Divided Baskets

I’m finally getting around to blogging one of my last pre-Jude projects: two Divided Baskets (pattern by Noodlehead). I made two of these baskets—one for Jude’s room and one to keep on the first floor in our living room. We use both baskets to hold diapers, burp cloths, and things like diaper rash cream. I love these baskets. They are cute and practical and were pretty fun to sew.

Noodlehead Divided Baskets

The one for his room is made using the same space-themed fabric I used when I made some simple valences for the windows. All of the other fabrics are just quilting cottons that I picked up from Joann’s. I used some white cotton webbing for the basket handles. The pattern has an option where you add some accent fabric to the handles, but I didn’t feel like bothering.

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The baskets are really easy to put together. You’re really just sewing a bunch of straight lines and the instructions are clear and thorough. I was also surprised by how quickly the sewing went. For some reason, I was thinking that constructing the baskets would be a fairly involved process, but it’s not at all.

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Hands down, the most tedious part of making these baskets (and I won’t lie—it is definitely tedious) is cutting out and applying all of the interfacing. Obviously, I made this worse for myself by making two at once so I had to deal with twice the interfacing. But I also followed the recommendation to use two kinds of interfacing, both the heavy craft interfacing and the fusible fleece, to get a more structured basket. The process of applying all that interfacing felt endless, but it was totally worth it. The baskets are structured enough to hold all of the things we need without collapsing, and we’ve been using them every day for nearly four months without any issues.

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These seem like a really popular handmade baby shower gift, and I can see why. But I’m also thinking about making one of these baskets for my sewing room to organize pattern pieces and notions for the projects I have on the go. There are so many potential uses for these baskets, I’m glad I bought this pattern—I’ll definitely be sewing it again.

Sewing for Knitting: DPN Case and Zippered Notions Pouch

This week, I spent some time working up some knitting-related storage solutions. When I started knitting long, long ago, I kept telling myself that I was going to bring out the sewing machine and whip up one of those roll-style needle cases. At this point, I hardly every use straight needles since I prefer circular needles and lean pretty heavily on my interchangeable needle set. But I do have a robust set of double-pointed needles (DPNs) that I use frequently enough that my current storage solution–an old shoebox from a pair of shoes that wore out years ago–isn’t cutting it anymore. I also have a pencil case that I keep all of my knitting notions in, but I’ve loved it to death and needed to replace it. Thus, my plans for this DPN case and zippered notions pouch were born.

Double Pointed Needle Case

For this case, I followed this tutorial from Crafty Avocado. The tutorial was really clear and easy to follow. On the whole, this was a simple project–it basically just requires some careful measuring and a lot of straight stitching. And in the end, I’ve got something a whole lot better than my current shoebox storage solution. All of the fabrics are quilting cottons from JoAnn’s.

There is a lot of top stitching on this project and the piece just gets thicker and thicker as you go, so I tried out a technique I’ve seen other people use before and kept a folded up square of fabric close by to put underneath the back of the presser foot to keep it level as I started stitching. I used this when I started stitching, whenever I turned a corner, and at the side of the piece when I was sewing over the closure tab and my presser foot needed to get over 4 more layers of fabric—it was a lifesaver every time. Because you end up with so many layers towards the end, the tutorial recommends switching to a heavier needle like a leather needle. I used an 14/90 universal needle for almost the entire project, but switched to a 16/100 heavyweight needle for the final step when you top-stitch around the fully-constructed case and the heavyweight needle worked fine. If I made this again, I’d probably use a large button and add a buttonhole to the closure tab rather than the recommended magnetic snap. The snap is really easy to install, but it’s also a bit bulkier than I’d like.

As you top stitch across the closure tab, you have to sew through the outer fabric, the lining, the two needle pockets, the two layers of the closure tab, four layers of interfacing, and the seam allowances for all that business. I was able to get through it without a problem, but while I was sewing, I couldn’t help but think of my old, crappy machine and how, if confronted with the same situation, it would have dramatically packed it’s bags and stormed out, letting the door slam behind it. I am endlessly thankful to have a machine with some chutzpa now.

