Monday, February 6, 2012

Fireside Alphabet Sampler

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It looks like I’m on a mission to see how many nail holes I can put in the walls.  I guess I’m one of those people who can’t bear an empty space, because whenever I see one, I immediately make plans to fill it up with something.  This sampler happened because we painted the room and when all the art and stuff went back up on the walls, it all kind of went into one corner, leaving the rest of the room looking pretty spare.  So I set out to do something about that, and missing no opportunity to craft, I designed and stitched this alphabet sampler. 

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I have to say this was great fun, although I was more or less continually second-guessing everything I did.  I had to resist the enormous urge to keep adding more colors to the palette, and to embellish every single square inch of the thing with french knots; and I had to make myself use the bold colors, even though they kept looking a little too bold.  In the end, I think it worked out pretty well. 

Here’s how I did it:  as usual, start with the frame.  Maybe this is a little like painting something to match your couch, I don’t know, but I just find it easier.  If you’re making it up yourself, you can have it any size you want, and you might as well not have to go get a custom frame made, right?   Anyway, choose a background fabric to go with the frame and cut it to fit, leaving at least three inches extra fabric all the way around.  My frame is 11” x 14” so I cut a piece of fabric—it’s just quilter’s cotton—roughly 14” x 17”.  Then I turned to the computer and started sorting through fonts.  I was looking for a balanced mix of letters that were bold and plain; fancy and detailed.  I wanted to give myself a lot of room to play with stitch patterns. 

When I had decided on the letter designs, I had to make them all roughly the same size, and I’m sure there’s a better, more computery way of doing this, but I just find it easier to use a pencil, so I figured out how big each letter’s “space” needed to be, and how to arrange them on the fabric so they came out even and looked pleasing.  I decided each letter would get a space of 1 1/2” by 2” and drew 26 boxes that size.  Then I drew each letter in freehand, trying to eyeball it well enough to make them approximately the same size inside the box. 

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Then I cut all the squares out and arranged them to make the overall design.  Once I had that figured out, I used my super-fancy light box—okay, I used the window in the front door—to trace each letter on the reverse side of the paper with a heat transfer pencil.  After I had all the letters traced, I taped the squares together and used a hot iron to transfer the whole design to the fabric.  At that point, all the hard work was done and it was just a couple evenings of cozy stitching beside the fire to finish it. 

The thread I used was kind of a gamble—it is called Dee-Lite and it’s made for punch-needle embroidery, which is a mystery to me, but I had a lot of it somehow.  I see these things in the thrifty craft store and they’re only a dollar for the whole bag or whatever, and I just know I’ll use it for something.  It seems to be a little like a thin perle cotton, and it actually was great to use since I didn’t have to keep separating out two strands from the long tangled piece, I just unwound a length from the spool and started stitching.  It gave me very little difficulty with knots, too, which was also a plus.  And it didn’t keep breaking like crewel wool can sometimes do, so I guess I have to recommend it. 

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I’d do this again in a heartbeat.  It was so much fun.  I miss it already.  There’s got to be another empty wall around here someplace.