It's Finished!

     It's happy dance time! I finally finished stitching "Stella Polaris" by StitchPlay Designs, a cyberclass I started in June.

     Isn't she pretty? I really love the way this worked up. I used Caron Collection Watercolours Wheat Fields as the basis for the colorway. Although the purples are definitely part of my usual color palette, orange is rarely something I go for.

     Those of you who are familiar with my stitching history are probably astonished at the speed (yes, I call this speed) with which I finished this piece! Once I grasped that silly double fan doubled stitch, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. It was mostly a matter of making the time to stitch. In fact, I finished it in a marathon session Sunday night/Monday early morning. I could see the end and decided to stitch as long as I could without making mistakes. (No, I didn't go over this with an eye for finding any mistakes. Any mistakes are personal design decisions, à la undocumented features in computer software.)

     So what am I doing now? I'm so glad you asked! At my ANG chapter meeting on Thursday, we started Marilyn Owen's "Ornament Quartet" from the Chapter Project Book. We could choose one of four different designs (or all four, of course). I selected the string art design (no surprise there). Here's my progress (all done last night, as I had to rip out what I had done at the meeting because the thread wasn't right):

     I'm using one of Nature's Palette's beautiful hand-painted canvases, Coffee Metallic, as my ground. The threads are Planet Earth Fiber 6-Ply Silk Hand Paint, Gloriana Princess Perle Petite, Kreinik #8 Braid, and Caron Collection Soie Cristale. The starting point for my thread decisions was the Planet Earth silk. After Dawn and my visit to the TNNA market in Baltimore a few weeks ago, I contacted Planet Earth and requested some samples. This is one of the ones they sent, and I just swooned! I needed to use it, and right away. How fortuitous that the chapter project called for a 6-strand floss. I had also wanted to use this rich brown canvas, and they played very well together. I pulled the happily coordinating Princess Perle Petite from another WIP (which someday I may get back to and for which I'll have to get more of this), then picked up the Soie and Kreinik (thanks to Donna for having just the right color to convince me that my first choice was wrong).

     There's not much more to this ornament. The Walnetto is repeated on the other three sides of the center motif, there's a Brick Couching stitch filling in the sides, and Mini Crescents fill in the corners. Will I finish this as an ornament? Stay tuned. You never know.

     I'm also still plugging away at "Carnival" from Seminar. I do love this piece and hope to finish it in the near future. Now if only I could apply myself to "Stars for a New Millennium."



Post-Seminar Catching Up

Goodness! Has it really been over two months since my last post? I'm chagrinned. I haven't been doing a lot of stitching. It's been somewhat sporadic, with bursts of energy followed by stagnation. I'm not sure why, although I have been reading a lot. In fact, I spent most of August reading because I managed to borrow four (or was it five?) books from the library (having intended to just pick up one that was on hold) and had to finish them all within three weeks. Yikes! I managed to get them all back on time, but I did end up quitting one after about 100 pages because I just couldn't get into it.

On to the stitching news.

I made pretty good progress on "Stella Polaris" for a few weeks, before getting bogged down with the double fan doubled stitch. It wasn't the under, over, under, over, then go down (or is that over, under, over, under, then go down?) that got me so much as having three threaded needles going and keeping track of what went over or under which color. I tried doing this stitch at my Tuesday night stitching group and had to quit early on. Then I never went back to it. As it turned out, I was psyching myself out about this. Once I applied myself on Tuesday last week, I managed to complete the first of four large diamond areas containing this stitch. Huzzah!

I'm very happy with how this is turning out and hope to press ahead and finish it up in the next few weeks.

The last week of August was wonderful! I attended my first ANG National Seminar, held in Philadelphia this year. It was a drivable distance, so I and two friends decided to make it our first but we hope not last. We spent five days immersed in the world of needlepoint, surrounded by hundreds of people who understood our fascination with threads, canvas, and the artistry of needlework. If you have the opportunity, you simply must go at least once in your life!

