Mar 252011

Stitching for Literacy, Madison's bookmarkMaureen is our Needle and Thread: Stitching for Literacy 2011 Bookmark Challenge Super Model. As with beauty pageant participants, Maureen has a platform which she aims to promote while serving her term as our Super Model: Family Reading and Stitching.

Throughout the year, we’re going to follow Super Mo as she does her modeling things, and during the Challenge, she’s going to share her thoughts on and efforts toward Family Reading and Stitching every Friday.

Madison Learning to Stitch

Today I’d like to share a few pictures of my daughter Madison learning to stitch. She is working on a bookmark from a pattern that was on Stitching for Literacy for last year’s Challenge. I thought it would be the perfect pattern for her to learn on. Progress has been slow but, she’ll get there, no doubt about that.

We also started a Mary Kirby pattern by Brightneedle. I am putting the story and patterns, after they are stitched, in a little book for her. I thought it would be fun for her to read it for years to come. The picture shows her progress on that as well.

Stitching for Literacy, Mother/Daughter stitching project

As you can see we need to get to work on it. Summer is coming and this will keep her busy. Maybe she can finish them all. Is that too much pressure for a 7 year old?

Great question! (Jen butting in, by the way. That’s what that change of color means.) While we want to teach and encourage kids to stitch, I don’t think we want to put pressure on them to do it or like it. We want to provide exposure and opportunity with no strings attached–pun intended, of course. Some will take to it; some will not.

I would say it’s only too much pressure if Madison feels pressure or obligation to do it; i.e., to put in a certain amount of time (like thirty minutes of piano practice every day) or to complete the project. Making materials and instruction available to her, modeling how much pleasure embroidery gives you, and supporting and congratulating her efforts are healthy and wonderful things to offer.

Stitching for Literacy, Madison stitching

If at some point she decides she doesn’t want to stitch (perish the thought!), we all need to be okay with that. Ultimately, she needs to find her own passions. No one will be passionate about embroidery, though, if s/he isn’t exposed to it and giving the opportunity to try it.

What do you think are some dos and don’ts of teaching kids to stitch?

Keep up with all of Super Mo’s stitchy adventures at Maureen’s Mountain of Stitching blog.

Old Bookmarks

 Posted by on March 19, 2011  Needle and ThREAD, Needlework
Mar 192011

You may recall that last year I attended and did a presentation for the first Bookmark Collectors’ Virtual Convention. I had a blast! I loved the collectors and their collections and found the whole thing enlightening and inspiring. This year’s convention was canceled, but a group of presenters (myself included) is already planning for next year’s convention.

Two collectors have generously agreed to share images of their fabric and fiber bookmarks here during the Bookmark Challenge. We’ll look closely at the bookmarks to see how they’re made and try to identify materials, stitches, etc.—whatever we can from the photos. I hope we crafters and stitchers will get some new ideas and be inspired to create.

Needle and ThREAD: Stitching for Literacy 2011 Bookmark Challenge, Don Baldwin's self-made perf paper bookmarkOur first bookmark in this series is from Don. You can see much of his collection on his donmervin Flickr pages.

I asked Don where he gets the bookmarks in his collection. He got them one-at-a-time from old bookstores that he frequented as he traveled throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. He says, “Since I was early to bookmark collecting, some dealers saved them for me. I still have one here in Iowa City who is doing that. Of course I buy plenty of books from him too!” Antique shops are another place where Don’s found bookmarks for his collection, and a few have come from eBay.

This one is card stock on ribbon. The design was probably drawn or traced on the card, and then holes poked through the card along the design lines. I have the benefit of a larger image, and I don’t see a lot of paper slubs on the front side, so I’m guessing crafter poked through the paper from front to back before starting to stitch. (We talked about embroidering on paper here.)

The fiber looks like some sort of pearl to me, silk, rayon, or cotton, maybe. It’s highly twisted and seems to have a luster, even in the image. It’s either a double-running (Holbein) stitch or backstitch, but it looks mostly like double-running to me. When you backstitch, each stitch is isolated because it’s a little circle or loop unto itself. With a double-running stitch, there’s often overlap where two adjacent stitches meet. I see overlapping, so my guess is double-running stitch. (By the way, Marion Scoular has a way of doing the double-running stitch that eliminates this overlap. Her double-running stitches meet end-to-end. I learned it in one of her Hardanger classes.)

