Deals & Steals
Head’s Up! These are all affiliate links. This means I might get a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.
In the US
To celebrate their 1,000th online class, Craftsy is offering 50% off the most commonly ‘wishlisted’ classes. That class you have had your eye on might just be on sale. Have a quick peek now, as this sale lasts only until Thursday.
The embroidery classes on sale include two bead embroidery classes, ribbon embroidery, and the texture and dimension class that Becca and I are taking.
I am a Craftsy fan. I love learning, experimenting, and playing. And I love classes: The structure propels me into action while introducing me to new materials and techniques.
Craftsy classes are professionally made videos, available any time of day or night, so that I may watch whenever it’s convenient, and as many times as I’d like. There are class forums for asking questions, sharing project photos, and interacting with the teacher and other students.
I am currently enrolled in five classes.
You’ll find a wide variety of craft magazines and books here, as well as digital media. These are the publishers of Piecework magazine and Cloth, Paper, Scissors—to name two of my favorites! You can find back issues and collections of magazines on cd. If you’re a knitter or crocheter, there’s tons here for you. Embroiderers, yes, there are patterns and books for you, too, but not as many.
Remember how we were talking about filet embroidery recently? It’s generally stitched on a handmade net. Want to try your hand at netting? Here are simple bookmarks that use the technique—and you know we’re still collecting bookmarks for Stitching for Literacy, right?
During February 2016, Save 10% at Keepsake NeedleArts with Offer Code NA10FEB
There are also new Jim Shore Projects available.
And, if you’re in the throes of dark winter, as I am—or if you are just plain smart and take care of your eyes year round (ahem)—you may be interested in the Lighting at Keepsake NeedleArts.
I’ve taken several classes here and have been pleased. If your schedule is super flexible, you can catch classes live and for free. If you aren’t free to watch while they’re running for free, or if you want the freedom of watching at your convenience or over and over, then buying the classes is the way to go.
The free option can be useful for checking out a class and deciding whether you’d like to own it or not.
Want to take better photographs of your embroidery? Check out the craft photography classes. Also of interest might be the craft & maker classes. See these and more offerings in the class catalog.
Annie’s offers patterns and supplies for crochet, knitting, plastic canvas, beading, card making, and more. They also offer online classes. If you’ve taken any, please let us know what you think.
Take $5 Off for every $25 you spend! Enter keycode EBAEV25 at checkout. Expires 3/31/2016
Leisure Arts has a Warehouse Clearance Sale with up to 75% off patterns, supplies, and kits.
For non-clearance items, seniors, teachers, and military folks can get 15% off with the following coupon codes:
In the UK
Sew and So
For our friends in Europe—though they’ll ship anywhere in the world, too.
Sew and So also has an exclusive DMC Cross Stitch Ideas Collector’s Box and cross stitch kits, among other things.
If you want to design your own patterns, save 10% on Cross Stitch Designer Software at Sew and So with Offer Code CSD10.
Or just see what’s new at Sew and So
Stitch, Craft, Create
Another source in Europe, primarily for sewing, knitting, and crocheting, but check out their daylight lamps and magnifiers.
Free Standard UK Delivery On Orders Over £30!
Free Worldwide Delivery On Orders Over £100!
My first bookbands recycled gold elastic cord.
When I first made bookbands
years ago, finding elastic for the project was a hurdle. My search for appropriate and pretty elastic turned up nothing but some lingerie elastic in limited and uninspiring colors. I recycled elastic cord from a gift for my model, but who besides me has that on hand?
Then the only place I found to order that elastic cord was a packaging supplier, and you had to order it by the pound (or something), which wasn’t practical for a one-bookmark stitcher.
While strolling through a Big Box sewing store recently, I discovered decorative elastics that I dreamed of but couldn’t find back then. So, thanks to Dritz, the elastic hurdle has been removed, and it’s time to revisit bookbands.
The Problem with Embroidered Bookmarks
Oh, I have and have made my share of them. The Funk & Weber Designs cross stitch baseball bookmark pattern: Play Ball!
