Friday, October 24, 2014

Coming Full Circle - Part Two - The Embroidery Project

Yesterday I let you in on a little of my needlework design back story. My journey from learning to sew as a kid, through my career in needlework and knitting and to where I am now.  We talked about using circles in knitwear. Today, we are continuing with the circle story although this story is about an embroidery project I made and which you can too.

In India there is also the a spiritual motif called a Mandala.  From the Mandala Project, here is a definition: A mandala describes both material and non-material realities. The mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family and community. Mandalas are common motifs throughout the world in  many cultures - Tibet, Native American Indians, Christianity..... Although my knowledge of mandalas is not huge, I do know how to decorate a circle. Introducing The Circles Sampler Pillow Project in Crewel Embroidery

The Circles Sampler Embroidery Pillow Project began with a need for a new embroidery project to work on through the summer days at our Farmers Markets. As I was thinking about what to stitch, I stumbled on the idea of decorated circles. I had just finished this project featuring ovals before my Crewel Embroidery Class at the Farm.  The ovals were fun to stitch and worked with a variety of stitches.

Why not continue in the same vein. The project had to be easy to pick up and put down frequently between customers. It had to be colorful and fun to do. It had to stop passers-bys in their tracks to watch a person embroidery/sewing in public and perhaps create a conversation. And it had to use new Crewel Embroidery Stitches that would be fun for participants in my on-line Craftsy class to learn after they worked through the class.

I am not a particularly spiritual or religious person but as I was stitching this design at the many Farmers Markets this summer and throughout the summer at family gatherings, I couldn't help but think about all the circles in my life. Mostly I thought about the circle of life here at our farm. Circle of life is a term I use a lot when selling our lamb products. Our years go round and round..... from winter lambing.... to spring grass and moving the animals onto the fields.... to summer haying, shearing, and farmers markets and finally to this autumn season where the earth is beginning to go to sleep. Our ewes are bred and now the farming circle begins again. Round and round, the years go slipping away as Julia grows older, I get more wrinkles, and The Farmer wonders how is going to keep this all up as he gets older.

As I stitched , I thought of my circles of friends and family and how they have overlapped and combined and morphed over the years. I thought about the communities I have been a part of including the one you all belong to here at this blog. I thought of the circle of creative folks who enjoy the act of making and sharing via the world wide web.  I thought of the different on-line communities including Ravelry, Houzz, Craftster, and many more I have no knowledge of.

And so here you have my newest PDF Instant Download Pattern - The Circles Sampler Crewel Embroidery Pillow Project. The design features 15 different circles of varying sizes. There are 26 different stitches used in the project. Some are your basic go-to stitches such as Chain Stitch and Backstitch but some are more special and fun and challenging like the Cable Chain, the Lace Stitch, and the Double Chain Stitch.
This project will take you through the winter months. It is not very demanding and those of you who get obsessed will stitch through it quickly. The circle motifs are pleasing to stitch and it is easy to finish one complete circle in an evening. You can see 5 of the circles on the blog header above. Interspersed amongst this post are some of the other stitched circles. 

The Circles Sampler Pillow Project 26 page PDF pattern includes: 

•Complete how-to illustrations and words for each of the 26 stitches
•71 How-to illustrations
•Close-up photos of the 15 individual circles - it will be easy for you to re-create the design!
•A full-size photo design template to transfer to your fabric using tracing paper, light table, or Sulky transfer pens
•Complete listing of Appleton Crewel Wool Thread Colors Used

Hop on over to my webshop to purchase the Instant Download PDF design for $13.00. I am also making Kits for the Circles Sampler Pillow Project. They cost $46.00 and include linen fabric, 19 colors of crewel wool thread, and a chenille needle. You can learn more about them here. Note: Kits do not include the pattern - it must be ordered separately. 

As you stitch, you can think of the different circles in your life. Get as introspective as you like or just enjoy the rhythm of the stitches. I hope some of you will give it a try!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Coming Full Circle - Part One - The Backstory

The first needlecraft I was taught as a kid was sewing and embroidery. I started with a needle and thread and some odds and ends of fabric. Both my Mom and Gram taught my sisters and I to hand sew. We learned the basic stitches - running, stem, backstitch, chain, lazy daisies, satin stitch. All the stitches that form the basics of embroidery which I still use today.

