Monday, December 31, 2012

Another Perspective on UFOs

In the December 2012 issue of Needlearts, Cheryl Christian offers a refreshingly different perspective on UFOs in her article entitled Celebrate the UFO.  She poses the theory that UFOs are merely the tangible evidence left behind in the ongoing pursuit of knowledge by the dedicated student of the textile arts.  She further proposes that rather than viewing them as a Marleyesque drag chain of unfinished projects tied to our ankles and slowing our forward progress, we start to see them as the means by which we have explored new techniques, learned new stitches or finishing procedures, tested new fibers and fabrics or simply discovered what we like and do not like.  In short, she suggests we view them as a collection of souvenirs gathered on our journey from novice to serious stitcher.  She further proposes that our collections of UFOs tell a story of the development of our aesthetics and our skills and that these collections should be a source of pride rather than of troubled conscience.    In some cases, all we come away with is the knowledge that we have no particular interest in or aptitude for a particular skill or technique: a potentially valuable lesson gained at no more expense than one more UFO.  In other cases, we discover techniques added to our skill sets and adapted to new and different projects.  Or perhaps we discover new ways of using or combining color, distributing spatial design elements, or incorporating non-traditional materials in our work.  In  those cases where the UFO is a relic of a class, the value might derive from the group experience, the interaction with other stitchers.  The point being, there is always value to be found in a UFO.

In looking over my sidebar list of unfinished Class Projects heading into 2013, I am inclined to agree with Ms. Christian, at least, for the most part.  In the case of the class projects on my list, I see a very clear correlation between my collection of UFOs and my desire to learn new techniques.  The first three projects on the list, the CATS projects from 2005 and 2006 are perfect examples.  Each one explores a technique of interest to me: dimensional embroidery, embroidered edgings and filet lace.  The fourth project on the list, a beaded bracelet, takes stitching in a totally new direction for me.  My initial interest in each and every one of these projects was quite strong.  In the case of the bracelet, strong enough to prompt me to buy supplies and reference books to continue work in beading.  But still, as other projects caught my attention, these projects were set aside for an undetermined later.  I still want to complete most of these projects.  Indeed, I am making that goal a part of my 2013 stitching plan, even as I did in 2012.  I admit I am more enthusiastic about some of the projects than I am about the others but even if I never do complete any of the above, I do not deem the time spent on them thus far as wasted.  I have learned something: if only that I lack the meticulous temperament for picot edging and filet lace.  These skill sets, however desirable, are somewhat beyond my comfort zone.  As to the various Stitcher's Hideaway Class projects, I foresee finishing these up before any of the CATS projects since they combine my love of cross stitch and specialty stitches with finishing and assembly techniques that interest me: etuis, boxes, biscornus, fobs and needlebooks.  I am more motivated to work on them, possibly because a good deal of the work is firmly within my more advanced skill sets.

When I look at my list of UFOs/WIPs, things are a bit more problematic.  Some of the pieces are intended to be finished as gifts: the Jacobean Elegance Afghan, the ornament for Sean and the Stocking for Liam.  The motivation for those is pretty straightforward:  I liked the design, I have a specific end game in mind for each and all will likely be completed before 2013 comes to end.  In that regard I would consider them ordinary WIPs rather than UFOs.  Furthermore, the Midnight Moogies piece has also been upgraded to WIP from UFO.  It was originally abandoned because I had made a rookie mistake in orienting the fabric and the correction is tedious and time consuming.  There was also the factor that It was started on Aida, a fabric I rarely use and generally dislike.  But having picked it up again, earlier this month, I am experiencing a renewed interest in the design that more than compensates for the tedious border stitching and the Aida vs linen issues.  Another ordinary WIP is The English Band Sampler from SANQ.  Again, I expect to finish this in 2013.  What attracted me to it in the first place was that it was a different sort of sampler for me.  I had done band samplers before nut none with this combination of bold color and Jacobean design elements.  It was at once familiar and different, comfortable and challenging.

Having eliminated the ordinary WIPs from the list: I am left with the following genuine UFOs:

  • Alessandre Adelaide's Zucca: I believe I lost interest because I chose a poor fabric/fiber combo for this project.  Being an A-type personality I feel required to frog that before starting over.  I'll get around to it someday.
  • Encrusted Crazy Quilt Square & Strap:  This was an on-line class and I am still trying, intermittently, to master some of the necessary stitches like the bouillon stitch and other dimensional techniques.  Someday the finished square will be a shoulder bag but for now I content to play with it whenever the mood strikes.  Does that make me a dilettante?   Perhaps, but who cares?
  • My Own Beach Find Pansies and My Own Fertile Circles Needlebook: In each of these projects I had a design idea I wanted to translate to fabric and fiber.  Once I solved the design problem to my own satisfaction, I lost the bulk of my interest in the final assembly stage of the pieces.  I will return to these projects because they both involve clever and interesting use of found objects, beads and dimensional stitching.  They'd make unusual entries in a mixed media category.
  • T. Wentzler's Logo Dragon:  I started doing this in YLI silks using my own conversion from DMC and have since lost my notes.  I am foolishly optimistic that someday I will find them again.  In any case, I do have what is already stitched to serve as a guide if I have to start from scratch, reconstructing the substitution list but it is not my top priority.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 Goals

