Finishing florals, part 5; and a tale of two squissors

Yes, I have finally completed the buttonholing on one of the 18 “proper” Floral Laces! Using the more spacious of the two buttonhole versions worked well – having the buttonholing closer to the stitching than it is now would have looked rather cramped, I think. The back looks better than I’d expected, with the scalloping producing rather a decorative effect. All in all, I’m pleased with it and will, over time, finish the other 17 in the same way.

Floral Lace, with scalloped buttonhole edge The back of the buttonholed Floral Lace

I’ve also been trying to get some more squissors, my former supplier having decided they wouldn’t do them any more. They very kindly put me in touch with their suppliers, and it all seemed to be going splendidly (apart from the complications of ordering from a country far, far away) until 100 pairs of squissors arrived. They looked just fine, all titanium-coated and colourful. But when I had a closer look at one and tried it out, it turned out that not all squissors are equal – these were far thicker and less pointy than the ones I had before!

Not all squissors are equal

Fortunately I’ve got enough stock left to be getting on with for the moment, and the new ones have now been returned to the supplier who will send out the correct ones this week, I’ve been told. So no need to panic quite yet, there may not be a global shortage of accurate, thin-bladed, fine-pointed squissors after all!

Finishing florals, part 2

I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that surely by now I must have buttonholed the whole Floral Lace series, but alas, I have not been nearly as productive as I would have liked. I’m still working on the Floral Lace variation which was my experimental finishing piece. I am making progress on that, though! The felt has been attached, it’s a bit lop-sided so I will definitely use a bigger square next time and then cut round it. As for the buttonholing: a sharp needle is needed! Trying to push a relatively large tapestry needle through felt is a frustrating process, and very hard on the fingers. But once switch to a crewel needle and it’s a doddle. One side effect I hadn’t foreseen is that the felt pulls through to the front a bit, so there are stray burgundy wisps mixed up in my pristine white buttonhole stitches. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Felt attached - now for the buttonhole Start of the buttonhole edge

Another things is that the buttonhole edge as I’m stitching it here is rather close to the design, especially as I want to use variable length buttonhole stitch (see the left-hand chart). I know the border won’t be quite so noticeable in white as it is in the charted grey, but perhaps it would look better further away, as in the right-hand chart? I will try the latter out on one of the “real” Floral Laces and report back.

Floral Lace buttonhole border 1 Floral Lace buttonhole border 2

By the way, the pearl purl idea for Treasure Trove is not going to happen; first of all I’m not at all sure where I could put it (and in what shape or outline) so that it doesn’t clutter up the design, and secondly my gold pearl purl is the wrong colour – it is far yellower than the kid and beads I’ve been using. Never mind, I’ll keep it for a future design.

Finishing florals, part 1

Remember the buttonhole-and-felt finish I was planning for Floral Lace? Well, I have finally started on them. Sort of. I decided that, as I had no idea whether it was going to work, perhaps I’d better try it out first on the Floral Lace eyelet varation I stitched on Hardanger fabric. For one thing, if it did turn out to be a disaster I wouldn’t have ruined one of the 18 “proper” models, and for another, I’d get to experiment on the slightly stiffer fabric first, which should be a bit easier than the more loosely-woven Lugana. It soon became very clear that this was A Good Idea.

The process I had in mind started with measuring how big the felt needed to be, and then measuring and cutting the felt to size. There will be 5 fabric threads between the cross stitch border and the inner edge of the buttonholing; the buttonhole stitches will be worked, as usual, over 4 threads. The felt needs to end up somewhere between those two lines. I decided on 7 fabric threads out from the cross stitch border, which on Hardanger fabric stretched in a hoop was 11cm. First lesson learned: it is extremely difficult to cut a true square from a larger piece of felt. Second lesson: when you’ve got something approximating a square of the required size, it is extremely difficult to position it accurately on the back of the stitching and keep it there while you get ready to attach it with running stitch. It’s possible, but surely there must be an easier way which needs less turning the work over and tugging on the felt to reposition it every other stitch.

