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, 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! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing

Stop! Grammar time!

Happy Grammar Day! I did not craft some lovely, grammatically sound work of art (nor did I invite the strippers, JFK and Stalin. Always use your Oxford commas, people!), so I’ll leave you with this because it makes me smile.

Oh, Jasper…watch out for that pencil sharpener…

But back to our regularly scheduled crafty post, and apologies for the bait-and-switch.

Back in December, Craftster closed the membership part of its site, leaving a bunch of us without a crafty place to call home. (The site still exists, but in archive mode, and you can still look up projects assuming the original poster didn’t take down her pictures.) Just before that unpleasant little announcement was made, one of the members had started gauging enthusiasm for a Little Good Things swap: we’d send our partner something quick and simple, that took two hours-ish to make, plus a sweet treat and a little card telling what one of our personal little good things was. I liked the idea of a quick turnaround, and if I was considering it before the announcement, the fact that it would be the last Craftster swap ever sealed the deal.

I wasn’t the only one thinking like that: this thing turned out to be epic, with 50 participants (something that hadn’t happened there in years) and zero flakers. I requested two partners, and although there was a bit of overlap between their questionnaires and likes, I wanted to make sure I didn’t send twin packages.

My first partner mentioned adult merit badges as a little good thing, and I thought this would be a fitting way to commemorate her time as a member of the site. I cut two 3″ circles out of light blue felt, and then resized an image of Craftster’s mascot (unofficially known as “Cork Guy”; I don’t think he has a name) to fit and cut him out of felt, too. Cork Guy and the dates were sewn only onto one circle, and then I attached the second one with a rainbow blanket stitch to hide the back of my work. The numbers really set my nerves on edge, trying to make them a) the correct size and b) legible. But oh! I got to use math to figure out how long each colour of blanket stitch should be: πd / six colours = 1.57″ per colour.

Although my second partner had also mentioned adult merit badges, I wanted to go a different route. Her questionnaire declared stormy weather to be a little good thing, particularly if she didn’t have to go out in it. The darker blue fabric with the silver streaks reminded me of lightning streaking across the sky, so I paired it with a bright-sky blue fabric to make a 6″ x 8″ mug rug. There’s a layer of fleece in between to offer a bit of extra cushioning and absorbency. To round out the “cozy night in” theme, I sent a few individually wrapped tea bags and some chocolate.

There’s a happy ending to the Craftster trauma: almost immediately after its closure was announced, a few of the moderators put their heads together and launched a new crafty community. Lettucecraft (Just Let. Us. Craft.) has been up and running since January 1, and it’s already full of crafty inspiration.

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the first day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a Christmas fit for Elvis Presley!

Having once participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap on Craftster, I knew immediately I was going to do it again. This year, I was a little more prepared, and had been lazily working on my ornaments throughout the year so that all I had to do once signups began was finish them off and name them.

Name them – sounds weird, doesn’t it? Last year I called my set Festive Foxes (a bit lame, but it was my first time out). This year, I wrestled with the name a bit. Fairisle Festivities? Scandinavian Season’s Greetings? Three-inch hoops that look vaguely like a knitted sweater? Suddenly, inspiration struck: Blue Christmas.

The patterns came from an issue of Cross Stitch Crazy I bought last year. I really liked the designs, but couldn’t imagine making them for myself or anyone I know – nobody I know really has that particular theme running through their holiday décor. The swap turned out to be the perfect outlet!

To stitch them, I cut one long strip of 14-count white aida fabric, eyeballed thirds, and kept moving my Q-Snap down as I went – then cut them apart when it was time to frame them. I took plain 3″ wooden hoops from Michaels (I stock up every time they have them in stock) and painted them with white acrylic paint, then sprayed them with an iridescent white glittery spray paint. I had some iridescent white cording on hand for the hanging loops, and I’m hoping that they catch the light on my recipients’ trees.

