Musings of a craft lover who loves to knit, cross stitch, make cards, sew…

Cross Stitching in Leicester – or, How I got my Mojo Back

I have just got back from a whole weekend of cross stitching in Leicester with The Cross Stitch Guild and what a fantastic weekend it was. What’s not to like really – hours of undisturbed stitching time, lots of other people equally as passionate about (and in most cases, far more talented at) stitching as I, chatter, good food and a gorgeous project from Jane Greenoff. I don’t think I have ever had the opportunity to sit and stitch for that long and rather than tiring me out, it made me want more.

I arrived on Friday evening after a complete nightmare of a journey up. The M25 is living up to its reputation as the largest car park in Britain. I was a little nervous, but it didn’t take me long to find the group (or for them to find me, as I walked in armed with two frames loaded up with UFOs). After some introductions and chatter, we went for drinks and then dinner and then we went to the room that would be the scene of a lot of stitching over the next hours and days.

Jane then handed out the project. It was nothing like I have ever stitched before. I have stitched on linen, but aside from cards and a couple of key and scissor fobs, I haven’t ever tried stitching anything other than pictures.


Here is the little tin we were given, but as well we had a Watbo (a really interestingly shaped scissor fob), a tiny needle-book and a linen bag to put them all in.

I got started on Saturday morning and spent most of the morning stitching the frame for the Watbo, then the rest of the morning unpicking it because I had miscounted. In the afternoon, I managed to finish a couple of my own cards which I had brought, I fixed the counting problem, and I got on with one of the poinsettias which adorned the Watbo. On Sunday, I went on with one of my long standing UFOs.

As well as all of the great company and stitching, there was also a ‘Bring and Brag’ so we got to see some of the stunning work that each of us had brought. As a complete newbie, I hadn’t really brought anything, but in some ways I am glad because nothing I could have brought would have matched up to the skill and beauty of a lot of the work there. It wasn’t just cross stitch, but crewel work, stump work, black work and hardanger. It was so inspiring to see. As I was driving home, I was already planning which of my unfinished objects I could get finished before the next weekend so I would have something to bring.

I hadn’t imagined I would have enjoyed the weekend as much as I did, but I am already planning to do more next year. The hardest thing about getting back to ‘reality’ though is that I just want to stitch now. Life just seems to get in the way though! Too many amazing stitching projects to do, not enough time to do them all in. It seems to be the story of every crafter’s life.



ATCs and Other Stories

Since joining Swap-Bot I have discovered a love of ATCs. I did get involved in making ATCs before through the HomeCraft Forums and also CraftBubble, but Swap-Bot has really helped me ramp up my ATC creation…and my ATC collection. I won’t put pictures of all of the ATCs that I have made and received here, but I am uploading them all to my Flickr profile if anyone is curious to take a look. The link for that is here:

Craft-martingale’s Flickr

Anyway, here are a few of my favourites.

ATC with Edgar Allen Poe quote and a postage stamp.

ATC with Edgar Allen Poe quote and a postage stamp.

I love this ATC – it is stamped and textured and it is just gorgeous. The swap asked for a postage stamp to be used on the ATC which you can see in the bottom right corner. The ATC I created for this swap looked like this:

My Postage stamp ATC.

My Postage stamp ATC.

Here are a couple I made for a general ATC swap. This was quite a difficult swap because we had to create three ATC for each of our two partners (6 in all) and we only had a day to do it in. Anyway, here are a couple I made:

Vintage Acrobat ATCs

Vintage Acrobat ATCs

I also tried a swap for Altered Text ATCs which was so much fun! You essentially took a page out of a book and then you had to construct a sentence (meaningful or otherwise) from that page. The theme of this swap was ‘Blue’ so the rest of the ATC had to be covered in blue. This is mine – the sentence reads
“He stunned me. I knew I loved him yet every winter sky found me betrayed”

Altered text ATC

Altered text ATC

This was the one I received from my partner. Her sentence reads
“I’m making coffee. I require coffee to talk. It’s too late. Why is it too late? Secrets”

Altered text ATC which I received.

Altered text ATC which I received.

It’s so much fun learning how to make these. Looking around on the internet, I can see how talented people are, so I class myself as still very much a novice in terms of making these little works of art. But the more one practices, the better one becomes. The only thing I have been a little sad at is there have been no stitched ATC swaps on Swap-Bot that I have found yet. However, I am quite tempted to host a couple myself…

Lost in the Post

Considering how much I do send using Royal Mail, I have to admit I have been pretty lucky so far in that very little seems to have gone missing. However, two sets of ATCs – a stitched pair and a papercrafted pair, seem to have got lost somewhere between me sending them and either them arriving at the swap host’s address, or from her address back to me.

Fortunately, I did take pictures of them before I posted them so they aren’t lost completely.

Vintage Children ATCs which were lost in the post

Vintage Children ATCs which were lost in the post

I do hope that whoever found them/took them/kept them did get some pleasure from them. I always wonder what happens to the (apparently) 100,000 pieces of mail that get lost every day. Where do they go? Is there a massive mountain of unsent mail somewhere in the middle of Scotland I wonder? It is quite sad, but never mind. It isn’t going to stop me swapping. It would take more than one piece of wayward mail to do that!

