Change in progress (I)

The design process: an idea – paper & pencil / charting program – a finished design. Right? Well, sometimes. There are times when an idea just flows from the head to the paper to the fabric, and it works. Ah, bliss smiley.

Often, however, a design changes between idea and chart, and again between chart and stitched model; the stitching is as much part of the design process as the charting. This goes for big complicated designs as well as for itty-bitty mini designs like the ones I did for the wooden pendants I picked up recently. The ginger cat acquired whiskers following the suggestion of a stitching friend, for example. When looking at the designs again in preparation for stitching the tulip on the second wooden pendant the leaves, in a single shade of green, looked rather flat, so I quickly pencilled in shaded areas of darker green. And the small lines on the petals of the small flowers were changed from a lighter shade of the flower to the yellow of the flower centre.

Three slightly changed designs for the wooden pendants

All three are now available as freebie charts, and if you would prefer to have a whiskerless cat, flat tulip leaves or less yellow flowers then feel free to stitch them exactly as you want them! here are my versions:

Cat cross-stitched on a wooden pendant Tulip cross-stitched on a wooden pendant Small flowers cross-stitched on Aida fabric

Stitching on wood

Although thread on fabric is still the most usual combination for needlework, there is no reason to limit yourself to that – you can stitch on all sorts of things! Fortunately for those of us who find car doors, slices of bread or tennis rackets a bit too challenging, there are non-fabric ideas which are a little less daunting. Pre-drilled wooden pendants, for example. Some of them are so small that they will take only a few stitches, others have a bit more room to play with, although that may make them a little less wearable too. Even so, I went for the latter, mostly because even though I like small projects I wasn’t sure I’d be able to design anything memorable in 4 x 5 stitches.

Wooden pendant

I really liked the look of the pendant when it arrived, but then I noticed it was damaged – a small chip had come off one of the scallops. Fortunately Sew & So were very good about it, as usual; not only did I get a replacement but I was told to keep the other one! I’ve since coloured the chipped edge to blend in with the rest and so it will be fine for experimenting with.

Now, what to stitch on them? I had a vague idea that perhaps I could use the little peacock I designed some years back, but that turned out to be too big. So I drew six outlines in my charting program, to make sure I wouldn’t stray outside the stitchable area, and set to fitting something attractive into a smallish space, preferably an animal or something floral. I ended up with a ginger cat, two small flowers and a tulip.

Three designs for the wooden pendants

You will notice that there is a problem with the above designs: there are three of them, and only two pendants. That is why one of the stitched models will be done on fabric. But they will definitely all fit the pendant!

I decided to start with the ginger cat because I like pussycats smiley. The pendant is a little over 11ct so as I wanted good coverage four strands seemed called for, with the added advantage that I’d be able to use a loop start. The size 24 needle I would normally use on a low-count fabric with four strands turned out to be too thick – wood is much less flexible than fabric, in fact it’s got practically no flexibillity at all, and the needle got stuck trying to pass through holes with previous stitches. A size 26 worked better, although it was still a bit of a fiddle when doing the whiskers and coming up in holes where four stitches were crowded in already. Those whiskers, by the way, were a bit of an afterthought – you may have noticed they weren’t in the original design shown above. Then a lady at my embroidery group, on seeing my ginger Tom, said he was lovely but could really do with some whiskers. A moment’s consideration showed her to be absolutely right, so I added them there and then.

Cat cross-stitched on a wooden pendant

On the chart I’ve lowered the cat by one hole, as it seemed to be a bit too high up, but you could also use the space at the bottom to add some initials or a short name. If you’d like to stitch your own pendant using the ginger cat design, or if you’d like to use it for some other purpose, head to the Freebies page where you can download it; the other two will be added once I’ve stitched them.

More miniature baubles and some free tickets

Having doodled some miniature baubles vaguely inspired by Round Eight of the SAL, I soon realised that the placement of the coloured bars would make stitching them rather awkward. Possible, but requiring travelling through previously woven bars and so on. There must be an easier way, surely. More scribbling and doodling led to several more variations, two of which I’ve actually stitched, and you can now get the charts (plus two extra variations) from our Freebie page!

First variation on the miniature bauble Second variation on the miniature bauble

And there are more freebies to get – Twisted Thread have very kindly issued all tutors with four complimentary tickets to the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace next week, valid on Wednesday, Thursday evening, Friday or Sunday. To win a ticket, leave a comment here or on our Facebook page telling us why you would like a chance to visit the show. You can enter until midnight 30th September; four names will be drawn from the entries and the winners announced here and on FB on Saturday 1st October. Good luck!

Mabel's Fancies Competition

Choices, choices

Last Monday I went to my weekly Embroidery Circle (although Stitch & Chat would probably be more accurate), and I’d taken October to finish. That wasn’t going to take the full two hours, however, in spite of the usual amount of chatting, so I also took a couple of bits of fabric and a selection of threads to do a few freebie stars in different colours. But when I got round to them, could I find my chart? No, I couldn’t. (The mysterious thing is that it wasn’t in my chart folder at home either; did my husband go off with it for a bit of stitch therapy in the garage?) Never mind, they are quite simple designs after all so surely I could do them without a chart. Well, I could – but I couldn’t quite remember how the pointed bits went. There were two obvious ways, and as it turned out I picked the one I hadn’t originally charted. It also turned out I actually prefer the way I did them at the stitching group! So I re-charted them, and here are the new-look stars. Don’t worry if you downloaded the original charts and can’t see the difference, it’s really very small smiley.

