Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Holiday Hiatus

Sorry for the lack of updates recently! Between the usual seasonal rush that seems to leave less and less time each year and still being a little under the weather, I've fallen behind on everything online, including e-mails and blogging, completely by accident.

Since I'm also planning to be visiting family shortly for the Holidays, I have decided to take a little break for a few weeks, at least until some time in the New Year.

A huge "Thank You" to everyone who has supported Eglantine Stitchery this year; your comments and friendship are greatly appreciated, and I'm grateful to you all!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Update on DMC SAL: Now A Contest!

First off, some remarkable news! The generous folks at DMC have unexpectedly offered up a wonderful prize for the DMC Christmas SAL, officially making it a Contest as well as a Stitch Along! And what an utterly gorgeous prize it is:


For full contest details, visit this post on Emma Broidery's DMC Threads blog. Photographs of contest entries must be submitted by e-mail to Emma no later than December 1st, 2011 to qualify, so I wish Speedy Stitching to all of you taking part!

And if you're just pining over the gorgeous Bamboo Bobbin Cabinet, you'll be happy to learn that the DMC Shop is now having a Holiday Sale, and that the Star of the Sale is this lovely Limited Edition Bamboo floss cabinet, available while supplies last for $100 off the normal purchase price! I'd *love* one of these. With a nice antique roll-top desk to put it on, in the corner of a spacious sunny sewing room, in a large Victorian house to call my very own...*happily daydreams*. Oh, to win the lottery!

For those who may be curious, I have indeed mustered up my courage and am participating in the DMC SAL :) I wavered for a little while once I found out that it had become a competition, because I immediately started rethinking my design, which is very simple. I wanted a fun and funky little ornament. On the advice of a few good friends, I decided to go ahead as planned, and so it's doubtful that I'll even come remotely *close* to winning. But that's okay - it's all in fun!

And since this is only my second embroidery ("Bluebirds" was the first), I'm coming up against the problem of trying to get things to look like I want them to look, but I think that's something we all go through more or less when stitching. I'm keeping my Reindeer - whom I've named Reinaldo, since he's such a fine fashion-forward fellow - under wraps, filed under Top Secret until after the Contest is over, after which All Will Be Revealed (don't turn blue from waiting with bated breath or anything, LOL!). This actually pains me somewhat, because I'm *horrible* at keeping secrets, and Reinaldo is dying to show himself off. But c'est le vie! Please wish me luck! ;)

In other exciting news, I am still Gift Stitching, and I have some very exciting posts planned, one of which is the review of a very cute Christmas Card kit by a new-to-me company who contacted me with a stitching request that I think you'll all enjoy :)

Also, I've been behind in my posting and - sadly - in my Stitchy Blog visiting over the last few weeks since I've been not feeling the best, but things are starting to get back to normal, and I'm greatly looking forward to being online much more again!

And, before I go, please say hello to the newest member of the Eglantine Household:


This is my rescue rose, a miniature buttery yellow Kordana, and after some online sleuthing, I believe it is of the Sunbeam variety (there is a bud off to the side which you cannot see in this photo, and the shape of that, plus the leaves and the way the outer petals on the flower are starting to turn back, all suggest a match to me; the tag gave the Kordana name, but not the species, unfortunately!). These lovely miniature potted roses are often horribly called "throwaway roses" because, like poinsettas during the Holiday Season, most people buy them as gifts and then throw them out in the trash after the first blooms have faded. But this need not happen, with care.

Last year, I gave one to Grandma, a variety which I think is the Athena Kordana, as part my Wedding Anniversary gift to her and Grandpa, and it is thriving beautifully! Like mine, it was a "rescue", a pitiful little plant left on the clearance rack. When I bought Grandma's, I wanted a healthy plant, but the only colours were dark vampy reds and burgundies, colours I knew she would not like, and I knew that if anyone was up to a little Plant TLC, it was Grandma. She has a talent for all things flowery.

In truth, she has that Gardener Gift - The Green Thumb. Whereas Mom has often joked that she has a Black Thumb, a.k.a. The Thumb of Death. I tend to take after my Mother where growing things are concerned; I overwater them and fuss over them far too much. But when I spied this little rose, who I have named "Sunny" for obvious reasons, alone and forsaken amongst some droopy azaleas and wilting tropical ferns on the clearance counter, I couln't resist. It was Love At First Sight!

Everything deserves a second chance, after all :) I'll just try very hard not to kill it! ;)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

DMC's Super Cute Christmas SAL!

Sorry for the silence around here this week. I assure you that it's been completely unintentional! I've been feeling a bit miserable, on and off, and that coupled with my continued stitchy slump has made for little of interest to write about.

On the good news side of things, though, I have been working on the first new edition of Stitchy News in more time than I can quite credit, and so I had a definite Plan when I sat down tonight, capital letter and all :) And that Plan was to catch up on my stitchy blog reading, search out some new items of interest, and publish the SN post.

Guess how far I got? Go ahead. Guess. One blog. Only one! Out of the several dozen I regularly follow. But what an entry it is, and I simply couldn't wait to share it, so I'm going to talk about it now! Emma Broidery, the cleverly named writer behind the ever interesting DMC Threads Blog, just launched a Christmas Stitch Along (SAL) yesterday, featuring a free embroidery design she made herself, Emma's Reindeer:


Is he not the most ADORABLE REINDEER you have EVER SEEN?!!!!!! The curlique antlers! The stars! *Le Swoon* I am in Love. Love, I tell you!!!

And this, as we all know by now, is a rather perilous thing. I am so very taken with this darling creature that I am seriously considering dropping everything that I am currently doing. Or, in this case, everything I am currently meaning to do but failing to do. That's right - all the gift stitching I only have half-planned, and some that I have half-started, that will likely never actually be made in time to see this holiday. Not to mention all the other things, i.e. Life, I should be doing. But I want to drop it.

And start this SAL. Even though I have NEVER even been part of a SAL in my entire life, and this would only be, let's see now *thinks hard* my SECOND piece of embroidery (do test pieces count? third then! *fails to feel more courageous*) ever!

And I also have come up with a Plan for my stitching, in which there will be lots of metallics and maybe some seed beads (and even, perhaps, a sequin! *gasp*), but definitely colour. Lots of bright Christmassy colours, reds and greens and golds.

Whereas Emma has stated that she is stitching the model in a variegated red (DMC 115), which will give the design a lovely classic tone-on-tone look. She's going to be posting up her progress on Thursday, tomorrow, and presumably posting regularly after that, so keep visiting the DMC Threads Blog for updates. The FREE pattern is available as a .PDF file on the SAL announcement post.

