Sunday, August 31, 2014


There was no blog post last weekend because despite the progress my husband and I made on our house, we didn't finish anything until this weekend. We had a concerted burst of energy Friday and Saturday and were able to accomplish a lot before I left for Denver Sunday morning. Unfortunately, because of all the work on the house, I did almost no embroidery. Here is what we did accomplish.


First, we changed out the curtains in the kitchen. Here is a before shot from the previous owners. They had a nice country/farmhouse style, but unfortunately, we just aren't county.

I did not make the new curtains in the after shot, but I did have to shorten them and my husband had to hang all new hardware, so I count this as a win. It has brightened up our kitchen tremendously.


Then upstairs. The before shot again comes from the previous owners.


We were using the room as an office and a place to store unpacked boxes. Now it is our new guest room/office/craft room. It is difficult to make a room do triple duty, but with the recent addition of a sleeper sofa I think we did pretty well. The pictures need to be hung before our first guests arrive at the end of September and eventually we will paint, but it is a cosy, yet uncrowded room. The curtains were here when we moved in, but I think they are staying because they go with the new furniture perfectly.

My favorite addition is the Ikea storage unit we built in the closet. I still need to get baskets to contain my fabric and yarn stashes, but I can put my hands on everything easily now. Lest you think that the photo shows my entire stash, know that I also have fabric stored in the dresser and have a considerable amount in Denver as well!

Finally, we are almost done with our showcase room. Roger needs to put up some chair rails and we have one wall yet to paint, but we are very close to finishing our Victorian Safari dining room.


Here is our predecessor's country look. Pretty.


And here is our safari theme. As you can see, I finally finished the valances and Roger hung them. The sheers come from Ikea--as did the palms! I even was able to make a runner from left over fabric to cover the side table that my grandfather built. It turned out even better than we hoped.


The next task will be to wallpaper the stairs and paint the upstairs and downstairs hall. I'll need to make new curtains when we do that. I guess I better start thinking about what they should look like!


I never knew it took so much effort to decorate a house! But we are both pleased with the results.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Needlework Fiction--The Day the Falls Stood Still

The Day the Falls Stood Still Cathy Marie Buchanan (2009)

*** 3/5 stars Check out GoodReads for more reviews of this novel


Set on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls at the beginning of World War I this novel follows a love story between middle class Bess and riverman Tom Cole. But it isn't a simple love story. Themes of industrialization, conservation, and integrity run throughout as the couple struggle with making a new life in a changing world. After her parents' fortune take a turn for the worse, Bess is left to pick up the pieces of their lives and apprentice as seamstress. Her paramours is the grandson of Niagara Falls' most beloved riverman--the man who arrived in town the day the falls stood still. Tom Cole inherited his grandfather's fame and knowledge of the Niagara River, but his business is a mixed blessing. Tom is based on real riverman and dare devil William (Red) Hill, whose exploits delighted the local population. But from Bess's vantage point, Tom's obsession with the river is often incomprehensible. Set at the height of the industrialization of the falls, the novel explores Niagara history, but also how industrialization threatened the river. This novel is not about needlework, but needlework is prominently featured. There are fascinating descriptions of garment construction, changes in fashion and how the livelihood of seamstresses changed as a result of industrialization that should captivate anyone who enjoys sewing.


Resources about places and people featured in the novel

Cathy Marie Buchanan's web site has a wealth of information on Niagara Falls and its history, including an interactive map of the Falls.


The real ice bridge disaster is fictionalized in the novel.


The story of William (Red) Hill , who inspired the character of Tom Cole, is fascinating.


I imagine Bess's sister's wedding dress looked much like this!



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Embedded memories and the unexpected importance of dating your needlework

Does anyone else mark events in their lives by their projects? I don't mean wedding or birth samplers that are made to especially commemorate a life event, but works that accidentally record important facts simply because of when they were made? In general, my projects remind me of what was going on in my life when I made them and help me recall things I might otherwise forget, but I have one piece that is an essential historical document for me.

My life was in a lot of turmoil at the time I stitched this little rose. I was in the middle of a divorce, in between apartments and looking for a new job. At the same time, from out of the blue I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was a lot to take in all at once and as a defense mechanism, part of my brain just refused to remember whats and wheres and whens around that time. Stitching was my therapy, and when I finished this little piece, I stitched the date into it.

As a result, every time I go see a new doctor, I look at my cross stitch before leaving the house so that I'm prepared to answer basic questions, like when did I have my first MS symptoms and how long have I been on such and such a medication. I remember my general disease chronology, but I can't for the life of me remember the starting date without my cross stitch. And thank goodness the picture is so pretty. It never makes me feel bad remembering that time when I look at it, just happy because I really enjoyed the stitching.

No one would guess by looking at it how important my rose is to me and my memory. I didn't foresee its importance at the time I stitched it either, but because I never actually wrote about the things that were happening at that time, it is my only path to those memories. Some day I may write it all down, but honestly looking at this pretty stitched flower, is a lot more soothing than words could ever be and it has worked just fine as a personnel record up till now.

People always say that it is important to initial and date your needlework for posterity. But sometimes the act of dating a piece turns out to be more important for us than it could ever be for our heirs.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

I wish I had a thimble

Like many sewers who aren't quilters, I've never used a thimble long enough to get used to the feel of it. I have always sworn them off, although I have a few. Unfortunately they are all in Colorado and I am in Rhode Island. In fact, I am in Rhode Island all by myself because I flew into Providence late Saturday night and my husband went on an unexpected business trip Sunday. I am taking advantage of my unexpected isolation by working on hand sewing the trim onto the bottom of my dining room valances. Each valance is over six feet long, so that is a lot of hand sewing! This is my second night of stitching and I am almost done with two of three valance. Of course, once the hem trim is sewn on and I make the inverted box pleats, I will still have more decorative trim to sew. At least that trim will be 16" shorter per valance since I will be sewing across the box pleats instead of along the whole length of the valance. I will HAVE to get a thimble before I get to that stage or my finger will fall off. Yikes, it is tender!

Some of the edge trim. It seems endless!


Sunday, August 3, 2014

A little at a time

A little at a time. That is what I kept telling myself all of July. I've been putting in a lot of extra hours at work and repeating this mantra is the only thing that keeps me on task instead of flying off to try to do six things at once. I'm not really making progress, but I am not falling behind either.


At home I have to repeat it often too. Even though my big move is done, finding a roommate and then rearranging everything to make space for her had to be done a little at a time. I've been working on the apartment all month and I finally finished the day she signed the lease. Sometimes it felt as though I would never finish everything, but a little at a time worked, even though there will always be more housework.


Since I have been so busy, I've been applying my little at a time philosophy to my needlework as well. The results are much more satisfying than they are at work because they are so tangible. Using my new mantra, I've made progress on several projects, including the gift basket I featured last week. Here is another example.


I am working on some pillow shams for a September wedding. The first weekend I was back in Colorado, I bought and washed the fabric. The second weekend I cut and sewed the shams. The third weekend I centered the waste canvas and started stitching. And just a few days ago, with a little time to spare one evening, I attached the ribbon trim. Two more stitching weekends and I will be done. A little at a time is working and I'll have a fantastic homemade wedding gift done on time. It feels great. A little at a time doesn't always work for me, but a little at a time stitching is the best therapy when everything else is out of control.

I've hardly felt like I've worked on these, but they are almost done!