Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Embroidery complete! A pillowcase


Behold, a craft that is not knitting! I finished embroidering this pillowcase over the weekend, and while it's not perfect, I'm pretty proud of it.



Let's go back to the beginning: my pillowcase. For years I had my own special pillowcase, a vintage one with a crocheted edging. I think my mum gave it to me when I was a student. We'd moved house a few times in my teenaged years, plus I was going back and forth to university, and as a wise person once said, when you move around a lot, home isn't a place, it's things. My pillowcase was part of 'home'. It was made of thick-yet-soft cotton, and I loved wondering who had made the edging, whether she'd crocheted just this piece or a whole set of bedlinen, and how it ended up on my bed. I loved my pillowcase to bits. Literally. Over the years it got more and more worn in the centre, and Smello Kitty pulled a few tiny holes in it. Then one day I was popping it back on the pillow after washing and rrrrrip! Massive, irreperable, right-angled tear across the middle. I carefully unpicked the crochet edging, ready to put it on a replacement pillowcase.

Wilkos were selling pure cotton pillowcases so I bought a pack. To be honest, they were nowhere near as thick and soft as my original pillowcase. If I hadn't known they were pure cotton, I would have assumed they were polycotton. Then I discovered they were wider than the crochet was long! What to do? I didn't want my poor strip of crochet looking lost in the middle of the edge, so I decided to put it aside until I could make a case that fitted it, from a better-quality cotton at that. That left me with two plain, white Wilkos pillowcases. I decided to embroider one using one of the haul of vintage transfers I bought from Claire at Eternal Magpie. It might not be my pillowcase, but I could still make myself something special – something for the cat to scrag whenever she wants to wake me up!

Transfer... transferred!
I wasn't sure the transfer would still work, but ironed clearly onto the cotton. I used regular embroidery thread to work the design. For someone who doesn't do much embroidery, I sure had a lot of colours to choose from! Most of my threads are discontinued colours that I picked up when the craft department at work had a clear-out; they couldn't commission designs using them but they were fine for people like me who like experimenting. As my bedroom is blue, I wanted to work plenty of flowers in blue, then picked the other colours to work alongside that. The finished work doesn't feel particularly blue or cool toned, but it is pretty so I can live with that.
Choosing colours
I worked all the petals and flower centres in satin stitch, and the stems in stem stitch. Those are both fairly simple stitches and ideal for these small areas. I'm not great at embroidery and my satin stitch is a bit wobbly at the edges in places, but overall I'm pleased with the result. Because the cotton fabric of the pillowcases isn't as substantial as I'd like, I stitched every single petal separately, without carrying the thread from one petal to another. I didn't want threads at the back showing through.
I'm still plugging away at my Fair Isle cardigan, but this little project has made a nice break from knitting. I had a few larger embroidery projects in mind, but I think I'll do a couple more small things first as I really need to practice my stitching techniques. So much vintage embroidery gets vandalised nowadays that it feels good to be creating something new.
A whole bundle of goodies from Kate-Em
On which note, look at what I won in Kate-Em's giveaway! Had I been short of crafting inspiration, this little lot would've perked me up. Some great knitting patterns (I do like those hats), and a copy of Needlewoman and Needlecraft. I have a couple of older issues of that. I love my Stitchcrafts, but Needlewoman and Needlecraft always seems the slightly more serious publication. Stitchcraft had practicality in mind; you were making things you could use when you followed Stitchcraft, but Needlewoman and Needlecraft was all about the ART. Serious stitching for people who knew what they were doing. (Not me, then.) As further inspiration, there's a vintage traycloth in the bundle, and Kate-Em included a gorgeous little sleep mask. I genuinely needed one of those, as my flimsy bedroom curtains let in the sunlight. Not a problem in winter, but in summer I wake up at 4am and usually resort to either wrapping my hair over my eyes or putting my head under the pillow. Now I can blot out the sun in a much more elegant way. Thank you very much, Kate-Em!

15 comments :

  1. You've made a lovely job of the embroidery and I think its great to use an original transfer. Your stitches are very neat - I reckon its a brilliant effort to be rightly proud of!

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    1. The'yre not *perfect*, but I am a knitpicker. I'm tempted to do a crinoline lady on the other pillowcase.

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  2. Lovely! Good job. I used to do a lot of embroidery, single thread stuff, too.
    But my eyesight these days isn't really up to the job, and due to an auto immune condition my hands/grip aren't exactly great either. Really frustrating!
    I collect old linen, and I like to find damaged pieces, too, so that I can salvage the work, can't bear to think of it going to waste after all that effort.
    I also use tray cloths sewn together for bigger patchwork things, like curtains, bedspreads and cushion covers. Nobody really uses them, and some are so pretty. But I hate to see what I call good pieces being cut up, that's not on. I love old tablecloths and bedding, use them all the time.
    There is a danger of being buried alive with what is stashed in my linen cupboard!

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    1. It's got to be so hard not being able to do the embroidery any more. Could you manage a thicker style like Jacobean crewel embroidery?

      I agree with you totally; salvage the damaged stuff but don't ruin the good stuff.

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  3. Such lovely, teeny, tiny stitches. You did a beautiful job with the embroidery- I just know will bring a smile to your face whenever you see them on your bed.

    Congratulations on the prize. I wouldn't know where to start with all that great stuff.

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    1. I start by gathering into a pile and feeling smug. I'd make a great dragon. ;-)

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  4. I'm so impressed with your satin stitch! I've embroidered off and on for years, but could never keep the edges even with satin stitch. Like you, i love vintage embroidery pieces, and I buy them from charity shops and sales. Recently, I gave my nephew a pair of embroidered days-of-the-week tea towels (Wed. and Sunday, in different patterns),for a wedding present. Obviously, not a suitable present for very many people, but I'm sure Ben and his bride will value them as one should. And, oh, do I envy you the old magazines--have fun with them. Kate in Oregon

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    1. I don't think my edges are even, but very few people will see my bedroom and get close enough to notice. (Mr Robot will just be baffled that I bothered to do it at all!) Those tea towels sound lovely.

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  5. Your pillowcase is gorgeous, lovely embroidery. I liked reading all about your special pillowcase. Hope this one goes some way to replacing it. Glad you like the giveaway items, hope the eye mask gets you some more sleep!

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    1. The eye mask has a bonus power - when the cat tries patting my eyes to wake me up, she can't!

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    2. Awww. How cute! Though maybe not so much when you want to be asleep!

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  6. Beautiful and inspiring! I may have to get some embroidery out myself, having seen this!

    And great haul, can't wait to see what you make from it.

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    1. Start small! I was going to do something much more elaborate but decided this one would do, and it still took waaay longer than I expected. I always jump in at the deep end...

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  7. It looks beautiful, really lovely work. My Mum had a stash of tablecloths and pillow cases from the 1930s (from her Mum?) that had the transfers marked out on them, and I think I did embroider part of one when I was a teen. It's been over a decade since I've tackled any embroidery though, I wouldn't fancy my chances at doing as neat a job as you've done here! P x

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    1. Oh, what a super thing to inherit. Did anyone finish any of the others?

      My work isn't as neat as I'd like, but it's a start. I'm tempted to do a giant crinoline lady on the other pillowcase - or perhaps the crinoline robot!

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