Friday, June 27, 2008

Not much to say

This week's been long days at work with little time to play. I've gotten some focus back and have been stitching a little bit each day on my embroidery for June's TIF project. It's slow going (fine threads) but is coming along.

I'm also thinking more about the back of the page, where I plan to collage some stash. I had a thought that I might tack the pieces on, to let them be removed and used for other purposes as time goes by. But I'm not sure of that. On the one hand it would illustrate the changing stories the stash can tell. On the other, I'm back to the "precious" attitude where I don't want to commit any parts of the precious stash to one purpose.

My Joggles class began today. (Studio Journals with Sharon B) I have most things but lack the all important journal itself. I haven't had a chance to get out shopping. I'm not one to dive right in--I'll read the lesson I got today and stop into the forum if I get a chance and probably let it swirl around in my head this weekend. And maybe I'll get out shopping.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Not so quiet week

Well, I thought this week would be quiet but it's as busy as last week. I hired a part-time assistant today for the summer. Jacob has already helped immensely. Yay!

I was exhausted this weekend and didn't do much. I can't seem to get up enough gumption to work on the Take It Further project this month. I'm happy with my plan and want to finish it, just not enough to pick up a needle right now.

I did some stitching on the needlepoint pincushion while working the conference on Friday and Saturday. It's coming along. It's a really nice exercise in how colors change depending on angle and stitches. The same colors worked next to each other but with a different stitch look quite different. I'm not sure how I like the color combination. It's taken from the backing fabric, which is also an interesting way to select colors for a geometric project like this.l

This weekend I played with felt. First, I made these dolls. They try out an idea I'd been considering for a while and use my new Cartwright's sequins. The faces of the dolls are large flat paillettes with one hole at the top. They're iridescent and change from pink to purple to green depending on the angle as you look at them.

I plan to send the two smaller ones to Pat at Gatherings for her Comfort Doll Project. I think the mermaid may be a bit too big for that. I drew on faces and attached the sequins to the dolls using shisha stitch. They were a lot of fun to do and I made all three this weekend as I sat around.

I also made the two bottlecap pincushions shown here. One is supposed to be a strawberry. Hmmmm. The other is for my niece, from her graduation water-bottle cap.

I'm becoming a connoisseur of bottle caps. I like the ones from my husband's juice. The ones on our water bottles this weekend are a good size. A bit deeper than most. Many are too tall and narrow or wide and shallow. My sweetie now saves all of the pull-tabs from our soy milk cartons so I can use them for finger pin-cushions. Never ending fun!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


This conference is finally over and I'm off for what's left of the weekend. Thursday night I got home with enough daylight to take a couple of photos. The first is my pot of flowers by the front door. They did like all the heat and rain of the past few weeks. This week has been much more pleasant for humans--less rain and cooler.

These are some sale threads I got recently: mostly Rainbow Gallery silks and Matte 18s with some Impressions and other odd fibers thrown in. A very good sale. They're out on the lawn to soak up some sun and chlorophyl and get rid of the nasty cigarette smoke smell they came with. (it worked, although I think I'd like to give them another visit to the lawn when I get a chance and a sunny day.)

Here's my TIF piece as of Thursday. I'm stitching on the left the mirror image of the design traced on the right. more or less. I'm using Rita's silks. It's very slow going this month.

Next month I'm going to start Sharon B's Studio Journals class on Joggles. I got the supplies list today. I know I have some things, not sure about others, and will need to think about buying still others. I've never taken a class from Joggles and liked the class list style--a complete list as an attachment and an e-mail list with links to the recommended products that Joggles carries to make finding them easier. Easier is often better.

I just got a book at Barnes & Nobles about using colored pencils that I think may be a good complement to this class. Oh, and my brother-in-law's book finally came in at Borders!

And as a bit of retail therapy, I placed a fun order with Cartwright's Sequins just in time to have a small box of goodies arrive on my office desk on Thursday. It was a sunny spot in an otherwise frantic day.

Opening my eyes

Last night on the way home from work the light was just perfect and I felt like I was coming out of hibernation. It was dark ahead with gray storm clouds and the sun was low on the horizon, my favorite combination for taking photographs.

The first thing to catch my eye was that the entire median on Stony Island Ave. was full of glorious golden day lillies in full bloom. How on earth had I missed these before? They were glowing! I wish I'd had my camera.

After that wake-up call, I began really noticing my surroundings. As I got closer to home I was passing through areas where it had rained. There was a sparkle and clarity to the air there and even the ordinary seemed magical. The "steel bridge" glowed white against the dark sky and everthing stood out in unusual clarity. It was a magical moment to treasure.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Every time I get out Rita's silks (and I'll never think of them as anything else) it brings up the whole swirl of feelings that go with Rita.

