December 23, 2018

Cross Stitch Tools

Welcome back! In this post I'll be featuring my Heaven and Earth Design cross stitch project and my current set up. I'll cover lots of details for anyone who does this kind of stitching and has considered upgrading their equipment. If you have questions, please ask! I'm a big fan of learning. Hopefully, even if you don't cross stitch, you'll find this interesting as well. Links to supplies are listed at the end of this blog.

The current project is a Heaven and Earth Designs (HAED) by Susan Rios called "Chair Decor". This pattern is currently retired. My understanding is that the copyrights for some patterns are granted on a limited basis to HAED and as a result not all patterns are available at all times. I have heard that some patterns do come out of retirement, but at the date of this posting this particular pattern is not available.   

My current set up:

The Design:

Below are pictures showing the work as it progresses:

A few cross stitch basics:

The fabric here is a 16 count white Aida. Aida is a stiff, even fabric that's designed for embroidery and woven with specific thread counts. If you look closely you can see the tiny squares in the weave. Aida comes in several count sizes. In this case it is made to have 16 of those woven squares in 1 inch. Aida and other even weave fabrics can have more or less threads per inch.  One cross stitch is made into each square. I personally use little pencil marks for every 10 squares. Some stitchers use a grid of colored thread or no markings at all. You can see from the photographs that I work a ten by twenty section at a time. It seems painstaking and I suppose that it is, but it's incredibly relaxing as well.

The fabric for this project is rolled onto a solid wood frame which has a kind of a bolt mechanism to keep the fabric taught within the frame. The fabric is inserted into a slot on the top and bottom, rolled around the rod and then stretched apart on the sides. All of my frames come from the Omanik Factory in Estonia.

The frame is then attached to the stand. This stand is a Monstrik Standart floor stand, also from the Omanik Factory in Estonia. It's constructed of steel, is easily assembled, lightweight and has wheels to make it portable. It's adjustable for frame sizes, height and angle. The footers of the base measure about 30".  I've used it with both a desk chair and at my fainting couch/lounger. The frame flips over inside the frame easily so that you can check the back of your work, finish off your thread, or fight off any tangles. I don't tend to flip mine often, so I keep a couple of small tins of needles to my right and a pink gingham cloth to cover my work and keep off the dust.

As for the accessories, my favorites are an iPad to keep my pattern and an app called ezPDF.  This app allows you to highlight with the touch of a finger. Here's a sample of the pattern in the screen:

The iPad holder on the frame (The spider is not real! It's a beaded gift that keeps me company while I stitch.):

The iPad holder from the back:

I also use a magnifying light. Both accessories are clamped directly to the frame. Since I don't use the magnifying glass inside the light, and my studio can get very sunny, I have put a pretty piece of paper over the glass to keep the sun from reflecting onto my work and burning the place down.

For little tools I use tons of magnets to attach things like needle minders which are pretty little gadgets that hold needles to your work. I also use magnets to hold thread, scissors, a copy of the pattern, and a little pouch I use for thread bits.

Next to my stand I have put together a floss organizer stand. The organizer is made of plastic and foam rubber and has little slots for each color of floss for this project. The slots are designed so that you can, carefully, extract one strand at a time without tangling. I hate knotted thread. It's one of the reasons I gave up embroidery years ago. Kudos to the person who invented these great holders. The stand consists of a lamp base I found on eBay and an old microphone stand from my husband. I took a hacksaw to the stand to shorten it and glued it into the base.

On top of the stand I added a bolt which fit a metal thread stand, also from the Omanik Factory, that is designed to hold this type of floss organizer. To get the three plastic floss organizers to stay on the metal stand I tried several methods. First I glued coin magnets to them but the glue didn't stick to the plastic, so I stuck the magnets to the metal stand and screwed small metal screws into the organizers. Now they are attached magnetically which makes them easy to remove or reload. Clearly I don't take them off often enough for untangling, that's no fun! 

The coin magnets on the stand:

Screws in the back of the thread holder:

As a bonus here's a few pictures of how I hide my supplies in my studio:

This looks like a nice ottoman:

Beneath the cover:

Inside I keep bundles of thread and spare stand parts:

The picnic basket at my feet:

Inside there's thread on bobbins in cases. I also hide my drink holder when not in use:

And, a small basket of notions, spare needles, lip gloss, and flexible bobbins:

On the thread stand I sometimes use the microphone stand cup holder for my tea:

I hope you've enjoyed my tour. Please feel free to ask questions! Below are links to many of the items I've talked about here:

Thank you for visiting! Please come again.

December 22, 2018

Discovering Cross Stitch

Where does the journey of an artist begin? There was once a paper doll from the five-and-dime and I have recollections of dressing her until the clothing was tattered and the little tabs that held the fragile paper had turned to shreds. Then there was a new wardrobe for my little cardboard cut-out, as I traced around her stiff body, onto a large roll of paper that came from the factory where my father worked so long ago. Supposing that I was pretty clever, I imagined I could make her any outfit in the universe. She could dress like Doris Day or wear an evening gown like Rosemary Clooney. I shudder to recall what my drawings really looked like, but to a five year old that waxy paper and a few broken crayons held endless possibilities. 