I took two two-day classes, leaving a day free between them. The first class, I and my companions all took together. Toni Gerdes taught her stunning design "Carnival," the beauty of which wasn't truly apparent until we got in class and opened up our kits. The threads and canvas were stunning in shades of pink, coral, yellow, blue, and green, all pulled from the Caron Collection Carnival Watercolours. This is where I am after the two-day class and a couple of short stitching sessions:

Even this picture doesn't do justice to the colors of this piece. Our canvases had the outline drawn and several key points marked by slightly enlarged holes. This made it so much easier to get right to stitching, since a great deal of counting was eliminated. Thank you, Toni! She was a great teacher, giving us many great tips and explaining things thoroughly (sometimes more than once). Note the large diamond-shaped area in the upper right portion of the canvas. Does that look familiar? It should. It's a variation on the double fan doubled, and I'm sure that doing this one finally made it clear to me how to do the one in "Stella Polaris."

The other class took me out of my comfort zone. "Purple Mountains and Golden Wheat" is a beautiful landscape designed and taught by Lynn Payette. I learned how to iron! Seriously, the whole first day was spent ironing Wonder Under onto lots of little rectangles of sheer fabric in a range of purples and golds, then figuring out which fabric would go where to create the mountains and fields of wheat that formed the base of the design, cutting each piece to match the drawing on the Congress Cloth, and finally permanently fusing the fabric to the cloth. I didn't actually finish this up till the next morning. This was what I took the class for. I wanted to learn how to do this, how to visualize and then execute the effect. This is what I had done at the end of the second day:

Probably doesn't look like much, does it? Let me put the viewfinder included with our kit in place.

I think that's a little better. As you can see, I didn't get very far with the stitching. I did learn a great technique for beading that keeps the beads firmly in place along with how to make a cord from rayon (shudder) floss. But I spent most of my time creating the landscape base. Lynn is a very interesting and patient teacher. I feel like I really learned a lot about the process of creating this piece and hope to implement the technique in other projects. Will I ever finish this? Probably not. But you never know.

Btw, here are the completed models for both classes.

As you can see. I have a long way to go. I do hope to finish "Carnival," and you never know, I may get inspired to finish "Purple Mountains."



A Finish and a Start

     Shortly after my last post, I finally completed the stitching of "Flyways." Yay! It feels so good to finish this at last.

     Here it is from another perspective.

     I decided to put it in a Sudberry Small Square Tray and give it to my eldest sister for her birthday, which was July 3.

     So I wrapped the completed canvas still on its stretcher bars, gave it to her, then wrapped it up again and brought it home to put in the tray that I'll be ordering in a day or two. She's used to this kind of gifting from me.

     On Sunday, July 1, my Stella Polaris cyberclass officially started. I refrained from doing anything other than the basting before receiving the first official lesson from Michael Boren and Carole Lake. I thought it would be nice to see what special notes, tips, and suggestions they'd provide before doing any stitching, and I'm so glad I did. These two are a hoot! In addition to providing incredible information and supplemental materials, they make a great comedy team. The back-and-forth banter is perfect, and it makes it seem like you're really in a classroom.

     So here's my first lesson, completed mid-week (I think). (Hey! I'm old. I'm allowed to be a little vague with details. At least that's my story, and I'm sticking with it.)

     I like the way the colors are working, and yes, the variegated thread is supposed to have that stripey look. Carole and Michael said so!

     The next class, which I received yesterday but haven't started yet, uses the accent color that I've been waffling about. After looking at several more alternatives on Tuesday night (I was wrong; I finished it on Monday or Tuesday night), which I had looked at with my stitching peeps the week before, I decided on an entirely different thread and color, Soy Luster in a tealy blue.

     I really like this color and just hope that the Soy Luster isn't too thin a thread to use for the Walneto and Arrow Amadeus stitches that are layered on top of these basketweaved squares. If it's too thin, I may have to see if there's a Presencia #8 pearl cotton that is close to this color.

     It's funny. I really wanted the pink to be the right accent, but when I looked at it on top of this center section, it just looked kind of bland and insipid. (Okay, that's redundant but I think that says it all.) Oh well.



Do I need another project?

     Oh, never mind. That's really a rhetorical question. Of course I don't need another project. Need has never had anything to do with it, according to conventional needleworker's wisdom. So to celebrate that, I'm getting ready to embark on not one but two new projects. But before I go into that, let me show you my progress on a workshop piece that's, oh, more than a year old.

