X Is For… X-Stitch!

2015-04-28 Pic 1


Cross-stitch is one of the easiest needle arts to learn.  It’s just making little “x’s” all over the fabric, using different colors to create a design.  This particular one is from a book called Hand-Stitched Boxes by Meg Evans.  The box is remarkably easy to make, and I’ve done several designs, but this is the pattern that’s in the book and I’m sharing it here because it has cross-stitch motifs.  I made a miscalculation on the canvas, and my design is a little modified because of it, but that’s the beauty of cross-stitch – it’s very easy to modify it and come up with things that you like better.

One hint when working cross-stitch:  decide which direction your “X’s” face.  Either have all the bottom stitches going right and the top left, or vice-versa, but keep it consistent throughout the pattern.  This is how you get the characteristic sheen that’s one of the hallmarks of good cross-stitch.  Also, keep your stitches on the back as neat as possible and don’t use knots to secure the thread.  Just sew over the tails.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What would you put in a box like this?

Round Like a Triangle

I decided to try a triangular box, with more or less successful results.  A couple challenges presented themselves:

  • 3″ triangles
  • the grid on the triangles themselves
  • getting the rectangles to match up with the triangles
  • edge stitch

Taking them in order, the first issue is that the largest triangles I could find are 3″ on a side.  I checked the internet but that’s the largest one available that I could see.

I tried cutting the rectangular grids into a triangle, but the hypotenuse isn’t supported enough and it’s not straight.  It’s like cutting a diagonal line across a piece of graph paper.

Because the base is 3″, the box is only 3″ in size.  I decided to start with the lid and make it small. It worked well, as you can see, but then I got the idea to make the base very tall as an experiment:

I made the base much taller and I like how the base came out.  Unlike the square box, I made the base with the “right” side facing out, since the inside is so narrow.
The next problem from a design standpoint is that the grid on the triangular pieces isn’t square, it’s successive triangles.  
I decided to use a simple tent stitch on it, but it wasn’t easy to make it even and cover the plastic evenly.

The last two problems are part of each other.  The first was getting the rectangles I used for the sides to match up with the triangles.  It worked, sort of, but will take practice.  The second is what to use for the edges.  I used the edge stitching for the top of the box, pictured above.  For the bottom, I used simple overcast stitching.  The overcast stitching, which not as pretty, is much better to use for the project.

In all, it’s a successful experiment but I’m not as happy with the box as I want to be.  I’ll have to try it again and see what works better.

Round Is the New Square

Chapter Two in the Great Box Experiment is underway with… drum roll please… a round box!

The first challenge is to find round plastic disks to work with.  Fortunately for me, I’ve used them many times before.

But, apparently, I didn’t read the instructions ver well because the first disk I made is an inch and a half bigger than the pattern.  Uhps!

The round box is a lot of fun to make because has a liner inside the box and under the lid.  I used an edge stitch around the lid, but the directions call for overcasting but I used an edge stitch, which is prettier but bulkier.  This means the lid is a little too big.

Maybe I should try reading the instructions, eh?

I took a picture of the box but it’s hard to see how small it is; here’s another shot next to my ballpoint pen so you can see it.

If you set the lid on top, you can’t really tell that it’s too big, but the inside lip of the lid doesn’t really fit inside the piece below it.  I think there’s two problems at work here:  first, I used a 4.5 inch diameter disc and cut it down to 3 inches; and second, the stitching is too thick for the lid.  In the next attempt, I’ll make a new base for this lid and a new lid for this box.

The underside of the lid is pretty too; this is a second piece embroidered and then attached to the top.

Here’s the piece with the lining removed so you can see all the parts.

And finally, a close-up of the lining back inside the box.

I had a lot of fun with this one.  My inner critic is jumping up and down because it doesn’t fit correctly, but that’s okay.  My inner critic doesn’t get a vote.

What do you want to make next?

Needlepoint Box

I have written before about fabric boxes.  If you’re curious, there are four other articles here:  OneTwoThree, and Four.  I am enthralled by boxes, be they polymer clay, needlepoint, or wood.  Recently I decided to revisit the boxes of Meg Evans, which I’ve made before.  This time I decided to play with her exact design.  And therein started the problems.

