Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Is the Craft Magazine a Dinosaur? - an editorial

I have read several articles over the last few months asking if the internet is killing off print craft publications - books and magazines.

Long analysis short, the answers are premature. Yes, some magazines have come and gone, such as Craftseller (UK), Interweave's Stitch magazine, and Stitch Craft Create. 

But there are always new start-ups and then many, many long-lived standards of the world of quilting, knitting, crochet, sewing, and embroidery healthy enough to stay in print.

Magazines have certainly come and gone. Everything changes. But the internet did not discover craft and the DIY revolution is not one. Millennials did not revolutionize handcraft. 

What millennials have done is use the most immediate global communication tool to make visible the printable ice cream cone and pom poms. They did not reinvent the crocheted granny square but they made it possible for everyone to get the pattern. They did not discover the chevron, nor owls, nor pennant flags. But they did invite millions to draw them, sew them, and play with them.

So are magazines going to go by the wayside if tutorials and patterns are so readily available?

In my opinion, no, not for some time. And here's why. 

Meet an internet trend:

Web locations have lost the creativity they wish to bring to their readers. They all look the same. They all use a handful of templates that are remarkably similar. A system is designed (such as this blog page or my newsletter template) and the content is stuffed into it regardless of the mood, season, or style of the content. 

And more often than not, site B will simply copy the craft of site A because if it's trending, you might find site B on Google when you search the trend. So a trend isn't a trend at all. It's just a bunch of copycats who want to be found on Google so they can sell you a product or idea. 

In the case of Scandi decor, the minimalist ideal is there to sell you the feeling that you don't own much and are not a materialist. This feeling will cost you several weeks' pay. That's a remarkably creative irony.

You can buy a pattern or bookmark a tutorial on your phone but you still need to sit down with a computer to download the printable or pattern. And that's cool, but it's no different from photocopying a page from a library book without having seen the rest of the book. The experience is easy and doable, but there is no depth. It's the fast food of the craft world. And we all know fast food gives us a temporary feeling of satisfied bloat, but we're hungry again in an hour or so.

Magazines, on the other hand and IN the hands, are the rest of the book. They contain articles, meet the makers, supply sources, variety of projects, instructions, and the patterns already printed and ready to go. They are not just a project, they are an actual product.

In the world of magazines, content is taken seriously. The magazine is designed around the content. Content is written and chosen before layout is designed, before headlines are written, and paragraphs are designed to complement images which are carefully chosen to convey the story and teach technique.

Magazines have respect for your brain. They aren't telling you a felted owl iPhone case is definitely cool and you would be too if you "liked" it. They put that felted owl iPhone case among a variety of possible options and let you choose. They appeal to many tastes. Like a restaurant with menus and waiters. Maybe even tablecloths.

So why exactly do I think magazines won't die an agonizing death in the face of fast craft web-designated trends? Because most actual handworkers are still between the ages of 45 and 70. And we are a hands-on, readers of paper generation. We love a good digest of projects. We love to be enticed, romanced, engaged. We love the choice.

And if magazines go by the wayside in deference to online tutorials it won't be until most of us are gone. And I don't know about you, but I'm planning to stick around for quite some time.

I was just about to think of a conclusion for this post, something about how cool we are, a photo of crazy handworkers doing needlework in front of a stack of magazines, but this JUST came into my inbox and this is the first thing I saw when I opened it.

Seriously? This is all I've seen in Bloglovin's emails for weeks now. I'm going out to buy a magazine.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Second Most Visited Page on the Blog

I don't use or buy a lot of plastic, but it is inevitable that some plastic bags and food containers or wrapping will come into my house and go out via the trash can. I suspect it's the same at your house. We all do our best to reduce plastics use.

But the unadvertised toxicity of both the manufacture and use of soft plastic textile fibers, like polyester and acrylic, disturbs me because I feel it takes away our informed choice.

I have one tutorial that is the most often visited page on my blog. The second most visited? The page tab of natural fiberfill vs. polyester fiberfill.

Polyester fiberfill is listed in the US Toxic Substances Control Act as an inert but toxic fiber. I won't rehash the whole thing. I'll let you read up on how it can cause a carcinogenic avalanche in pet and infant lungs and intestines and create endocrine disruption. You can do some more research into the water and air pollution caused at polyester fiber plants and the cancer rate among workers. 

