Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Fun!

We had a tree this year for the first time in several years. We used only a fraction of our ornament collection on it but we think it's just wonderful. I don't know what type of pine it is but it is very fragrant still. Here's a picture of it--we finally got some sun so I could take some photos.

The gold ornament on the left side, kind of hidden by a branch, is the first I remember making--from cardboard egg carton sections glued together and edged with trim and painted gold. A small red ball is suspended inside on a wire. The red ornament near the top is also an early one--it's a plastic round (from some gift cheese spread) backed with tinfoil and coated with glitter. I've moved on a bit from those early crafting days. Most of the handmade ornaments pictured were by me, a few made by friends, and a few are old family ornaments.

I finished Bill's stocking on time--with the usual last minute crises. I dug out my sewing machine a few days before Christmas but waiting until the day before we were going to my sister's to set it up to sew the stocking. The machine would only sew backwards. I fiddled, Steve fiddled, but nothing helped. So I decided to sew it backwards. The tension was off, too, and as I fiddled, it came to me that I could just drop the feed dogs and sew it freemotion. So that's what I did.

Stockings are a big thing in our family celebrations. I'm older than my siblings and when mom was done doing stockings, I took up the task. I was probably in college at the time. I still do it. When my nieces and nephews were born, I made them each a stocking. The parents are responsible for filling them and I know my sister still does. Stockings are also a big tradition in Bill's family. Theirs are knitted and filled by Bill's dad.

Here is my original stocking, I'm not sure of it's date. It's exactly like my sister's and she was born in 1957, so I'm suspecting they both date from then. Although, I do remember having a stocking before that...I need to check old photos. The crochet stocking is my husband's, made in the 70s when I was madly crocheting. It's also big so it can hold a lot. I had forgotten about the stretchability of crochet. That stocking will hold A LOT!

We celebrated the holidays with my family on Sunday. Here are some pictures--the tree surrounded by presents. The dinner table awaiting the ham. I made nut cups from old Christmas cards and a niece is nibbling as she awaits dinner. We had a nice dinner (ham, mac&cheese, loads of veggies) followed by a chocolate feast.

We are serious chocoholics in my family. There's a family schism between those who prefer milk and those who think they're wussies and only want deep, dark, rich chocolate (guess which camp I'm in!). My brother made amazing individually-sized deep, dark chocolate cheesecakes for everyone.

My sister made cookies with chocolate frosting. My hubby got everyone a large Lindt chocolate Santa (on sale after Christmas at the outlet store--sometimes a delayed holiday is good!)--you can see them on the dinner table. He also obtained several boxes of amazing homemade truffles that a friend makes every year: dark chocolate, chocolate covered cherries and turtle truffles (caramel and nut in chocolate). Plus the usual small holiday chocolates. We rolled home in a state of OC (over chocolate).

This last photo is of some of the family, the new couple are in the center. That's my sister on the left and other niece on the right. We've mostly done the rip-n-tear and things are calmer now. My sister's holding the needlefelted cat. Everyone seemed happy with their gifts.

Tomorrow starts a new year. Changes already--my wonderful assistant for the last six-months has completed his projects and today was his last day. I'll really miss Jacob a lot and it was great getting to know him. We learned today also that a temp worker that I like a lot was hired permanently--that's good news for the secretarial pool where he's been working.

We had some minor flooding over the weekend and my car is now full of empty copier paper boxes so I can hopefully get things sorted out one corner of the basement. I'd been working to sort out what to keep or discard, mostly magazines but also some pattern books, charts, kits. The keep pile of magazines was soaked and went to recycling.

I lost all of my Fine Lines magazines, some Pieceworks, some Annas, and some other odds and ends. I knew they were in a dangerous spot, we have occasional seepage, but hadn't had a chance to get down and get things better organized. I think the experience will make it much easier to get rid of the piles of discards now. I kept a list of the soaked magazines but doubt I'll replace them and if I ask myself seriously about it, I doubt I'll miss them.

Last night I got back into the swing of things and finished the embroidery on November's TIF.

Happy New Year to All!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Still workin' on it...

I've finished the embroidery for the stocking, now I have to put it together. I have all of the pieces, the fabrics, backing, lining, batting. And I have unearthed the sewing machine from it's corner.

