Monday, March 30, 2009

Eek! A Mouse (I think)

Phew! our basement smells. Bad. In one corner, under the stairs. We (mostly my husband, really) spent a lot of yesterday hunting through the basement and Steve also crawled around outside on the wet and snowy ground around our back porch to see if that was the place (the smelly area in the basement is next to the back porch).

We checked inside everything in that corner, mostly old flower pots and painting supplies. My husband moved everything to double check. We couldn't find the source of the reek. Most likely a dead mouse in the wall somewhere (eeewwwww!) It doesn't small as bad as when the 'possum bit the dust under the back porch, but it's bad enough. Thankfully, it's only in the one corner of the basement--very localized. But, still, EEEWWWWW!

I worked hard this weekend, avoiding the basement, and finished the crewel project that was a class my friend Rita took many years ago. I didn't think much of it until I washed and pressed it. Now I think it's a pretty nice piece. I have no idea what I'll do with it--I just really enjoy stitching crewel. Thanks to Terry, the flower on the top right has the half-feather stitch around it. (not very visible, it's in the palest color)

On Saturday (pre-dead mouse) we ventured out and about a bit. We really like green houses, botanic gardens, conservatories, so when we inadvertently learned there was one only a few miles from our house, we were kind of shocked. They certainly have kept it to themselves! We learned about it because they have a century plant that is about to bloom. It is growing at the rate of about 7" per day and has topped the roof of the greenhouse (they broke out a panel to accommodate it.

Here's Steve looking at it from the outside--you can just see the tip where it pokes out of the roof. Sad to say, they're not open on weekends (most likely the main reason we were unaware of them). The greenhouse is in Washington Park in East Chicago, Indiana at 142d and Parish. From what I can tell, however, any and all events there (like the spring flower show) are for residents with proper IDs only. Well, heck!

Here's another view of the century plant from the side, through the greenhouse glass. It looks exactly like a stalk of asparagus on steroids! You can see the scales on the side, just like an asparagus. Except it's maybe 8" across. We've read about the century plant that burst through the roof at the Oak Park conservatory (and revitalized the conservatory and saved it from oblivion) but we've never seen one.

It was interesting to see it. The tip also looks just like asparagus and, from what we've read, so does the flower. Once it flowers, the plant dies. We hope Sunday's snow didn't damage it.

We didn't get much--a dusting on the grass. Enough that some enterprising children made a nicely sized snowman. I saw it on my way in to work this morning. Most of the snow is gone now. I heard some areas got 7" so we were lucky.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Very Good Day

Yesterday was a very fun day. My sister, sister-in-law and I all got together to celebrate said sister-in-law's birthday. Up until the last we weren't sure of the weather or what we would do, but knew it would be good, because we'd have a day together, a great rarity.

The photo above is us at the end of the day--still smiling.

We began the day with some show-n-tell by my sister. She's a new quilter and is doing some amazing things. This runner was her first project. It only uses one piece but the way the fabric is cut and pieced, to make the kaleidoscopes, is quite complex, imho.

Here's a close up. The original fabric was a poinsettia print. The color flow is just lovely.

Her second project is more like what I think of as a beginner project--the piecing is simpler. But the colors were out of my sister's range so even simpler, she's pushing her boundaries and gaining skills. (I am sooo happy, my sister finally has a "stash" of her very own! I helped her add to her stash yesterday. )

After that we headed out to lunch. We went to Swordfish Contemporary Sushi. The birthday girl had never had sushi (she's married to our stick-in-the-mud brother). We got bento boxes so she could have a sampling. I think it was a hit.

On the way we visited Prairie Shop Quilts. I first learned of this shop when I noticed they were on a tour set up by the International Quilt Festival (coming up in Chicago). I knew of the other shops on the tour and decided this one must be worth visiting, too. Of course, the quilting sister knew about it and took us there. It is a lovely shop. So much to do, so little time...

Then we drove a little ways west to Esther's Place. If you like wool, this is the place for you! We had a blast. Esther's is in a Victorian house and you step in to a world of vivid color when you open the door. Wool yarn, tops, batts, locks, roving, and the tools to do things with it are everywhere. There are also loads of inspiring models.

