Still Life from Quimper

Still Life from Quimper
A shot of an almost-completed still life needlepoint

Welcome to my Blog

So very happy you came to visit. Now, pull up a chair, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, and read on about adventures in needlework.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

And now she has two!

Yes, all, that's right.  My fairy finally, finally has two wings:

Fairy Second Wing

You can see the work in progress here (WIP in stitcher's terms) with all of the many veins that a wing as gossamer-y as hers should have.  And as I've mentioned in other posts, the blank areas in the first wing are going to be filled in with beads.  I do hope I have enough!

And yes, I have muttered under my breath these past few months how much I dislike metallic threads.  "Dislike" being the public word, since I do carry this product on my website and should probably stand behind it.  But it is a pain to work with it, every stitcher knows this, and it lends a shimmer to this project that these photos just do not show.

So as time has progressed this year (and I see I'm repeating myself in lapses of January-June), I have almost totally completed the second wing:

There she is, in all her glory.

It's times like this that I can't believe I've stitched something this intricate and beautiful and just gaspingly gorgeous.  Really.  I can't.  I only have a brief time on weekends to stitch this piece, in part because evenings are taken up with reading and making dinner and other projects.  And truth be told, even if I sat down in the evenings and worked on this piece with the magnifier, I know I would not have the patience to finish anything metallic.  Not.  At.  All.  In fact, this morning, while drinking coffee out of the new mugs DH bought for our wedding anniversary, I had a new piece of thread + metallic that I had just switched to the double-ended needle, and wouldn't you know, it snapped.  Not the DMC thread, mind you, but the filament around which the metallic glorious-ness is wrapped.  Imagine what would happen if that took place while I was ignoring dinner preparations around 7-ish on a work night . . . better not.  Leave it to say that I would not be a happy camper.

So I should have both wings finished by next weekend, beads excluded, and shortly you will see the continuation of these pretty vines and flowers and berries behind her.  Then when those are finished, my fairy comes off of her frame and I will stitch the beads with the fabric in-hand.  I do have a frame that attaches top-and-bottom, rather than on all four sides (called a Rolaframe), guaranteeing not to smush the glass beads, and I'll use that set-up if the fabric begins to get wrinkled or too difficult to handle with the bead container and needlework.  Pick up a bead with the needle, try not to spill the beads . . . that sort of thing.

Enjoy your summer, and happy stitching!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

She finally has a wing!

Yes, that's right, you saw it here first:  my long-time stitching project, a Mirabilia fairy from the mid-90's, finally has her first wing!  I'm so proud!

My fairy's first wing!  I'm so proud.

You'll notice that there are still some areas that are unstitched in the photo.  These are the veins of the wing, and beads will go there.  Pretty, shiny, sparkly beads.  This will look gorgeous when complete.  All light and airy.

Another thing that lends this wing an ethereal nature is the selection of colors.  Yes, the primary part of the wing is white, but the shading is done with 3 different shades of floss and one strand of metallic thread.  So you have a gradual changing of color rather than a sudden drop off in the shading.  You can see the contrast between the white part of the wing and the darker parts, but to determine one darker shade from another is not that easy to do from a distance, and even when stitching it the lack of contrast leads to more counting than normal.

The wing, as you may not be able to see from this photo, is stitched with 1 strand of DMC floss and one strand (it only comes as a strand) of Kreinik Blending Filament.

Which is a bear to work with.  Just ask Webmaster Bill:

"What do you have to listen to every time I sit down to stitch?"
"I hate metallics!!"

He's right:  I do.  They're difficult, they're cranky, and they drive me (and almost every stitcher I know) around the bend.  Why?  Because the Blending Filament, the first metallic on the market from way, way back, is simply that:  a teeny, tiny strand of a floss with a teeny bit of metallic wrapped around the filament.  So as you stitch, the metallic comes away from the thread filament and the entire piece begins to shred.  Has to do with friction.  One of those laws of physics.

