Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category
Sunday, February 14th, 2016
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
Sunday, February 7th, 2016
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?
Saturday, January 30th, 2016
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?
Monday, January 11th, 2016
TAST logo, designed and stitched by Annet from Fat Quarter.
A New Year of Take a Stitch Tuesday
begins this week. I’ll let you guess precisely which
day this week.
What is TAST?
Take a Stitch Tuesday (TAST) is a stitching adventure led by sharon b, AKA Sharon Boggon, an Australian embroiderer, crazy quilter, textile artist, teacher, blogger, and all-round creative adventurer. She’s one of my stitchy heroes and is responsible for some of my own creative adventures.
The point of TAST is to learn, practice, and push new embroidery stitches. It’s a challenge, encouraging experimentation and learning. The format is very loose: Sharon selects a stitch each week and directs participants to instructions for it. Participants take it from there, doodling the stitch on any old scrap of fabric with any thread. Some stitchers make band samplers, others fabric books, you might make a crazy quilt block, fabric postcards, or artist trading cards (ATCs). It doesn’t matter; what you make from the stitch practice is beyond the scope of TAST. The point is to simply try, practice, and experiment with the stitches.
In the TAST Facebook group, pictures of completed projects are discouraged—technically, they’re against the rules, but Sharon is much too kind and gentle to come down hard on violations. Photos are supposed to be of the practice stitches alone.
This is one reason I am such a sharon b fan: She, too, touts the value of doodling and practicing with needle and thread, with no finished product as the goal. The doodling is the goal and the end product.
Sharon b.’s Sumptuous Surfaces meet Jen’s penchant for barrettes. Look familiar, Carol?
How to Participate in TAST
If you are new to hand embroidery, Sharon recommends starting with the first 15 or so stitches in the list of TAST stitches on the TAST FAQ page (they’re all linked to tutorials). These are foundation stitches, and many later stitches build on them.
If you’ve been stitching a while, you can jump into the current challenge. Stitchers with more experience are challenged to get creative with the stitches, finding new and interesting ways to use them.
You can participate weekly, every two weeks, once a month, or whenever you have time—another reason to love Sharon and this program: They accommodate your schedule and welcome you whenever you show up.
When you accept the challenge and learn/experiment with a stitch, you take a picture of it and share it. Here again the program is super flexible; you can share it anywhere: your blog, the Facebook TAST group, the TAST flickr group, Twitter, Instagram . . . wherever you are online.
If you share in a TAST group, you need do nothing special, as other participants will be able to find your image easily and know what it is. If you share on your blog or website, link to the TAST FAQ page on Pintangle (one of Sharon’s websites and the home of TAST) so your blog viewers can know what you’re doing, and then share a link to your blog post in a TAST group or page so other participants can check out your sample. If you’re sharing on Twitter or Instagram or anywhere else that a hashtag is useful, use #TASTembroidery and #PintangleTAST.
DNA bookmarks began as doodles. They’re becoming something else now.
If you’re looking for a stitchy adventure—and I hope you are!—give TAST a shot. So far, I’ve been an occasional participant, but I’m hoping to be a regular participant this year. Anyone care to nudge me along with reminders and challenges? Thanks to Stitching for Literacy and the making of bookmarks from my needlework doodles, my doodle supply is depleted, and I’d like to build it up again.
I will be following along in the Facebook group where Sharon posts the weekly challenge.
So . . . who’s game?
Thursday, November 5th, 2015
Last time, Monica shared her Top 10 Storage Solutions for us stitchy folk. She based her choices on my personal complaints about stash disarray and a handful of photos I sent her showing the kinds of materials we need to corral and control.
Her selection was excellent, but after spending time on the website and then receiving a print catalog (which I think is better than the website), I have come up with my own Top 10 Storage Solutions. There’s some overlap, but I discovered some cool new (to me) things, too. Want to see?
The square storage boxes on the shelves are Your Way cubes and rectangles. The two “pockets” hanging on the wall above the desk are Oh-Snap Pockets. And there’s a Creative Caddy in the bottom right cubby of the shelf.
1. Your Way cubes, rectangle, and basket Yep, I’m lumping them all together as one thing.
2. Oh-Snap Pockets Monica mentioned the Oh-Snap Bin, which I also like.
3. Creative Caddy
For storing things at home, I like the Your Way Cubes and Rectangles and Basket. I see these holding fabrics, wrapped in tissue or not. I also see these holding some of my floss and bead boxes.
