Tiny Knitting and a Makeover

Welcome to 2016! This year feels like fresh new start and fresh starts is what this blog post is about!

When I was about ten I visited my grandparents in Minneapolis. My grandma took me to a toy store where we found a beautiful doll. She was the only one of her kind, wearing a hot pink dress with small white buttons and a white collar. Plus that hair! She was mine!!!

This fall I helped my dad with a yard sale and in the bottom of a box of toys I found her, minus her pink dress and a lot of messy hair. She was on the table for sale, but alas nobody wanted her. She was looking a little sad wearing an over sized pinafore, and a layer of dirt on her face and clothes. Instead of sending her off to Goodwill I decided to keep her and give her a makeover. Such good memories that she surely was deserving of a new look.

She's had a bath, her hair was dunked in fabric softener to tame it (although I think it needs to be rinsed out a bit more) and that sad pinafore is now clean. Next up some new clothes that fit!

While rooting through the library at the Textile Center I came upon some vintage knitting patterns for dolls and decided a sweater was just the thing to begin the new look. After reading through the patterns none of them were quite the right size or style. Elizabeth Zimmerman's bottom up sweater design (for more info go here) seemed like the right way to go. I knit a swatch, took her measurements and kind of make up some of it as I went. It looks pretty good, although for a human it might be a little tight under the arms. This dolly won't complain because it's way better than that silly smock. Next pants, skirt, dress? I'm not quite sure. Actually maybe some undies!

If you are interested in dolls, she has some markings on the back of her neck and I looked them up. She was made in Italy in 1967 by Italocremona a company no longer in business.


Christmas Tutorial

 As promised, a tutorial for some holiday embroidered napkin rings.  These are pretty quick and easy to whip up so it's not too late to put together a set for your Christmas dinner or a gift for your stitching pals.

For each napkin ring you will need:

  • 6" x 1 1/2" piece of deep red felt
  • 6" x 1" piece of white felt
  • DMC embroidery floss medium green #367
  • DMC embroidery floss dark green #890
  • DMC embroidery floss red #304
  • DMC embroidery floss dark tan #840

    Notice there are buttons in the photo. I thought about putting them on but decided I didn't like it. I left them in the photo because you might decide you like the look. Also, both embroidery stitches used are linked to a video tutorial on Mary Corbet's site.

To begin the embroidery, using three strands of #840 stitch a line using a backstitch down the center of the white felt. I didn't draw a line, just eyeballed it. If you want you can measure and make small dots with a fine marker as a guide. I left about 1/8" at each end. Notice my line is not perfect! I don't worry about things like that. Branches aren't perfectly straight either!!!!

 Now time to add the pine needles. I decided to stitch these with two different greens in the needle at the same time. This creates a bit of a shadow effect. Measure out two strands of #367 and one strand of #890. Make sure they are the same length. Put all three strands in your needle together. 

 Starting down about three back stitches make little pine needles in sets of two and three where each back stitch joins. Alternate the stitches on either side of the center line. Work your way all the way down the center line stopping one or two back stitches from the end.

Using two strands of #304 make french knots along the center line, alternating sides about 3/4" apart. I wanted to make the french knots fairly delicate so only wrapped the needle two times. You can try three strands and more wraps. Experiment and see what you prefer.
Next form the red felt into a circle, overlapping the ends about 1/4".  Stitch with small running stitches in matching thread.
Center the white embroidered band onto the red felt. Be sure to put the seams for both pieces on top of each other. Pin in place and stitch down with white thread using a running stitch.

Add to your favorite Christmas table and ENJOY!!!!


Holiday Links!

Christmas Tree by Kelly Fletcher

I was recently asked where to find embroidery patterns - my etsy shop has a nice one - but there are all sorts of resources online. Pinterest is one of my go to places for most everything and of course, there were some great patterns. Here are a few of my favorite links for free holiday patterns. There is still plenty of time to get some gifts made.

Mary Corbett has a lovely Holly and Joy monogram pattern. On this page are directions for creating monograms but if you scroll to the bottom you will find the pdf download links.

Cheryl Fall, about.com's stitching expert, designed some easy and quick tags which could go on gifts or the tree.

Another design by Cheryl Fall is a Christmas tree using detached chain stitch, eyelet stitch and satin stitch. Very easy and would whip up quickly. I can imagine this on small hand towels or ornaments.

