Fabrications – All in a Row (part two)

For the flower centers, I used a similar Stitch Witchery technique. First, I cut a small square of fabric and Stitch Witchery. I then backed the fabric square with a fusible interfacing.

Stitch Witchery

Second, I painted the Stitch Witchery square with Lumiere Pearl Magenta.

Painted Stitch Witchery

Third, I dropped some metallic threads on top of the fabric square. I then topped it with the painted Stitch Witchery and covered the layers with parchment paper. I pressed them on a wool setting for about 10 seconds.

Metallic Threads

Fused Threads

Using a small circle template, I penciled cutting outlines on the back of the fabric and then cut out the circles.

Marked interfacing

Next, I placed the circles on the background fabric in a somewhat random fashion. The only important thing here was to leave enough room between them for the petals. When I was happy with their positions, I tacked them down with a tiny dab of fabric glue so that they would stay in place as I continued working.

Placement of Center Flowers

The next step was the flower stems. I decided to use green quarter-inch organza ribbon. To get a nice rounded shape, I twisted the ribbon as I couched it down using the Bernina free motion couching foot. (This could be done just as easily with a cording or braiding foot or an open toe foot.)

Couched Organza Ribbon

The flower petals were created with Moda Dea Jai Alai (Bloom) eyelash yarn. I couched the yarn around the center, first working in a loopy motion to form the petals and then taking a final round at the outer edge of the center.

Free Motion Couched Yarn Petals

A free motion couching foot would be necessary to apply the yarn exactly as I did. However, you could achieve very nice petals through bobbin work with perle cotton or another heavy thread or fiber of your choice. To do this, sew a straight stitch around each circle. Wind your bobbin by hand and then prepare your machine for free motion work. Turn your fabric to the wrong side and stitch the petals around the previous sewing lines. (It’s always a good idea to work on a test piece first to make sure your tensions are correct.)

When my flowers were complete, I chose a leaf stitch on my sewing machine and added leaves to the stems. I could have thread painted the leaves, but sometimes I like to use the built-in stitches on my sewing machine simply because they so often go unused!

Machine Stitched Leaves

To complete the piece, I added a yellow glass bead to each flower. Instead of sewing the beads on with the hole to the side, I stitched them with the hole facing up and used a lighter yellow thread. The stitches formed a small “Y” design on the surface of each bead.

Bead Work

I really liked the role that Stitch Witchery played in this project. It performed well both as a fusible and as a paint transfer medium without leaving its own footprint.

Note: I’ve added another colorform file (fjsquare.dst) to the Fem-Gratis box in the sidebar. Enjoy!

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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

Fabrications – Mayflower Medley (part one)

I woke up this morning and was greeted by the most beautiful day we’ve had this year. The thermometer said 36 degrees, but it has slowly warmed hour by hour. What a great day to share these whimsical little Angelina flowers growing on a grassy knoll.

For this project you will need two background fabrics (a sky and a grass fabric), two or three green hand dyed, hand painted, or batik fabrics, some variegated #35 quilting thread (greens, yellows, and roses), green perle cotton and/or heavy rayon fibers, and a wavy edged ruler.

Cut your sky and grass fabrics any size you like, using about a 50/50 ratio. Place right sides together and stitch, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Press the seam to the dark side.

Back your fabric with a heavy stabilizer. I actually used acrylic felt, which I applied with 505 spray. Decor Bond would also work well.

On the right side of you fabric, evenly mark for stem placement. For example, my project measured 15 inches wide, and I marked at 3″, 6″, 9″, and 12″.

Measure to figure how long you want your stems to be. Multiple that number by the number of flowers you want to create. Using your measurement, cut about six lengths of green perle cottons and rayons, and tape them together at one end. You can cut the strands into quarters and work one stem at a time or leave the strands in one grouping.

Attach a braiding or cording foot to your sewing machine and thread the needle with a decorative thread. Pass the taped end of your fibers through the hole in the foot. Set your machine on a zig zag stitch and test to make sure the needle clears both sides of the fibers. It helps to twist them slightly as they feed through the hole. I like the look of the cord after several passes since the cord takes on an organic appearance as the thread builds up.

When you cord is complete, couch each section on your background fabric (as previously marked) using the same foot.

There should be about an inch of stem on the grass fabric. Make sure you leave enough clearance room for your flowers on the sky fabric.

