SAL Update 15 April: “Pandora’s Box”

As predicted, I’ve slowed down on my blackwork sampler “Pandora’s Box,” a free design by Elizabeth Almond. I’ve got the first block done and I’ve almost got the border completed in preparation for the second block.

Pandora3

Comparing my progress with last month’s update, I’d say I’ve kept my steam up well enough for this. I must admit that stitching on the border is extremely boring. The up side is that it’s quite possible to enjoy cocktails, wine, beer, or all three while doing it. As a matter of fact, drinking while stitching up the border is far better than not combining this activity with alcohol.

I made some detailed photos of the new adornments added to the sampler, which are two little flowery blackwork squares. The detail on the left is just to help orient where everything is in relation to other designs on the sampler.

 

This is a SAL, which means I’m not stitching away all by my lonesome. Why not check out the marvelous projects the other SAL participants are working on?

 

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SAL: Pandora’s Box

I’ve joined a Stitch-A-Long which is all about needlework and sharing progress on a project once a month. I’ve chosen to do a counted embroidery sampler called “Pandora’s Box,” a freebie offered by Elizabeth Almond on her web site Blackwork Journey. This is my progress so far, along with close-ups of the little squares:

I must admit, I’m a sampler fiend, no matter what craft we’re talking about. I love crocheting stitch samplers into afghans or knitting bands and bands of motifs. It’s just pure joy to get working on a stitch pattern for a while and then move on to try something new, and another new thing, and another, and another…

“Pandora’s Box” allows for a lot of freedom with color choices, which makes me think I might make more than one, because I could swap in different patterns or chart my own. Yes, the designer indicates which shades to use, but these are just suggestions.

Above all, I just love the Assisi patterns on the sampler. Some are abstract, others are of flowers or animals. In case you were wondering, an Assisi pattern forms a design from the squares on the fabric that don’t have stitches. This means that you have to cross stitch a lot, but when you back stitch around the blank squares it’s just a beautiful thing that reminds me of mosaic tiles.

The pattern has different directions for even weave and Aida cloth. This is mainly because on even weave the “four-sided stitch” borders are actually drawn thread stitches.  On Aida cloth, these same stitches create squares instead of holes. I chose to use Aida cloth and decided not to follow the directions for the border. Instead, I went for a blackwork style which looks very similar to what the pattern calls for, with little squares bordering each motif.

One of the surprising things, for me, is how strikingly beautiful DMC 53 stitches up. DMC 53 is a multi-shade color, which varies from a coal-black to a light gray. The color stripes on the thread are quite long and, in the Assisi pattern (2nd square, row 2), it’s so cool to see the picture jump out of a multi-shaded background.

I’ve started off pretty strong on this project, but I’ll slow down, for sure. I was hoping maybe I could do one little block a week or something. So far, I’ve done six in four days. I didn’t want to focus all my attention on this, but it’s like opening a pack of Oreos or a box of Cheez-its, just less fattening, I suppose.

If you enjoyed checking this out, why not have a look at what other bloggers are doing for the SAL?  Links to their blogs are here:

 

WIP Wednesday, more of the same

I’ve got more of the same things on this WIP Wednesday, but the things are more finished.

First of all, I’ve been very slowly doing the backstitching and bead work on my “Dragon of the Mountains.” It’s very slow because it’s a lot of backstitching. You can see that the little details make all the difference, though. I don’t mind backstitching so I’m enjoying it. I also don’t mind putting on the beads because THEY’RE BEADS. How could I dislike that?

I’ve got the foot on my second sock almost done, which means it’s almost time to turn the heel.

sock

WIPs: Biscornu conveyor belt and socks

I’m stitching away at my biscornu conveyor belt this week. At the top we have the “Winter Biscornu” and at the bottom the “Spring Biscornu,” two Barbara Ana designs.

biscornuconveyor

You might recall that I’ve already made the “Autumn Biscornu” by the same designer. Actually, I’ve done it twice. I think I’ll just have to break down and buy her “Summer Biscornu” as well. My only beef with these biscornu patterns is that they cost about 5 dollars each and they are part of what the designer calls a series, meaning one for each season of the year, yet there are no package deals offered in the online shop. You have to buy each one individually and if you want all four well, you must pay up! Another thing that is kind of bizarre about these is that they are in a series but they are all different sizes. I think I like that, but it is rather odd. Usually a series is a little more uniform. They do all have something in common: They’re fun to stitch and they are whimsical. In the end, I’ll get my money’s worth out of them because I plan to make a lot of them to give away as gifts to people. I’m not just keeping them to myself! They really look good sitting on a coffee table, too, or I could imagine displaying them in a cabinet.

