How do you use up your leftover fabric “scraps”?
I absolutely never throw away any scrap of linen that’s at least 2″ square, because I know I can use it for something.
Mostly, I use scraps for the background fabrics you see here on Needle ‘n Thread for stitch instructions.
And lately, I’ve been stitching up a lot of instructions and stitch samples. Lots! Yesterday alone, I took 439 photos of about 18 different stitches and stitch combinations in progress and finished.
Before I set out on this particular glut of stitch photography, I was able to come up with a whole pile of scraps perfect for this use.
This is my whole process of setting up a photo session for embroidery stitches.
I like to economize on my time, so I find it more reasonable, time-wise, to do things in batches.
For example, instead of ironing one scrap of linen, putting it in a hoop, arranging my lights, selecting threads, and so forth for just one stitch tutorial, I go in for the long haul – I set up at least two or three days’ worth of work, and I concentrate on just photographing stitches for those two or three days.
I try to look ahead, to see what I’ll need for the blog or for any other material I’m putting together. Right now, it’s the Stitch Sampler Alphabet e-book that is taking most of my time, but at the same time, I’m creating content to share here on Needle ‘n Thread. I’m also thinking ahead to another set of instructions I’ll be putting together in the near future.
So I make two or three lists of stitches I want to photograph.
Then, I go through my “scrap box” where I’ve put scraps and any irregularly shaped, poorly cut, or leftover selvage edge pieces of white, off-white, or natural colored linen. I’ve had this box for a while, and it has some pretty good scraps in it.
One particular strip of very good white linen was 5.5″ wide with the selvage still on it. It was about two yards long. That’s a terrific “scrap”!
So I cut that piece into 5″ squares. Each of those 5.5″ squares will fit just fit comfortably in a 4″ hoop.
While cutting, I inspect the scraps to make sure they aren’t dirty, stained, or marked with anything that might show up in a close-up photo.
The scraps then enjoy a little spritz of water and a hot date with the iron, because I figure tutorials that are worked on wrinkled or floppy-loose fabric tend to look unprofessional and sloppy.
I used to go through the whole rigmarole of neatening the edges of these scraps on the sewing machine, always afraid that a stray thread from the edge would catch in my stitches on the back and muck things up while I was in the midst of a photo session. Now, I don’t do that. I just remove stray edge threads and keep an eye out for any developing strays during the process.
I gather together three or four 4″ embroidery hoops with the inner ring of the embroidery hoop bound with twill tape. This is important, because the twill tape helps to keep the fabric nice and taut during the stitching process.
Another tool that I keep close by is a screw driver, so I can really tighten up the ring of the hoop to avoid fabric slippage.
I’m pretty obsessive about the whole taut-fabric-in-the-hoop thing while I’m taking pictures.
For the particular stitch photo session I’m currently engulfed in, floche and coton a broder are my threads of choice, so I have both drawers of threads on my work table within easy reach.
Some samples I’m working on require a mix of colors, so I select those colors ahead of time and set them aside, ready to go when I’m ready to stitch that particular sample.
For other samples, I try to select thread colors that I know will photograph well. For example, certain blues photograph better than others. Medium blues, teals, medium and darker greens, corals (as opposed to straight-out red), medium and dark pinks (but not hot pink), medium to medium-dark purples (but not really light purples or really dark purples), darker bright yellows or golds all photograph pretty well. But really soft pastel colors are difficult to see clearly in photos, some very bright colors (like hot pink) end up looking weird, and straight reds, for some reason, are iffy.
You don’t always see the problems with thread colors until you start editing photos. And by then, if you can’t come up with a clear shot that shows the exact movement of the stitch that you’re trying to demonstrate because the color is too weird, you end up wasting a lot of time going back to re-stitch the sample.
There are a few other things on my work table during a stitch photo session.
I keep a notepad and a pen close by, so I can jot down anything I need to remember for later.
I have a pincushion full of needles of various types – crewel in several sizes, milliner for French knots and the like, and tapestry, for any laced or whipped stitches.
I have two pairs of scissors on hand.
And I have that purple thing in the photo above – only it’s not always purple. Sometimes it’s green, sometimes it’s blue, sometimes it’s white – it just depends on what I’m photographing and how I’m photographing it.
I love that purple thing.
With everything set up, I’m ready to start stitching and photographing samples. I turn on an audio book or some good music, and I’m good to go for a three or four hour stretch of stitching and photographing, stitching and photographing, stitching and photographing.
It goes like this: one tiny step of a stitch – and then the camera. Then the next step of the stitch – then the camera.
As you can imagine, it takes a while to get through a stitch sequence!
And since I’m no professional photographer, I rarely get the photo right the first time. The sequence might sound like this:
(One tiny step of a stitch). Click. Click. Click-click. Click. (Dagnabbit!) CLICK. Click. Click click.
(The next tiny step of the stitch.) Click. Click. Click. Zoom. Click-click. (Riffemrackemfrickemfrackem!). Click. CLICK.
Once I’ve got all that stuff out and set up, with all my lighting arranged and supplies laid out, I’m not too keen on switching back and forth between the photo sessions and other projects.
So I suppose that’s my excuse for not updating you lately on the hummingbirds or the redwork runner. I estimate two more days (today and tomorrow) of stitch sessions. Then I can put it all away and get back to project photos.
Someday, I’ll have a space where I can set up my photography stuff and leave it up – a whole station where I can do projects like this without taking up my whole work area. But in the meantime, I do it this way.
And for now, it works for me.
So that’s what I’m up to. What are you up to with your needle and thread?
Whatever it is, I hope you have a glorious weekend doing it!