Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Family Gatherings

Being Canadian, I don't have the same baggage about family gatherings at Thanksgiving as my American friends.  But I do enjoy family gatherings and we will have some extra company as well. One friend from Brazil and 2 from Malawi. 

One of my favourite Thanksgiving memories is from my time at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York - a while ago now, since I was pregnant with DD the elder at the time.  I was put in charge of the Lab Thanksgiving because my husband and I had no family around so we were the perfect people to organize things.  It was a communal feast for all those who were far away from home, or in some cases, who didn't want to cook.  The food services people provided turkeys and pies and a few other dishes, and everyone brought food, usually dishes from home, so it was an international feast.  Imagine if you will, a nice, large dining room (the building had been recently renovated) looking over the Harbor.  Lots of food and talking and good smells.  Everyone gathered around loading their plates.  My husband was in charge of carving one of the turkeys.  At one point, he looked down and realized he was about to cut somebody's fingers because they were picking out a piece of turkey!  He was horrified to think he might have cut somebody and looked up to see it was James Watson - the Lab director and Nobel prize winner for his DNA structure work!  The turkeys were carved with no injury and no further close calls, but I still remember that day.

With our closest family member 7 hours away, we do sometimes miss going to family gatherings.  I especially like the time after a meal when we can all sit around and talk, since before the meal, somebody is in a panic getting all the food out.  But it seems to me that with computer technology, I can get some of that time back. 

It all started when Candy died and my husband put an album of photos of her on his Facebook page.  My mother joined Facebook to see the photos and she started having fun checking things out.  Then she found my niece on there - I had only been using Facebook for work and never thought to look for family - what was I thinking?  And then we got another family member to join, and found another one online, and so on...

So now we are leaving comments, sending gifts, and playing Wordscraper (very addicting) and now I am enjoying family gatherings online, albeit over several days.  I agree that sometimes and hour long phone conversation is great, but some days, a stolen few minutes here and there to add a comment or view a status report or play a word are all I can manage, and those moments keep us in touch.  I remember reading an article a while back* about texting and Twitter sustaining long distance relationships, and my husband and I have discovered that texting during the day is a great way to keep track of things, and I guess using the same tools to keep up with family on a day to day basis is a good way to feel a part of their lives.  And when you know some of what is going on in a person's life, you can ask more questions when you do talk on the phone.

So this year I am thankful for all sorts of family gatherings.

*yes I am a librarian and I should have a citation here for the article, but at this moment I can't remember where it was at all and I have to get back to work, so maybe later I'll put it here, but in the meantime, you'll have to trust me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The best dog in the world

Our wonderful and much loved Candy lost her battle with cancer over the weekend. She really was the best dog, both as a companion to the family and a playmate for our daughters.

Here she is, starting as a puppy in 1999 'til just this past fall.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Libraries and needlework

As you can see, last week was a great time to visit West Virginia.  This is the view from my hotel room - don't ask me to spell the name of the river - but it was flowing through Morgantown and starts with M.
This is the view from the new medical library.  The library was really great as well.  I had a bad case of library envy.  I did not expect to encounter any needlearts on the trip, but this amazing set of quilted panels was hung in the medical science building. 
Of course, being a librarian, I had to ask for information so I could tell you about it properly.
Here is what the plaque says:
"A quilt of mountain colors created by Sally Rowe, Cottageville, West Virginia, for The Health Science Center at West Virginia University to celebrate Research, Education, Health Care and Service to West Virginia, 2007"
It was commissioned for the space - a large two story atrium and the panels must be at least 8 feet high.  And the pieces that make up the quilt are small so it was an labour of love for sure.  There is lots of lovely natural light which highlights the beauty of the quilt.  The door to the library is opposite the piece, so you see it every time you leave the library.  Lucky people.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Amazing videos

I'm afraid there isn't much stitching going on here.  I've been applying myself to work and so far I'm  happy with the results.  My genetics wiki is up and running, and I almost have my poster ready for next week.  After the meeting in WV, I should have some time to stitch again - notice I say should, not will.  I don't want to jinx myself.  We've also been busy looking after our very ill dog.  She is in the middle of chemotherapy treatments and we're all hoping she'll go into remission for a while. Here is her shaved belly for ultrasound.
I also have something to share with you.  While not needlework related, I think it is art and really cool.

