Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Release for the Online Needlework Show

It's become a tradition. Every year I do some sort of unusual band sampler for the fall Online Show which starts tomorrow. The past two years have been two of my my most popular designs, the diagonal Twisted Band Sampler and Twisted Rainbow Sampler. This year I wanted something a little different, and my friend Esther gave me the most incredible idea.... so I introduce you to Esther's Waves.

It's stitched in 11 lovely autumn tones from Dinky Dyes and a multitude of Delica beads on Stephanie's Honey Amber linen and will be featured on the Dinky Dyes page in the show for shop purchases. There's also a cross stitch only version for those who prefer aida. :)

Both are now up in my Etsy shop if you prefer PDF format.

I've been working with a few dyers on different conversions to different colour schemes. Both Thread Pickerz and Fiberlicious have worked up some beautiful colourways. LOTS of yummy colour ideas!!

I've already started on sketches for next year's edition, because my hubby's OCD went off the charts when I released waves done in autumn colours. It's already got a name... Ocean waves... and as you can imagine, it'll have lots of blues, aquas, turquoises and greens.

I've started on my next model as well... the next installment in the Celtics called Celtic Flutter. It's all done in purples (very yummy purples) and beads and crystals and butterflies and dragonflies. I know I already did Celtic Wings, but this one is very different! I promise!

And with that... back to printing. ;)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2 New Releases!

I've been under a mass of threads and fabrics this past month or so... lots of stitching and lots of picking out colours for new stuff to come!

And with all that stitching comes two new releases.... first is Positive and Negative. It's sort of based on the idea of Assisi stitching, but I really hate backstitching so I skipped that part. ;) The top and bottom of the design are opposite mirror images alternating stitching the positive space and the negative space.

The model is stitched on 36 ct Antiqued Linen from Garibaldi's Needle Works and is a perfect compliment to the rusty reds from The Silk Mill. The chart also includes conversions to AVAS, NPI and DMC.

Second is the eighth design in the Shades of series: Shades of Olive.

The model is stitched on a 40ct Regency from Picture This Plus, which is a lovely light tan with a greenish undertone and sets off the rich olive silks from Classic Colorworks. The chart includes a conversion to Dinky Dyes and to DMC.

I've also been busily stitching away on Not Quite Whitework, working on Part 6 at the moment which I've just sent out to SAL members. The columns are stitching up wonderfully, even better than I'd hoped when I was dreaming this one up. :)

Excuse the awful picture... I was just snapping a quick pic and realized after that I had the light coming through behind it and I'm too lazy to go take another one right now. lol I'm using Dinky Dyes silks on this one, on 36ct Raw linen.

Also working on lots of charting and picking out colours for new stuff as usual. :)

And now back to printing and packing...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A New Release - Shades of Green

As usual I've been terrible at keeping the blog up to date. It's so hard to remember everything with all the different forms of social media I just get overwhelmed and unfortunately sometimes forget!

I've been stitching off and on for the past couple of months, not as much as usual. We've had a lot of very humid and rainy weather here in Southern Ontario which has my rheumatoid arthritis in overdrive. I don't have it very badly compared to some, I'm still in the very early stages of it, but it's more a case of where I have it - in my left hand and my left shoulder - that causes grief while stitching. Some days, like today, I have a mild ache but the pain is bearable. Days like yesterday, my hand is swollen, red and almost impossible to move without extreme discomfort. Thank goodness for naproxen or I'd never get anything done!!

But it has been a while since I've posted any updates, so here's what I am and have been working on!! lol

First up, a new release, Shades of Green. This one is stitched in Fiberlicious hand dyed silks on 40ct Pablano linen from Sassy's Fabbys. Currently, Sassy's is on hiatus for a while, so I'm recommending Picture This Plus Chrysalis as an alternative colour, it's almost spot on and will look lovely.

It's the seventh in the Shades series. There are still five more to come, 4 of them are with model stitchers and will be coming soon, and one is here all kitted and ready to stitch when I get around to it (I have a couple others coming up in the rotation before I get to it).

I've also been working on Not Quite Whitework. I'm a little bit ahead of the class at this point, I'm finished up to Part 5 which comes out in August and will be picking it back up to work on it some more soon. :) Here is where I left off:

It's been a fun one so far! With so many different stitches, it's hard to get bored with it. I'm using the Dinky Dyes spring colours and it's stitching up beautifully. :)

I did sneak in another piece in between models as well, a wedding gift for my brother who got married in May. This is Promessa, by Alessandra Adelaide Needleworks. I stitched it all in Delica Beads and Swarovski crystals (with a little bit of silk and metallics for accents), on Stephanie's 36ct Midnight Tryst. It came out even better than I had imagined it in my plotting and scheming!!

