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Category Archives: Sewing

Scandinavian Inspired Cross Stitch Birds

Apologies for there not being an update in a while, but this is down mostly to pressure here at home and because I hadn’t completed any projects.  Not any more though!  Yesterday I finally finished my set of three ‘Folksy Fowls’ from the March 2013 issue of Cross Stitcher.  I did start these back in February but lack of linen to stitch on put it on hold.  These are stitched on 28 count cream linen for those interested.

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I should add that they’re not completely finished yet as I need to mount and frame them.  I’m going to get some plain square frames and paint them.  I really can’t wait to hang them on the chimney breast in my living room which has always been bare because I’ve never found anything that I felt would look good on the large empty space.  I’m hoping that these will fit the bill.  Anyway, some close-ups!

Large bird

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Medium bird with a penny to show the size of the stitches they really are quite tiny, measuring about 2mmx2mm I think.

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And finally, the little bird.

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These Scandinavian inspired birds are completed at an interesting time here as my partner and I have decided to try to move to somewhere in Scandinavia ourselves.  It’s for a number of reasons too complex to go into here really, but we’re quite smitten with the idea.  We’ve decided to try and learn Swedish first and get fairly competent before we even start looking for work.  Swedish is also a good place to start as Norwegians understand spoken Swedish and the Danes understand written Swedish and I think that’s really quite amazing.  I have a tiny little bit of a head start as I learnt German at school (though most is now largely forgotten) so I’m not entirely unfamiliar with umlauts and such.  Anyway, it’s all a bit of a pipe dream at the moment but watch this space.  Maybe one day I’ll update this blog from Sverige possibly in svenska!


Saturday Stitching – Dala Horse Cushion

I suspect that like many crafters, I go into, or at least I’d like to go into, a crafting overdrive at Christmas.  Craft magazines are filled with various beautiful, festive related creations that just make me want to lock myself up and create for days on end.  But as many of us know Christmas, or at least the run up to it, can be one of the most stressful and busiest times of the year with far less time for creating than usual.  This is doubly so if you happen, like myself, to work in retail.  I haven’t had Christmas eve off for 8 years: when I do make it home, usually at about 5pm after having been up since 5am and at work since 6 or 7am, all I can manage is to cook an easy but relatively special christmas eve dinner for my partner and his mum who joins us, finish wrapping any presents, prepare whatever I can for the impending feast on the morrow and conclude the day by flopping down into a sofa coma to nurse a strong drink and gaze at the bejewelled tree in the twilight glow of dozens of fairy lights.    I can’t help but glare in envy of office workers who, coming to buy their christmas food on the 23rd/24th have had, compared to me, a relaxed run up of parties, get-togethers, and shopping outings.  Thank goodness I don’t have any friends who expect me to throw parties because they’d be disappointed every year.

By the time I get around to making anything, it’s usually January:  such is the case with the Dala Horse.  The reason for the scenic route into this post is that I only bought the christmas edition of the Cross Stitcher magazine, which contained the pattern for the dala horse, because it came with a free kit to stitch a robin ornament for the christmas tree.  I did stitch this kit in time for christmas but alas I didn’t have time to put it together in order to hang so it’s been stuffed into my sewing box until I remember to buy some fabric glue and finish it.

Embroidery and cross stitching is another craft I did quite a bit as a child but never touched it again until late last year.  Even so, as I child I never stitched anything complicated.  My mum would buy big bits of aida (which she pronounced eye-ee-dah, I’m still unsure of the pronunciation), cut me squares or rectangles of it and I would stitch freestyle borders or my name, or sister’s name or ‘mum’, using lengths of unsplit, ie. 6 strands, embroidery silks.  We’d occasionally go into Canterbury on the weekends where there was a large fabrics shop called C&H Fabrics (which a quick search reveals is still standing, I’m pleased to say).  My mum would peruse fabrics to makes curtains and I’d head straight down to the haberdashery section to pick colourful silks off the towering display wheels adorned with its rainbow colours.

I was so happy to partly recreate this part of my childhood when I came to stitching to the dala horse.  The suggested fabric was 20 count linen which I had to buy online as I couldn’t find anywhere local that stocked it despite living 5 minutes from 2 fabric shops and a knitting shop that sells embroidery silks to boot.  Progress was immensely slow as I have never in my life stitched on linen, which is much finer than aida.  Indeed the pattern suggested aida for a faster finish, but I don’t mind spending the time when I know it’s something that I’m going to keep forever.  Having never stitched on linen, or with split thread, or read a cross stitching pattern for that matter I made a fair few mistakes in my counting which then I dutifully unpicked, determined to make the dala horse perfect.  Three months of stitching solidly in my free time gave me everything that I wanted and I was awash with pride at my creation.  I bought a cushion pad and some red striped cotton fabric and quickly machine stitched an enveloped cushion for the dala horse to reside on.

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Unfortunately, with there only being two of us in our house, and our house being very little, I don’t have a charming, cosy armchair for him to reside on.  There simply isn’t the space or need for a third chair, as much as I would love one, so the cushion tends to reside on one of the dining chairs.  However, as we’ve got a nice sunny day, I took it into the garden to photograph, coincidentally enough next to a miniature christmas tree that I bought in December that is still going strong despite my neglect.

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I have since cross stitched a couple more things, but again, mainly due to monetary constraints they are, like poor christmas robin, awaiting finishing.

