Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Haunted Hotel Cross Stitch Kit From Mill Hill - Buttons & Beads

When trying to decide on which small cross-stitch kits I wanted to try this year I knew I wanted to cover several holidays and seasons. For one of my favorite holidays  - Halloween I choose the counted cross-stitch & bead design from Mill Hill - Haunted Hotel - Cross Stitch Kit.

Like the other Mill Hill  - Buttons & Beads Series patterns I had bought the Haunted Hotel - Cross Stitch Kit included the pattern, embroidery thread, perforated paper, beads, 2 needles and instructions.

The Haunted Hotel 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 wood frame 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.

I also decided this time that I needed to draw diagonal lines to locate the exact center of the perforated paper as in the Gather Together cross-stitch picture I 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 drew a diagonal line across each corner to get the center point of the perforated paper.

I had also decided to use a black 8 x 10" shadowbox double white matted frame for this picture as it was black for Halloween. The double white mat had a 5" x 5" back opening with a 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" window. As a result I had to draw squares on the perforated paper to show me where the 5" x 5" square was and where a 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" square would be. I wanted to make sure that I was okay as far as the design and beads were concerned along the edges using this frame and mat. I quickly realized that the cats were right along the 5" x 5" bottom edges so I might have to adjust the design accordingly. As I went along I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to adjust the design and would need to remove one of the double mats in order for my cross-stitch to fit within this frame.

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 Haunted Hotel - Cross Stitch Kit turned out. There is a lot going on in a very small cross-stitch picture and it is amazing to see.

As mentioned above, I knew that I was going to have to remove one of the double mats in order for my 5" x 5" picture to fit as I didn't want to lose 1/4" around all four sides in order to use the double mat with the 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" window.

In looking at the picture within the frame both my husband and I thought some stenciled wording and images along the sides of the white mat would be nice. After choosing the wording and images I went to apply the wording to the bottom of the white mat and ran into a problem with the rub on stencil. The wording wasn't rubbing off correcting and when I tried to take the stenciling off it torn the mat. YIKES!! I'd just ruined my mat and didn't have another.

Hubby suggested that maybe some type of a thin wooden plaque with a bronze plate of sorts might cover up the mishap. Problem was I didn't have one and I really wanted to finish this project and move on to the next one. You know how that is!

Then he mentioned decorative paper and, well, a light bulb went off in my head. I had loads of decorative paper that I was using to finish the backs of all my wooden shadowboxes. And, I had scissors for cutting decorative edges. Voila! Problem solved.

I cut a small rectangular piece of thick black paper with my decorative edge scissors and glued a smaller rectangular strip of thick orange paper that I cut with a different pair of decorative edge scissors on top for a 2nd layer. Then I painstakingly added "Trick or Treat" glitter stencils. I had measured the black rectangular piece of paper ahead of time so I knew when I glued it over my mishap that it would cover it. And, it did! Very well, indeed!

It took me 35 hours to complete this picture not including the framing or the time spend with the mishap. 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.

After my mishap I thought I had ruined my cross-stitch. Now, however, I think the mishap might have been for a reason as the "Trick or Treat" paper sign is additive. It's delightfully "spooky" and adds to the ambiance of the little picture. Wouldn't you agree?

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