Saturday, April 30, 2011

April Goals Assessment

First, the photo of the Ort jar ... which needs pressing down a bit if it's going to last the year ... right after this photo is taken. Quite a lot of color this month since I have just been flying on Teresa Wentzler's Autumn Faerie. It also has a lot of autumnal colors from the Witches Stitch, Too! piece and even some spring-like colors from the Easter Rabbit and the PS Spring House, Autumn Barn and Winter House. All in all, a lot of stitching has been going on.


BAP: Continue work on TW's Autumn Faerie. Wentzler Wednesday has made quite a difference in the progress made on this piece. Finished Section II and made a healthy start on Section III.

Crazy January Challenge: Finish the Day 3 & 4 projects. Homespun Elegance's The Stitcher is done [that's Day 3] and Homespun Elegance's Witches Stitch, Too! [the Day 4 Project] is also done. I'll be skipping over the Day 5 piece for now. When I did the floss toss, the orange overdye Thread Gatherer's blend of wool and silk looked quite nice on the Mississippi Mud linen from Silkweaver. BUT it looks awful when stitched, it brings out a hidden military ambition in the fabric ... makes the stuff look like jungle camoflauge ... not something you see when you look at the fabric by itself. So until I have the time and patience to salvage this expensive material and floss by doing some very gentle frogging, I'll just move on down the list.

Sewing/Finishing: Get as close to the bottom of the finishing basket as possible. Laughter edging toward hysteria!

Surface Embroidery: work several hours a week on Encrusted Crazy Quilt Block See note above.

WIPs & UFOs from 2010: Continue work on Workbasket's Quaker Sampler, the Jacobean Elegance afghan, the Fertile Circles Needlebook and the Beach Find Pansies panel. Nothing on these.

Off-goal Stitching: Finished Martina's Easter Rabbit freebie and three PS promotional card minis: Fall barn, Winter and Spring houses.


BAP: Finish stitching and beading The Autumn Faerie

Crazy January Challenge: Day 6 project Barrick Samplar's The Gilded Cage and Day 8 project Blackbird Designs' A Bird in Hand. N.B.: The Day 7 project was finished the same day it was started. These are both medium to small sized projects and ought to be easy to complete within the month. Unfortunately, I discovered when I pulled the kitted up project bag from my CJC tote that The Gilded Cage still requires some back-ordered floss ... great gnashing of teeth ... this is the second time that has happened when I was ready to work a CJC project. So I may be moving on to the "smalls" section of my CJC list sooner than planned. I have three ornaments from the Town Square SAL on my list. At least, I'll have some quick finishes to add to my CJC sidebar.

Hooked on Exchanging: Stitch a PS Autumn piece and do the sewing finish on it in time for mailing by June 1.

Sewing Finishing: Get as close to the bottom of the finishing basket as possible.

Surface Embroidery: work several hours a week on Encrusted Crazy Quilt Block.

WIPs & UFOs from 2010: Continue work on Workbasket's Quaker Sampler, the Jacobean Elegance afghan, the Fertile Circles Needlebook and the Beach Find Pansies panel

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hooked on Exchanging

Well, I got my assignment and will be starting a Prairie Schooler Autumn project shortly but will be unable to post photos. The piece is from a leaflet that I have already stitched for myself. It will be lovely re-visiting the chart. I originally stitched it in the called for DMC ... but I am considering kitting it up in silks this time ... just for a little variety.

Since I can't post an exchange photo yet, I will post pictures of the lovely little PS promotional card pieces I have been stitching to "get in the mood" for the exchange. I hope to finish all these as floss tags and use them on the rings on which I store my Gentle Arts Sampler Threads. Unfortunately, though I had an Autumn Barn, a Winter House and a Spring House, I have nothing for Summer. I had wanted to make a complete set, all four seasons. At this point, I don't even know if Prairie Schooler published a Summer House of any kind in the promotional card series. I'll have to do a little research. If there is one, you can be sure I'll be telephoning all the needlework shops I have patronized in the past year to see if they have such a card. If any of you readers have such a card, please know that I would be happy to trade a $5 gc to 123stitch for it ... it would be worth that to me to be able to complete my set. So far the set has cost me nothing: I have stitched these pieces on scraps of linen with little bits and pieces of floss left over from other projects. I will have to purchase a Crop-a-dile, but I had planned to do that anyway. I already have a variety of rivets and the tools for setting them. Cardboard and interfacing are always available in abundance here. So, assembling these little beauties shouldn't be much of a problem.

