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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010!

This year has flown! Here's what I finished in 2009:

A larger view of the slideshow can be seen here.

On January 1, 2009, I wrote some stitching & blogging goals for the year:
  1. Enjoy my stitching. Done!
  2. Keep blogging. Done!
  3. Try to finish a few WIPs, and end the year with fewer than I have now. (Unfortunately, I can't get an accurate count now, so I'll just have to count finishes vs. starts for the year!) Well, I finished 5 started in previous years, and only have 2 started and not finished for this year, so I guess that's progress!
  4. Start the whitework Frances Cheyney sampler from The Essamplaire. (This will be stitched as a SAL with a friend, and I had hoped to start it today, but it can wait.) Ummm.... No.
I'm hoping to get a bit more stitching done this upcoming year. My goals for 2010 (continuing a few from this past year) are:
  1. Enjoy my stitching.
  2. Keep blogging. (Actually, I have a few plans for the blog, but I'll go over these in a separate post in the next week or so.)
  3. Continue decreasing the WIP count! 
  4. Stitch Erin's First Christmas ornament and get it finished. (And maybe do one for the second year, too!)
  5. Finish my master craftsman piece on time.
  6. Start something by Jean Hilton.
  7. Start something by Gay Ann Rogers.
I'll stop now before I get myself into trouble. Enjoy 2010, everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First Christmas Ornaments


Beautifully stitched and finished, hanging on our tree.


That's right. Not even up on stretcher bars yet. I didn't even order it until the week of Thanksgiving. What kind of mom am I?

Never mind that it's not even going to be the next one I start. That honor is for my EGA master craftsman piece that's due the end of March. (Didn't I say recently that I try not to stitch for deadlines? So much for that idea.)

Hopefully I can get the first Christmas ornament done before next Christmas!

A long-overdue Erin update: When we first learned of the difficulty with Erin's hips, I had hoped she'd be crawling by Christmas. And she was - backwards. For almost a month, she'd get up on hands and knees, look at something she wanted, and move away from it! Finally, on Christmas, she figured out how to move forward!

I'd like to ask a favor. Our local newspaper has a "Meet the Babies" section every year. The cutest baby (partially determined by online votes) wins a prize! If you're so inclined, please vote for Erin. Her picture (a cropped version of the photo below) should be up tomorrow (12/31). I'll update this post with a direct link once it's available.

It's up! You can vote here.

You can vote via your facebook account (if you have one) or by entering your email address. I've been assured by the newspaper that the email addresses are not being saved for any other use than to keep only one vote for each address for any given child. (You can vote for up to nine babies, but unfortunately you can't use all nine votes for one baby!)

Thanks! And if I don't post tomorrow, Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dealing with deadlines

It seems that lately I've been working against a couple of deadlines. My stitching time (to say nothing of blogging time) has disappeared as I've been trying to bake, decorate, buy, wrap, and write cards in preparation for Christmas. I'm happy to say that the baking, cards, and buying are done, though I still have to finish some decorating and wrapping over the next few days!

When it comes to stitching, though, I try not to set deadlines. Occasionally I'll have one for finishing a correspondence course, but I haven't even been trying to meet those this year! I have a standing policy when stitching for gifts: if I'm making something for Mom for Christmas, there's nothing that says it has to be this Christmas. I'll give it to her for the Christmas after it gets finished. Of course, this doesn't work too well for wedding gifts, but it does work for birthdays and holidays.

I'm curious. Who else does this? Do you set deadlines for your stitching, or are you of the "it gets done when it gets done" mindset?

However, I do have a stitching deadline looming now. This one has nothing to do with Christmas. Rather it has everything to do with one week later. Recall that I've already added '2009' on my How Great the Blessing from Catherine Theron. See the arrow in the picture. I really don't want to pull it out, so I'm trying to finish by the end of the month. Fortunately, I've made decent progress since I last posted about this piece, and I'm on vacation for the rest of the year. I'm really hoping to make it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

She's done!

Yes. Cinders is done. While done with fairly basic blackwork and darning, stem, and satin stitches, this piece was quite challenging due to the format. As described in my first post about this piece, Marion encouraged us to change filling patterns and colors as we stitched.

I'm pleased with how my version came out. Here's Marion's original, for comparison. (Sorry about the flash. This is a photo of a photo.)

