Sunday, January 30, 2011

A gift for a far away friend

Quaker Fragments Stocking by Blackbird Designs (March Leaflet)
Stitched two over two on R&R Reproductions 30 ct. Alabaster
with Crescent Colors Ruby Slippers and WDW Monkey Grass

Would you believe I had this piece stitched and waiting to be finished since, oh.... AUGUST? Yep. August. I knew I was going to stitch and finish this piece for my friend Michele, but I didn't think it would take me so long to do the actual finish finishing. Naturally, I had to be difficult and not follow the finishing instructions in the leaflet. Oh no. I had to do thing *my* way. And by my way, I mean pleading with my husband who is far more patient and diligent than I am to trace out the cardboard and assemble the stocking for me. I did get him to trace the cardboard and cut it out, but I was on my own for lacing the stocking onto the cardboard.

A little tugging, a little clipping, and a little cursing, and it was done. Just barely done, but done before Christmas. Which is not to say it arrived before Christmas, but I did mail it out before Christmas - perhaps about a week or so before the big day. Two weeks after Christmas, I still hadn't heard anything about it from Michele, so I decided to forgo a surprise and ask her if she had received any envelopes from me. She had, in fact, not. I was devastated. Everything else I had mailed on the same day had made it to its destination, and I was psyching myself up to stitch and finish this piece again. I was not looking forward to lacing the stocking onto cardboard again, but the actual stitching of the piece was fun. Luckily for me, Michele emailed me a few days later to let me know she had received the envelope and was just thrilled with the ornament and the additional tokens I had sent her.

You see, Michele is a major Seattle Seahawks fan, and I am a Cowboys fan, so we give each other good natured ribbing throughout football season. I sent her my interpretation of her beloved Seahawk's colors in overdyed floss, something I imagine would either frighten or amuse the big burly football players. You can see the colors here on her blog.

And there's a story behind the colors I selected for the stocking itself. Michele loves the color red, so I knew I was going to work that in there, but I didn't want to do two shades of red. I pulled a few shades of red that caught my eye from the overdyed racks in my LNS, but when I saw the name Ruby Slippers, I knew that was the color I was going to use. Michele is a big Wizard of Oz fan as well, so how could I not? As for the green, I picked a green to coordinate with the red, not by color name. It did, however, work out perfectly for me as my chosen color is Monkey Grass, or as I like to call it, Flying Monkeys. Yeah. I'm cool like that.
Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hold it!! There are MORE Lighthouses!

Linda's not the only one that knows me well. Another dear friend of mine, Michele from Just Another Stitching Blog, thought of me when she was out shopping and picked up these two charts for me. I think the Gulf Coast lighthouse chart may still be available, if hard to find, but I am almost positive Secluded Shores is out of print, making the charts that much more appreciated.

Do you see the little blue thing below the charts? It's the loveliest little scissor fob. With a LIGHTHOUSE!!! Take a closer look - it's beautiful, and in my favorite color blue, though I am convinced Michele slipped a little Seahawk green in there on purpose. LOL

The larger oval shaped beads are especially pretty and appropriate as they're a frosted finish that looks very much like sea glass, another one of my favorite things. As lighthouse enthusiasts, we visit a lot of beaches and I make it a point to scour them for pieces of sea glass. I can, and have, spent hours combing beaches looking for glass and have amassed a collection I keep on display in our living room. I love that the beads on this fob are so reminiscent of the glass I find out the beach.

And because I want to be all fancy like with the macro settings on my camera, check out the awesome lighthouse on the end of the fob:

And while I also thanked Michele privately when I received the package, I just wanted to give her generosity and thoughtfulness a public shout out.
Friday, January 28, 2011

Lighthouses, lighthouses, lighthouses

It's pretty obvious I like lighthouses - visiting them, taking pictures of them, stitching them. The whole thing started with my husband's family's annual trips to the Outer Banks while he was growing up. Every year, his family vacationed in Buxton, NC, home of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. And every year, he and his family would visit the lighthouse and climb it if it was open. When we started dating, I went on vacation with the family, and visited the lighthouse myself.

