August 31, 2006

Water Water Everywhere

Ernesto is on his way to pay us a visit it seems. He's supposed to make landfall in the Carolinas last I heard and then scamper on up the coast. In any event, we will probably get a lot of much-needed rain, although as they say, perhaps we don't need it all at once. And it may delay my plans to drive up to the Cape this weekend. We'll see; I can smell salt in the air, which is unusual this far inland. Smells like the Cape now; only the sound of the foghorn is missing.

Here's some more ocean, from my progress on Whale Hunting. I've been enjoying stitching the water, and since it makes up a lot of the picture, I'm getting the majority of it out of the way before I take on the other details. I figure when I get thoroughly sick of stitching ocean, I can work on the blueberry bushes or the sailboat as a reward.

I took a break from stitching at lunch today to buy some vacation necessities: this new book, which once again is about a vacation gone wrong (I read a vacation-gone-wrong book on my last trip to the Cape, but the story was only middling, relying as it did on a man-eating plant for pity's sake--I hate it when a really good author (Stephen King comes to mind) relies on the supernatural to develop story when there's more than enough real-life horror to go around) and some CDs for the trip (the Beach Boys, the Doobies and a new Vivaldi recording among them).

There's lots of potential in the story of two couples, one with a child, vacationing in a cottage on Vancouver Island, watched by a local caretaker. There are professional and personal strains, and then someone goes missing... I love that it takes place on Vancouver Island, where we spent a very memorable vacation, amongst some of the most beautiful yet forbidding scenery I've ever laid eyes on. The hotel (the Wickaninnish Inn), is situated on the rocks directly on the Pacific Ocean; the waves crash against the base of the hotel, which I found disconcerting at night. For the same reason, I have never been able to figure out why people would find vacationing in huts on stilts set in the water in Fiji appealing. I find being surrounded by water frightening, personally. Anyway, on the west coast of Vancouver Island there are two kinds of signs on the beach, which say either "Don't turn your back on the ocean," or "Keep pets on a leash because of wildlife." Seems if the rogue waves don't get you, the bears and bobcats will. Of course, I couldn't wait, so I managed to forego my afternoon nap on the bus home, getting a start on the new book. I'll probably have it finished before I even leave Virginia.

August 27, 2006

No Grass Growing Under My Feet

I stitched on "Whale Hunting" yesterday and today. And discovered I needed to change something on the design: the grass is supposed to be done in tent stitch, and I can see the reasoning for it, but when I did it, it just didn't look right, so I frogged it all out and put in cross stitches instead. Too bad, because tent stitch is faster. This is not going to be a fast stitch--just too much ground to cover.

I read last week's SBQ several places, including on Carol's site: What do you keep your WIPs and other stitching supplies in when traveling?
I walk half a mile to the commuter lot then ride 40 miles (1-2 hours depending on traffic and weather) each way into DC to work, so I carry a lot with me every day on the bus. I put one or two projects into one of these plastic zippered bags (I have two sizes, although I'm showing just the large here), fold the ends and then tuck one into my backpack. Then I add a tiny purse, a comb, my bus tickets, subway card, portable XM radio, cell phone, my lunch, a magazine or book and in the winter, mittens, hat and spare socks. I load the backpack at night, so I don't have to look for the stuff in the morning. When I'm going on a car trip, I put the plastic bags into a couple of Vera Bradley bags. When I'm flying, I never check the needlework in my suitcase; lost clothing can be replaced, but what are you going to do if a half-finished WIP disappears? Tragic.

August 26, 2006

Whale Hunting

It was a busy week at work, so I didn't get a lot done on any of my projects, although I made a steady progress. By Friday I was feeling a tad cranky, which was wiped away by having "Whale Hunting" show up in the mail. And I only ordered it on Tuesday, from the lovely folks at Elegant Stitch! As I suspected, the picture on their website didn't do it justice. I didn't care for the fabric that arrived with it though--the recommended 34 count Legacy Linen Wrens Wing--so I took myself off to the LNS this morning and bought 34 count Legacy Linen Puritan Gray, which I like much better. It's stitched with The Gentle Art, Weeks Dye Works and DMC fibers over two. As you can see, there is a LOT of water to stich. Interestingly, the instructions say not to stitch the water or grass in horizontal blocks or vertical blocks, but to break up the stitching with "random patterns" to get as much color variation as possible (the water is stitched with blended colors).