The deciding factor for me will be whether or not I can find a piece of fabric with the right colour and texture tomorrow. A quick glance in my stash tonight has turned up everything except anything like what I need (why is that always the way, LOL?) so we'll see what happens. I've already resized my Reindeer pattern to be a little bit smaller, as I'd like to make an ornament out of him, so I'll be on the look out for some nice backing fabric too, while Stash Diving, or while Shopping! *wicked grin*.

I will let you know how things go, and in the meantime, if you too should fall in love and feel inspired to try your hand at this stitching up this adorable little fellow, I say go for it, because it is my firm opinion that this world can always use some more cute Christmas creatures :) And that mistakes made together are not actually mistakes at all, but rather useful "learning experiences", LOL, of the very best kind! ;)

Monday, October 31, 2011

More Silliness, For Stitchy Friends :)

This is not the post I meant to write today. But, seeing as it's officially Hallowe'en now, I have come bearing some treats instead of tricks for the three special ladies who happened, by chance, to all leave kind comments encouraging the insanity of my own Funky Finishing Fedora, which was the subject of my last post.

And so, I present: *starts flinging colourful confetti around*

Rainy Day Crafter's Funky Finishing Fedora:


RD said: My Funky Finishing Fedora would be as sparkly as it could possibly be, lol, and would be covered in sequins in shades of blue and green so that it would shimmer like the sea whenever I moved!! ;D

So I tried to capture that sort of oceanic feel with the seashells and the charms, and the "sequins" whose shine you will have to imagine, I'm afraid. Also, I have, for many years, imagined that if mermaids were really out stringing pearl necklaces on the sea rocks, that they'd have a helpful oyster or two to hold the pearls-to-be-strung in place. Hence, the Oyster Pearl Holder at the very front of the hat :)

Karen's Funky Finishing Fedora:


Karen said: My Finishing Fedora would be decked out with a huge assortment of ribbons all weaved together. There would also be tons of bows, and threads and a ruler stuck out like a feather for good measure. It would have beads tacked on randomly to make it sparkle and maybe a few strung and dangling from the brim. :)

For the sake of the embellishments, I was forced to tone down the woven ribbon background a little bit. But I know well Karen's love of all things vintage, and that inspired me to add random groups of buttons as well as beads along with the small bows. And this was also the impetus behind the Treasure Chest, the stitchy catch-all along the brim that I imagine would indeed be shaped like a little sea chest, rounded top and all, with a miniature lock at the front. Something precious and pretty to keep all of Karen's favourite flosses and sundry bits and bobs near at hand ;)

CrazyStitcher's Funky Finishing Fedora:


CS said: My Funky Finishing Fedora would include red (obviously) metallic floss and seed beads, along with other colours that I like. There would also be white and yellow roses. Having seen your Fedora, I would definitely want to include some floss bobbin 'corks'. As for the colour of the fedora itself, I'm undecided. x

I joked with CS that her Fedora would have to be be amethyst velvet, suitable for royalty, and I liked the idea so much that I ran with it :) The round embellishments are not meant to be beads but rather polished gemstone cabochons. Those are also inset in the middle of each bead strand "scallop" on the brim trim. The bedraggled butterfly is supposed to be made of the same gemstones, and therefore have a bright translucent stained-glass like look. You'll have to use your imagination there I fear! CS also loves birds, and has a hummingbird on the background of her site. So the little Bluebird of Happiness holding all her floss and tools serves to bring her luck! :)

So there you have it; three very Special Hats for three very Spectacular Ladies! I hope that these are close to what you all had in mind, in spirit, if not actual design! *stops throwing confetti about and curtsies*

I apologize for the dull colours, which are a direct result of the absence of Mr. Sun, and of the dents of erased scribbles that should not have shown up that nevertheless managed to show up where they shouldn't have been! I actually wasn't even going to post the pictures because of that when I saw what the camera had picked up (it must have had something to do with the angle?) but it's all in fun after all :)

Happy Hallowe'en! Be as spooky as you like, but be safe in doing so ;)

Vintage Cartoon Card - Don't You Love Their Expressions?!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Which Much Silliness Ensues....

This week has been super-hectic, a rollercoaster ride full of surprises! Thankfully, most turned out to be the good kind. As such, my Stitchy Mojo and I have not fully reconciled, but the good news is that we are working towards a sort of comprimise :)

I have started assembling supplies for a few small Christmas stitchy projects for family gifts and I have actually started working on one of them! I haven't gotten very far yet, mind, but it's something! And I really must admit that it's good to pick up my needle and floss again. I really didn't realize how much I missed stitching!

Anyway, this is all to say that I am making progress, slowly but surely, but it's not progress I can share, since my Stitchy Guru Mother and my Groovy Grandparents have been known to check in on this little site whenever it takes their fancy ;)

So, I got to thinking about the hilarious comments (thanks CS & RD!) I've gotten about my Funky Finishing Fedora, and I started wondering exactly how my hat would look. Which led to consulting The Great Google for a Virtual Hat Maker!

Sadly, the few that are out there are just for customizing logos and colours and styles for existing products. And I just couldn't see gussying up a baseball cap. No, for my Funky Finishing, nothing less than a snazzy Fedora, with a nice snappy brim, will do!

And so, when I got up this morning, full of unreasonably good cheer thanks to the unscheduled (according to the Weather Forecasts, at any rate) appearance of Mr. Sun, I idly scribbled on a piece of scrap paper, and this thing just sort of happened.

You'll have to forgive me, since I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. And everything I try to draw turns out as a very wacky, and more than slightly odd, sort of cartoon. So prepare to squint, tilt your head sideways, and meet my Fedora:



Feel free to laugh! Heartily!! Even out loud if you like!!! That's the point, after all :)

Er. The first photo is my sorry attempt at "staging" the picture. I always see lovely photos around the web with carefully constructed backgrounds with all kinds of pretty props like flowers and vintage fabrics and beautiful glassware. Yeah. This is obviously not one of them! And let me tell you, I have a LOT more appreciation of the time and effort involved in those sorts of shots, because it's hideously difficult to get things to stay the hell where you put them, and so you end up spending ages just trying to keep things in place! I have come to the conclusion that some people must have a talent for it, as I've always secretly suspected, and I'm honestly not surprised in the least to find out that I am not one of those lucky folks. *rolls eyes*

The only other interesting thing of note is the obvious influence of the Australian Cork Hat (some history and instructions for making your own can be found here). While the main purpose of the Cork Hat, besides serving to mark one as an Eccentric Individual, is to keep away flies in the Australian Outback, the floss bobbin "corks" on my Fedora will readily keep my favourite colours at hand, ready to stitch on buttons or make trim with or add a last minute cross-stitch or two!

