Mouse Tea Party

I’d just thought I would share with you what my sister and I were up to.

She is very involved with her miniatures and its organization National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts (NAME).  She has been the chair of this year’s convention in Indiana and wanted a thank you gift for her committee members.

There was a Mad Hatter Café Workshop miniature project

Mad Hatter Cafe

and she decided the gift would be aprons.  She found fabric in coordinating colors and found a Mouse Tea Party design to embroider on the aprons.

Here is my sister (the purple one) and some of her committee members wearing the aprons:

Mad Hatter Aprons

It took her and I 3 long days to do a total of 11 aprons.

Below are the close-ups of the aprons.

Blue Apron Green Apron Pink Apron Purple Apron

World Embroidery Day, July 30, 2015

Well now. Seems there is something new afoot. And why not. There’s a special day for just about anything these days. So why not embroidery as well.

Thanks to a post by Inspirations Magazine, I’ve discovered there is a World Embroidery Day.

It all started in 2011 by Sweden’s Embroidery Guild and is now celebrated annually. It’s manifesto, to celebrate embroidery and its importance to the world and “to be part of a joyfully creative peace movement”.

Here’s a link to Sweden’s Embroidery Guild and you can download read the full manifesto in your language here (scroll halfway down the page).

I have a hand piece I can attempt to finish if the heat wave doesn’t get me first (we don’t have air conditioning). Or I can work on some digitizing that I have started.

So readers, is anyone picking up a needle and thread and doing a stitch or two in spirit with me?  It doesn’t have to be embroidery.  Maybe there’s a button somewhere that needs attaching?

The Art of Shading in Embroidery

Jeanine in Canada is a blogger who specializes in Italian Needlework. In this particular blog post, she discusses Printwork Embroidery whereby engravings are imitated in handwork. Competition pieces were evaluated not only for the quality of stitches, but also, how well the piece made use of shading. Back then, I’m sure there was not the extensive availability of various shades for each color either in threads or materials, but there were enough options to challenge an artist’s creativity. Dyeing or staining of fabrics was one way and could have included the use of tea. Differences in shades of black or sepia (brown) colored threads helped to produce the shading in a two dimensional piece.

Today is no different, but we have many more options available to us. While thread colors are still used for shading, fabrics today can easily imitate marble or stone, or even bricks or grass. In free-standing lace embroidery we can make use of the following options to enhance our lace work:

  • changing the thread color
  • varying the density of stitches, or the openness or closeness of stitched areas
  • varying the stitch styles, such as satin vs. a general fill stitch
  • changing stitch direction
  • using variegated thread instead of solid colors
  • using three dimensional effects
  • using applique of fabrics within the piece in lieu of stitches
  • adding some embellishment, such as crystals, sparkles, or buttons

While it’s not lace, in my quilted nativity scene below, I made some deliberate choices in fabric and thread.

The fabric for the night sky has a marble effect to it. This fabric avoids a flat solid unrealistic look and gives my night sky the cosmic gas effect that one would naturally see.

Nativity Wall Hanging

The sheep are initially stitched in white, but an obvious layer of gray is added with the stitches changing directions to more accurately depict the various parts of the animal.

Nativity Sheep

The angel’s hair is initially stitched in one color in two directions, with another closely colored thread used for subtle shading.  The strands at the top of her head on the left are stitched horizontally, while the lower half of the strands are stitched more vertically.

Nativity Angel

The hay in the baby’s crib has a 3D fringe which causes shading underneath it and the thread used for the wood is variegated with another brown colored thread depicting the wood grain.

Nativity Crib

When using exclusively threads, one must be aware of the layers of stitches that are involved in creating a piece. Too many layers of thread can cause a piece to pucker in the hoop or cause thread breakage from the friction of having the needle push through several layers of thread. Digitizing software can help you remove the lower levels of stitches. Also, the bigger the piece being stitched, the easier it is to achieve the effects of shading. For small pieces, it may be best to forgo the shading altogether.

All this reminds me, I do have a Currier & Ives piece that has long remained unfinished. Maybe I should pull it out and finish it after I finish the bouquet of flowers sitting on my coffee table.

Dangers of the Hobby or Job

We know all jobs have their dangers, some more than others.  Even life can be dangerous at times.  Sewing is no exception.  Whether it is by hand or by machine, pins are one of those hazards.

Here is a link to a story of a woman who inhaled a pin.  She luckily survived, but she never healed completely.  She was doing the same thing I know we all do, including me.  That is, holding a pin between your lips.

While pins are common place in general sewing and quilting, they are used in machine embroidery creations as well, just not as often.  I have seen instructions where one is shown how to temporarily pin fabric to stabilizer for applique or to pin separately stitched pieces together for joining.

