Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hey, Larissa, what do you mean by "4 strands of floss"?

(Happy summer to all my friends in the northern hemisphere and a cozy winter to all my friends in the southern hemisphere! I'm busy, busy, busy with all kinds of graphic design, home improvement and craft projects for summer so I haven't checked in much on social media or the blog. Hello! *waves*)

If you are working on any of my hand embroidered projects, like the Twelve Days ornament series, you'll notice that I specify how many strands of floss to use on each step. If you are new to embroidery, you may be wondering what that means.
Wonder no more!

DMC embroidery floss is made up of six cotton threads that are twisted together to form one strand of floss. On my patterns you will find the number of strands specified, for instance:
4 strands of contrasting floss + whip stitch
That means you'll separate and remove 2 strands of thread and use the remaining 4 strands of floss to do the whip stitches. (Contrasting just means a floss color that is not the same color as the felt and that will show up well.) It's important to follow those steps if you want your stitching to have the same look as my samples because I obsess over tailor the number of strands used to best highlight my designs.

You'll find I use 4 strands the most, but I also specify 2, 3, and 6 strands at times. I don't recall ever specifying 5, but it's a possibility! It's a good idea to set aside the strands you peel away because you might get a chance to use them later in the project.

Q: So what's the best method to separate them? 
A: You'll find if you just grab 2 strands and try to peel them away the floss sometimes gets snarled or twisted. Who has time or patience for that? Not me.

Start with about 18-20 inches of floss. (Avoid cutting strands much longer because this process just gets too tricky.) First I'll tell you about the DMC recommended method. And then I'll tell you mine.

DMC approved method: Pinch the floss between your fingers near the end and slowly pull out one strand at a time, until it's all separated, then reunite however many strands to thread your needle. This has the advantage of removing any twisting and will keep your embroidery smoother and less snarly. Here's an excellent visual tutorial for that method:

Larissa's quicker method: My non-DMC approved method is to hold one end of the floss in my teeth and at the other end grab two threads with one hand and four with the other. I peel them apart that way to keep the floss from twisting on itself. Then I run my pinched fingernails down the strands a few times to untwist them. Voila. There still might be an occasional twist in the floss, but I usually don't sweat that.

Q: What needle should I use? 
A: Most of my patterns specify a size 5 embroidery needle. If that's the only one you have, you can do the whole project with it, no problem. However, it will make your job easier if you have a variety of needle sizes and multiple size 5 embroidery needles so you don't have to unthread every time you change a color. Make sure they are nice and sharp. (Avoid tapestry needles. While they have nice, big eyes, they also have blunt tips.)
- I use a size 5 embroidery needle for 3 and 4 strands.
- I use a smaller sized sewing sharp for 2 strands (or you can use a size 8 or 9 embroidery needle).
- I use a larger size 3 embroidery needle for handling all 6 strands. The larger eye and needle shaft are helpful when threading and pulling the french knots through.
DMC also has a needle guide here.

Q: I hate stripping floss. Can I just use different sizes of DMC Pearl Cotton?
A: In theory, yes. Yes, you can. I just have no experience with that, but I don't see why not. DMC pearl cotton comes in several sizes. Send me pictures if you've used that for the ornaments!

Cheater Note:
After the embroidery's all done and you sew the ornament parts together, I specify 2 strands of matching floss for that. BUT. You can cheat. If you have a large library of sewing threads like I do and they just happen to match the felt color, then feel free to use a double strand of sewing thread for that instead. (Remember this is for sewing the parts together only -- not for embroidery.) It's way less trouble than stripping more floss. BUT. It is less likely you'll find a matching sewing thread for every felt you have because they come in fewer colors. I just use it if I have the matching thread. And, yes, I have plenty of samples that are sewn together with both floss and doubled thread. It's hard to tell unless you really look closely!

I hope this guide has been helpful! Happy stitching!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

out with my Flickr account and in with the Share Photos page

By way of an underwhelming announcement, I've deleted my Flickr account. You might be thinking, "What's Flickr?"

Exactly. It's been many moons since I've uploaded or checked in with my photo groups. Years ago, they were a great way for us folks to show each other what we were making with mmmcrafts patterns and tutorials. It was great while it lasted, but I don't want to continue paying for a service that I no longer personally use. 

To replace the Flickr photo groups, there's a new SHARE PHOTOS page on the blog (also there's a new button for it in the nav ^up there at the top) explaining how to share and tag your photos for several popular apps. Tag me, please! I really love to see what you make!

