Thursday, May 28, 2009

Computer troubles

Well, we have finally accepted the fact that a 10 year old computer needs to be replaced ... especially since there was no resuscitating it after this most recent crash. I am posting from work, so there will be no photos. We are ordering a new computer to be custom built by a local tech who can make the whole deal for approx $750 and still manage to give us 10 times the memory and and 20 times the speed we currently have. So until we christen our new computer, I am not certain how frequently I'll be posting.
My stitching progress these past few days has been satisfactory, if not exactly advancing the May goals ... apparently I have a very low boredom quotient and need to start something new frequently.
I am nearly done with the rabbit pincushion top from Workbasket's Rabbit Rondel leaflet ... I have decided to finish it as a tiny mattress-style pincushion and so have added sides that I am stitching with one of the paisley motifs from the larger rondel piece. I will also stitch a bottom with my signature rune and the year. I plan to stitch the fob as well but that may wait till next month ... there is only so much over one stitching I am willing to do in a given period.
I seem to be on a Workbasket rabbit kick: I am also working on the Quaker Rabbit using the same cream linen that I have used for all my other animals and Belle Soie's Paprika silk, which is a rather chestnut like brown. Since I also have two skeins of Belle Soie Tortoise Shell silk, I will start on the Quaker Tortoise as soon as I finish the rabbit. The simplicity and elegance of these Quaker designs is a welcome relief from the fussiness of the Holly & Hearts Sampler [The Sweetheart Tree] from which I have taken a two week vacation ... as well as from the awkwardness of stitching in hand on Fertility Circles. What with all the rings and beads on that piece, I can no longer use a hoop to hold the fabric taut and none of my scroll rods are the right size for such a small piece. I should really dig out my smallest Q-snaps from the bottom drawer of my stitching center and see if they might work. I do have those little suspender like accessories for Q-snaps that will hold the piece in place even though the fabric will only "snap" into the frame on two edges instead of four.
The bottom line is I am enjoying my stitching a very great deal ... quite a recovery from the doldrums in which I was becalmed earlier this year ... and if it means deviating from a goal or two, so be it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quaker Animals

Last year, I started on a long term project, stitching the Workbasket Quaker Animals series with the ultimate intention of stitching them into a quilt along with the complimentary charts of the Quaker trees found on their website. My intent is to use the Quaker house as my center block and the four trees that I stitched to represent the four seasons at the four corners of the central square. the next band/border would be domesticated animals, then woodland animals as a final band/border. I would use riband or log cabin strips/panels to tie the whole thing together in the green palette I use in my bedroom. I have stitched all my animals on a cream linen [28ct] using a variety of overdyed flosses as seemed appropriate.

So far I have stitched the house, three of the trees [shades representing the seasons], the cat [marmalade], the mouse [blue grey], the swan [black] and the frog [green]. I have started on the rabbit [chestnut brown]. Yet to be stitched are the tortoise, the peacock, the rooster, the pig, the cow, and the sheep. I have all of these charts and plan to stitch them over the summer. That's for the quilt. I have also stitched a number of smaller quaker pieces that I will use for throw pillows or pillow shams: the hedgehog, a flower and the reindeer. I have been watching the new charts as they become available: I am not sure I like the polar bear but if I stitch it in a dark brown ... voila, it fits in with the woodland animals band. The penguin, on the other hand, doesn't seem to work except as a winter seasonal throw pillow. I am not sure, all things considered, that I will invest in the polar bear/penguin chart. I am waiting to see if Workbasket will include a dog, a horse, a goose, a duck and a goat to round out the domesticated animals theme and a squirrel, a chipmunk, a deer. a fox, a wolf, a coyote and an owl to round out the woodland theme. I am thinking of dropping them a line asking them to consider charting such animals. Nothing ventured, nothing gained ... or so the adage goes. I do have a queen size bed to cover, after all.

In any case, here is my Quaker galley to date:

The central house:

The autumn tree

The winter tree:

This will be the summer tree ... I still need to stitch a spring tree.

Next, the domestic animals I have done:

The cat:

And, though the mouse is not, strictly speaking a "domestic" animal, since it all too frequently is found in our homes, I will include it in this band.

Everytime I look at this mouse, I think of Reepicheep from the Narnia Tales! I guess it is the arrogantly heroic pose.