I love embroidered bookmarks. They are nicely rooted in stitchy history; they are beautiful; and they are useful. We still collect and give embroidered bookmarks away in Stitching for Literacy
But I have a problem with them, too, something I really dislike. Most are designed to be clapped inside a book where the carefully, lovingly, skillfully crafted embroidery is . . . hidden! Not to mention smashed.
Don’t get me wrong: I have and have made my share of these (like the Funk & Weber Play Ball cross stitch bookmark pattern, which I love), but I much prefer an embroidered bookmark that allows the needlework to be visible, and bookbands do just that. Without dangling. I got on the whole bookband kick because a reader complained about book thongs, hookmarks, and other dangly kinds. Got a problem? I want to solve it!
I know, I know. There are a gazillion wonderful bookmark patterns and convenient bookmark blanks that are designed to be smashed inside a book, and you can even argue that they’re easier to use—though I will engage in that argument and point out that it’s far from hard to stretch the elastic over a group of pages when one is finished reading for a time. And, I’ll add, because the bookband can stay attached to the book at all times, it’s less likely to get lost. So there.
But that doesn’t mean all those flat bookmarks are useless. What happens if you stitch a loop of pretty elastic to one of those Crafter’s Pride or Janlynn bookmark blanks? Voila! It’s a bookband, and the pretty embroidery can live outside the book, enticing readers to come take a closer look.
Bookbands keep the embroidery outside where it’s visible.
Fun Dritz Elastic
Dritz now has ruffled and ruched elastics, as well as glitter and fold-over (to encase a raw edge, like on stretchy knit fabric). The ruffled elastic I picked up has ruffles down the outer edges, but I see online that there’s a version with a single ruffle down the center. Also, in finding these links just now, I discovered that the fold-over elastic comes in patterns: polka dots, chevrons, hearts. Fold it in half and stitch it for a more narrow band, or just leave it flat. I can see wanting a narrower band for bracelets-turned-bookbands (keep reading).
Best of all, the colors are great: basic black and white, pastels, and screaming bright colors for me. I’ll take one of each, please.
Decorative elastic from Dritz. Are these great colors or what?
Bracelets Turned Bookbands
I am partial to bracelets-turned-bookbands because I love the bracelet pattern. In particular, I like the firm, secure, durable edges and the pretty backside. I also like the grab-and-go nature of the project: It’s small; I stitch the last half of the project in hand; and the pattern is easily memorized. I generally have several of these in various stages of progress, packed in bags, ready to go.
The sample bracelet/bookmark here is narrow, but they can be made any width.
The pattern is composite cross stitches with interesting, sparkly threads.
Tips, Tricks, & Brilliant Ideas
- Convert bookmarks you’ve already made to bookbands by adding decorative elastic.
- Recycle UFOs and orphan projects by cutting them into strips, securing the edges, and—oh, yeah—adding an elastic loop.
- Use Tokens & Trifles Trinkets stitching cards for bookbands with cool shapes. These cards are no longer being produced, so get them while you can.
- Put cool stitched doodles to work: Stitch several onto a circle of elastic for a bookband.
- The Bookmarks 101: Simple, Smart, and Swanky Finishes ebook is full of ideas and instructions for finishing the edges and backs of doodles and mini stitcheries, most of which can be used to make bookbands.
- Got a Kindle or Nook or tablet or something else with a cover? Bookbands are great for keeping the cover closed and for identifying yours if there happens to be more than one.
I read with the bookband on. When I’m finished, I slide the completed pages under the elastic.
Head’s Up! Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission.
What About You?
So . . . are you game to try bookbands? What other ideas do you have for these groovy elastics?
Maybe you had time over the New Year to reflect on 2015 then plan and set goals for 2016.
Maybe you got a good jump on 2016 by starting new projects and embarking on your clear, thoughtful plan for the year.
Maybe you need a New Year do-over.
Whichever camp you call home—or if you live in the ‘burbs outside a camp— I, Queen of Fresh Starts, grant you a clean crafty slate and a nudge in a creative direction.
Stitching while out and about increases productivity. Bring on the grab-and-go projects!
