In my part of the world we say you are a fool if your passion for a pursuit overcomes all practical sense. I am a stitching fool, and I stitch foolishness.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Well, duh

Every year, usually about the time JCS's Christmas Ornament issue arrives, I think that it would be a spectacularly good idea to stitch an ornament a month so I would have a dozen new ornaments for the tree in December.

Not that I NEED a dozen new ornaments a year.  .  . we have only enough room for one tree and we don't put all the ornaments we have on it.  I've been collecting ornaments for close to 40 years so it's not like we need to add more.  They're just so pretty . . .

Anyway, when January rolls around and I have finally put all the Christmas decorations away (and continue to vacuum up stray needles for months afterwards), the desire to stitch anything Christmas-y is pretty much kaput. So I don't.

I was just sitting here for a minute before going back to wrapping presents, gazing idly at the tree, when I had a slap-myself-up-side-the-head moment.

I have stitched twelve ornaments this year.


Five perforated paper ornaments (pilot stitching), three beaded ornaments (pilot stitching), and four Glitzy Ornaments (SNS class).

The lighting is not good for shots on the tree, so I moved them to the wreath in the sunshine.  The pictures are still not wonderful, but here they are:

Perforated paper ornaments in gold and white.  I don't think any one of them took longer than a couple of hours to stitch.

Close-up of my favorite one--will do this one again.

Three beaded ornaments--the swags of beads are very cool.  Gay Ann Rogers sold both these and the perforated paper ornaments during her annual eWeek this year--maybe she will bring them back for next year's sale--it's worth it to watch her website for sales, BTW, since they are offered for a limited time only and then, poof!, gone.  I like these so much I think I'm going to stitch them again in red and white.  Somewhere I have beads that look like peppermint candy. If the proportions are right, they may replace the pearls in the middle.

And, finally, Glitzy Ornaments from Carole Lake and Michael Boren through Shining Needle.  I think I'm going to go back and give them more oomphy tassels before next year, assuming I think about it between now and then.

Back to wrapping presents . . . in case I don't get back to the blog between now and then, I hope you all enjoy the Christmas you want with the people you love!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One week to Christmas . . .

And we're still working on it!

Last week was the week of social engagements--and three of them were on the same night. I had my EGA holiday party, Dearly Beloved had a gathering with a volunteer group he belongs to, and we had a neighborhood thing.  We had figured out a complicated logistical plan for getting ourselves hither, thither, and yon--Dearly Beloved was going to drop me off at the EGA party, then drive to the other side of the county to make an appearance at his party, then drive back, pick me up, and we would drop in on the neighborhood get-together.  As we were gathering things to put in the car to transport to all these functions, we looked at each other, and in common accord (which does not always happen!) said, "Do you really want to do all this?"

Instead we had tomato soup (hey, it's red) and grilled cheese sandwiches and watched Christmas movies on  DVD.

That night while reading blogs, I found that Erica Wilson had died. I don't think there's a stitcher of a certain age who doesn't remember her program on PBS in the early 70's.  I will never forget the opening, when she galloped through the door of her "cottage" with another colorful and exciting project.  I must have stitched half a dozen of her whimsical crewel pieces during that time, and still treasure her Embroidery Book, the Christmas book, and the two Needleplay books in my library.

The NYTimes obit compared her to Julia Child in her influence at the time.  This all made me think about the fact that Julia Child inspired hundreds of cooking shows as well as amateur chefs, while needleworkers are definitely not in the mainstream.  I think there are two reasons for this:  obviously, everyone has to eat.  The other has more to do with the social changes in our world.  Let's face it, most needlework projects take a long time to complete.  It's sloooooooow process before you have the pleasure of a finish.  Several years ago, I read a statistic that explained why, perhaps, we don't have more stitchers in the 25-45 age group: the average working mother with young children and a full-time job has only 45 minutes a day of personal time--and that includes time for bathing, grooming and dressing.  When something takes as long as our typical project does, and you have, what--maybe 10 minutes a day to call your own?--you're going to scrapbook or surf the net, or flip through a magazine.  You're not as likely to thread a needle because about the time you find your place again, you need to do something with a bitty person.

This makes introducing Gay Ann Rogers' concept of 12 stitches a day to prospective stitchers a priority.  GAR suggests setting up the needlework, needle threaded, and just putting in 12 stitches every day. It's amazing what you can accomplish in 12 stitches.  It's an idea . . .

But back to the mundane.  While getting ready to leave for Baby Girl's for the week-end, I was doing laundry.  The washer started screaming in the high-pitched voice of appliance death and stopped spinning. On the first load. (We're hoping it's just a belt.  Since it is the week before Christmas and I am NOT in the mood to go appliance shopping.)

So, in a remarkable turn of affairs, I took dirty clothes and linens to Baby Girl's home and did my laundry there.  I suppose there's a symmetry to the whole thing, thinking back on the loads of dirty laundry that arrived with her visits.

We had a fantastic visit.  She cooked dinner for me Friday night and it was delicious.  We went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie on Saturday (and I plan to go see it again). We had pizza Saturday night.  And I came home relaxed and happy.

But, you ask, have you stitched anything.  Uhhhhhhhhhh . . . .no.

Maybe tonight.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Crazies

For some reason, Christmas seems to be whooshing at me faster than usual this year.  It's probably due to the fact that normally I do some decking of the halls the day after Thanksgiving.  This year I didn't, so anything I want to do to get ready for the Big Day is happening in much less time.  And I'm going to spend the week-end before Christmas with Baby Girl (because the new Sherlock Holmes movie is coming out and we need to do some serious drooling over Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law because we are, indeed, fangirls of those two actors in those two roles) so I'm losing a whole week-end to go gallivanting.

And all this means that I haven't had more than a minute or two to stitch.

Most of the projects on my list are large and complex because I have fallen into the 17th century and don't want to climb out.  These are not projects that are particularly easy to pick up and put down between batches of cookies or bouts of intense cleaning. As a result, I haven't been stitching.

We all know that needlework is one of the best forms of stress relief there is.  And we all know that the holidays can be stressful if you let them. And we all know that even if the holidays aren't particularly stressful, life is.

(When he was about 4 or 5, the Big Kid very seriously looked at me during a time of stress and strain and asked, "Don't you need to point your needle at something?")

Anyway, last night I flopped into the wing chair and put my feet on the ottoman and looked at Martha Edlin.  She looked back. We stared at each other for a minute, then looked away.

And my eye fell on a little make-it-take-it kit that I picked up in the boutique at Christmas in Williamsburg last year.  And it was small and not complicated to stitch.  So I picked it up and stitched it.

It will become the front of a pinkeep. And it felt REALLY good to stitch again.

Hmmmmmm. . .

Every year I tend to pick up a number of small kits at the boutique.  I like sewing accessories and cute little things and they tend to have a selection of them. So I add them to the stash for times when I need something small for a trip or to carry around in my pocketbook for waiting rooms.

There is a basket full of smalls to assemble.  There are a number of large samplers who crave attention.  There are things to do that need to be done.

But the Christmas Crazies will do you in every time.  So I have decided to celebrate the season by pulling out a bunch of these little kits and stitching on them from now until Christmas Eve.  Then I will see how many of them I can finish-finish between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day.  And then I will come to my senses and go back to the 17th century and Serious Stitching.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Decking and fa-la-la-ing

We have been trying to get ready for Christmas.

We spent a couple of evenings after work this week Christmas shopping.  With the exception of a couple of gift cards, we are done. Through. Finished.  We have a very small family, but one of them is very, very picky.  Glad Mother does not read this blog.

Then there's the decorating. This has involved moving almost all the furniture in the living room around to free up the "best" corner for the Christmas tree.  This also involved organizing my corner so the projects in progress were not spilling all about (that took longer than moving furniture and that is shameful to admit).

Then we had to go get the Christmas tree.  We buy a Fraser Fir every year from the same group of volunteers, mainly because they are so cheerful and happy and full of the spirit that it makes the discussions we have bearable (like, no, that's too bushy and whoever gets stuck sitting on that end of the sofa is going to get swatted by tree limbs . . .or, don't you think that's a little tall? Remember, we're outside, but in the house, we have a definite ceiling height . . .or, you know, why don't you stand next to that one and see if it's about the same size you are and that would be perfect--for some reason, Dearly Beloved did not think that was funny).

