A re-blog: Fields of Poppies

There have been lots of programmes on television and films made which catalogue the dreadful events and history of World War 1 which began over one hundred years ago. It was the war changed the world we live in. I am reminded of the poem that John McRae wrote:

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row.”

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Why am I so passionate about machine embroidery?

When a customer brought some machine embroidery samples into the fabric shop where I worked I was immediately enthralled and captivated. Having never seen an embroidery unit I could not imagine how something so beautiful could be created, not by long hours hand stitching, but by a machine! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would be digitising my own designs and making friends all over the world.

I learnt how to sew on a old Singer sewing machine and I remember that it contained a few gadgets, in a partition under the hand wheel, that I had no idea how to use. Without any instructions I had no idea how they worked but I remember playing with them and examining the dials and knobs. There was a world of sewing out there I wanted to embrace. I am sorry that I no longer have that machine, which is why I created the Antique sewing machine embroidery to replace it.

I had made attempts at hand embroidery but not that successfully probably lacking the diligence and patience to ever finish a project. For a while I was in to cross stitch as I enjoyed all the wonderful colours. My first major purchase when I starting working was a Frister Rossman 35 sewing machine. It served me well and in all honesty I think I wore it out completely. I have always treasured my sewing machines which have allowed me to make clothes for my dolls, then my three girls.

When that machine died I invested in a Bernina machine which had some fancy stitches and an in built mouse. I confess that I never mastered its use!!!

After this Bernina I began my Husqvarna Designer journey starting with the Designer 1 through to my current Epic. I have loved all my machines and they have enabled me to pursue my passion for embroidery. On reflection, my first attempts at embroidery were not successful. Moving my mega hoop into three different positions resulted in my embroidery not lining up. I never found out why this happened but I persisted at it and mastered the hoop in the end. It was not long before I wanted to create my own embroideries so I taught myself to digitise. As each larger hoop has been developed I have loved the challenge to digitise larger embroideries without so many hoopings. However I would say that there is a certain thrill when you create an embroidery with several hoopings. It is very very satisfying to line each design up successfully.

Machine embroidery still has me entranced. To see the designs I have diligently created stitching out for the first time is still thrilling and exciting. There are days when my hoopings do go all wrong and I try to honestly share why this happens here in this blog, and how to avoid it occurring in the future. I am utterly convinced that when we are stressed and in a hurry, the results are often not our best. It is easy to frequently wonder in which direction machine embroidery will go next as the manufacturers blow us away with new machines that do even more than we could possibly imagine a decade ago. What a privilege it is to be part of the machine embroidery world.

As another year of digitising designs for Graceful Embroidery is over, I am looking to the year ahead. I have several collections in development which should be released in 2020, after some Christmas designs. There should be lots of new videos too on YouTube. This is a superb way for you to visit with me in my studio, as I continue on my exciting embroidery adventure. Watch this space to see what Father Christmas brings me this year.

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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Selecting the right colour threads for my Jacobean stags

As the majority of my embroidery digitising consists of creating leaves, flowers, scrolls and scallops, animals are a HUGE challenge. Jacobean style embroidery usually features birds or animals so I opted for stags. Just as the flowers and leaves are stylised so are the animals and I love the extra flourishes and patterns. I have introduced some patterns on to the body of each stag in the form of Florentine stitches to follow the contours of their bodies.

However as there were a total of 6 stags to digitise I became more at ease with each one. As I have stated many times there just aren’t enough thread colours to work with, so the process also allowed me plenty of opportunity to experiment with my brown threads to find the perfect combinations. When all the work was done I decided to embroider all my stags out to perfect the colours and I thought it would be fun to see them together on a landscape.

I grouped them in my software and looked through my designs for a background. I thought I would find it in the Summer Meadows collection but settled for the grass in the Kate Greenaway design. All important stitch outs need a new needle and a clean bobbin area and I choose a pale cream silk dupion for my embroidery in a 360mm x 200mm hoop.

