Saturday, February 14, 2015

Flossy first love


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.

I don't cross-stitch as often as I used to. When I took up crochet seriously a few years ago, it seemed like a better fit for my lifestyle with small children in the house. Just the intricacy of it, the counting, the needle-threading, the needles. I only managed to complete a few small pieces in the early years, and rarely browsed patterns or supplies.


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).

33 comments:

  1. I haven't cross-stitched for years. I really should dig mine out and do it again. Like you, I find it really peaceful and enjoyable. I'm off to investigate the links you put up. :o)

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a lovely little bee. Alicia's patterns are gorgeous aren't they. I have the Winterwoods one, but I find it a bit trying late in the evening when the light is low and I'm tired. And late in the evening is the only spare time I seem to have. I hope I finish it one day though. Plum Street Samplers have some really beautiful designs. I really like samplers, if I could afford it I'd look out for antique ones, they really speak to me, it's wonderful to hold something that someone spent so many hours working on. I shall enjoy watching your progress on Midsummer Sprigs. I'm hoping you will inspire me to finish mine! CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. I used to cross stitch all the time. I did lots of samplers and made lots of gifts. I also used to cross stitch on sweat shirts for my kids to wear. I had the floss organizers and lots of DMC floss. Good memories!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Cross-stitch was my first craft love too. I have to get back into to it, your post got me inspired!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have a big cross stitch sampler that I need to have professionally framed that I did years ago. I got Alicia's sampler but have not gotten into it yet. I need to do that. Your post did not show up on my blog list.. I saw in Pammy Sue's list. Wonder why that is happening? ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

    _.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._
    *H*A*P*P*Y* *V*A*L*E*N*T*I*N*E*S* *D*A*Y*
    _.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._

    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cross stitching was my first love as well :-)... I picked it back up last year, for some small little things, and rediscovered the "relaxing capacities" of it. Pluss, it has a huge benefit over crochet and knitting : it doesn't hurt my wrists...
    That first piece you show us, the house with the quote, it's lovely ! Do frame it !! (And as for the rest of the pieces you still have, don't give them away... You'll regret it some day !)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I do a little cross stitch occasionally but I like vintage patterns which I have collected over the years, I sometimes just browse the patterns and transport myself back to the place where they were bought. Have a great day.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I do cross stitches and curently I have a project ordered by my husband that I must begin. It's a very big one that 'im gonna begin in my next holidays ... in 2 weeks !!! Have a lovely Valentine sunday !!

    http://woolandcats.blogspot.fr/

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have a cross stitch hanging in my holiday caravan that I stitched whilst sitting beside my Mum's bed after she had a stroke. It kept me sane and I shared what I was doing with my Mum, the colours, the design, even though she wasn't able to respond. She has since died but I have lovely memories of having shared it with her.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I started a small cross stitch when I was young but it never got finished. Mick bought me a kit for Christmas 2013 and I've recently started it, I have to say that I'm really enjoying it and I can see me doing more in the future. Your stitching is beautiful, so neat.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think this is a lovely way to treat yourself after a stressful last week. I love cross stitch but have never done it myself. I once made a needlepoint of a cross stitch pattern for my parents. I had to count it all out as it was a blank canvas. I think I almost went blind making it, but it is beautiful. An old house, with a road and flowers. I still like it when I see it hanging in my Dad's home.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

    ReplyDelete
  12. I look forward to seeing how you progress with your current piece! I love that old piece that you have, it certainly deserves to be framed up and hung on the wall as it is lovely!! Like you I enjoy starting a project and getting everything in order before I begin, there is something very satisfying about being organised isn't there! xx

    ReplyDelete
  13. How lovely to have pieces of work that both you and your mother worked on. I should definitely hold onto them - maybe have them framed and form a little cross stitch wall somewhere. I think those floss organizers are a great idea - I have a tangled box of threads! Happy Sunday. x

    ReplyDelete
  14. I don't stitch anything unless I have to! Haha. I have been reading Alicia's blog about her sampler though. It's very cool. Yours is looking great on that dark background! I'm sure it is as relaxing to some folks as crocheting is to me. The stitch bug just passed me over. Have fun with it. Looking forward to seeing your progress.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love your little bee!
    I do love the pretty little images that you get with cross stitch but alas it's not for me, I made a little button for one of my rabbits last weekend and that was quite enough for me in one go. I find it doesn't relax me at, quite the opposite in fact. It's my hook and knitting needles that do that for me.
    V x

    ReplyDelete
  16. I haven't stitched for years, since I was a teenager when I too stitched a sampler. The samplers you have made are lovely your stitching is so neat. It is good to have small projects that you can pick up and put down easily when you have young children isn't it. You wee box looks a great way to get organised.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I really enjoy cross stitch but I've done very little, I just haven't found (or admittedly looked) for *the* project to get me going. This will look so lovely when it's done, you should check out Jooles sampler on Sew Sweet Violet, it's beautiful

    I'm glad your appointment went well and you're feeling able to breathe again, I think you did really well to get it over & done with despite your anxieties x

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm smiling as I read this because, as you know, I am also about to start this same project. I also treated myself to six or seven Weeks dyed threads (I sat down and worked out what the most used colours were) and will be using Anchor or DMC threads for the rest. There are so many colours! And I think I need to start a system like yours as you are a lot more organised than me. And I agree, there's is something so meditative and contemplative to cross stitch, it really is a joy to do. x

    ReplyDelete
  19. I do love to cross stitch but I just don't find the time now. I did many when my girls were little (you can look at them - go to my labels in the sidebar and click on cross stitch) but I work in our business now and have other persuits. I have many UFO's so pehaps I need to drag them out over winter for something to do.
    I love Alicia Paulson's samplers, just gorgeous!

