Thursday, February 12, 2015

February Finishes

Good afternoon and how are my stitching friends today? We are in the middle of another very cold spell here in western Pennsylvania, but, for the most part, I can't complain about this winter. My poor sister lives in Boston and they've recently been slammed with over six feet of snow. I can't even imagine how the city is functioning! How are things in your "neck of the woods" (as Al Roker would say!)? 

Thank you for all of your wonderful comments on my last post--I'm so glad some of you were able to glean a few helpful hints from my finishing tips. None of them are unique to me--I just wanted to pass on what has helped me improve in my finishing over the years. I received so many nice emails, too, from fellow stitchers thanking me for the time I put into writing, staging, and photographing the things I put on each blog post. Do you know how much those emails meant to me? I even received the most lovely birthday gift from a complete stranger--now a friend. Someone who read my blog and wanted to thank me for the inspiration and time I took to post my finishes and stories. I'll show you that very special gift later in the post.

For now, I have my January and February ornaments to share with you. Although it may look like I'm stitching all Prairie Schooler designs this year, that's not the case (at least I don't think it will be!). For my January ornament, I actually stitched the same design that I gave my friend, Cindy, for Christmas. I loved it so much, I just had to make another one for myself. This is from Book No. 51 "Christmas Past," and is stitched "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco. 

Prairie Schooler Santa from  "Christmas Past"

My February ornament is also a Prairie Schooler design, but it is just a small portion of the sampler in Book No. 133 "Winter Wind." Stitched on gray 40ct. Newcastle linen with the suggested DMC threads, I simply used the top quarter of the chart and added red beads instead of stitching the blue "berries" that were charted as part of the design.

Prairie Schooler "Winter Wind" motif

Here is a close-up so you can get a better look at the beads:


I am so happy with how both of my first 2015 ornaments turned out, but the second one will always have special meaning for me. Do you know why? Take a look at that cardinal perched at the tip-top of the pine tree. Do you remember me showing you these photos of that bright red cardinal in this post? Well, what I didn't mention anywhere in that post was the tremendous sense of peace I felt as the cardinal and I gazed at each other as I stood in my upstairs window. He just sat there for the longest time--even while I ran downstairs to grab my camera. I couldn't explain the feeling; I just knew I felt safe and loved and less sad than I had been since my Dad died on October 31st, 2014.

That special cardinal...

The day after that post, I received an email from blogging friend, Frances, with the following words that she had found online:

"A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed. 
When you see one, it means they are visiting you.
 They usually show up when you most need them or miss them. 
They also make an appearance during times of celebration
 as well as despair to let you know they will always be with you. 
Look for them, they'll appear."

When Frances sent me those words, she had no idea that I felt Dad's presence when I spied that cardinal;  as I said, I hadn't mentioned it on that blog post. I had never heard anything about cardinals representing loved ones, but that day--and ever since--I have been more at peace with Dad's passing. And for that reason, my February stitched ornament with the cardinal atop the pine tree will forever remind me of him... I check that same grove of pine trees regularly for any sign of the cardinal, but I haven't seen him again. That's okay--he was there when I needed him most! Thanks, Dad!

Gifts stitched and sent... I also stitched a couple of gifts for friends in Wisconsin and California. To Tricia, I sent this cute "Winter" freebie pillow (available here) as a thank-you gift for a chart she let me borrow. I stitched the scene on 32 ct. slate blue linen using DMC threads 729, 869, 924, 3776, 498, 3865, and 3371. I changed the "T" to resemble a broom and used DMC 729 for that portion. I also eliminated the second row of snowflakes that was charted under "Winter" to make it small enough for a pillow finish. Tricia seemed to like it and I'm so pleased!

Glory Bee "Winter" freebie

And, to my friend, Valerie, out in San Francisco went a VERY belated birthday present. A witch in February?? Well, Valerie's birthday is actually in October so I had it all stitched up back then, and then Dad passed away and I just didn't get it finished until late January. So, Valerie got a little Valentine's witch which she seems to love.  This is an older Mary Garry pattern (from the "Seasonal Mementos" booklet) that I had also stitched for myself back in this post on a different linen. I stitched Valerie's version on 40 ct. raw Newcastle with the suggested DMC threads and finished it into a little pillow that she can sit on a shelf or place in a basket.