Zippered Notions Pouch

I used another free tutorial for this one–specifically, the Brigitte Needles and Notions Pouch tutorial from Very Shannon. It’s a great tutorial, but this tiny little pouch gave me trouble at every turn, mostly because I’m a newb. I screwed things up right out of the gate by trying to sew while tired. The directions were perfectly clear but I couldn’t process the difference between the “pocket” and “pocket flap.” From there, I managed to screw up just about every step at least once before getting it right. I ultimately had to recut two of the pieces and ripped more seams than I can count, making this little 5×9″ pouch a bit more work than I had anticipated.

Most of my troubles were born out the fact that this is the first time I’ve installed a zipper before so I made a lot of stupid mistakes like waiting too long to shorten the zipper and then shortening it too much. Since I’d never done it before, I also had a little trouble figuring out how, exactly, to sew the lining to the zipper since the lining gets attached to the underside of the zipper. Basically, what I ended up doing was lining the right side of the lining fabric up with the teeth at the underside of the zipper and then pinning it into place from behind. Then I flipped the piece over and sewed the zipper to the lining with the zipper and the wrong side of the lining fabric facing up. It was super simple to sew together (once I figured out how to do it) and I was able to catch the lining fabric without any issues.

Sewing lining to zipper via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

So this pouch was definitely more challenging than I expected, although it would probably be a no-brainer for someone with some basic bag-sewing experience. I’m glad I stuck with it—I think it will be really useful given it’s size and handy front pocket, which will be good for holding things like extra needles and such. And I’m proud that I managed to sew in my first perfectly functional zipper.

I know I’m going to get a lot of use out of both of these items, and I’d absolutely recommend both of the tutorials. But I think I’m done with this kind of sewing for awhile. I can’t quite articulate what the difference is, but I think I really prefer garment sewing—it gives me a much greater sense of satisfaction. As a palate cleanser, I went ahead and attached the elastic to the last two pairs of underwear that I cut out and constructed a couple of weeks ago. (You can read more about my underwear-sewing adventures in this post.) And now I’m ready to get cracking on my April garment project!

Handmade Christmas Gifts, Part II

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I prefer to make just a handful of gifts each year so that I focus my energy on the projects that inspire me, so that I can finish my gift-making with plenty of time to spare, and so that I can avoid adding to the list of inevitable end-of-year stresses. This year I made the superhero capes that I blogged about earlier in the week, as well as two other gifts, one for Aidan’s mom and one for my brother’s girlfriend.

The gift I made for my brother’s girlfriend was an attempt to give a bit of a personal touch to an otherwise generic gift. Since we live pretty far from our family, this year was the first chance that I’d had to actually meet my brother’s girlfriend. My dad’s gift suggestion was that she would appreciate any kind of “girl stuff” like candles or lotions or the like. As it turns out, there is no shortage of generic “girl” gifts to be given, but that doesn’t mean the options are inspiring. I’m no Leslie Knope when it comes to gift-giving, but I still hate giving a gift that says, “I did the least I could possibly do to give you something.” So I compromised and paired some generic gift items—a scented candle and a tea/mug gift set—with an easy pair of knitted hand warmers.

Handwarmers via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

I made these using the Women’s Wrist Warmer pattern from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I adjusted the pattern numbers slightly to account for using a lighter yarn and smaller needles than called for in the pattern—you can get all the specific knitting details here on Ravelry. I made these using yarn leftover from a previous project and was able to complete them in a single evening, so making this gift wasn’t a major investment of time or materials. Even if she doesn’t end up wearing them, I like to think that taking a bit of time to make something for her says, “I’m really glad to finally meet you. Thanks for treating my brother well.”