     Isn't she pretty? That would be Flyways, by Michael Boren. I really don't remember when I started this through the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of ANG, maybe sometime in April or May of last year. I'm on the last part, the border. Once I finish the double-fan stitch all the way around, there's another stitch that gets put in each of the diamond shapes thus created. Then it's finished! I'm determined to get this done within the next couple of weeks. It's what I'm taking to my stitching groups, nothing else.

     Now for the new projects. First is a piece that we're going to do during several meetings over the next year in the Potomac Chapter of ANG, Stained Glass Windows, by Laura J. Perin.

     I have to admit, other than my half-completed Summer Kimono (a class I offered in my B&M store and my second attempt at charted needlepoint, the first being Lois by Something Different), I've never actually stitched one of Laura's designs. At least I can't recall one. So this will be interesting, as I'm co-leading the group on this one. Hahahaha. How hard can it be, right?

     Never content to use the designer's colors unless they hit me just right, I've created my own colorway for this, based on Appalachia Watercolours. I'm loving the bright green. I just hope it doesn't overpower the rest of the colors. I'll be starting this sometime in the next month or so, to be ready for the August meeting.

     The second piece is a cyberclass with Michael Boren and Carole Lake of StitchPlay Designs, offered through Shining Needle Society: Stella Polaris. Even though they have offered 10 colorways, I still felt compelled to make up my own.

     Obviously, I'm conflicted about one color. It's the accent color. It should be either a different shade of one of the two main colors, purple or orange in my case, or an accent. I decided to go with an accent and loved the pink. But I had to go and share my colors at the ANG meeting last week, and that's where the problem began. Green or teal were urged. So back I trooped to Needlewoman East the next day to see if there was a teal in Elegance. Hah! Of course there was. And it looks nice too. I just can't decide. I may wait until it gets used in the piece and decide then. What do you think?

     So that's what I'm adding to my long list of WIPs. Stained Glass Windows borders on BAP-ness but isn't quite there. Stella Polaris seems manageable. Hahahahaha. Famous last words.



Blog Hop: Stitching Goals

Stitching the Night Away Stitching Bloggers Blog Hop

Do you set stitching goals for yourself and how do you plan them out? (Weekly, monthly, annually?) What are your current stitching goals (if you don’t mind sharing)? In addition to setting goals for yourself, do you have a special reward that you reserve for when you reach a stitching goal?
No, I don't set stitching goals. I've found that over the past few years, I only end up frustrated because life intervenes and prevents me from achieving them. That doesn't stop me from stitching; it just makes it a more relaxing, soothing experience, since I'm not making any demands on myself other than to work toward completing whatever project I'm working on. And I do have projects. Let's see if I can recall them all. (Note: I think all of these pictures have appeared already in this blog; in other words, these are not progress pictures.)

Stars for a New Millennium, by Tony Minieri, now more than two years in the stitching and not even halfway finished. Perhaps I'll put this back into a weekly rotation again. Maybe try to work on this on Mondays. But it's not a goal!

Tessellations Again, by Orna Willis, maybe only a little more than a year in the stitching and maybe a third finished. I love the colors. If I just stuck with it, I might get it finished in a few weeks. I could try to stitch it at my Tuesday stitching group till I finish.

Prelude to Peace, by Jim Wurth, barely begun. And I had great plans to blog my progress on this. We all know how well that went. (See what goals can do to me!) I don't know when I'll ever get back to this one. Is it perhaps to become a UFO? Maybe.

Flyways, by Michael Boren, nearly finished! Now this one, I know I can finish in a couple or three sessions by just applying myself. It's a good candidate for my Thursday stitching group.

From Molehill to Mountain, by Pamela Gardner. Struggling along on this, which was supposed to have been completed in time to show at ANG Seminar in Philadelphia with the rest of my ANG chapter. Ha! I think this was an ambitious goal for almost everyone involved, though there's at least one person who may actually achieve it. There are people who started the Scarlet Thread cyberclass in February who are farther along than I am, and I've been working on it for about a year (or more). Gah!

