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Fairy Gifts

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My friend Judy taught me to knit.  This happened right after I split up with my then fiance and moved into an apartment of my own.  Judy had been knitting since she was in grade school and had a small portfolio of interesting multi-color sweaters to show off.  I really never quite understood what place knitting and the fiber arts would start to take in my life, but I definitely appreciated both her help learning something new, her encouragement (my early style was rather unconventional, to say the least) and her companionship while I made the transition out of one image I had had for my life into another.

At that time, I had been getting back into cross stitch after a long hiatus.  So, in the spirit of fair play, I introduced Judy to the elements of what I knew how to do.  Judy, long a knitter, had also long been a painter, and loved the idea of playing with more color in thread.  So I got her some simple things and some embroidery floss to get started. 

Flash forward about 13 years to the two of us having lunch at a nice little cafe in Madison.  Her second baby (and second boy) is due in October, but it was Judy presenting me and Ms. Z with a gift.

20090813_FairyCrossStitch.jpgIt is a beautiful and sweet and somewhat bittersweet gift in many ways.  Any of you who have done counted cross stitch will understand the work in this piece (actual size is roughly 8" x 10").  The wings have gold blending filament in them and the whole piece is worked on an Irish linen.  Judy made it before she had children, with the idea that when she did, it would be on the wall in her little girl's room.  Since son number two is likely the last child, she wanted it to get the chance to live with another little girl.

When I brought it home to Ms. Z (wrapped in tissue and happily ensconced in a bright pink bag), she had the bag out of my hands before I could even tell her I had something special for her.  I had to do a little juggling to put down my things and help her take it out gently and unroll the tissue so that she could see.  "She has wings!  Like a butterfly!" were the first words out of her mouth.  She then went on to point out the rabbit and the deer, and was very excited when I told her we were going to hang it in her room. 

My next mission is to get it framed so that Ms. Z can enjoy it in her room.  I'm hoping this weekend to get out and see if I can find something that I like for it.

Thank you so much, Judy, for sharing something so beautiful with my little girl. 

Rustic Tomato Pincushion

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Rustic Tomato Pincushion In Action

A few pins, a bit of fluffy roving and some brown embroidery floss later, my pincushion is a reality. Believe it or not, my knitting experience came in handy with the seaming of the two woven pieces. Originally, I thought I was going to use back stitch to put the pieces toether. Then I remembered that the backside looks different from the front side, and that the back side doesn't look neat enough when it's going to be exposed. So I ended up using something that reminded me of mattress stitch for seams.

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Close Up View of Rustic Tomato Pincushion

It's a very rustic -- the woven fabric is rustic, the cross stitching in rustic, the backstitching is rustic, the seaming is rustic. But what could be better than turning my own handspun into something useful? This little pincushion has been the gateway to a lot more than just doing cross-stitch again. It made me realize that when I combine my hand spun with my Weavette I have almost endless possibilities for creating templates for small cross stitch projects. Now that indigo dyed wool/silk skein can become a blue background for a small project. I can spin a finer yarn or single and create a template that is less rustic. For someone who almost never sews fabric, it was pleasant to discover that I could work out a way to solve my problem and get the result I was imagining in my head with the few rudimentary skills I acquired when I was in my early teenage years. And this template can be used for more than just pincushions. I can also imagine a pretty little pillow sachet for a lingerie drawer. Add a ribbon and some cedar stuffing and it could be a decorative means of discouraging moths in a closet.

So there you have it. My entry in Julie's May Pincushion Challenge featuring

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Pincushion details:

The foundation is made up of a hand-woven fabric that I created using a 4" x 4" Weavette loom and some of my hand-spun two-ply wool/silk yarn. The tomato was cross-stitched using 6 strands of with DMC embroidery floss and back-stitched with 3 strands of DMC embroidery floss. The inside of the pincushion is lined with a light weight muslin fabric to provide structure and to prevent the stuffing from escaping. It's stuffed with a little bit of lovely and cushiony moorit CVM roving. I seamed the woven pieces and the muslin together usin 2 strands of the same brown DMC floss as I used to backstitch the tomato.

Right now even I am surprised by how little knitting I've been posting about lately. Somehow, MS&W inspired me to get crafty in different ways with wool and thread. I've been doing some knitting and spinning (and I'll be posting more about that later in the week), but it seems to be woven fabrics and thread that are grabbing my attention when it comes to me grabbing projects to work on.

Have you all heard about Julie's Pincushion Challenge? It's similar to some of the other projects out there to encourage people to get crafty and creative. This month's theme is "fruit", so the challenge becomes making a pincushion with a fruity theme.

I have to admit, that I was initially going to pass this one by. I thought it was a clever and neat idea, but I just wasn't coming up with any ideas that I thought I could run with. And then my Weavette came into my life and I picked up my tapestry needles again. What, I thought, about a rustic pincushion that involved cross-stitching somekind of fruit onto a woven square made out of my own hand spun? A trip through my small collection of cross stitch magazines and charts turned up a tomato that was just perfectly sized for my woven squares (you can find it in the March/April 1992 issue of Cross Stitch and Country Crafts). A tomato is a fruit, I thought, and it's also the traditional pincushion form. So it seemed like something I could work with.

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A Tomato Is a Fruit

I started the cross stitching Thursday night and finished it on my way to Ann Arbor Friday night. I really like the rustic quality of the stitching on the woven square made out of my rustic wool/silk handspun. I decided to use all 6 strands of DMC floss over 1 thread in the woven fabric. The backstitching was done with 3 strands..

I've made another plain even weave square to make up the bottom of the cushion, but because of the relatively large gaps between the threads in my woven square, I think I need to have a liner made up of a finer weave fabric that will both hold in the stuffing to poke the pins into and provide a firmer substrate for the pins to be attached to. Enter some muslin that I got from my mom over the weekend. I'm going to sew it on the inside of the two handwoven pieces in the final assembly. Because I like the scalloped edge that resulted when I pulled the square off the loom, I'm going to run a little bit of backstitching along the outside edge and sew all 4 pieces together, leaving a gap where I can insert the stuffing. This will get me a pretty little ruffled edge detail, and be a lot easier than sewing everything inside out and then turning it right-side out to get a pretty seam.

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