Saturday, January 31, 2009

Heart Sampler Pouch

A while back I posted that I had come across these bits from a friendship sampler gone wrong--the group disbanded without the project being completed.

I finished the pouch pretty quickly and then forgot to post it. So here it is, just in time for Valentine's Day.

My sampler was a long band and the theme, obviously, hearts.

The plaid is likely a "personal plaid" with a code I have no idea any longer how to translate. Personal plaids were all the rage at the time we did this. I stitched the Celtic Knotted heart.

The pouch is sized to hold 3" x 5" photos if I should choose to so so. I added a pocket from extra evenweave and lined the front and back of the pouch with the pink ribbon from my previous (long) post. You can see the picot edge of the ribbon peeping out here and there.

I hadn't sewed in ages, nor finished something like this. I did endless ripping. I finally finished it on the sewing machine. Sometimes using the machine, going through the routine of setting it up, loading the thread, filling the bobbin, will help get my head on straight and I can figure out how it should go together. It's a bit wobbly but together.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thinking It Over: I (long)

There are several things that have been nagging me for a while now and things seem to have come to a bit of a standstill with me so I think I need to address them.

They circle about why I choose the projects I do, what motivates me, why do I have so very many unfinished (or planned and unbegun) projects, on to bigger issues such as what do I value (and why) and how do I want to spend my time (and why). I’m trying to tackle it one "why" at a time. (of course it's all a bit more snarled up than that!)

I’m not generally an introspective sort of person and I’m finding this hard to sort out in my head and that’s partly why I’m writing it all out here. The other reason is I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Things often get into a swirl in my head and one comment from someone else can really help sort it all out.

I'm going to include some images of antiques I purchased over the holidays to help break up what feels somewhat like a long whinge. (They are, top to bottom, antique ribbons, a lilac dresser scarf, a pink antique ribbon with a small piece of Teneriffe lace and a small piece of crochet on it, and part of a long band of exquisite Hardanger that I think may have been part of a sleeve.)

Some of this long post is part of Sharon B’s legacy from the TIF project year. The last challenge, which I haven’t completed, is on the concept of generosity. For many of us, especially at the holiday season, this includes gift giving. I’ve thought a lot about giving (and receiving). I try to be generous and I have a lot of wonderful examples out there to follow. It led me to thinking about giving handmade gifts, which I always try to give. Perhaps that’s not a good thing.

It struck me over the holidays that I don’t truly value what I make to give (not outwardly-I personally value it but I don’t behave as though I do), especially the things I make for others in my family. I realized that when I give a handmade gift, I also give a "real" gift like a book, cd, or dvd. I don’t quite feel that what I make is "enough."

One main concept regarding gifts that I keep coming back to is: Am I making the gift more for the recipient or more for me? I really like stitching, creating, making, trying new things. I feel I’m often giving gifts that are what I want to make-and not necessarily what the recipient might want to recieve. On the other side of this coin, making things that I’m not interested in just doesn’t work (witness some of those ufos).

I’ve been making my holiday gifts since at least the 1960s, so my family has had to put up with a lot for a long time. At one point my mom cautioned me "no more pillows." My nonbracelet-wearing sister owns a bunch of bracelets, because I really like making bracelets. My family tends on the whole to really understand and appreciate handmade gifts-we all do make and give them and always have. And I think I'm the only one who feels this need to supplement the handmade gifts with something else.

I must add in my defense I don’t go at it entirely willy-nilly. I do try to select things the recipient is likely to like and I don’t give things like a teacozy to a nontea drinker. (I used to not be quite so aware and I have improved on that front.) But, still, there’s a long span of years here and how many hats or scarves or bracelets or pillows can one person use? (We’re also not a throw-away family, things tend to last with us.)

So, in case I’ve chosen to make something the recipient might not be thrilled with or need, I give them another gift so they’ll still have a "real" gift to make up for it. And I get the enjoyment of making and giving things to them. I think I’m straight with that--it’a a choice I make.

