An elephant unravels – almost

Well, the wedding was festive, the bride lovely, the bridegroom handsome, the weather wet but nobody let that get them down, and the Wedding Elephant was finished in time – though not quite as originally intended.

All went well initially. The elephant itself, including the wording, the date and the decorative lattice, was finished on Tuesday, and apart from the placement of one of the flowers I was quite happy with the result.

The Wedding Elephant finished

On Wednesday evening I wouldn’t have any time to stitch, so I had to snatch some time during the day to do the finishing. A line of pale yellow stem stitch as a border, then cut 3-4mm around that and unravel to make a fringe, then sew onto a card using four wooden floral buttons. That way, no glue or other adhesive would be needed, which might be better if the happy couple decided to keep the card for any length of time. I know that stem stitch (or back stitch, which is what it looks like on the back) isn’t the most obvious stitch to keep fabric from fraying, but as it wouldn’t be handled much I figured it would be secure enough. That was the plan.

A stem stitch border Cutting around the border

And then it all went horribly wrong…

Unravelling stitches

There was no way of saving the stem stitch border, so it had to come out, in the process unravelling the fabric a bit more. A new border was out of the question – not only was there no time, but the fabric was not stable enough to stand stitching so close to the edge. It would have to be double-sided sticky tape after all. This was duly applied to the fabric, right against the fringe, but as so often happens when one thing goes wrong, it now seemed impossible to get anything right. The sticky tape stuck to bits of the card that it shouldn’t stick to, and unpeeling the fabric, however carefully done, only served to curl up the fringed edges and destabilise it even further, until I was a tearful soggy mess trying to think of a place to buy a last-minute wedding card.

Did I tell you that my husband is an engineer and likes solving problems? (He is also very good at comforting hugs and cups of tea.) He suggested Vilene, or iron-on interfacing. So I carefully ironed the elephant flat (sounds like quite an undertaking, doesn’t it?) and applied the Vilene to the back. The rectangle of fabric was by now not at all rectangular anymore, and no amount of ironing could restore its 90 degree angles, so the fringe got snipped off and the fabric trimmed without taking too much notice of the grain. I sewed on the buttons (niece’s stuffed elephant business is called Nelly Buttons, so I felt buttons were practically obligatory) with one of the greens used in the embroidery, then stuck the whole thing to the front of a bright yellow card using double-sided tape, and here it is:

The finished wedding card

If you didn’t know what it was originally meant to look like, you probably wouldn’t notice that this was a last-minute panic alternative finish smiley. And now I’m working on a second, initial-less elephant for my own archives; I was going to do this one outline-first, but in the end decided to do it lattice-first after all, as it does seem to work better in spite of the away-knot spaghetti. The elephant turns out to be quite a relaxing project when there isn’t a wedding looming!

Kits, cards, and a missing colour

It’s an excellent thing to get children interested in crafts for all sorts of reasons besides giving them an enjoyable hobby for the rest of their lives, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone by producing some children’s kits and offer them for sale at our church’s mother & toddler group to raise money for the building fund. Having considered and rejected the mini peacock as not really being a children’s design, I remembered a kit I put together some years ago for some young friends of ours whom we were “babysitting”. It needed a serious rummage to unearth it, but I managed to dig up my Hot Air Balloon chart! Here is its first stitcher proudly displaying her work; a sneak peek at the chart; and the blue aida and perle cotton I’ve picked to make the kits with (I think the first one was done with coton a broder).

A young stitcher shows off her work The hot air balloon chart Materials for the kit

Talking of the building fund, the Art & Craft Fair went well, a good number of people came in and viewed, browsed and bought, although as usual the cake stall proved to be the most popular smiley. Lots of people took flyers for the workshop, so I’m hoping for a full house and possibly a second workshop! But first I’ll be doing a sponsored cycle ride around the local reservoir this Saturday – and the weather forecast is not good …

My table at the Craft Fair

The new Notebook Kits (just visible on the Craft Fair display above) are finally on the website – with pop-up pictures of all available colours, which is why it took a while for them to appear as I had to stitch the model in a further five colour combinations. As I didn’t want to use up any more of the notebooks, they’re not actually attached. Fortunately they work on cards too! It’s always good to have a further use for a kit, isn’t it?

