Monday, December 31, 2012


One of our Chinese students that I've worked with over the past few months sent me this amazing folk art doll. It's a character from Chinese Opera--I think Mu Giuying. She now lives on my desk.
This lovely tin is full of really good shortbread (well, somewhat full--it is really good). I've been to all the places on the cover (and even toured the stables at Buckingham Palace to see the various carriages there).  

I'm off soon for our family gathering and another lovely long weekend.  
See you all in the New Year!  
Have a safe and happy holiday.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A finish!

I began this in a class at the EGA Seminar in 2007 with Tanja Berlin. Once I got home it sat.

Then last year I won a set of Evertite Stretcher Bars from Needle 'n Thread. That revived my interest in the project because I thought the bars would be perfect to keep the fabric drum taut.  They were.

In late October I got the project out and framed it up (here) and began working on it again.  I finished it on Christmas Day.

Tanja's instructions are wonderful and made the project easy. I did some ripping of stitches that weren't placed nicely, but I was never foundering, unsure of what went where. 
Here are two photos of the newest pod.  This is the third and I think I have it pretty well down now (the first was pretty lumpy!). This one is about 1-1/2" across. I have one more cut out to make.

Friday, December 28, 2012

printed felt gift wrap

In my recent post coloring time I talked about making prints onto acrylic felt using fabric crayons.

To enlarge the idea into gift wrap first I made a rough pattern.  I took gifts waiting to be wrapped, a cd and a dvd, and traced the outline onto a piece of plain paper.  Then, to add depth, I tipped the item up along each side of my tracing and traced again along the outer edge.  I ended up with a rectangle with flaps on each side.  I used a ruler to straighten my lines and then add about 1/4" seam allowance. I cut it out for my pattern.

I traced the pattern onto another sheet of plain paper using a pencil and drew over the line with a fabric crayon so the outline would transfer.  Then I planned my design.  For words I wrote the word in the margin first, then wrote it again backwards and used the backwards design to draw my letters (in pencil) in the design area.  Once I had the letters in a size and shape I liked, I drew over the outline with fabric crayon.  I filled in the big letters above with random doodles that I colored in.
In my pile of "stuff" I had a saved card that turned out to be just the size of the cd-size pattern.  I made rubbings of it on paper with the crayons. Some were more successful than others (yellow was a total bust--no pattern at all once ironed.  Blue and purple worked better.)  On the left below is one of the rubbings--you can faintly see the tree pattern. I need to work on my technique.  The initial is one of the letters I made a while back in the original blog post.  I closed these packages with contrasting perle cotton big running stitches so it's obvious and easy to open. 
I outlined or embroidered some, left others plain.  I hand stitched three sides (machine sewing would work just as well and be a lot faster.  Along the way I unearthed a baggie of seasonal sequins and added some.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Christmas

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas.  We had a nice long four-day weekend.  It felt relaxing and lazy but we were rather busy, too.  On Saturday we bought a new computer. Not news for most people, but for us it's a big deal. I think our current computer is about 8 years old. New spyware locked it up until Hubby could get in uninstalled (leaving it unprotected).  We also ordered broadband, to be set up next week. My goodness!
On Sunday I took a friend's daughter to visit Bead in Hand shop in Oak Park.  We chatted all the way there and back and had a lovely time--I have a new friend!  We're planning to take a beading class together this spring. She's just discovered beading and is very excited.  I also got to see two episodes of Dr. Who (Saturday night and Sunday night). It's been off the schedule for a while so this was fun.
On Monday we went to see The Hobbit (2-D).  A bit fast and loud for me, but I loved the visuals and the story.  I'm already waiting for next year's installment.

During the weekend, I decided to make reusable gift wrap. It began with thoughts of furoshiki and using fabric to wrap gifts and then continued with the crayon prints I've been making on fabric. We tend to give a lot of cds and dvds back and forth in my family (and books) so I made two sizes--dvd size and cd size.  This post shows Hubby's gifts all snug in their new felt wrappings.  I found little angel pins to close the ends. (His nickname is "Moose.")
On Christmas Day we stayed home, wrapped presents, opened some, watched "A Christmas Carol" (the really old one) and I stitched.  Above is another present for Hubby.  The cross-stitch pattern gift bag is from Target--I thought it was pretty cool. Even cooler is Hubby's gift to me---
All wrapped up in red tissue with pink chalk hearts (his father's chalk from childhood). Charming and perfect.  I think this paper will go into my scrap book.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Suprise Baby Jacket

Last week I bought yarn (Sensations Cuddle from Jo-Ann's) and began a baby sweater for a coworker. I'm using the Surprise Baby Jacket pattern by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I made one before and they're fun.  I got a lot done while waiting for hubby to get some followup tests at the doctor on Monday.  It's all garter stitch so it's pretty quick.

