Monday, March 22, 2010

Progress so far

Well it's coming along. Before I dive head first into today's stitching session, I thought I would post a little peek at how it stands so far. It doesn't look like much yet, but there's more than 5000 stitches completed already. Phew! My poor little fingers are sore!

When designing this, I really loved the thought of a lacy eyelet border. While stitching it, I am cursing myself for it. I love eyelets, but with around 400 (I think, I haven't actually counted them) they do get a bit tedious. I have worked out a system for getting them done without having to do too many all at once. Each time I complete a band or a dividing bar, I stitch one thread length worth of eyelets, and the cross stitches around them. That will keep me well ahead of the game I hope! I've also come up with a little cheat that helps open the middle up without me having to pull the thread so hard - I take a large needle and sort of hollow out the centre - twiddle it around a bit to really open up that middle hole - before I start the stitch. That way I just have to give a gentle tug on the thread when I stitch it. It works great.

Well, I've had my little coffee break now, so it's back to the needle!

Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm a happy bunny now

My materials for Victorian Hearts arrived Wednesday, and after spending a day test stitching to figure out which shades of green and pink I was going to use, stitching is now fully underway.

As usual, I'll be posting sneak peeks here as I progress. Not much to show yet, I've only done the top border and part of the first band!

Off to stitch now. :) Insert contented sigh here. :D

Monday, March 15, 2010

After a little re-charting...

...and some google searching for WIP pics to estimate the closest colour matches, I've finished the backstitching on Alpine Garden. No idea if it's exactly the colours used in the original, but it looks close. I couldn't make out most of the instructions in the picture included with the chart, it's horribly blurry.

I moved some stuff around, and fixed some other things - points of two lines not meeting up properly, etc. And I spaced things out a bit more - everything seemed soooo overcrowded. I also changed threads on a couple, from what I could make out in the instructions, some of the backstitching was to be done in the perle thread - I tried it very briefly, but it was much too heavy and made everything else look unbalanced, especially on my 35ct. I had the same colour of thread in regular floss, so I subbed it and it looks much better.

Anyway, this is where it stands as of last night, before I moved my q-snaps. No beads or crystals yet, they'll go in at the end. I've tried beading as I go, but my q-snaps shattered a couple of beads, so now I just wait and do it all at once. Colours are a bit more vibrant IRL, and the fabric is a bit darker.

Was hoping my model stuff would be here today, but alas, no luck, so I'm going to keep going with this one for now! I don't mind, I'm having fun with this.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Zweigart, you read my mind

Not so long ago I was lamenting about the difficulty finding a suitable deep red fabric for a future design.

Of course there were standard fabrics in the colour I wanted in 32 count or less. I didn't really want 32 count, it would mean using 2 strands for cross stitching, and I just couldn't stomach that idea. I'm spoiled, aren't I?

I did find a couple possibilities from Weeks Dye Works and Stitches and Spice. While I love WDW linen colours, I'm not a huge fan of their base fabric, it's a bit too thin/uneven for my liking. And while I love Stitches and Spice fabrics AND colours (or at least those I've used!), the Hunter Shiraz I was looking at was a bit too mottled and a bit more purple than what I was looking for. Am I picky or what?

What colour did I want? Ruby Wine by Zwiegart, preferably in 36 or 40 count. Well guess what Zwiegart has just released? 36 count Ruby Wine! Colour me happy!

I won't be ordering it just yet, not even close to being ready to start this one, given I've only sketched it out on paper, but I'm just so happy I CAN get it when I need to. :D

Speaking of ordering, I caved and ordered two new HDF colours, BeCherished and Dragon Heart. I didn't want to pass them up while they were Mini's of the month. I'm so weak. Haven't the faintest idea what I'll use them for, they just looked perdy.

My cold is much better. My head is still plugged, my throat and ears still ache and I still have a bit of a nasty cough, but I no longer feel like I have cement in my chest. After working today though, my voice has gone bye-bye.

