Monday, October 27, 2008

Weekend stitching

I continued to work on my main October focus project, the Miribilia Halloween Faerie, and did some more work on the Little by Little 2007 JCS ornament Merry & Bright.
Progress on the Halloween Faerie: most of the outline of the butterfly wings is complete and I did a bit more work on the face and mask. I'll take more photos when I am further along.
As to the Merry & Bright ornament, all I have left to stitch are the stars and the ampersand. I'll be stitching the stars in French Vanilla Belle Soie silk. I am thinking of stitching the ampersand in either the dark green or the mauve though the chart calls for the same off-white used in the stars. I am afraid the ampersand might just fade into the antique green fabric, otherwise. The stars have enough mass to stand out from the fabric but the ampersand is just a single stitch wide throughout.
Late Sunday afternoon, my daughter dropped by to have me sort out a problem she was having reading a chart with a lot of quarter stitches and outlining ... it was the eye of a Siamese cat. She also needed help starting her long narrow wolf pack chart. She only started cross-stitching in August and I am very pleased to see how beautifully she is coming along ... though she joked that I shouldn't look at her backs. True, they are not perfect but they are really quite neat for a beginner ... just a little bit of travelling and a few slip knots caught beneath other stitching. I showed her how to start at the center of a large chart. I do find though that I am "lending" her an awful lot of my stuff: Q-snaps, scroll rod frames and the like. Ange is good about returning things [she brought my sterling Celtic thread cutter home last night - borrowed for a flight to the West coast] but this wolf pack project is a BAP finishing up at approximately 18" x 9" and she'll be needing my scroll frame for several months, if not considerably longer. When I finish with the Halloween Faerie, I will be giving her the chart and leftover Crescent Color floss and some fabric from my stash on which to stitch it. I'll need to buy three or four skeins of CC. There is a small part of me that is actually glad that Ange is about to learn the full value of all the stitched gifts she has received in the past ... although to do her justice, she has always been most appreciative and I can tell by the way my work is displayed in her home, that she treasures the pieces she has ... and with money getting tight, even I can't continue to frame pieces as extravagantly as I did in the past. I am practicing blocking, pinning and lacing techniques on small pieces so that I can graduate to framing. But I am betting my frugal daughter who doesn't share my power tool phobia will probably become a better framer than I'll ever be ... if she decides to learn ... and then I can send my stuff to her for framing. But more importantly, I am delighted she has started stitching because now we have another interest to share.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Miribilia Limited Edition Halloween Faerie

This is my main focus project this month and I am happy with my progress thus far.

Here is a photo of how she looked Wednesday morning

And another of the progress by Thursday morning

As you can see I am obsessing a bit on this piece and find it difficult to put down even for silly little distractions like eating, sleeping and working to pay the bills. When I am through with her, I'll be passing the chart on to my daughter, along with the remaining Crescent Colors floss ... normally, any faeries I stitch end up hanging on my daughter's walls but this one will stay here. Ange will have to stitch her own. I have fallen in love with this dainty faerie and have decided that she lives here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival ...

was amazing. This was my first visit to the festival having learned about it only last year. My love of fibers was indulged extravagantly. I touched, fondled, carressed, smelled [this was not always a pleasant experience] all manner of wool and wool blends. There were alpaca, llama, muskox, angora, and mohair yarns. There was wool from more breeds of sheep than I knew existed. Some of the yarn was fleece-spun [washed but uncarded] which results in a very nubby and irregular fiber. Some was carded ever so carefully and spun and plied up into yarns ranging from superfine to as thick as a child's finger. Some batts were blended with silk when spun to produce [get this] a less expensive yarn: the 100% pure muskoxen down fiber costs $90 a 3 oz ball but the 50%muskoxen/50% silk was a mere $70 for a 3oz. ball. I was weak, I bought two balls of the blend ... so very very soft, so very very irresistible and such a perfect silvery sage green. Some batts were dyed before carding and spinning, other batts remained au naturel. There were spinners, knitters, weavers, crocheters everywhere. There were all manner of handmade clothing for sale: scarves, shawls, mittens, gloves, handwarmers, wristlets, legwarmers, skirts, vests, sweaters, jackets, blankets, wraps. There were felted woolen sculptures including some very bizarre but oddly appealing sculptures of topless, heavy-weight, decidedly mature women ... no I didn't buy any of these. My mirror is a painful enough reminder of what has become of my once sylph-like figure, thank you very much. There were felted hats and handbags, there were fiber art necklaces. I bought my grandson a sweater made from alpaca yarn and I bought my daughter a gorgeous felted handbag of bright blue with an embroidered mermaid embellishment ... and, no I didnt bring the camera, more fool I ... I'll have to have Ange e-mail me a picture of the bag so I can post it. I also bought myself two large [300 yard] skeins of hand-painted llama yarn in a blue-green-gold color way and three zip-loc bags of mini-batts in a variety of colors for felting.

