Tuesday, December 25, 2007

T'is the Season...

At this time of year, please remember to stop and say a prayer of warmth, love, hope, and peace for all the creatures living together on this earth....


All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Have a very merry holiday season!

Oh, Christmas Tree!

I always forget how many Christmas patterns I have designed over the years! I try to do one a year, so by now I have quite a few in my collection. Here are some of my favorites...

This one is my Christmas Tree 2004.
I wanted to do something really different, so I first stitched the tree outline, then filled it in with assorted stitch patterns that reminded me of ornaments and tinsel. It ended up looking very modern and elegant. Yet it also reminds me of those trees people would make out of old costume jewelry. So I consider it a modern, yet retro type of tree. How neat is that?!?

I originally stitched this tree on green 24 ct. Congress Cloth, so the design was approx. 8.5" x 8.5". Then I got to wondering how it would look on 18 ct canvas...sooo I just HAD to stitch it again on 18 ct green mono canvas. And it looked equally lovely - just a lot bigger! (approx. 11" x 11").

And here's another type of Christmas tree. I call it my Christmas Forest.
It's actually a blackwork design - with each tree having a different blackwork pattern inside. Even I've been surprised by how popular this pattern has been. I keep selling it year after year. And that makes me happy, knowing that so many people are creating blackwork forests of their own! It's stitched on a 25 ct. Lugana even weave fabric, with lots of sparkle added, with green and gold Kreinik threads, and of course, a few star sequins and jewels to hang in the sky.

And here's another favorite of mine: Christmas Village.

It's a magical place - it sort of suggests Santa's village... or maybe an old-fashioned town nestled in a snowy valley. Anyway, it's surrounded in lots of fun borders and ribbons that I think are very fun to stitch up. I especially enjoyed stitching the candy cane border and the pine boughs & ornament border - both add a very festive touch!
This piece is stitched on 24 ct. white Congress Cloth, and it's finished size is 10.25" x 10.25" (on 18 ct canvas the size would be 14" x 14").

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lots of Santas!

Here's one of my all-time favorite Christmas pieces: Santas Around the World.
It was shown as a cross-stitch pattern in a cross-stitch magazine many years ago...I don't recall which magazine it was. I guess you could also consider it a Santa Sampler...

But in any event, I fell in love with the image of all those different santas in a row, with the rest of those lovely wintery motifs of trees, stars, hearts and snowflakes.

Again, I stitched this on the brown 18 ct mono canvas, using 3-4 ply of DMC floss (and some sparkly thread for the snow and snowflakes). The orginal pattern probably had a lot of backstitching around all the santas, but I only backstitched where it was absolutely necessary, and let the thread colors define the santas. The dark brown background is left unstitched, because I like the vintage, rustic look...and I feel it lets the thread colors POP without creating any background distractions. (Of course, when you stitch this way and leave the background unstitched, you need to be careful not to lay threads across the back - or they will show through to the front.)

And here's another cross-stitch santa that I stitched as a needlepoint santa, and then hung to make a small Christmas banner:

These are just a few of the ways you can have fun with all those lovely cross-stitch Christmas designs by adapting them to needlepoint!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Prairie Santas

Well, now I've also got to show you some of my Prairie Schooler santas I've stitched over the years. They are among my favorite patterns to stitch; they have a limited thread palette and use simple stitches, yet the designs are rather elegant in their simplicity.

Just like a lot of you, I have a nice stash of these little santa patterns. And I love to take them out and shuffle thru them. I never have enough time to get them all stitched, but hey, hope springs eternal, doesn't it? I figure I'll get them all stitched EVENTUALLY.....

And as you can see, I like to stitch them on the brown 18 ct. mono canvas, using 3-4 ply of DMC floss. I use the old Tent or Basketweave Stitch, instead of cross stitches, so I can whip these out a little faster...

And I like the brown background showing thru... it looks rustic and old-fashioned to me...

And this year I decided to get the whole series of Prairie Schooler's 12 Days of Christmas designs(see the first one, below) because I just loved the simple images. I've only worked a few of them, but again, they're fun to stitch because the thread and color palette is limited and easy to stitch up.

Again, I'm stitching all of these with the basic Tent Stitch or Basketweave Stitch, instead of cross stitches...and I'm using sandstone canvas instead of brown.