Obviously, pin cushions have their place.  Whether one uses one of the following

  • Favorite Tin

  • Magnetic Holder

  • Favorite Dinnerware

  • Pin Cushion

    Pin Cushion

  • Or an old fashioned styled Victorian Bird such as this one I found on Amazon:
  • Victorian Bird Pin Cushion

    Victorian Bird Pin Cushion

They should always be nearby and within reach.  Somehow or other, I seem to be unusually bothered these days by sticking my lips, so I have all but the Victorian bird siting near my sewing machine.  That one is on my wish list.  And my favorite dinnerware dish, doubles as my drink coaster.

Please stay safe everyone.  The fun leaves us when we get hurt.

So what’s your favorite pin holder?  Drop me a note below.

Professional Embroidery Machines

While researching professional embroidery machines, I find there are a lot of manufacturers that specifically manufacturer multi-needle machines.  Professional or commercial embroidery machines are specifically designed for mass production.  They usually contain a minimum of 6 needles allowing 6 spools of thread to be threaded in the machine at the same time.  Since changing thread colors takes time, allowing multiple spools at the same time to be threaded saves time during stitching, allowing you to complete a customer’s order that much faster.

There are 2 levels of professional sewing machines:

  1. Professional – lower end models primarily geared toward a home-based business or a “fanatic” like me.  LOL  They usually have a lower price which makes them ideal for a home-based business or a first embroidery only machine.
  2. Commercial – higher end models primarily geared towards larger businesses and store fronts.

One of the barriers for me is the weight of these machines.  Seems 80 pounds is a light-weight machine!  I don’t know about you, but there is no way I can carry this machine up or down a flight of stairs let alone just lift it.

Maybe a chair lift would help?  =D

Chair Lift

More importantly, if you are seriously considering one of these machines, find someone who can service your machine at your location rather than theirs.  Unless of course you live next to a gorgeous hunk that you would like to get to know better… ;D

Machine Fixed

I finally received my machine back after about 5 weeks and I was able to finally finish my Easter ornaments.  I guess it’s better late than never.  They were all well received, even the late ones.

My machine had several parts replaced.  The part that makes the needle go up and down caused the major delay.  Seems I received the last one off the assembly line.  If this new one freezes, my machine is history.  There are no more parts.

So it seems I need to temper my enthusiasm a bit.  But that’s okay because I need to concentrate on a few different things:

  1. Finding a new job
  2. Leaning how to create embroidery designs and not just sewing designs of other.
  3. Learning how to make money with this hobby.

Finding Value in Craftmanship

In my first post about why I started this blog, kbarone0117, asks about the younger generation and wonders what happened to their interest in not only hand crafted items, but creating them as well.

I think for starters, I think we need to find value in what we do. Today, much of the craft items are mass produced, thereby devaluing what the home crafter does.  Commodization or mass production is the first step to devaluation.  To make money, there is a relationship between 1) the cost and quality of materials and 2) the time involved and the skill of the crafter.  In mass production, quality and skill are the first things to disappear in order to make money.  Automation, created by an engineer, takes over.  However, the home or small business crafter will maintain the quality and skill, but that causes many to not be able to earn a living wage.  Technology is around to enhance what and how the crafter does, but this still can be pricey.

I also think crafters today are either not understanding all the expenses they need to account for or they are deliberately undercutting their prices so their product sells. This does not serve anyone and in the end we all lose.

Also, the standard of living in this country is so high, that it takes at least 2 full-time wages to make ends meet. That means moms and dads, or even grandparents, are no longer home or nearby to teach crafts. It also says that if you do crafting, you cannot earn a decent living in this country, so give it up.

The school systems are also partly to blame. Growing up in northern NJ, I consider myself lucky to have been able to be in what used to be called “home economic” classes in junior high. I had classes in sewing, cooking, and shop for 2 years. I loved it. These classes by no means taught me anything in detail. However, they do serve to spark a student’s interest, as everything in the curriculum should. If interest is there, then there were additional classes in high school that could be taken. Today, these classes are no longer taught. Fabric shops are no longer found in North Jersey. One must travel to Southern Jersey or Pennsylvania to find quality fabrics and threads or look online.

So where did I get my interest in embroidery?   It was actually Mrs. Reeds art class. It wasn’t much of an embroidery piece, but my parents had it framed and hanging up in the kitchen for the longest time.  And alas, this is not what I went to college for.  I studied accounting and computer science so I could earn that living.

So my readers, what do you think?

  • How do we find value in our craftsmanship?
  • Do we need more respect for crafters?
  • Is it the tastes of potential buyers of what has being crafted?
  • Has there ever been a time down through the ages where such craftsmanship was had value?  Or is only for the well off to purchase and the lower classes to produce?