Homespun Gathering

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Autumn Garden, Welcome Home!

Oh my goodness, y'all.  This has been one wild ride of a school year.  My last Assistant Teacher of two years was promoted to a Lead Teacher role.  She had grown a huge amount in two years and really deserved it.  I can't tell you how proud I was and still am.    

I loved her and missed her desperately the first couple of months.  Teaching preschool is no small task, so when a new TA is a poor fit life is challenging.  About a month into the school year switches were made and I had a rotation of subs or potential TAs almost daily.  You can imagine the challenge this caused for me.  What I do in the classroom is extremely structured, forward focused and with a reason behind everything I do.  My director was determined to find someone that would be a great fit.  Her mentorship and support have been invaluable the last 6 years.  

Finally, the first week of October I found out my first choice had agreed to come into the classroom.  She is amazing, teachable, easy to talk to, invested when in the classroom and loves the kids.  I'm in heaven.  I feel like I can relax again and focus on my role in the classroom again.  Hopefully this means I'll have the energy to read, interact and write blog posts again on a more regular basis.

Autumn Garden has come home.  She started her life as a Blackbird Designs Christmas Garden, but I have a love of fall and changed a couple of colors on the called for linen.  My framer always takes a photo before the conservation glass goes in.  Doesn't she look lovely in that burled frame?

Once the glass was in place the linen became even darker.  Love that.  It really feels more like an antique sampler.

It wasn't until I was showing my Mom the framed sampler that I realized I had stitched her initials twice.  That's right--twice.  I wouldn't change it for the world even if I could.  I love that woman. :-) 

I'm incredibly thankful for:
  • my new assistant
  • an incredible framer
  • the season of autumn
Until next time count your blessings--God's gifts to you.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Happy Fall, Y'all

I don't know what your favorite season is, but mine is fall.  I enjoyed it Friday morning on my back patio with my first cup of coffee as the wind rustled through the trees.  I enjoyed it as the weather finally cooled off that day to somewhere in the 70s.  

I really enjoyed it when I brought this lovely piece to my framer.
After 2 1/2 months my version of Christmas Garden is finally done.  I've learned to double the stitching time when something is fiddly like this, but I really do love the look of fiddly.

Blackbird Designs
Christmas Garden
Called for Linen
36 count 

The five sets of initials belong to me, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great great grandmother.  Fortunately, there is to help with some of this, but my mother was the first to be born with a birth certificate.  My grandmother actually had to apply to get hers before she started teaching in the 1950s.    

The first three generation's initials were easy, but I needed help with the last two.  I could only find a first name and maiden/married name for my grandmother's mother.  Her brothers had them.  Not even grave stone markers helped.  Mom had a locket that belonged to her and on it is inscribed "EB".  I believe the "E" belonged to a name she never liked or used.  That must be some name!  Also unclear what my great great grandmother's "J" stood for, but her mother's maiden name was Jones.

A year ago I started Dearie and Darling by Kathy Barrick.  The changes started with the doe and a poor color charted.  Then all the colors started to change depending on what was in my personal stash and those colors I was drawn to.  

When all was said and done there was DMC, silk and fancy floss.  Stitches included cross stitch and wheat stitch.  Some people can't do things the easy way, and I decided not to lift a design from any pattern I had but design my own.

Without further ado here is the Doodle Sampler.

Dearie and Darling
Kathy Barrick
32 count linen
silk, DMC, fancy floss

This sampler has a cookie theme for me.  Those who know me know I love to bake Springerle in the dry winter months.  These cookies come from my German heritage and are traditionally raised with hartshorn.  Hart=deer and horn=antlers.  In the 1600s this raising agent was made from the deer antlers.  Today the bakers ammonia is made by chemists in a lab.  No worries it bakes out but gives a much better texter than baking powder ever could.

