13 September 2023

Down & Out


Or more accurately, out and down, as in: my back went out and I'm down for the count. I'm starting to improve, but I've been flat on my back for a bit, so haven't even been able to use this "time off" to stitch. So, so frustrating. 

The girls are having their first experience with nurse maiding. Tiger Lily was a champion nurse maid. I rarely get sick, maybe once every four years or so, but when I did, she stuck to me like glue. These two have been a bit confused by the strangeness of me being in bed a lot, but they're being good and learning their nursing duties. 

But we need more work on... allowing mom to breathe her own air. We don't need our noses to be half an inch apart.

And also not stealing the heating pad when mom gets up.

Overall grade: B+

Not bad for a first effort, at only a year old. Hopefully, things will be mostly back to normal by the weekend. 

29 August 2023

End of Summer Stash Update

My Year of Winter stitching has been on pause while we moved and I put the house back together. With all of that going on, the only stitching time available had to be devoted to Christmas Open House, which I'm happy to say is coming along nicely. I'm not quite where I wanted to be by the end of summer, but I'm not far off. Given the circumstances, I think I'm okay with it. It's just so annoying when responsibilities get in the way of stitching!

I've been stash shopping here and there since the spring and have accumulated some goodies, so it's time for an update. Let's see what's new in the sewing room!

First, the kits I got to celebrate surviving yet another move. This is my "Yay, Me!" stash. Can you tell I'm missing fall and winter? These are from some Ukrainian shops on Etsy. They take a while to arrive for obvious reasons, but I've found them to be reliable.

Next, I did something I haven't done in years. I bought a copy of the Just Cross Stitch Halloween special issue. Years ago, back when JCS was still owned by Hoffman, I bought the Christmas ornament and Halloween issues every year, and usually one or two regular issues a year. I stopped buying the Christmas ornament issue after 2020, after having bought them every year since the first one in 1997. I hadn't bought a Halloween issue since 2017. I flipped through this year's issue and was pleasantly surprised to find a few little things I would stitch so in a wave of nostalgia, I bought a copy. I miss getting those every year, but for me, the magazines just aren't what they used to be.

I especially like this little guy. Such a unique combination of weird, spooky, and cute. I don't know if I'll be able to do any Halloween stitching this year; it depends on how the rest of the Christmas Open House stitching goes. If I'm close to being finished in October, I might sneak in a project or two.

Of course, with Halloween on my mind, I had to lay in some spooky fabrics. Top to bottom (all PTP fabrics from 123 Stitch): Monster Mash, Mirage, Murky.

Of all the stitchy things to hoard, I tend to squirrel away fabric more than charts or threads. Especially in the last few years, fabric availability seems to be hit or miss, so when I see something I know I'll need for a future project, or even just something I really like, I get it and lay it by. Here are some fabrics I got recently with spring and summer stitching in mind. Left to right: Zweigart Orchid and Lemon, and Sherwood Forest from this Etsy shop. Isn't that a pretty green? I cannot resist green fabric and let's be honest, I don't really try.

Back in the spring I found this little case in the knitting section at Hobby Lobby. It had a plastic insert in the middle with holes in it but I surgically removed it. It's perfect for an ornament-sized project. The front and back have very roomy zipper pockets that will hold a 6" qsnap, and the inside will also hold a 6" qsnap and 12 floss bobbins. For its size, it will hold a lot of stuff.

Lastly, a sunny little bauble. A lot of Etsy shops have these and they are actually supposed to be thread keeps, but I use them to decorate my project bags. Not essential, just pretty. Sometimes you just need to go to the mailbox and have something cheerful waiting for you. And really, one of the best things about a hobby is the toys that go with it!

So that's what's new around here. Thought I'd show y'all some goodies since I can't show you stitching (it's a surprise!) and you may be getting tired of kitties! This is still a stitching blog, after all! 

Happy Stitching!

26 August 2023

Birthday Girls!


We're a year old today!

On 29 October, we brought home two 9-week-old babies from our local rescue under their foster-to-adopt policy. Their litter had been brought in extremely sick and under weight, and they were so tiny and fragile. We could carry both of them in one hand. We spent that first night at the emergency vet.

