Saturday, January 31, 2009

Monkey Business Quilt... and Facebook

I just finished the piecing on this quilt top. It's called "Monkey Business" and is from the "Certifiably Crazy" book from the Buggy Barn.
I love the fabrics I used in this quilt: oranges, red, purple, browns, greens, and lots of different creams. Why use two fabrics when you can use 37?
BUT, I'm really disappointed with my piecing skills on it. I know I'm better than this - but I was cruising through just getting stuff done instead of enjoying it. This is an easy quilt and I don't think I have a single sharp point on there. Bleh. Yes, they always look better after being quilted but I'm not going to pay for fancy quilting on this when I disappointed with the way I pieced it. So we'll see. I'm sure after I pack it away and get it out in two or three months I'll think it looks better. :)
In finishing news, I finished a bag, a bag rework, a pillow, and an egg. Pictures to come later! Today was a busy day with a fun birthday party and oh my, I'm now on facebook. I can't promise I'll update it more than my blog but at least I can quickly look at other people's pages!
Travis really needs to stop shoving beads into his ears and nostrils. It's getting really old. The easiest way to get them out is to have him blow, if it's too tight you can use a drinking straw. But seriously, it's getting really, really old. The joy of being three!

A Stitch Each Week - Scotch Stitch

I love the Scotch Stitch. It gives such a smooth look to needlework, stitches up quickly, and is great with a wide variety of threads.

This sampler row is stitched in the Scotch Stitch and a few variations.

The basic Scotch Stitch is comprised of a set of diagonal Gobelin stitches worked to create a single square motif. This particular Scotch Stitch is over six canvas threads.

When worked in rows, Scotch Stitches can be worked immediately next to each other, or with empty threads between each Scotch Stitch. When the stitches are worked immediately next to each other it gives a solid, dense look to the stitching.

Alternating the direction of each Scotch Stitch forces the reflection of the light to change on the thread and adds the appearance of height.

Stitch each Scotch Stitch in the same direction gives a smoother appearance.

Scotch Stitches can be checkered by alternating the colors of the stitches, or by alternating a Scotch Stitch with a block of tent stitches. Work the tent stitch blocks in basketweave (bottom left block shows numbering) to minimize distortion of your needlework. These tent stitched blocks will appear further in the distance than the Scotch Stitch blocks.

Scotch Stitches can be grouped together to create a larger motif, such as the Scotch Cross Corner, from Stitches to Go, by Suzanne Howren and Beth Robertson.

The first step is to work a set of four Scotch Stitches, each over six threads, in alternating direction.

The next step is to use the same, or a contrasting thread as I did, and cross the corners of each Scotch Stitch with half of a second Scotch Stitch. This second stitch is worked in the opposite direction from the underlying stitch. The center of the motif could also be accented with a bead.

Another variation is to create a falsely shadowed Scotch Stitch. Stitch half of a Scotch Stitch, shown here in four threads, but complete the stitch with a triangle of tent stitches in a darker or contrasting color.

Some ideas for using the Scotch Stitch are as a border on a stitched piece, such as this tulip by Kay Fite, or worked in rows and accented with beads to create a sampler that could be used in ornaments, filling for backgrounds, or sampler rows.

TND "Scotch Stitch in Textural Whitework"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I do love to be organized...

I just bought some great new food storage trays. Likely it is because of my Utah upbringing that I feel the *need* to horde food. If I have it, at least I can keep it nicely organized and now it will auto-rotate as the cans roll down and to the front! :)

They have them on Amazon (where I originally saw them) in this model and a this is the one I almost bought - BUT, I found them at Costco and so bought them there. They're $22 in store and $30 ($60 for a two pack) with free shipping online. A bit of a pain to put together but it's done! :)

Thanks for the positive thoughts and e-mails on the CD. I'm going to hold onto it for now and just revisit it when I'm mentally ready.

Also, yes, I use a laying tool when stitching. I don't lay stitches if it's just one thread unless it's a flat thread like Rainbow Gallery Neon Rays or some of the metallic threads.

Marnie Ritter's "Scotch Ya!"...