Although, in this series I've decided to add a few other simple needlepoint stitches to add some extra dimension to them (see the pears? and Santa's pants?)...plus I've added gold beads on Santa's coat, just to add a little more sparkle. It's fun to embellish a cross stitch design with very simple needlepoint stitches...and there are so many easy ones to choose from. Give it a try!

I've been working these designs on little pieces of canvas, but it occurs to me now -how am I going to finish all of them? I originally bought the pattern thinking I would only stitch a few of the santas...but now I want to stitch them ALL. Maybe I should stitch the whole 12 Days of Christmas on one big piece of canvas, so they're all together. Ooohhh, wouldn't THAT would be something to see! Hmmmmm.....I'll have to give that some more thought!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Here Comes Santa Claus...

Ho! Ho! Ho!

It's time to show off some of the stitched Santas in my collection.

I love to bring them out at Christmastime and remember how fun they were to stitch.

Here's another Pat Thode hand-painted canvas. They are so fun to stitch! And because they are small canvases, they stitch up quickly and you can enjoy them immediately. Because her canvases are "stitch painted" and have an attached stitch guide, you can be sure that every thread of the painted canvas is accounted for, and you'll be shown how to stitch EVERY thread.

If you want to try a small painted canvas, I'd definitely recommend trying one of Pat Thode's canvases. (She markets them under the label: "The Artists Collection".) She also designs many counted cross-stitch patterns under the name,"Heartstrings", so you can also find many of her santa designs done in cross-stitch too. My Mom just finished a Heartstrings santa design - and it's gorgeous!

I fell in love with Pat Thode's Santas after seeing them at my local needlework shop, The Regal Rabbit in Windsor, CA. The owner has several pieces finished in her shop. I particularly loved this santa:

She had it finished as a rectangular standup figure. I was smitten!
This design was one of Pat Thode's older limited edition Christmas santas. So I went home and searched the internet for anything I could find. And lo and behold! I found a cross-stitch store that had Pat Thode's pattern book for this very santa.
Of course I ordered it immediately, and stitched this santa by COUNTING it on the canvas...not as a painted canvas. It was a bit of a challenge...but I wanted it so bad, I was prepared to take the time to work it out. And I'm soooo glad I did!

I still have to attach a red felt bag (with treats) that Santa is holding in his lower hand....and I want to try finishing it myself as a rectangular standup figure.
(Just something else to do in my free time...ha, ha.)

And here's the most recent Pat Thode Santa I stitched this fall, called "The Juggling Santa."

And notice the background. I did something really daring on this one: Instead of stitching a background, I used colored pencils and colored the canvas around the santa. CAREFULLY, of course, so the pencils didn't get near the stitched stuff. I really like the effect, and think it gives it a lovely depth. Give it a try sometime...if you dare!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Deck The Halls!

Is your house decorated for the holidays?

What's the first thing you do to get your decorating started?

With me, it's putting up all the Christmas stitchery that I've done over the years.

Here's last year's addition to the collection: Pat Thode's 2006 Christmas Chalet.
It's a painted canvas, but I couldn't resist it, because....I LOVE HOUSES!! And I'm a sucker for any type of stitched house.

Here's a few of the other Christmas houses that I bring out for the season.

This is a really old (well, I did it in the 70's) counted canvaswork piece my sister and I call "THE CHRISTMAS HOUSE" because she first saw and stitched it when she was going to college in Southern California.

It's a design by Carol Costello, one of my all-time favorite designers. It's supposed to have tiny little dollhouse rooms stitched in each window, but by the time I got the house stitched, I was so eager to get it finished, I quickly stitched some Christmas motifs in each window, just to get it DONE. I love pulling it out every year; it's become an old favorite of mine.

And then here's another Pat Thode Christmas house...
I fell in love with this canvas a few years ago, and it was definitely a fun piece to stitch up. (It's sort of a companion piece to her Halloween House, if you're familiar with that canvas). If you ever want to try a painted canvas, just look for a Pat Thode canvas. Her Santas are wonderful (more on THEM later) and all her canvases come with a stitch guide to help you place all the stitches in just the right way.
My stitching friends urged me to try Pat Thode canvases....and they were right! They are lots of fun to stitch, and when you're done, you can enjoy looking at them for years to come.

