It’s the Sexy Setting Goals Song: NaBloWriMo November 2017

Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes and Coffee--what else does a gal need?
Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes and coffee–what else does a gal need?

First, let me start by saying that I know that National Blog Writing Month (NaBloWriMo) was last month, but in late September I experienced a close family loss which understandably threw all my lofty plans into the proverbial crapper. Two days before this loss, I had recommitted to my stitching and knitting, to my two design “companies” (Wordsmith Designs cross stitch and Moon & Sixpence Knits), to this blog, and to my moribund writing career.

So, rather than scuttle the whole idea, I’ve decided to move my writing and crafting goals forward to this month.

My writing goals are simple: a blog post every day, 1000 words a day on another project I won’t go into detail about here, and a letter a day (and yes, I know that National Letter Writing Month is April).

My knitting goals are likewise simple: to complete the test-knitting (already underway) and pattern-writing (nearly complete) for my fingerless glove and baby cardigan patterns; and to complete the Thora sweater for my Aunt Janet who has been patiently waiting for it for more years than I care to admit. Anything else is gravy.

The Craftsman title pageAnd my stitching goals are even simpler: to complete the pattern and test-stitching for a chessboard design I’ve been working on intermittently for more years than I care to admit; and to complete the finishing for some Dawn Lewis Christmas ornaments I stitched more years ago than I care to admit. It’s time to stitch or cut floss. Anything else is, as they say, gravy.

These goals are simple but time-consuming and I’ve probably bit off more than I can chew, but a stitcher’s reach should exceed her grasp or what’s a heaven for, right?

And as a “thank you” for anyone who has made it to the end of this list: it’s the “Sexy Getting Ready Song” from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the best female-driven musical comedy series about an emotionally troubled lawyer in West Covina airing on television today (warning: NSFW).




Just Cross Stitch Ornament Issue 2017

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, almost… but we’re definitely close when the annual Just Cross Stitch Christmas ornament issue comes out. I’ve looked forward to these issues every year since the mid-1990s, and I own every single one. I even have a loosely prioritized wish list of ornaments from the yearly issues that I’d like to stitch one day. But, frankly, as each year passes I’ve become less and less excited about each issue, and I’ve added fewer and fewer recent patterns to my wish list.

I think my enthusiasm has waned in part because I haven’t been keeping up with the latest in cross stitch as much as I used to and in part because a lot of the designs have started to seem like they have a “been there, done that” quality to them. This issue just didn’t seem as vital (in all senses of that word) as past issues.

However, that’s not to say that there weren’t many bright spots, including some newcomers (at least to me) that I hope to follow in the future. Cross stitch definitely needs some new blood.

The first grouping is called “Frosty the Snowman” (by the way, shouldn’t that be “Frosty the Snowmen”?). I’m partial snowman designs and my two favorites are ” Frosty Friends” by Blue Ribbon Designs (which probably would have “popped” better if it had been stitched on a slightly darker fabric) and “Hats Off to the Holidays!” by SamSarah Design Studio. OK, first I complain that the designs aren’t taking enough risks, and then I pick the two most “conservative” designs of the bunch. Go figure.

The second grouping is “The Friendly Beasts,” featuring ornaments depicting mostly birds (cardinals, a partridge/robin twofer, and even a penguin) as well as a sheep, a deer, and a surprisingly unChristmas-like dragonfly (see cover photo above). My favorite is “Red Bird” by Elizabeth’s Needlework Designs; second favorite is “On the Runway” (deer with a red scarf) by Snoflake Stitchery (it’s taking me every ounce of my strength not to put the “w” back in “Snowflake,” but damn my unwavering commitment to accurate citations!). I am usually a sucker for all sheep designs, but even though Amy Brueken’s “Rocking a New Holiday Hat” had a sheep wearing a chullo (a chullo! yeah!), the sheep just looked a little lumpy to me.

Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament Issue 2017 Here Comes Santa ClausThe third, “Here Comes Santa Claus,” is a pretty good bunch and the finishing on Mani di Donna’s “Prim St. Nick” is fantastic; it’s an off-center pillow and the hanging cord runs through two small thread bobbins. Again, my favorites are “Santa 2017” by Needle Bling Designs (in photo, upper left) and “Ho Ho Ho” by Angel Stitchin, a simple, off-center Santa face with a puffy Hercule Poirot mustache worked with Rainbow Gallery Wisper Thread and the words “Ho Ho Ho” surrounded by snowflake buttons. I’ve seen similar patterns before over the years but this one is really well done–bright and cheery (in photo, bottom center).

