Funny Things #35

A twofer of newspaper clippings today.

First up, a funny road name:

Second, white and ugly:

Fig Tree Mystery BOM 2016 Top

I finished the top for my Fig Tree Mystery BOM a while ago.  I ended up customizing a bit of it--some of the fillers that were supposed to be pieced I just used strips, some I changed the size so that all pieces were equal.  I also did not add the appliqué orange peel pieces to the lower right block.  

I couldn't find the dimensions of the filler pieces in between the butterfly blocks anywhere in the directions.  After a bit of trial and error, I cut mine at 1-3/8" by the width.  I think you could start with 1-1/2" strips and be fine too.

This quilt will probably end up being gifted after it's done.

Cross Stitch Tips

I have been cross stitching for most of my life.  Our babysitter (I supposed nowadays she'd be called a child care provider!) taught me when I was in sixth grade--age 11.  My mom was thankfully happy to get behind this endeavor.  And because she was the one paying for the kits, she chose what she wanted me to make for her.  I can't say I've been all that prolific with my finishes, but I've done some pretty large projects and learned a lot along the way.

Cross stitch seems to be coming back in a big way.  For a relatively modest investment, you can have a project that takes months to finish. There are also all sorts of cool things now that just weren't really around back in the 80s and 90s.  There are so many styles now--primitive all the way to modern.  There is a local needlework shop that I occasionally visit and it is just amazing.  So. Many. Things.

So anyway, as a 30+ year veteran (wow, I'm getting old!), I thought I'd share my top tips.

The standard way to cross stitch is to go from lower left to upper right across the row, then go back and cross the stitches from lower right to upper left.  This, in my humble opinion, is the gold standard and looks best when complete.
I suppose you could also do the reverse.  I made this tiny sample and found it awkward, but maybe it works for you.

You can also do individual stitches (make the complete x of one stitch at a time).  In some cases this is necessary, but I still feel that working in rows of color gives a better finished look--more uniform, and uniformity is the key in producing a lovely cross stitch project.

Here's what NOT to do.  DO NOT make all your stitches go in different directions.  It does not look good when done, giving an almost rippled effect to the completed work.  I tried to get a good sample of stitches going every which way, but it wasn't enough to show just how distracting it looks in a finished piece.

If you are a complete beginner, this is a nice step-by-step tutorial I found.

Other tips:

1.  Do not make knots in the thread.  Leave a bit of a tail and stitch over it to hold it in place. When finishing a color, run the thread under some of your completed stitches (on the back, of course) and then snip the remainder.

2.  Use a tapestry needle.

3.  Serge around the outside edges of your fabric before stitching so that it doesn't unravel.  In the olden days when I began, it was recommended to put masking tape around the edges.  DO NOT use masking tape!  What a mess, and not acid free.

4.  Don't put on lotion right before stitching as the oils will transfer to the fabric.

5.  Always do all the cross stitching first and then go back and add in any back stitching or French knot or bead details.

6.  Occasionally let your floss untwist--do this by letting the needle hang straight down from the back of your hoop.  Remember, your goal is to have even tension on all stitches.

7.  Don't be afraid to use a different fabric, different count, different amount of strands, or a different color floss than the pattern suggests.

8.  You can draw up your own pattern too.  Try some graph paper or look for some online programs.

9.  Don't leave your material in the hoop when you're not working on it because it can be really difficult to remove the creases, especially with Aida cloth.
Current project.  Pattern by Pop Goes the Needle on Etsy.
10.  If you aren't sure you'll have enough floss to complete a project, start with a new skein.  Cross stitch floss is inexpensive and this way you'll have piece of mind that the color will stay consistent through the project.  (Ask me, el cheap-o, how I know this one.)

11.  Needle minders are great, and very attractive.  Be careful though, because some magnets will leave marks on your fabric.  You may need to seal the magnets with clear nail polish before using them on your fabric.  Test with a white sheet of paper--put the needle minder on top, the magnet underneath, and then gently slide it a bit.  If it leaves black marks, proceed with caution.

12.  If you are working on a large piece, investing in a frame is so nice!  My husband made me this one ages ago.  Should I admit here that this thing has been on this frame for over 10 years?  (Hangs head in shame.)  Maybe this will be the year that I actually work on it and try to complete it?  It's not even half way yet.
My frame does have interchangeable rods.  You just baste the fabric to the webbing.  I also added a strip of adhesive magnet to serve as a needle minder right on the frame--no chance of staining the fabric.  Plus, I added this long before needle minders were trendy and cute.  ha ha

If you are going to use a frame, and you think you might be slow like me, grab a length of fabric to drape over the cross stitch material to keep dust and light off.  I use a one yard cut and just drape it over.  Of course, I always meant to trim it down, hem it, etc, but the raw fabric works just as well.