I did the landscape first and having placed it on several levels to mimic a hillside. This was stitched out in Sulky Rayon 630 Moss green, which is probably my favourite darker green.

After experimenting with several light colours I settled for Sulky Rayon 1085 Silver for the antlers.

The tails of the stag stitch out came next and these were done in Sulky Rayon 1149 Deep ecru.

I used Sulky Rayon 1031 Medium orchid for the inner sections of their ears and Sulky Rayon 1838 Cocoa cream for the necks and under bellies.

When I first saw Sulky Rayon 1179 Dark taupe stitching out the legs I thought it was too dark. This is one of those terrible colours that really does not display in my embroidery software accurately. I wanted to use a darker thread for the legs behind to create some depth but maybe not this dark.

This same thread over stitched the necks and under bellies and ears. In some previous stitch outs I used a lighter thread but the pattern failed to stand out.

Sometimes you really cannot tell what colour will look good until you start it. There are instances when after a few stitches I know I have made a bad decision and I can stop and get away with selecting another colour and go back to the beginning to stitch over the mistake. However that is not possible if the thread is too dark so I just had to go with it.

As soon as I started to add the bodies in Sulky Rayon 1838 Cocoa cream I knew it would be fine.

I have used two similar shades for the main bodies and faces. Sulky Rayon 1838 Cocoa cream goes on first and then Sulky Rayon 1180 Medium taupe stitches over the top. As I have tried several different threads together these two work best I think.

Here you see the outlines and details being added to each stag. The eyes and feet go on last.

I was delighted with the results and hope you like these too. Notice how the colours have all blended in well together.

The designs in the Jacobean Sampler collection will be released later this year.

As well as individual designs there will be 8″ x “8 blocks. This is my sixth stag which did not make it to the group.

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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Blending embroidery colours

I have been blending embroidery threads for a while now. It allows me to soften the area where two colours join but it also can be used to create a new colour. This is an exciting edition to my embroidery designs especially when I am able to give a new dimension to leaves and flowers.

Here you can see a design from my future Jacobean Sampler collection. Notice that I have used greens and mauves together for a gorgeous look.

The stylised leaf and top of the flower have been blended with two colours. To add further colourful style to these designs many of them become more colourful with the addition of dazzling outlines and cross stitches that sit over some fills.

Here are more examples of the infill inside flowers which has been been curved to make the flowers more natural. The outlines on leaves and flowers should stand out in these Jacobean type designs and this sometimes requires a colour to be repeated. Using metallic thread will also make the outline more distinct.

A great deal of blending was required for the stags in this collection. I hope to do another blog just about them. Finding the right browns, beige’s and taupe’s has been a challenge for me. Animals and birds are more of challenge for me, but maybe that is because I have not done so many.

The curvaceous effect on the body of the stag and within some leaves and flowers is called the florentine or liquid effect. In the process of digitising I am able to “bend” the stitches to follow the angles. The stitches of each colour are also made denser on one side and lighter on the other, and vice versa for the other colour.

Here we see the first colour which I usually make the darker of the two.

This is the top colour and is is just a little lighter.

Here you see how the effect works. the lower colour was Sulky Rayon 1209 Light avocado and the upper colour was Sulky Rayon 1331 Pale green. Remember that the colours on your machine screen and in your software, and my PDF’s are not reliable. Sometimes it is important to view the spools themselves.

Noticed how inaccurate the software colours are compared to the threads. The blending has also been perfect for the completing the logs on which each of the stags has been standing. I am delighted with the results for in machine embroidery there are no individual curved stitches.

I hope that you love these fascinating designs which almost have an exotic feel to them. Make them as colourful as possible. Members of my Group Forum have been downloading these everyday for several weeks as freebies. Interested? You can download them too for free, providing you join before Wednesday 9th October 2019. The designs will be released for sale later this year and as well as these elements there will be 8″ x 8″ blocks which I hope you will love.

Join today to collect all 35+ designs for free as a member- you will need to open an account at Graceful Embroidery.