We had the yearly light disaster.  Dearly Beloved was thrilled when the Big Kid got big enough to do the lights. Then he got married and moved out, so Dearly Beloved gave the task to Baby Girl. Then she moved out (possibly to get out of doing the lights).  The last few years, the job has fallen on his shoulders again.  Last year we only used one very long string of lights because we had a very skinny tree that didn't need much.  This year, we have a very thick and tall tree. It needs more lights.  We thought we had them. We discovered that several of the strings were dead. Dead, dead, dead.  So, we had to go buy lights, which, two weeks before Christmas, are in short supply.  One place had only blue ones.  One had only extremely expensive and short strings of novelty lights left.  We finally found the desired mini-lights.  On a white cord.  Not a green cord that you can persuade yourself is camouflaged in the tree. White. Blinding while. Blizzard white.

I'm trying to talk myself into believing that it looks like a lacing of snow through the branches.

I have almost completed ornamenting the tree.  I still have to place the gold filigree pieces that weigh almost nothing on the branches that can't hold much weight, and the crocheted snowflakes go on after them. And we have not placed the tabletop decorations, nor have we pulled the Christmas dishes out.  And I haven't played a single Christmas CD or watched any of the collection of videos and DVD's we've accumulated over the years.

And I haven't stitched a lick since arriving home from Williamsburg.

And Sunday is winding down and it will be back to work again.

I need a day-stretcher!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Party's Over (and re-entry is tough!)

Ahhhhhhhhhh--the opening salvo of the Grand Illumination fireworks in Williamsburg . . .

And the end of a lovely trip . . .

I took a class from Merry Cox, which seems to have become something of a tradition over the last few years.  If she teaches, I take her class.  Somehow, I can't get it into my head that it's possible to have too many needlebooks or pinkeeps or other smalls, and Merry has such relaxing and laid back classes.  This year offered a bonus, too, in that we could purchase the kits for classes we didn't take.  I took advantage, so I have the kits for Joanne Harvey's two classes and Jackie's class that goes with the one-day class I had taken from her on Thursday.

The JCS people also provided us with nifty surprises each day.  Yes, I realize that our enrollment fees cover the costs of the gifts, but it's still a bit like Christmas everyday.  This year our goodies included a sampler with motifs from most of the teachers who participated this year, a pretty little Colonial Pincushion (Sudberry House piece) and an oval silver box.  One of my friends took hers to the jeweler's shop in the Historic District to have it engraved.  I thought that was a brilliant idea and plan to take mine back when I go to Jeannine's Gathering of Embroiderers in February.  By then, I may decide what I want to have engraved!

We had our "farewell" luncheon on Saturday (since so many people have to leave early on Sunday). It included a tribute to Darlene O'Steen. She was the first teacher at the first Christmas in Williamsburg event.  Due to health issues, this will be her last.  And, of all amazing coincidences, Jean Lea (of Attic Needlework fame) won a very special door prize, a copy of the first edition of The Proper Stitch.  Jean was in Darlene's original class--how special is it that she won the book!

Dearly Beloved and I enjoyed our free afternoons after I got out of class.  We wandered up and down Duke of Gloucester Street, admiring the decorations.  We spent time at DeWitt Wallace and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller museums (all part of the same complex now). And we oohed and aahed over the fireworks at the Grand Illumination.

Re-entry has been tough!  With the cold I was fighting off, I did no decorating before we left, so there was nothing shiny when I got home.  And I've had to play catch-up at work, so not a lot of energy left for that when I get home--actually, I'm still doing laundry from the trip!  But this week-end, there will be decking of the halls and stitching of projects and fa-la-la-ing!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

It is the Baby Girl's birthday!!!

On our way home from Williamsburg tomorrow, we are going to swing by and take her out to lunch for a belated birthday celebration. However, I didn't want to let the day go by without letting the world know how happy I am that she is in it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

stitches, little teeny stitches

So here it is, the first "official" full day of Christmas in Williamsburg--and, as usual, I'm having a good time.

Yesterday was the day for the Early Bird classes and the boutique opening and the welcome banquet.  I took a class from Jackie duPlessis, her "Present-tation Tray" which accompanies the class she is teaching for the rest of the seminar.  (You can see both on the home page of her website, And I stitched in class.  The numbers 1 - 5.  In tent stitch over one.  Teeny little stitches.

Then the boutique opened.  If you've ever seen the Running of the Brides at Filene's, you may have a slight clue as to what happens when a bunch of needlework fanatics are given the opportunity to shop.  I found the one thing I really wanted (and didn't know I wanted until I took Jackie's class) and a (ahem) number of other things that needed to come home with me.  I didn't find 50 count white linen, but, oh, well.  I can find that elsewhere, hopefully.  The credit card isn't smoking, it just melted into a puddle of molten plastic.

And then we had the welcome banquet.  I finally got to meet an online friend (Hi, Cyn!) and we enjoyed Phyllis dePiano's comments about the 25 years of seminars in Williamsburg.

Today started the regularly scheduled programming. I am taking one of Merry Cox's classes because it's become a tradition for me to take Merry's classes in Williamsburg.  I'm always happy with my Merry projects--and the decision was made easier because this year, for the first time, we were allowed to buy the class kits for classes we didn't take.  So, there are other projects to come home with me.  Happy, happy, joy, joy!!!

And I stitched in Merry's class, too.  More teeny tiny stitches.  Tent stitch over one.

People who know me know that I don't get much done at seminars.  For one thing, I generally can't keep a needle threaded. Sometimes I can't count. Usually I can't see even when my eyes and spectacles are working together (which they aren't particularly at the moment).  The chairs are not the wing chair.  I don't have my ottoman to prop up my feet. My stuff isn't where I want it to be, usually because there are other people who seem to think they need space for their stuff.

But for some reason--maybe because I haven't been able to stitch much lately, I am stitching here.

And loving it.

Add to that:  the historic district is decorated.  We have had some very good meals.  We did some Christmas shopping after I got out of class this afternoon. The weather is beautiful--it was sweater weather today.

And there are two more days before we have to return to reality.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wonderful Williamsburg

We're here!

We did get up early, but (through no fault of mine, I hasten to say) we didn't leave quite as early as projected. However, we made good time and had plenty of time to check into the hotel, drag what appears to be enough luggage to supply the troops landing in Normandy on D-Day (we have not learned the art of traveling light), and get ourselves to DeWitt Wallace in time to visit the samplers in the drawers in the textile area.

(If you ever get to Williamsburg, the storage drawers are unlocked on Wednesday afternoons so you can gaze to your heart's delight.)

There are several samplers in those drawers whose reproductions I have stitched (thank you, Joanne Harvey!) and, of course, those are the ones I am happy to see, especially when you consider the differences in linen and threads between those the original stitcher had available and the supplies we have now.  There are some differences in proportion and size, but the overall flavor is there.

In the same area, the current exhibit focuses on embroidered fashionable accessories.  There are gentlemen's nightcaps for those of us who are taking or have taken Tricia Nguyen's class on the glittering nightcap.  There are embroidered pocket and aprons, and there are sweet bags.  I love sweet bags.  I am working on having a wall of stitched sweet bags.  Any time I get a chance to stitch another one, I am on top of it. So seeing these tiny delights on display made my heart go pitty-pat.

Then we descended upon Christiana Campbell's tavern for dinner.  We have enough left-overs for lunch tomorrow (thank goodness our hotel room has a frig).  After a very long day and with a very full tummy, I am close to going facedown on the keyboard.

And I have threaded a needle today.  I had to sew a button back on Dearly Beloved's sweater.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Just in Case

There is a way to tell if you are truly a stitching fool, and that is to see what you pack prior to going to a workshop or seminar.

Obviously, if attending a seminar, you plan to take a class or classes, thus you will have a new project or projects.  Frequently, the seminar will also include a boutique or shop of some sort, meaning that there will be even more potential projects to add to the stash. Depending on the venue, there may be a merchandise night or expo or other event at which needlework items are sold.

However, if you are a stitching fool, you have to pack a project or two, just in case.  Just in case you're there hours (or minutes) before the event starts and you have time to pick up a needle.  Just in case you feel like stitching but you've hit a spot on the class project that needs more intense thought than you may be capable of by the time the late evening rolls around.  Just in case you wake up very early but already have the class project carefully packed to go to class.  Just in case--well, you really don't need a reason, you just need to have something to work on.

So, you pack a project or two (or three, or four) to take to the event where you are going to be totally immersed in needlework.

I will be the first to admit that I am the textbook definition of a stitching fool.  Therefore I am trying to decide what to take for my just-in-case project.

After all, we are leaving at o'dark-thirty so we can visit DeWitt Wallace and look in the drawers in the textile department.  And we do have early reservations at Christiana Campbell (our favorite tavern in the Historic District). So it is quite possible that I will have an evening in which to stitch, plus the early bird classes don't start until noon the next day--so I will also have a morning of possible stitching time.

