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Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Only about 6 hours left of 2007! It's time to recap all that I've stitched this year. That will be difficult for the first few months of the year, because I wasn't at all diligent about writing it down. Instead, I'll just list everything I've finished since I started blogging in March. Pictures for all of these can be seen here.

Monrovia (counted canvas - Jim Wurth)
Goldwork Heart I (goldwork GCC - Michele Roberts)
Tiramisu (blackwork GCC - Dakota Rogers)
Wedding Row (cross stitch - Bent Creek)
Hearts & Flowers (counted canvas - Jim Wurth)
Arcadia (counted canvas - Jim Wurth)
Goldwork Heart II (goldwork GCC - Michele Roberts)
Luck of the Irish (goldwork GCC - Michele Roberts)
The Baroness Edie (counted canvas - Jim Wurth)
Fantasy Remembered (stumpwork GCC - Luan Callery)
First Christmas Ornament (painted canvas - Kathy Schenkel)
Redwork Mystery Sampler (counted thread - Gay Ann Rogers)
Czarina (counted canvas - Jim Wurth)
Traditional Elegance (whitework sampler - Pat Taff)
Christmas Treat Bag (cross stitch - Shepherd's Bush)
Bead Blanket Sampler (counted thread - Indigo Rose)
Mimi's Tape Measure (counted thread - Olde Colonial)

It was definitely a year for GCC's - especially goldwork - and Jim Wurth's Dodecagon series!

So, what are my goals for 2008? Let's see:
  1. Enjoy my stitching.
  2. Keep blogging.
  3. Continue keeping up with the Jim Wurth ornaments.
  4. More WIP reduction! I'd really like to finish at least 4 of my large WIPs and several small pieces. After this round of my challenge, though, I'll probably switch to finish 3, start 1 (instead of finish 10!).
  5. Complete my new crop of GCC's on time (which means I really have to start one, since the first one is due in April!)
  6. Start one of the "Seasonal Girls" from Gay Ann Rogers.
This is pretty ambitious, but it's good to set stretch goals, right?

Before I forget, I'd like to thank all of you for visiting and commenting on my posts this year. I've enjoyed getting to know my fellow stitching bloggers!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

More progress, and another HD

Isn't vacation great? I've been making a lot of progress on my UFOs.

First, I finished Mimi's Tape Measure from Olde Colonial Designs. Another one down!

A few days ago, I pulled out an old GCC. This is Plum Blossoms by Margaret Kinsey. It is in a Japanese technique called Rozashi, which is stitched on ro fabric, and all stitches are vertical. This ro is 40 holes to the inch horizontally, and about 10 holes/inch vertically. All I have left to finish is the background, but it looks like it's going to take a while!

I started a project for the Quaker Quarterly Exchange on the Legacy board. I can't share pics of this until after the recipient gets it, though. This has to be sent out by January 5th.

On several of the boards, folks are talking about what big projects they're starting over the holidays. I haven't started anything, of course, but I did resurrect Martha Wilkins from The Scarlet Letter. This one has a loooong way to go.

WIP-loss challenge status: 7 down, 3 to go

Thursday, December 27, 2007

SBQ: Holiday Gifts

It's time for a Stitching Blogger's Question!

This week's SBQ is:

Did you receive any stitching-related gifts for the holidays?

Yes, I did! In fact, I unwrapped the same book twice! There was a little lapse in communication on this one. :-) I received the book "In Praise of the Needlewoman" by Gail Sirna . This book is a result of Gail's research into paintings that feature people (yes, mostly women) doing some sort of needlework. The definition of needlework here is rather loose: it includes embroidery, needlepoint, bobbin lace, knitting, crochet, weaving, tatting, etc. Each painting includes a facing page with text describing the painting and the needlework apparently being done. It's a gorgeous book, and I plan on enjoying it for years to come. I could see this being a coffee table book if I had a coffee table! It will probably find a home near my stitching chair and get pulled out when I'm just a bit too tired to stitch. For more information about this book, a full book review can be seen here.

I also received two gift certificates to my LNS. I'll have to think about how I want to use them!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Very Merry Christmas to You!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope Santa has been good to you!

I have stitched several Christmas pieces over the years, but it seems that for the most part, they either haven't been framed or have been given away. The only one I have framed in my home is the canvaswork nativity seen here. This is Once In Royal David's City by Carole Lake. I took it as an online class, but Carole has now released it for a wider audience: the instructions were in the most recent issue of Needlepoint Now.

May you all have a happy, healthy, and blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Dance: Bead Blanket Sampler

Sorry, all! It's been a heck of a week, with all the Christmas preparations. Up until yesterday night at the LNS, I think I stitched about two hours all week. I've been off work since Wednesday, but I've still been baking, writing Christmas cards, finishing up my shopping, fixing my sister's electrical outlets so she could plug in her tree for her party tonight, etc., etc.

