Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New travel blog

My friend Jenny is a travel writer (amongst many other things). We first met in person on a trip she made to the U.S. and, I think, Canada. Anyway, she's begun a new blog about being a part-time travel writer. It's full of intriguing insights, the ins and outs of traveling and writing about traveling, and great photos. (The pix above is copied from her blog. It's a window in Vienna.) Please swing by for a visit and say "hi!"

If you're a Louis Carroll fan, she has another blog about the author and the book she's written about him.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A couple of finished projects

I'm still spending much too much time just sitting and staring off into space, but I'm doing much better than I was and have gotten a couple more projects completed. (Now my sweetie has the cold and is miserable with it. Even then, yesterday he picked up my car from the transmission place and took it to a friend's garage to fix the suspension problem the transmission place found. Now that is definitely above and beyond!)

The first is the silk sampler from Kreinik. This had been sitting around for a number of years. It was fun to do but the silk threads kept catching on my rough fingers.

I even felt good enough to root around in the basement and find the frame for the friendship tea sampler. The chart is from Charland, I think, and was kitted with the frame by Tomorrow's Heirlooms shop in Glen Ellyn, IL. I believe the original design was to be stitched over 2, but to fit the frame, this was done over 1. I also noticed the dye lot of the Needle Necessities overdyed blue used was much lighter than that shown in the model. I think this works fine, though, and had fun stitching it.

I haven't begun anything else. I finished reading the fifth book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross. I have the sixth book, A Breath of Snow and Ash, but decided to wait to reread it until it's closer to the pub. date of the next book in the series. Reading nos. 4 and 5 had me noting references back to the earlier books so when this cold took hold, I picked up the first book in the series, Outlander (or Cross Stitch in England). It was like coming home.

It's still my favorite book in the series and I really enjoyed rereading it. Now I'm reading book 2, Dragonfly in Amber. I'm liking it better than before. This series is a very intense love story and the beginning of Dragonfly backs away from that story line a bit and I missed it. But now that I know more of the whole story, I'm really enjoying rereading this book. I must say I have my eye out for a passage I wish to avoid (a graphic description of drawing and quartering). It gave me weeks of nightmares the first time I read it and I've always skipped is since then.
These huge books are the perfect thing for reading with a cup of tea while not feeling well.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Time for a Giveaway!

Please comment on this post by Sunday, March 1st, to be entered into a drawing to receive this kit to cross stitch a "Photo Pocket." This chart has been used, by me, so I can guarantee it's a fun project. I've just realized I'm not going to make the second one.

The kit includes the chart, linen banding, floss, interfacing, and buttons needed to stitch the project. It does not include the fabric lining required for finishing.

You don't need to live in the U.S. to enter. Spread the word.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

benefits of being ill?

Well, I've spent the last few days sitting on my duff, coughing, sneezing, and not doing too much else beyond contemplating why on earth I pulled out three over-one stitching projects to do now. (That's mainly because the other thing I have to be thinking about is how are we going to pay for the new transmission my car is getting right now and I just don't want to think about that.)

These were long days. I've learned you can't cough and sleep. And if you cough while trying to sleep not only are you kept awake but your very patient hubby is, too.

So I got some stitching done. I decided to first finish the plum pudding since it was closest to being done.

Then I got to work on the Ohio sampler from mom's stash. I realized quickly that I need to switch off between an over-one project and something else. The sampler went quickly and was completed in the wee hours one night. I still haven't gotten up the gumption to get it pressed, but here it is.

The pattern had an option to make it a picture or a needle roll. I don't know what mom's intention was, but I'm thinking a framed picture.

Once I finished the plum pudding, I got seriously to work on the plumeria scissors keep. It's coming along. I can't see how mom did what she managed on it. I find it tough going and finally had to add in some color to keep track of where I am with it. The white is nearly impossible to see and I don't last long when working on it. Thankfully, what mistakes I've made have been minor and the colors are so close that it doesn't show. I can see that it's going to be lovely when done. And I'm determined not to put it back in the pile.

