This season's must-have tool

We know you are busy stitching holiday gifts, with visions of beautiful ornaments and stockings dancing in your heads. Your stitching is beautiful, now make sure the finishing is just as elegant. What, no time to send your project to a professional finisher? We understand…that's why there is a tool to help you at home, in the wee hours of the night, finish those projects with flair.

It's the Kreinik Custom Corder and you can buy one at your local needlework store, various online stores, or here. If this sounds like an infomercial, we apologize, but this is one product that has proven helpful to stitchers over and over again. In times of holiday crafting stress, we want to help. We have taught trim classes, made countless cords in shops and at trade shows, and heard back from Custom-Corder owners witnessing to the fact that this tool is "an absolutely wonderful gadget."

10 Things To Know About the Custom Corder

1. What is it? The Kreinik Custom Corder is a hand-held tool that twists together two or more strands of thread to create craft cording. Use this cording to trim pillows, ornaments, stand ups, stockings, anything where piping or trim is needed.
2. Why is it so great? #1 The trims you make with this tool will look like professional cording, but at a fraction of the cost. #2 Rather than relying on a store-bought trim that may or may not match, you can combine any colors to coordinate with a project. #3 It's easy to use; kids and adults of all ages and skill levels can use it. #4 Small, lightweight, and portable to keep in your stitching stash for on-the-spot (and under-a-deadline) trim making.

3. How do I use it? Instructions come with the Corder, but you can also see a video here.

4. What kind of threads can I use? Anything! Feel free to combine colors to match your project, and combine textures to make cording elegant. We have corded Kreinik metallics (Medium #16 Braid, Canvas #24 Braid, Heavy #32 Braid and 1/8" Ribbon are best) with Kreinik silk threads (Silk Mori, Silk Serica), knitting yarns, strips of leather, rick-rack, silk ribbons, even strips of fabric. 

5. Is there a difference between the black model and the red model? Yes, the red model is the old version. The new improved black model has the weight in the handle, meaning you don't need an extra tool to complete the twisting process.

6. Can I mix more than two colors? Yes! The more friends you have (to hold the ends) the more colors you can mix. 

7. Can I make cording by myself or do I need another person? If by yourself, anchor the opposite end of the thread onto a bulletin board or another steady object in your house. Here is one stitcher's clever idea for using multiple colors when you're friends/family aren't around: http://stitchinpost.blogspot.com/2007/11/kreinik-custom-corder.html

8. What else can I make with it besides trim? You can make jewelry such as chains, bracelets, friendship bracelets, sports-themed bracelets. Doll artists use the corder to twist very fine threads to make scale replicas of jewelry and dollhouse furnishings. Needlepointers also use it to make surface embellishments, couch on designs to resemble real-metal threads, or create dimensional effects on painted canvas designs.

9. Where can I see photos of things made with the Corder? Check out our Flickr Album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kreinikgirl/sets/72157638583212684/

10. Where do I get one? You can buy one at your local needlework store, various online stores, or here.

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Free Christmas projects—and cookies!

Kreinik's annual holiday stitch-and-craft-bonanza begins this week with the 25 Days of Free Christmas Projects on www.kreinik.com. We will post new projects each week, so bookmark the page—or make it your home page during this festive holiday season. Each project is designed to be stitched or made quickly, but to result in a stunning holiday treat for your home or to give as a gift. We'll give you the WOW factor to stun your friends with your cool Christmas crafting. 

First up: a cross-stitch ornament design from Cathie Richardson of Country Garden Stitchery. This design is a silver snowflake wrapped up in a red Christmas bow. It is quick to stitch (you can make it while you're watching a holiday movie) and the Kreinik Ornament Frame makes finishing instant. 

Since we love celebrating everything around the holidays, including food, we asked Cathie to share one of her favorite cookie recipes. Enjoy!

White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract or grated peel of 1 orange
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 c. white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in a large bowl.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in oats, cranberries, and white chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet.   Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on baking sheets 1-2 minutes and remove to wire racks to cool completely. 

Visit www.kreink.com for the 25 Days of Free Christmas Project Calendar 

To see more of Cathie Richardson and Country Garden Stitchery's designs, "Needlework patterns for those who love the garden!", visit www.countrygardenstitchery.com

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Profile of doll artist Marlene Slobin


“My very favorite thing is to embellish a doll.” – Marlene Slobin

In the timeline of her life, doll artist Marlene Slobin came late to the craft. She lived a lifetime in her primary career, but creativity was always a part of her personality. Now retired, she “works” on her soft sculpture and mixed media dolls, and is a legend for her prolific but meticulously created creations.

