Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Goals

The goals for 2014:

  • 01. My Own Crazy Challenge: work on unfinished class pieces from 2005-date.
  • 02. Complete two BAPs:  Finish The Woodland Maiden Stocking for Piper and start on a similar stocking for Rocco.
  • 03. Continue to work on paring down the list of UFO/WIPs going into 2014.  
  • 04. Stitch a few more Heart ornaments for the Anniversary-Valentine's Day tree.  This has been on the goals list for three years already.  Maybe this will be the year I actually manage it.
  • 05. Stitch one ornament a month from the 2006 Indy Town Square SAL.
  • 06. Limit stash purchases to fabric, fiber and tools needed to complete charts on hand.
  • 07. Continue to blog regularly, aiming for every other day.
  • 08. Make an effort to catch up on sewing and framing finishes.  Have two or three pieces professionally framed.
  • 09. Inventory and declutter existing stash.
  • 10. Change EGA membership to cyber-stitcher.
       The goals have remained pretty much the same for the last several years.  I have slowly been whittling   away at my stash but still have more than I am likely to stitch in my lifetime.   I do want to complete a few special projects this year: the remaining stockings for my grandchildren and the Town Square SAL ornaments.    And then, maybe in 2015, I can stitch all my remaining dragon charts for my own Year of the Dragon.  Or I could gather up all my Quaker animals and stitch all the squares for the planned quilt.  So many charts were bought with such grandiose plans for their use ... and age is creeping up on me.  I do hate waste and I would love to be down to just a few charts when my eyes and hands finally fail me!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Finishes


I seem to be slowing down dramatically.  Back in my 30s, 40s and even into my 50s, I used to complete 60 or more projects a year.  Granted, many of them were ornaments or small to moderate sized pieces but, still, I did enjoy racking up the numbers.  

Of course, back then I was younger and more energetic.  From my 30s into my early 40s, I was a stay at home Mom; after that I worked part time as a substitute teacher and a specials teacher [art and library skills], usually only 2-3 days a week.  There was more leisure time.  Now in my 60s, I work full-time and housekeeping seems to take longer and longer.  There is less energy for the things that need to be done and, consequently, less leisure time.

Another change is that I have been working on finishing up old WIPs and class projects, most of which are time-consuming BAPs.  So it should come as no surprise that my completed projects tally for 2013 is a paltry 14.  Here's the breakdown: 

BAPs:
1.   T. Wentzler's Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking.  I picked this up in July with just 7 or 8 square inches of the final 90  square inches completed.  It took till November to complete, most of that time  was spent stitching on the stocking exclusively.

Moderate Sized Projects:
1.  Cedar Hills' The Berry Patch Rabbit.  This was one of those "had to stitch it" pieces.  Though this is only my second Cedar Hills piece, I must say I like this designer's style.

Smalls:
1.   Primitive Needle's By the Light of the Moon.
2.   Band Sampler Bookmark, of my own design.

Ornaments:
1.  Town Square SAL The Honey Shop.
2.  Town Square SAL The Frame Shop.
3.  Not Forgotten Farms' Rotted But Not Forgotted
4.  Peggy Bowe's Columbus Day Ornament
5.  Plum Street Samplers' Happy Halloween
6.  Town Square SAL The Fiber Shop
7.  Monsterbubbles Day of the Dead Halloween ornament
8.  Prairie Schooler Boo! Halloween ornament
9.  Halloween Sampler, adapted from Plum St. Sampler freebie.
10. Town Square SAL The Cross Stitch Shop.

ALMOST only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades ... but not in stitching.
The English Band Sampler.  I started this in Spring 2012 after receiving the first part of the chart in the Spring issue of SANQ and finished the first four bands in 2012.  Then I let it lay fallow till late November of 2013.  I ended up finishing Band 5 and starting on Band 6 during the Christmas recess.  This will be my first finish of 2014.  At the rate I am going, it will be in late January or early February.

I am hoping that 2014 will be a bit more productive but since I still have fairly extensive lists of WIPs  and UFOs  [8] and Class Projects [also 8], I suspect the numbers of 2014 finishes will remain in the mid-teens.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Assessing 2013 Goals

These were my goals for this past year:
  • 01. My Own Crazy Challenge: work on unfinished class pieces from 2005-date.  Well, I did work on the Mystic Pocket from Thea Dueck.
  • 02. Complete two BAPs: TW's Woodland Angel Stocking for Liam and The Woodland Maiden Stocking for Piper.  Finished Liam's stocking and kitted up Piper's.
  • 03. Limit new starts to one for every two UFO/WIPs completed.   I made ten new starts, eight of which were ornaments, because the strain of working on just "old" projects got to me.  Otherwise I worked on Class projects and UFOs almost exclusively.  But since those were mostly BAPs, I didn't exactly rack up the numbers.
  • 04. Stitch a few more Heart ornaments for the Anniversary-Valentine's Day tree.  I never did get to this.
  • 05. Stitch one ornament a month from the 2006 Indy Town Square SAL.  I didn't manage twelve but I did stitch five: a paltry number, I know, but still better than none.
  • 06. Limit stash purchases to fabric, fiber and tools needed to complete charts on hand.  Okay, sue me.  I bought two needlepoint charts and four cross stitch chart.    My husband also bought three more charts as a gift.  So, I guess I blew that goal out of the water this year.
  • 07. Continue to blog regularly, aiming for every other day.  There was a huge gap in May and June when I did next to no stitching or blogging.  Even so, the number of posts is actually only ten posts shy of  half of 365.
  • 08. Make an effort to catch up on sewing and framing finishes.  Twenty three sewing finishes but I have yet to find a framer to replace my go-to guy who retired after his wife and business partner died.
  • 09. Inventory and declutter existing stash.  I have been working on this, a little at a time.  I have weeded out all the charts I have already stitched and will never stitch again.  I have given them away.  I have also severely reduced my binder of printed out freebies to those few I really will stitch or, having already stitched, am likely to stitch again as gifts or exchanges.
  • 10. Change EGA membership to cyber-stitcher.  I'll do this when my membership comes up for renewal.