The Knitty Kitty

Well WIP Wednesday may have to wait until a) I’m paid and can afford materials for a new project and b) my camera resurfaces from the depths of its hiding place.  Fortunately, I have outsmarted my camera’s intentions for I have pictures of my first ever knitting project.  Let me explain: knitting has always been a big bug bear for me.  Although I never had any parental tuition in crochet despite both my parents apparently being able to, although I never saw either of them crocheting, when I started teaching myself it just seemed to come naturally. I understood fairly quickly how to read patterns, but more than this I quickly and easily found my own way of controlling the yarn, holding the needle.  I still made mistakes, but more often than (k)not, I could seem where I had gone wrong and correct it.  Knitting, however, is an entirely different matter.  My mum tried to teach me on several occasions, but I never got beyond knitting scarves that were far too small for even the smallest human being and they were too big even for my dolls, essentially straggly, holey swatches.  I couldn’t find a comfortable way to hold the needles or control the yarn, and mistakes appeared out of the blue and it just took so bloody long to produce anything.  I never tried to knit again for another 20 years and then I discovered crochet.

Knitting and crochet seem to be inextricably intertwined.  As I got more into crochet, the more I saw about knitting.  I’d be searching out patterns for crochet and find knitting patterns that I prefered.  Not being able to knit had me feeling left out: all those beautiful thing that I could make if only I could knit!   I even owned knitting needles, after expressing my desire to learn I was given some for Christmas presents.  So a couple of months ago, mired in the frustration of the poverty portion of the month where there is not enough month to buy lovely yarns, I decided to have a look through my stash and found a pair of still packaged 5mm needles.  “Enough is enough” said the inner voice, so I grabbed some needles, some aran yarn and a knitting tuition book (also a gift), marched downstairs and began, once again, to teach myself to knit.  Within a couple of hours, somehow, I had picked it up.  I had to work at it much more than I did crochet and mistakes were frequent, but the tuition book really helped me to see what I’d done wrong, and came with a the sage advice ‘never be afraid to undo your work and start again’.  I discovered that I knit tightly, a problem I had when I was 8.  I just couldn’t get the needle through the stitches after my first row so I had to force myself to knit loosely.   After a couple of holey, and subsequently unpicked, swatches later a perfect one emerged.  Oh the pride, the joy!

In a flurry of excitement, I bought my first knitting magazine.  After flicking through various patterns for sweet little baby clothes, a beautiful fair isle type red dress for a little girl (that I will make one day!) I realised I still didn’t really know how to follow a complex knitting pattern.  Tucked in the last pages through was a pattern for a toy,  a sweet little cat.  All stocking stitch with a few increases and decreases.  The yarn was Drops Baby Merino which is so soft and quite fine so I bought new needles, and set about the pattern.  The magazine had conveniently come with a free row counter, a piece of kit I’ve never had cause to use before.  It was like it was meant to be!  I discovered that I enjoyed knitting with finer needles and yarn.  I can understand why chunky needles and yarn are recommended for beginners, so that mistakes can be seen and whatever you’re knitting knits up quickly, but I found I much preferred the opposite.  Little knitted stripey legs and arms appeared on the side of the sofa and not long after I started I was ready to assemble and stuff the knitty kitty, as he came to be known in my home.


Here he is.  I’m so pleased with him.  After not being able to knit for so long, and feeling almost left out, I’ve begun to make inroads into knitting.  I’m also quite pleased with my fairly ropey embroidery skills as the mice, claws and facial features, apart from the eyes are all embroidered.  I’m desperate to improve my skills though, and I’m not particularly a scarf person, but I think I’ll have a go at some mittens and a blanket, and then hopefully progress on to knitting some clothes.  I’ve read that local knitting groups can be a good place to learn new skills, but I feel a bit bad just turning up to mooch instruction, so I’m going to try working on it by myself for a while.  I love cardigans and I’m rarely spotted not wearing one so would love to knit my own selection of cardis.  I also love knowing that when I eventually get round to having children, I’m sure I’ll be able to knit them something.  Indeed my first child will be the one to have the Knitty Kitty.

Learning to quilt and resurrecting an old friend

In January 2010 a magazine series was published on how to crochet.  I bought the first few copies and now I can crochet quite competently.  In January 2011 there was a series produced by the same publishers on how to knit, and after buying the first few, I realised that I am far too cack handed for knitting- it clearly requires some mystical skill which I simply do not possess.  This year, to my delight, it happens to be quilting, a skill which I admired for a long time if only because of the wonderful and striking effect it produces.  I love these magazine series, because you can just buy the first few which will give you enough tuition to then go off on your own.  I’ve never bought a complete series, simply because it would be far too expensive and you then end up making  a blanket or some such which comes to a total cost of roughly £140 if you bought the magazine every week until it finished.

So here I go again, a new year and a new skill to teach myself and best of all this one allows me to resurrect a long dormant and neglected friend-

My boyfriend bought this for my birthday last year and after a brief excited flurry of sewing some curtains (as seen on the right of the photo) the poor thing has been sat on the desk gathering dust which is a crying shame since it really is a very nifty machine.  So I’ve decided to use my sewing machine to do my quilting even though you can hand sew the patches.  My hand sewing is fit only for mending, at best.  I hope that alongside learning to quilt, my confidence with the sewing machine will increase.  I still don’t trust myself to thread the machine from memory so I had to dig out the instructions and I’m sure that someday, somehow I will break it. Thankfully it wasn’t today.

So after dutifully cutting out and pinning my fabric squares as per instructions, I nervously sat down and machine stitched them together – then realising that the printed fabric was upside down on one piece.  So after carefully unpicking it, I went over it again and success!  Huzzah!

And finally after sewing everything to everything else, I now have this-

It’s not perfect (the seams don’t meet perfectly in the middle), but I’m far from a perfectionist.  I’m just happy to have learnt something and produced something new.

Another upside to this type of weekly magazine is that I now can’t wait for the next one.  It’s important to always have something to look forward to and for some its their summer holiday and for me it’s my next quilt square.