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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.

Dalahorse 002

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.

Dalahorse 006

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


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.