    Cheers - Joolz xx

    ReplyDelete
  20. I like to have a cross stitch on the go, though I haven't picked it up for a while. What a sweet little bee, I'm not sure my eyes are able to use dark aida now xx

    ReplyDelete
  21. This could not have come at a better time....I used to cross stitched at my grandmothers house and have been yearning to pick it back up again!!! Thank you for sharing all of these wonderful links!!!! Wishing you a week full of creative inspiration friend! And by the way...your days back in 94 sound just like mine! I watched a set of triplets 5 days a week 10 hours a day for peanuts....exhausting for sure! Take care you...Nicole xo

    ReplyDelete
  22. I vaguely remember being taugth to cross stitch at school but have never done it since. I would love to be able to stitch something. Your samplers look fun and your new one will be amazing, I can already see it. I like the black cloth you are using, it is unusal. xx

    ReplyDelete
  23. I taught myself to cross stitch 17 years ago when I was pregnant with my first daughter and I fell in love with the craft immediately. I too went through a stage when knitting and crochet was just an easier hobby to do while my girls were small - needles, threads and time all being things that were against me in those days. I've taken it up again in the last 18 months and am loving it :)

    I have stacks of 'The World of Cross Stich' and 'Cross Stitch Crazy' magazines which I frequently page through to find my next project. I also use free charts from the internet - I have a Pinterest board full of them.
    https://www.pinterest.com/shirleyannv/embroidery-and-cross-stitch/

    I'm currently busy stitching a few birthday cards and some Easter decorations.

    Lovely post - I enjoyed reading it :) happy stitching...

    ReplyDelete
  24. I had a cassette tape for 'August and Everything after' back in the 90's. I bought a CD of it a few years ago. Still love that album. I learned to sew in primary school and did a bit of cross stitching when it became popular in the 90's in the Philippines. I've recently taken up embroidery including cross stitching and I find it enjoyable and relaxing. I have a number of cross stitch books from charity shops, the designs are all dated but every now and again I find something that I like and which I think can be 'updated'. I really should get a floss organising kit like yours-- my embroidery threads are all squashed in tin boxes. I've read about Satsuma Street in a magazine. Her designs are brilliant! X

    ReplyDelete
  25. I've never cross stitched but really would like to try. I do like to embroider though. I need some new glasses before then though. My poor eyes- last time they were tested the optician suggested I *might* need to consider varifocals in the future. I've turned into my Dad and started looking under my specs with the item that needs to be seen very close to my face!
    Your stitching is beautiful. The colours really stand out on the dark background. I can't wait to see you progress with it.
    I really quite fancy a box to keep my threads in...you've struck a cord with my organised streak. xxx

    ReplyDelete
  26. You are very organised! I'm sure you will really enjoy this project. I suppose crochet or knitting is my favourite craft but I also like to do cross stitch or tapestry.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I used to love to embroider pictures, I would draw the picture first and then embroider it with different stitches, my favourite was a dinosaur picture I made for my eldest son about 34 years ago now, he was crazy about dinosaurs then, I used long and short stitch it's still hanging on the wall in our flat in Syria along with others I made, I really wish I could rescue them. I have tried cross stitch and loved it but it used to strain my eyes, I love your little butterfly it will be beautiful when it's done. :) xx

    ReplyDelete
  28. Oh this is a lovely post Jennifer! Cross stitch was my first craft as a child. It was relatively cheap and accessible and both of my parents were older and it simply suited our home life at that time. I love to see stitching used in patchwork cushions and the like and think that that helps to modernise it somehow. Your latest work looks like it will be gorgeous and I hope it continues to relax you in that way - it's wonderful when you have those moments to enjoy. Take care and happy stitching! J9 x

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love how you remember 1994! Your work, the music, the Big News story!
    And the sewing. I used to cross stitch, until children stopped me from concentrating. I used to do tapestry as well. I MUST get my WIPs out and look at what I can finish.

    The midsummer chart looks fun; have a good time making it, won't you?

    ReplyDelete
  30. I really enjoyed this post, and do you know I've been feeling very tempted by the exact same design ... I used to do quite a bit of crochet in the years when I wasn't knitting, before my shoulder got better (and then worse again), but always samplers, never pictures, some to to my own design, mostly with a Scandi feel. Lovely to know you find stitching as relaxing as I do :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Eons ago [more or less :)] I last did some embroidery, and I would love to do the AP piece you are working on, but I still have not finished the AP ornaments I bought several years ago. Thanks for sharing your love of stitching with us, Jennifer. xx

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...