Monday, November 29, 2010

A Summer Challenge

As mentioned in previous posts I read. . .a lot. . .I tear through fiction at lightning speeds. During the Uni year however I tend to leave non-fiction. I read so much of it for class anyway - course reading, project & essay reading, textbooks etc - that it's the last thing I want to spend my free time on. But university is now well over for the year, so I've set myself a challenge:

To read at least one non-fiction book for every fiction book

To keep myself accountable I'll probably mention briefly what I'm reading everytime I start something new at the end of my ordinary posts. Hopefully I'll manage to expand my mind a little and get through some of the list of 'non-fiction books I'd like to read but not right now' (I do actually keep a list)

So what am I starting with? My first fiction read of the summer is 

The 3rd in the 'Wilderness Series' it follows the lives of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Bonner and their descendants as they make their lives in colonial America. I enjoy historical epics in general and this series immensely so, although I wouldn't recommend it for immature audiences. Each book weighs in at 700-1000 pages, so they really are epics. 

And my first non-fiction? 

One of the ones lent to me by my man's grandparents. It's a popular history of Britain covering the World Wars and the period on either side. Even as a numptenth generation Kiwi I still feel a spiritual affinity to Britain, as would many other Pakeha (of European descent) New Zealanders, and I've always been interested in their history and politics. 

Can I survive the challenge? We'll find out. . as one friend pointed out to me it's perhaps an unfair quota as reading non-fiction often takes far longer than fiction. But I'm a fast reader in general so we'll see how we go. 

For more information on the books I've mentioned or my reading habits in general there's a link to my Shelfari reading record profile in the bookcase on the sidebar --> 

That's all for now,

*Sarah*

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things I Like Friday: My New Phone!

This week my long suffering phone decided that it had simply had enough of life and committed inpromptu suicide. Which meant I had to go out and buy a new one. My old one was a artefact of the days when phones didn't have sim cards (which in New Zealand wasn't actually that long ago) and on the whole it was pretty basic. On the other hand my new one (bought for the same price my old one was a few years ago) has a touch screen, wifi, digital camera better than my actual digital camera - if you've noticed an improvement in photos over the last few weeks it's because I've been using my parents camera - on the whole it's pretty different from what I'm used to and I admit I kind of love it. I guess I'm a gadgety person hehe.


This is it. Pretty cool huh. I admit I'm a bit worried about the screen getting scratched with my keys or something while it's in my bag, so I think I'm going to be adding a pocket for it onto my project list. I'm thinking of adapting the tutorial here. 

That's all for now. . .though photos of my finished hat/scarf set are coming up! 

*Sarah*
 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gingernuts

Homemade gingernuts cooling on the rack. . .ahhhhhhh. They were good too. One of my many escapades in the kitchen this week. Some have turned out better than others, but I think that's more because I've been trying lots of new recipes rather than my baking skills. Easter biscuits needed more spice and more flour. Gingernuts need more ginger, but thats only because I like mine with some kick! 


I've been playing around with some new blogs designs, so there will probably be some changes coming in the near future. Nothing to scary though :) 

That's all for now,

*Sarah* 
 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Better than my last post :)

The knittings working now. I'm onto some more familiar stocking stitch before I start decreasing. . .another something new to add to the skill set :P 

I love being back at 'home.' I say it with quotation marks because it's only one home of many nowadays. There's home with mum and dad, home in Christchurch, home in France with my man. But for the moment I'm happy to be in this 'home.' 

I went to visit the man's grandparents last week. I love visiting them and do almost every time I come back to my hometown. I have no remaining grandparents of my own, so it means a lot to have a place with them. Both of my grandmother's were extremely crafty ladies and I will eternally regret not listening to what they had to teach me when I still had the opportunity. . .by the time I found my crafting bent it was too late.

As well as the pile of books I always seem to come away with hehe (much to my delight) I was also passed on a pile of 'Embroidery and Cross Stitch' magazines. It's Australian. . .I admit I don't like them as much as British equivelents (which have more patterns and less advertisements) but gorgeous and much appreciated nevertheless. 


