Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ah...Tis Spring!

Happy (almost) Spring, my friends! Yes, I know Spring doesn't officially start until tomorrow (March 20th, 2014 at 12:57 PM to be exact!), but I won't be home to post tomorrow so I'm rushing it a bit. I think all of us are anxious for spring to make an appearance after the winter we've suffered through, but I do see signs of life popping up everywhere. Last week, not only did all of our snow finally melt, but we also saw the first robin of spring and some tiny green daffodil shoots poking through the earth. The birds are joyfully singing again and the pale green leaf buds will soon appear on trees and shrubs to brighten this dull post-winter landscape. Ah, 'tis Spring!! I don't think it's ever been as warmly anticipated or welcome as it is this year, do you? 

In honor of the season, I've stitched one big blue bunny! Isn't she the cutest? I just love her giant body balancing on those petite black-heeled feet with her lacy pantaloons peaking out from beneath her dress.  This design ("Ah... Tis Spring" by Notforgotten Farm) is stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen, but I changed almost every one of the suggested colors.

"Ah...Tis Spring" finish

This is one of those designs where the photo on the front of the chart didn't resemble the suggested colors at all. In the photo below is the actual chart and the suggested color of the dress. To my eye, they look nothing alike. I preferred the pale blue of the photo on the front of the chart so I had to do some experimenting to find a close substitute. I wanted to use mostly overdyed threads in this piece, so I finally settled on GAST "Banker's Grey." It's a thread that contains both slate blue and grey in the skein so I leaned toward using only the blueish part and I think it turned out very well. There were times when I thought I would never finish that big dress, but you all know what a lover of all things blue I am, so that made it a bit easier.

For the bunny's fur, I used Crescent Colours "Stepping Stones" and am very pleased with how it looks. I wanted it to resemble the soft brown of our local bunnies. The inner ears and whiskers were stitched in Crescent Colours "Rosy Glow." For the flowers, I used both the darker and lighter parts of CC "Clay Pot" (the darker on the outside, the lighter on the inner portion).

Obviously, I changed the color of her pocket to DMC ecru to match the cuff, collar, and buttons. I wanted her to look a bit less primitive and even though I stitched the pocket in several different colors, the ecru is what finally won me over. I also added the design to the pocket to mimic the design on her pantaloons and that in the basket that she's carrying. Rather than having three colors for the grass, I used GAST "Dried Thyme" with carrots in GAST "Burnt Orange" and stems of DMC 3051.

The basket is stitched with GAST "Picnic Basket" with accents in CC "Stepping Stones." Don't you love the striped socks? They are stitched with the lighter part of CC "Clay Pot" and DMC 612. And what is a proper bunny without black heels?

Thank you, Lori, for such a delightful design! I will probably frame this one at some point... I am really bad at getting my few larger pieces framed, but she is too cute to leave stowed away in a drawer for too long. Below is a collage of my finish that you can click on if you want to see it in more detail.
"Ah...Tis Spring!"

My other finish is a pinkeep from With Thy Needle and Thread's "Valentine Sampler" leaflet. I just love this chart so much--it contains so many lovely designs! For this finish, I used 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle linen with the suggested threads. Since this one was being sent off as a RAK to my sweet friend in Canada, Anne, I wanted to personalize it a bit so I did make some changes.

As you can see, I added her initial in the upper left corner instead of the ABCs that were charted. I also added the button and changed the kitty in the lower right to resemble her darling brown and white cat, Titus. I neglected to take a photo of the back, but it is a pale green leafy material--very soft and pretty. The little wooden spools are wound with the same green thread that is in the design--aren't they adorable? I'm very pleased with how this one turned out and Anne seems to love it, too--you can see more photos on her beautiful blog if you want to take a peak...

"Valentine Sampler" pinkeep finish

I can't help think of Spring without being reminded of my oldest son's birth. He was born on March 21st, 32 years ago (now that makes me feel very old!) on a sunny warm day in the mid-60s. A perfect spring day in every way and I hope his birthday on Friday will be the same for him. So ♫♪♫ Happy Birthday ♫♪♫ to my oldest--I wish you every happiness in the year ahead...

I've done more stitching, but since it is for gifts, I can't show you quite yet. I'm leaving later today to go to New York to visit with my parents for a few days so I may be a bit out of touch, but I'll be sure to catch up with all of you when I return next week.  I wish for each of you sunshine and warmer days and the hope that our long, cold winter may soon be nothing but a distant memory. Bye for now...


