The lovely Sarah from LoveCrafts sent me some embroidery threads to play with. And since I am a self-proclaimed thread-addict, I was up for the challenge. Browsing the LoveCafts website, I came across the beautiful hand-dyed stranded cotton by the Roumanian brand Valdani. Now I had heard that name before but never seen these threads, let alone played with them. So I picked some reds and pinks as I already had a design in mind: a Millie Marotta crab. You see, not only do I love her designs, but I and my husband happen to be Cancerians.
These are the lovely variegated threads I picked: 0533 Golden Autumn, 0534 Quiet Fall, 812 Brick, 813 Brick Dark and H204 Nostalgic Rose. Even the two 'bricks' are ever so subtly variegated. These would be perfect for those of you who recreate historical samplers. And what I really like about theses skeins? The wrapper is made of recycled paper. Not those horrible plastic wrappers the more modern DMC skeins have. We all need to do our bit to preserve our planet and I am glad Valdani does their bit.
So how does one go from the intricate Millie Marotta drawing to a stitch-able pattern? In this case, as I approach the whole project as a doodle rather than a thoroughly pre-planned affair, I simply copied the outlines of the crab. I decided upon the size of the project (I like to use a particular brand of frames, so I decided on 14 x 14 cm) and I added some lettering. Apart from wanting to use some Schwalm embroidery on the main body of the crab and simple surface embroidery for all the other parts, nothing was planned. The combination of Schwalm and surface embroidery determined the fabric I was going to use: not too fine, as that would make the cutting of threads for the Schwalm too much of a challenge, but not too coarse either so as not to hamper the surface embroidery. I settled for 40 ct (16 threads/centimetre) Zweigart Newcastle natural coloured linen. As the label says that the Valdani threads are colourfast, I used an aqua-trick marker for the pattern transfer.
And here are my stitching steps:
- lettering 'Cancer' chain stitch with three strands Brick Dark
- lettering dates simple backstitch with two strands Brick
- outline body of the crab in the classic Schwalm way of doing things: chain stitch with three strands of Quiet Fall followed by coral stitch with three strands of Quiet Fall
- preparing the grid for the Schwalm filling pattern by cutting out every fourth fabric thread in both directions
- filling the grid with the Schwalm filling pattern 'Pfauenauge' (from Limetrosen I by Luzine Happel) using two strands of Quiet Fall. I've picked this particular pattern as it mimics the shape of the crab's body
- filling the first segment of the legs with satin stitch using two strands of Brick
- the second segment is filled with fly stitch using two strands of Quiet Fall
- the third segment is filled with Cretan stitch using two strands of Golden Autumn
- the fourth segment on the lower legs is filled with Van Dyke stitch using two strands of Quiet Fall
- the claws were filled with chain stitch using two strands of Nostalgic Rose
- at this point, I realised that the bottom parts of the upper claws would lend itself well to being filled with Schwalm embroidery too
- again I made sure that the Schwalm filling pattern resembled the shape I was filling: 'Rippen nach links' and 'Rippen nach rechts'. I used two strands of Nostalgic Rose
Behold the result: I added two matching beads for the crab's eyes. So what do I think of Valdani stranded cotton? Firstly, I really like the colours of these hand-dyed variegated threads. Nostalgic Rose and Quiet Fall were my favourites. Secondly, I love the more environmentally friendly packaging compared with other brands. Thirdly, each skein holds 10 yards consisting of six strands. That's over a meter more than DMC or Anchor :).
Any disadvantages? Unfortunately, yes. I have found that the single strands of the stranded cotton are a bit more irregular and a bit fuzzier than those of either DMC or Anchor. This was especially noticeable with the darker colours: Brick Dark and Golden Autumn. Although I switched to a bigger needle, the appearance of my stitching is slightly fuzzy. This becomes especially noticeable when you compare the chain stitch + coral stitch edge around the Schwalm filling of the crab's main body. The stitches look dull on the edge, but there is a nice sheen on the filling stitch. As the filling stitch is worked in a grid, friction is much less and the thread keeps its sheen. Furthermore, you definitely can't re-use a thread when you made a mistake and stitches needed to come out. The thread will shred.
What are your experiences with Valdani stranded cotton? Have you used other Valdani threads? I've seen that they do perle and silks as well. How do they compare to the leading brands? Do let me know in the comments below!
Once again a huge thank-you to the lovely people of LoveCrafts.com who were kind enough to let me play with the Valdani stranded cotton! Be sure to check out their website for lots of embroidery threads, embroidery kits and amazing free inspiration.
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