And I drank fresh-pressed cider [after all, this took place in one of the biggest apple growing regions in NY] as I walked and walked and walked through all the indoor and outdoor exhibits and stalls. My daughter recounted overhearing a surreal one-sided conversation [quite innocently] as a woman spoke urgently into her cell phone: "What's the problem? Stay calm, don't shout ... the llama's gone into labor? ... stay calm, call Deb, she'll get you through this ... call Deb..." voice fading as the woman moves off into the distance.
All in all, a remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I have read that Navaho weavers always deliberately weave one small mistake into their blankets, rugs and other woolen goods so the gods won't become jealous and cut short the life of the perfect weaver. If the same holds true for needlework, I shall live forever.
I was so pleased with my Country Cottage Needleworks Peace from the JCS 2007 Christmas ornament issue ... I was enjoying the changes I had made in the fibers, substituting Belle Soie and Splendor silks and Mandarin bamboo for the DMC ... I was congratulating myself on using another of the sample swatches I had gotten in a goodie bag at a retreat, so very frugal ... I was pleased with the fabric [Zweigart Cork Linen, 18ct] and was making plans to use it again in the future. In short, I was having a grand old time ... until, that is, I had stitched up to the top of the flower stem and realized it didn't align with the center of the top border ... because I had started the botton edge of the flower pot one row higher than I should have, starting three stitches over from the top row of the "P" instead of the second row ... thereby shifting the entire flower pot motif one thread left. I decided to live with my error since about 80% of the stitching was already done. I'll keep this ornament for myself since I would never give anything less than my best in an exchange or giveaway ... mostly because I am too damn proud of my work generally and wouldn't want any of my stitching friends to note such an obvious mistake and think me too incompetent to have seen it myself. So, for now, all my innocent delight in this project is diminished considerably by such a stupid mistake ... I know how to read a chart, for Pete's sake ... I am a better stitcher than this ... the sounds you hear are the gnashing of teeth and the pounding of a head against a wall.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The best plans of mice and men ...

Well due to some high sugar counts - I overindulged on carbs and sweets as a diabetic should never do - I didn't want to risk driving to the Happy Quilter. Driving when one's numbers are high is the moral and physical equivalent of driving drunk. So, I never got the fabric I had planned to ... I'll have to defer that to next Friday morning.

So, instead of sewing finishes, I devoted my time to stitching: I finished the cross-stitching on the UFO Turkish Tile biscornu and began the assembly but had to stop when my eyes began to cross and my vision got a wee bit blurry for such fine work [another consequence of high sugar numbers]. I'll photograph the biscornu when it is fully assembled, stuffed and buttoned. Then I finished stitching and assembling the Be-Witched clothespin doll that Sandy sent me as part of our Halloween exchange. Of course, being the sort of anti-kit crank that I am, I changed out all the threads, edged all the raw edges with blanket stitches in DMC 310 and sewed the dress, sleeve and hat seams instead of gluing as per instructions. Turning those sleeves right side out again was a real challenge since the top of the cone was so very tiny. The only gluing I did was when affixing the floss "hair" and the hat to the clothespin "head". I also sewed a JABCo black cat button [which blends right into the black aida in the photo] to the bottom of the dress and added a black & green beaded hanger. I think the result is attractive. If one of you gentle readers would like to try your hand at this little ornament, I would be happy to mail the patterns and graphs along with the glow-in-the-dark floss that came with the kit to the first person to post a comment asking for it. You would have to provide your own black aida and a clothespin ... though if you'd like some black linen [28ct] I could provide a piece of sufficient size for the project.

I also finished the Homespun Elegance Fall Pumpkin as a mini pillow ornament and substituted an Olde Brass Star button for the Star Pumpkin button it called for ... since that was what I had on hand ... I think it looks acceptable.

