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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Excuses, excuses.... (and TUSAL update)

Hi Everyone!  Thanks so much for all your comments on my posts.  I forget to thank you way too often, but I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy hearing from you!

I have nothing real stitchy to show, even though I am dutifully stitching on the Richmond sampler, one over-one letter at the time.  I have a feeling that I will run out of floss for the letters here soon, so that will give me a break...
I have stitched up more than 50% of the Lucet piece.  I may still tweak the personalized pocket a bit, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel for this one!  One more over-one carnation and then the finishing party will begin!
I also have to confess that I pulled this vintage Fremme kit out and was just about to find the center of the linen, when a nap caught me square in the eye.  Saved by the bell!  Maybe some other day...

The Memorial Day weekend was great.  I took Friday off from work to spend time with my feather-rats and clean up the house.  We had people over for a BBQ on Saturday, so the house needed to be spotless.  Yep, a BBQ is generally located in the back yard, but I can't very well forbid people from using the wash-room, which means that the entire house needed a big wipe down...  We had a grand time and the house still looks clean, so that is nice!
It is so much fun to see that the birds get very eager to take baths when we are in the cleaning mode.  Here are Pixie and Henny taking turns in their water dish:

On Sunday, DH and I took a trip over to IKEA.  The reason why was this mess (I know that I have showed it to you before.  Trust me, I do organize everything between shots, but the war against the stash is something that I seem to be loosing...):

So this is what was done:
1)  Assemble

2)  Move around (You should have seen our expressions when we realized that the assembled cabinets may not fit around the corners or in through the stitch-room door!)

3)  Sort, stash, step back and admire - Voila!

Note my TUSAL jar that has now been hidden on top of one of the new cabinets.  The reason why is that someone found out that it is a lot of fun to munch on the label.  (I am pretty sure that it was 
Rusty, but he just looks at me with big eyes when I ask him....) 

Good that we got organized too, since I got some really cool stash in the mail:
Did you know that Kari Meng of French General makes jewellery kits as well as publish books, designs fabrics, and quilts?  I had no idea, but once I found out, I had to get some kits to try out.  I'll let you know how they turn out (I am completely new to this craft, so no high expectations, please.  ;-))  I had a lot of fun browsing the web-site!  The only thing that seems a bit odd is that the kits don't come with a photo of a model or something.  I had to print out the very tiny pics posted on Kari's web-site.

Well, I am trying to be good with getting to bed in a reasonable hour.  Plus Anne Maria is calling my name - have to spend some time with her and a nice cup of tea!

Have a great evening & Happy Stitching!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Founders Day with Craft Booths

Hi all!  I am very content tonight.  I decided to take a vacation day tomorrow, so my weekend has already begun.  It won't be a sit-down-on-the-couch-and-stitch-all-day thing though; no, I have to prep the house for guests that may end up here for a BBQ on Saturday.  We are just hosting the cook-out in our back yard and it's not supposed to be a big affair.  However, I have a feeling that it would be terribly rude to deny the privilege of using the in-door facilities to the guests while they are here.  In other words, tomorrow is bird-cage cleaning day, including bathroom wipe-down, living-room vacuuming and maybe even window cleaning....  Exciting, huh!? 
Plus, I really should do some good weeding out in the yard too - the never ending rain is not making my magnolia trees any happier, but those weeds are living the high life right now!
Oh, and I have been yearning to make this wreath that I found a tutorial for a while back while I know that the vast majority of my indoor plans are yearning for a re-potting session....

I may sleep in tomorrow too.  I am a night-person and, even thought I keep telling myself to grow up and start improving my bed-time habits, I can't seem to get to bed in a decent hour.  Since I also have to get into work in the mornings, my beauty tends to get shortened a lot.  Yesterday, I sat up and looked at stitched pieces designed by Mary Beale until early morning.  That lady sure can design!  I love her things and I am not normally particularly into Victorian style decor.  Have you ever run across one of her "Pocketbook Needlework" collections?  They are simply adorable!  What is interesting is that no color photos follow the charts, so many times you will simply have to take a chance.  So far, I don't think that I have seen anything that I have not liked by her, though.  Here are links to her blog and her shop, if you have not already checked them out.

