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Making a pattern your own

I feel like this is a topic that often comes up:  using the “called for” threads and fabric versus choosing your own when working from a pattern.  The most important rule to follow?  Do what you love.  If the image sings to you because of the colors that the designer chose, well, for goodness sake, use those colors.  But, I am hoping that there are enough examples out there in the world of needlework to help any stitcher realize that making changes to suit them should absolutely be a possibility to consider.  Don’t feel limited to what the picture shows.

In cross stitch world, I so appreciate Flosstube for showing me the variety of what stitchers have brought to the table.  To pick on some popular patterns in the recent year or so, do a google image search of “Death By Cross Stitch Long Dog Samplers” or “Coffee Quaker Heartstring Samplery.”  Now, there is a difference between them:  Death By Cross Stitch doesn’t have a recommended color and the image on the front is, I believe, just a computer generated picture.  Some stitchers have gone monochrome; others have chosen amazing color combinations.  Coffee Quaker has a model stitched and comes with a list of recommended threads.  Yet, it is a design that I have just noticed a number of Flosstubers choosing their own color schemes for.

Sometimes, though, you really need to either push your imagination or look beyond the color and focus on the design and/or stitches.  Granted, you can say that I am talking a little more about counted canvaswork than cross stitch when I write that sentence.  I have a couple of examples to share with you.

The first is a design by Jean Hilton called Scott Lee. (It is named after her step-son, who helped with the design process, according to the introduction in the booklet.)  Jean Hilton was a master of canvaswork stitches and designs.  Here is an image of the original:

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I originally was introduced to Scott Lee through someone who was sharing her stitching process on her blog many years ago.  (Wish I could remember the blog to reference it here.)  Although I knew the name Jean Hilton at the time, I am pretty sure this was my introduction to one of her more complex designs and I was enthralled by its complexity.  I also loved, because this blogger was sharing every few days, the evolution of the piece – the different stitches she was encountering, her challenges, everything.  What I didn’t love at all was the color scheme.  I remember that much.  I remember googling at the time and learning that Jean Hilton had passed away, her designs were out of print, and went for ridiculous prices on eBay.

Fast forward a few years and through whatever sources, I learn that a store in Indiana, Stitches From the Heart, in working with Jean Hilton’s family, purchased the copyright to a number of her designs.  You can bet that Scott Lee found its way into my hands!

You can see all the Jean Hilton patterns and books the store has available by going here:  Stitches From the Heart – Jean Hilton Page

I learned from reading the introduction that Jean was inspired to designed the piece from a rug owned by her step-son.  I looked at a rug in my own home and knew immediately how I wanted to change the colors – to go with the colors of that rug that I loved.  Here is the version of Scott Lee that I created:


In addition to changing colors, I also made some stitch changes – eliminating some elements that I felt were just “too much” and added in a subtle background stitch rather than leaving a completely blank area that I thought seemed too “empty.”  These were my feelings, my interpretations.  Clearly, plenty of other people that have stitched Scott Lee felt differently. I have seen a few other color variations online and each time, I feel a connection – “yes! someone else who just made it their own.”

One last note about this piece and an important lesson that I will always remember.  Following the instruction booklet, the border was completed first and then I began working on the interior elements.  The more the interior evolved, the more I was unhappy with the shade of the blue of the Jessica stitches in the border.  (Jessica stitches are those round circle-like ones and there are 166 of them in the border.) At first, I couldn’t believe I was even considering pulling them out to change the color.  And then, I realized that if I didn’t, I would forever look at the piece and be dissatisfied, always looking at the border and thinking, “what if?”  So, yes, out came the lighter shade of blue, all 166 of those Jessica stitches, and in went a better shade.  No regrets, absolutely none.


On the left, the new blue Jessicas. On the bottom and a little of the top right, the old ones.  Also, from this picture of the work in progress, you can see that I was playing around with adding in the light stitching in the background areas (also in blue) in the center.

Lesson learned:  if you know there is something about your stitching that you are unhappy about and especially if it is a large piece that you have committed a lot of time and energy and love to, take the time to do it right.

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