Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Simple Task ... but Hard to Master ...

Making Twisted Cord: I have seen it done just about every time I have attended a stitching retreat. People make it look so easy. I bought one of those drills in which you insert a hook you make out of a broken paper clip. I've read the 11 step directions over and over. I've measured and re-measured floss. I have recruited my husband, who has far more spatial intelligence and just plain old mechanical instincts than I, to help in the manufacturing process. And I have wasted skeins and skeins of floss making loads of really crappy, uneven cording. I have used language rarely used since my college days in '67-'71. I've reminded myself that I am intelligent, competent, creative ... dammit, I have an MA degree and more in-service certifications than you can shake a stick at [though why you'd want to shake a stick at anything eludes me]. I still make crappy cord.

But last night, I think I finally climbed my personal stitching Everest ... as I suspected, I was missing one simple but necessary step [in this case: weighting the cord in it's final stage of twisting back on itself] ... you know how, when you finally figure something out, you think "How could I have been such an idiot ... it was so obvious?!?"

At last, the door knob hanger for my daughter has a proper finish ... cording that picks up colors of both

the angelic cat [Guardian Chessie from 2005 JCS Christmas Ornament issue]

and the piratical cat [Jolly Roger Cat, free chart]

And for a close-up of the cord, here is the final result: a three color [medium & medium dark grey with black] cord. I made cord twelve strands [of 6 ply floss] thick for the cording around the door knob hanger and six strands [of 6 ply floss] for the hanger at the top ...

If I didn't feel like such a moron for taking so long to figure this out ... and if I didn't secretly fear my success was one of those happy flukes, not to be duplicated ever again ... I'd be celebrating all over the place and breaking open the champagne.

Balancing the scales and bringing me back down to reality, I managed to back and fringe another mini wall-hanging: Primitive Needle's Salem 1692. But as luck would have it, when I ordered my new stock of bell pulls, I was at work and relying on my memory. Everything I ordered is at least an inch or two too wide ... and the novelty bell pull I ordered, a Mill Hill Metal Pumpkin with a 4 1/2" opening, does not have the slitted opening as pictured on the site. Anything hung on this pull will have to be sewn on to it. So between false advertising and personal miscalculations, I have a whole lot of mini wall hangings with no matching hardware and a whole lot of lovely hardware but no matching mini-hangings. I did mention I have virtually no spatial intelligence, didn't I? As I sit here muttering curses under my breath, I am calculating how long it will take to re-order and receive the proper size hangers and bell pull hardware. I'll be able to use the "too wide" hardware on future projects, to be sure ... but it is aggravating not to be able to put the finishing touches on my latest round of sewing finishes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

And during the past few days

I have divided my time between stitching and reading. I finished reading Catherine Coulter's new FBI thriller, Knockout ... one of those great summer reads ... just challenging enough to keep the brain functioning in the hot, hazy, hummid summer of a NYC suburb but straightforward enough to put down and pick up at will without losing the thread of the story. And I've nearly finished reading Nora Robert's Black Hills, another interesting but easy and casual read.
I received my most recent order from Farmhouse Fabrics, my favorite source of buttons and trims.

Among the treasures I ordered was this little mother-of-pearl button Flower kit ... a very quick stitch ... and a perfect complement to my Beach Find Pansies piece.
I think I shall use both as embellishments on the crazy quilt handbag that is forming in my head. I'll probably get around to sketching it out shortly ... all the pieces are here. But my current focus is on finishes and will be for a while, probably through August. I just did an actual count: even though I have done the sewing and/or assembly finishes on 17 projects so far this month, I still have 21 finishes left in my to-do pile. I think these things breed like rabbits. I guess I am just going to have work on BAPs requiring framing next year to avoid the same problem in the future.
But before I start showing you my latest finishes, I'll get the WIP report out of the way:
I haven't made enough progress on the back of my Fertile Circles NeedleBook to make taking a photo worthwhile ... but ... Workbasket's Quaker Pig actually is beginning to look like a pig:
And another two hours of stitching on the Beach Find Pansies yields this result: And now for the finishes:

