Smalls SAL Challenge, Belated November Project

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Shepherd's Bush Christmas Treat Bag kit

Shepherd’s Bush Christmas Treat Bag kit, my version, for the November 2014 Smalls Challenge

Above is my belated submission for Stitching Lotus’s 2014 Smalls Challenge (see the icon on the right), the Christmas Treat Bag Kit by Shepherd’s Bush. I think I’ve been late for about 80% of these monthly challenges, and I have yet to finish the July Challenge, Eileen Bennet’s “Very Victorian… Acorns” Sampler (last heard of here). On the plus side, focusing on results instead of failures, I have completed many of the month’s challenges, and I have done more cross stitching in this past year than I have in quite awhile. There’s nothing like a little external motivation, even if it is voluntary.

I grabbed this kit on my way out of town to go spend Thanksgiving with my family in northern California (due to my teaching schedule, I had to leave at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving day).  I bought this kit over a decade ago and it was stored in a plastic bin with all kinds of other kits I bought years ago. When I was looking for a quick kit at the last minute, I couldn’t believe how many old kits full of unrealized potential were in this box. I have, literally (and I don’t use that word lightly) dozens of old cross stitch and needlepoint kits–many I had forgotten about completely.

The whole process was like an archeological dig as I painstakingly worked my way through layer upon sedimentary layer of ancient fabric and floss artifacts. Each kit seemed to inspire one of two polar opposite reactions: “Wow! I had forgotten how pretty this pattern was! Why aren’t I stitching this right now?” and “What was I thinking when I bought this?” It’s funny how our tastes evolve over time — I remember being head over heels with some patterns that I can barely stand to look at now.  It’s a good time for destashing.

Overall, this little Shepherd’s Bush kit was a quick stitch except for the beading (again, I had forgotten how long that takes), and the results are quite nice. The kit calls for the design to be made into a little treat bag (see below), but, honestly, I can’t imagine using it as a bag so I’ve decided to make it into an ornament instead.

Shepherd's Bush Christmas Treat Bag

Shepherd’s Bush Christmas Treat Bag

As you can see, the kit comes with a star and moon charm too, so that should make a nice addition to the ornament’s decor. It also comes with two satin ribbons, but within twenty minutes of being open in a house filled with five kids under eight years of age, the ribbons mysteriously disappeared. You don’t exactly have to be Sherlock Holmes to solve that “crime.”

Giveaway: if you would like my used “Christmas Treat Bag” pattern and instructions, leave me a message below letting me know, and I’ll send it along. I will also include the leftover floss and beads (the floss is just DMC, so it’s easily supplemented, and there are plenty of beads left to do the entire design again). This is a cute and easy pattern and there’s still time to finish it before Christmas this year, or the next, or the next…

All the News That’s Fit to Stitch: Lucky Thirteen

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As the weather turns colder and the holidays approach (to my relatives and friends in the upper Midwest and Northeast United States — much love and much respect), my thoughts turn even more to knitting.

  • Knitting behind bars.
  • As if running a marathon weren’t difficult enough. And he’s set the world record,  for both hand-knitting and knitting with needles. An extensive Q & A by Runner’s World here.
  • Apropos of our past discussions on Sherlockian knits, I present Sherlock Holmes, unlikely fashion icon.
  • And speaking of Sherlock Holmes and knitting, Debbie Bliss has a new book, Woolly Woofers, coming out soon that’s all about knitting for dogs. Here‘s Daily Telegraph preview article with some free patterns, including one for “Sherlock Bones” that’s actually kind of cute and it looks very well-designed (although I don’t know what self-respecting dog would be seen with that deerstalker hat). She’s also selling some dog-themed mugs to coincide with the book.
  • And the Grand Central Market is looking good in turquoise, hot pink and yellow. Thank you, Yarnbombing Los Angeles!
  • I haven’t been watching Outlander, but the knits sure make me want to start. They remind me a lot of some of the imaginative accessories available on Etsy.
  • Sally Gilchrist does beautiful ink prints, including some colorful knitting-themed ones. Skeins!

That’s it for now, but I will be posting an update on my (as usual, belated) Smalls Challenge for November and at least one more special gift-themed version of “All the News That’s Fit to Stitch” soon. Now that the semester’s over, I will have more time to post. See you all soon!

