TangleClub October Update

We are currently in the midst of a beautiful Indian Summer here, so in keeping with the summer spirit, I am offering TangleClub members a slightly out-of-season Leftover Lavender cross stitch project, designed to use up the leftovers from your lavender harvest as well as your leftover off-cuts of embroidery threads.  This pattern is from a revised reprint of one of my first mini-zines, now available as a TangleClub exclusive e-zine.

In further TangleClub news, the very last TangleClub edition of the Mulberry Digest is currently going to print and will be sent out to TangleClub Deluxe members over the next 7 days or so.  TangleClub Deluxe is no longer available to new members (but existing members can continue to enjoy the benefits for the duration of their membership) but some alternative, new TangleClub membership options will be available in the near future, so watch out for updates!

 If you are not currently a member of the TangleClub but want to share the monthly freebie goodness,  click here for all current membership options, and remember, if you spend £5 or more in the TangleStore or TangleStore UK you will qualify for TangleClub Basic membership absolutely free!

TangleClub March Update

Yes, it’s that time again, already!  This month’s TangleClub exclusive freebie is a preview from the next issue of the Enchanted Times, a Hansel & Gretel cross stitch pattern adapted from an illustration by Charles Robinson with colours inspired by Clarice Cliff.   Head on over to the TangleClub Archive and check it out. 🙂

Not a TangleClub member (yet) but don’t want to miss out?  Click here for all current membership options, but remember, if you spend $10 or more in the TangleCrafts Etsy Store, you will qualify for TangleClub Basic membership absolutely free!

As mentioned in my previous post, I have made some revisions to the TangleClub offers.  The TangleClub 10% discount offer still holds, though, so make sure you claim it using your Etsy coupon code, when placing an order!  Throughout March, my project will be sending out NEW membership cards to ALL TangleClub members (inc. same member # & expiry date as your previous card).  Once you receive the new card it will replace/supercede the old one & you will see how much it simplifies everything!  One of the additions to the TangleClub offer is that you will receive a free promo item every time you place an order of $10 or more.  If you are a TangleClub Deluxe member, you will be able to claim up to 3 free promo items per order (depending on value).  Promo items include anything from mini-zines, mailing labels, TangleStamps, postcards, pin badges – basically small, random, fun stuff from the realms of Tangledom, just for you!  TangleClub Deluxe members please also note that the next issue of the Mulberry Digest is currently in preparation, so you will receive your new membership card plus new issue of MD simultaneously.

Also in my last post, I mentioned a forthcoming new zine.  A ‘first edition’ of this zine, ‘Valley of Dolls’, is now available in the Etsy Store – I just couldn’t wait any longer to share it!  There are some wonderful projects from contributors including Diane Gilleland (Crafty Pod) & Robin O. Mayberry (Alchemy Studios), interviews with Chickenpants creator Claire Chambers (Absolutely Small) & local (to me) illustrator Tracey Meek, plus exclusive artwork, book reviews, even more projects…the list goes on!  For full details & more photos, check out the Etsy listing.  (Please note, if you are a contributor to this zine, contributor copies will be despatched no later than end March – thank you for your patience!)

New zines, old zines, something for everyone!

There has recently been a little flurry of activity in my Etsy store with all sorts of interesting new arrivals!  Time for an overview:

First up, I am thrilled to offer copies of Kristin Roach’s latest issue of Craft Leftovers Monthly.  Inside there is a bounty of crafty goodness, including a ZineBomb mini-zine (by me!) and a Postal Travel Kit guest article (also by me!).  The best part is the accompanying pattern for a fantastic Postal Clutch that Kristin has designed with pockets to fit all your mail art essentials. Click here for more details and to buy your copy from my Etsy store, where I’m offering two FREE mini-zines with every copy sold!  It’s such an honour to be included in this awesome zine. 🙂

My own latest zine is called ‘The Thief of Time‘ – very apt considering how time has been escaping me of late!  It is a collection of blank to-do lists for you to fill in, to help organise your own time, combined with an overview of 7 crafty days of my life – projects, pics and points of view.  It covers everything from doodle-stitching to artistamps, mini-zines to stamp-carving, and it also includes a free copy of Going Postal mini-zine, Volume 6.  Thief of Time is available with the usual plain kraft paper cover, or a special edition with a funky fabric cover, instead – check the Etsy Store now to choose your copy!

