Friday, August 23, 2013

Stitchy News - With New DMC Info!

Thanks very much to you all for your input on the Return of Stitchy News!!! :) Your support and enthusiasm are much appreciated. Some really BIG news from DMC this week, some lovely free patterns and tutorials, and some very creative embroideries!

New DMC Colours Coming in October!!!

I'm so very excited to share that, for the first time in over a decade (!), DMC will be releasing a new 16-colour collection of regular floss this Fall! You can visit the post to see the package picture, and read about the aptly-named "New Colors" collection!

The site states that the colours were chosen from designer input, and the collection is an interesting mix of very dull tones (greys, greens, brown - for primitives maybe?) with much more vibrant colours, including bright orange and lime green!

The highlight for me is the group of beautiful aqua blues in dark, medium and light tones. The buttery yellow is pretty too, and is a nice compliment colour to the blues.

The floss pack comes with three patterns, which are very flat, one-dimensional retro botanical designs of leaves and flowers. It's not mentioned when the floss colours will be available for purchase individually, but based on my memories of the last major release in 2001 it may take a year or two. Something to look forward to at least!

As I mentioned in my comment on the article, I very much hope that there are more new additions in the works :) I also think it would be really neat if there were a "By Popular Choice" collection, where stitchers could vote for their favourite new hues!

Attention JCS Collectors: New CD Compilation Released

Thanks to Jo at Serendipitous Stitching, I recently learned that past issues of the excellent Just Cross Stitch magazine have been gathered together in digital format!

The CD archive contains 60 issues from 2001-2010 along with a "bonus" 10 years of Ornament Issues! I'm not sure why the publishers chose to make only nine years of the regular issues available instead of the full decade, perhaps it has something to do with the annual volume numbering ending with the Christmas issue or something?

Anyway, this is amazing news for anyone who tries to collect past issues. Personally, I've been trying to collect the JCS Christmas editions for a while, but haven't had much luck (I have four, LOL, and two are recent!). Zeb, at the great new blog Keep Calm and Cross Stitch, has a wonderful review where you can read all about it! She lists her Pros and Cons, and notes that while the CD set is a substantial investment, there is a LOT of content. As Jo mentioned to me, this would make a great gift idea!

Sew4Home Introduces FREE Sewing Basics Resource Guide

Although intended for beginning machine sewists, this professional-quality e-book has some great info for hand-sewists in the Sewing Tools and Notions section, including a handy guide to the five major needle types needed for sewing by hand.

Versatile FREE Blackwork Pattern, with Stitched Inspiration!

The ever-amazing and generous Jeanne Dansby, of WyrdByrd Designs, has shared a very unique diamond design meant to be filled in with coloured stitches on her blog, Byrd's Nest! Jeanne has stitched a beautiful version called "Peacock Feathers" too!

Stitch a FREE Redwork Biscornu or Ornament

In more free cross-stitch pattern news, Agi (of The World According to Agi) has posted a lovely redwork biscornu pattern inspired by traditional folk motifs. The charts for both sides are given, but just the front alone would make a great ornament!

Make a Beautiful Pansy Bookmark & A Great Giveaway!

Over at Cross Stitch Cottage, Meggie recently shared her very lovely finish - with a gorgeous beaded marker - of a pretty FREE pansy design. Visit her post for the link!

Meggie is also having a 300 Followers Giveaway, but it ends on August 31st, 2013, so hurry over to enter! The prize is a cute crocheted bear and stitchy surprises :)

Two Fantastic Cross-Stitch Finishing Tutorials!

Anne, over at Doll's Musings, recently shared two great tutorials - one for an elegant box-top finish, and another for an absolutely stunning twisted ribbon edging!

Go Baroque, Cross-Stitch Style...

The DMC Threads blog recently posted an an elaborate freebie, meant for a cushion but adaptable, with reversible patterns for regular cross-stitch and Assisi work.

...Or Go Baroque, Embroidery Style!

And the ever-imaginative Imaginesque recently shared two incredibly regal-looking baroque-style embroidery freebies: this amazing square, and this awesome diamond!

