Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Ends, 2008 Begins

It has been a rewarding and fulfilling stitching year. I changed from a stitcher who rarely stitched and had many UFOs to one who completed projects, gave gifts, and stitched almost every day. I think the many friends from the blogosphere who encouraged me made all the difference.

To recap, I had 15 stitching finishes this year --
  • Silver and Gold, 2/18 -- started in 2006. My first 2007 finish. Starting this blog made all the difference in actually getting this finished.
  • Basketball Baby Bib, 3/17 -- nothing like a new baby to inspire some stitching. I had made a quilt for her before she was born, but this was an original design for a baby born to UK basketball fanatics on NCAA Selection Sunday. She wore it to dinner last Wednesday.
  • Sheep Baby Bib, 3/20 -- some of my fastest stitching. Taken from a magazine design that almost didn't fit the space. I still have four more bibs that I could stitch some day. Maybe for their next child.
  • Winter, 3/31 -- I joined Project Spectrum to help me explore some experiments in color. Unfortunately their two month deadline is simply too short to do any complex stitching. I did, however, finish this piece by the first deadline. It is an Erica Michaels pattern where I changed the fabric and the threads. I also learned that I hate working on monochrome patterns. I had to change the thread on two motifs so it wasn't all the same.
  • Autumn Ewe, 4/17 -- my first Bent Creek Zipper Sheep, but hardly my last. I love sheep, but I also love squirrels, so this was a perfect pattern for me.
  • Hillside Sampling Topiary Ornament #3, 5/8 -- This was my March Ornament for the Christmas Ornament SAL. I ran out of thread in March, finished stitching it in April, but actually completed a real ornament in May.
  • A Merry Little Christmas, 5/18 -- the first of two ornaments stitched on the same piece of Silkweaver opalescent fabric. Both are stitched, but neither one are finished/finished.
  • Pineapple Quilt Square, 5/30 -- my one needlepoint finish in 2007. I made up my own stitches and had a lot of fun with this one. Someday it will be a lid on a box.
  • Xmas Tree Sampler, 6/7 -- the other ornament stitched on the Silkweaver opalescent fabric.
  • Woodland Snowfall, 7/14 -- the last Christmas ornament I stitched in 2007 although it is not finished/finished. More squirrels! I loved using RG's Designer's Dream wool for their tails.
  • Pumpkin Over One, 8/6 -- one pumpkin from the Trio of Pumpkins with the wrong colors (specified on the chart, but NOT the same ones as on the model) on linen. Trying to stitch over one on linen is crazy. This will become a scissors fob some day.
  • Lighthouse Sampler, 9/9 -- a freebie chart I stitched to use up some discontinued Weeks Dye Works colors. I really like how I used the color changes for the lighthouse and the ocean. This will be a flatfold present for my nephew's wife next Christmas.
  • Michael Powell's Christmas Window #1, 11/1 -- although I liked all the projects I stitched this year, this one is my favorite. Maybe it was because I love Michael Powell designs, but have been a bit intimidated by his loopy backstitching. Maybe it is just the beautiful bright colors. I know I will have more Michael Powell kits on my goals for next year.
  • Opossum Ornament, 12/1 -- I am really proud of this project. Not only did I finish the stitching, but I made it into an ornament and gave it to my mother-in-law for Christmas. I have started so many stitching projects for relatives and so few of them have been finished and presented. Next Christmas I hope to have lots of stitching presents to give away.
  • Feed the Hungry Chipmunk, 12/27 -- this didn't quite get done for Christmas, but I did finish it before I left Lexington and it was even framed. There are a couple of squirrels from this series I could do, but I'm not putting them in my 2008 goals.
So there they are. Although I did not finish any large projects in 2007, I did finish a small or medium sized project every month. What I really need to concentrate on for 2008 are one or two large projects and finishing several UFOs. My 2007 UFOs were:
  • Pineapple Fish -- I really haven't worked on this since I finished the ocean in March. There is a lot of boring sky to work on and some really horrible threads for the small fish. I won't guarantee that much more will be finished in 2008.
  • Flower Fairy -- She is over half done and will definitely be on my 2008 Goals List.
  • Plastic Canvas Ornaments and French Noel -- I have been working on these plastic canvas ornaments for probably ten years. THIS is the year that they will be finished. Maybe the French Noel, too.
  • Black and Red Needlepoint Box -- Needlepoint. Yeah. That's what I started stitching, but every time I go back to needlepoint, it seems to take so much longer to cover a simple square inch than cross stitch that I put it down again. I know how to finish this, but I am not inspired.
  • Hillside Samplings Topiary IV -- Another Project Spectrum (and Christmas Ornament SAL) project that was not finished in the short time alloted. This one should be easy to finish in 2008.
  • Warm Water Wash -- I liked the pattern a lot better than I liked stitching it. I could finish it next year, but I have to admit it will be down on the lower half of the To Be Done list.
So now where does this leave the list of 2008 goals? I will be conservative, but expansive.
  1. Start Hawaiian Mandala and finish at least 8 of the 12 parts. I've printed out the first part that was published December 1. I have the Silkweaver 32ct opalescent Jazlyn in Polished Brass fabric. (Do you know how BIG a piece of fabric 29" x 29" is? The design is 21" x 21". I'm almost intimidated just looking at it.) I have the full silk and beads kits from European Stitchworks. I will take my first stitches tomorrow. It's a bit scary, but I am not alone. The photo group has six people who who have completed part one. It's very interesting to see the pattern on all types of fabric, from black (recommended) to tan and teal and white.
  2. Finish another Michael Powell piece. I have several of his kits. I just need to decide if I am going to try to stitch a medium sized one or a small one.
  3. Finish Hillside Samplings Topiary IV. That is my smallest WiP/UFO, so I should be able to finish/finish this in a couple of days.
  4. Finish the plastic canvas Christmas ornaments. No more excuses. Just do it.
  5. One exchange or RR piece.
  6. Start and finish Bothy's Cut Thru Rocket. I know this is another semi-large piece, but ever since the SBQ asking what project you would work on if you only had one, I knew I would have to start this one soon.
  7. Finish two ornaments from my collection of JCS ornament magazines. I always buy them. It's time to stitch from them. I really liked the Woodland Snowfall ornament I did this year. I just need to find two more that I like.
  8. Stitch something for my Surprise Birthday partner.
  9. Here's where we go off the stitching reservation. I have ten times as much fabric as I do cross stitch kits and patterns. I need to use some of this stash up now. So I propose the following sewing projects:
  • One apron for my mother-in-law.
  • One purse from my collection of bag patterns.
  • One piece of clothing for me.
  • Make something with the pig cloth I collected for my sister-in-law.
  • Make something with the cow cloth I collected for my niece.
Extra credit:
  1. Finish Flower Fairy. Maybe I should put her in the Goals list, but I am feeling a little overwhelmed.
  2. Finish Warm Water Wash.
  3. Finish French Noel.
OK. That's all. I hope everyone is having a very fine New Year's Eve (and for those of you watching the football bowls -- Go, HAWAII!!)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Year is Winding Down

