Friday, January 29, 2016

Tutorial: Hand Embroidered Tea Towel

Here is another quick project for the hope chest. I hand embroidered a pretty border near the bottom of two gingham tea towels, using a woven variation of the super easy running stitch. To make a set for yourself or to use as a gift, you'll need the following materials:

I love the heavy Dunroven gingham plain weave hand towels. You can often buy these at quilt stores and they are very high quality towels - worthy of your hand embroidery. You will also need a skein of 6-strand cotton embroidery floss, a skein of perle cotton in a contrasting color, a crewel-style embroidery needle, and a blunt tapestry needle.

From the skein of embroidery floss, measure a length that is 2.75 times the width of the towel. Thread the crewel embroidery needle with all six strands of floss. Tie a knot in one end of the thread. Bring the needle up on the back side of the towel in the side hem near where you want to begin the border.

Bring the needle through to the front side of the towel in one corner of the gingham weave. Use a running stitch and follow along the edge of the gingham weave, taking a "bite" of two squares at one time.

When you reach the opposite side of the towel count up three squares and bring your needle through the side hem to the selected row. Use the running stitch to come back across the towel, BUT this time the stitches will be alternated (or stepped) with the row below. You'll have to create this stepped effect or the weaving won't work. Where the thread went under two squares on the previous row, the thread will be on top of those two squares on this row. This creates the alternate effect.

When you reach the beginning point, push the needle through to the back side of the towel. Take two or three small back stitches to secure the thread, then "lose" the thread in the hem and clip it off.

From the perle cotton, measure a long length of thread that is about 4 times the width of the towel. Thread the tapestry needle and tie a knot in the thread. As you did before, bring the needle up near where you need to begin and "lose" the knot in the side hem. You can see that I began my first stitch near the edge of the top running stitch. I slid the needle through that first running stitch, then took a small stitch near the lower edge to position my thread to pull up through the next running stitch on the bottom row.

Weave the thread through each running stitch, top and bottom, alternating rows and returning to catch the previous stitch.

When you reach the opposite side, push the needle to the back. As you did before, take 2 or 3 small backstitches to secure the thread and then "lose" the thread in the side hem. Clip it off.

The finished border.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Goes Into Miss Abigail's Hope Chest?

I received this question in a comment on the very recent post about organizing my hope chest projects: How do you know how many sets of the various things are needed? What are the sets you normally make (kitchen towels/washrags, bedroom linens, others?) and what does each set normally consist of?

This is a really great question and I recognize that it deserves a reply which does justice to the desire for information and won't be buried in a comment. You may have noticed that in all the years I have had the blog I have tried to avoid the "recommended" numbers aspect of a hope chest list. I will just here offer a list that works for me and hope that it might be useful as a starting point.

Decisions about what to put in Miss Abigail's hope chest are based on the following:
  • what Abigail wants to prepare
  • what I have needed and use on a regular basis
  • what I think Abigail will need as she makes a home away from this one
  • what we can realistically afford to prepare ahead 
  • what I would like to create and give to Abigail as a gift

Let's use the kitchen set as an example. First, I am a traditional homemaker and make almost every meal from scratch. I love to cook and you can probably imagine that I spend time as well cleaning up after all the cooking and eating. You may be surprised to learn that I have never had an automatic dishwasher and do not use an automatic clothes dryer either. (That is another story, right?) All our dishes get washed by hand and the linens get dried on the clothesline. I understand that I need to own more kitchen linens and rags than most people.

Secondly, I have taught Abigail to cook and she is a great cook, but a little messy in her methods. I have confidence that she will get more efficient, but I suspect she will always create a bit of a kitchen mess. After thinking about what Abigail might need in a kitchen set, I made a list of kitchen linens that I felt would fill that need.

Finally, I love kitchen linens! It is that simple. So Abigail will have more kitchen linens than she realistically needs, just because I love them and want to give them to her. I almost always wear aprons, I love drying dishes with a clean, crisp dishtowel and I hate using dirty or damp towels. I love picking up a pretty towel to wipe my hands and noticing how quickly the water is absorbed into the fibers, and I hate, hate, hate to have a towel that doesn't do the job well. I know! You too? Decisions are always based on what we like or don't care about.

