Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Materials you need for embroidery

Basic materials you need for embroidery
With the Mini Embellishment Club starting soon, I thought I'd go through the basic materials you need to get started. You don't need much! Unless you become a thread/fabric/hoop hoarder. It happens... ;-)

Anyway, this is what you need - and it's not exclusive to the 'Mini Club' of course.

Fabric: There are of course many types of fabric you can stitch on, but a good place to start is quilting cotton. You can get it in lots of solid colours and you can also stitch on patterned quilting cotton of course. I normally stitch my pattern samples on white fabric, but you can pick any colour you fancy. Kona Cotton comes in over 300 colours, for example!

Thread/floss: I pretty much always use six stranded cotton embroidery floss from DMC, but there are many other brands available. And different types of thread, perle cotton for example. I will be using two strands of floss when stitching the samples for the club, but do use more if that's what you like. Experimenting is good.

Needle: You will need a crewel/embroidery needle for this type of embroidery. It has a sharp point that can make a temporary hole in the fabric to let you pull the thread through. The size of needle you should use is a bit up to your preference, but sizes between 6-8 should work. You can get packs of needles with different sizes so you can see which size you prefer.

Scissors: You can use fabric or craft scissors to cut the thread, but I really recommend using embroidery scissors. The sharp point makes it easier to cut only what you're supposed to cut and not accidentally snip through something you already stitched.

Transfer method: I use a water soluble pen (from the Hemline brand), but there are lots of other options. You can use a pencil, a Frixion pen, iron on pencil, transfer paper etc etc. I like the water soluble pen because it's pretty reliable and it's easy to get hold of.

Hoop: You don't have to use a hoop, but I find that it makes my stitching a lot neater when I do. It just makes it so much easier when the hoop is holding the fabric taut for you. All the motifs in the club will fit in a 4" hoop.

Speaking of the size of the motifs. Some of them will fit in a 1" hexagon. Others can be easily modified to fit it too. Because the motifs are mostly abstract, organic shapes and elements, you can remove some of these elements to fit the motif in a smaller space.

Don't forget, you can sign up for the Mini Embellishment Club for just £4.00 until the end of March!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What's in a craftblog name?

What's in a blog name?
Confession: For a long while I wasn't happy with the name of my blog. Carina's Craftblog. Ack. So boring. It didn't feel very memorable or like a brand that people associate with this thing or the other. I felt like a blog name should be something descriptive or evocative of some feeling of..well, who knows what.

But I had an aha moment the other day. Yes! A real light bulb over your head moment.

This quote by Cathy Callahan (on While She Naps) really struck a cord with me:
Also at that time it seemed like everyone had their ‘craft name.’ Here’s the thing: that name will now forever be associated with a ‘vintage’ and that is limiting to me in terms of how I’m growing my business. Going by my own name makes much more sense and gives me more options.
Bloody hell! I'd never thought about it like that. But it makes so much sense. After a while your blog becomes your brand/craft identity. Some people might not even know your real name. So imagine I had given my blog a fancy name. Like... Pears & Roses (I just made that up, I wonder if there is a blog by that name?).. what would that have been like? Would I forever have been known as 'Pears & Roses' girl/lady/woman/person?

What if my interests changed? Because, you know what? They have. When I first started my blog, I was into sewing bags and softies, with a little bit of embroidery thrown in for good measure. Then it was all about crochet because I finally learnt to crochet and I just couldn't get enough of it. To this day, some of my most popular posts are still about crochet, although I wrote those posts in like 2009. Now I do embroidery, but I also dabble in quilting and there's some cooking as well.

If I had become the Pears & Roses crochet girl, it might not have been so easy to move forward/change interests. Or maybe it would have, I don't know.

What I do know is that when I read that quote from Cathy, I was suddenly really happy that I hadn't picked a fancy evocative name for my blog. My blog name tells you exactly what my blog is. It's my blog, my name is Carina and I write about crafts. And to be honest, I am not any kind of fancy, I'm just me.

So I hope you know me as Carina from Carina's Craftblog*, or maybe Carina from Polka & Bloom. That is good enough for me.

I guess the thing to take away from this is: if you're starting a blog, don't worry about thinking up a fancy name. Keep it simple. Use your own name. Or a name that you won't mind being associated with in years to come even if your focus changes.

