Friday, December 25, 2009

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Here's one of my favorite Christmas items I stitched many years ago (1993, to be exact). It's actually a cross-stitch pattern (don't recall the name of it, off hand) but I stitched it in Tent Stitch (or half cross-stitch) on 18 ct canvas. I like stitching things on the "original" brown canvas, because it looks kinda rustic and old-fashioned....

Then I didn't bother to frame the piece. Instead, I made a small and simple banner out of it, so it hangs in a small space (finished size: 6" x 10") and makes me smile each time I look at it (I just love the cat and mouse at Santa's feet - it's such a great, unexpected detail!)

I hope Santa is good to you today, and fills your stocking with lots of sweet surprises.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stitching's Ornamental

T'is the season to make ornaments...fa la la la LA, la la la LA!

Have you been stitching any ornaments this season? Just one or two, perhaps??
When you think about it, making ornaments is the perfect way to show off your passion for needlepoint. You get the pleasure of stitching up some small treasures (using a deliciously fun assortment of luscious threads, colored canvases and clever designs, naturally); the person who receives the stitched ornament gets to admire your handiwork everytime they look at your gift -- it's a win/win situation for everybody!

And here's a spectacularly clever idea for you to try: I was talking with some stitchers at a guild meeting recently, and one of the stitchers, Zora, was telling me about her ornament projects. She was stitching ornaments from her LARGER projects. In other words, instead of working for months/years on one of those gorgeously complicated patterns with lots and lots of intricate blocks/sections, she decided to extract smaller parts of the overall design and work them up as ornaments. Is that clever or WHAT?!? Thanks for the great idea, Zora!

If you're like lots of us counted canvasworkers who amass lots of large heirloom and master-quality designs, planning to get them all stitched "SOME DAY" in the future, this is a way to start stitching them in bits and pieces right now. It's also a great way to try out color and thread combinations, before tackling the larger pieces. I immediately started thinking about that STARS OF THE MILLENIUM piece I've started (and probably won't finish until the next millenium) or all those Jean Hilton books I have (and hesitate to dive into) .... they have TERRIFIC ornament potential, don't they?

And among my own designs, there are a few that can be easily adapted to ornaments. JEWEL BOX is one of my all-time favorite designs.

I've often wanted to stitch each of the diamond-shaped boxes as separate ornaments, in a holiday palette of colors.

As my holiday present to you, I've extracted one of the boxes and graphed it as a separate ornament. Please visit the FREE PATTERNS page on my website to print out the graph. You'll have to pick your own favorite colors and threads, cut a piece of canvas and then you're good to go....

Let's start decking those halls with lots of needlepoint.... FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA!

(Hey... there's still PLENTY of time to whip something up, right? Christmas is still one whole day away! - grin.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Same Time, Next Year....Ok?

I have a confession to make: I'm a seasonal stitcher.

I like to stitch pastel things in the springtime; lush green designs in the summer months; orange and gold leaves and Halloweeny stuff in the autumn; and lots of festive red and green designs when the holiday season rolls around. Which makes it hard for me as a designer, when I try to get patterns done IN ADVANCE of their proper season. I simply can't get enthused about stitching Christmas stuff in August, or Easter stuff in November. I've tried, but it doesn't work for me.

Which means I'm usually scrambling to finish some seasonal design in time to release it within the proper season. Sometimes I get it done, sometimes I don't. So then I put the unfinished design in the Pile O' Projects and move on to non-seasonal stuff and sigh a big sigh of relief.

I'm telling you this to explain why I DIDN'T get my Christmas ornaments pattern done this year. Earlier, I had the brilliant idea to make smaller ornament designs from my many quilt patterns. It's something I've wanted to do for myself, and thought there would be other stitchers who would like them too.

I rooted through my thread stash and found my favorite Christmas colors and threads to play with:

Then I decided on the size of each ornament, cut some canvas, and started stitching. Well, I got a few of them stitched, but not enough...and not in time to release this year.

So, I'll try to do better next year and get my ornaments done in time for the 2010 holiday season.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A New Flower Collage!

A while ago I was telling you how I was in the mood to get some projects finished that were languishing in my "TO DO" pile. One of the designs that had been buried for the longest time was this MAGNOLIA COLLAGE.

