Friday, July 19, 2019

Beautiful Batiks: Fabric Inspiration

And now, for something a little different! Recently, a nearby small local quilt store had an information session about hand-dyed Batik Fabrics, from a company called TrendTex which is a wholesale distributor here in Canada for several fabric lines, including Hoffman Fabrics, which was the focus of the presentation.

This list of Magnum's iconic shirts is a fun read! The presenter opened with a shot of this shirt (the back of a man with dark hair wearing it), asking if we could recognize the shirt or the wearer. No one did, but it's in The Smithsonian Museum now!

Hoffman is the California company that is credited with bring Batik into the main stream via Hawaiian Shirts in the 1980s (worn by none other than the original Magnum P.I., Tom Selleck)! They sell traditional Bali Batiks and more contemporary Indah Batiks under the brand name Me + You. Interestingly, this line is also selling Solids made of Batik cotton, which are a great compliment to the busy traditional patterns.

The Goody Bag, which came with a small roll of Batik squares, a branded chocolate bar, a pen, a handy little tape measure and a lint roller

At first I was hesitant to attend, since I'm not a quilter (yet) and the event was directed at quilters, but one of the shop ladies encouraged me and I'm glad I did! For the grand sum of $5, I got a great goody bag with small squares of Batiks perfect for backing ornaments or small embroideries and an information session about the TrendTex company and the fabrics they carry. When we took our seats, we also filled out a small questionnaire (about how often you quilt, etc.) that doubled as a ticket to a prize drawing of fabulous fabric sets (charm squares, jelly rolls, quilt kits). Not surprisingly, I didn't win a thing LOL If mine was the only ticket in the drawing, I'd still lose πŸ˜‚

These were the fabrics in my Goody Bag! The assortments were random.
I particularly liked these indigo blue and turquoise combinations:

There were also discounts on Batiks cut off the bolt, but all of the fabrics I was really interested in - the vibrant rainbow hues - weren't available, unfortunately. There are so many different types of quilting fabrics, sewing notions and embroidery threads on the market these days that it can be overwhelming, especially when you live in a rural area like I do and have to order most of them online without being able to see them in person first. I wish there were more information sessions like this, just so we - as stitchy customers - could get a better idea of what we can buy! And where we can buy it 😊

Because TrendTex is a wholesale distributor, based in British Columbia, you can't buy fabric from them directly. However, if your quilt store is serviced by TrendTex, you can ask the owner(s) if they would be willing to order a specific item in for you; they may be happy to do so and you never know until you ask! The Batik section of the TrendTex website is fun to browse, just to get an idea of the patterns and colours available.

Some of my favourites are the rainbows:

And the foliage (leafy botanical) designs:

I have never used a Batik fabric, although I've often admired them at the quilt store! They are quite expensive, and the reason for this is that they are traditionally hand-dyed and hand-decorated, usually using a labour-intensive wax-resist dyeing technique.

The presentation included a YouTube video about traditional Batik making (Batik of Java: A Centuries Old Tradition by The Asian Art Museum), which shows intricate, beautiful fabrics I'd never seen the like of before:

I was a little disappointed that we didn't see a video about the methods that are used today for manufacturing Batik quilting fabrics. But when I got home, I discovered this documentary by Mr. Batik about modern methods of production:

And I was also able to find a video from Hoffman about their Batiks! There is no narration but it gives a great, quick overview of the dyeing process.

It is very interesting to contrast between the videos and see what has and hasn't changed with the creation of Batik fabrics over time. I found the making of the copper stamps ("cops") very interesting, and during the workshop, a vintage cop was handed around to us - it was incredibly heavy! Thee speed and accuracy of the printers with these heavy block stamps is amazing!!

While modern Batik is not the artform traditional Batik was, it still makes beautiful fabric where each bolt is different. Although it's important to note that there are ethical concerns about the working conditions in Batik factories, especially around the handling of toxic dyes and chemicals. We were told during the presentation that Hoffman Fabrics takes pride in its workers and provides the best possible conditions; even though the process looks primitive, the hot local conditions make heavy protective clothing very uncomfortable to wear.

For anyone wanting to read a little more about the history of Batik fabric, there is a quick overview here and a more detailed account at the Batik Guild.

I also discovered a video by American Patchwork & Quilting with seven tips for sewing with Batiks; although the video is for machine sewers, the tips are adaptable for hand sewers and embroiderers too!