Many thanks to World Embroideries for suggesting the crochet cast on. I hadn't used it for a bit but it was perfect for this.  Part of the cast on edge becomes the bottom edge of the sleeve. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Small zippered pod tutorial

I learned about this little project from a tutorial by Susan Fletcher of A Threaded Needle, in an e-mail newsletter from her that I subscribe to. Many of her designs feature Sashiko, which I enjoy. This is a quick little sewing project to make a tiny zippered case.

I didn't follow her plan exactly.  She used buttons for the end pieces, I used quilter's template plastic. Her cases were much smaller than my first trial--I think I'm going to reduce the size of my remaining end pieces to make my next ones smaller.  This is mostly trial and error--my idea of fun!

Supplies needed are a 4" zipper, fabric to cover the zipper sides (the sides of your pod) and the ends, and a round support for the ends. It can be a button (1-1/4" to 1-1/2") that you cover with a circle of fabric and then back with a small piece of fabric to cover the open back or, what I did, two circles of template plastic cut to the sizes you want--one the exact size (the outside) and one a little smaller (the inside). A small piece of thin batting or felt--enough to cover your outside circle to round it a bit. You will also need a piece or ribbon or fabric to cover the gap where the zipper ends meet.
First cut two pieces of fabric, the length of your zipper and width of your choice. As I was doing this, I realized that both don't have to be the same--one could be longer (say, a lot longer, to hold pencils or knitting needles). The piece needs to be twice the length you want plus an allowance for a turn under. (So the zipper will be encased on both sides and your little case will be finished inside and out.) Fold the fabric in half, wrong sides together and then fold under the seam allowances. Press.
I used the machine to stitch my sides onto each side of the zipper. For some of my "pods" I used a plastic coated cotton--it was a bit hard to sew by machine--the foot pushed the fabric. (I probably needed a Teflon foot for the machine.) So the photo has glare and the zipper is not lying nicely flat. Stitch the fabric to the zipper with the seam allowance folds lined up on either side of the zipper. I found it easiest to zip and unzip the zipper as I went to stitch with the zipper head out of the way.
Here are my pieces for the an outside end--fabric, felt, plastic. I'll gather the fabric over the felt and plastic and stitch it together. I made two for each end--one slightly smaller (shown on the right) and then slip stitched them together, the smaller one centered on the larger, with the gathered edges of both hidden.
Slip stitch one side of the covered zipper to the circle. There will be a bit of a gap at the ends. I cut a second piece of fabric, wide enough to cover the gap plus a turn under allowance, and twice the depth with a turn-under allowance.  

Stitch one turned under end to one end of the zipper on the outside, fold over and stitch on the other side of the zipper so it's finished on both sides. Measure around your outer circle and mark the second end, turn under a seam allowance and stitch to the other end of the zipper (I found it helped to tack the two sides of the zipper  beyond the coil together a bit--they want to separate and flop).  Then fold under the seam allowances at the open edge and tack them together before stitching it to the round end of your pod.
 Here's a finished pod. I added a key ring to the zipper pull.
As I was planning this project, I used one of my favorite tools. I bought these years ago--June Tailor circle templates. They are in graduated sizes, 1" to 6". I used them for marking the template plastic circles and also for marking the circles of fabric for the ends.

Friday, December 14, 2012

a little stitching

I'm still not doing much stitching. I am busy and having fun, just not with a needle right now. Yesterday I mailed out our Christmas cards, with our first-ever holiday letter. Hubby and I wrote it together, which was pretty cool. Now they're all signed, stuffed, addressed, stamped, weighed and in the mail. I've been going to the gym a bit more often. (Still not often enough, but two nights a week is twice what I was doing before!) The weather's been nice enough that I can take my short morning walk most days. Last night I had a lovely evening out for dinner with World Embroideries.Chili, cornbread, cherry pie...and knitting.  

