Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Redworker Wannabe

(clicking on pictures will enlarge)

I SO don't sew...

But I so appreciate beautifully sewn handwork and clothing. It's really a skill I need to learn.

I aim to begin slowly...with a needle. I used to cross stitch when I was younger. I can do that, but I'd like to learn other things.

Since the world "sew" makes me break out in PTSD flashbacks to high school Home Ec class sewing disasters (think mint green dotted swiss and stretch turquoise polyester as the foundations of two of the most memorable horrors), I need to steer clear of trying to CONSTRUCT anything just yet.

Some things take baby steps.

(Gratuitous What About Bob movie quote...) "Baby step to the elevator, baby step onto the elevator, baby step close the door.....pause......Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh.!!!!!"

So I tried a needle and thread. Hey, it's a start :) Especially if the thread is red.

I love redwork embroidery and the nostalgia it evokes. There's something about the pairing of red thread on a light background that is bold and understated at the same time, if the design is pleasing. I'm not sure what has drawn me to red, but I love redwork needlework, red-on-white transferware dishes (looks pink sometimes), and red touches intermingled with my household colors, no matter how subdued they may be.

It's like a little shout-out. Maybe it's just indulging that inappropriate urge I have in overly-solemn places that take themselves a bit too seriously (think hushed restaurant, museum, golf tournament...I know I know...) to shout "Wow!!" (ok, I don't actually do that, but I do sometimes amuse myself at those places by thinking of all the possibilities. Oh, and never have been to a golf tournament...for obvious reasons, ha)

Well, anyway, to me, strewing bits of red here and there in the home, garden, and life are like little wows punctuating the ordinary. Creation is gaudy with it...hummingbirds return to vermillion portals for nectar...human horizon-gazers at dawn and dusk drink long, satisfying draughts with their eyes of the smoldering crimson strata-and-cloud highways that spell sunset.

I wanted to try my hand at some redwork, and decided to practice.

I don't know how to officially do embroidery. I need to learn some stitches. The way I do it now is not to pull the needle through two holes in one movement, but to push through, pulllll the thread through, push through the next hole, pulllll the thread through, if that makes any sense. I aim for beginning the stitch slightly below the line and ending it slightly above, then beginning the next stitch from underneath half a stitch back.

So, in short, I have no idea what I'm doing! :)

I also didn't know I was using too much thread. After reading the instructions on some websites since finishing my first attempt, it says to use 2 or 3 strands of embroidery floss. I used (cough cough) six. And a needle that would accomodate that amount.

I pulled out an old pillowcase to practice on, so if I messed up, I could pick the stitches out and not worry too much about having ruined something nice.

I didn't have a pattern, and though there are plenty of great free patterns online, I decided to use something closer to home. I took a poultry catalog, found a couple pictures of chickens I thought would make a good silhouette, and enlarged them to the size I wanted on a copier. I'm not supposed to have chickens, but I'm intent on having the closest thing...so arrest me, ha!

I got some regular paper and traced the outlines in bold ink.

I used each traced image as a pattern by placing the cloth on top of it and lightly tracing over it onto the fabric with a ballpoint pen. My pillowcase fabric was thin enough to see the pattern underneath one layer of fabric.

After that, I threaded my needle and followed the design. This is where I could greatly improve my stitchwork by learning a stitch and keeping to the same one consistently. But even with no experience with particular stitches, it was very relaxing to stitch away some quiet time between rounds at work.

Though my stitches look a little rough, and I used too much thread according to the experts, it was a passable first try :)

And hey, I used one of the "official redwork colors" when choosing embroidery thread without even knowing it...DMC 817, woo! (not that I was sweating that, ha)

Here's a page all about redwork and how to get started. Or you can just do like I did and not hyperventilate about the finer points, and just try it and then decide what to tweak better once you've put a little thread to fabric.

In the future I might reuse this rooster and hen design and try filling in some of the negative spaces with red thread for more of a color blocked look. Or I can trace other things...anything, really...fruits, plants, flowers, favorite poetry or verses, silhouettes of loved ones...the possibilities are endless. Plenty of subjects to practice with!

If I actually planned to use the pillowcase, I'd make sure the images are sewn along the edge(s) for obvious reasons. I have an idea to make some quilt squares in case one of these days I get ambitious enough to make a quilt myself, but that's for a later try.

Here's a link to a couple simple stitches I'll probably be trying...so I can be an "official" embroiderer someday?? :) As in crossing something off my New Years resolution list?

Oh yeah...resolutions schmesolutions...LAH-luh-lahhh

I'm still working on the 2009 list. Trying redwork was on LAST year's list!

If you have any tips or advice for the amateur (me!) please feel free to pass them on...collective wisdom always welcome here :)


Lilla said...

Good job, Robbyn! I'm not a sewer either, but I am thinking of trying my hands at something creative, like knitting or crocheting.

I've been obsessing with having chickens, too. I even dream about them! We need to hurry and get out to the country, for sure!

Mrs Flam said...

Ohh !! I love your Redwork , I do a lot of blackwork myself (with many colors)

I love florals , I sometimes add in beads as well.


Mim said...

Great job! Love the Redwork. It's all I've ever done.

I think this, http://primrosedesign.blogspot.com/is a great site for how too's on embroidery, she has a stitch school posts section. It's where I go when I'm trying to learn a new stitch.

amanda o said...

sounds kinda like a backstitch you are doing there...see, you already know a stitch!

Annette said...

Oooo, I wanna try! Your chickens are beautiful!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

How timely, I'm working on a tutorial for making your own transfers! Your redwork looks great, and it brightened my day here in the drab, wintry NW! :D

I still owe you an email - we've been w/o power for a while...trying to catch up.

