Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chicken Scratch Sampler, On Aida!

NOTE: This post has been updated to include a direct .PDF download link, please see the end of this post more information :)

After I finished stitching my Chicken Scratch Heart a while ago, I knew right away that I wanted to try a little experiment :) As you may remember, I had trouble with the twist that showed in my Circle Stitch with my beloved DMC floss, so I decided to try using a thicker single-ply thread instead and this Sampler was the result!

It was actually super fun to stitch because I didn't plan anything out - I started with a design for the middle row (sketched out on graph paper) and the rest just grew from there!!! And that's a Big Deal for me because it's one thing to do a little Spontaneous Stitching but it's another level *entirely* to do some Spontaneous Designing LOL ;) This could so easily have been a catastrophe, but it wasn't and I actually like it!

Here it is in it's entirety, in my 6" Hoopla. I used the same DMC Prism Craft Thread (colours from the Sweetheart and Rockstar packs) that I had leftover from my Floral Umbrella embroidery, which is comparable in thickness to Pearl (Perle) Cotton #5. Because it's not mercerized, like flower thread, the matte finish and pastel colours give the pattern a sweet vintage feel :) I used a larger Aida than usual - 11 count in White - and a big #20 Tapestry Needle, which worked like a charm!

I've never done big, chunky stitching like this before and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it :) This was a really quick and easy stitch but the neat unusual stitch combinations kept it interesting for me, and I highly recommend trying this stitching on a larger scale if you're interested in the Chicken Scratch technique! It really lets you see how all the stitches are formed and the thick single-ply thread makes the needleweaving a breeze - the twists don't show and so the stitches look smoother.

Also, it gives the work a fabulous raised texture:

It's really fun to glide your fingertips over the stitching and feel all the differences ;)

Although all the elements were inspired by traditional Chicken Scratch stitches and vintage designs I've seen online, working on Aida meant that I wasn't limited to the checkerboard squares of the gingham fabric that is the basis for this "lace" work:

The heart and flowers in the header row, for example, don't follow the spacing of gingham, but I think they fit in with the rest of the stitches really well! The needlelace filling on the heart came about after a LOT of fiddling around, and it's a little wonky around the edges, but I'm proud of how it turned out :) And speaking of weaving...

...where has the Woven Cross Stitch been all my life?! Those are the little blocks worked in two shades of purple. Serious, this is an absolutely AMAZING and astoundingly simple stitch and I'm just bewildered that it isn't more widely used or known!!! I came across the stitch in this post by Sharon Boggon of Pintangle, as part of her "Take A Stitch Tuesday" (TAST) challenge and I think it has all kinds of possibilities that I can't wait to explore further in the future!

Like these cute little flowers I stitched up on the edge of my sampler, using Woven Cross Stitch, French Knots and Lazy Daisies :) Speaking of Specialty Stitches, I have an embarrassing confession to make - you know those lovely things I've been calling "Algerian Crosses" all this time? Um. They're actually "Smyrna Cross Stitches", as I found out when looking up new-to-me stitches for the Sampler. And the worst thing is that I *know* I knew this at some point, but managed to forget completely LOL!

Honestly, I have no idea how some stitches get named! The Algerian Eyelet is exactly the same stitch in eyelet form so the Algerian Crosses thing always made sense to me. And to make matters even more confusing, in Chicken Scratch they're called Double Cross Stitch and Snowflake Stitches! Argh. Since I've discovered otherwise I can't seem to think of them by their "proper" name but I still like stitching them all the same ;)  In fact I had so much fun Scratchin' that I've already started in on a little bookmark using a variation of the center row:

The only aspect that was a little difficult was the issue of starting and ending threads. It's just not feasible to start and end on every block although I guess it could be done. Instead, I carried threads across rows and borrowed the "travelling" method from embroidery (running threads under the backs of other stitches to reach a new area):

The back does look a little messy, but a lot of that is just the thickness of the thread. Speaking of which, I found it helpful to leave longer tails when starting and ending the thread for darning so that I could weave the tails more firmly back into the work.

I think Chicken Scratch is a really interesting needlework technique that seems to have had limited range historically (aprons and table linens) but that holds a lot of possibility with modern materials like Aida! I included some links to information in my Chicken Scratch Heart post but although I did a lot of searching online for more information I found very little. Unfortunately, it's clearly a craft in decline!

One thing I abhor is seeing craft methods fading away, because once practice stops, that knowledge is often lost forever. Thankfully, this tragedy can easily be prevented with increased awareness! Because of this, I have decided to offer the pattern for my Chicken Scratch Sampler for free, even though the design is very simple.

If you'd like to share this pattern (thank you!), please consider using this graphic:

I've included some more information on the stitches I used and an online Resources list along with the chart, which is a .PDF document. Please e-mail me for a copy (my address is in my sidebar, under the pretty postage stamps), and feel free to share it with others who may be interested :) Hopefully this little Sampler will inspire you to try some Scratchin' of your own, and if you do, I'd love to see it!

UPDATE: Please click here for the direct .PDF download!

After trying a few different methods, I signed up with Dropbox. You should not be required to sign in and should easily be able to save the file to your computer. If you have any problems downloading, please (pretty please!) let me know :) And if you'd rather receive the pattern by e-mail, just send me a message. Thank you!

Have you tried Chicken Scratch? Would you like to?! Any thoughts are appreciated!