*Yes, yes, Craftblog should be in two words, but I'm Danish and we write compound words in one word in stead of splitting them up. It's 'misspelled' on purpose. ;-)

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Weekend Time Wasters - March 22

Squirrel Party. :-)

La Linea. An Italian animation series drawn with one continuous line. I used to watch this and I remember being mezmerised by it. How did he do it? {via}

Sleeping bear cushion! Julie!!

5 reasons the Blogger platform isn't bad for bloggers.

Man, the Solar Eclipse was a complete bust where we live. Solid clouds until the afternoon. Boo. If you missed it too, here are some great shots of the eclipse on the Flickr blog.

Inspiring: Lisa Congdon interviews Jen Hewett.

La Passacaglia quilt on the Love Patchwork and Quilting blog. So much fussy cutting. So much EPP. So awesome.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

#VATMESS 2015 - Urgent: Write to your finance minister!

I realised that I had completely forgotten to share the letter I sent to the MEPs for my area. You can see it below. I've had a few replies, ranging between concerned and wanting to do something, to 'MEPs don't make EU policy so we can't do anything, really' to a reply from a UKIP chap who seemed more interested in slagging off the EU to send a constructive reply. Ah well, the point of the 'exercise' is less to get a reply from these busy people, but to point out to them that the new EU VAT law is crushing people's businesses.

Now, something may be happening which is hopefully a step in the right direction. The UK PM, David Cameron, will be discussing this issue with the president of the EU Commission. Which is really great news. But it is so very important to let the ministers and MEPs etc know that this is an issue they need to take seriously. They need to hear from us. The people who are affected by this, the sellers of digital goods, whatever their form may be: PDF patterns, classes, web hosting, music etc etc.

If you follow the link above, you will find the info for writing to the finance minister of your country. They all need to know that this is a serious issue. As I've said before, you may think that one email doesn't make a difference, but it really does. And if it's dozens or hundreds (even thousands) of emails, they will have to listen.

Even if you are not directly affected by the EU VAT law, as a business, you may be affected as a customer. You may find yourself with a limited availability in new knitting patterns or music from independent artists. Write to the minister in your country and tell them that this is appalling.

Here's that link again. Please write to the finance minister in your country. Get your friends to do it too. Pass the link around on Twitter and Facebook. Take a stand for yourself or the small businesses and independent designers that you love. We need your help.

You are welcome to use my letter to the MEPs as a kinda of template. Of course, you'll want to be make sure to tell them about the report that shows the impact of the new VAT law. You can find it here. Download it and send it to your finance minister. Or pass on the link to it.

Here's the letter I previously sent to MEPs:

Dear MEP,
I am writing to you regarding the EU VAT digital supply change which has come into effect on January 1, 2015. This is not just an urgent matter, but a matter of emergency.

I have a small business where I sell embroidery patterns and other, mostly digital, products designed by myself. I was shocked when I heard about the new legislation at the end of November and I was horrified to discover how it would impact my business.

Because I only heard about it before the legislation was to come into effect, I had no choice but to shut down my business on December 31. Otherwise I might risk selling to EU customers before being able to comply with the legislation.
I have reopened my business. And I am not the only one. I know of dozens of small, micro, businesses like myself have decided to close to temporarily, or indefinitely.

And we are not alone. An estimated 230,000 small businesses are affected by this - not 34,000 as HMRC had estimated because they didn't even realise that small businesses like mine existed.

I am all for the reason behind the legislation, to stop large internet corporations from avoiding tax by basing themselves in countries where the VAT rate is low. However, the new changes will have a disproportionate, for many people a devastating, effect on their business. A minimum threshold is urgently needed for micro businesses.

Some are run by single parents, either as their sole income or as a supplement to a low paying job. Some are run by people who are disabled and not able to have a 'proper' job, but they have created their own job from their kitchen table. Others run their small business while taking care of children.

For small businesses like myself who do not have the time, skill or financial resources to comply with the changes we are left with essentially five options, all of which are bad:
1) Stop trading all together.
2) Continue like nothing has changed and risk being prosecuted for ignoring the law. In any of the 28 countries where we have customers.
3) Block sales to other EU countries.
4) Register voluntarily for VAT in the UK and sign up for VATMOSS.
5) Find a third party platform which can take care of VAT for us. This will of course come at a cost to us. On top of that they customer will be charged a higher price when VAT is added.

