Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cross Stitch How-To's

I wanted to post some basic cross stitch how-to's that I have learned over the years.  I think experience is the best teacher and hopefully my 30+ years of experience will allow me to write something that will be of benefit to seasoned as well as beginning cross stitchers.

Counted cross stitch is a great form of needlework.  It is easy - you can get great detail with it and it is a lot of fun.  It is inexpensive to do the actual needlework part - framing can get expensive but there are a lot of creative ways to frame that can fit into even a tight budget.

When I first started cross stitching - my husband Jeff would cut my mats for me and my dad would make my frames.  So the years we were in school - whenever we came home to visit we would make oak frames for my latest cross stitch designs.  I had an amazing dad!!

Some of my first big cross stitch projects were all of the Disney characters.  I did Lady and the Tramp, Pinocchio, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs, Micky and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck - to name a few.  I also did a lot of precious moments designs and made them into birth samplers for my boys.

I stitched this picture 25 years ago.  I took it out of its original frame and had a new mat cut for it.  Obviously I have never reframed it - but I love it!!
The same goes for this picture.  I stitched it 25 years ago - took it from its original frame and had a new mat cut but have never gotten it framed!!  One of the dangers of cross stitch is stitching lots of project which is not too expensive - but framing is!!
This is a birth sampler for my son Jeremy who is now almost 31.  I made it 20 years ago and got a mat cut but have never blocked it, stretched it and finished it.
 This is my 2nd son Bryan's birth sampler - not stretched or framed but I had a mat cut.  Bryan turns 29 this year!!

This is my 3rd son Chris's birth sampler - it is in the same condition as Jeremy and Bryan's - oh well, at least I have the cross stitch done and some day I will frame them and put them in my guest rooms!!

So back to my journey of cross stitch.  When I first started stitching, I basically cross stitched anything I could get my hands on.  The girl who taught me to cross stitch told me that if I would learn to do it without a hoop I would enjoy it so much more.  So I started without a hoop and would just roll my fabric a little if it was a large project.  I have never used a hoop and with a little practice developed a nice tension just by feel. 

1.  To begin a cross stitch project - decide what size and color and type of cloth you are going to use.  Aida cloth is a nice fabric for beginners as it is stiff and very easy to see the weave of the fabric.  I would recommend it if you have never cross stitched before.

When you have decided what size you want your design to be cut your fabric 6 inches bigger dimensionally.  For example if the finished size is 8 x 10 - cut your fabric 14 x 18.  I cut my fabric 6 inches bigger because that gives me plenty to work with for framing.

The way I kind of figure it is that I usually like 1/2" space around my picture before I put the matt on so that is 1" extra and you want to have enough to be able the stretch your fabric so that you can frame your picture nicely.  If you are making a sachet or something smaller and know the finished size you can get by with 4 inches extra or less but just take into account how you are going to finish it.

A lot of cross stitch patterns recommend putting tape on the edges so that your cloth won't fray - I don't do this.  If you do and don't finish the project for a long time the tape gets hard and makes a mess.  I have never found fraying to be a problem.  So that is just my humble opinion derived from cross stitching over 800 projects!!

2.  Find the Center.  The next step is to find the center of your pattern and the center of your cross stitch fabric.  The patterns have arrows on the outside edge of the design and you can follow these to the middle of the pattern where they intersect and I usually take my needle and poke a hole in the pattern.  Then take your fabric and fold it in half and then in half again.  Take your needle and mark the center point.

I put my needle in and twist it around a little to make the hole just a little bigger so I can see it.  Anyway, this is where you begin your first stitch.  You begin in the center and work your way out.

The advantage of this is that if you get off at all if you begin in the center it is easier to fix a mistake. If you work all over then something might not match up when you go to connect the design and it can be very confusing to try to fix. 

3.  A word about floss.  There are several different ways to organize your floss.  There are little cards you can wind your floss on and you cut a length off when you need it and I have seen many use this method.

