Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Stitching in flight - Tips for successful in-flight cross stitching

Queensland school holidays begin at the end of this week - a time of travel, relaxation and a chance to catch up on stitching projects. I am having a week off these holidays (public servants do not get the full school holidays) and am going to Brisbane for a few days- a journey that (this time) will involve 1 1/2 hours in a plane and 10 hours in a car. Perfect stitching time!

Stitching while travelling takes a bit of preparation but I find it the perfect time to catch up on my stitching- what else is there to do while sitting in an airport, on a plane, or in a car (providing you aren't driving of course!!). As I plan my holiday stitching I thought I'd share my preparations:

1. The project itself - this will often depend on what I'm currently in the middle of, however smaller is always better!  Takes up less room in the suitcase, plus it's easier to manage in the car or on the plane :).  My favourite travel material these days is plastic canvas because it doesn't need a frame.  I've got a couple of projects on the go at the moment, but I'm going to be taking my newest pattern in order to finish the test stitch.  It measures 30 by 30, but doesn't have too many colours and fits nicely in a smaller frame.

2. The pattern - I tend to find it a good idea to only take a photocopy of your pattern with you, rather than the original.  That way if you spill your drink on your pattern or lose it in transit, you will still have your original waiting safely for you when you return.  These days, with the wonders of technology I no longer have to take a paper copy with me - my patterns are either PDFs saved on my iPad or computer, or photographs/scans of the originals.  Even more space saved :)
I think I've got the "spare needles"
 point covered

3. Extra needles - so very important!  Invariably if I forget to pack extras I will loose my needle within the first half hour.  Guaranteed.  I have a cute little tin that came free with a magazine that has a magnetic strip in the lid - very useful for keeping your needles organised (or at least together!)

QSnap Frame

4. Frame - unless I'm using plastic canvas or the project is minuscule, I never stitch without a fame.  The loss of tension frustrates me and I find I get too many knots.  I love my frames.  I have a couple of smaller hoops that are not only suitable for smaller projects, but perfect travel size.  However these days I prefer to use the plastic snap frames than hoops, and during my visit to the craft fair in March, I picked up a lovely small one (6") that fits nicely in my travel pack.

The Clover Thread Cutter Pendant

5. Thread cutter - with airport rules what they are these days you have to be so careful about scissors.  The last thing you want to do is loose your good pair at airport security!  One of my best travel investments years ago was the Clover Thread Cutter Pendant.  Worth its weight (which isn't much) in gold.  It's airport safe and can be worn on a chain around your neck (although the small opening means you need to be selective about which necklace you use!).

Triumph LED light

6. Light - another recent purchase at the craft fair was a small LED clip-on light.  Originally designed/marketed for reading, I find it the perfect travel size for stitching in the car and plane.  Now I have excellent light throughout the flight, even when they dim the cabin lights and without disturbing my fellow passengers, plus I don't lose valuable stitching time in the car after the sun goes down.

7. Carrying bag/box - last but certainly not least is the all important carrying box.  For many years I used a soft calico bag to keep my stitching supplies together while on holidays, which worked well, although didn't always keep the sand and dirt out, and wouldn't keep everything dry if it was dropped in water or had a drink spilled on it.  I've recently invested in some small plastic storage boxes to keep my WIPs in, and they are perfect for travelling.  The small 500ml and 1 litre sizes are great for stitching projects - everything folds up neat and tidy.  Best of all, they are dirt and water proof, and fit perfectly in my handbag for carry-on luggage.  The light won't fit inside, but that can go separately in my handbag.

8. A couple of other items - these aren't essentials, however can be useful depending on the project
Mini Highlighter - to help keep my place on my cross stitch pattern.  This is becoming less and less of a useful item as I move to PDF and scanned patterns on the iPad, but is still very valuable for the good old paper copies.
Thread Heaven - to keep my metallic threads in a usable condition.  And it comes in a lovely travel sized box.

Now that all the important packing is done, I suppose I should start on the rest of it.  You know, clothes and stuff.

I'd love to hear your stitchy travelling tips.

Happy stitching!!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

How To... Stitch With Variegated Threads

Have you ever used the colour variation threads?  Colour Variation or variegated threads are multicoloured threads that are dyed to gradually change colour along the length.  I find them a great way to add a little demension and flair to my stitching, although I often find it difficult to identify an appropriate pattern to use them in!  One of the joys of designing my own patterns I guess :-)
DMC Colour Variations
For a long time I was put off using variegated threads - how do you use a thread that changes colour as you stitch?  How on earth was I meant to make that work?  Then I stitched "Wizard in a Magical Land" by Cross-Stitch Collection which used variegated threads in both the moon and the boarder, and a whole new world opened up to me.  It took me a bit to get used to this strange floss, but I learned some tricks along the way and thought I should share them with you.
The moon and boarder from
"Wizard in a Magical Land"

 1. Identify the colour pattern along the thread - variegated threads have a repeated pattern, fading from one colour to the next - sometimes it's hard to identify (depends on how the threads was dyed).  Try to cut your length of thread at the end of one of the repeated patterns.  This way, when you cut the next length the pattern should be the same and you can continue stitching without a massive jump in colour.

2. Don't double your thread over - as in don't use the loop-start method.  You need to keep the two threads together so that the pattern will show up.  Use the starting method where you secure the end as you stitch.

