Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Goals Assessment



---Complete 3 BAPs: Finish the TW Autumn Faerie for Angela and then get to work on TW's Woodland Angel stocking for Liam and Dimensions Woodland Enchantress converted to a stocking for Piper ... to work with the Woodland Santa stocking I made for their Dad. In 2011, I shall have to come up with something equally woodsy for my daughter-in-law Christina to complete the set. THIS SEEMED TO BE A YEAR OF SMALL FINISHES ... I JUST COULDN'T SEEM TO MAINTAIN THE MOMENTUM NEEDED TO COMPLETE EVEN ONE BAP. MAYBE 2011 WILL BE A BETTER YEAR FOR BAPS.
---Complete 1 medium project a month, concentrating on Christmas and Halloween projects with forays into Quakers. CHECK, ALTHOUGH THE MEDIUM PROJECTS HAVE BEEN MOSTLY SALS AND ROUND ROBIN PIECES RATHER THAN CHRISTMAS/HALLOWEEN/QUAKER PROJECTS.
---Get to the bottom of the finishing basket and then keep up with sewing finishes each month. NOT EXACTLY, BUT SOME SMALL PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE ... AT LEAST, THERE ARE FEWER PROJECTS IN THE BASKET THAN AT THE START OF 2010.
---Inventory and prioritize all UFOs [discarding those that are truly lost causes] and stitch at least five hours a month on UFOs. THE INVENTORY GOT DONE BUT THEN THE WHOLE PROJECT SEEMED TO STALL.


---Finally back and quilt the feather-stitched crazy quilt top in time for Mary's 50th birthday in June. ALAS, NO!
I have enjoyed my stitching projects in 2010 but was really surprised to note that I did so many smalls this year which is not my usual style. I did finish the sewing and assembly of all these smalls, at least! And, of course, the Bride's Tree SAL pieces had a stitched back and front ... so those were each the equivalent of two smalls, I suppose. Generally, I complete 2 or 3 BAPs and 12 to 15 medium projects each year. At one time, in my stitching heydey, I'd have 70 or so finishes a year. I am forced to conclude that not only have I been stitching smaller, I have been stitching slower as well. And, clearly I have been stitching less. It used to be I would spend two or three hours a day on the craft. Now, I spend two hours most days but there have been more and more days when I don't pick up a needle at all. The demands of the job require more of my time as my staff shrinks and my own job description grows and diversifies. Household errands and chores seem to take longer to accomplish. And, it seems that more and more of my time is spent in doctor's waiting rooms and offices. Just getting through the annual physical, with the ever increasing number of referrals to one specialist after another, now takes seven months or so. Oh well, that's what aging will do, I suppose. I had once thought that I'd pick up a little extra cash as a ghost stitcher once I retired but if I am this slow now, at 60, I doubt that is a viable plan. I am just going to have repress that A-type personality of mine and ignore the numbers of projects finished and concentrate on the enjoyment and satisfaction instead.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Assessing December Goals, Setting January Goals

We are up to our knees in snow [in some drifted areas, up to our hips] ... and it feels good to sit quietly at home ... Christmas recess means I don't have to struggle into school to set up all our cancellation notices ... and three industrious 12 year olds are busily removing the snow from our driveway and our cars ... they will truly deserve the $10 dollars apiece my husband will give them. These are tomorrow's entrepeneurs, to be sure ... not afraid of a little hard work ... have shovel, will travel ... So many people say that the youngest generation has no work ethic, those people should see these three young men, working diligently in the cold. And I have no doubt that they will know the value of a dollar and spend what they earn wisely.

Town Square SAL: The Fire Station NEARLY DONE but a disappointment since thescale was so different from the others I have stitched in this series: ornament size rather than quilt block size.
Bride's Tree SAL
: Finish stitching the Quaker Angel I designed for November's ornament and stitch Workbasket's Quaker Santa for the December [and last] ornament. Santa is nearly done but the Angel needs some work.
: Either my long neglected BAP or Medium Project would qualify as a UFO by now, so I'll just leave this category blank for this month.
BAP: TW's Autumn Faerie, no extravagant goals of finishing ... all I want to do is manage a few hours a week on this project. Never got around to this again this month.
Medium Project
: Resume work on Victoria Sampler's Holly and Hearts Sampler. Again, no extravagant goals here, I just want to see steady discernible progress. No.
: Continue work on Encrusted Crazy Quilt Block. No.
: Finish as many pieces as possible so as to begin the new year with substantially fewer finishes in the basket. This is where I really want to concentrate my efforts this month. Until I have a sewing room fixed up, my dining room is my sewing area ... and I need to reclaim it in time for the Christmas holidays. No, but I have a week off for Christmas recess so there's still some slight hope that I'll clear a few things away.

CRAZY JANUARY 2011 CHALLENGE: Start a new project each day from January 1 - January 15.
BAP: Continue work on TW's Autumn Faerie
Surface Embroidery: Continue work on Encrusted Crazy Quilt Square.
Sewing Finishes: Keep up with current finishing and finish two items from backlog finishing basket.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #51

Somehow I missed a week along the way: the second week of February which has thrown my count off. Next year, I'll simply date the weekend reports rather than numbering them to avoid all such embarrassing errors.

Christmas was lovely but somewhat less than the usual ... some minor ailments laid most of the family low, preventing the usual gathering ... my West Coast son and his family weren't able to come home for Christmas this year. But we reached out and touched the missing by phone ... I had intended to purchase some of that new technology that allows you to videostream your communication in real time on your computer. One set of camera/software for my son and one for us, as a birthday gift to my son in early January. But my son and daughter-in-law beat me to the punch, sending a camera in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, the camera arrived late in the day on Christmas Eve as my husband and I were just heading out to see my parents and siblings so we didn't have time to set it up for Christmas phone calls. But I vow it will be up in time for New Year's Day. Lord, it was lonesome without the grandchildren and, of course, their parents: my son and daughter-in-law. Small children add some very special magic to the holidays. Bi-coastal families aren't my thing at all, at all. As a child growing up in Brooklyn, all my relatives on my Dad's side of the family lived within a ten block area and all my relatives on my mother's side were also fairly close in Queens. Heck, in my earliest days I lived in a two story home that housed four generations of the family and when we finally moved when I was only 13 years old, it was to a home only three city blocks away. Ah, the good old days that are no more!! Still it was fun to talk to my grandson, who at age 3 years and 4 months, had quite a bit to say, more than enough to make up for the somewhat limited conversation of my 18 month old granddaughter who, though very very bright [I am not the least bit biased] was not very talkative. Feeling a little blue without the whole family this year, I only put up three small trees: my wrought iron table top tree in the entryway with stitched ornaments [it looked a little thin since I stripped it of my newly stitched Heartstring Santa and PS Santa and an adorably cheerful Santa with an embedded music chip [received in an exchange this year] to add to my grandchildren's package trim, one small potted live tree which will be wrapped in burlap and buried under a bed of leaves to go dormant till I can plant it in Spring, and one three foot tall artificial tree which I decorated with the Bride's Tree SAL ornaments. Without the grandkids, it didn't seem worthwhile to go whole hog on the decorations ... maybe next year! But my daughter and my youngest son were able to make it over for Christmas lunch and dinner, respectively.

On the stitching front

I am still working on my Quaker Santa amd hope to have him on the tree in a day or two. Then I will have only the angel left to complete and I am confident that I will have her on the tree by the New Year, well before I take my tree down on January 7th, the day after the Feast of Epiphany, aka: The Twelfth Day of Christmas or Little Christmas.

