Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

First off, Happy New Year! 

A big tradition of the new year is to create a resolution or two.  I'd rather like to think of these resolutions as goals.  Something to work towards, regardless of the ups and downs.  This year, I have more than my share of goals.  The first is to complete half of my WIPs (work in progress).  Here is what I have going at the moment.

Melissa Shirley Christmas Stocking / Stitch Guide by Terry Christopher

My biggest must do is to finish my daughter's stocking.  I've made a little more progress since this photo was taken, and now I need to focus on getting this canvas done.

Kelly Clark's Joseph / Stitch Guide by Amy Bunger
Next on my list of must finishes is Joseph.  Once he is done, I'll have the Holy Family completed and then can start on the wise men (in other words create more WIPs).

Melissa Shirley Bunny / Stitch Guide by Terry Christopher
Remember this canvas?  When I became stuck on the ribbon flowers, I set it aside.  I think it's about time that I finish this, and get it to the finisher before the Easter deadline.

Kelly Clark Mini Sock

This Kelly Clark mini sock has been my waiting room canvas.  It's small enough to tuck into a bag and get a few stitches in while waiting for an appointment.  I think it has all of an hour of stitching left.

Melissa Shirley's Blue Bird Cage / Stitch Guide by Laura Taylor
I love this Melissa Shirley canvas.  It is so pretty and has been a joy to stitch.  I still have tons of work, but it's high on my list for a 2015 finish.

Melissa Shirley's Noel / Stitch Guide by Beverly Churchfield
I debated as to whether or not I should commit to finishing this Noel canvas this year, but I think I can do it.  It's on 13 mesh, so it should stitch up fast.

Anniversary X-Stitch Pattern by Stoney Creek
This is the last of my must finishes for 2015.  I started making this in September of 2013.  Then with the move to Los Angeles and other unforeseen problems, I had to set it aside.  I've already shown it to my parents, and they have set aside a place in their home to hang it.  I should have this completed by the end of January.

The following canvases are other WIPs that I hope to work on, but know that there is a slim to none chance of finishing by this time next year.

Ashley Dillon's Christmas Parade / Stitch Guide by Terry Christopher

Melissa Shirley's Circus Horse / Partial Stitch Guide by Beverly Churchfield

Brenda Stofft Nativity / Stitch Guide by Colleen Church

Genny Morrow's Falling Leaves

Melissa Shirley's Fall Acorn / Stitch guide by Paula Fehleison

Besides completing lots of stitching, my other goal for 2015 is to work on my blogging.  I know I've been a miserable blogger this year.  The reason is quite simple: I haven't been stitching.   Nothing stitched means nothing posted. 

The reason for my lack of stitching has been my back.  Now I know there are millions of people with back pain who function just fine.  They take an Aleve if their back acts up, and they get on with their day. That's how I was for over 20 years.  Then about four years ago, I went from occasional pain to not being able to walk in a week's time.  It took me two years to get back to a functional level.  Although I couldn't work any longer, I still was able to spend time with my family and of course stitch.

Then we had the move to Los Angeles.  Although I was extra careful, my back problems grew worse.  I couldn't sit for more than 30 minutes without being in a considerable amount of pain.  Of course there are medications to help with this, but they have their side effects.  For me, they made me really loopy.  It was difficult to concentrate, read, and I couldn't drive.  So I finally decided to have one last surgery (hopefully) to fuse some of my vertebrae together in the hope that I could return to a somewhat normal life.

I'm now six weeks post surgery and optimistic that my health will improve.  It's still difficult to sit, but I'm making progress.  I've been trying to stitch, even if it means just putting in one thread.  Hopefully my life will return back to normal and I'll have lots of stitching to share with you.  In the mean time, please be patient with me and know that I haven't given up on this blog.

So enough with all this personal sappy stuff.

I wish you all a 2015 filled with joy and hopefully lots of stitching!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Taking Classes with Laura Taylor

Living in Southern California definitely has it's advantages.  Lots of sunshine, beautiful beaches and some really great needlepoint shops.  Lately, I've been hanging out at Aristeia Needlepoint in Santa Monica. Aristeia is home to some of the most talented teachers:  Laura Taylor, Beverly Churchfield, and Susan Portra.  Today, I would like to share a project that I've been working on with Laura.

Blue Bird Cage by Melissa Shirley
This canvas is called Blue Bird Cage and is by Melissa Shirley.  On my first visit to Aristeia, I saw Laura working on it.  I loved all the ribbon work and the beautiful stitches that she choose.

So far I've made progress on this little leaf and have begun stitching the bird.  I would have never chosen an eyelet for the bird's body.  I would have chosen something predictably boring.  This is why I love taking classes; it opens your eyes to so many possibilities.

I love how this bar of the cage turned out. Just the right amount of texture and shine.

Here is my attempt at some ribbon flowers.  Now that I've had some practice, I'm going to rip these out and restitch them. I've used ribbon before and have always struggled with it.  But Laura gave me some tips that I think will make these flowers look great.  When I'm done with this flower, I'll have these to work on...

