Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Final Smalls Check-in and a 2014 Recap

Another year of stitching (and other things) is gone. I am not sure how I feel about 2014. The last three months will define the year for me, but other than that short burst of craziness, it was a pretty ordinary year.

Before I get too far into talking about my 2015 stitching plans, I need to finish one last bit of 2014's. My December Smalls SAL check-in. I had a good month and finished two! Both are from Shepherd's Bush's She Tends leaflet.

His Flock

Tender Care
And because I am still having a great time with PicMonkey's collaging program, here are all my 2014 Smalls finishes:

Column one (top to bottom): Peppermint Twist; Snowy Pines; Frosty Flakes; Winter Sheep (all by Little House Needleworks) and Fondant Icing by the Nutmeg Company. Column two: Tall Flowers by Just Nan; All is Calm, Joy to the World and Red House in Winter by Little House Needlework. Column three: She Tends, Garden Fair, His Flock and Tender Care by Shepherd's Bush
In addition to the smalls, I finished these three for a total of 16 finishes in 2014.

Enchanted Swan by Just Nan; Three Tulips by With Thy Needle and Thread; and, Strawberry Summer by Just Nan
Given my limited stitching time, I am very happy with those numbers and best of all they were all stitched from stash, except for Three Tulips which was a gift.

By this time last year I had signed up for eight SALs. My New Year's resolution was to keep up with all of them. Even though none of the SALs was high pressure, I knew it would be a bit of a push to post for every one every month. The one I missed posting to most frequently International Hermit and Stitch (IHSW) hosted by Joysze at Random Ramblings was the one that should have been the easiest to keep up with as it requires you to sit and stitch for the weekend and post about it. Really very simple and I am sure I stitched most of those weekends but must have forgot to post. Overall I am pleased with how well I did keep up with all of the SALs and....(a perfect segue into 2015's plans)

For 2015 I have, despite telling myself that I need to cut way back on SALs, again signed up for eight - WIPocalpyse, YOTA, Stitch from Stash A (there are two 6-month SALs), DESIGN, A New Stitchy Start, Gifted Gorgeousness, HAED Freebie and Smalls. TUSAL and IHSW are post as you can and don't require official sign-ups so I didn't count them but will participate as I can/remember. My stitching resolution is to keep up with the postings for the SALs that required a sign up.

Here are the pieces that I will fit into the various SALs:

Secret Victorian Garden by Chatelaine
Holly and Hearts Sampler by Lizzie*Kate
Santa's Magic by Mirabilia
Spring in the Air by Just Nan
Elegant Doily by Kayann's Kreations
HAED projects:
Shakespearean Fantasy
Christmas Presence
Santa and Mouse Ornament

In order to make any progress on them, I will be using a rotation again (although I may go OAAT on a couple to finish them up). The current rotation plan is:  One week, Saturday through Friday, for each piece.  The HAEDs will be stitched on my compressed Fridays rotating amongst themselves. Sunday mornings will be reserved for smalls stitching.

Given the progress I made on my larger pieces this year, I think I will have four or five large finishes in 2015, so I came up with a replacement plan too:
  • Secret Victorian Garden will be replaced with a randomly drawn Chatelaine WIP
  • Holly and Hearts  will be replaced with Ink Circles' 99
  • Santa's Magic will be replaced by Lavender & Lace's Santa of the Forest and then Mirabilia's Winter White Santa
  • Spring in the Air will be replaced with a randomly drawn Just Nan or Shepherd's Bush
  • Elegant Doily will be replaced with a randomly drawn WIP
  • Even as optimistic as I am, I don't imagine that I will finish any of the HAEDs this year and am not making plans for their replacement.
The plan is designed to help me reduce that WIP list there on the right while still allowing for a new start or two. This is only a plan and like all plans is very fluid.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Stitchers start your drills!

Or how I went from this:

to this:

in a lot less time than I thought I would. No, I didn't fill all these with the floss from the box but four of them are new.  As hard as it is to believe, I am missing 30 colors although I suspect if I dekitted? unkitted? some projects I would find them. I put an empty bobbin in the missing color's space so I won't have to rearrange the boxes when I finally get them.

WARNING:  The rest of this post is a long-winded explanation and discussion of using a portable drill to wind floss onto bobbins.

In my previous post I gave the history of the before box. I put off bobbinating, sorting and filing away because of the sheer amount of time it was going to take to wind bobbins, the lack of a good storage space for bags (another storage method I have tried) and probably a good amount of laziness.

