Friday, October 31, 2008


Hope your Friday is filled with happy tricks and treats!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Indian Summer

I don't know what the weather is like in your neck of the woods, but here in Healdsburg, Indian Summer has definitely arrived. The days are bright and sunny, the air has the tangy snap that reminds me of apple cider, and the light thru the trees is as golden as poured honey.

A few years ago, I designed the above quilt pattern, INDIAN SUMMER. It's been a very popular pattern with stitchers. I can't decide if it's because of the colors -- or the intricate pattern. Probably both. Anyway, it's one of the designs I never get tired of looking at. [And I must confess, I just love those "wild geese" triangles; they've always been my favorite quilt patterns... And since this design combines those triangles with the ever-popular "lone star" how can any stitcher or quilter resisit it?!?]

Anyway, it occurred to me that it would be fun to design a companion piece to it, using the same variegated thread (Watercolours' "Rainforest"). Here's what that new piece looks like so far:

You can see how I stitch up these models: first, I work all the variegated and solid pearl colors; after the colors are balanced to my satisfaction, I switch my focus to the background colors. [Really, it's just like creating a fabric quilt: first, you focus on creating the pieced quilt top; then, you decide which quilting pattern you will put on top of your quilt -- thus these stitched quilts have the same multi-dimensional effect as a real quilt... except with stitching, we have the added pleasure of the changing light on the directional sheen of pearl cotton threads.] You can see in the lower areas that I've started stitching the intersecting diamond shapes in a darker gold floss. I'll work all the darker gold areas next; then everything that's left will be filled with the final light gold floss color.

I create all my quilt designs that way: focusing on each type of thread at a time. I guess I prefer counting out all the main parts of the quilt first; then when I get to stitching the background areas, I don't have to do that much counting -- it's basically just filling in the blank spots. That makes it easy to stitch while watching tv or stitching in a group when you can talk and stitch at the same time!

Oh, yeah....I'm calling this design: INDIAN AUTUMN. And as you can see, I'm on the home stretch...just have to finish the background and then I'll be ready to write up the instructions for this pattern.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another Border Idea...

While I'm thinking about different ways to finish a piece with borders, I want to show you this one:

This is from a large piece called "SPIRIT OF THE SOUTHWEST" by Susan Portra. (I didn't scan the whole piece; just a section of it). I stitched it many years ago, using my favorite Southwestern adobe and turquoise colors.

What I want to show you is the way I finished the border on this piece. The instructions show the angled ECRU borders as the finished edge of the piece. If you've ever seen this piece stitched up and framed (and absolutely GORGEOUS, of course), it usually has a custom-cut mat that has all the triangular sections cut, so that the mat fits snug against the angled outside edges.

Well, I didn't want to mat the piece that I came up with another way to finish the piece so it would fit within a plain square-cut mat. I decided to TENT STITCH inside each triangle shape with a medium-dark color (so the background would recede a bit) and then add a simple string motif (or jessica, if you prefer) that echoes the various jessica elements in the overall design. Here's a closeup of those sections:

I think the extra tent stitching was worth it. I created a background against which the Southwest design could stand out. And I still finished off the piece in an unusual way, without having to have expensive double or triple mats cut.

I share this idea with you, just in case you might have an unusual geometric design that you want to finish in a different manner. When in doubt, consider STITCHING your borders or backgrounds, to show off the rest of your work!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Feeling A Little Batty?

It's that time of year when stitchers start to get a little batty... or even a little witchy... Yup. It's that wonderfully purple and orange time of year: HALLOWEEN!

Time for all us stitchers to look thru our stashes and pull out our fun Halloween canvases.... or grab those purple, orange and lime green threads and start to work on a fun and/or spooky stitching project!

In keeping with the spirit of the season, I've posted a free little Halloween project on my website: under the FREE PATTERNS page. It's my CATS & BATS freebie. Check it out!

Here's the story about this little bat: A few years ago, when I was going to local quilt and craft shows, I would design a little freebie handout for the shoppers passing by my booth. I made this little bat design into a pin that I could wear (I turned it on point, and added a pin back). It was a very fun and easy project. Other stitchers even stitched just the outer border, and then added a fun fimo, porcelain, or wood button in the center - a very cool way to show off a special Halloween button!