While I was at Everything Cross Stitch in Fred-burg, I picked up this cute sampler as well; I haven't seen it anywhere. It's the While I Darn Sampler from Giulia Punti Antichi, and it calls for Magnolia 32 ct hand dyed linen from Lakeside Linens and Caron Waterlilies silk threads. Mmmmm--I love silk.

I'll bet you know what I'll be doing this afternoon.

August 23, 2006

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I'd made some progress this week on Bay Sampler, along with "Witches" (my name for the Quillin cartoon) and Chick Berry.

Not being content with simply forging ahead, however, I dragged something out of my UFO basket and gave it some thought. I don't love it, but it's okay; I bought it because of the yellow chicks. Possibly I should have bought the companion piece, which has a hen and the chicks. Anyway, I misread a symbol, so I have some frogging to do in order to remove the black thread from the top of the rooster. It's not my only project in need of frogging, either; I made a big error on the very first panel of Aesop's fables that will cause me to remove most of the stitching that I did. Sigh--I'll do that soon because I don't want to have it sit there in its project bag at the bottom of the UFO basket since I really like it.

In the meantime, I've been putting a lot of thought into what I want to do next. I contemplated doing an HAED design done by Scott Gustafson--maybe Jack 'n the Beanstalk (and for some amazing stitching on a Gustafson design, "Mad Tea Party," visit Cross YF. It's in Japanese (I think), so I can't read a word, but the pictures are glorious and the needleworker's progress is impressive. Another Japanese needleworker, found at Hiyoko Stitch Diary, is doing an admirable job on Gustafson's "Saint Nick in His Study.") But I think an HAED is a bit much of a commitment with the other stuff I'm doing including school, and in poking around through various websites, I happened upon a new design by Dames of the Needle offered on Elegant Stitch's website. It's called Whale Hunting, and it's just what I was looking for. I called yesterday and ordered it kitted up, and I'm really excited about it. I'm hoping to receive it before I go up to Cape Cod during Labor Day week. WH appeals to me because it's a view from the sea to the shore where there are a colonial style house and church, since I like that architecture in samplers, and lots and lots of blue ocean with breaching whales. I'll take pictures of it when it arrives; the small photo on Elegant Stitch's website does not do it justice, I suspect!

August 21, 2006

Black and White

[Edited this a.m. because Anna guessed correctly the designer of this series.] The art is by Emerson Quillin, needlearts adaptation by Ruth Sparrow Gendron of Twisted Threads. I'm stitching it with one strand of Sampler Threads Raven over one (and I have no idea what the linen is). It's a fun stitch with a cute punchline. I also would like to do the design where an aggrieved taxpayer asks the IRS agent: "And what did you do with all the money I gave you last year?"

Little Friend says, "You are always properly attired when you wear black and white."

August 20, 2006

Insects in my Garden

Although, if I recall my biology correctly, spiders are not insects. I found this darling in the tomato thicket this morning (since that's the only way to describe how the tomatoes are growing these days). She had a lovely, very symmetrical web, but it does look like she's started a little counted cross stitch project on it, doesn't it? "Hah!" she says, "I can manufacture both my fabric AND my fiber." When I asked her what she's working on, she said, "The Webs of Hawk Run Hollow."

I've done a lot of stitching on several projects this weekend and completed the lower ladybug with all the backstitching (Dimples Designs, Mini Ladybugs I, done on 32 Glenshee linen over one using DMC) and started the next bug (4.5 to go!). I'm off to the feed store (mini bales of timothy hay for the Bunnyman) and other errands that I'll rush through so I can get back to stitching.

August 16, 2006

Some Questions

Question from me to you: Can you tell what this is yet? Hint: this designer has a very distinctive style. In fact, this designer is distinctive for being a male in a field dominated by women. Sorry it's so bleached-out--flash.