On Wednesday, I received a surprise in the mail. I knew Kaz was sending me the Moss Waterlilies I needed to finish the border on my Bead Blanket Sampler, and it arrived Wednesday. That wasn't the surprise, though. The surprise was learning that not only did this generous stitcher send me the thread, but that she sent it from the U.K.! The sharing in this wonderful global community of stitchers never ceases to amaze me. Thanks again, Kaz!

So, for stitch night at the LNS yesterday, I packed up my Bead Blanket Sampler with all the threads I needed to finish. Between time at the LNS and an hour afterward at home, I finished the back cover. Today I made time to finish the project, before sitting down with a pile of presents and wrapping paper.

Here is the Bead Blanket Sampler, designed by Catherine Strickler of Indigo Rose. The three pictures are the front (with the alphabet), the back (with the types of beads listed), and the side (so you can see the piece of velour blanketing that's meant to keep beads from bouncing all over the place while I'm attaching them onto a WIP).

Another UFO down! I'm officially down to 39 WIPs/UFOs. That still seems like a really big number, but I've got another small piece that really only needs a couple of hours to finish, and that will knock the number down again!

WIP-loss challenge status: 6 down, 4 to go

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy Dance: Christmas Treat Bag

It seems that the plan to finish small UFOs is working!

This is the Christmas Treat Bag from Shepherd's Bush. I finished up the ribbons on this tonight, changing the arrangement slightly from the instructions.

The drawstring area is made by withdrawing several fabric threads, and a ribbon is threaded through these. The instructions showed that the drawstring was made with the burgundy ribbon, but the bow was tied with both the blue and burgundy ribbons. That seemed silly to me, because whenever the bag was opened, the blue ribbon could be lost. I made the drawstring out with the burgundy ribbons and just attached large silver beads at the ends. I then tied the blue bow over a couple of the linen threads in the drawn thread area where the ends of the drawstring met. Now, the bow stays in place when the bag is opened and closed.

(Oh, and in case you're wondering... I did not stitch the doily on which the easel is resting. My grandmother collected such pieces, mostly through garage sales, and this is one from her collection. I hope my hard work doesn't find its way to somebody's garage sale, but if it does, I hope it finds somebody that appreciates it as much as my grandmother did and as I do!)

WIP-loss challenge status: 5 down, 5 to go

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I've been baking...

Just in case any of you have been wondering what I've been up to, the answer is "not stitching". The last three evenings, I've been working on my Christmas cookies. Sunday was making several batches of dough, and I've since baked magic cookie bars (sometimes called "7-layer bars"), lemon hearts, applesauce cookies, and jam slices. I still have some to do: gingerbread cutouts, more lemon hearts, russian teacakes, and hazelnut rugelach. I enjoy baking, but I only really do it at this time of year.

During the Saturday gift wrapping session at Barnes & Noble, I pulled out yet another small UFO. This one is the Christmas Treat Bag from Shepherd's Bush. On Saturday, I finished the front design, and I've been working on finishing it into a bag during any bits of free time over the last few days. I still have a bit to go, though. I may be able to finish it tomorrow if there's any stitching time during our ANG holiday party or in our Thursday night "open stitch" at the LNS. I hope to post a photo before the weekend.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bead Blanket Sampler progress

Before I forget, thanks to everyone who's left comments lately! I do read and appreciate each one.

I'm slowly plugging away at the Bead Blanket Sampler from Indigo Rose. In case you're not familiar with this piece, it will work up like a needlebook, but instead of felt in the middle, there will be a piece of velour blanketing. Velour is perfect for holding beads as you're stitching. The plush keeps the beads from escaping as you're trying to get them on your needle!

The part I'm working on now will be the back of the book. This piece is small, but it's not working up very quickly. While over-1 stitching always looks great, I find it pretty tedious.

See how the border isn't done on the back? That's because I ran out of the green thread in the kit. One of the readers here, known as "samplerstitcher", very generously offered to send me a length of the Waterlilies silk needed to finish the border. Isn't the internet community of stitchers great? Thank you, samplerstitcher!

This morning I'm heading out to Barnes & Noble to wrap gifts. Our local EGA & ANG chapters volunteered to do this to promote both organizations and to let the community know the chapters exist, just in case there are any lone stitchers out there!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Dance: Traditional Elegance

It's amazing what you can accomplish while listening to an evening conference call with colleagues in Japan! I was home, listening on the phone speaker, unmuting the microphone only when I needed to discuss something, and happily stitching away! That's the way to work! I found I actually could concentrate more on what was going on (rather than falling asleep or being distracted by email, etc.) while I was stitching than I usually do at work!

To top it off, I finished Traditional Elegance (by Pat Taff) just as the conference call ended! Since the sides of this were laced to the scroll rods, it had been a while since I looked at the bottom row. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had put a "2007" date on it already! I'm glad I didn't have to change it!

The bottom rows are pretty squished from being rolled up on the scroll rods for so long. I'll have to at least dampen this and press it from the back to get the stitches back in shape before I take it in for framing.

