Twisted Rainbow Sampler by Northern Expressions Needlework

Something colourful for the Aussies heading back to work and everyone else experiencing Tuesday blues …  Twisted Rainbow Sampler by Nicole Dostal of Northern Expressions Needlework.

Northern Expressions - Twisted Rainbow Sampler

From the Designer

Twisted Band Sampler has been my most popular design, and I have had no end of requests to do another one like it. When I saw the lovely colours that Eileen from Thread Pickerz had dyed for her own Twisted Band Sampler, my brain started working overtime and this was the result.

Why this chart?

I adore bright bold colours. I love working on black fabric, and I love a “twist” on an established genre, so there’s no surprise Twisted Rainbow Sampler is in my stash.

Twisted Rainbow Sampler not only shows us the fun of stitching motifs on the diagonal,it also includes speciality stitches; Upright Rice Stitch, Diamond Eyelet Stitches, Scallop Stitch, Norwich Stitch, Double Leviathan Stitch, Horizontal Satin Stitch, Diamond Algerian Eye, Smyrna Diamond, Diamond Eyelet, Diamond Rhodes, Jessica Stitch, Rice Stitch, Ray Stitch, Square Ray Stitch, Sprat’s Head Corner stitch, and a Long Armed Smyrna Diamond.

Nicole uses page of information and illustrations to show us how to complete each stitch, even the partial stitches at the end of each row. If however you don’t want to use specialty stitches, Nicole has provided a cross stitch only version of the sampler.

If you are a beginner but wish to try the specialty stitches, then do it! I feel that Nicole has provided great information to try these stitches for the first time; just follow the numbers on each diagram.

Otherwise, hunt YouTube for stitch tutorials such as this one for the Sprat’s Head Stitch.


Northern Expressions Needlework designs are available as printed charts in your local Needlework Store or in PDF Digital form from Nicole’s Etsy store.

As I have no patience, do not wish to pay postage costs to Australia and prefer to stitch from files on my tablet, I will usually have PDF format to review.

The Twisted Band Sampler chart pack includes a cover page, one page of introductions and materials, ten pages of stitching instructions and diagrams, a one page chart and finally the eight pages of chart.

The cover page includes  colour photo of the finished stitched project and an email address if you need to contact the designer.

The materials page lists all the kitting up information, stitch count, size of material on standard fabric counts, the fabric used for the model stitch and floss used.  There are floss options for Thread Pickerz Silkz, Dinky Dyes floss and DMC. Nicole says:

“This is not an exact conversion, some colours are close, some not so close. Rather than matching colour to colour I went for what would result in a smooth transition in each brand of floss.”

Nicole uses 10 pages to discuss and offer diagrams for the 18 bands to this sampler.  Considering every second band is cross stitch, this averages to a full page of discussion and diagrams for each specialty band.  Each discussion lists which colour to use, which type of stitch and then how to do those stitches. She even lists if there will be threads between the stitches or if they will meet.  The diagrams are so good, I’m going to use them when a different design calls for one of these stitches.

The one page chart is simply a placement guide to identify each bands and to see how the design fits together.

The eight page chart is large enough to stitch the cross stitch symbols and to mark your progress on the specialty stitches.  Each subsequent page has a two-row overlap to help maintain your place. The cross stitch floss symbols are printed quite large so this is an easy chart to see and follow.  There is good disparity between the cross stitch symbols and the specialty stitches.  Although you will need the instructions pages to stitch the specialty bands, the main chart is a great way to check you progress.

Do note however, that the width of the sampler is across two pages, so if you want to start in the top left corner, you will need to start on page 2 of the chart.  I feel the one page chart should have the page lines on it so you can tell at a glance where each page fits into the design.

Twisted Rainbow Sampler is stitched with one thread over 32ct  fabric because it is a companion to Twisted Band Sampler which is stitched with one thread over 32ct  fabric.  This design can be stitched on any count of fabric.  I do highly recommend stitching on an evenweave (or linen). as some of the specialty stitches would be a pain to do on Aida.

Northern Expressions - Twisted Rainbow Sampler closeup

My Experience

Amanda Koppelow‎ – I have nothing but positive things to say about Nicole’s charts they are so clear and easy to read. So many stitchers are unnecessarily scared of stitching speciality stitches, but Nicole’s diagrams are some of the best you will find!

I stitched it in the called for Thread Pickerz silks, but the design is so versatile that you could stitch it in a colour way of you choice. I used 32ct for mine and found I needed to use 2 strands for the cross stitch sections as I prefer a fuller coverage – but I had plenty of silk leftover, so no worries about running out and different dyelots etc.

