Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Stupwork revealed

Today is my mother's birthday, and since she was the intended recipient of my stumpwork rose, I can now show it to you all. You might remember some of my early posts on this project when I was just getting started, and how excited I was to be stitching another Inspirations project.

I used the rose as my Colorado project, but needed to bring it back to Rhode Island to finish it up and get it in the mail. I have to admit, it is one of my favorite projects ever and I am eager to work on more stumpwork projects in the future. I think that as a result of this project and a few other recent insights, I've figured out where I want to go as an embroiderer. More on that in another post. Let me just show you how it all turned out.

First, here are all the pieces embroidered and cut off of their backing. The leaves, bud and calyxes are already partially assembled. The pattern called for a fluted beads at the bases of the calyxes, but I could't find any, so I used a fluted beads cap instead. They have nice wide holes, which makes wrapping them easy.

The stamens are made using two colors of wool and fabric stiffener. They turned out better than I had hoped!

Finally, as I wrapped multiple stems together, I included a pin back so that the rose can be used as a corsage. I think that the final product turned out great, especially since this was my first big stumpwork project, first time working with wool, and first larger long and short stitch project as well. A lot of firsts, but I am so pleased with the end product!


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Breaking the Silence

My blog has been silent for much too long, but it has been silent because I've had to choose between stitching and writing time, and I chose to stitch. Unfortunately, some of my stitching time was interrupted by sore shoulders and other minor illnesses, but I have been making progress on many fronts.

At home in Rhode Island with my sewing machine, I made my husband a padded envelope for his new (bigger) iPad. Unfortunately, it took two tries to get one to fit correctly and then I accidentally stitched a seam twice, making it rather lopsided. As a result, I am not showing a photo. But even if it isn't perfect, my husband is using it. It makes me happy to know his tablet is safe from accidental drops and scratches, even if I need to practice more to perfect the art of sewing what should be an easy little project.

But all is not lost. I can sew a straight line, because I also sewed new curtains for our newly painted guest room, using some commercial valences in another room as a pattern. I wanted a light airy feel, so the toppers are cream colored and airy and the sheer is a silk/linen panel. I was told over and over that I should not use it for a curtain because silk rots in the light, but it is just what I wanted, and the guest room blinds are lowered unless we have guests, so I think they will be ok. Additionally, the linen will help hold it together.

The reason I wanted a nice fabric is because I want to stitch shadow work butterflies on the sheers. I saw the pattern in Inspirations, and have been dying to work it ever since. I have only experimented with shadow work once and in a much cruder format that will be needed on these sheers, so I worked up a practice piece to see how best to manipulate curves in the pattern and to determine which colors to use. I tried two variegated threads and white. I think I will use all of them in the curtains. I learned a lot in my practice piece, but it took several nights of work. In the end, I liked it so much, that I added a floral garland and framed it against a piece of tie dyed blue fabric. It is a nice little addition to the guest room while I stitch the sheers, which will, I think, take quite awhile to finish!

This is not all that I've been working on, but I'll save more for later blogs so I don't go silent for such a long time again.

New valences and sheers in our guest room.
Here is the sheer with my practice piece pinned to it to see how it will look when I begin embroidering the sheers.
A close up of the practice piece.
My practice piece framed as an accent for our antique dresser. It is nice to find a use for the hours that it too to stitch the piece! And doesn't it go well with the antique dresser scarf I found that was already embroidered with butterflies?!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016


May was stressful and busy in Colorado, but it didn't let up when I was back in Rhode Island during June. Gardening, painting, getting the house ready for visitors. It was more controlled chaos, and it was fun to see everyone, but I didn't have a second to relax and stitch. So this month I made a concerted effort to stitch and I made progress on my stumpwork project.

When I last updated you on this project, I had gotten one leaf half done. This month I finished all of the greenery. It took many hours, but the longer I stitched, the more I learned about stitching with wool and began to control for the stretchiness with shorter lengths and looser stitches. As I got used to wool's qualities, I began to work faster and admire its ability to cover large areas quickly and with less stitch definition than cotton or rayon. It is really beautiful to work with. All of my frustration from March is gone and I am eager to stitch more.

Here is all of my greenery still in the hoop.


And here it is cut out.