When I had everything finished, I realized that I'd neglected to add some needles in with the pins, but my excuse there is going to be that I don't usually use needles when finishing (except, of course, I do, but shhhh!). And I'm imagining the hat itself to be a natty burgundy velvet, just so you know ;) I would, of course, wear the actual thing (because I believe there is one, happily existing on another intersecting yet imaginary plane of existence nearby, along with my Stitchy Mojo, overseen by The Stitchy Karma Gods) with a slight sassy tilt, likely to the left. Also, in case you're wondering about the fake flowers at the front, it is my firm opinion that everything in this world is made better by the inclusion of flowers, fake or real or imaginary :)

So there you have it! An approximation of my very own Funky Finishing Fedora! And I say "approximation" because you know they'll be sequins and glitter and all sorts of other shiny pretties on the real thing :) So what would yours look like?!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A New Rustic Ornament! And It's Free!


Back before the big Christmas Giveaway excitement, I posted about some unfinished ornaments I had stitched a few years ago, and also about my re-doing of one of them. When I had originally stitched both ornaments, I was so pleased with them that I drew up some co-ordinating patterns in the same style, that I call "rustic", intending to make a whole series! I rediscovered those drawings recently, and still liked one of them enough to sit down and try to stitch the design. And this is the end result :)

While the two original designs were meant to be finished as square "package trim" tree ornaments, I put on my Funky Finishing Fedora and decided that I'd like make a small wall-hanging, a three-panel triptych with "Peace" on the left, "Tis The Season" in the middle, and "Joy" on the right. Originally, I had designed the pattern text to say "Noel", but reconsidered before I started to stitch. I chose "Peace" because Christmas is often said to be the Season of Peace and Joy, and because the image of a lighted candle always brings peace of the spirit and hope for the future to my mind.

After some consideration, I have decided to post up the pattern to share! This is the first time I've ever done anything like this, and I was initially very reluctant to do so, given my inexperience with graphing virtually. When I design for myself, or adjust designs to suit my needs, I do it by hand on blank graph paper.

However, I was recently inspired to download the trial version of PC Stitch Pro 9 (the newest edition), following CrazyStitcher's very helpful and thorough review of the StitchCraft software. My Stitchy Guru Mother used to have the 4th edition, and I had used that to do up the first version of this design many years ago. I was very curious to see how the new features work. Although the demo does not allow you to save your design, I took a screenshot and used it for my graph. However, I had a lot of trouble generating a legend so I made my own. I need to play around with the software a bit more before I can give a review, so look for it in the near future!

Beside working as an example of the PC Stitch graphing software, I thought this might also be a good example of how you can take inspiration from an existing cross-stitch pattern or series of patterns and then design coordinating works for yourself. Although I echoed the originals stylistically, I designed the motifs and lettering. Part of the reason that Tis The Season and Joy have be left unfinished for so long is that I always knew that they needed an extra little something.

While similar in style - the checkerboards, the patchwork elements, the lettering - the pair just didn't feel like a "set". I learned a long time ago in art class that if you put two of anything together, the eye will always be drawn to the small differences between them, resulting in a feeling of tension and discord. However, if you balance the two elements with a third, the similarities will become more apparent and they will "match" harmoniously. With the addition of Peace, this project finally feels just right to me, and the message I wanted them to convey finally feels complete ;)

Here is the pattern, in .jpeg image format. It's designed to fit on one piece of paper:


For some reason, the text looks a little bit blurry here, I think because it's been downsized to fit the post. I've also made this image publicly available in a special Picasa Web Album, so if you have trouble downloading this image please try for the larger size available there. If neither method works (!), then please don't hesitate to e-mail me and I'll send it directly. My address is at the top of my sidebar.

Please note that this design is for personal use only. If you like it, I'd love if you shared it, but please put up a link to this post rather than reposting the pattern on your own site. And if you do stitch it, I'd greatly appreciate it if you'd let me know :)

Like the two patterns that inspired this design, Peace is a simple and quick stitch. The limited colour palette means that you can make colour substitutions very easily, and I encourage you to do so. I stitched mine to match the others, on 14 count Charles Craft Aida in "Oatmeal", a light fabric with darker fibres woven in. I choose this originally, over the beige suggested, to enchance the rustic look.

As you can see, I repeated the checkerboard motif, but in red and green. Although it looks darker in the photograph, my stitching uses the original colour from the other patterns, which is actually a dark coral, but Christmas Red will give you a similiar - and more seasonal - look. I also used one strand of white pearl cottton #8 for the candle, since I had substituted it for the white in the other designs. The backstitching is all done in my all-time favourite, 3371, which I substituted in Tis The Season and Joy for the grays and beiges suggested. The lighter blue on the patchworked glass ball ornament is not backstitched, as it's meant to suggest shine and roundness.

Once again, my buttons came to me serendipitously! I didn't sit down and choose them when I designed the colours, preferring to stitch it first, like I did with Tis The Season and Joy. And I'm really pleased with the way this button trio turned out - I went for colour and texture this time, which is a little bright but I think fits well with the spirit of the design. The light blue and yellow buttons are odd ones from my Great-Grandmother's trusty button tin, and the coral one was part of a four-piece set from my Mother's button collection. Usually I don't like to break up sets, but the colour was so spot on that I made an allowance! All three are plastic.

And as the final step in The Rustic Ornament saga, I decided to fix something that's been bothering me a long time. You may have noticed on Tis The Season that the pearly white button was square and had four holes unlike the rest of the buttons which were round and had two holes. So after some furious rummaging, The Stitchy Karma Gods and The Button Box Karma Gods again brought me just what I needed :)

Here is Tis The Season before:


And here it is in all its new finery:


The yellow button had to go, because it was too light when put against the floss used in the other two designs. The new green and white pearl buttons are both odd ones. The coral one, the only button I kept, was originally from my Grandmother's button basket, as is the new green one. I love how both of them shift from the light to dark colours, echoing the floss perfectly! It turned out that we had plenty of white pearly buttons, but only this one happened to have the same shape and finish, and it's an odd one from my own button tins. So, there are buttons from four generations spread out across these three works, which I think is really neat ;)


This is the placement I'm thinking of, with holiday fabric between and surrounding the squares. My finishing idea is a little ambitious, but I'm looking forward to uniting these three designs and being able to display them - finally, after so many years! - together this Christmas holiday. And I sincerely hope that Peace will be a welcome addition to your own festive decor this year, should you choose to stitch it :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Christmas Giveaway Winner!!!



THANK YOU ALL FOR HELPING TO MAKE THE FIRST EVER ES ANNUAL CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY A HUGE SUCCESS!

I am astounded and immensely grateful for all the interest and support!

