Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chair-ity Finished or Never Buy a $8.00 Chair

Finished chair with embroidered seat and pillow
The chair embroidery is adapted from the cover design.

Happily the chair is finished and turned into the library's Char-ity event!  It has been an interesting journey and I have learned so much.  Why never buy a $8.00 chair?  As might be expected the lower cost of the chair turned into more work.  We did sit on the chair and it was really strong so I thought "this is it!"  But now I've come to realize that there are other concerns like stripped screws holding the seat to the chair, damaged upholstery, and removing the chair's finish.  So next chair I will be pickier!

One of the happiest experiences from the project was rereading the book, "Exploring Elizabethan Embroidery" by Dorothy Clarke and designs by Stephanie Powell.  When I first gave my opinion of the book I had not realized how fascinating and inspiring the book truly is.  When I first started to read the "Exploring Elizabethan Embroidery" I didn't understand why so many of the stitches were just variations of the chain stitch.  Now I realize that the chain stitches fill an area very fast.  Also some of the needle weaving stitches save thread and don't weaken the fabric with hundreds of pokes with the needle.

It all started with the dissolution of the monasteries.  There was no longer as much church embroidery and many embroiderers lost their employment.  So embroiders started to work  more on  clothing and household goods.  Faster and more durable stitches helped this new wave of embroidery.  You can't make a living spending most of your life embroidering one dress!  There are also some interesting effects when using buttonhole stitches to needle weave.  If you needle weave enough buttonhole stitches in an area it causes the embroidery to become dimensional.  Stuffing material can be added before closing your work making a firm bump on the fabric.

Closeup of embroidered seat.

For strength the chair seat embroidery is made of tapestry wool and stitched on a heavy cotton fabric.  I kept the dimensional aspect of the embroidery low because it will be sat on .       

Needle painted rose.

The rose was stitched first using a simple needle painting technique which makes the rose flat on the fabric and requires lots of stitches causing many stitch holes in the fabric.  There was also an issue with wrinkles caused by the needle painting technique.  So I decided to try the needle weaving technique on the next part which was the pansies.

Finished pansies using buttonhole needle weaving technique.  
You can see how the pansies jump off the chair background.

Close-up of pansies the bottom gold petals really pop out of the background because 
this was a chair seat I didn't actually stuff the needle weaving before closing the stitches.

The way that the needle weaving was done was to first outline each section, i.e. petal, with a chain stitch in the color wool to be used in the needle weaving.  Then starting at the top you work a detached buttonhole stitch in each chain stitch until you reach the other side of your shape.  Then you work down one chain stitch and work detached buttonhole stitch back across the shape and into the first row.  You work back and forth using more or fewer stitches so that you match the shape.  More detached buttonhole stitches will cause the dimensional effect and can be padded if desired.  When you get to the bottom of the shape you close the embroidery by working in the bottom chain stitches.  Fewer detached buttonhole stitches may be needed to make the embroidery flatter.

Morning glory with more buttonhole stitches making the embroidery more dimensional
For the morning glory I adapted the design to include detached buttonhole stitch and more complex shading.  I really love this but it looks less like an Elizabethan embroidery.  Still I really love it and chose a morning glory so it could vine through the other designs.  For the vine I used a variegated green wool thread.

Close-up of morning glory embroidery. 

Daffodil embroidery.

The daffodil was the final embroidery.  I had more fun with this flower.  The petals and cup are in detached buttonhole stitch with simple shading.  The stem is made in several colors of green in a chain stitch.  Then to give it some dimension I had the vine stitched behind the stem, making the daffodil pop to the front.  I added a snail and a bug and was finished!  The embroidery was so quick and easy it took less then a week!  

The hardest part of the project was to sand and paint the chair.  I had every intention of painting leaves on the chair but it just didn't look right.  I also found that the paint I used on the chair wouldn't let me paint acrylics over it.  The leaves just washed right off.  So I learned a lot from this project and I hope it brings money for the library.  The pillow is actually a Jacobean design but I don't think anyone will notice!

Since making the chair I have decided to make some chairs for myself.  We only have  office chairs in the house and some wooden chairs would be nice.  I have been thinking of painting each chair a different color and embroidering the seats in different styles!

I hope that this inspires you to try your hand at Elizabethan embroidery and maybe even entering a Chair-ty event in your area.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Char-ity Update

Well I have committed myself!  I will be joining in the Chair-ity event to raise funds for the local library.  Here is the chair that I picked.

 Chair I purchased at a thrift store.

The chair is not crooked, but is on uneven ground.  It is scraped and has house paint on it but is really solidly built.  At first I thought I would try a technique called vinegar painting.  Vinegar painting is sort of like paste paper in that you use tools and brushes to make a textured design on the wood.  However it maybe to expensive to finish the chair this way.

Upholstered seat.

The seat covering is in bad shape.  I haven't figured out what type of decoration to do for the seat cushion.  My first thought was needlepoint.

Needlepoint I made for a seat cushion in the craft room.

