We’re springing forward today, which seems like a good excuse to spring into action with some sort of new project or new technique, and Interweave is tempting (enabling?) us with a one-day deal: Save 40% on One Needlework Item with the Offer Code DAYLIGHT40. Yes, that’s all caps, well, except the numbers.
What I Love at Interweave
Piecework and Cloth, Paper, Scissors are two of my favorite magazines. Piecework contains articles and projects for embroidery as well as knitting, crochet, lace-making, and more. Cloth, Paper, Scissors is a mixed-media mag. They offer print and digital versions, subscriptions and individual issues, collections and more.
Dorset Buttons Webinar
I took this class when it ran live. I’ve been into buttons for a while. I’ve covered buttons with embroidery and used them on clothes and bags, and I’ve applied button embellishments to embroidery.
Now I’m making buttons to embellish embroidery. Got that? Among other things, I like the idea of a stitched button as the “other end” of a book thong: It’s cool; it’s relatively fast to create; and it adds a nice bit of weight. I also like the idea of stitching buttons for use on bead-encrusted embroidered barrettes.
With our Finish It In ’14 focus this year, I’m reminded of this book. Embroidery hoops can serve as simple frames for embroidery projects, and this books demonstrates how. I like the suggested methods for altering hoops to pretty them up, and I like the mobile and jewelry-hang-up ideas. The book also contains patterns and project instructions, but I used it as an idea generator.
Of course, Interweave offers much more; these are just things I know and like. Today, Sunday, you can get 40% off one Needlework item with the code DAYLIGHT40. Click any of these links; browse the site; use the code (all caps) at checkout. Enjoy!
Is there anything at Interweave that you’d recommend? Please share in the comments. I might try the silk button class.
Yes indeedy, these are all affiliate links.
March is National Craft Month. Given that most of us around here are needleworkers, crafting is already a part of our lives, so merely doing something crafty is not much of a celebration.
To my way of thinking, a “celebration” should be something special, not something we do every day. As crafters, we’re going to have to stretch a little farther to give this month its due. Here are ten ways we might do that:
Can you tell what I’m working on just now? These are some of the materials I’m using.
If your crafting time has diminished or completely disappeared in the busyness of life, now’s the time to Cre8time to be Cre8tive. The start of a new month, the celebration of a national event: These are great reasons to establish or re-establish new habits or a new schedule, one that carves out time for you to do something you love and you know is important.
Mike and I have re-established our reading-and-stitching evenings. I can’t show you what I’m working on just now, but these are some of the things I’m using.
What are you working on? Will you enter something in this contest? I think I’ll enter one of my barrettes.
I have been asked more than once how we can make cross stitching and other embroidery “cool.”
I don’t know why I’m being asked that, unless it has to do with my Alaska locale, in which case I’m beyond cool.
However, if you ask me how to make stitching sexy, I might have a viable answer.
See? Stitching is sexy. I’m not making it up.
According to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, “stitch” is a euphemism for “sex” or, specifically, “lying with a woman.”
Now, if you want, you can argue with me that this definition means a man and woman are merely not telling the truth. It seems that would be likely true in this case, too, but I’m pretty sure this is also a reference to sex.
So there you have it. People in the 1800s knew stitching was sexy. Now you do, too. All we have to do is show everyone else.
You can download a Kindle copy of 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (which as I make this link is free—I have no idea how long it will remain free) or purchase a 2012 printing of the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – The Original Classic Edition
So…are you going to stitch tonight?
Yep, me too.
Lost your stitching mojo?
No worries. Get your stitchback.
“A good picture deserves a good frame and a bad picture may sometimes preserve its place longer by having a handsome frame.” ~ Charles Willson Peal c. 1807
So I was reading about the history of picture frames. They’ve been a part of Western art since early Roman times. Hmmm…is this an excuse to revisit Italy photos? Why, yes, I believe it is!
In the Medieval period, the 11th and 12th centuries, the frame was painted as part of the picture, like these frescoes in Villa d’Este.
A patterned frame is painted around a hunting scene in this fresco at Villa d’Este in Italy.
This fresco, painted above a window, also has a frame painted around it.
The first wooden frames appeared during the 13th century. They were used in churches and were built by craftsmen who built screens, pulpits, and choir stalls.
