As I know that many of my readers are in fact crafters themselves with blogs, websites and Etsy-Stores, I thought I'd share with you a new kind of trade organisation, based in the US, from which I benefit greatly. I have been a member of the Craft Industry Alliance since well over a year now. The CIA provides support and handy resources for craft professionals. No matter how small their businesses are. So let's explore some of the benefits of becoming a member!
For me, the best part of the CIA is their Coffee Klatsch. It is held twice a month and for the duration of 45 minutes we meet in an online meeting room. This is great, great fun! As we all know, crafting can be a lonely business. Sure you'll communicate with your costumers, but how many of us have fellow crafterpreneur friends? I for instance live very rural and although I am in several local artisan organisations, they are heavily geared towards wood carving and painting. In addition, marketing, social media and webshop are not their cup of tea. Contrary, the attendees of the Coffee Klatsch are usually much more advanced with their marketing and social media strategies than I am. After all, most of them are Americans and especially social media is and has been a part of their lives for a much longer time. This provides a great learning opportunity for me with lots of friendly mentors. And most of them are female and work with textiles, just like me. The times of the Coffee Klatsches generally suit me well as they tend to be in the evenings for Western Europeans and mid-day for Americans.
Another great resource is the CIA Journal which comes out twice a month. This is a fantastic online resource with many interesting topics. Although Insurance or Tax issues are always written from an US point of view, points raised make you think about your own business and how this is regulated in your country of residence. Since we are artistic people, we tend to put off dealing with the nitty-gritty...
The Journal always comes with a resource. This is often a Checklist or a list of organisations covering a particular article in the Journal. I especially liked the checklist on how to gain more subscribers for your mailing list. It contained many obvious points which I had NOT implemented yet. After all, we as solopreneurs tend to wear many hats and not all we have to do now was taught to us in school. Or how about a checklist on starting and nurturing your own Facebook Group? Since Facebook has changed its algorithm, Business Pages get less 'weight' in your newsfeed making it harder for businesses to get noted (I have seen a dramatic drop in referrals to my website since this has been put in place :(.).
And last, but not least there are the Webinars with knowledgeable people on a specific topic. Although these are live events, they are also recorded and kept in the archive (just as the past issues of the Journals are!). These webinars contain a wealth of information. I particularly liked the one on making short videos. The idea of starting my own YouTube-Channel is a bit daunting. Especially as I had no idea where to start! Thanks to this webinar, I now have an idea of how to make this happen in the not too distant future :).
I hope this blog post with my personal experiences with Craft Industry Alliance has given you an idea of the benefits of becoming a member! Why not click the below link and join today:
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you decide to become a CIA-member and you used one of the links in this article, Märchenhaftes Sticken - Jessica Grimm gets a small kick-back. Thank you in advance!
P.S.: I only received three positive comments on my blog post last week regarding making thread cards for Heathway Milano Crewel wool. Since making such real thread cards would take me a very long time, I am at present not willing to undertake this task whilst interest is so low.
I've continued work on Strawberry Fayre and have finished the first of the four inner hearts. The stitching is largely the same as for the front and the back heart. As I really did not like the way the picots under the strawberries had turned out on the front heart, I swapped threads. The instructions tell you to use a stranded variegated spun silk (Gumnut Yarns 'Stars'). This thread is far too fluffy to make a nicely defined stitch. As a result, my picots turned quite fizzy. Strangely enough, the picots in the Inspirations pictures are sharply defined... Another hint that the threads listed in the instructions might not have been the ones used by Carolyn Pearce :). As I wanted better picots, I looked for a thread less fluffy and with a tighter twist. So here are my new picots using House of Embroidery #12 perle 'bush'. Much better indeed!