Mary Garry "Seasonal Mementos" witch

Prairie Schooler Santa Sundays SAL update:  I am doing a PS Santa SAL with my friends, Melissa and Hilda each Sunday. Our goal is to stitch one Prairie Schooler Santa of our choosing each month (we began in February) and we hope that by stitching together this will inspire us to follow through on our goals... I've chosen one of the blue Santas from the "Old World Santas II" (Book No. 88) to stitch for February and here is my progress after two Sundays. I've made some changes (of course) which I'll tell you about when I show the final finish... I love knowing that a Canadian stitching friend and an Austrian stitching friend are stitching right along with me each Sunday!

PS Santa Sundays SAL progress

A Special Belated Birthday Gift... Now for that oh-so-special gift which a blog reader sent me for my mid-January 60th birthday. I received the sweetest email from April  in Virginia (no blog), telling me how much she liked reading my blog and how she appreciated all the time it took me to pull together a blog post  and what inspiration she had received from Stitching Dreams. She then mentioned that she had made me a gift and asked for my address. Well, just look at what arrived in mailbox on Monday...

I should have known just from the beautifully wrapped presentation that the contents would be so special... I am, I'll admit it--just terrible at wrapping gifts! So, I truly appreciate those of you who can do something like this. Notice the flower adorning the top all made of pretty blue ric rak with felt leaves. Simply lovely!

 
And then when I opened up the box, I gasped--literally gasped--when I spotted what she had made for me! A punchneedle bunny--isn't he adorable? He is so perfect for bunny-loving me and April's work is fabulous. I have never had a piece of punchneedle before and every time I walk by this bunny in his charming frame, he just makes me smile :) She also included a cake of soap that smells just like baby powder. Is there a sweeter, more sentimental scent in the world?

Birthday gifts from April M.

Here is a close-up of April's gift... Thank you, my new friend, I was truly touched by your kind and thoughtful gift... It will be treasured, I promise you!

Punchneedle bunny from April M.

We were invited to a Super Bowl party earlier this month and were asked to bring a vegetable or fruit. Hmmm... for you long time readers of my blog, you know vegetables and I are NOT on good terms--especially green vegetables. I've never liked them, and at 60 years old, I doubt that will change. So, I went with fruit and whipped up these cute rainbow colored fruit kebabs. They were a hit!! Such a nice treat in the middle of winter. (Just watch yourself when spearing the fruit--I drew blood at one point when the pointed end plunged into my hand!).

A rainbow in mid-winter!

So, that's it for me today. I did no Valentine's Day stitching this year, which is unusual, but I've so enjoyed seeing all of your "love-themed" finishes. I do want to share with  you a short video which you've probably seen, but it's just captured my heart and I think it's perfect for Valentine's Day. We are all different, but that doesn't mean we can't be friends! I hope this makes you smile :)



Thank you for reading, for your sweet comments and emails, and for your friendship! Bye for now...

 Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Christmas gifts and finishing tips


Good morning--and happy end of January! Did you all survive the month in good shape? I always think January days seem endless with their gray and chilly skies; I can't say I'm sorry to see the month coming to an end. But, the bright spot smack-dab in the middle of January was my 60th birthday and I want to thank each of you for helping make it a day of celebration for me! Your comments on my last post, the cards, the emails, the gifts--you certainly made turning 60 a fun (and much less painful than I thought it would be!) experience... 

I'm finally showing you the remaining ornaments that I stitched and sent for Christmas gifts. Some of you have asked how I had the time to stitch 11 gifts in the busy month of December... Well, the truth is, I try to stitch these little presents throughout the year and tuck them away to finish for Christmas gifts. But, I found myself feeling very stressed with all that finishing in December so this year I'm trying to "finish as I stitch" and then when Christmas rolls around, I'll be much better prepared. I showed you the five gifts that went out to some of my international friends in this post, so the following were sent to friends here in the United States. As alway, I'd love to hear which one you like the best!

