Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If I could have mailed myself too, I would have

Last week, I mailed this piece off to Ireland for Round #28 of the Fair & Square Exchange. It now lives with Elaine. And yes, if I could have mailed myself too, I would have. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to go there, and someday, it will happen.

But onto the stitching. I've already shown you Elaine's squares for me. These are what I've stitched for her.

Tout en Rondeur by Liselotte
Stitched 1 over 1 on 32 ct. Antique White
with Crescent Colors Ribbon Red

I've had this freebie chart in my stash for a while, and immediately went to my Valentine themed pieces when deciding what to stitch for Elaine. The chart is about 70x70, which would have fit into the 6"x6" guidelines, but wouldn't have left much room. And since I rather enjoy stitching over 1, I stitched this piece over 1. Lany received it very quickly, so I am happy to share it with you now.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An original, commissioned design

A few weeks before Christmas, a friend and I were chatting and she mentioned she'd love to have a "Subversive Cross-stitch" type piece made for her boss and asked if I could design something around a phrase he likes to use. I said sure, no problem!

She wanted the piece to look obviously cross stitched, so I stitched it on Aida fabric and stuck to a very simple DMC color palette. I added the sheep for a little bit of interest / kitsch / reference to his theory that most people are sheep.

The verdict? HE LOVED IT! He thought it was absolutely hilarious and says it makes him laugh every time he looks at it.

And yes, my framing is much better than it appears in the photo. It was straight in the frame, and that's glare on the glass, not a wrinkle in the fabric.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A sentimental gift

Remember Me by My Big Toe Designs
Stitched 2 over 2 on 32 ct. Fog
With Crescent Colors Blacksmith Blue and Raspberry Parfait
Accented with antique buttons

I spotted this design early in 2011, after my husband's beloved grandmother passed away just days after her 99th birthday. I knew it was something we had to stitch in her honor for his mom. He agreed, and I picked up the chart and threads. I originally wanted to do it in two shades of pink (Grandma's favorite color) but he thought it would be too much pink and chose a darker blue accented by pink.

I picked this raspberry shade of pink for a particular reason. Right after Grandma passed away, I sent out an email to the extended family and cousins to let them know what happened and what the funeral arrangements were. (I stay in regular touch with most of the cousins via email and Facebook and it was my way of helping my MIL, who was feeling overwhelmed at the time.) As the response emails started coming back, I noticed a consistent theme in what people were saying they'd most remember about Grandma - her welcoming kitchen and delicious food, specifically her homemade raspberry jelly. My husband has mentioned this himself numerous times, and it seems he's not the only one it had an impact on. It's a little thing, but I am very sentimental like that, and I think my husband appreciated it as well.

What is obvious in the piece are the antique buttons used in place of some of the specialty stitches. I've mentioned the button collection we inherited from Grandma before, and these are some of the buttons from that collection. Just before he framed it, Mr. Sweet Pea picked out some of his favorites and stitched them onto the piece.

This is another American Frame, with a twist, as it's not the original frame I selected. Right after I placed the order, I got an email saying there was a mistake on the website and the frame I ordered was not in stock. Ugh. I hate it when that happens, but I went back to the drawing board and picked another frame. As it turns out, I like this one better than the first one I chose, and it works beautifully with the furniture in my IL's dining room, where it now hangs. I should also mention that Mr. Sweet Pea used acrylic on this piece (which is why you can see the glare) and some clear spacers to leave enough clearance for the raised buttons.

My MIL absolutely loved the piece and was deeply touched by the time and care her son put into stitching and framing the piece. She says she walks by it every day and it makes her smile to see it.
Saturday, February 11, 2012

From across the pond....

Earlier this week, I received my squares from the latest round of the Fair & Square exchange.

Round #28 from Elaine M (http://lanybleu.blogspot.com)
Queen's Heart by Marie-Chantal Lord
From The Gift of Stitching February 2006

The theme for this round was red, and Lany selected this design from The Gift of Stitching. My picture does NOT do these beauties justice - they're gorgeous in person and Lany's stitching is perfect. I'm planning on finishing these up in a heart shaped ornament.

And speaking of the Fair & Square exchange, I've noticed a decline in participation which makes me a little sad. If you already belong to it and haven't participated in a while, now is a good time to check in to the blog and think about signing up for the next round. If you're no longer interested or don't have the time, there's no shame in opting out to give someone new a spot on the exchange. I've met some really wonderful fellow stitchers through the exchanges I've done and I'd hate to see the whole thing go away because there's not enough participation.
Thursday, February 9, 2012

Finished!

Celtic Wreath by The Sunflower Seed
JCS 2009 Ornament Issue
F&S Exchange from Christine

While I was on a finishing tear around the holidays, I finished up this piece, stitched by Christine for a F&S Exchange. It had been sitting around since the end of 2009 and I had always intended to make it into an ornament. I even had the cardboard cut to size, but just never got around to actually completing the project. It's like one of those WIPs that need just a few more stitches, and when you finally put them in and finish it, you wonder why you didn't do it sooner.