There are a few suggestions on the market for dealing with this shredding of metallic.  The first, from the manufacturer, is to stitch with smaller pieces.  I find that method to be, well, unworkable.  Just as you begin to find your way on the pattern and really make some inroads, it's time to end your thread and start a new one.  And you find that you use more thread than you would if you stitch with a normal length of thread.

The next suggestion, also from the manufacturer, is to make a loop knot at the end of the thread where it comes out of the eye of the needle.  This is an excellent suggestion and really deals with the problem inherent in the product.  With a knot (not a double knot or anything really tight, just a simple one-over loop knot), the friction between the metallic thread and the fabric is greatly minimized and there is less fraying.  Granted, it takes a little longer because once you thread your needle, you have to take the time to make the quick loop knot before you can begin stitching.  But it saves a great amount of time on the stitching end, and all that you need to do is check your loop knot from time to time.

What I've been doing while I stitch is closer to the latter suggestion.  Since I'm using a frame and a lap stand, I can use a Twin-Pointed needle that really makes a world of difference.  The eye of the needle is in the center of this looong embroidery needle, and the eye is in the center.  Having the eye in the center means that you can rest one hand on the top of the frame and the other hand at the bottom.  No more turning of the wrist!  No more one hand only working!  Both hands work, the stitching (except for metallics) goes much faster, and the top hand uses a laying tool.  I truly like having a laying tool, as it allows my stitches to all look even, and prevents the top of the "x" from all going in one direction.

So, off to finish the second wing in the new year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Different Project this Time

I love needlework.  I love knitting.  I love doing creative things with my hands and my brain.  A few years ago, I discovered something else to love:  paper.  Not just the kind with black printing in it that lines my bookshelves, with fancy covers and ideas and lives that take you somewhere else, but fancy paper.  Like the stuff that has bright colors and triggers the imagination.

It started a few years back with a visit to Binders Art Supplies in Buckhead.  We were in the neighborhood running errands and seeing the old Disco Kroger (yes, it's still called that!) and we stopped in Binders.  Oh, did my heart stop when I saw all the bits of paper and cool stationery they had for sale.  I'm a sucker for writing letters; there's nothing like sitting down at my grandfather's accounting desk, with the tilted top and the old cherry wood and the scarred leather top, and just putting pen to paper and telling someone what's been going on in your life.  Or asking about theirs.  It slows one's thoughts and organizes them differently, and there's the added bonus of someday receiving a letter in return.  Where the writer tells you all about their life and asks you about yours.  It's an art that is too often neglected.

But I digress.

This visit to Binders then led me to a new-ish store called The Paper Source and I was hooked.  Totally, completely, hooked.  I took a class on how to make paper flowers.  They're a bit tacky, quite fun, and just the thing to dress up a dark corner of my desk.  And I get to play with paper and sharp scissors and glue.

I kept wondering how I could dream up a project where I could play some more.  And then I happened upon it:  a photo album!  I could make my own photo album!  With my own photos!  I have an account at one of these on-line places, where you log on and they tell you all about their specials (like, every day of the week specials), but you can also send them some photos you've taken on your electronic camera and they'll process them for you, just like the old days.  You can determine the size, what kind of edging, and how many prints of each.

Voila!  A project.

You see, we had an old dog.  His name was Dave.  After I closed my shop, his arthritis began to get very, very noticeable.  He was having trouble standing up.  He wanted to be with his people, but our walks were getting shorter and shorter.  He couldn't sleep in with us on the weekends, and life was just getting pretty tough for him.  We often visit some relatives in Springfield, IL, and that year we took Dave with us for a visit.  And we happened to stop at a National Recreation Area called Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky and had an amazing experience.  And we took pictures.  And we visited a Ranger Station that had ambassador animals (those that can't be re-released into the wild) as well as some Red Wolves.  These beautiful animals have been hunted almost to extinction, thus throwing the balance of prey-predator way out of whack.  This Ranger Station is doing a lot to re-introduce these wolves back to where they belong and we were thrilled to be able to see them.  They're quite small; no way they're going after a 2,000 pound beef steer.  Or a calf.  Mama cow would not be pleased and is way too vigilant for that kind of hanky-panky.

