A slight obsession with books

Crafts, cats and books


Flower Sampler Book – April update

Finally I have an update on this. I’ve had a few issues and have spent almost three weeks on it instead of the one that it was supposed to have. The week three project in my rota has been completely missed out but I’m hoping to still squeeze in the latest part of the Papillon SAL and catch up on Song of the Weather.

I was really excited to be starting on the Sampler Book but hit a snag almost immediately. The charts are lovely and clear but the colour key was missing as were the symbols on the chart itself. With so many different pinks/purples/plums I didn’t want to guess the colours so I contacted Jane Greenoff at the Cross Stitch Guild. She sent out the correct charts straight away but missed out the first four parts so I still couldn’t make a start. Jane sent out the rest of the charts for me and while I was waiting I did manage to get the four-sided stitch done on the cover and the first page.
A huge thanks to Jane for getting the charts to me so quickly.

When I did make a start I almost finished the cross stitch but realised that one of the leaves was one stitch too high, making everything I’d done after it also one stitch too high. Sigh. It took ages to frog as I’d been doing the backstitch as I went along too. Obviously checking my count three times isn’t enough to stop me getting it wrong.

Eventually I finished all of the front/back cover and this is what it looks like.

FSB2704I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed stitching this. Even with the delays and mistakes, it was still a joy to work on. I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out and I’m unreasonably pleased with my French knots. I think I’ve finally got the hang of doing them consistently.

FSB04frenchknotsThe knots in the yellow flowers are done in a gorgeous variegated silk but the others are done in the Madeira which is used for almost everything else. I haven’t used Madeira before but I rather like it. It does seem to tangle a bit more than DMC but it’s a bit more silky. I’m so pleased with my knots now that I can do them that I’m going to show off some more, the ones that are attached to the wee bug.

FSB04bugThe creamy squares going down the centre are rows of Four-sided stitch. I hadn’t come across this stitch before but once you get into a rhythm it’s very easy. It’ll be used to attach the pages inside once they’re all finished. The edge is finished off with a rolled hem. This was also new to me but the instructions were very good so I didn’t have any problems. It did take me ages to do the hemstitch to fasten it down. So many teeny tiny stitches.

FSB04foursidedstitchAnd finally, there are the mitred corners. I am chuffed to bits with how these turned out. I was a bit dubious about my ability to get them neat but they came out fine.

FSB04mitrecornerI’ve struggled to put it away to be honest. What I’d like to do is just dive straight into the next section but I don’t want to get behind with the Papillon SAL and I don’t want to get any further behind with Song of the Weather. Also, I do want to get Around the World finished off next month. Then I can go back to my lovely Flower Book.


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McLaren/Hamilton – March update

I’ve done some more on this although not as much as I’d hoped. We’ve had some issues at home that needed a lot of my attention, namely a leaky tank in the loft. The house insurance is covering it but it’s frustrating that it took away so much of my stitching time.

This is where I’m up to now.

Hamilton290313Page one and three are completely finished now so that’s some  progress. I’m not as enthused about this as I was in January, which also contributed to how little got done. I may take a break from it next month and do a bit on one of my other older WIPs instead.

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Outrageous Owls – Feb update

I’m very happy to have stitched another two owls during the past week and have really enjoyed doing so. Both owls are in colours that I particularly like and I thought it was rather appropriate that I finished stitching the pink owl with the heart pattern on it during Valentine’s day.

These are the two latest additions, which I’ve christened Blueberry and Cranberry.

OAFeb01That makes me two-thirds of the way through now so I’m confident of finishing this next month with the last two owls and the last bit of branch. I’m so chuffed at how quickly and easily this is stitching up and how much fun it is to do.

This is what the whole thing looks like now.

OAFeb02Aren’t they adorable? I’ve started back on the Formula One project now and am happily stitching away at the front spoiler on that McLaren. That isn’t coming on quite so quickly but I am seeing progress and more importantly, I’m loving it.

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Song of the Weather – January #2

I liked stitching January’s Hardanger SAL. In fact, I liked it so much that when I woke one morning and thought to myself that it would make a marvellous birthday card for a certain friend, I immediately went online and got more perles to do another one. Well, I couldn’t possibly do it in the same colour, could I? She’d seen that one.

The friend for whom the card was intended has received it now, so it’s safe to post it on here. What I found amusing is that after I’d stitched it, I found out that I’d picked almost the same colours to Tree’s Song of the Weather. Where Tree used pink DMC 600 and 605, I used 600 and 604. We did use different neutrals though. I knew Tree was using pink but how odd that we’d pick from the same range – the Cranberries.