And, now for some woodland animals

The swanThe frog

And, the smaller pieces I will use as pillows or pillow shams:
The flower

The reindeer

The hedgehog

Last night, I started on one more of the woodland animals, the rabbit:

And, while not a Quaker animal, this is a Workbasket design: the rabbit pincushion from the Rabbit Rondel leaflet [see previous post] ... I made a bit more progress on it before the stitching over one started to blind me again.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Finish and a WIP

Well, another May goal is accomplished: I have completed stitching Workbasket's Rabbit Rondel. And, because I have decided to "finish" it as a Shaker sewing box, I have immediately started on the accessories: I am currently stitching the rabbit pincushion over 1 on the same fabric and will stitch the scissor fob as well.

I can't say I really enjoy stitching over one when using an overdyed silk since the required variation of railroading is so tedious: reversing both arms of the cross stitch with each stitch taken. Rather slow work but it does produce the desired effect: none of the stitches are slipping under the warp and woof threads of the fabric.

I am really getting the hang of setting acheivable goals ... most of my May goals have been met. The key seems to be accepting the fact that I am not the superwoman I seem to think I am. I have had a bad habit of grossly over-estimating what I am capable of doing in a given amount of time. No more!!! Humble realism reigns!!!

I hope to work on some sewing finishes as well today, thus completing one or two more of my five finishes I have set as my goal for May.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Off to the framer

I stitched for an hour and a half this morning on Workbasket's Rabbit Rondel. I am just a few rows shy of completing the inner oval ring and then it's on to the home stretch, stitching the central medallion which is a negative image of the rabbit. I anticipate finishing the piece this holiday weekend.
I have a number of pieces I want to take to the framer, so that they will be ready and waiting for me when I return from vacation. First, Debbie Draper's Spots of Fun ... a piece that was a real learning experience for me since I used it to test all sorts of new-to-me fibers. Second, Sue Hillis' YoHoHoHo ... which I will frame the same way I have framed my annual Prairie Schooler Santas: nice dark, vintage wooden frames with an easel back so I can display them atop my bookcases. Third and fourth, a photo of my youngest son and a photo of my husband at age 23, both of which will be added to the family wall. Now I just need a black and white photo of Angela. Fifth, my Miribilia Special Edition Halloween Faerie ... I see this matted and in a somewhat roccoco gilt frame ... but I'll have to check out the available frames and mats before making a decision.

On the way home, I'll stop at Michael's to see if I can find a Shaker box the right size to use when finishing my Rabbit Rondel from Workbasket as well as some paint that will pick up the tones in the Caron Waterlilies Periwinkle silk that I used to stitch it. Then, it's off to Joanne's to pick up some mattress ticking for a tote finish for Sailor's Jig. Last stop will be the post office to mail out a giveaway and an ornament. After that, I'll sew and stitch to my heart's content ... perhaps even garden a wee bit.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Breaking the barrier

Finally, I have broken the barrier of the 200lb mark. Why does 200 lbs sound so much more obese than 198? I guess it is psychologically satisfying not to see that arrow swing past the starting point on the scale to rack up higher numbers on a second turn around the dial. To stay within just one rotation around the scale for the first time in 5 years is a thrill. Yes, I know there are still 58 lbs to lose but I have already lost 44 ... and, knowing that, I am sure I can keep this momentum going.

As for stitching: having picked up Workbasket's Rabbit Rondel again, I can't seem to set it down. I keep visualizing it finished as the top of a round sewing box. I'll have to check out A. C. Moore or Michael's this weekend for the right size shaker box and some coordinating paint so I can do this. After all, the companion pieces on the leaflet are a pin cushion and a scissor fob. So, making a sewing box seems perfectly logical. I do believe I can finish this piece during the long Memorial Day weekend and still have time to work on some sewing finishes. [I need to do three more sewing "finishes" to meet May goals ... so I am planning to chain myself to the sewing machine till I have accomplished this ... I have two needlebooks, a Christmas ornament, two bell pulls, five pillows, two tote bags and a tea cozy awaiting sewing finishes, so there will be plenty to choose from.] I have already prepped the fabric for the pin cushion and sewn it onto my lap Doodler frame, so I can segue into that project as soon as I am done with the rondel. I have enough of the fabric left to make the fob as well but I am considering stitching that over one since the fabric is 28ct. I do believe stitching the fob over two will make it too large for the scissor with which I want to use it.

