Saturday, April 12, 2014

Scratchin' Eggstravaganza: Easter Egg!

New FREE Pattern - Chicken Scratch Easter Egg!!!
(PDF. Pattern via Dropbox - need Adobe Reader? Get it for free!)

Oh, I'm so excited to share this with you!!! You ever have ideas that don't work out? Most of mine don't, but every now and again they do. Which is great. But you know what's absolutely wonderful?! When they completely exceed your expectations, like this little Easter Egg did! And I had so much fun stitching it up that I had to share :)

Now, I know it's a little late in the game. Easter is only next weekend (?!). I have no idea how that happened, but that's what I realized today. But this project really is super quick to stitch and finish, and can easily be completed in an afternoon or two. It took me three, but I was designing (and re-designing, LOL) as I went along!

The materials - 11 count white Aida, a size 20 tapestry needle and DMC Prism Craft Thread - are the same as I used for my Chicken Scratch Sampler. And the finishing technique - the Chain Stitch and Whip Stitch Edging - and ornament assembly are the same as my Blackwork Poinsettia Christmas Ornament (with photo tutorial).

Along with the patterns for the Front of the Easter Egg - with the Floral Medallion (which I first designed in red as a Poinsettia for family ornaments this Christmas) - and the Back with the "Happy Easter!" greeting - I've included a few photo tutorials for some of the stitches and other information that I hope will be useful :)

Next to the Flower, I'm happiest with my "Egg Stitch" - an elongated version of the traditional Circle Stitch that ended up looking like a nice little row of mini eggs:

As you can see, it follows exactly the same movements as the Circle Stitch, it's the adjustment to the foundation stitches that makes it oval. The completed row is in the middle. I had lots of fun working each one in different colours!

My stitching is a little wonky in the progress pictures because I was working it in hand instead of a hoop. My Aida cloth was a looser weave and the stitches pulled it badly. It's okay though because it all worked out with some gentle stretching and a little rest, and it actually made the woven stitches - like the eggs - so much easier:

As you can see, I could bend the fabric and make the foundation stitches stand off from the fabric a little bit so it was super fast to slip the weaving thread under. So if it happens to you, worry not ;) I hope this Easter Egg will entice you to try Scratchin', and inspire some new variations! Here's a close-up of the edging:

I think I'm getting a little better at this everytime I try it, and it's really fun with the Craft Thread because you don't have to worry about not catching all the strands of floss. I like including a seasonal Sentiment, and it helps me actually final-finish things faster because I'm not waiting to find the perfect backing fabric and trims :)

Speaking of Chicken Scratch, Mary Corbet at Needle N' Thread recently posted her own floral variation on gingham, and may be offering some patterns soon.

And speaking of Easter, Jo at Serendipitious Stitching is having her wonderful Easter Blog Hop again this year! Click this very handsome Mr. Bunny for more info:

I was hoping to sign up to be a Hop Host, but I think I've run out of time for this year. The Chicken Scratch Easter Egg is actually the first thing I've ever stitched for that holiday though, so I'm doing pretty good :) I'm looking forward to Hopping along the Bunny Trail for the Mystery Phrase on Easter! Jo's Hops are always great fun.

While you're visiting, why not congratulate Jo on three great years of blogging and enter to win a fabulous yet-to-be-final-finished Alice in Wonderland gift?!

As for me, I wish you a Wonderful Spring and a Very Happy Easter!

P.S. I'm entering this project at Dream A Little Bigger's Link Party:

Dream a Little Bigger

P.P.S. I just got the most wonderfully amazing news!! I'm trying to catch up with my blog feed this weekend, and to my absolute astonishment and delight, I discovered my Chicken Scratch Sampler featured on the DMC Threads website!!! *so excited*

The article was published yesterday and features "Creative Samplers" - there are three other beautiful and inspiring projects profiled that are well worth seeing :) 

Here's a little preview:

Thanks very much to Emma for the feature, and to all ES readers! It is so great to see that there is new interest in Chicken Scratch, and I hope it comes back in a BIG way ;)

Friday, March 28, 2014

JN SAL Month #2 - Spring "Hearts"!