$Unfortunately, I ran out of the green Güttermann Sulky thread. Although I was able to substitute it with a thread from my stash, I wasn't a happy bunny. Reading the comments on my Instagram account, I am not the only one who has run out. I don't think this is acceptable for a kit priced at €138 or $170. So far, I only had good experiences with kits from Inspirations. I stitched my needlecase 'Cottage Garden' and 'Home Sweet Home' with the original kits and had no problems. My issues with Strawberry Fayre, and the solutions I have started to implement, have given me the confidence that I will be able to stitch future projects from Inspirations using my own stash!
Seeing today's blog post on real thread cards over on Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread combined with a recent enquiry by one of my readers, I am pondering making real thread cards for the Heathway Milano crewel wool I sell. Since there are now 33 fabulous colour families which each have nine lovely shades, this is going to be a huge undertaking. So I'd like to ask if there are other readers potentially interested in these thread cards. I am thinking of wrapping the nine shades of a colour family around a strip of card and then glueing several strips onto an A4 page. Two pages back-to-back in a pocket and the pockets into a sturdy cardboard file. How does that sound? Please share your thoughts below!
For those of you who missed last week's post on the new Heathway Milano crewelwool colour families, you can find a free pattern of a Russian doll here. And don't forget, if you like what you read, please consider making a donation using the PayPal button on the right :)!
Before we dive into a new and adorable little embroidery project, I have an update on the silk shaded feather distance class by Jen Goodwin. After lengthy correspondence with Jen on the issues I had with her class, it became clear we would never see eye to eye on the project. I asked for a refund and, professional as Jen is, I became it. This wipes the slate clean. I, on my part, have learned that it is probably not wise to sign up for an online class when the end product is not shown. Now let's move on to some other embroidery!
I received this happy postcard in the mail through postcrossing and fell in love with the simple Russian dolls depicted on it! What if I modified the design a bit and tried out the new colours by Heathway Milano 100% merino crewel wool? Match made in heaven, I would say!
And this is the happy result! The design uses simple embroidery stitches and is worked on traditional linen twill. However, you could easily take any other densely woven medium-weight fabric. You can even swap wool for stranded cotton! As I seem to have been bitten by the beading bug lately, I couldn't resist adding some here. Especially the beaded daisies, as featured in 'Strawberry Fayre', are just too good not to use. Not having the embroidery supplies to hand? Let me do the legwork for you! I have a limited number of material packs available containing 10 skeins of wool, fabric, needles, beads, spangles and beading thread. You can find them here. If the packs sell out, but demand is still there; I'll add a pre-order option.
The best part of this new quick and easy design? I'll leave it up to you if and how much you'd like to pay me for it! I have installed a PayPal donation button in the right-hand column of this blog. If you like what you read each week, please consider making a donation. You can find the instructions for 'From Russia with Love' in my webshop. Add it to your cart and proceed to checkout as normal. You won't be charged! Happy creating and hope to see you next week!
As I have a few embroidery related newsies, I thought I'll combine them into one blog post :). First up is Langley Threads Merino Crewel Wool. This fantastic soft and fine crewel wool with a regular thread thickness is produced in the UK. I much prefer stitching with this particular brand. Especially due to its regular thickness, it is so much nicer to stitch with than Appletons! The only disadvantage so far has been that it came in a rather limited range of colours (21 colour families). So, I was thrilled to bits to find 10 brand new colour families in the mail! You can find the beautiful new colours in my webshop.
Next up is the 'encrusted pebble' I made for my aunt's memorial service. I find it rather therapeutic to doodle stitch a simple pebble in preparation for these kind of family gatherings. This particular pebble features my aunt's traditional hair bun, the red currants in her garden (which we severely disliked, but still had to help pick) and her red garnet necklace. I used several speciality threads with nice colour variations and rich textures. In addition, I also used some DMC stranded cotton I have inherited from my grand-mother (her mother).
If you would like to play with a variety of threads and ribbons, why not sign up for my Easter workshop? You'll create a unique picture of a mother chicken with her chicks. A nice piece of hoop-art to be finished just in time for Easter! You'll find the details and the sign-up button here.
