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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

CQ Horse done - for now.

I was working right up to the end yesterday, and still didn't have a chance to fix the blue tinted bits on the horse, but my pillow was ready for last night's meeting! Ta-da!

There were four others who finished and of course they were wonderful and had so many great ideas I want to redo all sorts of things. I will probably add a few things when I pick apart the closing seam to fix the horse (which won't be until I have taken care of some of the things I have put off while rushing to finish this). The lower left corner, around the poppy, is not much embellished so I want to add to that, and a few other spots need something.

This is my favourite bit. It was fun to work all the swirls. DD the younger picked this out from my TAST collection - you can see my original sampler of the stitch in this older post.

Again at DD's request I did some buttonhole pinwheels because she liked the TAST sample.
I really enjoyed the feel of holding the fabrics to do the embroidery work. Each kind of needlework seems to have its own joy. With stumpwork it is figuring out how to get from 2-D to 3-D and have it look good. The cross-stitch work I've been doing lately has been nice because it seems to work up quickly, so you get gratifying results soon. But holding the various layers and weights of fabric yesterday felt wonderful. I guess that is why I've taken up weaving, I love the feel of fabric.

The photo below shows one of the requirements of the challenge - a spider. According to our president, it is good luck to have one on your CQ. I searched for a spider charm, though not too hard, and couldn't find anything so it is just a small black bead with thread legs. One of our prizes was a spider charm, so next time I'll be ready.

Also last night was our silent auction to raise finds for the chapter. I have added some spectacular threads to my stash, at an excellent price. I'm looking forward to thinking of something to make with them all! I also have the leftovers to use for children's programs, although I think the charts and books will be donated to the public library. I haven't looked through things yet, but I'm sure if nobody in a large group of ladies wants to pay 25 cents for a stack of patterns, they can't be that good.

On the weaving front, I'm off to class tonight to learn how to sley the reed for double weaving. Once that is done, I'm sure I'll have a baby blanket in no time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Moving right along

With suggestions from the future owner, I've been adding seam treatments to my block and it is gradually looking better. I am especially pleased with the orange/yellow ribbon roses, since this is the first time I've tried to made them and I suspect the ribbon wasn't really meant for the task, but they look nice. The felt flowers and butterflies were purchased - the local Ben Franklin has all sorts of felting supplies now. My stitch notebook, created while following TAST last year with sharon b, was most helpful. I wasn't able to keep up with the last couple of months of TAST but my book has been so useful, I think I'll finish it up this summer.
I should have finished photos on Wednesday, since I need to have the whole pillow ready for tomorrow night's EGA chapter meeting - this was our president's challenge for the year.

And now I must share a new to me blog with you all. I made the mistake of following a link in the Chilly Hollow newsletter, which is posted on the needlework guild newsletter editors list as well as Jane's blog. I guess I've missed this blog, Two-Handed Stitcher, because I've been concentrating on embroidery and fibre art related blogs, and this is needlepoint, but boy am I impressed by what you can do with needlepoint - the otter is adorable, the patterns in the Pacific Grove Collage are wonderful and the Pacific Tide Pool is to die for. I envy the people at EGA's Western Pacific Region Seminar at Asilomar who get to do the pieces Laura is teaching. I'm trying not to check out everyone on her blogroll and add them to my Google Reader because then I will get nothing else done but blog reading! Of course I had to check out one by Glenda, a fellow Canadian - Life, the Universe and Stitching.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Horse CQ progress and a new weaving start

As always, I seem to be learning from my mistakes with this project. For some reason, I think because the material was at hand, I used a light tan fabric to stitch the horse on. So, when it came time to paint a background, which I had to do because I hadn't thought ahead and didn't know I would want to make a sort of landscape around the horse, the colours of the fabric paint took on different hues than they would have on white. That was lesson one. Lesson two was, no matter how careful you are, if your colours have lots of water, they will soak into your threads, which is fine if the threads are gray, but not so fine if they are white. This leaves me with some touch up work.

Lesson three, don't paint yourself into a corner, or rather, paint all the way to the corners so you don't have to be so careful when piecing your quilt. If you look closely on the right side, you can see a couple of non-blue angles on the center section.
I must admit, when I finished this at 11 pm I was not a happy camper. Nothing seemed right, although I did figure out which embellishments would cover my unpainted angles. Luckily, when I looked at this piece in the morning light, which was much kinder than the yellow bulbs in the craft room (which is really the garage) I started to like it. By the time I started embellishing seams (photos tomorrow) I was happy with it. And both my daughters like the fabrics used. The red flower in the lower left is actually from DD the younger's riding sock. She has zip up boots and regularly catches her socks in the zipper, which ruins the socks. But this pair was so colourful, I knew I had to use it for something!