In my perpetual quest for maximum creative production, I’m making a concerted effort to produce this year. “Produce” is my word of the year. The multiple meanings of the word are relevant to my quest: Come July it will literally mean lettuce, kale, peas, etc. My Word of the Year is inscribed on a plaque (or scribbled on a Post-It) on the wall above my computer, a constant reminder to get off the computer! Well . . . unless I’m producing creative writing.
I’m pleased with my crafty accomplishments in January, but I’d still like to shift my produce vs. consume balance a bit further. (That’s produce more consume less, in case you need that clarified.) I was very conscious of how I spent time this past month; I set more realistic expectations about what I can accomplish in a day; and I scheduled daily creative time. Actually wrote it down on my to-do list. It seems bonkers that someone whose business depends on creative output must schedule time to create, but so it is for me. Time to own it.
I came up with five ways to consciously up my stitching game this year, and I thought I’d share because if you’re not already there, I’d love to see you in some of these places. So without further ado (too much ado, not enough a-doing), here are some stitching resources for upping your (my) creative output.
Connect with Other Crafters
In the past few months, I’ve joined a number of stitchy Facebook groups. There are bunches of them! These are great places to share progress updates, get creative suggestions and answers to questions, and to be cheered on by crafters who totally get you. Here are some of my favorites; maybe I’ll see you there:
The World of Cross Stitching
Cross Stitching, It’s My Thing
Embroidery, Cross-Stitch, & Needlepoint
All About Smalls
Funk and Weber designs is on Facebook.
Since I’m hanging out more on Facebook, I’m actually posting on the Funk & Weber Designs page. Come like the page and play with me there!
Another fantabulous group is the Stitchin’ Fingers forum. I would like to get more involved here.
It’s important to note that social media can quickly become a source of mass consumption rather than production. I limit my time here. The focus of the Groups gives me more of the pluses and fewer of the minuses of social media.
Get Daily/Weekly Inspiration
I subscribe to a number of crafty blogs and newsletters that inspire me and give me endless creative ideas. These are some of my favorites:
Needle ‘N Thread
Nordic Needle’s Newsletter
Tones and Tints
Mr. X Stitch (I have a monthly column here, remember?)
One of sharon b’s doodle cloths where she played with different chain stitches. If you don’t know sharon b, you should!
Take a Class
If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know I love classes. I love to explore and learn new things, and I appreciate the discipline of classes. I’m a dedicated lifelong learner.
The Embroierers’ Guild of America (EGA) and the American Needlepoint Guild (ANG) offer classes at national seminars and regional events, as well as online and through the mail.
I still dream of attending the Royal School of Needlework in England; I just haven’t made it a priority yet. It’s in my future, though. They offer a degree program, but they also offer shorter programs and day classes. They even bring classes to the US—but I plan to go to England when I take my classes with them!
My favorite online craft class source is Craftsy. (Heads up! Remember, I’m a Craftsy affiliate. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a commission.) I am currently enrolled in five classes and will be working on them throughout the year. I’m still gathering supplies for some—a lengthy process from rural Alaska. I would love to have you join me in one of these classes:
Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand
Zip It Up! Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags I envision stitching the fabrics for these bags.
Craftsy offers a handful of hand-embroidery classes and 900+ classes in other, sometimes related, crafts. If you’re a multi-crafter, sit down with a cuppa and enjoy a look around!
And don’t forget there are Funk & Weber classes, too. After you’ve taken an embroidery class, sign up for one of our four DIY Embroidery Finishing classes and learn to frame your work, hemstitch it, piece it with other fabrics for wall hangings and more, or sew it up into a cozy pillow.
TAST logo, designed and stitched by Annet from Fat Quarter.
If you’re looking to expand your stitchy creativity, the best way I know how is to play with stitches and patterns. Forget creating a final product. Just play. My favorite playground for this kind of play is Sharon B’s Take a Stitch Tuesday,
Every week, Sharon posts a stitch with a tutorial on how to work it. Then participants play with the stitch and, if they want, they share photos of the result.