Last but not least: when we were in the Netherlands for my aunt's memorial service, we also visited a brilliant exhibition on illuminated manuscripts. The margins of these manuscripts teem with pretty flowers, cute birds, lovely butterflies, creepy insects and many other wonders. Quite a number would be perfect as inspiration for stumpwork embroideries. The exhibition is held at the Catharijne Convent in Utrecht and runs till the 3rd of June 2018. And while you are there, don't miss their embroidered vestments!
With the snowflakes gently falling in front of my studio windows, I decided to crack on with Carolyn Pearce's Strawberry Fayre. Next up were the small pink flowers. The instructions advice to only use the lighter parts of a variegated stranded cotton (Hollyhock by Cottage Garden Threads). Unfortunately, these are pre-cut threads and the lighter part is the one-third in the middle... What a waste! However, I can't just use the whole thread, as the other parts are far too dark and of a non-compatible shade. I decided to save the Hollyhock thread for another day and substitute for House of Embroidery stranded cotton Lavataria B. That's one of the perks when you sell embroidery supplies, you have a very, very large 'stash' :).
The small leaves were filled using chained feather stitch. This is an interesting filling stitch I would normally not remember to use. Stitching the yellow primrose at the bottom, I made a few changes too. The instructions tell you to whip each blanket stitch with a pesky metallic thread. That's sound advice if you really hate yourself :). The metallic fibres constantly catch on your silk blanket stitches. Instead, I worked a few arbitrary back stitches to add the required sparkle. Much easier. Then the instructions want you to use a different silk thread to add two detached blanket stitches into every other blanket stitch. Now again, if you don't like yourself too much... Instead, I worked a normal blanket stitch edge around the whole flower. This produces pretty much the same look as the pictures in Inspirations do.
It seems that the Strawberry Fayre project follows a certain mantra: be as complicated with your needle and thread as you can be in tight spaces! This does not make for an enjoyable nor easily achievable stitching project. Struggling on your own can be quite disheartening. Luckily, I have a pretty amazing Instagram (@maerchenhaftesstickengrimm) following and they cheered me on. Basically, they gave me permission to change things when I saw fit and told me that they would still love me if I did so. Pretty amazing people, don't you think?
So, I stopped being hard on myself and I dived into the forget-me-not sprays. You make the tiny beaded flower heads separately and then you couch them into place. I really fell back in love whit the project. Maybe beads are the solution for everything?
To finish off the front heart, only the three strawberries remained. They are quite fun to do as well. What do you expect? They contain beads as well :). However, once these gorgeous red fruits were finished, my husband started an argument about them being raspberries rather than strawberries. To settle the argument, I ran an Instagram poll. Shockingly, 94% of the poll takers thought so too! Raspberry Fayre it is then...
P.S. If you would like to see how others tackle Raspberry Fayre, hop over to Janet Granger's blog for another detailed stitch along.
P.P.S. Please note: My studio is closed coming Friday and Saturday (23rd & 24th February) due to me attending my Aunt's memorial service.
I signed up for a distance class in silk shading with Jen Goodwin. Why did I sign up for this particular class? Well, the design sports a feather with quite irregular edges AND has water droplets. As I have no idea how to stitch droplets, I really like to learn from a fellow pro. It is also another great opportunity for me to see how I could possibly run an online class in the future. The class runs for eight weeks and is, at GBP 195/$ 284/€ 229, not cheap. The class should have started on the 20th of January, but due to Jen not being very organised, I actually received my kit on the 23rd and the first instruction email on Sunday morning the 28th. This can happen to the best of us.
My kit contained a colour photocopy/printout of the feather, an outline drawing of the pattern, a piece of tissue paper for the transfer, a piece of dark-navy cotton, 2 #10 sewing needles and 20 skeins of DMC stranded cotton in the most fabulous colours. However, due to the fact that it was shipped in a plastic seal bag, it arrived rather wrinkled and dishevelled. Oddly, there wasn't a note or compliment slip either.
