Monday, August 10, 2015

Tutorial: Duplicate Stitch Embroidery

A sweater vest repaired with duplicate stitching

As I mentioned in my last post, I am selling an enormous amount of baby clothing on consignment from my sisters right now. I managed to work through just one size, 0-3 months, and have started in on the 3-6 months box. It's going well; there's some really cute stuff in the lot and I've had outfits sell within minutes of me listing them. You can find these terrific items, a complete wardrobe and gear for a baby boy up to 12 months, in my Atelier Mandaline store. I hope to have everything listed by the end of the week.

The vest had a stain.
Most of the clothing and stuff in this lot is in exceptional condition. My sisters and I were blessed to each have one or two boys within a couple years of one another, so we pooled all the clothing from the older boys into an extensive wardrobe. Since we had so many things in each size many items were rarely worn. Some, in fact, were never worn and are still new with or without the tags! A few items did end up getting stained or torn, however. It's simply unavoidable with babies, and especially with all these boys! I threw out anything too worn or stained, but if I find a good item I can repair I've been doing so. In this case I found a super-cute Gymboree sweater vest featuring a whale. This looked barely used except it had a stain on one side. I washed it but couldn't remove the spot. I noticed the original motif included little waves around the whale. I decided I could use duplicate stitching to cover the stain and add extra interest to the vest. I can see the picture on the vest was made with duplicate stitching at the factory; it's not knitted in.

The vest's original picture is made with duplicate stitching.

Duplicate stitching is a method of adding a picture to a sweater knit without actually knitting it in. If, for instance, you look at a Norwegian or Fair Isle sweater, those are created with what's called "stranded" knitting. In that case you wind several colors of yarn onto bobbins and knit them one or two or three at a time, switching from bobbin to bobbin to create the pattern, but carrying all the strands of yarn through the entire garment to make a thick cloth. Knitting, incidentally, was invented by men. Sailors and fishermen, adept at creating their nets through knotting, realized they could  knot the strands more tightly, knit them in fact, into a nearly solid cloth. They figured out quickly that varying the pattern of the stitches to create textures like cable or bumps created pockets in the fabric that acted as insulation to help provide warmth on the cold sea (Guernsey sweaters are an example of this type of knitting). It was after that a short jump to the knowledge that by knitting in several more colors of yarn they could make a much thicker cloth. The pattern had to be tight and intricate so there wouldn't be big loops or sections of yarn hanging loose that could catch on things. These multi-colored, elaborate pattern knits are what we now know as traditional Norwegian, Scandinavian, or Fair Isle fabrics.

It is possible to knit a picture into a sweater without actually carrying the colors the entire way through the sweater. Back when I had only one child I used to knit sweaters and blankets and things quite a lot. Nowadays I can't seem to concentrate well enough to do that; I drop stitches and mess everything up and have to rip my work out until I hardly know where I was. I find it much easier to use duplicate stitching now. We don't need the thick fabric for warmth here, at least not very often, so thin sweaters are more desirable anyway. You can knit the sweater first and then add the duplicate motif or you can just buy a sweater and add a picture.

Follow the original pattern with the new floss.

Duplicate stitching is about the easiest embroidery there is. First you choose a yarn or floss to make your picture or pattern. You can choose a contrasting texture (thicker, fluffier, etc) if you want a picture that appears raised, or you can try to match the original yarn size and weight to make the picture blend in as if it is knitted in. In this case I chose embroidery floss that's shinier than the rest of the yarn but about the same weight. I didn't have any matching yarn and I'm only getting my consignment fee of 30% on these sales so it wasn't worth buying yarn.

To begin, once you've chosen your yarn get a dull-tipped embroidery needle. You need to choose one with a large enough eye to accommodate your fiber, obviously. Knot your fiber and pull it up through the back of the sweater exactly where the stockinette stitch begins. The stockinette stitch is that typical sweater pattern that looks like tiny "V"s. Start at the center point of the V where you want to start your picture and then pull the thread over the stitch exactly. Then push your needle in at the upper right corner of the V. Then pull your needle back out to the front of the sweater through the center point of the next V and stitch up to the same corner where you went into the cloth before. Push your needle back into the back of the sweater there. This is called "back stitching". Just keep following the original V pattern as you need to make your picture or design. When you're finished knot the thread off on the back side and weave in the tail.

Use a dull embroidery needle.

I did a second patch of waves on the other side of the vest to blend my addition into the overall motif. Gymboree used this same technique to make the whale and waves, though they used a raised embroidery stitch in a dark navy over the edges of the whale to create a raised outline. Once you've mastered the duplicate stitch you can also add more embroidery techniques to enhance your designs. As you can see, it's easy and fun to add a personal touch to knits this way!

The finished vest

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