Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer knitting

It has been cool here over the last few days--in the 70s and low 80s--so cool for Colorado, that when my local knitting shop advertised a free cowl class, more than 15 people showed up. With a social stitching night going on at the same time, there were at least 30 people crammed into the shop on a summer's night, all knitting away.


Between my birthday and several days of food poisoning, I haven't got much stitching done this month, so I thought the class would be a great way to get my creative juices flowing. It was! I stayed up late Friday and finished my cowl.


Here it is.


And here it is on!


I hope to make a few for gifts this year, so it was good practice for me. By stitching with the group, I got to see how different yarns worked up, how much yarn the project takes, and what the final product looked like. If you want to knit your own and are a Ravelry member, you can download the pattern for free.


Happy stitching!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fun in Fort Collins

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to Fort Collins, CO. He always wants to go there when he visits, but my car isn't air conditioned and an hour long drive in 100 degree weather isn't something to look forward to. This trip, however, I really wanted to go because one of my favorite fabric artists, Sally Mavor, had a piece exhibited at the Lincoln Center.

You can find out how Sally made this 3-D piece on her blog at the link above.


The Birds of BeeBe Woods was inspired by the woods of Falmouth, MA. I love the piece so much that I bought a poster of it several months ago, and I couldn't wait to see it in real life. Rightfully, it won the Juror's Choice award. In fact, every person who came into the exhibit while we were there did a beeline for the piece, oohing and ahhing from all the way across the room.


Up close, the piece, done on embroidered felt, is masterful. I thought my poster showed the details, but seeing how tiny and even her stitches were, for example across the wren's wing, was flabbergasting. It is a perfectly delightful work of art and is on display in Fort Collins through August 31. I'll write more about the wonderful quilts that we saw there later!

Green chili beer. YUM!


In between samples of craft beer (Fort Collins hosts 10 craft breweries) we also stopped by to see LambSpun--the Fort Collins knitting shop made famous by the mystery novels of Maggie Sefton. Boy was my mom excited to see photos! It is a lovely shop and there was an afternoon tea & stitch going on while we were there. Roger didn't take a photo, but seeing all the knitters sitting at the big wooden table gabbing away while they knit was just like the books!

Finally here is some eye candy I saw at one of the Fort Collins shops--every sewing room needs one!

This clock made by Allen Designs really caught my attention. It is so whimsical!


All in all, it was the perfect marriage of both our interests and I saw a lot to inspire me.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Home is where you stitch

I've been in Denver for four years now. When I moved here, my husband-to-be came back from Afghanistan to drive me from Massachusetts to Denver. We weren't even engaged at the time. We took two weeks, not only to move (four days in the car) but to unpack and get oriented to the new city. I hadn't even seen my apartment before I arrived, although my things had arrived several days before me.


It was fun--almost like a vacation--except when Roger left, I was going to be alone in a new city far from anyone I knew. The day before he was scheduled to go, we checked out the cultural center. It is quite nice, offering plays, music, and art classes. I picked up a brochure and there it was--a class in Brazilian embroidery starting the very next day.


I immediately signed up. I had wanted to try Brazilian embroidery since high school when my parents gave me Rose Montague's Brazilian Three-Dimensional Embroidery, but I was intimidated by the stitches and didn't know where to find the thread. This class, I felt, would take the sting out of being so far from home and I would get to know some people.


During my first class, there were three students, me and two women in their 70s--but they were a riot. We worked basic stem stitches and bullions. That was fine, but the stitches didn't have the three dimensional look I craved. I finished that little kit so fast, that the instructor suggested that I try something more challenging.


Here it is, my second ever Brazilian embroidery project--a basket full of geraniums. I learned cast-ons, cast-ons with detached buttonhole and a fancy drizzle stitch. Immediately I was hooked. I've taken many classes with Christine since that first June evening and progressed to many more stitches, but this is the piece that hangs in my living room--my first true Brazilian embroidery, the piece that made Denver home.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The best gift ever

Today is my birthday, so I am going to tell the story of one of my favorite presents ever. It is a story most of you have likely heard before from friends, or even lived yourself, but mine has a little twist.


I started sewing in 5th or 6th grade. By Junior High I was using patterns to make dresses and blouses. My parents had bought my sister and me a heavy duty, all metal sewing machine for our own use, but everything else we scrounged from Mom--pins, thread, floss, scissors. This was fine. Mom was generous with our sewing attempts as long as we didn't use the sewing shears to cut paper.


But there came a day when I had fabric and patterns laid out all over the hard wood living room floors with the carpet rolled back to make more room. I was cutting and cutting and my hand was killing me. The problem? Left-handed scissors. I grew up as the only right-handed person in a family of four, in a house crammed to the rafters with left-handed scissors. There was not a single pair of right-handed scissors in the entire house. I remember grumbling quite a bit that evening. I think my mother may have even finished cutting out the final pattern for me because it was just too difficult.


