Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Crafter's Work Is Never Done

Its a busy life, being a Crafty Girl...a fun and fulfilling life, but definitely busy.

So what fun things are going on here at Bluecreek?

Well, the idea of Bluecreek Creations really started with little crocheted bags with charms and beads. They were designed with the idea of hanging from your car's rearview mirror and in them you could tuck away little things that have meaning to you...a special pebble (yes, rocks are a big love of mine), a piece of sea glass, a feather....anything that can fit inside really.

I loved the idea of this little pouch, filled with little things that, in a way, sort of defined me...pieces of me anyway...I doubt there is a pouch in the world big enough to fit everything that has meaning to me, other than the body that I putter around in.

I had started with crocheting dice bags for my husband and I (yes, I play D&D and love it). I was bored and started crocheting a smaller bag, with no real goal in mind. The first bag turned out darling and I loved it so much that I started crocheting them up in different colors,  Then I thought about adding charms, and from there I started adding beads to the fringed cords.

More and more bags were being whipped up, and then it came to me...these were totem bags.

I wound up making around 15 of these before I decided that I needed to get a shop up and running where I could market these, and began on my Etsy shop.  I became distracted (as I easily do) with a cross stitch project and then I found myself working on cross stitch patterns and filling my shop with them.

But my totem bags!

I went to photograph them and put them online only to realize they had been put away somewhere when my husband and caregiver had straightened up...my totem bags are currently packed away somewhere no one knows and we have yet to find them!

Well, I did have 3 bags set aside in my knitting bag, so all is not lost. While we are looking for my lost bags, I have been crocheting up new ones...after all, its a fun project and it doesn't hurt to have more of them in my store's inventory!


Cute little things, aren't they? Now I just need to find my lost little darlings, take some lovely shots, showcasing their beautiful little selves and get them into my shop.

Wish me luck...either with whipping up new lovelies, or finding my little stash, wherever they are hiding.  Either way is fine by me, as I adore crocheting them!

Hope you are happy crafting wherever this finds you!

~Shawna

Friday, September 8, 2017

Stitching my first nerd-love pattern

Am I allowed to use the term, "nerd girl"? I am sure that there are millions of girls out there just tossing out this phrase, and far be it for me to jump on the bandwagon...but what to say otherwise? Geek Girl is just as trendy, Nostalgia Nerd is a bit wordy, though it is actually pretty accurate and I am fairly certain no one is using it yet.

Lemme check...

Dang it, it IS being used.

Oh well, Nerd Girl for now I suppose. I'll have to think on what else to call it some more...regardless, my first, fully realized, getting-my-literary-childhood-geek-on pattern was a blast to do. I had fun playing with the pattern design, with stitching it up, with being SEEN stitching it up (so I could excitedly bore the pants off of anyone who asked about the project) and even with snapping photos of my progress every day or so just to dweeb out over the images on my phone.

Like I said, I'm a geek...now lets deal with it and move on, okay?

Now, less we forget what it is that I am talking about, maybe a tiny little refresher might be in order.  You see, I am a big Trixie Belden fan, and have been for nearly 40 years .. close enough that the actual count really isn't an issue. I can place the blame squarely on my paternal Grandmother (THANK YOU GRANDMA!) who gave me a copy of book #18 Mystery of the Phantom Grasshopper not too long after it first came out in 1977. She found it at a yard sale, and thought it might be something I would like (we both loved to read).


There was no big fanfare about it...our family showed up one day to visit and she handed it over saying, "here, I thought you might like this."  No angels sang, no marching band with twirling batons ablaze marked the moment, but still, a love was born that day.

Zip ahead a few decades and here I am, with a newly-printed pattern in my hot little hands and all my skeins organized and ready to go. I could almost hear faintly in the back of my mind, "Houston, preparing for lift-off in 5...4... 3... 2... 1....." 

