The creative process

So I haven’t had much time lately for actual embroidery or cross stitch (although I have managed to keep up with the Steotchalong!), but my mind’s been brimming with new pattern ideas. I draw a lot of my inspiration from pop culture – TV shows, movies, music, memes, comics, etc. – and I like to mix in traditional motifs and references to my nerdy history and lit loves. I’ve been writing all my ideas down in my pattern book, and I think I’ll actually have some time this weekend to pick out a few and work on them – hooray!

Anyways, that got me thinking about the creative process. It often takes a lot of work to get from idea to finished piece, and for most people there are a bunch of stages in between. How about you? What’s your work process? Do you stitch ideas directly onto fabric without making a pattern? Do you spend oodles of time perfecting your pattern before your needle is ever threaded? Do you draw up ten versions and then decide on your favorite? I’m curious how other people work!

sketchesAs to my creative process, it varies. Most of the time I’m watching TV or scrolling through my tumblr dashboard and I come across something that makes me laugh. I’ll write down the quote or make a quick sketch of the image, usually on whatever’s lying closest to me (more recently I’ve also started an inspiration pinboard, which helps when I can’t figure out that the misshapen blob is supposed to be Ron Swanson). I tend to also have a lot of ideas in the middle of the night (when I don’t want to get up or turn on the light) which leads to lots of weird, badly misspelled notes on my cell phone and scribbles on a pad of sticky notes I leave next to my bed (even harder to figure out than the normal blobs). These pieces of paper generally get spread about amongst my possessions, so when I want to turn one into a pattern I can never find it. Long story short, I finally decided to start a pattern/idea book (best decision ever!). I bought a plain black notebook and started accumulating all of the scraps of paper and transferring their ideas into one place. I know I still have lots of notes floating around somewhere, but at least all of the most recent ones are in the book.

libsketch

So, what happens next? Well, I tend to experiment with the idea a lot before it turns into a formal pattern. I sketch a few ideas out, I play around with different styles and arrangements, I try different fonts (if it has lettering). I usually decide right from the start whether the piece will be embroidery or cross stitch, but otherwise everything’s up in the air. I don’t even think about colors until much later. Sometimes I even come up with four or five completely different sketches (which are always difficult for me to pick between). In the end, I settle on a version and use it to make the actual pattern. At this point, my process changes depending on whether the pattern is for an embroidery or cross stitch piece.

keepcalmsquirrelCross stitch patterns take me FOREVER. I’m not one of those people with the innate skill to lay out a pattern in just the right number of squares. Oh no, it takes me ages to mash my pattern into decent shape. I am really picky about everything being even and balanced, so I spend wayyy too much time moving everything over a few squares, only to realize I should have shifted them the other way. Lettering takes me the longest. I usually end up trying out at least five different fonts just to fit the words into the space I want. In the end, I am left with a piece of paper with lots of erasure marks, scribbles, and calculations. Sometimes I transfer the pattern onto a new piece of paper, but more often I leave it and move on to the stitching.

Embroidery patterns cause me less stress. I’m usually less worried about balance and space, and more worried about my lines. I draw out a few versions of what I want (or trace if I’m working from a specific image or screenshot). I’ll fiddle with bits and pieces and move any words or borders around, but as long as I have a good image I’m pretty satisfied. Like with my cross stitch patterns, I don’t generally end up with a nice neat pattern at this point.

sisforsketch

In both cases, I take my current patterns and stitch them up. While I’ve already settled on the basics of a piece, I tend to change bits and pieces while I’m stitching. This could be as small as adding a square or two or altering the border, or a major as moving the text to a new spot or adding a few more things to the piece. I don’t think I can honestly say that I’ve ever followed a pattern to the T (whether it’s my own pattern or someone else’s!). I think this is mostly because I’m still working through my ideas when I’m stitching. Plotting something out on a piece of paper is different than seeing it actually stitched up.

emcompare

Anyways, once I’ve finished a piece, I’ll decide if I want to make a formal pattern of it for future use. Generally I want to, and if I have time I’ll transfer the altered design back onto paper (yes, sometimes changing it yet again!). I’m still searching for a good (and relatively cheap) Mac software option to make digital patterns – any suggestions? Unfortunately for me I think there’s a lot more programs built for PCs than Macs.

That’s about it! So now, what about you? Does this process sound familiar? Do you do something completely different? I’d love to hear how other stitchers make their ideas into patterns and pieces!

Steotch Inaugural Mystery Stitchalong

thestitchemporium:

I’m going to stitch along with Steotch – how about you?

