23 April 2018

Off, and Back On Again

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

"Did you try turning it off and back on again?"

This question may be a bit of a joke, aimed by the tech savvy at those of us for whom turning it off and back on again exhausts our technical knowledge, but it's surprising how often it works. A quick off/on forces a system reset; it allows an always-on, always-processing machine to have a moment to itself, to collect its thoughts, and to get back on track. In our gadget-dominated digital age, our devices aren't the only things that need periodic resets.

I've been switched off for a while, for various reasons. Some have expressed concern about my absence, and I do so appreciate that. It's nice to be missed. I'm okay, Mr. Wonderful is okay, and Tiger Lily is okay. In fact, week before last, Mr. Wonderful and I wandered off to the mountains for a few days. The photo above is a view of the sunset from our room up in the mountains. One day, as we were driving along winding roads (and I was trying not to look down), enjoying the peace and quiet (we had the whole place to ourselves), the phrase, "we'll have to get back to the real world" popped into my head. And then it struck me: this is the real world. These mountains and trees and streams and deer and bear... all of these things God created... this is the real world. The world we go back to--beltways and traffic and  cell phones and computers--is valuable, important, necessary. But those are all things we made, and they do not comfort and soothe and revitalize like the things God made. 

So I've switched back on again, and my systems are slowly coming online. I'm slowly getting back to the things I love, that have been neglected for a while. If you've been reading me for a while, you know what those things are. If you're new, here are some of my favorite things that I've been getting back in touch with.

National Parks. I would rather be hiking in a National Park than sight-seeing in a city any day. I got some awesome goodies at Shenandoah.

Pottery. On our trip, we found a beautiful little pottery--Blue Ridge Pottery--just outside the park. The potters were busy, so the shop was on the honor system for the day: choose your pieces, add up your total and tax, put your money in the little box. We ran into this in North Carolina, too (see this post) and I must say, it charms me and refreshes my spirit to know that the honor system still exists in this world.

My pretty new fruit bowl.

A beautiful little vase. I'm partial to pink and rose in pottery because it's so hard to find. This is for my sewing room.

The green piece on the left is a little egg separator. See the hole? Isn't that cute? And another wee milk mug for my collection. This one is about 3 1/2" high. Even at 46, I'm still a milk drinker, and I love my tiny mugs.

Baking. Lemon Ricotta Cookies (recipe can be found here). Not low-carb, not small-batch. But in my defense, these were for a dear friend who has just come back from deployment. They're her favorite.

Lemon Cream Scones. My low(er) carb adaptation of a Bisquick recipe using Carbquick (see the "low carb" baking label in the right sidebar). When I get them exactly to my liking, I'll share the recipe. I'm also planning to experiment with a Vanilla Bean version.

Stitching. Today was the first day I picked up a needle since... I don't know when. I abandoned this gal a while back, but picked her back up today. This is my purple conversion of Here a Peep, There a Peep! by Brenda Gervais.

Making stuff. Supplies for a mystery project...

Books. Russians. Books about Russians. If that seems weird, see here and here. This book is one of my souvenirs from Hillwood, a museum in Washington D.C. that houses the largest collection of Russian Imperial art outside of Russia. Our second visit to the museum was back in February. Maybe I'll post more on this some time.

Precious, sweet Tiger Lily. She turned 12 at the beginning of April.

Again, thanks for the concern. Thanks for visiting and for commenting. I hope to keep making this a pleasant, cozy place for all of us. Have a wonderful week!

14 March 2018

Working with Blending Filament

I mentioned at the end of my Christmas Gathering post that I would have a post about working with blending filament, which, let's be honest, is like trying to stitch with fairy hair. There are oodles of hints, tips, tricks, etc. out there for making it a less frustrating experience, and I suppose every stitcher has their own preferred method. I thought I would share mine. I used it a lot in Christmas Gathering, but it doesn't show up well in photos. No matter how hard I tried--different lighting, different angles--I couldn't get a good shot of the sparkliness of this piece. So you'll have to trust me that it is super sparkly, which I achieved by using a slightly unconventional approach to blending filament.

First of all, I don't use it as-is: I strip out the sparkly filament from the nylon thread (that's not the unconventional part). You do this the same way you separate strands of floss, by holding one and pulling straight down on the other. I figure it's going to separate anyway while I'm trying to stitch with it--it always does--so why not save the annoyance. Separate it and get it over with. 

Second, I don't use it with floss. I know you're "supposed" to combine it with floss and stitch with them together, but I don't, for two reasons: 1) The difference in texture creates the same problem I mentioned above: the filament is going to separate from the floss and do it's own thing and you end up having to fiddle with it constantly to keep it neat. 2) The filament is almost always going to be buried in the thicker, heavier cotton floss, resulting in occasional peeks of sparkle instead of the overall shimmery look you want. It's a lot of annoyance for very little sparkle.