Also on the UFO front, this week I picked up a small piece from Catherine Strickler/Indigo Rose. I started the Bead Blanket Sampler a bit over a year ago. For a time it was in my desk drawer at work, and I'd pick it up occasionally during lunchtime. When I switched jobs last year, it found its way home, and I hadn't touched it since.

Monday I finished off the front side and started work on the back - and quickly ran into a problem. There's not enough of one color of thread. I'm not a terribly frugal stitcher, but I try to be cautious when stitching from kits. Nevertheless, I ran out. I need to find enough Waterlilies 'Moss' in a similar dyelot (or another silk brand that looks very similar!) to finish the border on the back. I hate to buy an entire skein for something that would work for <100 stitches. Stay tuned!

WIP-loss challenge status: 4 down, 6 to go

Sunday, December 2, 2007

November Recap & December goals

Despite a few changes in plan (like posting every day and a change in the UFO strategy), I did fairly well this past month. Here were my goals for November:

I also went though my baskets, boxes, closets, and drawers to find and list all of my WIPs & UFOs. I found forty-two pieces that had some amount of stitching done. Several of these are very small pieces, like ornaments or scissors fobs, and others are medium to large pieces. I can't see why those shouldn't count on my WIP-loss challenge, so I'm going to concentrate on getting some of these done in the near future.

For December, here are my goals:
  • Keep blogging! (Though maybe not quite as frequently.)
  • Finish Traditional Elegance.
  • Finish at least 2 small UFOs.
  • Finish at least 1 additional medium-sized UFO.
Here's hoping I work through my challenge soon so I can start one of my GCCs!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Acorns and an ornament

Hooray! I finally finished reweaving the nut portion of the acorns.

The frogging went a little easier tonight, since I just cut out the old parts. After talking with my MIL, I discovered that I didn't need to worry about running out of thread. MIL and I both started this piece in a class together, and a few weeks after the class ended, one of the stitchers realized we would likely run short of this thread. The teacher (who owns a nearby shop), provided extra balls of pearl cotton to each person in the class. MIL picked up one for me, and I know she gave it to me. Can I find it? Nope. I've looked everywhere. However, she has both of her balls of pearl cotton, and is letting me take what I need from one of them so I can finish this piece! Thanks Mom!

On another note, I'd like to share something that I picked up from the finisher a few weeks ago. Here is the First Christmas ornament I made for my cousin's little girl. The hand-painted canvas was by Kathy Shenkel. It came out a bit oddly-shaped, because the heel of the stocking is almost as large as the toe. This wasn't that obvious in the original canvas, but it's evident now since it's been stuffed. I'm still pretty pleased at how it turned out.

And last, but certainly not least, today marks the END of NaBloPoMo! Posting every day for a month was difficult at times, but overall I've enjoyed it. I can't say I'll post quite as frequently going forward, but this experience has forced me to think about possible blog topics as I go through my day. Hopefully it has become a bit of a habit, and my posting may be a bit more regular than it was before this month. As for this weekend, though, I'll probably post a monthly recap and goals tomorrow, and then take Sunday OFF from blogging - just because I can! :-)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Framed Mystery Sampler

Tonight I picked up my framed Mystery Sampler. Because of the borders on this piece, I found it did not need a mat. Rather, it looked best with just a simple frame. I tried several cherrywood frames, but they were all too red. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the sampler is stitched in a cranberry color, almost a red-violet. (Specifically, it's Winterberry 1431 from Vikki Clayton.) So, instead of a true cherry frame, I went with a dark reddish-brown, and I love how it turned out!
On the current works front, I'm still frogging and restitching acorns. I should be back to working the acorn caps tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holiday Freebies

Not much to report on the stitching front today. I'm still ripping out and replacing acorns, but got a late start tonight since I was baking for the "winter feast" at work tomorrow.

Since I don't have progress to share, I thought I'd pass this along, instead. A few designers have started to come out with their holiday freebies:

  • Mirabilia's 2007 Cherub
  • Rosewood Manor's first ever "Christmas Gift": The Sugar Plum Tree
  • Victoria Sampler has three new holiday freebies in their "VS Club". (You may have to sign up (free!) to get access to these.)

That's all I know of so far. Thanks to Nora, Karen, and Thea for these great designs! If anybody knows of other designers who have released new holiday freebies, please let us know by leaving a comment. I'll be sure to add the links to this post.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An obligatory post

Not too bad - this is only my second post all month where I really have nothing to share. It's just a post for the sake of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), wherein I've pledged to post every day this month. Only 3 days left to go, and I'll probably slack off a bit. :-)

Some errands tonight kept me from stitching much. All I managed to do tonight was to rip out the center acorn from Traditional Elegance. It's not worth a picture.

I do want to thank everyone who's posted comments lately - there have been quite a few! Thanks so much - it's good to know folks are reading, and if you leave your blog address (or post via your blogger profile), I do try to visit the blogs of those who comment here. I am notoriously bad at leaving comments, though. I need to work on that. Maybe that will be one of my New Years Resolutions! It's never to early to start thinking of those!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Frogs waiting in a UFO

Don't you hate it when you pull something out of the UFO pile, start to work on it, and then find out that one of the reasons it was a UFO in the first place was because it had a major screw-up in it? One that can't be fudged? Yup. I was there, last night.

