Hooked on Needles

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Learn to Crochet - Tunisian Knit Stitch or Afghan Stitch

Tunisian Crochet has been around for a long time and is called by many different names. You may have heard of the Afghan Stitch, or Shepherd's Knitting, or Railroad Knitting. These are all names for the same thing, Tunisian Crochet. I am sure there are many other names for it as well.

It is generally thought to be a cross between knitting and crocheting, as there are many similarities to each. The needle used for Tunisian Crochet looks like a crochet hook on one end and a knitting needle on the other. Only one needle is used at a time as in crochet, but many stitches are held on the needle at one time as in knitting. As in both knitting and crocheting, there is a huge variety of stitches that can be formed using Tunisian Crochet. There is one main difference though, and that is Tunisian Crochet is always worked from the front. The work is never turned. Because of this, Tunisian Crochet always forms a fabric that has a definite front side and back side.

Tunisian Crochet is also prone to curling at the ends so it is highly recommended that pieces be blocked before being stitched together or finished into blankets or garments. This curling is caused by there being generally more bulk of yarn on the back side of the piece than on the front which forces the fabric to curl forward. It is almost always recommended to use a needle two or three times larger than what is suggested for the yarn that is being used. This helps to reduce the curling, but does not eliminate it.

Ok, enough talk about it...let's get down to business!

Crochet hooks for Tunisian Crochet, also known as Afghan HooksThese hooks are what you would use for Tunisian Crochet. The first hook is small, size G, and it has a cable attached to the end, much like circular knitting needles have between the two ends. Notice the red circle which is the stopper at the end so the stitches don't fall off. This hook would accommodate a large number of stitches and would be suitable to use for a one piece blanket.

The extra large light blue hook is a size Q which is gigantic in diameter, but not very long and does not have a stopper at the end. This could be used for Tunisian Crochet when making something narrow such as a scarf, or panels for an afghan that will be stitched together later. This is the needle I used to crochet my very first afghan when I was about 12 years old! Unless the desired effect is very loose and lacy, two strands of yarn would be used with this hook.

The last two hooks are two different sizes of the same type of hook. You can see the stopper at the end just like a knitting needle, and the hook at the other end just like a crochet hook. Also notice that these hooks do not have the little flat part in middle like regular crochet hooks have where you rest your thumb and finger. This is because many stitches are held on the needle at one time and they need to remain consistent in size. The stitches also need to be able to move freely across the needle as in knitting.

Finished Tunisian Crochet or Afghan Stitch BlockThis is a block stitched in Basic Tunisian Crochet, also called the Tunisian Knit Stitch, or the Afghan Stitch. The block is 6 inches square and has already been blocked. You can see that it still wants to curl on the top and bottom of the square.

Tunisian Knit stitch close upThe Tunisian Knit Stitch makes a very pretty design on the front which is a wonderful fabric for working cross stitch into for added color and interest in a piece.

Back of Tunisian Knit blockThe back of the Tunisian Knit Stitch looks very similar to garter stitch in knitting. It is thick and firm and provides a nice hiding place for the wrong side of embroidery stitches that might be worked on the front.

As mentioned in the video, there are quite a number of different stitches in Tunisian Crochet and the next one I am going to show you is called Tunisian Stockinette. My friend Merry from the Knittinghelp.com forum that I love to read has also asked for some help with a project that calls for Tunisian Short Row. I will be sharing a pattern for a lovely dish cloth that Merry wants to make and a video showing how you can make one yourself using your new skills in Tunisian Crochet.

Happy Stitching!

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Friday, January 30, 2009

One Project a Month Challenge

While in the process of cleaning out and reorganizing my sewing room recently, I gathered all my projects that were either never started, or started and never finished. They now take up a whole shelf in one of my cabinets and I listed them here along with sharing a few of my organization tips.

I have been following May Britt's website Abyquilt since I was involved in the Stitcher's Angel Swap last year, and she has come up with a challenge for 2009 which I think will be a great motivator for me. Perhaps it is something you would be interested in too.

One Project a Month Challenge Badge
It's called the One Project a Month Challenge and you can read all about it here on May Britt's site. Basically it is a fun way for lots of creative people to encourage each other to finish one project a month for the year. There will even be prize drawings for those who follow through.

I have put my list of months on my sidebar and will add finished projects for each month as appropriate. As my plan is now, they will all be from my 2009 Project List and will come right off the shelf in my cabinet. You know how the best laid plans can go though.

But at least I have a plan!

Happy Stitching!

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Counted Cross Stitch - Let Us Give Thanks

Way back in 1995, I had the idea to make a Counted Cross Stitch for my own parents for Christmas that year and also one for my husband's mother. That idea sprouted in my brain sometime around late summer, so I put everything else aside and got very busy! The Daisies and Butterflies Counted Cross Stitch piece was done for my mother-in-law. The piece I chose for my own parents was from the same book, Seasons Remembered by Leisure Arts, and was called Let Us Give Thanks.

