Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow Is...

FINISHED!! Could you hear my cries of joy all over the eastern U.S.? With one day to spare, I finally put the last stitch into this mammoth piece earlier today. I can't believe that after spending much of my 2010 stitching time on this piece, it is finally complete... Ahhh--I feel like I can breathe again!

The 11th block really stretched my patience to its limits and there were days that I honestly didn't think I would finish before year's end. (As you can see, I put the date "2011" on the ship rather than stitching the charted date of 1802.) In spite of the stress that this block caused, it is actually one of my favorites. Overall, though, I would have to say that the block with the Christmas tree farm is the one I like the best. How about you?

The 12th block stitched up very quickly and, after much debate, I decided to add my own name and the current year. The general consensus among my stitching friends seemed to be that, since this isn't a true reproduction sampler, but one from the wonderfully creative imagination of Kathy Barrick, it is fine to substitute the actual stitcher's name. I changed the body color of the little spirit/angel/cherub to a peachier shade (DMC 950) since the charted color just didn't show up on my flax-colored Belfast linen.

I really want to thank you all for following along on this project with me throughout 2010--your support and encouragement helped more than you know. Now, I need some advice...I've never taken a piece to be framed and wonder how you handle a large piece like this. Do you press it at home and roll it up to take it in to the framer? Are there any questions, requests, etc. I should ask about? Glass or no glass? I'm not using a mat... Honestly, any advice you can offer would help me so much. I am a total novice at professional framing having always done smaller pieces myself...

Well, I guess you would like to see the entire piece? May I present my finished Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow...

Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow
Fabric: 32 ct. Flax Belfast Linen
DMC threads
Started January 1, 2010 ~ Finished December 30, 2010

Now, I have a conundrum--what do I stitch next? I'm actually going to have to "think" about that in 2011, aren't I? I've been going through my stash and have narrowed my first start for the new year down to a few pieces that have really been calling my name, but I still have to make a final decision. I've decided that 2011 will be a "Stitching From Stash" year. I have so many beautiful charts that just keep getting set aside in order to stitch newly purchased charts, don't you? So, I decided to work on bringing some of "my old friends" to life in 2011.

The other thing I know for sure is that I will continue my "ornament a month" stitching in the coming year and I'm so excited that a few of my online stitching friends will be joining in on the fun. I am truly appreciative of everyone's comments on my last post about the ornaments and my Christmas tree--thank you, thank you! I'll have to admit, I spent a fair amount of time standing in front of my tree this past week just admiring the little beauties. They really make me smile and I almost hate to put them away for another year... Here is a photo collage of our Christmas morning:

Christmas Morning 2010

I want to thank my friend, Cathey (aka Pumpkin) for sending me a cute addition to my collection of ornament charts. She surprised me with this chart from Milady's Needle called "Up On the House Top" along with a beautiful Christmas card (featuring her own amazing photography) last week. I love it, my friend, and you know that ornament charts are a perfect gift for me. Thank you so much, Cathey. My oldest son has been working up in Canada lately and he always says how nice and thoughtful the Canadian residents are--I told him I already knew that from my Canadian blogging friends like Cathey!

And from Gracie, I won a very special giveaway. She was generously giving away three of the DMC "Stitch Pink" Needlework Accessory Kits and I was lucky enough to win one. Not only did she include the kit (which contains the prettiest pink scissors, pink bobbins, and a pink needle threader), she also gifted me with some pretty pink ribbon fabric, pink variegated floss, pink "love" mints, and a tiny silver charm for breast cancer awareness. Thank you so much, Gracie. These gifts will all come in very handy when I make another ornament for The Pumpkin Patch & Co. Breast Fund next year. Cathey organized a group of 17 of us to stitch ornaments that were auctioned off in November to raise funds for breast cancer research. Our little group ended up raising $875! Just think how much money we could raise if more of us donated an ornament. Cathey/Pumpkin will be continuing the group next year so keep checking her blog if you would like to contribute an ornament for this wonderful cause in 2011...

I'm going to be taking a bit of a blogging break for a while. My youngest son and I are headed down to sunny and warm (please let it be sunny and warm, please let it be sunny and warm!) Florida to visit my parents next week. I should be back around mid-January with my annual birthday/2nd blogoversary giveaway for my followers. What will be included in the giveaway? Well, something you've seen featured in this post for one--hint, hint!