Initially, I thought it was going to be a breeze to stitch this up, but when I started stitching the original patterned squares, I didn't like the way they looked and was stumped as to how exactly to proceed. Frustrated by this design impasse, I set the project aside and went on to other things. Months later, I pulled it out again, ripped out the offending patterns and started fresh. And immediately fell in love with the redesigned stitch patterns - their colors, textures and ease of layering got me so jazzed I continued to whip right through this design. Here are close-ups of the two pattern squares:

And of course, there are a couple of frothy ribbons to stitch:

And the centerpiece, the magnolia flower (stitched in DMC floss):

One of my favorite things about this design is the variegated thread I used (Watercolours 153 - "Distant Hills") because it seems a rather unexpected choice. But it has rich blues, greens the color of glossy magnolia leaves, and a surprising twist of apple green...and it resonates perfectly with the old gold metallics I wanted to use for this elegant southern beauty. And the whole palette really does glow against the sagey grey-green canvas (good old Santa Fe green).

Anyway, I'm delighted to have finished this floral collage and suspect it's going to be very popular with stitchers all over the country!

Please visit my website to see more information on this MAGNOLIA COLLAGE or to order this pattern.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Santa Time!

Well, it's that time of year again.... when snowflakes are falling and stitchers are frantically stitching to finish their projects by the holiday deadline.

I've been stitching up a few small Prairie Schooler santas that I'll be giving as gifts (the ones shown at the top).

And then (as time permits) I've been pulling out various Christmas canvases and stitching a bit on each one, to get back into the Christmas Stitching Spirit.

Here's a Santa I'm working just for myself - it's a Pat Thode Santa that I showed you quite a while ago....

It was one of those (many) projects that I stitched just so far then set aside when I got bored with it. I picked it up again last week and decided to push on through to (finally) finish it. In a spurt of energy I added all the finishing touches - the ribbon on the wreath, the pull string and button wheels on the sheep, bells on the boots, etc... and then I decided it needed a different kind of background.

I tried a bit of the vertical lines of snowflakes. Nope, too faint.
I then tried some pale vertical stripes - like wallpaper - but it looked like Santa was in jail. An upscale shabby chic jail, but still, not the look I was going for.

Then, as luck would have it, I was in the midst of printing a batch of my BLACKWORK PATTERNS book and as I was collating the pages, a thought flickered thru my brain - why not try a blackwork pattern for the background? Oooooh, that was intriguing....
so I stopped and picked out a pattern to try on ol' Santa. Here's how it turned out:

I think I like it. It's so different... maybe it's too distracting, but still, I like it. I used one ply of a pale seafoam green DMC floss (which the scanner goobered up a bit) and the ecru snowflakes are done with a soft Hi-lights thread.

But, you know, I really do like it. At the very least, when I look at it now, I'll be reminded to use more blackwork patterns in my future pieces.

So......Ho, Ho, Ho, cross this one off the list..... and on to the next!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Show & Tell Time!

Last week I got the nicest card from Anne Ward in Leicester, England. She wrote to tell me that although she's been a cross stitcher all her life, she's recently started doing counted canvaswork and is having a wonderful time working on canvas.

She kindly sent me a packet of photos showing some of her finished pieces, and I thought I'd share them with you.

Along with stitching several floral collages in my SECRET GARDEN COLLECTION, Anne has enjoyed stitching up the "freebie" charts I've posted on my website. Here are some of her pieces...

This is the small WILD GEESE design that Anne has stitched with Watercolours "Mediterranean". I love those blues, don't you? And I especially like the way she turned the acorns in each corner, too:

Anne has also stitched my series of freebie seasonal abstract designs (I love her wintry blue version of Winter Winds at the top of this post), picking out her own colors, and sometimes finishing them as padded box tops, like this Autumn Haze design (stitched in Caron silk Waterlilies, Sheharazade):

And here's another box top Anne stitched with silks, adapting part of the Autumn Haze design to fit on top of a beautiful oblong wooden box:

And here's a bit of blackwork disguised in a Springtime Square, that Anne has stitched with Anchor pearl cottons:

In her card, Anne says, "My husband says I'm addicted to your designs and Caron threads. True!" Well, Anne, tell your husband that there are a LOT of us stitchers addicted to threads and stitching and personally, I think it's really a wonderful addiction to have!

Thank you, Anne, for taking the time to share your pieces with me and all my blog readers. Your work is truly inspiring.... Happy Stitching, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Be Thankful

Here's a special song for you to sing during the season (or any time you need to fall asleep with a smile on your face...although you may get so happy you'll have to get up and stitch on something - grin).

