The Half Cross Stitch Issue

Last night I started a new kit which I will tell you about much much later. The kit came with aida fabric and I did stitch a little on that before I looked closely at the chart and saw an absolute ton of half cross stitches. Soon as I saw them I unpicked what I’d done and rummaged around for some evenweave. While it’s perfectly possible to half stitch on aida, it’s a bit of a pain in the neck in my opinion, and doing it on evenweave is so much easier.

A half cross stitch is a stitch that doesn’t complete the whole X. Half of the bottom arm is worked, with the thread taken back down through the fabric in the middle of the block. They are used for shaping, without them a design can look quite blocky at the edges, but with a diagonal half stitch the blocks are smoothed out.

Just as an aside, the pictures for this post were taken with a USB microscope I have, so the quality is not brilliant. Pretend it’s 1998.

Evenweave and Aida

On the left is probably the most familiar fabric for cross stitching – Aida. It’s woven in clear blocks to accommodate the cross stitch. Generally speaking, each cross is worked over one block. On the right is evenweave. This is an open weave fabric with no clear blocks. Crosses are usually worked over a square of 9 holes.

I dare say most cross stitchers start out with aida. It’s provided in most beginner kits, and is generally a nice easy fabric to cross stitch on. It’s easy to keep tight in a hoop too, because it tends to be firmer than evenweave (especially the horrible cheap stuff which is horrible and cheap). For half stitches, though, it can be a bit of a pain. It’s not impossible!

Half Stitches

To start a half stitch, a hole has to be made in the middle of the block. You can see the one just to the left of the thread exiting there. The trouble with this is that sometimes the hole doesn’t end up right in the middle – the rounded end of most cross stitch needles can slip to one side while you’re stabbing it into the fabric. The solution is simple – keep a sharp sewing needle to hand. Using this to start the hole in the fabric is a lot easier, the hole tends to end up where you want it and you don’t have to use as much force to make the hole.

Once the underlying half arm is done (I always do the half as the bottom stitch, I don’t know if that’s correct, but it works for me and hides the stabbity hole I made), the top arm is worked as normal, from corner to corner.

Half stitches

This photo shows two half stitches in the middle. The top one has the top arm worked in yellow, and the bottom one has the top arm worked in blue. The dominating colour will always be whichever colour the top arm is worked in. To do the two colour bottom arm you just work the rest of the bottom stitch, using the hole you made in the middle (which is off kilter in this shot on the bottom row – see? Tsk).

Now, why is it easier to half stitches on evenweave? Because the hole is already there for the half stitch. Because it’s worked over a grid of 9 (or worked over two threads if you want to use the proper terms), there’s a perfectly placed middle hole to use for your half stitches.

Halves on Evenweave

I suspect I’d set myself up as a better authority in these things (ha!) if I hadn’t forgotten to do the yellow half stitch on the top row there. I blame the radio, it was being distracting.

Evenweave can be a bit of a brain bender to start with, especially if you’ve been using aida. It’s a little harder to keep tight in a hoop also. Life can be a little easier by using a dark fabric on your lap or the table you’re working over – it will help the holes show up better. You can also exploit the “extra” holes for long stitches which can really add a lot of detail to a design.

Long Half Stitches

These long, narrow crosses are worked over a block of 6 holes. This makes them the same length as a normal stitch in one direction, but narrower in the other direction.

If you’re swapping aida for evenweave, you can make sure your design works out the size it should by remembering that aida counts are doubled. “What? Lyn, what?”. Look, I wrote that 9 times and it didn’t come out any clearer. Put it this way, if your design is sized for 14 count aida, you’ll need to replace that with 28 count evenweave.

 

FP: Dragonfly Brooch

Today I finished the Dragonfly Brooch I was working on a while ago. I would have finished it earlier but I put my back out last week while walking the dogs. Having spotted a rabbit, I ran them towards it for a look and fell over a stick. Well done, me. Would have been alright if either dog had then seen the rabbit, but they do have a habit of pretending they haven’t seen things they might be expected to do something about. Anyway, here are the wings in their finished state:

Wings

They sort of remind me of those macro photos you see of insects who’ve been covered with dew in the night. Sort of shiny and .. well beady I guess.

