Friday, May 15, 2015

Gifted Gorgeousness SAL - Month #1

The Gifted Gorgeousness SAL is hosted by Jo at Serendipitous Stitching! It's a yearly SAL with monthly check-ins, but thankfully Jo has provided a great drop-in option for slower stitchers like myself. Here is my first entry this year in the SAL:

Flower Series #2 - Rose / Rose Afghan Motif
Free Pattern from The Janlynn Corporation

The motif is part of six floral and foliage themed blocks intended for an afghan. This is my own brighter colour variation. The original colours are much more muted:

I started working on this little rose when I was home at Christmas, so I waslimited to the colours that I had with me, which were mostly festive. The beautiful blue 14 count Aida was a generous gift from a friend that I had intended for a night-sky ornament, and I think all complimentary designs are, in a way, a gift to the stitcher :)

The 6" pink Hoop-La is also a gift, as I bought it with holiday gift money from my family, and the two blues I used for the Forget-me-Not flowers were Anchor that I bought at the same time. Please excuse the green Painter's Tape - it's a great quick solution to keep the edges of the fabric from fraying :)

The design is actually brighter in person - I had a hard time getting it to photograph properly. Although it doesn't show up clearly, I really like the shading in the rose:

And I adore this cute little realistic rosebud:

I find that a lot of rosebuds aren't rendered in detail, and I like that this one looks ready to bloom :) This was a quick design to stitch, for the most part, but the Forget-me-Nots were a little confusing. The petals are all overlayered, but some of the edges were very square, so I added in three-quarter stitches here and there.

Although there are a lot of colour changes, most are in sections of three stitches or more, so I didn't mind so much even though it took quite a bit more time than I had first expected. It was fun to work on this, sitting in front of the lighted Christmas tree, putting in two or three small blocks of colour at a time in between festivities.

But even after I had the stitching completed, it didn't feel finished. Something was missing. So it languished in my travelling stitching tin until I decided to add a border. And this super simple border ended up being my favourite part!!!

To make the border, I just stitched large cross-stitches over two threads all the way around. It looked a little too casual, so I added Backstitches in the middle, which naturally made Algerian Stitches in the corners! Simple to stitch, and super fast too :)

The border is definitely something I will try again in the future. And I really like the Forget-me-Nots, even though the Backstitching sort of fades into the fabric. Overall, I'm pleased with this project, and I'll probably make it up into a padded ornament :)

In the meantime, I am still thinking about my Sampler of Samples! I know it's getting late in the game, as far as the year goes, but I want to take the time to do it right ;)

P.S. Rosey at Ishkabibble is generously hosting her first Giveaway, in a series of three! The second Giveaway, for a lovely little Mill Hill kit, is currently open until May 17th, so drop over and say hi :) I've entered for myself, because I love MH!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Booklet Review: Ribbon Stitches

Ribbon Stitches by Mary Lou Wright and Suzanne McNeill for Design Originals

Although this little booklet is currently out of print, and probably has been for a few years, I'm making an effort to review some of my thrifted stitchy stuff like this so you can keep an eye out for a copy on your own treasure hunting adventures :)

It's a lot easier to find something you're interested in if you know what to look for!

When hunting about for craft booklets like this, I often find them stuffed in with magazines of all kinds in thrift shops and used book stores. Although the sticker price is $3.00, I only paid a dollar, and that's pretty typical for these, so booklets like this can be a very affordable way to experiment with a new technique.

I've always loved the look of ribbon embroidery, and I've read quite a bit about it over the years. Although this guide is small, it packs in a lot of content and is actually better, instruction-wise, than some of the full-length books I've read on the subject!

Like most booklets, it's a project book, with 15 small floral designs finished off as ornaments and wall hangings. The front and back cover and a two-page center insert are full-colour while the rest of the book is black-and-white.

As you can see from the photo above, each project includes a B&W photo, a drawn illustration to use as a pattern guideline, fabric cutting templates and a list of materials. Arrows labelled with the stitch name point to each area of the illustration.

