Limbs!

I’ve been working on my knight puppet. He is now a collection of arms, legs, knee and elbow pads, and what will soon be pantaloons.
12-12-14 Knight

His arms look really weird at the moment, but the elbow pads will help when I assemble him.

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Refocusing

I’ve not blogged for a couple of weeks, due to a combination of begin busy and working on non-photogenic projects.  Please accept this photo of Lily “assisting” me with cutting out a pair of pajama pants as an apology:

You weren't planning on using this any time soon, were you?
You weren’t planning on using this any time soon, were you?

This year has gone very fast for me, and now that it’s December, I’m realizing I really need to focus on my christmas projects… I have five things I’d like to get done before christmas:

1) A pair of fingerless gloves for my little brother.  I’m using the lovely Hidden Gusset pattern from Knitty and some grey Regia sock yarn.

12-1-14 B gloveThis one is probably the most important to me, although knowing my brother, he’d find a glove and a half (still on the needles) under the tree hilarious.  I’d prefer to avoid that, however.

2) A knight on horseback hand puppet from an ancient kit I’ve got.  So far I’ve finished the horse and just need to make the knight.

12-1-14 Horse12-1-14 horse headLook at that cute (or maybe slightly disturbing…) face!  This one needs to be done by Dec 15 if it’s going to get done, as I don’t want to try to finish it at my parents’ house.  It’s not critical that it get done, either.

3) A dragon hand puppet from a similar kit.  This is the one I was working on earlier, but it got put on hold for a bit due to misplacing some of the pieces.  I’ve got them, so I just need to finish it.

Dragon projectLike above, this needs to get done by Dec 15 or not for this year.

4) Chocolate truffles.  I made truffles from How to Cook That‘s chocolate truffle recipes last year, and they were amazing, so I’m going to make them again (I’m planning on making orange, raspberry, caramel, and hazelnut praline).  I can’t start them until I get to my parents’ house, but I do need to write out the ingredient lists in advance so we can get everything we need.

5) Christmas crackers.  I always make homemade crackers to pull.  Like the truffles, this will be done at my parents’ house sometime between the 15th and the 25th.  I need to make some extra crackers this year, so I’ll try to get photographs of the whole process and put up a tutorial on this blog.  While I don’t need to start the crackers themselves yet, I do need to make some extra prizes at some point, which I can do now.

My projects for this year’s holidays work out pretty well, as I have some to do in the next two weeks, and some to do the two weeks after that.  I think I can get them all done, and as long as the gloves, truffles, and crackers get done, I’ll be okay.

What (if any) holiday crafting are you doing?  Or are you more organized than I am and are already done?

I can’t believe I’m saying this…

…but I’m getting kind of sick of blue.

I’ve made quite a lot of progress on my cross stitch in the past couple of weeks:

11-7-14 Morning FlightHowever, most of it is in that bottom right section that’s so. much. blue.  The shades are super close and a bit annoying to keep track of…

11-7-14 Morning Flight closeupOn the other hand, some of the sections are fully filled in and I’m getting closer and closer to changing to the next color!

Cross stitching one color at a time

For my current cross stitching project, I’d decided to stitch one color at a time, across the entire piece. I’m currently adding in the second darkest blue in the bottom right.

10-24 Morning FlightI’ve seen quite a bit of information on parking, and a little bit on doing one section of color at a time, but not a lot about doing all of a single color at once.  Bearing in mind that I am not at all an expert, here are some tips I’ve found so far:

Plan ahead: If you’re going to be jumping around, as I was, you’ll want to look over each major section of a color when you begin, and keep an eye on the next couple of rows as you stitch, so that when you have to jump to a new section, you can do so with the least possible thread on the back.  (Or you could fasten off each end, but that gets obnoxious when you have only two or three stitches in one area.)

Also, before you begin you might want to consider how you’re going to choose your colors.  I saw one video where the stitcher went from the most common color to the least common.  I, instead, chose to work from the background colors to the foreground colors — I sat down with the pattern, color key, and picture from the packaging and worked out what order I wanted to do everything in, then noted that order on the key.

Have a variety of techniques to start and end threads: As much as possible I’ve been catching the beginning of a thread under the stitches I’m about to make and the end under the stitches I’ve just made.  However, that isn’t practical in some cases, such as when I’ve got just one or two stitches in a remote area with no other stitches to help secure the thread.  In those cases, I’ve been using in-line waste knots that I’ll secure with later colors to start threads and a similar strategy where I take the tail a distance away that I’ll stitch over and bring it to the front to secure it to end threads (this is another case where planning is critical, as you need to make sure that you’ll actually secure them).  If I have an even number of threads, I plan on starting with the loop method.

Be prepared to flip your project over: This is somewhat optional, but because of the way I’ve been securing my thread ends, I have been double checking that I am actually stitching over the threads to secure them.  I also tend to run the floss behind any sections I’ve already stitched when jumping to a new area to try to keep the back neater and secure everything better.