When I first picked this up this afternoon, I thought that there was no way that I could finish it by tomorrow (thereby adding one more finish to my 2007 totals). But it is coming along very smoothly. Since there is no backstitching or outlining, once the last cross is done, it's finished.

As I stitch I have been thinking about my stitching goals for next year. I know that Hawaiian Mandala will take up a large part of my stitching time. I also have three more of these small sheep to stitch, so I will keep busy while I fly. I really wanted to work on some of my own designs and even have a great idea for a monthly series, but I don't see any way that I can design and stitch the first one in January. Maybe this is something that I will have to save for 2009. Goal setting is a fine line between setting achievable goals and setting goals that stretch yourself somewhat. I still don't think I am ready for monthly goals. Things come up in my life and everything I had planned can be swept aside. But setting some doable goals is what I want to settle on for my post tomorrow. Until then, Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week

In keeping with the spirit of the season, this week’s SBQ is:

Did you receive any stitching-related gifts for the holidays?

Yes...and No.

First, I did receive this lovely card from Kate in Australia. So this could count as a stitching-related gift. But what I think you are looking for is something more like the stash I bought after Christmas.

Although I did not get these on Christmas, they do count as Christmas gifts. My mother-in-law gives me $100 for Christmas every year. She has given up trying to get individual items for everyone in the family and just gives us all money. But she does expect us all to buy something with the money and show it to her. This year I could not find anything that I really wanted, so I waited until I got to Lexington. I often stop by a cross stitch/needlepoint/yarn store called The Stitch Niche when I am there. It focuses on very traditional patterns, so there isn't much there that appeals to me. I stopped there the day after Christmas , but they were closed. They promised to open at 10 am the next day for a 20% inventory reduction sale. I knew we were flying that afternoon, but I should have time to shop before then.

