Painfully Slow but Painstakingly Done

Let's not dwell on how long it's been since I last posted. Suffice to say, it's been far too long, but my life has been nothing if not tumultuous of late. I have made some progress on a couple of fronts.

What have I been focusing on most of late? From Molehill to Mountain has taken over the position of primacy. Since my ANG chapter is working on this as a bimonthly yearlong project, I've been attempting to keep abreast of what we're doing in class. Right now, I'm a month behind in getting something stitched for each segment. Here's where I am:

The sequence of group stitching is right to left, Blocks 1–3 in the book. Block 1, as you may recall, caused me no end of difficulty and negative-stitching experience. I think I've got my problem taken care of and should be able to proceed without additional frogging. I stitched the small green-and-yellow checkerboard in the upper right quadrant on Sunday after one or two false starts (to take a break from so much tone-on-tone stitching). I've been spending the most time on Block 2 in the center. If I can get through the last medium purple tone-on-tone triangles, the final three diamond shapes will be simple. I'm really loving the way this part looks, with the bit of metallic on top of the overdye. The tone-on-tone part is taking a while because my eyes have to be fresh to see it, even with my wonderful new Ikea clip-on light.

I'm trying to get enough stitched in these top three blocks so that I can make a decision on the border and sashing. There are three options provided in the book, all very different, with different color emphases. The choice depends on how I'm using my colors. So as you can see, I really need to stitch more on Block 3, which I will as soon as I finish Block 2. I think I've got enough of Block 1 completed to make the border/sashing choice.

If you're interested in doing this project and would like the benefit of a class, Scarlet Thread's extended the registration period for their FMTM cyberclass through tomorrow.

Before setting everything else aside to focus on FMTM, I had made a bit more progress on Flyways. I really need to get back to this because I'm very close to finishing it.

All that's required is finishing the top two diamond-shaped motifs (crescents only), then the triangular-shaped pieces to square the design off, finishing with the border. How hard can it be? Don't answer that question!

The last project I'm going to show you is more to shame myself into getting back to it. Can you guess what it is? I don't think I need to identify it.

All I have to do to finish the third square are seven triangular-shaped segments. Really, not that hard. We'll be having another group stitching session in January, so I should really try to finish this square up before then.



Something Old, Something New, Some Things Never Change

     I originally started writing this post nearly two weeks ago, had to stop, and never got back to it till now. A lot has changed. I've been doing a bit of stitching during the past few weeks. Yay! I think I've finally gotten my stitching mojo back. Going to both of my stitching groups on a more regular basis helps.

     At both the Tuesday-night and Thursday-morning groups a couple of weeks ago, I worked diligently on Flyways, and it's just WIPing right along. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist.)

     I'm really happy with this colorway. When I selected it, I had no idea what it would really look like, as I couldn't find the picture of it. But it's been put on the back burner since that Thursday, two weeks ago.

     That night, I started working on the class piece at the Potomac ANG meeting, Madrigal by Antonia R. Evans, designed in 1992. As is my wont, I changed the colors significantly. I substituted Caron Collection Waterlilies in Sherwood Forest for a light blue Marlitt (rayon floss, ack!); Rainbow Gallery Petite Very Velvet for their discontinued Ultrasuede, FyreWerks for Pizzaz, and Silk Lamé for DMC floss. The Petite Very Velvet and FyreWerks were suggested by our fearless leader. I picked the Silk Lamé instead of the Kreinik braid she used because I'm not a fan of Kreinik braids. Then to make it really special, I used a piece of Nature's Palette hand-painted canvas from their Solids line, Copper. I couldn't wait to get started.

     The picture above is how far I got that night. I did a little more when I got home from class, having only really gotten the center waffle nearly done (or maybe all done; I can't remember). This is where I was when I started writing this blog. The following Tuesday-night stitching session had me realizing that I could actually finish this up in one or two more blocks of time. I took a picture, fully intending to get back to this post and show my progress.

     I was really liking the way the overdye fell. I have to admit that I pulled the whole skein apart to find the lengths with the best segments of the brightest orange. So there was a bit of waste that I'm not used to. I can probably use it somewhere when I need a nice variegated green in another piece as an accent.