I realized this year, though, that I’ve lost balance and am overcompensating. (Here, have this dvd for putting up with me giving you this felt doll.) Even when I’m sure the gift is something the recipient will really like, I still feel compelled to add on that other gift. And I think it’s not a good thing. The work of my hands and spirit is worth more than that.

I’m not sure what I want to do about this issue, other than be aware of what I’m chosing to do instead of compulsively buying-and compulsively making. Giving something I’ve made is important to me but perhaps I need to find other ways to show caring. Perhaps I need to take me out of the equation more and limit the gifts to those that fill both needs: what the recipient would like and what I would be interested in doing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One world draw--fine print

I need to back track a bit, apparently, and add some fine print here. First off, I'm blown away by the response to the One World-One Heart Giveaway. Pretty cool. I've been doing more surfing than usual, checking out the blogs.

Looking at posts on other blogs, I noticed that that most other participants had included more detail on how to enter than I had. You don't need to have a blog, but even if you do, I must have a way to contact you in case you win. I need an e-mail address.
I have made it easy for people to contact me, but I've gotten a number of comments that leave me no way to respond. Most have blogs, but the blogs don't provide contact information. I've tried adding my own comments to a couple of the blogs, requesting contact information, but since I haven't received a response I'm not going to continue.
Here is a list of the people who have commented to be entered into the draw here but didn't provide contact information. If you're on this list, please contact me with your e-mail.

Please do enter the draw but also please be sure to send me your e-mail address. You don't need to put it in the comment, but may e-mail me privately. (see my profile)
Sadly, I cannot include the two individuals with no blog links in their e-mails in the draw (Kitty and Betty Jo) unless they contact me. I have no way to get in touch with them. I'll include the entrys with blog links and if they are drawn, I will leave a comment on their blog. If I don't receive a response within 48 hours, I will draw another name.

One of the individuals who didn't include contact information asked about how to obtain Caron Waterlillies Overdyed Silk. The Caron site has a shop locator. Online, Nordic Needle carries it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winter Hibernation

I seem to be hibernating this winter. I haven’t had much to say lately. I’m working on the needlepoint Santa and am just about finished with the embroidery. I’m thinking ahead to the finishing, which I plan to document and post here. I enjoy finishing and I know many people don't.

I've been browsing this book, a surprise gift from my boss. He and his wife are moving and clearing out and he noticed she had set it aside in the discard pile, grabbed it and brought it as a gift for me. Is that sweet, or what? (that he even noticed is amazing to me!)

I’ve set aside the trees where I can see them. I’m not sure about the leaf color I’ve selected for the current tree but not sure if I want to rip what I’ve done or continue on. This design requires a painted background and I’m thinking I may want to do that before deciding that the embroidery is complete. Most people did it in class but I decided to wait until I got home to try it. The painting in class was done on foamcore. I slightly changed the dimensions of my opening so the precut boards in class wouldn’t work. Plus I’m thinking about painting on thinner board or fabric covered board and using a spacer between the trees fabric and the background. Lots to think about.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, which is not normal for me, about what I'm stitching and what I want to be stitching and why. I've been writing some of it down and hope to condense it a bit and post it. If I get it sorted. maybe.

This past weekend we visited the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University to view their exhibit "The Art of Dining on Rails (The Christopher Railroad China Collection)." It is amazing to me the variety of china patterns from the railroads, the beauty of some of them and, most of all, the varied and unusual pieces in a setting. The collection included a wide range of patterns from several railroads and from a couple of hotels serviced solely by railroads, a small collection of silver pieces (teapots, compotes, finger bowls), a large group of prints of illustrations of diesel train paint schemes, some menus and other ephemera and memorabilia, and a really sweet adjacent exhibit on the Valparaiso University "kissing bridge."

The railroad china exhibit is accompanied by a very nice booklet with notes on the different railroads whose china is exhibited and full of lovely pictures. It sounds like a really strange thing and I the exhibit wasn't on my "must-see" list but I really enjoyed it and I'm glad we went. Nothing to do with needlework but you never know what will inspire a idea or project.

