Floss review: The Silk Mill

This floss review of The Silk Mill is part of a series about floss types and brands and how to use them.  See below for a giveaway!

Europe Themed Set
Europe Themed Set

 

What is it?

The Silk Mill produces over 700 shades of solid colour silk floss.  The floss is 100% Chinese monofilament silk thread and is produced in China to their specifications. The floss comes in skeins of six strands of 6.5 metres long, with a total skein length of 39 metres. These silks bring a subtle sheen to your stitching.

With over 700 shades of colour (compared to DMC’s 454 colours) The Silk Mill can be used anywhere you use DMC. They even supply a DMC to The Silk Mill Conversion chart.

Mini Baby Blues
Mini Baby Blues

History

The Silk Mill is a small, family run business founded in 2001.

The idea for the Silk Mill grew from frustration at trying to find decent thread in a wide range of colours for doing needlepoint. I experimented with silk, and although the thickness was not correct, I fell in love with the sheen and subtlety of silk. Nothing else would do!

After much investigation I was able to negotiate with a company in China who were prepared to meet my exact requirements and produce the silk just as I wanted it.

After a few false starts, together we created the perfect silk thread for needlepoint and embroidery. But it required such large orders that I realised I would have to share it with other needlework enthusiasts for production to be viable. So the idea to start an online business evolved. At the time I was living in a renovated water mill so The Silk Mill seemed like the perfect name for our new company.

We have chosen each colour and named it, often finding inspiration from flowers, and food or family experiences.

(From The Silk Mill)

The Silk Mill silk floss can be bought in a number of ways:

Single Colour – every one of The Silk Mill silk skeins can be bought individually. There is no minimum-sized order. This is however the most expensive way to buy Silk Mill floss.

Silk Mill - 3235 Vieux Rose
Silk Mill – 3235 Vieux Rose

Colour Shade Sets – 1 skein of each shade in various colours. Note that some of the major colours like red and blue have tonal shade sets (ie Reds and Oranges).

Ten Shades of Grey
Ten Shades of Grey

Themed Sets – These are colours that have been selected according to a theme.  All the shades in each theme work well together.

Silk Mill - Royal Pageant
Silk Mill – Royal Pageant

Buying the Colour Shade Sets  and the Themed Sets is much cheaper per skein than buying Single Colours.  The greater the number of skeins in a set, the greater the discount.

How to Use

The Silk Mill silks can be used anywhere you would normally use DMC.  Here I have experimented with 3235 Vieux Rose.

Silk Mill - 3235 Vieux Rose
Silk Mill – 3235 Vieux Rose

Silk Mill floss – one or two stands

One strand or two.
One strand or two.

The left swatch is stitched with one strand, the right is stitched with the usual two strands.  Both on 28ct white Cashel linen.

As can be seen, Silk Mill silk strands may seem to be quite thin, but they stitch up with amazing coverage.

Silk Mill Silk vs DMC Cotton

Silk Mill above, DMC below
Silk Mill above, DMC below

Top row, The Silk Mill 3235 Vieux Rose
Second Row, DMC 335 Rose.

One strand of Silk Mill silk floss provides so much more coverage than one strand of DMC cotton. This photo also shows the subtle sheen that the silk has.

(It also shows how unforgiving solid colour swatches can be – every non-perfect stitch is shown to all)

How to Open the Skein

Silk Mill - 3235 Vieux Rose
Silk Mill – 3235 Vieux Rose

As can be seen above, the tightly wound skeins easily fall apart to show the individual strands.

When you remove the paper wrapper, the skein easily shakes out into a circle of strands tied together in one spot.

Silk Mill - Opening floss

I find it best to snip through all the strands at that spot and discard the tie. This opens up into strands about 24″ long.  This is the perfect size for me.  You might prefer to cut them shorter depending on your needs.

These strands can tangle easily.  I recommend either using a floss card or rewinding the skein when not in use.