This is my version. I used Week’s Dye Works Whitewash for my neutral colour. It has a variegation to it, cream to a pinky-brown. Very pretty.

01Jan2Then I made it into a card. I haven’t done any papercrafts for over a year so it was quite nice to get all my toys tools and stash out. I used my Cuttlebug to cut a shaped aperture in some card. If I’m going to make a habit of this, I obviously need more square-ish dies as I only just had one large enough.

Next I used double-sided tape to attach the Hardanger. Then I wrapped some ribbon around the front, pushing it through a slit in the side, and placed a layer of batting over the ribbon and Hardanger. Then finally some card to cover all that up. There’s a bow both front and back.

01Jan2CardI really enjoyed making it so I’m hopeful that my interest in papercrafts may be returning. This is the first card that I’ve made with stitching in it and I’m pleased with how it made up, even if it is more labour intensive.

Oh, and my friend liked it, so I’m pleased about that too.


Song of the Weather – February

02FebruaryI couldn’t resist doing February’s SAL early in the month, instead of paying attention to my rotation. I thought it would only take an afternoon like January’s did, but I spent three days on it altogether. I loved doing the pretty purple stitch which is called Beaded edging. I think it came out quite nicely. This month uses beads too and I’m using beads that I already had in my stash. Until I got them out, I wasn’t sure how well they’d go but they’ve turned out to be a perfect match, being just a shade darker than the threads.

The next step was the cutting so I did the only sensible thing and put it away for the night. When it came back out instead of taking the scissors to the piece that I’d already spent hours on, I did a practise piece, as recommended on the SAL blog, using a contrasting thread to make it easier to see. Then I took the scissors to that.

I’ve just noticed that I’ve managed to take a photo of the back of it by mistake, but we’ll pretend it was deliberate shall we?

02CuttingPractiseHaving managed to cut the practise piece without cutting anything that I shouldn’t have, I decided to attempt the main piece.

It. Was. Terrifying.

I didn’t cut any fabric threads that I shouldn’t have but I did nick a couple of the Perle threads. Not enough to be a problem but I obviously need to be a bit more careful. I found it awkward to hold the scissors at that angle, especially  as mine are bent forward so I have to tilt them right back to poke them down the holes.
Stroking the cut ends in wasn’t as tricky as I thought it might be and it looks fairly neat, although some of the Perles do look slightly ummm, scuffed. It’s not bad for a first effort though.

Once the cutting and end tucking-in was complete, that just left the Woven Bars and the Dove’s Eyes, neither of which I’ve done before. The Woven Bars started off very uneven but I can see how they gradually improved until they look quite reasonable by the end. The Dove’s Eyes on the other hand are dreadful. I kept redoing them but couldn’t get them to sit right. I may have to live with them for now.

On the whole, I’m pleased with how it went, and I do love the design. I was very nervous about the cutting and I think that some better scissors may help so I’ve sent for some.

I’ve lost a whole week of rotation stitching to a long and vile migraine, plus working on this so instead of trying to squeeze week one in I’m going straight to week two now and the Owls. If the Papillon SAL is small enough I’ll try to fit some time in on Around the World, but if not, I’ll make sure it gets some attention next month.


Song of the Weather – January

I loved stitching this. I did most of it on Saturday afternoon and was just waiting for one ball of Perle to arrive in order to finish it. That came this morning so today I did the last bit and my first piece of Hardanger is finished. I’m really pleased with it.

01JanuaryThe instructions couldn’t have been better. They were detailed, with clear diagrams. There was a photo of the finished piece plus a colour chart. There were diagrams of the individual stitches and instructions on how to do each stitch and the order in which to work the piece.

I’ve worked some of the stitches before on the Papillon SAL, but even if I hadn’t, I’m sure I’d have had no problems stitching this. I’m really looking forward to seeing what February’s is like now.

Song of the Weather SAL at Mabel Figworthy’s Fancies


Outrageous Owls – Jan update

This is my week two project and amazingly enough was started more or less on schedule last week. I’ve stitched on it for about a week now and have reached a good point to stop and put it away until next month. Reluctantly. I’ve enjoyed this one.

I started in the centre and did the tweedy looking Owl first. Here he is before adding backstitch. Yup, I was so chuffed to have completed one Owl that I stopped to take a photo.