I have been trying to frame my goals more realistically over the past few years.  I have a tendency to be far too optimistic when it comes to predicting what I can accomplish in a given time span.  But advancing age has a way of forcing one to face facts.  So my goals for 2013 are very similar to the ones for 2012.   In fact, many of the 2013 goals are a continuing effort to reach targets set last year.
  • 1. Continue My Own Class Project Crazy Challenge: Begun last year, this challenge involves working  on unfinished class pieces from 2005-date.  I did manage to complete two of the class projects,  each of which had multiple pieces.  And I started work on a third project.  But six and a half remain.  So this will continue to be a focus this year.
  • 2. BAP 2013: Adapt and stitch the Dimensions Woodland Maiden into a Christmas Stocking for Piper by Christmas 2013.  Finish the Teresa Wentzler Woodland Angel for Liam.  And find an appropriately woodland/medieval chart for Rocco's stocking with a view to having it stitched by Christmas 2014.  Check out the Best of TW Fantasy book for possible subjects.
  • 3.  Continue to work on paring down the UFO/WIP list from 2012.  I finished 7 from this list but 8 still remain.  And, of course, those eight remaining projects from last years' UFO/WIP are now joined by two unfinished starts from 2012:  The English Band Sampler and the TW Woodland Angel Stocking.  I know this last project is also mentioned in the previous category but I am going for full disclosure here.
  • 4. Limit new starts severely.  In fact, get used to imagining the class projects and UFOs are new starts, since for all practical purposes, most are old enough to be new again.
  • 5.  Stitch one ornament a month from the 2006 Indy Town Square SAL.
  • 6.  Limit stash purchases to fabric, fiber and tools needed to complete charts on hand.
  • 7.  Continue to blog regularly, aiming for every other day.
  • 8.  Make an effort to catch up on sewing and framing finishes.
  • 9.  Inventory and declutter existing stash.
  • 10.  Switch  EGA membership to cyber-stitcher and take a class at that level. 
    I figure I have my work cut out for me when I consider that the projects involved in Goal #s 1 and 3 by themselves add up to fourteen projects ...  especially when you factor in the data that three of the projects have multiple parts [The Brightneedle Haunted Etui & Stitching Accessories and the Victoria Sampler Sturbridge Stitching Box & Accessories as well as the Victoria Sampler Mystic Smalls] and two more qualify as bonafide BAPs [the Jacobean Elegance Afghan and the Midnight Moogies].  Add in the additional BAPs from Goal #2 and I am forced to wonder if I will have time to add in any new pieces in 2013 over and above the Town Square SAL ornaments.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Assessing 2012 Goals

  • It is time to look back on the achievements and failures of 2012.

  • 01. My Own Crazy Challenge: work on unfinished class pieces from 2005-date.  So far I have completed the three pieces from the 2006 CATS Phyllis Moore Class in Japanese Kogin stitching, a tea cozy and two stylized Christmas Tree  ornament; two pieces from Sandie Vandoval's 2008 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Christmas Sampler and Ornament kit; and one of the six Thea Dueck's 2007 Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway Mystic Smalls  - a stitcher's pocket.  Clearly this challenge will have to continue into 2013.
  • 02.  Work up a list of UFOs and WIPs going into 2012 and work systematically to finish those projects.  As of today, I have completed 7 of the 15 projects on this list and am well on my way to finishing another.  The finished pieces are Workbasket's Quaker Sampler, Prairie Grove Peddler Lighthouse Candle Mat, Papillion Creations The Peacock, My own design -  Riona's Book Nook Bookmark, Better Homes and Garden's Tooth Fairy Pillow.  And Vivienne Powers' Midnight Moogies is very near completion.  Again, this is a challenge that will continue in 2013.
  • 03. Complete three BAPs: TW's Tracery Dragons, TW's Woodland Angel Stocking for Liam and The Woodland Maiden Stocking for Piper.  I have finished TW's Tracery Dragons, and have begun work on Liam's TW stocking.  One off-goal BAP that I completed was Primitive Needle's Black'd Skie.
  • 04. Limit new starts to one for every two UFO/WIPs completed.  I have kept to this for the most part.  I earned starts by completing pieces from my class list project list and WIPs going into 2012 list in the sidebar.  The 2012 new starts have been smalls mostly, little instant gratification projects that have kept my motivation high as I work on larger and more time consuming projects.  The smalls were a set of 7 of the Merry Mystic ornaments designed by Sue Donnelly [and my own variations], Aury's 2012 Quaker heart [I have been stitching these as long as Aury has been offering them], Dinky Dyes Celtic Bookmark.  A mid-sized piece was The Primitive Needle's Thy Needle and an off-goal BAP: SANQ's The English Band Sampler which I couldn't resist.
  • 05. Stitch a few more Heart ornaments for the Anniversary-Valentine's Day tree.  This simply didn't happen.
  • 06. Stitch one ornament a month from the 2006 Indy Town Square SAL.  A disappointment here: I got so preoccupied with finishing up the projects from my WIP/UFO and Class Projects lists that I only really began working on these in late September.  So far I have finished Barb Allen's Antique Samplers Shop, The Primitives Shop from Prairie Grove, The Book Shop from Mosey and Me, JABCo's Button Shop
  • 07. Limit stash purchases to fabric, fiber and tools needed to complete charts on hand.  Okay, I bought two charts:  Cedar Hills Briar Patch Rabbit and Homespun Elegance's Owl's Night Out and one more Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway class project, The Lady Washington Sampler by Dawn Fisher.  Like I really need another class project what with all the ones remaining on my class list Crazy Challenge.  But other than that I kept to the plan.  See my annual stash budget report which was posted 12-24=12.
  • 08. Continue to blog regularly, aiming for every other day.  After a brief summertime absence, I have blogged daily frequently enough to bring my average up to nearly every other day with 179 posts out of a possible 365.
  • 09. Make an effort to catch up on sewing and framing finishes.  I have completed  13 sewing finishes.
  • 10. Inventory and declutter existing stash.  This was a project I saved for my Christmas vacation project but ended up not getting to it because of the flu.  
  • 11. Attend an EGA chapter meeting as a member-at-large or take an on-line course.  I never did get around to this but I do believe I will change my membership to Cyber status and start taking classes that way in 2013.
          That's it for the stated goals.  Now for an actual count:
          FINISHES, Smalls: 26
          FINISHES, Medium Projects: 6
          FINISHES, BAPs: 4

         Certainly not as good as some years but not so terrible either!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Assessing December Goals, Setting January Goals

