The Jacobean Sampler Tree of Life

As I worked on the Jacobean Sampler collection I set myself a challenge, to take some of the elements and create a tree of life, a very popular design in this style of embroidery. Obviously the first decision was the size and I went for my largest hoop, the massive 360mm x 260mm, so I could include as many elements as possible. My first attempts were not good but I was determined to get a balanced tree.

For this exercise I intended to loosely follow the rules of flower arranging aiming to keep to 3’s of the larger elements but that was not possible, even with this size of hoop, except with the leaves. Eventually after grouping the elements and moving them around it began to take shape. In the end I choose 2 elements to duplicate and the inclusion of two more. I love the gnarled, stylized branches and trunks that are often seen in trees of life. The main trunk did not look right until I split it and choose to embellish one side with a second set of open stitches on top.

Adding the smaller elements and some leaves was easier and I had great fun selecting tiny elements to fill in the gaps.

When it came to stitching out my Trees, I opted for a raw silk noil fabric which I discovered was perfect for this embroidery. It gave all my stitch outs an antique flavour and is so so easy to embroider on. It is even hand washable!!! I get mine from Hilary at the Silk Route which is in the UK, but it only comes in one natural shade. A layer of quality stitch and tear had a second layer attached with temporary adhesive and the silk was floated on top of that as seen here.

I confess that my tree underwent “major surgery” when I realised that its form needed to be such that it could be easily split for those with mid sized hoops. In the end I was able to split it into 3 sections for 300mm x 200 (12″ x 8″ ) hoops as shown below and then into 4 sections for 240mm x 150mm (9.5″ x 6″) hoops. That involved a further split of the first section but the top and right side are the same.

I felt that anything smaller would be unrealistic and it was crucial to embroider the main trunk in one hooping. When such decisions are made I am sure I am not the only digitizer who is almost hears the “cries of dismay” from those with smaller hoops. Sorry!

On average I found that it took about five hours plus to stitch out a tree, and it will take longer if you doing it in several hoopings. However I challenge you to attempt this as it will fill you with confidence!!

As well as my usual Outline alignment stitches I have also added markers to help with the positioning of each section.

The accompanying 56 page PDF which comes with these designs takes you through the process and I have tried to make the positioning as full proof as possible using the markers and pins.

The best advice I can give is to give yourself plenty of time for this project. Large embroideries like this require methodical planning and I always adopt a full proof system to avoid mistakes. It tends to be towards the end of an extra long stitch out that we are prone to making mistakes, so triple check at least every colour before stitching out. As a colour starts I select the next colour and place it on the spare spool holder. I also tend to line up the next six or seven colours. Lastly I check again before I colour is threaded.

I also advise that you do not change the colours if at all possible as these have been carefully chosen. With many overlays and blending your finished results may be compromised if you are not careful.

Make sure your last hooping is positioned accurately as you do not want gaps between the branches and the trunk of the tree. I have made the branches a little longer than necessary to help you. Take your design through to the pale green colour for the trunk and move through that colour to see where the stitches will fall. You can easily do this by dropping the needle and raising it again in several places.

I suggest that if you change any threads you keep as near as possible to the original colour and check everything in your embroidery software if you have it. Always save an edited design under a new name to protect the original stitch file.

The time taken to embroider this out will be well worth it! Your finished tree could be framed with elements from the collection to make a superb wall hanging.

When it became obvious that the finished tree would have over 83,000 stitches I decided to remove some elements for a more simplified tree with around 74,000 stitches.

Finally by moving a few elements around I created a third tree with a bird sitting on one of the branches. All three trees have been split for 300mm x 200mm and 240mm x 150mm hoops.

I cannot apologize for the many colour changes in the trees for this style of Jacobean embroidery demands lots of colour and I assure you every colour is needed. You may be put off but actually when you working through the embroidery you will find that many of the colours stitch out very quickly. As you put a spool away it will almost be time to get the next one threaded up. When you have finished your embroidery you will need to give yourself an BIG applause. Well done for embroidering a masterpiece. Don’t forget to send me a photo or two!

The Jacobean Sampler Tree of life is available for just $24 until the end of July. After that it will cost $32.

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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A Guest blog: A Jacobean embroidered purse

When Marrilyn sent me photos of this splendid Jacobean embroidered purse I was intrigued as to how she made it and knew you all would be too, so here is her guest blog.”

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A Romantic Crazy Quilt project

I am often asked for ideas on how to use my embroidery designs especially my Crazy quilt blocks. My latest is available for the 260mm square hoop and I decided to create a cushion with my finished block.

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Guest blog: Why I love the Graced in Petals collection

I invited Pamela Cox to tell us all why she loves the Graced in Petals collection so much.