Since I was still not in the mood for sewing finishes and not quite up to working on my Miribilia Halloween Faerie, I had to cast about for something to do above and beyond drinking a full gallon of water to help purge the extra sugar from my bloodstream. So, I pulled a Christmas ornament from the JCS 2007 issue out of my to-do binder: Country Cottage Needleworks Peace, using a sample piece of Zweigarts Cork Linen 18ct in Confederate Grey and stitching over one. This linen is very soft in the hand and easy to stitch ... of course, stitching over one, the usual care to railroad and lay stitches in such a way as to avoid slippage had to be taken ... I am using Belle Soie silks and Rainbow Gallery Splendour silks and Mandarin bamboo floss on this ornament and, in each case, two strands covers nicely. If one were to stitch over two on this fabric, it would be an easy way to enlarge a favorite ornament or small motif chart to pillow or tote bag size ... of course one would have to ply up proportionately, using 4-6 strands of DMC cottons or using a bulkier fiber like DMC perle cotton. It could get quite expensive using silks, overdyes or any other high-end fiber when stitching over two. I'll take a photograph when this is done. I am planning on finishing it as a flat ornament.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Columbus Day Weekend Stitching and Related Activities

It's shaping up to be an expensive but very satisfying weekend!

I took a trip to the framers this afternoon. I chose five different but similar frames for my five Prairie Schooler Santas. I am having metal easel backs placed on these so I can set them around on table tops and book shelves during the holiday season. Then, I chose a very wild and whimsical painted and highly varnished frame for Raise the Roof's Crabby All Year. The frame I chose for Lizzie Kate's Housework Never Killed Anyone is one that has alternating rectangles of ivory, green and purple that picks up the colors in the piece nicely and, again, maintains a certain whimsy. And, finally, the duty stitch done for my SIL of a cat entangled in toilet tissue [so not-my-thing] is going to be finished up with a nice mat and coordinating frame in a slightly greyed brown. Oh Lord, 8 items to be framed ... Even with today's deposit of $400, I can see where the bulk of the next paycheck is going. And they are still working on the Sue Hillis Pair Tree. It probably won't be all that terrible since I don't think they'll all be ready in the same pay period. And, I will only need to frame one more item between now and Christmas ... the as yet to be started Prairie Schooler Limited Edition Santa for 2008 ... a gift for my youngest sister. All the rest of my stitching for the next few months is going to require sewing finishes ... much less expensive.

On Monday, I'll head out in the other direction to the Happy Quilter to pick out fabric to make pillows for the 4 Sue Hillis charmed Santas, the I Love to Shop at the Silver Needle shopping tote and the Tea for Two tea cozy ... I'll need some fleece batting as well and some more quilting pins ... and, oh yes, I can never resist checking out the notions wall. I always come home with a new tool or some interesting buttons.

And in the meantime, I believe I'll spend the better part of Sunday on sewing finishes. I have all the materials I need for the LHN Seasons of ... these pillows have been sitting in the finishing basket [which is really the largest laundry basket I could find] for nearly nine months ... if I am to use them as a Christmas gift for my sister Ange as intended, I'd best get to them soon. And I'd like to do the sewing finish on the emory strawberry from last year's JCS Christmas ornament issue. That would make five less finishes in the backlog and that would be a very good feeling.

As to actual cross stitching: I have resurrected a UFO, a complimentary chart for a biscornu, from a European website [aurelle]. I had run out of Caron Waterlilies Peach Sherbert silk after stitching the top and one round of border motifs for the bottom ... since doing Spots of Fun and using so many different fibers in autumnal colors, I now have a multitude of silk overdyes on hand and have found one with a slightly paler but compatible color way to complete the piece. I've already put in several hours on this project today and could easily have it finished before the holiday weekend is over. Also, I just couldn't resist starting the clever and light-hearted Halloween ornament kit that Sandy included in my Halloween Exchange package. I don't usually work with aida [being an absolute linen snob, I am afraid] but this little clothespin doll of a witch with it's aida dress and hat is irresistible. A fussy but quick little stitch. I am pretty certain I will be able to hang this little witch from the Halloween tree on my desk when I return to work on Tuesday. And, of course, there is my current focus piece for October, Miribilia's Halloween Faerie which is turning out to be a relatively quick stitch ... perhaps, because I like her so very much.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A True Sampler: The Final Installment

Having finished Debbie Draper's Spots of Fun, I can now report on the last few fibers I have used:

Dinky Dyes Silk: another very lovely silk and one I will certainly purchase again. Easy to strand, smooth to stitch and easy to maintain a proper lay on the fabric.

