Friday, 11 September 2020

Cross Stitch Progress

 One week in to our stitch-along and my daughter and I are both really enjoying working on our autumn samplers. The colours are beautiful and there are lots of nice little details. Rose is working upwards from the middle ...

Those dark shapes at the top are the start of what's going to be quite a big house. I'm not looking forward to getting to that part. 

The biggest chunk I've had to do so far is the apple tree.

You'll notice that Rose's stitching looks lovely and even in her hoop while I've gone for the crumpled look. The photos don't really do our projects justice; the colours glow in real life. The fabrics are shades of brown too, not grey. And now I've got five pumpkins to stitch ...

Cataloguing Colours

I'm feeling particularly achey this week (it would be nice if my immune system could work out that it doesn't still need to fight Covid) and it's been hard to do things. At times like this, it's easy to just concentrate on the 'must dos' like cooking and eating - not much fun when you're exhausted and you can't taste the food anyway. It helps to just try to think "what do I feel like doing?" and then go with that, even if it means starting yet another new project.

So, yesterday I catalogued 58 knitted squares. This is what happens when you're the mother of an archivist, you start listing your world. Actually, this was something I've been wanting to do for months. It all started with this ...

This is a Scheepjes Colour Pack of all 36 shades of their Stone Washed yarn and the 22 River Washed shades. Each little ball weighs 10g and is enough to knit or crochet a square. The yarn is a mixture of cotton and acrylic and is lovely to work with.

My plan was to knit a square in each colour, leaving just enough yarn to wind a colour peg for future reference. I used my favourite stitch pattern from my Frankie's Blankie, Quilted Lattice and just added a small garter stitch border as I went.

The two yarns in the pack are a bit different. The yellow is Stone Washed and is smooth and, although different shades are blended in each colour, this blending is very subtle. The orange River Washed square is fluffier and the blend of colours is much more noticeable. 

I blocked my squares as I went along and ended up with a big pile of them; they're about 13 cm or 5" square.

Mostly there was enough yarn left to wind a full colour peg but there are a few scantily clad ones too. I used up every bit of yarn.

My big idea for these squares was to use them to make a digital shade card, one that I could use for planning colour schemes for future blankets. This is where the cataloguing comes in. First, I separated them into the two types and then matched each square with its colour peg. I started with the 36 Stone Washed colours.

The next thing to do was to photograph each square separately and to name the images with the shade number and the name of the colour (I'd written this on the pegs). This took a while but was nicely mindless. I copied each finished image and then cropped those copies so that the square filled the image. These are the pictures I plan to use for designing.

So ... I use the free photo editing software Photoscape and one of the features they offer is 'page' where you can combine individual images to make one finished picture. There are lots of options for arranging your photos, including one with 25 even sized square tiles. Blanket planning, here we go! For numbers of squares below 25 I just crop the unused ones out at the editing stage; for bigger numbers I'd put more than one image together on a normal document. 

To test it out I made blocks of all 36 Stone Washed colours in order, twelve at a time.

Shades 801 - 812
Shades 813 - 824

Shades 825 - 836

Then I put together some simple diagonal stripes ...

You can also add borders to the individual squares to get an idea of what it would look like if edgings were added to the squares - perhaps in a crochet blanket.

Lots of fun to be had here. When I catalogued the River Washed squares, I noticed how much more intense the colours were than the Stone Washed, something I hadn't realised while knitting them. 

Stone Washed

River Washed

Interestingly, neither range has much in the way of true blues but there are quite a few turquoises and blue-greens. Not much yellow either but a fair bit of orange. Put together, I think they make a very useful colour palette. I'm tempted to try a crochet blanket first but, in the meantime, I've got to decide what to do with my 58 squares - not the easiest number to turn into a blanket.

Monday, 7 September 2020


 During my Covid summer, I've been doing quite a lot of stitching. My concentration levels are pretty variable and it helps to have different projects on the go so that I can find something to do, depending on how well I feel. I have to break any activity down into lots of small stages now and that's how I approach my crafts too.

Early in the summer I made several small quilts, mostly from books by Kathleen Tracy, who is my favourite quilt designer. This first one is proudly labelled as my plague quilt as I made it when I was first ill.

Those were the days when I thought I'd only be ill for a matter of a few weeks. Such innocence.

This log cabin quilt and the next one are both from the book A Prairie Journey. I have all Kathleen's books except one (and now there's a new one coming out too) and they're really good. She combines beautiful, small quilt projects with some quilting social history, a perfect combination.

I also made a simple doll's quilt as part of a friends birthday present in June; it took me ages choosing the buttons to add to this one.

This next one is the biggest quilt I've made this year; it's very simple but the quilting seemed to take forever.

From the biggest to the smallest ... this little quilt came to light when I was having a sort out. I''d pinned it together ready for quilting and then forgot about it. 

I made this one to fit my small tea tray; quilts are great at soaking up tea stains.

The next quilts on my list are two half square triangle quilts. I made two sets of half square triangles, intending to sew them together into two quilts. Each would have exactly the same pieces but put together in different ways. So far, I've pieced this barn raising one which will be for my daughter.

I've also been doing a bit of embroidery, inspired by several books. One was this one by Lynette Anderson which I bought for the hexagon quilt on the cover. 

I only bought the book this summer and, so far, all I've made is this little coaster.

I'd like to make more of these.

I really like Gail Pan's stitchery designs which combine embroidery and patchwork. I made this bag from Patchwork Loves Embroidery for my daughter for Christmas back in 2016.

This summer I was a bit concerned that Rose (who is a very keen cross stitcher) was in danger of running out of kits during her extended lockdown so I put together a collection of little kits to keep her going for a while. And, of course, I had to make a suitable bag to put them in.