Just Nan "Christmas Hearts" Freebie - Spring Hearts Variation!

Although I started stitching this piece for February, computer problems meant that I missed last month, so it is my entry for March. With the hearts and the celtic knots, it ended up working out well for both St. Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day :)

This lovely pattern is actually "Christmas Hearts", a beautiful holiday ornament that is happily available for free at Save the Stitches (right at the bottom of the list)!

To make it Spring-y, I substituted the colours and went a little brighter:

I didn't use the Balger blending filament suggested, but I did use Mill Hill Gold Beads! However, the number on the pattern is 4D567, which I think is the old system; mine is 00557, and as far as I know, is the basic gold metallic. The fabric is the white 28 count Evenweave by M.C.G. Textiles that I used for Rosebuds and reviewed here.

The greens and pinks are just lighter versions of the original darker colourway, but I added the two blues for a cheerful contrast, and they replace the original lavenders.

When I'm trying to choose alternative colours, I like to pull the cards of floss and put them side by side first, narrow the choices down, and then put the floss cards on my binder ring to see how they work together. Having them all on the ring is also handy for choosing fabric colours, as you can hold them against your possible options.

I'm pretty sure that this is a really common storage technique, but I don't think I've shared a photo of it before :) And I love Mill Hill Beads for the lovely colours and finishes, but the fact that they fit so easily on the binder rings is a wonderful bonus!

Here's some in-progress stitching photos:

The only significant change I made was in the number of threads I used. I generally like a thicker coverage, so I used three strands instead of two for the cross-stitches and the center Rhodes Heart. When I started working the Satin Stitch hearts, I had a hard time making them smooth, so I added an extra strand (four total) for fullness.

I also made a mistake in spacing my first heart and I didn't want to cut it out and restitch it again so I just went with it, and made all the hearts one stitch too short :) And the sides were looking a little pointy, so I left off one stitch on each side.

When it came time for the beading, I was delighted by the way the dark blue dots looked like flowers when the gold beads were added in the center! So I decided to leave off some of the other beads around them to keep that look ;) And the beads around the bottoms of the Satin Stitch Hearts are also spaced a little bit differently.

Here's some progress photos of the beading (oh, how I do love beading!):

So much sparkle :) This was a really fun design to stitch, and I fully intend to do the original Christmas colourway later in the SAL! I think the pattern would also look great adapted for the other three seasons too - brighter pink hearts for summer, red for fall and such. All four would make a nice wall hanging or ornament set, perhaps.

The Just Nan Stitch Along (SAL) 2014 is hosted by Zeb at Keep Calm and Cross-Stitch! Anyone can join at any time, including non-bloggers :) Come stitch with us!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SFS Month #3: New Season, No Stash!

Wow, wherever does the time go? I can't believe that it's already time for my next SFS check-in, let alone past the First of Spring! Well, officially at least. We had a light dusting of snow this morning, and a big storm is coming soon. Not unusual here, but not very pretty. There's BIG heaps of old dirty ice everywhere and I'm happy that some new snow is coming to cover that ugly mess up until it finally decides to melt :)

Unfortunately, I don't have any stitching to show today! Due to my computer issues last month, I missed the second month in the Just Nan SAL, but I did have most of the stitching done and will hopefully get the photos up for this check-in ;)

As for the carousel horse I mentioned in my last SFS report, I'm not sure when I'll be starting. I did do some measuring, and Summer is too big for my Q-Snaps. But I do have a lovely wooden scroll frame that was a gift from my Groovy Grandparents several years ago, and while I think it might *just* fit, it's a little heavy to hold.

