Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And The Winner Is...

What a fun week of blog hopping! But now it's Sunday morning and time to announce the winner of my Quilting Gallery 4th Birthday Blog Hop give-away. Hueisei, all the way from Penang, Malaysia is the winner. As a final stop on this whirlwind tour of the quilting blogosphere,  stop by her blog Love it Sew it for even more inspiration. Hueisei said, "Crisscrossed bag is my favorite." so maybe that is the pattern she will choose. But as promised, she can select any of the more than 25 patterns listed at my shop.
Tomorrow it's back to your regularly scheduled holiday activities and perhaps a break from the computer. As for me I'll be doing quite a lot of hand work on the couch for the next week. Our faithful dog, Lady is scheduled for surgery to remove a small skin tumor on Tuesday. That means lots of spoiling to come, and doing whatever we can to keep her calm and not fussing at her stitches until she is healed.
Happy Holidays Everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A New Ornament; A New Technique

As long time readers know, each year I design and make a new ornament to give away as a party favor for guests at our holiday party. Today I'm going to share my 2011 holiday ornament with you. But first, a word about the inspiration. Back in late October I recieved a copy of American Quilter, the bi-monthly magazine of the American Quilt Society (AQS). In it I found a section on the winners of the 2011 AQS Quilt Show in Knoxville. As I flipped through the pages, I stopped stunned at a photo of Leah Day's Winter Wonderland.  Here is a link to her website and better images of the quilt. The snowflakes are made with a technique she calls reverse shadow trapunto. I knew as soon as I saw it I had the idea for this year's ornament. You already saw a quick preview of the finished ornaments in this post.
The best part of this one is that I already had all of the materials I needed on hand - though of course I bought more of everything!
Following the technique Leah outlined in the article, I cut out a variety of snowflakes from paper (I used plain old computer printer paper). Do you remember how to do that from grade school? Well I had to re-learn how to fold the paper, and if you do too, here is a simple tutorial for you.
Once you have your snowflake shapes, cut out squares or rounds of fabric that are big enough to hold your snowflake plus a bit of border. I cut 4 1/2 inch squares of red and green dupioni silk that I had on hand. You will need two squares for each ornament. At the same time cut out two pieces of white cotton batting in the same size for each ornament. I used warm and white because it is snowy white, lightweight,  and needled which helps it hold together better. Finally cut a square the same size out of something sparkly and transparent. I had some white sparkle organdy which really added something to the finished ornament.

Using a light touch with a pen, or invisible ink, trace a snowflake pattern onto the back of one of your fabric pieces. Layer that piece with a square of batting with the design showing, and stitch around the edges of the design. As you can see, I fudged a bit on my squares since I was using up scraps I had on hand. Once you have stitched all of the edges, turn the piece batting side up and using a sharp pair of embroidery scissors, clip out the design. This is painstaking, but worth it. 
Next, layer a piece of your sheer fabric on top and another layer of batting and finally silk on the back. Now you are ready to quilt your sandwich. For the large quilt Leah used dense free motion quilting around the design to make give the snowflakes dimension. However, due to the size of my project I decided to simply outline stitch around the snowflake. 
After all of the quilting was done, I used my circle cutter to trim the edges and make a nice round ornament. Finally I inserted a bit of ribbon for a hanging loop and satin stitched all around the edge to finish. 
If I do say so myself, I couldn't be happier with how they turned out. I hope you will enjoy this free pattern and that you enjoy a Happy Handmade Holiday. 
And if you love the quilt that Leah made as much as I do, check out her online quilt shop to buy this and other patterns.

Monday, December 12, 2011

And the Beat Goes On...

Blog Hop Party with Give-AwaysThe blog hop organized by Michelle at the Quilting Gallery continues all week, so hop on over and check it out.So far it's been pretty amazing. I can't believe how many new folks have visited my blog as a result. But even more fun, I've been working my way through Michelle's list of nearly 250 bloggers that are participating with give-aways. What a treat to find so many talented quilters who blog. 
It's a good thing that it does go on all week, because it will probably take me that long to visit every blog, and the blogs of all the new visitors to my blog. One note: I should have mentioned this before, but I need you to provide a way to contact you if you are the winner. If you aren't using you google account (which will automatically provide a link to your profile) leave an e-mail address in your comment.

