Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Final bits and pieces from my retreat

Today I'll show you the final bits and pieces that I finished during my stitching retreat. I did a lot and will be in good shape for birthdays this spring and summer all the way through Christmas!

First are the wine-themed towels that I started early because I was so excited about the retreat. I finished three of them for my sister. Here they all are! You likely recognize the one in the middle already.

Second, and finally, I stitched this wonderful design from the Etsy shop Wellington House Design. This will be a perfect pillow for my brother-in-law who loves to winter hike in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York. I hope to finish a companion piece of a bear in the woods for him for Christmas as well.

So that's it. My retreat is well and truly over and I am fully back into my 40-hour work week. Even so, I have several more projects prepped and ready to go, so even if I don't finish them all in a weekend, I know I will finish them as time permits.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Retreat purses

During my stitching retreat last weekend. I started two purses--not something I intended to do, but I was inspired. I finished them this weekend. One is for me and the other for my soon-to-be step-daughter-in law. I used my old favorite book Making Vintage Bags for the patterns, which I reviewed here, and am, as usual when I use patterns from this book, extremely happy with the results!

The maroon one is for me. I use a bracelet I've had since I was in high school for the handle!
The pattern called for a ribbon rose as decoration. I substituted it with a shiny bobble and some wired ribbon accents.
I may embellish my purse a little more, but I need to think about what else I may want to add.




Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Embroidered portraits

One of the things I wanted to do during my stitching retreat last weekend was to try embroidered portraits. I had seen them on Pintrest and traced the photo back to the original tutorial on the Habit of Art blog. It seemed easy enough to enlarge a photo, trace it and embroider it. It was a little more difficult than it seemed though!


I don't really draw, although the one drawing class I took a few years ago really helped me understand some of the principles behind drawing and gave me confidence. Still, tracing photos is much harder than I hoped it would be. I started with two photos of my nephew, Simon, and two photos of my husband's grandson, Dracen. The plan was to make two embroidered portraits of each child--one for each parent. Unfortunately, of the four tracings, I made, only two looked at all like the children. One made Dracen look like a little hobbit rather than a baby. My husband, who went to art school, gave me some tips. He told me that I didn't need to trace all the lines I saw, or even close all the shapes. That helped a lot. It also helped having multiple photos, since I could hone in on what lines were character defining. For example, the line under Simon's eye appears in every photo I saw of him and made him look impish. I needed that, but I left out his cheek and the line under his other eye.


After tracing the photos and getting them to look how I wanted them. I was afraid to draw them into the fabric, so I photocopied them onto Stitch 'n Wash, a sticky dissolvable interfacing and basted the photos onto linen. That way I had less distortion. I had never used A dissolvable interfacing before, but I highly recommend it.


Embroidering was relatively easy. I used one strand of DMC floss for the eyes and facial features, No.12 pearl cotton for the head shapes and some details, and No. 8 pearl cotton for the clothes and some hair. It was a fun experiment.


Now all I have to do is frame the finished embroideries. I will use the same Ikea frames recommended in the tutorial, but I left enough fabric to be able to lace the portraits around a mount rather than taping them to a mat as shown in the tutorial. I'm looking forward to doing two more for the other two parents, but I will keep looking for photos that are easier to trace. Of everything I learned, the two most important tips for anyone who may want to try this technique are to have a variety of photos to choose from because some are easier to translate into line drawings than others, and to use the dissolvable interfacing. Once you get that tracing perfect, you don't want to trace it again!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mid-retreat check in

So my stitching "stay"treat began on Thursday, and even though I started a few things early, it has been incredibly productive so far. I've finished the set of wine-themed dish towels for my sister, a portrait of my husband's grandchild for his son, and a panel for a pillow for my brother-in-law. I also sewed a purse for our soon-to-be daughter-in-law, but I am disappointed with my sewing and will make another today. I will show you all of these things and whatever I finish on Sunday and Monday over the next weeks.


