Completed: Kantha running stitch pillow

Some days I simply crave a finish. Luckily I have plenty of unfinished projects lying around to satisfy that itch. One was half a pillow that I started for one of the projects in the Alison Glass stitch club 2020 that focused on hand stitching. This was a project from the June issue to get familiar with the Kantha running stitch. The idea was to create a piece of patchwork from strips and just fill those in with the running stitch and then sew it to a back to create a pillow.

I gave it my own twist by using a single background colour and a couple of floating colourful rectangles. The colour of the Wonderfil perle 8 cotton threads I used for the Kantha stitching were matched to the colour of the strip I was sewing and I think this looks really nice in the strips that have a splash of colour in them.

The front of the pillow was completed in just a couple of days. I enjoyed doing the running stitch and once I got the hang of loading multiple stitches on the needle sewing was pretty quick. Then I got kind of stuck on the back. I had found a fabric in my stash that I thought would look nice but I wasn’t sure what kind of closure I wanted to do. Envelope? But I felt the print on the back might not look so good cut up. An invisible zipper? But I didn’t have a matching colour… And so the piece sat unfinished for more than 6 months even though I picked it up a couple of times but I kept asking myself the same questions.

In the end I decided that an invisible zipper would look best and that this pandemic is taking too long to wait for matching zipper colours. I’d have preferred to use a black one but I did have grey on hand and since the zipper is invisible you only really see the zipper pull anyway.

The front was already constructed as two layers and I only trimmed it square and did an overlock stitch around the edges to prevent fraying. For the back I also cut a lining piece because I feel that pillows do look better when they’re lined instead of a single layer of fabric.

Whenever I make a project like this I think I should do hand sewing more often since I enjoy it so much when I am doing it, but then usually I end up not not doing any hand stitching for months. This quarter my guild’s theme is slow stitching though and that is a very good reason to pick up some hand sewing needles soon.  

I also should buy more pillow forms because each time I make a new cover I have to remove one from another pillow. Or I should stop making more, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon right?

A piece of beeswax

For the latest project I am working on it was strongly advised to run the thread through beeswax for some of the hand sewing parts. I did not have beeswax and needed it now, so online shopping wasn’t an option. The two stores in Leiden that sell sewing related stuff do not stock it, but one of the shop owners directed me to a drugstore. I would never have thought of going there, but lo and behold, they sold beeswax. Although not really in the shape I was looking for:

150326_beeswaxpellets

However, this was probably the closest thing to a solid piece of beeswax I would be able to find on short notice so I bought some. After all, beeswax is used to make candles, so it melts easily and can be moulded into a different shape.

For the next bit of this post I should probably add the disclaimer that you should not try this at home.

Melting beeswax seemed like a great idea, but how do you do that? At first I thought of melting it au bain marie but I didn’t want to use any of my kitchen bowls because I want to be able to continue using those for food preparation purposes. A Google search on “melting beeswax in the mircrowave” quickly cured me of that idea.

In the end I put the beeswax in a jam jar and started holding it over boiling water with a serving thong. This did not work all that well because the thong did not have a very good grip on the jar. To be honest, this part probably was slightly dangerous. Instead I placed the jar in hot but not boiling water and moved it around a bit with the thong. The beeswax melted quickly and as soon as it was ready I put on oven mitts to protect my hands and poured it in a mould I had prepared before.

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For the mould I used a waxine light cup that I lined with baking paper. Some of the beeswax ran below the paper but I could quite easily coax the piece of wax out after it had cooled so perhaps the paper wasn’t even necessary.

150326_cooling beeswax

Does my self-poured piece of beeswax work? You bet it does! And I probably have enough pellets left to make at least 4 more pieces…

150326_pieceofbeeswax

English Paper Piecing: Let’s go 3D!

141213_Christmas ornamentsEver since first trying English paper piecing I’ve been having new ideas of what to use this technique for besides quilts. One of those was 3D shapes. Small 3D shapes can be challenging to sew with a sewing machine because they often contain Y-seams. Sewing these seams the English paper piecing way, however, isn’t tricky at all (just time-consuming because it’s all done by hand).

