Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Assessing Nov Goals, Setting Dec Goals


Town Square SAL: Kit up and start stitching The Clock Tower. DONE 11/18/10.
Bride's Tree SAL: Design and Stitch October's Pine Cone DONE 11/10/10 and November's Angel NO.
Thanksgiving Ornaments: Stitch four ornaments as needed to catch up to the goal of one a month. DONE. Between 11/23 and 11/27, I stitched four of the motifs [Indian brave, Pilgrim Man & Woman, Turkey] from Cross Eyed Cricket's Thanksgiving Circle and assembled them into round padded board ornaments.

UFO: Peacock biscornu. NO. This project needs to be frogged before moving on and I did enough frogging in the past week on my Quaker projects from Workbasket to want to pull out another stitch.
BAP: Finish TW's Autumn Faerie. Only got in an hour's worth of stitching on this and that only because I refused to let another month go by with nothing done on this project.
Medium Project: Resume work on The Sweetheart Tree's Holly and Hearts Sampler. This will have to become a December goal.
SURFACE EMBROIDERY: Continue work on Encrusted Crazy Quilt Square, mastering the boullion stitch. The aim is to get in at least one hour a week. DONE. While I didn't master the boullion stitch, I did put in four hours on this project and recovered my enthusiasm for it. But before I do much more work on the piece, I'll have to practice my ribbon embroidery technique as well as that difficult boullion stitch.
SEWING PROJECTS:Finish-finish ornaments to date and stitch up two larger projects from the finishing basket. GOAL EXCEEDED. All ornaments stitched this month were finished. Other sewing finishes this month included a bookmark, three gift totes,
And the NaBloPoMo Challenge: DONE!!! Well, this has certainly been an experience and one I am not sure I care to repeat next year. Finding something of interest to blog about daily and maintaining my primary focus on stitching has been difficult. But, according to the stats feature, I have never had so many page views. The comments haven't increased though ... for the most part, I don't seem to attract the type of reader who says much. The one thing blogging daily has done for me personally is this: in an effort to find something to say, I posted more about designing my own pieces ... something I have been doing intermittently for some time now. I do believe I see more designing in my future. On the other hand, posting daily really had me scrambling for topics ... not all of which were terribly successful ... and it has given me an even greater respect for professional writers who sit down to a keyboard daily. I guess I am just a dabbler and a dilettante by nature and by habit. Ideally, I should have been born to an extraordinarily wealthy family so I could have indulged all my creative whims without any compulsion to develop them into [or support them with] an income producing career.

Town Square SAL: The Fire Station
Bride's Tree SAL: Finish stitching the Quaker Angel I designed for November's ornament and stitch Workbasket's Quaker Santa for the December [and last] ornament.
UFO: Either my long neglected BAP or Medium Project would qualify as a UFO by now, so I'll just leave this category blank for this month.
BAP: TW's Autumn Faerie, no extravagant goals of finishing ... all I want to do is manage a few hours a week on this project.
Medium Project: Resume work on Victoria Sampler's Holly and Hearts Sampler. Again, no extravagant goals here, I just want to see steady discernible progress.
SURFACE EMBROIDERY: Continue work on Encrusted Crazy Quilt Block.
SEWING PROJECTS: Finish as many pieces as possible so as to begin the new year with substantially fewer finishes in the basket. This is where I really want to concentrate my efforts this month. Until I have a sewing room fixed up, my dining room is my sewing area ... and I need to reclaim it in time for the Christmas holidays.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The trouble with four day weekends ...

... is that they are too true a foretaste of retirement.
I love my work [coordinating a religious education program for some 480 children in a NY suburban Catholic parish] but as I get older I long for a lighter workload. My typical work week is 50-60 hours long; the hours are irregular with two days ending at 5pm, two at 9pm and one at noon; ordinarily my days off are Friday and Sunday ... NOT consecutive and so, not as relaxing as might be. Today, I will go in to grade the exams and prepare the progress reports of sixty-five 7th graders, prepare the scripts for six stations of our next Family catechesis session and, angels and saints protect me, supervise the behavior in Church for Advent confessions for grades 3-6 of the after school session and grades 5-7 of the evening session. The last bit is the worst. Some of these children see the inside of a church only once or twice a year and consequently have never acquired the sense that it is holy ground/sacred space. Therefore, they feel free to chat and behave as they might in the schoolyard or playground. I have to walk a fine line between keeping the peaceful and reverent atmosphere intact and still being a welcoming, not scolding, presence for the children who ... through no fault of their own ... have never been taught to behave appropriately in this environment. The pastor, quite properly, does not wish to have the reception of the sacrament disturbed by noise or irreverent attitudes/behaviors of those still waiting to confess ... he also does not wish to be embarassed in front of the priest called in from a near-by retreat house to assist with the large number of children coming for the sacrament. Tomorrow's schedule is equally strained: getting paperwork for a major fundraiser out and a smaller fundraiser delivery in, distributed and finally wrapped up, followed by afterschool confession for Grades 3-6 and evening confessions for Grade 8 ... and it is the Grade 8 confessions I am dreading. Most years our Confirmation class is a reasonable group, with just the usual adolescent hormonal and social stuff going on ... but every so often we get a [how shall I put this delicately?] a truly challenging class ... obnoxious, disrespectful of adults and one another, cruel to one another both verbally and emotionally, selfish and self-involved ... it seems to go in cycles, don't ask me why ... but four years ago we had such a Confirmation class and we have another this year. Keeping order in Church shall be difficult since I will have to delegate the responsibility to the catechists ... I will be running the make-up meeting for the 2nd grade parents who didn't come to our Reconciliation/Eucharist Parent Meeting. I'll move through the meeting as quickly as possible so that I can get to the Church in time to help out ... for I know maintaining control of 85 darling 13 year olds in a church setting may be beyond the scope of my six 8th grade catechists. I've no doubt I'll have a less than pleasant meeting with the pastor on Wednesday morning.
Like I said, most days I love my work ... hey, most days I can even manage to see it as ministry ... but somedays, I just want to retire.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #47

Well, let's see, what did I actually accomplish

FROGGING, FROGGING, FROGGING last week's so called progress so I can restart the Workbasket's Quaker Santa and Quaker Sampler ... with nothing much to show for it.

