14 March 2018

Working with Blending Filament

I mentioned at the end of my Christmas Gathering post that I would have a post about working with blending filament, which, let's be honest, is like trying to stitch with fairy hair. There are oodles of hints, tips, tricks, etc. out there for making it a less frustrating experience, and I suppose every stitcher has their own preferred method. I thought I would share mine. I used it a lot in Christmas Gathering, but it doesn't show up well in photos. No matter how hard I tried--different lighting, different angles--I couldn't get a good shot of the sparkliness of this piece. So you'll have to trust me that it is super sparkly, which I achieved by using a slightly unconventional approach to blending filament.

First of all, I don't use it as-is: I strip out the sparkly filament from the nylon thread (that's not the unconventional part). You do this the same way you separate strands of floss, by holding one and pulling straight down on the other. I figure it's going to separate anyway while I'm trying to stitch with it--it always does--so why not save the annoyance. Separate it and get it over with. 

Second, I don't use it with floss. I know you're "supposed" to combine it with floss and stitch with them together, but I don't, for two reasons: 1) The difference in texture creates the same problem I mentioned above: the filament is going to separate from the floss and do it's own thing and you end up having to fiddle with it constantly to keep it neat. 2) The filament is almost always going to be buried in the thicker, heavier cotton floss, resulting in occasional peeks of sparkle instead of the overall shimmery look you want. It's a lot of annoyance for very little sparkle.

So, I complete the floss stitches first, and then go back and stitch over them with blending filament (this is still not the unconventional part). Here's a little tip for you if you mark a working copy like I do. Use a lighter colored pencil to mark the completed stitches that will need to be overstitched with blending filament. As you add the blending filament, mark those completed stitches again with the darker colored pencil you're using for the rest of the chart. This is an easy way to ensure that you know exactly which stitches need blending filament added, and that you don't miss any.

Third--here's the unconventional part!--when I go back and add the blending filament to my completed stitches, I use a half stitch in the opposite direction of the top leg of the completed stitch.

The top leg of my completed stitches looks like this: \\\\\\\\\\
So I stitch the blending filament like this: //////////

The reason I do this is to prevent the blending filament from slipping down between the threads of the top leg of my completed stitches, which it will do, for the reasons I mentioned above. Stitching in the opposite direction ensures the blending filament lies completely on top of the stitch and catches the most light. I've tried countless times to get a shot that shows this--not with great success, as you can see--but if you click on these pictures to make them a bit bigger, you might just be able to make out the iridescent/pinkish blending filament on top of the white stitches.

So that's how I use "fairy hair". It might be a bit of an odd method, but I find that it works well for me. I don't cringe when I see blending filament show up on a supply list for a project! If you struggle with blending filament, I hope this is helpful to you.

Happy Stitching!

12 March 2018

Tea & Stash

Grab a cup of tea or coffee and get cozy, it's time for a stash update!

First of all, thanks so much for all of the sweet comments about Christmas Gathering. It was a little beast of a project, but it was worth it, and I appreciate your kind words. I wasn't blogging as much as I would have liked during February, but sometimes life has an annoying tendency to interfere with stitching and blogging, doesn't it? Amazingly, it doesn't seem to interfere with shopping! I've got several months-worth of goodies to show you, so settle in with your cup of tea and let's get caught up!

Market goodies! It's been a while since I've been this excited about Market. I actually made a list this year! My LNS didn't have everything on my list, but they did have three of my favorites and I was tickled pink! I think Tiger Lily is just as interested in them as I am. Left to right: Antique Beasts & Birds by Elizabeth's Designs (I love the verse on this!); Here a Peep, There a Peep by Brenda Gervais (third in the series); Three Little Kittens by Ink Circles (love, Love, LOVE this one!).

Little paws on my linen... (I won't handle my linen unless I've washed my hands, but I let her walk on it. Go figure.)

I hadn't thought of this rhyme in years and years but when I saw this I was immediately transported back to my childhood. Of course I had to have it. The colors are scrumptious. 

A new Limited Edition GAST color: Cardinal

I adore these little oval designs Brenda Gervais is doing. So far there is a Christmas one and a Halloween one, and now this one. I changed some of the colors, and when I get it stitched I'll list my substitutions. I think I'll be stitching this one soon.

Like most of the rest of the Stitching Universe (it seems!), I'll be stitching LHN's Farmhouse Christmas series. I plan to stitch them individually, and I found this cute box at Michael's to store the set in once I've done the finishing.

When I started stitching 30 years ago, I would never have imagined being able to order kits from Moldova from a seller in Ukraine, and yet here we are. I could not resist these, and frankly, I didn't even try. Just look at that chubby, completely adorable little girl skating with Santa. I mean, c'mon. How cheerful is that design? And a baby fox in a dress? Please. 

Alright, now that we've drooled over new charts and threads, here are some practical goodies. Little bitty magnetic board, perfect for traveling or small projects. I don't know why I didn't already have one of these. So cute. It's about 5 1/2" x 7 1/2". The silver marking pencil is something I've been using for years on colored charts. I use colored pencils to keep track of my progress on my working copies and as a result, I almost never have to frog. When I do, it's never more than a few stitches. For colored charts, I use these silver marking pencils. The metallic lead shows up on them much better than regular colored pencils. And these 4" Fiskars embroidery scissors are my favorite. I got a pair last year and I love them so much I decided to get another pair. They have a very solid, sturdy feel, and they're inexpensive.

Finally, here are a couple of travel pill cases that I found at Jo-Ann Fabrics in one of their odds & ins bins. I thought they would be great for holding beads and charms and other little embellishments. They're about 3" x 2 1/2" and only 1/2" high, so they fit nicely into project bags without taking up much space. Perfect for traveling projects.

Now we're all caught up. I hope I'll be able to stitch and blog more regularly now. I've got a pretty long stitchy to-do list, but the first thing I have to do is excavate my sewing room. It looks like a bear has been in there looking for food. So that's my plan for this week. If y'all don't hear anything out of me by next week, send in the dogs.

09 March 2018

Christmas Gathering

This. design. nearly. drove. me. mad.

This is Christmas Gathering, from the December 2008 issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine. And yes, it's been on my to-do list for that long. I wasn't intimidated by its complexity--it's just fabric and thread; no need to be intimidated by cotton!--but I knew I would have to be in just the right frame of mind to tackle it. I stitch to relax, and I anticipated this would be... ahem... a less-than-relaxing project. I was correct. Oh boy, was I correct. The design is only 4 1/2" on 32 ct. linen, but the instructions filled an entire magazine page. Backstitching, straight stitching, beading, blended needles, highlights, layers, blending filament, fractional stitches, couching... it's all in there. That was very detailed work, but it wasn't what made me nuts. No, what made me nuts were all the mistakes in the chart, and the differences in the instructions and in the way the model was stitched, such that you couldn't tell whether the mistake was in the stitching or in the instructions. I ended up doing a lot of improvisation using the model photo as a guide, which was... not at all relaxing. By the time I finished the center of the design, I was so worn out with this project that I found myself wondering if I liked it better without the border. Knowing myself, I figured that was because I was at a stopping point, and not because I really liked it better without the border, so I put it in "time-out". After a couple of weeks, I forgave it (mostly) and decided to stitch the border, and here it is, all finished. It's stitched with DMC on 32 ct. Smokey White Belfast. There is blending filament in the snow on the ground, in the snowflakes in the greenery over the barn door, and in the couching that makes up the snowy roof line, but the camera isn't seeing it. It's beautifully sparkly.

I'll have a little more to say about working with blending filament in another post, but right now I'm just basking in the glory of having survived this project. And my next project will be super simple.