Thursday, February 28, 2013

Assessing & Setting Monthly Goals

Since I have been doing a bit more reading than usual this month, I've didn't quite manage to meet all of my February goals, not quite finishing pieces but making serious headway on most of them.

2013 Challenge: WIPs & UFOs. Finish work on Midnight Moogies.  Time permitting resume work on the Jacobean Elegance Afghan.  Although I didn't actually finish with the cats, I have made considerable progress, enough to justify printing this assessment in blue which is my personal code for "accomplished".  At least, the seemingly endless grey border stitched in DMC 169 is complete.  I still have most of the two vertical legs of the inner checkerboard border to complete and the flowers and leaves at the bottom but the end is in sight.  Perhaps I'll actually finish it in March but I won't be holding my breath.  I am in need of a bit more variety and will be returning to rotation stitching.  I am not certain I will finish this piece in a month once it has been rrelegated to only 1/5th of my stitching time.
2013 Class Projects Challenge.  Continue Work on Mystic Smalls projects.  I finished stitching the Scissor Case in this class kit and will hold off on the assembly finish till I have completed all the pieces in the set.  And I have started work on the Needle Book.
Town Square SAL.  Stitch The Frame Shop. Kitted up and started.
Sewing and Assembly Finishes.  Complete three.  No.

MARCH GOALS:  given that I didn't actually manage to meet February's very modest goals, I am going to continue with my more realistic attitude and I'll be scaling back my expectations.  You'll note two additional categories this month but I won't be setting myself any grandiose goals of finishing anything.  All I hope to do this month is enjoy a little variety and rediscover my love of the process of stitching.  Sometimes, with my A type personality, I get too bound up in the rush toward the end product of stitching:  finish this and finish that, use up this scrap of fabric and re-purpose these flosses ... it's all about ticking things off lists and updating inventory and filing away charts in the finished binder or passing them on if not deemed "collectible" enough.  Well, not anymore.  I plan to enjoy each and every stitch during March and if a finish comes along, all well and good, but not necessary!
2013 BAPs: resume work on TW Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking.
2013 Challenge: WIPs and UFOs: continue work on Midnight Moogies.
2013 Class Projects Challenge: continue work on Mystic Smalls, this month's project will be the needlebook.  There are two in the chart pack.  I'll be stitching the one with the dockside street scene.  I have already stitched the stitching ladies twice.  A third time would be a bit much.
2013 Start: kit up and start work on Cedar Hill's Berry Patch Rabbit
Town Square SAL:  continue to stitch The Frame Shop.
Sewing and Assembly Finishes: Complete three.
Simply enjoy the process.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Minor Irritation

It never pays to get too excited about an imminent finish.  Something always goes wrong ... as evidenced by the first photo today.  Somehow I managed to stitch the blue clad stitcher  four threads to the left of where she should be, throwing off the symmetry of this delightful little scissor case.  Now, I know I will never be able to enjoy the piece until I fix it so there is some frogging in my future this evening.  It won't take very long to re-stitch, even with the re-positioning of the waves and plait stitching below.  So, only a minor irritation.  On a more positive note, I did manage to form the silk ribbon seed stitches for the leaves on the vine properly.  I have finally learned that the trick is to draw the ribbon v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y through on the second leg of the stitch.  It pays to read the directions carefully!  Who'd have figured?  And, of course, I'll have to readjust the red stitching guide on the left to make the whole deal work properly but that'll be the work of a minute or two.  I know that red stitching is annoying to look at but it will make the sewing finish do much easier to manage.

In any case, since I'll be delaying the frogging and re-stitching till this evening when I can take my time, I decided to get a bit of a start on the needle book in this series.  I chose the needle book option using the dockside street scene rather than the stitchers yet again.  I thought I could do without another round  with those two ladies, especially since I'll be frogging and re-stitching one of them anyway.  As you can see, I didn't get very far but that's all right.  I have promised myself that I'll subdue my mania for completion and just enjoy the process.  Maybe if I take my time, I won't make rookie mistakes like the one above.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Scissor Case

I am moving right along on this.  I guess I really needed a "small" to work on after a three month exclusive focus on a BAP.  It's so nice to see something come together quickly instead inch by inch.  And doing some satin stitching and plait stitching is nice after cross stitching for three months.  I have finished all the stitching with silk floss and now I get to play with silk ribbon stitching spider web roses and seed stitched leaves along the vine separating the stitchers.  I'll finish up with a few beads as charted.  Oh, my!  The variety! I just may swoon.  

