Welcome!

photo_mediumWelcome to Knits ‘N Pearls! This is my little corner of the internet, for me and my ever-crafty self. Here, I blog about my life, my family, my hobbies and crafts, my adventures in learning to sew, my adventures in knitting and fiber arts, my hobby-turned-business of being a jewelry designer and Etsy store owner, and anything in general. Enjoy!

I’ve moved!

Hey everyone! Haven’t been here in quite a long time, and I’m so sorry about that!

Just dropping by to post a quick note that I have moved blog addresses, and I will not be posting here anymore. I’m not giving up posting about all my crafts – I’m just posting them in a different place.

You can check out my new blog at http://flossandfibro.wordpress.com. I’ll not only be posting about my daily crafting, but I’ll also be posting about everything going on in my life now that I’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness called Fibromyalgia. I hope to be a voice for those like myself who have fibromyalgia or other chronic illnesses, to help people without chronic illnesses understand how hard it is and how your life changes. I also hope to help those with fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses find creative ways to cope with their diagnosis and find something that brings them happiness in the midst of their pain and fatigue and symptoms.

Hope to see you over there!

Project WIP – January 1, 2016 – All the WIPs!

Hello all! Hope your New Year’s was awesome and safe!

This will be a pretty picture-heavy post, so to make it not-so-lengthy, I will cut out my usual chatter and get right to it. To kick off my Resolution, that I’m calling Project WIP (2016), I’m here to make my first post of the new year and list out all the WIPs that I’m counting for this. All of these projects are counting toward my 2016 goal of getting some of these WIPs I have going done. Although I’m not necessarily hoping to reduce my number of WIPs down by the end of the year, since I like to keep a different selection for whatever mood fits me at the moment, I am making it my goal to work on what I have going at the moment rather than starting new projects at random.

Here we go!

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1. Mr. Greenjeans cardiganCurrent progress: have split off for the sleeves and am working down the body, with about an inch (maybe more) to go before the cables start.

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2. EZ Half Circle (Camping) Shawl – Current progress: had to frog the last few rows of the third motif, but quickly caught back up and am working on my first repeat (of 4) of the last motif before the border.

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3. Secret Beach Diagonal Cowl – Current progress: just cast this on a couple of days before the new year so I could count it toward my goal. Down only about 1 or 2 repeats on first section of main color.

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4. Sock Yarn Patchwork BlanketCurrent progress: have done about 30 squares, with a ton more to go. This is slow-moving. Since it’s all garter, it’s not something I want to work on all the time. Currently more of a car knitting or laying in bed knitting project. Probably won’t be completely finished this year.

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5. Scrap Granny Square Blanket (aka Ugly Roseanne Afghan) – Current progress: About 10 or 15 squares completed, I think? Several started and in various stage of completion, some just waiting to be attached with black border. Totally boring project; not expecting to be finished in coming year.

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6. Rose Cuttings (Cross Stitch) – Current progress: at least 1/4 of the way through, if not more. Not boring, but looking forward to getting past the beige, green, and brown colors and into the pinks, reds, and yellows of the flowers. Hoping to be done in the coming year.

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7. Footprints – Current progress: I have actually done the first several stitches since I took this photo. Ready to work the first seashells on the upper left hand corner. This is a new kit I picked up the day after Christmas, and started right away because I’ve wanted this kit for over 3 years. Definitely planning to finish in the coming year.

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8. Ink Circles Breast Cancer Ribbon Mandala – Current progress: about this far. Project is accidentally turned sideways in photo; top left is where you see the black thread of my outside gridding start. This is not a main project but one I would like to finish in the coming year.

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9. Village Needlework Shoppe – Current progress: stalled while I work on other projects. Still love it so I’m sure I’ll get back to it when mood strikes. Would love to finish in the coming year, but not confident I’ll have time.

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10. Wild Thing Birth Record – Current progress: also stalled. Would love to finish this year so my son can finally have a birth record, but it’s 9 years late, what’s another year? (At this rate, it may be a grandchild’s birth record in 2035.)

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11. Angel of Cross Stitch and Kitty Litter – Current progress: not started, but kitted up in case I want to start them, this way they can count toward my list.

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12. Quilted Table Topper – Current progress: top finished, basted, and first stitches of quilting are done. Thinking about how I want to quilt everything outside the center medallion. (Perhaps one of my first true “free motion” projects.)

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13 and 14. Marcie’s MazeCurrent progress: on the first quilt, top finished, basted, some straight line quilting finished; on second quilt, still piecing. (Yes, this is TWO quilts, TWO WIPs.) Not crazy about how the quilting has come out on the first quilt, it was back when I had a difficult time keeping lines straight. May unpick and start over, but undecided.

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15. Whirligig – Current progress: still piecing. All HSTs are done, just have to follow a picture from Pinterest rather than follow a pattern. I may have HSTs left over to make a different quilt.

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16. Scrappy Coin Quilt – Current progress: still working on piecing, will need to cut more rectangles eventually. This will be an ongoing project but would like to see it finished in the coming year.

Other goals for WIPs this year: Finish spinning the fiber I have on my wheel to clear it off; get new inventory photographed and up on Etsy (considering a monthly “update” system); Fire MKAL (starting January 29th).

Is anybody curious what I accomplished in 2015?

Projects Finished: 26
Projects Frogged: 17
Books Read: 31 (goal of 50; 62% completed)
Cups of Coffee Consumed to Finish All The Things: 5,972

…just kidding on that last one!