I also got to visit an annual Arts and Crafts fair at a town nearby. I didn't indulge in much. . Mum got some flower bulbs and a Christmas present for my aunt - she also bought me this lovely necklace.


Isn't it pretty? It's the first thing I've chosen myself for years that can undoubtedly be called 'pink' hehehe. 
As it develops I'm realising this blog is moving further and further away from it's original design. . as it is in my mind anyway. I'm thinking about renaming/restyling. Thoughts anyone? 

That's all for now,

*Sarah*

Actually that's not all for now. Thought I'd just mention that my recent post on how to frame your own embroidery work has been featured on the blog Totally Tutorials. Exciting!! 
 Totally Tutorials Blog 

 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ARRRRRGGGGG!!!

I'm sure even the most occasional or constant of crafters have those moments where they just want to throw whatever they're working on against a wall and then maybe sit down and have a good cry. Welcome to my first such moment of this blog! In the last few days I've finished the main body of the scarf I've been knitting, and as it took far far far less wool than I had estimated, decided to start on a matching hat. Which just so happens to be the first time I've tried a rib pattern. Or a pattern at all actually.


Approximately half a row of this is mine. The rest is my dear mum fixing up my mistakes and then finishing the row for me so I can start afresh. Even the casting on is hers, although it wasn't originally. . .there's just a limit to the number of times I can cast on 98 stitches myself in one afternoon. I swear I made every mistake possible: I purled wrong constantly, I did the wrong number of stitches, I started the row from a knit stitch instead of a purl stitch and didn't notice until 98 stitches later. I had to tear out the whole thing and start again 3 times, and tear out at least a row another 4 times. My dad found the whole thing incredibly funny and spent an hour or two happily teasing me that even he could do a better job . .  mum had more patience, but in the end I just went to bed and decided to look at it again another day. Sometimes that's all you can do. 

Let's hope today's efforts are more successful,

*Sarah*

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just Potting Around

University is over for the year, which means I've moved home for the summer to spend some time with my family and take up a summer job in my hometown! I've spent the last week settling myself in, finishing up uni stuff and making a room that I haven't spent more than a week in for 2 years now 'mine' again. It seems that summer has finally arrived permanantly at just the right time, so I've also been soaking up the sun! 

Earlier in the week I took 'clippings' (not really, I tried to get some root in there as well) off my mum's herb plants and repotted them. With any luck they'll take root again and I'll have 4 nice herb plants of my own to take back to university with me next year: rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano. 


It really has been very hot here this week and although they've had a good watering every second day, the sage is already showing signs that it won't go the distance. I anticipated this might be the case with some of them though, hence why I started the first attempt months before I head back to university. 

I couldn't resist taking some photos of mum's roses too. The garden looks beautiful at this time of year. 


Don't they look stunning? As I'm writing this I'm looking out my window with 9 or 10 of the roses forming a foreground for the setting sun. Ahhhhhhh. . . .


That's all for now,
*Sarah*

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finally! Knit and Purl

Yes this is finally an update on my knitting! And with nearly two balls of wool down I think I can say with confidence that I can officially purl. There's been a mishap or two. One day I was frustrated with unrelated issues and ended up dropping stitches and pulling out rows everywhere. When I finally managed to pick everything up again (took me two days) it still didn't end up quite right, but no one will ever notice - it will just annoy ME forever. Have to remember knitting isn't something I can just do without concentrating on like I do with cross stitch quite yet!

I

It's curling a bit more than I thought it would. I think I can sort that one out in the end though. Looks good though, doesn't it? I love the colour. 


That's all for now. More coming soon though!
*Sarah*

Friday, November 5, 2010

Things I Like Friday: Second Hand Book Sales

This isn't going to be a regular thing. . .just my excuse to share things that aren't strictly craft related from time to time :) 

I love reading, I have since I was 6 or 7. Most of you have probably noticed the bookshelf on the sidebar and those of you that read regularly will notice the speed I get through books. I don't actually spend a lot of time reading, I just read incredibly fast!! And I admit I love owning and being around books (libraries are heavenly) almost as much as I love reading them. That being said I very rarely buy a book new - partly because they're often just to expensive to indulge in and partly because I just like old books. Second hand booksales are where I've picked up a majority of my library. My favourite is the annual 'bookorama' in my hometown, which attracts buyers from all over the South Island of New Zealand. When I go I have to go on the Monday - to get the good books before they disappear - and the Friday - when they have fill a bag for $5. Unfortunately I've missed it for the last two years, much to my chagrin. But missing it this year was almost (ok, so not really) made up for by the Christchurch City Libraries annual booksale, where they get rid of old/slightly damaged/unpopular stock and multiple copies. I limited my haul to 6, although my initial pile was 11.