     Obviously I didn't get around to finishing up this post. So here's the finished piece, wrapped up at Tuesday's night stitchfest, wherein we celebrated someone's birthday as well as my finish (those of us who stayed latest, at least).

     I am very happy with the way this turned out. There are supposed to be 4-mm freshwater pearls and malachite beads in the centers of the large oblong triple crosses, but as readers of this blog know, the Remedial Stitcher does not do beads. Instead, I used Smyrna Crosses in the Silk Lamé. I wanted as much of the canvas to show as possible. I'm not sure the pictures reveal the metallic glint of this canvas. It's subtle and beautiful. Instead of finishing it as an ornament (why would I want to fold that beautiful waffle so that you can't see the way the color radiates around it?), I'm going to have it put into a boxtop, leaving a border of exposed canvas around it. Now to find the box.

     What else I was planning to write about? Something that never changed. Perhaps Stars for a New Millennium? I've been urged to set up another day-long stitchfest for the stitchalong group, so that may be coming up in October or November. My October schedule is filling up, and one of our stitchers is going to be in Australia for two weeks mid-October, so it may have to be November.



Flying Along on Some, Inching on Others

     I've finally gotten some stitching done. I was beginning to think I'd never get back into it in a meaningful fashion.

     Wonderful discovery: Stitching on 14-ct canvas goes really, really fast! Who knew? Well, I guess a lot of people have known for years. One of my WIPs, Flyways by Michael Boren (a workshop project that sadly had to be canceled due to his ongoing back problem, thus leaving us to work on our own), is on this canvas. At first, I wasn't sure I would like it. I tend to gravitate to higher counts, coming from the counted-thread world of 28-, 32-, 36-, and what-was-I-thinking 40-ct linen. Big difference. I'm pleased to say, I've been enjoying this immensely. Not only is the design fun to stitch (well, except for the tedious, to me, tent/reverse tent part), it's quick!

     I'm now ready to embark on filling in the diamond areas with all the fun, special stitches and motifs. I did the center one before completing all the tent/reverse tent background of the Milanese-stitched Flying Geese Flight Paths to motivate me to keep going with it. I'm so pleased with it overall, although I'm not that great when it comes to tent stitch. I'm never totally satisfied with the result, but I think I did an adequate job here and won't stress about it.

     Now the question is, do I barrel ahead with the four diamond areas around the center, or do I switch to one of my larger ongoing projects, in particular From Molehill to Mountain? I think it has to be FMTM.

     My ANG chapter is doing FMTM as one of our two year-long projects, with the goal of exhibiting the finished pieces at the 2012 Seminar in Philadelphia. Since we all started on this in April (I think), we should be able to complete the stitching and have our pieces finished in time for the Seminar at the end of August. Hahahaha. That's the plan; we'll see if I'm among those who actually reach their goal. Here is the progress of everyone who was working on this at the August meeting (light attendance, it being summer, and not everyone attending is doing this project), starting with mine:

     Note the section of the far-right block that shows the signs of having been stitched, then ripped out. This block has been the bane of my stitching so far. I think I ripped out almost everything stitched at least once if not more, except for the center top and left squares of the block, the ones made up of two triangles. Thus I haven't done anything on the block to the left of it and proceeded directly to the block on the far left, the focus of our third meeting session. I have high hopes for this one proceeding much better, as it's variations on the Milanese stitch, which as we all now know, I just finished stitching quite a bit.

     Now on to my friends' progress. Please note that some of us only recently started working on FMTM, thus we're all over the map on how far along we've gotten. I also like the variety of colorways, in spite of several of us apparently being drawn to the purples and greens. The variety of threads is interesting too.

     I hope to get pictures of everyone's progress when we work on this again in October.

     More to come in the next day or so.



I'm Back!

You're a great audience. Wish I had a better act.

The big downsize, declutter, and move are done and over with. The house has been sold. I feel lighter. The relief of not having to worry about what's going to go wrong next is immense.

Things I don't miss:

The bugs that make their way into your house no matter what you do. Creepy-crawly things. Especially the camel crickets. ::shudder::

Worrying that there will be water in the basement after an incredibly long, hard downpour.

Lawn and garden maintenance.