Yeah I cut my threads too long for this project.
Floss Card – Bordeaux Red and Chinese Gooseberry

 

Silk Mill - re-wound skein
Re-wound skein – Vieux Rose

Precautions

Silk skeins can be quite slippery so make sure you use the correct size needle or, like me, you will be needle hunting every time you let your floss dangle.

Dyed silk may not be water proof, especially reds.  If you think you might need to wash your fabric once your project is completed, it is best to test your thread first.

Take a strand and wet it in warm water, then roll in absorbent paper or a tea towel to dry.  If the floss leaves ANY residue behind, then it is not colour fast.

My Experience

I love using Silk Mill silks.  If I could afford it, I would replace my DMC cottons with these silks.  I love the sheen they give, I love the great fabric coverage!

The Silk Mill silk flosses stitch up easily, but the subtle sheen does highlight any unevenness in your stitching. Thankfully people don’t usually look at your stitching quite as closely as we have my stitch swatches above.

The floss unpicks easily, but being a Z-twist, it also unravels easily.  If you have to unpick more than one or two stitches, I recommend tossing the strand and starting a new one.

As well as the spot tests above, I am using Bordeaux Red and Chinese Gooseberry on Alessandra Adelaide’s Mystery Christmas Calendar.  The fabric is Colour Cascade Fabric’s Emerald City.

AAN Christmas Calendar Part 1
AAN Christmas Calendar Part 1

Acknowledgements:

My thanks to The Silk Mill website  for much of the source material used in this article:

The Silk Mill – About Us

The Silk Milk – About Our Silks

The Silk Mill DMC Conversion Chart

Places to Buy

The Silk Mill silk floss can only be purchased via The Silk Mill’s website in France. They ship worldwide. I found their postage costs to Australia to be quite reasonable.

Giveaway

To give a taste of Silk Mill silk floss, I am offering a Mini Silk set of your choice, to one lucky reader. To enter simply comment on this post, telling me which silk set you would love to win and what you would do with it.

Contest is open to anywhere in the world. Whilst we love comments and sharing via social media, only comments on this post will be eligible for entry.

Mel will use her trusty digital magic eight ball to decide the lucky Cross Stitch Review reader and then contact the winner.

Contest closes FOUR weeks from Publish; midday, 21 March 2015, Melbourne, Australia time (UTC+11 hours).

If you enjoyed this Review of The Silk Mill floss or want to share news of the Giveaway, feel free to send a link to this post to your friends or favourite groups.

If there is anything you wish I would add to the floss reviews, or if there is a floss you want me to review next, please comment below.

 

Last Updated: 21 February 2015

Exhibition: Thread of Life

The Thread of Life will be an exhibition organised by Sharon Mossbeck at Banks Street Arts, Sheffield, UK throughout November 2015 and YOU could be a part of it!

Who is Sharon Mossbeck?

Sharon Mossbeck is a conceptual artist based in Sheffield. Her work focuses on themes of death and religion, often presented in a vibrant, hedonistic way. While based on themes of death, her work is more easily read as a celebration of life while questioning what may happen beyond. Mossbeck works in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture using found objects and textiles.

So what is Thread of Life?

Thread of Life is a contemporary cross stitch project based on the mythological Greek figures of the Fates, or Moirai.

Sharon will create a single large cross stitch (one metre by one metre) based on  Byzantine Church domes, but with imagery on DNA and the Moirai or Three Fates; spinning, allotting and cutting each person’s life thread, and therefore determining a person’s lifespan.

This piece will hang flat against the ceiling with long threads hanging down to the floor, creating an internal space inside which viewers can stand and look up to the dome inspired ceiling.

Morai and DNA
Moirai and DNA

Around the outer edge, in the corners of the square fabric, are objects relating to each of the fates: a spindle, a measuring stick, scissors, and en egg times, representing the passing of time. There is also a stylised strand of DNA running around the outside. The text running around the inner circle is the names of the Fates, written in Greek, and in the centre is a heart, which I often use within my work as a symbol of both life and death. (Sharon Mossbeck)

Why Cross Stitch?

Sharon is very keen to change the public perception of cross stitch from being considered twee and an easy form of needlecraft.

