Sunday, August 2, 2020

Review: Cobble Hill Jigsaw Puzzles

"Love Never Faileth" - one of my favourite details from Grandma's Buttons

The world has become really overwhelming since the last time I posted! I hope you and your loved ones are keeping well, as much as possible right now ๐Ÿ€

One of the few perks of the pandemic is a renewed interest in jigsaw puzzling ๐Ÿงฉ In my family, we usually always did a puzzle together at Christmastime; often Santa Claus would leave a gift for "all of us" under the tree, and in the post-Christmas lull we would all put a few pieces in here and there. I have very happy memories of those times ๐Ÿ’•

What I've never done, until now, is buy a puzzle for myself and put it together from start to finish alone - and I've discovered that I really love it! When I can't focus on anything else, or I'm feeling restless, anxious or upset, working on a puzzle calms me down. I love the bright colours, shifting the pieces through my hands, knowing that it will all fit together in the end - somehow ๐Ÿ˜† I enjoy the process as much as the finished result.

As a consequence, I've discovered a whole new world of premium puzzle manufacturers and puzzling fans and reviewers! For anyone else getting back into the world of puzzles, I highly recommend having a look at brand websites, YouTube reviews that show actual puzzles in assembly to get a feel for a brand's design, and searching for puzzle blogs. I've only scratched the tip of the iceberg, but I was happy to find a thriving online jigsaw community that is currently growing by leaps and bounds!

A trio of helpful links to start with:
๐Ÿงฉ Jigsaw Junkie's extensive Brand Comparison
๐Ÿงฉ Karen Puzzles on YouTube, with helpful videos on all aspects of puzzling;
๐Ÿงฉ and My Jigsaw Journey, the blog of an avid puzzler!

First, I worked through my small pile of puzzles from Christmases past. My favourite was this one, Cobble Hill's Sewing Notions:

I bought this for us for Christmas 2016, but that was a very difficult time with a death in the family and so I didn't put it together until April 2019. The gorgeous image - which includes vintage needlebooks, needle packages, embroidery floss, wooden thread spools, crochet hooks, knitting needles, and many buttons! - is by amazing college artist Shelley Davies. My favourite detail is this vintage cross-stitch band:

And to my surprise and delight, when I posted about this puzzle on Instagram, Shelley told me that it's actually pillowcases that her Grandmother made! How wonderful is that?! One of the things I love about most needlework is the way it transcends generations and is often passed down in families ๐Ÿ˜Š

Notice the beige edging on the box: this is the old-style Cobble Hill puzzle, starting with number 5 (it is now available in the improved new version, but this is something to be aware of as older stock may still exist in stores). They do not have a reference poster, so the corner with the logo is a mystery. Also, although I love the image so much, the cut on the pieces wasn't great, with a lot of "play" between them - you couldn't put small sections together and then move them to the board. It was also my first random cut puzzle, where all the pieces are different shapes, and it was very challenging at first! It's something I've really come to love though, you know for sure you have the right piece in the right place. And the unique shapes are interesting to the eye.

Recently, I treated myself to two more of Cobble Hill's crafty puzzles:

You can see these are the new number 8 series, with a green edging. The number 5 series puzzles had a sky-blue cardboard for the pieces, which didn't fit together as well as they could. I'm happy to report the new version - with a regular cardboard back - fits together beautifully! These new puzzles share the lovely matte linen finish of the last series. Both come with a "poster", which to my delight is an uncreased great quality print, suitable for framing for your craft room!

This puzzle was a delight to put together from start to finish!

It was so fun to look at all the different buttons! In my family, we have a tradition of button tins. I have fond memories from when I was very young of playing with my Great-Grandmother's button tin; I could spend ages shifting the buttons through my hands, marvelling at the different colours, shapes and textures. Not much has changed ๐Ÿ˜† My Grandma has several small collections, mostly lost and orphaned buttons; my Mom has a large collection, mostly on cards from her sewing days; and I'm proud to have my own these days! Some of the buttons in the puzzle were similar to ones in our collections, and some - like the sparkler on top of this dish - I'd love to own!

With this puzzle, I found myself putting together each dish by colour, then doing the edges of the dishes, followed by the pretty vintage floral background.

I love the little ribbon roses in this dish too!

