Sunday, 31 May 2015

How To... Make Biscornu

I've been having fun making biscornu this week and want you all to share the fun so I've made this handy guide.  Have fun!

1. Stitch the two halves of the biscornu - make sure the two squares are exactly the same size.

Don't forget the backstitch line around the boarder - this is really important for joining the two halves together.

2. Trim the two halves, leaving a 1/8" boarder - I found a 3 square boarder worked well.

3. Fold down all edges.  Make sure you create a sharp crease - this will make your job easier.

Depending on your design you may also want to fold one side in half in order to find the middle of the edge for the next step.  The lines on the back half of mine made this step easy.

4. Use two strands of the same coloured thread as the backstitch line.  Tie a knot in the strands (the only time I ever recommending using knots!) and push it through a corner of one side of the biscornu.  Then push the needle through the middle of the edge of the other half.  Use the picture as a guide.

Bring the needle back to the front of the biscornu by coming out one square below.

5. Bring the two edges together and line up your back stitch lines.  Thread the needle through the back stitch lines, working your way along the edge

6. Watch your corners - if you just keep taking it one backstitch line at a time you will be fine.  Eventually your biscornu pillow will start taking shape, turning into an 8 sided square.

7. Leave yourself an opening - I left one side (or two half sides) open

8. Stuff your biscornu with wadding.  I find the stuffing from a cheap pillow works really well.

Then finish stitching the edges together.

9. At this point there are two different ways to go, depending on how long the remainder of your thread is.  If your thread is pretty short, thread the needle back along your seam tos ecure it before cutting off any left over bits.

With a new double thread, push your needle in through the seam and then out through the centre of the cushion - this is to attach the button (as per step 10)

10. If your thread is still long enough after finishing the seam, push your needle into the finished pillow and bring it up through the centre of the piece.

Attach a button to either side of the pillow by pushing your thread from one side to the other.  Do this several times to ensure it is secure.

If you are making a pincushion, end by bringing your needle back out through a seam before trimming the thread.

11.  To make your biscornu into a hanging decoration, bring your needle back out through one of the corners of the biscornu, and then tie the ends of the threads together to create a hanging point.

There are lots of biscornu patterns available on pinterest, Esty and other on-line locations (I've seen some Doctor Who ones with weeping angels).  I'm also working on some patterns for my Etsy store (I'll keep you posted!).  In the mean-time you could always try my very basic pattern to get you started.

Happy stitching!

Friday, 29 May 2015


 This week I discovered biscornu.

I'm a little bit behind the trend, I know.  They seemed to be all the rage last year, but I never got around to making one.  To be honest, I had no idea what I would end up doing with it (as opposed to the 101 cross stitches that are hanging on my wall), and there were so many other projects to work on instead.

However, the local Agricultural Show this year has a section for pincushions (a whole section - goodness knows why!) so I decided to have a go.

I made two different ones - one was a blackwork pattern I found on Pinterest that I stitched in purple threads (because why not); the second was my own pattern.  I used the Great A'Tuin pattern from my Discworld alphabet and some geometric shapes.

I'm really pleased with how they turned out.  I'm going to put together a bit of a how-to guide because I've now discovered there can never be too many biscornu - stay tuned!

Happy Stitching!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably-priced Love, and a hard boiled egg. Oh, and a free pattern

If you have to ask, you weren't there.

The 25th of May has become the unofficial Discworld Day/Terry Pratchett Day for Discworld fans around the globe.
Night Watch cover art by Paul Kidby
The date comes from the novel Night Watch.  In my honest opinion, this is the greatest novel in the Discworld series, and probably the best book I have ever read.  By Night Watch, Terry has sorted out the rules of his world, and is sticking to them fairly faithfully - the rules about how magic works on the Disc, how the society is structure, the politics and policies, what a dwarf/troll/human/vampire/werewolf/gnome/pixie/wizard/witch is and how they interact/relate to everyone else.  Ankh-Morpork has a more concrete map and you feel like you are living in the city.  There is a history to the world, the city, the characters that is faithfully followed.  There are people who live in Ankh-Morpork, who work in Ankh-Morpork, and who reappear in novels set in the city.  In Night Watch we as a reader are able to invest fully in the story, because we aren't trying to work out how everything else on the Disc is supposed to work.  More than that, in Night Watch we are finally able to discover the history of a lot of our favourite characters: how CMOT Dibbler got his name, how Sam Vimes became the policeman he was destined to be, what a young Vetinari was like, why Nobbs.  Lu-Tze even makes an appearance.  There's time travel, adventure, crime, war (sort of), magic, mystery, torture, coming-of-age, obligatory father figure.  Basically everything you could want in a sci-fi/fantasy novel. Even dragons (albeit small ones you can light cigarettes with)

When asked about the book's "darker" themes, Pratchett said:
"A dark book, a truly dark book, is one where there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Where things start off going bad and carry on getting badder before they get worse and then it's all over. I am kind of puzzled by the suggestion that it is dark. Things end up, shall we say, at least no worse than they were when they started... and that seems far from dark to me. The fact that it deals with some rather grim things is, I think, a different matter."
Back to the 25th May.  The 25th May was the date of the great rebellion against the political leader of the time. The People (more dangerous than ordinary people) decided they were sick of the tyrannical rule and corrupt police/torturers and rebelled, forming The Glorious People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road.  They fought for Truth.  For Justice.  For Reasonably-priced Love (seamstresses will not fight for free love).  And for a Hard Boiled Egg.