Have fun decking your halls for the holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Meet Rusty O'Toole

Here's the latest of my canvaswork characters: RUSTY O'TOOLE.

I wanted to stitch something for the fall - that could be displayed from September through November - and what better than a scarecrow, guarding the pumpkins and hanging out with his crow friends?

I used a bunch of fun stitches for his patchwork pants and shirt. And I've slightly padded the pumpkins and even the pitchfork a bit to give them a little more dimension... The crows are done in a simple basketweave stitch, with the wings added in long diagonal satin stitches on top, after the body stitching is done. Overall, this piece is a little more complex, with stitches being added on top of others (such as Rusty's straw hair and hands added last) and a true cornucopia of stitches used throughout the whole piece.

The rustic twig border overflows with a bounty of autumnal goodies: variegated falling leaves, lazy daisy sunflowers and dusty-colored chrysanthemums (with french knot centers), and shocks of Indian corn - using a terrific variegated thread (Waterlilies in "Cheyenne") that truly mimics the colors of Indian corn. Little pumpkins in the corners, of course....and for the finishing touch, a sprinkling of gold beads - for nuts or acorns.

I tried really hard to get Rusty's expression just right: friendly - not scary or silly - but eager to do his job of guarding the fall harvest. And I stitched this piece on 18 ct. vintage canvas - sandstone with brown marbling - to give it a hazy autumnal feel (plus, you don't have to stitch the background). I wanted the piece to say: "Celebrate the season...but be sure to have fun, too!"

Work in Progress...

I've been away from the computer over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Here's why:

My landlord is currently replacing the windows in my office and things were kind of messy for a few days. I knew it would be disruptive to my work, and went ahead and covered everything with sheets, etc.....but even so, I didn't realize HOW messy it would get!

All the inside work is done, and I can take away the sheets....but there is a fine grit of sawdust and dirt over everything. Yuck. But never mind...I'm just grateful to have my little office back, and my computer and printer up and running again.
So, I'm back in business this week!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Starry Thoughts

I recently received an email from a stitcher who informed me her local stitching guild was going to work on my STARRY NIGHTS design, over a two-month period. And because some of the stitchers were interested in changing the colors in the design, they were first going to have a meeting to discuss color theories and possibilities...and she also asked why did I include the greens in the project, when the variegated skein of "Elderberry Wine" didn't have any green in it.

It got me thinking about why I chose those particular colors for that project. And I realized that other stitchers might appreciate hearing my answer too. Here's what I wrote to that Starry Nights stitcher:

"What brave stitchers you are. I'm sooo glad you are eager to tackle the color changes!I love it when stitchers change the colors of my designs.It's such a fun way to challenge your color sense...and have a wonderful surprise element built-in to your stitching.

And I think your idea of having a color class first, to discuss color options is a GREAT plan! Be sure to bring along a DMC color chart - wonderful for seeing all the color choices - and lots of DMC floss skeins to play with.(The DMC chart also lets you see which colors are available in #5 pearl, and which are only available in floss - another important design criteria that you have to factor in to your color choices). How fun to get everyone playing around with variegated threads and all the color possibilities!!

When I was designing this, I wanted a nighttime color scheme, but I also wanted a variegated thread that had FOUR different colors in it (harder to find than you might think)...and the thread I settled on was Caron Watercolours' "Elderberry Wine."

Here's a photo of the thread, which I just got finished using in another new piece, NORDIC SNOWFLAKES. As you can see in the photo, there isn't any green in the variegated skein. Just blues, purples, fuchsias and turquoise.
You can see in the photo above, how all those VERY COOL colors go together and are so similar that there just needed to be an accent color in STARRY NIGHTS that was slightly different than the rest - something to add an unexpected POP ofcolor. So I snuck in some green (just in the floss/background)...which injects a slightly warmer hue into the overall piece, even tho the greens I chose - 992 and 3814 - are a blue-ish green, and seem to echo the turquoise color, 807. (Green is also a calming, grounding color, so it also calms all those jewel tones down.But at the same time, it's warmer than the blues and purples, so it adds a bit of warmth to the design, as well.)

These are the things you need to think about when changing colors in STARRY NIGHTS: Find the family of (four) matching colors to your variegated skein, then "throw in" an unexpected accent color....maybe a gold? or a bright red? a bright yellow? a bright pink? or a clear, pure color against a set of darker, muted colors? Some different color that will sparkle against the others, and make your eye skip around the complex quilt design....and also provide a fun sense of hide & seek/discovery thruout the overall pattern.

