And a Forest Grew Update

I have been working on And a Forest Grew for the past week.  This is what it looked like before I started working on it:

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In spite of appearances, it actually woudn’t take very long to finish this piece.  At this point there are six pages left to stitch and it takes me three to four days to stitch a page.  So that means that it would take me less than a month to finish.  For this reason I have decided to focus on finishing it.

Here is what it looks like after a week of stitching it:

I was able to stitch two pages.  In the process I finished stitching the large tree and the text that is inside of it.  Most of the other trees that I added are just small trees that seem to be used to fill in some of the empty spaces.  I am looking forward to stitching one of the larger trees that shows up to the right of this area.

Finish: Pintail

For the past few days I have been working on Pintail.  This is a design that was in the November 1994 issue of For the Love of Cross Stitch.  It is one of a set of four designs that were taken from still lifes of duck decoys that were painted by Judy Gibson.  Donna Vermillion Giampa adapted the paintings for cross stitch.

This is the second of the four designs that I have stitched.  Last year I stitched the Mallard decoy.  This is what it looks like:

Since I had already stitched a large part of Pintail I had a goal to finish it.  I am happy to report that I have finished it:

Based on the pictures in the magazine, this was my least favorite of the four decoys.  I didn’t really like the colors and the duck seemed a bit boring to me.  However, now that I see it stitched I really like it.  It has been a nice easy and fast stitch.

Pintail was stitched on 28 count light mocha Cashel linen using DMC floss.  I started it on 31 May 2017 and finished it on 5 September 2017.  I worked on it for a total of 18 days.

Autumn Magic Update

August 2017 will go down in history as the month the rotation died and also as the month that I learned to love the one I’m with.  What follows is a description of how that happened.

I recently said that I was having a hard time working on Autumn Magic and that I was going to put it away for a while.  After saying that I found that I was reluctant to actually follow through.  So I decided to start working on it just to get through the block that I wasn’t looking forward to stitching.  Instead of having a hard time stitching that block, I found that I enjoyed working on it.  Since then I have worked on Autumn Magic for fifteen days.

My progress has been remarkable to me.  I was able to finish two pages and stitch a significant portion of a third page.  Here is what it looked like after I completed the second page:

And this is what the latest page that I have worked on looks like:

I have now stitched a total of five and a half pages of Autumn Magic.  I am really starting to love how this piece is looking and I find myself compelled to stitch more so that I can see more of the picture.  I enjoyed working on this so much that my startits disappeared and I didn’t want to stitch anything else.  I have decided that as I stitch this project for an extended period of time that I like it more because I start to see more of the picture develop.   Also, the more that I stitch, the more that I realize that I may possibly finish it some day.

I am seriously tempted to go monogamous and work on Autumn Magic exclusively.  However, I don’t want to abandon all of my other WIPs for the three years that it would take me to complete it.  As a compromise, I have decided that from now on I am going to spend half a month on Autumn Magic.  My purpose in doing that is to give it the time that it deserves so that I might actually finish it someday.  The rest of the month I will work on one of my other WIPs.

Of course, all of that could change again.  However, right now I am looking forward to getting back to Autumn Magic in a couple of weeks.

 

2016 Wrap Up

It has been a while since I have updated this blog.  I have decided that I need to post monthly updates that correspond to the Floss Tube videos that I am posting on YouTube.  I am going to start with a summary of what I have done stitching-wise in the last year.

2016 has been a good stitching year for me.  I only finished three pieces, but as I look at my rotation, I have realized that I have made great progress and should have set things up for more finishes in 2017.  I am going to take you through my current rotation to show you what I mean.

WIPS

Autumn Magic

The first piece in my rotation is Autumn Magic.  It is a design based on a painting by Randal Spangler that is charted by Heaven and Earth Designs.  I am stitching this on 25-count Lugana, one-over-one full cross.  My feelings toward this piece have alternated between excitement and discouragement for most of the year.  It is so big that I wonder if I will ever finish it.  First of all, here is a picture of what it looked like at the beginning of the year:

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This stitching was done before I started stitching diagonally, so when I picked this up again I decided to start working diagonally instead of in columns.  That worked out great for a while until the diagonals got to be so long that it took forever to stitch one and I wasn’t seeing a lot of progress in seeing the picture develop.  In order to fix that problem I decided to continue stitching diagonally, but concentrating on one page at a time.  That has made working on this piece more enjoyable.  This is what this piece looks like at the end of the year:

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I am actually quite happy with my progress, and am looking forward to seeing how much of this I will be able to stitch in the next year.

