Saturday, 19 August 2017

Experiments with Rhodes Stitch on Plastic Canvas

It's the weekend and here at Bobbin and Fred HQ it's sunny with a chance of sewing. I've been binging on geometric prints and thinking about ways to interpret them in hand stitch.

I started where many great ideas begin their journey into fruition, on Pinterest of course! I searched high and low for Arabesque patterns and pinned my favourites to this board.

I've always loved this style of pattern; bright, busy, colourful geometrics are my catnip. I'd love to bring more of them into my living space, wardrobe and my needlepoint and I'm hoping you might too and would like to read how I'm approaching it.
Armed with an idea of what I'd like the stitch pattern to look like, I started looking at needlepoint stitches that would mix and match to create repeats with.

The Octagonal Rhodes Stitch and Diagonal Framed French Knot appealed to me so I started by mixing a thread palette and having a go...

DMC Embroidery Floss and Rhodes Stitch on plastic canvas

When I'd finished I thought I'd struck gold first time! The stitch combination worked well for me and I loved the pop of colour. I'm definitely getting the Moroccan, tiled vibe from this.

I have a project designed and am looking for how to stitch it so in the back of my mind was that this will become an all over repeat pattern on a product, like a purse, so I messed around with it in GIMP (a fab, free alternative to Photoshop) to see how it'd look on en masse...

Needlepoint sample, Rhodes Stitch and Diagonal Framed French Knot


I'm not quite sure what it is that makes me recoil and want to run for cover but this evokes all kinds of wrong. I just don't know where to look?!

I think in small doses, like on an edge of a cuff, it'd work nicely but when I look at a lot of it all together my insides scream 'no, no, nooooo!'

I love the colours but that blue, wow, it's just so bright and overpowering! I also love the subtle combination of the two shades of red and so for my next stab I had a go at showing that off a bit more. 

I swapped the blue for purple and peach...

Canvaswork stitch experiments, Rhodes stitch and french knot

Aaah. It's definitely easier on the eye, isn't it?

I love how the introduction of another colour helps define the centre of the diagonally framed French knots and the peach borders create more of a Moorish tile effect but now the purple doesn't work for me.

On a peach high I decided to use that for the Rhodes Stitch and use the two shades of pink to create texture and dimension...
Embroidery sample on plastic canvas: rhodes stitch

I got a bit frustrated by this point so I didn't stitch all of this sample but I adore the colour combination.

That peach with the deep pinky reds rocks my world. 

I don't know if we're ready for a peach revival but I for one am trailblazing for the love of peach, will anyone join me?

Although I didn't finish this sample I realised the stitch size wasn't right for what I wanted but that I liked the effect of using different colours to create the middle of the diagonal framed French knots and wanted to carry that forward.

I felt like I'd lost sight of what I wanted the overall pattern to look like and what colours I wanted to see on a final piece. I love bright colours but I also wanted sophistication.

When I get in a bit of a muddle I usually like to burn everything and try again. 

Not literally! No pieces of needlepoint were set on fire during this experiment.

I just mean scrap everything that isn't working, in this instance the colourway and the stitch size, and choose afresh.

I went back to my Pinterest board for colour inspiration and selected some more DMC embroidery floss...

Embroidery Floss DMC 598, 597, 3808, 3348, 3804

I decided to make the stitch bigger and to play around even more with the colours in the french knot sections and this is what I came up with...

French knot stitch experiment by Bobbin and Fred

I LOVE this combination of colour and stitch but I think the Rhodes stitches still recede which is a shame.

The only aspect of this that isn't working for me now is how much of the plastic canvas is visible between the strands of the Rhodes stitches.

I love working with plastic canvas because it's so friendly on my hands and the construction possibilities are endless but I don't like being able to see it.

The only way I could think of combating that was to add extra thread so the stitch fills up as much of the canvas as possible.

The problem with that is I knew I would end up with too many strands of thread to pass through each hole where the sides of the Rhodes stitches met. The holes are ready made and don't stretch...I've tried forcing it through and broken the canvas before now and I didn't want a repeat of that, also it's just not easy on the hands or enjoyable to try and force thread through a hole.

I decided to separate out the Rhodes stitches and fill in the space with cross stitch.

Here it is:

Light blue, teal and pink embroidery samply by bobbin and fred

For this I added 1 extra strand to the Rhodes stitch octagons so I had 5 in total rather than the 4 in the previous experiments and I took extra care to spread the thread evenly over the canvas.

