Thursday, May 31, 2012

holiday weekend

Just in time for the holiday heat wave, we had a new furnace/ac unit put into our house. Our old furnace was from the 60s and I was worried about it spewing fumes (it was getting close, it turns out, with some corrosion forming in bad places).
In the pot next to the ac upgrade, is this...
Which became this...
It went into a lunch salad with spinach, veggies, and some leftover cooked salmon. Just right for the 98 degree weather!
The catalpa is blooming.
Between the heat and the wind, the back yard is like being in a fragrant snowfall.
The neighbor's roses are in full bloom.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's Done!

Blocked and ready to send off. I put my notebook into the cover. I need a few more page protectors for the final paper and to write a cover letter.

It's been an interesting journey and I learned a lot. I think. I like the first flowers I stitched much better than the later ones. I'm not sure if that's due to the more complex flower designs or if I lost the lightness and precision that I was really focusing on in my stitching in the beginning. I feel I lost some of that focus as I went on. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'm in the final bits of the crewel ICC main piece. In the meantime, I've been doing some finishing on my preliminary samplers. Nothing here I haven't shown before when the stitching was done.
But, still, it feels like an accomplishment to have this done.
I did this stitch sampler first. The top has a casing for bellpull hardware (right now it has a wooden coffee stirrer placeholder).
I left the tops of the pockets open--they're small, perhaps 6" tall, and I wanted to be able to get my hand inside. 
I found some crewel print furnishing fabric on sale for a very good price and bought a yard to do all of my backings.
When finishing this pocket, I just folded down the selvedge, which is printed with color samples from the fabric.
As I was going along, I began collecting images and notes into a notebook. I've also put my final paper and the images that go with it into the notebook. The notebook cover twill matches the backing fabric a bit better than the others. That's because the knitting yarn I used for the leaf sampler embroidery was a blue-tinged green and I didn't like it at all with the furnishing fabric. So I tea dyed it. (I used it as a practice to tea-dye the shawl I had knit with the yarn. I thought my niece would prefer more olive shades than blue.)  

Just a few more hours on the main piece, then I will stretch it and block it and send it off for final critique.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summer = car shows!

Last weekend was way too hot, but we still had fun. Our friend Larry Claypool of the Vair Shop always puts on the best car shows and the best thing--in my opinion--is that there's always shade. No asphalt parking lots here, but nice shady yards and patios with breezes. And really cool cars.
He also has the best cars. For Saturday's celebration of the 40th anniversary of his business (restoring cars), he rolled out an A-Z of cars. Most of the alphabet was filled by manufacturer names, when that failed, model names. Each car is tagged with its letter and a description.
I love these cars, most are European and teeny-tiny compared to what I'm used to. And most are quite uncommon (some downright rare).
My favorite, Multipla.
I tried to capture our reflections in this customer car--there in the hubcap.
The first of many (I'm sure) car shows this summer.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Needlepoint and more spring flowers

I worked hard, hoping to get my Sudoku sampler done for the Homewood Guild meeting last night. I just had too much to go. I have completed four more small squares since I took this photo on Tuesday. It'll be done for the fall meeting.
I've been enjoying the flowers all over the neighborhood on my morning walks. Here are some.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Japanese Embroidery

While it may not look like a lot, it feels pretty big to me.
Last week we had our semiannual Japanese Embroidery Studio with our wonderful teacher (sensei) Karen Plater. It was magical. I was sad I wasn't able to attend whole days, but I was very happy to get in what I could. I was there every day for the opening lecture, or Morning Talk. Karen always comes with lectures prepared, based on what each of us is working on or something new she thinks we'll enjoy. They set the tone for the day.

But often she shows her depth of knowledge and flexibility when she creates a spontaneous morning talk based on something one of us brings up in class. This session it was a lecture discussion of a piece of Arts and Crafts era English silk embroidery in the Japanese style that one of the students owns. We learned a lot about the piece itself, but also about aesthetic styles and influences and different types and twists of silk thread.
What I actually stitched in the class was the flat silk for the second green fan blade at the bottom and the grid layer of twisted silk over it. Now it's ready for the honeycomb metallic layer. The metallic layers that will go over both green fan blades were discussed and practiced with colored pencil on paper until we "got it." You can faintly see one green "star" shape (flax-leaf) on the upper blade. I couldn't get it to show up in a photo.

My next step is to play with color and determine what colors should go where in the flowers and leaves. I've made some copies of the design and have my colored pencils gathered.
On the final day of class we put down our needles and made thread twist sample sheets. The sheets show samples of threads twisted with soft, medium and tight twists and also what they should look like when they are overtwisted in the needle.  I added short pieces showing the size loop (in general) that each twist makes as you are making it and testing the twists. 

