Archive for the ‘Featured Project’ Category

Featured Project – The Steampunk Prom Dress

As you’ll see throughout the day, we’re all about steampunk today, and we’re kicking off our geartastic celebrations with an amazing Steampunk Prom Dress project that almost makes me wish for high school again. Almost.

This project is shared with us by Tami, who made this dress for her daughter’s prom. The steampunk dress was her daughter’s idea, and they worked together on designing it to pull it all into this amazing Victorian creation in time for her senior prom! This dress utilizes so many cool pieces, from our bestselling steampunk butterfly to lots of lace pieces used in all kinds of creative ways. I guarantee you no one had a dress like this at my senior prom.

Tami joins us today to talk about the whole process of how it all came together…

How did the idea for a steampunk prom dress come about?

Well … my daughter had wanted a dress that was “really different” than the normal formal gowns. She talked about this last year for the homecoming dance in October, but we decided that her senior prom would be better. That gave us plenty of time to come up with an idea.

Did embroidery inspire the steampunk or did a love of steampunk come before the embroidery?

The embroidery definitely inspired the love of steampunk. Once we started looking through your designs we were so excited. She loved the steampunk designs she was seeing on your site. She knew she wanted to incorporate a corset into the look, but when she saw your Clockwork Natura gown that got her creativity going. Then she started looking more at the steampunk style of clothing.

Talk us through all the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?

It took us a long time just to decide what designs we wanted. They were all so awesome. We finally decided on the Steampunk Butterfly for the front of the corset. We liked that because it had a feminine look, but still had all the gears. The corset is a gold satin fabric, but then we found this awesome sheer gold/black fabric and we decided to layer that. I embroidered that piece before I stitched the corset together.

We loved that, so decided to make the entire corset like that, but it seemed like it still needed more since it still felt rather plain looking. I decided to embroider the Gears and Cogs border down each side. That definitely added the extra pizzazz we were looking for! That’s where the whole project started — with the corset.

I made the jacket next. The Steampunk Wings design was perfect for the back. A nice large design that really gets your attention. We decided that it also needed a little more, so I again embroidered the Gears and Cogs around the sleeve cuffs.

Once I got the jacket finished, we thought the tails looked a little blah … so yet again I embroidered the Gears and Cogs border on the tails. Perfect! I’m not really sure how long the embroidery took, because I worked on it little by little. But I know I had many hours invested.

Did you design the dress and jacket yourself, or was it based off a pattern? 

My daughter had an idea what she wanted. We found many patterns and she chose one piece from each pattern (jacket from one pattern, corset from another, etc.). She also wanted the skirt to be a little higher in the front so everyone could see her new boots, so I had to alter the skirt for that. The overskirt is made of that awesome sheer fabric that we used on the corset. If you look at it one direction it shines a beautiful metallic gold, and looking at it from another direction it looks black.

The overskirt is a separate piece, so she can make different looks from the same dress pieces. We decided to make the corset from a pattern that had a zipper up the back so it would be easier to get into. But she really liked the idea of the lacing up the back, so I put little loops in the seams so we could lace it up for the look without the hassle. The corset originally was strapless, but we wanted the extra security of straps. It was made for prom, and she would definitely be dancing all evening. We used your FSL Steampunk Choker design. I stitched four of those out and then stitched small eyelets on the corset. We used black sheer ribbon to tie them onto the corset and to tie them together at the shoulders.

When it was all finished, I added some metal gears to the jacket collar and a lock above the tails. I also added a lock to the front top of the corset. I stitched out your FSL Floral Facinator for her hair. I used a gold color for the leaves and a deep red for the flowers. To make that more steampunk we added a chain and some keys hanging down. She wanted a pair of gauntlets to wear on her arms because she knew she would not be wearing the jacket all evening. I made those myself with no pattern. We decided to use velcro inside the arms to make them easier to get on and off. This way the lacing never has to be removed. I spent several weeks putting everything together, just working on it little by little.

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying to create something like this?

There were many challenges. The fabric we chose was extremely difficult to work with. It wanted to shift as I was cutting the pieces and stitching it together. Once I had it done, we decided that it needed an underskirt to give it a small amount of volume, so there was another piece to the outfit! But the results were worth all the headaches. My advice to anyone wanting to create something like this is to allow plenty of time. Don’t try to rush through it. I embroidered many designs on extra scraps of the dress fabric and we looked at them for days before we decided which ones we wanted.

If you make one piece at a time and really work at each one until you are happy, the task doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to combine patterns or ideas. If you like one piece from a pattern, but something else from another, DO IT!

How did your daughter like it? What were people’s reactions to the dress at the prom? 

My daughter was absolutely thrilled. She couldn’t wait to wear it. Her grandma thought it fit her personality perfectly. We live in a very small rural community. About half the people at the dance thought it was awesome. The other half “just didn’t get it” … lol.