I was at the door at 10 am. When the doors opened 10 minutes later there were probably 15 women in line. All of them headed to the back where there was a greatly expanded selection of yarns for knitting and crochet. No one else was looking at the needlework in the front of the store. But that was fine with me. I got $100 of stash enhancement. First up were these two darling sheep patterns. I do love sheep.

Next up were some Halloween patterns. I particularly like the Jack O Lantern with the sunglasses. I also bought some Silk 'N Colors and some Sari Lace that was meant to be crocheted, but I will use it for sewing trim.

And then I picked up this Biscornu pattern. I have seen a lot of lovely Biscornus on other people's blogs, but not exactly one that appealed to me. This one really hit the spot! Bright, colorful, and SHINY!

Now I just have to figure out how all of these new patterns are going to fit into my stitching plans for next year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Airline Stitching TUTORIAL

I have talked about stitching on airlines, but I thought I would put all my suggestions in one post to help people who are planning to fly and stitch.

Before You Make a Reservation

Not every flight is a good candidate for stitching. Although I have stitched on the one hour flight between San Francisco and Las Vegas, you will only have about 30 minutes to actually stitch. The rest of the time your tray table will be packed away and so will your stitching. Any flight over two hours is a good candidate for stitching.

I am a right handed stitcher. Stitching is much easier for me if I have an aisle seat with the aisle on my right hand side so that I can extend my arm into the aisle without hitting a fellow passenger. That means I request seat C in a six seats across plane and seat B in two seats next to the window plane. I have stitched in the middle seat and a window seat, but be sure to keep your thread short and your movements compact. Stitching will be very difficult in a bulkhead seat. You are not allowed to have anything on the floor in front of you, though I have put small purses under the seat on some flights. Your tray table will also pull up and out from the armrest and will much more difficult to deal with than a tray table that pulls down from the seat in front of you.

Choosing a Project

This is no time for beading or complex charts. This is not the proper environment for over one stitching or stitching on dark fabric. Ornaments, biscornus, freebies, and zipper kits are ideal. It is also best to choose a chart with a large area of one color to stitch. Switching colors is more complex in a restricted space. Your lighting is also much dimmer, particularly on night flights, than stitching with your daylight balanced light. This Bent Creek Zipper kit (three threads over two on 25 count linen) is perfect for flying.

Before you leave, make sure your traveling kit has everything you need in a compact closeable envelope. Separate your threads and label them so that you are not stitching 310 when you should have been stitching 3371. Bring an extra needle. If your chart is large, make a smaller, enlarged photocopy of the part of the chart that you going to be working on. Make sure this is handy in your purse or carry on bag that fits under the seat in front of you. You don't want to have to go into the overhead bin to get your stitching. I always have some stitching done on the piece I am stitching on a plane. It is so much easier to bury a new thread in the back of an already stitched area than try to find the center of a piece and start new stitching.

The most important question people have asked me is "What kind of scissors can I bring?" TSA has an entire web page of Permitted and Prohibited Items. The key provision for allowed scissors are "Scissors - plastic or metal with blunt tips" or "Scissors - metal with pointed tips and blades shorter than four inches in length." These are the two items I always bring with me, my LoRan needle threader and my machine embroidery scissors that have a cutting area of only 1/4 of an inch in a half circle area of the blade. International travel can have many more restrictions. A pointed pair of scissors with a three inch blade was confiscated in Narita (Tokyo, Japan) airport, but my blunt embroidery scissors have never been questioned. Knitting needles and crochet hooks are allowed on US flights.

Stitching On the Plane

I use 8" x 8" Q-Snap frames on airline flights. I do have a 6" x 6" frame, but you don't need a frame that small. A pulldown airline tray is about 15" wide and 10" deep. I make sure that I wash my hands just before I get on the plane or wash them immediately when the seatbelt sign goes off. When the flight attendant announces that it safe to start your electronic items, I put down my tray table, pull out my iPod and earphones, thread my needle with a new thread, and put my threads and kit away in the seat pocket in front of me. The only things on my tray table are my iPod, my chart and my frame with fabric and threaded needle. I might not stitch the entire time of a long flight, but will rest my eyes and just listen to my iPod or read. Fifteen minutes or more before you land, the flight attendant will ask you to return your tray table to the upright position. Make sure that all your threads, needles, and orts are tucked away in your stitching kit. Put your stitching kit back is in your purse or carry on bag.

