Monday, July 30, 2012

Star-Spangled Stitching!

Good morning all! I was overwhelmed by so many kind comments and anniversary wishes on my last post--thank you all very, very much!! Your words certainly made it easier to deal with the fact that my husband was so far away on our 35th anniversary. I'm very happy to have him home again, all safe and sound...I don't think we had ever been apart on our anniversary before. But, there was a silver lining to his being in Alaska--I had a lot of free time to stitch (along with the fact that I didn't have to cook all week!). And here is what sprang from my needle. Yes, my finishes for my July bowl are complete--and just in time since a new month begins on Wednesday! Not all of these were done this past week, of course; I've been working on them throughout the month. They're a bit late for the 4th of July, but with the Olympics going on, I've thoroughly enjoyed working with all the red, white, and blue threads and fabrics.

July patriotic finishes

So would you like to see how I finished each one of them? Well, here we go! First up, is this adorable design by Heart in Hand. I'll have to admit, the whole time I was stitching this, I kept thinking of two of my sons. No, they don't remind me of long-legged birds, but the little red and white banner draped over the bird is almost exactly like the University of Richmond crest which is where my youngest and oldest sons graduated from. Do you see the resemblance? "4th of July Bird" is stitched on 36 ct. Belfast linen with the suggested DMC and overdyed threads. I stitched the gold "Cecilia's star" (first time I've ever done that particular specialty stitch--or even heard of it!) in place of the flag charm because the colors on the flag charm just didn't coordinate well. It worked out nicely because I ended up making cording of that same gold and I think the color is a perfect accent. The blue star fabric shown behind is what I used to back the tiny pillow. I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

Prairie Schooler designs always seem to make their way into my monthly "bowls" and July is no exception. This patriotic heart (using a bright--for PS designs anyway--DMC 311 blue) is from Book No. 13: A Prairie Year. It is stitched with the suggested DMC threads on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle linen. For the pillow, I combined two blue fabrics--a stripe and a dotted sort of blue. Topped with a burgundy button and a white star, I think the whole effect is quite classy looking. This is probably my favorite finish of the month, but it's hard to say!

The Lizzie Kate July Flip-It Stamp is my next finish... Another example of taking a very simple design and adding fabrics and trims to turn it into something special! Again, I used 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle linen (I love that stuff because the whites show up quite well on it) and whatever overdyed threads I had in my stash. I did make a few changes in this one (of course!). I changed the color of the word "July" to match that of the watermelon. I also sewed black matte Mill Hill beads on for the seeds. The original design had ants on the finish, but I decided to leave those off. The striped and solid blue fabrics are both from old shirts (go through those closets everyone--you never know what goodies you'll find!) and I finished this one off with some rope-like trim and a little yo-yo made of the blue fabric. Cute!!

This little cutie is called "Summer House" and is a Little House Needleworks design (it was an old freebie which I don't see available any longer on the internet). For this one I used 40 ct. flax Newcastle with a variety of overdyed threads. If you wonder why I use so many 40 ct. fabrics, it is so the pillows will turn out small enough to fit in the bowl. I actually think I stitch faster on 40 ct., too, because you only have to use one strand of thread and there are no worries about twisting as there are when using two strands. I chose a red and white gingham reminiscent of a summery picnic tablecloth and some red ric-rak to finish it off very simply.

Finally, I found a very cute Prairie Grove Peddler freebie available here. This was such a quick stitch--just took a day. Yep, you guessed it--another one on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle linen!! I used the suggested DMC threads, with the exception of changing the blue to DMC 824. I wanted it to match the blue in the tri-color ribbon I had chosen for the edging. I usually use only one strand of thread when I stitch on 40 ct., but I wanted the USA to stand out a bit, so I ended up using two strands just for that portion. What do you think? A quick and easy finish in just one day!

Below are my five new finishes along with the Chessie & Me "Love Liberty" finish that I shared with you in my last post. Do you have a favorite this month?

July 2012 patriotic finishes

And here they are all snuggled into my wooden bowl along with three patriotic finishes from last year. Don't they make you just want to stand up and salute?! On to August... I have a theme in mind--can anyone guess what it might be? I'll give you a hint--it's one of my favorite summer things...

July bowl of patriotic finishes

THANK YOU!! Through blogging, I've been lucky enough to "meet" so many wonderful people from around the world. One of my dear friends, Hilda, who lives in Austria, recently surprised me with a pair of French cross stitching magazines. Oh, I was so tickled to receive these--everything from the designs and colors all the way down to the advertisements was simply lovely. My one year of college level French helps a bit with the translation, but honestly, isn't the language of beautiful stitching universal? If you haven't visited Hilda's blog, Hildi's Good Life, please stop by--her stitching and photography are absolutely delightful! Thank you, Hilda, for your thoughtful gifts and even more, for your friendship.

