Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December Cross Stitch Bowlfillers

The cross-stitch projects of choice in December most often seem to be finishing up gifts or stitching a few more ornaments for the tree, but December is also a wonderful time for bowlfillers.

Bowlfillers are pieces intended for dough bowls or baskets and are usually pillow-style small finishes.

Dough bowls can be pricey, but your local thrift store can very likely provide you with a nice, low basket perfect for displaying these small pieces. When buying baskets from thrift stores, I like to wash them in hot soapy water and allow them to dry in the sun.

A can of spray paint can also refresh a worn basket and make it look new again. A white basket is useful for a variety of seasons, but a dark green or navy basket, or even a red basket are all colors that can be reused throughout the year.

A few antique crochet doilies create a nice foundation when draped over the front and back of a basket or dough bowl. You can also make a few simple square cloths from homespun or gingham fabrics. I love a yellow gingham square for spring baskets in particular and a blue homespun makes a nice backdrop for a patriotic July basket or bowl.

Floral picks make wonderful backgrounds for your stitched pieces. Pine branches for winter baskets, a few spring flowers, some bittersweet for fall...3 or 4 picks go a long way.

I also like a few other items to nest between stitched pieces. Rag balls in different homespun fabrics are always beautiful. You might want a few pinecones or acorns (the tannic acid in real acorns could discolor your fabric and you should make sure your pinecones are free from sap). My husband cuts wooden pieces for my baskets, too.

If you are just getting started with baskets or dough bowls, never fear, even only one or two pieces look beautiful when nested among the previously mentioned items.

The First Snow is a freebie design by The Drawn Thread. It a pine tree full of birds with a sprinkling of snow and is just such a beautiful, simple design. It does include specialty stitches, but nothing difficult and it would look just as beautiful in your January basket.

Victoria Sampler has another piece with specialty stitches called Winter Biscornu of which there are three versions and all three are just gorgeous. This will make you want to try specialty stitches if you haven't already.

The Nebby Needle has a very cute Merry Christmas piece. If this is all you stitch, it would look wonderful in a basket of pine branches.

However, if you are short on time, Threadwork Primitives also has a Merry Christmas piece that is quite simple and would work up very quickly. You could probably even stitch it during a single Christmas movie.

Hands Across the Sea offers a lovely little Christmas Sampler that would be perfect for a bowlfiller pillow.

For sampler lovers, Christmas Blessings by SubRosa might be more to your taste.

Peace from Make Stuff-Be Happy is a quick stitch that is reminiscent of samplers.

If you have time for a little bit larger piece, Plum Street Sampler has a free design The Soul Felt It's Worth which is beautiful.

I just love this pin drum by Beth Twist called Yukon's Christmas List.

For the coffee drinkers out there, Plum Street Sampler has an adorable Coffee Bean Tree.

Tom Pudding Designs has Scandinavian Red & White sampler based on squares of red stitching on white fabric. These squares could easily be stitched individually to make some little bowlfillers to add in and some would double for Valentine's or even July 4th as additional bowlfillers for those months' baskets. I'm tempted to make a basket of just red and white stitching to leave out year-round.

Do you do surface embroidery? These can stitch up very quickly to add a little bit extra to your basket.

Woolnsails has a cute little bird and tree design.

This Little Reindeer by Gail Pan would make a cute little bowlfiller, too. Cut out some white felt circles and stitch this on the front of several and then sew two circles together and stuff lightly with Polyfil to make some cute little pieces to stick in your basket. Add a ribbon and hang on your tree, too.

If you quilt, make a red and white or red and green little pillow or pincushion or maybe a few to use in your baskets. Red and white will work for February and July, too!

Hope you enjoy these. If you post on Instagram, be sure to use the hashtags, #bowlfillers and #seasonalbaskets

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Poinsettias in the Wild

Our Chinese friends laugh at me when I spot poinsettias growing along the hillside from the bus windows. I've always loved the bright red flowers that are harbingers of Christmas in the US. Seeing them on huge trees growing in the wild climbing the sides of mountains is such a contrast to seeing them in tiny pots. They are even more beautiful in the wild.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Drowning Fly

While researching sayings from antique samplers, I came across this verse that was stitched on a sampler from the 1800s. It seems to have appeared in a number of readers from that time period as well.

The Drowning Fly

In yonder glass behold the drowning fly!
Its little feet how vainly does it ply!
Poor helpless insect! And will no one save?
Will no one snatch thee from the threat'ning grave?
My finger's top shall prove a friendly shore:
There, trembler, all thy dangers now are o'er.
Wipe thy wet wings, and banish all thy fear:
Go, join thy num'rous kindred in the air.
Away it flies; resumes its harmless play;
And lightly gambols in the golden ray.
Smile not, spectators, at this humble deed;
For you, perhaps, a nobler task's decreed:
A young and sinking family to save;
To raise the thoughtless from destruction's wave!
To you, for help, the wretched lift their eyes:
Oh! hear, for pity's sake, their plaintive cries;
Ere long, unless some guardian interpose,
O'er their devoted heads the floods may close.