You might also like to know that when I was designing STARRY NIGHTS, I wanted to create a beam of lighter color - like a moonbeam - that goes from the upper right corner, down to the lower left corner. Keep this in mind when you stitch your background...and try to use the lighter background colors in that "beam" of light. It's another (subtle) way of moving the viewer's eye across the pattern. And then those dots of green make your eye skip from spot to spot in the overall piece. (Without that green accent color, I think the whole design would meld and blur together - might look rather muddy, overall - and your eye wouldn't see so many of the different shapes.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Prairie Wind

Here's another favorite PRAIRIE SCHOOLER design that I stitched up on 18 ct. Davosa fabric, using itty bitty cross stitches. I love to hang up this design when autumn arrives and the leaves are turning colors.

And those squirrels! I've stitched these squirrels with fuzzy tails - using Rainbow Gallery's Whisper - just to give it a little bit of fun texture.

Speaking of squirrels, my wire-haired pointer Katie loves to chase squirrels. We have a few that live in the oak and cedar trees around my house and she dashes out every morning to check if she can surprise a squirrel nibbling nuts on the front lawn. She's come real close a time or two, but the squirrels always manage to high-tail it up the tree and Katie is left leaping and howling underneath in frustration.

Last Sunday Katie and I were taking our morning walk around the town of Healdsburg, and I spied a squirrel in the tree-lined street far in front of us. It had something very large and furry in its mouth. As we approached (and Katie hadn't seen it yet) I realized the squirrel had one of its large babies in its mouth and seemed to be moving it across the street and up into some other trees.

I stopped far enough away to give it time to move across the street. It had to stop every couple of feet to rest with this big, furry, limp baby in its mouth. I squinted to make sure the baby squirrel was alive - its tail twitched every so often, so I guess it was used to being carried like that... Anyway, it continued travelling bit by bit, up the nearest tree, over onto a roof, then across to a group of trees, presumably to another nest.

As they disappeared into the leafy canopy, Katie and I began to walk again...and I hoped the squirrels had found a safe and happy new home for the approaching winter months.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Prairie Hymn

Like so many of you stitchers, I adore all of the Prairie Schooler designs, and have many of them in my stash. I am drawn not only to their folk art simplicity, but also to their graphic style - which may appear simple, but to me is very elegant and sophisticated. It seems to me, Prairie Schooler patterns are absolute CLASSICS. And by this I mean they stand the test of time. Whether viewed new today, or ten years later, they still delight the eye and are a pleasure to look at - as well as being really fun to stitch, with their limited color palettes and full stitches.

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite designs: these four birds from Prairie Schooler. Instead of stitching them separately on pillows, I wanted to stitch them vertically like a bell pull. But when I finished stitching them I decided not to make a bell pull, but rather, set them in a long frame.

I stitched it on a pale green 18 ct. Davosa fabric, using my Over-One-Tent-Stitch so that it stitched up quicker than cross stitch. Anyway, I love it. And have it hanging in my living room, where I look at it every day....and never get tired of it!

And like many of you, I have a stack of Prairie Schooler patterns that I WILL GET STITCHED (well, that's my plan, and I'm sticking to it).....But even if I just pull them out now and again, and just look through them, they make me happy. And they inspire me to keep stitching - on whatever it is I'm currently working on - so I can (one day) start stitching on yet another Prairie Schooler classic!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Check This Out!

Several months ago, I got a phone call from an enthusiastic guy called Mark Lipinski. He was calling because he had been visiting The Country Sampler in Papillion, Nebraska and bought several of my needlework quilt patterns there. He is also the publisher/editor/owner of a fun new quilting magazine called QUILTER'S HOME, that specializes in all things quilting.

He wanted to show off some of my quilt patterns and asked if he could write an article about my designs.
Of course I said YES! (I'm always tickled pink to have my designs noticed by quilters, since our interests are so similar in many ways.) We chatted some more, and he promised it would appear sometime in the fall. Well, here it is!! Check out the November/December issue of Mark Lipinski's Quilter Home magazine to see the wonderful writeup he gave to my counted canvas quilt patterns.