MY NEW PET (well for one week!!)...
While my husband was on his Alaska bike trip, I was tasked with keeping his garden alive. That meant daily trips to check on the vegetables and watering if necessary. Luckily, we finally received many, many inches of rain last week--the first time all summer--so, I didn't have to water at all. On my very first day of "garden duty," though, just look at what greeted me! Peering through the Havahart Trap, was this little guy--a small woodchuck. Not exactly a friendly bundle of fur; he bared his large, ugly, yellow teeth (he obviously hasn't visited his dentist in quite some years!) and leaped at me when I tried to open the door of the trap to get him out.

I tried and tried, but I couldn't figure out how to release the door so he could escape. I couldn't just let the poor thing sit there all week and die, so my soft-hearted self began feeding him--from my husband's garden. Oh, he ate like a king all week--fresh tomatoes, lettuce, succulent green leaves. All under cover of some shady pine trees. When my oldest son came over for a visit on Friday, he was finally able to figure out how to get the door open. We expected the woodchuck to make a mad dash for his freedom, but what did he do? He just sat there in the cage for a while--obviously he had gotten used to the easy life and didn't really look forward to being on his own again and having to scavenge for food! Eventually, he waddled out to, hopefully, be reunited with his furry family. (Ssshhh...don't tell my husband I let the little fellow go--I don't think he would be quite inclined to have dealt with him in the same way!)

I'll leave you with something far prettier than that image of the homely little woodchuck. Isn't this a lovely photo of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly that was perched on our orange Cosmos? Click on the photo and you can see all the colors that make his wings so special--the blues and little bits of orange along with that pale yellow and black. What a mosaic of beauty!

Thank you all for sticking with me this far--I keep telling myself to make my posts shorter, but it doesn't seem to ever work out that way for some reason! (***Special Note: For any of you who have ask me questions in your comments, the only way I can respond to you is if you leave me your email address. You may email me directly (my email address is in my profile on the sidebar) and I'll be happy to respond). I hope your week is a relaxing one... I'm looking forward to the month of August and lots of family gatherings. Because of those, I may be a bit "absent" from blogging in the coming month, but will try to visit your blogs whenever possible. Enjoy your week, my friends! Bye for now...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Catching Up With Christmas On a Very Special Day

Good morning everyone! Well, it's a special day for me, which I'll get to later in my post, but first I have some stitching finishes I'd love to share with you. Many of you have been asking about my monthly Christmas ornaments. Am I still doing them, when will I show them, etc. Well, I'm happy to say I've finally caught up--I hadn't finished a Christmas ornament since March so it was a lot of work, but I love how each and every one turned out! Below is a shot of the stitching along with some of the finishing materials I gathered. Sometimes I think finding the perfect trims, fabrics, and buttons to finish a piece is as much fun as the actual stitching!

Monthly ornaments waiting to be all finished up

My ornament for April was actually started last November and then got cast aside during the frenzy of Christmas stitching. Finding this little snow guy half-finished was like running into an old friend. How can you help but smile at that crooked grin of his? The suggested DMC colors and a mystery piece of 32 ct. linen were used. I think this finish is a perfect example of how you can take a simple design ("Let It Snow" by A Stitcher's Hands) and make it more special by adding fun fabrics and trims. The wee orange nose was called for on the chart, but I added the white pompom and jazzed him up with two fabrics, white ric rak, and a candy-cane striped hanger. The chart includes three other charming snowmen, all wrapped up in their warm scarves and knit hats, which I also hope to stitch one of these days.

"Let It Snow" by A Stitcher's Hands

I honestly enjoy (gasp!) stitching on black--in fact three of my seven ornaments for 2012 are stitched on black so far! The May ornament is stitched on 32 ct. black Belfast linen with DMC threads. I love how white just pops on the black fabric and with snow and wintry themed charts, there is always a lot of white on Christmas ornaments. This cheery piece is Sue Hillis's "Candy Canes" and includes a little brass candy cane charm. The color of the red is really more of a maroon shade than is shown in the photo. I changed it from the suggested DMC reds to DMC 815 which I also used to make the red and white cording. It is backed with coordinating red and white striped fabric and topped with a little white pin. I left off the backstitching for obvious reasons. That's another good thing about stitching on black fabric--no need to backstitch!

"Candy Canes" by Sue Hillis

For my June ornament, I stitched the winsome Trilogy design called "Cheer." This is the second one of their little trees that I've done. I also stitched the Spooky Tree for my dear friend, Myra back in 2010. If any of you are familiar with the original design, you'll notice I left off the rectangular border and one of the little stars and finished it into an oval shape with a ruched ribbon and bow in slate blue. It is backed with the beige and white homespun fabric shown. Some miniature white buttons serve as snowballs just waiting for that next snowball fight between this trio of little guys. I don't know about you, but the sight of them certainly brings me "cheer!"
"Cheer" by The Trilogy

And finally, back to my all-time favorite designer, Prairie Schooler, for my July ornament! "A Visit From St. Nicholas" is from Book No. 48, "A Christmas Visit" and is the second piece I've stitched from it. The first was Sunflower Santa done back in 2010. Again, I love every single design in this booklet and I hope to complete all seven. This one is stitched on 40ct. flax Newcastle linen using the suggested DMC threads and is finished very simply with handmade cording in DMC 221. A red and white gingham bow was added to the corner to cover where the cording ends meet.