Caron Watercolors: a three ply hand-painted pima cotton, this is a rather needy fiber but well worth the care. Once plyed down to one ply, what the stitcher has is a very loosely twisted perle which requires a larger eye needle, a shorter length strand, and a very light tension. When stitched on 28ct over two, this fiber sits very high on the fabric making it ideal for lettering, tracery [such as vines, snowflakes or delicate lacy motifs]. On the other hand, it is really too bulky for solid area stitching giving an over-crowded and bunchy effect. See the lower right hand motif of my Spots of Fun for an illustration: the tracery looks great but the solid areas do not show this fiber to advantage. I imagine that this fiber would work well on needlepoint canvas and on 11ct Aida or 10ct tula but have yet to test my theory. I do have some needlepoint canvas on hand but don't have any Aida or tula at the moment, so it will be awhile before I can check this out.

Crescent Colors, GAST & WDW Cotton Overdyes: I used several of these overdyes in this sampler ... mainly to expand my color range. Almost all stitchers are familiar with these quality cotton overdyes and know that they need to be stranded, used in 18" lengths, and stitched one x at a time. It may just be me, but WDW feels coarser in my hand than GAST and I will always choose a GAST fiber over a WDW if the colorways are comparable. That being said, I do use both and have a fairly deep stash of the WDW and a very deep stash of GAST. As to Crescent Colors, I find their overdyes to be very soft in the hand, the colors to be clear and true and, though I have only begun to acquire much of a stash in this line, I can see it growing in the future. It does seem to me that the CC line has colors more suitable to contemporary designs. If I were to try to define how this is is so, I would say that the colors seem brighter and clearer but that doesn't quite express the full sense of what I am getting at. Also, it seems to imply that the WDW and GAST are inferior in some way which is not what I mean at all, at all. I think what I do mean is that the WDW & GAST appear to use more natural or vegetal dyes and CC appears to use more man-made and chemical dyes. I do not know if this is actually so but it is the way I see the colors.
I am wondering now if I wish to fill in a few of the spaces left in Spots of Fun with some beaded motifs like an acorn with the cap done in matte copper beads or some silk ribbon embroidery like a sheaf of wheat using the Japanese seed stitch ... would it add interest or just make the whole thing too busy? I shall have to live with the piece a while before I decide ... meanwhile, I think I'll order the beads and the silk ribbon, just in case!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Keeping up with the sewing finishes, exchanges, S.E.X. & WIPs

I have a backlog of about 16 sewing finishes, so I am determined to avoid adding to it. For the past two months I have been completing two sewing finishes from the backlog each month and have been keeping up with current finishes. I want to get to the point when all I will have left are the two quilts for which I am collecting blocks. I intend to make a queen size quilt from all the Workbasket Quaker animals I have been stitching and a lap quilt from all the owl pieces I have been stitching. Those will be major projects and I will consult with some friends in the local quilters guild before graphing my layout for those finishes. Today's finish photos are in the "current" category.

First, the trick or treat bag for my grandson Liam that I stitched using Raise the Roof's BooWhoo? from the JCS Halloween ornament issue. I actually did the finishing on this piece during the last week of September but am only now getting around to taking pictures. Since Liam is only 14 months old, I can't very well fill it with candy nor would I want to ... so I am stuffing it with these socks from The Sock Lady.

The color ways are called Firefly and Dragonfly and I think they are the neatest baby gear I have seen yet ... and as the proud Grandma of my very first and, to date, only grandchild, I have seen quite a lot of neat baby gear in the past year or so. A lady on the 123 stitch board posted about The Sock Lady and, of course, I had to check it out. Pediatricians are telling young moms to delay putting babies in shoes for a while. Thus, thick socks are the new shoes. I am lucky inasmuch as my daughter-in-law and I have pretty similar taste ... useful since exchanging gifts is a bit tricky when my son and his family live on the West coast and I live on the East. But I can just see Christina getting as excited about these socks as I did ... and I can just hear Sean making the same comment as Bill did, "Why are there five socks to a set and, uh, wait a second, they don't match, do they? Never mind, forget I asked!" In any case, Liam's toes will stay warm no matter how damp and chilly the Northwest gets this winter.

And, just because I only received this picture recently: here is Liam's 2007 Halloween photo with the Trick or Treat Bag I stitched for him back then ... I don't know why it looks as though there is black tracery in the stitched piece ... it sure as heck wasn't there when I stitched it.

