Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How To Use Hot Iron Transfers To Make A Red-work Embroidered Dish Towel

The talents exhibited by some of you expert hand-sewers and embroiderers amaze me. I have expressed, in the past, my envy for those of you who possess the ability to take thread and needle in hand and, with little effort, produce something artistic and beautiful. My hand sewing is somewhat less than perfect.

I have made numerous small projects using counted cross-stitch. I have somewhat enjoyed the cross-stitch projects I worked on and might try it again. Here is the thing with cross-stitch. I am a pretty patient soul, but when it comes right down to it, I still find that the steady concentration involved with completing a project, even a small one, with counted cross stitch, tries my patience. I find it hard to relax when I am diligently counting somewhat tiny stitches and becoming distracted, finding myself getting off the diagram's pattern, resulting in having to pull out stitches--many stitches and many times!

Embroidery I have done in the past involved diligently tracing somewhat elaborate designs onto fabric. I have created (struggled through) some of these projects, such as christening gowns, for my granddaughters and they were truly labors of love.

For something a little more practical and useful, a dish towel is the ticket. I am especially fond of the vintage or antique appeal of a towel or other object when worked in basic and simple stitches of red or black threads called red-work or black-work. Another appeal to this type of embroidery is that you have only to deal with one color of floss with no switching off to another color. Call me lazy, it's okay.

I recall that my mother used to use hot iron transfers when she wanted to do some embroidery work, so it is nothing new and innovative, for sure, because I am no spring chicken! It finally dawned on me that it might be worth trying out the thing for myself.

At this point, you are probably asking "Where has she been?" It is dopey, I know. This method has been around forever and I knew about it, but I had never used hot iron embroidery transfers before.  Now that I have tried it, I cannot imagine why I waited so long. It is much easier and saves a lot of time because it eliminates having to trace or draw anything.

I started and finished the project in this post in less than a day. Folks, I am honestly my worst critic.  Being somewhat hard on myself and finding imperfections in most things that I do, saying I am happy with a finished project is saying a lot, but I really am pretty happy with it!

Now on to the dish towel project. Perhaps, you will recall that I mentioned in a previous post that I purchased a couple of antique/vintage looking dish towels at  Bush's General Merchandise Store a couple of weeks ago while vacationing. I bought the towels expressly to use for some embroidery projects for a couple of special people.

 This is a close-up of the finished design on the towel I embroidered.

My camera was doing something wacky and so the white towel I worked on appears to be a really awful, shocking yellow. I have no idea how that happened, but it is the same towel as is shown below. It really is white with red stripes. 
You will notice that I chose a design which had the simplest of stitches. I wanted to complete the project, from beginning to end, in one day. Red-work, by nature, is usually made up of pretty simple outlines and stitches anyway. If you are someone who works with hand embroidery often and are proficient, you would probably be able to manage the required stitches in no time.

For those of you who wish to make your first attempt at an embroidery project and might need a little assistance (sort of a primer), there are some excellent sources on the internet. After just a few minutes of searching, I was able to locate a really good site. This site has grouped all of the embroidery stitches, both by "family" of stitches and in alphabetical order. By clicking on the name of each stitch listed, you will find instructions and some very good diagrams to assist in creating each individual stitch. You can check it out at: The information on the site and the ease of navigation within the site are pretty impressive.

Any embroidery project using this hot iron transfer method will require these basic materials and tools:
  1. Object or Project Onto Which Your Design Will Be Worked(in my case the dish towel).
  2. Embroidery Hoop
  3. Embroidery Thread(I used a red shade because I was going for the red-work look)
  4. Embroidery Needle
  5. Straight Pins
  6. Scissors
  7. Hot Iron Transfers of Your Choice
Note:  I washed, dried and pressed the towel before transferring the images onto it.

I purchased my transfers at Hobby Lobby (Aunt Martha's) I really like this brand because it offers vintage looking designs. This sheet of transfers cost $1.49 at our local H.L. store. It comes with detailed instructions for use and the manufacturer states that each transfer can be used several times. This is a plus any time, in my book.

I will run through the simple steps as to how to use the transfers, including some photos.

You will first take out the your transfer sheet with instructions and choose the particular design or designs you are are going to use. 

Using your scissors, you will now cut out the design elements to be transferred onto your project. You will notice that everything is printed on the sheet in reverse. You might find it easier(as I did) to locate your design if you hold the sheet up to a light source and look through the back. That way, you will be looking at the design as it will be when placed onto your project. 

As you cut, be sure to leave enough paper around each design element so that you can pin the paper to the front of your project. This will hold the transfers in place and they will not shift when you start to iron them onto your project. If you trim too closely, you will have to place pins into the design and it will interfere with the outcome of your design. This is what the transfers look like when you look at the right side of the design(reversed).

