Friday, September 25, 2009

Summer Sunflowers

Sunflowers are such a summery flower. They evoke pure sunshine and blazing blue skies, don't they? Even here in Healdsburg, there are sunflowers all around town, popping up in yards and along roadsides.

Which reminds me of one of my quilt designs, SUNFLOWER STAR. I named it that because I thought the star block looked like a sunflower.

And a cluster of these blocks looks like a bunch of sunflowers -

especially when you back up and see the whole design:

I imagine this design would look TOTALLY different using another color combination, but frankly, I can't even see anything but bright yellow sunflowers when I look at this design!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Have You Visited the Land of Enchantment?

As long as I was thinking about turquoise projects, I thought I'd share this one with you too:

It's my NEW MEXICO STAR quilt design. (Another one of my favorite turquoise patterns.) And yes, this traditional quilt block really is called "New Mexico Star" and that's why I couldn't resist designing a quilt using it.

It features a Southwestern color palette, including Overture V65, "Tahoe" (which I also used in the TURQUOISE BEAR COLLAGE). Unfortunately, Rainbow Gallery no longer makes the #5 pearl cotton version, but this particular color is still available in a slightly finer thread, Encore, which can be doubled up to match a #5 pearl cotton.

My favorite part of this design is the variegated checkerboard border on the outer edge; and also the crisp zig zag border that was quite fun to stitch as well.

And really, this is such a classic quilt design, it would look equally elegant in lots of other color combinations (can you picture it in a modern red, black and white scheme?!?)....And if I were to stitch this pattern again, I think I'd sneak in some metallic ribbon floss somewhere, to give it even more enchantment...

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Little House

After seeing this pattern on SPINSTER STITCHER'S blog a few weeks ago, I was totally smitten and had to track down the pattern and then stitch it up as fast as I could. (It's "Needlework Shop" by Country Cottage Needleworks.)

I stitched my version on 24 ct. Congress Cloth - light green - with 2 ply of DMC floss and a few variegated threads. Since I actually live in a pale green house with lots of pink flowers around it - and I sit in the front bay window and stitch - it was definitely something I just had to stitch!

(Oh, and of course I changed the text to "I Love Needlework" - which also seemed more appropriate to my little house...)

Anyway, here's a close-up of part of the design and my stitch switcheroos:

To speed up the stitching process, I used a half-cross stitch thruout (instead of a full cross stitch). Then I snuck in various canvaswork stitches, wherever possible, to make the stitching go faster. Like diagonal satin stitching the roof, the steps and the clapboard house; satin stitching all the little leaves; substituting an elongated tied cross for the shutters; whipping up little improvised flowerpots; and using a variegated thread for the brick foundation.

I pass these little substitution ideas on to you, in case you'd like to try your own versions of these sweet little cross stitch patterns. After all, we all know how many wonderful patterns and projects there are out there for us to stitch, and the faster we learn how to stitch them, the MORE projects we can finish! WOO HOO! ON TO THE NEXT!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Little More Flower Nectar, Please

My new little camera (a Canon Power Shot A1000) takes the most amazing macro shots, which I normally focus on flowers. And it's always a thrill to see the pictures up-close on the computer screen, because you never know whether the shots are good or not until they are enlarged.

Here are some shots I took recently of a Tiger Swallowtail sipping nectar from the pink Jupiter's Beard wildflowers that grow all summer long in my garden....

He/She was quite a fluttery fellow skipping from one flower to the next, and while I wanted to get a full shot of its magnificent wings, I also kept getting closer and closer to see just how close a shot I could get. Here are my best shots:

I never imagined I would be taking pictures of butterfly tongues, counting the hairs on a butterfly's wings, or peering into the multi-faceted eyes of insects -- and loving it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Turquoise

While I'm in a turquoise mood, I thought I'd show you more of the TURQUOISE BEAR COLLAGE, which is shown in part in the header photo above.

I actually have a turquoise bear fetish like this one; it was the inspiration for the whole piece, actually. I love all things southwestern, so it was really easy to put this design together, highlighting some of my favorite western things......

Such as Indian blankets,

turquoise and silver jewelry (I was trying to suggest silver concho belts),

and other Indian designs and symbols...

