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.
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.
This minimalism is the result of frequent moving and traveling when I first started stitching as an adult—I travel light—and it continues now that I have a house because my house is itty-bitty. There simply isn’t room for a second pair of tiny scissors. Plus, if I have just one pair, I have to keep track of them. So far, so good.
I like my minimalist ways, but most stitchers like their tools: They like using them and even collecting them. Some, I imagine, are appalled that I don’t consider certain tools essential.
Last summer during Stitch in Alaska, I discovered that long-time online stitchy friend, Becky G., is a Gadget Guru. She’s got stitching tools coming out of her ears—she travels with more tools than I own!
I love combining opposites or things that don’t seem to go together, so I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast our stitchy gadget styles. Who knows, I might discover a tool I can’t stitch without. Thanks to Becky, I have my first ever magnetic needle minder. So far, I haven’t used it to mind needles—it’s currently holding a message at my desk—but it sure is pretty, and it reminds me of Becky.
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.
The Gadget Guru Series
Join us as Becky introduces me (and you) to her extensive collection of stitchy gadgets and explains how she uses them. It’s the Gadget Guru series! This week, she covers marking tools.
Marking and Containing Tools
for Cross Stitch and Other Embroidery
The Gadget Guru’s stitching pens and pencils.
Becky: I like chalk pencils (General’s Pastel Chalk, 3 pack, white, gray, and light blue) because I can use them on fabric, then brush the chalk off, and it’s gone. Great for very short-term use, but no good if you want the marks to hang around for a while. I will not use any sort of marker on my stitching fabric, no matter what it says about the ink disappearing. My feeling is that if there is ink on my fabric, even if it disappears there’s still a residue that will show up sometime. I’m not willing to take that chance.
Jen: Agreed. I also am not convinced disappearing ink won’t return at a later date. I have some regular chalkboard chalk in my sewing box that I’ve used when sewing or quilting, but I’ve never used it for embroidery. If I’m going to mark my fabric, I just use straight pins—or, more likely, spare embroidery needles because they’ll probably be closer, and I’m lazy—or a bit of thread, probably something from the ort pile.
Becky: As far as marking charts as I stitch, when I mark them, I prefer to use colored pencils rather than a highlighter. Why, you ask? If you’ve ever had a highlighter roll off your table onto your fabric, you’d know why. Highlighter does not come out. Colored pencil, on the other hand, is highly unlikely to make a mark, unless you drag the pencil over the fabric. And yes, if I mark on the chart, I mark on a working copy, not on the original. See also Post-it sticky notes.
Jen: I rarely mark up a chart to keep track of what I’ve stitched and what remains. The problem is that I don’t keep up with marking sections off, so I wind up having to study and re-figure anyway. It’s not useful if I can’t stick with the system. If I am marking on the chart, I use whatever pen or pencil is handy—and that’s never going to be a highlighter. I do have lovely Prismacolor colored pencils, though! I could do this.
You know what would be cool? Using a different color for each different day’s progress. I always wonder just how much stitching I get done in a day.
“Post-it” Sticky Notes and Flags
Becky: I live with these notes, both at work and at home. I use small ones to mark on the chart where I’m stitching; I can color code them if I need to.
Jen: I have Post-Its, too, but I’ve never used them to mark a pattern.
Bound Presentation Book
The Gadget Guru’s chart keeper, used with Post-Its to mark her progress.
Becky: I use binders like these Avery Flexi-View Presentation Books when I have a lot of pages to a chart, and I don’t want to misplace them. I can use my sticky note markers on the plastic sheet to mark my spot.
Jen: Ooooooooh. Now I get it. This is smart.
I kinda, sorta, almost do something similar. I have clear plastic page protectors that I use mostly for class instructions and stitching samples. The pages live in three-ring binders. I’ve never managed to keep a pattern that tidy while stitching, though I admire you for doing it.
These days, I stitch my own designs almost exclusively, so I just print out what I need. I mark it up with notes and corrections as I work. It’s a mess by the time I’m done: wrinkled, scribbled on, and filled with holes from being pinned to my floor frame.
When I stitched patterns from magazines or other designers, I didn’t make a working copy—that was before we had home scanners and printers—nor did I protect the original pattern. I pretty much destroyed it during the stitching process. These weren’t things I was likely to stitch twice, so I didn’t care.
