This year is a special one, because it marks our 10 year anniversary of participaton in what we now simply refer to as the "Bookmark Challenge". The original name for the project is Needle & ThREAD: Stitching for Literacy. This project began with an idea by Jen Funk Weber of Funk and Weber Designs. We got in touch with Jen in celebration of this 10 year anniversary to see how the project has unfolded for her since it began. Let's hear what she has to say!
"Reading and stitching have long been two of the great pleasures of my life, particularly when I can do them simultaneously. Listening to audio books while I stitch is one way I accomplish this, but my preferred method is to have my husband, Mike, read aloud. We've shared hundreds of books this way.
In the Beginning
2008 Nordic Needle Bookmark Challenge
Stitching for Literacy grew out of this activity. I envisioned stitching groups becoming book clubs, where stitchers would craft bookmarks while discussing the latest novel. Or even stitching clubs where one person would read aloud.
While reading is something I do for fun, I also believe literacy is vitally important for humanity, being a path to happiness and success as well as tolerance, understanding, empathy, and peace. It's a necessity right up there with food, shelter, and heath care.
Donating bookmarks to schools and libraries was a way to put our handiwork to good use and expose kids to embroidery while encouraging and rewarding reading, but the program includes other activities, too.
2009 Nordic Needle Bookmark Challenge
Through the Stitching for Literacy program we've taught both kids and adults to stitch their own bookmarks. Teaching events are offered in libraries, schools, and on the Web. Learning to stitch and the act of stitching has benefits galore, as we all know, some tied to improving reading skills.
2010 Nordic Needle Bookmark Challenge
We've also raised money for literacy programs. Every year, Funk & Weber Designs donates a portion of pattern profits to First Book, a non-profit organization that puts books in the homes and hands of kids in need. In 2016, we were able to triple our donation through a publisher matching program.
2011 Nordic Needle Bookmark Challenge
Ten Years On
Back in 2007 when we held our first Bookmark Challenge, I heard from several people that "Bookmarks will be obsolete soon; books will all be digital." We forged ahead anyway. In 2017, we enter our second decade of Stitching for Literacy, and what do you know, printed books and hand-stitched bookmarks are still relevant.
2012 Nordic Needle Bookmark Challenge
Nordic Needle has been collecting and distributing bookmarks since the very beginning, as have the Arctic Needleworkers in Alaska. Both collect bookmarks from stitchers all over the world and distribute them to schools and events that request them. In Alaska, thanks to the efforts of Karen Bente, we've created a tradition supporting an elementary school in one of the poorer areas of Anchorage: Younger students have watched graduating fifth graders earn their bookmarks year after year, and they look forward to earning theirs. Sometimes the librarian is able to give each student a book in addition to a bookmark.
2013 Nordic Needle Bookmark Challenge
These days, stitching groups, independent shops, and guilds across the country, Canada, and the world host their own Stitching for Literacy events, and even individual stitchers create events to support a classroom or local library, single handedly stitching numerous bookmarks. Harriet, a stitcher in Norway, had a solo show of hand-stitched bookmarks at her local library. Colleen, here in the US, stitched bookmarks for every child in her daughter's class.
Anyone can participate. Simply connect with a teacher or librarian and offer bookmarks that can be used as prizes or rewards for reading accomplishments. Children's Book Week (May 1-7, 2017) is often a good time to connect with schools, libraries, and book stores that are hosting events. Summer reading programs and reading challenges are also great times to offer bookmarks as prizes.
When I talk about stitching bookmarks, I am peppered with questions about how to finish them. I love coming up with different answers to that question! In fact, it's been the impetus for new patterns, classes, and e-books.
Funk & Weber Bookmarks
Ready-made bookmark forms (or "blanks") are an easy place to start. They are available in a variety of colors and come trimmed with fringe and lace. Many have patterns included with the fabric form.
"Do you cover the back side?" Loads of stitchers want to know.
Answer: If you want to. The choice is yours. You can use an adhesive (iron-on interfacing like Heat 'N Bond, Kreinik's Treasure Tape, or, yes, even glue) to attach a fabric backing, or just stitch it on with an overcast stitch. Use a contrasting thread to make the stitching decorative or match the ground fabric to make the stitching invisible.
