Monday, August 18, 2014

"The History of Needles" - a class I took

I've got some fun things to share. I attended a class last week on, "The History of Needles." When I left I had two full pages of notes, a large selection of needles of all sizes and for many different things, and my head was swimming with all the info. I hadn't felt like that since college, lol.
I'll try to hit the highlights to share some of what I learned. The teacher was Susan Greening-Davis and she literally travels the world teaching classes about needles, needlework of different kinds, as well as hosting seminars and retreats. So needless to say, she knows her stuff.
She said that she feels the best quality needles by far are John James. (She has no affiliation with John James. This is just what how she feels after spending years working in the needle industry.) And considering she used to be DMC's Teacher of the Year - she said the only DMC needle she will use is their Chenille needle. They have a special process they use for those needles alone that is the best in the industry. But for all others, John James is the best and she didn't like DMC. The brand Mary Arden is also good - but both Mary Arden and John James are owned by an English company called Colonial Needle. She also said that all John James needles are actually still packaged by hand. Some of the last steps of closing the package have become automated, but the needles themselves are still placed in each package by hand.
Needle sizes and storage - She said you should always store your needles in a wool needle book of some kind. Never leave them in the package after you get them home and never leave them stuck in your work. Needles are actually made with the assumption that when you get them you will be storing them in a wool needle book. This is considered "proper storage" for your needles and is the method that will help your needles last the longest amount of time. Also, never store stick pins in the same needle book or pin cushion as needles. They are made of two different kinds of metals and will react with each other and can cause loss of finish and rusting.
Sizing - when doing cross stitch, the smaller needles have become quite popular in the past several years. Many stitchers routinely use a size 28 or 26 for their regular stitching. This is not the correct thing to do. You need a needle large enough to "open" the fabric enough for your threads so they will go through without snagging or causing wear that you can't simply see with the naked eye. She said that size 28s should be used for beading and backstitching, not regular work. Size 26 should be used for backstitching as well. And size 24 - is what you should use on your normal work. (Unless you are working on a very fine linen.)
She also said that judges of needlework in shows are trained to be able to tell when a stitcher has used a size 28 needle on the work and that is a major thing they count off points for! So if you're stitching to turn your work into a show, stick with a size 24 needle or it could count against you.
We received 13 different needles in the class and were given a description of each one and what each is used for. It was a really good class and I learned so much. I never knew there was so much to needles!

Monday, August 4, 2014

A few thoughts on being self taught

I have something I want to share my thoughts on.  I keep running across stitchers in groups and forums and videos that always say, "Well, I'm self taught," and they say it almost as an apology.  They either say or give the feeling by their tone that they don't quite feel up to snuff with the rest of the stitching world.  That somehow, they just aren't as good as everyone else.  They see others doing larger pieces or more complicated ones or specialty stitches or techniques they are not familiar with.  Perhaps working with threads or fabrics they have never tried or didn't even know existed.
"Well, I'm self taught."
They have a certain method they use to tackle something, but suspect (fear?) that their method is drastically different than how others do it.  They fear that different = wrong.
"Well, I'm self taught."
I know this is how they think and what they say because for many years ~ that was me.  So I know what it's like to have those "self taught" worries nagging you in the back of your mind.
So at the risk of sounding rather full of myself, I am here to dispel the self taught myth for you.  You see, there is a secret about being self taught and I will share it with you.
Ready?  Ok, here goes....
We are all self taught! 
Yes, each and every one of us!
You see, the number of people that learned about cross stitch (or fill in the blank with any other kind of needlework) at the knee of someone else is pretty small these days.  It's truly safe to say that situation is in the minority now.  But even among those who did learn from someone else ~ they didn't, couldn't have learned every single thing about the craft that there is to learn.  They had to continue learning...on their own.  Self taught.  Also, the mother or grandmother or whoever it was who taught them could have very well have been "self taught" herself.  And in this day and age of the internet and videos and pattern books and groups and forums, we are all learning every day!
I have been stitching 30 years.  I no longer feel the need to apologetically say, "Well, I'm self taught."  I feel like I've been there and done that enough to hold my own.  But it hurts my heart a little bit when a younger or less experienced stitcher looks at me and says in that self depreciating way, "Oh, but I'm self taught."
Honey, so am I!!!  And so are almost all of the other stitchers you know out there!  You are in good company and I dare say, in the majority. 
I have noticed that every time a less experienced stitcher shares his/her method of doing something, in fear that they are somehow doing it so strangely or weirdly because they just figured it out on their own and wasn't shown by someone else - every single time - it's a legit method and something that many other stitchers do as well.  I recently saw a lady share in a group that her method for stitching was cross country.  She didn't know it had a name.  She didn't know anyone else who did it that way.  And she was posting to ask if she was somehow doing something horribly wrong because she just figured this way out on her own and she feared no one else stitched this way.  Well not only was there nothing wrong with her way of doing it, it was/is a well established method....with a name!!  She was so pleased to know that she stitched, "cross country style."  :0)  I've seen this play out over and over with different stitching methods and styles. 
So stop worrying about being self taught.
Stop allowing that to make you feel inferior.  Because you're not.
Stop saying it as an apology.  You don't have anything to apologize for.
Stop thinking that it makes your way of stitching weird or wrong.  It doesn't.  You most likely have not reinvented the wheel and there are lots of others who do it your way too.  Your way is not wrong.
Don't continue to feel the need to explain yourself by saying, "I'm self taught."
Because almost all of the rest of us are too.  We're all in that same boat together.  We might be at different levels of experience but we all learned through trial and error. 
So the next time you feel tempted to say, "I'm self taught," perhaps replace that with, "I'm a pretty awesome stitcher."
Because it's true.
Hugs to you from me and keep those needles flying!!