Kits versus Kitting it up

The weekend the spotlight is on kits – is it best to buy a kit or buy the chart and materials separately?

Most of the designs I have reviewed so far are charts only because that is what I prefer to buy and I have a large enough stash that I usually have some fabric and threads to substitute to make it all work.  However there are times when a kit is really useful and suitable.

When to buy Kits:

When you want to open the packet and start right away. Most good kits include chart, fabric, threads and needle.  All you need to add is your favourite pair of scissors and your preferred fabric support (hoop, q-snaps, stitching frame etc).

Dimples Designs - Larch Ladybug
Dimples Designs – Larch Ladybug

When the kit includes specialised items such as a pre-printed background fabric

Kits - Venetian Mask
Lanarte – Venetian Mask

When buying the kit is cheaper than buying all the speciality threads and beads separately – if stitching a Chatelaine design, always look at the options provided by European Cross Stitch.

Chatelaine - Midi Mystery III
Chatelaine – Midi Mystery III

When buying as a gift for a friend

Vervaco - Paris Couture
Vervaco – Paris Couture

When buying a starter kit to gift to a child

Beginner kits
Beginner kits

When you love the design, but it is ONLY available as a kit:

Ink Circles - Fireweed
Ink Circles – Fireweed

 

When to buy Charts:

When you simply can’t afford the kit, or you can buy the materials cheaper separately

Silver Lining - Rendezvous in Paris
Silver Lining – Rendezvous in Paris

When you already have all the materials in your stash – no that is not nearly a full set of DMC, I have about a quarter of the colours available.

DMC Stash
DMC Stash

When you plan to substitute the materials – i.e. hand dyed fabric and floss for plain – here I swapped the plan fabric for a dyed and silk instead of cotton threads

Forever in my Heart - Chocolate Moods
Forever in my Heart – Chocolate Moods

When you want to stitch a series of designs all on the same fabric – I was gifted the used charts of the Mirabilia Seasonal Fairies designs.

Mirabilia Seasonal Fairies
Mirabilia Seasonal Fairies

When you love playing around with all the different options for fabric and floss

2014-11-15 11.38.29

When you want to stitch it more than once; I stitched Ink Circles’ Aventail twice with the same fabric and thread combination. I cut the thread in the second one so that the multicoloured sections went where I wanted instead of randomly.

When you want to stitch it in a different format (ie: bookmark, coaster, box-lid)

Bookmark for Linda
Bookmark for Linda

When the kit comes with Aida and you want to change it for an evenweave – I loathe stitching quarter stitches on Aida, so if the design calls for partial stitches, I will always take out the Aida and find some suitable evenweave

14ct Aida vs 28ct linen
14ct Aida vs 28ct linen

When you want to change to size of the fabric – I can’t see the holes on 40ct fabric so I always change that to 28ct or 32ct.  I’ve started some art to stitch designs on 25ct fabric and now want to try a few on 18ct to see if that is easier for me.

18ct Floba vs 25ct Magic Guide
18ct Floba vs 25ct Magic Guide

Partial Kitting

I love places like European Cross Stitch which are happy to sell you partial kits. For example, for one of the Chatelaine designs I had the following purchase options:

  • Chart
  • PDF Sent Via Email
  • Full Kit
  • Kit (No Fabric)
  • Bead Pack
  • Fabric
  • No NPI – This removes NPI from your order.

Many other shops and designers are also offering partial kits, i.e. only the embellishments or a floss pack of the hand dyed floss. These are so convenient as you can choose only the materials you need and often you save money from buying the materials in a pack.

Summary

So in the end the question of buying the kit versus kitting it up yourself? Well it depends.  It depends on all the above factors, there is no absolute answer and anyone who tells you there is, possibly hasn’t seen all the options.

Discussion

So are there any reasons I missed for charts or for kits? Comment below, I’d love to hear everyone else’s opinions on this topic!

Feedback

Did you like this review? Did it contain all the expected information? Is there anything you would like added or removed from the reviews? Do you know of a particular chart or designer you want to see featured here? If so, please head to the Suggestions page and let me know.

Was this read worth a cup of coffee?

 

Last updated: 15 November 2014

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.

CMYK

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:

ALWAYS BUY THE WHOLE AMOUNT OF FABRIC AT ONCE.

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.

Australia:

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.

Canada:

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

France:

Annick Abrial creates beautiful hand dyed threads and fabric.

Italy:

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.

Poland:
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.

