Friday, January 30, 2015

Assessing January Goals, Setting February Goals

JANUARY GOALS: I added a few charts to the finished column this month.

Monday: The English Band Sampler DONE, DONE, DONE!   Need I say more?
Tuesday: Cross My Heart's Mint Tea Towel, M Design's Sean Name Tree Ornament and the Prairie Schooler Year Round: January.  Stalled on the Tea Towel.  I guess  had my fill of confetti and fractional stitches and never did get to the name tree ornament.  The PS piece is done.
Wednesday: Dragon Dreams' Dragon of The Summer Sky  DONE ! DONE! DONE!
Thursday: Victoria Samplers' Mystic Smalls.  I have completed the scissor fob and am working on the tuffet.  It is the tuffet that is stalling me.  My eyes are not as sharp as they used to be given a cataract and a touch of glaucoma.  I don't seem to be able to manage the blanket stitch so essential to hardangar on a 36ct linen anymore.  I will hang this up for a while:  till warmer weather when I will be able to stitch in a sunlit back yard rather than the artificial light of my living room.
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.  This month, my weekend activities included an Anniversary Weekend Getaway, browsing in antique and collectible shops of Cold Spring, running a mini-retreat for First Confession, and, less happily, attending the wake and funeral of one of my loyal volunteers.   I am gradually changing from being something of a hermit to being a bit more social.  I'll never be the  life of the party.  I am just not made that way.  But I was in danger of becoming a total recluse, which was hardly a healthy way to live.  I realize many of my weekend activities were work related but that's just the way it goes this time of year.  Work-related or not, it still means getting out of the office/classroom/home comfort zone, interacting with other human beings in a variety of ways ... so that's something.
Monthly Stitching: January entry from the Prairie Schooler Year Round leaflet and one more Town Square ornament.  The Prairie Schooler piece is DONE, as noted above, and I have kitted up Sandi's Sweet Shoppe from the Town Square series.
Crochet:  Liam's Crib Blanket is DONE.

That makes a total of   5  finishes this month.  I am one very satisfied stitcher.

FEBRUARY GOALS: Even though I have occasionally broken my own pattern, rotation stitching is working for me, so I'll be carrying on with it.  This month, I'll be starting a new rotation

Monday: Jacobean Elegance Afghan
Tuesday: Prairie Schooler Year Round: February and Sandi's Sweet Shop in The Town Square series.
Wednesday:   Workbasket's Quaker Owl
Thursday:  Resume work on Victoria Sampler's Sturbridge Box.
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.
Monthly Stitching: February entry from the Prairie Schooler Year Round leaflet and one more Town Square ornament.  These will be my smalls for all the Tuesdays this month.  In the unlikely event I finish both before month's end, I'll pull my Fertile Circles Needle Book from the UFO basket.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snowed In But Too Sick To Stitch

It was the waste of a snowy weekend.  When I should have been busily plying my needle, I was lying in a darkened room with a cool cloth on over my eyes, praying Excedrin Migraine would kick in and alleviate the pain.  And now with a blizzard on the horizon with 18-25 inches of snow accumulation, I am battling nausea, stomach pain, sore throat and headache.  

I have left my bed only long enough each day to male a little home made soup.  Saturday it was lentil soup, Sunday it was chicken rice soup and today it will be barley, beef and vegetable soup.

And it is till snowing today and I am still not stitching.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Weekly Rotation Report

The pieces remaining in my rotation this past week:

Dragon Dreams' The Dragon of the Summer Sky:  Done.  I confess I ignored everything else in the rotation to finish this piece.  The nearer I got to a finish, the more I wanted to concentrate on this project alone.  It often happens, in my stitching, that momentum just takes over and throws all my carefully formulated plans to the four winds.  I attached the last bead to the dragon on Friday morning

Prairie Schooler Year Rounds: January:  Done.  Since this piece was the next one closest to a finish after the dragon, I went ahead and got it stotched on Saturday morning

Cross My Heart's Mint Tea Towel:  Once I finished the dragon and the PS round, I switched my focus to this piece.  I'd like to start February with an entirely new rotation so that means finishing up everything in the current rotation.

