Saturday, June 1, 2013

SAL: A Tale of Two Bookmarks

Image courtesy of 
Book Love! :)

In the comments on my Backing Fabric post, Karen asked a really good question - How, exactly, did I intend to finish my bookmark anyway? And she went on to add:
I'm assuming you sew the backing to the bookmark like you would with an ornament? With a piece of interfacing maybe to make it a bit stiffer?
Exactly!!! This sentence explains the entire process much more succinctly and clearly than if I had written paragraphs! Karen has a real knack for that, LOL :)

That is the method I've used the few times I've made bookmarks, except I haven't added a stiffener in the past, mostly because I was working with fairly stiff Aida.

However, I know that there are tons of ways to finish bookmarks, and I had hoped to have some to share with you today. In fact, this post was supposed to be chockablock full of links to excellent tutorials showing all kinds of different methods for finishing a cross-stitched bookmark. In truth, I spent all yesterday and most of this morning searching for such links in vain! Oh, there are plenty of bookmark finishing ideas.

It's just that most are only that - a sentence or two with no photos! And most of the "tutorials" I have seen involve using pre-finished bookmarks (like these) or using Aida band strips (like these). In the latter case, the finishing consists only of the top and bottom ends, usually by fraying. The rest generally involve glue. Lots and lots of glue. Fabric glue, school glue, gluesticks etc. Sadly, I'm not even joking here.

Now, I'm sure that gluing can work fine! I have used glue in projects before, such as stiffening crocheted snowflakes. Sometimes it's the only reasonable option. But since most glue is not washable, and is frequently used with cardstock or cardboard (to stiffen the bookmark) which is also not washable, the obvious drawback here is that your bookmark will not be washable either! And this is a problem.

Bookmarks are generally given as gifts to, or used by, people who love books, and people who love books read a LOT. So the first issue is frequent use. The second is handling - oils from the skin inevitably get on the bookmark when it's taken in and out of the book by hand. And third, books are inky and that ink tends to rub off on the bookmark, and in the case of fabric and floss stick to the threads! Yuck.

So, this all adds up to the fact that it may be necessary to rinse off your bookmark once and a while to keep it looking like new :) Especially if it's a favourite!

This would be a great time to share my own tutorial, except I don't have one. Yet! I'm working on it, I promise :) But in the meantime, I do have some photos that will at least show you what the heck I'm thinking about for my own SAL bookmark finish!

Some backstory: Way back in 2011, not long after I started ES, shortly after my success with Monarch and my Blackwork Bookmark, I decided to make something special for my Grandparents' birthdays that year. So I made blackwork bookmarks!

Grandpa's is on the left and Grandma's is on the right :) The background is the fabric I used for the back of each bookmark, both were 100% Cotton prints. The patterns have different stitch widths and heights, as I didn't try to keep them the same, but share the concept of repeated motifs in square borders with spacer bars in between.

As you can see, the shape is basic and really simple - just a rectangle, with the ribbon marker at the top. Both of these were sewn on the machine due to lack of time and the emphatic advice of my Stitchy Guru Mother, who thought it would take forever for me to stitch these by hand. She wasn't wrong, because I am very slooooow at it ;)

But I have since done more hand-sewing, and while it does still take me quite a while I think it is worth the time. I plan to hand-sew my SAL bookmark, for practice, and because I know not everyone has access to or is comfortable using a sewing machine.

For the photos of both bookmarks, please keep in mind that since these projects are personal and I never intended them to be blogged, my photos were just quick snaps for future reference, and so are not up to my usual quality. Sorry!

I hope to have a tutorial up soon with details on my construction method, although the process is very simple and you can probably figure it out if you're in a hurry :)

Grandpa's birthday comes before Grandma's on the calendar, so I made his first :) After I wrote this post, I knew I had to make him something with stars, LOL, and a full five stars at that! For the design, I started with the beautiful eight-point star motif in Jeanne Dansby's free "Braid" (available for download on WyrdByrd's Nest) and adapted the lozenge motif at the top of this free chart on Jos Hendricks' site.

Here it is before I did the colour filling, on the left, and at right is a close-up view of one of the motifs before filling and after. The before shots were taken with flash at night, which is why the colours are so different; the little white specks are the holes in the Aida showing up against the lighter fabric behind it :)

I choose my colours and designed my pattern to match my backing fabric, which was a tiny piece my Stitchy Guru Mother has had in her stash ever since I was a child :) I've always loved it, but it was too small to make anything much out of, so I was thrilled to have the chance to use it in this project!

Entirely by coincidence, I read an interesting post this morning about making more of an effort to use stashed fabrics, and that applies equally to all stitchy stash really. Although most of my stash is from, and still shared by, my SGM, *I'm* the one who's always putting things back because they're "too good to use". It's something I'm trying to work on, LOL! Small projects like bookmarks are a good way to use special fabrics up, and like in this case, you still have a bit leftover to keep and dream with :)

And here's a view of the back, I didn't realize it would blend in so well!:

For Grandma's bookmark, I also used the backing fabric as my colour source, it is also a stash piece, more recent although no less loved :) For the design, I used the same border from Grandpa's bookmark, and I adapted one of the motifs in Jeanne Dansby's intricate scrolly free pattern "Stroll" (also available on WyrdByrd's Nest).