And these names correspond to the Stitch Diagrams given at the front of the book:

Besides illustrating how to lock the ribbon on the needle before stitching - which was incredibly helpful! - there are 17 stitches shown, most with multiple parts. All seem clear and concise, although I did try folding the Concertina Rose several times with disastrous results; I suspect there's a trick of the wrist somewhere in there!

But by far the most useful feature is indeed the "Full-Color Stitch Sampler Inside!":

I've never seen anything like this before and it's amazing to see the stitches laid out "in progress"! Some even have the needles still in place, which is cute touch ;) Most compare the same stitch in floss and silk ribbon, and some show multiple steps, like the beautiful yellow Bradford Rose at the top right (which I'm hoping to try soon!).

The recommended materials are regular DMC cotton floss and YLI Silk Ribbon, which seemed to be the most popular supplier of the Silk Ribbon Revival in the mid-1990's, which was right around when this book was written in 1994.

As a kid, I spent lots of time happily trailing along after my Stitchy Guru Mother in fabric stores, and I remember seeing all the cards and bundles of shiny, pretty ribbon on the pegboard shelves, long before I ever thought about picking up a needle :)

Unfortunately, the lack of availability of silk ribbon - and it's expense! - is the biggest stumbling block to Ribbon Embroidery today. But I've been experimenting with polyester "satin" ribbon, and while it lacks the soft drape of silk, I like the look!

Here's a selection from my Stitchy Guru Mother's stash of practice threads; like me, she was hesitant to use the silks she bought and started with these, but other things came along and she never did try the real thing. She may still have some silk ribbon somewhere, so if I get good at this I may try that for something VERY special ;)

Meanwhile, I tried my hand at a Spiderweb Rose, using the diagram in the booklet:

You can see the ribbon I used here, in the original skein and wound on floss cards.

And here are my roses! The weird blobs in the middle are French Knots, which definitely need some work (and aren't any easier in ribbon LOL). The rose on the left has the floss base recommended in the booklet, and the larger one on the right is worked over a base made with the same ribbon, which is usually how it's done.

I'm really pleased with how the floss-based Spiderweb Rose turned out, and I'll be using this method in the future! Small tidbits of information like this can make a HUGE difference when it actually comes to stitching, and I'm so glad that The Great Stitchy Karma Gods brought this little booklet my way! Highly recommended.

Finally, here's my favourite project in Ribbon Stitches, which is also the simplest:

Elegant and pretty, this bouquet features a Bradford Rose and Loop Stitch flowers with Lazy Daisy leaves! I really love that Ribbon Embroidery is so rich and lavish looking yet most of the stitches are basic surface embroidery ones you may already know. It all very much depends on the ribbon you use, and your tension.

Over the next few weeks I'll be letting my imagination run rampant with ribbons :) Hope this little review was helpful. Have you thrifted anything stitchy lately?!

(And if you're Spring Cleaning your craft closet, please consider donating to a thrift store near you! It's a great way to help old supplies and projects find a new home.)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Easy & Fun Embroidered Easter Eggs

Hello, hello! It's so hard to believe that it's officially Spring now :) It still feels very much like Winter here, but the days are slowly getting longer and Mr. Sunshine is happily making more appearances LOL! I've been under the weather on and off since Christmas, so although I had Big Plans to start my Sampler of Samples in January, things have not exactly gone as expected. I'm still thinking about the SOS though!

In the meantime, I've been having a lot of fun experimenting with embellishing felt Easter Eggs with sparkly sequins and beads, and a bit of embroidery too. This is a super easy technique, so if you're looking to quickly whip up some Eastertide Cheer before the Holiday next week, you might want to try this out yourself:

Here are the four Eggs I've made so far! The wonky little pink one on the left was my first attempt, and I should really have cut it up but I didn't have the heart. The felt wouldn't have been reuseable anyway, because the center daisy was so thickly stitched, so now it's serving me as a cheerful festive pincushion :)

Although I measured the flower petal placement, the leaves and the stripes, nothing turned out quite right. I had high hopes for the Herringbone Stitch I attempted at the very top, but it turned out a bit oddly. The daisy is made the same as those in my Floral Umbrella. My favourite part is this interlaced diamond stitch thing I made up:

A quick word about the supplies I used: Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of that magical wool felt locally, so I used dollar store felt. Some colours were thicker than others, with the lavender being the plushest (and therefore easiest to work with) and the dark purple being the thinnest. But I think it worked fine for these small projects.