To Robin (no blog), in Virginia, went this cute Barbara Ana design which is featured in the September 2014 issue of "Cross-Stitch & Needlework" magazine. Barbara Ana designed nine tiny Christmas/winter scenes for the September 2014, November 2014, and January 2015 issues. I fell in love with this one and knew I had to stitch it "over one" on 28ct. black Monaco and finish it as one of my little pillow ornaments. Isn't it sweet? I did change some of the colors to more of a Prairie Schooler palette. For the hanger, I simply fringed some of the same fabric that I used on the bottom and back of the ornament. I know I'll be making this again for myself!


I have previously stitched this snowflake ornament which I sent to Mary, on the other side of Pennsylvania, for myself and my finish seems to pop up all over Pinterest. The good news is that it is a freebie that is still available right here so you can stitch it for yourself. As with the finish I did for my own Christmas tree, I used DMC 115 and 40ct. white Newcastle linen. The ruched gingham ribbon adds such a nice touch to the finish--simple and classic. I know I'll be stitching this again for future gifts... perhaps in different colors.


Another Prairie Schooler ornament that you've seen a few times on my blog was sent to Shirlee, in Kentucky. In fact, this is the fourth time I've stitched it, so you know I must really like it! Unfortunately, I have yet to keep one for myself--I'll have to work on that...  This was stitched on 32 ct. sage Jobelan using the suggested DMC colors. The chart can be found in Prairie Schooler's "A Prairie Year II" (Book No. 23).


My friend, Jackie, in Texas was the recipient of this cute JBW piece called "A Very Merry Winter." If it looks familiar, that's because I stitched it last year for another friend and also received this same design as a Christmas gift from my friend Lois a few years ago.  I love how the snowman's body spells out "Have a Very Merry Winter" and the rusty bells on the bottom are a finishing idea I stole from the ornament Lois sent to me. Isn't it great how we all gain inspiration from each other?


My final finish traveled to North Carolina to a new home with my friend, Myra. I stitched just a portion of Prairie Schooler's Christmas Samplers (Book No. 63) in a finish I had already done for myself back in the 2010. I used the same linen and threads for Myra's ornament as I did for mine which you can read about right here. I did finish them differently and I can spot some improvements I've made over the past five years in my finishing process.  Here is the one I made for Myra:


And here is the one I made for myself in 2010:


FINISHING TIPS I've learned through the years... Now, they are both cute finishes, but do you notice how the newer finish is smoother and less "lumpy" looking than the one done in 2010? That is because I've learned what a huge difference using interfacing can make in the final look of your ornaments. Back in 2010, I didn't use it, but for the past few years it's been a vital step in my finishing routine. I purchase Pellon P44F interfacing from Joann Fabrics whenever they have a sale. It is fusible and very easy to apply--in fact, I found this very helpful tutorial for you right here. I apply the interfacing to both the front and the back of the ornament fabric--just think it gives it a nicer appearance and firmer feel.

More tips...  Some of you have asked what filling I use in my little pillow ornaments. I've used "A Touch of Silk" fiberfill for the past few years and love it! It is also available here at Joann Fabrics. I really stuff it well--push it into the far corners and then just keep pushing it in, layer upon layer. I use a lot more fiberfill today than I did when I made the older ornament and it makes a huge difference in the feel and look of the finished piece. When I am done filling it (but before sewing up the opening), I turn the ornament over (stitching side down) and really give the back side a good pressing with a hot iron (protect your fabric with a pressing cloth if you are worried that it won't hold up to a hot iron). I don't know if this melds some of the fiberfill together, or what, but the finished result is a nice dense feeling and not-so-puffy ornament. If you had me close my eyes, then held out my older ornaments and my newer ones to me and asked me to tell you which one was which, I guarantee I could do it just by feel... The amount of fiberfill and the pressing have made that much of a difference!

