Monday, February 28, 2011


Two weeks from today I'll be getting on an airplane heading to London. My trip is thanks to the kindness of a friend in offering me housing while there. I plan to visit friends and see some sites. I'm going to go with friends to see the Dr. Who Experience, and I'm going with other friends to Kensington Palace for the Enchanted Palaces exhibit. Mostly I hope to just visit and chat with friends. Phone and e-mail are fine as far as they go, but it really is great to visit in person.

I'm going to Ally Pally with friends for a model train show (young boys are involved). (I feel so "with it" to finally know what Ally Pally is--Alexandra Palace, a conference venue. Each year loads of embroidery bloggers get all excited about going to Ally Pally and I never could figure out why the needlework show was called Ally Pally!)

Many of the other days in my two weeks are unscheduled right now, but I have loads to do... lovely list of fabric and trim shops, loads of places I'd like to visit (I've tried three times now to get into Westminster, maybe this trip...and I think the Museum of London is a must-see).

The V&A's textile wing is closed, bummer, but I've been there. I may go look around the rest of the museum this time! (I didn't get much beyond the textile wing before.)

I always like a "trip project"--something I know I can work on while at the airport, on the plane, in quiet evenings. I often also pick up something while on vacation--that reflects the trip. For some reason, once I settle on a project, the trip will snap into focus and I'm generally a lot calmer about it--I hate to fly.This time I decided on English Paper Piecing for a quilt-thing (don't know what yet) with hexagon pieces. I purchased papers and had a charm pack of William Morris print fabrics. It all seemed to resonate with things British.I've been working on it a bit already, in doctors' office waiting rooms. It's pretty addictive. I plan to head to the plane with a bunch of cut pieces and a few pins, a needle and basting thread to baste my way across the ocean. My plan is to start one corner with the Morris fabrics and then get fabrics on my trip to continue...I'm not sure if I want to look for used clothing at resale shops or new fabrics at Liberty's. Probably both.

Between now and the 14th, things will be a bit frantic here. I plan to keep up with work while gone but there's a lot to do now to get to the "keeping up" stage. My mind's bubbling!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Crewel Friday

Busy times at work tends to lead to busy-work at home--I'm often too tired to really focus on anything else. So, over the course of this week I made a list of the books I've assembled in a pile and am reviewing in more or less depth for the crewel course. Some are on the instructor's list, some not. All but one are mine. In these days of feeling overwhelmed by stuff, I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but there it is.

I've found there are two pretty separate types of books. Those that focus on history and design and those that focus on stitches. Most books have at least a bit of both, but I believe the best in each category focus on one or the other.

A few stand out. I'd most recommend Crewel Embroidery in England by Joan Edwards and The Art of Crewel Embroidery by Mildred Davis as the place to spend your money if you're buying to read up on traditional crewel embroidery.

I love stitch books, full of diagrams and potential (I always intend to go through each new book and try each new stitch--somehow it never happens)--some newer and some older are on my list. I like them all.I've found if I don't grasp a stitch from the instructions in one book, another book is likely to present it in a way that will click.

While I was at it I found a duplicate--so it's time for a giveaway!This is a 70s book that has great stitch diagrams. The designs are thoughtful though and rooted in history they look less dated than many from this era. No orange and olive and no mushrooms. Most of the models look to be stitched with floss and not wool, it's hard to tell from the photos. That would be easy to change. The back of the book has an envelope with full-size pattern sheets for all of the designs. It's hardback, not in pristine condition but pretty good.

Usual giveaway rules apply. Please leave a comment on this post and I'll use the random number generator to pick one on March 7. Not a long time, but I want to get it into the mail before vacation in March. Make sure your comment provides some way for me to get in touch with you. I'll mail anywhere. It'll probably go book rate so patience is advised. Good luck.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Long ramble coming....

First off, we have only one accessible closet in our house--no coat closet, no linen closet, just one in the bedroom. In a house with two collectors of things. So things get piled pretty high, especially if we're working on a project (or two or three). I am not a housekeeper, to say the least.

I have this chair. It started out with some nice muslin zip bags with family quilts in them sitting in the seat. Then two chenille bedspreads were added on top. Then a bag with fabrics I'm using or scraps from projects. Stretcher bars went into a large vase next to the chair, then some framed embroideries and prints in paper next to that. Then a smallish bag with the small purses I use on occasional weekends. Then a bunch of nice zipped project bags from a sale at Jo-Ann's--with knitting, felting, crewel, ribbon projects/materials...etc.. you get the picture. Most of my supplies are in the basement, but some things I just don't want to store in that environment.

