CRAWLING ALONG, WITH SNAIL AND BEE

Satin stitch (for me at least) is sllloooowwwww. Especially compared with double running. Even though I am not working the satin stitch on count, the degree of precision needed to do the gold, cranberry, and white bits is even greater than the counted green outlines.

That said, progress is being made:

This is the center of the piece. I’m not entirely happy with every leaf or bud part done in satin, but I am not at this point going to go back and take anything out. What is, is. And for the record, as wobbly and multi-directional as my stitching is, that on the historical piece I have used as my inspiration is about as weak as mine.

But am learning as I go, and things are evening out a mite.

First was finding a better needle. It was pretty clear that the blunt tip/small eyed needles I favor for the outlines are not optimal for satin stitch. First, the eye that’s good for two strands of well-waxed floss is too small for three strands of unwaxed. And that rounded point, so well suited for slipping between threads for double running, is useless for piercing ground cloth threads to make nice, neat satin edges – even if those edges are partially “buried” underneath the outlines. I am not sure what size needle I am using (I pulled it from among a bunch of loose ones in my needle case), but it’s a standard larger eye embroidery sharp – not a tapestry needle.

Second was better threading. I am spoiled by waxing the living daylights out of my double running threads. Even if the two strands I use for the outlines require a tiny snip to get a good “point”, waxing guarantees a stiff, thin, easy to mount threading end. Not so the loose flossy strands of this ultra skinny silky stuff, used in threes or fours unwaxed for the satin stitching. They are unruly, prone to separating, fluffing out at the cut end, and otherwise uncooperative. Sometimes in a fit of desperation, I do wax the last half inch, but I prefer not to do that because the wax does drag off and mat down the rest of the strand. So I went looking for needle threaders to help. Thanks to Mary Corbet’s blog, I found some nifty tools, one of which I didn’t know I needed.

To start with, prior to making any purchases, I wanted to corral my needles, because for the first time ever, I was using multiple needle types on the same piece, and the pincushion at my elbow kept skittering off. I rummaged through my box of Useful Things, and came up with two flat rare earth magnets – formerly the insides of two heavy duty magnetic hooks. I’d saved them when the hook parts died. I glued them onto the verticals of my Millenium, in the corners. That worked nicely to keep my needles at hand, yet out of the way.

Now came threading. Obviously a needle threader would be required to cut down on my swearing and frustration. Mary had recommended some from Puffin. I liked the look of them from the structural standpoint, with flat hook style business ends, and not wire loops. So I ordered two in whimsical shapes vaguely reminiscent of Elizabethan coif motifs. One regular size, one small.

The snail with the larger hook works like a dream with the standard larger-eye embroidery needle. The bee with the little stinger surprised me by actually working with my tiny-eye ball-tip needles. Both are magnet-enabled, and now perch on the magnet I glued onto my frame.

And the needles they displaced? This is the thing I didn’t know I needed. Looking back, I could have done something similar with my two plain recycled magnets, but I never thought of it…

I got one of the Puffin needle-keepers.

This is the pretty side of the thing. It is also magnet-enabled, and the two magnets are quite strong. So strong in fact that they grasp and hold together not only through my cloth, but also through multiple folds of my pattern page printouts. So my design pages now sit neatly next to the area being stitched – not on a separate stand, or balanced awkwardly on a cushion nearby. My alternate needles are firmly fixed in place on the flower’s center, while my needle minder does its double-duty holding the pattern.

Here you see the corner of my frame in its stand-clamp, showing off the needle minder (left), and the glued-on magnet with both threaders (right). Everything to hand.

Please note I accept no freebies and make no endorsement deals. And since I don’t indulge myself often, tiny advances in kit are really special.

I’m a happy camper, even in the face of all that satin stitching. Bravo, Puffin! Useful tools, nicely made.

5 responses

  1. I was really tempted to these threaders when Mary Corbet wrote about them, so now I feel I can bite the bullet. Thanks. Your progress is tremendous. I also find Satin Stitch slow. At the SF School of Embroidery, I got some help with Satin Stitch. They taught me two really important things that I have used. The angle of the needle has to be consistent when coming up or going down. Second, they taught me to stitch over the line and then re-outline when I was done. I applaud your work!

  2. I’m a long-time reader of your blog, and you seem like the person to ask. I’m trying to help an acquaintance find a good home for some vintage filet crochet patterns. They’re mail order patterns, in the original envelopes. About half a dozen, mid-century, all in good condition. Any suggestions?

    1. Patterns like that in original envelopes have collectors’ interest, but do not command high prices – usually from $7 to $10 each, depending on condition, rarity and subject matter. If your friend is looking for recompense, the highest return would probably be to list them on eBay, direct. There are also dealers who buy up lots for pennies, then sell at this price point themselves.

      If they are out of copyright (1923 or so and earlier) and your friend is looking for a place that will preserve them and make them freely accessible to all, you might try offering to donate them to The Antique Pattern Library. https://www.antiquepatternlibrary.org. The curator Sytske Wijensma may also have suggestions for preservation (but not publication) even if they are newer.

      I hope this helps!

  3. wow, your double running stitch looks so good, I mess up mine all the time with satin stitch filling or making montenegrin for Assisi… Can’t wait for more progress! 🙂

    1. Thanks! I’ve been doing double running for a long time. If you go through this site you will find more about working it that might help.

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