Monday, February 28, 2011

Good friends

I swear, I know the nicest people. Last week, we got a lovely package from my friend Dianne (Dianne Rambling On). Dianne's a jack of all trades when it comes to crafting and has done some lovely collage pieces, one of which she gifted to us.

Why yes, that IS a lighthouse! (And I do wish I was there!)

Dianne made this pretty little piece which is now on display in our living room. I love how the design is layered and textured - the "sand" in the lower corner is actually teeny tiny little gold beads. Very cool!

Dianne also gifted us with this piece for Nick, appropriately named Nickademus, Raise the Roof Design's contribution to the 2010 JCS Ornament issue. Dianne and I were chatting and she said she had stitched this piece up. When I mentioned it was on my list to stitch for Nick, she asked if she could finish it as an ornament for him.

Now, I am a sucker for anything sentimental, so of course I said yes! I love when something has a meaning or a story or something behind it, and in years to come when we hang our ornaments on the tree, this one will always bring Dianne to mind. I'd like to teach my son about sharing his talents with other people, and also, how things don't always have to be sleek and shiny and mass produced to be special and valuable, how things that are made and given from the heart have great value.

I see kids with their video games and their computers and their cellphones and their toys that light up and blink and do all kinds of things and I wonder how much of an appreciation they have for things that don't need batteries or a power cord. I wonder how many kids would appreciate the time and effort it took someone to make something like this for them, and I want my kid to be the one that says, "Thanks! That was really cool that you would do that for me." And sometimes I worry that I'm going to be that weirdo mom that *isn't* constantly chasing after the newest, shiniest toy or that my kid is going to be that weirdo kid, the one that can entertain himself for hours with a pile of blocks or crayons or other simple toys. And then I think maybe I don't really care if we are those "weirdos".

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get off on a tangent about these things, but sometimes I think we can all use a reminder that happiness doesn't always come from a box on a store shelf.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Sneak Peek at my first finish of 2011

This was my first finish of 2011, done back in early January. Yes, I stitched most of it in late 2010, but I finished the final 1/3 of it or so this year. It's a gift for a friend and I have a frame on order, so I don't want to show the whole thing, but here's a little peek!

I won't reveal the designer just yet...

This piece is a gift for a friend and there's a little story behind it. When I offered to stitched something for her, I could almost SEE her nose wrinkle up right through the phone. After a bit of a pause on her end, I laughed and said I'd send her a few links of what I had in mind. I picked a couple Quaker pieces and several other things and emailed them to her. About 20 minutes after I sent her the first email, she emailed me back and had two or three designs picked out, this being one of them. There were several subsequent emails with links to other designs she liked.

In all, we settled on three different ones - this one, one for her wedding piece and another for her birthday. She even said she had no idea there were so many cool, interesting pieces out there. Her concept of cross stitch was more of a "country goose wearing a blue bow and bonnet" idea. Now, that may float someone else's boat, but definitely not hers. I was happy to show her that's not all there was to it.

Do I think she'll ever take up stitching herself? No. But at least she has a greater appreciation for needlework in general.
Friday, February 25, 2011

Dreaming of Tuscany

Dreaming of Tuscany by Dimensions
Stitched on 18 ct. Aida with included threads
Finished 2005 - Framed 2011

This is another of my husband's pieces, again from back when we first started stitched and stitched primarily kits. Neither of us are Italian or have any Italian heritage, and while I've been to Italy, I haven't been to Tuscany. Still, we both really like this piece. We both love a good bottle of wine, so that counts, right? (And I love Northern Italian food)

I framed this one as well, but used a black wooden frame with an open back (small metal clips hold the artwork in place). Since there's more room in the frame, I was able to use the glass also with the mat board and the needlework, and not have to worry about squeezing in a backing board. When we're ready to hang this one, my husband uses double stick framing tape and brown framing paper to seal off the back of the piece. (The framing tape and paper are available at any quality art supply store).

I wanted to be able to cover this one with glass because I plan on hanging it in our kitchen. We have a small section of wall between our basement door and the doorway to the dining room that this will be perfect in.

