Inspiration: Kincavel Krosses and George RR Martin

Kincavel Krosses has been around producing excellent and funny cross stitch and blackwork patterns since early 2010.  Her stuff ranges from cute Christmas stuff to adorable if a bit rude sayings.  The truly excellent part, on top of her concistent quality output, is that most of her designs have a very simple and open Creative Commons license.  Her designs can be shared and altered as long as she retains the copyright, and although you cannot sell what you make for them, they can be used in a charity setting, which is exactly what I used them for.

The latest book of the Song of Fire and Ice series (saga?) by George RR Martin, A Dance With Dragons, was released last week.  Although I have not read the books, the bookstore I work for had many fans among the staff and we were the only store of our brand in Canada ot hold a midnight release party for the book.  We had medieval fighting demonstrations, trivia competitions, a great big throne and a costume contest.  We also had a raffle for various things, including a copy of the book, a chain mail necklace and two bits of cross stitching and blackwork that I contributed.

Using the wikipedia page to get a bit of info on the books, I decided to make cross stitched versions of the sayings of two of the main families in the story:  “Winter is Coming” and “Hear me Roar!”.

For “Winter is Coming”, I edited a Winter Quaker Bookmark pattern and used a blackwork pattern I bought from hardcorestitchcorps on etsy.  I used both white and blue threads on the snowflake, and black and blue on the words.

I used this Circular Scroll Alphabet Sampler pattern for the outline of “Hear me Roar!!” and this free blackwork font from StitchPoint’s Cross Stitch Writing Tool.

Although too much cross stitching tends to bore me and give me headaches, these were fun, relatively quick projects that I was pleased to do.  The event was a huge success and everyone enjoyed themselves and enjoyed the ammount of effort that was put into it.

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Embroidery via Snowsuits & Quilting

When we lived in Yellowknife, there was only one place to buy clothes, and that was in the Sears catalogue. That meant that you could be sure that if you had the yellow snowsuit from page 236, at least three other kids in the school would have it. Unless you were my family. My mother made our snowsuits herself. I was the only kid at school with a navy and yellow snow suit, with a cute patch on the shoulder and a larger, machine stitched version of the patch on my back. I also had a matching knitted tuque to go with it. Even my mittens matched. It was awesome.

My mother also made us matching outfits for various occasions, including this fabulous floral jumpsuit number, which I am told was made with quite expensive Laura Ashley fabric. Yeah, sure. It’s still fugly as hell.

My mother did redeem herself whenever Halloween came around. I have been blueberry pie, a teddy bear, a few different flavours of witches, a sexy little red riding hood and a ton other different things over the years. My mom has always outdone herself, even if there is always a bit of sewing left to be done at 7pm on the 31st.

My mother, with the recent departure of two thirds of her children from the house, has redecorated the most amazing office/sewing room. It’s organized and soothing, two things that never seem to happen in my own place. Oh well. Over the last few years, my mother has done quilting, made herself dresses, and reupholstered the most fabulous scallop-backed chair in the world. She has taken up knitting again (and swears by bamboo needles!) and has made arm warmers, little hats for my sister’s goddaughter and is currently working on a kimono style dress for the same small child. It’s pretty fabulous.

Where I learned technique from my dad, I definitely take my passion from my mother. She is always willing, work and a masters thesis not withstanding, to go with me to hip urban craft fairs, to bead and gem shows, to huge craft shows in Toronto and lately, to a silk fair at the Natural Museum of Nature. She and I will trade and show off magazines to each other, drooling over this project and that fabric, encouraging each other to try new and unusual things with new and unusual textiles. She always has a half-dozen projects on the go, works ridiculously long hours as a mother-infant nursing supervisor and still makes time almost every weekend for my sister and I. We’ll sit in a coffee shop and check out our latest magazine finds, or work on the latest upholstery project she has picked up from an estate sale. She is the one pointing out new and interesting techniques in magazines, pushing me to learn how to do it.