I met Rita late in her life. She was a very skilled stitcher with a true passion for learning. She was also very sure her way was not only the right way, it was the only way. I liked her and enjoyed our visits, but she often asked things I had difficulty with.

Our main issue of contention was that she would ask me for photocopies of books, charts and magazines. I can understand--she was on an extremely limited budget. But I just couldn't do it. When I could I would buy a duplicate for her or give her mine, but I couldn't always do that. She also wanted (needed) more time than I had. I regret that a bit more...I feel I should have been able to work something out; others did.

I could have learned so much from her, I just wasn't wiling to pay the tuition, I guess.

Every time I pick up her basket of silk threads, I think about her stitching. I think she'd be happy someone's using them. I think she might even be interested in what I'm doing with them.

She made lovely brooches with the silks. Her process was painstaking. She would stretch silk fabric over hand cut card shapes, padded with batting. Then she would embroidery delicate flowers, birds and little scenes (through the cardboard and all!). She'd finish with a second padded (and often embroidered shape) and twisted cord, often with a jeweled tassel. (The trim with it's Swarovski crystal was a truly major expense for her.)

I know all of this because part of the collection included her notebooks of how she worked, sketches, precious bits of hoarded silk fabrics. I'm not sure if I'll ever use any of those designs or techniques; they seem closer to Rita to me than the threads, but perhaps I'm wrong.

Rita did any and all types of stitching. She was most proud of a huge phoenix she made as a banner for her church. I first met her when she was teaching a simple needlepoint project. She loved crazy quilting and I can just see how enthralled she be by all of the new online resources that are available. She'd be having a great time.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Calming down a bit

Well, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Two work milestones have been passed today and the conference tomorrow is either ready to go or it's too late to do anything about it. The day was full of last minute changes and upsets. Generally the worse it gets the calmer I get (at least until I get home).

This flower is from our garden. I don't know what it is but they're really pretty and generally last quite a while. When I see them I know it's summer!

Before we left on our little trip last week, I made this bottle-cap pincushion. At my niece's graduation I grabbed the cap from her water bottle at lunch. I gave her a little finger pincushion from a plastic pull tab made with some lovely random dyed fabric from my stash, but I think I'll make her a bottle-cap one too, from her graduation bottle cap. I wonder what her college colors are.

I found this charming photograph on our trip. I fell in love with the serious little schoolgirl with her book and shy smile. I can see a lot of projects with this one.

During our trip we visited the senior art show (I couldn't find any images online at the Lawrence University website). It was a lovely show. One of my niece's friends had an impressive video in the show, along with some very nicely bound books of watercolors.

What really impressed me is that one of the artists chose embroidery as her medium. It was embroidery as a way to make marks and lines, rather than embroidery as lovely technique, if that makes sense. She knew what she was doing but that wasn't the point. And it really inspired me so my TIF this month has changed again.

Not much. The artist used pencil contour drawings on the fabric as part of the image. I've been feeling that my embroidery design for this month is too spotty and not a coherent design. I decided to not stitch the penciled design I transferred and to stitch those designs in other parts of the fabric. I think it will fill the space more cohesively and echo the designs and also to link things together better.

My original transfers are pretty clear. My new ones are much less so and those are what I'll be stitching, so the designs won't be exact. But, then, I won't feel as compelled to "stay on the lines" as I would have with a drawn image to work with.

I began a bit last night. I got out Rita's silks. I'll get a picture up soon of her basket. Rita was very well organized. (I'm not so much.) I used some buttonhole silk and also some thinner thread. The buttonhole silk definitely has a mind of it's own. I can see why the Japanese emphasize keeping the silk threads in tension at all times. It's barely a start but it's something.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Busy week

The long weekend and graduation were loads of fun. I'm paying for the days off work now. It'll let up a bit next week.

Before we left I took a long look at our yard--the catalpa tree was in full bloom and it doesn't last long at all. It was glorious! I was right, it was all gone upon our return.

As I was walking to the car to leave, I noticed this fallen blossom--a perfect skirt for a fairy.

We drove through some of the flooded areas but our destination was north of the worst of it. We didn't see much from the expressways, but many of the alternate routes and county roads were closed due to flooding (which was why we were on expressways). It seems never ending this year. Now it's flooding over on the Mississippi!

