Friday, April 27, 2007

Half-Cross, Half-Pint Garden

I really love stitchery gardens!
I simply can't resist buying patterns that have gardens in them. And I especially love aerial views of gardens. They're soooo precise and delicious. And knot gardens make me truly weak in the knees! One of my favorite stitchery garden designers is Liz Turner-Diehl. Every time I went to a Stitchery Festival, I ended up with one or two of her newest garden patterns. I think her colors and garden details are absolutely delightful....

So a few weeks ago, when I was in a real gardening mood, I decided to pull out her patterns and stitch up a small one (as a "break" in between stitching the larger and more complex pieces that I was designing).... I chose the "Emerald Garden" because it was so small, and I wanted to try a different technique other than cross-stitch.

Instead of using cross-stitches, I wanted to try using a HALF cross-stitch other words, use a plain ole Tent Stitch (the basic needlepoint stitch). I chose a smaller weave fabric: an 18 ct. cream Davosa, but I only stitched over ONE thread of fabric. And instead of backstitching everything, I didn't do any backstitching around the items - only where absolutely necessary (the water pond, the iron gate.)

Here's a closer look at the little garden areas.
You can see on the bricks (that I stitched with a variegated thread, as well as all the greenery) how the half-crosses look. A little sketchy, but still acceptable as far as I'm concerned. And I was able to work all of the specialty stitches as well, adapting them to the over-one weave wasn't hard at all. (Although the tiny Spider Web trees at the top were a bit tricky, so I switched over to French Knot trees in the bottom section.) And it didn't take me that long to stitch - under a week, while watching HGTV (of course)...

I use this technique quite often when I want to do a cross-stitch pattern, but don't want to actually do all that cross-stitching. I call it my "Half-Cross, Tent Stitch Quick Stitch Method." Because only stitching half crosses cuts the stitching time in I can finish them quickly and then go on to start another new project (truly my FAVORITE part of the process)....

You might give this technique a try when you want to stitch up something fast. It's not only fast, but it's fun as well....and as you know, the quicker you finish your project, the sooner you can start another one!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hoppy Hoppy Joy Joy!

I've made a new bunny-lovin' friend named Lisa who sent me this cute bunny card. She says she has two bunnies who look just like this. And she is also a bunny rescue volunteer...I never realized how many bunny lovers there were out there! I never thought about myself as a bunny collector, but as I bring out all my little bunny items for easter and spring, I realize I do have quite a nice bunny collection.

And, like lots of other stitchers, I certainly find those bunny canvases DARN CUTE!

A while ago, I bought a bunny canvas off ebay, and when I received it, I realized it had been printed off an inkjet home printer. I was so intrigued by the possibility of printing my own canvases that I looked thru a bunch of clipart collections and found a GREAT image of a rabbit in a garden that I thought would be PERFECT for a needlepoint canvas.

So I printed it, then I stitched it (using wool thruout the whole piece: the rabbit in long&short stitches; adding sparkling green ribbon floss for the lettuce outlines; and adding speckles of Kreinik blending filament in the dark sky)...
and finally sewed it up into a great little totebag (using scraps of chintz fabric for the lining) and VOILA! Here's the first of my very own homemade totebags!

The great thing about this project was that I hadn't paid a small fortune for the canvas, and therefore I was able to "play around" with the stitching....trying out different stitches and just enjoying the creative process. If I messed up, I figured it would be okay...(and I could always print out another canvas....)


Monday, April 23, 2007

No Gnomes In My Garden

Some gardens have gnomes hiding in them.

They peek out from the flower beds, or even hang in little swings from the trees.
But my garden has a very small bunny I affectionately call "Bun Bun", after a rabbit my cousins used to have when we were growing up.

My Bun Bun pops up in lots of my garden shots because... well, he's just so darn cute!

Here he is in a patch of sweet wild violets that are scattered around my yard.
And he's joined by a rather large ceramic tortoise I just call Mr. Turtle. He's a very special turtle, because he was handmade by a very special artist at The Neighborhood Center of the Arts, in Grass Valley, CA. When I lived up in the Gold Country, I worked as the office manager for that art school for developmentally disabled adults. When I left NCA, they gave me Mr. Turtle as a parting gift....and he's had a special place in my garden ever since.

(He's got a goofy grin on his face because I guess he's been sniffing all the spring flowers!)

Anyway, I wanted to introduce these garden characters to you, because you'll surely see them again in whatever flower or garden shots I include here from time to time.

And always remember Bun Bun and Mr. Turtle's advice: DON'T FORGET TO TAKE TIME TO STOP AND SMELL THOSE FLOWERS....

Monday, April 9, 2007

Meet Miss Daisy O'Hare

What better time than Easter to introduce my first counted canvaswork character: DAISY O'HARE.....Yes, she's the first (I hope) of many other characters that can be stitched BY COUNTING!!! In other words, she's not a painted canvas - she's stitched on a blank piece of pink 18 ct. canvas and counted from a very detailed stitch graph(printed in color.)

