Thursday, December 5, 2013

Five Golden Rings

Hey stitchers, Ink Circles was invited to participate in the Stitchers' Village Twelve Days of Christmas event.

Today is Day 5!

I always liked Day 5 in the song, because it allowed the singer to hold ridiculous fermatas and arpegiate. It also brings back fond memories of a children's book (with CD) called the Twelve Dogs of Christmas, where Five Golden Retrievers took the spotlight. It still comes up on my iPod periodically and cracks me up.

Celtic Beasties: Christmas or Knot
If you've not checked out the Stitchers’ Village, take a few minutes. It's an online needlework community with activities, complementary charts, and a chatting area. Navigate by clicking on the different buildings to visit different shops and designers. You can sign up to be a member here.

We Had a Drawing! (Past tense)

Send an email to xxx to enter TODAY. The winner will win a copy of the Celtic Beasties:Christmas or Knot AND an ornament kit for the Huddle, shown below. I'll also accept comments made to this post as entries. I'll be drawing a winner's name tonight. (yet to be announced)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Roll, Roll, Roll Your Boat

Hey, I've just rolled out the final Roll Your Own 2013 Sequel installment (RYO Rematch - top right in the picture below.) There were 7 total, or more accurate to say 6 and three thirds. I'd like to point out that this was a fantastic deal for these charts in pdf form at $35 for the lot, with custom colorization assistance and bonus WIPpy drooling and cheering. Woot!

All of the RYO 2013 mandalas
What a lot of fun it has been in the group, and will continue to be for the next 6 months or so as we continue to stitch and mashup colors. If you've somehow missed out on joining up to now, the group is still open to new members. If you're waiting for some sort of printed version - that will be next year sometime (and won't include the 100+ color combos we've test driven.) Big thank yous to everyone who's been a part of this project.

RYO charts are now available only in printed form from your favorite shop or directly from my webshop.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Flower Power

Do you remember the very first thread that you used for cross stitch? A lot of you are going to answer DMC, or maybe Coats & Clark (Anchor,) both of which have been the big players in the market with over two centuries of thread spinning history.

I've been happy this week to reunite with one of the first flosses that I encountered as a little girl.  As it turns out, they not only are still making it but have added some new colors.  In the early 70's my Mum ran a little shop out of our house that sold imported Scandinavian & Icelandic knitting wool and Danish embroidery kits.  I cut my teeth on Eva Rosenstand and Danish Handcraft Guild (or as they call themselves, Haandarbejdets Fremme) pieces.

My Danish Flower Thread stash (228 was a popular color!)

Bit of trivia for you - "Eva Rosenstand" is really a dude. He used a fictional first name and his Mum's maiden name because (assumedly, and probably correctly) he felt a female's name would sell the product better. Whatever thread Eva Rosenstand kits use, it is really nice. I still have wads of it left over from kits that I use for small random (non-commercial) projects. It is a 6-ply cotton that shines, feels, and works up similarly to DMC.

This other stuff, the Danish Flower Thread - totally different and beautiful animal, and is the subject of today's post. It makes no attempts to be like DMC, although DMC had a brief foray into trying to have a product like this Flower Thread (I still have a full set of DMC's version relegated to the "discontinued - don't use for new designs" box.) Flower Thread is not shiny - it is soft and matte. It is non-divisible, just thread your needle and go. It's coverage is roughly the same as using 2 plies of DMC, so it works as-is on fabric counts of 28 to 32 (over 2.) I can't visualize this stitched on anything but plain (not over-dyed) linen. The natural linen pairs so well and keeps the simple, clean look. The colors are soft and even and very relatable to the original design subject matters and dyeing materials: flowers and plants! And, I'm not sure how to put this, the colors seem more sophisticated than DMC colors - they have more depth.

And they don't immediately lend themselves to grading out into color families the way DMC does, with lights and darks and steps perfectly spaced in between. With the Flower Thread, you might find a nice green and see a few shades that are lighter green, but one has a hint more yellow and the other a hint more gray. The names and numbers give no clues as to how shading might play out. If you've played around on a computer and generated colors using the HSV model (Hue, Saturation, and Value) you would recognized DMC families as exercises in sliding the value knob up and down. Flower Thread colors are more complex and richer and families occur using a CYMK dart board. This makes it more challenging a design effort, but more rewarding a result. Danish designs have a very clean style, and these colors just sing. Have a look at some pieces by Gerda Bengtsson, the Grand Dame of the guild, if you are unfamiliar with the style.

I was so happy to hear from my friend Marty, owner of Danish Needlework, on the subject. Her store is one of the few places where you can find the original Danish Flower Thread in the states. If you need something, it's probably best to call her - the website for the store is a little, ahem, underdeveloped at present.  But her review of the flower thread is spot on.

