Counted thread is my embroidery forte. Oh, I dabble in stumpwork and crewel and random acts of needleart, but my expertise is in embroidery that can be counted and gridded: cross stitch, blackwork, hemstitching, Hardanger, etc. That means it’s based on squares, lines, and right angles.
I hate to say it, but sometimes that bums me out. Sometimes I’m drawn to circles and curves. What’s a counted-thread girl to do when she’s feeling contrary and craving curves?
Well, I’ll tell you . . .
One option is to fake curves with strategic step downs and/or fractional stitches that enable 45-degree angles. We used the step-down method to create round(ish) frames around the Portraits of the Wild Life and the planets in The Neighborhood.
We use this method a lot.
We also used a lot of fractional stitches in the wolf and other animals to get beyond the square issue.
The wolf from Portraits of the Wild Life
The Neighborhood cross stitch pattern by Funk & Weber Designs.
Stitching threads and wires to the surface by couching allows for real curves, but, then, is this really counted thread? I think not.
The curved scribbles on this bookmark are couched.
Countable Stitches that Create Curves
And then there are counted stitches that create curves. Three of my favorites are crescent stitches, button-hole wheels (spider webs and all other wheels), and something else with a name I don’t remember that works like a closed-circle crescent stitch.
So I’m doodling in my design program, playing with stitches that create curves and circles. Those stars or rotating squares or whatever you want to call them will create circles when stitched.
Curves and circles
Or maybe . . .
Curves and Circles Playground
Yeah, this is what I do.
Deals & Steals
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In the US
To end National Craft Month and keep us crafting for weeks and months to come, Craftsy is putting all classes on sale. From March 25–28, all Craftsy classes are $19.99! This is a great time to snap up some fun, inspiring, and productive crafty instruction.
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 can 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.
Right now, through the end of the month, there’s a Magazine Blowout Sale!
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?
There are 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!
Becky G. is the Gadget Guru.
Anyone who’s been around here for long probably knows I am a minimalist when it comes to embroidery tools. For instance, I own just one
pair of embroidery scissors. It’s possible I am the only first-world stitcher with a single pair of small, pointy scissors.
Becky and I are the Odd Couple of stitching: While I have few tools, she has many.
This is the column where Becky introduces me (and you) to her extensive collection of stitchy gadgets and explains how she uses them. It’s the Gadget Guru series!
The jury is still out on whether I will abandon my minimalist ways and adopt assorted gadgets for improved needlework results, ease of stitching, or convenience.
This week, Becky shares some of her fabric-preparation gadgets.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Affiliate income helps support this site.
Fray Check / Fray Stop / Fray Block (We’ll talk about sergers another time.) You need something to keep your fabric’s cut edges from fraying. I’ve heard that some needlework shops will serge the edges of your fabrics for you; although, I’ve not actually seen that happen. I like Fray Check best of the three liquids listed; it’s a little thicker and stays where I put it.
Just be really careful using any of them; if it drips in the wrong spot on your fabric, it’ll show. And it’s permanent. Ask me how I know.
Jen: I have Fray Check, but I never use it. For small projects, I may just let the fabric fray. For large projects, I’ll serge or zigzag the edges myself. But Becky says we’ll talk about sergers later.
Gridding Thread Easy-Count Guideline has saved my life. If you grid your fabric, this stuff is great. It’s a solid polyester thread, so you can’t split it with your needle. Ever try to pull out a guideline that you’ve stitched through? Oy! I’ve also used Coats Transparent Black thread, it’s a lot thinner, and I think it’s harder to stitch with. And if you use a lot of guideline, go to a sporting goods store and buy 8# red fishing line; it’s a whole heck of a lot cheaper than the Easy-Count.
Jen: I’ve never gridded my fabric. I’ve never felt it was necessary, but I can easily imagine many stitchers finding it useful. Maybe I’m just lazy.
Fabric gauge A necessary thing for figuring out the thread count of your fabric. Many varieties and styles.
Jen: I just use my regular old ruler.
Stitch Starter I got mine in a class by Belinda of Blue Ribbon Designs. It’s a 3” square of clear plastic, marked on three sides in ¼” increments and on the fourth side in 1/16” increments. There are also markings for a 1” square and a 2” square. It’s great when you know you purchased enough fabric for a 3” margin, you can just whip this out to measure where to start stitching. It’s also small enough to carry in your stitching kit as a small ruler.
Frames / Q-snaps / scroll rods / Evertites / Hoops Many different types of fabric holders that do the same job in the same way. Mostly. I don’t use hoops anymore, they just didn’t keep the fabric snug enough for me and I just didn’t like them. Scroll rods are okay, but I don’t like the ones with Velcro or that I have to stitch my fabric to. I like q-snaps because they’re easy to put together and take apart for travel. I have some hand-made covers for them to help contain excess fabric.
