May 30, 2008

Embroidery from a Nanologist' Perspective

Yes, that's a word. Nanologist is a person who is a Gnome collector.

I happened upon these delightful hand-embroidered Gnome's when looking at Etsy. The artist calls her shop "Paintingpixie". Brandy Carsten, from Colorado, USA, says "I picked my name by mixing my love for traditional art and the magical world of fay."

Before studying Brandy's art , I discovered I was weak on the little Gnome facts. Prior to this, I always pictured the Travelocity gnome as he is playfully humming his way along in what he thinks is a comfortable river and suddenly finds himself falling off the edge of the earth.........(so like my

This is what I learned, there seems to be a general agreement regarding the following things about gnomes:

1. A gnomes life span is about 400 years.
2. When a gnome is about 200 years old, they begin to think of marriage.
3. Birth of gnomes always involves twins.
4. Male gnomes indulge in pipe smoking.
5. Gnomes are 7 times stronger than a man.

Brandy says that she made her first gnome doll for her son when he was small. "It was soft, filled with carded wool and had a simple embroidered face. I was highly influenced by Waldorf traditions; simple in design and natural materials. This is why I leave the faces blank, it leaves the emotion of the doll play open. "

"As far as my embroidery history, I simply became curious and tried a couple of stitches until they looked right with the exception of the French knot which I had to look up to see how to make a proper one. "

"I let the seasons and the natural world around me influence the designs of my embroidery. I embroider intuitively- meaning I don't usually have a design plan, it just unfolds with each stitch. I have a couple of Rocky Mountain Flower guides for inspiration and reference that I use upon occasion."

"The Mushroom Cap Gnomes are truly my favorite of my designs so far. It took me quite a while to create the right shape for the cap. "

"Along with embroidery and doll making I have recently taught myself to spin yarn with a drop spindle. I love the feeling of the wool roving passing through my fingers and twisting the yarn. I close my eyes and imagine that I am connected to all the women of the past who have also made yarn in this very same way since the beginning of time. I love to needle felt, its so similar to painting with color mixing and layering. I also do illustrations in pencil and pen and ink."

Brandy says her favorite artists are Alphonse Mucha (one of my favorites, also), Van Gogh, and Matisse. Artists that are living today that she admires are Michael Haque, Brett Wilson, and Karma Majors (who is her aunt). Brandy lives in Colorado with her husband and two children.

"When I was a child I lived for a year in the mountains with a rushing river in my front yard and all the world to explore in my back yard. That year I discovered the magical realm of fairies and gnomes. Every spring flowers seemed to speak to me and trees and the rocks all had their own story to tell. I saw the world around me in a vividness that I hadn't been aware of before. Then my family returned to the city and I ever since have had that connection with nature." Thanks, Brandy, for sharing your art and thoughts with us.

May 22, 2008

Stitchy Woman

An interview with another fabulous Stitchy Woman....
Jean Flaherty: Jean Jean the Sewing Machine.

Jean, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago- have lived in many places since, most recently I moved from Plantation, FL where we were for four years to South Bend, IN- we will move from here in a few months. I am a stay at home Mom to three children, a four year old girl, a three year old boy and a 20 month old girl. My husband and I just celebrated our five year anniversary- he’s the light of my life.

How did you come up with the name Jean, Jean the Sewing Machine?
As a baby my parents called me Jean, Jean the bubble machine, because I blew a lot of bubbles. As a kid I thought it was a bit TMI for a nickname. However, a couple of years ago I heard about this guy, Gene, Gene the dancing machine from the Gong Show- he’s pretty amazing, you can check him out on You Tube, and he is my namesake.

all embroidery patterns throughout interview are from Sublime Stitching.

Stitching is very creative, yet also very detail oriented and precise. Does it reflect your personality?
Yes and no. I don’t think I am so much imaginative in my creativity as I am organizational; I like to put things together in ways that look nice, this applies especially to colors. I try to remain diligent and practice the few skills I know such as keeping the back looking nice and making even stitches- but this is probably where I need to work a bit harder.

Do you ever rip out stitches to re-do them in a different color or type of stitch?
Yes, I do. I am by no means a perfectionist- but I do try to make things look right.

Where do you find the patterns you use?
All of the embroidery I have done lately is from Sublime Stitching patterns.

Do you have an all-time favorite pattern you’ve used again and again?
Not yet, but Our Lady of Guadalupe and the seahorse from Sublime Stitching speak to my heart. I have yet to be happy with a seahorse I have stitched, so that’s on the agenda!

