27 March 2016

A Visit From the Easter Bunny!

I whipped up this sweet little freebie on Saturday. It's stitched with GAST Toasted Barley, a smidgeon of white for the cotton tail, and Caron Wildflowers in Easter Egg (naturally!).

Hope the Easter Bunny brings you something sweet!

23 March 2016

How To Stitch With Variegated Thread

"How do I stitch with variegated thread?" I have seen this question asked so many times, and it's about as broad a question as asking, "What should I eat?" Broad questions usually get broad answers like, "It depends," and that's usually the only answer that can be given without asking half a dozen more questions: What do you like? Are you eating to lose weight? Are you eating for comfort? Can you cook? Do you have food allergies? etc., etc., etc. 

When a stitcher asks, "How do I stitch with variegated thread?" my mind becomes bogged down with questions: What effect are you trying to achieve? What object are you stitching? What type of variegated thread are you using? Are you trying to be frugal with your thread? etc., etc., etc. I've had a post like this in my mind for some time, and I decided to finally put it together after seeing the question asked several times in about a week.

This post is intended as a starting point for exploring the many ways variegated threads can be used. It's by no means exhaustive. And of course, the bottom line is that you can do whatever you want, because it's your stitching and all that matters is that you like it. Pretty much everything I say or show you will be qualified with, "It depends," because it does. (Bonus points to anyone who counts the number of times I use that word or some form of it!) Ready? Here we go: Variegated Threads 101!

The first thing I want to show you is the different types of variegated threads (from now on, VT for short). These "types" are how I think of the differences in VT. Someone else may classify them differently (or not at all), but for my purposes, this is how I do it. To my way of thinking, there are three basic types: one color high-contrast (122), one color low-contrast (4045), and multi-color.

The "one color high/low contrast" threads are exactly what they sound like. In this example, both threads are multiple shades of the same green, but as you can see in the photo below, the high-contrast thread has shades ranging from almost white to dark green, while the low-contrast thread has much less variance in shades.

Full Stitch:
From what I have seen, the most common way VT are used is by completing a full stitch before moving on to the next stitch, as opposed to stitching a row of the bottom leg of the stitch, and then coming back along the row and stitching the top leg. The conventional wisdom is that this produces a more smooth, gradual color change. In large areas of stitching, it also produces a striped effect. It also uses a lot of thread. Here is an example of what the three types of thread look like when stitched completing a full stitch:

In the above photo, you can see why the type of VT makes a difference. In the top example (high-contrast), your range of color is from very pale green to very dark green, while in the middle example (low-contrast), there is much less variance, even in the same number of stitches. This matters a lot if you're stitching a large area. Something else to consider: how gradual or abrupt are the color changes in the VT? You can see in the top example that the color changes are very gradual, while in the middle example the color changes are much shorter along the length of the thread. The high-contrast VT will give you much smoother shading, but over a large area will look much more striped or color-blocked than the low-contrast VT. It depends on the effect you want, and if you want to take the trouble to cut the thread into lengths with matching shading.

Half Stitch:
When stitching with VT, stitching a row of half stitches and then coming back along the row to complete the stitch (as you would when using non-VT) is considered something of a no-no in certain quarters. I've never bought into this, as with everything else, it depends on the look you want. The argument against it is that it creates a "muddy" look to the stitching and doesn't show off the full range of pretty shades of color in VT. Here's an example of the half-stitch method right next to the full stitch method we just examined:

As you can see, in the one color examples the difference is not quite as striking as you may have expected. Clearly this is a small sample size and the effect would be somewhat more pronounced on a larger scale, but if you want or need to be frugal with your thread, the difference might not be great enough to justify the extra thread used for the full stitch method. Another thing to consider is ease of stitching. I'm much faster stitching a half stitch in one direction and completing the stitch in the other direction than I am stitching a full stitch each time. And personally, I think the half stitch method results in a more textured look to the stitches, which I like. But--all together now!--it depends on the look you want. As for the multi-color thread, the half stitch method gives you two-color stitches and a very mottled, subtle look. You still have all the colors, but they're sort of swirled together and softened.

