Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gifted Gorgeousness: Silk Lovebirds

Thank you all so much for the lovely comments you left on my last entry (the first this year) into Jo's Gifted Gorgeousness 2016 SAL, my Floral Blackwork Variation :)

I forgot to mention in my post that the designer, Elizabeth Almond, also generously offers many freebies - mostly in Blackwork but with some other techniques too - on her Blackwork Journey website (which is also linked on my Free Patterns page, but that section needs updating ASAP). She is currently running a free multi-technique SAL called "Pandora's Box", and I've considered doing a small version of her cute and clever "Box of Delights" - inspired by chocolates! - for a while now.

This month, I tried something I've never done before - I worked with silk floss! And it was an AMAZING experience!!! The pattern as it was designed is the angled square you see above, but I will final finish it into an upright diamond like you see at the top. The pretty dusky blue fabric in the photos is the 100% cotton I've chosen for the ornament backing, and I'm hoping to make some floss cording for the edging.

I was, of course, hoping to get the final finishing done before this post, but the best laid plans often go astray, as they say ;) Maybe next month! Here's the pattern:

This little pair of lovebirds is a charming old-fashioned monochromatic design, part of an unnamed trio of traditional Scandanavian motifs (the other two squares are roses and tulips) featured in the "Focus on Evenweave" section in a vintage Cross Stitch & Country Crafts magazine. It's from the September/October 1990 issue.

The three patterns were designed to fit into squares on a (then) new pre-finished afghan product, called Lady Elizabeth from Coats & Clark. My square is done in blue on the white afghan at the front and in red on the afghan folded on the stool at right.

Afghans like this with the special Aida panels for stitching seemed to be very popular from the early to mid-1990s but then died off. I've never understood how you could make the back neat and secure without adding on some kind of backing fabric, so despite the many patterns I've seen for them, I've never been tempted to make one :)

Anyway, this might seem a strange pattern choice, but I deliberately chose a design that was monochromatic with simple motifs to highlight the Star of the Show:

*drumroll please*

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Airlie, an absolutely beautiful overdyed silk floss from Dinky-Dyes, an Australian brand now located in the US:

#95 in the product line, Airlie is still in production according to the DD website.

Airlie was a wonderfully generous gift from my friend Karen, and she also sent me the lovely buttercream yellow 14 count Aida that you can see I used to stitched the Lovebirds on. It was part of a whole roll of ornament cuts (a great and incredibly useful gift idea for any stitchy friend who likes smalls!), and it happened to match the light gold in the overdyed thread perfectly. Stitchy Karma was at work here :)

It is so hard to capture how luminous this thread actually is in real life.

Here's a closer view:

The silk has this indescribable sheen to it, a little bit like a perle (pearl) cotton but somehow softer, if that makes sense? And it feels entirely different from regular cotton floss too! It's spring-y, with a bounce that makes each stitch plump, lofty and round and in the very rare instance that it does knot, it is easy to untangle.

Here is my attempt to show up some of the special shine in the silk:

The silk floss is six-stranded just like DMC cotton floss, and I used three strands to stitch with. I did consider using two strands to save on thread use, but I prefer the fuller look of three strands of cotton for 14 count Aida and with the overdyed I think this extra strand helped make the colours more vivid, especially in the paler sections.

This also had the bonus of creating a pair of twinned strands with the same colours - as the colourway changes are closer together and more random than those in variegated cotton threads - which I then used to "mirror" the design as I stitched.

At first, I was changing out the needles and switching from side-to-side until the bright idea hit me to use two needles, which made everything so much easier:

I effectively split the pattern down an imaginary axis in the middle, and when I had stitched so far laying out a "thread trail" in the pattern on one side, I would put that needle down and replicate that trail on the other side before switching back. This way, I had one thread that was a "trailblazer" and one that was a "follower".