Now that my Round Robin has been returned, I decided to finish the last panel and then put it away till next Fall. I'll decide them just how to finish it: probably as a lap robe or a wall hanging ... it's too large for a pillow finish and I don't want to go to the expense of professional framing for so large and essentially ephemeral a piece.

I put in another hour or so on my Encrusted Crazy Quilt Square, adding yellow gold glass beads to the area with the chain stitched "rope" over black moire, some more buttons to the focal point seam embellishment near the silk tartan, another bird and a cat button to the garden scene as well as some more grass. So here's one more photograph to give you an idea of the progress since yesterday. It's slow going since I can only work on a small area at a time but I am going to try to work on this for an hour each week ... the plan is to turn it into a very colorful summer handbag.

These Thanksgiving ornaments are lifted from the Cross Eyed Cricket Thanksgiving Circle leaflet: Indian with corn, the Pilgrim Woman with pies, the Pilgrim Man with fish, the Turkey. All of these were stitched on 36 ct Silkweaver linen in a color called Shadowlands in the recommended DMC. And all are finished as round ornaments using a 2 1/2" diameter padded cardboard form. The two pilgrims were backed with black silk moire and the Indian and turkey were backed with a fall leaf print. I used various trims: purchased braid for the Pilgrim woman, beads for the Pilgrim man and hand made twisted cording for the Indian and turkey. I've added them to the wrought iron tree I keep in my entryway. The Thanksgiving ornaments will remain up till I switch to Christmas ornaments in mid-December.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Return to the Crazy Quilt Project

I have so many projects in progress that there is always one that gets pushed into the background, a poor neglected little step child. But every so often, I go in search of one of these abandoned projects.

Today, it was the Crazy Quilt On-line Class Project's turn. Here is a photo of it when last seen. The second photo is a close-up of the area I worked on today. The two photos are oriented differently: the close-up shows the top third of the first photo. Admittedly, there is not much discernible progress, but this is very labor intensive stitching: lots of work in small areas. I added more stitches and beads to the seam embellishment between the white on white cotton and the black silk moire. I added some buttons and beads to the seam with the silk tartan plaid and I began the embroidered embellishment of the white on white cotton triangle. And I am nowhere near done with this tiny section yet. There'll be more flowers and grasses, another cardinal button and a ladybug button added to the garden scene. And there will be more buttons and beads mounded at the edge of the tartan silk. This project isn't called an encrusted crazy quilt square for nothing.

Next, I will have to work on mastering the bouillion stitch ... I read somewhere that the smaller eyes of darning or beading needles lend themselves to this stitch, making it easier to "pull" it through. I am determined to master this stitch since it does make such beautiful flowers, especially roses ... and I'd like to use the technique on this square before I am through.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Stitching Meme

Andie's blog had this list of stitching questions ... and I thought I'd fill one of my holiday NaBloPoMo posts by answering them. If you'd like to answer these questions on your own blog, she has posted the questions on her own blog as a convenient cut-and-paste unit.

1. What are you stitching at the moment? Right now I am working on a Pilgrim man Thanksgiving ornament. I excerpted the chart from CEC Thanksgiving Circle. Within the past two days, I finished the Pilgrim woman and the Indian brave from the same leaflet ... I'll do the finish assembly sometime during the holiday weekend ... and add them to my Thanksgiving tree which I will leave up till Dec. 15 when I switch everything over to Christmas ornaments.

2. How many finishes have you had this year? Small? Medium? Large? Extra Large? I have stitched 34 smalls this year, mostly ornaments but a few pin cushions, tuck-aways, scissor cases as well. And eleven medium pieces, five of which were for a round robin in which I participated. Two large pieces: the village scene from the PS Harvest Time leaflet and the Mermaids Singing by Workbasket. But no extra large: I have been working on a BAP, TW's Autumn Faerie, but that still has a ways to go.

3. Do you think you will finish any more in the next month and a half before the end of the year? Sure: I know I will finish two more Christmas ornaments for the Bride's Tree SAL and one more piece for the Town Square SAL [probably the Town Hall or the Schoolhouse]. I hope to finish my current BAP as well, TW's Autumn Faerie.

4. If you could buy 1 thing for yourself what would it be? (Doesn't have to be stitching). We need a new mattress and boxspring ... badly. We will try to hold out for the January sales but a good night's sleep is a priority and if a good sale comes along between now and then, we'll go for it.

5. What is the best thing you have ever stitched? I'd have to go with any one of the large Teresa Wentzler pieces I have done: The Spring Faerie and The Lily of the Valley Faerie.

6. Do you like making lists? Always, it's what I do.

7. Do you stitch in rotation (how does it work?) or OAAT? In rotation. I have five different projects of varying size and complexity in my current stitching bag.

8. What is the next thing you plan to stitch? After I frog out my error and remount the piece on scroll rods, Workbasket's Quaker Sampler.

9. What is your fave ONS? And why? There are actually two that I love: 123stitch for it's speedy delivery and fairly broad range of goods AND Stitchery Row, a brick and mortar in Endicott NY that has an on-line presence, these guys are phenomenal when it comes to getting the hard-to-find item and their turn around is even speedier than 123stitch.

10. Do you have a stitching chair? The straight-back wooden chair in my living room.

11. Do your children/pets get into your stitching things? No, not lately. My children are grown and no longer live at home. My beloved Jackal died several years ago and I will not be getting another pet till I can retire and devote the proper attention and time to a four-footed companion. Once upon a time, I had to defend all my sewing and embroidery scissors with a flaming sword ... my kids [and even my husband] didn't get the fact that they were not to be used on paper or plastic, ever! But that is no longer an issue with the kids gone and my husband finally trained ... or maybe he's just gotten sneakier and hasn't been caught misbehaving with scissors lately.

12. Do you participate in any stitching forums? Ever so often, I put in my two cents on the 123stitch board.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Have a lovely time with family and friends.
And in closing, my favorite table grace:
Lord, to all who have hunger, give bread; and to all who have bread, give the hunger for justice. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WIP Photos

To get into the mood for Thanksgiving, I have been working on a few additional ornaments for the little wrought iron tree I keep on the antique washstand in my entryway. I figure I probably won't get to do the assembly finish until Friday or Saturday on these little gems but I'll keep them up for a week or so anyway. I don't really decorate for Christmas until mid-December. I don't like rushing the whole Advent season as if it didn't even exist and have purpose.