And you don't have to be a quilter to enjoy this magazine. It's full of really fun articles about fabric, food,and lots of other things that will make you smile and probably laugh a lot, too. (His witty and insightful articles about all types of quilting/fabric/crafty/creative obsessions can also apply to us stitchers as well - you know what I'm talking about...)

Anyway, if you see this magazine in the store, give it a look -- you may find it downright irresistable!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Yankee Pride!

It's been a while, but here's the newest design in my American Quilt Collection.
It's called YANKEE PRIDE, which is actually the real name of the quilt block that inspired it.

I immediately loved the name of the quilt block, and as I stitched this model up, I thought about how many ways the title could be interpreted.

Yankee Pride actually represents all of us, as Americans. It also refers more specifically to the New England area and the Yankees of that particular region. (The rope twist border is a tribute to that sea-faring, ship-building tradition). I chose to use blues and golds as my color scheme in this pattern because Yankee Pride also reminded me of the Federal Army colors (those "damn Yankees") during the Civil War. And those same blue and gold colors evoke for me today the spirit of "the land of the free, and the home of the brave" military men and women of today. (The zig zag chevron border is another tribute to the military bars and stripes found on uniforms.)

And here's the original photo that inspired this design. I found it while flipping through a home decorating magazine. I kept returning over and over to this page, to stare at the quilt. I could immediately see it as a stitched quilt. Well, the rest is history, as they say....

So if you're itchin' to show off some of your own YANKEE PRIDE, grab this pattern and start stitching! (... And while you're stitching, why not give some thought to your own meanings for the phrase "Yankee Pride"...)

Friday, November 2, 2007

It's a Stash Thing...

In order to finish the VINEYARD BOUQUET I showed you yesterday, I needed to go to the local stitchery store to find just the right beads to finish the grape clusters. Not only did I find some beads, but I found some other threads as well. Surprise, surprise. Here's the bag full of goodies I came home with:

You can see the bead assortment I found (for burgundy, gold, pink, and green grapes). Then notice the other threads: a handful of luscious Wildflowers and Waterlilies in teals, blues, orchids and purples....with matching silk Splendor colors.

That's usually how I get started on a new design...I find a bunch of thread types and colors that excite me and match the vision I have in my head. Then I set to work stitching with the different threads, adding or subtracting thread colors and types as I see the design develop on the canvas. For this particular design idea, I wanted more monochromatic threads, and the piece will eventually be done in just one (monochromatic) color, such as teal, blue, orchid or purple.

For now I'll put this pile of threads in a plastic bag for future reference, so when I'm ready to start stitching, all the threads I selected will be ready for me to use. And as you might guess, I have all sorts of stashes of thread bags hidden away in baskets, tins, boxes....the trick is to remember WHERE I put which thread for which project! But you know how it is...it's just a stash thing.

And what makes my "need" for more thread a little bit crazy (even to me) is that my kitchen table is currently covered in piles of hand-dyed threads, like this:

Skeins of pearl cotton threads in size 5, 8, and 12....that I've hand-dyed in lots of yummy colors....because you never can tell - I might just need some more thread one of these days!

...Well, what can I say? It's a stash thing....

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Here's What I'm Working On...

Here's a little sneak peek at something I'm trying to finish up this week.

I'm calling it VINEYARD BOUQUET. I wanted to get back to doing some blackwork again, but do it on 18 ct. canvas this time. I've used a variegated thread (of course) in a autumnal colorway, with burgundy, green and gold accents.

I'm planning to include a few other color choices: a chardonnay version (golds) and a zinfandel version (pinks), because this design would definitely look great in other color combinations. And although I wanted to work on the "old" brown canvas to give it a vintage look, it can also be stitched up on sandstone or eggshell canvas, for a brighter, sunnier look. There are places for beads, too - especially for the grapes....I just don't know how many to add - that'll come at the very end, after all the stitching is done.

And I'm especially pleased with the borders on this one! The rippling ribbon effect is soooo easy and fun to stitch....And the satin ribbon accents that "wrap" the green outer border add a subtle sheen to the plain outer border, making it look rather elegant, plus give it a little extra dimension. And speaking of dimensions, the overall size of this piece is 10.5" x 10.5" on 18 ct. mono canvas.

I'm really lovin' the look of this design, thus far! So I think I'll get back to work on it....Later, Stitchers!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Are You Ready???