Needless to say, no other girls had a dress that even came close. And the whole idea for me was to make her happy. I didn’t care who else would like it or not. It was the perfect dress for her.

What’s your next project going to be?

I think my next big project will be Halloween costumes for my husband and myself. Not sure yet what we’ll be, but my embroidery machine runs every day. I’ve always got something in the works!

Everything came together so wonderfully! Thank you so much for sharing, Tami — this is such an amazing gift to give your daughter for her big prom night. From the jacket to the corset, to handmade gauntlets and lace fascinators, a custom made steampunk gown is certainly a totally unique way to rock the night away. I bet it made it a night to remember.

I’ll be keeping an eye out around Halloween for more amazing outfits, and I hope you’re a fan of the new steampunk stuff coming your way later today!

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at blog@urbanthreads.com or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Featured Project – The Apothecary Kitchen

For this new Featured Project, stitcher Bonnie has gone above and beyond the call of duty for her daughter and created a whole set of stunning accessories for a slightly witchy, apothecary themed kitchen!

What started out as a simple sachet soon turned into a roman shade, and then a whole set of apothecary towels that helped transform this kitchen into a space fit for cooking up some grand mischief.

Bonnie joins us today to talk about the inspiration behind the kitchen and how the whole thing came together…

Talk about what inspired this. How did the idea for this kitchen get started?

The kitchen belongs to my daughter, who is Velma Nightshade, hostess of the pagan podcast WitchesBrewHaHa. That fact is only one part of the inspiration. For her, the kitchen began at a Hallmark store at Halloween some years ago when they had a selection of apothecary jars listing various sinister contents and a spider infused covered apothecary glass candle. It was a great and unfortunately unique inspiration on their part.

Since then she has added large glass canisters of various shapes in place of traditional kitchen canisters. Her love of the old, eclectic, and slightly witchy is evident and quite suitable. (The black stemware was from a friend’s failed marriage, the stained glass witch, from a trip to Salem, MA. and several items were found in an antique store she frequents looking for inspiration.)

What make you choose the Apothecary series?

When she came to visit in May last year, I had only shortly before discovered your site through a mention on Embroidery Library. We took a look and were so excited that the wish list I had started became a must have list. She fell in love with the Paris items, since that has been one of her dream destinations for years, and the Nightshade connection became a requirement. That led to the Apothecary set, and we were off. It seemed only appropriate since the kitchen was already headed in that direction.

Which designs did you use? How long did it all take?

I had already made the Raven’s Claw Tea as a towel, but I purchased the original six Apothecary designs in May and went on a cyber hunt for towels to embroider. I finally gave up on that, but I did not buy the fabric until mid September. I used three yards of Kona Cotton in ivory from Hancock Fabrics for the towels, and Baby Lock Ellageo for the embroidery and a Baby Lock Grace for the sewing and leafy hem design.

The designs I started with were from the small Apothecary Design Pack. I had finished these six by Christmas when my daughter came to visit. By then I had purchased the two new small sized Apothecary designs, Witch Hazel and Poison which came out in October, along with Dark Elegance Border and Cobweb Corner and the largest Apothecary Sign. I bought more fabric for the window valence to get the length needed, since the width was too short.

I work full time, make crafts and edit the monthly newsletter for Dogwood Crafters in Dillsboro, NC, and also made a pillow for my grandson and granddaughter for Christmas, so my time for this project was intermittent. I shipped the entire set in mid-March, which for me was amazing! I think the decision making took the longest, since we were not both in the same state. Several fabric samples and photos of the layout of the valence went back and forth.

Talk about all the towels on the cabinets. How are they attached?

Once Velma received the set, she did not want to use them for fear of possibly messing them up. She could not figure out how to display all eight towels at once with only one oven handle. I was delighted with the cabinet door solution. All of the towels are the same finished size: 12 ¾ X 23 ¾ (pre-washed), and they are just folded in different ways and then attached using loops of strong tape with the sticky side out.

The loop is made around the top fold around the back of the towel, which, since the sticky side is facing the front on this side, supports the fold and weight and holds down the front a bit, and then the sticky side continues around the back facing the cabinet door. The two towels above the microwave are done the same way, but they are secured at the top and then under the embroidery to mimic the shape of the cabinet door. The Witch Hazel label to the right of the microwave is simply folded to be narrower, again to mimic the shape of the door. This one, since it is bulkier because of the narrowness, is also secured at the very bottom. The Apothecary sign above the Roman shade is tacked along the top to the support for the actual shade.

What did you put on your roman shade, including  all the fun stuff hanging down from it?

Before starting the Apothecary towels, I had made her the Madame Nightshade’s Beauty Emporium Bag, which is in her bathroom. I made the smaller size as a surprise for her for Christmas, which is the one on her roman shade. The Antique Key I made in many copies for myself, for her, and for her friends. I put two side by side in the hoop to reduce “travel” time. The key specifically was put up as a representation of security and safety in the house.