Beached from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What if ...?t for life

I jumped back into work at the university right after returning from a visit to family in Canada, so I never really got to enjoy the end of summer.  I was thinking last week that I really wasted my summer, but then I actually sat down and listed what I had been working on and realized that while I may not have done what I thought I wanted to do, I have done many, many things.  I have woven a baby blanket and two linen table runners, I have taught a couple of groups (ornaments and mini-memory tins), I have written an article on the mini-memory tins, I have altered a wedding dress, I have attended a wedding in WV, I have visited family in Canada for a week,  I have had carpet installed, I have kept up with the laundry, I have worked at least twice a week at the barn, and most importantly, I have supervised the girls all summer.  It doesn't seem so wasted when I review it all.

For photo relief, here is the dog going to the wedding.  She is not a great traveller, but she does like fast food.
The summer has also been a time for me to contemplate how I spend my time and energy.  As much as I love needlework, I also love being a librarian, and I have opportunities now that allow me to be home for the girls while seriously pursuing professional goals.

On one hand I am inspired by Spirit Cloth and The Beauty of Life, especially Paula's fruit book ( I have been contemplating a cloth florigium book for a long time).  I want to stitch like crazy and make wonderful new things.
On the other hand, I also keep up with the science and library blogs, and I'm very excited by all the innovations in teaching using web 2.0 and the ideas of open access for all research.  I like to test all the new interfaces for MEDLINE and other geeky sorts of things.

I realized the other day that I haven't felt compelled to stitch every night.  And I realized that the work I've been doing, creating teaching materials and wikis and presentations, has been fulfilling so I don't feel the need to stitch.  Back in August, I had already cut back by finishing up at the weaving studio.  I could see the dates for lectures and meetings piling up  in my date book and knew I had to start focusing on work.

So what should I do with my time?  It came to me yesterday, What if...I put the same creative energy into my library work as I have with my needlework?  What if I threw myself into each project with the same excitement I have for a stitching project?  What if I looked at my materials (computer programs and reference sources, say) and thought creatively about new projects?  What if I started a library blog to share my ideas and get feedback and reach out, just as I have with my needlework blog?
So that is where I'm going now, to focus more on work.  I will still do needlework and blog my progress, but there won't be so much going on.  But I will keep up with all the blogs I've been following, because I enjoy seeing how all my stitching friends are doing.

This is my current project, the Tanja Berlin mouse I picked up at auction.  It was started by somebody else at a class so there are lots of starts where there were special instructions.  But I have gone back and started at the beginning.  I've learned so much about this type of work from watching Elisabeth.  I commented one time that I would have just started the animals in a piece she was working on, but she patiently explained that she was following the order in the instructions because it was important to the look of the piece. (I'm not sure the exact phrase, the message is on the old computer).  So I have done each stem and leaf and now wheat-ear husk in the correct order and I can see the layers starting to show.  By the way Elisabeth, best of luck going pro - your stitching deserves to be seen by a wider audience.  I can hardly wait to see your future work.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finished table runners

Last week I was able to finish my second table runner and take the warp off the loom.  I'm especially pleased with this project since it is really the first weaving that was totally my style.  The first two projects were made with materials provided by the Visual Arts Center, so I was choosing from a limited pool of colours and materials.  My third project, a baby blanket, had appropriate colours for a baby.  But this time, I was doing exactly what I wanted so I chose a wonderful linen, Louet 20/2 variegated linen in lichen, and a couple of huck lace patterns from Anne Dixon's book, the Handweaver's Pattern Directory.
Here are the two table runners, hemmed and wet finished and ironed.
Here is the close-up of the two patterns.  It is so hard to get a photo to show how really nice these look.  The depth of colour just doesn't show up.
Despite the selvage flaws and the odd mis-treadle here and there, I'm pleased with my work and I loved doing it, which in the end, is how it is supposed to be.

We had a laugh over that in the class I helped teach over the weekend.  We all just do embroidery for fun, and yet sometimes it can be very frustrating.  One woman mentioned how her husband reminds her she is doing it for fun when she gets upset with a piece.  Of course some people are able to recognize when it is no longer fun and give up.  I have a wonderful Tanya Berlin needle painted field mouse to work on because somebody in the group decided it wasn't for her and put the whole kit in our silent auction.  Little did she know that I have been dying to work on a Tanya Berlin embroidery.  And yet there is such a fine line between giving up too soon, and recognizing that you can't really do something.  When DD the younger was doing the metalwork jewelry she wanted to quit after the first day. I encouraged her to give it another chance and she tried again and really enjoyed it, although she loved beading from the moment she started it.  Of course if your embroidery/weaving/painting, etc. is your work, that is another story.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

White or red background?