      Not exactly a stellar year for goals achievement, but I do tend to over reach.  Only five of the ten goals accomplished.  But there was some slow but steady progress on a number of projects.  So, when all is said and done, I am pleased with this year's stitching.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Stash Accounting

Every year since 2010, I have done an accounting of the money I have spent on stitching.  This year will be no different.

2013 Expenditures:
On Charts:    $  95.43 
On Fibers:    $ 174.44
On Fabrics:   $ 0.00
On Embellishments [Beads, buttons]:  $ 14.83
On Tools and Accessories:  $ 25.75
On Framing: $0.00
On Books, Magazines and Subscriptions:  $ 40.00
On Classes and Retreats:  $ 495  [Stitcher's Hideaway Mystic I]
Shipping/Handling/Insurance  $ 14.34
Memberships in stitching organizations: $ 60.00
Total   $  779.79


As in the past few years, my biggest expense has been the Stitcher's Hideaway, an annual treat that I would be loathe to give up.  For the most part I have been stitching from stash with a minimum of new purchases.  The amount spent on charts came as a surprise to me as I tallied it up.  One third of the amount [$31.47, to be precise] was spent by my husband who bought the charts as an anniversary gift but the rest is squarely on my head.  It's more than I have spent on charts in several years.  And I thought I was being so good.  Then I did splurge on some Glorianna silks.  I couldn't resist the 50% discount at Chris' Collection Closeout sale and spent $145.00 on the silks alone.  I wish Chris the best in her retirement.  

The figure of $779.79 divided by 365 days in a year works out to $2.13 a day.  Most people spend more than that on coffee or other minor vices,  So I don't feel all that guilty though I do think I shall try to be a bit more frugal in 2014.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Putting Up my Tree

I put up my Christmas decor, such as it is, on Christmas Eve and take it down on the Feast of the Epiphany.  I have three trunks filled with Christmas tree ornaments, Christmas figurines and framed stitching, Christmas linens, candle holders, creche sets, etc.  But as I get older, I find I use very little of it.  Less has become more.

This year I am just putting up my hall tree with stitched ornaments and a small live potted tree in the living room.

Here are a few shots of the minimalist Christmas here.






A small creche figurine on the hall table and a wreath on the door complete the decorations this year.  In a few years, I'll be retired and have the time to do more.  I have a nice collection of framed Sue Hillis Santas that I usually put up along the tops of my book cases along with my collection of ceramic Santas.  And one trunk is filled with 40 years worth of ornaments.  When I am retired, I hope to put a big tree in the living room and a small one in every other room.

I suspect that sometime next summer I shall have a sort of Christmas in July 2014 celebration, when I shall sort through all the decorations and make decisions about what I shall keep and what I shall offer to my grown children and what I shall offer to the consignment shop.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Further Progress

It feels good to be making progress on this floral motif band.  Not good in the sense of enjoying the activity, though.  Rather good in the sense of nearly being done with a distasteful chore that is a necessary prelude to a more enjoyable activity.  Though, I will admit that these motifs are a little less irritating the second time around.  Perhaps familiarity  breeds comfort rather than contempt.  And they do seem to stitch up more quickly the second time around as well.  As a whole, this sampler is really an interesting and enjoyable step outside my comfort zone: a lot of very bright colors, a surprising juxtaposition of unrelated motifs, a more British than American design aesthetic.

Just to give you some perspective, this is what the band looked like in my December 2nd Progress photo.

And here is where I stand after three weeks stitching solely on this project.  It was pretty slow going, with a fair amount of frogging at first.  But things sped up a bit once I got accustomed to the motifs.  I was surprised by the change in color on the star motifs on the right: everything else in the band is quite symmetrical.  I just need to complete the bottom points on the stars and then do all the back stitching and this band will be history.  But for now I'll be putting this aside till Christmas night.  I still have lots of last minute stuff to do for the holiday.  I won't have time to stitch till my guests for afternoon tea go home on Christmas Day.  So don't expect any more progress photos till 12/26.

Since I am on Christmas recess from December 23 through January 3, I am hopeful that there will be enough stitching time to complete The English Band Sampler by Dec. 31st, thereby meeting my 2013 goal of finishing two BAPs in the year.  If not, at least it will serve as a BAP finish early in 2014.


Friday, December 20, 2013

How Many Different Ways Can I Say...

I am still stitching on Band 6 of The English Band Sampler.  This fussy band is made fussier still by the need to mirror exactly those small counting errors made on the left side of the band.  There was absolutely no way I was going to do extensive frogging when a little attention to maintaining symmetry would do the trick.  And, no, I am not going to tell you where I made the errors.  The sharp eyed among you have probably already found the mistakes.

So, this is what things looked like when last seen.
Current Progress
As you can see, my progress is painfully slow.  A vicious cycle has set in.  My dislike of this band has decreased my motivation to spend large chunks of my time on it, which in turn stretches the process out, which in turn increases my aversion, etc.  I haven't lost my enthusiasm for the whole design, just for this band.  And this band seems to be never-ending.  At least I have managed to complete the border and divider on the right side of the band and have stitched the floral motifs.  The star motifs are yet to be stitched.

I estimate that it will take me six or seven more hours to finish this band and move on to a more interesting one.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Okay, I want My Christmas Traditions Back and I want Them NOW!!!

I have avoided engaging in the Christmas Wars.  Even though working for the Catholic Church would seem to put me on the front lines.

It really doesn't matter to me whether a person says Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings or Merry Christmas.

