May 2018 Wrap-Up

NEEDLEWORK:

Mini Santa (but not so mini!) — This is the same CozyBlue Handmade freebie “mini Santa” pattern I used to make mini-ornaments last Christmas. This time, however, I enlarged the pattern to 4″, to give myself more room to practice fill-stitching.

05-2018 4-inch Mini Santa (Cozy Blue) 001

(Once I FFO it and the fabric is taut, the straight-stitches on the face will lie flat.)

05-2018 4-inch Mini Santa (Cozy Blue) 002

Fabric: a tightly-woven, unbleached muslin from Hobby Lobby; it’s my favorite light-colored fabric for embroidery

Floss: DMC 321, 414, 798, B5200

Stitches: Hat = chain-stitch (3 strands 321 & B5200); Eyebrows = chain-stitch (2 strands 414, 2 rows stitched very tightly next to each other); Eyes = satin stitch (2 strands 798); Nose = straight stitch (2 strands 321); Cheeks = straight stitch (1 strand 321); Mouth = chain-stitch (2 strands 321, 1 row of stitches layered right on top of another); Beard = french knots…..sooooo many french knots!! ūüėõ (3 strands B5200)

05-2018 4-inch Mini Santa (Cozy Blue) 003

I’m going to finish it as a round ornament, but will wait until later this year when Christmas fabrics show up at Hobby Lobby.

 

U.S. Sampler by Glory Bee (Just Cross Stitch magazine, Aug. 2012 issue) — I’m loving stitching this little sampler, and I’m liking most of the called-for colors much more than I thought I would when I pulled them. I’ve gotten very comfortable stitching in-hand using the sewing method with this project, which was my hope. I do see some stitched areas that I’m not completely happy with, and I think it’s because in those areas the 3 strands of floss are bunching up rather than lying next to each other. It seems to be more of an issue where I’m stitching the white floss in-between the already-stitched red floss….the white looks like it’s been squeezed in. It may have worked better if I’d stitched each stripe in the pants and flag in order, rather than the red stripes first then the white. Food for thought! I’ll finish stitching and FFO’ing this sampler in June.

20180531_193219

Fabric: 14-ct. “Lite Oatmeal” Fiddler’s Aida (Charles Craft)

Floss: I’m using the called-for DMC colors (except B5200 instead of White), using 3 strands to get full coverage. Colors: B5200, 221, 310, 729, 898, 930, 932, 945, 3778

 

OTHER PROJECTS:

Needleminders — These were a gift for a friend’s birthday. I made them at the same time I made myself a bunch of needleminders¬†last month. The Gilmore Girls needleminders were made from a set of pins, and the cat and teardrop-shaped needleminders were made from goodies from Hobby Lobby’s charms/jewelry section. I love love love the teardrop-shaped one…..it’s so beautiful in person, and extremely lightweight.

05-2018 Needleminders for Kristi

 

“To-Stitch” spreadsheet — I have a dvd containing Just Cross Stitch magazine’s Christmas Ornaments issues from 1997 thru 2013. It’s a great resource, but I found it impractical to sit at my computer and look through the digital issues whenever I wanted to start a new project. So I created an Excel spreadsheet listing the ornaments I want to stitch.¬†I ended up with 78 patterns total from those 17 issues!

Then I decided to do the same thing for the digital copies I have of the regular JCS issues, and for the digital issues I have of Cross-Stitcher (UK) magazine.

I didn’t stop there! I also added tabs for the non-magazine/non-book cross-stitch and embroidery patterns I have in digital format. (I only have a couple patterns in hard-copy format, so indexing those is a non-issue right now.)

Below are snippets showing how I set up the section for the magazines, and the section I set up for embroidery.

to-stitch spreadsheet 001

to-stitch spreadsheet 002

This has been a wonderfully-helpful project for me, and a fantastic resource!! At a quick glance, I can see: what I have in the way of seasonal and non-seasonal patterns; which patterns are small and quick-to-stitch; which patterns I’d like to make as gifts; which patterns I’d like to make for myself; which patterns I want to purchase fancy floss and/or dyed fabric for; and so on. I also rediscovered a lot of embroidery patterns I’d forgotten I had and which I want to stitch up.

 

PURCHASES:

DMC Color CardOrdered directly from DMC. I don’t know why I balked for so long about ordering this….it is so worth the $25!! (If the color card is out of stock, they do seem to restock it quickly.)¬† Side Note 5/2018: When I was at Hobby Lobby earlier this month, they had reset their DMC floss section to make room for the 35 new DMC colors. I assume online shops now have the new colors available, too, without them having to be purchased in the Collector’s Tin.

20180524_111636

28-ct Monaco & 28-ct Lugana — I picked these up while at Michael’s because I want to see if they’re more comfortable for stitching in hand. If, however, my eyes balk at the effort, I’ll be just fine with using 14-ct Aida for all my projects.