Let Us Give Thanks Counted Cross StitchMy parents live half way across the country, so I asked my mother to take a few pictures of the piece and email them to me. Naturally she said she would, but not before she washed the glass. Isn't that just like a mother? In the picture above you can see the entire piece, double matted and custom framed. It is a sampler style design with the alphabet along the bottom, fruit basket in the middle and the flowers around the edges. The words "Let Us Give Thanks" are backstitched in script at the top. The year is divided in the two upper corners.

Let Us Give Thanks Counted Cross StitchThis piece was stitched on 32 count Raw Belfast Linen over two threads and used 25 different colors of DMC embroidery floss. Just to give you an idea of how much shading is done in this cross stitch, the cherry on the lower right hand side of the basket just above the letter M is 8 stitches across and 7 stitches from top to bottom, and there are six different colors of floss in that small amount of space!

I loved the rich warm colors in this design. They reminded me of my mother's style of decorating - very classy. She has this piece hanging in her dining room and I must say, it looks lovely.

Thanks for the pictures, Mom!

Happy Stitching!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Learn to Knit -- Hurdle Stitch

The Cherry Berry Preemie Oddball blanket is now complete and George the mailman picked it up today to deliver it to the generous lady who will wash, block and deliver all the Preemie Oddball blankets. You may be wondering why I have been spending so much time lately on these oddball blankets. Well, here's how it happened...I read in the charity knitting forum a while back that a few more blankets were being started, so I volunteered myself to be the last knitter and also to crochet the borders on some of the new blankets. Little did I know that they would all be coming my way at just about the same time! Each knitter is given two weeks to work on a blanket before it should be forwarded on to the next knitter, so it actually makes sense that they would all be ready for me at just about the same time as each other. That thought never occurred to me! Brilliant! But that's ok because I rather enjoy working on these blankets and it gives me the opportunity to try out some new stitches and make up some new border designs.

The other day you saw the completed Tutti Frutti blanket along with a video of how to do the scallop border. So now on to Cherry Berry.

Knitting Complete on Cherry Berry Preemie Oddball BlanketHere it is after all the knitting was complete. Don't you just love the variety of pink yarns used in this blanket? Not one yarn is the same as another. The yarn used in the middle section actually has some red in it and you'll see in a future post that the border is also in red. The knitted section that I did is at the top of the picture. I used the same pink yarn for this as for my section on Tutti Frutti which was Bernat Softee Baby in Pink Marls.

Knit Hurdle Stitch close-upThe stitch I used is called Hurdle Stitch which I first saw in another oddball blanket. I asked the knitter for the instructions on the stitch and I also found it online. I'll share it with you below. The above picture shows what nice texture the stitch has, and the next picture shows what a pretty design it makes.

Knit Hurdle Stitch close-upI have always had a preference for crocheted blankets over knitted, but this stitch is one that I might consider for a knitted blanket. It is thick and soft, almost like a double layer of stitching. It also seems to be more substantial than other knit stitches, not loose and stretchy. I really enjoyed knitting my section of Cherry Berry with the Hurdle Stitch and I know it will be a stitch I will use often on future blankets.

Here's the stitch pattern if you would like to try it yourself:

Hurdle Stitch

Work over an even number of stitches.
Rows 1 and 2: Knit
Rows 3 and 4: (K1, P1) across
Repeat rows 1 - 4.

I just don't think it could be any easier to get such a pretty design with such nice texture in a knit stitch! Try it and see what you think! I'll show the border I crocheted on this blanket shortly along with a video of how to work it.

Happy Stitching!

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Counted Cross Stitch Pattern Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed!

You all have read about my recent Sewing Room Clean-up and I am sure you don't really care to hear another word about it. But as part of this great cleansing project, I have found some things that I am going to list on ebay and some other things that I am going to offer to you, my readers, as giveaway prizes.

Here are two of them:

Irish Counted Cross Stitch PatternThis is the Irish Counted Cross Stitch that my daughter stitched and received framed for Christmas this past year. It turned out so beautiful and will be a real treasure for her. Included in this prize are the stitching chart, floss list, and the leftover floss from working the project. I will also include any DMC floss I have in my stash that can be used in this pattern.

Button Santa Cross Stitch PatternAnd this pattern is for the cutest little sideways Santa. The kit originally included 14 count perforated plastic on which I stitched the design and it turned out really cute. This prize will include the stitching chart, needles that came with the kit and a few of the leftover buttons. I will also include any DMC floss from my stash that can be used in this pattern. As you can see in the picture, the floss chart gives the DMC floss numbers, so finding more floss to work this design will be as simple as a trip to your favorite craft store. This design could be stitched onto any evenweave fabric or onto clothing using waste canvas. Now there's a technique I haven't shown here yet! Let me add that to my list!

