My Low End High End Ragdoll – Making a Jess Brown Doll

As I mentioned, I decided that before I start winging it with my own patterns, I thought I’d make some tried and true patterns to get the hang of construction and popular aesthetic.  So, over the weekend, I downloaded Jess Brown’s Making of a Ragdoll.

Before I downloaded the book, I did check out a hard copy at Barnes & Noble.  It really is a beautiful hardback book.  The photos are lovely, and give the book a vintage, natural feel.  Much is lost in the digital copy, and if you’re at all interested in this book, I would recommend spending the extra $15 and get a paper copy.  Jess Brown intends her dolls to be “comfort dolls,” and much of the curl up with the book comfort is lost with the digital version.  Also, piecing together the patterns from the downloaded digital version was a total pain in the butt.  The digital version directs you to an online PDF.  The PDF contains instructions for printing, and which options to choose in your print menu for tile printing.  Then, the pattern prints like puzzle pieces, that have to be cut, and pieced together with small x’s as guides.  Cutting and piecing the doll pattern as well as the clothes and the accessories took well over an hour. Oy!

Before cutting, piecing and taping, I did read Jess Brown’s narrative about the birth of the dolls and her love for all natural materials like corn fiber stuffing, bamboo embroidery thread, and non-plastic buttons.  I envied her that her job requires her to haunt flea markets for vintage fabrics and other textiles (as opposed to my job which requires weekly prison trips).  While the story of the dolls served as a nice introduction to the why of the organic materials, I had actually already heard the story told by Jess Brown on the While She Naps podcast, and the podast interview is really so much more interesting than the book.  For instance, in the book, she talks about how the first doll she made for her daughter was sewn from cashmere sweaters that had been destroyed in the wash.  In the actual telling of the story in chit chat way, without the formality of a book, it’s her husband who decided to do the wash that day, and destroyed the sweaters – this teeny tiny detail makes for a better story.  And, in the podcast, she goes into the effects of having Martha Stewart feature her dolls, working on a fashion week installation with life size ragdolls, and how she runs her business, including producing the dolls, pricing the dolls, and her thoughts on actually writing the book.

In this doll quest of mine, I’ve perused Etsy, looking at all sorts of dolls – art dolls, clay dolls, rag dolls, Tilda dolls, etc., and it’s was no surprise that there are a lot of Jess Brown knock-offs out there.  So, it was understandable when she talked in the podcast about how ambivalent she was about writing a book after being approached by Chronicle.  Why should she write a book, reveal her secret sauce to her pattern, and hand the keys to the kingdom over to these copycats when this is how she makes a living?  And, I’m really glad that I listened to this analysis of coming to the decision to write the book, and coming to a compromise of creating a new doll for the book that’s not THE doll.

Yes, the pattern in the book is not THE Jess Brown doll, but a Jess Brown doll.  The doll has all of the elements that make a lovely comfort doll – the simple body, instructions for her signature star eyes and felt heart shaped mouth, and cute patterns for a sun dress, a long sleeve dress, a coat, a hat, a duffle bag, and pantaloons.  But, if you were hoping for instructions on how to make her 22′ inch doll, with arms that are attached with buttons, this is not that pattern.  And, after listening to the podcast, I was totally ok with that.  It’s still a Jess Brown doll.

The pattern itself is pretty easy to sew.  I decided to transfer the 1/4′ seam lines to the backside of my fabric.  To do this, as you can see above, I used chaco paper, which is basically carbon paper.  The photo above shows the back of the doll.  I won’t go exactly into how this works – you’ll have to buy the book, but after sewing the two halves of the back together you have a more rounded head, and an opening for stuffing up the back.   This, apparently, is another departure from THE doll.  From what I can tell from online photos, THE doll has a pretty basic body – and if there’s any shaping of the head, I can’t tell.

Anyway, this chaco paper transfer was particularly helpful on the front of the doll, which does require you to transfer pivot points at the under arm pits of the doll.  If I had one qualm with the pattern it’s definitely these arms.  While the button shoulder arms may be one of the signature features of THE doll, it’s not original, not like the star eyes or the felt heart mouth.  I think she was giving away more secrets describing the eyes, than having separate arms.  But, in any event, having the arms attached to the body leads to a little kink where it joins the body.  Eh, so she has a wrinkle.  But, if you want to create a really simple, accessible pattern, I think it’s much much more simple to sew the arms separately and attach them to the body then sew around this really narrow area, and turn it seemlessly.

And, just in case you’re looking to make a doll like this, or any doll with skinny arms, here’s a good way to flip them rightside out.

1. First, stick a straw in the limb:

2. Then, turn it upside down, and stick a chopstick, or as I’ve used here, the stick that comes with polyfiberfil, into the tip of the outside of the limb, shoving the stick into the straw.

3. Then slowly, you don’t want to poke a hole in the end of your limb, roll the fabric down over your chopstick/stick and voila!

Limbs succesfully turned! Ownward. The next step in the book is to stuff and sew up the body, and do the face after it’s stuffed.  She gives you instructions to do the signature star, pulling the thread out through the back of the head, I guess to be covered with hair.