Here’s a very plain wood frame. I wonder if it is actually from this time period.
This looks more like something a choir stall craftsman would make, don’t you think?
Many of the wood frames during this period were arched triptychs. We saw these triptychs, but apparently only in No Photos zones.
Another popular 13th-century style was tabernacle frames, which incorporated pilasters and half columns. These, I believe, are tabernacle frames.
Saint Lucy in a tabernacle frame.
Perugino’s “Assumption of Mary” in a tabernacle frame.
During the Renaissance, frame making passed from the artists themselves to furniture and cabinet makers, and the a new craft evolved, which spread throughout Europe. But I don’t have pictures of that, so I’m ending the story here. Interesting subject, though. And oh so fun to realize that I’ve seen some of the early Western frames.
The D-I-Y Framing Class
Just like the great artists of Italy, we’ll be making our own frames for our embroidery in February! (How’s that for a segue?)
We’re holding another contest to give away a spot in that class. Follow instructions in the box below to earn as many as three entries in the contest.
Mark. Set. Go!
Update: Your first entry asks you to answer a question, and then you click “Enter.” You’re supposed to type your answer in the comments; the box takes your word for it that you did, indeed, answer the question. I realize that wasn’t made clear at all! I’m learning…
If you clicked “Enter,” you’re entered, but from here on out, please type your answer to the question in the comments. Thanks!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Vicki made this comment after the Finish It stitchinar:
Some ornaments are challenging to me…they never seem to turn out as I envision them.
Who here can’t relate to that? I think every crafter and artist experiences this, and while I know it can be frustrating and disappointing, I think it’s inevitable—dare I say necessary?—and even good in the long run.
Becca’s (deliberately) wonky bookmark finish from the Bookmarks 101 finishing class.
Our Nutty friend, Becca, created this bookmark in the Bookmarks 101: Simple, Smart, and Swanky Finishes class.
She chose to try a wonky finish, scrunching her rolled hem and stitching in a non-linear, non-counted way.
She wasn’t especially pleased with the result.
I, however, was. Right off the bat. I think it works wonderfully!
First, Becca painted the fabric. An experiment with new fabric spray paints. I love the portion she chose to stitch and how the gold comes off the dragon’s back, giving it a magical, sparkly glow. The wonky, wavy hem was also an experiment. She was trying something new, throwing caution to the wind.
The wavy hem suggests a dream to me. You know how in movies when a character has a flashback or is dreaming, it’s indicated by a watery, wavy transition to the new scene? I think this border has a similar effect. It suggests a mythical, dream-like scene, which is perfect for a glittery dragon, don’t you think?
Seeing the piece through my eyes gave Becca a new perspective, and the bookmark worked its magic, endearing itself to her. She grew to like it. If she hadn’t grown to like it, she was supposed to send it to me, and I don’t have it, so she must like it.
Clearly, the bookmark wasn’t what she envisioned, if she envisioned anything. But was the finish bad? Not at all, in this case.
If your finish isn’t what you envisioned, try to look at it objectively. So it wasn’t what you had in mind, is it nice in its own right? Any chance it’s even better than what you envisioned? Give it a chance before writing it off as a failure.
The Wild Life Rejects pillow. These four blocks didn’t make the cut and were re-designed and re-stitched.
Now, experiments don’t always work out as well as Becca’s did. If I had my stash on hand, I could demonstrate that with numerous models; I rarely throw things away, even my “failures.” When I was working out the Bracelet Basics
pattern, it went through several iterations before becoming something worthy of publishing.
The caribou that finally made it into the Portraits of the Wild Life pattern was the fourth try. I have three fully stitched but ultimately rejected caribou blocks. (The antlers were a bear!) This pillow is made up of other Wild Life rejects.
Sometimes it takes practice or figuring to develop a great method or design. We must be willing to practice. We shouldn’t expect to be perfect right out of the starting gate.
In trying new stitchy finishes (and pretty much everything new), we have to be willing to trust the process and see what happens. If the end product isn’t what we envisioned, that’s okay. Is it something great in its own right? Did we learn something that will make the next one better? When all is said and done, I think both of those are good outcomes.
Want to learn to frame your own embroidery? Take the D-I-Y Framing class in February!
