Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Quiet New Year's Eve

Last week Christmas Day dawned sunny and warm (well, warm for Chicago in December). It's been a warm December overall. Our little flower has stopped blooming but it's still quite green.
I took a contemplative walk and spotted this pinecone that seemed nicely seasonal.
So did a neighbor's house.
Shadows were long in the early morning. 
I saw several of these leathery leaves.
We'll be at home this New Year's Eve, our usual preference, for a quiet celebration to welcome in the new year.
I hope your New Year's Eve celebration is fun and safe.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Loads of goodies

Christmas goes by so fast--I want it to go slowly, not just because I enjoy the family gathering, eat till you bust day, but I want to see what gifts everyone got.  There are generally some cool things floating around that I don't want to miss. Multiple forms of back scratchers, pigs, and chocolate. Many books that need to be browsed and discussed, tools, t-shirts, edibles, and just fun stuff. It's better now than when we were young and it was all rip-n-tear.  But it just never lasts long enough for me.

I got some lovely, thoughtful gifts that I'll appreciate all year.  (well, the chocolate and handmade salsa might not make it but other things will.)  Here's a sampling of some of the fun.

My niece made me a necklace (crochet) that is very cool. I love her color choices.
I got two little lighting devices that have already come in handy.  I'm up more and more in the night and have used them to read a bit. And I've been journaling early, before the winter sun comes up (when it does), and they've been useful there, too. So far I haven't used them for their intended gifting purpose--extra light for embroidery. I'm sure I will.
I'm really intrigued by these buttons.
And these micro tools (teensy scissors and pliers) will be very handy for beading.
And Hubby bravely indulged my Shirley Temple passion.
Now I can show the other things I made, too. That will have to wait until next week, though.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Intention for 2012

For the past several years, I’ve chosen a word to focus on during the new year, rather than making resolutions I probably wouldn’t keep. The word is a focus for meditation and a guide to where I wish my life to go. My first word was “Move.”

Last year I selected a phrase, “No Excuse.” A slight admonition to myself to be responsible and act so no excuses would be necessary. I still need to keep that in mind (I’m a great procrastinator.)

This year I’ve selected another phrase: “Destination. Deliberation. Determination.” I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter books on my commute and I’m in the midst of book six, where the students learn to apparate.

“Apparition is a magical method of transportation and is basically the magical action of traveling by having the user focus on a desired location in their mind, then disappear from their current location and instantly reappear at the desired location. According to Wilkie Twycross, Ministry of Magic official and apparition instructor, one has but to recall The Three Ds: Destination, Determination and Deliberation. One must be completely determined to reach one's destination, and move without haste, but with deliberation. “ (from the Harry Potter Wiki)

When I searched online, I found I wasn’t the only one who saw this as a good metaphor for taking action in one’s life. I found several references to it in articles. Welcome 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas fun!

I hope you had as enjoyable a holiday as we did.  Mostly it was a quiet weekend. Sunny for a change and not too cold. On Christmas Eve we went to see the The Muppets (I really enjoyed it) and I worked like mad to finish up this gift:
I'd already finished this one:
On Christmas Day I made this one last gift and then we wrapped presents.
The piggy is needlefelted. This year had theme presents, not planned. Back scratchers were a big one--most people got one, one person was given two. The piggy recipient received a huge piggy bank. Books are still a big present in my family, too.
My sister always gets stuck hostessing and does it brilliantly. We dined and chocolated and had a great time.  A few didn't make it and were missed.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas
I've spent an indulgent week--giving myself the gift of time and quiet.  One morning I took myself to Panera Bread for a lovely breakfast bagel and hot tea before work. Another I joined coworkers for a catered-in lunch. I didn't stay late at work (well, hardly). I met an elderly professor for a lovely lunch.

I've worked on my crewel paper. Stitched on holiday gifts.  Wrapped and given presents.  Received some lovely gifts from friends. And caught up at work during the quiet days.  Holiday bliss!

I hope your holidays are as warm and lovely and full of joy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Finally--some stitching to show! And a table Runner Pattern

These were a bit hard to photograph--they're table runners and about 40" long.  I made them from a quick online pattern, Ten-Minute Table Runner by LaRae Bunnell Clark, that I found about a week ago. 
I finished one for my sister and one for my sister-in-law.
And here's the pattern for you. There's still time to make some before Christmas--it's that quick! If you click on the pattern it should enlarge to print.  If not, e-mail me and I'll send it to you.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Little Traveler

Last weekend was a perfect preholiday weekend.  On Friday my sister and sister-in-law and I got together to enjoy holiday decorations.  We went to the Little Traveler for lunch and browsing.
We ate first and then browsed the many shops in this renovated mansion.  Each room has something different, from furniture and clothing to wine and chocolate, and it's easy to get lost amongst the winding rooms (I think it's two or more houses linked together--it seems endless). Many of the items are from small companies and are definitely not what you'd find in any department store. This was one or our mom's favorite places, so there was nostalgia amongst the holiday glitter. 