So what are my ultimate goals for this coming year? Well, aside from sticking to my main resolution (focus on the WIPs)…let’s just say I’d love to up last year’s total projects finished to 30, reduce the number of projects frogged to 15 or less, and my new Goodreads reading challenge for the year is 50 books.

Let’s do this! Did you make any resolutions this year, crafty or otherwise?

2015 End-Of-Year…Resolutions

The end of 2015 is upon us and we’re staring right into 2016. I know I can’t be the only one thinking, “Wow! Where has it gone?”

I’ve done so much this year, and learned so much. So often, the year flies by and fear keeps me from trying new things and learning new skills in my hobbies. But this year, I’m proud to say that I stepped outside my self-imposed box, and made it a goal to try new things and learn new skills. I knitted short rows for the first time (and on a sweater no less). I learned to sew – and I sewed a dress, sewed several zippers, and learned how to make project bags. I learned to quilt, and am getting quite good at it! I got back to cross stitching and put aside my fear of working with small count fabrics, and stitched my very first piece on 28-count Evenweave.

I’m looking forward to a new year and advancing my skills even more.

As usual, at the end of the year, I have a look back at my resolutions to see how well I stuck to them. I was surprised this year to see I didn’t do too bad!

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1) Knit up sweater yarn. I’m amassing far too much of it without knitting up much of it. Which I guess means knit more sweaters. 
– Well, I didn’t do too bad. I tried at least. I had 2 sweaters on the needles in the middle of the year, but I gained a lot of weight in the past year and by the time I got back to them, I had far outgrown them and had to frog. Nowadays I’m being slightly more careful about sweater knitting, worrying less about “using up all this stash yarn” and worrying more about knitting what I want, what I like, and knitting things I will love and use.

2) Try to destash/knit up as much scrap acrylic as possible. Probably in blankets, afghans, and things for those members of my family who do not like wool. – I think I can call this done. I didn’t knit up all the scraps, but that wasn’t my goal anyway. I did knit up and destash as much as possible. I didn’t use any acrylic scraps for Christmas gifts, but I’m still doing a lot of work on my two scrap blankets (one sock yarn scrap blanket which is admittedly not acrylic, and one crocheted granny square blanket which I’m lovingly calling my Ugly Roseanne Blanket because it’s just like the afghan that rests on the couch on the Roseanne show). These will both be long long-term projects, and I’m not expecting to finish either of them in 2016 either.

3) Make one quilt by the end of 2015. I’m so new to sewing and quilting that any advancement is an improvement, but a quilt is what I would really like to accomplish. Also possibly some clothes for myself – a skirt, a cute dress, a shirt, something.DONE! I can safely say that I finished one quilt by the end of 2015. I got bit so hard by the quilting bug that it’s become a new hobby of mine, and I’ve finished at least 6 that I can count off the top of my head, and I’ll hopefully finish even more in 2016.

4) Organize, organize, organize. The stash is getting out of control and I’m running out of places to store things, and it’s getting harder and harder to decide what needs to stay inside the house for easy reach and what can be stored in the garage and picked out later when I need it. I need to carve out some space to keep what I need within reach but doesn’t leave my house as cluttered as it is now.DONE! Again, I can safely say that this one is done. I didn’t destash a lot, but I moved yarn that I didn’t think I’d be using anytime soon out to store in the garage, and I moved yarn I knew/expected to use in the near future to plastic drawer units. I stored those plastic drawer units inside the house in my closet, out of the way so they’re within reach but not cluttering up my house.

5) Expand Creative Chaos Jewelry. I want to offer more variety of items, better items, and hopefully increase sales by 50% this year. I have also considered expanding and opening a second store to offer knitting accessories and sewn items (like bags, etc). – I didn’t quite do as good of a job at this as I had hoped. I ran into a few snags mid-year that drastically slowed me down, and as a result, slowed down sales. I didn’t increase sales; rather, I decreased them. Thankfully, although this is a “day job” for me, it’s simply a way to add a few bucks into the budget and off-set the cost of some of the supplies for the hobbies I love, not something we rely on to pay the bills.

6) Read more books. In the last half of 2014 I read nearly 20 books alone, far surpassing my Goodreads challenge goal I set of 5 (I’m a casual reader). This year, I’ll set my goal at 25 and can hopefully surpass it again.DONE! I surpassed my original goal and reset it at 50, but I won’t make that goal by the end of the year. I did do a lot more reading, however.

And finally…

7) Ultimately, be happy with my crafts. Don’t set such high expectations of myself. Enjoy the process. Knit what I want; don’t knit what I don’t want. (Which goes for sewing and everything else, as well.)DONE done done. I enjoyed the crafting process, and rather than knit things just to use up stash, I only knit what I want, when I want. (And cross stitched, and sewed, and etc.)

So what’s up for 2016? Aside from keeping to a few of last year’s basic resolutions (keep destashing, be happy with my crafting, stay organized), I’ve decided to keep it super simple this coming year and stick with ONE resolution…

2016 will be the year to wipe out the WIPs. And yes, that will be my only resolution for 2016. I have done well with knitting and stitching what I want, when I feel like working on it, and have found I’m a much happier crafter when I don’t force myself to make things I don’t like, so resolutions to “knit up x sweaters” or “knit more socks” will not work out for me. But I do need to make sure to stick to my WIPs and stop letting startitis take over, and keep the projects from getting out of control.