The notebook patch works on cards too

Having finished the notebook models, and keeping the Floral Lace finishes as in-between and travel projects, I had to decide which of the Planned designs I’d stitch next. I went for Orpheus, a pair of designs based on Ukrainian whitework, although these will be stitched on two shades of Sparklies hand-dyed Lugana rather than on white. I do plan to use threads in the same shade as the fabric, though, and this is where I ran into an unexpected problem: I didn’t have perle #5 in the right shade. Originally I had planned one of the pair to be worked on Zweigart’s Moss Green with DMC perle 503, and the other on Burnt Orange with 722. But 722 is too dark, really, for Sparklies’ lovely muted orange Pumpkin Patch – it needs 402. And for some unfathomable reason I do not have 402 in perle #5! So a visit to Sew & So is called for, with possibly a few extra skeins of White perle thrown in (always useful) in order to make the most of the postage. For now I leave you with my colour dilemma:

Which shade for Orpheus?

A productive cold and a troublesome daffodil

I have a cold. So, I’m sure, have lots of other people, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable; and it’s most annoying not being able to sing along to carols because it brings on a coughing fit! In short, for the last few days I have been feeling less than usually cheerful. So last Friday, with the accounts more or less up to date and the tax return completed and sent off, I took some time off. What with coughing and bunged up sinuses I wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to get to sleep if I tried, so I decided on a relaxing afternoon of card-making. I riffled through my stack of completed small projects, picked some suitable cards to go with them (remember all those aperture cards?), made myself a mug of tea and set to work.

First some miscellaneous projects, mostly Snippets and Happy Hour with a course project and a few freebies thrown in; for some of them I used single fold cards I had in one of my stash drawers.

Miscellaneous finishes

Then eight Round Dozen Variations. I hadn’t realised I’d done so many recently…

8 Round Dozen variations

On Saturday I had another go and elevated eleven Song of the Weather stitched models to a state of usefulness. There were thirteen (I’d stitched March twice), but two of them were done on Afghan fabric so they weren’t suitable to be made into cards. I haven’t yet decided what they’ll be turned into, if anything.

11 Song of the Weather cards

With about ten left of the original blue-and-white Song of the Weather models which had already been “finished”, that should give us a good stock of birthday / anniversary / wedding / baptism / etc. cards for a couple of years!

Because of the general head-stuffed-with-cotton-wool feeling I hadn’t been doing a lot of stitching, but I worked on Floral Lace: Daffodil for a bit yesterday. All was well to begin with (I can now stitch the shared part of Floral Lace practically blindfolded) but when it got to the small cross stitches I did some serious miscounting. Unpicked, worked it again, then realised the flower on my chart looked a bit odd. Ah. It’s only got five petals. Daffodils have six petals. I know the flower motifs in Floral Lace aren’t exactly botanical illustrations, but here it was definitely noticeable. So today I recharted the flower, which unfortunately means having to unpick part of the green stems and leaves I’d already stitched because the flower now overlaps them. Heigh ho, it’s all in a day’s designing, and hopefully Daffodil will look all the better for it.

Waiting for threads and playing with cards

We’ve been playing musical rooms over the weekend. Eldest now has his own flat, we wouldn’t mind a bigger bedroom and the business could definitely do with some more storage (that’s the vintage car business, not Mabel’s Fancies, alas), so we’ve been changing things around and after a couple of days of lugging furniture around we’re now pretty much settled, apart from deciding what pictures to put up on the freshly painted walls of our new bedroom and moving a few more boxes into the new storage room.