And glitter it is--The Little Traveler really goes all out for the holidays. In addition to rooms of holiday greenery and ornaments and under-the-tree villages, all of the rooms were also full of holiday decor, clothing, cards and all were beautifully decorated.

Afterward we ran some errands and picked up odds and ends needed for getting the holidays together. Then we sat around the dining room table and talked (and ate fresh-from-the-oven spice cookies).

It was a really fun day.

I was whacked on Saturday and lazy. I started leek-potato soup and roasted chickens for dinner. We did laundry. I worked on Christmas gifts.  Read a bit--the new Diana Gabaldon Lord John Grey book. We watched A Christmas Carol (the 1951 version with Alastair Sim). 

Sunday was more of the same. I made tacos for dinner, worked on Christmas gifts (one down, two more to go). On Sunday we watched A Christmas Carol (the 1938 version this time, with Reginald Owen).  It was relaxing and fun and full of holiday spirit.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Crewel Friday

Wow! it's been a long time.  I've been working a bit here and there.  I've completed the central motif and begun the acorns on the left.  They're fun but the dense French knots take forever. 

That also held me up with the central motif--the solid knotted area (dark gray green with a red "vein" down the center.

I have to get back to some Christmas making now.  Once I start on this, I don't want to stop.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thirty Day Creativity Practice

I've joined a project with Quinn McDonald of QuinnCreative blog in her Thirty Day Creativity Practice adventure.  Today is day three and it's been quite interesting.  The practice involves two activities: deep writing and walking meditation.
I do the walking meditation already, my round-the-block each morning, with longer morning walks on weekends.  I've worked it into my schedule and really miss it when something comes up and I can't walk. Ice will keep me in, rain or snow generally won't keep me in completely, but will occasionally curtail my journey (like today--I was pretty soggy by the half-way point).  I've also worked out an indoor alternative I can do on the lower level at work that's okay for breaks and summers but difficult when school is in session (just too many people to dodge).
I used to do morning pages (Cameron, Artist's Way) but got out of the habit long ago. My morning walks have taken the place of the pages. Getting back to daily writing feels good, but I'm struggling to find a time that works every day.  On Monday I wrote between work and dinner. I didn't mange it yesterday at all--and boy did I miss it!  Yesterday was a very stressful, very long day--I had a nice rant when I got home and then I pretty much collapsed. I thought a lot about what I'd write if I had the energy.

This morning I wrote first thing before my walk. But many mornings are a huge rush--especially when I have physical therapy (which I hope to replace with morning work outs at the gym to keep the activity going once therapy is done).
I'm also sorting out the writing itself. I've been cranky lately and using the pages to vent--with a focus on doing it honestly and being aware of what I'm doing to exacerbate the issues, but still mostly I'm just ranting.  I think once I get it all out, I may be able to be more directed in my writing and focused. I've decided for now to try and write a bit longer each time so I can get the daily rant over and then move on to more thoughtful and directed explorations. 
The QuinnCreative blog has great ideas for exploring both the meditative walking and the deep writing. My morning pages were stream of consciousness, which is good, but I think a more directed approach may be better.  Questions she asked today were: "What is the source of your creativity? Where do these good ideas come from?"--that is something I'd like to explore.

All of the photos here were taken on past morning walks. I occasionally bring my camera with me.

Erica Wilson

I learned today that Erica Wilson died.  I think that more than anyone, other than my mother, Erica Wilson had the strongest impact on my love of needlework. Her work was very visible in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when my interest began to be serious, and her design style always greatly appealed to me. I can still remember her designs in Better Homes and Gardens Needlework and Crafts magazines and Woman's Day magazines that my mother would buy.

I wanted to be Erica Wilson when I grew up.

Here's the New York Times article and a post on the DMC blog.

I met her once at a TNNA trade show (thanks, Susan, for that opportunity). I was tongue-tied and overwhelmed and she and her husband were gracious. (Thinking about it in retrospect, tongue tied was probably better than squealing or gushing.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Saturday in Chicago

It's a shame that I live so close to the cultural richness of Chicago and rarely go there. I dove on on Saturday for a guided tour with friends that was quite nostalgic for me.  I spent many Saturdays in my teen years at the Chicago Public Library. As I began to venture beyond the library, I discovered Chicago's wonderful architecture. I would wander the streets and step into other worlds, like the Palmer House Hotel.  And as a child, we'd visit the downtown Marshall Field's store at Christmas and then have lunch, escorted by my dad to took rare time off work to join us, at the Carson's Men's Grill.  Mom's remote cousin Zora would wait on us. 