Leaf Collage, by Terry Dryden. I love this project! What a great class! I'm stalled, owing to having to rip out a portion of my last effort and not really up to it at this time. It's not a lot; it's just the frustration of stitching, then ripping, then restitching, then repeating the sequence on the next section I work on. If only I could count!

iPhone Case. I got this to preview before Scarlet Thread purchased a bunch. I don't even own an iPhone. Hahahahaha. Not liking any of the designs provided in the kit, I made up my own, which I like. But again. If only I could count. I'm maybe halfway done with this and not sure I'll finish it. Is that sad or what? Again, it's the cycle of stitching, ripping, restitching; repeat.

Perhaps my real problem is that I'm in a stitching funk right now. Too many mistakes are making it more of a chore than a pleasure. I think I've been too stressed out by a lot of things, which is reflected in my stitching.

When I finish one of these, especially the very large ones, I'll reward myself with a glass of champagne. I'll deserve it. It could happen. I mean, how hard could it be?


Visit all the blogs in this round of the Stitching the Night Away Stitching Blogger Blog Hop:
Find the instructions on how to participate in this round by clicking here.


I have been stitching

     A little. Not a lot.

     I have one finish, which I hope to put into a boxtop very soon. It's St. Margaret's Star, by StitchPlay Designs, the collaborative effort of Michael Boren and Carole Lake.

     I made up my own colorway for this. First, I pulled a number of Watercolours that pleased me. Then I looked for a canvas to go with each of them. The design is pretty much monochromatic, so this turned out to be a little challenging. I ended up with a Zweigart hand-dyed canvas, Dark Amorous Amethyst, which I love for its color but hate for its softness. I had to keep tightening the canvas as I stitched, and this is only around 5" x 5". Can you imagine doing a large piece on this canvas?

     A few weeks ago, I took a three-day workshop with Terry Dryden, Leaf Collage. What a wonderful experience! Terry is a great teacher, explaining everything clearly and giving everyone a little one-on-one time throughout the class. Here's how far I got plus a little more stitching since the workshop ended.

     This is not a small piece. What I like about it are the beautiful colors, the way it's broken up into lots of small segments that give you a sense of accomplishment as you finish them (okay, so I've only finished one segment so far, but I felt great when I did!), and the technique of painting with Copic markers (all those blocks of blue with very fuzzy edges are my work, not Terry's). There was much more to like and learn during the workshop. Those are just my favorite parts. The leaves are all transfers of paintings that Terry did. She provided the canvas with the outlines and transfers in place. We painted the blue areas and started stitching. Terry showed us how to stitch the leaves to get a very painterly, shaded effect. I'm not the only one thinking of just leaving them as paintings rather than stitching them. Hahahaha.

     I know, there are many of you out there shaking your heads in amusement at the thought that I've taken on yet another huge project while I've got so many waiting in the wings to be finished. Rest assured, I have been working on them as well, at least some of them. One that's nearing completion is Michael Boren's Flyways.

     Once again, I love the colors of this design. I went with Michael's Red Clay colorway and love the touches of lavender/mauve in it. I've found that contrary to expectations, I actually enjoy stitching on 14-ct canvas. This, coming from one who once thought anything less than 32-ct linen was coarse.

     Speaking of linen, I just bought a beautiful piece of fabric and a couple of silk flosses to stitch a few ornaments for Christmas gifts this year. I was in Ocean City, MD, on Saturday and stopped by Salty Yarns, a wonderful needlework shop that I'd heard of for years but had never been in. The store is filled to overflowing with patterns, fabric, threads, finishing supplies, and needlework tools and necessities. I was only there for a brief time, having stopped by to visit with a couple of friends who were at Salty Yarns's annual stitching retreat. Here's what I found that I couldn't resist:

     Is that not a gorgeous ground for those beautiful threads? The fabric is Picture This Plus Moss 28-ct linen. The threads are Crescent Colours Belle Soie. I had picked the fabric out, and one of the ladies ran to the front of the shop to find a small pillow stitched in those threads on a slightly darker PTP fabric, Swamp (I think). No question, they looked perfect. So now I have to start getting into cross-stitch mode. It would be nice to get these done way before Christmas, so that I'm not up late every night running up to Christmas Eve, trying to get them finished into ornaments.