And being able to put up my first finish of the year in the sidebar by this evening ... well, that's a nice bonus, too.  I can't remember a time since I began stitching some 45  years ago that I was so far into the new year without a finish.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mystic Smalls Redux

Mystic Smalls Scissor Case
It's been a while since I pulled this class kit out of the rotation basket.  Manipulative A-type personality that I am, I have deliberately chosen the Scissor Case, one of the smaller projects within this series, to work on.  That way I can claim to have met at least one of my goals for this month with a minimum of effort.  I have managed a good start on it and will no doubt be able to finish it up in a day or two.  It is a real pleasure to use silk again and to indulge in some specialty stitches.  I have one small quibble, however: not all the silks included in the class kit are of equal quality.  The silks include Glorianna, Caron Waterlilies and Krenik Mori.  The Mori is thick and nubby which makes for great coverage of the linen but also causes problems by obscuring the linen threads making accurate counting/placement more difficult and frogging more likely.  I must have frogged the first satin stitched wave below the ship five times before I got it right and found my rhythm.  And, who knows, if I finish this scissor case, I may be able still to squeeze in the time for a Town Square ornament and a few simple sewing finishes before the 28th.

Midnight Moogies: Weekend Progress
And, because the cats are so persistent in demanding my attention, I have this progress to show on Midnight Moogies.  I managed to stitch a good five inch length of the checkerboard inner border - no mean feat since this is the area [on both sides of the piece] where I had to sew on additional pieces of Aida.  Hence, I have to stitch through three layers of cloth which does tend to get a little hard on these mildly arthritic fingers of mine.  Having gotten that much border done, I rewarded myself with the pleasure of stitching the center of the flower in all those bright yellows and golds.  And, before I leave the cats to yowl for the remainder of the month while I move on to other pieces, I'd especially like to thank those who have so kindly commented that they are not bored with the creatures.  I am not bored with the stitching of them but I do find it somewhat difficult to find something fresh and new to say about them with each progress photo I post.  Happily, I am close enough to a finish that I shouldn't need to post more than two or three more photos before I can cross this UFO>WIP off my list.

We didn't get the snow that the forecasters were threatening was in the offing.  But I spent a cozy weekend pretty well parked in my stitching chair, anyway.   Multiple cups of tea and a few roast pork sandwiches fueled my efforts, leaving me quite satisfied with the weekend stitching.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Another Moogies Photo

The seemingly interminable grey outer border is actually stitched, as is the mouse and a bit more of the flower.  Of course, I now have no excuse for avoiding the two remaining vertical legs of the black and white checkerboard inner border.

I think once I am through with Midnight Moogies, I will return to a more normal [for me, at least] three to four to five project rotation.  I find that, though I am not bored with my stitching, I have become bored with my blogging about this one project.  How much can one say really?  I am posting less frequently since it takes longer periods of time to produce the sort of progress that is worthy of a photograph.  And since my blog is primarily a journal about my stitching rather than a series of essays on stitching in general, this makes for less time spent writing, an activity I do enjoy as long as I have something to write about.

Then, of course, I need to get working on my 2013 BAPs: finishing the stocking for Liam and starting and finishing the stocking for Piper.  These are major projects and I certainly need to get started on them if I am to have these stockings ready for Christmas of 2013.  And there is also my goal of stitching a Town Square ornament a month so that I may have a Small Town America themed Christmas tree in 2013.  Furthermore, I'll be taking another class with Thea Dueck in October and I'd like to have all my previous Thea class pieces finished and ready to display at show and tell.  Finally, I am itching to get started on one of the few charts I bought last year, Cedar Hill's Berry Patch Rabbit.  What better time to stitch a rabbit then in the weeks prior to Easter.  And I also want to stitch Tansy-Yarrow-Rue during the Spring to get me in the mood for gardening again and to show my appreciation for my husband's thoughtful anniversary gift of three charts from my wish list.

