Sunday, March 25, 2012

Embroidering Hand Knitted and Crocheted Projects

When I make gifts for people I like to personalize them as much as possible.  One easy way to personalize a knit or crochet project is with embroidery. My two favorite embroidery techniques are Duplicate Stitch and using Waste Canvas.

Duplicate Stitch :
The simplest way to embroider Stockinette Stitch is with duplicate stitch.

I used duplicate stitch to embroider the word "Anvil" on this hat.  There are many videos on You Tube that demonstrate this technique quite nicely.  For duplicate stitch, you simply trace the existing stitches of the knitted material with a contrasting color so that the the embroidered stitches sit on top of the knitting and blend in with the stockinette fabric.  I used regular graph paper to plot out my letters, You have to keep in mind that the stitches are not exactly the same size and shape of the squares on your graph paper so your design will look a little different from what is on the paper.  

This is my messy worksheet, it isn't the prettiest of work, but it got the job done :P  

Notice the letters on the paper are a different size and shape than what is on the hat.  There is special graph paper you can get that is specifically for knitters, where the squares are more true to the shape of the stitches, but regular graph paper will work as long as your stitch count matches and you keep in mind the image will look a little distorted compared to what it looks like on paper.  The embroidery will look like part of the knitting for the most part,  except the embroidery stitches will be slightly raised, which is an effect that is very fitting for many projects.

Duplicate stitch is ideal for fitted garments, like hats, because the elasticity of the fabric is not noticeably compromised, the hat will keep it's stretchiness and still fit well.  I will often stretch the fabric as I go to ensure that the embroidered stitches are not to tight and stretch along with the fabric.  Another thing to keep in mind when doing this stitch is that you do not want to carry your yarn more than 1 or 2 stitches across the back of the work, as this will also affect the way the garment fits.  For the Anvil hat, the letters were 2 stitches apart and I used a separate strand of yarn for each letter.  Not carrying your yarn very far will mean more dreaded tails to weave in.  Most knitters, including myself, do not look forward to weaving in tails, but if it assures that the garment will fit well, then it is worth the extra work.

Embroidering with Waste Canvas :

Waste Canvas is one of those things that I wished I had discovered sooner, because I love to use it and use it often on both hand knitted and crocheted material.  When I first attempted to embroider something on my knitting and crochet using stitches other than duplicate stitch I was not happy with the results.  I found that my lines were not straight, sometimes the stitches would sink into the knitting and not be visible, and sometimes it was difficult to make the stitches even due to the stretchy nature of knitted fabrics.  I mentioned my frustrations to my sister-in-law, who is amazing when it comes to embroidery and Cross Stitch,  and she suggested I try Waste Canvas.  What wonderful advice!  

People who do Cross Stitch will often use Waste Canvas when stitching onto garments because it acts as a guide for their stitches.  I found that Waste Canvas was useful for embroidering on knitted and crocheted items for other reasons as well.  This special "temporary" canvas is made up of threads loosely woven together and then bound together with a mild glue.  The canvas provides a nice flat surface, making embroidery much easier, especially on stretchy Stockinette and Bumpy Crochet.  You simply attach the canvas with a basting stitch, embroider your design in any stitch you like, remove the basting stitches, and pull the threads of the canvas out with tweezers.  I found this method ideal for Knitting and Crochet because it does 2 very important things, it provides a flat smooth surface and it helps the embroidered stitches to stay on the surface, rather than sink in between the knitted stitches.  It also acts a spacer in that it creates just enough of a gap between the Knitting/Crochet and the embroidery so that the embroidery does not cause the knitting to buckle and bunch up; you get nice even stitches, not too tight and not too loose.  

These are some examples of embroidery that I have done on both crochet and knitting using Waste Canvas.  It works with both embroidery floss and yarn.  

Embroidery on crochet (on puppets that I made) using embroidery floss

Embroidery on knitting (a patch for a baby sized rocker jacket), with embroidery floss

Embroidered on Knitting with light weight yarn.

Also the baby rocker jacket.  The "Iron Maiden" is Floss, the "Led Zeppelin" is embroidered with white yarn.

Embroidery on the baby rocker jacket with Floss, made to look 'carved'.

Step by Step instructions for using Waste Canvas:

This is how I embroidered the Anvil on the Anvil hat.

1. Draw your design on paper.  Use a dark colored pen so you can easily see to trace the design onto the canvas.

2.  Cut a piece of canvas slightly larger than the image.  Be sure there is enough space between the edge of the canvas and the image so that you can attach it to your project with temporary basting stitches.

3.  Trace the design onto the center of the canvas.  If the design is really detailed, I will use a light table for this step, or I will only trace the main lines of the design and free hand the rest using the image as a guide.

4.  Pin the canvas in place.  I used an embroidery hoop, it is not necessary, but helpful to keep the rest of the garment out of the way.  If you use a hoop make sure you do not stretch the knitting tightly over it.  You want the fabric to be flat but not stretched, if it is tightly stretched your image may not land in the right place or the design will be bunched when you are done.

5.  With contrasting thread or yarn, sew the canvas in place with a temporary basting stitch, which will be removed later after embroidery is complete.

6.  Use thread or yarn to embroider your design.  I love to use whipped back stitch because it makes nice straight lines that sit neatly on top of the knitted surface, but any stitch will work with the canvas.

7.  After embroidery is finished, remove the basting stitches.

8.  With tweezers, begin removing the threads of the canvas.  This step can be a little tedious, especially in the beginning, but once you get going it will go quickly.  You can spray the canvas with water to loosen the threads, I don't usually wet it, but if you are having trouble getting started, wetting it may help.  I will begin by pulling all the threads around the edge of my design that are not sitting under the embroidery.  When you begin pulling the threads out from under the embroidery it may be helpful to hold the design flat so that the threads of the canvas sit straight, making it easier to pull out.

And that is it!  You now have a nice neat design that sits on top of your knitting, the canvas is gone!  
You can find Waste Canvas in the embroidery section of most Craft stores, including JoAnn's and Michaels.

Embroidery is a great way to add a personal touch to any project!