A few other tips... I've had many of you email asking about my cording. As you know, I love adding cording--not only around an ornament, but also as a little accent across the joint between the stitching and accent fabrics. Although there are many ways to make cording (using a drill, an electric mixer, etc.) I choose to use the Kreinik Custom Corder. It is very affordable and actually fun to make! And then, I glue (yes, I can hear a few of you gasping in horror!) the cording to my finished ornament. I simply go very slowly--I mean VERY SLOWLY!!! Do not glue the entire ornament edging at one time. I put a bit of glue on the end of a toothpick and apply it sparingly to about half of one side of the ornament. Once that has taken hold, I move on, slowly doing the rest, bit by bit. The glue I use is Aleene's Original Tacky Glue. I'm sure there are many others that work just as well--that is just what I happen to prefer. The trick to it not oozing out and showing under your cording is to just use the slightest bit--a little goes a long way.

One last tip--I use invisible thread to stitch the sides of my pillow ornaments closed. Yes, it is a bit fiddly to work with, but there is never the problem of a finding a matching spool of thread to sew up your ornament with.

I am, by no means, a professional finisher--I just wanted to share with you a few things that have helped me become a better ornament finisher than I was five years ago. Most of you probably already know/use these things, but I'm sure there are a few of you who are just beginning to finish your stitching into pillows and ornaments. Many of you email me with questions and I'm hoping that the above tips will help a bit... This was not meant to be a tutorial on how to finish--there are many excellent ones out there already:  Vonna's finishing site and Pinwheel Ponders are just two that I've regularly used. But, these are just a few of the tips that have worked for me. Good finishing takes a long time--honestly, I'm embarrassed at how long I spend on some of my ornaments. But, I love making them and want them to be special so I really try to put some thought into choosing complementary fabrics, trims, and accents.

Now, I said I sent out six ornaments to U.S. friends, didn't I? And there are only five pictured (not counting my "old" finish from 2010)... Well, the truth is I loved that sixth ornament so much that I'm making it again for myself for one of my monthly ornaments so I"ll wait to show it to you in February...

60th birthday memories... I had such a nice birthday even though I spent much of the actual day on the phone talking to friends and relatives (I'm not one who enjoys talking on the phone very much!). And then that evening, my husband took me out for dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants. Being the middle of January, the weather was frigid and icy, but we were seated right next to the fireplace in a cozy corner--it couldn't have been nicer. That Sunday, my two older sons came over and baked homemade pizzas for us and gifted me with two certificates to 123 Stitch (thank goodness, because I got no stitchy gifts from my family for Christmas--they said they didn't want to "feed my addiction!" Addiction??? Me??). My  youngest son sent this beautiful basket of blue hydrangeas which have continually brightened my kitchen table for the past two weeks.
 
Birthday flowers from my youngest son
 
My husband bought me a lovely silver bracelet and the most decadent chocolate cake. I think it was the prettiest cake I had ever received--the sides were all covered with chocolate curls!  And I'm happy to say, that so far anyway, life in my 60s is going quite well!

60th birthday cake--chocolate decadence!

I also received a few more birthday gifts from blogging friends... Myra sent this quilted table mat--isn't it gorgeous? I can already picture a cute patriotic display in my new corner cupboard using your mat, Myra! Along with the mat, she sent a couple of notepads and a striped towel that I can stitch on. Thank you so much, Myra--your gifts are wonderful!

Gifts from Myra

Lois sent a package of goodies all the way from Northern Ireland. She stitched this adorable snowman fob for me and include four lovely finishing fabrics and the cute Lizzie Kate Snow kit along with it. I just love everything you chose for me, my friend--you know me well! Thank you, Lois...

Gifts from Lois

And all the way from France, and my friend, Nathalie (no blog), came this blue wool scarf with a pretty wintery scene and two little bunny ornaments to put me in the mood for spring. Nathalie thought she remembered that I love anything bunny related and she was right! Thank you so much, Nathalie--your gifts made me smile :)

Gifts from Nathalie

Western Pennsylvania got very lucky as we were only on the outer edge of the latest blizzard to hit the northeast U.S. We  got about 7" of the white stuff this week and it was absolutely beautiful--the kind of snow that looks like icing on every branch and twig. I took a few photos of our backyard yesterday as it was an unusually sunny, blue-sky type of day...