Saturday's tour visited most of those places--and more.
We had lunch in the Millennium Park Grill, looking out on the skaters braving the cold weather. After lunch the we toured a bit of Millennium Park.
Me in the Cloud Gate (aka Bean).
Inside the Palmer House, lavishly decorated for the holidays. The woman in the candelabra was by Tiffany.
Design inspiration was everywhere.  This is the carpet at the Palmer House.
We stepped into the former Peacock's Jewelry store to gawp at the ceiling (and walls and doors). More design inspiration.
This is the ceiling in the entry of the Cultural Center. Formerly it was the Chicago Public Library where I spent my time and the Cosmati-style mosaics feature the names of famous authors, quotes in many languages, and printer's marks. Inspired yet?
This is the famous Tiffany dome in its restored splendor.  The central motifs are signs of the zodiac.
This is the room the dome covers.  The logo is that of the Chicago Public Library. You have to be inspired by now! 

And all of this is FREE to wander and view.  (If you're going specifically to see the the Tiffany dome (or the dome in the Grand Army of the Republic room, also in the Center) you might want to check the Cultural Center calendar. Both rooms are used for concerts and public and private events and may not be accessible.)

It was a wonderful day. Huette was an amazing guide and I learned all sorts of new things about these once familiar places.  I came home full of inspiration, replete with good things. I slept very well Saturday night. 

More (different) photos of this trip are on the Homewood Embroiderer's Guild blog.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Japanese Embroidery

I woke up to snow this morning. The dusting on the evergreen bushes and lawn was pretty.  The sheet of glaze ice on the sidewalks and streets was not. I had an amazing amount of trouble trying to get the car door open with my arms full of packages going to the post office. I'm glad no one had a camera filming my flailing and struggles!  I finally managed and went off to physical therapy and then took everything to the post office.  another task done!
We held our monthly Japanese embroidery meeting a week late this month--it was yesterday. I got a lot done--all of the second layer of the fan blade laid and tied down.  The photo really highlight spots where the bottom layer was moved out of place--I can tweak it back into place easily. (Finding things like this is one reason I like to photograph my work as I go along.)

I also learned a lot this week. A few weeks ago I lamented that I'd laid some of my basting lines right on top of the design lines and I'd had to go over them to cover the design lines. Hmmm, well. I didn't.  Ruth reminded me that a gold border that goes around each fan blade and that covers the design lines.  I'm not taking it all out--it's just going to be a slightly fatter fan blade. But I'll know better when I do the other blades. 

I was very careful as I laid this second layer. It should form equilateral triangles and the third layer of the hemp-leaf pattern goes on top of this. If this second layer isn't even, then the third layer is more difficult to do.  I used both my triangle and a sheet from a set of 7mm guidelines on a transparency. Between the two and measuring each stitch carefully, the triangles came out pretty accurate. (These transparency sheets also come in handy for crewel fillings.)

I want to begin on some of the flower and leaf motifs, but I need to get some of the other solid fan blades completed first. (In Japanese embroidery you stitch the foreground before the background, the opposite of most European-style embroidery.)  The other fan blades are all flat silk (this first one has a twisted silk foundation). Flat silk can be a challenge in winter, between static and rough hands. I'm working on keeping my hands in good shape.

I'm tracking the time spent on this piece. So far--15 hours (that includes mounting it on the frame and couching the design lines for accuracy). 

I've also worked a bit on my crewel piece. I plan to have a photo of that next week.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Party!!

Tuesday night was my EGA chapter's holiday party. It was loads of fun, as it always is, thanks to the great committee that organizes it each year.  Yummy food (I ate way too much) and good friends (never to much of that!).
I thought about bringing my camera but realized I'd never seen anyone there taking pictures in the past, so I decided not to take any of the festive scene and pretty clothing everyone wore. Here are some after the event photos. We were greeted by the prettily decorated tables and these cute table favors.
I participated in the ornament exchange--Isn't this stocking lovely?  It was stitched by Carol J.  I am very happy with my pick.
This ornament was lovingly hand stitched by Betti for me.
Renee made this beautiful pin cushion, nestled in an antique canning jar lid.
She also gave me this cool bread pan. Last night it was full with a loaf of wonderful smelling pumpkin bread. I took the bread out to wrap and washed the container and brought it in to work to hold holiday candy on my desk for coworkers.
Isn't this Brazilian gorgeous?  Jamee, a grade- and high-school friend, made it for me. Her work is exquisite.
I think this is my hands-down favorite gift, from World Embroideries. I'm wearing them right now. Fingerless mitts for when the office (or home) is chilly. Right now they're with me at work.  The color is gorgeous (not quite as brightly purple in the office light).  And I adore all of the wonderful antique buttons.

Wrapping paper was flying as friends and secret stitchers exchanged gifts. It was delightful to see all of the wonderful hand stitched and carefully selected gifts. 

This party is generally my first holiday event and truly gets me into the spirit. I feel very blessed to have such wonderful, caring and very creative friends. 
Now I need to get some of my gifts into the mail (always a sticking point for me!).