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Learn How to Dye Cross Stitch Fabrics

Learn How to Dye Cross Stitch Fabrics

Tips for Coloring Embroidery Canvases

You don’t need to buy specially colored fabric for your cross stitch and embroidery projects. Why not dye your own canvases?

Unless you live near a needlework shop, chances are you’re limited to only white cross stitch fabric. It’s not hard to dye your own cross stitch fabrics.

Of course, you can choose from the many commercial dyes on the market. However, it’s much more creative to color fabrics yourself.

Kool-Aid Dyeing

The 44 assorted Kool-Aid flavors offer a variety of colors. Or, if you can’t find just the right shade, mix colors. Just be sure to first experiment on a scrap piece of fabric. Blueberry Kool Aid is excellent for skies and water. It certainly beats stitching all that blue floss for a background. Simply soak the fabric in a solution of Kool Aid and warm water. Continue adding more Kool-Aid crystals until you have your desired shade. Besides Kool Aid, Crystal Lite works just as well.

Coloring Fabric with Tea or Coffee

If you don’t mind fabric eventually fading with years, then try dyeing with it with tea or coffee. For an older, more muted look, tea or coffee works well. Unfortunately, the acids in tea and coffee degrade after about three to four decades. If you wanted your work to last longer, the coffee-dyed fabric would last 75-100 years. While tea renders a grayish look, coffee is browner.

Tea dying

Using tea bags and hot water, tea dyeing stains fibers, giving it an antiqued or “dirty” tone to your fabric. Use this dyeing technique for your smaller projects as tea bags are used, and you don’t have that much coloring. What’s more, it gives an imperfect or uneven color. For larger projects, use commercial dye.

Because tea dye is semi-permanent, it won’t wash out easily, although it can usually come out with bleach. Tea dye only works on natural fibers, including cotton, silk, linen, and maybe wool. Polyester will not take color. Tea dye is reddish brown, so it’s not a good choice if you want a creamy look.

Tea dye is semi-permanent, meaning it won’t wash out quickly, although you can usually remove it with bleach. It may also fade in sunlight. However, it is not suggested for use on regularly washed items as detergents are designed to remove the tea stain.

Boil four cups of water per yard of fabric, adding two bags for each cup of water. After allowing the tea to sit for about five minutes, you’ll have a dark brown liquid. Then soak your fabric in the tea mixture and rinse under cool water if you want to remove much of the dark color. Continue to soak until you have the desired shade of brown. Keep in mind that your fabric will be lighter in color when thoroughly dry. Then dry your fabric in a clothes dryer (set on high) and tumble dry. Iron on a hot setting to set in the permanent color.

Coffee Dyeing

Coffee also works well. Just soak your fabric in a pot of coffee. Only be forewarned that you’ll be smelling coffee for a long time, whereas tea doesn’t leave a scent.

For a darker color, use unbrewed coffee beams, as well as darker beans. Again, to set in the permanent color, iron your fabric on a hot setting.

If you’re still afraid to dye your own fabric, you can always order just the right colored fabric online. However, you’ll miss out on the fun of experimenting and be doing it yourself.

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Cross Stitching Techniques

Cross Stitching Techniques

How to Stitch Using Different Tools and Methods

While some cross-stitchers prefer to use an embroidery stretcher frame or hoop, others use nothing. To find out what goes well for you, try different tools and methods.

The tools and methods being used to cross stitching are different. Remember this; what works for one stitcher, may not work for another one.

Stitching Methods

Stabbing method – Used frequently by beginners. The stabbing method is done by stabbing the needle in front of the cross stitch fabric and then pulling it through the different side, working in a row of half-stitches (/////), and then back (\\\\\\) to complete your Xs. If you prefer this method, it’s best to use a frame or hoop. Also, the stabbing method is a good choice when working vertical rows of stitchers.

Sewing method – The sewing method is only making each completed X at a time. It’s a better alternative if your colors are scattered. If you prefer to not to use a hoop or any other device that secures your fabric, then the stitching method works well. But if you’re a new stitcher, then it’s best not to use this way to stitch as the fabric can be twisted by the altering movement of your hands. An advantage is that you’re able to sew at a somewhat faster rate than the stabbing method.

