Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 Stitching Resolutions

As a card-carrying member of Anal Retentives Anonymous and of Obsessive Compulsives International, it is only fitting that I should make a list of stitching resolutions for 2009.


Therefore, I hereby resolve to:

  1. Limit the purchases of new charts to 5 this year: primarily those needed to complete series I have begun purchasing already. Purchase only fabrics and floss needed to complete charts already in my possession. Do any and all chart shopping from my own stash which now numbers approx. 70 charts, not counting magazines and books.

  2. Stick to reasonable monthly goals consisting of one main Focus project, a medium project and a few smalls to provide variety and the immediate gratification of frequent finishes.

  3. Continue the plan of doing two sewing finishes from the backlog basket each month and keeping up with current finishes.

  4. Assign T Wentzler's Autumn Faerie and Woodland Angel Stocking top priority as BAPs for 2009.

  5. Assign the M Design Name Tree ornaments top priority as smalls for 2009 and using them to meet the monthly Christmas ornament portion of the Seasonal Monthly Ornament Blog challenges.

  6. Assign the Dragon Dreams, Sue Hillis, Prairie Schooler and Workbasket charts top priority as medium projects for 2009.

  7. Return my attention to my own design ideas, particularly the Ghandi quote sampler incorporating the colors and design motifs of sari fabrics into the rows and borders.

  8. Withdraw from exchanges to save money and focus on personal stitching goals in 2009.

  9. Work seriously on converting junk room into a stitching/sewing room.

  10. Try to blog every other day.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Assessing 2008 stitching/Setting January Goals

It seems appropriate to catalog 2008's stitching accomplishments as well as assessing progress on December's specific goals.

So here goes:

First, did I meet my 2008 goals? The answer is that I have met some of them. I have finally managed to set reasonable and achievable monthly goals. I did stitch more for myself. I have kept up with current finishing and have even managed to make a small dent in the backlog of sewing finishes. I did learn to post pictures on my blog though I have not yet mastered the intricacies of Photobucket and posting to groups. I went over my 10 chart purchasing limit by 7 charts. I blog regularly but am not up to the every other day goal as yet.

The tally for the entire year 2008: 55 projects

---31 Smalls including 20 ornaments, 3 pinkeeps, 4 biscornus, 1 greeting card, 1 bookmark, 1 bib and 1 needlebook

---23 Medium projects: 9 of which were Christmas projects, 3 of which were Halloween projects while the other 11 covered a miscellany of themes and topics

---1 BAP: Raise the Roofs' Crabby All Year

I wonder how the people who do 5/25/50 manage that level of productivity. They must be retired and stitch all day, everyday. Either that or they must be speed demons.


December's Focus Projects:

2008 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Class Projects

--The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Heart's Sampler: up to Row 13 and temporarily stalled ... I have been using the Christmas holiday to read and catch up on housework.

--The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Heart's Ornament: Amadeus stitch done, vining started


2007 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Class Pieces: these will have to be carried over to January

December's Small WIP

--M Designs' Name Trees: Sean & Christina .... not a stitch

December's New Start
--TW Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking .... not a stitch

December's Planning

--Jane Austen Neighborhood .... well, I have pulled out some fabric and drawn a few diagrams but this is still very much an ongoing process

December's Finishing Goals: Okay, here's where I really got it together ... lots of sewing.

--Complete two from the backlog: Stitching for the Cure Ornament #1: Kylie's Heart and my needlebook from Mystic
--Keep up with current finishes: Stitching For the Cure Ornament #2: Dragonfly Stitches' Hope; Imaginating's Snowman Ornament [Promotional Chart], About Cross Stitch's Ruffled Diamond finished as a biscornu, Imaginating's Cardinal ornament, two Heart ornaments from the Gift of Stitching, Imaginating's Heart ornament, Imaginating's Rabbit ornament.

Now, to set January 2009 goals
-- Continue to Focus on the Stitcher's Hideaway Projects from 2008 and 2007
--Stitch and "finish" two ornaments for the Seasonal Ornaments challenge: one Christmas and one January theme
-- Put in at least 10 hours on Liam's stocking: TWentzler's Woodland Angel
--Put in at least 10 hours on Angela's next faerie: TWentzler's Autumn Faerie
--Finish 2 more projects from the sewing finish backlog and keep up with current finishes: inventory those projects to get a sense of how long it will take to handle the backlog

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More Ornaments - a safer choice

I seem to have taken a break from the Holly and Hearts sampler ... probably because most of my stitching time has been in the wee small hours of the morning lately ... and it is safer to work on simpler pieces at such times ... less likelihood of a visit from the infamous frog. The days leading up to Christmas are always very busy in the parish ... it looks like another year that I'll be doing all my shopping on 12/24 since the last two weekends have been filled with special events requiring my participation and the weekend of the 20th-21st will be just the same ... but I have always been the sort of person who works to deadline [turned my BA thesis in the day before my wedding] ... so I am not complaining.


I have finished stitching the Imaginating's Snowman ornament [from a promotional sheet with four small charts] and have finished it as a pillow ornament. I am not thrilled with this finish: my pillows always seem to distort around the edges.

I have also completed a biscornu using the skein of WDW Noel which was part of the goodie bag from the recent Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway. The colors in Noel turn a simple design into a Christmas design. The free chart I used is called Ruffled Diamond and is from the About Cross Stitch site. I used the chart "as is" for the top of the biscornu. I used the outline only from the chart for the bottom of the biscornu and I added the date and a few diagonal lines of cross stitching to fill in the space.
And I have started the Cardinal/Birdhouse ornament from the Imaginating sheet mentioned above.
I am planning on finishing this ornament as a blanket stitched pillow for a somewhat more homespun look. I am also hoping that the use of the blanket stitch will give a cleaner and neater edge to the pillow shape.
After e-mailing Donna Karl directly, I got the address for The Stitching For a Cure 2009 Tree and have boxed up my two completed ornaments. I'll mail them on Monday morning along with my reveal card to my Secret Sister from the 123stitch exchange.
Perhaps after that, it will be back to the Holly and Hearts Sampler, with renewed energy and interest.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Priorities

After two years of trying to find the right formula for a reasonable monthly stitching goal, I do believe I have finally found it.
  1. Choose one Focus project, usually a BAP or medium-to-large project, and work on it steadily throughout the month ... carrying it over into as many months as needed.
  2. Choose one medium sized project to complete during the month.
  3. Start and finish as many smalls as needed to keep the mix interesting and provide the necessary gratification of frequent finishes, never having more than two smalls in progress at any given moment.
  4. Finish two sewing finishes from the backlog basket each month and keep up with current finishes.
With these goals in place, a high level of interest can still be maintained by exploring new fibers, culling new finishing techniques from the wide variety of blogs to be found on the net, cultivating on-line friendships with a few of my favorite bloggers, having a monthly contest on my own blog offerring gently-used charts or interesting new fibers as prizes, learning new specialty stitches and getting serious about my own design ideas, particularly the Ghandi quote sampler.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