Do you have all your Halloween decorations out?
Have you bought plenty of Halloween candy?
Do you have a costume yet?

I've got some pumpkins on the porch, next to several pots of chrysanthemums (gotta have mums around at Halloween...) and I've got an autumnal wreath on the front door. Plenty of candy on hand, too. Although, even though I'm close to the local middle school, I don't get a lot of trick-or-treaters...But I've got plenty of candy (the kind I like, of course, just in case I'm forced to eat it afterwards...ha, ha). And I've even got a bright orange Halloween bandana for my dog Katie to wear, so she can be appropriately dressed for the occasion. (Although the ringing doorbell does start her barking frantically...Who ARE all those STRANGE people coming to the front door?!?...)

And I've got a few Halloween items hanging around the house that I've stitched over the years. It's nice to have another holiday to display our stitchery projects around the house, isn't it? Although I'm missing the HAPPY HALLOWEEN sign shown above. It's currently in New York at a trunk show...so I hope it's making lots of people smile and get in the Halloween spirit. One of the things I forgot to mention in the pattern for HAPPY HALLOWEEN is that the quilt blocks I used in the design are somehow related to the Halloween theme. The block names include: Card Trick, Toad in a Puddle, and Bats in the Belfrey, to name just a few that I can remember...

I do have this other design hanging in my house: HALLOWEEN CATS. Which I think is also very cute. (I've done it on 18 ct canvas, but it can also be worked on Aida cloth or other evenweave fabric.) I meant to send it away as well, but it was the only item I couldn't fit in the box, so I kept it here with me, while the others went winging their way across the country...

Anyway, I hope you're all ready for Halloween...Have a safe and fun evening!

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's Been Crazy Here!

I HAD intended to get more blogging done this fall, but ...OOPS, here it is the end of October and I'm still working at a hand gallop to get lots of other stuff done.

Over the past few weeks I've had to pack up and mail trunk shows to two different needlework shops - at totally different sides of the country. One trunk show is currently displayed at Ladybug Stitches in Bohemia, New York and the other is at Quail Run Needlework in Scottsdale, Arizona. Both shops are primarily painted canvas stores, yet they both requested my designs to show stitchers the fun of doing counted canvaswork.

And I'm pleased to report that the stitchers seem to be enjoying the change of stitching scenery! I've had excited phone calls from both stores saying the patterns are flying out the door. Well, THAT'S what I like to hear....It certainly gives me plenty of satisfaction to know that stitchers are eager to try my designs and maybe find a new needlework passion - in COUNTED CANVASWORK!
I always tell people that counted canvaswork is EASY...I mean, come on, who doesn't know how to count? And that's really all you need to do -- thread your needle, count (carefully!) and then stitch it on your canvas...It's not so scary -- REALLY!

And just to show you I'm not a TOTAL counted-canvaswork-a-holic, I'm showing you a few of the (ahem, many) painted canvases I have hidden away in my personal stash. (Like I have time to stitch these in addition to my own designs...but that's another story....) The top little canvas was a gift from a stitching friend...who surprised a bunch of her stitching friends with a little Halloween treat like this one! Boy, were we all delighted! Alas, I haven't stitched it up in time for this Halloween...but I'm hoping by NEXT year.....

And when I went into my local stitchery store (The Regal Rabbit in Windsor, CA) I fell in love with this gothicly cute Halloween house. I LOVE HOUSES, and this one sorta reminded me of a mini House of Seven Gables...but at first, I couldn't figure out what the gold curvy thing next to the broomstick was.It looked like the Cheshire Cat's smile to me. But then a friend looked at it and said it might be the handle of a garage door. AHA! Now I see it - it's a two-door garage for the witch's broomsticks. Pretty clever, huh? I've only done a bit of stitching on it - just the black crows (in a sparkly black Ribbon Floss) and the house siding (in a suitably gothic Needle Necessities overdyed floss) but I'm hoping I can get more of this stitched in the next few days....(dream on, Laura...)

And isn't that Halloweeny needle holder CUTE??
I love it - it's just perfect for all those Halloween projects. And it's another gift from a stitching buddy. We stitchers do love our stitching goodies, don't we?

Okay...gotta fly!
(Where's that broomstick when you need it?!?)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

For All You Ribbon Winners...

this quilt's for you.