And finally a new design I'm working on model stitching, called Positive and Negative. I just started this one last week, so not much to show off yet, but here is the floss toss and the first WIP picture after about 30 hours of stitching.

I'm using Silk Mill silks for this one and the colours are just gorgeous. The fabric is from a new-to-me dyer called Garibaldi's Needleworks. They're wonderful if you haven't tried them, the offer lovely single colour marbled fabrics in a wide array of colours and even do fabric swatches so you can floss toss before deciding on a colour. This colour is called Antiqued, it's a lovely neutral with a peachy undertone.

Since I haven't been able to stitch as much as I'd like, I've been doing a lot of charting as well, so there will be lots more new designs for years to come. :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Why doesn't my hand dyed fabric/floss look like the picture?

If you've been stitching for any length of time and use any hand dyed products then this is something you've encountered before. The question is, why does it happen?

The answer? LOTS of reasons. It's all a matter of chemistry.

If you've ever painted or wall-papered your house, you know that you have to buy enough up front, because if you run out and have to get more, it might not match.

Let's start with fabric.

The first thing to remember is that not all fabrics take dye the same way, AND that not all dyes work the same way. Some dyes work best with animal fibers (silk or wool for example). Some dyes work best with plant fibers (cotton or linen) and some work best with synthetics (like rayon). If you remember anything from chemistry in high school - some things don't react with each other and some things do, and in varying degrees. All fibres used in fabric (and floss) have a different molecular structure, so using the same dye for every type of fibre just doesn't work very well.

What happens when you dye is a chemical reaction. The dye molecules form a chemical bond with the fabric molecules. Usually this requires a catalyst - either a chemical added to the dye bath or heat - something which will cause the chemical reaction to happen. Some molecules react more strongly with each other, some react more weakly with each other. Some also form stronger bonds than others - which is why some hand dyed materials are not colourfast (but I'll touch on that more later).

Most fabric dyers work with dyes made for plant based fibers, because most fabric is made with natural plant fibers or a combination of plant and synthetic. These are chemically engineered to react with organic (carbon based) plant molecules. Because of this, linen and cotton fabrics will always give you the most vivid or darkest colours. Why? Because on a fabric like aida, which is usually 100% cotton, the dye reacts with more molecules of fiber than it will in lugana, which is only 52% cotton. Thus, aida will be darker than lugana. The same is true with linen vs. lugana. This is also why an opalescent fabric dyes lighter than a non opalescent - because the opalescent fibers are synthetic and don't react significantly with the dye. In other words your friend's linen will NOT look the same as your lugana. The same can be said for linen vs. aida - linen will usually dye darker because the molecules that make up linen react differently with the dye than the molecules that make up cotton. This is not the dyer's fault, this is simply due to the nature of atoms and molecules.

Some dyers will make an effort to show the same dye colour on various different fabrics, so you can get a better idea of what it will look like when it arrives, some don't. It's always easiest when you know what kind of fabric the picture was taken on. So if you see a picture of a deep dark blue on Belfast linen and you order it in lugana instead, don't be surprised that it's not as deep and dark as the picture was. You also have to consider that not all cameras are created equally. Some are more accurate than others. And not all monitors and computer graphics cards are created equally. So what you see on your monitor might not look even remotely like what the same picture looks like on my monitor or what it looks like on the dyer's monitor. The light the picture is taken in or whether or not a flash was used will also make a huge difference to how the fabric looks.

Makes sense, right?

So now the question... I ordered a piece of blue linen last month and the same colour of blue linen this month and they're not the same. Why is that?

Most fabric dyers dye to order. They don't dye up large quantities to hold in stock because, let's face it, every piece of fabric that doesn't sell quickly is tying up raw materials, space, time and money. Unless you're a massive company that ships out yards and yards of fabric every day, this is just not feasible. 

There are a lot of things that factor into dye lot variations. The temperature of the water, the ambient temperature of the room, relative humidity in the air, the tiniest variation in dye amounts, different batches of dye from the supplier, variations in water additives from the water treatment plant, different batches of fabric from the supplier... heck even weather conditions in the year the flax or cotton was grown will make a difference because they all affect the molecular structure of both the dye and the fabric. Dyers can make every effort to exactly replicate the recipe each time they dye a colour, but unless they are doing their dying in a hermetically sealed, climate controlled chemistry lab, these things are bound to happen, and most of them are beyond the dyer's control.

That is not to say that there aren't dyers out there who aren't sloppy about dye lots. I'm certain there are. Some are more particular than others of course, but at least this helps to explain a little bit about why your piece of fabric doesn't look like your friend's.

So why is it that Zweigart can make the same solid colours over and over again?