Still working away on Alpine Garden - no pics today though, I'm too lazy. I'm almost done the octagonal inner border, after that I'll set about tackling the backstitched flowers inside it. At least until my materials for hearts arrive! And with that, I'm gonna go relax and stitch. :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring is in the air!

The high temperature for today is 10C. WOO HOO! It's only early March though, we still tend to get a good storm late in the month or even in early April so I wouldn't quite say that winter's over just yet.

I can tell spring is in the air though. My cats have gone insane. Meowing constantly, playing with everything in sight, chasing each other around playing hide and seek with each other, and just being loud in general. I wish I could get a video of Tigger and his wailing, but he seems to sense the camera and shuts up immediately. lol

I can also tell spring is on the way, as my stitching ADD has returned. I'm loving working on Alpine Garden, though the chart is driving me to insanity. There is a large section of blackwork to come shortly, which is all in black on the chart. There is a picture insert that shows what colours are to be used where, but it's small and blurry. GRRR. I may just leave the whole section to the end and move on to the octagonal border instead. Anyway, here is where it stands after the first week or so. Considering that every half hour or so I get distracted and stop to do something else, or play with threads or put a new motif into a new design, I'd say it's not bad progress. The picture actually came out quite clear, the fabric is just a tad darker and the white and colours are just a bit brighter IRL. Speaking of the white, I didn't like the NPI white, it was just too cream for snow, so I replaced it with AVAS Blanc Optique, and I'm much happier with it.

At the same time, my threads arrived for RIR and I really, really want to start it again. It's not really a new wip, since I already got about 1/3 of it done before, so I keep trying to justify the start that way. :D Also trying to justify it by the fact that it's Carrie's silks and I want to see how they stitch up, not just a couple of stitches.

And since I got that great pink, and a couple of awesome blues which I really like for Taking Flight, I want to start that one too! I justify this as I don't currently have an over one project.

AND since I picked out colours for Cirque des Triangles ages ago, I really, really wanna start that too. Plus it's over one AND on black!

AND I want to start English Whitework because it's an entirely different technique - all specialty stitches and hardanger - and would give me some extra variety.

AND I want to start Growth Rings, Bramble and Rose, Amtrack, Spanish Bleu, Time Well Spent.... the list goes on and on and on.

Add to that that I already have at least a dozen that are over halfway finished and should probably work on before I start new stuff.

AND my materials for the hearts sampler have shipped and should be here in the next week or so and I really don't want to get a day into another new one before they arrive and I drop everything.

I have been dilligently working on selecting colours for the flower designs. The flower colours are definitely easier to pick than the greens. I had originally thought to use a single green for all the designs, but after a lot of playing I decided that was boring and I'd probably get bored of the same colour over and over. Plus, with some of the flowers being medium tones, some being pastel and some being really bright and bold, I need to balance them with the greens. So there will still be a lot of playing left to come yet. No rush, I won't be starting one until I get the hearts done, but I'd still like to get settled on colours and get them ordered soon since I already have the fabric for the first four.

Now if I can just rid myself of this nasty cold, I'll be a happy camper! lol

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Stash Mail - Yippee!!!!

Well my first package from Wasatch Needlecraft has arrived!! A full yard of 40 count Magnolia for my flower designs - guess I should set about to finally picking my colours for these, huh?

AND I got a treat for me... some Carrie's silks. Going by Carrie's recommendations, I ordered enough Crimson and Plymouth Red for Rhapsody in Red, and they're lovely. I also ordered a whole bunch of Colonial Red, which Carrie warned me was dying up very pink, and though yes, it is pink, it's awesome. I'm going to use it for Taking Flight, along with the spool of Delphinium I got last week.

So what do I think of Carrie's silks? Niiiiiice. They're soft and supple, very smooth without any fuzzies. They've got a decent amount of twist, so they don't shred easily and have a nice sheen. Having only test stitched a tiny bit, I can't really give a big critique, but so far so good. :) Tentative two thumbs up!