It's called STATE FAIR, and I was inspired to design it because of all my stitching friends who enjoy entering their stitchery pieces in the local or state fairs every year.

On the pattern I say that "this quilt was inspired by all of the county and state fairs that take place every year throughout the country. It reminds me of all the ribbons that are handed out to everyone who participates and contributes with their pride and hard work - whether it be in the domestic arts, livestock, or atheletic areas."

I tried to work as many ribbon motifs into the piece as I could. And I used a variegated colorway that has red, blue, green, and gold colors - all ribbon colors. And there's some soft gold metallic ribbon stitches added to give some extra sparkle to the piece. Even the "quilted" border has a ribbon banner look. And it was rather fun to stitch. And if you love to bead, there are certainly places to add a few gold beads in the centers of triangles or diamonds....

I also tried something different in this quilt design: I mixed and matched quilt blocks. Instead of repeating the same block four or nine times, I alternated two different blocks, which gives a more complex and sophisticated look. I'm liking the look of this quilt....and plan to do more of this mixed block technique. So stay tuned for more quilt block adventures for your needle and thread!!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

No, I Haven't Fallen Off The Edge of the World....

....I've just been to Texas.
El Paso, to be exact.

Well, not all summer....just for a wonderful weekend, where I taught a fun class for The Counted Thread. I designed a special quilt pattern just for those West Texas stitchers and called it "Basket of Bluebonnets." I looked thru my quilt block resources and found a bunch of quilt blocks that had TEXAS in their name, and then tried to blend them into the quilt design. The two main blocks are called "Texas Cactus Basket" and "Texas Bluebonnet" - you can figure which one is which in the picture....And I even added a few different center block choices, so each stitcher can stitch the block they like best in the center of their quilt! The center blocks choices are called "Texas Tears," "Texas Treasure," and "Texas Puzzle."

I was printing up a batch of these patterns today and got to thinking that it would also look good in other colors, such as red, yellow, pink, and purple. What do you think? Can you see it stitched up in different colors?

Now for the reason I haven't blogged in months: I've been really, really, really BUSY!!! Printing patterns like a woman possessed...then stitching lots of new projects so they're ready for classes, shows, and other looming deadlines. No time to rest, think, or blog....just stitch, stitch, stitch!

Anyway, here's another pattern I had to finish in time for my Texas trip: the next design in the house series.....LONE STAR COTTAGE

That's a little armadillo button down in the corner...(check out a fantastic button website: www.susanclarkeoriginals.com for lots of her great buttons.)

Well, I wish I could sit a spell in that porch rocker, but I've got to get back to printin' and stitchin'...YEE HAW, Y'ALL!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

All Those Lovely Ribbons...

One of my all-time favorite canvaswork designers is Carol Costello.

She was designing the most exquisite things way back in the '80s. (She printed her patterns under the name, Fancy Work & Fantasies.) And I still think they're the classiest and most elegant stitchery I've ever done...even now. I stitched several of her designs, and still love looking at them and marvelling at their intricate beauty. And best of all: THEY WERE SO FUN TO STITCH!!

My sister Diane went to college down in Irvine, California in the '80s. She was in her needlepoint phase back then (she's a fantastic art quilter nowadays...) and when she went looking for a needlepoint store in southern California she found Nantucket West in Costa Mesa. And she discovered Carol Costello, who was teaching classes there. When Diane came home for college breaks, or when I went down to visit her, she would be working on Carol Costello designs and I fell totally in love with whatever project she was doing at the time.

Working on Carol Costello designs opened up a whole new world of canvaswork for me (and I'm sure a lot of other stitchers). All of her designs were counted on canvas, usually on the basic tan canvas, since that was the only "color" available besides white. I, of course, changed the color palette of her designs and stitched with more colors (hers were usually ecru on tan or very pale colors).

In the photo above, the piece in the background was intended to be ecru on tan, but I did it on white canvas in pinks and greens (my all-time favorite color combination). That piece is also rather unique because it is actually a selection of blackwork patterns - but done on 14 ct mono canvas - something REALLY ahead of its time! I have both these pillows on my bed today, and still love looking at them...and they still have things to teach and inspire me...