Sharon repeatedly reminds folks in the TAST Facebook group that photos should be of the stitch and how you played with it, not of finished items. A lot of people don’t seem to get this, and Sharon is super patient and kind about it, but there’s a reason for discouraging photos of finished projects: It takes the focus off the real purpose, which is simply to play with the stitches. Lots of groups exist to share photos of finished pieces. That is usually the focus of needlework. Sharon’s trying to shift that focus because playing, with no vision or requirement for the outcome, is the source of creativity. Sharon’s doodle cloth pictured earlier in this post is the kind of thing you create in TAST. It’s lovely, no? And it can certainly be made up into something after the doodling.
I applaud Sharon’s efforts, and I encourage you to join me on the TAST playground.
ANG has a Stitch of the Month club with wonderful archives, and there are other stitchy challenges out there. Pick one! TAST is my choice right now.
For the ultimate creative inspiration, travel. There is nothing like a change of pace and a change of scenery to ignite creativity.
My first choice for your creative travel is (three guesses, and the first two don’t count) our own Stitch in Alaska tour, August 31–September 6, 2016.
But there are other options, too. To browse a wonderful collection of embroidery-based excursions, request to join the Stitchers’ Escapes Facebook Group.
Stitchers are doers. The year is young. There’s lots of time to explore and create. What are you doing to make this a fun and productive year?
Valentine’s Day Cross Stitch Pattern
Do you know that Funk & Weber has a Valentine’s cross stitch pattern?
We do, but it’s not red or pink; it’s black and white—with just a touch of red and the palest pink.
Lovely Night. Valentine’s Day cross stitch pattern, by Funk & Weber Designs
This piece warms the cockles of my heart, whatever they are. It just makes me happy and huggy. I am quite the sap, that’s true.
Halloween and Christmas patterns are hugely popular, but Valentines Day patterns . . . not so much. I don’t get that. It’s a lovely tradition, and the candy is less child-centric than the candy associated with Halloween and Easter—arguably better, too, save those word and phrase hearts. Come on, candy heart makers, think: Sweet Tarts!
I contributed just two things to this pattern:
1) the desire for a Valentine’s Day pattern
2) the two-swans heart idea
The rest was a surprise to me, and I was a delighted. (I love surprises.) Mike is a bit of a sap and a romantic, too, and I think that tightly held secret leaked out a bit here.
Alaska is the summer home and breeding ground for many migratory birds, including tundra and trumpeter swans. We see them most often in the spring and fall as they pass through southcentral AK to more northern breeding grounds. When we see them, I like to try to finagle a view—or even better, a photo—of two swans in this position: facing each other so their heads and necks form a heart shape.
Trumpeter swans. Part of the courtship dance places the pair face-to-face so their heads and necks form a heart.
Part of their courtship dance places the pair face-to-face so their heads and necks form a heart. Isn’t that sweet?
(Since most photos I post are taken by me or Mike, I am compelled to reveal that this is not our photo! It is used legally here, with the photographer actually being paid because that’s the way it should be.)
I know several people who collect heart-shaped rocks. I collect visions of swan-made hearts. I’m pretty sure I have some photos, too, but a quick search didn’t turn them up, and a lengthy search is not on the agenda.
While I love the pattern as it is, I see lots of possible adaptations:
- Cupid, isolated, and reverse-stitched (that is, with the negative space stitched) for a card
- the swans, isolated, and reverse-stitched, also for a card or with stitchy straps to hold a photo
- just the couple, bench, and water; reverse stitched in black on white or any color; with names added for an engagement, wedding, or anniversary
This pattern is available as a printed card and also as part of the digital collection that includes all of the Let There Be Night patterns. All Let There Be Night patterns have the same stitch count and thus can share a frame, allowing you to swap them out as months and seasons change.
This digital collection contains all eleven of the Let There Be Night Stitchlings.
Have you stitched this? Have you altered it or personalized it? Please share!
Amy Meissner, Textile Artist. Anchorage, Alaska.
Recycling needlework is a topic I ponder for a number of reasons:
- I see offloaded needlework in thrift stores and want to rescue it.
- After creating most things, I’m done with it and want to offload it myself, but there’s something about this that bothers me. Several things, really.
- I’ve received a good deal of hand-me-down needlework from my grandmother and aunt that I don’t wish to offload, but that I don’t exactly know what to do with.
My friend, Amy Meissner, is a textile artist who seeks hand-me-down needlework for use in her art. She’s actually doing what I merely dream of doing, and she’s doing it thoughtfully and beautifully, in a way that only Amy can.