As for other happenings around my house, this was the weekend to put up the tree (still not finished) and to wrap gifts that have to head off to points North and West (still not wrapped). Sigh. 
But we did finally get all of the leaves up from the front yard. We mulched and composted bags and bags and still ended up with 10 paper yard waste bags at the street to go to the city's composting effort. 
At some point you really do have to admit that the composting pile is full and the impromptu pile in the middle of the garden has grown beyond reason :-)

and this silly little rose just won't call it quits even though Winter officially starts next week.Too much news about the garden? Not to worry. Tomorrow I'll share a neat new ornament quilters can make with the stash they have around the house, so check back!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Joy of Giving

Part of the real joy of the holidays for me is figuring out just exactly what will make someone's face light up. I try to be a good listener when friends and family are talking throughout the year so that I can surprise them with that one special thing they mentioned back in July. If it is something that I can make myself, so much the better.

Blog Hop Party with Give-Aways

I was thinking about this as I pondered a suitable give-away for Michelle Foster's Quilting Gallery Blog Hop giveaway. I wanted something that would appeal to everyone, that was easy to ship, and that didn't require me to start on yet another project during this busy time.

What is the one thing I have that's ready to go and gives you something you would pick for yourself? Why electronic patterns of course. I have over 25 patterns for items I've designed - both quilting projects and others - and they are all written up and ready to deliver because I sell them in my shop on

Here is how the give away is going to work. Take a look around my blog. Come back to this page and leave a comment about something you saw here. On December 18th I will randomly select one winner from all of the comments made before midnight (EST) on December 17th. I will contact the winner and you can select any pattern from those listed on my shop on Full instructions will be included in the message. Sound fun? I hope so.

When you are done here, head on over to Quilter's Blog Hop headquarters to find the list of other participating blogs. With all these chances to win, this could really be a "Christmas to Remember"!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Spy With My Little Eye...

Looking for a last minute children's gift? I found a tutorial for these adorable "I Spy" bags over at Craftiness is not Optional and quickly make them up for all the little people in my life. Similar in concept to the game we played as kids, each fleece bag has a few dozen small items buried in the pellets. As you read the items off the list on the back, the child will push the filling this way and that to make the item they are hunting visible in the see-through vinyl window.

We have a neat little store nearby called Richard's Variety where I found most of the items to fill the bags, but I bet the dollar store and your junk drawer (come on, I know there's a marble rolling around in there somewhere) would yield up quite a few. Best of all, it only took me about an hour to whip up three of these. So up and at 'em crafters. Still plenty of time to make a few of these for the kids, grandchildren, or as in my case, an "odd"son (sorta like a godson, but different), a great niece, and a great nephew. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's a Party

Blog Hop Party with Give-Aways
December 10th through 17th, Michelle over at Quilting Gallery will be hosting a Blog Hop Party. At every blog you visit there will be a chance to win something wonderful. I'll be posting my Blog Hop give away on December 9th, so be sure to check back. And if you have a quilting blog yourself, hop on over to Blog Hop Party sign up before it's too late!

Monday, December 5, 2011

“Back Soon”, She said.

Hah! Why are we crafters always such optimists about how much we can accomplish in the run up to the Christmas holiday? I’ve been up to my eyeballs in ornaments, kid’s gifts, gift bags and other assorted holiday themed projects.

And don’t even get me started on the traditional chicken liver biscotti I make for all of Lady’s dog friends.

But today I need to tell you about a project from Christmas past - 2008 to be exact. I recently posted a photo of this ornament on Generally I post projects there that have patterns available, but this one didn’t so I’ve decided to make it my holiday gift to you.