These pieces are really quite dainty, not more than 2" tall. All the designs are from Cross Eyed Cricket's Thanksgiving Circle leaflet. I have stitched them on 36ct Silkweaver linen in a color called Shadowlands, using the recommended DMC floss, stitching one strand over two threads. I've finished the Indian brave [bringing corn] and the Pilgrim woman [holding pies]. It's too early to take a photo of the The Pilgrim man [carrying fish]. I've only done a half hour's stitching on it. I'll finish all of these as round padded board ornaments, trimmed with twisted cord. I have enjoyed stitching these rather simple designs and have decided I really will have to stitch the entire piece as charted one of these days, instead of just pulling out excerpts to use as ornaments ... it would make a lovely pillow to display on my sofa during the Thanksgiving holidays.

I have made quite a few plans for stitching during the Thanksgiving recess. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my round robin has been returned home finally ... so, I will finish up the last panel on that piece using a Prairie Schooler chart. I'll assemble the Thanksgiving ornaments. And, I'll chart and stitch the Bride's Tree SAL November ornament, an angel that I'll be making up in the Quaker style. If I have any additional time, I may do some over one frogging on the ill-fated start from last weekend, Workbasket's Quaker Sampler. After measuring and cutting the fabric so carefully, I can't believe I was so inattentive as to pick up the hoop wrong and start stitching with the wrong orientation. To avoid that problem in the future, I believe I'll prep the piece on a stretcher frame when I start again. I still haven't decided what I will do about the December Bride's Tree ornament, for which I will be using Workbasket's Quaker Santa chart ... but I'm leaning toward stitching the entire design over one on the 28ct Glasgow raw linen [in Belle Soie Cranberry, Old Crow and Icing] instead of stitching an excerpt from the chart and stitching over two on the 32ct Belfast raw linen [in Belle Soie Cranberry and Icing]. The second option would work and be the quicker [and easier] stitch but I really like the whole design and hate to truncate it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's back

Rejoice with me, my long over-due Round Robin is finally home. There is only one empty space to fill which I will stitch myself, using a Prairie Schooler design. I am delighted with the contributions of the other stitchers. I am not at all certain how I will finish this: a wall hanging, a lap robe, a tote bag. It's too large for a pillow and it doesn't seem like the sort of thing I'd frame.
A picture will be posted when I have filled in the last panel.

Monday, November 22, 2010

DMC Deleted Colors

I must be the last stitcher to get the news that DMC deleted certain colors due to the toxicity of the dyes used to make them. Purportedly, the colors are still available in the USA ... I guess the legendary French disdain for Americans makes it acceptable to poison us, but not Europeans, Australians and Asians. In all likelihood, I heard about it or read about it at the time it happened but it didn't raise a blip on my radar because I prefer using silk whenever possible. Even when using cotton, I tend to prefer overdyes. But lately, I have been using DMC every so often. [I have been doing a lot of smalls, and many designers avoid charting an expensive over-dyed floss for just a few stitches.] Anyway, the topic came up again on a message board I frequent, listing the infamous #s:

731, recommended substitution: 732
776, recommended substitution: 3326
781, recommended substitution: 782
806, recommended substitution: 3760
971, recommended substitution: 740
3373, recommended substitution: 407

So, I went scurrying over to my DMC cases to see if I owned any of the offending floss. I did but I have removed the cards with those #s. I still stitch bibs, t-shirts and toys for small children and would hate to think that any of them might be exposed to a known toxic dye through a gift from me.

Also, in keeping with yesterday's decision to refrain from serious stitching till my concentration returns, all I did this morning was finish up my Halloween Greetings piece by adding two more crowns to fill in the empty spaces left when I deleted the words and date. Since I am using the piece to make a knitting bag for one of my sisters ... and not the Halloween ornament as charted, it seemed a more sensible choice. I never did get how sheep were a Halloween-ish motif in the first place, but that's beside the point. Then I kitted up my Cross-Eyed Cricket Thanksgiving Circle. I cut a 7" wide swath of 36ct Silkweaver Shadowlands linen on which I will stitch the Indian and the Pilgrim Man and Woman as individual ornaments using the recommended DMC floss. Once I have stitched all three, I will finish them as padded board ornaments. I actually started the Indian this morning and am about 2/3 of the way done. These could actually be done in time to put up on the Thanksgiving ornament tree in my entryway. Who am I kidding? Next year maybe!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #46

This weekend was one in which I should never have even attempted to stitch ... everything I have done will have to be frogged.
First I decided to start work on the December Bride's Tree SAL ornament, skipping right over the November angel, since I had gotten the Workbasket chart for the Quaker Santa and some lovely Belle Soie Cranberry silk, two skeins worth. Perfect, right? Well, no, not exactly. To start off, I must have been mildly dyslexic this weekend because I misread the dimensions of the Quaker Snowman, 96h X 77w [also included in this leaflet] as the dimensions of the Santa, 126hx95w. The 96x77 would have been the largest ornament in this series but I had wisely ordered some 32ct linen in the same raw color ... so that would bring the Santa into scale with all the other ornaments stitched on 28ct ... or so I thought. Then because I am a creature of habit, I loaded my needle with two strands of silk. Well, I wasn't more than ten stitches into the project when I realized one strand was needed. Do you know what you get when you frog silk from linen too tightly woven for two strands? What you get is fuzz ... lots and lots of fuzz ... and treacherously thin stretches of floss just waiting to shred ... that's what you get. Okay, so into the ort jar with two 18" lengths of luscious silk! The heart breaks a bit but one soldiers on. Mind you, I still hadn't noticed the dimension error! That only happened when I was still only 2/3rds of the way through stitching the first row of Santa's robe ... it looked off to me, so I decided to do an actual count ... imagine counting cross stitches, what a concept! ... out came the quilting pins as I counted off groups of ten stitches and realized I was already well past the 77wide I had thought was involved. Now, totally exasperated by the "misprint" in the chart, I snatched the offending leaflet up only to discover I can't read what is plainly printed on the card. Okay, having calmed down, I decided "I can fix this." I frogged back to 70 stitches over two, which will now become the bottom border [though that means wasting about 2" of linen below and to the left of my stitching]. I can stitch a 60 wide excerpt from the chart, using the central Quaker motif for the body and top it off with Santa's face, beard and hat. I can't say I am really crazy about this idea, so maybe I'll consider stitching the entire design over 1 on the 28ct raw linen. In any case, I put the whole thing aside ... I'll sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow.
Next, I picked up a piece I have been itching to start: Workbasket's Quaker Sampler. A lovely rectangular piece. I cut a piece of Silkweaver Shadowlands 36ct linen and started stitching [over two with one strand, correctly this time]. I got half way through the first large motif in the upper left corner before I was ready for bed. I took the linen out of the hoop and realized that I had oriented my stitching all wrong. The longest leg of the rectangle should be horizontal and I have been stitching as if it was vertical. More frogging in my future. I give up. I will not stitch for a few days ... not till my head clears.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Light Stitching Day