I bought extra ribbon, so that I can practise getting this stitch right without running out thread.

Another benefit of taking a class with Laura Taylor are her wonderful heirloom tomatoes!

Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Little Surprise

Prior to arriving in Austin, Colleen Church told us she had a surprise for us all.  I just assumed it was a really cool needle minder, which we did get.  But some of the ladies thought it might be a guest visitor.  Well they were right because it was no other than the fabulous Brenda Stofft.

Brenda Stofft
If you've been needlepointing for a while, then you've probably heard of Brenda and most likely have a few of her canvases in your stash.  Not only is Brenda one of the most successful needlepoint designers in the industry, but she is also a talented stitcher.  I had so much fun chatting with her.  It's always nice to know that an artist, who's work you admire and love to stitch, is such a nice person.

The following photos are a few of the her nativity pieces that are an exclusive to the Needle Works.  In case you are wondering, that's what Brenda was stitching while she was at the retreat.

Holy Family
The first canvas in the nativity series is the Holy Family.  This piece is gorgeous.  Colleen did such a great job creating the stitch guide.  In fact, Brenda mentioned several times about how pleased she was with how the series has turned out, and that Colleen did a fantastic job choosing threads and stitches that complemented each other but did not take away from the original design.  What a compliment!

Colleen had the Holy Family framed with a light behind the stained glass window. It's hard to tell in the photo, but the circular window was all beaded so that the light shines through.  Unfortunately due to my camera, the window looks white.  But in real life, it is dazzling with color.  Definitely a finishing technique that I've never seen before, but absolutely loved.

Magi with Elephant
Magi with Horse
I thought that these were beautiful too.  I'm curious to see how Colleen will have these and the rest of the nativity pieces finished.

For those of you who know me, you've probably already guessed that I couldn't resist this series.  I joined the club and started stitching the first canvas at the retreat!  I think my mother, who was also at the retreat, thought I was a little crazy to buy another nativity series, as I already have the Kelly Clark nativity and Amy Bunger stitch guides.  But sometimes you just have to be a little crazy and go for it.  Besides, I'm justifying it with this reasoning: I have two kids whom I would like to give each a nativity, so I have to stitch two.  Right!

Holy Family Canvas

So far, I've really enjoyed stitching this piece and have added it into my rotation of canvases.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.

If you would like to see more of Brenda Stofft's work, make sure you check out her website.  To see the rest of the nativity series, you can view them at the Needle Works' website.

Happy Stitching!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

2014 Bluebonnet Conference

One of the best things about being a needlepointer is going to different retreats.  Its a great way to get away from all the distractions at home and have 2-3 days of stitching bliss.  It used to be that retreats were a costly endeavour.  Often there was a project piece, national teacher, hotel and travel accommodations, etc... But now, thanks to the Needlepoint group on Facebook, a new type of retreat is emerging.  These new retreats are a little easier on the pocketbook.  They are held in a store's classroom; you bring whatever project you are working on; there isn't any formal instruction, but there is always someone close by to offer some help; and you pick your own hotel accommodations.  Last year I blogged about such a retreat at the Needle Works in Austin, Texas.  You can read about it here and here.

Once again, Naomi, a fellow needlepoint addict stitcher, and Colleen Church, the owner of the Needle Works, planned our second annual retreat.  It was a blast!  Each recipient received a custom made needle minder.  I love our official new title for our retreat: "Bluebonnet Conference".

Bluebonnet Conference Needle Minders

We also received the new Puffin needle threaders that were just released.  I've never been a big fan of needle threaders, but these had me changing my mind.  The hook portion is very sturdy, yet fine enough to fit into  the eye of a 26 tapestry needle.  They may be able to go smaller, but I didn't have any 28's to try.  They also have a magnetic disk on the back that will adhere to tacks, so it's always easy to find.

Puffin & Company Needle Threader

The best part of the retreat are all the friends, new and old.  This year, we had to close to 30 participants, so it was a tight squeeze fitting into the classroom.  It also meant that it was difficult to get around to get everyone's photos.  But I did get some group photos in which you can get a peek at what everyone was stitching.

As you can see, there was a lot of stitching and chatting going on.

The last day of the retreat, Colleen welcomed us to her home for a fabulous dinner prepared by Missy Gray.  We had a great time visiting and getting to see an adorable owl who has decided to call Colleen's backyard "home'.  Smart owl, if you ask me.

So if you have ever thought about going on a needlepoint retreat, I would highly recommend it.  A good place to inquire about one is with your local needlepoint store.  If you don't have one or they don't offer retreats, then check out the Needlepoint group on Facebook.

Don't know about this group?  Well here is how to find it.  Once you are logged onto Facebook, enter "needlepoint" into the search bar.  Several choices will come up.  Just look for the one with over 4,900 members.  Request to join and then get ready to devote several hours looking at all the gorgeous canvases.  I will admit that it's a bit addicting.  However, I wouldn't have ever learned about this retreat and made so many friends had it not been for this group.