It's really interesting to compare and contrast these two versions. I've seen many instances where several people do the same counted canvas piece in a multitude of colors and threads (most recently on the website of Gay Ann Rogers), but I haven't seen it often in other techniques.

Have you seen other examples? Please tell us about them!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Drawing inspiration from reality

In my last post, I expressed my frustration with the small, even blocks in the background of Cinders. I thought that they should be more irregular, more in keeping with the actual construction of a medieval castle or manor house.

Edy commented, "Why not change the bricks into stones...a bit larger and not so regular...sort of like a stone wall? Just a suggestion, not that I'm one who should second guess Marion."

(Actually, based on the couple of classes I've had with Marion, I think she wouldn't mind being second-guessed. She, like most great teachers, encourages students to make a design their own.)

Regardless, I was already thinking along the same lines as Edy. Rather than potentially adding something more inauthentic, though, I turned to the internet. I learned that medieval construction did actually involve shaping roughly rectangular blocks out of rock, so I used Google Images to get some visual inspiration. Surprisingly, I found plenty of construction with small blocks, but rarely were these as evenly spaced as on the original Cinders.

Two images in particular helped me decide how to "build" the wall behind Cinderella. This photo shows that the blocks were often of similar heights, but surprisingly long blocks were interspersed with much shorter blocks. The front of this manor shows similar dissimilarities between blocks, and also shows that each row of blocks might be a different height than neighboring rows.

With the exception of the upper right corner, where I'm still ripping out the little blocks, I've applied these lessons to Cinders. After the upper right corner is done, I'll reevaluate to see if I need to fill in any of the blank areas.

I like the new look much better. Isn't it wonderful that we can do small research projects like this with a minimum of time thanks to the internet?

What about you?  Have you made changes to a project (or even designed your own project) based on images found online? How did it turn out?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Slowly building a wall

This week has seen very little progress on stitching projects. Between the EGA holiday party Monday night and various Christmas preparations, I haven't had much time to stitch in the evenings after a certain little person goes to bed.

So what stitching did I get done this week? Besides finishing the hair on Cinders (thank you all for your comments, yes, the hair is done!), I've worked on a few of the small bricks in the background of the same piece.

Not very impressive, is it?

While it's true that I've been busy with other things, it's also true that I've been hesitant to stitch these bricks. I swear, I've never had more bouts of indecision on any piece than I have with Cinders. The wall is the very last part, and I'm bothered by it.

Why, you ask? Well, the story of Cinderella is in medieval times, so I'm guessing the hearth she's sitting at is in a castle, or at least a large manor house. Is it at all realistic for such a dwelling to be made up of tiny bricks, all set very evenly?

Am I taking things too far? I can hear some arguing, "C'mon. It's a fairy tale, already. Why should it be realistic?"

I should buckle down and finish stitching the silly little blocks, just to call this one done!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Since May 2007, embroidery enthusiasts from around the world have been watching (via blog, of course!) the development of an embroidered jacket modeled after two examples from the 17th century. Along the way, the jacket acquired a name: "Faith", for the tremendous journey of faith it took for this vision to come to fruition.

Some details to consider:

  • The project involved almost 260 people, from stitchers (some experienced, some first-timers), to lace-makers, textile manufacturers, and coordinators.
  • Several 17th-century threads, such as Gilt Sylke Twist, were recreated for this project and are now in production again.
  • When Plimoth Plantation canceled the exhibit for which the jacket was being developed, the volunteer efforts continued, with the belief that the jacket would be completed and exhibited somewhere. (Hence the name "Faith"!)
Today is the day. Faith is being unveiled tonight at Plimoth Plantation, and on the Embroiderers' Story blog. She even made the front page of the Boston Globe's metro section.

If you're visiting the blog, start with this post, and check out the posts that follow it, too, for lots of pictures of this magnificent accomplishment. Be sure to click on the pictures to make them bigger. Some can be clicked twice to make them REALLY big. If the pictures on the blog whet your appetite, you may want to visit Winterthur Museum in Delaware sometime between spring 2010 and early 2012, where Faith will be on exhibit for all to see.

Congratulations to Tricia Wilson-Nguyen, who was the driving force behind the project, and to all those who had the wonderful experience of contributing to such an amazing piece of embroidery history.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Striking fear into a counted-thread lover's heart

Two words:  RANDOM and NATURAL.