Highlight: You’ll definitely need to highlight or otherwise mark up what you’ve done on your pattern, otherwise it’s nearly impossible to keep track of where you are.  I’ve been playing around with using different colors of highlighters, but I think the advantage of that is more to do with keeping me from getting bored than actually helping with the stitching.

Grid your fabric: This is a must, since you’ll be moving around a lot and you really don’t want to be counting 153 stitches in from the left… The grid makes it so much easier to pinpoint where to start (3 squares up, 2 over,  then 3 down and 0 over within that square, etc).

It’s also useful if you have very similar colors, as I have here:

10-24 Morning Flight close

That’s two shades of dark blue, for the record.  Anyway, I found that I had trouble telling if a previous stitch was in the current color or the previous color, which made referencing my location by stitches (for example, stitching along row and stopping two short of the previous color) very difficult.  Having the grid makes it much easier to glance at my pattern and determine what color I’m coming up on so I can tell where to stop and move to the next row.

I did grid with black sewing thread as it’s what I had, but it’s a pain in the butt to avoid splitting it.  I’d recommend a metallic thread, fine fishing line, or something else that can’t possibly be split during stitching.

Areas of scattered stitches take way longer than areas of solid color: Somewhat obvious, but areas of scattered colors are really a pain, as you have to jump around a lot and double check your counts.  I’ve not actually used parking, so I’m not sure if it would be any quicker, but it’s something I’m interested in trying on my next project.

Morning Flight update and DIY needle minder

I’ve been doing a lot of cross stitch this week.  I finished the first color I was working on and added a couple of shades of yellow for the sun:

10-17-14 Morning FlightOne thing that fascinates me about this design is how it uses different numbers of strands of floss and half stitches vs. full crosses to create different effects:

10-17-14 Morning Flight closeThat’s the same color of yellow, but some half crosses are with a single strand and some are with three strands of floss.  Most of my past cross stitching projects have been small images on unstitched fabric and this is my first one with significant background shading, so I’m not sure if this is typical or not.  Those of you who’ve done more projects like this, is it a common feature?

My other minor project was a simple needle minder — you can see it in the first picture.  I’d seen a couple of needle minders on other cross stitcher’s pictures and videos, and I happened to have a couple of broken refrigerator magnets, a random button, and hot glue…

Needle minder 1Needle minder 2I hot glued the button on top of one round magnet, and put the other round magnet on the underside of the fabric.  Eventually I hope to find something prettier than the button to glue to the second magnet, so that I can have the pretty side up and the button on the underside of the fabric.

Morning Flight background

I’ve been mildly obsessed with cross stitching now that I’ve restarted this kit.  (My knitting is suffering!)

10-10-14 Morning Flight largeCan you see a difference?  It’s in the top right corner — I’ve decided to start with the background colors and work my way forward to the foreground, so I’m starting with the color that’s most similar to the fabric.  Here’s a close-up:

10-10-14 Morning Flight closeI’m probably about 1/3 of the way through this color, and I calculated that I have 35 colors of stitching and backstitch to do…

Morning Flight Cross-Stitch

Several years ago, I bought myself a cross stitch kit (specifically, this one).  I did some work on it, but kind of lost focus and haven’t worked on it in literally years.

Recently I pulled it out and decided I didn’t love the way it had been shaping up, so I pulled out the little work I’d done and restarted.  I also decided I wanted to put in a grid of thread to make counting easier.  So far, all I’ve gotten done is that grid…

Eagle Cross Stitch 1As you may be able to see, I started by doing about even amounts of thread on the top and bottom and cut a new thread each time.  Then I got smart and started keeping most of my thread on top and using longer pieces of thread.  The cloth is quite a bit wrinkled at the moment, but I’m not worried about it — it will get creased as I work on it, and straighten up when I wash it and frame it.

Mr. Rex

In order to kick off this blog, I’m showing off a project I finally finished after working on it off and on for over two years.

My grandmother gave my family a number of craft kits years ago that I’ve been gradually working my way through.  This particular kit was for a 20 inch tall soft-sculpture Tyrannosaurus rex, designed by Michelle Lipson in 1976.  Slightly scary to think that the fabric is probably older than I am!

Printed fabricAs you can see, the pre-printed fabric that came in the kit was huge.  That’s a queen-sized bed it’s lying on!  This was back in June 2011.

 

Rex02

Part of the reason this project took me so long was that for a large part of it, I was hand sewing everything.  Once I decided to buy a sewing machine in January 2013, the rest started to come together much faster.

Rex04Mid stuffing.  It’s Einstein Rex!

Rex05Here he is!

Rex06All finished, in August 2013.

Rex07I think he came out pretty cool — I love the detailed print on his face.

Rex08His tiny arms are so cute!  (They were such a pain to turn and stuff, though!)

Rex09I think my favorite part is his back feet, though.  They came out amazingly well — I was really worried about being able to turn the claws, but they came out way better than I’d hoped.

I’m so glad I finally finished this project and I can’t believe it actually took me more than two years!  Of course, now I have to find a spot for a 20″ T. rex somewhere in my apartment….

Anyone else finish a crazy long project recently, or am I the only one who lets stuff drag on this long?