Handwarmer Gift via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

When it comes to making handmade gifts, I think that careful finishing can be the difference between a gift a person wants to receive and a gift they give some major side-eye. When these hand-warmers came off the needles, they looked like little mussed tubes of nothing. When I blocked these, I made sure to let them soak for a good long time to really relax the stitch pattern and then stretched them over some cardboard templates that I cut out myself. (Saying I made a template is a fancy way of saying that I cut a 3” rectangle out of some cardboard to stretch the handwarmers to 6” circumference.) Careful blocking doesn’t change the fact that these are essentially simple knitted tubes with a thumb-hole, but it at least helps them look a little more impressive laying flat.

Tuscan Greeting via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

The gift I made for Aidan’s mom definitely took more than an evening to complete, although I finished it much earlier in the year. I thought of Aidan’s mom as soon as I saw this Tuscan Greetings Dimensions kit—not only because it matches the decor of her kitchen and living area, but also because Aidan’s parents celebrated their 30th anniversary this year. This is the third Dimensions kit I’ve made in the last couple of years. Like a lot of mainstream designs, they don’t really match up with my personal aesthetic, but they’ve worked well as gifts that I’ve given people, and I honestly think that they are some of the best kits I’ve used. Their charts are easy to read, the instructions contain good explanations of the different stitches used, they separate out and label the different thread colors, and they rarely make use of 1/4 or 3/4 stitches that can be fiddly or difficult for beginners.

Thus ends my recap of handmade Christmas gifts for 2013. All in all, it was a very low-stress year of gift-making. The worst part was when we shipped our presents and had to sit for a week in a cold sweat hoping they would actually make it to Wisconsin. We ended up getting to Wisconsin before our presents, but they arrived just in the nick of time. Here’s to a new year of making!

Handmade Christmas Gifts, Part I: Superhero Capes

Aidan and I have a nephew and godson who were born just a few days apart from one another and are now just a few weeks away from their third birthdays. We’ve always had fun coming up with gift ideas for both boys and, I think, have done our fair share of spoiling. On the one hand, it’s really easy to come up with gift ideas for really young kids because everything is new to them and because they tend to like just about anything. On the other hand, it’s hard because a lot of kids have no shortage of toys, and because so many toys (and clothes and baby care items and just about anything that you could purchase for a kid) are aggressively gendered and branded in a way that kind of squicks me out. One of the reasons that I like handmade gifts for kids is because it gives you the chance to subvert some of that gendering and branding business. Plus, I figure I should take advantage of the opportunity to make these little guys gifts because it won’t be too long before they are too cool for my crafty shenanigans.

Superhero Cape via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

I came up with the idea for superhero capes while I was searching for ideas for what became the Monster Love baby gift. Amidst all the free tutorials for things like bibs and baby hats and whatnot, I came across this free tutorial for superhero capes from Thread Riding Hood. I thought about making superhero masks to match the capes, but eventually thought better of it. I figure that little kids have enough of a time staying upright and avoiding scrapes and bruises that they don’t need to deal with the added complication of potentially obscured vision.

The tutorial has a pattern for two different sized capes—one size for 18m-3T and one for 4T and up. While my nephew and godson are basically the same age, they’ve occupied opposite ends of the growth chart since they were born. So I used the smaller size for my nephew, who is more slight, and the larger size my godson, who is both tall and broad. The difference in sizes is a matter of about 2” of length and a bit of additional width with the larger size.

Superhero Cape via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

All the fabric I used was quilting cotton from Jo-Ann Fabrics. The comic book words novelty print I used to line the back of the capes (which is the same print I used for the coffee cup sleeve I showed in an earlier post) looks like it’s still available on Jo-Ann’s website. I got a yard each of the red and purple and 2 yds of the comic book print and had plenty of fabric left over (all of the fabrics were ~44” wide). I was able to cut the blue backing for the logo out of 1/4 of a yard of fabric.