Originally posted on STEOTCH: Fine New England Needleart:

stitchalongAW YISS.  It’s that time, beotch!  Welcome to the Steotch Fine New England Needlearts Inaugural Mystery Stitchalong.

Edit: 8/1 – The Stitchalong has now closed, and as we warned, the patterns are no longer available. Follow our page on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get notified when the next Stitchalong is underway.  Otherwise check back here.

What is it?

We posted a series of cross stitch patterns at this URL.  Each pattern revealed a little more of the design.  A bunch of crafty craftersons stitched along with us, and created badass samplers of their very own – but didn’t know what they’d created until they’d invested way too much time to allow themselves to see it as anything but a triumph!

 

They shared their progress using #steotchalong on Twitter.

To see the finished sampler (and pictures from many of the fine steotchers who came along for the…

View original 7 more words

Mini-break

Hey everyone! I hope your Sunday is as beautiful and sunny as mine. I just wanted to let you all know I’m going on a mini-hiatus for right now.* Work is super busy and I am probably moving within the next couple of months, so sadly I won’t have much time for fun craft stuff. Right now I am planning a whole slew of new projects and patterns that I can’t wait to show you all, so hopefully once things settle down I can get back to a regular blogging schedule. Until then, stay cool!

*I figured I’d let you know ahead of time, rather than just disappearing off the radar. Hopefully it’ll only be for a month or two!

The Delta Cubes will never die!

Delta Cubes!I was looking through my sketchbook this past weekend, and I decided to stitch up a quick idea from one of the recent Community episodes. Throughout “Economics of Marine Biology,” Abed is involved in a subplot to establish a fraternity on campus (which the Dean expressly forbids). He calls his frat the Delta Cubes, and they pop up several times throughout the main plot of the show. I thought it would make a great embroidery/cross stitch, and sketched up a few ideas. I’ve been wanting to make embroidered buttons for awhile, and I thought using the Delta Cube symbol would be the perfect choice!

Delta Cubes button

Like it? I can’t wait to put it on my bag and see who figures it out. I think I’ll make some more for my shop so all you other Community fans can get in on the action! What do you think – should I stick to this fabric to stay close to the DC’s white shirts, or should I expand into different colored buttons? I’m also planning on making a pattern for a framed piece. The Delta Cubes will never die!

What’s in my basket: Throwback to 2011!

I was going through some of my old craft photos and noticed one of my project basket long before I started the “What’s in my basket?” posts. I thought it would be fun to take a look back in my crafty past all the way to August 2011 (the 29th, to be precise).

My basket, 8/29/2012

Funnily enough, the purple scarf makes another appearance! Imagine that. I didn’t realize it was that old, but I guess it’s been hanging around for awhile. I really should finish it at some point. I used the same yarn to crochet some Queen Anne’s lace (bottom left), but I eventually tore it out as I didn’t know what to do with it. I think making a smaller version with more delicate yarn would make a lovely scarf or shawl. The blue yarn in the back was originally for my uncle’s Christmas scarf before I decided to do it in dark grey instead. The teal project was my very first experiment with knitting lace. I ended up making a huge (and I mean huge) lace scarf/shawl for myself over the course of the fall. It’s the first time since middle school that I knit a scarf for myself, so I was very excited to work on it (one of the many reasons my uncle’s scarf for Christmas 2011 is still in the works now in 2013!). I’ll have to post a photo of the final product at some point. And last but not least is my embroidered portrait of Mark Twain. I still have him hanging right next to my desk – he’s one of my favorite projects.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my crafty past! We’ll see if that purple scarf is still hanging about next time.

A good neighbor ignores the screams.

When I think of cross stitch samplers I generally picture traditional motifs and some sort of saying. So when my mom gave me a half-finished sampler last winter, I wasn’t surprised to see a couple of houses surrounded by roses and accompanied by some phrase about good neighbors. She said I could finish it for her, and I dutifully worked on stitching the yards and roses. I personally felt that the saying was a bit cheesy, so I spent time imagining a good replacement. While talking to a friend I came up with “A good neighbor ignores the screams.” Simple, yet effective. I told my (horrified) mom, who couldn’t understand why I would want to stitch that instead. But I decided I would go ahead with it and finished it up early this past fall (I had the pattern if I decided to make her the original someday). The final product looks like this:

A good neighbor ignores the screams.

Did you notice the bloody handprints and castoff? That’s my favorite part! I really like it. Maybe someday I’ll give it to a neighbor as a housewarming gift (how great would that be?). I think I’ll make my own version of the houses, yards, and border and turn it into a pattern for all you friendly neighbors!

