Saturday, August 31, 2013

Assessing August Goals, Setting September Goals

August has been a month of recovering my stitching equilibrium amidst all the chores of a campaign to reorganize my household during a month long stay-cation.  So let's look at exactly how much was actually accomplished:
  • BAPs: Continue work on TWs Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking.  I resumed work on this project and finished stitching section 7.  I have started sections 4 and 5 and am quite pleased with my progress so far.
  • Class Projects Challenge: Continue work on Mystic Smalls.  I have set this aside for the moment, the stocking is a greater priority since I have a deadline.
  • Needlepoint: Continue work on Rice Pudding.  Well, I squeezed in an hour or two of stitching on this piece this month.  I guess that counts as continuing work on it.
  • New Start: Finish Plum Street Sampler's Be True.  Found the miscount and set it aside until I am in the mood to frog.
  • Sewing & Assembly Finishes: do three.  Technical difficulties here: my sewing machine keeps flashing the message that the motor is overheating and I can "continue to stitch when message disappears".  However, the message reappears after about an inch of sewing.  Thus it is off to the shop with the darned thing.  And, of course, the warranty just ran out so it'll be an out of pocket expense.
  • Town Square SAL: Finish The Cross Stitch Shop and stitch The Framing Shop.  Finished the DMC  Cross Stitch Shop.
  • UFOs: Continue work on The English Band Sampler.  Another piece I have set aside for the moment.
   All in all, I am rather pleased with this month's progress.  Perhaps not as much stitching as in the past but I have to admit my current allocation of leisure time is more balanced: I am reading more, cooking more, gardening more and getting out and about more.  I am also attending to my home a bit more diligently ... only a bit, of course, I wouldn't want to go overboard!  Even so, I have done considerably more stitching than in May, June and July put together.  

   Setting my goals for September will have to take this new equilibrium into account, especially since the back to school workload will also be in place.
  • BAPs: Concentrate major effort on TWs Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking.  
  • Needlepoint: Continue work on Rice Pudding.
  • Town Square SAL: Stitch The Framing Shop..  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Think That I Shall Never See A Poem So Lovely As A Tree

The line from the Joyce Kilmer poem Trees comes to mind as I finally leave the blizzard behind and enter the shelter of the trees.  Teresa Wentzler is among my favorite designers precisely because her style is so painterly.  I love the effect and most of the time I find the careful counting and placement of small bits of color oddly relaxing ... rather like reciting a complex mantra to clear the mind and refresh the soul.  But I have to admit the snowbanks on this stocking did test my willingness simply to surrender to the rhythm of decode/count/stitch.

The first photo is a shot of the whole stocking, so you can see how far I have come and how far I still need to go.

The second photo is a close-up of Sections 4 and 5, at least as far as I have stitched them.  Since the deer straddled sections 4 and 5, I made working photocopies and cut and pasted them to make one chart for easier stitching.

I apologize for the dark photos but it is overcast this morning. Still these snapshots are better than indoor photos and give a truer sense of the colors used.

Incidentally, when I went out to snap these photos I was stunned to find a huge branch in the backyard as big around as my upper arm.  My husband and I are still trying to figure out just how we managed to sleep through what must have been quite a resounding crack and crash.  Happily, no damage was done to the house or the planter boxes.

But back to stitching, I am even more determined to concentrate on this piece throughout the rest of the week ... I'd love to have all of Section 4 done by the end of the month.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blogaversary # 6

I started writing this blog 6 years ago on August 24.

I enjoy statistics, it's just the way my mind works.  So, I find it interesting that during the past six years:
* I have written 957 posts.  I am closing in on my 1000th post, which will probably be made sometime in November or December.
* Blogger has recorded 89,411 Pageviews, which means that there were 33,120 page views in just this past year which is more than half of the  56,291 page views in the entire previous five years.  So I guess my readership is growing 
* Readers have left 2,929 Comments.   Which works out to approximately 3 comments per post or 1 comment for every 30 pageviews.  The numbers of readers may be increasing but, clearly, I don't evoke much of a response from my readers.
* I also have 211 followers.

