How to Hand Embroider with a Stretcher Bar Frame – Easy and so worth it!

Whilst working on my latest design I decided it would look really nice worked in a square shape and then mounted on a canvas board when finished. My plan was to just stitch the design in a hoop and move it around as I went but I soon realised I would need to think again.

Constantly removing the fabric and rearranging it in the hoop was not only annoying (!) but it made the whole piece look more ragged and the stitches that were getting squashed (even though I was as careful as I could be) didn’t look as good as they could have.

I was looking around for alternative frames for stitching the whole piece that would be inexpensive, easy to do, and provide a nice stitching experience whilst seeing the whole design! I also wanted it to fit in the Seat frame I already had so it had a lot to live up to.

Stretcher bar frames seemed to be the thing that ticked all the boxes so I decided to start the design again and I am so glad I did. For a little bit more effort than popping in a hoop, the bar frame for me has been a game changer.

A Stretcher Bar Frame is basically wooden bars which fit together to form a frame that you attach your embroidery to for stitching.

You can get the bars in all sorts of sizes to make lots of different frame sizes – each set is sold as a pair so you need 2 sets to make a frame! These Siesta bars are fitted together by the interlocking edges.

I also wanted to try the ‘Elbesee Universal Craft Frame’ – which has plastic corner connectors to fit them together rather than interlocking edges. (again sold in a pair so you need to get 2 pairs to make a frame!)

So, which one to choose. Purely as I liked the rigidity of the Elbesee Bars, I decided to go with this – as you can see in the photo – the Siesta ones do move so its personal choice. Once your fabric is tacked on I doubt it makes much difference.

Once you have got your frame, all you need is your fabric and some pins to tack it on to the frame with.

Make sure the fabric extends outside of the frame by at least 2 inches on each side.

Trace your chosen design on to your fabric prior to putting on the frame.

To prevent fraying, you can edge the fabric with masking tape or cut with pinking shears.

Place your design face down on a clean flat surface and place the bar frame on the back- make sure the design is central in the frame as best you can.

Pull the top edge of fabric over the frame bar (making sure your design stays central) and put your first pin in the middle of the bar. Pull the fabric over and continue to pin along the bar from the centre outwards on both sides.

Once all the pins are along the top bar you can pull the fabric nice and tight on the bottom edge and pin in the same way from the centre out – keep the tension nice and tight and even. You should have all your pins on the top and bottom bars as in the photo above.

Next, you need to pin the 2 side bars. I found it easier to pin each side in the middle first to provide some tension and then put the remainder of the pins in one side and then the other.

As you can see from the photo above, I have kept the tension really nice and tight and the fabric is lovely and taut.

Here’s how it looks from the front…

Now you are all set to get stitching.

Here’s how it looks part way through stitching – it’s clean, taut, I can see it all for colour choices and best of all I am not messing around taking it in and out of a hoop – yay!

This pattern will be coming soon…

Doodle Cloth Tuesday – Sorbello Stitch

Well hello again, if you are new to the Doodle Cloth series then take a look at the first post which tells you how to get started… Creating a doodle cloth.

This week, Lets try the Sorbello stitch…

This stitch gets its name from a town in Italy called Sorbello, from which it originated.

It can be used in lines or curves and to fill shapes very much like the cross stitch.

Here’s how the stitch is composed…

Bring your thread up at 1 and down at 2 to create a straight stitch. Then come up at 3 (a stitch length down from 1).

Bring your needle up & around and take if down under the straight stitch (4) and over the thread that came out at 3 (5) – pull this through to form a loop around the straight stitch…

Do the same again to form a second loop (or knot)…

Then finish off by taking the thread to the back (a stitch length down from 2).

This forms a cross shaped stitch with a knot in the central area. You can play around with this and pull the loops tighter to form a more cross shape, or looser for a knot centre to be more apparent. Here’s a few on my doodle cloth…

This really is a more fancy version of the simple cross stitch and would look lovely done neatly (!) in rows, circles or to fill geometric shapes.

Next week I am going to pick something tricky tricky tricky to challenge us all!!!

Related posts… cup stitch and Van Dyke stitch

Doodle Cloth Tuesday – Van Dyke Stitch

This stitch can be varied in width and is great for borders or leaves. It has a centrally raised plait and for what I thought would be a tricky stitch was surprisingly simple!

If this is your first time with this stitch then start with a simple rectangle shape and draw a line down the middle.

Bring your thread out to the left of the central line on the top edge of the shape (1)

Go back in just above and to the right of the central line (2), pull the thread through.

Now bring the thread out just above and to the left of the central line (3)

Go back in on the top edge of the shape to the right (4). Pull the thread through.

For the next stitch, bring the thread out below the first stitch on the left edge – keep a space between the stitches as it gives a nicer overall effect.

Slip the thread through the loops of the stitches just made in the direction of the arrow.

then take the needle back down at 7.

Continue doing the stitches in the same way, taking the thread through the loops of the stitches just above the one you are stitching. You will start to form a plait down the centre.

Be careful as you go to keep the plait in the centre by not putting too much tension on the thread as you pull it across. You can see from the attempt above I didn’t pull it enough across in the centre and didn’t space evenly enough in some areas. Practice makes perfect!

To finish you bring the thread up to the left of the centre line and back down to the right of the centre line, then pull through and finish on the back to secure.

This was a fun stitch to do and once you get the hang of it you are able to make a much nicer plait in the centre (and keep it in the centre!)