13.  I often need to wash my finished project before framing.  What works best for me is starting with an ultra clean sink.  I then fill the sink part way with lukewarm water and just a tiny bit of plain blue Dawn dish soap.  I swish it around a bit, then rinse really well.  If I have a dirty mark on the fabric--seems to happen no matter how careful I am--I rub a tiny bit of Dawn right on the spot until it comes out.  It may take a few tries, but I've never had it not come out.  I then lay the finished piece on ultra clean white towels and press out as much water as possible.  Then leave it flat to dry.  You can then press from the back only with a dry iron (again, ultra clean soleplate).  There are other soaps you can try, such as Woollite, Eucalan, Orvus, and such, but I've always had perfect luck with the Dawn and I always have it on hand.

14.  In regards to washing, regular threads generally won't run, but if you're using some intense colors, you may want to double check ahead of time.  Do this by snipping off a few inches and testing it in a small bowl of water to see if the dye may run.  Hand painted threads and some other specialty threads may run too--better safe than sorry!

15.  Use acid free materials--matting, foam core, etc. when framing.  There is a lot of debate in the glass vs. no glass in the frame issue.  Do what you like.  We've done them both ways and that doesn't seem to make any difference.  

16.  Make sure to mount your piece properly if you are framing it.  Many framers don't know how to properly mount a cross stitched piece.  If you need to know how to do this, let me know and I can recommend a few resources to you.

17.  Admit defeat when necessary.  I can't see on linen, especially the navy blue I'm using on the Harry Potter above, anymore.  On Amazon I found a nice lighted magnifying floor lamp that has made a huge difference.  I'm back to stitching again.

18.  Remember, cross all your stitches the same way.  I really can't say this one enough.  It's really the single most important thing!

Just Random Updates

I've been in a sewing slump since finishing the 365 top.  I just can't seem to get focused on anything long enough to say so.  I did manage to finish a tote bag for my daughter to store her crochet supplies in.   She chose all the fabrics at Jo-Ann.  The pattern I used is the Sew South Retreat Bag from Ellison Lane.  Using four coupons (two 40s, two 50s), the total was around $35 for the fabrics and interfacings.  I had a good amount of leftovers on everything except the Shape Flex, especially the glittery green top, bottom, handle fabric.  The only change I made to the pattern is making the handles a lot longer--I cut those at 32 inches.

I've been doing lots of cleaning.  Guess it's that time of year.  When my home is tidier, I feel happier.  I don't like visual clutter.  Sadly, everyone else in my house seems to be the opposite!  When I mentioned this to my husband, he said he doesn't like clutter either, but hates the taking care of said clutter even more than seeing it.  We have a long ways to go, but at least for the minute, the kitchen/dining/living rooms are looking pretty good.  

I'm more certain than ever that this needs to be the year of get things done.

I'm trying to finish my Fig Tree Mystery Sampler.  It's tough for me because I don't pick up on what the directions want me to do right off the bat.  I think, looking at most of it laying on the floor, that I want to change some of the parts I've already assembled.  I need to put some brighter colors in there so that I like it more.  :/

My guild mini swap is due in a month.  I ordered fabrics last week, along with a treat for me--Lori Holt's scrappy planner.  The package has made it to my town, but isn't scheduled to be delivered until tomorrow.  Torture!

Yesterday we had crazy winds.  Earlier in the day I was thinking it was like a Nor'easter like we'd experienced when we lived in Maryland.  Last night we had a severe thunderstorm warning.  And 60 mile an hour winds.  It reminded me of being in Hurricane Irene.  This morning I got to pick up the contents of my recycling bin that the wind so helpfully scattered around my yard.  The roads were covered with black ice.  Made my morning walk interesting...

Some throwback pictures.  I will miss them greatly--always classy.  

365 Challenge Completed Top

Here is my completed top.  I have no idea how to quilt this thing; it's pretty much all seams.  Suggestions?

Polaroid Block Swap

Now that I have finished my 365 Challenge top I'm sort of feeling at loose ends.  Last night I made all my Polaroid Swap blocks and I mailed off the stateside ones today.  Of course now that I've mailed some and the rest are sealed in envelopes, I noticed that one of the photos I took was all blurry.  My daughter was holding the boards for me and she hiccuped right as I took the photo.  Oh well.  

Here are the blocks I've received so far--the top left and bottom right came from New Zealand!

365 Challenge Week 52

Well, I made it.  All the blocks I need are complete.  I ended up with one extra 3" block and did not make December 10, 25 bonus, or 28.  It was pretty hard to get the last few made since they were fairly complex and I have used up a lot of my fabrics so it was hard to get a good color balance.  I have the top almost assembled, but will save that one to share next week so that I can get a photo in natural daylight.

December 24
December 24 Bonus
December 25
December 26
December 27
December 29 
December 30
December 31