In a more “natural” habitat (no tree up yet, so I trekked to the furthest reaches of the back yard to the cedar tree I normally forget is there):

The one with the deer has made it to its new home, and the other two are currently in transit. Fingers crossed they arrive soon! I’ve already received two of the three I’m getting:

It says “Craftster Christmas 2019”, with some rows of lights stamped between the lettering. The flash photography doesn’t do it justice, but I was having short days/snowy weather lighting issues when they first arrived.

Seriously, how is this little guy so relaxed about Christmas prep? And where did the crafter find little star-shaped baking tins like that? I love the aesthetic of it!

I finally got my last one! It’s a simple wooden disk with an intricate series of dots and gemstones that don’t show as well in this picture.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Words to live by

A little while ago, I was part of an ATC Address Card swap on Craftster. (An ATC, for the uninitiated – as I was – is an Artist Trading Card; you can read all about them here.) The idea was that you would create cards for four swap partners that featured your name and address on one side and a brief biography and/or likes and dislikes on the other, so that you would be able to exchange birthday cards, random crafted items, or even swap stash. I’m a sucker for anything that might mean more mail coming my way, and despite not being a papercrafter (or, um, able to draw) I was on it.

One of my partners went completely above and beyond, and I was shocked to receive an envelope too large and too fat to hold just a 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ card. She had filled this thing to the gills with assorted pieces of cardstock, embellishments…all sorts of different colours and textures to play with. As soon as I opened it, I knew I’d have to come up with something amazing to send her. I’m not a papercrafter, though, so I played to my strengths, and when I saw the pattern in my stitching stash, I knew I had found my something.

The pattern is by Emma Congdon, but I changed up the colours a bit and really prefer the rich green to the original shades of yellow. I love typography, and given that the recipient is a prolific and multi-talented crafter, this was just too perfect for her.

She wasn’t expecting anything and so this proved to be a complete surprise when she came home after work one day to find it in the mailbox. And really, isn’t that the best kind of mail?

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, Other Crafts

She’s still preoccupied with 19…19…1985

Nostalgia makes everything better, doesn’t it? Food is tastier, music is better…all because of the memories associated with it.

When the “I Love the 80s” swap showed up on Craftster, I was so, so in. The cartoons! The neon colours! I think that was probably the first generation of kids that was marketed to hardcore by businesses, and it showed in the Pinterest rabbit hole I found myself falling down. I think I could have made a career (if a low-paying one) out of curating just the right Popples and Strawberry Shortcake pins.

Apparently not many people feel that way, because when sign-ups closed, there were only three of us signed up. We did a round-robin swap, which sounds more family-friendly than “three-way” – Person A sent to Person B, Person B sent to Person C, and Person C sent to Person A. It was a three-point swap, which meant that your swap package should take three or more hours to craft or cost $30 or more in supplies.

I found a truly outrageous pattern to stitch up:

I found neon craft acrylics to paint the hoop, too. Between the colours and the sparkly aida fabric, it popped. But it felt kind of underwhelming on its own (despite meeting the 3-hour mark), so I made a felt-appliqué My Little Pony to go with it.

Luckily, the same purple paint complemented Glory’s mane and tail perfectly.

I felt pretty good about my package, but hoo boy, did my partner ever spoil me!

A mug rug! The 80s-est (it’s a word now) notecards ever! Even a Caboodles! But the Lisa Frank shrine really shone, and needs a little love of its own.

I was seriously blown away by her generosity, and quite frankly by the utter perfection of her choices. It seemed like if it was on my swap questionnaire, it found its way into my package. I thanked her profusely, of course, but couldn’t let that be the end, so I felt-appliquéd a hoop for her, too.

What else do you send someone who brought such cheer to your day but Cheer Bear? All right, and some chocolate, too. (By the way: that purple door in the background isn’t long for this world. Pretty soon you’ll be seeing a different backdrop for hanging crafts.)

This all culminated in mutual goodwill, and I was a little sad to see it all over – this was probably the most fun I had ever had in a swap, playing with the colours and characters. As it turned out, one of the Craftster members hadn’t been able to take part in the official swap, and so with a brief private-message exchange, we were able to work out details of a private swap.

