A Finish! Craftsy Class Review: Stupendous Stitching

I finally finished another Craftsy class, and this one has been a l-o-n-g time in process. I first started working on this sometime around January 2013, made a little progress, hit a stopper, and subsequently let it languish until sometime around mid-January of this year. That wasn't because it was difficult, or boring, or something I wasn't enjoying; it was pure "Dang, I can't finish this until I..." and then getting distracted before I completed the "until I..." portion.

But I'm done! Woot woot! And so, I can now officially post my review of...

Carol Ann Waugh's "Stupendous Stitching" class on Craftsy

I did have a whole lot of fun with this class!

Well, that is, I had fun once I finished this.

The first part of the class is making a "Stitch Bible." Carol Ann suggests starting out by creating a record of every stitch your machine can make. You start stitching each stitch in the default settings, then you make it wider, then longer. As she points out, some designs actually look like they're completely different stitches once you start monkeying with the settings. This was an extraordinarily helpful project--as she comments in this lesson, we probably have boatloads of stitches available to us on our machines that we've never used. Ahem. Yep. Now I've always got a quick reference. (And yes, they do look quite different stitched out for realsies than they do in the little diagram on my machine, so there's that, as well.) You can tell I didn't worry about having matching pages--I just used scrap fabrics and scrap threads so it's not a very pretty Stitch Bible. But I wasn't going for pretty. I was going for functional...and done.

Yes, this was the step that hitched me up and made this class take me over a year to finish. I made the first page or two, ran out of the stiff stabilizer I was using, and took about a year to get back to buying the supplies and creating myself enough pages to finish this. Over Christmas break this year, I got the remaining pages prepped so I could blast through and get the Stitch Bible complete. Boy, was that tedious work! Useful now that it's done, but mind-numbing to complete.

In this detail photo you can see the copious notes I took, ahem. Since I was generally using about the same settings every time, I didn't bother writing them down. It's enough for me to see the difference in stitch.

This was before I had an appropriately-sized grommet-maker. So I stabbed a hole in the corners with very sharp, pointy scissors. At that point, stabbing the pages over and over again with a sharp object was a bit therapeutic. This really was a tedious endeavor.

Ah, but once it was done, on to the fun stuff!

Carol Ann spends an entire lesson on how to choose a background for the Stupendous Stitching project. She does a great job showing choices that would work well and others that wouldn't work so well, and explaining why. It took me some deliberating to settle on which of my hand-dyes would work best for the actual class project. I needed something interesting, but not too busy.

This was the winner. I thought the sort of circular "blasts" of color might give me some design inspiration as I went. (It looks a little more vibrant/busy in this photo than in real life. I think you'll see that better in the finished reveal.)

The first step is couching. You couch a few lines on the project that sort of lay the foundation for everything that comes next. I ended up buying a special couching (piping) foot as the foot my machine came with didn't have a deep enough groove for the couching I was doing. This is the "Pearls and Piping" foot--I believe it's the one Carol Ann recommends in the class. I love it. It's a great foot. The one trick is remembering to move the little plastic piece that sits on the bar where it latches onto the shank--that little plastic piece adjusts the placement of the foot in relationship to your needle, which changes where the needle hits in relationship to what you're couching. Got it? This caught me up a couple of times--I'd get started and take a few stitches, then realize I'd not adjusted the little plastic piece. Still n' all, a great foot.

I had a blast using some great sari ribbons and sari yarns--ribbons/yarns created from scraps of old Indian saris. Beautiful stuff, bought a couple of packages of them two or three years ago, never knew how to use them. Wow, did I have fun! Well, except that the sari ribbons had a lot of fraying along the edges that eventually caused a bit of a mangled rats nest under the needle.

I call shenanigans.

Fortunately, nothing broke, and after 10 minutes with a very sharp pair of snips, tweezers, and a quick vacuum with my mini-attachments, we were back in business.

