Friday, July 24, 2015

Taking Care of Business

Today is a day for running hither and yon getting all manner of things done.

First, I've made up some packages for the post.  The Workbasket Quaker Halloween [aka owl and bat] will be winging its way over the Atlantic to a new home.  A winner of the Christmas in July giveaway of Heartstrings charts has been chosen: Karen.  I've bundled those charts ready for mailing.  And I've put together an ice cream cone making kit [two different kinds of cones, several different kinds of sprinkles, chopped nuts, toasted coconut, several varieties of hard shell toppings, etc] meant to delight the grandchildren and compel my son and his long suffering wife to run out immediately for the ice cream needed to complete the kit.  I've included a rambling letter about going to the corner candy store with my grandfather to buy ice cream cones for the whole family, about the ice cream trucks that were commonplace in Brooklyn in the 50s ... in short, about my childhood memories of loving grandparents who lived in the upstairs apartment of our two family home.  It's hard to carry on the tradition of grandparental treats from the opposite coast but I'll give it my best shot.  You've got to be really creative if you want to spoil grandchildren who live 3,000 miles away.

And on that note, I am sending my granddaughter another needlepoint kit since she likes to sew like Grandma Regina.  [We sent her one for her birthday last month.]  I've got to nurture whatever genetic tendencies I've passed on to her through my son.   I foud this beginner's needlepoint kit for kids on the 123stitch website.

I purchased two more relatively simple kits that I'll send on later as she builds more skill.  These two kits will cater to her love of all things pink and her fondness for princesses.

Second, a trip to the jewelers to have some links removed from the band of the watch given me at retirement.  

Third,  a quick trip to the library to return unread a book borrowed on inter-library loan.  When I opened the book, I was disgusted to find it was riddled with unidentifiable stains.  It should have been removed from the shelves.   I am most definitely not a proponent of book burning but it might be justified in this case on purely sanitary grounds.

Fourth, a pre-op visit to my internist to be cleared for cataract surgery.  NYS requires patients to be cleared for non-emergency surgery 30 days prior to the operation, checking on heart and lung health.   I  have a visit to the podiatrist scheduled two hours later.  I hope the visits won't take the whole afternoon, because

Fifth, I hope to head into Nyack to do some antiquing.  I usually like to start my Christmas shopping about now and I often find the perfect gifts for my daughter, my Mom and my sister-in-law while browsing the stalls at large antique and collectible malls,.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Making Waves at Sturbridge ...

... was the name of the stitching retreat from which I have just returned.

The class project was a marvelous needlepoint piece, Making Waves, composed primarily of 27 rows of randomized bargello stitching of varying band widths gradually progressing from white sea foam to deep turquoise sea blue.  There were also randomized eyelets in #8 and 12 perle cotton, beading and a bullion stitched star fish.

The designer, Diane Herrmn, pictured here with the project, drew her design inspiration from the graph of a sine curve.  [Here I will insert a very small apology to Sister Anna St. James for ever doubting that geometry and trigonometry would ever have an impact on my life after 11th grade.]  It was fascinating to follow Diane's design process as she described how she decided to lengthen and lighten the waves as they approached the shore, why she used 65 beads [no more and no less] to lend sparkle to the eyelet sea foam, how she selected the colors and graphed the proportions of light and dark when blending the strands.

I believe no class is truly a learning experience unless I get to practice a new technique or to try a new stitch.  This class met both requirements.  After 40 some years of stitching, I finally learned how to lay my stitches.
I actually got to use the laying tool I bought a decade ago simply because I thought it was lovely.  I will say it makes a difference.  I don't expect I'll become one of those fanatics who lays ever single stitch I take. But I will probably use it for all my satin stitching in future. Using stretcher bars was a new experience as well.  I learned how to mount the piece on the bars.  In the past, I'd always done needlepoint in hand, relying on the stiffness of the canvas to make handling the piece manageable.  I am a convert and will invest in stretcher bars in various sizes in future. Oh, yes, and a small ladylike hammer is on the shopping list as well.  Pressing in all those thumbtacks by hand is painful, to say the least.

And I learned the proper way to make a bullion stitch.  I practiced: got the first one done perfectly and proceeded to mess up the next three to varying degrees.  And then made two more reasomably decent attempts.  But I have seen it done properly, remember the tips and just need to practice some more.