Now, on to the good stuff: I added up all the entries, excluding only those few that had no contact information at all (e-mail OR blog address), and numbered them all in the order in which they were received. I then went to Random.org website, to the free Integer Generator, and put in the number range, and got a randomly picked number back. This is the first time I've ever had cause to use this service, but I can see why it's so popular amongst bloggers, of all kinds, for picking Giveaway winners!

Here's a screenshot and a close-up of the winning number:



And eligible entry 22 is: *cue the drum roll please LOL*:


Monique initially had some trouble entering, so she e-mailed her information for me, and I posted her comment for her, as I also did for the few other people who had trouble. Monique, I'll be sending you an e-mail to get your mailing address shortly. I hope that these stitchy goodies will find a happy home with you this Christmas :)

For everyone else who entered - thank you for your support! I really wish I could send you all a little stitchy something Please come back to visit next year, for the Second Annual Eglantine Stitchery Christmas Giveway! As far as I know now, it will run on the same dates, but in a new year: September 21st, 2012 to October 12th 2012! Just in time to avoid the prophesized end of the world in December 2012 :)

HOPE TO SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!


Best Wishes For A Wonderful Weekend!

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, but I'm taking the long weekend off to spend some quality time with my needle and floss :) Yes, indeedly, my Stitchy Mojo has meandered back home, and has one foot through the front door. I'm hoping that the proffering of new projects and shiny threads will entice it all the way back inside, to settle down and settle in for the coming Winter (brr! is it ever cold outside today) and quit its Stitchy roaming ways. Hey, a girl can dream, right? *wink*

I just want to send out a HUGE Thank You! to everyone who has entered my Christmas Giveaway, and to those of you who have posted about the Giveaway on your own blogs! The surprisingly large number of entries I've received is mostly due to your generosity in helping me to spread the word, and I can't thank you enough. And I'd like to add a big heart-felt Welcome! to all my new Followers too :)

The Thanksgiving holiday, to me, is a time to reflect back on the events of the past year, and to appreciate the gifts, both large and small, that we've been given, in the everyday ordinary course of our lives. I have many wonderful blessings to be thankful for this year, and the great stitchy friendships I've been lucky enough to develop with certain special people, and all the wonderful stitchers and stitchy bloggers I'm continuing to meet, are certainly up at the top of my list ;) Thank you all for your support of Eglantine Stitchery, and - wherever you are - may the coming new year bring many good things to you and yours!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A New Take On An Old "Joy" :)

As you might recall from my last post, I wasn't satisfied with the buttons that I had chosen for my Rustic Joy Ornament. My reasons for chosing the ones I did is lost somewhere in the distant misty fogs of the past, but it was clear to me after reading the many kind responses to that post that Change was needed!

So, after an evening spent rummaging furiously through my button cans and my Stitchy Guru Mother's considerable button stash, I finally unearthed the perfect ones from my Great-Grandmother's button tin :) I knew that they were the right ones, because when I put them against the work, they just felt like they belonged.

And, come to think of it, I believe that the little white button - the only one that I was happy with! - that I had stitched on there originally came from GG's button tin, too, so now it has been reunited with its friends and so will be lonely no more ;)

Here is Joy, as it was:


And here is Joy, with the new buttons:


And here is Joy, with the new buttons, and a major omission remedied:


You see, when I added the new buttons the other night, I was very pleased with them. I put Joy away, feeling very happy that it was finally finished.

Only, when I took it out to photograph it this morning, I realized that there was still something missing. I am almost ashamed to say that I had never noticed that I had forgotten to put in the backstitching on the star! And this is remarkable, because this patchwork-like outline stitching (along with the buttons!) is what had attracted me to these works in the first place! *shakes head at silly stupid self*

Anyway, I am very pleased with the final result! Both of the buttons I added are white plastic, from the 1950's or 1960's, and are odd ones. I'm always happy when I'm able to find new homes for single solitary buttons that have lost their fellows :) Part of what I loved about the little white button was its interesting texture, so I kept the colour and material the same and focused on the texture instead.

So what do you think? I'm very interested to find out :)

For those of you who might be looking for pictures of button tins (yes, I'm looking at you Karen, lol!) I'm afraid that's going to have to wait a little while. For one thing, it's going to be a very loooong post. For another, I have yet to take the pictures, and am hoping to lure Mr. Sun out from behind all these dreary rain clouds so that I might better capture the sparkle and the finishes in the photos :)

In other good news, I had to pick up my needle and thread in order to remedy my mistake with the star, so I am hoping that this is a sign that my missing Stitchy Mojo is nearing home again and will be returning shortly! *fingers crossed*

And never fear - the Mint Green button and the Black and Silver button are now back in my odd button stash, waiting for another project to come their way ;)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Some Unfinished Rustic Ornaments!


This magazine may look familiar, and that's because it's part of my first Christmas Giveaway (now open Worldwide!). Including it in the contest loot brought to mind the very reason that I had bought this magazine in the first place, way back in December 2000. And that's the two rustic "package trims" at the bottom left!

These were the first "primitive" type of designs that I had seen, and I thought they were funky and fun. And I absolutely loved that they used buttons! Buttons are a tradition in my family; it's a subject worthy of later exploration, in fact, because it is such a Thing. The point is that we all have our button bins, or cans, or baskets, or such and I had a lot of fancy, sparkly buttons in mind when I chose to stitch these.

And yet, once I actually had them stitched, those pretty fanciful buttons looked completely wrong! With the rustic style, and the rustic looking Oatmeal Aida I chose to stitch them on (which I don't regret at all), they looked out of place and silly. So I went for simpler buttons. Which turned out well in one instance, and not the best in the other. But let me show you what I mean:

Here is the magazine model for the first project, Tis The Season:


And here is my interpretation:


I'm actually really happy with this one. Both pieces were designed by Alice Okon, and featured French knots, my Stitchy Foe, on the lettering. Naturally, I omitted them; I considered beads, but again they didn't really go with the rustic feel.

All three buttons are pearlescent, and the large coral button on the bottom was a serendipitous find. When I intended to stitch these, I had all my fancy buttons pulled out, the ones with the rhinestones and gold filigree. When I put them on the finished work and saw how terrible that combination actually was, I had to scramble to find replacements. So it was happy coincidence that this button happened to match the two tones of coral in the heart perfectly. I also like my alternate button placement; all three were supposed to be tacked to the green checkerboard, but I thought it a shame to cover up all that solid stitching!