Are there any websites or blogs you visit regularly for creative inspiration?
Certainly Flickr, it is where I discovered Sublime Stitching embroidery- Early Bird Special (formerly Sew Wabi Sabi) helped me get started. I first was inspired to sew again after finding Heather Bailey’s blog, from hers I found and the rest of the many awesome websites and online stores dedicated to sewing and embroidery including Sew, Mama, Sew, Purlsoho, Sugar City Journal and Angry Chicken. I continue to be amazed by the incredible generosity in time, talent and encouragement through fellow crafters online.

If you could listen to anything while you worked on a project, what would it be?
I think about this often, because I have three little ones I limit what I listen to while they are awake, but I daydream about having hours of time to craft while listening to Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, and Belle and Sebastian

Grab your ipod and hit “shuffle” - what song comes up first (no cheating – no editing!)?
“It Is Not Easy”- Desmond Dekker from Rockin Steady- his greatest hits. Okay, and the next one is “Family Tree” by Belle and Sebastian- how could I leave that out? It’s one of my favorite songs.
Have you always been crafty?
Yes, at least since I was a young child. I would make papier-mâché animals as gifts when I was young. Throughout high school and college I worked a lot with paper on a tiny micro level. Lately, I have been using more needle and thread.

Do you remember your first “real” craft/sewing/art project?
I started making my own clothes in high school- they were very dramatic, literally- they were costumes. I made them from costume patterns and wore them as street clothes.

Do you do other crafty things as well?
Yes, I like to sew

Do you ever make anything for yourself?
I have made a few clothes for myself and have plans to make some more. I have fallen in love with the Japanese sewing pattern books! And I make clothes for my children, so those are for me as well, because I love watching them wear the things I make.

Where do you find inspiration?
I have a happy life at home with my children and husband- it’s conducive to making things, I think if it were not for my family I would not be crafting. Further, my parents, and especially my Mom, taught me a love of beauty. My mom has an ability to make everything around her beautiful and charming- she can do so on a macro and micro level. I hope to be like her. There is also a C.S. Lewis quote from the beginning of the Great Divorce: “Even on the biological level life is not like a river but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.” I find this true and very encouraging.

Do you sell the items you make?
Not yet. But I plan to open an Etsy shop with children’s clothes and handbags; I just need to get my act together to write some patterns!

Where can our readers find more of you?
Just my flickr page!

Thank you so much, Jean!

May 21, 2008

A fine line

I've been thinking about what is or isn't contemporary embroidery. Maybe unusual topics or materials aren't the only things that are contemporary. If it's made by someone alive today, wouldn't that qualify? I think so.

But what do you think? Does cutesy Japanese inspired embroidery count as contemporary? Does animal embroidery? How about flowers? They are about as traditional as can be! Are they not? I find it fascinating that there seems to be a pretty fine line between what is 'modern' and what isn't.

1. ATC Needlefelt Hedgerow 1 Traded, 2. hogweed detail, 3. Tinted 1920's lady, 4. Gingy and the Evil Milk, 5. Mais perto, 6. doo_leroux's apron, 7. Pretty Puggy!, 8. playing with my pin tuck foot, 9. redwork strawberry jam

May 20, 2008

Embroidered Buttons

I love covered buttons and some of the most beautiful are those with embroidery motifs on them. Here are a few I found perusing flickr - just type in "embroidered buttons" and you can enjoy many, many more...these are some of my favorites!

1. blue rose button, 2. all the covered buttons, 3. embroidered button swap - bunnies, 4. Embroidered Buttons, 5. Embroidered buttons, 6. Kristin's, 7. robot faces, 8. pin wheel card, 9. embroidered owl buttons, 10. buttons2, 11. simply june: embroidered buttons, 12. Snowdrop Bouquet embroidered buttons, 13. fall_buttons, 14. Embroidered Crown Buttons, 15. embroidered pin back button, 16. Embroidered Buttons

May 19, 2008

I'm in love with Nancy!

Oh, that nancygamon. She's combined bright, beautiful colors with hand embroidery for some absolutely lovely things. Nancy is an independent designer, who started sewing in the 1970s. From her Etsy profile: "I started sewing as a girl in the late 1970s. My 4th grade project was a pair of elastic waist pants in forest green polyester. I'm happy to report that my fabric stash, and my fashion taste, has been steadily improving ever since." I believe her!