Although I’ve been known to email Hazel every time she releases a new collection to tell her that “This is my favorite!” (I mean, they really are all amazing), there is one Graceful Embroidery Collection that has been my favorite “favorite” for several years and it happens to be featured this month, May 2020:

The Graced in Petals collection

I thought I would share with you why I feel this collection is so special.

          What could be more perfect as a classic, summer dress than a white pique bodice and a dainty cotton-print skirt?  Well, enhancing the garment with heirloom quality embroidery does make it more perfect!

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Embroidering fabric prior to cutting the pattern piece makes it extremely easy to have the design exactly where it needs to be.  Using Graceful Embroidery’s exclusive OAS files, Set 1-designs #8s and #32s were effortlessly combined to produce the center focus of the dress front.

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Keep in mind though, one of the larger designs in Sets 2 or 3 would work equally as well.

 A wise woman, who use to make bridal gowns, once told me that the back of a garment needs to be just as interesting as the front…..Thank you, Hazel. So, design #15 from the same set was first stitched on two pieces of the white pique, flipping the design horizontally for the second stitching to produce mirror images of the design.  The embroidered fabric pieces were placed right sides together, matching design points and then the pattern pieces cut out.  Once again, an easy way to get perfect placement.

          Details were added to this little sun dress by embroidering design 25s on strips of pique.  Since my strap length could be embroidered in one hooping, I was able to skip over (or edit out) the first three color stops, stitching only the flowers that I wanted to accent the strap.

I did borrow design #2 from Set 1 of Heartsease, adding Graced in Petals #30 from Set 1to make the side-seam hem design.  Always remember to save combined designs under new file names to preserve the original design for future applications.

          Always remember to flip designs to produce mirror images.

As you can see, someone was pretty excited to have such a pretty summer dress.

           Graced in Petals delicate flowers have been digitized specifically for use with fine fabrics enabling us to stitch beautiful patterns on sheer organza.

 I thought it might be fun to layer designs creating a shadow effect.  Creating an overall pattern does require planning in an editing software program.  The pattern piece was scanned into the software allowing Design #15 to be rotated to fit into the pattern shape as well as possible. 


An overall pattern was planned for the underlay of satin fabric and then an overall pattern was planned for the top, sheer fabric filling in the satin’s open spaces.

Fabric pieces were embroidered separately.

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Sheer Organza

The satin pattern piece was cut.  Before cutting the top sheer fabric, it was placed on top of the satin bodice for any positioning adjustments. 

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The two layers of embroidered fabric were then treated as a single layer.

          Shadow-work is another layering technique contrasting thread or fabric colors.

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Description automatically generated The Shadow-work by the shoulder is created by layering a colored batiste under the light-weight white lawn accented with design #2, Set 1.  The center panel, features design #14 as a blue shadow heart.  To create this heart shadow, first a 3” piece of the blue fabric was centered in the hoop and color #1, the heart outline was stitched. The blue fabric was trimmed outside the stitching line.  Then the lawn fabric piece was centered in the hoop and color #1 was re-stitched going on to colors #2, #3 and #4.  Colors #5, #9 and #11 were skipped leaving the center of the heart embroidery free allowing more of a “shadow work” effect.

          This is basically applique.  It works because of the expert digitizing in the beautiful border of the heart.

          The bodice was created as strips of accented fabrics sewn together prior to cutting the pattern piece.

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          Although these precious designs are perfect for garments, Graced in Petals need not be limited to only that application. 

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Whether embroidered on heavier linen, as seen in this table topper,

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          Combining Graced in Petal elements with other elements in the collection or with other Graceful Embroidery Collections will offer endless inspiration. 

Sometimes just a small embroidered accent makes a gift extra special!    

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          And now you can see why Graced in Petals is my favorite “favorite”!

Thank you so much Pamela. It is good to have your perspective on this collection. In closing here is a lovely dressed bear that Pamela made for me I while back when she visited.

This is the bodice of the dress the bear is wearing.

Notice how Pamela has used the little flowers on the straps.

Here is a close up of the embroidery on each side of the skirt.

Lastly the bear has some matching knickers with this delightful lace edged pocket!! Pamela’s attention to detail is always stunning. Thank you again. Remember that all the designs (there are well over a 100) in this collection are available for just $35 until the end of May, 2020.

Happy embroidering from Pamela and Hazel

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Making Marianne lace – a reblog

The Marianne collection features heirloom designs which celebrate candle wicking. Within the collection you will find several scalloped edging designs for creating your own lace to match any projects you make with the Marianne designs, including some corners. These designs can be joined to make the lengths you require. The scalloped edges have a narrow outer line of satin stitches. Here is how to use them.

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Those annoying jump stitches – love them or hate them?