Towards the end of the powerpoint presentation by the TrendTex representative, we were surprised with another roll of gift Batiks, slightly larger squares, again in random assortments. We were able to pick from several that the rep held out to our row, and again I missed the bright rainbow colours but I am very pleased with the pretty fabrics I did get, especially the chrysanthemum print:

Here's some close-ups:

The fabric on the bottom is much prettier in person, with very light blues and yellows:

I'm really looking forward to trying to stitch on these beautiful Batiks. One thing I learned from the information session that really surprised me is that the repeated dyeing in the wax-resist method makes the cotton fibres draw tightly together, and indeed Batik fabric has a smoother feel when compared to quilting cotton. The representative said that this makes hand-sewing with Batiks more difficult, so I'm glad to have smaller pieces of fabric like this to practice with.

Some more of my favourites - this one reminds me of sea kelp:

And I love the traditional Batik wax dots on this pretty colour mix:

And finally, my very favourite of them all - this lovely chrysanthemum print:

One thing I've noticed about Batiks is the beautiful, unusual colour combinations. A favourite Batik print would be an excellent jumping off point for developing a floss colour palette for a stitchy project! And the variegated nature makes them an attractive backing fabric, in my opinion, for stitchy patterns that use a lot of colour, or for when you can't match a single shade exactly. They are lively, colourful and powerful prints, even when used in small amounts!

What do you think of Batiks? Have your ever worked with them, or would you like to? And would you attend a fabric information session?

Friday, June 21, 2019

GG: Stitching Finish - Tiny Sheep Trio

Stitching Finish! Sheep Trio
February 2019 Design from Cotton & Twine Boxes
(won in a Giveaway, for more information please read this post)
* Crafty bonus: the photo background is a Pineapple Doily that I crocheted! *

Finally, and at long last, my first Gifted Gorgeousness of the year! Although I'm a little late to the party, Jo kindly leaves the linky open until the end of the month, and I'm so happy to be able to jump in with this stitching finish 😊 GG is a great relaxed SAL to encourage stitchers to work on gift projects - either things they have received as gifts, or are giving as gifts. As I won this kit as part of a Giveaway, it was a gift to me!

Although the February Cotton & Twine Box come with a cute floral printed hoop to use for finishing this project (which you can see in my last post) you may notice that this hoop is plain. That's because as I was stitching this cute design I thought the slightly oval shape of the floral frame would make a beautiful Easter Egg! Indeed, I even bought some backing fabric and floss to make an eggy ornament but I ran out of time and Easter has come and gone. So I think I may leave it as is until next year, and then decide πŸ˜‰

This was a cute, fun Spring design to stitch that worked up quickly! Although the kit instructions said to use two strands of floss, I used three (as I usually do) for a plumper look and I had plenty of floss with the exception of one of the greens. Helpfully, the floss card listed the DMC numbers so I was easily able to substitute a strand from my own stash. This is also very useful if you would like to stitch multiples of the same project.

I shared some progress pictures on my Instagram as I went, and I enjoyed watching the project grow from three teeny tiny sheep πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘... three sheep in a field of daisies πŸŒΌπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸŒΌ... three sheep among in daisies, standing under a heart ❤πŸŒΌπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸŒΌ❤:

And finally, the end result: three adorably teeny tiny sheep frolicking in a daisy-filled meadow, under a floral arbor crowned with a heart! 🌸❤πŸŒΌπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸŒΌ❤🌸

For the Easter Egg ornament, I bought some more floss in the pretty pink colour of the central heart to make some cording for the edging, and some coordinating mottled pink cotton fabric for the back. I was hoping to find some sheep print fabric but no luck this year! Maybe that will be my excuse for waiting until next year for final-finishing it - trying to find the right fabric πŸ˜‚

Did you stitch anything for Easter or Spring this year?
Or are you planning anything for Summer?!

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 😊

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 πŸ’•

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 😊

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 ❤🌸 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 🌞

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:

🧡 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!
🧡 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;
🧡 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;
🧡 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" 😊

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 😊

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 😊

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 😊

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! πŸ’•

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A New Year Brings New SALs!

Happy 2019! I hope this is a spectacularly Stitchtacular Year for all of us 😊 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 πŸ˜„

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 πŸ’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!