Hand-Stitched Boxes:  Plastic Canvas, Cross Stitch, Embroidery, Patchwork, by Meg Evans

Ms. Evans’ book is a delight.  She has instructions for many different types of boxes, including some fun ones that fall open in a sort of puzzle-like fashion that I’m dying to make.  They’re above my skills, and then it hit me: practice!

I bought supplies to make all the easy boxes with the exception of the kleenex box covers, since I’m not  a huge fan of them.  I started with the square box since I’ve made it before.  How hard could it be, right?

This is the beginning of the design.  It uses crewel wool and pearl cotton, held double.  I had fun working out the cover and then started doing the central diamond.

Only one problem: I misread the instructions and was supposed to do a square 30 bars wide, but I cut it 30 squares wide.  By the time I caught it, it was too late to fix it without taking the entire thing apart.  

I figured, to heck with it, I’d just finish the top.  In the image below, the top is along the top row, on the right.

Then I started working the bottom piece.  This time, I added two extra lines of ivory squares to make up for the mistake in cutting the boxes too large.
I finished the design and realized that I’d forgotten to put in the center squares on two of the parts of the diamond.

I worked the walls of the bottom piece last and laid them out so you can see the design.

It sewed up fairly quickly.  Here it is with the first wall up.

As I finished the rest of the sides, I realized something.  You can see it in the image below.  There’s a little face!

I showed this to a friend of mine and she said it looks like a little cat face.  I think it looks like a little robot.

I used the dark blue to finish the top of the bottom part of the box as well as the edging along the top.  It came out quite striking, especially when you see both pieces side-by-side.

This is the completed box put together.  
I learned a lot from this project, but nothing I expected.  I don’t really have a better idea of how to put the complicated boxes together, but I learned to accept my mistakes and keep going.  The only part I took out was the one side I put on too tightly; the rest of it, I let stand because it made the box unique.
See, here’s the thing:  I do this to relax, not to make perfect boxes.  I don’t need to do make a box exactly like the instructions, I can play around with it.

Box Loff – The Extended Cut

I found some more pictures.  (Can you tell I’m finally cleaning out my photo folders?)

I finished the stitching on the pieces, and have actually sewn the bottom of the box.  I need to get going on finishing it so I can move on to the next project, but here’s some more pictures of the process:

Here are the four pieces for the sides.

I varied the green, rather than the blue or the brown, in order to get the width I wanted.  I’m using the green to sew up the box, in order to provide contrast and give the design ‘pop.’

Detail of one of the side pieces.  I doubled up on the brown yarn, since it was more of a DK weight than the other two, which were worsted weight (the green, even, seemed a little on the bulky side).

Here are all ten pieces.  The set on the left is for the top, and the right is for the bottom.  The box top will sit down over the entire part of the bottom.

I’m making the box to hold my essential oils from Jeanne Rose, because my cat, Boria, likes to toss them all over the table when I have them all nice and organized.  (Necessity is the mother of invention?  Whoever said that never had a cat!  Defense of one’s things is the mother of invention!)

Here is a close-up of the top of the box:

It’s got quite a bit of loft from the yarn.  Since I’m doing a standard needlepoint stitch, it’s as thick on the bottom as it is on the top.  It gives it a lot of padding.  The plastic mesh, though, isn’t very strong, so it wouldn’t be a good candidate for a box to be carried in a purse.  I’d like to see if there are materials (metal screen, maybe?) that would be good for that.

This is the bottom of the box.  You can clearly see the extra row around the edge where the top of the box, once it’s sewn, will sit down over the bottom.  The outer edge of the bottom will just have a satin stitch around the edge.

Here are both pieces side-by-side; they are 3″ square.

This is the in-process view of the sides for the top of the box.  I did the brown design first because I wanted to see how it would look in the finished product; the reason we used brown was to match the table that it will be sitting on and I wanted to see if that worked.  It does.  I don’t yet have a picture of the box on that table, but will get one once the box is completed.