The wools are from local shepherds and spinners. It's really cool to know the provenance of what you're buying like that. Just about to the name of the sheep the wool came from! When we got there there was a group washing fleece in the kitchen. Later on a spinning class taught by the owner/founder Natasha.

My day was made when Natasha's mom (sorry, I forgot her name) sat us down at a table and handed us wool roving, a foam block and felting needles and set us to making flowers. We all had fun sculpting our flower in wool. Here are our creations at the end of our impromptu session. I think we all plan to add some beads to the centers, maybe bead dangles. Mine is the orange one. My sister's is the purply one and my sister-in-law's is the pastel purple with the orange center. Is that cool or what?

Felting in all it's forms is very popular in the shop and there were models of wet, needle, nuno, shibori, knitted and just about any other kind of felting you can think of. The models, classes and kits are very creative.

We toured the upstairs, which has three bedrooms for retreats. We're thinking about going for a couple of days to do a project (a nuno collar shawl that combines a wool felted collar with a chiffon drape).

I took this as we were leaving with our stash.

What was in those bags? Well, my sister got this Nativity felting kit. I got these trees to felt. Felting needles, yarn, a book, and some lovely bits of wool fabric all jumped into our bags.

One last stop, we got mini pastries at a bakery in Geneva, IL. I didn't catch the name but the treats were wonderful and the soup was highly recommended by the gentleman at the next table. (If you're in the area and want to find out, let me know and I'll ask my sister.)

I'm going to bask in the smiles from this one for a long time. (which is good because snow is predicted this weekend, sigh...)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not much news

I've been doing some hooky playing during Spring Break here. Not accomplishing much at all besides spending some time with friends and eating out way too much. (Oh, but it's all sooo good!)

Last week I went to Pickwick Society Tearoom with a friend and had a lovely lunch. We had a little table for two on a tiny porch, decorated with antiques. It's in Frankfort, IL (south-west suburbs of Chicago) and well worth a trip.

Last night I went with World Embroideries to dinner at Svago Cafe in Dyer, IN. Good food, good friends--can't get better than that!

Today a boss took several of us to lunch at Coco Pazo. Yum!

I'm gonna be rolling into next week!

Yesterday I got a treat in the mail. A while back I made these cards with ribbon (star, tree). I began with a kit and then got some cut-out blanks and thought, I'll find my own ribbons. Well, hmmm, it wasn't that easy.

I finally found the ribbons on Adele Scirotino's wonderful website and got some to finish making these cards (plus some extras, of course). Here they are. Check out Adele's costuming newsletters.

The only thing I've been working on in the evenings is the journal. I've put a new batch of pages up on Flickr. Here's one spread that I think is more or less finished.

It was an interesting exercise because I wrote my thoughts all over the two pages and then covered the writing with tape and paint (with some sanding, scraping and painting). It was a challenge to make myself bury and hide the journaling. Very much a process of letting go.

The silhouettes are from a photo of me that I used to make a stencil. It's used throughout the book. The one on the left is cut from duct tape. On the right it's a candy-bar wrapper. (definitely appropriate) I love the backgrounds. I'm not as sure of the overall designs.

The tapes I used were a bright blue tape made for covering edges while painting, silver duct tape, and inexpensive masking tape. Sometimes I used the whole width and sometimes I ripped it vertically for a rough edge. My paint palette is a burgundy, pine green, gunmetal metallic grey, and a golden yellow. The first three are very cheap discount store paints. The last is the good stuff (Golden Fluid Acrylic Quinacridone Azo Gold). I have similar colors in Sharpie pens, crayons, and stencil paints and use them all.

On the whole, I liked the torn masking tape the best and have used it in other places. The edges pick up the paints nicely and the tape doesn't quite cover the background so it adds depth where you can see what's underneath. The blue tape, however, develops some interesting textures as paints are layered on.

More on Flickr.