So now just a few more things I'm waiting on, fabric for my hearts design, NPI for my hearts design, and a few new colours of Gloriana I was missing. Of course Anne released 5 or 6 more in Nashville, as did Jo of Dinky Dyes, so I'll have to play catch up once more. *Sigh* It never ends. ;)

I'm still working on Alpine Garden. Really pretty so far. I'm almost finished the centrepiece, just finishing the over one bit under the cottage. Some really fantastic colours in this. I was a bit leery about the pond scum - very neon yellow green - but all stitched up, I love it. Really have to stop miscellaneous stash purchases and start saving up for that Silk 'N Colors set. Everytime I get new colours I just ooh and ahh. And I love how they shimmer all stitched up. Soooo very pretty. When I finish up this bit, I'll snap a pic!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fabrics and Colours Part II

Continuing on from yesterday's post and a couple of items I touched on just briefly.

How do you decide what the perfect fabric is for a design?

First you want to decide on the base fabric you want to use. Aida, linen, plainweave... It totally depends on the project. If your project will have specialty stitches or partial stitches, Aida won't work unless you're stubborn and don't mind piercing threads. This isn't a big deal if there isn't a large amount of it, but when you're talking about half the project or more, it can become a pain and even make the project more difficult to do, and can lead you to using evenweave. When it comes to evenweaves, some people are partial to plainweaves, some are partial to linen. A lot of people, myself included will call linen, linen, and everything else evenweave, though this is sort of a misnomer. Linen can be evenweave too! The only difference? Linen is made from linen, plainweaves can be cotton, cotton/rayon and a multitude of other fibers. Both are considered evenweave, meaning there are the same number of threads per inch in both the warp and weft.

Next you want to determine what count of fabric you want to use. Lower counts are great for those just starting out with over 2 stitching, or for those whose eyes just can't see the higher stuff. Higher counts are great for saving yourself some money on floss (less strands needed) and framing costs. If you want high count (above 32) you're kinda stuck with linen, as I've only found one supplier of plainweave that is 36 count, and I can never get their page to load properly. So of course count will be one of the determining factors.

When choosing a count of fabric, first decide what count you are most comfortable working with. Designer recommendations are just that - recommendations. Just because a model is stitched on 40 count, doesn't mean that you need to use 40 count. You can use whatever YOU are comfortable with. You will have to make adjustments to the number of strands of thread you use, but any design can be changed to suit your needs. The only real limitation to changing counts of fabric is when you are talking about beadwork and/or charms - they just don't fit on some counts, and trying to find petite beads in similar colours isn't always possible.

I hear a lot of people say that they use lower counts for doing specialty stitches. Sometimes this is helpful if you're just learning the stitches, but it's not necessary. I love doing specialty stitches on 36 and 40 count, they look so delicate and they're not really any more difficult, you just have to be able to see the holes. If you can see them for cross stitch, you can see them for specialty stitches too. Keep in mind that when you start inching up above 40 count, the weave of most linens gets very dense, so pulled stitches can become more difficult to do.

Another determining factor for count of fabric is coverage. How dense do you like your stitching to appear? This is 100% personal choice. I know lots of people who are happy with 1 strand even on 32 count, personally I don't like the way it looks. I like denser coverage, and will double up or use thicker thread right up to 36 count. You have to decide what you like. Again, a designer can recommend how many strands to use on a specific count, but your eye is the best judge. If you don't like it, double up or up the count until you are happy. It's your project after all!

And finally, sometimes a colour you want to use is only available in certain counts/types of fabric, so that may also be a determining factor in what count you end up using.

Next you want to decide what colour of fabric you want to use. Solid, hand-dyed, heavy mottling, multiple colours, the choices these days are endless. Things to consider when choosing a fabric:

Are there a lot of thread colours? Sometimes simple is best. A solid fabric, or something with soft subtle mottling might be the best option. You don't want your fabric to overpower your stitching, you want it to complement your stitching. Make sure the fabric you choose has enough contrast to your thread colours - you don't want them to blend into the background. If the design has mostly warm colours - browns, oranges, orange reds, olive greens - you want to stick with fabrics that have a yellow undertone. If your design has mostly cool colours - blues, blue greens, blue pinks, purples - you want to find a fabric with a pink or blue undertone. This will enhance the colours in your threads. You'd be surprised how different a thread colour looks stitched on two different fabrics!