I am blaming this UFO pick-up on Rachel. On her blog, she showed an afghan that she was rescuing from her own UFO pile ... which inspired me to do the same as I was home sick on Wednesday and really couldn't concentrate on any of my higher count linen projects ... the low count of afghan cloth was just my speed and the warmth of an afghan draped over my lap and legs while I stitched was a pure bonus. The design is an old Cross Stitch Sampler magazine chart from 2004, called Jacobean Elegance, alternating two Jacobean motifs, Flower and Bud. After frogging the mistake that had me laying it aside in the first place ... stitching my first bud motif upside down ... I re-started the project in the upper left corner with a flower motif ... carefully marking top, bottom and center of the square.

One note about blogging:

I am always amazed/amused/confounded at what generates comment and what doesn't. Since I write this blog primarily to replace my old handwritten stitching journals ... only with photos ... I write about what interests me. And most of what interests me does not interest the average blog reader ... I rarely have more than three or four comments to a post [many of my posts pass without any comment] even when the Stats feature indicates that there have been 50, 60 or 70 pageviews in the course of a day. So, it was a bit of a surprise to see seven comments on the stash budget post. I tend to be a bit of a statistician. I like tracking trends, especially those that directly affect me and my interests. I have gotten used to the fact that most people don't think this way ... indeed, most people think me a little weird or obsessive because I do think this way. It was a pleasant change to find affirmation in those comments. Thanks, friends!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all
a Happy and Holy New Year!
Just a small and funny note: this year as I set up my creche it is short the sheep and the donkey who were bored, seemingly, with spending the last 40 years in my household. Last Christmas they hitched a ride in the pocket of my then two year old grandson's overalls and headed for the West Coast. They must have known that my grandson had an affinity for animals, especially farm animals. In any case my grandson is keeping up one of our less stellar family traditions ... when my oldest son, his father, was the same age, my relatives got into the habit of frisking him before we left their homes just in case he had acquired some small, attractive something or other. Today, said son is as honest as the day is long but as a toddler, not so much ... and he seems to have passed that propensity down to his own son. Now, it's his turn to deal with a light-fingered son ... what they say about things going around and coming around is most certainly true.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My First Annual Stash Budget Accounting

With all the talk on message boards and in blogs about how the current economy is changing the stitching industry, I thought it would be interesting to track my own spending this year.

Grand Total Spent in 2010: $630.97

and now for the breakdown:

On Charts: $ 40.67

On Fibers: 283.20

On Fabrics: 139.47
On Embellishments [Beads, buttons]: 6.50

On Tools and Accessories: ------

On Framing: ------

On Books, Magazines and Subscriptions: 49.65

On Classes and Retreats: 60.00

EGA Membership 32.25

And on th ever present shipping/handling 19.23

Since I have been stitching primarily from stash, it is not surprising that my biggest expenditure has been for floss and fiber to stitch up charts already in my possession. And the only reason the fabric line is so high is that there were a number of series I worked on this past year for which I wanted to use the same fabric [e.g.: the raw linen in 28ct for the Bride's Tree SAL, and blue overdyed linens in 28ct for the Town Square SAL]. I don't expect to spend as much on fabric in 2011 since I have a fairly large and varied fabric stash accumulated from my two year subscription to Silkweaver Fabric of the Month. I will be working on very diverse projects in 2011 instead of intentional sets, so I won't be buying as much "matching" fabric in the coming year.

I am sure I have missed a few expenditures here and there. One thing I didn't include because it is not a direct stitching expense was all the money spent on postage for exchanges, round robins and giveaways ... but I am guessing that was in the neighborhood of $200 or above. And I never seem to save the receipts for those quick runs to Michael's or AC Moore for some last minute DMC. I shall be more careful as I keep track of my expenditures in 2011 as well to see how it compares with 2010. I have a sense that, while 2009 was probably much the same as 2010, I am spending considerably less on this craft than I did 5 years ago or 10 years ago. That would be particularly true in the areas of framing and chart and fabric purchases. Back in those days, I would frequently have as many as 12-15 pieces professionally framed each year at an average cost of $250 a piece ... raising the expenditure totals considerably. I didn't have anything professionally framed in 2010 as opposed to a mere five pieces professionally framed in 2009. Of course, I did a lot more gift-stitching back in the day and a lot more sampler stitching as well ... things that call for framing. For the past two years, I have been stitching predominantly from stash, purchasing far fewer charts and doing a lot more sewing finishes as opposed to framing finishes. But as I look forward to the pieces I plan to stitch in 2011, I see framing becoming a big part of the budget next year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #50

Normally, I try to post my Progress Reports on Sunday night but I was just too tired last night. Well, I am still too tired but I wanted to share these two photos.

It's time to shut down the dining room sewing station and get the house ready for Christmas. I got absolutely nothing done in the way of sewing finishing this month so far ... my work schedule has included one 10 or 11 hour day after another for the past ten days ... Christmas is a very busy time in the parish ... but the Christmas break, all ten lovely days of it, may be another opportunity to catch up.

Stitching Progress: Here are the photos ... not much accomplished on this front, either.

Workbasket's Quaker Santa. Still plugging along nicely, I have reached the point at which I'll be adding the white for beard, hair and hat trim ... I'll probably use Belle Soie Icing ... it'll depend on whether it shows up as having a blue or a yellow undertone to the white when I lay the floss against what I have stitched so far in Cranberry. As I remember the color, it's a fairly true white with slight blue undertones ... but I have yet to pull it from my stash and lay it beside the Cranberry. I haven't decided whether I'll use a gold or black silk for the buckle and buttons or just leave both unstitched. Again, a floss toss will determine that. I am guessing this little darling will just barely make it to the tree for Christmas ... considering I still have to stitch a monogrammed and labelled back as well. The November Angel will be post-Christmas stitching but will make it onto the tree before I take it down on Little Christmas/Epiphany/January 6. That's a promise I have made to myself!

Town Square SAL: Wild Hearts Design's Fire Station. I had intended to use all these Town Square pieces to make a quilt, but as I go ahead with each project, I am finding that the different designers did not conform to the same scale. The jail, saloon, train depot and town clock will look all right together ... but this fire station piece is turning out to be ornament sized when stitched on 28ct like all the others ... I'll finish it up as charted and use it as an ornament ... but then I'll have to rechart it to fit the scale of all the other pieces. I left my John James Petite needle in place to give you a sense of the scale. I am kicking myself for not seeing this before I started stitching ... after all, the stitch count on the doors of the station as compared to all the other pieces should have clued me in immediately. As I have explained many times on this blog, I have little or no spatial intelligence ... I am all good on the verbal/linguistic and logical/mathmetical intelligences ... but spatial issues will always have to be worked out in real space before I even see the problem. But at least I have discovered a touchstone I can use before starting any other chart ... check out the size of the door as compared to the doors of the finished pieces before starting on a new piece as charted ... and make any adjustments needed before picking up a needle. See, that's the logical/mathmetical intelligence kicking in now that I've been hit over the head with a spatial problem. The solution will be simple: when recharting, I'll make the fire station [garage type] doors twice the height of the train depot door [normal house type] and then use a simple ratio equation to work out the proper width, comparing the height/width of the doors on original fire station chart with the height of the door on the adjusted chart to determine the new width.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Perfect Palette

I have decided to kit up Primitive Needle's Black'd Skie as part of my participation in the Crazy January Challenge ... I love this chart in spite of the rather problematic faux antique spelling ... in fact, having done my graduate work in early American literature [which is mostly documents, letters and journals], I can actually make a case for spelling being as diverse as the sum total of individuals doing the spelling ... trust me on this, I spent the better part of two years in the rare book room of U.Va. in Charlottesville ... turning ancient pages ever so carefully while wearing white cotton gloves.
I am running into one small problem, though, the chart calls for fibers from a company called The Perfect Palette ... a company completely unknown to me and to the staffs of several LNS's I have contacted. Some of the colors I will be using should I ever locate them are named Bailey's and Dry Martini and Spanish Coffee [is that anything like Irish Coffee?]. I suspect I will be consuming the real thing long before I locate the threads.
If anyone knows of a source for this fiber, I would appreciate it if you would share the information. Even googling didn't help! I figured if I could find a color chart on-line, I could make substitutions from within my existing stash. But no joy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

My 15 for the Crazy January Challenge

I have way too much stash and way too many choices ... it was difficult to winnow my list down to 15 ... but it is done.

