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Category: Embroidery

And So To Create

I have been collecting these vintage leaflets for quite a few years now, and am very excited to finally be able to begin sharing them with you now that I have managed to find complete sets!

Today we begin a journey into vintage sewing and embroidery with the “And So To Sew”, and “and So To Embroider” series from the UK. I have three leaflets for you today, due to a very unexpected surprise while I was scanning. They include two sewing leaflets that cover creating with felt, and one embroidery leaflet covering basic stitches, needle and fabric choices.

Wherever possible, I have included links to modern videos and photo tutorials that cover each topic.

Please note that the early “And So to Embroider” leaflets were named “And So To Sew Embroidery Section”.

And Sew to Sew 1a cap and mittens

And So To Sew 1a – felt mittens and hat. These are also a great pair of patterns for anyone who likes to felt and upcycle old jumpers/sweaters.

Felt donkey and puppet

And So To Sew 1a – alternate. Felt toys (slightly edited). I suspect this leaflet was released before WW2 and the rationing of fabrics and paper  as the toys are very much in the style of the late 30’s. It is never mentioned again in the series, whereas the bulletin with the felt and mittens project is.

And Sew to Embroider Cover No1b

And So To Embroider 1b (aka And So To Sew Embroidery Section 1b). Materials, needles and threads. Varieties of running stitch and cross stitches.

Come back next week for the next leaflets in the series, or sign up to be notified of every new post! (on the left on desktop, or under the post on tablets and mobile).


School Holiday Crafting

It’s the Summer school holidays here in Australia, which means there’s lots of time for bike riding (when it’s not too hot), swimming (when it’s not raining), and crafts all the time! Here are just some of the projects we’ve been working on.

Charlie asked if he could make his backpack for the new year, and how could I say no!?! We dived into my (and Charlie’s) op shopped stashes and came up with everything we needed.

10 year old boy sitting at a sewing machine, making a piece of patchwork.

Charlie sewing a piece of patchwork for the back of his back pack.

He chose all of the fabrics, the design (like my backpack but with squares of different fabrics), and did most of the sewing. I used the outside of the bag to teach Charlie about iron on interfacing, and it’s fully lined, with adjustable straps.

He did a fabulous job! Charlie’s favourite colour is red, which goes well with blue, and everything goes with cats 🙂

Patchwork back pack.

Next, we gelli printed on some fabric. We discovered we really liked using a paintbrush to get the paint onto the gelli plate, and drawing designs with a cotton bud. Charlie also worked out that lettering needs to be written backwards. The prints with circles were done with giant sequin waste as a stencil. Sequin waste goes onto the fabric, plop the painted gelli plate on top and press. Then remove the sequin waste (which is now stuck on the gelli plate) and print again for the negative.

Gelli printed fabric with a random design of squares and circles.

Charlie’s gelli printed fabric.

large piece of gelli printed fabric

My gelli printed fabric.

Because our finished projects won’t be washed much, we just used ordinary artist’s acrylics on calico. Charlie’s going to sew his into a tote bag, and mine will be embroidered and machine sewn to create the cover of a fabric book for some of my Take a Stitch Tuesday samplers. If we were going to print on clothing, for example, we’d have mixed textile medium with the paint.

Charlie now has his very own embroidery hoop and kit, which he used to design his own Minecraft creeper embroidery. He’s going to add more to this, so we haven’t washed out the water erasable marker yet. He’s getting pretty good at running stitch but needs to learn to look at the back every now and again. I applied some creative cutting and knotting to reduce the tangles on the back 🙂

An embroidered Minecraft creeper on red polycotton

Sssssssss BOOM!

Those are just the projects I’ve photographed! We also printed Christmas wrapping paper and cards, and there has been much building with Lego. Seriously, there’s Lego EVERYWHERE.

Next up, Charlie wants to sew a monster he has designed, make a drawstring bag for carrying his embroidery around, sew a pair of pyjama shorts and sew his gelli printed fabric into a tote bag.

How many more days are there in the holidays? I need to draft the pattern for his shorts. We’d better get cracking!


And So to Begin the New Year

Welcome to the very first freebie of 2019!

This year, Tuesdays will be dedicated to sharing two very important series of leaflets from Scotland and the UK that were brought out by the Needlework Development Scheme over the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

“And So To Sew”, and “And So To Embroider” were released in 1951, near the end of fabric rationing after WW2 as a way to reintroduce skill and originality into dressmaking and embroidery after a decade of scarce materials and “making do”. Each leaflet introduces new skills and projects, with

The first leaflets were designed to be used by schools, but they quickly became very popular with the public. So much so that almost 70 years later they can be found as precious items in needle worker’s collections.