Later, shortly before we were married, we were looking for something to do one weekend when my then boyfriend suggested a visit to the Absecon Lighthouse in NJ. No reason - just something to do on a weekend. So off we went to visit (and climb!) Absecon, which is next door to Atlantic City's casinos. We have little interest in casinos, but that weekend jaunt led us to pick up a Lighthouse Passport. Basically, the passport is a small booklet for collecting stamps at participating sites in the program - mostly lighthouses, but a few lifesaving stations and museums participate as well. When you fill up a passport with 60 stamps, you send it off to the Lighthouse Society and they send you a patch (and your booklet).

This started a project for my husband and I, and we began to look for opportunities to visit various lighthouses. We structured our honeymoon around a return trip to Hatteras to revisit our old friend, and several other lighthouses in the area. We did a spur of the moment long weekend over 4th of July one year, starting in upstate New York and worked our way along the Great Lakes through Niagara and down to Presque Isle. And we also participated in multiple lighthouse challenges in New Jersey, Maryland and New York. If you are interested in lighthouses and live within driving distance of any of these challenges, I highly recommend checking them out. We always have a good time and it's a great way to spend a weekend:

You can also check out The Lighthouse Hunters, who have information on additional challenges in Maine, Florida and Canada.

Soooo........... what is the point of all my yammering about lighthouses? In early December, I was the recipient of a large envelope stuffed to bursting with the amazing array of charts you see here, all of them lighthouse themed.

My wonderful friend Linda at Taxing Stitches gifted me with these charts. I was absolutely overwhelmed as I opened the envelope and started pulling out chart after chart after chart of lighthouses. Linda had been going through her stash and said she immediately thought of me when she started pulling these out. She knew I had an interest in lighthouses, and remembered that both my husband and I stitch. He's stitched several lighthouses, and I know he was eyeing up a few charts in this collection as well. I am looking forward to picking a few of these charts and stitching on them over the summer (I have a few spring weddings I am stitching larger pieces for).

I am a terrible slacker for waiting so long to thank her publicly (though I did thank her profusely in private). Once again, THANK YOU, Linda! Your generosity has overwhelmed me and touched my heart.
Friday, January 14, 2011

My Christmas Gift from Linda

This is the beautiful ornament that Linda stitched for me, which is now hanging proudly on our tree. I love the vintage colors, and Linda's stitching is just lovely, but what I love most is that this is a one of a kind ornament just for me. According to Linda, the word peace was not in the original ornament. She liked the idea of a 4th word instead of the year and chose "peace", something we can all use a little more of in our lives.

Linda stitched the ornament on an unknown fabric with Belle Soie silks - Cinnamon Stick, Collard Greens, Sister Scarlet, Mudpie and Cranberry. Linda also included a cute fingertip towel which is now in our guest bathroom. I don't know how she knew it, but I have a distinct lack of holiday themed decorative items in our house, and a Christmas towel was a welcome addition for the holidays.

Also in the package was a new lighthouse ornament to add to our collection, this one from the Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio. It's one we have yet to visit, but it's definitely on our list.

On a final note, Linda has decided to get her blog up and running again, so please drop by and visit her at Taxing Stitches.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bent Creek's I Do in Miniature

It's almost like I'm obsessed with ornaments lately, isn't it? I know I've posted quite a few, and there's more to come. Somehow they all just seemed to come together at the end up the year. Mind you, it could have been that pre-Christmas push to get some gifts done, but then again, some of these ornaments were quite overdue, so who knows? Anyway, next up is something I stitched for one of my best friends and her new husband:

Stitched 1 over 1 on Vintage Light Exemplar

I'd like to make a shameless plug for my pal Julie, the recipient of this ornament. Julie's an amazing friend, a wonderful cook, and one of the most fun, generous, big hearted and free spirited people I know. Julie is also a published author, and you can buy her book, The Hard Way, online or at your bookstore of choice. If they don't have it in stock, ask them to get it for you. Oh, and while you're at it... check out her website