I opted not to do the star eye.  Confession time – I think the star eye is creepy.  So, what kind of an eye then?  I thought about buttons, but if this doll turns out ok, it’ll eventually be gifted to a 2 year old – buttons not so good.  While thinking about it, I happened to listen to another While She Naps podcast with Christina Platt of Bamboletta, and she talked about the theory behind Waldorf style dolls.  Apparently, the idea is that a doll should be fairly expressionless because this allows for the child to fully access their imagination when playing with the doll – they can imagine the doll to be happy or sad, and they’re not limited by a constantly smiling, happy faced doll.  So, while I didn’t love the star eye, I did want a neutral face, but a pleasant face.  So, after looking at a lot of doll eyes, I used this one, which I embroidered in a hoop before sewing the doll together:

I did go for the heartshaped mouth, because I think it’s sweet. THE Jess Brown doll’s heartshaped mouth is not red, it’s more of a dull yellow.

Anyway, so here she is so far.

Ready for stuffing!  The instructions in the book have you just sew across the front of the doll while attaching the legs, leaving a raw edge.  Since I’m not using any kind of special organic fabric, but kind of crappy but soft cotton from Michael’s, I think I’m going to turn a hem under.

The two year old I mentioned is one of my niece’s on Joe’s side, and she’s just learning to walk.  THE doll, the 22″‘er, came into being because Jess Brown’s daughter was learning to walk at the time she was creating the doll – so she measured from her arm to her feet, so that the doll would be a walking companion.  I like that idea.  So, if this all works out, I think I may make another one that’s more like Tilda – make the body bigger, get rid of the seam in the back, sew the arms separately, make them longer, attach them with a button, make longer longs, with maybe jointed knees.  We’ll see.

First, I have to figure out how to attach hair – because that’s not explained so well in the book.  Stingy on the secret sauce there. Eh, who can blame her?  Not me.

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Happy Friday!

In a civil suit, a party can introduce evidence of habit, pattern, practice, etc., to prove conformity – for instance, if the question is whether you did laundry at 2:00 p.m. on July 6, 2014, to prove that you did, you could introduce evidence that every single Sunday you do laundry at 2:00 p.m., so you must have done it on July 6, 2014 since it was a Sunday. If only I couid apply that level of commitment to my blogging – but the fact is, my blogging just isn’t that reliable. Just because I blogged almost every day for two months doesn’t mean that I’m going to blog at all for a month. Oh well. And, at least for me, it’s much easier to break a pattern and practice than to get it going again. A few days after the last post, I came down with a cough (that Joe shared with me, thanks husband!), that turned into a fever, and that was probably bronchitis – since it lasted for nearly 2 1/2 weeks. My blogging mojo was interrupted, and it was really hard to get it back – but I’m back, hopefully, and now, I’m just going to do a not so artfully crafted list of what I’ve been up to – just get it out there, and start again fresh on Monday. So, here was my June 10 through July 10 in a nutshell:

1. While sick, Joe and I watched all five seasons of Game of Thrones. Not a good idea when you’re feverish – I had the craziest dreams of people without faces, and winter and White Walkers and dragons. But we’ll be in for the next season, and I’m definitely on the Kit Harrington hair watch. If Jon Snow is really dead, poop on George R.R. Martin – that’s just cruel after all of that investment in one of the only heroes left in a show.

2. I saw An American in Paris in New York with my mom. I’m a huge fan of the movie, and was very skeptical of the stage show. No need – it was fantastic, and without the constrictions of post-WWII morality, the story was able to fill in plot holes that the movie just tipped toed around – for instance – SPOILERS – it made so much more sense that Lise was Jewish – her loyalty to the Baurrels so much more understandable, and her struggle to leave Henri was much more poignant. Also, by revealing Henri’s sexuality, it made Jerry stealing his fiancee a ok. While I did miss Gene Kelly, of course, and the actual streets of Paris, the ballet was so beautiful, and of course, the Gershwin music was insanely toe-tappable.

3. I got a horrendous hairdo, and then a good hairdo. Every day when Joe and I walk home from the train, we walk past this snazzy hair salon right across from the pizza joint where we order our Friday night pizza. After four years in our ‘hood, I finally decided to try it. I brought a photo of Charlize Theron with short hair, and a photo of my hair with blond highlights, and said, “I want that.” So, the stylist looked and said,”You don’t really want to cut your hair short, do you? Don’t you want to be able to pull it back in a pony tail, or put it up?” Uh, I guess. And, as to the highlights, she glanced at the photo and said, I can do that. So, she went to work with her foils, etc., and when she blew my hair straight, of course, I felt glamorous. It was then that Joe picked me up at the salon, and the look on his face was definitley WTF. You don’t like it? He raised his eyebrows, and was like, “you have tiger stripes.” Of course, after sitting for two hours, and having him pop my glamour balloon, I started to bawl – you’re wrong, I like it, blah blah blah. And then I got home, and really inspected it:

Oh my! He was right – it was really terrible. I had a headband of blond. The stripes were cray-cray. And, you can’t really tell in that photo, but the blond highlights were a brassy orange – really carrot top. So, I immediately made another appointment with a trusted colorist in town, and voila – fixed:

And, curly, I must say – it looks very French – my trial partner keeps calling me Babette. I do like it though – my head feels so much lighter, and it is defintely more youthful – and since I’ll be a 46 next week – closer to 50 than 40 – eek! that was important to me.

4.  Stitch Madness!

Quilting/Sewing: There is just not enough time in the day, nor enough air conditioning to do all I want to do.  My craftroom/sewing room is on the third floor of our house, a converted attic.  The electricity is not so modern.  I can’t run the sewing machine and the air conditioner at the same time, or I blow a circuit.  So, all of my dreams of catching up on abandoned quilts this summer has gone out the humid window.  But, I’ve begun plotting an English Paper Piecing project that I can do in the air in front of the t.v. – but more on that later, once it actually gets going.