As of January 1st, I will not be casting on anything new; instead, I will start favoring the WIPs that need wiped out. As always, there will be a few exceptions – I have a few items for my best friend that I have promised her that I have yet to start, so I will cast those on whenever. I am planning to participate in a MKAL that starts on January 29th, so when that starts I will be casting on for that as well. And of course, when I finish WIPs, I’m being a bit more lienant and allowing myself to cast on something new if I really want to. As for cross stitching, I have a few things kitted up and ready to start whenever I want to, and am technically “counting” them in my WIP list even if I’m not listing them (because they’re not technically WIPs yet). The same thing goes for quilting as for everything else – focus on the WIPs. As soon as the UFO Club thread for 2016 goes live in my quilting group on Ravelry, I’ll be joining along to knock down a few of these quilts that I haven’t touched in months. Other crafts – sewing in general, jewelry – I’m not really worried about including, because I generally don’t let WIPs linger in these categories.

Within the next few days, I’ll be making an “official” post listing all my WIPs to kick this little project off. I’m really looking forward to it. 🙂

Holidays at the K&P Household

Where have I been (again)? I’ve been stressed, that’s where I’ve been. I know I’ve been absent again for at least 3 months, and it hasn’t been intentional, I swear. Over the past 3 months I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life, and it’s been so bad it’s kept me away from my “online presence” for the most part. It hasn’t been just the blog, it’s been a lot of social media – my Facebook, Twitter (which I rarely posted on to begin with), my Instagram, Ravelry. I’ve typed up numerous posts, but always end up abandoning them for one reason or another, usually because something else comes up. And while this is my blog and I’d love to treat this place like a journal, how I truly always wanted it to be, some of the things are just way too personal. And something I’ve learned over the past three months I’ve been gone is…some people just suck. They will use anything they learn about you against you.

But that’s where I’ve been. And I’m just hoping it will get better and it will stop affecting every aspect of my life, including my lack of blog posting.

Anyway. So the holidays have officially hit – and I’m sure you’re aware, if you’re at all feeling the extra time crunch to get those last holiday gifts made (or bought). Luckily for myself, I started my gift planning in January because I tend to plan above-and-beyond and have been burned in the past by trying to start everything in October or November and being crunched for time. I finished 3 children’s quilts (2 for nieces, 1 for nephew), a much larger quilt for my in-laws, 2 cross-stitch projects for my husband’s grandmothers (that I still have to stuff into pillows and wrap), beaded ornaments for teachers, and a crocheting goodie tote bag (sewn by me) for my sister-in-law (and of course, I stuffed it with several books, project pamphlets, and a couple skeins of yarn). I took advantage of the Black Friday sales on Amazon on Thanksgiving night and ordered all of my son’s gifts. Heath and I decided this year to buy our own Christmas presents to make it less stressful on each other, so he ordered a few video games when Playstation Network had their Black Friday sale, and I ordered myself a new set of Knitter’s Pride interchangeable needles.

I treated myself to a Thames leather bag to hold my full needle set, because I didn’t like the bag that it came with too much and because I like to keep my things organized. I’ve only had them a little over a week and knitted a couple of times since then, but so far, I love my new needles. The only problem I can foresee right now is the possibility that the white lettering on the needles that indicate size are rubbing off very quickly, but that’s a minor complaint.

We’ve been busy busy busy getting the house ready for the holidays. We spent our Thanksgiving alone by choice (and a little by circumstance) and we ended up having such a great, relaxing holiday that we’ve decided to do the same thing for Christmas. Some of this goes back to the personal stuff I’ve been going through, but we’re also hoping that we can start to forge some traditions and memories for our own little family, instead of letting our extended family monopolize all our holiday time.

I am still trying to play catch-up from Thanksgiving. With my herniated disc acting up very frequently lately, it’s been so hard to keep up with some of the major chores. I’m still trying to catch up with dishes, even! With all the cooking I did for Thanksgiving, plus still trying to catch up from having our faucet broken down for a while before then, it’s been hard just trying to keep up enough dishes for us to eat every day. And with my back, it’s been even harder. Let’s not even talk about laundry (lifting loads into the washer and a basket full of clothes to be folded seems to be an Achilles heel of mine). I did manage to get the living room cleaned up from the holiday explosion, which was no easy feat. My husband pulled all the boxes out of the garage for me (again, lifting heavy objects) and I got the Christmas tree up and decorated.

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Totally forgot to take the camera lens off manual focus and into auto-focus. Ugh. But since it’s a dark photo as-is, it’ll do.

I also was able to manage the stockings and the villages, which was the easiest task because…confession time…I never took my villages down from the mantle last year. I never even took the lights down. I took the stockings down but that was it.

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We made a valiant effort at putting up the outside lights, even buying brand new blue/frosted white icicle lights to finally match our indoor holiday color scheme, but the weather had other plans. My husband has been working 7 days a week lately, and when he finally did get a couple hours of free time to attempt to hang them, winter storm Echo was moving in hard and fast. We ended up getting 8+ inches of snow and ice. We are the type of people that when we do Christmas decorating, we don’t wait until Christmas Eve to spend all that time on it and end up having to take it down a week later…so we’ll see if my husband actually bothers to hang them up this close to Christmas.

But I did manage to get the house decorated, and with the way my year (or at least the end of it) has gone, that’s something.