I'm sure that I haven't quite nearly enough explained how much I love this piece of my childhood (and adulthood, I'm not ashamed to say I still read my Trixie books, in fact, I still have all 34 of the Trixie titles Golden Publishing put out at that time. How many kids can claim to still own an entire series of books from their childhood that their mother didn't make them save? I even still have that very copy that started it all, though I have a duplicate copy to read now so I don't wear out my old one as quickly).

Again, I head off into tangents (and run-on alliterative sentences!)...sorry Houston...where were we on that countdown?

Ah yes...BLAST OFF!

My first few stitches were momentarily confusing (what's with the pale lavender? Did Trixie have a shadow under her eyes that I hadn't remembered?) Still, with each new stitch the excitement grew. My husband sweetly oohed and aahed every time he saw me stitching, but he truly was happy that I was cross stitching again after such a long break (hand tremors...ugh...one of the joys my health tosses at me from time to time).

Only a few days in it was recognizable (to me anyway) what the finished piece would be...everything but those few pale purple stitches...those, I admit, were really bothering me. Sadly, I couldn't deal with them yet as they were securing my foundation stitches...I would have to wait until I had a lot more stitches laid down before I could even think of ripping them out... which I eventually did. It turns out the program read Trixie's blue eyes as a purple and plotted accordingly. I didn't notice when I was buying my embroidery thread, as the pattern had a thin, blue line around one edge of the oval frame, so I saw blue thread and thought "oh, that's for her eyes."

Nope. Thank goodness it was a problem easily corrected later on....wait...more on that in a moment.







In these first few shots you can see her face is quickly taking shape








Even more so now...wow, just going by the photos, the stitches are just flying by!




Wow, that orange is BRIGHT, but its definitely my girl coming through the stitches.






                             

Ugh! That purple is driving me nuts...time for those stitches to GO!






Try to always keep your seam ripper/embroidery scissors handy...you don't want to be a doofus like me and risk ruining all your hard work by using tools like a screwdriver and a full-size, wickedly sharp pair of Gingher scissors! Please note: in any other situation, I cannot praise Gingher's scissors highly enough! They are well worth investing in for your fabric and thread cutting needs! 
(not that they need me to sing their praises...they know how amazing they are!)  




Whew, glad THAT's over.

                                                                                                                                                                 


Pretty new blues and I love how the colors make her eyes pop!




  

Now to finish up on the hair and that background




As far as the original pattern was concerned, this was complete, but that cut-off bottom edge looks very sloppy. Unfortunately, the original image that I used had the rest cut off.





And, voila, she is complete! I love how PC Stitch's program allows me to add additional stitches onto the pattern...and, thankfully, for this project it wasn't too hard to continue the shirt, based off the illustration on the back of the book jacket. 


So what happens now.  Well, as much as I loved doing this piece, I eventually decided before I was finished that I would stitch it again, but this time on a creamy yellow fabric, rather than the black.  The black is lovely, but, if you'll look back at the original book cover, the books were printed with a golden shade of yellow backdrop.  I think stitching on yellow would just feel more true to the look and feel of the books.  

So what about this one? Hmmm...I really don't have any followers as of yet, so offering it as a giveaway would be rather pointless.  I'll probably put it up for sale in my Etsy shop or offer it in one of the Trixie groups I am a member of on Facebook.  That way someone who likes the piece, but doesn't have the time (I won't say inclination, because how could someone not love cross stitch???) will be able to add it to their collection.

Or maybe I WILL save it for a giveaway...in about a decade when I manage to pay off some people to follow me ;D








Wednesday, September 6, 2017

PC Stitch...oh how I have waited for you...

I have mentioned in other posts my desire to own the PC Stitch program has gone on for much of my life...ever since I saw that first advertisement offering to create a pattern from a picture first crossed my little hands, I somehow wanted it for my own (remember, this was the days before people had home computers).

Through the years those ads just kept coming, from publication to publication, and, each time I came across it I wondered, "what would I want to stitch?"

Would it my current favorite cat (small home in the country, cats had short lifespans between cars zooming around the dirt road curve where we lived and the coyotes in the hills around our home). Would it be one of the goats that we raised from kids? How about our dog?