My 30-something children tell me that blogging is passe and that Facebook and Twitter are the real social media.  I tried joining Facebook last year but found it confusing to navigate and quickly withdrew.  I have never tried Twitter.  It seems to me that FB and Twitter call for such abbreviated messages that, on my less optimistic days, I fear that within a decade people will have lost the ability to communicate in full sentences.  Literature will be a thing of the past.  Eloquence will be a mere memory.  We will return to the level of the caveman, speaking in a series of linguistic burps [which those  who like this  short shrifted conversation call bullet points or economy of language].  And the irony of it all is that people are too busy for full sentences or, heaven forfend, whole paragraphs because they are so plugged in to a multitude of communication devices that they can't give a real person any face time, a modern phrase I find appalling but very revealing.   The laptops, IPads, Blackberries, SmartPhones, Droids, etc. are all competing so fiercely for modern man's attention that he has no time for other human beings.  Of course, I am over-stating my case but pity the former English teacher who sees the language she loves being reduced to a mass of bizarre texting abbreviations loosely strung together by a preposition or two.

All this is prelude to a short survey about blogging.  Please answer the following questions about blogging in the comment section.  I will be sending a $10 gift certificate to 123stitch [an online shop] to one of the respondents chosen at random.

  1. How many blogs do you read regularly?
  2. How much time do you spend reading blogs each day?
  3. What sort of  content attracts you to the blogs you do read?  For example:  photos, musings about the needle arts, the style or personality of the blogger, humour, etc.
  4. Do you enjoy message boards devoted to stitching?  If yes, which ones do you read?
  5. Do you use Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with cyber friends who share your love of the needle arts?
  6. Do you belong to a stitching group that meets in real space and in real time and promotes person-to-person sharing?

Okay, that's six questions, one for each year I have been blogging.  I'll choose a winner of the gift certificate and announce it on September 4.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Snow Blind

I decided to work on section 4 of the Woodland Angel chart next since that will give me an outline of the stocking.  I haven't cut it out of the large piece of linen yet since I don't want to be wasteful.  I am hoping to get three stockings [one for each of my grandchildren] out of this particular piece of hand dyed linen.  But once I have the outline done, I'll be able to cut the fabric to a more manageable size.

Unfortunately, Section 4 has another patch of snow, which is what I am working on now.  It started off okay but as I add each additional shade of white or off-white or silver-white, it becomes more difficult to count my stitches.  Even under my magnifying lamp it is difficult to distinguish one shade from another and counting from the nearest non-white reference point is time consuming but oh so necessary if I am to get this done properly.  I just keep promising myself that I'll be done with the snow very soon.  I am looking forward to working on an area less productive of eyestrain.

I shall be concentrating on this piece for the next little while since I want to have it stitched, sewn, stuffed and mailed by early December.  There is still a great deal of stitching left and then there's the embellishment with metallic braid and petite seed beads.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Found It!...and a bit more progress

I finally found the miscount in the border I stitched around Plum Street Sampler's Be True. Two thirds of the way across the bottom leg of the border, I let the rice stitches slip down one thread.  I'll be frogging about a third of the border. Once I have finished frogging and restitching the necessary rice stitches, I'll fill in the remaining spaces with satin stitches in Belle Soie Beanstalk.  Then I will back stitch the border in black.  It's irritating to have to do so much work but I should have been more careful ad/or observant in the first place.

And some current progress photos

Town Square SAL: The DMC Cross Stitch Shop: The top two floors are stitched and back-stitched and I have begun work on the ground floor.  I decided to half-stitch the windows in Belle Soie Bahama Breeze.  But once I had done so, the letters, DMC, faded into the backround.  I decided to back stitch them in just one shade darker than theirWDW Curry, using DMC 729.  It was enough to give the letters subtle definition without spoiling the designer's intended effect of letters painted on glass.   Though this will be one of the taller buildings in the series, it's no wider than most of them and the finished ornament won't look out-of-place on my Town Square Christmas tree.  What with the fiasco of the Be True sampler, it is a relief to see this project moving along smoothly and at a good pace.