Worked till noon and then had to go back to work on a fund-raiser project at 5:30, so I didn't have a great deal of free time for stitching. I got a bit more done on Halloween Greetings ... enough to anticipate a finish tomorrow. I've decided to make it into a knitting bag for one of my sisters for Christmas, so I'll be leaving off the words and date and filling in the empty spaces with more sampler motifs, maybe two more crowns to complete a diagonal from lower left to upper right ... but maybe something else entirely ... I'll be consulting my reference on sampler symbolism to come up with something appropriate. I'll post a photo tomorrow, finished or not.

Friday, November 19, 2010

And, now, the photos

Since Friday is my day off, I was able to enjoy a lot of quality stitching time ... so the photos are a touch more impressive than they would have been had the camera battery been properly juiced last night. Things started at 6:30am, with a nice cup of tea, some chores [unloading the dishwasher and doing a load of laundry], followed by stitching. Then I alternated chores/errands and stitching/sewing for the remainder of the day. I suppose this is a small foretaste of retirement but I was informed yesterday that though I am fully vested, my employer will not start paying out my pension until I am 66 ... first the Social Security Administration and now the Archdiocese of NY. I have contributed to SS since I was 16 and got my first part-time job and my pension plan is the only benefit attached to my salary - since I use my husband's health plan. The Church has gotten a real bargain over the past 20 years and will for the next 6 years, apparently. In this economy, I am grateful to have a paycheck when so many do not but I can't help resenting the nasty trick fate is playing on me as I approach retirement age ... I feel like the proverbial and very weary donkey following the unattainable carrot on a stick. And to think, back in the 60s, the folks who put together the futuristic pavilions at the World's Fair in NY promised us a four day work week and earlier retirement ages ... was my generation ever sold a bill of goods! I routinely work a 50 hour work week, during peak times as much as 70 hours [no overtime pay since I am in Ministry]. Don't get me wrong, most days I love my work ... but as my body ages and my health wears down, I long for rest. I suppose once I do get to retire, though, I'll fill half the time with volunteer work because, tough as it may be to imagine now, too much rest will be boring.

But less whining and more stitching photos:

I spent some time today working on an ort jar I plan to use as a giveaway when I reach my 100th follower [I am currently at 93]. I had originally planned to fringe the top with orts but that didn't work for this particular lid ... For this first jar lid, I slip-stitched a lace ruffle to the edge and now I'm trying to decide how to conceal my stitching. Shall I use the pink and blue braided cord or shall I use a combination of the pink and blue pearl strands? And, because I have figured out a way to go with my original design idea using a standard mason jar lid, I'll be making a second ort jar. Maybe I'll give folks a choice on that giveaway: conventionally pretty or fun and funky. I hope to have both ort jars made before I ever post the actual giveaway. Unless a personalization is involved, I like to have everything ready to mail the day a winner is chosen ... just getting myself off to the post office can be the cause of lengthy delay ... I can't imagine adding the actual stitching into the mix.

Here is what Halloween Greetings looked like after today's stitching. Now, I love Crescent Colors floss so I am never averse to building my stash, especially in the colors used in this design which fit so very well into my preferred palette ... but, I can see where a more frugal stitcher would be rather annoyed to purchase two of the colors used in the pineapple portion of the design [Ye Olde Gold and Weeping Willow] only to discover that they need less than one/half length of two strands pulled from one bundle of six after buying a whole card ... that works out to a little less than 1/30th of the floss on the card. It seems to me that designers might consider some of the concerns of stitchers who can't afford or who don't have an available source for the often pricey and sometimes hard-to-find over-dyes. Personally, I love overdyes and am constantly adding to my stash whenever I see colors that I might use someday. I frequently convert from DMC to overdyes because I love the graduated tones and the added texture they give to my finished pieces. However, I realize that many stitchers don't share my preference and it seems that designers might be wise to take that into consideration. In this economy, many US stitchers are opting to purchase from designers who chart for DMC only or who include DMC conversions in their floss list. International stitchers who already have a hard time with inflated DMC prices must be even more inconvenienced by the high cost of overdyes, especially when used so sparingly in a design. Obviously, stitchers are always free to make their own conversions ... it's something I do all the time. But some, who lack the confidence to do so, simply stop buying the work of a particular designer. I would think this should concern designers when so many have already left the industry because the income doesn't justify the time, energy and effort invested.

And, finally, I finished another Town Square SAL piece, Cricket Collection's Clock Tower. I am guessing the town [or towns] that inspired the designers who participated in this project must be one of those Midwestern towns where loads of immigrants from Europe settled to farm and run shops. If one is to judge by this clock, it had to be a place filled with Europeans accustomed to seeing the work of skilled artisans and craftsmen in their public buildings: lots of colorful mosaics and brilliant stained glass and fanciful brick/stone work.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

WIP Progress - Such as it is

So far this week, all I have worked on is the Plum Street Sampler Halloween Greetings that was featured in the September JCS 2010 issue. This was charted for 36ct and I am stitching it on 32ct, so I understand that it is working up larger than the designer intended ... but even at 36ct, I would have considered it a very very large ornament. Add that to the fact that there is an awful lot of stitching involved [3 sheep, 1 house, 1 pineapple, 1 raven, 1 pumpkin, 1 crown and a healthy dose of words & numbers] and what you've really got is a small to medium sized pillow ... not an ornament, by any means. So far as I am concerned ornaments should be the quintessential smalls: roughly 3" square [adjust dimensions slightly for other shapes], simple but attractive designs, a fair amount of white space, quickly stitched, more in the fun & funky vein rather than mini-masterpieces. I realize there are some who go to the other extreme with their ornaments ... I am thinking about some of the elaborate Victoria Sampler ornament charts I have seen ... but I consider that way too much work for too little end product.