So I need to do some more experimenting! In the meantime, I'd like to start a small stitchy project for Spring, and possibly a vintage-inspired embroidery for Easter. I've never actually stitched anything for Easter, and I'd like to do a little bunny if I can find the right pattern. It's a perfect chance to finally use some of my special stash threads, and I'm greatly looking forward to Stash Diving and Dreaming LOL :)

Here's my SFS Spending for this month: $0.00!!!! Zilch, zip - ZERO! I was beginning to be afraid that it wouldn't happen for me! ;) That means I can bank the full $25 allowance this month with the $15.09 I had from last month, for a grand total of $40.09 banked, which will surely come in handy in the future.

Although Spring is a long way off from being "sprung" here yet, I've been trying to catch up on my blog reading and have really enjoyed seeing the beautiful seasonal bulbs and garden plants in warmer climes. So I'll leave you with a photo of Violetta, my rather unimaginatively named African Violet. She was a gift from my Grandma two years ago, and recently bloomed beautifully and fully for the very first time:

She's currently resting and recuperating after being repotted, LOL, but as she grows ever stronger, I hope Violetta will have some new flowers to show off soon ;)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

SFS SAL Month #2 - A Special Find!

Sorry for the radio silence - my laptop adapter unexpectedly died, and I had to get a replacement :) But I do have some incredibly exciting news to share - thanks to The Great Stitchy Karma Gods, I stumbled across a pattern I've loved for many years!!!

Seasonal Carousel Horse - "Summer" - by Teresa Wentzler

After a really awful day, my Stitchy Guru Mother took me along on a trip to a little out-of-the-way wool store. I've been there before, and so I've looked through the very small selection of older cross-stitch supplies and patterns several times. But while I was flipping through the booklets, I found something that cheered me up immensely - this lovely rose-bedecked beauty - and I just HAD to take her home:

Now, after the Spontaneous Stashing of last month, I hadn't intended to buy anything in February. But I have long admired Teresa Wentzler's work - in fact, her designs are one of the major reasons that I first fell in love with cross-stitching - and I have always wanted to stitch a TW! That desire has only grown over the last few years, as I've been following the progress of other stitchers working her designs on their blogs.

(As a matter of fact, Jo @ A Stitch In Time is a TW enthusiast who recently finished Fruit Bellpull and gave me some very encouraging e-mail advice about stitching a Wentzler, and Blu @ Therapy By Thread is currently working on Egyptian Sampler!)

As a little girl, I loved carousels and merry-go-rounds at travelling fairs. I collected figurines and stickers, and even had a t-shirt :) Before I ever even thought of cross-stitching myself, I fell in love with the TW Seasonal Carousel Horse series seen as little tiny thumbnails in the back catalog pages of my Mother's stitchy magazines. So to find one of the horses in the series - let alone my Very Favourite horse - was some kind of miracle, and I am thrilled to pieces to have the chance to stitch Summer!

There are three other horses in the series - "Winter" (1989), "Spring"(1989), and "Fall" (1990). Summer was originally released in 1990, and although the series is listed on the Current Designs list on Teresa's website, from what I can understand the original hand-charted pattern leaflets like this are discontinued. I think all four of the horses were once available together in a pattern booklet too. But new computer-grafted versions (all except for Winter) are available digitally at Patterns OnLine.

Also, there is an excellent article on the Collector's Weekly website by Lisa Hix called "Where Have All The Carousel Horses Gone?" that is a lenthy but interesting read. It traces the history of carousels and merry-go-rounds, the different types and notable designers, and the restoration of the endangered older wooden rides including the Pennsylvania ones that Teresa Wentzler based this series and "Carousel" (1988) on!

Like all TW designs, "Summer" is intricate and complex and it will be quite a stitchy challenge for me. But I went ahead and purchased the threads I was missing and some Evenweave to stitch her on too :) The original was stitched on 25 count cream Linen, but I think this 28 count "antique white" Evenweave will work well with the colours.

