Stitching on the go is a great way to eke out stitching time and be more productive.
Most of us have obligations outside the home: We have errands to run, people to chauffeur, meetings and events to attend. These activities often include time sitting and waiting. We wait in the carpool line or at the dentist’s office; we sit and watch swimming practice (or a baseball game); and we sit and listen to speakers at the community council or PTA meeting. All of these are opportunities to get your stitch on, and making use of them will make you more productive and make your time away from home more rewarding.
Plan Ahead: Choose the Right Project
The key to stitching on the go is planning ahead. First, you need to choose a good on-the-go project; not all projects are travel-friendly. For instance, if you need your magnifier or 80 skeins of floss or seed beads, you’re better off leaving that project at home. Better choices include the following:
- Small, portable projects: bookmarks, bracelets, tags, fobs, zipper pulls, cards, barrettes
- Things you can stitch in hand: edge stitches, card stock, Aida, vinylweave, or screen
- Projects for which you don’t need a pattern: repetitive stitches, edge stitches, backstitches, backgrounds, patterns you make up
Prepare Several Projects
On your way out the door is not the ideal time to gather supplies for your on-the-go project. Take time to prepare projects and stash them in bags so they’re ready to go when you are. I might have a project bag stashed in the car; I might have one in my backpack or bag; I always have one on my desk by my computer and phone. Technically, at my desk isn’t “on the go,” but I use the same kinds of projects here, namely things I can pick up and stitch during phone calls and webinars.
Sample On-the-Go Projects
Five bracelets, in various stages of progress, are bagged and ready for stitching on the go. The edges and back side are all stitched in hand with repetitive (easy to memorize) stitches.
I will stitch the decorative portion of a bracelet at home, then stash it in a bag with a needle and pearl thread so I can stitch the edges and back anytime, anywhere. If I needed a pattern, I’d make a working copy of just the part I needed and tuck it into the bag. Edge stitches, however, tend to be straightforward and repetitive, which makes them easy to memorize. As an extreme minimalist, I don’t want to lug a pattern around with me, so I’ve committed edge stitches to memory.
Blanket stitching around the perimeter of a barrette (or tag or something else) is easy to do in hand and requires few materials. I used a hoop for the pulled-thread interiors.
Blanket stitching around the edge of a future barrette is always an option, as is doodling for a zipper pull or paperclip.
This snapped pouch is just the right size to hold a license, credit card, and cash–or a gift card.
My most recent stitching-on-the-go project was a “card keeper.” It’s a small, snapped, wallet-like pouch that holds a license, credit card, cash—or a gift card. I carried this project around while on vacation the past few weeks, stitching here and there as circumstances allowed: sitting around the table after dinner, during eucher and movies.
The completed pouch fits in my pocket and is a great alternative when I don’t want to carry a wallet or purse. I think these card keepers would make great gifts—especially if you’re giving a gift card. In fact, all of these small projects make great gifts.
Summer’s a great time to be out and about. Think of all the stitching you might get done while you’re enjoying sun and sand, family and friends, games and outings.
How much stitching on the go do you do already? What are some stitching-on-the-go projects that you’d like to do? What will it take to prepare them so they’re ready to grab and go? Yes, I really want to know. I always want to know; you know that!
I love baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, embroidery…
(In truth, I love only three of those things.)
6 Reasons to Stitch at Baseball Games
‘Tis the season for stitching in the stands…or the dugout. Whether you’re watching in Camden Yards or the backyard, and maybe even if you’re playing, baseball games can be good places to get your stitching on.
- There’s a heap of down time between pitches, batters, innings, and games when you can sneak in a few (hundred) stitches.
- Natural daylight is The Best for stitching, and the bright lights at night games work, too.
- You’re stitching in public, which is great for meeting other stitchers, entertaining those around you, and sharing stitchy fun. (Take extra supplies for interested onlookers.)
- You’re multi-tasking, supporting a great person or team and crafting something cool (perhaps a gift) simultaneously.
- Keeping your hands busy is a good excuse to pass on less-than-healthy ballpark food. (Or forget nutrition and stitch a napkin so you have something to wipe your hands on.)