My new partner was a collector of My Little Pony as well, and in the course of our exchange, I quickly hit on exactly what I had to make for her.

Gusty!

And Medley! (I’ve also seen it spelled “Melody”, and if someone knows which is right, let me know.) Gaah, the detailing on her wings stressed me out. I kept worrying the definition wouldn’t come through.

I still wanted to include something else with them – I might be a lot of things, but I’m no one-trick pony (ha!). While Googling the Wuzzles at work one day, I discovered just what an amazing collection of vocal talent that show had. Bill Scott (you might know him as Bullwinkle J. Moose, Dudley Do-Right, Mr. Peabody…) was on it, but – and this is what did it for me – so were Henry Gibson and Joanne Worley. I had never heard of them, or of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, as a kid, but present-day Witty Child just about fell out of her chair.

But how to immortalize their characters? More felt appliqué? Nah. Embroidery would be nice, but I’d want to do a fill stitch of some sort to capture the colours better than an outline alone could do, and I didn’t have the time for that. And for the first time ever, Michaels provided me with something useful, in the form of fabric markers.

The markers gave me the colours I was looking for, and worked really well on the tea towels I used. They even held up after being washed, and I can’t imagine how many hours and needle-induced callouses they saved me.

It seems that my partner and I were kind of on the same wavelength, because I got home one day after work to find these waiting for me:

Felt-appliquéd My Little Ponies! Cotton Candy will always be #1 in my books. And Lisa Frank kittens! That neon yellow on both of them (fleece for the ponies, and embroidery floss for the kitten) positively draws the eye. Who am I kidding, I can’t stop looking at either one of them.

80s-themed crafting: can’t stop, won’t stop.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing

Tangled Up in Blue

When I signed up for the 2019 edition of the Colour in a Box Swap on Craftster, my mind danced with possibilities. I had done it a couple of years ago, when it was the Sunshine in a Box Swap, but everything was in sunny shades of orange and yellow. This time, I had limitless options. I chose pink as my colour, and couldn’t wait to see what bright hue my partner had picked. Ooh, or maybe that would be hues, plural! When I saw her colour was navy, I was temporarily flummoxed.

It’s so dark. Wasn’t that akin to sending a big box of gloom?

Still, if navy was what she wanted, navy was what she was going to get, and I scanned her Pinterest for ideas (gleaning a few Christmas ornament how-to’s along the way), until I hit a pocket of beachy Pins. Something sea-y would work well! A quick trip to Michaels later, I had two packages of iron-on embroidery transfers and a set of blank, navy-striped tea towels.

I’m pretty sure the lighthouse design is bigger, but it went more quickly than the beach chair one did. Weird.

Close-ups:

I kept things super-simple, and used a basic backstitch to outline everything. Partway through the first one, I panicked – although I knew I was using navy thread, it looked almost black. (Though this clearly didn’t panic me enough to stop stitching and switch colours. Go figure.) It must have just been a trick of the light, because when my partner received her package and posted pictures, the lines were definitely navy. *whew*

I also made her the Poochie bag we all know and love from a couple of posts back:

I stuffed the bag with some navy goodies: blueberry-scented votive candles, a tin of blueberry mints, some washi tape, navy gel pens…

I couldn’t wait to see how she ran with my request for pink, and I wasn’t disappointed!

I can’t knit, and so I’m in utter awe of the cabling on the hat. The texture…oooh! (The unicorn lights, of course, went straight to work with me to brighten up my cube.)

Thanks for looking! 🙂

General Sewing

I’m Half Joe Camel and a Third Fonzarelli

Way back, when I was first dipping my toes into that great pool that is Etsy, I found some fabric from a purveyor of kawaii textiles that I just had to have. I don’t remember how closely I read the listing before adding it to my cart and waiting impatiently for my package to arrive from Japan.