Teresa Wentzler's Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking: I know it is difficult to see but I have finished filling in all the confetti snow in section 7 of the chart as well as the back stitching.  I'll be moving in to sections 4 & 5 next which will be mostly trees and the angel's robes.  These should stitch up more quickly as they contain larger swathes of color.    I am in dire need of really seeing some progress on this piece instead simply knowing I am making progress.  This is especially true since once I move onto the angel's wings I will get bogged down in the same confetti stitching of a dozen or more blended needles. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Progress Photos

I have been on summer break since close of business on Thursday, July 25.  I spent the first few days catching up on housework and garden clean-up.  Some nasty animal, probably a very large black feral cat that wanders through the neighborhood. has wreaked havoc on my squash plants ... stomping the foliage into a comfy little bed for himself.  While I am a firm believer in compassionate trap. neuter and release projects, I would like to kick this particular critter to the far side of the moon even though I have a sneaking admiration for his survival skills.  I have been looking forward to patty pan squash all summer and have been counting the blossoms in anticipation of a decent harvest.  And now my squash is squashed.  Muttering nasty imprecations under my breath hasn't quite vented my spleen.

But on to happier topics:

Once I caught up with the chores that accumulated due to heat waves or nearly incessant rain, both of which pretty much squelched my motivation, I did manage to return to something resembling my normal amount of stitching.  Here are some photos of what I have done recently.

First, I prepped some old jeans by cutting strips with an eye to braiding the strips into a rug sometime in the future.  I've managed to tear all the jeans I had accumulated [some 30 or so pairs] into 2" wide strips and now have two balls, one about the size of a soccer ball and one slightly smaller and each weighing a ton.  My next step is to separate the lighter blues from the darker blues and sew them into much longer strips.  Then, I'll be ready to thread the strips into my braiding hardware.  I figure the actual braiding can be a fall or winter project.  I am quite curious to see just how much rug I will actually get out of this much denim.  A cyber friend advised me to save the side seams of the jeans for coiling into coasters.  An excellent idea, but alas one shared with me only in time to salvage the seams of the last ten or so pairs.  I also saved a couple of back pockets with seam allowance  to turn into a small shoulder purse after seeing a photo of one on the 123stitch message board.

And after that, I moved on to salvaging some old slip covers into usable lengths of fabric ... this is part of my ongoing declutterring project, the fruit of cleaning out the linen closet.  I no longer have the couch for which these slipcover were made but the fabric was way too good to just toss.  The fabric on the backs and sides were in near mint condition and can be used for pillows, quilting, or cross stitch finishing..

I imagine I'll end up making some of the fabric into yo-yos.  One of my someday projects is a yo-yo bed cover for our queen size bed.  And the fabric that showed some degree of wear can be cut into 2" strips and added to the material for my braided denim rug.

The blue fabric can be used as a single strip braided with two strips of the lighter blue denim and the ivory with the dark blue in the print as a single strip braided with two strips of the dark blue denim.  As you can see in this photo, I was able to salvage quite a bit of the slipcovers for use in the braided rug.  The upholstery fabric is just a little lighter in weight than the denim but not so much that it will fail to work well with it.

And finally, I pulled out some cross stitch pieces that haven't seen the light of day in a very long time and have managed a wee bit of stitching on each:

The Cross Stitch Shop: when last seen looked like the first photo.  Now I have stitched a bit more of the second story as seen in the second photo.  As charted, this ornament included the year 2006 in the sign but I left it out for obvious reasons.  I haven't decided what I will do about the windows as yet.

I will wait till I have finished the rest of the building before deciding whether I will leave the exposed linen or stitch half crosses in a pale blue or stitch as charted with full crosses in white.  I will probably go with half crosses in pale blue since I think that gives a more glass-like look..

The Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking: when last seen it looked like the first photo.  After literally hours of rather intensive stitching, it now looks like the second photo.  I know this does not seem like very impressive progress but the snow and shadows are stitched with 17 different shades, most of which involve blended needles.

And, of course, typical of Teresa Wentzler's very painterly style, the placement of each point of color calls for a lot of confetti stitching and meticulous counting.  The end result is well worth the effort but the process can be time consuming.  Happily, the whole project will not be this involved, only the snow and the wings seem to be so very labor intensive.  Once I move onto the trees and the robes of the angel, things will move at a quicker pace.