Victoria Sampler Mystic Smalls Tuffet:  I am in serious denial when it comes to this piece.  I keep telling myself that it is just a matter of finding the right stitching spot with just the right slant of light and I'll be back to zipping through the blanket stitches in this hardangar project.  But the bald truth is that, until I have a cataract removed, my eyesight is just too poor to manage the closely spaced blanket stitch on 36ct linen.  I don't want to admit this fact because it would mean deferring the tuffet until sometime in Spring, after the Easter break during which I hope to have the surgery to remove the cataract.  Then, of course, there is the recovery period during which no stitching will take place.  I don't want to think about that either.  I'll give this project one more shot during the coming week but if I find myself slicing through untidy stitches and pulling out all the nubby bits of perle cotton once more, it's back into the "later" basket it goes.

As my rotation is shrinking down to just two pieces, the tea towel and the tuffet, I am adding Sean's Name Tree Christmas ornament from M Designs into the mix.  This UFO, my first attempt at over one stitching, was abandoned the over-dyed floss I was using, Needle Necessities' Victorian Christmas, was just variegated enough to trick my eyes and to have me making all sorts of counting mistakes.  That was decades ago and I have since logged many hours with over dyed fibers and with over one stitching,  I think it is time to pull it out and finish it!  I am determined to whittle my list of UFOs and WIPs from previous years to nothing at all.  That will still leave all my class projects to complete.  Technically, they are all UFOs as well but I tend to think of them as an entirely separate category.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Dragon Takes Flight

The dragon's wings were stitched over the long holiday weekend ... and, oh, what a joy it was to stitch with Kreinik Very Fine Braid and Caron silk.  But that wasn't all: the head and neck and most of the foreleg are stitched as well.  When I pick this up again on Wednesday, I'll finish the last little bit of background and tackle the rest of the back-stitching.  Forgive the poor photo.  Indoor lighting has given the piece a very yellowish cast bit at least you can see how mucch progress was made.

I am closing in on another finish this month as a result of the extra stitching time during Martin Luther King Day.  What a difference from 2014, when I had my first finish in April.  It looks like I'll have four, and possibly more, in January alone in 2015.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall ...

 In Ann's blog, Stitching Foolishness, I found the perfect explanation for the lengthy class list that graces appears as a sidebar on this blog.  

She says: Apparently I have to let things age in the stash for three or four years before I become inspired to complete the stitching on them

Apparently, I have the same disorder but a somewhat more severe case.  Some of my projects have been aging nearly a decade.

This isn't the first time that another stitching blogger has held up a mirror before me and shown me a few home truths about myself.  It's one of the reasons I read a dozen or so blogs on a regular basis.  Not only do I get to expand my range by living vicariously through other stitchers but I learn about my own stitching persona as well!  So I guess that, for me, Maleficient's question becomes

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,
Who's the most Compleat * Stitcher of them all?

 I want to find that stitcher and read his or her blog!

* referencing an ancient tome called The Compleat Angler.  If fishermen can have a perfect model encompassing all the skills and quirks of their avocation, why not stitcher's as well?  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Weekly Round-Up: Rotation Stitching Photos

With The English Band Sampler in the finish column, these are the remaining projects

Liam's Crib Blanket: This piece was finished on January 11.  Having spent the weekend in the poorly lit rooms of a circa 1830 inn, I was unable to work on any cross stitch projects in the evening after dinner and was glad I had brought the blanket along.  I had intended to crochet on the trip back and forth to Cold Spring since I am no longer able to stitch in a moving car.  The pattern for the blanket is so repetitive that strong light is not an issue.  I can pretty much stitch this pattern on auto-pilot; all that's required is muscle memory.  I admit this is not the greatest photo, but it is terrible out doors: a mix of freezing rain, icy pellets and sleet.  Indoor lighting in a townhouse with windows only at front and back makes for awful photographs.  As you can tell my indoor light has a very yellowish cast.  The blanket is blue and off-white.  The crochet pattern is a variation on hounds tooth, both in the body and the border, with a chain stitched ruffle to finish it off.  

Dragon Dreams' The Dragon of the Summer Sky:  Stitching on this both Monday and Wednesday made for a nice little burst of progress.  I am done with the detested rayon stitching.  Stitching with the remaining DMC cotton, Kreinik metallic and the Caron Waterlilies silk will be an ecstatic experience by comparison.  I know I have done a lot of complaining about stitching with rayon but even I will admit that it does add interest to the piece.  There are some purists in the stitching world that insist a piece be stitched in one and only one fiber, either all cotton, or all silk, or all bamboo, or whatever.  But I do like the effect of mixing fibers in a project.  I believe it gives it texture and pleases the eye.