The thread I used for stitching, the Buttonhole Stitch edging and the Twisted Cording hanging loops is craft thread by Loops & Threads. It's the Michaels brand, and I'll be doing a Review in future. The bright colours are prefect for this time of year!

The pretty pastel sequins are from a container of all kinds of mixed colours and shapes from my Stitchy Guru Mother's stash. They've been around ever since I can remember - they're likely older than I am LOL! It's nice to finally find a way to use them :) The bright colours are from various dollar store assortments - my advice is that if you find some you really like, buy extra because sometimes sequins aren't coloured or punched out right. Look for shapes you can layer, like I did here:

All the sequins are attached with seedbeads. For the lavender Eggs, I used a pretty iridescent white but for the brighter violet Egg, I used silver-lined clear for extra sparkle :) To keep the attachment subtle, I used the quilter's friend, Invisible Thread, but you could use fishing line, or a thread that matches the base of the Egg.

You can see the silver Toho seedbeads I used here; they are super bright and sparkly! For the center band of this Egg, I sewed down a bit of pretty trim. It's a silver metallic lattice threaded with semi-transparent iridescent plastic bands with a greeny-purple flash of colour that is really pretty in person. It's from an assorted all-silver card I bought on sale, for 50 cents a card, at Michaels after Christmas:

These are the different colours I bought, they're called "Midnight Jewel". I was drawn to the metallic rickrack originally, but the rest of the trims are interesting too.

My very favourite Easter Egg is this one, which is my first ever attempt at Ribbon Embroidery! The center flower is a Spiderweb Rose, and I used a thin polyester ribbon in pink and green from WalMart. They were just 50 cents a spool, so it's an economical way to experiment! I really had fun stitching this one - it's a LOT easier than it looks; the leaves are only Lazy Daisies, and the "buds" are French Knots:

I was going to add sequins to this one too, but after I stitched the Rose, I wanted something with a little more texture to match the raised flower:

So I ruched some of the pink ribbon, adding some pretty plastic pink pearls at regular intervals. I used a sewing thread to match the ribbon for this, and it worked out great! I ruched each length as one long stripe and then couched it down across the Egg to secure it. I think this would make a really nice edging too, for something special!

So there you have it! My Eggstravagantic Experiments so far LOL :) I have another lavender felt Egg cut out, so I'll try to finish that up over the weekend. These could easily be adapted to whatever sparklies, beads and other pretties you have around!

I think that about covers the whole process. Oh, to get the shape, I folded a piece of paper in half and cut the half-oval out, Valentine Heart style, and then when I was happy with it I made a cardstock template to use with the felt. You could also print off a blank Egg shape to use - there are tons, like this one from a garland tutorial, online.

If you do decide to make your own Embroidered Easter Eggs, I'd love to see them :)

Another quick project would be the Chicken Scratch Easter Egg I shared last year:

Please note that you do NOT have to create an account to download the freebie; just "x" out of the New to Dropbox screen, and then you can view and download the .PDF like normal. If you have any trouble, just e-mail me (my address is in the sidebar, under the pretty postage stamps). Enjoy, and Have a Very Happy Easter!!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Best Wishes for A Very Merry Christmas 
and a Wonderful New Year!!!

Happily, I'm taking a little break to visit with family, but I'm greatly looking forward to catching up with all my favourite blogs and stitchers in 2015!

Don't forget to visit The 2014 Online Advent Calendar at Serendipitous Stitching to see some stitchy holiday goodness! There's still two days left to go.

