March 30, 2020
by: Cynthia Anderson
First, let me take a deep breath and express how much I hope that you are all healthy and safe during what has become an unprecedented time for us all. Yes, I am acknowledging the coronavirus and how all our lives have become much altered since the last entry of this blog tutorial. I admit feeling unsettled to say the least and feeling the need to find a good place to focus. Going deep in the weeds with creative projects is always a place of solace for me. It feels good to be so engaged simply by making something with my hands. This level of engagement can be a helpful salve at disconcerting times.
Now that we are finding ourselves hunkered down at home with time on our hands, I encourage you to find a creative outlet. I keep reminding myself that my anxiety stems from feeling a lack of control. Understanding that a lack of control and sanity are highly correlated truly resonates for me. There is so little any of us can predict, let alone control under the current circumstances, but we can all find something creative to engage in. I encourage you to lose yourself in a project that provides you with pleasure and confidence, maybe save that more challenging project for later. Positive actions and feelings build on themselves and this is as good a time as any. When you feel like connecting find someone at a safe distance and go deep in the weeds together! Zoom or Facetime is perfect for that.
A friend recently told me that she has resorted to cleaning to redirect her focus. Cleaning is her “creative.” She puts on her "french cooking music", as she calls it, turns her kitchen cabinets and pantry upside down, and then loses herself in cleaning and reorganizes until the destruction is transformed into a form of bliss. We can all find our own ways of “keeping calm and carrying on” as the Brits say. Creating this tutorial has been a welcome project for me for many reasons, besides being engaged; I get to connect with you through the Folkwear community. No matter what you decide to engage in I hope you will make it creative and know that the team at Folkwear is always here to help and inspire.
Inspiring working materials.
Welcome back! Part 1 of this tutorial left off ready for the embroidery to begin...
A Bit About Embroidery
Embroidery has a long and varied history and has literally existed since man has made fabric. The origins of embroidery come from China where it’s long development coincides with the raising of the silkworm. The Chinese were the first to spin silk thread and weave silk fabric. The advent of silk thread and fabrics lead to the art of embroidery. Embellishing fabric with needle and thread exists in all cultures around the world. As you might imagine there are more embroidery stitches and variations on techniques than one can conceive.
Folkwear's 114 Chinese Jacket Pattern offers instructions on how to make seven different embroidery stitches, some with variations, that allow you to create just enough varied looks to make your work fun and interesting. I hope you find this a perfect starting point that will hopefully launch you into many hours of embroidery learning.
Learning to embroider is relatively simple and pleasurable to execute, but like so many creative endeavors, it takes a bit of practice and then the sky is the limit!
As in all creative learning adventures you will devise your own way of doing things based on what you prefer and what feels right to you. The Folkwear 114 Chinese Jacket Pattern will provide you with all the information and instructions you need, to get you started in experimenting and testing your embroidery skills. Many of the stitches offered in this pattern are simple and easy to execute. I will provide video demonstrations for a few of my favorite stitches, which you will be able to find on our YouTube channel.
Not all embroidery threads or embroidery floss as it is sometimes referred to, are created equal. Embroidery threads are made of silk, silk-like polyesters, and light to medium weight cotton. For this tutorial I am using DMC six-strand embroidery thread made in France (DMC six strand embroidery floss), which is widely available and comes in 500 beautiful colors! This thread has a lovely sheen and will smoothly pull through your fabric. DMC embroidery thread is an all around good choice and will work well on different fabrics such as linen, wool, silk, and cotton. If you are using silk fabric you might choose to go all out and use silk thread as well... just saying.
My embroidery colour palette. Note that all DMC Embroidery thread colours have their own identifying number.
I am also using DMC Light Effects Metallic Embroidery thread E677,
and another DMC Metallic spool thread.
The DMC embroidery thread used in this tutorial comes in one very long continuous length, measuring 8m (8.7 yds.) gathered into a tidy signature 6" loop. This long continuous thread is made up of six equal individual threads. The long strand is designed in such away that allows for the threads can be divided or separated depending on how many threads are needed or desired.The anatomy of an embroidery thread.
Do not divide your thread until you have cut the thread length you need to work with, keeping your continuous thread intact for the next thread need. I typically feel comfortable with a thread cut at 18”-20” long, but you can work with what feel right to you. Next, you must separate the threads in order to use the number you wish for your embroidery project. Separating or dividing your cut main thread into one, two, three, four, or five threads is not difficult, just a little awkward until you get the technique mastered.
