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Showing posts from November, 2009

The ABC's of Cross Stitch Alphabets

Alphabets are quite popular on cross stitch samplers and there are many decisions to be made when choosing an alphabet.  Upper case or lower case is one decision.  It seems that upper case is most popular.  Using lower case causes all sorts of compications.  Extra space is needed for j, k, l, p and the other letters that extend above or below the main line. 

Another important decision is even or odd.  The alphabet above is odd.  That is, it is and odd number of stitches high, in this case 7.  Notice the B and D.  Both are symmetryical.

This is an even alphabet that is 6 stitches high.  Notice that the B and D are no longer symmetrical.  I prefer odd alphabets.  I've been known to change the size of a sampler to mak an even alphabet into an odd alphabet.

Both of these samplers are in a traditional font.  But it is easy to re-arrange the stitches to create different looks for you alphabet.  Here is an elegant alphabet that is only 7 stitches high:

Each letter takes up more space and gi…

Diverted by the Aztec Stitch

Last Christmas during an ornament exchange I recieved one made in a technique I did not recognize.  I've been stitching a long time now and this doesn't happen too often.  I tracked down the lady who made it and discovered it was the Aztec Stitch.  Some quick googling revealed information and a free project from Piecework Magazine that I quickly printed out.  I didn't have the supplies on hand so it was put aside, but not forgotten.

My EGA (Embroiderers' Guild of America) Chapter was looking for program ideas so I suggested the Aztec Stitch.  Patience paid off and the program was a few weekends ago but I had to miss it.  I picked up the canvas and instructions last weekend and dropped everything to get started.  This bookmark is stitched using 18 count canvas and #8 pearl cotton.

Canvas threads are removed and the design area is outlined with nun's stitches.  Then the fun begins.  Alternating stripes of wrapped bars create a beautiful effect. 

This thread was dyed in…

Diverted by Fun Fabric People

Thing #1 and Thing #2

Last weekend was my monthly class at the local needlework/quilt shop.  It's called Art Journal and each class is a secret until we arrive.  Every month we get to play with a different technique.  So far this year we've done kool-aid dyeing. fusing, free-motion quilting, free-form embroidery, made fabric buttons, made layered fabric and others things I can't remember right now.

Many of the these techniques I've seen in books and magazines.  They are the type of thing that I want to drop eveything and try but end up not doing.  All year I've had a few hours every month to just play with these ideas. 

Last Saturday the teacher brought in scraps of fabrics, beads, yarn, threads, batting and a few examples.  We went crazy.  Each of us picked different fabrics and beads and immediently went to work creating our people.  No two ended up the same although many had really wild hair.

On many classs days I've been busy and tired and wondered why I had s…

Rocky Mountain Wildflowers

Rocky Mountain Wildflowers

This is my Rocky Mountain Wildflower Sampler.  Here I have featured two wildflowers that grow all over the Rocky Mountains.  They grow in my yard in the meadows just over 7,000 feet.  They also grow high up in the mountains over 10,000 feet.

Rocky Mountain Bluebells

These are Rocky Mountain Bluebells.  Every flower identification book I own has a different species of this plant in it.  Streamside Bluebells; Mertensia ciliata.  Tall Bluebells; Metensia paniculata.  Alpine Bluebells; Metensia alpina.  Long-flowered Bluebells; Mertensia longiflora.  I do not know which version this is.

I first saw this flower along a small alpine stream near the ghost town of Hancock, CO, elevation 11,050.  When I moved here I was surprised when spring came along and bluebells sprouted up in my yard at 7,200 ft.  They are much shorter than the tall bluebells growing up higher - only 6 to 12 inches off the ground.  But, the flower is unmistakable.

Indian Paintbrush

And this is the Ind…

Diverted by a Photo Album


I started taking pictures in the 70's when film came in rolls with 12 pictures on a roll.  On a long family vaction of 3 weeks I might be allowed to use 2 or 3 rolls of film and it might be another 2 or 3 months before they where developed.


Sometimes I allowed myself 2 pictures a day - one of scenery and one of family.  Sometimes I would go crazy and take more.  Especially if we where someplace scenic like Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Falls

Old Faithful

Now I have 2 digital cameras where I can take over 1000 photos on one memory card.  Oh, the luxury!  I can stroll through the yard on a beautiful day and snap 50 or more pictures.  I'll probably keep 10% or less of them, but it gives me the freedom to try different angles and perspectives.  And talk about instant gratification.  I can look at them right away, not when the memories of taking the pictures are a distant memory.