I don't flaunt bumper stickers, T-shirts or lapel pins with messages like Keep Christ in Christmas, Jesus is the Reason for the Season or It's okay to wish me a Merry Christmas.

I ignore the silly "Christmas" songs on the radio.  You know the sort:  Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Yingle Bells, Hairy Christmas and such.  I hum Christmas Carols to myself.

The town hall lawn can be adorned by menorah's, creches, Kwanza candles till it looks like Disney World for all I care.  

I avoid malls, outlets and shops from November through January.  I blithely delete all the e-mails offering me one last chance for free shipping before Christmas.  I have no clue what the latest must-have toy or electronic gadget is.  If other people want to get all involved in that consumerism schtick ... hey, more power to them.

I may be a devout Roman Catholic but I have always lived in very diverse communities and I don't expect the world to revolve around my belief system.

BUT DON'T MESS WITH MY CHRISTMAS FOOD!

Not one single local grocery has had a stollen or a fruitcake for sale. And, yes, I have been making the rounds since Thanksgiving.  I finally had to break down and order a 2lb fruit cake from Harry & David for $29.95 plus shipping and handling.  Still can't find a stollen.  I'll be surfing the Internet to find the nearest German bakery tonight.  If I have to go into the city [NYC] just to find a stollen, I am going to be one cranky elf.

And do you know how hard it is to find old-fashioned candy canes in red and white stripes flavored with peppermint?  Oh, there's french vanilla, spearmint, cherry, cherry vanilla, root beer and eggnog flavor.  For all I know, there's  even spinach and tripe flavor.  And the colors: rainbow, green and white, blue and white [for the Channukah trade?!?], brown and white, cream and green, etc.

And marzipan.  I need this to make pignoli cookies.  Has it suddenly ceased to exist?

Come to think of it, I haven't seen any chestnuts in the produce sections of the supermarkets, either.  Peanuts roasting over an open fire just doesn't have the same cachet!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another Stitching Meme


I found these questions on Stitch Bitch's blog and thought it might be fun to answer them myself.

1)   Which fabric do you most prefer? 36 ct and 40 ct linen, though if a design is charted for 28 or 32 ct, I will work with it 
2)   What is your favorite fabric count? It depends on the design and on my end game!  I have been known to stitch something designed for 28ct on 40 ct if I want to reduce the size dramatically ... and vice versa.
3)   What color fabric do you most enjoy stitching on? Mostly neutrals for samplers but I stitch a lot of fantasy charts that tend to look better against an over dyed green [suggesting forests] or an over dyed grey [suggesting a winter sky] or an over dyed blue [suggesting skies].  And I do like the dramatic punch that comes from stitching on black linen but the design has to be right.
4)   What is your favorite fiber? I love silk for most stitching but I admit to loving all the glitzy specialty fibers as well when working on ornaments.  Wools and wool blends for needlepoint, over dyed cottons for a lot of my cross stitch projects.  It really depends on what I am working on.
5)   How many of the 450 DMC Colors do you own?   All but the newest releases from this past Fall.
6)   Of your last five projects—how many used DMC/Anchor as the main floss? One.
7)   Of the last five projects, if you didn’t use DMC/Anchor—what did you use? Over dyed cotton floss from GAST, Week's Dye Works and Crescent Colors.
8)   What needles do you prefer? 28 Bohin and 28 Piecemaker tapestry needles since they are both slim enough to serve as beading needles for petite seed beads.  I like John James 28 petites for the same reason.
9)   What is the UGLIEST design you’ve encountered? I can't be bothered remembering such things.
10) What is the most BEAUTIFUL design you’ve encountered? I have stitched many Teresa Wentzler designs and would be hard put to decide which was the most beautiful.  I have also stitched a Sweetheart Tree Christmas Sampler, Holly and Hearts, that I thought quite lovely.  And then I have seen some gorgeous work at the Show & Tell sesions of retreats and on blogs that I read.  Impossible to pick just one.  And anyway, why would I ever stitch something I didn't think beautiful or clever or appealing in some way.
11) Who is your favourite designer?  Depending on my mood, Teresa Wentzler,  Prairie Schooler, Victoria Sampler, Primitive Needle, Sue Hillis, Cedar Hills, Dragon Dreams and at least half a dozen others.
12) Least favourite designer? Anything saccharine sweet or involving teddy bears, Precious Moments, cartoons, or self-conscious cuteness, etc.  But specific designers:  Brooks Designs, Lizzie Kate and their ilk
13) Will you/would you support a designer whose personal beliefs offended/angered you? Personally, I am not offended or angered by the sincerely held belief systems of others, except in extreme cases like hate groups such as Neo-Nazis or White Supremacists or the Westboro folks.  I tend to be a live and let live sort.  For that matter, I can't say I have a clue about the belief systems of any designers whose work I stitch.
14) Do you have a lamp especially made for needleworkers/crafters? Yes, I have a Brite Lite.
15) What brand of stitching lamp do you have/prefer? It's not so much the brand as the lamp.  I miss my old table top Ott with magnifier and lamp in one.  I will have to replace it as my Brite Lite is too much of a light weight, always tipping over at the slightest tap.  Ultimately, I'd like to get a Dazor floor lamp with magnifier.
16) What kind of environment best suits you when you are stitching? I like my straight back wooden chair with cushions supporting my spine. It is set up next to my book case and with a small table in my living room.  I generally watch DVDs while stitching.
17) Have you stitched any design more than once? Yes, a few ornaments or smalls for exchanges.
18) Favourite design you have stitched and finished?  This is a tough one: some of my samplers or one of my dragons or faeries.  I don't have an answer, off the top of my head ... so, I guess that means I don't have a favorite.
19) Least favourite design you’ve stitched and finished? A design featuring a shed wall covered with lobster buoys that I stitched for my husband.  Second runner up: a design of a cat entangled in toilet tissue that I stitched at the specific request of my husband who assured my sister-in-law that I'd be "happy to stitch it for her".  He now knows not to make promises he can't keep! 
20) Last, but not least, what’s your longest running WIP? My last BAP, Teresa Wentzler's Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking took 17 months of intermittent stitching.  I think the Teresa Wentzler Autumn Faerie took nearly as long.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Still Plugging Away at the Sampler

I am becoming something of a schizophrenic stitcher.  For the most part, I have become a one BAP at a time stitching dervish. But, every so often, during what I will call BAP overload, another stitching persona surfaces who only wants to stitch a flurry of smalls.