I used 2 strands for the cross stitch because the holes on the 14 count plastic canvas aren't large enough to accommodate the 20 odd strands of threads I would've had in some places if I'd have continued with the first layout.

That left me with a different shape left between them so I did a kind of hashtag stitch with 3 strands of pink.

I love the fuller look of the Rhodes stitches and how they stand out now but I think the cross stitch around them is too heavy and the pink hashtags are far from chic!

So, I had another shot at it:

Plastic canvas and needlepoint sample by Bobbin and Fred

This time round I reduced the amount of cross stitches and filled the centre with what I'm going to call an exploding eyelet stitch (if this has an official name, please do let me know!) and a french knot that spans two holes of the canvas.

I'm ADORE this result! I think it's gorgeous.

So much so I made a thread palette out of it and pinned it to my Thread Palettes board on Pinterest.

Check it out for a delicious dose of thread colour inspiration to use in your own embroidery projects!

DMC 598, 597, 3808, 3348, 3804 thread palette

Next I plan to experiment with swapping the colours around and seeing how it effects the overall look of the pattern. I will be using this stitch combo in a project very soon. If you're curious to find out what it will become, follow along to find out.

Bobbin and Fred have teamed up to teach you how to do the Rhodes stitch over on their Hand Stitch SOS post: How to do an Octagonal Rhodes Stitch. 

If my experiments have inspired you to pick up your needle and thread, Bobbin and Fred would love to see what you come up with. Show us on Instagram or drop us an email.

Goat with speech bubble inviting post shares

Thursday, 27 July 2017

How To Make a Plastic Canvas Phone Pouch

Protect your phone with this cute Fair Isle Tent Stitch Pouch. It's sturdy, hard-wearing and even splash proof! There really is no greater way for a stitcher to look after their device. Stay true to the pattern and recreate the one I made or personalise it with your favourite colours.

Plastic canvas phone pouch tutorial and pattern

When I first discovered plastic canvas projects it was with a mixture of horror and delight. Horror at the very dated projects out there and delight at the forms and shapes that can easily be created without all the faff of fabrics. It is awesome for 3D embroidery!

The other attraction is that an entire plastic canvas project can be sewn anywhere. That's really handy for someone like me who's mostly restricted to bed. Don't worry though, you don't have to make like a 50s housewife and sew in your bed too, you can make this wherever you like.

Sew it on your lunch break or on your daily commute, in front of the telly or even by the pool on your holidays, you name it, you can sew it there...maybe not in the bath...but hey, the heart wants what the heart wants and maybe you can make that work in a way that I never could.

Plastic canvas is really quick and easy to sew and you can learn the best way to tent stitch for a super neat front and back with full coverage on Bobbin and Fred's Stitch SOS post: How to Tent Stitch on Plastic Canvas

If you do it right the inside of your phone pouch will look like this one does...check out that gorgeous little sliver at the opening to see what I'm talking about.

Back of tent stitch on plastic canvas

Woah! Fred (the goat) just swooned a little. He's a sucker for a beautiful finish.

Now you know how to tent stitch, let's get down to business. I bought a new phone and wanted a durable yet stylish cover I could make myself. Me and Bobbin were eying up fair isle designs in Mary Jane Mucklestone's book 150 Scandinavian Motifs and my wool stash when inspiration struck! And this is what we came up with...

Plastic canvas phone cover and keyring

Cute, right?

Want to make your own? Brilliant! Read on...

This pattern will make a pouch that will fit a 5.11x2.59x0.46" phone. It fits my Moto G perfectly. You could easily scale it up by drawing around your phone and continuing the repeat pattern.

You Will Need:
1x 10.5x13.5" sheet of 10 Count Plastic Canvas
DK yarn (worsted if you're in the US) in 5 colours. I used Drops Karisma in Petrol (73), Dark Mustard (52) and Wine Red (48)
Anchor Tapestry Wool shades 7078 and 7538 for the center of the flowers
Craft scissors
Tapestry needle - I like size 22's best
Fabric Waterproofing Spray
The Stitch Chart:
Fair isle phone pouch cross stitch chart

1. Cut the canvas taking care to ensure all the edges are all straight and smooth. Cut corners in the diagonal taking care not to cut too close. Follow the stitch chart for the front and back of the phone pouch.

Tent stitch on plastic cnavas in fair isle design

 2. Cut a 13.5" length three stitches wide and tent stitch the entire length. This is will become the side of your pouch. You should now have a front, back and side.

