Good advice, gloves, and pretty threads

First things first – three cheers for Serinde who mobilised her husband and his knowledge of printers and advised me to hoover mine. Hoovering not being one of my favourite activities, this solution to my printer problem hadn’t occurred to me, but it did the job: it no longer thinks it’s jammed, I can now use up the spare cartridges I had already bought, and just in case it decides to throw another wobbly I’ve printed out an emergency stock of Mini Kits and Notebook Kits. I feel terribly organised and prepared, and terribly grateful to Serinde and her other half!

Remember the hat I showed you, as an example of what I’d like to go with the 1930s dress I wore to the vintage car rally? Well, I haven’t found one yet, but I have found some rather nice gloves. They’re crocheted and beige rather than cream, but because of the beige bits in the handbag and shoes that’s actually quite all right. One of them needs a tiny bit of repair, and they only just fit, but they look lovely and they’ve got a dinky little button to fasten them at the wrist which is such a nice little detail.

Crocheted gloves Just the right size

Talking of dinky, you may remember that Dinky Dyes are discontinuing their cotton perles, some of which I used in my designs. I finally got round to ordering the Threadworx perles that I thought might work as substitutes, and they arrived today. I do love Threadworx, they have such briliant colours! Mosaic (the blue/green/purple) may be a little too bright to work instead of Daydream, but I’m sure I’ll find other uses for it even if it is. Wild Poppies (the bottom thread) is a little less bright than I’d expected, but Wild Fires I think will do very well instead of Jaffa; I’ll enjoy stitching some samples.

Threadworx substitutes for Dinky Dyes - I hope

Other possible threads which I haven’t tried yet are produced by Tamar Embroideries; I’ve noted several shades which look as though they might be close enough to the Dinky Dyes ones. The one drawback is that they aren’t perles, but different threads of about the right thickness. So are the Treenway ones I’m considering, but because they are silk they do have that lovely shine, whereas most of the Tamar threads are a bit more matt. And then there is Stef Francis who has some possibles too – lots of pretty threads to play with before I make my decision smiley.

A perle problem

There are, of course, always problems about using hand-dyed perles. Problems inherent to the product, I mean. For one thing, dye lots can vary wildly so that a stitcher may find that her version of a particular design looks washed out compared to the stitched model, or on the contrary rather garishly bright, or much greener, or much less purple. There is the fact that they are often rather more expensive than standard perles, and (depending on the brand) not so widely available or easy to obtain. And then there is the risk of colours being discontinued.

Colours, or even whole collections. Earlier this year, Dinky Dyes was taken over by Kathy Filosi, and she decided to continue the trend towards concentrating on the silk threads at the expense of the cotton ones. This is not an insurmountable problem for the stranded cottons, as the DD stranded silks come in exactly the same shades, and those of my designs which use stranded DD (like Floral Tiles: Pansies and Patches) already specified silk rather than cotton – although it does mean that the less expensive alternative is no longer available.

The perles are a completely different story, however. Dinky Dyes do have a collection of silk perles, and very nice they are too, but the colours don’t match those of the now abandoned cotton perles. Again not too much of a problem for some designs – Round the World uses a shaded red, green, yellow and light blue which shouldn’t be too difficult to replace, perhaps with Weeks Dye Works; Citrus uses a yellow/orange/red which is not an unusual combination and might even have an Anchor or DMC near-equivalent. The difficult ones are going to be the colours used in Douglas & Heather, and especially in Sunken Treasures.

Why especially that last one? Because unlike in the other designs, where the Dinky Dyes perle is the only colour used, in Sunken Treasures it has to fit in with several shades of standard perle – blue, green and purple in dark and light. Oh well, time to trawl through my stash of hand-dyed threads to see what possible substitutes there are. For the first one, “Airlie” (the middle bobbin in the first picture), candidates are Caron’s shade Parfait (bobbin on the left; less yellow than Airlie, and cooler in shade), Threadworx’s Wildflowers (on the wooden ring; cooler in shade, and with turquoise instead of green) and Treenway’s Mandalay (bobbin on the right). The right-hand picture shows Mandalay used in another design; the colour is quite close to what I’m looking for, but it’s silk, so rather expensive, and not very easy to get. I may simply suggest all three in the chart pack and let the stitchers decide how much they are willing to spend and which colour they like best.