I never would have thought a gnat could be so beautiful. Everyone needs a Gnat Hat.Keep your change in this sweet coin purse and you'll want to use coins to pay for everything. I wonder how many coins it will hold. What's wrong with paying for groceries with quarters?!?
I scream like a little girl when I see a bug, but even this one changes that scream to a squeal of glee. Seriously. When has a bug every looked so lovely.

May 16, 2008

Stories and Thread.........

"I love all things small"....starts the introduction page to Shelece's etsy profile. "Tiny little treasures, little pieces of paper, a plastic charm, the weave of fabric........and so I live with jars and tins filled with all of these small beautiful things......" Sound familiar? I think to love embroidery one must love small things, and probably collect them......

Though I was wooed by the images of Shelece's little quilts made from repurposed, recycled vintage fabric, hand-quilted and appliqued, I became connected by her stories. We all have them, don't we? Stories that sound vaguely familiar when someone tells them. I wanted to share some of Shelece's work and some of her stories because they look so much like the fabric of our lives......

I Cut My Own Hair

This one made me laugh because all five of my kids did this one time at least, and one boy insisted on it several times. I loved how Shelece sprinkled the hair all over the ground! Check out how she describes this event in her life in her etsy store.

Blanket for Dolly

Shelece says: "My grandma deeply instilled in me the idea that dolls must be kept warm. I remember when I was little taking my doll over to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving dinner. I arrived all bundled up in my red wool coat with my doll tucked under my arm. Grandma met me at the door and gasped 'get that baby in here this minute, she's only dressed in a swim suit and a dish towel, she'll get sick and die in this weather!' Horrified I hurriedly bundled her under my coat to keep back the certain death my grandma knew was lurking around the corner for my unprotected doll."

Chicken Races

Shelece didn't explain this one, but I have enough imagination left from childhood that it needs no explaining. There are so many wonderful creations that, of course, I can't post them all, but maybe a few.

Best Big Sister Ever

Shelece says: "I was the youngest of six kids and I always wished I had a little sister to love and dress up and push around in a stroller. My older sister assured me that having a little sister was anything but fun, she said, "it's like having a dog with no legs permanently tied to your waist and you have to drag it everywhere you go." All that did was make me really want a dog! And if I could get one with no legs, all the better, it would be easier to dress and would never run away!

Well, this is just a taste of Shelece's view of life from an embroidery standpoint. I think it's wonderful and asked her if I could share it. Here are a few more without the story, perhaps I have peaked your interest?


Fighting for Dolly

Okay, I guess you have the idea of why I was so smitten with these. They are made with the idea that someday they will be framed. I love the stories of people, and I really enjoyed Shelece's walk through a familiar world in her eyes. Thanks for sharing, Shelece.

May 14, 2008

hens teeth: contemporary

Here's another mini interview with one of the talented ladies in the Pool. This time it's the wonderfully talented Viv from hens teeth. She also has a blog. She makes the sweetest plush and embroidery on paper ephemera. Let's see what she has to say about contemporary embroidery:

How do you define contemporary embroidery?
I define contemporary embroidery as the use of traditional and none traditional materials worked in an unexpected way.

What perceptions of embroidery do you meet? And are they changing?
It depends on who is doing the perceiving!

I meet the conventional with my use of traditional embroidery stitches but then I hope to cross the expected when I combine these stitches with my collection of discarded ephemera. Placement of these collected surfaces combined with stitchery, I hope, evokes reflected memories and a sense of our heritage, a narrative image but using up-to-date processes. To take various elements and place them together into a coherent piece is extremely gratifying.

I feel the world has opened it's eyes to the possibilities of embroidery, endless wonderful possibilities.

Why do we need embroidery?
We do not need embroidery, i.e. my husband has no need for embroidery at all in his life but for those of us who do, embroidery evokes a myriad of emotions. As well as, textures to stroke, beauty to behold, memories to stir us, inspiration to fill us, untold possibilities of subject matter to enjoy and techniques and materials to please the soul.
And for me....... all consuming.

Thank you, Viv!

May 13, 2008


I'm very into these sweet treats right now. They're so fun and you can do so much with them - as these stitchers have! Here are some cupcake examples from the Flickr Embroidery Pool and the Flickr Sublime Stitching Pool...enjoy!!