They're thriving and are growing into delightfully chonky girls (almost 12 lbs!). Butterfly is finding her voice, and using it to be very bossy indeed. She fusses if we're not playing with the correct toy. Marigold is turning into quite the snuggler, especially when she's sleepy. She is also still incredibly soft, like a bunny. I think (?) they have their adults coats, but I'm not certain. They never really had a big shedding of their kitten coats, and I know some cats don't get their full adult coats until they're a couple of years old, so we'll see. They are sweet and affectionate and purr constantly.

Happy Birthday, girls! 

12 August 2023

The Babies Learn to Stitch


Stitching quietly with a fuzzy friend curled up next to you, sleeping peacefully. Is there anything more cozy? Or more unimaginable, if you're raising kittens? Any stitcher who has ever had kittens knows the challenges.

Butterfly and Marigold are our third and fourth kitties. Our first kitty, Shadow, we adopted from a fellow military family who was moving, and decided driving cross country with three kids, a dog, and a cat was too much. They decided to re-home Shadow (thankfully, instead of just leaving him), and we got our first cat. He was 9 years old, huge, black, gorgeously floofy, and the most chilled out gentleman ever. Stitching wasn't a problem.

You all know about Tiger Lily, my heart. She was an extremely calm kitten, and an extremely calm adult. Never bothered anything. No issues with stitching. So having not one, but two, very kitteny kittens has been something of an education. They're good kitties, very sweet temperments, but they were, as most are, very grabby and ever so helpful. They wanted to do all the helping, all the time, with all the things. 

Had I not been outnumbered, I probably would have introduced a single kitten to stitching earlier, but as it was, whenever I tried to do anything with them around, they both mobbed me. I was paranoid about needles and tiny paws and mouths.

My solution was two-fold. First, I decided to wait until they were past the extremely grabby stage and were at the "curious, but if I'm not allowed to play with it, I'll find something else to do" stage. That took a while, but we got there. I was stitching while they were napping elsewhere, but now we can all be together. They come and investigate, but they don't try to play with absolutely everything all the time or crawl all over me.

The second thing I did was buy a hard sided, baby-proof case to sit beside me so that if they became too playful, or if I had to leave the room, I could just plop everything in the case and not worry about them. Marigold is a chewer, and Butterfly is a digger and tunneler, so I wanted something sturdier than a regular stitching bag. I ended up with this:

I got it on Amazon. It's actually a make-up travel case, but it's more like a mini suitcase. 

It holds a nice-sized project.

If I need to, I can just lay my project in there, close the lid, and remove the temptation. It makes for a very calm, stress-free environment where little ones don't learn bad habits and mama doesn't worry about needles and scissors and magnets. We are still working on "mine and yours" generally, but they have already come a long way in learning that needlework is mine, though they do contribute specialty fibers.

Don't know if you have kittens in your future--and really, who does? they tend to just appear--but I thought I'd share a couple of ideas that might help make the kitten/stitching integration process less exciting.

Happy Stitching!

05 August 2023

How I Stitch


Over the years, I have received comments and answered questions about my stitching (the stitching itself, not just the projects) and I've written in a lot of posts about how I stitch and my preferences, but I've never put all of that in one post that's easy to reference. I recently received another question about how I stitch, and it put me in mind to finally just describe it all in one post.

Now, then. You may notice I've entitled this post, "How I Stitch" and not "How To Stitch." If you've been in the stitching community for any length of time, you may have noticed some stitchers are oddly defensive of the way they stitch, with references to "the Stitching Police" thrown around any time someone offers tips or suggestions for how to stitch or improving stitches. I don't know why this is the case. Perhaps it has to do with being taught to stitch by beloved mothers and grandmothers, and any suggestion of a different method is interpreted as criticism and taken very personally.

Let me say up front, I don't care how you stitch. I've mentioned before, I once watched a video of someone stitching in hand using the sewing method, and I almost passed out from anxiety, but I would never dream of telling that person they're doing it wrong. That's me, that's my issue. If they enjoy it and are happy with the results, that's what matters. Unless I'm asked, I keep my thoughts (and anxieties!) to myself.

