Friday, April 27, 2012

At long last--Crewel Friday

I'm feeling back on track, now. I finished all of the stems and I'm done with the brownish green used for the hills and main stem. I didn't much like the block shading on the main stem. Having done it now, I know how I'd improve in doing it again, but it won't be on my favorite's list. I think to be most effective it needs to be very, very regular and square and I'm not a regular and square kind of person.
It was a great relief to get back to chain stitch, outline stitch, feather stitch. I've accomplished a lot and feel like I'm skiing downhill now. The leaf on the lower left is about half way complete and then there's just the leaf on the lower right.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A finish and progress!

The broiderie perse ring bearer pillow was in a time out for a couple of weeks while I decided exactly how to finish it. Once I got it straight in my head, it went together in an evening.I added a purchased woven piping around three sides to help hold the shape and stabilize it.
I stitched it by hand so it's reversible to make it into a larger sofa pillow later on. The front is above, with a ribbon to hold the rings.  The back is below with a "tail" for the ringbearer to hold on to.
I got some knitting time in early on Saturday and finished the first lace pattern on the shawl. It's still small enough to see.
I stretched it out a bit here to show the pattern. On the last row I knit, I doubled the stitches on the needles. The second lace pattern is much larger, with more repeats.  I put in a new "lifeline."
I'm getting somewhat used to this horrid new Blogger. I'm using Firefox now to work in. It's worse than the first version of Blogger I used years ago; it keeps adding formatting and spacing I don't want. If I work in HTML, I can manage it for now, but I'm annoyed I have to.  I don't have time now to look into other blogging platforms, though, so I'm glad I figured it our somewhat.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Costumes and Lace

Last weekend we went to see Mirror, Mirror. The movie was good but what had me entranced were the costumes.
We noted at the end that the costume designer who had done such a wonderful job had died and the movie was dedicated to her.
Lace. Lace was everywhere. Huge lace collars, like in Elizabethan portraits, only these actually looked wearable.
I think it's nearing the end of it's run but if you want to see some glorious costumes and loads of lace, go see Mirror, Mirror.

Westminster Abbey high altar mosaic

When I visited London last spring, the cosmati mosaics at the high altar at Westminster Abbey were being painstakingly refurbished for the upcoming wedding of Kate and William. It was wonderful to be able to just stand their and take them in. The designs were intriguing and I would loved to have taken dozens of pictures, but no photography was allowed. I wished I could walk onto them and see them in more detail, especially those in the back, or have a bird’s eye view of the whole thing. But what I saw was wonderful and I looked as much as I could so I’d remember.

Upon my return I looked for information on the mosaics. Westminster Abbey's site has some information, here, here and here. Plus, I found two books had been written on them. One is in our library and I’ll take it out eventually. I ordered the other Patterns of Thought: The Hidden meaning of the Great Pavement of Westminster Abbey by Richard Foster through Interlibrary Loan.

I’ve just begun reading and realized some of what caught my eye: “Whereas mosaic designs are made up of tesserae all of the same size and same, roughly square, shape, cosmati designs are composed of stones of different sizes cut to particular shapes to fit the pattern, rather like patchwork.” (p.2)

I’ve also already learned what “cosmati” means: it is a name derived from Cosmatus, the paternal name of one of the leading families of these Italian craftsmen. (also p. 2)It would have been brilliant when new.

I've also learned from reading that there is a Latin inscription on the floor that refers the the end of the world and perhaps describes the cosmos. There is so much cool stuff to learn!

Friday, April 20, 2012


Sad to say, this blog may go away. The new Blogger format will not work with my browser and since I use an office computer after hours for this, I don't have choice in that. The new interface is all focused on stats and ads and I'm not interested in either.  I'll give it a week or so to see how I feel and figure out the browser thing.  I know that I always absolutely hate every new change (and why do they have to keep changing it all, anyway?) and I ultimately get used to it (but almost never think it's an improvement).

Dealling with Blogger's nonsense has kept me from posting for the last few days.  Well, that and work. Work is taking all of my time and energy right now. I'm not stitching, reading or much of anything.
Last weekend I did begin my first lace shawl. It begins at the back of the neck and then expands out into a semicircle of lace. This bit is about 6" across--tiny yet. Once it get much larger it will become bunched up on the needles and just look like a tangle of yarn.  As I was knitting this, I realized what a leap of faith it is. You have no idea what it will look like until it's done and blocked. You just have to trust the pattern and your skill. 

The little back rings are markers for the pattern repeats. I'm going to need a lot more of them before I'm done.

The thin white line through the knitting by the needles is a "life line."  It's a line of thread stitched through the stitches on a row where I know it's correct. This way if I make a mistake in the next few rows, I only have to rip back to this point and my stitches will be held by the line for me to try again.  I'm going to be using a lot more of them, too. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I finally took the time and pulled the silks from the grab bag I bought and pressed them.
They are from the  Laura Murray Designs booth.
Some are reversible like my scarf (above and below--I've folded over an edge to show both sides)
One below is embroidered with metallic threads.
Not sure what I'll be doing with them. That's okay.
For Easter dinner my sister decorated each plate with a Pink Peep.  It brightened up the table (and the spirits of those of use who like Peeps!) . We had a nice day with family and friends. My sister is the best hostess--she makes it all look so easy!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