The older I became, and the more interested I grew in photography, the more my answer changed. Sure, I would still have loved stitching a portrait of our cats (or, better yet, mom's favorite cat from our childhood), and our goat family had expanded, but, by then I was in love with horses. Horses, yes, that's what I would want to stitch, or, wait, the mountain view in front of our home...

I never found the right picture (or, frankly, the huge amount of money they wanted for the service, this being the late 1970's and early 1980's and I, just another young teen too far from the city to get a job, and not enough babysitting gigs locally to save up for much...besides, my allowance usually went to develop the photos from my so-cool 110 camera and buy more film to use in it.

Zip ahead about 3 decades and here I am, an adult (by age definition anyway) with a home computer, a decent job and looking through a cross stitch magazine at the store. Well, hello, there is my old pal, "create your own cross stitch pattern" ad, only this time the ad is telling me I can buy the program itself.

Mind. Blown.

I manage to hold myself together, finish shopping and drive home, keeping to the speed limit as well as I usually do. Haul up the groceries, dump them into the fridge and cupboards and then sign onto Amazon.com.

Oh yeah baby....come to mama.

Two days later it arrives in the mail (thank you Amazon Prime!) My husband helps me install the program and I start taking a look around. The program offers a walk-through tutorial...pretty basic, and offers a new tip every time you open it (though you can shut it off, it does offer some really good information, so I left mine on).

Surprisingly, its not too hard to work your way around, but, I admit, there are options I still haven't quite figured out yet. I never got around to finishing that walk-through (see what I mean when I say I have a problem finishing things?) and instead jumped right into the "LET'S MAKE A PATTERN!" mode.

My younger sisters (16 and 21 years younger)...yep, we're a bit spread out in the all-original parents Zimmerman bunch (though not so all-original now that a few steps stepped in), but I digress. My sisters both had an interest in trying out cross stitch around that time, and were also sharing pictures back and forth of owl designs as a possible tattoo option. One, a very elaborate Ying/Yang of owls was a running favorite.




"Well", I thought, "this could be the project to get them both into cross stitch".

I found a good quality image, translated it into a pattern, ran out and purchased all the skeins needed, floss bobbins (the nice plastic ones, not the cheap cardboard), floss storage containers, Aida cloth in a lovely pale blue, hoops, scissors, needles...everything I thought they could possibly need.

I arrived home, and began assembling my kits...one for each sister and then one for my mother.  I happily wrapped them up for Christmas and couldn't wait to see their faces when they opened them.

Well, mom was happy about it, but wasn't sure when she'd have time seeing as she was now into a knitting binge, but she will eventually use it. My sisters were another story altogether. The youngest was probably going to get this tattoo at some point and thought it would be weird to have her future tattoo hanging on the wall, and the middle sister pretty much looked at how much work it would be and asked me if I thought she should start with something a bit smaller and easier?

At that point I realized that starting with a complicated, 50-color piece that would be nearly 9" square on even a decently small thread count was probably not my best choice.  I was taking something I knew that I could do, but not taking their skill levels and interests into consideration.

My younger sister moved on to hand-stitching felted animals, and the middle sister happily stitches those trendy little one-liners with a simple one-color image of a pile of poo on it. She likes them because they are quick, are basically her age bracket anyway for humor, and she likes that she can leave it in the tiny wood hoop that she stitched it in, trim the excess and hang it on the wall with no muss or fuss.

Sigh. My first lesson in listening to what people really want and not jumping the gun.

As I never asked the original author for permission to use the image (since it was just going to be used for family), I can't market the pattern until I can track them down and get their blessing... something that I admit I haven't bothered following up on, as every time I see this pattern I remember how classically (and expensively) I blundered.

Someday, yes...but right now? Ummmm.... not sure.