These are my awards, Mother. From Army.

Buster, ep. 2.6Arrested Development is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. I’ve watched the whole series innumerable times, and have probably memorized most of the episodes by now. So when I saw a meme on tumblr from one of my favorite episodes, I immediately decided to stitch it for myself!

The image is from an episode called Afternoon Delight (season 2, episode 6). Buster, the youngest of the adult Bluth children (and quite the momma’s boy), has unwillingly joined the army. Lucille Bluth, his mother, signed him up to make the family look good on television. He doesn’t actually want to be in the army (which he refers to simply as “Army”), so in this episode he decides to go the arcade and play games instead. When he comes home with his prizes Lucille makes fun of him. In response he declares, “These are my awards, Mother. From Army. The seal is for marksmanship, and the gorilla is for sand racing. Now if you’ll excuse me, they’re putting me in something called Hero Squad.” In my opinion, it’s one of the best moments on the show. It cracks me up even just thinking about it. Anyways, I set out to make a simple, backstitch version of the meme. Here are some progress shots:

I had a lot of fun working on this one. I especially like how his right hand turned out! I decided not to replicate the camo, as I thought that might make the black-and-white piece too busy. I’ve been thinking of making a pattern for my Etsy store, so maybe I’ll do a version with color and camo. What do you think? I’ve been dying to stitch some more Bluth moments of glory (like this one), so maybe I’ll do a whole series. I can even work on them while watching the new season!!

These are my awards, Mother. From Army.ac

S is for stitching

You might remember this post where I mentioned my work was (and still is) featured in the &Stitches blog header. Over the summer, Nicole and Carina put out a call for stitched letters. They wanted a new header featuring the work of fellow stitchers. I thought it would be a really fun opportunity to get my embroidery out there, so I volunteered to take a letter. I had just seen the amazing work of MaricorMaricar, and was particularly drawn to their sweater letters. I really liked the way they looked, and wanted to do something similar. At the same time, I had recently come back from a break at home where my brother had gifted me with five skeins of embroidery floss he had left over from some friendship bracelets he made. I loved the vibrancy of the colors, and wanted to use them together in a project. When I started brainstorming, I had the sweater letters in mind, but I also liked the idea of having the letter be sort of an absence of color. To have the background be the intricate part, making the simple letter at the center pop. I decided to combine the two ideas, and got started stitching.

I used satin stitch for most of the layers, as I really wanted a solid piece of stitching. The only white I wanted anyone to see was the S itself. I enjoyed picking out different patterns for each of the layers, and kept changing them on the fly. Some of the layers came together as I was stitching them. I find that, even if I like it, I always change a pattern when I’m actually stitching. Watching the fabric slowly disappear under floss was cool. I don’t usually do much solid stitching, so filling an entire space up was a different experience for me. I love the feel of solid sections of floss – both in cross stitch and embroidery.

Back detail

I think my favorite layer has to be the swirly section. It kind of reminds me of The Starry Night. I originally intended the layer to have three lines winding back and forth over each other (kind of like loosely-braided floss), but when I came to it I decided to do a curly pattern instead. I combined single strands of red, orange, and yellow floss together in sets of two, and used the outline stitch for smooth curves. You can see above that I experimented with a line of blues as well, but ultimately I decided that I liked the warm colors more. I love how it kind of looks like fiery swirls! The chevron layers were the hardest for me. I didn’t really think ahead about the angle I wanted to stitch them on, so it was difficult to keep the stitches consistent. Often I wouldn’t like how a section looked and either tore it out or stitched over it.

I hadn’t used the satin stitch too often before making this piece, and it was definitely more challenging that I imagined to keep all my stitches neat and even. Stitching the S was the most nerve-wracking part. I had drawn it on my fabric and saved it for last, but some of my layers were a bit off around the outline. I was worried it would look really lumpy. In the end, I’m really proud of how it turned out. I think everything works well together, and the few mistakes and odd bits are swallowed up in the larger piece (which is only 3″!). I am pretty proud to have it featured on such a popular site as the &Stitches blog!

The letter S

Embroidery floss (is one of my favorite things)

me + new embroidery floss = this

I love embroidery floss. Like a whole lot. Getting new embroidery floss is equivalent in my mind with getting new office supplies – or for those of you who don’t get excited about new sticky notes – like Christmas + Easter + Halloween + my birthday x 48. I love spending time picking out colors, and then planning new projects with endless color combinations. I also love spending time organizing (and re-organizing) my floss. Is all of this weird? I don’t think so! Maybe a bit OCD. But then, hey, I’m a librarian. I organize by nature! Anyways . . .

