Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stitching in the Air

I think I have this "stitching on an airplane" thing down. First I use a 6 inch by 6 inch Q-Snap frame. This means that I have to pick a rather small pattern. When I was shuffling through my patterns last night, I rejected a number of topiary patterns that I really want to stitch, but were not appropriate. One pattern was too big. One pattern had too many specialty stitches. One pattern had too many colors, especially single stitches right in the middle of a field of stitches. One pattern was stitched on very dark cloth.

Let's face it. You are going to be stitching on a laptop tray. You just can't thread a dozen needles and have them waiting around for their turn in the pattern. You are going to be stitching in a low light level. No lighted magnifying glass here. You want a fairly low count fabric with plenty of contrast between the thread and the cloth. And it would be best if you could stitch a goodly number of stitches with the same thread before having to switch over to another thread. I carry one needle (with some backups), a needle threader, and a cat's claw scissors. When the scissors only have a cutting surface of less than a centimeter, TSA is not going to care.

So after evaluating a number of patterns, I went back to Bent Creek. This pattern has 25 count linen stitched over two with three strands of floss and lots of clearly defined areas to stitch. I found it fun to work on. I just have to remember to leave some for the return five hour flight back to the mainland next Wednesday. I also brought the Pineapple Fish needlepoint and the Winter cross stitch. The Winter pattern is actually rather small, so I can use the same set of q-snaps for this project. I was not going to attempt stitching silk thread on dark navy fabric on a poorly lit plane.

-----------------
This cross stitch dedicated to the Buzz Out Loud crew from CNET. Veronica, Molly, and Tom; your podcasts are great! I could not have done this without listening to you.

Monday, February 26, 2007

It's All in the Family

This pillow was stitched by my mother. It is one of my favorite things that she has ever done. It could be the very small count or the muted purples, blues, and greens or the beautiful navy velvet of the pillow itself. As a Master Flower Show judge, she does do a lot of flower motifs. She also did the brighter flower pillow you can just see behind my favorite one. What is odd is that I don't ever remember her doing needlepoint while I still lived at home. I learned to sew (and she helped me). My mother sewed many of her own clothes, even sewing copies of more expensive gowns. She is a terrificly good cook. My mother's mother was a professional seamstress and did beautiful Barbie doll clothes (including feathered pillbox hats) when that doll was first released. But I don't remember my grandmother or my mother doing needlepoint or embroidery. I think I might have done some stamped embroidery, a pillowcase or a handkerchief, but certainly not needlepoint. The first needlepoint I remember doing is a small Dimensions kit of some mountains that I did in my twenties. It is now hanging on the "Wall of Handcrafts" at my mother-in-law's house, which covers four generations of craftwomen.

My mother is slowly losing her sight to macular degeneration. She still attends her needlework club meetings, but can no longer stitch along with her friends. She can slowly stitch large count patterns with the aid of a lighted magnifying glass. She sent me this cheerful purse for Christmas. I plan on using it when the weather gets warmer.

When did you learn to stitch? Does your mother or grandmother stitch? Do your daughters (or sons) stitch?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Organizing Suspended

I wish the entire sewing room looked like this. But it doesn't. I did clean off the sofa enough to open it up. I did hang up the glass mosaic mirror that I bought in Venice last summer. I did put more books and sewing supplies away. All the books on the right are about sewing, quilting, needlework, and home dec. The books and magazines on the right cover remodeling, home building, and gardening. Many of those books are still in boxes.

As you can see, the closet is more organized (and more full). But in the midst of all this frantic clearing out and cleaning, my stitching friend from Los Angeles called and said that she was not coming after all. In a way this was a relief. We actually have a real guest room. I was only clearing out the sewing room because we were expecting more than one set of guests. At one point in time maybe about fifteen people from out of town said they were coming to a meeting that my husband had called to organize a convention in 2008. Now admittedly this is a long time before the convention will occur, but our committee is far flung and we will not be having that many meetings. So the rest of the house was spotless and my other guests could just use the main guest room. Until...they called around midnight and said that they weren't coming either. They had to drive to the SF Bay area unexpectedly. That's alright. The meeting was still held and there were plenty of local people who attended. I just wish that some of the out of town committee could have met them and could have taken the hotel tour.

So I abandoned the clearing up for now. I had actually scheduled way, way too much to do for this weekend anyway. We also run a photography foundation and give away yearly grants. We announced our grantees on Saturday. Now we just have to return all the prints and slides and organize the museum show that will be held in July.