Cutting these out is something I do not like. I used to do a bit of shaped plastic canvas work and the cutting out part always made me a bit grumpy. I have not, it has to be said, done the finest job here, but it looks alright.

Dragonfly Brooch

Here is a picture of the finished brooch in some ivy, because I am arty like that. You can see the not so great cutting out, I’m way paranoid I’ll go “Snip” and then find threads and beads scattered everywhere as I’ve cut through a vital part of cardboard. Also the middle section – eyes, head and body, are not strung quite tightly enough, however they are tight enough to hold shape which I suppose is the main thing.

Now I can move on to my secret project – oooOOOoooOOOOO- why secret? Present, it’s a present for someone. It’s exciting not only because I like to give presents, but because I’ll get to break out my latest eBay purchase, a set of delicious embroidery hoops.

Hoops

Vintage embroidery hoops, thank you so much for asking. Sturdy, proper hoops. I do have a collection of new ones I’ve bought recently, but I tend to snap them. I guess I don’t know my own strength. Or they’re rubbish and cheap. These are lovely and strong with a nice smooth tightening screw on each of them. The smallest there is 3 inches. Exciting!

WIP: Temperature Scarf Catch Up

The yarn for my temperature scarf arrived a few days ago and I’m overall pretty happy with my selection. Of course one of the problems with buying online is that the colours are never quite what they appear. With the exception of the dark red, the others are pretty much as I thought they’d be.

A row of delicious yarn.

I went with Cleckheaton because I like their wool generally, and also because Cleckheaton is so much fun to say. Try it, I’ll wait. See? Cleckheaton. Lovely. I also got some cream to do the month breaks and eventual border with. Once I had the colours to hand, I was able to make a proper sort of Project Notes page in my Project Notebook (which is new. Before this it was just A Notebook)

Temperature List

I’ve gone in blocks of 4 degrees for the temperatures, with “Plus 40” and “Under 9” as a single colour. I did have “5 – 9” but then realised we don’t generally get under 5 as a high, so I’m going on the basis that we won’t this year either. If we go over 45 I’ll find some black or something to indicate my extreme sadness about the incredible heat.

I started out doing just single crochet, but I found it was a bit patchy and I like a nice bold stripe, so now I’m doing double. This means I will have an incredibly long scarf, and also that I may not have purchased enough yarn. We shall see! I’ll show you what I’m up to so far, having caught up today. There’s at least one glaring error in here, so just.. you know. Don’t look at the error. Ta.

Scarf

That’s up till today. It’s quite wide, but my finishing up plans (which I should write down as it’s 11 and a half months away and I will forget) involve a rolled edge, so it won’t work out quite so wide, but will be very very long.

As an aside, because I am self taught in crochet (what do you mean you could tell?) my left hand does all the moving my right hand should do, while my right hand just sits there most of the time, not doing much. It is for this reason I try to avoid crocheting in public, because people always notice and ask about it. The simple fact is that’s how I got crochet to work in the first place, and it’s turned out to be a hard habit to break!

WIP: Dragonfly Brooch

On my last “crafty” blog (which turned into my everything else blog also, which may well happen here. Brace yourself for long, but well thought out, rants about people who litter from cars), I had a feature called “WIP Wednesday” where I would take some pics of whatever it was I was working on at the time and talk about them. I thought about doing it here, but to be honest I’m not much for schedules. Last time, most Thursday mornings involved me saying “Oh crap, I forgot”. So although today is Wednesday, and I am talking about a WIP, let’s not make it a date, okay?

