Thursday, July 2, 2015

Gallery Post - Workbasket Quaker Animal Series - Update

Every so often I get grandiose ideas and make extraordinarily ambitious plans.  My hopes of making a queen-sized quilt from Workbasket's Quaker series is just one example of this tendency.

I intend the center medallion of the quilt to be the Quaker House with the four Quaker "trees" representing the seasons in the four corners of the center piece.  Then surrounding the center piece is a large rectangle made up of all the domestic/farm animals and an outer and even larger rectangle made up of woodland animals.  All of these stitched pieces will be border by log cabin style quilting frames in calico and solid cottons in deep to medium greens.  That's the vision anyway.

So far, I have stitched

The House

The Summer Tree

The Autumn Tree

The Winter Tree

The Spring Tree

The Cat

The Cow

The Pig
The Rooster

The Sheep
The Frog

The Rabbit

The Swan

The Tortoise

The Owl
The Bat

This update [7/3/15] marks the beginning of a renewed effort to stitch enough animals to actually start work on assembling the quilt.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mid Year Review of Annual Goals

It's time to take a look at my annual goals and see how I am faring.  May and June were pretty sketchy months for me due to job and health related issues, so I am a bit behind on some of the goals.

  • 01. My Own Crazy Challenge: work on unfinished class pieces from 2005-date.  Have managed to stitch one more piece of the Mystic Smalls but otherwise this has not been happening.
  • 02. Complete two BAPs: Stitch stockings for Piper and Rocco. I am saving these projects for my retirement.
  • 03. Stitch a few more Spring/Easter ornaments for the tree as well as a half dozen more Town Square ornaments.  I have stitched two more Town Square series ornaments: The Creamery and Sandie's Sweets Shop and have started work on The Abecedarium.  I have to admit that I haven't managed any additional Easter ornaments.
  • 04. Stitch one ornament a month from the Prairie Schooler Year Round leaflet:  I am up-to-date on these pieces, having stitched the January through June rounds.
  • 05. Continue to work on UFOs and WIPs list going into 2015  I have completed The English Band Sampler and have resumed work on the Jacobean Elegance Afghan.
  • 06. Limit stash purchases to fabric, fiber and tools needed to complete charts on hand.  So far this year, I have purchased fibers needed for current projects and even there I have substituted fibers from stash whenever possible.
  • 07. Continue to blog regularly, aiming for every other day. I blew this one with very few entries in May and June.
  • 08. Make an effort to catch up on sewing and frame 2 or 3 pieces professionally.  Not much progress on this front as yet.  Just four "finish" finishes since January.
  • 09. Inventory and declutter existing stash.  I am saving this project for after retirement.
  • 10. Change EGA membership to cyber-stitcher.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Assessing June Goals and Setting July Goals

My goals for June were relatively modest, as will be my goals for July as well.

June Goals

  • Complete at least five Sewing Finishes: I didn't get to this but with 4 weeks vacation on the horizon I anticipate catching up on quite a lot of the sewing finishes.
  • Continue work on The Jacobean Elegance Afghan.  Technically, I did resume work on this but only with a few hours of stitching this morning.  Oddly enough, working on this afghan will probably be a good summer project since it'll keep my arthritic knees warm in an air-conditioned room.
  • Finish M Designs Name Tree: Sean & PS Year Round: June.  Finished the PS June ear round.
  • Start work on Workbasket's Quaker Squirrel.I have completed the central medallion.
  • Off-goal stitching:  Finished Cross Eyed Cricket's Ice Cream Carrot/Cone and started Town Square series Abecedarium [R&R Reproductions] 

July Goals

Complete at least five sewing finishes.

Continue work on Jacobean Elegance Afghan.

Finish Prairie Schooler Year Round for July.

Finish Town Square series The ABCedarium.

Finish Workbasket's Quaker Squirrel.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Stitching Round-Up

I am still dealing with vision issues and, unfortunately, will be doing so for a while longer.  I couldn't schedule my cataract surgeries any earlier than August 3rd and 17th.  And, of course, I have only just finished dealing with the end of the school year madness, which has limited my stitching and other leisure activities considerably.

This post will be a bit long and somewhat picture heavy as I have been stitching smalls for the most part in the weeks that I haven't been blogging.  It's been two months or so since I last posted photos, so I have a bit of catching up to do:

From the Prairie Schooler's Year Rounds:

March: The Shamrock: I substituted Belle Soie silks for the DMC called for in this piece.

April: The Rabbit and Tulip.  I substituted Belle Soie silks for the DMC called for in this piece.

May: Flower Basket.  I used the recommended DMC for this entry in the series.

June: Bird on a Branch:  I have substituted Belle Soie's Collard Greens, Cinnamon, Pecan, Chocolate and Poison Apple for the suggested DMC flosses.  