Alternatives for Airlie Treenway's Mandalay

Finding a suitable substitute for “Daydream” (the middle bobbin in the picture below) in my stash is proving more challenging. The two closest I could find aren’t really very close at all – Caron’s Eggplant (bobbin on the left) is far too muted, and doesn’t really have any blue in it. Caron’s Appalachia (bobbin on the right) is too bright and the proportion of green is too large. Let down by my stash I looked into all those lovely threads out there which I haven’t got yet and found that my last hope is probably Threadworx’ Mosaic, which looks as though it may be a bit too dark and bold, and with a different purple, but which at least has a more “watery” look than Appalachia.

Alternatives for Daydream

Next step? Stitch a motif from the designs using the various substitutes, and see which ones come out best (if I choose the motifs wisely they’ll do for cards or gift tags so the time, thread and effort won’t be wasted). But first it’s off to Sew & So to get Mosaic in perle #5 and #8. I wonder if there’s anything else I can order at the same time to make best use of the postage…

West End Embroidery are brilliant!

If I were wearing a hat I would take it off to Yvonne at West End Embroidery. Throughout the ordering process she has exhibited the patience of a saint as I kept asking for things that weren’t available or changing my mind about the colours I needed. And very reasonable prices too – highly recommended!

One of the problems, as I explained a few posts ago, is that West End Embroidery are pretty much the only online shop in the UK to stock Dinky Dyes perles, and they are phasing them out. Sew & So will order them in for me with no minimum order, but they are quite a bit more expensive; and both Yvonne at W E E and Margaret at Little Thread Shop said they couldn’t just order one or two skeins, which is perfectly understandable. Now for the Guildhouse project I showed you last time I will need about 50 yards of a hand-dyed perle #8; the one I used in the model is Dinky Dyes 095 Airlie which is very pretty and of which I have about half a skein left. Yvonne had only the one left, so on to Plan B – email Margaret as she had said she could order in if I wanted at least three of one shade. Unfortunately Margaret had already placed her order with DD and wouldn’t re-order in time for the course. It was clearly time for Plan C.

Earlier this week I telephoned West End Embroidery to make sure that all the chopping and changing I’d done hadn’t irreparably messed up my order, and she was very patient and helpful; for one thing I learnt that it was not just my imagination that there can be an awful lot of difference between Dinky Dyes dye lots. It doesn’t matter too much in my designs as I tend to use them as the only colour in an otherwise neutral piece (like Douglas, Heather and Round the World), but it’s something to bear in mind. She then suggested that I look at Threadworx perles as a possible alternative.

That was inspired. I do, in fact, use them already (in Scotland the Brave and the coloured version of Lviv), but they are not one of the “default” brands I think of when choosing threads. And there are so many lovely colours! The one I would have used for preference in the Guildhouse piece is the one I used for Lviv. It’s not a direct match for DD Airlie, but it’s got that same multi-coloured pastel look.

Threadworx 1078 Pastel Bouquet

Unfortunately it only comes in stranded cotton and perle #5, so I took the Threadworx perle #8 page as my starting point to find a few possibles. The only pastel rainbow one is a bit too sweet for my taste, and Bradley’s Balloons, though fun, is perhaps just a touch too bright. In the end I settled on a colour that isn’t in the least like Dinky Dyes Airlie, but which I think will look quite striking – 1040 Shanghai Nights. I’ll let you know when the threads arrive (and whether I managed to order what I meant to order)!

Threadworx 1040 Shanghai Nights

Happy with fabrics, unhappy with horticulture

Let’s get the unhappy part over with first, then at least I can end on a happy note! The problem (besides having a new network & computers installed over the weekend which has caused a certain amount of upheaval) is Walled Garden. I’m hoping to use it as my new design for the Counted Wishes Festival in March, but that rather depends on getting it stitched to my liking and writing the chart pack for it, and I’m getting stuck on the first part.