Here is the top portion of Traditional Elegance I by Pat Taff. This is is fairly old chart, and all I have left to do is finish up the needleweaving in the cutwork portion at the top. I figured I could plug away at this for a few days and get it done. I started working the horizontal bars, filling in doves's eyes where needed. Then it hit me. I didn't have enough room to get all the dove's eyes in before I hit the woven part of the acorns. All of the weaving was one row too low! This can be seen in the center and two right-hand acorns. Since the acorn caps are the same on top and bottom, it would have been obvious that something was wrong!

I stopped working the horizonal rows, and found I was able to unweave the vertical wrapping and the fully-woven areas with minimal damage to the thread. This is important because I'm almost out of thread. It's only Anchor perle 12, but I'm worried about dye lot. Sometimes the dye lot is worse with white and ecru threads than with darker colors. Since Anchor's not the easiest to find, I'm trying to make this ball last through the rest of this cutwork section. As a result, I'm trying to reuse the thread, as long as it's not too fuzzy.

I've been able to take out and reweave the 1-1/2 acorns on the left side so far. (See how they're one row higher?) I should be able to finish all the frogging and fixing by the weekend, and then I can start back with where I thought I was yesterday!

On a (rare) more personal note: It was two years ago today that my Dad, only age 62, was taken from us by way of an unexpected major cardiac arrest. We miss you, Dad! :-(

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Dance: Czarina

After some concentrated stitching today (since yesterday was spent shopping because my sister was working on Friday), Czarina is done![Edited to answer Janine's comment: It worked much better to stitch the Amadeus and other non-metallic parts of the quadrant before putting in the Flair crescents. I did have to be careful not to snag any of the plies of floss used for the Amadeus with my laying tool, but that was less trouble than stitching around the bulky crescents!]

I think this is my favorite of the series so far! Thanks to Jim Wurth for a wonderful "color play" experience!

After almost a week off, I'm back to work, reality, and UFOs tomorrow!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Caving in to the sales

Yes, I caved. At the sale at one of my local shops, I didn't find much that caught my eye, so I actually left an LNS sale having spent less than $10. I picked up The Counting Book Sampler from Little by Little.

However, I was not so restrained online, with the sale at Stitching Bits and Bobs. I treated myself to one of the newest Long Dog patterns, Scarlet Ribands, and one of their older patterns, Sonne Spotte, which now interests me more than it did before, mostly because of the vibrancy of the colors. A few other pieces also found their way into my cart, including John Foster from Historic Stitches (and I blame Joanie for that one, with her great pics of it!). I know sometimes this shop will wait on items not in stock, so I'm not looking for these to show up any time soon, but it will be a nice surprise when these show up in the mailbox!

To top it off, I received the instructions for another EGA GCC in the mail today. Now I have two waiting to be started. (I knew I should have made those an exemption to my challenge!) After I finish Czarina, I may go through my UFOs to find those that have the least left to stitch, and FINISH them! I have a long way to go on the challenge, and that's the only way I'll get through it anytime soon.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More progress on Czarina

Czarina is coming along nicely! Since the crescents were so time-consuming, I decided to move on to some of the other portions of the first two quadrants before moving to the remaining quadrants.I found that laying the Amadeus motifs was difficult because the crescents were so bulky. Because of all the layers of Flair, the top of these motifs are almost 1/4" off the canvas, so it's really hard to get floss to lay next to it, especially since I was trying not to snag the Flair with my laying tool. As a result, I decided to stitch the Amadeus motifs in the remaining quadrants before stitching the crescents. I continued on with a portion of the rest of these quadrants, too, but did not stitch the woven metallic portions yet because I thought the metallics would catch on the Flair. I'll let you know tomorrow if I have any problems stitching the crescents with the other stitches already in the quadrants.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

It's Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow American stitchers! I hope your day is filled with family, good food, and a lot of fun!

I've found a few Thanksgiving freebies, and would like to share:

  • a turkey from Carrie's Creations
  • a November banner from Erica Michaels and Rainbow Gallery (pdf)
  • Be Thankful from Erica Michaels and Rainbow Gallery (pdf)
  • a pilgrim man and woman from Joan Green and Rainbow Gallery (pdf). These are designed for plastic canvas, but could be done in cross stitch or on canvas.
  • Autumn Leaves from Nancy Spruance Designs
  • Happy Thanksgiving design from About.com

Enjoy, and have a safe, happy holiday! Count your blessings!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Czarina progress

Czarina, the new Jim Wurth ornament, is progressing nicely.* The big fleur-de-lis crescents are a bit of a pain, since they're stitched with Flair from Rainbow Gallery. This is a tubular nylon thread (think Barbie pantyhose!) that wants to snag at every opportunity, and to make it look right it has to be laid flat on both the front and back of the canvas.