Going up and down stairs.

Driving everywhere.

Things I miss:

My kitchen appliances. They were better than what I have now, not that what I have are bad, just not as good. I really miss my gas range, but I'm managing and learning the tricks of cooking on a glass cooktop.

My pond.

The flowers in my yard.

And that's about it. I love my new apartment. I love being up above most of the surrounding buildings, looking out over the neighborhood treetops. The balcony and the triple paned sliding glass door let so much light in! It's quiet, for the most part. Noise comes in from the hallway, but there aren't that many apartments on my hall, so not much traffic.

I love being right next to the subway. I can actually get to it without having to walk in the elements. There's a covered area before the escalators that I can reach from my building. I can get to a good restaurant and shopping area in two stops, along with Whole Foods. And I can walk there in good weather in about 20 minutes if I do my powerwalk. I did that yesterday, going to a chocolate shop, an ice-cream store (should have omitted that stop), and a weekly farmer's market, then walking back home. It was great! I didn't take the car out once yesterday.

You're probably wondering if I've been doing any stitching yet. I have. Not very much and not very productively. I've been working on "From Molehill to Mountain" with fairly static results. It seems I stitch a section, go on to the next one, then find that I did the previous one wrong so have to rip it out. These aren't even large sections, although the piece is on congress cloth so size is relative. I'm hoping to make better progress today. Last night I copied the master chart for the block I'm working on and numbered the areas that I keep getting wrong (putting them in the wrong place) in the hope that that will prevent misplacement from now on. We'll see at stitchie this morning.

I also almost completed the May installment of the Stitch of the Month. Which is rather sad, when I consider it, because these installments are not that hard. I could have had it done if I worked on it about 15 minutes longer. Maybe I'll take that with me to stitchie instead of FMTM. It might be that I have to work on FMTM in solitude to avoid more inaccurate placement of stitches.

So no pictures of my inadequate progress.

One thing I did accomplish, though, was charting "Halloween Abstract," a charted needlepoint design by Jeff Kulick. What a learning experience! Scarlet Thread will be producing more of his charts, and I'm confident that they'll be much easier to do now that I've got this one under my belt. Another case of "How hard can it be?" You'd think I'd have learned by now.

If you haven't already seen it, check out Scarlet Thread's interview with Jeff.



     As promised in my last post, here are pictures of my pond. It sits under a huge magnolia that bears the large, dinner-plate sized flowers. When I was skimming the leaves the other morning, I was engulfed by their scent. Magnolias defy convention by dropping their leaves in late spring/early summer rather than fall, as they blossom. That's the one drawback to having the pond sheltered by this magnificent tree. Means fishing a lot of yellow magnolia leaves out for several weeks.

     The white tubing is there to keep the net I put on in the fall from sinking into the water. When I actually put it in place, the spring cleanup was much, much simpler and easier to do.

     Even though I've neglected my pond for the past three years, I'll miss it. Getting it in shape for the new owners has reminded me of how much I enjoyed skimming the leaves in the morning and watching the fish dart about after the food I tossed in. Twenty minutes of sitting in the stillness. Then I repeated it in the evening. What a great way to start and end the day.

     I had some bad news last week. My buyer lost her job, so I'll more than likely be putting the house back on the market after I move out if she hasn't gotten a new one by then. It's not looking good. And here I was thinking that for once, the answer to my question (this time about selling a house), "How hard can it be?", was going to be, "Not hard at all."



Beachy Things

     I went to the Outer Banks at the end of May, just before the start of the high season, before it got incredibly crowded. It's been quite a few years since I've been there. Not much has changed really. I enjoyed revisiting favorite spots and showing my MF around, since he'd never been there. High points: walking on the beach at the end of the day, taking a dip in the pool at the rental house (we were two of ten people staying there), just relaxing, driving down the ocean road from Duck to Coquina Beach so we could walk along the beach in the Hatteras National Seashore, and eating at Pigman's Barbecue.

     Isn't that gorgeous? And it wasn't crowded the day we went either. I didn't take this picture; forgot to take my camera. What a maroon.

     I did take Hens & Chicks with me but didn't do a lot of stitching. Here's how far I got plus an evening of stitching the other night.