So here's how this giveaway will work. Actually there is no work involved. If you want either of these patterns, just leave a comment on this post stating which one you are interested in having. If I cannot contact you by email, your entry will not count.

After about a week or when there are enough interested parties to make it fun, I will have two drawings: one with the names of people who want the Irish pattern and one with the names of people who want the Santa pattern. If you are not interested in these patterns yourself, please share a link to this giveaway to anyone you think might be interested or with your own website readers. I would love for these patterns to go to a good home and be used.

Thank you and Happy Stitching!

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Learn to Crochet - Scallop Border Video Tutorial

When I crochet or knit a baby blanket, I love to finish it off with a nice border. Some patterns have the border sort of built in to the design, such as a knitted blanket with a garter stitch border. But some, such as the oddball baby blanket I recently showed you called Tutti Frutti or the Jersey Devil and Forest Greens blankets I also worked on, have a garter stitch border built in as the foundation for a crocheted border which is added after all the knitting is complete.

After knitting the last section on Tutti Frutti using the Diagonal Seed Stitch in a pink and white Bernat Softee Baby yarn, I chose another Bernat yarn to crochet the border. This blanket already had so many soft yummy colors that I just had to pick a color that would be just as soft and yummy for the special little person who would be getting it. Soft Lilac was my pick for this, and I worked the border in a simple scallop.

What do you think of the finished blanket?

Tutti Frutti Oddball Baby Blanket completeIn this picture, you can see the five different sections, all knit by five different people using five different stitches and five different yarns. What a happy and cheerful blanket all these differences make!

Crocheted Scallop BorderHere's a close-up of the scallop border crocheted in purple around the whole blanket. First notice the rows of knitting just before the purple begins. These last rows were worked in garter stitch, which is just knitting every row. The blanket was begun in the same way, several rows of garter stitch. Also the beginning and end of each row throughout the blanket are worked with 3 knit stitches which makes a garter stitch border around the entire piece.

Starting with the purple, I crocheted 3 rows of single crochet around the whole blanket before beginning my scallop border. Then I worked the scallops by skipping one stitch, working 5 double crochets into the next stitch, skipping the next stitch and working a single crochet into the next stitch. That is how easy this pretty border is to crochet.

Here's a little video showing how to do this border:

In this video, you can get a few glimpses of the other sections of the blanket that I did not knit. Some of the stitches the other knitters used were so interesting that I asked for the instructions for the stitches and will be using them myself in future blankets. Right now I have another one in progress called Cherry Berry and I am using the same stitch as in the pink section you see in the Tutti Frutti blanket. I will share that with you soon.

The KnittingHelp.com Charity knitting forum has so many talented and generous knitters from all different parts of the country, but they could always use more willing hands. This is a great way to work on a little project which is not a huge commitment of time or money, but will benefit someone in such a wonderful way. Even if you are a new knitter, what better way to master the skill than to practice it!

Happy Stitching!

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Time to Get Organized -- Counted Cross Stitch

Since I've been showing off some of my Counted Cross Stitch pieces recently, I decided it was appropriate to give this form of embroidery its own link on my sidebar. So here is a list of posts on Counted Cross Stitch which will be updated whenever other relevant articles are added to the site. This way you can just click on the link on my sidebar to find all the posts having to do with Counted Cross Stitch.

Happy Stitching!

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

St. Francis Prayer Counted Cross Stitch

Back in the late 1980's when Counted Cross Stitch was getting to the height of its popularity here in the US, I found a pattern that really caught my eye. I loved the colors in it and the simple design. Of course, the words in it are timeless and they still remind me of my grandmother. She had a little wooden looking plaque hanging just inside her bedroom door with the Prayer of St. Francis on it.

St. Francis Prayer Counted Cross StitchThis is the piece that I made and had professionally framed to hang in our bedroom in our first house. Today it hangs just at the top of the stairs in the upstairs hallway. Green is such a classic decorating color and seems to go well with anything. I am glad now that I had this piece matted with green instead of going with the blues that I used in our other home!

You can see that this piece, like the wedding gift cross stitch that my sister made for us and the Daisies and Butterflies that I made for my mother-in-law, is under glass with a mat to separate the fabric and floss from the glass. It also serves to keep dust and dirt from discoloring the stitchery.

St. Francis Prayer Cross Stitch PatternThis is the leaflet from Leisure Arts that holds the chart for this piece. You can see that it is quite old and a little worn. Even if you couldn't tell its age by the wrinkles, you could tell by the price! If this is a pattern you are interested in, you may be able to find it on ebay or other online trading sites. I don't think I'm quite ready to part with mine yet!

Happy Stitching!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Knitted Jumbo Mittens Pattern Available!

This post is for anyone who took a fancy to my Knitted Jumbo Mittens that were displayed on my mantel this past Christmas. Do I have some good news for you!