The carpet is in, the computer is back up and I'm getting used to the new keyboard and operating system.  I was able to finish up some ornaments I'm making as samples for a Christmas in August program I'm helping to teach for my EGA chapter.  But I need some opinions on the backing for this stocking.  I've used the needle card blank from Tokens & Trifles but used my own designs and a couple of other motifs from various ornaments.  I can't decide if this should have white or red backing.  What do you think?

I also need an opinion on this piece.  It is weighing me down.  I charted out some motifs from the ballroom rug in the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg.   Somehow I slightly miscalculated so the ribbon that joins the motifs doesn't fit.  I'm also tired of the cross-stitch and colours and I now hate the light blue linen I purchased for the ground fabric - this was going to be a pillow by the way.  But I love the center motif.  So I'm considering cutting things up for crazy quilting.  What do you think?

By the way, this is the other ornament for the class.  This is actually the shape we are using in class but not the chart.  I used the blank chart on the web site to take another chart and adapt it to this shape - again just to show the group how it could be done.
Finally, another Tokens & Trifles project.  I've just written an article about this one (and other tins like it).  I call it a Mini-Memory Tin.  It is an Altoids tin decorated up - in this case as a vacation memory with pink sand and shells inside.  I'm really pleased with the top design.
Off to attend the wedding I fixed the dress up for.  I'm hoping West Virginia is cooler than Virginia or I will be a puddle of sweat at the end of things!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Waiting for carpet

I realize that I should be doing something more substantial than a blog entry today, but I'm waiting for the crew to come and install the carpet so I don't feel that I can start something big since I'll have to unhook the computer when they come. I also have the excuse of needing to practice on our new computer.  I needed to upgrade for work and since my DH is a Mac person we went with this lovely new iMac.  What swayed the balance for me was the huge number of cables and the two pieces of computer hardware under the desk, as compared to the photos of this iMac on the website with just two cords!  Of course I have to learn a new operating system but I've used Macs before (our first computer back in the 80s was an Apple with a 5x7 screen) so it hasn't been bad.  I'm finding some things much easier, once I figure out where everything is.  My address book is another thing, but since I get to use the iTouch that we end up getting free once the rebate comes in, I figure I can live with that.On to something more substantial.  DH the older chose stained glass instead of jewellery making for art camp last week and this is her first attempt.  She made some really nice choices for the glass so there is lots of texture and movement.
With all the time I had to weave while the kids were at the arts center, I was able to finish my first linen runner.  I'll hemstitch then start on the next one, after leaving some length for fringe.

And their are some new additions to the family.  DD the older now has two crested geckos.  We went to a reptile show, which was fascinating, and she finally decided on these two, about 3 and 4 months old.  This is the older gecko - we think it might be female.
This is the younger one.  It has a really nice flame pattern along the back.
They hide for much of the day but their tongues are so neat it is lots of fun to watch when they do come out and so far the cricket colony has not been noisy!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some More Stitch Along and Weaving

I received the book Wessex Stitchery by Gay Eaton a while back from a friend and I've been contemplating what I could make using the patterns. I first saw Wessex work done on a band round robin piece by Christine. When you look through the book you realize what a huge range of patterns there are. I worked this biscornu for a larger project but I thought I'd include it here because the center of the flowers is Algerian Eye and the petals are really a form of eyelet stitch - 5 straight stitches coming from a single point. The border is the next stitch in the alphabet of the Stitch Along - the Arrowhead stitch. There is arrowhead in many of the Wessex stitches, including a border stitch where it is called a 'stacked wave stitch'. I plan on doing a sample of some of the more complex Arrowhead stitch patterns for my stitch book.
I was able to get my loom up and running so I could start weaving in class last night. I love the look of the linen warp!
Here is the tabby start with hem stitching - please ignore the blip where I stepped on the wrong treadle.
Here is the huck lace pattern I'm doing. This is really one of those things where a photograph doesn't do justice to the texture and colour of a piece. Again, there are a few places where the pattern is a bit off because the linen threads stick together and the shed doesn't open fully in some places. I've slowed down a bit and I'm being more careful. This will be a table runner for my home so I'm not worried. Hopefully I'll have everything perfect for the second one which will be a gift.
I wonder if every weaving project is a learning experience no matter how long you weave. This is only my fourth project, but this time I've learned about working with a high epi (ends per inch) piece, adding heddles to a frame, fixing a misthread and weaving with linen (lovely but challenging). I'm sure I'll learn another lesson soon, something is bound to happen!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Keeping Busy Despite the Heat

I thought I'd start with some bling. DD the younger is taking metal jewelery design and beading in art camp this week and these are her Monday creations.