It’s a little out of focus, but here is a detail of the brown yarn.  It’s held double, whereas the green and blue are just single.

Here is a little better shot of the same detail where you can get a good look at the plastic mesh. 

Here is a detail of all three colors interacting together.  It’s not an arrangement I would have thought of just off the cuff, but I’m glad we decided to put them all together.  I think the finished design is pleasing and it matches the table, so it’s a success all around.

Box Loff Revisited

As you know, last year I experimented with needlepoint boxes.  When Rachel visited in July, I showed her the box in my office. Later on, we got to talking and came up with a design for another one.

I have several images that I’m tardy in posting, but here are a few.

This first one actually has nothing to do with the box itself, exactly; it’s one of two shots from the impromptu artist date I took the morning I had my perio cleaning.  I was very upset about having to do it, scared and sad, and I decided to go to the park to sit and try to relax and ground.  This was one of the views from my chair:

This is part of the Forest Preserve of Cook County, a huge green space that rings the city of Chicago.  It’s quite beautiful.  We’re lucky to be surrounded by such green; and in fact, the motto of the city is Urbs in Horto, or City in a Garden.

The camera on my telephone doesn’t do a very good color balance with the sun, but the view this direction went into a little shaded grotto-like space I could imagine all sorts of little fairy-like creatures inhabiting.

My chair and the calligraphy set that I bought myself as a present.  It’s not actually a very good set of pens, but I did at least support my art.

Inside the famous knitting bag.  It’s getting very ratty now, and is going to need some surgery on the handle, but I still like it.  (My mother, who died in July of 2000, made it.)

This is the top and bottom of the box, and the side I’m holding is the back-side of the bottom to show the stitches.  The brown matches the brown on my table at home, and the blue is a Brede’s Knot, a symbol of the Goddess, Brede.

Here are the two pieces side by side, to get an idea of the pattern.  We drew it out on paper first, coloring in the boxes, and had a couple different drafts before settling on this one.

Box Loff – The Grand Finale!

I finished my first needlepoint box! I’m pleased with it. To recap, I used a simple overdyed yarn, worsted weight (double DK weight) for the needlepoint and a plastic frame cut to size. I learned a lot putting it together and like the final look.

Here is the box completed and closed. There’s a lip around the bottom so the lid sits snuggly down over the bottom, making it look like a solid cube. In fact, two people I’ve shown it to couldn’t figure out how to open it at first!

Here’s a view with the top and bottom separate. You can see how deep the box is in this shot. It is three inches square, which is a lot larger than I thought at first.

One of the key learnings I took away from sewing the pieces together was this: at first, I used one horizontal stitch, then a diagonal stitch from the same square on one piece to the next square up on the other piece. That looked good but I didn’t realize it was canting the pieces sideways by one square, which threw off the finished design. I’ve shown that below so you can see what I’m referring to.

To fix it, I just placed the stitches two in each square horizontally. I was worried it wouldn’t have enough coverage to conceal the frame, but it worked just fine – as you can see from the pictures.

The next box will have actual stitch patterns using different textures of thread and yarn. The suggestions I saw in the book I’m using call for Paternayan crewel wool and perle cotton, which look nice together. Pix soon!

Box Loff!

As some of you know, I’ve recently started playing with fabric boxes. Here is the bottom of my latest creation, Earth Meets Sky.

The bottom of the box has a lip, visible in the picture; the lid will fit over the entire piece and be flush against the lip.

Here is a detail of the box. I used a simple overdye yarn so I could concentrate on the construction; but next time I plan to use more embroidery design. I’d like to make boxes in other sizes, as well as a drawer liner for my desk at home (to house things like paper clips and stuff).

Several people have asked me how the box is put together. Here is an image of the bottom being worked. First the designs are laid in, and then the box is sewn up. You use simple plastic canvass from Michael’s or JoAnn’s (which has the benefit of being cheap!) and can use any yarn or thread you like. This yarn is a simple worsted weight (double DK) that cost about $2.00 USD a skein (which would make a LOT of boxes – smile). The pattern is a simple tent-stitch, I just varied the rows by covering one or two squares.