- If you stab your finger, you can jump around, scream, and holler, and people won’t think you’re odd; they’ll admire your team spirit.
What to Stitch at Baseball Games
Something smallish, so it’s easy to keep track of, pick up, and put down. You’re not going to haul your floor frame out to the field, I’m guessing, and I don’t advise anything with confetti stitches, goldwork, seed beads, etc. Good ‘ol cross stitch comes to mind.
Oh, I know! How about a baseball-themed bookmark—or mini picture, book cover, etc.? We’ve got two baseball-themed patterns, pitched as bookmarks, both of which can be stitched in hand, so no hoop or frame necessary. Both are digi-pats (digital patterns), so you can print just the pattern page to take along (no multi-page leaflet), and you don’t have to worry about folding it, stepping on it, or otherwise trashing it because you can always print another as needed.
Going, Going, Gone! Baseball Cross Stitch Pattern
Going, Going, Gone! is a cross stitch baseball bookmark pattern. I’ve stitched it on a Tokens & Trifles star card, but it can be stitched on fabric, too.
Going, Going, Gone! uses a Tokens & Trifles star stitching card, which is great for stitching in hand, but you can also stitch the pattern on fabric for framing or finishing any number of other ways. It uses just a handful of thread colors and is even available as a kit, with all the materials already collected and bagged.
If you stitch the perimeter stitches of different areas, you can then leave the pattern at home and fill in background and ball stitches while at a game. When I’m out and about, I find it easier to stitch if I don’t need a pattern.
Play Ball! Baseball Cross Stitch Pattern
The Funk & Weber Designs cross stitch baseball bookmark pattern: Play Ball!
Play Ball is stitched on a bookmark form from Charles Craft. The edges are already neatly and securely finished, and the form is easily stitched in hand.
I love how this one can be personalized: Use your team colors on the hat and for the French knot players on the field. Got a lefty out on the field? Swap the right-hand glove for the left-hand one. (Mike thought of this: He’s a lefty.)
In our quest to find time to stitch, making use of out-and-about time is a great way to get more done. It takes some thought and preparation—I will actually plan and assemble grab-and-go projects—but the payoff is fantastic: I’m present where I need to be; I’m well entertained; I’m accomplishing things I want to accomplish.
Do you stitch when you’re out and about? What do you like best to stitch when you’re on the go? Got any tips you can share?
Our exploration of ways to start threads when cross stitching or otherwise embroidering now comes to the Loop Start, or what might be called the Cow Hitch Start.
So far, this appears to be the favorite thread-starting method amongst readers here, who are mostly cross stitching, I think, but I use this even less often than I use waste knots. I’ll explain why in a bit. First, let’s go over how a Loop Start is done.
Thread the Needle
To thread our needle, instead of cutting our floss 18 inches long and stripping out 2 strands, we’re going to cut our floss 36 inches long and remove just one strand.
Fold the strand in half and put the eye of the needle over either the 2 ends or the loop in the center of the thread.
We will stitch with 2 strands, but they will be connected. If you want to stitch with 4 strands, use 2 lengths of floss. If you want to use 1 or 3 or any odd number of strands, use another start method.
Secure the Thread
Take the needle down through the fabric from the top where the first stitch will be, but don’t pull the thread all the way through. Bring the needle back to the top for the first leg of a cross stitch.
Take the needle through the thread loop, and pull it snug.
It’s a Cow Hitch!
This makes a cow hitch, and it’s nicely secure; no pulling the tail through when you put a little tension on the thread as can happen when threading the tail under previous stitches, and no knot to create a bump on the back side.
Yeah, yeah. It’s on the front, and we want it on the back, so…
Pull Loop to the Back
Put the needle down through either of the holes you’ve already passed through, and—voila!—the loop is on the back side.
Proceed with stitching, la la-la la-la…
Benefits of the Loop Start
- It’s very secure. No tails pulling through.
- No lumpy knot.
- Good for isolated stitches.
- It can be executed from the top of the embroidery. No need to flip the piece over, which can be a pain if, say, you’ve got your hoop clamped to a table. (I had no idea how much of a problem flipping a piece over is for some of us—and by “us,” I mean “you”!)