Next I promised to create something I really wanted to do for me...and then work changed. No longer was I an assistant at the office, but now the manager as she had left to chase another opportunity. I was thrust head-first into running a business and, while I understood billing and the day-to-day operations, I was clueless on all the regulation paperwork that had to be filed, multiple state taxes to be done monthly or quarterly, depending on the state, licenses to keep up, new ones to pursue as we expanded into new regions.

I was way over my head, and for the next 20 months my health took a downturn as my hours steadily increased to 50, 60, 70+ hour weeks without break and I was on-call each and every night and weekend. I had a surgery and was taking calls up until the moment they came to wheel me into the operating room, and back answering calls as soon as the anesthesia wore off. I worked from home for 3 days and then went back in, despite my doctor urging me to take at least 2 weeks off.

My health dipped again and I was up for another surgery a few short months later, and that, thankfully, is when I was fired.

After a third procedure a few months after that, my health was at its lowest, and my doctor recommended me for disability...and the government agreed. I had a long history on file regarding the condition of my skeletal system, and now the calcification had not only created bone spurs all over, but was slowly fusing my neck and spine, calcifying my tendons, destroyed my knees and, soon, my hips and leaving chronic, widespread pain in its wake. Unknown spiral fractures were discovered on my arms and legs, proving that I had moved into an area of high-risk fracture with falls.

I became depressed. I did nothing. Sure, I went to my physical therapy appointments as directed, but otherwise I just say and stared at the walls. I stopped reading, I stopped stitching...I pretty much stopped living.

Slowly though I came out of it. I began reading again; wondering why I had ever stopped. My hand tremors were still there, but I could manage some knitting and crochet, though I still grow tired quickly. Eventually I was able to be out of the bedroom and would walk to the living room, where my husband agreed to move my computer, as I hadn't used it in ages. I found a game called Cross Stitch World and began stitching virtually, but it just made me miss the real thing.

I thought about stitching and my lovely program, just waiting for me. Could I try cross stitch again? With water therapy and medication management my hand tremors were less, and only noticeable when I grew tired.

I opened the program and thought hard.

What would my first project be that was just for me.

I thought for awhile, and did random searches of images as things came to mind. I thought back to the one constant thing that I have loved since childhood.

Trixie Belden, teen detective. Much more realistic than Nancy Drew ever was, Trixie and her friends solved mysteries, helped friends and strangers through charitable activities, and Trixie not only wanted a horse, but grew up on a small family farm...just....like....I....did.

Trixie...of course! How could my first-ever just-for-me pattern be anything else?

I found an iconic picture that I liked, used Photoshop to remove the black frame and the blue arc on the right, and let the system do its magic (please note: according to my searches, the image below is no longer under copyright as Random House, the publisher who currently owns Trixie, has not renewed or taken up this image, but rather created a new one for their use)..


I couldn't believe it when I hit PRINT and watched as the pattern slipped into my hands.  This was it...this was for real.  I could hardly wait to get to the craft store where I would need to buy a whopping 52 colors! 52 colors, I scoffed...this is TOTALLY worth the cost.

And it was.

My next post will go in-depth into the stitching of this piece, but I do have to say a few things about the program itself.

First, I've seen sellers grabbing any non-copyritten image out there (and many that are still under copyright), run it through the program and then toss it online for sale.  You cannot do this, and no, I am not going to yell about copyrights, because we all know that its wrong to use someone else's trademarked image without permission.

The reason is that unless you are willing to take into account the size of the original piece, your reduced-size pattern isn't going to have nearly the detail you want. You just can't take a huge Monet canvas, reduce it to a 5 x 7 cross stitch pattern and expect the same amount of detail, and yet I have seen it up for sale and have purchased a couple in the past.

All you are doing is setting yourself up for an upset customer when the time comes to stitch the piece.

