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Monday, April 30, 2007

April Recap & May Goals

April went by pretty fast. Here's what I was able to accomplish, stitching-wise:

  • Finished and framed Bent Creek's Wedding Row for a wedding in May
  • Finished part 1 of the Gay Ann Rogers mystery sampler (a.k.a. A Redwork Mystery Full of Surprises)
  • Finished Jim Wurth's Hearts & Flowers (squeaked under the wire with that one!)
  • Made some progress on the background for Goldwork Heart II by Michele Roberts

Wow. It didn't seem like I did that much, but it looks like I did a lot!

May is going to be a very busy month, with a project being started at the EGA meeting on 5/7, and then the EGA regional seminar 5/16 - 5/20, during which I'm taking two classes. So, besides starting these three projects, I'd like to:

  • Complete GAR mystery window 1
  • Complete the background on the goldwork heart
  • Start GAR mystery window 2

I probably won't get to start the next Jim Wurth installment that comes out the week of the 15th, but we'll see.

Hearts & Flowers is done!

Well, I was up past my bedtime, and got into work a bit later than I wanted this morning, but I was on a roll with the beading last night! Here is my completed Hearts & Flowers from Jim Wurth's Dodecagon Series.
Now I'll pick up the Gay Ann Rogers mystery sampler again, to do mystery window #1 before she ships out window #2 next week!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Almost Done with Hearts & Flowers!

I haven't posted about Hearts & Flowers in a few days, but I have been making progress. Today I should be able to finish couching the long stitches at top, bottom, left, and right, and adding some filler stitches in these areas.

What might take a bit more time is to add the 5 beads to each Jessica stitch (the round ones outside the center square and hearts) - that's right, 240 beads. That will likely delay the finish by a day or two!

By the way, I tried to find a web page with instructions for a simple, small Jessica stitch like these, but was unsuccessful. I found one with a large square Jessica, and one with an oval Jessica, though. If anybody wants to know how to stitch tiny Jessicas like these (over 4x4 threads), let me know and I'll try to draw a diagram.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Framed Wedding Row

Wow! My framer/LNS owner made great time with this one! We went totally against my original thoughts of a wood-finish frame, and chose this:It almost looks gold in the picture, but the frame is actually a pink-toned silver. I think it dresses up what could be a very casual piece. Now I just hope it's appreciated by the recipients!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Needlework Show

First, a disclaimer: I'm completely unaffiliated with this, but always like the opportunity to window-shop (or, in this case, screen-shop!). Now, on to the news...

The Needlework Show is going on! This is an online show, and while only wholesale buyers can actually purchase anything, we stitchers can browse and let our local (or not-so-local) shops know what we want! Most of the designs are counted cross stitch or counted thread designs, but even lovers of painted canvas, counted canvas, or punchneedle might find something tempting. Be aware that not all of the designs are new, but they may be new to you. I found one design I had stitched quite a while ago. This is still a great way to check out lots of designs in one place!

To look through the designers sites, click on the link above. Once you're on the site, click on "General Viewing", and you'll be taken to a list of designers. I recommend starting at the last vendor or the first, and then just using the "previous vendor" or "next vendor" link at the bottom of each page to see more. (Trust me, if you start in the middle at your favorite designer and then go to the end, it doesn't automatically loop back to the first on the list.)

Heaven knows I don't need any more projects, but I've found a few that I really like:

  • Art-Stitch: The circular stylized florals at the top of the page are quite striking.
  • Dames of the Needle: The Elizabethan Purse is gorgeous! A former class piece - I may have to pick this up!
  • In the Company of Friends: This company sells items with images of samplers, rather than items to stitch. I particularly like the Quick Start Sets, especially the swans.
  • Historic Stitches: Since I previously stitched a sampler with a pink house, the John Foster sampler is calling to me.
  • Jeanette Ardern Designs: Villa I and Villa II remind me of my trip to Italy last year, and Reflection is intriguing.
  • Kelmscott Designs: These magnets are beautiful!
  • Threads of Gold: Repro samplers...need I say more? And the original samplers are beautiful, too!
I'm sure I could find others if I went through again! Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hearts & Flowers Progress

Since spring has actually arrived here in western NY, I've been spending more time tending to yardwork than stitching! It's not much, but here is the progress I've made on Hearts & Flowers over the last few days.