There are several other items collected over the years, including a sign on which Velma wrote out a simple meal blessing, a corn dolly made during an Autumn Equinox celebration several years ago, a little silver piggy bank ornament to represent prosperity, a pentacle pendant as a sign of her spiritual path, a Ganesha charm – the elephant-headed Hindu god of removing obstacles (put up in an attempt to help keep Velma’s cats from being underfoot in the kitchen) and several other witchy decorations. Things are added to the shade frequently and this is the thing that changes in the kitchen most consistently.

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying a similar project?

I did have some difficulty getting the fabric hooped tightly enough that the designs did not pull (a common problem I have.) The large Apothecary sign gave me trouble, so I cut it out like a patch and then appliquéd it onto the valance fabric once the other designs were finished. I might suggest that solution for any of the larger sizes of these designs, since the edges are so well finished that they do not come loose when cut out.

Had we planned to put the individual designs onto cabinet doors, I would have cut and sewn the sizes accordingly. However, if she ever wants to change their use, she has a matched set of towels. A more permanent attachment process might happen in the future, but without harming the door itself, the strong tape seems to be the best solution at this point.

Any comments on your new apothecary kitchen from visitors?

Since it is such a recent addition, very few people have seen it. The entire house has a rather witchy esthetic, so the kitchen fits in well with its surroundings. Most comments have been about how the towels look like they belong on the cabinets and how they fill out the apothecary feel of the kitchen.

What’s your next project going to be?

The Tarot cards are waiting for a good deal of ambition and perhaps retirement in a year or so. In the mean time, probably something from Celtic Majesty or maybe the Crazy Cat Lady head the list. Maybe I’ll try sewing out Pi in a variegated color thread. There are so many wonderfully fun designs that I will keep myself plenty busy and my daughters and grandchildren well supplied.

I just might make something for myself next….

Thanks so much for sharing Bonnie! You’re a fantastic mum for helping your daughter create such a cool kitchen, and the results really speak for themselves. That’s a whole lot of stitching in one place, and it’s so great to see the designs come together like that. I do also hope you get time to stitch some stuff for yourself, I’m sure it will be equally amazing.

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at blog@urbanthreads.com or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Featured Project – Baroque Jacket Redux

When we posted our Baroque Punk Jacket a little while back, I hoped it would inspire some folks to try the designs out in a similar fashion. Well I got my wish, and it’s just as awesome as I hoped it would be! Stitcher Krista took inspiration from the jacket and made it her own, stitching her creation from scratch and even adding some quilted panel inspiration for a truly stunning couture piece.

She talks a little with us today about the inspiration behind the piece, and a lucky find at a fabric shop that helped pull the jacket together…

Talk about what inspired this. What’s the story behind your jacket? How did it get started?

I had actually seen the jacket on StitchPunk done with the Baroque Punk designs and bought a studded blazer to embroider the designs on.  Then I remembered a pattern that I had bought a few months ago (Simplicity SUEDEsays 2056) that I thought would compliment the designs nicely.  

I was on a quilting shop hop and found the coolest quilting panel that tied in with the vision in my mind.  I was going to the Houston Rodeo Cook-Off in February and needed something awesome to wear.  It all tied together and has become one of my new favorite jackets!

Tell us a bit about the pattern you used. Did you modify it at all?

I made the jacket off of Simplicity SUEDEsays 2056.  I did some alterations to the jacket, changed the sleeve so the embroidery would fit.  I also added a lining to the jacket. 

What made you choose the Baroque Punk series? Which designs did you choose?

I loved the Baroque Punk designs when I saw them and started thinking about how I could use them.  I used the Baroque Punk Swallow on the front,  Baroque Punk Revolvers and  Baroque Punk Roses on the back,  Baroque Punk Roses on the right sleeve and Baroque Punk Heart Locket on the left sleeve.

How long did it all take?

The whole jacket took about a week to design, embroider and construct. I took the quilt panel and cut it to pieces, using most of the panel.  I did all of the embroidery before sewing the jacket together.  Adding a lining to the jacket gave it a nice, finished look.  After it was all put together, I added over 600 Swarovski rhinestones by hand in complimenting shades.  

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying a similar project?

The lining was a little challenging, I haven’t ever done a lined jacket.  With the assistance of my mother, who has taught me most of what I know about sewing, it came together beautifully.  I would recommend just taking your time with a project like this.  And if you’re not an experienced seamstress, I would use a pattern for a lined jacket, instead of adding a lining to one.  

What’s your next project going to be?

The business I run tends to run more towards children’s clothing, so I’m not sure what will be next.  Maybe I’ll design a Baroque Punk jacket for my daughter.  

That is a truly gorgeous jacket, Krista. I love how it is both heavily influenced by, yet completely unique from the original Baroque Punk Blazer. It is everything I hoped people would do when making the designs their own!