Julie and I have been friends since grad school, and I don't even want to tell you how long ago that was! She just got married this fall, and having been with her through many ups and downs, highs and lows when it came to relationships, I have to say I am grateful every day that she is now married to someone that loves her and recognizes her for the fantastic, amazing, stupendous, and all around awesome person that she is. And her husband's not too shabby himself. I have a larger piece in the works as a wedding gift for them, but I wanted to give them a small token to tide them over.

This was my inspiration for this ornament. I saved the photo in my idea file, knowing at some point I would come back to it. Scroll down to see the ornament Joan did last year for her daughter and new husband.

My color conversion for this piece is as follows: GAST Dark Chocolate (vines) and Maple Syrup (letter), CC Cupid (heart and initials) and Blacksmith Blue (I Do), and WDW Cognac (leaves) and Whitewash (accents). I also used a silver DMC Metallic for the rings as the actual wedding bands were white gold.
Saturday, January 8, 2011

Finally Framed!!!

I thought maybe you all deserved a break from all those ornaments! Let's take a little trip down memory lane and a dive into the finished AND framed pile (pitifully small, I know.) I like to show *finished* finished pieces on the blog, but someday I will embarrass myself and post a photo of my finished unfinished pieces. Maybe several photos. Maybe a lot of photos. I have a whole drawer full of pieces patiently waiting to be finished for some form of display.

The Path by Dimensions (kit)
Stitched on 14 ct. Aida with included threads

I don't even know when I actually finished this piece - probably back in 2003-2004 when I first started stitching, and it's been languishing in a drawer ever since. It was one of the first pieces I purchased, a Dimensions kit, and I think it may still actually be available in craft stores. I admit, I almost never look at the Dimensions kits any more. Not much changes with them anyway and they're all sold with some kind of Aida cloth, which I rarely stitch on. (There's one small chart I stitch for the occasional birth record that I like using Aida cloth for a chunkier look).

While we're on the subject of confessions, I will confess that I probably ordered the frame and the mat 2-3 years ago as well, and they sat in the drawer on top of the finished piece. I have no idea why it took so long to get around to framing it, but once I pulled it out and said, "THIS TIME I MEAN IT!!!" (for the fourth or fifth time), the whole thing got framed in about 30 minutes.

You can't tell from the photo - my husband's patient framing saved me - but the stitching is completely off centered. There's an inch or so of fabric on one side, and three on the other. I don't know how it happened, but somehow I started stitching off center and by the time I realized it, I wasn't about to rip out everything and start over. I had already been planning on framing the piece, so I figured I'd just fudge things a little when I got to the framing. Lucky for me, it worked out.

This piece is intended for a friend of mine, one I've known since kindergarten. She lives in Virginia now, so we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like. In fact, it's been about a year and a half now since we've seen each other. Now that we both have children (hers are school age), it complicates travel even more, but I still think the sentiment holds true for us. It's just that sometimes, that path means picking up the phone more often than seeing each other in person.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas Round of the Fair and Square exchange

The final Fair and Square exchange round for 2010 was the Christmas round, and I was paired up with Melissa P from Massachusetts. These are the squares that Melissa stitched for me:

Christmas Round 2010 from Melissa P
Windows of Faith, Hope and Peace by Primrose Needleworks
JCS 2010 Ornament Issue

Isn't her signature square so clever? It took me a minute to figure it out, but I finally got it. 2010 in the four corners, and her initials and state in the middle. Very cool.

I had originally considered stitching these for her as well, though I am sure my signature square wouldn't have been quite as clever. At the last minute, I changed my mind and went with a different design. How funny would it have been if we stitched the same ones for each other? (And yes, I would have gone with the blue as well.)