I’ve also been knitting my “Socks on a Sofa” which is my version of “Socks on a Plane.” I got one sock finished and have started the next one of the pair.

socks

My Tunisian crochet afghan is not being worked on at the moment, but I’ll no doubt add some rounds to it this weekend. I want it done. I just get bored with stitching long rounds on it.

Scrolling frames and home dyeing embroidery fabric

I haven’t got another sweater out to wear. I’m rotating the same five this week, so I can’t do a “Wearing Sweaters” post in lieu of an FO.

But, luckily, I have another kind of random crafty post up my sleeve. First of all, let me introduce you to my latest cross stitch discovery, the scrolling frame with clips:

frame

I bought this recently to give it a try. It wasn’t very expensive and it was just the right size to work on small projects, and I liked the idea of having a continuous strip of fabric for making lots of biscornu squares. Loaded into the scrolling frame I’ve got a “Winter Biscornu” in progress, designed by my favorite biscornu designer, Barbara Ana.

I’ve been using the frame for a day now and I’ve decided I don’t want to use anything else. I went back on line and ordered a larger one (20″ wide) so I can work on bigger projects. What I like about this type of frame is that I don’t have to baste the fabric onto the rods. I can clip the fabric in which means I can easily remove it and replace it with another project. The fact that I can keep the fabric quite taught while at the same time view the bigger picture also helps my work a lot. I really like seeing the full “wide-screen” view. The only disadvantage I can see with using this type of tool is that you can’t put masking tape around the fabric edges to prevent fraying. On the bright side, I have a sewing machine with lots of different stitching abilities, so I just zig-zag stitched around my fabric edges. So, I’m just going to scroll through my biscornu stitching and make it sort of like a factory. I can do one for me and a couple more for my friends all on the same strip, remove the fabric, cut out the squares, and sew them together.

My absolute favorite thing about the scrolling frame is that I can leave a project in it indefinitely. All I have to do is loosen the tension, as seen in the photo, and I can put it away. When I’m ready to work on it again, I just tighten up the tension on the fabric again. It’s very convenient.

Another thing I’ve experimented with is dyeing my fabric. I really felt like I traveled back in time to the 1980s when people actually had to do this more often. These days, Aida cloth and evenweave fabric are available in a wide range of colors. The problem for me is that I can’t get lots of different colors locally and even on line shops sometimes don’t carry what I want or sell it at the price I’m willing to pay. Another issue is that I saw something stitched on orange fabric that I wanted to make and I really don’t see the point in buying a yard or half a yard of something in orange that I probably won’t use up. In the future, I’ll use the fabric dye you can buy in the supermarket for the orange color. My immediate needs were different this time.

What I needed was a dark khaki color for my winter biscornus, something dark enough so the white snowmen and snow flakes would show up perfectly. I couldn’t find anything similar to what the pattern directions called for so I followed a tutorial for dyeing Aida cloth with tea, something I remember my mother doing quite frequently in the 1980s. I got good results. I steeped eight tea bags in a liter of water, let the water cool off, and let some white Aida cloth rest in the bath for about six hours. I still have quite a lot of the white fabric in its original color left so you can see how dark it got:

beforeandafter

On the left you can see the original bright white color and on the right the results of my dyeing with tea. As you saw previously, the white stitches for my snowmen show up perfectly on this darker color.

I think this is a good alternative to buying expensive, hand-dyed fabrics. That’s essentially what you’re doing, anyway, dyeing your fabric with your own two hands. Using tea has its drawbacks, of course, one of the obvious ones being that you risk shortening the life of your fabric. It’s also time-consuming to dye with tea, and when the fabric dries it’s a real pain to iron out the wrinkles, even if the fabric is still a little bit damp. I did, however, save myself a lot of money comparing the 6 or 7 euro I spent on the fabric (and I still have lots left over in white!) with the hand-dyed fabric called for in the pattern, which costs maybe 400 times that. Tea creates that “hand-dyed” look, with the little irregularities of color shades you can find in antique cross stitch fabrics.