This doesn't sound like much but those who have seen my house know it's a big deal--the machine was well and truly buried. This has gotten me really thinking about a whole lot of things like why did I let it get so buried in the first case. I realized the corner of the living room, the only place we could find for the desk and machine, is not a good place for it. It's right next to my TV loving hubby's chair--it's not easy to watch with the whine of the machine in your ear. Not to mention that the machine makes the TV go haywire.

I'm not the most flexible or innovative person. Why I didn't think of pulling it out and using it elsewhere in the house is a mystery to me. Perhaps I did at one point and couldn't think of where to go (I also have a memory like a sieve). Maybe I'm desperate enough now. I'm not sure why. I've found a corner of the bedroom where it can sit when not in use--and can't get buried. I plan to use it on the kitchen counter, standing up (I need more activity in my life).

Which got me thinking about my word for next year. I believe my word will be MOVE. I've had FOCUS pinned on the wall at work all year and it has helped. I had another word in mind, related to MOVE, but forgot it. So maybe it should be MOVE just because it stuck with me!

I've been doing a lot of reflecting lately. This year we set up a tree, smack in the middle of the living room (and we both had to move a lot of stuff to make that happen). It's a narrow tree but tall and quite nice. But what it felt like was that we were making space in our lives for Christmas once again.

I love having a tree, the lovely scent of pine, and the ornaments all bring back memories. I truly feel blessed and loved as I decorate the tree.

In my digging I found a Mary Engelbreit gift bag full of holiday books I've gathered over the years (including "Have a Natural Christmas 1978!). I read "A Christmas Carol" from the bag this weekend. It was a 1977 version of the Arthur Rackham illustrated edition. It always amazes me how closely the movies follow the book. I also have a Rackham illustrated version of "The Night before Christmas" and some other seasonal books.

In the post on Saturday was a lovely gift from Gatherings. Some of Pat's lovely hand-dyed ribbons and a wonderful kit to make a couple of the tiny little dollies from Somerset Life. I am so excited to play, but all my goodies are boxed away right now so I have to wait a bit. Pat even included some little teeny-tiny eyelets for the joints!

I'll definitely be away now until the 29th. Have a wonderful week!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to All!
That's my hubby and me at the zoo on Thanksgiving. I photoshoped us together for our holiday cards this year.

I'm mostly away from the computer from now until the 29th. I'd hoped to do a real post today but it took me 45 minutes to chip the 1/4" thick coating of solid ice off of my car this morning and then over an hour more to drive in to work, so any extra time I may have had was gone.

The ice was beautiful--all of the trees and plants were coated--and hopefully the roads are cleared by now.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


One of the great holiday pleasures we have is the availability of fresh nuts in the shell. They used to be more readily available but now we only see them at the holidays. We can get shelled nuts year round but it's just not the same.

I've been enjoying not only eating them but the textures of the shells. Pecans are so smooth and shiny--their skin would make lovely veneer if you could get a large enough piece flat. Almonds are really intriguing me this year, with their fibrous inserts. I had thought about incorporating this web in a stitching project but it became very brittle very quickly, so it's probably not a good idea. But I can still enjoy the full sensory experience.

We bought a tree for the first time in several years. It's in our garage for now; we'll put it up this weekend. It was sold by a volunteer group to support the Circle Pines Center in Delton, MI. The mission of Circle Pines is to teach peace, social justice, environmental stewardship and cooperation. The Center aims to demonstrate cooperative alternatives for economic and social issues and to teach cooperation as a way of life. Sounds pretty good to me. It's the first time I've heard of this center but I hope to visit it next summer.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

gloomy weather

We've been having gloomy, snowy weather (frigid, icy, and very pretty if you don't have to drive in it) here and I haven't been able to get photos shot. Finally this morning we had brief sun.

Here is the stocking I made for my niece many years ago (22). The one I am making for her new husband will be of similar style, size and colors. (it's laying at an odd angle, sorry.)

I am testing using metallic green chain stitch as a fill in for the letters. I'm not sure so it's sitting. I like it but I think perhaps it needs something more...maybe a gold stitch on top. I've also been thinking about feather stitch rather than chain--it may be a bit easier to adapt the width of that to the changing size of the letters. (DMC spool metallic.)