When you have landed and are ready to start stitching again, check your progress against the chart. If you have any area that you need to frog, now is the time to do it, but I hope you won't have to.

I stitched most of this Bent Creek Boo! Betty Sheep on a flight from Chicago O'Hare airport to Las Vegas. I had started some of the orange sign and the dark letters before I got on the plane. I got bored with just stitching orange and dark brown, so I switched to green during the last hour of the flight. It took a little more glancing at the chart to get the stitches in the right place and one frog of an errant stitch right after I made it, but it is turning out well so far.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Chipmunk Finished

I generally do not go back and edit my blog posts, but these pictures were so awful that I felt I had to replace them.

It didn't get finished for Christmas, but it did get done before I left. Now I am sitting in the Lexington, Kentucky, airport and waiting for the first leg of our trip back to Las Vegas. Pardon the really fuzzy pictures, but I just took them with my iPhone and didn't have a chance to do my usual Photoshop magic. Here he is completely stitched. (The awful picture has been replaced with one on which you can actually see the stitching.)

This is an image of the start of the outlining. (Actually this replaced picture shows the entire outlining finished.) Unlike most patterns, I really liked doing the outlining. It was easy to follow and came along very quickly. It also makes the images really pop. Everyone in the family seem really impressed. I've even started another pattern, Bent Creek's Boo! Sheep. I just love this little series of cute sheep. I wanted something small so that I could work on it on airplanes and finish it in 2007. This has been my most productive stitching year ever. I am really looking forward to 2008. I have a lot of plans for larger projects next year and some different projects.

This is a picture of the stitching framed. I didn't have time to make it into an ornament, so I quickly framed it with a lovely box frame from Michael's.

Our holidays were very pleasant. A lot of our gatherings centered around memories of the past and watching Grace, our nephew's nine month old daughter. Amy, Grace's mother, had most of the work on Christmas day opening all Grace's presents as well as her own. My nephew and his wife just bought a new house and I had a lot of fun buying her kitchen gear. When I get in the kitchen section of a department store, I almost can't stop buying. Everyone seemed to have a good time and were sad to see us go. Usually we come back here in June, but with the convention we have planned for Las Vegas over the Fourth of July, it is unclear if we will make it back here in 2008. I hope you all had the merriest holidays and had fun with your families.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week

Let’s do the SBQ. Today’s was suggested by Kathryn and is:

Have you ever helped anyone else learn to stitch? Have you ever helped anyone learn a new stitch or technique?

I have known most of my friends for a long, long time. Either they stitch or they don't. I really haven't had much chance to teach anyone person to person, but I have helped a few people online. The most useful techniques that not all stitchers know are the loop start and railroading. I have pointed several people to online tutorials and they have said that it does help them. The most significant difference in my own stitching came from using Q-snaps frames. Your work really does look neater if it is stretched. And I find Q-snaps neater than hoops and easier to use than scroll frames.

I did work on the squirrel some more last night. I probably won't have any time for him today, but I should get some done on Sunday (depending how much I can hide from my mother-inp-law). Happy holidays to all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Opossum Finished-Finished

Here the opossum is finished-finished! No I did not get the chipmunk done, but I have him with me. If I get him done by Monday, I will find a quick frame at Michael's and just frame him. The opossum took FOREVER to finish. I thought I was going to finish him on the sewing machine, but the braid I wanted to use with him was pillow braiding with an attached flange. The braid was just too big to fit with any feet I had for my machine. So I ended up doing it all by hand. It's not perfectly square, but I think my mother-in-law will like him and that's what really counts. And we will have something that she will like for her for Christmas. Adults are just so hard to shop for.

