Cross-stitch and Embroidery

It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.

Happy New Year! (Can I still say that now…?) I hope everyone had a nice – and safe! – holiday season.

After my Christmas making, I got a few days’ rest before starting in on this project. My friend Jeanette has a birthday coming up later this month, and has been a Legend of Zelda fan forever. I’ve never played a single one of the games, but the franchise is 35 years old this year. Crazy, isn’t it? In any case, it’s certainly iconic, irrespective of my own gaming proclivities.

I found this pattern as pixel art on Pinterest, and knew I had found the perfect little stitch.

He started to take shape pretty quickly. Can you see where I missed a couple stitches in his hair?

Better lighting, but still with that weird negative space in his bangs.

Hair (and everything else) complete, and framed up. That 3″ hoop turned out to be the perfect size.

When I first found the pattern, it showed his pants as white/grey, which was not how I remembered them. A pretty-much-identical pixel art pattern showed his pants as black, which looked more correct to me, but I wasn’t quite sure.

Folks, there are entire wikis devoted to Link’s outfit across various games. Sometimes his pants are brown; sometimes they’re white/grey; sometimes he wears none at all, his modesty protected only by his long tunic. Never are they black, but this seemed like a good place to start a trend.

I mailed this out last weekend, so if our respective postal systems have managed to work out the backlog of Christmas gifts clogging the works, she should have this before the big day actually arrives.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, General Sewing

On the fourth day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: some fun, patterned PPE!

(If you had asked me back when I started this blog whether I’d ever use the term “PPE” here, I probably wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. Oh, the times we live in…)

My friend Jeanette is considered an essential worker, and although I would sincerely hope her employer provides her with suitable equipment when she has to be around people, I wanted to do something fun for her. A writer, she loves all things vintage-typewriter, and when I saw this fabric at Marshalls this summer, I had to pick up a third of a metre – just enough for a mask or two.

They have the coolest fabrics there, honestly (that’s where my background came from, too). Earlier in the summer, I found this beautiful zodiac fabric and made my mom an Aquarius mask, and then found Leo and Scorpio for my dad and for Mr. Gummi Bear when I found the typewriter key fabric.

The original Aquarius mask (not pictured) wasn’t long for this world. On about her third or fourth time wearing it out, she bent and re-bent the nose wire so vigorously that it broke. This is probably also a cautionary tale about using dollar-store pipe cleaners as nose wires, but what do you have to do to it to break it so quickly? She also complained about the thin elastic I used for ear loops cutting into her ears; the fact that she requested that elastic specifically was irrelevant. Could I replace the wire and elastic? I thought about the amount of unpicking required, and decided it was easier to make her a new one. And hey, if she was getting a new one for Christmas, so were the others.

I used a sturdier wire in all three of them, and the elastic is this super-soft and springy, rounded stuff I found on Etsy. Just let them try and complain about sore ears!

Thanks for looking – Merry Christmas! 🙂

craftmas, General Sewing

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a scarf for the pep rally!

Even though my friend Ricky* defected to Toronto 15+ years ago, and I see him once a year if I’m lucky, I still try to find the perfect Christmas gift to send every year. In this case, “perfect” translates loosely to “not totally impersonal, not ridiculously expensive, and not a bear to ship in terms of either packaging logistics or postage costs”. I don’t ask for much, do I?

A couple of years ago, I put together a Batman starter kit (mini Bat Signal plus some socks, soap, and mints all featuring the caped crusader’s likeness), and last year it was a box of local goodies that he wouldn’t be able to get in the Big Smoke. With everything that’s been going on this year, I opted for something nostalgic to remind him of those carefree high school days. *pause for laughter* Or at least something in our school colours.

I’ve actually made this scarf twice before, but this was my first time making it according to the original instructions and not trying to shoehorn in an extra colour. Based on a tutorial from the dearly departed Craftster, the premise is simple: choose two colours of fleece (A and B); cut eighteen 4″ by 6″ rectangles and four 6″ squares out of colour A; cut twenty 4″ by 6″ rectangles out of colour B; use nine, two, and ten of each kind of cutout to form each side of the scarf and then sew the two sides together for double-layer warmth.

