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: http://needleworkshow.com.

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