We had moved south to Santa Monica and there was precious little time with my grandmother and her scraps of sewing. Now my dress designing took on a whole new dimension, as well as my need to create, with the help of a Barbie doll. I even liked those tiny shelves over her eyes that served as eyelashes. The only thread I had was white so a black evening gown had to be eyed with artful appreciation.  My sewing skill steadily evolved over the years. At about eleven a kindly neighbor shared a set of large knitting needles with me and I pestered all the women in my life to teach me. My grandmother did her best, knitting not being one of her strong suits, but neither of us had any idea how to stop, or bind off, and I just knit until the piece I made got too long. Unraveling the yarn never bothered me and I re-knit that same ball of wool until it began to mat into a stringy ball. By the time I graduated high school I could knit and crochet well enough to attempt garments, but nothing quite worthy of sharing publicly. However, I kept at it  and eventually I was skilled enough to create baby clothes and a few things for my household. It wasn't until I met my husband in 1979 that my art truly exploded. For myself, as an artist, there was always a part of me that felt my handcrafts weren't good enough to be taken seriously. It likely started early on when my creations were amateurish, but it carried over even when I made lovely things and they were appreciated by others. 

My husband is a performer, a singer-songwriter that was already very accomplished when first we met. He has a tendency to be overly humble, even to this day, but he also has a compelling need to keep playing music and he constantly strives to improve . There is something in him that must make music. I admire that artistic need and learned plenty from him about respecting my own creativity. It was once we met that my creative energy really blossomed.

In the 1980s the five and dime stores were still a wealth of affordable supplies. Thread slipped onto knitting needles and crochet hooks became lace. Inexpensive fabrics evolved into curtains at the sewing machine and store-bought window coverings completely vanished from my home. By the time we had moved into our current place I was good and ready for my own sewing room. My husband, bless his heart, never blinked an eye when I claimed the first floor bedroom for my studio. Over the years it has been packed with bins and baskets until it overflowed and needed to be rethought and reined in. I have woven and spun and painted and sewn  and there has been bobbin lace and needlepoint and hours of pure bliss in this room. The sign on the door says,"This is My Happy Place", and it surely is.

A year or two ago I was again looking for another way to create. Knitting had become less challenging and I wanted something that I couldn't blow through in a weekend, a project that is as beautiful while being created as it is completed. A basket of wool begging to be woven or a quilt stand draped with a whole cloth project always inspires me. If it speaks to me as I pass I'll love it all the more. While roaming online I ran across videos online of people doing the most incredible cross stitch. I had done a few kits and samplers, but this was something else entirely. These were full coverage pieces, all amazing tapestries of color. 

I was spellbound and I began to cruise the site marveling over their magnificent patterns. It wasn't easy to choose any single piece until I saw one entitled Chair Decor by Susan Rios. 

Real love for these pieces is a prerequisite for choosing any pattern, since these projects can take years to complete. All the better in my mind. And so began the slippery slope that often comes with a new form of art, especially one as long running as this. Just the fabric is huge, measuring about three feet wide and several feet long. The canvas is stiff and heavy and I knew wrestling with tiny embroidery hoops was only going to frustrate me. Before taking the plunge into something truly immense I made a few smaller projects and invested in a little embroidery stand and a frame. But I found that I still wanted to take on the Susan Rios piece so it was time for a larger frame. It wasn't until it arrived that I realized things were getting very serious. My handy little stand was indeed lovely, but no match for this huge project. As you can see the stand was fine for a smaller project, but beginning the Heaven and Earth design meant I needed an upgrade. 

Here are pictures of the smaller stand:

My next postings will feature my new, larger stand and all of the setup I'm current using on my Heaven and Earth piece.

Thank you for visiting. Please come again! 

December 20, 2018

Caddy Giveaway!

 Welcome to the Caddy Giveaway!

Nothing is more indispensable for whipping my house into shape than a good cleaning caddy. I've used them for years in my cleaning business and at home as well. While out in the field I like to rely on a solid Rubbermaid carrier, but at my place I prefer something homier and with a bit more charm than plastic. My current caddy is one of my all time favorites. It's a sturdy galvanized container that would work just as well as a kitchen counter organizer or perhaps for displaying napkins and silverware at a family gathering. This week's giveaway will feature the caddy (without contents) to inspire your cleaning or just for fun! (Caddy may very slightly from those pictured).

This sturdy caddy perfectly houses my favorite cleaners which are made by Method. Inside it holds a window cleaner, wood cleaner and an all-purpose spray. It also totes along a good feather duster, a lighter (for candles), rubber and disposable gloves, an old toothbrush, a rubber brush for pet hair as well as a sticky roller, trash bags, a scrub brush and my favorite microfiber cleaning cloths. Even in this easily portable carrier there's still room to add a few paper towels, perhaps a shower squeegee or more.