The start of a finish

So in response to those first two lessons learnt I have decided that when I get on to the real thing I will cut a very rough square of felt rather bigger than needed, attach it with running stitch at 6 fabric threads from the cross stitch border, then cut the felt closely around the running stitch square. There will be a bit of felt waste, which is unfortunate, but probably worth it for not having to continually check the position of the felt and spending a lot of time getting the felt absolutely square; it’s hard enough to make sure the felt is kept flat and doesn’t pucker while I’m attaching it. For this test piece I am stuck with the cut-to-size felt, however, so I’ll try to get that out of the way as quickly as possible, and then it’s on to the buttonholing! Because the felt doesn’t quite stretch to the outer edge of the buttonhole stitch there won’t be a problem with having to bring the needle up through the felt, so I should be able to keep the edge nice and straight, and therefore easy to cut. Well, that’s the theory…

A workshop finish and a floral calendar

Some time ago I showed you the model for the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show workshop – duly stitched, and finished as a patch on a gift bag, using white cross stitch to attach the stitched piece to the cotton bag. It was photographed and the photograph turned into a kit cover and that, I thought, was that. It wasn’t. I’d scribbled some rough notes on the chart to remind me how mucht hread would be needed for each kit, but they weren’t very clear, and when I came back to them I wasn’t at all convinced that I’d got it right. Fortunately I was looking for a quick project to take to my in-laws last weekend, as Treasure Trove is rather too big and complicated, and so I decided to stitch another model, this time using Anchor Multicolor perle #8 instead of a solid colour – variegated threads give such a nice effect for no extra effort and I thought it would encourage the workshop participants.

Part of our visit would be spent marshalling (i.e. helping out) at a vintage car trial, but as it happened I had quite a bit of stitching time on the Friday, and finished all the surface stitching, leaving only a small amount of cutting and filling – easily finished on Saturday, with time to spare. As I would like to take this model to show at the workshop, it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to finish it in a different way from the first one. How about giving it a buttonhole edge and then cutting it from the fabric? Still a patch, and attachable to bags, cushions and what not, but showing a different technique. And I had plenty of white perle #5 with me. I didn’t quite manage to finish it, but there’s not much left to do.

Buttonhole finish to a workshop model

That gave me another idea. I’ve been thinking about what to do with the 18 Floral Lace models. Because of their size, cards spring to mind, but this suggestion was met with indignation by both my mother-in-law and the ladies at my stitching group. They felt the designs deserved a more permanent fate. But what? I’m no good at patchwork so the idea of a quilt didn’t appeal to me. I can’t easily make them into coasters bcause of the beads, and anyway the house is rather well-stocked with stitched coasters already. Then I remembered that one of the ladies who joined the Song of the Weather SAL was planning to use the 12 designs as a calendar, finishing them all separately and then changing them over every month. She had used a backing fabric and finished them a bit like ornaments, but buttonhole edging was surely an option too!

There was a possible problem, however. The workshop model is stitched on Hardanger fabric, which is relatively stiff; Floral Lace is worked on evenweave. A line of buttonhole stitch on evenweave can pull away entirely. One option is to vary the length of the stitches, which can look quite attractive as well as making the edging more secure. Another might be to make use of the fact that the projects will need a backing of some sort. I came up with the following: find a colour of felt that will complement the design (I may end up using black for all of them, or I may vary the colours – I haven’t decided yet). Cut the felt slightly smaller than the finished patch will be and attach it to the back with running stitch, then work buttonhole stitch over the top. This should strengthen the edging and stop it from pulling away simply because the stitches bite into the felt (which doesn’t fray) as well as the evenweave. I might still use variable length stitches because I think it will look nice, and it will add even more strength.

So there we are – over the next months I will be buttonholing Floral Lace in between other projects, then choose a frame or possibly a canvas or even a cork board to which I can attach a different one every month. I may or may not add a calendar underneath; perhaps I’ll just keep it as an interchangeable display. Whatever it turns out to be in the end, I’ll post pistures here of the process!