I participated for the first time last year, and I made a free Blackwor Poinsettia Ornament with Finishing Tutorial that is perfect for some last minute stitching:

Click on the photo to go to the post and download the pattern :)

Important: I just noticed that the Dropbox site that hosts the file now comes up with a pop-up window asking you to sign it - you do not have to sign in to view or download the pattern - just click the "x" in the corner! Sorry for any confusion.

If you don't have the time to stitch both sides, either design would be nice on its own!

Exciting News: Jo is also hosting a new SAL this year called Gifted Gorgeousness:

Just click on the button to read all about it and sign-up if you wish! I think this is a wonderful incentive to stitch all that Very Special Stash that has been gifted to you. I've joined in myself with the great casual monthly drop-in option! I've been very fortunate to have received some lovely stitchy gifts over the last few years, and I'm hoping to squeeze in at least one or two among the Sampler of Samplers next year :)

Happy Holidays!!! Hope Santa is Good To You ;)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blogger Glitch: Comment Verification

This is just a really quick post to share some information for other Bloggers. While trying to catch up with my blog reading today, I noticed a new Number Verification screen, even on blogs that did not usually use Word Verification. Then I replied to the comments on my last post and found this new CAPTCHA on my very own blog!

So I did a little investigating :) And it turns out that it's a known Blogger glitch.

A CAPTCHA is a security setting that requires the commenter to "Please prove you're not a robot" by keying in the sequence of letters and numbers displayed in the image above the textbox. This is called "Word Verification", and can be turned on or off by the blog administrator, according to preference. The idea is to cut down on spammy comments. A typical Word Verification box looks like this:

There is a block of distorted letters on the left, and a box with numbers on the right. To leave a comment, you have to translate both the letters AND numbers correctly. I've never understood why the distorted letters can't be actual words or phrases that would be easier to understand, and I often have an embrassingly hard time figuring them out, even though most people can evidently get the right combination quickly.

In this particular CAPTCHA, which I saved a few months ago, I couldn't read the number part at ALL, hence the question marks :) Thankfully you can reload the images (just click on the Refresh circle arrow to the right of the box), but to me they seem to be getting harder to read! The new Number Verification looks like this:

It's only a short number combination, with no letters at all, and is so much easier to read! I'd actually be really happy if they replaced Word Verification with this :)

However, the problem is that it is the result of a glitch in the Blogger Code from a recent Update. The full discussion in the Blogger Help Forum is here, and Chuck Croll, who advises in the Forum as "Nitecruzer", has written a must-read post about it here on his blog, The Real Blogger Status, which will be updated with new info ASAP.

Basically, if you have your comments set to pop up in a new window - like I do - instead of embedded at the bottom of your post AND do not moderate your comments (I do not allow anonymous comments, but otherwise I don't moderate), this new CAPTCHA is automatically added to your Comments form and turning OFF "Word Verifcation" will not remove it.

Unfortunately, the Number Verification CAPTCHA is a fake - you may be able to ignore it entirely and publish as normal, so it's not actually a functioning security feature! You can change to embedded comments to make it go away for now, or check your Cookies following the steps suggested in the posts linked above.

This is a minor change, and Google is always busy, so I wouldn't expect a fix anytime soon. My issue is not with the glitch itself, it's with the lack of communication from Google about it. It's scary to open your Dashboard and find a new feature you didn't add - especially when it doesn't even work! - and it can cause real panic when you discover that you cannot remove it. That's one of the signs of a hacked blog, after all!

It may also be confusing to readers trying to leave a comment! And if you're trying to comment on multiple posts (like, say, catching up with your blog reading) it may be a little bit tedious to keep typing numbers, although at least they aren't letters LOL ;)

So please share this information with other Bloggers you know, in hopes that any misunderstanding or frustration can be avoided :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

SFS #11 - The End!!! + A Little Finish:)

Please feel free to borrow this banner, or have fun and make your own!

