Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Embroidery Fail: Materials Mis-Match

Learning a new craft (anything, really) always seems to involve that bumpy bit where you're figuring things out as you go, yes? Especially if you're self-taught, and especially if you decide to venture out into Doing Your Own Thing. Back in the beginning of my knitting days, I decided to knit a simple blanket for first child (he was my only child at the time). The pattern called for cotton yarn, but I couldn't find the yarn listed, so I found a mercerized cotton in a color I liked. Now, the blanket is still in use, still on his bed, and it served its time as a cape and all manner of make-believe props, but mercerized cotton (not that I knew this at the time) is, well, kind of heavy and droopy for a blanket. When I had my next child, I knit him the same blanket out of Mission Falls 1824 cotton, which is fluffy, soft, and light. Totally different cotton. These are the things you learn as you go, unless you plan to be a slave to always using the yarn specified in the pattern, of course!

And then there's sewing. I still find the array of fabrics daunting, the different types of 100% cotton a bit overwhelming (quilting cotton? lawn? voile? different weights, different feels, so hard to figure out, especially when there's no place to touch them all in person). Oh, and colors and patterns--truly, the minute you take matters into your own hands, you're increasing your potential for mistakes, but it's the best way to learn, isn't it?

Which leads me to my latest miss. Remember the sea star from the last post, and how I was a bit wary of that dish towel fabric? The napkins are a bit heavier, so I switched to that for my next pattern, a hermit crab. (You may recognize this guy; he evolved from the sketch at the end of this post.)

Well. When I bought these I was mainly looking for a light solid color and a decent weight. I should have looked more closely at the weave, for starters. Also, because it's a little bumpy (see the horizontal lines? bumpy), I had trouble using my usual transfer method of tracing right onto the fabric. I wasn't getting a clean line at all. I have a couple alternatives on order (Sulky transfer pen and some wash-away stabilizer), but of course I'm impatient--hello, those haven't even shipped yet, and they're coming from the other side of the country!--so I used what I had, which is the tear-away stabilizer I used when I stitched the last, different hermit crab.

What a disaster with this napkin. Tearing away stabilizer from a loosely woven fabric is all sorts of bad news. I soaked it in the sink for a bit, and that helped get a couple more pieces out, but then I just gave up. Luckily, something small like this doesn't take long to stitch, so if you're going to learn a lesson, it's not a bad way to learn; very little time was lost here. And now I know the pattern looks really cute stitched up, so that's something. And we go through cloth napkins pretty quickly, especially since I also put them in the boys' lunchboxes (seconddayofschoolandIhateeverythingaboutit) so the rest of the napkins will get used, even if they're not embroidered. Oh, and they're really soft, unlike the blue one with the other hermit crab, which is so old and has been washed thousands of times but is still kind of stiff-feeling and not too absorbent, which makes me think...

...that napkins for embroidering and napkins for actually using maybe aren't the same thing at all?

(If you have any suggestions for the best sort of fabric for stitching that is also soft and absorbent for napkins, please let me know!)

You can find more creative people here.


Jill said...

Is that old blue stiff & scrunchy napkin 100% cotton? And, no. I was looking for something to sew up into napkins that Lil wanted to embroider during that last, ill-fated JoAnn's trip. But if I find something I'll let ya know.

amy said...

Linen/cotton blend. Linen--good for stitching. Not so comfy for napkins, though.

Bells said...

oh yeah, it's cute, if bumpy. For sure. My cloth napkins, which I've had for years, are a heavy kind of fabric the name of which escapes me. But they were white and then after i got red wine of them I dyed them red. They're a kind of embossed cotton - that's not quite right but I really want to know now so I'm going to find out and get back to you. I think they'd be great for embroidery AND they're soft and comfy, especially after years of washing.

Donna Lee said...

I hate my cloth napkins. They're not very absorbent even though i've tried not to wash them with fabric softener. I'd like to find some old fashioned heavy linen ones that cover your lap but they're not very practical and would have to be ironed (not happening). I would think that cotton that has no finish on it would work well, some jersey like fabric also but that might be hard to embroider on.

Jill said...

Only have to iron linen if you dry it in the dryer. Can you line dry? They get lovely crisp if you do. (I'm not ironing either.)

amy said...

I don't iron anything (except when I'm sewing, of course), not even my linen skirts. They only get wrinkled again when you move anyway. No way in heck would I iron napkins. My grandmother used to iron sheets! The mind boggles (this mind, anyway).

Also, I've found the softest cotton napkins at Pier One, in cute patterns, too.