We have a winner! and an update from me

It’s a beautiful, sunny, warm day here in Berlin. The window next to my work table is open and I can hear the birds singing. Life is good. And, we have a winner of the Mythic Crafts Slate Frame give away!!

Congratulations to Ann McD in Surrey, BC!  I will send you an email and let Mark know your contact details. He will get in touch to arrange shipping.

During the give away Mark’s been reading all the comments you left about what you would like to see him make in the future. He wrote

“I’ve been reading through them each day, very exciting to see our ideas confirmed as being the things people want. I need to do more research on laying tools, as those do seem to be in demand. It looks like it’s going to be a very busy year!”

Keep an eye on his web site to see when new products are released. Here is a link to his Etsy page.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the give away. It was great to read your suggestions. It’s wonderful that the embroidery community supports the people who make the items we use to create our embroidery!

And now, a short up date of what’s happening (or not) here at The Unbroken Thread.

As most of you know, I’ve had two surgeries – one on each hand – since November. Both went very well and I can use my left hand for most daily activities, including embroidery. It’s only been 4 weeks since my right hand surgery and the recovery is coming along but not as quickly as I wish – I’m quite impatient!

Since I’m right handed, I’m more limited after this operation in what I can do. Embroidery is off the table for at least 4-5 more weeks and I can type, but only for a short time using my right index finger and my left hand. It’s slow going!

It’s frustrating because there’s so much I want to do and I just can’t. Although my hands don’t work very well yet, my brain is active and full of ideas!

In the next month I’ll be announcing a brand new crewelwork course on “With Threaded Needle”. I’ll also be offering the very popular “Bateau Bayeux” course again and offering the final “Trevelyon’s Cap” course. If you want to receive an early bird email announcing these courses prior to the public announcement, please send me an email using this link.

Below are images of the completed projects for “Trevelyon’s Cap” course and the “Bateau Bayeux” course. More information about each course will be in the announcement email which will arrive by the end of April. (link above)

That’s it for now – time for a hand break!

Hope you’re having as lovely a day as we’re having here in Germany!




Give-away & The Story of Mythic Crafts Slate Frame – Part 2

Before I tell you “the rest of the story”…I am VERY pleased to announce that Mark has generously donated a 400 mm frame to be given away to readers of The Unbroken Thread. More details and how to enter are at the end of this article. 

The first notice I got that the frame was on it’s way was from the Canadian Post, telling me it had been shipped and giving me a tracking number so I could follow my frame’s progress across the Atlantic. I always like to know where something is when I’ve ordered from overseas. So from the very outset, I was very pleased with the first class service in the shipping!

Next came the expected letter from the Zollamt – the customs office. This is how I knew the frame was in Germany and ready for me to pick up at the customs office. Now, every country does things slightly differently, but here in Germany, many packages are held at the customs office until the receiver can pick them up. So, the very next afternoon, Steve and I went to the Zollamt to get the frame.

We were pleasantly surprised by two things: the parking lot was almost empty and there was only one person waiting in front of us! Yes! We took our number and, when it came up on the board, we went to the window to collect the package. Here’s where the fun often begins. I’ve been to the Zollamt before to pick up embroidery related things and it’s always interesting to watch the reaction of whomever is helping us. It’s a requirement to open the package you’re picking up, so the customs officer can see what’s inside. So we did. Confusion.That’s what we saw on the face of the woman who helped us. Friendly confusion, but confusion nonetheless. My husband attempted to explain – in fact, he did a great job explaining – but there was still that look of confusion. She must have been thinking “Embroidery frame? But the embroidery isn’t finished. It’s not even here – there’s nothing to frame”.

Since it was sent as a gift there was no duty to pay but, had I ordered it and paid for it, there would have been. That’s the law in most countries – you have to pay import duty.

Then I just had to wait to get home to unwrap it. (Long car journey…impatient…too much traffic…)

Finally, home and unwrapped to find a bubble wrap package with a red square and 4 arrows drawn on it. Very clever! Inside the red square are the four cotter pins for the frame. Do you know how easy it is to miss these little things in a package? Now I’m even more impressed with the thought that goes in to the shipping and packaging!

I unwrapped the package and found my name on one of the cross bars. My own name in pretty script! Never will I worry about losing this frame at a course. All my other frames have my name written in black Sharpie – functional but not elegant.

Mark has also put his logo on the frames. The Canadian flag is a special nod to his adopted home.