Questions from the Bunnyman (out on a rare jaunt in the yard) to me: Hey! What happened to the rabbit family sampler? Why are you so fickle?

Question from me to myself: What the heck am I going to wear to work? I don't know about you, but I'm sick of my summer clothes. By this time of the summer, they all seem sort of limp and dull.

Bonus qustion: why does the evening go so fast? We rented Scary Movie IV and I stitched as we watched it. Thoroughly dumb movie with a few funny moments. The problem is that you have to have seen all the movies that it's spoofing, and I hadn't, so BF had to explain the joke in some cases.

August 15, 2006

Fear the Turtle

There's no escaping it--the shadows are getting longer, summer's moving along, and I'm headed back to school. I've taken some time off between degrees, but I'll be back at Maryland on September 5, as an accounting student this time. I need to take seven courses, after which I'm eligible to enroll in the Master's/CPA program at Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond. I'm looking forward to this as I'm planning to become a forensic accountant, but I'm sad that my free time is going to be squeezed again--there will be less stitching and probably less traveling as well. So I'm using these next few weeks to cram in all the stitching I can, as well as another trip to the Cape and the Brimfield antique show in Western Mass. during Labor Day week.

Since I'm driving--the better to haul home the spoils from the show--if anyone knows of any great needlework shops to visit in NJ/Conn/RI not too far from I-95/NJ Turnpike/Garden State Parkway, let me know. I think it'd be fun to break up the long drive with a stash-builder, don't you?

The turtle, by the way, is Maryland's mascot. In the interest of school spirit, I did a search for turtle samplers and didn't come up with anything thrilling. If the school's mascot were a ladybug, a bee or a rabbit, it would be easier! Here's some progress on La Famille Lapins, which is by Anagram Diffusion, stitched on 36 ct cream linen, over two, using The Thread Gatherer's Silk 'n Colors in "In the Burgundy":

August 14, 2006

I'd Like to Be...Under the Sea...

I'm betting you're already sick of my sailor and sea-related lyrics, and we haven't even gotten to "Scuba Dooba" yet! (That's okay--I've found a few projects I may start before Scuba Dooba.) When I wasn't making jam or stitching this past weekend, I was landscaping. Growing grass in a fish tank is a lot harder than growing grass on land, as I've said. I've seen beautifully planted and landscaped tanks in stores, but there seems to be a trick to it involving the purchase of a myriad of supplies. (It's a lot like counted cross stitch that way.) And patience with fiddly details. (Also like cross-stitching.) First there's the addition of a box of laterite to supplement the gravel. Laterite looks like granules of clay and causes a red cloud that hangs in the water for a couple of days and makes the fish look like something on Mars. Then there are the "Flourish Tabs" that I added yesterday, which look like black plugs and are a fertilizer of some sort. Hopefully they won't cause an algae overgrowth on the glass. Next I'll buy a CO2 system which consists of a canister that produces CO2 bubbles that are released into the water as the ingredients of the canister--a commercial starter and table sugar--ferment. Fermented? Demented! It would be so much easier just to buy the plastic plants, but I really want this grass to grow.

When I was at the pet store stocking up on ridiculous supplies this weekend, I saw the coolest 2.5 gallon goldfish aquarium which looks like an undersea "Pirates of the Carribbean." It's even cuter than the "Sponge Bob Squarepants" aquarium.

Honestly, for me to go to the pet store is like sending an eight-year-old in with a credit card; somebody needs to go with me and intervene.

Once I got my arms to dry from slopping around in the aquarium, this is one of the things I worked on:

August 13, 2006

Raspberry and More Chick Berry

They had raspberries at the farmers' market this weekend, so I made this--raspberry jam. I think it's interesting that the berries in the jam taste more intense than the fresh berries do.

Even though I seem to spend a lot of time when I make jam wiping up stickiness on the floor, the walls and every surface of the kitchen, I didn't neglect my stitching. I worked on several things this weekend, including Chick Berry:

I hope your weekend was as sweet and colorful as mine!

August 10, 2006

Six-Inch Q-Snap

Last weekend I visited my LNS for supplies (but no new stash) and found a 6" Q-snap, which is just right for small projects. I figured I'd work on these little things when I was too busy or distracted to work on a larger project. The one on the top is Valerie Pfeiffer's Chick Berry.