Regardless of which approach you select, just always keep your Xs in the same direction. This means that the top thread of the X should slant in the similar direction, whether it’s (/) or (\). Lay your stitches as flat as tin soldiers so they will not appear distorted.

Hoop or Stretcher Frame?

That depends on what you’re stitching as well as what best suits you. There are various options which include hoops, embroider stretcher frames and Q-Snaps.

  • Embroidery Hoops – Hoops are advised when doing most other forms of embroidery to maintain an even tension in your stitches. But, for stitching on Aida fabric, it’s not advisable because it can be hard to remove hoop marks. If you use a hoop, don’t hold the tension too tight, remembering to remove it before when you finish a stitching session. When you are working with linen, the lines come out easily when your fabric is stretched.
  • Stretching Frames – These come in an assortment of lengths and widths. Buy stretcher bars about an inch (or smaller) than your fabric size, leaving you to attach fabric to the outer support of the stretcher bars. When using stretcher frames, be sure to keep a uniform tension while sewing.
  • Q-Snaps – Most stitchers prefer this. Q-Snaps are plastic clamps that snap synchronically around your fabric creating a frame for stitching. They come in an assortment of sizes that you can mix and match. To secure extra cloth that can get in the way while stitcher, a hair clam works well.

Stitching using Hand

Many stitchers prefer to stitch holding their fabric “in hand”, not to using any hoop or stretcher frame. Most often, sewing in hand is preferred when stitching on linen.

Hold your cloth (with the right side on the inner side) to get to your stitching space. This protects the rolled edges from blemishes while stitching.

Stitching in hand is a great method if you have right tension. However, if you notice your stitches are puckering the fabric, then perhaps some kind of frame, hoop, or scroll rods would be better. Also, if you see your stitchers are opening up “holes” at the corners, it’s better to use a stretcher frame or hoop.

Experiment with all of these materials and methods to find out what works well for you. After all, cross stitching is a hobby that’s meant to relax yourself, so you need to be as comfortable as possible.

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Finding a Cross Stitch Pattern

Finding a Cross Stitch Pattern

Tips for Finding and Selecting Stitching Designs

Cross stitching is a popular hobby where much time is spent looking for patterns. Here are some tips for finding and selecting charts.

Along with stitching, selecting cross stitch patterns is a major part of cross stitching. When you first start stitching, it can be confusing if you don’t know how to choose a pattern that best suits your skills and interests.

Types of Cross Stitch Patterns

There are two basic kinds of cross stitch patterns or charts.

  • Stamped patterns – Stamped cross stitch patterns are ideal for beginning stitchers as there is no counting. Stitchers simply stitch over x/s, pre-stamped on fabric. Along with a stamped fabric, thread and instructions are included within a kit. Besides being easy to do, stamped cross stitch patterns use fewer colors than counted cross-stitch, as much of the design, such as background is already painted onto the fabric. Another advantage is you don’t need to a chart to know where to place stitches. Because everything is laid out and all you need to do is stitch over the x’s, mistakes are fewer, if at all. On the downside, it’s not as clear to determine which colors match because different shades can look almost identical. What’s more, it can be boring if you like more of a challenge.
  • Counted cross stitch patterns – Just as its name, counted cross stitch patterns are made by counting. Also easy, but somewhat more difficult than stamped cross stitching, counted cross stitch patterns are done on blank fabric. Using a chart (pattern) you count squares on an evenweave fabric, such as Aida or linen, to place stitches. Patterns can be simple, on one page or divided into several pages. Most stitchers prefer counted cross stitching because of the uniform look of the finished project. However, to work a counted cross stitch correctly, it’s imperative to miscount, as a mistake can throw off the entire project and then you’ll have to rip out and re-stitch.

Kits vs. Designs

Cross stitch kits come with complete cross-stitch materials such as chart, thread, fabric, and needle, as well as instructions. A disadvantage is that you’re stuck with the fabric in the kit. Also, sometimes there isn’t enough thread to allow for ripping because of mistakes. So, if you run out of thread, you’ll have to replace it.On the other hand, designs give you the liberty to select your fabric and floss. However, sometimes it’s hard to find all the floss you need.