It is funny how she has no patience to do cross-stitch but was able to create and join all these swirls into a bracelet. I guess we all have patience for what we really like!

No photos of DD the older's stained glass or graphic design because nothing came home. Maybe later in the week.

I love the new linen I'm dressing the loom with. I'm making a table runner and it will look so good on the black table we have in our living room. This is really a peaceful green. I've had lots of time at the weaving studio. The girls art camp is near the studio so I have some extra weaving time this week. I threaded all 420 heddles yesterday and sleyed the reed today and tied up the pedals. I will wait now to see if I did everything right before starting the weaving. I'm doing a huck pattern using the same green as weft.

I did have some excitement while starting yesterday. I had to add 50 heddles to two of the frames. Cherri tried to show me a way to thread them on but I hadn't paid attention to the direction the heddles were facing well enough so it couldn't be done, so I had to put heddles on by hand. I mention this because even though I couldn't get the threading technique to work at first, I had to use it later because I didn't do a good job keeping the tops and bottoms of the heddles straight as I put them on. As I started threading heddles I discovered that some were crossed. I should have realized that it must be me because I had used the same frames for the baby blanket, but at first I wouldn't admit it. After finding three crosses and realizing that I wouldn't have enough heddles if I had to skip all the problems, I decided I had to fix it. For those who might find themselves in the same predicament, here is what I did. I tied together all the heddles I had threaded so they wouldn't slide off. Then I tied one end of a piece of yarn to the frame and after pulling out the top heddle rod, I started sliding the tops of the heddles off onto the thread until I had removed all the crossed heddles. I put them back on a few at a time to be sure the were straight, and when I reached the good part, I was able to easily slide the heddles on with the thread next to the rod and then pull the thread out. I wish now I had taken pictures, but at the time I was embarrassed that I had been so careless. The main thing is, it worked, and now I have even more appreciation for how the loom works!

Sunday, DD the older and I finished her bedroom painting. She really wanted to get rid of this peachy colour. So here is the room all taped up and ready to go. We had to start with primer so the peach wouldn't affect the blue. After the first coat of blue DD was agitated by all the spots that weren't perfectly covered so I told her to put a bit of blue tape by the bad spots after the paint had dried for a day, so we would be sure to get them with the second coat. The room looked diseased! My husband thought she was maybe trying to see what it would look like Dalmatian-style, since that was her favourite movie as a child. I never realized what a perfectionist she was. I don't recommend anyone doing the same thing by the way. It took some time and was occasionally awkward to get the tape off, and a couple of times it pulled off the new paint!
And here it is done, but without the new Roman shades that are on order, or the furniture back where it belongs. The main thing is, the painting is done and she is very happy with the colour.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another eyelet and some finished work

I started the stitch along with Algerian eyelet stitch and late last week I found another variation on Jenny's blog. It is called a single cross eyelet from Mary Fry's Pulled Work.
I think Jenny's have more threads around than mine do, but I like the floral look of these two.

Here is my big finish! The baby blanket is almost done, except for some hem stitching, which I must do soon since things are unraveling!
This is my mini-tapestry done. Rather meager but I do have a better feel for technique and where things can go wrong - lots of places actually! This will soon be a lavender sachet. I will be sending it to my MIL. It was going to be an ornament, from the Just CrossStitch ornament issue, but I didn't have it done for Christmas and I don't want to try to find (and pay for) the special holly leaf beads that were supposed to decorate the ornament. So it will be sewn up and sent of just plain. Don't be too impressed by the blackwork. The back is horrible but because the linen is dyed and I've used dark brown rather than black, the errant threads don't show. I have great respect now for those who can create perfect front and back blackwork!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

And now for something completely different...

..well maybe not that different, it is still in the realm of textiles.

Inspired by Annie's Crazy World and Spirit Cloth and of course all the TAST and Stitch Along challenges of Sharon B, and all the blogs I have read, I have decided that now is the time to make t-shirt memory quilts. There are piles of t-shirts from all members of the household in various nooks and crannies around the house that have been waiting for me to do something with them. But I've never been inspired until now to start the project. I've been making excuses about space for a large quilt, but I see that I really don't need lots of space for a long period, I just work on a block at a time. And I don't need a full size quilt for a bed, just a nice comfortable quilt for an afternoon nap or something cosy for reading time. I guess as I looked at the great fabrics of the old clothes that were too worn in places to be sent to Goodwill, and as I enjoyed the feel of the old fabrics I used on the horse CQ pillow, I realized that I wanted to hold all that fabric in my hands and work with it. So I'll do a bit of planning to decide on block sizes, and pull out some appropriate fabric to surround the important bits of the t-shirts and see what happens.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Stitch Along and weaving sampler

As I gazed at the list of stitches sharonb collected for the Stitchin Fingers Hand Embroidery group Stitch Along, I couldn't figure out where to start so I decided to work alphabetically - not particularly creative, but some days it is easier not to think too much.