WIPs

Progress to date on The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Hearts Sampler: still plugging away on Row 13 ... but as I progress, I find the back-stitching less stressful and more satisfying. My method of attack has coalesced: do a discrete section at a time on one side only of the center line working very carefully from the chart, doing the cross-stitches as they come up ... and then stitch the mirror image from the already stitched side, only consulting the chart when needed ... move on to the next discrete section. Happily, there are recognizable breaks in the vines and leaves and it is easy to identify sections. This keeps the back-stitching from being overwhelming and/or confusing. And, if a row includes specialty stitches as well as back-stitching [like Row 13], do the specialty stitches after all the cross-stitching and back-stitching is completed ... then affix the beads.
As a small project that requires less concentration, I have been using the WDW Noel that was part of my Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway goodie bag to stitch another biscornu ... I have the absolutely perfect buttons to complement the colors in this overdyed floss: square buttons divided into triangles of green and rose that pick up the colors in Noel as if made-to-match. ... but since these buttons are "vintage" buttons, it's all just one of those happy accidents. I'll have quite a basketful of these little projects fairly soon as this is the 8th biscornu I will have stitched this year ... so far I've given away 3 and kept 4 ... they are decorative and useful and somehow very appealing. And then there is my second Stitching for the Cure ornament for the 2009 Tree. This is Dragonfly Stitches' Hope and I have stitched it on a 32ct ivory mystery linen [DMC or Zweigart, can't remember] in Carrie's Creations Strawberry Shake overdyed cotton floss.
I had intended to back this with a bright pink fabric polka-dotted in white but the color was actually too bright for the floss so I chose a softer floral print in rose pinks for the backing ... I usually have a good memory for the color values of the fabric I have stashed away but this time I was just a wee bit off in my assessment. When I pulled the polka dot fabric out, it really clashed with the colors in the Strawberry Shake overdyed floss. Since I changed the fabric, I had to change the trim as well. Having nothing on hand that really worked, I made my own flat braid [a first for me] from GAST Oatmeal, Carrie's Creations Raspberry and Strawberry Shake flosses. It was time consuming since I first braided three strands of each color to make a single strand and then braided those strands together to come up with a multicolor flat braid ... but I am pleased with the result and will probably use the technique again to trim other ornaments. Once I'd glued the braid in place, I finished off the ends as a tassel [another first for me]. Finally, I made a beaded loop for hanging using some of the same clear beads I had used in the piece with some seed pearls and some pewter beads ... also left-overs from other projects.

And, just because I can't seem to resist new starts when I come across ornament charts in my current "To Do" binder, I have started on an Imaginating chart of a snowman ... part of a four chart promotional page ... another "goodie from the Stitcher's Hideaway [this time, the 2007 retreat]. I am stitching it on a 32 ct. ivory linen using Belle Soie silks of my choice rather than the DMCs listed. I'll finish this as another flat ornament for Christmas and post a photo of the final finish.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monthly Giveaway winner

Using the totally low-tech method of assigning each individual a # in the order in which they posted a comment, writing the numbers on slips of paper and then drawing a # from a hat ... I have drawn #2. So the winner is Mary, whom I will be e-mailing in a few moments.
In 2009, I will change things a bit and have giveaways of gently used charts at irregular intervals. The first giveaway of the new year will probably be The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Hearts Sampler ... you can see photos of my progress on this WIP in recent posts ... it will take me a few more weeks to complete this chart as I am only on Row 13 of 25 currently. It is an elegant design and is a pleasure to stitch [always provided you don't mind a great deal of back-stitching]. So, if you are interested, watch for a post sometime in early January.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A CHANGE OF PACE

I have been working diligently on my Holly & Hearts Sampler but I found I needed a break from that level of concentration ... the symmetrical rows of back-stitched vining and tracery can be mind boggling ... after which, the specialty stitches are a welcome relief.

So, Sunday, I decided to work on some simple stuff:

The first of my Stitching for the Cure ornaments, Kylie's Heart designed by Terry Louise, stitched in Carrie's Creations Sassy and Purple Pansy floss on antique green linen from Zweigart and trimmed in a pale blue spiral braid from Farmhouse Fabrics. This was actually stitched in November but I did the finishing Sunday morning before Mass. While in a "finishing" mood, I also prepped the cardboard hearts for the Holly and Hearts flat ornament [yet to be stitched] with quilt batting and backing fabric.

I had committed to stitching two ornaments for the Stitching for a Cure tree to honor two breast cancer survivors in my family: my kid sister, Angela and my first cousin, Maureen. So here is Dragonfly Stitches' Hope designed by Kristine Herber ... a one day stitch completed Sunday on mystery ivory linen stitched in Carrie's Creations Strawberry Shake floss, and embellished with some clear and pearl beads left over from other projects and a JABCo small pink flower. I'll finish this as a flat ornament as I did Kylie's Heart, backing it with a bright pink fabric with white polka dots and trimming it with a white shell braid. While at work today, I'll use my paper slice to cut out a couple of diamond cardboard forms with which to finish Hope. I plan to have these ornaments ready to mail by the end of the week.

Today, I'll get back to the Holly and Hearts Sampler ... it'll be an unusual Monday for me: just office hours without the usual 4:30-6:oopm and 7:00-8:30pm classes since we have to keep the parking lot we share with the church clear for evening Masses for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. So, I hope to get in some quality stitching time after work.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Monthly Floss/Fiber Giveaway and some other stuff

This month it will be a Silken Chenille from Thread Gatherers. I ask that you post a note in the comments [with your e-mail address] explaining why you would like to try this fiber and how you might use it. I will choose a winner on December 11.

As to my progress on The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Hearts Sampler, here is a photo showing my stitching. I completed all the beading in Row 2 as well as the Rhodes Heart and Multicolor Half Diamond Wednesday night.

Then, on Thursday, rows 7 and 8. The crystal heart that was accidentally left out of the kit arrived in the mail just in time to be added in its proper space. Thus far today, I have completed Row 9-12: the silver metallic herringbone stitch, the backstitched line in green, the combination of cross stitches, satin stitches and beading and deep red cross stitches with silver beads. And I have started on Row 13 which is another large area of vining and tracery in the shape of a heart with inserts of lattice work, Rhodes Hearts and an alphabet. I expect to be on Row 13 for a very long time ... probably 3 or 4 days.