I truly love vintage postcards and the sentiment on this one is perfect for the approaching new year. 2011 is like a blank slate for us. As Edith Lovejoy Pierce said: "We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." I hope your new year is blessed with good health, much happiness, and everything that brings you smiles...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Final 2010 Ornaments

Hello everyone! First of all I want to thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments on my "Winter Circle" of snowpeople in my last post. There are clearly a lot of snowmen lovers out there! I loved reading which one each of you chose as your favorite, too. Well, I finally finished up my last two ornaments for my 2010 "Ornament a Month" challenge. November's ornament is from the Prairie Schooler "Santa Moon" (Book No. 53) booklet. I began stitching this over two, but it was turning out much too large for an ornament which caused me to start over and switch to my favorite "over one" stitching on 28 ct. black Monaco.

I just love how tiny the golden yellow Santa is--only two inches high. I changed the color of his robes to my favorite DMC 676 and his boots to 844, but the other colors are as charted. Now let me tell you, I lay awake at night worrying about sewing the crescent shape. It wasn't nearly as hard as I had imagined, but thank goodness for the power of trims and ribbons to help hide imperfections! Overall, I'm very pleased with November's ornament finish.

My December ornament is, what else--also a Prairie Schooler. I stitched only the very bottom motif of "The Night Before Christmas Sampler" from the chart Christmas Samplers (Book No. 63). Don't you love this tiny Santa? He is so skinny and "crazed" looking--almost looks as if he wants to throw the Christmas tree he is holding in his hand right at you!

Now I'm sure you're all familiar with the famous "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" poem, aren't you. You know the line where it says, "not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse?" Well, apparently the little creatures who have taken up residence in our attic haven't read the poem or are at least choosing to ignore it. It has sounded like party central up there night after night. We've caught four of the little mice so far and things have quieted down so perhaps by Christmas Eve we really can say "not a creature was stirring!"

Anyway, this ornament is also stitched over one on 28 ct. Summer Khaki cashel linen using DMC threads. I changed the color of the house to DMC 676, Santa's robe to 221 and added some swirly, white snowflakes in the air. Then I simply enclosed the whole scene in a zig-zag border. To complete the ornament I turned it into a little pillow with the green checked fabric, rope-like braid, buttons, and a pair of shiny red jingle bells hanging from some thin sage-colored ribbon. I think this may be one of my favorite finishes of the year.

2010 Monthly Ornaments
I thought you might want to see all twelve ornaments displayed together on the garland going up my front stairway. I just hung them there for the photo--they eventually made their way to the Christmas tree in our sunroom. So which is your favorite? I really love all of them, but still think the tiny stocking that was my March ornament finish is the one I like the best. I just love that tiny black lamb on it. I'm so proud that I achieved one of my goals for 2010: to stitch and finish an ornament each month!

2010 Monthly Ornaments: January ~ June

2010 Monthly Ornaments: July ~ December

The mailman recently delivered two wonderful Christmas gifts from some dear blogging friends. First came this perfectly stitched Prairie Schooler Santa from fellow PS addict, Julianne. Perhaps this Santa was tired of life in sunny California and begged to be sent to snowy Pennsylvania to live? I just love him, Julianne, and he will have a place of honor on my tree. Right now he is sitting in the center of my kitchen island where I can admire him! Thank you so much for your lovely gift and for your friendship--I treasure both...

When I opened this gift from sweet Myra I could barely contain my excitement. Myra knows how much I love her project pouches and had gifted me with a beautiful one for my birthday last January. This pouch is a smaller version, perfect for storing my beloved ornament projects. I love the fabric, don't you? And just look at the tiny scissors charm she added to the zipper! Myra's sewing is gorgeous and I'm just thrilled to be the proud owner of this little gem. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, my friend!

I'll leave you with a photo (all photos are clickable for a larger view) of my Christmas tree all decked out with my stitched ornaments. Our tree doesn't have a theme--on it you'll find ornaments made by my sons when they were in elementary and pre-school, the yearly Hallmark ornaments I have bought them since they were young, some golden Danbury Mint ornaments from my mother-in-law, and a few pieces from early in our marriage over 33 years ago when we didn't have a dime to our name. I love seeing the history of our family displayed on the Christmas tree each year.