October 2014 Smalls SAL: A belated Halloween treat

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"Rotted but not Forgotted" by Plum Street Samplers

“Rotted but not Forgotted” by Plum Street Samplers, my (belated) October submission for the 2014 Smalls SAL

I had originally intended my October Smalls SAL submission to be completed before Halloween in order to celebrate the spirit of the season, but the best-laid schemes o’ stitchers and knitters gang aft agley, as the Scottish bard once said. I actually finished stitching quite a few days ago, but I’ve been so busy with … life? … that I just haven’t gotten around to posting until today.*

I fell in love with this design the second I spotted it on the cover of the 2012 Just Cross Stitch Halloween Issue (bottom row, center, in front of the little pumpkin):

Just Cross Stitch Halloween Issue 2012In fact, I bought the issue specifically for that pattern, only to discover, to my surprise, that the pattern isn’t included in the issue. On page 62, the finished design is pictured in a group with some others from designers like La-D-Da, The Stitcherhood and JBW Designs. However, the actual pattern, which should have been on pages 63-69 (or thereabouts) is missing; I looked several times and kept turning the pages over and over again before I ultimately consulted the web page and saw an errata announcement. Fortunately, I printed out the pattern a couple years ago because it has subsequently disappeared from the Just Cross Stitch site without any explanation.

I stitched my version with Gentle Arts Sampler Threads in “Carriage Black” (the pattern calls for DMC 310, pure black), “Adobe” (light variegated salmon color), “Cornhusk” (light green) and “Banker’s Gray” (the pattern calls for “Tradewind” but I didn’t own it and didn’t feel like making a special trip to my unreliable LNS). The fabric is 32-count Vintage Country Mocha linen. I love the mottled look of this fabric and the muted color combinations which just scream of decay and aging.

Speaking of decay and aging… this stitched piece is riddled with minor errors where the stitches are off by one linen thread. This is perhaps most obvious at the very top of the design between the decorative trapezoid (yeah, let’s go with that…) with the skull and wings and the dark gray outline; where there should be a full stitch between them, there’s only half-a-stitch. I really need to do something about my glasses prescription. I find it impossible to navigate between my stitching and watching TV, which I do almost always while I stitch, and I need much better light when I work on linen especially. The only cross stitch projects that are proceeding well are the Shepherd’s Bush stockings with their user-friendly 9 stitches to an inch.

Alexander McQueen Skull Aran Jumper

This season, it’s all about skulls!

In keeping with the belated Halloween theme, from Alexander McQueen comes this Aran Skull Knit Jumper. If the $1085 tag gives you second thoughts, this stylish blogger, CreativeHandmadeCONCEPTs, has already recreated the sweater design for free. Here‘s the link on Ravelry so you can knit your own for less. While I can actually imagine a hand-knit sweater being worth that much (after you take into account the price of yarn and pay yourself a decent hourly rate to knit and finish it, it’s not that outrageous a price — and that doesn’t include the added love), I have a harder time imagining paying that much for one. But this kind of designer label pricing really drives me nuts.

*Unrelated note on Google searches: When you start to put “Burns To a Mouse” into Google search, it wants to autofill the response as “Burns to pee.” Make of that what you will.

All the News That’s Fit to Stitch: a not-at-all-Dirty Dozen

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  • The best of Game of Thrones knitting. Winter is coming. So you’d better start knitting.
  • Dude, where’s my yarn? Ashton Kutcher knits mutant onesie in latest Lenovo television ad.
  • The unlikely resurgence of pixel art. Can a cross stitch renaissance be far behind?
  • And speaking of a cross stitch resurgence, I love the Red Gate Stitchery Etsy shop because it’s doing something different with cross stitch. These little necklace, cuff, and earring kits would make wonderful introductions to cross stitch for beginners — big stitches, quick results, and a tangible, wearable reward at the end. The designer’s home page even has a “Resources” link with a cross stitch tutorial for beginners and downloadable templates so you can chart your own designs.
Cross Stitch Leather Cuff by Red Gate Stitchery

Cross Stitch Leather Cuff by Red Gate Stitchery

  • This Etsy shop, stedi,  is also doing some colorful and unusual things with cross stitch and wood, and even copper (see below). On a personal note, I have this some copper pot. My mother brought it back with us from Germany where my father was stationed in the 1970s. I have to admit it never would have occurred to me to decorate it with delft blue cross stitch but I admire the kind of “thinking outside the box” that this crafter promotes. It’s hard to think of new ways to display cross stitch.
Copper Pot with Cross Stitch by stedi