Plus, since I don't want to stop and start the thread several times during the stitching of the crescent, I'm using a really long length. After needing to start and end threads three times on the first crescent, I cut a 70" thread for the second, and had just a few inches left over. I'll stick with that for the rest, even though it increases the chance of snagging the thread. I just have to be careful not to drag the thread across the edges of the canvas.

*Of course, it helps that I've been on vacation for the past two days. The only Thanksgiving preparations I've had to distract me were the baking of two pumpkin pies and helping my mom with some setup for the 17 people she's having over tomorrow. DH and I go to his parents' place for Thanksgiving, so I help my mom out ahead of time.

I'll post again tomorrow, but in case it's not until later, Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A new ornament

The kit for the next ornament in Jim Wurth's dodecagon series arrived in yesterday's mail. Here are the supplies for Czarina:I did start this today (recall that this series is exempt from my challenge), and made some decent progress. I'll post progress pics tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I'm having a hard time staying away from some LNS sales. The last thing I need is more stash, but I've had a cart open at Bits and Bobs for several days, since they have most of their stock at 20-25% off. There are five charts in my cart now. (Why do I do this!?!?!?) The sale is going on through the weekend. I'll wait at least until after Friday to check out, because one of my local shops is having a 20% off sale on Friday. If they have any of these charts, I'd rather spend the money locally. Stay tuned, and I'll share what I eventually purchase, if anything. (Who am I kidding?) :-P

Monday, November 19, 2007

More strawberries

Half of the border of Examplar IV is now finished! Tonight I completed the right side, the strawberries in detached buttonhole.

This stitch didn't give me too many problems until it came to decreasing. When continuing with straight borders, you work into the previous row, stitch by stitch. Once the strawberry starts tapering to a point, it's difficult to figure out which stitches on the previous row should be used and which should be skipped. I did it sort of randomly. When things on the current row got a little crowded, I skipped the next stitch on the row above. I think it came out ok, better on some berries than on others.

My apologies if the above paragraph sounds a bit cryptic, especially if detached buttonhole is new to you. If you've tried this stitch, you may understand my frustration! Any and all hints are appreciated, because it shows up in other parts of the sampler. From a comment on a previous post, I know of at least one reader here who has just started this sampler (Hi Theresa!), and advice on the trickier types of sampler stitches is always welcome!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shaded leaves

This is one of those posts that probably wouldn't exist if I weren't participating on NaBloPoMo. As it is though, I've pledged to post every day this month, and this is what my blog visitors get today! :-)

The leaves of yesterday's post did get finished, and while they're not perfect, they're much better than the first attempt. (Oh, by the way, I found a better "before" picture, and will be updating yesterday's post with it right after I finish this post.)

After these were done, I moved on to the panel of the etui that will eventually have grapes. The grape leaves are stitched in a variegated green in closed blanket stitch (sometimes referred to as buttonhole), with any gaps filled in later with satin stitches. Two of these leaves were stitched many moons ago, but I stitched the center one today. The remaining two will have to wait a few days until this project comes back to the top of the rotation later this week.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Restitching leaves

Today I've been stitching the main leaves in the center section of Rose's Pyramid. I started on the unstitched side of each leaf, and quickly saw a big difference between today's stitching and my work of a few years ago.

My old stitching looked forced, unnatural. I think I tried too hard to keep to the ideal of "long and short", and it ended up looking like brick stitch on silk fabric. I recognize now that it was my engineer's logical brain trying to control something I which which I was uncomfortable. I didn't enjoy stitching non-counted work, and long and short stitch was the most intimidating to me. This was the first technique in which I had forgotten my mantra, "It's just string!"

Now I have become more comfortable with non-counted work, after the goldwork GCC's and my work on Fantasy Remembered. I've realized that the natural look of the stitching is much more important than holding a rigid form of the stitch. This non-counted stuff forces me to stuff my logical brain in a drawer and go with the flow. I've ripped out the old stitches. I'm trying to look for the natural direction and color flow of the leaf, and just stitch as that flow dictates, and the results are much better.

Also, I've learned that it's better to have longer stitches in general. Later rows of stitches can always encroach on earlier rows, but if the first rows are too short, ground fabric shows through and the stitching looks unnatural - like rows of stitches, rather than a smooth flow of color.

I hope to finish these leaves tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My post for today

Well, NaBloPoMo is over halfway done, and this is the first time I'm really struggling to post something. The past few days I've been continuing work on the inner border of Scottlee, so I'll keep this short and just show a progress picture!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stumpwork: One framed, one UFO

I haven't had a fairly slow day to show this yet, but last week, I picked up Fantasy Remembered from the framer. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the top mat actually sits about 1/4 inch above the bottom mat, creating even more dimension than the stitching itself. I'm very pleased with how this turned out.

To continue my stumpwork momentum (because I had so much fun with this), I pulled out an old UFO. This picture shows the partially-complete panels and center of Rose's Pyramid, a stumpwork etui by Marsha Papay-Gomola. Marsha taught this class to our EGA chapter a few (3?) years ago. I worked on it for a while, and then it was stored away in a closet.