And this single gold-rimmed dish reminds me of beautiful real Mother-of-Pearl buttons that were plentiful in my Great-Grandma's button tin, so long ago ๐Ÿ˜Š

Since I was a young child, I've been fascinated by crazy quilts! The traditional rich jewel tone colours, the beautiful specialty fabrics like velvet and satin, all the different textures of appliques and ephemera, the intricate combinations of stitches - it all speaks to my stitchy soul and my magpie stashing instinct! I would love to make one of my own some day, and I have been collecting a few books on the subject for inspiration.

So I was thrilled to discover Cobble Hill's Crazy Quilt puzzle:

This was another puzzle I greatly enjoyed and would highly recommend, but it is definitely on the more challenging side! I had thought that I would enjoy following the stitches in the seam treatments, but the puzzle image is a painting by Helen Klebesadel (from her series Watercolor Quilts: Everyday Use) and up close all the stitches fragment so you can't really match them up. The colours are much farther ranging than the brights you immediately see, because the draping of the quilt necessitates lots of really dark shading. So I put the pieces together by colour!

It's a very fun effect, because while you're working close up with the pieces it almost looks like stained glass, and then when you step back from it, all the stitches finally come into focus and you see the quilting effect! Although the cover image is vertical I ended up putting together the puzzle horizontally, as I find it easier to reach that way.

I use a sheet of black foam board core and hold it in my lap, across the arms of a comfy chair; it's light and maneuverable, the dark colour makes the pieces show up, and it's easy to stow away under a couch or a bed while the puzzle is in progress. And, as you can see, it's just the right size for most 1000 piece puzzles!

My Some Day Crazy Quilt will definitely have a fan motif, I've always been drawn to them - so I was thrilled to discover this one in the puzzle (there is also a traditional cobweb too)! It was also very fun to try and identify the different embroidery stitches used. This is one of the most challenging puzzles I've ever done, and the most challenging puzzle I've ever done solo, but it was worth it and it's one I can see doing again and again.

Although Cobble Hill puzzles are in the pricier "premium puzzle" bracket, I think they give excellent value for money and are sturdy, to withstand repeated assemblies. I love both of these images enough to do the puzzles again, and they would make great gifts for a housebound stitchy friend! Although jigsaw puzzles have been nearly impossible to buy during the pandemic, due to renewed interest and manufacturer closures, Cobble Hill has recently reopened and is slowly restocking, and I've noticed that a lot of other puzzle companies are doing the same. I have bought all of mine on Amazon Canada.

Do you do jigsaw puzzles? Do you have a favourite brand or subject? In addition to crafty things, I love bright colours and also enjoy bird and flowers motifs - not unlike my stitching preferences, in fact ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Flashback: Easy Felt Easter Ornaments

Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Happy Everything! This year, due to the pandemic, I think Easter is going to look very different for everyone, but if you have some extra time this afternoon and would like to make something for the holiday, I have an older tutorial (from 2015) that you might enjoy for Fun Felt Easter Egg ornaments!

They're really simple - just pull out your stash of felt and your embellishment tin (or wherever you keep your sparkly bits!) and go to town with your imagination ๐Ÿ˜†

This egg with the ribbon embroidery - which was surprisingly simple! - is probably my favourite ๐ŸŒธ The beaded ruching was really fun to do and it turned out to be really pretty. It's a technique I'm definitely going to try again in a future project. I think it would make a great edging for an ornament too!

Wherever you are and whatever you're doing this year, I wish you a Spring filled with Sunshine, Flowers and Small Joys Everywhere ๐Ÿ’• And lots of Creativity too! ๐ŸŽจ

Friday, January 3, 2020

๐Ÿงต A Needlepoint Round Robin! ๐Ÿงต

Happy New Year ๐ŸŽ‰ Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2020 brings lots of lovely stitching your way ๐Ÿ˜Š I had a fun stitchy adventure over the Holidays! My friend Shannan of Bobbin and Fred told me a about the #passthecanvas project hosted by Dish on Instagram (@dishingstitches) a few months ago and I was so excited to join in!

Dish is sending her beautiful funky geometric needlepoint canvas to stitchers around the world, like a round robin, and we each stitch five blocks in a week before sending it to the next stop! Happily, I received the canvas on December 30th, and I really enjoyed working on it in the quiet of the post-Christmas rush - it's now on it's way from snowy Newfoundland & Labrador ❄ to sunny Florida ๐Ÿ๐ŸŠ

It has been many - MANY - years since I last tried needlepoint! When I was a teenager, I made a sampler out of my Stitchy Guru Mother's leftover supplies from her own bargello adventures in the 1970s. I used her vintage stitch guides to make an add-as-you-go mix of stitch blocks. I remember working on it all one Summer - it was my first and last experience trying to stitch outdoors ๐Ÿ˜‚ The wind liked to play with my threads, all the bright colours attracted flies and creepy crawlies, the sun was in my eyes - it was awful! And the edges of the canvas, even covered with masking tape, were so sharp that I took to wearing a pair of neon pink and black leg warmers on my arms to protect them from scratches, and they were way too hot, which added to the misery ๐Ÿคฃ

That sampler is still in a tote box, waiting to be made into a cushion. I always meant to try more needlepoint, but I had trouble finding the supplies. So although I was super excited to add my block to the travelling canvas, when I first opened it, I was a little intimidated too. I had no idea what threads or stitches to use!

