Monday, March 31, 2014

Archiving and recording

This post has been sitting in draft format for a while.  I won't say exactly how long, but it's been a while.

I have a compulsion to organize and archive things. (There are more than a few of you out there that will relate to this)  It's always there, simmering just below the surface, but in the last few years, it's taken on greater importance. When my husband's dearly beloved 99 year old grandmother passed away a while back, my MIL and I pulled together many family photos from a variety of sources for her viewing and funeral. So many of them were unmarked and unlabeled.  Luckily, my MIL is very good with names and faces, so we were able to identify most of the people in the photos. (My FIL has been struggling to identify the photos he inherited in boxes from his parents, and having a bit harder of a time with it.)  It got me thinking about family history being lost in bits and pieces along the way, and I felt a need to do what I could to preserve it.

I keep fairly meticulous records of my own photos, especially digital ones. Everything's labeled and organized in my own files, as well as in the online digital albums I upload. Prints are marked with the date, location and participants when possible so that in 50 years, my son isn't wondering who is smiling down at his cute baby face in a photograph.

I've been borrowing old photos from my ILs and scanning them in as high resolution TIFF files for preservation, touch up and reprinting, and burning the files to CD as well as uploading them online. I've been making sure to have my ILs identify as many people as they can as well.  And we've also been printing and framing some of these photos so that they become part of our daily lives, and more importantly, part of our son's daily life.  We are lucky to have wedding photos of my husband's maternal grandparents and my maternal grandparents.  Both couples were married during the Depression, and the photos are a treasure.  We also have a variety of framed photos of the important people in our lives hanging on our walls so that in some small way, they are always with us.

In the spirit of this archiving and organizing, I've been combing through my own needlework photos, making sure I have designers, pattern names, dates, etc. We have photos of almost every single piece we've ever stitched and it's not entirely impossible to remember the basic details just by looking at the photos. I've had long stretches where I've only finished a piece or two, and my husband tends to take on major projects that take a year or more to complete, so I'm not looking at hundreds of pieces. But I have noticed that my pre-blog record keeping has been spotty. I didn't pay as much attention to designers or fabric or threads or things of that nature as I do now.  However, most of my pre-blog stitching came from kits, so it's not hard to track that information down.  I store everything, including the leftover kit threads, in plastic page protectors in 3-ring binders.  My charts are divided between binders and underbed storage boxes, usually by likelihood that I will stitch it again.  (I do have several charts I've stitched more than once with variations, usually smaller ones for birth records).  Once I started blogging and participating in the stitching community, I started branching out, experimenting and modifying charts for my own needs, changing colors, fabrics, etc.  Having that record in my blog posts has been helpful.

Anyway, I have instituted a way of identifying stitched pieces, at least the framed ones, and providing a bit of archival information down the road. I've started making up labels and sticking them on the back of the frame.

For gifts, this is in addition to a handwritten note. If the backing is black or another dark color, I write a short note to the recipient with a gold or silver scrapbooking marker. And if it's a paper backed piece, I write a note on a sticker and attach it to the back of the piece.  (And if you'd like to see the front of this particular piece, it's here)

What do you do to archive and record your stitching and/or crafting for yourself?  Do you keep a blog or journal?  Photos?  Do you prefer handwritten or digital records?  Do you do anything special to sign your work?
Friday, March 28, 2014

A Very Grumpy Christmas

Brooke's Books Publishing
Stitched 2 over 2 on 32 ct. unknown green evenweave with recommended colors

Continuing on with our theme of "Pieces I stitched AND finished in 2013", (Which is mostly ornaments since it's a fairly quick process and I don't have to obsess about frames) here's a little something I whipped up for a friend of mine.  She adores Grumpy Cat, and when I discovered him making the rounds on the blogs,  I knew this would be for her.  The original was stitched on a pale blue fabric, but I think the green gives it an extra pop.  This was a super quick stitch, and I got it out in time for her to put it on her tree.

I did substitute a gold metallic thread for the star and some fuzzy white Wisper thread for the trim and pom pom on the hat.  The gold metallic is prettier in person, but I did not get the effect from the Wisper thread that I had hoped for, even using one thread.

I used the same red plaid background fabric that I used for Little Dude's ornament.  It has a little bit of metallic shine to it, and metallic gold threads running through it, so it was a nice compliment to the gold star.  My friend loves anything glittery and shiny, so I went with a sparkly red tinsel-like cording for the trim (from the $1 at Joann's).  It was slightly tricky getting that glued into place without melting the bits of tinsel onto the hot glue gun, but I love how it turned out.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A thoughtful gift from Marie

The other day, this very sweet gift arrived from Marie. She treated me to a wonderful project bag made from a tea towel (I'm prone to using plastic ziploc bags for many of my projects, so this will class it up a little).  And the little teapot embroidery reminds me so much of the iron on Aunt Martha's transfers (remember those?)  I used to do when I was younger.