They wore the lilac and sang dirty songs about angels rising up.

Don't forget - until the end of May, profits from the sale of Discworld-themed items in my Etsy store are being donated to the Alzheimer's Australia Dementia Research Foundation. (as explained in this post).

My gift to you on this glorious 25th May is a free pattern, a memory to the Glorious People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road.

I hope the picture appears okay! You should be able to click on it for a larger version.  Otherwise, if you email me I can send you the PDF version.

The colours are DMC 209 and DMC 310. The French knots can either be French knots with DMC209, or seed beads. French knots come up better in the program I use than beads, but I prefer using beads.  I used Mill Hill 2085 but I'm not sure if they're available any more.  Why not try Mill Hill petite 40252.  Or any other purple beads you have lying around!  On 14 count aida, it will fit a standard 4x6" picture frame.

I ran out of time tonight so only stitched two of the lilac branches, which looks pretty good too (I'm the worst person for following patterns, even my own!).

Happy Stitching and fight on!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

A Thursday Update

I had great plans for this week - I was going to finalise a new pattern and release it into the shop, I was going to make gains on my latest craft swap piece, I was going to post a blog or two.

Then I got sick.

It's just a head cold, but it has knocked me for 6, and I wound up having half of Friday, Monday and most of Tuesday off sick.  If the weekend hadn't been in the middle there, I may have had a couple more days off as well.  The cold meant I couldn't think straight enough to form a sentence let alone a blog post.  My brain went fuzzy at the sight of a computer screen, and I spent most of the last few days lying on the couch vaguely watching TV.  I couldn't even really tell you what I watched - the latest Phryne Fisher episode, a 3rd Rock From The Sun episode or two, and a dodgy movie or two were in there but not sure what else.

I'm pretty pathetic when I get sick - 'man flu' has nothing on me - but I really was out of it this time.  The girls in the office sent me home on Friday, and then again on Tuesday when I rocked up for an hour in the morning.  Lord help me if I ever get anything really serious!

At any rate, I'm coming out the other side now.  I was at work all day Wednesday (although I'm not sure what I accomplished) and I'm back at work today, suposedly working on a presentation I'm giving this afternoon (although it's not getting very far at the moment!).

However, having a couple of days of sick did have its benefits - I managed to finish my current WIP.  It's now with OzzyPip waiting to be put into a wall hanging with her embroideries for our show entry.  The full piece needs to be finished by next weekend to be entered into the Show.
The blue stripes are the striped tea towel behind the piece!

Off to take more cold-and-flu drugs, blow my nose, and get back to work on this presentation.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

WIP Update

It makes quite a change to be stitching a pattern I didn't design- first non-Fangirl-Stitches piece I've worked on since January I think! I'm loving this piece- there's lots of block colours so it's quick to stitch, but still enough shading to keep it interesting. Hopefully I'll finish it next week so OzzyPip (Mum) can get started on piecing together the wall hanging.
The piece is called Advance Australia and comes from the Cross Stitch and Bead Weaving magazine.

I'm not sure if Skimbles was engrossed in my stitching and wanted to help, or if he was jealous of it and wanted the attention. Either way, he claimed my stitching arm and it took quite a bit of effort to reposition him. 
I'm off to Mackay tomorrow (4 hour drive). Unfortunately I'm travelling alone which means 8 hours of quality stitching time will be wasted. Oh well, at least I'll get to go to Spotlight and pick up some much needed supplies. 

Happy Stitching!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Holidays Malaysian Style!

A completely non-stitching, non-geeky post!

In April, my parents and I went to Malaysia for a week.  Flights had come up on sale about 8 months earlier so Mum and I decided we were going to go for a visit, and Dad, being retired now, decided to come too.