But, one thing I have worked on in this stitchy category is my crazy quilting bug.  Remember my crazy quilting project?  Well, once I realized that the thread (orange) really made the quilt blocks look like something cut from a circus tent, I put it away, and waited for Kathy Shaw to run her Basic Crazy Quilting class  again.  Kathy runs her free classes several times a year – if you click on the link, you will find her registration dates.  I must say, this class is one of the most teacher involved online classes I’ve ever taken.  Class assignments are given, work is completed, photos of the completed assignment are posted on a private blog, Kathy comments on your work, and then emails you the next task.  If you don’t do your homework, you don’t get the next task.  The tasks are accompanied by very detailed handouts, photos, and templates.  The difference between this class and the Craftsy class is that not only is the pattern for the base block provided by Kathy, but the block is completely planned – there is a roadmap of seams, and templates, etc. and for me at least, this was such a better learning technique than the Craftsy class, which was much more general as to what to stitch where.  Here is a photo of my block, preseams –


As you can see, it’s just basic quilting cotton, no crazy fabrics that needed stabilizing, and I started stitching last night, and all of the threads are very mellow. A much more subdued go round this time. We’ll see how it turns out – I still have a few more seams before I can submit my work and get the next task.

Embroidery: After I finished the Be Happy hoop that I posted about last month, I decided I really didn’t know what I was doing with regard to shading with thread, so as I mentioned in the last post, I signed up for an online class with Follow the White Bunny, Simply Shading.  So, the $60 fee is for both the workshop and the kit – the kit contains an iron transfer, 2 needles, silk fabric on which to stitch, thread samples, and a paper thread organizer.  So, let’s say the kit would probably run you $20 retail, so the workshop alone we’ll say was $40.  Why do I bring up price?  Because throughout the workshop, I kept saying, gosh, I really wish there were a video of that, or I wish there were more step by step photos rather than diagrams, more step outs I guess.  But the price was right for what she did . The class was four weeks.  Each week consisted of multiple handouts, with not only historical information, but technical instruction, and helpful tips.  There were also extra PDF patterns.  There was a class forum, with a weekly discussion (kind of, see below).  So, while I think the class would have been better with videos, that’s not to say I’m complaining – the handouts were thorough, Nicole was available for questions and advice, and she obviously put a lot of work into the written materials, and I learned a lot.  I think I just would have been willing to pay more to get more, I guess that’s what I’m saying.   And, if any of you reading this are thinking about hosting an online class, I just wouldn’t bother with a private bulletin board forum – beyond introductions, no one participated.  I think the best place to host an online class is honestly Facebook.  While I’m not a fan of posting my life on Facebook, in fact, since my father died, I don’t even think I’ve posted anything on my page – that’s the way he and I used to share photos – but the private groups I’m in, like the Crafty Gemini Quilt Club, there’s activity every day, and tons of sharing of photos – I think Facebook is just a daily stop for people, and it makes sharing easy.  One stop shopping, I guess.

So, that’s my two cents.  In any event, here’s what I managed to accomplish.  Here’s the first stitch exercise:

I got bored with this fairly quickly, and decided to practice with something a little more fun. So, I used an iron transfer from Something Sublime, and a quote I designed myself:

How fun is a Flamingo?

Nicole actually covers shading animals in the third week of the class, but I decided to go for it earlier.

And, I took a break from shading, and stitched up this fun sampler from the spring issue of Hoopla:

And next up, I’m going to tackle the actual class project:

But first I have to finish my crazy quilt homework!

Knitting. Last but not least – although wool is another summer resistant project. I started Wickerwork in my Miss Babs, but I haven’t photographed it. I abandoned Antarkis, I don’t know why – I was knitting it while I was sick, and I kept losing count, and I think I did some fudging I wasn’t really happy with. I don’t really remember – I’ll have to pull it out and see what needs to be done. And, as far as the Wollmeise, it’s fine, but I’m not stalking any overseas website to  get it.  Next up, is the new Fiddleknits MKAL that starts today – Water.  Once again, I’m going with Quince and Co. in this awesome color, Peacock:


Yum, right?

And, I did take an online class finally with Susannah Conway, Blogging from the Heart. It was fine. It was just a bad time in my blogging history to take the class – I had already just done a blog overhaul. If I had taken it while my blog was languishing, I think it would have worked better for me. Also, Susannah’s blog is awesome but it’s not my writing style, and her prompts didn’t interest me that much. I might have a better blog if I followed more of her advice, but I’m not interested in writing “as I sit with my coffee cup and peer out my window . . .” kind of blog posts. And, the class needs some updating to a certain degree. Every Friday she posts an interview with a popular blogger, but some of the interviews contain links to defunct blogs, some of the bloggers aren’t actually blogging any more, and the class, in that respect, might need some new content. However, I must say that the beginning bloggers really got a lot out of the class – blogs got up and running, people found their voice, and I enjoyed the Facebook interaction watching their blogs grow. I think I’ve just been blogging too long, and my fault entirely – I just wasn’t that open to change. Had I opened myself up a little more, I may have incorporated more of what she was saying here. But, I’m glad I took it, I just kind of wish I had taken it when she originally started it. And, I do miss getting her daily emails – it was a lovely way to start my morning because I do like her very much.

So, that’s it, caught up! Onward!