But since I've been asked a number of times, here goes! Make yourself a cup of tea and settle in because this is gonna be long. If you're not as happy as you want to be with how your stitches look, maybe you'll find something helpful. If you're happy with your stitches, sit back and behold the struggles of a perfectionist. When I was asked what "my secret" was, I responded "I'm compulsive!" I kinda wasn't joking. 

Fabric Tension

I stitch with my fabric as tight as possible. My preferred tools are q-snaps, and I have a large collection that allows me to stitch any size design, from very small to very large (like this and this). Scroll rods and hoops are other tools for keeping fabric taut, but I find they don't work as well for me as q-snaps. I like the even tension on all sides they provide. That even tension pulls the holes of the fabric open, which is important for pretty stitches. This is one reason why I don't stitch in hand. (The other is keeping the fabric clean, but we'll get to that.) 

A couple of things about q-snaps:

I never, ever put the snaps over my stitches. That's why I have so many sets, which allows me to make frames of any size and shape to accommodate the entire design inside the frame, without having to reposition it or put the snaps over stitching. And yes, I have left designs on them for years, and it makes no difference because the snaps are always over the excess fabric around the sides.

The snaps will get loose over time, a problem which is easily solved by putting strips of white felt under them. 

Fabric, Thread, & Needle Size

I stitch on 28 or 32 count linen or even weave, using two strands of thread, with a Bohin 28 needle. (Bohin 28s will go through a standard size 11 seed bead, so I can stitch and bead at the same time without switching needles. I only use a beading needle if I'm using petite beads.)

I don't use thread conditioner; I've never seen the need for it.

I like my stitches to look like mosaic tiles, not little x's with a lot of fabric showing through, and I find that two strands on either 28 or 32 count gets the job done, as long as I'm...


In my opinion, the single most important thing you can do to make stitches prettier is to railroad. I did a post about railroading years ago, and as I mentioned there, was surprised how many stitchers had never heard of it. Though it may slow you down a bit at first, it's quite easy and makes a huge difference in how stitches look.

Stitch Construction & Direction

This is where I really let my perfectionist flag fly, y'all. And this is also where, I think, there is the most variance in how we stitch: top right to bottom left? top left to bottom right? bottom left to top right? cross each stitch as you go? one leg, right to left, crossing on the way back? There are so many different ways to construct a stitch.

The point here is not to critique each method for constructing a stitch (or row of stitches), but to point out that the different methods produce different results. If you use different methods in the same project, it will be noticeable, and the overall look will not be as uniform as you might want. There is a common saying in the stitching community that as long as the top leg of the stitches all go in the same direction, nothing else matters. That's very true, if that's what matters most to you. If, however, you're interested in your stitches looking as uniform as possible, the construction and direction of your stitches matters. A row where the bottom leg is stitched and then crossed on the way back will look slightly different from a row where each stitch is completed before the next.

I make the bottom leg of my stitch from the top right to the bottom left, stitch a row of these bottom legs from right to left, then come back and make the top leg of the stitches from top left to bottom right. From what I've observed over the years, both from "official" instructions and my fellow stitchers, this is sort of an unconventional method, as most seem to construct their stitches bottom to top, instead of top to bottom. However, top to bottom is how I was taught as a five-year-old, and the motion of drawing the thread toward me in a downward motion has always seemed more natural than drawing it away from me in an upward motion. It's also how I write an X: the right stroke first, top to bottom, then the left stroke, top to bottom. So it's an intuitive motion for me. Yours is probably different, and that's fine. Just choose a method and stick with it for the most uniform results.

Since I mentioned that I stitch the bottom leg of a row of stitches first, and then come back and cross them, you may be wondering how I follow the "cross each stitch as you go" rule for hand-dyed and variegated threads.

Answer: I don't.

In fact, it's my favorite rule to break. Years ago, I did an entire post about how to stitch with variegated threads and described the different methods, with photos of the results of each method. I won't repeat all that here, but the short answer is, I generally dislike the stripey look produced by crossing each stitch as I go, so I just stitch with variegated threads as I would any other. And I often mismatch the strands if I'm stitching something with lots of texture (trees, grass, hair, fur, etc.).

