It’s ALL Embroidery to Me

  • My stitchy heart earrings are on canvas.
  • My bracelets and barrettes are on linen.
  • My card-keeper wallet is on Aida.
  • My Clover and Crocus stumpwork piece is on silk.
Different kinds of embroidery on different ground fabrics.

Needlepoint, cross stitch, stumpwork, Hardanger, pulled thread . . . It’s ALL embroidery.

I belong to a wonderful needlepoint group on Facebook: Needlepoint Nation. It’s wonderful because it’s active (nearly 7,000 members as of today and growing daily), focused, supportive, and positive. There are rules, and the three moderators nip potential problems in the bud, so they never blossom. It’s a delightful group, and I love hanging out there.

One of the rules is that it’s for needlepoint only. The definition of needlepoint there is anything stitched on canvas, Congress cloth, or silk gauze. Because I don’t generally stitch on canvas (bleh!), I don’t post pictures of what I’m stitching. I do like silk gauze, however, so one day I’ll dig that out and have something to share.

The needlepoint focus of the group doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s a private group, and the group administrators are free to choose the focus and set the rules. I think the focus and rules are what make the group so great. I’m not in a more fun, positive, or productive stitchy group. The projects members share are beautiful and inspiring; the advice shared is relevant to all stitchers. I may not be a needlepointer, per se, but I feel right at home because it’s all embroidery to me.

In another stitchy Facebook group recently, a stitcher’s feelings were hurt when a gift she’d made wasn’t received with the appreciation she had hoped. In fact, the recipient questioned whether it was “real embroidery.” Other members chimed in with comments intended to be supportive, but, unfortunately, seemed to me defensive and mean. The prevailing attitude was “screw her if she can’t appreciate your awesome work.” I think it’s more productive to remember that gifts should be given with no strings attached (ribbons and bows excepted). The recipient is under no obligation to understand, appreciate, or like the gift—which is a darn good reason to carefully consider who on your gift list gets a handmade gift! Give it joyfully and lovingly, then let it go.

If someone asks whether it’s “real embroidery,” the answer, quite simply, is “yes.” If the asker is interested, you might explain the different kinds of embroidery and the different kinds of materials. Explaining is more likely to create a new embroidery fan than a snarky or defensive comment.

There was also talk of different kinds of embroidery being superior to others (needlepoint vs. cross stitch vs. crewel vs. something else). I won’t even go here because it’s all embroidery to me. The best embroidery is the one you enjoy most.

What kind of embroidery do you enjoy most? Do you have a favorite fabric or thread to work with?

If you’re a needlepointer who’s been hanging around here, raise your hand (that is, leave a comment). I tend to think everything we do here is relevant to needlepinters, too, because, yanno . . . it’s ALL embroidery to me!

Practically Perfect Planner Class

Behind the Scenes at Funk & Weber Designs

This isn’t about embroidery; it’s about the Funk & Weber biz, which has been growing and changing. I think it’s a useful subject for many of us, so I thought I’d share this experience.

Are you a good planner or a poor planner? A list maker? A chronically harried and late person? How do you keep yourself organized?

The Problem

I have admitted to being a terrible planner. For the most part, it’s not a problem. I have a good memory, and I’m a list maker. Things get done and get done on time. I claim I don’t like last-minute scrambles, and, for the most part, I rarely have to do them.

In life, that is. In work, the story’s a bit different.

Contract work—that is, work for others—is no problem. I never miss a deadline. My work—Funk & Weber work—however, is the exception to the rule. Any creative or self-employed person will get it: There’s always more to do than one can possibly do; choosing what to do when can be hard; I frequently spread myself too thin because I underestimate how long it takes to do things. And so on and so on.

I find myself scrambling to get things done. I find myself being busy all day but not accomplishing the three most important things on my to-do list. I find myself wasting time spinning my wheels in indecision, searching for lost notes, and switching gears as I attempt and fail at multi-tasking.

Four pieces of paper crammed with lists and notes. A total mess.

