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As I haven’t been posting very often here recently, it feels as if I can’t publish too many posts showing small, gradual amounts of progress on the latest cross-stitch project, the start of which I showed a couple of weeks ago when the previous cross-stitch project was finished. If I post every day, it seems reasonable enough to post the same craft project once per week. If I post twice a week, it seems a bit much for fifty percent of those posts to be about small quanta of progress on the samething.
Nevertheless, after two weeks, I feel I’ve done enough for it to be worth showing off. For one thing, you can actually recognise what it isnow.
The kit comes with patterns to write the name of the species (Bombus terrestris, or the buff-tailed bumblebee) in Latin, and also in Dutch, English, German, French, Spanish or Italian, I think. I’m tempted to do it in Latin and Dutch, and if there’s enough thread left and enough letters to piece it together, in Welsh (“bili bomen”, and if I’ve got this right, a full literal translation of “buff-tailed bumblebee” would be “bili bomen colynllebliw”).
Hopefully you can tell what is it now: a group of Norman soldiers in the style of the Bayeaux Tapestry. If the pattern still looks a bit sketchy and incomplete in parts, that’s because this kit also includes a rather large amount of backstitch, particularly backstitched chain mail. We could be here some time. Still, I’ve made a start atleast.
So far it looks a bit neater than I was worried itmight.
There are lots of ideas I’ve had for things to write on this blog, that are slowly building up, and that I haven’t written about—in fact, I’ve added two more whilst drafting this paragraph in my head. They all involve lots of effort, though, lots of planning and drafting and assembling ideas; and right now all my energy is being taken up by work and by various other things. So when I sit down in an evening, I don’t have enough process space left in my head to write anything in-depth on here. Instead, I’ve just been getting out the cross-stitch project I wrote about last week, because it’s nice and easy to get it out of its back and sit on the sofa methodically counting and sewing and counting andsewing.
Last time, I said I’d let you guess what it might be, when it was basically nothing more than a blue banana shape. Now, if you ask me, I think it’s much much moreobvious.
However, I’ve spent hours poring carefully over the pattern that came in the kit, planning which part to work on next and double-checking I’ve put all the stitches in the right place. To me, it’s inconceivable anyone wouldn’t be able to recognise what it is, but I’m ratherbiased.
Will I go on to do more cross-stitch? Well, it was a fun way to spend a few evenings. Maybe if I can find some more kits
that aren’t irredeemably twee, I mightdo.
It didn’t take me long, really, before I was on the internet searching for cross-stitch kits or just patterns that I’d be happy to put up on the wall when finished. However, a few weeks later, everything has arrived and I’ve been able to make astart.
I won’t say what it is for now, although you’re welcome to try and guess. The design, when it arrived, suddenly looked much bigger than it did on-screen, so this might take me a little bit longer to finish than the Christmas robindid.
Back in the mists of timeon Boxing Day, I posted a clue as to what one of my Christmas presents was. A model tram from UGears, which I have been slowly assemblingsince.
It’s been a fun project, but I’m not completely sure it lives up to the promise on their website that “no glue, special expertise, tools or equipment are required”. With a fair wind and if everything goes well, then maybe. When I opened the box, the kit consistedof:
Various laser-cut plywoodsheets.
Two rubber bands.
A small square of finesandpaper.
A number of cocktail sticks, individuallywrapped.
A glossy and comprehensive instructionbook.
The instruction book is very good and very clear, with each step being shown as a 3D-rendered diagram. However, it starts off listing the extra pieces of equipment you need which aren’tsupplied:
Candle wax, to lubricate the movingparts.
A knife, to cut some of the cocktail sticks tolength.
With those to hand, you start off by assembling various gear shafts. Each of these assemblies consists of the gears themselves, four wooden wedges that are inserted through the gear centres, and a cocktail stick that has to be squeezed through a small hole left right in the middle where the four wedgesmeet.
These are the first ones in the instructions; gears, but also the main “wheels” that the tram sits on. The instructions say the cocktail stick should be inserted symmetrically, with the same length protruding from each end, so it’s very helpful to have a small steel rule to assist with doing it by eye. If the “axle” isn’t symmetrical, a measuring tool is included in the kit to indicate how much the stick should project from oneend.
Inserting the cocktail sticks was the first big hurdle. Making the kit in the advised way—assemble the wedges into the gears then slide the cocktail stick down the middle—is very hard to do without accidentally blunting the sharp points at the ends. Unless you’re dealing with one of the gear shafts which needs one or both ends trimming short, this is a problem, because it’s very easy to blunt the sticks to the extent they won’t work any more. I found for most it was easier to assemble the shafts in a slightly different order: take one gear, insert the wedge pieces and the cocktail stick into that gear alone, then squeeze the wedges together at the other end and slide the other gear over the wedges’ clip-shapedends.