Marie also included two locally handmade cutting boards, with holes drilled by one of her sons to form thread holders.  When I opened the box, my husband said, "Oh good!  One for me too!"  I'll have to find something special for these - I'm thinking some sort of PA Dutch pattern would be perfect.  And I also received my very first flower frog, something that comes in handy for many stitchers for holding their scissor collections.  This pretty clear glass one happens to fit perfectly on one of the glass bowls we inherited from my husband's grandmother.  But as pretty and as useful as it is, it will most likely live in a china cabinet for a few years, as there is a curious and not so careful preschooler in the house.  Better safe than sorry for a bit, right?

Thank you, Marie, not only for the beautiful, thoughtful gifts, but for your friendship as well!

Marie's blog is one of the very first I came across, and over the years I've gotten to know this lovely woman.  My blogging may be spotty, but we stay in touch regularly via email.  If you visit her blog, you will see that she has created some gorgeous ornaments, many of which have been gifted to others.  She also has a special talent combining her stitching with one of her other passions, quilting.  I am in awe of her talent with quilting - just look at her lovely treat bags and candle mats.  And did you know Marie is a prize winning quilter?  It's no wonder her blog is so fun to read!

I've also been paired up with Marie for the Fair and Square Exchange twice, and have actually finished both pieces into objects on display.   She knows my fondness for lighthouses, so for the first one, she stitched me this Prairie Schooler piece. Which just happens to still be in the living room on the shelf because I cannot get my act together long enough to come up with a decorating plan for our family room mantel, unless you count my Pinterest boards, and then I'm an EXPERT at decorating.

The second piece set a landspeed record for finishing because it happened to arrive as I was in the middle of finishing several other ornaments, so the squares went right into the pile and were also finished into an ornament right away so they could join the 50 or so other lighthouses on our Christmas tree.

Speaking of the Fair & Square Exchange, is anyone else interested in continuing it?  it's been dormant for over a year now, and perhaps if there's enough interest, we can convince Jill to get it going again.  I miss it - sometimes it was the only thing that kept me going with stitching because it was a small, manageable piece with a specific deadline, and it was so much fun meeting other stitching and choosing what to stitch for them.  I've made some truly wonderful friends through the exchange and I'd hate to see it die off.
Monday, March 24, 2014

Ornaments for Little Dude and his Preschool Teacher

Speaking of Little Dude's yearly ornaments, here's the one for 2013...

Little House Needleworks' Main Street Station
Hometown Holiday Series
Stitched over 1 on 32 ct. Linen with recommended threads

Backed with plaid fabric shown in background

Little Dude is train obsessed.  OBSESSED.  A few months before he was born, a friend of mine was cleaning out her basement and wanted to give us her sons' Thomas the Train table.  I turned it down, not knowing whether or not my child would be interested in trains.  It's a decision that I kick myself for on a regular basis.

All is not lost though - he has a very talented dad who hacked an IKEA coffee table and built him his very own train table.  We were also gifted with piles of wooden train tracks, trains and accessories from my BIL and SIL, who passed them on from my SIL's sister's son.  We added a few more accessories and trains for him, and they are by far his favorite toy.   He's gotten hours of enjoyment out of them.  He started playing with them when he was just over 2 years old, and it's been fun to watch how the way he plays with them has changed and developed.

And it's not just Thomas that holds his interest, although I am certain we've seen every single episode of Thomas, read all the books, and own most of the trains.  He's obsessed with all kinds of trains - real ones, wooden ones, model trains, books about trains, videos about trains, etc.  We've taken him to Day out with Thomas twice, on at least a dozen train rides around the area, museums, model train displays, you name it, we've done it.  Two weeks ago, we took him to the Railroad Museum in Strasburg for the second time.  We spent four hours there, exploring the actual restored trains (engines, cars and cabooses) and playing with the various set ups and displays they had for the kids.  He begged for a ride on the Strasburg Railroad across the street, but we told him another time as he was already getting crabby.  Never in a million years did I think I'd get a kid as crazy about trains as this one, but it's been interesting.  I've certainly learned way more about trains than I ever thought I would.  (And if you find yourself in the Lancaster area, I highly recommend a visit to the Railroad Museum)

The other Little Dude related ornament is the one I stitched up for his preschool teacher.  He started preschool in September, three days a week, and he LOVES it.  I was a little nervous at first, but he is still excited to go and very much enjoys it.   He's (so far) an only child and most of the kids in our neighborhood are middle school or older, so he's been making friends at school.

I wasn't quite sure what to do for his teacher for Christmas.  My husband and I bake a tremendous amount of cookies (usually 12 different kinds, plus several kinds of candy), so we hand out cookie platters to neighbors, family and friends.  I was already planning on giving his teacher some baked goodies, but I wanted to do something extra for her as she's been really wonderful with Little Dude.  My MIL is a former preschool teacher herself, and she said the gifts she treasured the most were handmade ones.  Perfect, right?  So I flipped through some of my JCS Ornament issues and this one popped out at me.

