Ch…ch…ch…changes!

Way back when, I remember making a Contract With Me.  Maybe you remember it, too.  Maybe you did something similar.  Mine’s not working for me any longer.  How about yours?

I had set things up so I could work on every work in progress each week.  I did that for about four months.  I liked the fact that nothing was being set aside.  What I didn’t like was the feeling that I wasn’t making any progress on any particular project.

Bygone Stitches Quaker Virtues

Quaker Virtues to date

Ink Circles Cirque des Coeurs

Cirque des Coeurs—moving along. Love working on this, too!

And, I found myself resenting projects.  I’d just feel great about getting to a point in Quaker Virtues and have to set it down to move on in the schedule to Cirque des Cœurs.  I found myself hating Cirque because it was taking me away from something I really was loving working on.

Then some people (i.e. those wicked stitchers at Superstar Serial Starters and Divine Disciplined Divas Facebook Group) mentioned a SAL they read about in a blog.  So I had to do that. Then I found out about another at one of the numerous blogs I follow.  That one led to another.  You get the picture?!  Those little SAL are delightful—quick, easy, small, fun, achievable.  How can you not participate?!

So, I gave up the schedule.  I’ve been working on the little SALs as they come along.  If I don’t finish when the SAL is done, that’s okay.  I’ve been working them with materials I wanted to test or using fabric scraps.  And as tools for learning finishing techniques new to me.

Claire93 SAL project

Seba Freebie stitched

I’ve also picked up whatever I wanted to work on.  I determine how far I want to get to feel like I’ve accomplished something.  While I’m working on that I decide what I will pick up next.

Almost done with B. Blok sampler

I still have to finish the borders. This is waiting room stitching.

And so it goes.  WIPocalypse is at hand!

July 2013 TUSAL

For those who don’t remember reading about this before, TUSAL stands for Totally Useless Stitch Along.  For me it is a way to mark time.  Another way to examine my progress, or lack thereof, in my stitching.  Once a month, more or less, those of us participating share images of our ort collection jars.

I collect my orts in my folding ort box and then transfer them to my jar according to the TUSAL calendar.  As you can see, I’ve been frogging!  But I must admit that some of the orts are from sewing two pair of shorts and a summer shirt.

Since we decided to stay in Alabama for the summer, I found my wardrobe was sorely lacking for temperatures that stay above 90 constantly.  I have fabric to make another pair of shorts and three slip style dresses.  I don’t love making clothes, but I appreciate Home Economics in Junior High School where I picked up the skill to be able to do this for myself.

I am typing on someone else’s computer with a baby keyboard as my monitor died.  That’s why I’ve been MIA.  But I’ve also been participating on a couple of mystery SALs.  Two have ended, even though I’m still stitching on one.  And a third started on July 1.  I will start Camille as soon as I finish B. Blok.  Check out the links for the patterns.  And next time I’ll share my photos!

These are all lovely patterns, fast and satisfying to finish.  I hope you enjoy them!

Ode to European Reproduction Samplers: Preparing for Papa

About six months ago I opened my big mouth and said, “Papa will be my birthday present to myself.  I will start Papa by then or on my birthday.”  Well my birthday is in just a couple days.  And I’ve been getting ready!

I purchased Papa probably four years ago when I discovered Sabine Taterra-Gundacker’s  website “Alte-Mustertücher-nachgestickt.”  Since then I have spent hours and hours looking at the patterns and at the gallery of Sabine’s works and collection.  I personally think everyone who stitches should have one of Sabine’s patterns in his or her repertoire.  Personally, I want them all!

Where do the ideas for these patterns come from?  Sabine finds interesting samplers in museums and in private collections.  She then sets to recreating the original works, documenting threads she uses, trying to match to the original as much as possible.  She includes the errors as well as the beauty and the history, counting every old thread.  I have come to respect her skill even more having been working on the Martha Stones Sampler.  I struggle with “do I correct the spelling or leave it as is?”  I’m leaving it.

Another of my favorites is Erna Schuppelius.  I love how Sabine’s photos included the finishing done on this piece and plan to add the crochet border and ribbon trim to mine.  The alphabet is charming and I will use it in work that I may design myself or for personalizing other works because I love it so.