Verandas of South Battery

The next piece in my rotation is Verandas of South Battery.  It is a design by Graphs by Barbara and Cheryl and will be a picture of six houses on a street in Charleston, South Carolina.  This is currently my oldest WIP and it had been years since I had last worked on it.  I was excited to start working on it after so much time.  Here is what it looked like at the beginning of the year:

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I have started parking since I last worked on this.  I was excited to start working on it because I knew that since I was parking that I would be able to stitch a lot more quickly than I had in the past.  This is what it looks like now:

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I have finished three of the houses and am close to fini7shing the fourth.  I am pretty sure that this will be one of the pieces that I finish next year.

Winter Sampler

Next is Winter Sampler, which is a design by Sandi Orton of Kooler Design Studio.  It is a sampler of Victorian-style winter-related motifs.  I am stitching this on 28 count tea dyed Monaco.  This is a piece that I started this year.  This is what it currently looks like:

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This has turned out to be a really fun piece to stitch.  There is a lot of variety in the areas that I am stitching.  My favorite part of the design is the lower right corner with Santa and the gingerbread man.  I have finally reached the lower corner, which means that the diagonals that I am stitching are not getting any longer.  After I stitch three or four more diagonals, I will reach the upper corner and then the diagonals will start to shrink again.  I am excited to work on this more in 2017, although I am not sure if I will be able to finish it.

Red

Next up is Red, by Mirabilia, which is another new start for 2016.  I am stitching it on 32 count French lace linen, which is the called for fabric.  This is what it looks like now:

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This piece looks pretty complicated, but it really isn’t.  There are big blocks of color and almost no confetti.  As a result it stitches up pretty quickly.  I am really happy with how much I have stitched on this piece and am pretty confident I will be able to finish sometime in 2017.

English Garden Sampler

I also worked on English Garden Sampler, by Teresa Wentzler.  I am stitching it on 28 count evenweave.  I am also using Sullivan’s floss instead of DMC, mainly because I just wanted to see what I thought of Sullivans.  I started this a few years ago by stitching only one letter, which I picked out then I picked this up again.  As a result, this is another new start for 2016.  This is what it looks like at the end of the year:

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So I have finished the border and am ready to start stitching the rest of the sampler.  The border is pretty repetitive and as a result stitches up pretty quickly.  There are still specialty stitches that need to be added, but I am saving them for the end.  When I work on this I am going to work on the remaining cross stitch, but I am not sure if I am going to work from the top down or from the bottom up.

Corazon Sampler

Next up is another new start for 2016: Corazon Sampler by CloRaMi designs, who is a designer in Belgium.  This is a French-type alphabet sampler.  I am stitching it on 36-count antique white Edinburgh linen using DMC 815.  This is what it looks like so far:

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This is quite different from the other pieces that I am working on because it is only stitched in one color.  I find that it is a nice change from my other pieces because I don’t need to worry about changing colors all the time–I can just stitch.  It has been a really fun experience to work on this.

And a Forest Grew

I also started a design called And a Forest Grew by Rosewood Manor.  I am stitching this on 32 count antique white Lugana.  This is what it looks like now:

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I really enjoy working on this because each motif is small and each can be counted as a small finish of sorts.  I love all the different colors and actually had no idea that there were so many shades of green in the DMC line.  Each new tree becomes my favorite and I look forward to getting to know more trees as I stitch them.

The Seasons Sampler

Towards the end of the year, I decided that I wanted to try my hand a doing a specialty stitch band sampler.  So I decided to try stitching The Seasons Sampler, which is a stitch-a-long designed by Abi Gurden of Bee’s Needleworks.  It is being release in twelve parts, one a month.  It started in March 2016 and will finish next February.  This is what I have stitched so far:

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This has been a fun and interesting piece to stitch.  However, I didn’t like the autumn bands as much as I liked the spring and summer bands.  At this point I think that I am going to wait for all three winter bands to be released before I stitch this again.

Beautiful Sea SAL

Finally, I also decided to start the Beautiful Sea Quaker SAL, which is is designed by Erik Shipley.  I am stitching this on 28 count Brown Sugar Cashel Linen from Under the Sea Fabrics.   I have only stitched the first two parts, but I like the way that it looks so far.  This is what it looks like:

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Finishes

In addition to all of the projects that are in progress I also finished the stitching on three pieces this year.

Twelve Days

My first finish of the year happened on January 3.  It was Twelve Days, which was a free stitch-along designed by Plum Street Samplers.  I stitched most of this piece over Christmas break last year.  It was a really fun piece to stitch, mainly because it was so different from anything that I had ever stitched before.  I stitched it on 28 count lambswool Jobelan using DMC floss.  Here is a picture of the finished piece.

