Monday, November 28, 2016
Never make knots.
No, I'm not talking about hair, rope, or relationships. I mean thread.
I'm planning a small sewing project. Now I could sew it on my machine. (Be very jealous: I use an original 1932 Singer Featherweight in a hand-made table. It's a treasure.) But I like hand-sewing, too. It's soothing to sit quietly and push a needle. I've always felt that way.
When I was three years old, Nana (my grandmother) was making a dress for my cousin. She was creating cross stitch embroidery on gingham for the bodice. I was fascinated, and I still recall that moment more vividly than any other childhood memory.
"Nana, I want that!"
No, dear, you know this isn't for you."
"No!" I said desperately, pointing at the needle and thread,
"I want THAT!"
So Nana heat-transfer-printed a simple cross stitch design of three hearts onto muslin. She gave me a needle, scissors, red floss, and an embroidery hoop. Then she showed me simply what to do, and I began. And I kept on stitching until it was finished--a big accomplishment for such a tiny kid.
Like Nana, I wasn't making something for myself. I made it for Auntie Hideko who had three daughters (hence the three hearts). Maybe this is odd but I fail to recall her reaction, although I do remember giving my little bit of embroidered fabric. For me the important thing was the making and the giving. Indeed, until recent years, I have given away everything that I have made. These days, though, I mostly make things just for me because I enjoy the work as well as the results.
That's the plan today; I'm making myself a pillow. My elderly barley pillow has seen better days, and I feel fairly certain that the insides are turning to dust because it's taking longer and longer to heat. (I'll explain more about the pillow in another post.)
Because I will be working with flannel and filling it with grain, the stitches will need to be fairly close and it's important that they don't come loose. That's when a quilting trick I learned from an expert old-timey quilter comes into play: Never Knot.
Knots can break fairly easily; and when they do, the entire line of stitching is lost. No matter how good a knot you think you're making, it's vulnerable. And the way you stitch your line makes all the difference.
This stitching method is easy. When you make your first stitch, pull the unknotted thread through leaving a thread tail of about an inch. Back stitch over the same area two or three times, and then start your stitching line but (and this is the Most Important part) make a back stitch every fourth or fifth stitch. Do this throughout the stitching line. When you finish your thread or reach the end of your seam, back stitch again several times and cut off leaving an inch-long thread. The thread tails will hide themselves under the seams, and they don't need to be clipped. This method will give you a line of stitching that is very hard to break, and it will not pull away.
Life is good.