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?