It's worth trying to put your hands on some. Perhaps with Marty's help I can introduce a new design with a kit option. I'm also wondering how well it would play together with Caron Threads's Wildflowers.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cross Your Eyes for Luck

Something new, maybe you've seen these already, but definitely something fun to try so I wanted to share with my fellow stitchers.  Janis Note from Noteworthy Needle has introduced a novel product line for stitchers. Her kits include either sunglasses or readers in varying strengths that she has drilled to allow stitching on. I picked a pair of pickled peepers.

She provides a chart (with two versions, but you are limited by where the holes are to get too creative,) a block of beeswax for conditioning your thread, a special needle for weaving in the ends, a rubber needle puller because you will need it, and a case to protect them when you aren't wearing them.  Her instructions are very clear and it only took an evening to stitch them up.

I just saw a post from her that she is introducing more patterns options, so you'll be better able to seasonally accessorize. Let your favorite needlework shop know you're interested and they can order some in. I think they'd make a cute gift (either stitched or unstitched) too.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Trade Show in Your Computer

Howdy. It's time once again for that cross stitch and needlework trade show that shows up on the interwebs and tempts you with all those lovely new stitchy things. Starting tomorrow at 2 Eastern time, this link will go live:

Only registered shops will be able to purchase directly from the web pages, but it's open for anyone and their cat to peruse. So feast your eyeballs, take good notes, and contact you favorite shop to make your selections.

Ink Circles will be releasing one new chart, Pepper Tree. You might have seen this in my recent post where I gave a review of the Sulky Blendables thread that I used to stitch it. Suggested retail is $8. I'll of course have all of my other recent charts, and you simply have to ask your shop for any of those other charts that aren't in the show. The booth is limited to 30 product slots - I have a hundred more beyond that, and all are still available.

Pepper Tree  - available at the online Needlework Show.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Keep Those Doggies Rollin'

Rollin', rollin', rollin'! (There's way too much punctuation in those lyrics.) So, what exactly are we rolling? Here is the low down for those of you who have been hearing snips and bits about this Roll Your Own project.

I like mandalas. I draw mandalas. I paint mandalas. I stitch mandalas, and when I do, I chart them so that you can stitch them too. I do other stuff too, but we'll talk about that later. One of the hardest, yet funnest, part of making mandalas is deciding which colors to use and where to put them. For some of my stitched mandalas, I had been giving you explicit instructions on how to color them. Every stitch corresponded to one specified shade of DMC floss.  Here is an example of a mandala like that. Everyone who stitches it creates something virtually identical:

Kaleidoscope, using the 31 shades of DMC that I specified

I did a little project with an LNS up in Canada where I tried something new. I created a "generic" mandala that could be colored in using a special system. Stitchers could pick their favorite colors and create a custom looking mandala, the system took care of all the shading and the color placement. It went over really well and the SAL group made some fantastic pieces.

The same mandala colored with 9 different palettes.
This is the newest installment: "Return of RYO"

Expanding on that idea and refining my system, I've made more of these mandalas and am hosting an interactive coloring experience. I've set up a Yahoo Group that we use for sharing the basic files and photos. It's $15 to join the group. Once in, you have access to the chart files (pdf) for the first of the mandalas and instructions on selecting the colors.  You can select colors one of three ways: A) Copy one the existing 100+ combinations that we have posted, B) go to your DMC box/rack and pick 4 different (not shades of the same color, btw) colors that you think look nice together, or C) Send me a photo or describe something to me that you would like to inspire your palette.

These four colors become four sets of three shades each, for a total of 12 colors (+ black). As we assign them to the color key for the stitching, the shading happen automatically. I will run a computer-generated preview and share it within the Yahoo Group's photo albums and add the list of specific colors used to our database so anyone else who likes those colors can use it. The process can be iterative, if you request, for example, "Can you make those purples a bit more towards the blue side," or "What if we swapped the pinks and greens?"  When you're happy, you can stitch it. You can stitch the mandala as many different colorways and times as you like.

In some cases, more is better. We started the group with one mandala that everyone was working with. I've since expanded the concept into a whole series.  There are 6 sequels to the original mandala, coming out monthly.  I've just released the penultimate chart (the 9-piece montage above); one month left to go.  The mandalas all use the same coloring system, so you can use any of the colorways we've established in the group. You can make them all the same or you can pick new colors each time.  Once in the group, stitchers can buy into the sequels for $5 an individual chart or $20 for all six sequels.