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A One Hour Basket in An Evening

My last one hour basket took oh so much time.    Two days.  But, that was due to aggravation, and ripping out more than anything else.  I’m not sure I would have made another one, but I was already signed up for the One Hour Basket Swap 2 on Instagram, and I was committed.

That didn’t stop me from waiting until the last minute, though.  And, also at the last minute, on Sunday, when the swap had to be mailed by Friday, I decided to attempt my first serious embroidery hoop (I made one before, but it was all backstitch, with a few french knots thrown in for good measure, too simple to count).  On Sunday, I was finally seduced by Bustle & Sew. a monthly e-magazine devoted to embroidery, patchwork, applique and other things of the stitchy sort.  While I didn’t (yet) subscribe to their oh-so-cute magazine, I did get sucked in by their 50% Etsy sale, and I bought my first downloadable embroidery pattern.

Since I’ve been playing around with my stitch sampler, I have tried several methods of getting that downloadable pattern onto fabric, with mixed results.  I’ve traced, I’ve used a transfer pen, and I’ve used a Frixion pen (it magically erases when you hit it with an iron), so I wasn’t totally befuddled about what to do once I downloaded.  But, I did start with the transfer pen – lines were too thick – fail, and then I started over, and went with tracing with a Frixion pen.  Serious embroiderers poo poo the Frixion pen, you can smoosh your stitches with the iron, it doesn’t erase all the way on certain fabrics, if you put your embroidery in the freezer, the lines will come back – it’s not a permanent erase, it’s more like Harry Potter.  You hit it with heat, gone, freeze – back!  Super cool, but I guess for a purest, not so much.  I’m not a purest, and it worked for me.  And, the pens are easily findable at your local Staples.

So, I managed to get the design on the fabric (doubled up, white quilting cotton), and then I went to work . . . slowly.  I’ve said this before, there’s just no speeding up stitching, and it was a real crunch to get it done by Thursday, so I could get it in the mail on Friday.  But, I succeeeded, and I was happy with my imperfect, but perfectly giftable results.

This was a great beginner piece:

IMG_6190.JPGLots of different stitches – backstitch, stem stitch, satin stitch, bullion knots, french knots, detached lazy daisies, and what was called in the pattern, radiating straight stitch – although I’m not sure why it’s not satin stitch.  Anyway, the pattern also called for some shading of the flowers – as you can see, mine’s a bit of guesswork, and a commendable first try – just because I did try.  It’s really hard sometimes, learning things online, little nuances, things where you need an experienced eye to tell you it would look better this way or that way, or that you’re holding your hand wrong, or that you’re not using the right needle, or any number of things.  There are just some things it’s nice to have a live teacher or mentor guiding you in the right direction so you’re not struggling to reinvent the wheel.  In any event, I hope to get  better with the shading thing with this class.  It starts next week, so I’ll let you know.  I got the kit in the mail last week, and I hope I don’t mess it up because it would be a shame to mess up something that’s potentially so pretty.

Oh, and the basket!  Yep, it was a basket swap, after all, and that should have been my focus, but the basket came together pretty easily, and I really did spend most of the week cramming to get the hoop done, which was just a little gift to go with the real swap gift.  To save myself aggravation, I sewed the lining and the exterior piece with the same seam allowance.  The interior lining is supposed to be a tad smaller, but since that’s what gave me a headache last time, I just went with the bigger measurement, and the extra fabric ended up being a pseudo binding around the top, much like my Crafty Gemini tote.  I had been planning to make another Cotton & Steel basket, like my last one, but my partner sent hers out first, and I received a Cotton & Steel basket – sweet!  But, I had to redesign in my head.  So, I went with this Anna Maria Horner fabric from her Dowry collection.  To get one fabric to sit on the top 3/4’s and the other on the botton 1/4, it’s actually 2 pieces of fabric that are the same size sewn together, because most of the bottom fabric is the bottom of the bag.  So, if you wanted to add maybe a patchwork stripe, or an embroidered motif, or a hexagons, or whatever, you can see where your working space would be, in that top 5.5 x 16.5 piece (5.25 after it’s sewn to the bottom piece).

Also, unlike the last basket, instead of fusible fleece for the stablizer, I used Crafty Gemini’s go to double sided fusible stablizer, In R Form Plus.   This thick, squishy but firm stuff, really gives the basket a nice shape, and makes it, I think, more functional than the floppier fusible fleece.  Although, once you fill the basket, it doesn’t really matter.  This basket from cutting to finishing probably took 2-3 hours.  I know I cut my pieces, made dinner, returned after eating, and finished long before bedtime.  So, it was an evening.

I also made a little basket from a Crafty Gemini tutorial, the same night.  By then, I was really tired, and the sewing isn’t the best, but it turned out well enough that I thought once she filled it with clips or something it would look A ok.  I also threw in a quilting magazine, some wonder clips, and a small package of Heat N Bond, and in the mail it went.  Whew!  It was totally cutting it close, but it all worked out!

And now, I’m taking a bit of a break from swappage.  The Crafty Gemini swap this month for Quilt Club is so fun – 1 yard of your ugliest fabric – but I decided to pass.  Even if a swap is easy peasy, sometimes it’s still a pain in the neck to package it up and get it in the post.   And, also with Crafty Gemini, the swaps are not anonymous, meaning you get your partner’s email, and exchange emails before addresses are exchanged.  So, it’s a commitment to a short relationship as well, or a long one if that’s how it turns out.  So, I think I’m out for the summer, but we’ll see.   This swap was my first instagram swap, and the organzier (@heart_stitches)  was really really on top of things.  I was very impressed.  So, I’m glad my first experience was a positive one, because we’ve all heard disappointing swap stories.  I would definitely do another Instagram swap, but probably in the fall.  Tonight I’ll photograph my goodies from the swap, and post them so you can see.