Technique for Dividing Your Embroidery Thread
Gently pull how ever many threads you want to extract from the main thread and hold in your left hand, between your thumb and forefinger. Then insert your right hand forefinger between the separated threads, pull down and away from your left hand. Keep gently pulling and separating until you get to the end. Neatly coil up the remaining thread you do not intend to use at this time to keep for future use. Running your fingers down the twisted length of the threads can help un-twist the threads and make this step a little easier.
Then with your right hand forefinger between the separated threads, pull down and away from your left hand. This technique can be a little fussy, but it works.
Know Your Needles
Needles differ too and I suggest using a Milliner's needle for this project. This style of needle is a type of embroidery needle. It is a pleasure to work with, for it will give you better results and ease of use. A Milliner's needle is different from an regular embroidery needle, in that the eye of the needle is the same width as the shaft off the needle. Which in turn, makes it easier to pass the needle and thread through your fabric. This needle design has the much added benefit of not piercing such a large hole in your work. Go have a look at your needle collection and I bet you already have a Milliner’s needle.
Eye of the Milliner's needle (right) versus the eye of a fairly large embroidery needle.
The length of your needle also matters. There are times a shorter needle will be the better tool for executing a particular stitch requirement and there will be times when you will find a longer needle more suitable. The size or length of the eye of the needle typically corresponds to the length of the needle. The longer the needle the longer the eye of the needle. The shorter and finer the needle then the smaller the eye of then needle. But not always, a super long needle can have a tiny eye. Once again, inspect the needles you already have, knowing there are others out there that might make your project easier. The little things always matter too.
Because, of the size and level of detail in the Chinese Jacket Pattern roundels I have chosen to work with, I am threading my needle with two to three threads at a time. Know that the ability to actually thread your needle will also determine how many threads you use. Sometimes the size of the eye of the needle will only allow so many threads. You can still remove a thread or two, using the technique above, if you find you simply have too many threads to thread your needle.
Note: After some practical application you will learn which needles to use and how much thread to use when attempting to execute your embroidery stitches.
So lets’ thread those Milliner’s needles and get started!
I recommend using a scrap of fabric (the same fabric you intend to make your final project on) to experiment creating stitches with. This will allow you to know how your fabric, embroidery thread, and needles all feel and respond in relation to what stitches you want to create. Try different needles and load your needle eye with varying amounts of thread strands and see what happens. Practice using the stitch you desire in a sample area that closely resembles the area you plan to cover in your final piece. Simply draw out or trace out the shape you want to fill on your scrap fabric. You will quickly decide and come to terms with how much embroidery will be required. This is one reason I liked the idea of using the colored fabric pens . . . less embroidery work!
I experimented with all the stitches in the 114 Chinese Jacket Pattern instructions. It seemed plausible that I would miss something if I did not completely understand or appreciate what the stitches would look like and do. I needed to try them out in order to decide what to use. I was actually rather pleased to discover that some of the stitches I initially assumed to be difficult, were actually a pleasure to make. I can take my own advice and admit that I still could use more practice, but I knew this project would be fun to explore!
Work in progress
The Satin Stitch is a Must!
Sometimes you need filler and the satin stitch is the stitch to use. It is simple - a straight over-and-over stitch, and is commonly used in Chinese embroidery. For this project, knowing how to use filler is not difficult. You simply need to look at the space you want to fill and decide if it would benefit from a more interesting approach than just making a solid block of color. Notice how I let the coloring from the permanent fabric pens become part of the design.
Satin stitch details
Other Stitches Used
For this project, I also used the split stitch, Chinese knot, and couching. These stitches are all explained in the pattern, but the split stitch is a simple backstitch where the needle splits the thread in two when going back into the fabric. The Chinese knot is similar to a French knot and creates an interesting texture. I have seen it used with the knots tightly packed together to create a huge embroidery by very skilled artists. And couching is securing a thread laid on top of the fabric by small stitches taken vertically over the thread. It is fun and interesting to use metallic thread with couching, either as the thread laid on top of the fabric, or the thread taking small stitches over the top thread. You can see the couching stitch and Chinese knot stitch in videos at the bottom of this post (and on our YouTube Channel).
Other stitches starting to appear.
Can you find the split stitch and the Chinese knot?
Couching stitch for clouds.
Up close of layering details.
Metallic couching stitch and glass beads add the final touch.
A peek at the backside of my roundel.
Nobody ever wants the back of their work seen for obvious reasons, but keeping the backside of your work as tidy as possible will help make your project more enjoyable. Once you finish working with a thread, pull it to the backside of your work and tie it off, then weave about a half an inch of the tread through the some of the stitching, to neatly secure and then snip. The metallic thread does not work well for this technique, because it it has a rougher texture and does not pull smoothly through. Just tie-off and snip the metallic threads.
And, check out videos below showing couching stitch and Chinese knot stitch.