Here's the canvas as I received it! There are so many beautiful blocks, in all kinds of threads - velvets, braids, wools, metallics, and cottons. The stitch texture is fabulous, I wish you could run your fingers over the blocks and feel the stitches for yourself!

The package came with the canvas, a white storage bag (I just used the Ziploc the canvas was in), a little blue book to record your name, stitches used and materials used (which was so helpful and inspiring to read, especially the little messages to other stitchers!), and a cute little pocket stitch guide that was SUPER HELPFUL:

It's hard to tell from this photo, but it's a tiny book! With my favourite lay-flat coil binding. Small enough to slip in a project bag, and packed full of stitch diagrams:

I had so much fun flipping through this little guide and wondering what stitches I could try! Here are my five blocks, with a bit about stitching them:

Like most of the other stitchers, I chose my colours based on the printed blocks on the canvas. I started with the center block, using a leftover black Kreinik braid from the Bag O' Bits I received for the SFSNAD Challenge. I taught myself Norwich Stitch from the stitch guide (although I modified to fit the smaller space).

I absolutely LOVE this stitch, and it's one I will try again! It results in a wonderful woven effect ๐Ÿ˜ It looks complex, but is surprisingly quick and easy to do as long as you pay careful attention to the order of the stitches. Using a non-divisible thread like the braid makes the woven effect stand out and makes it easier to lay the stitches.

Then I added the teal block. I knew I wanted lots of sparkle, but I didn't have many thicker threads suitable to needlepoint canvas on hand. I had intended to buy some DMC perle (pearl) cotton for this project, once I knew which blocks/colours I was stitching, but it being the Holidays, the local quilt shop that carries it was closed and I didn't have time to order anything online.

So I improvised! For this block, I used DMC 3812 (nine strands) with Gutermann Metallic Blending Filament in #235 (4 strands) and did a slanted Satin Stitch.

The small blue block was next. This was my first time using the new DMC Etoile thread in C798 (a gift from my friend Karen!). It is very different than regular floss, it is fluffy and spreads easily, giving it great coverage! I used 9 strands, and it worked great on this canvas. I intended to make Smyrna Cross Stitches, but I liked the base Cross Stitches so much I left them - I love the filigree look, where the canvas peeks through! I added a Woven Cross Stitch in the corner where both stripes meet.

And now for the BLING:

This is, without a doubt, my favourite block ๐Ÿ˜† You know how I love glitter!

This magnificent beauty is Needlecraft Craft Cord, meant for needlepoint and plastic canvas! It has a white base with a rainbow of pastel metallics woven in, in shades of teal, pink and gold. It is #55026, Rainbow White Frizette.

It came in a small bag of stitchy supplies from a thrift store that I bought several years ago, and I have been looking for a way to use it ever since! I was so disappointed when I realized it was too thick to go through the canvas easily. I put it aside, but in the end I decided I really wanted to make it work. So I laid it on top of the canvas, weaving it together at the corner (inspired by the Norwich stitch) and then worked Padded Brick stitch over top, with DMC 957 (six strands). It's a little wonky, and definitely quirky - so much so that I debated taking it out for a while - but it's super sparkly and love it ✨

And for my last block, I ended up going entirely off script. It was spontaneously stitched (seems to be my new stitchy theme lately, and I'm really loving this approach)! I wanted something softer after the bling block, so I used DMC 964 (9 strands) to stitch what I think is Smyrna Star, On Point, with Compensation Stitch edging (aka Make It Up As You Go Along Stitch) ๐Ÿ˜‚ It's not quite what I had in mind when I started stitching, but I do like the fun zig-zag bumpy texture and the pretty seafoam green colour.