It's difficult to see in the pic, but the white triangle-shaped corner areas are actually sprat's heads in silver braided ribbon (FyreWerks from Rainbow Gallery) with a single strand of red Marlitt rayon floss on top. This makes a neat effect!

I'm off to stitch a bit more before bed...

Monday, April 23, 2007

How-To: End Threads with the L-stitch

Yesterday's post was getting too long, so I decided to make this topic its own post!

So, we've started our thread with the L-stitch, have continued stitching with it, and now want to end off the thread. With some stitches, there isn't a lot of thread on the back of the canvas, so it's difficult to end off by running under these threads. What should we do? Try the L-stitch again, of course!

Again, an area that is or will be completely covered by stitching is needed. The L-stitch can be done under existing stitching, if the stitches are pushed carefully out of the way with a needle or laying tool, and then carefully rearranged back into place after the L-stitch is made.

Ending a thread with the L-stitch is worked exactly like starting with the L-stitch, with one exception. Instead of starting with a diagonal thread on the back coming from a waste knot, the ending L-stitch starts with the thread coming from the last stitch made with the thread. So, follow steps 1-9 from yesterday's post, and then:

Step 10. Bring the threaded needle back through the canvas to the front. This can be either right next to the L-stitch (like I did with the white L-stitches shown in yesterday's pics), or further away if you feel more comfortable stitching over it a bit. If you made the L-stitch under existing stitching, skip to step 12!

Step 11. When you get to stitching over the area in which you made your L-stitches, simply stitch right over them. It's a bit tricky to keep the tails sticking through the canvas from getting caught in the stitches, but it can be done.

Step 12. Once the coverage stitching is in, grasp one of the tails between your thumb and forefinger, and pull away from the canvas. Still pulling, and using very sharp scissors, CAREFULLY cut the tail very close to the stitching. (Since I couldn't hold on to thread, scissors, and camera at the same time, please see the text and arrow in the picture! I really needed three hands here!) If there's a little bit of a tail left peeking through the stitches, that's ok! Simply take your needle or laying tool and GENTLY wiggle the stitches a bit, lifting them away from the canvas. The tail should sink back under the stitches.

Step 13. You're done! Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

How-To: Start Threads with the L-stitch

Don't you hate it when you don't have enough threads on the back of your canvas stitches to anchor thread ends? Or when you're using slippery threads like those made of rayon (Marlitt, Neon Rays, Patina, etc.) and simply running through existing stitches isn't good enough? Try the L-stitch! This is composed of two stitches, each over 1 canvas thread, that meet in an "L" shape.

Sounds easy, right? It is, but it's tough to find a good explanation of the L-stitch online. Here is how I do it.

Step 1: Figure out where your L-stitch is going to be. This needs to be in an area that will be completely covered. If you're going to be working an open stitch with the thread, find an appropriate area nearby. If you're going to be working a dense stitch like satin, place the L-stitch in the to-be-stitched area.

In my example here, I'll be using this red rayon thread in an open stitch on top of the white star stitches, so I know I don't want to do the L-stitch under this area. However, I know there will be padded satin stitches nearby, so I'm starting my L-stitch in the area where these satin stitches will be.

Start with a waste knot outside of this area. Make sure that this waste knot is at least at a bit of a diagonal to where your "L" is going to be. The reason for this will become apparent shortly! Come up where you want the point of your "L" to be - where your two individual stitches will meet.

Step 2: Sink your needle just one hole away from where the thread came up. In this example, I moved one hole to the left.

Step 3: Pull until the stitch lies snugly on the canvas.

Step 4: To start the next stitch of the "L", bring the needle up one thread away from where the two stitches will meet. But wait! Do you remember the suggestion that the waste knot be at an angle to the L? This is why! You want a diagonal stitch on the back that will cross the thread going to the waste knot. This will give you the best anchorage on your L-stitch.