I try to keep an eye on what is going on in the Machine Embroidery world so I know what problems need to be addressed. Nothing seems to be spark more comments than jump stitches! Many of you hate them and I have read that some prefer not to purchase embroidery designs where jump stitches exist. I would like to show you that they are not to be avoided at all costs and how necessary they are to some styles of embroidery, particularly mine at Graceful Embroidery.

I am currently working on the designs which will make up the Jacobean Sampler collection. These are very brightly coloured designs which lots of thread changes. I do not apologise for this because the Jacobean look can only be created with lots of colour, threads changes and “jump stitches”! Take the design shown above, which stitches out in a 5″ x 7″ ( 130mm x 180mm) hoop. It holds quite a few of the elements of the collection, has 16,809 stitches, 30 different colours and 41 thread changes.

With careful planning I have created it to sit alongside itself for borders and panels. The collection is being developed so that a Sampler with borders and panels can be embroidered out. Here is the design production information on this design taken from my Wilcom EmbroiderySuite e4.5 software.

As you can see it has 71 trims and that may put you off embroidering it out.

Before you dismiss this design and others like it, consider with me why there are so many thread changes and jump stitches. There are many styles of embroidery, some dense and some more open. The design shown below is a rose from the Floribunda’s Serenade collection. Although it has several shades of red and pink to give the petals depth there are no gaps within the embroidery. So does this embroidery design have no jump stitches?

I am afraid to say that it does have a few but not as many as our first design. Often times when digitizing flowers it is vital to have jump stitches and quite a few colour changes so that the flower appears natural and not flat. I often give my flowers outlines to emphasize their edges and these may be added in sections at the end, requiring a few jump stitches.

A more open design like those in the Jacobean Sampler must have gaps between the elements. I prefer this type of embroidery. With machine embroidery we often try to emulate traditional styles of embroidery. Remember these were done by hand, taking many many hours of patience. Fastening off and starting in another place on the fabric was not an issue like jump stitches are now. Many of us have machine that will cut the jump stitches but it still seems to be an issue. I know that some do not use the jump stitch function on their machines as they do not like the way it makes the tie on the back of the embroidery. I don’t mind this and have not found it increases puckering. Let us not forget that our machines have the capacity to stitch out “breathtakingly beautiful” embroidery but this cannot be an instant process and takes effort and time.

The most breathtakingly beautiful embroidery takes time and effort and that may include jump stitches!

When creating my designs I do look to see when running stitches can be used to link elements of the design, avoiding jump stitches, BUT I am always aware that these can show through especially when dark or vibrant colours are used, or the stitches that cover them are only just delicate running stitches. I would rather create a jump stitch than ruin the design with show through. My other option would be to widen or make the covering stitches denser, but that can spoil a design altogether. So try not to regard these necessary functions in your embroidery as the enemy but as necessary to the overall look of your embroidery. They can be eliminated completely when digitizing badges and emblems but not for my style of embroidery. In summarizing I believe that they are not the enemy! I hope you can see them in the same way.

The Jacobean Sampler collection is still in development and will be released later this year.

Stay safe and well. Happy embroidering from Hazel

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Another Celtic embroidery stitch out

In deciding on another design to enhance, it just had to be Celtic Dreams, which was my very first Celtic collection. Now this is the biggest design in the collection and it was created for a bridal bodice. Now I wanted to update it and make it extra special so what better than adding in elements of the Rachel Kathryn Bridal collection which I am currently working on.

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Some unusual Celtic stitch outs

I have a great fondness and fascination for Celtic embroidery because it was where I began my digitising journey! I could not find the right designs for Celtic work and so I decided to create my own. After lots of pencil scribblings, studying Celtic knot work design in depth and discovering how the weave under and over is made, my first collection of Celtic embroidery emerged.

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a Celtic Claddagh with applique ivy leaves

Adding some dimension to embroidery can be a challenge but I have tried to make it as easy as possible with the designs which have this option. A little practice may be advisable to perfect the technique, but when you master adding pre embroidered appliques to your projects, it opens up lots more choices and you will be so proud of your achievements. Let me show you how I took one of the Celtic Ivy designs and made it into something special and unique! Continue reading

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The Husqvarna Designer EPIC™ 2

It was an enormous privilege to receive my Husqvarna Designer EPIC™ 2 back in late November 2019. Unboxing it I was like a child on Christmas morning! In all honesty weeks later I still get a huge thrill when I turn it on, see the red laser guideline appear under the needle, hear that little jingle, see the screen light up and delight in it wonderful colour scheme. I have to confess that I was never at the point of fully knowing my first Epic so I wonder if I will ever know about all this machine’s capabilities. Safe to say it is an incredible machine with so many “Epic” features. What is there not to love?

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