Needles, Old and New

     Today is Hari-Kuyo, the festival of broken needles. It's a lovely Japanese tradition that honors the lowly needle for its service in our art. There's a lovely description of the 400-year-old tradition on Stitchstress Stumbles's blog and pictures on Kikuko's Website. If you want to have your own ceremony, get a slab of tofu, offer up a prayer, meditate, or do whatever you want to offer reverence for our most important tool, then stick your broken or about-to-be-retired needles in it. Of course, the question remains, what do you do with the tofu full of broken needles?

     I recently had one of those annoying mishaps with a needle wherein the eye splits, you don't realize it, and you keep wondering why the needle won't stay threaded. There's one for the tofu. This meant, though, that I could open a new package of needles! But what kind? Most of what I do requires a size 24 tapestry needle. Simple, right? Ha! Not so fast. Each brand of needle has its own, unique "feel." Some people swear by Piecemakers, while others say Bohin is unsurpassed. I prefer a petite size, which I've only found from John James. Why the petite? Because I can get it into some pretty tight spots and use that thread down to the last inch if I want to. And I do! Don't ask me why, but I don't like to see long orts. Silly, I know.

     My stitching continues on Miss Zombie USA. I'm nearly done! Her lovely skintones are what I'm working on, her face, shoulders, and arms. Last night at my stitching group, I realized that I didn't have the right shade of pink for her rosy cheeks. Who knew a zombie would have rosy cheeks? Perhaps she applied blusher for the pageant. Fortunately, one of my friends had a pink that would do. I'll post a picture as soon as she's done, which I hope will be later this week. Another friend thinks she may have just the right frame for this beauty. I hope so.



New Year, New Resolve

Hey, I'm back! Did you miss me? Don't answer that.

I've actually been doing some stitching of late, making a little progress. I also pulled out all my UFOs to see just what needed doing to finish some of them. I found two that needed very little work to finish up.

First up is Miss Zombie USA. You may recall that my daughter gave me a kit with a book of small zombie-themed projects, a couple of pieces of Aida cloth, and some cotton floss. I started in on Miss Zombie with all good intentions of just whipping it out in no time. Sadly, I set it down and forgot about it. Earlier this month, in response to a challenge, I pulled it out and decided to spend at least two and a half hours working on it every week. Here's where I am:

Contrary to my normal mode of stitching, I started this one in the center and worked down. Weird. As you can see, I just have to add this beauty's head and arms to complete her portrait. I think I can manage it in a few more sessions. Then the really hard decision must be made. How do I finish this? Any ideas? She screams out for a fancy tabletop frame, but I'm just not sure.

The other piece that requires very little work to finish is a pretty little ornament designed by Michael Boren. I took this class a couple of years ago. It's embarrassing how little is left to do, but most of it involves adding beads. Remedial Stitcher does not like adding beads! But this is really not that bad, so I think I can manage it. I also need to finish adding the sparkly thread to the right vertical border.

It's a pretty piece and deserves to be finished! I might even go so far as to finish it as an ornament, a very simple ornament.

I've also worked more on Stars for a New Millennium recently. I finished up block number 4, Marlon Brando and am now working on block number 5, Eva Marie Saint. Right now, I'm not enjoying stitching this segment. Every stitch is apparently a couched stitch, and each thread must be couched before you lay the next. Not my favorite type of stitch! Here's where she sits.

I'm still loving the colors of this piece, and the multilayered effects are beautiful. But I do find myself cursing Tony Minieri at times when in the middle of a particularly intricate part. (No offense intended to Mr. Mineiri, of course.)

Last, I received a pretty stitched piece in the mail the other day. What a surprise! It came from a former customer who now lives in Utah and who used to stitch models for me. Nicole stitches beautifully, and the backs of her pieces are as much admired as the fronts. Hahahaha. The fronts of course are stunning. Here's what I got. I have to find out from Nicole what the piece is. It may have been a model I asked her to stitch before closing the store (sadly I can't remember exactly what it was), or it may be something else entirely.