1. For my Town Square SAL: Knotted Tree Needle Art's Post Office
2. " " " " " La-D-Da's School House
3. " " " " " WDW's Town Hall
4. " " " " " The Trilogy's Church
5. Sue Hillis' Cookie Baking Santa
6. Homespun Elegance's The Stitcher
7. Barrick Sampler's The Gilded Cage
8. Workbasket's Quaker Squirrel
9. Workbasket's Quaker Bear
10. Workbasket's Quaker Owl
11. Homespun Elegance's Witches Stitch
12. Primitive Needle's Black'd Skie
13. Alexandra Adelaide's Zucca
14. Teresa Wentzlr's Tracery Dragons
15. Dragon Dream's The Ice Dragon's Kingdom

Six of these projects will require framing finishes ... a real difference from 2010's stitching with no framing finishes whatsoever ... I'd best start saving my pennies.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Life hasn't left much room for stitching this week as we enter into the final countdown for Christmas ... cleaning and shopping have supplanted my usual leisure hour activities ... and work seems to be taking up more than its fair share of the day: a nine hour workday on Monday and an eleven hour workday on Tuesday and another eleven hour workday today ... even though today was punctuated with the mandatory Christmas parties, regional and parish, it's still work so far as I am concerned since I am hostess of the parish party with all the set-up and clean-up that entails ... and though this afternoon's event was a luncheon party, glad-handing colleagues-in-ministry, it kept me from all the things I needed to do at home and at the parish office. Call me Scrooge, but I really wish I could get off the merry-go-round of professionally mandated Christmas celebrations and just celebrate in my heart and in my home. I guess as I get older I find myself in need of more simplicity ... less stuff, less fuss, less running to and fro, and, dare I say it, fewer people. My natural inclination to be something of a hermit is intensifying at an alarming rate. But comparative solitude shall just have to wait till the retirement years and then, with all the natural contrariness of human nature, I shall probably long for company.
But I did squeeze in a bit of stitching, if only for the sake of my sanity. Here's my current progress on one of my ornaments for the Bride's Tree SAL: Workbasket's Quaker Santa.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 Giveaway Summary

This year I have been trying to de-clutter my stitching center by giving away gently used charts that I know I will never stitch again. It has been an interesting exercise: going through my binders and deciding what I want to keep and what I have no problems parting with. I have been accumulating charts over a period of thirty years and I have discovered that my taste has been amazingly consistent, for the most part. Of course, when my children were quite young, I did a lot of "kiddie" stuff that no longer interests me ... but other than that, I still like much the same sort of thing. Fantasy [dragons and mermaids and Celtic gods/goddesses], primitives, country/Americana, samplers, Halloween & Christmas, the whimsical and the witty. I have slowed down on the Christmas themed charts as the years have gone by and I have added Quaker designs to my repertoire. But all in all, the list of favorite designers that appears in the sidebar today differs very little from what it would have been ten or even twenty years ago. A few new faces from among the gifted next generation of designers have been added ... and most of the people I liked 20 years ago are still among my favorites.

Between January and December of 2010, I have given away 56 charts, 1 piece of aida, 1 piece of Silkweaver 36ct linen, 1 biscornu, 6 stitching magazines, a set of 4 silicone cupcake molds and 3 cards of Rainbow Gallery Mandarin floss [bamboo fiber]. I have been very happy with the responses to my giveaways: an average of 16 participants each month. It is a pleasure to pass on something I have enjoyed. I have always been a great one for passing on books, sharing recipes, gifting people with some of my favorite finds [scented candles, gourmet jams and salsas, gadgets I have known and loved], etc. But this is the first time I have systematically passed on stitching stuff. I have mailed packages to Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. I am happy to say that every single recipient of my giveaways has e-mailed me a very nice thank you message or sent a handwritten card or note ... some have even given me a shout out on their own blogs ... it just goes to show that the stitching community is populated by some very nice people. So thanks to stitchinfiend, Myra, Paula C, Alex, Vicky, Karen, qsnaplover, luvmyqsnaps, Dani, kittycat, Mary and Blu for sharing my love of stitching and agreeing to PIF the charts that I trust are now happily circulating through the international stitching community.
And then there was the massive inventory and giveaway of my mother's crafting stash that consumed the first two months of this year ... a project that will live on in infamous memory ... and, the project that inspired my own de-cluttering of my craft stash ... I will NOT do this to my own daughter, at least not on the same scale.
Looking to 2011, I expect things will slow down a bit ... I have a few extra special giveaways planned for the beginning of the year ... but then it will be back to de-cluttering the stash center: gently used charts, as well as some odds and ends of floss or fabric, with the occasional stitched piece thrown in to add the personal touch. It has been suggested by a few of my stitching friends that I set up a sale album instead of giving away my gently used charts but I know myself better than to do that. The tedium of maintaining and updating such an album, the possibility of dealing with an unhappy customer, the compulsion to get to the post office immediately rather than when I happen to be in the area, the minimal monetary return for all that effort ... well, it just isn't for lazy old me. All I really want to do is de-clutter my stash so my daughter never has to contend with what I did when I inventoried and gave away my Mother's sewing and crafting stash and if I can make a few other stitcher's happy in the process, all well and good.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #49

This week has seen little time for stitching ... let alone for the mini-finishing-frenzy I had hoped to manage. I've put in 10+ hours overtime because of various Whole Community Catechesis Events I've had to run three times this week and will be running once more next week. Then late Thursday night I ignored Doctor's orders/warnings and indulged in a Sicilian pizza with black olives ... people lacking gall bladders should not eat such fatty foods ... but it has been four months since the surgery, all has been going well, and I thought I would risk a small indulgence. I didn't even finish my second piece. Never again, I was in pain all night and wasted my entire day off Friday retreating from the lingering pain by catching up on my sleep for the better part of the day ... not at all the way I had intended to spend the day off. In fact, I wasn't fully back to normal till late Saturday afternoon.

Even so, I squeezed in a bit of stitching time on Workbasket's Quaker Sampler, maybe an hour or so a day. This has been such a pleasure. I like the delicacy of stitching with one strand over two threads on a higher count fabric [in this case 36ct] ... and am amazed that all these old eyes require is a good light without yet having to resort to magnifying glasses. In fact, I have been enjoying this piece so much it has been all I worked on from Monday through Sunday morning before church. I just had to complete a third motif and the letters that were stitched in the same shade on either side of it. I am using only four shades of GAST on this project: Cranberry, Forest Glade, Gold Leaf and Midnight. This contributes to the elegant simplicity of the piece. Can you tell I am loving it?