My current planner system: lists and notes on scrap paper.

For years, my planner system has been long lists and notes scrawled on scrap paper. Sometimes it can take a while to find the number or note or list I want, but overall, the system works for me. I don’t throw the papers out until everything on them is done, transferred to where it needs to be, or otherwise attended to. I don’t hate this system because it works to some degree, but I’m pretty sure there’s a better system to be had.

Looking For a Solution

I’m looking for a better system. In 2013 and 2014, I downloaded several digital planners to put myself on track. I listened to organization and planning gurus tell me how I should be setting up a promotions calendar, an editorial calendar for my blog, etc. All sorts of things I still don’t do.

I did learn this: Digital doesn’t work for me. I need something printed. One of the reasons my current system works is because it’s written down on paper. I know what’s on those papers. Ask Mike.

I found a planner I kinda liked last year, printed it out, punched holes in the pages, put them in a notebook, and tried to use it. I made a construction-paper holder for the month-view pages so I could see the current month at a glance from my desk. That planner was not a huge success, but it was a start.

Practically Perfect Planner Class

A printable daily planner page that isn't quite right for me.

Nope, this isn’t for me. I want two of the elements on this page but not the other three. Good to know!

This year, I’m trying again. I offered myself up as a beta-tester for the Practically Perfect Planner class. Cara Vincens, creative biz owner at The Hooting Pirate, accepted the challenge of trying to help me replace my current chaotic list and note system with something more organized, helpful, and pretty.

Cara won me over immediately by telling me that my planner failures in the past weren’t my fault; rather, they were the fault of the one-size-fits-all planners. What I needed, she said, was a planner customized for my particular needs. Du-uh, right? That seems so obvious, but I confess it wasn’t something I had considered much.

So where does one get a customized planner, and—the Big Question—how do I know what I need?

Herein lies the magic of Cara’s class for me. Cara’s planner class did something none of the other how-to-use-this-planner instructions has done: It asked probing questions about my needs and habits so that I can identify what might be useful to me. It didn’t tell me how to use a given planner, but how to create a planner that’s useful for me. It’s the opposite of what the other planners and gurus do. My messy, wall-to-wall-chicken-scratch papers do something for me that a customized, Funk & Weber planner could do better. My own unique needs and habits—these papers!—are the key to the kind of planner that will best serve me, which, really, is the purpose of a planner.

No one has pointed that out to me before. No one has ever suggested that I evaluate my current practices and use those to create a planner system that works for me.

To Find, Alter, or Create

Printable monthly calendar page.

Yep. I use this. I love that I can use this page of boxes forever.

Cara provides advice about what to look for in a planner you can buy off the shelf; she offers papercrafting tips for altering one you have that needs some tweaks to be more useful; and she provides printable templates for the likes of me, someone who wants and needs to build from scratch. I don’t want a lot of frou-frou, and I don’t need a planner for my personal, family, or social life; I just want to my to-do lists to be more organized and tidier. I want a minimalist’s planner. I want my desk free of clutter. I want to stop scrambling and feeling overwhelmed.

It’s too soon to know if this will take hold for me, but I’m optimistic. I will have Cara’s help as I continue to shape my Practically Perfect Planner.

Win a Spot in the Practically Perfect Planner Class

Because I was a beta-tester, and because I was pleased with the class and found it useful, Cara has offered free class enrollment to one of our readers here.

This class is for you if you are interested in either of the following:

  • papercrafting and making/altering a planner for yourself, your family, a vacation, whatever
  • getting and staying organized

Cara also uses planners as memory keepers, which may be interesting and useful for some of you. It could be a way to keep track of WIPs, finishes, gifts to make, guild meetings and events . . . you get the idea.

We’re going to make the contest super simple: To enter, leave a comment telling me how you stay organized and on track. Have you ever used a planner for embroidery? Can you think of a way that might be useful? How about for keeping track of supplies? I’d never do that, but I can imagine it being helpful! The winner will be randomly selected from commenters on Thursday, January 29th.

