Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Stitching with raffia
The little "Gifts" ornament is completed--all that remained was to replace the hay under the vessels. And there's no better way to convey the look of straw than to use the real thing!
I've stitched with raffia before--it's perfect for stuffing peeking out of the sleeves and pant legs of scarecrows, cornstalks, witches' brooms, barnyards, and stables. It's the original "eco-friendly" thread, and much less expensive than bamboo or soy fibers. It's readily available at crafts stores across the country, and I'm sure your LNS would forgive this one transgression! But it's not always the easiest "thread" to use, so I thought I'd pass along a few tips to make the experience more enjoyable.
First: Switch to a larger needle than you'd normally use. The "Gifts" design was painted on 18 ct. canvas, for which I use a size 22 needle. I changed over to a size 20 to stitch the raffia--it's gentler on the strand of raffia passing through the eye of the needle and also enlarges the canvas holes so it's easier to pull the strand through.
Second: Be picky in choosing the strands you'll use. There's an awful lot of raffia in a two-ounce package, so you can afford to be picky! You'll want to select strands that are softer and approximately the thickness of other threads you'd use on the canvas. Avoid brittle strands, which can easily crack. If you notice any fine "hairs" along the strand, strip them away before stitching--they'll probably poke through as you stitch. And be sure to use short lengths to minimize wear-and-tear on the straw.
Third: Stay loose! Pull the strands gently through the canvas, both on the front and back. If a strand looks like it's starting to fray, end it off on the back of the canvas and start another strand.
Fourth: Stitch the raffia on top of areas previously stitched. If the straw should crack several years down the road, you'll still see stitched areas rather than bare canvas and the ornament won't be ruined.
If all of these admonitions sound like too much effort to use raffia, consider this: how many of us struggle with slippery rayon threads and persevere, because the final effect the thread produces outweighs the difficulties? I'm really happy with the way this canvas turned out--the juxtaposition of sparkly gifts against the simplicity of straw was exactly the look I was going for!