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Snow, snow, go away...

Good morning all! I hope this post finds you doing well with signs of spring popping up in your part of the world. I wish I could say they were here, but our ground remains snow covered and the temperatures very chilly. I've been feeling particularly unmotivated lately when it comes to both my stitching and blogging and I'm honestly blaming it on the weather we've experienced this winter. It just beats you down, doesn't it? People are starting to lose patience and are even getting a bit mean about being stuck in this endless snow, freeze, ice cycle. Just the other day at the library a friend stopped by while I was working at the reference desk. Our first discussion was, naturally, about the weather and how we were both so tired of it. Now, this was a private conversation--or so we thought. But, from behind us came a man's voice saying, "Oh, quit whining!" We quickly turned to check and see if he was just joking around with us, but no--he was truly being a mean, eavesdropping curmudgeon! If whining about the wicked weather helps us get through winter, so be it, I say... Thirteen days until spring and it can't come soon enough this year!

My husband was skiing in Colorado last week and I thought that would translate into all sorts of free time for stitching, but that wasn't the case... I ended up working more days than normal and when I was off I just couldn't focus on my needle and thread. But, I do  have my first two Christmas ornaments for 2014 stitched and finished which I'd like to share with you today. (I also sent out another RAK to some unsuspecting friend, but won't show that until it arrives at its destination).  First up, is a very cute freebie which you can find on this French blog. This Noel Snowman was stitched "over one" on 32 ct. dark gray mystery linen using the following DMC colors:  white, black, 304, 801, 936, and 3826. The colors weren't charted so I just picked what I thought worked well together.

Noel Snowman freebie

To finish my January ornament off, I used a combination of two cheery red and white fabrics, a bit of mini black ric-rak and a black satin ribbon hanger. The little metal snowflake charm is one I've used many times before--I love these things because they don't look cheap... 123 Stitch sells a pack of four for $3.50. Time for me to order some more! The backing fabric is the red and white fabric in the lower right edge. Changes I made to the chart: I stitched "Noel" in black rather than white and I changed the color of the ribbon the striped ornaments are hanging from and omitted the bows that were charted due to the small size of the finished piece. How do you like him? He's a real cutie, isn't he?

Noel Snowman freebie finished ornament

My ornament for February brought back such special memories of our three boys playing outside in the snow when they were growing up. We have the perfect back yard with a little hill down one side for sled-riding. This is called "Snow Day" and can be found in Prairie Schooler's Book No. 177 titled "January." Again, I stitched it "over one" on 28 ct. blue Monaco (a hand-dyed piece from Sassy's Fabrics called "Winter Blues"--thanks, Robin!) with the suggested DMC threads. The color of the fabric is much more blue than is shown in the photo. 

Prairie Schooler's "Snow Day" 

Boy, did this piece take a long time to stitch, but I'm so glad I kept at it and finished.  With all that is going on in this design, I kept the finish very simple--just added a blue cording. The blue checked fabric laying to the right is what it is backed with. The blue color of the pillow in the finish is much more true-to-life in this photo.

Prairie Schooler's "Snow Days" finished ornament

I like to think of the above winter scene as depicting our family of five enjoying a fun afternoon romping in the snow (well, if you added one black cat in place of the two dogs!). But when I told my middle son that this was us and I was the little one on the sled was me, he immediately said, "What do you mean, mom? You never came out with us in the snow." Yep--he's right!! I hate the cold and was more likely watching their antics from my cozy kitchen window as I made hot chocolate and baked cookies for the guys when they came inside all shivering and rosy-cheeked. I was always the family photographer, though, so I at least ventured outside enough to capture these scenes... I've been recently been sorting through old photos and came across this one from 1990 of my little guys aged 8, 5, and 2. See what I mean about the rosy-cheeks?

Snow Day in Pittsburgh! December 1990

And here is the trio at various ages enjoying our winter weather long, long ago: my youngest son (at age 12 in his treasured Mario Lemieux hockey jersey) shooting a few pucks on our backyard pond in 2000, my oldest son in 1987 (at age five) impishly aiming a snowball at me, and my middle son helping clear the ice on our pond (at age eight) in 1993. Really nice to look at these and enjoy the memories they bring back...