I’ve heard that slate frames are great, especially for needlepoint. I’ve never used one so can’t comment on that. But my all-time current favorite is the Millennium Frame, from Needle Needs in the UK. I have two sizes, they keep my fabric nice and tight, yet they come apart easily to transport. I bought a poster tube (for transporting rolled up paper posters) large enough to hold my biggest set of Millennium Frames including the fabric; I just take off the side adjusters, roll the frame and fabric up, and tuck them into the poster tube along with the side pieces, chart and threads. It’s unfortunately not cheap, especially the shipping since they’re in the UK and I’m in the States.
For one thing, [on a stitching frame] the project is permanently set up and accessible. For another, it makes parking threads on this type of project much easier. A frame goes a long way to ensure even tension. A frame gives you room for your chart, so that it’s right in front of your eyes. A frame allows two-handed stitching, which means you make progress a little faster.
But there are disadvantages to a frame, too. They take up room. They require a specific posture, to reach the stitching area. (You can’t always cozy down on the couch with a project on a large frame!) And it’s more difficult to pack the whole project up and away, tidily, in a small space.
Jen: Tools to keep stitchy fabric taut are things I have and use. I’m a hoop gal because I was stitching before Q-snaps existed, and I’ve never felt the need to try something new. I find the (newish) plastic Susan Bates Hoopla hoops with the little lip on the inner ring keep the fabric nice and tight. That lip really helps. However, I much prefer my homemade floor frame because it keeps the fabric nicely taut, and there are no hoop creases to deal with.
Jen again: Well, all of these things are, indeed, useful. Do you have these things—and do you have multiples like Becky? Do you use them? Do you have different favorites?
Becky and I want to know!
Still Stitching for Literacy
Students at Mountain View Elementary School select a hand-stitched bookmark to go with their brand new books.
It’s that time of year when we start thinking about the graduating fifth graders at Mountain View Elementary School in Anchorage. Every year, we celebrate the reading accomplishments of these students with hand-stitched bookmarks.
Since the dissolution of Arctic Needleworkers, the Anchorage EGA chapter, readers here have stepped up to keep the tradition alive, stitching and mailing bookmarks for these students. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Stitchers, thread your needles . . . it’s time to stitch bookmarks again.
Where to Find Bookmark Patterns
There is no shortage of bookmark patterns. Your local Indie needlework shop is bound to have a bunch, and an Internet search will turn up countless free and paid options.
In fact, you may already have bookmark patterns in your pattern stash. But that’s not always the point, is it? Part of the stitching fun is finding and stitching something new.
Here are some things I’ve found.
Heads up! Some of these are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I may receive a small commission.
Leisure Arts offers a bunch of bookmark charts, usually containing multiple patterns.
Keeping in mind that the recipients are kids, this Stoney Creek Collection is a great choice. The 12 patterns include seasonal themes as well as book themes. I’d love to see a bunch of the skull-and-crossbones and space bookmarks. I especially like the Batty over Books and Book Lover ones, too.
Do you like surprises? This Bookmarks Galore pattern collection is like a mystery stitch-a-long: the pattern image is so small you really can’t tell what you’re getting! This cracks me up. But there are 66 patterns in this collection—66!—so there’s bound to be something fun and useful. And for just $6.95, well, the fun of the mystery alone is worth that. I can make out cool-looking cat and bear bookmarks that are cat- and bear-shaped, and I see that there is at least one corner bookmark pattern included. If you’re an adventurer, this might be a fun option.
The Hold That Thought bookmark collection contains 37 patterns along with alphabets so you can add your own sentiments. It’s actually two collections: Words of Wisdom and I Can Read. As you would guess, the I Can Read patterns are designed for kids. We’ve had some of these donated in the past, and I can tell you they’re popular with young readers. Also, if you’re in a hurry to get a pattern—or if you just appreciate instant gratification and/or want to save trees—this collection is downloadable.
Ornaments as Bookmarks
Now that we have cool elastic for bookbands, consider using ornament patterns for bookmarks. These colorful owlet kits would make great bookbands, don’t you think?
Funk & Weber Patterns
Oh, yeah! We have bookmark patterns, too! Even better, you can get them all in a collection for 40% off plus free shipping!
Funk & Weber Cross Stitch Bookmark Patterns
Bookmarks 101: Simple, Smart, and Swanky Finishes
You can also make bookmarks from just about any tiny bit of embroidery: a doodle, a UFO, an isolated motif from a larger pattern. Learn all sorts of clever and creative ways to finish bookmarks with the Bookmarks 101: Simple, Smart, and Swanky Finishes ebook.
Learn to finish bookmarks and other stitchy doo-dads.
Will You Stitch A Bookmark for Us?