So, I complete the floss stitches first, and then go back and stitch over them with blending filament (this is still not the unconventional part). Here's a little tip for you if you mark a working copy like I do. Use a lighter colored pencil to mark the completed stitches that will need to be overstitched with blending filament. As you add the blending filament, mark those completed stitches again with the darker colored pencil you're using for the rest of the chart. This is an easy way to ensure that you know exactly which stitches need blending filament added, and that you don't miss any.

Third--here's the unconventional part!--when I go back and add the blending filament to my completed stitches, I use a half stitch in the opposite direction of the top leg of the completed stitch.

The top leg of my completed stitches looks like this: \\\\\\\\\\
So I stitch the blending filament like this: //////////

The reason I do this is to prevent the blending filament from slipping down between the threads of the top leg of my completed stitches, which it will do, for the reasons I mentioned above. Stitching in the opposite direction ensures the blending filament lies completely on top of the stitch and catches the most light. I've tried countless times to get a shot that shows this--not with great success, as you can see--but if you click on these pictures to make them a bit bigger, you might just be able to make out the iridescent/pinkish blending filament on top of the white stitches.

So that's how I use "fairy hair". It might be a bit of an odd method, but I find that it works well for me. I don't cringe when I see blending filament show up on a supply list for a project! If you struggle with blending filament, I hope this is helpful to you.

Happy Stitching!

12 March 2018

Tea & Stash

Grab a cup of tea or coffee and get cozy, it's time for a stash update!

First of all, thanks so much for all of the sweet comments about Christmas Gathering. It was a little beast of a project, but it was worth it, and I appreciate your kind words. I wasn't blogging as much as I would have liked during February, but sometimes life has an annoying tendency to interfere with stitching and blogging, doesn't it? Amazingly, it doesn't seem to interfere with shopping! I've got several months-worth of goodies to show you, so settle in with your cup of tea and let's get caught up!

Market goodies! It's been a while since I've been this excited about Market. I actually made a list this year! My LNS didn't have everything on my list, but they did have three of my favorites and I was tickled pink! I think Tiger Lily is just as interested in them as I am. Left to right: Antique Beasts & Birds by Elizabeth's Designs (I love the verse on this!); Here a Peep, There a Peep by Brenda Gervais (third in the series); Three Little Kittens by Ink Circles (love, Love, LOVE this one!).

Little paws on my linen... (I won't handle my linen unless I've washed my hands, but I let her walk on it. Go figure.)

I hadn't thought of this rhyme in years and years but when I saw this I was immediately transported back to my childhood. Of course I had to have it. The colors are scrumptious. 

A new Limited Edition GAST color: Cardinal

I adore these little oval designs Brenda Gervais is doing. So far there is a Christmas one and a Halloween one, and now this one. I changed some of the colors, and when I get it stitched I'll list my substitutions. I think I'll be stitching this one soon.

Like most of the rest of the Stitching Universe (it seems!), I'll be stitching LHN's Farmhouse Christmas series. I plan to stitch them individually, and I found this cute box at Michael's to store the set in once I've done the finishing.

When I started stitching 30 years ago, I would never have imagined being able to order kits from Moldova from a seller in Ukraine, and yet here we are. I could not resist these, and frankly, I didn't even try. Just look at that chubby, completely adorable little girl skating with Santa. I mean, c'mon. How cheerful is that design? And a baby fox in a dress? Please. 

Alright, now that we've drooled over new charts and threads, here are some practical goodies. Little bitty magnetic board, perfect for traveling or small projects. I don't know why I didn't already have one of these. So cute. It's about 5 1/2" x 7 1/2". The silver marking pencil is something I've been using for years on colored charts. I use colored pencils to keep track of my progress on my working copies and as a result, I almost never have to frog. When I do, it's never more than a few stitches. For colored charts, I use these silver marking pencils. The metallic lead shows up on them much better than regular colored pencils. And these 4" Fiskars embroidery scissors are my favorite. I got a pair last year and I love them so much I decided to get another pair. They have a very solid, sturdy feel, and they're inexpensive.

Finally, here are a couple of travel pill cases that I found at Jo-Ann Fabrics in one of their odds & ins bins. I thought they would be great for holding beads and charms and other little embellishments. They're about 3" x 2 1/2" and only 1/2" high, so they fit nicely into project bags without taking up much space. Perfect for traveling projects.

Now we're all caught up. I hope I'll be able to stitch and blog more regularly now. I've got a pretty long stitchy to-do list, but the first thing I have to do is excavate my sewing room. It looks like a bear has been in there looking for food. So that's my plan for this week. If y'all don't hear anything out of me by next week, send in the dogs.

09 March 2018

Christmas Gathering

This. design. nearly. drove. me. mad.