But what's the one on the bottom? I'm going to let you guess, and I'll trot it out as it progresses. I'm stitching it on 32 ct linen, using one strand of Sampler Threads Raven over one. The chart called for ST Black Crow, but my LNS was out of that. The difference between them is that Raven has a faint tinge of green, while Black Crow has a faint tinge of blue.

August 09, 2006

Sail On, Sail On, Sailor

Ever since I chose the title of this post, this Beach Boys' song has been running through my head. I've been listening to the Beach Boys a lot lately on XM radio, and while I grew up with the more famous and popular (California/surfer) tunes, they did a lot of stuff that was amazingly complex and timeless, and sounds fresh and contemporary now.

Many thanks to Michelle at Cozy Egg for posting about her dilemma on Bay Sampler by The Workbasket, which I pulled out of my UFO pile as a result. There's something about someone else working on a design that inspires me to get going on it, which is what I love about reading these blogs. Michelle, it looks like we're at about the same place in it. I had forgotten how colorful and satisfying the Silk 'n Colors (Thread Gatherer) were to work with. I don't have the same sail-color issue because I used a fabric that's a little darker, I think. In fact, I had worried that my fabric looked a bit muddy and blotchy--I would have preferred a clearer, lighter blue. I have to go to the LNS this weekend though and pick up a couple of the fibers I think they were out of one when I first kitted it up--although I seem to recall taking out one of the colors to use for something else. No doubt it's tucked away in some other project bag and I'll wind up with two. I hate when I do that.

Fish #1 says, "Avast ye mateys. Yo ho ho."
Fish #2: "What are you talking about? We're freshwater fish. From the Amazon. You wouldn't know a barrel of rum if it hit you on the head."
Fish #1: "Johnny Dep says it."
Fish #2: "You're no Johnny Dep."

August 08, 2006


I love yellow, and I'm thinking there isn't enough of it in my life. I need to go out and buy the Lemon Meringue Pie sampler that I've seen while making my blog-reading rounds. I couldn't believe that yellow plums existed, although I think they might be called something else. But that's what they taste like. They have bright yellow flesh.

This is a sweater I'm working on (so far just the back is done). Are you surprised that I don't get any further with my knitting projects than I do with my needlework? The pattern is from Classic Knits for Real Women, and the yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino. The buttons are from Le Bon Marché in Paris, one of the large department stores there, and there are two styles because I couldn't decide. You can't beat Paris for buttons--they're everywhere. Le Bon Marché has a wonderful sewing department--what we used to call a "notions department" when our department stores had them--with plenty of sewing notions and in particular, yarn, patterns, counted cross stitch kits, buttons, trims and flourishes. It's a shame that the notion of "notions" faded away from U.S. department stores, but I think it's another indication of the decline in this country of handwork of all kinds. Blame television. Or work-obsession.

These are some yellow tomatoes that we're growing in our garden. They're pretty in a salad, but don't taste like much. Even the bugs leave them alone.

The big yellow cat is Buckaroo, all 35 pounds of him.

August 06, 2006

Fruit, Glorious Fruit

While putting my sewing/computer/craft/fish room in order today, I pulled out this UFO that I started last year on vacation. I had lots of chance to work on it then, because it rained the whole 10 days we were there (what did I expect of Western Scotland in the fall, after all?) Since we have been debating this year's upcoming vacation plans, it seemed a perfect time to stitch a bit on it. Maybe I'll take it with me this year too. It's the Vermillion Stitchery's "Glorious Fruit" done on (I think) 28 ct. Cashel Dirty Linen using DMC.

I bought some fruit at the farmers' market yesterday. These are damson plums, each one a bit larger than a marble. When cut open and pitted, they have an odd-looking greenish flesh that I was worried was unripe or would make an unattractive jam. Nope. Cooked up with the skins on, they turn a lovely shade of red. Three cups of damson pulp yielded these four jars of preserves. Last week I made blackberry jam; next week I'll make peach. DBF doesn't enjoy homemade preserves; his mother canned anything that wouldn't move. He used to joke that if his dad ever disappeared, it would be because she had put him in mason jars.