1. Cupcakes!, 2. patchwork zipper pouch with embroidered cupcake, 3. Sweet Dreams Pillowcase, 4. CupCake Tea Towel, 5. Cupcake Onesie 9 to 12 Months, 6. February 4th, Thing 4: card, 7. Sweet WIP, 8. cupcake, 9. cupcake-handstitched, 10. Play cupcakes, 11. cupcake on drink sleeve, 12. Cupcake, 13. keyrings, 14. Cupcake embroidery detail, 15. cupcake sprinklage, 16. Cupcake Ornaments

Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

May 12, 2008

I was poking around the interwebs and came across this wonderful website, The Mexican Dress. You can download a pattern to make a billowy cotton dress, tunic or peasant blouse for you to embroider in colorful, fanciful designs. Living in Austin I often see Mexican embroidery, and it's truly inspiring with its flourishes, florals and birds. A dress like this makes a great canvas.

May 9, 2008

Embroidery- the Embellisher Queen

Hi Everyone! I hope you are looking forward to a new project! I have learned that sometimes I fail to make use of some valuable tools I have when I am looking for an embroidery project. As an embellisher, I constantly look for things to put my "signature" on. Lately, when I go to a fabric store, I have been looking at fabric as a canvas, rather than a painting. Instead of being satisfied that the fabric is doing all the work, I look to see what I can do to make it "mine".

I suppose because I am a painter on certain days, looking at things as "unfinished" seems to happen to me quite frequently. I like working on muslin and filling in all the wonderful colors, but sometimes I like to look at something that's already on its way and change it's course. I will show you some examples of what I mean, and then, give you the directions for the little 'checkbook holder', 'pocket folder', or 'clutch', whatever you decide to use it for.

Here is an example of a fabric that had cats printed all over it. I trimmed one of the cats and left enough border to stitch it to another piece of fabric. To make things easier, I ironed it on with Heat and Bond Lite first. (The light Heat and Bond lets you sew through it).

I blanket stitched around the outside of the cat, but, after looking at it, I probably could have just straight stitched and been just as happy. I thought of filling in the stripes, which is an option, but I left them open.

Here, I used the 'themed' fabric and just took it a step further with adding the word 'teacher' and a few flowers to pull the pieces together. Later, after looking at it, I added white centers to the flowers, but I will not post that picture to save space.

Here, again I used the 'themed' fabric and added the image, and after looking at it, tied it together with embellishing one of the 'cat' words on the already printed fabric.

This little trick draws the piece together and gives it that personal touch. Now, I will show you how this is all put together. (what to cut, directions)

Cut the following pieces: 2 pieces 7" x 3 3/4" that will be the cover. They look like that above. While you are cutting them, imagine them folded in half width-wise, so if you are placing a particular design that it goes where you want it. (not upside down) This piece above gets folded as the cover of the folder. Stitch these two pieces together and plan your embroidery embellishments and do them before anything else.

Here, I have embellished the 'plain' dragonflies. At this point I debated about beading, which would have been great on this design. I added the word 'dragonfly' and stitched the flowers in the dark area to tie it together. This is a good time to add your label if you have one, also.

Now, this is the tricky part. I did it wrong the first time, so my picture was wrong and I can't show it. Cut 2 pieces of fabric 7" x 6" that will be the inside pockets. Fold these lengthwise and iron, then lay them on the right side of the cover (the outside) the opposite (which would be crossway) direction of the division of the cover. In other words, the two lines would intersect. Make sure the fold of the pocket is facing the middle, and the side you want showing facing the cover.

Then, cut one piece of fabric (this will be your lining) 7" x 7 1/2". Lay this piece face down on top of the pockets. Pin all around, leaving a gap for turning. I like to leave the gap on the back side bottom. This will be handstitched after turning. After stitching and trimming, pull the entire thing through that opening and push corners out and iron flat. I hand stitched snap closures on mine, but this is optional.

I wanted to show this last kitty folder because I wasn't happy with it after I finished it. I don't think the newspaper fabric 'worked'. I would probably use a solid or vaguely printed fabric instead, next time and use the newspaper fabric for the folders.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and idea post. Let me know if you use it, I would love to see what you do with it.

note: pattern pieces below are not actual size - they're a guide to show you what to cut...

May 8, 2008

Stitchy Woman

An Interview with Claudia Marchan of Stichado

I'm feeling so lucky with this interviewing gig - I get to "meet" (via email) all of these talented and wonderful women and learn a little bit more about them and their craft. Today's Stitchy Woman is certainly no exception.