I am wondering just what sort of trim I should use, though: hand twisted cord, ribbon or something from my stash of commercial trims. Prairie Schooler pieces are, by their very nature, plain [as in the Quaker sense of the word] and I wouldn't want to mar that esential simplicity with overpowering embellishments.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wentzler Wednesday is Back

After a week hiatus, the Faerie is back. But what with all the other activities on the agenda, I have to admit that the poor dear is just limping along. When last seen it looked like this.I only managed an hour or so on this project, stitching in the evening. Unfortunately, some of that hour was spent frogging and restitching that last little bit of scarf to the right. Poor counting resulted in it being stitched a full three rows higher than it ought to have been. I had seriously considered just leaving it that way and fudging over the area where it is supposed to meet the skirt. But I knew it would irk me everytime I saw it. And it is intended as a gift and gifts should represent our best efforts, oughtn't they? So all I managed to get done on Section III was a start on the leaf in the lower left corner and the back-stitching on the inner circular border. But I plan to work on it a bit more on Thursday and Friday. I'd really like to see a substantial amount of Section III done before May 1st and the entire project finished and beaded and ready for the framer by May 31st. The Queen of the unrealistic goals strikes yet again.

I did manage to finish the stitching on Martina's Easter Rabbit freebie. I have to admit all those tiny flowers in the border, with five color changes for each, got to be a bit of a drag toward the end. I plan to do the sewing finish tomorrow evening at which time I will post a photo. After going through my rather extensive sewing/quilting fabric stash, I decided on using a plain black cotton backing for the pin-pillow finish. I like this chart enough to revisit it, though, I believe I'll stitch just the central rabbit as a scissor fob next time out.

Day light was reserved for gardening and working on the front of the house ... with just a short trip to the hardware store to get all the supplies for working on the retaining wall in the backyard.

The weather here has been most strange: more West Coast than East Coast. We start off each morning with a pre-dawn drizzle, then a fog that burns off about mid-morning and finally, sunshine and somewhat humid low 70s. So, the weather isn't exactly cooperative. Yesterday, I purchased all the plants for the front planter box. I spent a very pleasant hour at the nursery with my new gardening guru, Tina, picking out plants that will work in a very sunny, warm space. They are all perennials and, while initially rather expensive, they will pay for themselves over the years as they return each May and June with lovely blooms. There is still enough space left to plop in a few annuals in mid-June for some July and August color. And the six mum plants I put in last year survived the horrid winter and will provide some color in September and October. I have several types of dianthus, some coreopsis, some lavender, some creeping phlox and some foilage plants. The main colors will be white and pink. It should all make a splendid showing through early summer. Here is a "before" photo of the general set up for the box. Since the vile contractors, who found every way to cut corners last year, used the back fill from excavating and leveling the area for our backyard patio to fill the planter box instead of the top soil as promised, I took delivery of five bags of top soil and 3 cubic feet of peat moss this morning. Next, it was a matter of emptying out at least half the poor soil and replacing it with decent soil that holds moisture. Then, and only then, could the planting begin. As I said, The weather isn't exactly cooperative. It has been unseasonably warm and humid, making physical exertion that much more taxing. It slowed me up a bit. Okay, to be honest, it slowed me up considerably. I console myself with the thought of how many calories I must have burned off. The word for the day was rehydrate. Tomorrow, I hope to finish setting in all the plants and spend some time raking all the dead leaves in the backyard and scrubbing the retaining wall so I can apply the concrete sealant before on Friday. With any kind of luck, I 'll have time to apply two coats of white paint as well before returning to work on May 2.

And, apropos of nothing, I must shake my head in mildly disgusted amazement at the gadget obsession that has overwhelmed this consumerist society in which we live. A housewares online shop that sends me e-mails sent me a real winner the other day, offering me a great bargain on ... get this ... a banana slicer. I can't imagine why anyone would want a gadget solely for slicing bananas cluttering up one's kitchen when everyone with a kitchen is quite likely to own a knife! Voila, bananas sliced quite neatly. Are we so obsessed with saving time that we must have a gadget that slices the entire banana in one operation. I mean, really, just how long does it take to slice a banana? Less time than it took to write this paragraph, I am sure!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Summer Reading , Anyone?

I am not entirely sure where Rachel, of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, got this particular very eclectic mix of classics and current popular fiction ... but I'll be adding a few titles of my own at the end of my post that I think are worth investigating over the summer.

Look at the list of (100) books below. Bold the ones you’ve read. Italicize the ones you want to read. Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in. (Movies don’t count.)

1.The Da Vinci Code(Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire(Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25 . Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)34 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (WallyLamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

It would seem that I have read 46 of the books on the list, some of them way back in the mists of time when I was still doing assigned reading during high school summers. I wish to read another nine from this list, six of which I already own. And, of course, I own Joyce's Ulysses which I have started to read numerous times sometimes lasting twenty whole pages before abandoning it, impatient with the whole stream of conciousness nonsense.