(BTW, with the exception of the peonies and the shot of my studio, the photos you see up there are all from other talented mmmakers! You can search #mmmcrafts on Instagram to see more, as well as #twelvedaysornaments.)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Floresita's 12 Months of Christmas - a Twelve Days Ornaments stitch-along on Feeling Stitchy

Interested in a Twelve Days Ornaments stitch-along? Lovely and talented Floresita is hosting one on Feeling Stitchy called Twelve Months of Christmas. Follow along to get inspiration and share your ornament progress too. Floresita is using alternate stitching (couching!) and adding sparkle with beads and metallic threads. Her ornaments are going to be beautiful!

New to the Twelve Days Ornament Series? This page is chock-full of tips and information to help you get started.

Friday, March 2, 2018

baby molly's floral felt banner

My dear friends Marc and Amanda adopted a beautiful newborn girl recently. I helped throw a shower for them and this banner was a present from me. A few years ago I made a paper name banner for their older son, Micah, so when they requested a name banner for new little Molly I decided to do felt for a change.

I think name banners are satisfyingly easy and fun to sew, especially if you are like me and have illustration software and can print directly to Sulky Stick n Stitch*. Skidoosh! Not only do name banners make easy handmade, personalized gifts, (#forthewin, #oohahhfactor) they also double as pretty shower decorations.

*Why/how did I used the Stick n Stitch and not freezer paper? I used it just as a quick, no tracing way to adhere the printed pattern to the felt, cut it out, and then I peeled it away. I did this in stages so as not to waste the stabilizer. I adhered the composite printed pattern to the cream. Cut. Peeled it off, adhered the same piece to the colored felt. Cut. Peeled it off. Adhered what was left to the letter felt. Cut. Peeled it off. It saved a lot of freezer paper tracing. I didn't feel bad about using it that way because it was from my stash of 'bad' stabilizer -- the batch of stabilizer that doesn't wash away. There's no other way to use it. Not to mention I was kind of in a hurry. But to be honest, I'd do it again, bad batch or no. It was a huge time saver.

Sizewise, Molly's banner is fairly large, with each flag being about 7 x 9 inches and total length about 76 inches from ribbon end to ribbon end:

Here it is where I hung it for the shower - over my couch. I also recommend waiting until the night before the shower to sew yours, just to add that extra bit of excitement and danger! (#2am #woolfeltavalanche #sleepisforquitters)

Designing it was pretty fun (I did not do that on the night before, at least). I looked around on the internet for some images and decided I liked this notched shape for the flags. Then I tested out a few fonts 'til I landed on one that had presence and was not too complicated to cut and sew. The felt colors I chose coordinate with Molly's nursery decor.

It seemed wasteful to use wool felt for the cream colored background that's only seen at the edges, so I bought sheets of acrylic craft felt from the store for that, and then the rest of the banner (including the letters) is wool felt. Bad decision in hindsight. After struggling mightily with the cheap cream stuff I remembered why I despise acrylic felt. It's too lightweight. It bunched, stretched, frayed, stuck too much to the stabilizer, didn't stick enough to the glue, walked away under the machine foot and was a general pain to work with. Next time I make one of these I'll try the stiffened felt for the backgrounds or just give up and use wool.

I did not initially plan to have the charcoal outline around the letters. I added that later because it needed a little oomph, and also to tie in the black centers of the anemone flowers. OK, the flowers!

If you look around on Pinterest you will realize there are one million felt flower tutorials out there. I tried a few of them for a rose, anemone and whatever that loopy poof thing is supposed to be. Chrysanthemum? After figuring out the best sizes by trial and error, I customized some templates for myself on the computer. I found the key to nice looking flower petals and leaves is not to leave them as flat pieces. You have to add curve by snipping and overlapping the ends. Hot glue was used to put the flowers together. I have a love/hate relationship with hot glue. Love the immediacy. Hate the inevitable burns caused by my apparent lack of common sense (the basic disconnect of brain cautioning hey, that's hot, you probably shouldn't pinch it with your fing-- as fingers make contact with sticky lava. Again.)

Now that I have all the kinks worked out, templates made, and know what I'm doing, bring on the baby showers and birthday parties! I'd love to try the letters or flags in a pretty print fabric also, and maybe another font.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

new notions kit for Twelve Days offered at Benzie Design

Photo courtesy of Benzie Designs

Hey, guys! You may have noticed I've been flying under the radar since the release of the last Twelve Days ornament. I've been busy catching up on the mountain of tasks that have been sorely neglected over the past few months during the design and release of the last three patterns. And besides that, I actually designed and sewed something that was not a Christmas ornament! And I used my sewing machine. It was like, hello, old friend!

