How to Embroider a Big Bunch of Sweet Peas for a Padded Notebook Cover
I just love sweet peas – they are one of my favourite flowers. I think it’s something about just how delicate they are yet vibrant at the same time. I like the way their tendrils grab onto the strong, flattish stalks and tangle around each other to help support the plant – like a good friend would. Is there anything more uplifting than the intoxicating scent of sweet peas on a Summer’s day?
It’s even more delightful if you have grown them from seed yourself, starting out in the depths of Winter with a packet of hard little balls, soaking them overnight and settling them into some seed compost to send out their long roots. My Dad used to grown them in recycled toilet rolls – great idea! I like to have a houseful if I can – the more you pick, the better they flower.
A great idea for a present for someone special
So what better subject for a piece of embroidery than a big bunch of sweet peas? One you can look at in the depths of Winter when the garden is sleeping. I like to make embroidery into something practical, if I can. I am going to create a notebook cover with these sweet peas – one you can slide on and off so you can keep it and put it around a new notebook when you have filled one up.
My first attempt is a practice run so I can learn a few tips and tricks before I try to make one good enough for sale. I’m making this for my sister. Last Christmas, I gave her a few packets of sweet peas as a present – a superb variety called “Here Come the Girls”! She nurtured them all over the Winter and planted them out in her very productive allotment in the Spring. By Summertime, she was picking them by the bucket load!
I chose a notebook cover as my sister always keeps a notebook for jotting down anything in the day that makes her feel good. It can be very simple things – like the pleasure of getting your sweet peas to crop well – or the way the sun shines on raindrops after a shower – or jiviing along to one woman silent disco on her allotment.
It’s a really great idea – lovely to read back on if you ever feel down for any reason and want to remind yourself of all the great things life has to give. She has shared many tips and tricks with me over the years – this is one I have started to do myself. So what better present to make for her?
What You Will Need
- I recycled some silk leftover from a previous project to make this notebook.
- I used lining unpicked from an old quilt that had been in my fabric cupboard for a few years to make the wedding for the notebook. Nice to finally be able to make use of it.
Don’t forget to save all the bits of spare silk from around your leaves and petals. Cut them into tiny triangular shapes, divide them into a few piles (one for each colour) on pieces of kitchen paper and sprinkle them liberally with the leftover paint.
Sandwich your fabric scraps between two pieces of dry kitchen roll and iron over them for 5 minutes to set the colours. I find this a strangely therapeutic process?! Almost the best bit of the project – stand back and admire your scraps! I keep them in ziplock bags – one for each colour. Keep reading for ideas on how to use them in other projects.
Time needed: A couple of days.
How to make a rather special removable, padded embroidered cover for a notebook.
- Find inspiration from a photo or a picture – maybe one that you have taken yourself?
- Trace out all the petals and leaves onto paper (see the pattern below).
Trace your designs out onto a piece of raw silk dupion. I used a Madeira Magic Pen to do this. The pen washes out completely cleanly in water.
- Cut around the silk shapes with a small super sharp pair of scissors.
- Cut a piece of fabric big enough to cover your chosen notebook with sufficient overlap to be able to sew a neat seam. You will need enough to cover the notebook twice – for both the outer cover and the lining – plus sufficient to make the two pockets which hold the cover in place on the book. (See video link below for step by step instructions on how to make this).
Quilt wadding – cut a piece big enough to cover the notebook completely, wrapping around front and back.
Arrange the leaves, petals and stalks on the notebook in a way that pleases you.
Dye the cut pieces using silk paints. I really like Pebeo Setasilk. It comes in little pots with a useful pipette on the lid, so you can use it very sparingly. A little goes a very long way! It comes in a wide variety of exciting colours. Remember that you need to iron it to set it!
Stick the silk pieces in place on the cover using paper backed fusible web. Transfer each one carefully into place to make a pleasing composition.
Embroider the sweet peas using free motion embroidery. This really isn’t as hard as it looks! See the link for a great video tutorial on exactly how to do it below.
Make up the notebook cover. See below under Sources of Inspiration for a very detailed You Tube video which tells you exactly how to do this.
Stand back and admire your work!
Tips and Tricks
- I keep a little pair of really sharp scissors just for cutting silk and fine embroidery and NEVER use them for anything else.
- I used an ombrê dying technique to get the subtle effect on the silk. You can dip the edge of your petal right into the paint and let it suck up the colour gradually. The edges will be slightly darker than the rest as a result, which I think gives a nice natural looking effect. Allow yourself a little spare silk in case you don’t get exactly the effect you want on each piece first time.
Kitchen roll is really useful for drying the silk on and mopping up any excess colour, dampening down its intensity.
You need the embroidery hoop to hold your fabric really tightly. I bound the hoop with bias tape before I started.
- You can find lots of You Tube videos on how to do free motion embroidery. Basically, you drop your feed dogs, take the embroidery foot off your machine, stretch your fabric into your hoop and embroider upside down (i.e. with the fabric down flat on the bed of the machine and the hoop sitting on the top of it. Hold the hoop with both hands and move it under the needle as the machine sews. It’s best to do a few practice runs before you let yourself loose on the design you have just painstakingly created!
For colouring the scraps at the end of the project, I found a little pipette saved from dry eye drops that I use from time to time really handy. You can suck up a tiny amount of paint and squirt it on your scraps to give them a random splash of colour. Who needs expensive tools?!
Sources of Inspiration
I found this video on You Tube indispensable for making the notebook correctly – click on the link opposite to see the full instructions.
The idea for sewing the sweet peas came from a fantastic book which has had a special place on my bookshelf for many years: The Embroiderer’s Floral – Janet Haigh.
I learned how to do free motion embroidery by attending a course locally run by Clare Muir. Her courses are great fun, bite sized, don’t cost a fortune and teach you skills that last a lifetime, for which I am very grateful.
Clare Muir has also produced a great You Tube video on free motion embroidery – Click on the link opposite to see her video.