With the DIY Framing class right around the corner, I’ve got embroidery framing on my mind. Everywhere I look, I see framing materials and ideas.
For a very few bucks, we got some glass, a bunch of mat material–in the frames and by itself–and some frames. I see some upcycling in the coming weeks!
While in town yesterday, we stopped at a few thrift stores and picked up some glass, mat material, and frames for a very few bucks. There was so much to choose from, I could be picky.
Huh. Just now, as I write, I regret passing up the 99-cent pink suede jacket. That could have been cool framing material. :-/ Dang!
I don’t know that I’d use any of these as they are, but they’re in good shape and will make good starting points for upcycling—making them better than they currently are. I particularly don’t like the little pink frame, but it will make a fine base for a decoupage project I have in mind.
Whether I use just the glass from a frame or a mat or some other part, the price is hard to beat. Plus, I gave a wee bit of money to a good cause; I’m keeping this stuff out of a landfill; I’m re-using existing materials instead of demanding new; and I’m going to have wonderful fun altering them in my own style.
If you’re taking the class—and I hope you are!—take a look at the embroidery you have to frame and then see what you can find that you might be able to use. Check the attic, the basement, yard sales, and thrift stores. Frames and framing materials are everywhere!
After yesterday’s Finish It In ’14 stitchinar, Val commented that one of the hardest parts of finishing embroidery was deciding what a piece should be.
My brain pounced on that and hasn’t let go.
An Artist’s Perspective
This is a replica of Michelangelo’s David. I never saw a replica of the Four Prisoners, and the Accademia didn’t allow photos of the originals, so this is as close as I can get to an appropriate illustration.
First, it conjures a notion sculptors and writers and many other artists have: the idea that works of art have lives of their own, that they come to an artist from without rather than within. Michelangelo’s prisoners
relates this idea beautifully. The sculptures show people climbing out of marble blocks. Some people question whether Michelangelo considered the pieces finished because they appear unfinished, but I believe they are as complete as Michelangelo intended. He felt that these things, the prisoners, existed on their own inside the rock, and his job was simply to release them, chip and file away what wasn’t supposed to be there.
I’ve experienced a similar feeling when writing. A character will “take over” a story, and it feels as though the story writes itself. I will sit down to write with no plan of what I’m going to write about, and then suddenly it’s three hours later, and I’ve written a chapter that seems to have come from nowhere but is obviously what needed to happen next.
I am too literal and practical to believe that an artist’s work comes from outside; I believe it comes from inside the writer or artist. I believe our unconscious brains have been working on them, unbeknownst to our conscious brains, and when the opportunity arose, the ideas poured out.
Michelangelo seemed to feel that a piece of marble should be whatever shape or art was trapped inside. From this perspective, a piece of embroidery should likewise be whatever it was intended to be. It could have a purpose of its own and our job is simply to reveal that purpose.
Except that’s not generally my literal and practical perspective. To me, there is no “should” for a piece of embroidery that comes from without; embroidery should be whatever I want it to be.
Embroidery: A Life of Its Own
That said, I have had random stitched doodles seem to ignite ideas, which can feel like an external influence, as though the embroidery has taken on a life of its own. For instance, in playing with the heart design in Do You See What I See? I discovered a second optical illusion that I hadn’t intended. Where did that come from?
And the DNA bookmark was a stitch-test doodle then a failed bracelet before it occurred to me that it should be a bookmark. To someone with Michelangelo’s perspective, that DNA bookmark might simply have been what it is, and I was trying to force it to be something it wasn’t. That is, the embroidery should have been a DNA bookmark, not the bracelet that I wanted it to be.
DNA Bookmarks. I haven’t written up the pattern yet, but I might if you pester me.
Even though I don’t believe a piece of embroidery has an inherent purpose—i.e., this embroidery was meant to be a pillow—I do believe an embroidery’s natural properties can suggest good uses. I decided the DNA bookmark should be DNA because I love science and have a science background. I decided it should be a bookmark because I was in the thick of Stitching for Literacy, and I was seeing bookmarks everywhere. It was a perfect fit. I felt in my bones that that failed bracelet was actually a successful DNA bookmark.
Last month, when I looked at one of those DNA bookmarks I thought, “Huh. Stitched in red and white, that could be a twisted candy cane, kind of a ribbon-candy-cane combo for a holiday ornament. Or, stitched in silver, white, and blue, with lots of metallic thread, it might be an icicle.”
