#13 The things we knit for love

As I headed out of work this evening I was greeted by a lovely sight: my better half wearing the knitted football scarf I made for him for the first time this season winter.

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This rather plain-looking scarf means a lot to me – more than most of the pieces I’ve made over the years. I remember Mr XStitch complimenting me on my modest knitting abilities when we first moved in together and him asking me to make him a scarf to represent Stoke City (his roguish, yet beloved football team from the Midlands, England).

I can remember finding my way on my own to the next village (having recently moved here) to the craft barn that is now my second home, picking the wool and starting on the simple ‘moss’ stitch pattern.

I’m taken back to a time where Mr XStitch sat lovingly watching his favourite scarf come to life and asking ‘how do you do that’ every five minutes (now he knows better than to disturb a crafter when she’s counting!) So, I can hand on heart say I love that piece of knitting.

And although I finished it over two years ago, I’m still waiting to find the perfect cloth badge of the Stoke City FC crest to sew onto it. That will really do it justice.

As I sit and read through so many of your posts, I know a lot of you must have similar love affairs with your knits and cross stitches.

It made me wonder, can you ever truly have a favourite?

J x  

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#12 My friendly cross stitch framer

I’m determined not just to blog about Christmas, honestly.

But, as I’m sure so many of you dedicated crafters in our little community can appreciate, it’s hard when it’s all hands on deck as we attempt to finish our stack of homemade Christmas cards, decorations, advent calendars or that one last present that you know you’d feel guilty if you didn’t give.

Frustratingly, the latter does limit the amount of sharing I can do pre-Christmas. I’ve recently become aware that my wider family is sharing the link to this little blog (for which I’m grateful, of course), but as I’d hate for them to see cards or gifts prematurely, I’ve resisted the urge to over-share!

So instead, I’ve decided to share a post about a recent trip to my local friendly framer.

This was in fact my first attempt at getting my cross stitch pieces framed and, I have to say, it was a trickier experience than I first thought it was going to be.

Somewhat naïvely, I walked into the shop expecting it to be a case of *point at that frame* and job’s a gud’un, but no, the friendly (and patient) framer asked me question after question about the frame colour, texture, depth, thickness, material I wanted and what mount (double or single, thickness, colour, texture) I thought best-complemented the piece.

She was right to ask of course, and I should know having spent the past 11 months staring down at these canvases – but I needed a bit a lot of help. Ask me to complete a complex counted cross stitch on 18-count aida – that I can do, but this, this was hard.

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So, my advice for any cross stitcher embracing the framing process:

  1. Always go for the double mount (preferable a two-toned mount for added effect) – it instantly makes all those months of hard work look even better.
  2. If you have a piece with different coloured backgrounds, consider a coloured mount that will complement it in its entirety. Green might look good with a grassy border, for example, but does it look as good next to your intricate blue skyline?
  3. Be prepared to change your mind. I’m not usually a fan of a white frame, so if someone had told me that I would walk out of our friendly framer’s shop having chosen a white frame, well, I wouldn’t have believe them…

I guess my point is have an idea in your head, but ultimately go with your eye.

I’d love to show you more of this piece but, yep, you guessed it… it’s a Christmas present!

J x

#11 Waste not want not – creating a winter wonderland

So, the second of my Christmas cards is complete. And this one is a little bit special…

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I have, for the first time attempted to use my own skeins rather than use those supplied in a kit as I usually do. The pattern is one taken from a little book of 20 mini cross stitch designs by Michael Powell, which I have to say are pretty cool – simple yet colourful.

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Rather than use the DMC skeins as advised in the book, I’m using ones I was given for Christmas last year. So, my task was made more tricky in that I didn’t have a colour chart to refer to. Instead, I looked at my bounty of colours and attempted to work out which shades best reflected the design.

I’m really pleased with the result, especially the dual-coloured stitches, which required a lot of forward planning. My advice if you’re working on a similar project is to work out your darkest and lightest shades of skein before attempting any cross stitch – that way you’re better equipped to shade and know your colour limitations.

I also enjoimagey the fact that this cross stitch can be different each and every time – different coloured baubles, a quirky coloured star, even a border or two – nobody will ever know the difference!

As you’ll see, the card is finished off with a little ribbon and a seasonal Christmas fairy. I contemplated adding more, but I’d hate to detract from the centrepiece.

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The cat even seems to like it too…

J x

#10 It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…(sort of)

I’m not usually one for Christmas festivities, but this year I’ve been well-and-truly bitten by the bug.

I think it’s down, in the main, to this wonderful blogging community I’m now part of as I’m surrounded by such beautiful Christmas (and non-Christmas) creations on a daily basis. I’m getting so excited to see all the cross-stitched advent calendars and stockings and don’t even get me started on a crocheted Christmas tree I read about today.

So, with an abundance of albeit slightly premature festive cheer, I thought I’d share my first homemade Christmas card of the year. This little guy is heading off to my 80-year-old Granddad’s house, where I’m sure he’ll be given a good home.


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I’ve gone one step further than buying just little kits this year and decided to make my own cards. I settled on reds, tartan and traditional embellishments.