So, we have deer.  Instead of Kathy's swans I thought a windmill (my Dutch heritage) and wheat.  The wheat gave me a chance to try out the wheatear stitch, and I left every quickly stitched version of it in there.  This is a learning peice, don't you know.  The wheat must be ground, so that is where the windmill came in.   Yep, designed by me and stitched with fancy floss.  Any excuse to practice the flow of floss.  It will be hard not to see cookies when I look at this one :-).

Dearie and Darling
Kathy Barrick
32 count linen
silk, DMC, fancy floss

The only thing left to finish is my tiny biscornu.  The stitching is completed.  Then I'm off to start Sarah Brazear.  I bought the floss last week.  Wow, it's getting real.

I'm thankful for:
  • not having to be perfect all the time
  • the ability to bake
  • the ability to give to others

Until next time count your blessings--God's gifts to you.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Flow of Floss

School is back in session, and fall is on it's way.  So . . . in the spirit of the classroom I thought I would share how I stitch with the fancy floss.  

So many are looking for the stripy look of over dyed flosses, but I spend a lot of time in nature studying flora and fauna.  I also remember the lines from the old tube televisions.  When I see stripy designs I see the tube TVs and what I want is HDTV.  This is what caused my stitching with fancy flosses to move to the next level.  I typically stitch primitive designs with FF, but some designs say DMC to me, so that's what I stitch with.  Sarah Brazier will be started soon, and this girl is stitching with DMC.  

Let's get started.  When stitching this tree I kept the bark in mind.  Many trees have a vertical pattern, so this one did too.  I started with the top of the tree and then stitched the left and right outline of the tree.  To keep everything moving toward center, I stitched a line down the center.  That extra 6 Xs was to finish off the floss in my needle.  

Next, we are going to look at the vertical lines.  When stitching this way lacing is so important.  Just like laying floor you want to lace the planks together.  For a floor it's more about weakness.  For a natural effect in stitching, lacing allows the eye to keep moving around as it would in nature.

I started the lacing (overlap) on the right, but either side is fine.  The black vertical line shows how far down I went (horizontal line) before coming back up for the next column of stitches.  Continue this way with some overlap until you get to the base of the tree and come back up to do the next set of columns.

Here you will notice a tent stitch.  The column next to it ended up finishing at the bottom, but this was no problem.  I just tent stitched up to the top and then finished the stitch on the way down continuing the lacing pattern.  This saves floss and leaves a neater back. I will say this.  Once I finished crossing my stitch I hopped over to the columns to the right and finished the pattern.  This means there will be a couple more columns starting out with tent stitches before the right side is complete.

Here you will see the finished bark on one side and the natural bark pattern you'll achieve.  On His Eye is on the Sparrow I wasn't looking for a bark pattern, but avoiding the bands of color.  There wasn't much shading when I stitched vertically, but horizontally it was pretty obvious.

Follow the same method for the second side as you did the first.

Grass  Oh  Grass

Here I stitched the outline and then filled in the letters. I find I make fewer mistakes this way.  With grass I like to stitch columns of three.  To get started with the lacing pattern the columns on the bottom will need to be stitched vertically in a 2 Xs high, 3 Xs high, 2 Xs high, 3 Xs high and so on.  This is your base.  The next row will have each column 3 Xs high.

Here is a closer look at that 2/3 X column pattern.

Normally, stitching blocks of color like this is mind numbing, but stitching this brought on an unexpected surprise.   No mind numbing anywhere in sight.  Note to self:  Any large blocks of color must be stitched this way.  Think the swan on Repeat the Sounding Joy by Kathy Barrick. 

Now for Mr. Peacock.  I stitched the outline and beak first then I filled in the center pattern.  I have no idea how I stitched the head on our peafowl here, but if I did it again I would just stitch vertically until I got to the same spot leaving a comb-like appearance like that above so I could start my lacing.

Feathers follow the body of your bird so your stitched columns will need to also like the tree--sorta.  See below.  The 5 or 6 rows on the peacock's neck was just stitched vertically.  Just winging this one as I went.  I did the lacing using columns of 3-5.  Columns are always going to be shorter on the inside of a curve and longer on the outside.  This is really more art than science. 

