Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I took a long weekend last week and on Friday we went to a Black History Month event featuring the Tuskegee Airmen.
We really enjoyed it. It was, of course, very crowded.  It began with performances by a local dance troupe that works to keep African traditional dancing alive and a choral group.  Then the two airmen who came were introduced:  Julius Jackson and Virgil Poole.  They talked about their experiences. Another pilot, one of the bomber pilots the Tuskegee Airmen protected, was also there, related his experiences, and saluted the Airmen.  You can learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen here.
Given that they were all pilots during WWII and are now in their 90s, I was impressed that they were willing to come out and sign autographs for hours. (Everyone attending received a poster for the new movie "Red Tails" and most had them signed.)
Then area politicians began coming up--this is an election year after all--and making short speeches. There was more on the program but we decided to leave then.

To conclude our holiday, we went to see a matinee of the movie Red Tails and enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

good changes

After a fairly stressed out fall and winter, things are looking up.  This is me the day before I moved out of my old office of many years, into a group suite. New space, new boss, new institute with lots of new things to do. 

I spent a lot of the winter feeling like I was being blocked, devalued, and kept in the dark. I knew  changes were coming, but was unable to find out what was going to be happening. Things I needed to do my job were suddenly being kept from me. It was extremely frustrating and led to panic and anxiety of epic proportions. Exhaustion overwhelmed me.

Things are looking up, however. The new boss is wonderful. Everything one could want in a boss and coworker. The new office space is an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. I was prepared to tolerate it, but I am liking it. And even though my workload is still much heavier than it had been, my job this week has been very interesting, thought provoking and fun.

My inspirational photo was taken, unexpectedly, by a wonderful professional photographer, Lloyd Degrane, who just happened by to chat that day between photo opportunities with a visiting justice. It was a very lucky happenstance for me! The only way he was able to get any light on my face was for me to look up and to the left.  Then he got me giggling. I really like it. 

They didn't kept records of where fellows sat, we have a lot of them, but to the best guess of everyone who was here at the time, my former office was used by our current President when he was first here. I didn't know this for much of my tenure in the space, but after 2008 I got to meet a lot of interesting people because of that sign.

I haven't been stitching. I haven't been taking photos. And I haven't been going anywhere on the weekends.  But I do have some things to share and I will take some photos this weekend and, hopefully, be back in action next week.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


At Homewood Embroiderer's Guild we've been playing Sudoku. Needlepoint Sudoku!
We ran the project as a mystery and finally revealed the last bits last night, so I can show what I've been doing. The idea came from Needle Pointers Magazine article by Marilyn Owen. Needle Pointers is the publication of the American Needlepoint Guild (their site is a treasure trove).
In September we handed out two sudoku puzzles to complete (I'm not good at this, I went right to the cheat sheet!). In November we handed out instructions for the borders and materials lists. Last month we took a shopping trip to Designer's Desk for those needing supplies. And finally last night everyone received a copy of the magazine with complete instructions and final tips and ideas.

One puzzle becomes your guide for what color or group of colors you place in each square of the design. The second puzzle is the guide to what stitch goes where. You list your fibers 1 to 9.  You may have one color, two, three, whatever.  For my final sampler instead of color I listed type of fiber--#1 is wool, #2 floss, #3 perle, etc. since I have basically slight variations of one color.  You can use nine different colors or, say two shades of blue, two of green and cream--then you can select light blue (1), dark green (2), cream (3), dark blue with light green (4), and mix them up until you have nine combinations. Puzzle one tells you what color combination to stitch in what square.

Then you select nine stitches. Each little square is twelve threads by twelve threads, so any stitch divisible by three or four will work.  Cashmere, alternating Scotch, basketweave, laid and couched designs, or more complex stitches. The magazine provided a nice variety. I used them all in the ornaments at the bottom. For my sampler I used stitches from the magazine and some others I like and did my own thing.  Puzzle 2 tells you what stitch to use in what square.
I began my borders with Watercolors thread, in the center above. It looked mild in the skein but turned out quite bright once stitched.  Too bright for the colors I'd selected to use to fill in the squares--I felt the borders and fillings would compete too much.