I sincerely thought that cutting out all those rectangles was the most annoying/time-consuming part of this (admittedly simple) project – and then I remembered that every time you sew two of them together, you have to tie off the thread ends at both ends of the seam. Every time. For 2+10+9-1 seams per side.

To be fair, tying off the thread ends isn’t difficult or as prone to causing hand cramps as marathon fleece-cutting, but it’s the start-and-stop (especially if you leave them all until the end) that makes them a pain. By the time I was doing the second side of my scarf, I got smart, and tied my threads while I was on a conference call – it kept my hands busy, but wasn’t so distracting that I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on.

I think this should ward off the Toronto chill, no?

There was a time when I would have wrapped that scarf all around my model’s head to preserve anonymity or else digitally alter the photo up to and including decapitation; but darned if a co-ordinating mask doesn’t do the trick.

And sure, the scarf is nice and wouldn’t look out of place at the homecoming game (assuming we had a football team, which we did not), but it needed a little something extra to really complete the theme.

Perfect, right? It had the blue-and-gold scheme, and we both spent four years with the same English teacher who spent those years drilling into our heads such gems as the eight (nine? Ten? Google seems to be very divided on this) parts of speech. I think all of my grammatical neuroses can be traced back to that classroom.

In some miracle of modern postal service, his parcel arrived with a week to spare before Christmas, and I hope he’ll be able to get some use out of both, lockdown or no.

Thanks for looking….go Sabres!! 🙂

*Not his real name, but a nickname given by that same English teacher.

craftmas, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a flock of sheep for the tree!

Back in the days of Craftster (RIP), I participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap a couple of times. Basically, you’d create three or six ornaments – usually similar if not actual clones of one another – and be partnered up with three or six people to swap one for one. It was really kind of lovely because you could get your ornaments made well ahead of time and then just wait for your partners’ information. Craftster’s successor, Lettucecraft, is still in its infancy and the swap process has been a little different, and there was no SSOS this year.

Being me, I had already found a pattern I had wanted to use, and wound up making a few anyway.

I added some miniature 1:12 (I think?) lights that weren’t called for in the pattern, but took these from just being sheep to actually being Christmas sheep, and therein lies the difference.

These were really simple to make! My first one came to life during a conference call that required nothing from me apart from confirming my presence during roll call and answering the icebreaker question, and I completed the next two over a few evening phone calls with friends.

When I started making these, I couldn’t decide whether their overall vibe was “Fleece Navidad” or “Baaaaa Humbug”, but my “focus group” overwhelmingly preferred the former.

I call them a flock of sheep at the top of this post, but pity the poor collie who has to herd them: they wound up with (or are in the process of making their way to) friends in three different countries.

If the SSOS ever comes back, I might have to revisit these little guys. Love ’em!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, Other Crafts

On the first day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a calendar to count down daily.

The saga of this advent calendar started almost a year ago. A few days after Christmas – not Boxing Day; I’m not insane – Mr. Gummi Bear and I hit the streets to check out a few stores. He wanted to look for some jeans, and after a fruitless search for a pair that fit properly, and a life-regenerating coffee at a Starbucks that was tucked away in an out-of-the-way Sobeys, we found ourselves in a scrapbooking store. I was looking for some stickers to send a swap partner, and thought they might have a bigger selection than Michaels.

Near the front of the store, they had a table of Christmassy supplies marked down by 50%, and even though I’m not a papercrafter per se, I wandered over to see what they had. The advent calendar kit jumped out at me. It comes with everything! And it’s half-off! “I’ve got a whole year to put this together!” I crowed, tossing it in my basket. It was going to become a much-loved heirloom, I could feel it in my bones.

Shortly after it arrived home, it got set aside and forgotten about until early November.

When the latest restrictions on gatherings came into effect, and it became apparent that our weekend carousing (read: getting takeout and watching Netflix at his place) was going to be stymied, I thought this might be a fun way to keep a piece of me around (sort of) as December wore on.

It really did come with everything. All of the little pieces for the pockets were cut out and pre-scored for folding, and (bonus!) even came packaged in the right order so I wouldn’t have to sort them out later.

The kit didn’t include instructions for what to do with the tags, so I opted for the corny, bad Dad-joke route.