And maybe make up with my knitting, so I can post tomorrow with Yarn Along.  Or maybe it’s still punished, we’ll see.
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Just a Stitch Journal

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been struggling with a process v. product dilemna. On one hand, I really enjoy hand embroidery, and the process of crazy quilting. On the other hand, I have no use for hand embroidered/crazy quilted finished objects. As a solution, I thought, well, I’ll combine it, sort of, with another hobby, bookbinding and journal making, and make journal covers. But, really, what am I going to do with a bunch of crazy quilted journal covers? Open an Etsy shop and compete with people who’ve been doing this kind of handwork for years, and have a much superior product? Give a lot of journals as holiday gifts? And then next year, everyone gets a crazy quilted pillow?

These thoughts, a tedious circle of ultimate goals, and products and finished objects, and perhaps time wasting, left me a little deflated. And by circle, what I mean was I was having conversations with myself that went like this, “This is so relaxing. But what am I going to do with it? Who cares what you’re going to do with it if you like doing it? I care what I’m going to do with it, because I don’t want schmatas hanging on my wall. What am I going to do with all of this fabric? Where will all these stitches go?” So, I put my crazy quilt down, picked up my knitting, and moved on. But, still I stewed. I really enjoy hand embroidery. Needle up, needle down. I hate to sound overly 7th grade English student, but it’s like playing the violin – pulling a bow across strings, stretching my fingers, making something pretty. Or perhaps, it’s like being on a boat, a steady rocking. Or maybe, it’s more like a swing, back and forth, rewarded with flight. Ok, enough with the metaphors. All I’m trying to say is that it’s comforting, relaxing, soothing, and peaceful, all the while being satisfying and exhilarating just to make something for pretty’s sake alone..

And then, I had a lightbulb moment. Pretty for pretty’s sake!  When, in the past, have I pursued something without any regard to the end product? Painting portraits, making art, arting in my art journal . . . hey, I thought, instead of making journal covers, how about the stitchery is the journal? The stitchery is the art in the journal, and the journal is all about the process.

So, I began researching what people do with the embroidery samplers they make. They must put them in a book or something, right? Other people must have this process v. product dilemna, too, right?  Not so much it seems.  This answer left me particularly discouraged.  I found tons of people who make fabric journals of course – similar to art journals, with fabric, lace, painting, plaster, etc., but those journals don’t really work for me because embroidered pages have to be bound after the fact, or I wouldn’t be able to put the fabric in a hoop.  I only found one person who was binding her  sampler embroidery into a fiber book. That’s not to say there aren’t others, but she was the only one I found with a tutorial.  And, back when she posted her tutorial, she was exchanging pages with others in her stitching circle, so there must be others, but I couldn’t find them.  So, following the little tutorial she made for this fiber book,  I set to work making my own.

I started with a 21 x 18 piece of craftstore canvas.  If you were interested in doing this, you could go smaller – I just wanted to have a nice margin so I could get my fabric in the hoop when I was working on the tops and bottoms of the pages.  I folded the canvas in the center, and marked my pages a 1/2 inch from the center line.  I then used a Million Little Stitches page size, 3.5 x 5.75, because it seems like as good a size as any.  This was really hard to photograph, but if you can see – the red dotted lines are the outlined page, and the solid, blue lines are lines for the buttonhole stitch, which is worked around the finished folio, and then used to sew the pages together, kind of like grafted knitting.  This buttonhole stitch method of sewing the pages together worries me – I think I would have liked something like a long stitch, or a coptic binding, but the way she does it allows you to know that the two folio pages are going to lay side by side in the book, and if I want to embroider straight across the fold line for a two page “spread” I could do that.  So, while I think the book would be sturdier if sewn into the binding, I’m going with her way, because her book does look great.

Here, you can see my measurements a little better. I used Frixion pens, which disappear with heat. It doesn’t take much heat to make the lines disappear – just a light touch from the tip of a hot iron will do the trick.   After I mapped out four folios, I erased the measurements, and any mismarks.  You could easily cut a bigger piece of canvas, and map out more pages, but I went with four because it seemed like a manageable size to be on my lap, and taking in and out of the hoop.

Once my book was laid out, I started stitching based on this Facebook Group’s stitch a day “challenge,” Joyful Embelishments.  I went with this prompt group as opposed to TAST, which I had mentioned before, because this group is going on now, in real time, and I thought that would be more motivating, inspiring, and butt kicking.  I thought I might catch up – but then I thought, probably not, no biggie.

So, here is my first page!  I was so proud until . . . how could I misspell stitch?  How?  I knit, I sew, I quilt, I embroidery – how how how could I spell stitch wrong?  The mistake has since been fixed.  I squeezed that darn “t” in there.  But, it’s not about the product, so it doesn’t matter that it’s not perfect.  It’s just my stitch journal.

And what are these little sheep doing here? Are they crazy quilt seam treatments? Is everyone making sheep in Joyful Embelishnments?  No, but again – it’s just my stitch journal, so I can do anything I want. And, since the prompt had French Knots, and I felt like making more knots – I made some sheep. Because sheep are always good.

