Thanks to my friends and family for the positive feedback on my first post. You guys rock!
After my first tea towel, I figured I should get in a little more practice before attempting to make any gifts. (By this point, it was mid-October, and I already had a bunch of Christmas ideas.) I stitched a little butterfly from an Embroidery for Dummies kit. (Easy with the jokes! It was on super-duper sale!) I also ended up buying this Martha Stewart kit which has turned into my embroidery supplies bag. (UPDATE: Pictures below!)
It looked simple enough -- just stitch along the lines -- but the floss that was supposed to be included was missing from the package. I had to use my own, which wasn't a problem, but it was my first frustrating embroidery moment. The bag is also made of canvas, which is pretty thick and difficult to push a needle through. My fingers were pretty sore by the end of that adventure. However, I ended up with a cute little bag to hold my needle case and floss.
Then, I had a revelation. Having a small kit that could fit in my work bag meant that I could embroider ON THE TRAIN! This was huge news. For those of you who don't know, I commute every day from suburban Philadelphia to New York City. It's not as bad as most people expect, but since at least 2 1/2 hours of my day are spent on the train, I'm always looking for ways to keep myself occupied. I've gotten some funny looks from fellow commuters when I pull out my hoop, but it really does help to while away the hours. I usually just pray that no one sits immediately next to me, for fear of elbowing them or accidentally sticking them with a needle. (Lord knows I stick my own fingers enough!)
My first commuting project was an awesome peacock design from Jenny Hart's book:
It was an iron-on transfer, which worked like a charm. (And each transfer is good for multiple uses!) I had previously picked up some plain quilting-weight fabric quarters at Joann (on sale for 99 cents each!), so I embroidered on one of those. I chose jewel tone floss to match the decor of my bedroom. When I was finished, I put it in a frame I had purchased on sale at Target a year or two ago. I loved the raspberry color, but it was hard to find a regular picture that would look right in it. This seemed like a perfect match! I just wrapped the fabric around the edges of a piece of cardboard and taped the back. (Technically, if you want to preserve your embroider for posterity, you're supposed to avoid using tape or glue on the fabric, as it can age the fabric over time. This is just for me, though, so it didn't matter!)
The design required a few sequins, which were harder to find in a craft store than I had expected (you generally have to buy them in packs of 1000, and I only needed a handful), but I was able to get them in a little set of buttons and other potentially-useful doodads, so it worked out. Stitching them on was a cinch. I just used a piece of regular sewing thread and anchored each side down. And no, I didn't work with sequins on the train. I saved that part for home. (I'm still finding sequins in my couch!)
Next up was a framed embroidery for a friend's daughter's 2nd birthday. I used some designs from Aimee Ray's book:
I'm not crazy about the font. I used the one in the book, which is meant to look a little scribbly, but I think it actually looks a bit too childish. In future endeavors, I would opt for my own handwriting or a printout from MS Word. But this was quick to do and came out pretty cute overall. Here's a closeup:
[At this point, I should probably tell you that my embroidery and sewing pictures are pretty awful. My camera is about four years old and seems to have lost its oomph. (Umf? Oumf? You know what I mean...) Also, we have TERRIBLE lighting in our apartment. The only natural light comes through the French doors into the living room, which is blocked by a big tree. Lamps can only do so much! So, until I get a better camera and/or figure out the lighting situation, you will have to put up with some underwhelming pictures. My apologies!]
I mainly used back stitches, split stitches, satin stitches, and French knots on these. In fact, those are the stitches I almost always use. I find them to be the easiest to work with and the most adaptable to the shapes and designs I work on. I know a few fancier stitches, but sometimes I find that they aren't worth the effort that goes into them. Perhaps I just need some more practice, but these suit me for now.
Next up: My favorite embroidery I've done so far. (HINT: Geaux Tigers!)