26 January 2014

No Net Ensnares Me

I got out the sewing machine last weekend and did two quick straight seams to finish up this little Bent Creek piece.
Bluebird Cottage
Designer: Bent Creek (kit)
I've recently become quite fond of the classic, framed finish.

21 January 2014

The Cold Cannot Defeat Me

I'm going to be honest with you. Coming home on a cold, blustery night and thinking "It was cold and blustery tonight! I should make myself a hat to combat it tomorrow!" and then doing just that is kind of awesome.

Red Bulky Skullcap with Big Black Button by Pinar Vardar

I haven't had much need of winter hats in Atlanta before this, but this winter has been quite cold at times. So far, I have made myself two hats, both using a warm wool yarn I picked up in Germany.

Seamless Earflap Hat by Lindsey Carr

Now, if only the train is on time tomorrow, so I'm not stuck outside on the platform again like today...

19 January 2014

After Many Years

When I was in high school, perhaps even middle school, I fell in love with an embroidery design for sale at the craft shop. The store had a model stitched and hanging in one of the sewing aisles, and I would always stop by to see it. It was a very large piece, at least 18 inches high, I would guess. Even though I had learned to cross-stitch by then, I knew nothing about embroidery. And the kit was far outside my allowance range anyway. So I would just look.

Fast forward a few years. I was casually strolling through another craft shop when I was brought up short: there was the same design I had loved years before. Only this time it was a 5x7 size, and therefore much more affordable (not that size or cost would have stopped me anyway after all those years). I snatched that puppy up so fast. I didn't care that I still hadn't learned to embroidery. It was going to be mine.

As you might expect from me, I finished it pretty quickly (totally fudging on the embroidery stitches), and then it sat around for another couple years. It didn't match any of my other decorations. I was just happy to have it.

Today, somewhere between 15 and 20 years after I first saw it, I finally laced it up and put it in a frame.

Genteel Lady
Designer: Sue Halstenberg for Dimensions
Crewel Embroidery
You can't tell from the picture, but the fabric is almost the same color as the wall, a cool mint green. It was a pre-printed background with crewel embroidery added to the hat and part of the dress.

Dimensions still sells this kit today, though only in the 5x7 size, as far as I can tell. I suspect the larger version was retired in favor of the smaller one.

I think the moral of this story is: don't give up on that WIP!

13 January 2014

Achievement Unlocked: Woodland Sampler

Ladies and gentlemen, I have completed* my Woodland Sampler. Victory! I spent a lot more time in 2013 on crochet than I did on cross-stitch, but I was determined to at least complete this piece. I made a number of changes, especially in the last few boxes. Just personal preference.

If 2012 was the year I really got back into stitching, then 2013 was the year I got a good lay of the land, in terms of designers and my personal style. The frenzy for buying patterns has waned. I have a very large and diverse collection of charts, which will see me through eternity. At this point, unless something particularly catches my attention, I won't be buying much more for awhile. I also decided against pre-ordering any new series for the foreseeable future. I've found that I often enjoy the anticipation of the reveal more than the design itself. Or, in the case of a large project, I feel tied to that one project when I might be more energized working on another one. (I can't really switch much either; I'm one of those "finish what you started, no matter what" kind of people.)

Moving forward, I have some ideas about what I'd like to stitch, but I'm not going to hold myself to any specific projects or goals. Just see where it goes.

* Eagle-eyed readers will note the last box seems surprisingly empty. I left room for the recipient's name.

30 September 2013

One Stash, Many Projects

Earlier this summer, I found a whole bunch of bulky wool yarn on sale. I, being the weak creature I am, grabbed a ton even though I had no clear idea of what to do with it. I did at least make sure the colors were complementary, and that some of them would be good for dyeing. Then it all hung around in a pile for about 6 weeks, giving me doe eyes whenever I walked by.

Tired of the doe eyes, I pulled out all the natural skeins for a round of dyeing. This time I used Wilton colors and the crockpot. Actually, two crockpots of different dimensions, which explains why I have lighter skeins and darker skeins. I love the richer colors I was able to achieve, but am less fond of the patches that didn't take any color. Any suggestions for ensuring the yarn takes dye when you're pouring multiple colors in the mix at the same time (and therefore don't want to move the yarn around much)?

I had my eye on a gorgeous blanket pattern from Ravelry, but wasn't ready to commit to the project yet. I decided to give it a try using a few of the colors and made a little floor rug instead. The bulky yarn meant the blocks were far larger than the ones called for in the blanket, but I like it. I could have pieced it together better, though. Time to learn to block.

All I had left of the stash untouched at that point was the light pink skeins. Those went to the next dyeing experiment: kettle dyeing dry yarn by putting it into a uniform dye bath at slightly delayed intervals. By doing it that way, the yarn soaks up the dye at different rates, and gives you a subtle variation in color. Then I saw this new cowl pattern, and put the yarn right to use.

At this point, just the dyed blue yarn is still in the stash. But it's all neatly wound and ready to go. Since it looks like I'm going to keep on dyeing my own yarn, I went ahead and bought a swift and ball winder -- I went to town on what I already had too, as you can see.

Not too bad a use for all that yarn, eh?

15 September 2013

Project Bags

I get a lot of free bags. They're the go-to giveaway at conferences, and often rival coffee mugs and pens from visiting vendors. Plus I occasionally get them as gifts from travelling family. I am fairly picky about the ones I keep (conference bags hardly ever come home with me; bags from family are treasured), but they still somehow seem to increase like Tribbles in the bottom of my closet.

Yet in all of this, I don't really have smaller bags that would work well for toting projects around. Instead, I have trusty Ziploc bags that may get the job done but aren't particularly attractive. I've been intending to turn some cross-stitch pieces into project bags, but haven't gotten around to it. I finally thought "this just won't do anymore" and decided to hook up some bags instead (bonus: no sewing machine required).

I just finished up this medium-sized bag this morning. It's a shell design, but tightly stitched enough that it should work great for both cross-stitch and crochet projects.

I also used up some stash making a tiny little bag. It's pretty much perfect for one ball of yarn.

Now I just need a vacation, so I can put them to use.

26 August 2013

Let's Not Talk About How Much Stargate I've Watched Recently

I've been very busy the past two weeks. Which is to say I've spent an amazing amount of time watching TV and stitching. I just had the itch to get some projects done.

I'm all caught up with my Woodland Sampler again. I was two months behind, and I knew I'd never get back to it if I just didn't power through.

Francie the Wishful Fox (July) &
Pierre the Mushroom Collecting Skunk (August)
Designer: The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery
Fabric & Floss: 32 ct linen (self-dyed); suggested DMC

Then I got back to a relatively quick project, Breakfast in Bed. I'm planning to turn it into a patchwork potholder using the fabrics you see there. Of course, pulling out the sewing machine is the part I'm especially bad at, so expect another update on this one in 2087 or so.

Breakfast in Bed
Designer: Alicia Watkins
Fabric & Floss: 30 ct linen (WDW carrot); Threads: DMC
Substitutions: 304, 741, B5200

And! And! I was especially determined to finish up the April Cottage from CCN's series from last year. It's been on the stretcher frame and partially completed for, urm, at least 10 months now, so I vowed to get it done yesterday. That led to an excessive amount of Stargate SG-1 on the TV.

April Cottage
Designer: Country Cottage Needleworks
Fabric & Floss: 28 ct evenweave; suggested DMC
Substitutions: white whisper thread for bunny

Although, let's be honest: can you ever have too much SG-1?