I used three large sari ribbon pieces and one narrower sari yarn. They added great color and texture, but the three ribbon pieces were a bit visually overwhelming. I sent @knittyAJ (AJ of The Quilting Pot podcast and I Knit N Quilt 2 blog) a quick email, since she'd done this class last year at the same time I started, to get her suggestion. She suggested I get over myself. Well, okay, she said it a whole lot nicer than that and it was one of the options I'd said I was considering in the first place, so I agreed. Thanks for the "call a friend" lifeline, AJ! Very helpful. I decided to leave it until much further in the process to see if doing everything else would soften the impact.

The next step is using your decorative stitches. Here I got to play with a whole lot of gorgeous threads I've collected over the years and, again, never really knew what to do with. (This was just what I started with--I added a lot more later!)

You do more lines with decorative stitches, and then you do some hand-stitching as well.

I had a whole lot of fun trying out some new stitches and getting ideas from the Creative Stitching book by Sue Spargo that I reviewed on a podcast episode awhile back. I got pretty good at French knots and lazy daisies, although my daisies were a bit hodge-podgey in size and petal direction. I choose to call it whimsical and move on.

Here's another example of my couching and some hand stitching.

In this one, you can see my ultimate solution for those overwhelming sari ribbons. When I was doing my hand-stitching, I decided I could try hand-couching them down and seeing what happened. I liked it! Nothing had to get ripped out, and now they're all interesting texture without taking over the piece.

(The hand-couched ribbon is on the left. The thicker couching on the right was sari yarn machine-couched. Hand-stitched lazy-daisies, hand-stitched threaded chain on far right.)

And some more detail of decorative stitches, hand-stitching, and couching.

You can see how much fun it is to just cut loose and say, "What can I try to do next??"

By the way, when you take this class (and you know you will!) pay attention when she says to stop the hand stitching a fair amount inside the edge. I didn't. Oops. I cut through some of my knots when I trimmed up the edge and had to go back to hand-tack a couple of my hand-stitching ends back down. Glue may have been involved.

You can also see in this picture the rat-tail binding technique she shows--a new technique for me! I had a little trouble with it here and there because I was using a braided cord that frayed like the dickens when I cut the end, and I also had very thick couching pieces that my zig-zag had to wrestle its way over. I used my Pearls n' Piping foot again for this step and it worked much better than my regular presser foot. Still, I couched over it twice to be sure, and then had to shave off some frayed ends with my snips. It's a nifty technique, though.

So here's all the fun stuff I played with through this process in one shot.

Pretty threads from a variety of sources, hand-dyed perle cotton from Laura Wasilowski's Artfabrik shop (bought in Houston a few years back), sari ribbons and yarns from Meinke Toy (check out their "toy boxes").

And, of course, my hand-dyes. (Also a hand-dyed on the back but there's a reason that hand-dyed piece ended up as backing. It's not exciting enough for a picture, but it's similar colors to the front.)

And here's the final reveal:


Sure, there's some things I'd approach differently if I were to do this again. I enjoyed it, though, and I did learn a lot about my machine, using different materials, and hand-embroidery. I can easily see myself using the techniques I learned from this in other projects, or creating "stupendous stitching fabric" for other uses, as Carol Ann Waugh shows in the final lesson (see "Basics" below). And I could imagine doing a few 9" or 12" blocks with this technique, set into a wall quilt with other blocks. That could be cool. I could see adding beadwork, or including needle felting....Lots of possibilities here!

So, if you're in the mood to play, to use a lot of intriguing materials and methods, and just be foot loose and fancy free for awhile (her mantra through the class is "there are no mistakes!"), this is exactly what the quilt doctor ordered. I do recommend this class. Once that dang Stitch Bible was out of the way, it was just a-whole-lotta-rockin' fun!

Again, that's "Stupendous Stitching" by Carol Ann Waugh. You won't be sorry.

The Basics:

  • 11 lessons, ranging from 5 minutes (the last lesson) to about 30 minutes.
  • After the introduction, the first lesson is a very helpful overview of the kinds of materials you could use; then the next lesson talks about the Stitch Bible. The following lessons then take you step by step through the process, with a ton of helpful tips along the way.
  • Last lesson is about five minutes of ideas for other ways you can use Stupendous Stitching techniques--pillows, purses, shoes, tablet covers, and the like.
  • The downloadable materials were great reference, and one, the "No Mistakes Poster," is worth sticking on the wall in your quilt studio!

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