A very inspiring award

Just when you least expect it, the nicest thing can happen to you. I was minding my own business last night, watching “The Bachelorette” (try not to judge, even if you really want to) in between bursts of finishing the quilting on my Atomic Apps quilt.

I decide to take a quick look at my mail and saw a message from Erin at Crosstitchery telling me that she’s nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

very-inspiring-bloggerTo say I’m gobsmacked by this doesn’t begin to do my feelings justice. Erin, thank you so much. I am truly humbled by this honor.

There are a few requirements that go along with this nomination:

  1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Share seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know that they are nominated.
  5. Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger that nominated you.

Having had to come up with 25 things for Stephanie and our Supernova Friendship Block Swap, finding seven is easy:

  1. My favorite place on earth is the beach.
  2. On a rainy afternoon, there’s nothing I like better than stretching out on my couch under a blanket with a cuppa and a good book.
  3. My three favorite animals are cats, elephants and whales. Unfortunately, I can only keep one of them.
  4. I love all kinds of music and have sung semi-professionally.
  5. I love old movies. One of my favorites is “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” with Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney.
  6. I am seriously addicted to oatmeal and eat it for breakfast every morning. Sometimes even for a late night snack as well.
  7. I love the adventure of going to new places. I hope to cross Australia off my bucket list one day.

Here are my blogging nominations (in no particular order):

  1. Tallgrass Prairie Studio
  2. Late Night Quilter
  3. House on Hill Road
  4. Buzy Day
  5. Christa Quilts
  6. From the Blue Chair
  7. Wasn’t Quilt in a Day
  8. Wombat Quilts
  9. Cross Stitch Bobobitch Mononitch
  10. Simplify
  11. Lollyquiltz
  12. CraftyPod
  13. Don’t Call Me Betsy
  14. Freshly Pieced
  15. Film in the Fridge

I hope you’ll check out these other great blogs. They are definitely where I get daily inspiration!



Finished: for Abe and George

In honor of Presidents’ Day today, I have a little cross-stitch I finished yesterday that really encompasses both “Honest” Abe Lincoln and George “I cannot tell a lie” Washington:

honesty2This was another quickie, but the funny part (at least to me) is that I had this finished, all except for the G in my initials and the date, by late November. I’ve never done that with cross stitch or any other craft, i.e., gotten so close to the finish line and stopped short.

My reason? A pretty stupid one. I wasn’t sure I liked the G butting up against the L, but I also didn’t feel like taking the letters out and redoing them. Now that the piece done, I see how ridiculous that was. The initials look fine. Here’s a close-up:

honesty1The other funny thing (again, probably only to me) is George’s face. The instructions said to use the dark part of the variegated skein, Adobe. Guess the designers thought ol’ George got a tan while chopping down the cherry tree!

Pattern: Honesty, © Birds of a Feather (now out of print)
Stitch Count: 59H x 41W
Fabric: 32-count linen, Old Town Blend
Floss: Sampler Threads from The Gentle Art
Finished: Feb. 16, 2014

Happy Presidents’ Day, everyone.


A few WIPs and a finish

There hasn’t been much time over the past week or so to do much blogging or sewing, but I did make some progress on a few WIPs that I wanted to share with you. I even managed a small finish.

Miracles do happen, as my mother used to say.

I got a little more done on my quilt of valor that I began July 4th. To be honest, I feel guilty every time I think about procrastinating on this one. Maybe blogging about it will help push me a little. (The fabric is a jelly roll from “Nautical and Nice” by Sandy Gervais for Moda.)

DSC_0003At least now, it looks like you get a sense of where I’m going with this and why I’ve already named it (yes, my favorite part seems to be naming my quilts!) “Landing Strip.” I’ve got more free time in the next week, so I hope to get at least the top done soon.

Some of you may remember my attempt at creating a block based on the front of the magazine I work on in my day job, and how it didn’t quite work. (Julia Rothman’s “Type” fabric.)

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia39It went from what you see above to this:

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia40Definitely better. I added a little more at one of my Louisville Modern Quilt Guild meetings, and then the rest this past week:

office_pillow Eventually, (another project I hope to check off this week), it’ll be a cover for the pillow I use every day in my office. I also want to make a wall hanging from this fabric as well.

I’m fairly pleased with how the improv is turning out, but I have to admit, I’m not that crazy about working this way. I don’t like to think of myself as a color-in-the-lines kind of girl, but maybe I just haven’t been quilting long enough to enjoy flying blind yet.