Yes, there’s more!  I am about to retire one of the old TangleCrafts favourites, Leftover Lavender.  Inspired by the lavender currently in bloom in my garden, I have put together 3 final copies, each with a bundle of beautiful overdyed embroidery threads in greens and purples.  Buy it now, while you still can (located in the Special Editions category)!

…and even more from the Special Editions category, I have  put together a bumper edition of the ultimate guide to Tangledom’s mythology and customs, the Mulberry Digest. This is lots of fun for the eco-romantics out there, with the creation myth of a land that was dreamed into being, free mulberry seeds for a spot of guerilla mulberry activism, an exploration of the symbolism of Tangledom’s arts and crafts, and two free cross stitch charts.  The Mulberry Digest is printed on A5 (half-size) mulberry pulp paper, with a ‘unique’ hand-stitched binding of my own devising!

Last but not least, we have yet another issue of Going Postal, which has now reached the giddy heights of Volume 7! Click here to find out more about the Going Postal project, and how to take part.  If you’re feeling inspired, your artwork could be included in the very next volume!

Well, I do think that’s all for now (isn’t that enough?!).  Please browse through at your leisure, and remember, you will get FREE membership to the TangleClub with any order, which then entitles you to discounts on future orders, as well as access to the TangleClub Archive with a new free project or printable available online, every month!

The Borrowers are back! (& tinier than ever!)

Check out the biggest tiny zine about Borrowers you will ever read. My A5/half-size Borrowers zine has been retired, and replaced by a 34 page accordion folded micro-zine, plus additional 8 page introduction. The text is equally tiny, hence the miniature magnifying glass included, which also fits into the box (while stocks last).  I thought the reduced scale was more appropriate to the subject matter!
Click here for more information & additional photos.

I have also added some special editions of Enchanted Times, with Intuition Doll kits in green or red, instead of the standard black & white.  There’s only one of each left (the blue was snapped up yesterday) so
click here now
for your chance to buy this limited edition version of E.T. #1.
Great colours for Christmas! 😉

A quiet week?

Despite a lack of blogging activity here which may suggest the contrary, I have been busy busy busy all week!  Well, I took a week’s holiday from ‘real’ work – caught up with a friend, saw my mum & dad (my dad has been in China for the last 6 months or so, so that was an especial treat), and went on a day trip with Corey – the highlight of which was probably when he left his umbrella behind on the train there, but found it again on the train back!  But around these brief outings I have been working non-stop.  There are some new things very nearly ready to tell you about, but the most immediate, are 2 new zines (& something else a bit different), now available in my Etsy stores:

Contours cover shotThe first is ‘Contours’, my first art zine, which is all about doodling.  This is where my brief encounter with Zentangling led me.  I suddenly realised how the majority of the patterns I have designed as an adult all stem from one basic doodle that I used to doodle all the time.  The zine looks at how that doodle has emerged in the various crafts I have worked in, considers the possible origins of the doodle, and leaves lots of spaces for you to doodle away to your own heart’s content.

tiffanyacorns1As you can see from the photo, there are some extras included – hand-doodled bookmark to stitch, and a hand-doodled ‘fingerprint’ of lino to carve & print.  Inside the zine you will also find a 4-way Acorns cross stitch chart, Bobbin Along freeform bargello pattern, plus 4 postcards (2 printed, and 2 blank for you to doodle yourself) printed on gummed paper, freeform-bobbin-alongso that you can turn any piece of scrap card into a postcard, (these come with 4 postcard reverse labels which could also be used as envelope re-use labels, if you prefer).  Check out the TangleCrafts Etsy Store for more details.

Papertrail #2 cover shot Hot on the heels of Papertrail #1, you can now also find Papertrail #2.  Papertrail #2 is a zine full of questions and books and reading habits, with answers/opinions from me, Corey, and spaces for your own responses, too.  It’s all about books, and how we live with them.  Alongside everything else is a Papertrails ‘map’ of routes you can take from novel to novel, spaces to design your own book jackets, plus copy-&-cut bookplates & bookmarks.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, Papertrail #2 also includes a free membership pack for the Papertrail Reader’s Club!

The Papertrail Reader’s Club is there for everyone who loves to read.  The Basic Membership Pack includes:Club Package

  • 2 pre-gummed Ex Libris plates
  • 2 recommendation bookmarks left blank for you to personalise
  • and the Member Book:

The Papertrail Readers’ Club Book is a membership card and reader’s record book combined! It is a 20 page, staple-bound mini-booklet, printed on high quality recycled sugar papers. Each book will be personalised with your name and membership number, and date stamped with the start date of your membership. It includes spaces to list all the books you want to read alongside dates started & finished, and there are even pages to fill in with your own mini-reviews! Club Book

Each month, a different book is chosen as a feature title, with review printed inside the back cover.  Club members are eligible to submit their own reviews of the club titles which may earn them a free Papertrail zine!