So here was the perfect project:  photos for a photo album, plus the do-it-yourself photo album, plus tons of pretty paper to cover the photo album itself (instructions are included, thank goodness!), plus a variety of pens and some incidental paper to tell the story of Dave, and us, and the animals and plants we saw at LBL.  And it took a few months to put the photo album together (no cats and glue on the same desk, please), then a few more weekend afternoons to create what I wanted to say on a page and what paper or pen I wanted to use.

It was a lot of fun, I already have a new project purchased (a decorated shoe box for the many cat toys.  With cat paper), and there will be more in the new year.

Here are the photos of the photo album to share:

This is the front cover.  I wanted some autumnal color and nature imagery to set the tone.  

The album is bound with linen tape (comes with the album) and attaching screws (also comes with the album), and this was the part of the assembly process where I followed the instructions exactly.  Not that I usually don't . .

 This is the inside front cover.  Also autumnal in coloring, and a very fine silk paper with the lines.

The pages of the photo album are black, very thick, and just begging for some decorative writing.  So a gold shiny pen was the answer to this portion of the album.

This is a picture of one of the ambassador animals.  It's an albino stag.  Pretty magnificent, eh?  He has a huge rack and was just peacefully watching the world go by.  

The papers were just pages from a book of papers The Paper Source had, and they made a great autumnal background for the pictures.  And you can tear them and write captions on them for your photos.

This is the Eastern Red Wolf.  

Though you can't see from the picture, its snout is smaller than that of a coyote, and definitely smaller than that of the larger Grey Wolf.  They're very delicate animals.  They do not pose a threat and I think that those who decided on the "predator control programs" are in a very dark place being roasted over nasty dark pits.  But that's just my opinion.

Here's a shot of the lake itself.  Yes, the water was really that blue.

It's a man-made lake that was created during the Great Depression by the CCC, and the central part is now the National Recreation Area.  It has 60 miles of camping, astronomy, and re-created 19th Century farms.  It's worth a weekend to visit.  It really is.   Have a great and restful time these next two weeks, and see you in the New Year!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Three Days of Music, Trees, and Camping

OK, so the title isn't exactly the Woodstock "Peace, Love, and Music," nor was the time of the year, nor was the weather . . . which would all explain why I took such liberties with it!

For nine years, the HemlockFest has been putting on a three-day music festival in Dahlonega in order to save a species of tree called the Hemlock.  This tree forms the basis of much of the Eastern Appalachian ecosystem and is part of the last old growth areas in the Eastern US.  An insect called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) made its way to the Eastern US from Asia and has devastated much of the Shenendoah Valley and the Eastern Carolinas with its voracious appetite for the Eastern Hemlocks.  Thank to the good folks at the Lumpkin Coalition, who put on the HemlockFest, work and research is going forward by breeding predatory beetles or bringing them over from the Western US Hemlock forests (if that is in fact a good idea - that's being tested, too), working with chemical agents in a safe and effective manner, and seeing in what areas the HWA is or is not feasting on our native hemlocks to track the devastation.  There are dedicated people who are marching through the North Georgia mountains doing this work, both foresters and volunteers alike.  I don't know whether the Georgia Conservancy is at work on this project; it sounds like something they might become involved in through their volunteer network.  Might just have to make that inquiry myself.

Back to the music.  For eight years, starting in 2004, Webmaster Bill and I have heard about this festival, have thought of going to this festival, and have not gone.  Yet.  At the beginning of its existence, the first weekend of November was the height of my shop's winter season and there was no way that I was going to be able to spend three weekend days away from my business.  Besides, it was November and it was cold and we didn't have any camping equipment.  That all changed by 2009's festival, but then we decided it was too cold and we were having too much fun learning how to be at home and doing home-centered projects.

But this year we decided we had to go, and so we packed up several wool blankets, a warm sweater each, hats, arm warmers, and nice, warm sleeping bags, and a small load of firewood.  We hoped that the music would be good and the weather not too cold and that we had brought enough home cooked food and beer to enjoy the weekend.  Turned out we did have to go into town for a few things but there you have it.  Ice melts even in cold weather and sometimes batteries die at the worst times.

