Thursday, July 31, 2008


I'm going to end the month of July by saying a big "THANK YOU!" to Lesley of Tintock Tap for giving me a Brillante Weblog Award. What a lovely surprise....

And what a great way to share our favorite blogs with other like-minded readers!

Here are the rules:

1. The winner can display this award on their blog.
2. Display a link to the person you have got the award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs that you like.
4. Set the links to the blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a comment on the blogs you have chosen.

Well, limiting it to seven is too hard, and there are just too many wonderful blogs to read, don't you think? I'd like to list all of them... But I'll pick these favorites, among all the other favorites I have listed on the right (click on their titles on the right, to visit their blogs):

Cyn Stitches
Jane's Chilly Hollow
Life, the Universe and Stitching
Love to Stitch
Possibilities, etc.!
Spinster Stitcher
Tintock Tap

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Old Switcheroo

While I'm talking about the fun of working with variegated threads, I should show you how my "Switcheroo Effect" works on some of my kimono patterns. Here's one of my kimono trios: THREE SUMMER KIMONOS. (I also have THREE WINTER KIMONOS and THREE SPRINGTIME KIMONOS, which also use the same technique.)

Anyway, I used the SAME variegated thread for all three kimonos...but I used THREE DIFFERENT solid color accents (with a matching metallic). Each kimono takes on the tone of the solid color yet they all blend together because they have the same variegated foundation thread (I used The Thread Gatherer's Silk 'n Colors 056 -"Mermaid Shimmer".) I was curious to see how much of a color change would occur when I tried a trio of Switcheroos.... and I was pleased to see how well my idea worked.

Here's the kimono on the left. The primary foundation of the kimono patterns is done with the variegated silk, and the accent stitches are worked with a sage green (it's the color of the tent-stitched lining area.)

And here's the middle kimono. The accent color is the dark teal silk in the lining area. Isn't it amazing how much darker the middle kimono is, having the darker accent color worked thruout the pattern?

Finally, here's the kimono on the right, which uses a turquoise accent color.

Please notice the different composite stitch patterns used on each of the kimonos. I consider it a point of honor NOT to repeat my stitch patterns, so I always have fun creating new and different stitch combinations for all my designs.

These kimonos are worked on 24 ct. pale green Congress Cloth and the overall size of the design is 5" high and 15" long. I've also stitched just one of the kimonos by itself, and they're equally fun to stitch.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Blackwork Mystery, part 2

Are you ready for part 2 of the Blackwork Mystery? Here's the completed part 2 of my stitched model for you to study:

In part 2, you'll be stitching the next "layer" of stitches in a solid color. That color can be harmonious with your variegated thread (like my turquoise is with my variegated thread) or it can be a contrasting color (to create a stronger tension between the colors). Below are the three threads I used in my model: a blue/green/purple variegated floss I dyed myself; DMC 807 floss; and Kreinik Blending Filament 014HL - a fine, bright silvery blue.

One of the nice things about blackwork is: it doesn't take a lot of thread, especially when you're working on fine fabric and you're stitching with just one ply of a 6- or 12-ply strand. I've worked all of my part 2 with one ply of the 6-ply cotton floss, DMC 807... and I think I must have only used 2 or 3 strands MAX. So you're thread goes a LONG WAY in blackwork. ( Also, you can certainly stitch this design in just one color ...or one color and a gold metallic, perhaps - like traditional blackwork!)

[ASIDE: You may be tempted to correct my use of ply instead of strands... yes, I'm well aware of the technical difference between them. However, when I started writing my patterns I made the decision to use the term "ply" instead of "strand" because: 1) it just became too cumbersome and confusing to repeatedly tell stitchers to use just one strand - but I mean one strand of the three-stranded Watercolours or one strand of the six-strand cotton, etc.; and frankly, 2) since the majority of stitchers are not creating their own threads by actually twisting 2 or 3 plies of raw cotton or silk fiber, I felt I could borrow the "ply" terminology to make my patterns more understandable to stitchers. So, unless we're talking about creating thread by twisting raw fiber into plied strands, I'm using the term "ply" to mean one of the individual strands of the larger strand... Sheesh.See how confusing that STRAND usage gets???]