The edges of the leaves are finished with Lazy Daisy stitches stitched around the edge and tacked down. The effect is clever.

Unfortunately the backs of my leaves aren't as neat as the fronts. That will take much more practice. I am a bit disappointed since in the finished work the backs may be visible, but not usually to the viewers. All in all, I am pleased with my progress and will bring the project home to Rhode Island to continue working on. I should really leave it here, but it is just too much fun!


Thursday, June 2, 2016

When stitching dreams are just that

In April I dreamed up several ideas for small projects that I could work on when I returned to Denver. I was excited about them, especially the stump work project I wanted to start. I knew May would be busy, but I pictured my future self working diligently on projects, calmly and purposefully a little each day, and likely finishing at least one. But the reality of May came crashing down on me almost from the time I stepped off the plane.

I haven't had such a stressful month in a long time. Not all of it was bad stress. For example, I spent a long Mother's Day weekend with my parent's in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I drove down on a Friday and left on Monday. It is only 5.5 hours each way and I hadn't seen my parents in a year and a half, so it was worth the time off to see them. We visited galleries, ate good southwestern food, and enjoyed tracking down the sights from a book about old Santa Fe that my mother and I had recently read. I even took my parents for cocktails at a "haunted" bar. Fun

But the next week wasn't fun at all. I spent long hours at work and evenings sorting and packing because I had to move. I am trying to make myself more mobile and when a co-worker suggested that I move into their spare room and drop my lease, I jumped at the offer. So, each day I carted a new car load of things I wouldn't need in the new place to the ARC donation center next to work and packed up what I knew I couldn't part with.

Because I was going to be away the19th through the 22nd, I hired movers for the second weekend of May. They moved my furniture and most of my things in less than 2 hours and I was relieved not to have to try to get a truck and movers over the Memorial Day weekend. But, that meant that I slept on the floor for several days while I continued sorting and packing household goods to be picked up by a refugee organization later in the month and carted even more nicknacks to ARC

It is somewhat freeing to give away almost all of your things--furniture, dishes, etc.--but it meant that I was left living in a half empty apartment. But that was ok. I didn't have time to start a new project since I traveled to Detroit the third weekend of the month for a memorial service. It was nice to see family again and wonderful to see my husband in the middle of an off month, but two more days off of work was a bit deadly. When I got home I started going to work earlier and earlier--even as early as 4 am--to try to get things done, but still have afternoons to pack and clean. This was stress! But one good thing came of it. A pillow top that I had embroidered and cut out ready to assemble two years ago, but which had subsequently vanished, showed up during the move. Now I have a birthday present for my brother-in-law ready made!

The following week, cleaned everything I could, And finally moved into my new place on the 25th. My friends were going of town, so I cat sat for them. It was a great arrangement. I was able to organize everything while they were gone without inconveniencing them a bit. I took off some of Friday afternoon to work on it all, and I am glad I did, even though that meant I had to work on the Monday holiday to make up my time. I gained two full relaxing, stress-free days for myself. I spent the time watching Midsomer Mystery videos, and petting cats. I almost didn't know what to do with myself, so I began FINALLY, to think about my project ideas.

Saturday afternoon I found the fabric and threads for the stump work project, but I could n't begin. I had no hoop. And then, no needles. I just couldn't find them. Maybe they were in one of the three suitcases I had packed with craft supplied to bring back east, but those were packed so tightly, I didn't dare open them. After two trips to the fabric store I was ready to start, but too drained.

Not until the next morning did I start setting up my new project. As you can see, I didn't get too far! I am finding the wool tricky to work with. It stretches much more than I expected, so I will need to cut shorter lengths. Also, the curve in the leaf is making my long and short stitch a bit random. Once the veins are embroidered in, however, I think it will look good. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a first attempt at a new technique and not get ahead of myself, but I've already envisioned several much more elaborate projects when this one is finished.


That is what happens when I have time to daydream. But I need to remember the lessons I learned in May and stick with the little projects that I can pick up and set back down at will. Clearly, my contemplative future isn't right around the corner and I am going to have to snatch stitching time from the here and now when I can. At least when I return to Denver in July I will have a project waiting for me, and that is half the battle.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

U.S.S. Dracen

Today I have something special to show you. It is a project for our grandson's third birthday that my husband and I have been working on for a couple of months.

