Saturday, May 29, 2010

around the garden

A couple of weeks ago we visited friends with young children. As we got into our car we noticed a gift--a daisy had been placed on our seat by K. It was hot and the flower wilted quickly so I popped it into my water bottle. It's lived there ever since--doing well and reminding us of the thoughtfulness of a young boy.The garden this year is going strong. The irises in particular. We've never had so many. That's my shadow--I didn't realized it was there.The peonies are also booming and blooming.
A friend here at work gave me a book last week. It was by a Canadian woman and was called "Tottering in My Garden: A Gardener's Memoir" by Midge Ellis Keeble. It was the tale of the gardens she made at her homes as they moved around the Toronto area and included tips for novice gardeners. I'm not a gardener, hubby does most of that, but I do enjoy reading. I was so tired this weekend that I just sat and read this book on Friday night and Saturday and didn't do much else (except nap and a shove piles of laundry into the machine so I'd have clean undies!) I've packed it up for a friend who just bought her own first house--I think she will enjoy it, too. While I was reading, I did note down the author's suggestions for peonies. I'd love them to bloom like this next year, too.Since I took these last Sunday the week's been quite hot. All of the roses that were barely buds last week are blooming and have bloomed and are fading already. The irises and peonies have enough successive blooms that they're still going along.
Here's another portrait of our daisy. I think this one is perfect for a needlework design.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

quiet time

Things are settling back down here. I was pretty much crashed last weekend. We visited my sister Sunday and I showed her how to make the Aunt Philly Toothbrush Mat and I made this little bowl, sitting on her back porch overlooking the river. It was hot.

It's been way too hot most of this week and then today is lovely. Absolutely gorgeous.

At work I'm in the midst of conference planing and fiscal year end. It's keeping me hopping. I did manage to get out to lunch today with a good friend. We went to the Medici on 57th here in Hyde Park. I've been eating there since the 70s--my hubby and I spent a lot of time there. I don't go much lately--the food is good but the service is not lunch-time friendly. And I mostly bring my lunch.

All the staff were wearing t-shirts with "where Obama eats" on the back. We heard he was planning a visit over the weekend. Already streets are being cleaned and blocked for security for the family's home coming. I'm glad I don't need to go up that way (their home is about a mile north of here).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Japanese Embroidery

I am filled to the brim! I spent the last four days studying Japanese embroidery. Look at the great teaching aids we had--detailed photo presentations that could be scrolled through over and over.Here is our teacher, Karyn L. Plater, getting ready to give the Morning Talk. We had this lovely sunny apartment for our classroom. Each day began with a "Morning Talk" about a topic of interest. Since the new project was a design featuring Koi, one morning she talked about the history and meanings of these special fish. Other topics have related to things Japanese, embroidery or the spiritual development of the embroiderer. Generally they were accompanied by beautiful pictures displayed on that huge screen.This is the new Koi design, designed by our teacher, Karyn L. Plater. I'm not stitching this one but it was interesting to watch the others who are doing it work on it. All of the Japanese embroidery classes I've been in have had students at different levels doing different pieces. As the new students are taught, the older students hear the review, even if they are working on their own projects. I love (and need) this constant reinforcement.Here the teacher is conferring with Ruth, who is instrumental in getting our Chicago classes going and organizing our "First Thursday" Japanese embroidery stitching sessions at the Hyde Park Art Center. Ruth is working on Phases III and IV. (Japanese embroidery is taught with ten "phase" pieces. I'm doing Phase I.)

Below is my piece showing each day's progress. You can tell the weather by the varying light (the pictures were all taken with the natural light from the east--the apartment overlooked Lake Michigan). Monday was rainy, Wednesday sunny, etc. So, the above is my starting point. On Monday I stitched the long leaf in the middle.
On Tuesday I worked on the "pink" or carnation--the orange flower in the center. I did two petals. I also worked on the orange striped cord near the bottom. I had stitched some of this years ago in my first class and ripped it out because I didn't like it at all. I'm much happier with my stitching this time.Below is my final picture. I added more stitching on the blue flower.On Thursday morning, I practiced making twisted threads properly for the blue flower--the threads I had made on my own a couple of months ago were not tightly enough twisted. I learned to compensate for that in stitching on the blue flower, but I wanted to try twisting the threads again and make sure I had a properly twisted thread for comparison purposes for the next few months. I also made a twisted thread to make knots and I worked on making consistent Japanese knots, on the side edge of my piece, since I don't have anything needing knots at the moment. Again, it was a chance to practice with supervision.

After that, I began on a "new" piece, Three Happiness. Ms Plater had taught it last summer (it's designed by Mr. Tamura of the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta (apologies for not giving proper credit initially)) and I bought it then but was wary of beginning it on my own. The fabric is metallic gold so it's hard to photograph--that's why it looks so dark. I did some pine branches (in the center), some pine needles and a couple of plum-blossom petals. The pine needles and branches were new to me. The other techniques I have learned in my Phase I piece. This little piece is a pre-phase piece for beginners.All in all a very satisfying week. Now back to reality.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Out and about the neighborhood

Mostly around our house, really. This peony is from one of several very old bushes that hubby rescued from a home that was being torn down. They took a long time to settle in and begin to bloom and this year is the best by far. (it's been at least 15 years since we transplanted them)These roses are between our house and our next-door neighbor's (that's his house pictured here). This year the irises in our backyard really popped!This is more than we've ever had.On my walk I pass this "plug" in the sidewalk. I love the microcosm it's developed.This is the plant I played with last winter in Photoshop here and here.If you look closely in the pot above, you will see some volunteer dill coming back.This is thyme and sage with oregano taking over on the ground in the background. The rosemary didn't make it.And, last, my favorite columbine, growing behind my herb pot.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Books