Anyway... back to the blackwork! I wanted to tell you that there are three different stitches that can be used for blackwork: 1) Backstitch; 2) Double Running Stitch; and 3) Running Backstitch. However, in my experience, the regular Backstitch (the stitch you use to outline all your cross stitch areas) is not the best choice for blackwork because it can create SHADOWS on the backside of your fabric as you work your 45 or 90-degree stitch angles. Frankly, it's too sloppy to use in blackwork, where you want all your lines and angles to be crisp and even - on the back as well as the front.

A better choice would be the Double Running Backstitch or the Running Backstitch. Now let me explain their advantages. With the Double Running Backstitch you stitch every other space - sort of leap-frogging over every other stitch, then you turn around and hop, hop, hop - fill in the remaining spaces with more stitches until the whole line is complete. This way of stitching can be lots of fun. It makes you plan out your line of stitching in advance. It works great for solid colors. BUT: if you're using a variegated thread, you'll fracture the color flow and your stitching line will have broken colors - it will have a more confetti look to it, which may or may not work for you.

My personal favorite is the Running Backstitch (where you complete each stitch as you come to it, going first in one direction, then the next stitch goes in the other direction) because you follow the stitching line accurately, you don't get too far afield (like when you stitch every other stitch), you minimize the shadowing problem, and best of all - when you use a variegated thread, you keep the colors flowing naturally one stitch at a time, all the way along the line.
And let me mention right now: THIS IS NOT REVERSIBLE BLACKWORK. Nope. I'm not into doing reversible blackwork. I just try to be as neat as possible and as I'm stitching away on the top, I try to be aware of what my stitches are doing on the back ("Hey you guys, are you behaving yourselves back there? Are you staying neat and tidy? ...No stragglers? Knots?.. Good-O! Carry on...")

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Zen of Stitching

As I mentioned in my last posting, I was reading an article in O AT HOME called "Suffering from Decorating Anxiety? Stop Fussing and Start Enjoying" by Martha Beck. With apologies to Ms. Beck, I substituted the word "decorating" with the word "stitching" and the word "home" with the word "project" and came up with an interesting alternative version to her article. Here's another section of the article that also seemed appropriate to stitchers everywhere, called LEARN TO NOT-DO:

"As she stitched and restitched her project, Angela clung to the thought that her busyness was a virtue: She was "getting things done." This is considered so commendable in our society that not getting things done is often seen as weakness or laziness. But there is, as the Good Book says, "a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away." The skill of losing, of casting off objects and actions, of releasing all inclination to fix, is something most of us not only ignore, but actively avoid. Yet this is the very skill we need to maintain peacefulness in our projects.

Accorting to Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, "When nothing is done, nothing is left undone." This might sound like nonsense or insanity to someone who is caught up in the carousel of compulsive action. But not-doing is a necessary step toward pure being -- it's the resting state that fills a person or project with peace and tranquility.

To learn the skill of not-doing, contemplate the part of your project that's furthest from your end-game vision. Think of all the things that aren't satisfactory, that aren't finished. Then remember that finished can be a synonym for dead. Relax and enjoy the unfinishedness of that least satisfying project. Do nothing to move it toward completion until you can feel, as one Zen master put it, "without anxiety over imperfection." This might take minutes or it might take months. Just let your project be until you feel totally at ease with its flaws. When you finally stitch the project, do it as an outlet for your creativity and as an adventure in change, and don't fixate on "finishing." What you do to your project is far less important than your state of being while you're doing it."

Wow. More profound words of wisdom for all us stitchers.... So, that being said, (after we all stop laughing) let's take a deep breath, sit still awhile and contemplate our unfinished stitching projects.

[P.S.: I don't want to disturb the zen mood but did any of you happen to notice the wallpaper pattern in the above illustration? It'd make a good blackwork design, don't you think? ...okay, enough said... back to comtemplating my stitchery...]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Suffering from Stitching Anxiety?

