If you don’t have this foot among your sewing machine accessories, a generic foot is available that will work with many machines.

To form the grass, attach a tailor tack foot and set your sewing machine on a zig zag stitch at 1 mm stitch length and 1.5 mm stitch width. Test the needles clearance on your machine to make sure these settings work for you, and make any adjustments necessary. Thread the needle with a heavy decorative thread. (You may need to change your needle to accommodate the thicker thread.) I usedValdani Cotton #35 in Green Grass.

Separate the bias cut knoll layers until you reach the bottom grass layer and begin stitching about one inch in from the side. Separating the layers is a little awkward owing to the curves, but you’ll have the hang of it in no time. Continue this process until you have stitched between all the cut layers.

When your grass in complete, you may like to cut away the extra fabric at the bottom of your knoll, following the curve of the stitching lines. This is optional, of course.

I encourage you to experiment with the tailor tack foot. You can use it to make some wonderful trims by stitching multiple rows close together. You can also press rows to one side, secure them with a line of straight stitches at the base, and then clip the threads. And these are only a few ways in which this foot can add creative touches to your work.

Multiple Rows of Tailor Tacking

In part four, we’ll create the Angelina flowers.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – Mayflower Medley (part two)

With our stems in place, our little flowers-to-be need something in which to sink their roots. The rolling knolls are fun to create, but they do take a little bit of work.

First, take your two or three green knoll fabrics (ones that have similar coloration on both sides) and find the bias. Position your ruler across the bias and make your first cut the width measurement of your project. For example, my project had a width of 15″ so I cut my first bias cut 15″ long. Next, make a cut the depth of your “grass” measurement. Now, place your wave ruler near the top of your straight edge ruler and make the wavy top cut. Allow for error by adding an extra inch or two to the depth. It’s always easier to subtract rather than add when it comes to fabric.

Repeat this process until all of your knoll fabrics have been cut.

Stack your knoll fabrics evenly and make chalk markings on the top fabric about every 1/2 inch with your wave ruler.

Carefully place the stack on top of your grass fabric and pin in place.

Set your sewing machine on a 2.5 mm straight stitch and sew along all the marked lines, beginning about 1/2 inch in from the edge.

If you’ve made chenille, then you will be familiar with the following instructions. Using a pair of sharp scissors, make clips (about 1 1/2″) into the bias cut fabrics half way between all seams. DO NOT CLIP THE BASE GRASS FABRIC.

Owing to the curved seams, I found electric scissors and short-bladed scissors to work best at cutting the chenille. The actual chenille cutter didn’t work as well. Using whatever cutting instrument works best for you, carefully cut through all the lengths of bias half way between each seam. Check to make sure you’re not catching the base fabric as you cut.

You might like to fluff the bias cuts a little with your fingers, but do not brush them as you would when making regular chenille.

We now have rolling knolls, but they still need some 3D grass. Stay tuned for part three.
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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

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