One of our recent guild challenges was to make a nameplate for ourselves to help us get to know who everyone is. Here’s mine:

nametagI love how this turned out. The scraps are left over from another WIP that I blogged about on my “Designing with Excel” post. I decided to do my name in cross stitch since it would be so much easier and quicker than quilting individual letters. And, of course, I wanted to include a little plug for my labels and the blog.

For my name, I used the Sierra Madre font (how incredibly misnamed, given its look). I love the Art Deco period, especially the fonts, and thought it would look great with the fabric, which, to me, had the same feel.

It’s a little dark in the photo, but I used DMC floss #550, which is a great shade of grape, perfect for showing up on the golden scrap linen I had on hand. After making the pieces, I sewed them right sides together with the strap stitched on one side in between the two pieces and left an opening. Then I turned it right-side out, slip-stitched the bottom by hand and stitched in the ditch around the linen for stability.

Here’s the back:

nametag-backLast weekend, I made a little progress on the big quilt: (Clearly, I threw the blocks up on my design wall without paying any attention to direction before snapping this photo.) The fabric is some Kaffe Fasset and a few additional items from my stash.

8-10-13Thanks so much for stopping by to take a look at my latest efforts. I hope you’ll come back soon.


All I need is just a little …

DSC_2717I’m in a bit of a funk where crafting is concerned these days. I haven’t stopped making things, exactly, I’m just taking on more small term projects that don’t require a major commitment.

It’s ok, the feeling will pass soon enough. In the meantime, I have this lovely little 3×4-inch piece from Birds of a Feather that I stitched up on 32-count linen about a week ago.


All about the process

In general, when I start a craft project, I really try to finish it before moving on to something new. I think it came from my Mom, who instilled the fear of God in me when she taught me to knit, telling me that if I stopped in the middle somewhere, my work would develop a ridge between rows.

Sorry, Mom. So not true. And nothing that a good block and press can’t get out. Even after years and years.

For the most part, I’ve tried to keep to my mother’s rule, though I admit, I do have about half a dozen projects in various stages of completion at the moment.

I’m much better with my cross-stitch projects. Currently, I have two, “And They Sinned” and Teresa Wentzler’s “Fantasy Sampler.” I abandoned the Wentzler long ago when I lost interest in the Celtic/dragon thing, but I looked at it awhile back and decided I might like it again enough to finish it.

However, with quilts, I seem to throw all sense of completion out the window. There are three quilt tops on my guest bed waiting for some quilty love and at least that many tops/blocks in my sewing room.

And sewing projects? Don’t get me started. I still have a jacket I cut out in 1977 that never got finished.

Turns out, I’m more of a process person than I realized. But after years of beating myself up for not finishing more, I’ve decided I’m ok with it, especially with quilting and this blog. Rossie, on her blog, wrote a great post about this that you can find here.

process_pledge(She also created the cool button above that I’ve added to the right sidebar. I was thrilled to master installing a custom widget!)

One of the things she said that resonated with me was that craft bloggers seem to be in such a rush to post a finished project, rather than reveal the inspiration that went on behind it. Kind of like making sure your house is spotless before company arrives.

In reading this, I realized part of why I don’t post more is that I succumb to the pressure to have picture perfect projects, beautifully photographed, like I see on many of the blogs I follow. And it also seems like some of these bloggers can quilt/sew at the speed of light.

Here’s the deal. That’s not me. For whatever reason(s) I’m kinda slow at this. I like to take my time. I get a little ADD between quilting, cross-stitching and knitting. Some days, I’m just not in the mood.

Still, over the years, I’ve managed to finish quite a few things, and I’d rather enjoy the process, even if it means I finish fewer of them, than feel I have to rush to meet some arbitrary deadline.

So, expect more posts with unfinished works, but hopefully ones you’ll still enjoy. I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have people from around the world who follow this blog, from as far away as South Africa to a couple of coworkers nearby. It is such a privilege to be able to share this journey with you.

One thing I did finish today, I finally posted my Finished Quilts page, which you can see just under the header photo. I hope to have pages for my knitting and cross stitch soon, but like the rest of this, it’ll be a process.


How to work an alphabet sampler

When I stitch a sampler, I like follow a plan that’s worked well for me over the years, adapting it as needed for each piece. Let me show you with a sampler I finished a few years ago:

First, I go over the pattern, making sure I can read the symbols and that there aren’t any errors. I try and start with the designer’s website (if there is one) and see if they’ve published any errata, or corrected mistakes.