- What else? Pipe up in the comments, and I’ll add other benefits here.
Drawbacks of the Loop Start
- Head-to-foot orientation of threads.
- Even number limitation.
The biggest gripe I hear about this method is that by looping a long strand, each of the 2 strands is “going a different direction.” Think about it: The snipped head and the snipped foot are paired side-by-side.
“Why is this a problem?” you ask.
Well, like some fabrics and carpets (think: velvet, think: shag) threads have a nap. You know what happens when you rub your hand across a velvet couch or vacuum a shag carpet: If the threads aren’t all laying the same way, it’s visible; you end up with lines on your couch or in your carpet.
Threads have a nap, too. The fibers naturally lay a certain way, and if you rub them the opposite way, say, as you pull them through the ground fabric, you might disrupt the natural flow and cause the thread to look fuzzy.
Try this: Strip out a single strand of floss. Pull it from top to bottom between your thumb and forefinger. Look closely: Does it look smooth or fuzzy? Now flip it on its head and pull it through your fingers again. How does it look now? The same or smoother or fuzzier? If you notice a difference, you’re seeing the nap in the fiber.
By using 2 strands, paired head to foot, one might look fuzzy when pulled through the fabric. If there’s a sheen to the fiber, laying them in opposite directions will alter the look of that sheen.
However, all this said, I’m going to ask you: Do you notice a nap? I did an experiment.
Can you tell a difference between the top and bottom stitching? One uses a Loop Start; the other uses a Buried-Tail Start. Does thread nap make a visible difference to you?
Can you tell which of the two stitched bars above uses a Loop Start? Does thread nap make a difference when using two strands head-to-foot?
I used the Loop Start on the bottom bar. I can convince myself that I see a slight difference on the zoomed-in, blown-up picture, but I do not see any difference in the real stitched McCoy. This is DMC thread. Wool, I suspect, might produce a different result. I think wool has more of a nap. I’ll try it when I get home to my stash. When using DMC, which is a staple for cross stitchers, I think the nap issue is minimal.
Another potential head-to-foot issue occurs when using variegated or hand-dyed threads: The colors of the 2 strands won’t be the same. That’s only a problem if you want the colors to be the same. In fact, turning one thread over to mix up the colors is a technique I recommend for a tweed look. (Nap, schmap!)
However, I have a different objection to the Loop Start: It works only if we’re using an even number of threads, and I typically use three strands for cross stitching.
The top two bars use 2 strands of floss; the bottom bar uses 3 strands.
When I started stitching, I used the recommended 2 strands of floss for 14- and 16-count fabrics. Then I tried 3 strands and decided I liked it better. As you would expect, there’s more coverage with 3 strands, and you know me: I love colors that scream, so of course I like a more saturated look. That’s why I rarely use the Loop Start when cross stitching. Well, that and I didn’t learn about the Loop Start until I already had my thread-start groove.
Then there’s using single strands of pearl and specialty threads. Here, again, the Loop Start isn’t my first choice.
Can you think of any other drawbacks to the Loop Start?
As with all stitchy techniques, if it works and you like it, use it!
This is still not the last word on starting threads—no, siree! There are at least two more methods we’ll explore. I know one of them but have to look up the other. Page 18 or 20, our guru, Marion, says—I don’t remember which. Trouble is, the book’s at home and I am not. I’ve adopted a number of Marion’s tricks, so I’m eager to take a good look at this one!
Starting Threads with a Pinhead Stitch
Starting Threads with Waste Knots
Edge stitching can be a good option when stitching in hand is more convenient than stitching with a hoop or frame. Plus, with a repetitive stitch you won’t need to constantly refer to a pattern. Just pick the piece up and stitch.
So, I have another thought on squeezing stitching time out of a jam-packed day: something along the lines of “drive-by stitching.”
The idea is to keep a project in a high-traffic area so it’s there and ready when you’re passing by, briefly waiting, or able to sneak in a few stitches.
It’s much like having a floor frame set up, always ready to go, but a floor frame probably isn’t going to live in a high-traffic area because it takes up too much space and is too hard to move or navigate around. You have to go to it, which, believe it or not, can be a hurdle. A hurdle doesn’t have to be big to trip you up, as anyone who’s stumbled over a carpet corner can attest.
