Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Needle Point Alphabet Blocks

Picture of whole set from all sides can be seen at the bottom of the post!

What You Need:
3 sheets of plastic canvas (ten blocks per inch)
DMC embroidery floss, at least 6 of each color, 10 of the wood color (See DMC colors below)
Needle with large eye
Ten various bells or rattles (optional)
Fabric glue, fray check, or clear nail polish (good too have on hand for mistakes)

Approximate cost: less than $35 including a pair of scissors

DMC floss colors:
Black - 310
White - Blanc
Red - 321
Orange - 722
Yellow - 726
Green - 909
Blue - 820
Purple - 211
Pink - 3716
Brown - 300
Wood - 738

How I picked the colors:
I wanted to have high contrast colors, so I decided that red, green, blue, and brown would be the dark shades contrasting orange, yellow, purple, and pink. I then chose the exact shades based on the floss I already had. Black and white I chose because I wanted a few blocks with black and white contrast patterns that are most appealing to newborns.  I made the edges beige to resemble the color of wood.

Getting Started:
Cut the plastic canvas into squares that are 21 x 21 holes. (This will give you a panel with 20 x 20 stitches). I found the easiest way to do this was to make one panel, then use it to measure the rest. I marked the sheet of canvas with a pen every 21 blocks, then cut it into strips. You will need 60 squares to make the whole set. 

After they are cut out, go back and trim any extra bumps on the sides.  Not only will they hang up the floss as you stitch, but they will stick through and be rough on baby's hands (or mouth!).  Also, very carefully, trim the tips of the corners.  You want to do this to eliminate the sharp corner, but you must be careful not to cut all the way through. 

I used the full piece of DMC floss and I made cross stitches. Depending on how you want your block to look, you could experiment with fewer strands of floss and half stitches.

When doing the seams, I went through every hole twice. This ensured that the canvas could not be seen in between stitches.

Patterns for each side:
Click here for a printable chart.

I used an alphabet pattern from a Christmas craft book. You can get alphabets from various craft books or from books of just alphabet patterns. I've seen alphabet patterns on line before, as well. The numbers and shapes I mapped out on my own on graph paper.  The star was the only one that came out pretty bad. 

Color combinations:
I planned these out so that the combinations repeat as little as possible and so that the color of the solid panel is not used on other sides. I also didn't want the same colors next to each other when you lined them up.  (That took a lot of time to figure out!).

Click here for a printable chart.

The alphabetically first letter for each block I used the dark color to make the letter or number.  Then the next letter I would reverse.  For example on block 1, A was red with an orange background, and then K was orange with a red background.  

Blocks 7-10 will only use the second combination once because the alternate side will have the black and white pattern.  You could also swap one of the black and white sides for a rainbow. 

Stitching the Panels:
I used cross stitches everywhere excepting a few places.  On the shapes, I decided to start using half stitches when I needed a diagonal line, such as on the purple diamond.  On the bulls eye, I used a French knot in the center.  Not only did it make it look more finished, but it adds an extra sensory element.  Lastly, the zero has two long stitches above the cross stitches to form the cross through the O.  I thought this would look better than a jagged cross stitch line.  These stitches are another sensory element to explore. 

Construction of the Block:
I lay the blocks down to form a T. I put the solid colored panel top center with the alphabetically first letter to its right. I then placed the remaining panels so that they would be opposite each other. When my floss was longer than I needed for one side, I would move on to the next side. 

Fun Fact:
Each block is 20 x 20 stitches. That means 400 stitches per panel. Each block has 6 sides, so that makes 2,400 stitches. There are 10 blocks in the set. When you are finished with the project, you'll have done 24,000 crosses (or 48,000 half stitches)!

  • Make sure each panel is the right size before starting to work with it. If it winds up being too small, you'll have to toss it. If its too big, you can undo some of your stitches (gluing the ends to the back with fabric glue if need be), and trim the canvas.
  • Remember to insert your noise maker before the gap gets too small!
  • I used things I had around the house for the noise makers. I took apart a Christmas ornament  for a large jingle bell. I also used a lot of cat toys. They are safe because they are completely in cased in the canvas.
  • You could easily modify the colors to your preference or available materials; for example, you could make the purple dark and the green light. Come to think of it, it might have been nice to do this for all blocks. Maybe have forest green opposite lavender, and then the other panels be royal purple opposite mint green. The only color I see having a hard time with is red, though you could probably make it work with a burgundy and bright red. 

And here is the full set from all sides!

Here is the second set I made for my nephew from all sides (excepting the solids).  This second set has a better rotation of colors and a nicer font. 


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