We first met Marlene at Fall International Quilt Market 2012, when she created a gorgeous Kreinik doll for our exhibit. A bundle of energy, Southern charm, and creative passion, she was also working the Treasures of the Gypsy (doll company) booth at International Quilt Festival. “The older I get, the more I seem to do,” Marlene says.

Marlene retired from the world of public education in 2002. She authored two books during that career, Making Social Studies Come Alive and Making Social Studies Happen, With Standards, but she still found time to concentrate on her own creative endeavors in her spare time. Even today, though no longer in a classroom, she provides support and training to teachers in the Houston area through the Teacher Mentor Corps.

It wasn’t until 2000 that she discovered doll making as her creative outlet.  This soon became a passion, and Marlene took as many doll making classes as possible. With each class she began to discover her own style. She is a good teacher and mentor to other doll enthusiasts now, but she is toughest on herself. What excites and challenges her with each new doll creation is the high expectations she sets for herself. Marlene wants to improve with each creation, and it is obvious, as she creates one marvel after another.

Marlene has exhibited at the Arts Alliance Center at Clear Lake and the Brazosport Art League. Her dolls have been at the Houston International Quilt Markets and Quilt Festivals, and in fact she won the Treasures of the Gypsy Best of Show award at this year’s festival. Her work has also been in various publications including Art Doll Quarterly, Soft Dolls and Animals, Cloth Paper Scissors, Doll Crafter and Costuming. This year, she won the Soft Dolls and Animals “You Did What with that Pattern?” contest with one of her designs. She has also written articles for The Treasures of the Gypsy Challenge. She is a member of the Texas Association of Original Doll Artists as well as Material Girls of Houston doll club.

Marlene husband of 48 years, Lester is her most ardent supporter. We are big fans of partners who encourage sewing, stitching, fabric collecting, mess making, and all the other qualities that come with creative people. We thank you, Marlene, for sharing your doll creations with us.

To view more of Marlene’s dolls, visit her Pinterest page at http://www.pinterest.com/marlene91344/marlene-s-original-dolls/ and her winning Quilt Festival creation at http://taoda-artists.blogspot.com/2013/11/international-quilt-festival-2013.html?spref=fb
 

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Through the eyes of a doll maker


Profile of doll artist Dell Jones

We have had the pleasure of displaying a beautiful doll created by Texas artist Dell Jones at International Quilt Market in 2012 and 2013. At last week's Quilt Market, it was featured on our main table in the front of the booth as part of our iron-on thread demonstration (because the doll is embellished with Kreinik Iron-on Threads). We have never seen a doll so photographed and admired by pretty much everyone who walked the aisle (really, no exaggeration). There is just something about dolls, and this doll in particular, that connects with people. 

Is it the expression in the eyes that draws you? Yes. Take a close look and you will be amazed at the emotion that comes through a painted or stitched doll face. That, to us, shows the talent of the doll maker. But just as with all needlework and art, it's the details that matter as well. Dell embellished this doll with thread, accenting carefully chosen fabrics, using color and stitch variety to create dimension and style. 

Dell is regularly featured in the special doll exhibit section of Quilt Market and Quilt Festival (for dates, see www.quilts.com). Each year we are delighted to spot the "Dell doll" and see what she has created. Let's hear from Dell herself, and enjoy photos of her work. Let this inspire you, in whatever medium you work, with whichever materials (we suggest trying Kreinik iron-on threads like Dell did…), in any stage of life.

Doll artist Dell Jones told us…

"My name is Dell Jones and I was born loving dolls.  As a child, I designed their clothes from silk scarfs and anything else my mother would let me have from her sewing box. I earned the money for the FIRST Barbie because my parents thought I was too old for dolls. Little did they know that fifty plus years later I would still be playing with dolls.

I first became aware of Art Dolls at the Houston International Quilt Festival where I saw the doll exhibit. I was amazed and wanted to make them, too. I bought a Santa pattern and decided he looked more like a Wise Man, so I made three by the next Christmas. 

Through a mutual friend, I met Marlene Slobin who told me about The Material Girls Cloth Doll Club. I joined at the first meeting and have been learning the art of doll making through classes, retreats, and the incredible sharing of the members. 

