Saturday, September 27, 2014

SFS #9: Autumn "Harmony" Variation!

Have you ever had a project that Almost Never Was? That seemed to take FOREVER and a day?! That frustrated you to no end?!! That you made so many silly mistakes on that you took out more stitches than you put in?!!! For me, this was that project:

Stitched on 18 count Charles Craft Silver Standard Aida in Ecru, using 2 strands of DMC Floss for cross-stitch and 1 strand for Mill Hill seed bead attachment

This is my variation on the "Autumn" section of the "Harmony" Sampler from Just Nan. As you may remember, I won the pattern from Meggie's Great Giveaway, and the original colourway called for special overdyed silks that were released with the limited-edition kit. You can see a beautiful kit finish of the entire design here.

Since Meggie also sent along some lovely DMC Colour Variations overdyed threads - including a beautiful Autumn Mix - I thought I'd substitute that for the overdyed silk. That's the skein on top of the hoop at the top (#4122), with the original colourway on the pattern at the bottom left, and both of them at the top of the photo below:

But when I started to really look at the pattern before I started stitching last Fall (!), I noticed that all these cute motifs just got lost in the variegated thread. Now, I do realize that monochrome patterns meant to be stitched with overdyed threads are designed for a certain look, and I can appreciate the appeal of that style.

However, what happened is that I fell completely in love with this handsome little Squirrel and his floomphy tail, and I wanted to stitch him in a squirrelly colour:

And then it was only a short hop up to his friend Mr. Crow, the Grape Thief...

...and it all took off from there :)

Pulling the colours was the easiest part of this project, and they make a very pretty palette :) I've made a list of the numbers for the floss and beads for easy reference, because these colours could be adapted to any Autumn project, not just this design:

The bead names and finishes are my own that I added for some description. The same colour in another finish - like the three golds - can look completely different!

At first, I only intended to use three colours of beads, but as I added some details (like the red berries on Mr. Crow's branch) I just pulled beads from my Mill Hill stash and started stitching them on. I've never used so many different colours and finishes together in one project, but it was so fun that I'll definitely try to mix it up again!!!

It is honestly RIDICULOUS how much trouble I had while stitching this, and it would take days to detail so I'll spare you the pain :) Sufficient to say if it's a stupid stitchy mistake, I made it! I miscounted, I miscoloured, I misplaced, I miscalculated...there was so many miseverythings going on that it was miserable going at times LOL ;)

These oak leaves? I stitched them THREE TIMES because I was one stitch out :(

I truly came close to completely abandoning this project. As you know, I'm not a rotation stitcher and I like to finish one project before going on to another. I was so frustrated with this at one point that I thought about throwing it out!!! I've never done that in my entire life and am not about to start but that tells you how upset I was. I think it's because I had this vision in my head but I just couldn't trust that it would happen that way. I was plagued by the Demon of Doubt.

And then, suddenly, Hallowe'en came and went and Autumn was officially over, so I put it away nearly done. I just had the lettering and some minor details left to do, but there were still a few things to figure out and I just wasn't in the mood. But when I put it away, I had intentions of finishing it this year, which was a major victory by then.

Thankfully, I stuck it out with some help and good advice :) Karen very generously encouraged this project from the very beginning, when all I had was a few stitched motifs and a lot of angst about how it was all going to work out. Her enthusiasm is what actually led me to dig out the design this year and finally Final-Finish it off!

My Stitchy Guru Mother couldn't understand my vision, since I was hard pressed to put it into words other than "falling leaves and lots of beads!". This is the closest to Primitive I've ever gotten, and that style doesn't lend itself well to embellishment. But she was super supportive of my stitching as always. As she often says, it's only fabric and thread, and if you don't like it you can take it out and try again!

Which is exactly what I did do for several elements, including the fence behind the Squirrel. I worked it in white, cream, super bright white (B5200) and several grays (which looked like tombstones) before settling on black for a wrought-iron look. And adding a few extra stitches between the crosses at the tops of the posts really helped.

And I'm especially happy with the Owls! Although there was a slit pupil in the design, I filled in the eyes with yellow, and added some orange to make little beaks.

The swoosh accent on each side of the lettering seemed a little plain, so I sketched out at least half a dozen variations before deciding to bring in the leaves from the sides and put them on a branch. If I ever want to do one of the other Harmony Seasons in the future, I think this motif could easily be adapted to coordinate - berries on the branch for Winter, green leaves for Spring, blossoms for Summer ;)

As for the Final Finishing, I made my usual padded ornament with corded trim. Because it's larger than usual, I used three layers of quilt batting for the insert this time. I forgot to take a photo of the back, but you can see the fabric here:

It's some sort of cotton blend that my Stitchy Guru Mother had in her stash that just happened to match the Squirrel perfectly! Thank You, Stitchy Karma Gods :)

For the cording, I used two skeins of orange (740) doubled together for width and twisted it by hand. The double thickness works with the larger size of the ornament, but I only had just enough - less than half an inch at the end! - for the edging and the loop (which I made together, in the way I explained for the ornament in the last SFS).

Although I love the look, I had a LOT of trouble trying to sink the end of the double-thick cording under the knot. Eventually I tied the ends together with a length of floss, threaded that through a darning needle, and took the end down into the ornament and out the front, underneath one of the grape leaves. It stretched the Aida and took some finangling, but I was able to nudge the fabric back into shape.

Overall, I think my "Autumn" was worth all the trials and tribulations I experienced! It's so easy to get wrapped up in the small details in a piece of work and lose sight of the larger design, and with this project I learned to take a step back and consult some good friends for perspective :) I usually just barrel on ahead and worry myself silly in the meantime, so this is a lesson I'll try and remember for the future.

My favourite part? The beading! It doesn't just sparkle, it glows in the sunlight :)

My SFS Spending for September, Month #9:

Nothing! Nada! Nyet! Non! For the third month in a row (yay!) my spending is $0.00. Which really surprised me, but it's largely because I haven't sorted my Christmas Gift Stitching out yet. So next month will likely see some splurging ;)

That adds the full monthly allowance of $25 to my bank, for a grand total of $147.03 Banked, Hopefully I'll make it over the $150.00 mark next month!