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Obviously, since I haven’t updated in 3 months, my WIP/Finished list of projects has changed quite a bit, and I need to do a new WIP post, but I will give myself some time to do a photo shoot and get those things in order before I take on that post. I’d like to do it before the end of the year, as well as an “end-of-year” New Year’s Crafty Resolutions post like I did for this year. Hopefully, in the next 10 days, I’ll be back to go ahead and do that.

If I don’t post again before Friday, I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Happy Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/or whatever it is that you and your family celebrate!

 

Cross Stitch Organization (and a FO!)

In lieu of a WIP Wednesday this week, I’m going to do something a little different. I generally like to do a WIP Wednesday every 2 weeks or so, because that’s about how often I switch projects around. In those 2 weeks I generally finish at least one project and start one or two more. But honestly, aside from finishing a small project and having a bit of another one started, I don’t have much change to report. Most of my WIPs are long-term, or I haven’t touched them because I’ve been stitching or otherwise engaged in other things. I do have a FO I want to post about, but I’ll get to that at the end of the post.

It took a while. But I think I found a way to organize my stitching WIPs and notions in a way that everything is a) easily accessible so I can reach for it when I need it, b) portable so I can carry it with me to a different room or travel with it if I want, and c) not a complete wreck so that it’s inefficient.

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This is what it all comes down to, and I’ll run down every part, for those of you who might be looking for a new way to organize things. It all started with this:

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This is a crappy night photo taken with my phone, but it definitely gets the message across. Previously I used Stitch Bows for some of my floss, because they were given to me by family. I also used this DMC carrying tote for all my stitchy stuff, because it’s beautifully portable, and yet has plenty of space for most of the things I need.

But as you can see, it was a mess. It was inefficient for me and the way I stitch. Instead of carrying the things I needed for each project, I was carrying the things I was never using. That left my things that I was using, such as my WIPs, hanging out…wherever. It was way too unorganized.

So I decided to do something about that.

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First things first, I emptied all of those Stitch Bows. It might be an efficient system for some, but it turned out not to be the right one for me. I spent about an hour winding all the floss from the Bows to the old school paper bobbins, and stored them the more traditional way in a floss organizer. Hey, if it works, it works. And obviously it works because it’s been around for years – since my mom was stitching stuff, and that was…whew. Well I was little, let’s just say that. The organizer also gave me a convenient place to store some Mill Hill beads I picked up on clearance about a week ago. (50 cents a piece! Can’t beat that!)

With the Stitch Bows and their plastic holders gone from the tote, I went through all the WIPs in the largest pocket of the organizer. I decided which ones I was going to abandon for now (which was most of them) and which ones I was going to bring back into rotation. I placed all of those, including all the unopened/unstarted kits I have stashed, into a 5-gallon Ziploc bag. Luckily, my whole stash fits into that, and fits nicely into the top shelf of my closet (which is where my yarn storage is). In the future I may need a better way, but for now that works.

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What I ended up with, is this. With everything else emptied, I set to work organizing things. I treated myself to some new highlighters because my old ones were kinda yucky and started to get dried up and/or blackened (from smearing). All my loose needles are placed into the felt needle holder (you can barely see it at the bottom of the picture), and my needle minders go there quite nicely too (just sandwich the piece of felt between the magnets). In the smallest top pocket I have a couple of packages of needles that I haven’t taken out yet (I treated myself to a couple new packages of needles too), a ballpoint pen, and my highlighters. In the larger bottom pocket, I have a few random things – some scrap Aida that I don’t think I can use for anything but I’m too cheap to throw away; a piece of cardboard with a list of DMC numbers that I’m not entirely sure what project they go to anymore lol; a graphed backstitch alphabet; a paper from a package of Aida for a specific project (so I know what to buy for another planned project). Of the useful things, I have the package from my embroidery scissors (I treated myself to those too), my 12-hole floss organizer cards, my Thimble-It finger protectors, and a floss ring. In the opposite (even larger) pocket, I have a WIP I’m not actively working on but plan to, a couple of paper patterns, and now, a recently FO waiting to get mounted and framed.

But that didn’t exactly solve the problem I had with keeping my WIPs organized and yet handy for me, so I was free to pick them up and work on them whenever I wanted to. So I came up with a new system for that.

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These cheap plastic-y zipper folders from the dollar store were a really lucky find. I had something like this in mind the whole time, but for some reason, finding exactly what I wanted without having to order online and without spending a fortune was harder than I thought. But then I found these, a score at $1 each.

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As you can see, they easily hold the fabric (granted, not in a hoop), a floss organizer, and a paper pattern. They’re compact when I need them to be, but they expand to fit the things I need them to. And when I need my things, I know exactly where they are. I picked up 3, because I know I often have at least 3 WIPs going at any given time, but I may pick up more as time goes on. I’d like to say so I can have them as replacements in case these get damaged (it’s inevitable since they’re cheap), but I won’t lie…it’s probably so I can have more WIPs. 😛

I can fit a small project that is already put into a hoop in this bag – meaning not a lot of excess fabric hanging around the edge. My current “Village Needlework Shoppe” does not apply because of too much excess fabric around the hoop. I could probably arrange it so I could throw it in there if I took it with me to travel somewhere, but I don’t do that very often. I would not, however, throw something in a Qsnap in one of these; I think it would be a bit too heavy. A piece of fabric taken out of a hoop and folded fits nicely, so if you take your fabric out of your hoop every time you stop stitching it can work even better for you.