Drive-by stitching has to be easy. No obstacles. A piece on the kitchen counter is more likely to get your attention—and perhaps more likely to get splashed with salad dressing, but work with me here. Maybe it’s not on the counter, but on a desk by the counter or a shelf above the counter.
Okay, what if it’s in the bathroom? True story: I once stitched in a bathroom, having a lengthy and serious conversation with a four-year-old who was taking a bath, or, at least, was playing in a tub filled with water.
Bracelets–especially bracelet edges–are super drive-by projects. You could whip out part of a bracelet edge while you’re on the phone…talking, not texting.
It probably helps if it’s a piece that can be worked in hand or can live in a hoop or Q-snap so that no setting up is required. Small ornaments, tags, earrings, and edge stitching come to mind.
You can even make a game of it. The needlework is a toll booth: You can’t pass without paying 5 stitches. Ooo…a game! Anyone up for a little competition?
What do you think: Might you get some stitching done this way?
I admit it: When I start the first thread of a project or start a thread in a new, empty area where there are no previous stitches under which to bury a thread tail, I usually just hold the thread at the back with my finger, and work it under the first few stitches. For some stitchers this is a frustrating hassle that leads to poorly anchored and/or messy thread tails. There is an easier, tidier way, and it’s called a “waste knot.”
Waste knots are temporary anchors that hold the thread securely and taut while you get the first stitches placed and until you have a way to bury a short tail. At that point, you cut the knot off the working thread and either trim or bury the tail.
Two kinds of waste knots cover most of our stitching needs: In-line waste knots and away waste knots. Use an in-line knot if you’re making a row of stitches. The knot will be in line with the row so that you bury the tail when you make the first stitches. Use an away knot when you’re making isolated stitches or something other than cross or tent stitches that won’t secure the tail in the first few stitches.
In-line Waste Knots For Starting Threads
Secure the Knot
Tie a substantial knot (think: big and messy) in the end of your thread and insert the needle on the front of the fabric about two inches down the row you’ll be stitching.
I’m making a row of cross stitches, from left to right. I place the knot down the line to the right and carry the thread across the back to the first stitch. I make the first four stitches, half crosses which I’ll complete on the return journey.
Stitch Over the Thread Tail
As I make the first stitches, I stitch over the carried thread on the back side. This anchors the thread tail. Three or four stitches are enough to secure the thread.
This is the back side, so the knot is now on the left on the other side of the fabric.
Cut the Knot
On the right side, pull the knot up from the fabric and snip the thread beneath it.
Trim the Tail
On the back side, trim the tail close to the anchoring stitches. You want to trim close so bits of thread aren’t pulled to the front on subsequent stitches. Sharp embroidery scissors make it easy to cut close.
Away Waste Knots for Starting Threads
Secure the Knot
Tie a substantial knot in the end of your thread and insert the needle on the front of the fabric about three or four inches away from where you’ll be stitching. You want the extra thread length because you’ll need to thread the tail into your needle to work it under other stitches.
I placed my knot in the lower left corner then made a wonky eyelet. It’s not the easiest stitch under which to secure a tail.
Cut the Knot
On the right side, pull the knot up from the fabric and snip the thread beneath it. Or cut the thread from the back side. Whatever you prefer.
Secure and Trim the Tail
For the eyelet, I wrap the tail round the center hole, under the stitched legs. For added security, I split a couple of fibers with my needle and work the tails through the split. This just adds a little resistance so the thread is less likely to be pulled out.
How’s that for easy and tidy?
Once you’ve got stitches on the ground fabric, you can start new threads by threading the tail under a few stitches on the back.
If you’re making an isolated stitch that really doesn’t allow for burying a tail, a pinhead stitch may be useful.
So how do you normally start threads in empty areas? Do you use waste knots, or are you more likely to wing it as I do?
We’re springing forward today, which seems like a good excuse to spring into action with some sort of new project or new technique, and Interweave is tempting (enabling?) us with a one-day deal: Save 40% on One Needlework Item with the Offer Code DAYLIGHT40. Yes, that’s all caps, well, except the numbers.