This is Christmas Gathering, from the December 2008 issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine. And yes, it's been on my to-do list for that long. I wasn't intimidated by its complexity--it's just fabric and thread; no need to be intimidated by cotton!--but I knew I would have to be in just the right frame of mind to tackle it. I stitch to relax, and I anticipated this would be... ahem... a less-than-relaxing project. I was correct. Oh boy, was I correct. The design is only 4 1/2" on 32 ct. linen, but the instructions filled an entire magazine page. Backstitching, straight stitching, beading, blended needles, highlights, layers, blending filament, fractional stitches, couching... it's all in there. That was very detailed work, but it wasn't what made me nuts. No, what made me nuts were all the mistakes in the chart, and the differences in the instructions and in the way the model was stitched, such that you couldn't tell whether the mistake was in the stitching or in the instructions. I ended up doing a lot of improvisation using the model photo as a guide, which was... not at all relaxing. By the time I finished the center of the design, I was so worn out with this project that I found myself wondering if I liked it better without the border. Knowing myself, I figured that was because I was at a stopping point, and not because I really liked it better without the border, so I put it in "time-out". After a couple of weeks, I forgave it (mostly) and decided to stitch the border, and here it is, all finished. It's stitched with DMC on 32 ct. Smokey White Belfast. There is blending filament in the snow on the ground, in the snowflakes in the greenery over the barn door, and in the couching that makes up the snowy roof line, but the camera isn't seeing it. It's beautifully sparkly.

I'll have a little more to say about working with blending filament in another post, but right now I'm just basking in the glory of having survived this project. And my next project will be super simple.

19 February 2018

Project Bags

I have a weakness for project bags, and have oodles, but only a couple of them are bags actually intended for stitching projects. All the rest of mine are re-purposed from other uses. My latest discovery is swimsuit bags and they are *perfect* project bags!

I found these at Tuesday Morning for $4 each.

They have a clear zipper pocket for tools and the main zipper pocket holds a pretty good-sized Q-snap. This one is about 8" x 9".

The large pocket has a waterproof lining, offering more protection for projects on the go.

Here's a little school supply bag I bought at Wal-Mart for $1. This one also has an outside zipper pocket for tools, and the main zipper pocket will hold an ornament-sized or slightly larger Q-snap. I popped this one in my bag for a trip to Texas and it was very convenient.

I love to use cosmetic bags for stitching projects. This one came from Target, but I've had it for so long I can't remember how much it cost. I do know that it was less than $10.

It holds a disassembled 6" Q-snap and all the necessary tools.

There are lots of beautiful project bags out there and many of them are pretty pricey. If you need a bag, but you're on a budget, keep your eyes open and think outside of the box (bag?) when you're out shopping. It's not hard to find cool, affordable project bags!

05 February 2018

Spring Bunny Wreath

I made up these variations of Just Nan's Honey Bunny almost five years ago, and every spring since then I've been putting them in my spring basket display, but they're so small they end up getting a bit lost. I decided to make a little wreath of spring grass and daisies for them.

For the wreath:

10" foam wreath form
eyelash yarn in spring green (two skeins, if skeins are small)
daisy chain trim (Jo Ann Fabrics)
yellow pearl head pins

Wrapping the wreath takes forever because in order to achieve maximum fluffiness, you have to wrap it tightly. It's a pretty mindless task, so put on your favorite movie or show and just sit and wrap. And wrap. And wrap. And wrap. (It will take you longer than one movie.) When you have to stop, just pin the yarn to keep it nice and tight and hold your place. 

I've had this daisy chain trim for so long I don't remember where I got it, but I have seen it at Jo Ann Fabrics recently. (Super fluffy wreath!)

Cut the daisies apart and pin them to the wreath. Decorate with your favorite spring critters, or perhaps some pretty colored eggs, hidden in the grass. (The daisy ribbon is from AC Moore.)

My color choices for these bunnies can be found in this post.

02 February 2018

You guys...

Look what just arrived in the mail, all the way from Australia! A super awesome Kraken Sea Monster Glow-in-the-Dark Needle Minder because wow why not?! I love this thing.

I always say one of the best things about stitching is all the toys that go with the hobby. Some stitchers have no use for toys, but I love them. Some would say, "Why does a needle minder need to glow in the dark if you can't stitch in the dark?" And I would say, "Why shouldn't it glow in the dark when we all know that glow-in-the-dark stuff is more fun than stuff that doesn't glow in the dark?" And who doesn't need more fun in their lives? And sea monsters. Who doesn't need more sea monsters? Well, sailors, I guess. But besides sailors...

The Etsy shop I purchased this needle minder from is UnconventionalX (I'd advise staying in the needle minder section).

23 January 2018

2017 Blog Book!

My 2017 Blog Book just arrived!

Information about these books and the service I use can be found in this post and there are more pictures in this post.