And primrose? Again, not a seam treatment, but I was reading Red Brolly, and she did a tutorial on pinwheels, and I decided, hey, I want to make pinwheels.

So, I made pinwheels. Because I know longer care what the product is – it’s all about the process. It’s just my stitch journal.

And, to make it feel even more journaly, I’m thinking of adding some text, maybe a quote from the movie I was watching while stitching, The Fault in Our Stars, although kids with cancer may not be the vibe I’m going for, we’ll see.

It doesn’t matter, it’s just my stitch journal.

  Crazy Quilt Progress

I could be working on my giant Sophie’s – both of them.

I could cast on some of my Maryland Sheep & Wool yarn.

Or, I could even finish something I already have on needles.

And, if I did one of those things, one of those sensible things, I would either have or be on my way to having something that I will love, or at the very least, use, at the end.

But, nope, I’m not spending my time doing anything sensible like that. Instead, I’m having a grand old time hand stitching, and beading, and producing something that in the end, I have no idea what I’m going to do with.

Here’s my before, and almost after – I say almost, because I still have to attempt my silk ribbon embroidery.  I’ve saved that for last.

Oh, and did I mention, I’m making a mess too!

Look how much is going on! I can’t even tell you how much fun I’m having.

I dove headfirst into my feather stitch, combined with a fern stitch to complete the curlyques, topped off with french knots, and detached lazy daisy leaves. I didn’t even bother to try it out on a sampler first – just plunged right into the block. No fear! Those vintage buttons are hiding a little hole – nice! I found those leaf charms in my stash – now they’re good for something, right? And, that big pin in the middle is probably not going to stay – it’s pretty bulky. But, you never know. I think this is going to be a wall hanging, when I combine it into a four patch, so the bulk really won’t matter anyway. I added some beads to my chain stitch (next time I’ll try to make my chain stitch a bit more even, and probably use a smaller bead, but sometimes you just have to go with what you have), and I still have a bunch of beads to go before I call it done.

Of course, had a practiced my stithes first, they’d be neater. But, as you can see from the photo of my craft table, I’m not all that concerned about neat, and it’s all a big experiment anyway. I just wanted to get right into it, not dilly around with a sampler. Did I just say dilly? Next thing you know, I’ll be saying dally, too, and my word aesthetic will be as off as my creative endeavors.

Once I finish up with the silk embroidery and more beads, I’ll move on to the second block.  Already, the project has totally diverged from my vision.  I originally separated my fancy fabrics by color to come up with a sophisticated palette – cool colors, mostly blues and the like.  I thought I would stitch in the same color palette, creating a more elegant look.  But, I just loved my colorful threads so much, they landed on my fabric canvas, and sophistication went right out the window.  But if the purpose is the process, and the process is about fun, then it’s all good.  Maybe next time I’ll worry about the finished product a little more.  Or not.  We’ll see.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around why I like this project so much.  When I took Rebecca Ringquist’s class on embroidery at Creativebug, I was intrigued with her embroidering on vintage fabric, and on top of already existing embroidery.  What I didn’t like, strangely enough, was the texture of her work, her incorporation of so many different kinds of thread, especially the thicker wools and sock yarn.  Crazy quilting on fancy fabric is similar to what she does, but not as modern, but also not as messy – that texture – the oversized stitches, the bunched up canvas, the stitching on top of stitching – to me translates as mess.  (ok, ok, disregard what I said about mess above – there are areas where messy does not appeal to me).   I do like the fact that I’m stitching, totally freeform, on a colorful, patchwork canvas.  I like that there’s no map, that when I insert my needle into the fabric I can choose to go right or left, bloom into a flower, or turn into a leaf.   While the sampler I’ve been working on is pretty, and has been great practice, I don’t think I like following a printed embroidery pattern.   Or at least, I like this free for all better.

So that’s all the crazy quilting for today.  Tomorrow, I’ll show you the before and after of our kitchen remodel, and give you a few tips about hiring a contractor (learn from my mistakes, padawan).

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Call Me Crazy Quilter

As you may remember, I’ve been working on this Rebecca Rinquist sampler:

Pretty, right? The buttonhole stitch is finally sticking!


And, I’ve added the chain stitch, and the detached chain stitch/lazy daisy to my repetoire.


Now what?

Well, I am always a sucker for a sale, so when Crafty’s put all of it’s classes on sale last week (and it’s still going on – I’m not a Craftsy affiliate, just a fan – and the sale goes through midnight tonight), I decided to check this one out –

This class seems like it would be a crazy choice for me.  Crazy quilts are not my aesthetic at all.  While I do love all things vintagey in theory, that love translates practically into modern design with a dash of nostalgia.  For instance, I have no problem pairing the modern furniture in my living room with antique picture frames, nostalgic memorablia, and retro cameras.  But, I’m not a lacey, beady, ribbony kind of girl.

On the other hand, what doesn’t quite fit with my aesthetic, completely runs paralell to what I’m doing craftwise.  I love quilting, and especially foundation pieicing, and I’m really enjoing my hand sewing/embroidery.  Crazy quilting combines these things, along with other textiles I’ve used in the past – like beads and charm embelishments, and the process of creating, designing and stitching a crazy quilt appeals to me.

So that begs the question – is it worthwhile to pursue something that appeals to my process side, but not at all to my product side?  For me, the answer is yes, for once I master the process, I can turn it into my own product.  While for now, I am making a wall hanging (or maybe a pillow) as a I follow along with the class, I have ideas about making journal covers – and I think this crazy quilt look will work for me in that medium.  Who wouldn’t want  a beautifully quilted and embelished journal cover – a pretty place to store memories, thoughts and dreams?  Hopefully, everyone will want one  -because if this works out, everyone’s getting them for the holidays!