In part two, we will create the grassy knolls. I think you’ll enjoy the technique and find many uses for it in other projects.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured – Making time for the things you love

Fiber Folio – How to Make Serger Braid

There are many beautiful cords and braids on the market, but sometimes I just like making my own. Creating serger braid is easy once you find the correct settings for your particular machine.
Here are the settings that I use on my serger:

Needle – right position – Tension 6
Stitch length – 1.5
Upper looper – 5
Lower looper – 7
Roll hem
Differential – N

You can use any decorative threads that will fit through the holes in your loopers. I used Crown Rayon in the loopers and a #40 embroidery thread in the needle for the braids pictured.

Once you test your settings and find them satisfactory, simply serge on air, holding the tail taut in one hand as the cord flows towards the back. Try to keep a steady speed so that your braid is consistent.

It’s fun to mix colors and experiment with various threads and fibers. However, expect a few problems along the way. Below is the amount of thread I used this morning before getting my machine to behave, and I can tell you I wasn’t a happy camper.

But then I looked at the mass of rayon and thought it would make a beautiful sandwiched thread scarf, so you’ll probably see it again soon in another life form.

So what do you do with yards and yards of braid? Couch it, of course!

Many of us have wonderful sewing machines with hundreds of decorative stitches that we seldom use. These stitches take on a totally different look when used to couch decorative cords and braids. Again, experiment with various threads in the needle, such as variegated embroidery thread. Here are pictures of some samples I did today. Many of them would make nice frames for ATCs, don’t you think?

When couching braid, remember to stabilize well. Use an embroidery needle and loosen the top tension. I find it helpful to test stitches and threads, mark the stitch number on the sample, and file it in a reference notebook with pertinent details for future reference.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Floral Fluff (part two)

With the center motif completed, we now turn to the two red fluffy flowers. You will need some cotton fabric for the base of the flower and some organza in the same color. I used red, but you can choose any color you like for your flowers. You will also need some perle cotton #3 or #5.

You may have noticed a new widget in the sidebar. I’m not so sure I like the color so that may change, but within the box you will see a JPG file. I have uploaded the flower template file (ib1.jpg) for you to download. If you have a graphics program, you can adjust the size to fit your needs.

From time to time I will upload files for you to use with the tutorials. If you see an empty box, it means your browser can’t display the widget. For example, it doesn’t display in Mozilla using a Linux OS. I’m sorry, but I have no control over it. For those who can use it, you are welcome to download any files I place there for your personal use.

Now on to the flowers-

Cut two pieces of red fabric a little larger than the flower template. Back these with a fusible such as Wonder Under. Place the flower template on the paper side of the fusible and draw around it with a pencil. Next, cut the flowers out.

Peel the paper backing off of your fusible and position your flowers wherever you would like them. Press according to manufacturer’s directions.

I wanted my flowers to have a little more glitz, so I topped them with red organza. You can skip the next step if you like.

Cut two pieces of organza a little larger than your flowers. Lightly spray the back of each piece with a spray adhesive such as 505 and place them over the fused flowers.

You can add the perle cotton edging using any of the following methods:

(1) Attach a cording or braiding foot and slowly work your way around the flower, couching the perle cotton.

(2) Attach a free motion couching foot and couch the perle cotton around the flower. When using the Bernina Free Motion Couching Foot, I like to move my needle one position to the right and set the machine on a zig zag stitch at about 0.5 stitch width. Perle cotton #3 works best with this foot.

(3) Sew around the edge of the flower using a regular straight stitch (or free motion stitch around it). Wind your bobbin with perle cotton and work around the flower from the reverse side of your project, using the previous stitching as your guide. Always use a separate bobbin case that you can adjust for specialty bobbin work. Test your bobbin tension before working on your project.

To neatly secure the ends of the perle cotton, attach an open toe foot and set your machine on a zig zag stitch. Clip the beginning tail of perle cotton right where your stitching began. Wrap the ending tail around the back of your needle (from left to right) and pull the perle cotton towards you. Zig zag stitch over a small portion of the tail, take a few securing stitches, and then clip the remaining tail off.

Place your project on a glass surface (or any other heat proof surface) and burn away the outer edges of organza with a stencil cutter or wood burning tool. Do this in a well ventilated area.

In part three, we will give the flowers a nice fluffy center.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Floral Fluff (part one)

This project includes several embellishing techniques that are fun to play with. You will need a background fabric, two colors of organza, green perle cotton, beads, and yarn.