So I regrouped and searched my stash for navy threads. I ended up with a mix of shades of dark blue and navy with a blue metallic. (the surprising thing about color is that when I selected the Watercolors, I didn't see any blue in it at all, purple, aquamarine, and a brownish-orange, but not blue. I was shocked by how large the patches of medium blue were! Looking at the photo now, I wonder what I was seeing--the blue's obvious to me now. But not in the store. And that brownish-orange? School bus yellow in bright light.)
I'm still not sure I like it but I think it's better than the wild mix I had before. It also amazed me how many skeins of "navy" I selected only to find that they were all very different colors. They range from purplish to greenish. I added the midrange blues to provide a bit of contrast, but they, too, vary a bit. I decided I liked the variety. 

Stitching the squares is like popcorn! I can't stop once I begin. The braid-stitch borders worked up quickly, too.  This is a really fun project.
While I was regrouping, I decided to experiment. I made two "nine patch" designs using the sudoku games as the basis, with two very different palettes.  I followed the stitch designs in the magazine for these, but must say I "cheated" some on the colors to make the red and green ornament come out balanced.  But, hey, it's my game, my rules!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Hubby found this last week and couldn't wait--so Valentine's Day began last weekend for us. He made the envelope for
This cool card he found, unused, in an antique shop.
Too sweet.
On Sunday he brought home some candy for me.
Definitely a keeper.

The winners of last week's hearts giveaway are: Jane S--#1, MaryMac--#2, Deborah--#3, and HeatherM--#4. Congratulations.

The giveaways are going on hiaitus for a bit. Big changes at work will limit my time for a while.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More to show!

I'm on a roll with finishing things this week, mostly thanks to Lelia and my EGA chapter. On Tuesday night Lelia led a class in making these nifty mixed-media needlebooks. Her gift to each of us was a little tatted caterpillar or butterfly that she made. Her kits were awesome, with plenty of bits and pieces to play with. My dictionary page has "twinkle" and "twirl" on it.  (that's why I picked this kit)
I added some bits from my stash (the fortune cookie fortune and Italian stamp).
I added some embroidery after I got home, a bit of sparkle. A comment from World Embroideries prompted me to buttonhole stitch the edge. I happened to have the perfect color blue floss right there so it was quickly done. It was a really fun project. As it says--play!
Here's the whole outside cover. 
And here's the inside with the felt leaves for my needles.  It was done just in time for the Broken Needle Festival this week.  I didn't do anything (yet) with the bent and broken needles I'd saved. The week's been too busy for me to have any concrete thoughts about it.  I really enjoyed Plays with Needles post about what she did.
The other thing I did this week was to (try) to make a mari for stitching a temari with Homewood Guild in March. It's not very round but I think it's done. Perhaps a good roll around on the kitchen counter...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I've been working on either some longer-term projects or guild projects I can't show yet. Last weekend I really felt the need to finish something, so I completed some smaller and quick projects for that instant gratification.  It felt so good!
This cross stitch was a holiday gift, a kit from DMC with scented floss. The off-white floss did smell nicely of vanilla as I stitched the flower. I had it about half-way done so it was pretty quick to finish up.  The backstitching wasn't as bad as I'd expected. There was a lot of it, though.
These buttons were a kit attached to a recent "Molly Makes" magazine (issue 7).  I didn't use their patterns, but made up some of my own. I wanted them to look like I'd cut them from old dresser scarves.  I used the fabric, threads and button forms from the kit and added the brown, ochre, and yellow flosses from my stash.
I found these sweet little hearts on the Purl Soho blog.  The center seam is actually an opening to a little pocket--a sweetie or two can be tucked inside.  Purl Soho used their beautiful wool felt; I stocked up on what is available--felt from Jo-Anns, with a skein of DMC variegated perle cotton.  They worked up quickly. I hope to make more before Valentine's Day. Every time I make a project with felt, I realize all over again how much I enjoy working with it. 