The specialty stitches are a joy and, for the most part, relatively quick stitches. It is the backstitching that slows me down though I believe I have finally found my ryhthm with this piece. While at the Mystic retreat, I picked up another Sweetheart Tree chart, The Cherry Blossoms Biscornu. Since the retreat project also included the Holly and Hearts Ornament and, either in the goodie bags or door prizes, the Fourth Day of Christmas Ornament chart ... I now have a fairly respectable sampling of this new-to-me designer's charts. Not my usual style but one I shall certainly enjoy as a change of pace from time to time. Very delicate designs, a refined color palette, lots of interesting and challenging stitches and loads of the beading I love. For all the beads Sandy uses in her pieces, the projects always finish up looking elegant ... never cheap, gaudy or glitzy. I saw over 40 of her model pieces while on the retreat and admired all of them. It's the quality of the beads she uses and her unerring designer's instinct that maintain the high aesthetic standard. In any case, I am very glad to have found another designer whose charts are such a pleasure to stitch ... and isn't that what stitching retreats are all about?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Sweetheart Tree Holly and Hearts Sampler

This is as far as I had gotten on the sampler while at the Stitcher's Hideaway in Mystic, Ct.

I got up early today and put in a good three hours of stitching on this 2008 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway project... the backstitching alone took up two hours. Even so, the backstitching went more quickly than it did at the actual class with Sandy ... probably because I was copying the right side of the design from the already-stitched mirror image on the left rather than from the chart. Instead of constantly looking from scroll frame to chart and back again and finding my place on each, I was able to keep my eyes on the scroll frame and simply stitch ... so very much more effective! So with the exception of the Rhodes Heart and the Multicolor Half-Diamond and half the beading in Row 2, I have completed Rows 1-6 ... only some 25 or so rows to go. So here is what the sampler looks like now:

I have decided to do the beading as I go and roll the piece up with a bit of flannel and some quilt batting ... it's that old immediate gratification thing again. I really need to see the finished look to keep motivated. The more I stitch on this piece, the more I like it ... although, initially, I thought it much too fussy for my tastes and planned to use it as a gift ... now, I believe I shall frame it and keep it for myself. I figure I should be able to stitch the Rhodes heart and the Half-Diamond on my dinner break leaving only the beading to finish before bedtime. I still haven't the heart to tackle the companion piece: a large flat heart-shaped ornament with loads and loads of vines to back-stitched ... mainly because I'll need to frog a good bit of what I stitched in Mystic. Somewhere along the line I made a mistake that threw off the symmetry ... and since the symmetrical tracery is what makes the piece so charming, frogging is an absolute necessity. Oh, well, I hope to have both sampler and ornament done before Christmas.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Assessing November Goals/Setting December Goals

Every month, it seems to be the same story: I am way too optimistic in my estimation of what I can accomplish.

November's Focus Projects:
--Halloween Faerie from Miribilia: COMPLETED AND READY FOR THE FRAMER
--2007 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Projects: Untouched
November's Planned Starts:
--2008 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Projects, The Sweetheart Tree's Holly & Hearts: the ornament started, approximately 10% done; the sampler started, Row 1: done, Row 2: 50% done, Row 4: 30% done.
--TW Woodland Angel stocking: Untouched
--Set of four teat towels with herbal designs: Untouched.
November's Small WIPs:
--Christina's and Sean's Name Trees from M Designs: Untouched
--Peacock biscornu: Untouched
November's Sewing Finishes:
--Two from the backlog: Best Witches Stand-Up & County Cottage Needleworks Peace ornament.
--Keeping up with current: Turkish Tile biscornu, Merry & Bright ornament and matching gift bag, BH&G cornucopia ornament, HE Merry Olde Christmas Santa stocking
November Challenge: No new starts except those planned: I really went crazy here with four new starts, including the Stitching For The Cure ornament, The Brightneedle Grey Goose Needlebook, the HE Elegance Merry Olde England Santa stocking, the BH&G cornucopia ornament
November Planning Goal
--Layout of Jane Austen neighborhood: Untouched
So, now to set more reasonable goals for December
Focus Projects:
--2008 Mystic Stitcher's Hideway Projects: The Sweetheart Tree's Holly & Hearts Sampler and Ornament
--2007 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Projects: Stitcher's Pocket, Bisccornu, Needlebook, Scissor Fob and Case.
Small WIPs
-- Sean's & Christina's Name Trees from M Designs
New Start
--TW Woodland Angel stocking
Planning
--Jane Austen Neighborhood for the Me, Myself and I Round Robin
Sewing Finishes
--Two from the backlog
--Keep up with Current: Brightneedle Grey Goose Needlebook and Stitch for the Cure ornament

A few small seasonal finishes

I spent most of my stitching time today finishing ornaments and a flat stand-up:

A Thanksgiving ornament:


This chart came from Better Homes and Gardens 2001 Stitching Motifs. I stitched it on a Silkweaver 32ct overdyed linen called Autumn Mist using GAST floss and trimmed it with an eyelash braid in two shades of green.

Next is a Christmas ornament: Country Cottage's entry in the 2007 JCS issue, stitched on 32ct sage linen using GAST floss and the same eyelash trim as I used for the Thanksgiving ornament.

These two ornaments were stitched for the Seasonal Ornament blog:

http://seasonalornaments.blogspot.com/

which is well worth visiting if you like to browse photo collections of smalls ... started in mid-November 2008, this already promises to be a lovely collection of small finishes.

The last piece is one that has been stitched and assembled for over a year, awaiting trim. Well, I finally learned how to make braided cord at the Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway in Mystic, Ct. earlier this month and was able to finish the piece. I'll put it aside for display next October. I left a small slot in the bottom of the piece in which to insert one of those small acrylic stands that turn a flat finish into a stand-up.


The rest of my stitching time was spent on my project from the Stitcher's Hideaway: The Sweetheart Tree sampler. I stitched most of the half diamond stitches in Row 4 before I decided I was too tired from all the holiday hulabaloo to take another stitch.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Just back from the framers

I picked up my most recent batch of items from my new framer [the framer I had used for the past two decades closed last November] and I can't say I am as happy with the new folk as with the old but they are the best currently available.
First, the four crafty Prairie Schooler Santas
Sewing
Quilting
Knitting
Cross Stitching

and then the one I think of as the New Age Santa with all the cosmic sign

All of the Prairie Schooler Santas were framed in similar but not identical frames in dark wood and all have metal easel backs, so that they can be used as table top or bookcase decorations. I also had my Sue Hillis Pair Tree framed in molding that picked up some of the greens in the stitching:

I am using all of them to decorate the smaller row of bookcases on one side of my living room wall


I'll be adding my collection of primitive Santa figurines to the tops of the bookcases later on this weekend ... I tend to ease into Christmas decorating, doing a littlt bit every day throughout Advent.

I also got my Lizzie Kate Housework piece back ... I love this frame ... it looks like mother of pearl inlay and it picks up the colors in my carpeting as well as the colors in the piece. I'll be hanging this above the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen.

Then, there is the infamous duty-stitch for my sister-in-law: My name is Stop That... I must say that it made a very big hit with Judi who was here for the Thanksgiving feast. Though I really didn't enjoy stitching it, I certainly enjoyed Judi's delight in receiving it.