Next up, in order to convert Teresa Wentzler's Autumn Faerie from a UFO back into a WIP, I shall have to re-kit the piece again by pulling out all the multitudinous DMC colors that it requires. Once that is done, I'll be able to work it back into my regular stitching rotation. I had put all the floss away months ago, because it became annoying to have to pull out the TW project bag every time I needed one of the flosses for another project. It also made me feel a bit guilty for neglecting the piece. I hope to complete it within a month or two so that I can get it framed in time to give it to my daughter as a Christmas gift. If I do the prep over the week-end, it will become the "focus" project for the next couple of weeks ... since I need a bit of a break from the Holly and Hearts Sampler.
I am trying to keep my active rotation down to three projects so as not to be overwhelmed by the goals I set for myself. Now that I am actively working at keeping my goals down to a reasonable few, I am enjoying my stitching so much more.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Last Friday was spa day and a number of other topics

After a really rough couple of weeks on the job, I treated myself to a spa day: facial, manicure and haircut. I love Jackie who gives me my facials because she also massages my back, my arms and my lower legs and feet ... and aside from being a totally relaxing, tension draining experience, her facials and massages are adventures in aromatherapy. Jackie is my hero! Now I am ready to tackle registration for next year's program, grading finals, signing off on over 600 progress reports, and all the ordering of texts and supplies for 2009-10, all the staff meetings, catechist meetings and regional meetings, and the summer in-service workshops, etc. etc. I feel so good it ought to be illegal.

I had intended to trek on down to the framing shop on Friday afternoon, but after the spa morning and early afternoon grocery shopping, I went home and cooked a late lunch for my husband. He was home because he had some skin cancers removed during some in-office surgery at his dermatologist this morning. I had offered to forego my spa appointment and go with him but he [bless his macho soul] said it wasn't necessary. But I did feel that once home he deserved a little extra pampering ... a pint of his favorite ice cream to top off a nice lunch. I even endured a George Strait Concert DVD during lunch. I figured Bill needed as many little treats as possible to build a nice comfort zone to compensate for the two and a half incision in his cheek. So the framing will have to wait till next Friday.

On the stitching front, I put in a bit more time on Fertile Circles Friday evening and Sunday and Monday mornings. Here's a photo of current progress. As you can see I have stitched about 3/4 of the front cover for my needlebook. I am going to stitch the back with my initial as a Celtic Rune and fill in the background with waves of color using the same palette as on the front ... so the back will stitch up more quickly than the front. The "spine" will be a single vertical row of rice stitches. I am really having a great deal of fun with this piece.

As for my progress on The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Hearts Sampler: I seem to be spending an eternity on row 14 with it's fussy back-stitched vines and leaves ... but I am making progress, really I am!!!! Compare the photos below. I keep telling myself that slow and steady wins the race. Anyway, this piece is such a pleasure to work on that I don't mind the fact that it requires such a major investment of time. This is what it looked like last time I posted a photo

and this is a photo of the current condition of Row 14:

It doesn't seem like a lot of progress for nearly 3 hours of stitching, but I find this particular row requires slow, careful and accurate stitching to keep the symmetry intact. I'd rather dawdle than frog.

I am also making some stitching time for Workbasket's Rabbit Rondel which looked like this when last you saw it: And now looks like this, with just about 1/4 of the inner ring stitched:
So far this month I have worked on all my goals but two

--ten hours stitching on Teresa Wentzler's Autumn Faerie
--kitting up and starting Teresa Wentzler's Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking

... and while I may not have accomplished all the goals I have worked on completely, at least I am making discernible progress. I feel like I am finally getting a handle on the whole monthly goals concept. I am setting more doable goals, I am not getting frantic about acheiving them and I am enjoying my stitching. And, of course, there are still 11 days left in this month, including the long Memorial Day weekend which will generate more stitching time than usual. So who knows, this may be the first time in two years that I meet all my monthly goals!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Finish, Some Stash and a Surprise

First, the surprise: Patti Arbia made some fantastic buttons for me last fall to complete Raise the Roof's Crabby All Year piece --- I thought the flower buttons that came with the chart made absolutely no sense in the "Bills" box for December and had Patti make me a piggy bank and a hammer instead. Well, Patti must have the soul of an artist because she never sent a bill so I just paid what I thought they were worth. The upshot was she thought I had overpaid, promised to send more buttons but I told her it wasn't necessary. I was one satisfied customer since the new custom-made buttons worked so well in the piece. A few days ago, these arrived in the mail:

Second, stash in the mail: my order from 123stitch came. I added to my collection of Belle Soie silks ... it is a beautiful and terrible addiction.

Some rusts, some red, some blues. And some turquoise and green.