A holiday gift arrived yesterday and it was a most welcome one. Tea Cosies is full of all sorts of knit tea cosy patterns, full of wonderful creative ideas. (cabled patterns, spare and modern, flower covered, pet themed, landscapes, and a few really strange concepts) The book is well worth checking out.

It came to me that a tea cosy could be an ideal swatch--it's a good size but not huge, there's often ribbing and some shaping. And I think my family has enough hats to last a few years by now (or decades, perhaps).

One World-One Heart Giveaway

Update: I will draw and announce the winner on Thursday, Feb. 12. I will stop comments (if I can figure out how) or not accept new comments after 8 a.m. U.S. central time on the 12th. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and entered. I have been blown away by all of the visitors. Please stop back. I plan to hold giveaways all year as I review and reduce my stash.

I have decided to join the One World-One Heart Blog Giveaway. My giveaway, for one winner, is both the stitched butterfly and the stumpwork dragonfly kit.

I stitched the dragonfly with DMC metallic threads on perforated paper. It has a pin back and a wire antenna. The Dragonfly Kit is from an Australian company, Jennifer Bee and is a complete kit to stitch a stumpwork design with a dragonfly, frog on a lilypad and a waterlily.

The draw is to be held on February 12, 2009. Please comment on this post before then to be entered. Please make sure to include your e-mail address or provide some way for me to get in touch with you especially if you don't have a blog. If you do have a blog, if your profile is hidden or doesn't include an e-mail address, please make sure to include your e-mail in a message to me.

Entries from individuals with a blog who don't provide an e-mail and who don't have an e-mail link on their blog will be notified if they win by a comment on their blog. I will wait 48 hours for a response and then draw another name.

This year's One World-One Heart group of blogs with giveaways is HUGE. It's really amazing. Please go to their site to check it out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Button Giveaway Draw

This morning I typed all of the names into a document and printed it, cut out a strip for each name and folded it twice. I put them all into a cup and then went hunting for someone to do the draw. I found a researcher and she shook the cup and drew two names: Sadie and Leila!

I'll put together two baggies of buttons and get them off to you within the next week or so.

Monday, January 19, 2009


This wonderful Star Temari ball was a gift from World Embroideries. I couldn't wait to get my paws on it! It now resides in our living room where I can see it all of the time. It's surprisingly heavy and solid and very cool--thanks!

Well, the transmission problem looks likely to be the expensive one, not the cheaper possibility. We're now looking into who we'll have fix it and where. My husband has a scanner that reads codes so we knew it was the transmission, but a friend has a better one that reads more specific information and he used it to diagnose the more specific problem this weekend.

We took ourselves to see Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino Sunday. It was a very good movie. It hit me hard, but then most things do. But it was very good.

I've worked my way through about 7/8 of Drums of Autumn. I find myself picking up words and speech patterns from the book. By the time I finish rereading the last two I'll likely have a Scots accent! Even knowing what happens, it's a riveting read. (I generally rocket through Diana Gabaldon's books the first time I read them because I have to know What Happens. My second time through I go slower and savor.) The movie and book filled up a lot of my weekend.

I did pull out another older project. Actually, this one is newer than most in my pile, but it's been on my mind. I began this piece in a class by Catherine Jordan last April at the EGA Great Lakes Region Seminar (blogpost here).

(BTW, this year's seminar is coming up soon--check it out here. It is very definitely well worth it.)

I made a lot of progress, but since it's mostly layers on top of layers, it may be hard to tell. At seminar I completed most of the tree trunks and began to stitch leaves on the trees. I began with the biggest tree in front and then realized that may not be the best idea.

I left that stitching in but rethought the rest and began from the back, stitching the leaves I thought would show through or be taller than others. Then I added leaves for the middle layer of trees. Now I'm back toward the front and am working on those leaves and have begun thinking about the foreground. Even if I mostly cover an area that's already been stitched, things peep through and add a feeling of depth.

