Monday, July 30, 2012

Challenge Project or the "603"

You might want to find your sunglasses. Things are going to get bright in this post!

My EGA guild has a history of challenge projects. According to some, it used to be a challenge issued by the programs committee. But it has evolved to a challenge issued by the President. And a challenge is just what it sounds like. You are given a goal and it's up to you how you interpret the challenge with your needle and thread. 

This year our challenge was -  “Surround Your Favorite - select a favorite picture/photo and design and stitch a frame for this; e.g., surrounding your favorite." 

From the very beginning of this challenge (and it was announced August 2011), I had a thought about what I wanted to do. I was aiming to use a photo of a favorite place in New Hampshire. 

In my typical procrastinating style, I waited until July 15th to start this piece - hey, it was due at the July 28th meeting. Plenty of time! Not.

That Sunday afternoon I turned on the creative gears and computer and fired up Photoshop Elements. I am way behind the learning curve on Elements and thought it might be fun to explore. But I quickly realized that doing this was only going to put me further behind time wise. 

So off to Picassa I went to start looking for the photo of this place. I have many photos of this place. But apparently the proper one isn't on my computer. I chose one and tried working with, but the resolution was terrible. I think the photo I was seeing in mind exists on film and thus on paper and in negative form. But I was too lazy to go searching for it upstairs. LOL

Now I just started browsing photos, something that Picassa makes terribly easy. Mmm. Like this. Maybe that. Can't see how that would work. And then I found it. This photo of my husband with his back to me as he faces the Atlantic Ocean at Wallis Sands in New Hampshire on one summer evening. We were there as dusk was approaching. Okay. This photo alone seemed a bit boring, but if I used Picassa's collage feature what could I add? And now I was off to the races. I added some photos from a fall day in Nottingham, NH. I played with combinations and placement until I was satisfied and hit print to see what I had.

Okay. I can work with what I've created. Time to print on photo transfer paper. This part is way easy. All you need is an ink jet printer and the special paper. Then it's time to head upstairs to fire up the iron and find a piece of congress cloth. 

I locate some cream colored congress cloth that someone was giving away because it had fold lines. But these iron right out. And my first attempt at getting this on the congress cloth is less than successful. But I just flip the congress cloth over and do another one on the back and just like magic I get this:

Now the real fun begins as I head off to the fiber stash. Some of you may have a fiber stash that is bigger than mine. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say not too many of you do. I start in my box of silks - this is the every kind of silk box except Splendor. I have enough of that for it to have its own container. I know I'm going to go with blues, oranges, yellows, and greens. I just start tossing possible threads into a pile and when I'm done I have this gorgeous Thread Gatherer's color called "Scarlet Honey." Okay. I've got my border thread. 
I'm still pulling threads, but now they are coming from all over. Gummnuts, Oriental Linen, metallics. I've got a pile that I keep sorting into keep and put away piles. Just want to make sure everything will work together. Amazingly this only takes an hour or so and soon I'm sitting in my happy chair with my fabric on stretcher bars and needle in my hand. 

And let's begin with the long-armed cross stitch for the border. 

By Sunday night I have the inner border stitched and thanks to a little sketch I made in my trusty little notebook one day the week before while waiting for my salad at Noodles, I have my plan for boxes around my piece. Literally this is a create it as it goes. I don't have time for major counting or drawing in advance. So at 30 threads out I start stitching an outer border giving me 28 threads in the middle for filling in with needlework. 

By Tuesday night I have stitched the bottom bargello bit, started the green box, and started the crossed trellis bit below the green. I've outlined the main photo with a navy metallic and stitched in the title of the piece and my initials.

On Saturday morning we take off in the car and I'm packing this piece with me. 
I've got the green box finished. And trellis box is more than halfway done, but it's difficult to do in the car. This part turns out to take way more time than I would have thought. It's large crosses with Ombre Kreinik with two different silks providing the small crosses. It's a bear to get the needle into the proper hole. 

On Friday night I played with pavilion diamonds for that top space. I ripped out two different times before settling on something I think will work. And I stitch about half of it in the car on Saturday. 

On Sunday, I know I'm not liking what I have on the top. I rip it out and  I finished the trellis box on the right. I start stitching something else in the top and get about a third of way down when I decide I don't really like this either. I make the decision that it's too late to rip the top part and I decide to finish it. (It's just too linear and not organic enough. But it's staying for now.)