And here is the model for the second project, Joy:


And here is my interpretation:


For obvious reasons, I'm not so thrilled with this one. I have a ton of green buttons in my stash, and not a single one of them matched the green of the tree, which is how that horrid mint-green button ended up in the middle of the star. I'm sure I had a good reason at the time, but I can't imagine what that might've been now, LOL :)

The black-and-silver button was worn enough to look rustic, and I meant it to pick up the black of the lettering. And the little white one I chose for the shape, if I can remember correctly. The reason that these wound up in My Stitchy Can Of UFOs (Unfinished Objects) is because I was never happy with this second one. But since I've made a few additions to my Button Can in recent years, I may go back and try to find something that works a little bit better. The fact that all three have different finishes, and are made with different materials, was supposed to make it look exotic - like using mismatched china - but just looks chaotic instead.

Anyway, these are a quick, simple stitch, easily finished in an afternoon or two, especially when you leave off the French knots like I did. If you fancy them, then be sure to enter my Giveaway, and you could be stitching them for yourself this holiday season! (Click on the graphic at the top of my sidebar at right to enter, or here)

I'm not keen on how the model projects were finished (and there are instructions for that method with the patterns), so I'm going to have to put on my little-used Funky Finishing Fedora and figure out what I'd like to do with these!

As usual, any suggestions are gratefully welcomed :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ES Giveaway Now Open Worldwide!

digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thank you for all your lovely comments and e-mails regarding my first Christmas giveaway! The interest has far exceeded my expectations already, and a number of comments from readers outside of the Canada-United States-United Kingdom shipping areas has caused me to rethink my Christmas Giveaway destinations.

You see, it was not cost that had made me narrow down the shipping areas, but time. Living in Canada, my mail service is governed by Canada Post,, and they release annual Christmas dates that indicate the very last day you need to mail your parcel in order for it to be received at your destination by December 25th. Some of these dates are remarkably early; the deadline for the United Kingdom, for example, which is very close to the East Coast of Canada geographically, is October 25th!

The Giveaway closes on October 12th, which will pass some of the International Christmas Post Dates here in Canada. The good news is that now, regardless of where you live, if you would like to enter, I am now enabling you to do so! But please keep in mind that you may not receive your parcel on or before December 25th, 2011. A quick summary of the deadlines, and please note that mailing on or before this date does not necessarily guarantee timely delivery as the volume of mail increases exponentially in the pre-Christmas season and can delay posting:

October 12th - Africa, Middle East, New Zealand
October 18th - Asia, Australia, Central and South America
October 25th - Europe (including The United Kingdom), Caribbean
December 8th - USA (The United States of America)
December 12th - Within Canada


Please note that all dates are for Surface Parcel shipping.

The 2011 ES Christmas Giveaway Is Now Open WORLDWIDE!!!


Please Help Spread The Christmas Cheer!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The First ES Christmas Giveaway!


Christmas is my favourite holiday! For me, it's a magical time to spend with family and friends, to give thanks for the many blessings the past year has brought and to look forward to the next year with hope and good will. And I love the traditions of the holiday: visiting, baking, feasting, decorating the house, decorating the tree, sending cards, making gifts (many by hand!) and exchanging presents!

And so ever since I first started thinking about the mere idea of starting a stitchy blog, I have intended to have a Christmas Giveaway, and am very excited to share my very first Giveaway, the first of what I hope will be many! I have dug deep down in my Stitchy Stash and have put together a group of cheerful seasonal items that I hope will be enjoyed in your own home this Christmas! They may not appeal to everyone, but this group of stitchy goodies was chosen with a lot of heartfelt good will and best wishes, and I hope that they will be received in kind :)


A closer view of the specialty fibres and embellishments:


And a closer view of the floss and accessories:


This Giveaway Contains:

Santa "Noel, Peace, Joy" Kit, a Counted Cross Stitch Christmas Keepsake by Vogart. (Finished Size: 5 1/2" by 6" inches, on 14 count Aida; all supplies included, including hanging dowels for finishing, as in the kit model);

Santa Ornament Kit, a Counted Cross Stitch by Plaid. (Finished Size: 1 3/4" by 2" inches, on 14 count Aida; all supplies included, including black plastic frame for finishing, as in the kit model);

The Cross Stitcher Magazine, December 2000, featuring the large "Santa Baker" cover project, along with "Isn't He Wonderful?" (Precious Moments, insert on cover), and 27 other charts, including Chrysanthemum, November in the Flower-of-the-Month Angel series (Joan Elliott), a full Ivy Monogram set (Lois Winston), three festive Row House Ornaments (Ursula Michael) and a large Bells & Candles Star Table Topper linen set (Zweigart, from the book Needlework Ideas)!;

DMC floss, in 666 (Christmas Red) and 700 (Christmas Green);

DMC Cotton Perle, #5 (skein) in Blanc/Neige (White);

J. & P. Coats Craft Thread, 100% cotton, equivalent in size and texture to DMC Perle Cotton # 8, in 1001 (White), 3046 (Red, colour match for DMC Christmas Red) and 6228 (Green, colour match for DMC Christmas Green);

Fibre Craft Metallic Elastic Thread, in Gold and Silver (which I've found very useful for making for ornament hanging loops!);

Craft World Blending Filament, a fine metallic fibre, in Red, Green and Silver;

Seed Bead Assortment, Silver Lined metallics, in Red, Green and Gold (I love to use these on Christmas ornaments, because they catch the lights on the tree and sparkle like crazy; please note that the Silver Lined finish is very delicate and may deteriorate with washing, harsh use, or over a long period of time);

Embellishment Assortment, containing sequins in various sizes and shapes (round, star, flower) and Silver Lined metallic bugle beads (long seed beads) in Red, Green, Gold and Silver; see above note on Silver Lined glass beads;

Needlework Accessories, including a magnetic LoRan Needle Case and nickel-plated Needle-Threader, a tall clear Needle Case, and six nickel-plated Tapestry Needles, size 22 (suitable for the 14 count Aida included in the two kits).


TO ENTER

Please leave a comment, with your e-mail address, on this post!

It's that simple! I know giveaway contest rules are often more complex, but I want to make this clear: if you already a Follower, wonderful! (and thank you very much!); if you are new to the site, please consider Following only if you like my regular content and ES in general; there is no need to join if you just want to enter this contest!

Please note that since I've recently been forced to make changes to my commenting policy to combat spam, you will need to have a profile account to comment on this blog. Happily, these services are free; if you use a web-based e-mail service, chances are you already have one and don't know it! Also, OpenID is another easy way to set up a commenting profile and it's also free! If you run into trouble, please e-mail me.

For Bloggers: If you'd like to spread the word about this giveaway, you can do so using the graphic at the top of my sidebar; if you have trouble saving it, please e-mail me, and I'll send it to you directly. Please link the graphic to the URL for this post. Posting about this giveaway is NOT a requirement to enter, and I won't be giving away any "extra entries" as I'd like everyone to have an equal chance of winning, so share only if you are genuinely enthusiastic about this contest :)


Contest starts today, September 21st, and ends on October 12th, 2011!

