July 30, 2006

French Blue

I started stitching the project I bought in France, with the floss supplied, and discovered that it was not only not colorfast, but the color was rubbing off onto everything. This called for an immediate quest for different floss to the LNS, Everything Cross Stitch, in Fredericksburg, where I purchased two skeins of Needlepoint Silk, Color 747, "French Blue Range." It's wonderful to use, with a pretty sheen and soft hand. Best of all, it doesn't bleed French Blue color over everything it touches. The only problem is that two skeins won't even begin to do it; I'm going to have to order some more from somewhere. The LNS wasn't sure when they'd get their next order, and seeing as I've used the better part of a skein already, I'm going to need it sooner rather than later. There is always the possibility of a slight color variation because of a different dye lot, but I can live with that.

The design itself is a fairly quick stitch--or so I thought. I hadn't paid that much attention to the color photo of it, and they didn't have a model hanging in the shop where I bought it. So imagine my surprise when BF said casually "that's going to take you forever."

"I don't think so," I replied, "look how fast this first panel is coming."
"Yeah," he said, "but what about all that extra stitching over the top?"

Aaak! Extra stitching? It seems that the design, when it is finished, receives a top-dressing of back stitches. I never noticed. Imagine a sheet of graph paper superimposed over the design, with each grid stitched in with a single ply of the silk, the effect being of looking at a scene through a screen. Yup; endless backstitching. The instructions, written in three languages, don't refer to the backstitching at all, which is a rather critical detail to leave out, don't you think? The English instructions say: "Use 2 strands of floss among the 6 twisted strands"; the French instructions include a clause that the English instructions don't have ("sauf indication contraire"--unless otherwise indicated), but nowhere is there a reference to all that backstitching. The instrustions also say, "Once you have finished, wash your work delicately and then iron it humid backside."

It's 97 degrees out, but I'm stitching under the ceiling fan, in an air-conditioned house. Let us be thankful to Willis Carrier, who invented the air conditioner. These look cool, don't they?

This is Yazziebear who says she worries about having a humid backside:

July 27, 2006

Git Yer Cats!

I fished out a small WIP and finished it at work this week. It was fun to finish something, even though it is such a small project. It's called "The Cat's Meow" and it's by the Drawn Thread. If anyone would like to have the chart, leave your name in the comments, and I'll be happy to drop it in the mail to you.

Speaking of cats, I spied a face on Needles in My Sleeve which looked awfully reminiscent of my kitty, Little Friend. We called her that because she used to come visit our backyard, where we put out food for any kitty who seems to be in need (which is how we've wound up with six kitties). Seems a former neighbor moved away and abandoned Little Friend. We bought her a heated dog house for the winter, brushed her hair and fed her. One day, though, Little Friend disappeared. We were worried, because she'd always stuck close to our yard (we hadn't brought her indoors because we already had four in residence). Several days later we found her under the tarp on the woodpile, nearly dead, with horrible wounds on her back feet. We took her to the vet, and 3 weeks later, we had a new cat--a cat minus six of her back toes. You wouldn't know it to look at her though; her balance is fine, and her long hair covers her feet.

This is Scratchy. I'd so much like to find a home for Scratchy. He was similarly abandoned, and we have been feeding him in the yard also. But we can't bring him inside, although he'd desperately like to come (he comes to the window and looks inside even after a meal). He's cuddly, and being part Siamese, is a tad talky, but not loud. He seems so wistful. We've got two other boy kitties, who, despite being neutered, have territory issues, and we don't think we can introduce a third boy to the mix. So, does anyone want to adopt Scratchy? We'll pay to have him neutered, bathed and groomed and all his shots, as well as a health check. And as long as you're somewhere within a reasonable drive (eastern seaboard), I'll even bring him to you.

Anyone? Anyone? Something tells me I'll have an easier time giving away the chart.

July 25, 2006

Is it Real...or is it a Sampler?

After I visited my parents on the Cape, I pulled out my WIP of the Falmouth Sampler:

Now here's the picture that I shot from the Village Green:

Here's the picture (again) of the project:

And here's the real-life church in the left-hand bottom corner:

I'm glad Ms. Medeiros left the power lines out of the sampler.