Will you stitch a bookmark or five for us? It doesn’t have to be one of these patterns: Any hand-stitched bookmark will do. The goal of Stitching for Literacy is twofold: We want to encourage and reward reading, and we want to expose kids to needlework and help them develop an appreciation for it.
Leave a comment below or drop me a line at mail AT funkandweber DOT com, and I’ll tell you where to send your bookmark donations.
In talking about this embroidery recently, I realized that multiple stories are wrapped up in this piece. It’s time to unwrap them so I can see them all.
Fall, in Pieces cross stitch pattern.
The Season and Color
First, there is the colorful autumn-leaf motif. Fall is Mike’s favorite time of year. He likes the temperature, the colors, and the end of a the busy summer season. It’s time to play outside.
I, too, am a fan of the colors. Growing up on the east coast, I loved the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows of maples, oaks, tulip poplars, and other deciduous trees. Here in Alaska, we don’t have that variety of trees: the birches, aspens, cottonwoods, and willows all turn yellow; there are no autumn-red trees and only an occasional autumn-orange one, usually an aspen on its way to yellow.
Autumn aspens are brilliant yellow.
A touch of orange on an autumn aspen.
But there is red fireweed and bearberry, orange dwarf birch. In fact, when you get down to it—literally down—Alaska has the same brilliant fall colors as the easy coast; they’re just on the ground rather than against the sky.
Autumn red and orange tundra
It’s a Puzzle
Like Puzzle Pisces, the pattern is a jigsaw puzzle. I like that. And I like the puzzle-y title, Fall, in Pieces, with its multiple meanings.
It’s a puzzle!
Another behind the Fall, in Pieces stitchery is how the delicious Gentle Art threads were used. The subtle variegation of the overdyed threads lend themselves to natural color variations and changes, but how they’re used—how they’re manipulated and stitched up—matters.
With traditional linear cross stitching, the pattern of overdyed threads is striped. But autumn leaves aren’t striped. Used this way, the natural colors yield unnatural results.
Don’t get me wrong, stripes can be a cool effect, but it wasn’t what I was after.
I stitched some test leaves to practice, stitching both legs of each cross before moving to the next stitch, and stitching randomly to avoid stripes. The first leaves were too mottled. The effect was better than stripes, but still not the more natural look I was after.
While it’s more mottled than I wanted for the project, it’s lovely on its own, so I made it a bookmark.
So I altered my approach and stitched “blobs” of color; that is, I stitched six squares that all touched in some random way, then moved on to a blob of nine squares. The groups—”blobs”—were irregular shapes that fit together like puzzle pieces.
Aside: By the way, we have a tutorial for stitching with overdyed threads.
I liked this look. It was fun to see the leaves take shape and color, as there was always an element of surprise due to the somewhat random stitching. That was different from other stitching I’d done.
I brought pretty leaves inside for inspiration. And if I didn’t like the look of a leaf in the end, I ripped it out and had another go, certain the next version would be different and excited to see how.
Mike made the oak frame. Roz (professional framer) cut the mats. I stretched and laced the embroidery to the backing. Mike put it all together.
While I had ideas for non-traditional framing of this piece, we opted for traditional because it was a model for the pattern. That Mike made the frame made it easier to give up my creative vision.
Puzzle Contest Launch
The pattern was so long in the making that I had plenty of time to plan and set up a launch. Zweigart and Gentle Art donated the fabric and threads for the first prize of a complete kit. Nine runners up got free patterns.
Five stitchy blogger friends agreed to participate, hiding pieces to the puzzle contest within posts on their blogs during the week-long contest. That means readers from all participating blogs learned about and could take part. We had over 4,000 stitchers playing our game!
So much fun!
Of course, I made things as complicated and convoluted as possible. It’s what I do. There were actually two contests: One was merely hide and seek, so anyone could participate, and players got one entry for each found item. The other contest involved solving puzzles, and players got additional entries for solving. The answers to the first four puzzles of the week were anagrams of the pattern title, Fall, in Pieces.
The final puzzle was to was to anagram those letters again to come up with the pattern title, and thus the subject of the pattern, which had not been revealed. More entries were earned for getting this one right.
Believe it or not, several people got the answer. Others got respectably close.
Entries were stored in a file; the Random Number Generator was consulted; and Bev was our first-place winner.
The Grand Prize Winner: Bev. She completed the puzzle in her version of the pattern. How great is this?
Now we all know one of the stories behind Bev’s pillow!
Building Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge
The launch took place while I was helping to build Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge. I was connected to the contest and entries via shaky satellite Internet from inside the cook tent, with black bears roaming about outside.
So, you see, this pattern contains a bunch of stories.
Have you stitched it? What story does it contain for you? I’d love to hear it!
Get the Pattern
The printed chart for Fall, in Pieces is available in our shop.