And while you're at it, check out "oilcloth" which is no longer actually cloth soaked in linseed oil, but vinyl coated cotton fabric. Almost all vinyl contains lead. So much lead that Washington state banned lunchboxes because the lead was leaching into schoolchildren's lunches. 

Polyester fiberfill has only been patented as a toy stuffing since the mid-1960s. You know, back when DDT was being sprayed on our food and smoking was "good for you". Natural fibers are history's standards; plastic is the alternative.

And really, I don't judge: I created a project recently for a magazine shoot and didn't want to have to fill it with $30 of wool stuffing. I bought an brand new $3.50 cushion insert at a local thrift store and used that. It's the first time I've used polyester fill in 20 years.

So I'm not pointing fingers at anyone or waving eco-flags. I'm a real person just like you facing the issues the best I can.

Did you know there were this many delicious natural choices out there? I didn't! I encourage you to play with them. Have fun!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Let's Do the Limbo

Well, I am still in limbo concerning a new website. I admit, I know nothing about the process, but I am waiting excitedly to see the big reveal.

Anxious to get back to putting thread to all my new embroidery designs, impatient to see the new website and give you all new links to tutorials, and working like mad the last two weeks completing magazine craft project commissions, I have now managed to throw my back out.

Today, I'll be moving slowly. My goals - and oh, yes, I still have them for nothing keeps a stitcher down - are to finish several commissions and start posting the follow-up to Embroidery School which I introduced in the last post. Then, gosh, I have so many embroidery designs dancing in my head like Christmas sugarplums, and I can't wait until I can get to those.

I really have to thank Helen Dickson of Bustle and Sew for featuring me in her project-packed magazine this month. Because of her article and newsletter, I have had a huge increase in newsletter sign-ups and some new blog followers. 

I feel a little sheepish that the last few weeks have produced so little for you while the new website is being built - you know, you don't want to start something new if you think it's all going to change tomorrow.......and then 5 days down the road, you're still thinking "tomorrow, right?"

But Rome wasn't built in a day! And while we wait for the unveiling of the site, I invite you to check out a few posts on my blog.

Free pattern - Embroidery project tote

The dangers of polyester fill and the joys of natural fill

The most downloaded tutorial - Amish Puzzle Ball 

Ta da! Embroidery School of course

Your most frequently asked questions  

What's on the work table right now? Oh my gosh! I wish I could show you!! But I've been working on magazine project commissions and I can only give the peeping Tom view such as the country doll bits (above photo) and some zentangled necklaces. 

But I do have some lovely sampler embroidery patterns coming up such as the fish in the first photo above.

I call them samplers because they use the most basic stitches learned in Embroidery School. Other stitches used will always come with a lesson. E.g. the Button Sampler pattern - when I listed this for sale, I also posted on the blog a how-to for the blanket stitch variations used.  

And then there's the ever popular Amish knotted rag rug wooden needles I make from reclaimed pine and reclaimed hardwoods. This batch is now finished and waiting to be sent off to happy customers.

Let's be in limbo. Waiting means being able to not be in a hurry. Which is kind of the essence of time for YOU, to sit, to stitch, to daydream, to design. Enjoy!

Basic Straight Stitches - what's the difference?

I took a few quick snaps of three basic straight stitches as I was creating Embroidery School and I thought to share them today.

Some patterns tell you which stitches to use where and others might suggest options or leave it to your imagination. Where there is a fill needed, it might say 'use a fill stitch of your choice' or with an outline 'use your favorite straight stitch'.

But what if you don't know what that is? 

Today I'm just showing three very basic straight stitches so you can see how they look. This may help you picture your choices in future.

The first photo above illustrates (from top down) back stitch, stem stitch, and running stitch. 

As you can see below, running stitch is also used to make random lines for fill in or texture, like grass.

The last photo is the back of the work.

Cross stitch and stem stitch were the two stitches I was taught first. When I learned back stitch, I switched in a flash. I love the outline back stitch gives and I reserve stem stitch for more decorative outlining and traditional or vintage patterns. 

Back stitch has a minimalist, modern look to it and is a great choice for a simple clean line. 

That's all for now. Just a quick look-see. 

If you're a beginner, I hope these basics help. If you are a more seasoned needleworker, I hope you'll send your newbies over to Embroidery School or use the lessons to teach someone. Sharing the joy of a quiet stitching session or getting together with other stitchers is such a joy and I love to share that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Welcomes, Apologies, and Have a Donut!