I love Malaysia.  I actually lived there for a year when I was 18 as part of a student exchange program with AFS.  I lived with a Malay family, went to school, and generally immersed myself in the culture.  I've been back several times over the years since, including once with Mum for my host sister's wedding.  This was Dad's first trip though, so we spent the week showing him the sights of Kuala Lumpur, meeting up with my host family and eating more food than you can imagine.
Seeing the sights: i-City, KL Tower, Central Markets, Merdeka Square, the Palace
and the Twin Towers.  The photo in the middle is the machine that cleans the
windows of KL Tower - Dad was fascinated by it.
Over the course of the 6 days we spent a lot of time catching up with my host family.  We saw them for dinner every night but one, and spent a day 1/2 sightseeing with them.  My host family are some of the most generous people I know, and I love them dearly.  They lived in a five-bedroom house with 5 children, a cousin, and myself, so it was quite a squeeze but also a lot of fun.  Now two of my host sisters are married with kids so I guess that makes me a host-aunty.... now it's just getting confusing!  My host parents own two restaurants so we spent most of our time with them eating, chatting and eating!  My host parents only speak a smattering of English so it put my Malay skills to the test, but I think I did pretty well given I haven't spoken any for 3 years, and haven't spoken it properly (as in full-time) in over 12 years.
My dads, my mums, and two of my sisters.  I call my host parents Mak and Ayah
which is Malay for Mum and Dad.  Look at the difference in heights of my mums!
Hanging out with my host family.  Bottom right is my youngest host brother, born
since I lived there.  One of my parent's restaurants has karaoke and he loves it!
One of the days we spent with my host family, they took us to i-City, a new theme-park-esk attraction in Kuala Lumpur.  One of the attractions was the Red Carpet, an ineractive wax work museum.  Interactive in that some of the figures moved.  It was a tad creepy by a lot of fun!  Dad in particular seemed to really enjoy it - he got right into posing with the different figures.  My niece and nephew also had a blast, particularly with the Mr Bean figure.
Dad discussing relativity with Einstein and meeting the Terminator.
Mum met the rather disturbing Queen of England.
We met Bill Gates, Barak Obama, Elton John, Elvis, and Mr Bean
Did I mention that we ate?  A lot?  Food is very cultural and very social in Malaysia.  Most gatherings involve food.  Someone comes to visit, you offer them food.  At least, that's what my family did, but then they do own a restaurant... They are also a very generous culture so like to give you a lot of food.  It's all very yummy and I can eat so much of it, but we were all bursting at the seams by the end of the week!  If you go to Malaysia (particulalry if you are fortunate enough to meet my host family) there are 3 words you need to learn: 
  • "makan" which means "food" or "eat" 
  • "sudah" which means "already" as in "sudah makan" "I've already eaten" (when someone asks you if you want to eat, you say "sudah" not "no" - "no" means you never want to eat and isn't a phrase you should use), and
  • "Cukup" which means "enough".  I can never remember the word for "full" so just say "cukup, cukup!" "I can't eat another thing!"

The food is soooooo good.  Malay, Chinese, and Indian are the three main styles.
Bottom right - this was Dad and I with I think our 4th meal of the day (it was 4pm) -
we were so full, hence our rather concerned expressions! :)
Because I'd lived in Malaysia, and Mum had been there once before so had done most of the standard attractions, we decided to do some different things this visit.  We visited the Royal Selangor pewter factory and tried our hands at making our own pewter bowls - so much fun banging out metal.  We also tried batik painting.  I'd done this a couple of times before (both in high school in Australia, and when I lived in Malaysia), however it was mum and dad's first time.  Batik painting is where you use hot wax on silk to draw a design, and then use water colours to fill in the spaces.  We each had a dedicated teacher/assistant.  Mine was very hands-off and left me to my own devices (which I loved), Dad's was hands off but gave him a lot of help/suggestions with choosing colours.  Mum's was the most over-the-top - he didn't have great (ie any) English, so instead of giving mum instructions, would just take the tool away from her, and disregarded her choice of colours entirely.  Oh well, she still had a lot of fun.
Being artistic and creative in Malaysia
We had a fish foot spa, toured the pewter factors, rode betcas (rickshaws) in Melaka
climbed the Twin Towers and KL Tower, and visited the National Museum
which was having a tea display.  The red teapot is actually a walk-through display. 
All in all we had a fantastic time and one week was no where near long enough.  I'd love to visit more regularly than I have been (4 times in 12 years) but unfortunately money is always and issue.  I'm under strict orders that when my third host-sister gets married, the whole family have to come back, including my three brothers.  Hope you're saving up boys!

Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

May's A lovely year of finishes

It's the first week of May, which means it is time to check in for the A Lovely Year of Finishes.  Hosted by Fibre of All Sorts and Sew BitterSweet Designs, the idea is to nominate a project each month that you aim to finish before the end of the month.  You link up to their blog at the beginning of the month to share your goal, and then at the end to share your finish (I hope!).  