Before I go, I'm very excited to announced that I have a Special Surprise in the works for my Door in Jo's Advent Calendar Hop, which starts this Sunday! My day is December 4th, so please make sure to visit on Wednesday for a Holiday treat :)

SECOND UPDATE: I was invited to participate in Allison's great Link Party this week, my very first! Please click on the image below for more information :)

Dream a Little Bigger

THIRD UPDATE: Allison very kindly featured this project in her Link It or Lump It #16 at Dream A Little Bigger! Please click on the image below for more information :)

Dream a Little Bigger

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Great Giveaway Win!!!

Some very exciting news to share this week - I recently won the absolutely fabulous "300 Followers Giveaway" hosted by the lovely Meggie of Cross Stitch Cottage!!! Unfortunately, Meggie has had to take her blog down for the time being, but I really hope life settles down for her soon and that she'll return to writing again :)

Before she left the online world, Meggie very kindly gave me her blessing to make one of the beautiful cross-stitch charts she sent a Travelling Pattern, and I'm thrilled to be able to share her generosity!!! I've never hosted or participated in a TP before, so I'm still working out all of the details. Since it's me, it'll likely be a little different ;)

I'll let you know ASAP! But for today, I just wanted to show you the amazing gifts:

It felt like Christmas when I tore into Meggie's package outside the post office ;) She had also wrapped everything wonderfully, but none of that survived to make it to the photos LOL! It's a little hard to see everything, so here's some close-ups:

Here is the card she sent, a great (and very useful!) heart-shaped magnetic needle-minder, beautiful Pink Ribbon scissors with beaded Fairytale fob (the charm is a cute little castle!), paper Bunting kit and "Live, Laugh, Love" sampler by Helen Philipps.

Just look at all these gorgeous overdyed DMC Colour Variations!!! I was SO happy to open these, and I've never even seen most of these lovely colours before ;) Here's a close-up of the label numbers in case you're interested in a particular colour:

From left to right: 4065, 167, 4090, 4220, 4245, 4250, 4042 (Christmas mix!!!), 4122 (Autumnal mix!!!), 4210 and 4190. I'm just starting to get into using overdyed threads, and I can't wait to work with these, especially the Christmas one ;)

Meggie very kindly included some extra Just Nan charts when I told her that the lovely little ornaments - "Rosebuds" and the Christmas-themed "Snowberries" - would be my first experience with the designer :) That was incredibly thoughtful and I can't thank her enough! The extra charts are the ornament "Primrose Path" (which I can't show because there is no finished image) and the magnificent "Harmony":

From what I can gather, "Harmony" was a special limited edition kit that came with unique overdyed silks and charms for each of the four seasons. While researching the design, I came across this great stitching finish, using the kit materials!

Finally, Meggie sent two other beautiful charts - "Love is a Garden" by Waxing Moon Designs - complete with a cute little butterfly button! - and "Geranium House" by Country Cottage Needleworks. Both designers are entirely new to me too :)

The Mascot for this Giveaway was the cute "Little Bear" Meggie crocheted, and she was a little bewildered when she was first unwrapped, after her long trip overseas...

But Mr. B. Floofy, being the gentleman that he is, hopped right over to say hello...

And now bunny and bear are the very best of friends :)

Little Bear is fabulously soft, carefully crocheted in some sort of wool blend, and is perfectly finished with a cute ribbon bow and little heart button on her belly!

I've been calling her Little Bear ever since I received her, and it works, but (like Mr. B. Floofy himself last Easter) I think she needs a special name :) Any suggestions?!

Many thanks again to Meggie, and to all the kind stitchers who share their stash :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Site News + Jo's Advent Blog Hop!

Sorry for the delay in posting recently, it's been very busy :) Unfortunately, I've fallen behind in my blog reading and e-mail again and that, coupled with the fact that most of the news last month was about Hallowe'en which has passed, I've decided not to do an October edition of Stitchy News. I'm very sorry for any disappointment!

Also, since Christmas is a very busy time for most stitchers, I've decided to do a very special double Holiday Edition for November and December, to be published in late November! There's so many wonderful craft ideas out there, and I'll be looking for gift ideas myself :) If you have any items to submit, please e-mail me (>>>)!

In other blog news, I've *finally* gotten a page up for all the information about the ES SAL - see my top header (^^^), under "ES SAL" (creative, I know). Many thanks again to the wonderful SAL Participants for their enthusiasm and support!!! Over the next few weeks I hope to add another page with links to make finding things easier.

And finally, some Very Exciting News - I had so much fun with Jo's Hallowe'en Blog Hop that I've joined her Annual Advent Calendar Hop this year!!! Sign Up is now ongoing, so head on over to Serendipitous Stitching to join in too :) I hope you do!

Each person who enters gets a "door" on a given date, and on their day they "open house" to the blogosphere with a special post showing off some festive stitching!

This is the first time I've ever been involved in anything like this, and I'm really looking forward to it. When a was child, I always had a chocolate Advent Calendar, but we all know that stitching is the best thing in the world next to chocolate ;) LOL!

I haven't decided what stitching I'm going to show yet. There are a few ornaments that I'd really like to get final-finished this year, but this afternoon I pulled out my Christmas stitching magazines and happily started thinking about some new starts ;P

Thanks for your patience, and hope to see you at the Advent Hop :)