This is the Workshop by Mail piece for the first half of 2009. Isn't it lovely?
Stitching notes are on my Marnie Ritter page -
You can order your own on the ANG website -

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A series of small calamities...

Nothing huge, just all bothersome.

Monday the girls usually have gymnastics in the mid-day. This is a class I arrange at a local gymnastics center for our homeschool group. We have between 14-17 kids each week. It's pretty fun, usually. They get to see their friends, work on gymnastics, and the Mom's chat. The coaching hasn't been the greatest lately and I've been disappointed - I could let them run around for free in the yard - I'm paying money so they can learn bars and balance beam and floor routines. Monday was the kicker though when the teacher canceled the class with no notice and then left when asked to come down and explain. There was a meet going on at another gym so the owner and office manager weren't there to intercede.

I did finally speak to the gym owner today and we will have a new coach next Monday. I'm giving it another week and in the meantime have been looking around at other gyms. There is another one out in Snohomish that we are going to try next week and we may end up going there. We'll see. It's been very stressful to discuss this with the 9 parents in the class and with the gym.

Back to Monday, after getting home from gymnastics (or lack of) Victoria slammed Madeline's hand in the bedroom door. It was very swollen with cuts across two of the knuckles. I called the pediatrician's office. Even though Victoria has been there and Travis has been there, Madeline has not. Therefore I couldn't talk to a nurse and the next appointment wasn't until Thursday. They recommended the Walk-In Clinic. I suppose I should either A. schedule Madeline for a well-child visit (because she hasn't been seriously sick, in, oh YEARS) or B. find a new pediatrician whose front desk isn't a guard station to the nurses. I do like the pediatrician so when we're off Cobra I'll go with A. I just hate having to pay money to hear my kid is healthy, you know? Just so I can get on the books and be allowed to talk to a nurse.

At the walk in clinic they did do X-rays since the cuts were right across the knuckles and they were all swollen. She is fine and the growth plates appear undamaged. I still remember the horrible story from The Friend magazine as a child about the kid who damaged his growth plates and had a child-sized hand for the rest of his life. (No offence to any people with little hands, it's just not something I would wish on my child, both Madeline with the little hand and Victoria knowing that she'd caused it.)

Later that evening I decided to go ahead and start updated my "Needlework: Stitch to Finish" book. I've been planning on distributing it in eBook format. (Don't get excited). It turns out the Word file on my computer is NOT the final file. At some point during the horrible time last spring that I call the Great Triple Crash of '08 I opened and looked through my book document and said "yep, that's the right one" but didn't scroll through the last 3o pages. Basically it's missing about 100 pages of information off the final version that was printed. And it was in color, so it's not like I could just scan a printed book to recreate the file.

The same "false" final backup was on our desktop and Brad's computer.

On Tuesday morning I went to the safe deposit box because I *knew* there was a final copy of the book on a CD/DVD in there, created before all the crashes. Well, the fucking CD won't open in Vista. I could *try* and pay a data recovery service but I'm looking at a minimum of $50 to upwards of $400 to *try* and recover the file from the CD. When opened in XP it wants me to format the disc.

Sigh. Many tears last night and I just went to bed around 8 p.m. Today I'm irritated but I have a greater sense of peace about it. Yes, it was an awesome book. It really was. I'm sad that it is gone and I'm mad because I went to the trouble of backing it up - it's the whole reason we have a safe deposit box. I was mad at myself because I didn't, somehow, keep the final file. Anyway, I could go on and on but I learned long ago that one just has to sometime let stuff go.

Today was a better day. We did lessons and I took Victoria to ballet and Madeline, Travis and I went to the store and she bought a little puzzle book and some spangle trim. I'm going to quilt a bit tonight and finish my color drawing the the MTP section I'm working on.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Travis!

I cannot believe you are three today! Surely you were just born... You are such a big boy now - running and jumping. You can count to twelve and sing about half the alphabet. You love to play with your sisters and would follow Madeline anywhere.