Today we begin at the beginning with “And So To Begin“, a booklet for the classroom with an outline of projects that can be made by students, and tips for setting up the needlework classroom.

And So To Begin by the NDS

Next week I’ll share leaflets 1a (sewing) and 1b (embroidery), and will post at least one of each every Tuesday, along with modern video and photo tutorials for the techniques covered. The early couple of leaflets will cover the basics, while further on you will find projects and patterns for all sorts of interesting and beautiful vintage style projects.

I hope you enjoy them!


(Please note: there were designs I wasn’t willing to share in three of the leaflets so I have edited them with my own samples or motifs, while keeping the style and skills being taught the same. I will note on each leaflet when I have done this).

Saying Goodbye to TAST – the Design Stage

I’d like to show you the sketches for my very last Beyond TAST embroidery sampler. Just like any of my embroideries that I have designed myself, the design process goes through a few stages before I come up with the final concept because almost no-one comes up with a final design without a bit of thinking and sketching first.

The challenge outline was to create something using at least three of the techniques covered in previous Beyond TAST challenges. I decided to base my design on my investigations into filling stitches, pattern darning and line stitches.

Sketches of a rose and a bell jar terrarium

Step 1: I decided I’d like to base my design on a rose. But I didn’t like the shapes in sketch 1.

Step 2: I tried a more geometric approach but it looked too much like a stencil design. Stencils are cool, but not what I want for this.

Step 3: I used similar shapes to step 2 but joined them together to be less stencil like. Now I’m starting to get somewhere I like.

Step 4: I kept the petals round and made the pointy petals into leaves instead. Then I added a calyx and stem, which meant the leaves were now in the wrong place. Hmm.

Step 5: I put the leaves in the right place. Now I like it, but such a rare specimen would be kept safe under a bell jar, right? (or maybe I’ve been watching too many Victorian era episodes of Doctor Who. Naaaa, that’s not possible).

Step 6: Now it’s under a bell jar.

Step 7: I made a Pinterest board with pictures of bell jar terrariums/cloche terrariums. The board quickly became more about the bell jars than actual terrariums and morphed into a conglomeration of things wealthy Victorian era  people in England liked to stuff under jars.

Step 8: Stay tuned…


The Green Man Sampler for Beyond TAST

Green man embroidered sampler

(Click on the photo to see closer details). Grab a cuppa and settle into a comfy chair. This is going to be a long one. 🙂

From the whole TAST experience over the last three years, I think the Green Man is my favourite sampler out of all of them so far. Which makes sense because I’m now a much more skilled embroiderer than I was back then.

Season 7 for Beyond TAST was to experiment with filling stitches. I’d already experimented a lot with different filling stitches during TAST 2015-2017. For this sampler, I wanted to see how I could create visual depth using different threads and filling stitches.

I started with the Green Man design from Urban Threads, which I traced onto some unbleached calico using a Frixion pen. I had no idea what I wanted to do at first, so I stitched the tendrils with stem stitch and satin stitched the eyes while I had a good think. This turned out to be a good idea because I came up with a plan after all.

I decided to make the stitches that I wanted to recede darker, and in a finer thread since the further things are away from you, the less detail you can see. The further forward the leaves are, the brighter and more textural the stitches.

The green/brown leaves, which I consider to be the furthest away are chain stitch in two strands of embroidery floss. Coming forward we then have dark green stem stitch, also in two strands of floss. Then a few brighter dark green leaves in long and short stitch. I was then left with two distinct areas of leaves that lie on about the same plane. The hair and cheeks, then the eyebrows, moustache and beard.

I really wanted these two sets of leaves to be distinct. Since I really loved working my woven stitches sampler, I decided to fill in the cheeks and hair with surface darning (yep, I know what it’s called now!). To make sure it didn’t look really flat, I made the first set of stitches along the line of the veins on one side of the leaf. In a rectangle you might make the first set of stitches vertical and then weave from side to side. Mine are in more of an “X” shape. To finish off they were outlined with stem stitch in two strands of floss.

I couched the remainder of the leaves with knitting cotton for the background, and four strands of floss for the couching stitches, then outlined them with back stitch.

That just left the nose, lips and the areas around them to fill. I filled in the background areas using the techniques and colours from the two darkest sets of leaves, then shaded the nose with chain stitch.

Things I learnt from this sampler:

I really love unbleached calico. Everyone should have a stash of it. You can paint it when you need an emergency background of a colour you don’t have, use it to make dolls, test sewing patterns, dye it, use it as an interlining and then dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. Oh no, wait, that last one is about towels.