So here's my SFS Spending for this month: I spent $6.00 + tax for the Pattern Leaflet = $6.78. I bought the threads and fabric at Michaels: I bought 12 skeins of floss at 49 cents each, and used a 40% off coupon for the fabric (regularly $9.99) - the total, including tax, was $13.41. Altogether, I spent $19.89.

And it wasn't until the day after I bought the fabric and threads that I received the notice of the special "Splurge Weekend" free spending LOL, so that comes out of my monthly allowance of $25, leaving me $5.11! That, combined with my leftover from last month, means I have a total of $15.09 banked, which I'm quite happy with :)

I wasn't intending to start a large project this year, and I haven't stitched one in quite a while. I'm not even sure if my Q-Snaps are big enough for it yet! I have to dig them out and do some measuring. But finding Summer was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, and I'm really excited to think about stitching her! I'm not sure if a start will be feasible right now, time-wise. Everything else will have to work itself out right? ;)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Just Nan SAL - Month #1: "Rosebuds"

I'm excited to introduce this project to you not only because this is my first entry into the Just Nan SAL but also because this is my first time stitching on Evenweave fabric!!! As you may remember, I was gifted this lovely pattern from Just Nan by Meggie, and it marks my first experience with this designer. Here is the leaflet:

I followed the colourway exactly, but mine turned out a little darker and leaned more toward the mauve than the pink. According to the chart, the model was stitched on "Zweigart 32 CT Antique Lavender Belfast Linen", which may have affected the way the colours photographed. Overall, I think mine has a more vintage feel but I like it :)

When it came time to choose my fabric, I was at a bit of a loss. Because the center is partially worked with a new-to-me Specialty Stitch called the "Mosaic Stitch"(which seems to be a smaller version of the popular Needlepoint favourite, the "Scotch Stitch") and there are Eyelets (a Diamond Eyelet in the center and Algerian Eyelets in the corners), the design cannot be stitched on Aida cloth. I couldn't find any 32 count linen here, but the design also gives measurements for 28 count.

After some fruitless hunting around in my local fabric store for some linen by the meter, I chanced upon a package of white 28 count Evenweave from M.C.G. Textiles at Michaels. This American family-owned business is new to me, and I am so very impressed with this product that - as I mentioned in my last post - I immediately went out and bought another package halfway through stitching Rosebuds :)

Here is the front and back of the package - the fabric is larger than I expected (20" x 27"), and retails here for $9.99 CA. Although the fabric is folded, the creases were light and easily came out when I sprayed them with water and let the fabric air-dry for about fifteen minutes. No ironing was needed! And that's a big plus for me ;)

The fabric itself is softer than Aida cloth, with a nice drape. And the colour is much brighter than it appears in these photos, a lovely true clear white with bluish tones rather than yellowy cream. But what impressed me most is the, well, evenness (for lack of a better term!) of the Evenweave! The threads are plump and close together... you can see in this extreme close-up of the center area (before beading). This is a HUGE deal to me! I've looked at lots of other Evenweaves, in person and online, and while less "slubby" than Linen, the threads are seldom regular. And that drives me NUTS! Also, there were no flaws, bumps or loose threads in my package either.

Made of "100% Combed Cotton", the product descriptions on the packaging and the website also state: "Our fabric is a woven 3 ply yarn. Carefully woven in each direction which details a distinct box to hold for ease in stitching". This makes the strands easier to count, I think. It took me a while at first to adjust to working over two threads instead of one, but the regularity of the weave was incredibly helpful!

The 28 count Evenweave at M.C.G. Textiles is also available in a smaller 15" x 18" package and a larger 30" by 36" package. There are five neutral colourways in the range - White, Antique White, Mushroom, Khaki and Rose (more of a mauve) - and a really neat sample pack with 12" x 14" cuts is available. You can see the Evenweave options here, and the best part is that they're all currently on sale (site-wide too)!