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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Guest Blog: Lucia’s Christening gown

My name is Kathy and I own an Ellure Plus. I have been machine embroidering for about 5 years. I’ve made christening gowns for each of my grandchildren. This gown was created for Lucia.

I always start my project by deciding on an embroidery theme and stitching every selection in the design I chose that I might want to use on the garment.  I want to see the design “in person” so to speak.  Then I choose the colours I want to use.  I cut out each design and place them on the pattern piece where they will eventually go.  There’s lots of switching around and second guessing until the final designs and placement are chosen.

Unfortunately, I’ve worked all my life so I’ve had to work my sewing into that schedule.  For this particular project, Lucia’s christening gown, I would say approximately two and a half months.  Only sewing on the weekends can add substantial time to a project plus my grandchildren’s christening gowns are almost like a work of art.  I’m very particular from the fabric to the laces to the embroidery designs.

Once I saw the bees in the Beatrice Collection of embroidery design, that’s all I needed to see.  They were petite, so very sweet and charming, just perfect for a baby and I like making items that don’t necessarily conform to the standards. 

I didn’t need to see a cross or an angel on the gown.  Bees were perfect for me and, as you can see, it turned out stunning if I do say so myself!

Which embroidery designs did I use?   Several!  I used many from the Beatrice collection, including GFE-BEA-2-2, GFE-BEA-2-9, GFE-BEA-2-18, GFE-BEA-2-20 and GFE-BEA-2-10.

I added some very light pink to the colour scheme.  The bees are adorable! I used Sulky threads and the project cost me around $550 to make. Here is a list of what I used to create the gown:

Quantity Name
1 1-634, White French Lace Edging 1 1/4″ wide
12.5 1-633, White French Lace Edging 1″ wide
3 1-632, White French Lace Edging, 3/4″ wide
1 SPECIAL FIND!!! Swiss Cotton Organdy, 45″ Wide, White (2-7-18)
1 11-6207, 1/2″ Beading, White
7 Ent – 37-100214-White, Swiss Entredeux
3.5 3-1992, White French Lace Insertion, 5/8″ Wide
11.5 1-640, White French Lace Insertion, 1″
6.5 1-639, White French Lace Insertion, 3/4″
1 12-223, 1/4″ Insertion, White
4.5 Swiss Nelona, 55″ Wide, White

The most challenging part for me, was deciding on the lace which runs vertically on the gown and the placement of the embroidery designs.  There were many variations until I finally decided on the one! This pattern also has a slip.  I embroidered the full name of the child, their date of birth, a little flower and sign it “Love Pippy”, which is what my grandkids call me.

If anybody was going to create a similar gown I would advise them: “Do not, as I stated before, worry about the gown looking like the “off the rack” christening gowns.  The ceremony and the sanctity of the event are the true elements of baptism.  The gown is really just a sign of the baby’s purity. 

It doesn’t need to look like the clergy’s vestments!  Use what delights you and in this case Hazel’s light hearted, whimsical bees were perfect! 

Also, always make a sample before you do the actual embroidery on your project.  You’ll be surprised how different it can look, especially if you have resized the design.”

Would I do anything differently if I made another one? “I did love the gown and most of all, my daughter loved it.  There’s really nothing I would have done differently. 

This was christening gown number four for me so I’m pretty much a pro at these!” The biggest lesson I learnt in making this, was not to use heavy starch on a garment that a baby will be wearing!  They get very wrinkly, very fast.

Thank you Kathy for sharing this remarkable Christening gown with us all. I am sure it will be treasured for many generations. I particularly love the Swiss entredeux work around the sleeves.

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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Guest Blog: Happy Anniversary to Graceful Embroidery!

Every year in early September, Hazel celebrates Graceful Embroidery’s anniversary by giving a complete collection of design elements to members of her Embroidery Group.  It’s her mile stone in life, but we get the gifts!  How special, and generous, is that?

          Each original element is digitized to Hazel’s high standard of quality and affords many creative applications.  For those who are new to the world of machine embroidery, or those of us a little unsure of how small, individual elements might prove to be valuable, I have a few examples that might help inspire.