     I thought a ten day holiday for Christmas would allow for quite a lot of stitching time but there was a nasty bug going around that combined body aches, sinus infections, headaches, fevers and brochitis symptoms.  Once I was laid low, stitching time was not really an option.  So my goals met with very limited success.
    2010-2011 WIPs:  Embellish another area on the Encrusted Crazy Quilt Square, finish the needlebook and slip Midnight Moogies back into the rotation, even though that would put three BAPs in the rotation.   Spent a great deal of time on Midnight Moogies,  completing all the black outline stitching, the purple and lavender border stitching, some of the white checkerboard stitching, all of the navy blue shadow house stitching, the small shooting stars and the Van Gogh-esque  swirly stars and  got a good start on the third colorful cat.
   2012 Crazy Class Project Challenge:  Continue to work on the Victoria Sampler's Mystic Smalls projects,  starting the fob and scissor case.  NO.
 2012 WIPs: Finish Part II of The English Band Sampler and continue stitching TW's Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking, finishing page 7 and starting page 4.   Stitch the last three La-D-Da Christmas Cardinal ornaments.  Completed two more Christmas Cardinal ornaments.
     Town Square SAL: stitch the Fiber Shop and the Frame Shop.  NO.
     Sewing Finishes: Try to get all the accumulated Christmas ornaments assembled and finished.  AND NO YET AGAIN.

    2010-12 UFO/WIPS:  Continue to work on Midnight Moogies.
     2013 Crazy Class Project Challenge:  Continue to work on Mystic Smalls.
     Town Square SAL:  Stitch The Frame Shop.
     Sewing and Assembly Finishes: Do three.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Moving Along on Midnight Moogies

I know that one doesn't usually post twice in one day but I did want to get another progress photo of Midnight Moogies on the blog before Christmas.

I have stitched with DMC 823 quite a bit earlier last week as I had been working on the shadowy houses and trees that form the backdrop of Midnight Moogies.  And I earned the right to stitch in a color, albeit a dark one, by working another inch or so of black checkerboard border.   I did have to do a bit of frogging where a poorly designed color chart led me astray [see Monday's post].  But that is taken care of and all is right with the world again.   I stitched the smaller shooting star yesterday.  That is after I have stitched the now mandatory two 18" lengths of black on the checkerboard border.  Then it was on to one of the last two cats.  This piece has been languishing at the back of my stitching center for nearly 6 years.  I am amazed by the steady progress I have made since picking it up again.  So, now at the end of the first day of my Christmas recess, having treated myself to many hours of stitching, here is the latest progress photo.

I am also amazed that the impulse that had me choosing to stitch Midnight Moogies in the first place remains steady,  in spite of it being so very different from my usual choices.  So many people talk about how much their tastes have changed over the years.  But my tastes tend to remain fairly stable ... apparently, even when I go off my own beaten track.  When I look over my list of UFOs in the sidebar, I can honestly say that there is only one that I have truly lost interest in: the filet lace piece.  But I will probably make an attempt to finish that one, too, if only to master the technique.  Oh, it will be the last one on the list that I tackle, my lowest priority.  But it won't be booted off the island!

I had planned on making Midnight Moogies and the English Band Sampler my focus pieces for the 10 day Christmas recess.  But I have succumbed to a nasty flu combined with sinus infection.  I may not be able to concentrate on much stitching at all for a few days.  Who knows, I may or may not have another finish or two before year's end!  

2012 Stash Accounting

As of July, I had spent  approximately $194 on stitching related purchases.  But, as usual, things heated up a bit in the Fall.  I attended the Mystic Stitcher's Hideaway in October and there were costs associated with it: paying for my admission fee and class kit.  Then, of course, there were the visits to the on site shop set up by Chris' Collection.  This was my only opportunity all year to shop brick and mortar style, to actually see and touch potential purchases.  I must say I exercised considerable restraint, all things considered.  As you can see by comparing this year's expenditures to the last two for which I have kept records, I have been stitching from stash almost exclusively.  My biggest ticket items this year have been reference books and a stitching retreat.  In 2010, I spent a total of $630.97 and in 2011, I spent $981.26.  I spent just a little over half of last year's figure, this year.  I expect 2013 expenditures will be modest as well.  With my husband being laid off just two years prior to retirement age, money will be tight for a while as we wait to access our retirement savings and pensions and SS without penalties for early withdrawal.   No need for sympathy though, we are better off than a great many people in this dreadful economy.  I could probably continue to stitch from stash for at least a decade, so I don't anticipate having to give up one of my favorite pastimes.  I guess that's what building a decent stash is all about anyway ... providing for one's golden years.  Of course, I will be working for another four and a half years before I can retire ... perhaps even longer, who knows.

2012 Expenditures:
On Charts:    $  6.29
On Fibers:    $ 11.50
On Fabrics:   $ 28.01
On Embellishments [Beads, buttons]:  $0.00
On Tools and Accessories:  $ 22.50
On Framing: $0.00
On Books, Magazines and Subscriptions:  $185.98
On Classes and Retreats:  $ 250.00
Shipping/Handling/Insurance  $ 10.69
Memberships in stitching organizations: $60.00
Total   $  574.97

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Survey Prompted by Musings on the Moogies

In a recent e-mail response to the comment of one of my frequent readers, I noted that it's a bit of a mystery to me that I am stitching Midnight Moogie by Vivienne Powers.  It is not at all my usual sort of piece.  Oh sure, I stitch an occasional wildly colorful and outrageous small piece ... the Halloween ornaments that Monsterbubbles used to contribute to the annual Halloween issue of JCS spring to mind.  But when I choose to stitch a really large piece it is usually a Teresa Wentzler design, a Quaker piece or a large sampler.  I have a clearly defined design style or comfort zone.  So that got me to thinking about the choices we make as stitchers.  And I have a few questions for my readers:

1.  Are you conscious of having a clearly defined comfort zone when choosing the pieces you will stitch?

2.  If yes, briefly describe your comfort zone.

3.  Not counting duty stitches requested by loved ones, how often do you go beyond your comfort zone or usual style when choosing a piece to stitch: every now and then, very rarely, never?