Well, enough of the random babbling.  I wanted to show you photos from the Founder's Day event last Saturday.  It was a lot of fun!  The crafters and vendors were asked to show up at 9 o'clock which was one hour before the event opened to the public.  I thought that "Oh well, I'd just sit there and twiddle my thumbs for a while, since it will never take ma a full hour to set everything up".  Guess what!?  It took me every minute of that hour to get everything in order!
The opening ceremony was grandiose, with a procession of bagpipers marching in to "Scotland the Brave".  They played a few additional songs (among them Amazing Grace, which is one of the most beautiful hymns, don't you think?) and three US soldiers lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Note that we finally had a break from the rain....
This is one of the springs that this little part is built around.  It is so peaceful.
Musicians were taking turns to entertain the visitors the entire day.  Since I was indoors, I didn't get to hear a lot, but I did manage to sneak out to take this photo of a couple playing the dulcimer.  Note the man in the period dress sitting down to listen.
The majority of the crafters that were demonstrating craft and showing finished pieces were indoors.  We had ladies from the local quilt guild, a couple of ladies spinning and weaving (the lady below actually works in out LNS, so it was really cool to meet her here - I had no idea that she spun and wove, in addition to embroider, knit and crochet!), the Daughters of the American revolution who displayed and showed how to play with pioneer toys, a vendor selling real antique helmets and guns, a couple that were displaying their taxidermy art, and I.
The taxidermy art was really beautiful  - guess that I liked it so much because it was birds.  I know that I am supposed to find it creepy, but I just didn't.  The swan was just fabulous.  One of the strollers-through told me that this guy is quite famous in the Middle-East and gets picked up on private jets to work his magic on all kinds of exotic animals.
My home was in the very back corner, but run up through the crowd and grabbed another crafter to take a photo of me posing with these gentlemen.  Is this not cool!? 
 The solider on the right told me that the only difference between the summer and the winter uniform was that you let down the edge flap on your coat on the winter.  He also informed me that the coat was made from wool and that it was always fitted very snuggly to its owner.  That way, he told me, you did not have an insulating layer between the coat and the body so "you froze in the winters and boiled in the summers".  Those were the days!
As you can see from below, all my Michael's acquired display boxes worked out real well.  Can you believe that I stuffed all the stitched pieces in 1 single duffel bag (not even a real big one)?  Sorry about the mass of photos, but since the majority of these projects are pre-2011 finishes, I have not shared them with you before, so I figured that this is a good of a time as any.  (I'll bring a table-cloth next time, btw, promise!)

Having a great time!
So, this is where I sat and stitched for about 6 hrs straight. Pink came by to say hi, a number of Scandinavian friends popped over as well, and DH was sweet enough to drive over to give me a lunch break.  I got plenty stitched on the Richmond sampler, so I was really pleased!
The people that strolled by did not really stay for long or say a whole lot.  Most of the comments were either compliments from people who are stitchers themselves (very, very few as you can probably imagine and most of them sighed and said that they "used to stitch before my eye sight got too bad..."), or visitors that mentioned things like "my mother used to do needle-point too".  Nowadays, I don't even correct them with the "counted needle-work vs needle-point blurb", since I have learned that most people really don't want to listen or learn anyway.  I guess it's more of a "been there, done that" or "I already know this stuff"-type of statement than anything else, if that makes sense?
A couple of men did actually take the time to look through everything and told me that "you do beautiful work", which was fun and not something that I have ever heard any person of the opposing gender say to me before.  Except maybe my dad.  DH - forget in a dream (sounds better in Swedish, right Littlest Sis?)!  Oh, and I forgot, one lady stopped by only to, quite snootily, point out that I had misspelled my sign (sigh).  Soooo.... the day progressed very calmly.
In the middle of this slow and relaxing day, the event main coordinator swung by all the tables and handed over envelopes.  I almost fell off my chair when I opened it and discovered a $150 check!!!  I thanked him so much and let him know that the check was absolutely not necessary.  He responded by telling me that it was not much and that the the men wearing the period uniforms probably carry around about $2,000-3,000, so he meant that his group was more than happy to support us.  I did not dare to calculate the value of the content in my packed duffel bag....  (but I do have a feeling that it is more than a period costume.  Much more...)
DH laughed and said that I am now officially a professional stitcher, when i told him about the check!  :-)

So, after telling you about my grand Richmond progress, I guess that I owe you a photo, right?  Coming right up!
The baskets are done and the text is about half-way complete.  Now I just have to get to the sun-flowers in and the border queen-stitched and she is done!  Plus, I am trying to figure out where to add my monogram and date. Probably in the lower right-hand corner, in a pale color that won't show unless carefully viewed.  I am thinking that I may actually have her professionally framed.  That would be my very first one!
If you would like to read more about the history and the lady behind this sampler, hurry over and cheek out Valerie's blog, A Shenandoah Sampler!  She wrote a really nice post about her visit with the Anne Maria Clarke Richmond sampler a few days ago!  Very interesting, very nicely written and with lovely photos to look at.  Simply a wonderful experience to get a piece of.

