Saturday, March 16, 2019

Review: Cotton & Twine Stitchy Boxes

Giveaway Win: February 2019 Cotton & Twine Box

DISCLAIMER: This is not an advertisement and I am not affiliated with Cotton & Twine or it's parent company, The Historical Sampler Company. The giveaway win had no obligation to review or post about this box; all opinions are entirely my own.

I was absolutely delighted when I found out that I had won an Instagram competition for a stitchy subscription box from British company Cotton & Twine (on Instagram as @cottonandtwineboxes)!!! I rarely win anything, so it was a very lovely surprise ๐Ÿ˜Š

You have probably noticed that there are all kinds of subscription boxes around today, ranging from beauty products to books. Why not needlework supplies? This is my first experience with a subscription box of any kind, and this pretty printed box came in a protective plain cardboard liner box. I like that you could easily reuse it for other mail!

The printed floral motifs would make a nice embroidery pattern!

Cotton & Twine Subscription Boxes are produced by The Historical Sampler Company, run by two friends, Joanne and Suzanne, who design cross-stitch and tapestry (also known as needlepoint) patterns. In April 2018 they started the subscription boxes, and you can see the themes/contents of past boxes to get an idea of what they are all about.

Although you can sign up for a continual, automatically-renewing subscription, you can also buy one-off boxes, if a slot is available (there are a limited number produced each month). The March 2019 box is currently sold out but you can register for e-mails about future boxes right here.The Historical Sampler Company also offers Gift Boxes, available for order at any time with a similar idea and make up.

The box contents came prettily wrapped up in pink tissue paper, sealed with this lovely sticker of the C&T logo! It makes you feel like you're opening a present ๐Ÿ’•

The Cotton & Twine boxes are super fun: they each contain a small stitchy project with full kit, some related goodies and some sweet treats, along with some type of tea (very British!). It's a wonderful idea - take some time for yourself, make a cup of tea and stitch away for an afternoon! My box arrived on Friday morning, and I couldn't help but think it would make a great weekend entertainment ๐Ÿ˜Š

Here are the complete contents: Sherbet Pips candy (totally new to me!), Green Tea bag, 3 cute wooden Gift Tags, a DMC floral hoop and the March 2019 Pattern and kit.

The stitchy kit comes with a full size, easy to read Black & White pattern insert in the pamphlet, with a full colour photo of the finished design on the front. The little pink organza bag contains the contents: a piece of Zweigart 16-count tan Aida, pre-folded into quarters, the DMC threads (with thread numbers) on a presorted cardboard keeper, and a gold tapestry needle in a sealed plastic slip.

But my absolutely favourite part is this super cute DMC floral print hoop, which you can use to frame your stitching when it's done ❤๐ŸŒธ I had no idea there was anything like these on the market, and they are adorable! Each box came with one of four different colours (shown with the photo from the pattern pamphlet):

I was hoping for the pink, but I got the yellow and I truly love it! Cheerful and sunny ๐ŸŒž

I love how the Cotton & Twine patterns are modern while still being classic and pretty. I've gotten the fabric hooped up and I'm stitching the little sheep right now; I hope to have a finish to share soon! Overall, I'm super impressed with the quality of the Cotton & Twine boxes, and I would recommend them to anyone interested. If were to offer suggestions for future C&T boxes, I would ask them to consider some minor changes:

๐Ÿงต The organza bag is cute and reusable, which I love! You can just squeeze the tiny hoop in empty, but not with the fabric in: if it were just a few inches larger, it could serve as a project bag while you're working, which would be great!
๐Ÿงต The wooden gift tags are lovely but I couldn't help thinking it would be better if they had holes along the side to serve as thread keeps! I really don't know how I'm going to use three either; maybe one tag and another little something would have been better;
๐Ÿงต I would personally rather have had no tags at all (since they aren't stitchy) and another hoop - one to use to frame the project, one to use on a future project;
๐Ÿงต Small stitchy supplies and tools - thread skeins, needle minders, thread keepers, themed scissors could be included in future boxes along with projects.

Have you ever tried a stitchy subscription box (of any needlework technique), or have you been considering one?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

SFSNAD SAH Challenge Virtual Tour

Original WWII Poster excerpt; see full poster at the British Imperial War Museum

If you're a stitcher or crafter, you've probably heard that old thrifty phrase "Make Do and Mend", which came from the shortage of supplies under rationing during the Second World War. This phrase also happens to be the theme of the last Stitch At Home Challenge from the San Francisco School of Needlework (SFSNAD).

