Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer bloggin': Don't Fear the Fair (Part 2)

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Today Jorie concludes her Summer bloggin' with &Stitches with her second post about her experiences entering embroidery (and other) work to the Iowa State Fair Fabric & Threads competition. You can follow Jorie on her blog Embroider Elaine

When we last ended, my friends and I had just dropped off our entries to compete in the Fabric & Threads competition at the Iowa State Fair.  What were the results?  First of all, I did manage to eat a chocolate-chipped cheesecake on a stick, along with other wonderful fried fair foods.

Second of all, I’m proud of what I accomplished. My knitted snip-stitch afghan won a 3rd place ribbon.

My Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery Woodland Sampler  also won a 3rd place ribbon. That is not only a full place higher than what I earned last year, but I actually won enough money to cover my $5 entry fee (along with money left over for a $3 potato skin bowl.) 

My Furry Nice Class polar bear did not win any ribbons, but he still looked very adorable and cheerful. 

My friends won some honorable mention ribbons for pillowcases and handkerchiefs. The results for all of the competition are available online.

On the comment sheets, the judges gave mostly positive comments, such as complimenting the colors I used in my afghan and the shading on my polar bear.  The one negative comment was that the frames on my cross-stitch sampler could have been straighter, but the unevenness could have been the result of how it was framed or the natural variations in the linen I used.

The change I made in this year’s preparations that made the most difference was simply to enter more items.  The polar bear was the only item I made with the intention of entering it, and the other two were ones I decided to enter at the last minute—but those last minute entries ended up winning ribbons.  I’m glad I entered these items, and I’d like to enter a higher number of items next year.  For $5, I can enter 1 to 10 items, so there is no reason not to enter all the items I can!

Regardless of how well our items did, my friends and I are glad we participated in the competition.  Angela’s goal was to simply to enter the competition for the first time.  She explained, “There are plenty of projects on my list of ‘things I'll make someday,’ so I am proud that I actually followed through with the plan this time.

Cassie wanted to enter the competition to show off her work.  “Once you have a reason to go to Fabric and Threads at the fair, it’s hard not to want to enter.  It becomes Something People Do, not a completely impossibility. And when I had that ambition, of course I was going to weird the fair.”

All three of us wanted to enter to shake things up—use unusual colors, updated designs, and different techniques.  But as Cassie says, we don’t want to turn the State Fair into a “bastion of furious hipness.”  “It’s a balance between earnest and ironic, and the best part is that you can swap between the two without skipping a beat or changing what you’re doing in the slightest.  That goes for your pork chop on a stick and your quilts.”

Ultimately, we participate as a way of celebrating our chosen crafts.  We walk around the competition and are proud of the work accomplished by our friends.  We marvel at the ingenuity and technical prowess of strangers.  We see entries that make us want to try new ideas.  Not everybody wants or needs to compete, but the State Fair is one outlet that we have found to both bond as a group and to have a goal to work towards.

Have you entered your embroidery work in competitions? Share your story with us in the comments. Thank you for two fabulous posts Jorie!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spotlight: Shiny Fabulous Darling

Even though I spend quite some time reading about embroidery online and visiting blogs and websites I somehow never before came across the wonderful Shiny Fabulous Darling site of UK based artist Robin Amy Darling. Pictured above is just a snippet of the embroidery goodness that can be found there (as well as other creative things) so you really need to visit the site to see it all. You will not be disappointed. :) 

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer Bloggin': LED Embroidery with Rebecca Greco

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

I hope you'll all join us today in welcoming Rebecca Greco from Hugs Are Fun! Rebecca last visited us to talk about better hoop habits. Today she's here to tell us about her experiences with an LED Stitching Kit. I don't know about you guys, but I've never tried this myself, so I'm excited to hear what Rebecca has to say about it!

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

I have a confession to make, I am a craft supply hoarder. I love getting exciting new supplies, but actually using them makes me nervous. I obsess over finding the perfect project so I don't "waste" them. I've had this LilyPad LED stitching kit from Sparkfun for well over a year and have only just now used it.

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

There are kits available that allow you to program the LEDs to do things like flicker, but I just used the basic kit. The kit includes conductive thread, a battery pack, LEDs, a button, and a switch. 

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

I wanted to do something space related for it, what better way to use LEDs than stitching them as stars? I finally designed a pattern of Saturn and got to work. The cross stitch was the easy part, the LEDs were much trickier than I expected and I ran into quite a few problems. The first thing I realized was that if I attached the components directly to my cross stitch it would show the stitching on the front. 

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

The battery pack is quite large and there are a lot of different pieces, all of which need to be stitched into place and there needs to be a string of stitches making the connection with the conductive thread. I decided to stitch everything onto a piece of fabric and attach it onto the cross stitch Aida cloth after.

