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


Great Finds!

The Minnesota Textile Center is a favorite place for enthusiasts of all things fiber.  They have several galleries, an amazing library, a shop, a dye lab that can be rented by members, classroom and lecture space. In addition, the Minnesota Handweavers have a large space filled with rooms and weaving equipment. When I hit Minneapolis and St Paul it is always a stop and a place I like to support.  Every spring they have the Textile Garage Sale which is a great place to pick up used equipment, fabric, yarn, thread, patterns and books. There is also a silent auction for larger pieces of equipment (looms, knitting machines, sewing machines, etc)  This year I am happy to say I won the bid for a serger.  I'm still learning how to use and it's been more fun than frustrating.

Vintage textiles were also in my shopping basket.  There is a great pin on Pinterest for some brooches of old embroideries so I will give that a go.  The needlepoint was to be remade into a new pillow but it needs a lot of TLC.  After removing the old rotted backing I gently washed it and blocked it.  The more I worked with it the more problems I was finding.  It was made with two colors of yarn, one wool, one acrylic, there are lots of missing stitches and it is wonky.  The pillow idea has gone by the wayside and smaller pillows or pincushions are more likely.  If you have any ideas for what this might become I welcome them!

Please forgive the upside down orientation of this image...computer glitch that I cant seem to fix.



Yarn for Aranami Shawl
For the third year in a row my sister-in-law and I have gone to the Minnesota Yarn Shop Hop and the Textile Center's Garage Sale.  It is our fiber filled rite of spring.  The Yarn Shop Hop features 17 yarn shops in and around Minneapolis and St Paul. Not only is it a great way for friends to get together and explore the yarn shops, it is also a fundraiser for local food banks.  This year $37,500 dollars were raised - yahoo!  
Future Socks and Scarf
Each shop provides a free pattern (of which many can be found in their Ravelry stores) and special yarns to go with the pattern.  This year I found some beautiful yarn for a shawl called Aranami (find the pattern here), some socks and the scarf below.  The scarf was super-simple, easy-peasy and the pattern is free.  I used Schoppel Ambiente a self striping yarn - a bit heavier than sock yarn but any yarn will do.  The trick is to use the size needle the yarn calls for and not what the pattern suggests.  Here is a link to the pattern.  If you try out the scarf I'd love to see a photo! Next time - the highlights of the Textile Center's Garage Sale!
Not a Celebrity Scarf


Sew Mama Sew Softie Contest

Unfortunately I did not escape this winter's round of horrible viruses. My activities for the last week and a half have mostly been blowing my nose, sucking on cough drops and napping. I'm happy to report I'm nearing the end of all of that but alas, not much to report on. While I was sick, I was still checking my e-mail on my tablet and I kept seeing great posts from Sew Mama Sew (one of my favorite places). They are sponsoring a softie contest with some amazing prizes. In addition to the contest you will find posts by designers, some free patterns and tutorials, and lots of fun. Go here to check out what they have going on. While you are there notice their background full of pins and needles.  It's darling!


Circles in the Squares

Circles in the Squares
Circles in the Squares is now complete!  The last time you saw this the circles had been stitched down and shortly after that I added some detail hand embroidery work which gives some movement to the piece.  
Embroidery detail

This is the first time I had tried doing the quilting on the small blocks before putting it all together.  I am quite pleased with it, especially the part about not having to manhandle a large, heavy pile of fabric through the sewing machine.  It is a bold statement piece but it is only 25 inches square so it would fit perfectly on a small wall, perhaps an entryway. Now I get to decide what my next piece will be....
Circles in the Squares detail


Reubens Tapestry Series

Detail Triumph of the Eucharist Series
While in art school I wrote a paper on the influence of Italian Renaissance painters, particularly Raphael and Peter Paul Reubens, on Flemish tapestry weavers.  In a nutshell, the painters guild lobbied to have all tapestry cartoons designed by painters.  The style of tapestries went from colorful lively hangings with jumbles of figures and small floral bands to powerful figures and designs that could be woven and interchanged.  This change  lessened the power of the weavers and changed tapestry weaving forever.  I had only seen images of these weavings in books but while we were in Florida a visit to the Ringling Museum of Art gave me a great surprise.
Detail Triumph of the Eucharist Series
Upon entering was a 14 foot tall tapestry designed by Reubens from the Triumph of the Eucharist Series which had been commissioned by the Infanta Isabella Claire Eugenia of Spain.  While not one of the original twenty tapestries (which hang in the Convent of Descales Reales in Madrid) this tapestry was made from the original Reubens cartoon   To see the delicate threads and perfect color changes up close and personal was a highlight of my trip.  In addition to the tapestry the cartoons of four of the tapestries from the series were also on display.  If you would like to read a bit more about the history of these works in the museum go here.
Tapestry from Triumph of the Eucharist Series
If you find yourself in Sarasota, Florida you will not be disappointed by the Ringling Art Museum.