In the Summer issue of O AT HOME, there's an article by Martha Beck called, "Suffering from Decorating Anxiety: Stop Fussing and Start Enjoying". As I was reading the article, I found myself substituting the word "decorating" with the word "stitchery" and the word "home" with the word "project." And see how the article reads with my substitutions (in bold text):

"Some psychologists divide all motivation into two categories: attraction and aversion. Attraction pulls us toward something good with the help of curiosity, delight, love, and desire. Aversion is the need to escape something unpleasant, whether it's fear, disgust, worry, or anxiety. Discerning between the two is another key to stitching without overdoing it. As long as you're moving toward things that attract you, you'll create a feeling of comfort and beauty. The moment fear begins to drive the process, the results will be unsettling.

Angela's incessant stitching came from anxiety, not joy. This was evident every time she tried to stop: The thought of simply letting things be sent her into a state of panic. She experienced intense emotional pain... Stitching was her way of running from these turbulent feelings.

To determine whether your stitching is motivated by aversion rather than attraction, do what Angela wouldn't: Stop acting and see how you feel. Sit in the middle of a project for 15 minutes and simple observe. If you're prone to anxiety, you'll notice everything that's "wrong" with your project... and you'll experience the compulsion to "fix" it. But if your work is attraction-based, you'll become steadily more appreciative of its beauty. You'll see previously unnoticed patterns... the appealing slant of light... the calm or vibrancy shimmering from all the colors in the project.

If this exercise reveals that you stitch throught attraction, you're in a good state of mind to improve your projects. But if aversion drives you, leave your projects alone for a while and address the unpleasant feelings that are coming up. Write your thoughts in a journal or talk about them with a friend or therapist. Then repeat the exercise of sitting quietly until you can feel calm without changing anything. If you accept your stitchery project as it is, you'll be in a position to stitch out of love for beauty, rather than fear of being present."

Hmmm...Interesting food for thought....Does that resonate with any of you stitchers out there? Sometimes we get so obsessed with our quest for stitching perfection that we miss the pure and simple joy of the process. Needle and thread up and down, in and out - simple motions that should make us all more joyful - not stressful. So maybe these words of wisdom can apply to stitchers, as well as decorators.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Garden Party, Anyone?

I have an unquenchable fascination with variegated threads. I simply NEVER get tired of playing around with them....mixing and matching colors, metallics, ribbons and endless variations of stitches to create interesting ways to show off the variegated threads.

One of the things I love to do is: 1) pick out a variegated thread; 2) select matching solid colors and metallics and/or ribbons; and 3) design some interesting composite stitch patterns and THEN.... see how they look together!

One of my favorite challenges is to work the same patterns in different sections of a symetrical geometric - BUT SWITCH THE VARIEGATED AND SOLID COLORS IN ALTERNATING SECTIONS. And the fun is seeing how my "Switcheroo Effect" alters the overall look of the piece.

My recent GARDEN PARTY piece, shown above, shows off this magical effect to perfection. (This 6.5" x 6.5" design was stitched on 24 ct. mocha Congress Cloth; if it were stitched on 18 ct. it would be 8.5" x 8.5". And the variegated thread I used in this design is Waterlilies 112 - "Fir", with #8 pearl cotton 367.)

Here's a closeup of the lighter, left-hand side (which has the primary patterns worked with the variegated thread, and the accent stitches done in the lavender color). You can count the five different patterns within this main block. And see how the variegated colors look with the lavender accents? Much lighter and brighter, isn't it? It also shows off the soft, lovely colors of the variegated thread.

Now look at the right side, which switches the the solid lavender color makes up the primary patterns, with the variegated thread in the accent position. Here the solid color lavender makes up the bulk of the block, so the section feels much darker and heavier...and the variegated colors have faded into the background. (Also note that the sparkly lavender metallic thread is used in the same places for BOTH versions.)

I've also swapped the threads in the woven border accent areas - using the lavender thread in the outer borders (to create darkness and heaviness), and using the variegated thread for the inner sashes (to create a lighter, softer feel).