Buttonhole edging and a new release

Well, when I say “a new release” I am being a little bit premature. The stitching has been done, the stitching has been finished in a useful and (I hope) attractive way, everything has been photographed – now I just need to write the chart pack, which includes drawing diagrams for turning inside and outside corners in buttonhole edging. Let’s say I hope to have it finished some time this week. Or month.

The design in question is Art of the Needle, three small buttonhole-edged patches created specifically to decorate the little foam purses I bought a while ago. (I’m about to start stitching another set of small designs, Three of Diamonds, to go on the notebooks.) Working the buttonhole border was actually less boring and time-consuming than I remembered – it was quite relaxing, and once I’d got into a rhythm, fairly quick too.

The challenge was always going to be cutting the designs free from their surrounding fabric. After all that Hardanger, cutting really should hold no terrors for me, but cutting next to Kloster blocks you can see what you’re doing; cutting as close as possible to a buttonhole edge your scissors are half-hidden! I knew I could do it though, as some time ago I designed and stitched a tray cloth for my mother-in-law’s dolls’ house, which meant cutting around a buttonhole edge stitched on 60ct silk gauze, and that held, as did my practice piece on 36ct evenweave (on my finger tip, below), so I told myself not to be a wimp and get on with it.

Buttonhole-edged tray cloth Buttonhole edging test piece

The first thing to do is to pull out the fabric threads that run closest along the line of buttonhole edging. This gives you and your scissors something to aim for.

Pull the nearest thread along the line of buttonhole stitching

When you then fold the fabric away from the little “tramline” that’s been formed, you can see the buttonhole edge sticking out beyond where you’ll be cutting. This is a reassuring sight. Yes, it means that, as I said, your scissors are half-hidden by the overlap, but crucially it also means that you don’t actually have to cut dangerously close to your stitching, as any small cut ends will be covered by the overhang!

The buttonhole edge overhang

If the buttonhole edging is square, that’s all there is to it (apart from a little bit of extra trimming around those rounded corners). But what if the edge is scalloped or stepped or whatever you call it? Obviously you can’t just pull out the thread nearest to the edging. (Slight digression – actually, if you’re not careful, you can. On one of the Art of the Needle designs I pulled too firmly on a thread that should have ended in a corner, and pulled it out completely, leaving a small “tramline” within the design. Fortunately it was almost completely covered up by some French knots.) Back to the way things ought to go: pull the relevant threads loose up to the buttonhole edging (see below), then cut them close, and do the rest of the cutting as before.

Removing threads to create cutting guides for the corners

Having done the first of the three patches as described above, I then tried pulling all necessary threads (the long ones along the outer edges, and the short, partial ones along the stepped corners) before doing any cutting, and then simply cutting all the way round, including trimming the rounded corners. This worked well and was definitely quicker, although it is also made it easier to nick stitches while going round corners; you can’t tell now, but the largest patch did need a tiny bit of glue to repair one of the corner stitches …

Another thing to remember is to check the back of your buttonhole edging every now and again while stitching. Somehow (and I’m still not quite sure how) I’d managed to move from one stitch to the next by means of a tiny stitch over one fabric thread – imagine stitching a Kloster block and not doing all stitches in the same direction, but doing the first top-to-bottom, then the next bottom-to-top. This, of course, would have come undone when the fabric next to it was cut, so before cutting I secured it with a few discreet stitches on the back of the work. Don’t tell anyone.

So after all that (and the discovery that I miscounted and two orange double cross stitches are one thread out) here are the three patches, cut from their surrounding fabric and then sewn onto three foam purses with running stitch to make a set of attractive project pouches (just right for keeping the threads, beads and ribbons for individual projects separate).

Three Art of the Needle patches Art of the Needle sewn onto project pouches

Art of the Needle is now available on the website