Now for my own list of books: I'll be adding to those nine another nine for my own summer reading:
1. Animal Farm [George Orwell] read so long ago that I haven't any real memory of it
2. Neverwhere [Neil Gaiman] started last summer but abandoned as work resumed.
3. Good Omens [Neil Gaiman] another unfinished book
4. Till We Have Faces [C.S. Lewis] another re-read, only vaguely remembered from decades ago 5. God Emperor of Dune [Frank Herbert] the installment I am up to in my re-reading of this series
6. The Mermaid Chair [Sue Monk Kidd] recommended by my mother
7. Blessed Are the Cheesemakers [Sarah-Kate Lynch] also recommended by my mother
8. Man and His Symbols [Carl Jung]
9. Memories, Dreams and Reflections [Carl Jung]

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Monday

One whole glorious week off. And I have such plans ... in fact, my plans far exceed the time I will have to accomplish them all. But that's okay since some are dependent on weather and some are alternative indoor projects if the gardening plans get rained out.

There will be visits to the nursery to get annuals for my planter box at the front of the house, new patio containers for the backyard patio, and more vegetables and herbs to fill the new and old patio containers, as well as a bit of manure and peat moss to enrich it all. I'll also be checking out their patio furniture department looking for a wrought iron bench to add to rather eclectic set of patio furniture. And a visit to the local hardware store to buy a steel brush, some concrete sealer and some outdoor paint [white] suitable for refreshing the ugly old concrete retaining wall.

And of course, before I can even start that project, I'll have to rake all the leaves that spent most of the winter buried under several feet of snow. I'll be storing all those leaves in a bin to make lovely leaf mold to add to the rock garden I plan on constructing in front of the retaining wall. Rockland County is well named and over the years I have dug up many many rocks while gardening in my very small garden. More rocks were uncovered when the patio was put in last summer ... the ground had to be excavated and leveled before the Belgian stone could be laid. So I have lots of rocks with which to work. I hope to make my rock garden a herbarium of sorts. I am currently researching the herbs I wish to grow, the types of soil they will require, etc.

Thre are some stitching plans as well: returning my attention to the neglected Autumn Faerie, finishing up the little Rabbit pin pillow whilst the Easter season is still upon us, and doing a bit of sewing finishing.

And housework ... oh, the mountains of housework I have been neglecting as work has demanded more and more of my time ... I'll even try to get a bit ahead of it since the next three weeks at work will be consumed with First Communions, Confirmation and 2011-12 registration.

And, on another topic entirely: reading in Mainely Stitching's blog today about geese will have me searching out my old VHS copy of Gary Cooper's Friendly Persuasion. Barbara's post brought flashback's of the scenes in that film of the younger son's private war with his mother's pet goose and of her own valiant defence of said goose from pillaging Rebel soldiers, her own Quaker pacifism notwithstanding.

Well, I am off to begin the day with a pot of tea, some English muffins toasted to perfection and some coddled eggs ... the right sort of breakfast with which to start my vacation week.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Weekend Progress Report: April 24, 2011

First off: Happy Easter to everyone. It will be a very quiet day here ... my eldest, Ange, is working as the emergency technician at the vetenarian clinic, my oldest son, Sean, lives with his family on the West Coast ... leaving my youngest son, Dan, my husband and myself. My husband opted for a restaurant dinner since both of us have put in rather hectic weeks at work. While I balked at the idea at first, I am quite grateful now. I am lector at the 9:30 Mass, which would have meant I would have had to do all the cleaning and dinner prep yesterday.

Over the past week:

And finished Homespun Elegance's Witches Stitch, Too. See yesterday's post for photo.

And stitched a PS promotional card piece for an upcoming Hooled on Exchanging deal, so no photo.

And I took a sneak peak at my next Crazy January Challenge piece, only to discover that I still don'y have all the floss. I know I ordered the Needlepoint Silks but they must be on back order still, just like the Crescent Colors I had ordered for Witches Stitch, Too! I was able to substitute some GAST for the Crescent Colors in that piece but I am reluctant to make substitutions for the Barrick's Sampler The Gilded Cage. I want this lovely little piece to have all the richness of color and texture of the model. So I guess it is back on the phone on Monday to check on the status of the orders. I have all the colors needed to work the border and can work on that till the rest of the silk arrives. It is irritating, though, that this is happening once again with a CJC piece.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Week Without A Wentzler Wednesday

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. And I am not entirely surprised that it did happen sooner rather than later. I bailed on my Wentzler BAP in favor of my Homespun Elegance Crazy January Challenge piece, Witches Stitch, Too! The appeal of my Crazy January Challenge is that all these projects were selected because they have been calling my name for a very long time ... they are all pieces that have fired my imagination for one reason or another.

I busily stitched on this piece Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, whenever the opportunity opened. It was just plain fun. The fact that there are so many small motifs offered me the instant gratification of getting a complete graphic every hour or so. I also changed things up a bit to make this pieces more of an homage to The Stitcher which I completed earlier this month. By eliminating the red-violet zig-zags and replacing them with buttons and a miniature skein of floss, I now have a very nice companion piece to the original. I love the antique rust colored button with the "braided" edge effect. I am thinking I may need to add one or two more small mother-of-pearl buttons in soft shades of taupe, rust or brown. There still seem to be a few empty spaces.