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born in Chicago but raised in Mexico since I was around three months old. When I was almost eleven, my parents brought me back to Chicago and I’ve been living here since. I’m happily married to an international man of mystery with whom I have two beautiful boys, a dog and a little blue parakeet.

Grab your ipod and hit “shuffle” - what song comes up first (no cheating – no editing!)?
Le vieil elephant by Alain Schneider. It’s a French reggae song on one of my kids cd’s. I love it too, it’s the perfect song to come up first.

How did you come up with your blog name?
My husband came up with it. It’s his version of the spanglish word for stitched.

Have you always been crafty?
I like to think so, in so way or another. I love making things with my hands. I recently started sewing by hand just for the simple reason I can’t get used to using a machine.

Do you do other crafty things as well?
I really wish I did but there are just not enough hours in the day for me right now.

Do you remember your first “real” craft/sewing/art project?

I don’t remember my very first project because I started embroidering when I was probably seven years old. I remember my mom would go to the market and get my sisters and I lots of pre-stamped kitchen towels to embroider. It was so much fun for me. I remember it now like it was painting by stitches. I don’t remember using any of the fancy stitches either. Like French knot, split stitch, chain stitch or blanket stitch, it was always the satin stitch or the backstitch.

I know you have two young boys at home - When do you find time to create?
Funny you should ask, sometimes I don’t even know how I manage. I usually stay up late to finish something I started, specially if it’s something I’m really enjoying.

Your stitched goods have been getting lots of attention lately. That must be so exciting for you!
Yes, it’s been quite exciting and surprising most of all. I really don’t know why because I think there are other much more talented crafters out there than me.

Where do you find the patterns you use?
My biggest ally has been Needlecrafter , Floresita’s transfer finds and recently Hoop Love.

Do you have an all-time favorite pattern you’ve used again and again?
I am totally in love with all the Vogart birds, I could never get tired of stitching them. I think they’re what I’ve used the most.

What kinds of things do you like to embroider on (towels, pillowcases, etc)?
I first started on some kitchen towels and somehow I began stitching on stretchy fabrics like t-shirts and onesies. I really didn’t like it at first but it’s become one of my favorite fabrics to stitch on.

Do you ever make anything for yourself?
I recently started making stuff for me but usually I give it away or make things for my boys.

Where do you find inspiration?
All around me. My boys, my neighborhood, the internet, clip art, children’s books, magazines, flickr and my life in general.

Are there any websites or blogs you visit regularly for creative inspiration?
There are too many to list here but I have some of them listed on my blog. I remember the first blog I found about embroidery was floresita’s blog and I kept coming back every little moment I had free to read all of her past posts.

Do you sell the items you make? And if so, do you have any tips for people who want to start selling their work, either online or at craft shows?
I do sell some of my items on Etsy; That's all I have time for right now. My only advice is don’t overwhelm yourself. Remember that you are doing it because you enjoy it, not because you want to stress yourself out.

Thank you so much, Claudia!!! Where can we find more of you?
My blog, etsy and flickr.


{If you would like to appear in a Stitchy Woman interview, please drop me a note at - pretty please with a cherry on top?}

May 7, 2008

Guerilla Embroidery on contemporary embroidery

There's probably only so much I can say about contemporary embroidery before I start repeating myself (well, maybe), so in stead I'm asking some fine folks from the Pool about their take on it. First up is Guerilla Embroidery; let's see what she has to say:

How do you define contemporary embroidery?
Any form of artwork/craft which uses the traditional skills of embroidery in a modern context. This could be subject matter, or how the stitches themselves are used.

What perceptions of embroidery do you meet? Are they changing?
It always surprises people when I tell them I have an embroidery degree! I always have to convince them it is a proper BA(Honours) course - but in fact, it was some of the most gruelling 3 years of my life. They really put you through your paces! Many people still can't accept 'textiles' in any form as a serious art form - embroidery especially has always been seen as a 'craft' rather than 'art' which makes it even harder to be taken seriously. People's reactions are usually of surprise, but I especially like the reactions of older people whose idea of embroidery is so very different to the things that I make! They find it hard to believe I have used a sewing machine to 'draw'.

Why do we need embroidery?
Textiles are woven into the fabric of society (excuse the pun!) - I think we need embroidery to make that fabric more interesting, and to imbue it with meaning.