Then we discovered our one closet is has uninsulated outside walls and if you put too much in it--it has nice shelves at the top that can hold a lot--it mildews. So all of my antique textiles that were stored up there came out, were washed and placed on the chair. Last Friday we had an just all slid off and I realized that it was well past time to review the situation... (and,no, I do not have pictures, before or after.)

I tackled some of it Saturday with hubby's welcome help (he wielded the vacuum cleaner and tubs). I removed all the fabrics, bags and boxes. I left in place a basket with my childhood dolls. It's holding up a box with a doll in it, that's shoring up a stack of antique magazines that I decided not to disturb yet. There was enough in the pile of fabrics.

I found some things that went immediately out to go to our charity of choice (a resale shop supporting an animal shelter--they like craft supplies). Hubby's trunk is full. Tools were put away into the tool chest. A bunch of paper and cardboard went into recycling. Then I sorted the piles. We bought tubs. One tub now holds the antique fabrics, including a larger than I thought collection of handkerchiefs. I was planning to make a summer bed cover by stitching them to an old sheet, oh, about twenty years ago!

The second box has some other things--lap and table frame holders, projects in the works, projects I found in the pile to work on. The third box has some odds and ends that didn't fit into the others. The chenille blankets haven't yet made it out to the car to go to charity but will as soon as I get a chance. I'm not likely to make that chenille robe--and wouldn't wear it if I did!

Of course, the minute I got the boxes filled and stacked, I found things that needed to to into the bottom box. Thankfully, they're easily movable. And the plan is now that the disaster is contained, I want to go through things more carefully with a view toward what do I need to keep and what can I let go.
One project that I found was an angel begun by my mother. It was in a shoe box and I realized why it had been set aside--not all of the needed materials were in the box. Then I looked at it closely--the angel's bodice was done and most of the skirt. Two of the three motifs were completed and the third nearly done. And the fibers needed to finish it were not in the box.

But, then, I decided I shouldn't worry about that. It's nearly done and it's all mom's stitching--I'll just put it together. There were no finishing instructions, this was a workshop; I have sort of an idea but there's a dowel rod padded and inserted into the doll's head and I'm not sure where to go with that.

I seamed the skirt and stitched a gathering thread across the top. That seemed a sensible step one to me. I probably have some sheer ribbon for the wings (somewhere, hah!). The ribbons she's holding in the picture are in the box but the charm is missing.

The design and class were by Dorothy Mackowak. I may contact her about finishing instructions. She's still an Illinois Fox Valley EGA Chapter officer.

Hopefully next Christmas she'll be topping someone's tree! (I think we'll have to draw straws for this one!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's here !

My lovely moon-phase calendar arrived from Kit Eastman's Silver Minnow Blog giveaway. I wish I could have gotten a better photo. I waited too long. The calendar arrived Friday and was unrolled and admired. Saturday was sunny and bright--great for photos in our kitchen where I set them up. Except I wasn't so great. A trip to the dentist for cleaning left me with a reaction to the new fluoride they applied and I went to bed. And Sunday dawned gloomy and it's been gloomy ever since. So the colors are much duller than the original. You can see Kit's much better photos here.

Right now it's rolled up back in it's tube, waiting for me to get out shopping for a frame.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Crewel Fridays

I've decided to post on my crewel studies, if I have anything to post, on Fridays. I do have something to say today. I feel rather silly, actually.

The book below is one I've had saved on my computer for a while. It's available free several places on the Internet. If you search on Jacobean crewel embroidery pictures, pictures from this book will turn up. I printed it out and brought it home. But it looks so unprepossessing and, well, short, so I dismissed it and hadn't read it. Duh! Sew Now This has a nice post about the book.