(To be sung to the tune, "COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS", with my apologies to Mr. Irving Berlin for playing around with his wonderful lyrics.)

"When you're worried and you can't sleep,
Just count your projects instead of sheep,
And you'll fall asleep, counting your projects.

When your thread stash is getting small,
Just think of when you had none at all,
And you'll fall asleep, counting your projects.

I think about my craft room,
And I picture drawers of thread;
And one by one, I count them -
Blues and golds and greens and reds....

Soooooooo, if you're worried and you can't sleep,
Just count your projects instead of sheep,
And you'll fall asleep.........


Monday, November 23, 2009

Prairie Song

When I posted my last Friday Flowers showing bright pink and orange flowers, it reminded me of a canvas I bought on ebay a few years ago. So I pulled it out of the closet and made a color copy of it for future reference (following my own good advice). It's an older Charley Harper design that I had never seen before:

Frankly, it knocked my socks off. I don't know what it was... the pink and orange cone flowers, the hidden bird's nest, the praying mantis, or just the combination of all those things that created a lovely slice of the prairie... regardless, I was totally smitten and had to get it.

It's a really long piece - 7.5" by 25" - and I have JUST the spot for it on one of my living room walls. I've collected bits and pieces of materials for it - the long stretcher bars, just the right color of pink and orange ribbon for the flowers.... but I still can't decide if the cone flowers should have french knots in their centers or beads - the jury is out on that decision....

I won't be stitching it any time soon (it feels like a summertime project to me and I'm deep into Christmas stuff these days) but it's fun to pull out and look at from time to time. Just a tantalizing reminder of all sorts of fun projects still waiting to be stitched....

(Do you have a few of those types of projects hidden back in your closet? Why not dig them out and look them over... It's a good way to put a smile on your face, whet your stitching appetite, and remind you again why you love this stuff!!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Flowers - Pink and Orange

There's something about the color combination of bright pink and orange flowers that just makes me smile!

Hope you have a colorful weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BACK to You!

Addendum: Regarding the mesh back support thingy I mentioned in my last post, I did a quick online search and found the same sort of product listed at TARGET, WALMART, and KMART - all for differing prices.... so you can try looking at those stores too!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Check This Out!

I had lunch with my sister last week, and she was telling me about the latest gizmo that her quilting friends are talking about. It's a light-weight back support that helps ease back strain for all of us sitting and working on our craft projects.

Here's what it looks like:

My sister happened to find them at Walgreens (one for $4.00, or 3 for $10.00) and so she got one for me to try as well.

As you all know, we stitchers spend A LOT of time hunched over our projects - on frames or bars or floor stands - and we get soooo focused on our work we forget about our straining back muscles. And then we we get up to move around and ... OUCH! (Sound familiar?)

Anyway, I've been using this neato back support thingy all weekend, carrying it around and moving from office chair to sofa to kitchen seat and I'm really lovin' it! It provides constant back support for a variety of seating positions. Boy, I didn't realize what a difference a little back support could do for my back. (If backs could smile, mine would be smiling a mile wide!) And at this price, I may have to get another one for my office chair.

So, I pass this timely tip on to you, my fellow stitchers - just in time for our big Stitching-Frenzy-Into-the-Holidays-Season and hope you can find one of these really nifty things in your area. (Trust me, you'll enjoy stitching even MORE with one of these at your back....)

Happy Strain-free Stitching!
(and thanks for the support, Sis!!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Autumn Blessing

For brightly feathered pheasants

And wild turkeys strutting through piney forests

For brisk walks with a four-legged companion through crunching leaves,

But most importantly, time for stitching new autumn projects... Oh, joy!

(These are my latest finishes from the Prairie Schooler "FALL FIELDS."
I've stitched them on 24 ct. Congress Cloth using a simple Basketweave Stitch, squared them up a bit to fit in a small frame, run a quick backstitched outline, and used a few quick long stitch embellishments to add a little texture.)

Hope you enjoy a cozy November weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Anatomy of a Project: Preparing the Canvas

I told you earlier about the Mt. Tam Canvas Workers auction I attended. Well, here's one of the canvases I impulsively bid on and won. It came with thread, stretcher bars, and a zippered pouch to stash everything in. And all for under $40 - WHAT A DEAL!