Where to Find Patterns

Craft and needlework stores – Craft stores such as Joanne Fabrics, Michaels, AC Moore, and Hobby Lobby carry both kits and charts, as well as needed cross stitch supplies, including floss, needles and stitching aides. Some stores also have cross stitch books filled with designs and samplers.

Library books – Most libraries have cross stitch books with designs that you can easily reproduce on a copier machine.

Online cross stitch sites– Using your favorite search engine, search for patterns. An excellent source is one such as where you can join and print out models, ranging from simple to large designs.

Photo-to-chart software – By taking any photo you can convert a picture into a cross stitch design, using cross stitch photo-to-chart software such as Pattern Maker.

Finally, the internet provides numerous cross stitch message boards. One of the most significant advantages of engaging in cross stitch message boards is getting to know other stitchers. It’s here where stitchers can trade patterns, as well as find sources for patterns. What’s more, they gain helpful tips for stitching, as well as make cyber stitching friends worldwide.

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Encrusted Pendant Using Button As Cabochon

Encrusted Pendant Using Button As Cabochon

Create A Free-Style Stitched Pendant Using Encrusted Embroidery

An easy-peasy project that could be done in a weekend or two, using leftover beading materials from previous projects and a unique button from Grandma’s button box.

Who doesn’t need new or extra jewelry? Though there are a lot of choices from a brick-and-mortar or online store, nothing would be better than the work of your own hands. If you are a stitcher and a beader, then this project will give you much pleasure while creating it. It is very important that you have basic embroidery knowledge to pursue this project. Be aware that it is an addictive hobby.

For a start, take out your grandma’s button box and pick a piece that signifies your character and personality the most. The button will be the focal point of the pendant. Remember that this is a piece of jewelry that will tell about yourself. Next, gather all your leftover beads from previous projects, as they will be the main ingredients in making this elegant freestyle stitched pendant.

Materials Needed For The Pendant Only

  • a piece of a unique button – the bigger, the better, could be vintage, new or fancy
  • assorted sizes and colors of seed, bugle, and decorative beads (Refer to Photo 4)
  • beading needles – make sure to have extra on hand, at least four pieces
  • nymo thread – in coordinating colors
  • base fabric – could be cotton, silk, or better yet the fancy fabric
  • fabric stiffener – skirtex preferred, but timtex and buckram would also work well
  • tacky glue (optional)
  • basic hand-sewing supplies: needles, scissors & measuring tape (or foot rule)

General Stitching Instructions and Assembly

  1. Determine the shape of your pendant; it doesn’t matter whether you choose an asymmetrical shape, as long as the button cabochon will fit inside the shape.
  2. Once the shape is established, draw it on the skirtex then cut two identical shapes (one for front base fabric and one for backing fabric).
  3. Using the trimmed skirtex as a guide, cut two pieces of fabric with at least an inch seam allowance all around.
  4. Center skirtex on the wrong side of the front fabric. Fold-in the seam allowance then secure with tacky glue or by basting with coordinating thread. Do the same with the backing fabric.
  5. Position the button on the front base fabric anywhere you like. If the button you chose has a shank, trim the shank then attach it to the fabric using tacky glue. If the button has holes, attach it to the fabric by sewing.
  6. Cage the button with seed beads. Note: It is highly recommended to cage the button generously to make sure it will not detach nor move.
  7. Using coordinating nymo threads, fill the remaining part of the front base fabric with various beads using your favorite beading stitches, i.e., moss, seed, or lazy stitch. Note: Make sure no fabric is visible before attaching the backing fabric.
  8. Join the front base fabric and backing fabric by slip stitching or whipstitching. (Refer to Photo 3)
  9. Embellish the entire edge of the pendant generously with coordinating beads to hide the connection of front base fabric and backing fabric. (Refer to Photo 2)
  10. And lastly, attach a metal bail at the top part of the pendant – or better yet, use seed beads as bail.

String co-ordinating beads for the chain or simply use a store-bought metal chain that complements the design.

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Machine Embroidery Tips

Machine Embroidery Tips

Design Considerations, Stabilizer Choices, and Hooping Techniques

With the right hooping and stabilizing techniques and the right design choice for a particular fabric, even a novice can achieve professional embroidery results.