Workbasket's Quaker Animal series:

Workbasket's Quaker Owl:Stitched in several different dye lots of GAST Maple Syrup.

Workbasket's Quaker Bat.  Stitched in GAST Crow.

Workbasket's Quaker Squirrel  Started stitching using GAST Cinnamon and Sarsaprilla.  I suppose the designer lives in an area where reddish squirrels abound.  In my neck of the woods, we see mostly grey squirrels with the very rare black squirrel.  I must admit, I prefer stitching this little guy in warm browns rather than greys.  All the black in the bat was quite enough drab floss for me.  I am at a standstill, for the moment though, as I am waiting for two skeins of Cinnamon in the same dyelot with which to stitch the main body of the squirrel.

The Town Square series:  I have finished work on Sandie's Sweet Shop  and The Creamery.

For Sandie's Sweet Shop, I used the recommended DMC flosses.  There were just so many color changes, some with very subtle variations, that it just wasn't practicable to substitute Belle Soie or WDW or GAST as I tend to do with this series.  Better to stick with the charted thread selections than to make a mess with poor substitutions.

For The Creamery, I had a few of the recommended WDW: Tin Roof, Chestnut, Sophia's Pink.  For the rest, I had to make the following substitutions:
WDW Purple Haze > GAST Sweet Pea
WDW Camelia > GAST Tea Rose
WDW Grapefruit >GAST Terra Cotta
WDW Daffodil >  a rice stitch done in GAST Daffodil and WDW Chartreuse.  [Never assume that just because two different manufacturers use the same name for a color that they are indeed referring to the same shade.  A mistake I corrected by turning a cross stitch into a rice stitch using something closer to the correct shade.]
WDW Winter White > Whitewash
WDW Kohl > GAST Soot
WDW Morris Blue > GAST President's Blue
WDW Periwinkle >GAST Babbling Brook

These Town Square charts are deceptively time-consuming.  They are smalls in size, being between three or four inches square.  But they are densely stitched and very detailed.  Though I've been working with the series for nearly two years now, every chart takes more time to stitch than I anticipate.  You'd think I'd learn.  Each of these charts took most of two weeks' stitching time.  I'd probably have given The Creamery a pass had I seen a stitched model; it's very kitschy what with the spotted walls a la cow hide.  Most of the details [topiary, door, window trim, etc.] are pastels that almost bleed into the off white walls.  There just isn't a sharp enough contrast for my taste.  The Sweet Shop is a bit more to my taste even though it, too, uses a pastel palette.

Next up is The ABeCeDarium, stitched in the recommended WDW and GAST, for the most part.  I didn't have enough WDW Brick and have substituted CC Used Brick in its stead  I found some 30ct. medium blue [periwinkle] linen that I bought at the last Stitcher;s Hideaway retreat I attended.  The irritating thing about this chart is that the key lists five colors and the chart has six symbols.  To further complicate matters, not all the symbols on the chart match up with the symbols on the key.  Doesn't anybody proof read charts anymore?  So I am winging it and pretty much guessing what color goes where.  Since it is 30ct, it has become my current travel project, at least until my next order from 123stitch comes in with the flosses I need for my Quaker Squirrel, Bear and Peacock [all of which are stitched on 28ct linen].  Again it is hard to tell without a photo of a stitched model but I am thinking this colorway will be more to my liking.  I am even tempted to think it will be a quick stitch, not as much fussy detail and not as many color changes.  Did I mention I have a somewhat steep learning curve?

And finally, last week I found myself needing to start a new traveling piece on 28ct since I can't manage my regular 36ct and 40ct WIPs away from my craft lamp/magnifier.  I had a piece of 28ct antique pink linen that I had been saving to stitch something for the Diva of All Things Pink [aka, my granddaughter].  I thought I'd make her a summer tote for lugging her stuff to beaches, parks and picnics and I figured this ice cream cone chart from Cross Eyed Cricket would do nicely as the central motif.  Of course, strawberry ice cream had to be one of the scoops, in keeping with the pink theme.   The other scoop is pistachio.  While the tote will be for the Diva, I am thinking of filling it with all the makings for a great ice cream cone: several different kinds of sprinkles, those pourable "syrups" from Smuckers that harden up into candy shells, some cherries, chopped nuts and of course, several different kinds of cones.  Doing that will make it a gift for the whole West Coast clan.  Some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around walking a block and a half to the corner candy store with my grandfather to buy hand-dipped cones for the whole family.  The choices may have been limited to chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or butter pecan, with the occasional addition of pistachio or peach to the list when the summertime gods smiled, but, my word, were those cones the most delicious ever.  Eating ice cream cones and catching fireflies [the 50's were not a particularly ecologically enlightened era] on warm summer nights were a child's idea of pure bliss!  I can't take my grandchildren out for ice cream cones; the walk from NY to Seattle is a bit of a deterrent.  But I can do the next best thing and send them all the fixings: all my son will have to do is spring for some ice cream.  I'll have to include a letter describing the memories of Brooklyn in the 50s.  I think old timers should share their stories with the young.  It gives the grandchildren a sense of where they came from and it gives the grandparents a sense of continuity.  I will enjoy writing about my grandfather and about Jack who ran the corner candy store on the corner of Church and Schenectady Aves and even about the insulated bags we used in the olden days to carry ice cream home: foil lined with a layer of waxed paper.  Simpler times.  I expect, I'll even write about the old ice cream trucks: Bungalow Bar trucks whose doors were pieces of white picket fencing and roofs were done up in red shingles and the Good Humor trucks that played a cheerful melody that could be heard a block away, giving us children plenty of time to beg our parents for nickels and dimes.  Yes, I am old enough to remember paying only a dime for an ice cream cone!  I can also remember when a chocolate bar cost a nickel.  Wouldn't it be fun to have today's income and yesteryear's prices, if only for a day?