Normally I would take smalls because they're (obviously) small and will fit in a corner of the big tote bag.  However, after looking at the basket full of smalls that need to be assembled, and because I'm taking a class that will create more smalls, I don't think I want to add to the list right at the moment.

This leaves either something on canvas or a sampler.  It's easier to travel with something on scroll bars than it is to travel with something on stretcher bars--you can always take the side bars off a scroll frame and roll up the sampler.  So, sampler it is--but which one?

Should I take something that is basically cross stitch like Ann Wheatley?  Or should Martha Edlin accompany me to Williamsburg?  Much more complicated, but I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and really want to work on her (despite needing to rip out one of the critters because I mis-read the chart late one evening when I should have been in bed).

I need to decide.

Of course, I could take them both.

Dearly Beloved is muttering about renting a moving van just to get us there.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Head Cold

Not sure if it was caused by an overdose of turkey sandwiches, if I've been fighting off a cold (stuffy head with occasional explosive sneezes and generally achy feeling), or if it involved my eyeball and brain trying to coordinate the changes in my vision, but I have been all but comatose for the last four days.

Now I had planned to try to blog every day in November. I was not going to announce it before the fact, I was just going to try and see if it worked, then announce the attempt next year.  However, it is very hard to blog about stitching (or anything else) if you've spent several days wrapped in an afghan propped up in the wing chair.  Periodically I would have a turkey sandwich (with cranberry sauce), then go back to . . .nothing.


Just pitiful.

What I had planned to do was chain myself to the sewing machine and ironing board.  I literally have a basket full of smalls that need to be made into something useful instead of pretty little bits of embroidery. And I love smalls, especially the ones that have neat little pockets and slots for things and things that go into the slots and pockets.  Realistically, how many toys does anyone really need--but they're just so much fun to play with!  And so pretty!  Ever since we decided a quiet Thanksgiving was in order, I planned to spend the time assembling. That did not happen.

Today I stirred myself enough to make some lists and start gathering clothes together since we're leaving for Christmas in Williamsburg before the sun rises on Wednesday.  They open the storage drawers in the textile department on Wednesday afternoons--I don't think any samplers have been added since I was there in February, but it's still fun to look.  We are planning to arrive early enough to have lunch in the museum cafe, then I'm going to drag Dearly Beloved around to look at samplers and doll houses. Then I will go with him to look at guns and muskets.

Meanwhile, I believe I will have another glass of orange juice.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


So many things to be thankful for this year . . .

  • First and foremost, my family.  Dearly Beloved, who has cheerfully tolerated my obsession with all things needle-related, even expressing sincere interest at times, as well as tolerating my other obsessions and idiosyncrasies.  The Big Kid,  who is not only a responsible adult, but also a caring daddy to The Flash.  The Big Kid's Wife, who makes him happy.  The Flash--'nuff said.  And Baby Girl, who is truly one of my best friends (and co-conspirators!)
  • My friends, many of them made through the Carolina Sampler Guild, ANG, and EGA.  We would probably be friends anyway, but this love of needlework makes our bonds even stronger.
  • My job.  I'm happy to be employed, but even more than that, I'm happy to work with a delightful and diverse group of people whose company it is a pleasure to enjoy.
  • The designers and teachers who have brought us so many lovely designs to stitch and who have taught us how to stitch them.  We are also incredibly lucky to be needleworkers at this time, when there are so many threads and implements to enhance our enjoyment. 
  • Williamsburg. Every time I step on Duke of Gloucester Street, I feel as though I've come home.  Add to that, two of my favorite stitching events are held there every year.
  • Chicken crepes and French onion soup at the Blue Talon in Williamsburg
  • Spring at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.  The azaleas alone will take your breath away.
  • Fall in the mountains of West Virginia. Glorious colors as far as the eye can see.
  • The glow of candlelight in tall brass candlesticks.
  • Spring and summer trips to the local farmers' markets, choosing fat, red tomatoes and sweet, juicy peaches
  • The end of the year, from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve,  a time for special music, and Scrooge, and the scent of the Christmas tree perfuming the air.
  • Crisp white linens on the table with the good china and crystal
  • Books. Lots of books.
  • Antique stores with treasures waiting to be found
  • Samplers. 
  • Emails from friends and blogs to read
  • A lazy day for needlework and a good book

Monday, November 21, 2011

New cyborg eye

My left eye was de-cataracted this morning.  The so-called "feel good" drugs they fed me have left me really woozy.  Again, I have the incredibly dilated pupil and the clear eye shield. And reading is difficult and stitching impossible.  And I am not to do anything strenuous today, so no housecleaning or pre-emptive Thanksgiving cooking.

So bored . . .

Hopefully I'll be back to my cheerfully cranky self tomorrow because another day of daytime TV will drive me absolutely bonkers.  I think I may have to stick The Tudors in the DVD--if I'm going to have over-the-top soap operas or "reality TV" at least I can have pretty costumes to blearily stare at.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Eagle has Landed

Actually, the bluebird has lit on its branch.

Here's where I started this morning:

Four and a half hours later:

And about an hour ago:

I need to sew on spangles and tweak his tummy accent--it's too strong.

I had a very sweet email this morning from someone who is worried about how I seem to have suffered through this, what with all the ripping and so forth.  This has not been suffering. This is my usual MO.

The first or second national seminar I attended, and I cannot remember now if it was EGA or ANG,  I heard something during a conversation with several teachers--and I am so sorry I cannot remember who it was who said it.  What she said has stuck with me, and the more I stitch, the more I find it to be true.

Beginners rip out a lot.
Intermediate stitchers rarely rip out anything.
Experienced stitchers rip out a lot.

Add that experience to the fact that I am a first-born girl child and you will understand why I rip as much as I do.  First-born girl children (as those of us who are will attest) are responsible for the turning of the world on its axis in the approved manner--and we tend to be perfectionists.  If we're going to spend time on something, it's going to be done right or it's going to be done over until it is as right as we can get it.

(Interesting factoid:  Dearly Beloved is also a first-born.  The Big Kid obviously is, and he is married to another first-born.  There is a wide enough age gap between the Big Kid and Baby Girl for her behavior to be more like a first-born than the usual second-born child. It's a good thing we all have an extremely healthy sense of humor.)

The next thing to do is to put it all together.  I don't believe I can face that today--besides I have been glued to the wing chair for so long it would probably be a very good idea to get up and move about a bit before I petrify.  Actually, I have the Friday after Thanksgiving off and I think I may open up the sewing machine and pull out the ironing board and have a finishing week-end.  I have several things that could be put together, and it would be easier to do it all in one swell foop.

So after un-petrifying, I think Martha Edlin and I will spend some quality time for the rest of the week-end.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Angry Bluebird

There is a famous photograph of a bluebird, all ruffled up.

Google Angry Bluebird to see him, if you are not familiar with the image.

I'll wait a minute while you do.

My bluebird is looking a little like that.

Marsha says that if you are not happy with the placement of a stitch, just stitch over it to avoid tearing the felt while ripping out.  I have not been happy with many stitches so I have been stitching over them.  I believe I have too many layers and I am still not happy. And my bluebird is looking about as ruffled up as the one in the photo.

I am totally OCD when it comes to my embroidery projects and I hang onto every scrap until the project is completed.  This means I still have the templates for the padding and an inch or so of felt left.  I think I am going to cut another piece of felt in case I need it, then very, very carefully cut out my stitches.  I also think I'm going to trace out another bird on another piece of linen and practice on it until I get the shading the way I want it. Then I'm going back to the needlecase and try my bluebird again.

Otherwise, I'm afraid my expression will be as peeved as the bluebird's in the photo.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Padding the Bird

which has nothing to do with stuffing the turkey.

Tonight I stitched the padding for the bluebird down and it looks like this:

Quite frankly, I'm relieved.  I was concerned after I stitched in the flowers that I had too much flora for the fauna--or, in this case, avis.  (Woo Hoo--five years of Latin finally came in handy for something other than crossword puzzles!)

But now that I have the padding in, I think the dimensions will work, and the little bird will stand out from his background sufficiently.

I also pencilled in the direction lines for the long and short shading, which makes the poor thing look like he has some sort of disease.

I'm very happy the lines will be covered by stitching.

Now to thread up and start stitching.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nothing to see here . . .

This blogging every day is HARD! Especially if you have nothing particular to say.

I was supposed to go to our ANG chapter holiday party tonight and would have, except I thought it was scheduled for December 16.  It was scheduled for November 16.  I should have known this because I sent out the newsletter just last week. I think I may have too much on my tiny little mind at the moment.