Needle and ThREAD: Stitching for Literacy 2011 Bookmark Challenge, Don Baldwin's self-made perf paper bookmarkThe backing looks like a silk or satin ribbon to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever backed a paper bookmark with ribbon, but I might in the future. These days, I see paper bookmarks in vinyl protectors or backed with another piece of card, fabric, felt, or Ultrasuede.

I especially like how the card is attached to the ribbon with smaller ribbons on the corners.

I present this bookmark first because I hope at least one of us will make one like it–not the bell design, necessarily, but the self-punched paper on ribbon. Who’s up for it?

Any other thoughts on how the bookmark might have been made or the materials that were used?

Color Forecasts

 Posted by on February 25, 2011  Needlework
Feb 252011

Jen's version of Pantone's Honeysuckle in DMCI love color. “Well, du-uh,” you say.

Did you know that the Color of the Year for 2011 is Pantone 18-2120 Honeysuckle? Pantone says, “A dynamic reddish pink, Honeysuckle is encouraging and uplifting . . . instilling the confidence, courage and spirit to meet the exhaustive challenges that have become part of everyday life.” Bring on the Honeysuckle! My computer’s color rendering is not perfect, and I don’t have access to Pantone’s precise colors, but I’m calling DMC 891 and 892 close enough. If the color of the year were beige or tan or brown, I’d ignore it, but I’ll embrace Honeysuckle.

I’m not a trend follower. That is, I don’t adjust my wardrobe or home decor or accessories to match seasonal trends. All right…all right…those of you who know me well can pick yourselves up off the floor now: that laugh-drool is not becoming. Ahem. As I was saying, I don’t follow trends. I do, however, love looking at and playing with different color combinations, and color forecasts, like paint-chip cards, are a good source of color inspiration.

Fire Mountain Gems & Beads has a nice page with past and present color forecasts. If you click around, you can find various color collections, like the one on the right-hand side of this page, showing a spring/summer 2011 color collection called “The Seducer.” How much do you think I love that one?

Jen's version of Technical Guide colors, in DMCI think it’s fun to interpret the color collections in embroidery floss. One of the fall/winter 2011-12 collections is called “Technical Guide.” It’s my favorite of the three fall palettes shown here, and these are the DMC colors I’ve chosen to create my version of the collection (3804, 470, 726, 3837, 3812, 806). I admit it’s not much of a creative stretch for me; although, left to my own devices, I would have gone for a brighter blue and yellow.

My goal is to make a bookmark with these colors. Can I persuade you to do the same? Find a color palette you like, interpret it in embroidery floss, stitch up a bookmark, and share it with us here.

Who’s in?

Feb 232011

Hands up all those readers who are left-handed stitchers!

I am waving my hand around madly … any more of you out there?

Have you ever had trouble trying to interpret diagrams in stitching charts? Or sat in a class wondering what on earth is wrong with your brain because everyone else is busily stitching away at a new stitch and you just can’t seem to make your stitches work?

Well, for those of you lefties who struggle with new stitches that were obviously charted for the right-handed majority … salvation is at hand! (oh dear … sorry about the pun!)

Yvette Stanton of Vetty Creations (another left-handed stitcher, and fellow Aussie) has written and published a wonderful left-handed stitch guide called ‘the left-handed embroiderer’s companion’. With over 170 embroidery stitches explained in ‘left-handed’ speak it is the best book purchase I have made in a long time!

If you head over to Yvette’s website here and click on ‘lefthanded’ on the top navigation bar, you’ll even be able to flick through several pages of her book to see how amazing it is. Full of wonderful diagrams and photo examples of stitches, Yvette gently and efficiently guides even the most challenged left-handed stitcher through both easy and complicated embroidery stitches.