The colors too are just gorgeous, almost an inversion of the original, and I am just in love with the unique way the fabric panels are incorporated onto the jacket. The shapes and panels just perfectly set off each piece! Topped with a liberal application of jewels, this jacket must have really shone (tee hee) at that Cook-Off. Plus, there isn’t another one like it in the world! My favorite kind of fashion.

I can’t wait to see the next project you dream up — it would be pretty adorable to see a mini version of this jacket for your daughter. I think people of all ages deserve to look this cool!

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at blog@urbanthreads.com or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Featured Project- The Wonderland Quilt

Today’s featured project came to us in a fleeting glimpse one day in a flickr roundup, and passed without another mention. That was a terrible shame. This quilt was simply too gorgeous to let by without comment, so we found its creator, Tuesday, and asked her to share a few more details (and exclusive photos!) with us about this wonderful whimsical Wonderland Quilt.

I wonder if there are any more “w” words I’m overlooking here. Wistful? Wise? Wow-inducing?

Now I’m just reaching. I’ll go grab my thesaurus and get back to you. In the meantime, let’s let Tuesday tell us a bit about what went in to this creation…

Talk about what inspired this. What’s the story behind this quilt? How did it get started?

The Alice designs on your site inspired me to make this quilt and transform my bedroom into an Alice in Wonderland theme. I feel that as you are dreaming you are entering through the looking glass into another realm.

What embroidery designs did you use? How did you go about designing it?

I wanted the quilt to be light in color to set off the embroidery designs (which I just love), with the designs in brown and pink and pink satin squares to soften and add visual interest.

I also used other designs from Urban Threads that I thought would go with my overall design. I chose the unicorn emblem and the necklace to add a bit of fun whimsy.

Talk us through the process. How long did it all take?

I made the quilt from white linen on point, which means all the squares are turned to form a diamond pattern for the background. I then began by sitting at my embroidery machine all afternoon (at that time I only had a simple Singer Futura which you had to watch closely in case of any thread breaks) and proceeded to make all the designs for the quilt (around 35 in total) with a few remakes due to thread breakage.

I embroidered the designs on a heavier (same color) lightweight muslin, then cut out all the designs leaving a ragged edge which leaves a nice fray as it is washed.  I placed them randomly but aesthetically all over, but thought it still needed more flair, so I came up with adding squares of linen, muslin, and satin at different angles and on top of one another to add a layered effect.

I then used the fancy stitches from my machine to go around all the squares so they look like they were patched on, and made a circular pattern on all the satin squares.  It gives them textural interest as well as feeling really cool to the touch! I sewed all the designs down with a simple straight stitch, going around the edges and tacking down in a few key areas so they were left puffy but secure.

I decided to use a brown flannel geometric print for the back which would keep with the whimsical aspect and match, especially since you would be seeing it on the binding on the front of the quilt as well . Then on to the quilting machine it went with a lightweight batting in the middle. I quilted the main body with a random stippling effect and quilted each square following the edges to the center.

I was at the thrift store later when lo and behold I saw someone had taken the fringe off a bedspread and was for sale for 99 cents (what a find!). I thought it was perfect for the Alice quilt. I came home and sewed the fringe on and it was perfect.

I placed the quilt on my bed and thought it just needed a little something, so I made a matching pillow the same way as I had made the quilt, with a larger design of “Drink Me” in the center, and matching fringe as the final touch. 

The quilt is layered over a deep purple velvet bedspread which peeks out from around the edge. This quilt has started my bedroom on a wonderful transformation –  fun, romantic and with a touch of whimsy. I am a very determined sewer so the quilt only took 2 weeks to make!

Everyone who has seen it just loves it. 

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying a similar project?

I never see a problem, just a different avenue!

Looking back though, I might have made it a little bigger as it is only full size. The only advice I would give is let your imagination run wild, have fun and if something goes a different direction go with it and make it your own.

What’s your next project going to be?

I have many projects in the works all the time as I am a painter, quilter and designer. Right now I have a Mad Hatter quilt in the works, with the hatter in the center of the quilt (at 3 feet tall) with a gorgeous pieced background and butterflies flitting around him. I also have a dragonfly quilt in the works and many more.

I make quilts for friends and family and also to sell, they are truly a piece of my heart.

What a truly gorgeous creation, Tuesday! A quilt like that in only two weeks, that has to be some sort of record. I love that it feels so perfectly contemporary yet traditional all at the same time, and looks so cozy and textural with all those layers and dimension. The perfect quilt to wrap up in and get lost in a good book I think.

By the way, a Wonderland themed bedroom? Yes please…

Featured Project – Apothecary Pillows

Just when you think you’ve thought of everything a design could do, you guys come along and take it in a wonderfully bonkers new direction. We mentioned when we released our Apothecary designs that you could remove the background fill to make them light stitching for pillows. What we never imagined is just what kind of pillows those would turn out to be!