I have learned so much about samplers from perusing Sabine’s online shop.  And I have come to love samplers from a variety of cultures and can even now begin to identify origins when seeing an unlabeled sampler.  I have several other patterns in queue from Sabine and another that I have started that is purely a labor of love.  (IFAKHS 1817)

Before I seek your input on my color choices for Papa, let me show you how Sabine packages her products for you.  It’s like getting a birthday present in the mail when you open it.

Now here is my dilemma.  I have the fabric it’s a 32ct Wexford linen in blue with grey and charcoal markings.  You’ll see it in the photo gallery following.  I had chosen Threadworx Deep Blue Sea to outline the “pages” of the pattern and Crescent Colours Lobster Claw to do the pattern design using the Threadworx for any accents.

I’ve been testing the Lobster Claw against the fabric in a blackwork SAL.  It’s not bad.  The problem is Jeff hates orange.  It’s not absolutely important that I avoid orange, but I do think he is more likely to help me frame and hang it, it the colors are pleasing to him, too!  And I don’t want to give this one away.  After all it’s a birthday present to me!

Jeff like brown.  He love the colors in my Quaker Virtues.  He has suggested a reddish brown, not too red.  I found a currant color that he likes.  I like it too.  But how will it look on the fabric?  I don’t want to have to wait to get the thread.  That means I’d have to start after my birthday has passed.  And then there is the question of what color should I use for the outlining?  I think the darker blue will be too much dark.  I thought about using the Lobster Claw.  But I don’t know.

What do you think?  Check these pics out and let me know what you think.

Stitching Busy

It’s that time again.  Time to assess where I’m at in my stitching life for WIPocalypse.  Time to share my Vierlanden progress with Dijn and the other SAL members.  Not to mention Quaker Virtues SAL progress and Cirque des Cœurs SAL progress.

I’m glad to say I have made progress!  I have even added a couple more SALs to my list (this one, and this one too), one another small blackwork SAL.  It feels good!

I think rather than describe my process in all the projects I think I’ll just post the pics .  You can always do before and after comparisons by searching for the appropriate names using the internal search.

As always feedback is more than welcome, so bring it on!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

P.S.  Jeff, Taz, and Jojo went for a walk on Mother’s  Day and came back with the flowers in the feature image.  They grow wild around us!  Mother’s Day is now also called Big Puppy’s Day!

February TUSAL

It doesn’t seem like it’s been so long since I posted my January Ort photos for the Totally Useless Stitch Along (TUSAL).  No matter—I still have added quite a few snips and strings to the container.

Remnants of stitching history

Kind of pretty aren’t they!?

And then I dropped the container in the dogs’ bed, so everything got shaken up and turned around!

February TUSAL

What was the top is now the bottom!

But here’s a new one for you.  I have a good number of orts still on the fabric!

Orts in progress

All the color you see represents orts not yet in the jar!

I was working so diligently on a model that Sabine Taterra-Gundacker will soon be posting as available at her sensational e-store, European Reproduction Samplers.  This one is a reproduction of the sampler created by Martha Stone in 1840  when she was young, but exact age not certain (that I know of.)

It is a simple but charming design representing two young girls in their fancy dresses with what were typical toys of the time.  A couple cupids add to the charm.  And the whole thing is surrounded by a continuous strawberry border.  I’m thinking the girl didn’t clean and cut up too many strawberries because her color gradation is backward.  And the right side and the left side are not symmetrical—that kind of bugs the perfectionist in me.

But for heaven’s sake she was just a kid!  Imagine yourself at 7 to 9 years old and no pattern to stitch from.  You sit down with some fabric and thread and “color.”  When you think if it that way, this kid was a prodigy!  Shoot, many of us adults don’t do as well!

Original Martha Stone sampler

Photo from European Reproduction Samplers.
This is the sampler Sabine is creating the chart from.

The hard part, well actually two…

The first hard part was not correcting what I perceive to be her mistakes—changing the gradation of the berries and making the border symmetrical between berry groups.