Copper Pot with Cross Stitch by stedi

  • And I just stumbled upon another Etsy shop, eWood Story, that’s selling some very unusual and beautiful Art Nouveau-style necklace kits featuring a combination of woodwork and crochet. More photos are available on Websta.
Art Nouveau Crochet and Wood Necklace Kit by eWood Story

Art Nouveau Crochet and Wood Necklace Kit by eWood Story

And in my own stitching universe… I have started my October project for the 2014 Smalls SAL (icon in the right-hand column). I chose “Not Forgotted” by Plum Street Samplers, from the 2012 Just Cross Stitch Special Halloween Issue. Actually, interesting side note — the chart is actually not available in the Just Cross Stitch issue because it was somehow accidentally left out. Just Cross Stitch used to have a special page on their site where you could download the missing pattern, but that page seems to have disappeared. I happened to have downloaded the pattern just in time. If anyone out there knows where to find it, let me know and I will pass the information along. Thanks!

That’s it for now — I hope you enjoy the new spooky look. Happy stitching to everyone!

September 2014 Smalls Challenge SAL

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"A Merry Little Christmas" by Bent Creek

“A Merry Little Christmas” by Bent Creek, my contribution to the September 2014 Smalls Challenge (pardon the hoop-marks)

Well, it’s that time of the month again! No, not that time of the month — it’s time for the 2014 Smalls Challenge update (you can see the logo in the sidebar to the right). This month I took it easy on myself and chose a pattern — Bent Creek’s “A Merry Little Christmas” — that is a true “small.” Realistic goals are one of the keys to happiness, and I don’t want a repeat of the July “Very Victorian… Acorns” debacle. Shudder.

I’ve had this pattern for almost twenty years now, so I figured it was about time to actually make it!

I’ve made some substitutions from classic DMC (this pattern is from before overdyed flosses were so widely available) to some variegated flosses. For the lettering and the centers of the border boxes, I used Weeks Dye Works “Juniper”; for the pine bough I used Weeks Dye Works “Chestnut” and for the pine needles I used Weeks Dye Works “Seaweed.” For the ornament itself, I used (the sadly discontinued) Needle Necessities overdyed floss in color 153, “Razzle Dazzle Red,” and for the yellow ribbon tied around the tree branch, color 161, “Fool’s Gold.” These small projects like this give me a good excuse to use up these discontinued colors. For the outlines around the boxes in the border, I substituted good ol’ fashioned DMC 611.

I’m very excited to have completed at least one new Christmas ornament this year. It’s been quite a while since I’ve added a new cross stitch ornament to my tree.  I have just ordered the new 2014 Just Cross Stitch Christmas ornament issue and the special Halloween issue. I can’t wait to see all the new designs and write a review for you all.

Giveaway: as usual, I am giving away my gently used pattern to the first person who sends me a comment requesting it. If you are interested, please leave an email or blog address so I can contact you. Good luck, and thanks for reading the blog!

All the News That’s Fit to Stitch: “These go to eleven.”

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I don’t know if it’s the whisperings of autumn in the air, or the fact that schools are back in session, but, whatever the reason, things in the world of knitting are starting to liven up lately. I’ve been collecting these links from around the knittingverse, and I’m ready to unleash them now. Please enjoy the following:

September Update — Finishes, Starts, and WIPs

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Where does all the time go? I can’t believe it’s September already, which means I’m two months behind in my half-year update, although I suppose that’s really right on schedule since I didn’t even post my year’s goals until the beginning of April. You’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m great about meeting goals in other parts of my life. I’m really very organized. Seriously. Anyway…

Update on Knitting WIPs and Goals for 2014

So, let’s see what I’ve gotten done since April’s reckoning. The progress bars in the right-hand sidebar will let you know how far along I am with my current projects. Here’s the list of knitting projects, some finished, some still in progress:

  • Baby Bobbi Bear and assorted outfits (a belated gift for my niece’s second birthday)   update: Baby Bobbi Bear was completed on 4/5/14 and the sweaters were completed on 6/29/14. Pictures and more details are below this bulleted list.
  • Winter Lace Afghan (a belated wedding gift — are you sensing a theme here?)  update: completed 5/16/14!
  • Breast Cancer Ribbin’ Scarf (seriously, all this needs is some kitchenering. Is that a verb?)
  • Felted Sashiko Cover (this is a little something I’m working on as a freebie pattern to accompany the sashiko-style cross stitch I’m designing for Wordsmith Designs — see below)
  • Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts (you know, because it’s so cold here in Los Angeles in springtime) update: completed 5/22/14!
  • Swedish Thora (a belated gift for my beautiful and patient Aunt Janet — there’s a point where gifts become so belated, there’s no point in rushing anymore. Sigh.)

