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, 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.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Distracted and diverted . . .

Somehow it got to be Thursday and very little stitching has happened around here.

I did work on Rebecah French over the long week-end but of course, didn't get as far as I had hoped to get.

Then I was distracted by this:

(And I have tried to rotate the silly thing and it won't rotate and save.)

Anyway, this is the newest class I'm taking through Shining Needle Society, Thistlewood from Jackie duPlessis.  Naturally, as soon as I walked in the door from work on Tuesday and found it waiting for me, I had to fondle the threads and read the directions and come very close to threading a needle.  I was strong and resisted the siren call, but it was hard.

And then I was diverted by this:

This was the program for the first meeting of the year of the Carolina Sampler Guild, which occurred last night.  The motif is inspired by one found on the sampler of Mary Locke, a student at Salem Academy.  Our programs for this year will be a series of smalls, all of them with motifs from samplers from the Carolinas.  In addition to the pinkeep design based on her sampler, we heard a bit about Salem, the emphasis the Moravians placed on education for everyone (including little girls in a time when the formal education of the female of the species was considered unimportant and unnecessary), and the life of Mary Locke herself.  Her guardians felt it important for her to have education in embroidery and paid an additional two dollars a year for the privilege.

Mary's sampler, stitched while she attended Salem Academy, was reproduced in an issue of SANQ about ten years ago.

So, of course, when I arrived home from the meeting, I immediately had to go stash diving for threads and fabric and stayed up way too late. . .which means I am now very sleepy and a little concerned about counting accurately.

So while I have looked at embroidery and thought about embroidery and obsessed about embroidery, I have not done any embroidery.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

(Lack of) Progress Report

I thought I should review my list of current projects to determine where I am--after all, I hoped to have at least half a dozen finishes by the end of October.


Ann Wheatley:  I am bogged down in the saying.  There are many, many letters.  Many letters. Lots of letters.  Don't know why letters take me longer than other things, but they do.  And the weird thing is that the verse on the sampler is what drew me so strongly to this SAL.

Rebecah French:  I am working on the attribution and hoping to get the sawtooth border completed this week.  I am also hoping to get Baby Girl to do the tracing for me when she visits next week-end--she has a steadier hand and more patience with things like this than I do--and there is a LOT of tracing to be done.

St. Margaret's Star:  FINISHED

Bluebird Needlecase:  I need to make a decision about the monogram for the back cover.  Hmmm, another letter . . . And I need to stitch the needlepages. . . then I'll be ready for lesson 3.  Of course, Lesson 4 has been posted and people have been displaying their finished needlebooks all over the web. I think I'm a wee bit behind.  As usual.

Dresden Lace GCC from EGA:  I do not know why this one is giving me fits but it is.  I have done some  Dresden lace before, including a major piece designed by the same designer.  It may have something to do with the fact that this will be evaluated in company with work of some of the finest stitchers in my chapter, all of whom do heirloom sewing and one of whom teaches on the national level for the smocking guild.  I am way out of my league in this technique with this group, and being a first-born girl child with perfectionistic tendencies, I am making myself crazy.  Sigh . . .it's a learning experience, it's a learning experience, it's a learning experience. . .

Nantucket House workbasket: bogged down in the letters for the poem that fits in the lid.  I should be ready to put this thing together (another effort to overcome Fear of Finishing) but I need to finish the letters.  Letters again.  Do we detect a theme?  Like, maybe I should stay away from things with sayings?

Journey, ANG Cyberworkshop:  Have not touched this one. Don't know why I'm not feeling the love, but it may not be the right time for this one.  I may decide to set it aside completely and focus on the others.

It does not appear that I will have all these things finished by the end of October unless I discover an electric needle or do nothing but stitch (which will interfere with the paying job that supports my habit and enough housekeeping to keep the Health Department at bay).  However, I have finished four pilot projects and am almost through with the fifth, so that has taken away from my personal stitching time. That's my excuse and I'm standing by it.

Oh, well, it's a journey, not a destination!