The Workbasket Rabbit Rondel Paisley Scissor Fob ... this one with beaded trim.The Poisson du Avril Scissor FobDragon Dreams Elemental Dragons, finished as a bell pull. Sorry about the picture quality ... not enough light. The close-ups of the individual dragons are better.The Dragons representing Fire and Air The Dragons representing Spirit and Water The Dragon representing Earth
The Stitcherhood's Quaker Flower, finished as a fringed pillow ornament,I am still working on my Rabbit Rondel mattress pincushion finish ... I can only do so when my eyes are really fresh and well rested ... the tiny ladder stitches are a bitch since the equally tiny straight stitches in which they are worked seem to slip beneath the linen warp/woof as soon as I insert a needle in the fabric. The fact that everything [linen and silk floss] is all in tone on tone blues isn't helping matters much. But I am determined to have it finished tonight and thus, it is on my list of sewing finishes.

This finishes up all the small projects, at least for the moment. Once I start stitching more ornaments, that will change. I have two more Christmas ornaments and a patriotic holiday ornament coming up in my stitching rotation. And, of course the JCS Christmas and Halloween ornament issues should arrive shortly. I am hoping to be caught up with all the other finishes by the time that occurs. But, now, I really have to get started on the pillows, totes, pedestal pin cushions and wall hangings I have been avoiding. These more complicated projects will be slower going, but in their own way, even more satisfying. At least, using up all the pillow forms will decrease the bulk of the projects in the to-do basket substantially. There are eight pillows awaiting finishing. That should keep me busy for the remainder of July ... and probably well into August. I think I shall work on the totes, wall hangings and pedestal pin cushions for the remainder of this month and declare August the Month of Pillow Finishes. How's that for justifying my procrastinating? Can you tell I am not really looking forward to starting on the pillows? Once I do, I'll enjoy it but it's the getting started that I find so very hard.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Handcrafting Justice

Our church sponsored a sale by this organization which helps women in the Third World start up cottage industries following a Fair Trade model ... so that they can support themselves and their children with basic human dignity. I went just a little hog wild buying Christmas gifts, baby gifts and some items for myself. For my brand new baby granddaughter I found a delightful soft sculpture clutch ball, a smocked and embroidered dress, an adorable little fish washcloth and a doll in native Andes costume to start an International doll collection. For my daughter, two sets of woven hemp placemats. And for myself: an embroidered tablecloth, a pulled thread and crochet lace edged table runner, one of those over one shoulder handbag/backpacks, an owl coin purse, a woven cotton scarf/sash. For the office: a statue of the Good Shepherd made from clay made from the ash of a volcanic eruption in the Phillippines by the very farmers whose farms were destroyed by the lava flow. And just to hold an American Express gift card or two at Christmas, a folk art embroidered coin purse.
Here's the link:
They have pottery, baby items and toys, bags & purses, clothing & accessories, table linens, indigenous art, handmade cards, jewelry and hair accessories. Just browsing their site is an adventure in shopping ... and one you can feel good about.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stitching in the Twilight Zone via Star Trek

I have noted a strange statistical reversal ... a sort of alternate stitching universe anomaly ...
... there is a tear in the fabric of the stitching space time continuum ...
... I have gone where no stitcher has gone before ...

my sewing finishes outnumber
my cross-stitching finishes

Photos of latest finishes will be posted as soon as the latest sub-space transmissions are decoded.
[Feel free to hum eerie music]

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And some more finishes

Since I set up my finishing center in my dining room just before the July 4 holiday weekend, I have completed 8 sewing finishes. And now I have these to add:

Workbasket's Rabbit Rondel made into a sewing box
And this little door hanger still needs its trim ... I can't decide whether I want to trim it with cord or with beading. The project combines an angelic cat [Guardian Chessie from 2005 JCS Christmas ornament issue] with a piratical cat skull and cross bones ... a gift for my daughter who shares her home with six cats of varying temperament ... I figure she can warn visitors of the moods of the feline brood by displaying the appropriate side. I wonder, does this count as one or two finishes ... it is one object but it is made with two charts ?!?

Here's the good

... and here's the bad

With any luck, there's no need to discuss the ugly!
A bellpull made from one of the LHN house sampler free charts or a PS card ... it's been so long since I stitched this piece that I don't remember ... I'll have to get a different bit of hardware for this ... it is clearly too wide ... I think I'll look for one of those country style wire hangers with a star or a heart or a house at the top. I saw some nice Tudor birch hangers in all widths on the 123stitch website, as well.
And, last but not least, this little bell pull for my niece, using Rainbow Gallery's 1st Class Teacher free chart. I added a close up of the apple since I really enjoyed stitching all those Rhodes stitches that add so much texture and interest to this piece.

And here's a close-up of all the neat Rhodes stitches that add such nice texture to the apple ...

That brings the monthly total for finishes up to 12 ... or is that 13?

Also, I did a bit more work on my Quaker Flower [from The Stitcherhood] WIP this morning. I think it is coming along nicely.
Today after work, I plan to work on another bell pull ... about three years ago, I stitched all of Dragon Dream's Jennifer Aiken-Smith's elemental dragons free charts on a pretty piece of white banding ... finally, I am going to do something with it ... it's long and narrow perfect for the narrow space between two side by side sliding door closets in what will become my sewing room. I have a nice hanger in coppery tones, a large black tassel for the bottom and two smaller black tassels for the top corners and some winter white damask for a backing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And today ...

This morning, before work, I took a few minutes to iron a few more pieces from my "to finish" basket and to put the Workbasket Rabbit Rondel on its backing. I laced it, pressed down the gathered edges so that it laid flat when I glued it to the top of the box. Now, all that is left to do on this project is gluing the two overlapping trims along the outer edge of the lid. And, of course, I need to continue assembling the pin cushion. This is a really fussy job since foolishly I decided to assemble it with ladder stitches just like one does with a biscornu and the silk straight stitches seem to disappear into the fabric. Even with my magnifying lamp I am having a hard time with it. I only stitch an inch or so at a time before my eyes cross and I put it down in disgust. God knows how I am going to manage the scissor fob which is even smaller ... I am thinking of stitching two rows of machine stitching around the edges of the design and the layers of backing [after I have inserted a quarter for weight] and then pulling threads to create a 1/4" fringe outside the machine stitching. It will save me some eye strain and still be reasonably pretty. I can then make a beaded bracelet style cord to attach it to a pair of scissors. I also laced the angel cat and the cat skull and cross bones to their backings and then whip stitched the two sides of this little door hanger together. Since the black linen on which the cat skull and cross bones was stitched was almost gauze like in weave, I backed its board with stiff black felt instead of the usual quilt batting. It really makes the white stitching pop since it gives depth to the black background. I still need to make cording that will work with both sides. Since the angel cat is a tabby in shades of grey and black, I figure blending a medium and a dark grey with black floss will make a workable cord. Now, I just have to search out a really good tutorial on cord-making. I've only seen it done twice and am not at all confident I can make a really nice one. I also attached a hanger to a little "1st Class Teacher" bell pull I made for my niece who teaches Middle school special education students.
I should have some pictures to post tomorrow since I plan to work on these finishes after work this evening.

I also spent an hour this morning continuing to stitch on The Stitcherhood's Quaker Flower ... I have chosen a 40 ct. linen and have changed out the colors somewhat to make it suitable for a Christmas ornament. I decided to use GAST Pine for the leaves and GAST Cranberry for the flower and corners. And, at lunch I plan to do a bit more work on Workbasket's Quaker Pig, finally finishing the center motif.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Following up on those promised photos

I returned to the finishing center this weekend and here are a few photos of what I have accomplished thus far:
Workbasket's Quaker Christmas Holly ornament
and some Homespun Elegance ornaments:
Oh Snowy Night

Great Good Cheer [Santa 1999]
Toy Noah [Santa 2001]

And stitching on WIPs during the past few days and in between stints at the sewing machine, has produced these results:
Quaker Flower from the Stitcherhood

Workbasket Quaker Pig

Since I only worked with finishes on Sunday, I am satisfied with my progress. I did manage to cut out the cardboard backs for my next finishing project, a two sided door hanger with an angelic cat on one side and a piratical cat skull and cross bones on the other, and put the last coat of paint on the band box that will become the Rabbit Rondel sewing basket. I hope to have those two items finished by Friday and then I'll get to work on some bell pulls and gift totes over the weekend.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Winners and Quotas

Draggy. She included her e-mail address, so I'll be able to inform her immediately and request a snail mail address. With luck, the charts will be on their way tomorrow morning.
And, on another front, I have used up my self-imposed quota of purchasing only 5 charts this year by buying Workbasket's Quaker Polars and Quaker Halloweens which arrived from 123stitch yesterday afternoon along with another three packages of Piecemaker Tapestry 28 needles. This year, I have vowed to stitch from stash and buy only five charts. And, furthermore, even those five must be charts needed to complete series I am already stitching. I have reserved the JCS Christmas and Halloween ornament issues but I count that as purchasing magazines, not charts ... a jesuitical distinction perhaps but one that keeps me happy. Any further Workbasket Quaker animals, the 2009 Sue Hillis Charmed Santa and the 2009 Prairie Schooler Limited Edition Santa will just have to be purchased in January of 2010, if ever. I have enough charts that I genuinely want to stitch to last at least four or five years and since I am nearing my 60th birthday, I do believe a little judicious restraint is in order. In any case, purchases of fibers and fabrics and embellishments to stitch what I do have on hand will keep me fueling the stitchery market quite exuberantly ... so, no guilt trips there!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

WIP Progress: Photos to follow

Well, I have added some cross-stitching finishes to my accomplishments this month:
Homespun Elegance's 2001 Santa Christmas ornament Toy Noah and 1999 Santa Christmas ornamment Great Good Cheer. I'll post photos once they are assembled and finish-finished.

I have also made some progress on Workbasket's Quaker Pig. I rather like the Caron fiber I am using: Wildflower Camouflage. The perle adds a certain texture to the piece. The colorway of saturated rose-beige and olive green will work well in the final quilt and still has enough of a pig color to give a hint of realism. It suggests a pig that's been doing a bit of wallowing in the mud. Once I get the central Quaker motif fully stitched I'll post a photo since it really doesn't look very interesting at the moment.

And I have kitted up two more Christmas ornaments using the remnants of my Silkweaver 40 ct. Mississippi Mud limited edition linen. Love that fabric :>) and I'll really miss it when it's used up. But I do have some 40ct in another limited edition linen [Alabama Clay which is a few shades darker] that I'll enjoy as well. Lately I have been ordering 36 and 40ct fabrics in my FOTM plan since I have all the 28ct that I'll be needing for the forseeable future.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Christmas in July Giveaway

In honor of Independence Day, I'll be doing a special giveaway this month. It's July and time to start stitching for Christmas soooooo... I'll be giving away the five gently used Homespun Elegance Christmas charts pictured below. Since I have stitched all of these myself, the giveaway is "chart only" and any charms called for in the designs will have to be purchased by the winner or left out of the design entirely [which would look just fine, in my opinion]. The two stocking charts were meant to be stitched on pre-finished stockings available from Homespun Elegance but I stitched my own version of the Christmas Night Stocking ... I have used the pre-finished stocking for Merry Olde Christmas and, as a semstress trained by a highly skilled amateur [my mother] and by a professional seamstress [my grand-mother], I was not impressed by the either the quality of the sewing or of the fabrics. In addition, I find stitching on pre-finished items a very awkward affair productive of badly cramped fingers.

From the Bits and Pieces series
Oh, Snowy Night and Christmas Night Stocking

From the Christmas Ornament series:
1999 Santa
2001 Santa
And this stocking chart, called Merry Olde Christmas

All five items will go to one lucky winner. The giveaway is open to stitchers from both the US and international communities. All that is required is that you post a comment saying why you'd like to stitch these small treasures. I would ask that the winner commit to PIF [passing them on, free of charge] to another stitcher rather than offer them for sale in an album ... though, of course, it'd be unenforceable and strictly on the honor system. I will choose a winner on July 10. Good luck to all who enter.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Finishing Frenzy: Day 2 & 3

Well, my finishing frenzy devolved into a mere finishing flutter ... the injury to my foot was aggravated by using the sewing machine pedal ... I had to start all over with elevating my foot and sitting still ... I would have been driven stir crazy if I hadn't been able to stitch and watch a few DVDs. I did finish one more Homespun Elegance Christmas Santa ornament, 2001 Noah Toy and am three quarters of the way through the 1999 Great Good Cheer ornament ... so the weekend wasn't a total loss. And I am keeping my "finishing center" set up in the dining room until such time as I do actually get caught up.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Finishing Frenzy: Day 1

I started with some easy pieces for a quick jump start and lots of immediate gratification:

Primitive Needle Salem Witch Halloween ornament

Bright Needle's Sauce for the Gander Needlebook

and the inside of the needlebook

Homespun Elegance's Christmas Night Stocking: since I didn't think snowmen would show to advantage on the country cream linen scrap I used, I stitched a whole bunch of trees and added a checkerboard toe to match the top since I didn't have the called for charm.

Imaginating Inc. Cardinal Ornament

The Shaker box has two coats of paint, inside and out. The cardboard circle for the Rabbit Rondel is covered in batting and ready to assemble tomorrow morning. I have the backs for Homespun Elegance's Oh Snowy Night and the Poisson du Avril Scissor Fob covered in batting and fabric, the fronts are covered in batting and ready for assembly tomorrow. I also started assembling the Rabbit Rondel pin cushion but had to put it down when my eyes started to cross. It'll be my first project tomorrow morning when I am fresh and well-rested. I am a little disappointed that I didn't get further today but my decision to bead the edge of the Cardinal ornament slowed things down a bit. Another disappointment came when I sent my husband to JoAnn's at the Palisades Center Mall for some mattress ticking I wanted for a tote finish ... only to have him call me from the mall to inform that the shop was no longer there. Now the nearest JoAnn's is either in Paramus NJ [40 miles south] or Middletown [40 miles north] ... curses.

The tally for today is four finishes and three more projects at the half-way point. Not too shabby for a lazy day of putterring about. I think I'll stitch on my Quaker Pig this evening and forget about finishes for a while.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hobbling along

Both figuratively and literally.
I don't know what it is about a wonderful vacation that makes me more weary now that I have returned to work. I guess I haven't yet made the adjustment from leisure mode to work mode. I return from work too tired to stitch for more than an hour or so before vegging out in front of the TV ... Bill and I are re-visiting Quantum Leap from our own vast TV on DVD collection.
The result: I am moving a little more slowly than I had planned on my Homespun Elegance Christmas ornaments. I am nearly finished with the 2001 Santa ornament and have yet to stitch up the 1999 Santa ornament, but I am sure I'll have it done soon.
And, to complicate matters, I injured my foot last Sunday. While stepping out of the car at church, my sandal slipped off and my foot landed on said sandal crosswise. At first, I thought I had just pulled a muscle so I kept my foot up for the rest of the day and figured that would be that. Well, it is now swollen and painful. My primary care physician has diagnosed it as "severe trauma to the soft tissue" ... which I assume is medical jargon for "I'm not sure what you did so I am sending you to a podiatrist and I'll let him figure it out." In any case, walking on my injured foot untreated for four days was not one of my brighter ideas. But I have always been one to try and tough out an injury/illness rather than run to a doctor at the slightest discomfort. More fool I! Well, my injury has turned a three day weekend into a four day weekend so things are not really so terrible after all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sewing finishes

I really need to get working on these ... while gathering up all my Quaker pieces for a post last month, I found another 15 pieces awaiting sewing finishes in addition to the 7 pieces I listed in my "Breaking the barrier" post. If I am not careful, these pieces will start taking over the house. And while on vacation I have added another six projects to the sewing to-do pile. So, I have converted my dining room into a temporary finishing station: bringing the sewing machine, ironing board, iron, and fabric/cording/lace stash all downstairs. With any luck, I'll get a lot done during the summer months since I enjoy a normal 9-5 schedule during July and August as opposed to the wildly fluctuating school year schedule of 9am-9pm Mon & Tues, 9am-3pm Wed., 9am-7pm Thurs as well as 8am-Noon Saturday ... for a total of 42 hours /week on the normal weeks. I am not even going to contemplate the weeks with special events and meetings ... those run into 50-60 hours, at times.

Here is a photo of what I hope will be the site of much productive activity ... note the huge basket of 28 projects requiring some degree of sewing finishing.

Once I get caught up on sewing finishes, I think I will use the same strategy with UFOs ... gathering them all in one place so I can see what I am dealing with and plan accordingly. Of course, the truth is I will never really catch up on sewing finishes since I currently am working on the cross stitch elements for two quilts ... so those pieces will have to be stored and listed as "to sew someday when all the elements are completed". I don't think the UFO pile will be nearly as daunting ... but then who knows what lurks in all the baskets, bureaus and boxes scattered about the house? I expect I'll find things long since forgotten.