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!

Bobbin Lace Spider Sampler WIP

Spider Sampler WIP

It’s been ages since I shared some bobbin lace with you guys, but I have been practicing! Now I’m working on this sampler:

Spider Sampler WIP

Those little bits inside the diamonds are called spiders, and the border is made of a zillion different ground patterns. I love a good sampler and it turns out it doesn’t matter if it’s quilted, embroidery, or lace. Samplers rock the most.

Spider Sampler WIP

These are the last few spiders I’ve worked, some successful, some not as much. But it’s definitely getting easier! I’ve worked on this (7 spiders in total now, some are covered by the cloth in the photos) over 3 lessons plus time at home, and I only just now properly understand what to do between the spiders. It just kept tripping me up, so much that I felt like I’d negative-learned since my last project.

Spider Sampler WIP

But now it makes sense – it actually kind of feels like I spend ages between each spider setting it up, then the spiders go by so quickly! Those are still a little confusing, but so much fun to work, especially since each one is different. Of course this will take me a hundred years to finish, so I’m sure you’ll see a lot more of it as I go on!

Oh, and P.S. – Gift #2 was sent off today, another little package to someone out there in blogworld! I’ll tell more when I can!

MK Map Sampler WIP

Map Sampler WIP

Sorry the photos are kind of crummy today, it’s raining – shockingly – and they look terribly lumpy but although I’d like to retake them, you’ll see a lot of this project over the next weeks, so there’s no need to get them perfect this once.

This December, the local branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild (of which I am branch secretary, don’cha know) will participate in an exhibition that will showcase embroidery of all types, as far as I understand. I haven’t been a member for very long, but apparently the branch sets a challenge every year, a theme or project type, and everyone creates something to share at one of our meetings. This time, we were each given an 8-inch canvas, the theme of our city and told to pick a place that inspires us and go with it. The challenge pieces are usually just seen by the branch members, but this year, all of our pieces will be exhibited together as part of this local exhibition.

Well, the thing is that I’ve only been here for a couple of years and don’t feel like I know it well enough yet to have a place I find ‘inspiring’. To be honest, I’m not even sure I’ve found places (as in, specific locations) I like yet and, in the long-run, I suspect this is probably a temporary stop for me. There are people I absolutely adore here, but I wasn’t about to embroider my friends on a tiny canvas. That would be creepy.

Map Sampler WIP

So I had to approach the project a little differently – Milton Keynes is kind of like a patchwork town, made of all these tiny areas that were joined to make a whole – though they all have their own identity, in a way. So I saw it like a sampler of sorts, and decided to create my own take on the traditional map sampler. I traced a map of the different parishes or neighborhoods or whatever-you-call-em over and over until the shapes were simplified, then traced that onto my fabric.

Now I will fill each neighborhood with a different stitch, based on blackwork fill patterns. This sampler:

Blackwork samples

is a sampler in the earliest sense – literally a sampling of blackwork fill patterns I re-created from Elizabethan embroideries I analyzed at the Victoria & Albert museum in London a few years ago. I took a whole mess of photos, then charted as many patterns as I could make out, then stitched them up. I really use it like a reference, though my mother is forever saying I should have it framed. Anyway, it’s proving very useful with this project, though I’m not using them as strictly as I might for another project. I’m allowing my stitching on this map sampler to be a little more freeform-y and relaxed.


The stitches will be all in blues of all sorts – unity in color, individuality in stitch. When it’s all filled up, I will stitch all the boundaries in, I think, a fat chain stitch, maybe in white or cream. Something that will frame each area and pop against them, kind of like quilt sashing. But I won’t get ahead of myself, I have less than a month to finish and I’ve got an awful lot of fill to work on.

(By the by, have you entered my giveaway for a copy of the new Scandinavian Issue of &Stitches?! It’s open until midday Wednesday, go enter over here!)

Lispenard KAL (or: Finally, something new!)

Lispenard Cowl WIP

Where there was six, now there is one. Or two. Ok, three!* But really only this one counts! I finished or frogged six knitting WIPs in my mission to complete and simplify, and in exchange, have cast on for Lispenard (pattern by Kirsten Kapur). This project had been in my queue for ages before I realized one of my knitting group friends had the same pattern in mind. We decided to work on it as a knitalong together, and cast on the same evening last week.

The yarn is Rowan Felted Tweed, which I got in the John Lewis post-Christmas sales last year, or maybe the year before. I snagged four balls half-price, and since the yardage on FT is madness, this will be plenty to make a lovely long loopy cowl. Which may or may not suit me at all, we’ll see. Anyway, I went down to 4.5mm needles since the FT is also a fairly slight DK – though I know from experience that it will plump up very nicely after the cowl is washed and blocked.

Lispenard Cowl WIP

So far, so good – oh, the cables and the lace. Dreamy!

(*The other WIPs are Umaro, which I don’t expect to be a finish-quickly kind of knit, and a pair of boring stockinette socks for pub-knitting time. Clearly those don’t count, and they existed already anyway. I swear!)


GFG flowers, WIP

This weekend, I cheated. I should have – and planned to – spend the *whole* weekend working on stuff promised to other people, but I just totally rebelled against myself was bad. It was kind of like when you skipped class back in high school or fudged a sick day (ahem, not that I would ever have done such a thing) and just so badly wanted / needed that free period that you didn’t even feel bad and just enjoyed the touch of freedom. Normally, I’d be all angst and guilt over this, but I just couldn’t help myself this weekend!

I still got a bunch of stuff done for others, but I also treated myself to an evening of paper piecing hexagons for my grandmother’s flower garden quilt-in-progress (which will, I know, take me many years – I actually like that I will slowly piece this by hand over a long, long time). I now have 4 whole flowers completed. That’ll be, like, a entire foot of blanket! No, I’m kidding, but I have NO idea how many of these flowers I’ll need to make – especially since I haven’t decided how big it should be in the end. But I don’t really care for now, I’ll just keep making them for a while and worry about it later.

Halloween mug rug in progress
Halloween mug rug

I also snuck in two wee little mug rug projects, first inspired by the adorable one Jesse of Wee Pleasures made and showed on Instagram. I loved her idea of making a Halloween-themed mug rug as a bit of decoration – I’m *crazy* for Halloween, but don’t do much decoration, weirdly. I’m gonna need to fix that. Once I got the idea in my head, I couldn’t let go and had to cram this mini-project in before my head exploded! I don’t have any Halloween fabrics, so I dug in my small scrap bag and pulled out some oranges and blacks – and that little spiderweb piece from an Echino fabric was so perfect!

And then, of course, I couldn’t quite leave it there – I had to make one for my desk as well, this one worked around an adorable Japanese scrap (the apples) from an Eternal Maker scrap bag. Sigh. So fun! I feel these may become a bit of an addiction – such a fun way to just do something stress-free and entertaining for a short break from other projects.

Desktop mug rug

So now I have to go back to The To Do List, but I have to ask for some advice: how do you handle the list of things people ask you to make / mend / gifts you have planned / etc? I know a lot of crafters just won’t do that sort of thing at all, and I totally don’t blame them, but I really like being able to do this stuff for other people. It’s nice to have skills that people value and I appreciate being helpful. I don’t want to stop doing them, but I feel like I never get out from under The List and I have so much I want to get to! How do you balance crafting for others and crafting for yourself?

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