Now, I know all of you right-handed embroiderer’s are now starting to feel a bit left out. Well don’t feel down, because Yvette has thought about you too! Due to the success of her left-handed stitch guide, and the constant nagging of right-handed stitchers for their own version of this wonderful publication, Yvette has also published the ‘right-handed embroiderer’s companion’.

When I teach class I bring these treasures with me. I am now able to show stitchers, whether they be left or right-handed exactly how to execute the perfect stitch.

You don’t have to be a teacher to enjoy these books. You just have to be a stitcher!

Feb 162011

When I think of stitching, I normally think about stitching on fabric, or paper, or canvas, or maybe plastic. I’ve never, ever thought about stitching on bread! Have you?

Em, who does a lot of net surfing, found the most amazing link and passed it on to me the other day, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Catherine McEver, a mixed media artist living in Oakland, California, who spends her weekends dumpster-diving according to her bio, obviously decided that stitching on most normal mediums was a bit boring, and thought she’d try something  a bit different!

‘Wonder Bread’ was her medium of choice, and her finished stitched pieces are ‘wonder’ – ful! She says in her blog entry that she stitched very, very carefully! I had to chuckle when she said that some of her pieces are 4 years old. They seem to look every bit as fresh and good as the day she made them. Perservatives rule, obviously!

How cute is the little bird in the garden. And then there is a piece which pays homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ (this is my personal favourite)

There are more amazing bread embroideries on Catherine’s blog. You might also like the other things she’s done with Wonder Bread – check out her sidebar!

I read some of the comments under these pics on Catherine’s site. Most were amazed at her talent, but I noted one person who commented on the actual execution of the stitches involved. The comments weren’t very favourable. I think it must be very, very difficult to stitch on bread, and perhaps the person who left the derogatory comments should have a go themselves before being so picky.

Would you be tempted to stitch on bread? Or cake? Or perhaps a crepe? And then what would you DO with it afterwards?

Hari Kuyo

 Posted by on February 4, 2011  Needlework
Feb 042011

Next Tuesday, on February 8, Japanese needleworkers will lay their broken pins and needles to rest during Hari Kuyo.

Stitching for Literacy, Hari-Kuyo, broken needle festival
Hari Kuyo images courtesy of Arenamontanus / Anders Sandberg.

Hari Kuyo, as I understand it, is a 400-year-old Japanese festival held in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Broken pins and needles are thanked for their work and laid to rest in soft jelly or tofu cakes. Some people believe the tools have souls, and they are treated with care and respect.

On one hand, I’m not much into festivals and celebrations. I am to formalities and crowds what natural dyes are to unnatural fibers: you can put us together, but we don’t combine in a pretty or pleasing way.

On the other hand, I think being grateful for the smallest of things is, well, great. It reminds me that for all my efforts to be self-sufficient, I rely on countless helpful tools which are the result of human experience, ingenuity, and craftsmanship. Maybe celebrating pins and needles and the service they provide reminds us of the many small things we should be thankful for.

Another aspect of Hari Kuyo is the letting go of personal burdens. In Japan–and perhaps everywhere–there are concerns and complaints that women don’t share with men. They are said to share these with their needles, passing the burdens on to them, so that when the needles are put to rest they take the cares, worries, and sadness with them.

Now, who among us can say we don’t release our own cares and woes in our embroidery? It’s no secret that embroidery is relaxing and therapeutic. And I’m pretty sure it’s as effective for men as it is for women.

I’ve got several cakes of tofu in my pantry, but I doubt I’ll actually stick broken pins and needles in any of them. See–there’s me and formality not mixing. What is one supposed to do with needle-laden tofu, exactly?

  • Throw the pins away and eat the tofu? I say cut out the middleman.
  • Throw the tofu and pins away together? Are you kidding me? Even if I were to throw perfectly good tofu out, I’d throw it in the compost pile, and what do you think will happen to the ravens, magpies, and gray jays when they eat needle-spiked tofu?
  • Bury the needle-studded tofu cake? This is Alaska. It’s February. Get real.

I don’t know what I might do on Tuesday to celebrate my broken needles, but I’m taking suggestions. Got any? Is there anything we might do together?