Next week I have another dinner with a friend planned and a long overdue girls day with my sister and sister-in-law. (with a sleepover at my sister's!) I can't wait.

I finished up four ornaments using my Crayola prints. Some were pretty faint so I used them, unembellished, for the backs. 
This photo is a bit late in getting posted--it is the lovely ornament I received in the NANI ornament exchange earlier this month. It was stitched by Carol J and I just love it--especially the little heart the snowman is holding.You can't see it in the photo, but his nose is a 3-D carrot bead. Very cute!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Awash in Color

This past rainy weekend, Hubby and I headed into Hyde Park to visit the Smart Museum of Art on the University of Chicago campus.  We went to see an exhibit I'd heard about that featured Japanese and French prints. It was a wonderful exhibit, much larger than I'd expected, and full of information and lovely prints.  We had a great time.

The afternoon was topped off with a late lunch and tea in the Smart's cafe, looking out of their floor-to-ceiling windows onto the courtyard while we discussed the exhibit. Perfect.

If you're in the Chicago area, don't miss this one!

Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints October 4, 2012 – January 20, 2013
The rise of color printmaking in France in the late nineteenth century is often attributed to a fascination with Japanese woodblock prints, which began to circulate in great numbers after the opening of Japan in 1854. But a closer look at the history of color printmaking in these two cultures reveals that the story is not so simple. Parallel traditions were flourishing in both France and Japan well before 1854. And, when the two cultures met, the channels of technical and aesthetic influence flowed in both directions, not merely from East to West. 

Embracing these complexities, Awash in Color explores the roles, functions, and technology of color in French and Japanese prints. It features more than one hundred and thirty prints and illustrated books dating from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, drawn from the Smart Museum’s substantial holdings as well as major public and private collections across the country. These exquisite works reveal two unfolding traditions—each shaped by artistic experimentation and technological progress—that came to complement each other aesthetically, even while preserving their own distinctive features.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Coloring time!

I've been having a whole lot of fun with these--Crayola Fabric Crayons. My box doesn't look like this--it's pretty old. I unearthed it last weekend while cleaning. They're simple to use--draw a picture on plain paper using the crayons, iron it onto fabric. My problem is/was that the fabric needed to be polyester. I know, ugh! So my crayons were never used beyond a test last year for our putting designs onto fabric class. I learned then that the finished fabric is nice--not stiff or waxy. Just polyester.
Then I realized I had bought a large remnant of Jo-Ann's Felt. Polyester felt. It worked brilliantly with the crayons. This is my original drawing on the left (after being used), random rows just to test how they work and how true the colors are. On the right is the drawing ironed onto the felt. Pretty cool, huh?

The colors are somewhat true.  The red is quite pink, the terracotta more orange than brown, the purple prints more lilac, and the black more brown than black. But yellow, blue, green and orange are pretty true.  And now I know.
For this sample I printed the design a second time. This time onto polyester chiffon layered over felt. The design printed through the chiffon onto the felt. Both were much fainter than the original but still visible. I turned the felt top to bottom and then stitched the chiffon over it. Just to play. You can see a bit of the shadowy under design here. And, no, I have no idea what I plan to do with either of them.
So, I decided to try ornaments. And alphabet tags for gifts. Here are my designs after printing. (I did them on graph paper to try to get squarish squares.
Left to right: second printing of ornaments, first printing of ornaments and letters. Do you see the problem?  I forgot to reverse the letters. Some were okay (H), some I could flip upside down (K). I redid the rest (S). 

The designs from the second printing are really faint but do provide some color. I've embroidered over a couple and used others as ornament backs.  The first printing is much clearer. I've tried minimal stitching or a few beads with them and it looks festive. I've been making them into small ornaments, maybe 2-1/2" square.  I'm using the letters as they are, tied to packages with ribbons.  