The Decorator by Full Circle Designs
JCS 2007 Ornament Issue
Stitched on 32 ct. grey linen with recommended threads

I lucked out and had two matching pieces of grey linen in my stash, so I stitched his name and the year on the back so she would always remember him.  I had a strand of red, green and pearl seed beads in my trim stash, and that finished it up nicely.  His teacher loved it, and told me that snowmen were one of her favorite winter / Christmas themes.  Score!
Friday, March 21, 2014

An ornament for our tree

I might as well get caught up on several of the pieces I finished at the end of 2013. I was determined to get some new ornaments on our tree, and someday plan to be caught up with the yearly ornaments for my son. (I can't tell if it's good or bad that he's four, and I'm already missing one year's ornament)

Angel Greeting by Kissy-Cross
Free Chart available here:
Stitched on 40 ct. linen with Belle Soie Cranberry Silk Thread

I apologize for the weird pink cast to the photo, but this is a beautiful piece.  The linen is a neutral sandy color, and the cranberry Belle Soie is a rich maroon color.  (The Belle Soie silks are always so lovely to stitch with, and they have a nice sheen to them)

It's been finished and sitting in a drawer FOREVER, waiting for my husband to stitch our name and the year (2011) for the back of the ornament.  (I won't even tell you how long it was kitted up waiting to be stitched in the first place)  I finally ended up doing it myself, and putting the piece together so it could hang our our tree this past Christmas.

Because his family is very proud of their German heritage, he went with the German wording, but the chart also includes Merry Christmas in English.
Thursday, March 20, 2014

A return to blogging. Again.

The last time I posted was back in September, and before that, it was the end of March 2013. Life with a toddler, now preschooler, gets in the way of blogging, I guess.

What brought me out in September was a tribute for Cathey's blogoversary, and it's part of what brought me out again. Sadly, Cathey passed away in October and our stitching community mourned her loss.  I still keep up with many stitching blogs, and I watched the ripple of sadness as the news spread.  It's taken me a while to get back to blogging, and I feel the need to make it more of a priority for the sense of community and friendship among stitchers.  Many of these stitchers will never be in the same room with each other, but still develop and nurture these bonds through our shared craft.  So many people came together to celebrate Cathey's blogoversary, to mourn her loss, and to help keep her memory alive for her husband and young son, people brought together by the love of stitching.

I want to make a contribution to that community, and I need to make a better effort to remain a part of it.  I've made some truly wonderful friends through stitching - some I've met in person, and many more that I haven't, and the sole reason our paths have crossed has been blogging.  Those relationships are important to me, and what brought us together should be more of a priority, especially since stitching is something I enjoy doing on a near daily basis.

Back in November, my friend Lee the Lake Stitcher wrote a post called "Why have we stopped writing?"  I put a great deal of thought into it, then failed to do anything.  I could probably blame it on November and December being busy times with the holidays.  We have family obligations, a four year old in preschool, loads of baking and cooking, etc.  If I'm being honest, though, I must admit things like Pinterest and Facebook have also cut into the time I normally would have spent blogging.  They're easier distractions, not really requiring me to put the effort into taking photos and writing a post.  By the time I've gotten through doing what I need (want) to do on those sites, I've hit a wall and am ready to get offline, without updating my stitching blog.

I'm lucky that a few of my stitching friends are on Facebook, but many more are not, and sometimes those relationships don't get the attention they deserve.  I tend not to share my stitching on Facebook either, because I've compartmentalized it.  I have Facebook friends from all aspects of my life and while it may be unfounded, I have this notion that people just aren't interested in my craft.  Which is ridiculous, I know, because I am proud of what I do, and I've actually changed the perceptions of a few people who thought cross stitch  was "those country looking pictures with geese wearing bonnets".

I want to put myself out there more than just following the blogs and making a few comments here and there.  I want to share more of my work, even if it's just for me to be able to say "I made a contribution".  I also need to keep up with my blog because it's my record of what I've done.  I've stitched many pieces that have been given away as gifts, and this is my way of remembering those pieces.  Knowing that I will eventually be blogging about my work also makes me more conscious of what I'm stitching, who I'm stitching it for, and the materials and time I put into it.  Right now, there are at least two dozen pieces of completed stitching sitting in a drawer, waiting to be finished and displayed.  Those pieces represent hundreds (maybe thousands?) of dollars and hours spent working on them, and I need to find some way to honor that effort until we can get them framed or finished and on display. It's not just my work that deserves to be on display either.  I have been the lucky and grateful recipient of some lovely pieces from fellow stitchers, and their work should be on display as well.

In a nutshell, I quit blogging because I'm a little bit lazy, a little bit crunched for time, and a little bit too involved with other forms of social media.  (Lee wrote a follow up post about why other bloggers have quit / fallen behind on posting).  I want to make it a priority to return to blogging because the relationships I've developed from it are important, contributing to this community is important, and honoring and sharing my craft is important.