Now, it is time to move your towel over to the ironing board and press it. I am a stickler for placement of design in my projects, so the following method is how I handle placement of designs on my projects.

 Basically, I divide my projects into equal "portions" by folding and creasing. Sort of like a math problem, dividing the thing into sections. I do the same thing for whatever I am working on, be it stenciling, painting, solvent transfers, etc. There is nothing so distressing as to realize that something is not quite "right" when you look at a finished item. 
Fold the towel, in half, lengthwise, and lightly press. Then fold it again, crosswise, and lightly press. Fold, once more, lengthwise, and press lightly again. Unfold the towel. You now have light creases and equal sections throughout the towel, etc. This will help you to find the center of the project and to determine where to place your design(s) at the bottom half of your towel. In essence, you will center your design(s) along the "cross" formed by the creases on the bottom half of the towel. You can see the vertical line (crease) going up my towel in the following cropped picture, but it is a little difficult to see the faint crease line going horizontally across. 

You are now ready to arrange your design element(s), print side down, onto the front & center bottom half of your towel. Note that the straight pins should be placed around the edges and on the allowance you left when the designs were cut out. For my project, I was working with 2 initials and so I arranged the first initial "D" just off center on the LEFT bottom half of the towel and "C" underneath the first initial and just off center to the RIGHT of the middle crease. Like so:

Now time to iron on the designs. Very carefully, place your hot and DRY iron on top of each design transfer element and hold in place(do NOT move the iron around) for the amount of time specified in the instructions. Carefully remove a pin or two from a small section of each transfer and peek under it to make sure the design has been transferred to your project. It should look something like this picture when transfer process is complete.
Most of the design elements are composed of cross-stitches or "X's."  Even I can manage those without too much trouble!

At this point, it is time to place your towel with its transferred design(s) into your embroidery hoop and begin stitching away. 

The stitches I used were very simple. They were mostly cross-stitches, lazy daisies and back-stitches. As I stated early on in this post, you can go to any of the many websites that have tutorials on embroidery, including the link I provided in the post, as your stitches might vary somewhat from the ones I used. 

Here is another very yellow picture of my finished and pressed project. It has that wonderful red-work appeal that I like so very much!

This was such a fun project and so easy-peasy. I will be gifting this to a very special person and I might tell you more about that a little later. I can see how this can become a habit because I am all revved  up and ready to start another of these red-work projects very soon!

 I hope you will try this method of creating some lovely embroidery. It is fun and, believe me, if I can do this, you can do it too!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Day at Dollywood and the National Southern Gospel & Harvest Celebration

One of the things I enjoy most about having a blog is sharing with my readers about some of the places we have come across in our travels. Some of the places are ones that we have discovered in recent years and some are places we return to year after year. These are the places that have played such a special part in the lives of not only my husband and I, but in those of our children, grandchildren, sisters and brothers, as well. They are, in a way, what makes us who and what we are as a family. The memories of times spent together with loved ones are instilled in our hearts and spirits for as long as we live.

Today, I am posting about a  place that has become like an old friend to us. We feel welcomed and "at home" whenever we enter through its gates. Located in the foothills area of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is the theme park, Dollywood.  Many readers will likely know that the park is the namesake of the world renowned and much-adored, Dolly Parton. Before she became the celebrity she is today, Dolly was born and raised in the area of Sevierville, Tennessee, a neighboring town to Pigeon Forge. She has since done much to bring this area into both national and international focus.

I am not being compensated to tell you about this place, but our family has been visiting there pretty much since right after it opened. We have been able to watch Dollywood grow over the years, and admittedly, it is much larger than it was in the beginning and now includes a water park and many unique thrill rides and roller coasters, with more being constructed as I write this post.The newest roller coaster, Firechaser Express, advertised to be the "Nations First Dual-Launch, Backwards and Forward" roller coaster, is scheduled to be completed in 2014. To see a video of this thrill ride, you can check out this site: A spectacular resort called Dollywood DreamMore Resort is expected to be completed in 2015. If you want to read more about it, you can go to this link:

The Fall and early Winter seasons are an especially nice time to visit the park, because things are all decorated up for the holidays. Beginning in October, when trees and plants are ablaze with spectacular jewel tones, Dollywood is quite a show place. The streets are loaded with beautiful  mums, gourds and all sorts of other creative arrangements and props.

The beginning of October also begins Dollywood's National Southern Gospel and Harvest Celebration, which runs through the entire month of October. We have visited the park many times during the month of October and have never been disappointed. The park is always beautiful and the entertainment is superb.

We made a visit to the park week before last and I took an assortment of pictures, which I hope you will enjoy. It is my hope that these photos will give you a sense of just how wonderful the park was the day we visited on October 28th. We spent the majority of our day in the front areas of the park, where the National Southern Gospel and Harvest Celebration was taking place and that is where most of the following pictures were taken.