Bringing a 17th Century Embroidery Design to Life

Over on Flickr, I've been following the intricate needlework of Suetortoise - who also blogs at Tortoise Loft - for quite a while. Recently, she undertook a remarkable project - embroidering a bat from (in Sue's own words) "Richard Shorleyker’s 1632 pattern book, A Schole-House for the Needle" with a contemporary approach.

The seed-stitch filling she used for the sky (in variegated thread) is really amazing!

You can read all about the idea and project start here, and her incredible finish here. Lest you shie away from the very mention of a bat, as I am wont to do, let me assure you that he is a very cute little fellow! He seems very happy to have winged his way straight out of the past, LOL :) This project was also featured on DMC Threads.

An Amazing Finish: Blackwork Solar System!

Another one of my favourite stitchers on Flickr is pardalote flits, who also blogs at Pardalote Makes. She just finished a big project that I have been anxiously watching progress, from the initial idea and sketch through to its awesome completion :)

This is one of the most impressive textile artworks I've ever seen. It's that good!!! Pardalote rendered the conventional ringed model of the solar system - with all the planets in their current orbital positions - in blackwork fillings, with a goldwork sun, and couched orbital lines! And she stitched deepest, darkest space entirely in colour: cheerful tones of bright blues, greens and yellows! It's indescrible; just go and see!

On a related note, her Jupiter Embroidery, which reimagines the topography of the planet - including its infamous Red Eye - in stitches, is also astounding work!

Tutorial: Embroider a Constellation Around Your Wrist

Also on the topic of celestial matters, the blog Onelmon has a really neat project tutorial for a Constellation Wristband. Stitched on blue felt with simple backstitches and French knots in white floss, the bracelet is a charming way to wear your star sign!

The bracelet is reversible and uses all 12 astrological constellations, but a pattern for the positions isn't given. You could just stitch one constellation and fill in the rest of the stars randomly, or stitch entirely at random. Or imagine your own star clusters!

Inspiration: An Embroiderer's Travel Journal

Susan Elliott, of Plays With Needles, is embarking on a trip to Scotland and has made herself a wonderful sort of stitchy sketchbook to take along on her journey! She embellished the fabric pages with bits of lace and scraps, and left lots of room for adding little motifs and doodles while in the Highlands! A very unique and beautiful memento, that is a unique combination of workbook and souvenir album in one :)

Scottish Cross-Stitching Freebies!

Speaking of Scotland, a new needlework company Fearn Alley Needleworks, has started a freebie series. The first design, Scottish Thistle, is simple but pretty, and the second - Highland Heather - is more complex, with a lot of confetti stitches. A third design, which will feature two cute little lambkins, will soon be posted.

&Stitches Tutorials: Learn Chicken Scratch

The &Stitches blog recently shared two great tutorials for this very old form of embroidery from the US South, as part of their great Summer Stitching, Summer Bloggin' series. The Chicken Scratch Introduction post shows how to work block lettering and two pretty border ideas, while New to Chicken Scratch demonstrates a very modern take on the traditional filling stitches. Simple to stitch but striking!

Quick Crochet: Mile-A-Minute Lace!

And finally, in fine crochet news, Olga (at the Lacy Crochet blog) has posted a simple but lovely lace trim pattern, shown as a vase wrapper, napkin ring and bookmark!

And that's it for this edition! I'm hoping to do a SN post about once a month or so, if the mood strikes LOL! If you have an item to share - your own work or a tip about someone else's project or just general stitchy goodness - please e-mail me :)

Thanks Very Much For Reading!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

WOW: ES Featured on Craft Gossip!

They are talking about me at

Happy News! I've been subscribed to the daily free newsletter (there is also a weekly option!) offered by the Craft Gossip site for a few months now, so you can imagine my great surprise and excitement when I discovered that my Blackwork Snowflake was today's Cross-Stitch feature!!! You can read the article, which also mentions my Free Patterns and Stitchy Resources pages (^ at the top of the site), in full here!