As a balance for this, I got the silk sampler from Kreinik underway. It's going quickly (it's quite small, just over two inches across). It's just over halfway done now.

I didn't pick up the little friendship sampler over-one sampler again. For now I'm going to focus on the plumeria.

As I've been stitching these pieces, I've been contemplating what I'm doing and why. I'll be happy to have them done. And I'm pretty sure this isn't what I want to be doing (definitely not over one!). I pulled out a couple of larger projects to put on the "find-a-new-home-for" pile.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

lure of the new

Why is a new project so alluring? I already have two projects actively underway now--both cross stitch--in my quest to finish things up.

Yesterday my hubby knocked over a basket where over the years I've tucked various odds and ends. As I was putting things back (cards, letters, some small purse frames, a piece of Japanese fabric, a green gingham check dishtowel and pot holder embroidered with strawberries that I don't remember putting there.

There was a narrow tin with a couple of small embroidery projects inside. There was a cross-stitch gift tag of a plum pudding. The holly is about 1/4 complete--but it's over one and so got set aside. I set it aside yesterday, too.

There was also a unstarted kit for a small friendship sampler. I have the too-cute frame for this somewhere in the basement stash. It's also over one but I was compelled to begin it. Mostly, I think I wanted to do the mindless overcasting of the outer edge and basting of the center lines. Once that was done I stitched one over-one letter and decided that was plenty 'nuff. So now I have three "over one" projects underway. Perhaps I should get them all done and finished and remember that I'm really not fond of cross stitch over one.

I went back to the basket and found a booklet, a roll of linen, and silk threads from Kreinik. This project is at the end of the booklet. Before I could even think about it I was cutting the linen to size and overcasting the edges. Then I spent a very pleasant hour basting center lines, top and right margins and counting threads. (It made me realize how much I enjoy this kind of thing and that I should probably find some hemstitching project to take up. I haven't done that in a while and I really like it.)

I didn't take an actual stitch in the project itself, but I really found all of this preparatory work quite soothing and pleasant. Perhaps that's why I start many more projects than I complete.

I can remember that I got this project because I liked the design. At a distance it has a nice Art Nouveau or perhaps Arts & Crafts feel to it. I also was looking forward to experimenting with the Kreinik silks (which were new when I got this). The booklet shows it framed in a mirror. I really like the way it looks, not that I have any purpose for such a mirror or even place to put it.

Now I need to find stretcher bars for it before I can begin stitching.

I didn't purchase anything new for these projects (part of my goal) but there was no logical reason to begin two new projects right now. But, I guess, there was also no logical reason not to.

Monday, February 16, 2009

post-Valentine's cold

The strings of Valentine's hearts were a great hit. The sparkled and twirled in the morning light at our bedroom door. Such a simple thing, but it was great fun. My pleasure was not diminished by having loads of time to spend looking at them. I came home from work Friday night coughing with what has become a nasty chest cold. I stepped off of the merry-go-round and spent some extra time in bed having very interesting fever dreams.

So the weekend was a wasteland insofar as embroidery went. I stitched a very little bit on mom's plumeria fob. Trying to stitch over one on fine linen with a cold is just plain silly, so of course I gave it a go. I didn't last long at it. I made a little more headway on mom's Ohio sampler. But still not much.

Since I was spending so much time in the bedroom, I decided to take some pix there. It's a small room. This is my corner, with my Glinda pillowcase. The lion lamp with the frilly pink shade came from Steve's grandpa. I can remember when he painted it. My dad made the bookcase. (We have another small one that Steve's dad made on the other side of the room.)

The samplers are two that Steve got me as gifts, quite a while ago now. The small painting is actually encaustic. It's very impressionistic. It replaces a 1960s car advertising photo. (I like this better for the bedroom.) The portrait of the astronaut chimp is our newest addition. This wall changes fairly often, except for the sampler.