Kitchen Linens Set: (2 sets recommended)

7 dish cloths (for washing dishes - a clean one each day in the week)
7 dish towels (for hand drying dishes - a clean one each day)
7 hand towels (for drying hands - a clean one each day)
1 set of hot pads (to match the set or kitchen color)
1 apron (to match the set or kitchen color)

The number of household linens Miss Abigail will need is determined by how often she will do laundry and that will be different as she passes through stages in her life. We have no way of knowing her laundry situation ahead of time, but we can assume that she will likely begin by using a laundromat, when she has a chance to get there. I think a minimum of two sets of kitchen linens would be required in this situation. Current housekeeping literature often recommends, in setting up a new household, one dozen towels and cloths, 2 sets of hot pads and 2 aprons.

Table Linens:

1-2 tablecloths (to match everyday dishes)
1 set of place mats (to match everyday dishes)
1 tablecloths (for special occasion or holiday)
1 table runner (decorative)

Setting an attractive table is important. I know you can place your dishes on a bare table. We do that often when a meal is very simple or rushed, but there is no question that even an informal meal merits some thought and care in presentation and sociability. Table linens simply make a meal more pleasant and sociable. The dollar stores have inexpensive place mats. It isn't hard to plan for setting a nice table. Abigail has enjoyed setting a pretty table and I expect that she will always feel that way. We have not done much with table linens yet because we were waiting for her to choose dishes. That purchase has now been made and the gift given, so we can move forward with table linens. I don't have a very specific list, but I do have some projects planned. These projects are all based on what I think will be fun to make or use.

Bath Linens:

3 sets bath towels (2 towels, 2 hand towels, 2 wash cloths = 6 total of each type)
1 dozen extra face cloths
guest hand towels

The number of bath linens required is based on the availability of laundry facilities and how often you require a clean towel. That varies from person to person, depending on the custom in your home. Miss Abigail likes longer hair and so requires two towels when she bathes. She is particular about washing her face and needs a TON of facecloths! My husband will use the same face cloth to shave for at least two days before wanting a change. I can't guide you in this decision, you have to make your own prediction of need, based on your preference. The reason I have planned for only three sets of towels is based on experience. Towels are a popular wedding gift. I anticipate that Abigail will receive at least a couple more sets as gifts when she marries. Three sets in the hope chest will get her started as a single woman.

Bed Linens: (minimum)

2 sets sheets (queen size)
1 set sheets (full size)
1 set sheets (twin size)
extra pillowcases
crib sheets

The number of sheet sets to plan for isn't hard. I started with two sets and it worked well - one on the bed and one in the wash or in the linen cupboard. I have happy memories of a trip from Idaho to Salt Lake City to purchase some final items for my hope chest. I remember standing in Z.C.M.I ( a very nice department store) with my mom teaching me about how to choose bed sheets. In those days, the choice of size was easy. Every couple I knew slept in a double bed, so I chose full size sheets. Nowadays, experience shows that most young couples try for a queen size bed. Since that has been the case with each of our sons who have married, we are planning for queen sized bed sheets. The set of full-size sheets is a back up and to use on a guest bed (even an inexpensive air mattress.) The twin set is for her first apartment. I think extra pillowcases are a must. I often like a clean one before I'm ready to launder the whole set. Plus, I use more than one pillow, so I need extra. I'm just projecting my need onto Abigail and she may end up with more pillowcases than required. You need, at the very least, one blanket or quilt per bed and this obviously depends on your climate. Abigail's grandmother has already gifted her with one quilt for the hope chest and I know the special "wedding quilt" is on reserve. I also plan to make a quilt or two, hopefully. Crib sheets are on our list because these will be a "gift from grandma" to my future grandchildren. I like to embroider on them to make them just a little bit special.

Other Linens:

2 lap quilts for watching movies at home (Abigail is always wrapped up in a small quilt)

There are some other categories of items we have planned for the hope chest. In general, you can see a working list of our categories on the sidebar. Scroll down a bit - past the blog labels.

