A few months ago, I bought the chart pack for this wonderful design called ‘A Stitch In Time’ by Aimee Stewart, who designs for HAED (Heaven and Earth Designs). Isn’t it gorgeous? But it’s huge. When it’s finished (and I’m going to stitch it on 25 count Lugana evenweave, which is quite fine) it will measure almost three feet by two. That’s about 340,000 stitches.
I know, I know. Do I have enough life left to finish it? Hope so!
When I first got the chart pack, although the instructions gave DMC thread information in the colour key, I decided to use Anchor, as I use that brand for all the miniature needlepoint kits that I produce, so I have the whole range anyway, so I thought that would be better.
I did have flu at the time, so that’s my excuse for deciding to do something so daft :-)
So, I spent a sniffy weekend working out the thread equivalents for myself, and cutting all the threads, and winding them onto bobbins.
They looked really nice in the box that I found, to keep them in.
But then I did a sample area (if you’re going to invest years of your time on something, it’s good to do a quick sample). And I found that as the design had been made to use DMC, it just didn’t work as well with Anchor, as, for some colours, I had to duplicate them, so the subtle shading wouldn’t have worked the same.
So, I treated myself, and ordered the thread pack from HAED in the USA. When it arrived, it was beautifully packaged. There was even a little fabric pouch with a wooden needle holder in, and a needle threader (which I am now addicted to using – more about that in another blog post!).
This design is BIG. I attached my fabric to the largest rectangular frame that I own – it’s got 30 inch horizontal bars. Even so, I am having to stitch this design sideways, or the fabric wouldn’t have fit the frame at all. Still, it looks nice in my stitching corner, ready to go.
On the round table next to my chair, you can just see the two Pako thread organisers that I use with this design. I use one needle for each colour, and store them in the triangular organiser. otherwise, I’d spend most of my stitching time changing the thread in my needle.
As this design is so huge, and the chart pages are solid with stitches, you need to have a plan when you tackle one of these. I watched a few YouTube videos first, and it was suggested that you grid your fabric into 10 x 10 areas, so that you can count from the chart easier. I don’t usually bother to do this, but this design has 87 colours (and this is the SIMPLE version – there’s a detailed version available too, with 235 colors!!!). To grid, I used Sulky Sliver metallic thread (that’s not a typo – it really is called Sliver, and I used the purple shade), which is like a strong filament (a bit like Balger). It pulls out very easily when you remove it after stitching an area, but doesn’t split if you catch it with your needle whilst stitching.
I made an acrylic pattern ‘window’ to place over my chart, with a 10 x 10 square area highlighted at the corners with a permanent pen, so that I can quickly see which part of the pattern I am working on. I hold it in place with a needle minder magnet, and can slide it around on the chart when I need to.
When I actually started stitching, this tiny area took me 4 hours to do. I’m doing it in tent stitch, rather than cross stitch, as it will take half the time to complete that way, and the stitches are so tiny that coverage is good. In the first 10 x 10 area, there are 37 different colours. This is going to be a slow project :-)
I must admit that until I started to see a bit of something recognisable emerging, I did wonder if I had lost my mind completely. But as the detail started to emerge into something that I could make out, I got really hooked on doing this. It’s an exercise in concentration, and just focussing on the little bit in front of you. But the design is just amazing – so many details in it.
This is where I am up to, after three months. Yes, that’s three months. I average a page a month. And there are 84 pages for this design. That’s probably about seven years, if I don’t get bored with it along the way. I also have to allow extra time to colour in each page of the chart with pencils first. I know that a lot of people use pdf software these days to highlight the areas of a chart that they’re working on, and then use an iPad or something to work from, but I like to do it with pencils and paper, as I can really get into the detail of that particular page before I start stitching. And I love colouring with pencils, too (another blog post, I think).
I stitch using the ‘cross country’ method. That is, I stitch all the squares of one colour over the whole page, then pick the next colour and do that again, until the page is finished. As each 10 x 10 block is completed, I cross it out on the chart. Some people stitch using the ‘parking method’, where they stitch all the squares of one colour in a small area (such as one 10 x 10 block), and then park the thread in the next box at the point where the first stitch using that colour occurs, unthreading the needle and letting the thread hang loose. But just the thought of all those untidy threads does my head in! I have to keep things tidy! The part I’ve stitched so far measures about seven inches high, to give you an idea of the scale.
The part I’ve stitched so far is the very top left hand corner of the design – here is a part of the original painting again, to show the area I’ve done. Except for the bottom left hand corner. That’s another month’s stitching, then.
It’ll be lovely when it’s finished, but the journey is great, too. What do you think?