This last photo is the top of Steve's dresser. (Mine's the white one next to it.) I love his collection of odds and ends. The clock may work (I don't know) but we don't have it running. The ticking would keep us both awake, I'm sure.

Thanks to everyone who made comments on the Trees post. I think it's quite hard to judge one's own work--of any kind. I really appreciate the feedback--thanks for taking the time.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More Trees

Well, I wasn't going to post the trees again until I had it framed but when I ordered the frame from Jo-Ann's (just the frame and mat, mind you--I'll frame the embroidery myself), they said it would likely take two weeks.

I don't have that much patience. So, here it is again, this time with the background painting in place.

This is about how the mat will hit on it, just covering the edges of the drawn threads on the sides.

Posting it here has a couple of benefits for me. Seeing it here gives me a different perspective on the piece. The background comes out more in the image than I see in the actual piece. That's probably more real--when I'm looking at it, I'm focusing on the embroidery.

And, second, I hope to get from feedback on it.

Perhaps I need to add a bit more foreground to the right side. It looks a but lopsided to me but perhaps that's just me.

I'm not sure about that background. I tried to do a couple of things with it. First, I wanted an effect of some sun coming through the trees. But still making it clear that this is background and therefore more subtly colored than foreground.

Second, I, hmmm, well, painted seems an overrated word for what I did. But I did use paint. I painted in a couple of brown blobs that are supposed to be deer. I'm not sure they "work" at all.

Now adding more stitching now is possible (not simple, but possible). Adding a new or different background painting is a matter of painting one. This one is just held in place by Scotch tape right now.

So, whaddya think? Does it work? Or not?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

First off, Happy Valentine's Day! I spent one night this week punching hearts (with my new extra-large heart punch) from scrapbook papers. I used double-stick tape to tape them onto strings of perle cotton. I think I shall hang them from the top of the bedroom door early tomorrow morning. This photo only shows about the top 2/3 of the strings.

Well, this has been a wonderful week. No, I didn't win any of the OWOH draws I'd entered. I did better. I have the very best friends!

It started off Monday night when one gave me her felting stash, having moved on to other things. Just look at this amazing pile of goodies! That started to get the juices flowing and I made some sketches, getting back to my abandoned December TIF project.

But, wait, there's more...

The next day I received the sweetest Valentine's card from Stitches of Life. The card was lumpy (always a good sign!). In it were two little baggies full of charms and beads. I tried to get them to show but they kept hiding. The top bag has some of the sweetest little hands. Just perfect for Inner Child Dolls like Pat Winter makes. There are some really cool charms in there. And look at those lovely beads on the bottom. Most came from Etsy.

Still more...Then last night I found a package on my chair. Once I saw the pomegranate stamp, I knew it had to be from Paula. It was a total and complete surprise.

Okay, imagine this was the package--only it was neatly wrapped and those fuzzy yarns tied in a lovely bow. That's what I found when I opened the package. Glowing white silk with lovely fibers. A perfect Valentine. But wait, there's more...

This is what was inside the package. Two hanks (is hanks the right word?) of wool for needlefelting. The brown is alpaca and the green sheep. The alpaca feels lovely just to cuddle. There were two skeins of mohair, and some floss. The best, though, was the amazing wool felted needlebook.

Here it is--isn't it sweet. With a coordinating bottlecap pincushion. (The floss match really well so I kept them in the photo.)

Here is the inside of the needlebook and the sweet little button closure. Paula really outdid herself on this one.

So now I'm thinking that the forces of wool are definitely calling me. Time to get back to it!

I feel awash in goodies (and hubbie hasn't chimed in yet!). I'll have to get a picture for you but today as I was passing out kiddie Valentines and chocolate kisses, a friend at work handed me a pair of chainmail earrings that she made. They are turquoise and silver and very cool. I am totally overwhelmed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Projects

Now that Santa and the Trees are done, I needed to dive into the stash for more projects--especially one I could carry with me to meetings and appointments. I pulled out two that were my mother's. By the time she had begun them her vision was quite bad. I purchased the materials for the Ohio Sampler for her and I found a note with the pattern that the linen I had gotten was larger than what the pattern called for.

