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Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy Dance: Strawberry Girl

Yes, she's done! Actually, I couldn't put her down Saturday night, and ended up finishing the pulled work on the petticoat at 2AM Sunday morning!

This piece was a lot of fun, but I'm going to wait before starting any of the other girls. I need to finish too many things, plus I've got some pre-work to start for a class with Carolyn Mitchell in November.

On my lap stand now: my project from seminar, Chris Berry's Tudor-Style Purse.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lower skirt progression

All this week, I've been working on Strawberry Girl's lower skirt. To break up the detail work of the strawberry band, I've been alternating pieces of this with the bottom trellis-patterned area.

First, the vines, strawberry caps, and the first row of the trellis:Mmmm, strawberries! (And more trellis.)
Leaves, and yet another trellis row...
Flower centers, and yet more trellis:
Bullion knot strawberry blossoms, and the center of each trellis pattern. I love how these blossoms came out!
Not much more to do! I should be able to finish soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Strawberry Girl continued

Just a quick note this morning. Strawberry Girl has continued to hold my attention. The upper part of her skirt is now complete, except for the band with the strawberries, leaves, and flowers. I've also started the patterned section at the bottom of the skirt.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Louisville 2008: a cruise, the closing banquet, and stash enhancement

Ok. I'm inexcusably late with my last post about Louisville, but to hide exactly how late (for future readers) and to help with the flow of the blog, I'm antedating this post. :-)

Wednesday of seminar week gave us a break from the longer classes. Some folks went on tours and some die-hards took a single-day class, but I slept in a bit and then went to the merchandise event. I spent most of the day there, helping with my chapter's sale table and figuring out where to spend some stash money. (More on the stash accumulation later!) The picture shows the beginning of the crowds at the event. There were many more people in the room as the day progressed.

Around mid-afternoon, MIL and I walked the half-block over to EGA headquarters. There, we spent quite a bit of time admiring the National Tapestry (which I had been fortunate enough to put a few stitches in when it was being worked). We viewed the National Exhibit, admiring some pieces and puzzling over others, wondering where a needle might actually have been used. Upstairs we enjoyed some of the permanent pieces of the collection, including a wonderful crewel bench embroidered by the master, Audrey Francini. The Tenessee Valley Region also had an exhibit upstairs which had some beautiful pieces.

Wednesday evening was spent on a riverboat cruise. We boarded the Belle of Louisville at 7PM. Dinner (including, of course, incredible fried chicken) was enjoyable despite the lack of air circulation on the second deck. After dinner, most of us escaped the heat by heading up to the upper deck to enjoy the breeze and to watch twilight descend on the Ohio River. Eventually, the boat turned around and headed back to the city. Louisville is beautiful from the river at night! Though my camera doesn't capture night scenes well, the overall impression comes through with a few pictures.

As classes drew to a close on Friday, we all prepared to say goodbye. The ballroom was decorated beautifully for the closing banquet. The banquet was opened with the "Call to the Post" (call to dinner?) performed by the official bugler of Churchill Downs, and then he (the bugler) shared some of his experiences in that post. He closed his speech by playing "My Old Kentucky Home". Though it had absolutely nothing to do with embroidery, it was wonderful to get a taste of Louisville culture through this enjoyable speech.

Now, on to the stash! I was very pleased with the favor from the closing banquet: a beautiful pair of stork scissors with a leather case. I've been stitching for over 15 years, yet never had stork scissors until now!

Between the bookstore, EGA headquarters, and the merchandise event, I picked up several books:

  • Ruskin Lace & Linen Work by Elizabeth Prickett. This has been on my wish list for a long time.
  • SuZy's Lite Stitches by Suzy Murphy. I'm hoping this will help with some of the painted canvases I struggle with.
  • The Art of Teaching Embroidery by Sandy Rogers. I've enjoyed teaching a few projects to my guild chapters, so thought I'd read up on it to see how I can improve.
  • Elegance from the Past, which contains instructions to reproduce a pulled-thread piece from EGA's collection.
  • The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. While this novel is not about stitching, this fit in well with the Tudor-Style purse class I was taking.
At the merchandise event, I purchased several small things: a few packs of needles, a collection of various sizes of gold spangles, a pair of extremely sharp scissors from Japan, some new hand lotion, a Brussels lace kit from somebody's stash, and a pair of burling irons (which are wonderful, very fine tweezers - perfect for removing dog hair from projects - believe me - I've tried them already!) I also made one larger purchase: the kit for Joan Thomasson's Czarist Treasures, including the design drawn on congress cloth.