Are a lot of the threads variegated? Again, you want to stick with something fairly solid or very softly shaded so it won't compete with the threads. Your main goal is to pick something that shows off your stitching. Remeber, fabric is the background, your lovely work is the foreground. Heavily mottled/multicolour fabrics might be gorgeous, and might even have the same shades as your thread, but if it draws your eye away from your stitching, then it's probably too much. The easiest way to tell is to try test stitching a small motif in the threads you're planning to use. You'll get a better feel for how the final product will look, and whether you've got the right idea with your fabric.

Is it a monochrome? Is your thread multicolour or more solid? The more solid the thread colour, the more options you have for fabric colour. This is where those heavily mottled or multicolour fabrics can look really cool. Solid black thread on a wild red/orange fabric looks spectacular. As does solid white thread on a deep purple/blue fabric. If you've chosen a multicolour thread, you want to again stick with something a little simpler for fabric. Picking your favourite colour from the thread and then going with fabric a few shades lighter can be really stunning.

Determining when to use a multicolour thread and when to use a solid thread can also be tough sometimes. For me, it depends on how intricate the design is. For a pattern that has a lot of small detailed lacy looking parts, you want to be sure that you're not going to lose the design in the colour changes of the thread. Again, test stitching is key - test stitch a small area of detail with your chosen colour and stand back and look at your stitching. Can you clearly follow the design with your eye or is it tough to make out? If you can see it clearly, you're on the right track. If it's hard to follow, then you might want to try something with less colour changes.

The last thing I want to touch on is a question which I see asked often - when should I use opalescent fabric? My answer to this would be - NEVER!! I absolutely hate stuff. lol

But seriously, a good way to decide whether or not to use sparklies is to figure out how much sparkle you want, always remembering that the fabric is the background to your stitching. You want your stitching to be front and centre, you don't want the fabric to draw the eye away from it. So things to consider are: Does the design have metallic threads/beads/crystals? If it does, then using an opalescent fabric might diminish the intended effect of these. If you've spent a lot of time fighting with metallic threads or attaching beads and embellishments, you don't want to stand back and look only to have the metallic thread in the fabric competing with all your hard work.

Another thing to consider is that opalescent or metallic fabric will cause a lot more wear on your threads! That's one of the main reasons I can't stand the stuff.

Opalescents can be very beautiful and very tempting, and when used with the right design, can add that little extra wow factor. When used with the wrong design, they can detract from your stitching.

Of course all of this is just suggestion - only you know what you like and what you want, and only you can decide what looks best for you!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Linens, fabrics and colours

I read a question somewhere recently regarding what people think is the best linen. I figured I would post my answer here.

First, preference is a very personal thing. What one person loves, another will probably hate. So of course everything I'm writing is simply MY personal perspective.

Linen/evenweave preference is totally subjective. What works great for one project, will likely not work for another. If you're stitching over 2, little imperfections, slubs, thick/thin threads probably won't make much of a difference in the overall presentation once you're finished. If you're stitching over 1, the more even you can get the better.

First thing I'd like to touch on is count. What is the best linen count? Again, it depends on the project.

28 count - for over one stitching, I'll reach for 28 ct every time. I love how my over one stitching looks on 28 ct. Higher than that I find it gets bulky and lumpy and I don't enjoy it. Small portions of a larger design are fine, but a whole piece just won't get done that way. For over 2, I don't really like 28 ct in any fabric, I find it blocky and big. And to get coverage I'm happy with, I need to use 2 or 3 strands, sometimes even 4 for some specialty stitches, and that annoys me. So I tend to view 28 count as my someday when I'm blind fabric. lol

30 count - really kind of an in between. I have stitched on it, and I don't really mind it, but it's tough to find a nice medium of good coverage. I still find HDF premium struggles to cover, so I tend to opt for other brands and go with 2 strands. For over 1, I quite like it, but I still prefer 28 count.