The overall design, with it's hedge green borders, reminded me of an abstract knot garden...hence the title, "GARDEN PARTY."

I designed this pattern to be a fun color challenge for all those stitchers who enjoy changing the colors and making their own unique version. So, Stitchers.... care to try creating your own Garden Party??

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stitch With Me!

In my July 16th posting, I talked about all the geometric patterns that are appearing in decorating magazines. Well, looking at all those geometrics got me itching to start stitching some blackwork patterns based on those geometrics. I've been so focused on my other designs this year, that I haven't done any blackwork in quite a while and I miss it. So.....

Here's what I've come up with:

I've decided to whip up a little BLACKWORK MYSTERY SAMPLER for those of you who might like to give blackwork a try. Here's what I'm going to do: I'll post the graphs on my website:, under the FREE PATTERNS page. Go there and print out the graphs. You might want to print out this blog page as well. [Aside: the graphs posted on my website are the best I can manage. If you need the graphs to be larger, please take them to a copy shop and get them enlarged.]

This little BLACKWORK MYSTERY SAMPLER will be stitched in THREE PARTS. Each part will add another layer to the design. The photo above shows PART ONE completed. (If you go back to my previous blog posting, you can pick out some of the geometric patterns I've used...)I will post PART 1 now, and in a week or so I'll post PART 2, followed in a few more weeks with the final PART 3.

And here is the materials list, if you're interested in stitching along:

DESIGN COUNT: 120 threads by 120 threads

on 24/25 ct. Lugana: 5" x 5"
on 22 ct. Hardanger: 5.5" x 5.5"
on 18 ct. aida: 6.5" x 6.5"
on 16 ct. aida: 7.5" x 7.5"
on 14 ct. aida: 8.5" x 8.5"

(I recommend a light-colored fabric, such as white, ivory, ecru... but if you really want to be creative, you could try it on a dark fabric, using very light threads - it's up to you!)

THREADS: You can stitch the whole design (all three parts) in one color if you wish. Or...
You can stitch each part in a different color/type of thread, like this:
- PART 1 in a dark solid color (or a dark-to-medium variegated color)
- PART 2 in a medium-to-light accent solid color
- PART 3 in a metallic accent that matches your solid accent color

The type of thread you choose will depend on which count of fabric you use. The finer the fabric count, the finer thread weight you'll need. I'm working on 22 ct. white Hardanger, with just ONE PLY of a 6-ply cotton floss (shown above) that I've dyed myself in a variegated blue/green/purple colorway. You can see when it's stitched, there's a very subtle color change thruout the overall design.

You can also use silk thread, as well as a single-ply cotton such as Bravo! or Wildflowers - in solid or variegated colors. The different thread thicknesses are shown in the photo on the right. On the right is variegated cotton floss; on the left is a Bravo! or Wildflowers weight (see how a single ply is slightly heavier than one ply of the floss?) One way to test the colors is to lay ONE PLY of whichever thread you're considering against the fabric. You can then see how fine it will look, as well as how much of the coloring will show up. Darker colors will show up better and the lines will look crisper; lighter colors will be muted and create a paler, watercolory effect. The photo below shows how the two threads look when they are stitched.

Are you interested?

[For those who might be interested: Stitchers - YES, you have my permission to teach this project in your guild groups - but please give me copyright credit for this design. And NO, this pattern is NOT for resale in any form. I will not be kitting it up or selling it in pattern form. This pattern is just for us all to blogstitch - to have fun experimenting and playing with. Okay?]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Scoops of Stitching Deliciousness

Well, after a long day of printing patterns, I've treated myself to travelling around the blogworld this evening, browsing for more needlework sites to add to my ever-growing blog list. I always get so excited when I click on a new blog name and up pops a blog with delicious pictures of canvases being stitched, or piles of luscious threads waiting for a new project. (Don't you just love the sight of a new canvas waiting for its potential to be realized?)

Yes, indeedy, we stitchers do love our threads....and our canvases....and our counted patterns....and our smalls....and our stitching accessories...

