Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hope you like black cats!!

Good morning, my dear friends! And a warm welcome to my new followers! I never post on Sundays, but with Hurricane Sandy making her way up to the north east, I decided to get this written because, yes, western Pennsylvania is in that highlighted red area you see on all of those weather maps. Hopefully, it is just high winds and rain (I'd even take some snow!), but you just can't be sure... Last week we enjoyed summer-like record-breaking temperatures and here we are just seven days later with hurricane warnings!  That Mother Nature sure is a fickle woman, isn't she? We are very blessed in the western Pennsylvania region to usually manage to escape nature's ravages...few tornadoes, wild fires, hurricanes, or any of the other devastating events that effect so many other parts of the country rarely hit us here. BUT, we were affected by Hurricane Ivan back in 2004. Our whole basement was flooded and I sure hope history doesn't repeat itself. My thoughts are with all of you on--especially those of you on the coast--as the storm approaches...

So, what have I been doing over the past three weeks? Well, playing with little black cats, of course! No, not real ones (unfortunately), but these sweet stitched ones. Yes, as many of you guessed, black cats is the theme for my October bowl of smalls. I love black cats because of the one and only cat we ever owned--my dear Shadow cat (more about him later!). Even though he's been gone for five years, I still miss him and since we aren't able to get another cat due to my husband's allergies, I have to get my "black cat fix" through my stitching. This month, I managed to stitch five new pieces featuring the fabulous felines and finish two of my unfinished-finishes that had been hidden away in a drawer for three years!

October 2012 Black Cat Finishes

This trio of grinning black cats marching along with their pumpkin heads made me smile the very first time I saw it, so I knew it would be making it into my bowl. This is actually just a small motif taken from the bottom portion of Prairie Schooler Book No. 165 Sweeping Cobwebs. I stitched this one on 40 ct. R&R Creme Brulee with DMC threads. It was the first time I'd worked on this fabric and I'll have to say, it wasn't my favorite. It was very loosely woven and almost stretchy--I didn't think the coverage (I normally use one thread on 40ct. fabrics) was as good as on other 40 ct. linens that I've used. I do like the mottled appearance of this linen, though, for a Halloween finish. The black and tan gingham and orange ruched ribbon finished up the little pillow quite nicely, don't you think?

"Sweeping Cobwebs" motif by Prairie Schooler
Next up is a finish called "Cat O'Lanterns" by Silly Snobs Gallery--a chart that I've had in my stash for a l-o-n-g time. It was published way back in 1993!! Again I used the 40 ct. R&R Creme Brulee for this piece, but learning from experience  on the previous finish, this time I used TWO threads for the black portions of the design and I'm much happier with the result. The cats have a lovely, almost velvety appearance. And how cute is that tiny gray mouse peaking out of the littlest pumpkin! I did end up changing the colors for the pumpkins because the charted colors were just too bright of an orange for my taste. This one is finished as a flat mount with miniature black pompom trim, a gingham bow, and tiny button as accents.

"Cat O'Lantern" by Silly Snobs Gallery

From the wonderful imagination of The Sampler Girl comes my next finish called "Quaker Boo." I'm really happy with how this one turned out--I picked the fabric colors after I'd finished the stitching, but they truly look like they were meant to go with my chosen floss colors. For this one, I used a combination of DMC, Needle Necessities, and WDW threads stitched over one on 25 ct. mushroom lugana. The chart is still available for purchase on Tanya's website . And how about those adorable black cat scissors in the photo--thanks again, Mary--I just love them! 

"Quaker Boo" by The Sampler Girl

I knew this freebie from Our Pioneer Homestead blog would be a perfect addition to my bowl of kitties. For the first time in a long, long time, I used 18ct. Aida for this finish.  Not my favorite to stitch on, but the color of burnt orange was perfect. I added another bat, a black star charm, and changed the border to finish this one. I wanted to make a black cording, but ran out of DMC 310, so I had to resort to whipstitching the back to the front which, boy, sure takes a lot longer than making a simple pillow and adding cording!

"Black Cat Inn" freebie from

And finally, I dove into my drawer of unfinished finishes and pulled out these two cuties... In a way, I'm glad I didn't finish them way back in 2009 when I stitched them, because I've gotten much more confident in my finishing skills and had tons of practice on finishing smalls since then!

This finish is called simply "Halloween Sampler" and is from the book The New Cross Stitch Sampler Book by Helen Philipps. You may be able to find a copy of the book at your local library which is where I found this one... If you're interested in reading more about this finish, you can read more about it in this post.
To make the pillow, I chose the ghostly fabric displayed behind it and added a black cording and bow--quick and easy and oh-so-cute!

