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
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 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.