Let’s Stitch: Words Are Fun 1

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I really don't like censorship, but I don't want a person to be fired seeing the image with a "swear" word. Gasp!

I really don’t like censorship, but I don’t want a person to be fired because they saw an image with a “swear” word. Gasp!

Warning, some may find the rest of this post offensive. I won’t apologize for it. You’ve been warned.

I recently finished a great book: Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr. Mohr employs fantastic and hilarious word choice in relating the history of swearing, mostly in English, but chapters are dedicated to Latin and Biblical swearing as well. I have been obsessed with English my entire life and enjoy reading anything about etymology up to and including random words in the OED. So Mohr is after my heart when she locates the oldest written references to various so-called naughty words, what they truly meant at the time, and their evolution through time. I laughed my ass off reading this book, and learned quite a bit. Frankly, I was inspired.

According to the book, soldiers returning from World War I used the word fucking so much that it wasn’t really that profane. During the war the soldiers and their commanding officers had used it as an adjective to modify just about every noun relevant to a soldier’s life. Or in the exact words of John Brophy and Eric Partridge fucking came to mean, “warning that a noun is coming.”

Personally, I love that. Basically because I have been known to use it that way on occasion. Okay, often. And so do many other people.

So here for your stitching pleasure is a cross stitch celebrating that definition. It’s still a work in progress though. I am not married to the font or the arrangement of the stars and stripes. I’ll be editing and stitching another before I post the final design.

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Kingdom Hearts Symbol Cross Stitch

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Kingdom Hearts SymbolA Kingdom Hearts symbol cross stitch that I created. It utilizes 3/4 stitches around the edges. If you aren’t familiar with this stitch, don’t worry it is very easy. These directions can be followed in either order. It all depends on what works best for your stitching. However, when I was learning I always followed the order I will be sharing. Still do what is easiest for you. Also, complete all of the full cross-stitches before working on the other stitches.

1. This stitch is a combination of a quarter stitch and a half stitch. quarterstitchstart

2. It is easiest to start with the quarter-stitch. Check your chart to see which corner the quarter comes from. You will need to start at that corner. Bring your thread down in the center before the thread would reach the normal corner.

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3. Next complete the half stitch. Again, check the chart so that your stitch is facing the correct direction. That’s all there is to it.

quarterstitchstep2The rest of the KH stitch is easy as well. You could finish in just a few hours. I recommend using a blue that you like the best or DMC variegated or variations floss. Happy stitching.

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The symbol with DMC delft blue variegated floss.

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The Waste Knot

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When I was taught to cross-stitch, my teacher told me never to use any knots even when starting a new piece. Knots were the cardinal sin of embroidery. Knots created bumps and funky pulls in the fabric, and no matter what they were disallowed in needlework (this excludes the technique of the French knot, but that’s not the topic today).

In the method I learned, I would pull my needle through for the first stitch and hold about a half-inch of floss in my fingers. Then, when I pulled the floss through the back, I would make sure the thread was underneath, or captured by, the new stitch. This caused the thread to secure itself with back-stitching and everything laid flat ~ neat and tidy, just the way it should be. Like so…

But do you know how many times when I was learning I would lose that first stitch because nothing but my fingers and the unsecured floss was holding the stitching in place? How many times I have lost my stitch as a skilled stitcher? About a million. And when you lose your initial stitch because “there are no knots in cross-stitch,” you can get a little frustrated.

The waste knot technique doesn’t leave a knot in the end design though. It is only in place long enough to secure the thread in its proper place (buried underneath the back stitching); then it is cut away and discarded. I don’t end up pulling out stitches because I missed catching the thread on the backside or the floss slid through my fingers. The end result is I cut the knot off, it looks the same as if I hadn’t used a knot, and I save two-five minutes with every stitched line. Bonus!

And for those who want to learn to use the waste knot, a little tutorial.

There is a variation of the waste knot called the away knot that you can use if you don’t want to cut near your stitches. In this method you still count away from where you want to start, but put the knot a line or two away (up or down) from where the stitching will be. I don’t use it, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else.

Learn to Cross Stitch: Part 4 Finishing Touches

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xmensymbolLooking for the first three parts? 1, 2, and 3.

When you’ve finished stitching, you aren’t quite finished.

You need to wash your cloth to remove any dirt or oil that has gone from your fingers  into your cloth. Trust me, you don’t want to see your fingerprints six months from finishing your work. A little bit of light detergent or dish washing soap and a sink full of water will do the trick. Get the Aida good and wet, gently scrub it with soap, and then rinse until the water is clear. You’ll want to lay your design flat to dry.

Once the design has dried, iron your embroidery as well. You never want to iron the front of your work though. Instead lay it face down and use a pressing cloth or thin fabric. Ironing your stitches make them bond with the fabric and sets them nicely. This also makes the embroidery pop from the surface giving the entire design as crisp and neat appearance.

You’ll probably want to display your design some how as well. Be creative, there is no wrong thing to do here. Many people frame their stitches in some way. Typically, I finish the edges of my designs with lace or ribbon at the very least. The X-Men symbol would make a good button or necklace pendant if you’ve got the tools for that or a decal for a shoe, bracelet, or a collar. I stitched a couple of extras on scrap Aida to use as collar decals for my Gambit and Rogue – cats. I washed and ironed the emblem, then I used fusible interfacing to hold everything together and bind the edges. Then, I sewed a strip of elastic so that I could slide the symbol onto their collars. Finally, I might add a layer of iron-on vinyl, but I am going to let Gambit run around a few days with it the design as is and see what happens.The vinyl doesn’t always bond the way I want it to, and Rogue has pica so she just might eat the vinyl if given the chance.