"Halloween Sampler" from
The New Cross Stitch Sampler Book by Helen Phillips

And finally (whew!!), the adorable "Halloween Spots" design by The Trilogy. You can read about my finish in this post from way back in October of 2009. I love that skinny-legged ghost, don't you? Reminds me of my boys when they were tiny. For the finish, I chose a plain black fabric and a black and white polka-dot fabric to sew the pillow. Just adding on stripes of orange and black checked ribbon and a little brass pumpkin charm makes this one of my favorite finishes of this year.

"Halloween Spots" by The Trilogy

Seven black cat finishes (including the Prairie Schooler one from my last post) are shown below. Which one do you like best? It's really hard for me to pick this month--I'm really happy with each one of them!

 October 2012 Black Cat Finishes

So, here they are in my wooden bowl... Ten months down, two to go!! This monthly goal has been such a good way to finally stitch many of the older charts that I've had languishing in my stash for so long. I highly recommend it as a way of stitching some of those "oldies, but goodies" that you might have in your stitching collection, too... 

  October 2012 bowl of finishes

So, are any of my fellow stitchers also fans of black cats? Are you wondering how my obsession with them come about? Well, blame it on this little guy--my sweet "Shadow" who was our one and only pet for 14 years. In 1993, he wandered into our yard as a stray when my three young sons were playing outside with their friends and quickly made himself right at home. He really was the perfect Halloween kitty--this photo taken back in 2001 is one of my favorites.

Shadow in October 2001

Shadow was a constant companion to my sons--a great confidante who probably heard more of their hopes and dreams than any human being. The photo below was taken on our front porch in Halloween 1998 with my youngest "mummy" son and my middle "detective" son. (No, that isn't my oldest son in the rocking chair--it is just a giant stuffed monkey dressed up as Dracula!). We enjoyed eight more wonderful Halloweens with Shadow until an intestinal tumor took him from us in the summer of 2007. I still miss him every day...

 Halloween 1998

I won a lovely giveaway from my friend, Anne, who blogs at Doll's Musings. The plaid fabric is just perfect for future Christmas ornament finishing, isn't it? She also included some pretty green ribbon and a skein of Watercolors thread that she thought would be perfect to make cording along with three packets of tea. If you haven't visited Anne's blog, please stop by and say "hello." I'm sure you'll be impressed with her beautiful stitching and finishing... Thank you so very much, Anne--it has been a pleasure to get to know you better this year!  

Giveaway win from Anne

We've had such a gorgeous fall here in western Pennsylvania. I was afraid the colors wouldn't be very vibrant on the trees this year due to our hot, dry summer, but I think they were the prettiest they've been in years. I took the picture on the left driving home from my parents a couple of weeks ago, the one on the top right on my way to work, and the one on the bottom right from the library parking lot. Western Pennsylvania is very hilly and I think that only adds to the gorgeous display. I can't imagine not living with four beautiful and distinct seasons like we have here... 

Fall Foliage in Western Pennsylvania: October 2012

My husband put out the old sunflower heads for our resident deer and they've been having fun feasting while we enjoy watching them graze. We usually see three to five almost daily in our back yard. The middle photo of the collage shows the three females. The antlered males seem to come by less often, but they are so impressive to see when they do grace us with their appearance. 

 Backyard deer: Autumn 2012

I meant to share more photos from our North Carolina trip with everyone, but I'm just out of energy and in a bit of pain right now. I've been having trouble with my right thumb and am seriously wondering if it might be carpal tunnel syndrome. Anyone have any experience with that? I'm so afraid I'll have to give up stitching... Anyway, time to get off the computer and rest it a bit. Typing really bothers it and it's almost impossible not to use the right thumb since that is the one I use to hit the space bar!! 

Thank you, thank you for your kind comments and compliments on my finishes. I'm truly honored to hear that I've inspired you in some small way or other--really... Another reminder about your questions--I'm happy to answer them if I can, but you must leave an email address in order for me to get in touch with you. Anyway, I hope you each enjoy the remainder of your week and for those of you who celebrate... I wish you a most enjoyable Halloween filled with chocolate galore! Bye for now... 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Small Finishes and Fall Travels

Hello, my stitching friends! I'm in between trips here--just returned from our anniversary vacation to North Carolina this past weekend and will leave for New York to visit with my parents tomorrow. But, I wanted to pop in and say "hi" to everyone and share a few photos with you. Thank you all so much for your kind comments on my bowl of "squirrely" finishes in my last post. Whether you love the little guys or not, you have to admit they are very entertaining and (I think) rather cute. I also want to wish my new followers a big welcome--so happy to have you here and I hope you'll find something in my blog to make you smile.