Then, I go over the pattern myself, making sure I can see the symbols clearly and that there aren’t any additional mistakes. Since the pattern is just a starting point, I don’t believe I have to stitch it exactly as written, particularly when it comes to spacing. I mark any changes I want to make on the pattern, so I don’t forget about them later.

mod animal sampler
“Birds and Beasties, Ninety-second exemplary” by Sheepish Designs. Sadly, the company seems to be out of the design business, at least under that name.

Many samplers have a border or some kind of anchor that you can use as a starting point. I like beginning with this first, because it sets up your work space and makes it easier to count the rest of the piece.

This is especially true when you stitch on linen — my favorite — because unlike Aida cloth, where it’s easy to see the squares and where to place your needle, linen is uneven and doesn’t have the nice clear holes Aida does. For me, that’s why I love it; it’s a cleaner, more sophisticated look.

I try to be extremely careful when I stitch this part, since I don’t want to get it all done only to find I’m one or two stitches off. Believe me, it’s happened! I count it repeatedly while I’m stitching and several times after I’m done until I’m convinced I have the exact number in the right place. If there’s a problem, it’s better to work it out then instead of waiting till later.

With what will become my largest alphabet sampler to date, “And They Sinned,” by Vilma Becklin of Exemplar Dames, there wasn’t a simple overall border, and since the piece is so large (about 17″ x 48″) I chose to work a mini-border just underneath one of the alphabets.

aTS_alphabetHaving the strawberry vine done gave me an anchor point for counting, as did the green chevron line below the larger alphabet.

Next, I like to stitch any sayings or phrases that might be included.

"Laughter Brings Sunshine," by Dimensions. Finished 1982.
“Laughter Brings Sunshine,” a stamped piece by Dimensions. Finished 1982.

Once I finish any letters, I work on the remaining motifs centered in the sampler. Just as I did with the alphabet, I’ll find a spot to use as an anchor point (in the sampler above, it’s the flower pot) and then move on to the parts that aren’t as easily stitched in a continuous fashion.

I usually work all the stitches in a particular color for the whole section, e.g., all the dark green vines, the medium green vines, the yellow petals, etc. If there aren’t many color changes, I’ll keep a needle threaded in each one and place them on a magnet holder nearby so I don’t have to stop and re-thread.

Lastly, I’ll complete any motifs that are part of the border (again, usually stitching one color at a time) before signing my name.

My very first sampler, a stamped pattern, "Heirloom Sampler," by Bucilla Needlecraft. Finished 1980.
My very first sampler, another stamped pattern, “Heirloom Sampler,” by Bucilla Needlecraft. Finished 1980.

I hope this plan helps you complete any projects you want to stitch or already have in progress. Since my first sampler was rather large, (16″ x 20″), this method taught me early on how to look at bigger projects into manageable sections. Dividing the work up that way gives me a sense of completion when I finish a section and helps keep me going on to the next one.


Ship of Life sampler

While I’m working on a couple of quilt ideas (in varying stages, of course) I thought I would share with you one of my earliest craft loves, cross stitch. I learned how back in college from a good friend, and in the past three or so decades have made more than 25 samplers of varying sizes.

In fact, if you scroll down far enough, you’ll see I started this blog with the sampler, “And They Sinned,” by Vilma Becklin of Exemplar Dames. I’ve definitely gotten farther since those first few stitches, but since the piece is something like 17×48 inches, it’s going to be awhile before I get it finished.

My favorite type of cross stitch is doing alphabet samplers. I’m not sure why, I just love them. Maybe it’s the writer in me, imagining all the words that come from the letters.

But sometimes, I find something without the ABC’s on it, that I just have to make. This is one of those pieces.

ship of lifeThis is the Ship of Life sampler, designed by Renee Nanneman of the Need’l Love Company back in 1990. I found it in a cross-stitch store in Connecticut when I used to live there back in the day. I fell in love with it immediately.

Of course, as you can tell by the completion date, it took me a few years to make, which actually worked to its advantage. When Renee designed it, there wasn’t any of the glorious overdyed floss that you can find in stores now, with all the lovely variegation to the colors.

It might not be easy to tell, (I wanted to take the photo so my reflection wouldn’t show up on the glass, that’s why there’s the weird angle) but you can see it in the water and in the sails. I think the subtle variation from light to dark, as well as the changes in hue really added something to the piece, without having to constantly re-thread the needle with something new. All I did was change direction so it wouldn’t look stripey. The fabric is 32-count linen, I think, which I had in my stash.