Discussion

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

Feedback

Did you like this Weekend Spotlight? Did it contain all the expected information? Is there anything you would like added or removed from this? Do you know of a particular chart, designer, stitch along or accessory creator you want to see featured here? If so, please head to the Suggestions page and let me know.

Was this read worth a cup of coffee?

Calculating fabric size

This weekend we are going to tackle that thorny question: How do I know what size fabric I need?

You need to know:

  • the stitch count of the chart
  • the fabric count you wish to stitch it on
  • Whether you are stitching over two or over one
  • What margin of fabric you want to leave

Stitch count

This is the number of stitches wide x tall the chart is.  Many designers list this information on the front or back cover of the chart. I list it in every review.

If there is no stitch count, then you will need to count the stitches yourself.  Usually the chart will have stitch numbers listed on the top and down the side of each chart at the 10 stitch line.

stitch count

So in the above example, the stitch count is 77 wide.  (It is 81 across but I know this designer leaves two blank rows all way around).

Fabric count

You need to decide what fabric count you wish to stitch your design on; 14ct Aida, or 28ct evenweave or 10ct Tula.

 Over One or Over Two

This refers to the number of threads you stitch your crosses over. Aida is usually stitched over one in that you stitch through every hole.

Evenweave is stitched over two in that you stitch into every second hole. For some designs, such as art-to-stitch, you will stitch tiny stitches into every single hole; so stitching over one.

Margins

Usually you don’t stitch to the very edge of your fabric. The size of your margin depends on how you want to finish your item; pillow, framed, etc.  You need an inch or so to sew in when making into a cushion or pillow, but three inches or more when framing, especially when using a matt or two.  I find it useful to add a three-inch margin all way around as this allows more options if you change your mind mid-stitching. You can always cut off excess fabric, but it is difficult to add the same fabric back on.

So for our example today we will use:
Stitch count: 77 x 107
Fabric count: 28ct
Over 1 or Over 2: Over two
Margin: 3 inches

Old School

This is the maths behind all of those converter apps and programs so you can work it out for yourself.

In essence, it is stitch count / (fabric count / over) + (margin x 2)

In our example:

Width = 77 stitches
Stitch count / over = 28/2 = 14 stitches per inch
Margin = 3 inches (we have margins left and right so x 2) = 6 inches

So width 77 / 14 + 6 =   11.5 = 11½ inches

Length = 107 stitches
Stitch count / over = 28/2 = 14 stitches per inch
Margin = 3 inches (we have margins left and right so x 2) = 6 inches

So height 107 / 14 + 6 =   13.64 = round up to 13 ¾ inches.

So you need a piece of fabric 11½ x 13¾”  or a fat eighth (13 x 18″)

If you want your design to be bigger or smaller, run your calculations again with a different fabric count or change your margins.

If your eyes just glazed over at the above, never fear, there are a number of smart phone apps that can do the maths for you.

Android apps

Cross Stitch Fabric Calculator

Cross Stitch Fabric Calculator. Available as both a free and a paid app.

This application helps cross stitchers determine what size fabric they need before starting a project. You enter your stitch count, the fabric thread count, and an optional border. You are then told what size fabric you will need for your project. Optionally, we also calculate the fabric size if you are stitching over two threads.

Cross Stitch Fabric Calculator 2

This app rounds up all calculations to the nearest whole inch, giving our test chart a result of: 12″ x 14″.  This app does not convert to centimetres.

 

Cross-stitch Fabric Calculator

Cross-stitch Fabric Calculator.  Available only as a paid app.

Allows you to calculate the size of your finished fabric based on your stitch count.

Enter the width and height in stitches of your work, along with the fabric count size, and get a finished size in inches/cms.

Cross-stitch Fabric Calculator 2

This app calculates the answer to one decimal place, giving our test chart a result of: 11.5″ x 13.6″.  It also provides the decimal equivalent, 20cm x 25.4cm.

 

Cross-stitch Count Coverter

Cross-stitch Count Converter. Available only as a paid app.

This simple application will allow you to find out the size of the required fabric if you were to change your existing cross stitch design to a different count size.

For example, if your current Aida size was 10″ x 10″ in 10 count, if you were to switch to 14 count then your required fabric would be 8″ x 8″ (rounded up).

Cross-stitch Count Coverter 2

This app only works with whole numbers, so for our test chart you need to use 12″ x 14″. This app does not convert the results to centimetres.

Apple iOS apps

Cross Stitch Fabric Calculator ios

Cross Stitch Calculator. Available as both a free and a paid app.

This application helps cross stitchers determine what size fabric they need before starting a project. You enter your stitch count, the fabric thread count, and an optional border. You are then told what size fabric you will need for your project. Optionally, we also calculate the fabric size if you are stitching over two threads.