I made you a really fun cake today. About 20 cupcakes were arranged in the shape of a football and frosted as one, with chocolate frosting and white stripes for the ends and laces. It even said "Happy 3rd, Travis" Of course, I'm not sure if you actually looked at it when you snuck into the kitchen and went wild in the frosting. When you then cleaned your hands of the frosting all over the bedroom carpet, whee!

May this year be the year of less messes and more "listening to Mama". You sneak into the kitchen and thus I've cleaned up countless eggs, spilled gallons of milk, orange juice, ice, flour, vanilla, pasta, syrup, and sugar. The vanilla on the carpet was the worst, suprisingly. We won't discuss non-foodstuffs.

Anyway, happy birthday, baby boy.

Royal Santa by Amanda Lawford #6

Just a quick update... it's coming along. Brad is trying to make a bet that I'll finish it by the end of March but I'm pretty sure that won't happen. There is lots done but LOTS of background. :)

The quiver is stitched in Diagonal Mosaic in Impressions with the scrolls stitched in tent stitch with floss and Kreinik metallic. The top border is Rainbow Gallery Soft Sheen Fyre Werks in a diagonal Gobelin. The arrow feathers are stitched in long straight stitches of Caron Watercolors. The bow is stitched in Caron Snow in a random stem stitch. The string is couched Snow.

The jester is finished - lots of fun stitches on this guy.

Want to see what four hours of french knots looks like? These are stitched in #12 Kreinik metallic.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Life marching onwards...

I've been busy, but not overwhelmingly so. Just the continued shedule after a nice break for the holidays. The girls have their few activities - Victoria will "graduate" from speech therapy this week - yay! Madeline will continue onwards and will go for one hour instead of 45 minutes.

We've been consistent with their lessons as well so that keeps us busy. We started a Logic program with Victoria this week; she thinks it's "fun" and I suppose it would be. Like the child needs more lessons in how to argue.

I've been doing a bit more odds and ends for people. This week I made curtains for a neighbors' living room and I've been doing some Outlook work for another person. I like the odds and ends - they get me out of the house and bring in some small income. I have a few finishing projects I need to get completed and I'm hoping my Master Teacher stuff will get back soon so I can get stitching on that. I have another line drawing I need to submit as well....

We went to the zoo today and it was *supposed* to be in the low 50's. It was absolutely frigid. Bleh. Better cold than snow, though! The animals were out and about but we went through the insect and reptile houses where it was nice and warm.

Yesterday was book report lunch. Madeline showed her bead fusing craft that she made. Victoria presented a two-page report about Bill and Hillary Clinton. She did a great job. She loves to learn about the US Presidents and devours pretty much any biography at the library. I'm thrilled that they gave them their own [large] section. She also likes to read about the first ladies and of course leaders from other countries or from history, ie Constantine, etc.

I went to a presentation on Tuesday night about homeschooling through high school and how, in addition to the bookwork done with textbooks or in science classes, you keep track of the time and effort your child spends on independent interests. Therefore since Victoria spends at least 5 hours a week reading about the presidents after 8 months I could say she earned 1 credit on U.S. Politics. ;-) Studying the Egyptians for months at a time like Madeline does would be Ancient Egyptian History. It was a fun presentation - of course some of the laws will be varied slightly by the time we get to that stage but in truth she will need a transcript in, oh 7 years. She's over half way there! ;-)

Anyway, tonight I have a headache so I'm going to play Playmobil with the kids and perhaps stitch a bit later. Tomorrow I'm going to a client's house to help her type and format a personal cookbook. Fun! :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Stitch Each Week - Cross Stitch

Ah, the cross-stitch. The building block of an entire category of needlework...

Now, I could just put on this one diagram and say "There you go, the cross-stitch!" Stitch one leg, then the other, to create a square. Follow a chart by matching the symbol to the correct thread, and stitch a cross-stitch in each square. Soon what could be called pointillism will create a beautiful design.

If I did that though, would you be satisfied?

Cross-stitch is simple, cross-stitch designs can be simple or complicated. Your time stitching is valuable. DON'T stitch on things you don't truly love. Don't stitch gifts for ungrateful relatives or teachers that won't appreciate them. Don't stitch holiday cards for people unless you know they're going to save them.