It was really hard!

Making a soft twist was pretty easy. Making a tight twist was okay, too. But it took me, I think, six tries to get a good medium twist. I felt like Goldilocks, looking for the one that was "just right." I felt like I was learning so much, though. Not just about the twisting, but also the overtwisting, which I tend to forget.

Once I had the basic twists done, I made an s-twist sample appropriate for knots.  After I got home, I dug in my stash of leftover twisted threads and found more to add to my page. We'd feared that my very dark wine-color thread wouldn't be as easy to "read" as a lighter thread, although I think it is actually okay. Then I added some finer twists--1>1 and 1>2 as samples.

I began a notebook with my samples, color copies of my teacher's twist sample pages, and other pages and instructions that I've acquired over the years.  (I know, I should have started that long ago.)

So, now I'm immersed in Japanese Embroidery once again. I'm looking for long weekends when I can set up my frame and get up early to stitch before the day gets rolling away from me.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I did double duty last week--working almost full time and studying Japanese embroidery part time with my wonderful teacher Karen Plater. I rather like it--perhaps I need to be busier. (Although I think my hubby would kill me and sometimes I wonder what's slipping through the cracks here at work, and by Thursday I was pretty well exhausted, so perhaps not a good idea.) I was able to focus on stitching while at the studio and work while at work--this is a new "skill" for me and it's welcome. More on the class to come.
On my way to class each day, I passed this gorgeous iris.
It seemed perfect to me to set the mood for the embroidery.
A flower whose embroidered depictions always surprised me is the columbine. I've always been fascinated by its dimensionality and depth--those long trailing cones off the back of the flower. Our wild columbine all face downward so what you see are those backs.
But when I saw these columbine flowers in a neighbor's yard, I understood. They were sitting face-on to me and I can now see the flowers I've seen in Elizabethan designs.
I'm fascinated.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friends are getting married in a couple of weeks. Wish I could be there in body as well as spirit. This is their very creative wedding invitation--it came flat, with the fold lines marked and ceremony information on the back. Instructions for folding were on their website. Isn't it cool?
I've been working more on the crewel and also on finishing the other pieces--backing and edging the pockets, making the notebook cover, finishing the sampler.The left hand leaf is completely done and the right side underway.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I got a gift certificate over the holidays and have been saving it for now. When things are busy at work, a new book or two always helps. When I'm too tired to stitch, I can flip the pages and learn and dream.
I've been looking at this book for a while. It's worth the wait. I've learned so much from it already. It's a textbook and a reference book and an inspirations book all in one. You can read a complete review by Mary Corbet here.
To go along with the theme, I also got this book. This Royal School of Needlework series is wonderful, with lots of information beyond the specific topic, such as frame types and framing up, transferring designs, and how designs are developed. I delayed getting this one because I'm not inspired by the cover design, but what's inside is worth it. Again, I was inspired to get it by Mary Corbet's review here.

So far all I've done is flip, but I'm planning ahead. Once I complete the crewel piece, I plan to pull out a thread painting design I began in a Tanya Berlin workshop.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What a difference a week makes!

Look how the campanula have grown in just a few very hot and humid days!
When I looked at these maple leaves, the little ones at the top, especially the center, looked like angels to me.
The lettuce now looks like lettuce.
This is a neighbor's tree-the first year it's bloomed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Out and About

I worked last Saturday, but on Sunday the weather cooperated and I took a nice walk. I chatted with my neighbor about her beautiful garden and wonderful bleeding heart plant. It's like this every year!
The bridal veil bushes are ending (and they usually don't flower until June!) but I really like them so I snapped this photo at a neighbor's home. Our first home had a long row of them along the west side of the house that we just loved. The only place we have to put them at our current house would be by the front door--and the bees like them a bit too much for that!
I love this columbine and was dismayed on a walk yesterday to discover it was gone completely and replaced with pansies! It had been there a couple of years so the owner must have been bored--but really, I can't imagine being bored with columbine! I'm glad I got this photo before it vanished.
Lilies of the valley bloom all around our house. These are in the back yard.
This plant came back from last year (I'd thought it was an annual but guess not). I think it's a campanula. In the week since I took this, it's really blossomed and is quite pretty. I'll try and get a photo tomorrow.
This is my herb pot. Our mild winter meant that the thyme and sage both survived. In the ground to the right is oregano. I think that will survive anything!
I would have sworn that I scattered the lettuce seeds evenly across the pot. It did rain heavily after I planted so that must have washed them all together because they're growing in clumps. It's hard to see but there's some volunteer dill, too. That's the garden tour.