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.