The second hard part was realizing after 17 hours of work that I made a mistake back in hour two of work.  I was off one stitch.  It affected the left and bottom borders, one that I had already completed and the other had a good start on.  So, I started unstitching.  (Some call this frogging because you “rip it, rip it, rip it!”)  The more berries I ripped out, the more uncomfortable I was with the idea of continuing with the fabric.  The red thread (DMC 304) was discoloring the white fabric slightly.  Because I really thought it would show, even just a little, I started over completely.

See how red runs

See how they run!

But the new work is looking beautiful and I am happy with how it looks.  I am triple checking my count because I don’t want to go through this again.  And I want my piece done when Sabine is ready to post the finished instructions.  So, I’ve set all my other work aside temporarily.

Martha Stone coming along

So far, so good.

Don't like running colors or threads.

I don’t like running colors or threads…this is the back

So why did this happen and how can you avoid doing the same thing?

Let me say that most of my stitching during my stitching life has been when I lived alone with no television and no pets.  NO DISTRACTION!  It’s a lot like meditation.  Very easy to be peaceful and calm when you’re isolated and have no interruptions—when you have total control of your environment.  Not so easy when you’re folding clothes in the laundromat on a Sunday afternoon.  Not so easy when you’re walking down a sidewalk of Washington D.C.  when all schools in the country have sent their school children for their spring trips.  Not so easy when your dogs are barking (i.e. screaming) at strangers walking by or jumping on your knee indicating it is time for a walk in the wilds.  Not so easy when your partner decides—just as you get that empty mind thing going (i.e. counted the 30th  stitch of 42)—it’s time to talk about where we want to retire!

It is time to learn to meditate/stitch in the middle of living.  It is an incredible challenge.  But that’s living.  It’s a challenge to walk and chew gum.  It’s a challenge to move from left to right brain in milliseconds.  It’s a challenge for a vegetarian to live with someone who doesn’t eat beans, cheese, or rice!  These are the sorts of things we choose to and that also that we must do sometimes.  And we do it.  And I will learn to stitch with distractions, just like when my monkey brain jumps into the calm pool I can get it to sit still.

In stitching terms, this mean I must:

  1. recognize I’ve been distracted
  2. determine when the distraction began
  3. go back to where I was at in my stitching when the distraction began
  4. recheck my work
  5. when I pick up my work anew, recheck from the beginning to ensure dealing with my distractions didn’t distract me further previously and contribute to unrecognized mistakes!

It’s all about recognizing, accepting, and assuming one’s place at the baseline to continue.    Pretty simple.  Right?!

Until then, there’s the Totally Useless Stitch Along.  Which is a lovely piece of art in progress.  (And so, not so totally useless!)  And when my jar is full, all those scraps will be turned into Prayer Flags!  More on that later!  Until then love the froggy green!

Butterfly Chain, A Real TAST Challenge For Me

TAST 2012 Sampler

This is not exactly how I envisioned this would go, but it is a sampler!

I may alienate many people with this statement, but I have to take the risk:  I don’t like butterflies.  I used to like spiders because of the Greek mythology connection and because they eat other insects.  But then I found out that they are cannibals.  Now, I must simply say that while I respect the place of insects in Nature, on the whole I simply am not interested in sharing space with any of them, no matter how delightful the coloring.  Butterflies are too much like moths.  Bottom line they are creepy, crawly, wormy things before they mature.  I’m really more of a flora than a fauna person!Consequently, I was not thrilled with the idea of a stitch that is called Butterfly Chain.  But as I have committed to this year-long challenge offered by Sharon Boggon at Pin Tangle, this “little” thing called Take a Stitch Tuesday, I must tackle this stitch.  BUT, I have a re-frame, good little strategic therapist that I am!  My little chains are not creating the lovely body of butterflies out of my straight stitches, they are instead gathering together stalks of corn or wheat or some other grain that looks like liquid gold in a field!Ahhh, relief.  Now I can stitch!

And stitch I did.  Except…

When Jeffrey looked at the work I had done, he said, “Oh, are you stitching a fence?”  I said, “Oh, yeah,  that’s just what it is!”

