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Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween! I'll be sitting here stitching away on Summer Dream (which I started last night), completely out of season, while waiting for trick-or-treaters to ring the doorbell.

It's very strange. I love the variety of Halloween stitching designs available, but I've actually only ever stitched one, a small bellpull. I just can't see spending a ton of time stitching pieces (no matter how much fun they are) that can only be displayed for one week a year! Other holidays seem to have a longer display period, so if I'm going to stitch for a holiday, I'm going to consider that! To make matters worse, I tried to find the Halloween bellpull, but it's nowhere to be found. So not only can I not display it much, but when I do want to, it's packed away somewhere unknown!

Am I the only one with this line of thinking?

Ok, back to enjoying this spooky evening, ready to help kids of all ages defer sleep by handing out too much chocolate!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Satin stitches & stash enhancement

I haven't been posting over the last several days because there didn't seem to be much entertainment or educational value in a bunch of posts titled "Satin stitches", "More satin stitches", "Yet another day of satin stitches", and so on. At last though, I'm done with the satin stitches on the border of My Way.

According to the instructions, these were to be done in #5 pearl cotton, which would have worked up fairly quickly. I didn't really like the coarser look of the pearl cotton, though, so I used 5 strands of floss in a shade darker than the eyelets and basketweave. Of course, using floss meant laying each stitch. I love the play of light off of carefully laid threads, especially when viewed at an angle.

While it takes a bit longer, I really don't mind laying threads. I get into a rhythm, and it's pretty relaxing. There's no race, anyway - except to get the borders done before the class! Now, I've just got a bit of herringbone stitch to do outside of the satin stitches. I am waiting to see how the colors are going to play in the rest of the piece before deciding what to threads to use for the decorative stitching on top of the basketweave squares.

In answer to Cyn's question: I've only been able to find one picture of Carolyn Mitchell's My Way online. It was in a pdf of one chapter's newsletter, but I was able to save the image and repost it here. This version is a bit more washed out than other stitched pieces I've seen, but part of the challenge of this piece is picking your own color schemes.

Last week I mentioned something about starting on Luan Callery's Summer Dream. This didn't get too far, yet. I've managed to get the design on the fabric and mount and lace the fabric to the stretcher bars, but have yet to start stitching.

On to the second part of this post's title - did I say something about stash enhancement? Ah, yes. I managed to get into a little bit of trouble during Gay Ann's sale week. I have absolutely no idea when I'll get around to stitching these pieces, but I picked up the Almost Whitework Sampler, English Cottage Garden, and the Drawn Thread Sampler . I managed to save some pictures of these pieces before they disappeared from Gay Ann's website. I'm now waiting for the instructions to show up in the mail!

Speaking of Gay Ann Rogers, Colleen asked a question about the colors I used in Strawberry Girl. Colleen, I used the greens called for in the pattern, namely the DMC 500 series. I did change the red of the strawberries to a darker red (from a bright pink), and substituted threads from my stash for the Anchor browns in the hair and yellow in the flowers. I hope this helps you make your decisions for stitching yours!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Basketweave and eyelets

And more basketweave and eyelets. That's what I've been doing with my stitching time this past week.This is the beginning of My Way, the class I'm taking with Carolyn Mitchell in two weeks. I'm glad this was only in one strand of pearl cotton 8. (Since she couldn't get the right color in pearl 8, MIL is doing hers in three strands of floss and laying each stitch. Talk about making a long job take even longer!)

From here, I've got to do some satin stitches around the eyelets to fill out the border, then herringbone to outline the border. Then I'll be ready for the class!

For a little variety, those of us in my local EGA chapter who are taking the Summer Dream stumpwork GCC are getting together tonight to kick off our projects. I'm looking forward to the change of pace!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another new project and a SALE!

I did make a tiny bit of progress on the Bargello needlecase Monday night, but finally, after almost two weeks, my 20" Evertite stretcher bars showed up in yesterday's mail. Last night, I managed to mount the canvas for Carolyn Mitchell's My Way and organize some of my stitching area. Tonight, I'll start this - the third new project in a week! (And remember, I've already finished one of them!) From all reports, a lot of time is needed to finish the pre-work on this, and I have just over three weeks to do it.