The company also sells several other needlework fabric options, including pre-finished items to stitch on. And M.C.G. Textiles manufactures Aida cloth in a variety of counts and some beautiful colours (with sample packs too!), including a gorgeous opalescent line called Starlite Aida! They also sell Linen imported from Belgium.

This is definitely a product I'll be using again, and that I highly recommend trying! It's really disappointing that the lovely colours and the sparkly Starlite line aren't available here locally, but I'm considering trying tea/coffee dying to get a tan colour.

I'll let you know how that goes, if it goes (and if you have any advice, I'm all ears!).

Here's a few pictures of my progress on Rosebuds :) It was a very fun stitch and worked up quickly! Besides the Specialty Stitches, the rest is all in whole cross-stitches, and although there are a lot of colour changes in the flowers you usually have at least a two or three stitch block so it's not like working confetti (thankfully!).

The pattern called for two colours of beads by a company called SJ, which I think is SJ Designs. According to the site, they carry Japanese imports, and the colour numbers no longer match those given in the chart. One was a "White Pearl" and the other was a "Rose Blush", which is basically a pink pearl finish from what I can tell.

While I had equivalents in Mill Hill Beads, the white didn't show up against my fabric so I made some substitutions that - although I wasn't sure of at first - I'm now very happy with! The colours I chose were MH #02016 (Green: Crystal Mint) in place of the White Pearl, and MH #02024 (Purple: Heather Mauve) for the Rose Blush :)

The pattern states to attach the beads with a half cross-stitch using a colour to match the background, in this case white. That's what I'd usually do too. But since I was substituting iridescent transparent beads for opaque ones, the white just washed them out. Both colours were not-quite matches to my floss, as they were too pale.

So I used the dominant floss colour to attach each bead (in this case, 503 with the Crystal Mint, and 316 with the Heather Mauve) which showed through the glass enough that the beads then matched the floss near-perfectly ;) Neat trick, hey?!

You can see the beads with the threads through the holes in the top photo, and how the beads look from the front in the bottom photo. I also used a whole cross-stitch for bead attachment, as I normally do, but I made the stitch over only one thread of the Evenweave (just below the bead) so that the floss didn't show up on the white. I'll have to remember that in future ;) The beading around the Diamond Eyelet in the center is different that way - squarish instead of aslant - but I was okay with that.

Here's how Rosebuds look before and after the beading:

When I was first planning the project, I thought about leaving off the beads entirely (since I didn't realize using the floss colours would make the match so good!), but I'm very glad that I changed my mind because I think the embellishment adds a lot to the design. In fact, beading seems to be a design characteristic of Just Nan patterns, and if Rosebuds is any indication, the sparkle makes them lots of fun to stitch ;)

I'll leave you with a close-up of the lovely heart-shaped Celtic Knot in the center:

The Just Nan Stitch Along (SAL) 2014 is hosted by Zeb at Keep Calm and Cross-Stitch! Anyone can join at any time, including non-bloggers :) Come stitch with us!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SFS SAL for January - Month #1!

Thank you all so much for your wonderfully kind Christmas wishes!!! I had a lovely holiday with my family, and am happy to be back to blogging just in time for the first month of the Stitch From Stash SAL (Stitch Along) at Epic Stitching :)

This post is actually a little backwards, since the project I was working on this month is for the Just Nan SAL at Keep Calm and Cross Stitch. I intended to combine both SAL posts today, but since I'm running short of time I'll just cover SFS tonight.

Stitch From Stash SAL #1: Spontaneous Stash!

The thing I love most about the SFS challenge is that it is flexible and encourages you to set personal goals to fit your own stitching and spending style! Indeed, I'm really looking forward to seeing the different ways that other stitchers chose to interpret the SAL in the coming months ;) For me, it's not actually about the budget (!!!).