By Tuesday night group, I've finished that top bit and moved on to creating a bargello bit for the left hand side. Thanks to some help from my friend, Julie, I rip out the first one, audition a second one, but decide on this third attempt.

By Thursday I'm finished. Now to do a quick mounting onto foam core on Friday! Which is what I was doing Friday night during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. 

Objectively, I'm pretty thrilled with how this turned out. I may still rip that top section and restitch it. I've found something that I think will work better, but my problem is that my canvas has been cut and do I want to try this without putting it on stretcher bars? 

Some of you may be wondering about my title. Anna, aka the Stitch Bitch knows. 603 is the area code for New Hampshire. Yes, my friends here in Virginia are amazed that the state is small enough to only need one area code. Especially as a lot of us live in a county that has two area codes! 

I'm already looking forward to the next challenge project. In fact, I might even try to start this one with more than 13 days to finish it.  

Phew. I think I caught all my mistakes. LOL Editing done now.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Stitching and a Plan!

My stitching during the opening ceremonies wasn't my planned Olympic stitching. I was putting the finishing touches on a project for my Saturday EGA meeting. 

So last night I got to to begin my planned Olympic stitching. 

And I've started with an American flag by Jane Nichols from the July 2003 issue of Needlepoint Now. 

I've kitted it from my stash with congress cloth and Watercolours. I need to check to see if I have the right Ribbon Floss in my stash. The only thing I purchased for this project is a twisted metallic from Access Commodities that I got at Fireside earlier this month which is a replacement for the Kreinik Torsade that was called for in the pattern. 

It's essentially a bargello piece and will work up very quickly. I could have gone further last night, but it had been a long day. 

And now for the "plan" part of this post. 

For the past month I've been combing through my back issues of Needlepoint Now. I came late to this needlepoint party so I've been slowly gathering back issues over the past three to four years. I've done pretty well and I think I am only missing one issue. I need to put them back in order and confirm this. And then hunt down the missing one. 

I had a small epiphany when after looking through three years of magazines, 2006-2009, I went back and started at the very beginning. I have looked through all of these issues before, most multiple times. But what struck me at that moment was that there were projects in that first issue from 1999 that I want to stitch! 

Thus I have developed a plan. 

I've started flagging projects that I want to do. 

And I'm going to start with stitching one project from every year the magazine was published. 

And when I accomplish that I will start over and stitch another project from every year. 


And again.

Until I've stitched a project from every issue. See why I need to find that missing issue? 

And so begins my Needlepoint Now plan. 

Details of which I will keep track of on a separate page. 

Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Helen M. Stevens

Some of you may be familiar with the work of embroiderer and author, Helen M. Stevens. There's a lovely article from the UK on her - how she started, what her influences are, etc.

My favorite line is when a new student voices their disappointment that their work does not look like hers:  "They will look at my work and say ‘Well, it doesn’t look like yours . . .’ but I’ll say ‘Frankly, after three days, if yours looks like mine do after 30 years I’m packing up and going home!’"

I like the sense of humor!

I don't know about you, but I've got 4 or 5 of her books on my bookshelves. You can read more about what she does and see her books plus classes, etc. at her own website, Fritillary.  

Loudoun Museum

The news on Loudoun Museum isn't good. The county is going to stop what little funding that remains unless there is a some kind of miracle. 

Why am I posting about this here on my needlework blog? It's quite simple. It's a little treasure of a museum especially where it concerns needlework. If Betty Flemming where still alive she'd be buttonholing people in the street and calling everyone she knew. 

For more details go here to read LaDonna's post on the subject. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yeah for Me!

Received my final invoice from EGA National Seminar yesterday and I got into the two one-day classes that I wanted. 

So in addition to my goldwork class with Toni Gerdes and Russian drawnwork class with Becky Autry, I have added Diane Clements "Ovals Rule" class which is reticello and counted thread. And Kay Stanis' class titled "Inspiration in Needlework:  After the How-to Class, Then What?" 

WooHoo! All I need to do now is pay for my kit fees. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I've been stitching my fingers off on my challenge project that I can't show you here yet. (Reminder to self: time to take another photo of my progress.)

I tried stitching in car yesterday, but didn't make very much forward movement. 