Second, you have to review your pattern carefully, which is why I didn't offer the Trixie pattern online until after I had stitched it up. Its a complex pattern with a lot of colors, and, it turns out, PC Stitch LOVES to toss in shading where there isn't any.  What do I mean? Well, I took an image with a single-color round "frame" around it, and the program turned it into an impossible 15 shades of blues, purples, greens and yellows!  There is a handy function where you can reduce the amount of colors the program originally works up, and its best to utilize it, otherwise you will be stitching a pattern that you bought a brand-new skein for and only use it for 3 unnecessary stitches (true story).

Third, the program isn't really happy about shapes, like rounded edges on the pattern. The Trixie image above had all sorts of jagged edges where one line of the oval would cut in by 8 or 9 stitches for no reason, and then back out again on the next, rather than offer a smooth edge.

Thankfully, this can be taken care of by selecting the color you want and filling in the missing stitches onto the pattern. The above image was cut off on the bottom, rather than give me a complete oval, which looked strange, so I simply painted in the areas I wanted, using the same colors already chosen for the shirt and shadows.

I have to admit, the drawing option is loads of fun to play with,

Fourth, the program likes to "best guess" sometimes. Trixie's eyes are china berry blue, but the program decided the image I used looked more lavender than blue. I hadn't noticed that until I was stitching the pattern and realized the error.  Easy enough to correct, and your average stitcher at home can tear out stitches and replace them with what they want, but this shouldn't happen because its wrong on the pattern that they are following.

My suggestions? Start with smaller patterns, or ones that don't take a lot of colors, until you get a better feel for how the program works for you. Play with the draw and erase stitches functions, as they are a joy to play with and you will learn a lot,  Definitely play with the backstitch function, as its not the easiest to figure out. Yes, drawing the backstitches isn't too bad, but erasing them if you've made a mistake is a literal pain in the tail. Its one option I wish were easier to deal with in the program, as the edit "go back a step" function will not back you up more than a few steps...if your mistake if well back in the design, its going to take some work to take the incorrect lines out.

Would I recommend this to others? Oh heck yes...its fun and easy to use, once you learn its quirks. Its reasonably priced too...I currently run PC Stitch Pro Version 7 on my computer, but version 11 is now out (ooh, I need to check up on what new stuff they offer) and its $70. Don't let the price tag scare you, because if  you just want to create patterns for your own use at less cost, there are other programs out there... just type Cross Stitch Software on the Amazon search bar will bring up several optional programs (KG and Hobbyware) with decent reviews and a lower sticker shock, plus there are older versions of PC Stitch listed for $20-$30.

Whichever program you eventually wind up choosing, I hope that you have fun creating patterns to satisfy the child within yourself.




My First "Borrowed" Pattern

I was going through some old family photos the other day and discovered I actually did have a picture of the first cross stitch pattern I ever took on. Its one that I have described before, where I took a simple pattern of two girls sitting back-to-back, changed the dress colors and shapes a little and then braided embroidery thread into "hair" tied with a floss bow.


I had first spotted this pattern in a catalog called The Stitchery, that used to come addressed to my mother.  It turns out that the catalog is still in business, though you can get a much better look now that companies host websites, rather than the old days of seeing a tiny picture, calling the toll free number and ordering over the phone.

As I didn't have a credit card (being around 14 at the time), and with a 14-year old's lack of money in general, I took a magnifying glass and a piece of graph paper and then painstakingly drew out the pattern, adjusting where I liked, and, for a pattern that is fairy basic shapes, this took hours and a lot of eyestrain.

Between things like this and my penchant for late-night reading by flashlight, this is why I now wear bi-focal glasses, and, sadly, I have begun to accept that tri-focals would benefit me better (which is pathetic, as I am only 48, and should have decades of lovely crafty projects yet awaiting me to tackle them, without need for magnifcation!)

But for now, back to my story...

As soon as I had the pattern worked out, I got into my mother's embroidery supplies (lots of colorful skeins, all tangled around one another...not sure what happened there. I wound up eventually "inheriting" the mess and spent several happy days, salvaging as much of the thread as I could, but that's another story), I pulled out the colors that appealed to me, found a piece of Aida cloth that was a suitable size, and dove in.