WOWZERS!!! I really can't believe that the year has flown by so fast :) 2014 is nearly at an end (eek!). As I had planned on from the beginning, I'll be taking my SFS Skip Month in December (for the joy of Gift Stitching!), so this is my very last SAL post!!!

First, I just want to thank everyone for all the really wonderful comments on my last entry for October! I'm so sorry that I haven't responded yet, but I've been out of town visiting family and I haven't been online! Without all of your encouragement, I wouldn't have been able to keep writing this year and I can't thank you enough for reading :) I'm really looking forward to catching up with other blogs soon too!

Wonderful News: Mel @ Epic Stitching will be running a SFS SAL in 2015, but it will be structured quite a bit differently. The first sign-up opportunities will go to participants from 2014, but it may be opened up to other active bloggers so if you're interested, please keep a close eye on Mel's blog so as to not miss out!

I'm not sure if I will be joining in 2015, since I really want to focus on my Sampler of Samples. I've got a long list of new techniques I'd like to try, and I'm going to aim for doing one sample per month so that at the end of the year I'll have at least 12 to put together :) Although I'm planning on using as much stash materials as possible, most of these techniques (like Crazy Quilting) involve embroidery or other methods.

The new structure of SFS focuses exclusively on counted thread work (cross-stitch and specialty stitches) with new bonuses for finishes, which is a really great idea and an exciting new challenge, but I think most of my work will fall outside those lines. I'm still in the planning stages, and haven't made my mind up yet, so I'll let you know!

Stitch From Stash (SFS) 2014 - The Year in Review

I thought it would be really fun to have a quick look back at my posts:

New Stash!

I started off the year Stashing instead of Stitching! Thankfully, The Great Stitchy Karma Guides smiled upon me, and I found supplies that were all special to me in some way :) In January (Month #1), I picked up all kinds of dollar store goodies and my very first Evenweave fabric! February (Month #2) saw the miraculous discovery of one of my very favourite designs EVER, and the purchase of supplies to stitch it.

May (Month #5) was a Treasure Hunting bonanza, and I was lucky enough to find my very first Stitch Dictionary ("Creative Needlecraft", which I will review in future!) along with a veritable rainbow of stitchy goodies :) I also shared some thrifty tips!

Finally, in June (Month #6), I bought some finishing supplies and found a lovely pattern book with a gorgeous vintage design that I am still intending to stitch soon ;)

(I also bought some finishing supplies in April (Month #4) that are not pictured)

Final Finishes

This year I stitched a lot of small seasonal ornaments, which has been really fun :)

In July (Month #7) I worked a little Forget-Me-Not Bouquet in Fine Crochet, and this was the start of my Sampler of Samples project that I'm going to continue next year!

August (Month #8) saw the Final Finish of my Spring Variation of Just Nan's lovely "Christmas Hearts" freebie, which I stitched for the JN SAL in March. September's finish (Month #9) was another Just Nan design, my Variation of the "Autumn" section of the "Harmony" Sampler! I made so many silly mistakes stitching this that it almost didn't get finished, but with some encouragement I managed to persevere and I'm so happy that I did :) In fact, I'd like to stitch a little something for the other three seasons (although not necessarily from "Harmony") sometime in the future!

Speaking of Seasonal Stitching, I finished my very first cute Hallowe'en stitchery in October (Month #10)! I had some really amazing comments on these two Happy Hallowe'en Friends, and the Two-Tone Whipped Backstitch Border is something I'm looking forward to trying in festive colours for Christmas!

In March (Month #3), I made a Chicken Scratch Easter Egg and shared the pattern:

But I think that my favourite project this year was my very Special Easter Variation of "Christmas My Way" by Keslyn's Designs! I stitched my version of the egg in April (Month #4), but unfortunately wasn't able to finish the ornament in time for Easter, although I did final-finish it in May (Month #5):

This is the first time I had stitched "Over 1" on Evenweave, and I miscounted a lot at first LOL! The specialty stitches were challenging but beautiful, and I really love the bright colour palette I chose. I made a few changes to the design, and added lots of sparkle with crystal beads! I love the way the bow/hanger turned out too :)

Stitching Finishes

Surprisingly (for me, LOL!) the only project I didn't Final Finish this year was my first entry for the JN SAL in January (Month #1): Just Nan's "Rosebuds". I'm hoping to finish this as a small padded ornament too, for my Stitchy Guru Mother ;)

Amazingly, the only month I didn't Stash or Stitch was March (Month #3)!