Here's her story: I do love painted canvases and truly have a weakness for canvases with bunnies on them (how much cuter can a canvas get?!?) Anyway, as much as I love them ALL, I can't -alas - afford to buy them all, so I thought, "Why can't I create a counted bunny canvas that has just as many delicious stitches as a hand-painted & stitch-guided canvas? Let's just see what I can come up with..."

So I started to stitch Bunny O'Hare (what I originally called her) by first finding a springy variegated silk thread (used in her skirt and along ribbon edges), then matched a bunch of pastel silks to that. And I was off and stitching...

I wanted to create an Easter ribbon border, so I went on to work on that, leaving room to add inset sections of something springy.... I first thought to put eggs in those inset panels, but as I "fleshed out" Miss Bunny I realised that the flowers on her skirt and apron needed to be repeated in the border. So I stitched a feminine bouquet of bullion roses and lazy daisies and then realised by doing that, her name had changed to MISS DAISY O'HARE. I also added sections of stitched gingham done in four different spring colors, to give it a rather springtime, patchwork feeling!

And voila! --- Miss Daisy O'Hare is ready for sashaying along to the Easter Parade. (Yes, her hips are a little wider than I planned, but with nibbling on all those chocolate eggs, she has quite a bustle, doesn't she?) And she's sure to catch the eye of batchelor Buster O'Hare (who I've started stitching on light blue canvas. Buster is a farmer bunny who wears blue overalls and carries a basket of veggies - quite the catch!)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Happy Easter and...

I love Easter. I love Spring.
I love the rebirth of all the flowers and plants. I love the greening of all the trees. Every thing on earth is filled with new promise and growth. It's definitely a time to renew hope and optimism. Truly the beginning of a new year.

As a stitcher, I always feel that Spring is the time to start new projects. (Well, every season is a time to start new stitching projects, but I'm taking a little poetic license here....) And I especially crave pure, springtime colors - like the colors of bright easter eggs - pink, butter yellow, sky blue, pale lavender, and the tenderest of spring greens. Time to get out those canvases with bunnies, chicks, eggs and flowers!

Unfortunately, Easter came a little earlier than I expected this year, and I didn't get my Eastery ideas down on canvas....oh, well, I'll have to start earlier next year! (I'm planning a set of Faberge-like eggs on canvas, but you won't be seeing them until next spring...) But I did get the "Happy Easter, Happy Spring!" canvas worked last year.

I started designing some rectangular-sized quilts because one day I got a call from a stitchery store owner who asked if I could design something for the 12-inch edge piece of canvas leftover when they cut several 14" x 14" squares of canvas for my regular quilt designs. I said, "Sure...don't throw out that canvas and I'll design something for that size." So consequently, I've designed several rectangular quilt patterns, such as "Happy Halloween" and "Summer Days." I probably should do the remaining season (winter), so there's a full set of rectangular patterns. (I'll put that idea on my to do list, okay?...)

Now I have to get back to printing and stitching....

Have a very Happy Easter and be sure to enjoy your Spring!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Primrose Lane

One of the hardest things about being a stitchery designer is trying to focus on creating new projects while AT THE SAME TIME juggling a bunch of other important stuff. (i.e.: printing and mailing out patterns, preparing tax documents, arranging trunk shows, answering emails about pattern questions, walking the dog, doing laundry.) And now that spring is creeping around the corner, I have to add WORKING IN THE GARDEN.

At least when it's winter and it's pouring rain, cold and yucky outside, there's not much incentive to go outside and plant flowers. But here in northern California, winter hasn't made much of a showing this year, and all the trees and flowers have decided to move on into spring already. The reason I know this is happening is because last night, when I went outside with my dog for her last trip around the yard, I smelled a definite sweetness in the air. I sniffed and realized that the sweet smell was the early arrival of spring. The apricot and flowering cherry trees all around the neighborhood are in bloom right now and their perfume fills the air. The rosemary bushes and all the clumps of daffodils and primoses are blooming too, adding their soft scents into the air.

So, yesterday, despite the pile up of important things I should have been doing in my office, I gave in to this early spring's siren call and spent the day outside in the garden. I brought my dog, Katie, outside with me so she could lay on the lawn "guarding" me while I pulled weeds, neatened the rows of rocks that line the flower beds, planted six-packs of pansies, separated clumps of primroses and transplanted them in other areas.

All in all, I'm glad I spent the day outside, working in the garden. Because now when I look outside , I can enjoy the flowers and not feel guilty about neglecting the garden. And now I'm ready to focus on the piles of work INSIDE, because I know my garden has been cleaned up a bit and is ready for the flowering of spring. WELCOME, SPRINGTIME!!