Funky Flowers

These are my Funky Flowers.  Until now, most of my flowers have been realistic interpretations.  These started as doodles.  I decided to see if they could be successfully transfered to cross stitch so I transferred one to a 4 inch graph paper square.  By working bigger you can definitely get in more detail.  I like the way the hastily scribbled leaves turned out.

The flowers where more difficult.  Actually, upper left and bottom right where more difficult.  I liked the other two as soon as they where drawn.  But the difficult ones where redesigned many times.  Interestingly, those two are sort of based on real flowers (Upper left the blanketflower and bottom right a flower growing in a friends yard that I don't know the name of and never had a chance to look up).  Since the other 2 came totally out of my imagination they didn't have any expectations to live up to.

Since the flowers where more cartoony I gave them black and white checked borders.  I love the way they turned out b…

Striped Christmas Ornaments

These ornaments are my latest design availaible on earlier this week.

These are another simple/not simple design.  It's simple to come up with different striped patterns but not so simple to make the round shape.  I ended up with a compass and graph paper tracing various sized circles until I got one that lined up nicely.  The patterns still don't look like a perfect circle, but they are close enough for me.

I could have spent the whole day designing stripes on graph paper but I restrained myself after designing just four good ones.  I have several not so good ones that I'll work on later.

Next came the colors.  It was hard using the same four colors for each ornaments.  There are so many great shades of red and green to choose from.  I ended up with 2 greens, a red and a pink.  Although pink isn't as traditional as red and green it's fun and brightens up the ornaments.

Although these patterns look like they could have come from a fair isle sweater, …

Design Idea - Fair Isle Sweaters

Sometimes finding a design idea is as simple as looking in your closet.  Fair Isle sweaters have great patterns.

They may look complicated, but each row only has 2 colors.

There are simple geometric patterns and not so simple geometric patterns.

These designs can be easily adapted to cross-stitch for borders and to fill an area.  Start with a simple zig-zag, line or cross.  Vary the colors.  Add dots, circles and other shapes.  Sometimes you'll be amazed at the patterns you can make with only a few colors and a few shapes.

I've even used these sweaters as an inspiration for a beaded amulet bag.  It's done in peyote stitch.  The grid is a different shape than cross-stitch but it lends itself to similar patterns.  As in Fair Isle, each row only has 2 colors.

Sequined Christmas Trees

Since these ornaments have been my most popular design and since holiday season is almost here, I think I should write about the Sequined Christmas Trees.

After I made arrangements with I had a deadline - a certain number of patterns by a certain date.  I had some patterns already but I still had to come up a few new patterns. 

I decided on Christmas Ornaments.  After all, Christmas is a popular stitching time and I figured I could whip out some ornaments rather quickly.  Wrong!  Designing smaller patterns is easier and quicker than designing bigger patterns ... up to a point.  At a certain size, the smaller patterns become harder.  There is less space to work with and, since there is less stitching, every stitch is important.

My first attempts where pathetic.  The trees didn't look right.  The stitch placement was awkard with no places to hide the threads (I was stitching on perforated paper and you can't have threads running across the back).  When I got to …

Diverted by Nature's Swirls

I believe this is the Mountan Mahogany.  There are several of these shrubs in our yard.  Every fall they get fuzzy, curly seed pods.

Aren't these the coolest things.  They make the strangest shapes.  I'm sure that there's a mathematical formula to describe the curve, just like a chambered nautilus.

These swirls show up often in nature - on grape vines, morning glories and peas.  But these seem the most unlikely to me.

Swirls and curves are also popular design elements and often add a whimsical touch to samplers. 

Circle of Seasons

Continuing backwards from Halloween Circle, I come to the Circle of Seasons.

I was making test snowflakes for another design.  I was stitching them on different fabric colors with different thread colors to see which one worked best.  One was done with very pale colors and for some reason I started thinking of leaves and how they would look next to the snowflake.  So, I picked a pale green and added a leaf.  I didn't look right so I went back to graph paper and doodled until I got a good leaf.  Then next natural thing to add was a flower.  At some point the idea of representing all the seasons occurred to me and I added  the leaves and acorns.

The two circles I've done so far have been fun.  Both have been turned into box tops.  The Circle of Seasons is on top of a 4 inch paper mache box I got at a hobby store and I use it to keep overdyed threads.

I'd like to come up with a whole line of Circles.  I've started on both a Christmas Circle and Winter Circle but they aren…