My middle son thinks the tree looks too crowded, but I love it! It makes me so proud to think that I created many of these ornaments with my own two hands and that they'll someday be handed down through the generations. It is wonderful to have a hobby and passion for something that will leave a bit of you for others to remember, don't you think? I don't know if the guys can appreciate them now, but I think (hope!) that someday, they will treasure these tiny creations...

I want to wish each of you who celebrate Christmas a day filled with love and laughter...Thank you for being such wonderful friends who take the time to leave a comment, send an email, or just pop in to take a look at my blog. I truly have been blessed to "meet" so many wonderful stitching friends. Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter Circle

Hello everyone! We've had some snow here in western Pennsylvania this week and it is so fresh and peaceful looking. Not sure if it was the snow or what, but yesterday I had this odd feeling that something was calling my name. I instinctively was drawn to the large wooden armoire in my family room. Slowly, I opened the second drawer on the left where I keep my finishes and "almost finishes" and there, on the very top, lay an angry mob of eyeless snowpeople. "Give us some eyes, Carol," they seemed to shout! "Hey, how about some buttons!" "Come on, lady, let us out of our dark prison--we've been shut up in here since 2007!" I sighed and reached for the little snowmen and women, gathered some black and white beads, my needle, thread, and scissors and within 90 minutes, I had a new finish. I even added some white beads in the center snowflake that weren't actually called for on the chart!

So what took me so long? It's simple: I really don't enjoy beading. Oh, I admire all of your beautifully beaded pieces, don't get me wrong. But, for some reason, I just don't like sewing on beads. Stitching beaded edges on ornaments doesn't bother me at all, it is just sewing beads onto fabric itself. How you stitchers stitch those intricately detailed beaded beauties just amazes me! What patience you must have...After three years, I'm thrilled to have "Winter Circle" (stitched on 28ct. summer khaki Lugana with DMC threads) by The Cricket Collection finally finished. They really are a winsome bunch, aren't they?

So which one is your favorite?

Do you like the grand couple off to the
opera? Don't you love his top hat and little vest.
And how about her turban with her golden yellow shawl?

Or maybe, you're partial to this little cutie.
Doesn't she remind you of Little Red Riding Hood?

Or perhaps, you like the simple casual look on this guy.
I think he might be the jeans and t-shirt type.

Or how about Mr. Prep with his argyle vest?
I think he just might be my personal favorite!

Or do you like one of the other three the best? I can't wait to get this framed and up on my wall for the rest of the winter. Finally finishing up this circle of snowmen gave me a much-needed break from slowly plugging along on "Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow."

Now, doesn't this look like fun? This is my progress so far on the infamous Block 11 of Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow. UGH! Black, black, and more black. It is really questionable whether or not I can finish this block and the final one by December 31st. I'm trying my hardest, but you all know how many other things there are to do this month! I haven't even begun my Christmas shopping or cards, but at least we got the tree up today! It is sitting in my sunroom as I write this, just waiting for its decorations.

Although I haven't begun my shopping yet, I've already received my very first Christmas present from my friend, Cindy, who thoroughly spoiled me with these goodies. She not only stitched this darling bird ornament from the 2010 JCS Ornament Issue, but also sent some delightful fabrics, red heart buttons, and the tiniest Hallmark Goldfinch ornament. I told her I had been thinking about starting a collection of those miniature Hallmark ornaments and so now it is official. I just love everything, Cindy, and your generous and giving spirit certainly exemplifies the Christmas season.

I'm feeling very old today because my middle son turned 25 yesterday! A quarter of a century ...unbelievable. He and my oldest son came over for their weekly Sunday dinner and to help decorate the tree today and this is what he is being rewarded with--his favorite dessert. Giant Chocolate Eclair Dessert--YUMMMMM... It really does taste like a Chocolate Eclair, but it's much easier to make. (If anyone would like the recipe, just email me.) So, "Happy, Happy 25th Birthday" to my dear middle son; I wish you a year filled with unexpected joys, love, and laughter... (and, hopefully, a job that you enjoy more than your current one!).