Appleton is on the Fox River and our big dinner was in an old mill right on the river. The water was really rushing and pretty high and later that night on the news we learned that the restaurant and next-door apartment building were put on alert for high water and possible flooding.

This isn't flooding, it's the north end of Lake Winnebago from a tower at High Cliff State Park. We had a lovely stroll there.

We were enthralled by this baby bunny who inhabited the yard next to the building on campus where we parked each day. He (or she) was busy comping away each day, mostly sprawled in the grass so only the ears peeped up.

I did get in a little stitching and a trip to a really cool bead shop while we were gone. Oh, and a little antiquing, too, in and amongst the festivities. (Thanks to Terry and all of her suggestions.

At the hotel in the evenings, I made my quilt square for Deep River County Park's annual quilt. Leila's are here. I still need to get out a rotary cutter and mat and trim it up.

I also continued to work on the needlepoint pincushion kit from Jenny. It's easy to see and simple needlepoint with enough going on so it's not boring. That's all I've been working on since I've been home. At the end of the day, I just don't want to think anymore!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Long Weekend; Take-It-Further

Things are still busy and 12 hour days are taking their toll--I have things to say but am rather scattered. But as of this moment I'm on holiday! I'm taking a long weekend to attend a niece's college graduation. No computer (I'm feeling some separation anxiety about that, which is making me more happy I decided to leave it all behind for a few days.)

I do have more thoughts on my June TIF and conversations with Jane on Monday helped me focus my thoughts. The first thing I did last weekend was wander through my stash and make a representative collection. My plan was to do a collage and I have fabrics, trims, paper, beads, and general stuff (no fibers yet). I was pleased with the combination--in the pile here--but it just wasn't quite right.

I also had an idea for an embroidery. I use antique cotton pillowcases. I love how they feel. I'm not allergic to them. And the antiques are a nice cotton, and less expensive, than new ones. In the way of things, they wear out and a pillowcase I love has done so--it just ripped along the folds the last time I washed it. I has a lovely monogram M on it.

I thought it would make a nice background for an embroidery. I could pull some of Rita's silks from my stash and embroider a flower from one of my antique magazines. Perhaps add some bead flowers. I made a sketch, based around the triangle surrounding the monogram. I decided on bead flowers using round and oblong pearls from SJ Designs, a floral spray from a WWII era British magazine from Jenny's mum, a crewel leaf, just because I want to do some crewel, and perhaps add some beaded, jeweled and sequined wire flower centers that I used on favors for a niece's wedding and have leftovers. Here's my sketch and some notes. Not brilliant design but okay.

I transferred the design by the simple means of turning the tissue over and rubbing the back of it so the pencil transferred to the fabric. Here's the fabric. Sorry for the bad scan. I only had a B&W scanner available. The M in the middle is actually embroidered but I had to make the scan so dark to read the white on white it looks no different than the pencil lines. It's not quite this dark in real life but the pencil transferred to the cotton really well!

But that's not my new plan in it's entirety. I decided the best way to explore the possibilities of my stash is to do a two-sided project. Side one will show the end result of what the stash can create (with my help, of course). And side two will be a more or less collaged homage to my stash.

I have no idea how I'm going to get this done with my life going wild as it is now, but it's the story my stash wants to tell.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Frantic Tuesday

With a small but last-minute conference next week and a huge one in a month, things are certainly busy here. I'm finding it hard to focus on anything else but work.

We had a scare with the weather on Saturday. As we were heading home from an outing we saw low black clouds over the road ahead. About a mile from our exit the rains and winds were so bad we pulled over to the side of the expressway. The first thing we heard when we turned on the radio is that there were funnel clouds over our town--those low black clouds we were seeing.

We sat there until the storm was out over the lake and then drove home. We were incredibly lucky--the twisters did not touch down near us. They did some nasty damage in neighboring areas. Streets flooded but nothing like the flooding in Indiana and Wisconsin. Very scary. My sympathies go out to everyone with damage and loss.

My show and tell today is not things I've done. (I've still been making some felt finger-pincushions from plastic pull tabs in odd moments and struggling with ideas for the TIF project this month.) First, I have a lovely example of shadow embroidery on a sheer cloth. I think it might be a 1950s cocktail napkin. What do you think? My friend Terry sent me this lovely piece. The embroidery is absolutely minute but it looks to me like it was done by hand. Shadow work is something I've always had trouble with. This is perfect.

