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Beginner Stitcher-Where do I start??

 
Beginner Stitcher's Start Here!!
 
Topic: Choosing Supplies
 
Welcome to primitive stitching 101!!  LOL  So many customers have questions whether they are just beginning or have been a stitcher for many years.  I am going to try my best to cover all areas here along with the individual articles on specific topics covered in the blog area.  I am sure if I fail to cover something someone will eventually ask the question.
 
~~Embroidery Hoops~~
 
When starting,  I suggest if you only purchase one size embroidery hoop to purchase one of a medium size around 5-7 inches.  Later, when you discover the type of projects you most enjoy and the size in which they generally are created, you can then switch to a size more specific for those projects. 
 
I purchase wood hoops that you must turn better known as a quilter's hoop rather than the typical double ringed wood hoop where one just slides over the other.  The quilter's hoop has a metal tightener at the top of the hoop.   I find this to be helpful when stitching through thick layers such as drapery lining backed with Warm & Natural.  The simple wooden or plastic hoops are fine for thinner projects as with muslin and Warm & Natural. 
 
~~Needles~~
 
You should purchase needles specific for embroidery.  They need to be sharp and without imperfections that may catch onto fabric as they glide in and out.  It is best to use the smallest eye that you can but still fit your threads through and also be able to see to thread!!  A needle with too large an eye will leave larger holes in fabric that is thinnner and tighter woven causing french knots to be pulled through to the back side.  It also can pull pieces of your Warm & Natural batting to the top of your piece where you are working on your design.  My patterns were designed with the idea that most areas would be stitched with 3 strands of floss while smaller areas would require 2.  We will discuss thread soon.
 
~~Fabric~~
 
I suggest muslin on my supply lists for all projects and generally that is what I used to use for everything.  However, I stumbled onto drapery lining when my seamstress friend used to send me over large scraps from her business of custom curtains and upholstering.  I pulled the cotton pieces without the vinyl backing from the pile.  I tea dyed a few pieces and was quite impressed at how the fabric absorbed the tea giving it a much deeper tone than I had been used to with muslin.  My friend, Marlene, is now hooked on drapery lining!!  If you are going to be stitching pillows, it is the absolute best.  Your pillows are stiffer, feel thicker and tend to hold their shape better than using muslin.  It is just such a nice medium to work with.  I now have a hard time using anything else!!  If making pictures, drapery lining is much too thick to frame so stick with the thinner fabrics.
 
Muslin is great for projects that do not require the thickness or need as much support and durablity as a pillow.  At one time, I used muslin for everything!!  It comes in bleached and natural. The natural is best your best choice when trying to start with a primitive look.   Bleached will also tea dye if  that is your only choice.
 
Linen may also be used but I suggest that you wait until you have stitched a few projects before attempting a project using linen.  The weave tends to be a little more open, therefore you will create a better finished project if you are at least used to the basics before attempting to use this fabric.
 
~~Batting~~
 
The only batting I recommend is Warm & Natural!!  I cannot say enough about this product.  I, personally, do not like working with batting that feels like it can stretch or pull apart.  Warm & Natural feels more like felt without being as stiff.  All you have to do is touch the difference to fall in love!!  It is the true primitive batting!!  Warm & Natural tea dyes very nicely too!!  No one wants to see a tag with an unfinished edge using tea dyed muslin and bright white batting sticking out of the center!!  So make sure to tea dye your Warm & Natural along with you muslin or other medium.  It also is available in natural and bleached.  I always buy the natural in this item also.   The scraps are great for snowman bodies, angel wings...whatever you can imagine!!   When ever you are using Warm & Natural for a project that could possibly be washed later, you MUST wash and dry it first because it SHRINKS!!! 
 