32 count - not crazy about it for over one stitching for the reasons mentioned above. For over 2 stitching, I don't really mind 32, so long as I can use HDF premium thread on it. I can get good coverage with it in one strand for x's, 2 strands for satin stitches, so it works pretty well. And sometimes my eyes don't want to focus on high counts, so it's a welcome change without getting too huge.

34 count - LOVE it. Not so much for over 1, but definitely for over 2. HDF premium looks lovely for solidly stitched sections where I don't want show through, and many other brands of silks give excellent coverage for sampler style stitching with a single strand. AVAS, NPI, Gloriana, Belle Soie, Thread Gatherer - these look quite nice with one strand without getting wispy. If I were to do solid stitching with these, I'd opt for the second strand, but for samplers, one is lovely. This really has become my go-to count for Drawn Thread projects where the cross stitch is secondary and there are a lot of specialty stitches that I'm not really familiar with. Once I've mastered them, I'd happily try them on a higher count, but I do like to get used to the stitch and I find this count is perfect for that.

35 count - see above. I can use a single strand for some brands and be happy with it. For solid stitching I can double up and also be very happy with it. I tend to use 34 and 35 for Chatelaines, I can get the beads to fit alright in most cases, and I like the coverage I get better than on 32.

36 count - again, see above.

38 count - I don't actually have any fabric at this count. I think it would probably be nice for samplers, but it would probably be a transitional type count when talking about solidly stitched pieces - 2 strands bulky, 1 strand just a bit too wispy. I know Gander makes this count, and I will probably try it when I have some money again, even just out of curiosity.

40 count - my go to count of fabric. I can get great coverage with one strand of most threads and I find it a nice count for many different specialty stitches. I tend to use this most often, simply because most dyers have it available now in all their colours, and there is a nice wide variety available.

45/48 + count - love it for plain old cross stitch and/or blackwork. Not the most fun doing pulled stitches like eyelets for the simple fact that it's pretty dense and doesn't allow you to shape the stitches very well.

Okay, now on to brands. I'm only mentioning those I've used, given I can't really critique something I haven't tried!

28 Count Fabrics

Zweigart Cashel Linen - While it dyes pretty, and there's a great range of solid colours, it's not my favourite for 28 count fabric. As I said, I'm not a fan of over 2 on 28 count, and I find that the amount of slubs and uneven spots make it tough for over 1 work to look nice and even. Plus it's fairly heavily starched, and I like softer fabrics. Hand dyes are a bit better for feel, but they still have that uneven look that I don't like. I have some, but I don't use it much. Most hand dye companies use this as their 28ct linen base. I find it funny when someone says they don't like Zwiegart linen but love Lakeside linen - they're the same fabric!! ;)

Graziano Milan Linen - LOVE it. Not many slubs, not a lot of uneven spots and over one stitching looks fantastic. It's becoming more widely available, though not in many colours. It has a nice hand, it's not oversoft and floppy, but not heavily starched. The fabric itself is much thicker than others, so it doesn't need a lot of starch.

Wichelt/Permin Linen - I avoid it at all costs. It's very thin with huge holes, which makes coverage of any kind of stitching uneven. It's also incredibly heavily starched which makes it feel like cardboard. They have lots of pretty colours, but I still won't opt for it. The only merit I can find is that it's good for pulled and drawn threadwork.

Zweigart Quaker Cloth - I actually quite like this. It's a mix of cotton and linen, and it's pretty even, and the cotton gives it a bit more body than a pure linen. I don't know if I'd want to do a huge piece over one on it, there are others I like better, but it's not terrible. It is pretty heavily starched, so I recommend washing and pressing it before use to soften it up, but it's got a nice hand afterward.

Zweigart Lugana - I don't mind it for over 1 work, it's quite nice. When you're stitching a solidly stitched piece, it's much more affordable than linen, and it works well for the job. Available in tons of colours of both standard and hand dyed, so it's a good choice for those who don't like linen.

Wichelt Jobelan - My favourite for over 1. About the same price as lugana, but I like how it feels and stitches more. Very even, very soft, and nice and thick. Again, available in lots of standard and hand dyed colours, so it's a nice, affordable alternative to linen.