1. A Year of Cross Stitch: Patterns for Every Season. There weren't any patterns in it I'd stitch for myself, but there were plenty I can see myself stitching for others and plenty of bits that could be used as motifs in other places. Besides, cross stitch pattern books are hideously expensive so for $3 I was snapping it up. 
2. Fabulous Crocheted Ponchos. I can't crochet, but the patterns in here are absolutely gorgeous. I would have taken it just to oooohhh over the pictures even if I had no intention of ever learning to crochet. As it is, it will serve as fantastic inspiration! 
3. The Postcard, by Beverly Lewis. I've read this one before and am more than happy to own it, even if there's a couple of pages loose. I haven't managed to get my hands on the sequel yet, it's always on loan whenever I'm at the library . . . I want to know what happens!
4. The Shop on Blossom Street, by Debbie Macomber. Honestly there are not enough good things I could say about this book. It's the first in what is my favourite series at the moment by one of my favourite authors. Debbie Macomber is a secular 'romance' (I'd give her that title loosely) novelist, who also happens to be a committed Christian. She writes stories with strong female characters whose lives are at most influenced by men in a positive way, rather than revolving around them. The emotions her characters portray are realistic and moving. Although her plotlines often do involve a romantic element, the emphasis is on true spiritual connection rather than sex and sex is rarely portrayed before marriage, if at all. It's incredibly refreshing given the 'chic lit' of today. I already owned this one as an e-book (it's available from numerous legal sources online as a free download) but am overjoyed to now have my own paper copy. This particular book focuses on the lives of 4 very different women and how those lives are changed when a knitting store opens on Blossom Street. I'd recommend it to anyone and for those of you that know me reading this, I'm happy to pass on my e-book copy. 
5. Someday Soon, by Debbie Macomber. A stand-alone novel by the same author. I haven't read it yet, but looks good! 
6. The McKettrick Way, by Linda Lael Miller.  I've been reading a few books by this author lately after a friend lent me a series by her. Honestly haven't really decided if I like her or not yet, so I'll read this one and if I don't like it will probably pass it on to said friend. 

All in all, a stash I am more than happy with!! I spent a few hours when I got home repairing broken spines and removing library stickers, so now they feel completely mine. My bookshelf is looking very happy for the new additions. 

That's all for now,

*Sarah*

P.S an update on the knitting is coming, I swear

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Home Framing: Lace Method Tutorial

In my still comparatively brief time in the blogging world I've seen literally hundreds of tutorials for 'finishing' embroidery and cross stitch pieces; pillows, scissor fobs, pincushions, bags and lots more. But very few avid stitchers frame their pieces. I've seen all sorts of reasons for it, the most common being it's to expensive to get a piece professionally framed and you can't achieve the same look at home. Not true!!! It's perfectly possible to achieve a nearly professional framed look, quickly and cheaply at home. So I thought I'd show you how with a piece I just framed as part of my brother's birthday present (I'm not sure how much he'll appreciate it, being at 18 year old male, but it suits the decor of his house and I'll get him something more stereotypically appropriate as well). This method works with any fabric piece, however works best with pieces stitched on aida or evenweave.

