Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Be Thankful

Here's a special song for you to sing during the season (or any time you need to fall asleep with a smile on your face...although you may get so happy you'll have to get up and stitch on something - grin).

(To be sung to the tune, "COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS", with my apologies to Mr. Irving Berlin for playing around with his wonderful lyrics.)

"When you're worried and you can't sleep,
Just count your projects instead of sheep,
And you'll fall asleep, counting your projects.

When your thread stash is getting small,
Just think of when you had none at all,
And you'll fall asleep, counting your projects.

I think about my craft room,
And I picture drawers of thread;
And one by one, I count them -
Blues and golds and greens and reds....

Soooooooo, if you're worried and you can't sleep,
Just count your projects instead of sheep,
And you'll fall asleep.........


Monday, November 23, 2009

Prairie Song

When I posted my last Friday Flowers showing bright pink and orange flowers, it reminded me of a canvas I bought on ebay a few years ago. So I pulled it out of the closet and made a color copy of it for future reference (following my own good advice). It's an older Charley Harper design that I had never seen before:

Frankly, it knocked my socks off. I don't know what it was... the pink and orange cone flowers, the hidden bird's nest, the praying mantis, or just the combination of all those things that created a lovely slice of the prairie... regardless, I was totally smitten and had to get it.

It's a really long piece - 7.5" by 25" - and I have JUST the spot for it on one of my living room walls. I've collected bits and pieces of materials for it - the long stretcher bars, just the right color of pink and orange ribbon for the flowers.... but I still can't decide if the cone flowers should have french knots in their centers or beads - the jury is out on that decision....

I won't be stitching it any time soon (it feels like a summertime project to me and I'm deep into Christmas stuff these days) but it's fun to pull out and look at from time to time. Just a tantalizing reminder of all sorts of fun projects still waiting to be stitched....

(Do you have a few of those types of projects hidden back in your closet? Why not dig them out and look them over... It's a good way to put a smile on your face, whet your stitching appetite, and remind you again why you love this stuff!!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Flowers - Pink and Orange

There's something about the color combination of bright pink and orange flowers that just makes me smile!

Hope you have a colorful weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BACK to You!

Addendum: Regarding the mesh back support thingy I mentioned in my last post, I did a quick online search and found the same sort of product listed at TARGET, WALMART, and KMART - all for differing prices.... so you can try looking at those stores too!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Check This Out!

I had lunch with my sister last week, and she was telling me about the latest gizmo that her quilting friends are talking about. It's a light-weight back support that helps ease back strain for all of us sitting and working on our craft projects.

Here's what it looks like:

My sister happened to find them at Walgreens (one for $4.00, or 3 for $10.00) and so she got one for me to try as well.

As you all know, we stitchers spend A LOT of time hunched over our projects - on frames or bars or floor stands - and we get soooo focused on our work we forget about our straining back muscles. And then we we get up to move around and ... OUCH! (Sound familiar?)

Anyway, I've been using this neato back support thingy all weekend, carrying it around and moving from office chair to sofa to kitchen seat and I'm really lovin' it! It provides constant back support for a variety of seating positions. Boy, I didn't realize what a difference a little back support could do for my back. (If backs could smile, mine would be smiling a mile wide!) And at this price, I may have to get another one for my office chair.

So, I pass this timely tip on to you, my fellow stitchers - just in time for our big Stitching-Frenzy-Into-the-Holidays-Season and hope you can find one of these really nifty things in your area. (Trust me, you'll enjoy stitching even MORE with one of these at your back....)

Happy Strain-free Stitching!
(and thanks for the support, Sis!!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Autumn Blessing

For brightly feathered pheasants

And wild turkeys strutting through piney forests

For brisk walks with a four-legged companion through crunching leaves,

But most importantly, time for stitching new autumn projects... Oh, joy!

(These are my latest finishes from the Prairie Schooler "FALL FIELDS."
I've stitched them on 24 ct. Congress Cloth using a simple Basketweave Stitch, squared them up a bit to fit in a small frame, run a quick backstitched outline, and used a few quick long stitch embellishments to add a little texture.)

Hope you enjoy a cozy November weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Anatomy of a Project: Preparing the Canvas

I told you earlier about the Mt. Tam Canvas Workers auction I attended. Well, here's one of the canvases I impulsively bid on and won. It came with thread, stretcher bars, and a zippered pouch to stash everything in. And all for under $40 - WHAT A DEAL!

This little 6" x 6" canvas is so cute, I want to start stitching on it PRONTO. But first, I have to do some canvas prep work. And I thought I'd share a few of my techniques with you.

[ASIDE: I know most of you already use these same techniques, but recently I answered an email from a stitcher who was attempting her first needlepoint canvas and had some very basic questions about starting out. So I thought this would be a good project to prepare using some basic tips.]

FIRST: If you're working on a painted canvas, here's a really good tip before you start stitching: MAKE A COLOR COPY OF YOUR CANVAS. Why bother? Well, it may save you some headaches down the road. Take this hotel canvas, for instance.