The second finish is Diane Cripps' Pumpkin ornament for my Halloween tree at work. I finished this as a flat ornament and created a beaded edge by loading three green beads onto each of the closely placed whipstitches holding the piece to its backing and then added a bracelet style hanger travelling from top left corner to top right corner stringing a copper bead alternating with five green beads for the length of the hanger.
I am also including some shots of a recent Halloween exchange ... I am one very lucky lady. I love the ornament ... even better than my own stitched version ... somehow it looks so much better stitched over one. And the socks will keep my inner child giggling all month long. I believe I'll make the ornament kit my purse project for waiting rooms and such.

Also, I received the custom-made buttons I needed to finish my Raise the Roof Crabby All Year last Saturday ... Patti A from Canada is an artist, don't you agree? I am now officially spoiled and will never look at a JABCo button in quite the same way again. Here's a photo of the finished Crabby All Year and a close-up of Patti's buttons on the piece.

And then, at the suggestion of one of the many enablers at the 123stitch MB, I checked out the buttons and trims available at Farmhouse Fabrics ...

Okay, so I went a little wild purchasing buttons ... mother of pearl and glass and brass and celluloid ... and the colors: ivory, ebony, ecru, tangerine, lime, purple, emerald and pearl. At least, I'll have no problem finishing my biscornus for the next little while.

And, finally, this is just back from the framer ... I stitched it last January but thought I'd get it framed in time to use this winter.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October Goals

Main Rotation Focus:
  1. Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Projects
  2. Teresa Wentzler Autumn Faerie
  3. Teresa Wentzler Woodland Angel stocking
  4. Miribilia Halloween Faerie

Smaller Projects Rotation:
  1. Graph out and stitch monogram for Spots of Fun
  2. Finish Homespun Elegance Fall Pumpkin ornament
  3. Stitch set of four teat towels with herbal motif
  4. Start Liz Turner Diehl German Garden
  5. M Design Name Trees for Sean & Christina
  6. Celtic Tarot Card for Angela

Finishing Goals: Complete sewing finish on at least two projects from backlog of stitched pieces and keep up with current finishes

Planning: Jane Austen neighborhood for Me, Myself and I Round Robin Board.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Assessing September Goals

Focus on three major projects: I didn't even touch these, granted September is a hellacious month every year with the start of the religious education program requiring getting all 650 students [and their parents] and all 55 catechists happily settled and all sorts of reports being due as the year begins ... but this year it was complicated by the absence of my new assistant who had the misfortune to contract bacterial pneumonia and require two weeks of hospitalization and still hasn't been given the go ahead to return to work by her doctors.
  1. Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Projects
  2. Teresa Wentzler Autumn Faerie
  3. Teresa Wentzler Woodland Angel stocking
Also in Rotation
  1. Spots of Fun SAL: DONE except for the monogram at the center
  2. Tea Towels w herbal motif : not done
  3. Miribilia Halloween Faerie: not done
  4. One Halloween Ornament for Exchange: DONE AND MAILED: The Sweetheart Tree's Pumpkin on Gingham
  5. Five Halloween ornaments: YEAH!!! ACTUALLY I STITCHED 7: [1]The Sweetheart Tree's Pumpkin on Gingham as a floss tag, [2] Finished Prairie Schooler's Night Owl as a mini-pillow ornament, [3] Elizabeth's Design's Spooky Tree as a flat ornament, [4] Homespun Elegance's Boo Pumpkin as a mini-pillow ornament, [5] La-D-Da's Smell My Feet as a pin-keep ornament, [6] Raise the Roof's Boo Whoo finished as a Trick or Treat bag for Liam, [7] Debbie Cripps Pumpkin as a flat ornament.
  6. LTD German Garden: not done
  7. M Design Name Trees: Sean and Christina: not done
  8. Celtic Tarot Card for Angela: not done
Sewing finishes: at least two from backlog of stitched projects: DONE [1] Pink motif biscornu, [2] Plum Pudding's Blessed Be as a sachet bag, and have kept up with the Halloween ornament finishes as each is stitched with the exception of Raise the Roof's Boo Whoo? which I turned into a Trick or Treat bag for Liam.

Planning: not done: sketch out a plan for Pride & Prejudice neighborhood for the Me, Myself and I Neighborhood Round Robin.

It is becoming very clear that I have a far too exalted view of what I can accomplish in a given month ... especially if that month involves crunch time professionally. I will simply carry forward the remaining items on my goals list into the October goals list without adding a single item. And will continue to do so each month until this particular batch of projects is completed. After that I will return to my Workbasket Quaker animals charts and Dragon Dreams charts. I should like to have that quilt ready to stitch up by March 2009 but we shall see what we shall see.