And these folders fit inside my tote where the Stitch Bows were previously, which is just awesome and was always originally the plan.

Now I still had the issue of what to do with my notions. I like to have a pencil/pen, a highlighter, embroidery scissors, a needle threader, beeswax or Thread Heaven, and various other little tiny things around me when I’m going on a stitching session. Like a needle, these things can easily get lost in a couch cushion or in bed if I want to stitch there. Having them laying around randomly where I was sitting was becoming a nuisance. I would set the scissors down (as an example) and the next time I needed them, I would have to search for them. I got tired of that pretty fast. The dollar store to the rescue again!

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On the same trip that I found the zipper organizers, I ran across this while in the back of the store searching other organization options. Does anybody else ever run into the problem that they’re looking for a box for storage, but they can never find the perfect size? Everything you run into is either too big or too small? I didn’t want one of those “shoe” boxes that you can find, because they’re just a bit too big for what I was wanting, but everything else seemed too small at the same time. When I ran across this, it was perfect. It fits all my smaller notions for every project (my perle cotton that I use for gridding, my highlighter, pen, pencil, threaders, scissors). I can snap the lid on when I’m storing it. When I’m working, I leave the lid off and set the box next to me, and I can grab for my little notions. I use them – snip something off with the scissors, mark something off with the highlighter – and then just toss them back in the box. The box doesn’t fall over if it’s sitting on the couch, and I don’t lose anything. (Stay tuned…it’s inevitable I’ll eventually lose something. This just decreases the likelihood and/or frequency.) If I want to travel with a project, I just have to grab the box and the zipper organizer with my project and I’m ready to go.

Now there’s something else that I’m particularly proud of; one last little piece that helps keep me extra organized. This one might help others. Remember that I made my needle minders? Those help keep track of needles that are attached to a project, but sometimes I use multiple needles for one project, especially if I’m going on a marathon stitching session. And I always have the problem of, what do I do with my needles when I’ve emptied the thread? I don’t leave empty needles on a needle minder, because I’m afraid I’ll knock them off or possibly stab myself with them as I’m working. But I needed something because I wanted them stuck in place and not loose in a box, and I’m not overly fond of pincushions. Then I remembered I have these little round containers that I got in a stash of my mom’s old stuff…and magnets left over from the first failed attempt at DIY needle minders.

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Voila. Not overly creative; not all that innovative. But it works, and it might work for another person out there. The previous magnets I tried for the needle minders were already adhesive, so I stuck one at the bottom of the container.

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It’s magnetic enough that the needles gravitate right to it, so they’re stuck there. I don’t have to worry about them flying anywhere if the little container gets knocked over. I have cats, a child, and a clumsy husband who will “gently” shove my stuff out of the way if I’m in “his” space. I can’t count the number of times he’s done this and caused chaos for me. But this way, I don’t have to worry about needles getting lost, and I don’t have to deal with sticking them in a piece of foam or a pincushion and having to fish them out.

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It worked perfectly for me when I was working on my Family, Friends, Faith Forever project (1 of 2), and I was threading multiple needles with the same color at one time. When I had exhausted one needle, I tossed it into the container and went to the new needle, and they were ready for me when I threaded them all again – no losing, no fishing, no where did my other 2 needles go? And it fits in my green notions box just fine as well. This could be especially helpful if you travel with your stitching and do work on car trips – I can’t imagine anything worse than losing an embroidery needle in a car.

So that’s it, my new organization system. I’ve been using it for the past week, and it’s been working great for me. I can’t say it has sped up my stitching by that much (because I really have no way to gauge a before/after) but I can tell you it’s no longer such a hassle to decide to stitch for a few minutes and drag out my projects.

And speaking of my Family… project, I have finished the first piece.

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It needs a good wash (because this piece of Aida has been sitting around for who knows how long). Then it needs mounted and framed, which I’m going to do myself. I may blog about that process as well, when I eventually do it…because this will be my first time mounting and framing something in over two years. (Eeek.) I did it previously because professional framing is not in my budget, but those attempts were not very…um. Good. But I found a new tutorial I hadn’t seen before, and it seems “easy” enough given my established knowledge of the process. Stay tuned.

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As far as new projects go, I didn’t have the Aida to start the second Family… so I decided I would start this one, a Janlynn kit for “Village Needlework Shoppe”. If I ever get my own craft room, it will be a cute little addition to the decor. Not much to see yet, but this is after a mini stitching marathon for the Weekend Stitch-Along in the Counted Cross Stitchers group on Ravelry. (As an aside, the gridding just about killed me. It took 3 days doing it about 45 minutes at a time off and on. So. Boring. I could never grid a HAED project. I could never do a HAED project.)

I started a few beaded pendants off a tutorial from YouTube that I’m going to be making as Christmas ornaments. My plan is to make one for each of my son’s teachers and give them as gifts this year. I have photos but they’re not loaded onto my computer, so I’ll blog more about those later when I’m more prepared.

I also think I’ll whip out that WIP from about 2-3 years ago that hasn’t been worked on since then, and actually work on that for my weekend stitch-along project. 🙂

DIY Crafts: Grime Guard and Needle Minder

Earlier this week, I posted on Instagram (after a long, neglectful period, I so fail at social media) a picture of something called a “grime guard” for Q-Snap frames used in cross stitching. I said in that Instagram post that I would blog about the tutorial, so that’s what I’m going to do!