The only pieces from my pre-slump rotation that I haven't managed to revive are The English Band Sampler  and the Mystic Seaport Stitching Accessories but I really want to concentrate a bit more on The Woodland Angel and the Town Square series at the moment.  The other two pieces will have to wait a while longer.  

And because I wanted the immediate gratification of a small finish, I pulled Prairie Schooler's BOO! out of my to do binder.  But since I am stitching from stash, I changed things up a bit.  Instead of using an orange linen in 32ct, I am using a 30ct linen called Over the Hill Purple.  And I am stitching the ghost and the moon in Belle Soie Oatmeal Scone, the pumpkin in Belle Soie Lasagna, and using Belle Soie Old Crow for the lettering, outline and accents.  I've thrown in a few more colors: a light brown for the pumpkin stem and a pale orange for the eyes and mouth of the ghost.  The piece of linen is large enough that I can probably fit another four or five Halloween ornaments on it before cutting it up and finishing the ornaments.  My black wrought iron ornament tree is already inadequate to the task of displaying the ornament I already have so I think I shall have to buy one of those large "spooky" trees that Michael's and A.C. Moore sell in October.

Ever since I first saw the Monsterbubbles' Day of the Dead Skull, I knew I would stitch it.  Of course, it is meant to be stitched on window screening.  I rarely keep such exotic stash in my stitching center, so I chose to stitch it on the same Over the Hill purple 30ct. linen as the above ornament.  I used most of the called for GAST fibers, changing only the Raven for Royal Purple for the eye and nose sockets and the gaps in the teeth.  I figured the deeper purple on the medium purple linen was even better than black for indicating shadowy holes.

I do apologize for the poor quality of the last three photos: it is very overcast outdoors.

I have a Sisterhood pumpkin ornament, also called BOO!, that will work well on the purple linen and will be my next easy project when the larger more complex pieces get to me.  I find I really need to intersperse some easy and small pieces in among the more challenging stuff or I burn out.

I have a feeling that my stitching throughout the rest of the month of August will be an in between sort of activity, i.e.: a bit of a quick break in between other chores.  I have all sorts of projects to fill my month long break: cleaning out the large walk-in closet in the master bedroom, clearing up the two sliding door closets in the spare bedroom, emptying and preparing a dresser and a drop-leaf secretary for refinishing, sanding and repainting the back door and door frame, putting up the bird feeder, cleaning the vinyl siding at the back of the house and in the entry area.  I also need to get prices and an appointment to have the driveway blacktopped again once the weather cools but before October 31st when we can no longer park on the street in my village.   It seems silly to start calling for it now but the contractors who do this sort of work really don't like to do such small jobs as my townhouse driveway but they will fit me in if they have a larger job in the general neighborhood.  So long range planning is a must!  I also need to have my vinyl siding in the front  power washed.   Well, I very much doubt I'll get it all done but I'll do my best to make a serious dent in it all.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Antiquing Adventures

My husband and I took a quick trip up to the Coxsackie area where we visited two of those enormous consignment barns that are a cross between an antique mall and a thrift shop.  You know the sort of place: where you can find everything from a Civil War era Colt pistol worth thousands of dollars to old mechanical banks worth hundreds to fine silver to china of all grades and patterns to antique clothing to estate jewelery to knick knacks worth just a few dollars and so on and so on and so on.

Such places can be overwhelming with so much to see at every turn.  One simply can't do those sort of places justice and I don't really try.  I go in prepared to focus on certain goals.  On this last trip I was looking for some ruby red glassware, some tea strainers and spoons and stitching collectibles such as pin cushions, chatelaines, needle cases and such like.  But I never go in so focused that I am closed off to the unusual or interesting finds not quite on my mission list.

So what did I find?

I will giving these two pieces to my sister-in-law as a birthday gift [the goblet] and as a Christmas gift [the Anchor Hocking 6" bowl].  She collects Ruby Red glassware, making it ever so easy to find gifts I know she will appreciate

The last piece, a 3" Anchor Hocking bowl, I will keep for myself.  I believe it will make a lovely jam bowl for tea and scones.  None of the pieces cost more than $8 and the small bowl was only $4.