First, apply a fusible stabilizer to the back of your fabric. I used Decor Bond. Draw seven circles on the stabilizer in a pattern similar to the above graphic. You can place the motif in the center as I did mine or change the setting to one that you like better.

Take one of your organza colors and cut out some large circle shapes. Make sure they are quite a bit larger than your drawn circles since the felting process will pull the organza towards the needles. Working from the back side of your fabric, place an organza circle on top of a drawn circle and slowly needle punch the organza in a circular motion . Hold the edges of the organza as you work so that it doesn’t bunch up. Repeat this process for each circle.

When you’re finished, you should have seven fuzzy circles on the front of your fabric.

To make the stem, cut four long pieces of green perle cotton (or any other fiber you like) and tie them in the center with some thread.

Now double them over so that you have eight strands. Attach a cording foot or open toe foot to your sewing machine and thread the needle with an embroidery thread. Set your machine on a zig zag stitch at about 5.0 mm stitch width.

Position your strands of perle cotton under the foot, holding the tied thread in one hand behind the needle. Zig zag stitch the entire length of cording. You may like to stitch the cord several times, using several shades of green thread.

When you are happy with the look of your cord, place it in the center of your fuzzy circles. You may like to tack it down with a light touch of fabric glue. Next, couch it with a matching thread, attaching beads as you sew.

In part two, I’ll show you how to make the fluffy little flowers.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – In Bloom Three (part six)

Our flower is now complete, but it needs a stem and some leaves. For this part of the project, hoop an extra light nonwoven stabilizer or some organza. I used painted Carriff stabilizer, but a green organza would work just as well. If you use stabilizer, you might want to paint it green with some fabric paint.

Set up your sewing machine for free motion work, making sure the feed dogs are in the lowered position. Attach a free motion or darning foot. Set your machine for straight stitching or a very slight zig zag stitch. Loosen the top tension a point or two and thread the machine with embroidery thread. I used Valdani Cotton Look #40. Of course, it’s always best to make a test sample before actually stitching your project.

Begin by stitching an outline of your leaf shape. Next, move up and down the center of the leaf.

Outline of leaf

Adjust your hoop so that you can stitch in a diagonal direction and then work one side of the leaf by stitching straight lines back and forth, making sure you stitch into the outlined edge. When that is complete, move to the next side and mirror image the diagonal stitching.

Now thread your machine with a dark green thread and stitch some veins on the surface of your leaf. Repeat the process for your second leaf.

Thread painted leaf with vein detail

When your leaves are completely stitched, set your hoop on a piece of glass. Heat up a stencil cutter or wood burning tool and move the point around the edges of your leaves. The stabilizer or organza should melt like butter, leaving you with two nonfraying leaves. Do this is a well ventilated area.

Heat tool removal of leaves

To create a stem for the flower, cut 5-6 lengths of green #3 or #5 perle cotton. Cut them about 2 inches longer than needed. Tape one end to secure all the threads.

Attach a cording foot to your sewing machine and thread the needle with embroidery thread. You can use the same thread in the bobbin. Choose a zig zag stitch and set the width at 4.5 – 5.5 mm. The feed dogs should be raised.

Now thread the taped end of your perle cottons through the hole in the cording foot. Sew over the threads, making sure your width clears each side. You can repeat this several times and even use different color threads with each pass.

Stitching over the perle cotton

Position your stem and leaves on the front of your project. You may like to tack them down here and there with a light dab of fabric glue. Using an open toe foot, couch your stem and sew a line of stitches up the middle of your leaves to secure them.

Couching the stem

Securing the leaves

Now position your flower and tack it down with a little fabric glue. You can blind stitch around the outer edges or tack the flower on with a few hand stitches from the back of your work.

At this point, I framed my piece with a wavy border using a fusible to attach it. For the finishing touch, I couched a #3 perle cotton around the inner frame using a braiding foot. These steps are optional, of course, but they do give the piece a nice finished look.

Another In Bloom project complete!

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – In Bloom Three (part four)

First, I want to thank Jacqeline (http://jacquelinedejongarts.blogspot.com/2007/04/thinking-about-blogger.html for also honoring Fembellish Journal with the Thinking Blogger Award.  I was totally blown away by the first three, but four. . .I’m speechless.

And my thanks also goes out to Corina (http://corinaj.wordpress.com/2007/04/19/love-is-all-around/) for her kind words regarding Fembellish Journal.  She not only wrote a special post but created her own “Gilded Gardens” fiber art.