I'm dragging it out again, and want to start a semi-formal rotation with this, Examplar IV, and Scottlee. I'll switch between them every other day or so. Of course, when the new Jim Wurth ornament arrives, the rotation will go out the window for a week or so until I finish the ornament! :-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jean Hilton patterns

In today's post, I'd like to address a question just posted as a comment. Jody asked where she could find Jean Hilton patterns. The question is much more easily answered now than a few years ago.

(Disclaimer: I have no financial interest whatsoever in the shop described below - or any other shop, other than giving them my money for more stitching goodness!)

Jean is retired now, but still maintains a fairly active presence on one or two of the needlepoint email lists. She retired after teaching Scottlee only once at an EGA (or was it ANG?) seminar. She was encouraged to teach it again this past summer for a group in Arizona, but to my knowledge, that's all she's taught and/or published in recent years.

I (unfortunately) did not take either class of Scottlee with Jean. My chart came from a stitcher who took the class at seminar, finished the piece, and then posted a picture of her finished piece on a message board or something. I've forgotten where I saw it! Anyway, I emailed the stitcher and asked her if I could purchase her chart. This very generous stitcher gave me her chart. Thanks, Claudia, if you ever read this!

So, that chart is very hard to find. Fortunately, though, many of Jean's other charts aren't so elusive. A couple of years ago, Jean posted on a message board that she wanted to sell the copyrights to her self-published charts, because she didn't want to deal with the hassle of distribution anymore, and hadn't been selling any for a few years. I actually very seriously considered taking it on, and even spoke with Jean about it. In the end, I decided not to do so, because it was a considerable amount of money to tie up in inventory when I didn't yet have a means to sell it, and because I was in the middle of an intensive master's degree program!

The bottom line, though, is that these charts were purchased by an Indiana shop called Stitches from the Heart. They have a website, and you can see and purchase most of Jean's patterns there. Also, your LNS might be willing to order these patterns wholesale (from the same shop), and then you can buy them through the LNS.

For the period of time right after Jean retired, but before the charts were again available, I had pretty good success finding some on eBay. Jean's charts are still posted regularly there, but you have to be cautious, because often the starting price and the shipping add up to more than what you'd pay at the shop.

Good luck choosing your favorite pattern! The next ones on my wish list are the Michigan series: Flint, Dowagiac, Lansing, and Eagle Harbor, though I have many of Jean's patterns in my stash to keep me busy without these! :-)

[Edited to remove some incorrect statements after Jean graciously pointed them out! My apologies, Jean!]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Strawberries in detached buttonhole

Tonight I picked up Examplar IV and worked on the right border. On this side, the strawberries are in a version of detached buttonhole stitch. Since the strawberries are in three colors and I didn't want to keep switching colors, I decided to do the darkest color for each strawberry. I'll go back later and add the next two colors (as in the top berry).

Most of the instructions I've found on the web for detached buttonhole are of the "away and back"variety, where it is worked left to right and right to left, as on this site. The technique taught by Catherine Theron for this sampler is a "left to right and return" version. This can be seen best in the bottom strawberry. The area is first surrounded by backstitch or double-running. The thread then comes up at the right side of the area and a long stitch goes across the area. The thread is taken to the back at the left side. The detached buttonhole then starts on the left side (coming up one thread down from the long stitch), with each buttonhole stitch going into the row above it and under the long right-to-left stitch. On the first row, each buttonhole stitch goes under one of the outline stitches and under the long stitch.

Does that make sense? If anybody wants a better description, a diagram, or step-by-step pictures, please add a comment and I'll try my best to explain it better!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Minor progress on Scottlee

Thanks to everyone for the great comments I've received recently!

I just realized that I neglected to tell the end of the Evertite story. As I mentioned previously, I found that both ends of one bar had split last Sunday. I contacted the company, a replacement bar was sent out on Monday. It showed up at my house on Wednesday!

The bars went together wonderfully (no warping!), and Scottlee is in progress once again. Between finishing the GAR sampler, the Jane Zimmerman samples, and another kissing pillow, I haven't spent a ton of time on Scottlee, but I did finish a couple of sections of alternating continental and added some satin stitches in Very Velvet.Any crookedness in the picture is entirely due to operator error in taking the picture, and does not reflect how the piece is mounted in the frame! (The operator being me!) :-)

I hope to make more progress this evening.

Thanks again to the Evertite company for an amazing response.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Dance: Mystery Sampler

Yes! It's done! I've finished the Redwork Sampler Full of Surprises by Gay Ann Rogers, otherwise known as the Mystery Sampler!

I made another change to the kitchen, which worked well when I realized that there was no date on the sampler. I have a calendar in my kitchen at home, why not in the sampler cottage? It's a tiny bit out of scale, but it's not too bad.

The bathroom was stitched as charted, with the appropriate monogram on the towels.