This week’s featured project comes from Allegra, who took our designs and made them into these amazing giant bottle pillows! Neat, all your snake oil remedies now come in conveniently huggable form. Allegra tells us a little about what sparked this cool incarnation, and what went into making them…

This is such a cool incarnation of the designs! What brought you to this idea?

I not sure I could tell you where the idea came from! I have terrible problems getting to sleep, and quite frequently spend hours lying awake in the darkness. So I try and think of fun ideas to keep my brain occupied.

I’ve been really into steampunk for ages now, and one day just before Christmas I had been browsing your lovely steampunky, Victorian-y designs. I’d seen the apothecary labels and been really impressed with them, so when I was lying awake that night I started thinking about what I could stitch them onto. Somewhere in there, the idea of making cushions shaped like medicine bottles jumped out of the night and into my brain, and I decided it had to be done!

Talk us through all the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?

I decided to use the designs for Love Potion, Ether, Tonic, Miracle Cure, Elixir and Liniment because they were the ones that I thought looked most like actual bottle labels. I’m not sure how long they took all together.

With each of them I cut large, square pieces of fabric out of old bedsheets (it’s all about upcycling!) and backed them with lots and lots of stabiliser. Then I just let the machine do its thing! It took maybe an hour or two to stitch out each design. I didn’t want the embroidery to be too ‘heavy’, so I left out the background colours and just stitched the black parts.

After that was done, I’d move on to worrying about the shapes of the cushions themselves :)

Did you make up the pillow shapes on your own? How did those come together?

I started by looking at lots and lots of pictures of actual Victorian medicine bottles. I had already decided that I wanted to do six different designs, so I looked at pictures and doodled on the back of an envelope until I had six distinctive shapes.

I’m really not the kind of person that tries to make everything absolutely perfect, so when the designs were stitched out I just laid the fabric squares out on the floor and drew the bottle shapes around the embroideries with a pencil. Once I’d cut them out, I traced the shapes onto pattern-making card and used those as templates to cut out the back pieces (and to make more bottles!).

Then it was just a matter of sewing the back and front together around most of the way, stuffing them full of fluffy stuff and closing them up by hand.

Simples!

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying a similar project?

The stuffing was probably the biggest problem. I knew I wanted to use recycled toy stuffing, and it took me a little while to find somewhere that I could get it.

And stuffing the cushions took -way- longer than I thought it would do—mainly because I’d chosen to leave the tops of the bottles open, and so all of the stuffing had to be pushed through the narrow ‘necks’ of the bottles. The Sarah Connor Chronicles was very useful in stopping me from going out of my mind while I was doing that!

Still, I think it was probably the best way to do it. If I’d left the bottoms open, I would have spent the rest of my life fighting with fluffy white stuffing to get them closed.

As for advice, I’d say just go for it.

Seriously, I just sort of learn on my feet by experimenting and making mistakes. Most of the time I only have a vague idea of where I’m going, and just wait to see how it turns out!

Have you shown anyone your beautiful pillows and all that embroidery? What are the reactions?

Everyone that’s seen them so far has been really nice about them—but then, most of the people I know are used to being presented with strange, Victorian embroideries and having me look at them with wide, expectant eyes.

I’m really fascinated by all things alchemy, and I wanted to get something of that fascination across in these strange bottle-cushions. That was the most important thing for me while I was working on them and photographing them. And, from the feedback I’ve had so far, I think I managed to get a little bit of the wonder of science-meeting-magic across, so I’m happy!

What are your plans for your beautiful apothecary pillows?

Well, these ones are currently for sale in my Etsy store, and I’ll be making more like them as and when I can find more white/cream colored fabric (old bedsheets from charity shops are the best!).

I also have some different colored sheets, and plans to make brown and green-coloured bottles. I just need to figure out how to make the designs really visible on darker-colored fabric. At the moment, I’m thinking that I’ll do it either by including the background colors in the designs, stitching the text  in white or cream, or trying to improvise some kind of appliqué work-around.

What’s your next project going to be?

I’m not sure just yet! I do a lot of my own embroidery designs—many of which are based on early hot air balloons. I find them utterly beautiful. They really capture the spirit of wonder that was around at the beginning of the Romantic Age. And, because I’m really into steampunk, I’m always looking for ways to combine things like that with more modern and futuristic elements.

One of the ideas I’m knocking around at the moment is to upcycle duvet covers and pillow cases wholesale instead of just cutting them up. I’ve been looking at some of the photographs of nebulas taken by the Hubble telescope, and wondering if it’s possible to dye duvet covers in some of those shifting, wonderful colors. If it works, then I may stitch a simple, sketch-like hot air balloon or two onto it–drifting through the stars.

This may well end in a tangled knot of embroidery thread and purple and blue dye all over my kitchen floor, but you never know until you try, right?