Monday, March 23, 2009

In the Pink

Spring is finally here! The endless cold is gone (both the season and the virus). We have crocuses and rhubarb coming up in the garden. I took a long weekend to do all sorts of spring cleaning. I brought home a snarl of papers from work to sort (it took ages yesterday but it's sorted and papered with post-it notes of what needs to be done). I spent most of Friday scrubbing and washing--much of it clearing out the piles up from when we felt puny. We dusted the cobwebs from our brains at the Dunes. I feel so much more in balance.

I also finally finished the Plumeria Scissors Fob. Once I had the endless teeny stitching done, the rest went quickly. I found just the right beads in my baggie from Bluestem beads. I used a skein of DMC variegated perle cotton for the twisted cord and solid floss for the tassels. Done!

I got in some stitching on the crewel. Now that the wools are sorted, I find the going much easier. I seem to be working from the outer edges in. One stitch called for is a half feather which I haven't yet been able to find out anything about. I have no idea what it would be. My inclination is to leave it off. (It should go around the darker upside-down spider-web stitch in the top right.)

I also finished the first birdie from my new yarn to send off to Cooper's Flock. He sure is bright! I have birdie #2 about half-way done. This Blue Sky cotton yarn is nice to work with. It's lightly twisted so I thought it might split easily but I didn't have any problems. (It also rips out nicely.)
He's so cute!

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Toy

During our shopping at Jo-Ann's sales last week, I found the cutest new toy: Clover's extra small pom pom maker. I had such fun with it, making teeny-tiny poms!

I've included a match in the photo for scale. The finished poms are 3/4" and 1". I found you can also make an intermediate size by wrapping two layers of yarn in the smaller tool.

Very little trimming is required. Larger pom-pom's aren't too difficult (although Clover's tools make it easier), but I've always had trouble getting nice round tiny poms.

I was just having fun this weekend but I think the poms will work nicely with felt as the centers of flowers or as trim. I used fingering and baby yarns for these and made all of them in a half-hour or so.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ongoing Projects

Not much to show really. I've been working diligently on the Plumeria Scissors Fob. I've finished the stitching and most of the back stitching but it really doesn't look that much different from the last photo I took.

I'm thinking about finishing now. The kit had was missing the finishing instructions, but there's a picture and I can do that. The beads in the kit are simple wooden beads and don't match the shapes and sizes in the photo so while we were at Bluestem this weekend, I picked up three 1$ bead bags with some options to try when finishing.

You finish the embroidery as a little pillow and then attach a long twisted cord with a long scissors loop, a bead, it wraps around the pillow, another bead, and then ends in tassels. (Photo of the kit cover here.) It's getting there but those teeny stitches make it seem soooo slllloooowww.

On Monday I received some lovely lipstick red yarn from Kpixie for more "Cooper's Flock" birdies. (see the link in the sidebar or here). I rolled the skein into a ball last night. It's a very soft and lovely cotton yarn.

I also worked a little bit here and there last weekend on the crewel piece I pulled from my stash. I spent more time organizing than stitching. The baggie with the project contained a mass of wool. At one point I'd pulled it out and found the color ranges needed and snipped and taped samples onto the instructions. But I found the colors are so close and so jumbled, that I need to get them separated. I was also hindered because there were no markings or bands on the wool, there were skeins and cut strands both, and it was just a bird's nest!

I pulled out some baggies and separated the yarns and put each in its own labeled baggie. I found lots of odd intermediate shades of thread in small amounts that I think were the cause of my difficulties. They got their own baggie. Now I can proceed.

I also did similar type things with my journal project. I cut out images I want to use and sorted some of them. I purchased some cheap acrylic paints (cheap was recommended for this project) and some stencil paints at Jo-Ann's sale last weekend. (love those coupons!). And I just tried to gather things together. This project is quickly turning into a PIG (project in grocery bag). I didn't actually do anything in the journal itself.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


We've been having some lovely warm weather here and we took advantage of it on Sunday to head to the Indiana dunes. We took a long walk up and down the beach and found some rocks to pick up and a piece of beach glass.

We also found several beach spirits, which we left. (Beach spirits are rocks in which we see faces. The most striking this weekend had two round crinoids (fossilized worms) for eyes, a canted nose and a mouth even more to the side. He looked very much like the face of a Hopi Kachina or art from Native Americans from the Pacific Northwest.)

