As you may have read recently, I was going through my annual ritual (i.e. stress-out) of what to get Sleeper Girl for her birthday. Now some of you may wonder why an incorrigible stitcher like me would find gift-giving a problem. Surely all I need to do is get out my trusty needle and thread and whip something up for her. Well, I did actually whip up something for her. It took six months of whipping up but on Christmas Day I presented Sleeper Girl with a cross-stitch entitled ‘Free Spirits. Looking back on it now, I should have just given it to her for her birthday. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Sleeper Girl is horse mad and when I saw this design I knew she would love it. She and I christened it ‘Free Spirits’. This may or may not be its real title. I stitched this so long ago I don’t remember the actual title or who designed it. I couldn’t even tell you if I bought the kit or just the chart. (If anyone can enlighten me please feel free.)
This design of three horses running measures 24″ x 9″ and was worked on a 14 ct white aida using mostly cotton floss. The minute sprinkles of water dotting the front of the horses as well as sections of the splashing water was done using white rayon floss. The floss is softer than cotton and has a soft sheen to it. This feature of the floss gives the showering water droplets a subdued sparkle lending the gentlest touch of realism to the overall design. The design is done in whole stitches with the horses partially outlined in backstitch.
This was my first time using rayon floss. Because the texture of the rayon is less rough than cotton, maintaining the tension of the stitches was a problem. I was forever checking and correcting the rayon stitches because they would loosen quite easily. Especially in areas were only one single stitch of the rayon floss was required. It was nearly impossible to secure these sorts of stitches. By the time I was finished with the design I swore I would never again work with rayon or any similar type floss. The final result is lovely but I didn’t think I could go through all that again. Having said that however, I did stitch this design before I discovered Thread Heavenand Able Stretcher needlework frames.
Thread Heaven is a soft waxy substance designed to condition threads and embroidery floss. With Thread Heaven the floss slides through the material with less drag. This saves a lot of wear on the floss so the last stitch I do at the end of the floss looks just as good as the first stitch. It also helps the stitches maintain their tension.
I’ve already discussed Able Stretcher needlework frames in a previous post so I’ll just briefly say I wish I had had one when I was working on this design. Even with the largest embroidery hoop I could handle, I still had to remove it to work on different sections of the design. This usually meant some stitches would get crushed and lose some of their tension. This was bad enough with regular cotton floss but with the slippery rayon I didn’t dare use a hoop at all. I had to try to stretch the section I was working on by hand. The end result was the tension on the rayon stitches wasn’t as taut as they needed to be. Had I had an Able Stretcher frame this would not have been an issue. I could have placed the fabric in the frame and not have to remove it till I was finished stitching.
Never mind. At least now I have these in my arsenal. Perhaps I’ll have a second look at some of those kits and charts I passed up before because they incorporated those shiny, slippery, hard-to-handle flosses. Hmm…I might even have another go at it.
UPDATE: I’ve just discovered the actual name of this piece really is ‘Free Spirits’ by Design Works.