The dropbox Jen uses for her teaching videos also contained a high-resolution original picture of the feather. So before any stitching commenced, I ordered a proper photo printout of the feather. The printout in the kit is, in my eyes, just not very defined and has a green tinge to it. But above all, it is wrinkled. And I don't find it very practical to work from a dropbox/computer screen.
Next thing I did was watching Jen's video's on binding a hoop and tissue transferring a design. I was hoping the videos would be of the same quality as Mary Corbet's 'How to' videos. Unfortunately, they are not. Important things and actions are frequently out of focus, text is sometimes blocking the action, important action is going on outside the video frame and action in the video contradicts the text in the video. I really hope that the actual stitching videos provide enough detail to be able to clearly see Jen's stitching.
Before starting the tissue transfer method, I ironed the piece of fabric and ran the edges under my Babylock machine. I hate disintegrated fabric edges whilst stitching.
I faithfully copied Jen's outline drawing onto the tissue paper and started tacking. About half-way through I came upon an uncertainty and wanted to check on the picture printout... SHIT!!! The outline drawing Jen provided in the kit is a mirror image of the picture we are supposed to stitch... I very carefully unstitched, flipped the tissue paper, traced the lines again and started tacking again. I also immediately warned Jen so she could warn the other students. I really hope they hadn't started. As there is no email-list, forum or group to 'meet' the other students. I have no means of getting into contact with them directly. This is my first ever online-class that does not provide for contact with my fellow students. It is a bit of a shame as I can't learn from their progress or get inspired by them either.
Finally, I was able to remove the tissue paper and to have my feather all set up for my next lesson. I'll keep you posted on my progress. Rather than week-by-week, it will probably be a summary of several weeks in one post. After all, it is not my intention to spill the beans on Jen's project and provide very detailed information so my readers could just stitch the project too from reading my blog. However, if you were thinking of doing an online class with Jen, you will be able to make an informed decision based on the testimonials on her website and my blog posts.
Last weekend, I participated in another crafts market organised by Faszination Handwerk. Markets are held twice a year in differing locations roughly in the Tegernsee-area. This allows for people from Munich to visit without the very high-costs associated with organising such a market in a central location in Munich.
Since we were allocated a corner between two doors, the above became the set-up of my stand. I even managed to eke out a small corner of one of the tables to clamp an embroidery hoop on. Although the lighting was really good, the location was your standard conference building with little to no charm. Since the organisation does not provide tables, we take our own. The above is all our Toyota Auris can hold :). Thanks to your excellent feed-back after last year's Leonhardimarkt, I think I achieved a better overall set-up. My stand was no longer so flat and had more 'explaining' going on regarding time and skill involved. I also added a cheaper category of pendants.
Since the car was really full, I couldn't bring trestles and a slate frame. Instead, I demonstrated some French boutis. I still had the 'heart' kit by Averyclaire. This type of whitework embroidery is both 'large' enough and not too complicated; ideal for demonstration purposes. Unfortunately, people were not at all impressed. Mental note: only bring goldwork.
The show ran for three days and was really well attended. Many of my colleagues reported good sales and/or follow-up trade possibilities. Unfortunately, my embroideries did hardly sell and I did not even recoup my entry fee. I can only hope that there will be follow-up trade this time. Overall feed-back of the visitors was that my embroideries were perceived as being 'foreign' and not of 'local tradition'. Many did not understand what it was all about and were not happy for me to explain. It was generally really hard to get into contact with people about what I make. What they did pick up on was my accent. And some were really not cool about it. I was even asked if I could understand and speak German... I could almost hear grandpa Grimm turn in his grave!
So. I will no longer exhibit at these particular fairs. Costs are too high and I am not a charity. However, I will try to attend at least one local market a year as I do understand that I need to meet the locals. But these markets must have low entry fees. And luckily for me, one such market stood on my doorstep last week! Or at least its organisers did. In May, I will join sculptor Marion Werner and two other artisans at Marion's home at Steingaden for a crafts market. Marion and her husband have been organising these for many years and have built quite a following. I feel honoured that they'll allow me to join them this year! And the entry fee? Two home-made cakes to sell to the visitors. I can live with that :).
