Cross Stitch Fever

Once is year is a perfectly acceptable update schedule, shut your face. So what have I been up to? Oh, you know. Stuff. Basically, I work on the computer all day and then at the end of the day I want to go do other things so I haven’t been updating. At all. I was going to say “As much” but we both know I mean “At all”. On to the projects! This post is going to be cross stitch heavy, because that’s mostly what I’ve been doing.
Frog by Heritage CraftsA while back I was digging around in my closet and found some half done cross stitch projects. “Ooh” I thought, “I like cross stitching.”. Instead of finishing those, I bought some new ones. Above is the Frog from the Heritage Crafts Cross Stitch Critters range. I shouldn’t have looked that up, there’s a most adorable owl there. Frogs are my most best thing, and I’ve always enjoyed the Heritage Crafts range, there’s quite a few of their designs dotted around the house. I made one change to this kit – the bees are pink on the chart, but I don’t really like pink that much so I swapped it out for the left over gold from the fish.

Sunset Stroll by Heritage Crafts

Another one by Heritage, this time from their Silhouettes collection. This one just doesn’t photograph well at all, but looks much better in reality – honest. This range is one I’ve done a few times, and I love the tones in them. You have the option of getting these kits with evenweave or aida. If you’re tempted to try one, go the evenweave. Trust me. There’s so many half stitches in various directions you’ll go nutso trying it on aida.

Poppy WIPNow on to my current WIP. This is “White Flowers Filled With Light” from the Alisa Collection (site is in Russian). It was sent to me as part of the Redditgifts needlework exchange and I love it so hard. I’m about to press it and mount it on one of my clip frames as the fabric isn’t big enough to keep using the hoop for the corners. Details, you care about the details.

I’ve also made a ukulele strap, but that’s a post for another day. Pencil it in for June 2016.

 

This is how you, Mark, will learn how to cross stitch

Okay so the title of this post might seem person specific, but if you’re looking for a crash course (and I do mean crash course, I’m covering a lot in this post but by no means everything) in cross stitch, you can join in even if you’re not Mark. Mark is a friend of mine, not a made up person. Honest. You can read his Pop Culture blog over at Zwolanerd if you like.

Ready? Then let us get rolling. Cross Stitch is a form of needlework where the stitches form an X shape. You may have deduced this from the name of the technique. It’s a simple, effective form of needlework which allows the quick coverage of large areas as well as pleasing shading and detail work. The threads used tend to be slightly glossy which looks marvy.

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A Bottle Garden

I saw bottle planters on the internet a few weeks ago and decided I’d really like to make some. So I did. Bam!

Bottle Planters

I’ve Baby’s Tears in two of them, and a maidenhair fern I found at the very back of the plants when I went plant shopping. It was a bit sad looking, with a lot of brown leaves. I pruned those away and split it in half. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how long the ferns will survive in the bottle – it might be too small for them. We’ll see though, right?

There’s a lot of methods around for cutting a bottle like this, the most popular being wrapping fuel soaked string around the bottle, setting that on fire and then dumping the lot in cold water. Knowing my luck, this would have resulted in exploding bottles and shards of glass everywhere.

When I was a kidlet, I remember seeing one of those commercials for mail order stuff for a bottle cutter. I wanted one so much, but never got one. Now I’m (technically) an adult, I decided I’d just bloody get one. I looked at a few, and ended up going with an Ephrem’s Bottle Cutter because it looked like the one where the least amount of things could go wrong.

I’d love to show you some “In progress” shots, but the technique is very much a two handed one, so I didn’t get around to taking any pictures. It was dead easy, although I did find it tricky to keep the right amount of pressure on the bottle at first. Too much with the hand on the neck of the bottle makes it kick up and slip out of place.

It’s a time consuming process, but not a difficult one. I tried the boiling/iced water baths as a way to break the bottle once scored, but it didn’t work so I went to the candle/ice method. Essentially,  you’re not cutting the glass so much as controlling a break. Heating followed by rapid cooling shocks the glass and it breaks along the weakest point which is the scoreline the cutter etches into the surface. You can then finish the cut edge with emery paper etc (wetted). I took off the corners of the edges, but didn’t bother polishing further – if I was making drinking glasses I would polish a lot more but the breaks were smooth enough for planters.

The cutter itself is pretty cool, though I got the basic model and might get the handy dandy attachments which will make it possible to cut tiny and huge bottles, as well as necks. Don’t stop me now! I’m having a good time!

Also adding to the finished project pile is the cushion cover I was doing to re-cover a footstool.

Cushion Cover

Working on a printed canvas is lovely good times, although it took me a long while to get out of the habit of “marking off the chart” at the end of every section. No chart to mark! I’ve made mistakes, but meh, who doesn’t? We’re going to attach this to some canvasy material to make it fit the stool – the edges aren’t quite long enough to cover the sides. This is listed as design “5.017” by Collection d’Art.

As for works in progress – I have a lot of catching up to do on the Temperature Scarf, and a new kit to do (if I can find it) which I will show you ages from now when it’s done.

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: 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!