Tent stitch fair isle design and balls of drops karisma wool

3. Now it's time to cover the top edges of the front and back panels and the short ends of the side strip with over cast stitch. All you do is push your needle from the back to the front through the first hole in the top row.

Overcast edges of plastic canvas

4. Push your needle through both corner holes three times and use your finger to spread the wool so it completely covers the plastic. 

5. Continue stitching along the row, pushing your needle through each hole twice. Make sure your stitches encase the end of the thread so it doesn't come undone. It should look a little something like this...

6. After you've over cast stitched all the edges it's time to construct the pouch. It's a bit fiddly to start with but bare with me...

Anchor your thread into the backs of the stitches at the top of the side piece. Then hold the side to the edge of the front piece at a right angle. Join the two edges together by over cast stitching as you did before, this time passing through the top hole of the side and the top hole of the front.

7. Continue working your way down the side, passing your needle through each hole twice.

8. At the corners, wrap the side around and continue sewing. The right-hand side will look slightly different to the left due to the direction the tent stitch runs in. Sew through all of the holes on the front that have been sewn and all of the holes on the side, you should expect to pass your needle through some holes more than twice to work round the corner and ensure all the canvas is completely covered.


9. When you're done the corner should look nice and neat like this... 

10. Keep sewing until you reach the top of the other side of the front. Then repeat Steps 6-10 to attach the back panel to the other side.

11. Spray your phone cover with the Fabric Waterproofing Spray as per the instructions on the can and bam! your phone pouch is complete and ready for use a.k.a show off to your mates!

I really hope you've enjoyed making this project as much as I did. Mum's got a new phone and has asked for a cover so I'm going to design another one for her. I'll be sure to share it with you all!

If the matching keyring's caught your eye, you'll be glad to know I'll be showing you how to make that soon. Follow along by email so you don't miss out.

Bobbin's Design Tip: You can make this in any colourway you fancy! If you're not colour confident try swapping the shade of primary colours (red, yellow and blue) to shades of tertiary (purple, orange and green).
Bobbin and Fred (and me) would LOVE to see your version...if you'd like to share it with us tag it with #sewbobbin on Instagram and we will share our favourites.

Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Flip Flop DIY - How to make your feet sparkle!

Embellish your flip flops with the magic of hand stitch and easy-to-master beading techniques!

diy flip flops, nail varnish and necklace

I've shed my socks, bought new nail varnish and given myself a pedicure so it's with great glee and very sexy feet that I can announce Summer has arrived! And with it so has my yearly tradition of Pimp My Flip Flops.

I used to buy a pair of pretty flip flops from Accessorize at the beginning of every summer spending between £12-15. At the end of the season I'd chuck them in the bin and repeat. Roll on 2014 and I was thinking about how I could curb my spending to gain greater control of my finances (after all, a 'love of economy is the route of all virtue') when I spotted a comfy but very plain seagrass pair in Asda for a mere £3! That day, unable to resist a bargain and knowing I had a stash of beads begging to be used, a challenge was born.

Black flip flops with pink and purple beads

Pimp My Flip Flops is now in its fourth year and so in time-honoured tradition I ordered myself a pair of Asda's finest and raided my bead stash. I'd love for other hand stitch enthusiasts to pimp their own flip flops so I'm sharing how I glitzyfied mine in the hope of inspiring you to join me!

Flower Flip Flops

Pair of plain flip flops
96x Size 9 Gold Beads
12x 18mm Lilac Shell Discs
12x 10mm Fuschia Shell Discs
(I bought mine from Beads Needs UK)
8x 10mm Lilac Acrylic Flatback Flower Rhinestones
8x 12mm Fuchsia Acrylic Flatback Round Rhinestones
(I got mine from a friend but I'm guessing Hobbycraft or Ebay is a good bet)
Pre-waxed Nylon Beading Thread in Black (or to match the colour of your flip flop strap)
General Sewing Needle
Craft Scissors
Bead Fantasies II by Takako Samejima

1. Using the fishing line and 60 of the Size 9 Gold Beads make two gold beaded beads following the instructions in this video: How to make a Crystal Ball. The instructions are in two parts, make sure you follow both or you'll only have half a ball and no one wants that. The finishing instructions are a little vague in the video tutorial so I've added some extra info to help make it clearer.

To finish the beaded beads, thread one end of the fishing line through the other beads in that round so that the ends of the fishing line are next to each other. 

How to make a simple beaded bead

Tie an over under knot to secure.

Easy woven bead tutorial

Thread the ends of the fishing line back through the beads on either side of the knot and trim the ends to finish.