The most tedious part, probably, was cutting 6″ lengths of baker’s twine for each of the 25 tags. If you look really closely, you can see the “25” not looking super-firmly attached to the pocket – I don’t know what kind of adhesive their stickers had, but it wasn’t great, and I wound up touching up a few with my gluestick to make sure they would hold.

All laid out and ready to be packaged up and given to the lucky recipient.

There was about 11.5 feet of baker’s twine left over once all the tags were tied, and I left it all as one length so he could decide for himself whether he wanted one long row of pockets, or a 12-13 split, or 5 rows of 5, whatever he wanted.

He opted for a single length, and even found some complimentary cutouts of Christmas lights to add to the ambience.

OK, so it might not become one for the generations, but it’s (almost) a way to be together apart, and a fun way to start the holiday season.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Creepy? Nah. Kooky? Sure!

It’s no secret that I love Satsuma Street design, like this one and this one. This year, I bought Mister Cat after ogling it for what feels like ages. On Etsy, you can buy either the PDF pattern or the kit; I bought the kit from 123Stitch since I already had an order going.

What I liked:

  • it’s a Halloween cat, duh
  • her designs are always so colourful and fun
  • the kit came with black perforated paper, so I didn’t have to buy a whole package of it

What I didn’t like:

  • the black perforated paper was a bit of a pain to see (like black aida cloth, so no surprise there)
  • I ran short of three – count ’em, three – colours of the threads included. I am not a novice stitcher who has no idea how to get the most out of her materials, and I didn’t have to unpick and waste any thread, so WTH, people? One, I might understand, but three?

And because I’m a masochistic weirdo, I documented my progress in a series of photographs and turned them into a stop-motion video:

I’m pretty happy with how he came out, despite my issues with the kit. I might have to leave him out year-round just to enjoy him.

Thanks for looking – Happy Halloween! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

The Mandala(?) Effect

Did you know that Darth Vader never uttered the words “Luke, I am your father”? And that Humphrey Bogart’s Rick didn’t actually tell the piano player to “Play it again, Sam”? If you’re swearing up and down right now that those are the right lines, darn it – and maybe you also remember reading Berenstein Bears books as a kid – you’re likely experiencing the Mandela Effect. It’s a psychological phenomenon in which large numbers of people share the same false memory, and so named after the false memory many people share of Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s (he didn’t, as you might have suspected). This article provides some great examples – as a psych major, I love how weirdly fallible the human memory is.

What does any of that have to do with this project? Nothing, really, except for a common misspelling of near-homophones. Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary. A mandala is a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.

Guess which one I recently stitched up for the Hoopless Hoopla swap on Lettucecraft?

My partner mentioned she’d like something featuring blue, pink, and/or gold, and had listed mandalas as one of her themes, and it felt like a perfect dovetailing of aesthetics. When I set about searching for a design, I inadvertently saved the same one twice, which I took as a sign that it was the one.

I don’t know who designed this, but isn’t it gorgeous? When I looked at it, my eye automatically divided it into three sections, and I decided an ombre effect would suit it perfectly.

I used DMC shades 3843, 3845, and 3846, the latter of which used a huuuuuge amount because I neglected to account for the fact that each successive “ring” would be so much larger than the last. I had enough, but boy, was I kicking myself for picking a design with such an intricate outer circle.

(And honestly, despite my griping, it’s not that big: only five inches across.)

Some gold seed beads added a touch of elegance and brought the design up to the next level. I agonized over the beads longer than I should have, and tried about ten different iterations of seed beads vs. E beads vs. both, but in the end decided to keep them small and subtle.

I was pleased with how this came out and hoped that my partner would like it, too (spoiler alert: she did). But I positively squealed at the cuteness of what she sent me:

Isn’t that lovely? I love the elegance of blackwork, and those tiny pops of red in the flowers positively make this.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

From the vault: A Lively Tune

This past Thursday, I happened to find myself on someone else’s blog (also hosted by WordPress) and I saw a notification alert in the upper right-hand side of my screen. When I clicked on it, a message popped up congratulating me on my 12-year anniversary of running this blog. Well, then. The date didn’t even occur to me in the days leading up to it, and I didn’t (and don’t) have some sort of special anniversary post planned.