This pattern is pictured above and is by Kelly Fletcher on Craftsy. One of my favorites!

Regina Lord is the designer and her blog is creative kismet. At the top of the page is an adorable bird design and just below is the tree. She suggests using the design for a tote bag, wall hanging or pillow. 

My next post will be a simple napkin ring to embroider. It will be a speedy project which will make your table festive!!!

P.S. If you are on Pinterest and want to check out my embroidery board, here is a link


Shopping! Classes! Updates!

Craftsman Coneflower
There are a few new updates to Threads of Inspiration. I've put a few links up to my etsy shop, both on the side and in the link bar at the top.

In addition I've added a new embroidery pattern, Craftsman Coneflower, to the shop. It is great for a new embroiderer or if you want a little refresher on your skills. The stitches used are stem, satin, chain and french knots. The directions suggest two different color schemes, but of course you can choose your own.  It's a little brush up on some old favorite stitches and you end up with this great design for a pillow or framed picture.

I teach a lot of classes and my class descriptions are another addition to the top bar. Perhaps you need a program for your guild, club, art center or a group of friends. I'd be happy to work with you and organize a class. In addition I can customize it to fit your group's interests.

In the category of exciting!!!! I'm happy to announce I'll be teaching several classes at the Textile Center of Minnesota this winter and spring. Stay tuned for updates and links when the registration opens.


Which Needle Should I Use?

I have a lot of needles for pretty much every kind of sewing. When I take them out of their original packages they never make it back. They wind up in one of my four pincushions, a small tin or stuck into some fabric that is ready for future stitching.  I never know what kind or size needle I'm using but this works just fine for me.

The first time I taught a class I was asked 'What size needle should I use?' Oh, oh!  I really didn't know. My best answer was, 'The one that works.'  Not much of an answer for someone who does pay attention to those sorts of things.  

The question got me thinking about how to know if a needle is the right one. I came up with four things to consider when choosing a needle:

  • Does the thread go through the eye easily?
  • Does the needle stay threaded while stitching?
  • When stitching, does the needle go through the thread easily without catching at the eye?
  • After taking a stitch does the fabric close around the thread?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, congratulations! You have the correct type and size needle for the thread you are using.

If you answered no, try a different needle. There is nothing more aggravating than fighting with your needle! If your sewing box isn't filled with a selection of needles, you have a reason to go to the fabric store! Have a nice variety on hand - embroidery, betweens, sharps, chenilles, tapestry, even glovers! They will all come in handy for some project or other.


Gettin' Stitchy

You've got your design transferred on the fabric, it's all hooped up and ready to go, but wait, you need some stitches! There are some amazing links with stitch libraries on the web. Some include video while others have excellent drawings and photographs. It seemed silly for me to do a bunch of my own so I thought I'd share a little bit of what is out there.  

When I do embroidery I mostly use a few simple stitches, seed stitch, stem stitch, french knots and satin stitch.  If you master these you are armed to start making art.  While many of these stitches are used as outlines or decorations I like to use them as filling stitches to create images of thread.  More about that later though...I want you to get the hang of the basic ones and then we'll get on to the really creative part. There are so many stitches to learn on the sites I've posted that it is easy to get overwhelmed. To keep it simple, you can start with the ones I've listed above (they are all linked) but do check out these links. They are so inspirational!

     Mary's site is jam packed with information and inspiration

     Beautifully photographed and explained

    Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching put together some great tutorials. Check out her wacky embroidery patterns while you're there.

Sharon Boggon's Pintangle Stitch Dictionary
       An extensive list of beautiful stitches


Back to Basics

Tree Woman, embroidered detail by Susan Leschke
March 29, 2008 is the birthdate of this blog and I'm shocked that over seven years have passed! I've posted about trips, projects, recipes, various moves and life events. I've participated in blog hops, gotten to know many interesting people and it's been fun.

It's time to make a few changes that I think will create a better blog. As many of you know my passion is textile arts and so that is what I've decided to focus on.

It is difficult to create anything without some fundamentals and I've been thinking about embroidery lately so let's start with that. A beginner to a novice will find some great advice at these links - I've been embroidering for about four decades and I'm going to test out some new transfer ideas.  Enjoy the little tour and brush up on a few basics.

Needlework Tips and Techniques
Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread

Needlework Tips and Techniques
Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread


Urban Threads
Wild Olive
Sublime Stitching