But I did bring home this sweet little thing. Someone was a very good stitcher as the dealer selling this thought the back was the front. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Painful, but Persevering

Do you ever have the eye end of a needle pierce your finger? I do. And on my Challenge project it keeps happening. Who knew an overweight woman could levitate from a seated position straight up into the air. GAH!

I have a package of Thimble-Its so I went and found them and applied one to my right index finger after I pushed the back end of that needle into my finger for about the sixth time in the past two days. Almost always in the exact same spot, too! 

Anyone else ever tried to work with these things? I don't see how they work. Because I can't push the needle with my finger with this thing on it. The needle slides right across the surface. I think I need one of the other products Colonial Needle makes - the ones with the dimpled surface. 

Meanwhile, I continue stitching while trying to be careful about not pushing with my fingertip. It's hard, you know. 

 Just a few days after telling my husband I was concerned that I hadn't seen any butterflies this summer, I find this guy on my neighbor's Sweet Williams. I feel better now that tiger swallowtails are back!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Casket Etui

Ha. I forgot I had finished the stitching on the thimble bag so here's a progress picture of my Casket Etui by Willing Hand's Betsy Morgan. 

There's a lot of cream outlining there with pearl cotton that matches the fabric so you can barely see my progress. I've got my four-sided stitch done and can start cutting in order to do the Aztec stitch. I'm looking forward to this game!

Some of my friends who took this class are way ahead of me! Not surprised. 

My goal - look I am publicly stating a goal here, people! - is to have the stitching done by the finishing class at the end of January. Not a lofty goal. That's 6 months. But now that I've stated it, watch me blow it. LOL

I'm moving right along with my challenge project. Had to decide last night on going symmetrical or asymmetrical. Because I had originally sketched this out with asymmetry, I decided to continue that way. Gives me one more area to play with stitches and threads. 

And that's what I'll be doing today. I need to run off to the grocery store before it gets any hotter and then I'll be hiding from the heat and stitching. Maybe it's time to start watching Criminal Minds in the order they were filmed instead of my casual I'll-watch-whatever-is-ION approach. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

No Photo Monday

Been stitching along my Willing Hands casket. Most of my progress is cream on cream so a photo is not forthcoming until I get more color on this. 

Also did my absolutely favorite thing yesterday - started a new project!

We've got a challenge project coming up in my EGA Guild which I've know about for nearly a year. Now I had this idea. And I like to let these ideas percolate in the brain pan. 

This idea apparently needed a lot of cooking! 

I'd done a preliminary layout in a little notebook that I carry around in my purse. I'd picked out something necessary to this project. And when I went to begin, finally, yesterday my necessary something did not work. Quickly back to the beginning. 

But the funny thing is that once I had to start over, it all came together with amazing speed. Within an hour I had congress cloth on stretcher bars and was sorting through I pile of threads I had pulled. A very soon, I was stitching. 

Because this is a challenge piece, no photos till after our July meeting. But I did remember to pull out the camera and document a part of this. 

And that's it for Monday. I'm off to run some errands and then come home and stitch my fingers off. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Back from the Finishers

We have a resource here in the northern Virginia area called DeVaris. They are a needlepoint finishing shop in Alexandria. A friend and I went there last month. Don't bother looking for a website as there is none.

Here's what I got finished.

Too sweet! The lady who painted this canvas is not painting any more. Which is a shame. 

And then there's little bargello experiment I stitched. This is 6 skeins of Carrie's Creations "Caribbean Laney" and one skein of DMC. I just wanted to see what would happen with an overdye and Carrie's is great to try these things as it is the most reasonably priced of the overdyed cottons. 

I had this length of turquoise silk in my fabric stash as there is another pillow that it was intended for. I think I still have enough to do that one, too. This is a bag. I was intending to attach a chain for carrying, but now I'm rethinking that. I might go with a kumihimo braid. 

I'd say this was a successful experiment. Not all of them are! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Library Acquisitions

While I was out shopping on Saturday, I knew I wanted to stop by a very large used bookstore. Problem was my GPS didn't know it by its name. And darned if I could remember what was near it. 

I decided to chance it and pulled off the highway and started into town. But now I wasn't arriving from my usual direction. 

Again let me state that I have the best friends. A quick call to F. on my cell phone and she zeroed me right in on where I wanted to be. Best of all, it was just time for me to move to the left across three lanes and turn. LOL Thank you!

