The first of the hand-crafted Christmas gifts I started, and therefore also the first I will show off, was a portrait cross-stitch embroidery depicting my grandmother’s kitten. This is the project that I posted a preview of back in early August, and it was finished with only a day or two to spare before Christmas.
As a gift this embroidery was very well receive, though not without its bittersweet edge, as Svarting was tragically killed by a car less than a month before the holidays. At that time the embroidery was more than halfway done, so I finished it and hoped it could be a nice memory of the cat, rather than just of his kitten days.
The pattern was generated with PC Stitch Pro 9, and was reasonably easy to follow – I’ve since found some methods for attacking large, complicated projects that make stitch-counting a lot less tedious, and make for fewer missed stitches that I have to go back and fill in, and I’ve also thought of some different approaches to the conversion process that I’d like to try, but overall I’d rate this one a success – it’s a good likeness and close enough to photographic, when viewed in person, that my grandmother’s partner refused to believe it was actually stitched.
A custom pet portrait this size, number of colors and level of detail would run about $700 plus shipping, and have a 30-45 day completion time (I could finish it in less but stitching for more than 2-3 hours day causes me more pain than I’d be willing to bear with). Frame and matting can be added at cost.
A while back I purchased a couple of cross-stitch kits from UK-based Sew and So. They arrived very promptly, and so I went back and ordered another few items last week. I’d put it mostly out of mind, used to international orders taking weeks to arrive, so I was pleasantly surprised to come home to find a nice padded envelope waiting for me in my mailbox.
If you live in Europe, I whole-heartedly recommend and endorse this vendor! They have an excellent selection (didn’t have the kit I first came looking for, but neither did anyone else, so I suspect that’s more due to it being from last year’s collection or something silly like that), their pricing is more than competitive (last order, I paid less than 300 SEK for four medium-small kits and one set of ziplock baggies for floss storage, including shipping – I’m used to kits being no less than 100 SEK apiece and usually more), and I’ve paid more for domestic S&H than I did for international from these guys.
It doesn’t hurt that in my experience, their delivery is only slightly slower than greased lightning, as well.
I do have some minor issues with the kits, but that’s a manufacturer rather than a vendor thing, so I’ll likely get into that in a future post at some point. (And as the resulting work will be gifts, I’m afraid this post will have to go without an image.)
With an eye to the fact that most of the time that hasn’t been spent on actual paying work lately has been spent bent over my too-high-count Aida weave (tiny stitches are pretty but time-consuming), this magazine caught my attention at our local corner store. I think I picked it up from the stand and turned it over in my hands three times before I finally made up my mind and purchased a copy, mostly convinced by the absolutely gorgeous strawberry pattern on the cover.
The magazine contains a number of patterns and project suggestions for them, with excellent instructions, as well as a short section with an introduction to cross stitching and a new related craft (for this issue, cross-stitching on paper, which DOES look pretty cool). I learned some things, and found some patterns I’ll definitely be up for trying out, including the aforementioned strawberry pattern. Each issue also comes with a small project kit, in this case the materials for a little Royal Guard embroidery with a magnet felt frame, which I’m pretty indifferent about.
The pricing is a bit of a shame – it’s definitely worth the cover price of £3.99, but with import costs, tax, and markups, this ended up with me paying two and a half times that for my copy, and subscriptions actually work out to even more per issue. But I’ll probably still pick up one or two more, because I did enjoy what was in this magazine a lot, and the preview of the next issue contained some very interesting patterns.
Bottom line: Definitely recommended if you’re into cross-stitching!
(Also, to the right you can see a small teaser for my secret Christmas project which is by now well underway…)
While needle felting at the moment holds the position of my primary craft, I do practise other crafts. This particular one is a little bit hush-hush, and the finished product and any progress shots won’t be posted until after Christmas due to the nature of the project, just in case one of the recipients were to stumble across my blog.
I can say that it will entail sewing 12540 cross-stitches, which would average out to just over 90 stitches a day if I were to start today, by Christmas Eve at the latest. Naturally, for a project of this magnitude, with this many colors (49 different colors of floss, some of which I’ll need more than one skein of), I wanted to make sure I found the cheapest supplier I could – DMC floss is many great things, but “cheap” is not really among them.
Some searching lead me to Broderama, which sells its floss at just over half of what my local yarn shop charges (I still like this yarn shop; they’ve got lovely yarns and the woman who runs it is a delight), and which also optionally sells floss in 1 m lengths for whatever colors you don’t need much of. I erred on the side of caution and only ordered the shorter lengths for anything which would require under 100 stitches, so I’ll probably have quite a bit left over once this project is done, but I’d rather do that than run out at an inopportune time.
As a bonus, I made a pretty big, pretty stupid mistake when I specified the amount of Aida weave I’d need, and the woman who runs Broderama took the time to email me and straighten it out instead of going ahead and sending me a uselessly-small piece of fabric. That’s the kind of customer service I, for one, notice and remember!
The primary purpose of creating this sculpture was to try out a few techniques I will be using on future projects. Especially string jointing, which will be used for a large-scale project that’s currently very high on my priority list, felting-wise, but also the use of sculpted clay components for felted objects. The bullfinch is also a culturally significant bird in Sweden, which played into my decision to do this specific species of bird.
The core for the headless sculpture (the head couldn’t be finished until the beak dried, as the beak had wool worked into the back of it and was to be felted in) was made in front of the TV one evening. In fact, the entirety of the bullfinch was made in front of the TV, making its way through most of CSI:NY. One of the primary complications in this early stage was keeping the bird out of the cats’ reach.
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Some time ago I borrowed a catalogue from a friend of my mother’s for whom crafting pretty much is a way of life. She’s historically been incredibly supportive (as much as possible for someone I see a few times a year, at least) of my crafting endeavors, and she opens her studio during the local art tours most years, as well as being a member of a regional artists’ guild. She warmly recommended Creativ Company as a supplier, and so when I had the opportunity I had to give them a try
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Sometimes when you’re looking for one specific resource, you find that you have to search in pretty esoteric places in order to find what you seek. I needed waxed thread for jointing needle-felted sculptures, and I spent some quite frustrated hours searching for endless variations on the word, finding among other places one company that would gladly sell waxed thread – in spools of 1100 meters. (Their target market was not fiber artists, obviously, but upholsterers, who go through significantly more of the stuff.)
When I finally found a supplier, it was in the place I’d least expected: Handelsgillet, a supplier for SCA-style enthusiasts who want period supplies when practising their hobby. They sell a wide variety of reproductions, though I was primarily interested in the waxed linen thread and a couple of blocks of extra wax for future use.
Unfortunately, I was unwise enough to leave the parcel on my desk, and one of my cats, who is enough of a thief that I affectionately refer to her as the magpie, thought the wax smelled interesting and mauled it through the bag. (I also ordered a pair of bone dice, because I am a sucker for neat dice.)