And here’s Baby Bobbi Bear in all his glory:

And here are his fabulous sweaters:

There’s more info about all the yarns I used and the various crochet patterns on my Ravelry site (it would take too long to list them all here). The scarf is a simple 10-stitch 2 X 2 rib knitted with self-striping Adriafil Knitcol (color 46) on size 5 needles. Pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself.

Last April, I also stated “plans to make some Easter knits for the girls, including the Fiesta Tea Set by Annie Modesitt (knitted with Tahki Cotton Classic in yummy Fiestaware colors like lemongrass, peacock, plum, scarlet, shamrock, sunflower and tangerine).” Update: Done and done! Finished sometime in late June or early July. Here are some photos:

And here’s a picture of my niece Ella playing with her new tea set:

Ella Playing with Fiesta Tea Set

Ella Playing with Fiesta Tea Set

These were not part of my goals, but I also started a pair of the “The Wallpaper Had It Coming (Again)” mittens as part of a Sherlock-related challenge with the West Hollywood (WeHo) Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group, and the Spring Kerchief by Sachiko Uemura. I’m about halfway through the first glove, but I’ve only just cast on for the kerchief.

Needlework WIPs and Goals for 2014

As of April my current cross stitch WIPs were as follows (oldest to newest):

  • “Ewe and Eye Needlecase” by Maureen Appleton/Heart’s Content
  • “Celtic Band Samplar” by Homespun Samplar
  • “Union Jack,” an original design of the Union Jack flag which I will be “releasing” as a Wordsmith Designs freebie soon update: completed 04/06/14!

Since I’m being brutally honest, I will admit that I haven’t completed a single stitch on the Needlecase or the “Celtic Band Samplar.” They’ve been on hiatus for a few years now.

I had four other cross stitch goals for 2014:

  1. A set of four Shepherd’s Bush Christmas Stockings for my brother, sister-in-law and The Two Most Adorable Nieces in the World.™ Update: I’m happy to say I’m making terrific progress with these, and will have photos soon.
  2. The Mirabilia “In a Garden” series. Update: I’ve barely started the “Summer” version. Seriously, only a few stitches completed, and it’s “due” September 21st. My stitching time lately has gone to the Christmas stockings; I’d like to have those completed by the beginning of October so they can be finished professionally before Christmas.
  3. The 2014 Smalls Stitch-Along (the handy-dandy icon is in the right-hand sidebar). Update: I completed my smalls for April, May, June, and August, and I’m still working on July. Here’s the gallery so far:

Goals for Wordsmith Designs

For Wordsmith Designs, my first three design priorities for release are (in this order):

  1.  A sashiko-based design that I don’t want to go into too much detail about right now
  2.  A Celtic alphabet design that’s already designed and stitched but still needs some “polishing”
  3.  A design called “Memento Mori” and that’s all the detail you’ll get for now
  4.  A design called “A Rose is a Rose” and that’s all the detail you’ll get for now

Update: I haven’t met any of my designing goals for Wordsmith Designs. I’ve done some work on the sashiko design, but it still needs a lot more work. 

Goals for Moon & Sixpence Knits

For Moon & Sixpence, I am working on three free patterns:

  • an update of my (very basic) Michael Nesmith hat pattern, one that is more historically accurate and includes the four-button variation Nesmith wore sometimes
  • a scarf and cowl with a breast cancer ribbon-style cable pattern (I’m debating whether to charge a nominal fee so the proceeds could go to breast cancer research)
  • a small cabled heart design based on a Christmas ornament that IKEA was selling a couple years ago

Update: Apparently, design-work is not my top priority, which is sad because it’s a way of generating at least some income. As I stated in April: “I would love to have the breast cancer ribbon-style scarf completed by October, which the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” That seems like a goal that could still be met. Stay tuned.

Check back on December 31st! And wish me good luck and good motivation!

 

 

August 2014 Smalls Challenge (and a little bit about July’s Challenge too)

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"Happy Black Black Cat Day" by The Trilogy, my August 2014 Smalls Challenge entry

“Happy Black Black Cat Day” by The Trilogy, my August 2014 Smalls Challenge entry

My August Smalls Challenge 2014 entry is this little cutie by The Trilogy, called “Happy Black Black Cat Day.” I actually finished this one on time (August 30th), but then I procrastinated for a week before posting it on this site (and, by extension, the Smalls Challenge site) today. Even when I’m on time, I’m not on time.