I found this tent pattern on IKEA's web site and thought it would be a great reading tent for the little guy. My husband agreed, although he wanted some improvements I wasn't sure I could pull off. Eventually, we compromised. I would do the fabric cover similarly to what the pattern showed and he would do the woodworking and make improvements to the frame.

In February we went to the fabric store together. Roger requested a space theme, so we looked for starry night fabric. But my sewing machine was in Denver, so for the next step I was on my own.

Back in Denver I drew up a rocket ship pattern, fused it to the tent fabric and machine embroidered it. After I sewed the tent tube together, I realized it was too big for a house. The size is fine for an IKEA store, but it needed to be cut down a little for home use. The final touch was to embroider "U.S.S. Dracen" on the rocket ship.

The U.S.S. Dracen before I cut all the loose thread.


Last month I brought the fabric portion of the tent home and we went to the hardware store looking for wood for the frame. Roger did a mock up using slats that he hand joined, but it was a little too small. It was also heavy. So, he came up with a much more innovative frame using dowels seated in slats with an with a bolt embedded into the top dowel and thread through the side dowels. It is much sturdier than the IKEA example, which was held together with tape.


Of course, by the time the frame was finished, I was back in Denver. Roger made me this great video to show me how it all goes together.


Yesterday, Roger delivered the final product to the birthday boy. I think he likes it!


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

My mother has never liked having her picture taken, so I have very few. This one, however, is my favorite. It was taken by my dad on a rainy day on Monhegan Island, Maine. My parents went there for their honeymoon almost 48 years ago and have gone back often. Even so, this photo must be 20 years old. She is working on a Hawaiian appliqué quilt block with an island cat curled up next to her. What a cozy scene. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! And Happy Mother's Day to all moms who continue passing along a love of needlework to their children.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

More stitch along progress

My month in Rhode Island is over, but I am happy to report that I made a good deal of progress on my Janet Brandt stitch along project. I think up to six people have already finished. You can see their interpretations here. Since I only stitch on this project when I am in Rhode Island, I am going slower. I began in February and didn't finish much, just a few hearts and flowers. Now I am proud to say that I am between 1/2 and 2/3s through with the work and am still having fun. It is doing its job in getting my creative juices flowing too!

Since I will be moving to smaller digs in Colorado this month to save money and get out of a lease, I am going to set up a smaller project there--probably the Inspirations project I mentioned last time. I'm not going to have much time to stitch so a small contained project is what I will need there.

In the meantime, I am quite happy with my progress on what I am calling the tree of life and love.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Oh boy!

Look what came in the mail today! It is the wool for a stumpwork project I want to do from Inspirations. The last time I worked with wool I was in grammar school. I worked a little kit that said "I Love You" and used all sorts of different stitches and colors. I learned most of the basic stitches doing the kit--satin, French knots, chain, back stitch, and stem stitch. I got a lot of heat from friends who saw it who thought that I shouldn't stitch something that said "I love you" for myself, but who cares. It got me hooked on embroidery. My mother made it into a pillow for me and I had it for decades. But eventually, it got holes and wore out. I wish I still had a picture of it.

This project will be fun. It is small, the colors are so pretty. In addition to using wool for the first time in 35 years, I will also be doing a piece of free-standing stump-work for the first time ever. I can't wait to dive into it over the summer. Since it is intended as a gift, I won't show it all. Any tips people may have for making sure that the BACK of a piece of stumpwork is as coverd as the front would be greatly appreciated! I've only done pieces where one side matters so far.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A slow start

Little projects are what have been keeping me going lately. I'm using them to experiment and get my creative juices flowing after such a dry year. One thing that I had to do was to finish the baptismal bibs that I had promised to do over the summer. I stitched them a little at a time, but decided that I HAD to finish them before I left for Thanksgivingand pushed to finish all six. Since the only "rule" was to stitch the water blue, I had a lot of fun with them.

But the best thing was that the day after I returned to Denver in January, I ran into the coordinator at church. She loved what I had done and got me six more bibs before I left again for a Florida vacation. I thought I might have time to do a little stitching on the plane, but we wound up having a rainy cold vacation and a death in the family that left me happy to have something to keep my hands busy. I stitched all six new bibs in one week.