Although machine embroidery appears fairly straightforward – the machine does most of the work – it is important to realize that proper hooping and stabilizing, and proper design choice are necessary to achieve professional-looking results on any fabric.

Choosing the Right Design for the Fabric and Project

Many embroiderers forget that some designs work better than others on certain types of fabric. This can be particularly troublesome when doing custom embroidery for a client who has a specific idea in mind. Still, choosing an appropriate design for the fabric and application can make a huge difference in the quality of the finished project.

As a general rule, lighter-weight fabrics and fabrics that need to drape require lighter, more open designs to avoid drooping and puckering. Fabrics with a high nap, like thick towels, require more dense designs so that the stitches don’t get lost in the fabric. Sturdier fabrics and projects that don’t require the fabric to drape offer more flexibility about design choice.

Uses for Different Types of Stabilizer

The many varieties of stabilizer can be intimidating at first, but each has a purpose. Weaker fabrics require a sturdier stabilizer.

  • The lightweight water soluble stabilizer is used as a “topper” on fleece, terry, and other high-nap fabrics. The water-soluble topper helps the stitches sit easily on top of the nap and keeps individual threads and loops from poking through the embroidery.
  • The heavyweight water soluble stabilizer is used for freestanding lace, translucent fabrics (like organza), and projects where the back of the embroidery will also be visible. In these cases, it is essential that no stabilizer show at all.
  • Tearaway stabilizer is available in light, medium, and heavyweights. Tearaway also comes in wet and stick and peel and stick varieties. Woven fabrics with a light, open designs work well with tearaway stabilizer. Sticky stabilizers are good for very thick fabrics that are hard to hoop. When using a sticky stabilizer, it is important to clean the needle with alcohol if it starts to get sticky while sewing.
  • Cutaway stabilizer comes in light, medium, and heavy weights as well as fusible (iron-on) varieties. Cutaway stabilizers are good for knit fabrics like stretchy t-shirts, thin fabrics or fabrics with a loose weave, and for more dense designs on woven fabrics. Cutaway stabilizer is very sturdy and helps the design keep its shape even through repeated washing and use.

Proper Hooping Technique

Hooping the fabric properly may be one of the hardest skills for new embroiderers to master. Many embroiderers like to hoop sticky stabilizer and then adhere the fabric to the stabilizer without actually hooping the fabric. This is a shortcut and in some cases (very thick fabrics that can’t be hooped) it is necessary, but for the best results, fabric and stabilizer should be hooped together.

Even on low-end home embroidery machines, the needle may puncture the fabric ten times per second or more. This causes tremendous strain on the fabric and may lead to the fabric shifting or stretching during embroidery. When the stabilizer and fabric are hooped together, stretching and shifting are minimized and all stitches land where they are supposed to.

Ironically, thicker fabrics like bath towels and sweatshirts are the most difficult to hoop, but these same fabrics need to be hooped the most. When using a sticky stabilizer on very thick fabric, the bottom of the fabric will be held in place by the stabilizer, but the top of the fabric may still shift causing parts of the design not to line up properly.

For the best results on most fabrics, use a sticky stabilizer, a fusible stabilizer, or spray the stabilizer with temporary adhesive and attach to the fabric. Open the top hoop wide enough to accommodate the fabric and stabilizer together. Place the bottom hoop on a non-slip surface (rubber shelf liner is inexpensive and works well for this purpose). Place the fabric/stabilizer combo on top of the bottom hoop. Place the top hoop on top and slide the fabric as necessary to align the horizontal and vertical axes with the hoop. Firmly press the top hoop into place without stretching the fabric. Tighten the top hoop as much as possible. The fabric should be taut and sound like a drum when thumped. Never try to stretch or shift the fabric after it is hooped. If there are loose spots, remove the top hoop and start over.

For slippery fabrics like nylon, place small strips of rubber shelf liner or double-sided tape around the sides (not the corners) of the bottom hoop before hooping the fabric. This will keep the fabric from slipping during embroidery.