July 24, 2006

Planes and Trains and Automobiles: What I did on My (Two-Day) Summer Vacation

Friday I took a subway, a train, a shuttle bus, a plane, then a rental car, tore around for 48 too-brief hours, and reversed it all this morning, getting to work only one hour late even though I nearly had a heart attack when I realized that there were a few hundred people in line ahead of me at the security checkpoint at the Providence airport this morning--before 6 a.m. My heart went out to the poor man begging the security guards to allow him to jump the line since his flight was already boarding. They said "nope."

And Mom packed me a lunch for work! (Thanks, Mom!)

First we did this:

Then moved on to this garden: unbelievable.

If you look closely in the window of this house, there's a chair by the window to take advantage of the view of the gorgeous flowers (which is a commercial garden set in the front yard of a private home). I am hoping that whoever sits here has some needlework to do. (And that's the closest I can come to a needlework report today, since we didn't have much time for crafting--but I'll have some shots of WIPs and some progress to report next time.)

Some of these daylilies were $100 per plant--I never knew they could be that expensive. I was worried about tripping and inadvertently crushing something...

If you can't have the sun, here's the next best thing:

"Eeek! Did someone say harpoon?"

July 21, 2006

Cape Cod Girls, they Have No Combs/They Comb Their Hair with Codfish Bones

Cape Cod boys, they have no sleds/They slide down hills on codfish heads.

An artist has illustrated those lines wonderfully; I wish she would design a sampler for them!

I'm off to Cape Cod this weekend, to visit my parents. I'm bringing along HoHRH in case I have time to stitch over the two days. I'm hoping I can get a couple of pictures of Mom's WIPs (all knitting); she can be my "guest artist"--LOL. And I'm happy to say that the town my parents live in actually has a commemorative sampler. It's by Medeiros Needlecraft Design, and it's called "Falmouth Sampler," and it is one of my many WIPs (photos of my progress on it to follow next week):

It's a fairly faithful depiction of the area around the village green. I think Carol has relatives in Falmouth also. What the town needs though, is an LNS. I am particularly fond of the cranberry border, since I collect (surprise) cranberry-themed samplers. When I was a little kid, the Falmouth National Bank, which is on that same village green, used to have a big water cooler full of chilled Ocean Spray cranberry juice. Now that I know how one hand washes the other in the business world, I don't find it particularly amazing, because I'm sure OS was a bank customer, but at the time, I was simply thrilled at the prospect of going to the bank once a week (way before ATMs and drive-through windows and electronic banking) and having a Dixie cup full of free juice. I'm fairly certain the juice tasted better then too.

I bought this book to take on the plane. It's by the same author as The Simple Plan and it looks terrific, about a vacation gone quite horribly, frighteningly awry:

I'll leave you with my latest progress on HoHRH:

Have a good weekend, everyone!

July 19, 2006

Travel Stitching and An Unauspicious Start

As I mentioned in my last post, last year I had abundant time to stitch while my evenings were blissfully free of chores and responsibilities, because living in a hotel means not having to do much for yourself. No beds to make? Stitch! No floors to vacuum? Stitch and knit! Work was never more than 10 blocks away, so there was virtually no commute time, and I could even go "home" and stitch at lunch. Heavenly.

This is one of the projects I worked on while I traveled (more to come as I dig them out). It is an out-of-print leaflet called "Autumn Samplers" from The Prairie Schooler. I saw this as a framed model in my LNS and had to have it because of the squirrels. At the moment, my lone squirrel looks like roadkill because he's not finished.

Travel is a great time for stitching, but as I probably don't have to tell you, it's also a great time for acquiring new stash. In February I took my first-ever trip to Paris--solo--and with no one to please but myself, the very first thing I did was to go stash-shopping. There was a wonderful needlework shop, Celimene Pompon, just three blocks from my hotel. So within four hours of my arrival in Paris, I purchased this:

It's by a company called Compagnie des Ouvrages and it came packed up as a kit which seems to be more common in Europe--and more expensive--than being able to buy something just as a chart. And an awful lot of European kits have marvelous designs and nice thread and a big clunker of a piece of aida cloth to go with it. No offense to those folks who like aida, but you just can't beat a nice cut of sweet, not-too-firm, not-too-loosely-woven, not-too-vegetably/fibrous/slubby linen (I have an annoying slub on my HoHRH linen that sticks out of my gold house like a wart). This kit actually came with a nice piece of linen, plus gorgeous blue thread of some sort (not DMC, but something a little richer, maybe something hand-dyed?). The thread wasn't identified in any way--there was just a big hank of it tied with a pretty white ribbon. I've been so anxious to do this project. I believe it's Aesop's fables. So I got it out today at lunch and as I stitched, I decided I didn't like the two-over-two, and then tried one-over-one. As I picked out the little patch I'd stitched, I noticed two things: that the dye from the thread had already stained the fabric blue and that it had also died my fingers. My hands weren't sweaty, and I hadn't gotten anything wet (except for the tip of the thread that I wet in order to thread the needle). No way I'm using this thread if it's going to smudge everything in the vicinity. I understand that lots of fibers aren't color-fast but I've never had any bleed while I worked with them. So off I go to the LNS to find something more suitable. I spent the rest of my lunch hour working on HoHRH instead. Serves me right for starting yet another project.