As you can imagine, my family had very little sympathy for me. Since they were all left handed, they faced difficulties every time they picked up a pen, but I thought it was unfair. I grew up being told constantly that left handed people were superior in intelligence, creativity--everything. It didn't help that my Dad and sister's initials both spelled out GEM (at least phonetically--my sister is JEM). It was clear that being right handed meant being the lowest head on the totem pole.


But then came Christmas. And what was in my stocking, but a big pair of right-handed, orange-handled sewing shears. I was so surprised and so happy to see those scissors! They were my favorite gift that year--really one of my favorite gifts of all time. I used them for many many years until they were too dull to cut fabric. Then I bought another pair and delegated the originals for paper cutting. I try to keep the new ones just for sewing, but my husband doesn't understand my obsession not to use the sewing scissors on paper. Of course, he is left handed!

Now I live in an apartment full of right-handed shears!



Sunday, July 14, 2013

For Grandma

When my paternal grandmother went into a nursing home, I was living in Massachusetts. I could visit only rarely when I went back to western New York, but I didn't forget her. I sent letters every few months, and as Christmas approached, I thought for a long time about a gift that would be practical and not take up much space in her small room.


At the time, I was getting back into cross stitching after college and thought myself super smart to be taking designs apart and recombining them in new ways. It was simple stuff that I was doing, but it felt more creative than simply using a pattern as written. Even changing colors felt daring.


One evening, I was looking through a pattern book of edgings and I had a wonderful idea--I would stitch an edging for a bath towel and put Grandma's name on it so that it would always come back to her.


My grandmother's favorite color was orange. She even had my parents paint the bedroom in her house orange. When we were young my sister and I thought that was funny. Who would have guessed that now in our 40s, we are also both partial to orange?


Because of her preference, I chose a pattern of pale orange buds and green leaves and added a simple green boarder on each side. I stitched it onto 2" Aida tape. There were a total of 11 pattern repeats--5 1/2 on each side of her name, "Anna," stitched in the darkest peachy orange.


It took forever to stitch. I didn't calculate in advance how many pattern repeats I would need, and I was surprised at how big the towel seemed once I started stitching. I probably could have done one more repeat on each side, but I tuckered out and figured that no one would see the edges of the towel anyway. I did make sure that the boarders went all the way to the edge, however.


I was so excited when I sent her this towel, but I don't think she ever used it. When she died several years later, my mother saved the towel to give back to me and it was in pristine condition. Hopefully she at least hung it in her bathroom to look at.


I, however, have used it. And yes, the white toweling isn't as white as it once was. But every time I use it, I remember my grandmother. Grandma wasn't a sewer--she was a college-educated school secretary--but I still have a beautiful embroidered memory of her.

My grandmother in a photo dated around 1934.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Prayer flags in the garden

Dad finally has hung his Father's Day prayer flags in the garden, strung between two bamboo poles he went out and bought even before the flags arrived in Rochester. It has been rainy in western New York state this year, but I am told that they are holding up well. Here is a photo my sister took on her cell phone. It is good to see the flags hanging in the place they were meant to be!



Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pumpkin progress!

I was meaning to provide a progress report on my crazy pumpkin earlier in the week, but life conspired against me. First, my husband's plane came in 2 hours late (10:30 PM) and I spent the next two days in a sleep deprived daze. Then there was the 4th of July, which was fun, but during which I contracted food poisoning. Needless to say, all of this cut into both my embroidery and writing time.


I did, however, make loads of progress on the pumpkin last weekend. Every 5th Sunday of the month, my local Brazilian embroidery shop hosts a 6 hour open stitch in. I accomplished a lot that day. And I was feeling well enough to go to the guild this Saturday as well, so I can report that the center motifs on my second crazy panel are almost done!


Many of these motifs are loosely taken from the pattern. These include the bee, wheat shafts, acorns, oak leaf and pumpkins. Most are done in simple stem stitch outlines, with maybe a few additional stitches--such as the lazy daisies on the wheat. The wheat was fun, because I used two different variegated threads. I like the strip of unstitched leaf. Sometimes it is just as important to know when to stop stitching, as to know which stitch to use.


The bee is satin stitch in boucle to give him some dimension. The acorns are boring stem stitch, but I tried to liven them up with color.


One of the people stitching along on this project poured beads down the side of her pumpkin. It really looked so lovely encrusted like that, but I don't do random very well (just look at my stars!), so I decided to liven my pumpkins up with some drizzle vines. I wasn't sure at first, but I think they turned out well.


The leaf again is just stem stitch. The final rose motif is adapted from my crazy patchwork pillow. I don't like how they are turning out. They aren't crisp and beautiful like the ones on my crazy pillow. I just can't remember how we adapted that motif. I may take them out, or may not.

I am not going to stitch a central motif on the top magenta patch. You won't be able to see much of it once the pumpkin is sewn together. Instead, I will concentrate on the seam stitches there and maybe make them a little more elaborate than elsewhere.


I am getting close. If I can find time to stitch while my husband is in town, I should be ready for finishing class at the end of the month!