In all honestly, I have seldom spent more than $25 a month on stitching supplies, and I'm not much tempted by all the lovely new patterns because I don't shop online and local availability is slim to none. That helps a lot! But I do love to go "treasure hunting" (thrifting) for stitchy magazines and supplies, and for fine crochet and other crafty supplies too, and so I mostly purchase things spontaneously when I find them.

My other usual purchases are specific things needed for a project - skeins of thread, etc. - which are usually small. So the ability to have spending money each month is essential for me, but I don't think I'll have any trouble keeping below the yearly total of $350. My challenge to myself is not to limit stash acquisition - as I know it is for many stitchers, understandably (if I was an internet shopper, I'd be broke!) - but to use what I already have, especially the "treasures" that I hoard ;)

But back to the Spontaneous Stashing, LOL - I made two lots of purchases this month, one planned for near-future projects the other unplanned and just for fun:

This was my planned purchase, a pack of 28-count white Evenweave by US company M.C.G. Textiles. This is where the backwards part comes in - I used this fabric (which I purchased last month before the SAL) for my Just Nan SAL project this month, and loved it so much that I immediately went out and bought another pack :) It retails at Michaels for $9.99, but I used a 40% coupon so it came in at about $6.00, plus tax.

I'll be putting together a little review in my JN SAL post, for anyone who's interested!

And while I was waiting for the check-out in Michaels, I spotted all the calendars and planners on deep discount, so I picked up this cute one to plan out my SALs (so this last-minute thing doesn't happen again LOL) and stitchy goals for the year for the grand sum of 30 cents ;)

The other items I bought were found at my favourite dollar store, a local branch that is unique because it has a lot of brand-name clearance and end-of-the-line products.

I was thrilled to discover these Singer Transfer Fabric Crayons, that are meant to be permanently ironed-on to cotton fabrics. I bought two packs - one to experiment with, and one to use - and a special pencil sharpener for them since I know from experience with regular crayons that the soft wax sticks to the sharpener blades, and I imagine the permanent pigment might be hard to remove.

Each pack of fabric crayons was $1.50, and the double-hole pencil sharpener - despite the label - was only $1.00!

I also picked up this neat white pencil for drawing on dark fabrics for $1.00 and two packs of binder rings - which I use to hold working floss tags for my projects - for another $2.00 (at $1.00 a piece). These come in and out of stock at the dollar store and they hadn't been in for a while, so I took the chance to snap up two ;)

My Monthly Total for January: was $15.30, plus tax = $19.12, leaving me $5.88 to bank for next month.

Woo - one minute left, I need to hurry this up LOL! That's it for me for now, I'll be back in a few days with the JN SAL post :) Happy Saving on Stash everyone!

UPDATE: Whoopsies! I totally misread the deadline date as *before* the 28th of each month, when it's actually by the end of the day :) Definitely going to have to bust out my new little planner for next month LOL!

And if that wasn't embarrassing enough, I just released that I totally goofed on my figures too :( When I wrote this post, I was in a bit of a hurry (just a little wee bit mind, ha!) and I couldn't find my receipt for Michaels while my dollar store craft buys were mixed up with personal buys and very vaguely identified on the bill.

The amounts are right, but I forgot to calculate the tax on both lots separately. Also, I had the tax rate wrong *is mortified*. For anyone else living in Canada, this official GST/HST Rate Chart is extremely helpful :) So my new numbers are: $6.30 + 13% tax = $7.11 for my fabric and planner, and $7.00 + 13% sales tax = $7.91 for my dollar store goodies. Grand total = $15.02, so my bankable amount for next month actually increases (yay!!!) to $9.98. At least something good came from this mistake!

So, a valuable lesson learned this month. I should've saved my receipt from one purchase and checked in my stitchy items separately on another purchase. Now, these are totally common sense things that I've done before, but I forgot and maybe you might too, so I hope this helps! I'm starting to think that the road to SABLE (Stash Beyond Life Expectancy) is paved with Sales and Bargains LOL ;)