DO stitch on things that you love. Do treat every piece of needlework you create as a possible future heirloom.

Now that I'm slipping off my soapbox, let's move on.

I'm asked often how I stitch things so quickly. First I'll say that I am rarely without a piece available to stitch. I stitch at the ballet library, watching the girls at gymnastics or swimming, while watching TV at home, in the car if I'm stuck in traffic, etc. Every stitch you put in is one more towards your goal.

When I stitch, I use longer-than-average lengths of threads. I work with the needle almost half-way down the length, gradually moving the needle towards the end as I use the thread. This means I have to end (and start) a new length less often. For most threads, this is fine. On some of the specialty threads such as Rainbow Gallery Very Velvet or Neon Rays the thread will break or fray if I use the longer lengths so they are the exception.

My actual cross-stitch may be different from yours as well. In my experience it's split almost half way between which direction the stitch is crossed. These directions are for the way I cross-stitches - I think they work better for right-handed stitchers. If you are left handed, try reversing the stitch and see if it works for you.
When I stitch a cross-stitch piece, I "scoop" the needle in the fabric. The needle goes down partway in the fabric, moves over two threads, and comes back up at the next leg of the stitch. I then pull the needle through, and pull through completely. The working thread never drapes over the back of the fabric entirely. This saves time on pulling through as well as poking the needle around to find the correct hole. I move across the row right to left. Of course this does mean that my working hand would be brushing across the top of the stitched threads, but I am careful to not rest my hand on the piece. Working from right to left also means that the needle is going down in the occupied hole and coming up in an unoccupied hole. This pulls excess fiber to the back of the piece, means that you don't split already stitched threads, and gives a smoother appearance.
When I have larger areas of cross-stitch to fill, I work in columns right to left. I make "bottom" legs of the cross-stitches down the entire column and work my way back up. All the previous advantages still apply.
When a square (or several) are skipped, skip right over those areas, still working in columns. An important time-saver for me is to memorize small parts of my chart. I'm not saying I wake up at three a.m. mumbling "need to stitch five, skip two, eleven, skip four". When I'm awake and stitching, that's the stream of conciousness in my head. At guild I will be chatty but once I start stitch, my conversation drops off. I am able to listen, count, and stitch, but I can't add in talking to that!
To explain further: I will look at a chart, counting the upcoming row. In the below example I'll think "Stitch five" then glance over to the next column and see that it has a series of three stitches with two stitches separating it. In my head I'll now be thinking "Stitch five, then one-one-one" and will proceed to stitch that.

A more difficult example would be this. In my head I'll think "Stitch five, two rows of one-one-one, then five."

Most of the Mirabilia patterns have great swaths of color. I'll count once or twice the first row, which may be as many as 25 stitches. I'll stitch the first column for a base. Then the adjacent rows will be counted off that first row. Thoughts will be "Stitch 10, skip five, stitch four, skip one, stitch three. Next column is solid but two up." Two up, meaning that is ends two stitches higher than the previous row.
After the first color is stitched is is much easier to go in an fill a second or third color.

I stitch all of my pieces in this manner, from Teresa Wentlers' to Mirabilias' to my own designs. With time it becomes quick and the tension is smooth.
Now, since we do all love a simple sampler motif, please feel free to stitch this one.

Copyright 2008 Summer Louise Truswell
It is stitched in two colors of Kreinik metallic thread. The cross stitches are over two threads with one strand of metallic. Back stitch is with one strand metallic. The outlaying backstitch outline is backstitched in copper and then brown was used to whipstitch the backstitching, creating the look of a tiny twisted cording. Design count is 22 x 22.
I was inspired to create this design after thumbing through The Sampler Motif Book
by Brenda Keyes. This 122-page book includes dozens (hundreds?) of little sampler motifs perfect to use in your own pieces. There are also some beautiful "ready-to-stitch" projects, including spot and band samplers, a blackwork sampler, needlecases, and a strong Carnation pillow design. I've had this book for a few years and it's one that has stayed in my stash through numerous rounds of decluttering. Every time I thumb through it I see a project that I want to stitch someday, so it goes back on the shelf! Soon I *will* stitch something from it!