I also got my Raise the Roof Crabby All Year back from the framer but I was very disappointed to note that in the process of framing they canted one of the buttons at a crazy slant so that the cat who is supposed to be napping on the floor in the November block is dangling from the block at an impossible angle ... you can see that it was sewn on straight but that the framer twisted it somehow. I am of two minds ... take it back and have it set properly in the frame [though I am afraid, if I do, some of the clay buttons might break in the process] or try to live with it though I know it will drive me nuts. The framing job was over $300 ... for that kind of money, they should get it right.

I also managed to finish the French knots in Rainbow Gallery Alpaca 18 for the sheep on my husband's new stocking from Homespun Elegance: Merry Olde Christmas Santa. Once done with that, I whip stitched the concealed edges of the flap together and did a running stitch along the flap edges to keep the piece looking tidy and neat. I don't think I will work on a pre-finished item ever again. Even though my hands are relatively small, I had a hard time stitching in such a confined space. It had to be done "in hand" and with a sewing technique and I generally work with scroll bars and a stab technique. Furthermore, the actual stocking, though very pretty, was a shoddy piece of stitching. The seams were barely 1/4" rather than the standard 3/8", there was no stay-stitching and the selvages were not finished to prevent fraying. I re-inforced the stitching and did a zig-zag finish on all selvages. If the stocking were to be used for decoration only, probably all would have been well. But we actual stuff our stockings and this piece would never had stood up to even one Christmas had I not reinforced it. And at a cost of $15.50 for the stocking ONLY [the chart was a seperate purchase] ... well call me Scrooge, but I expect more for my money. Having examined the construction, I could make a better product for $3.00-$4.00

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some finishes and WIPs

First, a photo of the finished Miribilia Halloween Faerie ... this one is ready to take to the framer at the end of the week. Next, the stitching is done on two more projects:

--a Brightneedle sampler that I stitched in Belle Soie silks making some color adjustments since I didn't have all the Gentle Arts Sampler Threads called for in my stash. I will finish this piece as a needlebook as recommended.
--and a small cornucopia from the Better Homes and Gardens 1001 Stitching Motifs that I stitched in GAST overdyes rather than the suggested DMCs. I figured as long as I had the overdyes out while trying to find what I needed for the Brightneedle piece, I might as well use them. I'll be finishing this piece as a flat ornament for the Seasonal Ornament SAL blog and hope to have the completed project photographed and up on that blog and this one as well in a few days.
And, finally, my progress on the Homespun Elegance Christmas Stocking I am stitching for my husband. I still need to stitch the two sheep at Santa's feet. The chart calls for a Santa and a stocking button but since I have neither in my stash but do have a bird, I've sewn the bird onto the top of Santa's staff instead of stitching the bird that was charted there. I'll finish the flap with a running stitch a few threads in from the edge to keep everything nice and neat. I am hoping to have this piece done by Wednesday. But I must say, I really do not like working on prefinished pieces. I have had to stitch this entirely in hand to avoid distorting the linen flap and getting my fingers up into the top of the flap has been most uncomfortable and has made for even slower stitching than is usual for me ... and I am a slow stitcher. I have used most of the flosses called for in this piece: GAST & WDW for Santa, his staff and sack, Rainbow Gallery Whispers for Santa's beard. But I will be making a few substitutions. I have some lovely Rainbow Gallery Alpaca 12 that will be perfect for the sheep and I will stitch masses of French knots to fill in the area charted for the sheep. I also have some Petite Very Velvet in both black that may worked well for the sheeps' faces. I figure the piece is already textural what with the Whispers used for the beard, so why not go all the way and make the sheep look wooly.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's been a little over a week ...

... but what a week it has been. I got back from the Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway safe and sound, exhausted, exhiliarated, sated with stash. There were doorprizes and fantastic goodie bags as well as the opportunity to make purchases from Chris's Collection on site mini-shop. The instructor was Sandy from The Sweetheart Tree ... an extremely personable instructor who not only taught her class pieces but shared a wealth of information about the stitchery business ... lots of insider glimpses into the joys, problems, pitfalls and everyday routines of a designer's life. The class pieces were an elegant sampler and complementary ornament ... very lovely but really slow going for me ... lots of symmetrical vining [read back-stitching] which is what slows me down. Happily, the sampler also includes a fair amount of specialty stitching and bright shiny beads ... both of which I really enjoy. I used to think I liked back-stitching, too. Most of the back-stitching I have done in the past has been outlining which, especially in the Teresa Wentzler designs I so love, makes the picture come to life. The backstitching in these projects is quite different ... huge [or so it seems to me] sections of delicate tracery which looks great when done properly but therein lies the rub ... make one tiny mistake and the whole symmetry is thrown right out the window. I ended up doing quite a bit of frogging ... think five steps forward and one step back. In fact, this is all I managed to stitch during the retreat:

On the ornament
Take note of that neat stitch at the top of the piece ... it represents nearly an hour and half of stitching/frogging/stitching. It is called the Amadeus stitch and has to be done just so ... but the result is worth it ... it's also much easier to stitch the second time around, once you get the internal logic and rhythm of the stitch.
And, on the sampler:
Looking at these photos, I can't help but wonder just what I was doing all day for two days. Sandy said her model stitcher took 25 hours to complete the sampler ... I figure it'll take me about 40-50 hours, allowing for frogging time. Granted, there was lots of eating, chatting, and when absolutely fed up with backstitching, working on other projects: I finished the Miribilia Halloween Faerie while on the retreat and learned how to make my own twisted cording. Then there was the Christmas ornament gift exchange, the visit from Santa and the Show and Tell evening. And the frequent visits to Chris' Collection shop ... it was amazing all the stuff she managed to fit in one motel room. But still, I usually have more to show for two days of reasonably solid stitching.
Tomorrow, I'll put up picures of the completed Halloween Faerie and two or three WIPs: my Thanksgiving ornament for the Seasonal ornament blog/group SAL, the Brightneedle sampler needlebook [one of the charts in the goodie bag that I couldn't resist starting immediately] and a Homespun Elegance stocking for my husband that I bought from Chris while on retreat. So much for the November goal of no new starts except the ones planned. My digital camera battery ran out of juice and is currently being recharged.

Here's a shot of the room, from the perspective of my seat in the back right corner ... Sandy is up front teaching away as Sue Donnelly [the organizer] and her right hand, Deborah, stitch diligently right in front of me ... yeah, yeah: pictures of the backs of people are not particularly interesting ... but you have to understand the layout of the room: I would have had to climb over 8 people to get out of the back row and get a better perspective.

Santa admonishing me to "get it together" ... for some reason, I had a fit of the giggles while fumbling to get this shot.