And finally, I stitched my initials next to Shannan's (hers are in blue, to the left of mine, and her blocks are on the lower left of mine) using the same pink from the bling block. It is amazing to be part of project with stitchers I don't know from all over the world, but it is also really cool to stitch on the same project with a stitchy friend I do know, which is why I chose to stitch my blocks next to the ones Shannan did ๐Ÿค— I did tent stitch first like all the other stitchers but then couldn't resist making them Cross Stitches ๐Ÿ˜

And here is the canvas, ready to pass on to the next stitcher! I'm so glad that I had to chance to participate in #passthecanvas, and it's inspired me to try more needlepoint in the future ❤๐Ÿงต And if you have any online suppliers you'd recommend, I'd love to hear about them! I've been looking for Canadian shops, but haven't had much luck so far in finding blank needlepoint canvas; most offerings are tent stitch kits, or painted.

Have you participated in a crafty round robin project, or would you like to?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

❤๐Ÿงต๐ŸŽ„ Merry Stitchmas! ๐ŸŽ„๐Ÿงต❤

It's so hard to believe that the Holidays have come around again! Seems like only yesterday I was getting ready for last Christmas ๐Ÿ˜‚ 2019 has been another challenging year for me, with serious illness in the family that demanded most of my attention.

Thank you so much to everyone who still reads these posts and has left kind comments, they mean the world to me ๐Ÿ’ Hopefully 2020 will be a better blogging year ☘

Wishing you a Christmas that is Merry & Bright
and a Stitchtacular New Year!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

๐ŸŽ„ Stitchy News: Holiday Special ๐ŸŽ„

It's that time of the year again, and the Holiday Rush is upon us! It's the first time in forever that I've done a Stitchy News post, but I have some exciting news to share with you today, including an online stitchy advent calendar and a great giveaway! ❤๐ŸŽ„❤

Mary Corbet of Needle N' Thread is generously running her fabulous A Stitcher's Christmas giveaway series again this year, where she shares top of the line embroidery notions and supplies! She's currently on the 2nd Giveaway, so make sure to visit the website or sign up to her free newsletter (which sends you the blog posts as they are published) to keep up with the giveaways. If you're new to A Stitcher's Christmas, please visit this year's first post for more information on how it all works ๐Ÿ˜‰

It's a super popular series, and there's often hundreds of entries for each giveaway, which can seem discouraging. But I was incredibly fortunate, and won the Inspirations Giveaway from 2017 , so if I can win, you can too! I wasn't blogging at the time so I haven't shared my kit finishes yet but I will soon. It was an incredibly difficult year for me, the first Christmas after my beloved Grandpa died (on Christmas Day 2016) and that prize made me pick up my needle and thread for the first time in over a year, and helped get me through a terrible time. Best of luck to you if you enter ☘

Laura at Bugs and Fishes has a super cute Retro Felt Baubles Tutorial for you, great for making last minute Christmas gifts! If you leave the ornaments unpadded, as Laura mentions, they would also be fabulous for sending in Christmas cards. There's all kinds of possibilities to pull out your embellishment tin and go crazy, and I think these would be a great way to use scraps of pretty trims and edgings!

DMC has a number of free holiday patterns, including this pretty Nordic Heart. It uses two shades of the shimmering new Etoile floss, but would look lovely in a single shade of variegated Coloris too! There's a cute Coloris Christmas Tree freebie as well.

The wonderfully imaginative Jo at Serendipitous Stitching is hosting her annual Online Advent Calendar Blog Hop again this year! The image above is one of my favourite finishes of Jo's, from her very first 2011 Online Advent Calendar ๐Ÿ˜ƒ This is such a great event, where stitchers share some holiday themed projects from years past and a bit about their own traditions. Make sure to hop along for some Christmas stitching and finishing inspiration! I look forward to it every year ❤

Finally, if you're looking for a super quick little ornament to whip up in a hurry, why not try my free Blackwork Poinsettia Ornament? It's two-sided, easy to customize, and doesn't need any backing fabric! I also have a full tutorial for the easy Whipped Chain Stitch Edging. This was my contribution to Jo's 2013 Online Advent Calendar.

In February, my friend Shannan from Bobbin & Fred stitched this gorgeous variation, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her about her finish for the blog! This remains one of my favourite patterns and can easily be made in a weekend. If you do stitch up a version, I'd love to see it, and feature you here on the blog if you like! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Are you making like Santa Claus and doing any gift making this year? I don't have mine all lined up yet but I'm thinking about projects - unfortunately, they're all Super Secret!

❤ Whatever you're making for the holidays this year, may your Christmas be Merry & Bright, and may you Jingle All The Way ❤