4.  In choosing pieces that are dramatically different from your usual style: are they usually small, medium or large pieces?

5.  What design elements prompt you to venture beyond the comfortable: use of color, use of line/shape, topic or theme, overall aesthetic of the piece, emotional subtext of the piece?

6.  Name one piece you have stitched that called you out of your zone and surprised you by the pleasure you took in working it.

I hope you enjoy answering these questions in the comment section.  Once people have responded, I'll summarize the results in another post for those who are as curious as myself.

My answers:

1 & 2. Yes:  I generally stitch what I consider elegant fantasy [Wentzler, Miribilia, some of the Dragon Dreams], traditional, reproduction, band and Quaker samplers, country primitive [Prairie Schooler and the like] and the occasional whimsical seasonal piece.

3.  Every now and then ... maybe once every 20 or so projects.

4.  Usually, my "off-beat" excursions in stitching are rather small.

5.  Generally, I am attracted beyond my comfort zone by vivid color or by the humour of a piece, be it a visual pun [like Sue Hillis' Pair Tree or Monsterbubbles' Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun] or just something appeallingly funny that references my interests and hobbies [like my various dragons in teacups].

6.  Obviously, the current surprise is Midnight Moogies.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Midnight Moogies

Here is the promised progress photo of Midnight Moogies for your delectation.  I have finished the black outlining.  The only black that remains to be stitched is the checkerboard border.  Since that is not only boring but exceedingly tedious due to the seam placements, I have decided to ration that stitching.  I will stitch two 18" lengths of black floss on the checkerboard at the start of each stitching session and then dive into luscious color..  It's a Catholic thing: you've got to spend your time in Purgatory before you can enjoy the bliss of Heaven.  

 I am currently working on the navy blue shadow houses that form a background to the brightly colored cats. There is one section between the rose tail and aqua body of one of the larger cats in the center that I will have to frog out some of the black and replace it with navy.  The mistake can be traced back to the damnable color chart and is one of the reasons I detest color charts so thoroughly.  The symbol for black [DMC 310] was a solid black square on a grey background and the symbol for the navy [DMC 823] was a thick armed black X on a grey background.  They two symbols are virtually indistinguishable at mid distance ... i.e., the distance of the chart stand from my eyes.   See the photo above.  I think I can be excused for making this particular mistake.

The picture to the right shows progress made as of 12/9 and the one below shows my progress to date. What with the adjustment to my husband's enforced retirement [he was laid off the week before Thanksgiving], I have not been stitching quite as much as usual.  I guess having him for company and getting back into the routine of  cooking our meals instead of ordering out after work [a luxury we can no longer afford], I have less "me" time for stitching  I am sure I will recover some of that time as I establish new routines and Bill establishes some independent routines of his own as well.

.In any case I am fairly happy with the progress I have made on this piece.  I confess I sometimes mutter minor imprecations against Vivienne Powers, the designer of the piece, who has a love affair with multiple borders: the thin lavender line and the broader purple band separated by thin black lines, surrounded by the black and white checkerboard, and finally surrounded yet again by the as yet to be stitched very broad [10 stitches deep] band of grey [DMC 169].  She really makes you pay for the joy of working in bright colors.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Black Nights and Dark Days

No, I haven't spiraled down into deepest depression.  I have merely been working on Midnight Moogies.  I didn't quite manage to finish the black stitching of the design element outlines as planned over the weekend.  Blame Netflix!  As some of my readers may remember, my husband and I discontinued cable service some 20 years ago and do not get any TV reception at all.  So we select what we will watch, movies and TV-on-DVD, through our Netflix subscription. Three DVDs of Castle episodes arrived in the mail on Saturday and I became engrossed.  I have enjoyed Nathan Fillion's work ever since Serenity.   I  accidentally stumbled on the Castle series while on vacation last Summer and Bill and I have been catching up with the series ever since.  True, it is light-hearted fluff rather in the tradition of The Thin Man-Moonlighting-Remington Steele-Bones and such like piffle.  It neither improves the mind nor inspires the soul.  But it is fun!  I enjoy the repartee, the near misses in the relationships, the interactions among the supporting cast [you gotta love Martha].  As I watched the episodes, I tried to stitch.  Really, I did!  But I'd get caught up in the convoluted blend of police procedural and sheer silliness that is Castle and soon my hands would still.

But today has been different.  The DVDs have been mailed back to Netflix and there are no longer any distractions.  I am moving along my black path.  In the past week, I have used up two full skeins of DMC 310 and am well into my third.   I have two more skeins in reserve for the black portion of the checkerboard border.  And I have five skeins of DMC 169 held in reserve for the outermost border.  This particular designer makes the stitcher pay for the joy of using the bold flashes of color in the central design by stitching almost endlessly in black and grey.  I'd make a bet that this designer does not stitch her own models!  Anyway, I'll post another progress photo once I have stitched the remaining black outlines ... probably by Thursday morning..

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Finally Tired of Smalls

I must be one of the most perverse stitchers on the planet.  At the very least, I must be among the more unpredictable ones.  After a month devoted to smalls, I decided I needed to work on something large and ambitious again.  But, do I pick up where I left off on the Woodland Angel Stocking? No, of course not!  Perhaps you are thinking that I resumed work on the Mystic Needlework Accessories Class Project that I had been working on in October? Not a chance!  Or could it be The English Band Sampler about which I was do enthusiastic just a month ago?  Wrong again.

