Monthly Archives: January 2015

Module 2 Chapter 8

Not what it seams!

I got quite carried away with this chapter.  There are endless possibilities …here are just a few.

Images 1 to 12 show different seam decorations, some of which are based on the examples in the notes, and some are different.  Because a number of these samples are three-dimensional, there is a mix of scans and photographs.

1. Forward-facing seams made in different fabrics, frayed back to the stitching line

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2. Striped fabric strip inserted in seam, then frayed to make a stripy fringe


3. Muslin strips inserted in seam, frayed and tied in offset ponytails using thick black silk thread (soie noppee which, sadly, appears impossible to get any more).


4. Strips of a chiffon sandwich with snippets of fabric and threads frayed from seams, inserted in seam then snipped


5. The inserted strip is a section of a shibori sample with undulating dye patterns.  I’ve machined wavy lines in a cable stitch zigzag into the dye patterns, then cut away the fabric along the lines of the pattern.  The seam also incorporates frayed muslin as I wanted to soften the stitching without obliterating it.


6. White lawn cut in blocks, frayed, inserted in seam, then zigzag stitching to mimic the way the lawn is cut


7. Strips of monoprinted fabric arranged in zigzag pattern and inserted into seam, then decorative stitching in black to mark out the void spaces, and white cable stitch


8. Black fabric slashed, laid over white fabric and seamed, then stuffed with lengths of knitting yarn to form a padded sausage and inserted into seam.  I was thinking about Tudor costumes when I made this and the next sample – this one works best wrapped around a curved object.

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9. For this one, I cut diamond shapes instead of slashes.  This is a larger sausage, padded with polyester toy filling.

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10. The next two are insertion-type seams.  This one has the edges turned under and zigzagged, and the knotted insertion is a machined cord made from lengths of black and white pearl cotton.


11. This one is more interesting.  Again, the edges were turned under.  The stitching is a three-step zigzag in cable stitch.  I discovered that if I made long stitches right on the edge, it created loops which I have laced with a cord made from a zigzagged twisted fabric strip.


12.  This seam is decorated with knotted cords – one made from pearl cotton, the other from a knotted fabric strip.


Simple ideas for trimmings


(a) and (b) The three samples in image 13 have been decorated with cable stitched three-step zigzag (left), overlapping rows of blind hemming stitch (right), and the centre ribbon consists of two layers of fabric decorated with cable stitch zigzag of varying stitch length.



The samples in image 14 are more complex.  Left to right: different widths of two fabrics with a layer of muslin laid in a wavy pattern (it’s easy to distort muslin laterally without getting pleats in it because of the open weave), with blind hemming cable stitched curves echoing the muslin curves; frayed lawn layered with a strip of chiffon sandwich with a thread cord zigzagged on top; plaited fabric strips zigzagged to hold the strips in place.




(a) and (b) Images 15 and 16 show, respectively, cords made by twisting and machining a single fabric strip and several strips layered and twisted together.


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(c) and (d) Images 17 and 18 show, respectively, knots tied in a single fabric strip, and in a bunch of fabric strips.


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As image 19 shows, I found that if I tied slip-knots instead of overhand knots into a fabric strip, the knots would alternate sides (this is how I made the insertions in image 12).


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a. Image 20 shows two fabric toggles made from rolls of fabric tied with pearl cotton.  I frayed the edges of the fabric strip in the right-hand sample before rolling the fabric.


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(b) The samples in image 21 show folded, knotted ends made from bundles of fabric strips (left and right) and from a machine-stitched twist (centre).


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Just for fun, I also made some tassels.  The ones in image 22 are made from a strip of fabric, knotted and frayed, inserted into seam to be used as an edging.


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The tassels in image 23 were made from a strip of muslin, doubled lengthwise and frayed, with the head made from a strip of mono-printed fabric bound with pearl cotton (left), and a strip of fabric snipped crosswise and rolled for the skirt, bound with multiple layers of pearl cotton to form a fat head.


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Module 2 Chapter 7

Traditional ‘Piecing’ Methods

I hadn’t tried either log cabin or Seminole piecing before, having avoided patchwork in the past not because I didn’t think I’d like it, but because I feared I’d like it too much and it would become a distraction from embroidery, which I always saw as the main game.  So – my approach to this chapter has been to follow the examples in the course notes fairly closely, to get the hang of it.  If my work seems a bit ‘monkey see, monkey do’, that’s why.

Log Cabin method – First stage

Images 1 to 5 are my paper designs, using decorated papers as well as black and white.