Here are some of the other mandalas in the series, showing off a variety of different color ideas.
Bride of RYO

One month, I did 3 minis instead of a big one: "Spawn of RYO"

Revenge of RYO
This is the Original RYO
RYO Reloaded

RYO charts are now available only in printed form from your favorite shop or directly from my webshop

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sulking or Sulky-ing

Here is the latest design I've created. I tried an experiment with a new kind of thread (new for me, at least) so I thought I'd share my thoughts on it.

Pepper Tree
The thread used was Sulky cotton thread in 12 wt., important to differentiate because it also comes in a 30 weight which is geared mainly for machine sewing. For cross stitch and other hand work, you use one ply of this 12 wt. for nice coverage on 28 to 32 count linen over two threads. I'm curious to put my hands on some of the finer weight and try it on higher count linen.
Sulky Blendables Thread
The Blendables line comes in 126 colors. There are 66 solid colors also. The dyeing on the Blendables is really quite different than any of the other variegated threads I've used, in that the color blocks are only 2 to 5" each, and they repeat in a random order. So, you only get four or six stitches before the color changes, but the colors go together nicely and have a bit of transition between them. Here is a zoom where you can see the individual stitches.  Note the coverage and the crispness.


  • Using a single strand - cut and go. No time stripping plies or uneven ends as you work.
  • This stuff is strong. You can thread a length as long as your arm and it will not fray or break.
  • It did not tie itself into knots as I stitched, although I did find I needed to give the needle a little twist periodically to keep it well behaved.
  • Spool has a snap end that anchors the thread so it doesn't unwind. Very easy to keep tidy.
  • Stitches stay very crisp and distinct - this stuff is like tiny cord. People actually love it for tatting! It does not flatten out. See picture above.
  • Dyes did not bleed at all during damp pressing. No crocking or color transfer during work. I expect these colors are here to stay.
  • Beautiful colors. Note not all of them will work well for cross stitch. Pick one where there is not a huge variation between the darkest and lightest shades, or your work will look too blotchy to see the pattern.


  • Only 14 of 126 colors come in the small "Petites" spool size (50 yards versus 330 yards.) This could easily change if the company finds a good market for the smaller quantities. Doing some math, 50 yards of 1-ply does the work of about 16 yards of 6-ply DMC used 2 strands at a time. That is to say one Petite spool is just under 2 DMC skeins. A big spool is 12 or 13 DMCs worth, which is enough for a big piece like Cirque des Coeurs or Woodland Vines.
  • Popular in quilt shops, but only slowly finding it's way into cross stitch shops. One of the big company mandates is that it will NEVER be in the chain stores, so don't even look in JoAnns. Or so they say - a google search shows you can buy it at Kmart.
  • Impossible to guess how much is left on the partially used spool.
  • "Sulky" means morose, bad-tempered, and resentful. How did they pick that as a good name?
My recommendation - pick some up and give it a try. It's fairly inexpensive and seems to work up quickly, giving a nice finished product. And for anyone interested in this chart, I'll have it at the Celebrations of Needlework in St. Charles Mo later this week. Shops will be able to order it at the Online Needlework Show in October.

Oh, yeah - edited to add this. I created this simple mini spool holder/thread dispenser to attach to my magnet board that worked just great. It's a short length of DMC memory thread, a metal washer, and a tiny very strong magnet.
Make a spool holder!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

RYO, Back with a Vengeance

Today I'm releasing the 4th of 6 sequels to the Roll Your Own Mandala design, Revenge of RYO. Ordering info is at the bottom if you'd like to join the fun.

Revenge of RYO (September)
Here is the same color scheme and a recap of past sequels.
RYO (original - May)
Reloaded (July)
Bride of RYO (June)

Spawn of RYO (August)
This chart and the variations are being managed via a Yahoo Group. Group member pay $15 to get in, and get the original chart (plus the middle of the three Spawn charts that was a bonus.)  People already in the group can pay an additional $20 to get all six of the sequels, this being the fourth, or $5 to get just this one sequel. You can read more about the group here:

RYO charts are now available only in printed form from your favorite shop or directly from my webshop.

And here is the new chart in a few different schemes...
Bridal colors
Emerging Hues
Long Jacket

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Better Than Trick-or-Treating

I'm home from St. Charles and have a chance to unpack my bags, although I'm still doing the laundry. This is the St. Charles right next door to St. Louis MO, rather than St. Charles in Louisiana. I think I would have enjoyed visiting the LA version again after many years, and I know I would have enjoyed the food more. I did survive 5 days of the Midwest's "fine" food. Seriously, did you know they deep fried even my salad croutons? Dang, I'm craving gumbo and blackened seafood now!

A peek at the Ink Circles booth: the new stuff table
What nourishment I couldn't find for my stomach was made up for by the feast my eyes and brain. And with two minions helping in the booth I was able to escape periodically and lose myself among the walls of silks and samplers.

