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Monday, February 21, 2011

Turning Corners on Couched Borders

My progress on Ocean Waves is continuing. The border continues with a few more rows of couching.

When stitching a couched border such as this, you may face a dilemma because the couched thread ends in a hole at the corner and then has to come up in the same hole for the next side of the border. I'm not sure how other stitchers handle this problem but I use a very simple technique to turn these corners. I don't precisely recall where I learned this trick. I think it was through a correspondence course or other class.

The best way to describe how I tackle these corners is to say I actually couch the corners in place. Instead of keeping the couching stitches on top of the fabric, I pull the couching stitches and the couched thread to the back of the canvas. As always, some of these things are easier shown using pictures.

Bring the couching thread up in the canvas hole where you want your couched thread to turn for the next side of the border.  Stitch over your couched thread, and sink your couching thread into the same hole.


Before pulling this stitch tight, leave a little slack on the couched thread on the front of the canvas, as seen here. On the back of the canvas, give a sharp tug on the couching thread. If you pull hard enough, a bit of your couched thread will actually pop through the canvas in that spot.

You may have to play with it a bit on the front of the canvas to make sure your couched thread lies smoothly, but this method can create a sharp corner without wasting a lot of the couched thread on the back of the canvas.

I'd be interested to hear if any of you have tried this technique and what you thought of it!

Oh – and here’s the finished border.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

About threadholders…

A couple of weeks ago, Carolyn responded to a post with a wonderful question:

Can you tell me how and why flosses or threads are attached to mother-of-pearl rings or floss cards or wooden thread holders like a hornbook or heart with holes around the outside edge to keep the colors separate? I mean, are the threads wound around a stick, i.e., 18 inches long and then cut into appropriate lengths for stitching before being looped onto or into the rings and floss minders? Or are the flosses and threads purchased in such lengths from the shops? I see all of the lovely little threads and needle cases and accessories all over the net and it looks like the lengths are about 18 inches or so. I hope this is not a silly question and that your answer will benefit many others.

Before answering the question, let me elaborate on what Carolyn’s asking about. Instructions for any needlework “smalls”, such as When I am Sewing from The Drawn Thread, often include the attachment of rings for managing flosses. Similarly, threads can be managed with cards or wooden items with holes punched in them, like these thread pallettes or this hornbook.

There are only two reasons I’m aware of for using such items.

  • The first reason is purely for decoration. These are pretty! You don’t actually have to use them!
  • The second is, of course, for function. I suspect if your threadholder only has a few rings or holes, this might not be realistic, unless you’re working a project that requires only a few thread colors. On the other hand, I’ve received class kits that have included the threads attached to cardstock with holes punched in it, like the one shown here. This is much preferable to kits with loose threads that require sorting!

As for the length of threads to attach to your threadholder, it’s a combination of personal preference and ease of cutting.

  • Some threads, such as ThreadworX flosses, come pre-cut in 1 yard (?) lengths. To get to an appropriate stitching length, just cut this length in half.
  • Pearl cotton skeins (and some other threads) can be opened up into a single loop that can be cut in two places to get stitching lengths.
  • In my classes with Carolyn Mitchell, she calls the distance from the inside of your elbow to the tip of your middle finger (with your hand out flat) your “personal stitching length.” In my case, this is approximately 17 inches, so I’m usually fine with using the 18” lengths from the previous suggestions.
  • If you have a different length preference, yes, you can wrap the thread around something appropriately sized such that a single cut would result in the desired length, or find some other way to cut repeatable lengths.
  • Of course, if you’re just using the threadholder for decorative or temporary purposes, you can just attach a full skein (as seen in one of the links above).

Physically attaching the thread is fairly straightforward. Simply use a half-hitch knot. Fold the thread length in half, insert the folded end through the ring, put the cut ends through the loop formed by the folded end, and pull tight.

Carolyn, I hope this answers your question. If anyone has anything to add, please do so!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ocean Waves: Beginning with the Border

Before I go too far in describing the stitching on Ocean Waves, I’d like to thank Judy Souliotis, for graciously granting me permission to share my progress of her lovely design here.

In starting to stitch Ocean Waves, I was looking forward to learning the advanced techniques in the center wave motif. I was surprised when, with the very first stitches, I was learning something already. I discovered how elegant a simple couched border could be.

Isn’t it gorgeous in its simplicity? This is just two strands of Japanese red-gold metallic thread couched with black Kreinik #4 braid, using a plain ol’ cross stitch. The next time I have a piece that just needs a little something, I’ll have to remember this.

Of course, this isn’t the entire border. There are several additional rows of Japanese metallic, also couched in various stitches using black Kreinik. After a few more rows are added outside the first, the simple beginning becomes a bit more complex, but no less elegant.

Have you ever used couched threads as a border on a project? What threads did you use? How did it turn out?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Year, New Project

On January 1st, to kick off the start of the new year, I decided to start a new project. I really wanted to start the Garden Gate Sampler by Gay Ann Rogers, since I recently collected all of the threads, but I neglected to realize that I didn’t have the congress cloth needed!

So I decided to go stash diving, and pulled out a different kit I’ve been wanting to start for a while. I purchased Ocean Waves from Judy Souliotis when it was available on her website a few years ago (though unfortunately it’s no longer available). Isn’t this design gorgeous?

Yes, it’s all done in Kreinik metallics, Japanese metallic threads, and some silk for couching. The biggest challenge will be the center motif, which is all couched as many motifs are in Japanese embroidery. I’ve read about this technique, but haven’t really done much. We’ll see how it turns out.

But that’s saved for last. The stitching on this piece actually begins with the borders. That’s another post…


P.S. Thanks for all of the welcome back messages. And thanks to Susan and Edy for remembering that a certain little person in this household turned TWO on Saturday. We can’t believe how much she’s grown. After a second hip surgery this past year, followed by another cast, she finally started walking just before Christmas, and she is soooo proud of herself. :-) So are we.