But I'm also holding off on hanging it up until my husband finishes the piece he's currently stitching on: Tuscan Greeting by Dimensions, seen here

When I was preparing to write this post, I went looking for a link to the first piece. I like to include a link whenever possible because I've had people email me asking where they can find the piece for themselves. And I know I always appreciate a link on someone else's blog when I see a chart I really like. It's nice to know where to be able to find it. Anyway, when I went looking for the link, I saw this piece in the "You May Also Like" section and decided, yes, I really do like that one. The next time I was in a craft store, I picked it up (it is available at chain stores like Michael's and AC Moore), and now my husband is working on this piece. We already have a large enough unfinished pile, but I already have the frame and mat for this one ready to go. As soon as it's done, we'll get it framed and both pieces up on the wall.

I've made a small dent in our FUFO drawer, but there's still several other pieces I'd like to get finished and framed our our walls. The problem is that I like to have an overall plan in mind before I start framing, so I can make sure the pieces I want to hang together look like they belong together. They don't have to be matchy-matchy, but I do like them to coordinate. I've learned to be a little more patient with things and hold off until we've decided what we want to do. Yes, sometimes I get a little antsy and would like to display more of our work, but in the end, it ends up being worth it to plan ahead.
Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another gift for a not so far away friend

Let's take a break from lighthouses for a moment, shall we? Oh, I know! Back to the ornaments. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Prairie Schooler Prairie Birds (Book 24) - Cardinals
Stitched 1 over 1 on 32 ct. mystery fabric
with recommended DMC threads

I stitched and finished this little ornament for my lovely friend, Dianne (Dianne Rambling On). I met Dianne when I started blogging and she has been a great friend to me both online and in person. We chat and share links on Facebook, email regularly, and have even met up in person in Ocean City, MD, over the summer. Jeff, Nick and I had a very nice lunch with Dianne, her husband and son, and Dianne and I had even MORE fun browsing in Salty Yarns on the Boardwalk.

Dianne is a wonderful combination of mom / big sister / favorite aunt and we can talk about so many things. She's also a mom, though her son is considerably older than mine (by 20 some years!). She's been a good resource for parenting advice and I am constantly inspired by her creativity and touched by her generosity.

When I admired a goldfinch piece from this Prairie Schooler book, Dianne generously loaned me her copy so I could stitch one up for my husband, who happens to really like goldfinches. I haven't quite managed to stitch his up, but I did stitch this piece for Dianne. Dianne is a nature lover and posts many pictures of her beautiful gardens. I know she appreciate the beauty of the bright colored cardinals in the barren winter as much as she loves the colorful spring and summer flowers, so I thought this piece would be perfect for her.

I stitched it a few months ago when I was on an over 1 stitching kit, and I just love how it turned out. It's really much prettier and more delicate in person, and for some reason, my finishing looks a little lumpier in the photo than it does in real life. But overall, I was pleased with how it came out.

Little did I know when I was stitching it that Dianne had already stitched and finished this piece for herself! (You can see it near the middle of the tree here.) But Dianne assured me that she loved it and thought it was cool that she had two, since mine is much smaller than hers. I like to think that I did a good job picking something she'd like!
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I know how this looks...

Safe Passage by Bucilla
Stitched on 14 ct. Aida with included threads

I know what you're thinking.

These people are nuts. How much lighthouse stuff can two people possibly collect?

Would you believe me if I said, "Not that much, actually?" Or at least it's not blindingly obvious the second you walk in our door.

Sure, if you poke around long enough or dig through the stash under the guest bed, or visit us at Christmas and happen to notice that a good 30% of our ornaments are lighthouses or of a nautical theme, you might come to the conclusion that we have a *interest* in lighthouses (to be polite about it). But I've worked hard at not covering every available surface with lighthouse stuff, and we limit ourselves to things we're really in love with, which cuts down on the impulse purchases. Just because something is a lighthouse, has a lighthouse on it or is somewhat reminiscent of a lighthouse doesn't mean we need to own it. (We won't talk about the camera bag that I HAD TO HAVE because it was covered in lighthouses. Or the fact that it wasn't actually a camera bag, but rather a canvas purse. And yes, I did retire it in favor of an actual plain black padded camera bag).