The fourth grouping, “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” is, like its title, a kind of catch-all category. There’s an ambitious “Quartet of Country Ornaments” from Always Time to Stitch, for example, and,  for some reason, there’s a dragon in a Santa hat hanging from a sign that says “Balance.” Huh? Unexpectedly, there’s even one ornament with no cross stitch at all, a gingham wool oblong. It’s cute but I don’t know what it’s doing in this issue. My favorite is another very simple, straightforward design, “Warm Hands, Warm Heart” by The Little Stitcher, two red mittens with snowflake designs which reminded my of knitted mittens (on the cover: left hand side, center).

Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament Issue 2017 Joy to the World“Joy to the World” offers several designs incorporating the word “Joy” and some others with phrases like “Believe,” “Halleluia,” and “Peace.” The weakest design in the entire issue is Faithwurks Designs’ “They Followed the Star” which is just a plain circle with a star button and the backstitched words–you guessed it–“they followed the star.” Most were a little too religious for my tastes, but I liked the Renaissance tone and the finishing of “A Savior Has Been Born” by My Big Toe Designs (see photo, center left) . “Beaded Joy” by Gracewood Stitches and ” Modern Nordic Ornament” by Ink Circles (love Ink Circles! see photo, top center) are both bright, colorful, ornate, and, well, joyous. Time out: “Modern Nordic Ornament” is neither modern nor Nordic. Discuss.

The sixth grouping “Jingle Bells” is one of the strongest and includes some blackwork and hardanger which work so well in Christmas ornaments. Particularly beautiful are Blackwork Journey’s ” Silver & Gold,” Patricia Ann Designs’ “2017 Christmas Bauble,”and Giulia Punti Antichi’s “Little Purse” (see cover photo, lower right). I’ve long been a fan of Giulia Punti Antichi–their designs look like no one else’s–but I’d especially like to mention whomever did the finishing for this piece. It’s exquisite.

“O Christmas Tree” highlights designs featuring rabbits on snowmobiles. Just kidding! I wasn’t that excited about these offerings although the finishing on Gentle Pursuit Designs’ “Mannie & Zeb” was really cute. The top and bottom of the triangle-shaped ornament was covered in little gold jingle bells. “Hardanger Tree” by Lisa LeAnn Designs (both design and finishing) was just too much and made me rethink my “hardanger and Christmas go together like Stewart and Colbert” philosophy. I do admire that it was different and new, however.

To me, this issue saved the best for last. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” had a great combination of traditional and contemporary designs and colors. I could see myself stitching most of the designs on this page. A special shout-out to Turquoise Graphics & Designs for their “Rustic Noel” which used unusual (at least for Christmas designs) colors like brown, aqua, mustard, and rust and finished the ornament as a kind of gift tag with a copper wire hanger with multicolored beads (by the way, the other great gift tag-style finishing in this issue is Swallick Stitchery’s super cute “Santa’s Coming”). I’ve never heard of TG&D before, but I will keep an eye out for them.

In fact, I’d like to revise my earlier pronouncements: the greatest benefit of the annual Just Cross Stitch ornament issue is that I learn about what’s new and upcoming in the cross stitch world, and that’s not at all a bad thing. We just need a lot more of this in our community.

My top five, in no particular order:

  1. “Rustic Noel” by Turquoise Graphics & Designs
  2. “Little Purse” by Giulia Punti Antichi
  3. “Warm Hands, Warm Heart” by The Little Stitcher
  4. “Modern Nordic Ornament” by Ink Circles
  5. “Silver & Gold” by Blackwork Journey

I’d love to hear what some of your favorites are too!




Smalls SAL Challenge, Belated November Project

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…

September 2014 Smalls Challenge SAL

“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 or email 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!

Merry Stashmas!

And, from my crazy and creative roommate, I present the World’s Best Way to Use Up Your Yarn StashTM:

Deborah's Knitted Christmas OrnamentsThese were so fun and easy to make–and the assorted novelty yarns and yarn mixes hid a multitude of flaws “design elements.” A couple of the balls are just gauge swatches I had lying around that have been sewn up and gathered at both ends. So this is a great way to use up those old gauge swatches too.

Chullo Christmas OrnamentYou are doing gauge swatches, aren’t you? OK, OK… Christmas is no time for nagging, especially not when you’ve got multicolored yarn-covered Christmas ball ornaments to wrap. To the left is my absolute favorite, a gold ornament wearing a chullo hat–with a fair isle design no less! Chullos are originally from the Andes Mountain region of South America, especially Peru and Bolivia, but they’re starting to become very fashionable here in the United States as well. If you’re interested in styles from this region, I highly recommend you start with Marcia Lewandowski’s Andean Folk Knits: Great Designs from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador & Bolivia.

Happy Stitching to all and to all a good night!