Here is a sprig of mistletoe I'm stitching for the stocking. Very bright. I just need to complete a few more berries. (Au ver a soie stranded silk on cotton quilting fabric.)

Last, here's the needlefelted kitty cat I made for my niece. The felted birds were a lead up to figuring out how to do this. I'm pleased with the outcome.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

TIF & Christmas

I haven't said anything yet about this month's TIF, the last one, but I have been thinking about it. At the beginning of December, I realized I needed to set this project aside until I'd finished some Christmas projects.

The stocking I'm making is underway. I had planned to satin stitch the name in red and the outline is preparation but I rather like the outline and now all sorts of ideas are perking.

This is stitched in floche (the m at the end is yet to be done) but I have a set of Au Ver a'Soie threads in holiday colors and now I'm thinking about doing a multicolor filling or each letter with a different color filling, leaving the red outline, or leaving the red as is but adding some satin stitch holiday motifs (holly comes to mind but I'm very fond of holly). I do think it would look nice as red satin stitch, my original plan, too.

As for the TIF, I really like this month's theme and think it's quite appropriate. At the beginning of the month, I made this jotting in my notebook, just to capture my thought for later when I get a chance to finish November and begin this.

I've been thinking of doing it in embroidered felt similar to a previous page. I enjoyed this one most of all. I thought to link the two by using a hand and heart image in this one, using hands for the wings on the heart.

Last week I picked up a copy of Artists’ CafĂ© (volume 3), a compilation of past articles from Somerset Studios magazine. In there I found a few instances of imagery where hands became wings. This made me think that perhaps I was on a good path, not so much because others were using similar imagery but more because it came into my life at the time I was thinking about it. I could have seen these articles before, and perhaps did and remembered them subconsciously, but it just felt like the timing of seeing them again is important now. So, I know the path I will tread when it's time.

I finished this last bird last week. It is a gift for my husband, who is fond of chickadees. It's also free standing. The other photos that showed this better came out blurry. My next project is what all of these birds led up to, more or less, a cat for my niece.

The birds came as a kit and each progressed in complexity so I learned about needlefelting and working with the designs as I did each one.

I have a book with some ideas on how to do other animals, including a cat, and I have some thoughts of my own. I'm debating about a pipe cleaner armature so it's posable. The cat in the book stands on it's own without it. I have enough wool that I can make more than one cat to test ideas.

I need to complete a scrapbook cover, which will be quick. I found some interesting old map prints and am just pasting them to the covers of purchased journals. I made tiny snowmen ornaments for some neighbor children (I forgot to photograph them) and I don't plan to do any baking, I think, so things are starting to come together. I do have a lot of shopping yet to do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Shopping

On Saturday I went to a local craft fair and found some great holiday gifts. One of the vendors was JLC Studio and she had some really lovely jewelry. I got gifts for coworkers (and boxes to coordinate, how cool is that?). The blue earrings go to one and the golden brown bracelet to another (and I've plans for next year to swap and give brown earrings and a blue bracelet to them). The beads are thin shell and made lovely chinking noises when you move--not to loud but nice.

The dark brown earrings at the top are for me. I've been buying a lot of brown clothing lately.

I do know JLC, but I don't profit from her venture (just her friendship). Definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More Holiday Fun!

Last week was just brim full of fun things! First the holiday party and then on Friday I went to dinner with Averyclaire. We always have a great time, like we've been friends forever. I was really excited when she gave me one of her lovely felt ornaments. I liked this shape best of the ones she made and she read my mind!

She also brought me a pair of figures from Peru, made by local women and sent here to be sold to raise much needed funds. They're really charming and I plan to hang them at work to remind me just how lucky I am.

The gift I enjoyed most over the weekend were two French women's magazines from December and January a couple of years ago--Modes & Travaux--both full of holiday and gift ideas. They have recipes, crafts, decor and fashion (women's magazines seem much the same world round).

I can't really read French, but I have studied it a bit (if one year, thirty years ago counts!) and can grasp the gist of the embroidery instructions, patterns and the recipes. And I certainly can enjoy the pictures of the holiday decorations and clothing.