Instead, submitted for your approval, I have two long-finished, never-posted projects.

First up: A Lively Tune by Louise Gregoire Originals. This one j-u-u-ust got framed this winter (pre-quarantining).

The eagle-eyed among you will notice this was actually completed back in 2016 – that’s how long it took for a frame to be decided on – but I started it probably 15 years earlier. It was one of those projects that kept getting put aside because something else took priority. When I studied Ukrainian in university, we watched a National Film Board production called “Teach Me to Dance” (Navche meni tantsjuvate), and every time I picked this up to work on it, that was what crossed my mind and not the actual name of the design. The boy with his wind instrument (surely not a clarinet) seems secondary to the two who are dancing.

Finding a frame took ages. When it was finally decided that yes, this should be framed, it was discovered that a standard 8″ x 10″ was going to be a fraction too small, and cut off some of the background. But lo, Michaels had an 8 1/2″ x 11″ frame that let everything show without a ton of extra blank space.

My mom decided that it needed to go in the hallway, across from another Ukrainian-themed piece I stitched.

This one is a bit *cough*a lot*cough* older: a sampler featuring the Ukrainian alphabet. I designed it myself to hang in my grandfather’s room in the seniors’ home, modifying a Roman alphabet I found in a design book, and adding a few little bits of traditional design for interest. We used to have to recite that in class, and while it’s one thing to be four or five and reciting your A-B-C’s in kindergarten, it’s quite another to be 19 and stumbling over your ah-beh-veh’s. In any case, after he passed away, we got it back, and it’s now hanging in my parents’ hallway.

(Fun fact: the “soft sign” – the very last character, at the far right of the bottom row – doesn’t actually have a capital version. It’s not a letter per se, but a way to modify sounds the other letters make. I’m not really sure why I gave it its own capital. Symmetry, probably.)

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing

She blinded me with science…

The second round of swaps on Lettucecraft recently took place, and I signed up for the Adult Merit Badge swap as fast as my little fingers could complete the questionnaire. I was never a Girl Guide, but I love me a merit badge! My partner listed ten different possible themes to choose from, and I was thisclose to working with “Coffee” when I started Googling bad science puns (she’s a biology teacher, and had listed “Science” as one of her themes). Before I knew what was happening, “Coffee” was all but forgotten, and darn it, I was going to dad-joke the heck out of “Science”.

It was a bit of a masochistic choice on my part, because I am not a science-type person. In Grades 11 and 12, we were made to choose at least one science class of the “big three” to take: Biology, Chemistry, and/or Physics. This was exactly one more science class than I wanted to take. Why not an extra period of French instead, so I could hinky dinky parlez-vous with the best of them? Or English? Never mind that I probably already gave Mr. Klymko a Level-5 Motrin headache on a daily basis anyway: this was my education we were talking about.

I eventually opted for Physics for two solid reasons. Primo, it seemed the “cleanest” and the least likely to feature funny smells, oozing, or explosion; secundo, my aunt taught Chemistry, and I thought it might be weird. (This was really terrible logic on my part, because she taught me math in Grades 10 and 11 and I actually understood it for the first time for reasons that had nothing to do with our shared name. And if I had known that I’d take up recreational baking, I would have volunteered to learn about chemical reactions in a heartbeat.) Because Physics was also the hardest of the three and didn’t garner a lot of wiling victims, the school combined the Grade 11 and 12 students into one class, and we covered both levels in one academic year. Every single day of Grade 11, I had double Physics, and it was brutal. (But! Having gotten both years out of the way at once, my Grade 12 schedule was such that I had the entire afternoon free every other day, so I can’t say no good came of it.)

Biology, however, was a bit of newish territory for me. Through the magic of the internet, I found a picture I liked, to use as inspiration for my badge. My partner told me she has a purse where she affixes any badges she accumulates, and my hope was that her students would get a kick out of this one, too.

Oh, how I love working with felt! The badge is about 3″ high from top white border to bottom white border. When I first found my “inspiration image”, I honestly had no idea whether all the little bits contained in the cell were accurate, but through research I discovered that yes, they were – this is a rough representation of an animal cell!