I can't seem to copy a pattern exactly. My imagination just takes off on a tangent. Just like that Santa who morphed into a Wise Man, my dolls are inspired by dolls of the many talented doll artists around the world. I will take something from many patterns and create their costumes as I go. I am also inspired by fabrics, trims, threads, buttons, beads and tons of old junk jewelry. Most of my dolls have been made as gifts or for my own pleasure. Occasionally I have made similar dolls for sale on request.

I have always been artistic and have tried every fabric inspired project that came along. But I will readily admit that the world of Art Dolls meets all of my artistic needs and I hope to continue creating them for a long time. As I tell people who ask how I am doing after injuring my shoulder several years ago, "As long as I can give hugs and make dolls, I'm just fine." 

Side note: Next we will feature Marlene Slobin, mentioned by Dell above, who created another stunning doll design for our exhibit. Wait until you see this one! Stay tuned to the blog.

To learn about Kreinik iron-on threads, visit: http://www.kreinik.com/shops/Iron-On-Threads/
Try Kreinik Iron-on Threads - on sale this week: http://www.kreinik.com/shops/Iron-On-Thread-Sale-Items/

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10 questions with art quilter Laurie Swim

Note:   This week is International Quilt Market, a trade show in Houston, Texas, for the quilt and sewing industry. Kreinik will be there in booth #2447, selling our machine sewing threads and showing the beautiful quilts of this Canadian artist. 

On his summer vacation, Doug Kreinik pointed his car in the direction of beautiful Nova Scotia. He stopped in quaint towns, visited needlework shops, toured the sites, and met interesting people. On such Nova Scotian was Laurie Swim, a quilt designer and award winner. She has won many awards for her "documentary qulits" celebrating working people and some of the dangers of various jobs like ocean fishing and coal mining. "She has a beautiful gallery," Doug said. "Many of her pieces and commissions were designed from photos of different sites and scenes of the beautiful coast lines and little harbor inlets of Nova Scotia. Myla and I were often taken aback by the beauty of the countryside and the wealth of history and hard times faced the people."

Laurie's projects include private commissions and large-scale community quilts. She has written several books on quilt art, and her latest is "Rags to Riches: The Quilt as Art." Kreinik will be featuring quilts by Laurie in the Kreinik booth at this month's International Quilt Market, and will be selling copies of her book. 

There is always something to learn from a needle artist, no matter their medium, skill level, geographical location, etc, so this week we'd like to share our interview with Laurie. To learn more about her quilts, visit www.artquiltpublishing.com.

10 questions with quilt artist Laurie Swim

Q: What does "art quilt" mean to you?
A: I often debate this question with myself. I think simply that it is an art object which uses the concept of the quilt among other things, to deliver the artist's vision.

Q: When did you start quilting? Were you influenced by anyone in your life, events, or places in your life?
A: Making quilts in the small community of Lockeport, Nova Scotia, where I grew up, was a traditional pastime. I liked sewing from an early age and I made my first quilt when I was 16. My ambition had always been to become a painter. After graduating from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, I began experimenting with fabric and thread as a medium. My first art quilt, Eve's Apple, was entered in the Nova Scotia Craft Council juried show in 1976. The juror, Alex Colville, a renowned realist painter, awarded the work Best in Show. Years later, he kindly wrote a glowing introduction to my first book, The Joy of Quilting. Eve's Apple graced the cover.

Q: Your quilts are like paintings, but very textural. How do you combine fabric and thread to make them so visually interesting? 
A: Recently, a friend reminded me that I use the same technique in my work that painting often employs, that is, laying down color (pieces of fabric) and blending them (thread play) using free motion on the sewing machine as a drawing tool. The only time I use paint or dye, messy stuff, is when I need to create a sky or water. 

Q: Which Kreinik threads do you use?
A: At the moment, I am experimenting with many of the metallic threads Kreinik offers. I am particularly impressed with the quality of the fine sewing thread and how it easily flows through the machine. In the past, I have found metallic threads frustrating and have avoided using them. Now I am free to accent my work with metallic highlights.

Q: Do you have tips or suggestions for using specialty threads like metallics?
A: I generally set them in a cup behind my machine and thread them through the eye of a safety pin I have taped to the side of my machine. I bet many of your readers have better suggestions.

Q: Many of your quilts have historical themes, inspired by actual events. So beyond being fiber art, your quilts are storytellers. How do you select the story to document? Are you inspired by politics, issues, setting, region, emotion, sociology in the story?
A: All those things. It is usually a collision of ideas and events. I have to relate to the subject emotionally to give it life in my work. 