This piece would work as an ornament, although as a slightly larger one, but I decided to hang it from the knob on the china hutch we inherited from my husband's grandmother. It sits in the corner of our dining room, where I do most of my finishing work. I hung it on the door to get it off the table and out of the way, and decided I really liked the way it looked there, so that's where it will hang for the holidays.

And if you click through to the original post, you'll see I have a better photo of the piece before finishing, as well as a photo of the signature square I used for the back.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A gift for newlyweds

I've mentioned before that my cousin was married this summer, and I've shown the Pinterest inspired wedding invitation ornament I made. I also did two other stitchy gifts for the bride and groom.

The first one, another ornament, had already been selected, purchased and started before the Pinterest idea came into being, so I ended up giving the bride and groom TWO ornaments for a non-existent tree. Yep. They had no tree this year, mostly due to a new puppy with a penchant for chewing. They figured it wasn't worth the potential damage to the tree or the pup to risk putting one up this year. Next year, hopefully. Anyway, this is the ornament I stitched for my cousin and her husband:

All Hearts Come Home for Christmas by Historic Stitches
Stitched over 1 on 25 ct. Ivory with CC Ribbon Red

So pretty! Finishing it was a little bit of a challenge with the heart shape - the center part wasn't very deep and the angles made getting the fabric wrapped neatly a little bit of a challenge but at least it didn't suffer the fate of another ornament I attempted to finish the same day. I might have clipped an angle a little too close on a butterfly and ended up having to restitch it, but that's a story for another day.

I also stitched a wedding record that my cousin herself chose. She had asked me to stitch a piece as a gift for a wedding she was in, and while she was looking through charts, she spotted this one for herself.


Wedding Row by Bent Creek
Stitched 2 over 2 on 32 ct. Belfast Linen in Flax
with recommended colors

Overall, I am pleased with how it came out, though if I stitch it again, I would probably make a change or two, notably the hearts. They looked red in the original pattern, but called for a more brownish thread. While it doesn't look bad, especially with the other muted colors, I would probably pick something a little more distinctly red for the hearts next time.

The frame was again ordered from American Frame, and I chose it to match their new bedroom furniture. Yes, I went back on my computer and looked at photos my cousin had sent me from when their furniture was delivered, and I tried to pick something that would work well with the simple Craftsman style of their bedroom. Mission accomplished, I think. Framing was a little tricky to get lined up correctly because the names stitched underneath throw the piece a little off center, or at least makes it look slightly off center when you first start figuring out how to place things. My husband ended up going back to the chart itself to find the middle point and working from there. I really should have him write a post on how he frames things - he has a patience with it that I completely lack.

In the end though, it all came out beautifully and my cousin and her husband LOVED it! (they almost didn't love it because I forgot that it was sitting on top of a cabinet at my ILs house and I had to run back in and get it before we left to meet up with the rest of the family.)
Monday, February 6, 2012

Refreshing the blog...

So I know I haven't posted a whole lot, but I've been working on some new posts over the last few days and I've come to realize that I'm kind of tired of how my blog looks. In the last year or so I've spent more time READING blogs than I have maintaining one and I think it's probably time for a refresh.

Here's the thing. Most of my blog reading is done through Google Reader and I LOVE it. It enables me to keep up with over 700 blogs. Yes, 700 blogs. Most of them are food, parenting, craft or DIY blogs, with a healthy dose of stitching thrown in there. Do I read every single word of every single blog post? No. I am a fast reader anyway - always have been. And I do admit to scrolling through posts quickly if the subject matter doesn't interest me or apply to me.

GOOGLE READER TIP: Using the "J" and "K" keys, you can quickly scroll forwards and backwards through posts. Click "J" for the next post, "K" for the previous post.

But back to using a Reader for blog feeds. I wonder how many people do this, and how many people visit the actual blog. I've been reading blogging articles on page views and things of that nature, and apparently reading through a feed doesn't contribute towards page views, which in turn, enable bloggers that monetize their blogs to make more money. I realize in the stitching community, there are very few, if any, bloggers that make money from their blogs themselves. (I'm not talking about stitchers that make money through their craft or finishing services). And some of you reading this are thinking, "What ON EARTH is she talking about?" Let me clarify a little.

My question is - do you visit the blogs you read on an individual basis, and if so, how do you do it? Do you have a list of bookmarks you go through, one by one? How often do you do this - daily? weekly? Or do you use a reader and click on each blog to go to the blog itself when there is new content - or stay in the reader? How many blogs do you read / subscribe to - stitching and otherwise?

I don't care about money or page stats, at least as far as my blog is concerned. I am never, ever going to make money on this blog - the market is not big enough and that's not really my goal anyway. If I can be a member of a helpful, interesting, informative community focused on a craft that I love doing, that fulfills my goal for this blog. I'm just wondering how other stitchers approach blogging and blog reading and trying to figure out what would work as I think about re-working my blog, so thank you in advance for your help!
Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mama needs a new pair of shoes

Well, *I* don't actually need a new pair of shoes, and I'm not really a high heel kind of girl. At 5'10", I already tower over a lot of people. Plus, I have a terrible time walking in them - I never really learned how. And although I can appreciate a beautiful shoe, sadly, when you wear a size 10, it's hard to find really cute shoes. Instead, I live vicariously though two of my friends who are confirmed "shoe-a-holics" and absolutely adore shoes. (And can walk in ridiculously high heels)

This first one is for one of my closest friends. We've known each other since I was 8 and she was 3, and she loves, loves, loves shoes. When she was moving to her apartment, her dad was helping and as shoe box after shoe box appeared, he started to wonder out loud just how many pairs of shoes one person needed. For that matter, how many pairs of *black* shoes? All explanations of flats, heels, casual, dress, and seasonal shoes went out the window - a foreign language to a man who owned sneakers, black dress shoes, brown dress shoes and winter boots.