Meanwhile, I did get a lot done. I found a lot of lost and forgotten objects both UFOs and yet to be started objects. And I do feel better about finishing organizing the rest of room sometime this year. Some of the boxes that are left aren't even sewing related, but just old boxes of magazines and papers.

Now we need to concentrate on packing. We leave on Tuesday and I want to make sure I have all I need for several stitching projects. I'll need something small for the airplane and the Pineapple Fish for long stitching days and maybe something else if I get bored with those two projects. At least I can find all I need now!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ebay Addiction

How did I wind up with all this Christmas Red Kreinik braid? Ebay. I don't even remember buying it all. But I do remember the first time I bought something on Ebay.

I registered on Ebay on October 28, 1998. Boy, that is a long time ago! I had bought a Hawaiian print in Honolulu for quite a lot of money. It was a WPA image from Eugene Savage that was used on Matson steamship lines dinner menus. I thought if I looked around on the internet, I could find more of these menus and I did. I felt quite pleased in getting more of these for quite a reasonable price. That lead to me bidding on old Hawaiian cookbooks and that lead to THREADS.

I don't know the first set of threads I bought from Ebay. When I first started buying them they were from closing needlework stores or estate sales. Most people didn't have a good idea what these items were worth. So often you could find Rainbow Gallery threads that were selling for $2 - $3 dollars per card in a needlework store, on Ebay for 10 or 20 cents per card. I bought antique silk threads, DMC floss for a penny or two per skein, other unidentifiable threads of odd composition. Gradually people got more savvy about these items. There were more people bidding on them and the prices were often no better than you could get at a good sale price. Sometimes the colors were so bad that even if it was cheap, I couldn't imagine ever using it! I learned to have a price point and stick to it even if I lost the auction. I also tended to bid on large lots of threads. Somehow it didn't make sense to pay a dollar or two for some threads and then pay four or five dollars for shipping.

So that's where I got all the Kreinik thread and Rainbow Gallery thread and even my favorites, silk thread and silk and wool. I also bought linen (and discovered Silkweaver hand dyed linen) and kits and patterns.

Looking over all this accumulation I think I am over my addiction. I haven't bid on anything in several months. But every so often I check out my favorite searches.

Do you buy threads from Ebay? Fabric? Kits? Patterns? Tell me about your addiction.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week

I know how hard it can get thinking up questions every week, so before I joined SBQ I sent in a few sample questions. I didn't know one would get used so quickly.
What is the smallest count fabric you have ever used? Did you stitch
over one? Conversely, what is the largest count fabric you have ever used?
First let me apologize to all the Aida stitchers out there. I am so used to linen and evenweaves that that is the first fabric I thought of. Though I have seen some mean designers that use quarter cross stitches on Aida. If they are going to do that they should just stick to evenweaves.

Almost everything I have stitched is 28 or 32 count over two. There might have been a few square inches of over one for face or hands, but not much. I don't like the loose look of smaller counts, though I do have some 7 Klostern and some waste canvas that I might use some day. I do have a few inches of 40 count that I couldn't resist buying from a bargain bin, but I haven't stitched on it yet and I doubt I will do over one when I do stitch with it. I'll probably use it for Christmas ornaments.

I have also stitched on 14 count (over one) beige plastic canvas (Karen Avery's Christmas ornaments) long before there were Q Snaps. I have never liked the embroidery hoops that we had to use before Q Snaps were invented. Plastic canvas was great for stitching while traveling on airplanes, because the stitches were so well supported. I also have some perforated paper in gold and silver, but I haven't tried it yet. It looks a bit fragile.

I also stitch on high count needlepoint. My favorite gauge is 18 count, especially the designs by Melissa Shirley. My mother-in-law makes endless bargello pillows in 10 count with leftover Persian wool from her many years of stitching. She always teases me that I'll lose my sight working on such tiny designs.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

1...2...3, Testing, Testing

So I am ready to start stitching on Winter for Project Spectrum. I know I want to stitch white threads on a blue background. I picked out this hand dyed fabric in 28ct Cashel linen and did some test stitches.

The first thread I tested was Rainbow Gallery Alabaster ( Needlepoint 13 - 18 count, Cross Stitch 7 - 11 count). Well, they were right. Using over two threads (14 count), this thread just about covered in one stitch. Two stitches just made a lumpy half cross and covered over the bottom stitch completely. I love the sparkly nature of this thread, but I will have to save it for needlepoint.

Next I tried two threads of DMC Pearlescent Effects. This is another sparkly thread, but much thinner. It almost covered the fabric, but is quite stiff and hard to lay. Just to see if adding another thread would help, I also tried it with three threads. Nope, just another lumpy mess.