… the ability to cross-stitch is a skill, and to create a piece of work also takes time and a relationship with the materials and the medium. That is where my interest lies. I believe that the difference between cross-stitch as a hobby craft and cross-stitch as fine art comes from how the materials are viewed in their own right, making use of their own properties to create artworks unique to the medium. The Aida shouldn’t be seen as a blank canvas which needs a picture on it, it should be seen as a tool; and the threads shouldn’t be seen as a way of colouring in, we should be looking at breaking the rules and working with what we have to create something new and exciting.

For example, the restrictions of the grid format distorts any image you try to create, in the way that 8 bit images in computer games are distorted, but if we accept this, and work with it, amazing patterns and images can be created. Also, the idea of hiding the threads away at the back of the fabric to leave a nice picture, which may as well have been painted, seems a little redundant when thinking about the materials and their properties. Why not show your working and your skill in the work?

I think that, to rescue cross-stitch from the no-man’s-land between craft and art, we need to start pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules. Hopefully people will start to think about what could be achieved when working on the DNA pattern to create something together which is genuinely a work of art. (Sharon Mossbeck)

Thread of Life Banner

So how can I be a part of this?

Surrounding her single large piece, Sharon would like other cross stitchers (YOU) to cross stitch a simple pattern based on a strand of DNA.

http://sharonmossbeck.com/the-thread-of-life/
http://sharonmossbeck.com/the-thread-of-life/

The one rule is that you must stitch your piece on 28ct evenweave or 14 count Aida to make sure that all works conform to the same size.

Given Sharon’s interests in elevating cross stitch to an art form, she is encouraging you to  push the boundaries of cross stitch and your own comfort-zone to try something new; pick new colours, embellishments, style, and even materials.

This is your time to break free; you can use whatever kind of stitching you like, specialty stitches, Hardanger, backstitch or no backstitch; cut the fabric, tear it,  stitch your piece to something else, combine stitching with drawing, or anything else you can imagine!

The idea is that each piece will be as individual as the person making it. What idea is going through your mind now?

I’m excited how do I start?

Print out the above chart.  It should look enough on a piece of A4 or US Letter paper.  Otherwise save a copy to your tablet or laptop and work on it there.

Then once you have the pattern, find a piece of 14 count Aida or 28ct evenweave 7″x 12″ (or 17 x 30cm).

If you want to stitch something larger Sharon has said

“if someone would like to work out the pattern and stitch a longer piece of work, perhaps double size or more, then I’d be very happy for them to do so.”

Select your floss and embellishments

Decide what you are going to do to make your piece unique – what are you going to do to elevate your piece from craft to art? What have you always wanted to do to a piece of cross stitch but were afraid to do?

Once complete you will need to send your piece to:

The Thread of Life
Bank Street Arts
32 – 40 Bank Street
Sheffield
South Yorkshire
S1 2DS
United Kingdom

Every finished DNA piece sent in will be part of the exhibition. The idea behind the work is that each DNA piece would be as individual as the person making it.

The Small Print

You must send in your finished, unframed piece before 1 September 2015. You must include the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Title of your work and any other information (e.g. materials used, inspiration etc.)

Please be aware that your piece will not be returned to you.  After showing for one month at Bank Street Arts, it may go on to be exhibited at another venue.  However, you will continue to be acknowledged for your work.

If you want to know more, please contact Sharon Mossbeck.

Acknowledgements

This article could not have been possible without the help of Sharon, her various writings, social media outlets and emails with me.

Facebook – Sharon Mossbeck

Indiegogo – Thread of Life campaign

Sharon Mossbeck – Cross stitch as Contemporary Art

Sharon Mossbeck – Pattern Drawing

Sharon Mossbeck – The Thread of Life

Discussion

So … do you feel like being part of a real-life, honest-to-goodness art exhibition?  Something contemporary that you can point to when people dismiss your stitching as “old woman’s kitsch”?

If you like this idea, and think some of your friends might want to get involved, please share this article with them or point them to the links in the Acknowledgements section above.