It was a wonderful retreat but then it was back to work with a vengeance: two 12 hour days Monday & Tuesday followed by a regional meeting for most of Wednesday and then, yesterday, a nightmare of a day with the delivery and distribution of a major fundraiser: $12,000 worth of Corbi's pizza and cookie dough. The program made a profit of $4,895 so I guess it was worth it. But I am not looking forward to confronting the people who did not pick up their goods on distribution night ... now that the parish school is closed, we no longer have huge refrigerators in the building which is now totally devoted to after-school Religious Education programs. We made repeated phone calls, begging folks to come and get their orders. But there were still 15 or so orders left at the end of the evening. So, I put the stuff in the coldest room of the building, the old kitchen. I couldn't have moved them to another building even if I had been willing to schlep all those orders around. All the parish center refrigerators and freezers are chock fill of turkeys for the Care and Concern Committee's holiday basket distribution on Monday and Tuesday. I couldn't leave it outdoors for fear animals would get into it. People were warned not to order if they couldn't come to the assigned pick-up, that no refrigeration would be available ... but I very much doubt that they'll accept responsibility for the loss ... but I am not giving refunds for spoilage. So, if this is my last blog ... know that I have been lynched by angry parents, a martyr to fundraising.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Retreats: religious and stitchery related

Before getting to the real topic of this post, I have a little fiber giveaway business to conduct:
Using the extremely high tech method of writing the numbers 1 through 10 on slips of paper, folding them, placing them in a basket and drawing one number... I have selected the number 9.
Since Erynne was the ninth to post a comment, the silk will be starting its journey to her tomorrow morning. Thanks to all who took the trouble to enter my little giveaway.
I was on a religious retreat for the past three days ... a very renewing and relaxing experience ... but even there stitching and stitching friends were to be met. In the free moments and at the evening social gatherings, I would pull out my stitching as would one of my colleagues from the main office. I managed to finish the first of the "Stitching for a Cure" ornaments I have committed to make, got a bit more done on my Miribilia Halloween Faerie and learned of the existence of a decent LNS/Knitting Shop in Manhattan but since I didn't have pen and paper handy at that point, I will have to call Maureen to get the info again. Maureen was working on a lovely needlepoint piece of camellias in a bowl. Very delicate and soft colors. And she joked about being inspired to resume work on a birth sampler in cross-stitch, noting that the child for whome she was stitching was now 6 and had an 18month old brother. The other retreatants, seeing this, reminisced about when they stitched as girls or about stitching relatives or made the usual comments about "not having the patience or time" for such work ... I was good, I resisted the urge to ask if they had time and patience for TV and all the trash it contains.
Tomorrow, I set off for the Mystic [Ct] Stitcher's Hideaway ... a very different sort of retreat in which all my companions will be stitchers, all will share the same enthusiasm for a new fiber or a new designer or a new stitch, etc. etc. etc. And this retreat will be as relaxing and renewing in its way as the first. Odd that they should fall in the same week this year. As a result, today is the only day I am spending at the office ... it'll be a long day, but still, the only day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Halloween Faerie WIP and some small finishes

First, the progress on my focus project for early November: I am moving along on filling in the wings of my Faerie ... the photo doesn't do justice to the colors ... indeed, the CC Dandelion Stem almost fades into the fabric in the photo though it stands out well enough in reality. What with the remaining cross stitching, the back-stitching and the beading, I figure I have at least 12 hours more work on this piece which I hope to finish by the end of the weekend.

This is the progress as of Tuesday morning, 11/4.

And here is the progress as of today ... with one wing nearly completely filled in.


Next, a few small finishes:


The Turkish Tile Biscornu from the http://aurelle.over-blog.com/ website complimentary charts collection. Since I have something of a biscornu fetish, I really like this site ... it will provide me with biscornu charts for months, even years, to come. Add that to the biscornu issue of The Gift of Stitching several months ago, and I am in biscornu heaven.

The Little By Little Merry & Bright Christmas ornament from the JCS 2007 issue. Though you can't see it in this photo, I trimmed this ornament in irridescent beads that picked up the muted Victorian Christmas colors in the border. I quite like the effect of a beaded edge on Christmas ornaments. It looks so very festive and flickers with reflections from the strings of lights on the tree. And, let's face it, I simply enjoy the rhythm of beading.


And since I am using this ornament as my contribution to a ornament grab bag, I stitched this coordinating gift bag to hold it. That way, whoever chooses my contribution gets a two-for-one deal: an ornament to hang on the tree and a gift bag to use for a present placed beneath it.

Observant readers may notice that any Christmas ornaments I have done this year have been from the JCS 2006 or 2007 issues. I found the 2008 issue very disappointing ... even designers whose charts I stitch frequently fail to please. The Blackbird Designs ornament which I rather like seems to have an awful lot of blank linen at the bottom of the stocking making it look oddly top-heavy. And though I have stitched the Sue Hillis and Dragon Dreams Designs ornaments for the past three years, I can't seem to work up any enthusiasm for this year's entries. The Bright Needle Designer series will probably be the only one I stitch from the 2008 issue ... but that is only because I have been stitching a designer series Santa each year for one of my sisters who collects Santas.

And now a confession. I have already ignored one November goal: not starting any new projects not already on my goal list. But the Stitching For A Cure 2009 Christmas Tree ornament project seemed a cause worthy of breaking a few self-imposed rules for.


Finally, I indulged myself in a little Stash Enhancement. In preparation for the Mystic Stitchers' Hideaway, I purchased a proper magnifying lamp ... Susan has been very specific: we will need magnification for the projects from The Sweetheart Tree's designer, Sandra Vanosdall. From the pictures on the Hideaway website, I anticipate lots of wonderful specialty stitches which are so much fun to do ... even if the overall design is a bit frou-frou for my taste. It'll probably grow on me as I stitch it. In any case, I can always use it as a gift for someone with more feminine sensibilities than my own ... which would be just about any woman I know ... and even a few of the men I know.

Mea culpa ...

... is Latin for "through my own fault" and is used by Catholics old enough to remember the Latin Mass as a general apology. And that's what I am doing now: apologizing. I have been so distracted by the election and some deadlines at work that I forgot to post my monthly fiber give away. I am really quite sorry
Well, on to the give away: a skein of Belle Soie's Sister Scarlet silk. I can recommend the Belle Soie line of silks highly: easy to strand, it lays beautifully on the fabric with very little dangling of the needle needed ... and the soft sheen and the colors in this line are a delight to the eye. I would describe the color Sister Scarlet as a Victorian Christmas red, rich and deep with lovely variations throughout the skein ... it is a perfect choice for a November giveaway since the recipient can use it for a last minute Christmas project. Leave your name and e-mail in the comments section and I will choose a winner on or about Nov. 18.

Monday, November 3, 2008

November Goals

I am really going to pare my goals back a bit since I have had such a hard time meeting them this year ... in spite of my stated annual goal to set more reasonable goals. So, here goes:

Focus projects:
  1. Finish Mirbilia Halloween Faerie [just filling in the wings, though that probably amounts to another 12 hours stitching, and doing the backstitching and beading, probably an additional 4 hours]
  2. Finish the 2007 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Projects

Planned New Starts:
  1. T Wentzler Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking
  2. 2008 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Projects
  3. set of four tea towels with herbal motifs

Small WIPs
  1. M Design's Name Trees for Sean and Christina
  2. Peacock biscornu

Finishing: 2 from the backlog and keep up with the current

Planning: Jane Austen neighborhood for the Me.Myself and I Round Robin group

General: no new starts other than those already planned.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October Goals Assessment

I am doing this from work, so I won't post photos until tomorrow.