Speaking of rules, there's also a rule that you should always "come up in a clean hole and go down in a dirty hole", meaning you should always bring your needle up in a hole with no other threads, and down in a hole that already holds threads. I don't pay much mind to this rule either, as I find that if the fabric is stretched taut on q-snaps or something else, the holes are pulled open enough that it doesn't matter. If, however, you don't stitch on tight fabric, you might find this rule useful. 

Washing and Ironing

If you've been around the stitching community any length of time, you'll probably have noticed the subject of washing needlework is as touchy as religion and politics. Here again, my position is "you do you, and I'll do me." I don't wash my projects, but if you do, that's just fine.

I was brought up in a family of needleworkers, and though I'm generally a breaker of stitching "rules", the one I absolutely will not violate is to never pick up my stitching without having washed my hands. I learned this as a little one stitching huge x's on a piece of gingham fabric (one x per each colored square; a great way to teach children to stitch, by the way), and I've followed it religiously. I do not touch fabric without having washed my hands, not even to look through it or cut it.

I iron my fabric before I put it on the q-snaps. If necessary, I give it a very light mist of water before ironing. I've never had hand-dyed fabric bleed, even if it's not colorfast. I place the ironed fabric on the q-snap and it stays there, nicely stretched, until the project is completed. When it's done, I remove it and stretch it for finishing or framing. So in that process, I'm working with a clean, pressed, and stretched piece of fabric from start to finish.

I can hear the objections: the oils from your skin, you've been handling the threads if not the fabric, there will be marks you can't see, etc.

All I can say is, for me, it's not a problem. We have needlework in our family that's 50+ years old, hanging on the wall, and it looks fine. It was stitched with clean hands, using a scroll frame or hoop, and all is well. My LNS of many years didn't recommend washing a finished piece unless it was visibly dirty or had been stitched in hand. But I'm sure there are others that do recommend it. The point is, do what you're comfortable with. If you want to wash, take precautions for bleeding and wash away. If you don't want to wash, take precautions for cleanliness and skip it. 


So those are the basics of how I stitch. Hopefully it's helpful, if you needed help. If you didn't, carry on! We each have to pursue this craft in a way that makes us happy, otherwise, what's the point? 

One last thing: tabs are your friend! The tabs at the top of the page have loads of information from years and years of posts, the "how to" and "finishing" tabs particularly. 

Happy Stitching!

25 July 2023

Christmas in July!


Merry Christmas in July!    

It's been a year since I've done any finishing and framing. What with losing Tiger Lily, taking on two very fragile kittens only a couple of weeks later, and moving again, I just didn't have the time or mental energy for it. As I explained to Mr. Wonderful, for me, finishing and framing is totally absorbing in a very therapeutic way, but it's also somewhat exacting work. So while it's good for what ails you, you can't be too ailing to actually do it. At least that's how it is for me. Finally being able to get into my sewing room and just disappear into my work has been so nice. Wanna see what I've been doing?

First up, a couple of Rudolph finishes: Rudolph & Friends by With Thy Needle & Thread (left) and Rudy Reindeer by Just Nan.

Rudolph is stitched on 32 ct. Flax linen with just a couple of thread changes. I brightened up the red and greens by using GAST Buckeye Scarlet (best red ever) and swapping Weeks Oscar for Weeks Garrison, and Weeks Kudzu for Weeks Oscar. I finished it with green chenille trim from Hobby Lobby and added a wee cardinal carrying a candy cane.

I stitched Rudy with the recommended DMC on 32 ct. raw opalescent Belfast linen. I made a small change to his eyes to slightly alter his expression. 

Second, snacks! (Actually, snacks should always be first.) Both designs are by Little House Needleworks, Hot Cocoa and Peppermint Twist.

Hot Cocoa is stitched on 28 ct. Coffee jobelan with the recommended DMC, except I used--you guessed it--Buckeye Scarlet instead of the rosey shade in the model. Trimmed with a little shell heart and a sprig of pine.

*****Recipe Break*****

Speaking of cozy drinks, here's a nice, simple recipe for a hot drink that's perfect for bedtime, or any time you want something soothing and not quite as rich as cocoa.