Cross My Heart's Mint Tea Towel: I let this lapse in favor of the Prairie Schooler Year Round for January..

Victoria Sampler's Mystic Smalls Tuffet: I didn't get back to this at all this past week.

A little non-rotation stitching:  I realized the month was half gone and that I hadn't started my Prairie Schooler Year Round for the month of January [one of my annual goals].  I found myself some 40 count linen in a nice neutral color, Summer Khaki, and began January's piece.  Instead of the recommended DMC, I am using Belle Soie silks, Oatmeal Scone for the half moon and Cake for the star.  And I am stitching with one strand over two threads.  These small rounds are meant to be stitched on black linen but I prefer to avoid the eyestrain that stitching on black causes.  The point is to enjoy one's stitching rather than to endure it.  In any case, I have been enduring quite enough what with the above-mentioned rayon.  I simply refuse to endure any further trials and tribulations.

Looking to the weekend:  Since the Dragon is now my "closest to a finish" large piece, it will be the weekend choice project.  Although, I'll have to work a mini-retreat for First Confession on Saturday, I'll be off on Monday for Martin Luther King Day.  I'll have more stitching time to drag the dragon closer to the finish line.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Giveaway Winners

Thanks to all who participated in this giveaway.  I am always happy when I can pass on some charts to folks who will actually enjoy them.  It suits my frugal soul to see things being used rather than hoarded.  I don't normally post a picture with my announcement of winners, but I love The Giving Sisters so much I'll use any excuse to put up a photo!

Using totally subjective and non-scientific methods this time {I picked the comments I liked best}, I have chosen the following winners:

Primitive Needle's Salem Witch: Kaisievec
Notforgotten Farms The Giving Sisters: Stitchinowl
Twisted Threads Man Into Credit Card: Calamity Jr
Cross My Heart's A Sampling of Herbs: there was no interest in this piece

I'll e-mail the winners sometime today and once I have street addresses, I'll try to get the charts mailed out next week.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Celebrating the 44th year of Matrimonial Bliss

Okay, I'd be lying if I claimed it has been all bliss but it has been a solid and satisfying partnership with much love, friendship, laughter and affection.  We are one of those lucky couples who have grown together rather than apart.  We still share many interests and have learned to tolerate those interests we do not share, mainly by leaving one another enough "alone" time to enjoy them.  We have a lovely balance of unity to solitude.  Anyway, it works for us.

To celebrate, we spent the weekend [Friday evening through Sunday morning] at a lovely Bed & Breakfast in Cold Springs, NY, The Hudson House.  I have a bad habit of bringing along my camera but not using it.  I get so involved in the doing that I forget all about the recording.  I suppose that's not such a bad thing.  So I'll just have to describe the place.  This inn has been in continuous operation since 1830 and the current owners have decorated it accordingly with period wallpapers and spindle backed wooden chairs in every corner with a wing back chair thrown into the mix every so often.  For the rest, there were loads of distressed tables, wardrobes and cabinets.  The headboards were also period pieces.  The food was wonderful, the service top notch but the bedroom was kept at a suffocatingly hot temp.  We had to open the balcony door periodically just to be able to breathe.  And, like so many hotels, motels and B & Bs, the rooms were very softly lit.  So no cross stitching was possible.  On the other hand, I did manage to finish crocheting Liam's crib blanket. On the plus side, downstairs in the public bar and restaurant area, there was a comfortable and cozy sitting area complete with a fireplace.  This was the closest the place came to the common room one expects to find in a typical B & B.  It would only seat half a dozen people, though, and was clearly not meant for mingling with other B & B guests.  It was furnished more like a gentleman's club with leather sofas and barrel chairs.  It was more of an adjunct to the bar than an amenity for overnight guests. The town was quaint and filled with shops,and galleries and restaurants.  Unfortunately, as it was the off season, many were not open.  The few that were open were a bit disappointing.  The antique shops were more properly classified as collectible shops: lots of china, bric-a-brac, depression glass, Beatles and Elvis memorabilia, old toys and old tools.  It is mildly depressing to see that a lot of the kitchenware in such places is quite familiar to me, since it graced my childhood home.  Kitschy 50's era stuff like Corningware, melmac dish sets and Avon bottles just doesn't do anything for me.  It was low end junk back then and remains so today.  I was looking for antique needle work accessories, pin cushions, ivory knitting needles and crochet hooks and found nothing of interest.  Of course, many of the shops were closed.  I'd say the place is worth another look in Spring or Summer.  But if we go again, I'll definitely want to time our visit around a concert or two at Boscobel and make reservations to eat dinner at the Culinary Institute of America.  There's also a needlework shop in Hyde Park that would be well worth a visit.
In warmer seasons, one can enjoy a gorgeous view of the Hudson River which is literally across the street.  There is a charming gazebo and many benches along the river a stone's throw from the Hudson House's front steps.  The view in the winter was quite dramatic: an icy river lined by bare trees and mountains.  But with temps hovering in the high teens we weren't tempted to linger.  