          The theme for this anniversary collection is Jacobean embroidery. In one the Hazel’s blogs, Let’s talk Jacobean machine embroidery, she offers a bit of background about this style of embroidery. Searching “Pinterest Jacobean Embroidery” displays countless images to further understand the original concept.  Inspiration for duplicating the pure form of Jacobean Embroidery can certainly be found while viewing the images.

          However, the elements can be combined in many ways and stitched on any project you desire.

   Week 2-design 1, could easily be joined into a border design which would make a lovely accent on a towel.

          Bring two elements into the work space flipping the second element both vertically and horizontally.

Place them so the tip of the stems just touch.  Save this unit under a new file name to preserve the original file for future use.  The new file can now be repeated as often as needed to form the proper border length.

          Combining two different elements adds additional interest to a border design.. 

The example displays File 1-3 on top with 1-2 underneath it.  In an effort to create more balance to the stacked designs, file 1-2 was rotated counter-clockwise about 65° or until the top of the flourish was straight up.

Once again, the two units were combined and saved under a new file name. The new file was repeated until the needed length was created. This vertical example would work well on a place mat or even a tote bag.

Garments are also greatly enhanced with Jacobean Embroidery. Design 4 from weeks 1 and 2 combine to form a 6½” x 2½” unit which could be used on a yoke or side seams at the hemline of a child’s garment. 

Once the “combining bug” bites, you won’t be able to stop!  Creativity may have you going bigger and bolder!  Possibly creating your own square blocks which are perfect for quilt, throw pillows or tote bags.  Just have fun!

Thank you, Hazel, for these wonderfully inspiring designs!

I am very grateful to Pamela Cox for writing this guest blog. These daily freebie designs are available at Graceful Embroidery, to all members of the Graceful Embroidery Group Forum. Make sure you join before this event closes on 9th October when they will be withdrawn and put up for sale.

Happy embroidering to you all from Hazel

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Let’s talk Jacobean machine embroidery

I think that I first discovered the wonder of Jacobean embroidery when I picked up a book about it at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. Although in truth I had seen it before when I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I think that it’s great attraction are the colours and the variety of stitches used. Now I usually try to keep to three or four colours in my embroidery, so digitising Jacobean embroidery is a challenge as I must introduce more colours than I am normally at ease with.

There are many types of embroidery and this style originated in the reign of James 1 of England in the first part of the seventeenth century. James is the English version of the Latin name Jacobus or the Hebrew Jacob. The era in which James 1 reigned was called the Jacobean period. The embroidery has a particular style featuring stylised or fanciful scrolls, leaves and flowers sometimes with the addition of the tree of life, stags and birds. The stags were the hardest part of the designs to create.

Jacobean embroidery was popular for furnishings and jackets. Silk has used in the past but wool is more popular and commonplace for this embroidery. It is frequently confused with crewel embroidery which is understandable as I think there are no defined differences. Jacobean embroidery is a style while crewel embroidery is a type so even though I am no expert I think they overlap, hence the confusion. However this embroidery is just so beautiful and I find the emphasis on the leaves and flowers delightful.

Many of the leaves and flowers in Jacobean embroidery have outlinesso you could use metallic thread for some of them

So it was fun to study old and modern Jacobean embroidery, to get a feel for the colours and textures in readiness for digitising some for Graceful Embroidery. This was my first attempt a while back, part of the Treasure Trove earlier this year. I used clip art from DiddyBag needing somewhere to start.

Each week during the whole of September and first week of October, members of the Graceful Embroidery Group Forum will be able to download a free design each day with a Jacobean flavour. This is all part of my 12th Birthday Event! As the colour in this embroidery is very important, each week I am changing the colour scheme, which will enhance the beauty and give you various ideas. Do join today so you can collect these freebies. There will be over 30 of them.

It has been great fun blending the colours together and creating the over stitches for these designs. I have been able to use many more of the features within my Embroidery software than I usually do. I hope you like the results. The elements will be combined to create square panels which will be available to purchase later this year. As yet I have no name for the designs. If you have a suggestion do get in touch by email.