I almost bagged this stop to go straight home. After all, it was past noon and hot as blazes. But something was compelling me to go. 

 I got all this for $17 and it only took me about 10 minutes. Even if I had just found that Virginia sampler book for $1.75 it would have been worth the stop. One of these may be a second copy for me - I need to go check the library. If it is, I'll find it a good home. (If I ever get a smart phone, I would solve this issue.) 


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why I Stitch

Normally I'd have been right on top of this one. But the fact that I woke up in a different state on Friday meant I missed reading Ruth Marcus' column titled "Why I knit" while drinking my morning two cups of coffee. But I don't just recycle the papers that I miss reading. I save them and catch up like I did this morning.

In "Why I Knit" we read of the dispute between the U.S. Olympic Committe and the Ravelry knitters. Moral victory goes to the knitters. 

Ruth got to trot out the cliches - frilly, girly, grandmotherly even as you could see she wants to refute them. Why she knits:  it's relaxing, communal, an expression of love. 

What she leaves out:  once you start down this path, it's rewarding. It's addicting. It's a way of life. 

I was talking to one my neighbors, a gentleman of a certain age retired from the working world. He invited me over to see a few things his wife had created and stitched. As we were talking I realized that when we moved to Virginia in 2005 after DH retired from the Army, I made friends slowly. I no longer had those automatic spousal connections that had made this an easy process in the past. I could have run out and joined a few groups here that are part of the military. But I didn't. 

I made my friends through the world of needlework. In fact, other than friends I knew previous to retirement, I only have one friend here that isn't somehow connected to my avocation. 

I met up with some women I knew from online stitching communities. I joined one guild. Then another. I started stitching with a group at my favorite LNS. I joined another guild. Then another. Then yet another. Each time my circle widens. In seven years, I've made some of the best friends ever. And all because we like to do the same thing. How cool is that?

I love my enablers. My critics. My let's-do-this-together friends. We share. We laugh. We cry. We solve the world's problems. We drink. We eat. WE STITCH! 


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stash Acquisition in Pennsylvania

We needed some place to stay for the night and had done some research online. Found ourselves a deal at the Cork Factory Hotel in Lancaster. Arrived here sometime before 5 p.m. totally wiped out from the heat. 

We asked the desk clerk about restaurant recommendations. She started with the restaurant in the factory. Then added a couple local brew pubs which I admit sounded good. And then we asked for local family style places. 

All those options. In the end we chose to stay in the hotel and not go back outside into the heat!

And what a choice we made. The Cork and Cap restaurant is doing a fantastic job updating classic comfort foods with fresh ingredients. DH had the fried chicken and I think he'd drive back to Lancaster just to have it again. We shared the divers scallops and pork belly appetizer which was out of this world. And then I couldn't resist matching their meatloaf and mac n cheese against my own. They win the mac n cheese by a nose. I win on the meatloaf. The mac n cheese was not baked and was topped with wilted spinach and a tomato relish. It was those darn tomatoes that gets them the win. I gotta figure out how they make this.

Here's most of what I bought on my mini-shopping spree. First up from Fireside:  Jane Zimmerman's metal thread on canvas book that is still available in print. Unlike several of her others. A valuable reference tool for my library. Two sizes of gold twist as I have an older pattern that calls for Kreinik Torsade which they no longer make. Watercolours for a flag project, Bravo for another project even though I've already picked a different thread. Now I get to choose between the original and my substitution. Some more Kreinik. Not a lot. But I was overwhelmed. I will definitely go back here next time I need a huge amount of threads. I will order online. I will call. Fireside is going on speed dial. 

Next up from Stitch N' Stuff:

Ooh. The new Halloween mag from Just Cross Stitch. Love it!
Two Cabins from Nancy's Needles. I let DH pick. I can see doing a few of these. 
Got most of the threads for this, too. 
One of the Prairie Schooler Santas that I am missing. And these three Halloween patterns that I think will look great stacked on a bellpull from Handblessings. 

We had a great time. And found a great candidate for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in Frederick on our way home! Didn't go into a single quilt/fabric shop so obviously I will be going back to Pennsylvania.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Road Trip

DH and I decided to leave town after the 4th. Just a quick north of us only staying away one night. The original intent of the trip was ruled out when we realized the intended destination was only open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. So instead of pushing back by day or two, we left as planned on Thursday morning. 