On our Saturday excursion we did some antiquing. I got this photo of young ladies in hats. I love the flowers tucked under their brims. I also found the bow-knot buttons shown at the top of the page. They look like the two pieces were made to hook and unhook but I'm afraid the plastic has become to brittle to experiment. I was most excited to find this package of Battenberg lace tape. It's much finer than any I've seen before. It's about 1/8" and just beautiful. Now I want to go back to the exhibit at the Illinois State Museum's Lockport Gallery, Urge to Embellish, and compare the tape to that used on the exquisite Edwardian lace dress that is a focal point for the exhibit. I think this may be smaller.

The Battenberg tape I've used for lace pieces, mostly holiday ornaments, has been much larger, usually 1/4" to 3/8" I'd say. I'm thinking this would make some lovely jewelry pieces. Right now I just love it in it's bright blue wrapper. I wonder what the person who originally purchased it was going to make with it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My "Arte y Pico" Award from Pat Winter

After my hectic week, I decided to take a few and cruise the blogosphere. And at the first blog I went to, I found I'd been presented with an award! I am blown away. I have a hard time grasping that people actually read this jumble! Here's my award!
I learned from Pat's blog, Gatherings, that the "Arte y Pico" award was created and to be given to bloggers who inspire others with their creative energy and their talents, whether it be writing, artwork in all media's. When you receive this award it is considered a "special honor". Once you have received this award, you are to pass it on to at least 5 others.

She said some really nice things about me and my blog and placed me in stellar company. At first I thought I'd have a hard time picking five other blogs and I did--I could have listed at least a dozen that inspire and enlighten me. But here's the five I've honed it down to to send the award on to:

JLC Studio is an energetic and eclectic blog. JLC is a interior designer and jewelry maker who jumped into blogging with both feet. (She also happens to be the daughter of a good (and justifiably proud) friend. Her blog is fun, colorful and charming. She has some interesting more-or-less weekly series and has posted lovely interviews with other Etsy crafters. Oh, and good giveaways.

At Spirit Cloth Jude provides a really thoughtful and almost dreamlike atmosphere as she shows her creative works in progress. It’s amazing to see the projects evolve and develop and I always leave her site feeling refreshed and peaceful.

Baumcat usually features small quilts that just hit my color and style button right on. I would love to be able to create work like this. Her pieces just sing! Family life and pets add to the cheerful mix and the Harley’s just add to the fun.

I recently began regularly reading the Beauty of Life. I love Paula’s attitude and her embroidery is gorgeous (even if she might not always think so). Her stitching posts are complemented by lovely photographs and bits of family life and full of inspiration.

Threads across the Web is a charming blog that I found because of the Japanese embroidery that Carol-Anne does. Along with needlelace, beading... She also posts some lovely inspirational pictures.

I think a common thread with these blogs is that the writers all talk about the process of what they’re doing, the ups and downs, and how life mixes in...all the while focusing on the inspiration all around us every day.

Thank you very much, Pat! You made my day.

TIF and odds and ends

As I'd expected, Jane had some very interesting thoughts on the TIF challenge and now I'm thinking much more about the issues of possibilities in addition to the stories perspective. My stash is just teeming with possibilities! Thanks, Jane!

This week has been my fiscal year end at work--I had to have all my paperwork, expenditures, and transfers in today. Phew! it's done and I think I got it all taken care of (well, except for one problem account that I'm doing my best to ignore right now). It made for a busy week and I haven't done any stitching or much thinking about stitching even.

I have two things to share, both done last weekend but I never got the pictures up. The first is the stitched Eiffel Tower for the Camp Quality project. It's not too symmetrical but I think it's a simple concept and the children will be able to have fun with it. My next project it to set up a meeting with the group to cut out the fabric shapes and decide how to package them (with needle and thread). My current inclination is to loop a length of thread through the middle hole and just park the needle in the fabric. This isn't a complex project. There's a big fluffy wool tassel that will go in the hole at the top but I think we should let the children choose their own.

The second project here is a beginning Brazilian kit I got in my goodie bag at the EGA Great Lakes regional seminar in April. When ever I get cocky about my skills, the needlework goddess comes up and smacks me down. I started this piece last Friday night (nothing like stitching at night at the end of the week when you're exhausted) thinking I've done a lot of Brazilian, this will be a piece of cake. Kiss of death.

The stem stitch went okay. The picture showed a much more variegated thread in the flower than my kit contained. I tried to pick different spots on the thread to work the inner and outer petals to no avail. My choices were limited even more because of all the ripping I had to do. The bullions weren't too bad but the cast-on stitch! Do you know what a pain that one is to pick out? I finally got reasonable looking stitches and took a Sharpie marker and colored the inner petals a darker color to match the picture. I'm not going to mention the French knots.