Granted I spent most of the week on the project above but somehow, Good Friday seemed to call for a less frivolous project ... so I started a Spring PS piece on spec ... I have finally joined Hooked on Exchanging and the first exchange I will be participating in is a PS season exchange. I have no clue what season I'll be assigned but I can always make this up for myself if I am assigned Summer, Fall or Winter. I won't be showing a photo since this may end up being part of an exchange but I will say I am pleased with the little piece. I'll also be stitching a Winter and Fall piece ... all three are charts from those PS promotional cards and are very similar in format. Now if I could just find a summer card, I could make a floss tag set for all four seasons.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Current Crazy January Challenge WIP

I worked on Witches Stitch, Too for today. It is finally beginning to take shape. It seemed to take forever to stitch the floor but the individual motifs are going quickly enough.

I am trying to keep to a disciplined rotation that balances my 2010 WIPs and UFOs with the 2011 Crazy January Challenge. With the exception of one off-list new start, Martina's Easter Bunny freebie, I have been quite faithful. Maybe by the end of 2011, I will not only have 15 Crazy January Challenges finished but will have whittled down the list of 2010 WIPs and UFOs, as well. I am hoping I have time to squeeze in a few new starts from my mis-named Current Projects binder. I have quite a few Quaker animal charts from Workbasket, quite a few dragon charts and at least half a dozen Autumn and Halloween charts in that binder. Then, there is the next Teresa Wentzler BAP in the pipeline. As soon as I finish the Autumn Faerie, I'd like to start The Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking.

I do believe I'll have to create my own self-imposed 2012 Crazy Challenge, using whatever UFOs are left in my basket as the base ... or maybe I should tackle my sewing finishes. Or, maybe, 2012 should be my Year of the Dragon since I have eight dragon charts that I am itching to stitch. I've got to get a grip ... I am not even half way through 2011 and I am planning for 2012! Stitching has gone from a passion to a compulsion, it would seem.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend Progress Report: April 17, 2011

I have been fairly disciplined about sticking to my Crazy January Challenge pieces and my 2010 WIPs and UFOs so far this year ... but I couldn't quite resist this charming little Easter project compliments of Martina: I did change the colorway to coral [instead of the charted pink] because I have had a large piece of Autumn Sunrise Silkweaver 28 ct linen in my stash for quite some time, a mystery selection from my FOTM subscription. I have never used sparkly fabric before [I always thought the stuff was just a bit tacky] but somehow this little design seemed to call for it. I'll finish it as a pin pillow ... or maybe I should call it a bean bag, since I plan to stuff it with ground walnut shells. I can see myself stitching this again on a plain 40ct Ivory linen in the original colorway and finishing as a scissor fob or Easter ornament. I love the delicacy of this charming little piece. And, oddly enough, I am liking the fabric on which I am stitching it more and more ... prompting me to find a larger project for it by Autumn. Maybe glitz and glam fabric isn't quite so tacky after all ... either that, or I am getting tacky in my dotage.

This last notion is a real possibility. I caught myself doing something recently that just smacks of a downscale nursing home. When I got home from running errands one day recently, I removed my sneakers [excuse me, walking/athletic shoes] but not my supersoft Buster Brown white cotton socks and then I changed into a long fleece lounger and sheepskin-lined suede slippers. White socks scrunched down about the ankles and tan slippers and a glorified house dress ... I'm still too young [albeit, just barely] to be doing things like that ... if my kids saw me, there'd be no end of teasing going on! And I don't even want to think of the acid comments one of my younger sisters would make! I doubt my husband even noticed but he tends to value comfort above style ... so even if he had noticed, he'd have thought nothing of it.

But back to stitching commentary. I am enjoying this fussy little stitch in which fractionals and confetti stitching abound - I wouldn't want anyone to look at the back - since I'll be lining this with a heavy muslin and then filling it with ground walnut shells no one will ever see the travelling threads tucked under existing stitching - I just didn't have the patience to start and end properly after only three stitches in a color, over and over - it's a casual seasonal piece, not an heirloom, after all. Even though I am now a card-carrying member of the august EGA, I prefer to keep a little perspective here!

I also managed to finish Section II of TW's Autumn Faerie in spite of the fact that I spent most of Friday shopping and preparing food for the First Communion Mini-Retreat and Saturday was spent in the ususal way with classes till 10:30am and then setting up the mini-retreat [in another building, with fewer amenities], then running the retreat and cleaning up after it. By the time I was done on Saturday, all I was in the mood for was a nap. I did get some productive stitching time in on this project on Wednesday and another hour on each day Thursday & Friday ... but it wasn't equal to the time I was able to devote these past two weeks. Still, progress is progress ... especially when you are talking about a project that languished untouched for the better part of a year and a half. I'll hold off on photos until I've got a bit of Section III completed next Wednesday.