Focus projects:
  1. Miribilia Halloween Faerie: started stitching Oct. 4 and have made substantial progress. All that's left is filling in the wings.
  2. Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Projects no progress - make the primary focus for early November
  3. T. Wentzler Autumn Faerie no progress - this will probably have to wait till 2009
  4. T. Wentzler Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking no progress -make primary focus project for late Nov & for Dec.
Other projects in Rotation

  1. Graph out and stitch monogram in Spots of Fun: DONE 10/8/08
  2. Homespun Elegance Fall Pumpkin: DONE 10/7/08
  3. Stitch set of four tea towels with herbal motif not even started - carry into November
  4. Start Liz Turner Diehl German Garden not even started - defer to 2009
  5. M Design Name Trees for Sean & Christina just an hour's stitching on Sean's ornament
  6. Celtic Tarot Card for Angela no progress - defer to 2009
  7. One UFO: a European complimentary chart for a biscornu DONE 10/26/08
  8. Be-Witched Clothespin Doll ornament DONE10/9/08
  9. Littlel By Little Design's Merry & Bright Ornament DONE 10/30/08
  10. Peace Ornament DONE 10/30/08

Finishing Goals: Complete sewing finish on at least two projects from backlog of stitched pieces and keep up with current finishes: Turkish Tile Biscornu, Little by Little Merry & Bright ornament, Peace ornament. Well, nothing from the backlog but at least I kept up with the current finishes.

Planning: Jane Austen neighborhood for Me, Myself and I Round Robin Board. no progress - deadline Dec. 1. Deferred to November goals.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Weekend stitching

I continued to work on my main October focus project, the Miribilia Halloween Faerie, and did some more work on the Little by Little 2007 JCS ornament Merry & Bright.
Progress on the Halloween Faerie: most of the outline of the butterfly wings is complete and I did a bit more work on the face and mask. I'll take more photos when I am further along.
As to the Merry & Bright ornament, all I have left to stitch are the stars and the ampersand. I'll be stitching the stars in French Vanilla Belle Soie silk. I am thinking of stitching the ampersand in either the dark green or the mauve though the chart calls for the same off-white used in the stars. I am afraid the ampersand might just fade into the antique green fabric, otherwise. The stars have enough mass to stand out from the fabric but the ampersand is just a single stitch wide throughout.
Late Sunday afternoon, my daughter dropped by to have me sort out a problem she was having reading a chart with a lot of quarter stitches and outlining ... it was the eye of a Siamese cat. She also needed help starting her long narrow wolf pack chart. She only started cross-stitching in August and I am very pleased to see how beautifully she is coming along ... though she joked that I shouldn't look at her backs. True, they are not perfect but they are really quite neat for a beginner ... just a little bit of travelling and a few slip knots caught beneath other stitching. I showed her how to start at the center of a large chart. I do find though that I am "lending" her an awful lot of my stuff: Q-snaps, scroll rod frames and the like. Ange is good about returning things [she brought my sterling Celtic thread cutter home last night - borrowed for a flight to the West coast] but this wolf pack project is a BAP finishing up at approximately 18" x 9" and she'll be needing my scroll frame for several months, if not considerably longer. When I finish with the Halloween Faerie, I will be giving her the chart and leftover Crescent Color floss and some fabric from my stash on which to stitch it. I'll need to buy three or four skeins of CC. There is a small part of me that is actually glad that Ange is about to learn the full value of all the stitched gifts she has received in the past ... although to do her justice, she has always been most appreciative and I can tell by the way my work is displayed in her home, that she treasures the pieces she has ... and with money getting tight, even I can't continue to frame pieces as extravagantly as I did in the past. I am practicing blocking, pinning and lacing techniques on small pieces so that I can graduate to framing. But I am betting my frugal daughter who doesn't share my power tool phobia will probably become a better framer than I'll ever be ... if she decides to learn ... and then I can send my stuff to her for framing. But more importantly, I am delighted she has started stitching because now we have another interest to share.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Miribilia Limited Edition Halloween Faerie

This is my main focus project this month and I am happy with my progress thus far.

Here is a photo of how she looked Wednesday morning

And another of the progress by Thursday morning

As you can see I am obsessing a bit on this piece and find it difficult to put down even for silly little distractions like eating, sleeping and working to pay the bills. When I am through with her, I'll be passing the chart on to my daughter, along with the remaining Crescent Colors floss ... normally, any faeries I stitch end up hanging on my daughter's walls but this one will stay here. Ange will have to stitch her own. I have fallen in love with this dainty faerie and have decided that she lives here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival ...

was amazing. This was my first visit to the festival having learned about it only last year. My love of fibers was indulged extravagantly. I touched, fondled, carressed, smelled [this was not always a pleasant experience] all manner of wool and wool blends. There were alpaca, llama, muskox, angora, and mohair yarns. There was wool from more breeds of sheep than I knew existed. Some of the yarn was fleece-spun [washed but uncarded] which results in a very nubby and irregular fiber. Some was carded ever so carefully and spun and plied up into yarns ranging from superfine to as thick as a child's finger. Some batts were blended with silk when spun to produce [get this] a less expensive yarn: the 100% pure muskoxen down fiber costs $90 a 3 oz ball but the 50%muskoxen/50% silk was a mere $70 for a 3oz. ball. I was weak, I bought two balls of the blend ... so very very soft, so very very irresistible and such a perfect silvery sage green. Some batts were dyed before carding and spinning, other batts remained au naturel. There were spinners, knitters, weavers, crocheters everywhere. There were all manner of handmade clothing for sale: scarves, shawls, mittens, gloves, handwarmers, wristlets, legwarmers, skirts, vests, sweaters, jackets, blankets, wraps. There were felted woolen sculptures including some very bizarre but oddly appealing sculptures of topless, heavy-weight, decidedly mature women ... no I didn't buy any of these. My mirror is a painful enough reminder of what has become of my once sylph-like figure, thank you very much. There were felted hats and handbags, there were fiber art necklaces. I bought my grandson a sweater made from alpaca yarn and I bought my daughter a gorgeous felted handbag of bright blue with an embroidered mermaid embellishment ... and, no I didnt bring the camera, more fool I ... I'll have to have Ange e-mail me a picture of the bag so I can post it. I also bought myself two large [300 yard] skeins of hand-painted llama yarn in a blue-green-gold color way and three zip-loc bags of mini-batts in a variety of colors for felting.

