Saturday, December 23, 2006

I'm Scared of My Sewing Machine

Back in February, I took several classes with Merry Cox through Lake Michigan Sampler Guild (LMSG). Although those were the first and only classes I have taken through LMSG, they definitely will not be my last. I am so thrilled to have a guild which offers such great programming within a few hours of me!

They were my first classes with Merry Cox, too, and I liked her so much I took classes with her two more times during the year (in Cincinnati and in Indianapolis). She is a wonderful teacher and designer, and a delightful person, too.

Like many of Merry's classes, the class for this particular project was intended as a finishing class. Although I had worked on pre-stitching the piece, most of Merry's designs involve a LOT of stitching -- and most of that is over one -- so I just didn't have it done in time. Thankfully, her instructions are fabulous, so once I get up the nerve to face my sewing machine, I think I'll do just fine. In the meantime, I worked on this project on and off throughout the year and enjoyed every stitch. I just finished the stitching early this morning because I had optimistically put "2006" on it way back in February, and with it's pretty yuletide colors, it was really nice to work on again at this time of year.

So, this is my version of Merry Cox's Birds & Berries Sewing Case, copyright 2003. Merry encourages stitchers to modify designs in order to personalize them, and one of the benefits for me in not having my stitching completed prior to class was being able to see what ideas other stitchers had come up with to modify this project. As I so often do, I made a number of mistakes while stitching this design, one of which was a counting error when I stitched the first (right-hand) bird on the front of the sewing case. I didn't notice my error until I was finished stitching the bird and trying to figure out why it didn't look like Merry's.

The bird, being stitched over two, could have easily been frogged and restitched as charted, but it occurred to me that it's head looked like that of a cardinal. I spent most of my middle school and high school years in St. Louis, Missouri and was, therefore, a Cardinals baseball fan, so I decided to use my stitching mistake to purposely personalize my sewing case. Since the first bird is clearly a female cardinal based on her coloring, I used the deep red thread Merry uses for the berries to stitch a male cardinal, too. I think he's quite handsome and am very proud of myself for coming up with such a good result out of a stitching mistake. ;>)

Below is a closeup of the front of my sewing case, and if you'd like to compare, you can see a closeup of how Merry stitched the front of her sewing case here.

I only used Merry's chart for the branches, leaves, and berries as a general guide while stitching mine. After deciding not to stitch the branches so they hang all the way down to the ground, as Merry did, I filled in leaves and berries until I was happy with the way everything looked.

Here is a closeup of the back of my sewing case. Another stitcher in the class had done full cross stitches for all of her stitching, while Merry's chart calls for tent stitch for most of the over one stitching and I had followed Merry's direction. After seeing the other stitcher's work, I wished I had done full cross stitches also. I probably would have gone back and made full cross stitches -- at least for all the lettering -- if I hadn't already done so much of the lettering in a strongly variegated thread.

However, Merry told us one of the reasons she uses tent stitch is because when she studies antique samplers and other stitching, she notices there has been a lot of thread loss; the tent stitches definitely do mimic the way an antique piece with thread loss looks. You can see the effect Merry is trying to create especially well in the sampler-style alphabet on the back of the sewing case. This alphabet is stitched in Gloriana Winter Woods, a variegated thread whose colors sometimes almost disappear on this particular fabric.

Learning Merry's reasoning behind her use of tent stitch makes me glad I used it, too, at least on this one piece. (Well, I will stick with tent stitch for the rest of the Birds & Berries set so they match each other.) However, in the future, I will probably do full cross stitches on Merry's designs, especially since Merry confirmed she includes plenty of thread in her kits so that I can do this if I wish.

The text as charted for the back of the sewing case was, "Wrought this ___ day of (month) (year)," but since I'd already put "2006" on the front, and since the stitching took well over a day, I stole another class student's idea to commemmorate that I'd taken this as a class through LMSG.

Here is a picture of the holder for the needle pages. I changed the color of the thread for the herringbone stitches from the same blue used in the nun stitches to the color used in the vase on the front of the case just for variety.

And here is what will be a little pocket inside the sewing case. I made this cardinal another male, changed the herringbone stitch color for variety again, and stitched a tiny little "39" because I thought this looked like a postage stamp. Now I will always have something to remind me what it cost to send a first class letter in the US in 2006!

Now, I just have to work up the courage to approach my sewing machine to finish this project into the actual sewing case. I titled this post as I did for a reason -- I need support, LOL. I had a run-in with a sewing machine in Home Economics in 5th grade that scarred me for life -- mentally, at least, LOL. I originally bought my sewing machine to zigzag the edges of my cross stitch fabric, but have barely used it even for that. (I also had some thoughts that I would start doing small machine quilting projects -- mostly things I could then embroider on, i.e., crazy quilting.) Instead, I tend to reach for Fray Check. It's been so long I'll have to pull out the directions for my sewing machine just to thread it and wind a bobbin, and I'll be crossing my fingers while the bobbin winds that I'm doing it correctly and don't screw up the machine terribly. All I have to do (I think) is sew a few straight lines -- albeit on really expensive silk, ha ha.

On the other hand, I took this class, so I know I can do this. While I haven't had enough practice with a sewing machine to feel confident I can sew in a straight line with it, I know I have plenty of inexpensive fabric with which I can practice. At least until I try, I refuse to pay a finisher to do this when I have such excellent instructions to work with and all the supplies I need (well, okay, I'll probably have to go shopping for thread that matches ... but it's not like I don't have a sewing machine).

Plus, I am fortunate to have a really wonderful finisher among my friends, and she's so good she can probably undo almost anything bad I could do to this project while trying to finish it myself. If that's not a confidence booster, I don't know what is.

It will be a little while, though. With the inspiration of wanting to see this lovely project finished into a little sewing case, I could get up the courage to at least try fairly quickly ... but it will take some time before I can clear out my craft area enough to be able to set up my sewing machine in order to start, especially as I'm still dealing with a back injury.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the pictures of this one so far, and I hope to bring a finished product to you sometime before, say, spring. ;>)


Anonymous said...

awesome!! words are not enough to praise your work!
keep it up, all the best for 2007!

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with a Cardinal, I was raised in Sullivan Mo. Love your work and the colors are great. GB

Meari said...

Take the plunge with your sewing machine. They're a piece of cake to use. :) The birds look good. Wouldn't change a thing.