These were especially fun because I decided to experiment with new stitches. I tried Hungarian braided chain stitch and cable chain stitch. I especially like cable chain stitch for the crosses. I also tried a tacked filling stitch for the fish. I've wanted to try that since I saw a painting at the Worcester Art Museum that portrayed fish scales in cross hatches. I like how it turned out, but would like to experiment more.

It is nice to have a little project that can be completed in an hour or two to experience to with and which you know will be appreciated by the recipient!


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter portraits

When I posted my portrait of Winnie I mentioned that I hoped to do some additional portraits soon. The opportunity came this month, and I was able to finish two portraits as an Easter thank you for my sister-in-law and her daughter-in-law.

February was a tough month for our extended family, so I wanted to do something life-affirming with my embroidery. Since we were unexpectedly in Michigan, I was reminded again of how darling my sister-in-law's first great grand daughter is. She is a spunky little Disney princess and once we left, I was really looking forward to embroidering her.

This time, I played a lot with the photos and for the first time wasn't afraid to rip out stitches and re-stitch lines. I still have a long way to go to become a portrait artist, but I think that there is a noticeable improvement over my last attempt.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Tea time

I made one final Christmas gift--a tea cozy for my neighbor who is starting a tea catering business out of her home. She's moving slowly with it, researching all the state food service regulations and practicing her menus. In the meantime, my husband and I are recipients of her experiments. It is great to have a neighbor who bakes!

The original name of her proposed business was Come Have Tea With Me, hence the saying on the cozy. She has already sent me some Pinterest ideas for more cosies. I am looking forward to working on them later this year!


Tuesday, March 8, 2016


The hand-made Christmas presents weren't numerous this year, but I did make Christmas banners for over the fireplace--four in all. I made one for each step son, one for my parents, and one for my husband and me. I sent my husband a photo of the two I made for his sons and when he said he wanted one as well, I told him that there was no possible way I could make any more before I came home. Then I proceeded to do just that!

I had seen similar banners in a craft book that I borrowed from the library, but when I went back to look for the book, I couldn't find it, so I had the fun job of designing them myself. I printed the letters out on my computer along with a triangle template and was soon off and running.

Since the letters are machine appliquéd and really have to look nice, I was terrified, but I didn't have to redo any of them. They aren't perfect, but I am satisfied with how they turned out.


Four sets turned out to be the perfect number for the fabric I had bought too. I had no waste!

A banner hanging over my parent's hearth.


Thursday, February 25, 2016


I promised to show you all some of the Chistmas presents that I made this year. Now that they are all distributed, it is safe to post them. One of my favorites was Winnie, my daughter-in-law's French Bulldog. I wanted to repeat the outline technique that I first tried last year. The difficult part of this technique is deciding what details to keep in and what to leave out. I wish I were a natural artist, but I see improvement each time I trace a new photo, and I think it worked very well this time. At least my daughter-in-law recognized Winnie right away! I have a few more of these projects that I want to try, so you may see more soon.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Stitch-a-long progress

Wow! It is amazing to me, but Janet Brant has reported that at least one person has finished her stitch-a-long! I knew that given my schedule I would lag behind others, but that is amazing. My progress is much more modest, but it is still progress. And, because I am stitching slower, I am taking some inspiration from others to incorporate into my work. Fun! Anyway, here is my progress so far. Slow, but steady.

Stitching progress after 2 weeks.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Stitching along with Janet Brandt

It has been a long time since I posted anything, and in fact, I'm surprised I posted as much as I did in 2015. It was a very dry year for creativity. Toward the end of the year things picked up and I will show what I finished for Christmas gifts eventually. I really needed a kick start to get my creative juices flowing, and Janet Brandt provided it by posting a free-for-all stitch along. There are no real rules, just a pattern for which she is posting her own stitching progress. It is fanciful and fun and there is no pressure. Just what I need right now! So, I downloaded the pattern, drew it on my fabric and bought my floss. My progress will be much slower than hers, but I am looking forward to stitching for the fun of it. If you want to stitch along too, you can find Janet's pattern and posts on her blog.

As you can see, my pattern isn't perfectly copied (it was hard to see the pattern through the dark fabric), but that is ok. I'm not worrying. I'm just stitching! I'll show my progress next week.