While surfing the good ole web, I came across little lovelies blog post on organizing embroidery floss and knew I had found the answer to my floss problem. In case the link doesn't work, she purchased one of the bobbin winders that is designed to sit on the side of your floss box, took it apart and used the card holder part in the drill's chuck. Genius! Unfortunately, I couldn't find the one that I knew I had (it was probably thrown out in the general clean out when I last moved) but I thought that maybe I could (1) get started right away and (2) save a few dollars by putting the bobbin itself in the chuck:

It worked well, except I had to tighten and loosen the drill for every bobbin which was irritating. So I set off on a mission to find a bobbin winder (and run a bunch of other errands - I live too far away to just run into town to look for a bobbin winder). AC Moore and Joann Fabrics didn't have one - not even a space to show they stock them - but Hobby Lobby did (I didn't get as far as Michaels but little lovelies bought hers there. Oh and I will probably now find the one that I know I bought years ago). Here it is all taken apart, the pieces are just pressure fit together.

It is from Yarnology, the bright color is really good as I'll talk about later, and it cost $.99. It made all the difference in the world! I still had to push the little pin in to secure the bobbin, but that was so much easier than loosening and tightening the drill. Between the two methods, I was able to wind all the DMC (given the number of bobbins left and accounting for some misshapen ones, there were 612 skeins) in about 16 hours. That time encompasses the entire process from labeling the bobbin to sorting the finished bobbin into the sort bag - I had a plastic bag for each series of numbers and sorted into those to make sorting into the boxes easier.

So what did I learn (other than don't let this pile up again)?
  • Speed.  For both methods, find a speed you are comfortable with. Don't expect to go full throttle - it winds the bobbin super fast but you are looking for an even feed onto the bobbin, not a win at Le Mans (although I would love to drive just one lap).
  • Unlike little lovelies, I didn't unwind the skein first. When you take the labels off a skein there are two tails, grab the one on the bottom (the label in the picture is there for reference). Starting the winding with this one, I didn't have any major issues with tangles.
Blogger is flipping pictures on me again.
  • I had the drill on my craft table and just let the skein drop towards the floor - I think the weight of the floss helped keep it feeding straight and reduced tangles.
  • Despite the above, there will be tangles, but you can feel them forming and can stop the drill before they pull too tight.  I didn't have any that required screaming, yelling or throwing things and the majority released very easily. As a matter of fact, I have had worse tangles while hand winding.
  • Make sure you fully push the pin in! With the one I used, there was a bit of resistance when the pin was fully set.  But even if you do, there will be instances where the pin comes loose and it and your bobbin go flying. That is why I said the bright pink was a good color as it made it easy to find. 
  • Don't tug or pull the floss as it is winding. The amazing flying bobbin seemed to happen when I put too much tension on the floss as it was winding. You do need to put some tension on it, but you are mostly just guiding it back and forth to get an even feed.
  • Don't wrap your hand/fingers in the skein - that one I didn't do but The Hubs kept asking if I had cut any fingers off yet Isn't it great that he has so much confidence in me?
  • Unlike hand winding which calls for lots of mindless TV, you do have to pay attention - books on tape worked really well for me.
I can whole heartedly recommend the drill method.  It's not something I would use for a few skeins but if you have a bunch of floss that needs to be put on bobbins, grab the drill and go for it. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Just Nan SAL check-in and other stuff

I have been remiss in welcoming and thanking my new followers. I am going to try to post an entry a week in 2015, so there should be something for everyone to read - whether it is interesting is a whole 'nother story...

I am still not in the whole holiday spirit but am coming to terms with it and trying not to stress over it too much. I did pull out the stockings and tree today.  I even put a few ornaments on the tree but this year, "done is good enough".  I will be doing some more baking as The Hubs was upset that everything was mailed off to DSon and I did promise the in-laws a sampling of the holiday cookies.

A little more Christmas stitchery to add to what I showed on my Advent entry:

The stockings are part of the series of six or seven that Cross Stitch and Country Crafts published years ago.  I have stitched fourteen of them for family and friends. The cottages are from The Nutmeg Company and look, in my opinion, very cute hanging on the tree.  In case you can't tell, I have just figured out collages.  I am using PicMonkey and having a great time playing with it.  They do have a pay-for version with lots of additional features, but the free version seems to do everything I need.