For the moment the OCD BAP stitcher persona is still in control of my body and I am working diligently on The English Band Sampler.  Since my work week is compressed into four days, Mon-Thurs, I had some time on Friday and Saturday to work on my sampler and I managed to stitch for 4 or 5 hours, working around the usual household chores and mealtimes.  I did have to do a bit of frogging.  I guess it is not a good idea to satin stitch on a high count fabric late at night.  Tired eyes are all too likely to miscount linen threads nestled under a satin stitch, throwing off the symmetry.  But otherwise things are moving along smoothly but ever so slowly.

Since this is such a repetitive design, it is perfectly understandable that reader interest has plummeted.  Heck, I am having a bit of a struggle keeping up my own interest as I face repeating the motifs.  I have only completed the left half of the band and the divider and border on the right.  The only difference between the half I have stitched and the half on the right of the divider is that the design is flipped head over tail.  Otherwise, each half features the same repetitive floral and star motifs.  Hardly the sort of thing to inspire bated breath delight.  I guess every project has its rough patch ... even the dearly loved Woodland Angel had its snow drift!  I am really looking forward to getting past this band.  But at the rate I am going, it shouldn't take more than a decade or two.

I'll hold off posting a progress photo till there is more progress to boast about.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Still Working on the Sampler

My cold kept me home on Monday.  I didn't try to stitch for fear I'd just have to frog it all.  I can't seem to concentrate when I have a cold.  And this cold is perniciously persistent.  [I do love alliteration.]

Progress when last seen
And, on Tuesday, the schools were all closed for snow and I was feeling just well enough to get a little stitching done.  I finished the two motifs that were started in the above photo and have started back stitching and specialty stitching on them.  To complete the band, I have to duplicate what you see below to the right but flipping the stars to the top and the floral motifs to the bottom and completing the satin stitched border that looks rather like a double  helix.  Now, I picked this up again after a little over a year on Friday, 11/29.  At that time, all I had stitched and back stitched was the flower on the upper left and the Tudor Rose was stitched but not back stitched.  It has taken me 12 days to stitch three motifs and do some of the back stitching and specialty stitching.  At this rate, it will take the rest of the month to get the second half of this band done.  This is a very fussy and time consuming band.

Current Progress
I'll be working a 12 hour day today so I will bring this with me to stitch when on my lunch and dinner breaks.  I hope I will have a much better progress photo soon.  I have a three day weekend and we are expecting heavy snow Saturday and Sunday so it will be something of a hermitting weekend.  We shall see how much stitching I get done.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ReCap

It has occurred to me that my most recent BAP/UFO, The English Band Sampler, probably isn't all that familiar to all my readers.  Being that it is on scroll bars that I am reluctant to take apart constantly for photos and then reassemble, current readers are viewing only the most recent stitching.  I find it very difficult to believe that, until I picked it up again last week, I hadn't stitched on this piece since the Fall of 2012.  It seems only yesterday that I set it aside to do just one special project that was calling my name.

I thought it might be a good idea to delve back in my files for some old photos to piece together a sort of composite.  It is hardly a complete picture since I didn't save any photos of Bands 1 and 2.  Band 1 was a straightforward alphabet and Band 2 was floral band with stylized geranium motifs.  If you are really curious to see Bands 1 and 2 please click here .  The box below the alphabet is blank because I intend to stitch my own name and the finish date in that area ... and I clearly can't do that till I have a finish date in mind.


A somewhat out of focus photo of the Queen stitches of Band 3
Still somewhat out of focus close-up

Band 3 before the Queen stitches

Band 4: lots od satin stitches

Band 5 to date

Sunday, December 8, 2013

And So It Continues

I am continuing work on The English Band Sampler.  I will admit that this band is not my favorite of the ones I have stitched so far.  It is much too fussy for my taste.  The various elements in the band seem to compete with one another rather than make a cohesive whole.  Indeed, the only motif in this band that even comes close to charming me is the Tudor Rose.  The pale mystery flower is just too pale and the star motif is way too busy.  While I don't want to rush through this band, making mistakes due to haste, I do look forward to Bands 5 and 6 which are much more to my liking.  

This is what it looked like when last seen.


Current Progress
Excuse the indoor photo - the temps are in the low 20s as an ice storm approaches.  Admittedly, I haven't made much progress for a weekend but, then, I have one of those colds.  You know the kind I mean: one's nose has turned into a massive, heavy and drippy spigot, one has developed bags under the eyes that drag down to one's chin, little puffs of air are expelled from one's ears whenever one sneezes or blows one's nose, one's sinuses throb, as do one's temples, especially the one over the right eye, and just to involve all parts of one's head, one's throat has been lined by sandpaper.  I am using such formal language in the feeble hope that I may distance myself from the whole experience.  It's not working.  I am going to crawl back into bed and curl up with a Kay Scarpetta novel and wait for my head to implode.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tough Choices

It was terribly difficult to choose a winner of my little giveaway.  I enjoyed reading all the comments left on that post and was particularly touched by four of them.  So, my decision is based partly on my reactions to the comments [as noted in the giveaway "rules"] and partly on my more usual method using an on-line randomizer [to break the four way tie].