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This Christmas I have felt a temptation to stitch each of these pieces individually to make them into ornaments.  I guess that we’ll see what happens.

Mallard

My next finish was the first of a series that was published in the November 1994 and January 1995 issues of For the Love of Cross Stitch magazine.  It is called Mallard and is a picture of a duck decoy.  I stitched this on the called-for light mocha Cashel linen.  This is what it looks like:

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I really like how this turned out.  It was really easy to stitch and only took me twelve days to stitch.  I plan on stitching the other three decoys soon.

Our Family Tree

My final finish of 2016 was Our Family Tree, which is a design by Stoney Creek.  It consists of a vignette of an Oak Tree with two pedigree charts–one for the father and one for the mother.  There is also a place to put the names of the children of the family.  I am not showing the entire completed piece for privacy reasons, but here is a picture of the parts that I can show:

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This piece is going to be a gift to my parents for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  I am excited to frame it and give it to them this summer.

2017 Plans

As of right now, my goal for 2017 is to reduce the number of WIPs that I have.  Because of this I don’t have any plans to start anything right now.  If I do decide to start anything, it will probably be something small that won’t take a long time to stitch.

Also, I have decided that the number of pieces in my rotation needs to be reduced.  I have decided that in addition to working on a variety of pieces, I also need to be able to finish something once in a while just to feel like I am actually accomplishing something.  As a result, I am going to change my rotation so that I am only working on about four pieces.  As I finish pieces I am going to add in my remaining WIPs.  I have also decided that I am going to work on the pieces that I am closest to finishing first.  So this is what my rotation is going to look like:

  1. Autumn Magic
  2. And a Forest Grew
  3. Verandas of South Battery
  4. Corazon Sampler

Of course, my attitude towards all of this might change, but as of right now these are my plans.  I am looking forward to having a productive 2017.

English Garden Sampler Progress

This week I have been working on English Garden Sampler by Teresa Wentzler.  I am really happy with how much I was able to stitch.  I stitched the border on the right side, the lower right corner medallion, and started working across the bottom.  I think that I should be able to finish the border next time I work on this.

Red Progress

I have been working on Red by Mirabilia this week.  I am really happy with my progress as I stitched over three diagonals.  Her arm is starting to appear and I have also started another section of her dress.  I am stitching this section horizontally because I don’t want the color variation in the Caron Waterlilies to put diagonal stripes in the dress. I really love how everything is starting to come together.

Winter Sampler

This week I have had a lot of fun working on Winter Sampler.  I stitched just over two diagonals.  That is about all I can do since the diagonals are so long now.  However, I am in the middle of the action, so I can see a lot of change from those diagonals.  I am up to ‘5’ in the countdown banner.  The Happy New Year ribbon is now taking shape.  The picture of the skier is getting close to being finished and the picture of Santa and the gingerbread man are making an appearance.

Verandas of South Battery Progress

I have been working on Verandas of South Battery for the last week.  I am happy with my progress.  I finished the third house and am well into the fourth house.  The fourth house is blue.  After stitching two white houses I am excited to be stitching with another color.

I did a little research this week and found out that these houses actually exist in Charleston, South Carolina.  They are on South Battery Street, across the street from White Point Garden.  You can pull up Street View on Google Maps and see what they actually look like.  A couple of them also have Wikipedia entries.  It is kind of exciting to be able to see what I am actually stitching.

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Stitching Diagonally with Parking

UPDATE: I have uploaded a video to YouTube that also talks about how I stitch diagonally and how I park.

I have started to get questions on Instagram about how I stitch.  I have decided to post the details here so that I have a place to refer people to when I get the question.

I park and work in a diagonal across the page.  There are several reasons why I do this.  First of all I think that it helps my stitches to be neater and more uniform.  It also avoids the ridges that can develop when you work in straight columns or rows.  Second, in general it reduces the number of threads that I have parked at any given time.  Third, I think that it gives more variety to what I am working on within a given pattern and it gets me to where all of the action is more quickly.  Fourth, I find it to be more fun and I like to see the picture develop this way.

I didn’t always stitch this way.  There was a time when I started in the middle and worked outwards.  I worked a lot slower back then because I would spend a lot of time counting and fixing mistakes.  I also spent a lot of time deciding which color to stitch next.  If there was a lot of confetti in the piece I would become stymied trying to see how the colors flowed through the pattern and I would constantly miss stitches that would have to be filled in later.  I would stitch for a couple of hours and it would look like I hadn’t done anything.  When I learned about parking and stitching in 10×10 blocks I found that all of these problems disappeared.  I felt free to stitch like I never had before.  Since then I have made adjustments to the way that I stitch through trial and error.  Below is what I have learned from that.