Wet Felted Christmas Ornament Pattern
These wet felted ornaments were crocheted from Peruvian wool and after assembly are decorated with gold and silver metallic or green satin ribbon,  and gold, silver, red and green spangles. The color of the wool is "ivy". The three inch hanger allows each to be suspended from a tree branch or package without the use of an additional hanger. The ornament itself is approximately two inches in diameter.
Skill Level: This pattern is intended for those with intermediate crochet. You will learn to crochet in the round.
Finished Dimensions: Each ornament is approximately 2 inches in diameter and includes a three inch hanger
Gauge: x stitches and d rows – 4 x 4 inch square.
17 stitches and 19 rows hdc = 4 x 4 inch square.
Materials and tools:
1 skein of fingering weight wool yarn.
Note: I used Knit Picks Palette Yarn which comes in an amazing array of colors and at $3.39 per 231yd/50 gm ball, is really affordable. One ball will make several ornaments. Unfortunately I was using up left over yarn from another project, so I can’t be more precise. It is important that this be wool that will felt, so no super-wash or sock yarn. If in doubt ask where you purchase the yarn if it is recommended for wet felting. If using yarn from your stash, make a quick sample swatch and test it following the directions below.
Fiberfill stuffing sufficient to fill the number or ornaments you intend to make.
Narrow ribbon in metallic or satin that is between 3/16 and 3/8 of an inch wide
Assorted sequins and straight pins to hold them in place
Fabric glue
Crochet hook – US size D/3 3.25mm
Stitch markers
Abbreviations used in this pattern
ch – chain
hdc – half double crochet
inc – increase
lp(s) – loop(s)
sk – skip
sl sat – slip stitch
sp(s) – space(s)
st(s) – stitch(es)
yo – yarn over
* repeat directions following * as many times as indicated
Special Techniques
Crochet in the Round
Following are my basic instructions for crochet in the round. These instructions should result in a flat circular piece of crocheted “fabric”. If you are already familiar with how to crochet in the round, you can skip this section and go straight to the directions on how to create the bowl shape needed for this ornament.
Even if you have never tried to crochet in the round, with understanding of a few basic stitches, this technique is pretty easy to master. Learn the technique with this simple practice exercise.
ch 3, sl st in first ch to close ring. Draw up tightly.
Row 1: sc eight times in center of ring (total of 8 sc). sl st to first stitch in previous round. Ch 1.
Row 2: sc twice in each sc around (total of 16 sc). sl st to first stitch in previous round. Ch 1.
Row 3: sc in first sc, sc twice in next sc around (total of 24 sc). Sl st to first stitch in previous round. Ch 1.
Row 4: sc in first 2 sc, sc twice in next sc around (total of 32 sc). Sl st to first stitch in previous round. Ch 1.
Note: most crochet in the round directions will tell you to continue in the manner increasing 8 stitches in every round (i.e. row 5 would direct you to sc in first 3 sc then sc twice in the 4th and so on). However, with this method of increases you always increase in the same place resulting in the hexagonal rather than rounder shape. Also, I found that for the yarn and hook I used and the tension I maintain on the yarn, the increases were too extreme resulting in what my husband laughingly called the sundial rather than a round shape that will lie flat. Instead, I recommend the following.
Row 5: sc in first 7 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 8), sc in next 4 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 13), sc in next 3 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 18), sc in next 7 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 27), sc in next 3 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 32), sc in next 3 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 37). (total of 38) sl st to first stitch in previous round. Ch 1.
Row 6: sc in first 3 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 4), sc in next 9 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 15). Sc in next 4 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 21), sc in first 4 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 26), sc in next 9 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 37), sc in next 4 sc, sc twice in next sc (stitch 43). (total of 44 sc). sl st to first stitch in previous round. Ch 1.
Row 7 and following: Continue to add six stitches per round and to shift the location of the increase around the circle so that the shape does not become too regular.
If it helps, you can imagine the circle divided into eight pieces of the pie. In each round, six slices of the pie will receive an increase, and two will not. In order to ensure that the increases are distributed evenly but without creating a distinct pattern, the increase should come in pie slice 1 and 5 in the first round, 2 and 6 in the second, 3 and 7 in the third, and so on. Also, the location of the increase within the pie can be varied.
Continue to add rounds until the desired diameter is reached. Also the use of a stitch marker to indicate the beginning/ending of a round may be helpful.
Note: I have worked these directions with single crochet and half double crochet and it works well for either. I have not worked it with longer stitches such as double or triple crochet, but anticipate that it would work much the same. You may need to play with the increases and decreases to achieve exactly the effect you want for your project.
Here are my generic instructions for wet felting. In the assembly section of this pattern you will find more specific notes for this project.
If this is your first felting project, you might want to make a trial square before beginning to crochet. Make a 4 x 4 inch square using the same yarn, crochet hook, and stitch you intend to use for the project. Most often I use Half Double Crochet for project to be wet felted. A sample will also allow you to check the gauge as mentioned above.
There are many books on felting techniques as well as articles and tutorials online. They don’t all agree any many factors. Do you need to add soap? Should you allow the piece to go through the spin cycle? Should you felt with other laundry items (jeans or towels)? The following is based on my own experience and machine. Felting a trial square will help you to learn what is going to work for you.
The more wet heat, soap and agitation applied to the fabric the smaller and denser it will become. Also the stitches will become less distinct. In general your fabric will shrink more in width (across the row) than it will in length (number of rows). Your target for this project is to shrink your test piece by 25% in width and 13% in height. If you would prefer a lesser degree of felting, keep in mind that the larger size will require modifications to the lining dimensions as well.
Place crocheted items to be felted in a lingerie bag and toss in the wash with a few similarly colored towels or other items that can be washed in hot water. The reason that I use a lingerie bag is to avoid the items from being excessively twisted out of shape, which can happen if another item gets wrapped around it. Also, the bag prevents lint of other items (such as towels) to deposit on the wool. Set the cycle for hot water and maximum agitation. How to accomplish this will vary by machine. In my case I just set the dial to “whites”. Add a normal amount of laundry detergent for the size of load and start machine.
At the completion of the cycle remove the items. If the body is the size you want, you are ready to go. Otherwise, run it through again. Now lay out the items on a towel covered flat surface out of direct sunlight. Shape pieces to square up corners and allow them to dry completely. For flat items I often place them on a baking rack to allow air flow on both sides. Do not use heat or place in dryer as this will result in additional shrinkage and does not allow you to control the shape.
Half Double Crochet (hdc) Stitch
Yarn over hook and insert hook into the next stitch to be worked. Yarn over hook again and pull yarn through stitch. You will now have three loops on the hook. Yarn over hook again and pull loop through all three loops on the hook. This creates one Half Double Crochet stitch.

