Friday, November 9, 2018

Linda's Review of "Hanging Around" Mill Hill #MH14-1306 Cross-Stitch Kit

As you know I love to cross-stitch and I love cross-stitching kits with the word "Joy" in them due to the fact it was my beloved mother's name.    So, when I saw the "Hanging Around" kit I knew I would buy it and make it.

The Hanging Around #MH14-1306  pattern uses full cross-stitch and straight stitch highlighting as well as beads of various sizes for emphasis and depth. The Mill Hill patterns usually call for certain areas of the perforated paper to be left untouched like the background or border. In this case they were leaving sections of the brown perforated paper border untouched.

In embroidering the cross-stitch I decided to once again 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 wood frame jig is a rectangular embroidery hoop of sorts, but without bending the perforated  paper. He had made it out of 1/2" x 1" pine wood strips with an adjustable center strip that I used for this 5.25 x 5.25 square design.

I had learned from previous mistakes that I needed to draw diagonal lines to locate the exact center of the perforated paper as in previous perforated paper cross-stitch picture I have done the picture was slightly off center by a few holes which caused a problem with inserting the needles in the holes along one of the edges of my frame. So, I lightly drew a diagonal line across each corner with a pencil to get the center point of the perforated paper.

A lot of the cross-stitch 5.25" by 5.25" pictures I have made were finished in small 6 1/2" by 6 1/2" shadowbox frames with 5" by 5" openings that I had gotten at Michaels when they went on sale one year.  I used up all the shadowbox frames I had gotten that year and have been looking for them ever since and haven't found them again.

So, I decided to buy some 8" by 8" hand painted wood frames that Mill Hill created for their cross-stitch pictures.  This frame is bare bones.  There's no glass or plastic cover and there's nothing on the back to hold the picture into the frame.  They do, however, provide a thin 6" by 6" cardboard back and wood dowel for inserting in the holes in the back to allow for the frame to stand on it's own.  Of course, if you're going to hang this on the wall you'd just add a picture hanger to the back.

The directions did not include any instruction for finishing the back.  I decided to finish mine with 1/4" thick self sticking art needle-craft mounting foam.  I used an 8" by 10" by Pres-On sheet that I cut 6" by 6"with an X-acto knife to fit my picture.  Since the depth of the back of the frame for inserting the picture is 1/4" deep the 1/4" foam was a perfect fit for inserting it as well as the cardboard backing that came with the frame.

The pattern called for a red colored wooden frame. I  tested it with a red frame and a green frame and decided to go with the red wood frame.

After adhering my cross-stitch picture to the 6" by 6" adhesive foam board that I bought I inserted it into the back of the frame and then inserted the 6" by 6" cardboard that came with the frame over it.  I taped the back of the cardboard with masking tape to hold it.

The wood frame is 8" by 8" so to totally finish the back I cut a piece of thick decorative paper 8" by 8" to entirely cover the back.  I rubbed purple color disappearing glue stick all over the back and then pasted my 8" by 8" decorative paper sheet on the back.  I signed by name and dated it and was done with finishing the back.  I used a pencil to stab the decorative paper I had glued to the back so I could insert the dowel into it so the picture would stand on it's own.

The pattern also called for the border of the perforated paper to be left untouched like the picture shown above. However, I don't like seeing the perforated sections of the paper for the border as I think it makes the cross-stitch picture look unfinished and opted instead to finish the border with white embroidery floss sewn as a half cross-stitch using two strands of the floss.

The pattern had a green decorative line border around the picture with the area between the border and the frame left untouched and showing the brown perforated paper.  I decide to finish this with fours strands of the white DMC embroidery floss sewn in a half cross-stitch.

Sometimes you make mistakes while cross-stitching which, when caught quickly, can be ripped out and re-done.  I have that happen many, many times, as I'm sure you all have as well.  This time I made a mistake with the tree ornament beads and confused two of the symbols.  Instead of using the grasshopper beads I used the rainbow beads in error.  The rainbow beads were supposed to be used in the Santa boots.  I didn't want to rip out all the rainbow beads I used on the tree and decided to leave them alone and put some of my own black seed beads on the boots instead.  They both look fine so all was well.

The pattern only called for outlining parts of the tree the ornaments were hanging on.  I thought the ornaments could use some outline highlighting to really make them stand.  So I added the following:

1)  Two strands of blue floss sewn as a back-stitch along along the sides of the blue square package ornament and blue light.
2) Two strands of gold floss sewn as a back-stitch along along the sides gold and purple ornament and gold light.
3) Two strands of dark green floss sewn as a back-stitch along the sides of the tree ornament trees to add depth and dimension.
4) Two strands of the red floss sewn as a back-stitch along along the sides of the Santa suit.

While the end results of this design were wonderful some things in the kit and in the instructions could be improved upon so 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 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. The key code chart should have contained the number of strands that were included in the kit so you would know how many strands you had for the different floss colors.

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 12" long rectangular piece out to use as a thread sorter. I then punched 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 are so very easy to lose so I'm always happy to see that more than enough beads have been included within the kits that I've bought.  I usually pour the beads into a small cardboard box that I can easily use to obtain them.  However, the box is lightweight and, inevitably, I end up spilling the beads all over the place.  This time I finally solved that problem with refrigerator magnets.

I have a small rectangular metal board that I use in my lap for holding the cross-stitch picture while I'm working on it.  Small magnet strips hold the paper picture in place to the metal board.  I usually put my little cardboard box on that in my lap while doing the beading and thought I could use some small refrigerator magnets to hold the box to the metal board so I couldn't inadvertently spill the beads.  Worked like a charm.  Problem solved.  Yippee!

The beads were contained within two small ziploc bags which was fine. The chart had footnote symbols to help distinguish which beads were within which bag.

My results with the totally finished background, border and frame is shown below:

Despite the relatively small issues I had encountered with the kit I was happy with the way my "Hanging Around"  picture turned out.  It's going to look great with my other cross-stitch pictures at Christmas.

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