To dye my fabric I followed the directions provided at The Spruce, which includes directions on how to make the fabric colorfast after the soaking process. This blog also recommends experimenting with herbal teas to get different colors, like blue. I might try that in the future, but I don’t think I’ll be making a habit of hand-dyeing my cross stitch material. I’ll do it when I feel like I have no other alternatives, such as what happened for my winter biscornu project.

A lot of WIP activity

I’ve started rotating projects and crafts again, so it’s nice to show off progress on multiple items. It is quite satisfying to write up a post with so many categories and three different types of crafts. This kind of excitement (is that what it is? excitement?) doesn’t happen all the time on my blog.

Over the weekend I decided to return to my Tunisian crochet afghan. I only need to finish three more squares to get the outer purple stripe done and, after weaving in quite a few ends, I can get out the cro-hook and start Tunisian crocheting around and around.

Since I had some spare time to reflect over the weekend, I actually reflected, and then I was shocked and appalled when all my reflecting led me to the conclusion that I hadn’t bothered to cast on a sock since I finished my last pair in 2017. I immediately retrieved some self-striping sock yarn from the stash and perused some patterns. I had a gander at “Socks on a Plane,” and I enjoyed the photo and thought to myself, “Hmmm… that one little cable will take the boredom out of knitting multi-colored yarn like this rather dull color way I’ve got here.” I scanned the pattern directions, saw the sizing, and said to myself, “I’ll have to adapt it to my vanilla sock.” Further scanning revealed that the designer instructs you to start at the toe, make a heel flap, starts with more toe stitches than I usually care for, etc. etc. etc. so I just closed the pdf pattern and made up my own version with my favorite wedge heel and my 24 toe stitches. There’s nothing really mysterious or complicated about this. You just slap a cable on a sock so it goes up the edge of the foot. I’m going to continue my cable into the ribbing on the cuff (not sure if the “Socks on a Plane” pattern does that or not). Anyway, I’m calling these things here “Socks on a Sofa:”

notonaplane

As you can see in the photo, I finished the whole foot, got the heel wedged up and turned, and I’m on the leg now. If I ever do this again, I might make the cable travel across the instep.

My “Dragon of the Mountains” cross stitch project is also coming along nicely. As previously mentioned, I began to run out of Kreinik thread and discovered I hadn’t purchased enough of it for my other two dragons I’ve got planned, either. I ordered more and mistakenly went with the cheaper option of online shops. It was a store in Italy that was quick to take my money and very slow to send out my order. I figured out that they were dragging their heels because they were waiting to restock an item I asked for and that it would take 21 days (ACK!) for this item to be back in stock. I waited a few days and then wrote them, canceling that item, hoping that if I eliminated it from my order I would get my stuff already (HMPH!). It then took them another 24 hours to get my stuff shipped.  In all, they sat on my order for an entire week. I was also very irritated because I ordered A LOT OF STUFF and the total I spent was considerable. I felt I was deserving of receiving the things they had in stock now and then get the other item in a separate shipment later. Since I feel this way, I might not use them again, although who knows? The prices were really good and I could see myself ordering things I’m not in a hurry to receive. I’ll just have to be cautious and not order anything out of stock. Also, in all fairness, this on line shop looks like it’s a family business out of a little country house, so there’s that. This could give me all the more reason to order from them again. They’re fighting the good fight, this family, competing with Amazon and all.

Anyway, back to my “Dragon of the Mountains.” He now has his fireball flying out of his mouth and a border now goes all the way round him. I just have to add the Kreinik metallic X’s to the border and then I can get on with backstitching and adding the beads (yay! beads!).

dragonmountains

Also, I’m very happy to show you those spools of gold thread. I got my gold thread just in time! One is about to run on empty and I’ve got a recharge at the ready. Woot!

 

Four claws and most of a tail

My Chinese dragon is coming along well. I got the fourth claw and part of the tail done in time for a WIP Wednesday photo. Also, I got a lot of the border done, too.

Photo Feb 21, 14 14 48

My only problem is that I’m running out of Kreinik gold thread. I’ve ordered more, but it won’t arrive in a very long time, sadly enough! Before I stitch on my other dragons I’m going to buy more Kreinik thread for those, too. I didn’t notice until I started this one that the Kreinik thread is used all around the borders. Yeah, those are some pricey borders. I suppose I could substitute, but I like the colors the designer chose so it’s going to be Kreinik for all three dragons. I just won’t think about how much money I spent on the thread!