Superhero Capes via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

While I’m sure the wildly independent toddlers that received these capes would object to the comparison, these capes are not much different than the monster baby bibs I made awhile ago—the capes are larger, but the process of making them is essentially the same. Following the advice in the tutorial, I searched for something like “superman alphabet” and used one of the fonts that came up to trace the letters that I appliqued to the back of the capes. It wasn’t a terribly scientific process—I basically zoomed in on the letter I wanted until it was about 5” tall and then traced it by holding a piece of paper up to my computer screen. When you trace the logo design onto the fusible web, you just have to remember to trace the design backwards so that it will be right-side up on your fabric. I just traced the right side of the logo with a black Sharpie and it bled through the paper enough that I was able to flip the paper over, lay a piece of fusible web over the top, and trace the design backward without any struggle.

Superhero Logo via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

My crowning achievement with these capes is that, unlike the monster bibs, I managed to not totally muck up the edge stitching around the applique. In fact, I think I did a pretty bang-up job managing all the angles and curves and shape changes of the logo. There was that thing where I accidentally sewed part of the cape to itself while edge-stitching, unpicked the stitches, and then made the same mistake except worse. But aside from that episode, I think I showed real sewing growth.

Superhero Logo via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

We gave both boys a copy of Bob McLeod’s Superhero ABC with their capes. As you can imagine, it was hard to find good books about superheroes that weren’t just franchise fodder. McLeod’s book is really colorful and has great illustrations that show a different superhero for each letter of the alphabet. The book features a good number of female superheroes and a more racially diverse cast of characters than you’d see in a lot of books. Plus, the descriptions of their superpowers are silly and fun. It might be a bit before the boys really appreciate the book since they are still pretty young, but I think it stands a good chance of becoming a favorite.

Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod

Around the time that I finished making these, I dreamt that I had a huge Superman logo tattooed on my throat—so huge that it stretched almost from my chin to my sternum. The dream wasn’t about actually getting the tattoo or having other people react to the tattoo—the dream was just me thinking about the tattoo. And in the dream I was genuinely trying to figure out if the tattoo was a bad life choice. I was rationalizing that my tattoo was somehow different than other neck tattoos, because in my dream state, it seemed to me that my giant logo throat tattoo wasn’t really that noticeable. And finally, I was trying to remember everything I’ve heard over the years about the relative pain and success of tattoo removal procedures. They say that dreams are your brain’s way of working out problems while you’re sleeping, and if this is the case, I’m not sure what my tattoo dream says about my problems. Perhaps just that making gifts for people is always more stressful than we anticipate? Regardless, I’m happy with how these capes turned out and even happier that I don’t have a gigantic Superman logo neck tattoo.

Cross Stitched Christmas Ornaments

Here I am, publicly talking about cross stitch again, which I think means my crafting shame has decreased a bit. I’ve been eyeing some of the cross stitch Christmas ornament kits that are around for awhile now. Cross stitched ornaments appeal to me because they have a purpose, and because I have fewer aesthetic objections when it comes to Christmas decorations. Frankly, I much prefer an anything-goes Christmas decor to a more sanitized, monochrome Martha Stewart approach. At Christmas time, I embrace a whole host of things that I otherwise dislike, including Frank Sinatra, claymation, and glitter. One of my life goals is to own a miniature Christmas village, complete with little figurines ice skating on a frozen pond made of cellophane. I’ve even found myself wishing I had a really good Christmas sweater.

Miniature Christmas Village, Birkenhead (1)

I’m coveting this mini village. Photo by Rept0n1x, via Wikimedia.

So while I rarely come across a non-holiday cross stitch design I really love, I rarely find a Christmas-related cross stitch design that I’d totally turn my nose up at. Maybe I need to just embrace this and make cross stitching for Christmas my thing.