I cut cardboard circles, mounted the piece with a felt backing, and twisted and stitched on the cord over the weekend. Once together it looked lonely so I added the lace border (antique lace from my story-telling, potential-filled stash). I like it pretty well now. I did take a photo and didn't scan it so the details will be less discernible. I do have some pride left. It's going to go on my office door handle. My mini rebellion to our staid office.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June TIF: first thoughts

Oh, the stories my stash could tell!

Some of the things I’ve gathered have histories that I have an inkling about, like the silk threads from my friend Rita’s estate—she used to use them to embroidery delicate floral pendants, my grandmother’s tatting, Susan’s mom’s blouse in this lovely cotton print, the bits and pieces I can’t bear to discard. Some are more mysterious: the bag of lace bits sent to my by Jenny’s mum, the half-finished embroidery or the embroidered hanky found at antique shops. There are souvenirs, like the trims bought in the outdoor market in France, the fibers and fabrics purchased at the EGA National Seminar last year, and the buttons found in an antique shop on our way to Minnesota. The gifts from friends also have stories to tell.

Some of the histories have been created by me: the piece of linen purchased for a sampler that’s now smaller, the rest used for band in April’s Take-It-Further challenge. The thread I bought simply because I loved the color and had no idea what I could do with it—some of it is also in the April TIF piece

Stash isn’t only the fibers and fabrics and embellishments that fill our basement. It’s also the tools I love to accumulate, the books and magazines piled everywhere and now the great new electric stash, the Internet. All of them create a synergy that enables me to do whatever it is I do.

I definitely revel in my stash. Visit it, pet it, and bless it at midnight when I just have to have that perfect thread and there it is.

And then there are the stories to be told. Each time I visit my stash new possibilities open up. Every new thing I learn changes the palette. The question I see for this month is “What story does my stash want to tell right now?”

One of my greatest pleasures with this challenge has been to discuss it with my friend Jane. She’s collecting ideas each month for a future personal challenge and I love her insights into each month’s theme. I expect to see her tonight and am already anticipating our discussion, which will most likely continue and evolve over the next week or so.

I also really enjoy reading comments of many of the blogs about each month’s challenge. I found that now I tend to delay moving beyond thought to project until I’ve absorbed the comments of others.

So this isn't entirely text, here's a photo of my planter out front with it's new flowers. They are "Catalina Midnight Blue" Torenia. I have no idea about them but the tag says they like shade and shade we have in abundance (especially today since it's been raining all day). I bought two colors of them but I don't know what the second is called. On the back of the tag it's called "wishbone flower." They haven't had a chance to settle into the pot and are looking pretty unimpressive right now--I'm sure that will quickly change.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fun Weekend

This weekend was a good one. We had lovely weather, not too hot. And I accomplished a lot. I got some chores done, my pots planted, and the laundry's caught up. I did some sorting and worked on projects left over from April.

In early April I spent a day at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago. I took two classes and haven't finished either project. I had been gathering things to add to my painted cloth from Judy Coates Perez. I'm much happier with the piece now, even though my additions are pretty subtle.

In looking at Judy's work I realized I'd fallen into the trap of "preciousness" (not just with this piece but with other things, too). "I've worked hard on this fabric so it's precious and should be used whole." But what on earth would I do with it? We don't use pillows and it's painted and feels like plastic--and I don't think it would stand up as a tote bag.

I noticed Judy cuts her fabric up and uses it--as fabric and not as a piece of art (and hers ARE pieces of art!). So, I'm determined to find something to make from this. Judy was making little bird houses with metal trim. I like the metal trim but don't think I want to do a birdhouse. Perhaps a box or a book cover. So I'm still thinking on this one...but pleased with my progress.

I also took a collaged pin-making class from Grinnell Fiber Works. I absolutely hated my original design and ended up ripping it up and making something from it that I'm now happy with. I reused bits from my first design but only used about half of the materials I had before. We painted and stenciled lutradur, worked with Angelina fibers, Fast-to-Fuse and Miyuki beads. It was a good class and I learned a lot and I'm fairly happy with the pin now. It's a little fragile for my tastes (whatever I wear needs to stand up to purse and backpack straps) but I'll find a place to wear it, I'm sure.

Picture This

We were discussing this book over on Stitching Fingers and I wanted a place to post it so here it is. This is a wonderfully clear design book. There aren't a lot of rules, just some principles and lots of things to think about.

With four colors (lilac, red, black and white), the author tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood. For the most part there are two shapes: tringles and long rectangles. You can see little Red off in the distance and the sharply menacing wolf looming. It's a very impressive book.