All of the above will restore some much needed variety to my daily stitching routine and will enable me to write about it more frequently and more fluidly.  I truly miss blogging.  One might argue that blogging is essentially a narcissistic activity in the first place but, even so, one needs something [however thin] to write about.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Poll Results

It seems most of the folks who voted were thinking along the same lines that I was:

  2 votes for stitching the mouse as charted in DMC 169
  4 votes for stitching him in a slightly darker shade of grey
14 votes for a wildly colorful mouse.

Thus encouraged I shall stitch the little fellow today.  I have settled on a dark periwinkle row of tall Xs going across a bright yellow body.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

An Interesting video

Check out this You Tube link for a video that features all the tools of a textile artist's trade.

Monday, February 11, 2013

TUSAL Time and a Poll

For once, I may be posting a TUSAL photograph at the right time of the month.  You will note the preponderance of grey since I have really been moving along on the border to Midnight Moogies.  But there are small flashes of red, orange and green from the brief forays into stitching the flower and leaves in the lower right hand corner of the design.  I tend to reward myself with a spot of color every so often.  Since I run my TUSAL from April to March, so that I may offer my orts as nesting materials to the local backyard birds, my jar must seem unusually full.

I have been avoiding stitching the mouse in the main panel of the design because it is charted as the same grey as the border and because it is the only jarringly realistic mammal in that panel.  I have been thinking of changing it a bit.  I have thought of remaining realistic and just using a shade of grey a tone or two darker than the DMC 169 that seems to be always in hand lately.  But I have also thought about making it compatible with the cats by using some outrageous colors and patterns.  After all, it does occupy the same world as the cats and its evolution should have followed a similarly colorful path.  Perhaps, a horizontal band of large yellow Xs going across the body, three stitches high with a space between each so it doesn't end up looking like a checkerboard ... and the rest of the body filled with one of the bright blues.  I could, of course, just stitch it as charted but that doesn't seem quite logical.

So, I thought I'd ask for your opinions.  There is a poll in the sidebar.  I'll leave it up a week.  I am quite curious as to how others might choose.  For those of you who have been following along on this project, attracted by it, but knowing you would probably not stitch it yourself ... sort of the way I feel about all the lovely Hawk Run Hollow pieces I see on other blogs ... you could consider voting in the poll as a way of stitching the piece vicariously

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Still Stitching the Cats

Progress as of 1/29/13
I spent a good bit of time on Midnight Moogies this past week and managed to finish the right vertical leg of the outer grey border and started on the bottom horizontal leg.  I filled in three leaves and three petals of the large red flower in the lower right hand corner since the last photograph.  I hope to have this piece finished by the end of the month.  It would be my very first finish of 2013 if I manage to do so.  I have a tendency to overestimate what I can accomplish in a given time frame.  But with 18 days remaining in February, there is a reasonable hope that I can finish the piece.  Anyway, that's the plan.

Current Progress
This piece has quite a history:  I started it with loads of enthusiasm immediately after purchasing the Cross Stitch Gold issue that contained the chart.  I discovered, after stitching two of the cats in the main panel, that I had oriented the fabric incorrectly and had to cut off pieces at the top and bottom to stitch onto either side. Stitching through multiple layers of Aida was doable but not a lot of fun.  So the project was soon abandoned.  Almost six years later, the project was resurrected in early December of 2012.  Since then I have been working on it exclusively and have even managed to find a rhythm for stitching through the layers.  I have plans for the finished piece as the upholstered back cushion for a bench I have.  I plan to do the seat cushion in grey and use the same grey fabric to convert this piece into a back cushion.  The bench itself needs to have its joints tightened and its dark red Japanese lacquer finish cleaned [but not stripped].  I think the final product will look spectacular!  I do believe having a purpose in mind for the piece has kept me going strong.