Seriously, would these not be the very best things you could receive when you’re feeling under the weather? Just snuggle with some tonic and feel all better. Thanks Allegra for thinking up such an beautifully simple idea that none of the rest of us thought of, and for your awesomely moody photos. Can’t wait to see what your next brainwave will bring!

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at blog@urbanthreads.com or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Featured Project – Ancestry Quilt

We’ve got an amazing new featured project for you today, one that spans generations of work, pulled together a family of crafters, and traveled back and forth across the country in its journey to being made!

Stitcher Jeanette and her two sisters created this quilt together as part of a thank you to a cousin who had spent many hours gathering treasured history of their family. What started as the idea of a simple wall hanging transformed into this stunning ancestry quilt as the sisters sent it back and fourth across the country to be made.

Jeanette tells us the fascinating story of its creation…

Talk about what inspired this. What’s the story behind this quilt? How did it all get started?

One of our cousins spent most of her adult life gathering genealogy that she compiled into a 500-page book, complete with photos, maps, and copies of all the documents she had found in her quest. She recently sent these to each of us and our parents (who are in their nineties). We were very touched and so happy to be able to pass on this knowledge to our adult children and their children given that we had no real “roots” to share with them, as we grew up moving around as “Army brats.”

My two sisters and I wanted to show our appreciation to her and conspired to make the wall hanging. The concept changed several times as we looked over options – everything from a “throw” to a book cover. We finally settled on a wall hanging.

Did embroidery inspire the parts of the quilt? How did you choose your designs?

I had no idea what the wall hanging should look like but imagined it filled with symbolism. My youngest sister, Jennifer, was trained as an artist but has not worked in that field for many years, so instead of drawing she told us what she “saw” when she thought of the quilt. She could “see” a raven, clocks, and a tree. I wasn’t sure what a raven had to do with genealogy but honored her vision and did some internet research. Lo and behold – in Welsh culture, the raven is a symbol of wisdom and the keeper of ancestral knowledge. How perfect!

Talk us through all the embroidery… which designs did you use?

Keeping my sister’s vision in mind I did an internet search for any form of art depicting a raven that I could find. As a last resort I included machine embroidery in my search for raven and found the Urban Threads site. When I saw the Clockwork Magic design set my jaw dropped open. Not only were there ravens but also clocks, gears, keys, etc. in that amazing design set. I chose the ravens, keys and pocket watch for the main designs I’d use. Then I found your Roots and Branches design and thought I’d gone to heaven.

How long did it take to make it all?

If we had lived near each other and not experimented so much I think between the three of us we could have finished the quilt by working on it several hours a day for a week or so. As it was, we conceived of it in September, started “piddling” around with experiments in October, began stitching in earnest in November and mailed it to our cousin in January.

Starting, I still didn’t know how I would incorporate the Urban Threads designs into a wall hanging, what size it would be or any other detail. None the less, I found an 18×22 piece of green Asian fabric that I thought would look great with the black of the raven and proceeded to embroider one of these.  The raven looked great but I didn’t use enough stabilizer and it altered the dimensions of the fabric, so I cut off a piece of that fabric and tried again. I still wasn’t happy so did another raven on an even smaller portion of that fabric and when I looked at them spread out, and the concept for a layout appeared. This was the beginning of the evolution of the project.

In the course of the process, I experimented with designs from the design pack and pinned them with the background fabrics to some brown flannel.  The tree took the longest to embroider since it is so rich in thread play. At this point I felt I needed to pass it on to my other two sisters, both of whom live in Colorado, to see how they would interpret the piece and add their touches. All of us work full time and the mail was pretty slow during the holidays getting back and forth across the country, so you have to take that into account.

Once the incomplete pinned together work got to my sister, Jacqie, she conceptualized the gold cotton borders that could have writing on them.  She and Jennifer spent a good portion of Thanksgiving weekend experimenting with writing tools and finally found that a plain Sharpie worked better than designated “art” pens. Jennifer wanted to practice writing first but Jacqie insisted that she use her unrehearsed, natural, printing in keeping with the “raw” look that we were going for. She and Jacqie spent more time selecting phrases from the genealogy book than actually writing it but it was a warm, interesting experience for both of them. We think the sizing still present in the unwashed fabric actually helped prevent the ink from bleeding.

The in-progress quilt on its way to the next crafter.

Once Jacqie sewed borders onto the brown flannel and sewed raw edge applique on the other shapes, she experimented with trying to machine quilt (combining top, batting and backing with sewing machine) the piece. When she was done she mailed it back to me in Texas.  There were several agonizing days where we feared it was lost in transit but it did show up, albeit a few days late!

Once I got it back, I had learned my lesson with the stabilizer problem on the ravens so I made everything that was going to be appliquéd on stabilizer plus a thick Pellon interfacing. This made them stitch out beautifully.  I colored the white edges of the Pellon with permanent colored felt pens which also added to the dimensionality of the object.