The answer is that they can't. These same variations apply as much to a huge corporation like Zweigart as they do to a small dyer on Facebook. The main difference its that Zweigart makes fabrics in such large batches that it might be 2-3 years between dye lots in less popular colours. So the piece you bought last month and the one you bought this month are probably from the same dye lot. Even six months from now this will likely be true unless it's a very popular colour like white or antique white. When they do run a new batch of a colour there will be slight variations from the last one. It's inevitable. Ask a shop owner - they will tell you - sometimes antique white is more white than white, and sometimes flax is darker than raw. It happens on this large scale too, it's just longer time periods between dye lots so it's not as noticeable.

These same things apply to floss, but on an even grander scale, because now you're not only talking about the variations above, which all apply to floss as well, you also have to factor in that dye patterns will inevitably change from batch to batch. Not necessarily the order of the colours in a variegated thread, but the length of the dye patterns. Even a variance of a millimetre in the placement of dye will affect the final result.

Unlike fabric dyers, most floss dyers don't dye on request but keep a running stock because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to dye one skein at a time. A dye lot of floss can range anywhere from 20 - 1000 skeins or more. Some dye floss already cut into skeins, some dye in larger hanks and separate into skeins later. How often a dye lot changes depends solely on how much floss a dyer sells.

And again the question comes up - then how come DMC colours don't change as much?

Again, they do, but like Zweigart, DMC dyes colours in such large batches that it can take a very long time between dye lots so it's not as noticeable. But if you look at a skein of any colour from five years ago and compare it to a skein bought yesterday, it's pretty likely they're not identical.

Why can't I wash my hand dyed materials?

Most dyers make every effort to make sure their colours are as colourfast as possible, but again, it all comes down to chemical reactions. Most of the time when colours run it's not because they are breaking these bonds, but because there are residual excess dye molecules that didn't bond with the fabric or floss and the washing process frees these molecules. Most dyers wash and rinse fabric and floss after dying but these can still be present and there is NOTHING you can do about this except to keep rinsing until you've rinsed away all of these residual molecules. Adding salt or vinegar to your wash will not prevent unbonded molecules from washing away, nor will they make them bond if the fabric or floss is already saturated - meaning there are no fibre molecules left for the dye to bond with.

As I mentioned earlier, some molecules form stronger bonds, and some form weaker bonds. Generally when dying, a catalyst is required to make the chemical reaction happen. In simpler terms, to make the fibre molecules combine with the dye molecules. Sometimes this is an added chemical, sometimes it's the addition of heat. This is why most dyers will tell you to that if you are going to wash, use very cold water. Hot water is a catalyst and can break these bonds. The stronger the bond is, the more washable the finished product is. The strength of the bond will vary from colour to colour and fibre to fibre - why? Because each of these molecules is different and reacts differently. Occasionally when your colours run, it is the washing process actually breaking these bonds. In these cases, adding salt or vinegar or a chemical like Retayne, CAN help to alleviate the problem, BUT how effective each is depends on what dye and what dye process the original dyer used. For example, vinegar might help with one brand of dye but do absolutely nothing with another brand of dye.

The best way to combat the problem is to not wash anything dyed, though this isn't a reality for some. It's always best to rinse materials well in cold water before using them to avoid disasters later. If you didn't rinse and have to wash, make your water as cold as possible and use a very mild soap. And if a disaster happens and it does run while washing, rinse, rinse, and rinse some more. Don't let the fabric dry, just keep rinsing until the water runs clear.

The point of all of this? While most dyers will allow you to return or exchange pieces of fabric or skeins of floss that aren't right to try to please their customers, much of what we complain about isn't always fixable. Remember from science class - every tiny variation in an experiment will cause a change in the result. When it comes to dying there are no guarantees.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

New 12 month Stitch Along, Not Quite Whitework!

Original Colours (Spring colourway)

Start Date: April 1, 2015
End Date: March 31, 2016
Price: $20
Stitches Used : a little bit of everything - but NO Queen Stitches this time.

As the name implies, Not Quite Whitework is a twist on traditional whitework samplers. I named it Not Quite Whitework for two reasons, first, because it's not all done white on white, but a combination of white and pastel on a light neutral background. And second because it doesn't include any cutwork, which most traditional whitework has. This is mainly because while I know how to do it, my software is pretty limited and I'm a stickler for good diagrams – I would hate to release a substandard product and there are many designers out there who are much better at explaining cutwork than I am. There is very little cross stitch – just the alphabet and a few small areas of darning patterns. There are textured stitches, patterned stitches and pulled stitches, used as examples of different ways you can fill areas of fabric for other types of projects. As with the Learning Sampler, diagrams will be step by step, so the project is suitable for everyone from beginner to expert.

Floss for the model is from Dinky Dyes, and materials packs will be available from European Cross Stitch if you choose to use the same materials I am using for the model.

Fabric for the model is from Needleworker's Delight and will also be available from European Cross Stitch.