It has become a tradition of Dollywood to have a design of flowers forming the shape of a butterfly(a sort of trademark symbol for Dolly) just outside the main entrance to the park gates. This is how the arrangement looked this year:

Dolly's "Butterfly" Flower Arrangement Just Outside the Park's Entrance
I noticed they used these wonderful flower pot figures throughout the park. Aren't they adorable?

Immediately upon entering the gates to the park, on Show Street (where many of the artists who perform at Dollywood have their concerts)was this huge cornucopia! It was absolutely beautiful, having been filled with all sorts of very large pumpkins and brightly colored gourds. I always associate large orange pumpkins and cornucopias and other gourds with Fall and this arrangement certainly epitomizes Fall to me. A totally awesome display!
A Side View of the Enormous Cornucopia Display
Another View Taken at the Opening of the Cornucopia with Show Street Palace Theater  in the Background

Show Street Palace Theater is located just beyond where the cornucopia was displayed and the Anchormen, a group of Southern Gospel singers, was performing at the theater. We took in that concert soon after arriving at the park. They were very good and gave an inspirational performance.

Show Street Palace Theater

To the right of the main gate is the Spotlight Bakery. This is a nice place to stop and grab a cup of hot coffee and a pastry on a cool and somewhat damp morning, such as the morning when we arrived.

Spotlight Bakery

Farther up Show Street, there were some more very impressive Fall Decorations. It had rained and the streetswere wet.
Some More Beautiful Flowers and Fall Decor

Pictured here is another of those cute flower pot people in a bed of chrysanthemums. Upon closer observation, I noted that terracotta colored plastic pots(not real terracotta) were used to make these, instead of  real terracotta, probably so they will hold up better. At the same time, they will be lighter and easier to maneuver when putting the displays together. These really look good and I think they were probably pretty simple to assemble. 

Flower Pot Person

Another flower pot person! This one's a redhead with more of those glorious pumpkins and gourds. Love it!

Redheaded Pot Person

Across the bridge from Show Street is Jukebox Junction. The Crist Family was performing at the Pines Theater and we watched them perform. This show, also, was wonderful. Later that afternoon, we also saw The Nelons performing in the Pines Theater. This family put on a fabulous concert!

Entrance to Jukebox Junction

Red's Drive In at Juke Box Junction-a great place to get a hamburger and fries!

Red's Drive Inn at Juke Box Junction

We had a very good lunch of beans and greens at Granny Ogle's Ham and Beans over at Craftsman's Valley. We were seated on the enclosed porch, right next to the Valley Theater, a covered outdoor theater. A group called The 11th Hour was performing there while we ate our lunch. It was nice and relaxing having lunch and enjoying a great performance at the same time.

Granny Ogle's Ham and Beans
While we were at Craftsman's Valley, we stopped in at A Touch of Ireland. I always like to stop by this little shop to look at all the wonderful knitted sweaters, scarves and blankets on sale. Looking at the woolen hats and other goods makes me feel as if I am in a quaint little shop somewhere in Ireland. They also have a delightful assortment or Irish themed jewelry, soaps and perfumes. I seldom wear perfume, but a few years ago, I could not resist buying a bottle of perfume here. It is called Innesfree. You see, an old movie classic, "The Quiet Man," starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, is one of my favorites. If you know the movie, you will recall that the island town where the spirited love plot takes place is called Innesfree.  Now, every time I look at or hold that bottle of Innesfree, favorite scenes from that movie are playing away in my "impetuous" and romantic head!

A photo of A Touch of Ireland:

A Touch of Ireland Shop

At Market Square, you will find this beautiful fountain:

We also snapped a picture of the "Mayor" of Dollywood:

The "Mayor"

Some more wonderful Fall decorations:

Dollywood has one of the most beautiful carousels I have seen. We stopped to ride it!

The Beautiful Carousel at Dollywood

Some of the trees wearing their Fall coats:

Don't you just adore this scene of old farm tools and parts of machinery?

This is a demonstration of how Sorghum Syrup was made by using a mechanical grinder pulled by a horse.

Sorghum Syrup Being Made by Using a Grinder Being Turned by a Horse or Mule

I have very fond memories from when I was a very little girl and watching a neighbor couple make sugar cane syrup using this same method. They would harness their mule to the pole that is attached to the mechanism which ground the stalks of cane, releasing the juice which was boiled in a large vat over a brick furnace to make sugar cane syrup.

Some fabulously dressed windows along the street in Jukebox Junction. These have been made ready to kick off the Christmas season which began yesterday, November 9th. 

The little chapel at Dollywood:

I cannot think of a better way to end this post than by giving you a picture of the lovely little chapel. It sits in the middle of this lovely place in the heart of an area that boasts some of the most beautiful spectacles of nature in the world. God, alone, hath truly wrought the majestic and Great Smoky Mountains!