When I return from vacation and look at the photos I've taken they are usually filled with close up shots of foliage and textures.  Our recent trip to Florida was no different.  Close ups are so compelling and offer inspiration for textiles.  Textiles are informed so much by texture, no wonder my camera is filled with these. When you travel what  inspires you?

Bombax tree with enormous red flowers and interesting flower pods that resemble nuts.

Colorful Berries

Swirls in the trunk of a felled Banyan tree


And the Winner Is...

Posting has taken a bit of a backseat while my sweetie and I were driving from the horrible cold and snow of the upper midwest to Florida.  Today was the first day we sat on the beach.  To say it was wonderful to feel the breezes and sun on my skin is an understatement!

Also today is the day to announce who won the pincushion prize from the Grow Your Blog party!  And the winner is Threadpainter's Art.  Congratulations!


Imperfect Circles


If you are looking for the Grow Your Blog post scroll down or go here.

Two weeks ago I posted about some squares to be stitched up for a stash busting project.  So far there are 25 of them with concentric circles of assorted fabrics. In the past I have spent a lot of time and energy making things look perfect and being frustrated. In that frame of mind it is hard to be satisfied with anything so I chose another way.  My work is still a bit tidy but the lines are a little wonky and the stitches uneven, but I like it.  It is easier to work this way and I smile a lot more.




12 Cute Valentine Tutorials

If you are looking for the Grow Your Blog post scroll down or go here.

There are so many darling Valentine's projects out there! Searching for some ideas was a lot of fun and I couldn't resist trying my hand at this cute rose kissing ball.  It was easy and needed very few materials - just two rolls of crepe paper, a Styrofoam ball and a glue gun.  The directions are linked below along with links for some other really great Valentine's Day decorating and gift ideas.  I hope you have fun checking them out and making one or two. Which one is your favorite?

Swedish heart
Vintage Valentine Collage sheet (free download)
Confetti Hearts
My Funky Valentines
DIY Felt Valentine Envelopes
Kiss Flip Book
Crochet Heart Garland
Hearts and Buttons Hanging Decoration
Tissue Rosette Kissing Ball
A Wall of Paper Hearts
Felt Heart Garland
Paper Heart Garland


Grow Your Blog

It's time for a blog hop! I'm participating in Grow Your Blog sponsored by 2 Bags Full which goes from 1.25.15 until 2.15.15. What a big job hosting a blog hop must be so many thanks to Vicki our host.

If you are new to my blog, and I'm hoping many of you are, let me tell you about myself.  My name is Susan and I live in Wisconsin USA. I love to create with fabrics and fibers and include sewing, embroidery, knitting, and weaving in my bag of tricks. I also like to cook so on my blog you'll find recipes scattered in among the art projects, tutorials and links.  I've tried over the years to limit myself and focus on one thing but it never works. I feel so sad to leave something out so, I don't. Often there will be more than one technique in the things I create so having a large bag of tricks is helpful!

Please leave a comment on this blog post...I'd love to hear from you and you will be entered in a drawing for this sparkly pincushion.  One can never have too many pincushions!

I will draw the winner on the 15th.  Please be sure I can e-mail you from your comment!  Thanks for stopping by.

Nose around my blog for awhile and if you enjoy it, there are two ways to follow me...e-mail or Google Friend Connect located at the top left of my sidebar. Then go here to find links to other amazing places to explore.  



Cute Valentine Bags


Because Valentine's Day is just around the corner I thought you might want to make a few of these cute little bags for special people in your life.  Fill them with little trinkets, cookies, candy or special gifts!  This post is a few years old but it kept calling to me so it is getting a re-post.  Go here for complete instructions on how to make them.

There was a great surprise in the mail yesterday...this fabulous leather cuff and charm from mixed media artist Cat Kerr.  I won it from her blog drawing.  Go here to see her blog.  


I don't know if you've noticed but there have been some updates to Threads of Inspiration.  I've added a tab bar at the top that will help you find recipes and tutorials more quickly.  More tabs will be coming soon! 

Coming soon will be a lovely link list of Valentine's Day ideas...food, crafts and tutorials.  What are you doing to celebrate Valentine's Day?  Oh, and let me know how your Valentine Bags turn out!