LED Embroidery with Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun

I followed the instructions on the website exactly and the button lit up two of the LEDs, but I could not get the switch working to control all of the lights. I enlisted my husband's help and he explained the changes I needed to make. I can't even count the amount of times I had to take out the stitches. The frustrating thing is not knowing if it will work until everything is stitched into place. I would finish the last stitch and cross my fingers that it would work, unfortunately more often than not I ended up having to take out the stitches and start over.

Once I finally got the LEDs working I used a needle to make the holes in the Aida cloth wider where the LED was going to be showing through. Once everything was in place I used black sewing thread to attach the fabrics together. It isn't the most ideal situation but it isn't too noticeable. 

I do wish I had more LEDs to use for this, the kit came with 5 but one of them was broken when I got it. I would love to do a cross stitch of the galaxy with dozens of twinkling lights!

Have you ever tried out using an LED stitching kit? Did you find it as confusing as I did?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer Bloggin': Creating interesting surfaces

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Today we are joined by Jane from Flaming Nora, a costume maker and textile artist. She will show us a technique to create interesting surfaces using a very simple ingredient. Do make sure to visit Jane's blog - especially if you're a fan of fancy frocks; you don't want to miss this post. Flaming Nora is also on Facebook.

Thank you, Jane!

Today I want to share with you a very simple technique to help both create interesting surfaces to embroider on and to blend fabrics together tonally. It is a process I use all the time in my day job as a costume maker.

In the theatre, white doesn’t work, it reflects the lights back at you and makes that part of the costume be it a lace trim or an apron “shout”. Costumes are not always supposed to look brand new, we are creating a character and that could be anything from an old tramp living in a hovel to Queen Elizabeth I. The costumes we produce often need to look aged and worn, or just fit in with a period colour palate and modern fabrics sometimes look just that, modern.

And our quick fix solution to all these problems can be summed up in one word.

Flaming Nora 1
The nations favourite drink, cheap, cheerful and on hand in more or less all of our kitchen cupboards.
So here is a quick how to on instant ageing for your modern fabrics.
You will need the following:
- teabags
- bowl
- kettle
- fabric

Flaming Nora 2
Boil the kettle and make a very strong brew in your bowl. The more teabags you use the stronger the colour will be. I used 5 in this batch

Flaming Nora 3
Put your fabric in to the tea solution and leave it to soak, take it out, rinse it under the tap to remove any excess and you are done.
The longer you leave the fabric in the tea solution the darker the colour will become.
Here is the range of tones I used to make the above piece. They range from a very quick dip to an hours soak. The background is the fabric in its original state.

Flaming Nora 4
You can also then build up layers of stain using different types of tea.
First I dipped this piece in green tea, which gave a lovely lemon yellow colour. Then whilst it was hanging on the line drying I slowly poured a strong brew of pg tips down it a tea spoon at a time.

Flaming Nora 5
Basically anything that makes you fed up when you get it down the front of your clothes because its going to be difficult to wash out can be used to stain fabric to give it extra texture and depth.
My kids had quite a lot of fun making a brew out of the blackberries they picked in the garden and then painted on to tea dipped fabrics.

Flaming Nora 6
Coffee also works well, but will leave your fabric smelling of coffee, which I guess some won’t find such a bad thing!

Flaming Nora 7
This technique works equally well on patterned fabrics giving them an aged quality.

Flaming Nora 8
And finally here is a collection of fabrics and trims new and old dipped and un-dipped that have the same tonal quality and work sympathetically together.

They will form a single distressed textile piece, which will become the background to an embroidery, if you come back next week I will show you how this is done!

Have you dyed fabric with tea? How did it go? Please let us know in the comments or share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Found on Flickr - Embroidered chocolate!

Found on Flickr

don't eat and sew
This made me actually laugh out loud when I saw it in the &Stitches Flickr group. Anne/Pumora has this very good advice: don't eat (chocolate) and sew. You don't want to risk getting chocolate on your embroidery. But I guess getting embroidery on your chocolate is a different matter! :-)

Awesome stuff.

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Colour inspiration from Pantone

inspired by Pantone
Did you know that this year's Pantone colour of the year is Radiant Orchid? I thought I'd find a colour combo using that colour, but I don't think there is a DMC colour that matches it perfectly. Instead I put these together which  are a good place to start I think. DMC: 554, 553, 3607 and 718.

And why would you stitch with just one colour/shade anyway, when there are so many pretty ones to chose from? ;-)

I must admit that I am not a big fan of lilac and purple colours, but these are actually quite pretty.

