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Scarlet Quince Ramblings

Cross stitch ... art ... life

Silver lining
Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

vialMy cat, Lucky, has diabetes. (Yes, this is the cat who also has a heart murmur, hyper cardiomyopathy, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma.) We found this out in May and we’re still trying to get the insulin dose right. If I take him to the vet to have his glucose levels checked, stress causes his blood sugar to go way, way up, so I’m testing him at home with a little glucometer. The test strips come in a little vial with an attached lid that snaps tight shut. It is PERFECT (once empty) for keeping needles in. Not only is it just the right size, these vials have a dessicant built into the lining, so they should keep rust down. If you know someone who has diabetes (and from what I read you probably do, whether you realize it or not) ask them to save you a vial. (The vials for human test strips are the same — we started with a human glucometer but they don’t work right for cats.)

Bulk needles
Saturday, August 21st, 2010

I’m working on Blue Peacock – Jesse Arms Botke, and in most places the colors are mixed to very mixed. Since I’m working on 22 count aida, my size 24 needles are a little too big, and that’s what I have the most of. I bought a new packet of 26s when I started this, and have several times raided the various places I put needles, even coming up with an old packet of 28s. I don’t know why I have them because I don’t like them much — besides not having a very smooth finish, they bend easily and I have somehow broken the eye in a couple of them. So to make a long story short, I have been chronically short of needles on this project, partly because I sometimes have 2 or 3 needles going with the same color in different spots. I went to Michael’s recently to get more needles and they were out of 26s, of course. The JoAnn that was near us has moved, and while they didn’t move to Timbuktoo, they’re probably 3 times as far away as they used to be. It’s probably only a couple of miles further (there’s an algebra problem for you) but the psychological distance is much greater.

I’ve been thinking about getting some needles in bulk but the only sources I knew of had packages of 1000 needles and I wasn’t quite ready for that. But earlier this week I settled down to solve the problem of needles and I found a place that has bulk needles in packages of 25 or 50. It’s Anita’s Little Stitches. She has John James and Bohin needles. I’d never heard of Bohin (they’re French) but she says that they’re the best needles on the market so I ordered 50 of those. I also wanted to try Thread Heaven so I added that. This didn’t get me to the minimum order of $15 so after wasting time admiring the scissors I included a needle minder, which I’ve never tried either. When she emailed me that my order would ship the next day, I couldn’t help replying to say how excited I was! Then I thought, how pathetic to be excited about needles, but I’m sure she understands.

Here’s my loot.
My loot

I’ll tell you more about the needles after I have more experience with them. I’ve only used one as yet and now I don’t know which one it is. The most interesting thing so far about having lots of needles is the effect it has had on my stitching. I no longer hesitate before starting a new color. I don’t spend time checking whether I may get to a stitch with this color where I will need to put in stitches of another color above it before I can do that stitch. When you’re short of needles, you spend a lot of time trying not to run out. I was running out a lot and robbing needles from parked threads, which obviates part of the point of parking (not having to rethread needles). It makes my stitching, even in the confetti areas, much faster and much more fun.

I like the needle minder too. I usually weave the needles I’m not using into the edge of my fabric but it was getting pretty dilapidated. I then pinned a scrap of extra fabric to the edge and put my spare needles into it. But the needle minder is really fast to use. (It’s in two pieces, with a magnet glued to the pretty front and a separate magnet. You put the front on the front of the fabric and the loose magnet on the back and that holds it tight to the fabric.) You just drop your needles on it and they stay put even when you flip the frame over. I don’t think it will hold 50 needles but when you have one to a few needles not in use it works really well.

I haven’t tried the Thread Heaven yet. It’s gummier than I expected but I’ll let you know what I think of it too.

Summer retail needlework shows
Sunday, July 11th, 2010

There are two online needlework shows coming up in the next month — both retail.

First is the Needle Show Retail, July 15-18 (Thursday through Sunday).

Following that is the Counted Wishes Cross Stitch Festival, August 1-7 (Sunday through Saturday).


Scarlet Quince will be featured in both shows and we will be offering different show specials, so be sure to visit both shows for the details. These are retail shows which means everyone can shop the shows, so don’t miss them!

Blue peacock
Thursday, May 6th, 2010

My next project is Blue Peacock – Jesse Arms Botke. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be stitching with colored floss again! This is my progress after about 10 weeks of stitching (maybe about 70 hours):

Blue peacock

I’m just getting into the peacock feathers, at the boundary of pages 2 and 3. This piece is very confettifried so I’m doing much more parking than ever before. Which is good in a way because I have learned some things that are not required, but desirable to do if you’re parking as a way of life. I’ll be sharing those tips with you after I have a chance to collect my thoughts on the subject.