This one was from the same book as her Christmas bag. I think I might need to buy a new Gail Pan book soon.

I've been cross stitching too. Apart from the big sampler I showed you a few weeks ago, I've cross stitched a few birthday cards and, during Rose's visit, I finished this little sheep sampler.

This is a design from Jardin Privé, the fourth part in a series called 'Sheep's Story'. You can stitch all four parts together but I just chose this one; I liked the woman spinning. I had to change the backstitch on the spinning wheel though as the design had the yarn going all round the wheel. Not how a spinning wheel works!

My current cross stitch is very exciting as it's the start of a year long project that my daughter and I are doing together. We bought a set of seasonal sampler charts from Little Dove Designs and are planning to stitch each one in its proper season. We started the autumn one a few days ago ...

Rose is using 32 count linen and I'm using 16 count aida so our finished samplers will be the same size but the colours of the fabric won't be the same. I'm using DMC threads and she's using Anchor so there might be a bit of variation there too.

The idea is that we finish this sampler before December, ready to start the Winter one then. Once all four seasons are finished, we just have to order eight matching frames (!) and then we'll be able to display them in their season.

I've never done a stitchalong before and it's so exciting. We both started in the middle (obviously) but now we're working in different directions. I can't wait until our next show and tell when we can have a look at each other's progress. The colours are beautiful; I'll take some close up pictures to show you once I've done a bit more.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Finding Things

 I've been slowly going through all the boxes and baskets in my overcrowded store of yarn and finished projects. All sorts of things came to light, including lots of bits and pieces I'd forgotten about for years.

For example ... a larger version of my Pinwheel Purse, a little yellow elephant Finger Puppet, designed years ago for the Big Yellow Friday fundraising push by the charity I support, a couple of Puffballs and a strange cube thing. The purse in the bottom left hand corner is another use of the deep rolls that I used in my Winter Rainbow scarf; I think I'd like to turn this into a pattern one day.

By far the biggest pile of stuff though was unfinished projects - some of them abandoned because they weren't working, some because I got bored and moved on to other things. Would you like to see some of them?

This was one of my regular experiments with knitting geometrical shapes, this time pentagons. I made a few balls, sewed a few pentagons together and then lost interest. Looking at them now, I quite like the two colour one at the bottom; that has possibilities.

This next one is something I definitely want to finish.

I knitted these small, embroidered letters as part of my Alphabet Series in 2012. The idea is to use them as a garland, pegging up the letters to spell out whatever you want to say. I always intended to knit more of the common letters but, again, didn't get round to it. I was pleased to see that I'd packed the letters away with everything I need to carry on with this project though, including a list of the letters still to knit and the felt to back them. I still have some of that blue yarn too so I really must resurrect this.

When I turned out the baskets under my table in search of the bread knife (don't ask), I found this big basket ...

... which turned out to be the home of one of my many unfinished blankets.

Lots of squares and quarter circles, all knitted in Sirdar Snuggly DK. I'd actually knitted quite a lot of this one and most of the yarn I need is there too I think.

I was going to call this one Scrappy Circles I remember. The idea was to sew the quarter triangles to the corners of the squares to make a sort of wooly Drunkard's Path.

This is another project I'd like to finish one day.

I start an awful lot of blankets and most of them never get finished. This one was a bright idea but then the yarn became difficult to find so I lost interest.

The next one is more recent and is based on the shape used in my Patchwork Purse pattern.

When I find an old project that I want to re-start, the first thing to do is to go through my big pile of pattern notebooks, hoping to find some useful notes. According to the notebook, these pastel squares were designed in February 2013.

Now I really like these - heavily textured squares, knitted with My First Regia. My original notes were a bit confusing so I knitted another square, re-writing as I went. The pattern still seemed good to me (this is by no means always the case when I go back to old designs) so I think this is another one to get on with. It would make a lovely baby blanket with all that texture on both sides.

I'm not too sure about these strangely constructed squares though ...

Each square is made up of four identical pieces, overlapped and sewn together where they touch to make pinwheels. The idea was to join the squares as shown in the picture; the back would then look like this ...

Quite nice but a bit fiddly perhaps?

Another pile of squares, this time crochet ones.

Swirls in colours, set in navy blue squares. I had grandiose ideas of turning this into a colour swatch blanket of Stylecraft Special DK, using as many shades as possible. 

While we're looking at crochet, what about this?

This one goes back about ten years and was going to be a shawl, inspired by the ammonites we collected on our Dorset holidays.

I'm not sure you'd know that's what the crochet shapes were meant to be, although maybe they'd improve with blocking.

Do you remember being told that the best things come in small packages? Definitely not true when you're a child hoping that the big, exciting parcel under the Christmas tree is for you. Well, in the case of found projects, it is sometimes true.

Two pretty little tins, each with lovely projects inside. The round one is my collection of crocheted snowflakes.

These are all from the book 100 Snowflakes to Crochet, worked with white thread and a fine hook and starched to use as decorations. When I've made lots of them, they're going to be a garland for the windows of my Winter Wonderland.

The other tin is full of tiny crochet Granny Squares, about 4 cm across and worked with Appletons Crewel Wool.

One day these are going to be my tribute to a lady I never knew who crocheted one of my family treasures.

This lovely stole was made by my Mother-in-law's Mother-in-Law, Eva Hollingsworth, née Jubb in the 1950s. A few years ago I was very excited to find the original pattern that she would have used in this copy of the Vogue Knitting Book from September 1955.

It was one of the 'Italian Originals' mentioned on the cover; unfortunately the photograph is in black and white but still ...

I hope you've enjoyed this look at some of the many things I haven't finished making. I shall be interested to read your comments on them. Are there any I should turn into patterns ... or hide again?!