Wisteria Lesson Photo Transfer

This little piece is one of my favorite projects.  Embellishing any worthy image is incredibly rewarding but with today’s technology, it could be done so much more easily.  When I stitched Wisteria Lesson, each of the embroidery designs was positioned one at time with a printed  template then stitched one at a time.

Now with my Brother Quattro I can scan the image and then position all the designs on the computer.  By using the sort feature,  most of the design using the same color, such as the dark purple, would be stitched at the same time.  This would eliminate a huge number of thread changes.

With this advance in technology, I could more quickly and easily embellish a photo of my grandchildren romping through a field of bright pink phlox and black eyed susans and one of my garden and one of the treehouse with the azaleas blooming nearby.  And as soon as I finish sewing Vivian Rose’s 2nd birthday dress, mending my daughter-in-law’s couch pillows, resizing my daughter’s tablecloths, making new pillowcases to match Alastair’s new bedding, and….and….

Well, there are a few other must-do’s but I definitely plan take on one of these photo transfer projects as soon as possible.  Read all about it in this earlier post.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This project surely must warm the heart of anyone who has shared the joy of needlework with a child. When the 1913 edition Embroidery Lessons with Colored Studies was added to my library of vintage and antique needlework books, I was enchanted with the cover illustration.

The goal of the teacher to inspire and instruct, the challenge of the eager young student to succeed, the scent of the wisteria, sweet and heavy….I experienced all of this as the intimate vignette drew me in.  Under that idyllic arbor, I dreamed of teaching my fantasy granddaughter to sew.  (Hurrah!  I have TWO and 10 year old Laurel is already an accomplished little sewists!  Vivian Rose’s turn comes up in a few years.) I went so far as to plant a wisteria vine right then and there, though I had planned to do so for some time.



Wisteria Lesson, my title for this charming scene, has been transferred from the booklet cover to a sheet of specially treated silk which was bonded to paper and run through my inkjet  printer.  The silk image was layered with thin cotton batting and a backing and machine quilted.  It is embellished with machine embroidery and a few hand embroidery stitches.  This really fun project was made possible by the very talented and creative Sue Lord.

The first time I met Sue Lord was at a workshop.  She showed samples and offered detailed instructions on photo transfer to fabric at a workshop. In her musical Georgia (pronounced “Gaw-ja”) accent, Sue drawled so much new information and so many creative ideas that I returned for the repeat session in  the afternoon.

Coming back would have been worth it just to hear her talk again, regardless of what she said,  but Sue seems incapable of simply repeating a class.   She added new material and even more inspiration to the re-run! Or maybe I was just getting the hang of the drawl.  Whatever.  At any rate, my head was spinning when her lecture/demo was over.  Raring to go, I left with enough handouts and confidence to tackle a photo transfer project.   I knew Wisteria Lesson would be that project.

Have you ever done a photo transfer project?  I’ve seen incredible quilts with pictorial family history and tee shirts with images.  What things have you seen that used this technique?  It just facinates me.

Nita O’Keefe’s Wisteria Collection  provided the bulk of the machine embroidered wisteria designs. Because this gorgeous collection is sized for a 5 x 7 frame, they were all far too large for my 8″x 10″ silk image. So with my trusty BuzzEdit program, I extracted two small portions of the designs, then resized and rotated them into several variations. Using a variety of purple, lavender and variegated threads, I was able to fill the arbor with Nita’s pendulous  beauties.

Other machine embroidery designs include the vining flowers on the left, inside and outside of the lace beading frame. They are from Fil Tire’ and Fancywork, done by Suzanne Sawko and me while the butterfly was a free download from Min Smith of South Africa.

Among the components of this project that I found most interesting is the quilting. The straight lines along the floor tiles and pillars were done with a walking foot while the characters, landscape and other features were quilted free motion. I tend to perseverate, so once I got started with free motion, which is one of my favorite techniques, I just couldn’t stop. Even the lettering is quilted. All that quilting added the texture that really pleases my eye.

The embroidery unit was removed when I went to the sewing side of my Brother ULT for decorative stitches.  A variety was used for the potted fern, the blanket stitch on the purple cushion, and the tiny pattern stitched on the outside of the parchment colored lace beading frame. The thread is a nearly identical parchment colored 80 wt. Madeira Cotona. The decorative stitching softens the edge and gives the effect of a beaded edging rather than just a beading insertion. Lavender silk ribbon is threaded through the beading.

Hand work embellishments, I think, add a lot to the overall effect. The same lavender silk ribbon is used for the little girl’s hair bow while a snippet of pale gold silk ribbon decorates the lady’s bun. An old gold colored French knot is stitched on the toes of the lady’s shoes. Each needleworker holds a gold metallic thread needle and a short length of thread. My favorite 3-D addition to the picture is a tiny, tiny piece of lace insertion, just 1/8″ wide, stitched down the front of the child’s dress.

Since finishing this project, I am inspired to dive into more photo transfer projects. How I would love to stitch a four seasons series of our cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. Or just one of our home in Florida, which looks pretty much the same year round. I’d love to do one of the upstairs nursery where our babies slept. There is no shortage of ideas, just a shortage of time. Thanks, Sue.


8 responses to “Wisteria Lesson Photo Transfer

  1. I love the illustration, Janice, and the transferred embroidered design is really beautiful. You always inspire me! I wonder if wisteria would do well in my part of Florida?

  2. Karen, it is said that Japanese wisteria does well in zones 4-9. I’m pretty sure you live in zone 9 so it should do well there. The gardening guides say it can be invasive, but what a way to go! This photo transfer technique is so easy, especially for projects that will not be laundered. Give it a try. With your creativity and expertise, you will surely come up with something wonderful!

  3. Thanks Janice. Those days were so much fun! I really miss teaching but most of all my sewing friends. I am thinking about working on a few things to just my creative juices flowing. How is the little baby book coming along. I am working on two and will start another soon. I am making them for very special friends babies. If you are ever in the area give me a call. I would love to see you.

  4. We have had some fun, haven’t we, Sue. It makes me laugh to think you need to do something to get your creative juices flowing. It seems more likely that you need a shut-off valve to keep the flow manageable! I’d love to see you, too. Call me if you come to Florida. XOXOXOX P.S. Laurel and I are working on Book Babies now for her to give to 1. enter in the county fair in Oct. and then 2. give to Vivian Rose for Christmas. We are LOVING it. Do you still sell it? Inquiring minds will want to know.

  5. I do have a few disk left. Can hardly wait to see your version!

  6. Sue, I’m glad you still have some available. The Book Babies collection is so delightful. You need to make more disks!

  7. Hello Janice, Just wondering – the link to Sue Lord’s website no longer works. How would I find her designs? I would love to do the Laundry Bag you made for your daughter but I can’t find any trace of Sue Lord. I realise it was a while ago when you made it but I would like to find the Gifts for Women collection if at all possible. Hoping you are able to assist. J

  8. jack, I am so sorry to be so slow to respond. I have had a terrible virus and spent most of the past week in bed. Sue’s website is discontinued, but I do keep in touch with her. I will forward this message to her and I expect you will hear back from Sue directly. Thanks for reading my blog, and again, please accept my apology for the delay in responding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.