 I love the pattern and colors I used for this cushion!  Made out of wool yarn this embroidery is very strong and wears well.  Another thought is to use sails cloth and do a whitework design using Mountmellick embroidery.  Before I decide on the seat embroidery I have to refinish the chair to make sure the embroidery works with the chair finish.

Closeup of chair back.

Another closeup showing carved design.

Plant next to chair.  Lots of rain has caused this jade plant to bloom early.

Closeup of jade plant flowers.

We will see how the chair comes out, it is due the end of March and it will need a sealer on it and I don't want the chair smelly.  So I really have to get started this week!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Today I have been trying to decide whether to enter the Chair-ity event at our local library.  The event is quite a challenge, decorating a chair to represent a book isn't easy I've been brainstorming but have come up with few design ideas.  One idea is to decorate the chair with paper cutouts and include a book on paper cutting.  The idea I like best is to needlepoint a cushion for the chair and include a book on needle point.  Whatever I decide I defiantly need to find a chair first! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Linen Bag for the 2017 County Fair

I couldn't make anything today because I cut my hand cleaning a can, to make into a pincushion.  So instead I will show the linen bag I made for the 2017 Fair.  

 Linen bag with Brazilian embroidery.

The bag started off as something to make out of some scraps of linen that were left over.  The bag's finished size is 5.5 x 7 inches and is made of unbleached linen.  I also made a satin bag to be a lining.  Putting the linen fabric in a hoop I couched a blue cording with a darker blue thread in the shape of a heart.  Then I embroidered pink Brazilian roses surrounded by simple leaves and white fantasy flower on long stems.  

 Close-up of Brazilian embroidery.

After hand sewing the linen and satin bags I used small hidden stitches to secure the satin bag inside the linen bag.

 Close-up of hand made button. 

The bag was cute but a little dull so I decided to make a closure for the bag using a button.  Taking a small scrap of linen I embroidered matching Brazilian roses using two strands of floss and a small needle.  Then cutting a circle around the embroidery I ran small stitches along the edge of the circle.  Next I pulled the thread to make the circle into a yo-yo.  Before tightening the circle too much I placed a plastic ring inside.  Making sure the design was centered on the ring I secured the yo-yo with a couple of back stitches.  

Using felt I sewed a circle on the button back.  Then I needle wove a loop on the back of the button and sewed it to the bag.  A simple braid using blue and white floss completed the closure.

I have only a tiny amount of the unbleached linen left and I will use it to make a simple doll.  The bag and doll will make a great gift!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Time to Start Blogging Again?

The last couple of years I have been terrible at blogging projects that I've worked on.  So as a start to a new year I will try to do better.  Just because I haven't posted doesn't mean that I haven't been crafting.  Several projects just never got mentioned or photographed.  One such project I started years ago and now is in the final stages of construction, a pincushion doll!  These dolls were very popular at the beginning of the 20th century.  Back when lace and ribbon work were everywhere.

Pincushion doll.

This pincushion doll was started over five years ago and has been sitting with other projects taking up space.  So about a month ago I started working on her again finally finishing her cylinder shaped body.  The body idea was inspired from several doll pincushion sources in ribbon work books.  I adapted the body making it long and narrower then the books suggested.  The body was sewn by hand out of muslin and then stuffed with fiberfill.  If I ever make another pincushion doll I will use something to flatten the bottom like a piece of cardboard, and add some weight on the bottom to help with the balance.   The doll is 10 inches tall and 12 inches wide.  Using hot glue I took a chenille stem and glued the dolls arms onto it's ends.  Then glued the stem to the dolls recess in the upper torso.  The top of the body was then hot glued into the dolls upper torso too.

Close-up of doll.

Next I sewed a small pink satin rectangle to fit around the dolls chest and two larger rectangles for the dress skirt and under skirt.  The underskirt is made of white damask and the outer layer is the same lovely pink satin as the bodice.  To cover her shoulders and arms I simply wrapped a piece of pink ribbon leaving it to flow from the wrists.   On her right shoulder I made a tiny folded rose using a piece of knitting ribbon.  

Now comes the real fun/work of decorating the skirts with ribbon work and ribbon embroidery.   This is where I stopped in order to finish some Christmas stuff.  

Now that we are into 2017 it is time  to get working on Fair entries.  So far I have made a simple hardanger mat and linen bag for the coming Fair.  The linen bag came out very cute and I have planned a matching doll to fit inside it.  

In the last week I have been watching the "Clone Wars" animation to try and make a small doll that appears in the show.  The doll appears in Season 1 episode 20 "Innocents of Ryloth" around 12 minutes in, and Season 2 episode 3 "Children of the Force" nearly 8 minutes in.  It is a very simple doll but the proportions are a bit tricky.  Here is the prototype made out of felt.  I learned a lot making this doll.  The points of the head were difficult at this size, it is tiny).  So I need to improve the pattern before I try again.  The stripes are embroidered which I didn't like.  Next time I will try adding stripes of fabric instead.

Star Wars doll. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year!