Last night I picked it up and in three pages many of the questions I've been asking, about the timing of the embroidery style not fitting what I'd expected, about design sources, etc. all answered, right there. At my fingertips. sigh... Of course, this is now the book I'm reading. I finished the English Domestic Embroidery book. So, if you're at all interested in Jacobean Crewel embroidery this is the book! (read it first)I'm also reading Joan Edwards Crewel Embroidery in England. I read through it when I bought it used back in the 80s, but don't really remember it (Chicago used to have some great used bookstores and antique shops with book stalls--both are rare today. I'm very lucky to have been able to shop back then). I'm really enjoying it--it's a very warm and friendly book. The author puts the embroidery (and embroiderers) in the context of their times--how they lived in the 16th-18th Centuries.
I'd mentioned before that I was thinking of a form for my sampler stitches. I didn't want to do just a line-type sampler in a square of fabric, but something with a form. I've thought from the beginning of doing a pocket. I really like pockets. But I didn't want to get lost in designing...this is about the stitches not the design so much. So I came up with this rather abstracted design. It has a "floral" element and a "leaf" element I can use to show shading and filling stitches. It has mounds that would work for either line stitches or shading and filling stitches. And stems. I could add another central motif if needed. You can probably see all my erasures and redos in the "final." So this is where I am right now. What do you think about this design for a stitch sampler?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

antique treasure, gallery show, dunes

I found this over the weekend (Michigan City Antique Mall) and am still bouncing a bit. It really helped put a smile on my face. I put labels on it.For our Valentine's weekend Hubby and I played. We went out to Brauer on Saturday (Valparaiso University). If you're in the area, this is a show well worth seeing. It'll be there another month. Paintings by Richard Loving. African art and photos also in the galleries. But the paintings--they just were amazing.We headed back into Indiana on Sunday, first to the antique mall where I found my treasure, and then on to Lubeznik Galleries by the lakefront. We saw the end of the show of art from the McDonald's corporate collection. There was a wonderful of display of photos from the 70s--culture at a particular set of bars on the north side of Chicago, full of famous and not-so-famous faces. And two children's exhibits--always our favorites. One was photos by the kids in the Boys and Girls clubs and the other Black History month posters. It is amazing what children see.

Then we drove out to the Dunes to blow some fresh air into our lives. The snow was piled very high both on and off shore. I took this photo of pack ice at the water's edge from the road with a strolling couple in it for scale. I don't think I've ever seen the pack ice this high.This week has been a big melt off. We may hit record warm temperatures today (60F!). At first the temps hovered around freezing--snow would melt during the day and everything would be wet--and then freeze at night. Very slippery, especially when it all began to melt again. No morning walks. Now I'm dodging puddles on my walks, enjoying the "warm." This is kind of "Indian Spring" like we get "Indian Summer" here each year in the fall (Indian Summer is an unseasonably warm period of a few days that follows the first hard frost in the autumn). Winter will soon have us in it's grip again. But for now I'm enjoying no scarves, shawls, mufflers, mittens, hats and boots!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More on Broken Needle Festival

I was out the evening the Feb. 8 but took time during the week to sort and organize my main pincushion. (and poke and prod out all the needles that had gotten lost inside it over the past year.) Tapestry needles are on one side, sharps on the other with pins in the middle and some very handy, big honkin' needles at one end.
Then I made up this cute little felt pincushion from a kit my sister gave me for Christmas. I filled it with squares of wool quilt batting.

I love the footprints below. Most are mine from my morning walks. Not many others were out walking--a few junior high school kids, squirrels, a dog, but moslty me and the birds. Only after taking the photo did I notice how meandering the bird's steps are compared to my "follow the path. steps.
Last week was all about hugs. I spent a couple of nights crying with and hugging a friend who received a serious cancer diagnosis. These few weeks have been tests, fears and tears. And she has some tough choices to make.

I also spent an evening doing the "jump and hug" girlie thing with a friend who has been accepted into several major law schools for next year. Now she has some tough choices to make, too. Good but not easy.

I spent most of a day at an economic conference--I'm not an economist, but I know many and most of the people at this event I've known for 20+ years. I haven't seen some of them for ten years or so. It was interesting. (and it was more shaking hands than hugs.)

It all left me more contemplative than usual. I don't often think big thoughts.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Can you hear the squeals of delight?

I won! Silver Minnow recently blogged the laborious steps she goes through to create one of her Katazome pieces, and then offered one as a giveaway. And I won!

It's a lunar calendar. I always keep track of the moon phases and over the years have had lunar calendars, but none were works of art! The year of the rabbit design is amazing. I am awed, grateful and, wow! Go and look, it is awesome.

I'll be sure to post pictures here once it arrives on my doorstep. I'm already thinking about how to frame? display? back? oh, my!

Happy Valentine's Day and we have a winner!

