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Thread Conditioners: To Use, Or Not To Use?

Posted by xstitcher on February 15, 2010 at 4:36 PM Comments comments (0)

The camps on this one are just about evenly divided. On one side are the fiber purists who insist on working with flosses as they come and who insist that the long term use of thread conditioners just might have deleterious effects on your finished project. On the other side are those who swear by their thread conditioner and won't even attempt to stitch without it.

So which side is right? Will thread conditioners harm finished products? What are thread conditioners, anyway?

As might be apparent from the name, thread conditioners are substances which soften and straighten fibers to make them easier to handle while stitching. Thread conditioners help keep the floss from fraying or tangling while stitching. Incidents of knotting and/or snarling are dramatically decreased by their use, or so the proponents claim. Also in the "plus" column are improved coverage and no change in floss color from their use.

Some of those who don't use thread conditioners have concerns about the long term effects of their use on embroidery. Their concerns are not without merit -- thread conditioners such as Thread Heaven haven't been around for very long when compared to the long history of fine needlework. And while beeswax has often been used (mostly for beadwork, in recent years), it leaves a sticky coating that attracts dust and grime, ultimately dulling the vibrant colors of the floss. The long term effects of thread conditioners are worth considering if you're planning a project you'd like your great-grandchildren to inherit someday.

In short, thread conditioners can and do provide some immediate benefits to the stitcher, while the long-term effects remain unclear. As with any additive to the stitching experience, be informed about your choices -- then go ahead and have fun with them!

Do you use thread conditioners? What's your experience with them been? Tell us about it in the comments!

A Special Offer

Posted by xstitcher on November 5, 2009 at 7:54 PM Comments comments (0)

I'm in a "mutual follow" relationship with Tony and Clare of Just a Moment Cross Stitch Designs in the UK and will be placing an order with them this month. Because I don't have enough local business for X-Stitch Xpress just yet, I'm extending the opportunity to order some of these great charts (Mystic Mog and those lovely biscornus are my favorites) through me, saving you overseas shipping. :)

If you're a US stitcher or you love someone who is, take a look through Just a Moment Cross Stitch Designs and see if anything tugs at your heart. Drop me a line here in the comments or by email to xstitch (dot) xpress (at) gmail (dot) com. Tony and Clare say that if I fax the order in they'll likely have it out in the post (now that theirs is no longer on strike) the next day at the latest, so you'll DEFINITELY get them in time for the holidays!

Don't worry about the currency conversion unless you want to -- I can figure it out along with normal US postage and let you know what the total will be. Once I have the funds deposited, the order goes out -- but to be fair to those who've already indicated they wish to order, I'm imposing a "no later than" deadline of 11/17/09.


Thanks for reading along!

What Needlework Means To Me

Posted by xstitcher on September 3, 2009 at 6:54 PM Comments comments (0)

This originally came out of a LiveJournal meme in which I participated. Reposted here because I'll probably be dwelling on these things at length, in other posts.

Needlework: Needlework to me is a contemplative practice.


It is beauty in being and becoming.


It is magic in form and function.


It is a place and a space where I am at one with myself, still in my center. It is privacy and freedom to think my own thoughts in that privacy.


It is... continuity. With each stitch I take I am continuing a tradition begun by distant ancestresses I can scarcely imagine. I am linked back to all those women through this working we share, their stitches living on in me and all my stitchy-sisters today and in tomorrows to come.


Needlework may be other things to other people, but that's what it is to me.



X-Stitch Xpress at the Humboldt County Fair 2009 -- Day One!

Posted by xstitcher on August 14, 2009 at 12:18 PM Comments comments (4)

I had a wonderful time with the stitching demo yesterday. What I missed most was having a minion... er, I mean helper, of course! -- to take pics of folks at the table as we were talking because there was a huge amount of interest!

Here are a few photos of the table.

I decided to work on my little sun/moon biscornu piece,  since it was ready to go and easy to stitch around multiple distractions. I completed the cross stitching on the second one and started the backstitching while sitting there.

Here's a picture of the motifs I created for this -- all done in  KXStitch for those of you who have Linux as your OS -- as a way to get folks to try out the hobby, even in a small way.I provided little squares of 14ct Aida cloth and variegated flosses and needles -- all they had to do was pick what they liked and get about five minutes' worth of instruction, and voila! Instant new stitchers! :D

The highlights of the day were the two little girls who picked up a couple of my little kits and tried cross stitch for the first time. No surprise they couldn't really concentrate on it  given the nearly infinite amount of distractions available, but they did get the basic technique anyway before I sent them off (with promises to return those needles to their mother every time they were done stitching) to enjoy the rest of the fair.