Zweigart Jazlyn - I don't mind this one. Similar to lugana or jobelan, but I find I have to cope with threads slipping a bit more often. I find it's a bit more dense as well. All in all not a bad fabric though, and there are some good colours out there.

Charles Craft Monaco - Hate it. I hate aida, so that's not a big surprise, as it is exactly the same fabric, just in a higher count. I find it overstarched, stiff, rips threads to shreds, and I just don't like it. I see it as a basic transition fabric - if you've only used aida and want to branch out into evenweaves, it's probably a good one to start with.

Zweigart Jubilee - I like it marginally better than Monaco, though I've been able to get it in hand dyed colours so that's probably why. Basically the same as monaco, but because it had been dyed it was a bit softer. Still rough on threads though, so I won't be using it again anytime soon.

That's about all I can think of that I've used in 28 count. I've never bought any of the pre-packs of linen from MCG, DMC or any of the others. Having picked up the package and felt what seemed like a piece of cardboard inside, I figured it was best to leave them alone. lol

30 Count Fabrics

Legacy Linen - Not crazy about this one, it's pretty starchy and the holes are really big. Some pretty colours, but nothing I couldn't replicate in some other brand of fabric.

Legacy Linen Dower Quality - Now this is a nice linen. The threads used for it are much thicker than those of the standard one mentioned above, and it's very even which makes it great for over one stitching. Love it. Not many colours, but useful neutral colours.

R&R/Weeks Linen - Not sure what they use as a base for their 30 ct, but I don't really like it. It's a bit gauzy for my taste, too open which causes a lot of uneven stitching. It's a shame, as they're very pretty colours. I suspect it may be Northern Cross linen, the feel is similar, slightly softer due to the washing and dying, but I can't say for sure.

Graziano Assisi Linen - As with all of their linens, this one is wonderful. Nice and thick, even, and not overstarched. Great over 1 fabric.

That's the extent of my experience with 30 count fabrics. :)

32 Count Fabrics

Zweigart Belfast Linen - I don't mind this one in hand dyed, though I do find it a tad flimsy compared to some of the others out there. The advantage of this linen is the humongous range of colours you can get it in, both in standard and hand dyed. This is the base most fabric dyers use for their 32 count linens. As a standard colour, it's starchy, but will soften up with use, or washing, or even steam ironing will often do the trick. Overall not bad, but a bit thinner than I like. The biggest drawback to me is the number of slubs and uneven spots. You never know when you order if you're going to get a good piece, or a bad one. I've had some I was very happy with, others I wasn't so happy with. It seems quality control may be an issue. ;)

Wichelt/Permin Linen - Again, overstarched and gauzy, lots of slubs. Way too open for my taste. Probably good for pulled work, but I try to avoid it.

Graziano Sienna Linen - Lovely fabric. Few slubs, very even, nice and thick and sturdy without being heavily starched. Really wonderful to work with. Yes, it's expensive, but if you're very tactile like me, you don't mind the extra few dollars for the experience. :)

Zweigart Lugana - While I like this fabric in 28 ct, I'm not a huge fan of it in 32. If ever a fabric was too dense, this one might just be. Very tiny holes with very little give, which puts a lot of friction on the thread and wears it, even with a bigger needle. I have used it a fair bit, and I have a fair bit more on hand from a fabric of the month club, but I've been giving it away to friends as they need it for projects. The advantage is that it comes in a huge range of colours, lots of dyers use it as a base and it's relatively inexpensive.

Wichelt Jobelan - Ahhh, that's more like it. While it has a similar feel to the lugana, it stitches ever so much nicer in my opinion. The holes are easier to see and don't wear on threads near as much. It's available in lots of colours too, but not as many dyers use it.

Zweigart Jazlyn - Pretty darn dense too, but I find it has a better give than the lugana. I like it at this count, but I'd probably opt for Jobelan if the same colour was available in both.

That's about the limit of my experience with 32 count fabrics.