(I also reviewed Thomasina Beck's great book "The Embroiderer's Story" in June!)

My Final SFS Finish! - Berlin Woolwork Key & Ribbon:

As a little experiment, I tried stitching up a little vintage Berlin Woolwork motif (found online, as part of the large chart shared here) on 28 count Evenweave, "Over 1", using a single strand of DMC. You see, I'd really like to include a Berlin Woolwork flower bouquet or wreath in my Sampler of Samples, but most of the best patterns are VERY LARGE and so I thought this might be a good way to make them more manageable :) Overall, this worked out pretty well.

I did try using two strands of floss in a half-cross-stitch, which is much more like the original needlepoint Continental (or Tent) Stitch, but I think the cross-stitches give better definition. It's a little tedious though, since a single strand of floss is very fragile, so it requires more patience than I'd thought LOL ;)

I changed the original motif by making the Key gold and brightening the pinks in the Ribbon Bow, and I added a few extra stitches on the left bottom edge of the Bow's "ear" to give a little more shading. It's a teeny tiny little design, as you can see:

Happily, The Great Stitchy Karma Gods came through for me again, and I thrifted this cute little frame for $1.00 that just happened to fit the Key perfectly! It's plastic, but it's pretty :) I just folded the excess fabric to the back and wedged the back on (with a bit of difficultly, admittedly, but so far it's held up just fine!).

I added a layer of quilt batting on the cardboard insert I made to pad out the stitching a little bit and I really like the way it made the motif stand out:

Hopefully this little Key will lead the way to a New Year filled with lots of Stitchy Fun! If you'd like to stitch your own Key, you can download the free .PDF chart and colourway from my Dropbox right here. I think it would make a nice Christmas ornament too, with a red or green bow :) And as usual, if you stitch it, I'd love to see!

My SFS Spending This Year:

So, this month I spent $1.00 on my tiny frame, leaving $24.00 of the monthly $25.00 budget free. When I was just adding everything up, I realized that I made a little mistake - an 86 cent mistake, to be correct LOL. So here are my new numbers:

Month #1 - January: $15.02 (Banked: $9.98)
Month #2 - February: $19.89 (B: $15.09)
Month #3 - March: $0.00 (B:$40.09)
Month #4 - April: $6.57 (B: $58.52)
Month #5 - May: $28.09 (B: $55.63 - $55.43)
Month #6 - June: $8.99 (B: $72.30 - $71.44)
Month #7 - July: $0.00 (B: $97.03 - $96.44)
Month # 8 - August: $0.00 (B: $122.03 - $122.44)
Month #9 - September: $0.00 (B: $147.03 - $146.44)
Month #10 - October: $0.00 (B: $172.03 - $171.44)
Month #11 - November (this post): $1.00 (B: $195.44)
Month #12 - December - SKIP MONTH (forfeited monthly amount of $25.00).

In total, I spent $79.56, and I Banked $195.44, for a total of $275.00. So with the $25.00 I forfeited, that means everything adds up to exactly $300.00, just like it should (hopefully!). So I "saved" nearly $200, which is really amazing and feels like a major accomplishment, even though it's all imaginary money LOL ;)

This is the first year-long major SAL I've ever been a part of, and I'm so happy to say that I completed it!! I'd like to say a HUGE Congratulations to all the many stitchers that are a part of this SAL, as it's been so inspiring to see how other people Stash ;)

Happy Stitching, Happy Stashing, and Happy Stitching From Stash!!!

The SFS SAL is Hosted by Mel @ Epic Stitching, and will continue in 2015!