Original dresses in pink and purple (at least, my memory remembers it used colors I wasn't thrilled about, nor that could be found in mom's eclectic stash). I was really into blue back in the 1980's (when this little caper all went down...statute of limitations should be passed on "borrowing" the pattern, right?) I pulled a lighter blue to represent my best friend, Corine (an adorable little blonde who, I have to say is still adorable now) and then a darker blue for myself (chunky brunette who grew chunkier as the years have passed). 

While I like Holly Hobbie, the huge move to homespun girls in big bonnets and no faces always bothered me. I tried sketching smaller bonnets and little faces, but it never looked right, so, I thought, "well why not try giving them hair" to personalize them a bit. Stitched hair looked silly and I was getting frustrated at my lack of skills when it dawned on me to try something different. I pulled thread through, braided it and then tied it with a corresponding thread.

Surprisingly, it looked good, and I liked the depth it brought to the little girls.

It took ages to figure out how best to do backstitch (self taught, make-it-up-as-I-go girls do NOT let silly things like backstitch hold them back)! By the time I finished the project that poem was memorized FOR LIFE. Yes, 34 years later and I can still recite that little ditty:

We've shared so much laughter
Shared so many tears,
We've a spiritual kindship
That grows stronger every year
We're not sisters by birth
But we knew from the start
God put us together 
To be sisters by heart.

As soon as it was done my mom had it framed and I then gave it to my best friend. I am pretty sure she still has it, but then, I've never asked. Years later, when she got married, I gave her a stitched piece with Hunca Munca watching over the children sleeping in a basket, figuring it would be darling for a nursery (thankfully, her firstborn was a girl).

Its a total surprise that I would still have this photo lurking amongst my family photos, but maybe not as surprising as I first thought...after all, it WAS my first project, and mom was pretty proud of me for the determination of taking a 3 or 4" catalog photo and making it into reality.  She was probably surprised I had a finished project, as I was notorious for not finishing things back then (and yes, even now, depending on the situation),  It makes sense that that mom would want to capture the moment.

Regardless of the reasons, I am very happy to see this little gem, and thankful that it doesn't make me cringe in any way. Trust me, I have short stories and drawings from my teenage years that really should be burned,,,not all of them, but the BattleStar: Galactica stories with me saving Starbuck and his smelly cigar from the Cylons are definitely meant for the scrap heap!

So what memories do you have of your first projects?  



Friday, September 1, 2017

Free Cross Stitch Pattern - Episcopal Church of the US

Yesterday I got into a chat on FaceBook with a gal about which program I use to create my cross stitch patterns. She had a project in mind and wasn't sure about how to get her pictures converted so she could start stitching.

I asked what image she was wanting to work with, figuring it would be a family picture or pet, or something similar, and asked her to email it to me and I would see what I could do with it. This way she could see what the program could do and decide if it was something she wanted to invest in.

(My thoughts/review about using the program PC Stitch will be posted later this weekend!)

I was surprised when I opened her message that she then said she had TWO projects, and she was including both images.

Oh boy, I thought...I walked right into that one. Being a nice person though I downloaded both files to see what it was I was working with.  To my amazement it was nothing I would have ever guessed as my first "commission"..

Turns out her request was to create two patterns for her Episcopal church that she could enjoy stitching, have framed and then donate to hang in the church for all the congregation to enjoy.

Being unfamiliar with these specific religious symbols, I nonetheless found the shield to be a simple image to translate into a pattern, however the cross was another story. That required building from scratch as the program muddled all the lines of the Celtic-style lines on the cross and the lines of the woven rope border.

Challenge accepted.

Honestly, once I started on the cross it was more a matter of removing all the additional shades of blue the program loves to add to a pattern (again, more on that with my next post), and then to create a negative space for the details so the project could be stitched using just one color. Matching up the lines proved to be more trial and error. 

Believe me when I say that math (specifically geometry and graphing) were never my strong suit, but I had so much fun with trying to get the final pattern as close to the original image as possible.The requested size (around 5" x 7" on a 16-count cloth) was pretty restrictive, but thankfully, it worked out after a few hours of playing around.