I made a few trips to the seminar boutique over the course of the week. I think Stitcher's Workshop brought their entire shop to Louisville! I combined a search for "new to me" threads with gathering threads for a geometric canvas class scheduled for November.

I really enjoyed my first national seminar! Thanks to all of the EGA volunteers for pulling together a fabulous time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Strawberry Girl progress

Up until Wednesday evening, I hadn't touched my barely-begun Strawberry Girl since the last post I had about her. I finally finished the outlining on Friday, and then it just took off. I couldn't believe how quickly the patterned areas (the kerchief, bodice, and sleeves) filled in. Her hair and basket took a bit longer, but all in all, I made great progress this weekend!

I still have one final step to do on the basket, but I'll finish that up tonight and start on her skirt. I love how quickly this is stitching up and how much fun it is!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Louisville 2008: Tudor-Style Purse class

My four-day class in Louisville was fantastic! I took the Tudor-Style Purse, taught by Chris Berry. Chris is the chairman of the Embroiderers' Guild in the UK, and has obviously done oodles of research on historical English embroidery. In our class, she focused on the silk-and-metal scroll work typically done in the Tudor period in the 16th and early 17th century.

The class started off with two days of working sample stitches to put in a notebook. We learned several variations of detached buttonhole stitch, as well as trellis stitch, detached up-and-down buttonhole stitch (both corded and non-corded), ceylon stitch, filling in shapes with all of these, and making tassels and two types of braids. Chris provided us with pictures of these stitches used in historical pieces.

I really liked Chris's idea for the stitch notebook. She requested that each of us bring a small, unlined journal. We could then write our comments about each stitch, paste in the historical pictures, and stitch in our sample stitches. I found a spiral bound journal that was a little longer than specified (at 70 pages), but I'm glad I did. I'm actually pasting Chris's instructions in it, along with comments, pictures, and my samples. Since the stitch samples make the book a bit thicker, I'll be able to rip out the unused pages and it will still fit nicely within the spiral binding.

The second two days were dedicated to the purse. Each of us decided upon a design, out of 6 options (or we could design our own, if desired). I chose to do a scroll design of peapods, partially because I liked the idea of doing an open pod, and partially because I didn't really want to do a purple flower on purple fabric. Each of us only had purple background fabric (wonderful stuff called silk noil), purple and green cotton threads, and gold metallic threads. I wanted my design to stand out, not shrink into the fabric. I was able to get all of the green done on the design before the end of class. This design is not very big - only about 3" across. Chris provided all the instructions we need to construct the purse (or sweet bag). It will probably never be worn, but I do intend to complete it!

I cannot speak highly enough of Chris Berry as an instructor. She was great, answering individual questions, checking on each student in turn, and explaining some things multiple times. When asked on Friday, she even revisited the slides she showed us at the beginning of class so we could have a better appreciation of where some of the stitches we learned were used in historical pieces. I was concerned that I would not have enough of the green thread to finish my peapods, and mentioned this to her. It turned out I did have enough, so I didn't go back to her to get more thread. She remembered, though, and mailed some more thread to me before she left Louisville! I thought that was very classy.

Thank you, Chris, for a great class!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Good news & bad news

Yes, I know I didn't post as much as I'd intended in Louisville, and I fully plan to still put posts together about my fabulous 4-day class, some of my stash purchases, and some other odds and ends from seminar. I returned home Saturday night, and it's been a fairly emotional week.

Good news or bad news first?

Let's start with the good news, since it's needlework related. A month ago or so, I wrote about sending two pieces to the ANG National Seminar Exhibit in Indian Wells, California. I found out on Sunday (third-hand) that my Lilacs took First Place (!!!!) in the Independent Project, Professional category. Wow! (As to why I'm considered a professional, it's because at one time I was doing some model stitching for a cross-stitch designer, and ANG considers someone a professional if that person ever earned any money doing any needlework, regardless if the pieces being entered are in the same technique.)

