Looking for a craft to work on that’s uncomplicated, totally relaxing, and highly rewarding?

You’ll find all of that and more with the fun craft of cross-stitch.

The art of cross-stitch was so popular when I was a young mother in my 20s. I remember getting hooked on it as a relaxing way of spending “me” time while my toddler napped in the afternoon. 

This was a lot of fun to work on, with all the different colours.

It was easy to learn, simple to do, and always produced the most rewarding results. A finished cross-stitch looks a lot like a painting—but instead of paint, you use different colours of embroidery floss (thread) and follow the very clear pattern instructions by simply stitching X’s onto the little squares in the cloth.

For all the gardeners out there!

Over the years, my love affair with cross-stitch fell by the wayside as I experimented with other pursuits such as quilting and sewing, painting and drawing, and crochet. But every time I caught sight of one of my finished cross-stitch pieces, I felt a strong yearning to get back to it. 

This comes out of storage every Christmas.

And didn’t it take a pandemic to reset my focus on cross-stitch again after all these years! I have some storage bins filled with cross-stitch supplies that I’d had been keeping in the cellar for the past 15+ years. As I sorted through them, I rediscovered a beautiful kit that I’d bought eons ago, that I’d put away to work on “someday.” 

Still have to frame this one. Would look lovely in a child’s bedroom.

Well, “someday” had finally arrived. 

Last summer every time we went out on our boat for the day, I took my cross-stitch project along. Talk about relaxing. Cross-stitching while lounging in the middle of a lake, listening to the gentle sounds of water lapping against the side of your boat is stress relief on steroids!

This takes centre stage on my fireplace mantel.

By September, I had completed the adorable “Beach Babies.” Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of being out on my boat during the summer of 2020—it’s proof that beautiful things can still come out of the bleakest of times.  

“Beach Babies”, summer of 2020

Cross-stitch is the oldest form of embroidery, practiced as far back as the middle ages. Here’s a link with some fun facts about the art of cross-stitch: https://crossstitchacademy.com/fun-facts-history-of-cross-stitching/

Loved working on “The Toy Box”.

I would love to see cross-stitch taught in elementary schools to both boys and girls—needlework skills offer so many benefits to kids: improved fine motor skills, patience, self-confidence, improved math skills, and stoking imagination and creativity, to name a few.

As a writer and editor by trade, I couldn’t pass this one up!

Think you might want to learn how to cross-stitch? You’ll find lots of instruction on the web, but here’s a good YouTube instructional video for beginners offered by Bucilla, a popular needlework supply manufacturer:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Kiuy4ZwIDI

I made this cross-stitch into a cushion for my dad for Father’s Day. He loved it.

It’s easy to find cross-stitch supplies online at your local craft store sites. Beginners can buy a kit that contains everything you need: the pattern, Aida cloth, floss, and cross-stitch needle. 

Worked on this while sitting in the stands during my daughter’s baseball games.

Try it. I guarantee you’ll love it!

This is a tribute to my good buddy, Otis.

Here are some of my finished projects from the past. I have good memories of working on every one of them.

Butterfly in alcohol ink and acrylic paint

I loved this saying when I saw it online: “Don’t be afraid. Change can be beautiful,” said the butterfly. That was my prompt to paint something that would complement it.

First, I outlined a butterfly in pencil on a plain ceramic tile.

I wanted to do some experimenting with alcohol ink, so I used black acrylic paint to outline the butterfly, creating a “border” that would contain the drips of alcohol ink in each section.

Once the acrylic was dry, I dripped different colours of ink into each white space on the wings. It took me several hours, on and off, to arrive at the colour mix that I wanted, but it was worth it. It kind of looks like stained glass up close. The acrylic paint did a very good job of containing the alcohol ink within each section.

To add the saying, I just did hand lettering with a super-fine marker.

Last step — I sprayed it with a clear sealant.

Raccoons in a tree

I’ve had a nice piece of tree bark in my craft cupboard for a couple of years now, so I decided to finally do something worthwhile with it. I had originally shellacked it to protect the bark.