Today, I want to show you what I produced in the silk fusion class that I took at Golden Fiber Arts in Golden, Colorado on Friday. Prior to the class, I didn't even know what silk fusion was. Now I am contemplating making my experimental piece into art!

The whole piece is approximately 16" square.


For those of you who don't know what silk fusion is, I wish I had taken photos during class. It is a relatively simple process. You take dyed silk roving (it looks very much like wool roving) and gently tease out fibers to lay on a screen. I found it to be a relatively fast process to lay and gently pull the fibers out. Three to four layers are needed so that the screen is no longer visible. During the process, you must remember that the first layer or two really won't be seen, so you want to concentrate on getting your final layers looking the way you want them too. In addition to the roving, we had silk sari fibers and "hankies" available to layer on our works. The hankies are gauzy squares that are layered like filo dough. Each layer is a single silk cacoon drawn out and formed into a square. They are really lovely little things and can be layered on to cover large areas or pulled and crinkled in different ways to form shapes. The flowers on my piece are done with hankies.

You can see the rim of the hanky on the flower edge.


Once enough silk is layered, a second screen is placed on top and the whole thing is wetted and brushed until every fiber is soaked. Then a textile medium is applied to stick the fibers together before the screens are hung to dry. I let mine dry over night before peeling the screens away. The final step is to iron the piece on the silk setting to set the medium.

The silk strands leave a beautiful wavy edge and the screen provides texture to the fabric. In the lower left corner, you can see a piece of silk sari thread layered within the silk fibers.


I was thrilled with my piece when I saw it Saturday morning and am thinking of ways to embellish it. It will be a fun project and a great way to start off my resolution to learn new techniques!


One surprise was that when I walked into the class, I saw two women who I often stitch with on weekends. None of us were expecting the others to be there, which made it even more fun.


I am really happy that I decided to do this. With two more days of creativity to go, I am well on my way to having many of the birthday and Christmas presents I want to make this year done--and it is only January!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I got ahead of myself

Over the weekend I did cleaning and cooking, and embroidery prepping, just as I had planned to get ready for my stitching retreat. But at some point on Sunday, I started getting lazy, and with so many projects prepped to work on, I started stitching.


One of my projects is a set of kitchen towels for my sister's birthday (next November). I had three washed and had applied the iron on transfers (Aunt Martha's Wine Country set 3998). They were even colored and the crayon set. So this is what I started stitching, and I even finished one!


I'm excited to get more done over the long weekend as well as the other projects I've prepped. I have all sorts of ideas for Christmas and birthday presents this year, and if I spend the first few months of the year working on them, I should be able to get a lot done without really killing myself.

The retreat starts tomorrow, and stitching this towel has really wet my appetite!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

A wedding sampler goes home

Last year, one of my resolution projects was to finish a wedding sampler for my husband's son and daughter-in-law. I started it in June 2012 and originally planned for it to be done that Christmas. Of course, it wasn't. I finished it last June and had it framed in July for this Christmas. Then our plans changed. Instead of being out east for Christmas, we were in Colorado. But yesterday, we finally celebrated Christmas together.


Roger was back home in Rhode Island, and his sons with their wives, fiancées, and the new grandchild came over for a meal and some late Christmas cheer. I joined the festivities via FaceTime. I'm so happy that even though I live so far away, I can still participate!


Roger's son and daughter-in-law are both black belts and teach in a Boston KungFu school. They've both been to China and Japan, so when I saw this pattern in the March/April 2012 issue of Just Cross Stitch I knew it would make the perfect wedding sampler.


Although it took me eight months to complete, it wasn't boring. I really enjoyed the different types of stitches in this samplers. And I am happy I was able to complete it for Christmas this year. It was worth the work.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Crazy quilt block 1 progress and retreat planning

I had a very productive stitching weekend. Despite some snow, or maybe because of it, I have made major progress on my very first crazy quilt block.


The last time I featured it, I was still working on the crab, but since then, I've not only finished the crab, but embroidered a sailboat, embellished one of the fabrics, made my first ever ribbon roses, and tried my hand at 3-D beading. This is a good start on my New Year Resolution to try new stitching techniques!