OAJan01I’m not the biggest fan of doing backstitch so I thought I’d do it as I went along otherwise I’d have loads to do at the end, and that’d be a pain. So, as I don’t like backstitching anything that’s still got to have cross stitching next to it, I needed to do his bit of branch first, and that meant I might as well do the leaves too. Then the backstitch, or as much of it as I could at this stage.

OAJan02Isn’t he cute? The backstitch wasn’t bad to do at all. I actually didn’t mind it. I still had plenty of week left so I started on the next Owl, after carrying on with that branch a bit more. I couldn’t help it. It had threads parked and needed to be continued.

This is where I’m up to now. Two completed Owls, apart from one teeny bit of backstitch, and a length of branch waiting invitingly for the next Owl.

OAJan03It’s just had a quick press before being put away until February, and my week three project is out and ready. I’m reading Bernie Ecclestone’s bio at the moment, and that’s making me feel all Formula One-ish, so I’ve fished out my Hamilton/McLaren stitch with the intention of doing as much as I can on that. With a bit of luck I’ll get interested enough in it to want to finish it over the next few months.

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Around the World – part four

This section consists of two smaller pieces. They both have similar stitches in them so once I’d done the first one, the second one didn’t take long. I’m getting into a rhythm of doing these now. Outline first and then the backstitch in pale green. Once that’s done, it’s easier to see where the fancy stitches go.

This stitch was one of my favourites. It’s crossed Romanian Stitch with the blue Ray Stitch on the top. It was quite fun to do although a bit fiddly. I rather like the large pink stitch too. It’s called Romanian Stitch and was a nice easy one.

This close up shows one of the butterflies that are done using Hungarian stitch. It’s a base stitch that is used to make up flowers, hearts and butterflies. There’s some Ray stitch in the dark blue and some Tied Windmill in the variegated pink/gold. I’ve done that stitch before and I really like it. It’s very easy but looks so pretty. There are some Cross stitches dotted about too. Just for a change.

In this section is my other favourite bit. The centre is made up of Hungarian stitches and is surrounded by two different forms of Romanian leaf stitch. There are also two hearts formed from Hungarian stitches.

This has flowers made from Hungarian stitches but the hearts are made from diagonal Hungarian stitches so are slightly different. They’re much tighter. There are more Tied Windmills and Ray stitches and some odd cross stitches dotted up and down the backstitch vine.

I’m not quite caught up as I have part five printed off so I’m trying to decide whether to carry on and do that next or if I should start August’s Cottage with all its pretty blues. Ho hum.


Framing The Bookshelf

I wanted to get The Bookshelf framed and hanging on a wall as I really love this piece but getting cross stitch framed is rather expensive as the stretching can be rather time consuming. The last project that I had framed cost around £50 and that was ten years ago so I wasn’t optimistic about getting this slightly larger stitch done any time soon. Then I came across something at the NEC show that made it look possible to do it myself so I’ve been gradually acquiring all the necessary bits and have been taking photos along the way – as you do.

Here’s the results. Firstly the materials. There’s a lovely shop in a local shopping centre that sells framed prints and also frames and mounts. I took The Bookcase in to find a frame for it and the very helpful chap in there found this for me after trying loads of other frames.

Framing The Bookshelf
Just the right size and colour and the print inside could be disposed of. And at half price, I wasn’t going to complain. The problem came with finding a mount the right size and colour but as he offered a custom mount service it wasn’t too big of a problem. £4 to make me a mount that was going to be perfect.

This is the gizmo that I got at the NEC. It looks much like a carpet gripper. It fits onto the backboard of the frame and you just stretch the fabric over it, which then is gripped by the little pegs. There was an offer if you bought two boxes and as I had a demo, and was let loose with the demo myself to see how easy it was, I went for it. There’s loads in there so I assumed that if it was as easy to use once I got it home, I could frame many projects with it.

Framing The Bookshelf
The first step was to attach the Grip-n-Frame all around the back board of the picture frame, cutting to size so it fitted neatly. This was very easy to do.

Framing The Bookshelf
Next I cut to size some batting and attached it with double sided tape. This was to cushion the stitching and make it sit nice and evenly.

Framing The Bookshelf
The next step was to stretch the fabric onto the Grip-n-frame. I had a think about the best way to do this so that it would be centred. I didn’t want to have to keep adjusting it as the fabric I’d used was a linen and was fairly delicate. I decided that the best thing to do was to measure from the sides of the design and work out where the fabric should be gripped and mark it with my gridding pen.