I’d been tossing around the idea in my mind of painting it to look like a couple of raccoons were looking out of a hole in a tree, so had to figure out a way of making a circle in the center that would be smooth enough for painting.

With hopes that I wouldn’t make a mistake and destroy the entire, delicate piece of bark, I jumped in with both feet and used a heavy-duty retractable utility knife to carve the outline of a circle, then gently picked away at pieces of bark in the circle to clear it back to the rough wood. Then I used some sandpaper to gently sand inside the circle until it was about as smooth as I could get it without rubbing right through.

Next, I used fine black marker to sketch a rough outline of the raccoons in the circle. If I do this again, I’ll use a dark lead pencil instead, because the marker outline was hard to eliminate, even after painting over it a few times. The marker lines kept reappearing right through the paint. Live and learn.

Once I had my outline, I painted the black background, then just started painting the raccoons with a combination of black, dark and light grey, tan grey, and cream coloured acrylic paints. While I worked, I was paranoid that I was going to mess it up somehow and would then have to scrap the whole thing, but it ended up turning out ok. Not perfect, but good enough for my skill level.

The main thing here—it’s always exciting to embark on a new challenge and watch it take shape. I’ve dabbled in art on and off throughout my life, so I’m nowhere near being professional at it, but I’m finding that the more I do it, the more I learn. And the more I learn, the more I love doing it.

Going outside of your comfort zone is almost always a good thing, and it’s truly the best way to learn. I move out of my comfort zone every time I start a new art project, because I never know if it’s going to turn out, and it’s always in the back of my mind that I may be wasting my time (maybe that’s a confidence thing?). But it’s never been a waste of time. I always learn something from the experience. And 99% of the time, it works out!

So here’s a challenge for you: think of something you’ve never done before, and make the decision to take a chance… move outside your comfort zone by trying to do it.

You’ve got nothing to lose because I guarantee that you’ll learn some valuable new lessons. And even better, taking that step might just start you on a whole new path!

Refashion an old pair of sneakers with Sharpies

Hmm… what to do next with your Sharpie markers?

Why not experiment with an old pair of canvas sneakers that were probably soon headed to a landfill anyway.

Choose the colors you want to use, then practice doodling on a sheet of paper, sticking with simple shapes and designs.

Once you feel confident, start drawing right on the canvas.

You don’t have to be an artist to do this—simply doodle away… just like when you’re holed up in a boardroom meeting at work while somebody is droning on and on and on. 🙂

Once you’ve finished drawing and coloring your designs, you can also use a glue gun or a bit of fabric glue to add embellishments such as beads or sequins.

You can also spray them with a clear sealant, for added protection.

Who knows? Perhaps you’ll be the one wearing the coolest pair of sneakers this summer!

(Duh! I put my initials on the wrong feet—oh well, c’est dommage.)

 

Little Spring Lamb

This sweet little lamb is a cuddly toy for little hands. The body is crocheted, the face and ears are cut from felt and sewn to the body, and the feet are tiny dollar store pompoms that are sewn on. The finished size of the toy is approx. 4-1/2” long.

MATERIALS:
Any thick and fuzzy white or off-white yarn
9 mm crochet hook
Stitch markers
A few handfuls of Fiberfill stuffing
A square of white crafting felt for face and ears
White thread and needle; black embroidery thread
4 tiny off-white pom poms for feet

BODY:
This is basically a ball crocheted in rounds. Using your white yarn and 9 mm hook:

Round 1: ch 4; sl st to make a ring; ch 1, 10 sc in ring (10 sc); use a stitch marker to mark your beginning sc from here on.

Round 2: 2 sc in each sc around (20 sc)

Rounds 3-9: sc in each sc around (20 sc). Next row begins decreasing.

Round 10: sc in each of first 2 sc; sc2tog; *sc in each of next 2 sc; sc2tog; rep from * around.

Round 11: sc in first sc, sc2tog; *sc in next, sc2tog; rep from * around.
Stuff with Fiberfill.