We got to Kentucky just fine. My friend, Kristen, said that if we packed underwear and a top in our carryon we would obviously get our luggage just fine. And she was right! I wish I had done so that last three times the airline lost our luggage on the way to Lexington. The family is fine, but they didn't give us a Christmas list until yesterday. Today we spent all day at the mall and were mostly successful. We will still have to go out again tomorrow, but we do that most Christmases. Tonight is dinner out with family and tomorrow a dinner with our long time friends, Scott and Jane. Even though we see each other several times a year, it is mostly at conventions. Now we will just have a relaxing time and sit and talk. That is always the best part of our trip to Lexington. I hope everyone else's travels are peaceful and that you all have the merriest of Christmases.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Floating Chipmunk

Here he is. The Chipmunk you all have been waiting for. I am glad that I waited until I got back here to work on him. He has over a dozen colors (and two blended threads. But he looks pretty good and will look even better when I backstitch him (and when the shelf he is sitting on is defined). But I have only until tomorrow to stitch and finish-finish him. This is probably why most of my other "Christmas gifts" are just UFOs. What is left to do are three more branches and leaves and a whole lot of seeds that he is sitting among. Then the backstitching. I keep thinking I can do it, but I might be fooling myself.

This is our Christmas tree. We didn't have a Christmas tree most of the time that we lived in California, because we spent almost every Christmas in Kentucky. But since we have had a Holiday party for the past three years, a tree was necessary. The first year we had a cut tree, but it really was quite a hassle. Last year we bought this white tree and the purple balls. In our contemporary house it looks quite appropriate. The lights are blue this year because we could not find the clear ones we used last year and blue lights were the only ones we could find with a white cord. They actually look very nice in the dark. We couldn't find the Santa Lucia figure for the top of the tree either. No, we don't have any personal ornaments. Because we rarely had a tree, we never collected ornaments. My mother-in-law has a small table top tree with miniature Coca Cola ornaments. James' parents also have had a white artificial tree but with a revolving colored light wheel that turned the tree different shades.

The Holiday Party was a lot of fun. I always enjoy the Alien Gift Exchange where the first person opens a gift and subsequent people can steal that gift or open a new gift. This is a picture of Scott "imploding" the gingerbread house (so that people could eat it). You can also see the large variety of cookies and candy that we had.

When I finish the Opossum and Chipmunk ornaments, I will take a picture, but I might not be able to post it until after we get to Kentucky. We leave again at o'dark o'clock Thursday morning and travel from here to O'Hare, then to Lexington. The weather had been threatening to snow in Chicago, but it looks like a lesser possibility of rain now. For those who are traveling, safe journeys!

Friday, December 14, 2007

December Stash

I mentioned previously that I had gotten a few small pieces of stash. First up is Long Dog Samplers' Time & Tide. I like nautical themes and this sampler has everything oceanic you could want. Then there are two patterns from Ink Circles, Garden Stars and
Hawaiian Mandala Sampler. I fell in love with these patterns while deciding if I wanted to join The Snowbirds SAL who are working on Paradigm Lost and Cirque des Cercles. Although I decided not to join this SAL, I still love to read their postings. There are some mighty beautiful interpretations of these designs. And not all of them are monochrome. I also could not resist another Michael Powell. I also have his Mini Christmas Window II on backorder. I don't mind since I have plenty of things to stitch before it gets here. In fact, I might not get to any of these before 2009!

Which brings me to the last bit of stash. I got the Mirabilia Christmas Tree 2006, which I almost started before deciding to buckle down and work on Christmas presents. So even though I am not as enamored of Christmas Tree 2007, I got it to keep the set going. When I got it, I knew instantly what the problem was -- the fabric. Like half the ornaments in the JCS 2007 Ornament Issue, the designs are fine, but the color choices are ... unfortunate. Here this lovely tree just blends into the background. If Nora had picked a more contrasting color choice the tree would pop. I'm not saying that she needed a black or neon pink, but just something, even a beige, that lets you see the tree in all its splendor.

The CookieFest went very well last night. We baked Christmas Candy Cane Crispers, Pecan Rum Bars, Dark Chocolate Crackles, and made Bourbon Balls. We also decorated sugar cookies and put together this gingerbread house that Robert brought. The rocket ship crashing into the roof should read NCC1701 (the call numbers of the Starship Enterprise). OK, we are all geeks here and we know it. I'm going to make some press cookies today and the grocery list for tomorrow. Tomorrow is all cooking, all the time until the guests start showing up around 7:30 pm. I hope everyone is having as much fun as we are this weekend.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week

This week’s question was once again suggested by Nancy and is:

Do you do anything special to your threads before putting them through your fabric to make them more manageable?

Usually, no. I do pull each strand of floss separately, then put them together. I do run my fingers down the strand to make sure it is not too twisted. I do have some Thread Heaven (somewhere...), but I have only used it on metallic needlepoint threads. The best way to keep threads manageable is to keep them short (especially metallics) and to make sure they are untwisted by letting them dangle free every couple of stitches.