Since my version of this design will be anything but an ornament, I'll be leaving out the phrase "Halloween Greetings" at the top and substituting another raven [facing center] for the date. I believe I have some thin wale black corduroy in my fabric stash to turn this into the perfect knitting bag [sheep - wool] for my sister's Christmas gift.
Photos will have to wait till tomorrow while the camera battery recharges.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some Stash Enhancement

And a part of my order from Stitchery Row arrived: all the flosses I needed for the Halloween ornament charts as well as some Homespun Elegance Olde Brass buttons, and the chart for my December Bride's Tree ornament, The Quaker Santa [Workbasket]. They are still trying to get the Monsterbubbles Day of the Dead kit for me and are looking for some bee buttons in the Olde Brass style. I placed an order with 123stitch for some more floss [what else?] and for my fabric for the November and December entries in the Bride's Tree SAL: 28ct raw Glasgow linen and 32ct raw Belfast linen... got the e-mail that it is in the mail ... so I hope yo have it by Friday or Saturday. Still, I feel richly satisfied today ... fondling fiber, examining the chart. The Workbasket leaflet also has a chart for a Quaker Snowman. Though not a big fan of snowmen, I may stitch it on some black linen I have with DMC B5200 or one of my vintage NN overdyes in shades of white and pale blue ... the contrast ought to be interesting and I can always turn it into a small pin pillow or a door hanger or a pin keep for a winter giveaway.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting Ready for ...

... some special giveaways. It seems with the NaBloPoMo, I'll be needing some special giveaway to mark my 500th post by Jan. 4, 2011. I can't decide whether to give away 5 $10 or 1 $50 gift certificates to 123 stitch. Spread the wealth or make one person very happy? What do you, my readers, think?

I am also up to 91 followers at the moment ... when I hit 100, I'd like to give away a stitched gift. I thought I'd make an ort jar and have started designing the top. I want this to be real funky and whimsical and I intend to fringe the edges of this top with actual orts attached with the stitch commonly used in rug hooking. I have the perfect fat little globe of a jar. I have some rainbow rick-rack in two widths and some brightly colored floss. All the elements are coming together ... this should be a nice little diversion.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pillows, pillows and more pillows

As I said earlier this month, blogging daily about stitching can be a challenge. Stitching, by its very nature, takes time. Working full-time and maintaining a household tends to interfere with stitching time ... consequently, there just isn't enough current stitching to fill daily posts. So, I find myself resorting to a series of photo essays about projects done in the past. Today's photo essay will be devoted to pillows. I love piling throw pillows on beds and sofas ... a tendency my husband deplores. If I had my way, I'd finish anything not frame-worthy as a pillow and we'd have to devote an entire room to their storage. In deference to my husband's preferences, I have reluctantly added totes, stand-ups, quilts, bell-pulls, wall hangings and the other non-pillow finishes to my bag of tricks.

Nonetheless, I do have many, many pillows and here are a few:
First, on the left is my all time favorite, the very first Homespun Elegance design I ever stitched, Sampler Patches, from the Plain and Fancy Collection. This was stitched when over-dyes were just coming on the market and long before I found an on-line source for GAST and WDW. I used a Needle Necessities over-dyed floss instead of the recommended GAST but it turned out all right anyway. On the right is a free chart, again, I forget the designer, no longer have the chart and can't find a mention of it in my stitching journals ... so it must be very, very old: before I started keeping records. For some reason, the name Plum Pudding Designs comes to mind, but I am really not sure.

A couple of Halloween pillows: the first from Glory Bee and the second from the Tall Bird series from Heart in Hand. Both were stitched on the recommended linen with the recommended fibers. Fun and funky stitches for one of my favorite holidays.

It's been so long since I stitched this one, that I can't remember the name of the design/designer but it looks like a Glory Bee to me ... I seem to recall that the tall skinny house is one of Nancy's motifs though Blackbird Designs also uses them, of course, usually in conjunction with a blackbird ... I couldn't find mention of this in any of my old stitching journals and the chart is long gone ... so we'll just have to call it a mystery pillow. And on the right is a piece I stitched up as a souvenir of one of our many visits to Maine. All I remember at this point is that the chart was purchased from Willow's End, a now defunct LNS [Boothbay Harbor].

A couple of complimentary charts from Little House Needleworks: Star Light, Star Bright and Summer House. These simple little designs were stitched in the recommended GAST and WDW on whatever linen scraps I had available but I added a few beads or embellishments for greater interest and texture.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #45

Hillery left a comment yesterday suggesting I combine my own designs for the Bride's Tree SAL into a Christmas Spot Sampler, perhaps adding a few more designs. I thought about it for a few moments ... you know, going over all the reasons it would be difficult. For example, many of the motifs I have designed make rather large ornaments, 70hx50w, stitched over two on 28ct linen. To make a spot sampler using these designs, I would have to either re-design them to be smaller or use a 40ct linen, stitching over two or a 25ct evenweave , stitching over one. Also, the Bride's Tree SAL motifs make up a set only because each symbolizes a wish for the bride's home [e.g.: security, plenty, beauty, hospitality, fertility, love, etc.] and are not all icons necessarily associated with Christmas [e.g.: a rose, a rabbit, a teapot, a fruit basket, a fish, etc.]. But the more I thought of the challenges, the more I thought of ways to resolve them, e.g.: frankly titling the piece Bride's Tree Spot Sampler and including all the words as well as a central Quaker medallion for the married couple's monogram and/or wedding date. And the more I thought about it, the more the whole notion began to intrigue me. I also thought of motifs I might add to the mix to make things more Christmas-like: star, wreath, pine tree, gift, creche, candle. I don't know if I'll ever get around to doing this but it is now firmly esconced in the mental file I carry around in my imagination ... or maybe that's my subconscious. Even if I don't do the spot sampler, I definitely see a creche ornament in the very near future. The general shape is already envisioned: the bottom half of an Quaker octagon [to represent the animal's crib] topped with the upper half of a Quaker circle [to represent Christ's halo] all supported by diagonnally crossed narrow Quaker bands [serving as the legs of the creche]. Thanks, Hillery, for your interest and your inspiration.