"A Visit From St. Nicholas" by Prarie Schooler

And here are all four--April through July...ready and waiting for December's Christmas tree:

April, May, June, July 2012 ornaments

I've had some lovely gifts arrive on my doorstep lately from three blogging friends around the world. First of all, Suzanne in Washington state (no blog) sent me this sweet Lizzie Kate kit as a thank you for lending her an out-of print chart. Secondly, Melody from Bookwoman Stitches blog sent me this cute "Jolly Jack" chart to thank me for lending her two out-of-print charts. She's hoping it will make the cut for my "October Bowl"--I just bet it might, Melody!! And finally, all the way from England, came these gifts from Linda. Linda doesn't have a blog, but has written to say how inspirational my finishes are and wanted to send me a little token to show her appreciation. She sent me my first (and probably only!) souvenir of the Diamond Jubilee and a wonderful bookmark with "Desiderata" on it (boy, does that take me back to my college days in the mid-'70s. I think every girl in the dorm had a poster with that lovely verse on her wall. If you would like to read the whole thing for yourself, click here ). She also included some postcards and leaflets from Sandringham. I am so touched by all of your gifts, my friends. Really, nothing is expected when I lend my charts out, but I so appreciate your friendship and generosity!

A most special day: July 23rd, 1977...My wedding day--which makes today our 35th wedding anniversary! I seem to find myself humming that old Carpenters tune We've Only Just Begun quite a bit lately. (For all of you in your fifties and sixties you'll love this old video--does that bring back memories or what?! I think I wore out multiple copies listening to the Carpenters' records over and over when I was in high school!).

"We've only just begun, to live...
White lace and promises,
A kiss for luck
And we're on our way...

We were so young and so full of hope. Our sons can't believe we married at age 22, but that's the way it was done back then... graduate from college, get married, work for a few years, and have kids. Today the order of things has definitely changed up a bit, hasn't it? And the time-frame has certainly slowed down. But, you know what, I wouldn't change a thing about the way we did things way back when...

Wedding Day Memories

Here is a tiny snapshot from our big day along with our wedding invitation (yes, it was the palest blue color!) featuring the quote "And this... our life, our beginning." The white lace is all that remains of my wedding dress which was damaged and discolored beyond repair from decades of storage in my parents' attic. So, I removed a few pieces to save before discarding it. (Having no daughters who might want to wear it someday, made that decision a bit easier!) And how about that 13¢ butterfly stamp--that just shows you how prices have jumped over the past 35 years--today it costs 45¢ to mail a card this size! (If it looks like there are no people in the pews behind us, that is because the minister would not allow photos during the church ceremony, so this was "staged" after the actual ceremony. There were actually nearly 250 people in attendance!).

So, how will we celebrate? Well, believe it or not, my husband is 3183.11miles away right now. He is on a week-long biking tour of Alaska! (This is not him in the photo, but I'm expecting some equally breathtaking shots to be taken by him this week.) I'm a bit sad, of course, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and biking is to him what stitching is to me. I know we'll celebrate later, in fact we already have plans to head down to the mountains of North Carolina (Asheville vicinity) this fall. And this is where I could use your help--have any of you vacationed there who could give me advice; the best time to go to see the leaves changing, must-see sights, good restaurants, even the name of a great place to stay (I'd love to stay in a little cabin!)? Any help would be greatly appreciated...

Well, that wraps up another very lengthy post--I hope you've enjoyed your visit today! Welcome to my new followers; so glad you've joined the fun. As always, your comments and emails are very much appreciated--thank you, my friends. I'll close with the final lines from Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata." Although written in 1927, it is still so applicable to today's world...

"With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy".

May your week be a special one! Bye for now...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Small Finishes and a Big Harvest

Good morning, my stitching friends! I sure hope the worst of our heat wave is behind us and those of you who suffered the widespread power outages last week are recovering and returning to normal. What a week! We "only" reached 99° here in the Pittsburgh area and I feel very lucky when I hear of the 100°+ temperatures so many of you in the mid-west had to deal with. And my poor blogging friends in the United Kingdom seem to be faced with day after day of nothing but rain. Is there no happy medium? At least those high temperatures gave me a very good excuse to sit inside and stitch and read...