Last week, I worked on a fun commission: restoring an antique towel cover. This particular piece is over a hundred years old and has been in the owner's family from the beginning. The cover sports typical symbols known from Dutch and German cross stitch samplers: vases with flowers, pomegranates, peacocks and women in folk costume. The embroidery was executed with cotton perle #5 in only six colours: pale yellow, orange, red, light blue, medium blue and dark blue. Whilst the blue threads are still in perfect condition, the red and orange have completely gone and the yellow has gone in some places too. A stark example of the influence of a particular dye on thread survival!
The fabric is a fine closely woven linen measuring 59 cm from selvedge to selvedge. Peculiarly, the selvedge is still perfect on the right, but starts to fray on the left. Any thoughts on this?
Since the pattern is quite fun and I know that there a cross stitch and sampler fans among my readers, I've transcribed the pattern and offer it as a free download here. Note: the colours stated in the pattern are not exactly the original colours. Rather they are a red, orange, yellow and three blues in Anchor stranded cotton. I mended this sampler using antique threads made by DMC and Schürer. The exact colours were not or no longer available from either DMC or Anchor.
Have fun! And I hope to see you this weekend at the Lichtmessmarkt in Rottach-Egern, Tegernsee!
P.S. just to add to the 'leaving a knot on the back' debate: the knots were the only things remaining when it came to the red and orange threads :)
Monday is my preferred blogging day. However, yesterday was a hilarious day and it messed up my order of work completely. And since it is too funny not to share, I will! So, when I came home from my morning swim, my Bavarian mum needed my help. Since the fire, the whole family moved in the holiday apartments above and beneath us. As she needs to cook for this very hungry family, they put in a new kitchen. Now imagine somebody going from a traditional big Aga cooker to a hyper-modern touch-screen electrical stove... And yesterday this hyper-modern menace had put itself to sleep in the middle of cooking lunch! Now, the farmer has coped very well with the loss of his farmhouse and his cattle, but not finding lunch on the table at 12:30h would have been disastrous. After reading the manual several times and doing exactly as stated, the bloody thing came to live again. Lunch saved!
But, that wasn't the end of my woes. My mum called from the Netherlands and needed help with the settings of her newish mobile phone...
Last time we visited Strawberry Fayre, I had put in the scrolls, tendrils and large flowers on the front and back heart. This time, we are going to talk about the big leaves. I must confess that I have a hard time stitching this project. Although I really liked stitching 'Home Sweet Home', I don't seem to get into a stitching rhythm with this project. Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind stitching to be slow. But I hate it if I don't get into some sort of rhythm. If I need to put each stitch into place very carefully, I lose interest.
But first, what I do like! There are three types of big leaves in this part of the project. And two of them involve beads. Now that's something I am definitely taking away from this project: adding beads to ordinary embroidery stitches. This is tremendous fun! One of the leaves has a beaded version of knotted pearl stitch and the other a beaded version of coral stitch. Both brilliant. You can see the first type in the picture above and the second one in the picture direct below.
The third type of leaf features wheat ear stitch without any beads (see below). To add sparkle to all leaves, high-lights and edges are stitched with a metallic thread by Au ver a Soie. Over the years, me and metallic threads have learned to get along. However, adding high-lights and a double edge in and around tiny shapes isn't for the faint hearted. It all seems a bit much and a bit over-complicated.
The part where I really struggled, is at the tip of each leaf. You are supposed to do a padded buttonhole stitch with one strand of Gumnut spun silk. This is a tihgtly twisted silk and one strand is quite comparable to one strand of stranded cotton. This means there is no 'spread'. It is extremely difficult to get it to sit nicely on top of the padding AND follow the curve of the leaves. Carolyn seems to have solved this problem by making very long stitches. I tried to copy this approach, but my stitches kept sliding off the padding. I also found it very difficult to keep a neat edge where the stitches do not touch the other part of the leaf. Although I used a fine tipped marker to transfer the pattern, due to the fineness of the thread, the lines where still too fat to maintain a clean edge. Furthermore, I am really happy that I choose to stitch the whole piece on a much finer fabric than the one that came with the kit...