Bride's Tree SAL ... the last two ornaments: Quaker Angel [November] and Quaker Santa [December]. I did manage to get back to work on the December Santa piece for an hour or so in the afternoon. The photo shows the minimal progress I have made. This is the very first time all year that I am working out of order on this SAL. The reason is simple: though I have chosen the Quaker motifs I wish to combine to make my November Angel, I haven't actually charted the piece to see how everything goes together. I have a feeling that the November Angel may very well be my Christmas break stitching project. It will make it to the tree sometime before the New Year but probably not in time for Christmas. But since I keep my tree up til January 6 [Little Christmas, aka The Feast of the Epiphany], I'll have a little time to enjoy it this year.
But, alas, no sewing finishes.
Just to round off the photos, I am including one of the round robin that was finished last week. Waiting for the perfect conditions for daylight photography was my excuse. Well, what with working extra hours and sleeping away my day-off, I was never able to take advantage of the good photography conditions on offer this past week. So here is a less than perfect indoor shot.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Gifts

I thought my husband and I had agreed to gift each other with a new mattress and boxspring for a combined Christmas and anniversary present [January 10 - 40 years]. But then he made noises about a pen he wanted [he collects special edition fountain pens] ... so I figured I'd better consult the folks at the local pen shop he frequents ... sure enough, there was one laid away for him.
My husband is a true romantic and he finds my practical approach to gift-giving appalling. He would see the mattress/boxspring deal as something we had to do anyway as a normal household expense and not an appropriate gift, at all, at all. He prefers the personal touch to the pragmatic. No doubt I will receive some jewelery or perfume or some such lovely item ... he is very sweet and considerate that way. He also likes to come up with gifts that carry on family traditions ... for instance, he has purchased our tiny grand-daughter [15 months old] a cheerleaders outfit for the Washington Redskins ...he and my oldest son are fans ... and, after all, what could be more appropriate than having this little person indoctrinated into the fold.
If I were to characterize our gift giving and receiving personas using the yardstick of the characters in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings ... my husband would be a man of Gondor, full of honor and a sense of his people's glorious history, romantic, brave, passionate and the tiniest bit chauvinistic ... and I would be a hobbit, loving my creature comforts of home and hearth, more concerned about the quality of my next meal than the elegance of a gift. Over the past decade, my favorite gifts from him have been a cozy floor length chenille robe and gift certificates to my favorite on-line provider of fine teas [] and to Barnes & Noble and yet he has given me jewelery and perfumes most women would envy mightily. I am inclined to fill stockings with food and household items: things like jars of Nutella, boxes of marzipan, tins of smoked oysters, jars of mango salsa, boxes of hazelnut candies, bags of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, scented candles, interesting gadgets and a new toothbrush. His inclination would be to fill a stocking with earrings and pins, gift certificates to a classy restaurant, a stitching retreat, a resort getaway weekend, a spa or a local theater. He thinks big and dramatic; I think small and domestic. One good thing, I have managed to convince him that one gift is more than sufficient.
We have both reached an age when the last thing we need is more "stuff". At least we are in agreement that the most important gift we can give one another is to choose a worthy charity and make a donation.
Upon careful reflection, I think he deserves his pen ... he is such an all-round good guy and I am a very lucky woman!

Friday, December 10, 2010

December Giveaway Winner

And the winner is Blu chosen for the totally unscientific reason that I liked her comment best ... it seems to indicate that she shares my love for fantasy themes in general and for Dragon Dreams charts in particular! I will be e-mailing her today to ask for a postal address and I'll get her package in the mail soon.
Sometime later this year, I will be doing a giveaway of just Dragon Dreams charts ... after I have stitched them, of course ... so far I have stitched Storm Bringer but I plan on stitching Dragon of the Summer Sky and Dragon of the Winter Moon in 2011 ... and possibly The Ice Dragon's Kingdom, if I can get to it. I think this would make a nice group of charts for a giveaway late in 2011 ... a unified grouping that would appeal to those who love dragons as much as I ... I wonder just how large such a group would be!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #48

Stitching progress this week:

I finished the empty panel on the round robin ... but a photo of the whole piece ... with all the lovely contributions from the other stitchers ... will just have to wait till daylight. The piece is so large that using my Ott lamp as I usually do with my photos just doesn't light up the whole project

I frogged out my error on the Workbasket Quaker Sampler and restarted the piece. Now the recommended linen for this piece is Lakeside Linens' Navy Bean 32ct. But since I am stitching from stash as much as possible, I have substituted Silkweaver's Shadowlands 36ct. I wasn't all too happy with the way the recommended GAST Dried Thyme faded into the Shadowlands ... so having frogged it all out anyway, I replaced it with GAST Forest Glade ... same tone family but several shades darker. Otherwise, I am using the recommended GAST: Cranberry, Midnight and Gold Leaf. This piece has three medallions in the center which I will fill with the dates 1971-2011 on either side and my husband's and my initials in the center heart. Several years ago, my favorite framer lost his wife who was not only his life partner but also his business partner. The heart went out of him and he shut down his business. At the time, he had in his possession an anniversary sampler I had made and a birth announcement celebrating my grandson's birth and I have given them up for lost. I'll be using this sampler to replace the anniversary sampler: 40 years is a nice round number and better than the 37 years celebrated in the lost sampler anyway. I know I tend to be a slow stitcher but, counting the stitching I had to frog and the frogging time, the progress you see here is the work of 6 and 1/2 hours ... pathetic, huh? On the other hand, I am really enjoying this piece so the longer I get to do so, the better!

I'd also like to take the time to respond to some comments that readers have made during November.

To Rachel S: I do use pillow forms for my pillows, for the most part. Whenever I stuff my own, I get weird corners because I have never mastered the art of tapering the corners to make them appear square. Having little or no spatial intelligence, I always forget whether I am supposed to taper them at an oblique angle of 100 degrees or an acute angle of 80 degrees to give the illusion of a sharp 90 degree corner. This lack of spatial intelligence is why I always just squeaked by in geometry and trigonometry while doing quite well in algebra and calculus. I've got plenty of the logical/mathematical and verbal/linguistic intelligence [google seven intelligence theory] but virtually no spatial intelligence. Also, I'd love to do an unofficial Ice Dragon's Kingdom SAL with you, each of us posting on our own blogs ... maybe starting in February.

To Carol: The generic all year round pillows are mounded on my bed. Seasonal pillows are used to decorate the couch at the appropriate seasons and then are stored for the next year. And, I 'm glad you liked my Pilgrim Woman with Pies ornament ... see below for a funny story about that ornament.

To Hillery: Thanks for all the kind words about my designing skills ... I plan to do a lot more this year ... stay tuned for future developments.

To Sharon: Glad to find a kindred spirit when it comes to attitudes about overdyes. Whether silk or cotton, they are addictive and I am weak ... but I do believe designers need to be aware that not everyone shares the passion ... DMC conversions are becoming an economic necessity for many stitchers.

To Dani: I loved reading your answers to the stitching meme and have to add that I find your disciplined pursuit of one BAP at a time to be amazing. Me, I've got stitcher's ADD and constantly need a change of pace. And thanks for your encouragement as regards the encrusted crazy quilt project.