I had never heard of these things until I got back into cross stitching and returned to my old cross stitching forum on Ravelry. My immediate thought was, what a nifty idea! My second immediate thought was, I can see how this would work. Even if you wash your hands religiously before picking up your stitch work, your hands are always picking things up – dirt, grime, even natural oils – that could eventually end up on your fabric if you’re touching it. A fabric cover that is easily washable could help prevent that problem if it keeps you from touching your cross stitching fabric all the time. My third thought was that while this has a practical use, it also has a cosmetic use. I love my Q-Snap frame, but it’s not the prettiest thing in the world. Since I love working with it I overlook that, but something to make it a little bit more attractive never hurts!

You can purchase these grime guards on Etsy – here is a selection of them that I found just by searching for “qsnap grime guard” – but if you have all the supplies and the skills to make them on your own, you could have your own stash of grime guards to use without paying any extra money. In turn, you can save that money for stash enhancement. 😉

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Here is a photo of the first grime guard that I made from the tutorial. My experience in trying out the grime guard was that the width I cut my fabric was just a bit too wide for my liking; while I work, the fabric gets in my way and makes some of my work area inaccessible, or I have to keep moving fabric out of the way as I work. BUT…that’s easily changed because you can cut the fabric to any size you think will work for you! The tutorial gives fabulous instructions on how to figure out the size to cut your fabric. My Q-Snap is 6×6″; even though the frame used in the tutorial is 8×8″, I was easily able to figure out how to cut for my smaller size. And even better, if you have a frame that isn’t perfectly square – like an 11″x17″ size – the tutorial’s instructions will make it easy for you to figure out your size for that as well.

The only problem I’ve found with making these grime guards (and the problem is definitely not a reflection of the tutorial quality) is that a serger definitely makes this task much more easily accomplished. A lot of people, including me, do not have sergers – but, not having a serger definitely doesn’t make this tutorial impossible to do. You certainly do have to find a way to fix the raw edges of your fabric so that they will not fray. I made 2 other grime guards in addition to this one, and the same day I made them, they fell apart while in use because my edges frayed too much. Again, not reflectively of the tutorial, this happened because I didn’t have a serger to stitch over my fabric edges. To fix this problem without a serger, you can do a zig-zag stitch closer to the edge of your fabric and that should keep raw edges from fraying. I haven’t tried this yet because me + tension on my machine when doing zig-zag stitch = not a friendly relationship – but I intend to take care of this issue and make new grime guards to my perfect size and liking.

In case you’re curious about my perfect size – the tutorial recommends a width of 5 1/2″ to allow 1/2″ for each elastic casing (for a total of 1″), a 1/2″ to allow for serging the edges, and this makes 4″ for the cover. The grime guard pictured was built to the 5 1/2″ the tutorial suggests. I found this a bit too wide for me, I kept having to move fabric out of the way to do my stitching. I wouldn’t recommend cutting it down to less than 4 1/2″ total, though. I think 4 1/2″-5″ will be my perfect size when I attempt this again. Oh, and I also did not have the 1/4″ elastic the tutorial calls for, all I had available was 1/8″, but that still worked for me. If you have the correct size of elastic I would definitely use that, but if all you have in your stash is 1/8″, it should work for you.

Here is the link to the tutorial I used. If you have any questions, or are confused by any of my extra ramblings, feel free to leave me a comment and ask. The tutorial is a couple years old so I’m not sure if the original blogger is still available to answer questions, but I can certainly try to help out if any of it is confusing.

And then later, I discovered another tutorial that I found helpful, this time for making your own needle minders. Needle minders are probably the coolest invention for cross stitching since…lap frames, or cross stitching itself. (Just my opinion.) All these little things are, are a magnetic decorative device that attach to the fabric you’re working with that you can attach your needles to using the magnet, so you are not constantly losing your needles. Needles can be a dangerous thing. I never want to lose a needle in the couch or on the floor, because finding it later will almost certainly be a painful experience. (Since I’ve recently discovered I can stitch in bed, also, imagine how painful that would be.)

You can buy these neat little things on Etsy, or on 123stitch.com, and I’m sure at other vendors. But again, if you can reasonably make your own, you can have multiples around for use and you can also personalize them. I like having multiples around, and I don’t have the budget available to purchase multiples from other vendors, so I decided to give the DIY approach a go. Here is my needle minder, in use by me:

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I was focusing on the actual stitching when I posted this on Instagram, but you can see my needle minder holding my needle in the top right hand corner up there. I thought before I started using a needle minder that it might get in the way of my stitching, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that if it’s placed right, I work like it’s not even there. But it’s so handy to have it there, I don’t have to worry about where I’m putting my needle when I have to put my work down.