I also got to talk with some women and one man who have done needlework in the past. Most of them walked off with at least my business card if not fliers and little mini-kits too -- I'll do anything I can do to get folks back to the hobby, so long as it's legal and not going to get me blacklisted!

I did get to Twitter (@xxstitcher) and Facebook (Alesia Matson) some too, mindful that I was there to demo stitching, not texting. :tongue:  It was a highly enjoyable afternoon and I'm looking forward to going back on Tuesday August 18th. Look for another post from me then!

X-Stitch Xpress at the Humboldt County Fair 2009

Posted by xstitcher on August 12, 2009 at 10:38 PM Comments comments (0)

I'm pleased and proud to announce that I'm taking X-Stitch Xpress to the Humboldt County Fair this year! On August 13th, 18th, and 20th I'll be in Belotti Hall at the fairgrounds demonstrating the art and fun of counted cross stitch. Thanks so much to Janice Diller of Handmade Memories for urging me to do this!

Most of you know that my challenge has been reaching out to the needleworkers in our area to let them know that they now have a local needlework shop option, and that it's mobile. As I mentioned in a previous post I did get to attend an informal stitch-in of our local EGA; that was a wonderful introduction to "my community" here and I'm looking forward to more, but I know there have to be other stitchers out there too, sttichers like me who've for years tried to find other stitchers to hang out with. This year, I'm giving them as many opportunities to find me as I can possibly handle.

Also, free advertising doesn't hurt just now. :) If I can't find those who already stitch, I can certain introduce new folks to the fun.

In order to make the most of this opportunity I've decided to make my demonstrations "interactive." Rather than just yakking about cross stitch and fine needlework to anyone who'll hold still long enough to listen, I'm providing, free of charge, mini kits for them to give cross stitch a try for themselves. Three inch squares of 14 ct. Aida cloth some mini-motifs I designed with some wonderful suggestions from the cross stitch community on LiveJournal, some variegated flosses and needles and we're all set to provide a fun, quick, easy introduction to one of the oldest needle arts in the world.

I'll also have some of my finished works there and a couple of WIPs to keep me busy during the slow times. I'm taking a whole box of business cards, a stack of fliers, some signs for my table, basically anything and everything I can think of to help spread the word to my peeps here in Humboldt (and maybe even Del Norte) county.

A true cyberstitcher (though not of the website by that name) I'll be Twittering and Facebooking the highlights of my afternoon. You can follow me as @xxstitcher on Twittter, or friend me on Facebook as Alesia Matson.

Wish me luck!

The Local Scene

Posted by xstitcher on August 8, 2009 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I finally had my first chance to meet some other stitchers in my local area today. On the positive side, I was warmly and enthusiastically welcomed, much more so than I've ever been by any other group in my entire life outside of family. It's understandable when you realize we haven't had a local needlework shop here in many, many years. They were a great group of women and I'm sure the collective stitching experience in that room probably came close to about 300 years!

And that, of course, is the downside. Aside from one other woman close to my age (I think), the rest were 65 and older. All retired, none of them really having the energy or interest to do the kind of outreach it takes to bring new stitchers into the fold, nor really interested in trying new fabrics or patterns -- you know, the kinds of Mirabilias and HAEDs we've all come to know and love. Maybe they'll get excited about the new designers if they're exposed to them -- I was heartened by the fact that NONE of them were stitching samplers!

It was also really great to go for coffee afterward with the one woman who was close to my age. She's been a member of the local guild for a year and a half now, and had some interesting and pertinent observations to make about the group. It's kind of disappointing to know that this chapter of the Embroiderer's Guild of America has done so little to recruit new stitchers, but I feel strongly that this can be done -- it just takes some creative and outside-the-box thinking!

I'm scoring this episode as a win-win even though I didn't make any sales today. I got to hand out cards and fliers to women who eagerly asked for them. I got to meet some of my local peeps face to face, which was happy-making for me after 16 years of searching. I got a new potential stitchy-sister out of this, AND I now have access to about 300 years of stitching experience. Definitely a winner all around!

X-Stitch Xpress Hearts Mr. X Stitch!