I spent much of the weekend recuperating from the week. (in addition to the party and dinner out I spent a couple of evenings shopping and running errands, not my quite, sit on my behind, usual state) I took a long nap Saturday and then we visited my sister and her husband on Sunday. I showed her how to make the Christmas tree earrings and she made some for gifts.

Holiday Prize

At our holiday party we played a game. We had to figure out the titles of holiday carols from phrases using unusual synonyms (bleached noel = White Christmas). World Embroideries got all twenty songs correct. I came in second, way behind with fifteen. I was very happy.

The prizes were wrapped grab bags. It's kind of bittersweet for me--the prizes were really nice but it's mostly because the last local needlework shop went all knitting and got rid of all of their embroidery and needlework supplies.

They donated the final leftovers to the guild, which was a very generous thing to do and we've been really enjoying this bounty. But we're also without a LNS. (I used to be quite spoiled with three in close proximity to my home.)

My prize was four hand-painted needlepoint canvases (I said the prizes were generous). Three have stitch guides and color photos of the final pieces.

Even though I think it's intended to be an ornament, I think the raggedy girl piece looks like it would make up into a nice scissors holder. And I love the gingerbread tree ornament. Ditto for the patriotic stocking. I'm less enthused by the tennis playing bear, mostly because I don't know anyone who plays tennis. But I've learned over the years I don't have to feel compelled to stitch everything that comes my way!

This last image is the ribbon from the table centerpiece. World Embroideries won and when I admired the ribbon she gave it to me. I'm quite pleased and hope to use it in my nephew-in-law's stocking, which is finally under way (barely).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ornament Abundance

Last week my chapter of the Embroiderer's Guild of America had their holiday party. It's always great fun and this year was no exception. I ended the evening with an abundance of ornaments, other goodies and good cheer.

The first ornament is the one I drew in the ornament exchange. I really love the beautifully stitched cardinal and the jingle bell finishing. I have to apologize because the stitcher is a newer member of the group and I cannot remember her name and my member list is old so she's not listed to help trigger my memory.

This large ornament came from my friend Renee, along with a bunch of edible goodness (too much of which is already gone!) Aren't those buttons cool?

The next two came from another friend, Jamee, known for her lovely Hardanger embroidery. She likes fine, high count fabrics and miniature work (things I can no longer see to do and never had the patience for when I could!)

Here's an example, with beads. The square piece is a magnet. The ornament will soon hang on my office door handle, where I usually have something on display and the magnet will go on the office file cabinet. I'll see that a lot more often than my refrigerator door.

The last ornament came from World Stitcheries. It is a form of needlelace from Paraguay. She talks about it here. It is similar to Teneriffe and is a needle lace.

Tomorrow I'll write about the prize I won in a game. I came in second.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving at the Zoo

We love to visit the zoo but the cost has gotten prohibitive lately ($11 per person plus $8 to park!) and we go there rarely now. But Thursday is free-day and they're open year-round so we went on Thanksgiving day last week. It was about 40 degrees and pretty nice (no rain, snow or wind). There were workers out decorating for the holidays and the animals were doing their thing. This is me near the entrance and Steve visiting with a friend.

I'm thinking about using these photos of us for holiday cards.

The bear and meerkats and especially the gorillas were being photogenic. We were there midday so most of the animals were sleeping.

For years now I've wanted to take photographs of these tiles in the ladies' bathroom but never had the nerve to snap away in the usual summer crowd. I got my chance this trip in the nearly-empty room and clicked pictures of a few of my favorites. (it's the ladies' room just by the south entrance, in case you want to see them in person)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

November Take-It-Further

Well, I didn't get it done. I tried. The four-day holiday weekend helped and I stitched on it pretty diligently. I used one whole skein of the floche. My unopened second skein is in the picture. And not much red is left to be covered.

So far I'm pleased with my progress. I should have pinned it to a stretcher frame--there is some fabric puckering that having it on a frame probably would have stopped. But I'm happier working in hand so I went with that and will accept the puckering as a consequence.

I did take time out on Friday to needlefelt this flying cardinal. The birds don't take long and my hands were getting sore from the satin stitching.