I've stitched my first piece for my October bowl of smalls--the bottom scene from Prairie Schooler Book No. 132 "Autumn Leaves." Can anyone guess what my "theme" will be for this month? Here's a hint: it is something stitched in this little fall scene. I used the suggested DMC colors for this and stitched it on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle Linen.

I love how the autumn "leaves" spell out numbers in the grass of this tiny sampler... Reminds me of how we used to play in the leaves when I was a young girl. We would rake them into straight lines to form the blueprint of a house and then "play house." Does anyone else remember doing that or was that just something my friends and I loved to do? I then turned the stitching into a small pillow using two coordinating fabrics, some orange ric-rak,  and a pair of buttons...I'm very pleased with how this one turned out!

 "Autumn Leaves" by Prairie Schooler 
(lower portion only)

I also stitched a little birthday gift for my friend, Valerie. Valerie loves Halloween so I thought this tiny pillow ("Boo Web" by X's and Oh's) would be perfect for her. This is the second time I've stitched this one and the second time I've given it away. Do you think it's time to stitch one for myself? I just love that grinning spider waiting for his next "victim" down in the lower right corner and how the web itself spells out "BOO!" I stitched it over one on 28ct. evenweave and combined two Halloweeny fabrics with yellow ric rak and black cording to finish it off. Valerie seemed very pleased with it and I'm happy to have added a little something to her Halloween display.

"Boo Web" by X's and Oh's

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that our actual wedding anniversary (our 35th!!) took place back in July, but that my husband was 3183.11 miles away in Alaska at the time enjoying a bike trip with three friends. So, we celebrated a bit late by taking a road trip in early October. Covering six states (PA, MD, VA, TN, NC, and WV) plus the District of Columbia (where we stopped for a quick visit with our youngest son), we saw some wondrous sights. But, before we hit the road, we had a teeny-tiny problem to attend to! My husband had been packing the car while I made sure windows and doors were locked, heat was turned down, shades were pulled, etc. When we were just about ready to go, I walked into the kitchen and heard what sounded like a frantic chittering sound nearby. Figuring it was just two of those pesky squirrels fighting over an acorn, I peaked outside, but saw nothing. Then I heard the noise again--this time it sounded like it was coming from our sunroom adjacent to the kitchen.

Cautiously, I walked into the next room and immediately spotted a tiny bird perched on the ficus tree in the far corner! Oh, dear, what to do? Well, as every good blogger knows--the first thing you do is run for your camera, right? (thank goodness it hadn't been packed in the car already!)... The poor thing didn't want his photo taken and immediately began flying around and around the house in a circle between the sunroom, kitchen, and family room. He finally landed on our wicker couch where I snapped this photo. (Does anyone know what type of bird this is? I've never seen one like him before). By then, my husband had heard my cries for help (it's actually a bit scary when a bird, no matter what size, is flying straight at you!) and he came running. He had me open the double doors at the far end of the sunroom while he approached the scared little bird from the back. Finally, we were able to coax him out the door and outside into the fresh air. Now, I ask you, what would we have found if we hadn't heard his scared chirps just as we were leaving for vacation... He would have been loose in the house all week and who knows what mischief he might have gotten into!!

Crisis averted and we were soon on our way to the enchanting mountains in the Asheville, N.C. area... I'm planning on writing a longer post on all that we saw and experienced in the future, but for now, I want to share some of the highlights of our trip with you...

We visited The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.
A little touch of France in the Carolina countryside!
We hiked some gentle forest paths...

and also some steep, rocky terrain!

We marveled at the changing colors along 

And were awed by the view from Grandfather Mountain
 in northern North Carolina. (Yes, that's my husband 
being a daredevil--I held back a bit!!)

We admired some lovely West Virginia quilts...

and wondered at nature's beauty. 

We saw a rainbow of gardens...

and hiked miles to see West Virginia's incredible 

And then we came home...ahhh...There is nothing like coming home again, is there? I am such a homebody and as much as I enjoy traveling different places and experiencing new things, I truly love my time spent at home. But, the road is calling again with another five hour drive tomorrow to visit my parents in New York. I'll do my best to catch up on everyone's blogs very soon. Until then, I hope each of you has a lovely week with many, many moments that make you smile. Bye for now...