Q: Tell us about some of your community quilts.
A: I have created 6 large scale community built quilts for social activism and historical record. They were initiated and designed by me and made with volunteers from the community. This interest began almost twenty years ago when at the time I felt isolated within my art making and wanted to be part of or involved with a larger community. I was living in rural Ontario outside the larger centre of Kingston, Ontario, when I happened upon a grant for Art in the Workplace that was offered by the Ontario Arts Council at that time. I contacted the local Kingston and District Labor Council to see if they were interested in doing a project with me. They were and we began our association with making a labor banner. 

The following year we submitted another proposal to do a larger more important historical work commemorating the builders of the Rideau Canal, which runs between Kingston and Ottawa through the Canadian Shield. It was an amazing construction achievement accomplished between 1828 and 1832 by itinerate Irish workers under dire circumstances. I titled the 9' x 15' work, made of thousands of thumbnail pieces of fabric, Pulling Together, The Builders of the Rideau Canal, 1828-32. The experience enlightened me as to how the vulnerable are taken advantage of and that politicized my work. 

My family moved from Kingston to Toronto where I undertook another history project to mark the amalgamation of the Toronto boroughs in 1998. 

Then came the opportunity for an even larger community built quilt as a millennium project commemorating an important part of Canadian labor history. The death of five Italian immigrant men in 1960 who were digging a water main tunnel for the city of Toronto, outraged the community. That tragic event led to safety regulations on construction sites in Canada, saving many lives. Breaking Ground, The Hogg's Hollow Disaster, 1960, 7' x 20' is now permanently installed in a floor to ceiling glass case in the York Mills Subway Station near the location of where the incident took place. 

Also in 2000, I spent the summer in my hometown creating the memorial to the tragic loss of 17 fishermen that devastated my community in 1961 leaving 16 widows and 65 children fatherless. Lost at Sea was a project close to my heart and began my journey home to Nova Scotia. Following that, I undertook a very emotional and more currently problematic project, The Canadian Young Workers Memorial. Volunteer sewers and I created 200 hundred commemorative pieces, one set for the memorial and another for the family of each of the 100 youths between 15 and 24 years of age who died on the job. 

In 2003, after completing this work, I was invited by the Lunenburg Heritage Society and the South Shore Tourist Association to create The Lunenburg Heritage Story Quilt in the public eye during the celebration of the 250th founding of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The following year, my husband and I made the decision to move here permanently.

Q: How would a quilter start a community quilt project in their town? (i.e., any thoughts or suggestions or advice, from small to large community quilt projects?) 
A: The most important suggestion I can give to someone thinking of initiating a community project is to engage a person or persons to be the core champions of the project. Usually, this means they are personally invested in the project and committed to seeing it through. The artist is the visionary and the one who figures out how the work will be made. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in the project gives it the moral centre needed to imbue it with meaning. In practical terms, although the artist is in charge of the final outcome, the input of those supporting and working on it makes it a richer experience as well as a powerful outcome.

Q: Do you create privately commissioned pieces, such as quilts from photos, memorabilia, etc?  
A: I do commissions occasionally. I just finished one for the daughter of one of the fishermen who I commemorated in Lost at Sea. It was a scene of Lockeport Crescent Beach, a subject we were both familiar with. I think that is the key to doing a commissioned work. It has to be a subject that touches both the artist and the recipient of the work. I have worked from photos and included incorporation of memorabilia on occasion.

Q: If you didn't have a life lived in the arts, what would you be doing?
A: I have no idea as I have always thought I would be an artist. Whether that is a calling or a compulsion, I don't know. I do know I would be less happy if I did not try to lead a creative life.

About the quilts in the photos:
• Breaking Ground, The Hogg's Hollow Disaster, 1960  7'h x 20'w Laurie Swim, 2000
Peasant Boy (After Suerat), 9"x12", Laurie Swim, 2013 (About the Kreinik threads in the piece: "I couched a strip of yellow [Micro Ice Chenille] into the line dividing the field from the tree line to accentuate it. I also stitched some of the fine gold thread throughout the field to make it glisten."
After Turner, 8"x6", Laurie Swim, 2013 (About the Kreinik threads used in the piece: "I used three strands gradated in size of the iron on metallic in the water and one in the sky and feel it added a nice touch.")
Family Outing, 34x58, Laurie Swim, 2013
• Laurie and her work in progress

Laurie's websites:

Kreinik threads for machine embroidery in machine quilting:

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Time to stitch on something different

As you stitch holiday projects for gifts or home decor this year, are you getting bored with the same old fabrics? Another ornament on 18-count mono canvas…or natural brown 28-count linen again… While these fabrics are staples in any stitching studio, it's time to try something new, or well, new to you. How about silk gauze?