It didn't feel right to accept payment, though one was offered, and it was then that I decided to share them here; the first of many free downloadable patterns I hope to offer. The Shield pattern is stitched with 3 colors (red, white and blue) and the Cross is simply one shade of blue. 

My apologies in advance if the colors listed in the patterns are not the exact shades of blue or red that they should be: feel free to pick up the proper colors (or ones more to your liking) when you purchaseyour stitching supplies.

So, if you have a need for these patterns, feel free to help yourself. I do ask, however, that if you share it with others to please not remove my logo or web information. To download a PDF files of the patterns, simply click on the link underneath its corresponding image.

Will I address religion again in the future? Possibly. Its a touchy subject for many, as religion is a vast scope embracing everything from all walks of Christianity to Paganism and even Science these days, and I am not really sure how much demand there is for such a thing. Feel free to comment below if there is anything religious you think I should try tackling in the future, or what other fun project you might want to see offered as a free pattern.

Happy stitching!

Shawna



                                                           Episcopal Cross for the US





                                                                        
                                                                    Episcopal Shield

Friday, August 11, 2017

My love of cross stitch

I now have four cross stitch patterns up for sale in my shop, 3 of which are of my favorite teen detective, Trixie Belden. I am also working on several non-book patterns, and it is so satisfying to be creating again. I am especially thrilled because its CROSS STITCH, which is a craft that I love and adore (cue up the angelic choir). How fun to take an image, transform it into a grid full of mystifying symbols and then follow that lovely crafty road map to create a work of art that can be framed to hang on the wall!

For those who love cross stitch and embroidery, it is a wonderfully relaxing medium that is easily portable and can be done anywhere. After a series of surgeries these last few years (none of which were hand-related, go figure), my hands grew shaky and I wasn't able to stitch, much to my dismay. Thankfully, over time (and with some knitting and crochet "therapy" my shakiness has subsided enough that I can stitch again, though on a slightly larger weave of fabric than I usually prefer. I am certain that, with time, I will once again be stitching away on ever-smaller and daintier weaves, but, for now, I am just happy to be able to stitch in any form.

Its now become my routine to sit quietly in my living room, overhead lamp shining golden light around me as I stitch away, and I find it to be such a serenely satisfying and peaceful way to end my day. There is nothing like the soothing rhythm of pulling thread through fabric repeatedly and watching an image magically being created right before your eyes.

I discovered cross stitch in much the same way I discover anything crafty: I see someone else doing it, figure out how its done and then dive in. With stitching, it was watching my mother when she started a sampler pattern of garden vegetables. She hadn't gotten very far, and her project bag sat in the back of the car one Sunday and throughout Sacrament Meeting I could feel the temptation rising. I tried ignoring it, squelching it down and focusing my attention on the speaker and the lesson, but to no avail... I just HAD to try stitching and waiting simply would not do.

So I did what any young teenage would-be crafter would do: I faked a headache and got mom to allow me to go "rest" in the car for the rest of church. I had to fight to look sick and tired and hurting as I walked to the car, but inside my thoughts were gleefully skipping and giving myself mental high fives.

Not a single guilty feeling for lying, especially on the Sabbath, was in sight.

I studied the pattern for awhile, trying to make sense of it, before making my first few stitches. Thankfully, mom had left her project with a threaded needle already in use, so it made recognizing
where I was in the pattern and figuring out the symbol that that shade of grey-green followed.

A counted cross stitch pattern can be a truly confusing thing to the uninitiated
I suppose I should take a moment to point out that there is more than one form of cross stitch... there is printed cross stitch, in which a regular piece of cotton has the pattern stamped onto its surface and all you have to do is stitch an "x" wherever x marks the spot on the pattern (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun). Pillowcases, tea towels and the like often come stamped as you wouldn't want to wipe your face on the scratchier Aida cloth that comes woven with holes in it typically used in cross stitch.