The Year of Six Cardigans

Obviously it is my age, but all of my friends seem to be having babies this year. I have decided that each of my friends will receive a knitted cardigan for me to welcome their new bundle of joy, so I have set myself quite a task. Especially as I am not a particularly quick knitter, and I always have so many other things to do.

RuthCardiganAnyway, here is the very first one which I finished in March. This was knitted for my friend Ruth who didn’t know whether she was having a boy or a girl at the time. I got it finished just before I went away to Australia, and Ruth gave birth to Susannah at the beginning of April, so it got to her in plenty of time.

Of the other five, I know that three are going to be boys, one is a girl and the last one hasn’t decided whether she is going to find out or not (I hope she does, otherwise it will be yellow again!)

I am knitting them all from vintage patterns as I absolutely love vintage baby clothes and I find the vintage patterns are really easy to follow. And so far, everyone I have shown the patterns to have thought they were gorgeous. Who says matinee jackets are out of fashion?

There are a couple of other women I know who I am not as close to who I am knitting booties for, but they are easy as I can knit a bootie a night if I put my mind to it. These cardigans take quite a few weeks each. The next baby is due in July, then I have three in September and one in October. And yes, I am trying a different pattern for each one. I need to keep it interesting for me too.

Problem is, trying to fit knitting around my stitching, my studies, my swapping and my own little boy is somewhat challenging. But then, as I have said before, I was never one to duck out of a challenge.;

The Joy of Swap-Bot

Whilst I was in Australia, I got a chance to read the new Papercrafter magazine. My subscription copy had arrived the morning we flew out so I took it with me. There was a feature on various website where you could swap or share your papercrafting, and knowing what an addict I am for getting involved in swaps, you can imagine my excitement when I read the little paragraph on Swap-Bot. I went over there and it suddenly felt like I had come home!

Swap-Bot is a site where people set up swaps, either regionally or internationally, sometimes crafty, and you get involved, get a partner (or more than one, depending on the swap) and off you go. It is based on a rating system to ensure that everyone is a good swapper, doesn’t ‘flake’ or take stuff and never return, which I think is a really good system. In order to really start getting involved, you need to get 5 swaps under your belt each with ratings of ‘5’ (there are three rating levels – 5 means you have done the swap, on time, and fulfilled the criteria. An addition heart means you have gone over and above what the swap asked for. 3 means you fulfilled the swap but you probably didn’t meet the criteria. And 1 means you didn’t fulfill the swap. 3’s and 1’s are bad – they lower your overall rating and can ultimately mean you might not be able to get involved in swaps. The site encourages people to try to resolve 3 or 1 ratings by resending and negotiation, but it seems that doesn’t always happen, so it is a little bit nerve-wracking as you don’t want to end up with a partner who might not fit with the spirit of the site).

I absolutely love it, for several reasons. Firstly, the type of swaps are so varied. I am already involved in a reading list swap, a cross-stitch swap, an ATC swap and a couple of postcard swaps. In order to get my first ratings, two very kind members did ‘private swaps’ with me. Both were lovely and this is a second reason I love it – the people I have come across so far have been great. Thirdly, it seems that many of the people on the site, who love snail mail in general, also love writing and receiving letters. I used to so enjoy writing letters and it is such a pleasure to have the excuse to do it again. And finally, it means that going to the letter box each day has suddenly become exciting, as you just don’t know what the postman night have delivered.

FrienshipBookI have put a picture of the first Friendship Book I made for Bonnie in Canada who was one of the lovely ladies who did a private swap with me. I had never made one before – in fact I had never heard of them before. But now I am looking around for more FB swaps. The hardest thing is not to get involved in too many, so as to ensure that you can get them all done. But what a wonderful site. It really is just my thing.

Cupcake Exchange

I was a part of the cupcake exchange on the forum recently. I borrowed the charts from Cheryl who kindly lent me quite a few to choose from, and I chose a particular cupcake mainly because I liked the colours and it was around Anzac Day that I started it, so the poppies seemed perfect.

Here is the card I made which I finally sent off to Stella today.

Card for Stella

Card for Stella

And…here is the gorgeous card I received from Stella…

Card from Stella

Card from Stella

As you can see, we both have similar tastes! Neither of us had any idea what the other was stitching, so I thought it was lovely that we both ended up doing the same one. She won’t have received mine yet, so I do hope she feels the same way.

Wedding Card for Angela

One of my NCT friends, Angela, is finally getting married today. She has been planning this day since before I met her – and I met her at NCT classes, 2 months before all of our babies were due (they are all around 18 months old now!). The weather is gorgeous although it is cool, and I suspect it is going to be a stunning day.

Anyway, I stitched her and Craig this card. The design came from Cross Stitch Card Shop and was absolutely perfect as it was quick to do and stylish. I changed the colours slightly, but I still think it turned out OK.

Wedding Card for Angela and Craig

Wedding Card for Angela and Craig