The walls (Kloster blocks and a textured border) were fine, they came out as I had hoped. The satin stitch florals were OK too, with the Caron colours working as intended. The backstitch additions turned out according to plan as well. Then came the time to add some cheerful yellow in the shape of knots (either French or colonial, according to your preference). First I added some to the hearts of the blue flowers – which, incidentally, I had intended to be vaguely like periwinkles but which reminded one fellow stitcher of clematis; so much for my botanical accuracy! Anyway, I liked the effect of the knots there, so I continued with the rest of the knots, which formed swirly lines between satin stitch leaves. And they just look wrong. On paper they’re fine, but on the fabric I simply do not like them. And yet it needs that touch of yellow, and I still think knots of some sort are the way to go. I’ll have to do some serious re-charting over the weekend, and probably some unpicking and restitching as well!

On to more pleasant things. First a little more stash to show off, my most recent order from the Little Thread Shop. Some Weeks Dye Works perles, and Caron threads; the bright green is Jade, which I had in Impressions (their silk/wool blend) and used in my father-in-law’s 90th birthday card. I so enjoyed the shade that I decided to get the “companion threads” to it. The others are sheer indulgence – I have no purpose for them yet but I just loved the colours.

Threads from the Little Thread Shop

I am also awaiting an order of threads for the Guildhouse course from West End Embroidery including some Dinky Dyes perles. I contacted Jo at Dinky Dyes to ask about UK stockists, and something she said about concentrating on their silks made me slightly worried that the cotton perles might be under threat, but fortunately she reassured me that they have no plans to discontinue them; they just don’t promote them as vigorously as their silks. Heather and Douglas are safe *phew*.

And finally, the fabrics. I’d asked Kate at Sparklies whether she did hand-dyed Hardanger fabric, and she said she didn’t, but she could – and she did! Here are the three fabrics I’ll be using in the September course: 28ct Lugana Aries (for the bookmarks), and 22 ct Hardanger Thalia (purple) and Ocean Depths (blue-green). They’ll be stitched with Antique White threads and beads for contrast. I’m really looking forward to stitching the models, so I’d better get Walled Garden sorted out as soon as possible.

Sparklies fabrics for the Guildhouse course

More threads – fewer threads

I’ve been adding some very pretty threads to my collection over the past few weeks, and one of the pleasant things about ordering them has been the discovery that stitchers are just Very Nice People! Margaret at the Little Thread Shop, Susan at Treenway Silks and Yvonne at West End Embroidery have all been really helpful, ordering things in, comparing colours, finding out about threads and so on. Strictly speaking I do not know whether all or any of them are actually stitchers themselves, but they are definitely stitch-associated, so I think that counts smiley.

Here are the goodies that came in from the Little Thread Shop a week or so ago; including postage they came to less than 60% of what I would have paid if I’d bought them in the UK, which is pretty good going! These are Weeks Dye Works perles (only #5, unfortunately, so I had to source the #8 elsewhere – hats off to Sew & So who as usual took a day to get them to me) and Caron threads; the lovely variegated orange at the bottom is Calabasa, which I used in my latest Guildhouse project.

Threads from the Little Thread Shop

And then there were the silks I ordered from Treenway. One of the things I like about both these American suppliers is that they are happy to send orders using First Class post (I hope I got the name right), which means postage on these orders was between $4 and $6. I will come back to that a bit later on, but first things first, the silks. Don’t you just love unwrapping an order of threads or fabrics or beads and simply enjoying the look and feel of them? That’s what I did with these – they are terribly tactile, and need to be stroked and handled. I don’t care if the oils in my hands mean that at some Antiques Roadshow in 2213 the expert will tut and say “oh dear, these silks have been handled far too much, they’re disintegrating”; it is simply impossible not to pet these beautiful threads.