I had several pieces that I was considering when I made my panic trip to Hobby Lobby to get fabric. I showed them all to MRA and he was strongly in favor of this one. After I had worked on it for a couple of days, he asked if he could have it for his office when it’s finished. (This is the most interest he has ever shown in any of my needlework.) I said, “Sure, if you haven’t retired by then.”

I’m stitching on 22-count aida to keep it a little smaller. That has also been interesting. Size 24 needles are too big, so I’m using 26s which I don’t usually like since they’re harder to thread. The stitches are so dense that it really is a very bad idea to leave any holes, which is part of the reason for all the parking. Even if you don’t skip stitches, it’s tricky to make stitches without splitting the thread in an adjacent stitch. This becomes a major problem if you need to rip anything out. (My mistakes have been due, not to the parking, but to putting floss back onto the wrong bobbin.) The other thing is that I’ve noticed that one or two threads in the fabric are broken. I have a tendency to stick needles I’m not using at the moment into the fabric wherever, and in the past this hasn’t been a problem, but this fabric has just 2 fairly fine threads each way, and I think it can’t take even minor abuse. So now I’m being careful to put my needles outside the area to be stitched, and through holes, not into threads.

Even though the stitching is going very, very slowly, I’m thrilled with the way it looks so far.

The completed alphabet!
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I finished this February 25. Very rude (or lazy) not to post a picture sooner.


It’s a little ripply in the picture because taking the picture against a wall didn’t work, so I had to have someone hold it.

I plan to finish it as a banner and here are my notions (which I also bought quite a long time ago):


There’s heavyweight non-woven interfacing, which the woman at JoAnn swore was fusible. Doesn’t look like it, but we’ll see. I don’t think I want to fuse it to the stitching — maybe just between and around the squares. I’m also not sure how I will make sure the squares are really square before I do the fusing. Then there’s ticking for the back and to make a frame. The lines will be vertical on the top and bottom and horizontal on the sides. This ticking has a cream background, rather than white. They had red and white, but the cross stitching doesn’t completely cover the fabric which makes it look a little dingy, so I hope that cream will make the stitching seem brighter. Also, if I recall, the red and white was that worst of all possible worlds, dry-clean only 100% cotton. And apparently I plan to make a border of bias tape. Forgot about that.

I’m not sure how I will make it hang flat. I don’t think the interfacing will make it heavy enough. There will be a pocket on the back at the top for a curtain rod, and depending on what kind of rod I get I might put another one at the bottom. Or maybe I’ll use curtain weights. I think I have some around somewhere, that I got for curtains that, when it came to actually sewing the weights on, suddenly seemed to hang remarkably straight.

I’ll be winging it, for sure. Hopefully I will feel motivated to drag out the sewing machine soon and see what happens. If anyone has done this, or anything like this, feel free to jump right in if you know good ways (or bad ways) to proceed.

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

I am really close to finishing the last square in my alphabet. Last night I realized that it’s probably only a couple more days of stitching, AND I HAVE NOTHING ELSE LINED UP. Making this more urgent is the fact that we’ve postponed our trip to Big Bend Ranch (again) which was going to be this coming week. Now, I don’t stitch every single day, but that’s because I’m busy. Not having something I could stitch, time permitting, is a whole different thing.

As it happens, I have access to lots of patterns :) and enough floss so that I could at least make a start on something, but when I rifled through my fabric stash, I only had small pieces. Annoyingly, I have two pieces that used to be about 4 feet square but have had 3+ foot square chunks cut out of them. So they’re these big L’s on which the legs are too skinny for anything useful.

So I went roaring out to Hobby Lobby, because they’re closed tomorrow. At one time they had aida cloth on bolts (no more). But at least they had cut pieces that were big enough for something besides a dish cloth. I got two 30″ x 36″ pieces, one in 18-count and one in 22-count. Those will be big enough for anything I’m likely to want to start (I still haven’t completely made up my mind WHAT I’m going to do next).

Although I’ve always preferred to stitch one thing at a time, I now see one major benefit to rotating several projects: you don’t suddenly run out of something to stitch.

I keep thinking about those stupid L’s and MRA asked if it’s de rigueur to use up all your fabric. It’s not, of course (although if you don’t work on whittling away at your small pieces they build up and up just in case there’s something they aren’t too small for) but they still bug me. Finally it occurred to me that they would be good for bell-pulls. I’ve never been much into bell-pulls, but my mother took a needlepoint class once, in which she learned lots of different stitches and made a sort of autobiographical bell-pull. It was kind of cool. It had the date of her wedding anniversary, 3 little girls (my sisters and me), and I really can’t remember what else, but a lot of things that were meaningful to her. One of my sisters has it now and I haven’t seen it in a long time.