By now it is also obvious that part of the problem will be the fabric. Although it is blue, it is not dark enough to really show off the thread, no matter how white.

So the next step is to change fabrics. I tried a Jobelean 28 count in Navy. Here the white really pops against the dark fabric. The only problem now is the Jobelean is so dark that is it hard to really be absolutely sure that you are stitching in the right holes. I'll have to work on this project during daylight. Two threads of DMC Pearlescent Effects still isn't as accurate or as covering as I would like. Time to forget the sparkly thread except maybe in one or two motifs. The winner is two threads of Empress Silk; shiny and covering. The only problem now is that it slips way too easily out of the needle. I need to get a smaller eyed needle.

Photographic neepery: This simple half hour project took three hours. Not only did I have problems with the threads and fabric, but taking these supermacro pictures turned into a true nightmare. Dozens of shots with my wonderful Panasonic DMC-LX1 camera only gave me a fuzzy mess. The first picture is the best I could do. I couldn't make the second picture come out at all. I finally asked my husband to use his Canon EOS-1D (with a tripod) and even then the bottom of the second picture is pretty fuzzy. I don't know if it is a problem with the autofocus or the image stabilizer or what. I really need a macro lens for this kind of closeup work.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Be Seeing You

Now that I have finished Silver and Gold, I can go back and work on Pineapple Fish. The painted canvas just showed a black slit for an eye on the large fish and dots for the small fishes. I knew I wanted to put on a bead instead, so last week I went to Bead Jungle in Henderson to find some funky black beads. Instead they had a huge plastic box of loose beads and I found this lovely aquamaroon glass bead. I like it so much better than black. I probably should have waited until all the stitching was done before attaching the bead, but I really wanted to see how it would look.

I think it looks great. My iPod is still keeping me entertained, so I am managing an hour or so of stitching every evening. Hooray!

Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

Although the beaded eye on the large fish turned out great, I wanted to stitch one of the small fish last night and see how the smaller black beads would look for eyes. I had decided that using the Petite Frosty Rays on the large fish tail was driving me batty. I really liked working with the Renaissance Designs thread for the sun, so I got some teal thread from Renaissance Designs to finish off the small fish. Just because one thread in a line is great to stitch with, don't assume that another color will be equally good. Threads from every other manufacturer have been similar in different colors of the same line. Not Renaissance Designs. I started with a shorter piece (ten inches) because the thread is metallic, but that wasn't short enough. Within a half dozen stitches the thread was shredded. I've tried even shorter length, but again, within a few stitches, the thread is toast! The stitches are lumpy and uneven, too. So. What now? I could pull it all out and go back to Petite Frosty Rays. Or I could muddle along and rethread the needle every five minutes. Meanwhile I am just going back and finishing the water and sky. I'll come back to the small fish later. Hmmmmmph. This project was going way too smoothly.

Monday, February 19, 2007

OFOs

Everyone has WiPs (Works in Progress). Everyone has older UFOs (UnFinished Objects). But do you have OFOs? These I call Old Finished Objects. Yes, you finished stitching them (even the back stitching). Yes, they are ready to be framed/made into something/given away, but you haven't done it yet. You may not have done it for a long, long time. This is the only piece I've done in Aida. The Silly Cow (out standing in her field) here was kit I did for my niece. To say she is a cow fanatic is putting it mildly. If her entire apartment could be covered in cow images it would be (and her kitchen is). I finished this probably six or seven years ago. I always meant to frame it and give it to her for Christmas, but somehow it got put away and I only find it again in the middle of summer. I am going to frame it Real Soon Now. Maybe then I can remember to give it to her this Christmas.

This piece is even older. When my niece was in college, she was in a sorority whose mascot was a ladybug. This was supposed to be a very small pillow in red plaid fabric. I may have even bought the fabric -- or maybe not. At this point I'll be lucky to frame it and give it to her. Though since it is not a cow, I wonder if she would even be interested in it now.

So I guess Silver & Gold that I just finished now goes into this category. I haven't framed it yet (OK, I just finished it yesterday, so it's really not that old). I'm not sure how I want to frame it or where I want to hang it. I'm going to start another project and go back and work on my Pineapple Fish. I bought some beads for the eyes and I am exciting about attaching them and seeing how they look.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

First Finish for 2007

Silver and Gold is DONE. It was bought at Twisted Threads in Madeira, Ohio, probably four or five years ago and started it October 31, 2006. I have to say that if I didn't have this blog, I might not have finished it. I have such a history of not finishing projects. The UFOs I talked about yesterday were only the oldest of the UFOs I have. I am always traveling. (We are generally in Boston this weekend.) I am always working on conventions. I always have a reason to put something down (and then go out with friends and buy even more stuff I don't finish.). But having a theoretical "audience" looking over my shoulder is just enough push to sit down and finish the projects I start. I was hoping the blog would help with this and it has. But this was a very small project. I don't know if the blog will help with a project that will take possibly years to finish.