The DNA Bookmark started as a doodle for testing a double blanket stitch. I tried to make it a bracelet, but that ultimately failed. Eventually, it became a bookmark, and I liked it.
So should those twisty stitched bits be DNA, ribbon candy canes, or icicles? Does something within the embroidery choose, or do I choose, or do you choose?
I believe you and I choose for ourselves and our embroidery. Those decisions come from within us. You’re welcome to think otherwise, but this is my answer. So there.
Deciding What Your Embroidery Should Be
So how do you go about deciding what your embroidery should be in the end? How do you feel in your bones that you’ve made the right choice?
The first thing you’re going to have to do is trust your gut. Have faith in the process, your instincts, and your creative self. Then give it some thought; ask yourself these questions:
Who is this for? Whether it’s for you or someone else, think about the person who will ultimately receive the embroidery. What this person likes and does will suggest finishing options. If she’s a cook, maybe it should be something for the kitchen. If he’s a big reader, maybe it should be bookish, a bookmark or book bag or e-reader cover. If she’s an animal lover, maybe it should be something for her pets.
Will it be functional or decorative? Though all embroidery is decorative, some is for looking at only (pictures, hangings, ornaments) while others are on objects that are used or handled (barrettes, napkin rings, containers).
Consider the kinds of finishing you’ve seen. Does anything stand out as a great match?
Go to a needlework/craft shop, visit your favorite embroidery websites, or search for embroidery blanks online. What catches your eye?
Finally, if you’re still stumped, ask yourself what you’d like to learn or what kind of finished product sounds like the most fun to you right now. When in doubt, let fun rule the day. “Fun” is always a great choice.
How do you decide what a piece of embroidery should be?
We stitchy folk definitely have an issue with the word “finish.”
We use it when we complete the embroidery stitches of an embroidered piece, as in “here’s my latest finish.”
Why, yes, this is my latest finish, thankyouverymuch.
It’s also the word we use when we “make up” the embroidery into whatever final product it’s going to be, a framed picture, an ornament, a barrette, or whatever. In this case, we “finish” the embroidery that was already finished.
Embroidery: A craft so nice, we finish it twice.
I think one reason we finish our embroidery twice is because compared to other crafts, stitching takes for flipping ever. Our paper-crafting friends are finishing things left and right, so we eke out finishes every chance we get. What do they know?
Another reason we struggle with the word “finish” is because, well, what else are we going to call this stuff? End? Stop? Close? Terminus?
I want to go stitch in Finland so I can say “I just finished my Finnish finish.”
I hope to finish this finish soon.
Because I’ve embraced Finish It in ’14, I’m pulling some UFBPs (UnFinished Blog Posts) from my stash and either pitching or finishing. This one is from September, when I decided to move Funk & Weber Designs to the front burner again and turn up the heat.
My stitching interests have changed. This is no surprise—change is the only constant in life and all that rot. I’m coming back to embroidery now after taking some time off, and I’m wondering where I’d like to go with it. To get a handle on what might lie ahead, I’m looking back to see where I’ve been.
My family was crafty, and I was a crafty kid. I wasn’t committed to any one craft, but I did a fair amount of sewing, from Barbie clothes to my own clothes. I enjoyed macrame and made roughly 8,000,000 friendship bracelets.
When I moved from the east coast to the west coast after college, I took my heavy, metal Sears Kenmore sewing machine with me on the plane.
We are not making this up. This is in the arctic. Our heater was broken. It was fifty below outside. While I waited to see if we’d successfully fixed the heater, I stitched. What else was I going to do? Mike thought it was funny. It was only this cold inside for a couple of days. We fixed the heater.
Then came the caretaking years. Mike and I spent months on end in remote locations with nothing and no one to entertain us but ourselves. That’s when embroidery surfaced as the craft of choice, not because it was my all-time favorite thing to do but because it was most convenient.
To get to the remote lodges, we had to fly, usually on small Bush planes with space and weight limits. We actually hauled my sewing machine to the arctic so we could piece a quilt top, but that meant sacrifices elsewhere. Now and then, I’d pack a big box of yarn for knitting projects, but yarn takes up a good bit of space. I always packed embroidery. I’d plan my projects and take just the fabrics and fibers I needed. They didn’t weigh much or take up much space. And embroidery is slow work, so a few projects would keep me busy all winter. For winter caretaking, embroidery topped the list.
