Firecracker Pillow Cover
Measuring Tape, Rulers, and Cutting Mats
Every good embroiderer needs a classic dressmaker’s measuring tape for measuring fabrics and thread. A T-square ruler is also helpful for making sure fabric cuts are always square. A plastic cutting mat with a measured grid drawn on one side, such as those used by quilters, is a perfect work surface for laying out small pieces of fabric. The mat will also withstand the impact of a pair of scissors, utility knife, or rotary blade.
You should have some basic straight pins on hand to complete the projects in this book that require additional stitching. You’ll need them for pinning various pieces and parts together.
New Crewel Techniques
The following are some basic techniques you’ll need to know in order to get started on your first crewel project.
Transferring a Design
The best way to transfer a design from paper to fabric is the sunny window trick. Here’s how it works. If you’re using a design from this book, place a piece of tracing paper over the design in the book and trace the design onto the tracing paper with a felt-tip pen. Then take the tracing paper and tape it to a sunny window, making sure it’s flat and secure on all sides. Next, tape your piece of linen twill (or whatever fabric you’ve chosen) squarely over the tracing paper. Using a fabric pen or pencil, trace the design again onto the fabric. Use short, light strokes so that the fabric doesn’t shift over the tracing paper.
If you’re lucky enough to have a professional light box (like photographers use), or if you have the do-it-yourself smarts to make your own, all the better. Follow the same instructions as above but omit the sunny window part!
Hooping Your Fabric
It’s important to keep your fabric taut while you work so that there’s no puckering in your crewelwork; careful hooping does the trick. Hoops come in two parts: the inner hoop, which is a continuous piece of wood, and the outer hoop, which has a screw connector for tightening your fabric between the two pieces. Lay the inner hoop on a flat surface and center your fabric on top of it with your design facing up. Loosen the screw on the outer hoop so that it’s loose enough to easily place over the fabric that’s sitting on the inner hoop (figure 1). Press the outer hoop down around the inner hoop until the fabric is evenly caught between the two hoops. Adjust the fabric as necessary and tighten the screw on the outer hoop until the fabric is taut like a drum (figure 2). The fabric will naturally loosen as you work, so you’ll want to stop stitching occasionally and retighten your fabric in the hoop.
Although it’s nice to be able to fit your design in the center of a hoop and not have to shift and re-hoop as you work, this only works with small designs. If you get into bigger projects, you may need to move the hoop as you finish an area. It’s okay to let your finished crewel areas get pinched in the hoop as you work on other areas. The wrinkles will disappear in the end when you block your finished crewelwork. However, if you find you must leave your work for an extended time (days or weeks), undo the hoop, and let the fabric relax until you have time to come back to it. You’ll be glad you did.
Threading the Needle
It’s a crewel but necessary step: inserting thread into a needle’s tiny eye. Don’t let this part of the process be a deal breaker. If you’re new to the world of stitchery, take some time to learn how to thread a needle. With patience and practice, you’ll be able to accomplish this seemingly impossible task—I promise! Just follow the steps below. If you don’t get it at first, try it again, and again. You aren’t allowed to give up!
Take the thread in your dominant hand while holding the needle in your other hand. Make a 1-inch (2.5 cm) loop at one end of the thread. Lasso it around the needle and tug the thread away from the needle to make a crease (figure 3). Slide the needle out and pinch the creased thread between your thumb and forefinger at the fold. Guide the folded tip of the thread through the eye of the needle (figure 4). If you’re getting cross-eyed and can’t seem to do it, keep your cool and know that a great little tool called a needle threader is available at most fabric stores. Whatever you do, don’t get frustrated. Stick with it, and you’ll be crewelin’ like a pro!
Knotting and Beginning to Crewel
In crewelwork, it’s traditional to have no knots in your finished work. But how do you start stitching if you can’t tie a knot at the end of your thread? Here’s how. After threading your needle, go ahead and make a knot at the end of the thread. Pick a spot on the front of your design that’s about 2 inches (5 cm) from where you plan to begin stitching. At this spot, push your threaded needle through to the back. Yes, the knot will be on the front (figure 5). Pull the thread taut and begin stitching your design. As you continue to sew, the thread that extends from the knot to where you started stitching will eventually get caught up and covered on the underside of the fabric. When this happens, it’s safe to carefully trim off the knot from the front of your work (figure 6). The rest of the thread will naturally slip to the back, and if there’s still a bit dangling, you can trim it again.
Ending a Thread
To end a thread, don’t knot it. Remember: there are no knots in crewel (unless it’s a French Knot). Instead, on the underside of your work, send the needle through several existing stitches without going through to the front (figure 7). Do this back and forth two or three times. This will prevent the thread from pulling up on the front. After you’ve done this, trim any dangling threads. If you continue in this way, the underside of your crewelwork will stay smooth, have no tatters, and look almost as nice as the front.
Once you’ve used up a thread, begin a new one in the same way you just ended the last one. Pull the newly threaded needle through several existing stitches on the underside of your work. Repeat this until the thread feels secure. Continue stitching. Note that linen twill fabric is much sturdier than crewel wool thread, so if your thread wears thin or starts to break, end it right away and pick up where you left off with a fresh length of thread.