We both spied the stone above at the same time and both saw the same thing--a forest. I mentioned making a beaded bezel for it but Steve thought that would be too much hard against hard and would clash. I had been thinking dull beads not shiny, but I saw his point and think he was right (he usually is). He suggested cloth or fiber of some sort and we sat a long time at the beach (away from the water--near the water it was like standing by an open freezer door) as I contemplated the reeds and grasses and wished I knew a bit more about basket making.

After we left the beach we went to a great bead shop, Bluestem Beads in Chesterton, Indiana. There I found a spool of hemp cording and brought it home to work a bezel for the stone. (Dinner was VERY late.)

I used knotless netting (aka detached buttonhole, not nalbinding) to create my bezel and just some knots for the neck cord. I wasn't sure of the differences, if there were any, between the techniques, so I spent some fun time doing some research. The terms are often used interchangably and it does seem to me that knotless netting and detached buttonhole are the same, but nalbinding is definitely a different technique. BTW, visit here for some incredible knotless netting artworks by Renie Briskin Adams.

There are no glues or anything permanent (or damaging) holding the stone in place (and, as one site pointed out, the cord can be loosened, unlooped and reused--not that I'd want to do that with this cord, it was pretty stiff stuff and I made those knots and stitches tight, but, still, it's a thought.)

I wore my new necklace yesterday and felt very good all day indeed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Give Away Winner/New Giveaway

This is always tough for me; I want everyone to win! I used the random number generator again this time and the number was two. The winner is Karol. I'll send the booklet off to you, Karol. (Karen and Cindy: I'm also dying to know how the Shepherd's Bush class at Tomorrow's Heirlooms was--please do tell!)


This is the next giveaway, a booklet with two charming and unusual blackwork embroidery samplers put out by Anchor. Sorry for the glare in the photo, the cover is shiny and the morning was dull. And the cover photo isn't the best to show off the designs. Leave a message and include a way to contact you and I'll draw the winner on April 1st. Good luck!

Friday, March 13, 2009


Last Monday at Homewood Embroiderer's Guild Carol taught a class in needlefelting. I was hostess and spend way too much time yapping and socializing to settle and actually do a project, so I brought my kit home.

Sitting watching TV this week (the last half of the third movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) I made these two little ladybugs. The larger one is the size the class was making but I like the smaller one a bit better. Steve complained that they don't have eyes so I may hunt up some black beads and add eyes.

That was the sum total of what I accomplished this week. I did some selecting and trimming of images of my workplace from old calendar's I'd collected but I didn't even do much of that. I got out two crewel books and flipped through them and then pulled out the crewel projects and looked at them and then put them away. Some weeks are just like that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Last weekend

In addition to making my bird last weekend, I made this wool scarf/boa. It was a kit that was sent to me as a gift from Jenny. It's the Wensleydale Curls Scarf and it's from the Threshing Barn.

I know why this was in my ufo pile. It was not complex to make, nor did it take a lot of time (Saturday evening). When I first opened it, a few years ago, I looked at the luscious roving and locks and thought felting, or perhaps as additions to silk paper, or embroidery, or couching--there were so many possibilities in the amazing bag of fibers I couldn't settle to just one. And then I finally realized that if I made the scarf, I could enjoy it now and still take it apart and use the pieces at a later date if that was what I wanted.

The base of the scarf is a braid of strands of roving. Then the wool locks are looped onto the braid (like you'd loop a fringe). An added benefit was that there was enough lanolin left in the wool that my hands were nice and soft by the end of the evening!

It's addictive to wear--kind of like worry beads. I find myself constantly petting it and running my hands through it. We've more winter left here and the colors go great with my purple coat.