I thought I was working on 32-count natural linen, but it turns out it was 28-count, so the whole design is a bit larger than I expected. I also messed up and the cat is actually one row longer than it’s supposed to be (and one row higher in the lower half, which necessitated redesigning the “Z” in the alphabet and the orange star next to it). My eyes are getting too old for this kind of stitching, I’m afraid. As a result, the design is a bit more rectangular than it was originally supposed to be.

I also made some deliberate modifications in the design. Instead of the colors called for, I used Gentle Art Sampler Threads “Cornhusk” for the cat’s eyes, “Green Apple” for the alphabet, and “Brethren Blue” for the collar. I used Weeks Dye Works “Mulberry” for the purple lined edging, “Autumn Leaves” for the orange stars, and “Mascara” for the cat (it used an entire skein plus a little bit where I supplemented by using one strand of “Mascara” with one strand of virtually indistinguishable DMC 310). I also added some whiskers in DMC 3799, and left out two of the tiny star charms.

My overly ambitious entry for July, Eileen Bennett’s “Very Victorian… Acorns,” is still underway:

Eileen Bennett, "Very Victorian... Acorns" WIP, my July 2014 Smalls Challenge entry

Eileen Bennett, “Very Victorian… Acorns” WIP, my July 2014 Smalls Challenge entry

This is sooooooo not a “small” design, even though it’s less than 90 X 70 stitches. I don’t know what I was thinking! It’s been awhile since I’ve done a sampler, and I thought it would go quicker than it has. I can also tell a huge difference in the quality of my eyesight since the last time I worked on a sampler like this that requires such tiny, precise stitches. For example, the line I’m currently working on is supposed to have the word “acorns” in the center done in one-over-one stitching. I’ve already had to frog it twice today. Blurgh. I think I’m going to set this one aside for awhile.

I’ve already decided that I’m going to do something quite small for September. It’s important to set realistic stitching goals.

Giveaway: If you’d like my gently used copy of “Happy Black Black Cat Day” with two of the small star charms included, leave a comment below letting me know.

Smithsonian Yarn Bomb

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I’m working on a much longer post at the moment, but for now this little tidbit will have to do. The Smithsonian Museum, specifically the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, has turned to yarn-bombing their gateway to promote the current Chiharu Shiota Exhibition. The results, as you can see, are spectacular:

Yarnbombing at the entrance to the Freer/Sackler Galleries

Yarnbombing at the entrance to the Freer/Sackler Galleries

There’s even more information and gorgeousness at the Freer/Sackler’s own blog, including background on who did the knitting (the staff of the museum; many of whom learned to knit specifically for the occasion) and what they’re going to do with all the yarn afterwards. Be sure to click on the links to the exhibit itself, which also uses red yarn in a really lovely way to, literally, tie together her installation on the things we leave behind (in this case, shoes).

If you’ve never been to the Freer/Sackler Galleries, the intertwined Asian art museums of the massive Smithsonian complex, you are really missing something. Their collection is not too vast that it’s overwhelming, and it’s beautifully curated, including James McNeill Whistler’s famous Art Nouveau masterpiece, the “Peacock Room.”

Maybe it’s time for a visit to my aunt in Virginia…. hmmmm….

 

All the News That’s Fit to Stitch: Quickie (Tenth) Edition

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I’ve been out of town for a few days but I’ve somehow managed to complete/start/continue to make progress on many projects (except, of course, the Smalls Challenge project for July — I’ve completely missed the deadline there). However, those will have to wait until tomorrow to get the full attention they deserve. In the meantime, some links for you to enjoy:

  • I’m not much of a tattoo type (not that I think there’s anything wrong with them, they’re just not my thing), but I think these are gorgeous. Is it weird that I’m kind of disturbed by the ones with needles pictured as sticking through the skin? I guess I have a hard time maintaining proper representational distance; to me, the needles look like they would hurt.
  • A geeky trifecta: Doctor Who, cross stitch, and a twelve-sided die. (thanks, stitchbitch, for the last two links)
  • An article on the centenary of the outset of World War I that addresses the eternal fashion question: do the times dictate fashion or does fashion dictate the times? Read all about sleeveless sweaters and “bifurcated garments for feminine gardeners” here.
  • I love the idea of cross stitch designs being displayed in a gallery setting for charity, but my guess is that most of the designs are criminally underpriced (even for charity purposes).

Happy Stitching and Happy Knitting to you all!

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