When your vacation is looming, when you have company coming for an extended stay, when you know life is getting ready to go ballistic on you, what happens to your needlework? Do you abandon stitchery until the cyclone of activity blows itself out, do you plod ahead with your regular needlework pursuits, or do you plan needlework into those busy times by preparing a project that fits into your life when it’s in hyper-drive?
I tend to do the latter: I prepare a project that I know I can grab and take with me, or that I can concentrate 15 minutes of time on now and then, just so that I have some kind of project going – something that keeps the fingers busy when there’s some down time. Grab-n-Go needlework projects like these are never something that I feel pressured to finish in any particular time frame. They’re just a casual project that requires minimum supplies and tools, that can be easily transported, and that don’t require a lot (if any) real thought. No decisions to make, no techniques to work out – just simple stitching.
And you’d be surprised how soon you can actually finish this type of project (even if it is rather large!), if you keep it available for those little snatches of time when you can get in a few stitches.
My grab-n-go project is a counted thread project, based on the embroidered Ukrainian cloth I showed you on Easter of this year. The nice thing about this type of counted thread design is that, once the main motif (repeated element) is stitched once, the pattern can be put aside. The whole piece is merely repeating the same design elements around the edge of the cloth. Very little counting is involved, and very little thought is necessary for the stitching, once the whole thing is underway.
After working out one corner of the design on this software for designing counted cross stitch patterns, I cut a piece of linen 22 inches square and neatened the edges on the sewing machine using an overlock stitch. I’m using this 25-count round yarn linen by Legacy Linen, available at Hedgehog Handworks. This is a beautiful linen for counted work. Why? Because the weave fills the fabric – there are no skinny threads, wide open holes, and so forth. The threads are plump and full, making it a really nice ground fabric for counted work. It’s a fairly heavy linen.
After cutting the fabric and neatening the edges, I basted the area of the stitching, starting with vertical and horizontal lines down the center to mark the middle of the fabric. After that, I basted the perimeter line, marking the whole design area, which is 18″ square – leaving a 2″ edge all around for finishing. Once the set-up was finished, I was good to go.
Rummaging through a box of stranded cotton embroidery floss, I came up with the colors for the project, of which there are only 4: a reddish orange, a bright green, a deep yellow, and black. The piece will be stitched in one strand, over one fabric thread.
The linen and the threads and a package of size 26 tapestry needles were stuffed (er… gently shoved) into a zippered mesh project bag, which was a gift from a stitching friend. I grabbed a pair of little scissors, in this case also a kind gift from Tanja Berlin. Incidentally, these are Terrific little scissors!! They’re sharp, they’re affordable, they work great for metal thread and regular embroidery threads – they’re just wonderful. I think every stitcher should have a pair in every color under the sun. (But that’s just me – I like scissors.)
All of the above fits very comfortably into my favorite project bag, which is this little Mille Fluers tote bag from the Cluny Museum, also a gift from a friend. So not only do I have my grab-n-go project completely contained and ready for every exigency, but the materials include gifts from friends, adding a special little touch to the whole get-up.
So that’s my grab-n-go project for this year. I’ll work on it when I travel, when I have company and we’re just visiting, and really, any time I have down time, when I can’t be working on larger projects. Projects like these are great for late evenings when sleep refuses to come, for afternoon visits on the front porch with friends, for road trips, for any time when you’re having to wait (the doctor, the dentist, in between appointments or classes, and so forth).
Grab-n-go projects also serve as good “carrots” throughout the day. “When I get this finished, I’ll take 15 minutes off and stitch on that.” You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes a day, stitching on a project like this. It may not seem like much at first, but over time, you can make a lot of progress on a project using little snatches of time. I follow my 15-minute stitching philosophy on these types of projects all the time – it’s a great way to accomplish at least something, stitch-wise, every day. The same philosophy doesn’t quite work on larger projects like the Medallion, but it does work on simpler projects that don’t require a concentrated effort.
Throughout the year, I’ll give you an occasional update on this Ukrainian cloth project. Who knows? I may finish it this year, or it may take several years. But it’s nice to have a little project available for a quick stitching fix when life gets hectic or I’m on the go.
So what about you? Do you have any grab-n-go projects underway? What types of projects do you stitch in similar circumstances? How do you organize them? Have you made good progress on them, or do they end up sitting in the closet? Any advice for grab-n-go stitching projects? Feel free to have your say below!