Knitted Jumbo MittensHere's a close-up so you can see just what I'm talking about, in case you missed their first showing at Christmas time. Aren't they just FUN, and such a clever alternative to the traditional stocking? I just love them.

Knitted Jumbo Mittens by the FireplaceHere's all 5 of ours hanging by the fireplace, just waiting for Santa to pop in and fill them up. They are quite stretchy so they hold an awful lot of little Christmas treasures!

So here's the good news...I contacted Mary Maxim, which you know is one of my favorite mail order and catalog outlets for yarn and crafts and such, and I asked if the pattern for these mittens might still available. I know that it hasn't been offered in their catalog or on their website for a number of years now. Just this week, I got a very nice email from their customer service department telling me how this pattern can be ordered, and now I'm sharing that information with you so you can order it and start knitting these colorful mittens for everyone in your family in time for next Christmas!

Here's what Mary Maxim said, and I quote:

I'm very sorry for the delay in getting back to you--our new catalog has been keeping us very busy! You can let others know that Mary Maxim sells our discontinued patterns (when they have been discontinued for over one year), patterns only, for $3.00 each. This was pattern #1432. Anyone can call us at 800-962-9504 and ask for Customer Service, and we will be glad to take the order.

Customer Service
Mary Maxim, Inc.

So there you have it! Since it is only the pattern that you can order now, and no longer the kit they used to offer which made two mittens, here are the yarn and needle requirements so you can order enough of their Titan yarn at the same time as you order the pattern to make as many mittens as you want:

* 1 skein Natural (enough for 2 mittens)
* 1 skein color of your choice (enough for 1 mitten)
* Knitting needles size 10 1/2 (metric size 6.50)
* Crochet hook size K-10 1/2 (metric size 6.50) (only used to make the hanging loop.)

Update 12/19/2010: The pattern is available HERE. Mary Maxim only has a few colors of their Titan bulky weight yarn available, but I am sure any bulky weight yarn would work just fine for this pattern.

If you make these mittens, I would love to see a picture of them hanging on your mantel come Christmas time!

Happy Stitching!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Diagonal Seed Stitch in Knitting

Recently I had the pleasure of being the last knitter on one of the Northeast Region Oddball Preemie Blankets called Tutti Frutti. The stitch I used was Diagonal Seed Stitch on a Stockinette background.

This is what the last section looked like when it was finished and the pattern is included below.

Knit Diagonal Seed StitchOn these oddball blankets, each knitter gets to choose whatever design they want to stitch. The only requirement is the type of yarn for the specific blanket and that the beginning and ending 3 stitches of each row must be knit. This provides a uniform garter stitch border around the blanket for the crocheted border to be worked into.

Tutti Frutti is a preemie blanket so it is worked in sport or DK weight yarn. The yarn I used is Bernat Softee Baby and the color name is Pink Marls.

The Diagonal Seed Stitch is a very simple stitch to work, being basically stockinette stitch with purl stitches spaced evenly on the right side, offset by one on each subsequent row. This is how I worked the diagonal pattern:

Row 1 (right side): K3, K0 (this is simply a placeholder to which the Row 3 instruction will refer), P1, (K10, P1) until there are 13 or fewer stitches left on the needle, K remaining stitches.

Row 2 (wrong side) and all even number rows: K3, Purl across until only 3 stitches remain, K3.

Rows 3 - 21: K3, K one more than on previous right side row (for instance: for row 3 K1, for row 5 K2, for row 7 K3, etc) , P1, (K10, P1) across, K remaining stitches.

Row 23: Begin again with Row 1.

This design could very easily be incorporated into a plain stockinette stitch pattern to add a little texture and interest to the knitted fabric. It would look nice worked into a sweater, hat, scarf or blanket. The distance between the diagonal lines could easily be changed to whatever you like, either closer together or further apart. Experiment a little with scrap yarn to come up with something you like, or an even easier way to work out your own design is to use graph paper to mark where you want your purl stitches. Then knit a sample to see if you like it before working it into a larger piece. Use worsted weight cotton like Peaches 'N Cream for your sample and make up a dishcloth with your design. That way, even if you don't like your design, you will still have something usable.

Happy Stitching!

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Project List for 2009 -- Organization Tips

A few years ago when I was fortunate enough to have my little sewing room built in the basement, I came up with a few items that I have found to be very useful and that help me to be more productive and organized. Perhaps you might find them helpful too.

The first is my bulletin board which hangs directly above my sewing machine. You can see it in one of my Before Clean-up pictures. I use it to pin up things that inspire me, notes that I have received from nice people who sent me gifts and giveaways, and other little odd things that I like to look at or remember. When I am not taking pictures or making videos for Hooked On Needles, I will remove the fabric that is pinned on the board and use the board to pin up my pattern or instructions for whatever sewing or quilting project I am working on. This way I can see it in front of me and it doesn't get lost in the surrounding chaos, which thankfully isn't an issue anymore!