If you're not familiar with Craft Gossip, it posts a wide variety of DIY inspiration and tutorials in many different crafts. Each section is curated by an Editor. The Cross-Stitch editor is Connie Barwick, who is also the Guide for Cross-Stitch on

Although you can submit Gossip, and many bloggers send in their own projects, my project was either picked up by the Editor or submitted on my behalf without my knowledge - whatever the case, I'd like to extend a HUGE and enthusiastic "Thank You!" to Connie (and possibly the Submitter, if there was one!) for the feature ;)

Initially, I signed up for the newsletter just for the Cross-Stitch items, but the daily CG e-mails have become an interesting kind of surprise treasure hunt in my inbox everyday - you never know what you'll find! It's an enjoyable read, especially since I often find great tutorials in areas very different from my usual crafting interests.

If e-mail is not your thing, CG also posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, and publishes in RSS format so you can follow it in a blog reader like Bloglovin' too!

Do you follow Craft Gossip, or a similar site? I love to find good craft tutorials, and am always looking for recommendations for great tutorial referral sites!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Site Update: Free Patterns & Resources

Just a really quick post to let you know that I've re-designed my Free Patterns page to include Embroidery and Fine Crochet and have expanded the Resources section to include all three crafts too! I really apologize for the delay in updating these pages - I didn't notice until just last week that the pattern links were mostly out of date!

I really don't want to have this happen again, so I've also added the date of the latest link addition and the date of the last link check to both pages so you can be sure that the information is current :) I'm hoping to add to both lists as I find new sites!

If you have any links for either section that you'd like to share, feel free to post them in the comments or send me an e-mail (my address is in the sidebar, under the pretty postage stamps). Hopefully you'll find something new and interesting to read ;)

P.S. If I've messed up any of the links or otherwise goofed, please let me know!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Final Finish: A Snowflake In Summer!

Wooeth of the Hooeth! I have some very exciting news to share today - I finally finished my Blackwork Snowflake!!! It's only been, oh, two years (?!) in the making!

I am SO very proud of how this turned out, and that I managed to finish this well before Christmas, LOL! (Um, okay, it's actually looooong after the first Christmas it should have been finished for, but hey - now it's so late, it's early! Always look on the bright side, right?!) You can read all about this beautiful pattern - a freebie from WyrdByrd Designs - and my stitching choices in A Very Special Snowflake :).

It wasn't until after I had written that post that I realized my snowflake was actually more than a year old. Like, more than twice that. And, as of that post, I intended to finish it soon, like by the next week - that was in April. *looks incredibly sheepish*

The Final Finish and I, we are not such very good friends. (A big thanks to Karen @ Karen's Colourful Creations for that term!) But I'm hoping that will change soon :)

You know what else I'm hoping to master? The Fine Art of the Tutorial. Seriously, I really tried with this little snowflake! I wanted to do the whole step-by-step thing, like I did for the ES Blackwork Spring Garden SAL Bookmark Finishing Tutorial. Alas, it was evidently not to be. But at least I have some progress pictures to share!

Before we get to the photos: this type of finish is the standard Stitched Christmas Ornament in my house, taught to me by my Stitchy Guru Mother who is amazingly adept at making them in a wide variety of shapes, including circles. Me, I stick with squares, for obvious reasons, LOL! It's so much easier to just follow the Aida lines :)

The definitive element is the cording, which is unwound and fluffed out to make the tassel at the bottom :) Everything - from the tassel to the top hanging loop - is only one piece of cord! And this looks even prettier with metallic cording. In fact, I had bought silver cording but decided it overwhelmed my little snowflake - it made the beading look dull - and so I went with the plain navy instead.

Usually, we stuff our ornaments with polyfill, but this time around I did a square insert made from two layers of quilt batting, just like in the Bookmark Finishing Tutorial. Most of the steps are the same and can be easily adapted :) So I'm just going to skim over most of the steps; for more detail, please read the bookmark tutorial.

But what I am going to try and describe in depth is the cording attachment process!!! This has been - by far - the hardest part of making ornaments like these for me, and I hope that this post might help anyone else who has problems with cording too!