Inspired by the writing on the borders, I used a piece of the gold cotton to transfer some of the photos from the genealogy book with inkjet transfer paper. This was a first for me also. I found that selecting “mirror” image in my printer properties made everything come out just right for the transfer. I was skeptical about how this would work, but the photos looked appropriately ghostly for the topic. I did a simple decorative machine stitch around them to set them off.

The other fabric pieces were added to cover up boo boos I made when experimenting with adding extra puffiness behind the front pieces and were simply heat bonded on. Had I not been afraid of dragging the project out too long, I might have done this differently but there comes a time when all good things must come to an end and we wanted to get this to our cousin while she is still young enough to enjoy it!

Any challenges along the way?

I’m a novice machine embroiderer so I made several mistakes I won’t make again. When embroidering the Roots and Branches I was working on another part of the project and didn’t notice that it wasn’t signaling me to change threads. Ouch! After some research it turns out that PES format probably isn’t the best one to use as the commands may not translate well into my machine.  Fortunately, your website allowed me to revisit my purchase and download another format without charge (I’m using SEW and HUS most of the time now).

Also, we had thought I would finish quilting the piece on my long arm machine, but as I studied it, I realized that this would not “add” anything to it, so I elected to stitch around the shapes instead. In the process I knocked the beads off several times and finally resorted to not only sewing them back on but using fabric glue as well. Lesson learned – put jewels, etc. on AFTER all the sewing is done.

What were people’s reactions to the quilt and to all the embroidery?

We have been awed by the reactions of people who have looked at this. None of us feel as if it is something WE created but something that was created through us. Even in the initial stages people seemed taken with it – someone insisted my sister pull it out of her bag in the fabric store and show it off when they saw the edges peeking out.  My mother and father spent quite a bit of time poring over the unfinished piece. My father couldn’t get enough of reading about his ancestors and my mother was awed by the embroidery and embellishments.

Everyone comments on the quality of the embroidered stitch-outs. The raven’s wings are three dimensional – you can almost see the feathers. The tree is an amazing blending of colors and layers – people seem to feel compelled to touch all the designs and feel them. I am particularly fascinated with the overlay of mechanical parts on the raven’s wings and the gears on top of and behind all the designs in this set.

Our cousin has emailed us repeatedly telling us of family members she has shown it to in Georgia, where she lives. She seems very pleased!

What’s your next project going to be?

My sisters and I now want similar pieces for ourselves so we’ll be making them to honor both our mother and our father in the future. I’m running scenarios through my head, thinking about these Urban Threads designs and others – I’m envision letting the concept pick the embroidery and the embroidery enhance the concept. Thank all your artists and digitizers for inspiring us!!!

Thank you, Jeannette, and your amazing sisters, for sharing the story of this creative creation with us! Not only will this be an amazing quilt for future generations to share, but the story of its creation is almost as fascinating as the family history it portrays. I know I can’t wait to see what your next ancestral quilts look like. And seriously, incorporating steampunk into your family history? Awesome.

Do you want to be a featured project on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at blog@urbanthreads.com or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Featured Project – Krusher The Steampunk Gentleman

Hi all, and welcome to the first featured project of 2012!

Damn, I still can’t quite get past the 2012 thing, though I’ve had nearly a month now to do it. Do you adapt easily? For some reason whenever I hear or say something about “Twenty Twelve!” my internal monologue almost always adds something something stupid and spacey like “welcome to th’ fuutchaaa!

No? Is that just me? I’ll get over it. Still, they promised us jetpacks by now.

We’re having a slightly steampunky week here at Urban Threads, and whether you think gears and rayguns conjure up visions of the “the futchaa” or gaze longingly at the non-existent, somewhat romanticized steamwork past, this felt like a perfect time to share the most dapper of all dogs with you…

Krusher, the Steampunk Gentleman!

Krusher is the classy pooch of Mariah, who went all-out last Halloween and created what has to be the dandiest dog costume I’ve ever seen. Good thing Krusher is such a good sport and a camera darling. Mariah joins us today to talk a little about this steampunk costume masterpiece and the awesome dog in it.

Krusher The Steampunk Gentleman

This dog is cooler than me on my best day.

This is just too awesome for words. Talk about what inspired this.

Thank you so much. The love of all things Halloween related, I’m quite festive. I find a costume for Krusher every year and when I saw your costume contest, I knew I wanted to do something more involved then his other costumes. I also needed to make something my husband wouldn’t oppose to have Krusher wear. Something more manly then a pumpkin, and what is more manly then a gentleman with a sidearm. He even joined by helping with the painting of the water gun.

Did embroidery inspire the steampunk or did a love of steampunk come before the embroidery?

Your embroidery really inspired this since I wasn’t familiar with steampunk before following your site. First I saw the lace top hat and thought, “That’s the perfect size for Krusher,” and it all went from there. Thinking about what would be on the hat to make it steampunk, what else would he wear with it. I used the Fancy Felix design you have as inspiration for the clothing. I found a pair of kids swim goggles, the water gun, metal gears, and other metal accessories from the craft store.