I forgot to take before-and-after pictures for the fill, which was more fiddly this time, but I did remember to take one after I finished the center motif:

This was my first time using floss for the blackwork elements, usually I like to use pearl (perle) cotton, like the white I used for Grandpa's bookmark. However, at the time I couldn't buy burgundy DMC #8 (it's come into Michaels in the last month or so, and I have my eye on a ball!) so I substituted three strands of floss.

I do really like the look of the burgundy on the light pink Aida and I think it brought this project together, but I still like the ease of PC for blackwork since you don't have to worry about the strands twisting or splitting while you stitch.

For the metallic accents, I used a pretty pink this time instead of the gold I used for Grandpa's, since I already had light yellows in the border. I only used three motif repeats here, and made the spacer bars (the hearts) wider to add some length.

Here's the back of the bookmark:

And here's a close-up view of the bottom of the ribbon marker, where the the stitches are more visible than on Grandpa's bookmark:

Another wonderful thing about grosgrain ribbon is that since it is horizontally striped, it is easy to follow one of the lines while you're stitching as a guideline to keep your stitches straight! I do find it hard to stitch in a straight line, LOL ;)

I have some more information about making these kinds of markers here.

So this type of bookmark is what I'm aiming for with my SAL finish. I was intending to finish my Blackwork Bookmark as a tutorial for the SAL, but I made a mistake in using such a small remnant of fabric. The border is nearly non-existent, and it's too small for turning like my Grandparent's bookmarks. I'm still going to try and figure out a way to finish it, but it will be a one-of-a-kind rescue, not an everyday solution :)

Happily, I do have another blackwork bookmark (yet to be named!) that I started before Christmas, and I will try and work up a tutorial for that one soon. As a bonus, I've already made a tassel for it and took lots of photos, so that may be helpful too!

Before I go, Erica (at Erica's Stitches) has a great new SAL post up where she shows off her beautiful start (and more pretty tulips bulbs)! Unfortunately, she had to change fabrics a few times. I forgot to mention in the pattern that the reason I favour Aida for blackwork is because the tighter weave hides the threads at the back better, so that's something to keep in mind. Erica is also making adaptations to the stitches as she goes along, and her simplified center diamond is brilliant!

Also, Erica is making her own substitutions for the Rhodes Hearts, and I can't wait to see what she creates! As I mentioned in my reply to her post, it would be very easy to substitute a center diamond (or variation) in for the Heart as the stitch height and width are the same :) So if anyone else isn't feeling the Hearts, feel free to try something new! That's what the Custom graph paper is for ;)

EDIT: I just noticed that Lisa, who is in the Flickr NEwVP group with me and hosts one of my new favourite embroidery blogs Stick Stitch Cut, has a really great post up mentioning ES and yours truly :) Lisa has been working on some lovely embroidered Audrey Hepburn cards for a stitchy swap, and she shares the gorgeous results along with photos of a cute hooped design she stitched for the same recipient. The way she's backed and finished her design to fit the hoop is *genius*, and the idea could be adapted to cross-stitch too ;) It's a very modern finish! Thanks so much Lisa!


Karen said...

Both bookmarks are very pretty, but I especially love the one you made for your Grandmother.

I plan on pulling my sewing machine down off the shelf and dusting it off for my finishing. I look forward to seeing everyone's all finished off. :)

I jumped over and read the post about hoarding stash, and I have to agree... I have some hand-dyed fabrics that I'm afraid to use because I don't want to ruin them or in case I came across a more suitable pattern later. I've been doing better in the last year or so though lol. I'm definitely making a conscious effort to reduce my stash.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thank you SO much Karen :) I really liked Grandma's too, and have been thinking about making a version for myself since I've always loved that swirly fabric! I did make one for Mom that year in the same colours, and with that fabric, but I crocheted the edges and it didn't turn out as I had hoped *rolls eyes* Good luck with your sewing machine, I'm going to have to go to war with Mom's and figure out how to use it one of these days, LOL :)

I am *exactly* the same with stash, always saving it hoping I'll find a "better" use for it, yet I freely use special stash for gifts! It's like that horrible old fairytale about the cobbler, who outfitted the whole town in fantastical shoes but made his own children go without :( It's something I'm really trying to work on too, and I'm happy I'm not alone in trying to change :)

Dani - tkdchick said...

Thanks for sharing, what beautiful work you do!

Cloud CouCou said...

Hi Aurelia, thanks very much for your kind comments and well done for finding my blog!! Love your stitchwork, the book marks are beautiful. Blackwork really is so pretty. I'm hoping to do some more embroidery soon, but after ordering a pile of crewel wool it has been delayed..very sad. Fingers crossed it'll arrive soon.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks very much for the comments!

Dani: Thank you SO much, that truly means a lot to me coming from you! You stitch so beautifully and always find the neatest designs :)

Cloud CouCou: Yay, I'm happy you found me back, LOL :) You have a beautiful blog! Thank you very much for the kind compliments. I hope your delivery will come through soon and I can't wait to see what you make! I've always wanted to try crewelwork, and have recently found a great kit, but I don't want to start working with wool as the weather heats up so I'm saving it for winter ;)

Lisa said...

Thanks for the mention in your post - my very first :-) ...and yes, I love your grandmother's bookmark as well. It's the colours I think. Lovely.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

You're very welcome - it may be your first, but I'm sure it won't be your last, you have a lovely blog :) Thank you very much for your kind words, yes I think it's those soft but strong pastels (rose pink, sage green, buttercream yellow) that make Grandma's bookmark so pretty!