This third method is one that I like to do. I'm sure it's not original to me, but I haven't seen it mentioned in the many discussions of VT I've read. The method is simply to mismatch the strands you've cut for stitching. Cut your length of thread, pull out your two strands, and then mismatch them, like this:

Then stitch using the half stitch method. Here's the result, next to the two we've already looked at:

I love this method for one color VT. You will still see some subtle striping or color blocking in the high-contrast example, but it pretty much eliminates that in the low-contrast example. I used this method on an evergreen tree on my Christmas ornament last year and loved the textured look it gives the stitching. In the multi-color example, you now have four-color stitches (two colors in the bottom leg, two in the top) and the result is a very soft wash of color, almost like a water color. Obviously, this technique will be more successful with some VT than it will be with others. For example, I don't think it would be very successful with a red/white/blue VT, but then again... it depends!

The final method we'll look at is what I call "pattern" stitching. You don't have to stitch in rows... you can stitch around the outside of the area and work your way in (top), you can start in the center and work your way out, you can stitch in a checkerboard pattern (middle), you can stitch on the diagonal (bottom). Here are a few examples:

For the checkerboard pattern, which results in a nice random look, stitch every other stitch in rows top to bottom (or bottom to top):

And then fill in the blank spots by stitching in columns left to right (or right to left):

So there we have it--my version of Variegated Threads 101! Keep in mind that this post is intended only as a starting point for using VT, and as a quick reference for the next time someone asks, "How do I stitch with variegated threads?" My preferred answer is, "However you want!" but I know as stitchers we like to have a visual on what to expect for results. Hopefully this has been helpful. Remember, it's just floss and fabric... experiment!

Happy Stitching!

22 March 2016

Tea Lovers: Goodie Alert!

I got these in the mail today and I couldn't wait until the Saturday Sampler to share! How adorable are these buttons?!

They're available here but are very limited. There is also a set of counting pins, and a set of pins and buttons for coffee lovers. I am now on a quest for a design to stitch to showcase these buttons. If I don't find one I like, I may just design my own!

19 March 2016

Saturday Sampler

How we started our Saturday: greeting an Honor Flight. We got to meet a 90-year-old veteran of both D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. It was our honor to shake his hand and thank him for what he did for us. As they exit the plane, the veterans are greeted by an applauding line of active-duty service members in service dress, but civilians always end up joining in the greeting. Here you can see the line to greet the veterans stretches all the way down the terminal. The veterans walk or are wheeled down the line, to applause, handshakes, waving flags, and tears. It's the best.

 Then we visited one of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the area. I'm a huge fan. This was Mr. Wonderful's first visit to a FLW house, and he's now a fan, too. 

We stopped by the area LNS on the way home and I got a few small pieces of fabric, including Violet Mist and Confederate Grey, and I also picked up a new Jeannette Douglas design. I just love the cheerful colors in this piece.

Speaking of cheerful colors, check out this necklace I got. Isn't it pretty? It's available here in several different colors. It's well made, has a nice weight to it, and is long so it can be worn doubled.

So that was my very busy Saturday, ending a very busy week. Hopefully next week will be quiet because I didn't stitch a minute this week!

16 March 2016

DMC 250th Anniversary Sampler

I was poking around in my stash earlier this week and came across a little project I did 20 years ago and thought I would share it. It's an adaptation of a freebie that DMC issued to celebrate their 250th anniversary back in 1996. Here's the anniversary sampler:

And here's my adaptation for one of those small vinyl covers used for checkbooks or notepads.

The copyright on the sampler is held by The DMC Corporation and there is a restriction on the design saying that it "may only be reproduced for teaching purposes." It was designed by Cross 'N Patch Needlework Designs, Emie Bishop. 

12 March 2016

Saturday Sampler

Tiger Lily is recovering from her annual winter ear infection. I'm happy to report she's feeling much better after Thursday's trip to the vet, and she's being such a good girl getting her ear drops twice a day. 