Today is the CookieFest. I never know exactly how many people will show up, but I usually have about ten recipes ready to go. Spritz (cookie press) cookies are my favorites, but they can be somewhat tricky. I'll have people work on one kind and make the other two myself. For the cooking challenged I have Bourbon Balls. Then a lacy cookie with macadamia nuts, an oat cookie with peppermint, a chocolate cookie, a pecan bar, and a ginger shortbread. One person brings a really dry sugar cookie mix, but in a community, you let everyone play. The house is clean, I've got my shopping list and am ready to BAKE.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Invisible Chipmunk

No. He is still not there. I need more concentration than I had this weekend to work on all his fiddly stitches. Instead I give you a wooden bird feeder. This is what I stitched on the plane on Friday.

This was my progress as of Saturday night. I got a lot done listening the to long, long inquisition.

And here is what I added on the flights home. More bird feeder and more leaves. If anything the flights home were better than the flights out. Yes, there was weather in Chicago. It's December. There is always weather at O'Hare in Chicago. But we got on the 3:30 pm flight (which left at 4:30 pm), rather than the 5:00 pm flight we were scheduled for (which was rumored to leave at 7 pm and which would have made us miss our connection to the Las Vegas flight at 8:10 pm). By the time we got to Chicago, the weather had calmed down and our Las Vegas flight left on time and got in early. The plane was so empty that James and I each had a row to ourselves. He slept stretched out and I spread out to stitch. There won't be much stitching done this week. We are holding two parties. On Thursday a group of friends will be here to bake cookies for the Holiday party on Saturday night.

The convention was alright. We got to see a lot of our friends in a very relaxed mood. James got snapped up by the Treasury Department for Denvention (the Worldcon in Denver next August). In Denver, I am going to work for Melbourne, Australia (which will almost definitely be the Worldcon in 2010, though the voting is not until Denver). The Head of Programming for Denver saw my demo programming database written in Filemaker and wants to use it. So that means a lot of cleaning up and documentation needs to be done before I ship it to her in January. That's OK, as I need to do some of this for the programming I will be doing for the July, 2008, Westercon in Las Vegas.

Yes, we ate a LOT of lobster, but none at the Legal Test Kitchen. They are behind the security gates in Terminal A, as is the Legal Express in Terminal B. So we ate at the regular Legal Seafood restaurant in Terminal C twice (lobster bisque, clam chowder, lobster rolls, fried clams, and FABULOUS crab cakes) and had Lobster Benedict for breakfast at the hotel.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Travel Bliss

After a few bad trips, I was a little wary about any travel. But I have to say that the trip to Boston yesterday was smo-o-o-o-th. Yes, we had to leave at o'dark o'clock and I didn't get to bed the night before as early as I wanted to, but the house (and cats) were in reasonable shape when I went to bed. We got up with our carry ons all packed and drove the car to the airport. For trips under a week it is actually cheaper to park the car at the airport than take a cab both ways. Since I had printed out our boarding passes the night before, we went right to Security and were at the gate in about 20 minutes. The plane was full, but it was a short flight to Denver. We even arrived early. The plane to Boston left on time and also got in early. Although it is cold in Boston, the hotel shuttle took us right to the hotel. When I think about the thousands of miles that we traveled in such a short time without much driving or walking, I realize how much we do take this long distance air travel for granted. It is so nice to be here in Boston with our friends from around the world (from England to Australia and all points inbetween).

And, yes, I did stitch on both flights. I even tucked my camera in my carry on at the last minute, though I didn't bring my card reader. I didn't want to stitch for three days and have no pictures of the intermediary steps. I stitched a bit this afternoon and am going back down to the consuite and stitch between now and dinner. Tonight is the Fannish Inquisition where we ask embarrassing questions of everyone who is running a convention about their facilities and committee. Since we are all friends and fellow con runners here, it is all in a spirit of fun.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Chipmunk Started

So here he is! Oh, don't see a chipmunk here? Well, right. He's that mass of confetti stitching in the center that I decided to save for later. What you do see is the top and side of the birdfeeder that he is sitting in and one branch and leaf of the tree the birdfeeder is hanging from. This fabric is behaving much better than the fabric I used for the opossum, so it is stitching up much faster. I stitched this yesterday and a bit this morning. Now I will have to stop and pack it away until tomorrow.