Switching back and forth enabled me to replicate the same sequence of stitches which is what creates the colour reflection. To get this mirror effect, I had to make each cross stitch individually, so even though the design is small and simple the stitching was sometimes complicated and very involving and it took a while to finish.

It was also unexpectedly FUN - the only way I can explain it is to say that it was like the stitching equivalent of putting together a jigsaw puzzle where the only image you had to work from was a blur of colours and you had no idea what the image actually was until you had finished putting it together.

I mean, I could obviously see the colourway of the floss, and make some general guess as to how it might work out and even manipulate the colours in small ways (for example, I started with the hearts and stitched from the end starting with a bright pink so that the hearts would definitely have some pink in them) but it was a total mystery to me exactly how it would work out in the end.

That not-quite-knowing was sometimes nerve-wracking but incredibly addicting :)

I also learned another very valuable lesson from this project. It was not something I had planned to start. At the time, I was having a very difficult week and I just wanted something to concentrate on and cheer me up a bit.

So I looked through my Very Special Stash - all the pretty things that I've saved for that Special Project that has very rarely ever happened - and chose the brightest, most Spring-iest thread that I had, which happened to be Karen's wonderful gift.

In all honestly, my fingers had been itching to stitch with it ever since Airlie first came to live with me many months ago. But Airlie is Silk, and I had never stitched with Silk. Indeed, I've always seen Silk as the Most Exulted and Elegant of all the Specialty Threads and I have been intimidated by it's beauty, it's rarity and it's expense. I have been afraid that I am, frankly, Not A Good Enough Stitcher for Silk.

Silly, I know. Sound familiar? If it does, please rest assured that you're not alone!

Saving treasures for Very Special Projects is certainly valid and often very wise, but somewhere along the line I also started pushing the very idea of any Special Projects far, far away off to Some Nameless Day Yet To Come when I would be Good Enough to Stitch With Them. Or have a Better Project to Use Them With. And so forth.

And I just realized that that Day is never going to come ;) I learn something different, be it for good or ill, with every little project I stitch and the work I'm so proud of today will no doubt embarrass me with its obvious flaws at some time in the future.

It's totally reasonable, in my opinion, to be concerned about wasting your Stash on projects you don't totally love (there are some treasures you will never get again) but when that leads to not using your Stash at all - then there's a problem. Right?

So I have made a resolution to myself to Have More Stitchy Stash Adventures :) None of us will be around forever, and time and Stash wait for no Stitcher LOL!

P.S. I searched Google for Stitchy Stash, and this came up:

The Dowager Countess, Lady Violet, from "Downtown Abbey"

Very sage advice, I must say ;)

You might also like this freebie by Kincavel Krosses which reads:

"Money can't buy happiness
But it can buy
And that's kind of
the same thing"

Have you ever worked with silk floss before? How did you like it?
If you're reading this post in your e-mail, please visit the blog to leave a comment!

Gifted Gorgeousness is a monthly SAL hosted by Jo @ Serendiptious Stitching! It is a fun and relaxed way to thank those who have given us Stitchy Gifts and show off what we've made with those generous gifts. It's never to late to come and join us!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Etsy Treasuries: Becoming a Curator

In all honesty, I am completely hopeless at Social Media. After all these years, I still refuse to join Facebook, only have a vague idea of what Instagram does, and have absolutely no clue what that Periscope stuff is all about. It's all a mystery to me!

Back in my day (which wasn't all that long ago, oh the irony!) we didn't have a 150 character limit, and tweeting was something only cute little cartoon birdies did.

I am, to put it mildly, wildly behind the times. And I'm mostly okay with that LOL ;P

However - a friend of mine is really getting into home decor lately and we've been doing a lot of window shopping in real life, just checking out different ideas.

I truly think when it comes to finding your own style in anything - be it throw pillows for your couch or paintings for your wall - it really helps to just browse around! If you keep an open mind, I guarantee that you will find inspirations that will help you narrow down and refine your vision so that you can go looking for what you actually do want, and it greatly increases the probability that you will find what you want.