Before this past Christmas, I was generally good at either wrapping new floss around homemade bobbins (mostly recycled cardboard) or keeping it in fairly neat skeins. Back in high school I commandeered my brother’s old toy car box to keep the floss in. I kept the wound bobbins organized by color, and the other skeins just stuffed into the other side of the box. I have to say it’s by far the best container I’ve found to store them in.

DSC_0283

Side note – my brother came up with the most ridiculously awesome name for groups of floss (as in flocks of sheep and murders of crows) – bouquets of floss. Like flowers! I want to buy floss and sell it on Etsy in packages just so I can say I sell bouquets of floss. It just sounds so pretty. (Copyright pending!)

Then, last month, I convinced my brother to go halfsies with me on a huge pile of embroidery floss. Like probably double what I had at that point. I really wanted to expand my color choices, especially in the greys, browns, peaches/tans, and yellows. I also got a bunch of new blues, and a few greens, purples, and oranges. So we tortured our poor Michaels cashier with a ridiculous number of tiny bar codes to scan (apologies, ma’am!) and I went home with my best Christmas present of the year.

After Christmas, I spent several cozy evenings next to the fire winding the floss on bobbins. I really enjoy winding yarn into balls – I think the repetitive winding motion is soothing – so winding lots of floss was great (especially because I got to switch colors more often!). I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to my bobbins as well, so I’m sure it took me twice as long as someone else would have taken. But now my bobbins are all neat and even! (scroll down a bit for an appropriate response gif)

I’ve never been that good at keeping track of the floss number (whether on those annoying little tubes from around the skeins or on my bobbins). Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but then when I go back to create a pattern I dislike having to guesstimate which color I used. So this time I was also careful to write every number down on each side of the bobbin. Being such a floss nerd, I first organized them by DMC number and noted down which skeins I had. I love the gradients this produced (even though I have big gaps all over the chart).

Michelle Obama at Inaugural Luncheon

You must be rolling your eyes by now.

I stored them in my red tin (usually used for bits and pieces or small WIP) for the flight home, then took them out and prepared to organize them by color. So much fun! So on my last evening of break I spread out all my floss (old and new), and turned on Brave (which, by the way, is an awesome movie with some really cool embroidery!). I ended up sorting the floss into rough color groups and storing them in my floss box. You can tell how much more floss I have just by comparing the photos at the top and bottom of this post – it’s stuffed now! This week I even found a few more skeins floating around my room under various stacks of fabric and pattern ideas, so I think I’ll have to start doubling up in some of the spaces. Or maybe even get a second box . . . no, that would be dangerous!

Anyways, here is all of my pretty floss! I’ve since organized the front half (whites-yellows with browns and greys), and am waiting for time to organize the back half (green-purples with blacks). Once I do I’ll just have another excuse to post photos of my floss box on here. *rubs hands in anticipation*

A natural progression

Cross stitch progressSo lately I’ve had all these new projects floating around in my mind and in my basket. I love coming up with new ideas – I think pattern-making is a pretty exciting business – but it’s also nice to follow someone else’s patterns once in awhile! I tend to start stitching my own patterns before they’re finished and I change things as I go, so having something solid to go off of can be a relief (and I get lots more Netflix-watching done when I don’t have to concentrate as much on what I’m stitching). I have a lot of patterns saved up to stitch, and this past weekend I decided to start one from the brilliant people of Steotch. I love their creativity – they are definitely one of my big 3 (the three people that renewed my interest in embroidery and cross stitch). They always have awesome pop culture and internet references, and I love how intricate each piece is.

I’ve had the pattern for In Nature’s Splendor saved up for quite some time, and I decided to give it a go. I try to stitch pieces in a systematic way (middle out, finishing a whole section before moving onto the next), but this time I’ve been doing things sort of piecemeal. I started with the tree, stopped to do the woman’s outfit, moved onto the floral border, did the grass and furry animals, worked on the tree some more. I think part of my jumping around is due to the fact that I’m working with 28 count Aida – by far the smallest count cross stitch fabric I’ve ever used (I think I’ve used 22, most of my stuff is on 16 or 18). I wanted to have a really tiny finished piece (I think this one’s something like 3.5×2.5), but the small squares are also driving me crazy! It takes so long to fill up a decent space, and the tiny holes don’t lend themselves well to multiple stitches. Anyways, it’s coming along nicely (but slowly!). I love the floral border along the top. I’ll definitely post some more photos when I’m done! On a side note, make sure to check out Steotch’s newest pattern – a Monty Python piece. It’s awesome.