Cross Stitch Fabric Calculator ios 2

This app rounds up all calculations to the nearest whole inch, giving our test chart a result of: 12″ x 14″.  This app does not convert to centimetres.

 

Cross Stitch Calculator Plus

Cross Stitch Fabric Calculator Plus. Available as  a paid app.

This app allows you to quickly calculate the correct size of fabric that you require for your cross stitch projects. Simply enter the stitch count, fabric type, border size and whether you’re stitching over 2, and watch as the optimal fabric size instantly updates, ensuring you never buy the wrong size again!

Cross Stitch Calculator Plus 2

This app requires that you add both margins in the border area; if you want 3″ borders all way around, you need to add 6″ into the calculator.  This app rounds up all calculations to the nearest whole inch, giving our test chart a result of: 12″ x 14″.  This app does not convert to centimetres.

 

FabriCalc

FabriCalc. Available as  a free app.

FabriCalc is a handy utility for working out the size of cloth you need for cross stitch, tapestry, rug making, beadwork, tiling and many other types of craft.

You simply enter the number of stitches, the number of stitches per inch, and a value for the amount of spare material around the edge.
Then click the calculator button to see the size of cloth you require. Tap the Metric or Imperial ruler icons to switch between measurement systems.

FabriCalc 2

This app calculates the answer to one decimal place, giving our test chart a result of: 11.5″ x 13.6″.  This app does convert to centimetres, giving a result of 20cm x 25.4cm..

 

Windows app

Fabric calculator
A program for those who love to Cross Stitch! Determine your fabric size by entering your stitch count, fabric thread count, and border.  Supports stitch over count, displays actual fabric size, displays recommended fabric size and now displays either Inches or Centimeters.

Fabric calculator 2

This app calculates the answer to one decimal place, giving our test chart a result of: 11.5″ x 13.6″ but then adds a recommendation of 12″ x 14″.

This app does not convert the result to centimetres, but you can run the whole calculation through in decimal. Unfortunately this app only allows full numbers to be used so a 3″ margin (which converts to 7.5cm) cannot be used, you would have to increase the margin to 8cm or lower it to 7cm.

My heartfelt thanks to Ian Dollery, Stephen Silk and Kathy Hoover for testing the different types of devices for me!

 Discussion

Do you have other apps that you prefer to use? If so, please comment below and I will add them to this review.

Feedback

Did you like this Weekend Spotlight? Did it contain all the expected information? Is there anything you would like added or removed from this? Do you know of a particular chart, designer, stitch along or accessory creator you want to see featured here? If so, please head to the Suggestions page and let me know.

Was this read worth a cup of coffee?

Cross Stitch Design and Fabric Viewer

Each weekend we spotlight something that helps us as a stitcher. The first item up is the Cross Stitch Design and Fabric Viewer. formerly known as the Mirabilia Viewer.

The Viewer allows you to pick a cross stitch design and shows you what it would look like on a variety of fabrics.

The Cross Stitch Design and Fabric Viewer is a personal project managed, updated and maintained by Dana Oliver Smith for the use and pleasure of the stitching community. As Dana keeps the site updated with new designs and fabrics as they come out, the Viewer is justifiably limited to eight prolific designers and thirteen fabric dyers.

The Designers are:

The Dyers are:

However, if you have a favourite designer you would love to see in the Viewer you can always email Dana.

The design images are quite small and may not show the intricacies of the pattern, especially any metallic or beading embellishments.

Update March 2015: The Viewer has undergone an extensive rewrite and the design images are now much larger.  I love this new size and such a clean interface!

 

Please note: The fabric pictures are only a rough indication; colours and extent of mottling change with every different fabric and may show quite differently on your screen.

That said, spend a relaxing few hours playing around the Cross Stitch and Fabric viewer discovering which combinations you would like to see come alive under your needle.

Discussion

So this brings us the end of the first week of Reviews. How has it gone? Would you refer your friends to this site? Do you have a chart, stitchalong or designer you are just hoping I will review? Do you want your favourite shop or dyer listed here?

Unfortunately I’m not a mind reader,  nor do I play one on TV, so please please please comment below and let me know what you think.

Feedback

Did you like this review? Did it contain all the expected information? Is there anything you would like added or removed from the reviews? Do you know of a particular chart or designer you want to see featured here? If so, please head to the Suggestions page and let me know.

Was this read worth a cup of coffee?

 

Last updated: 3 March 2015 – to include updated links to Viewer and Chatelaine websites.