Mom had begun the piece but still had some trouble counting. I only took out a couple of things that would affect the rest of the sampler's motifs fitting. It's large enough to be a good carry-along project and I've already made some progress.

The second project is a scissors keep with a plumeria flower on it. It's stitched over one on a very fine linen and it was clear she couldn't see it at all. Especially where the center was nearly the color of the fabric. I got out a new piece of fabric (white lugana) to begin again. The kit has everything, including scissors.

I also keep reminding myself I need to pull out my EGA chapter's state day project. I set it aside before Christmas and don't see it now. I'm one of the people testing the pattern. Most of the others have finished already!

But I'm really inspired right now by a lovely big stash of felting materials given to me by a friend (THANK YOU!!)--some felt, felt bags to decorate, roving, needle-felting needles and patterns for inspiration. I want to get back to felt and, with it, finish up the TIF project. I feels nice to get my enthusiasm back--thanks!
I was really pleased to learn this week that a friend decided to follow my lead and has been finishing up projects that were nearly done. It certainly made me feel good.

This time of year I crave color. Here's a bit of spring-time.

OW-OH Giveaway Winnter!

I put all 143 names on little slips of paper into a tote bag and asked a colleague to draw one out. She said she was flattered and that it was the most fun she expected to have all day!

The name drawn was Donna of Princess Pattern Collection.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by. I wish everyone could have won.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

It's a bit early and I know more snow will follow, but today I'll take it! It's almost balmy out. I just had an errand across campus and I carried my coat! I'm giddy! The temperature's reported as being 62 degrees. Last week I don't think it peeped above 20. Not only warm it was sunny today!
I took this photo Feb. 1st at the Oak Park Conservatory. This prickly pear cactus is a tree! I'm looking straight up at it.

We had nice weather this weekend--still coat weather but nice. We took a long walk on Sunday. We did a bit of antiquing on Saturday and I got some cool stuff. We visited a mall in Chesterton that was having a great sale.

The top photo is just part of the goodies I found in a baggie of lace on sale for 1/2 off! Yay! There is more of the top lace and a companion to the side lace and another cuff to match the one at the bottom. The center item is a lovely collar that has been stitched but never cut out and applied to the garment. It's similar in style to the cuffs. Was it just fashion or did the same woman stitch them? I wonder what she wore those cuffs with?

I think the filet lace doily will make a nice totebag cover. Perhaps with some pockets inside to carry projects and tools for a embroidery meeting. It's placemat size. The round buttons are all translucent plastic. The little bows are plastic, too. Aren't they sweet?

This weekend I worked like mad and finished the embroidery for the trees. Here it is.

I don't have photos of this part yet, but on Sunday I painted the background painting that goes behind the open area. I cut foam core and padded it with batting and pin mounted the embroidery to it and then I "mounted" the painting behind it (with scotch tape). I need a frame and mat and I'm good to go.

I think if I ever did this again, I would do the drawn thread area differently. Instead of pulling out every other horizontal thread in the open area and then cutting each remaining thread in the middle and weaving it back, I would pull one thread carefully from one side all the way to the far edge of the opening. Then I would pull a second from the opposite side to the near edge of the opening. Then I would have much longer ends to weave in and more stable sides for the embroidery. I found working with the very unstable sides to be difficult.

Other than that minor irritation, this was a really fun project.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Festival of Broken Needles

This Sunday, February 8th, marks the observance of Hari-kuyo, Japan's Festival of Broken Needles. I found information on this intriguing festival of respect for our hard-working needles and pins here, here, here and here.

I have a little basket that overflows with packets of needles of all types (betweens, chenile, straw, tapestry, curved, embroidery, crewel, sewing, millners, leather just off the top of my head). I have pincushions, pin-keeps, needlecases, etc. While pins and needles no longer hold the monetary value they once did, they are our primary tool.