Cross Stitch Ornaments via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

Anyway, as I was contemplating the purchase of an ornament kit, I rediscovered a set of small cross stitch kits I’ve had sitting around in a drawer for awhile. These are the kinds of cross stitch kits you can buy at places like Michaels or JoAnns for a couple of dollars. Aidan bought me the sock monkey kit last year (you can get the same one here), and I think I picked up the tree and Santa kits for $.99 at JoAnns a couple of years ago (they’re also available online). I’ve always been confused about what to do with these little 2” designs—how many of these little things do you need hanging on your wall? But then I saw someone who was stringing ribbon through the tab on the plastic frame and hanging them as Christmas ornaments, and I realized I was being obtuse. So it goes.

Christmas Tree Ornament via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

Sock Monkey Ornament via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

So I stitched these up and got them ready to hang on the tree. I just popped the Christmas tree and the sock monkey into the plastic frames they came in and put a ring of hot glue around the back to secure them. The Santa ended up not fitting in the frame he came with because of where I backstitched the year, so I used a little 3.5” embroidery hoop I had sitting around to frame him. After the design was secure in the hoop, I trimmed off most of the excess fabric, used a hot glue gun to glue the remaining fabric to the hoop, and then glued a piece of white felt to the back of the hoop to hide the back of the cross stitch.

Ornament backs via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

The Santa was totally worth the five minutes of extra work because he’s my favorite. Why is he hugging a Christmas tree? I have no idea, but I want to kiss his little cheeks.

Santa Ornament via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

Thoughts on Making Gifts

At Christmas, the craft world is abuzz with talk of lengthy gift lists, craft-induced stress, late-night craft-cramming sessions, and the nightmare that is having to wrap an unfinished item. At the same time, parodies of the homemade gift pop up over and over again. Crafters are losing sleep over their lists of gift projects while a whole host of voices want us to believe that everyone secretly dreads a handmade gift. Of course, the parodies, like most pop culture tropes, are cheap, one-dimensional, and tired. Unless you are watching a period piece, you rarely see a skilled maker produce a beautiful handcrafted item that the receiver loves, despite how often this happens in real life. And I think that people who really believe that “the only real gift is a purchased gift” are a small, albeit vocal, minority of people you probably don’t want to hang out with anyway. But given all the stress and anxiety and hurried toiling that comes with gift-related crafting, I’ve been wondering: why do we give homemade gifts?

I don’t mean that as a rhetorical question, as if to say: “why bother?” I ask the question genuinely, as in: How do we make decisions about when to make gifts and what to make and for whom? What kinds of values underlie those decisions? When does making gifts pay off and when is it an unnecessary drain on our creative energy?

Kari at UCreate has a list of 10 reasons to give handmade gifts that sums up a lot of the reasons I like to make gifts. My biggest motivation for giving handmade gifts is that it allows me to give things that are personalized and unique. Handmade gifts can also be a sure thing for people that you know appreciate certain items–I like giving Aidan socks because he wears them enthusiastically and his mom always likes getting knitted dishcloths. In the past, I’ve given something handmade when I’m short on gift ideas, which can work well if it matches the person’s interests and personality. I was stumped for gift ideas for my sister’s 12th birthday and ended up making her this sock monster. It might seem like a random gift, but it matches her quirky personality and her love of all things cute and silly.

But other motivations for giving handmade gifts can creep in, like the belief that handmade goods are inherently superior. Or the belief that a handmade gift is the only way to provide a personal gift or the only way to opt out of the rampant consumerism that takes over during gift-giving seasons like Christmas. The idea of a handmade Christmas is nice, but does it run the risk of replacing the pressures and expectations of consumerism with a different set of pressures and expectations?

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t also an aspect of performance to making handmade gifts. By that, I mean that I wonder if there is some part of us that is working to show that we are skilled and to have this skill verified by the people who receive the gift. I think this performance is more unconscious than anything and, to some extent, unavoidable. Of course I want to have my skill recognized. I take pleasure in having people appreciate the time and thought and skill that went into making something. But it’s dangerous to let that desire for praise or the need to perform “craftiness” take over—if you fall into a place of looking for external validation as the primary marker of the worth of what you’ve done it only breeds bad feelings and disappointments.