Of course, the overflowing stash (and WIP/UFO) piles won't prevent me from ogling the lovely items being offered as part of Gay Ann Rogers's "E-week" sale. Gay Ann, a noted national teacher, sells some of her old class pieces, some as instructions only, some as kits, only for one week a year. That week started TODAY. If you liked my Strawberry Girl, the pattern is for sale again this week. As I have many of Gay Ann's designs, both from last year's sale and from eBay and other online stitcher-to-stitcher sale, I'm trying to limit my purchases. Right now, the only piece I'm sure I'll pick up is her Almost Whitework sampler. Why do I always like the BIG and COMPLICATED pieces? :-)

Monday, October 13, 2008

A mini happy dance and a new project

Hooray! Less than a week after it was started, I put the last stitches into the heart I stitched for the ANG cancer center outreach. (Doesn't that sound better than the name I almost gave it - Cancer Heart?) This was a fun little project.

I made quite a bit of progress on my Bargello needlecase during class yesterday. This piece doesn't have a set pattern. Instead, the teacher suggested we take each of the Bargello motifs and arrange them as we like. The original pattern used one color of variegated thread and 5 values of a single color family. I found a variegated, but then pulled two color families from it, so I'm having fun with color and motif placement. For those who wanted less of a challenge, a full size picture was provided, with a grid basted through the design so folks could place their motifs in the same place as in the original. I'm going to continue working on this tonight.

Thanks to all of you for the lovely comments in response to my last post. The internet stitching community is such a wonderful group!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blog catch-up, and other news

While I haven't been blogging much lately, I have been stitching, and, unfortunately for my pile of WIPs, planning to start new things.

First, an update on the Tudor Purse: I was making good progress on this, when it became apparent that the "scooping" motion of the Ceylon stitch was starting to aggravate the carpal tunnel in my right wrist. So, while this piece isn't very big, I've put it down for a bit. I'll have to work on it only a bit at a time.

When I put the purse down, I decided I hadn't done much sampler/linen work lately, and that was calling to me. Of course, instead of picking up Catherine Theron's Examplar IV, which is much further along, I dug out Martha Wilkins from The Scarlet Letter. I last worked on this piece back in December, and it was still in the same state as in the photo in this post. As you can see, this week I finished another band of lettering and almost the entire next band. At this rate, I might be done in the next 10 years! :-P

On Wednesday, I attended our local ANG meeting. I didn't really feel like working on notebook stitch samples with the rest of the group, so I started the outreach project that was announced last month. We're stitching heart-shaped ornaments with a centerpiece of a cancer ribbon. I can't remember the details, but we're donating these for some cause or another. (And I know MIL is cringing as she reads this since she's the outreach chair!) Anyway, I'm doing a purple ribbon for pancreatic cancer, in memory of my two grandparents whom I lost to this fast-acting disease.

I wanted the center ribbon to stand out, so I did it in detached buttonhole with a heavy thread, in this case Shepherd's Wool from the Thread Gatherer. Apparently this thread is no longer being made, since it's not listed on TG's website. I received this skein in a grab bag a few months ago, and thought it was perfect for this! The background is a couched stitch, specifically Aristeia couching (diagrammed in SuZy's Lite Stitches, one of the books I picked up at seminar), with a Brazilian embroidery rayon thread as the couched thread, and 4 strands of floss as the couching thread. I thought this would work up faster than trying to fill the entire background with stitching, and so far it has. I've only worked on this at the meeting Wednesday night and at our Thursday night LNS stitch-in. I hope to finish it this weekend.

I have a few upcoming projects, too. Tomorrow, I'm attending a class for a Bargello needlecase. Since our EGA chapter is hosting the region meeting today (though I'm not going), we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to have one of the visiting ladies stay for an extra night and teach this lovely project. One of the chapter members had taken the class from her in the past, and it's lovely. Today I need to rummage in my stash to find fabric and threads for it.