Choosing the Right Needle for the Fabric

Using the right needle is almost as important as using the right stabilizer. For most fabrics, a medium-sized (75/11 or 90/14) embroidery, universal, or sharp needle will work well. More delicate fabrics require a smaller needle. For stretchy fabrics, always use a ball-point needle to avoid runs in the fabric around the design. For specialty applications like leather and denim, use a special needle that is designed for that purpose. There are also special needles for thicker threads and metallic threads that will minimize thread breakage and shredding.

Embroidery is a wonderful way to personalize just about anything and can be a most rewarding hobby. Mastering techniques like proper hooping and stabilizing, knowing the characteristics of the specific fabric and making wise choices about designs, stabilizer, and needles can make the difference between a headache, heartbreak, and overwhelming pride.

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Embroidering on T-Shirts

Embroidering on T-Shirts

Considerations for Machine Embroidery on Jersey and Interlock Fabric

Machine embroidery is an excellent way to embellish and personalize t-shirts but the thin stretchy fabric requires extra care to achieve professional-looking results.

For adults and children around the world, t-shirts are a summertime wardrobe staple. Machine embroidery is a fun way to personalize plain shirts, but jersey and interlock fabric can be tricky to work with.

Choosing the Right Embroidery Design for T-shirts

Because t-shirts are usually light to medium weight and very stretchy, the design choice is essential. Look for light designs with lots of open areas and avoid stitch-filled designs and solid shapes. More dense designs and solid shapes will weigh down the fabric and cause it to droop instead of draping nicely. Stitch-filled designs also put more strain on the fabric and risk causing it to stretch or shift in the hoop. This could cause the finished design to be misaligned or the fabric around the design to pucker.

Fabric Preparation and Care

T-shirts, especially 100% cotton ones, are notorious for shrinking when washed. It is essential to launder the shirt once or twice before embroidering. The shirt should be washed and dried the same way it will be treated after embroidery to make sure that any shrinkage takes place before embroidery. As an extra precaution, the shirt can be hand-washed and hung to dry after embroidery, but this shouldn’t be necessary as long as it is properly prepped before stitching.

When adding applique to a t-shirt, it is important to make sure that the applique fabric has also been pre-washed and is sufficiently stabilized so that the applique doesn’t shrink separately from the rest of the shirt.

Stabilizing T-shirts for Embroidery

Many people like to use tearaway or water-soluble stabilizer on t-shirts so that no stabilizer will show through once the design is finished. Neither of these options provides enough support for the t-shirt fabric during or after stitching. For best results, light or medium weight cutaway stabilizer should be used, and the stabilizer should be adhered to the fabric before hooping.

Floriani makes a no-show fusible mesh stabilizer that works very well for t-shirts. The mesh is sturdy enough to support the fabric during and after embroidery but is very soft and is designed not to show through the fabric.

Once the shirt is embroidered, trim any excess stabilizer to within 1/4-1/2″ of the design. Do not attempt to remove the stabilizer from any open areas within the design.

If the back of the embroidery is “scratchy” or uncomfortable, cut a piece of fusible stabilizer slightly larger than the design and iron it over the wrong side of the stitches. After a few trips through the dryer, the backing will begin to peel away, but by that time, the stitches will have softened enough not to irritate sensitive skin.

Hooping T-shirts for Embroidery

Because t-shirts are naturally stretchy, it is important to make sure that they are hooped tightly but not stretched. Using a fusible (iron-on) stabilizer or attaching the stabilizer to the fabric with spray adhesive will make it much easier to hoop the shirt without stretching it.

It is important to hoop the shirt and stabilizer together instead of hooping sticky stabilizer and placing the shirt on top. When the needle is pounding away ten times per second or more, the fabric is very likely to stretch and shift. Hooping the fabric with the stabilizer minimizes this effect and produces a crisp, perfectly aligned design.

Never try to adjust a t-shirt after it is hooped as this will lead to stretching and skewing of the fabric. If the fabric needs to be tightened or repositioned, remove the hoop and start over.

Ball Point Needles for Embroidery

Ball Point Needles are made specifically for knit fabrics. They have a rounded tip which pushes the fibers aside rather than actually piercing the fibers. This is important with t-shirts because a sharp or universal needle can cause runs in the fabric around the design.

Embroidery Design Placement on T-shirts

Exact Placement will depend on the size of the shirt and the size and shape of the design, but the guidelines below are a starting point. It is a good idea to print a full-size image of the design and use that to determine placement. Be sure to mark horizontal and vertical axis points and the center of the design to line the fabric up properly in the hoop.