Entry Rules

To be eligible you must be subscribed to the email here at Polkadots & Pillowlace or be signed up for my follower's list before December 31, 2018, be living in the U.S.A. and have a mailing address that will accept an Amazon delivery. The caddy will be shipped directly from Amazon to you. After the random drawing I'll post here in this blog and email you at the address you've provided. After midnight of January 5, 2019, if I do not receive a reply from that winner, I will choose another. This giveaway includes the caddy only (no labels) and not the cleaning products within. Should you like to purchase your own versions of what I use you can find the links below. Good luck and happy cleaning!

Thank you for visiting. Please come again!

Update 1/8/2019: Congratulations to the winner of the Galvanized Caddy Giveaway! Thank you to everyone who has subscribed here. I'll be posting new items in the near future. I hope you all keep coming to visit.

December 14, 2018

Creative Tools

     Creative tools, I’ve got them all. I’ve got knitting needles in every size and crochet hooks as well. I’ve got simple tools like pencils and complicated apparatuses like a knitting machine. I have a beautiful spinning wheel and a lovely loom, tatting shuttles from decades ago and stashes of yarn I bought only this morning. I love crafting and beautiful tools make art a joy to create. When I began sewing and knitting as an eight-year-old I learned first from my grandmother and my mother. My grandmother did it all, but her finest art was made with her trusty sewing machine. I will remember her delightful Sunbonnet quilts all of my life.

One of my knitting bags

     My mother knit fancy argyle socks with patterns from the 50s. I remember her making a pair that had a beer mug in the design, a frothy angora yarn representing the foam in the mug.

A collection of my knitting needles

     As I grew up I learned from neighbors and teachers in home economics classes in high school. All my life I found creative friends and neighbors that shared my love and desire to make things. There was wonderful Mrs. Haygood, an avid sewer who lived up the street, she had the best collection of sewing notions around. Mrs. Barbieri, the mother of a childhood friend, had a huge pair of wooden knitting needles that she lent to me, a perfect learning tool for young fingers. Over fifty-plus years I have held many tools, but then, about the time my youngest daughter was born, a new and amazing tool was available. The internet. Now I am never at loss for inspiration or instruction. The world of handcrafts is at my fingertips and I go to it every day.

Some of my weaving tools

     Now any person who wants to learn how to knit or crochet needs only to visit YouTube or Knittinghelp. There are videos there that cost nothing and never run out of patience. You can play them again and again at your own pace and certainly become a great knitter. The same is true for tatting and painting and weaving and playing the guitar.

     I am asked often where I get my ideas and out of the vast ocean of sites online I have found a few that are easy to navigate and specific to my needs. If I want to find a basic design for most general crafting there is nothing that beats Pinterest. Whether you are planning a wedding and want to light the tables or you need ideas to inspire you to make easy curtains for your home, or even just clean your oven, it is a fountain of creativity and inspiration. Over the years I find that I use search engines less and less for creative inspiration and look more towards Pinterest. If I were to find any fault with the site, it is that it is really easy to lose precious creating time while I’m simply strolling through ideas. I visit it daily but then I try to walk away and actually make something.

A sampling of some of my "pins" on Pinterest

     When I knit or crochet my favorite place to visit is Ravelry. The whole concept of the site is fantastic! On Ravelry you create a free account and there you can post your knit and crochet creations. With a picture and some basic information on your project, such as, what yarn you used and what size needle, you become part of an amazing database of fellow knitters from all over the world. Before I knit or crochet anything anymore I pay Ravelry a visit. There I can find a pattern, many are free, or if I have a pattern already, I can see the journey that other knitters have taken with that project. I learn who made it successfully and who failed and why. I can see it in other colors and other types of yarns. The great knitters of Ravelry will whine of the project was boring and applaud their success when they make something beautiful. If you work in yarn you must visit there! If you go there find me as Veil. Here are a few of my projects I have posted there.

A Baby Bib

 A sweater for a grandson on my spinning wheel

A large knitting bag from suede yarn

 A knit scrap blanket

A pretty baby afghan

     Another site I visit is Etsy. If you have never been there it is a shopping site where you can find many beautiful items made by other crafters. I make a lot of things myself, but certainly not everything. For example, I don’t own a kiln for pottery. I’d love to and I do know how to throw clay on a pottery wheel but alas I don’t. On Etsy there is beautiful pottery and I have a fantastic bowl from a local potter. If I can’t make it myself there is likely someone there who will.

A stunning yarn bowl by Meredith Soto at Dandelion Pottery 

     As always, I hope you are inspired to go out and learn, to make something wonderful and enjoy some of the crafts made by all the creative people in the world. You can reach out right now find them right there online. But, there is something that is a better tool than any needle or site, and that is you. Your imagination and your own two hands are the best tools in the world. It is you, and what you create that is the real amazing tool. I hope you use that to create every day. 

Thanks for visiting. Please come again!