Tomorrow, I'll be returning to work on my current Crazy January Challenge piece, Witches Stitch, Too from Homespun Elegance. What I am liking about this piece is that it echoes my last Homespun Elegance project, The Stitcher, both in layout and colorway ... but it uses current resources like over-dyed flosses ... marking the passage of time between the publication dates of the two leaflets. I'd love to emphasize the homage to the earlier piece: I am thinking of adding some Olde Brass buttons or some smaller Halloween charms hung from the points of the top border. Once I have the stitching finished, I'll lay out my buttons and charms and see if it works visually. Not all my bright ideas are necessarily good ideas ... so we shall see what we shall see.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Needlework Show

First, a small caveat: This will not be a comprehensive review. I simply haven't the patience or the inclination to go through every vendor's entry in this online show. Instead, I click on vendor's who are new to me or on vendor's who are long-time favorites to check out their new stuff. I am reporting on only those of greatest interest to me.

One new to me designer was Filigram. This quirky French designer's work has a really distinctive look ... definitely not run-of-the-mill stuff. There is one series that reminded me of the pictures we used to make with photosensitive paper in elementary school science class: A10, Like a Flower; A9, Gone With The Wind; and A8, With The Stream. These designs are not negatives like those old time science projects but the seemingly random placement of the design elements is what I found similar. Then there is another series, A11-16, in which farm animals are juxtaposed with academic concepts in an almost Orwellian fashion ... I'll have to reread Animal Farm to see if that is the inspiration for this series in which pig : molecular science :: frog : geometry of a circle :: owl : Greek alphabet :: goose : decimal notation. If you are looking for strictly cross-stitch projects, look elsewhere ... these pieces incorporate surface embroidery stitches with cross stitch. While not visually reminiscent of Monsterbubbles, it does resemble that MIA designer inasmuch as the design ideas are completely out-of-the-box. So that empty niche has been filled. One last note: the designer's website shows all these projects with French words [naturellement] but the Needlework Show has provided the same designs with the charted words in English.

Olde Colonial Designs had a doll that caught my fancy, Miss Caroline. The doll comes ready-made as part of the kit ... all you need to stitch is a 32ct linen pinafore style apron in a lovely Quaker design with alphabet. I am a sucker for Quaker designs and antique dolls/look-alike reproduction dolls.

The other item that was new to me was a stitcher's networking site, The Stitcher's Village. This site is worthy of a second look. Although it is clearly primarily a shopping venue, there are amenities like classes, reference libraries, galleries, tutorials, chat rooms and message boards.

But for the most part, it was much as usual: lots of geometrics, a plethora of samplers, and the usual mob of the terminally cute.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wentzler Wednesday Redux

This dedicated Wentzler Wednesday notion is really working. It has converted a UFO that was a weight on my conscience to a piece I look forward to stitching on regularly. Finally, I am making rapid progress and I am nearly done with Section II, just a bit of the skirt and hand to do. Hey, this may actually be a Christmas present for Ange in 2011. That would make it a mere two years later than planned but who's counting? I may have to follow this up with a Thea Thursday so I can finish up a set of class pieces from Thea Ducek Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway ... can that really have been four years ago this coming October???

What is it about stitchers and stitching that produces baskets filled with half-finished projects? I know there are a few very disciplined folk out there who stitch one project at a time, get their projects to the framer or produce a sewing finish within mere weeks of the cross-stitch finish. Such folk are atypical, though, if the blogs and boards I read are any indication of what really goes on! I wonder what prompts so many of us to invest so much time and energy in projects only to abandon them midway or, worse yet, do nothing with the finished piece!

Any theories, readers?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Come On Down ...

We are doing this a day later than usual since the Weekend Progress Report fell on 4/10/11. Besides, I posted the giveaway a day late so why not post the winner a day late as well! Anyway, using the on-line Research Randomizer, the winner of the April Giveaway is #1, Beanstitcher aka Linda, who chose the prize behind door #1 . No need to contact Linda for a snail mail address since she is already a long-time cyber stitching buddy who organized both a round robin and an ornament exchange in which I participated. There's even a chance I'll get the package to the post office within the week, but my track record hasn't been all that great these past two months. I barely got the March giveaway mailed before selecting the winner of the April giveaway.