34 Count Fabrics

Legacy Linen - Love it, love it, love it. Actually, it's about the only one I can think of in the 34 count category, or at least the only one I've used. Only a few colours, but lovely neutral colours. It's even, very few slubs, thick and dense but with easy to see holes. It's got some give, so pulled and drawn work is nice to do on it. Not very heavily starched. All in all, the perfect fabric if you like this count.

35 Count Fabrics

Weeks Dye Works/R&R Linen - Again, pretty thin and gauzy as far as linens go. Very open fabric, so unless your tension is perfect, you'll get uneven stitching. Probably good for pulled or drawn work, but I haven't tried this on this fabric. Some awfully pretty colours make it tempting though. When I've tried something more than just cross stitch on it, I'll definitely report back.

Weddigen Linen - I just got this, and I have to say, I love it. Wonderful fabric. I like it as much as I like the Legacy 34 ct, which is saying something. I've only done a small amount of test stitching on it, but I loved every minute of it. Will be using it for Sampler Cove's Time Well Spent in the near future. :) Very even, very few slubs, nice and thick. Excellent quality if you can find it available. I got mine at Traditional Stitches, and it's extremely reasonably priced, though they only have it in cream. Will be on the lookout for other colours and/or counts of this stuff!

HDF Linen - This fabric is no longer available, but I thought I'd mention it in case you manage to find some on ebay or in someone's stash swap/sales. I've got lots, but I won't be parting with mine. ;) It's lovely linen. The threads are nice and thick, though there are some thick/thin spots, however not many slubs. Great hand to it, it's not at all starched but has a good body to it.

That's all I've used at this count, I'm sure there are others.

36 Count Fabrics

Zweigart Edinburgh Linen - As the counts climb, I become fonder of Zweigart linens. They become more even with fewer slubs. That said, there are still uneven spots and slubs, just not as many. It's still a bit flimsy for my taste, but it's available in so many colours, from so many dyers, that I can live with it. For a personal project, I'd probably opt for something else, but for a model I'd gladly use it because of it's availability. In the standard colours, I find it a bit starchy, but I tend to go with hand dyeds in this stuff which softens it and tightens up the weave a bit.

HDF Linen - This is also discontinued, but I have a ton of it. It's non-mercerized, so it's a bit fluffy/slubby, and it's a bit thinner than some others. I didn't mind it though, and I'll happily use up what I have.

These are the only fabrics I've used in 36 count. I know there are others, but I can't comment on them.

40 Count Fabrics

Zweigart Newcastle Linen - I like it. I use it - a lot. Again, I find the base fabric a bit starchy, but I tend to use hand dyeds more often than not, so this isn't an issue. It's pretty even, a few uneven spots and a few slubs, but nothing I can't cope with. A bit flimsier than I like, but again, a trade I'm willing to make for the colours I can get and it's availability from lots of dyers.

Graziano Ricamo Linen - My absolute favourite in 40 count. It's available dyed from Lakeside Linens and I've also got some dyed from Sassy's Fabbys, when she was doing some experimenting a while back. It does tend to shrink a bit in the hand dyes though, so keep that in mind if you're planning on picking some up. I love the standard Ivory, and I don't even mind the white. :) Fantastic fabric, all around. Thick, even, wonderful body, hardly any slubs at all. Really, really wonderful fabric.

HDF Linen - Again, no longer available, but I do recommend if you find some, buy it! It's wonderfully soft but has a good body. Slightly larger holes than most 40's, so it's easier to see to stitch on. The only drawback I've found is that the warp and weft aren't even - I've stitched 2 square pieces on it, and they didn't come out square. Not a big deal for me, I don't really mind, but it might make a difference as to what project you'd use it for.

45 and Higher Count Fabrics - enter if you dare!

Graziano Florence Linen - 45 count. LOVE IT! Wonderful fabric, very even, not starchy, great body. I've used it for a number of pieces and I really do love it. I stick to mostly cross stitch when I get up to this high a count because I find the fabrics tend to be too dense for much else. Available in hand dyes from Lakeside, and again I have a few colours from Sassy's Fabbys when she was experimenting. Yes, it does shrink up a bit from dying - ends up about 48 count.

