Where, oh where, has Julie been?

It might seem like I have dropped off the face of the Earth.  It might have been easier if I had!  So what’s been going on you ask?  Welll…

I’ve been getting settled in our winter campground

Frame Cage for trailers of all sizes

Betsy in the Frame Cage

We finally made it to Azalea Acres in Robertsdale, Alabama after sitting in a motel for one week while the trailer frame was repaired.  During that week we lost all our food that was in the fridge as the repair people kindly plugged the trailer into the electric and didn’t turn the fridge on.  Then we hit bad weather.  

Behind the garage for one night

We camp in some of the most interesting places!

When the weather got better, the radiator sprung a leak.  So we camped overnight behind a service station where the radiator was replaced the next day.  Several days after that we made it to Alabama.  It takes us a week or two to get settled.  

Steep hills in Tennessee

Ups and Downs

We have to reorganize cupboards, put the kitchen back in order after storing everything that is breakable.  Then there’s all the laundry and all the leaves and sand on the floor compliments of Taz and Jojo.  (Yes, and Jeff, too!)  And this time we had to gradually restore our food stores.  

Ramps, hills, and trucks! Oh, my!

Ins and Outs

While we were headed South everyone we knew was worried we were driving into Frankenstorm Sandy.  When we got here, we had to worry about family and friends back in New York instead!  

My leg wound is far from resolved.  

I finally gave in to Jeff, and made an appointment to be seen at the Wound Care Center in Mobile, Alabama at Providence Hospital.  It was a smart move.  Currently, I’m only out of bed for about an hour at a time.   If you want to know more about this, brave souls can read my Note from the Doctor.

As promised, now that we’re in Alabama Jeff has agreed to see a Gastroenterology specialist to help him figure out what his problem might be.

Of course, who knew we would end up driving to the far side of Mobile.  Once last week.  Three days this week.  Once next week and we don’t know about after that.  Yet.  But Jeff is getting an incredible work up, complete with breath testing for all kinds of digestive gases that occur with different sensitivities.  He’s had all kinds of blood work and other labs.  The bigger tests are coming up.  If there is no answer after all this then there is no answer anywhere!  We will be happy with any answer that is not spelled C-A-N-C-E-R.  He’s been there and done that, not going to do it again!

I’ve joined three more stitching groups.  (Yes, I am a certifiable idiot!)

Yup, three of them.  They are Face Book groups, one of them is a closed group.  I must say the people in two of these groups are nuts!  (But in the best way!)  The name of one group should give you a clue:  The Superstar Serial Starters & Divine Disciplined DivasClub.  Guess which one I am!  Yup.  I’m a Serial Starter.  I have more to add to my UFO list as a result of connecting with these women (and men, too.)  I’ve signed up for a number of really cool and sure to be fun Stitchalongs.  There are oodles of choices right through 2014 and new possibilities whenever someone finds a wonderful new pattern. You can check the groups out if you’re interested.

And you can stitch along with me on the patterns I’ve committed to stitch along with others:

2013 Start Dates:

        • 1/27          Any Heaven and Earth Design will run Sunday thru Saturday. (We’ll stitch for one week or per choice on the last Sunday of every month.  I’m doing Buziak’s Tree of Creation.)
        • 2/14          Cirque des Couers (Ink Circles) SAL
        • 5/29           Papa SAL
        • 10/15        Quaker Christmas  (ByGone Stitches)
        • 12/1          Our Neighborhoods/Village (This is a design your own community project)

2014 Start Dates: 

And these are not the only choices.  I want to do them all, but maybe another time.  For now I’m limiting myself to these.

I’m in the middle of Sharon Boggon’s GIMP online class.

GIMP is a open source software program that allows you to manipulate and enhance your image files.  In other words it’s a free software program for playing with your photos!  Sharon’s class teaches the basics of GIMP and takes you to the point where you can create designs for textiles from your photos or other images you find.  I’m finding it to be an excellent course and an incredible opportunity.  It’s not often one gets to have someone hold your hand through a free software program.  In the future I’ll share some of what I create from these lessons.  I’m not able to spend as much time online as I like so the class is a bit slow going for me right now.  

I’ll close with an image of what I’ve been stitching while in bed and waiting for Jeff at the doctor’s office.  And try to get back sooner!

Christmas Countdown by Durene Jones

Christmas Countdown Stitching by me but Durene Jones’ design in Cross Stitch Gold, 12/12, issue 33. Just needs the numbers and a frame!

Pistil Stitch Pomander Patch

TAST 2012 Pistil Stitch Challenge

TAST 2012 Pistil Stitch Patch with Pistil Stitches, and French knots on Organza and muslin

Pistil Stitch Pomander Patch—say that five times real fast!

(Aside:  I do love alliteration!)  The Pistil Stitch is this week’s TAST challenge where one can learn the stitch or, if familiar with it, go crazy using it.  As you can see I didn’t get crazy with it, but I did mess around a bit.