I use the big card method.  When I first started cross stitching I bought a kit that had a DMC color card in it and project cards to put colors on that you were working with.  I took that system a step further and made my own cards, punched holes in them and then when I bought a skein of floss - I cut it into lengths and put it on the card.

The advantage of this system is that it is very easy to get 1 or 2 strands of a desired color very quickly.  I have used this system for 30 years and have loved it.  It is a little more work up front but the ease with which I can get my floss is well worth it to me.

This is my thread card - all of the DMC floss numbers are on this master card and then I write by each number which floss card it is on.  I love this method.  This is my 2nd card - I wore out my 1st one!!

I made these floss cards from the backs of notebook pads.  You want to use a heavy cardboard or they will bend and tear.

4.  Ready to Stitch.  So you have your floss ready, you have found the center of your cross stitch fabric and your pattern and you are ready to stitch.

If I am just doing a few stitches of a color I use a quick and easy method of securing my floss in the back.  I pull out 1 strand of floss and double it and put the ends through the eye of my needle.  Bring the needle to the front of the fabric so that the loop is on the backside.  As you take the needle to the back, go through the loop to anchor the floss.  This way you won't have any tails.   I use this method all of the time.

The other way is to put your needle through from the back and leave a tail.  As you stitch catch the tail in your stitching until it is covered.  When you end your floss run it under the stitches on the back.  You never want to tie a knot!!

5.  Strands of Floss.  Most people stitch on 14 count Aida cloth over 1 thread or on 28 count Linen over 2 threads.  For this size of cloth use 2 strands of floss for your cross stitches.

Stitch all of the cross stitches in your pattern first and when you have finished them go back and do any backstitching.  The reason for this is that you want the backstitching to outline your design and you don't want to break up your lines by cross stitching through them.  A standard rule of thumb is to use 1 strand for backstitching.  You want to outline but not overwhelm with backstitch.  Sometimes you may want to use 2 strands if your outline does not stand out enough but generally you use just 1 strand.

When doing lettering sometimes I use 2 strands of floss - it depends on the size of the lettering.  If it is small 1 is plenty but sometimes on large lettering 2 strands looks better.  It all depends on how delicate or heavy you want the look to be.

Sometimes when I am outlining if something doesn't stand out enough I will just go back and do another backstitch over it.  There are all kinds of tricks - just let your eye be your guide.

Another thing I do when back stitching is make sure that my stitches lay on the outside of the cross stitch - not on top of it.  You want to accent the stitch not cover it.

Most patterns will give you the number of strands of floss for different sizes of Aida cloth.  The smaller the count the larger the design and you will need to increase the strands of floss.  But the most common size is 14 count Aida or 28 - 32 count Linen and the 2 strands for cross stitch and 1 strand for backstitch works great.

6.  A Stitching Don't!!  Another thing you want to be aware of is that threads on the back show through to the front and if you have large blank spaces of cloth and you carry your floss across those spaces that it will show through.

This is especially true of lettering - if you are stitching words to a saying - it is tempting to carry from one word to the next but you will be disappointed when you frame your piece and you can see shadows behind those areas.  It takes a little extra time to finish off and start again but well worth it in the long run.

Believe me - I speak from experience.  I have cross stitched something - had it framed and then the threads showing through bugged me so much that I took it apart and fixed it.  How much easier it would have been if I had just taken the time in the first place to not carry my dark thread between words.

I guess as they say experience is the best teacher!!  And wisdom is listening to that teacher!!  Please be wise and learn from my experience!!

Stitching words to a saying is a perfect way to use the floss method of taking 1 strand and doubling it as this helps keep the threads on the back to a minimum!!

7.  Finishing.  So - now you have finished stitching your piece - what to do next?  It is generally a good idea to wash your finished project.

I wash in cold water with a mild dish washing soap.  Rinse well, gently squeeze out excess water and then lay out a thick towel on your ironing board and iron your design dry.  I use steam at first but then use a dry iron.