     Slowly, but surely I'm getting there.

     During one of our late-afternoon walks on the beach, I found a couple of shells that captured my fancy, so I had to bring them home.

     The top one seems perfect as the handle for a mug. If only I knew how to make one. Maybe I can find someone who throws pots who would do that for me. The bottom one just seems the perfect complement to it and is an unusual size to find on one of the crowded, busy Duck beaches.

     I'm getting psyched up to move to my apartment in a couple of weeks. Today I went shopping with my daughter, looking for a dress for her to wear to a wedding later this summer and a new bed for me. Amazingly, we both managed to find just what we were looking for in only about three hours at the mall. (Neither one of us truly enjoys shopping at Tysons, or any mall for that matter.) So I'll have a new bed to replace the one with the broken leg that creaks every time I move. Now I just have to get the box spring and mattress.

     I'll try to get some pictures of one thing I'm really going to miss when I move and post it in the next day or two. My backyard pond. I've neglected it for the past three years, initially because of ill health and then just lack of motivation. I've been trying to get it back into decent condition for the new owners and realize now how much I've missed tending to it every morning and evening. Oh well.



Quick Update

     I'm so excited! I'm almost finished with the central motif of Hens & Chicks! I have two leaves left, the ones that are diagonal bargello. Thursday morning stitchie and a couple of episodes of "Supernatural" got me here. Yippee!

     My house sale is rapidly coming to a close. The appraisal apparently went well on Friday; we'll receive the official report on Monday. That's the last step before the buyer's financing gets approved and we're cleared to settle at the end of June. Not quite doing my happy dance yet, but my toes are tapping.



Irresistible Things

     I do believe I have little or no willpower when it comes to resisting certain temptations. Chocolate is one. Need I say more on that? Gelato from Dolcezza is another. I usually visit the one in Bethesda, but evidently I could also stop in their Georgetown location when I get my hair cut and colored (yes, I admit it; I'm not ashamed) at Ury & Associates every now and then. A new needlework project is yet another. So I caved last week and started something new. (Just trying to fill out my weekday rotation dance card, doncha know.) So what was it that so captured my fancy?

     Liz Morrow recently released a new bargello design, Hens & Chicks, which sparked fond memories of growing up in Elkton, Maryland, in an old, three-story Victorian on the edge of town with a picturesque side yard against a backdrop of a meadow and pond where we used to ice skate (awkwardly on my part). In our side yard, the gardener had filled a half-barrel planter with hens and chicks. I loved the way that plant grew. Liz's design captured it perfectly. We ordered it for scarletthread.com and kitted it per her specifications with DMC floss. Evil temptress that she is, Liz noted in our correspondence that she thought it might be nice stitched with Silk & Ivory. Gah! I couldn't get this out of my head, so the other day I decided to see if there were appropriate greens and blues with enough shades to do it, thinking I'd come up short somewhere. Ha! Here's what I found.

     The colors are just perfect for the way that I remember that potted plant. I'm in love with this project, so I worked on it at my Thursday morning and Tuesday night stitching groups. Bargello goes so fast! I'm not a power stitcher, as we all know, so I'm very pleased with my progress, considering that I had to rip out a couple of times because I can't seem to count.

     My photos are not optimized, as I'm still in the midst of selling my house and don't always have the space to set up my studio in a box. Thus you have a discrepancy in the color. But it's fairly accurate.

     Things are going just swimmingly with the sale of my house, if perhaps at a quicker pace than I had anticipated. I'm down to the closets, having sorted through everything else (except for a couple more boxes of books discovered in the eaves storage area). Since my home is a typical small Cape Cod style of the 1930s, the closets are mercifully small and few. There is a limit to how much one can cram into them. So I'm in the home stretch. Within the next week I should know whether the sale is going to make it to closing or we have to start over again. Wish me luck on the appraisal on Friday.



Emerging From the Sea of Boxes

     I've been packing up or discarding those physical reminders of the last 28 years of my life over the past two weeks. So far, I've got the 15-yard dumpster in the driveway almost half full. I fear that I'll fill it up. Yikes! It's hard to make some of the decisions, and many of those are just being put off till next week, after the initial whirlwind I'm finishing up in the next day, or two, or three. It all has to be completed by next Friday, when the floor cleaners will come to try to spruce up my tired hardwood floors. So I'm taking a little break this morning before the carpenter/electrical-guy/all-around handyman and painter get here.