What do you think of Radiant Orchid? Love it or leave it?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Bloggin' - Don’t Fear the Fair Part 1

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

Jorie shares how inheriting supplies from family members set her on a course to enter her embroideries at the Iowa State Fair. Visit Jorie's blog, Embroider Elaine.

Thank you, Jorie!

Lurking between the carnival rides and farm animals, at the Iowa State Fair, is a celebration of craftsmanship. During my first visit in August 2011, I stumbled upon the Fabric & Threads department and was both surprised and humbled by the entries on display. There were dresses that belonged on runways, double-knit jackets swirling with color, and room after room of quilts. I left the fair thinking about all the beautiful objects I saw and the hard work that went into them, but I never considered the idea of actually entering the fair myself—even though I had been knitting since the age of six.

Several months later, my grandmother died and my parents cleaned out the apartment she had shared with her sister, my great-aunt. My parents discovered a bag of my great-aunt’s embroidery supplies, including an unfinished project.

They asked me if I could complete this project, and I accepted the challenge. In August 2012, I found out that my local craft store, Home Ec. Workshop offered embroidery lessons. I learned enough stitches to complete the project . . . and I haven’t stopped stitching since!

During the store’s weekly Saturday brunch, I was working on my great-aunt’s project when a regular customer came in with a box. She had entered dozens of knitted items to the 2012 state fair and had just gotten them back in the mail. She pulled out the projects, most of them festooned with blue ribbons (which was not surprising, considering she is the only Master Knitter in Iowa). As we marveled at these prize-winners, my embroidery friend Cassie turned to me and said, “You will enter the state fair this year.” I couldn’t believe what she was saying. I had only just learned how to embroider, so there was no possible way I could win!

She explained, “There are two reasons to enter the fair. One is to win ribbons. The other is to just see your work up there with the others, to know you accomplished that, and maybe get some helpful critiques.” Every year, the store’s patrons talked about “taking over the state fair”—to add some modern flair to needle craft categories that were often old-fashioned—but now it was time for someone to actually do it.

In the month before the 2013 fair, I worked on a matzah cover that was in my great-aunt’s supplies. I definitely should have started earlier, but I got it completed in time to submit it to the fair in person. I ended up being the only new person from my crafting circle to submit an entry. I submitted it in the Embroidery Division, in the class of Embroidered Holiday Decorations, where it won a fourth place ribbon. I was disappointed at first because there were only four items submitted in that class, but I learned that the judges award ribbons based on a point system. They gave me a ribbon because I had achieved a standard of excellence. It almost made up for the fact that they hung my project upside-down!

This year, I am changing my approach to preparing for the fair. My first entry, my version of the Polar Bear from Follow the White Bunny’s Furry Nice online class, was one I decided early on would be a fair entry.

I allotted much more time to complete it. Last year, I was rushing to finish my matzah cover on time, and that lead to more mistakes I had to fix. It was such a relief to have the finished project at the framer’s with plenty of time to spare. I am submitting it in Division-Embroidery, Class-Picture. My other two items are ones that I did not make with the intention of submitting them, but so many people complimented me on them that I figured there was no harm in trying!

One is a slipstitch afghan (Division-Hand Knitting, Class-Afghan). The other is the Woodland Sampler designed by the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery (Division-Counted Cross Stitch, Class-Picture 15-25 inches worked on linen).

As you can tell, the classifications for entries are extremely specific. It is very important to look through the rule book, or “premium book,” to figure out which categories your item might fit. The Iowa State Fair is fairly comprehensive when it comes to craft categories and item types, but it doesn’t cover everything. They might define terms differently from the way you do, or add and subtract categories.

Every year, the fair organizers meet competitors who drive all the way to Des Moines to enter the competition without even looking at the book to figure out if their items qualify for competition. The book also contains information on deadlines, cleanliness, and how to attach the entry tags. If you categorize your entry incorrectly, or it violates any other rules, it will be disqualified.


Another change is that I finally have friends who are submitting entries, too. I started a Facebook group, “State Fair Takeover,” to remind potential competitors of important deadlines and provide a forum for people to ask questions and encourage each other. Thanks to the group, Angela is submitting towels embroidered with Sylvia Plath quotes (Division-Embroidery, Class-Towels) and pillowcases embroidered with messages advocating sexual consent (Division-Embroidery, Class-Pillowcases).

Cassie is submitting Hitchhiker’s Guide-themed towels, a wedding handkerchief she made for her cousin, and pillowcases embroidered with verses from an Egyptian poetess.

Will more entries mean more ribbons? What will the judges think of our contemporary style? Will I finally eat some chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick?

Find out in Part 2 . . .

Have you taken part in a fair with your stitchy projects? How did it go? Tell us all about it in the comments!