Look closely and you will see how I got the feathery look.  If you inspect my stitched columns vertically you will notice I stitched a column, skipped one and stitched another.  On the next row down I started lacing them in using the same every other row pattern.

Then it was time to fill in the empty columns using the same stitching pattern.  Here is a tip.  Look at the color in your floss.  If you notice there will be no contrast stitch in a place where you will get it.  Don't expect perfect.  Perfect doesn't exist.    Note below how you don't see columns of color.  My goal here was to avoid stripes and a little trompe l'oeil--fooling the eye.  Essentially, our brain sees feathers.

I filled in the single stitches in the tail first before I started stitching my columns of 5 and overlapping the next row down by two.

Back up to the top I started to fill in an "every other column" pattern for each row.

How you fill this in will be completely up to your artistic eye.  I tend to be methodical.

all done

This diamond pattern was probably the most tedious but still doable.  I stitched rows in an every other type pattern going from top to bottom, left to right and back again. 

Eventually, I finished up the peacock stripe free.  Could I make improvements?  Yep.  Am I beating myself up about it?  Nope.  Stitching is about learning, enjoying myself and growing.

Can we talk about the house a second?  Thanks.  Do you remember I talked about looking at the floss color as your stitch.  On a larger building this won't matter, but because this house was so small I had to stitch most rows every other.  I didn't want three rows of dark floss next to three rows of light.  That wouldn't look like siding.  This does.

Now, let's talk about the larger leaves.  Larger leaves can look stripey.  To avoid this, I tend to stitch the outline and then concentric "circles" until I get to the middle.  I've also stitched one edge and followed it up along the shape of the leaf until I got the other side.    Sunshine doesn't always hit and entire leaf with the same level of intensity.  It's going to be okay.

Manor at Peacock Hill
Brenda Gervais

Written, I think this is far more complicated than it really is.  If you'd like to leave the stripes in your past give this a moment to sink in and give it a try.  It won't take long to figure out what works for you and build on it. 

Practice makes progress.

Until next time count your blessings--God's gifts to you.


Friday, August 3, 2018

FFO Friday

Happy Friday, y'all!  As promised I'm sharing my first finish for FFO Friday.  Two years ago I finished my Carriage House Samplings Quaker Stocking.  Initially, there was no backing fabric, but I think that was my excuse for only a year.  I purchased this Robert Kauffman fabric from my local quilt shop while getting fabric for a tote project
Mondo Bag Project

I decided yesterday was the day, so I pulled out Mom's Singer, changed out the bobbin and popped in a spool of thread.  We were off the races.

I knew I wanted a red stocking and chose colors after seeing Vonna's (The Twisted Stitcher blog).  The only color that didn't work was the yellow as her fabric was darker than mine.

I don't know what it is about this stocking and my ability to insist on mistakes, but there are less and less each time.  The directions say to stitch an outline.  I laughed again and went straight for my air soluble pen.  For the next stocking I'm going to need to trace the outline on the back side.  Right sides together you know.  This makes sewing a lot easier to see when you can actually see the line instead of guess.

Don't know what I was thinking with all that space toward the heal.  Yes, I know there are no stitching police, but I couldn't let this one go.  I can finish better than this.  It wasn't about perfection but excellence, and I needed to discipline my lazy side a little.  So I turned it inside out again and stitched a little closer.

The other two had their glamor shots with this dying tree, so before it comes down I let Quaker have her shot.  Half the tree has been removed.  Within the next couple of months my new tree should be ready for purchase, and the rest of the tree will come down before I dig out the stump.  You gotta do what you gotta do when you like the placement.

I really do enjoy stitching outside.  Preparations are made before I can start.   Our patio is minimally decorated with a chair, firepit, and gas grill.  Still we have to make sure the cat's leash isn't wrapped around things.  I bring a footstool out for my stitching bag and attach my ORT container with a rubber band.

I learned a new lesson though.  Shirts with bobbles are bad.  First, it was the bottom edge.