What I Love at Interweave
Piecework and Cloth, Paper, Scissors are two of my favorite magazines. Piecework contains articles and projects for embroidery as well as knitting, crochet, lace-making, and more. Cloth, Paper, Scissors is a mixed-media mag. They offer print and digital versions, subscriptions and individual issues, collections and more.
Dorset Buttons Webinar
I took this class when it ran live. I’ve been into buttons for a while. I’ve covered buttons with embroidery and used them on clothes and bags, and I’ve applied button embellishments to embroidery.
Now I’m making buttons to embellish embroidery. Got that? Among other things, I like the idea of a stitched button as the “other end” of a book thong: It’s cool; it’s relatively fast to create; and it adds a nice bit of weight. I also like the idea of stitching buttons for use on bead-encrusted embroidered barrettes.
With our Finish It In ’14 focus this year, I’m reminded of this book. Embroidery hoops can serve as simple frames for embroidery projects, and this books demonstrates how. I like the suggested methods for altering hoops to pretty them up, and I like the mobile and jewelry-hang-up ideas. The book also contains patterns and project instructions, but I used it as an idea generator.
Of course, Interweave offers much more; these are just things I know and like. Today, Sunday, you can get 40% off one Needlework item with the code DAYLIGHT40. Click any of these links; browse the site; use the code (all caps) at checkout. Enjoy!
Is there anything at Interweave that you’d recommend? Please share in the comments. I might try the silk button class.
Yes indeedy, these are all affiliate links.
March is National Craft Month. Given that most of us around here are needleworkers, crafting is already a part of our lives, so merely doing something crafty is not much of a celebration.
To my way of thinking, a “celebration” should be something special, not something we do every day. As crafters, we’re going to have to stretch a little farther to give this month its due. Here are ten ways we might do that:
Can you tell what I’m working on just now? These are some of the materials I’m using.
If your crafting time has diminished or completely disappeared in the busyness of life, now’s the time to Cre8time to be Cre8tive. The start of a new month, the celebration of a national event: These are great reasons to establish or re-establish new habits or a new schedule, one that carves out time for you to do something you love and you know is important.
Mike and I have re-established our reading-and-stitching evenings. I can’t show you what I’m working on just now, but these are some of the things I’m using.
What are you working on? Will you enter something in this contest? I think I’ll enter one of my barrettes.
I have been asked more than once how we can make cross stitching and other embroidery “cool.”
I don’t know why I’m being asked that, unless it has to do with my Alaska locale, in which case I’m beyond cool.
However, if you ask me how to make stitching sexy, I might have a viable answer.
See? Stitching is sexy. I’m not making it up.
According to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, “stitch” is a euphemism for “sex” or, specifically, “lying with a woman.”
Now, if you want, you can argue with me that this definition means a man and woman are merely not telling the truth. It seems that would be likely true in this case, too, but I’m pretty sure this is also a reference to sex.
So there you have it. People in the 1800s knew stitching was sexy. Now you do, too. All we have to do is show everyone else.
You can download a Kindle copy of 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (which as I make this link is free—I have no idea how long it will remain free) or purchase a 2012 printing of the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – The Original Classic Edition
So…are you going to stitch tonight?
Yep, me too.
Lost your stitching mojo?
No worries. Get your stitchback.
“A good picture deserves a good frame and a bad picture may sometimes preserve its place longer by having a handsome frame.” ~ Charles Willson Peal c. 1807
So I was reading about the history of picture frames. They’ve been a part of Western art since early Roman times. Hmmm…is this an excuse to revisit Italy photos? Why, yes, I believe it is!
In the Medieval period, the 11th and 12th centuries, the frame was painted as part of the picture, like these frescoes in Villa d’Este.
A patterned frame is painted around a hunting scene in this fresco at Villa d’Este in Italy.
This fresco, painted above a window, also has a frame painted around it.
The first wooden frames appeared during the 13th century. They were used in churches and were built by craftsmen who built screens, pulpits, and choir stalls.
Here’s a very plain wood frame. I wonder if it is actually from this time period.