Open to Residents in Canada, the US and the UK!

Rules and Disclaimers: All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m., Ottawa Time (Canada), London/Greenwich Mean Time (UK) and New York/Eastern Standard-Daylight Time (US). The Winner will be chosen from all eligible entries (comments on this post, with valid e-mail addresses), randomly, by me, at a time of my choosing, on October 13th, 2011. Winner will be notified at the e-mail address they have provided in their entry. If that e-mail address does not work when I try to e-mail you, your entry is voided and an alternate Winner will be chosen. An e-mail address must be included in your comment! The only acceptable substitute is if your e-mail is clearly available on your blog/site profile, and you leave a message to this effect in the body of your comment.

Please note that these items are being provided to you as a gift, and so they have no monetary value; neither are they exchangable for other products. What you see is what you get! All items are in new unused condition, except the magazine, which has been gently used by myself. This prize cannot be transferred to another individual; if you wish to enter on another's behalf, please have them enter themselves, or e-mail me with your reasoning and I'll see what I can do.

I will ship your parcel immediately, at my own convenience, following my receipt of your mailing address. Please note that your mailing address must be in Canada, the US or the UK. I am sorry that I cannot open the ES Christmas Giveaway to international entries at this time, but hope to be able to do so in future years. I reserve the right to chose the shipping option that is the least expensive for me.


 

Changing Commenting Policy


Since I've been receiving an increasing amount of spam in my post comments lately, I've been decided to no longer accept anonymous comments. This means that anyone with an account that allows blog commenting, including e-mail accounts like Google's Gmail and the universal profile at OpenID, can leave a message, but that users without such an account - or who are not currently logged in - cannot.

When I first launched ES, I deliberately opened up my comments to accept those made anonymously. Because I realize that not all readers are bloggers, and that many do not have profiles set up to comment on blogs, and I wanted my posts to be opened to anyone who wanted to express an opinion. But long lists of potentially dangerous virus-infested links to bogus designer goods, dating services, get-rich-quick-schemes and other such silliness are not helpful to anyone, and although these types of comments are mostly caught by my Blogger comment spam filter, they do appear to those that have subscribed to receive comment updates on any post.

The option I have chosen, to accept comments only from those with valid account IDs, is what I believe to be the best option at this time. I could hold all comments in moderation, and/or require verification (typing the letters and numbers symbolized in a distorted image of a text snippet into a little box, which has become standard procedure on most blogs), but as a blog commenter myself, I really like seeing my comments appear on a post immediately so that I know I haven't made a mistake, and I find the verifications fiddly and sometimes plain incomprehensible!

Hopefully, I will not have to move up to those stricter options, and this precaution should be sufficient. If you should have any problems leaving a comment with your ID, please e-mail me and let me know. And if you are new to using an account profile to comment, feel free to try a sample comment on this post to see how it works :)

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Feel free to borrow this graphic for your own site.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm Back! With A Different Monarch :)


No, not my favourite Blackwork project and the focus of my current WIP Monarch Stitching Tools, but the project namesake :) This is actually the very first time that I'd ever managed to take a photo of a butterfly with its wings fully spread. Some people do so very easily, but mine always turn out with the wings half-closed, or an antenna off-tilt, or the subject flitting away altogether! This picture is a few years old now, and taken with a very basic digital camera (oh, how far that technology has come!), so the colours are a bit dull, but I'm still inordinately proud of it, lol.

What brought this to mind now?, you might very well ask. My trip home, from which I've recently returned, to visit my Grandparents, and where I made many happy trips to the very beach where I took this photograph, lo at least five years ago :)

It actually was a bit sad, for although it is very late in the season, that area is usually all a-twitter with flutterbys (as they used to be reasonably named before a long-past person mangled the pronounciation to the curious illogical reverse we have today). There are bright yellow ones, and etheral white ones, and tiny orange-ish moths, but the Kings and Queens among them are the lovely red-and-black Monarchs, with their greater wingspan and a sort of characteristic nobility to their flight.

It's very hard to describe if you haven't seen it yourself, but there is a sort of ponderous weight, an extra elegance or grace, to the way that the Monarchs slowly settle on a target, lessening the fanning their wings on their approach, and then open themselves fully to soak up the sun. When they have decided that they have had their fill of that plant, they then repeat the slow balletic touch-down in reverse, and raise themselves up to flit leisurely from bright purple thistle to thistle, sipping at the nectar before fluttering up again. When they decide to end their meal, they lift up gradually, flying faster, and climbing higher and higher in the sky in wide lazy circles, inscribing intricate curliques in the air with their distinctively coloured wings. It is a most lovely sight to witness.

Monarchs do love wildflowers, of course. Daisies especially :) They are frequent visitors to my Grandmother's gardens, where a colourful riot of wild flowers are deliberately encouraged to flourish amongst the cultivated plants. Sometimes, if I am especially quiet and careful, I can get near to a flower and put my index finger alongside the petals where a Monarch is feeding, and if I hold very still, the butterfly will climb atop my finger and then my hand, where it flaps its wings happily for a while before flitting to another flower nearby or fluttering up into the sky. The smaller butterflies do not behave so regally, and obviously think themselves much too busy flying about to stop for a while and sun themselves on a friendly hand.

But Monarchs have a weakness for the humble purple thistle. The thistle is not an especially pretty flower. It is gangly and shoots up tall, with dark spiky leaves and sharp thorns. Even the cusp of the flower head is lethally laced with thin little sharp slivers as fine as human hair that can work their way into human skin like wooden splinters, where they are equally painful if left to fester. It is not a friendly flower; all its aspect seems inclined towards the defensive. Its only invitation comes in the form of the bright pink-purple needle-shaped petals that grow up from its crown.

These petals are mutlitude, but they are small and curled in on themselves. Each forms a sort of tubular cup, and the nectar that pools there must be especially sweet, for it draws the Monarchs in great wide flocks! And they will actually share a thistle flower. Other butterflies will often share wildflowers, but Monarchs are haughty and tend to totally take over a wildflower, whether small cornflower or large wild rose. But they will adjust their wings to keep them virtually straight up and gather them in close together while on a thistle, sharing the very small space with one or two of their fellows. And they will linger for a very long time over their meal. They seem more inclined to aerial acrobatics when they eventually lift up into the sky too.

And since so many Monarchs gather so closely together wherever the thistles are - and thistles, in turn, grow closely together in riotous profusion - the sight of dozens of butterflies fluttering up from their thistle-meals and looping around each other joyously, taking their time spinning and swirling and swanning through the air, is a most remarkable sight, especially at sunset. Then, the Monarch's vibrant wings light up like stained glass, the red brightening and reflecting the shifting colours of the clouds and the sea waves, occasionally flashing gilded-gold in the setting sun.

