June 29, 2011


There have been a few of these giveaways popping up on the internet lately, and I'm really pleased to be part of the fun now as Moo have very kindly asked if my blog readers would be interested in some of their new sticker range.  Would you?

I've been a Moo user since I began blogging, in particular the mini cards which I use as business cards but also as swing tags for my Softies (punch a hole in one end and attach with string).

So what is the deal?  Moo are providing 50 of their new round stickers and also 50 of the rectangular stickers to 5 blog readers.

If you're a winner, you can upload your own images, or choose from a vast range of ready made artwork and templates and personalise them with your own details. Moo's unique printing technology, 'printfinity' allows you to place a different image or design on every sticker and there's a range of options to create custom sticky products including uploading company logos and photos to embellish your own products branding.

I'd be very surprised if you hadn't come across Moo before given they produce just about the best sticker books, business cards, postcards and greetings cards out there.

For a chance to win one of the 5 sets of 100 stickers (that's 50 of each new shape), just post a comment on this post saying what you would use them for.  The giveaway will close next Wednesday, 6th July at midnight (GMT).

I'm kind of hoping no-one enters, that way I can have all the freebies!

edited to add - there have been a few problems with leaving comments, so I've changed my comment settings whilst the giveaway is running, just please make sure you leave an email address so we can contact you if you win, thanks.

June 26, 2011

Cross stitch - a review of Mac based design software,

I've been thinking a lot lately about counted cross stitch.  This is the medium I cut my design teeth in, and over the last week or so I've had contact with my old work mates, which led to a bit of nostalgia.  Nowadays, I don't have any computer software to design cross stitch on, although it can be done quite easily just with graph paper and some coloured pencils, that's how my first few designs back in 1994 were completed.  But it's slow doing it that way, the design software we had was a revelation and sped the whole process up and opened up creativity, here's one of mine, and another, and another, there are many more I would not even admit too! 

Back then, I worked on a PC, and there were 2 main design packages used within the industry.  Stitchcraft, which is what we used and Ilsoft which, it seemed at the time, the rest of the world was using, although I don't know why because I personally found Stitchcraft to be the much better system.  It just seemed to make more sense as a design program.

But these are both PC based.  I now work on a Mac.  It seems there is a bit of a shortage of design software for counted cross stitch which is Mac compatible.  Now, I know you can use Photoshop to simulate cross stitch, basically scanning an image and altering the resolution so each pixel is one stitch and adding a grid, but I want to design from scratch rather than digitalise an existing design.  Finally I did find some Mac based software and spent a day fiddling around with demo versions, so here are my reviews of three...

STITCHES by Quixpace, €49.99 (£44.45/$71).  Nice layout, reminiscent of Photoshop as it has navigation boxes on the left, layers, magic wand tool etc.  You need to watch the videos on the website to understand what the toolboxes at the top of the screen do.  Does all the basics, symbolised chart, gives a rough guide to how much thread would be needed.  It did seem to work best when scanning in a photo and turning it into a cross stitch design.  The image can then be easily edited (colours, size of chart, aida count etc) although I could not find how to add backstitch, and it did not seem to cater for half stitches, french knots or any additional embellishment.  Also only had DMC thread colours, I am an Anchor girl.  In short, great for converting photos or any other image you want into cross stitch, but limited if designing from scratch.  Didn't do everything I would need it to do as a designer.


Next up is STITCHPAINTER by Cochenille $85 (£53) for the standard version, and $165 (£103) for the gold version.  This does more, and I would advise to go down the gold version route as that has additional plug-ins which offer most of the adaptability (eg, beadwork, tapestry design, DMC shade numbers, although again, it's just DMC, no Anchor).  Each plug-in costs in the region of $25 (£15), so price wise, it does add up, and as the plug-ins are not part of the demo version, what I could try out was limited.  The cross stitch design element is limited as again, I couldn't find how to add any backstitch, but this program does cater for knitting, crochet, long stitch, hardanger and as mentioned above, tapestry and bead weaving, so is a very versatile pattern design system.  It claims to do weaving too, although looking at the example, and given I have a BA Honours Degree in Weaving (showing off moment), what I saw didn't particularly resemble weaving as I know it.  In summary, I found it intriguing and would have liked to have tried it out more than the demo allowed.