Soon I discovered the sewing machine and our neighbor Robin Cashen taught me the ins and outs of using a machine, cutting out fabric using a sewing pattern, sewing in a zipper and more. I was off - sewing clothes for my Barbies, making my own clothes, sewing beanbag frogs to sell to make money. I spent my teenage years sewing at the long table in our family room watching the NY Mets play on the old black and white t.v. In the midst of it all, I hand embroidered many a crewel embroidery project. Crewel was very popular at the time and I was in love - with the decorative stitches, the colors, the wool thread, the linen fabrics. Crewel embroidery and sewing got me through those awkward teenage years - they gave me focus. I learned about passion, challenges, textiles, fabrics, art and so much more from that humble start. This is a photo of a piece of Crewel Embroidery I did (aged 16). It was from a kit and came with printed linen fabric. It is not in the best of shape because it wasn't protected with glass and has been my Mom's attic for years. But it is a memory. 

I went to University for Clothing and Textiles and while there stumbled into the world of handknitting. My Mom had taught me the basics when I was young. During college I taught myself more through books so that I would have something to do with my hands while traveling back and forth to college. After my first job in NYC after Grad School, I somehow landed myself a job at a yarn company. It was 1984 and handknitting was experiencing a boom. The company was called Elite Specialty Yarns and it was based in Lowell, MA. While there for 16 years, I built a career in the knitting world. I imagine most of you reading this blog are here because of our mutual interest in knitting. I had a good long career at Classic Elite Yarns (the name changed in the late 1980's) and then a couple years after Julia was born, I decided to leave my full-time gig. All the travel wasn't fun with a little one with challenges. 

Since then, I have been writing books, designing knitting patterns, writing this blog, learning to take better photos, being a Mom, and helping The Farmer out with our sheep farm. And now I have come full circle as they say..... I'm back to the embroidery that I began with all those years ago. 

As I began this post I planned to introduce you to my latest embroidery design but I have been rambling and thinking back and so this post will be come Part One of Two. I started thinking about circles and the symbolism of them. When I write, I often look up the word in the dictionary to give me a germ of an idea - Julia calls it a "prompt". Here is how Merriam Webster defines a circle :
cir·cle - noun, often attributive \ˈsər-kəl\

: a perfectly round shape : a line that is curved so that its ends meet and every point on the line is the same distance from the center
: a path that goes around a central point
: an arrangement of people or things that forms a circle

When I think of a circle, I think of the center of a sunflower, the bottom of a glass or jar, the head of a nail, a doorknob, the lid to a jar, a clay cylinder, a color wheel, a bulls-eye, a dartboard, a steering wheel or the hubcap fallen off a car rolling gently down a street.  And I think of a beautiful round shape that can be stitched or knit into the decoration for a piece of fabric. 

When I was doing a lot of knitwear design, it was only natural for me to incorporate the organic shape of a circle into the colorful knitwear I made. Making a perfect organic round and voluptuous circle into a chart for knitwear isn't easy. Knitting charts are made from grids of stitches. Circles always come out a bit jiggy-jaggy - don't they? Let me show you some circles in my knitwear.

Here is a sweater I designed called Little Majolica which was published in an old issue of Interweave Knits. (You can buy the pattern from Interweave here.) If you look closely at the motif, you can see the the little shifts of the stitches at the bottom and top of the circle. There isn't a way around this - you just have to live with it or knit with an extremely small gauge yarn which will make the jiggy jags less noticeable. But I don't have the patience for those fine gauges and so I make do. 

Here is a knitted ottoman from my book Color By Kristin (published by Sixth and Spring 2009). This design features circles inside circles and squares inside squares. Once again - there are jiggy jags at the bottom and sides of the circle.

Somewhere along in my knitwear designing life, I started adding my old favorite needlework craft embroidery to my knitwear. I remember traveling to the Pitti Filati Yarn Show in Italy with Pat Chew (former owner of Classic Elite) and looking at all the displays - trying to soak up the designs, the colors, and generally getting charged up for another round of designing knitwear. I saw a machine knit cabled sweater and in the recesses of the cable, there was a bit of embroidery added. I put that image into the back of my mind and thought I would try it someday. Needless to say, that was the start of something. Over the years, I have added embroidery to so many of my knitwear designs. Sometimes just a touch of duplicate stitch, sometimes some full blown flowers and vines, sometimes polka dots, and more. 

Here is a little sweater shown on Julia from an early Interweave Knits Magazine. Here I added spider web embroidery circles to the simple zippered cardigan. You can order the Seeing Dots Cardigan here. To learn how to stitch an embroidered spiderweb on knits, see one of my early YouTube videos here. (This was obviously before I knew much about lighting, doing videos, etc but you get the idea!)