As I sort out my own evolving thoughts on the subject, I asked Amy some questions which she kindly took the time to answer.
You can draw and paint and do all kinds of art. Why do you choose needlework as your medium?
My work life started when I was 17 and I entered the clothing industry. I’d learned home sewing and embroidery from my mother when I was really young, but was now learning about production sewing, cutting and pattern drafting in small factories at a young age, too. Even though I left the clothing industry when I turned 30, none of the skills left me. I feel like handwork is my default motion, some kind of muscle memory. I never have to reinvent the wheel with this art form, I can just pick a point and jump in any direction from a platform of deep knowledge and history. I still draw and paint, but sometimes it’s more to get a quick idea down or explore the conceptual nature within a series or work.
When my children were toddlers and babies, this was the one thing I could sit and do with them beside me. Watercolor? No. Paint canvases? No. Write? No. Knit? No. But I could stop and start handwork all day long, and still do.
“Reliquary #3: Catch” (25.75″ x 25.75″) Vintage domestic linens, silk organza, wool, abandoned embroideries & quilts, found object. Machine pieced, hand embroidered & quilted, 2015.
“Reliquary #3: Catch,” detail.
I know that you come from a long line of needleworkers. What was needlework to you as you were growing up? Was the handwork of your family significant to you or just something that they did?
My mother was taught embroidery in school in Sweden, along with knitting, crocheting, sewing and cooking (how civilized), so when she was teaching me at 3 and 5 and 9, there was this constant reference to my teacher: “If your teacher saw the back of a this cross stitch, she’d make you take it out,” or “You can’t leave a big snarl on the front of the canvas, your teacher wouldn’t let you pass her class,” and “Your seam allowance is less than 5/8”, your teacher would make you take out all the stitching and re-do this seam.”
Who the hell was this teacher?
I think it was my mother’s way of distancing herself a bit and trying not to be the heavy while teaching this incredibly sensitive child who cried whenever she couldn’t do something perfect the first time. I also think it speaks to some kind of European Sewing Teacher PTSD. The frightening thing is that I hear myself saying it to my 6-year-old.
So yes, the handwork was significant and it was also something one did. I think it was hard for my mom when I just wanted to curl up with a book because this wasn’t something anyone ever did on the farm when she was growing up. Reading just wasn’t productive.
“Reliquary #2: Keep” (32.5″ x 32.5″) Wool, silk, cotton voile & velvet, vintage linens & drapery, hair, found objects. Machine pieced, hand embroidered & quilted, 2015.
“Reliquary #8: Scroll” (3″ x 325″, installation dimensions variable) Vintage domestic linens & drapery, abandoned quilts & embroideries, silk organza, found objects. Machine pieced, hand embroidered, 2015.
How do you feel about inherited needlework? What do you do with it, and what does it mean to you?
I have made the grumbling choice to haul around inherited needlework for 20+ years. I had a freak out and got rid of a layer right before my first baby was born in some kind of effort to “make room in my life,” and my husband insisted on sitting there the entire time so I wouldn’t mistakenly get rid of the wrong things and regret it later when I wasn’t so hormone infused. For the record, I didn’t get rid of anything that was clearly made for me or that I knew the origins of, but there were stacks of things that had mysteriously come my way. Even Swedes need to clean out their closets and it must have seemed like a good idea to send the stuff to America.
Like, to me.
The first time I cut up a doily and used it in a piece of artwork, I think I was expecting a bolt of lightning from Great Grandmother Nanny and a smoldering hole at my feet, but instead I felt this lovely liberation and new-found reverence. Now I could live with these items without … living with them.
“Vein #3″ (16″ x 16″ x 2”) Vintage domestic linens, unspun wool fiber, silk organza mesh, found objects. Hand felted, machine & hand embroidered, hand quilted, upholstered onto cradled board, 2015. *Private collection.
“Vein #3,” side detail.
How do you feel about handwork from unknown sources, things you find in thrift stores and at yard sales? What about the sheer quantity of unused, unwanted needlework out there?