Photo and stitching courtesy of Amanda Koppelow‎
Photo and stitching courtesy of Amanda Koppelow‎

Materials Required

To stitch the charts exactly as designed, you will need:

Thread Pickerz Silkz - Rainbow PackThread Pickerz Silkz Rainbow Pack, one skein each: Christmas red, Salmon, Princes Peach, Golden Orange, Golden Yellow, Buttercup, Pistachio, Slime, Bowling green, Mermaids tail, Turquoise, King of the blues, Periwinkle, Amethyst, P3, Mauve, Fushia, Pink raver.

Dinky Dyes - Rainbow Thread PPackOR Dinky Dyes Twisted Rainbow Sampler Silk Pack, one skein each: Desert Pea, Jindalee, Outback, Tropic Sunshine, Lemon Myrtle, Wattle, Bikley Valley, Peridot, Binda, Bermuda, Turquoise, Shark Bay, Violet, Claremont, Orchid, Hardenbergia, Brambleberry, Wild Strawberry.

OR 1 skein each DMC 321, 350, 721, 972, 973, 907, 702, 911, 3812, 3844, 798, 3838, 3746, 208, 917, 3804, 601.

32ct Weeks Dye Works “Onyx” Belfast Linen (stitch count 144 x 288). This design can only be stitched over 2 due to the specialty stitches.

Weeks Dye Works - Onyx

For 28ct evenweave (with 3″ border allowance) fabric size is: 16½” x 27”  or  42 x 68cm  or  a fat quarter (18 x 27″).

Approximate cost for Project

Approximate cost to stitch this design using the recommended materials (prices are in $US, at recommended retail and do  not include postage):

Chart: $20.00
Floss:  $ 53.55
Fabric: $23.35

Total: $96.90 ($126.35 AUD or €99.60  or  £61.70)

Places to Buy

Northern Expressions Needlework Etsy store sells PDF charts worldwide.  Due to the changes in UK/EU laws, the PDF charts will be manually emailed to you within 48 hours of purchase.

Thread Pickerz Silkz sells the Rainbow Pack of silks used in this design.

Dinky Dyes sells an alternate Twisted Rainbow Sampler Silk Pack that can be used in this design.


Colours Down Under stocks DMC, Dinky Dyes and a variety of plain fabrics. Jo would be happy to order in the printed chart, and offers a 10% discount on the package (chart + floss). Mention this review when ordering.

Colour Cascade Fabrics suggests “Back In Black or Sorcerer” for this design.

Tammy offers a 15% discount for readers of this site. Code is: CSReview. Offer ends 27 February 2015.


Traditional Stitches in Calgary have the chart, Weeks Dye Works fabric and Dinky Dyes threads in stock.


Casa Cenina in Italy has the chart in stock, as well as a variety of fabrics and floss.

United Kingdom:

SewandSo has the Dinky Dyes floss and Weeks Dye Works linen in stock.

Chromatic Alchemy  “I love how the rainbow sampler looks on black but I really am loathe to stitch on it as my eyes aren’t what they used to be! So here’s an alternative that would be easier on the stitching eye – Elsa”

Crafty Kitten “I really love this design – but it’s one that is so busy and loaded with colour I would be inclined to use white or black to stitch it on.  If I was to use a hand dyed it would be moondust, so something subtle which won’t detract from the sampler”

Crafty Kitten is also running a competition on her site: any orders placed in January over £10 would go into a draw for a £10 Crafty Kitten gift voucher.

Sparklies “I know there are people stitching one of her other designs on my fabrics, not sure if anyone is doing this one, but still, either Ink or Pitch would be ideal for this.”

Thread Pickerz Silkz Rainbow Pack, one skein each: Christmas red, Salmon, Princes Peach, Golden Orange, Golden Yellow, Buttercup, Pistachio, Slime, Bowling green, Mermaids tail, Turquoise, King of the blues, Periwinkle, Amethyst, P3, Mauve, Fushia, Pink raver.

United States:

123Stitch has the chart, dinky dyes threads and Weeks Dye Works fabric in stock to kit this up for you.

Black Cat Stitchery in Illinois has floss and fabric in stock and can order in the chart for you.  Erica is offering a 5% discount for readers of Cross Stitch Review.  Coupon code: CSRSPRING15. Offer ends 31 May 2015.

Stitches n Things has floss and fabric in stock and can order in the chat for you.