Framing The Bookshelf
This worked out brilliantly. I laid it over the board so that the marks were lined up with the gripper and then gently started stretching the fabric onto the pegs. I made sure that I kept to the lines all the way around and just had a slight bit of trouble with the very last corner where it was a bit tight. Other than that it was fine. I put the mount over it and saw one place where it needed a very slight adjustment, which took a second or two but it really couldn’t have been easier. I think if I hadn’t have thought to draw the lines it might have been a different story so I’m rather glad I took the time to do the preparation first.

Once I was happy that it was as even and level as it could be, I fastened down the back with masking tape. Yes, I know. Shock, horror. Not archival. Strictly speaking it should be laced but this only has to last for my lifetime. I’m quite sure no-one is going to want it after I’ve gone so masking tape will do very nicely. And it’s much faster than fiddly lacing.

Framing The Bookshelf
And you’re the only ones that will know anyway, because after I’d done that – I popped it into the frame, on top of the glass and mount, and covered it all up with brown paper and paper tape so it looked all lovely and neat.

Framing The Bookshelf
You might be able to tell from this photo that the frame wasn’t actually deep enough. The wee metal bits that hold it all in place are just about doing their job but it’s a close thing. So, I have learnt from this to buy deeper frames in future and have in fact found some nice ones in Hobbycraft, where you can buy the frames, mounts and backs/glass all separately. This one will do though. It will hold, and it has all been finished off properly at the back so that’ll help the metal bits to hang on too. I just need to add hooks and wire so I can hang it and then it’s going up on the wall. Would you like to see the front? I had the devil of a job getting a decent photo. Another thing I’ve learnt is that this frame did not come with non-reflective glass. This photo isn’t bad, but it’s a bit skewed. It was the only way I could get a photo without myself in it too, I’m afraid.

Framing The Bookshelf
The mount is a lovely chocolate brown, which you can’t tell from the photo, and it does look rather good with the colours in the design. I’m really pleased with how my first attempt at framing turned out and I reckon it cost under £20 for all the bits.
Right, what can I frame next…



Crossing comfort zones

Cross stitch. Technically it’s sewing, isn’t it. I do know that. And you’d think it’s a bizarre hobby for someone to take up when they proclaim at every available opportunity that they can’t sew. I can’t. Sew, that is. I can just about manage to sew a button on, as long as you don’t mind it being a bit wonky. You know, not quite in the same place as the one that came off. The holes not quite lined up with the other buttons. That sort of thing.

But cross stitch I can do. It’s all about following a pattern. It’s logical, and orderly and neat. I like that. You count holes and put stitches in the correct one. There’s a definite right and wrong place to put the needle. I’ve even got adventurous with it this last twelve months, using finer fabrics and even – shock, horror – silk threads. I’ve bought charts and purchased the threads and fabric separately. I’ve even downloaded charts from the internet, which is where the whole comfort zone problem started.

You see, all my other projects have been pictures that have been framed. Or will get framed when I get the funds or time. My point is, that I do the logical, counted stitching part, and then turn it over to a framer to do the finishing part. The scary part.

And then there’s my latest project – The Snowflake Bookmark. I just fancied making this and happily started on it, finished stitching it and then it dawned on me that I’d have to then make it into a bookmark. All by myself. With actual sewing. Freehand sewing. This is way, way out of my comfort zone.

You will be pleased to know that I have survived the experience however, and surprisingly so has the bookmark. This is mainly thanks to Tree who took it so much for granted that I’d finish the project, having an amazing amount of faith in my ability, that she gave me numerous tips and even popped the required piece of interfacing in the post for me. So a huge thank you to Tree for that!

This is the resulting, finished bookmark.

Crossing comfort zones
This is probably the best photo that I’ve managed of the stitching so far. You can just about make out the variegated threads in this one. You can also see how uneven my whipstitching is round the edges of the bookmark, but we won’t dwell on that too much, eh? The main thing is that I’ve pushed myself out of that comfort zone and actually done some whipstitching. And turning under. And tidying of corners. Ok, so they’re not that tidy, but an attempt was made…

The back

Crossing comfort zones
I used two strands of the same thread that I cross stitched in to do the whip stitching. With the back being paler, any colour would have shown on either the back or the front so I chose to make a feature of it.

So now it’s finished and usable, although to be honest I’m more inclined to frame it than risk getting it grubby as I’m rather unreasonably proud of it.