These days, the best way to find unusual and nifty things is online. Now, I much prefer to shop locally, and I don't have much experience shopping online, but I have been doing a lot of virtual window shopping this week and it's super FUN! I think the biggest platform for this is Pinterest, but the site is so huge that it's overwhelming.

So I decided to start off a little smaller, and joined Etsy instead. My Profile is under AureliaEglantine. There isn't a "Friends" function that I can see, but you can Follow other users. The main advantage of having an Etsy account, if you aren't a Buyer or Seller, is that you can become what they call a "Curator".

This means you can "heart" or Favourite items you like. These are automatically saved to an "Items I Love" list, but you can set up other lists with your own titles and sort listings your own way. Setting up categories makes it easier to find things later.

And you can collect up to 16 such items into a little collection called a Treasury!

Most Treasuries have some sort of theme, usually indicated in the title, and include items from different shops. Although you could have all 16 listings come from one shop, it seems to be frowned upon, as is self-promotion (which is linking to an item in your own shop if you are a Seller). Treasuries are fun and easy to make, and the best part is that the thumbnails of the images take you directly to the full listing.

So if you see something you love and really want you can actually buy it, if the listing hasn't expired. This is very convenient, especially compared to Pinterest where you can end up spending a lot of time trying to trace an image back to its source and often hit dead ends. And Etsy is also great for thrifters, as there is a lot of Vintage (you can filter your searches by Handmade or Vintage) too, although the values vary widely.

The Treasuries look a little different on the Etsy site, and you can view a list of all of them on my Profile here (or click on the titles below to go directly to that specific Treasury). But thanks to a neat free tool from Toastie Studio, you can also add Treasuries to your blog, so here are three full of interesting stitchy treasures:

Stitchy Goodness: Light & Lovely

Soft, lovely colours perfect for Spring stitching!
Modern quote Cross Stitch KIT-Be Happy Be Brave Be Kind -Floral Happy Modern Funny typo graphicCOSMO Sparkle Embroidery Thread Floss Set of 5 Colors | Metallic Embroidery Floss, Metallic ThreadNeedlework Silk ThreadsDMC Embroidery Floss 6 Stranded Cotton Embroidery Thread cross stitch bright vibrant red pink fuchsia Hand dyed embroidery thread variegated
10y Antique French Early Flat Pink Metal Metallic Embroidery Thread Floss Restoration Ribbonwork NeedleworkHand-dyed Silk Embroidery Threads with short colour changes14 Count Cross Stitch Kits ;Victorian Heart (Pastel Pinks) ; A sampler with a Twist! Beautiful Kits By Maggie Gee Needlework StudioHand dyed, hand painted cotton thread for embroidery, cross stitch, point de croix - 'Rainbow'
Pack of 4 Mettler Poly Sheen Multi Variegated Threads Pinks Plums Lipstick Gems Girlie Girl Brights Quilting Embroidery Thread PaintingDIY Crewel Embroidery Kit Gift Pouch zinnia flower heart on blue tealOne Off, Thread Selection, Hand Dyed Thread, Embroidery Thread, Cotton Thread, Viscose Thread, Canvaswork, UK Seller, Colour No 39 PistachioSilk Ribbon Embroidery - Miniature Wreath of Silk Ribbon Flowers - Full Kit
Embroidery kit, DIY kit, Hand embroidery - Circle of flowers - Embroidery hoop art, Broderie, Modern hand embroidery, Craft kit, Tamar nahirSleepy Fox - Cross Stitch KitFloral Garden 1 collection - Perle No. 12Cottage Garden 4mm Silk Ribbon Collection

