Cross Stitch Life Hack

I love cross stitch. But I am completely inept.

I have watched the YouTube videos. I have studied people moving those needles in and out. I purchased the right fabric. I can sew, machine embroider, hand embroider, knit, crochet, do hand quilting. I’m not afraid of stitching by hand. But for the love of all that is good, I cannot figure out how to cross stitch. I. Cannot. Do. It.

So I did the next best thing.

I digitized.

I found the most adorable designs (from Little House Needleworks on Etsy.)

Using Bernina Embroidery Software 8, I got the idea into my head that I could run a border of these gorgeous cross stitch patterns around the outside of a very simple tree skirt I was making.

But as always, it was not an easy task. Like Tina Turner, I never do anything nice and easy. I do it nice, and rough.

It starts with a scan of the pattern, which needs to be trimmed to the exact pattern size in some sort of graphics software. I’m used to working in Adobe, so that’s what I used. But Bernina’s software comes with Corel, so you can use that too. Then it gets imported into the Cross Stitch application in the software.

Now comes the tedious part. Every single stitch gets reconstructed with a click, and a color choice. If you look closely enough at the above image, you can see that some of it is filled in with color, and some of it still has the cross stitch symbols shown. It took me about an hour to get everything filled in for that design.

The next step is to move it into the embroidery program. The software then converts every click that you made in cross stitch into machine embroidery stitches. And it’s pretty magical. One moment it’s just a weird looking drawing, the next minute it’s stitches that my machine will understand.

And I am absolutely loving the way these turned out.

I still have a long way to go on this tree skirt, and each design from start to finish probably takes about three hours. Could someone do it by hand in that time? Maybe someone who knows what they’re doing. That would not be me, when it comes to cross stitch. But I am just so taken in by their charm and sweetness.

I hope you are tolerating this difficult holiday season.

I leave you with this December thought:

“Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”


Sewing Through the Midwestern Blizzard

#SNOWVEMBER, is what I’m told.

Actually, it’s just raining. but they say the snow is coming…and plenty of it. I am skeptical, but that’s nothing new.

These little ornaments on the tree are made from Kraft Tex. (See my previous post for more details.) I think they turned out cute, and I am anxious to try stitching them out on fabric and turning them into little stuffed ornaments. I think that would be adorable. These have designs on both sides, because I just wanted some flexibility. I’ll need to make some minor adjustments to the software file I use to stitch out the designs on fabric. On the new ones, I’ll add a seam around the outside, leaving an opening to turn them. Then it will be just a matter of stuffing them.  I’ll share when I start that.

But for this task, I wanted to show you the greatest little tool I got at the shop as it was closing. I didn’t think I’d ever need it, didn’t really have any idea why I might use it, but of course I purchased it anyway.

And it sat in my sewing room for over a year.

(Incidentally, as we speak, the rain has turned to snow out my window. Maybe they are not all liars after all.)

It’s called a Circle Rotary Cutter from Olfa. I finally decided to try it out for this project and I am in love with it. I guess I just didn’t know how desperately I needed to cut accurate circles. It has a ruler attached so you can set the radius. You basically use it like a compass, with the sharp point in the center, and a blade instead of a pencil at the end. Suddenly I am imagining all the wool projects I’d like to invent using circles, as well as paper, Kraft Tex, felt, and basically anything a rotary cutter will go through.

In minutes I had beautiful, ACCURATE circles. Do not discount the significance of getting a circle perfectly round.

I am off now, to work on a quick quilt that I must finish before the holidays. We all have those last minute projects. For those of you in the Midwest, Happy Blizzard-Sewing!

Just Like Grandma Used to Make – Almost

This time of year, I really long for some snow.  Like everyone else, I’m really sick of it by March, but late November, early December, give me a little bit of holiday cheer in the form of weather.

At a recent community supper, I was lamenting about the lack of snow and how much I wanted to see it this year and global warming, blah, blah.    A friend looked at me and said, “As long as the weather stays moderate, I can work outside.  Working outside makes for a decent income.  When weather gets cold, we need different kinds of contracts–indoor work.  And while I can still get that, it’s never enough.  The longer I can work outside, the better.”

Oh. Now I see.  (I was blind and now I see.)   I don’t need the weather outside to be frightful, even though a fire is so delightful. I’d rather see people keep their jobs and income.

As for snowflakes, I can make my own.  Grandma used to make wonderful doilies by hand, some of them no larger than the palm of your hand. I still have a few.  But times have changed a bit, and now I can make ornaments with basically the same look, only they are done on an embroidery machine.  Free-standing lace is what they are called.  No teeny tiny crochet hooks.  Though I love the look of handwork, too often, I just don’t have the time.

I used two layers of Aquamesh  Washaway stabilizer.  Once the design stitches out,  cut away the bulk of the stabilizer, and rinse the rest under warm water. It disappears almost instantly.  I prefer Aquamesh over Badgemaster, having used them both now.  Badgemaster has a gummy, gooey feel to it as it rinses and does not seem to rinse as easily.  But in a pinch, it will work just fine.

Then just lay them flat and pin them onto a piece of styrofoam.  They dry out overnight, and maintain a slight stiffness.  Whenever I do this part it reminds me of the way my mom used to wash out doilies (she made plenty of them too).  But she had to starch them to get them to hold a shape, while mine will have a slight residue of the stabilizer to keep them in their shape. It’s a little hard to see the pins in the photo, but they are essential to maintaining the shape and flatness of the ornaments.  Free standing lace embroidery is everywhere these days, and I’ve seen some gorgeous designs for the holidays.

Most of these came from a collection by OESD called Snowflake Elegance #12429.

And I guess they are still homemade, though I have been contemplating exactly what that means.  If it’s made on a machine, is it really made by hand?  When I ask myself that question, I think about what Grandma might have done if she could have gotten her hands on a machine like I have.  I think about my mom and her knitting machines.  And the question then becomes not whether or not I should make use of technology, but with my heritage, why wouldn’t I?