Shading isn’t scary. I originally intended to leave the nose and lips as just stem stitch outlines because I had no idea how to shade them. It looked rubbish. Really, really rubbish. In the end, I did a google image search of lips and noses and had a look where the highlights lie in different lighting situations.

Pictures, like this one from Pixabay, are a wealth of information when it comes to trying to work out how to shade parts of a face.

Then I took out my printed pattern, coloured the nose and lips in with a pencil and started erasing bits to see what looked good. Then I started stitching. And undid it because it sucked and did it again.

Using different shades of the same colour in different areas creates a more harmonious effect. If you look at the veins on the various leaves you’ll see either the same colour, or another shade of the same colour is used elsewhere. This is especially obvious on the couched leaves as they’re couched down with a thread that matches one of the colours in the lighter parts of the nose and lips.

Finally, I learnt that when I choose a design that makes me go, “Sarah, you’ve got to be kidding, how are you ever going to work that?”, then I know I’ve picked the right one. I have done this before and I really liked that sampler too.

But wait, there’s more!

Remember how, I said I’d already investigated a lot of stitches as filling stitches in the 100 stitch of TAST 2015-2017? Here are my favourites!

Click on the photos to embiggen them. (Yes, embiggen is a word now. Because I said so).

My favourite fills.

Running stitch. It can be used to fill areas with pattern in lots of different ways

Embroidered running stitch sampler on green fabric with white spots.

Running stitch embroidery worked in various patterns on even weave fabric

Embroidered peacock and flowers worked in running stitch and variations.

or fill areas with movement.

Embroidered running stitch sampler with swirls and circles.

Couching is just a plain heap of fun. It can be used as a filling that creates patterns like the checked and patterned borders, or to fill an area with texture and colour like the flower. See the chunky, puffy couched line under the flower? Imagine filling in a whole area like that.

Embroidered sampler with couched flowers, sun and bugs

Half chevron stitch was a total revelation! I had absolutely no idea what to do with it, so I decided to stack rows of it worked in scrap threads and see what happened. I really love the movement in the sky and the texture that the small areas of brown creates. Two very different looks but only one stitch.

Turkman stitch makes a cool striped filling down there at the bottom.

Embroidered sampler in Turkman stitch

Up and down buttonhole stitch can be used as a filling in oh so many ways. And they all take a bazillion years to work if you stitch them on teeny tiny even weave linen. A bazillion.

Embroidered sampler with up and down buttonhole stitch fillings.

If you combine blanket stitch with reading books such as “The Stitches of Creative Embroidery” by Jacqueline Enthoven, you end up with fillings like these. Imagine those on top of areas of appliquéd fabric. Fabulous.

A buttonhole/blanket stitch embroidery sampler inspired by Constance Howard's Book of Stitches.

Lots and lots of buttonhole wheels make a filling that’s quite mesmerizing. I could stitch these forever.

Embroidered sampler with many circles stitched with buttonhole or blanket stitch.

Algerian eye stitch on pin loom woven squares. Some were left closed and others pulled tight to open up the weave.

An embroidered garden worked in Algerian eye stitch on pin loom squares. Four 4 inch squares are crocheted together to form an 8 inch sampler.

Pekinese stitch was another revelation in terms of filling stitches. I had no idea it could be used as a filling stitch, even though that’s one of the traditional ways of using it (the things you find out when you read more than just stitch dictionaries!) I stitched these samples from “New Stitches for Needlecraft” by Edith John.

An embroidery sampler showing various ways to use Pekinese stitch.

Chicken scratch was never a TAST stitch but it sure is fun.

Chicken scratch embroidery on red gingham

Chicken scratch sampler on red gingham

Closed herringbone stitch is not only a great filling stitch in it’s own right, but you can also fill up a space with shapes filled with closed herringbone stitch. Technically you could do that with any filling stitch but this sampler just shows the idea really well.

Closed herringbone stitch sampler for the TAST embroidery challenge

Filling up the pattern on an area of printed fabric with stitches is another way to fill a space with many different stitches. This one is woven cross stitch.

Woven cross stitch sampler for the TAST embroidery challenge

Gujrati stitch can be used to fill quite large and ornate areas. Worked in a small area like these, it’s also known as Maltese cross stitch.

Shisha and gujrati stitch embroidery sampler on wool.

Chain stitch is a wonderful filling stitch. You can’t go wrong with the classics.

Flower and paisley embroidered with chain stitch filling.

Open chain stitch. I used single units of open chain stitch in one of my very early Beyond TAST samplers to create all of these fillings over felt squares.

Various ways of stitching an embroidered sampler using single units of open chain stitch

There is only one Beyond TAST challenge remaining! My idea for it is currently percolating. It will be fun to see what I end up with!