I don't know about you, but I don't care for flies. A kitten? Sure, I'd scoop a poor little kitten out in a heartbeat. But a fly? Flush the toilet already! And yet, the writer of this poem felt compassion for an icky, irritating fly. Normally, I think of myself as compassionate, but this poem makes me think that I'm not nearly as compassionate as I thought I was. And we are seriously lacking in compassion in today's society.

If people today were more compassionate, there would be no bullying. There would be no children mistreated. There would be no one who has never been told they are loved and cared for. Oh, that I would have more compassion for all those around me each moment of every day.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Fuzzy Furballs

Mochi the Cat likes to crawl under woolly items to stay warm. She especially likes this afghan and often sleeps on top of it when its on the back of the couch.

Peanut the Dog likes to cuddle up next to someone and be covered by one of my shawls. This keeps both of us nice and warm.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Knitting Design Origin Story

When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I was concerned because I had a lot of problems with my hands. I broke so many of our dishes and switched to stainless steel plates and bowls since those don't break if dropped. I couldn't open doors and needed help getting my clothes on and off. Frequently, even holding a knitting needle or crochet hook was difficult. I was discouraged thinking about losing the ability to make things, but then I decided that rather than give up all my creative outlets, I would keep being creative even if the only thing left that I could do was finger paint! 

I didn't have to give up all of my creative pursuits though. I've learned ways to keep my hands working and the medicine I'm on does help with the pain enough so that I can work. My rheumatologist was even surprised that I was fairly calm about being in pain 24/7 since this is one of the most difficult things those with fibro have to adjust to. I told him being able to knit helped relax me and he said to keep doing it. It helps with stress, too.

On the other hand, I wasn't able to continue teaching. The commute bothers my hip to such a degree that I could barely walk once off the bus and not being able to sleep deeply means I have difficulty remembering words. Try teaching how a gerund can act as an adjective when you can't remember the word 'noun.' And then, stressing about whether or not you will be able to remember the words you need for class that day doesn't help either. I miss teaching and have looked for something else to replace it with.

 I've tried a variety of things thinking I might be able to do them, but then a flare would hit. This year, I heard about tech editing. I started proofreading for my dad when I was 16 and have done it off and on all my life. I love it. But, in order to be a good tech editor, I felt that I needed to become a more adventurous knitter and learn to knit well. Um, yes, in the past I'm afraid I've been one of those knitters that said, "Oh, a mistake, great, it adds more design interest." and then keeps knitting.

In February 2018, I started The Knitting Guild Association's Master Hand Knitting Level 1. I'm learning so much! For the certification, there is a lot of research involved in addition to actual knitting. And you pretty much have to knit each swatch until you get it right.

 I've also been doing quite a bit of research on tech editing and, as a result, have also been learning more about designing. I never thought I'd be a good designer or that my designs would be of particular interest to anyone. But, the more I've learned about designing and the design process, the more ideas I've had. I'm starting to see thing from a designer's viewpoint. When you look at decorative sidewalk tiles and think, "That makes me think of seed stitch and it would be great with that yarn I've got at home knit into the perfect, lined summer bag." and then you spend the rest of your grocery trip planning it all out...you've pretty much succumbed. 

I'd also been looking for a simple, lace-weight hat design. I'd found and knit one called "Lace Hair Net" and wore it all the time and loved it. But, I didn't want to own five hats of the same pattern. Plus, I was looking for something a little different. There aren't many lace-weight hats out there. I have hair loss from the fibromyalgia, though, and air conditioning causes migraines. I NEED lightweight summer hats. Surely I can't be the only one!

Then, I took Aroha Knits Swatch Design free workshop. In addition to the hat, I thought of a whole bunch of other "comfort items" that might appeal to others with chronic illnesses or that those who love them might want to make for them. Some of the items would even be great as sets in a gift basket with a few other items. I could even include gifting ideas with the patterns like a winter warmth set. I have several pages of ideas. Many of these things already exist, but I could bring a different perspective. 

If you're in chronic pain and not sleeping, a lace shawl is lovely, but incredibly difficult to knit when you can't keep even a simple stitch pattern in your head. A single simple lace motif set off by markers to remind you of where to make it with stockinette on either side is also lovely, and much better for a flare day. Maybe I'll never be experienced enough to design intricate cables or lace, but I think I could fill a small niche and bring a little bit of joy and comfort to a few people and that's enough. That's why I want to design. At least one good thing has come from having fibromyalgia and that is that I have increased empathy for people who are in chronic pain. I really like the idea of using designing to find ways to help relieve that pain. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Just Make It One Page!

I have a knitting pattern pet peeve. Well, several really, but let's keep it to just one today. I was printing off several patterns today while making knitting plans and two in a row irked me. One had a huge picture on the front page and about eight lines of instructions on the second page. I'm assuming that the large picture on the first page is her pattern style, but come on, make it a single page with a little bit smaller picture.

The second pattern had a single line on the second page: Weave in ends. Are you kidding? The romance writing at the front could definitely have been shortened so that this one line would fit making it a single page pattern.

Am I the only person that finds this extremely irritating?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Terraced Fields of Jianshui

Pictures don't nearly do justice to these terraced fields flooded for spring planting. I've always thought they would make an interesting knitting pattern with the lines eddying here and there across the surface rippling down the hillsides.