Today’s WIP is the Dragonfly brooch kit I mentioned in my last post. I’ve not done any beaded embroidery before, beyond the occasional “sew three beads on here”. The actual forming of a picture with the beads is new to me. My first problem was sorting the beads. In theory I could have just dumped them all in a cup and picked out the colours as I needed them, but I thought it might be easier to sort them. I didn’t have anything to sort them into however (apart from teacups, which felt like overkill really).  In the end, I came up with this:

Bead Tray

These are those little silver cases that tealight candles come in. I happen to have a ton of tealight candles. They’re nice and wide for dipping the needle into to pick up the bead. You can see, if you look closely, the middle tray on the top row has two colours in it. These are so close in normal light that I couldn’t pick them apart, but inside the case they are generally spottable as different. Having said that, I can’t vouch 100% that the right colour bead has ended up in the right spots for those bits.

Dragonfly Wings

I’ve done all the beaded bits on the lower wings so far – the gaps will be filled with plain cross stitch in dark blue.  At first I thought this was going to take forever, it feels a little slower than regular cross stitch due to fishing out a bead. Once I was in the swing of it though, it’s fine. Not as fiddly as I expected and very satisfying to see all the little beads nice and straight in their little rows.

Not sure how I’d go on a large piece though, probably I would go a little bit insane.

Lazy Summer Days

How awesome am I to open a brand new blog and then cease to post after three entries? Pretty damn awesome! I have the most best excuses though, and they are two. The first is the heat, which as usual has sucked the creativity right out of my face via my more than ample nose. No matter how determined I am to do anything in a given day, it never happens if the temperature climbs too high. The house I’m in does have air-con, in a patchy sort of way, which is just not enough to overrule the Summer. The second excuse is that I reactivated my World of Warcraft account, fool that I am.

However! I come to you with news of a planned project. A knitting friend of mine on Plurk (hello Selana!) linked a nifty looking project – A “My Year in Temperatures” scarf. For those who can’t be bothered clicking, the basic idea is that you select colours to represent temperature ranges, and every day you add a row to your scarf of the relevant colour. Kris, the lady who owns the blog where the idea is, has chosen colours for a range of temperatures from -40°C to +30°C, however being as I am in Melbourne, I have been able to select a much smaller colour range as our seasonal highs and lows don’t cover such a wide spread. While I’m waiting for my yarn to arrive (I know the idea works best on scrap or left over balls, but I don’t have enough of a colour range as I tend to buy just red. Or sometimes brown), I am keeping track of the top temperatures and reminding myself to do so with a sticker on my monitor:

Temperature List

Eagle eyed guests, or those who do a lot of snail mailing, will note that is the border end of a strip of stamps. My top tip for today is using them for tiny reminder notes as they stick easily and peel off later. And yes I totally did watermark an image no one in their right mind would steal.

I think this project has captured my imagination for a couple of reasons. The first is simply timing – Selana linked to it a couple of days ago, while the years high temperatures were still easily available on the web. If it’d been June, I probably would have tucked it away and then forgotten about it. The other reason is that I love stripes, I think stripes are the most best awesome things (although polka dots are also terribly awesome). Finally, I like the idea of having a year long project that can’t be rushed. The yarn should be here soon, and then I’ll get the opening days done and be on my way! Huzzah!

In other crafty news, about a week ago I was thinking random thoughts about things unrelated to much and I suddenly remembered that the wooden chest under the window is no longer full of my mother’s eccentric hat collection – it’s full of Craft Stash!

stash

On the top you can see a frog I did to check the colour palette of a piece of software I have since lost. Underneath that? All manner of kits, threads, patterns and other bits and bobs including a latch hook cushion front kit. Being as I’m on a bit of a stash bust this year (do pretend, now you’ve read that, that I didn’t mention buying yarn a paragraph ago. Thanks), I am diving in with this small, sweet kit:
Dragon Fly BroochIt’s beaded stitching done on a heavy cardboard backing instead of fabric, for use as a brooch. I have no recollection of buying it, but it does seem like something I’d buy…

So stay tuned, because there’s a cool change coming tomorrow and I might actually do something!