Other than that, not a whole lot to write home about....  Pink came over for out Wednesday Stitch-In.  This is our new, officially "real" thing and it is working great!  Socializing, coffee, leaving the house, and stitching - can't get a whole lot better in my book.  Of course, Henny always gets a bit disappointed when we leave.  She is pretty much 100% certain that Pink comes over solely to visit her, so she is glued to Pink's shoulder over the entire visit.  Located proudly on Pinks shoulder, Henny contentedly bobs, struts and makes very high-pitched and shrill comments about life'n other important things.
Here is a pic of "The Green Chicks" having a grand time together (it does look like they are up to no good, doesn't it?).

Well, guess what - I don't have to go to bed, so I am not even saying good night today!!!  I think that I will pull Anne Maria back out and get some more over one text stitched up.  Life is pretty great!
Good night and have a wonderful holiday!
Happy Stitching,

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Friday Night Stitch-In - Wohoooo!

This weekend has been fabulous!  It started off with a stitch-in with the peeps in Northern KY.  I would guess that we ended up being about 15-20 ladies.  Some of us were stitching more than others (I was not part of the "some of us" section) and others were less focused and concentrated more on doing our "rounds" to catch up.  Fun, fun, fun.  Here are some shots of some of my buddies and their WIPs.  Aren't they gorgeous - both the buddies and their work, that is!
 L-bug, Big Dog, and  Bzz*Bzz*Bee.
 Bzz*Bzz*Bee is working on a baby quilt for a colleague - where can I find co-workers like that!? 
I think that I overheard her mentioning that the piece is stitched as a RR within a group at work.
L-bug showing off her very first SAL and big project, I Sigh Not for Beauty by C Street Samplerworks.  She is almost there!
Someone is hiding behind her frame...  Little Miss Peek-a-Boo! 
Everything is done, except for the minute over-one stitches...
Stone Collector with a school house in progress.  She was our gracious hostess.
 Pro-Framer, who promptly misunderstood my many hints that her WIP, once finished,
will find a very good and suitable home in my house, since it has birds on it....
Lady BlackWork holding up an adorable strawberry small.
MJ&ME (first time visitor, I believe - she melted right in) and Big Dog, 
who is working on the beautiful Liberty 1776 by Little House Needleworks
Froggie, with a very suitable project, don't you think?
MissieY with a good quarter completed of her gorgeous sampler!

In the last picture, you can see MissieY with her fantastic progress on Sandy Orton's America Sampler.  As you may know, this sampler was recently re-published and was even the "Sampler of the Month" at Attic Needlework earlier this year.  It is a beautiful sampler, inspired by the samplers from the Mary Balch School in Providence, Rhode Island.  If you would like to see a couple of actual reproduction samplers, Scarlet Letter has two; Betsy Davis and Betsy Manchester.  Are they not just beautiful!?  Here are a few other examples: Mary Munro, Lucy Potter (possibly Mary Balch School),  Elizabeth Ann Pitman, Polly Smith, Betsy Wardwell, and Nabby Martin.
Here is a little bit more info about Mary Balch School, shamelessly copied from American Needlepoint Guild, Inc:
"Mary Balch's School has produced one of the largest group of fine schoolgirl samplers and embroidered pictures of the sampler period. Located in Providence, Rhode Island, the school seems to have been started by Sarah Balch after the death of her tailor husband. Experience with the tailoring may have been very valuable to Sarah and her daughter Mary. Mary assisted her mother and soon took over the running of the school, and it is under her supervision that the school gained its outstanding reputation.
Mary's epitaph proclaims that she started the first "female academy" in Providence, and the earliest sampler from the school is dated March 1785. This sampler reflects the Newport background of the Balch family, with its elegant people and use of flowers and birds. The striated arches enclosing a setting with a building and people will become one of the hallmarks of this school.
Though the Balch School's most important embroideries were done in a rented house in the Constitution Hill area, Mary decided in 1800 to build a house on George Street where she could take in boarders and enlarge the school. Before this, girls from out of town had to room elsewhere. This move began a very active time, for the school enrollment rose to fifteen to twenty boarders and sixty to eighty day students. Students included young boys, girls at all ages, and some ladies in their twenties. Students might stay long enough to execute a single piece of needlework or remain for a large portion of their girlhood, as did orphaned Sally Sabin — who entered in 1805 and left just before her 1814 marriage at age fifteen.
Many of the Balch samplers are characterized by the use of an imposing floral border, usually a vine growing from double handled vases with various flowers. One very charming thing about these samplers is their frequent use of Providence's public buildings, many of them found at Rhode Island State College (now Brown University). Silver threads were also economically used, usually in the costumes of figures. Frequentlv used stitches are the rococo, rice, diagonal cross, split, Oriental and diagonal darning.
In 1825, Mary Balch's health became impaired and though she lived another six years, the school was probably run by her cherished adopted daughter, Eliza Walker, who maintained the school for about ten years after Mary's death. This was one of New England's most famous needlework schools, and we are fortunate indeed to have as a legacy so many works from hands Mary Balch taught so expertly."