Hello to all the new folks who have been sent over via links on other blogs and from the magazine features and projects that have been published in the last two weeks.

I am very sorry that the site has been down for the last week. A new site is being prepared and I did not know this site would be taken down during that time. It is back up temporarily.

I have also not been able to send a newsletter and am still waiting for a new email to use. Gmail has changed its spam settings and my old email cannot be used as the "reply to" anymore. I will send one as soon as I can.

So relax, put your feet up, and have a doughnut. No, really, it won't spoil your dinner or ruin your diet. Because it's a Doughnut Coaster sewing pattern!! 

Make it fluffy or make it flat. Embroider the icing and sprinkles or use yarn or fabric paint for embellishment.

While you're enjoying your tea or coffee and new coaster, I'll be getting brand new Embroidery School practice patterns ready to post. 

Once a week, I'll post a project and free downloadable pattern where you get to use one of the stitches we learned in Embroidery School. Some of the projects will also have other optional skills, such as tea staining, or tinting with colored pencils, or applique.

Here's one for practicing cross stitch. Looks pretty simple. Too simple? It's a blown up bit of a 1760 cross stitch sampler, but the fun part will be tea staining it before stitching. Might even stain it with a bit of blueberry for some lovely purple staining, too. NOW it's more interesting, huh?

Can't wait to be back and start our artful stitching practice. I miss you guys!! Fingers crossed this will be worked out soon! Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Stay Tuned and Stitch On

So how is everyone doing with their Embroidery School samplers? 

Still working on it? That's fine. It's all about carving out that bit of sweet time for yourself and having something tactile in your hands and relaxing. Yes, letting those shoulders drop a bit. Having a cup of tea or coffee. Or even tequila. 

Embroidery School Sampler by Dawn Lewis

Here's what some of my new stitching friends are saying about Embroidery School:

I must complement you on your instructions which are easily understood, clear and well broken down.

Yahhhhh! I’m so excited about embroidery school!!!

I really love your style and approach – particularly your embroidery school series.

(Allison) has great ideas for beginners.

Embroidery School will help you with getting your tools together (needles, hoops, fabric, threads), transferring your pattern to fabric, washing and caring for your work, displaying it, storing your supplies, and of course, stitching it. The series teaches twelve stitches to use in a free downloadable sampler (two styles to choose from). 

When was the last time your homework was relaxing AND only took about 10 minutes a day? Gosh, it's like recess IS the school!

Join in the fun here: Embroidery School

Stitches to learn and practice are being added to the twelve in the free online program. Just keep checking at the bottom of the page links.  

The new website is in the works!

The URL will remain the same: www.sweaterdoll.com but links to posts will change.

UPDATE: No new website. Please continue to enjoy all my posts, tutorials, and lessons here at sweaterdoll.blogspot.com. I am repairing all broken links. (edited July 1, 2016)

You know, you also get a free embroidery pattern when you sign up, so if you haven't joined in, please feel free to.

SweaterDoll is traveling the world - in print. 

Helen Dickson, of Bustle and Sew, featured me in her June issue of the Bustle and Sew digital magazine. It's jam-packed with projects and patterns, meet the maker articles, and a few recipes - hello, scones!

Helen's work is lovely and she found Embroidery School while surfing (avoiding working she says). Nice to know we're not the only ones finding online goodies when we "should" be doing something else, huh?

There is also a new SweaterDoll doll pattern published in the June 2016 Homespun magazine. This pattern is a redesigned doll using the layer cake method I used for the Perfectly Imperfect dolls published in tickle the imagination last October and now for sale in my shop.

But this doll is a traditional cloth doll shape so the legs move as if they were added separately. 

Added bonus: Homespun does its own photo shoots and I found out the illustration used in the background is by Australian artist, Peter Hinton. I found out because an online friend in a handmaking community mentioned that she knew him. She was kind enough to pass on my thank you for creating such a magical backdrop for this doll. He was genuinely pleased and surprised by my contact. How lovely is this internet thing where we get to make new relationships daily!

Stay tuned - 

I might be minus a newsletter next week. Depends on Gmail and its new spam settings so I'm having to change my reply-to email. But I'm on it. 

Stitch on - 

Don't forget to visit the shop. I have some lovely designs there for you. Easy as pie but still very giftable! Use them as hoop art, embroider them on tote bags, quilt blocks, a skirt, a jeans jacket!