Inspiration: Elizabeth O. Dulemba and her Winter Swan

In my never ending search to find cute patterns and ideas for embroidery, I somehow stumbled onto Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s Coloring Page Tuesdays. She is a children’s book author and illustrator who publishes a new colouring page every week. She (like me!) is a strong believer in the power of books and the importance of libraries and many of her illustrations reflect this. From fairies to Victorian ladies via monsters and wise owls, you can find many lovely characters engrossed in their favourite books. She is even kind enough to allow booksellers, schools and libraries to use her images for colouring time.

Some of her designs lend themselves very well to simple redwork embroidery. Many of her animals would look adorable in a nursery and she has fun designs for almost every occasion and holiday. But when I saw her winter swan, I swooned.

It is such a beautiful illustration, not too busy but still full of detail, it easily translated to stitching. It looks like it could be a traditional redwork pattern while still being modern and a bit edgy. I am tempted to redo this pattern on better fabric and do some type of filling stitches on the frame. Perhaps something a bit darker.

Inspiration can come from anywhere: tattoos, pictures, buttons, colouring books pages. You should always be on the lookout for new patterns and new sources of inspiration. I leave you with a few more of Elizabeth’s works that could make amazing stitched creations. Make sure you check out her blog and her books!

Hooping up

I don’t make pillows. I don’t make quilts. I don’t make patches (though I one day hope to). One thing I do like to do with my embroidery is hoop it up in wooden hoops wrapped in ribbons.

I find that this preserves the look of the embroidery as a craft, while classing it up just enough to make it art too. I use cheap wooden hoops from craft shops, which I would never actually use to work an embroidered piece with. They don’t keep tension properly and I’m terrified that the wood will leave splinters in my work. These fears are probably unfounded, but I love my bright plastic hoops better anyway. What I do love about the wooden hoops is the metal tabs and screws at the top. They look rustic and country and I adore them.

Here is the very simple way I hoop up my work:
1. Put your work into the wooden hoops, framing it up like you want it and tighten the outter ring on as tight as you can. Using a long lenght of embroidery floss (usually 2-3 strands), start to gather the extra fabric behind your work. This step is usually super messy for me. I really don’t care what the back of the work looks like, and never is it more clear than when I bring everything together in a tangled, layered mess at the back. When the front looks taut and tight, and there is no more fabric showing from the front of the work, I’m done.

2. I then remove the outer hoop and make sure everything is stil nice. I remove the screw completely and pull out my friend, Loctite Super Glue.  This glue comes out in a nice slow gel, which means you not only get to control exactly where you put it, it stays exactly where you want it and doesn’t run and bleed to the front of the work. Keeping the ribbon on the spool, I glue a bit to the top of the hoop, on one side of the metal tab.  I don’t feel the need to hide the wood and metal completely.  Like I said, I  like the country look this gives my pieces.

3. I start to wrap the ribbon around the hoop at a slight angle, making sure to pull really tight as I wrap.  Every 6-7 wraps, I put a drop of super glue on the inside of the hoop, right next to the last wrap.  The glue stays in place while I pull another wrap tight, squishing the glue and tacking down the last half-dozen wraps.  I use either the plastic container the glue comes in or a piece of scrap plastic bag to push the glue down for a few seconds.  This stuff will glue your fingers to your work if you touch it with your bare hands.  Please be careful!  The advantage of using superglue is that it dries super quickly, nearly clear and allows you to keep an even tension on all the wraps.  I have never had any hooped up piece of work suddenly fall apart.

4. Put your work back into the hoop and put the screw back in.  You’ll find that, because of the added layers of ribbon, you won’t get the screw as tight.  If the screw ends up at the top of the piece (most round ones do), I sometimes add another lenght of ribbon on the screw with a simple knot so it can be hung from it.  If it lands elsewhere, as with the oval piece in my last post, I just leave it bare and the piece can be hung from the rim of the hoop without too much bother.

Tada!  I love the fabric framing the fabric, the matte fabric and the glossy ribbon, and the great colour it adds to already colourful pieces.  It’s an easy, cheap way to class up your embroidery and although it can be time consumming, it’s nice to have something “framed” that you can give away that you did all yourself.