I find it very interesting what people select and why they do so. The break down of the various contestants went like this

Door # 1 chosen by five, mostly because of the Workbasket Quaker Santa chart

Door #2 chosen by three, who liked the fabric and the fact that it is a small project

Door #3 chosen by two who clearly like to do their own finishing, one of whom was an Australian who noted that themed fabric is hard to come by Down Under. Note to self: Everytime I am tempted to rail against the ultra-materialistic consumerism rampant in the USA, I shall remind myself that one small side benefit of this sad and sorry philosophy is the wide variety of goods and products I tend to take for granted. It might be wise to be careful what I wish for! A simpler life would definitely have fewer purchasing choices. Perhaps I am not as spiritually grounded as I think I am. Something to think about in the wee small hours of the night!

Weekend Progress Report: 4/10/11

Monday was devoted to my Crazy January Challenge Day 3 project: Homespun Elegance's The Stitcher. I got most of the alphabet and motifs stitched, leaving only the letters and motifs on the far right of the central box to stitch today, bringing things full circle for the week. Instead of the recommended all-the same mother of pearl buttons [to be purchased from Homespun Elegance] I used a variety of mother-of-pearl buttons from my stash ... different sizes and dfferent shapes ... I really like the effect. If you click to enlarge the photo, you will be able to see the variety more clearly ... some of the buttons have carved designs and others have shallowly etched designs. I think they add a lot of texture to the finished piece. Most of these buttons were purchased from Farm Fabrics, a great source for vintage buttons and trim. I did purchase the small scissor charm since I had nothing of the sort in my stash. That makes one more finish for my Crazy January Challenge projects.

And this was another week when I spent most of my stitching time on TWs Autumn Faerie: stitching on it exclusively Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. [See photos on the last few posts.] I even put in a bit of time on it Saturday morning working on a leaf or two and some more back-stitching ...

... but then I switched over to beading The Ice Dragon's Kingdom since my order of Mill House beads and Kreinik VFB arrived from 123stitch in the Saturday afternoon mail. Of course, I was all set to kick myself from here to there since I hadn't read the fine print on the DD chart ... I should have ordered two packages of the necessary beads instead of one. Happily, the chart was wrong, not only was one package enough ... I had about a quarter of a package leftover. I always enjoy the gentle rhythm of beading, I find it very relaxing. And the color of this particular bead was just lovely - the photo doesn't do it justice: an icy blue with a crystal sparkle about the edges. Perfect for this piece. Incidentally, the very slender Bohin #28 Tapestry needles are fine enough to make excellent beading needles. And it is very nice indeed to have a second Crazy January Challenge project finish in one day.

Just to round out the evening, I picked up my Day 4 January Challenge piece: Homespun Elegance's Witches Stitch, Too. I can't say I got very far, just a few more rows in the flooring ... but progress, even minimal progress, is still progress. But it is too soon for a photo ... maybe later this week.

It's still early enough in the month that I am not unduly worried about the rest of my monthly goals: the encrusted crazy quilt square, Workbasket's Quaker Sampler, the Jacobean Elegance afghan and two UFOs of my own design, the Fertile Circles needlebook and the Beach Find Pansies panel. There's still plenty of time left to attend to them especially since I have a 10 day Easter break coming up soon. Who knows ... I may even catch up to my self-imposed goal of a motif and two letters a month on the Quaker Sampler and a block a month on the afghan [met those goals for January only], as well as mastering the boullion stitch for the crazy quilt and finishing up my two UFOs [haven't even worked on these goals so far this year]. It is also my hope to finish Homespun Elegance's Witches Stitch, Too. That would make three Crazy Kanuary Challenge finishes in one month.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Puttering about on Friday

I love Fridays ... especially when I don't have loads of errands to run. It's a relaxing day just made for puttering about: 20 minutes spent vacuuming, 30 minutes spent stitching, 30 minutes emptying/reloading the dishwasher and sweeping the kitchen floor, 30 minutes spent stitching, and so on throughout the day. Catching up on household chores at my own pace. It's a quiet day. I am home alone and can listen to music or not, put in a DVD or not. Sunday is a different sort of day off: one shared with my husband, companionably watching DVDs with him or reading together or whatever. Both kinds of days are enjoyable, each in their own way. But today I can be selfish, consulting only my own wishes. I can have lunch at 11am or 2pm or not at all, whenever I feel like fixing it, whenever I am hungry. In short, I can do whatever I please without worrying about someone else's needs or wants. Is it any wonder I enjoy my Fridays so very much?