This is a great tutorial of how to make these, but really, you don’t even need the tutorial. They’re so easy to make. You pick something decorative, you glue your magnets to it, and voila, you’re done. I picked up these supplies from Hobby Lobby in addition to some super glue (just the regular stuff, though I found the brush-on easier to use for me) to make mine:

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I chose some thin wooden embellishments (down the aisle where the unpainted wooden items like boxes are) and some magnets found in the aisle with all the doll-making supplies. I first tried some of the plain magnets with an adhesive back, but I found that not only were they too thick but the magnets weren’t even close to strong enough to pick up my needle. I found these small metal button magnets (a 10 strength, the strongest I could buy) in a pack of 6 for $5.99. They’re not as cheap as the other magnets, but 6 magnets is also enough to make 3 needle minders so unless you want to make more than that, you only need one package. The wooden embellishments are pretty thin, and I found them in a package of at least a dozen for $1.99:

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(This shows not only how the minder is put together, but how thin the wooden pieces are.) You wouldn’t have to use wood if you didn’t want to; you could use a cute button or maybe even an embellishment from the beading aisle, but keep in mind you don’t want your decoration piece too thick, because you want the magnet to be able to pick up the needle. I had a necklace charm with my initial in my cart as well, to try to replicate one of the minders I saw on 123stitch, but I ended up putting it back because I wanted to see if these even worked before I spent too much money. I think I’ll eventually go back for it.

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This is another one I created using the same wooden piece, this time an acorn. There was also a squirrel and an apple in my pack, I figured I would use this one more often than those and it was more reflective of what I liked.

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Again, super cute when in use, and very practical. I have only been using it a day, but I love this thing already and have no idea how I got along without one.

Will you be trying either of these tutorials to make your own grime guard or needle minder? I’d love to see what you create if you do!

WIP Wednesday 8/19/15 – Lord, all the WIPs…

If it isn’t at all obvious by the title of my post, and the sheer fact that I’ve been absent from the blog for 3 months, I’ll state it very clearly…I have a lot of WIPs.

Some are new. Some are not so new. Some get worked on almost every day. Some haven’t been touched for a week. Some haven’t been touched for…well, months. Heh.

I’m not going to bother sharing all of them. Originally, I thought I would. After all, I’m a go-big-or-go-home type person; I never do anything small or half-assed. I always make things 10x more difficult on myself than I need to. But then I realized…that would take forever. For one thing, I have to photograph all of those. That means I have to drag all of them out. That alone takes time. For another, I have to upload them all. Now that isn’t that much work…but (and this is a major but)…

I’m exhausted. You see, over the summer, I developed a problem sleeping. Actually, I always had issues sleeping, but it gets worse over the summer when I can stay up later and sleep in later because I don’t have to be up when my son gets home from school. (Yes, I’m truly a stay up during the night and sleep during the day type of person. I’d be perfect in a night-shift job.) But school started today yesterday (which would actually be Wednesday since I’m making this post on Thursday) and now I have to be awake and alert. Oh, how I’d love to sleep through the day. Alas, I have to do this thing called adulting, because for some reason people expect that sort of thing of you when you are my age.

Anyway, the point is that in an attempt to get myself back to what is hopefully a more regular sleeping pattern, I’ve stayed up all night and will be staying up all day to “reboot” my system. I’ve done it before; it’s harsh. It’s unpleasant. But it does seem to work. The earliest I’ll be able to crash in bed is probably 9 or 10, because I also have adulting responsibilities to take care of tonight. I’ll have been awake for over 24 hours by then…I’m currently going on hour 18. I’m pretty tired. I don’t have energy to take pictures of every WIP I have.

So…I’m only sharing the really truly important ones. Or taking pictures of the important ones, at least. I’ll share all of them that I can think of, because I really need to work some of these down and I can use this post as a reference later. On to the WIPs!

On the knitting front…I currently have 4 main knitting WIPs.

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And there they are, basically, in all their glory. I’ve rearranged a couple of things and I now have a writing desk. Since I do the majority of my knitting while at the computer, sitting in front of a document waiting for inspiration to strike, I’ve put my sweater projects in the box you see (though the blue project you see is the start of a sweater and should be in the box and not the basket), and my other projects in the basket, and I keep both by my desk.

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Sadly, you can’t really see the best part of my Shifting sweater, because I didn’t even think to turn it over in the box when I photographed it. (Have I mentioned I’m tired?) It is stalled at the state it’s currently in, which is just a couple inches past the underarms. Progress moves slow and it’s not exactly a project that I pick up when I’m looking for mindless knitting to do while I’m trying to dust off my brain in order to write. But I’m not giving up on it yet, even if it takes me another year (or two), because I still love it.

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In the basket sit the start of my Safire cardigan (the blue), a Barley hat for my son for this winter (the brown), and a few balls of scrap acrylic for my Summer Garden Scrap Blanket, which you can’t even see because they’re down at the bottom and covered. Not included in the photo (because again, 18 hours people, my brain is a bit squeaky) are the Maize mittens I’m also working on for my son for winter wear. New school year calls for new winter weather gear.

A few projects are also hibernating. Since they’re hibernating…yeah, I’m not even going to bother. When they’re back in rotation, you’ll know.

On the quilting front…heh. Uh, yeah.

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My quilting WIPs have all been sitting on top of the bookshelf by my sewing desk for…well, I know I haven’t touched them since the last time I touched the blog, and I refuse to think back any further to save myself the embarrassment. All I can say is, I think during the summer I went through a non-sewing/non-quilting phase, because when you quilt (like when you knit or crochet a blanket) you have all this spare fabric and batting and stuff laying on your lap (or at least I do because of how my machine and desk are situated). In mid-90s and more often than not 100 degree weather, it’s just way too hot for that.