Here is the complete sampler, stitched on 25ct natural Pearl Linen with Vikki Clayton's Hand-Dyed Fibers in Winterberry 1431. Thanks, Gay Ann, for such an enjoyable project. I had fun personalizing it!
WIP-loss challenge status: 3 down, 7 to go

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Not.... Quite... Finished...

When the last installment of the Gay Ann Rogers mystery arrived in today's mail, I had high hopes of getting it done today. It probably would have been done by now, if I hadn't been finishing up the samples for Jane Zimmerman's book. (Which did get finished! Hooray!)

As it is, I think I'm done with the kitchen, simply by removing the vase and adding a set of canisters. I tried to add a small shelf with a towel bar under it between the baker's rack and window, but it didn't quite work. What do you think of the result? Does it seem like a kitchen now?I'll save a picture of the last window, the bathroom, for tomorrow. I have maybe 2 hours of work left on it, but I was running out of time to post today for NaBloPoMo. So, provided I don't decide to change the kitchen further, this should be done tomorrow morning!

Friday, November 9, 2007

SBQ Backlog

Since I haven't answered any SBQs (Stitching Bloggers' Questions) in a very long time, I'll at least catch up on the last few weeks of questions today.

This week's SBQ is:

When you have to frog out stitches, do you reuse that thread or do you start over with a new strand?

Ok, first a stitching glossary refresher: "frogging" refers to ripping out mistakes in stitching: "Rippit, rippit!"

Generally, I do not reuse a thread after frogging, since it often becomes frayed or at least loses its luster. The exceptions might be if it's only a stitch or two OR if I'm really low on the thread needed. In fact, if I have to rip out large areas, I generally cut the threads in several places to make frogging easier, which means I can't reuse the thread.

The SBQ for October 31 was suggested by Ternezia:

If you were a cross stitch designer, what would your design style be?

I can't see myself designing cross stitch. I have designed a few hardanger pieces (one of which is actually done), and have put many ideas for geometric needlepoint down on paper. Waving hand - hello, engineer here! Geometric designs are easy for me!

Here's my completed hardanger design:

The SBQ for October 24 was :

Do you railroad?

Another stitching glossary definition: Railroading is a technique to make two floss plies lay side by side. To railroad, before pushing the needle through the fabric to finish a stitch, you separate the two strands of floss by passing the needle between them. It's hard to describe without pictures. Check out this page for a better description.

Now, to answer the question. I will sometimes railroad a stitch or two. Generally, though, I prefer to use a laying tool. It seems that when I railroad, one ply ends up twisted too tightly, and the other gets all fuzzy because it's untwisting. Somebody once described it as ending up with one ply like Marcia Brady hair, and the other like Jan Brady hair!

(If anybody would like it, I'll try to post pictures of how to use a laying tool. It may have to wait a bit, because I'll need assistance with taking pictures of it. Using the laying tool takes two hands!)

The SBQ for October 17 was suggested by Jennifer:

What proportion of your stitching is for your own personal use versus gifts?

The majority of my stitching is for my own enjoyment while I'm working on it. I don't always frame or otherwise "finish" every piece I complete. Many of them are tucked away into a closet. That said, I don't necessarily want to give them away, either. I only give stitched pieces to folks I know will appreciate it. If I'm not sure, as in a wedding piece from earlier this year, I stitch something very simple. Since I don't like to stitch simple pieces, I don't do a lot of this!

So I haven't really answered the question! I suppose I give away maybe 5% or less of my stitching.

Have a great day!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Shining Needle Society

With not much progress on anything last night, I don't have any new WIP photos to share today. Instead, I'm going to tell you about an online group that has many stitchers (including me) very excited!

First, a disclaimer: I have absolutely no financial interest in this group. My only intention is to share a great online class opportunity with other stitchers, because I'm thrilled about it! :-)

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've seen my progress on the redwork mystery sampler from Gay Ann Rogers. This sampler's online support group was the first offering from the Shining Needle Society, or SNS. Now that the sampler is almost done (Gay Ann sent out the last window this week), the organizers of SNS have started to reveal how SNS will evolve.

The mission statement of SNS is "To provide nurturing and inspiring opportunities for growth in the study of needlework, with the hope of continuing the legacy of embroidery art for future generations." The group has been described as "an online seminar", where top designers/teachers will provide opportunities to take online classes. So far there's an offering from Janet Zickler Casey, but Gay Ann says she'll be back with a new mystery soon, and there are hints of classes with Judy Souliotis and Jane Zimmerman. Plus some retired teachers may take advantage of teaching classes without the travel.

SNS is morphing from a single Yahoo! Group for Gay Ann's sampler. There is now a group for "SNS Home Room", and Gay Ann's sampler group is turning into her "classroom". Each new class offering will have it's own Yahoo! Group, available only to those taking that class, but anybody can join the SNS Home Room list to get announcements of future class opportunities. (If you're not already a member of any of Yahoo's services, you will have to create a Yahoo account.)