I decided to try it in a leaf shape with a slightly thicker thread and the result was really nice and I was so pleased with the plait after my first attempt!

The Doodle Cloth so far has been a success and I have learnt 2 stitches which I probably wouldn’t have tried but will definately use in future work!

Create a Doodle Cloth and learn some Tricky Hand Embroidery Stitches.

I am a self taught embroiderer and am guilty of sticking to my tried and tested ‘go to’ stitches for a lot of the designs I create. I thought it would be a fun idea to create a Doodle Cloth of some of the more tricky or unusual stitches and bring you along for the ride – why not join in and challenge yourself as well!

What is a Doodle Cloth? Basically its a piece of cloth that you use to try out any of the embroidery stitches you are not confident with before stitching them on your precious project.

All you need is a piece of fabric, some thread, scissors and a needle.

I decided to make my piece about 10 x 10 inches – choose a fabric that is nice and easy to stitch on – a piece of calico would do. I chose a 25 ct lugana evenweave fabric that was in my stash and seemed like a nice option since I am hoping the end result will be a finished piece rather than a mish mash of mishaps! (We’ll see).

Which Hand Embroidery stitches shall we choose??

I have a few lovely books dedicated to embroidery stitches so you can sit back and let me choose some challenging ones for you to try! I have decided to pick out the stitches I have either never tried, never heard of (!) or have tried and had difficulty with.

Lets Start Doodling…

The first Stitch we are going to start off the Doodle Cloth with is called ‘Cup Stitch’. This is a decorative stitch which can be used to create small flowers.

I am a bit of a neat freak so even though this is a doodle cloth I am creating I practiced first on another piece of cotton!

As you can see by the 4th attempt I got it looking like the raised circle that it is meant to be so I decided I was practiced enough to make a better practice attempt on the actual doodle cloth! I realise this is a bit of a strange thing to do as the Doodle Cloth itself is meant to be the practice but in my defence I want the ‘actual’ doodle cloth to be a nice reference piece at the end. You could say I am making a doodle cloth from a doodle cloth!!!

Here’s how the stitch is broken down…

Stitch a Triangle – I made my stitches about 1/4 inch long but you could do a bigger stitch to create a bigger triangle for a bigger circle. Bring the thread out below one of the corners.

Take the needle from the inside, under the stitched thread.

Wrap the thread around the needle .

Pull the thread through guiding the thread down to form the knot on the triangle edge.

Continue Stitching the knots in the same way along each edge of the triangle, keep them nice and tight to one another. Work around the triangle.

You can go back and stitch another knot if the circle looks like it has a gap. The end result is a nice little circle of knots.

Tips I learned… A perle thread size 5 works better for this stitch and forms a nice circle as against a thinner thread. Don’t be disheartened by it looking a bit of a mess! Once you complete the circle and smooth out the circle its surprising how good it actually looks!

I hope you have enjoyed starting a Doodle Cloth for Tricky Hand Embroidery stitches!

Doodle Day will be back next Tuesday for another tricky stitch for you to add to your cloth.

10 Reasons why Embroidery is Good for you…

10 reasons why

1. Embroidery relaxes your mind and body


Hand embroidery is a craft you can do anywhere, anytime as all you need is some fabric, a needle and some lovely threads. Sit down with your favourite movie and a glass of wine and stitch away – what could be more relaxing than that!

If you need some relaxation then stick to a simple uncomplicated design and just enjoy the stitching process whilst creating something you can be proud of.

2. Embroidery makes you smile


From picking the design, choosing the threads, transferring on to your fabric to finally stitching the finished piece – embroidery has many different elements in the process for you to enjoy and smile about! No matter what you make, if it came out good or bad it will always make you smile and have you itching to get stitching again in no time.

3. Embroidery embraces all levels of ability


There is such a diversity to embroidery that allows anyone to give it a go. You don’t need to be a great artist, amazing seamstress, or particularly creative to be able to stitch up a fabulous piece of art that you will be really proud of.

There are so many wonderful designs out there which beginners can easily achieve fabulous results with and once you start you find yourself learning more each time and getting better and better as you go along. Simple embroidery stitches and designs tend to delight and enthral people as much now as they ever did. You don’t need to have been stitching for years to create fab stuff you can be proud of. Ability is all in your head – give it a go and don’t be afraid to put your own stamp on it.

4. Embroidery is a simple form of expression


If you have something to say – you can say it with embroidery! From the nice to the not so nice you can say what you feel and have it hanging on your wall for all to admire! A great inexpensive form of therapy if ever there was one!

5. Embroidery is comforting and calming


Get comfy and cozy on your favourite chair with some music or your favourite TV and stitch – you will be calm in no time!

6. Embroidery builds your confidence


No matter how good you are, you will always learn and improve as your embroidery journey develops. You will be able to see the improvement as you look back at what you have made and your confidence will soar!

7. Embroidery gives you a sense of achievement

Creating something from beginning to end and seeing it develop in to a creative and lovely piece of art is such an achievement and no matter who you are or how many projects you make there is always this great sense of achievement and buzz when you finally complete what you set out to do.

8. Embroidery creates inspiration


Once you have been embroidering for a while you begin to see the world around you in stitches and embroidery projects and inspiration is everywhere! If you aren’t at this point yet – just wait – you will be!

9. Embroidery is a good addiction


Addictions are generally not good for you but I am addicted to Embroidery and have no desire to quit any time soon! It takes up my time, invades my thoughts, spends my money but I swear – its good for me and could be for you too!

10. Embroidery is happiness


What more can I say…