I stitched this 3" x 3" design on lavender 18 ct. canvas, but any color would work. And while I used #5 pearl cottons, you could also use 3-4 ply of floss if you prefer.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the pattern with you (there's also a black cat that you can stitch in the center, if you prefer cats to bats) you too can whip up a new little project just in time for Halloween!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mystery Border Revealed!

Have you heard about the Shining Needle Society? Have you joined yet? A stitching friend told me to check it out and after I saw all the luscious designs they were offering, I joined too. It's a society of stitchers (it's free to join) that enjoy talking about their stitching obsession. And best of all, they offer special cyber classes by wonderful designers who will certainly inspire you to great creative heights!

One of those designers is Gay Ann Rogers. I got a look at her recent cyber class, MYSTERY IN A CORNER, and was totally smitten. I had to stitch this project and was as excited as anybody to see where this project was going. The really fun part was deciding on the colors of your project. Everyone was encouraged to try their own combinations - in fact, that was one of the primary missions of the project. There was plenty of discussion (and I'm sure a lot of angst) about what colors to choose...

But I was in one of my springtime green-and-purple moods, and chose to work the MYSTERY in this color combination:

This is the completed project. Isn't it a stunning geometric design? And Gay Ann even gave us stitchers several stitch options so that we could mix and match our own side elements and motifs.... The idea being that we could create our own unique design in the process.

Well, after I finished stitching this MYSTERY, I left it on its stretcher bars and hung it on my office wall, where I've been staring at it for many weeks. To my border-obsessed eye, I realized I REALLY, REALLY wanted to put a border around this design, but wasn't sure what KIND of border it should have. I spent a lot of time staring at this piece, trying to visualize what kind of border it should have.

And here's what I finally came up with:

Instead of having triple mats cut in unusual (and extremely expensive) shapes, I decided to stitch my mat lines (remember those simple Dutch pieces I showed you earlier?) - similar to quilting lines - and by so doing, echo the rather Art Deco (or maybe opulent Edwardian) look of this piece. Using radiating lines around any geometric design is a good trick to remember, if you want to finish it off in an unusual way.

The thin radiating lines are done with a fine metallic thread. The green border is really just parts of the main design that I enjoyed stitching and thought I would repeat along the outside. I've never done a telescoping border (where it varies width) so that was a fun learning experience for me.

Does this border go to far? Is it too ornate? Maybe... Maybe not. I just wasn't happy putting a simple border on a visually complex piece such as this, so I opted to try a much more intricate border. But, ultimately, my border-obsessed eye is now satisfied. My version of the MYSTERY IN A CORNER is finished. I'm happy. (And that means I can start something new! Woo Hoo!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crossing the Border Line

Here are a few more border ideas that I wanted to share with you.

First, I want to show you one of my favorite designs by Diane Evans of Something Different, called "A Third Diane's Delight 2".....

I LOVE this design! (I love all of Diane's designs; they are all different and totally unique, but this one really "sang" to me and so I had to stitch it up.)

I met Diane at several of the CATS Festivals and we had a great time chatting about stitching. I asked her how she came up with these gorgeous designs and she told me that she gets bored doing repetitive stitching, so she just starts stitching and then changes the elements as she works. And VOILA! Something very different is created.

After I stitched up this design, I left it on the stretcher bars and stared at it for a long time. To me, something was missing. And being the border-obsessed stitcher that I am, I finally realized what would make ME happy was a BORDER around this piece. I agonized about what type of border would work on such an asymetrical design, and then finally decided to try something different.... I added this one:

While the central piece was stitched with Waterlilies silk, and had a simple variegated border line, I decided to CROSS THE BORDER and stitch the same internal patterns on the outside, but I used the thicker #5 Watercolours. And look what an unusual border it makes!

By adding a darker, heavier border that echoed the internal colors and patterns, I was able to "corral" the original design with a border that - I think - only reinforces the beauty of the central design. And also notice what happens when you add a darker border to the pale central area. Doesn't it create a wonderful sense of depth?

Just think of how you might use this technique on other counted canvas designs...or better yet, pull out some of your painted canvases and see how you can add this technique around the border of a canvas. Try extending your internal colors and patterns over a simple border line - darkening and thickening (or perhaps even lightening) the colors of the original design.