Here at home, I have set up my Anniversary/Valentine's Day tree in my entry hall.  The ornament that is front and center is the one I stitched in 2014 and has my wedding day stitched in the center.  I'll keep this tree up until Valentine's Day, after which it will be replaced by my Spring tree.  the goal is to stitch a few more Spring and Easter ornaments between now and then.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Something different

I thought I'd google newspaper articles about cross stitch and see what I might find.  Here are a few of my favorites

First, we have an artist who uses magazine covers as a jumping off point for collage art featuring cross stitch and other forms of embroidery:

Next up, a story about a British POW in a Nazi camp using needlepoint to spell out British patriotic statements and a subversive and obscene suggestion of what Hitler might do to himself in the dots and dashes [Morse Code] borders of a cross stitched swastika.  The Germans were so oblivious to the hidden message that they sent the sampler on a tour of POW camps to be proudly exhibited to other prisoners.

And another artist who embroiders silk screened photos lifted from newspapers

The one thread [pardon the pun] that runs through all of these articles is the amazement that granny crafts can be art or political subversion or, indeed, anything other mundane and rather trite.  Journalists are so very condescending when it comes to needlearts.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Weekly Rotation Report

Another week has flown by.  It was really tough to go back to work after a two week recess.  Just nine more months till retirement and so the count down begins.  I feel like a child ticking off the days till summer vacation.

I am thinking that, for this rotation, as I finish a project, I shall simply concentrate on the remaining ones until nearly all the projects in this rotation are done.  I am willing to carry the Mystic Smalls tuffet forward to the next rotation since I find it so hard to get back into the rhythm of hardangar stitching.  But I'd like to finish the other four before  I start a new rotation with fresh projects.  That way, at least, I'll have a few finishes with which to start my year properly.

The English Band Sampler:  It is Done, Done, Done.  See 1/7/15 post.  I am currently in e-mail contact with Jill Rensel to see about getting this framed in one of her wonderful frames with a hand painted mat.  Here is the better photo as promised.  Many thanks to my husband for standing in the Arctic cold temps so I could get an outdoor photo.  Click on the image to view an enlarged version. Until I winnow this rotation down to just the Mystic Smalls Tuffet, I'll be stitching the dragon on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Liam's Crib Blanket:  Again, not very much done on this piece during the last week.  I have been concentrating on my cross stitch projects.  

The Mint tea towel: So little done on this piece this week that it is not photo worthy.

Dragon Dreams' The Dragon of the Summer Sky: I finished the fill stitching of the body of my dragon with the rayon floss and then started on the rayon stitching in the wings.  I will be so very happy when I am done with all the rayon in this mostly rayon project.  Ever since I opened up a new skein of the stuff, I have been having difficulties.  The wretched stuff is snagging on itself which makes for uneven tension which makes for frogging which makes for shredding.  But I am determined to follow the old rule of childhood: save the best for last.  That means I am going to finish all the rabid rayon before I move on to the delights of Caron Waterlilies.  It sounds masochistic but I'd rather grit my teeth and get through the aggravating stuff in one fell swoop instead of having to deal with repeated small bursts.  Like Lando of Babylon 5, I'd rather not be nibbled to death by ducks.

Mystic Smalls Tuffet: I have ripped my start on this three times already ... I can't seem to keep my stitching even in length and in tension.  Let's hope that the fourth time I finally get it right.  It's been so very long since I did any hardanger stitching that I am having a hard time getting back into the rhythm of the technique.  Wish me luck.

What with my troubles with the rayon and the hardangar, this has not been a stellar stitching week but I am still managing to make steady progress.  I believe I will make the dragon and the crib blanket my weekend choice projects since those are the two projects nearest to completion.  It would be lovely to have two more finishes this month.  But I am not counting on it!