And, in closing, a stitching anecdote. Normally, my husband is the most appreciative audience of my stitchery ... very supportive: driving me to retreats [I am not comfortable doing serious highway driving], bragging about my work, gifting me with new charts, tolerant of the multi-colored orts that stick to his clothing and a companion as I stitch, either reading or watching DVDs as I work. But the other day, as he was going down the steps, leaving for work, he called up in a very puzzled voice, "Uh, why do you have a Groucho Marx nose ornament on the Thanksgiving tree?" Groucho Marx!!!!????!!!! Well, naturally, I took umbrage. How could he possibly mistake any of the gorgeous ornaments I had stitched for Thanksgiving for something so ludicrous? But, damned if he wasn't right! As I came down the steps a few minutes later and casually glanced at the tree, I had to admit that the Pilgrim woman with the pies did look like Groucho ... her apron made a perfect nose, the skirt below it looked like a mustache and her outstretched arms holding pies in her hands did indeed resemble eyes. The curses of an open mind ... I had to admit Bill was perfectly right ... and now I will never look at that ornament without thinking of Groucho.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

December Giveaway

Looking ahead, I predict I will hit my 500th post by February 4th, 2011 and my 100th follower sometime soon as well ... and I have special giveaways planned to celebrate each of these personal blogging landmarks. For this month, though, we'll stick to the tried and true giveaway of gently used charts. This time it is a very mixed bag, so we'll call it a miscellaneous grab bag of five charts with the bonus of the latest Stitcher's World magazine [including the free kit] thrown in for good measure. I bought the magazine to see if all the hullabaloo about the new editorial direction was warranted and decided it just wasn't my style. It has many Christmas designs but none were to my taste. I doubt I'll ever stitch anything at all from this magazine, so it seems far more sensible to pass it on to someone who will enjoy it. The charts are Lizzie Kate's Housework, Rosewood Manor's Flowers in Bloom, Elizabeth Design's Honey Bee, Imaginating, Inc.'s Spring Welcome and Dragon Dreams Imagination Creation [from Fantasy Faire 2005]. This last is a signed limited edition.
If you wish to enter your name for this giveaway, the usual conditions will apply:
-- open to all stitchers
-- leave a comment below as to why you are interested in the giveaway
-- include an e-mail address in your post if clicking on your name will not lead me to an e-mail link
-- a winner will be selected on the 10th of the month and informed by e-mail
-- winners are asked to commit to PIF charts to other stitchers through message boards, guilds or stitching groups or to donate the charts to a women's shelter or prison, a nursing home or some other venue where a stitcher would enjoy them.
Good luck to all who enter.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Crazy Making

There is a new challenge making the rounds in stitching circles: the Crazy January Challenge of 2011. The plan is to start a new piece everyday from January 1st to January 15th and then complete those pieces in the course of the year. My first thought was that with all my UFOs [see sidebar] I really don't need another 15 WIPs on my conscience. But then I realized that the 2011 goals I am already formulating include working on and completing one medium sized project a month and a few more ornaments for my January Anniversary/February Valentine's Day ornament tree display ... and that's not even counting my goal of stitching one Town Square SAL piece a month as well. So what's to stop me from starting 15 of these projects at the very start of the year and then completing them as the year progresses? Let's be honest here: I have a two inch binder filled with charts that I have optimistically labelled Current Stitching, meaning stuff I intend to do this year whatever this year happens to be. The binder never seems to empty out though I faithfully remove charts from it as I stitch them and I have been careful to limit my purchases of new charts these past few years.

So I can do this ... at least, the starting part ... the finishing part of the challenge, well, that remains to be seen.

Now for the list:

We'll start with the first four of the Town Square SAL pieces I wish to do ... I don't want to load the list entirely with these pieces ... that would be boring.
***Knotted Tree Needle Art's Post Office
***La-D-Da's School House
***WDW's Town Hall
***The Trilogy's Church

And then there is my personal tradition of stitching a Christmas piece in January to extend the mood a wee bit. Since for the past several years I have chosen a Sue Hillis or Prairie Schooler piece for this purpose, this year's choice will be
***Sue Hillis' Cookie Santa
And two more definite must-stitches, just because I love them and have been itching to start these:
***Homespun Elegance's The Stitcher
***Barrick Sampler's The Gilded Cage
Next up, The Workbasket Quaker Animals I am stitching and collecting for a quilt.
***the Squirrel from Quaker Acorn and Squirrel leaflet
***the Bear from the Polar Quakers leaflet
***the Owl from the Quaker Halloweens leaflet
That makes 10 for certain. Now things get a bit more problematic. Lots of great choices but only five more slots.
So, moving on, some Halloween/Fall pieces. I'll need to choose three of these:
Alexandra Adelaide's Zucca
Ink Circles' Celtic Beasties: Halloween or Knot
The Cricket Collection's The Great Pumpkin Conspiracy
The Primitive Needle's Black'd Skie
Hands To Work's Harvest Blooms
La-D-Da's Something Wicked
Homespun Elegance's Witches Stitch, Too
And I'll want to choose two of the following dragon charts.
Teresa Wentzler's Tracery Dragons
Dragon Dreams' Dragon of the Winter Moon
Dragon Dreams' A Dragon's Tea Party
Dragon Dreams' Dragon of the Summer Sky
Dragon Dreams' The Ice Dragon's Kingdom
Dragon Dreams' Here Be Dragons
Anyone wishing to help me choose the charts from these last two sections, please leave a comment. I am leaning toward Homespun Elegance's Witches Stitch, Too [as a companion piece to The Stitcher] and Alexandra Adelaide's Zucca [just because I love pumpkin charts and this will work for Thanksgiving as well] and The Primitive Needle's Black'd Skie [jut because I love it, eccentric faux olde spelling notwithstanding] in the Halloween category. In the dragon category, I want to stitch them all, especially the Teresa Wentzler piece.
My stitching in 2010 was dominated by ornaments and other smalls for some reason so it will be nice to concentrate on medium to large pieces in 2011. Fewer finishes, to be sure, but the satisfaction of having accomplished something substantial ... and not nearly as much sewing/assembly finishing to tackle.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Assessing Nov Goals, Setting Dec Goals


Town Square SAL: Kit up and start stitching The Clock Tower. DONE 11/18/10.
Bride's Tree SAL: Design and Stitch October's Pine Cone DONE 11/10/10 and November's Angel NO.
Thanksgiving Ornaments: Stitch four ornaments as needed to catch up to the goal of one a month. DONE. Between 11/23 and 11/27, I stitched four of the motifs [Indian brave, Pilgrim Man & Woman, Turkey] from Cross Eyed Cricket's Thanksgiving Circle and assembled them into round padded board ornaments.

UFO: Peacock biscornu. NO. This project needs to be frogged before moving on and I did enough frogging in the past week on my Quaker projects from Workbasket to want to pull out another stitch.
BAP: Finish TW's Autumn Faerie. Only got in an hour's worth of stitching on this and that only because I refused to let another month go by with nothing done on this project.
Medium Project: Resume work on The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Hearts Sampler. This will have to become a December goal.
SURFACE EMBROIDERY: Continue work on Encrusted Crazy Quilt Square, mastering the boullion stitch. The aim is to get in at least one hour a week. DONE. While I didn't master the boullion stitch, I did put in four hours on this project and recovered my enthusiasm for it. But before I do much more work on the piece, I'll have to practice my ribbon embroidery technique as well as that difficult boullion stitch.
SEWING PROJECTS:Finish-finish ornaments to date and stitch up two larger projects from the finishing basket. GOAL EXCEEDED. All ornaments stitched this month were finished. Other sewing finishes this month included a bookmark, three gift totes,
And the NaBloPoMo Challenge: DONE!!! Well, this has certainly been an experience and one I am not sure I care to repeat next year. Finding something of interest to blog about daily and maintaining my primary focus on stitching has been difficult. But, according to the stats feature, I have never had so many page views. The comments haven't increased though ... for the most part, I don't seem to attract the type of reader who says much. The one thing blogging daily has done for me personally is this: in an effort to find something to say, I posted more about designing my own pieces ... something I have been doing intermittently for some time now. I do believe I see more designing in my future. On the other hand, posting daily really had me scrambling for topics ... not all of which were terribly successful ... and it has given me an even greater respect for professional writers who sit down to a keyboard daily. I guess I am just a dabbler and a dilettante by nature and by habit. Ideally, I should have been born to an extraordinarily wealthy family so I could have indulged all my creative whims without any compulsion to develop them into [or support them with] an income producing career.