Soccer Bead Tutorial

2. Make two beaded flowers following Takako's instructions on page 12 of Bead Fantasies II. I've adapted the pattern to make the flowers even more spectacular. For my version thread two shell beads at a time and use the beaded balls for the centre of the flower. When you thread the shell beads make sure they all face the same way.

To thread the beaded ball, bring the two ends of fishing line up through the holes of one set of shell disc beads, pass the line through the centre of the beaded ball and down through the holes of the discs opposite.

shell beads woven into a flower

3. Turn the flower over and tie an over under knot on the back and thread the ends through the gold beads on either side. Take care when you tie the knot; you want all of the petals to be secure but if you pull too hard it'll end up looking squashed.

4. Turn the flower back over and arrange the petals so they overlap prettily.  You should be able to arrange the lilac ones and then the pink so they fit nicely inside each other.

shell beads in flower shape
5. It's time to sew everything onto the straps of your flip flops! Thread the needle with the super strong nylon thread, secure it to the outside strap of one sandal and pass it through the loops underneath the flower.

6. Keep sewing through the loops, attaching the flower to the flip flop at lots of points so it's really securely on there. When you pass the needle through the bottom of the flip flop push it in between the two layers of fabric that the straps are made up of to move to the next spot. This means the thread won't rub against the tops of your feet and potentially break as it'll be safe between the two layers of strap fabric. When you turn your straps over you shouldn't see any thread underneath.

hand stitch flip flop strap

7. It's time to raid your rhinestone stash! Is there any greater joy than rummaging through these sparkly, colourful decorations? Answers welcome in the comments below.

Multicoloured gems

8. Check out the close up of the straps to see the order I stitched the beads and glued the flower rhinestones on in. As you sew make sure you hide the thread that would show underneath by passing the needle between the double layer of fabric the straps are made from. By the time you're done you'll have a series of tiny pin-prick stitches underneath but they won't rub so your decorations will be secure and last the whole summer at least!

Shell flower flip flops tutorial

For more inspiration here's the pair I decorated last year...

shell beads and sequin flip flops

Have I inspired you to join the challenge and pimp your own flip flops? I'd love to see your results, email me a picture or tag me on Instagram.

If you enjoyed this post, I'd be very grateful if you'd help spread it by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on Facebook or Pinterest.  Thank you!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

How I Designed and Got My Sewing Project into Needlepoint Now Magazine

Embroidered Necklace, Earrings and Bracelet by Bobbin and Fred

This is my Belle Jewellery Set. Looking at it you may not imagine it began life as a rather shabby set of sketches in my 99p pad. To look at it now all you see is it looking gorgeous and polished (toot toot) having just been published as a tutorial in May/June's issue of Needlepoint Now, complete with a fantastic interview conducted and written by June Russell-Chamberlain. How June made sense out of my garbled yet enthusiastic answers I'll never know but she did and now I'm one very happy designer with a feature in a magazine I enjoy.

woman reading magazine

So much of what we designers do is done behind closed doors and, though not secret, is a bit of a mystery. All of our mistakes, dodgy sketches and failed attempts are swept under the proverbial carpet we roll out to display our expertly made and beautifully designed wares upon.

I've met good designers who kept their sketchbooks hidden because they didn't look pretty enough or the drawings were crude, hell, I've even hidden my own until now, but I've come to realise just because a drawing isn't very good doesn't mean the finished piece won't be, nor does it make me (or you) any less skilled at what we do.

The Belle Jewellery Set wasn't the first collection of needlepoint jewellery I made; there have been lots of finished pieces and attempts that didn't quite make it! For example, the earrings began life over a year ago. When I first designed them I'd been looking at tribal jewellery and motifs and I wanted to echo the shapes I found in my research. Blinded by desire, I wanted the embroidered portion to be in the shape of a semi-circle...not an easy feat for a rigid canvas made up of squares. 

earrings sketches and stitch samples

Some sketches, stitch samples and even the beginnings of a finished piece later and I finally admitted defeat. The stitched design was supposed imitate the bottom half of the silver ring to give an impression of a ring interlaced with a semi-circle. A nice idea that was a total failure! I didn't like the sharp corners or the pixelated circular form either; it felt clumpy and ugly in my hands so I jumped ship. Back at my graph paper pad I licked my wounds and decided to keep it simple.