Another big help to finish this is podcasts. I simply can't stitch while watching television or movies. But give me a bunch of geeks nattering on about DRM, CES, Net Neutrality, Apple, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD and I am so there. We moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Las Vegas over three years ago. Although I love it here, there isn't the level of technological knowledge that is so common in the Bay Area. This way I can catch up on the latest tech gossip (without reading all of Slashdot) and work on projects, too.

Oddly enough I have no idea what I am going to do with this project. I just picked it out of the box of kits because I was looking for a small, quick project. Most of the projects I have been working on, I have made for other people. I have a number of Christmas/Winter cross stitches, so it could be framed and hung in that area.

I do know what my next project will be. I picked out some Silkweaver Solo hand dyed fabric (Cashel 28 count linen) and some Rainbow Gallery Alabaster thread and I plan to work on the monochrome Winter cross stitch by Erica Michaels. I still have to test out the thread with this linen. The thread might be too big to use, but it is so sparkly. It has just the winter effect I want. This picture is when the fabric is a bit damp, so it looks a bit darker. Since it is for Project Spectrum I'm using the bottom right hand corner where it is mostly blue. I can't wait to get started.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

UnFinished Objects (UFOs)

All of us have projects that we started with great hope and slowly (or not so slowly) abandoned. Sometimes the result wasn't what we expected or the task was harder or more tedious than we thought it would be. At what point to do just throw just projects away? How long do we hold on thinking that someday we will return and finish it? Maybe we will finish it on that mythical day When We Have Time. I hate to say it, but I have projects that I still hope to finish that I started about thirty years ago. Yes, 30 as in three zero. Probably longer than many of you have been crafting. You can see how old is it by the deteriorated tape on the edges. I started this project (a Japanese inspired pillow top from a kit) in 1977 in New Zealand. My husband was fanatical board gamer (the SGI military series that used huge maps, hex markers, and took three or more days to play to the end). He played with his friend, Alan, while Alan's wife knitted and I worked on this needlepoint. I didn't abandon it just because I moved back to the States and started working in Silicon Valley (which means 100 hours a week on a good week). If you look closely you will see the problem with many printed needlepoint canvases. The design is symmetrical, but the printing on the canvas is skewed. If you try to follow the printed colors, the design will be skewed. If you want to keep to the symmetrical design you will have to ignore the printed colors and finish the design by your own count. Obviously this task was more than I cared to handle at the time I reached this side. I still don't know how I would straighten out this pattern and make the pillow symmetrical. So I guess it will lurk in the closet for a while longer.

There is a similar problem with this needlepoint which is less than 30 years old, but possibly 20 years old (about the time we started breeding and showing Abyssinians). Here is another kit, but the difficulties are all of my own making. The picture shown is a striped tabby cat (genetically Tt). It has similar colors to my ruddy Abyssinians, but in a ticked pattern (genetically Ta). I thought I could just put a ticked pattern on the cat and make it into an Abyssinian. And I think I did a pretty good job on the tail and the paw. But it is a lot harder and more tedious path to make up a pattern than just color in the picture on the canvas. There is nothing technically keeping me from finishing this project, except the lure of easier or more interesting projects. I'm not really into the Country look, so I will probably work on something more contemporary than this project.

I won't say that I will finish either of these projects this year, but Maybe Someday.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Reach For the Sky

I've been working on this little travel cross stitch (Bent Creek's Silver and Gold) since November and last night I finished the sky. Oddly enough the sky is blue and gray (Weeks Dye Works color Dove), so I have been working with the current Project Spectrum colors. All of these threads are shades (have a very gray component as opposed to pure colors or tints [which are pure colors mixed with white]). I have found the colors to be rather depressing and was looking forward to moving on to another project that would be more colorful or at least work with purer colors. But I was also apprehensive about moving to the last phase of stitching which would be white (Weeks Dye Works color Whitewash). Somehow working with white thread is intimidating, even though I wash my hands before working on any of my needlework. Still white seems to be a dirt and cat hair magnet.