What Midnight Moogies looked like at the start if the week.
No, I chose a UFO so old that it dates from a time when I was still stitching the occasional piece on Aida, Midnight Moogies from a very ancient Cross Stitch Gold magazine.  This was abandoned originally because I had oriented the fabric wrong way around when I first started stitching it and didn't notice it till a full quarter of the design was stitched.  The result:  I had to cut fabric from the top and bottom of the piece to sew onto the sides to get the proper width.  This meant that for a quarter of an inch wide strip down both sides my cross stitches have to penetrate not just the Aida but the seam allowance on the underside as well, making it a  real pain in the proverbial ass.  I suppose I could use a thimble to protect my finger but I have always found thimbles very clumsy tools ... they slow me down considerably.  And since age and cataracts have already  slowed
Midnight Moogies as it appeared before this day's stitching
me down somewhat, I fear if I use a thimble, I might actually start moving backward in time instead of forward.  Those are the negatives of this particular choice.  The positives do balance things out though.  The colors on this piece are so very cheerful, so eye-popping bright against the navy blue Aida that they compensate for the grey days of winter.  The pale watered down sunshine so typical of December can't compete with all this vibrancy.  And then the lines and graphic elements of the design are so very bold and strong.  It raises my spirits just to pick the darn thing up.  Do I wish I had started this piece on linen?  Sure!  Do I wish I hadn't made the stupid rookie mistake of orienting the fabric improperly?  Absolutely!  But still, I am going to enjoy working this piece as long as my arthritic thumb can stand the pressure of pushing through four layers of Aida.  I keep telling myself, "It's only till I finish the border.  It'll be smooth sailing after that."    Just a note about these photos: the fabric color is actually more of a navy blue than a bright navy blue.  I can't imagine why the photo shows it to be so bright.  It is an outdoor photo but the morning is bleak and overcast, threatening rain any minute.  I don't know where all the light is coming from!

For the past week I have been working on the black-stitched outlines of all the design elements and am nearly finished with that task.  I hope to finish all the black stitching [with the exception of the checkerboard] this weekend.  Once that is done, I will alternate between stitching lengths of the ever so boring black and white checkerboard border [through that pesky seam allowance] and stitching the vibrantly colored fill of the various design elements.  I wish I could claim that once the checkerboard is done, all the boring parts of this project will be past.  But, there is an outer frame of DMC 169 ten rows all around, rather like a stitched matte board.

Oh, and before my obsession with smalls petered out, I did finish up one more cardinal ornament.  This one has a lime green and grape colored scarf.  I have fabric enough for one more cardinal ornament which I may stitch during the Christmas vacation.  Please note the scale of these photos is quite different.  The stitched-so-far area of Midnight Moogies is approximately 16 inches square and the final project will be approximately 22 inches wide x 20 inches high whereas the width of the La-D-Da Christmas Cardinal is just under 4 inches.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Flock of Cardinals

 Since I appear to be fixated on small projects lately, I have been culling through my chart binders and my fabric & fiber stash to find appropriate pairings.  I hit the jackpot when I came up with two pieces of deep red linen, along with some mystery charcoal grey cotton floss and paired them with one of my favorite La-D-Da ornament charts from the 2006 JCS ornament issue, The Christmas Cardinal.  For the moment, I am concentrating on outlining as many of the birds as I can fit on my red linens.  As you can see I have already filled the fabric with the blue undertones with four cardinals.  This linen is very soft
 and feels delightful in the hand.  But because the linen's warp and woof threads are very irregular in diameter and in the weave tension, thin threads so close to thick ones that they virtually disappear, working with this linen was a bit of a challenge.  It doesn't help matters much that it is a 35 ct linen.  The second piece of linen, the one with the yellow undertones, has been much easier to work with as it is much stiffer, woven more evenly with more regular threads and  is 32 ct.  But back to the softer 35 ct linen: I gathered up all those odds and ends of floss leftover from other projects - lengths too long to
 throw in the ort jar but too short to use when kitting up anything but the smallest of small projects.  I have quite a collection of what, for lack of a better term, I shall call maxi-orts.  I am using these maxi-orts to stitch the scarves on the cardinals.  My first cardinal has a lovely pink and grey scarf, the second  has a blue on blue scarf, the third has a two toned purple scarf and the fourth has a variegated scarf stitched with a bit of Carrie's Creation's Strawberry Shake.     On to the linen with yellow undertones: I've switched the scarf colors to russets and golds and tans.  The first bird has a scarf stitched in a variegated Needle
 Necessities floss called Autumn Leaves.  I haven't decided yet on the other two  All these cardinals will all be finished as little free-form bird-shaped pillow ornaments.  I have backing fabrics that work with both shades of red.  Add a bit of ribbon, or maybe hemp, and this year's Christmas tree will have a veritable flock of cardinals perching on its branches.

The odd thing is that as I use all these maxi-orts, I am reminded of the projects they came from.  It's almost like paging through one of my old stitching journals or browsing the posts of this blog.  The
various pinks came from a Breast Cancer ornament project run by a Texan stitcher.  I must have made half a dozen ornaments over a two year period for the decorated trees she auctioned off to raise money for cancer research... all in honor of a younger sister and a first cousin, survivors of breast cancer.  The purples came from Cedar Hill's Spring Bouquet, and the blues from Sue Donnelly's Song of the Sea.  The variegated Autumn Leaves was the very first overdyed floss I ever used and that was on one of my first Homespun Elegance samplers.  I remember the pleasure in stitching the original projects and experience echoes of that same pleasure working on this project.  And, I feel thoroughly virtuous and ever so frugal in finding a proper use for my shrinking hoard of odds and ends of floss.  It satisfies the "Use It Up, Wear It Out, Do Without" philosophy that sums up the simplicity I am striving for in so many aspects of my life.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Assessing November and Setting December Goals

    These were the NOVEMBER GOALS 
  2012 WIPs: Concentrate solely on TW's Woodland Angel,  making as much progress as possible.  Hurricane Sandy and the accompanying power outages interfered with my momentum on this project.  Losing the bulb on my OTT lamp didn't help either.  My local electrician's supply shop can't find a replacement, the on-line shop where I purxhased the lamp no longer carries the lamp which was discontinued by the manufacturer.  I have reconciled myself to the fact that I am going to have to buy a new lamp. 
   OFF-GOAL SMALLS: I completed two Stitcher's Hideaway souvenir projects.  The first was Sue Donnelly's 2012 Embellished Witch's Hat and the second was Elizabeth Design's  2007 Souvenir Needlebook.  Then I finished Mosey & Me's Book Shop and JABCo's Button Shop from the 2006 Indy Town Square series.  I also stitched Papillion Creations Moonlight Serenade, Victoria Sampler's Cardinal's Song Christmas ornament, Michael Saletta's Edwardian Elegance, Dragon Dreams' 2011 Compassion Dragon and last but not last four Christmas Cardinal ornaments by La-D-Da from the 2006 JCS issue.
   Sewing Finishes:  Get ready for Christmas.  Assemble the three Town Square SAL ornaments and the Victoria Sampler ornament.  Sew up gift totes using the appropriate finished pieces.  None.