Despite this setback, I still love the project and look forward to stitching it. I've noticed a lot of interesting developments in French stitchery, especially on some of the French blog sites I look at (I won't say "read" because my French is pretty poor and it takes a lot of time to figure out what's being said.) But I can enjoy the pictures!

July 18, 2006

A New York Minute--or Two

I received a photo of these printed sheets, which are called In a New York Minute, in an email from Garnet Hill the other day. It's traditional white-sale time and is there anything better than a brand-new pair of crisp sheets and pillowcases in July? Well, yeah, maybe a new needlework project, but new sheets are close. Normally I'm an ecru or white-sheet person. Maybe with some embroidery but no scratchy lace, thank you. (On a side note, have you ever seen or attempted the sheet-hem embroidery in the Australian Inspirations magazines? What an aptly-named magazine--I just salivate.) And I'm a high-thread-count snob too; I suppose it's just part of my appreciation of anything textile-related or anything that feels good next to the skin (and maybe it's a reaction to having slept between thick, gray, pilled flannel sheets in my Vermont grandparents' home; I can still feel those harshly utilitarian things). But I got a kick out of the NY sheets, and they made me nostalgic.

Last year I spent the better part of six months living in a variety of hotels in New York. The job I had, doing securities and financial investigations with a consulting firm, allowed me to rub shoulders with the Country-Club Crooks--the best and brightest in the growing field of Corporate Book-Cooking and Financial Finagling. I'd fly from DC every Monday morning and fly back Thursday or Friday night. The NY picture is from my office. I adored New York, and, despite a chronic case of homesickness, I enjoyed having free time in the evening (no dinner to make, no floors to vacuum, no cat vomit to swab!) for exploring and then Chinese food and needlework back in the hotel room. One problem was that the 40-watt bulb industry is busy churning out lights for hotel rooms. The very worst place was the W hotel, which provided a stingy three lamps with dim bulbs, a charcoal-gray carpet and gray walls--great for hiding dirt perhaps, but not ideal for needlework. It also helped to have a room on a high floor to avoid, even during the daylight hours, the perpetual twilight caused by the surrounding buildings.

The other problem was that while midtown Manhattan has plenty of knitting shops, there were no needlework shops, at least that I could find. So if I broke or lost a needle, or forgot something at home, I was out of luck. I spent more time knitting than doing needlework (and I couldn't find those couple of needlework WIPs to photgraph last night--pictures later). This picture is of an afghan I worked on--am still working on--from the Debbie Bliss Simple Living book, done in Cashmerino Aran, which is a dreamily soft combination of merino wool, cashmere and microfiber.

I'm not the most proficient knitter, and I really prefer counted cross stitch, but from time to time I tackle a knitting project or two or three. Knitting for me involves much more head-scratching about the directions, more frogging and tinking, more perplexing decisions, particularly involving something that actually has to fit. And yes, there's a quicker product in some ways, but I think it's less interesting. With knitting there's this big, bland landscape and then a set of hair-raising technical details that can make or break your project and ruin your chances of ever wearing something you've spent about a thousand hours on. With cross-stitch mostly, the colors change (unless you're doing a one-color sampler) or the design does, so there's generally something to look forward to. Then again, you can't pull a finished sampler on when you're chilly.

As we research hotels for our Quebec City vacation this fall, I am mindful of the lighting issue. I don't know about you, but I take my needlework with me on vacation; there are only so many hours I can be up on my feet exploring a place. We found a nice hotel we thought we might like, and then when I went onto the Tripadvisor site to check it out, one reviewer's summary killed it: "room too dark." So I'll find another hotel, and in the meantime, if anyone knows of any good needlework shops in QC, let me know!