Tomorrow we get up at o'dark o'clock and head to the airport. LAS to DEN, DEN to BOS and we never leave the airport. The convention is at the Boston Airport Hilton, which makes it convenient, especially since there are several Legal Seafood restaurants in the Boston airport. How much lobster can we eat in two days? We are not taking any luggage, which makes for an interesting packing experience. When we move from house to house we don't need to pack cosmetics, toothbrushes, skin creams, and other personal items. We have supplies in every house. Here we have to get a pile of winter clothes into carry-ons, with all gels, creams, and liquids separated into a plastic bag. I am taking a stripped down stitching kit and finding room for my laptop somehow. I might have a post this weekend, but no pictures. I'm not bringing my camera and card reader. So back I go to cleaning up the house enough for the cat sitter. I need to move the boxes I have been unpacking out of the back hall so the sitter can get to the girl's room and clear off the mail counter in the kitchen to make room for more mail. I'd rather just take a nap and spend this evening stitching. But we will see a lot of our friends in Boston and most of them won't be working on the convention, so plenty of time to talk and hang out. I will have plenty of time to stitch on the plane.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week

This week’s SBQ was suggested by Nancy and is:

What tips would you give to a new stitcher to help her stitch faster and neater while still keeping it enjoyable?

First if they are trying to stitch by the "sewing method", I would teach them the "stab" method. That might slow them down a bit, but it will result in much neater stitches later. I would buy them some Q-Snaps to keep their fabric taut. I would buy them some John James needles, some nice evenweave fabric and some DMC (or even nicer specialty threads like Weeks Dye Works) if they are still stitching from a kit (especially a kit with poor threads and cheap Aida). I would buy them a Bent Creek or Lizzie*Kate pattern. Something that will make them smile and won't take forever to finish. When they are feeling comfortable,I would teach them to railroad (at least the top stitch) and to allow their thread to unwind as they stitch. Again this would slow them down some, but would result in much, much neater work.

Now I would teach them to "read" a pattern. Just like your cooking experience will be much, much smoother if you read (and reread) the recipe first, your stitching will be much easier if you "read" the pattern first and assemble all your ingredients. If the pattern is small, enlarging it first will help a lot. How many different threads will you use in this pattern? How are they used? A lot of one color, lots of different colors? Are some colors predominately in one spot on the pattern? Are any threads blended? Do you HAVE all the threads that you need? Nothing can create a UFO faster than running out of a color. Are there any specialty beads or buttons? I usually like to start in the middle, but sometimes the middle is just too complex a place to start. I just started a pattern in the upper left hand corner where there was a lot of only three different colors. It helps to develop a shorthand for remembering where to stitch next (OK, that's 3 on this row, over two and 5 on the next row), so that you don't have to look at the pattern for every stitch.

Now the most important part of all. Stitch with your friends. There is nothing the encourages stitching like a day spent stitching with friends. If you don't live close by, see if there is a LNS with an open stitching evening that the new stitcher can join. Just tell them to leave their credit cards at home (at least half the time) or they will end up like all of us -- more stash than we can stitch in a lifetime!