     I didn't stitch much last week, but since my last report, I have gotten a little bit done on a few of my projects. Pease pardon the photos this time, as I took them under less than optimal conditions, free space being at a premium around here just now.

     I did get started on From Molehill to Mountain at my ANG chapter meeting Thursday a week ago. When I left the meeting, I think I had all of four stitches in place, having spent the class time making decisions, planning, thinking, taking time out for a real quick meeting, and then finally placing those few stitches as everyone was cleaning up and getting ready to leave. When I got home, I sat right down and proceeded to finish Areas 1 and 2 of the first block. Yay! What you see basted are the sashing lines to the left and bottom of the block I'm working on, with the ever-popular pink hairtape holding the threads that will get woven in once I have enough worked to allow that. I'm happy with the color so far, the variegated thread, Dinky-Dyes Mardi Gras, and the lightest cotton floss of my primary color.

     On another night I tackled Stars once again. I'm oh-so-gradually getting Vivien Leigh finished. All I need to do are the triangles in the border. I stitched the bottom center one and realized it requires manipulating the variegated thread, Silk 'N Colors Peacock, in order to get the right color balance. There's a rather drab section in the length I'm using that just doesn't work for me. So I'll cut it out.

     Last but not least, I've been working on the 2011 ANG Stitch of the Month and managed to get caught up! I see a lot of pink hairtape in the stitching of this piece, along with a lot of Hilton lengths of thread to complete these stitches without having to start a new thread midway through. Ack! I'm hoping soon to be able to anchor some of these threads. They really bother me, coming from a cross-stitch background and being used to anchoring threads right away and not having any of these ridiculous away knots awaiting a place to go.

     So that's where I am. Perhaps I'll be stitching more after next week.



Two Languishing WIPs and a New BAP

     I have a confession. Writing this blog is a good escape from the duties that surround me and a nicer way to start the day. (Yes, I know, it's a little late to be starting the day. Work with me here.)

     You may be wondering whatever is going on with Stars for a New Millennium. The short answer? I'm still plugging away at it, but not nearly as much as several of the other stitchers in the group. One is finishing up the sashing and border as she closes in on finishing the piece. Two others are vying for who's going to be the second to complete, with that happening in the next couple of weeks for them (I think). Another won't be far behind them. That will leave a few of us to get together a few more times before it's down to one, me, struggling to finish this beautiful but very complex project. So here's where I've gotten since our January marathon stitching retreat:


     On to the even more lame progress report, the woefully neglected Prelude to Peace. I'm not very far along. I managed to stitch a few of the crescent fleur-de-lis motifs successfully and some of the small jessicas, but that was a while ago. Here 'tis:

     On to my newest BAP, a piece I'll be working on with my ANG chapter this year, and perhaps will be keeping up with better due to peer pressure (totally in my own mind). It's From Molehill to Mountain (FMTM) by Pamela Gardner. It's conceptually similar to Stars in that it's a quilt pattern. It's not the same by virtue of having fewer blocks and being more of a color study than an exercise in how many layers and threads can be used in one stitch without driving the stitcher out of her mind. The stitches are by no means simple in FMTM. I just don't think it will be as much of a struggle to interpret what's going on while stitching. The interplay of the colors that I've chosen is the primary focus. (Of course, I could be totally misunderstanding this project. Who knows? I am, after all, the Remedial Stitcher.)

     We start stitching tonight. Our homework after the last meeting was to get the canvas or congress cloth (I'm going with congress cloth) along with enough thread to get started (colors selected based on the presentation and discussion at the meeting before last) and baste in the grid. I'm ready! Well, I do have to pick up some more skeins of the lightest shade of my main color, but I'll do that this morning or afternoon.

     So how am I going to do better with my stitching on all these long-term projects? I have to stitch a little bit every night, a different project each night. I've been trying to do that this week, and so far I've managed to stitch every night. If I keep it up, I'll have the bonus of having something to blog about too. It will also take my mind off the stress and emotional toll of selling the house I've lived in longer than any other place in my life.