Silk what? Kreinik sells silk gauze in all sizes, and it's a top secret needlework fabric. Well, not really, but most people haven't heard of it. In fact, however, this sheer, open-weave fabric made of pure silk was pretty common in historical needlework. Our fore-stitchers had silk, they knew how to weave, and they put the two together. It was sheer, lightweight but sturdy, strong, and you could embroider on it. It was good for clothes (a silk gauze robe was found in a tomb dating to 800 BC) and for samplers (Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly recently featured a design that a 9-year-old stitched in silk thread on 55-count silk gauze, in 1806). It's strength and lightweight qualities made it useful for many embroidery applications over the centuries.

Today silk gauze is primarily used by miniaturists to make doll-house sized versions of needlepoint pillows, rugs, bellpulls, and samplers; 40-count silk gauze is perfect for 1-inch to 1-foot scale. However, cross stitch designers like Erica Michaels Designs have started using silk gauze as alternate fabrics for stitching any kind of design. Finished silk gauze stitchery fits into jewelry findings or miniature frames. It has become the go-to fabric for "something different."

Problem: "I can't see to stitch on silk gauze."
Solution: Kreinik silk gauze comes in the following counts: 18, 20, 28, 30, 32, 35, 40, 47, 49, 60, 72, 84, and 90. So if you can't see to stitch on 40-count gauze, just try a 30-count, or a 20-count. (Tip: the larger the number, the smaller the holes/canvas/fabric.) 

Problem: "I'm a cross stitcher, and I've never stitched on silk gauze before."
Solution: Start with a size that you are familiar with; if you normally cross stitch on 28-count linen, start with 28-count silk gauze, for instance. Don't attempt an heirloom right away. Try one of the free designs on the Kreinik website, or any basic, small design. Almost any charted cross stitch design can be used for silk gauze stitching. Pick a design without quarter stitches, blended colors, backstitches, or elaborate color changes to start. Stitch over one thread on silk gauze.

Problem: "Just working tent stitch or half-cross is boring."
Solution: You can do any kind of stitch on silk gauze, it doesn't have to be tent stitch. And you can use any kind of thread, as long as it fits through the canvas holes or can be couched on top (so, basically, you can use any threads). Patricia Parra is a master at combining needlepoint stitches and specialty threads on fine counts of silk gauze. You don't limit yourself when it comes to stitches and threads on regular fabrics/canvases, so don't box yourself in on silk gauze. Experiment and have fun.

Problem: "I'm too messy in my stitching and don't pay attention to a neat back."
Solution: Well, that could be a problem depending on the design. If the whole area is filled in with stitches, you can get away with a little bit (but you don't want it to be too knotty to make it bumpy when you frame). When stitching on silk gauze, a neat back is especially important if some of the background is left unstitched, so here are some tips: when starting a thread, try to use an ‘away waste knot’ to begin. You may sometimes be able to end a thread using this same technique, resulting in less bulk on the back of your work. When ending threads by ‘running’ under stitches.

Problem: "How do you finish a silk gauze stitched piece?"
Solution: Depending on the size of your finished piece, you can put your silk gauze stitchery in jewelry findings (raid Grandma's jewelry box, or search antique stores), ornament frames that you find in craft stores, or in miniature frames that you find in craft stores or independent needlework stores. Kreinik also sells silk gauze already mounted in decorative ornament frames, which saves time and money. If you stitched your piece in a mat-board frame, either remove the tape holding the gauze, or carefully cut out your piece leaving as much room around the edges as possible. You can trim it later to fit into a frame. Side note: Silk gauze is woven in a leno structure, which interlocks the weft threads making it almost impossible for them to shift, so the edges don't ravel like Aida cloth or linen.

Problem: "I can't find silk gauze in my local craft store."
Solution: You probably won't find it in a Joann's or Hobby Lobby. So turn to an indie needlework store. Don't have one near you? Go to www.kreinik.com or choose your favorite online needlework shop. Kreinik sells silk gauze wholesale to shops either in framed pieces (makes it easy to hold) or by yardage.

So as you have all of your holiday projects lined up, swap out the usual fabrics for silk gauze. You will fall in love with the finished result!

Links of interest:
Kits (including Christmas projects): http://www.kreinik.com/shops/Silk-Gauze-Kits/

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