All this combined with the continual flow of encouraging comments really touches me.  Please know how much I appreciate your acts of kindness. N. Rene

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In part three we worked on reverse couching using one line of straight stitches and perle cotton threads.  Now we will double the fun and use two line of stitching.

In many cases you can use a double needle to accomplish the following techniques.  I didn’t use one on the In Bloom project because I needed the stitches to be further apart.  However, these techniques work best when a double needle is used since the stitches are always evenly spaced.

The first double stitch technique produces a serpentine design.  The method is almost identical to the second technique in part three, only this time you are passing the needle under two stitches rather than one. If you use invisible thread for the machine stitches, you will only see the perle cottons. (I have used a dark thread for the machine stitches so that you can see the technique more easily.)

After stitching a row of straight stitches with a double needle at 4.0 mm, thread a tapestry needle with perle cotton.  Bring the thread up at the bottom and then position your needle with the point facing the first stitch on the right.  Pass the needle under the two two machine stitches.

Now reposition your needle with the point facing the next row of stitches from the left.  Pass the needle under the next two machine stitches, working from left to right.  Continue working in right to left and left to right motions until your pattern is complete.

To work serpentine beading, use the same method, only thread a bead onto your needle before passing it under the stitches.  Do this on the right and the left. You can also mix the techniques and produce some very special effects.

The last technique produces a straight row of beading with diagonal lines of perle cotton showing between the beads.  Begin by bringing your thread up to the surface on the bottom left, crossing over to the right, and then passing your thread under the first (single) stitch (working from right to left).  Thread a bead onto your needle and then pass the needle under the second stitch on the left (working right to left).

Position your needle with the point facing the left hand line of stitches.  Pass the needle horizontally under both stitches of the next row.

Thread another bead onto your needle and pass the needle under the second free stitch of the left hand row of stitches, working in a diagonal motion.

Repeat these two steps until your row of stitches is complete.  Although each bead will have a diagonal slant, the row will be straight and even.

This technique can also be worked with beads added on the horizontal stitches rather than the diagonal stitches.  That is how I worked some of the beading on the In Bloom Three project.

You can also work the pattern in diagonal stitches alone, threading every other stitch with beads.

In part five, I’ll share with you how I created the flower using free motion embroidery, silk roving, and beads.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – Gilded Gardens (part five)

Our colorful garden is almost finished, but a few remaining embellishments are in order. This is one of those projects that says to us, “The more, the merrier.”

With the heavy thread work behind us, we now turn to filling some of our flowers with felted or couched yarns, adding some yarn to a few of our leaves and to our background, and capping it all off with beads or French knots.

Take a look at your work and decide which flowers you would like to embellish with yarns. For visual interest, select several different colors and audition them until you find just the right ones for your project. I used spun roving, chenille/eyelash mixes, and brushed yarns.

Beginning with any flower other than the center, needle felt as much or as little yarn as you like within its center area. On the flowers that I completely filled, I began by tacking down the end of my yarn in the center and then slowly working in a spiral motion until the yarn reached the edges. You don’t need many stabs of the needles to do this. The goal is to secure your yarns but not to completely felt them with the background.

Felted Flower

Spiral Felted Flower

On other flowers, needle felt smaller amount of yarn and leave some of your flower background showing. On still others, mix your yarns so that the flower is multicolored.

Before working the center flower, needle felt some spun roving (or other fiber) in a radiating design out from the edges. If your center flower has leaves, needle felt or couch a special decorative fiber down the center vein. I used wrapped silk cords.

Wrapped Silk Cords

Wrapped Silk Cords

Then fill your flower with various yarns. With a contrasting color, needle felt a colorful center.

Center Flower

Center Flower Motif

Now take some green furry yarn and felt or couch it along the edges of your leaves just as you did with the heavy thread in part four, working past the leaf tip and meandering here and there.

Couched Yarn

Look at your work and see whether there are areas that need to be filled. For the look of tiny flower buds, I took small pieces of roving, twisted them into a tight little ball, and needle felted them in place. I also meandered spun roving and needle felted it in place.

For the final embellishment, do some bead work down the center vein of a leaf or two, at the center of some of your flowers, and any place else you would like some bling. As an alternative or an additional embellishment, work some French knots in the center of flowers.

Bead Work

Bead Work

Congratulations! Your garden is now complete. I hope you loved doing this project as much as I did.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – Gilded Gardens (part four)

Gilded Gardens

[Note: Part three and four of Gilded Gardens provide a greater amount of technical information than most of my tutorials. Therefore, I would recommend that you read them through at least once before beginning the second level of thread work.]