Vanilla Milk Mix

1 c. non-dairy creamer (dry)
1 c. French Vanilla creamer (dry)
1 c. dry milk powder
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. corn starch

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. For vanilla milk, place a generous 1/4 c. mix in a mug and fill with boiling water. Stir well. ***Mr. Wonderful adds instant espresso to his mug, which is very nice, but defeats the purpose of a sleepy bedtime drink. To each his own.

*****Back to Stitching*****

Peppermint Twist is stitched on 28 ct. Lamb's Wool linen with the recommended threads, except (all together now!) I swapped the Weeks Aztec Red for GAST Buckeye Scarlet. Y'all, there's just no other red for me, especially for Christmas designs! I made the embellishment using purchased wired trim that I wound into a peppermint.

Finally, a very sweet pair of designs by Cosford Rise Stitchery on Etsy that I showed in this post, where I also included a link to the shop and all the information on how I stitched these. I finally got them framed in matching 6" green frames from Mill Hill.

So there you have it, a little taste of Christmas in July. I really, really needed some sewing room therapy and I'm happy I can still remember how to finish and frame! I'm also working hard on this year's Christmas Open House. It's my tenth, and I'm trying to pull together a whopper! I'm a bit behind where I want to be at this point, but given the circumstances, I'm not as far off as I could be. 

I know most of the country is absolutely sweltering, and Christmas and a hot, cozy drink are probably the farthest things from your mind, but here on the ol' blog it's cool and Christmas-y and we're ignoring summer.

19 July 2023

It's Party Time


In my last post, I said when I finished the house I would let y'all know and we'd have a stash party to celebrate. Break your piggy banks, y'all! I'm done! Well, I'm calling it done. There are a few things left to do, but they're the straggly kind of odds and ends that always follow a move, and there aren't many of them, so... done. Let's all treat ourselves to some stash to celebrate, because I had to battle to get this done and y'all have been encouraging me all the way. I am exhausted and so ready for a long rest. I feel like I've been in moving mode for the last 18 months, since I first started taking apart the house at our last duty station. I can finally breathe and settle.

In other news, the girls and I are unsupervised this week! It's the first time I've been on my own with the werewolves, but Mr. Wonderful is on TDY so hopefully they'll behave and not cause too much chaos. I plan to just hibernate, rest, and work in my sewing room. I have so much stitching, framing, and finishing to catch up on.

So it's party time. If you're celebrating with me, I'd love to know what stash you got. Now that I'm done with this never-ending move, I hope to be posting more regularly and sharing what I'm working on. Thanks for all the support and encouragement! Back soon!

Happy Stash Shopping!

10 June 2023

Saturday Sampler: Werewolf Edition

Y'all, look at the size of these girls. They'll be 10 months old at the end of the month and are both pushing 10 pounds. Hard to believe that for some time after we got them we were fighting for every ounce. I had a fatigue/relief breakdown when I finally got them to 3 pounds. It felt like such a milestone. And now, what sturdy little beasts! We call them "the werewolves" because, well, look at 'em. Our precious Tiger Lily was so light and beautiful, and these two are dark and wild-looking, with fuzzy "werewolf paws" and they make such weird noises. Butterfly even howls!

So that's the baby update. The house update is that I'm still working on it. *sigh* We need to have a party when I get it done. I'll let you know, and we can all buy stash to celebrate. How does that sound?

07 June 2023

Fabric Fun


New fabrics have come to live at my house! Aren't these pretty?

I got this little pansy cushion chart and while I was at it, picked up the 32 ct. Weeks Lilac linen for it. This will be a project for next spring.

This is 32 ct. Weeks Red Pear. It's not quite as pink as it appears in the picture. This is for a Christmas Open House project.

And this is a new Zweigart fabric, or at least new to me, as I hadn't seen it before. It's 32 ct. white mini dots on green. It's also available in green dots on white, and white dots on blue. This will also be for a spring project next year.

Thank you for your well wishes on my last post. I'm not sick or anything like that, just wore slap out, as we say in my family. Translation for those who don't speak Texan: exhausted. But I'm chipping away at the house, albeit slower than I'd like, and I am stitching, and as you can see, I've managed enough strength to shop!