Last night, just as I lay down in bed, it came to me how to stitch the mossy path--underside couching. It worked well with the very fragile velour thread. I got up early this morning (very rare for me) to stitch the path. (I was tempted mightily, but I knew that if I got up last night to do it, I'd probably botch it from being too tired.)

Taking photos like this is also very helpful. Looking at it I can see areas where I want to go in and add more background or change the shape a bit. I was worried that the little tree on the far left would be too bright but I think it's okay now that I've seen the photo.

I've found it interesting to note that most of what I'm picking up now is on canvas. I wouldn't have put needlepoint at the top of my list if asked but, well, there it is!

Friday, January 16, 2009

No rest!

My hopes for a quiet week were dashed by an unexpected major midyear budget redo to cut expenses (of course it was due immediately!), an unexpected conference call I got to host (also unexpected!!), a faltering transmission on my car (it's driving fine but contributed mightily to my overall anxiety!!!), and -15 F temperatures slowing everything down. It's now Friday evening and the budget's turned in, the call completed, we're going to see a friend about the transmission tomorrow and it's supposed to warm up a bit soon. Twenty degrees will feel balmy!

Mostly I've just crashed in the evenings. I'm rereading a Good Book: Diana Gabaldon's Drums of Autumn. It's book four of a series that currently has six books out, I think. Each book is huge. Drums is over 1,000 pages. I've read the first three a couple of times each, and parts of the first book over and over. This is my first reread of this one and I'm thoroughly engrossed.

I have made some progress on my needlepoint Santa and also picked up an ornament kit that I found over the holidays (shown completed at the top of the page!). Here's Santa. I have the animals stitched, much of the vertical veining done in the beard and I've been experimenting with how I'll stitch the bulk of the beard. Lots of ripping has gone on but I kind of like what I'm doing now (just under the mustache).

The ornament is called Edelweiss, designed by Catherine Studer. I'm pretty sure it was a EGA Great Lakes Region meeting project from a few years back. I got two kits and had completed one but even though it was beautiful found it really frustrating to stitch and never began the second.

Watching World Embroideries and her Temari balls made me remember how making this ornament had reminded me of temari, with the marking and wrapping the ball--only with this Battenburg lace tape was used instead of thread. And that gave me an idea.

One of my biggest frustrations with the first ornament was getting the Amadeus stitch sections even. And that kept me from starting the second ball. This time I stitched one very carefully and realized that the way the individual stitches lay, it looks better if the stitches aren't all exactly the same distance apart. Those at the top (point) of the arch look better closer, those at the bottom lie better if spaced farther apart. A little light went on!

I made up a little paper measuring strip (you can see it hanging off the top here, curled up a bit) and pinned in guidelines for the stitches (12 per side so four sections of three stitches each). I was much happier with my stitching. Even though stitching with all the pins could be a pain, it went much more happily and quickly than before.

Here's the finished stitch.

Every other section has an Edelweiss stitch in the center. The designer stitched them in two stages; I did them all at once and was happy with the results. I love this stitch because it looks complex but isn't.

Some gold thread and beads completed the ornament. I stitched most of it last weekend and finished it up after work this week. The kit came with everything (the main thread used is perle cotton #8, there is some DMC gold metallic used for accents and plain sewing thread for the beads) but somewhere along the way I lost the ribbon to trim the top.

I found myself in Jo-Anns but behaved (mostly) and only bought ribbon for the ornament. (Well, I did buy three reels of ribbon for the ornament, because I wasn't sure if I liked the match of the green satin, so I also got green grosgrain--a better color match but too textured--and an ecru satin...but I tried!)

Paying more attention to what I stitch and why, I've realized that if I begin something on the weekend and get it figured out, then I can often stitch during the week, even though I'm tired after work. (I started learning this last year doing the Take It Further project--I had to stitch weeknights to make the deadlines!) It can't be to fine or small or require too much focused attention. The needlepoint project is a good one for during the week.

But once the weekend rolls around and I have focus and energy, I find I'm looking for something more complex or requiring more thought. Which is probably why I've always had a bunch of projects going at once.