Are you a list person? I surely am! The older I get, the more I rely on written reminders to make sure what needs to be done each day actually gets done. This brings me to the next item I use frequently.

The other item I have found to be very useful is a small, easily portable white board. I use this to jot down notes or ideas or plans until I can get them into a more permanent state, such as onto the computer. While I was doing my big clean-up recently, I used it to list every project as I found it in my mess. You can see it here in the second picture, sitting on the ping pong table among all the Stuff, and already it is quite full.

I was amazed to find so many projects that I have all the materials for in amongst my mess. As I came upon each one, I recalled when and why I got it, and wished that it had not been lost in the mess over time. This year, I have made a promise to myself to be more productive and not as wasteful in terms of my crafting projects. I have decided that each new project that I work on this year will come from my Shelf of Projects, right in the cabinet in my sewing room. In order to help with this effort, I have made a list of all the projects I discovered and wrote on my little white board. After putting them into a file on the computer, I organized them by craft method. So now, when I'm in the mood to begin a project, I can look at my list and pick just what I am in the mood for.

Here is The List:

2009 Project List

Fabric Baskets x 1
Tea wallets x 2
• Make knitting needle roll

Make crochet hook roll x 2
PIF gift #2, red apple tote bag and misc items - mailed 5/22 to Myra
Kitchen Swap gift - mailed 5/22 to Adrienne - apron and misc. items
Jeans aprons - paisley, ladybug, vest panel
Jeans Clothes Pin Bag
Pin Cushion Bag
Origami Bag
Fabric Baskets for washcloth swap
Sweet and Rosy Needle Wallet
Friendship bag x2
Embroidered Country Rose Drawstring Bag
Halloween Apron Swap

• Tree skirt panel
• Color bridge quilt
• Finish log cabin quilt
• Finish Elizabeth’s scrap quilt
Country cabin doll quilts - gave to band yardsale
Disappearing 9 patch block swap - blocks finished 6/18
I Spy squares mailed 10/1/09
Jane's Red and Aqua D9P block swap - blocks finished and mailed 10/12
Scrappy Love quilt block

• PIF gift #4 - never heard back from Mrs. Bubba
PIF gift # 1 - mailed 4/22/09 (elongated knit stitch scarf and other misc handmade items)
• Socks
• Baby sweaters w/encore yarn - Purple Size 1
• Fruit rollup hat
• Pink poncho
• Knitted Santa
• Vanna’s Choice Contest entry
• Oddball blankets – Tutti Frutti, Cherry Berry, Pumpkin Delight, Cotton Candy, Citrus Sunshine, Here Comes the Sun, Circus Circus, Seaside Park, Sherbet, Lollipop, Tiny Dancer
• Oddball Care Shawl - Blue Skies
• Triangle Lace Shawl - Christmas gift for Mom

Finish wedding gift afghan
Sweet liberty afghan for Jonathan Roberge Memorial Golf Tournament Raffle - finished 7/2
Tunisian Short Row Dishcloth - lost count after a dozen or so!
PIF gift #3, pink bag and misc items - mailed and received 6/09
• Oddball blankets - Rainbow Connection, Butterfly Kisses
Beaded Rosary Case
Crocheted Bag for my favorite bag lady
Mini duffel for 400th post summer giveaway
Crocheted pin cushion
Half Granny shawl like Ma Ingalls wore on Little House on the Prairie

• Beaded shade pulls
• Beaded banners, Christmas Tree for Angel Swap gift
• Long Leggs Santa
• Wire Christmas trees - x1
• Wire angels
Fish wind chime

Cross Stitch
• Uncle Sam Santa

• Rose cottage needlepoint

• Ballerina cross stitch
Hardanger snowman
• Daisy Cottage needlepoint

As I finish each project, I will change the entry on this list to red. I am hoping by the end of the year, there will be more red than black, but we'll have to wait and see about that. What do you do to keep yourself focused?

Happy Stitching!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our First Home - Counted Cross Stitch Wedding Gift and a Framing Tip

Counted Cross Stitch was all the rage back in the late 70s and early 80s. That is when my own Auntie taught me how to do it, and I along with a few of my sisters and even my mother stitched quite a lot of projects using this method of cross stitch.

As a wedding gift to me and my husband, one of my sisters worked a piece that I have always called "Our First Home" because it is of a home...not even remotely like one I will ever live in, but a home nonetheless, and it was the first one we ever owned!

Come on in and take a tour...

Counted Cross Stitch HomeIsn't it so inviting? If you click on the picture, you can see a larger version of it and hopefully will be able to make out some of the details. The front door is so welcoming with its little hearts on either side and over the door. The kitchen has a hutch with china on it, a kitchen table and chairs with a bowl of fruit on it and a stained glass lamp hanging over it, a cozy pot belly stove and a cat curled up on the rug in the corner.

