I love to embroider, and have for most of my life, not in a structured way, but first as a little girl, and then as a "child of the sixties" (how I wish I had some of the beautiful embroidery I did on my clothing then). Many of my SCA Viking gowns are decorated with embroidered yokes and cuffs, and I have taken to adding embroidery to my everyday clothes as well.
Truly, if you were looking at my embroidery not on the computer screen, you would see that there is quite a bit of variability in my stitching. To my way of thinking, that is part of the charm of handwork, to not have it look like it was done by a machine. The running stitches in particular are definitely variable in length, as are the angles of the featherstitches. I did have a "cheat" on how wide the featherstitching was on this particular project, since the binding on the edge is the same narrow striped knit fabric, it was easy to line my stitches up more or less with the same line all along. Sometimes I do mark lines for stitching, and sometimes not, it depends on what the project is.
I almost never have a rigid plan when I start a project. This "inspired by Alabama Chanin" top evolved as I stitched it. My original inspiration was Chinese cloud collars, as well as this blog post on how to draw clouds and fire, and with that idea in mind, the rest was just me "winging it"! From there, my sketch of the neckline was transfered to freezer paper, cut out and ironed on around the neck opening. I originally intended to paint stencil the edges just as in the books, but instead simply drew a very thin line around the design with a Sharpie permanent marker. If I had painted the inner openings, it would have added another layer of color and embellishment to the neckline, and possibly stabilised the edges just a bit more. Oh well, next time... the nice thing about the knit fabric is that it does not really fray, so even after washing it still holds together.
Once the running stitch was all around the inner design, it was clear that I had no real plan for how to deal with the outer edge of the design. So, since the neckline edge needed binding, cutting some strips was next... Oooo the jersey, when cut, curls up... and while that is normally annoying, it can become part of the design: cut long very narrow strips and let it curl up into a kind of thick yarn, and couch it down along the outer edge, to add an additional texture. Very serendipitous, but as you see, not initially planned for...
I am not sure what "tips" I can offer... hmmm... I like to use slivers of soap to mark on medium to dark toned fabrics, as it washes out. If I am going to stitch over a design, I will sometimes use either a hard pencil, or a sharpie (neither one washes out) I trace designs by taping them up to the window, and taping the freezer paper over them. I have printed out designs on regular paper, basted them to the fabric, and then outlined them with small running stitches to transfer the design; picking away the paper is a bit of a pain, but sometimes that is the best way to get a design where you want it. (an example of this process is towards the end of this blog post, scroll down)
I mostly use DMC floss, mostly their cotton floss, and sometimes perle cotton or wool. For the Alabama top, I used Gutterman topstitching thread, and was very happy with it. When I do an elaborate embroidery, I will then line that part of the garment to protect the back. I often will take a few stitches to start and end off, rather than the knots Natalie Chanin suggests, but then I mostly embroider on woven fabric rather than knits, on the tee just finished, I did do the knots and it has worked just fine so far.
I am waiting patiently hoping for the newest book "Alabama Studio Sewing + Design" to go on sale, as it is chock full of inspiring photos and an overview of many of the fabric decorating technique "recipes". (I have book 2, but not book 1)
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always looking for small handwork project to do while transit-riding, and summertime is too warm for big knitting... our plucky heroine remembered that her friend J made a sparkley mirror-embroidered top to wear to OCF one year, using bits of old CD's... There is another rayon popover dress planned but not finished, with a highly decorated yoke* that just needed one last bit to be imagined... This one is mostly black, with a wee bit of deep blue accent. There are a few mixed pieces of textured black rayon in the stash, saved from a longago trip to the fabric stores in Berkeley and Oakland. The current 6PAC is indigo based, and the autumn one will likely be chocolate brown/indigo, but black and grey are the other two colors that I wear, and all four colors are friends; mayhap the wintertime 6PAC will be mostly black. The yoke has two different decorative ribbons stitched onto the sides, and a pleated frill made from blue rayon seam binding.
Anyhoo, this is the long way round to get to that our plucky heroine learned a new kind of surface decoration technique, and boy-howdy is it easy! Started off by finding a dead CD and snipping away at it with small wirecutters, nibbling out small circular bits. Then a bit of online research found a tutorial for one way to stitch the sparkly discs in place. It was much quicker than imagined, and the mylar plastic is very lightweight.
*A while back my friend R asked me about generating a pattern for a top that she had seen online, (already sold out), and while it was not available in my size, the complex neckline decoration was inspiring.
I was particularly charmed by the narrow pleated frill