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Spring in My Step

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My garden is in bloom, and I love it! My lilacs have brought their scented pink-lavender hue to one corner, while my tea olive with its delicate blossoms creates a perfume factory in the other corner. My herb garden is becoming more lush by the day. Easter weekend was the planting weekend for us here in the South, and I managed to get a few things started, including my tomatoes. I can't wait for those little tiny fruits to emerge. There's something about gardening in the spring that just makes me happy -- the warm sun, the dirt on my hands -- it all puts a spring in my step. It's exhausting but so totally worth every ache and sunburn. Once things start to grow and bloom, all that work seems so small. Creation is an amazing thing, and sometimes we fail to stop and see its beauty and tenacity. Spring makes me stop and feel that all over again.

We've been covering specialty stitches in the last few updates, and I hope you're enjoying those. This update, we're going back to the basics and will be looking at French knots (they're also in this update's featured pattern). They can be daunting, but they're easy and quick once you get the hang of it. Without further ado, let's grab some thread and get started.

Knots ... French Knots
One of the stitches that used to frighten me was the French knot. It looked scary and unrelenting, and I was afraid to even attempt it. One day, former Just CrossStitch editor Lorna Reeves walked me through it step by step. I got it! And I was hooked. It really isn't scary, and the stitch can add so much texture and dimension to your stitching. It's all about technique and rhythm. Let's take a look and remove some fear!

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1. After securing your thread on the back of the fabric, bring the needle up as indicated by 1 on the stitch illustration below.

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2. Carefully wrap the needle with thread (I wrapped twice here, but follow your pattern instructions). Wrap securely but not tightly. Note the needle placement and the wraps.

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3. Insert the needle back into your fabric (move one thread on evenweave to secure; if working on Aida, try to split the next square to secure the stitch). Keep a taut pull on your working thread with one hand and push the needle through the fabric with the other. A hoop or snap makes this step less frustrating, so trust me when I say to use one. Your blood pressure will thank you.

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4. Pull the needle through, keeping slight tension on your working thread until your "knot" approaches the fabric surface. Gently pull until the knot lays flat. Don't keep pulling and risk pulling the knot through. Voila! You've now worked a beautiful, textured and dimensional French knot stitch.

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Remember, tension plays a huge part in this step, so keep practicing until you find your perfect combination. Pull gently but firmly so that the knot lays against fabric, but don't pull so tightly it slips through. If it does, just rip out and start over. Don't be discouraged if your first attempt looks a bit wonky. You'll get it, and then you'll be "French knotting" everything.

For other stitch illustrations, check out Annie's Stitch Guide here.

Annie's Craftours Stitching in Ireland
What if you had the chance of a lifetime to spend nine days stitching your way through the lush countryside of Ireland?

That's exactly what you'll find on the 2018 Annie's Craftours Stitching in Ireland experience (Sept. 29 to Oct. 7, 2018). You'll fly to Dublin where you'll board a private coach along with other stitchers ready for a wonderful tour. You'll be transported throughout Ireland to see points of interest, including a visit to the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula and the famous Blarney Castle. The trip also includes visits to the village of Adare, Ross Castle and a family-owned weaving mill in Avoca. Designer and instructor Lorna Bateman will also be offering stitching workshops during the tour! She'll be teaching her Sheep Tryptic project, which is a perfect complement for the sights you'll see.

For more information, visit the tour site here.

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Storage & Annie's Creative Studio
In a previous update, we talked about ways to store our stash. I was cruising around the new Annie's Creative Studio offerings and found a video about organizing, which I thought was helpful. Now, you know how I feel about organization and bins -- they make my heart sing. I love seeing other organization ideas, and I love the use of fabric bins in this video. It inspired me to plan a trip to my local Target to see what fun patterns and colors of fabric bins they had for my craft room. Oh yes, I bought some, friends. Yes, the video is geared toward yarn storage, but it's easily adaptable to cross-stitch materials. Want to learn more? Check out my new favorite video here.

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Annie's Creative Studio is a new streaming service, which debuted earlier this year. Containing more than 450 videos and patterns, the membership-based service offers new content uploaded weekly. New members can sign up for a free 30-day trial membership. Want more reason to check it out? There are also giveaways! Check out the new Annie's Creative Studio here.

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