The first stitch is Algerian Eye. I worked on Algerian Eye last year during TAST but my goal with the Stitch Along is to fill in gaps with the way I used stitches. Last year I did a ribbon picture which I do like, but it doesn't help me visualize Algerian Eye as a seam treatment. I have a basket where I store all the ends and extra strands from projects for small things, so I'm using those threads in this project - unless I want to test with something in particular.
In this case I used cotton floss, the gold and rainbow are overdyed, some very light blue silk (3 strands) and a bit of ribbon.

The ribbon doesn't do anything for me, but I really like the single strand of rainbow floss. I used the sequencing technique taught by Catherine Jordan at my EGA chapter back in January. It was a departure for me to use a single thread in something like this because usually I like really full coverage in a stitch, but I like the delicate look of a single thread in this case.

As you can see, I didn't do much stitching, but I've been reworking a gown that my SIL will be using as a wedding dress. I had to remove 3 full length lace panels and sew on a ribbon with pearls and beads.
I've also been weaving. I'm up to 30 inches on the baby blanket, no photos since it really looks no different than my last post, just more on the front roller. And I've added a bit more to my tapestry sampler. I'm working from 'Tapestry Weaving' by Kirsten Glasbrook. I'm not doing all the rows, just a quick test, and my colours are totally different, but it is helping me get a feel for the technique.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Finishing and starting

I'm trying very hard not to take on too many things over the summer. Since I stopped working full-time nine and half years ago, I've had this awful habit of thinking that I'll have lots of time in the summer since the kids are out of school and I stop leaving the house for my part-time job (i.e. I still work on the computer from home, but I don't go to the library every day). Somehow the time never materializes and I'm frustrated. So this year I've set very modest goals - work on the Stitchin Fingers Hand Embroidery Group Stitch Along, do some stumpwork, and do some weaving.

But first I thought I'd get a few things out of my done but not finished pile - you know the stuff that has the embroidery done but needs sewing up or framing. I started with the little topiary piece by Catherine Jordan that she taught at my EGA chapter. Catherine's kits included cute little metal finishing forms, which I found quite easy to use. The project was originally finished as a pin keep, but I have a large pair of scissors I'm using in my weaving kit so I made a scissor fob - it would be too big and heavy for embroidery scissors.

These photos are before framing, but I did frame these two pieces from Colonial Williamsburg that I stitched up for my SIL. Quick and easy, which was good for evenings watching mysteries on TV. I've discovered you can't do extensive counting while watching a good mystery - maybe while watching a bad one, I haven't tried that.

This project is from way back in September 2007. I decorated the flap of a neat, fold up embroidery blanket. You put it on your lap or table to provide a clean working surface and it is white or dark (green in my case) depending on what sort of background you need to work on. I've had the stitching done since last year and finally stitched it up on Saturday. You can see the fancy topstitching I did with the machine - I haven't used it much so the fancy stitching is still fun. It folds up into a neat little packet that easily fits in an embroidery bag.

My starts are weaving projects - although I will be starting some embroidery soon as well. I was able to get to the weaving studio this week and got a good start on the baby blanket I'm making.
Of course it didn't turn out quite as I expected - I thought the coloured weft crossing the white warp would be lighter, more like the white weft crossing the coloured warp. But I am happy with the result and it will be a soft, washable blanket in the end. I am doing double weave so there are two layers, one side open, so when I'm done it will open up to a 48 inch wide blanket. Because I am just doing plainweave, I have a chance to concentrate on my edges this time and work on tension. In retrospect, I should have done some practice weaving to get comfortable with the tension of this particular yarn, but after over a foot of weaving, I'm not starting again.

I also found a small wood frame loom that belongs/belonged to DD the younger. I've taken it over and I'm working through techniques in a tapestry book I have out of the library (sorry I'm too lazy to walk to the other room to get it right now, I'll tell you the title later). Eventually I want to do real tapestry weaving, but I'm learning from my TAST experience and making a sampler to practice things first. The pale blue is the header so it isn't part of the piece - although I have been know to make some poor colour choices. Not much yet, but I'm learning, which is the main thing.