If you buy any issue of Papertrail, you will receive free membership to the Reader’s Club, including the current month’s club review.  If you don’t want to buy the zine, you can still buy a one-off membership to the club with a Basic Membership Package.  And if you fill your record book quickly, or just want another, a Renewal Membership Package is available at a reduced price.

Told you I’d been busy ;-).  And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Does anyone have any leftover lavender?

LL FrontThe reason I ask is, I’ve just added a new mini zine to my Etsy store that is absolutely packed with project suggestions for your leftovers.  The zine is printed on recycled paper embedded with real lavender flowers, and will show you how to make lavender sugar, tea, incense sticks, infused oils and more!  Cunningly concealed on the inside of the zine, you will also find a cross stitch embroidery pattern and instructions.  You just need to turn the zine inside-out to find it!  And if you don’t have the leftover threads in your stash to stitch the pattern, I have also put together a limited edition kit including 21 different shades of overdyed floss + fabric so you can get started straight away.  Check out listings for both zine and kit for more info.

LL kit[Update: June 10th] N.B. The first kit sold straight away, so I have just made up &  added a second.  There won’t be more than 5 kits made, so buy now if you want one!

Thoughts about stitching with overdyed threads

I always stitch with overdyed threads.  I do this because I like them.  I love the serendipity of the colour placement, and the fact that a piece stitched from the same pattern will be different every time.  If you have a symmetrical design, you can take care with the threads (sometimes starting a new length before you have finished the last) so that the colours fall in the same place on a mirrored image, or you can just stitch as the thread comes and see what happens.

I think I’m unusual in that I ONLY stitch with overdyed threads, but at the same time, I do appreciate from a design perspective that a plain/solid colour can be the best way to enhance and complement an overdyed shade.  But there are so many types of overdyed threads around these days that I can get around this.  Some overdyed threads have quite dramatic, contrasting colour changes; others are far subtler, and often only have very minor variations within one shade of the same colour (sometimes not even as dramatic as light to dark).  Therefore, I simply pair a more dramatic colour scheme with one in a shade of minimal contrasts, and then neither shade is compromised.  Subtle shades can usually be stitched together without danger, but more dramatic colour combinations stitched within one piece can either clash, or just look messy.    Serendipity is one thing, but the point of design is to harness a thread’s special features, and makes its character workfor, rather than against you.

Which brings me to my point, really.  Now personally, I’m not a big stitcher of cross stitch (although I have done quite a lot in the past) but I do enjoy designing cross stitch, and I love to see the finished results – especially if someone else has done the stitching!  BUT when I create a design, I visualise in my head how it would look if I had stitched it myself.  When we are talking about overdyed threads (which we are) and somebody else stitching the design, it would be rare for a stitcher to automatically stitch it in the same way that I would myself and therefore come close to my visualisation.

This leaves me with something of a quandary.  Should I give the model stitcher guidance on how I would like the finished piece to look?  I have decided yes, I should.  Because although everyone else who stitches the design might stitch it in a different way and therefore have a different visual end result, at least I have demonstrated the design as it matches my own vision.  But then, should I give the same guidance within a kit so that subsequent stitchers can replicate the design as closely as possible to the model stitcher’s version?  Or should I leave out the additional stitch guidance, and allow the stitcher to make her own choice of style?

My instinct is to go with the latter as I don’t like to be dictatorial, nor do I want to encourage stitchers to be sheep, capable only of replication and not original thought.  The tagline to my business name, TangleCrafts, is ‘Explore, experiment, enjoy!’ because that is exactly what I want people to do.  We are talking about creative people – those people who, in their leisure time, simply want to create.  Of course I shouldn’t talk down to them.

The quandary lies in the fact that many people see a design and buy a kit because they DO want to replicate it exactly.  If I have left the design unguided, then I have given the stitcher the choice of whether they wish to replicate or innovate.  But I have hereby made the assumption that they already have the relevant knowledge in order to make that informed decision.  Given an unguided design, it is possible they will neither know how to translate it into the cover design they have seen, nor how to put their own stamp on it.