But not stitching.  Last night was clean-out-the-refrigerator night and it still needs to be scrubbed down. We also had to discuss the Thanksgiving menu, especially since this will be a quiet one with just Dearly Beloved and me.  Lest you feel that we have been abandoned, please don't. We're actually kind of looking forward to it.  I'm thrilled because I have talked Dearly Beloved into giving up green bean casserole this year.  Of course, I am giving up my mother's cornbread dressing, so it's only fair.  Actually, I want turkey only for the leftover turkey sandwiches.

Anyway, I have read over the directions for stitching the bluebird on the needlecase, and I have read over the directions for assembling the Glitzy Ornaments, and I have decided that my tiny little brain can't handle either one tonight.  So I pulled out Ann Wheatley and I'm going to see if I can get a letter or two more stitched in.

For someone who has nothing in particular to say, I seem to have said a lot.  So I'm shutting up now and threading my needle.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Enabling . . .

Amy Mitten, who does mystery samplers and reproduces antique samplers and dyes threads and is the author of the very necessary "Autopsy of the Montenegrin Stitch" is hinting at a wonderful thing to come.  She is planning an online class and is providing clues on her website,  Look under Tutorials.

Thus far, we see thread winders--made of needlework and origami--as part of this experience to come.

I do love the internet!  So many opportunities and you can stay home in your jammies to participate!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hidden Treasures

When stitching the Bluebird Needlecase, you're offered the option of stitching areas that will be hidden by the needlepages-until they're lifted to retrieve a needle.

So I did.

This is what the hidden areas look like before they're hidden.

There is a spiderweb stitched in Accentuate on the right side--it's hard to see but it's there.  You can also see the needlepages that will go at the top of each piece.

I have not yet picked up my needle tonight.  Instead, in light of the OMG-Thanksgiving-is-next-week-and-Christmas-is-right-behind, I came home from work and cleaned the pantry.  I needed to inventory the baking stuff anyway, and clear room for holiday provisions.  And we were having a leftovers night (since I want to clean the frig tomorrow) so it was a good time to do it.

There is a Certain Person who lives here who shall remain nameless but who is called Dearly Beloved--on occasion--who likes to experiment with new flavors.  He has been accused to going to the grocery store to sightsee.  He especially likes to try new combinations of seasonings in crackers.  He brings in boxes of crackers, tries one, decides he doesn't like it but eats another to be sure, then sticks the box on the pantry shelf to go stale.  I can tell you with certainty that in this household there are four crackers that will be eaten:  Wheat Thins, Premium unsalted top saltines, multigrain Club crackers, and Carr's cracked pepper water table crackers. The others will not.

And then there is the cereal.  He does experiment there, too, but he's better about eating the majority of the box--except for the last bowl's worth.  For some reason, he cannot eat the last bowl in the box.  So we have a shelf of almost finished boxes of cereal.  (When I eat cereal for breakfast, I eat oatmeal because I was indoctrinated to believe that people need hot breakfasts and cold cereal is not-quite-proper. Cold cereal is for eating on nights when you don't want to cook and there's no one at home to fuss about it.)  Those almost-finished boxes of cereal are also left to go stale.

I threw out enough grain tonight to feed a subcontinent and I am very unhappy about the waste.  I don't think I'm going to have a come-to-Jesus meeting about it, but I think the next "new" cracker that appears in this household is going to show up at every meal until the box is gone.  And there may be a "Cereal Surprise" breakfast one week-end.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not a stitch . . .

Dearly Beloved and I went Christmas shopping today.

As a result, I stitched nary a stitch today, so no bluebird singing on its branch to show.

I did spend an enjoyable interlude this evening talking to a friend about the overall state of needlework in the world.

But  I did not thread a needle all day.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

At 3 a.m. . . .

I was going to try to blog every day in November, but didn't make it yesterday.  Dearly Beloved and I were both wiped out when we arrived home from work.  We briefly discussed going out for dinner, then broke out the emergency rations (frozen pizza) and tottered off to bed early.

I think I watched "Grimm," but don't ask me to tell you what happened.

Anyway, this meant I woke up at 3 a.m., wide awake and unable to go back to sleep.  After trying a number of different sleeping positions (why is it when you can't sleep, you suddenly have more arms and legs than normal and no place to put any of them?), I gave up and got out of bed, lurched downstairs, and stitched.

And this is what I did in the middle of the night:

Dark, out of focus--middle of the night (which looks like all my other pictures)--but I have branches and a start on the leaves and a cobweb.

Marsha has a neat way of working the branches in whipped stem stitch.  The thickness you want the branches to have determines the number of strands of floss used. So for the largest branch, she suggested three strands. When you reach a point where the branch . . .well . . .branches, you drop a strand and stem stitch the next area with two strands. For the smallest branches, you use only one strand for the stem stitch, then whip back up it with that one strand. When you reach the area where you dropped a strand, you add it back to the needle and whip to the next dropped strand, and so on.  It's hard to see from the picture, but the branch has more dimension and weight where it should, looks more fragile where it should--and then I'm covering a good bit of it with leaves!

This technique would work nicely on other projects--I think it would be a very subtle way to handle the branches of a tree on a painted canvas, for example.

She also suggested using an overdyed thread for the leaves so that shading automatically occurs, giving them more depth and a more natural look.  Unfortunately, the skein of thread I have doesn't have quite as much variation in tone as I would like.  I thought about using another thread but Dearly Beloved says that he can see the variation--and one of the things you find about having cataracts is that they throw your color perception off.  With that in mind--and since I would really like to have this in the completed pile, I will probably leave it as it is.  This is a project I took primarily as a learning experience.

Hopefully I can get the rest of this area and the background for the bluebird stitched tonight, which will give me tomorrow to start the actual padded embroidery.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Her name is Jane Lemon--the other author on goldwork I couldn't remember.

Of course, it hit me the minute I hit publish.

Oh, so shiny . . .

I had to go to the dentist today.  This is NOT my favorite way to spend an afternoon, particularly when my desk at work is piled high and I am happier when it isn't.  However, it was time, so I dutifully went off and had my teeth cleaned and checked.

But then, when I got home,  this wonderful book was waiting for me:

Oh, good grief.

You will have to stand on your head to see this.  Technology gets me again.

Anyway, this is an amazing book on Goldwork, written by Hazel Everett, published by Search Press who comes out with extremely well done books on embroidery.  It is a phenomenal resource covering materials and techniques, as well as some lovely projects.

I've been lucky enough to take a dozen or so classes from Michele Roberts in goldwork, and there is nothing that will surpass taking a face-to-face class from someone who is an expert in the technique.  However, this book is tremendously helpful in providing reminders about some of the little details that can slip your mind after the classes are over.  The section on materials alone is worth the price of admission!

There are other good resources in this technique--the A-Z book from Country Bumpkin and Tracy Franklin's books immediately come to mind (there are others that have slipped out--one that I love is by Jane . . . er, something . . . she does brilliant ecclesiastical embroideries and I am going to feel like an idiot for forgetting her last name when I locate the book after I post this).

There are two projects in the book that brightened up this gray, dreary day spent having my teeth poked with sharp metal objects.   The instructions for the cover design are included (and I am going stash diving shortly to see what threads and wires I already have)--and then, there is this little guy:

Baby Girl likes dragons.  Christmas is coming.  Maybe I should remember that Christmas is coming faster than I would like to think.  Maybe I should plan for next Christmas.

Anyway, tonight I'm stash diving and planning and plotting.  Shiny is fun!!

Oh, and before I end this, I should perhaps clarify the last post a bit.  First of all, sincere thanks to all who commented and sent me tips and hints on doing random stitches.  In actuality, I don't do random because I don't like random, not because I can't do random.  When I first started embroidering, I was about six years old. After the obligatory pillowcases and dresser scarves, I did crewel for about 10 years, primarily because in the 60's that was just about all there was--the only canvaswork available was mostly prestitched centers that required filling in the backgrounds (BORING!) and the only cross stitch was stamped (also boring and hard to cover the stamped X's.)  I also embroidered stuff on my jeans and denim workshirts and purses and bags and all that stuff because it was the Age of Aquarius and you needed stuff embroidered on your apparel. And that, in particular, was pretty random.

When counted thread techniques and counted canvas designs appeared, I was in heaven.  It's a matter of preference, just as some people who use yarn prefer to knit and others prefer to crochet.  So, yes, I just had to vent  in the post because now, I really don't do random unless I absolutely have to, and apparently I have to on this piece.