I just discarded two needles last week (by sticking them in a carrot end in the trash). One was nicked at the tip and the other kept cutting the thread, there must have been a burr in the eye. Now I rather wish I'd paid them a little more respect.

Finishing a Flat Ornament III

Continued from here.

C. Prepare the needlepoint

(8) Trim the outer canvas edge to between 1/2” and 1”, depending on the shape of the piece and the size of the canvas. You will fold this back to the back side of the needlepoint and you want to minimize layers layer. Clip the canvas toward the stitching to ease it around curves. Snip to within one canvas thread of the stitching. You may sometimes need to remove a wedge of canvas. (On a square you just need to trim the corners to about two threads out and fold and miter them.) Trimmed canvas, canvas stitched to back and needlepoint prepared for backing and finishing.

What I do is take the trimmed canvas and begin folding it on the edge of the stitching to the back. I go all of the way around the piece, to kind of convince the canvas this is what it wants to do. Then I go back and fold it back again, more firmly, and where I see it buckle as I go around a curve, I clip that wedge off. Then the back of the canvas will lie flat and smooth.

When I’m finishing a piece that has open canvas areas, I first apply a backing fabric (gold lamé is nice), basting it to the back of the stitches, just at the outer edge of the stitching. Sometimes I add a muslin backing to that (esp. if it’s fragile). Then I’ll fold back my edge of canvas and trim it.

(9) When the canvas is trimmed, I’ll tack it down flat to the back of the piece with long basting stitches. I made some in a contrasting color in the photo so you can see them.

D. Put it together

(10) Now you have your needlepoint ready to go, a cardboard to back it, with batting on it, and a cardboard piece with the backing fabric stretched over it.

Place the needlepoint on it’s card backing (with the batting against the back of the canvas) and look at the back to see if you can see a small edge of canvas all around the card. If you can’t, trim the card and batting until you can. (It’s easier to trim at this stage than to have made too small a piece to begin with and need to start over.)

(11) Layer the backing, face down, the batting covered card, batting up, and the needlepoint, face up. Pin together along the edges.

(12) Now’s the time to stop and consider your trim options. You can just use a ribbon or cord loop. If so, you’ll want to attach it to the back of the needlepoint now so it’s positioned where you want it. You can lay your trim around the piece now and get a good idea of how it will look. If you just have a skein of floss or perle at this point, just twist it to approximate the size you’d like and lay it along the edge.

I tried two skeins of Watercolors and a thick cream and gold cord before settling on the solid gold cord.

Make your twisted cord if you need to do so. Measure the circumference of your ornament plus the amount you wish for the hanging cord (if you choose to have a hanging cord-no loop for a brooch, a short loop for an ornament to hang from a hoop, a longer loop for a doorhanger, and an even longer loop for a scissors fob).

If you just plan to add a hanging loop and no cording, then add it now, stitching it securely to the back of the needlepoint in the exact center top (see step 13). If you choose not to have a cord, be very careful with step 14 to make sure your stitches are unobtrusive.

(13) Find the center top or balance point of the design. If that isn’t clear from the needlepoint design, put a straight pin through the layers at the point you think is the center and hold the pin, letting the ornament hang. See how it balances and move the pin until it hangs the way you want. That’s your center point.

(14) Using regular sewing thread to match the needlepoint, begin stitching at the top of the ornament, about 1/4” from the exact center top (there the hanging cord will go). Whip stitch around being sure to catch the backing fabric and needlepoint canvas with each stitch. Do not stitch just through the embroidery on the front, be sure you go through the canvas.

Stitch until you’re just about 1/4” from the top (so there’s a 1/2” gap unstitched at the top).

(15) Decide how you want to create your hanging loop. I drew some options here and I’m sure there are others. These are the two I use most often.