20180524_111945

 

BOOKS:¬†¬†(These have been added to my “Books Read” page found HERE.)

A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)(Book of the Month Club 2017)¬†¬†I loved this book so, so much. As of now, it’s at the top of my fiction favorites for 2018. This wasn’t a hurry-to-get-to-the-ending book for me; rather, it was one I luxuriated in taking my time reading. The language was a delight, I loved the characters, I liked how the passage of time was handled, and I had no quibbles at all with the ending. This would be an enjoyable reread. I have Mr. Towles’ book “Rules of Civility” on my “holds” list at the library; I’ve heard glowing reader-reviews about it, as well.

Big Cherry Holler (Adriana Trigiani) — This is the second book in the Big Stone Gap series. It deals with the complexities of marriage, as well as sorrow and loss and friendship and love. I enjoyed it quite a lot, and would enjoy it as a reread, as well. There are a third and fourth book, which I’ll likely get around to some time this year.

Unseen (Will Trent series) (Karin Slaughter) — This is part of a crime series; it’s not the first book, but it’s the first I’ve read of the series. I liked it enough that I’d like to go back to the start of the series. It has cross-over characters with the Grant County series below.

Blindsighted (Grant County series) (Karin Slaughter) — This is the first book in a series. I liked it enough that I’ll read more in the series.

One Dark Throne (Kendare Blake) — I read the first book in this fantasy series in March and liked it enough to want to continue on to this second book. Now I’m looking forward to the third book’s release.

The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr (Frances Maynard)¬†— I enjoyed this book about a young woman learning to navigate life in ways she’d always been told she couldn’t.

The Breakdown (B.A. Paris) — This is a thriller by a new-to-me author. So…..I figured out the reveals fairly early on in the book, but kept reading because I thought perhaps there would be a surprising twist at the end. But, nope. What I’d figured out is what ended up being the reveals towards the end of the book, so that was a bit of a bummer.

The Music Shop (Rachel Joyce) —¬†(Book of the Month Club 2017)¬†¬†I’m working my way through my remaining 2017 Book of the Month Club picks, and this is from that stack. Overall I enjoyed it, and I particularly loved the last several chapters and the ending. Also, the author made a playlist on Spotify (TheMusicShopPlaylist) containing the various songs referred to in the book, and I’m so glad she did!

Last year¬†I did a 12-month subscription to Book of the Month Club. I chose the option of paying for a year in advance in order to bring down the overall cost per month. I don’t often read hard copies of books anymore because it’s so much easier for me to read on my Kindle (portable; lightweight; easy to read in a dark room at night without disturbing my spouse); as a result, my unread BOTMC selections stacked up over the course of the year. I chose to not renew my subscription after the twelve months because I still had so many of the Club books unread, but I did enjoy the subscription.¬†I liked being presented with book options I perhaps would not have otherwise given a second glance, and choosing from just a handful of titles each month eliminated the “So. Many. Choices.” feeling that can be overwhelming when you’re at the library or bookstore, whether they be brick-and-mortar or online. Also, it was nice to actually have hard copies of books readily at-hand! As much as I use my Kindle for convenience purposes, I do miss reading hardback copies of books. And as much as I prefer to keep Stuff-n-Things on the minimalist end of the spectrum, being able to go to my bookshelf and have a dozen or so unread books from which to choose…..well, I’ve enjoyed that. I thought the BOTMC 12-months-in-advance subscription cost was quite reasonable, and may opt to reactivate my account once I’ve finished my unread Club picks from last year.

 

TV SERIES:

LOST¬†(series rewatch)– I stopped with two episodes left and waited for my husband to catch up, which he’s now done, and we’ll watch the last two episodes together. There have been both happy tears and sad tears on my part throughout the series, particularly during the last season. It’d been so long since I first watched LOST that I’d only remembered a smattering of plots and storylines (as well as the very end) before I started my rewatch, which worked out for the best for my enjoyment of the rewatch. I enjoyed it so much more than my original viewing of the series. My perspective on how the show wraps up is different this time around (in a good way), and I appreciate the entire series in a vastly different way than when it originally aired. I loved many of this show’s characters, and am sad about parting with them.¬†(watching via Hulu)

For the People — I’m enjoying this new series quite a lot. I typically enjoy lawyer/courtroom-types of shows, and I’m liking the characters and stories on this one thus far.¬†(watching via Hulu)