Happy Stitching!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Crazy Life

I can't believe it's been seven months since my last post.  I wish I could write that I've been too busy stitching to keep up with this blog.  But the truth is, I've barely picked up a needle this entire time.  When I last left you, I was in the middle of an entire home remodel.  We're talking down to the studs remodeling.  Now, I know that remodeling projects are supposed to be crazy and that they say it can test the best of marriages, but I certainly wasn't expecting what was heading my way.  About a week after my last post, my husband came home and said, "I've got great news, I got a promotion!  Oh, and we have to move to Los Angeles."  Ughhhhh! 

So for the last seven months I've remodeled a house, shopped and purchased a new house, found renters for my old house, bought a car for my son who had his car totaled in a car accident by an uninsured motorist, (It wasn't his fault, and yes, he is okay), nursed my 19 year old daughter back to health after back surgery (She is doing fine.)  Then my back decided to flare up, so I had a couple of epidurals.  Feeling left out my right shoulder decided to go out too.  Two cortisone shots and surgery two weeks after moving, I am now on the mend.  In case you are wondering, I'm right handed so I couldn't even stitch while I was recuperating. And there is more, but I think you get the idea.

So now that things have begun to settle down, I'm starting to needlepoint.  I haven't been able to devote lots of time to stitching, but I'm back to trying to get in an hour a day.  Here is what I've been working on...

Kelly Clark Nativity
Amy Bunger Stitch Guide

I know it's not much, but it's a start.  Soon I will have more to share with you.

Happy Stitching!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Remodeling and Needlepoint Don't Mix

On New Year's Eve, I made a resolution that I would stitch a minimum of one hour per day.  For the most part, I've stuck to it.  That is until mid August.  That's when we started to remodel our house.  Since then, my needlepoint has fallen to the wayside.

Our home has been graced with the architecture of the 1980's.  In my opinion, the 80"s were a scary decade: fashion, hairstyles and yes architecture.  For instance, the bathtub in the master bath is situated right in the middle of the room.  This was done to accommodate a planter!  Yep, you read that correctly, a planter so one could do some gardening as they relaxed in the tub. Hmmmm...makes me wonder who thought that one up....

Hopefully the bathroom will be completed soon and life will return back to normal.  In the mean time, I decided to work a canvas from the Kelly Clark nativity series.  This was part of a club that I signed up for through Amy's Golden Strand in Memphis, Tennessee.  Each canvas comes with a fabulous stitch guide written by Amy Bunger.  Amy's stitch guides are thoughtfully written and challenging.  I always learn something new when using them.

Here is my progress on Joseph after working on him off and on this past week.

The bottom border and background are the same on all the canvases.  Since I've already competed Jesus and Mary, this stitching has been easy.  I took the time to count out the trellis design to make sure that Joseph is centered in the design.  To help with the counting, I used a blue pen to continue the design on the canvas selvage.  This is a quilter's pen which will disappear when you brush with cold water.  I haven't had any problems with these pens, but I've heard from other stitchers that the blue lines can come back.  To be safe, I only use these pens on the canvas salvage.

You might also notice, that Joseph's facial features have been painted out.  Amy provides a detailed chart in each stitch guide that maps out the face.  Sometimes the chart doesn't match up what has been painted on the canvas.  At first, I thought I could stitch over the painted image, but the dark colors were showing through and creating weird shadows.  For me, it was just easier to paint out the face with good quality acrylic paint.

Here is a closeup of the border. I just love the way it turned out.

Happy Stitching!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Finish!

Lately, I've been frustrated by most of my needlepoint projects.  With some canvases, I've been stumped as to which stitch to use.  With others, I just can't get particular stitches to turn out the way I want.  When this happens, I find the best thing to do is to switch to a different project.  Sometimes a little break is all that is needed to get those creative juices flowing again.  That's exactly what I did this last week.  

This canvas is by Ewe & Eye and is called Dee. I'm not sure how it ended up in the closet in my WIP pile because all I had left to stitch was one of the arms and then attach the beads.  Easy!  I had stitched over the spots for the beads, so that they wouldn't get lost between the decorative stitches.  In doing this, I wasn't able to see where the beads were supposed to go.  Most people would just wing it and place the beads where they see fit.  But if you're like me, that is easier said then done.  

Before stitching a canvas, I always make a color copy.  I took that copy and darkened the black dots where the beads were to be placed. Next I carefully lined up the color copy over the canvas.

I pierced the copy and canvas with some large size tapestry needles.  Next, I carefully lifted the copy away leaving the needles in the canvas.

Now, I had the correct placement for the eyes.

I did the same thing for the mouth, too.

Here is the canvas all finished.  Yeaaah!  Finally a finish! The following pictures are closeups of this canvas.  I wish I could take credit for coming up with all these beautiful stitches and thread selection, but the credit goes to Terry Christopher from 2 the Point in Pleasanton, CA.  I love Terry's stitch guides.  She does a great job making sure that a canvas has perspective.  Notice how the snowman looks like he is coming forward, and the background recedes.

Happy Stitching!