Check out the picture here. You can just see the tail on the back going to the waste knot at lower left. Because step 2 ended at the left side of the horizontal stitch, and we want the diagonal stitch to cross the tail thread, we have to bring the needle up just one thread below where the stitches will meet. So the tail thread goes this way -- / -- , and the step 4 diagonal stitch goes this way -- \. Does that make sense?

Step 5: Sink the needle into the hole where we started the stitch in step 1.

Step 6: Pull snug.

Step 7: Flip the canvas so the back side is facing you. Remember the diagonal stitch on the back that we made in step 4? We're going to run the thread back under that stitch, so both ends of the thread going to the L-stitch are trapped by that diagonal.

Step 8: Pull....

Step 9: ...until it's tight. The result is similar to a half hitch knot on the canvas.

Step 10: A finished L-stitch! Now you can stitch with the thread in the needle without worrying that it's going to work loose! Once you stitch over the L-stitch with your dense stitching, you can simply cut off the waste knot and trim any excess threads on the back.

In the next post, I'll explain why my previously worked white L-stitches in these pictures have tails sticking up through the canvas!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Back to canvas work

Now that the wedding piece is done, I can get back to stuff I really enjoy (i.e. counted canvas, high-count linens, challenging pieces!). I've been working on Jim Wurth's Hearts and Flowers over the past two evenings. I'm very pleased with how it's turning out!

That's all for today. I'm on my way out for a day trip (to Toronto for Phantom of the Opera) with my master's degree class. Tomorrow I'll share my technique for starting and ending threads in open areas like the white flowers shown here!

Friday, April 20, 2007

SBQ: The Wagon

A "Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week" arrived in my mailbox this morning!

This week's SBQ was suggested by Danielle:

Are you on "The Wagon?" If so, how long have you been on and how "serious" are you about it? If not, have you considered it?

First, for my friends who aren't active in some of the stitching forums online, let me take a step back and explain what this means! The idea behind "The Wagon" comes from some of the 12-step programs like AA, NA, etc. In these programs, "being on the wagon" means that you're refraining from the activities that brought you to the group in the first place, whereas "falling off the wagon" means you've slipped into old habits, however temporarily.

For stitchers, this phrase is in regards to stash enhancement. It's easy to get caught up in buying much more than we can possibly stitch, resulting in melted credit cards, especially after industry trade shows when lots of new beautiful designs debut! When a stitcher is "on the wagon", it means that he or she is refraining from buying new stash, or at least being very selective about it - setting a budget, setting up rules for what can or cannot be purchased based on limited availability, imminent plans to stitch the item, etc.

Now, to respond to the question! I am not really "on the wagon", but I have become more discerning regarding what I purchase. I have a long time until retirement, yet I have enough stash to likely make it to retirement and beyond! Because of this and my tastes in stitching, I don't buy a lot of new projects.

I have developed a few rules:
  • If I know something's going to be around to purchase when I actually think I'm going to stitch it, then I won't buy it now.
  • I will take a second look if I know there is limited availability on a piece, or if I'm visiting an out-of-town shop and they carry something I like that I can't easily get at home.
  • I will (and do) invest in class projects, both via correspondence and in-person, because I like learning new stitching concepts.

Here's a few examples of how I've spent my stash money over the past year or so:
  • I have 5 guild GCCs (group correspondence courses) due before September (2 finished, 1 in progress, and 2 unstarted), and I'm signed up for 2 more to start later this year. I'm also going to the Mid-Eastern Region EGA seminar next month and am signed up for two classes.
  • As I've mentioned before, I am subscribed to Jim Wurth's Dodecagon Series of ornaments, which are kitted and come every other month. When I signed up, I promised myself I'd keep up with stitching them, because these kits are costly enough that I don't need 12 of them sitting there, still waiting to be stitched, at the end of the series. So far, so good!
  • I'm also getting the monthly installments for the Redwork Mystery by Gay Ann Rogers, but that was all paid for up-front, so there's no more $$ being spent there! I'm also keeping up with this project (although I've only received two installments so far!).
  • Ok, I admit it. I'm a sucker for the multi-color Quaker samplers. These are about the only "regular" charts I've been buying recently, mostly because many of them are so limited in availability.
  • I purchased 4 repro sampler charts from a local historical society. These were reproduced from the exhibit they've got until June. I don't know if these charts will be available for very long after the exhibit closes!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Happy Dance & Goldwork Update

Thank you Karen & Cheryl for the terrific suggestion to remove the first heart on the line of personalization! How simple! I did this, and then thought that the names looked like they were floating away from each other, so I tightened up the spacing between the names and the "+". It meant a bit more ripping and re-stitching, but it's now officially done! I'll take it in for framing this evening during the LNS's "open stitch" tonight, since I'll be there anyway.