But as to actual stitching going on this weekend:
Plum Street Sampler's Halloween Greetings: I couldn't resist starting this one. I am using a 32ct linen, Country French Latte and the recommended Crescent Colors overdyed cottons. It was designed for 36ct, so my finish will be larger than ornament size ... I'll probably finish it as a pin pillow or a gift bag.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Design Process

I couldn't find a Quaker chart for a pinecone for the October theme in the Bride's Tree SAL, so I cast about for one I could adapt to my purposes. I remembered that Gift of Stitching had a nice Pine Cone ornament that I had stitched as a gift for a stitching friend last year. I looked at that and ultimately decided it didn't work for me.

So I grabbed my handy dandy pad of graph paper and a #2 pencil and started doodling. I used a standard Quaker leaf motif for the rounded top of the pine cone and then adapted a Quaker circle into an overlapping honeycomb for the remainder of the chart. And, knowing I would change it out considerably, I borrowed the branch and pine needle part of the GOS chart as a jumping off point for my first sketch. My immediate reaction was that the first sketch was entirely too top heavy and that, paradoxically, there was also too much white space in the top third of the design.

I started stitching anyway, making the changes I envisioned on the fly ... which is the way I do a lot of my designing. My first change was to eliminate the bottom third of the leaf motif and replace it with the overlapping circles. Next I broadened the top center piece of the leaf motif and filled in some of the white space with connecting cross stitches that left small crosses of negative space. Finally, I stitched a very stylized rice stitch branch for my pine cone and some long stitch pine needles. After completing the stitching to my satisfaction, I charted what I had actually stitched, just to have it on file.

Now I need to get started designing a Quaker Angel. I have a clear vision of what I want: a horizontally oriented angel in flight with fragments of standard circular or oval Quaker motifs forming wing and gown, a circular motif for the halo, and the bodice and head stitched in a simple, though not primitive, style ... think Prairie Schooler.

I wonder how many people design the way I do ... half on paper, half on linen. The creative process is a very personal one, to be sure. And I don't claim to be anything but a rank amateur but I do wonder if others share the same process that I do. The vision > a half-realized graph or sketch > a stitched model on which the actual design problems are resolved. No doubt, the real professionals are adept at using all the computer models for designing but I prefer the feel of a pencil or a needleful of floss in my hand.

In fact, sometimes I work entirely on linen with floss like I did with my Fertile Circles Needlebook which I must really get back to and finish. I think, having solved all the design problems, played with all the variations on a theme, and experimented with all the different fibers and techniques to my satisfaction, I just moved on ... even though just a few more hours stitching would have seen the project to completion ... or at least, ready for the final sewing finish! The same thing happened with my Beach Find Pansies, which grew out of finding oyster shell fragments on a Chesapeake Bay beach that reminded me of pansy petals. These projects will have to be resurrected from the UFO basket and finished up in December or January.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stash diving & WIP Progress

Every now and again I like to go through my stash of charts, partly just to refresh my memory of what is there, partly to plan for the future and partly just to admire the work of the many talented designers I patronize. During the earlier part of the week, I was troubled with sinus headaches that were edging toward migraine intensity. As a result I wasn't able to concentrate on stitching. Instead, I used my usual stitching time to do a bit of browsing through my stash. Although I stitched three Halloween ornaments from JCS September 2010 last month, I have another four charts for Halloween ornaments that I had planned to stitch but didn't get to. I'll be keeping these charts in my current stitching bag to be stitched in 2011: Blue Ribbon's Halloween Greetings from the JCS issue, Monsterbubbles Day of the Dead also from the JCS issue, The Stitcherhood's Boo Pumpkin freebie and Primitive Needle's By the Light of the Moon freebie. I will be designating 2011 a year of Halloween and fantasy stitching. I have such a heavy concentration of Halloween charts in my stash as well as a plethora of dragon charts ... all of which I love and am itching to stitch. Yes, I know that, according to the Chinese calendar, 2010 was the year of the dragon ... but for me it will be 2011. As for larger projects I'll be slipping into the rotation: I definitely want to work on Cross Eyed Cricket's Sleepy Hollow and Primitive Needle's Black'd Skie as well my four remaining Dragon Dream's dragon charts [Dragon of the Summer Sky, Dragon of the Ice Kingdom, as well as the compass point dragons and the dragon tea party charts], a few TW dragon freebies and a beautiful Celtic knotwork dragon that I bought as a pdf directly from the designer. Then I have a few more Workbasket Quaker animals to stitch before I can assemble my quilt. And then there is Something Wicked and Ghosts and Ghoulies Etui and Zucca and The Goblin Market and ... But all that is for next year.

My current project: The Town Square SAL Clock Tower, by the Cricket Collection. I probably managed 3 or 4 hours of stitching on this today, in between chores and errands. However, I am going to have to set it aside for a little while since I am waiting for some GAST floss in colors I didn't have in my rather extensive stash. I am always surprised when a design calls for a GAST and WDW color I don't have. I tend to have most of the muted traditional sampler colors ... and this design calls for a number of bright vibrant colors not found in the sort of thing I usually stitch. I ordered the floss from Stitchery Row back in late October but they forgot that I had said I didn't mind paying two shipping and handling charges if they didn't have everything in stock. I had asked them to send me whatever they had on hand immediately and the back orders in a second mailing.

Another small finish:
The Octber Bride's Tree SAL ornament. The Quaker Pine Cone is my own design. As soon as I receive more fabric from 123 stitch, I'll get started on designing and stitching an angel in the Quaker style for the November ornament... I don't want to fall behind again with this SAL. I have ordered Workbasket's Quaker Santa for the final ornament in December. It'll be nice to have the complete set.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

I can't think of a better way to mark Veteran's Day than with a photo of my Dad, a Purple Heart medal awardee, who survived WWII but undoubtedly had his life shortened by the wounds he received in France. He died at the relatively young age of 59: a good and honorable man sorely missed by his family and friends for more than two decades.