Stitch Count: 393w x 249h
Design Size: 19 ¾ x 12 ½ inches on 40 count fabric (20 stitches per inch)
22 x 14 inches on 36 count fabric (18 stitches per inch)
24 ½ x 15 ½ inches on 32 count fabric (16 stitches per inch)
28 x 17 ¾ inches on 28 count fabric (14 stitches per inch)

These dimensions are for the design ONLY. You need to add extra to each side for framing/finishing. The model is being stitched on 36ct Zweigart Raw linen, but you can use what you are most comfortable with. It does require linen or evenweave as the design is mostly specialty stitches which are more difficult to do on Aida. As far as colour goes, you'll want a light neutral in a count that you can see the holes clearly on. I'm using 36ct because I like using a single strand (except for the satin stitches which will require 2), but if you prefer something bigger or smaller that works too.

Floss requirements:
000 Natural or DMC Blanc x 7 skeins (10 skeins for 28-32ct)
003 Lavender Mist or DMC 605 x 1 skein
204 Flesh or DMC 967 x 1 skein
153 Egg Custard or DMC 3078 x 1 skein
219 Pistachio or DMC 955 x 2 skeins (3 skeins for 28-32ct)
008 Mint Ice or DMC 964 x 1 skein
010 Cloudy Sky or DMC 800 x 1 skein
208 Hydrangea or DMC 3747 x 1 skein
005 Mulberry Ice or DMC 153 x 1 skein

This is by no means a perfect conversion. The colours are close, but the DMC is darker overall and solid instead of overdyed. The Dinky Dyes are much softer colours. Usage will be the same for either Dinky Dyes or DMC as the skeins are the same size. Usage on 36-40ct assumes 1 strand for cross stitch and specialty stitches (except satin stitches). On 28-32ct it assumes 2 strands for cross stitch and satin stitches and one strand for the rest of the specialty stitches.

Of course you don't need to follow the colours I'm using – they are just a suggestion, you are free to use whatever your little heart desires! This would look very cool done with a white or cream overdye and replacing all of the colours with a variegated rainbow pastel colour! The possibilities are endless. Here are a few other ideas:

Autumn Colourway
Summer Colourway
Winter Colourway
The stitch-along is broken down into 12 parts. I will include the full border layout with Part 1, so you can choose to work ahead and stitch the borders first, or stitch them bit by bit as the parts are released. I will be doing the diagrams for each stitch in step by step pieces, so if these are new to you, you should have no trouble following along. Parts will be sent out on the 1st of each month via email.
Materials packs will be available in 1-2 weeks - Dinky Dyes is away at Nasvhille Market and will need a few days to recover before they can put them together for ECS.

If you would like to sign up for this, you can email me at :)

I'm working on part 2 at the moment, and I'm hoping to get a few parts stitched up ahead of the start date. :) I'll update from time to time with my model WIP pictures!

Side note - blogger is really beginning to drive me crazy - constantly inserting/removing line breaks and adding huge gaps. It's very annoying. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Two new releases for Nashville Market

I wish I could go to Nasvhille market personally, but my models are making the trek there currently and will be on display in the Dinky Dyes Suite in room #420!

One is a familiar one, The Learning Sampler. Now that the SAL is over, the design is being re-released in print to shops and through PDF on my Etsy shop. With over 40 pages and over 80 diagrams it's a great way for beginners to get a feel for different types of stitches.

The design was model stitched with silks from The Silk Mill, but can be done in any colour. I've uploaded a couple of conversion lists for the design to different colour schemes and different brands of floss.

Solid colour coversions:

Multicolour conversions:

The second is a brand new design, the next in the Shades series, Shades of Rose. The model is stitched in 3 colours of Dinky Dyes silk floss on 40ct Elizabeth linen from Hand Dyed Fabrics by Stephanie. This one is all cross stitch so it can of course be stitched on any type or count of fabric. :)

This one was a last minute addition, had to do a lot of shuffling around of the schedule and give up sleep for the past few weeks to get it all done in time, but I'm pleased that I did! It turned out really well, the picture just doesn't do the gorgeous pinks justice. :) 

These will both be available from Hoffman after the Nashville show - I didn't get everything done in time to ship the charts to them before the show started so they will be a week or two before they make it to Hoffman, but are available from Dinky Dyes now, or if you prefer PDF, they're up in my Etsy shop. :)

Happy stitching! :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A little freebie for Valentine's Day

This is a little quickie I stitched up last night - it's one of the original ideas from Celtic Valentine that didn't get used but it was too pretty NOT to do something with it. :)

It's the perfect size for a biscornu, a pincushion, a needleminder, or a hand made Valentine's card.

In the interest of using up stash, I used a leftover piece of 32ct antique white fabric and a limited edition skein of Hand Dyed Fibers I bought back in 2008. The beads were leftover from a Mirabilia. :)

You can download the chart here:

Happy Stitching!