When Julia was much smaller, I made her a Fair Isle Zippered cardigan full of diamonds and circles and color. This was before my two colorful knitting books Kristin Knits and Color By Kristin. Here she is with two of her kittens Ginger and Cookie. If you look closely at the top of the sweater, I edged the inside and outside of the open circle with contrasting shades of chain stitch embroidery. (No - there was never a pattern for this sweater. It was before the days of self-publishing and Ravelry.) 

That little sweater morphed into the design below that was also in Interweave Knits and was called Stop Traffic. As you can see, the knit-in Fair Isle Circle design is embellished with chain stitch like on Julia's sweater above - making the jiggy jags disappear under the chain stitch. You can see a video of doing Chain Stitch on Knits here. The pattern is available here.

So as you can see, circles are a fabulous design element to add to your knitwear. They might need a little help from some embroidery now and then but now you now how to do it! Tomorrow, I'll let you in on Part Two of the CIRCLE story!

Lastly - exciting news - mostly for me and Roost - the new publisher of Colorful Stitchery. Colorful Stitchery was reviewed by the Chicago Tribune! Wow. Here is the link.  Thanks to Tecknikat for the heads-up. Since we are talking circles, here is one of the embroidery projects from Colorful Stitchery which features circles as the design feature. Overlapping circles in chain stitch, polka dots in satin stitch, and little dots. All hand embroidered on linen fabric.You can purchase a signed copy of Colorful Stitchery on my website here or from Amazon here. As always, I thank you for your support.

Photo by Kevin Kennifick from Colorful Stitchery, Roost Books 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Susan Rocks the Socks

Thanks to Susan Anderson for blogging about my new Regia Colorations sock yarn. You can read about it here. Here is a photo of Susan's sock in progress from her Instagram feed.

Here is one of her finished socks on a sock blocker. 

The color is 3311Midnight Sky. There are six colors of Colorations - all with a blip of natural making up a "faux Fair Isle." Very fun knitting.  See this post for some backstory and all the colors. I also have a sock yarn line called Garden Effects from Regia. Check it out here.

Regia Sock Yarns are carried in many LYS so make sure you check with your local store if you are lucky enough to have one. You can find it on-line at Websters and at Webs.

Susan is one of the most amazing knitters I know. She has stacks of handknit socks, sweaters and knitting books that she has authored. And beyond that, she is one of the kindest people on the planet. Thank you Susan!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday - Sunday

It is a beautiful day here at the farm. The photo above was taken earlier in the week when the weather was rather drizzly and gray. Today, the leaves are falling off the trees. 

We are off to a special Farmers Market to benefit the Kestrel Land Trust in Hadley. Before I leave, I wanted to alert you all of 3 great reviews for my book Colorful Stitchery. Some of them have a chance to win a copy of your own.

The first is by Embroidery Artist Rebecca Ringquist. You'll find it (and her wonderful work) here! See a trailer about Rebecca who teaches embroidery on Creativebug here. Rebecca has a new embroidery book coming out soon which I can't wait to see. Thanks Rebecca!

The second review is by Kati of The Blue Chair. Here's your chance to enter to win your own copy on her blog here. Thanks Kati!

The third is by Kristen of The Bobby Pin Bandit blog. Kristen even stitched up two of my projects in between her work on her PHD dissertation. Yikes! Thanks Kristen. Check out her beautiful stitching here

It makes me feel so good that Colorful Stitchery is out there in a new format and reaching the whole new group of new stitchers. Embroidery is definitely on the up-trend and I'm happy to be sharing my knowledge and work with all who want to learn. I thank you all for reading and for your support. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Catching Up + Entrelac 2 by Rosemary Drysdale Giveaway

Did you ever have one of those weeks when you got absolutely nothing done? It has unfortunately happened to me this week and last. Julia has been out of school with a nasty cold/strep/cough for 8 days. As much as I try to keep up with projects I have going on, I had to concentrate on taking her to the doc, talking w/ the doc and school, making her tea, getting to the pharmacy.... She is getting better now and has gone back to school - even with a hacking, no longer contagious cough. I have a list a mile long that needs to be done and then the list of what I want to get done. On the list is a pop-in to my (recently neglected) blog. 

The ewe flock grazing a hill on a gray day
The colors have been stunning here in western New England. The weather has been gray and cloudy and perfect for taking photos.