I never intended to write a post of this length--I hope at least a few of you are still awake!! I just thought you might like to know what has helped me become a better finisher over the past five years... Even if you just gleaned one useful tip from this post, I'm happy to have helped.  Happy February everyone--and thank you, as always for your friendship and your great comments and emails! Bye for now...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Goodbye...

...to my fifties! Hello, sixties! Yes, today, January 16, 2015, I begin my seventh decade of life (my younger brother had that little gem to pass on to me, making age 60 sound even older!).  Although I have dreaded this day, I think the lead-up to it was worse than actually waking up this morning and realizing I'm now 60 years old. What changed my mind? Well, in a visit to my hairdresser last week, I was bemoaning the fact that I would be turning 60 on the 16th. He smiled and asked, "Aren't you happy about that?" I sighed and said that I was honestly dreading it. And he said something that really made me think: "Aren't you happy to be in good health and doing a job you love? Aren't you happy to look like you're not even 50 (I think he may have been angling for a big tip with that one!!)? Aren't you happy to just be?"  He's right! 60 is only a number and I do feel so blessed with generally good health, a job I love, a supportive and loving family, and let's not forget all of you wonderful blogging friends! Yes, I am happy to have reached 60 and still feel much younger--I truly am!

My first birthday--smiling with glee
at my new Raggedy Anne doll being
given to me by my dear Dad!

As is often the case on my birthday, I reminisce about my past and the people, places, and events that have helped shape me into who I am today. Many of you may remember this post from my last birthday recalling some of the great old images that children of the fifties and sixties most remember. I got so many comments about that post, that I thought I would add to it with some new "old" memories today.

DO YOU REMEMBER...

Paper dolls... I still remember how frustrating
it was when the clothes just wouldn't stay on!

Music class in Kindergarten--
I always wanted to play the triangle!

A ballerina jewelry box lined in satin

The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights--
who can forget the little mouse, Topo Gigio, ending
the show with the words, "Eddie, kiss me good night!"

Candy cigarettes--yikes, what were they thinking?

Silly putty--I loved using this stuff to 
reproduce the Sunday comic strips

Paint By Number kits--they made me feel artistic
 when, in real life, I can't even draw a stick figure!

The classic pink Wolverine refrigerator--
loved the food printed inside the door!

Camp Fire Girls--was anyone else one? 
Or were you the more well known Girl Scout?

Duck and cover drills in school--yep, we 
certainly would have been safe from a nuclear
attack as we hid under our desks!

TV dinners--we thought it was a real treat 
on the rare occasions mom let us have these!

Tang--I can still taste that imitation orange flavor.

Gum wrapper necklaces--and back then,
the gum wasn't even sugarless! No wonder
our generation has so many cavities in our teeth!

Ugh--the hideous blue gymsuits. I still 
remember the smell of those
locker rooms after gym class!

Mini-skirts--my mom thought the
 lengths of mine were scandalous :)

"The Mod Squad"--oh, I so wanted to be Peggy Lipton! 


But, I thought Marlo Thomas in "That Girl"
was adorable, too (never understood what 
she saw in Donald, however!).

Anyone else a Bobby Sherman fan? Loved 
his hair--and "Tiger Beat" magazine!

Who else had a bunch of these purple lucite
grapes in their home? My church group made
our own and then we "forced" our parents to buy
them to fund our trips to help in Appalachia!

Tanning with baby oil--crazy, but true! Little
did we know the damage the sun would do
to our skin down the road... 

Peace signs and flower power--I remember 
doodling both on my notebooks during class.

Much lower prices!!! Look--a new Buick for only $2438.88!


Did you enjoy my flashback? I'm sure some of you have no recollections of any of these, do you? You're just too young... I know I'm one of the older cross stitch bloggers, but there are a few others in your 50s and 60s (are any of you in your 70s???) who will recall some of these things, too. Compared to the 21st century, life was lived at a slower pace back when I grew up. I so worry about all the "stuff" that children are exposed to these days--and at such a young age, too. It must be very hard growing up in these uncertain times...