Posted by xstitcher on July 10, 2009 at 1:29 PM Comments comments (0)

Just so you know, we've been reading Mr. X Stitch's blog site for some time now and what's not to love, here? Check out the link there for his interview on Craftzine.com, and please bookmark his site so you can keep up on what's new (and often subversive) in the world of cross stitch!

Posted by xstitcher on July 9, 2009 at 10:02 PM Comments comments (0)

Hello again! Sorry it's been so long since the last update, but as you can imagine it's been a busy time!

I've been slowly making my way through the stacks of inventory I acquired a few weeks ago, getting it all into my database so I can track sales accurately. It's very time consuming and more than a little difficult, physically -- right now, it's all on my living room floor and that's where I sit to sort, order, and price. My back may never forgive me for the abuse, but it is getting done. Soon I hope to get most of it into a storage unit and thereby reclaim my living room!

I've also been making "courtesy calls" to the local craft, scrapbooking, yarn, and fabric shops with my business cards and informational fliers. I have been encountering nothing but enthusiasm and support for X-Stitch Xpress from local crafter-businesspersons -- I wonder, is there something about the love of crafting that causes us to be so generous with our time and efforts, or is it a predisposition to those traits that draws us to crafting? Whichever is the case, I feel very fortunate and blessed to have been greeted and treated so warmly by our local hand-crafts retailers.

Around attempts to go camping this summer (neither successful) and yard work and gardening, it's a miracle when I manage to get in any time for stitching!  I did get some work done on Lavender, as you can see below:

This is 28ct "Buttermilk" Jobelan, 2 strands of floss stitched over two for cross stitch, 1 strand of floss for backstitching. It's destined to become a pillow for my stitching arm.

This Friday night I'll be at Handmade Memories in McKinleyville CA for their monthly "Midnight Madness" event -- they all knit and crochet but allow me to come by with my flosses and fabrics to stitch with them. :) Janice carries some of the loveliest selections of yarns in this area, so if you knit or crochet and haven't come up to Bella Vista Hill in McKinleyville yet, Friday a perfect time -- she'll be open 'til midnight!  Hope to see you there!


Posted by xstitcher on June 25, 2009 at 10:52 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I began acquiring inventory for X-Stitch Xpress!

Lovely linens and luganas, jobelans and aidas and monacos (oh my!)... some needlepoint canvas, some Quaker Cloth... bookmarks and bands and borders...

Also on my list of acquisitions, a fat stack of patterns and charts! Mostly beginner to intermediate, they span a wide range of designers and genres and aside from not having any Mirabilias or HAEDs or Lizzie Kate's or Sue Hillis's yet, I couldn't be more tickled.

What do you think of a retailer selling back issues to stitching magazines? I have an opportunity to acquire a lot (A LOT) of old issues of several magazines, most out of print but one or two still in print. Does your LNS carry such things, and have you ever been interested in buying them?

As I wait for your answers I'll be busy pricing my new goodies and making up my first Xpress X-Stitcher kits!

Cross Stitch Industry Professionals = Very Nice People

Posted by xstitcher on June 19, 2009 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (1)

I've made contact with many of the designers and artisans in our hobby this week. All in all, I have to say that you just can't find a nicer, more helpful, more courteous bunch of people on this planet. :)

Sue Hillis (of SueHillisDesigns.net) not only responded positively to my request for a retail account, she regaled me with a wonderful story about running a MNS similar to X-Stitch Xpress when she was a military wife in Germany. She's the one who designed those awesome pirate charts we all love so much.

Mike Vickery (of VickeryCollection.com) also responded right away -- I was particularly pleased because I'm currently stitching his Glastonbury Cross and find all his designs to be so lovely.

Wichelt Imports (Wichelt.com) not only got back to me right away but is already sending me their price lists via snail mail!

Linda at Lavender Wings (LavenderWings.com) has also responded already -- she was another designer I was pleased to connect with, as I've stitched her "Witches Riding By" and it was a pleasure from beginning to end. One of my very favorite finished pieces to date!

I've got lines into Jo at Dinky Dyes, Vicki at Hand Dyed Fibers, and have applied for an EternaSilk account.

The only company that's responded hesitantly at all is Hoffman Distributing -- as they are the biggest cross stitch distributor I'm keenly interested in getting an account with them. [Edited 6/23/09]. I'm hoping whatever issues Hoffman has will be resolved, in my favor, soon!

Now comes the really tricky part -- ordering inventory. If by chance you are reading this and would like to make suggestions as to what you think I should carry, please feel free to do so in the comments to this post!