To embroider on the left chest of polo shirts or t-shirts without pockets, the design should be centered between the placket and the side seam or between the center of the shirt and the side seam. On adult shirts, the design should be 7-9″ down from the left shoulder seam, 5-7″ down on children’s shirts, and 3.5-4.5″ down on infant/toddler shirts.

To embroider on the left chest of a t-shirt or polo shirt with a pocket, the pattern should be centered on or above the pocket.

For designs on a shirt front, consider the size and shape of the design and the size of the shirt. Generally, the design must be centered between the left and right seams, and the top of the design should be 4-6″ from the collar on adult shirts, 3-4.5″ from the collar on children’s shirts, and 1.5-3″ from the collar on infant/toddler shirts.

For designs on a shirt back, the embroidery should be centered between the right and left side seams and about 5″ down from the collar on adult shirts, 3.5-5″ from the collar on children’s shirts, and 2-4″ from the collar on infant/toddler shirts.

Machine embroidery is an easy way to dress up and customize inexpensive t-shirts for children and adults. With proper care and consideration, home embroiderers can achieve professional-quality results every time.

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What Flowers Mean in Chinese Embroidery

What Flowers Mean in Chinese Embroidery

The Symbolic Meanings of Flowers in Old China

Everyone loves flowers, but in China, their love goes beyond beauty. Flowers have symbolic meanings to ward off bad luck and promote success and good fortune.

In centuries past, when most people lived off the land, life was hard. Many died young, believed to be victims of evil spirits waiting to pounce. Even today flowers are carefully chosen by the superstitious Chinese to bring joy, and not give offense.

Qing Dynasty Clothing and Home Furnishings

Clothing and household furnishings were covered with floral embroidery. The large loose jackets and skirts with flat panels at front and back worn by Chinese women were ideal places to display intricately embroidered flowers. Since most women and girls bound their feet in the fashion of the time, their tiny shoes were also covered with delicate blossoms. The feet were even called golden lotuses, as they resembled the bud of that flower. Children’s tunics and trousers were important places on which to display lucky emblems to protect them from harm.

Lotus Flower, Peony, Orchid, Chrysanthemum and Plum Blossom: What They Mean

The most popular flowers were the peony, lotus, orchid, plum blossom and chrysanthemum. The peony is thought to be the Queen of Flowers and is a symbol of spring, a symbol of love and affection, as well as signifying wealth and distinction. An emblem of feminine beauty, it was the favorite flower of the Empress Dowager in the late 19th century. Pots of peonies surrounded her rooms in the Forbidden City in Beijing, and her gowns lavishly embroidered with the flower.

The lotus is a representation of chastity and perfection since it grows in mud but is not defined. An essential Buddhist emblem, Buddha is often shown sitting on the sacred lotus. It is a sign of summer and fruitfulness because the pods yield many seeds. For this reason, it was frequently used on children’s clothes to encourage more little brothers! It is a favorite of Chinese people as all parts of the flower are used: the stem and seeds are eaten, the leaves used for wrapping food, the yellow stamens as a cosmetic, and the flowers simply enjoyed.

Plum blossom is a symbol of winter and of long life since the flowers appear first on leafless branches. But it is also a promise of new beginnings and always an important part of the festivities at Chinese New Year. Gardeners believed the colder the weather, the more abundant the blossom. The orchid is a symbol of fragrance and refinement, as well as love and beauty. It was said a beautiful women’s breath is like the perfume of an orchid!

The chrysanthemum is a representation of autumn and appeared on clothing that is worn by older women. The flower also symbolized a life of ease and retirement from public office, so desired by harassed officials in Qing dynasty China. Red, purple and orange chrysanthemums are considered cheerful flowers. But don’t give white chrysanthemums, the color of mourning, or yellow, which is always used at funerals.

Antique Shops and Markets Yield Embroidered Treasures

Many fragments of these antique embroideries linger forgotten in attics in the west, in markets in China, or in corners of antique shops around the world. They serve to remind us that, though the flowers which inspired the embroiderers are long gone, their beauty lasts forever.

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