And yet I still crave read, to see, to contemplate, and to inspire me....

So it's a special treat to follow the crumbs that are dropped here and there on the wide world blogging trail, that may - if you're lucky - lead you to a new stitchery site...where you'll meet a new stitching friend who invites you to sneek a peek over their shoulder and see what projects(s) they're working on. Don't you just love this magical blogging world?

Anyway, here are a few more wonderful sites that give us a look at some designers' and stitchers' works in progress:

Cyn Stitches

Front Range Stitches



Stitchlady's Weblog

Oh, Yummers! All these stitching blogs are good enough to eat, aren't they??

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Geometrics are In!

Over the last few months, I've seen lots of geometric patterns in decorating magazines. Apparently, designers have discovered that geometrics are IN.

And now geometrics are showing up everywhere: clothes, purses, fabrics, tiles (above), rugs, dishes, wallpaper, coasters (left), and anything else you can think of.

Well. This isn't exactly big news to us, is it?

Embroiderers have known about the power of geometric patterns for centuries. ...and have been quietly incorporating geometrics in their work for all of those years, all the way back to the beginning of recorded history - and to the beginning of embroidery.

And I'm willing to bet all of us stitchers have many books in our reference libraries that have hundreds of geometric patterns in them - whether they be patterns for cross-stitch, needlepoint, hardanger, blackwork, crewel, beading, lace-making, knitting or any of the dozens of embroidery skills we embrace and consider part of our handcrafting traditions.

But what I find so fascinating about seeing geometric patterns popping up everywhere NOW is how we - as stitchers - can utilize these patterns. What a great resource for inspiring us to stitch!

So, let's get trendy and stitch up some of these patterns that are appearing in popular magazines.... Pick up your needle and thread, and start stitching...


Monday, July 14, 2008

Ribbons of Harmony

Well, here's the finished ribbon canvas I showed you last month:

The finished size is 9.5" by 13" on 18 ct mono canvas. Unfortunately, the photo simply doesn't do the actual project justice. You can't see the soft metallic shimmer of the aqua ribbon floss. Or the rich texture of the aqua Very Velvet Petite that is used in the larger ribbons... And the subtle variations of the "Green Tea" Watercolours don't show up so well either. But, trust me, it's quite lovely in the flesh!

This new pattern, "RIBBONS OF HARMONY", is now available on my website: and is also available through my distributors.

(DESIGN P.S.: This ribbon design is just the first in a series I'm planning with different colors and patterns of ribbons. The next one I'm itching to start - RIBBONS OF HOPE - will feature pink ribbons. Caron Collection is coming out with a scrumptious new pink variegated colorway this summer that will be perfect for the confection I have dancing in my head....and I'm eager for the new thread to hit the markets so I can start stitching on it!)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yum! Check These Out...

Every so often I take a stroll thru Blogland to see if I can find more bloggers that are sharing their passion for needlework. I like finding blogs with pictures, so I can see what they're talking about. And blogs that have other types of pictures (landscapes, flowers, food) are a definite bonus!

( I snuck in a un-related picture of an apricot here, just to have a photo in this plain chunk of text...but pictures just make things more fun, don't you think?)

Anyway, I find it curious that the majority of blogs I've found are usually cross-stitch oriented, rather than needlepoint-oriented. Why that's so, I just don't know. But I'm always searching for some good blogs that give details about stitch and thread choices for needlepoint canvases (or counted canvaswork designs.) Needlepoint seems so much more of an interpretative art these days, that it's great for all of us stitchers to learn by seeing how other stitchers are interpreting their canvases.

That's not to say I don't enjoy the cross-stitch blogs. I do. Tremendously. Maybe because I don't do any cross-stitch these days, I get a thrill looking over some other stitcher's shoulder as she/he shares their latest work-in-progress.

I love seeing everyone's "smalls"....or what the latest Quaker-inspired design might be....or what sampler has everyone talking....And I've even added patterns to my own stash because I've seen them being worked on someone's blog.