Round 12: Continue *sc in next, sc2tog* until closed. Sl st to secure. Chain a couple more times to create a little tail. Fasten off and weave in end.

HEAD & EARS:
Cut 2 pieces of felt in shape shown for the head (approx. 2-1/2” long) and cut 2 little circles of felt for the ears (each a little under an inch).

With wrong sides together (with most felt, either side is fine), either hand sew or use a machine to sew the two head pieces together (see photos). Turn right side out and stuff with Fibrefill. Using white thread and sewing needle, sew to body. It’s a little fiddly, so I went around twice with the needle and thread to make sure it was fastened securely.

Next, starting with the first ear, pinch one end, then run the thread through it a couple times to secure the “pinch”. Then sew to one side of the head as shown. Repeat with the other ear on the other side of the head.

HAIR:
Crochet an additional little puff of “hair” for the top of its head. With your 9 mm hook and same fuzzy yarn: ch 3, sc in second ch from hook, and in first ch. Fasten off and weave end into row. Use your fingers to puff it up a bit, then sew it down to the top of the head between the ears, where the head meets the body. (You could always make a Donald Trump comb-over instead, but I don’t think that’s fair to the poor little lamb! 🙂

FACE:
For the eyes, I sewed on two black seed beads. If you prefer to skip the beads, just make two French knots with the black embroidery thread instead.

Use the black embroidery thread to straight-stitch the nose and mouth, as shown in the picture.

FEET:
Sew the four pom poms on the bottom of body (see picture).

Happy Easter!

 

I made an Easter egg tree with a crocheted egg pattern and branches from the garden.

Here’s how:

Picked up a glass vase from the dollar store and thought I’d glam it up with some stripes. All you need is some masking tape and spray paint. I used the masking tape to make stripes, then spray painted over it. Once dry, I peeled off the masking tape and was left with a really cute vase.Spray painted some branches the same colour as the vase.

Filled the vase with some Arborio rice that had been sitting at the back of my cupboard for the past two years, then set the branches in it.
Used Bernat Handicrafter yarn in different colours to crochet some easter eggs. Here’s a great free pattern at the wonderful Petals To Picots blog:

https://www.petalstopicots.com/2012/03/crocheted-easter-eggs-pattern/
I altered the egg pattern a bit to make two spring chicks (see photos), just for fun. I pasted google eyes on them and cut beaks from some orange felt.
I attached thin ribbon to all the eggs and chicks, then tied them onto the branches. And there you have it. An Easter egg tree to brighten up the holiday weekend!

Otis is very curious!

 

My Otis—A most fascinating cat!

Poor Otis. He’s a boy cat but I’m guilty of forcing him to model lady cat hats for my own selfish amusement.

So here’s the thing. He has this toy fish that was on its last legs, so instead of throwing it in the trash, I thought I’d combine it with some netting and sequins and other baubles to create a “lady cat fascinator.”

For those of you who don’t really know me—I assure you that I’m not some batshit crazy cat lady—I simply like to have some fun once in a while at the expense of my poor, beloved cat.

I wonder if he’s swearing at me right now in cat-speak?

So without further ado, here is my baby boy, who is thoroughly pissed off and trying to escape me (and his new hat) in every photo.

Honestly, it’s not as outlandish as some of the fascinators I’ve seen women wearing in photos at that Ascot event in England! (haha)

This photo is most representative of the many photos I tried to take of him. He just refused to keep still!

Use any 6″ square pattern to make a pretty granny square purse

PLEASE NOTE: Since this post has run, I’ve had a lot of requests for 1-bag_purse-granny-brownthe exact pattern I used to make this purse. It’s called Lavender Square and you can find it at the Hooks and Yarns blog, at this link: https://www.allfreecrochetafghanpatterns.com/Granny-Square-Patterns/Lovely-Lavender-Square. I’ve added the types of yarn I used in the instructions below. I did the first 4 rounds of the square in variegated and the remaining rounds, plus the border in the solid color.