Since today seems to be question day, I will steal this meme from Anna:
  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper mostly, but gift bags for large and bulky items and for the Holiday exchange party.
  2. Real tree or artificial? Mostly no tree. We always traveled back East for the holidays. Getting a tree for just us seemed like too much work. Then three years ago we started having a Holiday party for local friends. The first two years we bought a real tree (they smell good), but last year we ran out of time and just bought a white one. We liked it so much that we are going to do it again this year. I've been looking for a small real tree, but nothing has looked interesting so far.
  3. When do you put up the tree? After the cleaners come on Wednesday before the party. We have a group in to make cookies on Thursday before the party, then the party itself on Saturday.
  4. When do you take the tree down? Some time in January.
  5. Do you like eggnog? No, I don't drink milk either and dislike eggs in most forms. My husband, on the other hand is a great eggnog drinker. He's fond of Southern Comfort eggnog, but puts in good bourbon instead. He once made a batch from scratch (enough for 75 people) for a party that every one raved about, but it's really rich and doesn't keep all that well. These parties have a lot less than 75.
  6. Favorite gift received as a child? My Erector set? My chemistry set? My paint-by-numbers sets? I remember getting my last doll when I was 12 (or 13?) I wanted it so much, but when I got it, I realized that I was not that interested in playing with dolls anymore. Our Christmas presents were pretty practical most years; a new coat, some winter boots; therefore not many of them are memorable.
  7. Do you have a nativity scene? Nope, not Christian.
  8. Hardest person to buy for? My husband. He never wants anything. I tried to take him shopping this afternoon and he was like a little kid going to the dentist.
  9. Easiest person to buy for? My nephew and his wife. They just had their first child last March (and moved into a new house) and need everything.
  10. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? Stamped them all last night. They went into the USPS this afternoon. We send a lot of non-denominational cards, cards from Hawaii, and funny cards (Wonder Woman cards, Santa in a rickshaw from Hong Kong, peppermint martini cards). We used to keep an elaborate database about who got what so that we wouldn't duplicate cards to the same family two years in a row, but now we just let the cards fall where they will.
  11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? It was so sad. Our first Christmas my husband gave me a BEAUTIFUL alpaca sweater. I have VERY sensitive skin. I could barely put it on before wanting to rip it off again. We returned it, but it made him skittish about buying me anything.
  12. Favorite Christmas movie? White Christmas.
  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Whenever. The heavy shopping doesn't get done until we get the Christmas list from my sister-in-law. Lots of shopping gets done in Lexington. Yup, we shop on the 24th.
  14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don't think so. There are probably some things from my sister-in-law that are back at the bottom of a closet somewhere.
  15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? My husband's family are not great cooks. There is a turkey with all the traditionals, but the best things are the snacks during Christmas morning present opening -- Chritchfield's (a great meat market in Lexington, Kentucky) great rolls and country ham, cheese straws, See's candy that we bring, and Chritchfield's Nut and Olive spread. I need to make PRESS cookies -- camels, wreaths and trees. Oh, and Graeter' Peppermint Ice Cream, only available at Christmas.
  16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? White. We had a bubble tree with colored "candles" growing up.
  17. Favorite Christmas song? The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting...)
  18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Except the years we lived in New Zealand and 2003 when we had to go to Chicago in early December and made our six month visit then, most of the rest in Lexington, Kentucky, staying at my mother-in-law's.
  19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Probably
  20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Santa Lucia with a pearl halo with candles.
  21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning not too early.
  22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Travel, travel, travel. The last THREE times we traveled to Lexington, United "lost" our luggage. We almost didn't have the presents there in time for Christmas day. Not to mention that we had no underwear or change of clothes. I did manage to buy some clothes there.
  23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Since the white tree last year, the theme is purple and silver. We also have a lot of MOMA gold, silver, and copper balls. If I could have an all copper Christmas I would.
  24. Favorite thing for Christmas dinner? Nothing memorable.
  25. What do you want for Christmas this year? For United to get our luggage to Lexington WITH US. To have a safe and happy journey home again.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I knew it wouldn't take very long to finish the opossum outlining. I thought I would finish him yesterday, but I was in a whirlwind of organizing and spent the day unpacking boxes -- mostly books (CFA Almanacs, quilting and decorating magazines) and sewing supplies (sewing fabric and more Q-Snaps, yeah!) Then we watched the only football we have watched all year, the Washington vs. Hawaii game. It was a thriller. While watching I did go though half the Christmas catalogs we have gotten in the mail so far. There are still a couple of feet more to peruse. It only took about a half an hour to finish the opossum, but I was not ready to start the chipmunk. I still have to iron the fabric.

So since I was on a roll I pulled out Flower Fairy again. You may think that I have forgotten her, but I have dragged her on all my past trips and even showed her to Ruth in Los Angeles. She just got pushed aside until the Christmas presents are finished. This backstiching is not as easy as outlining on the opossum. I have to look at each stitch on the pattern. The backstitch makes sense when you see the whole pattern, but not so much on a stitch by stitch level. In a little while I got the middle leaf done and started on the flower stalk. I'll have to put this down again and concentrate on the chipmunk this week.


This picture is for Kendra. Hot Browns are the treat you get for making a fresh turkey. Yum, yum, yum. And none of those nasty tomatoes on them that you find in some bogus recipes. Our recipe is from Out of Kentucky Kitchens by Marion Flexner (1949), which lists this as Brown Sandwich (hot). The author mentions that it is perfect in winter, but that she prefers the Brown Sandwich (cold) -- rye bread, turkey, lettuce, tomato, hard boiled egg, and Thousand Island dressing when the weather is hot. It makes more sense to have tomatoes on a summer sandwich than a winter one.