We're only two weeks into the year and already I've been mightily tempted by loads of classes, challenges, and workshops. Pat Winter is teaching nearby and the classes are out for the International Quilt Festival coming to Chicago in April. Judy Coates Perez will be teaching there. Sharon B has begun Stitch Explorer--I'll think I'll watch this one unfold with interest. I am going to participate in Pat Winter's friendship-puzzle swap, which I signed up for a while back. I'm looking forward to it.

But perhaps it's the wintry weather helping keep me snuggled in with my current projects--so far I'm not poking my nose into anything new. I dug into another corner this week and found some more projects I want to get going on, and a few I plan to find new homes for.

I probably will go visit the International Quilt Festival on Friday April 17 with friends; it's become a tradition (with a firm reminder to myself that I haven't completed projects I bought there last year!). I'd love to meet you there!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Button Giveaway!

I think I mentioned before that I have planned some give-aways to fight the winter doldrums. This will be the first. Leave a comment between now and next week (1/20) and I will draw someone at random to receive a selection of buttons from the collection in the previous post. There will be some of each for you to play with.

Update: Leila provided the link to the button brooch tutorial for the brooch in the previous post. Thanks!

Button, button

I recently found a treasure trove of old buttons and buckles in an antique shop. I used to find them more often but in recent years people have begun to value buttons (rightly so) and so now I find them more in tiny baggies. I have a real weakness for buttons and buy them often, mostly at antique shops. I also have my grandmother's buttons and the valued collections from the mothers of some nonsewing friends.

As I went through my find, a plastic coffee can full, I realized I use a fairly standard procedure to sort, clean and add them to my collection and I decided to share that with you as a sort of tutorial. I'm not expert and I don't know anything about valuable collectible buttons, but I have learned a bit on the way about everyday buttons.

The first thing I do is pile them all onto a tray in my lap. I used an old jelly-roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) covered with an old tea towel. Then I just enjoy them while I sort through to see what I have. As I'm doing this I keep a seam ripper handy to remove any odd bits of thread and fabric. Do you remember cutting buttons off of clothing before giving them to the rag man?

This batch included all sorts of lovely buttons, including some hand painted buttons. I'm not good at telling ceramic from glass--some opaque glass ones will fool me--but mostly it's easy to tell them apart.

I generally find the buttons I get are plastic, mother-of-pearl, vegetable ivory, glass, china, or some early plastics. Sometimes you'll find one with a strong ammonia smell. That's one of the early plastics (maybe celluloid or Bakelite) that's begun to deteriorate. I haven't found any way to rescue them and they really can reek--just throw them away when you find them.

Tip: when you're considering buying a cache of buttons, give a sniff. If you smell a strong ammonia smell, see if you can identify the culprit(s) and decide for yourself-- if they're removed, are the remaining buttons worth the price? These stinkers are often large and dark and can be striking and what attracts you to the batch of buttons.

I separate out any cloth, braid, or metal buttons before washing the rest. I often dry brush the fabric buttons if I think they can stand it. If they're nasty, I just toss them.

I'm not big on metal buttons so don't get many unless they're in a large group. If they're solid, one-piece buttons I feel safe to wash and dry them. Many metal buttons, however, have a seam and I don't wash those. If they're really dirty, I'll wipe them with a damp cloth.

A recent delight are china buttons. If you look closely at the picture to the right, the buttons on the bottom, left are mostly china. Some have little painted rosebuds on them. A couple have an all-over dot pattern. I think these may be made with decals. I think they're really cool.

Then I take the buttons to the sink. I use dish soap and a gentle old toothbrush that I keep for cleaning jewelry. You don't want to soak the buttons at all. Many don't like it. But most of what I've acquired have been pretty dirty, so I figure the scrub is worth the possible loss of one or two. It really surprised me to learn that you really shouldn't soak mother-of-pearl buttons. The nacre is very delicate and is prone to chipping (hence the tea cloth on my tray) and soaking in water can damage them.