This 18″ wide x 10″ deep purse is roomy enough to carry everything but the kitchen sink.

Use any crochet square pattern you like (there are zillions to choose from on the Web), use your favorite yarn colors, and put them together using my template samples shown below, which require 10 squares.

For the purse shown, I used a 6 mm crochet hook and my squares were approx. six inches. I used a variegated color for the first few rounds of the square (Impeccable Earth) and a dark taupe (Red Heart Super Saver Café Latte) for the last couple of rounds. You can make your purse larger or smaller, depending on the size of square you choose to use.

How to make your purse:

Choose the square pattern and yarn that you’d like to use. (I used the Lavender Square from Hooks and Yarns at http://hooksandyarns.blogspot.ca/2013/02/simply-pretty.html. For the variegated yarn, I used Impeccable Loops & Threads in Earth, and for the solid color, I used Red Heart Super Saver in Cafe Latte. (This link at Crochet Pattern Central offers tons of 6″ crocheted square patterns to choose from! https://www.crochetpatterncentral.com/directory/6in_squares.php )

Make 10 squares.
(1) Using your edging color (mine was the taupe), seam your squares together in three separate pieces (with one extra single square, set aside) as shown below, attaching them (right sides together) using single crochet. The x’s in the picture here show where the squares have been seamed. So you should end up with one row of two squares, one row of three squares, one row of four squares, and one single square.
2-seam-squares
(2) Next, you need to seam your rows together exactly as shown below, with the row of two attached to the row of three, the row of three attached to the row of four, and the single square attached to the right side of the row of four. The x’s shown represent where you’ve seamed, using single crochet again.3-seam-rows
(3) Once your squares are all seamed to form one piece, you can line your purse with fabric if you want. As you’ll see in the photo below, my impatience makes me sloppy with sewing my lining, so you might want to slow down and use tidier stitches! Anyway, I just cut a piece of fabric in the same shape as my one piece of seamed squares and hand-sewed it with needle and thread to the wrong side, making sure that the last row of crochet around the entire piece is uncovered so you’ll be able to seam the edges together when you fold it.4-lining
(4) Once the lining has been sewed in place, fold exactly where the dotted lines are shown below, placing right sides together and lining up edges, then seam edges together with single crochet. The longest dotted line is the bottom of the purse and the two shorter dotted lines are the sides of the purse. To make things neat, I crocheted a border around the mouth of the purse using two rows of single crochet.
5-fold
(5) Next, using the taupe yarn, I crocheted 4 simple rectangles for the handle rings, 3″ wide (6 dc + turning wide) x 5.5″ long, and I used a yarn needle to sew one to the wrong side of each of the four points where the handles will be attached.
6-front-back-handles
(6) The rings are actually wood curtain rings that I picked up at Fabricland (removing the little hook screwed into each one). Wrap the loose end of each of your rectangle tabs around each wood ring, and sew it securely again to the wrong side with your yarn needle.
7-handle-ring
(7) For the two straps, I used the taupe yarn, crocheting each one approx. 1.5″ wide x 32″ long (6 dc + turning across). Then I wrapped the very ends over the rings and used my yarn needle to stitch them on securely (sewing on wrong sides). As shown below, one strap is positioned on one side of the purse, the other strap on the other side.
8-handles9-all-handles
(8) Next, I made a fastening tab with a buttonhole space for closing the purse. I crocheted it 3″ wide x 5.5″ long (10 dc + turning wide) minus edging. Once finished, I used my yarn needle to stitch it to the center of the back side of the purse, then I used my variegated yarn to single-crochet a border around the edges.
10-buttonhole-flap
(9) Last, I sewed a wooden button to the middle front of the purse, about an inch down from the edge.11-button-placement

I’m fairly new at making up my own patterns, and still getting used to writing tutorials, so I’m sorry if I’m unclear at any point. I get so enthusiastic when I start a project, I just dive into it, and then I find myself thinking halfway through that I really should have been making step-by-step notes. Hopefully, I’ll get better at this as time goes on!12-bag_purse-granny-brown2

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