If you let Aida cloth dry naturally it will be all wrinkly.  Iron on the back of your piece and stretch it out and block it so that it lies nice and flat. Some people say not to iron the front.  I do, but not at a high temperature.  Make sure that your iron is clean as you don't want to iron spots onto it. If you prefer put a dry pressing cloth onto the top and iron.

With Aida cloth after I have ironed it I let it sit for a while and then iron it again.   If you have ever just let it dry you know what I am talking about!!  It dries wrinkled!!

One word about specialty threads.  Only iron them on a low setting.  Many years ago my sister in law did a beautiful white horse with gold specialty thread accents.  I was showing her how to block it and iron it and never having had experience with this type of thread I had my iron on too hot and melted the gold filament.  It was devastating to say the least.  So I learned a hard lesson about a hot iron.

I am giving these instructions for Aida cloth - I will talk about Linen next.

8.  Framing.  If you are going to have it framed - take your ironed piece to your framer - pick out mats, a frame and in a couple of weeks go pick up your finished piece!!

I cross stitched this picture of Jesus holding the children many years ago.  I had it professionally framed by my friend Mary Jo and I have it hanging on my wall. I took a closeup of the saying on the bottom.  I absolutely love this picture!!

Linen:  I love Linen - a friend told me after I had stitched probably 700 projects on Aida cloth that if I started stitching on Linen I would never go back to using Aida cloth - Guess what - she was right!!  I love working on Linen and the finished look is very beautiful.  Linen adds a very classic feel to any cross stitch project.

Another fabric that is stitched like Linen is Evenweave.  With Linen you stitch over 2 threads and you do the same with Evenweave.  The difference between the fabrics is that the threads in Linen tend to be somewhat uneven and the threads in the Evenweave are very even and uniform - hence the name.  Linen adds a more vintagey look but both fabrics are nice to work with and look beautiful.

I will show you a couple of designs I have stitched.  One is on Linen and the other 2 are on Evenweave.  They both have a very lovely look and the nice thing about Evenweave is that the uniformity of the threads make it very easy to stitch on.

I stitched this quite a few years ago - have never framed it but I have it hanging on my wall.  This is stitched on a beautiful taupe colored linen.  I love this saying!!
I love this saying also.  This is stitched on Evenweave and I have it hanging on my wall in my sewing room just as it is!!
This is another project done on Evenweave.  I absolutely love these 2 children gardening.  I love the beautiful rich colors in this design and have it hanging on my sewing room wall!!

I hope that some of what I have shared here will help you as you stitch beautiful projects for your home.  Counted cross stitch is a lot of fun and is a great creative outlet as well as a way to add beauty to your surroundings.  If you have any questions about this medium feel free to contact me at  I will be happy to help as best I can.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blogging at 4:00 a.m.

Well - here I am again!!  It is 4:00 a.m. and I am awake again.  For the past 6-8 months I have woken up between 3:30 and 4:30 in the morning.  This is quite unusual as I have been a night person my whole life.  For years I have struggled to get up in the morning as I have gone to bed so late.  It seems the change of life has thrown me into another routine and actually - I kind of like it.  I am amazed at what I can get done in the morning when it is quiet. I seem to be able to focus on more contemplative things and actually have some pretty clear inspiration early in the morning!!

I wanted to write a little about what I am grateful for.  Yesterday was Father's Day and I am so thankful for my father who taught me so many things by his wonderful example.  I am writing this again as I had a long post written and it went off into cyberspace - so maybe this will be different than what I wrote the first time.  The flowers in this post are in honor of my father.  We hear talk of "Flower Girl" - my dad was "Flower Boy".  The pictures of the peonies are of plants that I got as starts from my dad's yard 20 years ago and whenever I see them in their full glory - I think of my dad!!

"Zowie" "Isn't that the prettiest color of pink you ever saw"  "Look at that petal - isn't it unique!!"  "If you look at them from this angle - you get a different perspective"

Dad always saw the unusual and the special qualities!!