It didn't stop there. Apparently the same person who called the person who called me ALSO called our ANG chapter president. I found out this evening at our chapter meeting that the Lilacs also won the Princess Grace Award! I am in complete shock! According to the ANG website,

"The Princess Grace Award may be given to any entry, in any judged category, that is worked entirely in the tent stitch without embellishments such as beads or other attachments, in order to maintain the purity of the stitching technique. The tent stitch is defined as going over one intersection from lower left to upper right with no back stitches, seed stitches, or outline stitches."
On my entry form, I had indicated that this piece could qualify for the award, but I had absolutely NO expectations of winning it! Holy cow!

(And if anybody can confirm this, PLEASE let me know. I'm in a bit of denial!)

And the bad news (and a rare non-needlework bit of info): Also on Sunday, DH and I turned our male greyhound, Tucker, over to another home. After many, many incidents that indicated Tucker just couldn't continue to stay in a crate when we were at work (the latest happened last week when I was at seminar), we finally had to admit that we couldn't help him live a happy, healthy life.

In the crate, he would tear up any blankets (until we finally purchased a very expensive, guaranteed-not-to-tear dog bed), gnaw on the bars of the crate (breaking several welds and wearing down his teeth), and generally be VERY unhappy for the time we were at work. We just don't have a place to put him where he could be safe out of the crate either, because he has a tendency to eat things that could hurt him, too.

Last Thursday evening, when others were enjoying the auction at seminar, I was on the phone to the leader of our greyhound rescue group explaining all of this, and bawling non-stop.

Tucker had been a part of our lives for over five years, but he has been moved to a new home where the people are home more and have a safe, non-crated area for him (and their other greyhounds) to stay when they aren't home. I'm sure he's pretty bewildered right now, and I tear up a bit each day with missing him, but I know it's for the best. I want to call each day asking how he's doing, but I'm trying to wait until the weekend.

Our other greyhound, Sophie, who was always a bit (ok, a lot) intimidated by him, on the other hand, thinks this is great! She has blossomed in the past few days, and we've learned that perhaps this change is the best for both of them.

The few pictures here are of Tucker on Sunday morning. I'll miss you, Tucker Magoo. :-(

We now return this blog to its regularly-scheduled (ok, maybe not quite regularly-scheduled) needlework content.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Louisville 2008: Marion Scoular's RSN experience

As promised, here is the picture-heavy post from Marion's lecture. Marion started at the Royal School of Needlework in 1953 when she was just 16. At the time, she was the youngest student ever enrolled. The next three years were spend stitching in the morning and doing art/design activities in the afternoon, except for Thursdays, which were for dressmaking. This curriculum in the school lasted until the mid-60's (if I recall correctly). At the time, the diploma was considered a Master's level degree in art. The certification process is a bit different now, and no longer carries the same weight.

Anyway, on to the pictures!
Each piece they worked was on the right side of the full piece of fabric. On the left side, there were several inches reserved for doodles. Above is one of the doodle areas from Marion's blackwork project. She has these doodles matted for display and reference purposes.

This is the associated blackwork project. The design process sounded interesting, with each student playing with cut paper shapes and gluing them down into different configurations. When it came time to do a new project, the teachers would go through each student's collection of such creations and narrow down the designs to those that would be appropriate for the technique to be worked. After a bit of tweaking and refining, the piece could be stitched (after the doodle was complete for reference).

This is her "basic" whitework/drawn work piece. Sure... basic. Uh huh.

This is the advanced whitework piece. It was really hard to take a good picture of this without casting a shadow. The dove's eyes in the cut portions are about 1.5mm (yes, mm) across.

This was a multi-technique project done in silk. It was fascinating to see the play of light off of this. Above is the close shot of the elephant, and the entire composition is below.
This is a close-up of the edging of the nightie she made in dressmaking class. It's impressive enough without knowing that the entire thing is made of nylon (ugh!), and that the stitching is done with a thread pulled from the same fabric. Rayon's bad enough. Marion's only comment was that nylon is a bit unruly or uncooperative (or some such understatement).

One of the last projects the students worked was ecclesiatical needlework. Above is a close-up of the fully-stitched angel's face. The other angel on the piece was a mirror image, entirely in applique, in different colors. Below is Marion holding the full piece.I hope you enjoyed this abbreviated version of Marion's collection from the RSN. Thank you to Marion for allowing me to post these pictures.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Louisville 2008: Sunday

On Sunday, the scheduled events started for me.