Anyway, I'll blog that later, but wanted to pop in and let you know about the notions kit you see above that is being offered at Benzie Design. It is tailor made for my Twelve Days Ornament Series and includes many of the materials (besides felt) that are required to make the ornaments, all in one place: Tacky Glue®, interfacing, Sulky stabilizer, pipe cleaners, wood beads, embroidery needles, and more! Check it out. BTW, if you find the kit is sold out, you can still shop the individual items on their website.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

curated Benzie felt color guide for Lord a-Leaping ornaments

All three of my Lords a-Leaping you see above were made with the Benzie felt bundle #6, shown below. It's the same felt color bundle as you use for Goose a-Laying. I've provided this felt and floss color guide so you can make samples that look like mine. Of course, there are even more color combos possible with this bundle, but I just made three.

Photo courtesy of Benzie Design

You can purchase just the Benzie bundle #6 felt as shown above, or you can opt to include matching flosses, shown below. Matching flosses are needed when you are sewing the parts of the ornaments together, but just note you will still need to purchase contrasting floss colors for the embroidery.

So without further ado, here are the samples with their felt and floss keys:

His Periwinkle Lordship:

Periwinkle: heart front, sleeves and coat
Blue: heart inset, boots
Copper: vest
Coral: heart back (not shown), body and legs
Fuchsia: hat
Icicle: cravat and lace cuffs

Decorative Embroidery:
DMC 3753
DMC 918
DMC 718
DMC 892
DMC 3753
DMC 918
DMC 718
DMC 892
DMC 796
DMC 809

His Fuchsia Lordship:

Fuchsia: heart inset, sleeves and coat
Cotton Candy: heart front, body, and legs
Coral: vest and heart back (not shown)
Copper: boots
Aqua: hat
Icicle: cravat and lace cuffs

Decorative Embroidery:
DMC White
DMC 3846
DMC 3844 (dashed line)
DMC 892
DMC 605
DMC White
DMC 3846
DMC 605
DMC 918
DMC 718

His Cyan Lordship:

Cyan: heart inset, sleeves and coat
Aqua: heart front, body, and legs
Orange: vest
Copper: boots
Coral: hat
Icicle: heart back (not shown), cravat and lace cuffs

Decorative Embroidery:
DMC White
DMC  918
DMC 604
DMC 947
DMC 892 (dashed line)
DMC White
DMC 3844
DMC 604
DMC 947
DMC 918
DMC 3341 (dashed line)

Friday, February 2, 2018

in which I take a moment to reflect and also tell you the Twelve Days 1-12, 7-12 and 10-12 bundles are now available

Wow. There they all are. All twelve patterns photographed in one shot. Big feels came over me as I was bending over this in my well-lit bathroom and taking the shot (keepin' it real, y'all, my bathroom has a skylight and doubles as a photo studio). It feels a little weird to be finished with this series I've loved so much. Weird but good. I released the first pattern back in June 2014. That's like a million blog years ago. Three and a half Real Time years of thinking through each ornament and endlessly brainstorming how best to represent each day and how best to translate that into an accessible pattern that everyone can enjoy making. 

I've always liked a good puzzle and that's exactly what this series was -- a challenging 3D felt design puzzle and each time I completed a day I got to level up. I've learned a lot! And I hope you will learn some new techniques for your crafting as you make the series! If you've mastered French knots alone you deserve a large bar of chocolate wrapped in gold paper.

Thanks so much for your constant encouragement and kindness and support through this series! Your faithful, thoughtful comments and messages and photos really kept me motivated. Special notes from grandmothers making multiple sets for grandchildren, long distance sisters making the sets together, a lovely lady getting ready to have a hip replacement who is planning to take these projects to the hospital with her, and one especially memorable letter from a sweet Texan who used the hand stitching as a mental refuge and calming exercise during the terrible flooding in Houston. And I can't not mention the pointed messages I received from two completely different octogenarians (true story) hinting that since they were in their 80s they would appreciate my hurrying it up already with the rest of the ornaments. Oh my word, y'all. 

PS I forgot to include the brave (possibly crazy) crafter who tells me she is working with her daughter to make as many as the song says...Great Scott! That's...78 ornaments, right? Or you could technically say that's just the total for day 12 and then you have 11 other days to total up...Math is not my strong suit. Anyone else doing this??

I do adore seeing your finished ornaments! Check out what others have been posting on Instagram with the #twelvedaysornaments hashtag. So much inspiration there. Keep them coming! I hope you continue to love making these special heirloom ornaments as much as I do! Yes, I still do! I plan to concentrate now on finishing the sets I'm making for my own two girls. And I'm going to take my sweet time doing it. 

So here are the new discounted pattern bundles, including the 1-12 complete bundle. Yaaassssss. They are now available in my Etsy shop or my Craftsy store:

Many have asked me, 'what's next?'. I have no idea.
Isn't that awesome? :-)