I had a Sam Pearson experience on Saturday - the day before Father's Day.  I had gone to Goodwill to drop off some items and of course went inside to look around.  I was checking out and a woman came up to the register and asked if anyone had turned in a purse.  She had lost hers and was in a frantic state.  The clerk said no and she went around frantically looking for it.  She went out to her car to see if she had left it there.

I couldn't just leave without helping her and so I walked out to her car and asked her if it was there and she said no and I asked her how she got in her car and she said that her son who was with her had an extra set of keys.  And then she started telling me that her cell phone, her keys, her credit cards - all of her information was in her purse and that whoever had her purse had access to her home, everything and she didn't know what to do.

I said - let's go back into the store and look for your purse and retrace your steps of where you were.  So we went in and I asked her if she had gone down the aisles and she said  - no that she had not gotten that far yet.  She then made the comment that people just weren't honest anymore.  That instead of turning something in that they found they just kept it.  I assured here that there were a lot of honest people still in the world.  So we went over to the side of the store that she had been in and basically walked right to her purse that was hanging with the other purses.  A clerk must have found it and thought it was out of place.

She started crying and hugged me for about 2 minutes and then apologized for saying that everyone was dishonest.  She told me her name was Robin and I shared with her that my name was Robin and she thanked me for caring enough to help her.  I told her that my dad was a super sleuth and could find anything and I had learned from him.  I truly felt that God had blessed this woman through me - I left the store feeling very humbled.

My father was loved by so many - he taught Industrial Arts at Freeman High School and I don't think I have heard a negative thing about him.  I have had grown men say to me:

"I loved your Dad"  "My father did not like teachers but he liked your dad" "What I really miss about your dad was his whistle"  "Your dad was my favorite teacher"  "Can I just hug you - I would love to hug the daughter of Sam Pearson"  "You got to grow up in the home of Sam Pearson?"  "My kids have the most beautiful projects they made in your dad's woodshop"

These are the kinds of comments I have heard about my dad since his death 15 years ago.  He was truly a light in the community.  If I can be even half the light my father was then I will feel that I have been successful in emulating the love of the Savior to others.  Dad I miss you - not a day goes by that I don't think about you - your spirit is all around me and I know you have been there for me as I have gone through some of my hardest trials - I have felt your presence - your love!!  Happy Fathers Day!! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

About Me - Cross Stitch

One of my favorite things to do is counted cross stitch.  I began cross stitching when my son Bryan was a baby (he is now 29 and has 3 little girls) and fell in love instantly.  The nice thing about cross stitch was that it was very inexpensive - I could always come up with a little money for Aida cloth and floss and yes I broke the copyright rules and copied everything I could get my hands on.  Those were the poor years when Jeff was in school and I could be seen many times at the library using the copy machine copying cross stitch patterns.  The other thing I liked about cross stitch was that it was virtually mess free.  I didn't have to get my sewing machine out or drag out the cutting board or fabric but I could keep everything in a basket and it felt very easy.  Over the years - I shouldn't admit this but I will - I probably cross stitched over 800 projects - plus - yes you could say that I was a little obsessed but one thing about having all of your projects in black and white (because I had copied them) was that the colors came to life right before your eyes and it was always very exciting to see what they would turn out like. 

So for years everyone in my family got cross stitch projects for birthdays, Christmas etc.  I put cross stitch in hoops, frames, Christmas trees, I made little sachets - you name it I put it in it!!  So I guess you could say that I am somewhat of an expert when it comes to cross stitch.  When you have done as many projects as I have hopefully you can claim that!!

The other thing I would like to add is that all of my early projects were done on Aida cloth.  I had a friend tell me that if I started stitching on Linen that I would never go back to the Aida cloth.  About 6 years ago I started stitching on Linen and Evenweave and I have to say I have not used Aida since.  When we were in school I couldn't afford the more expensive cloth and one of my most exciting purchases at Walmart was another yard of aida cloth and a few more skeins of floss!! 