If you’ve made a twisted cord, then you don’t need to plunge the beginning end. Just lay the looped end at the center point and begin stitching the cording on. If you’re using a purchased cord, wrap a piece of tape around the end and push the taped end into the center of the piece, between the two cardboards. Maneuver it so it comes out where you want it-exactly at the center top or just to the right or left, depending on how you plan to finish the loop. Then fold the cord along the edge and begin stitching it down, securing it where it comes out.

(16) To sew twisted cord, I take my needle from the back to the front between the twists of the cording. Then I take a small stitch from the front to the back. You can tighten or loosen the twist in the cording by twisting it as you go. You want to keep an even twist around but sometimes it helps to have a bit tighter twist on curves. Also, if you find you miscalculated and are running short of cord, if you untwist a bit, you’ll have a bit more length to work with.

I generally take a stitch every other twist in the cord but it depends on the size of the cord and tightness of the twist. This isn’t a structural component so it doesn’t have to be rock solid. On the other hand you don’t want it to be so loose it will gap or catch on something.

The gold cord I used on the Santa looks complex but it’s actually just two bundles of gold threads twisted together. Some cords have three or more cords twisted together. Here I’ve untwisted a bit of the cord to show the space between the strands.

(17) As you near the top of the piece again with the cord, you will need to plan the finish. For no loop just tape and cut the end of the cord, leaving about 1” to plunge inside. This is why you leave that gap in the initial stitching. Plunge the cording, making sure there are no gaps between the start and end, and stitch the opening shut and the cording to the piece.

For a loop, create your loop. Tape and plunge the last inch of the end. Once again, stitch the gap closed and stitch the loop, it’s knot if there is one, and the beginning and end of the cord very securely to the piece. A loop has stress on it and needs to be secure.

End off your thread and you’re done!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Finishing a Flat Ornament, II

continued from here.

B. Preparing the support and backing

(3) While your piece is drying, you can begin to gather the things you’ll need to finish it.
Batting: Thick or thin depending on the look you want. You can layer it for thickness, too. You'll just need scraps for an ornament.
Cardboard: I just use scrap cardboard, from the back of pads of paper.
Backing fabric: Choose what you think will complement your piece. The gathering technique I will show works well for cottons, silks, and even velvets. I don’t use it with ultrasuede or felt, preferring to cut them without a seam allowance and sewing to the raw edge.
Glue stick or glue (to tack down the pattern and batting)
Cording, fibers to make cording, and/or ribbon for a hanging loop: I nearly always use cording around the outer edge, it hides a multitude of sins.
Sewing thread to coordinate with whatever color is most predominant on the edges of your needlepoint.
Sharp needles.

One last thing you will need are three photocopies at 98% of your finished and blocked needlepoint.

The photo above shows the trimmed needlepoint (next post), photocopies glued to cardboard (one cut out and on ready to be cut out), backing fabric (rust dyed), batting (the background of the photo and also the upper left, and some cording options (future post).

(4) Glue two photocopies to two pieces of cardboard. If you can tell the grain of the cardboard (it rolls easily along the grain), then place one on grain and one across it. This helps protect against warping. The photocopies don’t have to be glued on tight. (Having the copy on the cardboard rather than tracing it makes it really clear which side is the right side.) Cut out the needlepoint shape following the photocopied pattern.

(5) Glue a rough-cut piece of batting on top of each cardboard backed photocopy. Once it’s dry you can trim around the cardboard. I like to use two layers of batting on the front piece and one on the back piece. personal preference. Here is a piece of batting covered cardboard, trimmed.

(6) Take the third photocopy and cut it out about an inch beyond the outer edge of the needlepoint design. This will be the pattern for your backing fabric. Pin this to the backing and cut out. This does not have to be exact.

(7) Cut a long length of sewing thread and baste around the edge (about 3/8” from the edge) of your backing fabric. Place the fabric over the trimmed cardboard backed batting piece and pull the thread to gather the fabric. (The batting should be against the wrong side of the fabric and you’ll pull the gathering thread up on the cardboard side of the piece.)