Krusher The Steampunk Gentleman

Talk us through all the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?

I chose the free standing lace top hat but wanted to butch it up a bit. So I placed cutout pieces of the brown faux suede like I would for an appliqué. When it embroidered out, the fabric was between the stitches. I had grouped as many of the parts as I could with my digitizing program to save stabilizer and time with minimizing how many times I had to hoop my stabilizer. This was the most time consuming part of the embroidery which took a few hours or so on my machine. 

I also chose the steampunk rayguns to be on the back of the vest to give a little life to it. Instead of using just two threads, I wanted to have the guns different colors, so I watched where the embroidery changed over to the second gun, stopped the machine, changed my thread.

For the holster, I used the Gears ‘n Cogs in a contrasting brown thread to add some flair. That was the quickest embroidery of the project. 

Krusher The Steampunk Gentleman

Did you design the costume yourself? Was it based off a pattern or did you make it up on your own?

I knew what I wanted to do, make the top hat, a button down shirt with a tie, a vest, and a gun holster. So I looked through my patterns I had in my stash (love the 10 patterns for $10 sales) and found a pattern I had used before (the tie) and another one that I had wanted to try. I had to adapt the patterns to fit Krusher’s frame. With his barrel chest, he has a hard time finding clothes that fit him off the rack. I used Simplicity pattern number 2695, Dog Clothes in 3 Sizes from the Go Green Collection. It includes a pattern to adapt a man’s button down to fit a dog. The problem was that it only goes to a size medium, so after much math I figured out the size shirt needed and how much width to add to the pattern. Then I used the same pattern but tweaked it a bit make the vest. 

I also used a pattern for the tie, McCalls M5777 (which is now out of print sadly), but tweaked it by not having the collar attached.

I did make up the holster as I went. To figure out the size and shape of the holster, I traced the painted water gun and added an inch or so on both sides, cut out two pieces in the lighter faux suede, did a rolled edge hem with my serger on the tops of them, pinned the pieces wrong sides together, and then serged the other three sides together. I also serged two very long strips of the fabric with wrong sides together to create the rest of the holster. With some creative use of D-rings I was able to make a custom holster for Krusher.

How did Krusher handle all the costuming? Was he pretty tame about it, or was he just holding still for the photos? He looked amazing, and so dapper!

Thanks, he is quite the elegant hound. He handles costuming well. Krusher is our 70 lb bump on the floor, sleeping about 20 hours a day, so he is calm to begin with which helps. Never fights getting dressed but when I first put any piece of clothing on him, just stands there and has this look on his face like he is saying, “Really. Really Mom.” The longer he is in the costumes, the more comfortable he gets and forgets he’s wearing it. The most movement he did was walked around the living room slowly, so I followed him with the camera. Treats always help in he process of picture taking.

Krusher The Steampunk Gentleman

What were people’s reactions to the costume and to all the embroidery?

Krusher got first place at our Petsmart costume contest. Everyone loved the costume; only one person at the contest knew he was a steampunk gentleman. The rest thought he was a cowboy =^_^= All of the people I met we impressed by the embroidery and were surprised someone can do this at home. 

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying to steampunk out their pets? ;)

The challenges would be adapting the patterns to fit Krusher. Even with my calculations, I had to put a panel in both sides on the shirt, but then I took that measurement to create the vest. 

For steampunking pets, have fun with it. Think of new ways to interpret the steampunk character types, but do fittings along the way to make sure your pet is comfortable with the outfit. Mainly be able to walk =^_^=

Another tip, do a trial run with the costume before you take them out in public. Krusher shook his whole body and the gun came flying out. I had to add a tab to secure the gun to the holster so that didn’t happen at Petsmart.

halloween costumes_2011

Please tell me you showed him off a little. Did you get take him out on Halloween night, or to any events?

Oh yes, he got seen by the public at Petsmart, dressed up for greeting the trick-or-treaters, and also got his picture taken by a local photographer.  

I notice both your and your husband’s costumes are also embroidered! How awesome. I’m also really digging the Cowboy and Indian thing.

Thanks you! Since I bought my machine I have been an embroidering fool. We were all dressed up for Halloween, I’m festive so my husband and dog need to be too.

What’s your next project going to be?

I always have another project going on. Right now I’m working on another baby quilt using the Jacob’s Ladder block with pink and a pattern fabric. After the baby is born, I’ll embroider the baby’s whole name, time of birth, date of birth, weight, and length then finish putting it all together. It’s my fourth or fifth pieced quilt. I’m also making a matching hippo and will embroider the monogram on its side. I’m also making several other stuffed animals for friends’ babies.

Thank you, Mariah, for sharing this awesome creation with us, and thank you Krusher for being such a good sport about it. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for you next year!

Do you want to be a featured project on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at blog@urbanthreads.com or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!