On the left side of the main floor is the living room, or I suppose in this house it would be called the parlor! It has a lovely sofa and two side chairs, a fancy floor lamp and even a very old phonograph with the big brass bell on it. I know there's a name for those but I can't come up with it right this minute! Anyway, you know what I mean, the thing that the dog used to look into on the old RCA record labels! I'm dating myself here! Ok, back to the tour...

Upstairs is the little girl's room with the pink canopy bed, doll and cradle and the cat sitting in the curtained window.

In the middle is the bathroom with all the important bathroom fixtures plus a hanging plant. The fancy claw foot tub even has a shower! This is a very fancy house!

Then there's the master bedroom with the fluffy pillows on the four poster bed, the pretty lamp on the night table, the pictures on the walls, the fancy light fixture on the ceiling and the wash basin and pretty plant on the table.

In the attic you can see a dressmaker's form, a trunk which no doubt holds all the treasures of the past, and a beautiful stained glass window.

Two porches and some very fancy roof lines finish off Our First Home.

It's always fun to go back to places from the past and remember all the things about them that were special. This one goes back 26 years now and was one of my very favorite wedding gifts. It hangs proudly in our living room and still gets compliments today.

Framing Tip:

When this piece was framed, it was the recommended practice not to glass over counted cross stitch for fear of crushing the stitches by causing the floss to come in contact with the glass. After this piece hung on the wall for a couple years, it was clear that if we wanted to keep it for a long time, something else would have to be done to preserve it. I took it to my local frame shop and asked for advice. The suggestion I took was to have the piece framed using glass and a mat in the same color as the background fabric. This served two purposes. One was to keep the glass from touching the stitches, and the other was to cover the spots that had appeared along the edges of the fabric from dusting the frame. I also didn't want a colored mat to take focus away from the handwork. The original wooden frame was used again to frame the piece.

So there's a little tip for you if you are planning to frame counted cross stitch. Use glass, but make sure you use at least a single mat to keep some space between the glass and the stitches.

Do you have any treasures from the past that you have done something with in order to preserve them? Leave a comment and share your tips with everyone!

Happy Stitching!

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Crocheted Noah's Ark Blanket

Not too long after I got involved in the KnittingHelp.com forum, I read about a problem one of the readers was having with a particular crochet stitch. Merryknitter had just learned how to crochet and she was taking on a rather ambitious project.

I was able to work out the stitch and make a little video showing how to do it, which she used to get going on her baby blanket. We've corresponded many times since then and recently she shared a picture of her finished project with everyone on the forum. I asked if I could use the picture for show and tell here and Merry agreed. So here it is...

Merryknitter's Crocheted Noah's Ark BlanketIsn't that just the cutest baby blanket? Can you believe that Merry just learned to crochet a few short months ago? She got this pattern from the Crochet! May 2008 magazine.
I think she did a wonderful job and I just know that the baby who receives this will be warm and cozy, and cute as a button!

I used this same stitch in one of my election day projects since I liked it so much. The scarf I made turned out pretty funky looking, I thought. It was mailed off a few weeks ago with the others I had made for the Special Olympics.

Merry recently asked a question about Tunisian Crochet, so that will be my next little project to work on. Thanks, Merry, for allowing me to share your darling blanket with my readers!

Please note that this is not my pattern and I cannot send copies of it. If you would like to make this blanket, I would suggest Googling Crochet! Magazine May 2008 to see if you can purchase the issue from someone. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who owns this particular issue, you could ask to borrow it. Please respect any copyright this pattern might have.

Happy Stitching!

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another Favorite Cross Stitch -- Daisies and Butterflies

After taking the picture of Elizabeth's finished Irish Cross Stitch, I went around the house and snapped pictures of all my other counted cross stitch pieces that are framed and hanging on the walls. This is, by no means, all of the cross stitch pieces I have, just those actually on display!

Today I wanted to show you a piece that I did back in 1995 as a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law. She always loved oranges, yellows, greens and decorated mostly with those colors. When I found this pattern in the Leisure Arts book called Seasons Remembered, I knew it would be perfect for her.

Daisy and Butterfly Counted Cross StitchThis piece was stitched over two threads on 32 count White Belfast Linen. Two strands of floss were used for the cross stitch and one for the half cross stitches (of which there were a huge number!), back stitches, French knots and lazy daisy stitches. There are 39 different colors of DMC floss used in this piece!

I had the piece custom framed at a local frame shop, using a double mat of brown and green and a simple wooden frame stock.

Daisy and Butterfly Counted Cross StitchMy mother-in-law loved this piece and proudly displayed it in her home. After she passed away about 5 1/2 years ago, her sisters made sure that it was returned to me. I think of her every time I see it.