Legacy Dower Quality - 48 count. It took me a while to come to grips with this stuff. Extremely dense, I had a tough time getting my needle through it. Now having used it a bit more, I really do like it. I prefer the Florence because it's easier for me to get, but this is lovely too. Lakeside dyes it in a few standard colours - though if you're willing to pay for it, they're willing to dye it in any of their colours so long as you're buying a big enough piece.

Zweigart Kingston Linen - 55 count. I've seen it described as 50 count as well. I like it. I've only been able to find it in white though, I hear it's also available in cream, so that kind of limits it's usefulness to me, but it's not a bad linen at all. A bit thinner than the others I've mentioned, but at this count, that's not that big a deal. It's a bit slubbier than the others (is slubbier a word?) but all in all it's a nice fabric.

I know there are other high count fabrics out there that I'd love to try given the opportunity. I'll have to find somewhere to get Gander linens by the yard that don't charge outrageous amounts for shipping. I do have some non stitchy friends in Belgium and France, I might be able to talk them into a visit to the factory with a shopping list someday. :D

After all that, what is it that determines what fabric I use?

Well, first and foremost, what's the project? Cross stitch? Hardanger? Tons of specialty stitches? Pulled threadwork? That is one of the factors that determines what I use. I don't mind the higher counts for most of it, but I find pulled threadwork is better on counts below 40, the fabrics just have more give to them.

Second, and just as important is colour. If I want a specific colour for the project, I kind of have to use the counts it's available in, right? lol

I'm going to do another post entirely later on in the week about choosing the right colour of floss and fabric for a project. When to use mottled fabric or variegated threads, when to use solid colours. I know I touched on it a bit a long while back, but being that it's an important issue, I'll touch on it some more. :)

And now I'm off to spend the rest of my day off stitching!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Dopey...

Yep, I'm currently most of the seven dwarves rolled into one.

Sleepy - Still trying to catch up on zzzz's after staying up for two weeks straight to watch the olympics. Also from picking up extra shifts at work. Sleeping in tomorrow, any cat that attempts to wake me early will rapidly experience flight.

Happy - Well, I just got word from my distributor, European Cross Stitch, with a list of shops that have ordered my designs. I'm extremely happy, elated, excited and overjoyed to report that Northern Expressions designs are available in 50 shops throughout Canada, USA and even Australia! WOO HOO!! Thanks in no small part go to Kathy, Angie and Cindy from ECS who do such a spectacular job, and of course to Thai Di, who snuck behind my back to introduce my designs to ECS!! I've updated my list. :)

Grumpy - This kind of ties into the needing sleep thing - also to two cats who won't shut up. They have this habit lately of meowing constantly whenever I'm at the computer. Either at the cupboard with the treats in it, or wanting me to pick them up and hug them, or just sitting right in front of me on the desk in front of the computer. Currently Tigger is pawing Nate's door wanting in. Nate has already kicked him out twice for sitting on his keyboard. Squeaky is digging at the cupboard. I'm giving them treats momentarily in hopes it will quiet them for a few minutes, though I doubt it. Update - that didn't work. Now they're not meowing, but chasing each other about the house. Who'd have though that two little cats, no more than 20lbs between them, could sound like a herd of elephants?

Dopey - Again, I think this probably has something to do with needing sleep, but it could just be me. Probably me.

Sneezy - This is due to a combination of things - change of weather is bringing on a cold, or aggravating my sinus thing. (Sinus thing - not an infection, but some sort of inflammation which has my entire left sinus blocked, but I can't afford time off work for surgery right now so I live with it). Or it could just be that 1 in 10 customers in the store today felt the need to bathe in cheap perfume/cologne.

Bashful - Me??? Not likely.

Doc - Well I'm not bearded, though I'm short, chubby and wear glasses (well contact lenses). Does that count?

Okay so five of seven. Not bad.

Day off tomorrow, going to sleep, stitch and relax, in that order.