Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Like a Bird on a Pillow Case

Written by Lara Gelband
  Active Image             Want a great way to spruce up boring linens? Hand embroidery! Using embroidery to add a bird or other pretty designs to a pillowcase is fairly simple. And, if you’re like me and have zero tolerance for following patterns, embroidery is great because, once you know which picture and stitches you want to use, it's entirely free-form.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

How to Embroider the Perfect Bird
Photos by Lara Gelband
 
Want a great way to spruce up boring linens? Hand embroidery! Using embroidery to add a bird or other pretty designs to a pillowcase is fairly simple. And, if you’re like me and have zero tolerance for following patterns, embroidery is great because, once you know which picture and stitches you want to use, it's entirely free-form.

Supplies:
• Embroidery hoop
• Bird stencil (though any small, simple stencil will do)
• Embroidery needle
• Embroidery thread (colors are up to you)
• Pillowcase
• Pen
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Directions:
1. Place the stencil on the pillowcase near its opening and trace the image on with a fine line.
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2. Put the inner circle of the embroidery hoop under the fabric and the outer circle over the fabric. Then push the two together. They should snap into place.
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3. Cut a 1-2' long piece of embroidery thread. Separate the embroidery thread in half down the middle, making 2 sets of 3 strands each (these should pull apart fairly easily).
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Thread the needle. (You can put the thread through the hole at the top of the needle by wetting the edge of the thread and rolling it between your fingers, so it comes to a point. Put a knot at the end of the thread and make the repetitive crewel stitches (pictured below) along the outline of your picture, which you just traced onto the pillowcase.
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For the crewel stitch you bring the needle up through the fabric, then push the needle back down through the fabric making a short line (or straight stitch). Then, for your next stitch, bring the needle back up through the fabric halfway past and along the underside of the stitch you just made, so you backtrack a half stitch length for each new stitch. And repeat along the outline.

When you get to a corner, this stitch can get tricky so feel free to play around a bit with stitching until you've turned the corner. There are no rules; if it looks fine, it's fine.
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When you have finished outlining your picture, tie a knot on the backside of the stitching and snip away any excess thread with scissors.
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4. Select another color, thread your needle as you did for the crewel stitch, and begin filling in each section with split stitch.
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A split stitch is a normal straight stitch. The only difference is that when you come back up through the fabric for your second stitch you are backtracking, and pushing the needle up, about midway through, the stitch you just made. This stitch is really useful for filling in sections on any picture. Start from a corner and follow the outline closely so you fill in all of the empty space. When you get to the end, just pull the thread up through the fabric next to where you left off and head back stitching in the other direction. If you miss a spot, you can always go back in and cover it up with one simple straight stitch when you are done. Think of it like coloring, but with thread instead of markers or crayons.
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5. For the eye of the bird, you can try to be adventurous and do a single French knot (for this I recommend searching for videos on-line), but for beginners, two straight stitches in an "x" will do the trick.
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The great thing about embroidery is that once you have the stitches down, you can really apply them to a project of any difficulty level. A great way to get some practice is to look for embroidery kits on eBay. There are loads of vintage kits up for auction that include stitch instructions and yarn (though you may want to replace the yarn with your own embroidery thread). Another useful tool is an embroidery stitch guide/encyclopedia, which can also usually be found in the eBay auctions for only a few dollars.

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