While I was replete with fibery goodness this weekend, I didn't do any embroidery. I did a couple of pages in my journal. They're up on Flickr.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cooper's flock

When blogging around I always check out what Annie has to say at ModeKnit and at the bottom of this post, she mentions (and provides a pattern for) Cooper's Flock. Cooper was only here on earth for a short time and his mom has a blog, luc ends, where she talks about life, grief, healing, and knitting. Lucinda has a project going to knit baby birds for the hospital where Cooper was. More on this here. She's hoping that every baby having heart surgery can have their own birdie.
So I decided to knit a bird and made one up yesterday. Lucinda prefers the birds be knit in Blue Sky Cotton yarn because she believes the cotton will have fewer allergy problems than wool and she knows their dyeing processes and trusts it. My birdie, above, was knit in wool I had on hand. I hadn't read that part of the posting until today. I also didn't print a photo of the finished bird and once I saw it today I realized my tail goes a different direction, but mostly it's pretty close.
I've ordered some of the Blue Sky Cotton from KPixie. The bird was fun to knit and I plan to make some more.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What's Up!

Not much at all. I think I have spring fever. Friday was glorious--warm and sunny. I took full advantage of it at lunchtime (I went out without a coat!). Now, this is Chicago and I know it can't last (chilly rain today and tomorrow).

I'm feeling a bit scattered. I'm still tired in the evenings from the tag ends of the cold. I'm beginning to feel a bit more energized but at the same time less focused--sounds like Spring fever to me. In the U.S. the time changes (move clocks ahead one hour) tonight.

I pulled out a couple of crewel projects to work on last weekend. I haven't been, really, though. I did some on this one last Sunday night, although it doesn't look like much. Friends who visited the Bayeux Tapestry in person were very thoughtful and bought this kit for me. I swapped out the floss it came with for crewel wool, which is more appropriate to the original.

The stitching is almost all done in the Bayeux stitch which is a laid couching stitch. It seems strange to me to use it in some of the really small areas and now that I've completed one bird in the upper border, I may rethink doing this. It certainly is interesting and is keeping my attention. The level of detail is amazing.

The second crewel project is from the estate of a friend, Rita. A while back I looked it over and sorted out the wools and colors but needed more experience before stitching. I may be there now--I've done some crewel correspondence courses since then.

This project was obviously a class she took. Knowing Rita I can smile to notice that of the two pieces using the same colors in the package, she skipped the smaller practice piece and began right in on the more complex main piece. I shall follow her footsteps.

Here are the handwritten instructions. I think I now know what all the stitches are now.

What I have worked on some this past week is a nonstitching project. A bunch of influences and intentions have come together. Last year I took the Studio Journals class with Sharon B. It was a really inspiring class and I worked in my journal off and on until it all got put away for the holidays.

Around the same time as I was taking this class, I came across a blog journal-along that was called Soul Journaling organized by Caspiana. Some of her exercises intrigued me (and some irritated me). I bookmarked the site.

For several years now I've been gathering a small stash of work related items--a book tossed out here, a calendar there. Brochures with images. At one point I had a tall, narrow spiral bound book that I thought to perhaps use for an altered book with the collection. But the shape was awkward. (I think it will be repurposed to a book of landscape sketches to take advantage of its shape. That is, if I can still find it.) [I also have a collection of odds and ends from the seemingly endless reconstruction process we underwent a couple of years back--washers, bits of carpet torn up, wires, screws, I forget what all I gathered--for an embroidery piece about the event. That's still percolating.]

The uniting factor for my current journaling interests and file of images and documents was a stack of academic-year calendars that were being given out to all. Students got them last September. They're full of all sorts of information about policies, living here, studying here, and a student e-mail list. I took the book for that list--it's a handy thing to have and I wondered why the usual bound list had never appeared. So I pulled that list out of the spiral bound calendar and thought, hmmmm...

It has nice paper pages, some cool photos, plastic covers with nifty word clouds. I had my journal. So right now I'm kinda following along with the Soul Journaling plan. I've never done an art journal and the kind of layering she encourages is new to me and interesting.

You have loads of time to stop and think while things are drying. Here's one of my gessoed page spreads, with some pages from an academic journal (pulled from the trash) torn up and glued on. Then more gesso on top--so this page has already gotten three separate drying sessions (gesso, glue, gesso)! One aspect I'm most interested in is the concept of writing my thoughts on a page like this and then gessoing over them and adding more layers on top.