Stitching secrets of the stars
Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

I was watching “The Heiress” last night on TV. Olivia de Havilland is a wealthy young woman without many other attractions, wooed by a fortune hunter (Montgomery Clift) who abandons her when her father threatens to disinherit her, then returns to try his luck a second time after her father dies. She spends a lot of time doing needlework in a frame attached to a floor stand. I’ve seen the movie before but never noticed how Olivia was stitching — two handed! At first I thought she had two needles going, but no. She had one hand above the frame, and the other underneath. She would poke the needle into her canvas from above with her right hand, then pull it through with the left, and still with the left, poke the needle into the underside of the canvas, then pull it through with the right. She was going fast!

I keep my left hand under the fabric as I stitch, but it’s not really doing anything. I just keep a finger near where I’m stitching and I’m not even sure what the purpose is. I do all the stitching with my right hand which involves constantly moving it from the top of the fabric to the underside and back, which is certainly not optimal. So I tried this two-handed stitching. The most awkward thing is inserting the needle into the fabric with my left hand — it’s very clumsy and it’s hard to position the needle accurately, but I think with practice that might go away.

It appeared to me that Olivia de Havilland must have had considerable practice stitching this way. Although they didn’t show closeups of her work, she clearly wasn’t making random stitches (as I would have been stitching at that speed with my left hand). And I don’t think it is a technique that would occur to you first crack out of the box, so either someone coached her or she was a stitcher in real life. Do any of you stitch this way?

3.99 more squares
Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I intended to post pictures of the new letters after I finished X, but… and then after I finished Y, but… Don’t ask me what happens. I have no idea.

Here is the lower left ornament, and X.


The ornament took from December 6-17. I think the various swirls are not as symmetric as they could be, but I let it go. X took from December 17-26. This one actually came out symmetric without any corrections to the chart.

And here’s Y and Z. I’ll finish Z tonight.


Y was a killer, but by stitching my brains out and neglecting lots of other things I could or should have been doing, I finished it by January 15. I’ve been working on Z since January 16. The flowers at the bottom aren’t where the chart calls for them to be because I counted wrong but it’s the right effect and no one will ever know.

Just one more ornament! I originally hoped to finish this by the end of December, then the end of January, and now by the end of February, but we’re going to be gone for a few days at the end of the month so even that is looking iffy. I’m anxious to take it off the scroll rods and see what the whole thing looks like — and how much fabric I have to work with at the edges (remember, I calculated wrong at the beginning). But I’m going to finish it as a banner and put a border on so there doesn’t have to be much fabric.

V (revised) and W
Monday, December 7th, 2009

I just finished W and it’s time for a picture before I scroll up to start THE LAST ROW!


I added two columns to the solid square in the lower left corner of the V. I originally made it 2 rows taller than charted because it was clearly not the same size as the empty square on the right. I didn’t notice how unsquare that made it look until I had taken a picture.

I love this W! But it too had problems (minor ones). The ornaments around the bottom were not symmetric and it was really obvious. I only needed to add 2 stitches that weren’t charted, but I wonder why this keeps happening? Is this some kind of “the gods would be jealous of perfection” schtick? Carelessness? If you don’t want it to be symmetric then make the two sides different, don’t make them 99% the same. At least that’s my view. Fortunately I don’t feel constrained to stitch it as it’s charted but all this checking to see if it’s going to be symmetric or not is wearying.

I started the ornament in the lower left corner last night. It’s basically a circle made of 4 swirls, and the swirls are not all alike. I’m still stitching the border but I will have to look at this more to see if I can stand to stitch it this way. They’re hard to compare since they’re all rotated, i.e. there’s the top one, then the one on the right is rotated 90 degrees from the top one, the bottom one is 180 degrees from the top, etc. If I had charted this you can bet I would have done one and then copied it 3 times, but maybe somehow it doesn’t fit that way.

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

I’ve been intending to post pictures of the alphabet since I finished U, but now I’ve also finished V and am well into W.


S was a monster with all that solid area but the sort of Navaho-y decorations are nice, I think. I like the decoration around T too.


U was really time-consuming but I like it a lot. Very Art Deco. V was one of those letters where I wasn’t satisfied with the chart. It’s supposed to be symmetric but the squares at the bottom aren’t, even though I made the solid square taller to match the cut-out square. I think I need to make it 2 or 3 stitches wider.

I was hoping I could finish this by the end of the year but with 5 1/2 letters and decorations left to do it doesn’t seem even remotely possible, especially since I have not managed to stitch at all this week (well, maybe an hour). I had this image of stitching all through the Thanksgiving weekend which has totally not happened. I usually get at least an hour of stitching while I watch the news, but I haven’t seen any news this week.

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