You may remember my Joyful Jester, which I entered in the previous Stitch At Home Challenge - Burlesque. In that challenge, we were given a Bag O' Bits full of scraps of metallic threads, courtesy of Kreinik, which we had to use in our project. For the Make Do and Mend Challenge, participants were, fittingly, encouraged to use found items and stash supplies in innovative ways - that is, to "make do" ๐Ÿ˜Š

Many of the participants also took up the second half of the Challenge -"mend" - by incorporating visible mending into their work. Mending is a very old technique, where the aim was usually to repair cloth as seamlessly as possible. Visible mending takes the same techniques but uses highly contrasting threads for a decorative approach. There is a whole school of thought behind this method, including a rebellion against "fast fashion", but for an introduction I enjoy following the tomofholland blog.

Visible mending also draws heavily from the Japanese mending traditions of Sashiko, which according to A Threaded Needle encompasses four types of stitching: Simple Sashiko (tutorial: clouds pattern), Hitomezashi (tutorial), Kogin (examples) and Boro (see Authentic vs. Modern Boro and Boro Style , Boro in Fashion, tutorial for clothing from Threads magazine and this Boro Bag tutorial for a sense of the style).

I first discovered the SFSNAD on Instagram, and what I really love about their Stitch At Home Challenges is that they are free to participate in, for stitchers of any skill level, and are open Internationally. You can ship your project to San Francisco, for display in a special exhibition at the end of each Challenge, or - as I did - you can send in a photo to be used in the Online Gallery that is hosted a few months after the end of the Challenge.

But what is really neat, and what I wanted to share with you today, is that for the Make Do and Mend Challenge, the SFSNAD has made a Virtual Tour available on YouTube, and it is amazing to watch! It is so fun to see the many different interpretations on the theme, and to see the wonderful creativity of the stitchers who participated.

The YouTube link is here, or you can watch the tour below:

The current Stitch At Home Challenge theme is Borders and submissions are open until April 15th, 2019. Please see the Challenge post for entry forms and rules, and the Borders Inspiration Blog for ideas. I will not be entering this time, but I really enjoyed the Burlesque SAH Challenge and hope to participate again sometime in the future ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Stitcher Feature: Blackwork Poinsettia

My free Blackwork Poinsettia Ornament stitched by Shannan of Bobbin & Fred

I'm absolutely thrilled and delighted to introduce you to Shannan Grierson, a new stitchy friend I've met on Instagram (@bobbinandfred)! She is a very talented designer specializing in needlepoint who blogs about her adventures with trusty French bobbin spool (Bobbin) and Fred (Bobbin's goat friend), at Sewing With Bobbin and Fred ๐Ÿ˜Š

Shannan's cute logo, showing Bobbin on the left and Fred on the right!

Shannan kindly wrote an introduction for you too, so in her own words:

Hello Happy Stitchers! I'm Shannan, the author of Sewing with Bobbin and Fred and designer of needlework projects. My aim in life is to cover as many things as possible in hand stitch. I love all styles of needlework and so my designs span across embroidery, needlepoint and counted canvas.

I'm very passionate about turning flat hand-stitched fabrics into 3D pieces as I find the construction process fascinating and I like to create things we can all use on a daily basis.

I love trying new techniques and I love Christmas so I was very happy to find Aurelia's blackwork ornament design. I hadn't tried blackwork before this and I found it a wonderful introduction into a new way of sewing... and my Christmas tree's going to look so pretty this year!

You may remember this little free Blackwork Poinsettia ornament pattern and finishing tutorial that I shared a few years ago (for Jo's 2013 Advent Calendar Blog Hop!):

When I shared it again on Instagram for Throwback Thursday (#tbthursday), Shannan told me she liked the pattern, and I was absolutely thrilled when she started stitching her own variation, sharing her progress as she went. If you have a quick look at her website or social media, you will notice that Shannan has a super fun, vibrant sense of colour and I absolutely LOVE the new colour combination she came up with, along with her decision to stitch it on pretty green Aida:

Isn't Shannan's bright and cheerful colourway beautiful?!

She also followed my finishing tutorial (which you can find at the bottom of the pattern post), which is super easy and can apply to any ornament. It's a modified version of Whipstitch Edging, worked over Chain Stitch (instead of the traditional Back Stitch), which makes picking up the stitches with your needle so much easier!