The winner is Calamity Jr who liked reading about my design process because she expects to see photos of stitching on a stitching blog but she found that delving into another aspect of our shared passion was an unexpected treat.  I will be arranging for a gift certificate to be sent her way ASAP.

I found it very interesting the way the choices broke down.  There were 17 comments, one of which was simply a congratulatory note rather than an entry.  

Of the remaining 16
3 voted for Santas on Parade
2 voted for The Designing Process
3 voted for All Hallow's Eve Stitchery
2 voted for Thanksgiving Stitchery
4 voted for Some Thoughts on Pricing Trends
1 voted for Totems and Talismans
1 couldn't choose between Totems and Talismans and All Hallow's Eve Stitchery

Now, while 16 people is hardly a representative sample of stitchers world wide or even of stitchers who read my blog, I am going to be reckless and draw a few conclusions from my little survey.  
1] with 8 1/2 votes for the various stitching collections, most people want to see photos of finished stitching
2] with 4 votes for pricing trends, many stitchers are concerned about increasing cost.  This post is several years old but it seems to resonate with stitchers as much today as it did when originally posted.
3] although the design post only got 2 votes, many of you mentioned it as a second runner up.  So I guess quite a few of us either design from scratch or re-design existing charts.  This doesn't surprise me: the textile arts draw a lot of creative people.
4] Finally, although I call my blog a stitching and general musings blog, the low interest in the Totems and Talismans entry [1 1/2 votes] indicates a general disinterest in any of my musings off the topic of stitching.  I don't stray from the topic of stitching too often but I will probably continue to do so every so often simply because it pleases me to write such posts.  The Totems and Talismans post was my favorite of the group listed above, followed closely by the The Designing Process, both of which got the lowest votes from you folks.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Continuing to Focus on The English Band Sampler

I seem to have fallen into the pattern of concentrating on a BAP with brief forays into smalls when I need a break from the larger project.  So the current BAP is The English Band Sampler from Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly issues 2012 Spring, Summer and Fall.  I am working on Band 4 right now from the Summer issue.  There are two more bands in the Fall issue.  Each floral motif is very very detailed: definitely not quick stitches, by any means.  When you consider that it took me two days to get the back stitching, specialty stitching and long stitching done on the blue star shaped flower ... admittedly only 3-4 hours of stitching ... I am not optimistic about finishing this band this month.

When last seen, it looked like this!

And now, it looks like this.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The English Band Sampler: Last Finish of 2013 or First of 2014?

I am not sure I will finish this before the end of the year.  I have this band to finish which means five more floral motifs, repeating those already pictures.  The next two bands are solidly stitched.  It is most definitely a change of pace from The Woodland Angel that was my main focus for the last half of 2013.  I didn't manage much stitching on Sunday ... only about a half an hour before I admitted that my incipient migraine was winning the battle with the two Excedrin Migraine tablets I had taken.


The English Band Sampler as last seen.

The English Band Sampler: current progress

So any progress made has been stitched in small snatches of time around the workday yesterday.  Forty minutes before work, thirty minutes during the lunch hour and a bit more once I got home.  I stitched a bit more on the blue star-shaped floral motif though I have the back stitching and straight stitching and Algerian eyes yet to do.  I finished the back stitching on the deep coral floral motif.  Not all that much, to be sure, but progress is progress.

Considering how much more there is to do I am not at all certain of a 2013 finish but I will try.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Assessing November Goals, Setting December Goals

I am still setting fairly conservative goals for myself.  And I am still managing to overlook one stated goal each month and to substitute something off-goal instead.  This month it was a second Town Square SAL ornament, The Honey Shop, displacing The Mystic Smalls.  I don't know why I do this, probably out of sheer contrariness and orneriness!

NOVEMBER GOALS: 
BAPS: Finish the stitching and the sewing assembly of Teresa Wentzler's The Woodland Angel Stocking.  If possible, start Piper's stocking.  Well, I did finish Liam's stocking and I have kitted up Piper's but have barely started it.
Class Project:  Resume work on Mystic Smalls.  Not this month.
Town Square SAL: Stitch The Framing Shop.  Assemble the Fiber Shop and the Framing Shop ornaments.  Finished stitching The Frame Shop and  The Honey Shop.  No assembly as yet.
WIPs: Resume work on the English Band Sampler.  Resumed work on this during the last two days of the month.


DECEMBER GOALS: This month, in a final push to get a few more finishes done in the calendar year 2013, I'll be working on pieces that are close to completion.
BAPs: Piper's Stocking.  Although this is nowhere close to completion, having only been started in the last few days, I do want to work on it steadily.  It is my hope to have this stocking done in time for Christmas 2014 and to be well on my way to completing Rocco's stocking as well.  Wouldn't it be grand to have Rocco's stocking done by Christmas 2014, too!
Class Project: The Mystic Stitching Accessories.  The goal is to have all these projects not only stitched but sewn and assembled this month.
Town Square SAL: Stitch Milady's Tea Shoppe.
WIP's: Continue work on The English Band Sampler

Saturday, November 30, 2013

1000th Post: A small celebration and a giveaway

I began blogging on 8/24/07.  That means it's taken me a little over 6 years to reach this landmark 1,000th post.  Incidentally, I passed the 100,000th page view mark earlier this month which means I have been averaging 100 page views per post.  Of course, early on, the page views were in the very low numbers but lately they have been averaging between 120-130 per post.  I am something of a statistics junkie and I like to compete with myself.  So the growth of my blog has been one of my minor pleasures.  I know there are other far more popular stitching blogs with far more followers but I am content with what I have accomplished.

So, I thought I would celebrate by having one of those companies that prints and binds blog entries into an actual book make one of my blog for me.  Basically, this blog is a better version of my old hand-written stitching journals since I can now incorporate photos in the entries.  So it would be logical to have it available in book form as well ... just to page through whenever I want a trip down memory lane without tying up a shared computer for hours.  It would also serve as a nice back-up.