Powered By Toastie Studio - Etsy Tools

Stitchy Goodness: Bright & Bold

Strong, gemstone colours perfect for dramatic stitching!
Vintage Metallic Embroidery Thread in Green Merry-go-round Horse Candy TinDIY Kit  Crewel Embroidery Kit butterfly butterflies on a white wash boardSilk  Embroidery Thread for Needlework, Embroidery, Stumpwork hand dyed in BriannaSix Strand Embroidery Floss | 127 - "Bifröst" | Hand-Dyed | 100% Cotton | 9 yds
October Silk Fiber Collection #9Rainbow mix - 21 metres of 2mm variegated silk ribbonHand Dyed Embroidery Thread Pack (10 colours) - Brights CollectionMediterranean, Hand Dyed Cotton Machine Embroidery Thread, Machine Quilting Thread, Tatting, Crochet, Creative Embroidery/Quilting
Rainbow Pear Cotton Set - Finca Presencia Perle Cotton - Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, PurpleSpool Rare Antique French Ombre Pink Copper Gold Grn 4-Ply Twist Metal Thread Metallic Embroidery Sewing Thread Ribbonwork MillineryBlackwork Lovebirds Embroidery Kit - Just the Two - of Us Beginners Hand Embroidery KitHand Dyed Embroidery Floss, Embroidery thread, Cross Stitch Thread, hand embroidery, cotton floss, sewing thread, needlepoint, quilting
Pack of 4 Mettler Metallic Thread Quilting Embroidery Thread Painting Turquoise Sapphire Lime PurpleHand Dyed Fabric & Thread Collection: Chakra Colors - 7 Fat Eighths + 7x10yds Perle Embroidery ThreadSet of 8 DMC Satin Floss Radiant Treasures Collection Embroidery Cross Stitch NeedlepointNorthern Expressions Needlework - Twisted Rainbow Sampler

Powered By Toastie Studio - Etsy Tools

Spring Flowers: Needlework Kits

Stitchy kits and patterns perfect for Spring! The designs use all kinds of different needlework techniques but all feature pretty flowers :)
Hand Embroidery Pattern, Flower Embroidery Hoop Pattern, Embroidery Supplies, Beginner Hand Embroidery, Flower Embroidery Design, Flower ArtMaud (Brights) ; Discovering Woven Stitches **TRY SOMETHING NEW!** Beautiful Embroidery Kits From Maggie Gee Needlework StudioSilk ribbon embroidery Garden flowers - full kitFloral Monogram Embroidery Kit - Personalized Gift, DIY
Textile Heritage Floral I Cross Stitch Needle Case Kits in a Variety of Designs-Violets, Tudor Rose, Orange Blossom, Poppy MeadowSpring Flowers Needlepoint Kit – vintage Sunset Designs Jiffy Basket Full of Daffodils, Betty Miles printed canvas 80s pattern, small 4 x 5”Silk Ribbon Embroidery Pendant Kit, pink rose necklacePDF Spring Garden Silk Ribbon pattern
Floral Finch cushion cover modern cross stitch kitGarden Gate Canvaswork PatternTime for Tulips Mini Cushion Cross Stitch KitKIT Floral Heart Cross Stitch Sampler - Modern Heart Cross Stitch - Retro Feel - Contemporary Palette - Perfect Gift for Mother's Day
Needlepoint Dimensions Kit FLORAL Splendor Bouquet Flowers 14x14 NEW -Free US Shipping!!!Ox-Eye Daisies Beaded embroidery, beading on needlepoint kit, DIY beadpointDIY Crewel Embroidery Kit Gift Pouch daisy heart on blue tealOrchid Silk Flower Needlepoint Complete Kit

Powered By Toastie Studio - Etsy Tools

Also, is this not amazing?

This is the "Canvaswork Embroidered Minihoop Pendant No. 2 Kit" by the shop Beautiful Stitches, which is located in Australia. It looks like an interesting project.

The amount of creative talent on Etsy alone is just awesome! And very inspiring.

Hope you find something to enjoy here, and if you curate some Treasuries of your own I'd love to see them! Feel free to leave a link in the comments :)

Are you a Buyer, Seller or Curator on Etsy? Found anything that you love lately?!