You will not see the Pistil Stitch in a lot of my work.

Mainly because I don’t love making French knots.  And as you know (or can see), the Pistil stitch is basically a straight stitch which is finished in a French knot. Fancy name for two not so fancy stitches.

But patches…you will begin to see more of.

From me, at least.  It is my latest way to make my TAST samples functional.  (The other two—so far—are the TAST 2012 Sampler and the TAST Attachment Quilt Blocks.)  For me, it is important to have an end product.  I don’t need any more bit and pieces of stuff to collect.  I know!  What are patches but more bits and pieces?!  But these are bits and pieces with a future.

I have been making some clothing and sorting through fabrics in storage.  As I find a piece that is too small to do something useful with, I consider if it would make an interesting background for an embroidery stitch of some sort.  If the answer is, “yes,” then I have added the piece to my trailer embroidery fabric stash.  If the answer is, “no,” then I ditch the piece of fabric.  All part of my seasonal reorganization for on the road crafting.

When I have collected a few patches I will begin to stitch them together to make a patch-worked wall hanging.  I already have two patches.  The background fabric in the following is a scrap of leftover binding I made for a kaftan I made for Jeff.  (One day I’ll get him to model it for a photo!)

Cast On and Sheaf Stitch

Poppy Field–Cast on stitch poppies and sheaf stitch stems

The patch I did this week has a scrap of muslin leftover from the lining of Katie’s Christmas stocking.  The bow is made from a scrap of ribbon that my best friend used on a birthday gift she gave to me years ago.  The orange organza is a remnant that I couldn’t pass up at JoAnn’s.  I mean, really—it was on sale and I had a card for 10% off the sale price, too!  I picked up a couple other remnants the same day.  You’ll see them sometime in the future I’m pretty sure!

TAST 2012 Pistil Stitch Challenge

TAST 2012 Pistil Stitch Challenge

A better look at the pistil stifches

Closer view of the Pistil Stitches

When the wall hanging is completed, I will assemble the posts that tell about the provenance of the “bits and pieces,” the patches.  That might make I nice little gift-y, or even a blog give-away.

Or maybe I should just make the individual patches blog give-aways?  What do you think?

Thread Storage Is Not For Sissies!

Whether your passion is embroidery, quilting, knitting, or mixed media, storage is a problem for any fiber artist .  But when you live in a space that is 27 foot long by 8 foot wide, the issue of storage is a problem whether you’re a fiber artist or not!  From the beginning of our time on the road I have been searching for the perfect solution.

Initially I had  been “alotted” the space under the bed (queen sized and 17 inches deep) and one half of the cupboard area over the couch (about 8 ft wide and 14 in deep by 14 in tall).

Since Jeff and I have consistently been trying to decrease the weight we carry in the trailer, I am now using about ½ the under the bed space and ¾ of the living room cupboard space.   This has taken a lot of work and a lot of honesty, not to mention a fair amount of growth in the realm of non-attachment—for both of us.  (The dogs refuse to make any changes at all!)

A couple of things have helped to make this downsizing possible.

  • I decided what projects I really want to have done in a year that could realistically be completed given my stitching history.
  • I picked a couple UFOs to focus on, keeping in mind if I finish them before the end of October I can always pull out a couple more.
  • Given these choices, I picked out which reference materials would be critical to carry with me.
  • Everything else was put in  the front of the storage unit and labeled very clearly for ease in sorting next spring.
  • I found a way to store all the thread that doesn’t fit neatly on floss cards (without spending a small fortune for some fancy new “System.”)  Yup!  I did!
My new thread storage system

My new thread storage system for items that will not fit into my DMC floss card boxes.

I found a photo album that has archival quality photo pockets.  The pockets are divided by acid free paper.  They are supposed to hold a photo that is about 4 X 6, so are perfect for perle cotton weight thread.  I labeled each pocket front and back with the thread company, thread weight, and color number. (Each pocket will hold two skeins.)

Photo album for 4 x 6 photos, perfect for Perle Cotton weights

Ends close to rings stapled to prevent escapees!

I also found archival quality pocketed storage sheets meant for the older, smaller baseball cards.  The little pockets are perfect for Rainbow Gallery thread cards, Weeks Dye Works flosses, and other smaller skeins of thread.  Again, I labeled each pocket with relevant info.

Smaller pockets for smaller threads

Intended for smaller baseball cards but perfect for my smaller thread skeins and cards.

I like this because it’s flexible.  As I add a color, I can take off the labeled info and rearrange as necessary.  I have loads of extra pages so I can add as my inventory changes.   And it’s easier to maintain my Excel inventory of threads.  Most importantly,  I can easily pull colors from different companies to create my color palette.

There are still a few oddball items, particularly spools.  Those I have in two boxes, one a tin for metallics and the other is a Shaker box (made by Allen Fannin) that I use for my balls of Perle cotton.