Dinky Dyes Twisted Rainbow Sampler Silk Pack, one skein each: Desert Pea, Jindalee, Outback, Tropic Sunshine, Lemon Myrtle, Wattle, Bikley Valley, Peridot, Binda, Bermuda, Turquoise, Shark Bay, Violet, Claremont, Orchid, Hardenbergia, Brambleberry, Wild Strawberry.

Fiberlicious “I personally think Rainbow pack from Thread pickers is a really good choice. However, for those who like to stitch with just one variegated colors or one tone of color, I’d suggest using Sea Dragon or Shades of purple for alternative option”


Which floss and fabric combination would you use to stitch the Twisted Rainbow Sampler or Twisted Band Sampler?  Would you stitch the specialty stitches or the Cross Stitch only version?

Thank you to Amanda Koppelow for her insights on stitching this design. If you liked the review, please share it with your friends.

Last Updated: 27 January 2015

Hand Dyed Fabrics

Hand dyed fabrics; or why doesn’t the piece in my hand look anything like the picture on my screen?

Hand Dyeing Techniques

Very broadly speaking, there are two main types of techniques used to hand dye fabrics used in cross stitch:

  • Immersion – fabric is put in the coloured liquid.
  • Painting, including ice dying – coloured liquid is put on the fabric.

Immersion is when you make up a bath of coloured liquid solution and you put the fabric into the solution. Scrunching, wrinkling or tying  the fabric produces the mottled colours we love so much.

Painting is when a thicker coloured solution is dripped, sprayed, painted or melted on the fabric.  These techniques give the dyer more control over where the colour goes, allowing some detailed scenes to be produced.

Ice dyeing is a version of painting where you cover portions (or the whole) fabric in ice pieces. The dry colourants are put on the ice pieces.  As the ice melts, the water wets the dry colourant forming a coloured solution on the fabric.

Fabric Types

There are a number of different types of fabric we stitch on, and they are made from of different natural or artificial fibres.

  • Aida – 100% cotton
  • Hardanger – 100% cotton
  • Jazlyn – 52% cotton and 48% rayon
  • Jobelan – 51% Cotton & 49% Rayon/Modal blend
  • Linen – 100% linen
  • Lugana/Brittney – 52% cotton, 48% viscose
  • Monaco – 100% cotton
  • Murano – 52% cotton 48% modal

Natural fibres such as cotton and linen absorb dyes more readily than artificial fibres, so Aida, Hardanger, Linen and Monaco will come out darker than the other fabrics (given the same conditions).

Photo courtesy of Colour Cascade fabrics
Photo courtesy of Colour Cascade fabrics

Photographing fabrics

The below is a set of images of the same fabric:

  1. the image from the dyers site
  2. photograph of my fabric outside in full sunlight
  3. photograph of my fabric outside in full shade
  4. photograph of my fabric inside
  5. photograph of my fabric under artificial light at night

In reality, my fabric is none of these; it is similar to the first two but much more vibrant. A bright lime green.  So why don’t these reflect what we see?

Colour Vision

Very broadly speaking, the cones in eyes that see colour, fall into variations of Red, Greenish Yellow and Blue/Violet based on whether they are short, medium or long wavelengths.

Monitors, digital cameras, mobile phone displays, but use a Red, Green Blue (RGB) display.  Each pixel on the screen is built by driving three small and very close red, green and blue light sources. These light sources overlay each other to differing degrees to give the differing colours. Usually these separate sources are so small as to be indistinguishable, which tricks the eye to see the intended solid color.  When all RGB are on, we get white.

Representation of a RGB Colour Wheel
Representation of a RGB Colour Wheel


When printing an image, printers generally use the CMYK colour model. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK.  For printers, shades of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow are overlayed on top of the paper (and on each other, to given the colour we want.  When all CMY are used we get black. In practicality, most printers don’t give a true black, more of a muddy black, which is why blacK is the fourth colour used.


To sum up, eyes use wavelengths to see colours.  Digital devices use the subset of colours created by Red Green and Blue lights, heading towards white (full light).  Printers use the subset of colours created by Cyan, Yellow and Magenta, heading for black (absence of light).

There is no possible way for either monitors or printers to accurately reflect the full range of colours that our eyes can see.

Descriptions and comparisons

As well as just showing us these fallible pictures, some dyers use words to help us understand the real colours of their fabrics: “this colour is a bright medium Chartreuse“.  Don’t underestimate the value of this, I once saw a tiny picture of a fabric on my monitor and it looked to be lovely velvety deep blues morphing into black.  When the fabric arrived it was splotchy red and black, like lava and volcanic rock.