Coincidentally, Kiyoko Ball just wrote about this topic in a funny opinion piece at her blog called Taffeta Dreams. I think she created a great list of items that could be in the hope chest and she made me laugh. Don't miss what she has to say about it. Also I will share again this post from Jill Wright who wrote a very nice article about what to include in a hope chest.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Organizing My Projects

A long term creative project, such as Miss Abigail's hope chest, requires a certain amount of organization. For example, I typically buy linens for the hope chest way ahead of time on sale or when I find a particular color. I found, early on, that I needed a way to keep track of what I had and what I planned to do with it. Eventually my hope chest planning book came into being and I wrote a little about how I use that in this post. But I am a very visual person. Sometimes it is hard for me to visualize when working from a simple list.

Like many of you, I also keep a pretty nice stash of fabric, yarn, needlework supplies, fabric paint and pens, etc. I have to admit, though, that these items are not always stored very efficiently and I often can't locate something when I'm ready to begin a hope chest project. I have several projects half finished or on hold because I need to get something the next time I go to town. Items for hope chest projects were stored along with my other supplies. Everything has been in a kind of explosion around the house, half finished projects, loads of blank linens.

Some time ago I tried something new to help me be more efficient with my hope chest projects. When I did the "quick hope chest" project a couple of years ago, I found that I loved having all the supplies and instructions for each project together in one spot and ready to go. That was a very efficient way of getting many projects done in a short amount of time. So I thought that I would learn a lesson and, to the extent possible, organize all my pending hope chest projects that way.

I sorted through the kitchen linens in my Rubbermaid tub and I've used ribbon, extra lace trim, or fabric strips to tie these together into the sets that I have planned for in my notebook. Many items in these sets are finished, but they await other projects that are still planned. Now I can readily see what still needs to be done in any one of the sets. For each of the unfinished linens in the stack I have been attaching a sticky note with the idea for the project and any supplies needed. If possible, I've attached supplies as well. You can see skeins of yarn in the stack pictured above. When I'm ready to begin that project I can remove the sticky note and, if necessary, take it town to purchase supplies. This has made a big difference to me. I hope it might help you too. I can more clearly see what still needs to be done and I'm anxious to get these stacks finished and in the hope chest!

P.S. Here is another example of a planned hope chest project. You can see the sticky note and the supplies attached. This project will complete the holiday set for Valentines day. My goal is to get it done so that I can show this completed set by Valentine's Day this year.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Quick Valentine Ragged Edge Dishtowel

I love using pretty dish towels, especially around holidays! This cute Valentine dish towel is such a quick and easy project that you can be done in less than 30 minutes! You could make it for the hope chest or keep it for your own kitchen. I love hope chest projects like this for a couple of reasons.

First, the technique is simple and fast. Just cut a ragged edge shape and quickly applique to the towel with the straightforward running stitch. Second, there are no complicated materials or tools. All you need  is a plain cotton dish towel, an embroidery needle, cotton thread to contrast with a scrap of cotton fabric, and pinking shears or regular sewing shears to cut the shape. The cost is minimal. If you keep a fabric scrap bag, the cost is limited to the towel and the thread. Nice. Finally, the most inexperienced sewist can make this project, so it's a great project for someone needing to practice using a needle and thread.

Many of you won't even need instructions for such a project, but I'll give them for those who do. First, determine how big you want your applique and cut a heart shape from paper. Use the towel and adjust the size if necessary.

Press any wrinkles out of the fabric scrap. Use a pencil to trace around the shape on the wrong side of the fabric. Use pinking shears (or regular fabric scissors) to cut the shape from the fabric. Pinking shears will give a nice evenly ragged edge after washing. Regular shears will give a more primitive ragged edge that will take several times washing to achieve.

Arrange and pin the fabric heart to the dishtowel. You can place it in the corner, as I did, or in the center of one side. Pin the shape well so that it doesn't shift as you do your stitching. If you are using this project for a child, you might use many small safety pins rather than straight pins so that little fingers don't get poked! Measure the cotton embroidery thread so that you have enough thread to go all the way around the shape, plus five or six inches more. Divide the thread so that you have two lengths with three strands in each length. Then thread the needle and knot the thread at one end. Start at the bottom and use an even running stitch all around the heart, keeping about 1/8 - inch or so from the edge. You want to be far enough away from the edge that it frays a little in the wash, but close enough that the shape is securely sewn.

When you reach the beginning point bring the needle out on the back of the towel. Take three small back stitches to secure the thread and then tie a small knot. Pull the knot through the towel fabric, pull the towel back just a bit to clip the thread and then "lose" the end of the thread in between the towel and the applique. This will keep the back of the towel neat.