The last is a very dark green called Tortoise Shell that I will use for my Workbasket Quaker Turtle which I will be kitting up as soon as I complete my current WIPs.

And then, there are the last two charts in The Stitching Parlor's Pride and Prejudice series

Mr. and Mrs. Darcy at Pemberly

The Ball at Netherfield

And now for the finish: The Sailor's Jig from Diana Gallagher's Creative Needleworks Whale Watch leaflet.

I plan to finish this as a beach tote for my husband to carry his books, reading glasses, binoculars, etc. I am picturing blue and white mattress ticking for the fabric with rope handles if I can find a rope to suit my needs [and sewing machine's capacity] Even when you fray, flatten and spread the end of the rope that gets sewn into a seam, it can give your average home sewing machine some serious indigestion.

Well, that's the progress to date. Today, I hope to do some more work on Fertile Circles and hope to finish a Christmas ornament and at least get started on my tote finish for BaBa Black Sheep.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Progress of a sort

On Saturday afternoon, I started on another of my May goal pieces: Sailor's Jig, from the Whale Watch leaflet by Donna Gallagher Creative Needlework. I began stitching it on the car ride up to my daughter's house to meet her for the performance of Galompa that she and my youngest son gave me as a Mother's Day gift. It was a marvelously witty and engaging show: part modern dance, part acrobatics and part comedic mime. Since, what with dinner and the show, we had a very late night, I didn't pick up Sailor's Jig again until Sunday when I managed to put in another hour's worth of stitching on it after Mass. I stitched on it for another hour each on Mon, Tues, Wed and Thurs. mornings. It is nearly done, just a bit more backstitching and the ribbon on the sailor's hat. I'll take a photo when I finish this piece ... as I anticipate doing this evening.
I also managed some quality stitching time during the lunch and dinner breaks at work. I carry The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Heart Sampler in the stitching bag I bring to work. The progress is slow but it is progress, nonetheless. I am waiting to finish the tracery heart row before taking another photo ... more impressive that way.

On the weight loss front, I haven't lost any more weight but, on the other hand, I haven't regained any of the weight I lost recently when I was under the weather. So I guess that is a good thing. I have been satisfying my craving for sweets with papaya and with grapefruit rather than with cakes and cookies. I have been satisfying my craving for chocolate with a chocolate flavored tea ... I am not sure how I feel about this substitution just yet ... interesting and different are the words that comes to mind ... but not delicious or soul-satisfying. I can only hope that this self-restraint will be rewarded with a loss on next Thursday's weigh-in.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Breathing a sigh of relief

Today was First Communion Day in the parish and we all survived ... there were a few glitches with the new videographer using a spotlight and moving to and fro across the church ... something I will address with his boss so next year will be more reverent and less intrusive. The children made a few mistakes but that only adds to the charm of the ceremony. One little boy was so tiny that even with the step stool he had to bounce up and down on tiptoes to complete his reading [the sacristan had forgotten to put the taller library stool that I provided in front of the pulpit] I thought our deacon was going to lose it as he struggled not to laugh. Erik was that seriously cute! Even our very staid and sober Monsignor smiled.
In any case, I have managed to survive two Confirmations and two First Communions in an 8 day span, with all the attendant retreats, rehearsals, parent meetings, etc. that accompany them. Now, there's just a May Crowning and a registration weekend to go ... and final exam week as well as the last catechist meeting of the year, a staff meeting and a staff dinner.
So, maybe, just maybe, I'll find more time for stitching in the coming weeks ... though for the past few days I have been too tired to concentrate properly on the current somewhat demanding WIPs: The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Hearts Sampler and my own Fertility Circles. Instead, I have been doing quite a bit of light reading. I re-read the whole series of Laura Child's tea shop mysteries as well as the current Oolong Dead, then the first installment of Nora Robert's bride series and have just started Amanda Quick's [aka Jayne Ann Krentz] Perfect Poison. This weekend is full of engagements: the aforementioned First Communions, an early dinner with my oldest and youngest and husband and then a performance of Galoompha; one of those mime cum acrobatic cum comedy troupes. Tomorrow: the May Crowning at the 9:30 Mass and then a visit to my own mother. I hope to be home by 5pm so as to have time to do some laundry followed by some serious collapsing.
But next week, I'll have a lighter schedule. With no more Confirmation classes, Tuesday's workday will end at 7pm instead of 9pm. And, on my Friday off, I have scheduled a spa day: haircut/facial/manicure ... I can just feel the muscles un-knotting and the tension draining. And I have a June vacation coming up ... lolling on a beach, stitching under palm trees and gazing off into an ocean horizon ... what could be more relaxing? Life is good and full of blessings.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Weighing In