Thjree layers of butterfly chain stitch embellished with seed and bugle beeds

Wisteria Fence

I didn’t start with a sketch this time.  I just kind of had an idea in my head.  It’s better to start with a sketch as it’s much easier to erase on paper than it is on fine, 32 count linen!  (That’s what my 2012 TAST Sampler is stitched on.)  The following slide show reveals the evolution of what I’m calling Wisteria Fence.  You’ll see why as the pics progress.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Bullion Stitch, Not To Be Confused With Bouillion Cubes!

I have to wonder if I have ESP.  Last week when I posted about French Knots, I mentioned I much prefer the Bullion Knot or Bullion Stitch.  And what do we have for this week’s TAST Challenge?!  Yup…The Bullion Stitch.  I decided to make a spray of wisteria on my Sampler.  The Bullion Knot is perfect for such drapey flowers.  I’d be interested to hear from you what other flowers this stitch would be good for.

Swag of wisteria in Bullion Stitch

Yet another Spring Swag…this one with Bullion Stitch, Stem Stitch, and Chain with Bullion Stitch tip

It was interesting to look at the different tutorials available for this stitch.  Using my own Stitch Diagram reference page, I found Sarah’s tutorial to be most useful to me.  I really needed a refresher, too!  The last time I did bullion stitches was in (about) 1996 when I was determined to learn ribbon embroidery while I recuperated from surgery.

Sharon’s recommendation to use a needle whose eye outer diameter is the same as the needle shaft to the point is right on.   As she says on Pin Tangle:

People either love or hate bullions, but most of the problems associated with working them is that people use the wrong needle.

I recommend milliners or straw needles because most embroidery needles have an eye that is wider than the shaft of the needle. Milliners or straw needles have an eye and shaft that are the same width which makes sliding the wrapped bullion knot along the needle easy. Try it as it does make a difference. (Sharon Boggon)

She’s so right!  This is important because not only does the needle have to go through the thread you wrap or coil around the needle, but you also need to drag the doubled thread through the coiled thread, too.  I did not have the perfect needles on hand for this, so I tried to compensate by allowing the coils to relax as I wiggled the needle and thread through the coil.  I think that may have given me my little problem of the bottom-most coil being a tad loose.

I used three types of thread to work my bullions—a silk ribbon (the green), a rayon loosely woven ribbon (the darker purple on the left), and DMC #5 Perle Cotton (the light purple on the left and all purples on the right.)  It was definitely easier making the bullions with the cotton Perle.

Close up of chain stitch with bullion ending tip

The leaf on the right is a fair example of the Chain Stitch with ending done in Bullion Stitch. The Silk on the left leaf was somewhat twisted while wrapping the needle.

There are actually three stitches in my sample.  First, I made a “branch” with stem stitch using two plies of cotton floss.  Then there are the bullion wisteria flowers that I made with the Perle cotton and the rayon silk.  The green leaves are a composite stitch made up of a chain stitch where the anchoring final stitch is completed as a bullion stitch.  It gives a nice shape to the leaves, I think.  What do you think?  Come on  Don’t be shy!  I can take it!

TAST 2012: Week Six Chevron Stitch with Bamboo and Sea Grass

TAST 2012 Sampler stitched by Julie Castle as of Feb 12

My TAST Sampler to date

It’s been a very busy week, but I managed to stitch a few Chevrons…and more!  We are preparing to move to our next camping location.  Doing so is kind of like tying off loose ends, weaving in bits, and getting a finished piece ready for framing.  Yup—nitpicking chores!  But there was some fun, too!  I have a new grandniece named Peyton Marie born to the little boy I helped deliver too many years ago (who I’m proud to say is now a not so little member of the U. S. Navy)!  I started Sharon Boggon’s Online Class Studio Journal as a Designers Work Horse.  I went to New Orleans to visit the Garden District Needlework Shop where I spent too much money but had so much fun!  (I’ll be doing a full write-up about this incredible shop once we get relocated.)  I used some new to me threads in stitching the TAST Week 6 Challenge:  the Chevron Stitch.