We had heard there were some pretty big crowds and that everyone kind of parked their chair or blanket on the field in front of the stage and that was their "spot" for the day or the weekend, or even just for a single act.  That spirit of camaraderie, of "We're all in this together for a common good," permeated the land and the people living on it for the weekend.  And the music was everything we hoped for and a little more.

The organizers brought bands in from all walks of musical life:  blues, mountain music, coffeehouse music, local bands, and straight up rock and roll.  There was young (like, teenage young) Lara Polangco who sang on Sunday morning a strong combination of her own compositions, guitar-inspired playing from her hero Stevie Ray Vaughan, and pulled off Billie Holliday.  Really.  The Goddess of Blues herself.  There was also one of our favorite bands, Emerald Rose, who helped open the program on Friday afternoon with their combination of Celtic-American folk rock (I know, that's right from their web page, but that description says it best).   We stayed up late Friday night wandering the grounds of Starbridge and listening to an impromptu folk session around a campfire that included ukeleles whilst stargazing in the cold mountain air.

Saturday we listened to Gibson Wilbanks, who won Eddie's Attic Songwriter's Open Mic competition in late 2011, and were blown away by the strength of their voices and the variety of music.  Blues, folk, and a mean electric guitar.  Later that afternoon was Lil Al's Soul Funk Revival that included some real soul music (as in, honest-to-goodness Motown soul), great guitar playing, and damn if they didn't launch into Jimi Hendrix's rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner."  Yes, we stood, as did several people on the field; you're supposed to stand for your national anthem, you know.  And they pulled it off, getting the sounds and feedback that mark this version.

And friends had mentioned that we HAD to be present for Ralph Roddenberry, a straight-up rock and roll band.   Man, they weren't kidding.  I had not heard rock and roll played with such professional sounds, especially original rock and roll, in a long, long time.  It was a little hard to see the stage by this point in the evening, since everyone was up in front of the stage dancing (which the crowds all weekend had asked them to do!), but we eventually found some space in between bodies just as the band, with some guests, launched into a slow riff that sounded vaguely familiar.  Webmaster Bill and I looked at each other as recognition dawned, and we said to each other, "They're going there!"  And they did.  And it was awesome.  And do you know what the riff was?  "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin.  We heard it live!  We heard it performed live, and slow (and it's a slow riff - listen to the song next time it's on the radio), and we heard it performed by master musicians who were jamming and paying homage, all at the same time, to this old, revived blues riff.  Cuz really, that's what it is.  But to hear a strong voice with all of the talent of Robert Plant, and a strong guitar player re-birthing Jimmy Page's turn of phrase, took our breath away.  We felt connected to music again in a way we haven't in a long, long time.

So if your life's journey takes you to the North Georgia mountains the weekend after Halloween, camping being optional, day passes available, and you just want to hear some music to revive your soul, to renew your hope that good, original music is still out there but you don't know who the bands are any more, then reserve some space on next year's calendar for the Hemlock Festival.  You'll leave knowing you helped save the hemlocks and spent some time rejuvenating yourself.

And while you're rejuvenating, there's plenty of time to work on your needlework projects.  In my case, I wanted to get farther along on the Iris Needlepoint and I did.  In fact, I was worried that I might finish it before the Festival was ended!

Iris Needlepoint, almost completed!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

New Project Madness

Have you ever noticed . . . that no matter how many times you promise yourself you're going to clean out your stash . . . it just never happens.  I think that the cause is:

New Project Madness!!

It's a true thing.  We go to one of the off-site consumer trade shows for needleworkers:  Celebration of Needlework or Stitches (insert region here), or even take a jaunt to our local needlework shop.  And what do we do?  Why, we BUY stuff, that's what we do.  And we bring it home!  And we can't wait to begin to work on it, so . . .

We now have an extra pack of needles (cuz we don't know what needles are in our various projects) and extra floss (cuz, you just never know), and then we set up our project on our frame, or swatch it . . . and before you know it, you've got a new project started!