Last night was also the monthly get-together for those of us taking the goldwork GCC's. I made a bit more progress on my background. I would like to get the background done before the end of the month. I have to finish the horizontal running stitches, but then have running stitches in both diagonal directions. (If you want to see the the intended pattern, check out this previous post.) That's one drawback to non-double-running blackwork - you don't see the pattern until you get it all in! I'm looking forward to seeing it develop.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wedding Row Finished! ...with doubts

Well, I finished Wedding Row, but I'm not sure I like the placement of names and dates. It seems strange to have the heart at the left of the names directly below one of the hearts in the main saying. I'm debating if I should move the names and date a bit further to the right and scrunch it all a bit closer together.
I do like the color, though. DH was right on with that one!

So, what do you think? Should I rearrange the names and dates? Suggestions welcome - but I have to get it in for framing by Saturday to give the framer (my LNS owner) time enough to do the job.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Weekend Progress

I made some progress on Wedding Row last Thursday and Friday:

It took a bit of time to figure out what color to use for the date & names. The original used a dark brown for the hearts I have stitched so far, and then the same color for the date. Dark brown hearts seemed strange to me, so I went with the rose, but that was too pink for the date & names. DH came up with the suggestion to use a dark purpley-blue, and I'm quite happy with it. This color is also from Threads to Dye For, and is called The 11th Hour. I hope to finish the piece tonight so I can take it in for framing in the next few days.

I had intended to start Jim Wurth's Hearts and Flowers while at the exhibit on Saturday and Sunday. Those plans went awry when I got to the museum and found I had the canvas and threads, but no chart! Luckily, I also had my goldwork GCC with me and was able to make some progress on the background (but not enough for an interesting pic!). I did remember the Jim Wurth chart on Sunday, but as I was only there for the afternoon and had lots of visitors to attempt to entice into guild membership, I didn't get very far!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Artistry in Thread Exhibit

Yesterday and today, the local EGA and ANG chapters had a joint exhibit at the Artistry in Thread festival held by the women's council of the Rochester Museum & Science Center. Our goal in doing this is simply to encourage membership in the guilds. In past years, we've been only moderately successful, perhaps gaining a handful of members over the course of 4 years.

To try to improve this rate, we decided not to only show our best works, which seems to intimidate more hopeful stitchers, rather than encourage them. Instead, this year our exhibit showed lots of group projects, both completed and in progress. We displayed hand-painted canvases with the threads intended to be used on them, with stitch books that might be used as reference. Visitors could look over the shoulders of several members who were stitching on their current WIPs. We gave away old copies of guild magazines (NeedleArts for EGA, and NeedlePointers for ANG). There were piles of enticing threads scattered about. In short, the exhibit was a welcoming display, showing that stitching is about the process, not just the finished piece.

It seemed to work! We had a lot of interest, and handed out many fliers with meeting information and membership applications for both groups. We'll see how many of those end up with guest visits and possibly new members. I'm encouraged.

Friday, April 13, 2007

April Foolish

Between work, the ANG meeting on Wednesday, and my stitching group on Thursday evening, I haven't had a chance to post! Anyway, here's a few of the items I brought to the ANG "April Foolish" meeting.

I've already explained how my now-MIL got me into cross stitch when I was still in high school. At the time, I also collected cows (no, not real ones, just images & stuffed animals!). It makes sense, then, that some of my first cross stitch pieces were of cows. The smaller piece was from a magazine, and the larger is "Americow Gothic" from a booklet I purchased in WalMart.