I think this would be a great project to do with kids, as long as the ironing was done by an adult or supervised. Sheets of felt are inexpensive and easy to finish.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Amy Butler Eye Candy

For a lovely dose of eye candy and good feelings, check out Amy Butler Design's new publication, Blossom! It's online free to view. Amazing images, positive vibes, and inspiration that are very good for the winter blues. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Renee's Shower

Among the other things I did last week (mostly, I felt, doctoring), I hosted a small shower for a good friend.  Renee and her fiance have been together for 57 years and finally decided to make it official! (yes, that is fifty-seven!)  We had a blast!
We met at a local restaurant's small private room. Here's most of the group sitting around chatting before dinner.
We added our wishes to a "tree" for the couple. I made small favors and Renee made us all a jar of her famous French Dressing.
Here's the Bride-to-Be in her "official" Bride hat. We all talked about how we met Renee (and how long we've known each other!) and about how she and Mel met in college and how the wedding came about, her dress and her ring. Girl stuff. The ceremony will be in a week. I'm sure it will be lovely.
Best wishes to the Happy Couple!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thankful for Embroidery

I had cause to be very thankful for embroidery over the holiday weekend. I woke up Friday morning with a recurrence of vertigo from a few years back (this time is BPPV, I've had run ins with various types of vertigo).  When I have it, I need to be still. Not move my head much at all. And be upright. Perfect for my favorite hobby.
I'd been working along when I could on the Tanya Berlin Needlepainted Robin. I made good progress this past weekend. I've completed the wing feathers and the spray of blossoms and leaves below the bird. The other leaves are nearly done. It is a bit odd to work this along side the Japanese work--in Japanese embroidery you work front to back, in needlepainting you work back to front.
Long weekends area also a time when I haul out my Japanese embroidery frame and work on that. All I worked on this weekend was the gold couching at the end of the fan. I had a time of it! Controlling the metallic gold and the seeing golden couching threads amongst all of the reflections was difficult. I usually work in the morning but on Sunday I hadn't been feeling well, so I worked later in the day. I could see so much better with the sun at a different angle! 

 It doesn't look like I did much at all but I worked about five hours total over the weekend and completed three additional rounds of couching. It's pretty intense so I only work about an hour and a half at a time. 

This week I doctored. I saw a doctor for the vertigo, had a root canal (which went as perfectly as something like that can go--I love my dentist!) and saw a therapist to begin to help alleviate the dizziness. I feel better already this afternoon. The therapy will hopefully continue next week (after we sort some insurance issues). 

The cherry on top? Today we received notice that we all get off both Christmas eve and New Year's eve as holidays, in addition to the days themselves as a special gift. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving at the Zoo

We spent Thanksgiving at the zoo--something we did when we were a young married couple. We'd go with friends and then head home to our separate family celebrations or make our own, but we haven't done it for a while. The weather was perfect.
Brookfield Zoo is always crowded on Thanksgiving (Thursday is their free day). We were there midday so many of the animals were napping. The giraffes were elegant.
The bear playing in his sand pit.
We visited the new bear and wolf habitats and had fun looking at some of the hundreds of decorated trees that lined the walkways.
Here's hubby being silly with the Zoo's decked-out lions. 

I hope your holiday was as much fun.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Like many Americans, this is my favorite holiday, with a focus on family and recognizing the people and things in our lives that we are thankful for. 
Being thankful, of course, shouldn't be relegated to one day, and I think for most folks it isn't. But it's nice to really focus on it and not just alone but shared. 

A few years ago my Uncle Tom took me to visit Thanks Giving Square in Dallas. It was an amazing place. Check it out here. Definitely moves it out of the one-day-a-year category.

With that in mind, thank you all very much for taking the time to read my mumblings and look at my random pix. I appreciate it. 

I realized a week or so ago that I was dealing with depression. It kind of crept up on me this time and it's taking me a while to dig out. I'm still not stitching (very unusual). I think the focus on TV (no matter how good Montalbano is), was a mask for my mood. Things are looking brighter. Once I begin stitching again, I'll have things to show again.

