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 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.