As to the giveaway, I thought I'd spread a little stitching joy around by offering a $25 gift certificate to www.123stitch.com to one of my readers.  Just post your answer to the following question in the comments section:

Which of my own personal favorites would you select as best post of the lot?  Why?
1.  Dec. 20, 21, 24, 27, 2011: Santas on Parade, Santas on Parade the Ornaments, Santas on Parade: the Sue Hillis Collection, Santas on Parade Fini.  I consider this one post in four parts since it covers just one topic.
2.  Nov. 13, 2010:  The Design Process
3.  Oct. 6, 2012: All Hallow's Eve Stitchery
4.  Nov. 3, 2012: Thanksgiving Stitching
5.  Apr. 9, 2010: Some Thoughts on Pricing Trends in Stitching
6.  Jul. 7, 2011:  Totems and Talismans


Please note that the second part of the question, "Why?" will be used to select the winner of the gift certificate.   I'll pick a winner on Dec. 6 which will give folks a week to enter.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The English Band Sampler

Another November goal accomplished and just under the wire: The English Band Sampler has been rescued from the UFO basket.  It's been a very long time since this was in the rotation; so long, I had almost forgotten how much fun it was.  It is a bit out of my comfort zone.  I tend to prefer muted colors.  But somehow I don't really mind the brightness and the outrageous contrasts of this piece.  I think all the specialty stitches and the antique sampler motifs are what's really keeping my interest.  They provide just enough challenge to keep me on my toes.


I was working on this band the last time I had it in hand.



And this is the progress made today.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

TW's Woodland Angel Stocking Is Done

It is 2:30pm on Thanksgiving Day and the embellishing and beading are done.  Setting the royal plum beads was a bit fussy.  In order to center them in gold gridwork, I had to come up and go down through the exact center of existing cross stitches.  That slowed me down just a bit.  However, I am absolutely loving the final product.

I am not sure whether I am happy or sad.  This piece has been my leisure time companion since early July.  I shall miss it.  On the other hand, I will really enjoy assembling it with a lovely backing and lining and then sending it off to my grandson.  In any case, here is a photo of the finished but as yet to be assembled stocking.  Thank you, Teresa Wentzler, for countless hours of wonderful stitching!

As to the melancholy, I can always cure that by adding another Teresa Wentzler piece into the rotation.  I am not sure whether it will be a dragon [Futurecaster] or the minstrel that I'll be using for Rocco's stocking.  It might be fun to stitch Rocco's and Piper's stockings simultaneously and aim for a November 2014 finish on both.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Back to the Stocking

I am back to working on Liam's stocking, doing the embellishment with #4 braid.  Normally, I stitch beads last but it didn't take me very long to realize that doing the braid first and the beads last in the knot work border just wasn't going to work.  You see, the holes for the anchoring stitches for the beads are smack dab in the middle of the arms of the diamond shapes stitched in the gold braid.  Sure, I could have fiddled around until I got my needle in the right place ... which is precisely what I did do with the area already stitched in gold braid ... but it was much easier to stitch around the beads for the remainder of the border.  Also, this avoided the danger of splitting the gold braid while I attempt to work under it.  So, here's a photo of what I have managed today.  I really enjoy beading.  The slow rhythm of attaching beads is something I find very soothing.   After the beading, stitching the braid was a snap.

 I feel rather sorry for the current plugged-in, over-stimulated generation: so few of them will ever experience the serenity and stillness of hand crafts.

The second photo is of the stocking as a whole.  My next task will be to stitch the embellishments on the angel's robes and then it will just be a matter of sewing on a backing and a lining and perhaps some corded trim around the opening.

I have really enjoyed this piece and am looking forward to sending it to my grandson this Christmas.  But when I do I shall have to send a photo of the chart I will be using for Piper's stocking so she doesn't feel overlooked.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Another Town Square Finish and Back to the Angel

The Honey Shop turned out to be a bit more complex than I had first thought.  Lots of nit picky detailing.  But it is done and I am pleased with it though it is a bit smaller than the others even after I added three additional rows of stitching to the first floor, some porch steps and a lawn.  Without these additions the whole thing looked quite top heavy to me.  I made a few other changes as well: eliminating the beehive charm and stitching the beehive instead and changing the back stitched "bees" to be a bit more in proportion to the house.  As originally charted. they would have compared to normal bees as King Kong compares to normal apes.

And once, I had finished The Honey Shop, I got back to The Woodland Angel Stocking and began to add the #4 gold braid to the Celtic knot work border of the name area.  I expect this will keep me busy till Wednesday at least since I'll have to go around the border twice: the second pass criss crossing the first.  I'll concentrate on finishing the braid and bead embellishing of the stocking for the rest of the week.  Getting this done by the end of November is definitely an attainable goal.  Well, that pretty much wraps up my week end stitching report.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Town Square SAL Finish

Well, that's one of my November goals accomplished!  This is The Frame Shop designed by Patti Connor for East Side Mouldings.  This is stitched over two on a 36ct blue linen called Meditation, using one strand of the recommended WDW and GAST fibers.  

I did make a few changes to the design.  Since these Town Square charts are all going to be Christmas tree ornaments, I eliminated the piles of Fall leaves and the rake as well as the bizarre gold smudges on the walls and windows.  I still can't figure out what those smears of color were supposed to represent.  Not being able to view a color photo of the stitched model can be a disadvantage at times.  I added some back stitching to keep the piece consistent with the ornaments already stitched.  I believe it gives the design a crisper, cleaner look.  I also dispensed with the two JABCo star buttons in much the same gold as WDW Bright Leaf as I saw no need for them once I'd eliminated the Bright Leaf smudges.  Also, since there was nothing distinctive in the design to make it a framing shop, I added frames to the signage.  Without them, the building could as easily have been a dentist's office as a frame shop.

