french knots

Finish-along with &Stitches

If you are an &Stitches reader (and I hope you are!), you’ll know that we’re starting 2014 off with a finish-along. A good way to start a new year, I think – tidying up the project basket and getting things done!

My finish-along goal might be a little different than others, because I don’t have one project to focus on, I have a pile:

Embroidery to Finish-along with &Stitches!

This pile is my official entry to the &Stitches Finish-along, because it’s all embroidery. It might seem a bit excessive, but this whole post (embroidery and otherwise) is full of projects that are nearly all at least 80% finished — and I don’t honestly expect that I’ll finish them all. So pictured above:

  • French Knot sampler, with only one partial section left to complete.
  • Orangework Sampler, not quite half done, but this is a fairly small and quick project.
  • Eels lyrics embroidery! Oh, how I love this project so, and am so sad that it got so deeply buried at the bottom of the basket. There’s not much left to do really, but I was stumped by the best way to stitch those teeeeensy flowers and it was put on pause.
  • The cross-stitch pictured is from a kit bought at the Bronte House about 12 years ago. It’s a reproduction of a sampler Charlotte Bronte stitched as a little girl. She must’ve had amazing eyesight, because this has lingered for so long simply because it is so tiny I can barely see it. But there’s only one line left to stitch!
  • And lastly, those blue-gray blobby flowers? Those are updated from a pattern book from 1915 and are something I started a very, very long time ago. I honestly doubt I’ll get to this one in time, but I can give it a sporting try, right? Those flowers are all done in satin stitch, and there’s leaves too, and it’s a slow project – but I do enjoy it a lot.

Although not officially tied to the &Stitches finish-along because it’s not embroidery, I’d also love to see this pile finished:

Knitting Projects to Finish-along

Again, all projects nearly done, it’s just silly that they’re still lingering. The magenta is my Henslowe shawl, which only needs blocking. The white is a secret thing that may possibly become a pattern – with very little knitting left to do. The camel alpaca project is a new shawl for my now-home-from-the-hospital mother. To be fair, this has only been on the needles for about a week, but I’m already on the edging and I don’t want it to linger, so I’ve included it. And the mustard colored project is a sock for my brother (the second of the pair) which is perfect for train travel and my upcoming visit to Amsterdam.

EPP project to finish-along

And lastly, this set of English Paper Pieced pillow covers, a gift for my mother now over a year late. Yikes. EPP is slow going, which is why I like it, but it is admittedly very unlikely to be finished quickly. However, one top is already finished and the other is about halfway, so it’s worth mentioning it here and hoping for the best.

These are, sadly, not all of my UFOs, but they are the UFOs that I: a.) definitely want to finish. There are one or two I’m not convinced about continuing, so they aren’t taking part in the finish-along, and b.) are far enough along that quick completion isn’t a pipe dream. Long-term UFOs like my Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt don’t count, those are meant to be ongoing. I tend to only get frustrated by projects that linger unnecessarily, and that brings me to my one and only crafty resolution for 2014:

Less projects, more often.

Because I start too many projects at once, they all take for-ev-ar to finish, which means I’m totally sick of the sight of them by the time I get near the end, which means I let them pile up to this point I’m at now but I really don’t want to work on them anymore! This year, I want to have fewer WIPs going at once, so that I finish them and move on to new things faster. Shortening the cycle, as it were.

And the best place to start? Clearing out the basket. Let’s go!

French Knot Tulip Field Sampler – Semi-FO

I’m stitching a sampler a month for one full year! Join in and stitch with me if you’d like, for all the samplers or just a few, and link back to me / leave a link in the comments so I can follow your progress too! And tell your friends!

French Knot Tulip Field Sampler - Semi-FO

OK, guys, I’m calling it. I know this isn’t really finished, but I am on the last section of french knots – and I have nearly run out of floss in that color (which is much more pink, less red, than it looks here). I won’t have a good chance to stop by a floss-having shop for at least a few days, maybe not until the weekend, so I’m calling this a Semi-FO for now. It won’t take much to fill in that section because the knots I’m making there are *huge* and progress is shockingly quick there. I promise I will do a real FO post when it’s properly finished and share my thoughts on the project, but now I want us to be able to move on to the next sampler so that I don’t keep getting further from my goal!

I’m still a little disappointed that I let the french knots take two months, and now it’s a week into October as well! But this weekend, I realized my problem: I hadn’t planned enough in advance, I thought I could just pick something all willy-nilly at the beginning of each month. But that doesn’t lend itself to promptness so much, especially if you need to gather materials – and even more especially if I want you guys to be able to stitch along!

French Knot Tulip Field Sampler - Semi-FO

So this morning, I did some embroidery research: I looked through some of my history of embroidery books and did some aimless online flipping and came up with a master list of techniques that intrigue me. Most of them are easily sampler-able, and I scheduled in the next six months so that we can be prepared.

For October, I’ve decided to try pattern darning, an embroidery technique I’ve been interested in for ages. I’ll properly introduce darning later this week, but this is a very impressive example of a darning sampler at Needleprint if you’d like to get an idea of whether you’d like to join me! Ours will be much more modest – the whole idea of these samplers is not to create a huge, impressive piece of art, but to dabble a stitchy finger in different techniques and stitches to see if you like them enough to learn more.

French Knot Tulip Field Sampler - Semi-FO

The darning sampler may go a wee bit into November, but I’ve picked another relatively simple (and related) techniques for us to try in these two months, in order to give me a chance to get back on a monthly schedule without skipping any more months. If you’d like to join me – and I’d be SO happy to have you! – I’ll introduce the technique on Friday and get us started.