P.S.: I made an unintentional mistake on my last post. I referred to a stitching magazine called ARIADNE and said it was Danish. So Sorry! It was a Dutch magazine and published in The Netherlands. Thank you, Blog Reader, for correcting my boo-boo. (If you ever come across old issues of that magazine, look thru them. They are truly fabulous!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Simple Little Border

I thought I'd talk a little bit about putting borders around your stitching projects. There are so many creative ways to finish off your hand-stitched pieces, that it always helps to have more options to consider than just matting.

Many years ago, when I was doing lots of cross-stitching, I came across a Danish stitching magazine called ARIADNE. Even though the whole magazine was in Danish, the designs were so beautiful, they didn't need much translation. I was particularly smitten by their botanical designs. They seemed much more sophisticated than our early American patterns; and that might be expected, since Scandanavian stitchers have been doing cross-stitch for many, many years.

What also struck me, as I poured over every issue I could get my hands on, was how simply they finished off their needlework pieces. It was a huge revelation to me! They simply added a stitched line around the central image. Look at the mushroom piece above. See how they stitched a cross-stitch border - skipping every other space - around the grouping. Doesn't it create a lovely, yet elegant border?

Here's another small but pleasing Danish piece:

Again, a simple cross-stitch border line in a neutral color works to set of the central design, and by creating a wide border of the same fabric, gives the piece the LOOK of a mat, but without the cost of actually cutting one to fit. The advantage of using this technique is two-fold: it saves you money, yes...but more importantly, it also creates a very calming border area that doesn't detract from the stitched center. As you look at the photos above, notice how well that white border space keeps your eye focused on the stitchery in the middle.

Here in America, we tend to do a LOT of matting - single, double, triple and even all sorts of custom-shaped matting. But as these two Danish pieces illustrate, sometimes LESS can definitely be more pleasing to the eye.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Something Told the Wild Geese..."

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered -- "Snow."
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned - "Frost."
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly --
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

- Rachel Field

Did you read this poem when you were in school? I did; it was one of my childhood favorites. And it came to mind when I designed this MALLARD DUCK COLLAGE.

It was also brought to mind by the "V"s of Canada Geese that are starting to appear more frequently overhead, heading south or south-east over Healdsburg. Every time I hear the geese honking above, I rush outside to see them, wishing them a safe journey to wherever they are headed. Although, there are small groups of geese that winter over here in Healdsburg, wherever there are small lakes or parks.

Speaking of migrating geese, I was driving down Hwy 101 to Santa Rosa, and glancing over at the acres of grape vineyards lining the freeway, I saw a small group of Canada Geese just standing between the rows of grape vines. Do you suppose they were nibbling on the ripe grapes, just before they were harvested? What a beautiful sight it was - I wished I had my camera with me to take that unusual shot!

[Visit my website: to see the new MALLARD DUCK COLLAGE and its list of materials.]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hello, Autumn!

Here's an autumn bouquet in blues and golds,
to usher in the shorter days and cooler nights;
A time to get ready for falling leaves, football games,
and pumpkins on the porch...

Monday, October 13, 2008


I've just received a special "I Love Your Blog" award from Sunflower Crossing.

May I say here that what makes it EXTRA special to me is knowing that cross-stitchers are finding and reading my blog - which is mostly about counted canvaswork (i.e.: needlepoint!). So: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
It also makes me glad (and proud) to realize that all of us stitchers - no matter what TYPE of stitching we do - are related by a shared passion for our needlework. And no matter how far apart we may be in miles, we are truly close to one another in our hearts and spirits...all because of our love of stitching! Isn't it AMAZING??

We know first-hand how powerful a tiny needle and piece of thread can be, because they have touched and perhaps even changed all our lives, haven't they?

Well, according to the rules of this award:

1. The winner can put the logo on her blog.
2. Link the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs of those you’ve nominated.

Well, you know how hard THAT is - I love to read all the blogs posted on the right. Most times I just start at the top, and hop down the list, checking in and reading what all those stitchers are doing...So I'm just gonna close my eyes and stab a random seven, because I enjoy them all SOOO much, and they ALL inspire me to smile and keep stitching!