But the minute I started stitching it, the rest of the picture came alive! The colors looked sharper. The entire picture seems more cheerful. So I have to finish just a bit more snow at the bottom of the trees, add longstitch window crossbars and add the silver and gold charms. I should have it finished by this weekend. Then I can go back and work on my Pineapple Fish needlepoint some more and start on some Project Spectrum projects.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Stitching Blogger’s Question of the Week

The Blonde Librarian asks a question about stitching habits every week. This is a good chance to think about how and why we do our stitching. This week's question is:
Do you like to buy "chartpacks" that include charms, buttons, and/or beads or do you prefer to gather all materials yourself?
When I started stitching (needlepoint), I bought kits which included the canvas and Persian Yarn. There never were any additional materials like buttons or ribbons that you would add after the fact. Many older needlepoint kits just assumed you would be making a pillow, rarely just a picture.

When I started cross stitch, I also bought kits, but quickly learned that I hate Aida cloth. I end up replacing the Aida cloth in every kit with linen. Then I learned that some of the threads in the smaller (and cheaper) kits was not very good quality. So I switched from kits to charts. When DMC threads went on sale at Michael's, I bought one (or two or three) of every color. I even started a database to keep track of the colors I had. Then I started buying supplies on Ebay. That led to a stash of Mill Hill Beads, Kreinik threads, and silk threads. I also fell under the spell of Silkweaver hand dyed linen. I now have most of the supplies for any chart that I would want to make, except for the charms or buttons.

If it is a Mirabilia chart using just Mill Hill Beads, I would rather not have the supplies included. But if it is a chart using unusual buttons, I don't mind buying a chart and the kit of fancy buttons and ribbons and charms. I bought a chart of The Cricket Collection's Three Gables and had a terrible time trying to find the individual buttons it required. If it is a small project I would rather have charms included to make it more individual than just thread on cloth. But I would hesitate to buy a chart that specified charms unless they were included.

I still do needlepoint (see Pineapple Fish). Although most needlepoint is sold without threads and without extras (or even a stitching chart), I did decide to add beads for the fish eyes rather than just use stitching. I had a lot of fun picking out some fancy beads at Bead Jungle yesterday. Here I was glad to not have something already picked out, but got to choose my own.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My First Quilt

I own dozens of quilt books. I have subscribed to Quilter's Newsletter for several years. But although I have gone to quilt shows and collected fabrics for quilts, the amount of space it takes to assemble a quilt and the amount of time it requires is daunting. Besides most of the beginner quilts (like Nine Patches) are so boring and so traditional. I want to do modern Art Quilts, but don't trust my sewing skills enough to start. So there was always a good reason not to start. There would be plenty of time later. But my nephew and his wife are having a baby (and my mother-in-law's first great grandchild) at the end of April. I thought that a Baby Quilt was something I could handle.

I wanted something small and decided on a tiny quilt of 5 by 4 six inch squares. It would be perfect for a newborn and would be small enough to carry around as a "blankie" when the child was older. Or it could be passed on to her siblings. This would be something I could finish in a week or two and could handle in one piece. I went to fabric.com and picked out six different flannel baby fabrics and a couple of yards of ultrasoft Minky plush fabric for the back.

I saw an advertisement for a tiled mirror featuring a square made of interlocking rectangles and thought, "That could make a nice quilt square". I knew it might be dangerous to start with a quilt square that could not be sewn straight across every seam, but actually it turned out to be easy enough to sew one rectangle to the center square, then sew rectangles around the center square until I had to join the last seam to the first rectangle.

Since I wanted this quilt to be completely washable and soft, I knew I wasn't going to have a pieced section in every square. I also wasn't going to heavily quilt this blanket as I wanted it flexible enough for a small baby. Also the thick Minky fabric would be crushed by heavy quilting. So I just "tied down" the center of the plain squares with an automatic embroidery pattern and some Signature tropical variegated embroidery thread on both the needle and the bobbin. I love all the different colors in this thread.

The pieced top only took a couple of hours which included me cutting out piece shapes from some stiff acrylic. My joins are not one hundred percent at each 90 degree intersections, but acceptable for my first time. I had to try a lot of different tie down sizes and styles before I could find one that would embroider through that Minky fabric, even though there was no batting. The piecing and tie downs were interesting and enjoyable. Then I had to do the binding. Cutting bias edging was time consuming and uncomfortable since the only way to do it was to lay the cutting mat on the floor. Once the bias was cut it had to be ironed into shape. Getting the folded flannel through the bias maker was difficult. And when it came to sewing the bias onto the quilt, well, I did more ripping out than sewing. I'd hate to let any quilting instructor see this!