But tonight, I'm planning to play in the shiny.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Leaves and buds and blossoms, oh my!

We have stems for the bluebird to perch on and for the spider web to dangle from on the Bluebird Needlecase.

Now we have the word that strikes fear in my needleworker's soul.


We're to stitch the leaves and flowers randomly.

I don't do random.

That's why I mostly stitch counted pieces, where everything has its place.

Not sure how this will go.  There may be ripping.  There will probably be ripping.  Because I really don't do random.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Done with the Nun

stitch, that is.

If a tremor, or, more likely, a quake, is recorded on the Carolinas border, it is due to my heaving my large and lovely self out of the wing chair and performing a major happy dance.  Dearly Beloved is bemused and amused.

So now I have what has to be the longest and most tedious part of the stitching of the Bluebird Needlecase out of the way.  If there is anyone out there who has stitched this project and would differ with me, I do NOT want to hear it.  Right now, I am reveling in the fact that I have no more nun stitch to do and I can get back to the fun stuff.

Everyday, I'm shufflin' . . .

Monday, November 7, 2011

Back to the 17th Century

I can't face nun stitch tonight.  I can't.

I am going to work on Martha Edlin instead. I'm almost ready to start filling in some shapes on the band I've been stitching, and that sounds ever so much more appealing than nun stitch.

So the Bluebird is going to flutter away for at least one evening.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This is the stitch that never ends . . .

If you were a child in the 60's, you might remember that Shari Lewis and Lambchop had a Saturday morning TV show.  (If you weren't, Shari Lewis was a ventriloquist and Lambchop was her alter ego--she also was a guest on the Johnny Carson years of the Tonight Show.)

Anyway, she had a song that started, "This is the song that never ends . . ."  and it just went on and on as long as your mother could tolerate it before she told you to go play outside for awhile.

That's how I feel about what I've been stitching since last night.

I'm on Lesson Two of the Bluebird needlecase.  In reading over the instructions, I found that part of the lesson included working the nun stitch around the six panels that make up the needlepages.  It was at the end of the lesson, but I thought, well, that's somewhat tedious so it probably would be better to go ahead and get it over with.  Besides, how long could six little pages take to nun stitch around.

For-bloody-ever, apparently.

I have been nun stitching for HOURS.  I still have two-and-a-quarter panels to nun stitch around.  I am not a particularly slow stitcher (which is good, since I change my mind and rip things out on a regular basis) but I feel like I must be going in slow motion on this part.

Now, Marsha did give us a way out.  She said if we didn't want to do the panels, we could always use wool felt for the needlepages.  "HA!" said I, the overachiever.  "That's taking the easy way out.  The linen pages will be ever so much cuter!!"

And now I'm committed.  And it this takes much longer, I may have to be.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Third Time's the Charm

Here is the final "B" for the back of my Bluebird Needlecase.

This is the third attempt.

I found a similar letter, but without the flowers.  It was smaller, so I thought I would cross stitch it over two threads.

That looked too big and clunky, especially since everything else is over one.

So, it was ripped out.

Then I found another, flowing Italic B.  I loved it.  I counted out the stitches and it was too big so I didn't even stick the needle into the fabric.

Then I found this one.  I liked the lines and thought the spray of flowers at the base would go well with the filigree at top and bottom.  And I counted wrong and it was too far over to the right.  So I ripped it out.

Finally I did what I should have done before I started stitching.  I basted the center lines, found the center of the letter, and stitched from the middle out.  At this point, it was after midnight and I could no longer focus my eyes.  This morning, before I even had the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, I plopped myself down in the wing chair and got it finished.

I'm finally completely ready for the second lesson! (The project has four lessons, and the online class ended over a month ago. Sigh . . .)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bluebird of Happiness

OK, I pulled out the Bluebird Needlecase to work on last night and did not take a stitch.  I have to make a decision about the initial for the back of the needlecase.

First of all, which initial(s) do I use?  One or the whole monogram?  If only one, first name or last name?

Then, what kind of lettering do I want to use?  Stately and classic?  Gothic?  Floral? Straight lines or flowing curves?

I did find two alphabet books that I have treasured for years and years to help make the decision. Back in the 70's there was a lovely lady from South Carolina named Rose Ann Hobbs who published a couple of books of alphabets. They have been my go-to resources for everything from monograms on wedding present linens to Christmas stockings, and there is bound to be something that I love in one of them.

So, tonight, one way or the other, I will decide.  Maybe.

(Or I could make twisted cording and tassels and finish off my Glitzy Ornaments.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cyborg Eyes*

I spent the afternoon at the eye doctor.

The Monday before Thanksgiving I will have the cataract in my left eye removed.  Previously I had the cataract in my right eye removed and the astigmatism corrected.  Apparently I grow a type of fast-appearing and fast-growing cataract.

It's not the surgery that is freaking me out.

It's hearing the doctor say I would no longer need to wear glasses.

Hmmmmm. . .

I have worn glasses for fifty years.  Literally.  The first pair was a lovely blue with sparkles "to bring out (my)  twinkly blue eyes," the optometrist said.  Along the way I also had a couple of tortoise shell pairs, then I was the first girl in my high school (and second person) to wear wire-rimmed spectacles, which immediately meant that I must be a hippie-freak-radical-weirdo-chick.  Quite possibly, I was.

I've had oversized frames, teeny-tiny frames, and rimless frames.  I've been wearing bifocals.

And now, I may not have glasses at all.

Not sure how to handle that.

*Baby Girl came up with cyborg eyes.  After the surgery on my right eye, the pupil was dilated to the point you could not see the iris.  To continue rockin' the Borg look, they taped a clear plastic eye shield over the eye.  Of course, I was trying to stitch, so I had on my regular glasses, and my magnifier (that sits on my head and suspends the magnifier in front of my eyes).  She took a picture which hopefully I have managed to locate and destroy on all possible places it could have appeared.  But she has referred to my artificial lens in the right eye as my cyborg eye ever since.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Carolina Casket stitchers

A week or so ago, I talked about meeting Tricia Nguyen at Winterthur and seeing the goodies that will be her "Cabinet of Curiosities" class--where the stitcher will create her own, special embroidered casket a la 17th century.

I signed up that very day.

Today, those of us who have signed up received a message from Tricia--the response thus far has been strong enough that plans are already underway for Casket Class Part Two--and this is before the general announcement for the Casket Class Part One has actually occurred.  Wow!

And one of the things that Tricia would like to happen is this:  that groups of stitchers get together, as we did for the Plimoth jacket, to stitch and work out problems and design issues and enjoy the process.

I live just about smack dab in the middle of the border between North and South Carolina.  Would anyone like to join me when the class starts?  We could be the Carolina Casket Stitchers--or the Carolina Casketeers (groan, but, sadly, it's growing on me--too much Monty Python in my impressionable years--I tend to go for the ridiculous)--or a much classier name of someone's devising.  Shoot, I'm up for road trips at any given moment (given work schedule, of course)--we could definitely travel to Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia!  We could go farther, actually--could you imagine taking over a hotel or resort area with a bunch of Casketeers?

Besides, who else is going to ever understand this mad obsession for all things casket-like?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Walneto nearly did me in

After spending time in the 17th, 18th, and a bit of the 19th centuries at Winterthur last week-end, I felt the need to jump into the 21st.

So I picked up Carole Lake and Michael Boren's Glitzy Diamonds set of Christmas ornaments.

And I was fine on the Double Fan Doubled.  I was fine on the Diagonal Padded Waffle.  I was quite fine on the Eight Point Star.

I ripped out the Walneto three times.  I even changed colors to see if that would help. It didn't.  I looked at the pictures posted for this class (through Shining Needle Society).  I read the directions.  I looked at the pictures again.  I do not know how I finally got it, but it's in and it sort of looks like the picture.

Finishing is next.  It's going to wait until the week-end since I still suffer from Fear of Finishing and need  vast amounts of time to deal with it.  I'm sort of thinking about making tassels to hang from the bottom of each, which means I need to decide which of the threads to tassel and which to make the cording from--and after the Walneto trauma, I think I need to go back to the 17th century for awhile.

( I was having trouble with the camera tonight. More likely, the camera was having problems with me.  This is the best of the half dozen shots I tried. )

Monday, October 31, 2011

Total Lack of Progress Report

Several months ago I announced that I had a list of projects that could just possibly be completed by the end of October.

It's the end of October.

Happy Halloween, by the way.

I digress.

Which is apparently what I've been doing instead of working on my list.

I have completed two of them, St. Margaret's Star and the Dresden Lace correspondence course from EGA.  The rest of them are pretty much in the same state they were in at the last progress report.