I hope your day is full of love. Chocolate, too. (it's required)

The random number generator at picked 3, so the winner of the bok choy rose printed fabric is Southpaw Stitcher. Congratulations.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Nothing to show. I'm reading like mad. I'm still reading English Domestic Needlework--1660-1860 by Therle Hughes. I find my attention wandering and so my reading's slow. My fingers are beginning to itch to stitch so I may begin my samplers. I'm still trying to find a form for them and/or a design. So I'm reading.Today I got an interlibrary loan copy of Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, edited by Janet Arnold. This is a bit before my time frame but I've always wanted to read it and I think it will be a good grounding. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. (It's a fascinating book even at first glance.) I'm reading, mostly online, about the dyes and colors they would have had in the 17th Century--below is fustic dyed silk. (from Aurora Silks)
And I'm coming up with more and more questions. Like why, after many years of exquisite fine silk embroidery, stumpwork and needlelace, would there be a fashion for crewel wools. It's beautiful, but seems huge and kind of clumsy next to work like the medieval Opus Anglicanum.

What caused wool embroidery to come into fashion? Why at this time? And who did the embroidery? Was it professionals or perhaps women at home? Middle or upper class?

The other thing I've discovered. I am very (very) literal. So. The Jacobean era is named after King James I, who ruled from 1603 to the 1620s. I assumed Jacobean Crewel embroidery would have it's roots during his reign. If it did, they're deep underground.

So far, I'm not finding examples that I can identify as this style until at least the mid-17th Century(which is why I'm paying so much attention to Therle Hughes's book). This timing makes sense if, as the crewel stitch books all seem to indicate, the designs are derived from imports from India and the Far East, primarily by the East India Company. The EIC wasn't chartered until 1600 and it took them a while to get up and running full steam. I'm adding to my book list.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine fun

Last weekend I began a quick Valentine's project that you'll have time to do before Monday if you wish.I purchased a package of stiff felt hearts from Jo-Ann's--there are 12 filigree cut hearts and 12 plain hearts in the package (it was under $5). I also got a roll of tulle from the bridal aisle. (It was half-off at Hobby-Lobby, so cost $1.50)

I cut two pieces of tulle a bit bigger than each heart and tacked them, layered and a bit offset to better hold the lavender, to the back of each filigree heart. Don't stitch through the felt, just pick up a little on the back. Once it's tacked all the way around (I stitched about 1/4" from the edge), cut the tulle off around the outside of the heart shape.

Then I put the backed heart on top of a plain one and buttonhole stitched about 2/3 of the way around. I poked in some lavender (a gift from my sister) and finished stitching. I used a large needle and a bamboo skewer to poke the lavender into the heart and spread it more or less evenly.

Very quick and easy and, I think, kinda cute. I gave them to my sister and sister-in-law this weekend. I gave one to a friend last night. I think I'll save the rest to pass out on Monday!I also finished my sister-in-law's scarf. I didn't think I'd get it done but I ran out of yarn on Saturday so that means it's done. It needs blocking but she has the tools for that and I don't. It's very soft. The matching hat is here. It was her Christmas gift.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Festival of Broken Needles

Today is Harikuyo in Japan: the Festival of Broken Needles. I learned about this a couple of years ago and last year began collecting broken needles and pins in a little baggie. I don't have tofu to rest them in (traditional) but I do plan to spend a little time tonight reflecting on how much the tiny needle has affected my life and I will find a way to put my broken tools to rest. And last night I began work on a new felt pincushion from a kit my sister gave me for Christmas.I've seen this festival mentioned today on a number of blogs and websites: Temari Kai has a good explanation of the tradition. I really enjoyed Threads across the Web's post today--she's also posted on Stitchin' Fingers and has challenged everyone to join in a Virtual Broken Needle Festival. Stitchtress Stumbles is another good post, as is Sashiko Stitchers. Plays with Needles has a picture filled post.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Time for a tutorial and Valentine giveaway