But back to my friend. For as long as I can remember, blue has been her favorite color. She wasn't digging the pink when I showed her the original chart, and I assured her it didn't have to be pink at all. This is what I came up with:


The Shoe Shopper by JBW Designs
Stitched on 32 ct. Antique White with
WDW Americana (dark blue) and Morris Blue (light blue)

I am so excited with how it came out, and how COOL is that frame? I loved it so much I ordered it for another piece I want to frame up for my husband. I like the black on black detailing - it makes the frame a little more special without being over the top.

The frame came from American Frame, and I must say, I HIGHLY recommend them. Their service was excellent, the shipping was FREE and you can preview what your pieces will look like online by uploading a photo.

They will even send you samples of mat board and frame pieces ahead of time, though you are limited to five total samples before ordering. You can order additional samples when you place an order. I do have a teeny tiny complaint that if you want a complete set of mat samples at once, you do have to purchase them. Another framing company I use will send you a complete set for free, but it's not the same brand of mat. (These are Crescent mats) I figure there must be tons of scraps from mats they cut - surely they can send out free sample sets, but the savings on shipping makes up for it. I ended up not matting this piece anyway, but I do suggest (strongly) that if you are ordering mat online to order from an actual sample, NOT from your monitor color. The color on your monitor can give you the general idea, but when you're trying to match colors, an actual sample is the way to go.

For a relatively inexpensive price, the quality of these frames is excellent - very sturdy and well made, and impeccably packed. All my pieces were neatly and securely packed in the box - not a scratch, dent or ding. You can also order acrylic and backer board, and they offer an acid free foam core CUT TO SIZE for each frame. YAY!!! You have no idea how happy this made my husband (my chief framer and often disgusted with my cutting jobs).

And I did say PAIR of shoes. This is a second version of the same piece, for another shoe-a-holic friend, done in colors to match her apartment.

Stitched on 32 ct. Vintage Buttercream with
WDW Straw (tan), Crescent Colors Cupid (red) and GAST Dark Chocolate (brown)

She was absolutely thrilled when she got it, even if it was almost a year after I told her I wanted to stitch something for her. To be fair, it had been STITCHED since about March, but it sat around waiting to be framed. With the free labor I get, I can't be too demanding when it comes to getting things without a specific deadline framed.

Wow, I am on a ROLL!!! And there's still more to come. At this rate, I should surpass my posts total from 2011 by the end of February 2012. Or not, especially if Pinterest gets involved. Which it very well might.
Friday, February 3, 2012

More ornaments - finished and sent out. Go me!

Are you tired of these yet? Me? I'm just happy to have them finished up and sent on instead of staring at me accusingly from a plastic bag on my dining room table where they waited for months to be assembled. I wish I was kidding. Or exaggerating.

Art Deco Frame by Julia Lucas Designs
JCS 2005 Christmas Ornament Issue
Stitched with DMC Pearle Cotton and DMC Thread
(Images / Name intentionally blurred for privacy)

I've gotten more use out of this edition of the magazine than any other, and out of this particular piece. This marks the fourth and fifth time I've stitched this piece, all in different colors. (You can see the wedding version I stitched for my in-laws, and two additional birth record ornaments here and here). And I have a few more partially stitched waiting to be finished up, including one for my own son. Who is two. Okay then. Moving along....

As I've mentioned before, since it's stitched on plastic canvas, it's super easy for me to stitch on it in the car when we travel, and if I've started one on the sheet of plastic, I don't even need the chart. Putting them together is a little tedious, but I've been fiddling with my methods and it gets a little easier to put them together each time.

I also love these pieces because they're SO easy to customize. I went traditional with the one for my in-laws, but experimented with the variegated pearle cotton for one of the birth record ones. For these, I chose blue for the girl (her mom is NOT a girly girl pink kind of mom) and green for the boy, and went with a nautical theme for the clip art accent to reflect the theme of the nursery. I did stitch a birth record for Alexa, but Blake's is languishing in my stitching box. I really need to get on that. He'll be .... well, let's just say I hope to get it to him before he leaves for college.

I should explain that Alexa and Blake are the children of a very dear friend of mine. We met online while we were planning our weddings (9 years ago!) She lives across the country in Colorado, and though we've never met in person, we've bonded over our similar upbringings and her friendship is one I treasure. She sent me a lovely thank you note on behalf of the kids and she was touched by the gift. It's nice when your hard work is met by such appreciation, and it's definitely motivational to finish up a few more projects that have been sitting around.