Daisy and Butterfly Counted Cross Stitch Close UpI look at this piece now, hanging in the front hall of our home, and wonder how in the world I was able to do this stitching. I guess I was younger back then and my hands and eyes weren't yet starting to betray me!

I have to apologize for the poor picture quality. I had a hard time getting any pictures good enough to post because of the reflections in the glass. But anyway, there it is, one of my favorite cross stitch pieces which greets everyone when they enter our home.

Another of my favorite pieces is one that I did that same year for my own parents, and it happens to be a pattern from the very same book. I will have to see if I can get my mother to take some pictures and email them to me so I can show you. In the meantime, I have two more pieces, one that I did and one that was a wedding gift to me and my husband from one of my sisters, that I will show you shortly.

Happy Stitching!

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Irish Counted Cross Stitch Finished and Framed -- Beautiful!

Back in October my daughter was working on her very first grown-up counted cross stitch piece. She thoroughly enjoyed every stitch and I think she did a wonderful job on this project. She wanted very much to have it professionally matted and framed, but we all know just how expensive that can be, even when taking advantage of the 50 or 60% off coupons at places like Michael's. So she asked for the framing for Christmas and Santa came through like a champ.

Here it is...

Irish Counted Cross Stitch Finished and FramedElizabeth chose the mat colors and frame stock herself, but she didn't get to see it finished until she unwrapped it on Christmas morning. I, however, was the lucky one to pick it up from Michael's so I got to see it first. I was just thrilled with the way it came out.

Elizabeth chose a double mat of dark green on the outside and a lighter green on the inside which match the greens in the stitching perfectly. She picked out this beautiful gold frame stock with such pretty details in it that really pick up the gold stitching around the piece.

She could not have been happier with the result of her fine work. And I must say it looks quite lovely hanging in the upstairs hallway right outside the bedroom doors. Do you think that when she moves out of the house someday, perhaps she might just forget to take it with her? Hmmm...probably not!

Happy Stitching!

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Pat Made a Tote Bag!

Recently my 7-lesson Tote Bag Tutorial was posted here on Hooked On Needles. It's a great little -- well, actually BIG -- tote bag that is expandable because of its zippered extension that tucks down into the bag when not needed and pulls up out of the bag when you need to fill your tote bag to the brim. I love using it as a carry-on bag when I travel.

Anyway, even before my tutorial was complete, I had one reader who was very excited about giving it a try. She was a little nervous about the zipper part of the bag, but I assured her that it really wasn't that hard to put the zipper into this pattern.

Take a look at what Pat did...

Pat's Tote Bag FabricShe gathered her chosen fabric, a lightweight denim fabric and a coordinating sunflower and morning glory print that is so bright and cheerful. Of course I love anything that looks like denim anyway, so already I was liking what I saw.

Pat got to work and followed along with each lesson. After a few interruptions and her sewing machine acting up on her, she finally finished the bag and now has something to show off to her quilting friends next time they get together. I just know they will all be impressed.

Pat's Finished Tote BagHere is Pat's finished bag with a very generous pocket on the outside and that cheerful trim on the handles and pocket sides. Great job, Pat! Thanks so much for sharing it with everyone. Visit Pat at her website, A Little of This and a Little of Pat, and see what other creative things she has been doing lately.

If anyone else uses my tutorial to make a tote bag, I would sure love to see a picture of the finished product. It is always fun to see all the varied fabric selections and how different combinations look together.

Happy Stitching!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Whirl Into Winter Giveaway Winner Announced!

My goodness, January 15th came along so quickly! Of course you know what that means...time to draw the winner of my Whirl Into Winter Giveaway. My last giveaway drawing helper was my favorite little guy Sean, and this time my little 4 year old Gracie asked if she could help. So here's what we did...

Whirl Into Winter DrawingFirst I wrote down every person's name who entered the giveaway onto a page from my little Peanuts daily calendar. Those little pieces of paper come in so handy for things like this! I folded each one twice and put them all into Gracie's little basket that she uses for her play food.

Whirl Into Winter DrawingWhen she finally got up from her nap, I had her mix all the papers around in the basket...

Whirl Into Winter Drawing...and pull one out. Isn't that Snoopy Santa so cute?

Whirl Into Winter DrawingAnd here's the winner...cdziuba of Ceeceeblogger who is just getting started with the whole blogging thing. Maybe we should all stop over and wish her luck and keep an eye on what she will be sharing with the world.

This is what she had to say in her winning comment:

I love this! First, I like the Forest Greens Baby Blanket, then the Mitten Stockings, and then the Dr. Seuss Scarf. I would love to win this lovely prize.

Congratulations, cdziuba! Email your address to me and I'll get that cozy fleece blanket and other winter goodies out to you right away.