Of all the pieces I’ve done, this one is definitely my favorite. In fact, I keep thinking I should scan the pattern just in case I ever lose it. I have to admit, a few years after I bought it, I figured the pattern would live in a box forever. Now, every time I look at it, it makes me so happy that I took the time to finish it. Nothing better than that sense of completion when it comes to craft work, especially when it turns out even better than you expected.

I’ll try and share an updated photo of “And They Sinned” soon — hopefully it will inspire me to get back to work on it!


An easy table runner and other news

I love the non-traditional colors here.
I love the non-traditional holiday colors here.

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite easy projects, a table runner I made that highlighted different-scale prints.

My friend who sent me the fabric for my current blog header, also sent me the fabric for this. (Don’t you just love friends who support your fabric habit?)

Like the other table runner, I didn’t have anything to add to this fabric (I think there were five fat quarters in the set), and cute as it is, I just didn’t want to try and make something bigger out of it.

I love blended blocks and I love that with this project you can’t easily tell where all the pieces join together – it almost looks in parts like it’s one piece of fabric.

Essentially, it’s just a nine-patch block made up of smaller-scale prints, next to a large-scale print single-piece block. I made the middle section from three individual border prints (cut in two repeat sections), which are the same width as the two blocks.

I kept the quilting simple, just some large stippling and some outlining and it was done!

In other news, I did spend time at my machine this weekend, still procrastinating on the quilting for my friend’s baby quilt.

Instead, I decided to do a little experimenting. I have a small, eight-inch piece of cross-stitch I had done many years ago that  was part of a bigger, unfinished piece. It was from a sampler called, “Cluny,” and I loved the combination of the white and blue backgrounds.

Photo from needlecraft.com.au
Photo from needlecraft.com.au

This sampler is pretty old, and back then, you weren’t as likely to find pieces that had a large area to fill in with stitches (like this one does) as you can now.

Instead of being stitched, the white part was actually a separate piece of Aida cloth, that you sewed onto the navy piece and then stitched the border.

I never got around to finishing the border, but had kept the alphabet part, figuring I could do something with it. Initially, I thought of turning it into the center of a medallion quilt, but to be honest, I just wasn’t sure I liked it enough for that — at least not with the fabric I have that would best go with it.

Propped by the front door to minimize my reflection and catch the last of the day's light.
Propped by the front door to minimize my reflection and catch the last of the day’s light.

So instead, I decided to turn it into a wall hanging. I’m still not quite satisfied with it, but it works for now. I might take out the pink band and just do the blue floral, or maybe I’ll get inspired for something modern to go with it. I love juxtaposing two totally different styles.

In the meantime, I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Thank you so much for stopping by for a visit.


In the beginning …

The very first stitch. Thank goodness the fabric really isn’t that green; the photo below is much closer to the actual color.

May 24, 2011, the day I started stitching the biggest project I’ve worked on to date: “And They Sinned” (ATS) by Exemplar Dames Design Co.

It’s been pretty easy going, once I worked out a few bugs. The first was the stitch count. Maybe others haven’t had this difficulty, but on my copy of the pattern it definitely was NOT 809 x 169. I counted 828 x 174.

It seems Satan had to cause a little trouble right from the start.

Thankfully, I always buy an extra three inches all around so it’ll only affect it by about a third of an inch each on the top and bottom. The total size will wind up being 54″x16″ before framing.

The other obstacle was figuring out how to deal with all that excess fabric. I like to let the thread run through my fingers so it doesn’t tangle while I’m pulling it from the back. My solution was to roll it as best I could and secure it with quilting safety pins on the edges.

So, here’s what I’ve completed so far: (in approximately 12 hours, with a few minor redos)

One inch down, 53 more to go …

I’m using 34 count Oaten Scone (don’t you just love that name?), a lovely evenweave that is a little easier to use than linen but with the occasional nubbly effect linen has to give it depth.

For floss, I’m suing Sampler Threads from The Gentle Art. The berries you see above are in Copper; the vine is in Shutter Green. Amazingly, for a sampler this large, there are only 28 different colors.

This piece will definitely be an investment. The pattern was $36 when I bought it (it now runs from $48-$60), the fabric was $50 and the floss will be around $75. That’s before I frame it, which means I’d better start saving, since that’s likely to run $300-400!