So here are a few more creative and inspiring needlework blogs that I've found and added to my list at right:

Create Needlepoint!

Terry Dryden Needlework Designs

Spinster Stitcher

Stitch With Me

Please give them a visit some time....or better yet - start your own!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Well, I've finally finished this little Violas canvas.

There are some things I like about it, and some things I don't -- but at least it's finished. (Which means of course, that I can start another one...Oh, goody!)

But let's look at this one first: I like the checkered and padded border. This is a good, simple, and easy way to frame a contemporary canvas. Checkers always seem to liven up a canvas, don't they? Give them a try if you need a jazzy border. I also like the gradated color squares in the corners that go from light to dark orange. That's another good way to lead your eye into the canvas...

I sure like the way the shadow stitching looks. Just as I'd hoped it would. And the simple background stitch is just rows of basketweave stitch, skipping one row in-between each stitched row. It creates a decidedly diagonal effect, but in this small canvas it works just fine.

And when in doubt, Tent Stitch. Which is what I did with the leaves in the background. I'm not crazy about the plain leaves, but I'm not ripping them out either. I'll just figure out something different next time!

And the black lines on the petals are very fine bullion knots, done with one strand of black DMC Floche. Tedious, but they do create a slight texture on the petals. As do the satin stitched orange centers. And then, finally, the white centers are tiny french knots done with 1 strand of white DMC Floche as well.

Well, that's another small canvas finished. I'm sure enjoying stitching on these small canvases. What a fun (and inexpensive) way to play around with colors, threads, and stitches!

Technique P.S.: For those of you who have asked, I've printed these 18 ct canvases on my little ole Epson inkjet printer! Yup. (And 24 ct. Congress Cloth works really well too.) I just cut the canvas carefully to match a piece of paper, iron them so they are as flat as can be, then carefully guide them thru the printer, one at a time. Some people like to iron freezer paper to the back, to catch the extra ink, although I haven't tried that. In any event, they come out surprisingly even and clean....You might like to give it a try yourself!

Back to Basics

I've been so wrapped up in getting ready for the Asilomar experience, then spending a week teaching at Asilomar, and now finally unpacking from Asilomar, I haven't had time to do any real stitching. (Sheesh, how frustrating is that?!?) So, I'm home and I'm ready and eager to spend some time stitching. Finally!

And here's the little flower canvas I'm choosing to work/play on -- my little time-out project that I carried with me to Asilomar, but didn't actually get much stitching done. It's small: only 5.5" x 6.5" on 18 ct. canvas.

I've wanted to try some shadow stitching, and I thought these viola petals would be the perfect place to try it! I'm inching my way along, feeling my way as to the colors and stitch patterns. I'm also using just one strand of DMC floche for all the stitching inside the padded borders (which are done in #5 pearl cotton.)

So far I'm very pleased with the look of the shadow stitching. I've used just one yellow color for the top petals, one blue for all the blue petals, and a gold color for the underneath viola petals - but see how the colored canvas shows thru? Looks like I shaded the stitches, but I DIDN'T. How cool (and easy) is THAT?!? I can't wait to get all the petals done, and then move out to finish the background areas with an airy lace-type stitch.

I decided to try a little checkerboard border inside the padded border, because violas are such cheerful flowers, I thought they could stand up to a snappy little checkered border! The finishing touch will be adding the dark straight lines on top of the viola petals, as well as filling the bright white spots in the flower centers (I'm thinking tiny french knots).

I'm on the homestretch shouldn't take me long to complete this... and I can't wait to see how it looks finished!

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I just have to share these Fourth of July photos with you.
I took them last night, sitting on my deck railing, watching the annual fireworks display in Healdsburg, CA.

Neato, huh?

Anyway, I hope you all are enjoying this wonderful summer weekend,
(and of course - finding some free time to get a little stitching done, as well!)

Friday, July 4, 2008


"Red, White, and Blue...
I am for you!"

Have a very Happy Independence Day, everyone...

...and don't forget to enjoy all those wonderful fireworks tonight!