Thank you for being a part of the celebrations at Graceful Embroidery and for taking the time to read my blog. As a taster this is the second weeks colour scheme. Until next week then.

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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Guest blog: The SPLENDIFICENT DRESS (embroidering a christening gown)

     My name is Chris and my husband bought me my first Husqvarna Viking Embroidery/Sewing machine in 2003 when I had the crazy idea of embroidering the center block of our daughter and son-in-law’s wedding quilt with their name and wedding date—not having any idea what I was getting into (and the joy it would bring).  My adventure (and love) with machine embroidery had been launched!

     Over the years my wonderful husband has now bought me 7 sewing machines: 3 sergers (two Husqvarna Viking 936s & one Babylock Triumph), 2 single needle embroidery/sewing machines (Husqvarna Viking Designer Diamond and Babylock Ellisimo), Babylock Valiant (10 needle embroidery machine) and HandiQuilter Sweet 16.

     I first learned about heirloom sewing after registering for a Martha Pullen seminar in 2005.  She is a very vivacious and inspirational leader in the heirloom sewing world.  I then enhanced my knowledge and skills by attending 8 more of her licensings on various topics and truly fell in love with everything heirloom.  I subscribed to her magazine, SEW BEAUTIFUL, for many years and drew much inspiration from them and many of her books.  I combined ideas from at least 4 or 5 gowns to create this SPLENDIFICENT DRESS. I was asked to create a Christening gown for a Live Auction Benefit on behalf of a Pregnancy Counseling Center in Southern California, so it was donated for a silent auction benefit

     The cost of all the fabric and lace was approximately $225. For Heirloom work I use Mettler 60 wt. cotton but for general embroidery I most often use Floriani polyester 40 wt.   I did several stitch-outs of the organza motifs to determine the proper combination of thread colors with Hazel’s designs and the sheer fabric.

     I had admired Hazel’s recent collection, Royal Heirloom, and set out to create a gown that would best showcase her beautiful designs. I then began to select, merge, and slightly modify (with Hazel’s permission) the embroideries to enhance the gown skirt, sleeves and slip and gown bodices..  In the center front panel of the dress I modified Hazel’s ‘mock’ lace-shaping embroidery with actual lace and stitched it on ecru organza.  With Hazel’s smaller designs from her collection, I chose several for the centers of the organza motifs that were sewn into the godets around the skirt as well as on the puffed sleeves.  Finally, I duplicated the curved puffing from the front skirt panel onto the delicate bodice.  

     As I wanted to make this gown ‘antique/ heirloom-looking’, I chose ivory silk dupioni and ecru Swiss lace insertion and lace edgings.  I used four colors of Mettler 60 wt. cotton embroidery thread for the embroidery designs.  To make the gown’s embroideries on the organza stand out when the dress was worn, I chose to make the slip from white Swiss batiste with an organza gathered ruffle. I used pearl buttons to close the bodice and slip.

     After looking through my assortment of heirloom books , magazines, and course work from Heirloom classes I have taken, I designed a gown with eight gores, eight godets, an organza hem and a variety of heirloom elements and techniques including lace insertion, beading, puffing, motifs, shadow work, piping, pearls, pin-stitching, and, of course, gorgeous embroideries.

     Though the ‘sewing/embroidery time’ was so much fun for me, there was also a lot of ‘prep time’ in selecting and combining the designs in my embroidery software (Floriani Total Control U) that would best display Hazel’s designs and enhance the beauty of the gown.  Start to finish, I spent about 85 hours in creating this Baptismal gown and slip.

   Truly, the most challenging part of the project was the planning process—choosing the style of dress and which and where to place the designs.  Since I was asked to ‘make a Christening gown’ for the auction, I had a timetable of several months to create my choice of dress—which was actually less stressful.

     I once made a Christening gown with silk dupioni and used water soluble mesh stabilizer. When I washed the embroideries to remove the stabilizer, the gown lost its crispness and didn’t really press out very well.  So, for this gown, I used a tear away under the dupioni and water soluble under the organza. 