The Class

February 9 to March 22, 2015

Registration is open right now for the Practically Perfect Planners class. Check out the sales page for more detailed info about class content. I glommed on to what I needed and gave short shrift to other parts, I’m afraid.

Note: There’s an Early Bird discount until January 29th, which is the day we announce the winner.

See? If I had had a PLAN, I would have been on top of this and had the drawing earlier, but I didn’t. However, Cara does have a plan, which is to give a refund if the winner happens to be someone who booked early to take advantage of the discount. Thank you, Cara!

The regular price for the class is $47. If you take advantage of the Early Bird discount, it’s $35.

Mark. Set. Go!

Creative Influences

My sister had a birthday last week. She’s now the keeper of old family photos, and she posted images of birthdays past on her Facebook page. This was one of them.

Blindfolded girl walking over crystal and lit candles that aren't really there.

There may have been some lasting damage to my sister from this game, but boy did the rest of us love it!

The blindfolded one is my sister, Vicki. I’m guessing she’s in 4th or 5th grade here.

This was one of the party games; I’ll call it “Walk of Terror.”

Before this picture was shot, the grownups (Mom, Dad, and family friend, Richard, who seems to be responsible for this particular game) had lined up the best glass and crystal objects in the house, along with a few tall candles, which they lit. Then on went the blindfold.

Vicki’s job was to walk down the line of glass, crystal, and lit candles—stepping over each one—being guided by the screams and instructions of the party goers.

As you can see, all the breakable and burning objects were removed before she took her first step.

I would venture a guess that every person in attendance remembers this game. I certainly never forgot it—and I’d initiate it again if the opportunity arose, in spite of potential child-abuse accusations.

One of the comments on Facebook was “I remember the games at your parties were so fun!” Yeah. That’s what I remember, too. They were all homemade and wonderfully creative.

I think this is my favorite party photo:

Five young girls gathered around a counter, cutting, gluing, and stapling.

Making birthday hats from paper plates and ribbons.

We’re making party hats from paper plates and ribbons. My sister is the topmost head on the left, and I’m on the far right. Look closely at the girl beside me. That’s Wendie. Can you see the joy on her face? We had a blast!

“What does this have to do with embroidery?” you ask.

I admit it’s a loose connection, but there is a connection. These things, the crazy creative games and simple crafts, made me the creative, crafty, DIY person I am today. I believe my embroidery path is the result of such activities, and I cheer my parents and their friends for bringing them to me.

Now it’s my turn—and your turn—to be a creative influence for someone else. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, neighbor, teacher, or stranger on the street, whenever, wherever, however you can, share your creativity and encourage it in others. Who knows: You may inspire a great embroidery artist.

What do you think set you on your creative path? Leave a comment; I want to know!

How to Keep Your Place While Stitching

Here I am, merrily stitching along, rounding the last corner of an outline that will be part of a groovy, re-useable gift tag. It’s a new project, and I’m really stoked to develop it. I love the colors, the crescent stitches, the way the stitch and design form curves on my right-angle threads. As embroidery goes, this pattern is on the speedy side—how cool is that?

The last stitch is a backstitch that connects two crescent stitches. It’s supposed to go over two threads. I have three. Sigh.

I’ve screwed up. The ends don’t meet as they should.

Is that a collective sympathetic sigh I hear?

Yep, we’ve all been here. I know.

That said, there is a way to reduce the likelihood that we’ll end up here. It’s not hard, and it takes very little additional time—far less than ripping or re-stitching. That way is to double-check our work as we stitch using multiple points of reference.

The four points of reference I'm using to quadruple-check my stitching as I work.

To avoid mistakes, use multiple points of reference to check your progress when you stitch.

You may routinely re-count your stitches, but sometimes that’s not enough. You may have the right number, but on the wrong line. Or maybe you have the right number on the correct horizontal line, but you’re off on the vertical line. Adding another point of reference—or two or three—will help assure you stay on the intended path.