Winter's Garden


Every January The Riverfront Art Center (my favorite local art venue) has a yearly show called Winter's Garden which opens this Friday.  The gallery will be filled with artwork of all mediums whose subject is gardens.  Walking into the space is such a welcome relief from the shades of winter white outside.  Along with the art will be live orchids, violets and cyclamen for sale. This is a great fundraiser for the center and the plants brighten up the homes of the recipients. Today I had the good fortune to go to the wholesale greenhouse with the director to pick up the plants.  How wonderful to see all of this greenery!


This board of letters was hanging on one of the walls.  I have no idea what it is for but being obsessed with grids these days I couldn't resist snapping a photo.  Very wabi sabi. 

How are you brightening up your January?



Stash Busting


After writing about shopping my stash I figured starting a project to use some up would be a good idea.  I am not exactly sure what this is going to be but I love the intense red and working  with a grid.  When there were only four squares cut out they were going to be coasters but that didn't bust much stash, so now there are nine.  Still not much used up so there is a nice stack of red squares waiting to be added into the design.  We'll see how big it gets.

Last night while watching a movie I finished this cowl.  It's made out of Alchemy Yarns of Transformation's Silken Straw and Temple.  To finish, it goes in the washing machine to be lightly felted, which happens tomorrow after the big game (Go Packers!) ...or maybe Monday.  The garter stitch design disappears when the wool is felted and the silk drapes beautifully.  I saw this made up last spring when I was at the Minnesota Yarn Shop Hop at Steven Be's and fell in love with it.  

The next project is a sweater made out of lace weight.  Call me crazy.  I did a small swatch to get gauge and it drapes beautifully.  The swatch knit up easily but working the first few rows has been a little frustrating but I'm going to carry on.

Have you started any stash busting projects?


Onion Pizza

Onion and Cheese Pizza Right Out of the Oven
Sticking with the onion theme I wanted to share with you one of my favorite pizza recipes for Onion and Cheese Pizza that I posted quite awhile ago on my old blog Threads of Wonder.  The pizza has a homemade whole wheat crust, mustard, caramelized onions and fontina cheese.  Don't be thrown by the mustard - it gives a nice tang which is offset by the sweetness of the onions and the saltiness of the cheese.  If I could still eat dairy I would be making this tonight.  Here is the link to the recipe.


What's in Your Stash?

It's time for some stash busing!

I know I said I wasn't going to make any resolutions but I have been thinking seriously about ways to clear out some of my stash. 2015 is going to be the year! As I mentioned in my previous post I like to do a lot of different things so I have yarn, fabric, beads and buttons, paper, photos, found objects, hand carved stamps and all the tools and equipment needed for creating with all these gems.  Plus, with the advent of Pinterest, one of my favorite sites of all time, I'm always filled with new ideas.  My studio is tiny so bringing in more materials makes what space I do have a challenge.  So, I've decided to start shopping my stash.  In addition to that I believe I will start filling my etsy shop, which has sat forlornly empty, with the creations!  

Sandy Leigh at Eat, Write, Dream, Stitch was thinking the same thing and came up with a Stash Dash and five simple rules to help out.  If you're thinking you might need a little stash dash head on over to her blog and see her plan.

I'm going to undertake some book making and use the amazing Japanese calendar that's in the top image for the covers.  It's a really large calendar so I should be able to make several Japanese ledgers.  I'll post pictures when I get them done.

What is the most interesting thing in your stash?  What are you going to do with it?

Yarn stash--some great colors in there!


Staying True

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
I just finished reading Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, a small book and a quick read.  It made me want to run to the studio and kitchen and start making stuff.  The book is filled with little bits of wisdom and witticism that anyone that creates can relate to.  My favorite piece was called "Don't throw away any of yourself."  The idea is that we all have multiple interests and we shouldn't leave one behind to only pursue the other.  Eventually you'll feel like you've lost a part of yourself.

This struck home for me because I love being in the kitchen cooking away, the studio stitching like a crazy person and the garden watching it all happen.  When I read articles about blogging and choosing one focus it makes me a little nutty.  I'm not sure what to leave out because it wouldn't be me if I had to cut out the others.  This is not a new problem for me.  I went to art school to study textiles thinking I would then narrow down my focus.  Unfortunately I came away having had an amazing time but about a zillion more tricks in my bag.  Afterwards I was not a fun person to live with because I kept trying to figure out what path to take.  I eventually decided to focus on something where I could use as many techniques as I wanted.  Austin Kleon gave me permission to revel in it all.  I'm grateful.