A while back (probably a year or so ago) I had fun printing roses with the cut ends of Bok Choy or celery. I took a bunch of photos but never wrote up the tutorial. I decided that the rose print fabric would be a good Valentine giveaway. The project is pretty basic and simple but I had a lot of fun. 1. These are the very simple materials. I used trimmings from dinner--the cut stem ends of zucchini and the cut end of bok choy. I used pigment stamp pads in shades of red and green and prewashed cotton muslin fabric.
2. inked bok choy. Take the stamp pad and tap it on the cut end of the bok choy. Since the vegetable as moisture, the stamping works really well. I find it much kinder to the vegetable to turn the ink pad upside down and stamp it onto the vegetable, rather than stamping the veggie onto the pad. Most modern ink pads are made to work that way (a surprise to me after years of using old-fashioned pads with date stamps).
3. first impression. Stamp on a firm ground. I'm using a very old flat cookie sheet. You're not going to get a perfect impression using vegetables, like you would with a rubber stamp.
4. Second impression. I think the second impression after inking is often the best.
5. different colors. The inked bok choy is in the middle, surrounded by impressions using various pinks and peaches. I did not rinse the veggie when changing colors--this wasn't that critical of a project. You could do so if you wish, and pat it dry before stamping a new color.
6. aging bok choy. You can see the color gravitating through the veggie as it gets a bit tired and overworked. I rarely use more than one head of bok choy for dinner so I generally stop when it gets to this point. The impressions begin to loose their clarity.
7. Adding green. To add some contrast to the pink and peach roses, I used a zucchini to stamp dots of various greens. I inked it the same way, tamping the ink pad onto the veggie. The zucchini's hard edge shows--more so as it begins to dry out. I like this effect.
8. More greens. On the left are my two zucchini stems, inked and ready to go. I generally made more than two impressions with each inking. Zucchini has a lot of moisture to it will print more and I like a lot of different values of green. As with the "roses," I stamped randomly across the fabric, I didn't do a lot of overlapping of shapes but that could produce some interesting patterns.
9. Here's the finished fabric.
10. Another view of the finished fabric. I did a yard in this printing.
11. More finished views.
12. When the fabric was dry, I ironed it on both sides with a hot iron. This is the back side of the fabric. Ironing helps set the fabric. I would hand wash it gently.
And here's the giveaway. A fat quarter of the finished fabric.

To enter to win the fabric, please comment on this post by midnight on February 13th, leaving your name and a way to get in contact with you (e-mail or blog). Anyone, anywhere may enter. I'll draw the winner on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 2011.

Friday, February 4, 2011


We had two unprecedented snow days this week--I've not had a snow day since I've worked here!Out in the suburbs, it was better than in the city. I've experienced worse and we have snow blowers now and very nice neighbors--and we had the benefit of no snow on the ground for this to pile on top of and plenty of warning. Unlike those on the East Coast who just keep getting the snow piled upon them endlessly! Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, sorry we were moving on a snow-packed and bumpy road and I'm shooting through our windshield, but if you look closely at the tire on the back of the SUV the snow has formed a smiley face on the tire. Hubby spotted it. It was done by the configuration of the tire and not by human hands. It just seemed so jaunty and happy, I had to try for a picture.This was our street Thursday morning. We were pretty much dug out by then.And for some needlework content--I added beading to the flaps of a couple of the fat-quarter bags from my last post. Sewing on beaded trim is just a total pain. But I do think it's cute.

Kung Hei Fat Choy

I love all celebrations and festivals. And, as it happens, the first day of Chinese New Year this year fell on hubby's birthday, so celebrations all around. Best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

And now for something completely different...

At last month's Homewood Embroiderer's Guild meeting Carol had this really cool little purse. So I went hunting and found the Origami purse pattern My sister had just given me two really cool fat quarters and I decided this would be perfect. (They're on the right in the picture below.)As I was getting ready, I also found some Oriental design fat quarters to use. I got some black fat quarters for backing and I was off and running. I made all five purses in a day from cutting the FQs into squares to worming the rat-tail handles through the casing. (It would have gone quicker but, sad to say, my sewing machine still is not right. The tensioner keeps grabbing and breaking the thread.) Below is a picture of the purse flattened out. (this is one of the prints my sister found for me.) Since I work in the kitchen, I doubled up and made some awesome stuffed cabbage rolls for dinner, too. Below is a photo of the completely lined and finished inside--part of the whole origami folding thing. While the backing fabric shows here and there, one fabric really does dominate the project.And last, here's a photo of the little pockets on the outside. My sister also gave me some beaded trim which I plan to handsew onto the pointy flaps on a bag or two. These are smallish bags, I didn't measure but maybe 6" high by 8" wide. You set a lot of the shape by how far down you fold the triangle points and how wide you stitch the inside triangle to square the bottom. Some of my bags are shorter and wider and others taller and narrower. I secured some to the pockets by hand part of the ways up. Others I just tacked at the bottom of the "v."