This is what I DID stitch for Melissa:

All Hearts Come Home for Christmas
by The Cat's Whiskers Design Studio
JCS 2010 Ornament Issue

NOTE: There are two small errors in the chart. I noticed them when I was stitching and they were fairly easy to correct. You can see the correction here.

Melissa's likes were wide open, so I went with this design. I've always liked the "All hearts come home for Christmas" sentiment and I thought this was a pretty rendition of it. I didn't have the called for colors and didn't like the DMC alternatives that were given, so I dove into my stash and came up with my own color selections. I used DMC 815 for the red, 783 for the gold and 904 for the green. I think they look very pretty against the antique white fabric.

I can't wait to see how Melissa finishes it. The finish in the magazine is a pinkeep, but I think this design lends itself nicely to a biscornu as well.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Another Just Nan Ornament Finish

Christmas Hearts by Just Nan
stitched over 2 on 32 ct. Antique White
with DMC threads

During a Fair and Square exchange, I had the pleasure of being partnered with Linda B. We really hit it off and have been emailing back and forth ever since. Now if I can just talk her into starting a blog....

When Linda suggested a private ornament exchange, of course I said Yes! I love looking at the stitched ornaments on our tree each year when we decorated, and I knew Linda's ornament would be a very special addition to my collection. I also wanted to do something special for Linda, and as you may have guessed by now, this is one of my favorite patterns, and finishes. I love that even though it's a simple pattern, it's quite beautiful when it's finished. I also love being able to personalize pieces, change colors, etc. I think it makes every piece special and unique.

I also really like the mix of threads in this piece. I don't think the original called for using satin / rayon threads, but when I stitched it the first time with a red satin thread for the hearts, I was hooked and immediately started thinking about other color combinations. This pink and green one has been in my head since almost the beginning, and I absolutely love how it came out.

I used DMC 30899 (Rayon) for the hearts in this one, DMC 367 and 368 for the greens, 762 for the grey and 962, 963 and 3832 for the shades of pink. I used the same silver lined seed beads from the craft store to embellish this ornament as well.
Monday, January 3, 2011

Drew's Christmas Ornament

Art Deco Frame by Julia Lucas Designs
JCS 2005 Christmas Ornament Issue
Stitched with DMC Perle Cotton (Variations 4040) and DMC Thread

Oh yes, you'll be seeing more of these. This is the version I stitched for my friend's son Drew (the recipient of the Jungle Baby Birth Record I posted about earlier). I wanted to incorporate the jungle theme into the ornament, so I used a clip art giraffe to decorate the birth information side. Luckily, the colors of the clip art tied in nicely to the variegated thread.

This is such an easy stitch, and something I can work on in the car. Since we travel to our hometown on a regular basis to see my husband's parents and grandmothers, we spend a fair amount of time in the car. It's a little difficult for me to stitch on fabric, but these are done on plastic canvas and are much easier to work on in a moving vehicle.

As you can see, I like to go with variations on a theme, and for this one, I tried out the variegated perle cotton. I like that it's a little different than the regular perle cottons I've used for other ornaments. I have several other ornaments in the works. I used an opalescent DMC thread for the accent stitching, but to assemble the ornament, I used regular DMC floss. DMC provides a color chart that lists which colors are used to make up the variegated threads so you can match a solid color floss to the variegated ones. I picked one of the colors to whipstitch the edges together. Also, I used a clear plastic canvas and trimmed it very closely so I didn't feel there was a need to whipstitch the edges of the openings.