The best thing about this quilt is that my nephew's wife LOVES it. She has dozens of aunts and cousins and grandparents. I was sure that one of them would quilt her some sort of masterpiece, but so far I am the only one that has actually made something by hand for the baby. I have lots of flannel left and several patterns for baby clothes, so before the end of April I hope to have other handmade things for her.

Will I do another quilt? I hope so. I have lots of fabric for it. But probably not in the next six months. I really want to finish some of my UFOs and keep on starting new items for Project Spectrum. I have already gathered the material for two purses (one beaded), a quilt square, and a cross stitch. Four new projects in the next six weeks is enough.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Organizing the Sewing Room

One of the major tasks that I need to do in the next two weeks is organizing the Sewing Room. I wish this picture was representative of my organization, but unfortunately this is only my fabric collection. Yes, all in boxes, all with labels (some facing the side). But I have a lot more crafts (and craft magazines and books) than just this.








This is what my real sewing room looks like now. I was working on sewing a baby quilt for Christmas and when it was time to travel back east and deliver it, all the sewing supplies got dumped in here from the dining room. Unfortunately they were dumped on top of several other craft projects that I had unearthed, like my box of cross stitch linen, my boxes of DMC threads, and boxes of patterns. I've been trying to organize this room since we moved here three years ago. I finally got the bookshelves up and started to put some of the books and magazines away, but as you can see this is another UFO. It's not only craft projects that are unfinished. Like many people I work best with a deadline and on February 23rd someone is going to be sleeping in here. (See the sleeper sofa behind the dressmakers dummy? There is even a bathroom to the left.) So I am going to have to buckle down and clean this place up. Even if not every box is unpacked or every magazine is in chronological order, I will at least have to organize it enough so that I can pull the bed out and no one gets poked by some errant scissors.

The real problem with organizing is the distraction factor. There is a lot of interesting stuff in here. I know I will want to read a magazine or go over a pattern or contemplate some fabric when I pull it out from this mess. And that doesn't even cover the distraction of things with no permanent home. Just where do I put that dressmaker's dummy? Where does the large roll of batting go?
Some of the smaller stuff can be hidden in the closet (sorry no hanging space for guest's clothes in this bed and breakfast!) But as you can see, there is already a lot of stuff in here. (That flap of cardboard is hiding a needlework sampler of a pumpkin that Project Spectrum members will be seeing a lot more of in August and September when we cover Orange.)

Posting these pictures has gotten me excited about posting the newly cleaned sewing room pictures next week. So off I go. There is a lot to do.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Home Again, Home Again

It's good to be home again. Not only because my stash is here, but because my cats are. We bred and showed pedigreed cats for twelve years. These are the non-show Abyssinians that are left. First is the Brain Dead Kitten. Very sweet, but not very bright, and Abyssinians as a rule are very bright. Yes, she has a silly name, but sometime after naming a couple of hundred kittens and show cats, your mind just reaches a blank. Even though she is six years old, she's still The Kitten.

These other two are Precious and Vicious. The friendly kittens get sold as pets and breeders keep those that are not. I love them both, but they do not return the favor. But I did get a lot of stitching done while I was elsewhere. I worked quite a bit on the Pineapple Fish in Maui, then almost finished all of the sky on Silver and Gold on planes and in San Francisco.

Meanwhile I was still thinking about Project Spectrum. On Sunday I went to Discount Fabrics at Fourth and Bryant in San Francisco. It is a dim old warehouse stacked to the ceiling with every kind of fabric on huge rolls. I still don't like gray. I looked at dozens of gray fabrics -- silk, cotton, lace, fur, jacquard, and I failed to get inspired. Maybe it was the choice of white and blue as accents. I have tried a dozen different blues with gray (I thought I might do a quilt square), but I can't seem to find a blue that doesn't turn drab the instant it comes in contact with any gray. I just want to match gray to hot pink, which I probably will do with the interior of the two purses I am planning to make with this fabric. The wool will become a tailored over the shoulder messenger bag and the gray taffeta will become a small embellished evening purse. The two gray ribbons will be add to the crazy quilt ribbon square with white beaded snowflake. I still need a few more ribbons for that project.

I didn't get a chance to blog yesterday and I felt anxious about it. How strange it is to have something become a habit so quickly. I now have a few pictures and topics in the queue and should be able to keep up a daily blog this week. I can't promise the same fortitude next week. We have a lot of people coming for a meeting here on the 24th. Cleaning and organizing (then entertaining) will take priority.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hooray for Boring Meetings

Sometimes a small travel project is just perfect for a boring situation. I had a long planning meeting today for a convention taking place over the Fourth of July this year. It was important that I be there. There were people there I needed to talk to and who wanted to talk to me, but for the majority of the meeting, other people were talking -- often about things that I really didn't care about. It's a lot less rude to do stitchery while people are talking than some other activities that are also going on (like reading or playing computer games). Since the meeting room was set up classroom style there was plenty of room to set up my threads, scissors, and needle threader and get some of this project done.