My next weaving project (my third) will be a baby blanket and I will be doing double weave so it will be double width - 48 inches wide - plus there will be a checkered pattern. I chose to use acrylic baby yarn because it will be the most practical in terms of washing and even washable wool still has the chance of causing an allergic reaction. One couple in my family is expecting to baby via adoption any time this summer, so I thought this would be a nice thing to make for them. The variegated yarn is bright rainbow spectrum with nice mixes between the main colours. I like it better than the pastel version and if my placemat testing experience is any indication, the white and pastel would have been too close in hue (or is that shade, I'll have to read up) and the checked pattern wouldn't have shown up well.
By the way, here is the pillow I finally made from the fooling around I did at the end of my last warp. You can't see it well, but I left a fringe of warp at the top of the pillow. It seemed to fit with the fun yarns used in this piece. Posting this photo has made me realize I didn't post a photo of the finished placemats. I'll try to do that soon. Of course, during the final stitching I realized that I had made 7 placemats, instead of the expected 6! This doesn't say much for my counting skills while weaving.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Value of backstitch and a finished horse

I have a few memories of embroidering as a child, but I really don't remember much of what I did until I started doing reproduction samplers about 25 years ago. When you stitch samplers, back stitch is usually for letters but usually there isn't much. Occasionally I'd do some cross-stitch pictures as gifts and there the value of back-stitch really shows. I've been working on a couple of baby-bibs and as you can see from this photo, a blob of brown is transformed into a bear with some back-stitch.

I've finally finished the horse for the center of a CQ pillow that needs to be done next Tuesday night for my EGA meeting where we need to present our president's challenge CQ items. The front half of this horse seemed to take forever. I never felt like I was getting anywhere. All the gray, gray and more gray! But then suddenly, it was done. I'm quite pleased with the result as is DD the older who did the initial drawing, and DD the younger who asked that the horse look like her favourite from the barn - she will be getting the pillow. I have a CQ landscape sort of idea and I will be painting the fabric around the horse - hopefully without staining the horse! But you never know with me and paint. Maybe I'll stick with the watercolour pencils?
Here are the two newest members of our family, Chocolate and Dude. You can't really see it in this photo, but Dude has a forehead cowlick which gives him this funny little bit of hair sticking forward. They can both climb out of the pen they get to play in, so they must be watched constantly
The girls did the photo session and had trouble keeping the boys in line. I find this photo very funny.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I've been tagged

My weaving instructor Cherri has tagged me and since this is my official first day of summer (no daily commute until September) I am going to enjoy my lazy morning and have fun blogging and stitching.

Questions and Answers
What were you doing five years ago?June of 2003:
1. Working part-time in a research library & archives
2. PTA web site and other activities
3.Stitching reproduction samplers
4. Teaching myself classical guitar
5. Trying to learn to paint with watercolours.
(Note: I wasn't doing any of that by the end of the month because the kids were out of school s that became my main job. Now they can amuse themselves quite well - what a difference 5 years makes!)

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?
1. Clean some of the garage craft room so I can get to the sewing machine to I can start my CQ pillow.
2. Finish horse embroidery for center of CQ pillow
3. Pick up DD the younger from school.
4. Make sure DD the older studies for tomorrow's exams
5. Try to stay cool!

What are five snacks you enjoy?
1. Mocha Caribou Bars
2. Frozen strawberry bars (or peach or coconut)
3. Chocolate anything
4. Ice cream ( which I really can't have often since I'm allergic to milk)
5. Scones with Double-Devon cream (I agree with Cherri on this one)

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Make sure my family was living comfortably
2. Have a house by the sea
3. Give lots of money to environmental charities like the Jane Goodall Society
4. Travel the world
5. Get horses for the kids (and hire somebody to clean up!)

What are five of your bad habits?
1. Procrastination
2. Spending too much (just ask DH)
3. Drinking too much coffee
4. Eating too much
5. Ignoring the cleaning until company is coming.

What are five places where you have lived? I haven't lived many places so I have to itemize within my home province
1. Windsor, Ontario
2. London, Ontario
3. One summer in Alberta
4. New York
5. Virginia

What are five jobs you’ve had?
1. Education manager
2. Car assembly line worker
3. Lifeguard
4. Mother
5. Librarian

Which five people do you want to tag? I'm tagging more since I'm tagging all my Stitching Sisters
Bits of Beads and Fiber - Denise S.
Crazy Daisy - Mandy
Ever Embellished - Sarah E.
Jenny's Australian Needlearts Journey
Lady Jane's Journal - Christine M.
Made by Misa
Norma's Needleworkz

With any luck I'll be able to post some CQ pillow progress tomorrow, along with some other stitching I've been doing.