Oh, Glorious Gloriana. New colors of lovely silk!
And 32 (woot!) new colors of Tudor Silk by Gloriana.
This is the superfine stuff, perfect for
over one and micro masterpieces.

Weeks has a new supplier for 40 count
undyed linen, which means it's now
coming available again in their dyed colors!
Elizabeth Taledo was there with her new
line of trims. Is it wrong to be thinking
Cthulhu when I look at the tiny green ric rack?
I've had Treenway silks in my spinning basket, but now
they make silk for stitching!!!
I've had a few customers stitch my monochromes in Sulky.
They now make a smaller size spool. I must try this out.
Wayne at Doodlin' Around makes these awesome little
boxes and baskets. 
Of course, Weeks had new cotton colors too.
As I unload my stash, I realize I ran out of show weekend well before I got to visit all of my favorite booths and explore all the new ones. I can't believe I missed popping into Gentle Arts thread booth for instance.

We also had a little time outside of show hours to explore old St. Charles.  Hannah found Mr. Boone to be quite a charmer.

The town was abuzz! Cicadas Katydids were everywhere, but were hard to photograph without zoom capabilities on my mobile.
What is the point of camouflage when making that much noise?
St. Louis's local beer...
Take note that Schlafly is duly represented in Project 99.
The minions and I enjoy a meal at the Trailhead Brewery
and I got to enjoy the only stout beer I could find in MO.
And I finally managed to fly through Salt Lake
City at an appropriate hour to enjoy a
Polygamy Porter.  If I'd had a longer layover, I would
have had two. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
My head is so full of wonderful ideas and thoughts, I feel ready to explode.  My deepest appreciation to all of the shops that came, making the event viable, and to all of the other vendors. Synergy at its finest.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Spawn of Roll Your Own

Happy August! Time for the next RYO installment. This month I chose to make little baby mandalas.  I call them the Spawn of RYO, and named them after the three scariest siblings I could think of: Cindy, Jan, and Marcia.

Spawn of RYO: Cindy (left), Jan (center), and Marcia (right) in Halloween colors

For those who didn't get the name thing for these, there was a really lousy sitcom in the 70's called the Brady Bunch. Unlike today, where we  have a thousand different choices of junk to waste our time watching, back then it was really limited. In a way, it gives all of those in my generation a common denominator. In any case, the three girls in the family were named Cindy, Jan, and Marcia, and they squabbled about typical things and learned wholesome family value lessons. Jan, the middle girl always complained her older sister Marcia got the better shake in life. (You can just hear Jan chanting: "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.")

Spawn of RYO in Heated Stare

I ran a little poll to select which of the three would be offered to everyone in the base RYO group. The other two minis are offered to the people who are opting in for sequels.  I appreciate everyone who took the poll as to which chart to offer to the group, but I must say I rigged it in Jan's favor so she would finally win. Well, I couldn't say for certain she would, but I gave her owls. :-)  Jan got 62% of the vote. Go, Jan!

Spawn of RYO in Candyduck
If you're new to my RYO concept and you'd like to learn a bit more, you can see the group description here.

RYO charts are now available only in printed form from your favorite shop or directly from my webshop.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

RYO Reloaded: Semi-Automatic

The color adventure continues...

Animated GIF, cool eh? These are just 30-odd color combinations we've come up with so far.
This is the third chart in the Roll Your Own Mandala series. If you are interested in stitching this project you can get more info in this post.

I have one more question for you :

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Six Degrees of Cirque

A little roundup of some pictures you've sent of beautiful finishes, six Cirques and four of their friends:

Cirque des Coeurs by Tara F.
She used 1 x 2 on 40 ct Colorscapes "Ale" linen with
Threadworx 10372, GAST Claret 0310 and Cherry Wine 0330
Anne E. stitched Cirque des Cercles
using Waterlilies Winter Wheat on Bone fabric
Cirque des Coeurs by Taynia
Cirque des Triangles by Taynia
Cirque des Carreaux by Taynia
Cirque des Cercles by Nancy M.
She used a custom silk from Carries Threads, both 1 and 2
strands for contrasts and Mill Hill Beads 2077
Close up of Nancy's Cercles
The Birds and the Bees by Rhonda B.
Love Letters: Fraktur by Rhonda B.
Rosetta by Rhonda B.
Here Comes Treble, Alto Gether Now,
and First Bass combined into a lovely
bellpull with added words and date
by Elizabeth E. for her musical daughter.
Wow! Are you also out of breath?  What an amazing group of finishes, showing so much style and personalization. I really appreciate being able to share all of your pictures. Happy Dances all around!