My little granddaughter has made me very proud: when asked what she wanted for her upcoming birthday, she told her Dad that she wanted something she could "sew" just like Grandma.  So I am sending her some child-friendly and age appropriate needlepoint kits.  I think a large mesh, a blunt needle and a simple tent stitch might be more manageable than cross stitch for a six year old.  If that makes a hit, I'll try and find some stamped cross stitch suitable for a child her age. It's a pity we are 3,000 miles apart. I'd really enjoy teaching her the craft myself.  I'll bring some large check gingham , a hoop and some pretty floss when I visit next and start her on cross stitching.

Granted this isn't all that much accomplished for a full two months: mostly small and medium projects.  But when I retire in September, I plan to hit the ground running, tackling BAPs and major sewing, crafting and re-decorating projects.  For the moment, I will content myself with slow and steady progress on projects that are easy on the eyes.  I'll have most of the month of July off and will work most of the month of August, taking off only for the eye surgeries and follow-ups.  So I should get a bit of a start on the stitching, crafting, gardening and re-decorating then as well.

By the way, I am not loving the new computer.  Loading photos to my blog was once a 4 step process and is now a 6 step process that feels like a gazillion steps because I  keep forgetting what comes next,  Once I get used to the routine, I'll stop using foul words at every second keystroke.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Sixth Decade

The sixth decade of life seems to be all about medical procedures for both my husband and myself.  Last week, it was his turn.  I had to take him to an outpatient surgical clinic to have a growth removed from his lower right eyelid.

My husband is used to being the driver and not the navigator on our excursions but obviously I was the driver this time.  The drive to the clinic was like something from a Marx Brothers film, marked by many a missed turn because Bill hasn't the knack of telling me when to turn until we have passed the appropriate point.  But eventually we got there. 

It was a very upscale surgical clinic: the people were solicitous and communicative, the surgeon and anesthesiologist were skilled and the place itself was quite lovely, complete with crown moldings , sculptures and comfortable furniture in the reception area.  But from the point of view of the person waiting, the best part was the courtyard on the ground floor..  It was open to the air, surrounded on all four sides by the building, paved with Belgian blocks, appointed with tables and chairs of heavy steel mesh and adorned by plantings in squares scattered throughout the area and along the borders of the space.  The gardens were not showy or glamorous, though quite attractive in a simple and elegant fashion.  Every plant were clearly selected for fragrance: with even the slightest breeze, one was treated to wonderful scents.  I am not quite sure what sort of a comment it makes on the quality, or range, of my life when I start writing reviews of surgical clinics and their waiting areas.  Anyway, it was a fine place to spend the two hours waiting for my husband's procedure to be completed.

I spent the waiting time stitching on Workbasket's Quaker Squirrel.  In the very peaceful atmosphere of the courtyard, I got quite a bit done.  The chart called for Belle Soie's Cinnamon Stick for which I substituted GAST Cinnamon and, just for a bit of contrast, GAST Sarsaparilla, for the acorn.  I'll post photos tomorrow when I catch up with all the stitching I have done since I last posted in May.

Later this week, he'll be having another surgery, removing a large growth [the size of an orange] from below his arm.  This one will be done at the out-patient clinic of the local hospital which has nowhere near as congenial a waiting space for relatives.  The doctors are 90% sure this is a benign growth but, of course, we'll be breathing a sigh of relief only after the biopsy makes that a certainty.