Carolyn Mitchell is visiting our LNS for a 2-1/2 day class in the middle of November, and I've signed up for this class, too. She's teaching a canvas piece called My Way, which looks like a six-patch quilt design. We need to have the borders laid out as prework, and from what I've heard, this is fairly time intensive. I've got my color scheme picked out (see the collection of threads I brought home from seminar), but I'm waiting for a pair of Evertite stretcher bars to show up in the mail. They were shipped over a week ago, but the USPS website only shows them as being received into the mail stream. Goodness knows where they might be now!

Lastly (I think), I need to get started on Luan Callery's Summer Dream, an EGA GCC that some in my chapter are doing in conjunction with the Buffalo chapter. It's due in January. I've been following Pat's progress on this same piece, and I'm looking forward to it!

In other news, I believe I did mention that I had received my pieces (and ribbons!) back from the ANG seminar exhibit. Also in the package was a little card telling me to call the Boehm porcelain factory, because they had the rose that was part of the Princess Grace award. I made that call, and this week the package arrived. The box was huge - and full of foam peanuts! Inside the box was another box, with more peanuts. I finally found the porcelain rose taped to the bottom of the inside box, and I understood the need for the extensive packing. The petals are amazingly delicate. Here's a picture of my stitched Lilacs, its ribbons, and the rose.

And last, but the most important news of all (now that I've finally told everyone locally who might be reading this blog). I've got another work in progress: 19 weeks along, 21 to go. Yes, I'm expecting(!), due the first week of March. This is our first, and DH and I are very excited. No, we don't know if "The Kid" (shortened to "TK") is a boy or a girl, and we're planning to be surprised! This news is the main reason I'm taking classes now, because I know I won't be able to for a while. :-) I'm sure finding the time to finish any of these pieces is sure to become difficult though! :-P

Sunday, October 5, 2008

How-to: spaced Ceylon stitch

One of the main stitches I'm using on the Tudor-Style Purse is a spaced Ceylon stitch. Basic single Ceylon stitch looks like a chain stitch but with the threads crossed at the pointed end of each stitch instead of being in the same hole. It is worked the opposite way of a chain stitch, too, with each stitch looping under the previous stitch.

The spaced version (my terminology) of Ceylon stitch is done with two of these loops spaced some distance apart. You can start with two straight stitches separated by a gap and loop the first Ceylon stitches through these. (My apologies for not getting a photo of this!)

Each subsequent stitch is worked into the previous stitches. If you're working the stitch toward yourself, bring the needle through the fabric on the left side, a little bit away from the previous stitch. Insert the needle under both legs of the left loop of the preceding stitch, and pull the thread through.

Repeat this on the right side loop of the previous stitch, and pull the thread toward yourself. The tension is a bit tricky. You don't want sloppy loops, but you also don't want the loops pulled so tightly that you won't be able to work the next stitch. Sink the needle into the fabric on the right side, and come up again on the left for the next stitch.

The Plimoth Plantation is using this stitch on their 17th century embroidered jacket. For more details on the stitch, they have a much more detailed tutorial (in PDF format) written by Tricia Wilson Nguyen. I'm guessing it is easier in the silk thread used there than in the metallic I'm using!

Edited to add: Megan a.k.a. Elmsley Rose, who's working an Elizabethan sampler (and just mentioned Ceylon stitch in her post yesterday - though I didn't know it until just now!) asked about the difference between Ceylon stitch and ladder stitch. Since ladder stitch was unfamiliar to me, I looked it up. I found that Mary Corbet has a great video on ladder stitch. It looks the same as this spaced Ceylon stitch, with a couple of minor exceptions: it starts out differently, and the stitches on the back are straight across, whereas mine slant slightly down to the next stitch. I try to make the start and end of each stitch straight across on the front. The difference in this case is likely only the preference of the stitcher.

The other difference is the name "Ceylon stitch" actually encompasses more than just this spaced version. As I mentioned above, it can look like a single chain stitch, or several can be done next to each other. The latter is a bit like detached buttonhole but worked into the stitches of the previous row rather than between the stitches of that row. Thanks for asking!