    2010-2011 WIPs:  Embellish another area on the Encrusted Crazy Quilt Square, finish the needlebook and slip Midnight Moogies back into the rotation, even though that would put three BAPs in the rotation.
   2012 Crazy Class Project Challenge:  Continue to work on the Victoria Sampler's Mystic Smalls projects, finishing the Stitcher's Pocket and starting the fob and scissor case.  
   2012 WIPs: Finish Part II of The English Band Sampler and continue stitching TW's Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking, finishing page 7 and starting page 4.   Stitch the last three La-D-Da Christmas Cardinal ornaments.
    Town Square SAL: stitch the Fiber Shop and the Frame Shop.  
     Sewing Finishes: Try to get all the accumulated Christmas ornaments assembled and finished.   

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Bunch of Small Weekend Finishes

Here is my Dragon Dreams' 2011 Compassion Dragon.  As noted in an earlier post I have tweaked this chart in order to please my three and a half year old granddaughter who thinks pink.  I changed two of the  red cotton flosses in the body of the dragon to pink and will be changing the gold horns and the maroon horns and tail "spade" to a Kreinik #4 braid in pink-gold.   As I stitched this, I was reminded that pink has never been one of the colorways I enjoyed.  But one does what one must for beloved grandchildren.  Now, I just have to find a nice fabric and some pretty trim to turn this little dragon into a glitzy little gift tote suitable for my little Princess of Pinkness.

Actually, to say I detest pink is something of an understatement.  It stems from my mother's practice of dressing me, a brunette, in pink and red and dressing my younger and blonde sister in the blues and greens I preferred.  It was a 1950s fashion dictum for children, apparently, and no matter how I pleaded, I was never allowed to dress in the wrong color.  Needless to say, once I got my first job at 16 and started buying my own clothes I never bought another pink or red item again.  I do have a few red gifts in my closet but I have never spent a penny on such items.  The closest I have come is purchasing some dusty rose or maroon [both with strong blue undertones] short sleeved sweaters.  Amazing, isn't it, how I can hold a grudge against an innocent color for more than 50 years?  Or maybe not so amazing when you consider my Irish and Sicilian heritage.

Next up is Thea Dueck [Victoria Samplers] Cardinal's Song Christmas Ornament.  Again, I used whatever stray flosses I had in my scrap bag and some more of the Meditation linen [it was a long narrow scrap]. Obviously, this will be finished as a Christmas ornament.

And finally, Michael Sayetta's Edwardian Elegance.  As with the Christmas ornament, I used the last of the Meditation linen and some Mill Hill beads, and Threadworx and Needle Necessities floss left over from other projects.    I am thinking of finishing this as a tiny pin pillow.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Small Finish

I didn't have my camera handy when posting yesterday and so failed to post a photo of Papillion Creations' Moonlight Serenade complimentary chart.  Here it is done on a scrap of Meditation 28 ct linen using Needle Necessities flosses that have long since been separated from their labels: a lavendar/blue/sage overdyed cotton and a very subtle silver/grey overdyed cotton.  I'll probably stitch it up as a small pillow.  Since the fabric scrap I used was just a little narrower than  required, I substituted three beads for a motif that extended about ten threads [or five cross stitches] beyond the main square shape.  I think it looks perfectly balanced.  Before I go back and stitch the cross motif in the very center, I am going to go through my button stash to see if I have something appropriate to use instead.  Though in all other areas of my life, I hold to the "less is more" philosophy, I like to embellish my stitching.  Tastefully, of course ... nothing garish or outrageous ... but still, a little glamour.  I have a lovely floral trim that picks up the colors of the main floss that I want to use on the border between the fabric and the stitched piece so I don't want to over do the embellishment.  If I can't find a suitable button or charm, I'll probably just stitch the cross motif in the same beads I used on the border.  I finished this piece Sunday evening.    I do apologize for the purple cast of the photo: my new Brite Light lamp does not provide as daylight-like a field of illumination as my old Ott-lite.  But I hope to find a bulb for the Ott-lite tomorrow, if I have to visit every electrical supply and lighting fixture shop in the county.

Since then I have been working on Dragon Dreams 2011 Compassion Dragon which has been tweaked mightily, of course ... but more on that tomorrow when I expect to be able to post a finish photo.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Necessity > Enthusiasm > Obsession > Addiction

I should be working on my BAPs, especially the TW Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking.  But during the power outage caused by Sandy I got side-tracked to smalls on 28 ct linen that were easier to see when working with the light from a window on overcast days.  My stitching in the immediate aftermath of Sandy and before the lights came on again yielded two small finishes.  But I continued to stitch smalls all last week, adding three more finishes to the count.  And now, a full week after the adjustment became unnecessary, I am still in my own little wilderness of smalls.  I just keep pulling them out of my to-do binder, kitting them up with odds and ends of left-over fabric and fiber [I feel so righteously frugal!] and stitching them up.  The thing is, I don't really want to stop.  I have had enough of BAPs for the time being.  Bring on the endless smalls!  It has gotten so obsessive that I am going to have to stage a Finishing Frenzy next weekend making ornaments, gift totes and pin-pillows just to avoid drowning in all the smalls that have reached the stage of "some assembly required."