Today, I will pray for peace on this planet so that no men and women need to lose their lives because their leaders are consumed by hatred and greed for territory, power and wealth. War is an obscenity which we should have evolved beyond long ago.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Monthly Giveaway Winner

Using an on-line randomizer, I have determined that the 8th commenter is the winner this month. So, the magazines and tea will soon be winging their way to Mary. As is usually the case, I don't seem to be able to predict what will be a popular giveaway and what will be a ho-hum flop. Things I think ever so clever garner almost no attention whatsoever and things that strike me as rather ordinary go over quite well with the readership. I confess, I wasn't sure how well this particular giveaway would do ... I thought it really appealing and that is usually the kiss of death for my giveaways. But there were 13 comments. So I guess it was neither a wildly popular success nor a total flop ... simply a giveaway that coasted a smidgeon below the average response.

I am closing in on two statistical blogging landmarks, worthy of being marked by unique giveaways in the future.

The first, my 500th post, will probably be reached in time for the January 2011 giveaway. Something that special ought to be marked by a more personal giveaway, a stitched item of some sort. I was thinking of an Ort jar with a padded lid or a cupcake pincushion, a piece I could stitch up now and hold in reserve for the giveaway.

The second, my 100th follower, is much more difficult to predict but if the list continues to grow as it has over the past few months, sometime before June or July 2011 is the likely time frame. I am aware of just what a compliment following is. I myself follow about 35 blogs through my blog list and regularly drop in on another dozen or so that are bookmarked on my favorites list ... I devote some of my precious computer time to this because I respect the creativity of the bloggers on my various lists, as writers and as textile artists and as modern day philosophers/diarists/storytellers. I admit it gives me something of a thrill that a blog I started mainly to have a visual record of my stitching over the years [replacing my hand-written and unillustrated stitching journals] might be entertaining others. A more practical and realistic voice whispers that most come for the giveaways and the photos of finished projects and probably pass right over my golden prose. Whatever their reasons for visiting, I welcome all my readers and I have a special place in my heart for all those who take the time to comment or who participate in my giveaways. I find all this very affirming. And when the 100 mark is reached, I'll have to come up with a significant way of celebrating.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Retreat was cancelled

I should have been on retreat [the religious sort] since Sunday afternoon but it was cancelled because of low enrollment. This is a major disappointment because I could really have used the time for reflection and renewal. The topic would have been Franciscan spirituality which is centered on a preferential option for the poor and on instrumentality ... all of which resonates very deeply for me. I am just going to have to soldier on until Spring when I will again be able to carve out some time for my own spiritual renewal. I'll have to look at what is available at the Bethany Retreat Center or maybe at the Domican Sisters of Hope motherhouse. It won't be exactly the same sort of thing but it will go some part of the way to filling in the gap.

And just because there have been too many posts without pictures these past few days while I am trying to blog daily for NaBloPoMo, I am including this photo of two adorable little sock monkeys purchased from my parish's Prayer Shawl Ministry ... they'll be Christmas gifts for Liam and Piper. I just love that I was able to get them sized for Big Brother and Baby Sister. I have a kit to make a couple of sock monkeys stuffed in the very back of one of my dresser drawers but I doubt I'll get to it any time soon ... certainly not in time for my little grandchildren to enjoy such toys. So I was absolutely delighted to see these on the sales table when the Prayer Shawl ladies were setting up for after-Mass hospitality this past weekend. I can give sock monkeys that I didn't have to make myself and I have the satisfaction of knowing I was able to support a useful ministry.

Monday, November 8, 2010

From the archives: Autumn

Blogging daily has its challenges ... one of which is finding something of interest to say every single day. It does not bode well that I am only one week into the process and am already resorting to the tactic of a photo essay. I suspect there will be several of them as the month goes on. Though wintry weather has made its appearance in my area [in fact, it is snowing and sleeting as I type], it is still Autumn ... in fact, they are predicting temps of a more seasonable 50F for tomorrow
So. today's photo essay will explore autumn stitching. I pulled together a few of the autumn/fall pieces I have kept though I can't seem to find everything I know I have. For instance I will really have to search out the framed Prairie Schooler Thanksgiving piece so I can display it during the appropriate season.

This is the Autumn Round Robin which I sent out last April, using a design from a Prairie Schooler Thanksgiving leaflet for the top panel and motifs from BH&G's 2001 Cross Stitch Motifs for the border. I am now anxiously awaiting its return with all the other participants' stitching. It is three weeks over due and I am getting a wee bit concerned. If I don't have it in hand by the end of the week, I'll be contacting the organizer and asking for her help in recovering the piece.
On the right is Liz Turner Diehl's contribution, Autumn , to a Stitcher's Dinner project from the old Hershey stitching conventions. It was meant to be a pillow band but I finished it as a bell pull. I did finish the others, Lori Birmingham's Spring and Stony Creek's Marilyn Vredevelt 's Christmas as the pillow bands they were intended to be and gave both pillows away.

These next two were a lot of fun to stitch and are now doing duty as seasonal decorations in my living room. The first is a Blackbird Designs fall sampler, I'd have to consult one of my old handwritten stitching journals to come up with a title. Stitched with overdyed cottons on a mystery linen, it is one of my favorites. I am very fond of the Blackbird Designs style. I am reasonably certain that the piece on the right is a complimentary chart from San-Man originals but, again, until I consult my old journals, I can't be sure.

This banner was part of a seasonal series within the Secret Needle Night series the last year I was subscribing to it. It was, in fact, the only one I kept from that particular series ... giving all the others to my niece and god-daughter for her special needs classroom. I am always seeing these Secret Needle Night kits offered for re-sale on message boards or ETSY and e-Bay ... and I just don't get that. I always stitched the kits up immediately upon receiving them and then finished them up into banners, pillows, tote bags and stand-ups for seasonal decorating and gift giving. A very, very few were framed ... most just weren't the sort of thing you would frame ... frankly fun with no pretensions to becoming heirlooms worthy of the cost of professional framing.