Gift giving is emotional, for both giver and receiver. And for the giver, it seems that the emotional stake in a gift increases the more we invest. We worry more about whether a person will like a gift when it is expensive or when we’ve had to go out of our way to get it. Or, in the case of the handmade gift, we worry more about how a gift will be received if it took a lot of time or precious materials to produce. When we inflate the value of handmade goods (simply by virtue of being handmade) or burden ourselves with more gift projects than we have reasonable time or energy to produce, we increase our emotional investment and, likewise, our risk of disappointment if the gift is not received in the way we hope. When we have an inflated emotional investment in a gift or when we’re desperately looking to have our work validated in specific ways, this puts more pressure on the receiver. And perhaps that’s where some of the disdain for handmade gifts comes from—from people being put in a position where they not only receive something they dislike, but where they know, implicitly, that there is added pressure to be extra appreciative or to actively praise a person’s skill.

 

There’s always a risk that someone won’t like a gift. The question for me, as a maker, is: how do I keep my emotional investment in a handmade gift in check and make giving a handmade gift as positive an experience as possible? I find that my best handmade gift-giving experiences come when I’m realistic about my time, my ability, and about the person that I’m giving a gift to. Likewise, my worst experiences have come from not being realistic. Usually, being realistic means that I focus on my energy on just a few handmade gifts at Christmas and the occasional handmade gift through the rest of the year rather than trying to make something for everyone. To stay realistic, I’m continually asking myself questions like:

  • Is working on a deadline or making something for someone else going to make me feel resentful? Do I have the creative energy to make this gift or am I already immersed in projects I’d rather being working on?
  • Is this gift appropriate for the receiver? Am I making it for them because I think they will appreciate it or just because I want to make them something?
  • Have I chosen materials appropriate for the person who will use the gift and for how the gift will be used? If I’m thinking about using expensive or delicate materials, do I think the receiver will appreciate those materials? Are these materials that I love and want to keep for myself?
  • Do I really have the time to make these gifts? Have I factored in other life events and responsibilities that will zap my energy or interrupt my ability to work on these gifts? Do I have time to do the finishing work that will make this item shine?
  • If I’m starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed, what can I cut from the list? What can be saved for the next gift-giving occasion?
  • Can I actually make this thing and make it look good/be functional?
  • And when it’s done: Am I happy with how it turned out? Do I feel good giving this as a gift?

It’s always a challenge to be realistic about your time, especially at Christmas when everyone is busy and there is continual pressure to make the season special. But I think it’s also difficult to be realistic about your ability. The bizarre ornament your 6-year-old niece made in art class is charming, but the dry, burnt cookies you receive from someone who only dusts their measuring cups off once a year in December are decidedly less charming. It’s tempting to use new skills to make everyone gifts (because, “Hey! Look at this awesome thing I can do now!”) or to learn a new skill because you want to make a particular gift. But being new to a craft means that even simple projects can take a good deal of time, can require the purchase of new tools and materials, or can make you feel insecure about what you produce, all of which inflate your emotional investment in the gift. It’s not that I think you can’t take up a new craft and start making gifts right away or that every new crafter endures a period of making endless items of shame. I’ve sewn gifts for three people in the very short time that I’ve been sewing, but I’ve tried to be mindful of my ability in doing so by picking projects I feel confident I can execute well and that aren’t a burden to complete.

I take for granted that the only acceptable response to a gift is to say “Thank you,” even if you’re visualizing the fastest route to Goodwill while you unwrap it. But there’s no denying that the handmade gift, despite the thought and love that might go into it, can become a special kind of disaster. I like to think that being mindful about why and when we give handmade gifts can help us avoid playing out the parody.

