Long before crochet became a regular part of my crafting life, there was needlework. I began cross-stitching when I was about nine years old. I learned the basics in Brownies. We made a small piece for Valentine's Day, "I LOVE YOU" stitched in big, block letters with a white heart on red Aida cloth. I loved stitching it so much that I would pick out all the stitches and re-stitch it, over and over, until the embroidery floss was frayed and there were gaping holes in the cloth. My mother had enjoyed cross-stitch when I was very young but had stopped doing it by this point, so I started taking over her unfinished projects. I liked stitching; it certainly wasn't cool but I didn't mind. I found it relaxing. It was inexpensive and portable. I wish my mother had kept with it; I think it would have been really good for her. I liked what it did for me, I know that for sure.
I have them here now, all the finished samplers and Hummel illustrations and 80's country-chic motifs. They're in a box, with her cross-stitch pattern books and a small amount of embroidery floss, some of it almost as old as I am. I don't love the patterns; they seem dated, for the most part. I may donate them; I know of a local stitchery shop which will take them for a display collection they have in the store. I think they're fun to have, though, and I'll probably just keep them. I've been thinking about ways to combine elements from different patterns to make samplers. I think it could be really interesting.
This is my favorite of those old pieces. I want to frame it for my living room. It's wrinkled, and the masking tape on the edges is probably thirty years old. She had stitched the house before she stopped working on the sampler. I found it several years later and finished it. Looking at it now, I'm impressed with the neatness. I've even compared it to the pattern chart; I did pretty well. Do you ever look at a finished project and feel instantly transported to the time and place when you made it? I stitched this piece during the spring and summer of 1994. I was going on sixteen. Kurt Cobain died, the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup and OJ Simpson caused the most boring car chase in history. I had a summer job taking care of two little girls for twelve hours a day, three days a week. I think I was earning two dollars an hour. It was exhausting. Off-duty, I cross-stitched and read virtually anything.
A couple of years ago, I began noticing that there were really nice designs out there, including those of Alicia Paulson. I decided to ask for her Winterwoods ABCs sampler kit for Mother's Day two years ago and I finished the sampler later that year. Here, it hangs in our dining room. I loved making this sampler. I really savored the work. I'd never stitched on linen before, nor 28-count cloth, and it was a challenge at first. It was very enjoyable once I got used to it and I love the way it turned out. I planned to make Alicia's Midsummer Sprigs sampler next. She doesn't sell a kit for this one, just the pattern, and you supply the floss and linen. I gathered the supplies for this past Mother's Day gift (I like to buy what I want and have them present it to me; this way everybody wins).
I've been waiting for a lull between projects before starting the new sampler. I'm still a bit averse to having too many projects on the go at once. It just doesn't sit well with me. So now with Heartwarmer and Sidney's Square both finished, I felt comfortable starting my sampler. This week, I took the time to organize all of the embroidery floss needed for this project. It's a pretty good amount, especially since I've opted to do most of the sampler in DMC solid-color flosses instead of in Weeks hand-overdyed floss, which is a bit too pricey for my budget. Some DMC colors will be combined, one thread from each of two colors, to mimic variegated floss. I treated myself to six Weeks colors as well. Alicia provides color suggestions for both approaches, which is really helpful.
I ordered two floss-organizing kits from Amazon recently. Each box came with 50 plastic bobbins for winding the floss neatly. I also ordered a package of DMC number stickers, which you can affix to the bobbins for easy reference. I've always just pulled lengths of floss from each skein as I've needed it, but it becomes tangled easily and it's a pain to carry skeins around. I decided that for this project, since there's a lot of floss colors, I'd adopt a better system. I spent an afternoon winding skeins onto bobbins, sticking on numbers and filing them in my box. While I worked, I listened to Counting Crows' August and Everything After (a favorite album from 1994 and always).
I don't have a color printer, nor could I figure out a way to print the chart on one page, though I'm sure the Bear could have helped me. I wanted to get started right away, so I printed it as it was sent in the PDF, cut out each quadrant and taped them together. It's fine. I can fold it into fourths if needed and it will fit in my project bag.
Yesterday morning, I sat in my chair in the living room with the sun streaming in behind me and started stitching. I did this bee first, since it was very close to the center of the pattern. Before I stopped for the day, I also managed to finish a green sprig to the left of the bee. I had to go to the kids' school then, to help with a Valentine's Day party. I'd had a couple of hours to stitch and it was really satisfying. It feels the same to me now as it did when I was a little girl - it relaxes me in a way no other craft ever has, even crochet. I'm so glad to have taken it up again.
Do you like to stitch? What type of stitching do you do? Where do you buy, or find, your favorite kinds of patterns? I've been browsing patterns on Etsy a lot lately (I also find a lot of patterns for free just by Googling; there are lots of images you can print for free). Etsy-wise, I've come across several stitchery shops that I really like and I've been making a list for future projects. Here are some of the shops I'm finding interesting right now, if you'd like to have a look (and please add to the list in the comments!):
Satsuma Street - check out her "cities" patterns, just gorgeous.
Stitchrovia - beautiful modern sayings and samplers
Red Bear Design - lots of cute holiday and animal motifs
Modern Folk - gorgeous, intricate traditional (Nordic, Quaker, etc.) folk-art samplers and designs
Stitches Little - modern designs, some with an Orla Kiely vibe
(I have no connection to these shops other than as a paying customer of two of them).