Initially, I sought patterns to stitch. The year we went to Stony River, however, I took a complete set of DMC floss, some images of Mike’s that I’d had blown up and printed, graph paper, and colored pencils. That was the year I decided I’d make my own patterns based on Mike’s photos.
That was the year Mike thought I was nuts.
That was the year Mike decided I might be on to something.
That was the year Mike picked up the graph paper and designed something else for me to stitch.
Termination Dust was the first pattern I designed from one of Mike’s photos. That’s Denali, the highest mountain in North America, and Wonder Lake. I had no intention of selling the pattern; this was just winter fun.
A few years later, I decided to sell our patterns. I had no clue how to do this, but I stumbled along and found mentors willing to help. I spent ten years selling wholesale, attending and teaching at trade shows, supporting and promoting independent shops, and going with the industry flow.
So, essentially, I wound up with a career in embroidery because needlework packs up small and doesn’t weigh much. But that’s how life works, isn’t it? I mean, I came to Alaska on a whim.
Stitching Mike’s second design, The Great Outdoors. He designed the sheep in The Wild Life first. This was my stitching spot (a hard, wood bench) because of the window and a propane light above my head. The frame was made on site from scrap lumber.
Now, I’m ready for the next embroidery thing. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but here are some things that will shape it.
It needs to fit my changeable, mobile, seasonal lifestyle. Hooray for the Internet!
I want to push past what I’ve already done and try new things.
I want to bring embroidery into other aspects of my life, or incorporate it more completely in my life. I don’t want it to be just a job, and I don’t want it to be just on my walls; I want it to be more thoroughly integrated into my life, if that makes sense. Our tagline here is “Embellish Your Life.” I want to take that as far as it can go.
I want to combine it with other things—other crafts, other industries, other materials, other ideas and interests.
I want to have fun—heaps of fun, mountains of fun. I want to be inspired, dazzled, intrigued, surprised, and challenged.
What has your embroidery path looked like? Where have you been and where would you like to go?
I asked, “What’s your biggest needlework-related problem?”
You said, “Finishing what I stitch.”
I asked, “What’s your 2014 Word of the Year?”
You said, “Finish,” “Focus,” “UFOs,” “End Zone,” and other things that mean “finally turn all this completed needlework into some sort of functional or displayable end product.”
All righty then, let’s do it!
Finish It in 2014
Step 1: Join the free stitchinar: Finish It! The Skinny on Embroidery Finishing
Saturday, January 11, 2014
8:00 a.m., Alaska Time
12:00 noon, Eastern
We’ll put together a looooong list of finishing ideas and techniques, from framed pictures to accessories, from lacing to taping to sewing to edge stitching to decoupaging.
Sign up for this event even if you can’t attend live. We’ll post a replay after the event, and for a limited time, anyone registered will be able to watch it.
Win a Seat in a Finishing Class
Sure, it’s been sitting neglected for 22 years, but check it out: It wasn’t folded; it was protected from dust; and the edges are zigzagged. This piece is lu-uh-uh-cky!
Start digging through your stash and pulling out the unfinished embroideries.
Mike remembers me stitching this old New World Map design at Bristol Bay Lodge, our first caretaking gig. That’s from back before we started designing our own embroideries. That means it’s been rolled up in this plastic tube, stashed in an unheated storage space, moved to a heated storage space, carted here to the house, and stuck in a box in a crawl space for over twenty-two years!
All right. How old is your oldest unfinished embroidery? Post your shame in the comments here for a chance to win admission to one of this year’s finishing classes (value $39.97).
I’ll announce the winner at the stitchinar on January 11th. If you have a picture of your oldest unfinished embroidery, please send it to me at mail [AT] funkandweber [DOT] com.
Take the first step to finishing your embroidery in 2014: Register for Finish It! The Skinny on Embroidery Finishing.
Go. Now. Do it.
You know, it’s this putting-off-until-later habit that got you into this unfinished-embroidery mess to begin with.
And the winner is…
Congratulations, Barbara! I’ll be in touch via e-mail.