So then I feel obliged to include the guidance, which is probably what you think I should have thought all along.  This then leaves me with a choice of exactly what guidance to inlude:

1.  ONLY chart with guidance on how to replicate the cover design.

2.  Chart with replication guidance PLUS a chart for the same design that is open to individual interpretation.


3.  Chart with replication guidance PLUS an open interpretation chart PLUS guidance in potential different ways to interpret the design.

Perhaps I am overthinking this – it is something I do.  But I think it’s an important decision to make, because the information I include within a kit sends a message to the person who buys it.  Having been pondering this whole thing lately, I am more or less decided.  My kits will include information to the level of point 2 above.  I wouldn’t be happy only providing the information of how to replicate the design, nor would I think I had done my job as a designer if I hadn’t told them how to.

Take look at the ‘Tiffany Acorns’ photo I have added below.   My model stitcher, Shari, followed the guidance I provided to the letter, when she stitched this kit.  Notice how the acorn pattern is echoed within itself, emphasising ts curved contours.  Imagine how different this design would look if it had been stitched from left to right, right to left, leaving the effect of horizontal stripes.  By no means am I saying ‘my way of stitching is better’; simply that the method of stitching makes a difference to the overall appearance, and in design terms, this must be taken into account.

But rather than overload my kits with excess information – because this is an issue that is relevant to more than one of my designs, but individually, they are only small –  I think I am going to produce a separate booklet.  This would in essence be a beginner’s guide to cross stitching with overdyed threads, but would include some ideas for moving on a step for those stitchers already familiar with the techniques.  It would also include a selection of sample patterns to practise what it preached!  I could then market the booklet alongside the relevant kits, giving the individual stitchers the choice of whether they think they need the extra information or not.  For me, I think this is an ideal compromise!

I have ideas for various stitch techniques that would give basic information on ‘how-to’ and then progress to next-step development – basically, ideas to encourage and inspire stitchers to think creatively, rather than to be limited by charts and instructions.  Amongst other things, I’m thinking about freeform and 4-way bargello, and graduated/shaded blackwork.  Perhaps once all the individual thought-booklets have been produced, I could look at trying to get them published, but bound as one entire book – ‘Stitching Outside of the Box’.  What do you think?

I think counted thread embroidery can get a bit of bad press from the ‘arty’ embroidery community, but really, it can be every bit as creative.  We stitchers are creative people, let’s celebrate that!

A cross stitch design, (c) TangleCrafts, 2008
Tiffany Acorns ~ A cross stitch design, (c) TangleCrafts, 2008.

An intro to TangleCrafts & me

A predominantly self-taught stitcher, I have recently decided to venture out into the world to market my own counted thread designs. I’ve been designing for 6 years, & have more patterns & ideas than time in which to stitch them (or in some cases, chart them).  Luckily, I have managed to build a little team of model stitchers who are helping me make some headway.  I can’t – of course – kit a design until I have a photo of the finished stitched pieces to show on the packaging, so this is an essential part of the process.  It also helps me gauge the quantities of thread & fabric to include in kits, find out if instructions need clarifying (something that’s harder to do if I stitch my own models), and in some cases, see things I want to change in the pattern itself.   It’s a great learning curve!

I do a lot less stitching myself than I used to, but I really enjoy the process of the designing, & stitch small samples as I go along, just to make sure things work.  I have lots of ideas I haven’t had chance to try out, yet, but with my stitchers’ help, that mythical day when I will have time to get around to everything is hopefully getting slightly closer.  At the moment, my time is spent mostly fine-tuning existing charts, typing up instructions, & perfecting the layout of the chart/kit packaging. I enjoy designing the packaging almost as much as the patterns themselves – just another aesthetic aspect of the job, I guess.

Of course, the problem with spending a lot of time charting, means that I ALWAYS get sidetracked & see how a spin-off pattern could work, or it will kick-start another idea entirely.  It’s fruitful in one way, but not necessarily productive in terms of actually getting done what I intended to!  But I have limited time for all this work, so I do have to be strict with myself, & prioritise things I would otherwise leave until later.  The ideas & planning notebook is ever-expanding…

There are related projects such as dyeing my own threads & colouring my own canvases which are on the really-need-to-get-done list, too. The charting & kitting has to take priority; but being able to supply my own hand-dyed threads would be a great addition – & I may even have to get some charts re-stitched using the, depending on how successful they turn out to be.  And canvas colouring, although not essential to the current wave of model stitching, will again play a large part in ideas I have for the future.

Why can’t I do everything at once?  I’m sure if I just had a few more hands, & a few more hours in every day, life would be so much easier!