It's going to be an interesting journey but I don't think I'll write much about it here since it's not embroidery (although I have been thinking about the possibilities of adding stitching to some of the pages...I can't get away from it). I plan to post images and comments about it on my Flickr page here. I've put more pictures there and plan to add at least weekly.

Friday, March 6, 2009

New Giveaway

Let's try this instead. This is a leaflet for a small band sampler designed by Shepherd's Bush for Kreinik. I mailed in to request it from Kreinik. It's a typically pretty Shepherd's Bush design, with some lovely bands. Leave a comment by 9am central U.S. time on Monday, March 16 and I'll send it off to you. When you leave a comment please make sure your e-mail address is accessible, either as a return address of in the body of the comment. I cannot send you the chart if I cannot contact you. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I walked out this morning to less than frigid air and the sound of birds twittering in the cloudy early morning. As the day went on it became quite bright and sunny.

I still have the tail end of my cold and decided that going to water aerobics class tonight might not be wise. So I took a walk at lunchtime.

I used to walk fairly regularly but our whole area was under major construction for the last few years and it was impossible to get anywhere without detours, debris and fences. Add winter snow and ice and I just stopped venturing out on foot.

Much of the construction has cleared up now and while there's still snow in pockets, most of that is gone, too, so I took a walk around the block. Not a long distance, but enough.

The sun was bright, the half moon high in the eastern sky just barely visible. A cardinal was pipping in a tree as I passed. I could see a section of the dorm's inner and outer wall in a cutaway display at the construction trailer site. A few crows look like they're nesting in the old dorm I passed (it's being/been refurbished and will still be used, along with the new addition).

For many many years, my building was the "tower" on the south edge of campus. At six stories we were the tallest thing around. Not anymore. There is a lot of growth on our side of campus and more to come. A huge dorm is going up behind us, see the sketch above. We're the little corner sticking into the image at right-hand side.

Right now the side facing us is this huge black behemoth (I think the black is some sort of weather barrier on the construction but, it's been that way seemingly forever--big, black and looming.)

As I took my walk today, I could see that the western side of the dorm is nearly completed and looks much like the picture. The sandstone-looking siding will blend in nicely with the older dorm it's adjacent to. The whole area is still a massive construction site. I really wonder if it will be done in time for next September's school opening, but it was nice to see that progress is being made.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Finally, it's done!

This cold is really dragging on and keeping me down! World Embroideries and Stitches of Life both have it too. Anyway, I did finally receive the frame for the Perfect Forest and I put it together this weekend. Not much else got done. A couple of weeks ago I was home several days and got some stitching done, in spite of the cold. Last week I worked most of the week and by the time I gave in, I was whacked and didn't do much at all at home.

I did stitch a bit on the Plumeria Scissors Fob. Actually, I stitched about three hours each on Saturday and Sunday mornings, early when I had good sun and peace and quiet. Doesn't look like six hours of work has been added, does it?

I completed all of the flower petals, two leaves, began the other three leaves and the background and did some back stitching on the lower petals. Now that I'm done with the very pale colors, it's a bit easier to see, but it's still a quiet-weekend-morning-only project.

Bit by bit, as I'm in the basement doing laundry on weekends, I am pawing through the projects and booklets I've purchased over the years and WIPS. (And PIGs (projects in grocery bags). I have some of those, too. Thanks, World Embroideries, for that acronym!) It's slow going. My tastes haven't changed much so I still really like all of the projects I have on hand. What has changed, a bit, is my sense of reality--will I really ever actually do this? The answer is "no" much more often than it used to be.

Right now, especially with the cold, I don't have enough gumption to do any designing. It's nice to have kits that require little brain-power on hand. I did play around a little with my December Take It Further final page design and with the Puzzle Pieces project from Gatherings. More lazy thinking than putting anything in action. But they're percolating.

Monday, March 2, 2009

February giveaway winner...


This time I used a random number generator to pick the winner ( Much easier than my previous method of writing out each commenter's name and cutting little strips and finding someone to draw one.

Sorry for the delay in the announcement. I still have the endless cold. (Which is why I turned to the random number site--less contact with other people so less chance of sharing this with them!)

I've gathered up more things for giveaways and plan to do two a month for a while.