And I drank fresh-pressed cider [after all, this took place in one of the biggest apple growing regions in NY] as I walked and walked and walked through all the indoor and outdoor exhibits and stalls. My daughter recounted overhearing a surreal one-sided conversation [quite innocently] as a woman spoke urgently into her cell phone: "What's the problem? Stay calm, don't shout ... the llama's gone into labor? ... stay calm, call Deb, she'll get you through this ... call Deb..." voice fading as the woman moves off into the distance.
All in all, a remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

ARRRRRGGGHHH

I have read that Navaho weavers always deliberately weave one small mistake into their blankets, rugs and other woolen goods so the gods won't become jealous and cut short the life of the perfect weaver. If the same holds true for needlework, I shall live forever.
I was so pleased with my Country Cottage Needleworks Peace from the JCS 2007 Christmas ornament issue ... I was enjoying the changes I had made in the fibers, substituting Belle Soie and Splendor silks and Mandarin bamboo for the DMC ... I was congratulating myself on using another of the sample swatches I had gotten in a goodie bag at a retreat, so very frugal ... I was pleased with the fabric [Zweigart Cork Linen, 18ct] and was making plans to use it again in the future. In short, I was having a grand old time ... until, that is, I had stitched up to the top of the flower stem and realized it didn't align with the center of the top border ... because I had started the botton edge of the flower pot one row higher than I should have, starting three stitches over from the top row of the "P" instead of the second row ... thereby shifting the entire flower pot motif one thread left. I decided to live with my error since about 80% of the stitching was already done. I'll keep this ornament for myself since I would never give anything less than my best in an exchange or giveaway ... mostly because I am too damn proud of my work generally and wouldn't want any of my stitching friends to note such an obvious mistake and think me too incompetent to have seen it myself. So, for now, all my innocent delight in this project is diminished considerably by such a stupid mistake ... I know how to read a chart, for Pete's sake ... I am a better stitcher than this ... the sounds you hear are the gnashing of teeth and the pounding of a head against a wall.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The best plans of mice and men ...

Well due to some high sugar counts - I overindulged on carbs and sweets as a diabetic should never do - I didn't want to risk driving to the Happy Quilter. Driving when one's numbers are high is the moral and physical equivalent of driving drunk. So, I never got the fabric I had planned to ... I'll have to defer that to next Friday morning.

So, instead of sewing finishes, I devoted my time to stitching: I finished the cross-stitching on the UFO Turkish Tile biscornu and began the assembly but had to stop when my eyes began to cross and my vision got a wee bit blurry for such fine work [another consequence of high sugar numbers]. I'll photograph the biscornu when it is fully assembled, stuffed and buttoned. Then I finished stitching and assembling the Be-Witched clothespin doll that Sandy sent me as part of our Halloween exchange. Of course, being the sort of anti-kit crank that I am, I changed out all the threads, edged all the raw edges with blanket stitches in DMC 310 and sewed the dress, sleeve and hat seams instead of gluing as per instructions. Turning those sleeves right side out again was a real challenge since the top of the cone was so very tiny. The only gluing I did was when affixing the floss "hair" and the hat to the clothespin "head". I also sewed a JABCo black cat button [which blends right into the black aida in the photo] to the bottom of the dress and added a black & green beaded hanger. I think the result is attractive. If one of you gentle readers would like to try your hand at this little ornament, I would be happy to mail the patterns and graphs along with the glow-in-the-dark floss that came with the kit to the first person to post a comment asking for it. You would have to provide your own black aida and a clothespin ... though if you'd like some black linen [28ct] I could provide a piece of sufficient size for the project.

I also finished the Homespun Elegance Fall Pumpkin as a mini pillow ornament and substituted an Olde Brass Star button for the Star Pumpkin button it called for ... since that was what I had on hand ... I think it looks acceptable.

Since I was still not in the mood for sewing finishes and not quite up to working on my Miribilia Halloween Faerie, I had to cast about for something to do above and beyond drinking a full gallon of water to help purge the extra sugar from my bloodstream. So, I pulled a Christmas ornament from the JCS 2007 issue out of my to-do binder: Country Cottage Needleworks Peace, using a sample piece of Zweigarts Cork Linen 18ct in Confederate Grey and stitching over one. This linen is very soft in the hand and easy to stitch ... of course, stitching over one, the usual care to railroad and lay stitches in such a way as to avoid slippage had to be taken ... I am using Belle Soie silks and Rainbow Gallery Splendour silks and Mandarin bamboo floss on this ornament and, in each case, two strands covers nicely. If one were to stitch over two on this fabric, it would be an easy way to enlarge a favorite ornament or small motif chart to pillow or tote bag size ... of course one would have to ply up proportionately, using 4-6 strands of DMC cottons or using a bulkier fiber like DMC perle cotton. It could get quite expensive using silks, overdyes or any other high-end fiber when stitching over two. I'll take a photograph when this is done. I am planning on finishing it as a flat ornament.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Columbus Day Weekend Stitching and Related Activities

It's shaping up to be an expensive but very satisfying weekend!

I took a trip to the framers this afternoon. I chose five different but similar frames for my five Prairie Schooler Santas. I am having metal easel backs placed on these so I can set them around on table tops and book shelves during the holiday season. Then, I chose a very wild and whimsical painted and highly varnished frame for Raise the Roof's Crabby All Year. The frame I chose for Lizzie Kate's Housework Never Killed Anyone is one that has alternating rectangles of ivory, green and purple that picks up the colors in the piece nicely and, again, maintains a certain whimsy. And, finally, the duty stitch done for my SIL of a cat entangled in toilet tissue [so not-my-thing] is going to be finished up with a nice mat and coordinating frame in a slightly greyed brown. Oh Lord, 8 items to be framed ... Even with today's deposit of $400, I can see where the bulk of the next paycheck is going. And they are still working on the Sue Hillis Pair Tree. It probably won't be all that terrible since I don't think they'll all be ready in the same pay period. And, I will only need to frame one more item between now and Christmas ... the as yet to be started Prairie Schooler Limited Edition Santa for 2008 ... a gift for my youngest sister. All the rest of my stitching for the next few months is going to require sewing finishes ... much less expensive.

On Monday, I'll head out in the other direction to the Happy Quilter to pick out fabric to make pillows for the 4 Sue Hillis charmed Santas, the I Love to Shop at the Silver Needle shopping tote and the Tea for Two tea cozy ... I'll need some fleece batting as well and some more quilting pins ... and, oh yes, I can never resist checking out the notions wall. I always come home with a new tool or some interesting buttons.

And in the meantime, I believe I'll spend the better part of Sunday on sewing finishes. I have all the materials I need for the LHN Seasons of ... these pillows have been sitting in the finishing basket [which is really the largest laundry basket I could find] for nearly nine months ... if I am to use them as a Christmas gift for my sister Ange as intended, I'd best get to them soon. And I'd like to do the sewing finish on the emory strawberry from last year's JCS Christmas ornament issue. That would make five less finishes in the backlog and that would be a very good feeling.