I managed to finish the first of my small pieces for my July "bowl" and I had the best time stitching it! This is "Love Liberty" by Chessie & Me and I stitched it on 32 ct. Confederate gray Belfast linen with the recommended threads. The only change I made was to use two threads for the cross stitching rather than the one suggested on the chart. One of the main reasons I enjoyed stitching this (outside of that adorable black cat--I love black cats in case you didn't know!) was the fact that it incorporated so much "over one" stitching and lots of Smyrna stitches. The entire roof, stars, leaves, and border are all made up of Smyrna stitches. Sure, they each took more time than a plain old cross stitch would have, but they give such nice dimension to the finished piece.

"Love Liberty" by Chessie & Me

And here it is all finished up! The crows, flag, cat, and heart are all stitched "over one"--don't you love how detailed they look? For the finish, I chose a burgundy fabric dotted with gold stars and applied some handmade gold cording (DMC 3045) and a burgundy colored star. I seem to have managed to get this one quite straight (compared to my poor crooked Lizzie Kate finish in the last post) so thanks to all of you who suggested pinning and lacing the finish and making sure my mat boards were perfectly square--what a help! I took your advice and I think this one is much less "wonky!"

"Love Liberty" by Chessie & Me

My dear friend, June, had a birthday last month and I wanted to stitch her something special. For those of you who are familiar with June's blog, Butterfly Wings, you'll know that in addition to her being an amazing stitcher, she is also an avid gardener. Her flower photos are an instant pick-me-up on a gloomy day. So, what better piece to stitch her than "Earth Laughs In Flowers" by Prairie Schooler? This tiny pillow is stitched with DMC threads on 40 ct. antique white Newcastle linen and surrounded by handmade cording in a yellow-gold color. I did add in more pinks to the mix to coordinate with the fabric backing. June seems to love it and I hope she'll think of me each time she looks at it--I so enjoyed every stitch!

"Earth Laughs In Flowers" by Prairie Schooler

Another stitched creation was made for my dear friend, Cathey's (also known to many of you as "Pumpkin") sweet new baby boy. I thought this marching teddy bear proudly carrying the Canadian flag would be just perfect for his very first Christmas. The chart is a freebie which can be found here. I did change the maple leaf on the flag a bit--made it larger and a bit more detailed. It is stitched on a mossy green evenweave using DMC threads and finished into a small hanging pillow with red ric-rak and a coordinating green flannel. (Cathey's son's name is stitched under the bear, but I've covered it up for privacy). I hope this happy bear makes her little guy smile for years to come!

Canadiana Teddy freebie

2012 Garden

Even though we've been faced with extreme temperatures, "our" garden (well, honestly, my husband deserves 99% of the credit--all I do is enjoy the fruits of his labor) has flourished with all the sunshine. Just look at this crop of goodies that he picked on Saturday! Now, all of my long-time blog readers know I'm not an eater of green vegetables (remember this post?), but I will eat lettuce, peas, and uncooked spinach. If the zucchini is disguised in breads, cookies, cakes, or muffins, it will also make its way into my mouth, too! My husband can't possibly eat every green vegetable that he grows, so much of it is given to friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Are any of the rest of you green-vegetable haters? I sometimes feel like a little girl who never grew up when it comes to eating my vegetables!

A bumper crop of vegetables from this year's garden

To use up some of the zucchini, (well, exactly one of the ten zucchini on hand!), I made this yummy Blueberry Zucchini Bread. To make it even healthier, I substituted 1/2 cup of the vegetable oil with 1/2 cup applesauce. Look closely--can you see the little bits of green? At least I consumed a teeny portion of green vegetables this weekend! Does anyone else have any tried and true zucchini recipes that I might like?

Blueberry-Zucchini Bread

And here's a little bit of garden trivia... Do any of you know what the mystery plant below is? Hint: it's something my husband uses in another of his hobbies!
Can anyone guess what plant this is?
(Answer is at the bottom of this post!)

July is a month filled with celebrations in our family. My youngest son turned 24 yesterday (yes, he's bemoaning the fact that he is "getting old!"), my husband catches up with me on Saturday and turns 57 (yes, I married a younger man--six months younger!), and my dear parents celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary tomorrow. 59 years together--quite a feat in today's world!! I'm heading up to New York tomorrow to see them for my monthly visit so I'll be able to help them celebrate.
to my parents, dear husband, and youngest son. I love you all so very much...

Thank you for taking time to visit me today--I know it is especially hard in the summer months to read blogs, let alone comment, so I truly appreciate hearing from so many of you! I plan to be back next time with some Christmas stitching--fingers crossed! I hope the remainder of your July is filled with things for you to celebrate as well. Bye for now...

(ANSWER to the mystery plant question: it is "hops". My husband brews his own beer and uses this in the process. I'm not a beer drinker so I can't tell you how it tastes, but he certainly seems to enjoy it! Cheers!)