I think the next two charts from this series that I'll be stitching are the very simple and straightforward Honey Shop and the far more complex and detailed Milady's Tea Shoppe.  One easy and quick piece and one more detailed piece, I think that'll make a nice balance.  And if I get them both done in December, that will go a small way to make up for all the months that I didn't stitch an ornament from this series.  Here is a photo of the GAST fibers kitted up for The Honey Shop.  The only one I didn't have in my stash was Grasshopper.  I checked the website to see the shade which turns out to be a soft beige, darker than DMC ecru but not quite as dark as GAST Chamomille.  I am sure I have something suitable I can substitute.  I may have to check my Crescent Colours or WDW stash, though.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Musings on Blogging

I have been reading on several of the blogs on my reading list laments about the state of blogging.  Some bloggers are simply gone from the scene.  Others blog much less frequently.  Among this last category are a few of my favorite voices: Stitch Bitch, Mainely Stitching and Spinster Stitcher.  With the first two it seems to be a matter of gainful employment taking up more and more of their time.  Life intervenes: pressures of work,  loss of work/job seeking, health issues for oneself or within one's family, a new interest or focus.  There are any number of reasons a blogger may disappear from the scene.

Still, I think it is a bit premature to declare the demise of blogging.  True, a lot of people have found the immediacy of other social media very seductive but there will always be a select few who prefer to read and respond in full sentences comprised of real words as opposed to the debased English of text abbreviations.

Even I, much as I enjoy blogging, had a long fallow period in May and June.  Now that I am back to blogging, I have noticed that it is often a case of once every three days followed by a brief spurt of daily entries rather than my past routine of every other day.  The rhythms of my life have changed and my blogging habits are changing as well.  One thing I am doing in an effort to keep my blogging conversations alive is commenting as much as I have the time for and replying to the comments left on my blog much more faithfully than I have in the past.  This is kind of a catch 22, though: the more time I spend on comments the less time I have to spend on the actual blogging.  

I'll be watching the trends in blogging but I doubt I'll ever get sucked into the FaceBook or Tweeting scene.  A blog with a small following feels much more natural to a hermit like myself.  I have never been much good at small talk or the social scene.  Blogging feels much more like my comfort zone: lunch with a close friend as opposed to the party scene or pub crawling scene.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

One More Halloween Stitch

I started this piece on Halloween ... there's that seasonal stitching disorder thing happening again!  I finished it yesterday.  It was  a quick and easy stitch though I fear it'll be too large for an ornament at 75x75 stitched over 2 on 36ct.  Maybe a small pin pillow or pin keep or a flat fold stand up.  I did make a very few changes in the colors so as to use stash and replaced the basket with a cauldron which I thought more appropriate for the collecting of toadstools.  But otherwise, I was pretty faithful to the designer's intent.  As I noted in a previous post, this chart is a Primitive Needle design, all the more precious since Lisa's untimely death means there will no longer be any designs quite like this in the future.  I have stitched five or six piece's by Lisa and still have two more of her charts in my stash.  Lisa left a legacy of great quirky and primitive designs that bring joy to many a stitcher.  She is missed.



Here's another shot of the fabric, showing all the ornaments I have stitched on it.  There is probably enough room for two small ornaments or one large one.  Soooo ... this may not be the last Halloween stitch for 2013.  I do have a few more small charts that would do well on this fabric.  It all depends on how much time I have for stitching during the remainder of the year.




A New Start: It has been so long since I worked on one of the Town Square SAL ornaments ... not since August ... so much for doing one a month!  But I will try to get at least two more done before the year is out.  This month it is The Frame Shop.  This will make the 21st ornament for my Town Square Christmas tree, only 21 more to go for a complete set.  As you can see, I finished the roof line and have started outlining the windows of the upper story.



Just a Random Thought: I enjoy statistics so I tend to track my page views and audience and such through the statistics menu of blogger.  And what boggles the mind is that lately the post with the consistently highest page views is the post about "What I Kept"  from the door prizes of the October Stitcher's Hideaway I attended recently.   Now, granted, that post contains a link to an earlier post on pricing trends in the stitching industry but even so ... 390 page views ???!!!???  Lately, most of my posts merit a modest 75-100 page views.  I really don't get why this one merits so much more attention ... especially since the linked post about pricing trends made barely a ripple when first posted several years ago.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

By The Light of the Moon

This is where I stand with this Primitive Needle piece which I started on Halloween.  I have switched out some of the colors for ones I have on hand so that this can be a stitch-from-stash project.  I did change the owl to white in honor of Harry Potter's Hedwig.  But, for the most part, I have honored Lisa's original intent by using very similar colors to what she had selected. My toad stool collecting witch still needs a head, a hat and some feet but I will probably have a finish by tomorrow evening.  I also need to stitch the basket and a few more toadstools and swirling autumn leaves.

This particular Primitive Needle design was a complimentary chart.  I found mine on a e-newsletter from a shop called Heart's Desire several years ago.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

This day is always rather painful for me.  My father fought in WWII and his doctors believe his life was shortened by the wounds received in the fields of France.  He was wounded and then suffered from blood loss and exposure for the three days it took our forces to retake the ground where he had fallen.  The soldiers who found him were stunned to find a man alive; they were collecting the dog tags of the dead when they heard him moan.  Those three days must have been a haze of hellish pain and delirium and fear as the battle continued around him.  He survived the war but died at the age of 59 while I was still in my 30s.  He should have lived longer, much longer.

My very first boyfriend died in Vietnam on his 19th birthday and just a few days before he was scheduled to rotate back home.

My oldest son was an officer in the Navy and is still a Lt. Cmdr. in the Navy Reserves.  He served on subs and continues to work on subs even now as a civilian employee of the Navy.  It is unlikely he will be called to serve in a combat zone, but the possibility does exist and is an ugly dread in the back of my mind.