Royal Santa by Amanda Lawford #5

Quite a bit of stitching has been going on with this beautiful piece!

Right now I'm working on the jester. He's primarily in basketweave.

I finished the knight to the left of Santa's shoulder. All I could think while stitching him was various Monty Python songs. The plume is in Rainbow Gallery Very Velvet and Medici Wool. The feather is Medici Wool. The knight's armor is stitched in Kreinik metallic threads.

The belt buckle is comprised entirely of size 14 seed beads in six different colors. It is framed in gold metallic thread. The belt is long stitches laid in lighter Anchor threads.

The bottom of the coat is stitched in oh, goodness, what's that stitch called... Cashmere stitch.

The opening of the cloak is stitched in the same way. Note how blending the colors in the needle gives a completely different look in shading.

Right mitten - stitched in Silk N Ivory with Encroaching Gobelin.

Left mitten, same stitch reversed, same thread.

Victoria and Swim Team...

I mentioned a while ago that Victoria has been looking forward to being on swim team. She's been swimming for several years now and after a try out made it onto the team. It's a big team - over 100 kids - but she's in a group with other children her age. She's excited to be with some of her old friends and it's good that she's working out another day a week. The kid is never tired.
Anyway, with the joining of the team, she received a set of new workout clothes which I machine embroidered with her name. The majority of the kids get theirs embroidered as apparently it keeps down on the theft (!) so it was nice I was able to do it myself.

The other side of the jacket says the name of the team but it is covered for privacy reasons.

Easel Finishing...

This stand-up design is finished into an easel. It is finished with matching blue silk dupioni and accented with twisted cording from threads leftover from the design.

Wreath Finishing...

This cross-stitch design is finished as a circular wreath. The back is flat and the front is padded. It is finished with green velvet and green twisted cording.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mirabilia's Poppy...

I wanted to start the year off with a quick finish. This is Poppy from the Pixie Couture Collection, designed by Nora Corbett of Mirabilia. It is stitched on 32 count linen in DMC floss, Kreinik metallic thread, and Mill Hill Seed Beads.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Stitch Each Week - Guilloche Stitch

I was inspired to try this stitch after seeing it in the book Embroidery with Wool: 40 Decorative Designs for the Contemporary Home
by Mary Norden. This book has lots of different projects, all stitched in crewel wool on a variety of ground materials. In the book this stitch was used along the bottom edges of a table runner, and also as parallel curves on a throw pillow.

The Guilloche Stitch is interesting because it may be worked on either a straight or a curved line. The stitch itself can be either very precise or more uneven, as desired. It can be stitched in a single color or two or more colors.

The first step is to work a series of satin stitches. These satin stitches will be the anchors for the weaving stitch. If the satin stitches are closer together the circles will be smaller; if they are further apart the circles will be larger.
Step two is to bring your second thread (which can be the same or secondary color) up underneath the first set of satin stitches. Keeping your working thread on the front of the fabric, weave the thread underneath the satin stitches. Weave to the end of the row. This creates a beautiful scallop pattern and could actually be left this way for a variation stitch.
Step three is to weave the working thread back to the beginning. Take this opportunity to manipulate the thread so that you are happy with the shape of your circles. Move the thread back to the back of the fabric and secure the end.
Step four can be to accent the center of each circle. This can be completed with a french knot, a cross-stitch, or a bead. The example below shows a bead.
To work the Guilloche Stitch on a wave or circle, first trace the pattern onto the fabric. This may be done with dressmakers chalk, a marking pen, or for the cheaters (like me) you can simple trace the desired shape on the *back* of the fabric with a permanent thin pen. I then stitch on the front as normal but life the fabric to the light before I make each stitch to make sure it is following the pattern. If I were being truly picky I would use a ruler to mark points to make sure that my satin stitches are evenly stitched before working them.
Some other ideas for this stitch would be using silk ribbon on the edge of a pillowcase, pearl cotton on the hem or neckline of a shirt, or along the collar of a dress jacket in a matching wool.