The holiday weekend was nice. We held our family gathering on Saturday. We held up the American tradition of stuffing ourselves. On the actual holiday, Thursday, my hubby and I went to the zoo. We watched the children feed the farm animals their Thanksgiving dinner and wandered around. On Friday we went to see a local theater production of A Christmas Carol. And on Sunday we went to an open garage (like an open house but with antique cars). I've got some zoo pictures to post later this week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

November TIF progress

My November TIF project is finally underway. I’m feeling my way here and I think I should have set it up differently perhaps. First, I tacked my paper form to the ground fabric, using the floche I’ll stitch with. I think perhaps I should have used something thinner. Then I basted the ground fabric to muslin. Which I probably should have done before basting the letters on. Here’s a picture of the basted piece, ready to go.

When I was at Designer's Desk in Geneva, I had walls of fibers to choose from (literally, there are moving pegboard panels four deep along two walls of a room, loaded top to bottom with fibers. A third wall is cabinets and more pegboards. And the DMC and Anchor flosses and perle cottons are in boxes elsewhere).

I like floche for satin stitch and they have a good variety to choose from. I brought my rust-dyed fabric with, thinking I'd go with a dark brown color. But the blue just jumped onto my fabric. A rich, royal blue. I also got a nicely complementary rust, in case I want to add some touches in that.

I began stitching on Monday night. It’s a bit awkward working with the paper but I think it can also help make some nice satin stitches. I’m using floche and that helps, too.

Here’s a photo of the progress I made on Monday. I began stitching in two places, to try and get the paper firmly onto the fabric. I have removed some of the basting as I’ve stitched. Mostly because the stitches holding the paper are made too far from the edges of the paper and thus stick out.

It’s tough going. The rust-dyed fabric is a bit heavier than the cotton I’ve hand quilted before and I’m finding my hands hurt after a couple of hours of stitching. But so far, so good. I hope to finish it this weekend.

Right now I'm planning to do the letters all in the one shade of blue, so the graphic effect will be similar to the maroon. (It's on maroon paper because that's the cover stock they were throwing away that I grabbed to use for projects like this--it's white on one side and shiny maroon on the other and will go through the copier and print on the white side.)

I did some searching online to see if I could find any photos of the small monogram letters of pressed paper used like I'm using my huge one, but I didn't find any. I remember seeing a box full of little glassine bags and each had several heavy card letters in an Old English or Germanic font for monograms. I've also seen them in a script type. The letters were rounded in the center of each stroke and would work like pad stitching. The largest were maybe an inch high. The instructions said to baste them onto the ground fabric and then satin stitch over them. I can't imagine they would be washable but many of the clothes in the 19th century were not washable.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

finishing small projects

Last weekend, after my big day out on Friday, I got some things done at home. I’ve been sorting through some old stuff and found some things to finish. I made a eyeglasses holder using Chinese knots (and instructions and a form from the Japanese company, Clover), and made this bright red knot in order to learn how to do the knots so I could make the eyeglasses holder.

I finished taming the wild scrap felt ball I made a few weeks back. I trimmed each bit of felt into a little circle and pinned them all on like sequins. I'm much happier.

A while back I had gotten a kit for needlefelting birds from A Child's Dream Come True website, along with a book on felted animals. Backyard Birds is the kit and it was put out by Black Sheep Designs. The instructions are clear and my first two birds went well. They were also much quicker to do than I'd expected. (the nest is also from the kit.) I have two more birds to do and then hope to attempt some other animals, all for holiday gifts.

I found a bunch of Classic Stitches and Needlecraft magazines that had little kits on the front of them. Here’s one I made up with an Autumn scene. I’ve completed another with some yellow ribbon flowers and begun some green and gold gift tags from yet another. They're all from the 1990s.

I found a large baggie of felt and metal goodies from Art Girlz that I'd purchased at the quilt show in April. I made up this cone doll for a niece, complete with wild hair and cowboy boots. I also swapped out the crown that was in the kit for another that I'd gotten that says "be bold." I have some materials for another cone doll and some faces and hands I plan to use for more comfort dolls.

And last, here’s a small (the maximum size was to be 2", this is a little less) sample of oyster stitch I made on Sunday evening for my EGA chapter’s forthcoming cookbook. Many of us are stitching small samples for the divider pages. I like oyster stitch. It was supposed to be on 32 count linen but I didn't have that so I think this is 28 count. It is not counted.