In any event, I started the class, and I was really inspired.  Again, by the process.  I’m not all that inspired to have a crazy quilt on my wall, but eh, maybe it’ll be a gift.  I have taken many many Craftsy classes – yes, I am a craft class addict.  Some are better than others.   This class, with Allie Allers, has to be one of the best.  Much like Sarah Fielke’s class, Big Tehcniques from Small Scraps, which is also awesome and also covers a gazillion skills related to applique, this class covers so many techniques and skills it will make your head spin.  Not only does Allie cover four different techniques for piecing a crazy block,  she also teaches I think fourteen basic embroidery stitches, and how to combine them.  And, just when I thought class was over, she moved into beaded embroidery, and then ribbon embroidery.  Done?  Not yet, there’s still a whole lesson in finishing and displaying your quilt.  Piecing, embroidery, beaded embroidery, ribbon embroidery and finishing, all in one class.  I have to say, by the end of the class, I was exhausted.  And, then, I watched it again.  I took advantage of Crafty’s 30 second repeat button, and stitched along with Allie – not only while I pieced my blocks, but while I learned the embroidery stitches.  And, today at lunch, I’m going to pick up some beading supplies, so I can rewatch those sections, and stitch along with her.

And speaking of picking up supplies, since crazy quilting has never been on my radar before, all I had in my fabric stash was quilting cotton.  Well, I had to do something about that.  I found this store on Etsy, AnnDanCes and bought her listing for Fancy Scraps.    Buying fabric like this is a crapshoot.  Generally, the photo is generic – a representation of what you’re going to get.  So, you just have to cross your fingers, read some reviews of the seller, and hope for the best.  And, my – was I pleased!  The shipping was super fast – I ordered the box on Wednesday, and it arrived, from Texas, on Saturday.  And, when I opened it, I was literally gleeful – I think I even clapped my hands and exclaimed – goody!


I dumped the box out on my table, and sorted the fancy scraps into color piles. Not a crazy quilt thing to do, I guess, but a Wendy thing to do, and I made the first two blocks from the class.

This one is flip and sew foundation piecing:


And this one is the same method, but the pieces are curved –


Very proud of myself!!


And these two blocks are perfect examples of how jam packed this class is – I learned how to flip and sew (which unlike paper piecing, involves tracing your pattern onto muslin, and using the diagram as a guide, rather than sewing on the backside of paper), stablizing these fancy fabrics, how to care for these fabrics so you don’t crush them, and curved piecing. If I had just stopped at these two blocks, I would have gotten my $19.99 worth. But, the next two blocks take things even further. The third block is freezer paper applique, and the last block is improvisational piecing. I’m telling you, each block could be a stand alone class.

Anyway, after piecing my two blocks, I did have to try some stitching. I set up a sampler, and practiced some stitches – herringbone, stem stitch, chain stitch, lazy daisy flowers, and using a no fear attitude, I started stitching on the first block:



And the totally fun thing about crazy quilting – I really have no idea what I’m going to do next.  Each block is unique.  If there are any crazy quilting “rules,” I don’t know what they are – so the only thing limiting me is how fast I can learn my stitches.   And, to help with that, and for additional inspiration,  Allie Aller’s book, Crazy Quilting, is included as a free download with the class.  Crazy right!  The hardback version of the book on Amazon is more than the class itself – bargain!!!

So, if you have any interest in this fun project, check out the class – you’ll definitely get your money’s worth, no question.  And, I’ll be back later in the week with how my blocks are progressing.

You may have noticed there is no Knitting on the Porch today.  I took the weekend off for Mother’s Day, so I’ll be back with a video blog next Monday.

Hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day!

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Embroidery Sampler Check In

Progress!  Here’s my issue though – the stitches aren’t sticking.  And, what I mean by that is, they’re not sticking to my brain.  With knitting and crochet, I generally watch a tutorial once, and that’s it – it sticks, it imprints in my crafty memory, and I never have to watch it again (except for kitchener stitch, but that’s a topic for another day – I think my brain just rejects it).  I don’t mean for easy peasy things like back stitch and running stitch, but for the feather stitch, couching and even the buttonhole stitch.  A stitch I may have thought I mastered on Monday, on Wednesday, I find myself going back, watching the video again,  and relearning it.   While I find this disappointing, and of course diagnose myself with early onset Alzeheimers, I think I probably expect too much of myself.  In truth, the areas of the sampler that I complete, and then think, I’m an embroidery super star, really aren’t that big.  It’s not like I did rows and rows of feather stitch before I had to go back and rewatch the video.  I did a little zigzag of it.  Not enough to really etch it in my muscle memory, to the extent, like with knitting, my fingers have a mind of their own.

So here is the bit of buttonhole stitch I did with some variegated thread.  I put it down, and then when I came back to do some more buttonhole stitch, I forgot how to do it.  So, instead I worked on the flower – easy to remember backstitch and satin stitch.  And, I’m sure, once I do a refresh of buttonhole, I’ll get it – again.  And, maybe once I do all of those incomplete rows of buttonhole, it’ll stick and become like habit.

And, here is some elusive feather stitch. Part of the problem with the feather stitch, though, is that there are many variations of feather stitch, and the feather stitch in the Creativebug video isn’t this feather stitch.  So, I found this website, Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials, and she has a tutorial for every stitch imaginable, I think, so it’s all good.