Inside the mailing tube were three pieces of paper which contain very detailed, clear instructions on how to set up and use the frame. So many readers write and ask about how to use a slate frame. Before I took my first RSN course, I didn’t know how to use one either. These instructions are a great addition to the frame and it’s the only frame I know of with such detailed instructions. (Could I be right in thinking this is the work of Mark’s mother?) Third plus for customer service – an instruction manual!

Of course, next I put the frame together. The top and bottom bars – called the roller bars – have a groove into which a dowel is inserted. I was using a 30 count linen thread fabric which wasn’t thick enough to create the tension necessary when stretched – it just pulled out of the groove. So I simply folded the top and bottom of the ends of the fabric over and then put the double thickness into the frame. It worked a treat!

The instructions provided with the frame are slightly different from what I’ll describe and I have no doubt they would work very well. I am, however, currently recovering from my second hand surgery so my dear, sweet husband was doing the framing up for me.Therefore I chose the quickest method possible! He had NO idea that framing up was such a physical activity!

Once the fabric was in the roller bars we simply slid the stretcher bars into place and inserted the cotter pins, creating the tension that holds the fabric drum tight. Since I was not going to ask Steve to lace the sides as is usual, I can only report that even without lacing, the fabric is very tight and smooth.

The frame Mark sent is 300 mm which gives me a width of about 20 cm and height of anything between 9 and 22 cm. Perfect for projects I need to carry with me when I travel to England for an RSN or City and Guild course!

The most noticeable difference between this frame and all the others I own (and i own a lot of different frames ) is the finish. It’s just beautiful.

Here, in Mark’s own words, is an explanation of how the frames are finished and why they are finished this way. FYI – his wife does all the sanding and there’s a LOT of sanding!

“One other reason Mum didn’t like many frames was the poor finish on them, some being just raw wood which quickly take up sweat and oils from your skin, especially in 40 plus degree Celsius days of the Australian summer, where the temperature rarely drops below 30c, even at night for several months! So my frames get soaked in Danish Oil, which is actually a mix of Varnish and Tung Oil. The Danish oil soaks into the wood (unbelievable amounts of Danish oil soak in!) and it oxidises as it reacts with the air, causing it to polymerise (turn into a plastic), hardening inside the wood. Beech is already a pretty tough wood, with a super fine grain, so its not easy to dent like Pine which you can dent with a finger nail. The Danish oil makes the wood harder still, allowing it to resist dents, scratches and marks from drops and less-than-careful transport in a vehicle. As an added bonus, the wood is also virtually waterproof from the Danish oil, so spilled tea won’t instantly soak into the wood and the wood doesn’t get discoloured from use. This is probably enough for most people, however I also spray many coats of a hard gloss urethane onto the frame which hardens on the outside of the wood giving it a beautiful finish and making it even tougher and more resilient. This also helps stabilise the wood against changes in humidity. Like I say, more than half the cost of the frames is just in the finish!”

Mark enjoys working with the embroidery community, making the tools they need. Again, in his own words:

“I’m really enjoying building the embroidery items and the embroidery community is just so lovely – all the messages I get on Etsy are so encouraging. So many people are looking for very specific items, many ladies have been trying to get something for years or decades and its very exciting to be able to help them out with what they want – and not just embroidery frames either, all sorts of items I have the skills and equipment to build and they have asked for!”

Lately, whenever I decide whether or not to purchase something I consider three things: Firstly, do I need it? Secondly, will it last beyond my life time? Thirdly, is it hand made? Can I name the person who created the thing with his or her own hands?

Why these three questions? Everything we buy has an impact on the Earth’s resources. If we buy things we don’t need, we use resources the earth can’t spare. If we buy things that won’t last for at least a life time, we waste resources the earth can’t spare. If we buy things that’s aren’t hand made, we divorce the production of things from the maker – which is how we got into the predicament of having things we don’t need that waste the earths resources in the first place. Just because things are cheap and we can afford them, doesn’t mean we need them nor does it mean they’re a good use of the limited resources we have available to us.

So I whole-heartedly recommend Mark’s frames. If you need a slate frame, these are a great choice. They will last a life time – and beyond! They are hand made by someone who has a vested interest in using the resources carefully. And, the profits will go to help parents who need something that’s not provided at a time when they are at their most vunerable.

Mark’s Etsy shop has frames listed but he also does custom orders and will be making trestles in the future. He’s offering a 12% discount to those of us who are willing to wait for their frames. To find out more click here to go to the Mythic Crafts homepage.

Now to the Give-away!