Here's a photo of the edging in progress, from my tutorial:

And here's Shannan's lovely, clear closeup of how the Whipstitch looks over the Chain Stitch - you can see the beautiful braided effect of the edging:

Shannan had a really great question about the edging too. When you put your back and front together, using this method, you end up with two lines of chain stitch next to each other. Which loops do you go through? That depends entirely on the look you're going for. I chose to go over both of the loops, but you can also go underneath the pairs of loops, which leaves the tops of the Chain Stitches visible. The original magazine article I adapted this technique from also suggested just picking up the inner arm of each loop pair for beading, but the seam would be significantly weaker.

I have added some more information about this and a quick info graphic to the post ๐Ÿ˜Š

Many thanks again to Shannan for kindly stitching and sharing her version of my free Blackwork Poinsettia Ornament! When you pop over to visit her, be sure to check out her great Tutorials section, where she has a lovely free pattern for her gorgeous Turkish Jewel Needlebook, designed to match the Turkish Jewel Scissors Pouch and Minders recently published in Needlepoint Now magazine:

I've never tried making a needlebook, and I don't have much experience with plastic canvas, but I recently bought some to make this pretty project and I'm looking forward to learning this new technique. I have another project on the go at the moment, but I'm hoping to try my hand at stitching Shannan's needlebook soon!

I love designing and sharing projects with you, and if you stitch any of them up, I'd absolutely love it if you could send me some pictures to share! ๐Ÿ’•

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A New Year Brings New SALs!

Happy 2019! I hope this is a spectacularly Stitchtacular Year for all of us ๐Ÿ˜Š Although I know I probably won't be able to blog regularly, due to continued illness in my family, I couldn't resist joining in with Jo's fun Gifted Gorgeousness (GG) SAL again this year:

This is a relaxed SAL that posts every month on the 15th, and is meant to encourage us to use up stitchy supplies given as gifts. You can join in every month, or on an as-you-can basis (which I'm doing). The full rules are on the FAQ post on Serendipitous Stitching. I've participated in past GG SALs and it's a great way to meet new stitchers!

Jo also mentioned a great new SAL that is just starting. It's so new that it doesn't have a name yet, but Rachel at the Ten Hour Stitcher is starting a Fully Finished Off (FFO) SAL to encourage stitchers to make something - anything - with previously stitched projects.

As she says: "It saddens me that there are probably hundreds of completed cross stitches stored away in drawers and boxes when all that might be needed is a bit of encouragement or inspiration for their owners to dive in and have a go at fully-finishing some, even if it's only one or two."

This will also be a relaxed, join when-you-can sort of SAL (right up my alley!) and more details will be given around the 10th of February, as she is more accurately able to gauge stitcher interest. So if this sounds like something you'd like to join - and as an added incentive, each entry will count for a prize draw! - head over to her post and tell her you're interested. If this gets off the ground, I might try to jump in for a month or two. Although I don't have the majority of my unfinished stitching with me right now, I do have a few small projects that are waiting to be FFO! And, no doubt, I'll make more in need of finishing this year too ๐Ÿ˜„

Although I'm not a big believer in New Year's Resolutions, my Stitchy Goals for 2019 are to keep experimenting with hand embroidery and embellishment, and to stitch whatever takes my fancy LOL I'd also really like to update the blog too, as time permits.

EDITED: I totally forgot TAST! Take A Stitch Tuesday is a SAL that has been hosted by Sharon B at Pintangle for the last few years, for hand embroidery. It is meant to teach a new embroidery stitch each week, with an additional Beyond TAST level for those who want a challenge. There is a group TAST Flickr pool where you can see lots of stitchy goodness and which will give you a better idea of the SAL.

You can customize the SAL by working stitch samplers or doodle cloths, a big sampler, monthly small projects or one big project. Some people have made beautiful fabric books, with each page being variations on a stitch, such as this amazing example at Crafty Creek. Or you can use the stitches in projects you are already making. You can post every Tuesday with a single stitch, or post some Tuesdays with several stitches at once. It's a challenge I've greatly admired from afar for the last four or five years, and I hope I can dip in and out of that one too this year. I still have so many hand embroidery stitches to learn ๐Ÿ’Ÿ

How about you? Any Stitchy Goals for 2019? And are you participating in any SALS this year? I'd love to hear all about your plans for this year!