Captain's Wife - Jennifer said...

I think yours turned out absolutely fantastic!

Willa said...

Robbyn- I am so impressed, both by your excellent results, and your method of doing it. Don't you love being able to figure out how to do something on your own? Now that I am unemployed, I am looking forward to getting back into the fiber arts again- My loom has been sitting undressed for way too long, and the yarn I have stockpiled is thick with dust. I made a dress to wear to my son's wedding, and today while watching the inauguration I recycled an adult sweater into a baby sweater for my grand-daughter, now it's time to move into decorative stuff. I'll keep checking with you to see what you are doing!

EJ said...

Very nice design. Certainly doesn't look like a stressed first try!

Molly said...

looks great! i love your chickens and i think it's wonderful that you're trying your hand something new.

i don't think we're supposed to have chickens either, but they're coming anyways next month. can't wait.

jillian said...

I have similar sewing aspirations, and your redwork looks great. I LOVE What About Bob :)

warren said...

You did awesome! My Grandma used to embroider and her work is some of the favorite things I have!

Shiloh Prairie Farm said...

That looks pretty good to me! Now I want to try it! I also like the color red.

Robbyn said...

Lilla, I used one of those Knifty Knitter kits after seeing Angie's and Warren's success with it to make caps...so easy and fun :) Now I'm in the mood to try some stitching, so I'll put the old pillowcases to good use as guinea pigs. Oh, yes I so want some chickens...can't wait to see when you guys get you some :)

Mrs Flam, thanks! I'd love to see some of your blackwork...I'll check out the link, thanks!

Mim, thank you for the link...I peeked at your blog and saw the cherry pattern you're working on...lovely!

Amanda, you think? the tutorials showed the needle never leaving sight as it's put in and pulled out, but mine is very much In. Out. In. Out. I'll get the hang of it soon, hopefully!

Annette, thanks! Tell me when you've tried it..I wanna see! :)

Nita, I'm so backed up with emails needing responses, too...no worries! Hope you guys get power soon! It's down near freezing here, which is not typical, usually. I can't wait to see your transfer instructions...would love to see any patterns you have, too!

Capn'sWifeJen, thanks :) :)

Willa, oh man, you're so talented. Wish we lived closer so you could teach me some of your skills :) SO glad to see you back in the blogging world, my friend!

EJ, thanks :) I wasn't too stressed about it, but was not aware there was a "correct" way to do it till I googled redwork and saw so many how-tos out there.

Molly....oooooh, you're getting chickens! congratulations!!

Jillian, lol I love that movie and the quotes pop up in my head quite often. thanks for the encouragement :)

Warren, my g'ma had a drawer full of family linens and I loved all the embroidered tea towels and odds and ends. Wish I had some of them!

Shiloh, thanks! After having grown up doing crossstitch where you have to change thread colors a lot, the appeal of the redwork is that it's all one color and just makes me smile :)

Wrensong Farm said...

Like I need another hobby to try... But I LOVE your chickens!!

I swore off sewing also in Home Ec. The teacher made an example of me in front of the class on how bad my darts were on my dress. :( I own three sewing machines (all were gifts) and I have not used any of them.

I did some embroidery as a kid (I'm now 50) so I might actually enjoy doing some redwork. You did a great job! (Thanks for the inspiration):)

dina said...


GIRLFRIEND! It looks AWESOME. I love it! I don't care if "they" say it's too much thread - the result is really beautiful. I'm SO impressed!

Killi said...

That is so beautiful. Annon saw your chickens & said that they would look gorgeous on the pocket of an apron ~ next project?!

Do you have a light table? When I was transferring my designs onto muslin for the silk sash I've planned, laid out & buried in the container,I put the design onto the light table & the muslin over the top ~ made tracing through so much easier. (The light table was given to me by my father for photographic reasons...). I'd love to get back on with my sash, but have no idea where the material & tin of threads are, much less my mother's embroidery roll that she passed down to me & has my working threads,needles & Russian igolochkoi.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Oh, I love the stark red against the white. It looks great! I have SO many unfinished (but, hey, they look very pretty) cross-stitch projects - I pulled them out just the other day, admired them for a bit, and then folded them all back up again. :-)
Funny about the museum, golf tournament, thing...I totally yelled out at a golf tournament once...the rules at those things are INSANE (and who the heck wants to be so serious all the time??!!).

Sadge said...

I love redwork - especially the not-changing-threads part. And I love the chickens - great job! My favorite "secret source" for redwork patterns is children's coloring books.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow! You did a great job on those chickens. For someone just starting, you look like a pro!

I want to learn how to cross stitch one day, and also do embroidery. I don't like sewing either.

The last thing I made was a denim jumper when I was prego with my twins. The pleats just about drove me insane. gah!


Robbyn said...

Wrensong...oh man, if only those teachers had realized how much kids take these things to heart for years to come! I'd love to see what you try...I don't even think of these things as hobbies any more, but as skills I want to know(helps me overcome that intimidation factor, ha!)

Danni, ha! yes, why oh why am I not just a happy conformist at those types of places?? ;-)

Sadge, what a great idea! There are so many coloring books out there that are far beyond the simple cartoon characte sort. I was looking around on blogs recently and saw someone's embroidery using old book illustrations as their pattern from the same sort of coloring book...I think it was the old Alice in Wonderland illustrations...it was beautiful!

Lisa, at least you know how to read a pattern! I'll just aspire to someday making my own elastic-waist skirts and maybe aprons. Not yet, though. Baby steps... :)

San Diego Farmgirl said...

How pretty! I used to do stitch projects when I was a kid. Seems like there's always something to do outside in San Diego in your free time. If I'm sitting still, I'm reading a book. Need to mix that up a bit, I think!