I picked the square design at the top right of the page and that simplistic, misshapen line drawing became these earrings...

handstitched earrings by Bobbin and Fred

Whilst all this was going on I set up an Instagram account and posted the best photos of the things I'd designed and made in recent years. If Instagram is a mystery to you, Jessica of LycetteDesigns has written a fantastic and comprehensive article (also in the May/June issue) that will get you started! With the help of hashtags and some lovely folks I garnered a few followers in the process and decided to show my makes to Elizabeth at Needlepoint Now. She thought their readers would enjoy learning how to make my needlepoint jewels and we both hoped they'd inspire a new generation of needlepointers.

Success! I'd scored a feature in an American magazine! Now I just needed to design something to share with their readers. I knew two things: one, I had to wow them, and two, I really wanted to push the earring design further and see what else I could do with Norwich stitch squares. Armed with the knowledge my tutorial would be in the June issue, I decided to make a set to accessorize a wedding outfit with, so I grabbed my pens and got sketching.

jewelry sketches by Bobbin and Fred

I wanted to carry the silver ring motif through the design so I looked at ways to join and decorate it. I loved (and still love) the idea of the squares being freestanding, it's something I plan to go back to but at the time I couldn't see a way to make it work. I went with a cuff style bracelet instead as it gave me a backdrop to appliqué the squares on to.

Jewelry Design Sketches by Bobbin and Fred

With my trusty red and yellow pens in hand, I began more finely plotting the stitched design and looking at different beaded edges. I also floated the idea of using oval rings as I wasn't sure if the circular ones would curve around the wrist. I still like the idea of using ovals but I couldn't find anywhere to buy them so I ditched that and put blind faith into those little silver 10mm rings.

Jewelry design ideas for needlepoint now and colours

A bit more sketching later and it was mood board time! Who can resist putting their sketches and colour selections on a page, scrapbook style? Not me, no way. I chose colours based on the trend forecasts for Spring/Summer 2017. For the bracelet I originally planned to use two colours. I was imagining a green lattice around pink beaded squares to create a design reminiscent of roses growing on a vine, a sort of wearable abstract English garden...all right, you caught me, I'm waxing lyrical, that was going through my mind but I also thought it'd just look really pretty.

Next, I did a bit of experimenting to see if linking the squares with the rings would work. It didn't. The chunkier design won through process of elimination. At this point I was about 80% sure I could make it. I decided to leave it in my mind's cooking pot and crack on with the rest.

What I love about Norwich stitch is that the threads lay flat and you can mix them to create a painterly effect so I had a few goes at mixing the threads to get a tone I liked. Here are a couple of my attempts that survived the day I'll make them into something else.

Plastic canvas stitch sample

To buy myself some thinking time I made the earrings and necklace first. I knew they'd be straight forward as I'd already made a few pairs, albeit in a larger size, and the necklace is pretty much two earrings joined together. While I stitched, photographed and wrote up how to make them I thought about how to make the bracelet.

Pink Needlepoint Necklace and Earrings by Bobbin and Fred

Most of my designing goes on in my head. In my line of life I get a tonne of thinking time and not much doing time. So I thought about it a lot. I thought through every possible way of making it, I thought about every problem I would come up against and I thought about how I could solve every single one. Some I couldn't and that was fine, I simply kept coming up with alternatives until I found one that worked and most importantly, looked great.

By the time I'd finished I had a pretty good idea about how to make the bracelet and I couldn't delay it any longer if I was going to meet the deadline. First I stitched all the bits I was certain of and then I started making a maquette (in fancy speak) or a small, scrappy and rather anemic section of the bracelet (in everyday chat). I worked out where to cut the canvas on the maquette, how the needlepoint filling the space between the Norwich stitches would look and how to do the edging. I also worked out how to sew on the clasp but I had to cut it off and sew it onto the final piece so that isn't in the picture.

maquette for bracelet design by Bobbin and Fred

As I worked out each part on the maquette I applied it to the final bracelet until I had a finished piece in my hands. In the end I decided to show some restraint and leave the beaded edging in favour of the pretty scalloped one because I felt having beads along the top and bottom would detract from the design's central motif.

Pink Needlepoint bracelet by Bobbin and Fred

That's how I designed and got my hand stitched jewellery set into an American magazine, and how you could too!

If you'd like to learn how to make your own Belle Jewellery Set you can do so in May/June's issue of Needlepoint Now.

And the crafty goodness doesn't have to end there! You can also make a gift box to pop it all in over on my post 'How to Make a Large Presentation Gift Box for the Belle Jewellery Set'.

If you enjoyed this post, I'd be very grateful if you'd help spread it by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!