Last Updated: 13 February 2015

 

Time to Reflect

Today’s post was going to be about Superbowl Sales. However recent events and communications have had me questioning the direction and future of Cross Stitch Review and as such, the time for this post is NOW.

Cross Stitch Review Banner

Background

The idea of Cross Stitch Review was born years ago when I, on a whim, decided to join the “365 Days Challenge”.  I decided to write a blog post every day for a year about a chart in my stash and why I hadn’t stitched it yet.  I lasted about six months.

Fast forward to September 2014 and I decided to resurrect that blog, but make it more for the reader and less about me. Keep the independence and honesty of the reviews, add in sections for costs and availability, ask a few hand dyers to come on board and see how it went. This is Cross Stitch Review as you see it today.

Currently, reviews are scheduled weeks in advance allowing hand dyers and needlework stores lead time to select or create materials for each reviewed design. Meanwhile, artisans are sending samples of materials to be reviewed, store discounts are being offered and giveaways are becoming more common.

Cross Stitch Review is now a network of stitchers, hand dyers, chart designers, accessory makers, needlework stores and reviewers all working together to offer our best possible outcome to everyone involved.

This collaboration means that, for the stitcher, designs they previously passed over are now more accessible and desirable because you’ve seen how that same design “works” on different fabric or with different floss. e.g. Charts designed for dark fabric shown instead on light.

That colour combination not your style? Here’s a variety of suggestions for ones that might be.

That fabric you love, or that floss sample you were given, but have no idea what to do with?  Here are designs that may well “work” on that fabric or with that floss.

Entered a giveaway but didn’t win? Here’s a discount code to help purchase it.

There are benefits for the artisans too. Stitchers are excited by the range of designs out there. They innovate and explore beyond their comfort zone and stitch more often, and more exciting pieces. They buy kits and exchange floss and fabric to make their finished product unique. They learn to look at designs more openly (“Well, it’s not quite what I’m after, but if I change this or use that, it would be perfect for my decor, sister, wedding recipient, or whatever”).

Defunct Project a Day Blog
Defunct Project a Day Blog

TODAY

With the long lead time, and the expanse of reviews, I try to include WIP pics and opinions from other stitchers (with their permission). I also try to alert designers of upcoming reviews, to receive some background on a design and to check for inaccuracies; sometimes they offer a chart to giveaway or a discount for other designs, which is awesome!

I want to give the designers a chance to fix any inaccuracies in the blog post before it goes out. Anything that is not part of the review section is available for correction.

This is a labour of love. We reviewers love cross stitching, and our reviews are, for the most part, overwhelmingly positive. Despite this, some artisans have recently tried to limit what we can and cannot include in a review or article.

However, if we find there’s something about your item that could be a difficulty for the stitcher, we will point it out. The intent of these reviews is to peek into the chart packets and report on what was there, what we liked and what, if anything, we didn’t. If the chart has something that makes it difficult to work from, or a kit has sub-standard materials we will mention it.  The reviews are still the heart of Cross Stitch Review and we won’t change that.

While we can understand that sometimes a designer is also a hand dyer, or there is a collaboration between a particular designer and dyer for a range of products, we feel it is short-sighted  to disallow mention of alternative materials.  It seems they may be focusing on immediate sales at the expense of broadening their customer base for long-term profitability.

A stitcher from a different country may well want to buy your design, but can’t justify the international postage/exchange rate for the recommended fabric or floss. Or stitchers may be in “of-the-month clubs” for particular floss- or fabric-dyers. Is limiting the stitchers’ options worth losing both sales (design and fabric)?

Similarly, there has been the issue of overlays in the last couple of days.  These are where people cut designs from their backgrounds and then lay them across the top of other fabrics. The Cross Stitch Design and Fabric Viewer is the most well-known of these.

The argument from some designers has been that hand dyers should not use a chart designer’s Intellectual Property to sell their fabrics.  Overlays sell both the design and the fabric as a package. People do overlays because they want to see how they can make that design work for them. This should be a win for both designer and hand dyer, and is certainly of benefit to the stitcher.