Thread the needle with the second length of thread and tie a knot at one end. Push the needle into the towel between the towel and the applique at some point away from where you want to begin stitching. Again, pull the knot through the towel to "lose" it under the fabric. Then push the needle through to the front where you will begin a second row of stitching.

Make a second row of stitching about 1/4 - inch away from the first row. Try to keep the stitching evenly spaced.

Once you've completed a second row of stitching, tie off your thread and you're finished! The back of the towel should look as neat as the front. Wash and dry the towel to fray the edges.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Defining Hope

Anyone who thinks about a hope chest as much as I do necessarily thinks about the concept of hope. Hope is a feeling that something desired can be had or will happen. Hope is not a wish for something, but rather the rising anticipation of an upcoming event or situation. Hope is a vision more than simply a dream. It is ambition more than desire. It is belief. It is conscious. It means taking steps to assist the outcome. Hope is a synonym for faith.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday Minute: Quick Gift Idea

Well, just because I have such easy access to the Internet now, I wanted to show you how I finished out the ball of Crafter's Secret yarn that I reviewed a few days ago. I crocheted another quick dish scrubby (tutorial here) using the most recent pattern to add to the crocheted dishcloth. You can see that there is just a bit of yarn left. I love a project that uses up all the yarn without having too much leftover! I think I will add this set to my own kitchen drawer. Or, if I take a moment to sew a simple fabric border dishtowel (tutorial here) to expand the set, I will have a lovely gift for a bridal shower. You know it's always nice to have a quick gift on hand.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Free on Friday: Sweet Embroidery Patterns

I always love it when I find a cute FREE embroidery pattern. I recently ran into this one on Pinterest and wanted to share it. Thanks to Rhonda Hetzel and her Down to Earth blog. Rhonda's creativity is a blessing for the rest of us!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review: Crafter's Secret Yarn

I'm trying out a new worsted weight cotton yarn: "Crafter's Secret." This is the proprietary brand of yarn for Hobby Lobby. I know it isn't new to some of you. Hobby Lobby created this label three or four years ago. But each Hobby Lobby store is different in what they choose to carry. It appears to be up to the buyer for that store and they aren't required to carry their own brand of yarn exclusively. I didn't notice that my local Hobby Lobby stores were stocking "Crafter's Secret" yarn until recently. So this brand is new to my workbasket.

I'm liking it, generally, and will buy it again. It feels just a tad thinner that my usual "Sugar and Cream" by Lily or the "Peaches and Creme" that I often pick up at Walmart. It has a definite thinner feel than Lion Brand cotton. Of course it is still worsted weight, meaning that it is 4 ply. But it just seems a tiny bit thinner overall. Because of different fibers and spinning techniques, there can be a difference between one kind of worsted weight yarn and another, even though the ounces and yardage on the label say the same thing. I like the thinner feel in my hook and a slightly thinner fabric, but that is truly a subjective opinion.

I don't like not being able to count on colors being regularly available. It may be a local issue, but it seems that even online I am unable to count on a wide color selection. Right now, online at Hobby Lobby's website, there is no blue to be had. That's unfortunate.

The yarn is made in Turkey. I'm okay with that. The blog has a number of readers who are from Turkey. There is a long-standing fiber handcrafting tradition in that country as well as women who have a similar tradition to the hope chest. While I prefer to buy from companies who support our domestic product and manufacturing, I also admit that I don't understand all the reasons a company would choose not to. I recognize that it is a complicated issue. I can live with a product produced in Turkey. Just FYI, "Sugar and Cream" and "Peaches and Creme" are manufactured in Canada, which is a little closer to home, and Lion Brand "Kitchen Cotton" is made in the USA.

The color shown is #116, a variegated yarn called "Classic Print." The ball is 2 oz. (27gms) and measures 95 yards (86 meters). It is 100% cotton. Made in Turkey. The regular price is $2.29. And, just so you know, there is no complimentary pattern on the back of the label. What a shame.