I see the Oh-Snap Pockets on the wall by my craft table, giving me a place to stash tools and supplies for current projects that will keep the table clean and hide the tools away. With limited floor space for storage containers, being able to store things on the wall is a boon!
Another great presentation of what might be done with the Your Way Cubes and Oh-Snap Pockets. There’s also a Double-Duty Caddy here, holding mail on the counter, and a Fold N’ File in the bottom-center cubby below the table.
4. Double-Duty Caddy
I like how this caddy can double as a stay-at-home storage option and a grab-and-go option.
Double-Duty Caddy. A place for use-all-the-time tools, like hoop, scissors, needle book, tape (for making pearl), roller cutter, clamps, etc.
5. Fold ‘N File + Deluxe Utility Tote
This could be the perfect thing for a weekend retreat, seminar, or, say, Stitch In Alaska. The Files contain different supplies for different projects, and the whole thing fits together for easy schlepping. Plus, shared supplies can be contained in one so they’re always available.
Fold N’ Files + Deluxe Utility Tote = Awesome Solution for Big Occasions
Fold N’ File folds up for easy storage–another reason I like it.
6. Jewelry Keeper
7. Hanging Traveler Case
I think these are both good options for corralling small accouterments, but I think the Jewelry Keeper will serve me better. I envision storing assorted jewelry hardware in it so I can finish stitchy smalls: jump rings, earring wires, wire, tools, shepherd’s hooks, grommets, etc. Lots of pockets will be super handy, and this could be my go-to smalls kit.
The Jewelry Keeper and Hanging Traveler Case are both good options.
8. All-Day Organizing Tote
The catalog relates more details about this tote than does the website. Go figure. Here’s what the catalog says:
- Zip-top closure (Though I’m not seeing this in the picture. Personally, this isn’t the feature I care most about.)
- 1 exterior front pocket
- 2 interior mesh side pockets
- 1 interior flat pocket
- 1 interior zipper pocket
- Approximately 13.5″ H x 17.5″ L x 7″ D
The size and the separated interior pockets are what I like. I always have a book, leaflet, or set of papers that I want to keep separate and together, plus this enables the separation of different projects.
The All-Day Organizing Tote has interior and exterior pockets.
9. Hang-It-Up Pocket
Get this: I was just e-chatting with our Nut, Marty, who has turned a coat closet into a brilliantly organized needlework closet. I’ve asked her to send us some pics.
Thirty-one shows these hanger-pockets in the laundry room, but I’m seeing them in Marty’s closet. Now, if only I had a closet . . . .
Hang-It-Up Pockets hanging on hangers, Creative Caddies above them, Oh-Snap Bins on the table
10. Zipper Pouches
This is one of the crossover products. It’s kind of a no-brainer. We can use zipper pouches by the dozen–and I should to help me keep projects and supplies clean.
The thing to note here is that there are two sizes of pouches:
The Zipper Pouch is approximately 9”H x 12.25”L x 2”D
The Mini Zipper Pouch is approximately 5.5″ H x 8” L x 1.5”D
We’re in luck with these Zipper Pouches, too, because there are two special deals involving these pouches right now.
SPECIAL! SPECIAL! SPECIAL!
When we place an order for $35, we can order a Zipper Pouch for just $5.
Everyone who places an order of $35 or more will be entered into a contest for a free Zipper Pouch from Monica.
How cool is that?
The large Zipper Pouch is approximately 9”H x 12.25”L x 2”D.
How to Navigate the Thirty-one Website
Log on to Monica’s page on Thirty-one: https://www.mythirtyone.com/monicabradford/
Monica’s page on the Thirty-one website
You’ll see Monica’s picture at the top right, and you’ll see a link on the left side of the menu that says “My Scheduled Parties.” Click that link.
How to find our party.
Scroll down the page a bit, and you’ll see a number of parties, including the Funk & Weber Designs one. Click the “Shop Now” button in the Funk & Weber Designs party square.
And you’re off! Click, click, click to your heart’s content.
If you have questions, there’s a link to email Monica at the top of every page from here on out. She’s standing by to answer any questions you have.
If you place an order, it will be processed and shipped once the party closes on the 13th.
Do you have questions for me? Leave a comment or email me at mail [AT] funkandweber [DOT] com.
What’s Your Brilliant Idea for Stash Organization?
What’s your favorite product?
Do you have a different Top 10 List? Spill!
How do you envision using one of these products? Leave a comment; we want to know!