Check out the playful motifs in Lunch Hour Embroidery – and the lessons learned from unexpected challenges in this embroidery project.
Recently, I was excited to find this new book called That Patchwork Place Lunch Hour Embroidery with four cute designs representing each of the letters A to Z. I was immediately drawn to that hedgehog on the cover!
Alphabet books appeal to me – my two children had LOTS of them. When my daughter was seven, she and I even made an alphabet book using all the baby cards received for the birth of her little brother! Picture “U” for ultrasound and you get the idea. I digress…
Anyway, the motifs are adorable and easy to embroider using basic stitches. My original intent was to make a children’s cloth book using the designs for all 26 letters, but it morphed into individually framed embroidered pictures for only A, B, and C. Always wanting to try new methods and supplies, I encountered problems from the process I chose. I discovered a lot though – and would like to share the lessons learned with you. They are summarized at the end.
I prefer pearl cotton over six-ply embroidery floss because there are no strands to separate. I like to use DMC pearl cotton size 5 because it shows lines well – especially for illustrations like these designs. I keep my collection on StitchBow Floss Holders. They are intended for regular embroidery floss skeins but work fine for size 5 pearl cotton skeins if you rewind each one individually.
The designs are colorful – having a variety of colors is a plus. If no pre-existing stash of floss or pearl cotton is available, another exciting option is this Design Works Zenbroidery Trim Pack Cord 1-5 Skein shown or the smaller 36 skein version (plenty for this project). This cord, as they call it, is the same thickness as pearl cotton size 5 but without the sheen. Design Works developed it to work with Zenbroidery designs.
The array of colors would work well with the motifs in the Lunch Hour Embroidery book. For those who prefer six-strand floss, other possibilities include Zenbroidery floss (Brights, Pastels, Jewel Tones, and Christmas),collections by Janlynn, Sullivans,and individual DMC colors. I did not use any variegated thread.
I wanted to try Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy Water Soluble Stabilizer which would eliminate the need to trace the designs.
The 8″ x 8″ pages for each letter were perfect for printing on the paper-backed stabilizer using my inkjet printer. After removing the paper, the slightly sticky film easily adhered to the fabric. I did not hold the book down flat on the printer, so there was some grey – which I trimmed off before sewing.
I proceeded as usual, layering two 10″ squares of 100% cotton fabric to prevent the colored thread and knots from showing through the light fabric and inserting them in my favorite Clover Embroidery Hoop 7 in. I started embroidering using pearl cotton #5, a chenille needle #24, and a thimble. It did not go well! I struggled to pull the pearl cotton through the layers, stabbing and tugging with each stitch. The only difference was the stabilizer.
I wanted to use the Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy Water Soluble Stabilizer because copying the designs was a time-saver! The problem was combining it with two layers of fabric, thick pearl cotton and a thick needle. I started with researching the needles. Chenille needles have an eye large enough for the pearl cotton but they were a bit thick in this case. An internet search led me to try size 3 embroidery needles. The four packages on the right in the photo above shows the ones I tried. The needle that worked the best (thin but could thread size 5 pearl cotton) was the Embroidery Needles by Dritz Size 3/9 (probably the size 7).
I tried several needle threaders to find one that would thread the Dritz size 7 needle with size 5 pearl cotton. The winner is …
not shown! It was the Clover Embroidery Threader.
I chose colors similar to the ones in the book’s illustrations.
The stitches were the basics: running, backstitch, chain, straight (some like sprinkles), daisy, and French knots.
The photo shows the colors chosen for the “C” page and the supplies that worked best. I gave up on the hoop after a while, finding it easier to stitch through all the layers with it loose.
I did remember to add the snow on the mountain peaks before finishing.
It was easy to soak the fabric in cold water to remove the stabilizer.
The pieces looked great coming out of the water. Unfortunately, the reds and dark gold colors bled a bit as the fabric dried. I rewashed all three with Shout Color Catcher sheets and the areas, where the color ran, cleared up completely. Not sure what happened – I have never had a problem with DMC floss before. It is possible some of it was older (from my mother) and not as colorfast.
Here is my new favorite pressing set up at my desk! I have used Mary Ellen’s Best Press for years with excellent results. The Clover Wedge Iron works great for small pressing jobs. The thin extended tip gets into small spaces well which made pressing the wrinkles out of the embroidery detail easier. The newest addition is my new Pam Damour Notions Magic Pressing Mat 12″x 18″ – a thick wool mat that makes a terrific pressing surface. I have the 14″ x 24″ wool mat and a Wedge Iron by my machine at home and love it!
I was able to eliminate the worst of the wrinkles with pressing – and pulling on the fabric in the frame – so they turned out fine in the 8″ x 8″ opening frames I found online.
In conclusion, here is what I learned:
- The Sticky Fabri-Solvy Stabilizer enables copying all the colors at one time without tracing
- Prewash the fabric if using Sticky Fabri-Solvy Stabilizer since it’s going to go in water – duh!
- For pearl cotton #5, use a darker background fabric (grey maybe) to skip the lining fabric
- The Fabri-Solvy with two layers of fabric may work better with pearl cotton #8 or floss
- The best combination may be a thinner thread, thinner needle, Fabri-Solvy, and one layer of fabric
I will continue to experiment with the Sticky Fabri-Solvy. The above issues are not a problem with machine embroidery. Also, it is a handy solution to times when tracing is difficult: stretchy T-shirts, felt, fleece, and thick, dark, and napped fabrics.
I would like to make a cloth alphabet with these adorable designs…someday!