Here's my list (in no particular order):

It's Not Your Grandmother's Needlepoint
Tintock Tap
Spinster Stitcher
Happy Stitcher
Create Needlepoint

P.S. to all you Cross-Stitchers (and you know who you are!): Thank you for reading my counted canvas blog. I hope it inspires you to try some counting on CANVAS one of these days (if you haven't done it already.) It makes a nice change from making all those little xxxxxxx's, don't you know! ....

Friday, October 10, 2008

California's Gold Country

Last weekend, I traveled up to the Gold Country to teach a class at Kelsey's Needle Krafts, in Placerville, California. It all came about as a result of meeting so many nice stitchers from the Placerville area when I taught this summer at Asilomar, and they in turn, asked their local stitchery store (Kelsey's, which is owned and run by Sue Rees) to invite me up to teach a one-day class.

I asked my mom to come with me, so I'd have some company on the trip. We traveled down from Healdsburg (in the Northern California Wine Country), across thru Sacramento (the central valley of California), and then up into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains - which is generally known as "The Gold Country". [Travel time from Healdsburg to Placerville, including a stop for much-needed iced coffee and several unbelievable traffic slowdowns: 4+ hours.]

On Saturday, I spent the day teaching a specially-designed California Poppy project to a wonderful bunch of Placerville ladies. It was a large group: about 20 stitchers in the back of Sue Rees' shop. And boy, did we have a good time! It's always fun to share your passion with like-minded people, isn't it? (It just makes stitching all the more fun, when you get to share it with others....) In any event, the day went by very fast, and by the end of the class, I was pleased to see that all the stitchers had their projects started and well underway (which always makes me feel good, too).

The next day, Sunday, Mom and I decided to take the scenic route back home and headed down Hwy 49, which meanders thru lots of charming Gold Country towns.

Our first stop was Coloma, where gold was first discovered, on the banks of the American River.

[ASIDE: Every Gold Rush town seems to have its own self-proclaimed title, and Coloma is no exception. It's called the "Golden Stepping Stone to the Gold Country". Which makes perfect sense, since it WAS the start of the whole Gold Rush. Other town titles I recall are: Nevada City - Queen of the Northern Mines" and Sonora - "Queen of the Southern Mines".]

Anyway, above is a shot of the American River, and then about 100 yds above it, Sutter's sawmill, where James Marshall found the first pieces of gold glinting in the water that had been diverted up to the mill.

After wandering around the site for a while (it's a state park now), looking at the various small and primitive buildings, we decided to go up in the hills above the river to see James Marshall's cabin, his burial site, and a REALLY BIG monument commemorating his discovery.

Here are photos of his monument (presumably Marshall is pointing down to the river and his gold discovery..."Yessirrree, that's where it allll started, folks... That spot right down there...")

You can't tell from these up-close photos,



I TOLD you it was a REALLY BIG monument!!

And then we got back in the car, and traveled down, down, down, along the twisty turny American River, thru the tiny town of Cool (which was actually very hot) until we finally arrived in Auburn. [Since I was driving and had BOTH HANDS ON THE WHEEL AT ALL TIMES, I wasn't able to take any more pictures, but trust me, it was a very windy steep road down and then back up to Auburn.] Back to Hwy 80, the big major highway that turns east - up to Lake Tahoe - or, in our case, west - back down to Sacramento, and ultimately, back home to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stitchers, BEWARE!

Thank you, Blog Readers, for you kind comments about my newly-finished HOUSE AT CROW CORNERS. To answer your questions:

~ The whimsical painted canvas comes from Dream House Ventures (Vickie Hastings, designer). The finished size is approximately 7" by 8" on 18 ct. canvas.

~ As many of you may relate to, I was so focused on COMPLETING the piece, I didn't really give much thought to HOW I was going finish it once the stitching was done.

~ As Coni suggested, it certainly would make a cute stand-up project...if I wanted to do all that work. Nope. I decided to frame it - my usual fast and easy finishing technique. (I cut mat board to fit the piece, then lace it up in both directions using long pieces of #5 pearl cotton.)

[And here's My Secret Finishing Tip #1: Periodically, I check my local discount stores for frames. I especially look for square frames, but often times you can get good long narrow frames too...I ignore the image, the matting and the glass...and just look for interesting frames. If they're on sale because the glass is cracked, so much the better. I don't put my stitchery behind glass. Now I have quite a stash of frames, so I went looking for a dark frame to fit this house, and lo and behold, I had the perfect dark frame with bronze accents.]