~~Embroidery Floss~~
 
My patterns were created for use with DMC but if you prefer another brand and would still like to follow our suggested color combinations, most craft stores carry a conversion chart.   Floss comes in a continuous length.  There are six strands wound in that continuous length.  When getting ready to stitch, you would cut all six strands, or one piece, to a size that would be easy to work with.  It is easiest if you use a length that once you have thread your needle, pulled the end through the needle for at least 10 inches or so...that you can now go down into the fabric and pull it all the way through in one motion.  It is harder to have your thread so long that when you pull your arms length you must then go back and pull it again.  It also can tend to be more out of control if you are a beginner and therefore knot somewhere in the center easier on you.   When this happens if you cannot get the knot out, pull the strand through to the back side and knot by taking the needle up through only the Warm & Natural making a loop, then take the needle through the loop, creating a knot.  I usually do this at least twice, then cut off leaving a least a 1/4" thread beyond the knot. 
 
Back to your floss....I use 3 strands of floss to stitch all large areas of a pattern.  There are six strands that are entwined the length.  This means that after you cut a length of floss from which to use, you would then divide that piece in half to end with 2-3 strand pieces.  When threading my needle, I do not take it through the needle and then make both ends equal and knot ...therefore having six strands going through the fabric.  You want to take the end through your needle and just pull it about ten inches and let hang.  You will need to keep a watch to make sure that 10 inch overlap through the needle does not shorten on you as you pull it back and forth through the fabric.  Make sure to check every so often or you will pull the needle right off the end and have to rethread again.  The good thing is that you don't have to start over or knot off....you just need to find the end and thread it through the needle once again and then continue on your way.  You also don't want to wind up forgetting about that overhand and let it start being stitched in the project so you want to shorten it as you need to so that it does not wind up becoming stitched in the piece by being too long as the thread starts to shorten.  If this seems confusing, you will understand it easier once you have started stitching a bit because all of this will happen to you!!  It happens to us all at one time or another!!  Later, when you return to read another section and read this again...you are bound to understand firsthand!!  LOL 
 
Three strands of floss being wound at least three times around the needle is always used when making French Knots as far as I am concerned.  (never less)  If you are going to spend the time and effort to stitch them, you want them to look healthy and nice.  If you have trouble in the beginning getting them to sit close to the fabric...this is what I like to do.  I wind my floss three times around the needle (at this point my needle is down in front of me above the project) holding the needle in my right hand (I am right handed)  once wound, I then point the needle into the fabric with my right hand.  I then pull the floss coming from the wound piece around the needle tight (pull strands in the direction away from your piece).  Not so tight that you will not be able to slide the needle through the fabric but just with a tension so that the knot is not too lose and loopy looking.  The knot should sit nicely around the point of the needle that is now entering the fabric.  Once you have completed this, I then continue holding that thread a little taunt while pushing the needle through the top of the fabric, down through the fabric to the under side.  If you get the motion down with practice, your knot should form nicely on top.  If for any reason the knot is nicely formed but not sitting against the fabric, you can cheat and tack the knot down with a tiny tuck on either side or both to hold it close to the fabric.  Marlene does this with every French knot so that wear or use of the item will not pull her knots out of place over time!!  It is a bit timely but worth the extra minute if you plan to make items you wish to cherish in years to come.  It is a little heartbreaking when you take all the time to create a wonderful piece only to have a knot be pulled up away from the fabric later!!  I have even knotted them underneat again (as with a tying off knot..not another french knot) to make them stay in place rather than risk having an entire line of them be affected if a stitch is pulled somewhere else.  You don't have to end when using a tying off knot underneath....you can then continue by going to the next knot.
 
Two Strands of Floss is used for smaller areas such as small pieces or thin hair, tiny thin eyebrows, small lettering or even sometimes larger lettering (depends on your own comfort level and the way it looks with your tension etc.)  Generally, you will want to consider using 2 strands in smaller areas especially if you start with three and it looks thick or you are not able to make turns in lettering easily you may then wish to change to 2 strands.  It is also easier to use shorter stitches in areas of turns rather than longer to keep the shape of the bend..  You will develop your own way as you go.  Whatever is easy for you and looks nice is the right way for you!!
 
~~"If you should wish to tea-dye your fabric, "Step By Step Tea-Dying should be read next.  If not tea-dying, jump to Transferring Your Patterns To Fabric" ~~
"Copyright"  2009  Primitive Stitches
 
   
 

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