In the morning, Marion Scoular hosted a lecture in which she shared her experiences as a student at the Royal School of Needlework. This very interactive session was a wonderful event and deserves it's own post, complete with lots of pictures. I hope to have this post up later today.

After this wonderful beginning to the day, we were able to switch rooms at our hotel. The three of us are now in a room with two double beds, which is a much more comfortable situation. We had a quick lunch in the hotel cafe, and then headed back to the seminar hotel.

At 2PM, I attended a lecture by Chris Berry about the changing styles of fashion and the embroidery on those fashions in the 16th century. Unfortunately, she had a lot of material to present and only had one hour, so this was strictly a slide show and lecture, with about 5 minutes for questions at the end. It was a dark room that was slightly warm, so a few people did doze off for a bit. Since I have been reading a few books on this period (The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory and Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir) partially in preparation for my Tudor Purse class, it was pretty interesting.

We then had a session of "meet the teachers". One of the best parts of this was seeing the actual seminar projects in person. It never ceases to amaze me how poorly some pieces come across in photographs.

I was able to spend about 45 minutes looking at the education exhibit (with previews of some great new GCC's), the opportunity baskets, auction items, and the boutique. I still have not had time to go back and check these out some more.

The Legacy Reception for life members was held in the revolving restaurant at the top of the building. Since I was the only one attending from my chapter, it was a nice chance to meet people from other areas. I ended up sitting with four ladies from the NYC area and having a very enjoyable discussion. The city pictures here are from the restaurant.

The Opening Banquet was last on the agenda of the day. I converted my daytime look to a 50's look (since this is the 50th anniversary of EGA) with the addition of white tennis shoes, bobby socks, and a beribboned ponytail. The banquet was lovely. I was very impressed that the servers were able to serve over 900 people within 15 minutes. The meal was followed by a few brief talks, award presentations, and a wonderful keynote speech by Marion Scoular. The banquet favor was this lovely charm bracelet.

After several detours (due to the Ironman Triathlon finish line being between the two hotels), we finally arrived back at our hotel about 10:30. With classes coming up quickly in the morning, we headed to bed!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Louisville 2008: Saturday

(Yes, I'm a bit behind in posting. We've been incredibly busy here at seminar, but I hope to catch up on posting each day's activities by tonight or tomorrow! Sorry to keep anybody waiting!)

The trip from Rochester to Louisville went fairly smoothly. Along the way, we had several mini adventures to keep us amused:

  • After having a soap dispenser spit on her at one stop and slicing her finger open on a stubborn paper towel dispenser at another, we decided MIL was "restroom challenged." The three of us (MIL, "S", and I) enjoyed this series of events for the rest of the trip, with S needing to scope out possible trouble spots in each restroom before MIL could go in. :-)

  • At one stop, we had dig through S's "bag of crap" (which was full of miscellaneous threads, projects, and books, but also had some of the stuff she needed for class, so she just brought the entire thing) for the perfect color of floss for the project I was stitching. We decided that sometimes, a "bag of crap" is just what's needed.

  • After a recent software download, the GPS system in MIL's car started chiming three times at random intervals along a trip. We spent a lot of time pondering possible reasons that triggered these chimes. Was there a cell tower nearby? Were we speeding or going too slow? Was it because we changed lanes? We ended up with the thought that it chimed every time it recalculated our estimated arrival time. As you can imagine, this happened a lot over the course of a 10 hour trip made longer by stops along the way.
When we finally arrived in Louisville, we had just 30 minutes to spare before seminar registration closed for the day, so we stopped there first, then moved on to our hotel, which is about a half-mile away from the main seminar hotel.

After some confusion, it turned out that the hotel was out of rooms with two double beds, and the three of us were assigned a room with a single queen size bed. Ummm..... this is a problem! It turns out that the hotel management didn't believe EGA would have such a low "no show" rate, and WAY overbooked. There were no other rooms available, and no rollaway beds. Ok. Hmmm... maybe we can purchase an inflatable mattress. The bellhop tells us the closest Wal-Mart is in Indiana. Indiana?!?! Oh - that's only 20 minutes away, just across the river. We hit the road again. There was a bit of confusion in figuring out how to get on the highway, but we made it there, found our mattress, and stopped for dinner.

By the time we finally found our way back to the hotel, it was 10:30. Time for bed!

More on the continuing adventures of seminar in the next post!