The Thread Gatherer Sea Grass Cotton in Turkey Red

Sea Grass by The Thread Gatherer

I have seen Sea Grass by The Thread Gatherer in catalogues, but not in a shop.  The Garden District Needlework Shop had a supply, so I picked up a packet to try it out.  It was very nice to work with.  In some situations I could see using a laying tool, but in this case I simply used my needle to smooth the flat thread out.  The texture reminded me of the shredded paper type of grass  for Easter Baskets (as opposed to the plasticky stuff.)  The colors are nice, too!  I can definitely see a stash of Sea Grass in my future.

Layered Chevron done in Sea Grass Cotton and Pink Ribbon

Foundation Chevron in Pink Ribbon, Top in Turkey Red Sea Grass

Another thread new to me was Rainbow Gallery’s Bamboo thread that is sold under the moniker, “Mandarin Floss.”  Just looking through the bobbins on the stand, this color popped out at me.  While I had no idea what I would do with it, I knew it would fit somewhere in my color world.  I was right.

Rainbow Gallery Bamboo thread

Mandarin Floss in M294 a Bamboo thread by Rainbow Gallery

Using the Sea Grass over the pink ribbon Chevrons and not being sure what the next stitch would be, nor what colors would be most fitting, the variegated bamboo thread provides a really nice bridge to just about anything! Wanting to use previous stitches to offset the Chevrons, I used the Mandarin in Fly Stitch to underline the Chevrons.

I haven’t even mentioned the beginning of the Chevron sample.  The pink ribbon chevrons were tied with layered Herringbone in a Caron’s over dyed cotton.  Not really sure which one—it was pretty and went well with the pink!  That set of Chevrons was framed with Buttonhole Stitch

TAST Week 6 Chevron Stitch Sample

TAST Week 6 Chevron Stitch Sample

Tell me!  What would you do differently?  Be tough.  I can take it!  Should I do something other than bands?

Works in Progress

I’m all over the place these days.  I’ve got my three blogs I am trying to get beyond infancy.  Only one is ready to walk, Blackwork Lessons.  I’ve finally figured out just about everything I need for right now, except the tag and category stuff along with promoting.  My site for the dogs, Sight Sniffing, is really still waiting to be born.  I’ve gone through about four themes for that one, but I think the one I’ve settled on will work nicely.  Now just to get into content which will be mostly photographic.

I think the next step that is necessary for success is to develop a schedule of when I will sit down and update each blog so they each stay current.  It’s hard to do because I am so focused on blackwork and design right now.  That is not to say that I’m not doing other stitching.  I am.  But, I am committed to writing a book that will be called Blackwork Lessons.  And my head is wrapped all around what the book will look like and include as well as getting permissions from other artists to be able to include some of their work because no one can do it better.  Like the Skinner Sisters.

Nonetheless, I’ve started these three blogs and I must care for all of them.  I will start this one with an update on Works in Progress.  I am working on Carol Leather’s Blackwork Chessboard which is a sampler of fill patterns shaped into a chess board.  I am also working on Kathy Rees’ Amazing Color sampler.  Amazing is an understatement.  Just got the third set of instructions from the Shining Needle Society class being run by Robertson and Howren called Stitches For Effect:  Climb Every Mountain.  I have two name tags to complete for two ladies who will be instructors at ANG’s 2012 Seminar in Philadelphia.  Then there’s that piece I want to give to Mom for Christmas.  (It’s okay, still a secret–she only uses a computer for playing games!)

I’ve just downloaded a new (to me) software (open source) that will allow me to use the same system Kim Brody Salazar uses and describes in her blog, String or Nothing.  A little stuck right now, but tomorrow’s another day.  Today I started a database on my Blackwork Lessons Yahoo group to list symbols found in stitching as I came across a couple Mayan references while reading the HandEye newsletter.  Also wrote a note to self to start a database to include cool sayings I’ve found that would be great on samplers so I can finally throw all those little slips of paper away!  And I need to start a poll to see if the yahoo group wants to have an online meeting in October.  That’s when I had originally planned to unveil my own blackwork sampler creation.

So, I haven’t been avoiding you, dear Shop Sampler!  Just too disorganized to give you the time you deserve.  I’ll be better.  Promise!