Becky, we’re like the Odd Couple of stitching!
So . . . are you a tidy stitching Felix like Becky or a sloppy stitching Oscar like me? Do you have and use these tools with your embroidery? In this case, I seem to have them; I just don’t use them!
I am a backstitch fan and believer. I know that stitchers complain about doing it, claiming it takes a long time, but I think most agree that backstitch can have a significant impact. Many who dislike the process appreciate the result.
As is true with most things, there’s more than one way to work backstitching. The stitch is the same, but the way it’s applied to a design is different.
I’m talking about sketch backstitches versus edge-following backstitches. I don’t know if “sketch backstitch” is an official name or not, but I think it’s a good and accurate one. I was originally calling the others—the edge-following ones—”regular” backstitch, but that seemed judgmental. These are the backstitches that I’ve always known, though, this sketch backstitch is “new” by comparison. It also seems a bit localized, more used and popular in Europe than here in the US.
As you can guess, edge-following backstitches follow pattern edges. Curves and angles are stair-stepped unless the underlying stitches are fractional stitches. An example is this wolf from the Funk & Weber Designs pattern, Portraits of the Wild Life.
This wolf uses edge-following backstitches, stair steps for curves, and fractional stitches for angles.
Fractional stitches produce clean, angled edges.
The “oval” frame is stair stepped, and the wolf’s eyes, ears, and face are full of fractional stitches, three-quarters of one color, one-quarter of another. All the backstitching follows the stair steps and the angles in the fractional stitches.
Aside: We have a tutorial on fractional stitches that shows how to choose which color should be chosen for the 3/4, etc.
Sketch backstitches, on the other hand, can go any which way, crossing whole stitches on an angle, cutting off corners of underlying stitches. This example is “Frosty Friends Christmas stocking,” by Margaret Sherry, from the 2009 issue of Enjoy Cross Stitch at Christmas. Many thanks to Arctic Needle Karen for providing it!
Sketch backstitch ignores the corners of underlying cross stitches.
Note, in particular, the three areas within the green circles. I put those circles there; they’re not part of the pattern . . . in case you were wondering. See how the backstitches cross over whole cross stitches below them, leaving part of the cross outside the outlined design?
Now, let’s back away and look at the overall effect.
From a distance, do you notice the way sketch backstitches ignore underlying stitches? I don’t. I think this is adorable!
From a distance, the sketch backstitch appears similar to edge-following backstitches. Up close, however, it looks messy to me, like we’ve colored outside the lines.
Now, coloring outside the lines is a concept I support and promote, but not in this way. The feeling I get from sketch backstitch is that someone was in a hurry or being lazy and both literally and figuratively was cutting corners. The stray colors outside the backstitching draw my eye, calling attention to themselves, which I’m pretty sure is not the intent.
I also sense that the backstitches are disconnected from the underlying stitches: a separate layer on top, as opposed to being an integral part of the whole.
Overall, I’m not a fan.
An Exception (There’s Always One)
And then Arctic Needle Karen presented an idea I hadn’t considered: This is a kids’ cartoon pattern. What if we think of it as a coloring-book page? In that light, doesn’t coloring outside the lines make sense and add an interesting aspect to the piece?
I have to say it does. And that got me thinking about other ways and times sketch backstitches might be used to good effect. So far, I haven’t come up with anything I want to pursue, but this one example alone makes me think there could be situations where I’d like sketch backstitches. I welcome your suggestions and examples!
Tips, Tricks, & Brilliant Ideas
In the end, you can alter a pattern to use sketch backstitches or not, as you see fit. If you don’t like them, you don’t have to reject patterns that use them. Just use edge-following backstitches instead.
Likewise, if you hate backstitching, or if you hate fractional stitches, exchange them for sketch backstitches and whole stitches. It’s your embroidery. Your opinion matters most. Do your thing!
I’d love to see that wolf pattern in all whole stitches with sketch backstitches. I don’t think I’ll like it better, but I’d like to see it. Anyone game?
So what do you think? Do you like the look of sketch backstitches or don’t you?
Fractional Stitches in Cross stitch
In Praise of the Humble Backstitch
What Color for Backstitches?
How to Read a Cross Stitch Pattern
Stitching Over Two Threads
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?