BIRTHDAY GIFTS RECEIVED... Well, enough of my trip down memory lane! I got some lovely birthday gifts from blogging friends which I want to share with you now... A few people have emailed me saying "Your gift is in the mail," too, so I look forward to seeing what the mailman brings me next week!

From my friend, Robin (no blog), in Virginia, I received a lovely package of goodies! She stitched a beautiful blue "Welcome Friends" pillow which I have placed on the shelf of my new corner cupboard in the kitchen. She also included a set of pretty blue and white notecards and 8 cuts of fabric which I know will come in handy for my finishing. Thank you so much, Robin--you really spoiled me!

Birthday gifts from Robin

From dear June, in England, came another package of lovely blue and white note cards and an assortment of pretty fabric, lace, ribbons, and buttons. Thank you so much, June--all of your gifts will be put to good use!
Birthday gifts from June


From my friend, Cindy, in Tennesee, came a striped, zipper pouch stuffed with treats. Cindy stitched the most intricate little flower and inserted it into a necklace for me (which you can see in the lower right corner). It is so delicate and pretty! Along with that she also stitched a birthday card and sent a LHN chart, some Lily of the Valley scented soap, a small frame, and some buttons and ric-rak for my finishing. Such a great group of gifts, Cindy--thank you so much!

Birthday gifts from Cindy


From sweet Christina, in England, came this darling birthday rosette... I certainly smiled when I opened the package because it is just such a fun and unique gift! Christina did an amazing job on it--just look at all those pretty details. I shall be sure to wear it on Sunday when my family is here to celebrate my big day, Christina--thank you so much!

Birthday rosette from Christina

From my friend, Elizabeth (no blog), in Texas came a lovely blue project pouch filled with two cute charts and some delicious chocolate.  You can never have too many project pouches, can you? Or too much chocolate! Or too many charts!! Thank you so very much, Elizabeth, for helping make my 60th birthday so special!

Birthday gifts from Elizabeth


And more thanks... Although not a birthday gift, I do have someone else to thank today and that is my friend, Liz, in Idaho, who recently had a giveaway for some of her cute wool ornament patterns. Just look what I won--isn't it sweet. I so need to get out of my comfort zone and make that cute snowman and reindeer wool pillow one of these days. I wish I had Liz here by my side to give me some lessons! Thank you Liz--and if you're not familiar with her blog, please do pop over and check out her latest creations... You won't be disappointed!

Giveaway win from Liz

GIVEAWAY WINNER...  I have to tell you, I was extremely surprised at just how many of you were interested in the "Christmas Portraits" book that I offered on my last post. I just threw all of the names into a hat (well, really a paper bag!) and the one that came out first was "Pam in Virginia" (no blog). Congratulations, Pam! Please email me with your mailing address and I'll get the book out to you so you can begin stitching one of those great Santas!

Winner of the Christmas Portraits book:

"PAM IN VIRGINIA"

Although I had planned on showing you more ornaments this time, you will have to wait for my next post--this 60-year-old stitcher is just plain tuckered out!! I'll leave you with a series of photos of the deer that visited me on Wednesday... They came up to the house to eat the birdseed that had fallen from the bird feeder. First one, then two, then three, and so on until five had appeared! Don't they show up well on this snowy January landscape?

A young buck looks longingly at the bird feeder.

Then he settles for the birdseed on the snow

"Do you think I can jump and knock the feeder down?"

One last look...

Finally, the quintet ambles off into the woods
 after eating their mid-afternoon snack.

Thank you all for your many kind comments on my previous post. Unfortunately, so many of you are "no-reply" bloggers, I can't thank you personally in an email. Just know that I do read and appreciate each and every comment so very much... And, if you've asked me a question and I haven't answered it, please ask it again, but, this time--leave your email address in your comment so I can answer you. So, it's on to another year and a new decade! What will the sixties hold for me? I can't wait to find out! Bye for now...