Mark is giving away a 400 mm slate frame. To see it on his Etsy home page, click here. To enter the drawing to win this frame, you must answer the following question as a comment in the comment box below on this page – The Story of Mythic Craft Slate Frames – Part 2.

What other tools you’d like to see Mark make for the embroidery community and why?


Call it market research for Mark!

This give-away is open to all, but please note that any and all customs fees or import duties are the complete responsibility of the winner. The Unbroken Thread and Mythic Crafts are not responsible for delayed, lost, or misdirected mail, or for any additional fees you may incur from customs, duties, taxes, postage and so forth. You may want to check on possible import duties in your own country before entering.

The deadline for entering is Saturday, March 25, 12:00 (midnight) GMT / Greenwich Mean Time. (You may need to look up your specific time zone to be sure you don’t miss the deadline!) I’ll notify you by email if you’re the lucky winner!

Mary Corbet on Needle ‘nThread has written a review of these frames. You can read it here.





The Story of Mythic Crafts Slate Frames – Part 1

Just before Christmas I received an email from a reader in Australia. Her name is Rachael and she’s an embroidery teacher. She was writing to ask me if I would feature an embroidery frame her son, Mark Harris, had made for the ladies in her classes on my site. She also kindly offered to send me, via her son, a frame as a gift so I could try it myself before writing about the frame.

As mothers do, she had many, many good things to say about the frames her son makes:

“The frames are not just beautifully made but have met our expectation of being lightweight, easy to prepare and most importantly they keep the work super taught throughout the stitching process.”

I was interested! If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’ll know I like to meet and write about all the people who make the tools and materials we use as embroiderers. Now, I couldn’t meet her son face to face, nor could I visit his workshop since he lives in Canada and I live in Germany. But I could learn about him and his work and share that story with you in addition to writing about his frames.

When Mark was a teenager, Rachael went through her Embroidery Guild instructor’s training. During that time he helped her type up her notes and by doing diagrams for her work. What a great son!

During her Guild training, he repaired many scroll frames for her that had broken when she tried to tighten them enough to get the fabric drum tight. Little did he know he was doing research for his own slate frame design! Finally, the two of them worked together to make a frame that met the needs of his mom and her students.

Once he felt confident about the design, he struggled to find the wood he needed in Perth, their hometown. The import laws are very strict in Australia (with good reason) and getting the steamed European Beech was prohibitively expensive and complicated. He was able to make enough frames for the ladies in his mother’s classes but just couldn’t get the raw materials to make more.

Not long after, Mark and his wife, Tarryn, emigrated to Canada. Not (amazingly) to make embroidery frames! Mark works in applied research as an electronics engineer and thoroughly enjoys his day job. But the move to Canada meant that suddenly the wood he needed to make slate frames for his mother and the embroidery community was readily available and relatively inexpensive compared to the cost in Australia. In fact, he was thrilled at the wide variety of wood he found on the shelves of his local lumber store – woods he could only dream of while in Australia.He was in woodworker heaven!

He’s been doing woodworking since he “could hold a saw” and his real love is building radio controlled aircraft and high power rockets, both of which require extreme precision. Although he doesn’t do much with radio controlled aircraft these days due to restricted flight paths in Canada, he has the highest level certification for high power rockets – these are 10-20kg rockets going way above the sound barrier. If these things are not built precisely they tend to explode, or fall apart at supersonic speeds – both of which, while exciting, are not exactly the desired outcome!

So, in addition to working full time and pursuing his passion for rockets, he still finds time to make slate frames, all because his mother asked him to all those years ago.

Not long after I got the email from Mark’s mother, Rachael, I got the first of many emails from Mark.

It broke my heart.

You see, he apologised for taking so long to reply to my first email, sent in late December 2016, in which I sent him my address so he could ship the frame to me here in Germany. He wrote that his infant son had died at the end of 2016 and it was taking time to get things going again.

I’ve never shared here that my second daughter died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, just shy of her 4 month birthday. So, when Mark told me what had happened, my heart went out to him and his whole family. In the course of many, many emails, he shared with me (and gave me permission to share with you)  that the majority of the profits of the sale of the slate frames would go into making infant sized caskets engraved/carved with a message, name, pictures, whatever the family wants and offer those through the funeral home at no cost.

Now I was doubly motivated to make sure every single reader of my blog, my Facebook page, my Instagram page – the whole embroidery world – knows about these frames.

Next time, more about Mark’s company, the story of the frame getting to Germany, getting it from the customs office and trying it out!