So, how will I move forward? I will leave it for now. But, I will probably take out the tips of most leaves and try again. The flow of some of the leaves is just too ugly and way below my standard. Any tips gratefully appreciated! And then, I'll move onto the strawberries. And they promise to be great fun as there is beads involved!
But before all that, I will be stitching two commissions. Of which one involves repairing a sampler that's over a hundred years old. More on that next week!
When I visited the Diözesanmuseum Brixen in Italy last year, I was captivated by one chasuble particularly. It wasn't particularly old or made with extraordinary skill. But to me it just screamed: FUN to embroider. And I had seen this particular technique before on an unfinished sampler in the collection of the Wemyss School of Needlework in Scotland. The particular pieces were made with fibrant coloured silks in a simple couching technique (Bayeux Stitch) and seem to originally date to the 17th century. Then my internet search began.
I proved not to be the first to write about 'Italian couching'. In 2007, Mary Corbet wrote an article about 'Italian Stitching' on her blog Needle 'n Thread. Through the related articles, I found the book Mary had originally consulted: Church Embroidery and Church Vestments by Lucy MacKrille written in 1939. You can download it for free here. If you like goldwork embroidery and embroiderying with silk, you'll love it! And what does it say on 'Italian Stitch'?:
Italian stitch in which stout floss is used for a foundation is the most beautiful of stitches. The floss is stretched across the surface from end to end of the design, care being taken not to twist a fibre, so that when the surface is covered it will be as smooth as satin. The finest gold thread is then lais across the silk in lines one-eight of an inch apart and couched evenly. The beauty of this stitch depends on the glossy smoothness of the floss, the straightness of the lines of gold, and the evenness of the bricking or couching stitches (MacKrille, 1939 p. 27-28).
Hmm, not my 'Italian Couching' after all. The examples I saw in the Museums in Norther Italy were al couched with matching silks, not with gold thread. Could it be that 'Italian Stitch' was actually an Anglo-American invention and not of true Italian origin? Let's check with Pauline Johnstone writing on Italian Embroidery in 'Needlework: an illustrated history' edited by Harriet Bridgeman and Elizabeth Drury from 1978. There it says:
An alternative technique was laid and couched work in colored silks, crossed and held down by spaced lines of gold thread. ... Many vestments of this type are attributed to Napels, where the Kings of Napels and the Two Sicilies held a wealthy and lucurious court (Plate 45). (Johnstone, 1978, p. 143).
So, what does Plate 45 show? Not much in a book from 1978. It is in colour, but a whole chasuble at only 10,2x9,3 cm, doesn't tell a whole lot. Luckily, this particular chasuble is held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. And they have a digital archive! You can find the entry for the chasuble featured in the 1978 book here.
Lo and behold! This is indeed the needlework technique I have seen in a few pieces in Northern Italy and the unfinished sampler in Scotland. And as you can see, the laid silk is couched with a matching silk thread. Not with a gold thread.
So, can you see what happened here? An authority on 'modern-day' church embroidery from America, but who studied embroidery in England, wrote on a couching technique with silks and gold thread she had learned and used in 1939. Later researchers on Italian needlework presumed this was a historical technique used in 17th century Italy. They had a bad photograph from the V&A collection and a brief description naming floss silks and silver-gilt thread. Combining the two into a Bayeux stitch with silks and gold thread.
Now don't get me wrong. The Itialian Stitch embroidery executed by both Lucy MacKrille and Mary Corbet looks absolutely stunning. But it does not seem to have been a historical needlework technique in use in 17th century Italy. However, if you have come across a historical piece made in Italy which does use gold thread as the couching, please do let me know! In the mean time, I'll keep my eyes peeled for more pieces in this fascinating technique.
Jessica M. Grimm
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