Over the years I have also tried my hand at designing a few things - mostly for special occasions and have come up with some pretty lovely things.  Anyway, to make a long story short - a couple of years ago - I thought - I would like to design cross stitch patterns.  Of course being the compulsive person that I am I designed 12 patterns in 3 months and totally burned myself out.  Needless to say, they went into the drawer until a few months ago when I got them out and thought - I need to get these matted and see if anyone is interested in them.  So I took them to my friend Mary Jo who has a business in Spokane, Washington and has done virtually all of my framing over the years and she matted them for me.

I then took them to my daughter-in-law Kate who is a fabulous photographer and asked her if she would photograph them for me.  I am going to put them on my Etsy site for sale as downloads as pdf files.  I am going to give you a sneak preview of them as they are not even available for sale yet but Kate just sent me the pictures and I am very excited to get some feedback.

A note about my designs - I decided that when I started to design my cross stitch patterns that I wanted to focus on meaningful sayings.  I love beautiful inspiring sayings and they say so much to the heart!!

Our Family is a Circle by Lady Robins Nest
I designed this cross stitch about 10 years ago as a gift for my mother and loved the saying so much I thought others would like it too!!

Cherish One Another by Lady Robins Nest
I designed this cross stitch as I loved this saying - actually I got the saying wrong - the original one says that we may all receive instruction together so I guess this is an adaptation on the first saying.  I think I like mine better - I like just sitting down together rather than having to learn something - sounds much more relaxing.

Angels Can't Be Everywhere/Friends by Lady Robins Nest
I love this saying - I have done it in 3 different variations - 1 not pictured yet is Sisters.  That one is coming!!  But I truly believe this saying I believe that Mothers, Friends and Sisters are in our lives to lift us up and carry us and they truly are the angels in our midst.

Angels Can't Be Everywhere/Mothers by Lady Robins Nest
I know my mother is an angel!!  She helps me so much and supports me all the time!!

Fly With Angels by Lady Robins Nest
 I just loved this saying - it is so fun and just says it all - enjoy life - fly with angels - dance with stars!!

Angels Gather Here by Lady Robins Nest
There are many angels all around us - I know I have many in my life and this saying just says it all!!

Garden Fairies Gather Here by Lady Robins Nest
This saying reminds me of my father.  When I think of the magic of nighttime - I think of my father outside with his lantern planting tulips or just looking at the plants at night.  I remember him telling me that plants looked so different by lantern at night.  When the day ends and the sunlight fades, the stars appear - I can just imagine little fairies flying around.  When we lived in Missouri we used to see the fireflies at night all twinkly and fairy like.  I used to love watching them.

Where There is Faith by Lady Robins Nest
I loved this saying when I saw it - it says it all for when we have God in our lives we have everything we need!!

Rocking My Baby by Lady Robins Nest
I have always loved this saying.  My sister Jeannie embroidered me a picture of a mother in a rocking chair with this saying when my children were young and it hung in the nursery for many years.  I wanted to design a cross stitch pattern using these timeless words.

Serenity Prayer by Lady Robins Nest

This picture holds special meaning for me and I will share it with you on another post - but I designed it as it is the theme AA uses in their meetings.  I have always loved this saying and it's meaning is timeless and so poignant to our life experiences. 

So there is a brief rundown on the inspiration for my cross stitch designs.  I am very excited to get them on my Etsy site and hopefully people will like them and want to make them!! 

Anyway - as a thank you to Kate - when she was here a couple of weeks ago she liked an old antique frame that I had and so I took some before and after pictures of it and I painted it up for her and shabbied it.  I told Kate I had a prize for her and the frame is the prize and the challenge for Kate is to do something cool in the frame and then post it on my blog so you can see what she did.  I know it will be amazing because everything Kate does is amazing!! 

 Before painting - this frame is gold and pretty beat up!!
 It has beautiful detailing though!!  Here is an up close shot of the pattern on it!!
 The painting process begins - amazing what a little paint can do!!
An upclose shot of the finished detailing after it has been painted and sanded.