August 04, 2006

A is for Ambivalent

This is "Letter G" from M Designs' Alphabet Series. I'm stitching it on Lakeside Linens (can't remember the color exactly--I should write them down) using Silk 'N Colors Mermaid Shimmer. I like the design, love the fabric and adore the silk, so what could be the problem? A couple of things really. I believe the fabric is 32 count, and I've developed a fondness for the higher count fabrics--I'm doing HoHRH on 38, which feels just right to me. Or perhaps it should have been done over one. I saw someone else stitching another letter much smaller and I fell in love with that because it seemed both sharper and more delicate. Like lace. I could do it again, of course, but first and last names are both G's, so I'd have to do another G and I don't like to do a project twice.

Then there's the color of the variegated silk, which is G for gorgeous. However, I learned lately from my blog reading that the way to work with this best is to stitch each entire cross and then move on to the next cross and so on, rather than stitch a row of left-to-right legs and then move back across the row, completing all the crosses with right-to-left legs. I've experimented with this method on something else recently, and it does give a much better effect, especially with this thread, which has such a huge variation in colors.

I'll finish and frame it anyway; it's too close not to. It's not G for grotesque,after all. And two mats--in the green and the blue colors--might help unite the colors.

Perhaps next I'll do an "L"--for Live and Learn.

Oh! And I just found the Beatrix Potter picture online. Not quite what I would have guessed for placement of the letters:

August 03, 2006

Old Friends

This is an old friend that I pulled out of the closet last night. For the last few days, the fibers were nowhere to be found (later recovered from a plastic bag at the bottom of a plastic tub), although I knew where the enormous chart was (inconveniently done on both sides of a single enormous sheet of paper so that it defies careful folding or copying or laminating), in an under-the-bed storage box. The picture of what the finished product should look like is MIA, however, which is creating a bit of head-scratching for me. It's a very old project (I think I bought it at Total Crafts about 18 years ago), so my searches on the web for a picture of it are in vain. There are lots of Beatrix Potter charts out there (and plates and cups and clocks and earrings and all manner of keychains, Christmas ornaments, fridge magnets and other gee-gaws), which makes it hard to pin down.

The chart, while itself well-done, isn't cooperating, since in order to stuff all of the directions, charts, admonitions and advice onto one folding-map size page, the letters are broken up, with some printed on the back of the chart, and others on the front--sideways, upside down and backwards, so that they're stitched by holding the chart up to a mirror while standing on your head. Remember when we used folding maps in cars, and it was impossible to re-fold them precisely, and wherever you wanted to go was generally obscured by a greasy, worn crease? Thank goodness reliance on maps has been replaced by satellite-guided navigation systems in cars, although I will confess that I have not updated the $200-worth of CDs that slide into the CD-player thingy in my trunk and consequently I drive on roads the satellite swears don't exist (and on which the display shows my car as jolting across a field and over a cliff) while the little voice, with a tone of increasing alarm and irritation announces: turn back here...turn back HERE...TURN BACK, YOU MISSED YOUR TURN! IDIOT! (Little man in satellite smacking head and taking a long swig from a bottle of Jack. And, c'mon folks, I know there's not a little guy in a satellite personally guiding me; it's a woman's voice.) In short, essentially I have replaced the worn folding paper map with an out-of-date, poorly folded, creased and stained satellite-guided electronic equivalent.

I could make the decision on letter placement myself, I suppose. But I'm not one for fiddling with a perfectly good concept: if a chart has a house with a red roof, it gets a red roof, in exactly the color called for. I don't substitute, switch things around or delete parts of designs I don't like. I'm a slave to a chart, to an artist's interpretation, to the photograph. I don't think of myself as rigid, of course (who does?)--just...cautious. It's not for nothing that I'm working to become a CPA where a studious adherence to Generally Accepted Stitching Principles (GASP) is what separates the reliable, the lawful, the sober accountant from that creative, fun guy or gal with pockets full of money and a television crew outside their house whom the neighbors now refer to as...the Perp. Accounting is what makes me comfortable with counted cross stitch and uncomfortable with free-hand embroidery, where the placement of bullion stitch and hem stitch and alternating algerian-eye with an extended feather stitch are left to the embroideress' whim. Cross stitches are like debits and credits, all in nice, neat rows.