Some MOP buttons have dull spots. That's a sign of age and wear and I haven't found anything to remedy it. I think the dull spots and chips add to the character.

Tip: dull MOP buttons most likely are damaged and cannot be polished or shined up. Once the finish is gone, it's gone. If it bothers you, don't buy it.

I use a fine strainer to keep the buttons in the sink and not the drain. My favorite buttons are teeny tiny MOP ones and they disappear quite easily.

I rinse them quickly under running water and then fill a bowl with clean water. I make a little puddle of soap and dip my brush into it and gently scrub each button. China and MOP ones especially seem to collect dirt around the rims and holes. A quick brush will clean them. Then I drop them into the clear water.

After I've washed a few, I drain them into a small strainer (I just use a kitchen strainer for this since they're now washed; I wash it well when done) and place them onto a tray lined with a clean towel to dry.

Then I wash a few more. And more and more and more. As I lay them out to dry, I sort them to get a better idea of the group. I may not keep them sorted when dry but often I'll store them in loose groups. If I sort, it's by type (light MOP, dark MOP (none in this group), light-colored plastic, dark plastic, vegetable ivory, etc.).

This batch included buckles. Most are an off-white early plastic (look at all the shapes!). There's also a red one and a silver buckle with engraved initials. I've seen a buckle like these used to hold wide ribbons at the corner of a memory pillow--photos and ephemera can then be tucked behind the ribbon for display.

There's a purplish leaf shaped buckle, too. (It's in one of the photos further up the page.) It's a shoe buckle. It could be clipped to the edge of something or the buckle removed for a flat back. Not all buttons are round--and even the round ones can be really interesting--look at the sprocket shaped yellow button at the top of this photo. There are also square, trapezoid and bow-knots in the collection.

Often small round black buttons with metal loops are shoe buttons. I've read that buttons, often vegetable ivory, with large holes are underwear buttons. Other beads, pins, cuff links, and other bits often show up in button collections.

Do I know what I'm going to do with this treasure trove? Not a clue. But I'm always using buttons for this and that, so I'm sure I'll find uses for them.

This is a large button I beaded around several years ago for a brooch. I've seen instructions for this in books and magazines but couldn't find anything on-line.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why I Blog

Sharon B. at PinTangle posed this question on her blog and at first I just passed over it, but the question kept coming back to me. I was really frustrated last week when I had no chance to get to a computer and blog and that rather surprised me. So, I've been thinking about it and also reading some of the comments that have been posted.

My answer after reading Sharon's and the others' comments is, yes, I agree!

I like it all: the feeling of community, sharing my challenges and getting feedback, the encouragement. I've always liked teaching and I hope to be able to do some more of that here. I've tried a bit, as I've explained how I've done some of the things I've done. I like showing off, I'll admit it. It does push me to keep stitching, to finish things. I've learned that if I blog that I'm doing or going to do something, then I feel more committed to doing it and finishing.

Mostly I think it's that you guys "get it" (at least those of you who comment). So many times I show family and friends things or try to talk about what I'm doing and their eyes glaze over. Here I can write endlessly about my passion and you understand. I can vent frustrations with threads and needles and you know what I'm talking about. And I can show what I've done and you comprehend it and maybe even appreciate it. I've finally found a peer group of what my IT friend calls "needlework geeks." And I love it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Won a Prize!

I learned at the end of last week that I'd won a prize in the Craftside blog holiday giveaway.

My book came on Tuesday! It is full of amazing papercuts. The author calls them stencils (and she uses them as stencils in some of the creative projects). When I was taking Sharon B's Studio Journals class we called them snowflakes--which rather fits the cover of this book!

The designs are clearly explained and the inspirations are wonderful--that in itself is a great idea. Each set of designs is inspired by a different country. Each section also has tips. My only wish is that a few of the really complex designs, shown for inspiration, were explained. Guess I'll have to play around and experiment!

The book was accompanied by this cool postcard with a lovely note. The postcard converts to a stand-up picture frame--how clever is that?