This little 6" x 6" canvas is so cute, I want to start stitching on it PRONTO. But first, I have to do some canvas prep work. And I thought I'd share a few of my techniques with you.

[ASIDE: I know most of you already use these same techniques, but recently I answered an email from a stitcher who was attempting her first needlepoint canvas and had some very basic questions about starting out. So I thought this would be a good project to prepare using some basic tips.]

FIRST: If you're working on a painted canvas, here's a really good tip before you start stitching: MAKE A COLOR COPY OF YOUR CANVAS. Why bother? Well, it may save you some headaches down the road. Take this hotel canvas, for instance.

I've made a color copy that I can use to write my notes - showing what threads and stitches I'm going to use on my canvas. This creates a really good road map for your work in progress. (This can be especially valuable if you set the project aside and forget about it for a few months or so. When you pick it up again, you'll remember what you were going to do.) And as you're stitching, it reminds you what the canvas looked like before you started.

But the more important reason to have a copy of the canvas to refer to happens when you layer stitches. Look at those flower boxes on the canvas above. I'm planning to do some irregular stitches (lazy daisies, maybe?) for all the leaves. After I'm done with all the greenery, how will I remember where to put the flowers on top??Well, with my color copy to refer to, I can place the red flowers on top to match the original design of the canvas.

Okay, now you're ready to mount your canvas to stretcher bars. First, I recommend putting the bars together in L-shaped pairs, then put the two L-shapes together to form a square frame. (This is the way I learned to put stretcher bars together in art classes, and it's always worked better than assembling the frame one piece at a time and getting a wobbly shape instead of a true square.) Then make sure your bars ARE square (I test it against the square edge of a table and push it into a true square if I need to.)

NEXT, attach the canvas to the squared-up frame. Most stitchers use tacks (although I've also used a staple gun) so we'll use tacks here, too. Tacks are very handy: they are reusable, which is great AND you can take them out and reposition them if/when your canvas gets a bit loose.

As the above photo shows, start on one side first (I did the bottom edge first - putting my first tack in the CENTER of the canvas edge. Then I placed the remaining tacks first along the left side (pulling the canvas a bit to make it taut), then along the right side (pulling it a bit to make it taut). [ASIDE: You can use as many tack as makes you happy. I usually put a tack every 2-3 inches, depending on the canvas size, but I've seen stitchers put tacks every 1/2 inch... just depends on your personal preference.]

Then, I move to the edge OPPOSITE the first side, placing the first tack in the center (as shown above) and then continue tacking one side down, then moving over to the other side. I repeat this process with the two remaining canvas edges. I test to see if the canvas is taut enough for my stitching. If it isn't, I remove a few tacks and replace them so the canvas is taut enough. When I'm sure the tacks are properly placed, I'll push them further into the wooden bars. I'm ready to stitch!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vineyard Colors

Instead of my usual Friday Flowers, I want to show you some of the gorgeous leaf colors on the various grapevines that are scattered throughout Healdsburg. They look like they've been lovingly hand-painted by small fairies during the night, don't they? Their stained-glass colors are a wonder to behold and I love looking at them up-close.... Prepare to be dazzled!!

(Are you feeling a little drunk on color??... hiccup...I AM!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More Fall Color...

Continuing with more of my patterns that have an autumnal feel to them, I'm going to show you my MALLARD DUCK COLLAGE (which uses that variegated Watercolours 10, Fiesta):

(I mean, really...when you look at this, can't you just feel the crunch of leaves under foot?...and hear the quacking and flapping of ducks rising above the water?)

This one is actually a sampler with lots of interesting stitches. I wanted to design something that would be suitable for the autumn season beyond Halloween, so I created RUSTY O'TOOLE:

Here's an easy fall sampler that has utilizes lots of variegated blackwork - all done on 18 ct's called AUTUMN LEAVES:

And here's a design that has a decidedly southwestern feel to it, appropriately titled SEDONA SUNRISE:

I even have some autumnal kimonos.... Here's AUTUMN LEAF KIMONO:


And we'll finish with something I see a lot of in my neck of the woods -- vineyards! Here's my VINEYARD BOUQUET, which celebrates the colors that appear in the rolling hills around Healdsburg:

Well, I hope that gets you into the mood for stitching something in those lovely autumn colors....(and oh, yes...the row of pumpkins in my blog banner are from another fall design of mine called PUMPKIN HARVEST!)