I tried positioning the paper strips in two ways: in images 1 and 5, to suggest light and shade (light source to the top right in both samples) and alternating lighter-toned and darker-toned strips in concentric bands.  I like the sample in image 3, which to me appears to have a lot of movement – I thought it may be challenging to stitch, though, because of the points – and so it proved.  The shape of the sample in image 5 is based upon one of the scales on the face of a water dragon.  It started as a hexagon but I lost one of the edges because it was too short to survive the piecing process.

Log Cabin method – Second stage

Images 6 to 11 show most of my fabric samples (there’s a composite one later on, at image 34).













I’ve included scans of the backs of a couple of these because I think they are more interesting than the fronts.  The sample in image 8 is, I think, the most interesting – it looks as though it is rotating.  It was a challenge to get the seams and the narrow points of the triangles in exactly the right places.  The centre of the back of this sample (image 9) reminds me of one of the David Austin roses in our garden (it’s Benjamin Britten – here:


On image 11, I like the interplay of the oblique angles of the seams.  I pressed under the seam allowances at the edges of some of these pieces – it may have been better to trim them off.

Seminole method – First stage

My paper samples are pretty much like those in the course notes, so I could get the hang of this method.  I became a wee bit more adventurous as I went on.  This set of samples  are shown in images 12 to 18.















This techniques makes some very interesting patterns.  The designs in images 12, to 16 are pretty much straight out of the notes.  Image 17 shows a less formal design made from scraps from some of the earlier samples, and a design made from triangles cut from half black-half white Seminole squares – the design relies on rotating some of the squares 90 degrees to the rest before cutting them in half at a 45 degree angle.  The sample in Image 18 reminds me of the ‘tumbling blocks’ optical illusion.

Seminole method – Fabric samples

This is where it really became challenging.  I realised when I was piecing the paper samples that I’d have to be really careful matching seams when I came to sew these samples together.  Images 19 to 35 show these samples (no, I didn’t really make 17 samples; I thought the backs of some of these looked interesting enough to scan and include).  Images 19 to 27 are based on the examples in the notes:



















Again, I really like the patterns the seams make on the backs of the samples with oblique pieces (images 24 and 27).  In fact, I think I like the back of the image 24 sample enough to call it the front (since the fabrics in this sample are all double sided).  The corners mostly match (there was a bit of unpicking going on here).  The direction in which the seams are stitched appears to be influential.  For example, the sample in image 25 appears to be skewed to the top left a bit – I wonder whether it might be because I stitched all the seams in the same direction.  This may be something to remember for future work (or perhaps it’s trivial and I’m being precious – I haven’t developed my judgment sufficiently to work that one out yet!).

Images 28 to 35 show me branching out a bit.





The sample in images 28 and 29 is based on the paper sample in image 17.  The small black and white squares are much smaller than those on the paper design because of the seam allowances, so the overall impact of the design is different.  I realised this would be the case – I could have worked out the geometry of the pieces allowing for seams but wanted to stay with the half black/half white squares before cutting and piecing.  The pattern made by the seams on the back reminds me of birds.



The image 30 sample isn’t quite resolved.  I didn’t realise until I had cut strips that I really needed to stitch a white strip along the edge of one of the black edge strips to make this work.  If I had done this, I’d have a horizontal seam through the white section at the centre of the piece.  So, I made each of the upper a lower sections separately, folded the seam allowance in and applied each half to a white band (see image 31, below).  Not quite in the spirit of Seminole, I know, but a useful lesson in planning construction.  The other thing I hadn’t quite resolved was what to do with the end of the diamond strips at the sides.  They looked awful just hanging off the piece so I trimmed them level with the ends of the centre section.  Again, I like the back of the seams on this piece (except for the white bit in the middle).



For the sample in images 32 and 33, I decided to try a more anarchic approach, and abandon seam matching, symmetry and my seemingly endless quest for neatness.  I also wanted to use some scraps from the samples above.  The plan was, then:

  • to display the seams on the right side of the sample;
  • to get as much tonal contrast into the sample as I could given I was working mostly with pre-made strips;
  • to exploit the geometry of the strips by making use of straight strips with more or less parallel edges, tapering strips and triangles.

I made the sample in three sections, to look like a banner or a pennant.  This is my first go at stitching scanned images together on my graphics programme – I think it worked OK.


pennant stitched

Image 33 shows the wrong side – it’s easier to see how it was constructed in this scan.


pennant back

I thought I’d have a stab at making one sample with more decorative seams (image 34).  This is based on my dragon face scale (image 5) and combines a section of Seminole piecing at the centre  (based on image 17) and a border of log cabin piecing.  I was trying to use tone to emulate the shading on the scale.  I inserted a folded strip of gauze in each seam, then frayed it to produce a hairy effect (see image 35 for a scan of the back of this piece, showing the strips of gauze).  Again, these images were stitched.


pentagon stitched


pentagon back