Thursday, May 28, 2009

Answers to Embroidery Questions

I get two questions all the time: 1) how do you get your embroidery designs to look like machine-made and 2) how do you get the back the back of the design to look so neat.
Question #1: I have a few tips that may help. I use DMC 6-strand floss and most of my pieces are made with 2 strands. I cut the floss about 1 yard long. Don't get your thread any longer or you are sure to get knots. I take the 6-strand floss and hold it between my thumb and forefinger. While holding the end, gently pull one strand straight up (see photo #2 & #3). This is key, do not pull out left and right or your floss will knot. Just pull the single thread straight up. The key to making your embroidery stitches smooth, is to ALWAYS separate your thread this way, even if you are using all 6 strands. If you find that even after doing this your stitch is not laying smooth, try pulling the stitch slowly over your finger (see photo #4) and when the stitch lays flat, then complete the stitch. That seems very time consuming but believe me your efforts will be rewarded with a beautiful finished piece and with time, you will get faster. I never tie knots in my thread. Since I use 2 strands for my designs, I do this by using 1 piece of floss and doubling it. This gives me a loop on one end (see photo #5). As I pull my thread up from the back, I let the loop remain on the back and I go back through the material and I run the needle back through the loop (see photo #6 & #7). By doing this, knots are not needed and the back of the design stays neat and smooth. When I get to the end of the thread I simply weave the ends through the back of the design back and forth (see photo #8). When I first heard of this method I was skeptical because I thought it would be easy to pull out and ruin the design. But you would be surprised, using this method is actually stronger than tying knots. I have been embroidering for many years and never had a problem.

Question #2: My grandmother told me that I should take as much pride in the back of my design as I do the front. It has taken me many years but I now know why she told me this...BECAUSE EVERYBODY LOOKS AT THE BACK OF THE DESIGN. And also, if the back is messy and threads strung from one element to another it is more likely to be seen from the front and there is more chance of the thread getting caught on a button or something and pulling out. This does not mean that you have to start a new thread for each element. For example, if you are working on leaves on a stem of a flower, as you finish a leaf, weave your thread in the stem until you reach the next leaf in the design. Also, when working on items such as leaves, start in the middle of the leaf. I start in the middle and work to one end. When I reach the end of the leaf, I run the thread under the design in the back and go back to the middle and work the other direction (see photo #8). This will help you to keep the design even. If you start at one end you may tend to go crooked. I hope these tips help and if you have any other tips or questions, send them to me. This site is free and is a great place for all of us to share our ideas.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hanacky Kroj Apron #2

I am currently working on a kroj (Czech costume) representing the Hana region of the Czech Republic. The costume is for my daughter Sarah. Sarah is the 2006-2007 Miss Czech-Slovak USA Queen and she is still very active in the Czech community. She is designing this costume to look as authentic as possible.
We thought we were finished with the costume but after wearing it a few times we realized that the apron really does need more embroidery. (See photos from previous post entitled "Slavnost"). I could add more embroidery to the apron I finished a few months ago but just could not find a design that we thought would go with the current design.
SO, I am working on a new apron. This may be better because I really do not want to rush it and this way Sarah can wear the costume while I am working on the new apron. When making authentic-looking costumes, speed can not be part of the equation. So far, I have been working on this apron a couple of months and probably finished 20% of the embroidery. I am using a hot iron transfer (Aunt Martha's #3759) combined with designs from Czecho-Slovakian Embroideries. The hot iron transfers are so much easier than tracing designs scanned from a book and I was thrilled to find a design that I thought would work on this costume.
A few things to keep in mind when working on a piece like this that is sure to be a family heirloom. They are 1) don't rush it; 2) make the back of the design look as nice (or almost as nice) as the front of the design (see photos comparing back to front of the apron) and above all 3) don't be afraid to remove stitches if the piece does not look like you expect. Remember, it is just thread.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Slavnost in La Grange, Texas

Sarah, Ed and I attended Slavnost (formerly May Fest) on May 17, 2009 in La Grange, Texas. The event was a fund raiser for the Texas Czech Heritage & Cultural Center (
Special guests included two senators from the Czech Republic; representative from the Czech Embassy, Vaclav Vochoska; and Czech Queens. Czech queens attending were: Sarah-2006 Miss Czech-Slovak USA; Ashley Sulak-2008 Miss Texas Czech-Slovak Queen; Michelle Barak-2009 Miss Texas Czech-Slovak and her Little Czech Sister and Jana-Miss Lavaca County Czech-Slovak Queen.