     I really loved the finished dress—especially the full skirt.  And, because I was not rushed to finish the gown, I had time to add ivory pearls throughout the designs (though I did use “hot-fix” pearls rather than sewing them on by hand).  If I was to make this again, I realized that I did not make the slip skirt as full as the gown’s skirt, which would have made the gown stand out more.

    I believe one reason I so enjoyed this project is because the ‘time pressure’ element was eliminated.  I had allowed myself a month or so to create the gown and could enjoy the process since I was not rushed or stressed to finish it by a certain date.  I also realized, yet again, just how much I truly love to sew and embroider and that God has blessed me with the talent to do so, for which I am so grateful. However, as with everything I have ever made, I recognize  that I personally could never ‘go into business’ selling my work because, as my children tell me, “Mom, no one could afford to really pay you for all the time you spend in making something”—that’s the ‘cost’ of being a perfectionist, I guess.

Thank you Chris for sharing your experience of making this “splendificient” Christening gown. It is a true work of art and a source of inspiration to us all. It was entered in the 2018 Annual Competition at Graceful Embroidery and won first prize. If you would like the challenge of entering this annual competition you need to join the Graceful Embroidery Group Forum.

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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Guest blog: Natalie’s wedding day shawl

My name is Janis and I have been doing machine embroidery for about 10 years now. I own a Brother Dream machine 2 and I prefer to use Floriani threads for my embroidery.

A while back I was asked to make a shawl for a customer who was going on a cruise. I used Royal Blue crepe back satin with chiffon layered over it and stabilized it with wash away stabilizer – 2 layers of Exquisite wash away and a Schmetz metallic needle.

I test stitched to try out different silver metallic threads.  I ended using Floriani which best matched the dress it was going to be worn with.

I made this harder for myself than necessary. I used the Natalie’s Wedding Collection and did not see that there was a single rose available so I edited one from a grouping to use for the continuous border.  The larger groupings down the middle came from the same collection.  I had #3 and #4.

I printed out the designs in Floriani Total Control-U embroidery software in order to place the motifs down the middle.  Then I printed out about a dozen single roses and played with the placement to determine what my overall size should be in order to make the continuous design around the outside come out even.  I was off about one inch which I just divided up at the corners.

I chalked the outline on the satin and put some chalk marks to define areas on the shawl so I could keep track of where I was.  With the sheer on top, those chalk marks didn’t last long.  I ended up putting in tailor’s tacks. 

I began by embroidering the large motives down the middle from the center out.  Then I began working on the border. I found that a long narrow continuous design hoop worked best for the border as it allowed me to move the fabric and stay aligned correctly more easily.

It took about 50 hours of embroidery time over two weeks and the cost of the project was around $150. The most challenging part of completing the project was figuring out how to make the border design to fit the shape that was desired.

If I had to do a similar project again, I would leave a lot more fabric extended outside the planned finished area than I thought I needed.  There was one section where I literally had to pin on stabilizer in order to get the correct size to hoop for the border. However I was very pleased with the finished result, but it ended up taking a LOT more time than I anticipated. In the future I will be careful to quote a higher price than I expect it to take.  When I realized the amount of time it was going to take, I went back and renegotiated the price.  It’s easier to drop the price than raise it but the customer was glad to pay it after having priced retail and still not finding what she wanted. 

My creativeness is only limited by my imagination and willingness to stretch my abilities. 

This is an amazing project Janis. Well done. I am sure that the lady loved wearing this on her Mediterranean cruise. I love your comment when asked what you learned from making this scarf – “my creativeness is only limited by my imagination and willingness to stretch my abilities.  This isn’t something I would have tackled two years ago.” You have inspired us all. Thank you for sharing this project with us all.

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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The story of a Katie Grace stitch out

This month Katie Grace is the collection of the month so you will get all 4 sets in the collection for just $35. I decided to do a new stitch out of the designs with a few colour changes.

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