Big mugs, little mugs, glued mugs

Some time ago, I started experimenting with embroidered appliqué – first a Christmas tree, then a bauble with embellishments, and then, because I thought it would make a nice workshop and I happen to know the workshop co-ordinator at the Knitting & Stitching Show doesn’t like Christmas-themed projects in October, a mug. Of tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, or whatever beverage you prefer. With the same embellished band (only slightly curved) as the bauble. Because of this, the size of the mug was pretty much decided for me; but this caused a bit of a problem. A mug large enough to contain the embellished band would be rather too large for the aperture cards I had in my stash. This would mean buying outsized cards, with matching envelopes, and that would drive the kit price up. Could I make the mug smaller while still having room for the gems and sequins in the decorative band? I printed the design in the original size and one slightly smaller, and played about with the gems. They would just about fit.

Two sizes of mug with gems

But would it look OK in fabric and thread? A stitched model was obviously called for. I didn’t add the steam this time as I just wanted to compare sizes, and anyway I hadn’t quite worked out yet how to combine the steam with framing the mug in an aperture card. I did use this project to try something else, however: Heather, my tutor at the RSN workshop, had used Bondaweb to stabilise the green silk from which the leaf was cut for the appliqué part of the goldwork project. You iron it onto the back of the fabric, draw the desired shape on the paper backing (in reverse), cut it out and remove the paper. At that point you can actually iron it onto your background fabric, should you wish to, but she just used it to give a bit of body to the silk and keep it from fraying; it was attached in the old-fashioned way with small stab stitches. As I’d had a little trouble with fraying on the larger mug, this seemed a good idea. The smaller mug was soon stitched, and the band, though a little more densely packed than on the larger mug, still worked.

The appliqué mug in two sizes

Time to get out my aperture cards, the ones I use for the Shisha flower and tile. The mug didn’t fit. I had reduced the size of the mug to the size of the aperture, but without any space around it, and with the chunky raised chain stitch outline it was now actually a little bigger than the drawing. Oh well, use the next size up – it would still be better than having to get the very large cards for the larger mug. I fitted the aperture over the smaller mug. It looked a bit spacious. Just out of curiosity I fitted it over the larger mug. That fitted too… So now I have a choice – using the same card I can use either the small or the large mug, according to preference. I try to think of this as A Good Outcome.

The small appliqué mug in a card

Having used Bondaweb to stabilise the fabric, and wondering whether this project could be fitted into a 90-minute workshop, I decided to try another small mug (any excuse to use another of those lovely Makower fabrics, not to mention the Anchor Multicolors) and this time to iron on the appliqué bits, and work the decorative stitches on top of the fabric edges without first stab-stitching them. This worked beautifully, and in fact kept the fabric flat better. For the workshop I may therefore iron on one of the bits, and have the students sew on only one. It’ll still teach them the technique, but won’t take quite so much time. The steamy ribbon will probably be part of the kit as an optional extra, which they can choose to add or not. It is a little fiddly, attaching the ribbons up to the point where they will exit the card, and requires a certain amount of measuring and trying with the aperture card which would probably be better done at home. I will of course show them how to do it – one of the comments people had left about some of the Knitting & Stitching workshops (not mine, fortunately!) was that the tutor just handed out the written instructions and expected people to get on with in on their own. Anyway, what do you think of this mug for a workshop – suitable? tempting? any other comments? They’ll be very welcome.

Another attempt, with ironed-on fabric A small mug with steam A small mug with steam, in a card

A garden on canvas and duck

A few weeks ago I got two new fabrics to play with: a medium weight cotton canvas in light blue, and a cotton duck in off-white. Both are non-count fabrics, although the cotton canvas looks as though you might count it – it has a much more noticeable weave than the cotton duck. Both are quite a bit heavier than any of the other fabrics I use; that was in fact why I got them, to see if they could be used without the need for a calico backing. They can, but the downside to that is that it is also difficult to transfer designs onto them by lightbox, especially when the design is fairly complex with a lot of detail in a small space, like the Wildflower Garden I had decided to use for my experiments. I just about managed to get a workable transfer drawn, but for future occasions I made a much darker transfer picture, and divided it into two parts, so that I can transfer all the grass and stalks first, then superimpose the flowers.

The Wildflower Garden pattern darkened and split

Having got the transferring out of the way, it was time to stitch. First up was the medium cotton canvas. It’s light blue, which is the colour I usually use as a background for the Wildflower Garden. Because of its very visible weave I was afraid it might be difficult to place the stitches accurately, but that turned out not to be as much of a problem as I had expected. The needle went through the fabric easily, and didn’t get “persuaded” into the holes when what was needed was to pierce the fabric threads. I like the colour, which I think sets the design off well, but on the whole I think the texture shows itself just a bit too much. The fabric is perfectly usable, especially for the little Shisha flower projects (which has a much simpler transfer), but I probably won’t get any more of it.

Little Wildflower Garden on medium cotton canvas

On to lightweight cotton duck. This is not at all lightweight compared to the quilting cottons I tend to use, but it is the lightest weight of cotton duck. I got it in off white because I thought it would work well as a neutral background for freestyle projects (I am trying it out with some leaf outlines at the moment). It’s not really a suitable background for the Wildflower Garden because the daisies don’t show up quite so well, and the little bee’s wings get rather lost. Still, in order to compare the fabrics I thought it best to work the same design on both, so the Garden it was.

I like this a lot. It’s got enough texture to be interesting, but not enough to distract from the embroidery. It’s heavy enough not to need backing, and provided the transfer design is printed in bold enough lines it can be used with the lightbox. I would imagine it takes an iron-on transfer quite well too. It would be interesting to try it with the prick and pounce method, but as yet I haven’t been brave enough to tackle that. As for stitching on it, that works well; it is dense enough to make accurate placement possible, and soft enough for the needle to go through quite easily. Yes, I may well get some more of this in a variety of colours.

Little Wildflower Garden on light cotton duck

This would also look quite good as a background for goldwork if you don’t want the sheen of dupion, I think. But for now I have other fabrics lined up for that…

Cats and elephants and what to do with them

Sometimes, usually much to my own surprise, I do manage to finish my finished projects. That is to say, rather than stuffing them into my “stitched models” folder I turn them into something useful or decorative (or, if I’m feeling particularly inspired, both). Over the past few weeks my small elephants (variations on the bigger Remember the Day elephant) were given the useful-and-hopefully-decorative treatment and turned into a gift tag (or place card, or favour tag) and a felt bookmark. The bookmark is on the large side, which is why I’m showing it off marking a large book smiley.

Bookend elephants made into a bookmark, and an elephant tag The elephant bookmark in action

The freestyle Elegant Cats couldn’t possibly be allowed to languish in a plastic folder; for one thing, Lexi wouldn’t allow it! Fortunately I bought a selection of satin-covered boxes from the wonderful Viking Loom a while back, and even as I was stitching the cats I had a vague idea in my mind that there was a rectangular box of that sort of size in my box of boxes – and that it might just be dark green. There was, and it was, and it was just the right size, and Lexi was deeply impressed with the result, as you can see…

Elegant Cats mounted in a jewellery box Elegant Cats with an elegant cat

PS When posting some of these pictures elsewhere people asked me about the artist whose book the elephants are marking. He is a Dutch artist called Rien Poortvliet who started out as mostly a wildlife painter, but who wrote and illustrated many books on a variety of subjects, including the history of his family inspired by a chest belonging to one of his ancestors, a life of Jesus, books about dogs and horses, a book about “whatever happened to come into his mind”, books about gnomes, and this one about Noah’s ark. I admire his art as much as I admire his simple but profound faith.