And Miribilia's Halloween Faerie stitched using all the materials provided in the kit.
Next up are a few Thanksgiving ornaments stitched using charts from a BH&G's 2001 Cross-stitch Motifs, using scraps of linen and odds and ends of floss left over from other projects. If you wish to see a few more Thanksgiving ornaments, scroll back to the post of Friday, 11/5 for a shot of my Thanksgiving Tree.

This is Spots of Fun by Debra Draper done in an Autumn colorway on Autumn Sunrise linen from Silkweaver in a wide variety of fibers, including wool, silk, cotton, bamboo, ribbon, rayon and blended fibers. I wanted it to be a true sampler, inasmuch as I experimented with as many different fibers in the same colorway as I could find in my stash. I had a grand time with this sampler ... stitching the different motifs was addictive ... I always wanted to stitch just one more before putting the piece down for the day. And, this last is another of Handblessing's Autumn bookmarks, stitched so long ago that I can't quite remember what this 28ct linen was called but I am fairly certain it was stitched using a Belle Soie silk though I can't remember the name. You can see the companion to this bookmark in Saturday's post [11/6]

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekend Progress Report #44

While I did quite a bit of stitching and finishing during the past week [see recent posts], I didn't do a great deal during the weekend.

I did design and start stitching a Quaker Pinecone ornament for the October entry in the Bride's Tree SAL. I have used Belle Soie silks Cinnamon Silk and Chocolat and have yet to choose a green silk for the pine needles. I'll have to place an order for more 28ct raw Belfast linen on Monday so that I'll be able to stitch the Angel [November] and the Santa [December].
And I kitted up my next piece for the Town Square SAL: The Cricket Collection's Town Clock. I am stitching all the pieces in this SAl on overdyed blue linen in various compatible shades/dyelots and from different manufacturers. I started things on Silkweaver's Starquest and then started using Zweigart's Meditation. But I did have one piece of Starquest left that was the perfect size for the Town Clock. I will stitch all the finished blocks into a quilt for a queen size bed when I have enough. I am envisioning placing The Town Clock at the very center and surronding it with strips of small garden print cottons in log cabin fashion and then some divider strips in either a grey [for cobblestone] or dull red [for brick] to represent paving. Next will come all the public buildings, making a rectangle joined by the same grey or red used to represent paved paths. There'll probably be two rectangles of public buildings. The last and outer ring will be the shops. I can always use some nice LHN or PS house charts to make residential blocks for pillow shams ... this is a long-term project, rather like my Quaker animal quilt-to-be, but I am enjoying accumulating stitched blocks for both quilts and dreaming over them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Some sewing finishes

Sharon Crescent's Fleur de Boo ornament from JCS Sept. 2010: This was the piece I used to conclude my stitching on Rachel's Halloween SAL. The actual design is the same but just about everything else has been changed. Instead of the 28ct guacamole linen called for, I used a 30ct Midsummer's Night Purple linen ... I didn't have any linen in the appropriate shade of green but I think purple can be just as Halloween-ish when juxtaposed with black and orange. The chart called for Crescent Colors Cauldron and Ember but my order from Stitcher's Row still hasn't arrived [I assume they are holding it till everything is on hand, though I did ask that they send the floss immediately]. So I used Belle Soie Old Crow and Lasagna instead. The finish is also a variation on a theme: not having any ball fringe in black or orange, I chose to use some black velvet cord to trim the central ornament. I had some flat braid in the perfect orange color but only enough to trim three sides of the back. Damn! I will have to look for something quite bright and Halloweenish to trim the larger square. But I did use the same stacked and padded square & diamond assembly technique. Since I didn't have any clever little prints in the appropriate colors, I covered the back in plain black cotton and backed it with black adhesive felt. Hence the need for some rather showy and colorful trim. I think I'll check at Michael's and AC Moore to see if they have any Halloween garlands in the clearance bins. Recently, on the 123 message board, I saw a very creative finish of a Halloween wall-hanging using a funky garland as trim, lots of tiny shiny bats, pumpkins, witches and cats ... one of the many reasons I like checking out that board is that so many creative people who think outside the box contribute to the discussions there. The finished ornament won't look anything like the model in the magazine but I'll like it. If I can't find anything in the craft stores now that the season is past, I'll put the ornament in storage with the rest and wait till next year when the Halloween decorations hit the stores again.

My other focus these past few days has been finishing things other than ornaments. It was fun to switch gears and work with sewing machine, iron and cutting mat. I managed to get quite a bit done, above and beyond the usual keeping up with ornament finishes. While looking for some trim alternatives for Fleur de Boo, I stumbled upon this bookmark, Handblessing's Autumn Lace and took a few minutes to back it with muslin and then fringe the edges. This complimentary chart was stitched on a small piece of scrap linen [Silkweaver's Autumn Sunrise] using a lovely overdyed floss in a pastel version of the autumn palette called Firebrand from a small dye house called Dragon Floss. It is finished just in time to use as I read J. D. Robb's latest, Indulgence in Death, which arrived in the mail today.

And, finally, I excavated these projects from the finishing basket, threaded the sewing machine with blue thread, gathered all my blue fabric and created some gift totes. The first is a very old piece, so old it was stitched on aida back before I discovered linen. It is a chart from an old Leisure Arts Christmas book: one of a series using Victorian toys for inspiration, including this teddy bear, a cat and a bulldog. [I stitched the cat as well and made it into a pet for a friend's American Girl doll collection.] I had intended to stitch this up as a toy for my daughter. Nowadays, at 33, I don't think she'd play with it much. So I have made it into a gift tote I will use for one of my grandchildren this Christmas. The second uses a BH&G chart of a red squirrel. This gift tote will be used this Christmas as well. I have one more gift tote "in progress" using Erynne Chard's Garden as the central piece. I hope to have a photo of that finish up tomorrow as part of my Weekend Progress Report. I seem to do my finishing in spurts. Once I get started, I find the whole process very satisfying ... it's the getting started that is often the problem. I hope to carry this finishing momentum into next week and lower the levels in the finishing basket and the fabric stash a bit more by finishing a few pillows. Come January, I will have to take an inventory of that basket and make getting to the bottom of it a goal. By the end of 2011, all I want to be left in that basket are the quilt blocks I am accumulating for my Town Square and my Quaker Animal quilts.

All in all, it has been a productive few days and I am one happy stitcher!