Like many of you I've sure, the war in the Ukraine has been a horrible shock and weighed heavily on my mind. As well as making donations to charity relief efforts, and there are excellent resources available online to research where to donate, the craft community responded with many designers creating patterns to donate their profits. There have also been calls to purchase digital items from creators on Etsy who are in the Ukraine, this is easy to do by selecting Ukraine in the shop location menu in filters. These may seem relatively small actions but it all helps. I purchased the beautiful Sunflowers for Ukraine embroidery pattern from Wild Olive by Mollie Johanson - she also has a cross stitch pattern in her shop now. She is donating the proceeds to Hope International's Ukraine fund.

I enjoyed stitching this project, I tried some new things and am happy to share the simple stitches I used along with a few helpful embroidery tips! 

I began by tracing the pattern with my favourite water soluble pen, Sewline Styla, and then picked out appropriate sunflower colours of thread. My Aurifloss collection isn't very big and the colours I had weren't quite right, so instead I included some 12 weight threads in my picks (the thread colours are listed below). I really like doing embroidery with both the floss and the thread, they are different because of course Aurifloss strands can be separated in the same way as other embroidery floss and the 12 weight doesn't separate. The 12 weight is a lovely thickness for embroidery, especially when doubled over / using two strands.

I like to use the loop method to start stitching so I often cut longer lengths of floss as it will be doubled over. When I'm being good, I like to separate the individual strands of floss after cutting. Did you know you are supposed to do this? It does help the thread behave and helps stop knotting. The strands I'm not using just get wrapped back around the spool (the wonderful wooden spool!) ready for when I need more thread.

For the inner petals I used split stitch, such a fun and easy stitch to do and it has such a nice texture for outlines.

For the outer petals, I combined two strands of 12 weight thread with 2 strands of Aurifloss, this creates a bolder texture and I love seeing the colours wind together. It's like making your own multi-coloured thread.
Again I used split stitch, the combination of thread and floss made it look a lot chunkier and more textured than the inner petal though it's the same stitch.

For the outline of the sunflower centre I did a simple backstitch (seen on the right below) but to make it a little more interesting I decided to make it a whipped backstitch, weaving the thread through the backstitches. You can see how the bit that has been whipped, on the top left of the circle below, looks more like a continuous line. I haven't done this stitch before (or if I have I don't remember!?) and it's a new favourite! I think it's so pretty.

I was a bit lazy, and travelled from the line to stitch the 'face'. Of course this meant you could see the threads through the fabric - made worse by the fact I was using calico. I actually love calico, I like the natural look, that you can see the fibres and the plainness of it speaks to me. It makes a lovely background. But I was lazy! So to remedy it, rather than unpicking (really I shouldn't have travelled at all), I cut some little pieces of the selvedge and stuck them through the threads at the back.

It worked well to hide the threads from the front! Lesson learnt though, don't make more work for yourself.

The eyes and seeds are french knots and the smile is a scallop stitch, as recommended in the pattern.

I was very happy with how the sunflowers turned out and decided to add the word 'peace' in blue, in support of the Ukraine. I wrote it by hand and used Aurifil 12 weight to stitch using backstitch.

Threads used:
Aurifil 12 weight in Cinnamon #2155, Yellow Orange #2145, Medium Teal #1125 and Chocolate #2360
Aurifloss in Pale Yellow #1135

I was inspired to make a banner from the image on the pattern. I made the banner using the template from this tutorial and I added a layer of wadding to give it a bit more structure. I snapped a piece of dowel rod and used some rope to be able to hang it. I just twisted it around the dowel rod and secured it by stitching through the rope at the back. Initially I attempted to glue it but that was just making a mess!! Thread seemed like a good alternative :)

Once it was done, I did add some little crosses using the pale yellow Aurifloss. I went through all the layers, so it was like quilting. Again this added some texture and helped fill the 'gaps'.

The Aurifil Artisan challenge theme for this month is floral, I had considered stitching something else but this felt right. A simple, pretty sunflower banner and hope for peace in the Ukraine.