What you need: 

1. The piece you want to frame, cleaned and ironed. In my case it's DMC's Golden October Cocker Spaniel which I stitched just over a year ago and has been sitting in a drawer since. 
2. A store bought frame that will fit your piece. I took my embroidery to the store with me to figure out what size I need. The frame can really be as expensive or cheap as you like. Being a student on a limited budget, mine was decidedly middle of the range. 
3. One piece of mount board that will fit your frame and a backing piece for the frame - usually a store bought frame will include one of the above and I cut another out of a cardboard box simply by drawing around the first. You can also use fibrecore, thin plywood etc. [NOTE: As has since been noted by several commentators, acid-free mount board is definitely the best option here. I've never had any problems with other options, but with more experience since I originally put this post together, completely agree that it is the ideal!] 
4. Basic craft supplies: Needle, cotton thread, pins. 

Step One: 

Place the mount board onto the back your piece and position it squarely (or how you want the piece to be positioned in the frame). Check the front of the piece to make sure it's where you want it. 

Step Two: 

Ensure that the mount board and the piece of embroidery fit snugly into the frame, with any spacers you want to include (I wasn't using any for this piece). You may need to trim the mount board with a craft knife or scissors if the fabric used for your piece is extremely thick. 

Step Three: 

Once the piece is positioned how you want it, pull it tight and slide a pin through the fabric into the mount board in the middle of each side, leaving the excess fabric to overhang. I find it easier to do this embroidery side up, just to make sure the piece doesn't move out of position while I'm putting the pins in place!

Step Four: 

With the embroidery facing down, pin all the way down two opposing sides (it doesn't matter if you start lengthways or widthways). Make sure to slide the pins into the mount board rather than between the board and the fabric. I go for a pin about every 1cm - it's better to use to many than to few. When finished check the front to make sure the piece is still tight and well positioned. 

Step Five:

This is where the fun really begins. Get a long long (the longer the better) length of strong cotton thread. I used two strands, just for extra strength. Thread it onto a needle and tie a knot at the other end. Bring the cotton through the underside of the fabric overhang where your pinning starts, far enough in from the edge that it won't be affected by fraying. Feel free to trim the fabric if the amount of overhang is excessive, but an inch here is better than a cm. You can see where I've started in the top right corner of the photo above. Run it across the mount board and through the fabric at the other pinned edge. Start lacing back and forth, leaving about 1cm between each lace, as shown above, pulling tight as you go (but not tight enough to shift the fabric) so the lacing is taut like guitar strings. If you need a new length of thread, simply tie it securely into the current one before continuing. I've had people recommend all sorts of knots for making it look like one continuous thread, but honestly no one's ever going to see it and it's more important the knot is secure - so use whatever you feel comfortable will hold. 

Step 6:

Periodically as you go, stop lacing and go back to the beginning and pull each individual lace taut. You'd be surprised how much excess comes through - I did it about three times as I worked over the back, and each time pulled through around 5cm of excess thread. 

Step 7: 

Once you reach the end of the board, pull each individual lace taut once more, then weave or tie in the end of the thread. Again it doesn't matter how you do this so long as its secure. Don't worry if your lacing isn't entirely even, so long as you don't have gigantic gaps on any side. 

Step Eight:

Remove the pins from your laced side and pin the remaining two. The next step is simply a matter of repeating the process over again. Be careful when lacing that you lace through both layers of fabric where the corners fold in. Also be careful that that the corner fabric doesn't overhang the mount board when laced - if it does you may need to trim it on a slant slightly at the edges.

Step Nine: 

Continue the process until the entire back is laced. As you can see here, it really doesn't matter if things are a little uneven - at one point I even forgot to bring the cotton across before lacing the next line and it didn't make any difference to the overall finish. 

Step Ten:

Remove the pins, flip your piece over and make sure your happy with the result! It's easy enough to cut out the lacing and start over if you're not, although obviously not preferable! 

Step Eleven: 
Place your laced piece into the frame, with any spacers your using. Place the back of the frame over of the laced piece to hold it in place and hide it all! 


And You're Done. . .
It really does look like it's been professionally framed. Only thing left to do is stick something on the back to say who the piece is for and who it was stitched and framed by. All up framing this piece took me about an hour and a half, although that was stopping often to take photos. And total cost? NZ $13.99 (got the frame on sale :P) and a few bits I already had lying around. Who says you can't frame your own embroidery pieces?!! 


That's all for now, I hope you've enjoyed my first attempt at a tutorial! 

*Sarah*