Since this was a Sue Donnelly Stitcher's Hideaway retreat, there were the usual generously stocked gift bags, door prizes and an in house shop.  In other words, it was a very complete stitching experience. Here's a photo of the stitching room.  Some folks are busy stitching, some are socializing and some are off camera in the shop area at the back of the room. The accommodations at The Public House were comfortable, the meals were good and the support staff were attentive and helpful.

Sue's retreats always include an exchange and a show and tell session.  Above are a few photos of the exchange items and of the projects on display for show and tell.  There was a great deal more but my photographic skills are sadly lacking.

And, finally, here's a photo of what I accomplished in class.  I expect I'll make better progress now that I am home and can use my stitching stand.  Not having to balance the stretcher bars between lap and table edge will make for quicker two handed stitching.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

And A New Start

All that serial stitching had me aching for something entirely fresh and different.  I am rather partial to mermaids and this complimentary chart from CEC, The Swimming Instructor, caught my eye.  The basic outline was charming but the color choices and facial details made it rather cartoonish.  So, I am following the designer's suggestion to tweak it and make it my own.  

I'll rechart the eyes and mouth, probably over one, to get a more realistic facial expression, i.e.; odd as it seems to use the words mermaid and realistic in the same sentence.  

The fabric is Silkweaver's Tropical Water.  I had my doubts about the fabric when I first pulled it out.  It looked almost neon bright but using Caron Waterlilies silk in Monsoon for the fishtail tamed it nicely.  I am using some Splendour silks for the flesh tones and am thinking of using Belle Soie Mahogany for the hair.

I want to have stitched the body before making a decision, the better to see if the hair color works with the flesh tones, background color and fishtail.  I'll be using a specialty stitch in the Monsoon silk, adapted from silk ribbon embroidery rosettes, to stitch the bra.  I also have some lovely turquoise beads from an old hippie-era bead and seed necklace that just might work for the mermaid's necklace.  I may even add one bead as a navel ornament.  It is fun to play with a design until it works to my own satisfaction.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Serial Stitching

It has been more than a few days since I showed photos of stitching progress. I seem to have fallen into a pattern.  Most of my current projects belong to a series of similar designs.

Town Square series: The Abecedarium by R & R Reproductions.  The stitching on this one is finished but it has yet to be made into an ornament along with two others stitched earlier this year.  I plan to get a bit of sewing and assembly finishing done later this week.  I have now stitched quite a number of a possible 42 charts in this series.  I will probably stitch two or three more.  A few of the buildings in the series simply didn't appeal to me.  Check out the gallery post here if you want to see the buildings already stitched.  I need to go on line and look for a tall but very skinny Christmas tree for this ornament series.  I'll decorate it with a Small Town USA theme using these ornaments, several strands of wooden cranberry beads and some small white twinkling lights.  I like to have a few themed trees in different rooms during the Christmas season.

Workbasket Quaker Animal series : The Squirrel.  I am not quite done with this entry in the series.  I am using two different dye lots of GAST Cinnamon: the more muted one for the floral motif in the center and tail as well as the acorn caps and the brighter one for the body of the squirrel.  To add a little more depth to the color way while still remaining in the same tone family, I am using GAST Sarsparilla for the body of the acorns.  I still have the bear, the peacock, the turkey, the robin, the cardinal and the eagle to stitch.  Check out the gallery post here if you want to see the animals already stitched.

Prairie Schooler's Year Round series: July.  I am using Belle Soie Poison Apple, Puritan Blue and Oatmeal Scone for this patriotic eight pointed star motif.  When I am done with this piece, I will add these very same silks to the kit for the next PS project listed below.

Prairie Schooler's Primitive Americana series.  Though I've had this leaflet a very long time, I haven't yet started on this series.  But I will soon since I have just purchased some antique ivory 28 ct linen for this very purpose.  Although I have plenty of lovely overdyed linens on hand from the days of my Silkweaver fabric of the month subscription, none of them worked for this.  Not even the pale blue color ways.  Much as I love overdyed fabrics, sometimes a solid neutral is the only answer.  I really think there is nothing uglier than an inappropriately chosen overdye.  It can turn a piece from charming to ever so stomach churningly off.  These charts were charted for 10 ct Congress cloth but I will be using the higher ct linen since I am going for ornament size.