I'm fairly certain from studying the chart that the middle part of the alphabet (HIJK, LMNO) goes on two lines, and the size of the fabric supports that. So I supppose it looks like this (without the periods, which I used to force the short rows to center):

. A B C
. X Y Z

If anyone has this chart, I'd appreciate it if you could tell me how the letters are laid out! In the meantime, I'm going to go straighten my desktop, line up my pencils (throwing out the ones that are too long or too short) and count my paper clips.

August 01, 2006


This is an update of the Prairie Schooler Autumn Sampler, which I think of now as "Squirrels," and sometimes, as "Roadkill." Feeling bad about the latter, I filled in the rest of the squirrel's body and then added to the leaves and vines last night, once again electing to stitch rather than go to bed at a reasonable hour. He looks a lot healthier today as a result, although I didn't take a picture late last night.

Across from the White House there is a park that I cross in order to get to my bus stop in the afternoon. There are whole flocks of squirrels in that park, and they are well-fed because of the tourists who send cheese curls and popcorn and whatnot their way. While the squirrels are meaty-looking, their tail-fur seems sparse and ratty, perhaps owing to their junk-food diet, although perhaps it's just a genetic variation in this particular neighborhood of city squirrels. Normally the squirrels scamper back and forth across the closed-down section of Pennsylvania Avenue and through the iron fence that surrounds the White House while the tourists snap each others' pictures. If I were a squirrel, I'd camp out in the trees on the White House lawn, which is lush and moist and intensely green, kept alive in this improbable heat by squadrons of lawn crews and an endless supply of water (as a taxpayer, your share of this lawn nurturing probably comes to eight cents, give or take). Perhaps there's a pecking order or a territory, where only the biggest, toughest (or the most well-connected) squirrels get to stay in the trees at the White House, but yesterday I noticed an encampment of squirrels in the dusty, drooping park. They were lying on the ground in the oppressive heat (it was 98 degrees at that point). Panting. With their little front paws stretched out in front of them and their hind legs extended, squirrel bellies pressed to the dry grass. I've never seen that before.

So I'd like to dedicate this sampler to the squirrels at Lafayette Park. And to Autumn--may it come soon.

Something Fishy

I've been stitching steadily but haven't got much to show for it, since I've jumped around from Aesop's Fables to Autumn Sampler to HoHRH, not settling for long on any of them, so I'll wait for a day or two for photos. The cure for lack of focus? New stash! When I went to my LNS on Saturday, I intended simply to buy fibers: blue silk for Aesop's Fables, and the floss for Valerie Pfeiffer's Chick Berry , since I thought that I needed a smaller lighthearted project. The summer is so hot, and a lot of my projects are stitched in lots of greens and golds and browns. I wanted something cooler looking, so I pulled out the Chick Berry chart, which I'd bought some time ago.

While I was at the LNS, I bought some additional stash:

I got a new cranberry sampler from the Sweetheart Tree, a small house sampler (I'm seeing lots of houses everywhere, aren't you, and after all the HoHRH houses, do I even want to stitch any more houses?) from The Village Sampler, a company I'm not familiar with, and Scooba Dooba from Raise the Roof ("because it's fun to say "Scooba Dooba"). I love the design, although it's not my usual thing. My fish love it too, and say that when it's done they'd like it to hang on the wall opposite the fish tank so they have something to look at for a change. Those streaks up the wall of the tank are actually bubbles from the "wall of bubbles" that I've halfway installed. I have been renovating the tank to perk it up, and have been planting live plants which are a bit tricky to deal with. The plants with little leaves are grazed and uprooted by the fish, and the denuded stems tend to rot and foul the water. The grasses work better; for some reason the fish leave them alone. When I get through landscaping and moving stuff around, I'm going to add some more fish. In the meantime, on a hot afternoon, there are worse things than standing up to your armpit, planting grass in the water while the bubbles whoosh by.