Rectangular vinyl sleeves are great for containing bookmarks stitched on any fabric. You don't have to finish the edges at all, if you don't want to. Slide a piece of pretty card stock in behind the needlework to hide the back.
Self-finished From Scratch
My favorite way to make and finish bookmarks is from scratch. It can be a great way to use up stitching scraps or even UFOs, and best of all, we can craft bookmarks that live outside the book where they can be seen and admired, rather than hidden inside the pages. We can use any fabrics, any threads, and we can make them any size and shape. The possibilities are exciting and endless!
The trick to making bookmarks from scratch is in securing the edges, attaching a backing, and engineering how they mark one's place in the book.
Edges can be adhered, stitched, or enclosed to prevent fraying. We can also dress up the edges with needle lace and beads.
A second stitched side can serve as a backing, or we can use fabric, Ultrasuede, felt, paper, faux leather, ribbon, or something else, applied with adhesive or stitching.
Shepherd's hooks, ribbons, paperclips, and elastic work to mark one's place in the book, or the embroidered piece can do the job, as a corner bookmark does.
Bookmark Resources at Funk & Weber
If you're excited to finish bookmarks from scratch, we have some tutorials on the Funk & Weber website to help.
Finishing with Overcast Backstitches: a popular finish for two-sided bookmarks, fobs, and more. This tutorial has been shared over 22,000 times on Pinterest.
Bookband & Shepherd's Hook
Bookbands: I love using shepherd's hooks and ribbons to mark pages while the embroidery hangs outside the book, but when one stitcher confessed to hating dangling bookmarks, I added bookbands to our collection of bookmark styles. Pretty elastic used to be a hurdle in this design, but last year I discovered colorful, decorative elastics from Dritz. Now these are a favorite! Use them to mark pages in a paper book or to decorate an e-reader.
Clip bookmarks: I partnered with Readergirlz years ago to teach their fans how to cross stitch and then turn that embroidery into a paperclip bookmark. These are great projects for using scraps! You can used any stitched paperclip as a bookmark. But you can also make your clips.
Tips, Tricks, & Brilliant Ideas: Sign up for the Funk & Weber newsletter and receive our free e-book filled with Bookmark Tips, Tricks, & Brilliant Ideas.
Bookmarks 101: Simple, Smart, and Swanky Finishes --- Our popular Bookmarks 101 class is now available as an e-book for self-guided explorations and learning. Discover techniques for finishing edges, adding tails (to mark one's place in a book), and applying backings that can be combined in dozens of ways for fabulous, functional bookmarks.
Bookmark Finishing with Funk
'Tis the Season for Collecting Bookmarks
It's that time of year again when we ask stitchers to whip up some bookmarks for Children's Book Week and graduation donations. Nordic Needle's collections are always spectacular thanks to you talented, enthusiastic stitchers. We are so grateful for your time and support, as are the teachers, librarians, kids, and other readers who receive your handwork.
Heaps of thanks, ya'll!"
A huge thank you to Jen for starting this amazing tradition, sharing this update, and all of the free tips and resources for our bookmark creating endeavors.
This year we have several organizations ready for our donations.
And the Children's Services Coordinator told us about the reception of our last donation:
This continues to be a wonderful cause and we hope you will accept the challenge with us again this year. To participate, simply stitch as many bookmarks as you are inspired and send them to us before May 1st.
If you'd like, we encourage you to attach a slip of paper to your bookmarks with your first name and title of your favorite book. This little inclusion will be a wonderful and personal addition for the reader who receives your needlework.
Before we send off all of the donations, your bookmark will also be a part of a display in our store gallery. After the challenge ends, we will hold a drawing to win a Nordic Needle Gift Certificate. Each bookmark you submit will count for one entry into the drawing. The more bookmarks you send, the more times your name is entered to win! Four winners will be selected and each will receive a $50 gift certificate.
Your participation in this challenge will expose children, parents, teachers, and librarians to the wonders of needlework, and you will have helped encourage reading. We look forward to seeing your always inspiring creativity and generosity! Let's make the Bookmark Challenge 10 Year Anniversary another great successe for reading and stitching!