So, on to stitching or the lack thereof.  About this time last year Zeb at Keep Calm and Cross Stitch posted about the Just Nan SAL and I jumped to join. I was a bit of an obsessive collector of Just Nans for years and have a lot in my stash.  Unfortunately, the SAL seems to have fallen by the wayside, but I have kept up with my Just Nan stitching and managed to finish three pieces this year.
Enchanted Swans, Tall Flowers, Strawberry Summer
I also started a fourth piece Spring in the Air and got this far:

I don't have any stitching progress to show. Except for a small, which I will hold for the final Smalls SAL check-in, I have not stitched on anything for the last few weeks. I have been keeping myself busy with stitching related things though - I gridded two small HAED pieces and have marked the fabric for Shakespearean Fantasy's gridding:

It is hard to see on my screen but if you click on the picture you'll get a clear view. My gridding technique starts with glass head sewing pins. I put a green one at the upper left corner and then take my handy dandy counting ruler from EZ Manufacturing (it is a ruler that has markings on it for 11-. 14-, 18- and 22-count fabric) and put a yellow pin every ten threads and repeat that until I get to the end which is marked with a red pin. I then do the same thing down the side. Once the dimensions are marked, it is very easy to do the count for the pages (I mark those with a blue pin). Once all that is done, I start gridding with the Sulky Sliver thread. I am finding the whole process very relaxing.

The other stitching related thing I am doing is bobbinating my floss box. I have the majority of my DMC stored very nice and neat, but when Wal-Mart stopped carrying DMC and was selling it for $.10 a skein and again when my local Joann's store moved and reduced the price to $.12 a skein, I bought a LOT of floss - no I don't know exactly how much, but I haven't had to buy more than a skein or two for a project in years. I originally organized it by putting it in plastic bags by number family and putting it in this very nice box (it has a pretty Tuscan countryside design on it) but that was it. Over the years floss from finished or dekitted projects was thrown in added and now it is a hot mess of DMC and other fibers and I can't find anything:

 So I decided it was finally time to do something about it. I have been planning this for years a while and have had six new floss boxes and 1,000 (yes 1,000) bobbins in my craft closet just waiting for me to get motivated.  Now seems to be the time. I am off work the next two weeks and hope to have all the DMC sorted and put away and the other threads at least separated and stored in their own bags by the time I go back to work. So I am off to find The Hubs's drill and see if the battery is charged. Drill you ask? I saw a blog post (and can't remember where) where an electric drill was used to help with the bobbin winding process and I want to try.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Final 2014 Stitch from Stash Update

The cards are made and on their way. The gifts are made, wrapped, boxed and on their way. The cookies are on their way too. All that's left is the goodies for the in-laws and wrapping their gift, I have time as we will see them on Christmas, and to try to find my Christmas spirit. My holiday mojo seems to have gone on holiday. Maybe I just hang around with a bunch of curmudgeons, but I have heard the same statement from a lot of people this year. No clues as to why the sudden lack of holiday spirit, but I do hope it returns soon.

The making, baking and boxing has taken the majority of my time this past month, so there is very little stitching to show. Fortunately, when I don't stitch, I don't think of stashing; however, I was in and out of craft stores all month and the temptation was strong (especially in Jo-Ann's Fabric as they had DMC on sale for 3/$.99). Because I was so close to a zero spend year, I didn't give in and can give my final Stitch from Stash report as:

Carried over:  $300
November Budget:  $25 + $50 exception
Available:  $325 + exception
Spent:  $0

I had no new starts from stash, but did do a little bit of stitching on:

Lizzie*Kate's Holly and Hearts Sampler

Shepherd's Bush's He Tends
I have finished He Tends but will save the photo for the Smalls SAL check-in.

So that is it! I made it an entire year and didn't spend anything on new stash.  Of course, it does highlight just how large my stash really is and explains my signing up for 2015's. There is a  ten day gap between the end of 2014's and the start of 2015's and I will use that to buy the floss I need to finish kitting up my HAEDs but I don't anticipate that next year's spending will be very different from this year's.

If you are interested in signing up for Stitch from Stash 2015A, Mel has opened up sign-ups until December 21st or until 120 people join. There were 69 participants last I looked so don't wait too long if you're interested.