 This silver plated tea strainer on a stand.  This piece was badly tarnished but only $8 and I figured I could afford the risk of disappointment.  When I got it home and began cleaning and polishing it, I discovered that the glue from the price sticker had corroded and pitted the silver beneath it [or the price sticker was used to mask a corroded spot].  Which wouldn't have been so bad if the spot hadn't been right in the middle of the strainer bowl.  There was also some stubborn grime on the handle of the strainer and in one tiny section of the rim.
Judging by the greenish tinge, I suspect it is the residue of old silver polish never properly rinsed off.  I will continue to work at it.  But since I like the intricate design of the piece, with the dragons on the stand and the floral scroll work on the strainer rim, I am seriously considering taking it to the local jeweler and having it professionally cleaned and re-silvered if necessary.  It is difficult to read the stamp on the underside of the strainer without better magnification but I think it said "Italy".   Once properly cleaned up, it will make such a lovely addition to my tea table.  

And, last but not least, this hand carved Santos.  I love folk art but particularly covet wood carvings.  According to the label this is supposed to be St. Joseph but without a T-square and hammer or a lily, the conventional symbols of St. Joseph, I am uncertain as to the true identity of my saint.  I might have called this fellow a monk but there is no tonsure.  So that riles out St. Francis, St. Benedict and St. Anthony, among many others.  An apostle?  A bishop?  I am not at all certain but he does seem a rather stern fellow.  But the primitive style of the carving is enough to make me treasure the piece.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Winners of the Templates

The winners, by random drawing, are rspory and Angela CG.  I'll be e-mailing them for street adresses tomorrow morning.

Hope these templates help them with their finishing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Little Late but ...

... I usually post a mid-year report on my stitching at the end of June.  But this year, I was just coming out of a seven week slump at the end of June and quite simply forgot about it.  Clearly, it hasn't been a banner year thus far.  I fear age is catching up with me and I only have just so much energy to spread around.  My work life seems to have the largest claim on my energies at present.  Perhaps this will change when I retire

First a look at my annual goals:

  • 01. My Own Crazy Challenge: work on unfinished class pieces from 2005-date.  I have made some progress on the Mystic Seaport projects.  And while I haven't finished any of the class projects but I have managed to finish up two UFOs [Midnight Moogies and a bookmark of my own design]  and one WIP [Berry Patch Rabbit
  • 02. Complete three BAPs: TW's Woodland Angel Stocking for Liam and The Woodland Maiden Stocking for Piper.  Minimal pprogress on Liam's stocking.
  • 03. Limit new starts to one for every two UFO/WIPs completed.  I have started a few Halloween ornaments just to bolster my sagging stitcher's ego.  After all, I need a few finishes to keep me motivated.
  • 04. Stitch a few more Heart ornaments for the Anniversary-Valentine's Day tree.  Kitted but not yet stitched.
  • 05. Stitch one ornament a month from the 2006 Indy Town Square SAL.  Only one finished in the past 7 months.
  • 06. Limit stash purchases to fabric, fiber and tools needed to complete charts on hand.  I have purchased two counted canvas charts and my husband gave me three cross-stitch charts for our  anniversary.
  • 07. Continue to blog regularly, aiming for every other day.  Obviously, with the May-June slump, that hasn't happened.
  • 08. Make an effort to catch up on sewing and framing finishes.  So far this year, I have managed 17 sewing finishes and hope to add another dozen or so during my current stay-cation.
  • 09. Inventory and declutter existing stash.  This is an ongoing project and I am satisfied with the progress I am making in this area.
  • 10. Change EGA membership to cyber-stitcher.  I'll do this when it is time to renew my membership.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Setting August Goals

                   I have added another category to my goals this month, Needlepoint.

              August Goals:
                   BAPs: Continue work on TWs Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking.
  • Class Projects Challenge: Continue work on Mystic Smalls.
  • Needlepoint:  Contiue work on Rice Pidding
  • New Start: Finish Plum Street Sampler's Be True
  • Sewing & Assembly Finishes: do three.
  • Town Square SAL: Finish The Cross Stitch Shop and stitch The Framing Shop.
  • UFOs: Resume work on The English Band Sampler.