Note that both of these were on aida fabric, and one has tons of backstitching. I have since come to love linen and loathe backstitching! When I came across these in my closet, I laughed at the very precise hem job I did all the way around the large piece. Now I'm too impatient to start stitching to do something like that! I also obviously was not too concerned about keeping this clean. I think this was the first time I used scroll rods and rolled them with the stitching to the outside instead of inside.

I also had a story and a picture to share. Even though my MIL got me really started cross stitching, I had stitched on plastic canvas and had done some cross stitch on gingham with Girl Scouts. In going through my childhood pictures, though, I found evidence that my work with "string" started before this! Here's a picture of me at 2-1/2, with the yarn from my first stitching experience to give me long hair! As I recall, I think this came with a very low count (4 ct, maybe?) canvas-like grid mounted in a plastic frame. I have no idea if I used my fingers to actually "stitch" the yarn through this grid, or actually had a big yarn needle!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wedding Row Update

I made a lot of progress yesterday!

Hopefully tonight I'll be able to finish everything but the personalization, which will likely be stitched either Thursday or Friday.

Tomorrow evening is our monthly ANG meeting. This is our "April Foolish" meeting, which means our main program consists of sharing our "less fortunate" needlework. The meeting notice describes it as

This is a chance to show off your earliest, your worst, your "why did I ever ________?" Or maybe you will just have a story to share that fits the category.

I haven't ventured into my closet yet to see what I'm going to bring. I have a couple of things in mind. I'll share them here, if people are interested! :-P

Monday, April 9, 2007

Mystery updates and a wedding piece remembered

The mystery sampler is officially ready for the first surprise window! I really like the outermost border. It looks like a scalloped stitch, but it's only a row of simple elongated crosses (2x4 threads) with two diagonal stitches over one in a v on one side of the border where the crosses meet. (Does that make sense? I'll draw a diagram if it doesn't!)

Anyway, I was going to move on to Jim Wurth's Hearts and Flowers, but Easter dinner with the family yesterday reminded me that I've got to finish Wedding Row by Bent Creek! My cousin is getting married in the middle of May, and I've got to get this in for framing. Oops! Here's what it looked like before I started working on it today:

Since then, I've finished "s" and "u". (The entire phrase is "Of my love be sure".) As I've said previously, I usually like to work on large pieces or those that can teach me something. Because of this, I don't do a lot of "cutesy" or "country" designs. However, I wanted to stitch something for the wedding, and didn't want to put a ton of effort into it, since I don't know how appreciative they'll be. I think they'll like it and it will be appreciated, but I don't want to risk it with a large/complex piece that will take a lot of time. (I'm sure most of my fellow stitchers will understand!) And I just really liked this piece!

I'm stitching this on 28 ct Cashel linen. I believe the color is "Country Mocha". According to my LNS owner, this is a fairly recent addition to Zweigart's color line, and is painted for a mottled look. See, I did learn something from this piece! I learned about a new fabric! (It's not up on Zweigart's web site yet, though.)

As for the threads, the design calls for Weeks Dye Works (WDW) and Sampler Threads from The Gentle Art (GAST). Knowing I could probably find a brown, 2 reds, blue, and ecru that would work somewhere in my stash, I didn't buy any new threads for this! I didn't want to worry about laying multiple strands of floss, so I was looking for a thread slightly thicker than most flosses. I found it in my collection of Fibers to Dye For silks from Amy Mitten (purchased from Traditional Stitches a few years ago). I'm using Poison Berry and Madame Rose for the reds, Miss Marple Maple for the brown, Mrs. Peacock for the blue, and Point Blank for the ecru. Gotta love Amy's sense of humor! And no, I'm not missing the irony of using these for a wedding piece, but they're gorgeous colors. I'm not going to tell the happy couple the names of the threads, for heaven's sake! :-)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter!

I wish all of you a very happy and blessed Easter! The Easter Bunny stopped by to point out a few freebie patterns:


Saturday, April 7, 2007

Bored of borders...

I'm on to the borders on the Gay Ann Rogers mystery (officially titled "A Redwork Mystery Full of Surprises").

As you can see, I've finished the borders around the cottage and have started the borders around some of the surprise windows. There's a lot more "border stitching" to go to complete part 1 of the piece. And I'm bored of borders!

