Monday, October 8, 2012

At the Hop: Stitching Tools and Aids

So I was reading Meari's blog, and discovered there was a Blog Hop going on!  Loretta over at Stitching the Night Away is hosting the blog hop, and if you were wondering what a blog hop is, here's how Loretta explains it:
The idea here is to pick a topic, sometimes a specific question, everyone will blog about the topic and then come back here and enter a link to their blog post in the link widget on the current post. That way everyone can check out the participating blogs, meet new blog friends, and comment on each other’s work, etcetera.
Now, I'm a little late to the party - the other stitchers are already on question nine, but hey, better late than never, right?  I figure I'll start with question nine, then work backwards (and forwards).  And away we go.

Question #9:  What are your must-have stitching tools and aides? Other than your trusty scissors, of course. Is there a problem you have had when stitching that you created your own solution for, or have you purchased a tool that helped?

My must haves include at least a dozen John James petite 28 needles, usually purchased in packets of 50 from Anita's Little Stitches.  I like to thread up a few needles at a time so that when I get in a rhythm while stitching, I don't have to break it by taking time to thread new needles.  If I'm working with 2 strands, I'll thread up 3 needles of the same color, and stitch as much as I can of that color to use up the needles.  I have been known to stick the threaded needles back into the pack, but I do that mostly when traveling.  At home, I use a biscornu I stitched as a pincushion.

Another must have when working with metallic threads is Thread Heaven.  Occasionally I'll use it on cotton threads, but for some reason, I find it makes them tangle up more than usual.  I generally only use it for metallics as I find it makes them SO much easier to stitch with.

I am, in general, a fairly organized person, and I have two items that help me keep my stitching organized.  (These tools are just for the act of stitching - we won't talk about my obsessive excel spreadsheets or my underbed storage boxes, at least not in this post).  Since I occasionally suffer from a short attention span, I like to have a few projects kitted up and within easy reach of my stitching chair.  I also have a 3 year old, so I need something that allows me to put things away quickly out of his reach.  For this, I use a Vera Bradley Little Travel Case. I've been using mine for several year - they're hard to find now as this is a discontinued design, but you can still find them being sold on eBay.  If you do come across one at a good price, it's very handy to have.  It zips around 3 sides, has a few mesh pockets inside for holding the aforementioned bags of needles and thread heaven and leaves plenty of room for my kitted up charts.

At home, I also use a square Rubbermaid container to contain my scissors, pincushion, needles and other stitching bits while I'm working.  I don't have to worry about my scissors falling off the table, and when I need to put it away, I snap on the lid.  As an added bonus, I don't have to worry about my scissors accidentally putting a hole through my fabric or in my Vera bag.  (I have yet to find a good sheath for my scissors).

Another kitchen product that comes in handy are snack size ziploc bags.  I am a fan of winding threads on bobbins, but my husband (also a stitcher) is not - he doesn't like the kinks in the threads when he unwinds them to use.  We looked at the baggie systems put out specifically for stitchers and decided instead of paying extra for that, we'd just use what we already had - the snack size bags.  They work out GREAT - colors are sorted out, easy to access, and no kinking involved.  We'll leave either the DMC color band with the number on it, or if using an overdyed, the color card, right in the bag with the thread.

Finally, one more tool that I find incredibly handy is a box of page protectors.  I rarely, if ever, stitch from an original chart - I will usually photocopy the chart, put the copy in a page protector and keep the original stashed safely in one of my storage boxes.  The page protector protects my copy, but if something happens, it won't happen to the original chart, and I can always make another copy if necessary.

And if the chart happens to be a freebie or a chart I've modified in PC Stitch and printed, the page protectors make it very easy to file the chart in one of my 3 ring binders when I'm finished stitching.  If I ever want to stitch the chart again, it's already printed - no wasting paper printing it up again.

So these are my slightly unconventional, but highly useful, tips and tools for stitching.  Be sure to make the rounds and see what the other participants have to offer - who knows?  You might find the perfect solution to a problem that's been a thorn in your side!

Visit all the blogs in this round of the Stitching the Night Away Stitching Blogger Blog Hop:
Find the instructions on how to participate in this round by clicking here.
Friday, October 5, 2012

Breaking up is hard to do

February 2012Is there anything in your stash that you are ready to end your relationship with? (submitted by CinDC)

Oddly enough, this ties in nicely to the January SBQ about the oldest patterns.  I started stitching in 2002-2003, and over the years, have acquired several charts, patterns and kits I am now willing to part ways with.   In some cases, my tastes have changed, such as with these snowmen, Mr. Mittens and Frosty.  They're very cute, and I stitched them both as gifts, but they're not really my thing anymore.

I also have several birth and wedding records in my stash that I stitched once and will most likely never stitch again (more from my early days of stitching, when I stuck to pre-packaged kits.)  Now that I regularly modify things to personalize them, I've moved away from kits and I'm ready to make room in my collection.

There are a few charts I'd be happy to send along to a new home for more personal reasons.  I bought them at a different time in my life, with the intent for stitching them for people who are no longer a part of my life.  There's nothing wrong with the charts - some of them are brand new and have never been out of the package.  They just don't fit with my life, and in fact, going back to look over them as I was writing this post kind of annoyed me, that minor annoyance you feel when you look back at mistakes you've made along the way, ones you didn't realize were mistakes at the time. but can see them in hindsight.  No point in kicking yourself over it, but no point in keeping reminders around either. 