 Winter memories

GIFTS AND A GIVEAWAY WIN...  Wow, the past few weeks have been filled with mail coming in from around the world. I think my mailman is beginning to wonder about all of these international deliveries! I'll start with two special deliveries from the U.S. First of all, I won a truly fabulous giveaway from Laurie (My Little Corner of Iowa blog). She was giving away a large box of her fabric scraps left over from quilting and finishing projects and I was the lucky winner. Oh, my--I was absolutely thrilled with what she sent and I know many of them will be making appearances in my pillow finishing projects. In fact, I have the perfect one picked out for my March ornament (which is stitched, but not finished). I layed them all out on the kitchen table and have had the best time "playing" with them! Thank you so much, Laurie--I am really excited to add these to my fabric collection.

Fabrics from Laurie

From my friend, Shirlee (The Easily Influenced Stitcher blog), came another package of treats. I had admired this blue Jobelan fabric that Shirlee had stitched one of her ornaments on last year and she kindly offered to send me a piece. When I opened the package, I discovered she not only sent the fabric, but also a pretty Cedar Hill flower chart and her favorite needle threader--"just because." Shirlee, you are such a generous soul... thank you so much for your wonderful gifts!

Fabric, chart, and needle
threader from Shirlee

From Canada, Dani (Black Belt Stitching blog) sent this cute Lizzie Kate Christmas chart. I had admired her finish on her blog and she offered to send me the chart--how kind!! I will definitely keep the kindness going, Dani--after I've stitched it, it will be offered to another stitcher. She also included a card made from one of her photographs of an old shed--she is an excellent photographer. If you haven't visited her blog yet, you're in for a treat when you do. Not only beautiful stitching, but beautiful photography as well! Thank you again, Dani... I look forward to stitching this later this year.

LK chart from Dani

And from across the Atlantic came two more surprise gifts... From my friend, Gabi (no blog) in Germany, came two beautifully stitched hanging ornaments. Isn't the spring scene with the nesting birds and their parents adorable? This is a freebie available here  (if you want a copy of the chart, you must contact the designer--her email address is in her blog's sidebar under "Contactez l'auteur"). Gabi also sent the prettiest little Valentine ornament which will make a great addition to my bowl of Valentine pillows.  Thank you so much, Gabi--I've really enjoyed our long-distance friendship and I'm honored to have some of your beautiful stitching in my home!

Gifts from Gabi in Germany

And from Nia (Caixinha de Pirlimpimpim blog) in Portugal came a sweet little crocheted Christmas tree. She said it was a thank you for a small gift I sent her at Christmas time, but I think it might also be an early Christmas present. Nia is expecting her first baby any day now, so I think she may just be too busy to make Christmas presents for too many this year! I love it, Nia, and will think of you each time I display it on my Christmas tree... Thank you so much for thinking of me--your work is beautiful!

 Christmas ornament from Nia

And, I've saved the best present for last--chocolates from my dear husband. As I mentioned earlier, he went skiing for five days last week in Colorado (where, ironically, it was so warm that the skiing wasn't very good!) and he brought me this yummy box of chocolates from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. I've been rationing them--just one a day (really!!) and they are such a special treat. Of course, I still have a bit more chocolate each day from my not-so-secret chocolate stash drawer. How about you--how many of you admit to having your own personal "stash of sweets" hidden away from your family? Chocolate definitely helps beat the "winter blues." Plus, I'm working off the calories by all the shivering I've done this year, I'm sure :)

The perfect cure for the "winter blues?"

I've so enjoyed seeing the signs of spring that many of you have been showing in your blog (although I'm very envious!)... Thought I'd leave you with this photo of the only bright spot of color in a field of white in my backyard...the red berries on my holly bush. I doubt if too many of you are envious of this frigid looking scene, are you?
Ice on the holly bush in March--
will Spring ever come?

I am hoping that the next time I post, birds will have begun returning to western Pennsylvania, crocuses will be poking their little green heads through the soil, and the sun will slowly be heating up the air. I know this may be wishful thinking, but I can still hope! I'm sure the extra hour of daylight that starts with Daylight Saving Time this weekend will bring smiles to many of us, though. Thanks so very much for visiting me today and taking the time to say "hi." And I want to wish a warm "welcome" to my new followers--so glad you're here! Think spring, everybody!! Bye for now...