I think that as I near the end of a year devoted primarily to BAPs and complicated class projects, I am rebelling against commitment of any sort and reveling in the joys of lots and lots and lots of small finishes.  I am enjoying the novelty of a new start every three days. Since Sunday, I have finished the Midnight Serenade that I had been working on and have begun Dragon Dreams' Compassion Dragon 2011.  I will surround the finished piece with the words from the hymn of St. Francis, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."  I have adapted this dragon chart  to employ a pink colorway rather than a red one, replacing two of the reds with pink shades, making it a very pink dragon, indeed.  It will make a nice Christmas gift tote for my pink fixated granddaughter.  And I have pulled my favorite cardinal Christmas ornament out of the binder and rummaged for appropriate scraps of wine red linen and a skein or two of deep charcoal grey DMC 3799.  Even stitching these twice over, as a back and front, I have enough linen for two more ornaments.  And I have another cardinal ornament chart I'd like to try: a small suggestion of a cardinal set within a snowflake.  Then there are two more Town Square shops: The Frame Shop and the Cross Stitch Shop.  I have had to set aside the DMC Fiber Shop till later. After a closer look, I realized it is meant to be stitched over one on 40 ct and I haven't any 40 ct linen in a medium blue shade which is the background color I am using to unify this series.  I'll have to wait till I am near the end of the series and see how many others require the 40 ct linen.  So far it is just the Prison and DMC shop, but I haven't really examined all the remaining charts that carefully.

And I am still culling my binders for a few more smalls to play with for the rest of the month.  What began as a pragmatic diversion from my goal plan morphed into an enthusiastic pursuit which slyly edged its way toward obsession and now is galloping madly toward addiction!  I'll post pictures again shortly, once I have finished stitching the dragon.  It tends to look like just so many punk blobs without the backstitching.

Monday, November 12, 2012

November was supposed to be ...

a month fully devoted to The Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking.  Instead, the month was ushered in by Hurricane Sandy and power outages lasting 4 days.  Even after the power returned, matters were complicated by the blow-out of my Ott Lite bulb.  Granted I have had the lamp for nearly five years and have stitched almost daily with it.  That's a lot of hours from one bulb.  But without a proper stitching lamp cum magnifier, I have been limited to simple projects on 28ct linen.  So the first week of November was consumed by "smalls" stitching: ornaments, pin keeps and needle books.

 I ordered a Vusion Mighty Bright lamp/magnifier from 123 stitch, thinking it would be more portable for retreats and generally more convenient in case of power outages since it offers the options of using batteries or a plug in adapter.  Until, I get my Ott Light back online, the Vusion is a reasonable back-up.But still, it has a very small field of illumination and I continue to work on smalls

It pains me to have lost more than a full week of stitching on the stocking.  Still, I am can't see my way to working on it without proper lighting.  That's only asking for mistakes.  There is still so much to do that, realistically, I don't expect to have it done for this Christmas.  But maybe, just maybe, by 2013, I'll have stitched both Liam's and Piper's stockings and can give them to my grandkids at the same time.  Rocco will be just past a year old and won't really know any better ... so I can probably hold off till 2014 for his stocking without too much bad grandma karma.

In the meantime, I have had one small stitching finish:
The Elizabeth Designs Souvenir Stitcher's Hideaway Needlebook  For this piece I substituted some Crescent Colors cotton overdyes left over from some of my PS Special Edition Santa kits: Bandana for all the reds, Desert Mesquite for all the greens and Sassy Brass for all the golds.

And I am working on this WIP: Papillion Creations Moonlight Serenade complimentary chart. But I haven't decided whether I'll be finishing this as a biscornu or a small pillow.  For this piece I dug out an old skein of NeedleNecessities overdyed in shades of lavender, teal and pale sage.  I no longer have the label so I can't share the name.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A while ago I offered a giveaway

... and life got in the way of choosing winners.  But I have finally gotten around to doing so and will be e-mailing the winners to ask for mailing addresses sometime Monday.

Joyce gets JBW Designs'  Dear Santa and Jeanette Douglas Designs'  Sweet Pumpkin
Angela gets Praiseworthy Stitches'   Sassy Bat
Linda gets Rosewood Manor's  Crows' Feet Quilt BlockCross Stitch & Needlework, November 2010, Lavender Wings'  Esmeralda's Brew and Tempting Tangles Designs' Valentina, the baby chimp
Mary gets The Victoria Sampler     State Hearts: Massachusetts        
Kay The Victoria Sampler     Boo Buttons #5: Muscateer and Catpunzel.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

I tried to vote before work but busloads of senior citizens from the several senior "villages" in our area pretty much filled the parking lot and created long lines at our polling place.  When I returned after work, things were better.  Even after waiting on three different lines to sign in, to use a privacy booth and to feed my ballot into the voting machine, the whole process took a little less than thirty minutes.

You know stitching has become a full-fledged addiction when you take a small piece with you when going to vote ... just in case you should have to stand in line for more than five minutes.  Anyway, I brought the Elizabeth Design's Stitcher's Hideaway Souvenir Needle Book project with me and got this far along  ... truth be told I did stitch on it for an hour or so Monday night and another hour Tuesday morning before heading out ... but most of the evergreen strand on the back of the needle book was stitched while waiting to vote.  The Rhodes Stitch berries were done once I arrived home again.  Now all I have to do is chart my name and stitch it on the back of my needle book.  I apologize for the poorly lit photo.  No outdoor photos are possible at this hour and I haven't managed to replace my OTT Lite bulb yet and am relying on my mini Vusion stitching lamp.  Just not the same effect!

I have a Prairie Schooler chart that I will have to stitch in time for next year's Election Day.  It has four ornaments:  Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty, and the donkey and the elephant done up in red-white-blue stripes.  Added to my existing patriotic ornaments, these would fill my table top ornament tree quite nicely.  It would also insert a holiday theme between Halloween and Thanksgiving, adding a bit more variety to the decor.  I could keep it up from Nov. 1 through Nov.11, covering the period that would include Election Day and Veteran's Day.  And, of course, I could use the ornaments again when I set up my usual patriotic tree from May 31st -July 4th.  One more thing to put on the list of stitching-things-to-do.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stitching During Sandy's Aftermath

Before I get to the main message of this post, I'd like to thank everyone for their kind comments on yesterday's Thanksgiving ornament post.  I think the tree could use a few more ornaments, maybe three or four more, to look properly full but what I have works well enough for now.  I am always on the look out for something new.  And I am feeling especially thankful this year, since we came through Sandy so well.

