Embellishment Serendipity

Dean Deerfield © 2008

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One thing I have noticed when looking at antique crazy quilts is the little original free hand drawings people embroidered in the center of the fabric pieces. Flags, dogs, cats, owls and of course flowers: I love these little renditions. I have had fun making little fantasy flowers to use in these pieces. I use silk ribbon, metallic thread, silk and cotton pearl, and special interest threads and yarns. Most of the designs I have pictured here are done with a stem stitch, couching, lazy daisy stitches, French knots and beads. If I add a bow, I make the bow and then sew it on. I couch ribbon or yarn around the outside of the large flowers, and use lazy daisy stitches for most of the smaller petals. Wider silk ribbon also works well for the larger petals. Use anything that works for you. None of this is written in stone, it is a trial and error process.

I have numbered the flowers. My comments on individual flowers will not be in numerical order. The numbers are just a reference for you to know which flower I am discussing. I have not made comments on all of the pictures.

The feathery leaf, #6 in the black and white illustration below, is comprised of stem stitches, straight stitches, French knots;  you can add a few beads on top of the French knots. Do the stem, then the straight lines, and then the French knots and add beads. Variegated thread works well. Silk ribbon works, but you need to stay with 2mm or 4mm, and the 4mm needs to be twisted. You will not use as many lines with the ribbon. Beads arenít needed if metallic thread is used. This design looks pretty on a block and the color combinations are endless.

Snowflakes, #12, offer a lot of variety and are easy to draw.

The dots at the end of the straight stitches on illustration #1 can be French knots or beads.

Flower #3 is French knots that go from small to large. This effect can be accomplished by changing the size of the ribbon or using clusters of small French knots, or wrapping more times when you make your knot.

Flower #8 looks good with beads; illustration #9 is three buttons in three different sizes, and flower #11 uses silk ribbon. I use two sizes of ribbon to make the petals. I almost always use beads with silk ribbon. If I am in a hurry I will use knots at the end of the lines, but I usually bead.

Flowers like #13 and #14 are a lot of fun to play with. I use wide ribbon on large flowers like these, and then I go back and use threads on top of the ribbon for shading. The circles are French knots, but could be beads.

So many old crazy quilts have no lace on them, but a lot of embroidery in each patch. I love sewing embellishments every where on my blocks, but it takes a lot of time. Once in a while I enjoy making blocks that only have stitches on the seams, and embroidery in the center of the patches. It is a nice break. Donít be afraid to do a design of your own. The child-like drawings are what I love. Sketch it out on paper and if you donít like it, toss it, and do something else. Trace around a pretty leaf. It is fun to come up with your own designs.

I have embroidered a few of the flowers to show you how they look when finished. These flowers are very simple to do. I did all of the embroidery work on paper, so it is not wonderful, but you can get an idea what they look like finished.

I didnít sew beads on any of the samples, because of time and the fact that they donít show up very well in pictures. You can see how the feather looks in picture #6. This is always a popular embellishment with my students. It goes together fast, can be any size, and the finished work is always pretty.

Flower # 14 in the picture above did not work out the way I expected it to. I just changed my plan, filled the flower in with silk ribbon, and reshaped the top with French knots. I left three blooms so you can see the difference. You will have that happen sometimes. It is so easy to embroider over silk ribbon, you can make these changes. Donít try to take the ribbon out and re-do it, the ribbon will be all messed up. Just sew over what is already there and it will work like a cushion and create a nice look.

Hopefully you will get motivated to be creative and come up with your own Serendipity Flowers.

Happy New Year to All!

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