Those two words are part of the reason that Cinders has lingered in the WIP pile. While most of the design is counted, her hair is not. The hair is stitched in three shades of DMC floche using stem stitch, and it's up to the stitcher to place those lines of stem stitch more or less randomly such that it looks natural. Aack!

I cheated a bit when I started. I looked at Marion's picture of the original, and I used a pencil to sketch in the general flow that would be stitched in the darkest shade. For subsequent rows of stem stitch, I've tried to keep  random and natural in mind. Yes, I ripped out a bit, but I think I'm done.

What do you think? Do I need to fill in any of the spaces? Does anything look really odd?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The wonders of a good sugar scrub

It happens every year, but I never notice it starting. It just seems that with the onset of the cold weather, suddenly my hands develop rough patches that catch on every thread that comes near.

My favorite solution is a sugar scrub, which works temporarily at least. Here's my (almost free!) version of expensive spa exfoliation treatments:

  1. Before sitting down to stitch, head for the kitchen. 
  2. Pull a bottle of oil out of the cupboard and take the cap off. (I like olive oil for the smell.)
  3. Take the lid off of the sugar canister.
  4. Turn on the faucet. (It's important to do steps 2-4 first because it's really hard to do any of this once you've started putting stuff in your hands!)
  5. Grab a teaspoon out of the silverware drawer.
  6. Use it to scoop out a heaping teaspoon of sugar, and dump this in your non-dominant hand.
  7. Pick up the bottle of oil, and pour a bit over the sugar in your hand. (You don't need much, but too much is better than not enough.)
  8. Rub your hands together. (I'm assuming you've put down the spoon and bottle by now.) Pay special attention to the rough spots.
  9. Rinse your hands.
  10. Wash your hands, then wash them again. Be sure to get all of the oil off before starting to stitch!
Enjoy your smooth, snag-free hands! I sometimes have to do this more than once a day, but it only takes a couple of minutes, and it costs a few pennies at most.

What's your solution to rough winter skin? Answer here in the comments, or on your own blog - but be sure to leave a note here so everyone knows to check yours!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What would you like to see here? Reader survey, part 2

Thanks to those of you who responded to part 1 of my reader survey. Part 1 is here if you didn't get a chance to respond, or would like to see the responses thus far.

Since I started this blog in March 2007, several types of posts have been featured, including:

For lack of a better description, I'm trying to "build a better blog."  What would you like to see here? (Yes, that means you!) Some of the above posts, or something else? Is looking at my progress enough, or would you prefer more educational material?

I'll have one more "reader survey" post later this week. In the meantime, please take this opportunity to help me provide you with interesting and relevant content.

Thank you!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Can you help restore a piece of history?

On Tuesday, December 3, Christie's auction house sold a piece of an antique jacket, seen above. While advertised as the sleeve of a jacket, this is actually the jacket's back. If you visit Christie's site, you can zoom in on a picture of this exquisite embroidery.

Unfortunately, it appears that somebody has intentionally disassembled this jacket and is selling the pieces individually to maximize profit. According to Tricia Wilson-Nguyen, a collector interested in re-assembling this piece of history purchased the front of the jacket in 2005, but was outbid at Tuesday's auction.

If you know the person who won this auction, please ask them to contact Tricia.

You can read Tricia's blog posts about this jacket here and here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cinders is getting there!

Despite getting sidetracked (why does this sound familiar?) with the green ornament, I have made a bit of progress since I last posted about Cinders, designed by Marion Scoular.

I have finally finished the bucket. (Or coal scuttle. Whatever.) After finally finding a stitch that could be shaded nicely to indicate a little pile of coal inside, I used the same dark gray to outline the back edge of the rim. Satin stitch in the darker brown lines the inside of the handle. The rest of the outlines on the bucket are in the same brown.

The rest of the outlines have been finished, also. These included the blue edge of her skirt above the cat's head, and the lower outlines of the hearth.

What's left, you ask? Only two things:
  • Adding many more small bricks in the upper half of the wall, although the entire wall will not be filled in.
  • Finishing her hair, which is stitched in stem stitch.  This won't be entirely filled in, either, but more strands are needed, especially between her shoulder and the top of her head.
Hopefully we'll all see it completed next week!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Stitching Techniques - Reader Survey, part 1

The comments from Tuesday's post about the conclusion of my month-long WIP list were so varied and interesting!