A newly harvested cornfield
I've been sharing some photos on Instagram and Facebook but thought those of you (like you Mom!) who don't do those things - and I know there are many of you - might like to see those photos here. New England really shines in the fall. I do love playing with the Instagram filters. It is so much fun to take an Iphone photo and turn it into a piece of digital art - all in a matter of a couple minutes.

Stunning color all around
This is our woodpile for the upcoming winter. We have a wood/oil combination furnace and this will hopefully get us through the winter. I look at that pile and think about all the toting, dragging, tossing, and shoving I am going to do this winter. Will help me exercise some which is a very good thing.

Our woodpile for heating our house this winter!
Today I have a have a photo review of a fantastic new knitting book by Rosemary Drysdale. Entrelac 2: New Techniques for Interlace Knitting has just been published by Sixth and Spring Books. It is a follow-up to Rosemary's first very popular entrelac book called simply "Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting."  

Rosemary is a longtime veteran of the needlework industry. I first met her when she was authoring stitchery books. More recently she has been mostly involved in writing about knitting. Some of us like to switch between subjects and crafts (like me and Rosemary)!

This book - with its striking rainbow-hued cover - blew me away. It is packed with all kinds of ways to knit entrelac. I really never thought about adding cables to entrelac - but Rosemary did!

It is packed with many, many stitches - sort of like a Stitch Dictionary for Entrelac. This is one of those books that will remain in your library for years. I love these holes - this stitch screams scarf, doesn't it?

There are lots of ideas for garter stitch in entrelac - including these striped variations.

And for all you "in the round" knitters - here Rosemary teaches how to make circular pieces of entrelac. Gorgeous. You can see how clearly the techniques are explained and how the instructions are written by the next two photos.

This version of entrelac produces diamonds. Really nice. I do love those seed stitch squares alternating with stockinette.

Entrelac 2 also includes many patterns for projects. Isn't this sweater stunning?

These entrelac scarves are very doable and would look great this coming winter.

Would you like to win a copy of Entrelac 2 by Rosemary Drysdale donated by the fine folks at Sixth and Spring Books. Here's what you do... 

Answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post...... 

Have you ever worked entrelac? What did you make? Or would you like to learn? 

AS ALWAYS, PLEASE LEAVE AN EASY WAY TO GET A HOLD OF YOU. No easy way, I pass onto the next person after the Random # Generator gives me a winning number. Email address, blogger ID, or Ravelry name (although if you never check your Rav mail, don't bother to leave that name!)

Contest ends Monday October 20th at 11:59 p.m. Contest open to US residents only. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sheep Run + English Eccentric by Ros Byam Shaw + Giveaway

First off, a little from our day here. The leaves are changing and it looks to be a beautiful fall. Here is a little video of the ewe flock moving up the road to their next grazing field. Not very exciting but pretty none the less. Can you hear the leaves?

If I were close to Idaho, I would go to The Trailing of the Sheep Festival. Check it out here. For me, I'll just have to watch ours. Now onto my subject of the day.

Yesterday I wrote about paint entrepreneur and artist Annie Sloan. Today I want to introduce you all to Ros Byam Shaw and her series of books on English interiors published by Ryland, Peters and Small. Ros is also a past Features Editor at my favorite mag World of Interiors. You can read an interview with her here on the the Ryland, Peters and Small website. 

When I was researching and looking for inspiration when writing the upcoming Crafting a Colorful Home (Roost January 2015), I discovered two of Ros's books - Perfect English Cottage and Perfect English Farmhouse. Both were photographed by Jan Baldwin. I purchased them and spent time reading the different profiles of the owners of the homes and how they decorated their spaces. Each book featured about 20 different homes with stunning photography. I love a good house book and these helped me keep interested in writing about my home where my family and I have lived for 16 years. 

Just this spring, Ros had another book published called English Eccentric. It is even better (IMHO) than the two mentioned above. It is colorful and full of stories of families building their own style homes throughout the UK. I keep going back to it again and again to look at all the little details on the pages. I savored every page by reading a chapter at a time vs. going through the entire thing at once. Gorgeous. 

Below is the home of Antoni Burakowski - half of the fashion label Antoni & Alison. Love the colors in the kitchen. That striped cupboard is to die for. I know that most of these photographed homes might not be for most of you but there are bits that you can take away for inspiration.

This is the home of Fanny Ward - stylist and collector.

This is the home of Adam and Charlotte Calkin. Adam is a decorative painter and you can see more of his work here. Fabulous. Every inch of this home says "creativity."

