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 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.

Monday, November 4, 2013


I am at the over one phase of the stocking now.  The stocking is properly labelled with my grandson's name, as you can see in this photo.  Soon the angel will have a face.  I've already begun the work on that.  Then it is just the washing, the embellishing with metallics and beads.  Coming close to the end of this project is bittersweet.  The project itself has been such a joy.

If it weren't for the fact that I will soon be starting a very similar stocking for my granddaughter Piper, I'd be very sad indeed!  This will be the first Gold Dimensions chart I have ever used and I am telling you right now that I really don't like the layout of the chart and symbols tables.  I am also not impressed with the floss included in the package.  Converting all those shades to DMC and making up a new symbols chart before starting is going to be one major pain in the anatomy.  Then, there is the conversion of blue robes to pink ... but more on that in a later post.  But the biggest hurdle will probably be the necessity of stitching the whole project over one in order to reduce the design to fit on a stocking.  At least, this next project will keep me challenged and interested.  It is not a Teresa Wentzler but it will have its own set of complexities!