Stitchers’ UFO Challenge Update

I know it’s been more than a month.  Like every other stitcher out there, been busy.  It’s like you have a choice.  Blog or stitch.  I’ve been stitching.  Well, not true, I’ve also been updating two of my other blogs as well as this one.  (Relatively Ryan and Site Sniffing)  Sadly, my favorite blog is the one that gets the least attention.  That may be about to change though.  Thanks to the Stitchers’ UFO Challenge.

Followers know that I have been very busy with Take A Stitch Tuesday, the Pin Tangle sponsored weekly challenge.  In spite of this, I have been very actively working on two UFOs and a Pilot Project that I’m completing for the American Needlepoint Guild.  Although I’ve done all that I really need to for the Pilot evaluation, I’m enjoying the piece so much that I want to complete it.  I don’t need another UFO to add to the stash!  I’m writing the designer to see if I can post pics of the piece because it is such an incredible design, I think people would be excited to see it.

I am close to completion on my Blackwork Chess Board!  When it is complete I will get back to my Mystery Blackwork Sampler designing.  At this point all I have to do is  launder the piece and fringe it.  Jeff plans to actually use the chess board, so I’ve personalized it to his specifications.  He’s as excited to see it nearing completion as I am!

The other piece that I’ve almost completed is a Shepherd’s Bush Christmas Stocking.  I was going to make it for my new grand-niece, but decided to make it for her mother instead.  Of course I had to purchase another stocking pattern for my grand-niece!  The stocking front is complete except for adding hair.  I will do that when I add the other embellishments.  Before I add the embellishments, I want to stitch the front and back together, so it lays flat as I push it through the sewing machine.  As soon as it stops raining here I can do that as I use the picnic table for my sewing machine wherever we are camping.  Not a lot of room in this travel trailer!

Do you like the gallery type of photo display or the slide show in a previous post?

So, by next month I will be able to cross these off the list and mark another UFO as picked up again!  Look at the list.  Is there something you’d like to see in its completed form?  Tell me, help me make up my mind what to pick up next!

It Began on Interstate 65

Replica of I-65 sign

A French Knot For Every Five Times I Saw This Sign

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our dreadful experience of traveling North from Alabama this spring.  That post was about where I ended up from a stitching/TAST perspective.  Just a reminder, TAST is Take a Stitch Tuesday, a weekly stitching challenge sponsored by Sharon Boggon of Pin Tangle.  While we were on the road the stitch challenge was French Knots.

Map Highlighting Interstate 65

Thank goodness we didn’t drive the whole of I-65!

I find french knots tedious.  I know how to do them.  I think I’ve stitched a million in my lifetime.  I prefer bullion knots.  They are less tedious and more interesting to look at.  Nothing was more tedious than driving on Interstate 65 this spring.  We picked it up in just north of Mobile, Alabama, followed it through all of Tennessee, and up to Louisville, Kentucky.  I have spent way too many nights stitching the tedious french knot into a sign all too (unfortunately) familiar to me.  Now I-65 is out of my system.  Well, mostly!

If you want to hear more about the trip, Jeff has done a wonderful job describing the trek.  He keeps a blog called OddEssay.  Normally he adds to the end of his entries.  But this trip warranted its own separate click.  I called it the trip from hell.  He is nicer than me and called it “Murder Hill:  The Trip No One Should Have To Travel”

If you are like me, you talk to the TV, to the dogs (and for the dogs), to the clock, and all kinds of things that don’t have conversational skills or abilities.   I also make up silly songs to familiar tunes.  When I sing the dogs think I’m happy and it’s time to play.

Lately, I  talk to our truck, offering her compliments and encouragement during our very short and focused trips to the grocers, vet, and laundry.  We are still waiting for our new engine to arrive.  I decided our truck, affectionately called Betsy (after Davy Crocket’s rifle—ask Jeff, that’s on him!), but also known as “The Beast,” needed her own song.  After all, I have songs for both of the dogs.  I’ll post them if you ask!)  Following is the song Jeff and I came up with in honor of Betsy.  Make sure you’re alone, then sing it loud and sing it proud!

Betsy, The Beast
by Jeffrey T. Elmore in collaboration with Julie Castle and the Girls

(Sung to the tune of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.)

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

She was born in Detroit in nineteen ninety-five,
Always served her Master, wherever he would drive,
She tackled Murder Hill, but couldn’t handle the weight,
Lost the piston lobe on cylinder eight.

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

For twelve hundred miles she gave it her all.
Pulled our home up every hill, no matter how tall,
But that half mile peak was just a bit too high,
Almost to the top, she collapsed with a sigh.

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

The last eighty miles, she was so ashamed,
Towed all the way home like some animal tamed,
They all thought she had died and could haul no more,
Till they went looking down at the new truck store.

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

When the sticker shock settled, their plans they rethought,
Betsy might be older, but she’s already bought,
Said, “We’ll get another engine, that’s what we will do,”
Then The Beast will haul again, almost good as new.

Betsy….Betsy, The Beast, Queen of the Interstate!

Happy travels, y’all!