The quantity speaks to the human need to create. The resurgence of needle arts speaks to this as well, even if people don’t realize that creating makes them feel good, it still makes them feel productive and this alone feels good. Without going into brain imagery of knitters while knitting, just know this: brains are hormone infused in a good way and people other than grannies like to feel high.
Unwanted handwork makes me feel melancholy. Especially if it’s really fine (flip it over, check out the back), but even more so if it’s an unfinished kit. There’s so much hope and vision still lingering there in those (mostly) hideous projects. My mother is on a personal crusade to finish all these abandoned thrift store kits. I’m on a journey to re-use them as they are, the uglier the better.
Crowdsourced doilies, Amy Meissner
Crowdsourced potholders, Amy Meissner
What might recycling needlework do for art, the needlework craft, the individual recycled pieces, the people who made them, you, and the rest of us?
I guess there’s always the danger of making more crap out of existing crap, so I try to be thoughtful and treat each item like it’s irreplaceable — because it is. I think I’ve only cut up one thing and decided not to use it and this still feels like a travesty. If one approaches any material as an unlimited source, you end up with garbage in the end because it is difficult to respect it. The flip side is that you treat everything as if it’s precious, and then you suffer from paralysis, so I walk a fine line between these two conversations in my head: “Plan your cut because this is the only one in existence,” vs. “Oh, just cut this all up, there’s gobs more out there.” Both conversations are crucial for forward movement and reverence.
There is a difference between a “Crafter” and a “Crafts-person,” and this dual conversation is one facet of that difference. Another facet is a true understanding of a material and a willingness to continue learning from and pleasing a phantom teacher in order to know this material before you start breaking all the rules.
Cycling through these old textiles gives me far more inspiration than entering any fabric store. But it goes beyond inspiration and historical + environmental responsibility, I love the idea of story and presenting old stories in contemporary ways. It’s a huge challenge to make a doily feel contemporary.
Work in Progress, Amy Meissner
Work in Progress #2, Amy Meissner
Work in Progress #3, Amy Meissner
Jen’s Response to Amy’s Answers
And there it is: story.
This is the core of my own interest in needlework and desire to create. It’s why Mike and I started designing: we wanted images of our own story. I suspect it’s why you choose a certain pattern.
Maybe my create-and-offload practice is part of my story.
I’m pretty sure that what draws me to thrift-store needlework are the stories I imagine behind the discarded pieces.
Work in Progress #4, Amy Meissner
Work in Progress #5, Amy Meissner
Work in Progress #6, Amy Meissner
Amy is currently collecting needlework items for use in her work. She has a well-thought-out process for doing so because she wants to keep the stories and information about each donated piece intact as much as possible. That’s a monumental (sometimes impossible) job, of course. If you would like to contribute, drop Amy a line, and she will send you further instructions that will include things like this:
-unfinished or abandoned embroideries — cross stitch, needlepoint, crewel
-unused/partially used embroidery kits — the kind with patterns printed onto fabric (not color-printed, but the type with lines to follow)
-crocheted doilies or fancy hot pads/pot holders (not the normal sewn and insulated hot pads, these are more like thick, decorative doilies to hang in the kitchen but not necessarily use).
please pin a little tag to the needlework with the following information (often this information won’t be available, but every once in a while there may be a clue/slip of paper/etc., otherwise label items where you found them):
MAKER: (this can be “Unknown”)
ORIGIN AND/OR LOCATION FOUND: (If you don’t know, you can use your location as the “found location”)
YEAR: (this can also be “Unknown” or your best guess)
+ any other details you wish to include about your connection to this work if you have some. Hand written is fine.”
To see how Amy is currently using needlework donations, check out this wonderful blog post, titled “Splitting Open the Idea.” Amy is a delightful writer. In fact, I initially met her years ago as an Alaska author/illustrator.
She also has a series of posts in which she shows us, in detail, donations she’s received and the stories behind and within them. Grab a cuppa, and give yourself time to read and look. Amy is doing something important and remarkable as she recycles needlework. I feel connected to it and grateful for it, and I suspect you will, too. I just might donate some of my family’s handwork because I want to be a part of Amy’s story.
What are your thoughts on the story behind your own needlework and any recycled needlework in our life?