3. Stitch each cross individually.  Normally when cross stitching, you stitch the bottom half for a whole row and then come back and do the top half.  When using variegated threads, it is better to stitch each cross individually so that the colour pattern shows through.

4. When you have to start a new length of thread, try to match the colour as much as possible, keeping in mind the ends from starting and finishing off the length

5. Identify if there are any folds, double backs etc in your stitching.  For example, when stitching the Breast Cancer Ribbon, the ribbon is meant to look like it folds back over itself.  Keep this in mind when stitching and try to follow the direction of the ribbon - stitch around the ribbon as if you were laying it out on the table, rather than just stitching whole rows.

6. Just have a go!  Don't be put off - have a go and see what you can come up with.  You never know what you might discover.

Looking for a project to try out your new skill?  The Breast Cancer Ribbon and Cinderella's New Shoes patterns are designed using variegated threads.  
The Breast Cancer Ribbon jewellery
I'd love to see what you're stitching - why not post a photo on my facebook page?

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A New Pattern for Breast Cancer Research

There's a new pattern now available from the Fangirl Stitches Etsy store - the Breast Cancer Ribbon Jewelry (or Jewellery if you're American)!

This was one of the patterns I designed to enter into the local Agricultural Show - the theme was "A pretty pink item suitable for the Breast Cancer Function" - and it won the class (as described in my previous post).  The shading comes from using DMC colour variations thread 4180 (Rose Petals)

$1.00 from each pattern sold will be donated to Australian Breast Cancer Research.

As I was listing the pattern I realised how easy it would be to adapt to suit the myriad of different coloured Ribbon Days.  I think I will adapt and re-list the pattern in order to raise some money for other groups, however until that happens why not buy the pattern and use the suggestions below to adapt it to suit the appropriate charity.  I've listed a metallic and a colour variations:

Not all of these are symbolised by the ribbon, but I think it still works. When I started making this list, I had no idea how many Colour Days were out there!  And then I found this list.  Far too many for me to list them all and I'll start getting myself confused between different countries and dates....  Please do list any that I've missed in the comments section and I'll edit and add them to the list above with thread suggestions - I think some are more well-known than others, and are more linked to a particular colour than others.

In the meantime, happy stitching!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Show Success

I've just returned home after a long day at the Emerald Agricultural Show.  Our church is paid by the Show Society to run the car-parking (directing people on where/how to park), so I've been up at the showgrounds since 7:30 this morning directing cars, and then wandering around looking at all the displays, exhibits, show jumping, dog shows, catching up with folk from around the local area, and helping a friend chase her two littlies around the kids performances and rides.

It was also a very successful Show for me this year, with my stitches winning four first places and a second!

This blackwork lady - Pearl by X-Calibre Designs - received a first in the "Item for the Bedroom" class.  I originally listed her under "any other handicraft" as our Show doesn't have a blackwork section, and I didn't want her competing against my other cross stitches, however the stewards decided this was a better section for her.  Since she got a first, I didn't mind where they listed her!

The first of my cross stitch entries, Shadow of An Angel by Zolotoje Runo, which received a first in the Counted Cross Stitch class.  I've discovered that glass on black material becomes a really good mirror - need to try and get a better photo!  I was a little surprised to discover this one received the first over my other entry, mainly because of the significant difference in effort that had gone into each, but the judge doesn't know any of that and at least I was beaten by myself!  I love this design - it was actually quite easy to stitch, and I'd really like to stitch more of them in the future.

Speaking of my other entry, this is it: Aurelia by Mystic Stitches.  There are 86000 stitches, and she took 4 1/2 years to stitch (with several other projects completed when I needed a break).  As I said, I was a little surprised she received the second (when compared to Shadow of an Angel), but at least I beat myself.  And I wasn't the only entrant either!  There were actually a number of other entrants in the counted cross stitch class this year, which is great as some years there have only been one or two... or none at all!

These three were all framed by the same local framer.  I ran into him and his wife today - they decided that it must have been the framing that gave these stitches the winning touch. :-)

My third entry in the counted cross stitch section was Judy by Classic Embroidery.  Unsurprisingly she didn't place next to the other two, but since it was only a $1 entry fee, and a chance to show off some of my work - why not?

There were also two themed classes in the Handicraft section.  The first was to celebrate 100 years of the Australian Red Cross.  I think the description of the class was 'an item of any medium related to the Australian Red Cross' (I've managed to misplace the show guide).  This one I designed myself using ProStitch and an image of the Australian Red Cross logo.  Trying to get the letters to look right while at an angle was the hardest part!  If I'd had more time I would have filled in the letters, but as it was I only managed to finish stitching and display it (stretched over canvas) 30 minutes before I had to drop it off.  Now I need to work out what to do with it - suggestions appreciated!

The second themed class was "A pink item suitable for the Breast Cancer Function".  I designed and stitched a pair of pink ribbon earrings and a dual pink ribbon necklace.  I used one of DMCs new pink variegated threads which gave the 'ribbon' a really nice shaded look, and I'm really happy with the finished look.  This pattern will be up on the Etsy site this weekend, with proceeds being donated to cancer research (once I work out the best way to do it).

So that's it for me at the Emerald Show this year.  I was going to enter some photos but didn't get myself organised in time - there's always next year!  I heard a (fairly substantiated) rumour today that one of next year's themes will be Gallipoli/Anzac given that it will be 100 years since the Gallipoli landing - time to get planning.

Happy stitching!!