As a pacifist who can think of very few just reasons to go to war, I begrudge every drop of blood spilled to grasp at more territory or more money or more resources.  Protecting one's home and the lives of the innocent make sense to me,  But too many politicians have layered the word "protect" with too many specious reasons during the course of my own lifetime that I am become quite cynical now.  I would argue that the last truly just war we involved ourselves in was WWII:  Hitler was a genocidal monster.  But even WWII was fueled by European boundary disputes and power plays.  I know the claim of genocide could be made about other tyrants with whom we have waged war but on closer examination the real reasons we sent men to die was to secure bases for nuclear weapons outposts or to secure access to petroleum resources or to gain some other such perceived and selfish political advantage.  So very few profit from war and so many vast multitudes suffer from it that common sense should have made the whole notion obsolete long ago.  But human nature being what it is, I expect war will continue to be a problem into my grandchildren's generation and beyond.

So, even as I remember and honor the courage and fortitude and genuine patriotism of individual soldiers, I deplore the culture of militarism and greed and geopolitical maneuvers that exploit those virtue.

For me, Veteran's Day is a day to remember to write a check for a veteran's group, to buy a poppy ... in short, to find a way to support the true heroes/victims: those men and women who served with honor in spite of bad leaders with questionable motives.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Stitching To Go

I'll be leaving my husband alone on the home front when I leave for my annual religious retreat Sunday night   I will provide him with sustenance by cooking a pot roast tomorrow and, perhaps, frying up some breaded chicken cutlets for a little variety.  In the meantime,  I have already packed my clothing, toiletries and diabetic friendly food stuffs so I don't crash on the carb heavy food served at this retreat house.

Now comes the fun stuff: picking out the stitching to carry with me!

I have decided to take:

The Woodland Angel Stocking: braid and beading yet to stitch
The Frame Shop: need to start this November goal piece
By the Light of the Moon: A Primitive Needle piece started on Halloween that I'd like to finish this month

Friday, November 8, 2013

Halloween > Thanksgiving

I took my Halloween ornaments down and put up the Thanksgiving ones.  Here are three shots from three different angles: the better to see all the ornaments.  I could probably use 5 or 6 more ornaments to give my tree a nice full appearance.  I'll be browsing through my binders to see what I can find that's appropriate.  I have a Prairie Schooler Year Round chart that will likely have something appropriate and a few complimentary chart downloads that might work as well.  I like to stitch Thanksgiving stuff during the week leading up to the day and during the long weekend following.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

In the Pink

My Woodland Angel now has a face.  But before I started on the gold braid and bead work, I thought I gave the piece a spin in the delicate cycle.  I have been working on this piece since August 2012.  Although I am meticulous about hand washing while stitching, I do want to freshen the piece up a bit before embellishing and finishing.

As I near the finish of Liam's stocking, I look to the start of Piper's.  Now, my four year old granddaughter is the diva of all things pink and girly.  She has been known to well up in tears when things in her world aren't pink ... and I am talking about things like ferry boats, not dresses or headbands.   Even at this early stage, she is decidedly girly ... she accessorizes every outfit with play jewelry, prefers ruffles to plain, gravitates toward skirts that are "twirly", eschews pajamas in favor of nightgowns.  I could go on but I think you get the picture.  In short, she is a continual source of mystery to her grandmother who wouldn't be caught dead in pink and prefers clean lines to frills, comfort to fussy display, simplicity to elaborate embellishment.  

So making this little one's Christmas stocking is going to require stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to find hers.  I was gifted many years ago with a Dimensions Gold kit of a medieval maiden in the woods.   It came with Aida cloth and floss.  The person who gave it to me is a very good non-stitching friend and was trying to find the perfect gift.  I thanked her enthusiastically but, in my linen snobbery and I-have-graduated-from-kits arrogance, I buried the kit in the bottom drawer of the sewing center.  Ironically, this kit is going to be a major pain in the anatomy.  But I couldn't bring myself to discard the gift because it came from someone I care about deeply.  Several years later, Piper was born.  Still later, I decided to make stockings for the grandchildren, by then three in number.  It seems my friend's gift was positively prophetic.  This fairy tale princess-like woodland maiden will be perfect for Piper's stocking.  There are a few glitches, though.   Having finally opened up the kit, I was appalled not to find the DMC equivalents in the symbols charts.  I am not particularly impressed by the floss included: it feels very coarse.  Before I can even start.  I am going to have to pull out my DMC color chart and compare some sixty or so flosses and come up with the numbers myself.   Then, as you can see by the photo, the maiden is charted wearing a white skirt with an elaborate  blue-green overdress instead of pink clothing.  I plan to keep the blue green overdress and rework the underskirt in shades of pink with the darkest shade in the skirt being the same shade as the flowers in the over dress.  This will keep the Christmas-y green-gold-red colorway intact.  After all, I am stitching this as a Christmas stocking.  And, due to the size of the piece, I shall have to stitch the entire thing over one in order to make it fit my stocking template.  One thing I am extremely grateful for: the woodland maiden is oriented in the right direction.  So far all my stockings have toes pointing left and, thank all the angels and the saints, the train of the woodland maiden's dress points to the left as well.  I know I keep calling this piece a Woodland Maiden and the chart is actually entitled a Woodland Enchantress.  But enchantresses, or sorceresses, just don't seem very Christmas-y ... hence the name change.  That is my story and I am sticking to it.

My pink conversion is noted below.
white > 225
3753 > 224
312 > 223
334 > 152
322 > 315
3842/744 > 300

I may be refining this conversion when I get to the actual stitching.  I may even test this all out on a doodle cloth before stitching the area on the stocking.  I've done many conversions on past projects but this project is special.  I want it to be come a treasured heirloom so it's important to me to get it right.