I am still planning to stitch a dragonfly in the upper left and to embellish the remaining seams. I like how the piece is progressing, but I hope that it doesn't get too crazy. Or at least too crazy to look good.


I've got the fabric for my next block, which will be mostly green--another summer block. I may sew the block up during my retreat so it is ready for stitching later.


And speaking of my retreat, I have made more planning progress. I chose photos for my portraits and printed them out and bought fabric and floss. Later this week I will try my hand at tracing them so that they can be transferred to fabric. I am a little apprehensive about which lines to trace to make the portraits come alive, but that's part of the magic. I am using a tutorial from the Habit of Art blog to help me through this, although I think I will frame the finished works a little differently than they suggest.

Floss or pearl cotton--that's the question!


I've also bought some flour sack towels to prep for embroidery and downloaded the pillow patterns I want to work on.


There's more to do, but since I only conceived of this idea last Friday, I think I am making good progress. Too bad the house isn't getting itself cleaned up as quickly!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Planning my stitching "stay"treat

To start the new year out right, I have decided to create my own stitching retreat here at home January 16-20. I have Martin Luther King Day off so I decided to take off the Thursday and Friday before the weekend, clear my schedule and stitch for 5 days in a row. Saturday the 18th there will be open stitching at my local shop, so I can can get out and interact with other people. I have even scheduled a massage for half way through the weekend to loosen up any kinked muscles. Now for the advance planning.


I'lI need to make sure that the house is clean, cook some meals in advance and stock up on treats, movies and books on tape. I also have to decide what to work on. I've already determined that working on one thing the whole weekend is probably NOT what I want to do. Instead I want to make progress on my design for the Piecework Magazine competition, but also do a few little things that I've been thinking about for a while. Since some of them could turn into birthday or Christmas presents it would be a great start to the new year!


I'll need to prep my projects in advance to be the most productive and to be sure that I have what I need. Here are a few of the projects mulling around in my head.


  1. Kitchen towels--I have some patterns that would be perfect for my sister. I might use the color and stitch technique on them.
  2. Pillows for my brother-in-law. I just need to download the patterns
  3. Portraits done in back stitch
  4. Setting up my Brazilian sampler (but probably not working on it because I have other things I want to do before I start working on this and I know it would become an obsession).
  5. Working out details for my competition piece
  6. A pillow based on a children's book
  7. Finish an opera coat I started a few yeas ago. Actually, I'm not sure about this one. I would now feel as though it needed to be embroidered, which I wasn't originally planning on doing. BUT maybe I could plan that out.
  8. Continue work on a dragonfly embroidery I am struggling with


This is obviously too many things to work on--even for 5 days. But I have two weeks to decide and set the projects up for embroidery. I think that the projects will sort themselves out as I prepare.


I can't wait!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Resolutions new and old

Happy New Year!


I did pretty well on last year's resolution projects--finishing 4 of 6 projects plus a slew of other projects that weren't on the list. Let's take a look at what I did, and my resolution projects for 2014.



1. I finished the sampler I resolved to do last year.


2. I substituted coasters for the Christmas towels I wanted to do and finished them.


3. My nephew LOVED the pillowcase we gave him for his 6th birthday.


4. I did NOT do a Christmas ornament for Christmas cards this year. I just didn't have an inspiring idea.


5. My Brazilian "WELCOME" is hanging on the wall!


6. Finally, I started the partridge in a pear tree from Inspirations 67, but I didn't even finish one leaf. It is still outstanding that I will work on a little at a time.



1. This year I resolve to play with new techniques and design rather than pushing myself to complete big projects.


2. I will finish at least 3 crazy quilt blocks (and try new techniques on each of them).


3. I will submit a project to the Piecework literary needlework competition (due in March).


4. I will embroider a Brazilian sampler.


5. I will design a Brazilian Christmas ornament and try to write up a pattern for it. (I have a great idea in mind already and am excited to work on it!)


What are your stitching goals for this year? Do you make needlework resolutions?