In my case, I have learned to quadruple-check my progress by using four different points of reference:

  • I make sure the outer curves of the crescents fall on the same line.
  • For the side crescents, I make sure each scallop goes over 14 threads.
  • At the corners, I make sure the beginning and end points are 8 diagonal threads apart.
  • When I start a new scallop on the second row of stitching, I make sure the first leg goes down in the center of a backstitch from the first row.

By doing this, I haven’t (yet) had to rip or re-stitch any of the crescent-stitch outlines.

It Works for All Kinds of Stitching

This works for all kinds of counted-thread needlework: cross stitch, needlepoint, blackwork, Hardanger, etc. It also works for surface embroidery and other non-counted stitching; you just check your progress from different angles and points of reference.

Yet another perspective

Honestly, compensating for my error (i.e., just scooping those three threads into the backstitch) would be fine, except that I plan to sell this pattern, and I want potential models to be correct. And, all right, I admit it: It bugs the perfectionist in me. Most of us who do counted-thread embroidery do it because counting enables perfection, unlike surface embroidery, where stitch length and spacing are merely eyeballed.

I’m all for compensating and letting imperfections be. And I’m all for making the most of countable fabrics by counting perfectly. See? Multiple points of view can be as useful as multiple points of reference.

What do you do to keep yourself and your stitches on track while you’re stitching?

What Will We Stitch In Alaska?

Are you thinking about joining us for the Stitch in Alaska tour, August 5–11, 2015? If so, hooray!

Are you wondering what we’ll stitch during the tour?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Two hemstitched pieces.

We’ll hemstitch a fabric or canvas pocket to hold treasures on our souvenir sampler.

The Theme

The theme will be An Alaskan Stitchy Adventure.

Makes sense, no? Alaska is full of adventure and adventurers. The trip is an adventure. Heck, the company organizing it has the word “adventure” in its name (Alaska Wildland Adventures). I think it would be disappointing if our needlework weren’t also an adventure.

“But what is a stitchy adventure, exactly?” you ask.

It is an exciting or very unusual stitching experience and a bold, perhaps risky, undertaking. That means we’re going to risk trying some exciting and/or unusual stitching techniques.

To make it an Alaskan Stitchy Adventure, we’re going to approach the adventure as Alaskans would: independently. You will receive the materials, some patterns, and some instruction, and then you’ll be given free reign to do your own thing. You’ll be given lots of choices to make a unique souvenir sampler, one that memorializes your trip while expressing your personal style.

Souvenir Sampler

Photo attached to embroidery

Attach a photo to an embroidery sampler.

The sampler will consist of as many as six sections, how many you use will be up to you:

  • A photo: Learn and devise ways to combine photos with embroidery.
  • A pocket: Learn to finish and attach a pocket (expect some hemstitching), perfect for holding moose hair, feathers, flowers, a poem, or something else.
  • A stitched picture: Choose your favorite Alaska image to cross stitch, needlepoint, or otherwise embroider.
  • Text: Have your say, and stitch it, too: a word, a phrase, a date, a favorite quote. You decide. You design.
  • Tracks: Explore freeform embroidery and negative space.
  • Found objects: Learn and devise ways to attach found objects (read: treasures) to embroidery.

A Guided Adventure

Sketch of moose tracks in seed stitches

Hoof tracks using negative space. We can fill the rest of the space with oh-so-many things!

Does any part of that worry you? Relax! That’s why you’re coming with me: I will guide you through the process just as I’ll guide you on hikes. It won’t be too hard, and it will be great fun. I promise!

What if you’re simply not into pockets or found objects? Then you’ll skip those bits. Remember, you’re free to make your own choices.

You will also be able to choose how much time you spend embroidering vs hiking, kayaking, sightseeing, etc. After all, it’s your Stitch In Alaska adventure!

Make Your Reservation Now

Learn more about the trip and make your reservation today.

Call: 800-334-8730


Fill out the form: AWA Reservation Form

Remember, space is limited. The summer season in Alaska is short, and trips fill early and fast.