The tolerances of the cocktail sticks don’t help, either. Some parts require sticks to be inserted into holes in the plywood parts, and these are all supposedly a push fit. What quickly became clear is that the cocktail sticks are made to rather looser tolerances than the laser-cut parts: some sticks will be a reasonable push-fit in the holes, and some will have no chance of going in. With these parts, I ended up picking which stick I was going to use, then opening out the hole with a broach to fit. If I went a bit too far and made it a sliding fit, I used a little dab of Resin W to glue the stick inplace.
You can see this under way with these parts for the pawl which holds the “rubber band shaft” tight after it’s been wound. You can also see that here I’m reusing a cocktail stick whose end I have already wrecked, in a position where it will be trimmed off short. As the lowest of the three holes in each pawl piece is rather close to the edge, I found one of the narrower sticks in the kit for that position, so it wouldn’t need opening out at all. You can clearly see the different widths of the supplied cocktail sticks, and on the right-hand pawl piece you can see how much I’ve had to open out the uppermost hole, compared to the unmodified bottom hole, in order for the fat stick at the top to be a push fit into it. Using a broach for this, it’s easy to roughly remember how much of the broach’s cutting length is needed to get the hole to around the right width before you start testing forfit.
Once the parts were pushed onto the sticks, the ends of two could be trimmed off, leaving a single shaft for it to pivoton.
Building all the various gears and related parts took quite a few hours, so it was rather pleasing how easily the main framework of the tram fitted together, and how straightforward it was to slip the ends of each shaft into their appropriate hole in the frames. It was rather pleasing, too, to find how well the initial gear chain rotated. It links the wheels together, and also includes a shaft which seems to be in there purely to make a clickingnoise.
You might notice that the pawl from the previous photos hasn’t been fitted to the main assembly yet. That comes later, and was a little bit more fiddly. We’ll come on to that anothertime.
The other day I mentioned a Christmas social event at the office: an organised crafting event for any colleagues who were interested to do a small cross-stitch kit together. Amazingly, in just over a week, I’ve managed to finish it. I would say that’s a personal record at finishing some sort of craft project for me, but it’s rare enough for me to complete one atall.
Personally I think it’s a bit scrappy; I can see lots of uneven and slightly wonky stitching, whole patches where the threads are making strange knots insted of neatcrosses.
Moreover, if you compare this to the previous “in progress” picture, you can see I did get annoyed enough to go back and redo an entire section. Misunderstanding the instructions and the nature of the thread, when I started I started off stitching the red breast with only a single thread, not doubling the thread up as I was supposed to—my excuse is that each of the “single threads” are actually spun from two threads twisted together. Unpicking all the red also involved accidentally unpicking some of the orange too, so if you know where to look you can see a few places where stuff has been redone a fewtimes.
Will I go on to do more cross-stitch? Well, it was a fun way to spend a few evenings. Maybe if I can find some more kits that aren’t irredeemably twee, I mightdo.
The other day I mentioned losing the Office Party and gaining various remote seasonal events instead. For example: someone thought it would be a nice idea to all have a seasonal crafting session together. Everyone who volunteered an interest was sent a small-but-festive cross-stitch kit, and then we spent a lunchtime getting together on a video call to sit and stitch for an hour, whilst the organiser explained how to get started and the rest of us found various ways to makemistakes.
Full marks if you can spot everything I’ve got wrong so far. This represents quite a bit more than one hour’s work, because I’ve spent a while working on it since. You never know, I might even get it finished beforeChristmas.
The “crochet bomb” mentioned in that list, in particular, has been stuck for a while now; partly from a supplies problem. It’s essentially a black crocheted ball, a bit like a cartoon bomb. It’s going to have to be stuffed, at some point, to retain shape; and the texture of the crochet is the origin of the problem. I do like the texture, but it’ll be open enough to show the stuffing, and the white polyester we have in the cupboard just isn’t going to look right. It wouldn’t take dye, either. I’ve looked around for black stuffing, but haven’t managed to spot any in the shops, possibly because it’s too dark and was hiding. Until I work out a way around the problem, the crochet bomb is going to have to stayunfinished.
Incidentally, one reason I’ve been missing the target of posting here every day recently is that I have been non-blogging about something else. Non-blogging, in the sense of a private diary; but about a specific topic, rather than vague everyday-life ramblings. In a few months, it will hopefully get published, either here or on paper; but I can’t say anything until at least the summer, and hopefully longer. But if you’re writing something like a diary, it’s best to do it as the events occur, while they’re still fresh in your mind; and it’s been soaking up the spare words in myhead.
The aforementioned diary-blog-zine-thing that is also currentlysecret
Something vague for the London Zine Symposium, heading towards us more rapidly than I care tothink
K’s sister’s wedding album, which we definitely should have done more of bynow
That’s 7 or 8 things, depending on how you count. Plus there are many other ideas which haven’t yet made it outside my head, and vague concepts such as “a photographic portfolio on the theme of disused hotels,” or “a model railway incorporating the Ostrich pub”. Really, though, I should complete some of the started-projects before embarking on anythingelse.