embroidery essentials

remembering my threads

Lilipopo thread folder fullI have a terrible habit of absolutely loving a particular colour, coming to the end of it and then completely forgetting what it was.  I probably should have been keeping a record of my colours before now but there we go!

So this week I gradually started wrapping some of my favourite colours around card and labeling them.  

Lilipopo thread folderThey are not in any particular order, although it might have been nicer to have them all graded.  But I have a card for each colour group (or I will have when they are finished)  and then I keep all the cards in a folder in my Midori notebook.

At first I just snipped a small piece and taping it down but you don't get such a clear idea of the colour so I started again and wrapped each colour around the card 5 times which is much better.

Lilipopo liberty fabrics

and it's not just thread colours that I forget!  Liberty have a habit of discontinuing their fabrics sometimes.  When this happens I have to go on a trawl around the internet to see if I can find another stockist who still has some left.  The only trouble is I can never remember the name of the fabric so I have to look through all the liberty fabrics (such a chore ;)) to find the one I want.  Not any more!  Now I am keeping swatches with names in my Midori.  Again I would recommend keeping quite large snips of the fabric as some of the prints can be very similar, especially if you are looking at photos online, so it's good to be able to see as much of the pattern as possible.

I'm actually enjoying wrapping the threads, it's quite meditative and allows me a little time to think about colour.

On another note I will have my princess pattern available on Friday 

  Lilipopo princess embroidery pattern I have loved working on this little princess, surrounding myself in pink for a while.  

The pattern also has a version with an embroidered dress and one to fit an oval hoop.  I will share more pictures on Friday

I would love to hear if you have methods for remembering your favourite threads and fabrics.

Have a lovely week

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how long should my stitches be?

Lilipopo blog stitch length copyA question I get asked quite a lot is how long my stitches are.  The first time I was asked I took a ruler and measured, a fairly consistent 3mm.  But this morning I was a little distracted while I was stitching this first draft of a princess and listening to podcasts and when I looked down I noticed something strange.  I had naturally stitched much smaller stitches on the inside curve of the dress.  I expected my stitches to be the same size throughout as I do such a lot of back stitch but my subconscious had decided that the waist of the dress would be better with smaller stitches.  The funny thing is I think it does look better, it adds to the sense of the dress pulling in tightly around the waist then billowing out into the full skirt.

Door and borderI do know that the backstitch on my little caravan door is bigger than 3mm probably because it's a longer straighter line.  I've realized that I often don't think too much about the stitch size.  It seems to happen naturally.  There are occasions when I might deliberately use a tiny stitch or a much longer stitch for a particular effect but usually I just start stitching.

In the past I haven't included a suggested stitch length in the pattern but now I'm thinking it might be helpful for beginner stitchers to have a sense of how big the stitches should be.  After all I have no idea if other people's back stitch is the same length as mine or not.

Lilipopo chain stitch hairMy stitch length and tension are something I have been paying more attention to recently because I have been playing around with chain stitch.  Chain stitch changes so completely according to the stitch length and tension so you can create really different effects.  A tight tension and smaller stitch makes beautiful hair (this would work on the ballet dancers hair too) whereas a looser chain with bigger stitches looks completely different.

I will share more of my chain stitching explorations soon.

Today is a beautiful sunny day but I am stuck indoors waiting for a parcel for my son hoping the sunshine will last for the weekend.

I hope you have a beautiful weekend no matter what the weather

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embroidery essentials - tools

Lilipopo tools of the trade

Today's #marchmeetthemaker prompt was tools that I use so I thought I would write a blog post about the tools that I use and where I buy them (in the UK).

The thing I really love about embroidery is that you need very few tools and materials, a needle, thread and fabric with a pair of scissors and you can start stitching.  But there are a few other things that can make life easier...

Lilipopo simple tools

These are my most basic tools.  I use wooden hoops because I prefer them, they are reasonably priced  and they look prettier if you decide to frame your embroidery in the hoop (you can even paint them).  They come in lots of sizes and I do have lots of sizes but my go to hoop is a 5".  I like to use a small hoop and move it around my embroidery as I find bigger hoops harder to manipulate when I get to the centre of my stitching.

My pen for transferring the pattern is (as I have probably mentioned many times before!) a pilot frixion heat (or friction) removable pen.  I have just read somewhere that you can use a hairdryer to remove the pen, which would save hovering over my embroidery with a hot iron, but I haven't tried it yet so I will let you know (or if you have tried it you could let me know).

I have a mini sun light pad for transferring but you can use a window.

I have a pretty vintage pair of embroidery scissors to snip the threads but any small scissors will do.

My usual needle is a crewel number 7.  I occasionally use an 8 for single threads but to be honest I usually just use the 7.  I put a crewel 7 needle in the kits.

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I mainly use two fabrics, the first is an organic calico which is a soft (after washing) medium weight cotton that has a natural creamy look to it and is never completely smooth or flat.  The second fabric I use is Robert Kauffman essex linen in natural.  I have also used the ivory, white and linen.  These are lighter and I now use a backing cloth so that any stray threads don't show through.  I usually use the same fabric as a backing cloth and stitch through both layers.

Sometimes if I want a more padded effect I use a quilt wadding as a backing (warm and natural).  My needle cushion was backed with quilt wadding, it made the cushion a little firmer.

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and these are the little extras.  I find it absolutely necessary to have at  least ten different pin cushions to hold my needles!  Partly because I love making them and partly because I am always leaving them around the house.  I also use a metal thimble because this is the one I have had most success with.  If you don't like the metal ones there are lots of others out there ranging from leather to rubber.  I only use a thimble when I have a lot of stitching to do (I think my fingers are hardened to the needle now!) so it's not a necessary item.

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I love all threads and one of the beauties of embroidery is that you can stitch with any thread and get different effects.  But, because I design patterns for other people to use I stick to DMC threads.  I used to use Anchor thread too (some of my older patterns will still have some anchor threads in them) but I found customers were finding Anchor harder to get hold of so I do stick with DMC.  I also only use six stranded thread rather than perle because you can choose the number of threads for the thickness of line that you want.  It also means you don't have to buy lots of different threads for a single pattern.  DMC thread is beautiful quality and there are lots and lots of gorgeous colours.

Once I start the threads I wrap them on a card holder with the number written on it and they get stored in a box.

Lilipopo notebook

One thing I can't do without is my notebook and pen!  (I write this as though I only have one, no-one ever has only one notebook do they?) I take notes on all the threads and stitches that I use and draw little diagrams for any tricky stitchy bits.

The things I didn't photograph - my tea, always by my side while stitching and my phone playing podcasts, audio books (I have a penchant for crime thrillers but at the moment it's 'Middlemarch') or radio 6 music.

Where I buy my things

needles and hoops - siesta frames 

threads, needles, card thread holders and more - sew and so

organic calico - raystitch

essex linen (where ever has it in stock) - emma's fabric studio  or celtic fusion fabrics  

warm and natural quilt wadding - the cottonpatch  

My pens I buy locally at Ryman's I think they are quite easy to find now.  My mini sun A4 light pad was bought from Amazon.

I do also have a magnifying craft lamp (mainly because our house is very wind proof but also quite dark in the winter!).  I don't think it's available any more but it's by the daylight company and has worked well for me.  It's also great for colour work using long short stitch.

I think I've covered everything that I use regularly.  If you are a beginner stitcher and would like to know more about transferring the patterns and starting stitching I have posts here

beginning stitching

I hope you found this post useful and please pop a comment in with the tools and materials that you like to use.  I always love to find new ones 

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