However, I have also finished ten Christmas ornaments (and eight are finish-finished) and a small spot sampler.  As soon as I locate the camera cord, I'll show them to you.

And I've added several new projects to the list: there are the two sampler classes from Winterthur, Thistlewood from Jackie duPlessis via Shining Needle, and This One's for Betty from Betsy Morgan via the Swan Sampler Guild.  And I've pulled Martha Edlin out and have been working on her again. Actually, Martha has received a LOT of attention lately and I am very, very happy with her at the moment.

I've also gone to visit The Flash a couple of times, spent a girls' week-end with Baby Girl, and travelled to Winterthur.  AND  I've started the dreaded cleaning to the molecular level required for the holidays.

Maybe I should try a slightly shorter list the next time I try this.  Which won't be until after the holidays since I don't need another list to deal with this time of the year.


I need to go lie down with a cool compress.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Winterthur, Day Two

Day Two of Winterthur followed the same schedule, with lectures in the morning and afternoon sessions in other areas of the museum.

Our first speaker was Karen Hearn, who is the curator of 16th and 17th century British Art at the Tate Britain in London.  She talked about the appearance of textiles in portraits of the time and reminded us that the detail in the portraits likely showed an impression of embroidery, but did not show the reality that we as embroiderers would want.  And she led us through slide after slide of beautiful portraits, showing us how they may have been altered over time by well-meaning conservation efforts or deliberate changes.  (And there were wonderful portraits of ladies wearing embroidered jackets--whether the detail could tell us about the embroidery or not--they were luscious!)

She was followed by Bill Barnes, the owner of Golden Threads.  This is the lovely man who provides us with exquisite gold threads and wires for our embroidery.  His passion for his craft was clear, and the attention to detail that results in the beautiful gold and silver threads we use apparent.  The most fascinating thing was that gold wire and thread manufacture had remained the same from Tudor days to 1962, when a new process changed the way the gold threads were manufactured.   Even at that, he can still manufacture the threads that Elizabeth I would have known.  Wow.  Simply, wow.

After a break, we listened to a lecture by Nicole Belolan about the Berlin work charts owned by Ann Warder, who lived in the 19th century. Ann Warder collected and shared charts for Berlin work with her friends and family members, maintaining close relationships with them as a result despite her own physical infirmities and illness.

Last was Dr. Lynn Hulse's review of the revival of Jacobean style crewel work in the late 1800's, largely as a reaction to what was viewed as the poor taste of those who stitched a great deal of Berlin work!  Much of her talk focused on the work of Lady Julia Carew who stitched enormous panels with which she decorated both her Irish country estate and her Belgrave Square home.  She also covered settees and chairs with crewel embroidery--but, then, it came out that she embroidered a minimum of seven hours a day.  Hmmmmm . . .a staff to handle the dusting, dishwashing, cooking, and laundry and seven hours a day to stitch.  I do believe we could all be that productive over 30-40 years of embroidery.

After lunch, we scattered to our afternoon sessions.  I took Joanne Harvey's Sarah Collins sampler reproduction and had the joy of seeing Joanne's slides on 17th century American samplers.  Loara Standish was featured, of course, and accompanied by Mary Hollingsworth and Elizabeth Cotton and Mary Atwood.  And the sampler, which is on display with the Plimoth jacket, was also reproduced from the colors on the back, and is another lovely, vivid sampler.

It was another wonderful day at Winterthur.  I wish every week-end could be spent that way.

(And it was very reassuring to be reminded that the stitchers who came before us had UFO's and collected patterns and charts for projects that may or may not have been stitched!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Winterthur, Day One

If there were ever a place that knows how to entice and enchant needlework addicts and history nerds, it is Winterthur.

There were around 250 of us, and it was delightful to see so many people familiar from other times and places.  The staff were always pleasant and very accommodating, welcoming us to "their" home.

And then there were the morning lectures.  What an impressive line-up of speakers!

Tricia Nguyen led off, guiding us through the making of the Plimoth jacket.  I stitched on it and have been addictively following the blog posts, so it isn't like I didn't know what was going on--but it was wonderful to relive the experience.  And even better, the things we've learned from the making of the jacket, and the materials that are now available to us as a result of the needs of the project, will enrich us as needleworkers for years.

Tricia was followed by Jill Hall, who first conceived of the project. She talked about how clothing reflected the status and lifestyle of the person who wore it during the 17th century.  One of the things I learned from her talk was the fear people of that time had of cold, which explains one reason that they were constantly and almost completely covered by clothing.  And. . .hmmmm . . .cleanliness was determined by wearing clean linens (shifts and so forth) between one's body and one's outer clothing--so if you were out and physically active, you didn't come in and bathe--you changed your linen.  I am glad The Big Kid was not aware of this during his early teens.

After a morning break (scones and muffins and mini-strudels, oh my!--yes, they spoiled us with wonderful food) we had a fascinating lecture by Susan Schoelwer, who wrote the book on the Connecticut needlework exhibit last year and is now the curator at Mount Vernon.  She traced some of the patterns that appeared in English needlework of the 17th century into the 18th century in Connecticut.  The same swirling pattern that appeared on the embroidered jackets in 17th century England appeared in bed rugs in Connecticut, for example.

And then, the morning ended with a lecture by Pam Parmal, one of the curators at the MFA in Boston.  She talked about the embroidered accessories stitched and worn by Boston schoolgirls in 18th century Boston.  We saw beautiful examples of embroidered aprons and stomachers.

After lunch, we broke into smaller interest groups.  I found at the last Winterthur symposium that I need some activity in the afternoon, so I took a class each afternoon this year.  The first day was Margriet Hogue's reproduction of Hephzabah Baker.  Now, if you saw a picture on Winterthur's site, you would think it was very dark and kind of dull-colored.  The colors on the reproduction were based on the back of the sampler.  Oh, MY!!!  Suddenly we had a quite vivid sampler rather than a dull and drab one.

And we got lucky.  It so happens that Linda Eaton was teaching a class on her favorite pieces from the Winterthur textile collection right next door.  And during our break, she pulled the original sampler so we could see it and compare.  And while we were closely examining the original, she also gave us the condensed version of her class--so we got to see some lovely pieces that are not ordinarily on display.

The day was capped off by a reception (spoiled again) and then we left for the day, tired but thrilled with all we had learned.  And there was more to come . . .

Monday, October 24, 2011

Winterthur, the prequel

Dearly Beloved and I drove back home from Winterthur's "With Cunning Needle" exhibit and symposium yesterday and I'm still trying to take it all in--and there's a lot to take in.  I'm going to divide this up into three parts because it's going to be horrendously long anyway.

There are no pictures.  I am a nimrod. I forgot the camera.

We divided the trip into two parts so we would have time to actually tour the museum and buy books at the gift shop (they have a phenomenal collection of books on decorative arts and American history, BTW).  We arrived fairly early on Thursday, the day before the symposium started so we decided to have lunch at the Garden Cafe to fortify ourselves before the tour.  As we were eating, Tricia Wilson Nguyen arrived and joined us.

And this is where I got into trouble.

Because Tricia had some of the goodies that will be offered as part of her Online University class on caskets, specifically 17th century embroidered caskets.  And she shared.  And I, who had pretty much decided I was going to take the class anyway, was absolutely, totally gobsmacked.  It is going to be ever so much more wonderful than I had thought. Even Dearly Beloved, who is pretty blase about all this stuff, having lived with me and my stash for years, was impressed.

(So, as soon as I got back to the hotel, I  fired up the computer and reserved my spot.  A note:  it is tacky to talk about money, but I'm going to anyway.  This is, at first glance, a little pricey.  However, the payments are spread out over 18 months--an easy payment plan, if you will--the materials are of premium quality, and you're not going to have this type of opportunity come along very often.  I used to go to EGA's and ANG's national seminars--the price of the casket class is less than I usually spent on hotel and food, much less considering the cost of transportation, the incidentals that come with traveling, and the seminar costs themselves.  I decided it's well worth the investment. )

So, after pulling myself together from the glory that will be the casket class, we meandered to the main museum to see the exhibit.  The Plimoth Jacket is the centerpiece and it, too, is glorious.  The presentation, the accompanying slide show, the whole look of the exhibit itself showcases the skills and talents of the people involved. And, yes, I was one of the embroiderers.  I have a few buds and leaves stitched on one of the sleeves.  I was in the guinea pig group--we were the first to work on it and gave the committee who dreamed it up an idea of how the work was going to go.

There are other pieces in the exhibit showcasing a wide variety of embroidered objects and placing them in the context of their times.  There is a gem of an exhibit catalog available.