Freebie Star 1 Freebie Star 2

That choice was hardly a choice at all seeing that the two alternatives were so alike; merely a vague preference for one pointed shape over another. But I am still working my way through a more difficult choice: which variation of Treasure Trove to do. I’ve been doing lots of small designs recently, so I thought it was time for a slightly larger one, and Treasure Trove has been calling me for a while because it contains a few firsts for me – my first use of Jessica stitch (which I work a little differently from most people), and my first use of metallic kid. That’s leather, not spray-painted off-spring, by the way. In fact, the Jessica stitch will be used to frame the padded leather.

I charted the design in two colourways: red/gold and blue/silver. And as I was getting the materials together, I realised I liked them both equally! The pictures below aren’t quite accurate, by the way – I charted the light blue as DMC 799 only to find that I don’t actually have that in my stash… Also, I am not entirely happy with the red and blue beads; they need to match the dark shade in the design, and it’s very difficult to work out from online pictures which beads do. I have a conversion list which gives DMC equivalents for Mill Hill beads, but it isn’t always as accurate as I would like. So I’ve packed two bobbins of DMC stranded cotton to take to London later this week, when I’ll be able to see various brands of beads at the Knitting & Stitching Show and compare them with the the DMC colours side by side. Choice postponed.

Materials for the red/gold version Materials for the blue/silver version

Remember the Round Dozen Hybrid charts? Purely for my own amusement (don’t expect them for sale on the website) I’ve charted the Systematic Mix & Match Round Dozen. It consists of a basic chart with four “sub-charts” that you use to fill in the gaps in the basic chart, if that makes sense. So the basic chart has four empty triangles – go to the corner motif sub-chart and choose one; the basic chart has a border of empty squares – go to the border sub-chart and pick a border stitch. And so on. How’s that for choices!

Round Dozen Mix & Match basic outline Round Dozen Mix & Match borders and uncut fillings Round Dozen Mix & Match corner motifs Round Dozen Mix & Match cut area Round Dozen Mix & Match bars and filling stitches

Incidentally if you don’t like cutting you could leave some of the variations uncut – you might want to add a little embellishment to what would otherwise be cut, but I think it looks quite effective as it is. As a matter of fact I did eventually do the cutting on this one, but it took some time to decide what the filling stitch was going to be…

An uncut Round Dozen variation

Ironing and a couple of freebies

I have an aunt who enjoys ironing. No, really. She and my mother have a pact – Mum does the all washing for the two of them, and Aunt does all the ironing. Having worked my way through a pile of hankies, shirts and summer dresses (why oh why do I keep wearing long flowing skirts?) I can say without a hint of doubt that I do not take after my aunt. But there was more to be ironed: 56 squares of Hardanger fabric for the Mini Kits.

Ironed fabric squares, and one in a hoop

Sometimes I feel tempted not to bother, but then I remember opening kits myself and finding a piece of fabric with sharp creases right across the bit where I will be stitching, and having to get it ironed first when what I really want to do is get it into a hoop and start stitching! Which brings me to another thing – why are the pieces of fabric provided in kits (especially for small projects) often only just big enough for the project? I know that not everyone uses a hoop, but many people do, and it would be nice if the fabric were big enough to get it into a hoop that in turn is big enough to contain the whole design. True, adding an extra inch or so adds to the cost, but I think it is probably worth it in customer satisfaction. Being what they are, the Mini Kits are likely to be the stitcher’s first piece of hardanger, and I want to make it an experience they’d like to repeat, not put them off for life!

Having “hooped up” one of the pieces of fabric to try it out for size I didn’t really want to take it out and iron it again, so I’ll use it for a small project. Sally, a dear friend from the Cross Stitch Forum, asked me something about small designs for Christmas cards and I suddenly remembered two tiny stars I did a few years ago, so I charted them and made them available as freebies. When I first stitched them I used very light blue and lilac to go with two blue and purple metallic cards I had (you can’t see the metallic-ness very well in the picture, but it looked quite striking in real life!), but writing to Sally I suggested they would look rather nice in Anchor metallic perle (which has a gold or silver strand running through it) or Caron Snow with its lovely sparkle, and of course because of their small size they’re ideal for using up odds and ends of hand-dyed and variegated threads. Thinking of that, and having a small piece of fabric sitting there ready-hooped, I decided to stitch them again myself; I’ve picked the materials and beads, and as soon as Double Cross is finished I’ll give these a go.

The original stars on their metallic cards Materials for re-stitching the freebies

Time flies…

First of all a belated Easter blessing to all those who celebrate it; may its good news remain with you throughout the year!

And now it’s Easter Monday, and Mabel’s Fancies’ official 1st Anniversary. Strictly speaking we’ve not quite reached one year yet, as Easter is a moveable feast and last year it was particularly late. But I like the idea of an Easter Monday anniversary, the first day after the new beginning of Easter. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to claim some sort of theological significance for Mabel’s Fancies smiley, but it was definitely a new venture for me, and I’d like to thank everyone who has shown their support over the past year.

Speaking of which, remember the sketch with the doodles for new designs? One of them was a peacock seen from the front. The idea was to have a "companion piece" to the little peacock in profile which I designed for use on silk gauze, but which can be stitched on other fabrics as well (one on black Hardanger can be seen in the Gallery).

Mabel's sketchbook

Well, I had a bit of a play with that sketch over the weekend, and here, as a little thank you, is the new peacock freebie. Enjoy!

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