Crochet Directions for Ornament
Begin as above for crochet in the round. Unlike the example above, you do not want the circle to lie flat but rather to form a cup shape. To accomplish this you will need to reduce the number of increases in each round. The changes from the example begin in row 2.
ch 3, sl st in first ch to close ring. Draw up tightly.
Row 1: hdc eight times in center of ring (total of 8 hdc). sl st to first stitch in previous round. Ch 1
Row 2: *hdc in next hdc, hdc twice in each hdc* around (total of 12 hdc). sl st to first stitch in previous round. Ch 1
Row 3: Repeat row 2 (18 hdc)
Row 4: *hdc in next 2 hdc, 2 hdc in next hdc* around (total of 24 hdc) sl st to first stitch in previous round. Ch 1
Row 5: Repeat Row 3 (total of 32 hdc)
Row 6: *hdc in next 3 hdc, 2 hdc in next hdc* around (total of 40 hdc)
Row 7: repeat row 6 (total of 50)
Row 8: *hdc in next 4 hdc, 2 hdc in next hdc* around (total of 60 hdc)
Row 9: repeat row 8
Fasten off and weave in ends. Now repeat these instructions to make the second half of the ball.
Note: if you would like to make a larger ornament, just keep adding rounds following the pattern of increases established above until you achieve a ball that is the size you want. Alternatively, you can use a heavier weight wool and larger hook.

Felting and Assembly Instructions for Ornament
When finished with both halves, wet felt following the directions above until you have achieved a ball of a size and density that is pleasing. Now using matching thread, whipstitch around the two halves to join, stuffing with fiberfill as you go.  Weave in any loose ends.
The final step is to decorate the felted orbs. Cut a piece of ribbon six inches long and thread it through the tapestry needle. Now decide on the location of the top of the ball and pull the ribbon through the top so that half comes out on either side of the stitch. Knot at the top of the ball and at the ends of the ribbon forming your hanging loop. Take a second piece of ribbon that it the right size to go around the ball and cover the seam. Use a dab of fabric glue to hold the ribbon in place. Now pick out some sequins (I generally used at least eight per ornament) and using a straight pin, affix them to the ribbon. If you like you can use a dab of glue on the back of the sequin as well, but I find that the straight pins stick into the fiberfill and don not fall out.
That’s it. I hope you enjoy making this project, and let me know if you have questions.