Gambit and Rogue like to “play a game” where they take each others collars as trophies, and apparently Rogue lost the last battle. At the time of publication, I haven’t found hers, so you only get a picture of Gambit wearing his.

As for the original that I used for the demonstration, I put onto the bookmark, I am going to fill the space with more X-symbols in the various colors of the team throughout the years.

Click me for a larger version.

And now that you’ve finished your first design, you’ll want to do another. Try this “Batman” symbol.

Learn to Cross Stitch: Part 3 The First Stitch and Beyond

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Looking for the previous posts? 1 and 2.

You’ve purchased your supplies and you’ve prepared your work. Now, it is time to actually stitch. The great thing about cross stitch is will begin to see what you are working on in a relatively short amount of time. This project can be completed in less than hour, so you’ll see progress very quickly.

X-Men Symbol pixelatedDownload or print the pixellated X-Men symbol. You will want to have it readily available. In most designs, if not all, the designer will mark the center of the design in some way. In my example, I have marked it with the arrows. If you follow the arrows, you will see that the center of the X is the actual center of the work. This is where we will want to start. However, we also want to make sure that where we start makes our life easiest. In this case, we should start one from the left of center. This way, we complete the entire line at one time.

 

As I said before, you want to avoid knots in embroidery if possible. Some stitchers swear by the “waste” or “away” knot, I do not, but I will show you how to do it in another post. When I sew my first stitch, I always pull my thread from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. As you are learning, flip your Aida over so that you can see the back. You will want to capture your loose thread between your stitches on the back. To do this, make sure you arrange the excess thread to lie flat and underneath your next stitch. If you continue to think about your stitches in squares, you are going to take your next stitch through the top right corner of this square. Flip your Aida back over and start another section of the cross. At the end of the row, you will have three red \\\ on the front and the back will have captured your excess thread and three |||. Then you go back to complete your crosses, the same way you did the first three stitches, but in reverse.

You’ve completed your first row of cross stitches!

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In this pattern, I would complete all of the work in red before switching to the yellow. To start a new row, I would move my needle to the next row up and work that direction. However, you may find it easier to work downward and around. The important thing is to keep to a direction that is comfortable to you. There are a few tips though:

  •    Ideally your new stitching line should begin adjacent to one of your previous stitches to avoid crossing too many threads and squares.
  • Keep the same direction going on your cross stitches. While, it isn’t always noticeable. Your work will look nicer if all of your stitches are in the same direction. In my example, my bottom stitch moves from left-to-right and the top stitch moves from right-to-left.
  • Every five-to-six stitches, you will need to let your needle and thread dangle so that the thread unwinds. When stitching, beginners have a tendency to turn their needle slightly as they sew. As you become a more experienced stitcher, you will learn to hold control your stitches so this does not happen.

Eventually, you will come to a point where you either run out of thread or need to change location. To do this simply run your needle under three-to-four stitches and snip your thread. I also snip the excess threads as I go. Then you are ready to begin at another location that makes sense to you.

Before you know it, you are ready to switch from your red floss to your yellow floss. Continuing to stitch exactly as you have been and following the chart, you will be done in no time.

This design took me about an hour. I used six 18 inch strands of red floss and two 18 inch strands of yellow floss.

Learn to Cross Stitch: Part 2 Preparation

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Welcome back!

By now, you’ve gathered a 14 ct. Aida, your floss, tapestry needle, and scissors I hope. If not, check out Part 1 for tips on what you will need.

First, wash your hands. Wash them frequently when doing embroidery and do not eat while working.

The following steps can be prepared in the order you are most comfortable.

You will need to prepare your Aida for work. If your piece as hard crease marks, you’ll want to iron it. Next, you will want to make sure it won’t unravel while you work. If you have a sewing machine, using a zig-zag stitch around the Aida will solve this problem. You can apply “fray check” to the edges and let that dry before stitching. In a pinch, a thin layer of masking tape along the edge will do just fine. Keep in mind that masking tape is hard to get off when you finish your work though. Also, some Aidas can be purchased with the edges already secured.

Find the cfolded aidaenter of your Aida as well. To do this simply fold your canvas in half and then fold it in half again. The fold edge will reveal your center, put a pin through this hole and unfold the Aida. You’ve found the center.

In large embroidery projects, you will want to use a hoop or frame to hold your Aida while you are working, but for the small project I have planned, you will not need one. Hoops and frames will be covered later.

You’ll want to prepare your floss. Some embroidery gurus wash their floss first. I do not. First, I do not use a washing machine to launder my embroidery; I hand wash in baby detergent and cold water instead. I also do not dry embroidery in a dryer. Heat causes the shrinking of textiles. If you plan to machine wash your embroidery, you might consider washing it first with a mild detergent and water as hot as you can handle it.

floss preparedYou will need to secure and label your floss in some way. For beginning stitchers, and this project, you can secure your floss to a piece of cardboard and write the floss number nearby. Securing can be with a hold punch and looping your floss through the hole or wrapping it around a smaller piece of cardboard. You can also purchase a package of bobbins in the embroidery section of a store, if desired.

When stitching you will not use the entire skein of floss at once. Instead cut off a section that is around 18 inches long or shorter. Many beginning embroiderers cut their floss at a length that is equal to the distance between their wrist and elbow or shoulder. On me, the distance to the shoulder is about 17 inches. Next separate all six strands. When stitching you can use various numbers of strands for different thickness. I generally use two, but for a fuller look you might use three. One is almost always too few to be effective. Whereas in some larger work, three strands at a time can become cumbersome. With the small project we are doing two will work just fine.

threadedTo thread your needle, you will want to take both strands of floss and thread them through the needle. Do not tie any knots. Just fold your thread over about an inch. In needlework, we tend to avoid knots if possible.

Now you are ready for your first stitch.