Option 1) If your business is your only income, this means you will need to find another job. If you can. Maybe you live in an area with few opportunities or you are physically unable to take on a job outside the home.

Option 2) Putting yourself at risk of prosecution is not a good option.

Option 3) It may not be legal to block sales of this type of goods as they are classed as services. So you'd basically be breaking the law if you pick this option.

Option 4) As most micro businesses are well below the UK threshold of £81,000 before registering for VAT is mandatory, this adds a lot of extra work. Which will most likely be disproportionate with the amount of VAT you would have to pay to any EU country.

Option 5) The majority of this type of business relies on low cost options to process payments for their digital products. This may be as simple as a Paypal 'buy now' button or a plug-in for their blog. This gives them maximum flexibility without having to pay a middleman up to 50% of the income of their products.

The time and cost involved if you want to keep your businesses open and comply with the legislation are just one aspect. To calculate and show the customer the correct price is complicated and not entirely reliable. Especially for small businesses who do not have the sophisticated technology that the big companies have.

Supposedly this new law will “...create a level playing field for UK businesses by removing the current competitive advantage of EU member states with lower rates of VAT.” That may be for the big companies who have not been taking advantage of tax havens.
But the effect of the law on micro businesses is not a level playing field. It is the complete opposite. It feels like we are being trampled underfoot on this level playing field.

We may be small but we are part of the economy, too. The jobs we have created for
ourselves leave jobs for other people. Some are even able to employ one or two other people. We don't have to claim jobseeker's allowance. The income we make is mostly being spent in our local area. We are creating economic growth.

Consider the consequences if the majority of these small businesses disappear because they are unable to cope with the new VAT law. Please also consider the consequences if this law will apply to physical goods from 2016. Then many more small businesses will be effected.

Instead of encouraging creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, because it severely limits what one person can handle on their own, this law is threatening the very business of people who are trying to create something new. People should be encouraged to create something new, not face a brick wall when they try.

I ask you to urge the EU to re-consider this law. I ask you to urge the EU to create minimum threshold that will remove this unfair burden on the smallest businesses. We need your help.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards,
Carina Envoldsen-Harris

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Introducing :: Mini Embellishment Club

Mini Embellishment Club
It is time for another embroidery club! It is called Mini Embellishment Club because the motifs are all like mini versions of my swirly, flouncy, filigree-like patterns. It will be a bit of colourful, happy stitchery fun in your inbox every Monday for 12 weeks.

The club starts on April 13 and the last motifs will be sent on June 29. The club is beginner friendly, we'll only use stitches that most people are familiar with - or you can easily learn it with a quick Google search. :-)

You will receive 24 different motifs, 2 every week. You will also receive the instructions/template for 3 small projects where you can use the motifs. You don't have to stitch the motifs each week, you can take your own sweet stitchy time. And speaking of time, it should be possible to complete each motif in 1-2 hours.

The stitched motif in the photo gives you an idea of what you will receive in the club. Lots of bright, happy colours! The motifs can of course be used in all kinda of ways, but they are especially great for embellishing clothes. Maybe putting several of them together to create a larger pattern.

For each motif, the pattern will include: a photo of the stitched motif, a black and white pattern, stitch guide and a colour version with the DMC colours I have used. Which you don't have to use, btw. Nothing makes me happier than when you take my patterns for a ride and use completely different colours from me.

I am so excited about this club because it feels like I am going back to the sort of thing I made when this whole embroidery thing started for me. I hope you will join me!

Sign up right now to get all of this for just £4.00! (That's approx. $6.00/5.50 Euro.) After April 1 that special price goes away forever.

But hang on a minute, there's a way you can save 10% on top of that super low price! Tsoniki interviewed me for her podcast Me Being Crafty and we talked a bit about embroidery clubs and things like that. I have to admit I haven't listened to the podcast because I don't like the sound of my own voice. Visit the podcast post to find out how to save 10% - the offer ends tomorrow!

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Please write comments in English - or any of the languages below. For other languages than these I won't be able to tell if the comment is nasty or spam, so I'll have to delete it. I don't want to delete legitimate comments! Thank you for understanding! xo, Carina

Languages I can read: Danish, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch.
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