Tutorial Tuesday: String Art Embellishment

When it was time to decorate a raffle box for the Spring Handmade Cavalcade, I really wanted to take advantage of the existing structure of the lunchbox. After much trial and error, I hit upon the idea of using the stitching holes as the basis of the design. During elementary school, one of my teachers had been in an art project rut that consisted of making string art for every single month. Apparently, time has made it fresh to me again, since I was pleased enough with the outcome to want to share it with you.

String art has its origins in activities invented at the end of the 19th Century to teach mathematical ideas to children, and became popular as a decorative craft in the late 1960s. Though straight lines are formed by the string, the angles and metric positions at which strings intersect give the appearance of curves.

For this project you need:
An item to embellish that has holes in it (holes can be configured as an angle or an arc)
Embroidery Thread
Glue (optional)

Thread the longest amount of thread that you think you can handle onto the needle (I use my full armspan, so about 5 feet). Tie a large knot and go from the back of the piece to the front at point #1 on the diagram. At this point I also like to add a dab of glue on the knot to keep it in place as well.

Follow the number patterns from 1-20 going from the back to the front on the odd numbers (1, 3, 5, etc.), and from front to back on the even numbers. Keep the thread taut as you go to keep the lines straight and neat. If you run out of thread, knot off on the back, and start again going up at the next odd number with a new piece.
Here is a step-by-step diagram to see how the picture emerges. Red lines are on the front of the piece, and the yellow lines are the shorter stitches hidden on the back. Click on the image to enlarge the diagram.

Now that you've completed the pattern, just knot off on the back, and if add a little dab of glue to anchor it in place.
You may have noticed that the arc that we've made could have continued the rest of the way around the circle. Alternately you could make an asymetrical design by making a different distance between a second set of points 1 and 2. I find that string art is so quick and easy to do (and undo) that experimentation is highly rewarding!
I would love if you could share any ideas or completed projects that this tutorial has inspired you to create in the comments section.


Tutorial: Using Beaded Jacobean Couching to Fill Embroidered Shapes

This embroidery technique is a variation on a stitch called "Jacobean Couching" that uses beads to give your project some added elegance. This project is not difficult, though it is helpful to have some knowledge of basic embroidery. Here are the materials you will need:

1. Embroidery Floss.
2. Seed Beads.
3. Regular sewing thread in a color that matches your beads.
4. A heat-transfer pencil.
5. An air-soluble pen (a pen that makes a mark which will disappear in a day or so).
6. A transparent gridded ruler.
PLUS, tracing paper, scissors, a home iron, fabric to embroider your design onto, and an embroidery hoop. For this project I used a 6" hoop.

STEP 1: Trace your design onto tracing paper using the heat transfer pencil. I chose an eight pointed star - you can choose pretty much any image you like, as this technique works well for filling any simple shape.

STEP 2: Iron the design onto your fabric. Use the hottest setting that will work for your chosen fabric, turn the steam setting to "off," and do not let your design shift while ironing. My design was transfered after about ten seconds of ironing.

STEP 3: Outline your design using any stitch you like. I chose to use the Stem Stitch, which is illustrated below. For this project, I did my stitching with three strands of embroidery floss. A handy set of illustrations for various outline stitches can be found here.

STEP 4: You are going to run a series of parallel threads over the entirety of your design. I chose a distance of 3/8". Using your transparent gridded ruler, make small dots right next to your outline, indicating where your parallel stitches should be placed. The ink should disappear in a day or so, but it's still best to keep your marks as small as possible.

STEP 5: Using the marks you've made, create a series of long parallel stitches that fill up your entire shape.

STEP 6: Decide whether you would like to end up with a shape filled with squares or diamonds. If you want squares, you should make your second set of parallel stitches at a 90 degree angle to the first set. I decided I wanted diamonds, so I chose a random angle, and simply made all my stitches parallel to the first line that I made at random.

STEP 7: Once you have filled your entire shape with a grid of long stitches, you can start adding the beads. Thread your needle with a double strand of regular sewing thread, then bring your needle up through the fabric right next to the place where two threads cross.

Thread a bead onto your string, and bring your needle back down through the fabric on the opposite side of the crossed threads.

To make sure your beads are securely stitched onto the fabric, bring your needle back up, and make a second stitch through each bead before moving on to anchor the next intersection of threads. Keep going until you've tacked down all your threads.

STEP 8: Admire the beauty!