Then you turn to your stash and you say, "Sorry, my dears, but you see, I just bought this new project, and I really just want to start working on it, and I need to start now, and I'll get back to you soon, I promise."

Fickle, fickle, fickle.

A year ago, I cleaned out my stash *gasp* with some little dog blankets.  Not really big ones, but there is a link I found that lists places that accept knitted dog or cat items, and I found AHIMSA House, which rescues animals that are in abusive situations so that the survivor can get free without worrying about her animal companions.  So as I knit, I wove the thought of comfort and love and calm into these little blankets, and I used up a whole bunch of acrylic and washable wool yarn in a simple K10P10 basketweave pattern, and voila!  There was room in my stash.  It was smaller.

Oh, and the lovely volunteers who took my blankets thought they were the prettiest things and they had small dogs that were going to go into foster care soon (which means someone was getting away to safety, thank the Goddess), and they would be put to immediate use.  And because they were machine washable and I knitted with two strands on smaller needles, there was less chance that they would be pulled or damaged by little animal nails.

Then I found a catbed pattern (also useful for small dogs) that uses FELTED yarns, and I looked at all my scraps of alpaca and Brown Sheep and other wools (not the English ones, though, that's slightly different!) and thought, "Aha!  I can make this felted cat/dog bed and there will be more room in my stash!"  Which was perfect, because I do have several projects that I need to get finished and this way, I could get those completion endorphins that only come with finishing a project.  And move onto the neglected projects.

So what did I do?  I bought some bright pink Lamb's Pride Worsted to add to the cat bed for a touch of whimsy, and then I got stuck.

Do I test felt everything?

Do I go ahead and knit it?

Could I add sock yarn and use up some of it, knowing that it doesn't felt?

What would it look like?

And the thought that has paralyzed me:  what if I test knit and test felt and I run out of yarn???

I suppose the first step is to admit we have a problem, and then the second is to go ahead and do something about it.

But you see . . .

One niece is about to have her second baby, and the first one needs her own little blanket, so I HAD to buy some cool crochet yarn and crochet a simple ripple afghan (from a long discontinued book that I've used time and again), and of course I had to buy yarn for the new little girl who's going to be born in cold climates in early September, and everything for this little family had to receive first preference so that new baby gets her warm sweaters when she's still a baby . . .

Here's a picture of the crocheted afghan when it was just started (and I forgot how quickly crocheting goes); it is finished now:

 And really, the stripe pattern doesn't matter:  she's two, she loves pink, and with luck she will drag it around the house while she gets used to a new presence in her life.

And of course, with patterns in hand, including one I used for her older sister, I run off to a local knit shop and find new yarns to knit these two new sweaters.   Which means . . . the projects that were almost seeing the "done" sign have been relegated to the bottom of the stash.  Not to mention the stash knitting I need to do, which still involves deciding whether to swatch (do I have to??) or just go ahead and knit (what if something screws up??).  And then there are the Yuletide sweaters for other great nephews and nieces for whom (which?) I've already bought the yarn . . .

Which brings me to the current project:  knitted little girl baby sweater.  I have forgotten how quickly baby sweaters take when compared to sweaters for older children!  Sweater #1, pink, is now at the sleeve #1 stage (and #1 is almost finished), so this afternoon will be spent listening to the baseball game and knitting sleeves.  Then assembling, and with luck I'll be able to take to Thursday's AKG meeting.  And then I start on Sweater #2!  It's a new project, right?  I can feel the New Project Madness taking over, before I've even begun it.  I really want to start Sweater #2 NOW because I want to see how the sweater pattern goes . . .

It is truly, sheer madness.

 Counted needlepoint of a tea house, from way back when.  I brought it for a needlepoint demonstration and felt sooo incredibly guilty that I haven't worked on it in soooo long.

Yes, this one is almost done.  Thank goodness there's only a little bit to go (haven't even updated pictures for a while!) and I have enough Persian yarn to complete it.

So, off to catch the Braves game and knit a sleeve.  Or two.  Just not three!