I remember vividly how much fun I had stitching those Carol Costello designs. In fact, that feeling of stitching something wonderfully different - something intricate and elegant, yet NOT DIFFICULT - has remained with me during all my stitching years. And it has been the benchmark for all the patterns I have designed. I always strive to create patterns that are a delight to the eye but not so difficult that they make you weep in frustration!

The joy of stitching should be just that: A JOY. If it makes you snarl, curse, weep, or fling something across the room, you are NOT having fun. And stitching should always be fun. It should be fun to learn something new; fun to add a new technique to your stitching repetoire; fun to share with friends; and once finished, fun to look at years later and remember how much fun you had creating it....

Thursday, May 3, 2007

And the Next Flower Collage Will Be...

I've had a few emails from stitchers asking how many flower collages I will be designing overall in the Collage series. Well, I was rendered speechless over that question. I'm planning to stitch as many flower collages as there are flowers (which is A LOT!), and for as long as I find them interesting to stitch (which should be forever). I'm guessing that I'll be designing flower collages as long as I continue stitching....(which, God willing, will be a really long while yet...)

But for you flower collage lovers, here's a peek at the latest flower collage that I'm currently stitching right now. Can you guess what the center flower will be?
(Pssst....HINT, HINT: It's the flower in the enhanced/blurred photo above.)

In this new design, I've created another yummy pair of ribbons that are really fun to stitch...

And in the lower left box I've stitched a simple bargello pattern that incorporates the variegated color in the top row of the flower bud (see how the colors move along the rows?)

And in the upper left box, I've created a very simple floral blackwork design (using the variegated thread) that echoes the tiny four-petal flowers found in the real flower.

I also enjoyed creating the large pattern in the upper right box. I wanted an airy lattice foundation (to suggest a garden lattice)....but I used the variegated thread for the foundations stitches (instead of the solid greens) and then added rows of flowers in alternating colors of lavender. Isn't it interesting how the variegated colors of the "latticework" really looks like sun-dappled light on a garden lattice? (And viewed from a distance, that pattern has a rather rich, medieval tapestry look to it...I really like it....)

And I decided to use the newest variegated floss from DMC - their "Color Variations" thread - for the pale background filling. It's a nice, soft watercolory wash of pale blues and lavenders using only 1 ply of the cotton floss in a simple 4-way stitch. (If you are a painted canvas stitcher, you might consider using that very simple 4-way stitch to fill in backgrounds. And you can use 1 or 2 ply of a variegated silk or cotton thread to create a soft, washed look - just like in the photo above.)

Well, that's all for now....time to get back to stitchin' and graphin'!

(P.S.: If you have any favorite flowers you'd like to suggest for future flower collages, let me know.... I'd certainly appreciate hearing your ideas!)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Oh, To Be in California When the Irises are in Bloom...

The irises are blooming now in Northern California.
It's so fun to walk around the neighborhood and see all the colorful irises in bloom. I never can decide which colors I like best - they're all so luscious. And they all seem so fragile, you have to enjoy them while they appear, for they are gone from the garden so soon...

Here's an iris that's blooming in my neighbor's yard. She has drifts of purples, yellows and even some coppery bronze ones that are very different.

And look what I did after playing around with the iris photo in Photoshop... I used one of the artsy effects to create this painterly version of the iris. I just love the effect! It reminds me of a pastel drawing, or maybe a bold watercolor painting...

I can visualize this translated into a quilt, using batik fabric. But I'll have to think about how you could translate this image into a stitchery piece. The blurred edges are so soft and very Monet-like....I'm not sure how you could stitch that effect, but it's worth considering using blobs of color, outlined with light, to create that halo effect...hmmmm.

And as long as I'm mentioning iris, here's one of the first flower collages I stitched: the Bearded Iris Collage. I used a soft variegated thread (Watercolours' Harvest) that had soft apricots and lavenders. Although I stitched it to hightlight the apricot iris, you could certainly use lavender colors to create a lavender iris in the center instead.!
I wish I could stitch it up BOTH ways, to see both versions....(and then of course you could also try a pale cream iris too)...sigh...there's just too many yummy possibilities sometimes, and it's hard to pick just one to stitch...

And because there are so many different types of irises, I'm planning to stitch another iris collage sometime - I'm thinking I'll do a Japanese Iris or my favorite, the Pacific Iris (both flatter flowers that you view from above)....

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 thruout...in 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 half....so 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....)