Town Square SAL: The Fire Station
Bride's Tree SAL: Finish stitching the Quaker Angel I designed for November's ornament and stitch Workbasket's Quaker Santa for the December [and last] ornament.
UFO: Either my long neglected BAP or Medium Project would qualify as a UFO by now, so I'll just leave this category blank for this month.
BAP: TW's Autumn Faerie, no extravagant goals of finishing ... all I want to do is manage a few hours a week on this project.
Medium Project: Resume work on Victoria Sampler's Holly and Hearts Sampler. Again, no extravagant goals here, I just want to see steady discernible progress.
SURFACE EMBROIDERY: Continue work on Encrusted Crazy Quilt Block.
SEWING PROJECTS: Finish as many pieces as possible so as to begin the new year with substantially fewer finishes in the basket. This is where I really want to concentrate my efforts this month. Until I have a sewing room fixed up, my dining room is my sewing area ... and I need to reclaim it in time for the Christmas holidays.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The trouble with four day weekends ...

... is that they are too true a foretaste of retirement.
I love my work [coordinating a religious education program for some 480 children in a NY suburban Catholic parish] but as I get older I long for a lighter workload. My typical work week is 50-60 hours long; the hours are irregular with two days ending at 5pm, two at 9pm and one at noon; ordinarily my days off are Friday and Sunday ... NOT consecutive and so, not as relaxing as might be. Today, I will go in to grade the exams and prepare the progress reports of sixty-five 7th graders, prepare the scripts for six stations of our next Family catechesis session and, angels and saints protect me, supervise the behavior in Church for Advent confessions for grades 3-6 of the after school session and grades 5-7 of the evening session. The last bit is the worst. Some of these children see the inside of a church only once or twice a year and consequently have never acquired the sense that it is holy ground/sacred space. Therefore, they feel free to chat and behave as they might in the schoolyard or playground. I have to walk a fine line between keeping the peaceful and reverent atmosphere intact and still being a welcoming, not scolding, presence for the children who ... through no fault of their own ... have never been taught to behave appropriately in this environment. The pastor, quite properly, does not wish to have the reception of the sacrament disturbed by noise or irreverent attitudes/behaviors of those still waiting to confess ... he also does not wish to be embarassed in front of the priest called in from a near-by retreat house to assist with the large number of children coming for the sacrament. Tomorrow's schedule is equally strained: getting paperwork for a major fundraiser out and a smaller fundraiser delivery in, distributed and finally wrapped up, followed by afterschool confession for Grades 3-6 and evening confessions for Grade 8 ... and it is the Grade 8 confessions I am dreading. Most years our Confirmation class is a reasonable group, with just the usual adolescent hormonal and social stuff going on ... but every so often we get a [how shall I put this delicately?] a truly challenging class ... obnoxious, disrespectful of adults and one another, cruel to one another both verbally and emotionally, selfish and self-involved ... it seems to go in cycles, don't ask me why ... but four years ago we had such a Confirmation class and we have another this year. Keeping order in Church shall be difficult since I will have to delegate the responsibility to the catechists ... I will be running the make-up meeting for the 2nd grade parents who didn't come to our Reconciliation/Eucharist Parent Meeting. I'll move through the meeting as quickly as possible so that I can get to the Church in time to help out ... for I know maintaining control of 85 darling 13 year olds in a church setting may be beyond the scope of my six 8th grade catechists. I've no doubt I'll have a less than pleasant meeting with the pastor on Wednesday morning.
Like I said, most days I love my work ... hey, most days I can even manage to see it as ministry ... but somedays, I just want to retire.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #47

Well, let's see, what did I actually accomplish

FROGGING, FROGGING, FROGGING last week's so called progress so I can restart the Workbasket's Quaker Santa and Quaker Sampler ... with nothing much to show for it.

Now that my Round Robin has been returned, I decided to finish the last panel and then put it away till next Fall. I'll decide them just how to finish it: probably as a lap robe or a wall hanging ... it's too large for a pillow finish and I don't want to go to the expense of professional framing for so large and essentially ephemeral a piece.

I put in another hour or so on my Encrusted Crazy Quilt Square, adding yellow gold glass beads to the area with the chain stitched "rope" over black moire, some more buttons to the focal point seam embellishment near the silk tartan, another bird and a cat button to the garden scene as well as some more grass. So here's one more photograph to give you an idea of the progress since yesterday. It's slow going since I can only work on a small area at a time but I am going to try to work on this for an hour each week ... the plan is to turn it into a very colorful summer handbag.

These Thanksgiving ornaments are lifted from the Cross Eyed Cricket Thanksgiving Circle leaflet: Indian with corn, the Pilgrim Woman with pies, the Pilgrim Man with fish, the Turkey. All of these were stitched on 36 ct Silkweaver linen in a color called Shadowlands in the recommended DMC. And all are finished as round ornaments using a 2 1/2" diameter padded cardboard form. The two pilgrims were backed with black silk moire and the Indian and turkey were backed with a fall leaf print. I used various trims: purchased braid for the Pilgrim woman, beads for the Pilgrim man and hand made twisted cording for the Indian and turkey. I've added them to the wrought iron tree I keep in my entryway. The Thanksgiving ornaments will remain up till I switch to Christmas ornaments in mid-December.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Return to the Crazy Quilt Project

I have so many projects in progress that there is always one that gets pushed into the background, a poor neglected little step child. But every so often, I go in search of one of these abandoned projects.

Today, it was the Crazy Quilt On-line Class Project's turn. Here is a photo of it when last seen. The second photo is a close-up of the area I worked on today. The two photos are oriented differently: the close-up shows the top third of the first photo. Admittedly, there is not much discernible progress, but this is very labor intensive stitching: lots of work in small areas. I added more stitches and beads to the seam embellishment between the white on white cotton and the black silk moire. I added some buttons and beads to the seam with the silk tartan plaid and I began the embroidered embellishment of the white on white cotton triangle. And I am nowhere near done with this tiny section yet. There'll be more flowers and grasses, another cardinal button and a ladybug button added to the garden scene. And there will be more buttons and beads mounded at the edge of the tartan silk. This project isn't called an encrusted crazy quilt square for nothing.

Next, I will have to work on mastering the bouillion stitch ... I read somewhere that the smaller eyes of darning or beading needles lend themselves to this stitch, making it easier to "pull" it through. I am determined to master this stitch since it does make such beautiful flowers, especially roses ... and I'd like to use the technique on this square before I am through.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Stitching Meme

Andie's blog had this list of stitching questions ... and I thought I'd fill one of my holiday NaBloPoMo posts by answering them. If you'd like to answer these questions on your own blog, she has posted the questions on her own blog as a convenient cut-and-paste unit.

1. What are you stitching at the moment? Right now I am working on a Pilgrim man Thanksgiving ornament. I excerpted the chart from CEC Thanksgiving Circle. Within the past two days, I finished the Pilgrim woman and the Indian brave from the same leaflet ... I'll do the finish assembly sometime during the holiday weekend ... and add them to my Thanksgiving tree which I will leave up till Dec. 15 when I switch everything over to Christmas ornaments.

2. How many finishes have you had this year? Small? Medium? Large? Extra Large? I have stitched 34 smalls this year, mostly ornaments but a few pin cushions, tuck-aways, scissor cases as well. And eleven medium pieces, five of which were for a round robin in which I participated. Two large pieces: the village scene from the PS Harvest Time leaflet and the Mermaids Singing by Workbasket. But no extra large: I have been working on a BAP, TW's Autumn Faerie, but that still has a ways to go.

3. Do you think you will finish any more in the next month and a half before the end of the year? Sure: I know I will finish two more Christmas ornaments for the Bride's Tree SAL and one more piece for the Town Square SAL [probably the Town Hall or the Schoolhouse]. I hope to finish my current BAP as well, TW's Autumn Faerie.