Once again, I want to thank everyone who took the time to look through my site and pick cozy things to mention. I hope you all enjoyed your little tour around Hooked On Needles and I look forward to your visiting again soon.

Happy Stitching!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sewing Room Clean-up Progress

Recall The Mess.

Now observe the transformation...

Sewing Room Clean-upThe first thing I did in my effort to achieve a clean and organized sewing room was to empty it of everything that was not furniture. I started with the cabinets. Everything was removed from the tops and the insides. All the denim I have been saving over the years is neatly folded and stacked on the lower right shelf. There is not an inch of room left for another worn out pair of jeans, so I need to do something with that project soon! My paints are on the upper left shelf, nicely fitting into a different box than they had been in before, with the bigger bottles on top.

Sewing Room Clean-upEverything was brought just outside my sewing room and put into Something Resembling Order on the ping pong table and the pool table...shhh, don't tell my husband! He really does not like his pool table being used for such things! He can't complain about the ping pong table though, since he gave it to me as a graduation gift many years ago...when HE graduated with his bachelor's degree after about 10 years of night school. He felt it was as much my effort as his and he thought I deserved something nice too. When it's not being used as my large flat space for sewing and such, I can pretty much whoop anyone who wants to challenge me. I love ping pong! Now back to business...

Sewing Room Clean-upAfter much sorting and discarding and reorganizing, I started putting things back into the cabinets in an order that made sense to me. I took Jane's advice even before she gave it, and put all my odd yarn on one shelf just at eye level with all the full skeins on the left and the partial skeins taking up the rest of that shelf.

The second shelf on the right holds all the materials for projects that are now listed on Things To Do list for 2009. Now I know where to look when it's time to start another project. I am hoping by the end of the year that shelf will be mostly empty.

The next shelf holds the remainder of the yarn I am using for the Wedding Gift Afghan so that will be used up soon too. Any leftovers will either be moved to the top shelf or will be listed for auction on ebay. Also on this shelf are projects that have been finished except for framing, such as my Daisy Cottage Needlepoint, or projects I need to decide what to do with, such as my second Pin Cushion Bag like the one I made for the Fall Into Fall Giveaway last fall.

On top of the right cabinet is that nice greenish craft tote which is now holding all the yarn that I have projects planned for, such as my Pay It Forward gifts and some baby sweaters. The section that sits in the top of that box holds all my organized knitting needles that are paired up in their original sleeves and all my circular needles. The tall cylinder next to it holds all my loose knitting needles. I'll be making a knitting needle roll to organize them better, thanks to one of Lyn's very thoughtful Pay It Forward gifts to me.

The left cabinet holds items for scrapbooking, cross stitch, beading (the M&M bag), painting, a box with all my sewing patterns, another with all my embroidery floss organized in little zip lock bags and numbered, another with buttons, and other odd crafty stuff that has all been gone through and weeded out and organized.

Sewing Room Clean-upI collected all my patterns and instructions and ideas from the four corners of the earth and weeded out about a ream's worth of paper. All the rest was neatly organized into three binders, one for knitting and crocheting patterns, one for quilting patterns and instructions, and the third for sewing, painting and other craft methods. Each pattern was put into its own top loading sheet protector and placed into the appropriate binder. All pamphlets or booklets were put into the magazine holder.

Sewing Room Clean-upThese were placed into the cabinet of my dry sink along with my pinning board on the bottom shelf and all my other craft and needlework books on the top shelf.

Sewing Room Clean-upAll my fabric was sorted and organized, and I placed all my fabric panels with matching backings into this basket. That embroidered "S" on the top is from my Irish Step Dancing embroidery example and my daughter thinks I should have it framed. I'm not so sure, but I left it there so I could think about it.

Sewing Room Clean-upAll my other fabric is in these totes underneath my table. One of them holds the fabric scrap quilt I made for my daughter which I hope to have machine quilted soon so that will quickly empty one of them. I will work on the others over time.

Sewing Room Clean-upThese are most of the containers I emptied in the process of cleaning and sorting. The two bags are going to school with my son for his teachers to use. Besides these empty containers, there were also 3 or 4 shipping boxes that were emptied and put out for recycle, and a few other containers that I used for organizing other things. Four kitchen trash bags were also filled and put out for pick-up.

This was a very cleansing (no pun intended) experience, and felt very much like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Now I know what I have and, for the most part, what I plan to do with it all. I would highly recommend this kind of Empty-Everything-and-Put-Back-Only-What-You-Really-Want kind of cleaning every now and then. I think it will make me much more productive and not nearly as wasteful.

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey to a clean and organized sewing room. I still have some work to do to finish it completely. Lots of items will be listed on ebay which in itself is a big project, and many more items will be offered here as giveaways to those who might want them. But for now, I think it's time to get back to my regularly scheduled programming. I have some needlework projects to share with you soon and will be working on some new videos too.

Happy Stitching!

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