Luckily, Gay Ann just posted that she's mailed out part 2! So, I'll just finish the vertical bottom borders around surprise window #1, so I can start it when it gets here. Then I can go back to some more "bored"-er stitching!

Gay Ann, if you're reading this, I understand why the design needed all the borders. I just don't want to stitch them all at once! :-)

I do love the way this piece is turning out, though!

Friday, April 6, 2007

SBQ: Blog Criteria

It's time for another Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week!

This week's SBQ was suggested by Heather:

How do you decide which stitching blogs are worth repeat and/or regular viewings? Are there certain things you look for in particular? Are there things you wish there were more of? Less of? Is your blog a good example of what you like to read?

I generally look for two things when deciding to save a blog link:

  1. Frequency of posts: If I visit a blog and find that postings are generally months apart, it's not one I'm going to visit again soon.
  2. Content: The majority of the posts should have some needlework-based content (with a few pictures, of course!). If I'm looking at a blog that claims to be about stitching, I'd like it to be mainly about stitching! Some people might like their blogs to be well-rounded with all aspects of life. I'm just not one of them! As much as I love my DH and two greyhounds (Sophie & Tucker, if you care), they aren't (and won't be) main topics on my stitching blog.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

It's a cottage!

I've made a bit of progress on my Gay Ann Rogers mystery sampler, and now have a cottage!

Unfortunately, the fabric has a loose fold down the center, which is why the left half looks a little bit crooked. Once I figured out what thread/fabric combo I was going to use, I was too impatient to iron the fabric before I put it on scroll rods! :-) I'm telling myself it should flatten out as I work the piece and tighten the rods - I hope!

I'm off to add some borders...

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A Stitch in Time: Toccata Number Two

One of my favorite designers of modern samplers is Cynthia Zittel of The Drawn Thread. This is her Toccata Number Two. According to Wikipedia, the term "toccata" means "to touch" and is typically used to describe a musical composition that is designed to "emphasiz[e] the dexterity of the performer". If that's what Ms. Zittel had in mind for this piece, she did a wonderful job!

I finished this in 2005, and had a wonderful time with it! Some of the motifs were simply cross stitch, but many introduced new techniques and new stitches to educate and stretch the stitcher's experience.

It was in this piece that I used Japan gold thread for the first time - in multiple sizes. (More on Japan gold in a later post!) The larger sizes were couched down for various techniques, including an introduction to a goldwork technique called Or Nue (pronounced "or nu-way"). In this technique, the couching stitches make a pattern over a background of gold threads. Typically in or nue, the couching stitches are simply straight stitches perpendicular to the laid background, but in Toccata 2, crosses are used to couch a pattern, as seen in the picture on the right.

This piece had many other fun bits to keep my interest, as well. Like the gold and perle pulled work "sampler in a sampler":

And a cute potted flower with satin stitch petals and queen stitch leaves (I used to hate queen stitches until Eileen Bennett showed me her method!):

And a wonderful little dragonfly with wings of perle couched with the smallest size of Japan gold:

And then there's the peacock, and the topiary, and the entire alphabet of letters in different styles and sizes, and the row at the very bottom with seven different little flowers, and...

Needless to say, I had a blast with this piece!

Now, the particulars: I stitched this completely from my stash, matching silks of different brands to the DMC numbers listed. From what I can remember, I used Au ver a Soie's Soie d'Alger, Amy Mitten's Fibers to Dye For, and Rainbow Gallery's Splendor. I used a fat quarter of 36 ct Lakeside linen in Light Vintage Exemplar from Silkweaver's fabric of the month club (when they carried Lakeside!). It was fun to shop in my stash for just the right colors!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

TNNA Survey

In one of the online forums, a notice was posted about a survey sponsored by The National Needlearts Association (TNNA). No personal information is asked. It looks like they're just trying to understand more about needleworkers' preferences and trends in the market.

It seems to me that this can only help the shop owners reach more customers. And if more customers are reached, fewer shops will close.

I encourage everyone to spend a few minutes to answer the American Needlearts Survey. I have no affiliation with TNNA, but just believe that this might help keep our shops open and our work alive!