4. If you could buy 1 thing for yourself what would it be? (Doesn't have to be stitching). We need a new mattress and boxspring ... badly. We will try to hold out for the January sales but a good night's sleep is a priority and if a good sale comes along between now and then, we'll go for it.

5. What is the best thing you have ever stitched? I'd have to go with any one of the large Teresa Wentzler pieces I have done: The Spring Faerie and The Lily of the Valley Faerie.

6. Do you like making lists? Always, it's what I do.

7. Do you stitch in rotation (how does it work?) or OAAT? In rotation. I have five different projects of varying size and complexity in my current stitching bag.

8. What is the next thing you plan to stitch? After I frog out my error and remount the piece on scroll rods, Workbasket's Quaker Sampler.

9. What is your fave ONS? And why? There are actually two that I love: 123stitch for it's speedy delivery and fairly broad range of goods AND Stitchery Row, a brick and mortar in Endicott NY that has an on-line presence, these guys are phenomenal when it comes to getting the hard-to-find item and their turn around is even speedier than 123stitch.

10. Do you have a stitching chair? The straight-back wooden chair in my living room.

11. Do your children/pets get into your stitching things? No, not lately. My children are grown and no longer live at home. My beloved Jackal died several years ago and I will not be getting another pet till I can retire and devote the proper attention and time to a four-footed companion. Once upon a time, I had to defend all my sewing and embroidery scissors with a flaming sword ... my kids [and even my husband] didn't get the fact that they were not to be used on paper or plastic, ever! But that is no longer an issue with the kids gone and my husband finally trained ... or maybe he's just gotten sneakier and hasn't been caught misbehaving with scissors lately.

12. Do you participate in any stitching forums? Ever so often, I put in my two cents on the 123stitch board.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Have a lovely time with family and friends.
And in closing, my favorite table grace:
Lord, to all who have hunger, give bread; and to all who have bread, give the hunger for justice. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WIP Photos

To get into the mood for Thanksgiving, I have been working on a few additional ornaments for the little wrought iron tree I keep on the antique washstand in my entryway. I figure I probably won't get to do the assembly finish until Friday or Saturday on these little gems but I'll keep them up for a week or so anyway. I don't really decorate for Christmas until mid-December. I don't like rushing the whole Advent season as if it didn't even exist and have purpose.

These pieces are really quite dainty, not more than 2" tall. All the designs are from Cross Eyed Cricket's Thanksgiving Circle leaflet. I have stitched them on 36ct Silkweaver linen in a color called Shadowlands, using the recommended DMC floss, stitching one strand over two threads. I've finished the Indian brave [bringing corn] and the Pilgrim woman [holding pies]. It's too early to take a photo of the The Pilgrim man [carrying fish]. I've only done a half hour's stitching on it. I'll finish all of these as round padded board ornaments, trimmed with twisted cord. I have enjoyed stitching these rather simple designs and have decided I really will have to stitch the entire piece as charted one of these days, instead of just pulling out excerpts to use as ornaments ... it would make a lovely pillow to display on my sofa during the Thanksgiving holidays.

I have made quite a few plans for stitching during the Thanksgiving recess. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my round robin has been returned home finally ... so, I will finish up the last panel on that piece using a Prairie Schooler chart. I'll assemble the Thanksgiving ornaments. And, I'll chart and stitch the Bride's Tree SAL November ornament, an angel that I'll be making up in the Quaker style. If I have any additional time, I may do some over one frogging on the ill-fated start from last weekend, Workbasket's Quaker Sampler. After measuring and cutting the fabric so carefully, I can't believe I was so inattentive as to pick up the hoop wrong and start stitching with the wrong orientation. To avoid that problem in the future, I believe I'll prep the piece on a stretcher frame when I start again. I still haven't decided what I will do about the December Bride's Tree ornament, for which I will be using Workbasket's Quaker Santa chart ... but I'm leaning toward stitching the entire design over one on the 28ct Glasgow raw linen [in Belle Soie Cranberry, Old Crow and Icing] instead of stitching an excerpt from the chart and stitching over two on the 32ct Belfast raw linen [in Belle Soie Cranberry and Icing]. The second option would work and be the quicker [and easier] stitch but I really like the whole design and hate to truncate it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's back

Rejoice with me, my long over-due Round Robin is finally home. There is only one empty space to fill which I will stitch myself, using a Prairie Schooler design. I am delighted with the contributions of the other stitchers. I am not at all certain how I will finish this: a wall hanging, a lap robe, a tote bag. It's too large for a pillow and it doesn't seem like the sort of thing I'd frame.
A picture will be posted when I have filled in the last panel.

Monday, November 22, 2010

DMC Deleted Colors

I must be the last stitcher to get the news that DMC deleted certain colors due to the toxicity of the dyes used to make them. Purportedly, the colors are still available in the USA ... I guess the legendary French disdain for Americans makes it acceptable to poison us, but not Europeans, Australians and Asians. In all likelihood, I heard about it or read about it at the time it happened but it didn't raise a blip on my radar because I prefer using silk whenever possible. Even when using cotton, I tend to prefer overdyes. But lately, I have been using DMC every so often. [I have been doing a lot of smalls, and many designers avoid charting an expensive over-dyed floss for just a few stitches.] Anyway, the topic came up again on a message board I frequent, listing the infamous #s:

731, recommended substitution: 732
776, recommended substitution: 3326
781, recommended substitution: 782
806, recommended substitution: 3760
971, recommended substitution: 740
3373, recommended substitution: 407

So, I went scurrying over to my DMC cases to see if I owned any of the offending floss. I did but I have removed the cards with those #s. I still stitch bibs, t-shirts and toys for small children and would hate to think that any of them might be exposed to a known toxic dye through a gift from me.

Also, in keeping with yesterday's decision to refrain from serious stitching till my concentration returns, all I did this morning was finish up my Halloween Greetings piece by adding two more crowns to fill in the empty spaces left when I deleted the words and date. Since I am using the piece to make a knitting bag for one of my sisters ... and not the Halloween ornament as charted, it seemed a more sensible choice. I never did get how sheep were a Halloween-ish motif in the first place, but that's beside the point. Then I kitted up my Cross-Eyed Cricket Thanksgiving Circle. I cut a 7" wide swath of 36ct Silkweaver Shadowlands linen on which I will stitch the Indian and the Pilgrim Man and Woman as individual ornaments using the recommended DMC floss. Once I have stitched all three, I will finish them as padded board ornaments. I actually started the Indian this morning and am about 2/3 of the way done. These could actually be done in time to put up on the Thanksgiving ornament tree in my entryway. Who am I kidding? Next year maybe!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #46