My "snowflake" designs are primitive compared to those in the book, but you can see them in my Studio Journals Flickr Set. I can't wait to play with all of these new ideas.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Still Life

Last weekend I got frustrated with the endless dark days and I decided to try a new photo setup. I set my ironing board up in the middle of the kitchen and got my Ott light and set it up and had the kitchen light on (the kitchen has the best windows in the house). I took a bunch of pictures and when I was nearly done, I looked up and this is what I saw in the kitchen sink. I really like this image and hope you enjoy it too.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Moving into 2009!

Move is my word for 2009 and so far I've been doing a lot of it. I moved back into my office after being displaced over the holidays for some remedial construction. I've been moving through work with diligence and am trying to get my desk cleared (hah!). I've been trying to move out of my chair more often (hard to balance that and getting the work done but I need to do it.)

My silence has been a product of the beginning of the year workload and the fact that I had something going on every night this week that kept me from playing after hours. Next week may be calmer. (I hope.) I feel like I've been on a roller coaster ride so far this year!

Every morning lately when it's been sunny, I've taken some photos for future blogs. I would like to try some simple tutorials this year and I also have a collection of items for small giveaways to take some of the sting our of winter (here) or to ease summer (south of the equator). So I'm ready to rock 'n' roll.

My focus this year will be on moving things out of my vast ufo pile. My first project is a painted-canvas needlepoint forest Father Christmas. I had the face and mustache done before it was abandoned and have begun to work on the animals and beard. I have begun a notebook so that as I take up a project I can note why it was abandoned. Usually it's because I've come to a sticking point of some sort. With this project it was that I got stuck with too many decisions and consequences. If I used this color in an animal, then can I use it in the beard, too? How can I get contrast? What stitches should I use and how do I balance dimensional stitches and tent stitches?

I'm using all stash Medici wools for the project, which somewhat limits my color choices. I finally realized that I needed to continue to use tent stitches for the detailed areas like the animals. They're just too small to get the color changes and details with other stitches. It's why I did the face using basketweave, but for some reason I didn't think of that for the animals. Once I realized that, things began to move. So far I'm stitching the animals in tent stitch, the leaves in either satin or leaf stitch, and the darker areas of the beard in a semi-random stem stitch. I think the texture differences will also help to successfully separate where I use similar colors.

The last project I completed in 2008 is the butterfly that came with the sample kit from Plimoth. The samples are here. I finished and mailed them off in November. I stitched the butterfly on Christmas Day, assembled it on the 26th and finally added the cording last weekend. My butterfly body looks nothing like the sample photo--more practice is clearly needed--but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and sense of accomplishment I got and I'm sure I will use all I learned.

The first project I completed in 2009 is my November TIF page. I had the stitching nearly done when I stopped on December 1. I finished the stitching and added the backing and binding loops.

I can never have just one thing going and as I was cleaning a came upon pieces of a long-ago friendship sampler gone wrong. The sampler didn't go wrong, the group did and after many months my sampler was returned to me with only three squares stitched (I had stitched the fourth as the beginning to set the theme). The sampler was a long, narrow band and at some point I cut it apart, but whatever idea I had in mind for connecting the hearts didn't work and I set it aside.

Here are the pieces.

I have decided to make it into a pocket with the two hearts together forming the back, the mass of little hearts the bottom front and the floral heart as the top flap.

I found a piece of wide hot pink ribbon to line it with. So far the project's been bumpy. I stitched a point in the front flap but got the angle wrong and ripped it out. Then I stitched the front and back but got the sides facing wrong so more ripping. My plan now is to get out the sewing machine and stitch it on that, adding the lining, and not watch TV while I do it! I have it correctly pinned and ready to go.

In a way it seems silly to me to expend such energy on a project like this but the people who stitched their sections did so with a lot of creativity and, well, friendship, and I don't want to let that go. I'm really happy I have found a finishing for it that looks like it will work (once I get my act together!).

I have posted a slew of photos on Flickr.