I was helped some by getting out and about on Sunday. Hubby and I met my sister and her hubby and did fun things. First we visited Settler's Days at Sand Ridge Nature Center in Calumet City.
It was a mostly sunny and warm-for-November day. Above is an overview picture of various reenactors in costume and blue-jeaned visitors. Below is my hubby and his cousin Paul, a Master Gardner who volunteers at Sand Ridge. Paul's holding the husks of an empty cob of corn--he was demonstrating how to grind corn in a mortar and pestle. (harder than you'd think!)
Settler's Day covers a variety of periods and peoples (including a Native American woman who opens the day each year with a blessing). Generally one of the inside displays is a group of bobbin lace makers. (They were there this year, but had stepped out when I visited; their work was covered so I didn't get any pix.) There are soldiers of various era, a team of huskies with a very cute cart, candle makers, a blacksmith, a woman explaining about herbs and life in general when the area was settled. The brave could take a "wagon train" walk and test their wilderness skills.

After Sand Ridge we visited a collection of motorcycles with the Frankfort Car Club. The owner had two buildings of displays, motor cycles old and new (one with a store front display inspired by the Museum of Science and Industry's long time display, Yesterday's Main Street), with a good complement of motorized and pedal-power bicycles and memorabilia such as old gas pumps, too. Most anything on two (sometimes three) wheels.
This picture was taken in his "work bay" off one of the display rooms. There's space here to have five or six motorcycles in various stages of repair/restoration. It was very interesting. Mostly, though, it was a nice day to be outside and with family and friends. 

I wish everyone a lovely Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Very Quiet

I've had a second week of very little stitching. I was running around a bit (Needle Artisan's EGA chapter meeting, for one).  I was really tired last weekend and just vegged out.  I think I was recuperating from vacation, low key as it was.  And I've been watching TV.  We've gotten hooked on some European mysteries at MHZ Network. And they all have subtitles, so I'm actually watching the TV much more of the time. (it may be on but I rarely look at the screen--I'm watching my hands.)
This week it's been Detective Montalbano every night. Last week it was Young Montalbano (really good, especially if you've watched the other). Before that it was Fog and Crimes with Detective Sonari. We've watched one or two of the shows (plus Maigret), but they've been running "best of" specials for the last few weeks and I realized last night that I've been actually watching the TV far too much.  I'll be back once this is out of my system.  (Or I learn enough Italian to just listen...I do better with the French of Maigret.)

I did finsh the knit tea cozy: I'll be showing that after the holidays. I'm pleased with it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Vacation stitching

Yes, vacation's over and I haven't picked up a needle in the evenings this week. I did get in two hours yesterday morning at our monthly Japanese Embroidery meeting. That was lovely.  Here's a photo of my fan taken last weekend...I forgot to bring my camera yesterday.
Progress is slow and it's hard to see any changes from photos taken a month ago, but I have done some work on both of the end fan ribs. I did more on the tie-die pattern blade yesterday (left end).
I also worked a lot on my sunflower design. The brown circle is rather sloppy basketweave stitched with floss...It's going to be covered with beads and perhaps some turkey work so I wasn't particular about it. I just needed it in so I'd know where to put the petals.
I completed transferring the design for my blue wool crewel project to the wool.
This is the (messy) back with the iron on transfer of the design.
And I got the wool colors I needed from Wooly Thread. They're in the bag with wools from my stash, ready to go.
After several years in a pillow case, I got out the needlepainted Robin by Tanja Berlin that I began at the EGA national seminar in 2007. I remounted it on the awesome adjustable Evertite stretcher bars that I won from Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread blog last January and continued stitching the feathers and filling in the branch and leaves. I've stitched and ripped the blossoms a few times already, so I'm wary of them now.

I returned to Japanese embroidery after taking this class and I'm finding it interesting to see how the two techniques inform each other. Both require the fabric to be held drum taut. Both work best with two-handed stitching, with the needle going in and out of the fabric at a 90 degree angle (perpendicular to the fabric, not at an slant). And both require thoughtful, precise stitch placement. Both have very careful color selections, especially when working toward a naturalistic effect.  So mostly they reinforce one another. 

 I find that after working with flat silk, one strand of floss is very easy to use. Tanja's instructions are detailed and precise, almost stitch-by-number. The Japanese Embroidery box chart lacks that detail--and left me lost as a beginner.  Tanja's instructions are ideal for a beginner to the technique. I'm following her instructions carefully, learning how and why it works and figuring out why she made the choices she did. For Japanese embroidery, I've been combining personal instruction with my teacher, Karen Plater, and also several books and am gradually seeing the logic and design of it.