Along with these charts, I have a collection of Aida cloth taking up space.  The more I stitched, the less I relied on what came in the kits I was still purchasing, and I branched out.  I started by substituting fabrics, exchanging a 14 ct. Aida for a 28 ct. evenweave, and going from there.  

Don't get me wrong - sometimes those pieces of Aida come in handy for some projects, but it's now become a design choice I make, instead of having it made for me.  Sometimes I like the chunkier, more obviously stitched look that Aida gives to a piece, and I have two birth sampler charts that I've used several times that I stitch on Aida fabric.

These are "Snips and Snails" and "Sugar and Spice" from Serendipity Designs.  I like them because they stitch up quick, and done on a 14 ct. fabric, fit perfectly in a 5x7 frame.  They're my go-to design when there's no specified theme for a nursery.  So while I may not chose kits anymore, there's still some room left for Aida fabric.  Perhaps just not all of it though...

So, that's my story.  If you're interested in any of the charts I have listed, please let me know and we can work something out.  You can see them all here: Stash for Sale or Trade
Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Birth Record for a Baby Girl

Way back in June, I showed you the ornament I stitched up for a new family member, and I am now getting around to posting her birth record.

Inspirational Scripture - Faith (with thread) by Little House Needleworks
Stitched 2 over 2 on 28 ct. Sandcastle with included thread
Modified for personal use

Once again, I modified a chart to suit my needs because I couldn't really find a birth record chart that worked for what I wanted.  I took out the wording that was in place and charted in my own.  I ended up extending the flower stem to accommodate all the birth information, but I love how it turned out.  

If the parents choose a theme for the nursery, I like to match or coordinate as closely as possible, and this was the bedding they picked for their baby girl:

CoCaLo Baby Mia Rose

I've had the piece finished for a while (oh, maybe since December of last year), but framing is another story, especially with a stitched border in the piece.  Getting the border lined up and straight before framing isn't hard, but it is tedious and time consuming, and not my husband's favorite job, so sometimes it does take a little convincing.  I also had a small hiccup with this piece by not starting it where I should have.  Somehow I managed to mess up centering the piece and by the time I figured it out, I was too far into stitching it to rip it all out.  The piece still fit on the fabric, but there wasn't quite enough room to securely wrap the edge around the mounting board.

After some discussion, I took the piece to my LNS to ask for the owner's advice as she also offers framing services.  She suggested stitching a piece of muslin on the short edge, since the seam would be hidden by the matting and no one would be the wiser.  One, two, three - she stitched a spare piece of fabric on and we were ready to go.  (On a side note, this above and beyond type of customer service is one of the many reasons I continue to shop there.  Please patronize small businesses, especially niche businesses like LNSes, whenever you can, or we risk losing them all together.)

Now that the edge wrapped around the mounting board, it was much easier to frame.  Getting a decent photo with the glass was another issue, though, but this one did come out.  Finally, I was able to send this, the butterfly ornament, and the other Bride's Tree Ornaments we still owed the parents from their wedding (4 years ago) off to the family where they were greatly appreciated and able to be enjoyed for years to come.  I love it when a plan comes together.
Monday, October 1, 2012

Catching up on some long overdue SBQs

I've been trying to come up with ways of blogging other than what's become typical for me - "Hey, look what I finished!"  I'm not much for progress photos because most of my stitching projects aren't massive undertakings like a HAED or a big Long Dog sampler (I leave those to my husband).  Plus I've been overwhelmed by digital images - I am the sole currator of our family photos, and we have a 2, soon to be 3, year old, which means we take a LOT of pictures.  I get tired of keeping up with them sometimes, but I usually prefer blog posts with at least one photo so I am stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.

I also try to keep my "everyday life" stuff off my blog.  It's not that I don't want to share, and I certainly enjoy reading about other people's everyday lives, but because of some personal family issues, I am not comfortable publicly writing about my own.

So I am going to go back to answering the Stitching Bloggers Questions, currently being hosted by Lee, the Lake Stitcher.  At least I can provide a little more stitching related content.  I will also be linking back to Lee's original question  as many of the stitchers who participate in SBQ either answer the question in the comments, or link back to their blogs where they answer the questions.  If you get tired of checking in on my sadly neglected blog, perhaps you will find a "new to you" blog that will keep you going in my frequent absences. :-)  Let's go back to January and start from there, shall we?

January 2012:  What's the oldest pattern in your stash? (Either the one with the earliest publication date or the one you bought the longest ago.) What's it's story? Have you stitched it? (submitted by CinDC)

Oldest patterns in my stash?  I do have some vintage patterns (early 90s and before.  Wait.  Is early 90s vintage?  I hope not, seeing as how I just graduated HS) Anyway, said vintage patterns were given to me by a friend who traded in stitching for knitting.  She knew I stitched, and gave them to me to do with what I wanted.  They're not my style, but perhaps there's someone out there that's interested in them?  Please let me know if you are - I'm sure we can work something out.  You can check them out here.

As for oldest patterns I purchased myself, they'd probably be from the Dimensions kits we started buying at the craft store in our early stitching days.  The very first piece I ever stitched (along with my husband) is a piece that we did for our niece.  Since we finished it in 2003, it was our pre-digital camera days and I don't have an actual photo of the finished piece, but this is from another website:
God's Babies Birth Record by Dimensions

Eventually I will get a photo of the finished piece we did for our niece, but this is the oldest piece that currently resides in my stash.