No matter how much I enjoy my "real" embroidery projects and feel I should devote what stitching time to them alone, I've realized I need the balance of quick, fun projects like this. I'll give them away, poof! they're gone, and I didn't learn anything new or improve my skills, but they add necessary sparks of color and fun to my days. The plain old joy of needle and thread.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winner and a heartfelt giveaway

Random.org selected #18 today--Mimi is the winner of the needlepoint bracelet.
(I wish I knew how people got the image of the generator with the selected number in their posts--I can't figure it out).
The next giveaway is a Valentine's Day giveaway of hearts.  Three are hand-embroidered Hardanger embroidery finished on metal forms as necklaces; the fourth is a lacy collage pin. Two also have hand stitched ribbon embroidery.
And, yes, 1 and 3 are pretty much the same.  I taught this project at a couple of embroidery groups.

To enter, please leave a comment on this post, indicating which heart you prefer and an easy way for me to get in touch with you.  The first person random.org picks will get the heart they choose. If the next selected person wants the same heart, I'll write with a choice of one of the others.

The giveaway ends one week from today, on Valentine's Day (noon, central time).
Good luck!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Memory Wire Dragonfly Repost

Since it looks like I have some new readers lately, thanks to Craft Gossip, I thought I might give you something to look at.  This is a tutorial I posted last year, on how to make a tiny dragonfly embellishment, using DMC's Memory Thread.  Enjoy!
In 2010 I designed this project for the Homewood Embroiderer's Guild, to teach in spring 2010. I wanted a charm to go on the panel but couldn't find one I liked, so I devised this dragonfly from DMC Memory Thread to add instead.You can make your dragonfly any size you want. These are about 1-1/2" to 2". To begin, cut a piece of Memory Thread about 6" to 7" long. Do not use your good scissors for this--there is wire inside this thread. It's thin but will still mar your nice scissors. Use wire cutters or old scissors.Fold your Memory Thread in half.Tie an overhand knot in the Memory Thread at the cut end.This is the head. Tighten it so that you have antennae of maybe 3/8". You can trim them later if they're too long but you can't make them longer.Now push the Memory Thread up toward the head so it bows out at the sides to form wings. Or pull it apart to make the wings. Make them what ever size you want.Twist the wire just under the wings.Don't worry about the shape, that comes next.Shape your wings like you want them and then twist once at the base of each wing. Continue to shape it until you're happy.That's it. I tacked the dragonflies to the felt at the twists. For this project, it didn't need to do more but you can also tack it down just above the head and at the tip of the tail, too. I found the cut ends fuzzed a bit--if you don't like that, fray check the thread before cutting it, let it dry, and then cut your thread to size.

Friday, February 3, 2012

books and magazines

I've expanded my lists of books and magazines for sale now. The pile is a tottering 5' tall. I've mostly added new magazines in the last few days. The lists are bare bones--just title, author, date, publisher, and perhaps a note on condition. The magazines include current ones and some antiques. The shaded titles are on hold.  If you're interested in perusing the lists, please e-mail me and I'll send them your way.

Crewel Friday

It's been a while. I decided to begin working on the mounds at the bottom and they're taking a lot of time.

I have issues with long and short stitch. I want it to be flowing and elegant. I feel that I'm generally too heavy handed and that my stitching is too dense.  I'm working hard on improving as I stitch the mounds. I've penciled in a lot of guidelines to follow--they really help keep my stitches going in the right direction.

I didn't want them to be left to the last--they're slow going and not as much fun as the colorful leaves.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Field trip to Geneva, IL

Last weekend a group of us from the Homewood Embroiderer's Guild ventured out to Geneva, IL and Designer's Desk Needlework shop.  Details and photos are on the Homewood Guild blog. The photo above is the group at lunch--a requirement for any successful outing!