Threads from Treenway Silks

Some of the colours I chose to match some I already have, some are new matching pairs (like Mandalay and Faded Rose, the muted pinks in the middle of the bottom row), and one is a top-up (Tangiers, second left of the top row). The ribbon, which is Tangiers as well, I got especially to go with the colour combination I showed you some time ago, with the dark wine red fabric. I have since found that some Miyuki beads I picked up at the Knitting & Stitching Show will go beautifully with that, so now all I need is a project for them.

Treenway Silks, Miyuki beads, DMC and Zweigart fabric

So why the “fewer threads” in the title? That’s because I’m finding some threads harder and harder to find, certainly here in England, and some overseas suppliers are pricing themselves out of the market (at least my market) with their shipping charges. I have just placed an order with West End Embroidery for some Petite Treasure Braid, WDW perle #8, and Dinky Dyes perles. It’s the DD perles which are the problem – Yvonne told me they are phasing them out and won’t be replacing any that they sell. This means that as far as I know there isn’t an online shop in the UK that sells Dinky Dyes cotton perles (Sew & So sell the silk perles, but they don’t come in the same range of colours and are obviously much more expensive). Margaret at the Little Thread Shop said she’s happy to order them in for me, but I’d have to order at least three of each colour, which is more than I need. I did find one or two shops in the US which sell the cotton perles, but their shipping charges make it impractical to order from them; at one shop I chucked 20 skeins into the virtual shopping basket as an experiment, and found that postage to the UK would be about $36! So if any of you know of a supplier that sells these threads and whose p&p to the UK is reasonable, please let me know – I’d very much like to keep using Dinky Dyes’ pretty perles.

Another two silks – Vineyard and Dinky Dyes

Sometimes you come across threads that are irresistible, even though you’re not absolutely sure what you’ll do with them. Some Vineyard Silks I bought a number of years ago are a case in point. They were gorgeous, with a beautiful, slightly fuzzy lustre which reminded me of the silks you see on very old embroideries, or on those very ornate 18th century waistcoats and dresses. They were also far too thick for anything I was doing at that time, which was mainly cross stitch.

And yet I got several of their standard silks (in four shades of lavendery blue) and one of their Shimmer silks, which have a metallic thread running through them. I might not use them in stitching, but I could look at them and (yes, I’ll admit it) occasionally stroke them. Petting silk threads is a singularly satisfying thing to do, and very therapeutic; try it if you don’t believe me!

But let’s get back to stitching. I realised that it was possible to separate the 3 plies that make up the thread, and that separately they worked rather well as a thickish flat silk. Petit point on 18ct gave lovely coverage and a beautiful sheen. Unfortunately, I do very little petit point on 18ct.

But then I started doing Hardanger. Hardanger uses far thicker threads than cross stitch. Could I perhaps use the Vineyard silks instead of #5 perle? Some sources suggested it was more like a #3, but I thought I’d give it a try anyway. What to combine them with, though? I happened to have three silk perles by Dinky Dyes as well, a #5, #8 and #12, in three different shades of blue. Why not kill two birds with one stone and try out the Vineyard and Dinky Dyes together?

I began with unsplit Vineyard Classic combined with DD silk perle #8. Coverage in the Kloster blocks is good, and the silk perle has a lovely strong and textured sheen, but it is perhaps a little bulky in the backstitch.

Vineyard and Dinky Dyes perle #8

The next combination was another of the Vineyard Classic shades with DD silk perle #12. I like that much better than the #8 – it has the same strong sheen but it shows more detail in the backstitch, and also in the square filet; it would be even more noticeable, I think, if I’d used a dove’s eye.

Vineyard and Dinky Dyes perle #12

Then there was the Vineyard Shimmer. This was a golden shade and I had no DD perles that would go with it. But I did have some Kanagawa 1000. This is a 1000 denier silk cord which is used by Gloriana as the base for their Princess Perle Petite, which I love.

Vineyard and Kanagawa

I was not disappointed. The Vineyard Shimmer with its single metallic thread among the silk has a subtle sparkle, and the Kanagawa makes for crisp backstitch and a well-defined square filet. The only drawback is that Vineyard Shimmer can sometimes be a little awkward to work with, and the metallic strand occasionally bunches up, but most of the time it’s well-behaved, and the effect is definitely worth it.