I am showing a loss of 2.5 lbs this week but I am not going to get real excited about it. I have a wicked sinus infection and have been subsisting on herbal tea, grapefruit, papaya and toast for the past three days. So I am sure this is a "false" reading and as soon as I am recovered and eating normally again, I may see a small weight gain. I hope not but let's be realistic! In any case, I weigh in at exactly 200 ... down from 242 in Sept. 2008. I restarted my count at the end of April because I had been neglecting things a bit during the month. Now I just want to break that 200 barrier. I know it is just a number but the psychological impact is great. Somehow 200 seems so much more obese than 199 ... at least, to me. I find it hard to believe that all through my teens and twenties I never topped 115 ... and then, with three pregnancies, the numbers just kept inching up and up and up. Menopause came along and, with it, even more weight gain. I am told by my endocrinologist that if I manage to lose another 40 lbs, he will re-evaluate my diabetes meds and perhaps reduce dosages or even the menu of meds [currently at 4 different medications]. It is a worthy goal ... especially since I am mildly phobic about all things medical.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just some photos to prove ...

... that I am still stitching. I absolutely need to stitch at least a little bit each day to de-stress and relax during this hectic [not to say, frantic] season at work.

So, here goes:

Before work yesterday morning, I spent a little time on sewing finishes:

This is the Sue Hillis complimentary chart of a piratical Santa ... sort of a companion piece to her YoHoHoHo, which I stitched last month and will be taking to the framers [along with five other finished projects] later this month when things have calmed down a wee bit.

This is my third ornament for The Stitching For A Cure charity blog: The Breast Cancer Ribbon Angel. Since my younger sister and a first cousin have survived breast cancer thanks to advancements in treatment and research, this charity effort is very dear to my heart.

And over the past few days, I have been adding to my Fertile Circles piece ... I am beginning to get the hang of this particular type of embroidery after a bit of a false start ... I'll be covering up that unfortunate bit of flame stitching with another "layer" of embroidery in flosses that work better with the dominant colorway ... and that clutch of beads that looks awkward at the top left of the design will eventually be the head of a snake [another classic fertility symbol] made from a very thick fiber that will be couched on the surface of the piece, winding through the nests. The finished piece will be made up as a needlebook rather than the handbag I had originally thought of doing. The photo is a bit dark ... the oranges in the design are actually quite a bit brighter ... I must not have had my Ott light angled quite right when I snapped this photo. I'll do better next time.

I hope to get another hour or so done on this piece this morning before work ... I get up early just to ensure that I have some time to stitch during the day.

I also managed to get a half an hour of "lunch time" stitching on The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Hearts Sampler yesterday ... but I'll wait till I finish the large tracery heart row before photographing this piece again.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Just a brief post to whine and complain. Talk about the Peter Principle. With 900 Mass booklets to make for Confirmation and another 900 to make for First Communion next week my trusty photocopier broke the paddles that feed toner to the drum apparatus. The soulful little man who came to repair it ordered the part which may or may not arrive for 5-10 business days. Okay, the defunct school had a copier whose lease we couldn't break ... so I just moved to another part of the building to do my copying. A good plan! But no, that copier keeps misfeeding. So I went home Thursday night knowing that if I stayed a moment longer I would take an axe to the second copier and really be up the creek without a paddle [cunning reference to the first copier's problem]. A frantic call to the former school secretary nets the information that this copier is a sensitive plant and in hot humid weather prefers that we turn on the air conditioner in the copy room at least half an hour before attempting to copy anything. I arrived Friday morning, turned on the air conditioner and went into total problem solving mode. Good thing. I discovered that the problem was the fussy second copier doesn't like Staples copy paper ... it prefers a more up-scale diet of Xerox paper. Nine hundred booklets later, I breathed a sigh of relief.
I leave in a few minutes to set up for 93 darling 13 year olds' Confirmation. My prayer: May God give me patience ... it wouldn't be a good thing to kill John D on his Confirmation Day, to choke childtren [and some of the adult sponsors] who see nothing wrong with chewing gum in Church [guess they haven't heard about fasting before Communion], and I must remember not to strangle any 13 year old girls who think bare legs and flip-flops are appropriate attire for Confirmation.