A tutorial on how and why to park can be found here.  When I first read this the one question that was left unanswered for me was how to apply this to a complete pattern.  It seemed impractical to do this across an entire row at once.  My solution to the problem has been to work in diagonals.

First of all, I decide where I am going to start stitching.  I prefer starting in the lower left corner of the design but you can start at any corner.   I also decide whether to stitch in rows or columns.  My brain seems to think in columns, so that is the way that I stitch.

All of this may depend on the way that you make your crosses.  I stitch the bottom left to top right leg first.  I  not really dogmatic about whether I need to start in the top or the bottom corner, but I have decided that my stitches are more uniform if I stitch them all the same way.  I have drawn a diagram that shows the ways to stitch based on how you stitch and where you start:


My crosses look like the cross on the top. The arrows indicate which direction to work.  So if I am going to work in columns and I am going to start in the bottom left corner I am going to work from top to bottom.  That means that I will start at the top of the column and make the first leg of the cross going down and then make the second leg going back up the column. The little boxes indicate where the stitch starts.  In my case that means that the first leg of my cross will be from top right to bottom left.  A rule of thumb that summarizes all of this is that the needle comes up in a hole that has zero or one stitch already stitched there and goes down in a hole that has two or three stitches already stitched there.

From the article that I linked I made a rule that I never enclose an empty stitch on four sides.  So I choose one color in the first column and stitch as far as I can go before I change to another color.  I am going to step through how I would start to show what I mean.

I use GoodReader to mark my charts electronically.  The first thing that I do is mark the diagonal like this:


I always make sure that my diagonals run through a 10×10 grid on the chart.  That may mean that the corner is a little bit larger or smaller than the ideal that is seen here.  I then make a decision on which color to start with based on how the colors run with the design.  In this case I am going to start with the ‘\’.


This highlight is only to easily show what I am doing.  I don’t highlight as I stitch, I only mark sections as I complete them.   Here I am going to stitch the stitches in orange in columns and I am going to park the thread in the stitch with the light blue highlight.  I could park where the same color starts above, but that is a long carry and this color block definitely continues on horizontally.

Next I am going to stitch the ‘M’ stitches.


Once again I stitch the orange highlights and park in the light blue highlights.  I don’t stitch that stitch because there is an empty stitch to the left and stitching this stitch would eventually box it in.  Next I am going to stitch the ‘4’.


I am parking and waiting for the ‘^’ to be stitched before I continue on.


Here I am parking for the next diagonal.  I generally prefer to not park to the side like this, but sometimes the colors run that way and I hate ending a strand only to start one up again.  Next I will finish the ‘4’.


Here I am going to end off because there isn’t a good place that I can seen in the next diagonal where this color starts.  Finally I will finish with the ‘M’.


And now this triangle has been completely stitched.  Time to move to the next diagonal.  This time I will be stitching a parallelogram instead of a triangle.


So that is how I work diagonally.

When there is a lot of confetti it can be a pain to be constantly threading and unthreading needles.  To mitigate this I have kept needles live.  I have had up to six needles threaded at once.  However, this can create its own problems as I find that threads tend to tangle more easily if they are weighed down by a needle.

The other disadvantage to all of this is that the back will be messier.  That doesn’t really bother me.  Here is a video by someone showing how she parks threads.  I think that this would make the back a little less messy, but this method also means threading and unthreading needles even more.

There are a couple of exceptions to all of this.  If I am working 1-over-1 then I don’t worry about closing in empty spaces.  I just choose a color and stitch all the stitches of the color in the area I am working.  Also, I don’t think that I would stitch diagonally like this if the piece I am working on has a lot of “white space”.  For example, if I were stitching a sampler, I think that I would stitch each letter individually and I wouldn’t worry about parking or any other techniques.

Congratulations if you have made it to the end of this post.  If it seems a little long-winded or technical, it is due to the engineer in me.  Feel free to use of ignore any of these tips.  Comment below with any questions or suggestions for improvement.  I am always looking for ways to improve my stitching.

9 April 2016

I have been working on Autumn Magic which is charted be Heaven and Earth Designs and is based on a painting by Randal Spangler.  This piece is huge and will take years to complete at the pace that I am stitching.  It is also pretty confetti-heavy which helps to slow me down.  It is hard to see that I actually made any progress over the last week. However the column at the end of the fence is now almost finished and I also stitches a lot more stones in the walkway.