For the most part, our displays of lighthouses are restrained and spread out around the house. Except in Little Dude's room, where there's a concentration of photos of lighthouses from around the world. Nevermind that. He LIKES them. And he's going to like this piece too, because that's where it's going. Yeah, that's right. It's another lighthouse on our walls. (also, he's not even two years old, so it's not like he gets a say in how his room is decorated)

It's also another of my husband's earlier pieces that I dug out and framed - easy pickins as the 5x7 standard size is a quick one to do up. You may be noticing a trend in black frames - I am, too. I hope I don't find it necessary to scale that back, and I hope I still love how it looks years from now because we have a LOT of black frames in our house. Eh, black is always in style.
Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another piece escapes the FUFO drawer!

A little while ago, I mentioned a drawer full of finished unfinished pieces / objects - FUFOs, as I've heard them called and it got me thinking about actually DOING something with them. Yes, many things I've stitched have been finished and given as gifts, but there are still many more languishing in a drawer in our guest room.

Some of those pieces were stitched by my husband. Technically, I'm not allowed to discuss his stitching, but I am going to ignore that "rule" because I'm quite proud of him. While most stitchers I know are women, there is a handful of men that stitch and my husband happens to be one of them. He does amazing work, and has patience for things I don't, such as massive projects. I might have even said before that he was the one that started us stitching as a way to curb our nighttime snacking habits. He figured we should do something to occupy our hands that wasn't conducive to snacking as well, and stitching fit the bill. We were living in an apartment at the time, and stitching didn't take up a whole lot of room. We started out with pre-packaged kits from places like AC Moore and Michaels, then discovered our LNS, The Strawberry Sampler, where we graduated to charts, overdyed threads, linens and evenweaves.

Since my husband will NEVER start a blog of his own, I'd like to showcase a few of his pieces on my blog. This is one of the first pieces he stitched, and here's a shocker for you - it's a lighthouse!

Nautical Light by Creative Accents (Dimensions)
Stitched on 14 ct. Aida with included threads
Finished 2002 - Framed 2011

The project was in a kit in a standard 5x7 size, making it quite easy to frame with an 8x10 frame and 5x7 mat. This one will be going on display on our living room bookshelves.

I should have taken a picture of the back of the piece, but didn't. I will say it's amazing how far we've both come with technique, especially carrying threads over the back of the fabric. See the whale and the ship off the stitched coastline? Mr. Sweet Pea used one long thread to stitch all of them, carrying the thread across the back. Yikes! We'd never do that now, especially on linen or evenweave. Fortunately, the thread did not show through the Aida fabric, so I let it go.

I did, however, restitch the outlining on the lighthouse. Originally, the outlining on the lighthouse was done with long, somewhat loose threads (Even on the package photo, the outlining is done like this and at the time, we didn't know any better.) But when I went to pull it out for framing, those long threads drove me NUTS and I had to pull them out and restitch the backstitching over single threads. It looks so much nicer, I think.

I should also confess at this point that we were not as careful with the fabrics as we are now. In fact, there might have been some *gasp* masking tape residue on the edges of the piece as we used regular old masking tape to prevent fraying. (I'll give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor). And before you call the stitching police on me, we're much better now. Most pieces we stitch now are on custom cut pieces of fabric from my new LNS (is it still new after 2 years?) Just Crossstitch in Lederach, where Carolyn serges the edges. On fabric I cut myself, I use a fabric fray check and pinking sheers which works out fine.

But back to atoning for my previous sins. On one hand, the fabric under where the masking tape had been was clean. On the other, that stripe of clean, bright fabric around the edge made me realize how dirty the rest of the fabric was, even though I had washed the piece in cold water and Ivory dish soap before putting it away. I wanted to make sure the piece was as clean as possible before I framed it, but I had concerns about the red dye running. After a bit of google searching, however, I found that many stitchers agreed OxiClean was safe enough to use on stitching and could remove most stains, so off to the grocery store I went for a tub of OxiClean.

Lucky for me, it worked just fine, and I had no bleeding of the red dye. (YAY!) I was quite nervous but it all turned out in the end. The stains were gone and the piece looked much better.

I have a few more pieces from my husband that I will be posting in the future, and I'm hoping to rescue even more FUFOs from the drawer.