I started my stitching today by continuing to work on TW's Autumn Faerie, finishing the apple and starting on the three leaves in Section II. As noted yesterday, picking one day a week to devote exclusively to my BAP has already produced satisfying progress. I find I am more inclined to continue with the piece after the designated Wednesday, at least until I finish one more element of the design, before putting it away till the next Wednesday. Anyway after taking nearly two years to complete the border and Section I, I feel like I am positively flying through Section II ... I figure just one more Wentzler Wednesday should see its completion, since there are only the leaves, a bit of skirt and some back-stitching to attend to.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wentzler Wednesday

When I decided last week that I ought to dedicate at least one day a week to my Autumn Faerie BAP, I clearly chose the wrong day ... a TW Tuesday just isn't going to cut it since my Tuesday workday is 12 hours long, leaving very little time for stitching. Adjustments need to be made and since Wednesday is a normal 8 hour workday, that shall be my new BAP day. But of course, life threw me a curve on my first Wentzler Wednesday. I overslept and didn't have time to get in my usual one hour of stitching before breakfast. Then, the workday was hectic and I didn't manage to get in my usual 1/2 hour of stitching at lunchtime. The only stitching time I had was after work, so the progress is not nearly as impressive as I had hoped. So I decided to extend my Wentzler Wednesday into Thursday. The before photo is from last week and shows the whole piece. The after photo shows just Section II since I didn't bother to remove the piece from the hoop and iron it for a photo ... after all, I'll continue stitching on my Faerie throughout the day. So far, the idea of dedicating at least one day of stitching to this two year old BAP is working well ... seeing tangible progress has rekindled my enthusiasm for the piece, prompting me to keep it in my rotation longer each week. For those who don't understand my delight with what may appear to be rather slow progress ... let me point out that in the small bit of the apple that I have stitched to the right of the smaller wing ... well, there are thirteen time-consuming color changes in that tiny bit of stitching. All the typical TW blended needles and fractional stitching eat up stitching time as well. But the result is well worth it ... her pieces are so lovely when complete. Taking a bit of a break from all the color changes, I back-stitched the smaller wing and the hair. I like to do the back-stitching as I go along for two reasons. I enjoy the instant gratification of seeing the piece come alive as I go along ... it keeps the stitching morale high. And, frankly, I don't think I could face doing all of it at one time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April's Giveaway

I believe this is the first time I have missed posting a giveaway on the fourth of the month, but I was simply too tired last night to do anything more strenuous than collapse on the couch when I got home from work a little after nine. I didn't dare risk doing the bit of stitching needed for the photo illustrating the Easter kit giveaway option ... too great a risk of mistakes and consequent frogging. But maybe the novelty of multiple options will make up for my tardiness.

I have decided to give this month's winner several options from which to choose. There will still only be one winner but that winner may choose what is behind Door #1, Door #2 or Door #3.

Door #1: A Gently Used Chart Package: Some gently used Christmas charts that I have recently stitched: Sue Hillis' Cookie Santa, Workbasket's Quaker Santa and Snowman, Stoney Creek's Winter - Poinsettia & Holly. The last is a tea towel chart.

Door #2: A kit to stitch this free chart. I am providing the link because copyright law prevents me from sharing the chart. The photograph is of my own version ... still a WIP ... but it gives you some idea of the fabric and my colorway. I don't know why the photo looks wavy at this size ... when you click on it to enlarge, it is quite clear and you can get a better view of the sparkly fabric. When I saw this little darling, I knew I had to stitch it on some Autumn Sunrise 28ct Silkweaver linen I had from my FOTM subscription, switching out the colors from pink [which is not my favorite] to coral which works better with the fabric. Now I don't normally go in for the sparkly fabrics but this piece came as a mystery selection and, until now, I have had little use for it. I'll cut an extra piece for this little kit and provide the needed DMC in the coral colorway. I'll even throw in one of those Bohin needles everyone is talking about lately. [By the way, they live up to their rep ... stitching with a Bohin is very smooth ... they are delicate little things, almost weightless in your hand.] All you'll have to do is go to the link and print out the chart. One caveat: this chart has a lot of fractional stitching and loads of not-quite-confetti stitching and requires some very careful counting. In short, it is a fussy little piece but the finished project is just gorgeous and well worth the bother.

Door #3: A third of a yard of St. Patrick's Day fabric to use in next year's finishing. I bought this fabric a few years ago from an on-line source. A bit of a mistake really since I couldn't gauge the scale of the design from the photo. For your benefit I am correcting that by photographing the fabric with a 6" ruler. Since most of my St. Patrick's Day finishes are ornaments, the print is too large for my purposes. But it would probably work quite nicely on cube or wall hanging or pillow finishes.

Well, that should give you all something to mull over. I am very curious as to what will be the most popular sekection. So, to quote the inimitable Monte Hall, "Come on down!" and in your comment, please mention which giveaway piques your fancy.

If you wish to enter your name for this giveaway, the following 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

Good luck to all who enter.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weekend Progress Report: April 3, 2011

This has been a somewhat easier week than the past four. Things are settling down to a more normal pace, thank the Lord. As a result, I did get in a bit more stitching than I have been able to manage in the past little while.

But before I get to the stitching I would like to announce the winner of my little stitching limerick challenge: And here is the winning limerick, so clever and witty that my husband preferred it even above my own [which, of course, was not entered in the competition].