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However, I did work just a little bit on this. This is the Squares in a Square (not the name of the pattern, just the name I gave it) quilt I’m hoping to have done in time to give to my son for Christmas. Yes, it’s just hanging out by my quilting area (and by Dolly the Hamster’s cage) all obvious-like, because my son has literally. no. clue. whatsoever. that he’ll be receiving it for Christmas. I haven’t even mentioned to him that I’m making him a gift, and he doesn’t pay enough attention to put the pieces together. That’s actually pretty freeing, because this year, unlike last year when he knew he was getting a cool gift (the Minecraft  Creeper blanket), I can work on this whenever I want to and I don’t have to wait until he goes to bed so it stays a secret. It only has trimming and binding left to do, and even though I’m dragging my feet because I generally dread the process of binding, I’m confident I’ll have it finished in time.

On the fiber front…I’m proud. I only have a single WIP! (Shush. You don’t know that’s because I only have enough bobbins to work on one spinning project at a time.)

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I was working on this BFL combed top during Tour de Fleece this year with Team FoSK, but just a few days into the Tour, I injured my back pretty severely. This was also one of the factors in my forming a bad sleeping habit…the pain, oh my, the pain. Pain will definitely keep you awake all night. I was down – and by down, I mean down, on the couch, couldn’t move, at points could hardly breathe – for a week. I was finally able to get myself to the chiropractor. I happened to take her my x-rays from a year ago, and she put together the pieces for me. It turns out, I have a herniated disc in my L5-S1 region – which means that the discs in that area of my spine are pushing together and squishing the cushioning between them. Light bulb moment! No wonder I hurt so bad so often! Unfortunately it’s a problem I’m going to have for the rest of my life, that will require constant attention. Fortunately…I adore my chiropractor. She’s amazing, so if the worst thing is that I have to visit her more often…well, I guess that’s alright. Hopefully I can keep the pain and the problem under control.

Anyway…that issue kept me out for 90% of the Tour and I wasn’t able to finish this. I have worked on it a little more for the FoSK August Spin-Along, but it’s still only 50% finished, and that’s not including plying. But it is a low priority currently.

And on a new front…recently, I have gotten back into cross stitching! That’s a hobby I put down about 2 years ago because I lost some interest. During that time I reorganized things and decluttered and all my supplies went out to the garage except a few, but I recently pulled them out again with a renewed interest.

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This is my main project right now, called Family, Friends, Faith Forever. This is number 1 of 2 that I’ll stitch – I’m doing one for each of Heath’s grandmothers for Christmas with the plan to frame them and gift them. It’s a super easy pattern with not much work involved, in case you’re thinking I’ve taken leave of my senses to think I can get them done by Christmas. It’s a simple pattern and only uses a single color. I made this much progress in only 2 days – I’d guess about 2-3 hours worth of stitching time not including the gridding. Which, by the way, the gridding makes a pattern like this, with long blocks of stitches, so much easier to keep count.

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This is the project that got me back into stitching. It is Love is Patient (from Corinthians) with a border of leaves. Instead of the variegated floss used in the original pattern, I’m using J.P. Coats solid colors from stash. I eyed the colors the best I could, because I have never found a conversion chart for these J.P. Coats threads. They are the ones from the multipacks available at Walmart, and they were gifted to me. (Not what I would have chosen for myself, but I can’t tell you how awesome it is for my family to take note of the crafts I’m into and gift me things I’ll actually like and use. So I will use them!) I’m pulling this out when I need a break from the Family one, and I need a little color besides…wine? I guess that’s what you’d call the color I’m using for that. I’m thinking that since two of the colors I’ve used for this are very similar to my fabric choice and they don’t show up that well, I may do some backstitching on the pattern, but I haven’t figured out a good color for that yet. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

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These are my other WIPs for cross stitching, and all except the baby birth sampler (2nd in picture) were started a couple years ago before I took a stitching break. They’re on the back burner until I finish the other two, but they’re on my mind. The next one in rotation will likely be the Breast Cancer Awareness Mandala (3rd in picture) because it’s the easiest and less boring than the birth sampler. I’m not even sure I’ll keep going on the birth sampler, I was making it for someone specific but have decided since not to give it to them, and I have no purpose for it (unless I unpick what I started of the name and make it for my son). The other two, on the outsides, are Coffee Break by Design Works and a jungle animal birth record I was making for my son. (When he was a toddler, his room theme was jungle animals, I have the cutest pictures.) It’s just sad I couldn’t make it when he was a baby.

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And now that I’m back to stitching again, I’ve pulled out my kits and I am now dying to get to one of these – either Cross Stitch Angel by Joan Elliot (in a version much less daunting than the 400+ color version I’ve heard whispers about) or Kitty Litter from the Dimensions Gold Collection. I’m thinking Cross Stitch Angel will be first up, but I’m going to at least finish my two main WIPs before I even consider starting one of these.

Whew! FINALLY! That is all my WIPs. It’s a little crazy, and one could argue that it’s no wonder I’ve spent my entire summer crafting by night and catching zzz’s by day. I need to do a serious cull of these WIPs and make a good attempt at working some of them down. Between doing that and spending the next couple of months doing my annual “work on Christmas gifts” thing, I think the rest of my year in crafting is pretty busy.

I hope to be back soon. I want to get back to posting regularly, or semi-regularly, but I also don’t want to share the same projects over and over unless I’m making real progress on them. That means I actually have to be interesting, and for me, that takes some hard work and dedication. But with Christmas and Christmas gift crafting coming up, I might actually be able to accomplish that! 😉