141213_ornaments
I’m probably not the first person to have this idea but instead of researching it I simply made some templates using Adobe Illustrator and started sewing. It worked quite well. I started with 6 equilateral triangles and three shades of green fabric. The sides of the triangles are just 3 cm which made sewing a bit tricky, larger shapes are probably easier.

Next, I made a cube using six 5×5 cm squares of a black and gold print. This was the easiest of the three and I even remembered to take some blurry progress pictures.

141213_paperpiecedcube

For the final shape, I used three ellipses that I made pointy on the shorter sides (the picture shows the shape better than I can describe it in words…). I probably should have clipped the seams better than I did because they ripple a bit. I really like the final shape though. The shapes are stuffed with some soft toy filling. Since it’s almost Christmas I left a tiny hole in one of the corners and pulled some cotton yarn through and turned these into Christmas ornaments. Even though we never have a Christmas tree so I’m not really sure where to hang them…

It was fun to make these. Have you ever tried the English paper piecing method to sew anything other than a quilt top?

 

Sewing tip: Threading hand sewing needles

A lot of people really dislike hand sewing and I think this is often due to needle threading issues. If you have to spend 10 minutes each time trying to poke a thread end through a tiny hole it can get really frustrating. It doesn’t have to be though. I thread most of my needles on my first attempt without the use of any aids (but I’ll get to threading aids later on!).

One very important “rule” in hand sewing is that you shouldn’t use a long thread. I know it can be really tempting to just cut a meter of thread (I’ve been there too) because it will last for ages and it reduces the number of times you need to thread that needle right? It will also make the sewing part that more frustrating because each time you pull the needle through the fabric you’ll have to do some sort of gymnastics trying to pull the entire length of thread through as well. On top of that a long thread will knot much easier and you’ll spend ages untangling threadnests. So, how long should your thread ideally be? About the length of your forearm. If you sew with double thread, cut it about twice that length so it becomes that length once it is doubled up. It is also important that you choose a needle with an eye that is large enough to fit your thread easily but that is not so large that it slips out easily.

Ideal threadlength

Threading by hand

Make sure the thread end doesn’t fray, if it does trim it before attempting any threading. Most people will try to push the thread through the needle, it is, however, much easier to slide the needle over the thread instead. I am right handed and, therefore, can execute fine movements much better with my right than with my left hand. When I thread a needle I hold the thread steady in my left hand with only a tiny piece of the thread end poking out from between my fingers. I will hold the needle in my right hand and slowly move the needle towards the thread. This way I find it very easy to exactly manoeuvre the eye of the needle over the thread. Once a small part of the thread has made it through the eye it is easy to pull the rest through.

Threading by handSome people run their thread through beeswax. This supposedly reduces the chance that the thread tangles during sewing. I don’t have beeswax and I’ve never tried it so I don’t have an opinion on it. I do, however, always run the thread through my fingers a couple of times before I start sewing (after threading the needle). This reduces any tension in the thread caused by having been wound on a spool and I really do find that I get knots less often than I used to before I started using this trick.

Threading aids

If you keep on struggling with threading needles, for example because your eyesight isn’t what it used to be or the light in the room you’re working in isn’t very good you can buy needle threading aids that help make the job easier. I’ve got two different ones in my possession.

The first is the most basic one. It has a small metal handle with a thin wire extension that forms a loop. The wire is pushed through the eye of the needle; because it is quite firm this is much easier than pushing a thread through. The wire basically enlarges the eye of the needle. You put the thread through the wire loop and pull on the handle. This threads the needle. The most important drawback of this tool is that I tend to break them quite soon.

Needle threader

The second is more like a little machine. I believe I’ve had mine for over 20 years and I used it very often when I was a child. It says Witch on one side and the other side calls it a needle threader and says it was produced in Western Germany. So yes, it is quite old… It looks deceptively similar to what Prym nowadays sells as a needle fairy.

The needle is inserted with the eye facing down into a shank. The thread is draped over the machine behind the shank. Pushing a little handle pokes a small metal part through the shank and this pushes the thread through the eye of the needle. When you pull the needle out it is threaded. Drawbacks are that some of my needles are too wide to fit into the shank and that the eye of some of my needles is too small for the pokey thing to fit through. It will work just fine for most needles though.

Needle fairy

Do you find threading hand needles a chore or do you never have much issues with it?