We also took the basic tour of the house, viewing many of the rooms Mr. Dupont created from his vast collections of furnishings and other early American decorative arts.  The man loved his china and there are cases of beautiful pieces throughout the areas we toured--a man after my own heart. Some of the rooms were set up to display his collections but most of them were used by the family, and, despite the scale of the rooms, you got a feeling that this was a well-loved and thoroughly used home with cozy spots created throughout.  This is a gem of a museum, and is on my list of places to visit again.  And again.

So, after the tour, we supported the local economy a bit, then went out for an early dinner in preparation for Day One of the symposium.  And that will be the next thrilling installment.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Enabling . . .

Enabling again--of course, I need partners in crime!

Sherri Jones of Patricks Woods has a website:, of course.  And she is announcing that she will be teaching a really lovely little purse and smalls through Shining Needle next spring.  I wonder if one could pre-register . . .this class is a must-have.

And Gay Ann Rogers' eWeek began today.  This is the one week in the year when she throws the doors open and sells both brand-new designs and favorites from her years of teaching for EGA, ANG, Callaway, and elsewhere.  There is something for everyone, including me.  And I need to place my order before it all vanishes until next year.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Alexander the Great is Three

Alexander the Great is three today.

Endlessly inquisitive, in constant motion, a very busy little person.
Actually, he's not so little.  He's the size of most five-year-olds.
And that is the Abominable on his hoodie.
There are days when it suits him.

But then, there is nothing sweeter than a hug from the most special little person in the world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

OOOPS!! (I am NOT having a good night)

I have had a Monday all day.

I'll take that back.  Work went well.  I accomplished what I wanted to do today, and that was good.

Then I came home.

And that was good, when it started out.  Dearly Beloved and I had an enjoyable discussion of our day, he cooked dinner (and that was very good), and I  got ready to finish up some things I needed to do.

One of those things was to bake some cheese muffins to take as refreshments to sampler guild.  I got the batter done this morning before work so all I had to do was fill the muffin tins and bake.  Got that done.

Then while they were baking, I decided to put together the needlekeep and scissors fob I made this week-end.  Situated myself at the kitchen table (ever since our last oven shorted out and caught on fire, I do not leave the room if something is cooking or baking).  Had my needlework lined up in front of me.  Had threads, needles, fiberfill, Skirtex, pins--everything I needed.  Also had my glass of Pepsi at hand for caffeine.

You know how they say to avoid having any liquid anywhere when you're stitching.  They are right.

I picked up my glass and it slipped out of my hands and sloshed everywhere.  Everywhere.  I mean EVERYWHERE!!!!

The deep green and red silk on the needlebook and pinkeep ran.  So I leaped up from the table and sprang to the sink to run cool water through.

Oh, who am I kidding.  I am a large and lovely lady with an arthritic hip and bad knees.  Leaping and springing are no longer in my repertoire.  I lurched up and tottered to the sink, where I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed again.

It did not help.  Frustrating, because the other times I've had dyes run, rinsing got the excess out.  Not this time.  Where the red and green dye met and mingled, the linen is now a color not found in nature.  And the pomegranates have pink halos.  And the leaves have green halos.  I don't think I could give these away.

And while I was attempting the rescue, the cheese muffins burned.

I'm going to bed.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Off Kilter and Out of Sorts

For the last week, I've been . . . not quite.  Blah. Not able to settle, even to stitch.  Just sort of plodding along.  Not the way I like to live my life.

Usually, doing something (actually, doing almost anything) will get me out of the blahs, but this week I couldn't figure out anything to do.

And then, last night, it hit me.  For the last month and a half (or so), I have been taking care of obligations. Family obligations. Work obligations. Volunteer obligations.  Even needlework obligations.  There's been nothing left for me.

And you need to have something for yourself.  If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

So, tonight, I jumped back into the 17th century and pulled Martha Edlin out of her pillowcase.  Ever since I took her out to take her progress pictures, she has been quietly waiting for me to take care of her again.  It took me a minute or two to figure out what I'd been doing (WHY did I stop in the middle of a pattern stitch?  Why didn't I finish that little bit of arcaded band before stopping?  WHAT was I thinking?) but once I got into the flow, I just toddled right along.

And found myself smiling over my stitching again.  And when I discovered that I had gotten a stitch off WAY back where I had started and had to pull out a whole long section, I did not even say any naughty words.  I didn't even say any not-naughty words.  I just said, well, look at that, unstitched the section and stitched it back in.

And now I'm going to thread up my needle with another color and start another section.

Tomorrow I have obligations again that may well take the rest of the week-end to handle, but tonight is mine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My version of Elizabeth

Gay Ann Rogers has a gallery of Elizabeths on her website ( little hint of something to come, I think.  Anyway, this was a piece I proof stitched for her last year.

And this is mine:
(There's a better picture of her in Gay Ann's Gallery.)

Elizabeth was fun to stitch, but there were challenges along the way that required me to make some decisions on my own.  I don't think that's a bad thing because it means that the piece becomes your own.

The first challenge was this:  the basic part of the portrait was counted--then, when it was time to stitch some of the more "fluid" areas, I needed to trace part of the design.  However, as sometimes happens, the piece of Congress cloth I had was more loosely woven than the piece Gay Ann used to stitch the original.  This meant that mine was larger overall, which meant the outside edges didn't fit the tracing.  I could have gone whining to the teacher and demanded my own personalized tracing (hate it when people do that, so I'm not going to start) or I could have located a more tightly woven piece of Congress cloth and started over (SO not going to happen!) or I could figure out how to handle the problem.

Which is what I did.  If you look at Gay Ann's Elizabeth and then at mine, you'll see mine has a more "bombastic" sleeve (which Jane Zimmerman says is the proper term for those oversized sleeves) and my Elizabeth has more veil.  Actually, I kinda like it since it's unique.

The second challenge was the background.  There's a lot of basketweave under that background. A lot of it.  It's like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps going and going and going . . .so I set aside a certain amount of time to do background, then I allowed myself the privilege of working on linen for awhile (remember, I was proof stitching, so I had a fairly tight deadline).  In the end, though, those miles of basketweave became soothing, good to do when I'd had a long day at work and my hands needed to be busy but my brain didn't.  And the overlay stitching was just plain fun.

The third challenge: beads. This is before I discovered the Bohin beading needles, so this involved regular beading needles.  This involved pearls with holes that sometimes didn't go straight through the pearl.  This involved lots of OTHER types of beads to create all the jewels.  Which, because of the the different size of my Congress cloth, required making some decisions about spacing.  All of which made me bugnutz crazy.  BUT those pearls (and they are real pearls, not pearl-like beads) and jewels (which are beads and not real jewels) make Elizabeth what it is.  Without them, Elizabeth would not have been Gloriana herself.

She is not framed since I am hoping that Gay Ann will teach Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bess of Hardwicke.  If she does, I want to frame them all in similar fashion.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We may have been married too long ...

Dearly Beloved and I have been married for over 35 years.  Actually, sometimes it seems we could have known each other in other lives.  But there are times . . .

Many years ago, I first saw an embroidered casket.  It was not in the best of conditions, the metal threads tarnished and many of the threads rotted away, but it fascinated me.  At the time, I thought it would be wonderful to have access to the silks and metals and to know the techniques to create such an object.

Then, two or three years ago, one of my favorite teacher/designers mentioned that a casket would be a phenomenal project and she was inclined to design one.  Since then, I have attempted to take every class she offered in 17th century techniques, thinking they would come in handy when at last a casket class came into being.  In fact, I have said those very words to Dearly Beloved when signing up for a workshop or online class.

(Keep in mind that Dearly Beloved has gone to some of the locations of these workshops with me over the last few years.  Keep in mind that I talk about embroidery a lot, especially when deciding what classes I'd like to take.  Keep in mind that I have a needle in my hand whenever I have a spare minute.  Keep in mind that he should have absorbed something just by osmosis.)

Then, while those plans were percolating, another designer created a counted thread version of a casket to be used as an etui, with accompanying smalls.  And our sampler guild is on her schedule to offer this as a workshop.

And then, just yesterday, I discovered that another teacher/designer is going to offer an online class reproducing a casket from the Burrell.

OK, zero to THREE caskets in less than three years. To say that I am excited is an understatement.

So, last night I was talking to Baby Girl on the phone (Baby Girl also stitches, quite well, as a matter of fact--which is good, because she will inherit my stash.)  I was delirious with the thought of all these caskets in my future, because, of course, I will take all the classes and stitch them all. We discussed in great detail.  We were giddy.