This weekend was one in which I should never have even attempted to stitch ... everything I have done will have to be frogged.
First I decided to start work on the December Bride's Tree SAL ornament, skipping right over the November angel, since I had gotten the Workbasket chart for the Quaker Santa and some lovely Belle Soie Cranberry silk, two skeins worth. Perfect, right? Well, no, not exactly. To start off, I must have been mildly dyslexic this weekend because I misread the dimensions of the Quaker Snowman, 96h X 77w [also included in this leaflet] as the dimensions of the Santa, 126hx95w. The 96x77 would have been the largest ornament in this series but I had wisely ordered some 32ct linen in the same raw color ... so that would bring the Santa into scale with all the other ornaments stitched on 28ct ... or so I thought. Then because I am a creature of habit, I loaded my needle with two strands of silk. Well, I wasn't more than ten stitches into the project when I realized one strand was needed. Do you know what you get when you frog silk from linen too tightly woven for two strands? What you get is fuzz ... lots and lots of fuzz ... and treacherously thin stretches of floss just waiting to shred ... that's what you get. Okay, so into the ort jar with two 18" lengths of luscious silk! The heart breaks a bit but one soldiers on. Mind you, I still hadn't noticed the dimension error! That only happened when I was still only 2/3rds of the way through stitching the first row of Santa's robe ... it looked off to me, so I decided to do an actual count ... imagine counting cross stitches, what a concept! ... out came the quilting pins as I counted off groups of ten stitches and realized I was already well past the 77wide I had thought was involved. Now, totally exasperated by the "misprint" in the chart, I snatched the offending leaflet up only to discover I can't read what is plainly printed on the card. Okay, having calmed down, I decided "I can fix this." I frogged back to 70 stitches over two, which will now become the bottom border [though that means wasting about 2" of linen below and to the left of my stitching]. I can stitch a 60 wide excerpt from the chart, using the central Quaker motif for the body and top it off with Santa's face, beard and hat. I can't say I am really crazy about this idea, so maybe I'll consider stitching the entire design over 1 on the 28ct raw linen. In any case, I put the whole thing aside ... I'll sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow.
Next, I picked up a piece I have been itching to start: Workbasket's Quaker Sampler. A lovely rectangular piece. I cut a piece of Silkweaver Shadowlands 36ct linen and started stitching [over two with one strand, correctly this time]. I got half way through the first large motif in the upper left corner before I was ready for bed. I took the linen out of the hoop and realized that I had oriented my stitching all wrong. The longest leg of the rectangle should be horizontal and I have been stitching as if it was vertical. More frogging in my future. I give up. I will not stitch for a few days ... not till my head clears.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Light Stitching Day

Worked till noon and then had to go back to work on a fund-raiser project at 5:30, so I didn't have a great deal of free time for stitching. I got a bit more done on Halloween Greetings ... enough to anticipate a finish tomorrow. I've decided to make it into a knitting bag for one of my sisters for Christmas, so I'll be leaving off the words and date and filling in the empty spaces with more sampler motifs, maybe two more crowns to complete a diagonal from lower left to upper right ... but maybe something else entirely ... I'll be consulting my reference on sampler symbolism to come up with something appropriate. I'll post a photo tomorrow, finished or not.

Friday, November 19, 2010

And, now, the photos

Since Friday is my day off, I was able to enjoy a lot of quality stitching time ... so the photos are a touch more impressive than they would have been had the camera battery been properly juiced last night. Things started at 6:30am, with a nice cup of tea, some chores [unloading the dishwasher and doing a load of laundry], followed by stitching. Then I alternated chores/errands and stitching/sewing for the remainder of the day. I suppose this is a small foretaste of retirement but I was informed yesterday that though I am fully vested, my employer will not start paying out my pension until I am 66 ... first the Social Security Administration and now the Archdiocese of NY. I have contributed to SS since I was 16 and got my first part-time job and my pension plan is the only benefit attached to my salary - since I use my husband's health plan. The Church has gotten a real bargain over the past 20 years and will for the next 6 years, apparently. In this economy, I am grateful to have a paycheck when so many do not but I can't help resenting the nasty trick fate is playing on me as I approach retirement age ... I feel like the proverbial and very weary donkey following the unattainable carrot on a stick. And to think, back in the 60s, the folks who put together the futuristic pavilions at the World's Fair in NY promised us a four day work week and earlier retirement ages ... was my generation ever sold a bill of goods! I routinely work a 50 hour work week, during peak times as much as 70 hours [no overtime pay since I am in Ministry]. Don't get me wrong, most days I love my work ... but as my body ages and my health wears down, I long for rest. I suppose once I do get to retire, though, I'll fill half the time with volunteer work because, tough as it may be to imagine now, too much rest will be boring.

But less whining and more stitching photos:

I spent some time today working on an ort jar I plan to use as a giveaway when I reach my 100th follower [I am currently at 93]. I had originally planned to fringe the top with orts but that didn't work for this particular lid ... For this first jar lid, I slip-stitched a lace ruffle to the edge and now I'm trying to decide how to conceal my stitching. Shall I use the pink and blue braided cord or shall I use a combination of the pink and blue pearl strands? And, because I have figured out a way to go with my original design idea using a standard mason jar lid, I'll be making a second ort jar. Maybe I'll give folks a choice on that giveaway: conventionally pretty or fun and funky. I hope to have both ort jars made before I ever post the actual giveaway. Unless a personalization is involved, I like to have everything ready to mail the day a winner is chosen ... just getting myself off to the post office can be the cause of lengthy delay ... I can't imagine adding the actual stitching into the mix.

Here is what Halloween Greetings looked like after today's stitching. Now, I love Crescent Colors floss so I am never averse to building my stash, especially in the colors used in this design which fit so very well into my preferred palette ... but, I can see where a more frugal stitcher would be rather annoyed to purchase two of the colors used in the pineapple portion of the design [Ye Olde Gold and Weeping Willow] only to discover that they need less than one/half length of two strands pulled from one bundle of six after buying a whole card ... that works out to a little less than 1/30th of the floss on the card. It seems to me that designers might consider some of the concerns of stitchers who can't afford or who don't have an available source for the often pricey and sometimes hard-to-find over-dyes. Personally, I love overdyes and am constantly adding to my stash whenever I see colors that I might use someday. I frequently convert from DMC to overdyes because I love the graduated tones and the added texture they give to my finished pieces. However, I realize that many stitchers don't share my preference and it seems that designers might be wise to take that into consideration. In this economy, many US stitchers are opting to purchase from designers who chart for DMC only or who include DMC conversions in their floss list. International stitchers who already have a hard time with inflated DMC prices must be even more inconvenienced by the high cost of overdyes, especially when used so sparingly in a design. Obviously, stitchers are always free to make their own conversions ... it's something I do all the time. But some, who lack the confidence to do so, simply stop buying the work of a particular designer. I would think this should concern designers when so many have already left the industry because the income doesn't justify the time, energy and effort invested.

And, finally, I finished another Town Square SAL piece, Cricket Collection's Clock Tower. I am guessing the town [or towns] that inspired the designers who participated in this project must be one of those Midwestern towns where loads of immigrants from Europe settled to farm and run shops. If one is to judge by this clock, it had to be a place filled with Europeans accustomed to seeing the work of skilled artisans and craftsmen in their public buildings: lots of colorful mosaics and brilliant stained glass and fanciful brick/stone work.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

WIP Progress - Such as it is

So far this week, all I have worked on is the Plum Street Sampler Halloween Greetings that was featured in the September JCS 2010 issue. This was charted for 36ct and I am stitching it on 32ct, so I understand that it is working up larger than the designer intended ... but even at 36ct, I would have considered it a very very large ornament. Add that to the fact that there is an awful lot of stitching involved [3 sheep, 1 house, 1 pineapple, 1 raven, 1 pumpkin, 1 crown and a healthy dose of words & numbers] and what you've really got is a small to medium sized pillow ... not an ornament, by any means. So far as I am concerned ornaments should be the quintessential smalls: roughly 3" square [adjust dimensions slightly for other shapes], simple but attractive designs, a fair amount of white space, quickly stitched, more in the fun & funky vein rather than mini-masterpieces. I realize there are some who go to the other extreme with their ornaments ... I am thinking about some of the elaborate Victoria Sampler ornament charts I have seen ... but I consider that way too much work for too little end product.

Since my version of this design will be anything but an ornament, I'll be leaving out the phrase "Halloween Greetings" at the top and substituting another raven [facing center] for the date. I believe I have some thin wale black corduroy in my fabric stash to turn this into the perfect knitting bag [sheep - wool] for my sister's Christmas gift.
Photos will have to wait till tomorrow while the camera battery recharges.