Since I’ve been thinking a lot about handmade gifts, I’m curious: Are you making gifts this season? How do you choose what to make and who to make gifts for? Where do you think handmade gifts go wrong?

(All of the pictures in this post are of knitted gifts I’ve made over the years. You can click on each picture to get all the project details on Ravelry.)

A Tiny Typewriter

Cross stitch was my first craft. My first serious crafting memory was working with my mom to cross stitch either a dragon or a dinosaur onto a bib for my then-not-born/now-22-and-6-foot-tall brother. I think the dino/dragon was purple and green. I would have been about 5 years old then. Since then, I’ve cross stitched on and off, starting and abandoning a lot more projects than I finished along the way. I think the first project I actually finished on my own was a little jump-roping bear design that said “No pain, no gain.” Such a weird project for a kid. After that, I think it was a Precious Moments design that my dad still has hanging in his church office. Which is all to say that I have not always made crafting look cool.

Honestly? Cross stitching makes me feel kinda dowdy. I’ll talk about my knitting from here to kingdom come, but I keep quiet about the cross stitching like it’s my craft shame. When people find out that I do cross stitch, I get uncomfortable and start looking for ways to sweep it back under the rug. There’s probably something deeper at work with my craft shame, but the design market for cross stitch certainly isn’t helping. The majority of cross stitch designs seem to fall into a handful of unappealing categories: motivational sayings, cutesy cartoons, country florals, religious stuff, and cultural appropriations. (Seriously. The number of cross stitch designs described as “oriental” is disturbing.)  I know there are a host of independent cross stitch designers on Etsy and such, but a lot of these designs don’t appeal to me for an entirely different set of reasons—a lot of them strike me as very twee, but they also tend towards small-scale designs that are moreso aimed at beginners. I find myself wanting more complex patterns that will take me longer than an evening to finish and that I can put to good use. That is, more complex patterns that don’t involve dragons or Jesus. They’re just not my jam.

The pattern I made for my dad. The finished version says "It's What's On the Inside That Counts." I made a mistake on it that still haunts me.

This is the pattern I made for my dad. My finished version has a glaring mistake that still haunts me.

This project is helping me reconcile my relationship with cross stitch. It is another gift of sorts, on it’s way to California for my friend who is also the recipient of the monster-themed baby gift. Her family is making a quilt for her baby that will be made up of 5” squares contributed by family and friends, with each quilt square representing a different family. So she asked Aidan and I to contribute a square to represent our family, and after some discussion, we decided a little typewriter design nicely reflected my writing and Aidan’s vintage typewriter collection. I found this little cross stitch design from Tiny Modernist on Etsy and managed to stitch it up over a weekend. This is the first time I’ve downloaded a cross stitch design from an independent designer, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. The pattern came with a full color chart that was very easy to follow. Since it was a small design, I just worked on it with my laptop open next to me, but the pattern also comes with instructions for printing a folding design onto card stock, which is a nice feature for people who are more motivated than I am. Tiny Modernist has a lot of really great designs—I really like this kitchen gadget design and I’ve already started working on this sewing machine, which is part of the same vintage series as the typewriter design. I can definitely see myself making more her work since they do not fall into any of the aforementioned no-no categories.

Typewriter Cross Stitch via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

The finished design measures about 4”x3”. Some quicky internet research suggested applying a lightweight interfacing to the back of a cross stitch square meant for a quilt as a way to secure the stitches, so that’s what I did. I also added our fake last name (which is a hybrid of our respective last names that we use as a funny short-hand with friends), as well as the Rukeyser quote. I’m not totally sure this is what my friend had in mind when she asked for a square for her quilt, but she specifically said “it can be anything” and I take these kinds of instructions very seriously. Anyway. I hope it is appreciated, and I hope it lets our new little baby friend know that we are weird and dorky people.

Am I the only one who experiences craft shame?