October 2014 Smalls SAL: A belated Halloween treat

"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.

Well, it’s the beginning of April so it’s time to set some New Year’s goals for 2014!

[WARNING: This is quite a long post, and it’s generally all about my personal knitting/stitching goals. Alas, no Benedict Cumberbatch, nerdy knits, or penguin sweaters today.]

Boy, time sure flies when you become temporarily obsessed with the knitting on a certain TV show and then you catch the plague! I’ve been meaning for the past two-and-a-half months to write a post where I set out my knitting, stitching and crafting goals for the year, but it seems like something always got in the way. Sadly, goal-setting has never been one of my strengths, but I’m setting some goals to try to work on that in the future….

Knitting WIPs and Goals for 2014

Let’s start with what I have on the needles or in the hoop right now. 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 current knitting projects (in the sidebar, they are listed in order of the oldest to the newest project, but here I’m listing them in order of priority):

  • 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
  • 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.)

For my personal knitting goals, I will probably continue to emphasize making gifts, especially for my nieces. They are the only nieces (or nephews, for that matter) that I will ever have and they are only going to be small once. Soon, they will want to assert their own tastes (I can already see it happening) and they won’t be willing to wear whatever I make for them. As the old saying goes, you’ve got to get in while the gettin’s good. I have plans to make some Easter knits for the girls, including the Fiesta Tea Set by Annie Modesitt (all the Tahki Cotton Classic has been purchased, in yummy Fiestaware colors like lemongrass, peacock, plum, scarlet, shamrock, sunflower and tangerine). update: finished the Fiesta Tea Set in late June/early July 2014!

Needlework WIPs and Goals for 2014

My cross stitch WIPs are 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!

My cross stitch plans for the year have three parts. First, I plan on stitching a set of four Shepherd’s Bush Christmas Stockings for my brother, sister-in-law and The Two Most Adorable Nieces in the World.™ My favorites are Peter, Christian, Harry and Robert. My sister-in-law has approved of the choices, and she especially likes Peter and Harry. Fortunately, I already had the patterns for all of them except Harry, and I also have the charms for Peter. During Silver Needle’s recent Super Bowl mega-sale, I ordered the chart and charms for Harry, and they just arrived a couple weeks ago along with some other goodies. Maybe if I start now I can get them done by Christmas (I didn’t say Christmas of this year).

Second, over the next year (a year from today, not by New Year’s 2015), I’d like to complete the Mirabilia “In a Garden” series. You can read about the first time I blogged about this here. I want to stitch each piece during the season it depicts; I’ve decided to follow the dates of the solstices and equinoxes for my due dates, so each piece will be due on the last day before the next solstice/equinox. The dates for 2014 are: March 20 (spring equinox), June 21 (summer solstice), September 23 (fall equinox), and December 21 (winter solstice). I’m going to start stitching “Summer” on June 21. I can hardly wait — I’ve picked out the hand-dyed fabric and everything! More details to come.

Third, each month I will be participating in the 2014 Smalls Stitch-Along (the handy-dandy icon is in the right-hand sidebar). I’m already behind in my stitching for this challenge, but I plan on catching up this month. The “Union Jack” project is part of this “catching up” — all told, it measures 2.5 inches by 1.5 inches. That certainly qualifies as small!

In my copious free time (the discerning reader will note a hint of sarcasm here), if I have any stitching time leftover, I would like to finish the other two projects I have going already. I’d also like to make Bent Creek’s Holly Quaker Stocking pattern for me and Drawn Thread’s “Give Thanks.” I’ve been concentrating so much on knitting lately that my needleworking has fallen to the wayside. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the habit. The little bit of work I’ve done on the “Union Jack” small is reminding me how much I enjoy the feel of a needle and thread in my hands.

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

I want to have the first ready to go to the model stitcher and the second ready to release by the end of next month (April 30). Getting the sashiko-based design finished also means designing and knitting the sashiko cover (mentioned above in my knitting goals). The deadline for “Memento Mori” will be two months after that (June 30), and for “A Rose is a Rose,” it will be two months after that (August 31). If I get my behind into gear, these should be very reasonable goals. I’d better not dawdle. “Mackintosh Rose” is getting lonely.

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

Of course, the problem with free patterns (besides the obvious lack of remuneration) is that there is no real compelling reason to complete them promptly so they tend to end up in the land of “someday I’ll get around to that.” I would love to have the breast cancer ribbon-style scarf completed by October, which the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I am also working on some patterns that will be for sale: a tweedy baby jacket, some Aran-style hats, and a double-knit illusion scarf. The first two will give me a chance to dip my toes into the complicated world of sizing knits; I have some experience with this when working for and with others, but this will be the first time I go out on my own and I feel like I need to take baby steps first. Literally. Maybe I’ll find that I’m underestimating my design capabilities. That would be a very pleasant surprise.


Phew! Well, this should certainly keep me busy in the year to come. Let’s see how many of these goals I actually meet. I need to attach some specific due dates to these projects — you know the old saying: the difference between a dream and a goal is a timeline. Check back on December 31st! And wish me good luck and good motivation!