Our goal - the West Chester County Historical Society.

Members of the Loudoun Sampler Guild went to see this back in May when I was in Florida so I missed that field trip. And while it would have been nice to view this with fellow afficionados, it was pretty cool being the only person in the entire exhibit. This way when a swear word or two escaped my lips, there was no one to hear me!

I was nearly hyperventilating. There's just something about being in the presence of the old lovelies. There is organization to the exhibit - alphabet, marking, darning, pictorial, architectural, mourning, globes, pinballs. My hubby came in to admire the globes and the one map sampler. If you're into antique samplers and within a three hour drive, you owe yourself a trip here. It's open through the beginning of September. edit:  I forgot to mention of flame stitched purses. OH MY! Those really make me want to commit vandalism and robbery to get myself one. Just a personal quirk, I think...

But this was not the only needlework type experience for the day. Gotta lovvve DH as he let me drag him to two needlework stores. (Some of you may remember that I won some gift certificates back at National Seminar last fall - well, it was time to redeem them!)

First up - Fireside Stitchery in Frazer, PA. Link here.

 Does this look like a big place from the outside? Because it is.

 I am always a sucker for a pink tree. You'd think I'd have one of these by now at my house. And if you look closely, you'll see a future project of mine to the right of the tree. I have that cat canvas. Bought it years ago at Needle Nook of LaJolla.
 I'm not sure if these photos can convey what a place this is. The owner referred to it as a thread warehouse and that sounds right. I've been in a lot of needlework stores over the years and I believe this place wins for the most thread in one place! And there were signs here and there to look for more threads coming soon!

Pretty much a fiberholic's paradise. 

Second stop was at Stitch N' Stuff in Reading. Link here. A straight up old-fashioned cross stitch shop that also has a nice selection of counted canvaswork. Sorry no photos. It was so hot that I was starting to lose my abilities. Seriously. 

Tune in soon to see what I bought.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Happy, Happy, Happy

I've got some road trip stuff to share, but I'm going to put that on hold and share with you half of my stash enhancement from yesterday. (The other half is library acquisitions.)

I have THE BEST FRIENDS! We arrived home Friday night from a little jaunt north of here and I had an e-mail from a friend, M., who thought she remembered that I was the person who was interested in the jeans tool tote/purse canvas. Seems she knew where there was one and it was on sale. So yesterday morning I tried to leave early, but that didn't quite work as it was 85 or so when I woke up. I took my ice water and a second cup of coffee and headed off in the heat. 

But my reward was great. I got the canvas I wanted along with the stitch guide. And more. 

 I snagged a Charley Harper cardinal, a tulip on which to practice ribbonwork, and fun drinking canvas for the bar. I can't tell you how happy that jeans bag makes me. A friend of mine did this piece a few years back and I was reminded of it when perusing my stash of Needlepoint Now magazines. 

Who knew that almost as soon as I put this on the top of my wish list, it would fall into my hands?

I might have let a few other things slip into my bag like these little needlepoint cards. And the Janice Love book. And another Scarlet Letter sampler in colors that I love. 

So where did I get my bargains? At Needles in the Haymarket. This store is under new ownership and unfortunately for everyone, she's shedding her stock of hand painted canvas to focus mainly on the yarn side and cross stitch. Of course, file that under lucky for me.


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Independence Day

Here's to the Minutemen and all who led them! Cheers.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Gratitude Monday

I'm here to say how grateful I am to live in a community with the majority of the power lines buried in the ground. All around me, people have been without power since Friday night's storm. Us? We're good. 

In fact, I slept through the storm and woke up after it ended and spent a couple of hours downstairs watching the Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis. Which I loved. I started reading the storm damage reports on my tablet in the wee hours of the morning. We've lost some big branches behind our house and a section of fence needs repairing. That's it. We're still in the midst of some brutal heat. 

I meant to post these photos a few weeks back and forgot:

 I had no idea that there was a Peeps store at National Harbor! File under LMAO!

I went and picked up my new sewing machine on Friday afternoon. Got it threaded up and sewed a straight line with it. And that's all so far. I can hardly believe it, but my 20 year old Brother was easier to thread. I'm thinking of naming it Janine. Yes. I'm grateful for this, too.