Then it was the edge of my sleeve.  Both issues resolved.  Let the stitching continue!  :-)

Heidi was my FFO pal yesterday, but now it is time to take her into get her teeth cleaned.

After that I'll be heading out to the farm to trim some trees.  Below you can see where I got determined with some undergrowth around a walnut.  The area by the tree looked just like the left side before I started.  Okay, that's better.

Until next time count your blessings--God's gifts to you.


Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Gathering

Hello, friends.  I've been baking again.  This time I've been testing shortbread recipes with a stoneware mold I purchased several years ago.  Below you can see the Earl Grey version, but I also tested speculaas spice and plain (for the control). 

 I love speculaas cookies and have my own spice mix recipe.  I find it goes great in the cookies, pancakes, ect.  I made these pancakes the morning of July 4th.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I'm not really interested in making them without speculaas spice anymore, but I probably will.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Last Friday I took Heidi into the vet for some "leaking issues".  Since Heidi is a territorial marker it's a little more difficult to tell when she's got a urinary tract infection.  I didn't expect a UTI, but she had one anyway.  Poor Heidi.  

While she was already going to be on the antibiotics I set up an appointment for a teeth cleaning tomorrow.  It was way past what we could do with a toothbrush.   Antibiotics for a week before and a week after.  The procedure will require general anesthesia, an IV and possible tooth removal if needed, but our vet didn't anticipate that.

If that weren't enough, we're changing dog food from a grain free to a low grain kibble.  I suspect her response to our runs will be much better.  Dogs are omnivores and a no grain diet will affect the heart which is what I may have been seeing in her.  Maybe after a bag of the new food we'll both be ready for some outside activity. 

The cat was due for her immunization updates, so back in I went that afternoon.  Abigail's teeth looked pretty good, and for a six year old middle-aged cat I considered that encouraging.  However, being six has its downsides.  Typically, she'll sleep in the carrier for about a day before I put it back in storage.  This time all her naps were there for about 3 days.  Don't worry, Abigail, you're still a kitten to us.

Are you watching FlossTube?  Have you seen the Addicted Sisters?  If not, I heartily encourage you to catch their last video here.  Nancy (left) and Laura (right) are not only biological sisters but sisters of the heart when it comes to stitching.  It's amazing how well Nancy and Laura worm their way into their follower's hearts with daily life, stitching news, gatherings and retreats. 

They will be celebrating when hitting 2K subscribers.  Currently, they have 1.8K subscribers.  I have no idea why they aren't twice that--really I don't.  

The month of July the sisters celebrated on Instagram and pound signs number signs hashtags on FaceBook.  Each day had a stitchy Christmas in July theme and whatever you chose to stitch for the day should somehow fit the theme.  Not wanting to leave the monogamous stitchers out they said single projects were okay.  Yippee!

I had already chosen to stitch Christmas Garden, but need of Autumnal/Thanksgiving pieces that move me was strong.  You will see quickly how the mood changed when I subbed in Pumpkin Pie floss for Calico Kitty (Gentle Arts).  At the end of the month I decided to add items into my photo that went with the theme.

Day  22:  Jiggle Bells
Well, it was a bell that jingles.

Day 29:  Nutcracker
I was way too tired to dig out the nutcracker in who knows which box, so I compromised.  Loving the two for one special here.   I feel like I got the flowers stitched without even lifting a needle.

Day 31:  Wrap it up!

This late night stitching has been killing my progress.  I feel like I'm struggling to pick up the needle or put in more than a few stitches.  This too shall pass.

To turn this design from BBD's Christmas Garden I used iStitch and a whopper of a marking sampler freebie from a French designer.  The "A" and "G" fit perfectly . . . over 1[groaning and whimpering].

I'm back now.  

I'm very pleased with the effect even if it took nearly an entire growler of tenacity to getterdun.

growler (/ˈɡraʊlər/) is a glass, ceramic, or stainless steel jug

The "A" is where I nearly lost it until I remembered the clip on magnifier.  This is only 36 count.  I'm WAY too young for this.