Grey’s Anatomy — I don’t watch Grey’s regularly, and it’s not uncommon for me to miss a couple seasons before I go back to it, but I do still enjoy the series quite a lot and I always go back to it. This month I finished S13 and nearly finished S14, and I’ll probably begin watching weekly again once S15 comes out. I’ve enjoyed the journey this series has taken over the years; I like the diversity of the cast; I like that there are lots of female leads; I like the importance sisterhood is given; and I like the character of Meredith without Derek. I know a couple of the main female leads will not be around next season, so I’m interested to see which other characters are brought to the forefront.¬†¬†(watched/watching via Netflix for older seasons and Hulu for S14)

Escape to the Country (S18)¬†— I watched an older season on Netflix last year and fell in love with the series: no one’s complaining about not enough/not big enough closets; no one’s complaining about counters not being granite or marble; no one’s complaining about appliances not being stainless steel; and actually, there is very little happening in the way of complaining, period. The scenery is gorrrrgeous — the rain and humidity required to sustain such greenness would make me crazy, but the green green green landscape and the lush English gardens sure are lovely to look at on my tv screen!¬†(watching via Britbox, by way of Amazon Prime)

We added Britbox and PBS/Masterpiece to our Amazon Prime service this month, so I’m looking forward to delving into shows on both channels.

 

COOKED & BAKED (new-to-me recipes):¬†¬†I got the itch to tinker around with different options for doctoring up a cake mix. I’m not quite sure why I got this particular itch because, other than pound cake and coffee cake, I’m not a big fan of cake! But I scratched the itch and made two attempts, and now I’m done :P.

Attempt 1:¬† I used info from¬†one of the posts on CakeCentral,which called for: 1 box Duncan Hines cake mix + 4 large eggs + 1 stick of butter (melted) + 1 C whole milk + 1 T vanilla. Stir all together, then beat on medium speed for 3-4 minutes. I found that I had to cook this 10-15 minutes longer than the directions on the box, likely because of the additional egg and the added vanilla. The cake was moist and noticeably more dense than a typical box mix, which is what the result was supposed to be. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the texture, but for people who like a more dense texture for cakes then this would fit the bill.

Attempt 2:¬† Using the above attempt, I used: 1 box Duncan Hines cake mix + 3 large eggs + 1/3 C butter melted) + 1 C whole milk + 1/2 T vanilla. I extended the baking time by about 5 minutes. I like the texture of this one much better, as it’s more like a typical box-mix cake. However, the outer edges of the cake got a little dry because of the added cooking time needed to get the middle of the cake completely cooked. I don’t think the substitutions of butter for oil and milk for water or the addition of vanilla made a noticeable difference in the taste.

 

FAVORITE PICS THIS MONTH:

20180521_155219

20180523_164402

 

5-6-2018 WIPs

Already I’ve changed my mind about just posting monthly :P. Maybe weekly-ish WIP updates, yes? Yes!!

NOT-SO-MINI SANTA¬†— This is a larger version of the cute Mini Santa freebie pattern by CozyBlue Handmade that I finished in tiny hoops as gifts last Christmas. This Santa is about 4″ in diameter. I’m taking my time and experimenting with different ways of fill-stitching. I’m using chain-stitch (3 strands) for the hat (using Corinne’s (SoSeptember) gorgeously-stitched version of her Mr. Rogers pattern as inspiration for beautiful, textural fill-stitching). French knots (3 strands) for his beard. Straight stitches (2 strands) for his nose. Since the finished piece looks best with no fabric showing beyond the edge of the design, instead of looking for a 4″ hoop, I’m thinking about finishing this as a round ornament of some sort. It would be a good opportunity to dust off my sewing machine and, since I’m not in a rush to get this finished, have a go at some finishing options…possibly using¬†Vonna’s shaped-ornament-finishing tutorial.

IMG_20180506_095603

 

“STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER” — This chart was gifted to me by a friend who had an extra copy of the chart. Yesterday I picked up the DMC floss options called for in the chart, along with some “Lite Oatmeal” 14-ct Fiddler’s Aida — I love the texture of this Aida, and it has a slight color variation, almost as it would look if it’d been ever so lightly tea- or coffee-dyed. I’m going to try stitching in hand using the sewing method on this one, and I learned from my abandoned Dachshund Book-Ends project that 3 strands of floss, rather than 2, are better on this Aida if I don’t want a lot of the fabric showing through.

IMG_20180506_095315

 

CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS ON SILVER PERFORATED PAPER — I’d picked up this silver perforated paper several months ago, with no specific pattern in mind for it. I’m going to look through my Just Cross Stitch “Christmas Ornaments” dvd and find a small project or two to stitch up on this paper. As with my embroidery project above, this is a good time of year to experiment with different holiday-themed projects, when I’m not rushing myself to have something ready as a gift :P. We don’t have a local LNS, and neither of our local craft stores carry Mill Hill beads, but I do have some beads left over from finished Mill Hill kits and I can dip into those if I want to use them for dimension.

IMG_20180506_095459