I've made a color copy that I can use to write my notes - showing what threads and stitches I'm going to use on my canvas. This creates a really good road map for your work in progress. (This can be especially valuable if you set the project aside and forget about it for a few months or so. When you pick it up again, you'll remember what you were going to do.) And as you're stitching, it reminds you what the canvas looked like before you started.

But the more important reason to have a copy of the canvas to refer to happens when you layer stitches. Look at those flower boxes on the canvas above. I'm planning to do some irregular stitches (lazy daisies, maybe?) for all the leaves. After I'm done with all the greenery, how will I remember where to put the flowers on top??Well, with my color copy to refer to, I can place the red flowers on top to match the original design of the canvas.

Okay, now you're ready to mount your canvas to stretcher bars. First, I recommend putting the bars together in L-shaped pairs, then put the two L-shapes together to form a square frame. (This is the way I learned to put stretcher bars together in art classes, and it's always worked better than assembling the frame one piece at a time and getting a wobbly shape instead of a true square.) Then make sure your bars ARE square (I test it against the square edge of a table and push it into a true square if I need to.)

NEXT, attach the canvas to the squared-up frame. Most stitchers use tacks (although I've also used a staple gun) so we'll use tacks here, too. Tacks are very handy: they are reusable, which is great AND you can take them out and reposition them if/when your canvas gets a bit loose.

As the above photo shows, start on one side first (I did the bottom edge first - putting my first tack in the CENTER of the canvas edge. Then I placed the remaining tacks first along the left side (pulling the canvas a bit to make it taut), then along the right side (pulling it a bit to make it taut). [ASIDE: You can use as many tack as makes you happy. I usually put a tack every 2-3 inches, depending on the canvas size, but I've seen stitchers put tacks every 1/2 inch... just depends on your personal preference.]

Then, I move to the edge OPPOSITE the first side, placing the first tack in the center (as shown above) and then continue tacking one side down, then moving over to the other side. I repeat this process with the two remaining canvas edges. I test to see if the canvas is taut enough for my stitching. If it isn't, I remove a few tacks and replace them so the canvas is taut enough. When I'm sure the tacks are properly placed, I'll push them further into the wooden bars. I'm ready to stitch!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vineyard Colors

Instead of my usual Friday Flowers, I want to show you some of the gorgeous leaf colors on the various grapevines that are scattered throughout Healdsburg. They look like they've been lovingly hand-painted by small fairies during the night, don't they? Their stained-glass colors are a wonder to behold and I love looking at them up-close.... Prepare to be dazzled!!

(Are you feeling a little drunk on color??... hiccup...I AM!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More Fall Color...

Continuing with more of my patterns that have an autumnal feel to them, I'm going to show you my MALLARD DUCK COLLAGE (which uses that variegated Watercolours 10, Fiesta):

(I mean, really...when you look at this, can't you just feel the crunch of leaves under foot?...and hear the quacking and flapping of ducks rising above the water?)

This one is actually a sampler with lots of interesting stitches. I wanted to design something that would be suitable for the autumn season beyond Halloween, so I created RUSTY O'TOOLE:

Here's an easy fall sampler that has utilizes lots of variegated blackwork - all done on 18 ct's called AUTUMN LEAVES:

And here's a design that has a decidedly southwestern feel to it, appropriately titled SEDONA SUNRISE:

I even have some autumnal kimonos.... Here's AUTUMN LEAF KIMONO:


And we'll finish with something I see a lot of in my neck of the woods -- vineyards! Here's my VINEYARD BOUQUET, which celebrates the colors that appear in the rolling hills around Healdsburg:

Well, I hope that gets you into the mood for stitching something in those lovely autumn colors....(and oh, yes...the row of pumpkins in my blog banner are from another fall design of mine called PUMPKIN HARVEST!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Time for Falling Leaves

It's that time of year when leaves are turning all sorts of lovely colors. How can you not notice the beauty of the trees, as they put on their show of changing colors? To celebrate this season, I thought I'd share some of my autumnal patterns with you.
Here's a quilt design called FALLING LEAVES

It's been a very popular design...and a bit of a challenge to stitch, with all those swirling quilt blocks! But I love the "feather-stitched" ecru border, and then that outer border of triangle "geese" blocks is always a favorite of mine. (Notice that the geese triangles are stitched with a variegated thread - Watercolours 10, "Fiesta", so the color changes create a nice surprise...)

And here's another popular quilt, MAPLE LEAF (also done in Watercolours 10, Fiesta, although I've also stitched it in forest greens and cranberry for a different look):

And of course there's INDIAN SUMMER

followed by INDIAN AUTUMN (they both use Watercolours 168, "Rainforest" which has more muted autumnal colors):

Here's FOUR WINDS, which I also consider a fall-ish design, too. (And yup, that variegated thread in there is good old Watercolours 10, Fiesta):

I'll finish showing the rest of my fall designs in my next post...stay tuned...