July 16, 2006

My Exurban Garden--Cherry Tomatoes and Ladybugs

We planted two pots of bush cherry tomatoes this year, put two in the ground and planted ten heirloom regular tomato plants. They're beginning to come in now, the cherries first, as always. So good eaten warm right off the bush. The horn worms seem to leave them alone. Wouldn't you think little bitty tomatoes would have little bitty horn worms?

Yesterday I worked mostly on the lady bugs. Hard to believe this is all I accomplished, but the little bugs are extremely time-consuming. This one little bug required following four separate charts and the use of my gooseneck magnifying glass clipped onto the embroidery hoop to see the stitches (normally I use Q-snaps, but the clip on the glass doesn't open wide enough for that). He's not quite finished; he's missing some legs yet and needs to have his head defined with backstitching. And more backstitching on his body. I'm having a blast with this little project; as I stitch, it gets more and more layers, so it isn't spreading out but rather, coming into focus. What looks like camera flash on the left-hand side of the bug's body is actually the effect of the white and blended stitches. The most difficult thing about this design is making sure all the stitches on the pattern are filled in; it's hard to see if you have done so because it's so small, so it's easy to lose track.

I took some time off today to do some much-needed hemming on some pants I had bought, since they've been hanging in the closet unworn. My mother taught me to sew, and I have always been grateful for the ability, but I don't much enjoy it. It feels like drudgery, but I can't bring myself to pay a tailor or the drycleaner to do it. I'd rather scrub the kitchen floor, which is next on my list of to-do items to accomplish today.

July 15, 2006

My (Work) Neighborhood

Here's a picture of my work neighborhood. The closest building with all the white chimneys (looks like something out of a Just Nan chart, or a Carriage House Samplings design, doesn't it?) is the Old Executive Office Building. The grove of trees just behind it are the trees on the White House lawn. Beyond that, in the background, is the Capitol. Our weather lately has not been outstanding (in fact, it's been a typically grumpy Washington summer), so here's a picture of the Washington Monument when the cherry blossoms were in bloom on a sunny day. Looks like the monument is wearing a tutu, doesn't it?

I work for Big Law. This is what Big Law does on Fridays:

And finally,

this is what I did on Friday. It's a Sheepish Designs sampler called "Kittys." It's being worked on 36 count R&R Reproductions Blackbird linen using Weeks Dye Works floss. I missed working on HoHRH (my usual neighborhood), but I had a bunch of other stuff to stick in my backpack, so I took something small and light to stitch.

July 13, 2006

Another Start

My apologies--I'm still struggling with aspects of blogging, so I've recrafted this--in case you've read part of this text before. But I've got a new picture to go with it!

When I was in my LNS over the weekend, I spotted this lovely sampler with its accompanying accessory pack, which wound up being part of the specialty fibers (Au ver a Soie, silk ribbon, Kreinik braid, Kreinik Silk mori and beads and pearls), although not all of them. Odd--I'd have packaged it all up had I been the manufacturer or the shop (wherever such things get done). So I purchased four spools of something called Trebizond which is a thick silk fiber with a glorious sheen, and two different balls of DMC Perle Cotton as well as 28 count platinum cashel and a collection of needles.

While I was in the shop, I met a lovely young married couple. The young man appeared to be assisting his wife in choosing projects. I remarked that I thought it was really nice that he'd give input and she told me that he was choosing projects for himself, that she'd taught him to stitch and he'd turned into a better stitcher than she. In fact, he'd won some ribbons for his work at various shows. It tickled me no end--although I have to wonder if he tells his male friends that he does this, or hauls his WIP to work as I do. Why not though? My BF, on the other hand, acts as if the needlework shop gives him a rash, and he rushes out for a restorative beer while I shop (a fair exchange, since it keeps him out of my hair).

In fact, the sampler is for us (we'll get married one of these days, just as the sampler will be finished one of these days; heck, after living together 12 years, I don't figure there's any great rush for either one, although we've talked vaguely about next year...sometime.) Maybe in Scotland. Maybe on Cape Cod, where my parents live, on the beach (I hate shoes and the thought of a barefoot wedding is appealing--or maybe I could have custom-decorated flip-flops). Just not in the backyard of our home, BF implores me, with the garbage cans and the yellow jackets and the stubby rose bushes. Pity. I was going to whip up little tulle skirts for the garbage cans. And I was thinking I'd have the yellow jackets and bumblebees dress me and hold my veil, the way the little bluebirds did for the cartoon version of Snow White (or was it Cinderella?).