I am sure that many of you have seen The American Sampler on-line, but did you know that this was the crowning sampler in a sampler series designed by Sandy Orton for the fabulous and very short-lived magazine Treasures in Needlework?  Only six issues of this magazine were released, but those issues are just wonderful.  If you have not seen them or heard of them before, I would warmly recommend looking for a number or two on e-bay, which is where I got my issues a few years back.
MissyY is stitching her sampler on a 40 ct linen, while mine (can be seen as a a sad and neglected WIP on the right side-bar) is stitched on the original coarser linen, I believe that it is a 22 ct raw linen.

The other three samplers were designed is the styles of Spanish, Dutch and English.  I have managed to whip up these three babies, but of course they are not framed and tend to hang around in one of my stitch room closets a lot.  Anyway, here they are:
I would say that the English sampler, right above, is probably my most challenging finished project to date.  I think that it took about 3 months' worth of intense stitching in the evenings to get her done (I just notice that I stitched up the Spanish sampler that same year - boy, 2003 was a productive year!).  I did stitch her on a frame, which is very unusual for me, and I do recall that it was hard not to freak out when the entire sampler was finished, with exception from the cut-work, and I had to start cutting into what felt like I had stitched my soul into for weeks and weeks...  That was pretty nerve wrecking.
Since then, I have learned that most anything can get fixed - if the wrong linen tread gets cut, you can always pull that one out, take a linen thread from the edge and weave that one back in place of the one that just got pulled out.  Works like a charm!  (Some exceptions that I have run across are are weaves that are made from weak warp & weft, since they tend to break when you try to weave them back in.)

Tomorrow, I will try to post about the Founder's Day celebration.  I had a great time, so I am looking forward to share it with all of you!
Good Night and talk with you in a bit - Happy Stitching!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mmmm - Coffee and - Brrrr - the Fear of Math....

Oups -  I forgot to show you my new coffee mug that I whipped up the weekend before last.  It is one of those photo tumblers that allows the owner to insert a scrap booking type collage.  Well, many years ago, I saw some real pretty versions that had been made with cross-stitch designs in stead of photos (I believe that this was on a Japanese site, but I can't track it down).  I decided to simply take some coffee themed cotton fabric and personalize with some free-hand embroidery.  Here is the final result:
The "deer hoof print" in the last pic is supposed to be a coffee bean, by the way...
I thought that I was going to go nuts trying to insert the fabric into the very narrow tumbler slit though...  I did prep by using fusible interfacing to stiffen the fabric.  Then I basically had to pound my tumbler onto the ground until the piece had slid into position.  Then I cursed a bit and used tweezers to get the fabric back out, once I realized that a piece of scrap had wedged itself between the tumbler wall and the fabric.  The second insertion was no party either.
The result is not quite as cute as I had envisioned it to be, but hey - it's "unique", right!?  ;-)