I made my nucleus and cell phone out of felt, but embroidered the facial features and, in the end, the mitochondria and the vacuoles. I had initially cut small bits of felt for the latter two, but the bright red and green felt made it look like a Christmas ornament and not, you know, an actual science thingie. The satin stitch I went with instead wasn’t a tremendous effort, and helped the overall appearance, I think. Once I had all my features stitched on, and my layers of felt where they ought to be, I added a white backing to hide the stitches.

A close-up, for good measure:

My partner really liked it, which is a huge relief! Her comment: She even got the detail of the endoplasmic reticulum being attached to the nucleus. I just smiled and nodded – although I do know which one the nucleus is!

Wondering what I got in the mail? My partner absolutely nailed it, and did a mash-up of my “Cats” and “Cupcakes” themes.

Her daughter helped pick out the colours, which are honestly so perfect purrfect for something cupcake-themed. She even attached a safety pin to the back of it for easy wearing and removal, which is the ultimate thoughtful detail.

It’s so nice to have the swapping up and running – I love being able to craft outside of my usual comfort zone.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

It’s your first name initial, a great big initial…

Soooo…a few weeks after the last swap of Craftster/first swap of Lettucecraft wrapped up completely, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a little ‘zine-type booklet in the mail from the organizer. She had made a list of some of her own little good things (like big fluffy cats, fun clothes, oak trees, etc.) and sketched out a small cartoon for each one before photocopying the whole shebang and sending one to every swap participant. How cool was that?

I wanted to send her something back, but what? I like it when crafts can be functional as well as pretty, and somewhere along the line I hit on the idea of a hand-embroidered monogrammed handkerchief. I know the thought of handkerchiefs grosses some people out, but I envisioned this being the perfect accessory for delicately wiping away a tear of joy at a summer wedding, not handling winter-level snotty output. I mean, the handkerchief, at least, won’t fall to shreds after bouncing around one’s purse or being balled up in one’s hot little hand, so there’s that. (This is back when the virus was a problem for other continents, and there was no conceivable reason that there might not be summer weddings. Oh, how I laugh now at my childlike naivete.)

That was nearly two months ago, and I’ve yet to hear boo from her about it. There are lots of reasons that could have happened, right?

  1. The Canada Post/USPS liaison I’ve come to rely on has finally failed me, and it’s lost somewhere in the bowels of the postal system. Maybe it’s just due to the newfound slowness of everything, or maybe USPS squeezed the benign-looking greeting card envelope and was alarmed by it’s plush squishiness and had it destroyed, or maybe the envelope glue gave out and there’s a card and a handkerchief sitting loose and unclaimed somewhere.
  2. The postal system did its job, but as I forgot to add my Lettucecraft handle to the card when I signed it, the recipient has no idea who her mysterious benefactor of such beautiful, heirloom-quality linens is.
  3. It made it to its destination in a prompt and timely fashion, completely unscathed by its rather plebeian form of transport, and…she can’t believe that someone sent her this. A handkerchief? How disgusting! This is the 21st century, people, and Kleenex were invented for a reason! Ugh! It’s things like this that help viruses proliferate. And anyway, this is ug-leee! Those colours assault my delicate eyes!

Of those above, which one feels the most likely? And yet, which one does my mind jump to?

In any case, even if she positively hated it, I was pleased with how it turned out. I used the white handkerchiefs from Sublime Stitching, and they are honestly so perfect. I washed them before starting to embroider in order to remove any sizing, and they’re soft and delicate but not totally papery.

Here, in all its 12″ x 12″ glory, you can see the pattern of the floor beneath it faintly.

Once it’s folded into quarters, you get a slightly better sense (maybe) of how wonderfully soft the fabric really is – that drape, though.

A close-up of the embroidery! I used this pattern, which is probably something I would never have bought for myself, but I love how it turned out. I used stem stitch for the A, satin stitch (outlined with backstitch) for the petals, lazy daisy for the leaves, and a single French knot for the centre of the flower.

I’ve still got three hankies left from the package…I might have to stitch up one for myself, because wedding season is bound to resume sooner or later.

Thanks for looking! 🙂