This looks more like something a choir stall craftsman would make, don’t you think?
Many of the wood frames during this period were arched triptychs. We saw these triptychs, but apparently only in No Photos zones.
Another popular 13th-century style was tabernacle frames, which incorporated pilasters and half columns. These, I believe, are tabernacle frames.
Saint Lucy in a tabernacle frame.
Perugino’s “Assumption of Mary” in a tabernacle frame.
During the Renaissance, frame making passed from the artists themselves to furniture and cabinet makers, and the a new craft evolved, which spread throughout Europe. But I don’t have pictures of that, so I’m ending the story here. Interesting subject, though. And oh so fun to realize that I’ve seen some of the early Western frames.
The D-I-Y Framing Class
Just like the great artists of Italy, we’ll be making our own frames for our embroidery in February! (How’s that for a segue?)
We’re holding another contest to give away a spot in that class. Follow instructions in the box below to earn as many as three entries in the contest.
Mark. Set. Go!
Update: Your first entry asks you to answer a question, and then you click “Enter.” You’re supposed to type your answer in the comments; the box takes your word for it that you did, indeed, answer the question. I realize that wasn’t made clear at all! I’m learning…
If you clicked “Enter,” you’re entered, but from here on out, please type your answer to the question in the comments. Thanks!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Vicki made this comment after the Finish It stitchinar:
Some ornaments are challenging to me…they never seem to turn out as I envision them.
Who here can’t relate to that? I think every crafter and artist experiences this, and while I know it can be frustrating and disappointing, I think it’s inevitable—dare I say necessary?—and even good in the long run.
Becca’s (deliberately) wonky bookmark finish from the Bookmarks 101 finishing class.
Our Nutty friend, Becca, created this bookmark in the Bookmarks 101: Simple, Smart, and Swanky Finishes class.
She chose to try a wonky finish, scrunching her rolled hem and stitching in a non-linear, non-counted way.
She wasn’t especially pleased with the result.
I, however, was. Right off the bat. I think it works wonderfully!
First, Becca painted the fabric. An experiment with new fabric spray paints. I love the portion she chose to stitch and how the gold comes off the dragon’s back, giving it a magical, sparkly glow. The wonky, wavy hem was also an experiment. She was trying something new, throwing caution to the wind.
The wavy hem suggests a dream to me. You know how in movies when a character has a flashback or is dreaming, it’s indicated by a watery, wavy transition to the new scene? I think this border has a similar effect. It suggests a mythical, dream-like scene, which is perfect for a glittery dragon, don’t you think?
Seeing the piece through my eyes gave Becca a new perspective, and the bookmark worked its magic, endearing itself to her. She grew to like it. If she hadn’t grown to like it, she was supposed to send it to me, and I don’t have it, so she must like it.
Clearly, the bookmark wasn’t what she envisioned, if she envisioned anything. But was the finish bad? Not at all, in this case.
If your finish isn’t what you envisioned, try to look at it objectively. So it wasn’t what you had in mind, is it nice in its own right? Any chance it’s even better than what you envisioned? Give it a chance before writing it off as a failure.
The Wild Life Rejects pillow. These four blocks didn’t make the cut and were re-designed and re-stitched.
Now, experiments don’t always work out as well as Becca’s did. If I had my stash on hand, I could demonstrate that with numerous models; I rarely throw things away, even my “failures.” When I was working out the Bracelet Basics
pattern, it went through several iterations before becoming something worthy of publishing.
The caribou that finally made it into the Portraits of the Wild Life pattern was the fourth try. I have three fully stitched but ultimately rejected caribou blocks. (The antlers were a bear!) This pillow is made up of other Wild Life rejects.
Sometimes it takes practice or figuring to develop a great method or design. We must be willing to practice. We shouldn’t expect to be perfect right out of the starting gate.
In trying new stitchy finishes (and pretty much everything new), we have to be willing to trust the process and see what happens. If the end product isn’t what we envisioned, that’s okay. Is it something great in its own right? Did we learn something that will make the next one better? When all is said and done, I think both of those are good outcomes.
Want to learn to frame your own embroidery? Take the D-I-Y Framing class in February!