FO, WIP and Crewel Friday

I like the second Dalek better than the first. This one is crochet.
They just make me laugh. Eggsterminate!   BTW, he's left handed. My hands don't like crochet at all--I need to take it slow. Luckily, they're small.  Another red one is next.
This isn't really embroidery or anything, but I hemmed the piece of silk I got a a recent sewing expo. It's reversible so I just did a little hem on three sides.  I haven't worn it...the fabric was washed in something scented so I need to rewash it a few times to get the smell out before I can wear it.
I realized the leaf I made at the sewing expo had similar colors to a quilt square I'd been playing with (random stitching with used fabrics).  I'll have to be careful going forward--that green is very bright. I may need to recolor those bands, make them a bit bluer I think, but maybe I can balance it elsewhere. I'm going to make another few squares before thinking more about putting them together.
I finally (FINALLY!) finished the endless mounds.  I'm back working on the stem. One color family is used for both and I want to get a lot of it done. It looks dull brown under incandescent light.  If I leave it for later, I may have a UFO on my hands. The stem is coming along nicely now. Soon I'll be back to the fun stuff.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Media Day

Last week I had the opportunity to help organize and watch a media day with one of our professors. He's elderly so we did it at his building. Video interviews, photographs and a phone interview for National Public Radio kept us busy. I took the snapshot above during a technical glitch.  I'm in a corner, staying out of the way, and being quiet as they videotape an interview. It took quite a while to set up all of that equipment!

All of this is in preparation for a new book being published this month: "How China became Capitalist," by Ronald Coase and Ning Wang.

It was really interesting to watch everyone at their work. I was quite impressed by the interviewer. We had to hunt around the building to find the proper place for the NPR phone interview. The sound technician finally found a room with very little ambient sound or echoes.
This is me with the two authors, I think it was taken before the interviews got underway.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter--Spring--Passover!

I hope you enjoy the very full holiday weekend!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Japanese Embroidery in Chicago

Ever wanted to learn the exquisite art of
Japanese Silk Embroidery?

JEC certified teacher, Karen Plater, will be giving two 4-day workshops in 2012 in Chicago.

May 7-10th, Monday-Thursday, 9:30am - 4pm
September 11 -14th, Tuesday - Friday, 9:30am - 4pm

The fee is $70 per day plus supplies.

New students and all phase students welcome.

If you're curious about whether you'd like to start this journey, arrangements to come to a "morning talk" and observe may also be made for one of the days in May.

Stitching Update

On Monday night at Homewood Embroiderer's Guild, Jane and I will be demonstrating methods for getting your design onto your fabric to stitch. We have a whole slew of ideas to share and this is one I've been working on.  I have this royal blue (not quite as purple as it looks here) fulled wool fabric that I decided I wanted to stitch my own crewel design on.

I've had the design drawn and colored in for a couple of years and the wool for at least a year. My sticking point was how to get the complex design onto the thick, dark, kind of fuzzy fabric.

This is what I came up with. I traced the design onto thin woven iron-on interfacing. Ironed it to the back of the wool. Now I'm stitching through it to transfer the design lines to the front of the fabric.
Here's the front showing the lines I've stitched in so far. It goes pretty quickly. I'm stitching from the back using a stem stitch that shows up as a back stitch on the front, using white or ivory machine sewing thread (whichever I happen to grab, no rhyme or reason to the color).  I think it will work out well and also provide a bit of stability to the wool for the thick crewel stitching I have planned.
On First Thursday's I've been working on my small Japanese Embroidery design.  This week I ripped out all of the bamboo leaves on the lower right and restitched them. I'm much happier. While I like the leaves in the left-hand bamboo, I realized I didn't stitch them in the right direction and was copying the error in the second set of leaves. I think the first set looks okay so I left them, but the ones I removed looked bad.  It was my fault, my instructor's directions were detailed and very clear, I just wasn't paying attention. This distraction is why I've been working on the small piece and not my larger fan. I just don't trust myself right now to settle down and focus. 

I am improving. The first day I worked on the piece I stitched two bamboo leaves in the three hours of the workshop. The second time four. This time I ripped and stitched all five and also gave a mini lesson in design transfer methods to a friend.
Last is my first attempt at a knit Dalek egg cosy (Dr. Who).  I found the pattern on Ravelry (Lyles Knit). It's a tad small. I've begun a second one in crochet (also Ravelry, Ellie Skene).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sensational to Sublime

On Saturday I met a friend for lunch at Don Quijote in Valparaiso. Once again we shared good conversation and wonderful tapas.  After lunch I wandered over the the String-Along Quilt Guild's show. It was wonderful and absolutely huge! With a lovely market. You can read more about it here at Stitches of Life's post.
On Sunday afternoon, after tackling the daunting task of sorting and paying the month's bills, hubby and I headed out to Michigan City and the Lubeznik Center for the Arts. The main gallery features side-show signs (above). They were pretty impressive.  Upstairs is a show with two related pieces by each artist--the Double Take show was very thought provoking. But our favorite exhibit was, as usual, the art done by school children. This exhibit was Black History Month posters. The posters were varied, creative and wonderful. (and Michelle Obama's "eat healthy" message is certainly getting out there!)
Spring came so early this year we feared that we'd missed them. But we were in luck. The woods at the Baily Homestead were full of masses of my favorite Spring Beauties. We also saw trilliums (an early one is blooming below), trout lilies, buttercups, toothwort, violets and violas, bloodroot leaves but the plants weren't blooming yet. May Apples huge umbrella-like leaves are up and they're budding. We didn't find any Jack in the Pulpits, but we had a lovely walk and I was just so happy we hadn't missed the spring display.