We were without power Tuesday, Wednesday and part of Thursday, so I had to rely on what light was available from windows and the backdoor when stitching.  Since I didn't have to go to work on Tuesday and Wednesday [no power at the office], those days were pretty much spent stitching and listening to an all news station on our battery powered radio.  I moved a chair and a snack table to make the most of the light from the open backdoor.  The days were still overcast of course, but such light as there was worked for simple stitching and for reading.  I set The Woodland Angel aside for a while and concentrated on smaller projects that were stitched on 28ct linens.  

The first small piece I finished was Sue Donnelly's complimentary free design, a souvenir of the Spooky Retreat 2012.  This colorful witch's hat was a fun little stitch and especially appropriate since so many of the attendees at the retreat had donned elaborately adorned witch's hats.  When I finish this as a pin pillow or pin keep, it will make a nice addition to my growing basket of smalls.

 The next piece I worked on was Mosey and Me's contribution to the 2006 Indy Town Square series, The Book Shop.  This piece called for Anchor floss of which I have very little in my stash.  So I decided to go upscale and stitch it entirely in Belle Soie on 28ct Meditation linen, a pale blue overdyed fabric.  My substitutions are as follows: Icing for #2, Old Crow for #403, Wheatgrass for #831, Cabbage Patch for #875, Collard Greens for #876, Creme de Menthe for 878, Wheatgrass for 886, Ocean Tide for #1035, Chocolat for #1050, Bahama Breeze for #9159 and Cranberry for GAST Rhubarb.  I realize my version makes for a somewhat darker shop than was charted but I always think of bookshops and libraries as having the colors of an old English gentleman's club: rich, elegant deep tones.  At least, if I owned a bookshop, that's the way I would paint it.  I particularly like the roof, made to look like an open book laid down in a spine destroying manner of which I would never be guilty ... but a clever conceit nonetheless.

I picked up the JAB Co Button Shop in the Indy 2006 series next.  I didn't order the button pack as charted since I have a fairly extensive collection of buttons, having inherited both my mother's and my grandmother's button jars.  I found replacements that suited my purposes.  And as to the fibers, I did have more than half of the recommended WDW colors in my stash and substituted near-matches from my stash of WDW and GAST for the remainder.  I changed the colors around a bit though.  The WDW Whitewash storefront is now WDW Collards to match the roof and provide better contrast for my  mother-of-pearl buttons.  The WDW Raspberry door and gutter trim are now WDW Whitewash to compensate for removing the white from the storefront.

And finally, I picked up an old Stitcher's Hideaway souvenir chart from the 2007 retreat which I am stitching as a needlebook.  There is a very nice little fern stitch in this chart that I am enjoying immensely.

And, now that the power is back.  I am ordering a new stitching lamp: a smaller, more portable lamp with the option of using batteries or an adapter for a plug-in.  This will be a better choice for retreats.  I really need to replace the bulb in my Ott light before going back to The Woodland Angel.  The bulb blew while I was at the Stitcher's Hideaway last weekend and I really can't do any work on something as complex as a TW project without optimum lighting.  An ordinary table lamp just doesn't provide the same clarity.  So, I'll be heading to the Electrical Supply Shop on Monday to scout out a new round florescent bulb for the Ott lamp.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thanksgiving Stitching

Last month, I created what for lack of a better name I shall call album posts on the themes of Autumn and Halloween.  I thought I might do another on the theme of Thanksgiving this month.

This Indian man is from a CEC Thanksgiving Circle leaflet. The charted design is actually a sort of a wreath but I isolated the elements to make ornaments for my Thanksgiving tree.

These two ornaments came from one of my go-to reference books for small motifs, Better Homes and Gardens 2001 Cross Stitch Motifs.  From alphabets to borders to flora and fauna to holiday to kiddie stuff to country artifacts and more: I can always find something in this versatile volume.  I don't know why the Pilgrim girl and boy look so glum ... the mouths are actually straight lines ... but somehow they seem to turn downward at the ends.

This is from the CEC Thanksgiving Circle leaflet as well.  I am not really happy with the somewhat clownish appearance of this Pilgrim fellow but I did want to complete the set.
This Pilgrim matron is from the same CEC leaflet as the Pilgrim gentleman, the Indian and the turkey ... but I will always associate it with Groucho Marx because of my husband.  He was coming down the stairs and just caught a glimpse of it hanging on my entry hall table top tree ... and he asked why I had a Groucho Marx ornament hanging on the Thanksgiving tree.  I guess his "out of the corner of his eye" perception interpreted the pies as eyelids, the apron as a nose and the skirt/boots as a mustache.

And the last motif from the CEC Thanksgiving Circle is this colorful little turkey ... he's a bit more impressive in person.  In the photograph his paler plumage seems to fade into the ground fabric.

This cornucopia is also from The Better Homes and Gardens 2001 Cross Stitch Motifs.  The only thing I dislike about this book is that all the charts are color-coded.  I much prefer black & white charts, finding them much easier to read.

I can't remember if this cornucopia free chart came from the Rainbow Gallery or the Kreinik site but since it calls for specialty fibers I am fairly sure it is one of those.  It was a sweet stitch.

I have a bad habit of not always making a note of the source of free charts and trusting my memory instead.  If memory serves me correctly, this chart is from The Sisterhood.  I stitched the back of the piece in reverse.

This turkey is from the same Prairie Schooler leaflet I used for my round robin ... see the post on Autumn stitches.  

Some Prairie Schooler pumpkins.

I adapted this ornament from the Homespun Elegance monthly Sheepish designs: this would have come from the chart for November's blanket

And another Prairie Schooler Pumpkin