May's project is Advance Australia, from Jill Oxton's Cross Stitch and Bead Weaving magazine (issue 87 to be specific).  This was the only time I've bought a copy of this magazine, and I bought it specifically for this pattern!  There are two versions of the pattern: one featuring a sailor's hat, and one featuring the traditional slouch hat, which is the one I'm stitching.
My progress so far
A picture of the pattern from the magazine.
The finished piece is going to become part of an Anzac-themed wall-hanging that my mother OzzyPip and I are putting together to enter in the local Agricultural Show.  The Show is having an Anzac-themed section this year to celebrate 100 years since the initial landing at Gallipoli during WWI.

For those who don't know, Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, and is the name given to the Australian and New Zealand combined armed forces, specifically during the two World Wars.  On 25 April we (Aus and NZ) have Anzac Day where we remember all those who have served for our countries - our Remembrance Day.  In particular, we remember the Gallipoli landing.  This website explains it all a lot better than I can.

The Show is on the 2nd and 3rd June, and entries need to be dropped off by 31st May, so it better be completely finished by the end of May!

Happy stitching!!

Monday, 4 May 2015

A to Z Challenge - the reflections

April was the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and I'm very proud to say I made it to the end!

For those who haven't read my blog, for the challenge I decided to stitch the Doctor Who Alphabet of Quotes, sharing each letter each day as I stitched it.  I also shared 26 of my Harry Potter cross stitch figurines.  The finished piece/s can be found here.

For me, the blogging challenge was a real challenge: I'm not a regular blogger - I'm proud of myself if I can post once a week, let alone more regularly than that.  Finding the time to blog (as well as working out what to say) always seems to take me so much longer than I thought it would.  I don't know whether it's because I want the blog to be 'perfect' (right formatting, right links, right photos) or if it's because I don't think anyone is interested in what I have to say, or if it's something else entirely.  Probably a combination of all three.  So posting everyday by a specific time (that's my OCD coming through) was a push, and I'm pleased to say that despite going overseas for a week in the middle of the challenge, I managed it on all but maybe one occasion.  Go me!

It was exhausting though, and I've taken the last few days off blogging and just sat and stared at the wall instead of at the computer screen.  My blogging regularity will probably drop again for awhile, but I'm hoping to be a little more regular with my posts in the future - at least once a week anyway!

This challenge taught me a lot: it taught me that my blog doesn't have to look perfect before it is published (you'd have thought I learnt that back here, but apparently it didn't stick); it taught me that I actually have plenty to say (my family would say I should have learnt that years and years ago); it taught me that there are lots of people out there who share similar ideas and thoughts, and who do want to read what I have to say; and it taught me that it doesn't matter if only a handful of people read my blog - I'm writing this not just for them, but for me too.

Through the challenge I met some amazing bloggers and fellow stitchers.  I met people who were stitching my designs, and people who were stitching some awesome other designs.  I met people who are just as big a geek as I am, and who proudly let their geek flag fly.  I met people whose blogs I wouldn't have otherwise sought out - photographers, artists, travellers, writers, readers.

I will put my hand up and say that I didn't read anywhere near as many blogs as I planned.  There were many days when I was struggling to just get my own blog posted, let alone read anyone else's.  One of the things I am looking forward to over the next few moths is going back through the list on the A To Z blog and finding new blogs to read.

Will I do the challenge again? Absolutely!  I've already started thinking about topics for next time - so much so that maybe I'll do another A to Z blog series before the end of the year, although probably not 26 in 30 days!

Happy Stitching, and Happy Blogging!

Star Wars Day... it's a new pattern!

Happy International Star Wars Day!

To celebrate, I've released a new pattern, featuring Princess Leia in her complete costume collection from the three films:

I'm very excited about the new Star Wars films coming out in December, especially since I heard several of the original cast are returning.

Apparently, once the film is released Princess Leia will become the oldest Disney Princess of all time.  How's that for a record?

As my present to you on Star Wars Day, if you use the code MAYTHEFOURTH when buying one of my patterns, you will receive a 10% discount!

May the Fourth be with you all.
I know I used this picture last year, but it's so cute!

Happy stitching!

Friday, 1 May 2015

A to Z Challenge - that's a wrap

(I apologise in advance for the spelling and formatting: I'm writing this on my phone and I have a love/hate relationship with this app!)

All done! I survived the A to Z Challenge! Phew. 

I was going to post a bit of a reflection today but I haven't been able to get my head in the right space this evening - I've been working on a non-a2z, non-swap cross stitch instead. In fact it's even a non-Fangirl Stitches piece! Maybe tomorrow...

However, I am going to share my finished piece as promised:

The Doctor Who Alphabet of Quotes cross stitch - pattern available from

For the second part of this challenge, I was sharing some of my stitched Harry Potter characters. I have made dozens of these and have patterns for many more characters and outfits I haven't stitched yet (and some I haven't uploaded to the Etsy store yet)- it would take me weeks to cover them all in their own post. So instead here's a pic of some of them- how many can you name?

Happy Stitching!