The sampler is a surprise for BF, who, I have to admit, would probably prefer to have a flat screen tv. LOL. I don't harbor any notions that he's likely to pick up a needle though, after we're married. But then, I don't intend to pick up a wrench and work on our cars, either.

July 12, 2006

HoHRH and Mini Ladybugs

I've finally gotten started on the blogrolling, even though the heading looks a bit funky. There are so many blogs that I read regularly and which have inspired me to take up the needle more frequently, and haul various projects to work. I've been thinking that I need to buy some extra scissors and needles and whatnot and leave them in my desk so that I don't have to stuff them in my bag and tote them along. Not counting the extra stash I've bought, it's been kind of economical to stitch at lunch rather than go out. I pack a lunch now so that I don't waste time in line somewhere waiting for a sandwich, and now I'm not haunting Borders either, buying books and CDs and magazines.

Even so, I haven't got tons of results to show for my efforts. I've stitched a bit more on HoHRH, so it's progressing. And here's a picture of a really fun and intricate kit I bought (via the net) at The Silver Needle. I hadn't seen it anywhere else, and ran into it on their website. It's stitched over one on Glenshee Natural 32 count linen using DMC floss and Kreinik braid. There are about 5 sheets of stitching instructions and diagrams for these six tiny bugs. There are lots of blended threads, backstitching and fractional stitches, so even though the completed design is 4.7 x 4.1 inches, it will take as long to stitch this as it would a much larger project. It's fun, but you definitely need good light and rested eyes to do it! I love the folks at The Silver Needle too; they called after I placed my order to say that it would be delayed for two days so that I wouldn't worry about it. The designer of Mini Ladybugs I, Dimples Designs, apparently now has released Mini Ladybugs II also.

July 10, 2006

Thanks to China and India

This long line of people is the slug line at my commuter lot, waiting to pick up a free ride into town. How it works if you don't live in the DC metro area: a willing rider stands at a designated spot waiting for a car going into the area of town in which he or she works. (Yes, it really is a hitch-hiking in your work clothes.) A car with three people in it, including the driver, can use the HOV lanes, which generally move faster than the usual bogged-down commuter route into DC. The driver benefits by being able to use the HOV lanes and arrive at work faster; a rider benefits by getting a free ride. In the past there was an equilibrium of sorts, with seemingly enough cars for the number of riders available. But lately, because of the global demand for oil, among other things, there appear to be many more riders than cars to convey them. Fewer people are driving--regular gas was $2.95 at Wawa today--and more people are becoming riders to save money. Hence the long lines.

What to do then? Well, my needlework and I choose the bus. For some reason, I can't do cross stitch in the car; it makes me queasy. Something is different enough about the bus that allows me to continue stitching, unless the ride gets really fast and bumpy, jiggling the fabric too much. And quite frankly, although I'm not the best driver in the world--quite the contrary--there are other drivers who are worse. I was in a car that nearly had an accident one morning and resolved not to put myself at risk again. I didn't do much on the bus today, though. The windows were tinted a bronze color that distorted colors inside the bus, so I just settled back with the satellite radio and caught a nap instead. So this is what I accomplished at lunch--just some of the ecru stitching details around the edges of the gold house.

July 09, 2006

Houses of Hawk Run Hollow

Here's the Houses of Hawk Run Hollow, which lately is preventing progress on much of my other needlework. There's the unfinished sweater languishing on the coffee table, cross stitch projects in bags, in cabinets, in drawers, overflowing the special containers I bought to contain them. The problem is, it's my enthusiasm that needs to be contained. Yesterday I went to my favorite LNS in Fredericksburg, Everything Cross Stitch, just to pick up a couple of skeins of the increasingly hard to find soie d'alger for HOHRH, and I came out with yet another project. I'll show you a picture of that later. Time for bed, I think.

The Bunnyman (shown here eating his favorite meal of spring dandelions; this picture was taken in early April) says "Goodnight! You should spend more time petting me and less time stitching..."

La Famille Lapin

This is a test. Here's my first work in progress: La Famille Lapin. I love this project, and I'm not sure why I haven't worked on it lately. Oh. Yes, I am: It's the Houses of Hawk Run Hollow...
Welcome to my blog!

I'm an avid needleworker and have lots of pictures to show you of my works in progress. I am hoping that the show-and-tell aspect of this will spur me to actually complete something once in a while!