Truthfully, watching the Monarchs is one of my favourite things to do in the summer. I think it's absolutely remarkable that they migrate down to Mexico in the Winter and manage to find their way back to us. And the beach where I took this picture is a prime Monarch spot, as the purple thistles run thick and wild.

Or, at least they usually do. This year, most of the thistles had disappeared, taken over by the ugly stinging nettle, a hostile weed with no redeeming value whatsoever that excretes a toxin that induces severe itching, which later develops into painful burns if not immediately treated, when it chances to brush human skin. It grows widely where my Grandparents live, even in the most well-tended yards, and the only way to get rid of it is setting it afire since the roots are spindly and stubbornly set deep. But stinging nettles tend to die back when they cannot easily sustain themselves, and so usually limit their conquests to taking over easy prey, wild grasses and bushes that grow in boggy, water-logged areas.

Thistles, at least those of the purple variety, do not like their feet wet, and so alhough they live beside a beach, they root themselves high on the sandy rocks, away from the damp areas where the stinging nettles like to grow. Thus, it is very curious that the stinging nettles on this beach chose to wage war on such a notedly formidable foe, and even more remarkable that the purple thistles lost the battle.

Perhaps this indicates some sort of change in the underlying topography, causing the small patches of marshy land to spread. Or perhaps the stinging nettles have rashly taken an area that they cannot hold, and will die back by next summer, leaving the thistles to flourish again. I'm hoping for the later. Because the Monarchs do not like stinging nettles, and I very much miss the sight of them winging over my favourite beach. Everything changes, I am learning, but whether it is for good or for ill is never known until well after the fact. Hopefully, this will be one of the good ones!


I'm hoping that another recent change will have been for the better. As you know, I did not take any stitchy projects with me when I went to visit my Grandparents. This was more by practicality than design, since I knew I would be busy and that, if the weather was good, I would like to spend my time outside down by the water.

Although I've tried stitching "al fresco" outside in the past, sitting on my windy rocky beach (as seen, partly, above!) while birds and butterflies circle overhead is a bit too much like one of my Mother's "accidents waiting to happen" for me. She uses that phrase incessantly, whenever she can see a good chance of something awful happening in a certain circumstance. Since I do not want to get salt water on my work, or pick sand out of my thread, or have birds and insects - both of which tend to be attracted to shiny things - be drawn towards me by the flash of my needle in the sunlight (never mind the wind attempting to whip pattern and project and supplies from my fingers and lap), I have not - to date - attempted to stitch on a beach :)

Usually, by late August, I have a plan in place for my Christmas stitching. I am not much of a pre-planner, truthfully, but I often make gifts for my close family and friends, and some of those - especially since my focus has been almost exculsively on stitching lately, and not beading or crochet or other craft - will inevitably be stitched. By now I usually have pulled out various patterns for certain people, and would spend the next few weeks choosing the projects (from all the possible projects) and gathering the supplies to start and readying myself to stitch them.

I have severely startled myself by having not done *any* of this! While at my Grandparents, I retrieved the large part of my Stitchy Stash that I had left there for safekeeping, and part of that was my cache of stitchy magazines. When I got home, I sorted through them all, and separated out the ones with Christmas-themed projects and possible Christmas-gift projects. But I didn't make Possible Project lists. And although I had brought back some supplies that I had dearly missed the last little while, I did not get anything together. In short, my "stitchy mojo" seems to be gone!

And this is very strange for me. I have, in my possession, a *ton* of projects that I *want* to stitch very much. I have most of the materials, and the time. And yet, I haven't stitched anything. Nothing new, and nothing on my WIPs either. It's very perplexing, to be honest. I have watched other stitchy bloggers go through this at times, and have read a lot of helpful advice. Advice about a small new start, or a break, or starting a project that is entirely different from what you're doing. All good ideas to renew your interest! But the problem is that my interest has not waned.

I'm excited about potential new starts I found in my stitchy magazines, but I don't start them. I look at the projects I'm doing now and would like nothing more than to work on them, and yet when I pick them up, I just look at them stupidly and then put them down. And waste a lot of time doing other meaningless things. In Fall and Winter, I plan my stitching time around the sun, as the days get shorter and the light grows dimmer. Yet I find myself acutely aware that I am more or less *wasting* prime-time stitchy light and can't seem to shake myself out of it. It is rather surreal.

I'm hoping that this is temporary. That the stinging nettles have metaphorically overwhelmed the purple thistles in my mind, but that they will soon die back and leave more room for something good to bloom in their place. Perhaps I'll feel Super Stitchy soon. Hopefully well in time to work on my Christmas present planning and gifts! The funny thing is that this is not at all the post that I set out to write today.

But this just snuck up and whalloped me, as many other things are doing in my life - as fast as the Roadrunner used to take a wooden mallet to poor Wile. E. Coyote - and there's really nothing left but to try to shake off the shock, like Wile E. waiting for the cartoon stars to fade. And that I'll leap out of it as fast as he always does and be back to chasing the Roadrunner once again. Or in my case, picking up my needle and chasing my stitches, sometime soon :)

This is all to say that although I've got lots of interesting things to share with you, that I hope to be writing about in the very near future, you may not be seeing much of my personal work, at least for the next little while. And now you know why :)

On the good news front, this lovely package that I won from Agi's Surprise Giveaway was waiting for me in my mailbox when I returned home:


As you can see, there are a lot of very interesting fibres there! There is a most beautiful and shiny spool of (pink!!!) Kreinik blending filament, which I prize highly and will keep for A Very Special Project sometime in the future, and three of the DMC colour variations that I've been longing to work with, and two spools of variegated pearl cotton #8, my favourite size for blackwork filling!

It's funny how might be ordinary to one stitcher becomes extraordinary to another, by virtue of distance (the two brown pearl cotton #5 skeins are from Germany!!!) and time (the three skeins of "linen floss", which is a tightly twisted two-ply with amazing sheen, whose three different labels and places of manufacture - the first two in Scotland and the last in the United Kingdom - tell part of the no-doubt amazing 230 year history of W & J Knox, LTD.!!!).Thanks again Agi!