M Design's Name Trees: I have the names for my adult children, including my daughter-in-law, for my husband and for myself.  I hope to get the kids' done in time to use as name tags this Christmas.  This one is for my oldest son, Sean.  That's one started and three more to go.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Out of Shape But Optimistic

Getting started on an exercise routine, even a relatively mild one, can be quite an eye opener.  I have spent the bulk of my waking hours over the past twenty years sitting at a desk or standing at the front of a classroom in a sprawling one story school building.  No stairs to climb, no distances to walk, not much of an aerobic challenge.  So completing my one mile walk in place DVD was a form of torture.  But it will get easier,  It's just a matter of sticking with it long enough to retrain these rebellious muscles.

Yesterday, I did something I haven't done in years: I read a book, cover to cover, in one day.  Granted, it was not anything terribly deep, just Julie Garwood's Fast Track.  The next book on my summer reading list will engage a bit more brain power, it's one of Neil Gaimon's books.

The question of the day: why do doctors persist in maintaining the fiction that they make appointments to see patients?  I had a 10:00 appointment to see the eye surgeon, I was ushered into the inner sanctum at 11:15, had my eyes measured, scanned and photographed by five different machines run by three different technicians, was sent to a second smaller waiting area and finally saw the doctor at 12:30 .  I was released at 1:00.  I am thinking of starting a rebellion that will end in doctors having to respect the value of their patients' time or pay steep fines when they fail to do so.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Is This What Retirement Is?

Today began with a light breakfast, a haircut for us both, a trip to the library [where they did not have the G. K. Chesterton Omnibus for which I was looking], a trip to the consignment store where the owner would not even look at my clothes because she was overstocked, followed by a trip to the Salvation Army collection bin because  I was not taking the stuff back home, then off to the office to collect a crate of my personal belongings and back home for lunch. 

After lunch, we watched a few episodes of COSMOS, the second one, not the Carl Sagan classic.  Then on to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for a quinoa recipe from Vegetarian Times that I wanted to try tonight.  The only problem is that now I am too tired to cook.  Apparently, working in office or classroom for eight hours a day is less wearing than running hither and yon all day.

The plan for tomorrow is for both of us to start the day with Sansalone's one mile walk in place exercise DVD, a light breakfast and some gardening to round out the morning.  Maybe some stitching or sewing in the afternoon.  I believe my husband is already contemplating the perfect murder, i.e., mine.  He's fine with my doing all the cooking and serving but doesn't seem to appreciate my efforts to establish a more healthy lifestyle for us both,  He clearly thinks he should be permitted to spend his whole day in front of the TV.  Tomorrow is his day to volunteer at the historical society, the one day of the week he bestirs himself.  But I am hoping to tempt him to expand his routine this summer by planning a few picnics in the local parks lining the shores of the Hudson River, some days spent at the town pool, some trips into Nyack to go antiquing.  I refuse to spend the rest of my days vacuuming round a couch potato.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Little of This, A Little of That

I have made just a bit more progress on my current Town Square piece, but the real reason I am posting a photo is to keep the memory of the process a la the new computer fresh in my mind.  Use it or lose it, as the saying goes.  This Town Square piece is moving along almost as slowly as the last two pieces.  You'd think that with less detail, fewer color changes, 30ct rather than 32 ct linen, this would be a quicker stitching experience.  But, no, I expect it will take me two weeks of stitching [roughly 14 hours] to get this one done as well.  When will I learn?  In any case, the ABeCeDarium has a first and second floor.  The roof has an alphabet stitched on it and will slow things up again.

Last Sunday, there was parish reception to mark my retirement.  The pastor said a few very kind words and presented me with a lovely watch.  Many of my catechists attended and were astonishingly generous in their gifts.  The deacons, comedians that they are, commiserated with my husband who will now have to share his leisure time with me and made jokes about chasing the guy with the truck for two blocks in order to purchase my watch.  I wanted to remind them that the event was a reception, not a roast, but held my tongue.  The 11:30 Mass was said for the intention of a happy retirement and I was given a corsage before Mass began and was presented with a bouquet that would have done Miss America proud just before Mass concluded.  It was lovely, made with white roses, two different varieties of red roses, white hydrangeas and lilies, ferns and other greenery.  The blooms are now gracing my entry hall.  I put them in a nice tall vase immediately upon arriving home.