My husband is at museum show opening this evening, so I'll have even more time to work on this project. I will also work on it on the short flight to Las Vegas tomorrow evening. I'd like to get all of the sky done, then next week I should be able to finish up the small bits of snow at the bottom. It would be good to have one project finished for this year! Then I can start on my Project Spectrum monochrome project.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Tunes to Stitch By

This is my new best stitching friend. No, this is not a new iPod. It is not even my first iPod. I am a Mac Addict and bought one of the very first iPods made. It lasted for years and years, but eventually the battery refused to recharge and viola! It's time to get another one. So this is my second iPod, a 20Gb Color Photo model (no video). I have used it on almost every plane flight to listen to music and while away those long and tedious airline miles. I also have an input from my iPod into my car radio and love listening to my iPod during long road trips. I even have special Road Trip playlists.

But recently I started to download Podcasts. Although I love listening to Podcasts, I always feel a little restless, like I should be doing something else while just listening. This picture was taken in my kitchen as I listened while cleaning the kitchen. So I started stitching while listening. Since I have hundreds of Podcasts I will get a lot of stitching done before I hear them all. Being a Mac Addict, I started listening to MacCast (weekly hourlong shows about all things Mac), then MacBreak, also Buzz Out Loud (tech geeks), Tim Goodman (television critic for the San Francisco Chronicle), The Splendid Table, The Ninth Hour (about the television show Heroes), George R. R. Martin (author), and The Grey's Anatomy Podcast. I have a new John Scalzi book read by different woman authors to sync when I get back to my iPod home computer in Nevada next week.

And I find that I love stitching more while I have something to listen to while I stitch. Maybe it's not as good as talking and stitching with a good friend. But my best stitching friend lives in Los Angeles and I only get to see her a couple of times a year. I can't stitch while the television is on; I just get glued to the screen. So what do you do while stitching? Talk to your family? Stitch with a friend? Watch television? Listen to music? Or just stitch along with your own private thoughts?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Shopping!

I do love Maui. It is peaceful and beautiful. But every so often you long for something that is simply not available in the Islands. Like JoAnne's Fabrics and Crafts. Like a needlepoint specialty store. Like a wonderful lunch at Il Fornaio.

We flew to San Francisco yesterday. Another uneventful flight. Today my husband had a director's meeting at a local art museum, so that gave me plenty of time to shop for Project Spectrum. One project that I want to do is a crazy quilt snowflake. I am going to bead a snowflake on a background of gray and blue ribbons. I got some of the supplies at JoAnne's and I think I also have some at home. I know I have a lot more beads.

Another stop in the Bay Area that I just had to make was at The Status Thimble in Burlingame. It is my favorite needlepoint store, but it also carries some cross stitch. Today I found this monochrome cross stitch pattern from Erica Michaels. I want to stitch it on a blue fabric with white (and maybe gray) threads. I am thinking about using the new DMC Light Effects thread, but I will have to do a test first to see how it looks. If I decide to use Silkweaver Opalescent linen, which is already quite sparkly, I'll just use silk thread.

The reason I went to The Status Thimble is because I know they have walls and walls of gorgeous threads. I know I have dozens of blue threads and hundreds of white threads at home. (I'm a bit of an Ebay junkie when it comes to Rainbow Gallery and Kreinick threads.) But I don't know if I have any Gray threads. It's just not a color I use very often. I know I have Blue Gray threads and Green Gray threads, but pure Gray? Maybe some Alpaca. So now that I have them, what will I do with them? I could use the Splendor with the Winter pattern on some white linen. I might use Fuzzy Stuff or Wisper for the reindeer. Or I might so something completely different.

I still have one more store to shop at here in the Bay Area (for fabrics). I'll try to go tomorrow, but I have to prepare for a meeting on Saturday. Sunday we fly home to Las Vegas.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Travel Projects

As much as I like working on my Pineapple Fish, it's really too big to work on while traveling. Today we are flying to the mainland (San Francisco), so I will switch from needlepoint to a small cross stitch project. This is a limited edition project from Bent Creek called "Silver & Gold". The threads included are lovely Weeks Dye Works variegated shades. I enjoyed working on the trees and the house, but now I am doing the rather boring sky. The original thread for the sky was Dolphin, a much grayer blue. Since all the colors here are dull, I switched Dolphin to Dove, a much bluer gray. After this project I am going to find something with much more vibrant colors. Working on this color palette is somewhat depressing. Oh, you ask, why is it called "Silver and Gold"? Because the last things that will be added are lovely silver and gold stars and snowflakes. It will be framed in a wide rustic frame.

