Monday, September 12, 2011

Linda's Review of Gather Together Buttons & Beads Series Cross-Stitch Kit From Mill Hill

One of the cross-stitch kits I decided to try this Fall was a counted cross-stitch & bead design from Mill Hill - Gather Together - Cross Stitch Kit.

The Gather Together - Cross Stitch Kit included the pattern, embroidery thread, perforated paper, beads, 2 needles and instructions.

The Gather Together - Cross Stitch Kit pattern uses full counted cross-stitch and outline stitching as well as beads for emphasis and depth. The pattern also calls for certain areas of the perforated paper to be left untouched as the background.

Given the experience I had with my "Spirit of Quilting Angel Counted Cross Stitch Project" and the fragile nature of perforated paper I decided to add wide masking tape to the back of my perforated paper before I started cross-stitching. I also decided to utilize the rectangular wood frame jig that my darling husband built for me that I could tape the edges of my perforated paper to. The jig was a rectangular embroidery hoop of sorts, but without bending the paper. He made it out of 1/2" x 1" pine wood strips. It also had an adjustable center strip that I used for this 5 x 5 square design.

While the end results of this design were wonderful some things in the kit and in the instructions could be improved upon. I'd like to offer the following constructive suggestions:

The cross-stitch chart was in black and white as was the floss color code and symbol key. Both were easy to read and very clear. While I had no problem with the chart and keys I did have a problem with the way the DMC floss was presented. All of the floss was tied together in one big knot so you had to separate the floss pieces yourself, sort them, and try to interpret which color belonged to which floss # and symbol key on the color chart.  If you only have a few colors to deal with this isn't a problem. However, if you have several different colors of say green to choose from that are close in color then interpreting the chart can be tricky. You may assign the wrong color to the wrong symbol if the colors are too closely aligned.

As I have done with other cross-stitch kits I've completed I had to design my own thread color sorter and symbol key. I took a piece of thin cardboard and cut a 1" x 9" long rectangular piece out to use as a thread sorter. I then punched 20 holes in my cardboard strip in which to tie each of the different colors. Just above the hole I wrote the DMC floss # and just below the hole I added the respective cross-stitch symbol. I then inserted the floss threads that went with that # and symbol through the hole and tied them in a loose knot. This kit could be much improved if a thread sorter with respective #'s and symbols was provided.

The beads were contained within two small ziploc bags which was fine. However, several different color beads were contained within each bag without any indication as to what bead numbers were included within the respective bag. If you only had one color bead to choose from in a bag this wouldn't have been a problem. However if there were multiple green beads within one bag or one bag contained green beads and the other bag contained green beads then you were left to interpret which color green bead the color chart was referring to. Labeling the ziploc bags as to which bead number they contained would enhance this kit.

I love using beads in cross-stitch designs as I think they really enhance the designs, as was the case with this kit. However, I had a tough time trying to thread the really tiny needle that came in this kit for beading purposes. I know the head of the needle has to fit through the tiny bead openings, but these needles were really, really difficult to thread and trying to do so was not only frustrating, but time consuming.

The pattern called for certain areas of the perforated paper to be left untouched as the background like the picture shown below:

However, I didn't like seeing the different perforated sections in the background and opted instead to finish all of the background with half cross-stitching. My results with the totally finished background are shown below:

Despite the problems I encountered I was really pleased with the way my Gather Together - Cross Stitch Kit turned out. There is a lot going on in a very small cross-stitch picture and it is amazing to see.

I had decided that instead of using a picture frame to finish my cross-stitch I was going to use a 5 x 5 stained shadow box which is shown in the picture below. I think the shadowbox depth really adds dimension to the cross-stitch picture.

I did have a few issues of my own that I ran into. I was slightly off in my count to find the center of the diagram and, as a result, I was two rows closer to the right side edge of the frame I was using which made it difficult to push the needle through the holes along that edge. I should have drawn diagonal lines to locate the exact center of the perforated paper.

I had also run into a slight problem with the beads along the edge of the my finished cross-stitch picture. I wasn't exactly sure which picture frame I was going to use for this cross-stitch picture when I began this project. I had two in mind - a 5 x5 picture frame and 5 x 5 shadowbox. Well, the beading along the edge of this picture resolved that issue as I couldn't use the 5" x 5" picture frame as it only displayed 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" in the glass window and the beads were an issue. So, I used the shadowbox which showed 5" x 5" in the window and added a second row of beads along all four sides to totally square my picture.

It took me 32 hours to complete this picture not including the framing. As always, my comments are meant to be constructive to enable future purchasers to benefit from my experience and to enhance their ability to create a wonderful little cross-stitch design.

I LOVE how this Gather Together - Cross Stitch Kit picture came out and am astonished each time I look at it as to how much is contained within this tiny little picture.  It's simply amazing.

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