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I ponder now, as I usually do with my finished pieces, should I have perhaps done something different: in this case I mean sew a Christmas greeting below Ted?

Well, that’s one card down…several to go. I’ll be sure to share once complete.

For now, what do you think of the little chap?

Happy C….ross stitching (nearly had you!)

J x

#9 Happily ever after… a cross stitch tale

I have been a cross stitcher, on and off, since I was 11 years old.

I used to live next door to a beautiful older lady, Doreen, who had an incredible talent for needlework and cross stitch in particular. I remember vividly going round to her house after school one day and seeing her then WIP: an intricate forest scene with fairies dancing in the moonlight, and I fell in love.

To this day it’s still the most incredible piece of cross stitch I ever laid my eyes on – glittering, shimmering threads and hundreds of similar-shaded skeins married together to create perfect doll-like fairy face features. I vowed then that one day I’d accomplish a similar feat.

I’ve not…yet.

And while school, college and university got in the way of this particular dream, in late 2012, cross stitch found me again.

I came across a pattern I just had to attempt as a silver wedding anniversary gift for my parents.

Here’s the framed result:

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Since then, I’ve been hooked and my ability improves with every canvas I complete and I move ever-closer to the goal I set myself in 2001.

Although this was a gift for my ‘Mumsie Bum’ & ‘Daddy’, I’d like to think their anniversary turned out to be as much of gift for me as it was for them.

This got me thinking about how other cross stitchers’ love affairs started with this hobby – feel free to share…

J x

#8 Done in a day…my first cowl

Following yesterday’s post I thought I’d share my finished knitting project. A snowy soft cowl scarf.

I’m quite pleased with it but in hindsight I should have used a bigger sized needle, as opposed to a 5.5. It would have made the knitting and casting off processes much easier.

You live, you learn…

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The pattern’s simple: cast on 75 stitches, kn, pu, kn, pu (cont.) cast off when the cowl is approx 6-8 inches long.

The wool, I mentioned in my previous post, was from a little craft shop in Germany and the buttons were an impulse purchase from an amazing local craft barn! I’m becoming a crafting hoarder!

What do you think to my rustic first attempt? I’m trying to decide if it’s gift-worthy or not?

Now I’ve got knitting out of my system, it’s back to the old faithful: cross stitch.

J x

#7 The cat that got the cream…wool

Considering the amount of skeins, wool, ribbons and yarns that my cat shares a house with, she does pretty well. And today has been no exception.

She was even kind enough to model this selection for me…

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So I’ve had a lovely afternoon attempting my first cowl scarf with my furry friend by my side.

Oh and the wool is a little treat I bought myself from a craft shop while holidaying in Germany this summer.

I’ll be sure to update on my progress.

J x

#6 Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer – step-by-step

I love a homemade Christmas card. And, as I was reminded today by a certain retailer’s seasonal advert unveiling, good Ol’ Saint Nick is just around the corner…

My last few evenings have been spent making a headstart on my Christmas cards to send to family & friends this year and I thought I’d share tonight’s efforts…

Here’s how it happened…
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Insert nose here…

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…because what’s a reindeer without antlers…

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…a body to pull the infamous sleigh…

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…who nose what’s next?…

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…eye(s) spy…

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Ta dah!

J x

#5 A full-time sewing box for a part-time cross stitcher…

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Depending on what mood I’m in I can peak into my many sewing boxes and be inspired and overwhelmed in equal measure.

From card kits and starter patterns, to embroidery books and family requests, my collection of cross stitch memorabilia is in danger of taking over my spare room.

Ask me to pick a favourite and it changes everyday… Is it my current work in progress, the finished canvas I’m yet to get round to framing, the collection of Christmas cards that people look forward to receiving or that one kit I bought months ago I keep promising myself I’ll start soon?
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Ask me what I love the most about being a cross stitcher…that’s easy: knowing that no matter how full my sewing box gets, I’ll finish each and every kit inside it…

One day.

J x

#4 Giraffes in Black

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Cross stitch details

Name: Giraffes in Black
By: Idena Collection for Anchor
About: 16 count HPI, 24cm x 30cm
Time to complete: 4 weeks (completed Feb 2014)
Enjoyment (out of 10): 7/10
Difficulty (out of 10): 6/10

Giraffes are sort of my thing.

I’m known for my love of the creatures by all my family and friends, which means I get bought gems like this from time to time.

Don’t be fooled by the single cotton pattern – this was, at times, a tough project to complete: one wrong move and you throw out the rest of your pattern.

My advice when working on a single-skein cross stitch – always mark off your pattern as you’re going along. I know most will do this as a rule of thumb, but when you’re faced with a pattern sheet with just the one symbol on it, it’s crucial you know where you are at all times.

As promised, I have also taken a photograph of the reverse side of my canvas to show my progress:

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Little cotton wasted and you can make the pattern out from just the reverse of the canvas.

One thing…There is one thing I don’t like about this design, however. I find what could have been an elegant, dramatic piece, is actually boxy and cumbersome on the eye.

The giraffe silhouette would have worked better with half stitches running along its neck, head and body to give a smoother outline and, ultimately, a better-looking finish. For a seasoned cross stitcher, this would not be hard to do, but I only realised this too late on into the project.

J x