Mmmmm. I need to find a project for my Silkweaver hand dyed linens. I'm afraid I got a bit (OK, more than a bit) carried away in my last couple of orders. And being in San Francisco means many, many more tempting needlework stores (especially The Status Thimble in Burlingame) and fabric stores (especially Britex in San Francisco). Don't I need some great gray fabric or thread to inspire me?

What Do Colors Mean?

When Project Spectrum first came to my attention, I thought about my stash. I thought about all the DMC colors, all the Rainbow Gallery Threads (the white of Santa's Beard or Fuzzy Stuff), all the quilting fabrics I had in blue and white (maybe not gray). But more and more as I thought about these colors it was clothing that came to mind.

Blue to me means denim. From the deep blue black of new denim to the pale, striated blue of acid washed jeans. I might make a few needlework pieces in bright blue ribbon, but I know now that my Blue Work will have to use the old denim jeans that I have been saving for just the "right" occasion. Maybe a quilt square or a quilt "postcard". Maybe a pocketbook or purse.

Gray puts me in mind of gray flannel suits (maybe with a subtle white stripe). I am definitely thinking of a formal, tailored look of...something. But then I saw this fabric. This is a casual gray. This is a soft and fuzzy gray. Maybe I need to make a cat doll. Maybe I need a swing jacket. Maybe it needs hot pink edging. Gray needs a counterpoint. If gray is dominant, the counterpoint color should make the gray look ... more gray. I need to consider the photographer's gray scale. Gray in all its many forms.


White seems boring. White means weddings. White means snowfall (something rarely seen in Hawaii or Las Vegas). I need to jazz up white. I need white crystals, I need white sequins. White could be the shiniest of them all.

Monday, February 5, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different


My sister-in-law makes curtains (and bedspreads and pillows) for a living. She's good. She's fast. She has an entire garage set up for her equipment. Curtains. A couple of seams -- how hard could it be? Well, not too hard if the fates are smiling.

We have a house in Maui we are trying to sell. We have owned it for ten years and in all that time I have hated the old pink blinds. Hated them, but not enough to get rid of them except in the kitchen and guest room. In the master bedroom they were always closed on a window the looks out directly on the back lawn. (The master bedroom is sunk into the side of a hill.) We had a stager come to view the house and she said we really needed some luxurious drapes in the bedroom and wanted to charge an astronomical amount of money to "fix" our house. I thought, I can do that.

So I got online to my favorite fabric store, fabric.com, and found some gorgeous pineapple jacquard fabric. I got five yards (I should have ordered more). But I cut it in half, added some ecru lining, and started sewing. The first thing about sewing home dec is working with huge amounts of fabric. I am sure that quilters know how difficult this can be. At first I did not pin the fabric nearly close enough and my first seams on the lining were pretty wobbly. I did know enough to iron, iron, iron -- before I sewed the seam, after I sewed the seam, and whenever I saw a wrinkle that might be starting to set. It took a lot, lot longer than I thought it would (remember, there is a LOT of fabric and I was sewing it twice [once for the lining and again the the curtain]). But I could see the end. Of course at that exact moment my sewing machine died. I had had problems with it previously (it was running wild and could only be stopped by pulling the plug). When I took it to the repair store they just reset a fuse and sent it back to me. Since there is only one sewing machine repair person on all of Maui, repairs take months. But I had another machine. It is on the mainland. I hung the one finished panel and packed the other unfinished panel for Las Vegas. Once there it sat on the dining room table until the night before my husband was flying back to Maui. It's always that way. You think you have lots of time to finish a project and then end up staying up all night the day before it is needed. But I think it is worth it.


So here are the finished drapes. The pleats may be a little uneven because my husband had to hang them by himself, but they do make the bedroom look more luxurious. Will I do this again? Of course. Our new house on Maui has even more windows. I'd like to try my hand at Roman Shades and Valances. I even have some beautiful left over fabric from my sister-in-law. And pillows! How hard can pillows be? Right now my Maui sewing machine is in the shop waiting for an entirely new motherboard from Oregon. I don't know when I will get this machine back, but I am looking forward to sewing here again. Maybe I'll even finished that dress I cut out but didn't finish the first time the sewing machine died.