DESIGN, A New Stitchy Start, WIPocalypseSmalls SAL and Gifted Gorgeousness are all still open for sign-ups too.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Online Advent Calendar - Day 14

Thank you to Jo at Serendipitous Stitching for hosting the 2014 Online Advent calendar. This is my first year participating and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's posts.
I have done a lot of Christmas stitching over the years. As a matter of fact, my first counted cross stitch piece was a Santa. I don't have pictures of all of them as they were completed before the ease of digital photography and I gifted most of them, but I did run around the house taking pictures of the things that I have kept and put up every year.
The large one on the left is Shepherd's Bush's Santaberry Pudding. From top to bottom: Lavender and Lace's Gift of Peace; Peppermint Twist by Blue Ribbon Designs; 12 Days of Christmas by Hinzeit; Angel of Light by Lavender and Lace; Angel of Freedom by Lavender and Lace; 1993 Angel by Lavender and Lace, Fondant Icing by The Nutmeg Company; and, 1991 Christmas Angel by Lavender and Lace
We do have stockings that I stitched from the old Cross Stitch and Country Crafts magazine, but I haven't pulled them out of storage yet and can't find a photo anywhere.
Jo asked us to tell about the best present ever. I could tell you about the Needlework System 4 stand that The Hubs gave me or the year he drove the ladies at Needlecraft Corner crazy with phone calls while trying to get a pattern kitted for me or the Jane West doll my sister and I got way back when. But in all honesty, the best ever present wasn't a Christmas present but a St. Nicholas day present and it was my sister. Now, I will be frank and say that I was probably not all that thrilled at the time and there were times that I would have gladly returned or traded her, but I know that my life would be lacking without her in it.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December WIPocalypse and YOTA - 2014 Recap

Before I get started on my recap, Happy Birthday to DSister! I was digging through pictures but couldn't find any of the two of us when she was a baby.  The closest I got was this one:

It was taken Easter 19-something-something when she was 2 and I was 4 or 5 depending on when Easter was that year.  That foliage behind us?  I think it's honeysuckle that got a bit out of control.  The year after this picture was taken, a chicken took up roost in it.  No we didn't live in the country, we were only a few miles from the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman - we figured she was someone's Easter chick that got away (or was allowed to get away as it wasn't cute any longer). We fed her graham crackers and named her Chicken Licken.  Unfortunately, chickens are not good house pets so when we moved to Michigan, we couldn't take her with us.  So one weekend, we caught her, and found a nice farm that took her in.  I am sure she spent many long, happy years wandering around the farm yard doing whatever chickens do and died peacefully in her sleep of extreme old age.

So besides my sister's and DBIL's birthdays and their anniversary and Christmas, December means - recaps!!  As it's the first Saturday of the month and a full moon, there are two recaps, WIPocalypse and YOTA.  Fortunately they are both WIP focused SALs so it is great that the final post for 2014 for both of them falls on the same day.

I had five pieces on my WIPocalypse/YOTA list this year.  I am really pleased with the progress that I made on all of them.

Santa's Magic by Mirabilia went from here:

To here:

Enchanted Swans by Just Nan started here:

And was finished on January 3rd:

Elegant Doily by Kayann's Kreations went from this:
To this:
The section shown in the before photo is on the left in this photo
I had a bit of a switch up with my Chatelaine piece.  I started with Serengeti and went from here:

To here:

Before it was put away in favor of Secret Victorian GardenSVG went from this:

To this:

The lower right section in the before photo is the upper left in this one.
And finally, Three Tulips by With Thy Needle and Thread went from here:

To a finish on April 10th:

So two finishes from my list and good progress on the other three. I don't know if either of these SALs will continue into 2015, but I will continue with my WIP reduction plan. 

Speaking of 2015 SALs, Gifted Gorgeousness, DESIGN and A New Stitchy Start 2015 are still taking sign-ups.  Heather at Stitching Lotus has announced that she will continue with the Smalls SAL for 2015 and is taking sign-ups and Mel at Epic Stitch has a page up, although sign-ups are not open yet, for Stitch from Stash 2015A. Clicking on the SAL's name should take you to the sign up/information pages for each one.

Secret Victorian Garden went on the frame today and I may take a break from the rotation, honestly I have been rubbish at doing any stitching the last couple of weeks so I don't think it will make too much difference, and just leave it on the frame for the rest of the year. I am also gridding fabric for three, yes three, HAED starts (two fairly smalls ones for HAEDs and Shakespearean Fantasy) and am finding it rather relaxing so will throw that in every so often also.  I do hope to have one more small finish this year, but am not really pushing too hard as I have a ton of holiday crafting and baking to finish up over the next couple of weeks.