We had a very warm week and spring is on the way!

More stash has found its way to my house... the new LHN design and some white and red Newport linen ornament cuts that I thought would be cute for Christmas ornaments.

Super cute wood fox buttons from Jo-Ann Fabrics.

Spring finishing goodies and some pink gingham linen. Those pretty flowery buttons are also from Jo-Ann's.

And finally, my triumph of the shopping trip: Adorable ALERT! Just look at this pin cushion, y'all! 

This is also from Jo-Ann's and it was 30% off. Couldn't pass it up!

09 March 2016

Sunday Mystery Sampler Update: Ninth Day

For this block I was thinking of an evening supper party and that's where the lantern came from. I used nine sprigs of mistletoe to represent the nine ladies, borrowing the garland from the Fourth Day and adding the mistletoe berries. I also used the large snowflake from the Third Day.

My color choices (apart from the border, all threads are Caron Wildflowers):
border: DMC 938
words: Blackwatch
crown: Spice
snowflakes: Dawn
garland: Moss
mistletoe: Snow White
lady: Amethyst
lantern: Dark Shadows
candle: Natural
flame: Spice, Marigold
heart: Cinnabar

I wish I could get a picture of this that I'm happy with. The colors are so vivid and the camera just isn't doing them justice. I'll keep trying!

07 March 2016

Sunday Mystery Sampler Update: Eighth Day

Here's my version of the Eighth Day of the Plum Street Samplers free Sunday Mystery Sampler. I took some inspiration from the Sixth Day where six eggs represent the six geese and used eight snowflakes to represent the eight milkmaids milking cows on a snowy morning. I used the crown from the First Day and the large snowflake from the Second Day.

My color choices (apart from the border, all threads are Caron Wildflowers):
border: DMC 938
words: Cinnabar
heart: Cinnabar
crown: Spice
snowflakes: Dawn
milkmaid: Storm Clouds
milk pail: Dense Fog
cows: Copper

I'll be working on the Ninth Day over the next several days, so I should have that to show you soon. I also plan to add a few snowflakes to the First Day, because it's the only block that doesn't have any.

05 March 2016

Saturday Sampler

More polka dot fabric and more Fabric Flair natural with silver for my fabric hoard. The natural with silver is perfect for a beautifully subtle snowy background, as you can see on my 2015 Christmas ornament

A snowy morning... our last of the winter?

A gorgeous snowy sunset.

A cozy kitty, curled up on clean laundry (this happens if I don't fold it fast enough).

And finally, for all you Plum Street Samplers Sunday Mystery Sampler fans, here's a sneak peek of my interpretation of the eighth day. Yes, I've got my version all charted out and I'm stitching as fast as I can, which as y'all know, is slow. 

I've got my version of the ninth day charted out too, so stay tuned!

02 March 2016

Woodland Sampler: October & November Blocks

Me again! Trying to catch up on some WIPs that I lost track of last fall. Just the December and date blocks left on this one and it'll be a finish. Seriously considering fudging the date and stitching 2015 instead of 2016 since most of this sampler was stitched last year, and I'll remember it as having been stitched in 2015 anyway. See, I can do that since I make the rules. Isn't stitching fun?

01 March 2016


January and February were a train wreck, stitching-wise. No major crisis here at home (thankfully), just a total, complete, and epic fail at making time to stitch. On one hand, my stitching plan for the year appears to be in shambles... on the other hand, it's only March 1st. If I can't make up some ground in the next ten months I might as well hang up my scissors! So, off we go!

Speaking of scissors, I have a finish to share! This freebie is stitched on 28 ct. Purple Dot with Silver Fabric Flair fabric using Caron Wildflowers in Amethyst. I've had the little scissors charm forever and have no idea where I got it. 

I'm not super fond of purple, but I wanted this design to be sort of boisterous, so out came the purple polka dots! It's reeeeally purple, but I like it. It's fun. 

Glad to be back... hopefully I'll be around more!