I am not sure whether I have mentioned that I am lucky enough to get to take Sherri Jones (Patricks Woods) Lucet class in October through a lady that I know from the Queen City Sampler Guild.  We got our class-kits in the mail last week and I could simply not wait to started.
 This is a pre-stitch class, but we will likely not get a whole lot of assembly done in class, seeing that we have yards and yards of lucet cording to get done during class.
There are several really neat videos on-line at YouTube to check out, if you would like to see how to lucet.
I will likely take Sherris' Hare Pyns class too.  This will also be a assembly class, which will be very challenging.  The design is pretty large and it is almost solely over-one stitching.  I took the class back in 2007 and never even opened the kit after I got back home.  I figured that the finishing class may get me to pay some long overdue time with my dusty old kit...  Plus, I only have to pay the teaching fee this time around, so it should be friendly on the pocket book too.
Here is a photo of Hare Pyns - note the adorable hare ruler and floss holder:

I have also been working on the Birdcage from Just Nan and I am pretty much done.  Nan suggests adding a pink cord along the entire length of the edge, but I am not so sure that I will do that.  I have a couple of areas that still need worked on, but other than that, this cage is finished!
I changed a few things; the back had a saying, but I added my monogram (do you recognize Prairie Schooler's standard alphabet?) and an egg instead.  I switched the pink ribbon that the pockets were supposed to be made with to a lilac fabric, added tie-backs for the tools, and made some needle-book felt leaves to go with a flower pin that we got at the Shepherd's Bush retreat last year.  To make the whole piece more sturdy, I inserted cardboard pieces in both the the front and back.  Right now The Cage is displayed as a stand-up on the living-room mantle.  The colorful and silly design makes me very happy!  Plus, I hope that it will serve as a warning to our flocks o'parrots - be silly and you get the cage!  ;-)
Other than that, I have tried to be good and concentrate on the Richmond sampler. Half of the queen-stitch urns are now completed and it feels like I am on a roll, so I hope that I will be motivated enough to stick to this project until completed....  Here is a terrible close-up shot of one of the baskets and the wonderful queen-stitch border.  I'll do better next with the focus button time - promise!

This week is already shaping up to be insanely busy.  I have stuff going on each and every evening and I am starting to think that maybe I have not planned for things ahead in a very good way (as in "not at all")...  I have promised to participate in our town's "Founder's Day" on Saturday.  There will be a tent with a bunch of different crafters showing off our work.  It'll probably be a lot of fun, but I told myself that I would like to print up some poster slides talking about the history of stitching and I am not quite sure when my grand plans will be transformed into reality...  somewhere in a dimension where time does not move forwards, I guess.

Some of my prep-work was taken care of yesterday.  I paid a visit to Michaels to pick up some shadow boxes to display some of my finished projects in.  I happily show off my stitched pieces but - pardon for sounding snobby here for a moment - I'd rather not have 900 strangers fondling my pieces after squeezing hot-dogs and burgers... 
Well, as fate had it I was in luck; the shadow and display boxes were "buy one, get the second for a penny".  It ended up being a huge math struggle between the (very, very sweet, but tired and ready-to-go-home) cashier and myself.  Initially, I bought 3 boxes; 2 for $29.99 and a larger box for $59.99.  Just as I was on my way out of the store, it struck me that it was pretty idiotic on my behalf to not get a second large box for $59.98 off the original price, right?  I get back into the store, explain to the cashier that I would like to return the larger box for $59.99, and then buy 2 of them for $60.00 instead.  Yep - no problem at all - she totally sees my point.  So I kinda' bounce when the transaction is to be finished and she tells me that I owe $29.98.  Huh!?  We discuss back and forth and I even get all the way back to my car before I think "what the heck, I'd better straighten this out today, or there is not a chance that anyone will ever get this, if I even bother to get back to deal with this issue another day...".   So, I roll up my sleeves, march back in (nicely) and show the cashier all my receipts and even ask her if she has a pen and paper so that I can show her the math (yep, I am an engineer...).  At this point she gets so exhausted that she just randomly takes 2 items off completely.  I explain that now she is being waaaay too generous -  from over-charging me $30, I am now undercharged $70! - and her response is that "That is fine, I don't care"...  Sigh!  I guess that I should be happy that I got a "great deal", but I feel more frustrated that I didn't get to show her the math...  or am I being weird here???   Sometimes I get the feeling that a lot of people are so scared of math that they just turn off their brain in panic and don't even try.  I do the very same myself if I have to perform calculations under time pressure, but hey - you can always grab a pen, paper and a chair, sit down, take some time, and just figure it out!

Anyway, time to skip into bed!  Dream Sweet Dreams!

Oh, and Happy Stitching!

PS Check out the crazy Cuckoo clock we picked up in Sweden - I love it!
And how seriously cool & cute are these other modern takes on Cuckoo clocks?