Then there is my favorite: counted cross stitch, in which you have a pattern full of lovely symbols (shown above) and a color key, which translates the symbols into specific colors. DMC, which stands for Dollfus-Mieg & Compagnie, a French embroidery manufacturer who has become the industry standard worldwide, although you can find conversion charts for other thread companies, such as Anchor, and smaller companies, such as Mill Creek, utilize specialty threads from specific vendors.
Ah, now the chart makes more sense, doesn't it?

Nearly any image can be converted into cross stitch: when I first became interested (mid 1980's), my mother was receiving a membership to a monthly cross stitch magazine (all of which, I have since inherited). In the back were ads offering to turn beloved family and pet photos into personalized cross stitch patterns (the idea of which thrilled me to the bone, though the outrageous $50+ price tags were another story). In the late 1990's that software program became available to the general public, but cost over $350! Not that I owned a computer to use it on, even if I could have scraped together the money to pay for the program.

My first "homemade" cross stitch pattern was one in which I used a magnifying glass to better see a simple pattern offered in a catalog and drawing it out onto graph paper, then picking out the colors I wanted to use out of my mother's small stash. I even adapted it as the original picture of two little girls sitting back-to-back had bonnets on their heads so you couldn't see their hair (all the easier to stitch I suppose). Not liking that idea, I braided brown and yellow floss into braids, tied them with a contrasting thread as "hair ribbons" and had them coming out from under the bonnets: "real" thread braids that hung free from the fabric, adding a depth of dimension the original pattern didn't offer.

Next I pulled out my trusting graph paper and copied a pattern found in an old book for miniature quilts whose color I changed to red and various deep greens to turn them into hanging Christmas ornaments that several family members received for Christmas that year. Those pattern sheets, created in the early 1990's, are still in my cross stitch pattern drawer and I have plans to adapt them once again this year.

The times since have changed. That ever-elusive pattern software that no one I knew could afford became reasonable in the last few years...how do I know? Easy, I now own it. Its a marvelous tool for taking an image and making a pattern, but it still has its own issues, which, thankfully, the program allows you to correct, or to draw your own pattern from scratch. For example, I will be posting shortly about a pattern I am testing that had a section that had to be erased and redrawn in the correct colors, but more on that later.

Its because I learned to draw my own patterns on graph paper that makes it easy to use my cross stitch pattern creator...something I never thought would be handy when I was young and simply copying out patterns because I couldn't afford to purchase. Its funny how life works out sometimes, isn't it?

The best part about cross stitch, to me at least, is the ease at which you can find patterns these days. Thanks to the internet, what was once only found in a magazine or in the pages of a print catalog (with their limited selections to choose from) you can now go to Etsy and find loads of inventive and fun projects to stitch...from simple back-stitched phrases and simple figures, to elaborate landscapes. Google search "cross stitch patterns" and hundreds, if not thousands, of free patterns are available at your fingertips, simply waiting for you to save and print.

If you haven't discovered the joys of cross stitch for yourself, then I highly suggest you give it a try.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

It's been a long time coming...

It is amazing how time flies, isn't it?

I have been working lately on getting my Etsy shops, Bluecreek Creations and Bluecreek Photography up and running, and am now finally ready to start listing.

That's right, Bluecreek Creations has its first item up for sale.

Its a custom vinyl featuring my favorite teen detective, Trixie Belden. I had no intention originally of offering decals, but if these do well then more will be added down the line.



More items will be listed through the weekend, including my Totem Bags (more on those in another post) and various custom cross-stitch patterns.  

Bluecreek Photography will start listing in a week or so, as I decided to focus on the crafting side first.

I have always wanted to create and sell my own crafts, and now I am finally seeing it come to life. I can't begin to express just how excited I am to see this come to fruition.  I've never had large aims, and have never aspired to be the next Martha Stewart; I just wanted to put my stuff out there and see if anyone else would enjoy the things that I did.  

Here's hoping that someone will.