One of the side effects of all this chopping and changing was some stash re-arranging, always a pleasant occupation and particularly relaxing in the midst of what almost felt like a house move at times. A small chest of drawers I had been using has been reassigned to the new guest room, and I get the larger one that was there originally, and a space in the new storage room to keep it in (so a bit of Mabel’s Fancies storage in among the car bits after all!). It means that I can keep things like my fabrics and some thread storage boxes in a more accessible way instead of piled up on top of each other – much more convenient. I’ve even got some spare space to fill up with new stash…

That might well be a box of Threadworx perles. Some time ago I found a wholesaler in The Netherlands whose prices are really good, and I decided to treat myself to a good selection of hand-dyed perles for the festive season. I’ve ordered them, and they’ll be sent to my mother where we will pick them up on our next visit to Holland. It’s difficult to be patient as I’m really looking forward to seeing them in the flesh (or rather, fibre) and have a play with them.

For now I’ve got other colourful things to play with and put in my nice large chest of drawers, though: lots and lots of aperture cards from Craft Creations. My favourite large squares which are perfect for Round Dozen and Floral Lace, some large circles, and also some smaller ones for quick cards, plus 40 with a much smaller aperture which I hope to use for Christmas cards next year, filling them with different-coloured versions of the freebie stars.

Aperture cards from Craft Creations

Now all I need to do is get round to actually putting all those stitched projects I have lying around into the aperture cards and send them to people!

A loss, a change of plan and a future project

The past few days have been sad ones for us; after several days of uncertainty, we found out last Tuesday that our lovely ginger cat Alfie had died. The kind gardener who found him had given him a decent burial, which we really appreciate although it meant that we could not say goodbye to him. We’ll miss our Alfie.

Alfie

As I get used to being able to stitch without an affectionate but very heavy feline presence leaning on my arm, I find myself fighting an ever so slight panic. The Counted Wishes Festival is nearly upon us – the deadline for submitting my “booth” of designs is in less than two weeks’ time – and the design I had intended for it is nowhere near completion; it’s not merely that the stitched model isn’t finished, it hasn’t even been started! Beadazzled, a sampler of beaded stitches, has been charted but I’m not happy with some of the stitches, and have since thought of some others which I would like to include. So for the time being, Beadazzled will remain a DIP (Design In Progress), and I’ve picked another design from the Planned page to take its place at the Festival. There will be a lot of frantic stitching over the next week or so.

Yesterday I received another stash parcel, this time from Cross Stitch Heaven. I rely on them for cards with larger than usual apertures – their 6″ cards are just right for my small designs like Round Dozen and the Song of the Weather SAL. The cards in this parcel, however, are not just for the odd project here and there, they have a particular purpose! Yes, the decision has been made: I will do another Stitch-Along in 2015. Here my grandfather would have said “zo de Here wil en wij leven” – “if the Lord wishes it and we live”; and I quite agree with him that of course I have no idea what will happen between now and then. But all things being well, on 1st January 2015 you should be able to start on the Round in Circles SAL! There will be a dedicated 2015 SAL page nearer the time.

Cards for the 2015 SAL

An old-fashioned evening

A week or so ago I stitched a card – or what would become a card – for friends of ours expecting their second baby. Last Monday it was born (on my birthday!), and so I needed to add name and date to the piece. For various reasons I didn’t get round to it until last night. I scribbled some lettering ideas (in cross stitch over one) and numbers (in backstitch) on the original chart, worked out where to start to get them in the right position so they would still fit into the aperture card I had for it, and got stitching.

I was two letters into the name when suddenly the room went dark. Power cut. I wasn’t too worried as our rare power cuts generally last for about 30 seconds, but this one obviously had other ideas. It stuck. Cue my resourceful husband who had soon transformed the room into a rather romantic and cosy sea of candle light. Stitching, however, was out of the question. Cue resourceful husband again, who found an Aladdin lamp (a sort of oil lamp on steroids, as I understand), set it up, and before you know it I was at the kitchen table, stitching away.

Stitching during a power cut

The light was remarkably good, actually! Even so I wish I’d been working on some chunky satin stitch on 22ct Hardanger fabric, but as it happened the lettering was over one on 28ct Lugana using metallics … not ideal, but I managed, and this morning the card was put together, in time to take it to our friends before we set off on my birthday treat, a vintage car weekend in Wales. We travel there in our 1925 unheated, uninsulated Austin 7. And it’s just started snowing again …

Card for baby Rakan