Yes, so far this group looks like it's primarily needlepoint or counted thread work. Perhaps if SNS hears of a need for surface embroidery also, some of those teachers may be encouraged to join in the fun!

I can't wait to see what new classes SNS has in store for us over the next few months!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Seven strawberries

Since Scottlee is on hold for a bit, I picked up Catherine Theron's Examplar IV yesterday. It's been a while since I've shown a progress picture of this piece, but it hasn't progressed very far. I did, however, finish the top border yesterday! The strawberries across the top are stitched in a combination of italian cross and smyrna cross.

Actually, I see that the web page I just referenced distinguishes between the italian cross and the arrowhead stitch. The italian cross shown is the way both Catherine Theron and Eileen Bennett's Red Book describe it, with the bottom horizonatal stitch done first. When I did it this way, the diagonal stitch always pulled the bottom stitch up underneath it. I then referenced Darlene O'Steen's The Proper Stitch, and she describes italian cross as the website describes arrowhead stitch. In this stitch, the diagonal is stitched first, so the horizontal and vertical don't get pulled out of alighment. This is actually the stitch I used because I though it laid better.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Framed Goldwork

Last night was our local EGA meeting, so I didn't get much (ok, any) work done on my ongoing projects. Instead, there was a program on ruching. It's pretty neat how a few running stitches can turn a strip of fabric into a pretty flower!

Since I don't have any new work to show you, this post will feature the recent framing of my three goldwork pieces stitched over the summer. The same molding was used for all three pieces so they can be laid out on the wall in a column or row as shown, although I haven't found the right spot for them yet. From top to bottom, we have English Goldwork Heart II, Luck of the Irish Golden Shamrock, and English Goldwork Heart I. All three were group correspondence courses from Michele Roberts. The hearts were from ANG and are now retired, and the shamrock is an EGA course.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Broken stretcher bars

Ever since I picked up Scottlee again, the fact that the frame is warped has been bugging me! You can see it in some of my pictures - one corner looks like it's not square in the pics. So, I took the piece off the frame.

Hey, look at that - the bars are actually starting to break! This is my first time using Evertite stretcher bars, and I really appreciate not having to restretch the canvas all of the time. Wait a minute, these things are pretty pricey - why are they breaking on the first project?

On the pics, you can see a shiny spot near one of the cracks. I tried, unsuccessfully, to use super glue.

My next resort was to try to find some information on the company. Google quickly led me to the web site. Wow - the company actually has decent contact information right on the web site. (That doesn't always happen!) So, I sent off an email, explaining the problem and asking about warranty information.

Within a couple of hours, a reply was sitting in my inbox, explaining that since wood is a natural product, it's not always easy to see where defects might arise after manufacturing. The same email asked where the replacement bar should be sent.

WOW! What customer service!

I replied with the pictures and my address. The maker replied that he had never seen them break like that, and that my bar would be in the mail tomorrow.

I am so impressed with the way this was handled. Thanks, Evan!!!

If the bars breaking truly was a fluke thing, and they hold up fine through the rest of the project, I will certainly invest in more Evertites for future large projects.

As a result of all of this, I obviously did not work on Scottlee yesterday. I stitched up one of the kissing pillows, instead. 3 down, 2 to go.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Saturday stitching

Even though I really needed to go grocery shopping yesterday, I felt a little under the weather, so I decided to stay home and stitch.

My primary goal was to figure out what additional threads I needed to finish the Jane Zimmerman samples. I needed to let the project coordinator know what extra lengths of thread were needed. (I'm making up stitch samples to be photographed for two pages of Jane's next book.) These samples shouldn't take very long, because three of them are 24 x 24 threads, and two are 24 x 36 threads. However, the three smaller ones are queen stitch variations in three or four ply, and the threads need to be laid. Have you ever tried to lay multiple plies in queen stitch? You can get your threads all nicely side by side, and then you have to mush them sideways with a tie-down stitch. It's next to impossible to lay these things well. I'm settling for trying to make the threads cover the ground canvas, and I think it's working pretty well, though it is time-consuming. Anyway, I finished about 3-1/2 samples, and really can't do much more until my extra threads arrive later this week.

Scottlee was next up, and I made a bit more progress on the inside border. I finished the corner motifs all around. These motifs are hard to see in the photo, but they're in a metallic thread called Bijoux (formerly Lacquered Jewels). This thread comes on a spool, but fortunately it's much easier to control than some of the other metallics on spools. I say that's fortunate, because for most of the corner motif, 6 strands are used, and 8 strands are needed for the satin stitches.

Once the corners were done, I went back to filling in the border with alternating continental* stitch in two-ply silk. There will eventually be some accent stitches placed on top of this in pearl cotton.
* I could not find any place on the web that describes the stitch order of alternating continental as Christensen's The Needlepoint Book defines it, so I'm trying my own diagram. Note that the stitched thread will cross under an open canvas hole, but this seems desirable in some situations, and as long as it's consistent, it shouldn't be a problem. (If needed, click on the diagram to make it larger.)