I'd also like to send my heart-felt thanks out to those of you who have been so very patient these last couple of weeks, both with the blog and the lack of e-mail. I'm looking forward to catching up on everything. An unexpected benefit of a missing Stitchy Mojo is an increase in reading and computer time! Here's wishing that all the changes currently happening in your life will turn out to be for the better too :)

(P.S. I've been forced to use the new Blogger Interface because the regular one wouldn't work for me, so if anything looks wonky, please let me know)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Brief Break


Just a quick note to let you all know that I'm going on vacation, visiting with family, for the next week or so. While I may try to sneak in a post or two, I suspect that I'll probably wait until I get back home to write, especially since I haven't packed any stitching! None at all! *gasp* I know, I'm surprised at myself too :)

Best wishes to you all with your own projects, and I greatly look forward to catching up with all your stitchy news when I return! Will be talking to you again soon. ~ AE

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Most Helpful Hoop!

Image from Joann Fabrics

Honestly, this is not the post I meant to write tonight! I was hoping to have some more progress on my Twilight Angel to show you, but I honestly haven't put a single stitch in her this week! The weather has been miserable; it's rained all week, and today the temperature soared up and it was actually too hot to stitch! *rolls eyes*

So instead, I'm going to talk a little bit about the hoop that I used for my Bluebirds Test Piece. I promise that this will be the last time I talk about this project, LOL :)

Usually, I use wooden hoops for working my cross-stitching, as I find that they are light and comfortable to use. They also have the benefit of being inexpensive and readily attainable. I worked Bluebirds in a 10" inch wooden frame.

However, when I was looking for a smaller hoop for another project, a new product caught my eye - the Hoop-La, by Susan Bates, which is part of the product line of Coats & Clark, the U.S. company that makes Anchor embroidery floss.

They are available in a range of bright colours and sizes. I chose a 6" inch hoop in yellow (it was either that or neon green, which is a bit hard on the eye, LOL) to try.

Prices vary by store that is retailing the item, but I paid less than $3.00 CA for mine.

Here is the front view:


And here is the back view:


Sorry that the top screw is cut off in this picture; I had meant to take different pictures for the product review, but found that photographing both parts of the hoop separately didn't really give a clear idea of how it worked.

The Coats & Clark product page states that the Hoop-Las:

"...feature our exclusive "Super-Grip-Lip" which is designed to maintain consistent tension without distorting or snagging your fabric or threads. Incredibly durable and flexible, our hoops make it easier for the needle to pass through the fabric, allowing your stitches to form evenly."

This "Super-Grip-Lip" is actually a tongue-and-groove system. The inside (bottom) hoop has a small raised line that runs along the middle of the outer part of the hoop, and the outside (top) hoop has a small recessed line running along the inside of it; when you place your fabric over the bottom half of the hoop and place the top of the hoop over it, the two parts of the groove "lock" together, helping to hold the fabric in place. In addition, the outer (top) hoop is very slightly extended on the inside to help keep the hoop from sliding to the middle or back of the inside hoop during working. These raised edges are very slight, and I found that I did have to readjust the fabric in the hoop occasionally. So I would call it a "Good-Grip-Lip" :)

The feature that most impressed me about the Hoop-La isn't actually mentioned in any of the product guides I've read. It's the unique screw top mechanism!

Here's a close-up of the screw on a regular wooden hoop, for comparison:


And here's a close-up of the Hoop-La screw:


As you can see, it's a much heavier design, with a nut at the left end and a large grooved bolt head on the right. This is so much easier to tighten, I can't even tell you! I find the small screws on the wooden hoops hard at the best of times, and I can imagine that they must be torture for anyone with weakness in their hands.

I also find that once you get the screw on a wooden hoop tight, it seldom stays that way. I've had to resort to taking a pair of pliers to some of mine on occasion. Not only does this make unscrewing the screw very difficult, but the pliers can strip the threads of the screw overtime, necessitating the purchase of a new hoop.

Not only is the Hoop-La screw mechanism much larger, but it is much heavier, with deeper screw threads. The large bolt, with it's grooved edge, is actually very easy to turn and tighten! It is also very easy to unscrew, which is great when you need to loosen the tension. One of the things I really dislike is losing my tension, when I've finally gotten it to the drum-tight level I like working with. Unfortunately, I find that the wooden hoop screws rarely keep the same tightness for long and it's hard to get back to that level if you loosen the hoop for any reason, and so I often leave my hoop drawn tight for the entire duration of a project.

Common Stitchy Wisdom holds that you should loosen the tension on your hoop between stitching sessions, to avoid hoop marks and unnecessary stretching of the fabric. But this is something I'm not able to do very often.

With the Hoop-La mechanism, ratcheting the tension back to a drum-tight level is easy and achievable - you can actually count the turns if you like, and therefore if you know you like the 5-turn tension level, you can reach that level again with ease. This is remarkable to me, and definitely the main benefit of this product!

The only drawback that I noticed is that the Hoop-La is significantly heavier to hold than a wooden hoop. Charlotte Kuchinsky has a two-page product review on Associated Content from Yahoo!, a user-contributed articles site, that states:

"Hoop-La is made from heavy duty Luxite. That means the hoop is sturdy, long lasting and not prone to easy breakage. Luxite is a form of Lucite that is highly durable. It is used in some craft supplies; most notably those supported by Susan Bates. These include embroidery hoops, knitting needles and crochet hooks."

I was not aware of Luxite previously. The Coats & Clark site has a product listing for Luxite Crochet Hooks by Susan Bates and Luxite Knitting Needles by Susan Bates, which verifies Kuchinsky's claim that the company uses Luxite extensively.

However, I think that Luxite must be a patented material owned by the Susan Bates company, as I was unable to find out anything else about the material. The name is also used by Luxite Industries, an automotive company, and Luxite Hoisery, an old business famed mostly for its advertisements.

The extra weight, which would be a little of a drawback while stitching, was actually surprisingly helpful for embroidery. The thicker frame of the Hoop-La sets easily and evenly on a small cushion. When trying to work the French knots in the middle of some of the test flowers, I found that it was helpful to bring my thread through to the front of the fabric, set the hoop down on the cushion in my lap, and then use my two hands to do the thread wrapping necessary for the stitch.

Once I had my loops on, I placed my needle where I wanted it to go with my right hand, lifted the top edge of the hoop slightly with left hand, gave the end of the needle a tap with my thimble, and then picked up the hoop to slide the needle all the way through. It worked perfectly. It helped me conquer my Stitchy Foe! The Hoop-La and my Clover Thimble are entirely responsible for my victory, I believe :)

For that alone, I consider it favorably! LOL. Overall, I think that the Hoop-La is a great product, although it might be a bit heavy for large works done holding the hoop in one's hand, and is probably more suitable for smaller works. It is a definitely an interesting alternative design worth adding to your Stitchy Stash, and I hope to see more hoops with such easy to use screw mechanisms on the market in the future!

Have you used one? What do you think? I'd love to know!

I'm hoping to have some WIP progress to post the next time I see you :)