Thursday, April 25, 2013

Needlebook Tutorial

I had a request for a tutorial for these little needlebooks.  There are lots of ways to make these sweet little needle carriers; this is the way I make them, but it's certainly not the only way!

I start with a length of linen fabric.  You're going to need a little more than four times the width of whatever embroidery you plan to use. I'd suggest you use a couple inches more width than that even if it might mean you waste a little bit.


Fold this in half and mark your center point.  I use a pen with water-soluable ink that you can get at any notions store.  You can then hoop the fabric or however you hold your embroidery at this point. I use a frame called a Q-Snap and love it.  (You can get a 6" frame at Hobby Lobby, or larger frames at

You'll want to create your embroidery on the left side of that line.  The line marks the approximate place where you will fold your fabric to create the needlebook.  Don't worry if you're not exact; that's why you have a bit more than extra.

As you can see, I didn't plan my embroidery well and went over my fold line.  No worries, I'll just move my fold line over a little ways. The embroidery in this case is silk blackwork; the central motif is from plate 165 of Ensamplario Atlantio by Mistress Ianthe d'Averoigne.  I charted the outer frame, you can see the chart in subsequent pictures.
 Once the embroidery is finished, rinse the ink out with cold running water for at least thirty seconds.  This takes out every trace of the ink so that it doesn't reappear.  Pat excess water from the fabric and hang to dry on a clip hanger if you have one, or dry it flat.
 Fold the fabric with the wrong side out, then fold it again so that you can tell where the back side of the book ends.  Trim the end with about 1/4 inch extra to fold back.

 Here's a little trick: I have such a problem cutting linen straight, so what I have learned to do is to pull a single thread out of the fabric, then using the line as a cutting guide. You get a straight cut that way!

Unfold and cut the top and the bottom with about a 1/2 inch clearance. When it is refolded, it should look like this:

Fold in the extra length on the back side of the book, like this.  You will stitch these flat as you make the seams, and it will make it easier to finish  the open end when you turn it right side out.

Now you will sew the seams on top and bottom.  When you are finished, clip the corners, making sure not to clip them too close, especially on the open edge.  The seams can be done with simple running stitch with matching thread.

When you are done stitching, turn it inside out.  Poke the corners out with an orange stick or scissors.

If I were making a tiny gift bag, I'd add a little drawstring here!

Iron the seams flat, and also iron the crease in the needlebook.

Close the open side with tiny overcast stitches.  If your thread matches you'll never be able to see them unless you're looking 'very' hard.
TA-DA! The outside is done, now to finish the book!

 Cut a piece of matching or contrasting felt slightly smaller than the height, but cut it intentionally too long.  Line the felt up slightly inside of the cover, and stitch it down onto the crease with running stitches.  Don't worry, this will be covered later.

Once the felt is sewn down, open the cover again and trim the excess felt.  Make sure that the felt doesn't protrude from the cover when closed.


Sew a small bead to the front edge of the book, and match this with a thread loop on the back.  This gives you a closure and keeps your book from flopping open.
I use fingerloop braiding for the cording on my needlebooks.  There are several very good tutorials on fingerloop braiding on YouTube. (I would be happy to teach anyone who wants to make a trip to meet me in person! But I find it very hard to describe the process without showing it.) You could also use kumihimo, lucet, or plaiting.

I used the thinner silk to make a tassel for the book.  This process is rather straightforward: wrap 60 turns of silk around a small box lid, tie off with the cording (do this off center by about a third), remove the turns, bind the top and cut/trim the bottom.  

 Tie the cording around the crease of the book, and tie off with a square knot in the center of the book.  This is why you needed to place the tassel off-center.  Stitch the cording down with matching thread through the cording, following the braid pattern.  Knot and trim the excess cording.

Voila! The finished needlebook!

 The needlebook, including the embroidery, fingerloop braiding, tassel-making and construction, took approximately four hours.  Very quick, very easy project.  (I took more time fighting with Blogger and writing up the tutorial! ;) )

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Always playing catchup...

I guess I should just resign myself to posting whenever I have a few projects finished! I just don't think about the blog until someone points out that I haven't posted in some time, or some other reason happens.  Time just runs too fast!

Since last I posted, I finished the capuchin hood that was commissioned.  I entered it into a Regional A&S, and got a 17.5 on it.  It is split stitch throughout, but since it had no actual goldwork it was pointed out to me that it wasn't 'quite' Opus Anglicanum.  I'll be recreating this on a different color fabric, with the goldwork, for our Kingdom A&S this year in September.

I'm a member of a secret swap called Nobelese Largesse, which pairs 50 people up with one another to create beautiful and useful things for each other.  I drew a lady name Cateline la Broderesse, whose persona is 14th century.  Her arms are purple and white, and one of the things she stated in her information document was that she would carry an aumoniere and a paternoster.  So that's what I created.

The red is split stitch, the purple is klosterstitch, done in alternating directions, and it also has couched goldwork on this side.  I didn't put it on the other side to prevent it from catching on clothing as it was hung from a belt.  The cords are fingerlooped braid from the same silk I used to embroider the pouch, and it was lined with purple linen.  The paternoster was made of amethyst and goldtone filligree beads, with a goldtone cross, strung on four lengths of the same purple embroidery silk and embellished further with a purple tassel.  There is even room for the beads to move as they are being counted.