I spied this book and thought I'd get it to glean ideas for teaching needlework to beginners. I'm glad I did. I has clear basic instructions and techniques but also some lovely designs that have me itchin' to stitch!I love the basics section--how to pull out a strand of floss, how to thread a needle, how to begin stitching. It's from Leisure Arts and Kooler Design Studio.The designs are very nice. And I was quite pleased to see several bookmarks I can use for the EGA bookmark challenge we're doing.I've been eyeing this book since it came out. I already have several of Judith Baker Montano's books and didn't want to repeat what I already have. While this book covers some of the same ground, it does it with new text and graphics that touch on different aspects.It's a feast for the eyes with lovely color graphics throughout. It's also got a handy open-out-flat spiral binding.Each chapter includes tools and techniques with projects and displays of works by Judith and by her students, which adds variety.There is lots of inspiration here (there are photo spreads of windows and doors that are just wonderful.)There is serious discussion of design, technique, color, and using the computer to enhance your work. Judith uses her own photos in her works and she tells you how to do so, too.So far I've been too whacked at night to do much more than browse the colorful pages. I can't wait to have time to be able to get down to trying some of her ideas. (October, maybe)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Working late

I've been working 10-12 hour days, at work last week and at work and not this week. Last week I ran a conference at work. A second is in the works for a couple of weeks from now. A third looming.

This week I'm spending the middles of my days studying Japanese Embroidery (yes, right here in Chicago!) and the rest of the time I'm working. I'm getting quite tired but it's worth it. (there's room in a Japanese Embroidery "taster" class this coming weekend. Let me know if you're interested.)

Last Monday (the 10th) I learned to make Aunt Philly's toothbrush mats. My completed hot mats are shown above. You use strips of fabric and a buttonhole stitch with a large plastic needle. I can remember Aunt Addie making these in the 70s--and I can remember me being scornful of the "crafty" project. Aunt Addie made exquisite tatting and I couldn't see why she'd waste her time on these mats. Now I know. It's relaxing, fun and, ultimately, useful. I'm coming to appreciate brainless projects as I'm doing more demanding embroideries.As a treat for all of this hard work, I used a Jo-Ann's gift certificate and bought myself a couple of books. This is one. More on them tomorrow.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


We have a lot of outreach projects going on in both of my embroidery groups. I'm involved with most of them.So it made sense that I accept the post of Outreach chairperson for the Great Lakes Region of EGA. If you belong to a GLR chapter and are doing something for outreach, please let me know! That's my new task--to gather up and record these activities.

The small designs shown here are needlebooks for a "learn to stitch" project I'm leading at our show on October 2 and 3. (details to come). The cross stitch design is from Matrioshka Biscornu. I made up the backstitch acorn. I plan for the kits to come ready to go with a threaded needle and enough thread to complete the project.

This photo is of the piles of cutting I did this weekend. Covers and pages for many needlebooks plus cuts of fabric for other outreach projects.The gold and brown are wool felt needlebook covers. All of the white squares on the lower right are wool felt needlebook pages. Above on the left are Hardanger fabric cut into 3" squares for stitched designs we provide to the Hospice of the Calumet Region Crafters. On the upper right are Hardanger fabric needlebook covers and 6" squares for holiday ornaments for Hospice to sell.

Sometimes things come together perfectly! We have all of these projects going on and a member donated a whole roll of ivory Hardanger fabric to the chapter. (Thank you Karen!)It's very long (doesn't quite fit into my trunk) with loads of yards. This is what I've been using for planning piles of projects for the chapter. I sure hope people volunteer. We also plan to use it for samplers for teaching needlework at the YMCA next fall and for more bookmarks for the Hammond Reads literacy program. What a boon for our chapter!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Busy, busy

This is my busy time at work (conferences driving me wacky!) and also at home (I teach the crewel chatelaine in my header in July and I have to have several projects done, designed or ready to teach in September and October. I'm feeling both overwhelmed and charged up! I was very busy this weekend.Done, finished this weekend. Before I photographed it, one flower felt "enough." Now that I've seen the pix, I'm thinkin' it may not be quite done. I have three more flower centers begun and if I ever get home tonight, hope to get them completed and on so this can get into the mail.I got this kit from Fiber on a Whim. It was one of Make-It University's projects but I wasn't there to take the class so I just got the kit. (Lelia took the class--you can see her finished needlebook here, much more artfully photographed than mine.)It is layers of fabric, ephemera, fiber, and paper and Mistyfuse. I did some machine and a little hand embroidery on mine. It was quick fun and for a while I felt creative rather than frantic!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kid Art

Okay, I love kid art. I think it's absolutely the greatest thing. This exhibit was at Lubeznik Gallery in Michigan City, Indiana. I can't tell you to go see it, it's gone (with a new one going up of kid art from homeschooled children--we'll be there).This is what you saw as you entered the gallery. I was just gobsmacked!It gives me hope. Not only that some schools are managing to keep art programs going but that they include textiles. There was embroidery and weaving here.These faces just blew me away.My photos just capture a small portion of the explosion of creativity and color the gallery rooms held.I love these hats.Inspired.