     I guess you could say these are belated New Year's resolutions, the stitching and making the transition from homeowner to renter.



Forgive Me, Reader,

for I have strayed. It's been two months since my last post.

     What, you may well ask, have I been up to in all that time? Well, some stitching, much working on scarletthread.com, a lot of planning for the next stage of my life. Taken together, it has felt like I've been doing a lot of running in place, flailing about, getting not a whole lot accomplished in any of my endeavors. The biggest thing that's had an impact on my ability to focus is my decision to sell my house, downsize, and move to an apartment in a neighborhood where I can walk instead of drive for most of my daily living needs. Big changes. It's been a relief, permission to let go of a lot of things I've been holding onto for way too long. Of course, we'll see how I feel in a couple of months.

     I have been stitching, or at least doing stitching-related things. I joined another chapter of ANG, the Shenandoah Valley Chapter, which entails a two-hour drive (one way) to go to a meeting (haven't quite managed that yet). My friend and I recently drove to and from Harrisonburg two days in a row to participate in a workshop with Orna Willis, Tesselations Again. I've been fascinated by this design and jumped at the chance to have Orna teach it her very own self. What a great two days! Not only did I learn a lot in the class while having a great deal of fun, but I also met another wonderful group of stitchers. Orna's explanation of tesselations, her process of developing the design, and the difficulties of translating tesselations to the grid of canvaswork made me appreciate the design even more and has inspired me to ruminate on designing one myself (way in the back of my brain right now). I've done more stitching since returning from the class a few weeks ago and fully intend to keep at it regularly till I finish it. I chose to do just one quadrant rather than the full piece, knowing that I really don't need yet another BAP right now. Here's where I am so far.

     Don't you love the colors? This is on Congress Cloth, so I can fool myself into thinking it's not that big a piece. I love the layered stitches Orna chose for the triangular shape that's the foundation of the piece.

     This week I finally finished stitching the 2010 ANG Stitch of the Month Mystery. Woo-hoo! I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. Since I'm planning to finish it as a pillow, I decided not to include the beads. (This will come as no surprise to those who know how much I dislike stitching beads. Hahahaha.)

     Of course, you know what this means, don't you? I can finally start the 2011 SOTM! After developing several custom colorways for scarletthread.com customers, I decided it was my turn. Initially, I was just going to use Ro Pace's original Flowers of Italy colorway, since it's so beautiful. But I became enamored of Thread Gatherer's Silk 'N Colors Desert Sage and ultimately decided to see what I could come up with. I'm using that along with Dinky-Dyes, Needlepoint Inc., and Rainbow Gallery Splendor silk flosses; Soy Luster; and New Metallics. I may have to change the metallic, as I'm not sure it will work on the Congress Cloth if I have to blend it with another thread.

     Now to find the time to get started. Funny thing is, I was really looking forward to working with the J.L. Walsh Silk Perle and ended up not using it. Another time, another project.

     I have more to talk about, but it's very late and I have a handyman coming bright and early in the morning to get started on a few projects to get my house ready to sell in about a month. I've made small progress on other WIPs and have another BAP I'll be starting on this week. I will be back soon (maybe even tomorrow if I can find the time).



JL Walsh Silk Perle and the ANG 2011 SOTM Outlining

     I've watched the discussion about J.L. Walsh Silk Perle on the ANG yahoo discussion group range over its inaccessibility, the questionable existence of the business (it's very much in business, only one line of its threads having been discontinued, the Silk/Wool, which is available at a very few locations until the supply runs out, including scarletthread.com), and how to use it for Ro Pace's Flowers of Italy design. It's been exasperating at times, but I'm over that now.

     The latest discussion concerned how to use it to stitch the outlines in the January installment of the design. I think what confuses people is the word "perle" in the name because one doesn't necessarily use it as it comes off the skein, as well as the use of the terms "strand" and "ply." One strand of this thread consists of eight plies that are easily separated. Each ply is equivalent to a single strand of #12 perle, according to the Thread Technique Team's The Thread Thesaurus, Revised Edition. That's a mighty thick strand of thread for Congress Cloth if used as it comes off the skein! The manufacturer recommends using one or two plies on 28-ct linen, so I decided to try both on a doodle cloth before venturing onto the full-size piece on which I'll be working this design (as usual, your Remedial Stitcher is a little behind).