To protect the photo and the birth information (which is printed on my color inkjet printer to regular paper), I used a regular laminating pocket I picked up at Staples (I've also seen them at Target and Walmart). This is *not* a heat set laminating pocket - just a regular one that presses together by hand. I line up the photo and the birth information in the windows, then use double sided mounting squares to stick them together. (You can find the mounting squares in the scrapbooking section. Once I get everything lined up and stuck together, I set them up in the laminating pouch and go from there. A little bit of hot glue helps me make sure the laminating pouch stays in place while I whipstitch the edges together. (Be careful not to melt the pouch). Once everything is together, I squeeze in a little more glue to hold the edges of the frame down around the picture and birth info.
Sunday, January 2, 2011

A round of lobsters

Lobsters in the Round by The Sampler Girl
Stitched 1 over 1 on 32 ct. evenweave with WDW Turkish Red

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while and I never got around to posting it. I actually finished it up in early January last year, which is why 2010 is stitched in tiny little stitches to the left and right of the "F" in the middle. The F is my own addition - I used a fancy font I had in my stitching software. I thought it would be a nice little monogram / personalization for the ornament.

The chart had been in my wishlist for a long time, and I finally bought it when Tanya was running a sale. I've seen it stitched on low count fabric for pillows and such, but I was immediately thinking "ornament" when I saw it. I used a mystery piece of fabric from my stash and stitched it over 1. I adore it, and it hangs nestled among our large collection of lighthouse ornaments. In fact, a good portion of our tree is filled with lighthouse / nautical themed ornaments.

I don't have a photo of the backing fabric. I used a fairly generic red and gold holiday themed fabric and storebought cording. I usually have decent luck at Joanns if I take the stitched piece with me and match it up to fabrics and trims. Not that I wouldn't love a bigger selection, but sometimes it's nice to have your choices limited and not feel so overwhelmed.
Saturday, January 1, 2011

The One that Started it All

Art Deco Frame by Julia Lucas Designs
JCS 2005 Christmas Ornament Issue
Stitched with DMC Pearle Cotton and DMC Metallic Thread

This is the ornament that started it all. I was flipping through the JCS 2005 Ornament issue after purchasing it on eBay a while back, and fell in love with this design. My father-in-law had been going through old family photos and scanning them onto the computer. One of the photos he scanned was from their wedding and I knew this ornament would be perfect.

As I've mentioned before, I didn't like the way the original instructions for the ornament called for doing the back, which is when I came up with the idea of making a double sided ornament. I had intended to doing their names and wedding date on the computer in a fancy font, print it out and call it a day. But on a subsequent visit to my in-laws, my mother-in-law brought out a box of loose photos and other wedding memorabilia and talked about some day putting it in an album or scrapbook. One of the items in the box was their actual wedding invitation, and I asked my father-in-law if I could make a copy of it. I *told* him that I was helping our cousin Kerri with her wedding invitations and she was interested in seeing what other family members had done, as I didn't want to explain what my real reason was and ruin the surprise.

When I got the copy home, I played around with it and made a miniature version of their wedding invitation for the back of the ornament:

Oddly enough, looking at the invitation sparked another conversation, as my father-in-law's father's name, Gerard, is misspelled on it. Normally, it wouldn't be a big deal, but since my son's middle name is in honor of his great grandfather, and it's spelled with the "e" on everything from his birth certificate to his announcements to his sampler we stitched, I wanted to make sure we had it spelled correctly. So yes, it was indeed misspelled on their wedding invitations.

But wait... there's more. In another "You must be kidding me" episode, I sent the pictures to be printed at WalMart, and asked my husband to pick them up on his way home from work. He called me from the store and told me the clerk at the photo counter refused to give him the prints because it was copyrighted work and we'd need a release from the photo studio to get the print. I was absolutely furious, and went over to the store myself to speak with the manager. I explained that this wasn't actually a professional photo - it was a snapshot taken by a friend, and I could in fact produce the original snapshot if necessary. And even if it was a professional shot, the photo had been taken forty five years ago - who knew if the studio was even still in business? The manager finally relented and gave me the print, but it cost them my printing business. I now either order the prints online, or get them printed elsewhere. I won't be having any prints done at WalMart, that's for sure.

And on a happier note, the ornament was gifted to my in-laws on Christmas Eve. They were absolutely thrilled with it, and very touched that I had put something together like this for them. I'm so glad they liked it, and it's now hanging front and center on their Christmas tree.