Given these limitation requests I have had a long think about what I want Cross Stitch Review to be, and where I want the site to go.

A friend unconnected with the stitching world summed it up best for me last night:

Cross Stitch Review supports stitchers.  We also support those artisans (designers, hand dyers, etc) who support the industry as a whole.

Cross Stitch Review Avatar
Cross Stitch Review Avatar

The Future

As of today, Cross Stitch Review will only publish reviews of products of those designers, hand dyers and other artisans who support the whole industry. If you do not allow alternative options; if you do not allow overlays; if you wish the site to censor any opinions that you don’t like, then Cross Stitch Review is not the place for you or your goods.

Cross Stitch Review serves the international stitching community; the best way to do this is to keep providing honest reviews, the materials cost for the full project, a range of hand dyed options from different countries, and to discourage design piracy by only promoting legitimate sites and businesses.

These are our core values, this is our mission.

 

 

Nashville aka 2015 Nashville Spring Needlework Market

The Spring Needlework Market is held in Nashville each February. Nashville is the premier trade show for  US-based cross stitch designers and shops each year.

Nashville 2015 Image Courtesy of Mani Di Donna
Nashville 2015
Image Courtesy of Mani Di Donna

 

Nashville is a “cash & carry” trade show, that means that only registered shops can attend, and they buy and take away their goodies with them.

Nashville is usually associated with The National Needlearts Association (TNNA), but this year it is hosted by Yarn Tree and Needlework Retailer.

This year’s Nashville Trade Show is 27 February – 1 March 2015.

So why is Nashville a big thing?

Many US-based designers schedule the release of new charts to coincide with Nashville each year.

Some designers (a lot this year) are providing Nashville exclusive charts and kits.  That means that only stores who attend Nashville can buy and carry away those charts and kits.  If there are any left at the end of 30 days then other stores can order them in.  Some of these are limited edition. The words “limited edition” tend to create a bit of a frenzy and again shops want us to buy from them, so they attend to get first access at these.

This year the following designers will be providing show exclusive designs:

These designers will be providing limited edition kits:

This is just a sample of those who are attending; see the full list of exhibitors.

What does this mean for us stitchers?

This means that there will be many new designs on offer and your favourite shop needs to figure out which designers to buy from, and how many of each chart to buy.

Regardless how much we wish that we all have a local store who stocks every needlework chart and accessory ever made, that’s just not possible.  So we have to help our favourite stores stock the right amount of stuff for us.  If they over buy, they lose money, if they under buy we miss out.  Cash and carry trade shows carry a lot of risk for the store buyers.

Look through the list of shops attending to find your favourite. Then let them know which items to buy for you.

How do I know what to ask for?

Some designers are offering sneak peeks of their new designs to whet our appetite.  Some stores are collecting these together to offer “Sneak Peek” pages.  I understand the designers wish to keep things under wraps to surprise the shops at Nashville, but it does help the shops to know which designs and accessories we stitchers are salivating over, rather than guessing at the Show.

Some stores collect information about forthcoming designs prior to the event.  Others frantically add new designs to their website at the Show. They upload the cover pictures, see how many of us want them, and then purchase accordingly.

Stitches n Things are the first repository of Pre-Show information every year.

Annie’s Crazy Stitchin is currently taking pre-orders and offering 10% off all Nashville orders.

Stitching Bits and Bobs are collecting pre-orders.

ABC Stitch Therapy are collecting pre-orders.

If you do not have a favourite Needlework Store, look through the list of those attending, some will have discounts on Show Exclusives.

Here are some designs that will début at 2015 Nashville.

African Porcupine Quills Laying Tools

AuryTM Designs

Joli Tambour Creation

Le 4 Damine

This article will be updated with more news as the event comes closer.  I’ve put the information out now so you can start saving your pennies.

Discussion

Which new designs are you looking forward to?

If you like this article, please share it with your friends.

Last Updated: 10 Feb 2015

 

Accessories: Stitchingly Along

Each weekend we spotlight something that helps us as a stitcher. This weekend I’ve chosen Cherise Smith’s Stitchingly Along needle minders, fobs and froggers.