Jocelyn said, "It drives me to distraction to have several pieces on the go at once. I like to work and work and work on one piece, then when it's finished, move on to the next."

I can understand that. The number of unfinished pieces around here drives me nuts sometimes. However, I often find that stitching on a single project to the exclusion of anything else does become "work and work and work"! Instead, variety (in techniques) keeps it interesting for me, much like it does for Cheryl, who said, "repetition of styles makes one feel like a one trick pony," and Donna, who commented, "I'm with you - I like variety."

Madonna (Front Range Stitcher) commented about "the depth and diversity of [my] stitching tastes."  Thanks! I'm constantly trying new techniques, because I firmly believe that each thing I learn in a given technique improves my stitching in all techniques. I can't think of a specific example, but I will often approach a project in one technique in a untraditional way due to something I learned while stitching something in a completely different technique. That's why my WIPs cover the gamut from stumpwork to counted canvas to hardanger, and then some.

So, what about you? What stitching techniques do you enjoy? Have you tried any new styles in the past year? Why or why not?

I encourage any and all of you to answer in the comments.  I'm attempting to improve the quality of my posts, and it really helps if I understand my audience.

I look forward to the discussion in the comments!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happy Dance (and stitch guide): Green Ornament

Cross one off of the WIP list. This Kathy Schenkel ornament is done! Here's a stitch guide, if anybody's interested.

Green Areas:
Start with the rows of Bargello stitches. (If you're not familiar with Bargello, Wikipedia surprisingly has a decent overview.) For this ornament, the Bargello is completed with vertical stitches over 4 threads. Begin the bottom Bargello pattern where the lower green area meets the white central band, and just follow the pattern established by the painting. Use of a laying tool is recommended!
  • The first (inner-most) row is Kreinik 1/16" ribbon in color 009.
  • Below this is a row of Felicity's Garden #016, Evergreen, using two strands.
  • The third row is Vineyard Silk Classic #C-146, Cactus, using two strands.
  • Repeat this pattern for the subsequent rows.
  • When it's time to use the Kreinik ribbon for the third time, lengthen the stitches to cover the bottom of the ornament.
When the lower green section is done, turn the ornament 180 degrees and stitch the top the same way. End with the second row of Felicity's Garden. There's a tiny row of green unstitched, but that actually helps with working the gold top of the ornament.

Gold Ornament Top:
Using Kreinik #8 braid in color 002, fill this area with woven stitch. Work the stitch right over that first row of green intersections. This makes it look a bit like there are holes in the bottom of the ornament top, and the color of the ornament is showing through.

Note: This area is really hard to photograph, due to the gold metallic on top of gold metallic paint, but refer to the enhanced photograph at right to see the detail a bit better.

Central White band:
Using Rainbow Gallery's Patina #PA10 (one strand, right as it comes off the card), work this area in basketweave. Change the direction of the tent stitches in the diagonal areas between the petals of the poinsettias, so the stitches are angled away from the center.

Green lozenges:
Satin stitch the green lozenge-shaped areas with Kreinik 1/16" ribbon #009.

Each petal of the poinsettias is stitched in four parallel diagonal stitches over four intersections, using Rainbow Gallery's Petite Frosty Rays #PY072. A black seed bead is used over each of the four black intersections at the center of each flower.


(Oh, and thanks to all who commented on the previous post. I'll be responding to some of the comments in tomorrow's post.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

WIP-list wrap-up

This past month, I've presented thirty of my works in progress. Aren't you glad that's over? I know I am!

I'm also glad that it was getting harder to find projects to present as the end of the month drew near, and to find that I only have a small handful of WIPs beyond this list. These include the Morning Glories temari and its companions, and SharonG's Tuscan Spring canvas, which is barely started. Other than these, there are only a couple of small pieces started as EGA programs in various techniques.

One of my observations during the course of the month was that I do not have any two WIPs from the same designer, other than my original designs. I think I stick to this because often there is a similarity in feel or technique within a given designer's works. If I get an urge to stitch something from a certain designer, I may just as well work on a piece already started from that designer. The funny thing is that I have nothing in progress from my two favorite designers (can you guess who?), likely because when I start one of their designs, I enjoy it so much that it gets done!

What about you? Do you find that you have multiple projects going from a single designer? Why or why not?