A couple of hours later, after I had gone on to other activities, (actually, I was trying to figure out where exactly I went over three threads instead of two in a double running pattern) Dearly Beloved, who was looking a little perturbed, asked me if I had a health issue I should perhaps tell him about.

Me:  I can't think of anything.

Him:  Then why are you discussing funeral arrangements?  And I thought we had decided to be cremated.

Me:  I haven't been discussing funeral arrangements.  And we are going to be cremated.  You know I'm too claustrophobic to be shut up in a box.

Him:  I sat here and heard you talking to Baby Girl about coffins.

Me:  I was not talking to her about coffins.

Him:  Then what WERE you talking about?

I had to stop and think since we had been on the phone for about an hour and had discussed a variety of things.  Then it hit me.

Me: We were talking about CASKETS!  You know, embroidered boxes.

Him:  Why would you want to embroider a box to put the ashes in?


Several years ago, Baby Girl and I insisted that Dearly Beloved get his hearing checked.  We discovered (like we didn't already know) that there are certain frequencies he can no longer hear.

We have also decided that there are certain frequencies he no longer listens to, certain frequencies he doesn't pay attention to,  and certain frequencies he will never understand.

I think this certainly proves that point.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A very good mail week

Last week was a very good week for surprises arriving in the mail.

(They were surprises only in that I didn't know exactly when they would arrive--but, hey, I'll take goodies any time I can get them.)

First up: With Needle and Brush, Schoolgirl Embroidery from the Connecticut River Valley, 1740-1840.

This is the catalog from the exhibit of the same name held at the Florence Griswold Museum.  It is a lovely book which includes detailed descriptions of the needlework and information about the stitchers.  I could wish that the photographs of the pieces were a little larger, but given the expenses of printing and the current economic situation facing virtually every museum, I can certainly understand the constraints.

Then, The Ornament Issue.  I have found a good many ornaments that I would love to have on my tree.

Ok, full disclosure:  I have every single copy of The Ornament Issue, from the beginning.  I have multiple copies of several since obviously I liked them so much I had to have another one (has nothing to do with forgetting I already had a copy).  I have yet to stitch a single, solitary ornament from any of them.  I say to myself when they arrive, "Wouldn't it be lovely to stitch an ornament a month from this to add to the tree?"  Then, in January, when I'm still vacuuming up needles from the tree, I am not inclined. I should probably stitch ornaments in July and August.

The little notebook was part of the shipment which included the last installment of Ann Wheatley--if you signed up for all parts, there were goodies to be had.  It is a very handy size and already has notes in it.  As far as Ann Wheatley . . .well . . .I'm still slogging through the verse from Lesson Two.  SO many letters  . . .

There is the kit for "This One's for Betty," a set of smalls designed by Betsy Morgan.  I'm a member of the Swan Sampler Guild, which treats its away members very well and makes sure we can benefit from the teachers they bring in. (This is another one of those organizations which gets me into trouble.)  I am looking forward to stitching this but I am being strong and not giving into temptation.  Yet.

And finally, the catalog for the exhibit at Winterthur arrived.  If you contributed in any way to the funding for the exhibit, you received a copy.  Dearly Beloved and I will be heading to Delaware in a few short weeks--I'm going to the symposium and he is going to tour Winterthur while I'm in lectures and classes.  The catalog has only whetted my appetite for seeing the exhibit.

It's been almost like Christmas around here!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dresden Lace and, coincidentally, Dresden Files

I've finished two things this week-end.

This is my Dresden Lace EGA correspondence course piece.  I truly did not think I would have it finished before the turn-in date, but it is finished, complete, rinsed, washed, ironed and done!

And, despite hearing Pod's voice in my head, I did not go blind.  And I only stabbed myself with the sharp needle once.

The other thing I finished was Jim Butcher's "Changes," the next to last book in the Harry Dresden series.  For those who don't know Harry Dresden, he's a wizard, just like the other Harry--but this one lives in Chicago, works as a private investigator, and has a delightfully snarky sense of humor.  The latest book in the series, "Ghost Story," has spent the last several weeks on the bestseller list.  It took a little longer for this one to come out, and it had been awhile since I read the series, so I've spent the last few months re-reading the entire series before diving into "Ghost Story."

I highly recommend the series, and I suggest reading the books in order, since the stories build on each other.  It's also interesting watching the writer develop. The writing improves with every entry in the series--in rereading, I found the first book, "Storm Front," less compelling than I did on the first reading--mainly because the characters have grown in complexity, the moral issues have become more profound, and the author's skill has increased in bringing them together.

SyFy did a series loosely (very loosely) based on the books several years ago.  It was good escapist TV if you like sci fi (and we do in this household), but it does not hold a candle to the books.

I'm also reading Alison Weir's book on Henry VIII and his six wives and watching The Tudors on DVD.  But that will be a rant on another day.

Now to decide what to pick up to work on next . . .

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Carole Lake!!!!

Today is Carole Lake's birthday!!

And Carole is one of my very favorite people on the whole planet, so I am happy to help her celebrate!  I may even find cake and ice cream to eat in her honor!!  May?  Make that, will be certain to find cake and ice cream to celebrate!!

And tonight I will probably sign up for her newest class at Shining Needle, taught with Michael Boren.  It's a set of four Christmas ornaments (although you have a choice of about eight different colorways)--they are very, very cool.  Carole and Michael are even offering a finishing kit so you can stitch them up and finish them yourself and avoid the finishing deadlines--AND, if your guild does an ornament exchange, you will have something to exchange!

(if you don't know about Shining Needle, contact Kate Gaunt at . .this is one of the places that gets me into trouble about every couple of weeks . . .it costs nothing to join, but you get opportunities to take fabulous classes online)

AND, for those of us who have long loved (and stitched) Carole's Anasazi Song and Anasazi Dream--there will be a NEW Anasazi (Spirit, I think) around the first of the year.

So, I am very, very happy to have Carole in the world and in my life.  YAY, Carole!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

You'll ruin your eyes!

(This will eventually get around to a stitching story.)

When I was a child, I had somewhere around twenty-plus great-aunts.  They were all, bless their hearts, characters--but that is a story for another time.

One of the major characters was Aunt Polly.  I could not say "Polly" when I was learning to talk.  I called her "Poddy Pod" which was later shortened to "Pod," and that is the name she became known as for the last twenty or so years of her life.  I'm not sure she ever forgave me for that.

Anyway, Pod was supposed to die when she was sixteen.  She lingered for another seventy years, enjoying ill health.  She never married, therefore never had children, but this, of course, meant that she was an authority on relationships and child-rearing methods.  She was delighted to share her observations on behavior and her recommendations for everything from keeping a husband to teaching children proper manners and respect.

She was not, however, a reader.  She read her Bible, she glanced at the newspaper, she may have flipped through a magazine or two while waiting for a doctor's appointment (remember, she enjoyed ill health).

On the other hand, the minute I deciphered, "Run, Spot, run," I became a voracious and constant reader (which hasn't changed, as the groaning bookshelves will attest).  I constantly had my nose in a book, or fastened to "Highlights" or attached to the back of the cereal box at breakfast.  This concerned Pod, particularly when I was diagnosed as near-sighted and prescribed glasses in third grade.  Whenever she saw me reading, especially when she thought I had insufficient light, she would screech, "You'll ruin your eyes!!"

I ignored her.

And then, yesterday, I was diligently working on my Dresden Lace correspondence course, which will be due this month. Yesterday was a beautiful day, bright and shiny, so loads of natural light to make it easier to see 55 count linen.  But, after awhile, I realized I was focusing so intently I was forgetting to blink.  I also realized that I had been focused so intently that hours had passed, that I was so stiff I could barely totter up from my chair, and that no oxygen was reaching my brain.

It was time to take a lap around the neighborhood, get the muscles moving, get some oxygen to the brain and other parts that had gone numb.

Things seemed a bit blurry as I set off--and then I realized that I had not taken the time to look up and refocus.  For Lord knows how long.  And I realized things weren't getting any clearer.

Merciful Heavens!  Could Pod have been right?  Could you ruin your eyes by using them too much?

Anyway, after a few more steps, the world became clearer and I didn't go blind.


And this is what I was working on:

It's only about the size of an index card.  The entire thing will be stitched. The whole background will be four-sided stitch.

You may notice some threads wandering off to the sides. This is the part I pulled out when I realized I could not see 55 count linen under artificial light, even artificial Dazor or Ott Light light.  Alas, thwarted by working for a living--let's hope the next couple of week-ends have sunshine and not clouds so I can finish before the deadline--or before I ruin my eyes.