There once was a stitcher named Rita

Who drank a strong margarita

Then she put on her blog

What she did to the frog

And now she's a target of PETA

by Rita E in AZ

I have to confess, that this was my favorite entry as well. I'll be notifying her on Monday morning and asking the folks at 123stitch to forward her the gc asap. I want to thank all who participated in my little limerick challenge ... I found it all very amusing ... we stitchers are very clever, creative and inventive folk. Would it be too over the top to pump my fist in the air several times chanting, "Stitchers rule!"?

Crazy January Challenge Projects:

Day 3: Homespun Elegance's The Stitcher is progressing nicely. I worked on this piece on and off throughout the day and have more than half the sampler motifs completed ... just another 18 letters and numbers and motifs to go, then the verse in the central box and adding the embellishments of scissor charm and mother-of-pearl buttons. I imagine this will be finished before the next weekend progress report.

2010 WIPs and UFOs

BAP: TW's The Autumn Faerie: This was my primary focus most of the week [Tuesday - Saturday] and it shows ... see yesterday's post for photos.

Changes in the Wind

I don't know if I can call myself a rotation stitcher any longer. I used to be the sort of stitcher who always had 5-6 projects in the stitching bag. In a sense, I have actually gotten worse with 12 of my Crazy January Challenge pieces to complete and 4 projects from 2010 still in the current stitching bags.

But things have changed ... very probably precisely as a result of my choices for the Crazy January Challenge projects ... most are largish projects with two honest to goodness BAPs in the mix as well. All are projects I have been itching to stitch with the result that I seem to have become a one-at-a-time sort of stitcher instead of the wildly fickle needlewoman I used to be. I need to see substantial progress on these dearly loved pieces and once I pick them up they are very hard to put down. There was a time, not so long ago, when I would stitch on three different projects in a single day. Now, I find myself remaining with one project for days at a time.

Point in case: since Tuesday, I have stitched on Teresa Wentzler's Autumn Faerie exclusively and have made very satisfactory progress as a result. And earlier this month, Dragon Dream's The Ice Dragon's Kingdom held my attention very nearly to the exclusion of all else. To illustrate my point, here are two photos of the Autumn Faerie: one taken Tuesday evening and one taken Saturday evening. I have finally finished Section I in it's entirety and moved on to Section II, which is already partially complete because I always stitch the borders first on a TW piece and because, when I was stitching the tendrils of the faerie's hair in Section I, I continued right into Section II to keep my counting accurate and to use all those blended needles of thread most efficiently. Then, too, there's much more white space in Section II than in Section I, so it is reasonable to hope that I'll be able to finish the section by the end of the month ... even with some CJC and other 2010 WIP & UFO stitching going on.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March in Review/April Goals

First, a photo of the Ort Jar, with its top layer reflecting what I have done this month: a bit of a muddy melange this month with its icy winter colors from the dragon and the autumnal colors from the faerie and the neutral tones of the stitcher. Stitching has been less of a focus this month: professionally, there has been quite a bit more going on than usual and recreationally, I have been reading more than stitching in a reversal of recent month's practice. What stitching I managed was done primarily on my Crazy January Challenge. I also have been prey to fatigue, almost to the point of exhaustion. I am so looking forward to the Easter break ... maybe I can regain my equilibrium. It is sad, though, to find myself wishing away the intervening days ... at my age, one should really make every effort to savor each and every moment.


BAP: Continue work on TW's Autumn Faerie Some small progress has been made.

Crazy January Challenge: Complete Dragon Dream's The Ice Dragon's Kingdom [Day 2 Project] and Homespun Elegance's The Stitcher [Day 3 project] The Ice Dragon's Kingdom is done but for the beading, I am just waiting for those to arrive from 123stitch. And considerable progress has been made on The Stitcher, I forsee an early April finish.

Sewing/Finishing: Get three finishes done. NO.

Surface Embroidery: master the boullion stitch Well, I did order and receive the milliner's needles that are recommended for use in this stitch ... does that count?

WIPs & UFOs of 2010: Continue work on Workbasket's Quaker Sampler, the Jacobean Elegance afghan, the Fertile Circles Needlebook and the Beach Find Pansies panel. NO.


BAP: Continue to work on The Autumn Faerie.

Crazy January Challenge: Complete Homespun Elegance's The Stitcher and Witches Stitch, Too.

Sewing/Finishing: Try and complete four projects, to catch up to the annual goal of one a month

Surface Embroidery: Now that I have the recommended milliner's needles, there's no further excuse to avoid practicing the boullion stitch.

WIPs & UFOs of 2010: Catching up to current goals would require stitching three motifs and 6 letters on the Workbasket Quaker Sampler, three motifs on the Jacobean Elegance afghan, finishing the back of the Fertile Circles needlebook and adding the serpent to the front before assembling it and completing at least one bloom on the Beach Find Pansies panel. That's rather ambitious even for me, queen of the unrealistically optimistic goals, so I shall just settle for making some progress on each project.