What makes these homes special is the owners go out on a limb and decorate as they want to. Trust me - none of these homes are what realtors would suggest for resale. Most realtors want white, beige, and lack of character. YUCK. None of these places seem to be done by decorators per se although many of the owners are in some kind of creative business. Check out the links I have included to learn more about the talented homeowners. 

This is the home of Jewelry Designer Solange Azagury-Partridge. This home is full of fabulous color and pattern. It was difficult to pick one image to use. 

For Ros, this book had to be a blast to write. For Jan Baldwin, what a fantastic job on the photography. 

This is the home of Peter Hinwood who was an actor in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and is now an antique dealer. His home is also featured on the cover. I just love those turquoise walls and all the Islamic tiles. And that crazy striped chair and the cat pillow.

More gorgeous color from Peter Hinwood's home. That green wall. Fabulous!

This is Annabel Lewis's home. She owns the ribbon shop V. V. Rouleaux. Fabulous store - fabulous home.

This is the home of Liddie Holt Harrison. Liddie is a model - you may recognize her if you are an longtime knitter - she was on the cover of Rowan Magazine #04. Liddie's home is quite eccentric - full of all kinds of taxidermy and antiquities. She is a shop owner and antique dealer now.

I've got great news for all of you. One of my lucky readers will win their very own copy of English Eccentric supplied by publisher Ryland Peters and Small. Here's how you enter. 

Answer the following question in the comments section. Deadline is Monday October 13th at 11:59 p.m. 

What is your favorite space in your home and why? OR What would you like to change about your living space? OR any other random thought about home and color!
AS ALWAYS, PLEASE LEAVE AN EASY WAY TO GET A HOLD OF YOU. No easy way, I pass onto the next person after the Random # Generator gives me a winning number. Email address, blogger ID, or Ravelry name (although if you never check your Rav mail, don't bother to leave that name!)

Colorful Stitchery Giveaway

The fabulous women over on the &Stitches blog have posted a review of Colorful Stitchery here. Hop on over to &Stitches for a chance to win a copy donated by Roost Books

Here's one of my favorite designs from Colorful Stitchery - Cafe Dish Towels embroidered with simple motifs with cotton embroidery floss. A little old-fashioned but very useful. A very nice gift for anyone you might be making a present for! 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Annie Sloan, Martha Stewart, Barb Blair + Paint

I love my home, the collections I have in it, and all the DIY stuff I do to it. Adding things, fixing things, changing things - it is all fun. Ever since my first dorm room at the University of Delaware, I've been interested in making a nice space to live in.


It's that time of year, when we here in the northern hemisphere move back into our interior spaces. What are you going to do to change up your space? Have you planned anything? With all the spiders moving into all the nooks and crannies around here, it must be a cozy place to be. It's a job keeping after the webs for sure.

Do you know Annie Sloan? She is an author of over 20 decorating books and lives in England. She also has a line of paint called Chalk Paint which she developed over 20 years ago. Annie has a background in the fine arts. Her books focus on interior decoration and paint finishes -- one of my favorites of hers is called Colour in Decoration co-written with Kate Gwynn. It is a book which I refer to over and over again when I want to get some inspiration. Published in 1990, it has stood the test of time. The photos on this post are from Colour in Decoration.


Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint and her other products including wax and lacquers are now being distributed in the US and you can find retailers here. I have not tried them but perhaps one of you has. Would love to hear about your experience. There was an interview with Annie on the Design*Sponge website this week. You can read more about Annie Sloan here

I got an interesting email a few weeks ago. Martha Stewart has announced a new furniture paint called Vintage Decor Paint produced by Plaid and available at Michael's. You can watch a video and demo here. It is a matte finish which I am not wild over. Matte paints don't wear well - especially here at our farm. It looks to me like Martha's people took Annie's concept and are now bringing it mainstream at Michael's.

There's a young furniture/home dec author who has come across my radar. She is Barb Blair who wrote the book Furniture Makeovers published by Chronicle last fall. Barb also sells some beautiful re-finished vintage furniture. You can read all about her here


And of course, there is my old favorite, now sadly deceased - British author Jocasta Innes. Jocasta is who taught me to do decorative painting through her books. You can find many of her books on Alibris here. I love the way Jocasta writes - common sense-ically - like you were in her kitchen having a chat. 

So what about you? Have you tried Chalk Paint of any kind? Do you have any painting projects planned for the winter months? Do you have any favorite painting/home decor authors you turn to again and again for inspiration?

The photos in the post above came from the pages of (oop) Colour in Decoration.  It is available used on Amazon or on Alibris.