In August, it will be my turn.  I will finally have the cataracts removed.  I had wanted to get it done in  July but August was the earliest my doctor could schedule the procedures.  Still, I am looking forward to much better vision in the near future.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dead Cameras

Why do digital cameras die just when you need them most?  I'll be taking mine into the shop tomorrow to find out whether this is just an issue of a rechargeable battery no longer holding its charge or something far more deadly.

I have three recent finishes I wish to photograph as well as a few more pieces I want to photograph for a Gallery Post of samplers.  And, of course, a few WIP photos to take: the M Designs Name Tree Sean and The Jacobean Elegance afghan.

It seems like forever since I put a photo on the blog though it is really only a little over a month.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Assessing April Goals, Setting May Goals

I have been having all sorts of issues these past five or six weeks.

The office workload has nearly tripled as we come to the sacrament "season", prep for registration for 2015-16, prepare budgets, take inventory and do all the things that make April and May so very crazy.

Added to that, I have had all sorts of issues with my eyes.  Starting tomorrow, I embark on a series of laser surgeries to repair blood vessels and remove cataracts.  None of this is life threatening or even life altering [except in a good way] but it has diverted my focus from stitching and stitching related activities.  I am way behind on giveaways, blogging and actual stitching.

In fact, all I managed to complete recently are

* Workbasket's Quaker Bat
* The Town Square series' Sandie's Sweet  Shop

I started Prairie Schooler's Year Round for April but still have a few hours worth of stitching to do before completing it.

I don't anticipate getting back into my routines fully much before June.  I expect May will be as hectic as April has been, if not more so.

So, my goal for May is to take things as they come, seeking to carve out a little time for stitching here and there.  My usual elaborate plans and rotations just won't be workable this coming month.  However, I do expect that once all my eye surgeries are done, I'll enjoy such an improvement that I'll be back to my old speed.  At present, I am a s...l...o...w stitcher, running at tortoise like speed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Assessing March Goals and Setting April Goals

MARCH GOALS: Even though I have occasionally broken my own pattern, rotation stitching is working for me.

Monday & Tuesday : Jacobean Elegance Afghan   Six and a half out of 20 blocks completed.
Wednesday: Prairie Schooler Year Round: March  [DONE], Sean's Name Tree ornament from M Designs  the "e"s are stitched   and Sandi's Sweet Shop in The Town Square series [Kitted up but not started].  
Thursday:   Workbasket's Quaker Bat and Quaker Squirrel.  Quaker Bat is done.
Friday: Sewing Finishes: 8 ornaments.
Saturday & Sunday: get out of the stitching chair and do a wide variety of things: walk, exercise, antique, reorganize, put the garden to bed for the winter, feed and observe the backyard birds, read, visit friends and relatives, try a new restaurant, experiment with the recipes I have been downloading, host a high tea ... whatever.    Not much going on, just rain, rain and more rain.

APRIL GOALS:  I'll be continuing much the same rotation.
Monday & Tuesday: Jacobean Elegance Afghan
Wednesday: Prairie Schooler Year Round: April, Sean's Name Tree ornament from M Designs and Sandi's Sweet Shop in The Town Square series.
Thursday:   Workbasket's  Quaker Squirrel.
Friday: Sewing Finishes
Saturday & Sunday: get out of the stitching chair and do a wide variety of things: walk, exercise, antique, reorganize, put the garden to bed for the winter, feed and observe the backyard birds, read, visit friends and relatives, try a new restaurant, experiment with the recipes I have been downloading, host a high tea ... whatever.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stitching Limerick Contest Winner and Other Stuff

There were many clever entries this year.  The clear winner, in both quantity and quality, is Calamity Jr.  She'll be receiving her gc by e-mail as soon as I have a chance to put together my floss order,

The winner of the Workbasket Rabbit and Turtle chart never contacted me with a mailing address, so it's going back into the giveaway pile.

I am still sorting through my charts, separating the stitched from the yet to be stitched.  I have culled quite a number of charts to add to the giveaway pile.  Stay tuned for a really big giveaway later this month.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My Last March Malaise

In education circles, March is known to be a particularly nasty month.  Not only is it one of the longer months but it is a month without holidays or breaks, with the rare exception of a very early Easter and/or Passover break.  Add in the fact that it is usually ushered in by gloom and snow and ice and ushered out by gloom and rain and chill, well, it's a rather awful month here in the Northeast.  The children want nothing more than to break free of classrooms, confining winter clothes and the boredom of cabin fever.  The catechists and teachers are exhausted by their efforts to contain or redirect all the repressed energy of a roomful of children or, worse yet, adolescents.  Parents always seem more irascible in March, almost impossible to please.

I have survived my last long March in education.  Forgive me while I burst into a few bars of the Hallelujah Chorus.  Next March, I'll be enjoying the freedom of retirement, and probably missing the children desperately, but not the stress and angst.