Do any of you have a particular preference for kitchen cotton yarn?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Tutorial: Ruffly Dish Scrubby

I really like the vintage dish scrubby that I posted about here. However, that pattern calls for thread and is so ruffly that the scrubby has a hard time drying. If you try to make the pattern with a worsted weight cotton yarn, you'll end up with a HUGE problem. (See this funny post on a website called Pinstrosity!) [edit--and this one in response to this post-km] I still like the idea of the ruffly scrubby so I rewrote the pattern to better fit the more common thicker yarn. The scrubby is a little less ruffly than the original but still cute and, more importantly, better able to dry out before mildew sets in. I have made a number of these now and enjoy using them. I think they are just the right size. Just hang the scrubby over the faucet to dry.

Materials: worsted weight cotton yarn (such as Peaches and Cream) and a size "H" hook. I used two colors, but you can use just one if you wish.You can see that I've used all the leftover bits from the crocheted dishcloths made for the Retro Set.

Chain 8 and join with a slip stitch to form a ring.

Round 1: Ch 3. (counts as first dc now and throughout) Make (dc, ch 1) 21 times in the ring. Join with a slip stitch in top of ch 3 at beginning of round. You should have 22 dc and 22 ch-1 spaces.

Round 2: Chain 3. Make (dc, ch 1) in the first ch-1 space. (this is the space between the beginning ch-3 and the next dc stitch). (Dc, ch 1, dc, ch 1) in each ch-1 space around. Join with a slip stitch in top of ch-3 at beginning of round. (44 dc) and (44 ch-1 spaces)

Because you are doubling the number of stitch groups you put into the spaces, you are beginning to see a bit of ruffling in the fabric. That's just what you want!

Round 3: Ch 3. (dc, ch 1) in first ch-1 space. (Dc, ch 1, dc, ch 1) in each ch-1 space around. Join with slip stitch in top of ch-3 at beginning of round. You should finish this round with 88 dc and 88 ch-1 spaces. Fasten off with  this color and weave in the ends. In this picture you can more clearly see the ch-3 "rise" at the beginning of the round. This ch-3 is the partner to the single dc in the first space. Every other space in the round should have a (dc, ch-1, dc, ch-1) group of stitches.

Each round doubles the number of stitches, creating the cute ruffly effect. It might get a little awkward as the yarn starts to fill up your hand. Just keep pushing it all to the side and keep going.

Edging Round: Cast on in any ch-1 space with the contrasting color and chain 4.*sc in the next ch-1 space. Ch 4. Repeat from * all around. (88 sc and 88 ch-4). Join with a slip stitch in the bottom of the beginning chain 4. Fasten off.

Hanger: Attach the contrasting colored yarn to original loop between stitches. Chain 9.

Join with a slip stitch around the original loop (between the stitches) on the opposite of the hole.

Turn and slip stitch in each chain of the hanger, reinforcing along the length. Fasten off. Tie the ends and then weave them in. Finished.

Here is the pattern without the tutorial breaks.

Ruffly Dish Scrubby
Materials: worsted weight cotton yarn (such as Peaches and Cream) and a size "H" hook

Chain 8 and join with a slip stitch to form a ring.
Round 1: Ch 3. (counts as first dc now and throughout) Make (dc, ch 1) 21 times in the ring. Join with a slip stitch in top of ch 3 at beg. of round. 22 dc and 22 ch-1 sp.
Round 2: Ch 3. (dc, ch 1) in the first ch-1 space. Make (dc, ch 1, dc, ch 1) in each ch-1 space around. Join with a slip stitch in top of ch-3 at beg. of round. 44 dc and 44 ch-1 sp.
Round 3: Ch 3. (dc, ch 1) in first ch-1 space. Make (dc, ch 1, dc, ch 1) in each ch-1 space around. Join with slip stitch in top of ch-3 at beginning of round. 88 dc and 88 ch-1 sp. Fasten off with  this color and weave in the ends.
Edging Round: Cast on in any ch-1 space with the contrasting color and chain 4.*sc in the next ch-1 space. Ch 4. Repeat from * all around. (88 sc and 88 ch-4). Join with a slip stitch in the bottom of the beginning chain 4. Fasten off.
Hanger: Attach the contrasting colored yarn to original loop between stitches. Chain 9. Join with a slip stitch around the original loop (between the stitches) on the opposite of the hole. Turn and slip stitch in each chain of the hanger, reinforcing along the length. Fasten off. Tie the ends and weave in.

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