Finally, MACSTITCH by Ursa Software, $60 (£33).  Out of the three I tried, this was the most similar to the Stitchcraft program I am used to.


And look, it even simulates cross stitch on screen.  This was very user friendly, the toolboxes across the top gave the ability to add half stitches, quarter stitches, backstitch (and adjust the thickness of the backstitch), even french knots and beads.  You can import an image and convert that straight to cross stitch or you can import it as an onion skin.  Now what is an onion skin?  I love this bit, it's just another word for adding layers (as in Photoshop), basically so you can place an image under the grid to use as a guide when designing.  This is exactly how I used to work at Coats and exactly what I would be looking for in a cross stitch design system.  It also caters for other threads and not just DMC, including Anchor (yay!), Appletons Wool, and Madeira.  It symbolises a chart and exports in a variety of formats, in short, it does most of what I'd be after as a designer.

If you're a Mac user and in the market for some cross stitch design software, I'd still say try the demo versions of all of these.  Different people need and want different things, what I've written here is just my own opinion, but I have been around the block and back when it comes to counted cross stitch.  

...Macstitch gets my vote.

More movies...,

Can you spot mine??

The book is out now.

June 24, 2011

June 21, 2011

Should have read the small print!

I'd been on the look out for some newsprint fabric.  Found some on Etsy but it was a full yard, so I went looking on Ebay and came across a fat quarter.  Fab, until when it arrived this morning and I spotted this amongst the lettering...,

not quite the statement I'm looking to make in my work!

June 16, 2011

Off on a tangent...

Well, while working on the new idea I gave you a sneaky peek of last week, another idea popped up, which kind of took over.  And here it is, a parcel pincushion.

The address says 'pins & needles, the sewing box',

...the only problem I had with the design was what to stuff it with.  Felted wool has a lot of give, which is great for the rounded shapes involved in making animals, but can be a bit of a problem when it comes to anything requiring hard, straight edges.  The only solution I came up with was to use foam, a block of seat pad foam cut down to size.  Any other ideas??

I kind of like how it's turned out.  Think I'll be making some more of these for Etsy asap!

June 10, 2011

Sneaky peek,

I've been working on some brand new design ideas.  Still softies, or I suppose soft sculpture is more accurate.  It's not quite ready for the big reveal as at the moment I'm working out design, colour, scale etc, but when I'm ready, I'll be in need of second opinions.

June 8, 2011

Retro Cat,

will be on Etsy shortly.

I haven't made a cat for a while, obviously needed some practice.  I initially photographed the cat before realising I'd forgotten to add the whiskers!

June 7, 2011

Put some chalkboard paint on it...


As the picture says, it's been a long time coming.  Our kitchen has been an ongoing saga, everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong.  We've had to take the floor up because of an ant infestation, the washing machine leaked and wrecked the new floor - twice, etc etc...
For now, rather than replace it, I've decided to make the most of what we've got, but one thing we hadn't got was a cooker splashback.  My original plan was to have a map behind a sheet of glass, but that was working out too expensive for a cheap fix it job.  So after a bit of googling and Pinterest-ing, I found this image.  

Problem is now Al is concerned I'm going to go over the top with the chalkboard paint (in the style of 'put a bird on it') now I've spied this, and this, and this, and this, or this.

June 3, 2011


It's the school holidays here in the UK (just a week for half term), add in some sun and it's a good week.  There they were,

having fun in the outdoor bathtub (actually it's an old paddling pool I spent an hour scrubbing clean this morning),

until the boy bit a hole in it.  Honestly, sometimes he forgets he has a brain.

The subsequent fall out was disturbing my sewing!

edited to add - please take a look at the survey I'm running in the sidebar, thanks --->