This next project was for a friend who was getting married.  She requested a wedding hankie with several of her favorite motifs - her household badge, a treble clef, the Kingdom badge and a fluer de lis, which is one of the charges in her arms.   In the center she wanted a spiral with a single leaf.  All of this was done in split stitch.

I've been doing a lot of split stitch lately and haven't had a chance to do much blackwork, but I will get back to it since it 'is' my favorite.  I do have to say that split stitch is faster to work sometimes though.

One of my most recent finished projects was for our Embroidery Guild's annual Gulf Wars projects to gift the Royals with something pretty and handmade.  This year it is hankies, and I created a pair of hankies for Trimaris, a pair for the East, and a single one for Calontir (by mistake - I saw purple and gold and had Calontir in my mind, when I was actually supposed to do the East!) Generally speaking I make these with Kingdom symbols, but seeing that the main symbol on the East is a crown, I went with their Royals' personal arms instead.

The only other project I can think of that I did since October was to make some War Horn belt tokens.  This is our Kingdom's award for prowess in large battles at war, and this is the regalia for that award.  This one is also done in split stitch throughout.

Projects that I am currently working on:
-Embroidered silk veil for (currently) Her Highness,
-a pair of blackworked cuffs, also for Her Highness,
-a Jorvik cap
-a blackwork sampler basket cover (forever project)
-more hankies in case there are holes needed to be filled in for the Gulf Wars project

Projects that I want to (must) do but haven't started yet:
-putting embroidery on an underdress so that I can show five basic embroidery stitches for a class (MUST start on this soon, I'm giving the class in two weeks!)
-Redo the capuchin hood for Kingdom A&S (and improve the documentation)
-a blackwork scroll for our Kingdom's Arts and Sciences consulting order (Silver Lamp)
-a blackwork coif with flowers and squirrels

Projects that I've laid aside indefinitely:
-blackwork book cover
-blackwork coif with flowers and greyhounds (ruined by cat, eventually I will come back and fix it)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fits and Starts (AKA Creating so much I forget to post!)

So my intention to post once a month has come down to posting what, four times a year?  I need to do better at that.

Kingdom A&S came and went, and with it some of the creations I worked hard to make.

These three items went into the prize basket for my team's contribution.  We ended up winning in the end! From left to right, a blackworked handkerchief, freeform rose and leaves; a sewing basket, with needlebook of our kingdom's device, a biscornu with a pattern from a sword counterweight, and bone notions; and a painted silk triskele fan.

These are what I created to donate.  In our kingdom we have something called the Largesse Derby.  Largesse is anything that is given to another person as a gift, a token, something in appreciation or just because.  Their Majesties are always giving out gifts! The Largesse Derby was created to give them a resource of gifts to give.  Each entry in the Derby is twelve items, and I created seven entries:  necklaces, ram bead tassels, red and black silk fingerloop braids, a combined entry of bobbin lace bookmarks and embroidered handkerchiefs, paternosters (medieval rosaries; note there are two missing, Their Majesties helped themselves to their favorites as is Their right!), painted silk fans of our kingdom device, and biscornus.  I won the Populace Choice Award for the biscornus, and also won an award that was named for me - the Lady Isabel Over The Top Award, for creating six or more single entries.

Here was my entry into the A&S Competition.  You have seen this piece before; well here it is, cleaned up and with my documentation and sources.  I got a score of 17 out of 20, which I'm VERY pleased about, given this was my first Kingdom-level A&S.  This was taken after the competition was over, so you can see all the baubles that people left for me.  (That's largesse, you see?)

This handkerchief was done as a "stunt swap" for the SCA-wide secret swap known as Nobelese Largesse.  I was a replacement for someone who didn't make an item for their swap-mate.  The pattern is a 10th century Mamluk border done in double-running stitches, a single strand of 60/2 red silk on 65 count linen.  The pattern is fully reversible - it looks the same on both sides of the hanky.

Since then, I finished a biscornu and needlebook for Her Majesty Miriel, but unfortunately I did not get a picture of them.  Perhaps next I see her I will ask her to take pictures.  I also helped her with her garb the night before Coronation. (Must remember to take pictures of the things I create!!)

I currently have several things in process:
*An aumoniere (alms-purse) for Nobelese Largesse that must be finished by the end of January
*An embroidered Jorvik cap (Viking peaked cap)
*An embroidered badge for a friend that is being elevated to his fourth peerage in December (taking lots of pics of this!)
*Two embroidered veils
*An embroidered hood (planned but not yet started)
*Embroidery on an Irish leine for my husband
*Blackwork sampler basket cloth
*Blackworked coif

I know that looks like a lot, but some things get worked on constantly, some things I switch out, and some projects are carry-along projects that only get worked on when I have to be in a waiting room or whatever.  Only two have a deadline.

Hopefully I'll have more to show you next month, and hopefully I remember to take more pictures!