Thursday was my last work day before I can enjoy four  weeks vacation.  I come back to the office for the month of August to help my replacement acclimate to this parish.  She is a certified coordinator and I have every confidence that she will be a good fit for the program but I just want to help her over that initial hump of getting to know what is unique to this parish.  She'll need to know which families need a little extra TLC, which families are high maintenance and demanding, what the pastor expects at the Tuesday meeting, how we do parent orientation, how we handle family catechesis , etc..  The first year, the pastor wants her to follow my model and my calendar.  After that, she'll be free to make the program her own, tweaking it as she sees fit.  After twenty years of my way, I think it's about time for new blood, new ideas and new methods.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Christmas in July Giveaway

So many shops run Christmas in July sales, that I thought I'd run a giveaway on the same theme.  I think the whole Christmas in July thing started with the Broadway musical Mame.  Do you remember the lyrics "We need  a little Christmas, right this very moment..."?

This giveaway will be a bit different than the previous ones.  The postage costs are mounting up so I am going to start bundling my excess charts into groups that would appeal to a single winner.  In the long run, it will be less expensive to mail 5 charts in one envelope than 6 envelopes containing one chart each.

The first giveaway under the new system will be for Heartstrings fans:

The Sugarplum Season [a tall narrow Christmas sampler]  
The Wreath Santa [2005]
The Santa Factory [April]
The Candy Cane Santa,
The Feathered Friends Santa, 

The last four charts are ornaments, either complimentary charts from shops or tear outs from the older JCS Christmas issues.  I thoroughly enjoyed stitching these charts because they had lots of interesting details and specialty stitches ... definitely not your generic ho-hum stuff.

If you wish to enter, please leave a comment.  If clicking on your name will not bring me to a profile with your e-mail address, please include your e-mail address in the comment.  I have had issues with contacting winners in the past, all for lack of an e-mail address.

I also ask that the winner agrees to PIF these charts.  An unenforceable request, but a request nonetheless.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Gallery Post - Workbasket Quaker Animal Series - Update

Every so often I get grandiose ideas and make extraordinarily ambitious plans.  My hopes of making a queen-sized quilt from Workbasket's Quaker series is just one example of this tendency.

I intend the center medallion of the quilt to be the Quaker House with the four Quaker "trees" representing the seasons in the four corners of the center piece.  Then surrounding the center piece is a large rectangle made up of all the domestic/farm animals and an outer and even larger rectangle made up of woodland animals.  All of these stitched pieces will be border by log cabin style quilting frames in calico and solid cottons in deep to medium greens.  That's the vision anyway.

So far, I have stitched

The House

The Summer Tree

The Autumn Tree

The Winter Tree

The Spring Tree

The Cat

The Cow

The Pig
The Rooster

The Sheep
The Frog

The Rabbit

The Swan

The Tortoise

The Owl
The Bat

This update [7/3/15] marks the beginning of a renewed effort to stitch enough animals to actually start work on assembling the quilt.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mid Year Review of Annual Goals

It's time to take a look at my annual goals and see how I am faring.  May and June were pretty sketchy months for me due to job and health related issues, so I am a bit behind on some of the goals.

  • 01. My Own Crazy Challenge: work on unfinished class pieces from 2005-date.  Have managed to stitch one more piece of the Mystic Smalls but otherwise this has not been happening.
  • 02. Complete two BAPs: Stitch stockings for Piper and Rocco. I am saving these projects for my retirement.
  • 03. Stitch a few more Spring/Easter ornaments for the tree as well as a half dozen more Town Square ornaments.  I have stitched two more Town Square series ornaments: The Creamery and Sandie's Sweets Shop and have started work on The Abecedarium.  I have to admit that I haven't managed any additional Easter ornaments.
  • 04. Stitch one ornament a month from the Prairie Schooler Year Round leaflet:  I am up-to-date on these pieces, having stitched the January through June rounds.
  • 05. Continue to work on UFOs and WIPs list going into 2015  I have completed The English Band Sampler and have resumed work on the Jacobean Elegance Afghan.
  • 06. Limit stash purchases to fabric, fiber and tools needed to complete charts on hand.  So far this year, I have purchased fibers needed for current projects and even there I have substituted fibers from stash whenever possible.
  • 07. Continue to blog regularly, aiming for every other day. I blew this one with very few entries in May and June.
  • 08. Make an effort to catch up on sewing and frame 2 or 3 pieces professionally.  Not much progress on this front as yet.  Just four "finish" finishes since January.
  • 09. Inventory and declutter existing stash.  I am saving this project for after retirement.
  • 10. Change EGA membership to cyber-stitcher.