And they all combine to form this Southwestern design:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Along the Turquoise Trail

A stitching friend of mine was asking me about a project she had seen on someone's blog called TURQUOISE TRAIL and wondered if it was one of my designs. Yes, indeed. It's one of my "Impressionist Collection" designs, and I designed it to highlight a southwestern color scheme. My TURQUOISE TRAIL design looks like this:

One of my favorite techniques (which I find endlessly fascinating to play around with) is to stitch the same pattern in different weights of threads (thick and thin) and see what the contrast looks like. Here's the top right corner of TURQUOISE TRAIL -- see how the same pattern looks totally different depending on which type of thread you use?

The "thick" pattern (done in #5 pearl cottons) would look great as a dense filler pattern, let's say a Santa's coat, for instance....while the "thin" version would look as a great background pattern on a painted geometric canvas perhaps.

And here's another trick that's hidden in this design: the center cross motif. When I was stitching up this design, I left the center cross unstitched, waiting to figure out how to finish off the focal point of the whole design. Here's what I finally did:

I used one ply of the variegated thread, and just stitched long diagonal stitches to fill in the cross shape. I tried to create mirror images of each opposing section, carefully using the same thread colors in each section, to create an echo effect. I then filled in the rest of the center with simple diamond borders, finishing up with a small Rhodes Star in the center. I could also have put a jewel in the center, if I wanted a sparkly center. What amazed me, after I stitched this cross, was how three-dimensional it looked, all due to the variegated thread - and that was a complete surprise, but a very pleasant one, I must admit!

(Oh, and if you're curious to view another version of my TURQUOISE TRAIL and see how another stitcher totally changed the color palette (she chose gold and raspberry), look at the STITCHLADY'S WEBLOG, and click on her WIP project box, then scroll down to TURQUOISE TRAIL to see her photo & progress.)

(P.S.: If any of you stitchers out there have stitched this design in different colors, please send me photos...I would love to post them for other interested stitchers to oogle!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Rare Mood I'm In

I find myself in a rare mood these days... called "I'm Really Sick of Looking at Them, So Let's Pull Out Those Old Projects and Finally Get Them Finished Right Now!"
(Have you been there? Do you know what I mean? Can you relate?!?)

Suffice to say, I'm not the kind of stitcher that stitches one project at a time. HA. Far from it. As far as I'm concerned, starting new stitching projects is one of my all-time favorite things to do (right up there with eating chocolate and buying new threads.).

ANYWAY.... when the mood hits to actually finish some of those projects, I realize the rarity of the event, and I go with the flow and focus, focus, focus on finishing - before that fickle mood passes. And then of course, I can enjoy the finished project -- at long last - which give me immense satisfaction (not to mention justification to start more new projects).

Here's a project I had started a year ago and only had this much of it stitched, before I set it aside and it got "lost" in the project pile... (I think I even showed you a picture of it in a post and asked you to guess what the central flower would be):

I wanted to use sky blues and apple greens; create a bit of gingham ribbon; sprinkle in some fun blackwork floral motifs; and surround it all in a simple scalloped border. Often times, when I get all the separate parts of the design stitched, I can actually "see" the finished project in my mind's eye, and at that point, I lose interest in stitching the rest of it.

So...I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled this project out again this summer and continued working on it and realized how much fun it was to stitch. It was one of those projects where I enjoyed stitching each and every border - they were not too hard, not too tedious, and not too slow. IT WAS JUST RIGHT FOR A FUN SUMMER PROJECT.

Then I sat down and drew the center basket of blue hydrangeas so I could stitch them in the middle of the design. I waffled a bit between drawing a whole basket of flowers or just one individual mophead flower. (The basket version won, since it made a nice companion piece to my earlier PINK CYCLAMEN.) Here's the center basket, done in fresh blues and greens, with a tiny bit of periwinkle/purple:

And even though these flowers were tent stitched with 2 ply of DMC floss, it wasn't as tedious as I imagined. I just stitched them while watching tv and the time passed wonderfully....

So - TA DA! - here's the finished project, called BLUE HYDRANGEAS:

It's stitched on 24 ct. eggshell Congress Cloth, and the finished size is 10.5" by 10.5". It uses #8 pearl cotton for all the borders (with two fine metallics used sparingly), and then floss for the central picture. There's even a sprinkling of beads in a few of the borders.

So, happily, this pattern is now available on my website.
(And I'm on to finishing my next project. WOO HOO!....)