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Preemie Jack-o'-Lanterns

Thanks to alert reader Dee, I learned why I was seeing pumpkins at the grocery store in August. I mentioned this in my last Just CrossStitch update. Pumpkins ripened earlier this year than in most years, Dee responded in Reader Feedback.

With early pumpkins, many cross stichers have been making early Halloween decor. If you don't fall into the "early" category, you might want to try this update's free pattern, Just Jack, a cute ornament that will take just a few hours to stitch.

If you want more inspiration, you can find the Just CrossStitch Halloween special issue and the October issue of Just CrossStitch at Annie's Craft Store.

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A fun fact I learned while browsing for information about jack-o'-lanterns is that they arrived with Irish immigrants to America in the 1880s. The Irish carried carved turnips with lights inside on All Hallows' Eve to ward off evil spirits. When the immigrants came to America, they found other gourds, including pumpkins, which are larger and shed more light.

My internet search also shed light on why these pumpkin lights were invented. There is a legend that a character named Stingy Jack played tricks on people, including the master of the underworld. When Jack passed away, St. Peter barred him from heaven because of his bad deeds, and the master of the underworld wouldn't welcome him either. So Stingy Jack found a turnip, carved it, and then lit the inside to form a sort of flashlight to carry around in the darkness between heaven and the underworld.

But enough about the dark side! On the bright side, I received great news from one of our model stitchers. Readers of Just CrossStitch might have noticed at the end of our design instructions, we sometimes have the line, "Stitched by (fill in the blank)." While many of our designers stitch their own models or have a friend stitch them, sometimes we have one of our model stitchers work the designs to be photographed.

One of our model stitchers, Cathy Ring, called with the news that one of her stitching projects won first place and best-in-show in the craft category at the Southeast Missouri District Fair. By winning prizes at the district level, Cathy's project will also be accepted at the Missouri State Fair next year.

"This was the first time I've entered," Cathy said, "and I was just floored that I won."

Here is her winning project:

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One of Cathy's talents is that the reverse side of her stitching is extremely neat. Below are the front and back of her project.

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Another model stitcher, Wava Rowe, sent me a surprise when she returned a project for the magazine. Her package included a pair of earrings made from embroidery floss, which were created by her daughter, Bethany Brasher. See Bethany's story and learn how to make the earrings in the tutorial.

You can learn more about the art of cross stitch at Annie's Needle Arts Festival: Christmas in Williamsburg in the seminar section of this update.

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