So this is where I am at this point.  I have a bit more done, but not much.  Because the linen was much darker than the first time I stitched this I've had to change floss for one of the colors.  With no LNS I shopped my stash to begin with, and this week I ordered more Straw Hat along with a good summer pattern.  When stitched and framed it will grace the wall above our front door.  I'm doing my best to find five samplers to change out with the season.  So far I have Christmas and Autumn/Thanksgiving covered.  Up next are spring, summer and winter.

The Gathering

The time has come.  Sit down and relax with your favorite summer beverage and let's talk finishing.

I wanted to focus this time on finishing projects with something other than a frame.  We have a couple of ladies that very consistently bring in beautiful designs beautifully finished.  I didn't even realize smalls existed until my husband left the Army over 16 years ago and our budget downsized.  Knowing they exist and how to finish multiple types myself are two different things.  But, there is help out there.We'll talk about the finishing later.  

You may be looking for a way to FFO a project other than framing.  Sometimes it's a reduce budget, or it might be the desire to have some of these incredibly enticing finishes--berries, drums, fobs, etc.  Why should our walls have all the fun?

Debbie is first up.  She completes a lot of club pieces and class pieces.  If I know a design or designer I'll tell you, but generally speaking I don't.  Our focus is how you can FFO a design other than framing.

This month Debbie brought a container.  It might be fun to put floss, scissors or wrapped chocolate inside for snacking.

Think about which projects might go well with a small tray.  If the design doesn't fit the tray adding or subtracting from the design might work.  The Stitching Police have no jurisdiction in your own private stitching world. Experiment. Test.  Find what you like and love.  It's going to be beautiful.

Debbie has a recessed top Shaker box here, but one could easily find a paper mache box at a craft store and attach it on top with some cording.  There are coarding tutorials online too.  

For this project a separate design isn't really needed.  Find a small design/word 
 you already love, add some notions and you have the makings of a needlebook.

Debbie has some very thin "batting" in the middle with a beautiful coordinating fabric.  Pinking shears gave a nice scalloped edge to the heart cutout.  Attaching the heart with a sweet button allows easy access for needles and pins.

Melissa filled a table for 6 with her finishes.  Do you see the project roll she made?  I think there were about 30-40 projects in it.  If you would like Vonna to walk you through making one I'll post the link here.  Project rolls are great to store ongoing projects, projects awaiting framing and projects you haven't gotten around to FFOing yourself.  Here, Melissa has used hers to transport Show and Tell.

Jane, dear Jane, I swear that woman is a finishing machine.  Here you see her Brenda Gervais Wordplay for June, July and August.  She finishes them with a simple hemstitch and displays them on a table.  There are various tutorials out there--written and video.  Find one you like, and see where the journey takes you.

I know you're starting to see a lot of strawberries out there.  They are just gorgeous.  Here is an Erica Michaels strawberry.  It is a class piece so you won't find it in stores.  The piece below (a needlebook I think) is also one of hers.  If you ever get a chance to take a strawberry class with Linda . . . run don't walk.  Just make sure you put your scissors down first.  

Not everyone can take classes, but not to worry.  FlossTube is a great place to find tutorials.  Beth Twist (Heartstring Samplery) put out a strawberry fob tutorial several weeks ago.  Having a template is nice but not necessary.  

Linda designs strawberries for both linen and gauze.  Don't have or want to work on gauze?  No problem.  I have decided working a gauze berry on my favorite 28 count linen will just turn it into a Miracle Grow Berry.

I hope this has gotten your juices flowing, and I'm hoping to start some FFO Friday posting.  I have several FOs that just need that final push.  This won't be weekly, but I'm going to try to post those FFOs on a Friday as I have them.  I use a sewing machine for my finishing, but I've also stitched in hand, and you can too.

Things I'm thankful for:
  • Fancy Floss
  • mild weather
  • my mama's sewing machine
Until next time count your blessings--God's gifts to you.