Voila - the finished frame - beautiful and just waiting for a fabulous application!!  What will it be?  Stay tuned and see!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My Birthday Through Kate's Lens

My daughter-in-law Kate made me this adorable inspiration board for my birthday!!  I LOVE IT!!
My son Bryan made me this cake and Kate decorated it - how fun is this!!

These are my gorgeous peonies - the original plants came from my Dad's yard.  They are just getting ready to pop open!!  I absolutely love peonies!!
This is me and my adorable birthday cake - Make a wish Lady Robin!!
This is a picture of my sweet grandson Levi and my adorable grandaughter Brookie!!  Two of the sweetest kids on the planet!!
If you can't light the candles - just get the blow torch out!!
Grandma Robin with Brookie and Grandpa Jeff with Kamryn!!
A fun family shot of the birthday celebration!!  What a great family I have!!
Another cute family shot!!
the fam
The aftermath - Everyone's full - wow that was good - Cleanup time!!

after math
Some of my hair barrettes that I make and a branch from my Sensation Lilac tree.  Absolutely one of the most beautiful lilacs I have ever seen!!  This tree was a gift from my sister Lori for my birthday many years ago.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What you can do with a little Paint!!

Well I stated in my first post that I was going to do a post on upcycling furniture, home furnishings etc.  I have been out in my garage busily painting up a storm and having a great time!!  I love what you can do with a little paint and a few great undiscovered out-dated finds.  Here are a few before pictures for you to see.
One of the things you want to look for when painting home furnishings are the lines in the piece.  If you can look past the color and look at the lines - many things look unexciting because they are brown or just outdated - but when you paint them they look great!!

The light aqua I hand brushed because I liked the color and you can't find all the colors you want in spray paint.  I used a spray paint for the bright aqua candlesticks.  I forgot to take a picture of the candlesticks before I painted them but they were brown.

These pictures are before I have sanded them to add a distressed look and accent the lines.  I painted them with 2 coats of paint (hand brushing).  If you use spray paint it is best to spray several light coats as it will run if you spray too heavy.  If you are painting over wood you want to lightly sand the piece before you paint it so that the paint has something to stick to. After the paint completely dries take 80 grit sand paper and lightly sand the edges to distress the piece.  Wherever you sand will expose the underneath color and cause the lines of the piece to stand out.  Don't despair if you oversand and don't like it.  The nice thing about paint is you can always start again and repaint over the area you sanded too much.

This reminds me of a memory of the past.  We did a lot of crafts growing up and we had made dough art and we were painting our creatures.  I remember I had it looking just right and then decided to do a little more shading and thought wow, this shading is great and kept adding a little more until I had shaded way too much and it looked bad.  My mom said Oh well, you can just paint it again and start over.  I learned the hard way that less is more and it is better to start out with a little of shading or in this case sanding and you can always sand a little more.  (But don't feel bad if you have to start over - I have learned that lesson by trial and error!! -and yes - I have had to repaint certain items as I thought - wow - this sanding looks great!! and then ended up doing too much and had to start over!!)  The next pictures will show the result with sanding.

It's interesting the difference in color taking the picture inside and outside!!  They are the same candlesticks!!

 I forgot to take a before picture of these candlesticks but they were gold.

So before and after - as I said what you can do with a little Paint!!

Here is a preview of my next painting projects to come - I found this cradle at a thrift store for $5.00.  It was sitting outside looking quite forlorn and neglected.  I'm sure glad I found it and am going to rescue it.!! 

I found this cute desk at an estate sale and paid $20.00 for it.  I think I will paint it white, change the knobs and voila -  I will have a very updated adoraable piece of furniture.

Stay tuned - to see the transformation!!
I hope this post was informative for whoever reads it.  You can do so much with a little Paint and a bit of vision.  It is a great way to rescue something old - give it new life and also be thrifty!!  If you have any questions or need an opinion, just email me at and I will try to help as best I can.  Happy painting!!