Friday, March 23, 2012

Blue "Skirtle" Embroidery Tips

The stem stitch I'm using to outline the border of my skirt-that-used-to-be-a-kirtle is not difficult. Certainly no harder than the back stitch, which used to be my standard. In fact I like it more, because more of the stitching shows on top of the garment. With a back stitch a lot of your thread is wasted underneath the fabric, but with stem stitch it's mostly on top, contributing to the motif.

When I worked a few trial designs on scrap linen, I was wary. I thought it would look too choppy and weird. I don't know why I was afraid; it's a very popular stitch that's been used satisfactorily all through history. (Hello, Bayeux Tapestry!) Who knows why my mind balked at using it at first. But now I'm sold. It looks great and works up fast. I did almost the entire top and bottom border to my design in two hours at a bard meeting last night.

One reason why I haven't done more decorative embroidery on garments is that most of my things are made with dark-colored fabrics and transferring a design pattern onto them was difficult for me, with questionable results.

In the past I've tried the "prick and pounce" method --poking the design outline with holes on paper and then brushing chalk through onto the cloth. This didn't work well for me, as the chalk easily smudged and got brushed away. I tried using a pencil to mark through the holes but that wasn't satisfactory either.

I got some wax transfer paper, which works like carbon paper -- and I realize that only people of a certain generation will even know what carbon paper is, oh my, I feel old -- and that worked pretty well, but the design didn't seem particularly bright and it seemed like I was always forgetting if I had already gone over an area, so I'd end up going over some places twice and other places not at all.

Then yesterday I heard about the "tulle" method. You take your design, which you've printed onto paper in the size you want, and lay a piece of tulle over it. (What's tulle? It's that mesh stuff they make bridal veils out of. Get a piece with a nice fine mesh to it.)

Using a Sharpie marker or similar you trace the design so that it's now on the tulle. Then you take the tulle and you lay the tulle on top of your fabric where you want the design.

Take a fabric marker (you can buy the expensive ones at fabric stores, but I just use Crayola washable markers and they've never caused me any problems) and trace over the design on the tulle. The fabric marker will go through the tulle and onto your fabric and there you have it: a perfect design transfer!

On the dark blue of this linen, I was going to use purple marker, but I couldn't find it so I used green. Can you see it in the picture up there? I took that shot in bright daylight so it would show up.

What about black? you may be asking. And I admit, marker would not work for that. But you could use a wax tailoring stick, or a colored pencil in a light shade. I've used a yellow one and it worked fine. The nice thing about this method is that it works well even on those really blanket-y wools. The tulle keeps the fabric's fibers from getting snagged on your pen tip.

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