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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Embroidering a large circular design

While I was working on the Bundle of Joy collection I started digitising a wreath shaped design but half way through I wondered if I could do more with it.

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Creating your own lace from embroidery designs

Over the last few months I have been discovering how easy it is to create my own lace. Obviously there are many types of lace, and many of them are known by the name of the region in which they originated. Free standing lace designs have been available but these are not my favourite as they are too dense and heavy for my liking. I prefer something floaty and delicate.

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Does the perfect embroidery design exist?

Working on my new heirloom collection which celebrates the birth of a son, Archie, to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, again I am reminded of the limitations of my embroidery software and the compromises I have to make! With examples from this new collection, let me explain by answering a few questions, based on queries you have asked over the years and questions I daily ask myself as I digitise.

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Creating another Grunge style collection

There are several collections at Graceful Embroidery which feature my own style of grunge embroidery. A while back I was asked to create some embroidery for a bridal gown similar to my Amore Grunge collection but with morning glory flowers. I love these type of embroidery designs as they stitch out quickly as the leaves and flowers are usually just outlines. I set to creating another collection which would include the requested designs and called it the Morning Grunge collection, adding humming birds to the designs.

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How the colours you use can change an embroidery significantly

As I have been testing out the final designs in the Rachel Kathryn collection I have been reminded again how important the choice of thread colour is, and how dramatically that choice can effect the finished embroidery.

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