Stitchingly Along Business Card

It appears to me that these days stitchers fall into one of two categories:

  1. Those that are addicted to fobs, froggers and needle minders and have specific sets for each of their designs or
  2. Those who don’t know what these things are?

Fobs

Fobs are pretty dangly things that hang from the bottom of your scissors, usually with a larger, weighted bob at the end.  I use fobs because they help me find my scissors when I lost them down the side of the lounge; the scissors slip down but the bob at the bottom of the fob doesn’t.

Stitchingly Along - Fob

Also it helps me remember which scissors are mine when at a stitchers’ get together.  We do tend to show off the different fobs we use.

Frogger

Froggers help to pull out any incorrect stitches.  I find it easier to use a frogger than my needle as I have a tendency to lose hold of my needle and then have to find it in the folds of my clothing or the floor.  With the extra length of the dangly bits I find the frogger needles easier to hold and less likely to lose.

Fogger

Needle minder

A needle minder is a pretty item that goes in the corner of your fabric and magnetically holds your needles.

Most needle  minders are made with light rare earth magnets such as these.

Rare Earth Magnets

The little magnet on the right goes under your fabric. The large magnet on the left is turned over and set on top of it, on the top of your fabric; so the pretty side is seen and the fabric is sandwiched between the two magnets.

Needle Minder

As I stitch in whatever chair I tend to be in, holding a Qsnap,  I tend to thread the needle through the fabric or through my clothing which changing floss.  The sheer number of lost needles that I find on laundry day, convinced me to try out a minder.

These sit nicely in the inside corner of a qsnap, or near the edge of a hoop or a stitching frame; wherever there is spare fabric that you will not being stitching or getting your floss tangled in.

Review

Cherise’s Fobs are well made. The top clasp is big enough to use on any of my embroidery scissors without being so large that it gets in the way.

Fob clasp

She has many designs with glass cabochons on top of images, such as the ones above, but she also does cute metallic and sparkly bobs such as this dog and paw set I bought for a friend.

Dog and Paw bobs for Fob and frogger.

Cherise’s Fobbers are a good length to hold in your hand. I tend to stitch on 32ct with a size 28 petite needle.  While the needle attached to the frogger is larger and stronger than my usual stitching needle, it is still a good size to unpick my stitches.  I have unfortunately seen froggers with size 20 needles that are simply too large and cumbersome for petite stitches.

While Cherise’s Needle minders tend to have a curved surface (the glass cabochon) the magnets still hold the needles nicely.  I prefer a flatter surface as I tend to prick my finger when picking needles up from a curved surface.  However thankfully not everyone is as much of a klutz as me and the curved cabochons look great as part of a set.

The sets arrive very well packaged.  Each item is in an individual ziplock bag and then each set is placed in a pretty pink tulle bag.

Tulle Bag

This bag is then wrapped in pink tissue paper:

Tissue Paper

and then finally bubble wrapped.  Every item arrived in Australia completely unharmed!

Bubble wrap

All in all I would recommend looking through the Stitchingly Along Etsy shop and the Facebook Page and selecting a set or two for yourself or a friend.

 Giveaway

In my last order, Cherise included this lovely Purple Grape set to give away.  To win, comment below why you like this set?

This is a 3-piece set for stitchers & others that includes a Fob, Needle Minder and a Frogger. It’s made with glass & crystal beads, a vintage graphic and glass cabochon in a silver setting.

Purple Grapes Giveaway

Contest is open to anywhere in the world. Whilst we love comments and sharing via social media, only comments on this post will be eligible for entry.

Mel will use her trusty digital magic eight ball to decide the lucky Cross Stitch Review reader.

Contest closes FOUR weeks from Publish; midday, 7 February 2014, Melbourne, Australia time (UTC+11 hours).

Discussion

Why do YOU use fobs, froggers or needle minders?

If you like this review, please share it with your friends.

 

Last Updated: 23 January 2015  (edited as I misidentified the cabochons as plastic. They are in fact glass.)