Maneuver the fabric and threads until the backing fabric is smooth all around and it’s taut on the cardboard (but not so the card bows) and take a couple of back stitches to secure the gathers. Then lace back and forth across the piece to hold it a bit more securely. Knot and cut the thread.

Final backing piece completed--the outside and inside shown.

Finishing a Flat Ornament I

I'm going to do this in stages. This first stage doesn't have many pictures but I promise more with the next stage.

Making a flat ornament (or door hanger or scissors fob) with a design on canvas
A. Getting started, washing and blocking the needlepoint

First, and most important, think about your finishing before you begin the piece, if possible. As you stitch, begin planning the finishing. Some needlepoint designs are easier to finish if you stitch a couple of rows of basketweave around the outer edge. It’s also more difficult to finish a complex outer edge-perhaps it would be better to fill in and smooth the edge with some background stitches (or basketweave).

The Santa is a largish design for an ornament so I decided to finish it fairly flat, to minimize it’s size when hanging on a tree. The outline is fairly smooth so I didn’t do any extra stitching for this project.

(1) Inspect your finished piece. Hold it up to the light to find any missed stitches. Check the back (and front, as the case may be) for loose threads.

(2) Wash the piece, if necessary and if you’re sure the fibers you used will not bleed or run. (To check, lightly rub each color area (on the back) with a damp white paper towel to see if you pick up any color.)

I used a large lasagna pan filled with tepid water and one drop of Dawn dishwashing liquid to wash Santa because he’d been hanging around a long time, part of it in the basement. I mixed the soap into the water and then set the needlepoint piece in it, pressing down gently with my fingers. I used my fingers to swish the water around a bit, but didn’t agitate the piece itself. I rinsed it many times with more tepid water (tip the water out of the pan and then add more slowly) and then blocked it.

It’s often not necessary to wash a piece, if care is taken while stitching. It’s also often not possible, due to the fiber content. If I don’t wash it, if I think it’s at all possible, I spray it with a mist of water, especially on the excess canvas around the edge, to soften it a bit before blocking.

I have a needlepoint blocking board, which is handy but not necessary. You can also use a board large enough to hold your piece flat, covered with some batting you can pin into and then fabric. (One-inch gingham can come in handy but you have to be careful making the cover to keep it very square.) You can pull the cover fabric around to the back of the board and staple it evenly. (This type of board also works for blocking all types of embroidery.)

You want something stable and firm you can pin into. I’ve pinned small projects onto my ironing board. My blocking board looks like pegboard and that might work, too. I use aluminum nails to block the canvas, they will fit into the holes and won’t rust.

More care needs to be taken in blocking a piece that will be framed, especially with a mat. That will showcase any distortion. If you know you’re going to frame your piece, your best bet is to work it on a frame or stretcher bars to minimize any possible distortion from the stitching. Certain needlepoint stitches distort more than others, too. This Santa design doesn’t have any square edges so blocking is more to make the piece look good and flatten it a bit.

Block the piece square by pinning the center top, pulling and pinning the center bottom, then pulling and pinning each center side. Check that the threads are square and you’re not pulling at an angle. Then pin one pin out from each center pin, placing your pin in the same canvas row and pulling the canvas evenly. Continue pinning going around and around until you reach the corners. Check again to make sure the canvas threads are square. They may be distorted a bit right at the pins but should be fine as you move into the piece. A t-square, right-angle triangle, or ruler can help. If it’s not right, repin it.

If I haven’t washed the piece, I spritz it again with a mist of water. Then I let it dry, at least overnight.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Martha Stewart Moment!

This weekend I had a "Martha Stewart" moment and made biscotti from a recipe in the now defunct Mary Engelbreit magazine. I wrapped pairs in parchment paper and tied them with overdyed perle cotton to give to friends here at work today. The three shown got a little overdone--they're mine!

For a first attempt I think they came out pretty good and I've had some good comments. I think I'd like them a tad less sweet next time.

I also finished the Santa ornament this weekend. I took pictures and notes on the finishing and plan to post a tutorial.