In the meantime, get yourself some linen fabric (I’m going to use a scrap from linen I bought at Ikea; I imagine evenweave would also work pretty well) and regular embroidery floss in appropriate colors and we’ll get started later in a few days!

These french knots are killing me! Or, update from my Tulip Field French Knot Sampler.

French Knot Tulip Field Sampler - update

So. You may have noticed it’s September now. Pretty much not August anymore. And I haven’t finished my french knot sampler. Second sampler into my Sampler-A-Month project and I have failed.


Or at least, that’s how my brain really wants to see it, but I’m trying to let that go. The completist / rule follower in me wants to say that it somehow doesn’t “count” right if I didn’t finish in a month. And then the rest of me goes: what the crap are you talking about?! This is a project you made up, there’s no rules!! Dummy. (The rest of me is sometimes harsh for my own good.) Do you ever do this to yourself?

Yeah, I didn’t make it this one in one month. I wanted to do other stuff during my week-and-a-half off, so I lost too much time in August with no sampler progress, and then some real life stuff interfered. Whaddya gonna do? I have to admit, I haven’t been so crazy about my color choices either, which made me a bit annoyed with the whole project, so I might’ve been avoiding it a bit. The last two sections will both be pink in different shades. I’m hoping that’ll bring a little zest to the color scheme.

French Knot Tulip Field Sampler - update

I’ve got about two-and-a-half french knot sections to go now, and a lot of other stuff to get done in September, so it probably works out ok that I’ll now take the rest of this month to finish this. I’m still going to do 12 samplers. It just might take me 13 months now. So what, self? It’s totally fine, shuddup. I have already learned two things with this one though: to keep the samplers small enough to be realistic for that month’s plans, and that doing this many french knots without a milliner’s needle will take about a hundred times the amount of time and frustration than just using one.

So people, for goodness’ sake, get yourself some milliner’s needles. You’ll thank me later.

Tools & Toys Tuesday: Milliner’s Needles, yay!

Tools & Toys Tuesday

Thanks very much for your thoughts on Milliner’s Needles – I switched to a larger needle and *whoa*, it was like a whole new thing. As advertised, it made french knot angst a thing of the past! Seriously, every knot is so much easier (and less annoying!) than before, and my progress sped up a millionfold. You can see the needle I ended up using above – the hugemongous one is the milliner’s needle, the teeny one is a normal embroidery needle. It’s like embroidering with a spear! If you’ve ever had trouble with french knots, definitely give these a go.

Tools & Toys Tuesday

Here’s my progress so far – erm, with 4 days to go, is it likely that I’ll finish before the end of the month? Yeah, not so much. But I’ll give it a sporting try!

Huck Sampler FO; 11 To Go

I’m stitching a sampler a month for one full year! Join in and stitch with me if you’d like, for all the samplers or just a few, and link back to me / leave a link in the comments so I can follow your progress too! And tell your friends!

Huck Weaving Sampler FO

Sampler #1 finished! I so enjoyed learning about huck weaving – it’s so wonderfully simple but gives such a unique effect, dontcha think? I just cut myself a bit piece of huckaback fabric and tried out different patterns until I’d filled it up. After a while, you start to understand how these patterns work, they all have elements in common.

Huck Weaving Sampler FO

In fact, it makes me wonder if these designs were easily improvised and that patterns weren’t as necessary as with other needlecrafts; perhaps this is why I’d had such a hard time finding vintage patterns? I could see starting off with a basic line across the middle and then working your way outward symmetrically in each direction, just winging it as you weaved along.

Huck Weaving Sampler FO

I think I’ve shared everything I learned along the way (by the way, I will try to keep my sampler posts a little more organized from now, now I know some of you peeps have considered stitching along). The only new thing I have to share since my last post is that I did go ahead and buy some Clover Huck Embroidery Needles (from Barnyarns via Amazon). I thought I should try the recommended tools if I’m really sampling different techniques. I have to admit, I was surprised by how awesome these needles are! I shouldn’t have doubted Clover – everything they make is so clever.

Huck Weaving Needle

The Huck needles are longer and have a bent tip, which helps scoop up the little huckaback fabric bars. If you’re trying to pick up just one little bar, that bent tip pointed upwards makes it easy to grab. If you’re trying to run under a line of bars, point the needle tip downwards and the needle automatically runs under every bar in its path. What a smart little needle! I can’t say it’s strictly necessary, my tapestry needle worked fine, but it is definitely helpful.

Huck Weaving Sampler FO

I was considering edging my sampler with lace, like this antique huck sampler I spied on Pinterest (in the background), but I haven’t decided yet. I’ll still call this an FO anyway, because I might just leave it as is until I’ve decided what will happen to it. I love how my sampler came out, and I loved learning about a new needlework style. I can’t imagine I’m going to become a prolific huck weaver – I think it might be a slightly more tedious craft than I normally enjoy, and I’m not sure how much practical use it really has – but I think it creates the most beautiful designs, and I could really see myself pulling it out every once in a while for a little decorative embroidery.

Huck Weaving Sampler FO

So, one down, eleven to go. For my next sampler, I’ve got something a little simpler planned. If you like french knots – or if you need a little practice getting them down – grab yourself some pretty fabric, a handful of any threads you like, and join me for a french knot sampler in August! More on that soon!