     When looking at the picture above, keep in mind that it's not on stretcher bars and was stitched in hand, something I rarely do. I was just trying to see which produced the most desirable effect, one ply or two plies, for the very long stitches required in the outlining. Not knowing whether we'll be going back to these long stitches and couching them with some other thread at the end, I plan to use just one ply because I don't like the way the two separating strands look in such a long stitch.

     What do you think?




     No, I'm not backing off. Really. I'm just back from a stitching retreat with my Stars for a New Millennium stitch-along group. We spent Friday late afternoon through Sunday early evening at Signal Knob Retreat Center outside Strasburg, Virginia. What a marvelous time! We headed out in the midst of snow flurries, well intermittent snow. By the time we arrived, the sky had cleared and we were looking forward to an uninterrupted weekend of stitching and more stitching. Armed with our needlework bags full of tools and projects, along with provisions for sustenance (the usual snacky items, including four batches of homemade cookies to keep our energy up and lots of chocolate), we immediately claimed our bedrooms and set up our stitching stations in the living room. I should have taken a picture of all the bags, luggage, food bags, etc., that filled the backs of the Toyota van and Durango that transported us to Signal Knob. What an incredible amount of stuff for seven women!

     We're just missing Sharon and me in that pic. It was really a lovely room, with lots of natural light during the day. Nighttime, not so great for lighting, but we managed. The only other thing missing from this picture is a box elder bug. Or should I say dozens, nay hundreds? A swarm of those annoying things, which my father cleverly referred to as Halloween bugs, have invaded the retreat center to winter, and they made their presence known. If you're not familiar with these bugs, here's what they look like:

     My father dubbed them Halloween bugs because of their coloring and their annual arrival time. In fact, it wasn't until I was an adult that I learned the real common name of those critters. I get them in my house some years and periodically vacuum them up from around the dormer windows upstairs. So we hauled out the fabulous Dyson vacuum at the center and periodically vacuumed them up over the course of the weekend. Ugh!

     But on to more interesting and fun things. On Fiday night, I took pictures of where everyone was on Stars so that we could document our progress at the end of the weekend. Oddly, I didn't take a picture of my own piece, but the picture I posted here on November 16 shows where I was. Herewith, everyone else's starting point for the weekend.



Ferol's (sideways)




     The color is off in most of these because it was night, and the available light was not that great. (Julie's and Sharon's are the same colorway.) I know. Poor excuse. I should have done better, but I was just interested in grabbing a progress comparison, not showing the beauty of the colors and stitching. So sue me.

     Saturday was a beautiful day, sunny and warmer. Dawn got up early enough to catch the sunrise. Gorgeous!

     After a 9:00 am breakfast, we got right down to work and stitched the entire day with breaks only for lunch and dinner. Both Friday and Saturday nights, there were a few intrepid stitchers who stayed up until the wee hours of the morning. I can't vouch for their stitching the entire time, but they certainly seemed to be having a really good time.

     Sunday morning, we got to work before breakfast, organizing our threads, stitching, getting ready for the final hours in the hope of achieving whatever goal each of us had set. For most, I think it was to complete two of the blocks. After breakfast, a few of us created canvas protectors, following the directions in the September issue of Needlepointers. Donna had made one last August, and offered to bring her tools and the magazine for our use. Sharon graciously did the shopping for the supplies. I'm quite pleased with mine and am sure, based on the amount of progress I made this weekend, I'll get a lot of use out of it before it has to sit idle while waiting for me to do another project that's 15" x 18". Hahahahaha.

     It was with much regret that we bid adieu to Signal Knob Sunday evening. We thoroughly enjoyed the stitching and the company. The experience has shown us that we need more than a couple of hours once a month to make headway on this BAP. So we're going to try to get together every four to six weeks to spend a whole day stitching, taking a break for lunch at a nearby restaurant, but otherwise doing nothing but stitching.

     Without further ado, here are pictures of a slightly higher quality of everyone's progress over the course of the stitchy weekend. Please click on each to see a larger version.