Friday, February 8, 2013

The Promised Photo

I know I said I'd try to post a photo on Tuesday but the days have been overcast and grim precluding any outdoor photos.  And the flash on my digital camera simply isn't strong enough to make an indoor photo worthwhile.  I live in a townhouse and though I have lamps everywhere I can plug one in, the place is still darker than I like.  Since my Ott light died, I haven't taken many indoor photos at all.  The Ott light did seem to give just the right boost to the digital's flash and without it ... well, things are not at all the same.

And today, it is snowing, with predictions for twelve to twenty inches in our area.  There are predictions of power loss as well.  I am going to stitch as long as I have light and hope to finish the third side [left, vertical] of the grey border and stitch a few more leaves and petals in the lower right corner of Midnight Moogies.  We are supposed to have snow into tomorrow morning but maybe by the afternoon, I'll be able to get outdoors for a photo.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Just checking in

I've rewarded myself with a splash of color, having finished one more leg of the interminable grey border of Midnight Moogies.  So I have finished one of the bright green leaves in the lower right corner and started on the flowers.  It seems almost ungrateful to complain about the grey border since during the month of January I really wasn't up to anything more challenging than rote stitching ... so I'll just say it has been pleasant to work in color again. But, because I am determined to finish this piece this month, I will not be abandoning the border completely.  I'll spend the rest of today's stitching time on it during my lunch and dinner breaks.  Maybe by Tuesday I'll be satisfied enough with my progress to post another photograph.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The First of February

I am hoping for a better month than last.  I have heard so many sad stories and  have had to deal with so many sensitive situations in January as part of my work as a CRE in a Catholic parish that I could use a little spiritual renewal myself.  The annual retreat for certified CREs is coming in April and can't come soon enough for me.  Happily, we'll be having a Parish Renewal during Lent which will make a nice interim exercise.

This depressed economy is wreaking havoc on so many good and hard-working folk in my community, so many are still suffering from the aftershocks of Sandy and still more are carrying heavy personal burdens.  Working with families as I do, I have access to a lot of very private information and I am constantly amazed by how many quiet heroes there are: ordinary people making the best of painfully extraordinary circumstances.

But even in the midst of it all, there is comic relief.  We recently celebrated First Confession with our 2nd graders.  One of my more enjoyable tasks as CRE is doing some real hands-on work preparing the children for sacraments.  Prior to First Confession, we did role-play practices with me as the priest and the children as themselves, as penitents.  I told them not to tell me their real sins as they practiced but some of them exercised such imagination [at least, I hope it was imagination] that I had a hard time maintaining a straight face.  One innocent little boy with the face of a choir boy and the reverent voice of a budding saint confessed that he "threw away just one of his big sister's best earrings because he was mad at her."  In my role as pseudo priest, I gave a short homily on the evils of revenge and talked about some better methods of resolving personal conflict, all the while hoping that this wasn't a true story and that grandma's heirloom diamond earrings weren't involved.  One almost had to admire the diabolical inspiration of throwing away "just one" earring of the pair: the remaining earring being a constant reminder of the loss of its mate.  Another young cherub, solemnly confessed that he hated going to school because the kids in his class were always saying things like "Jesus f-----g Christ".  What could I do but solemnly agree that it must be very difficult to attend such a school but then suggest that perhaps church wasn't quite the right place to quote his classmates so accurately.  These stories are funny precisely because the contrast between the child and the story is so great.  But, when examined more closely, they also contain a certain element of pathos: a commentary on how pervasive our secular culture is and how it has the power to corrupt even the very young and very innocent.  Maybe I have been at this too long, 20 years in catechetics and 4 years before that as a teacher in a parochial school, but it's just sad that even the comic relief moments are tainted by the rank perfume of what Baudelaire called the fleurs de mal.

Well, I have depressed myself quite enough for the time being ... but I needed to vent.  Ironically, I expect February to be a happier month even though Lent begins on the 13th.  Lent, for all its solemnity, ultimately points to Easter truth and on a more ordinary level, culminates in Spring.