When it did arrive, the package’s contents were just as lovely as they had looked online, only…much smaller than anticipated. I was not and am not a quilter, and had never heard of a fat quarter, and it was inconceivable (“I don’t think you know what ‘inconceivable’ means.” – Ed.) that someone should sell fabric in less than a metre cut. I had no idea what to make with an 18″ x 22″ piece of fabric – though admittedly, I don’t think I had a project in mind for a metre, either – and into my stash it went.

Fast-forward ten years (I know!), and suddenly every store is charging 5¢ for a plastic bag. I’m honestly not bothered by being charged a nickel, and as long as plastic bags are reused or disposed of properly, I don’t believe they’re the environmental bogeyman that everyone makes them out to be. (Edit: I found this, which confirms my theories at least partly.) But some stores’ (looking at you, Michaels) are made so cheaply that anything sharper than a cotton ball will cause them to tear so that they can’t be reused. And who wants to lug around one of those family-sized reusable bags from a grocery store when you’re just heading to the drugstore for dental floss and conditioner?

While browsing through files on my computer, I stumbled on a PDF that I had downloaded from the Happy Zombie probably around the time that I bought that abnormally tiny cut of fabric. This so-called “Poochie Bag” looked like the perfect way to use it. Honestly, if I hadn’t had to go out and buy coordinating fabric for the lining and handles, it would have been the perfect destashing project.

Except I didn’t make this a “true” Poochie Bag because…no pooch. Doing that would have relegated that lovely Cyrillic lettering to he bottom of the bag, and I didn’t buy this on whim and then sit on it for ten years just to do that. I still wanted to try the milk-carton corners, though, and decided to make one for my mom’s birthday.

Not only did it hold all of her other birthday swag admirably, she’s gotten a ton of use out of it since for all those small purchases. I picked three coordinating fat quarters (aha!) from Michaels, and was pretty pleased with the results.

So pleased, in fact, that I decided my partner in the Colour in a Box Swap on Craftster needed one in her chosen colour, too.

I love the lining fabric!

After three of these, I think I’m poochie-d out for a little bit. But they’re a great quick project, and I may have to revisit them for Christmas gift-giving.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the first day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a skulk of foxes for the tree.

For the past nine years (counting this one), a Christmas ornament swap has been hosted on Craftster.  Charmingly dubbed a Sweat Shoppe swap, it functions like a cross between those holiday cookie exchanges and a chain letter: you sign up for either three or six partners, make three or six like ornaments to send off, and receive ornaments from either three or six different people.  Because you’re not crafting something specifically for someone, many participants made their ornaments well in advance and wait for sign-ups to begin.

I had been tempted by it in the past, but never had anything made ahead of time and never had time to start anything once sign-ups began.  This year, some magical wave of forethought seized me, and I started my sewing early.  When sign-ups hit, I was ready.  I had found this pattern by Maisie Moo on Etsy, and gave it the old college try to make sure it would turn out, be an appropriate size, etc.

I named him Les, and he has a home on my Christmas tree. 🙂  I’m glad I practiced on him, because it gave me a chance to tweak the instructions a bit.  Rather than cut out teeny, tiny black eyes from felt, I traced them onto the white pieces and embroidered them using raised satin stitch.  I also used finer stitches than the instructional photos showed.  And…I’m not sure how the scarf, at the length prescribed by the pattern, was supposed to wrap around his throat and have a tail to fringe – so I made it about 1 1/2 times as long so that I had a little room to play with.

Because I have apparently learned my limits after many, many years of Craftmas (official and unofficial), I signed up for three partners and not six, tempting though that was.  These little guys were so much fun to stitch up!

I named them Redd, Michael J., and Renard – just think about that for a sec – and all three have made it to their new homes, despite the best efforts of the postal service to waylay them.

And now that they’re finished, and I should be thinking about the zillion other things I need to get done before Christmas, I can’t help but think what sort of ornaments to offer next year…

EDIT: By popular request, here’s what I got in return.

A fabric tree from Alberta.  (Front and back.)

A cozy cardinal birdhouse from Massachusetts.

A shaker ornament from Pennsylvania – the tree was up by the time the postal system finally decided to get it to me, so it got photographed in its natural habitat. 😉

Thanks for looking! 🙂