If you are a member of the Crazy Quilting International Yahoo group or the facebook group Crazy Quilt International you will know Renee and be familiar with her work. But many non crazy quilting people do not know her so this interview is an excuse to feature some lovely crazy quilting and talk to Renee about stitching. So time for a cuppa – I hope you enjoy hearing her story.
TAST Interview with Renee of Hand Stitched Treasure
Why do you like hand embroidery and hand work? How has it influenced your life?
I find hand embroidery relaxing. (My husband must have noticed this. If I go a week without a needle in my hand, he encourages me to take some “me” time to sit and stitch.) I love watching fabric, a needle and some thread transform into (hopefully) something beautiful. Embroidery has influenced my life in a number of ways. I have made amazing friendships with people around the world through crazy quilting and blogging. My confidence has improved as I have successfully attempted new techniques that I found intimidating. And, I am learning to take a compliment. (It is so much easier on-line than it is in person, but I am working on it!)
How did you start? Were you taught by your mother, school or taught yourself online? If you taught yourself what attracted you to embroidery?
When I was in high school, a dear family friend taught me how to cross-stitch. I fell in love with the craft. Decades later, I went to a quilt show with my mother-in-law and saw a landscape quilt with silk ribbon tulips and was in awe with ribbon embroidery. Shortly after that, I saw my first crazy quilt at the Oregon State Fair. It was white-on-white and I knew I had to try making one someday. It took me several years to gather the courage. When I finally began looking for directions on-line, I stumbled upon the Crazy Quilting International Blog and realized there was so much more to crazy quilting than I ever imagined. My embroidery skills are self-taught through books and from on-line tutorials. Your Stitch Encyclopedia is my go-to site when I am looking for ideas. The beauty and diversity of embroidery drew me in.
Do you use TAST to make samplers or incorporate the stitches into projects as you go? Or what sort of projects most attract you?
Someday, I hope to make a sampler with the TAST stitches. At the moment, I try to work the stitches into current projects I have going. I find myself drawn to functional projects like handbags, tote bags, coin purses and glasses cases.
Can you talk about your last project and/or your current project? (Can be any textile project)
My last project was created as part of the Crazy Quilt Journal Project (CQJP) 2014. My goal was to crazy quilt a block a month and to make that block into a bag or purse of some sort. (Life interfered, but I am still plugging away.) The November block was pieced with black fabrics and primarily embroidered with white, pinks and greens and it incorporated several TAST stitches. I finished the block off as a zipper pouch with a little wristlet strap and made a matching tissue-pack cover. The set was donated to my son’s drama club for a raffle fund-raiser.
What is the project you are most proud of?
That is a really tough question! I am not sure I have a favorite. Every time I try something new and it turns out well, I find myself gleefully surprised and excited. However, my husband thinks the bird I needle-painted on a CQJP 2016 block using your stencils is – by far – the coolest thing I have embroidered.
Do you have any UFO’s ? If so, fess up to how many?
Oh dear. Yes, I have UFO’s. Most of them are projects I began making for myself and set aside to make a gift for someone else. There are 33 that I can think of at the moment. (That number should be smaller by the end of the year! I had 35 on January 1st.)
Do you work purchased designs or do you design your own projects? Or do you do both?
I purchase designs for cross-stitching. However, I prefer to design my own crazy quilting projects.
Do you have a creative design process? If so what is it? Or do you work intuitively?
My design process varies from project to project. Sometimes I like to wing it and embroider whatever idea strikes my fancy. Other times, I have an idea of a particular element that I want to work into the piece and I plan the project around that element.
What stimulates your creative process? What inspires and sparks ideas for you?
Frequently, seeing the work of others inspires me. However, my family is no longer surprised when we are out and about if I point out a pendant or pair of earrings and ask, “Wouldn’t that look great in a crazy quilt?” Or, if I see something at the beach or a flower in the garden and ask, “I wonder if I could embroider that?” So, I guess the short answer would have been: nature, jewelry and the work of others.
Lots of people have trouble starting a project. What makes you start a project? Do you have any tips to get you from blank fabric to stitching?
Most of my projects were created as gifts and were designed with themes and colors the recipient preferred. If I find myself stumped about how to start, I consider the theme of the project. I pull out threads, charms or beads that might fit the theme or inspire ideas. Sometimes that does the trick. Other times, I make a drawing of the block and sketch possible seam treatments and motifs to see how I like them. If the ideas are not flowing, I pick a seam and embellish it. Usually, just working that first seam is the key.
Do you have stall points? If so how do you get past them? Do you have any tips to share about this.
Yes, I do. If I am stalled because I cannot think of what to work next on the block (or because I changed my mind and do not like the idea I had planned), I will take some time to look through any TAST stitches I have not worked, books, photos of previous projects, or crazy quilting photos I have saved on Pinterest until I see something that inspires an idea. If I am stalled because of the project itself, I try to alternate between it and another project.
Do you have ‘go to’ stitches. In other words stitches you use frequently that you return to using over and over. If so what are they and why do you think they are so successful for you.
I love creating floral seams using the buttonhole stitch as the base stitch and adding detached chain stitches as leaves. Then beads and/or detached chain stitches are added to the top of each stem to make the flowers. I love the simplicity of the combination and how it can be changed so much with very slight variations.
Do you have a favourite embroidery thread, or something you use all the time? If so what is it?
I have not tried a lot of different flosses. When I first began crazy quilting, I almost always used 2 strands of DMC floss. After reading your encouragement to use other sizes of thread for contrast and how well pearl cotton works with some stitches, my preference changed to pearl cottons in sizes 5, 8 and 12. I also love the look of EdMar rayon threads, but they are no longer available at my local shops.
What advice would you give to new hands?
Always piece your block at least 2-inches larger than you want the final block to be. (I prefer to add 4-inches so there are 2 extra inches on each side.) This makes it easier to hoop your work and also makes it easier to trim your block when you are ready to sew it into a project. Keep beads, charms and buttons at least ¼-inch away from your seam line so they will not interfere with the foot of your sewing machine. And, do not be afraid to ask questions.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Step outside of your comfort zone. There have been many times I have wanted to try a new stitch or embroidery technique, but felt almost too intimidated to try. If you need to, make a “doodle cloth” to practice on before attempting the stitch on your main project. You might like it. You might not. But, you will never know what you are capable of if you let self-doubt stop you.
I hope you have enjoyed the interview with Renee of Hand Stitched Treasure. I certainly enjoyed discovering more about Renee and her approach to embroidery. If you want to read and see more of her embroidery pop over to Hand Stitched Treasure. This interview is part of series that will run this year as TAST has been running for a decade. Throughout the year I will interview stitchers who have done part or all of the TAST challenge and feature their work. The same questions are posed to each stitcher.
Have you seen my Crazy quilters templates?
As a stitcher who loves crazy quilting I designed these templates with other crazy quilters in mind. With my Crazy Quilters Templates you can create hundreds of different patterns to embroider on your stitching and crazy quilting projects. They are easy to use, totally clear so you can position them easily and they are compact in your sewing box.
Crazy Quilt Templates set 1 you will find here
Crazy Quilt Templates set 2 you will find here