As to actual cross stitching: I have resurrected a UFO, a complimentary chart for a biscornu, from a European website [aurelle]. I had run out of Caron Waterlilies Peach Sherbert silk after stitching the top and one round of border motifs for the bottom ... since doing Spots of Fun and using so many different fibers in autumnal colors, I now have a multitude of silk overdyes on hand and have found one with a slightly paler but compatible color way to complete the piece. I've already put in several hours on this project today and could easily have it finished before the holiday weekend is over. Also, I just couldn't resist starting the clever and light-hearted Halloween ornament kit that Sandy included in my Halloween Exchange package. I don't usually work with aida [being an absolute linen snob, I am afraid] but this little clothespin doll of a witch with it's aida dress and hat is irresistible. A fussy but quick little stitch. I am pretty certain I will be able to hang this little witch from the Halloween tree on my desk when I return to work on Tuesday. And, of course, there is my current focus piece for October, Miribilia's Halloween Faerie which is turning out to be a relatively quick stitch ... perhaps, because I like her so very much.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A True Sampler: The Final Installment



Having finished Debbie Draper's Spots of Fun, I can now report on the last few fibers I have used:

Dinky Dyes Silk: another very lovely silk and one I will certainly purchase again. Easy to strand, smooth to stitch and easy to maintain a proper lay on the fabric.

Caron Watercolors: a three ply hand-painted pima cotton, this is a rather needy fiber but well worth the care. Once plyed down to one ply, what the stitcher has is a very loosely twisted perle which requires a larger eye needle, a shorter length strand, and a very light tension. When stitched on 28ct over two, this fiber sits very high on the fabric making it ideal for lettering, tracery [such as vines, snowflakes or delicate lacy motifs]. On the other hand, it is really too bulky for solid area stitching giving an over-crowded and bunchy effect. See the lower right hand motif of my Spots of Fun for an illustration: the tracery looks great but the solid areas do not show this fiber to advantage. I imagine that this fiber would work well on needlepoint canvas and on 11ct Aida or 10ct tula but have yet to test my theory. I do have some needlepoint canvas on hand but don't have any Aida or tula at the moment, so it will be awhile before I can check this out.

Crescent Colors, GAST & WDW Cotton Overdyes: I used several of these overdyes in this sampler ... mainly to expand my color range. Almost all stitchers are familiar with these quality cotton overdyes and know that they need to be stranded, used in 18" lengths, and stitched one x at a time. It may just be me, but WDW feels coarser in my hand than GAST and I will always choose a GAST fiber over a WDW if the colorways are comparable. That being said, I do use both and have a fairly deep stash of the WDW and a very deep stash of GAST. As to Crescent Colors, I find their overdyes to be very soft in the hand, the colors to be clear and true and, though I have only begun to acquire much of a stash in this line, I can see it growing in the future. It does seem to me that the CC line has colors more suitable to contemporary designs. If I were to try to define how this is is so, I would say that the colors seem brighter and clearer but that doesn't quite express the full sense of what I am getting at. Also, it seems to imply that the WDW and GAST are inferior in some way which is not what I mean at all, at all. I think what I do mean is that the WDW & GAST appear to use more natural or vegetal dyes and CC appears to use more man-made and chemical dyes. I do not know if this is actually so but it is the way I see the colors.

I am wondering now if I wish to fill in a few of the spaces left in Spots of Fun with some beaded motifs like an acorn with the cap done in matte copper beads or some silk ribbon embroidery like a sheaf of wheat using the Japanese seed stitch ... would it add interest or just make the whole thing too busy? I shall have to live with the piece a while before I decide ... meanwhile, I think I'll order the beads and the silk ribbon, just in case!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Keeping up with the sewing finishes, exchanges, S.E.X. & WIPs

I have a backlog of about 16 sewing finishes, so I am determined to avoid adding to it. For the past two months I have been completing two sewing finishes from the backlog each month and have been keeping up with current finishes. I want to get to the point when all I will have left are the two quilts for which I am collecting blocks. I intend to make a queen size quilt from all the Workbasket Quaker animals I have been stitching and a lap quilt from all the owl pieces I have been stitching. Those will be major projects and I will consult with some friends in the local quilters guild before graphing my layout for those finishes. Today's finish photos are in the "current" category.

First, the trick or treat bag for my grandson Liam that I stitched using Raise the Roof's BooWhoo? from the JCS Halloween ornament issue. I actually did the finishing on this piece during the last week of September but am only now getting around to taking pictures. Since Liam is only 14 months old, I can't very well fill it with candy nor would I want to ... so I am stuffing it with these socks from The Sock Lady.

The color ways are called Firefly and Dragonfly and I think they are the neatest baby gear I have seen yet ... and as the proud Grandma of my very first and, to date, only grandchild, I have seen quite a lot of neat baby gear in the past year or so. A lady on the 123 stitch board posted about The Sock Lady and, of course, I had to check it out. Pediatricians are telling young moms to delay putting babies in shoes for a while. Thus, thick socks are the new shoes. I am lucky inasmuch as my daughter-in-law and I have pretty similar taste ... useful since exchanging gifts is a bit tricky when my son and his family live on the West coast and I live on the East. But I can just see Christina getting as excited about these socks as I did ... and I can just hear Sean making the same comment as Bill did, "Why are there five socks to a set and, uh, wait a second, they don't match, do they? Never mind, forget I asked!" In any case, Liam's toes will stay warm no matter how damp and chilly the Northwest gets this winter.

And, just because I only received this picture recently: here is Liam's 2007 Halloween photo with the Trick or Treat Bag I stitched for him back then ... I don't know why it looks as though there is black tracery in the stitched piece ... it sure as heck wasn't there when I stitched it.

The second finish is Diane Cripps' Pumpkin ornament for my Halloween tree at work. I finished this as a flat ornament and created a beaded edge by loading three green beads onto each of the closely placed whipstitches holding the piece to its backing and then added a bracelet style hanger travelling from top left corner to top right corner stringing a copper bead alternating with five green beads for the length of the hanger.
I am also including some shots of a recent Halloween exchange ... I am one very lucky lady. I love the ornament ... even better than my own stitched version ... somehow it looks so much better stitched over one. And the socks will keep my inner child giggling all month long. I believe I'll make the ornament kit my purse project for waiting rooms and such.


Also, I received the custom-made buttons I needed to finish my Raise the Roof Crabby All Year last Saturday ... Patti A from Canada is an artist, don't you agree? I am now officially spoiled and will never look at a JABCo button in quite the same way again. Here's a photo of the finished Crabby All Year and a close-up of Patti's buttons on the piece.


And then, at the suggestion of one of the many enablers at the 123stitch MB, I checked out the buttons and trims available at Farmhouse Fabrics ...





Okay, so I went a little wild purchasing buttons ... mother of pearl and glass and brass and celluloid ... and the colors: ivory, ebony, ecru, tangerine, lime, purple, emerald and pearl. At least, I'll have no problem finishing my biscornus for the next little while.


And, finally, this is just back from the framer ... I stitched it last January but thought I'd get it framed in time to use this winter.