Note: To see any photo or collage LARGER, just click! It will open in a new window.

Tutorials are made for sharing! Please use this image and link back to this post :)

Here are the supplies I used for my Blackwork Snowflake Ornament:

~ Stitched Motif (September Snowflake variation, freebie from Jeanne Dansby)
~ Backing Fabric (metallic snowflake print, V.I.P. Fabrics, from an old collection)
~ Fabric Scissors - Large and Small (both shown above are Fiskars)
~ Matching Sewing Thread (navy)
~ Matching Cording (navy)
~ Quilt Batting (for padded insert)
~ Hand-Sewing Needle - sharp (I used one from my Singer assortment)
~ Coloured Pins

Not pictured: Poker-outers for turning (I used a pen and plastic cuticle pusher)

I started by roughly cutting out my backing fabric:

And then I pinned it to my stitched motif, right sides together and wrong sides out:

When working with dark fabric, it's hard to mark your outline with a pencil (like I did on my bookmark). Instead, I use guideline pins. Top Row: The red and light blue pins mark out my boundaries - there are four stitch blocks between them, and my outline will run down the middle line between the two blocks (1). These pins only go through the Aida (2). Bottom Row: The yellow pins mark my actual outline (3), and pin through both my Aida and backing fabric (4), keeping the layers together.

This is just a quick and easy no-measure way to make sure that your stitching is even. I used to just eyeball it, but after a big goof (not realizing until it was finished that one side was larger than the other on one of my first ornaments), I got into this habit :)

Then I threaded a long sharp needle from my Singer assortment with navy thread...

...and got to stitching :) This is the boring but necessary part!

Like my bookmark, I used backstitch because I'm comfortable with it. Leaving a gap at the top for turning (roughly two inches), I anchored my thread at the top right, stitched around in a square shape following my outline pins, and ended my thread at the top left. As I stitched, I removed my guideline pins, leaving the top pin until last.

Then it was time for the close cut! I counted Aida squares and pinned in my outlines again for easy cutting (the red pins), leaving a little extra at the top (the yellow pin is the actual line). I've learned that this really helps when sewing up the opening later:

When it comes to snipping the corners, a little quick pinning can help to get them even too - the light blue pins are on the same three-Aida block diagonal...

...which makes the snipping a breeze! And a little less nerve-wracking, LOL ;)

Then I removed all my pins and turned my ornament out and stuffed it!

These are exactly the same steps I used for my bookmark (which are covered in detail in the tutorial), just a square instead of a rectangle! Top Row: here are some photos after the Topsy Turn-Out, before the corner Poking-Out :); Middle Row: showing the making of the padded insert - I used two layers of quilt batting and Blanket-Stitched the edges, securing the layers with lines of Running Stitch; and the Bottom Row: shows the padded insert being folded and stuffed into the ornament.

After I spent some time smoothing the ornament with my fingers to make sure that the insert was lying flat and filled out the corners, it was time to sew up the gap. For that, I used the Invisible Ladder Stitch that I explained in my bookmark tutorial, and here is that graphic again (it's really rough - sorry! - but feel free to share if you like):

Here I am anchoring my thread - I *had* to put this one in because of the beads -

Didn't they turn out so pretty and sparkly? And then I turned the ornament around, so that the Aida seam was facing up (as in the LS diagram) because I find it easier to place the stitches this way, and placed a red pin as a guide along my stitch line:

And here is the ladder stitching pulled tight!:

At this point, you can get creative and use any type of edge finishing you want! This is a great basic way to make a padded ornament :) I thought about trying a beaded edge, but I was on a roll by this time and wanted to final-finish my snowflake off!

A word about cording: Commercial cording comes in many different types and sizes, and I buy mine in the trim section at my local fabric store (when it's available!).

Here are some examples from my - er, my Stitch Guru Mother's - stash ;)

The top two examples attached to bands are meant to be sewn into (rather than sewn onto) a seam, and so are hard to use for small projects - like this ornament - that need to be hand-stitched and turned. The middle cord - the burgundy and gold twist - is an example of my favourites type of trim, the combination and the metallic (the gold is sparkly). But it's harder to hide your tacking stitches with a two-tone cord! And the two at the bottom are plain cording, like the navy cord I used.