Or they compare it to something that we can see in life; as we are stitchers, DMC floss is something we are likely to have at hand: “the approximate DMC colours for this fabric are 437/3827, 3053 and 3859

Hand Dyed Means Unique

OK, so we’ve seen a big picture of the fabric we love, we’ve read the description and checked the floss colours so it should be perfect right?

There are just some variables in hand dyed fabrics that you can never plan for.  The minerals in the water used in the dye bath, the temperature of the water versus the temperature of the ambient air on the day it was dyed, the humidity levels, whether it was line dried or tumble dried, these can subtly change the characteristics of the final piece.

These are three examples of the same fabric, dyed to the same process by the same dyer, each bought months apart:

left is pink/grey;  middle is cream/brown;  right is grey/silver
left is pink/grey; middle is cream/brown; right is grey/silver


But you know what, we use hand dyed fabrics because we want something different, we want something unique and we want something that adds that je ne sais quoi to our project. Just remember, when planning to use the same hand dyed fabric on more than one design:


The same fabric in the same dyelot, dyed at the same time on the same day is the best way to minimise differences in your hand dyed fabrics.

My heartfelt thanks to Tammy Verdon of Colour Cascade Fabrics, Shari & Marilyn from Picture this Plus and Terry Diaz from Youthful Hands Needlecrafts for the use of their images for this article.  Thank you also to Tammy Verdun for confirming the technical aspects of the dyeing process and Julie Dollery for confirming the colour vision section.  All errors are mine and mine alone.

Places to Buy

World Wide:

Fabric Flair has stores in UK and USA. Some products are also sold by their distributor in Australia, Sewitall.  Fabric Flair fabrics are not technically “hand dyed”, they are printed on onre side of the fabric by machine, but I have included them here as they as used the same as hand dyed fabrics.

Wichelt has a range of hand dyed jobelan fabrics that are available in may needlework stores.


Colour Cascade Fabrics Tammy has many hand dyed fabrics that would add a unique element to your stitching. Tammy offers a 15% discount for readers of this site. Use code: CSReview. Offer ends 6 December 2014.

Sewitall supplies some Fabric Flair fabrics but also hand dyes their own colour combinations here in Australia

Stitches and Spice is Australia’s only fabric and thread  hand dyer.


Enchanting Lair produce beautiful fabrics many of which can be used with their great charts.


Annick Abrial creates beautiful hand dyed threads and fabric.


Eclypse’s Colors has a beautiful range of fabrics. These can also be bought in Australia via From Italy with Love

Primitive Hare hand dyes linen in a few different “aged” or “parchment” styles that work wonderfully with her patterns or any samplers.

New Zealand:

Country Stitch has been a long running supplier of hand dyed fabrics.

Nina’s Threads has expanded  into hand dying linen fabrics.

United Kingdom:

Chromatic Alchemy is a Facebook only company that has a great range of bright fabrics.

Crafty Kitten has two ranges of hand dyed fabrics, pastels and vivids.

Jodyri Designs produces hand dyed floss and fabrics.

Polstitches is one of the UK’s longest running and best known fabric and thread hand dyers with their fabrics being recommended for charts in many UK Cross Stitch publications.

Sparklies has a  large range of hand dyed fabrics that would add a such a sparkle to your project.

United States:
Garibaldi’s Needle Works is an ebay only store that produces beautiful mottled fabrics and threads.

Hand Dyed Fabrics by Stephanie has a great range of colours to suit all projects.

Lakeside Linens have a range of hand dyed fabric where some can be “double-dipped” and others “vintaged”.  Both give a uniqueness to their fabrics.

Picture This Plus is one the US’s longest running and best known fabric hand dyers. Their annual Christmas in July sale is so huge it takes until November to dye and send out all the orders.

R&R Reproductions produce aged and muted tone fabrics for their extensive range of sampler charts.

Sassy’s Fabbys has a great range of colours.

Silkweaver is the other long running and well-known fabric hand dyer from the US.  Silkweaver was bought out by Zweigart USA a few years ago and there have been reports of slow customer service.  I find I have the best results by ordering from the Needleworkers Delight site.

Sunny*Dyes fabrics by Youthful Hands Needle Crafts include some of the best hand painted fabrics I have seen.

Under the Sea Fabrics has some unique two-toned earth and sky or water and sky fabrics rarely seen elsewhere.

Weeks Dye Works are  long time thread dyers who moved into the hand dyed fabric market. The fabric colours mimic their thread colours.


Did I miss any good dyers?  Please comment below and I will add them to the list.


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