And, hopefully, I won’t forget everything I learned last night, because I doubt I’ll be picking the sampler up at all this weekend, because this is  wool weekend – Maryland Sheep and Wool.  Tonight, I will pack my big tote bag, charge up my camera battery, figure out what I’m going to wear.  Tomorrow, I will shop, pet sheep, watch sheep dogs, and eat sheep product food at a sheep festival, which always seems wrong to me, but what do I know?  And, hopefully, Sunday I’ll post a video to show you all of my purchases, and maybe a baaaaahhhhhiiiing sheep or two!

Have a great weekend!
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Knitting on the Porch – Countdown to Sheep and Wool

Happy Monday everyone!  At first, I thought I’d publish my video posts over the weekend, but that was unrealistic – it’s hard enough to get it together to film it, but to edit and upload on the same day – eh, maybe.  So then, I thought, I’ll publish on Wednesday, and link up with the YarnAlong.  But, that’s really not realistic either – there are so many blogs to visit, posting such awesome things, that it just doesn’t seem right to ask people to stay at your blog any longer than anyone else’s.  Everyone gets a turn on the Yarnalong, and I wouldn’t want to be greedy.  So, I’ll continue to link up and visit on Wednesdays, but I’ll keep it to photos.  So, I think, Monday is a good day for a video post – a good way to start the week for all of those procrastinators out there, who still want to chit chat about yarn and what not.

So, here’s this weeks video, with linkage below.  But, before you click watch, I must warn you.  Last week, I realized that sound was pretty low, so I ordered a lapel mic.  It has not arrived.  This week’s solution was to practically sit on top of the ipad – which means most of the video is my big head.  BIG HEAD.  Sorry about that.  Watch it on a small screen, I guess.  Hopefully, I will have my new mic next week, and all will be well.  Thanks for watching!  Oh, and if you do watch – notice the window behind me.  Someone decided to photobomb my video!

In this video, I talked about:

The Earth KAL
Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival
Kate Davies Designs
Color Affection Shawl
Miss Babs
Twist Collective
Wickerwork Cardigan
Marsa Alam
The Lalylala Bunny
Embroidery at Creativebug
Rebecca Rinquist

Have a great week!

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Let the Stitching Begin!

And I’m off!

Actually, any kind of racing analogy is a bad one when you’re talking about embroidery. Embroidery truly is a slow, contemplative exercise, and if it weren’t for the threading of the teeny tiny needle, it would be completely zen-like.

This is the sampler from Creativebug’s beginning embroidery class with Rebecca Ringquist. Rebecca has a new book out, and sells her samplers, both as single purchases and as part of subscription plan, through her Etsy shop, Dropcloth.  Her stitching style is really unique; often, she works on top of vintage embroidery, or her stitches are a combination of different threads and textures. I haven’t fully decided if I actually like her style (although there’s no question I respect it, and I think it’s beautiful, I’m just not sure if that’s how I want mine to look), but the class is great, her instructions are clear, and the sampler is so cute.

So, what brought on this desire to stitch? I don’t know – I’ve done a few minor embroidery projects before – mostly with just backstitch. I took Craftsy’s beginning embroidery class, Design It, Stitch It,  and thought, yeah, that looks like something I could wrap my head around, and I put it on the back burner. When I saw Rebecca’s book on the shelf last week, I decided to take the plunge. So, yesterday, on my lunch hour, I stopped by Rittenhouse Needlepoint to pick up some embroidery needles, and of course, I couldn’t resist a good sale. They had the above lovely little kit of perle cotton from Finca on sale for half price. Sold! Unfortunately, I was so mesmerized by its prettiness, I decided to ignore that it really was the wrong weight. Rebecca recommends a size 8 thread (it generally comes in size 3-8, with 8 being the thinnest), and Rittenhouse Needlepoint, which specializes obviously in needlepoint and cross stitch, only carries 5’s. I figured, well, since Rebecca doubles her 8, that’ll be like a single 5. Which it probably is when you’re stitching through the fabric, but not when you’re threading the needle. Getting that five through the little embroidery eye – oy! #needabetterbifocal!

And so far, that really has been the hardest part, threading the needle. I have some cheap embroidery floss (although, there really is no such thing as “expensive” thread when you compare it to buying yarn for a major knitting or crochet project) that I bought at Michael’s awhile back, and I may introduce some to the project because I really want to learn the stitches, not give myself apoplexy trying to thread the needle. Rittenhouse Needlepoint does carry DMC Embroidery Floss at .85 a pop, so if I get through this sampler, and move on to the advanced sampler, that’ll be the plan.

In the meantime, I’ve added a few stitches to my aresenal (again, war and ammunition is a bad analogy – it’s so peaceful) – running stitch, filled running stitch, and couching. I really love the look of couching. Rebecca recommends using a thicker yarn for these weaving stitches – the filled running stitching and the couching stitch – and even suggests fingering weight sock yarn – so that could be a possibility for some future project. I do have all of my Koigu mill ends stashed away somewhere.

So, that’s all for now! I’m going to try to record a video tomorrow to post on Wednesday – hopefully my new mic will come, I know it’s shipped. I have some sewing to do this weekend, as well. And, the third, and penultimate clue to Earth comes up sometime today – so I’ll have a busy crafty weekend, and I hope you do to.

But, there’s still Friday to get through, and I’m off to county prison!

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