You can also make your own cording with floss, which is great for colour-matching to your stitchery!, but I do find that the tighter twist of the commercial cording is easier to tack down. So I recommend the commercial cord for the first try at least :)

Now, for a near-invisible join, it's best to match your sewing thread to your cording as closely as possible. So I used navy thread with my navy cording. However, that didn't make for very good pictures! LOL :) And I have had so much trouble attaching cording in the past that that's the part I really wanted to show you!

So I decided to make a little test piece and do a demonstration; unfortunately, this really close-up stuff is where my photographic skills fall short :( Although that makes the process more confusing than it should be, I hope the basic concept gets through:

In these photos, I'm using red thread with navy cord. Top Row: Anchor your thread (1) and come up through a twist in the cording (2), then take a stitch into your seam (3). Middle Row: Complete the stitch (4) bringing your needle through the fabric, place thread over cording (5) and tug gently until it settles into the space between the twist (6); Bottom Row: Tug firmly until thread "pops" into place (7), take your next stitch (8) - sewing back through the seam - and prepare to loop again (9).

Here's a close-up of the looping process in action:

From the top down: taking a stitch through the seam (1), pulling the loop gently until it's lying snug into the twist (2) and tugging firmly until the tacking stitch "pops" - you'll feel it! - into place (3) and starting the next stitch. And that's it - just repeat this stitch-loop-tug-pop-stitch process as long as needed! This is what happens:

In these photos, I've pulled the stitches loose (1), looser (2) and loosest (3), LOL, so you can see the actual stitch formation that happens! When pulled together tightly, this is how it looks - as you can see, very little red thread is showing:

Pretty amazing, isn't it? And when you use a coordinating thread, the stitches blend in so well they're virtually invisible! I hope that this process is understandable :)

Back to my ornament! Measure your cording around your ornament, including enough for the hanging loop and tassel tails - and then add a little bit extra, just in case you need it! Tie the ends of your cord before you cut it, and pin it into place:

Anchor your thread and then start sewing your cord on:

When you arrive at the hanging loop, stitch through the front and back cords where they join several times to secure them and then keep on stitching as usual:

Once you get the hang of it, cording attachment actually goes fairly fast! Before you know it, you'll reach the end - but don't cut your thread just yet:

There are several ways you can tie the knot at the bottom, but I always go for a basic overhand knot; make sure your cord ends are even and parallel for a smooth finish:

Because commercial cording is stiff (this part is easier with hand-made floss cording), your knot may not come together on the first try - just keep tugging at it gently and smoothing it out with your fingers until you like the look. Then pick up your needle and take a few random stitches through the knot to the bottom seam, adding as many as you need. These stitches will help your knot to sit right and keep it's shape!

And now for the fun part - the FLOOFING!!! Honestly, this is always my favourite part ;) Depending on how the cording is made - and what materials it's made of - it will unwind differently. In my experience, metallics unwind the smoothest and look the prettiest. You can test this before you choose your ornament cord by rolling one of the ends between your fingers; if it starts to untwist easily, it will likely unravel well:

From here on out, all you have to do is untwist! This can take a while but it's really fun to watch :) You'll wind up with something like this:

Super Floof Explosion! LOL :) Depending on how funky your ornament is, you could leave your Floof untamed, or you can comb it down with your fingers (a little eyebrow comb also works great!) and give it a trim...

...for a more manageable tassel:

So there you have it! An easier-than-it-seems - honest! - ornament finish :)

If anything's a little hazy, just ask and I'll try to help! I'll leave you with some sparkle:

I used this photo in the original post, but couldn't resist adding it again :)

Have you tried a corded finish before? Do you think you might like to try one now?!

Although finally final-finishing (try saying that three times fast! LOL) my snowflake did not, unsurprisingly, bring snow - alas! - it did bring some much-needed rain and cooler temperatures :) But maybe if I stitch up an actual snowy landscape...? Nah ;)