Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Patterns at Ant of Sweden

Designed by Ant of Sweden

Now available exclusively at  Ant of Sweden: Gift Pack 2.

I've packaged 4 of my most popular patterns in one PDF ebook. These are some of my favorites, and I'm thrilled to bring them to you.

Deco, Ilsa, Hannah, and Erin 

Visit  Ant of Sweden today and see all the great new cross stitch and blackwork designs. From samplers to seat covers, Ant of Sweden offers something for everyone. Check it out; I think you'll be inspired!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Reminder to Self: When pressing the colored blackwork ornaments, do NOT use the steam setting.

That's right. I inadvertently used the steam setting on a colored ornament, and the color ran. I ended up with smudges of red and blue all over it.

There are a couple of solutions; number one being "don't use the steam setting." However, the instant solution is not always the best solution; this does nothing for the possibility of your work getting wet in the future.

The other solution, the one I chose, was to give the design a quick spritz of hair spray. No need to shellac with a heavy coat, just a couple of light sweeps does what you need it to do, and keeps the fabric pliable.

Maria suggested I paint a coat of white glue over the fabric. I've used this method for patches and for framing pieces in a hoop, and yes, it's waterproof. It does, however, stiffen the fabric. I mix water into to the glue (I use Alene's Ok-to-wash-it fabric glue), creating a wash that I can then daub or paint onto the finished work. Here's a link to my tutorial. It's certainly worth a try, depending on the way you plan to finish your piece.

Hope this helps. Stitch happy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Free Pattern

I've been having so much fun with colored pencils on blackwork that I came up with a pattern especially for the method:

Star Window is a small, simple pattern that is easy to stitch and fun to color.
You'll find it on the Blackwork Smalls page.

I also pulled a bunch of samples from my stitching box and have transformed them using colored pencils. I have learned a few things along the way:

1) Don't overdo the color. Many pieces can get weighed down and look muddy with too much color.

Just a hint of color makes the facets of Snowflake Mandala pop!

2) Dampen the cloth, then roll it in a towel to remove excess moisture. A slightly damp canvas makes the color more vibrant. Be careful not to get it too wet; the colors can and will bleed if you're not careful.

I didn't like this pattern at all when I first designed it.
The bright colors have given a boring and clinical -looking
pattern a lively new look.

3) Keep the pencils sharp. Or not. It depends.

A dampened, duller pencil is great for filling in larger areas,
but as you can see, a fine point is needed to get the color
into the nooks and crannies.

4) It's okay to blend colors. In fact, it can lead to some exciting effects.

I was unhappy with the blue I had chosen for the small balls;
they were too bright for the green and gray. I colored over them
with the gray and got a fascinating patina. It wasn't so successful
with the purple, but I think that I used too heavy a hand with the
purple to begin with.

5) You may need a second coat.

After the first coat. Look at the first photo again and
you can see how much I missed. 

6) Keep a Tide Stain Stick handy. I got a smudge of color in the wrong spot and the Tide Stain Stick saved the day!

I'm contemplating using some sort of finish in addition to heat-setting the color. Something to protect it from the elements. Any ideas? Let me know.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The box

What makes the ideal stitching experience? How do you organize yourself? I've tried lots of methods for keeping my stitching supplies handy and convenient, but the best I've found is the Caboodles box. It's relatively compact, easy to organize, and easy to tote.

I love how much I can stuff in there and everything has a place, even the extras like an iPod Flash (for my favorite tunes), a personal fan/flashlight (handy for when I get hot flashes or drop a needle--sometimes both at the same time), and my favorite lip balm. Crisco boxes are perfect for storing thread bobbins (so are Fig Newton trays). I glued a magnet strip to the front of the upper tray. It's a great parking place for needles and my Dritz needle threader. Best of all, I can take the Caboodle box anywhere, from craft corner to living room, from home to a long weekend out of town! All in all, it's an ideal system for me.

What about you? How do you keep your stitching supplies organized and handy? Leave a comment below, or send a photo to It will be fun to share our ideas and handy hints.

Happy stitching!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thrift store find

I'm a fool for a good thrift store. I love uncovering a bargain, finding useful items, and scoring big on those occasional designer clothes with $4 price tags.

Last weekend, I did a little thrift-shopping and came across a collection of fabric-painting hoops. I thought they'd be perfect for displaying my stitched designs. I snatched up the entire inventory.

It wasn't until I got home that I thought of actually using them for their intended purpose...

Wanna have some fun? Grab your colored pencils and get to it! This simple blackwork pattern (you can find it on the "Blackwork Smalls" page) came to life when I used colored pencils:

Dry pencil gave me a pretty, almost pastel appearance.

When I dipped the tip of the pencil in water, the colors became much more vibrant:

Once I completed the coloring, I set the colors by placing a paper towel over the design and pressing it with a hot, dry iron for 30 seconds. It seemed to work fairly well with a practice piece, though I would not recommend this method for cloth that will be washed frequently.

It makes a great ornament and it's a quick and easy way to give your blackwork some amazing color.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Using Metallic Floss

Metallic thread is a must for holiday stitching. It's a fun way to make your needlework sparkle.

If you haven't used metallics before, now is a great time to start. Don't be nervous; it takes a little practice and patience, but if you follow my guidelines, you'll find it's a lot easier than you think.

1) Keep the thread length short--about 12 inches.
2) Use a size 24 needle. Smaller needles can cause extensive fraying.
3) Condition the thread with Thread Heaven or beeswax.
4) If using two strands, thread the needle with a single thread folded in half. Make a slipknot at the head of the needle. If using a single thread, keep the tail short.
45 The needle will cut at the thread and cause it to fray. To reduce that effect, as soon as you have the needle through the fabric, let go of the needle and pull the thread through. Not only does it put less tension on the thread, it also keeps the thread from twisting.
6) Try to keep the thread from rubbing too much against the fabric. Friction against the fabric will weaken the thread and start fraying. Pull straight through the hole.
7) Good tension is essential. I recommend a laying tool or trolley needle to help make the threads lie flat so they can reflect the most light. Pulling too tight can cause kinks (especially in DMC Light Effects) and will kill the sparkle, too.

My favorite metallics for blackwork are Kreinik braid and blending filaments. DMC Light Effects is nice for cross stitch. 

Give it a try and see what magic you can create with metallic thread!