(Okay, stitchers, are you sitting down?!? This is going to shock you, so BEWARE of what comes next!!...)

[My Secret Finishing Tip #2: Occasionally, when I don't want to stitch a background on a canvas, I'll color it with colored pencils. Yes, you heard right - I use colored pencils. I can hear your collective gasp out there....Yup. Colored. Pencils. Scribbled. Directly. On. The. Canvas. (Quick! Grab your smelling salts, ladies!)]

Here's my process: Sometimes, I'll color right up against the stitched image - like a santa, for instance - and then fade out to the borders. Yes, you have to be really careful not to brush up against the stitching. But once you get over the shock of coloring on the canvas, you get a little braver, and that's when I start overlaying different colors.

In the photo above, I used greens, oranges and golds, starting softly and then building up pressure and darkness around the outer edges. I was aiming for a spooky forest look, and I think it does look like an illustration in a storybook. You can smear the pencil colors with your fingers, or a bit of rag to soften/blur the colors. And then I went back over in bolder marks to increase the look of scratchy scribble lines. Above, you can just see some orange, gold, and green lines in the shadowy areas.

And yes, I do sort of hold my breath while doing this because I don't want to get carried away and end up with a muddy mess. But at some point, as I'm carefully scribbling away, I say to myself, " oh, well, in for a dime, in for a dollar" and just go to it. Worse case scenario: if I hate it, I can cut a close mat for it and cover most of it. (And, before you ask: I don't use any fixatives, but I don't rub my fingers all over it, either. And I don't expect these pieces to be sent to any museum or last for two hundred years, so I really don't worry about the wearability of this coloring process. These fun pieces are for my enjoyment only and I don't expect them to last forever....)

So there..... now you know some of my most PRIVATE and SHOCKING finishing secrets. Do with them what you will....if you are brave enough to give them a try....ha, ha, ha...

Monday, October 6, 2008

The House at Crow Corner

Here's a canvas I purchased last autumn. I saw it at my local needlework shop, REGAL RABBIT, and immediately fell in love with it. (I JUST LOVE HOUSES - of practically any kind or color - and find them impossible to resist. sigh.)

I started stitching on it last year, but you know how, sometimes, when you reach a certain area of a painted canvas and you can't figure out what to do, it stops you in your tracks and you lose your stitching momentum? So you set the canvas aside, start stitching something else, and consequently, forget all about it until you pull it out later and decide to tackle the problem area? (Can you RELATE to that? hmmm??)

Well, that's what happened to me. I was going along, happily stitching the variegated clapboards, and tent stitching all the cute stained-glass windows...when I got to the roof area and just....STOPPED. The roof areas were so small, they couldn't handle large overlapping shingle patterns, or even offset cashmeres....So I put the canvas away and forgot about it.

Until THIS year, when I pulled it out again and determined to finish it by October.

Sooo, I had to figure out what to do with the roof. I settled on tent stitching the background, but first placing little random scotch stitches. It gives enough of a discreet pattern to suggest a patched roof, without overwhelming the little house.
(Actually, it kinda looks like the roof has lots of warts, doesn't it?) But I'm pleased with it. And also pleased that it got me over the hateful HUMP and allowed me to continue stitching on the rest of it.

And check out the two-broom garage! Isn't that a hoot?

And of course, once I had all the stitching done, I had to figure out how to deal with the little colored "dots" that were sprinkled in the sky - were they supposed to be falling leaves, or pieces of candy (my preference)? Anyway, beads were the answer - in muted autumn leaf colors. So I went to a bead store in Santa Rosa and found some great beads! But THEN, to put on the falling beads, I needed totally invisible thread, right? So I rummaged around in my old sewing stuff and pulled out some invisible quilting thread and used that. Perfect!

Well, I'm pleased with everything: the roof, the beads that suddenly look like piles of leaves, the crows and even the smoke swirls coming out of the chimneys (I added that, so it looks like someone is home. I also added a black cat charm.) And, best of all, I got it finished it plenty of time to display for October! Woo Hoo!