The final stage of this secondary thread work involves working with perle cottons #3 and/or #5. These heavier threads cannot go through a machine needle so we must use other methods. The most common way of using these decorative weight threads is through bobbin work.

Before the day of specialty bobbin cases, I would simply bypass the tension mechanism on my Bernina 1230 and bring the bobbin thread up directly. This worked okay for very heavy threads and ribbon floss, but wasn’t ideal. I then purchased a second bobbin case and made adjustments as I mentioned in part three. Sewing machine companies now produce specialty bobbin cases, and if you like using decorative threads in your work, they are a nice accessory to have.

Specialty Bobbin Cases

To begin the second phase of heavy thread work, hand wind your bobbin with perle cotton #3 or #5, place it in the specialty bobbin case (or adjusted secondary bobbin), and set up your machine for free motion embroidery (according to your previous test results), making sure the feed dogs are in the down position.

Hand Wound Bobbin

Specialty Bobbin Case

Turn your work to the backside and position the needle at a point on the circumference of one of your circular flowers. Sounds like geometry, doesn’t it?

Backside Bobbin Work

Now check to make sure the bobbin thread tail is positioned towards the back of the machine so that it doesn’t get caught up in the securing stitches and make an unpleasant mess on the front side of your work. Take a few slow securing stitches moving every so slightly forward, clip your top thread tail, and then begin working your way around the circle. Before the second pass, clip your bobbin thread tail. On the second pass, work some spirals, scrolls, and circles in the areas surrounding your flowers.

Bobbin Work

Bobbin Work on Surface

Surface View of Bobbin Work

When you are happy with the decorative bobbin work around your flowers, go back to some of the flowers and fill the interior completely with stitches, working in a spiral motion. Next, work some vein stitching on one or two of your leaves.

Leaf Veins

On other leaves, work a row of stitching down one side and continue in a winding motion past the tip of the leaf.

Leaf Bobbin Work

An alternative to free motion bobbin work would be standard bobbin work. Keep your feed dogs in the normal up position and sew around your flower circles from the back side of your project. It’s possible to make scroll designs around your flowers using this method, but you will need to keep your lines simple.

Another alternative would be to use a couching or braiding foot and couch the thicker threads around your flowers.

Braiding Feet

Couching and Braiding Feet

Couching allows you to use a contrasting top thread color to add even more interest to your work. Make sure you switch to a needle plate that allows for zig zag stitching and adjust your stitch length and width. Leave a small top thread tail and sew over it in your second pass.

Couching Perle Cotton

Couched Perle Cotton

Work slowly so that you can keep your thread close to the previous round of stitches. When you complete your couching, do a few stationary zig zag stitches to secure your thread and then clip it.

Couching Heavy Threads

My favorite way to apply heavy threads is with the Bernina Free Motion Couching Foot #43. I hope other sewing machine companies will produce a similar foot for their machines because it’s a wonderful accessory that I wouldn’t want to be without. The look of free motion couching is quite similar to bobbin work. I did free motion couching on two of the leaves in Gilded Gardens. (This design work can also be created through free motion bobbin work.)

Free Motion Couching

Bernina Free Motion Couching Foot

If you have this accessory, I recommend that you move your needle one position to the right and set your machine on a zig zag stitch width of 1.1 mm. This helps to catch the threads or yarns with every stitch. Some decorative threads are too thin (perle cottons #8 and #12) or too thick for this foot, but many work well. I especially like using this foot with perle cotton #3.

Perle Cottons

One of the special stitches in Gilded Gardens is the pod stitch.

Pod Stitch

This stitch is formed by building repeated rounds of stitches on top of each other. I created some of my pod stitches with the Bernina Free Motion Couching Foot and some with bobbin work. Your feed dogs must be down in order to work on such a small design.

Pod

Pod Stitch

Begin by forming your outer circle and then spiral in towards the center, allowing the thread to build up on top of itself. You can only go so far with this before your machine needle or bobbin case will say “enough.” By that point, you should have a nice round pod decoration formed on the surface of your work. I would suggest that you practice this on a test piece before attempting it on your project.

So, with all the above options, you’re sure to find one that suites you well and aides you in completing this phase of the project.

Your work should now look complete. However, we still have several flowers and leaves that beg for further embellishment, which they will receive in part five.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured