Monday, May 31, 2010

May Goals Assessment

SALs and RRs:

Bride's Tree SAL May Ornament [Bird in a Nest - Confidence in the Shelter - renamed Security, by me]: STITCHED BUT NOT ASSEMBLED. I used Aury's Quaker Bird in a Nest chart for this one.
Linda's RR: DONE. Lisa's piece never arrived, so I started a new one for her using the Stitches & Stone's complimentary chart All Wrapped Up and used some snowflake motifs and lots and lots of Smyrna Crosses to sketch out some borders and dividers.
Town Square SAL: Monster Bubbles' Jail. Minimal progress ... carried forward as a June goal.

Monthly Projects:

Thanksgiving Ornament:Finish the PS Turkey from April and stitch Kreinik Cornucopia for May. SOME PROGRESS BUT NO FINISHES. I hit a few snags here. For one thing, on the PS Harvest Time Turkey, I underestimated the amount of GAST Maple Syrup I needed to stitch the body of the turkey and ran out 2/3rds of the way through. Unwilling to frog all that, I ordered three skeins of Maple Syrup from my favorite ONS specifying that they all be different dyelots in the forlorn hope that one will come close enough to work ... alas none of them did. I shall have to match the dominant color in what I have stitched to the DMC chart and then put out a plea on the 123stitch mb for a whole or partial skein of the proper Maple Syrup with the offer of two full skeins in exchange. I am still waiting on one back-ordered silk mori and need to find a supplier for silk morica for the Kreinik ornament, but I have stitched as much as possible with what I have on hand ... so that, too, has to wait a while longer for a finish.
Christmas Piece: Sue Hillis' Cookie Baking Santa. Didn't even start this one.
UFO > WIP: Peacock Biscornu. Again, a non-starter.

Focus Projects:
BAP: TW's Autmn Faerie: Just a three hour's stitching on this but that represents some progress on the lower right hand corner of the border.
Medium Project: Brightneedles' Ghosts and Ghoulies Etui. No joy here.

Sewing Finishes:
Take care of one or two from the backlog basket. NO.Keep up with ornament finishes for this month. N/A.

And some off-goal finishes and WIPs:
Plimoth Scissor Keep from Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly, Summer 2009. Finished 5/5/10.Wee Bee from Heart in Hand. Stitching Finished 5/26/10. Nearly done: just waiting on a charm to finish.
BH&G's floral wreath motif cupcake pin cushion. Finished 5/30/10.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #21

I had intended to work mainly on my sadly neglected focus projects this past week, but I found myself finishing up a few of the smaller pieces worked on in the early part of the month, instead. Earlier this month, what little time I had for stitching went to the less complicated projects in my various SALs and the one RR in which I am participating. My professional life is pretty high pressured for the first half of May and I avoid anything complicated in all other areas of my life at such times ... makes for less waste, less disappointment and less stress. But this past week, has seen an almost calm mood descend upon the office ... my secretary Susan and I have caught up with all progress reports, parish registers, and final accounting for the 2009-10 school year, with the exception of the Saturday morning classes which don't end till June 12 ... I have kept abreast of assigning students to classes for 2010-11 as the registrations roll in. With luck, we will be able to devote the whole of June to learning and implementing a new data entry system that will allow us to go paperless in 2010-11 ... sending everything from calendars to welcome back letters/class assignment confirmations to targeted class information by e-mail. I'll need to do the ordering for the next school year and a few other tasks but for the most part I think I can revert to 40 hour work weeks and take a deep breath or two. The main advantage to all this is that I no longer need to neglect my husband, my home, my garden and my stitching [not necessarily in that order] in order to remain sane.

THE MONTHLY PROJECTS: Thanksgiving Ornaments.

PS Harvest Time Turkey [April]: can't do much more on this piece for the moment ... I need to match up some Maple Syrup floss. I have put out a plea on the 123 message board, offerring to trade two full skeins for one full or partial skein with the right color way ... more chocolate brown than grey brown ... and hope to have a match soon. The stitchers on the 123 board have come through for me before and I am hoping they will do so again. This was pictured in a recent post so I am not adding another phot here.

Kreinik Cornucopia [May]: have also hit a dead end on this piece while I wait for some back-ordered silk mori and search for a source for silk serica. I really like the tone on tone look given by the Antique Parchment silk mori on this Silkweaver 40ct Mississippi Mud linen. This may very well turn out to be my favorite in the Thanksgiving series. The Kreinik silks stitch up very nicely indeed and I am quite pleased with the depth of the colors. The use of cross stitches, half cross stitches and satin stitches adds to the texture of the piece. Since this is stitched on 40ct, I couldn't use i strand of each color for the blended areas. Instead, I am using one color for the / leg and the second color for the \ leg where a blend is called for.

PS Pumpkins [June] : I started this when I hit dead ends on the previous two ornaments, using a scrap piece of 28 ct country cream linen and Belle Soie Silks in Enchanted Forest, Fern Frond, Pumpkin Carriage and Mango. It is a relatively quick stitch and should give me the immediate gratification of a finish in the first week of June. I am very fond of Prairie Schooler charts and treasure any of the little complimentary design cards they offer. I have a very small collection but I begin to understand the appeal of the trading cards [baseball, football, etc.] my sons collected when they were younger.

I signed up for an on-line class run by Sharon of the Pin Tangle blog. The project will be an encrusted/embellished crazy quilt block. I have printed off Week 1 [of 6] and have set up a binder. It makes for very interesting reading. But the real joy has been in stash diving for all the various materials required. Of course, I have gathered far more than I will actually be able to use ... keeping my options open as the class progresses ... the toughest part was settling on a color way for the base fabrics. I don't have a lot of velvets, satins and metallics in my stash. I prefer cotton or wool for most of my quilting and sewing. I do, on the other hand, have loads of embellisments: crocheted laces of all types, beads, buttons, cording, charms, ribbons and just about every type of embroidery fiber known to woman. Choosing a color way wasn't tough because I had so many choices but rather because I had so few on the appropriate fabrics: a bit of black moire silk and some red tartan plaid silk tafetta. I am supplementing these with a few quilting cottons from Moda in reds and yellows picked up from the tartan plaid since I have accepted the implicit challenge embedded in Week 1 of the class: work with what you have ... historically, it is the whole raison d'etre for the crazy quilt. I'll be using a lot of white crocheted lace to soften and tame all that black and I can use my stash of cording and floss to introduce complementary colors into the block. I'll be looking at a lot of mossy and silvery greens, so far as that goes ... I am planning on arranging my pieces so that the block ultimately looks like a very stylized partially opened rose bud ... I can get behind that concept with a good deal of enthusiasm, actually. The first picture shows the fabrics I have selected, the second shows the trims, and the third shows some buttons in mother of pearl and vintage celluloid that might work as embellishments. Obviously I won't be using everything I have pulled from my stash but I wanted to have a lot of options once I started playing with the design.

Cupcake Pin Cushion: I used a floral wreath motif fromBH&G 2001 Cross Stitch Motifs for this piece, though I ignored the accompanying color chart, substituting my own Belle Soi Silks and GAST Overdyed Cotton. It's another project stitched almost entirely from stash: scrap bit of DMC linen, lined with a scrap of muslin, filled with ground walnut shells [lizard litter - a gift from my animal loving daughter], stitched with fibers already on hand. The only item purchased was the silicone cupcake cup. Next time I do this I am going to start with a smaller circle of fabric since I am not entirely happy with this finish. Well enough for a first attempt but plenty of room for improvement. It looks entirely too lumpy around the edges for my taste.

Heart in Hand's Wee Bee: I decided to use Belle Soie Wheatgrass to work all the satin stitches. So all that I need to do now is order the Homespun Elegance Bee buttons. I think I'll use two: one to the left and above the bee skep and another in the upper right above the flower. The Homespun Elegance buttons are somewhat expensive and I did think about replacing them with some JABCo buttons. Upon reflection, I don't believe the rather colorful and contemporary looking JABCo buttons would suit the sophisticated spareness of the piece. So the economical element of stitching from stash [scrap linen and fibers from existing stash] goes right out the window but I will be happier with the final product. What do you think for the final finish: a flat fold, a cube or a pillow?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stash Delivery and a Small Finishes

My order from 123stitch arrived and here are a few photos of my new acquisitions:

First, the charts: Cross-Eyed Cricket's Thanksgiving Circle from which I will be extracting motifs for my remaining Thanksgiving ornaments this year and Primitive Needle's Black'd Skie which I ordered just because I wanted it.

Next, some lovely fabrics needed for upcoming projects: more 28ct Glasgow raw linen for the Bride's Tree SAL ornaments, some Laguna for the flip side of the Peacock biscornu [from my UFO-WIP list], and finally some beige 10ct tula for Shepherd's Bush Be A Witch from the Attitudes series. And finally some fibers: some GAST Maple Syrup I had hoped to use to finish my PS Harvest Time Turkey ornament ... alas, none of them work ... and ... some Kreinik Silk Mori needed for my Cornucopia Thanksgiving ornament. Unfortunately, the Valdani overdyed floss I ordered just because I was curious about it when I read about it in the New Arrivals section of Joanne's 123stitch newsletter is on backorder as is one of the Silk Mori skeins for my cornucopia ornament. I really had wanted to see the Valdani as I had never heard of it but am always up for trying a new fiber. Indeed, I think I tend to accumulate more fiber, dollar for dollar and unit for unit, than I ever accumulate charts. Just call me a fiber junkie.

I have finished the front of my Bride's Tree SAL May Ornament for which I used aury's Quaker Bird in a Nest and stitched in Belle Soie Silks Chocolat, Fern Frond, and Chester Blue. I still need to stitch the back with monogram and the word Security indicating what the front symbolizes. I'll be using the same fringed pillow finish on this as I have on all the other ornaments I have stitched for this series. I am looking forward to using these ornaments on next year's tree ... they have been a lot of fun to stitch and are a nice way of representing the German side of my husband's heritage in my holiday decorating.

I also finished the top for the pink cupcake pincushion. I choose a floral wreath with initial from BH&G's 2001 Cross Stitch Motifs and stitched it using Belle Soie silks in Ocean Tide, Creme de Menthe, Rose of Sharon and Cake and GAST Tea Rose. Since there were so many tiny flowers in this chart, I found myself using the pin stitch start quite often ... it's an excellent way to get a secure start on a motif that has too few stitches under which to run beginning and ending threads. I used the pin stitch start for all the yellow centers of the smaller flowers as well. Given the rather loose weave of the DMC linen I used for this piece, I really didn't want to have any travelling threads as they would have been glaringly obvious. I have all the materials need to assemble it and hope to do the final finish this weekend.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Some Off-Goal Projects

It is a perverse attitude, I know, but the further I fall behind in my goals, the more I am afflicted by startitis. Sort of an in for a penny, in for a pound deal! After all, I have the long holiday weekend to catch up on goal stitching, she says optimistically.

I really wanted to start something very summery and light-hearted, so I kitted up Hearts in Hand Wee Bee, a chart I received as a gift from Nic. Perfect for after work stitching in a lawn chair on the back patio with a tall glass of ice cold water at my side. I actually started this early on the evening of 5/24 and it is moving along quite nicely. I have made a few changes: I reduced the size of the total project to suit a scrap of linen I had in my stash, I have filled in the border stitching to conceal the travelling threads visible beneath this loosely woven DMC linen. Once I finish stitching the outline of the bee skep, this project will have to be set aside for a little while ... as I'll need to order two skeins of WDW Whiskey of the same dyelot to stitch all the satin stitches that fill in the beehive outline and for a Homespun Elegance Olde Brasse Bee button. I learned my lesson with my PS Harvest Time Turkey, when it comes to being absolutely certain that I have enough of an overdyed floss actually in my hot little hand [and not in memory or imagination] before starting to stitch. The chart actually calls for GAST Tarnished Gold, but that is a little too dark for my taste ... I may look through my stash of Belle Soie silks for a similar color ... if I have a sufficiency of the silk, all I'll need to buy is the charm ... after all, this is supposed to be a year of stitching from stash with as few purchases as possible.
And then there are my two little cupcake pincushion projects. I have prepped the fabric, chosen fibers to match the cups [see last post for photos] but will be choosing some charts today. I am leaning toward a small rose wreath with my initials in the center for the pink cup and bees and a bee hive for the yellow cup. These should be fun to do. Ever since my daughter gave me some lizard litter for Mother's Day, I have been itching to try this as fill for pincushions ... I have seen it recommended on many blogs and message boards as a great fill ... nice heft and a texture that keeps needles and pins sharp and rust free. It was just a matter of finding the right designs. Again, my handy dandy Better Homes & Gardens 2001 Cross Stitch Motifs proved quite useful.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #20

Thanksgiving Ornament: PS Harvest Time Turkey. This is the second time I have stitched this little guy and I must say it is going much more smoothly than the first time [about 10 years ago]. I did run into one small snag though. I had been sure that I had two partial skeins of Maple Syrup from the same dyelot ... alas, I did not ... and I have run out. So I have ordered three skeins from my favorite online shop with the stipulation that they be from different dyelots ... so I have at least a fighting chance of matching what I have already stitched. I am hoping to finish this before the month is over. See my previous post for more details on stash enhancement: I was assured everything would be shipped Monday so I anticipate receiving a very nice package by Wednesday or Thursday.

Bride's Tree SAL: Aury's Quaker Bird in a Nest. A Bird in a Nest symbolizes "confidence in the shelter" as per the SAL blog sidebar ... but since there is no way I could fit such a long tag line on the back and still have room for the monogram ... I am going to condense the tag to the single word "security" which I think expresses the theme as effectively and even more economically. This complimentary chart came from aury's blog . I am stitching it on the same Glasgow 28ct raw linen that I have been using for all the ornaments in this SAL and will finish it in the same fringed pillow ornament style with hemp cord hanger. I have used Belle Soie silks: Chocolate for the nest and Chester's Blue for the bird. I thought a blue bird would be a nice touch since blue birds are traditionally associated with happiness and since a blue bird could be my "something blue" in this Bride's Tree set. I'll be adding a border made of leaf shaped Quaker motifs to square the whole thing off, though I haven't yet charted that out. When stitching the back I will use the same leaf border as an outline. This chart is somewhat annoying, having color blocks to indicate cross-stitches and for some reason when I downloaded the file, the gridlines didn't show up ... in their place were very faint white dotted lines, which showed up on the color coding but not on the white paper on which I printed the chart. Counting the required stitches in the larger stitching areas is a pain. Even so, this project is proving to be a relatively quick stitch.

And I finally got my Round Robin piece off in the mail on Thursday morning. This was the replacement I made for Lisa's Snowman themed project, since the original was lost in the mail. I have yet to receive the next installment in this round robin. The mailing date was May 15th. I was late getting my piece off because I kept waiting for Lisa's piece to arrive in the mail and only decided it wasn't coming on 5/9 at which time I purchased fabric and created a piece. But I am getting a little concerned not to have received this next piece. One project lost in the mail, possible; two projects lost in the mail in a 30 day period, unlikely. I have e-mailed the organizer and she shares my concern and is checking things out.

I have also kitted up another small off-goal project, Heart in Hand's Wee Bee. I am in the mood to stitch something sunny and summery and this fits the bill. My thanks to Nic who sent me this chart, along with a plethora of other bee charts.

And I am just itching to try my hand at some encrusted crazy quilting [I am seriously thinking of signing up for an online class starting on 5/26]. And having bought some silicone cupcake cups, I am anxious to make a cupcake pin cushion. I have been matching floss to the cups and have been combing through some of my smaller charts for possible pin cushion tops. I see another off-goal project in the near future.

I am anxious to get back to my BAP, though, now that things have gone back to normal at work ... TW's Autumn Faerie needs a completed border rather desperately ... it's been languishing in almost total neglect since February when I got involved in this RR ... creating my own rather ambitious piece and then having to create a snowman piece with borders and dividers to replace Lisa's MIA project took up a great deal of time. Now that I can finally just stitch my own panel in future RRs, I anticipate more time for my own projects.

On the non-stitching front, I have finally made a trip to the nursery and have purchased 3 varieties of tomato plants [Rutgers, Sungold, large cherry], Black Beauty eggplant, two varieties of basil, plain leaf and curly leaf parsley, two varieties of chives, some Boston lettuce plants and some marigolds for companion planting. I also got the last fig tree available at our local nursery, a Turkish Brown rather than the Calmyra I wanted, but still a fig. I plant everything in large patio containers using the Square Foot Gardening method ... anybody remember that PBS show from the 80s. I have gotten everything planted except the fig tree, which I will tackle tomorrow when I am better rested. In the meantime, my garden dragon stands guard over my plantings. I also bought some seed packets for more types of lettuce so that I can start seedlings every week and have lettuce throughout the summer. I have a packet of cucumber seeds and though it is rather late, I'll plant them tomorrow morning as well. The advantage of container gardening is that the soil in the containers is warmed by the sun on all sides, instead of just the top ... so sometimes, one can get away with a late planting, as long as September remains warm.

Friday, May 21, 2010

And Some More Shopping

I received a $35 GC to 123stitch as payment for the last of Mom's stash and it is burning a hole in my virtual pocket. I also have a small balance on the last gift certificate I used ... so putting it all together I have about $40 to play with.

So I have decided to spend it on
... more of the Glasgow linen needed for the Bride's Tree SAL
... some 10ct. tula
... some 25ct Laguna
... Cross Eyed Cricket's Thanksgiving Circle which has a number of motifs that I can use for my Thanksgiving ornaments in future months.
... I have also been coveting The Primitive Needle's Black'd Skye.
... I also need to match up some GAST Maple Syrup, so I'll be asking for three skeins from different dyelots
... and, finally, I am curious about the new overdyed cotton they are carrying: Valdani. So, I'll be ordering a skein or two of that to try out.

When I speak to them today, I'll also inquire about my back-ordered silk mori from Kreinik, needed for my next Thanksgiving ornament.

I'll also be visiting the nurseries today to get the vegetable seedlings for my patio container garden ... about two weeks later than the rest of my neighbors ... but then, they haven't been consumed with Confirmation, First Communions and registration like I have these past three weekends. I'll be picking up some Roma tomatoes, some grape tomatoes, some eggplant, some peppers and some basil [can you tell I cook Italian?] and since they take forever to start from seed and don't always take, I'll pick up a pot or two of chives. But what I am absolutely determined to get is a fig tree ... there is no more mouth watering treat than a fresh fig, split open and stuffed with some cream cheese or marscapone cheese ... it is to die for ... and perfectly acceptable for a type II diabetic's diet. I might even get a few flowers ... my husband loves pansies and of course, marigolds have to surrond the tomato plants. A strawberry barrel filled with hen and chicks and some creeping sedum would also be pretty. Perhaps I'll have some garden photos to share tomorrow.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

RR ready for mailing

Just a wee bit of frogging yesterday ... I guess I was in a hurry, hoping to get it in the mail only four days late. But it was not to be. I'll stop at the post office and get this and my monthly giveaway in the mail today.

Even so, I don't think 10 days [stitching from 5/9-19] was too bad considering I had to start from scratch since the original piece was lost in the mail. I suspect the reason I dislike snowmen is because stitching with so much white is so terribly boring ... even though I did a relatively easy border of smyrna stitches with some very simple snowflake motifs, I managed to use a skein and a half of DMC white. I am definitely looking forward to the next piece, originally angels but I think it was switched to hearts. Either way, I am prepared. I should be receiving it any day now, I hope. I'd really like to have at least one no-stress round in this RR. The photo on the right is my own contribution to the piece and the photo on the left shows the tout ensemble, with all the borders and dividers stitched. My apologies for the poor indoor photographs but if you click to enlarge and then scan across and down, you'll be able to see more detail.

As soon as I whipped the snowman RR out of my tension hoop, I replaced it with the PS Harvest Time Turkey I am stitching as a Thanksgiving ornament. It's great to get back to a project in my own zone. The photo on the left is how it looked when last seen and the photo on the right shows current progress. This was supposed to be the April Thanksgiving ornament. I haven't even started on the Kreinik Cornucopia ornament that I had intended to be the May entry in this project ... I am still waiting on some back-ordered Kreinik silks needed to kit that up properly ... Joanne at 123stitch said they would be received there around 5/14, so I should be receiving them anyday now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #19

Yes, I did miss the 18th weekend progress report and the 19th is being posted a day late ... not surprising given all the craziness at this time of year in my professional life ...and this progress report will be unimpressive, at best, for much the same reasons. This Saturday, though, marks the beginning of the end of the madness with regularly scheduled classes, a 7th grade review for the Comprehensive test and then [joy of joys] the first walk-in registration for next year's program. But said Comprehensive test will be administered on Monday, marking the end of all Monday classes. Tuesday classes have already ended, Thursday classes will end 5/20 and the Saturday session has only three classes remaining 5/22, 6/5 & 6/12.

This means I will soon be able to fall back to more normal levels of chaos: grading the remaining 7th grade exams; finalizing the progress reports for Thursday & Saturday classes and 7th grades; reorganizing the permanent records cards for students to facilitate 2010-11 registration; a couple of sessions with our computer expert to learn new ways to input data in such a way that we can go paperless for the next registration in May 2011; testing and grading all the home study students; ordering textbooks and certificates and other supplies for 2010-11; updating some 45 catechist binders [after wresting them from the fingers of the volunteers - always a challenge]; meeting with the fundraising chairperson to plan next years projects; finalizing next year's volunteer roster and the 2010-11 calendar ... as well as processing the registrations as they come in. While this list sounds impressive, I do have till the end of June to accomplish many of these tasks.

And then ... pure bliss ... the entire month of July off ... two weeks of which will be spent on Maryland's Western Shore.

The only stitching I have done this week has been on Lisa's piece for Linda's RR ... but at least it is almost done and will be ready for mailing Wednesday or Thursday. I am happy with the piece considering I only picked up the fabric Sunday 5/9 and had to go into turbo-stitch mode to accomplish this much. Though I am not overly fond of snowmen, I find this particular chart [Stitches & Stones' All Wrapped Up] very appealing, perhaps because I have a thing for scarves and shawls and other assorted wraps ... no doubt a vestige from my Catholic elementary school days when the swirling capes, shawls and other wraps that the nuns wore with their habits captured my imagination. I am working the border and dividers in Smyrna Crosses marked off with a Snowflake motif at the corners of each section. The Snowflake motif is from BH&G 1001 Cross Stitch Motifs and is worked in boxed cross stitches, half cross stitches and long stitches. I still have to stitch in the phrase "all wrapped up" in my own section, but will wait until the borders are complete so I can see just how much space I have ... I expect to do some serious re-charting, since the letters in the original chart were big and funky ... I'll be doing considerable down-sizing to fit the phrase in. If you click on the photos, you'll get a better view ... the lighting wasn't that great, nor are my photographic skills. All I can manage is one of those click and point digital cameras: I did use the wide angle option and then flipped the photos upright and I hope that helped.
When I tried to take the photo outdoors, the bright sun completely washed out the piece. So, dark as they are, the indoor shots are actually the best I could come up with.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

RR Progress

Since Lisa's piece never came in the mail and the May 15 mailing deadline for the second rotation is rapidly approaching, I picked up some blue aida and started a snowman round robin piece myself. I hope she likes it when it finally wends its way home to her. Sadly, it is my vision not hers ... but better than nothing ... since her piece seems to have been lost in the mail. Here is a photo of what I have stitched so far. It is Stitches & Stones All Wrapped Up with just a few adaptations to make it fit the requirements of this round robin: switched the charted cotton overdyes to DMC & changed the lettering a bit to fit the size parameters. It may not look like much just yet but it will be a tall, skinny snowman wrapped three times around in a scarf. Since the original chart called for stitching the scarf in an overdyed cotton in several shades of purple, I thought I could get a similar effect by stitching it in stripes in four shades of DMC purples. And while the white of the snowman doesn't pop dramatically in the photo, it does in real life. I backstitched the snowman in a shade of blue that is nearly identical to the fabric to give the snowman some definition without making him look like a page in a child's coloring book. My only problem was that I have to remember to stitch the scarf in three strands to get proper coverage while the snowman himself only requires two strands ... something one doesn't have to deal with too often with linen but a natural consequence of using aida. I figure I can finish the snowman tomorrow and that will leave me two days to do something about organizing the sections for the other stitchers in the rr. I plan on making up a border and dividers by stitching some strategically placed snowflakes connected by rows of smyrna stitches ... I'll be dividing it into six main stitching areas since there are six rotations left in this round robin ... and, if there is room, a section for a title band across the top that Lisa can stitch herself.

Monday, May 10, 2010

May Giveaway winner

Using the handy dandy randomizer, I have selected Karen [#11], who blogs at Karen's Handiwork, as the winner of all the Shepherd's Bush charts. If you are unfamiliar with her blog, as I was, it is well worth visiting. She must be a prodigious stitcher. I only scrolled back to late April and there were loads of finish photos. We seem to share much the same taste in designs as well. I have added Karen's blog to my blog reading list and will look forward to dropping in from time to time. When I visited her profile to get an e-mail address, I noted she hails from South Carolina.
I am pleased that a US stitcher won this particular giveaway. Most of these charts reflect USA holidays and customs ... especially FLAG [June 14 is Flag Day here and, of course, July 4 is Independence Day] ... and I know Halloween [Howl-October] isn't widely popular beyond our borders ... our Canadian neighbors to the north also celebrate Thanksgiving ... but I believe they do so in October. Since this particular Shepherd's Bush series has such a distinctly national feel to it, I was actually surprised at the number of international entries for May's giveaway ... I guess that says a lot about the confidence we stitchers feel in our ability to adapt any chart to our own needs.

I have e-mailed the winner and expect to get these charts off in the mail shortly.

It never ceases to amaze me how far off the mark I tend to be when predicting what will be a popular giveaway and what won't. I didn't think this series would be terribly sought after because of the recommended 10 ct tula and buttons as well as the decidely state-side themes but it garnered 16 entries whereas April's giveaway of some really stellar Christmas charts only had 8 nibbles. The March giveaway of only 3 Spring/Summer charts also had a high entry rate at 15. Last year I had similar experiences when Halloween chart giveaways garnered record breaking entries and people showed little or no interest in Christmas charts. Go figure! Well, next month's chart giveaway will be quite summery, a PIF of Nic's bee chart package ... I am guessing it will be popular.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A small shopping expedition

The rr from Lisa never arrived and the May 15 mailing deadline for this second rotation is rapidly approaching. So yesterday I stopped at the local Michael's while on other errands and picked up some 14ct blue aida to start her piece over again. I feel some concern for her since her original piece may never be recovered ... though if it does finally arrive, I will restitch my snowman on it and forward it to Linda and the others until it catches up with the intended rotation.
I started my snowman this morning, Stitches & Stones' All Wrapped Up, though I have substituted DMC for the originally charted As Days Go By overdyed cottons and will probably need to leave the wording out to keep it within size guidelines. I will sketch out a simple border using strategically placed snowflakes and some connecting smyrna stitches or eyelet stitches ... I am going to have to ask Linda to give me an extra day or two to get this mailed to her [sorry, Linda, I know this makes twice in a row ... but this time I have a good reason].
While I was at Michael's, I popped over to their cake decorating area and picked up some silicone cupcake cups ... a dozen for $9.99 in four pastels: baby blue, mint green, baby pink and pale yellow. They also had star and heart-shaped cups as well as some novelty cups with feet. If making cupcake pin cushions turns out to be something I enjoy, I'll have to go back for some of the novelty shapes, expecially the footed ones ... I can just see them making adorable little pin cushions.
My daughter informed me that on a recent visit to the pet center, she picked up a bag of lizard litter, aka ground walnut shells, to fill the pin cushions. She raised a few eyebrows when she informed her siginificant other that it was a Mother's Day gift ... but he hasn't known me long enough to understand that such a gift is perfectly normal and very, very welcome. He'll learn!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

One of those silly polls that are supposed to be a revelation

1. Were you named after anyone?
Our Lady of Sorrows ... my mother was making novenas praying for a daughter rather than a son.
2. Do you like your handwriting?
Absolutely ... it is a thing of beauty ... though, oddly, legible only to women ... men, particularly my husband and sons, have problems reading it although even they agree it is quite pretty. I was taught "penmanship" when it was still a school subject back in the 50's by nuns with very high standards.
3. What is your favorite lunch meat?
4. Have kids?
Three grown children whom I like quite a lot ... though there were times when I thought survival [theirs or mine] was problematic.
5. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
6. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
7. Do you still have your tonsils?
8. Would you bungee jump?
“No” doesn’t even begin to express my response!
9. What is your favorite cereal?
Oatmeal made from scratch.
10. Do you untie your shoes before you take them off?
11. What is your favorite ice cream?
Peach ... but since that can be found only rarely, French Vanilla.
12. What is the first thing you notice about people?
Whether they annoy me or not ... well, seriously, since I am bad with name/face connections, I have trained myself to focus on a face while being introduced to a new person in the desperate hope that I will notice something distinctive and memorable to connect with the name.
13. Red or Pink?
14. What is the least favorite thing about your self?
15. Who do you miss most?
16. Do you want everyone to send this back to you?
Why not?
17. What color shoes are you wearing?
white/black/green exercise sneakers .
18. What was the last thing you ate?
four lemon shortbread cookies ... it's that overeating issue.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I have made some small progress on the Thanksgiving ornament I started late in April: a Prairie Schooler Turkey lifted from the center medallion of the Thanksgiving panel in the Harvest Time leaflet. Because I need the WDW Charcoal [called for in the border] for my Town Square SAL [Monsterbubbles Jail], I have substituted the black cotton Sullivan floss that I had received as a promotional offer as my border color. It gives a slightly darker edge to the piece than was charted but it looks just fine. I found the Sullivan floss to be comparable to Anchor floss rather than to DMC floss, somewhat harsher in the hand than I would have liked. I will try one or two other colors before I dismiss this brand as undesirable ... after all, the darker colors hold more dye and tend to have a coarser texture ... The skein of black may not be representative of the entire line.

I look forward to starting Aury's Quaker Bird in a Nest once I have finished stitching the turkey, though realistically, the turkey ornament may take a while, being quite densely stitched. I am sticking to smaller projects during the early part of the month because things won't be smoothing out at work until after the 17th. I don't want to work on anything particularly complex while I am a babbling idiot, exhausted and overwhelmed. These two ornaments and the solid blocks of color in the Monsterbubbles' Jail piece for the Town Square SAL are just about as much as I can handle at this point.

And, as luck would have it, I may have to suspend all these stitching plans anyway: Lisa's RR piece hasn't arrived yet and I am supposed to finish my stitching and mail it off myself by May 15. I hope it is not lost, Lisa is trying to trace it ... meanwhile, I will start a new piece for her and have to go searching for a nice piece of aida [which I no longer keep in my stash, being a devout linen stitcher]. Since her theme is snowmen, I'll be looking for something in pale blue, like a winter sky ... if I use a white or even an off white, everyone will have to backstitch their snowmen in a darker shade.

Happily, two Confirmation practices, two Confirmations, three First Communion practices and the creation of the 2010-11 registration mailing are behind me. Today's tasks include a trip to the one post office in the county that accepts bulk mailings [between the lines and the round trip, that'll slice an hour or more out of my productive workday], copying/assembling/stapling 500 copies of the Communion Mass booklet, one last Communion practice, creating an e-mail address book for my current 7th grade/2010 8th grade and sending out reminders about the comprehensive exam and the review class for said exam that is a Confirmation program prerequisite. And, if I have any time left after that, grading 74 seventh grade quarter finals. I keep telling myself that by May 17th, everything will smooth out and return to normal levels of chaos. Tomorrow is my day-off and, as luck would have it, I am scheduled to take a stress test at the cardiologist's office ... timing is everything. So, if my stitching progress seems somewhat lacking lately ... there is a reason. At the moment, I don't dare even touch my TW Autumn Faerie, which is languishing on the stitching stand in front of my favorite straight back chair in the living room. But after the 17th, watch out ... my goal, insired by Dani, is to finish the border by the end of May.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

And another small but labor-intensive finish ...

The Plimoth Scissor Keep from Sampler and Antique Needlework quarterly [Summer 2009]. This brings my total finishes for the year up to fourteen ... but I have been tackling a few larger projects lately, which tends to keep the count rather low. What was interesting about this project was the medium ... working with the Tokens and Trifles cards is always a very different experience ... there is a certain enforced delicacy when working with such tiny cards. This project included cross-stitching, back-stitched tracery and blanket stitching ... all on these tiny little triangles that feel so fragile in the hand yet, ultimately, work up into fairly sturdy and durable pieces. Since I didn't have the recommended silks in my stash, I used some YLI silk in comparable colors. This stitching from stash is getting to be rather compulsive.

The finishing was also very fussy. I wanted to line the case with a pink fabric matching the bright pink of the embroidery silk I used ... but I needed to have a white background between the card and lining fabric to keep the embroidery from fading into the lining fabric. Soooo ... I applied fusible interfacing to the lining fabric ... which didn't fuse ... so I zigzagged the edges of the two fabrics together. The lining had to be trimmed very precisely because it interfered with the proper laying of the blanket stitching that held the front and back of scissor keep together. Trimming sliced the zigzag stitches up somewhat and I had to redo the zigzagging. I know that everytime I try a new finishing technique there is a certain amount of trial and error experimentation going on ... but this was more trouble than the finished product was worth. And I am still not entirely pleased with the neatness of my finish. Chalk this up as a learning experience. In any case, I think I will be using the remaining two triangles in the package to make a Christmas ornament and NOT another lined scissor keep as I had originally intended. Much better for the blood pressure!

Although this piece is not on my May goals list, it was an unfinished piece left over from April and I didn't want to see it turn into yet another UFO. In addition, it was so close to being done that it made for a quick finish ... it does give me such a boost to add another project to my finishes sidebar. And it was eminently portable, which makes it ideal for this crazy and busy week. All good reasons to ignore the goals list for a day or two.

And, on another topic entirely, the silks and overdyed cottons I ordered from 123stitch were waiting for me when I got home from work on Tuesday [except for three of the back-ordered silks which are to follow in ten days]. I love new floss and fiber purchases ... the colors spread out before me stimulate all sorts of creative impulses ... like lifting the lid on a brand new tray of water colors when I was a kid. So, when I am ready to start stitching on the next Town Square SAL in my master plan, Crescent Color's Saloon, and on the next Thanksgiving ornament, Kreinik's Cornucopia, I'll be good to go. I particularly love the CC Tennessee Red Clay and the Kreinik orange ... if you'd ask me just a few years ago what my favorite colors were I'd have gone with silvery greens, deep greens and blues ... cool colors, never warm ones. But lately, all I want to work with are autumn colorways.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Stitcher's Blogging Question

Suppose we say that there are two types of stitchers.
There are those who enjoy the “process” of stitching. They stitch for stitching’s sake and if something gets finished, so much the better, but it’s not necessarily the end goal. Primarily, it’s the application of needle and thread to cloth that makes them happiest.
Then there are those who are “project” stitchers. They move steadily through their projects, certainly enjoying their stitching time, but finding their greatest joy in the completed stitching.
If you had to pick one to describe yourself, which type of stitcher would you be? I imagine that we could all say that we fall somewhere in between, but really think hard about this and try to pick just one. And once you’ve decided whether you’re a Process or Project stitcher, tell us if your recognize that approach in other parts of your life.

I'd have to say it depends on whether I am stitching my own design or some one else's.

I am definitely a Project Stitcher when stitching someone else's designs. I purchase the charts because they immediately inspire visions of finished projects. I almost always know from the moment of purchase whether a piece will be framed or sewn up in some other finish, whether I will keep it for myself or give it as a gift, and , if keeping it, where and when I will display it. For philosophical reasons [a need to declutter and simplify my life as I approach 60] and economic reasons [a husbanding of my leisure time budget as I choose to invest in retreats over stash], I have been stitching primarily from stash for the past year and a half, limiting myself to five new chart purchases annually. So far this year I have purchased only one chart but have purchased a little over $200 worth of fabric and floss to work on charts already in my stash. So clearly, I am still supporting my favorite shops and the industry as a whole ... though I do worry about the survival of my favorite designers ... if the trend to stitch UFOs and WIPs slows down the sale of charts substantially, what will be the impact on individual designers? This Project approach tends to typify my personal and professional life as well: I am nothing if not goal oriented. I run a religious education program for a little over 500 children in a suburban Catholic parish. I have daily to-do lists, monthly deadline lists, project lists, catechist lists, formation lists, e-mail address books organized by class, grade level, sacrament prep or session ... well, you get the picture ... my pastor once described me at a parent meeting as the most organized person he knew, "a woman who has lists even for days that do not yet exist!" People have begun to believe that a clip board is one of my natural appendages. I delight in crossing an item off my to-do lists or adding an item to an inventory list. I move systematically from task to task, working at each until it is done, multi-tasking only when I have overlapping [and sometimes overwhelming] deadlines ... I prefer to concentrate my focus. Even at home, I tend to focus. When I do housework, I do one room at a time, moving the out-of-place detritus along until I come to the room where it belongs ... I often end up with a basket full of stuff that has no place [usually odds and ends purchased by my husband on a whim] and either have to find a place or dispose of said stuff [when in doubt I place objects on his pillow, probably annoying him tremendously, but better than throwing out a treasure].

But I am clearly a process stitcher when it comes to my own designs. Once I have got enough done to establish my vision, it is laid aside until I can finish it ... often for years. I have to make a special effort to finish my own designs: not because I have lost interest in them but rather because I have succeeded in realizing the vision to my satisfaction. Sometimes that happens at the sketch stage, sometimes at a stitching stage and other times, so near to completion that it is just plain silly not to take the last few hours to complete a piece ... but I don't. Some of my projects never seem to make it beyond the research stage: I have an extensive file of photos of Indian [Asian] textile patterns [from saris], several books on Indian embroidery, and I follow a blog that discusses Indian embroidery techniques ... all in preparation for designing a sampler based on the Ghandi quote that "There is enough food in the world for everyone's need but not everyone's greed." Other designs actually get to the swatch stage and beyond.

Some examples are below:
Here is my Beach Find Pansies: Inspired by some shell fragments found on the beach last summer, I started this piece, meant to be the central band in a handbag. I do carry this piece in my current stitching bag but I always seem to pull out some other designer's work. I think that the problem is that my own designs are often based on mastering a technique or using found objects within a piece of textile art ... and once I have proved I can do what I imagine, I'm done. I don't have to have the finished object in my hand because I already have it in my head. However, this blogger's question exercise may just prompt me to finish a few of these projects of my own.

This is my Fertile Circle's Needlebook Design: The front is done except for couching a thick Caron wool as the snake circling round the nests. The back is done except for backstitching some blending filament between the bargello rows to conceal the linen threads [the raw linen threads don't show up in the photo but do in hand]. Just a few more hours of work and this could be a finished needlebook ... but though I always carry it in my current projects stitching bag, I never seem to pick it up.

However, the record is held by a crazy quilt top I designed and feather stitched, presumably for my baby sister's 16th birthday. Her 50th birthday is 41 days away and I am only now making plans to head to the local quilting shop to get batting and backing material to assemble and bind it. At least all the crazy 70s colors are back in style again!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Giveaway

In keeping with my efforts to downsize my stash I am giving away these five gently used charts [chart only - no button packs] in the Word series from Shepherd's Bush. It is not a complete set. I only purchased those I wanted to stitch up. The selection includes: FLAG - July, LEAF - September, HOWL - October, GIVE - November, and STAR - December. In order to keep to an accurate scale for the suggested buttons, you would need to stitch these on 10ct tula or a similar fabric. But you can adjust button sizes downward [or leave the buttons out entirely] and stitch on higher count fabrics. I used them to make classroom banners but, if stitched on 14-18ct aida or 28-36ct linen over two, they'd make cute decorative cubes or small framed pieces for those who like to decorate for the various seasons.

If you wish to enter your name for this charts giveaway, the usual conditions will apply:
-- open to all stitchers
-- leave a comment below as to why you are interested in the giveaway
-- include an e-mail address in your post if clicking on your name will not lead me to an e-mail link
-- a winner will be selected on the 10th of the month and informed by e-mail
-- winners are asked to commit to PIF charts to other stitchers through message boards, guilds or stitching groups or to donate the charts to a women's shelter or prison, a nursing home or some other venue where a stitcher would enjoy them.
Good luck to all who choose to enter.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A variety of ornaments

I have done the sewing/assembly finish on a few Thanksgiving ornaments stitched earlier this year. Both the Pilgrim Boy and Girl and the Give Thanks ornnaments are from Better Homes and Gardens 1001 Cross Stitch Motifs and are trimmed with inexpensive craft seed beads and backed with scraps of really lovely fabric left over from a quilting class. These are probably my most economical projects so far this year.

And, on April 28th, I finally got around to ordering the Kreinik silk mori for the Cross and Satin stitched Cornucopia ornament I had wanted to stitch in April. While waiting for the silks to arrive, I decided to stitch the central medallion of the Thanksgiving chart in Prairie Schooler's Harvest Time leaflet ... over one on the same 28ct Glasgow linen I am using for my Bride's Tree SAL ornaments ... using GAST and WDW overdyed cottons instead of the suggested DMC. Once I have finished these two ornaments I will have two turkey ornaments and two cornucopia ornaments, which should be more than enough of those motifs.

As to my remaining monthly Thanksgiving ornaments: I already have a few pumpkin [not jack-o-lantern] ornaments that will work on both the Halloween and the Thanksgiving tree bringing my total of completed ornaments up to seven, or nine once the above-mentioned cornucopia and turkey are stitched. A pumpkin pie ornament might make a nice addition if I kind find a properly sized chart. And, I am still looking for some very particular charts which probably exist only in my imagination. I'd really like to find some Indians and Pilgrims that aren't the usual cartoonish, child-friendly charts ... I'd prefer something with a touch more dignity and elegance or in a folk-art or primitive style. I have searched a variety of likely sites including 123stitch, Homespun Elegance, Prairie Schooler, Whispered by the Wind and Mystic Stitch without finding exactly what I want though there were a few charts that did have a variety of motifs that might prove useful. One that seems best suited to my purposes is Cross-Eyed Cricket's Thanksgiving Circle which features a male and female Pilgrim, a male Indian and some autumn trees. I'll be purchasing this as soon as I receive an expected payment for postage costs in the infamous Mom's Stash Giveaway ... it's coming in the form of a 123stitch gift certificate. Then there's Be Thankful by Imaginating, which has a central motif that might work if lifted out as an ornament. An Expression of Gratitude by Blue Ribbon Designs is another chart with a useful central motif. But these don't exactly thrill me and will be purchased only as a last resort if I come up short of the dozen or so ornaments I will need to fill my table top tree. I do have a beautiful chart of a native American maiden in the traditional dress of the Northeastern woodland tribes [carrying a basket of squash and corn] but even stitched over one on a high count fabric, it would be too large for an ornament ... and way too much work for an ornament as well. I might consider making it as a stand-up to place beside my wrought iron ornament tree when I decorate for Thanksgiving.
And I finished this quick little Quaker Rabbit [a free chart from aury's blog] for the April installment of the Bride's Tree ornament SAL. This is stitched on the same 28ct Glasgow linen [color: raw linen] as all the others in my series for the SAL ... and finished in the same style as the others, as well: a fringed pillow ornament with hemp hanger. I used GAST overdyed cottons Maple Syrup, Cinnamon and Oatmeal for the Rabbit & the border and a lovely Caron Waterlily for the lettuce. I made a few minor adjustments to the chart: rounding off the Quaker motif in the bottom right corner to make it look more like a head of lettuce, replacing the outlined tail with an echo of the central Quaker motif, and, finally, creating a Quaker style border to give my little pillow ornament a bit more definition. I am very pleased with this little guy ... and am most grateful to the fellow bloggers who led me to this complimentary chart ... sparing me the necessity of buying one of a possible five a Prairie Schooler charts with designs I could have adapted. While I love PS, I am never averse to saving a dollar or two.
It never ceases to amaze me but the simpler the design, the more frogging I seem to do ... an arrogant lack of concentration being the cause, no doubt. Or is it that the ostensibly simple charts have an insidious way of deceiving the eye, causing it to skip like a vintage needle on an old and scratchy phonograph record, falling into the wrong groove entirely? In this case, I had to frog nearly a third of the outline due to the fact that I skipped two stitches along the back of the rabbit causing his front legs to end two rows lower than his back legs. Since this would have seriously hindered his mobility, not to mention destroying his symmetry, I though it best to frog and re-stitch. He looks much handsomer now. It seems a happy coincidence that I stitched this little guy during the same week I decided to re-read Watership Downs. A small example of serendipity.
Since I will be starting another Quaker free chart from Aury's blog later this week, I consider myself well and truly caught up with this SAL and hope to remain so. The chart features a Bird in a Nest, suitable for the May ornament representing Security or Confidence in the Home.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #17

I didn't get nearly as much stitching done this week as usual since preparation for yesterday's two Confirmations, not to mention the registration mailing that goes out first thing Monday, consumed my week. As luck would have it, my secretary chose this past week [one of the busiest of my year], to take three days unpaid leave of absence ... so she could take the Census Bureau's mandated three day training. The result, I ended up working long hours, including my usual day off, to complete her tasks as well as mine ... the consequence, little or no stitching time.
I did manage to finish the cross-stitching of my April Bride's Tree SAL ornament, the Rabbit, symbolizing hope ... though I am still working on the monogram for the back and will wait until the ornament is completed assembled to show you a photograph.
I have started on the assembly of the Plimoth Scissor Keep from the Summer 2009 issue of Sampler and Antique Needleworks quarterly magazine. I love reading this magazine but this is only the third chart from its pages that I have stitched in the four years I have been subscribing. I am squirrelling the issues away ... to keep me happily stitching throughout my retirement. Again, I'll wait till it is completely assembled to take a photo.
I suspect next weekend's progress report will be equally sparse since I have to review and sign off on 10 sets of progress reports for the Grades 1-6 that meet Mondays as well as 6 sets of progress reports for Grade 7, enter all the Confirmations in the Parish Register, oversee four First Communion rehearsals, and, of course, two First Communion ceremonies next Saturday and a May Crowning next Sunday. But at least there will be no more Monday classes for grades 1-6 after May 10 and only two more weeks of classes for the Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday sessions go into mid-June. Each session has a total of thirty classes but given the way holidays, vacations and snow days fall throughout the year, each session ends at different times in May & June. Saturday sessions stretch out the longest because we can't hold classes on the days we celebrate First Confession, Confirmation and First Communion ... parking lot and timing issues are involved.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Goals

Bride's Tree SAL May Ornament [Bird in a Nest - Confidence in the Shelter - renamed Security, by me]:

Linda's RR: Still waiting for Lisa's piece to come in the mail. When I receive it I shall be stitching All Wrapped Up, a tall snowman in a scarf.

Town Square SAL: Monster Bubbles' Jail

Monthly Projects:
Thanksgiving Ornament:Finish the PS Turkey from April and stitch Kreinik Cornucopia for May.
Christmas Piece: Sue Hillis' Cookie Baking Santa
UFO > WIP: Peacock Biscornu

Focus Projects:
BAP: TW's Autmn Faerie
Medium Project: Brightneedles' Ghosts and Ghoulies Etui

Sewing Finishes:
Take care of one or two from the backlog basket.
Keep up ornament finishes for this month.