Well, I've rambled on long enough for now. I need to get the troops organized and get this Christmas tree decorated. I can't wait to pull out all of my treasured ornaments--they always bring smiles and laughs along with a few nostalgic and teary memories. Thank you all for visiting and for your wonderful comments and emails--they really mean so much to me! Bye now...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Farewell to autumn...

Hello everyone! Well, I got through Thanksgiving, but, oh, was I wiped out by the end of the day. Having 23 people at my table was more like feeding a small army than a family...All went well, except Mr. Tom Turkey decided to be "fashionably late" to our feast--actually an hour and a half late! That big old 22-pound bird would just not get done! I don't think anyone noticed the late dinner hour (around 7:45 PM) except my husband and me who kept frantically checking every 10 minutes to see whether or not we could safely serve the turkey without sending everyone to the hospital with food poisoning! When we finally sat down, I was able to seat 20 of us at two long tables pushed together that I had set up in my sunroom (as you can see in the photo) and my darling six-year old triplet great-nieces sat at the kitchen counter. All in all, it seemed to be a big success, but I'll be relieved to have a break next year...

One of the highlights of my Thanksgiving was when one of my triplet great-nieces sweetly asked, "Aunt Carol, did you make that?" as she pointed to a very old (2004) Sue Hillis autumn stitching. I told her that I did and she said, "Ohhhh"--quite admiringly so I asked her if she would like to see my other autumn pieces (it's never too early to get a future stitcher addicted, is it?!). I then gave her a little tour of my autumn pieces and thought I might as well show them to my blogging friends as well...

This Bent Creek piece called "Leaf" was one of the first times I used over-dyed threads when I stitched it back in 2005. You see, I had a period of about 10 years when I gave up stitching altogether and didn't take it up again until 2003. I was just too busy with remodeling our house, raising the kids, work, etc. So when I returned, the world of over-dyed threads, hand-dyed fabrics, and such amazingly intricate patterns was brand new to me. I was like a kid in a candy store! Stitching had come a long, long way from the teddy bears, country geese, and quilts that I remembered from the early 90s...

Next up on my autumn stitching "tour" is, of course, a Prairie Schooler seasonal sampler. This one was stitched in 2008 and is from Book No. 123: "Country Seasons." It is one of my all-time favorites--I just love the face on the moon, the turkey running through the pumpkin patch, and the strange looking little squirrel gnawing on an acorn in the tree branch. I think this color pallet (that is seen so frequently in PS designs) is one reason I love their creations so much.

Next, I have yet another Prairie Schooler piece from Book No. 50: "Prairie Seasons." I really never meant to keep it in this frame--I just stuck it in there when I finished it back in 2007 and there it's stayed. Still looking for the perfect frame... Don't you love the checkerboard tail on the squirrel? I'll have to say the pumpkin-head scarecrow doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of scaring away those crows, does he?

The final fall piece that I showed to my great-niece on her tour was the November turkey from Prairie Schooler Book No. 90: "Spring & Fall." I think she loved this turkey almost as much as I do. I finished him up in 2009 as one of my "Ornament a Week" pieces and have used him in my November blog header this month. It was such fun sharing all my autumn stitches with my little niece and I do hope she develops a love of stitching as she gets older...

Just look at what I got from my niece (the mother of the triplets) and her mom, my dear sister-in-law, as a hostess gift on Thanksgiving: a wonderfully monogrammed stitching tote! Don't you love it? I told them they couldn't have given me a more perfect gift and they can be assured that it will be put to very good use in the future... There are two little mesh pockets on both ends to hold floss, needles, and small charts and lots of room inside for my fabric, scissors, and larger charts--perfect!

A special thank you goes out to Veronica at Veronica's Stitching Vault for this lovely scissor fob which I won in her recent giveaway. The purple beads are so beautiful and the tiny seahorse charm at the end makes it even more special. I loved what Veronica wrote to me about this fob...She said that when she first started designing it, it began with one focal bead which she thought was rather ugly, and yet the finished fob ended up being one her favorites. She went on to say how this taught her to open her mind to possibilities. What a great attitude and one that I'm going to try to keep in mind... So thank you, Veronica--I truly love your gift. And it looks just great on this new pair of Gingher scissors that I recently treated myself to!

I'm going to leave you with the photo of my cookie tray from Thanksgiving dessert. This year, my oldest son, baked some of his scrumptious chocolate chip cookies as well... I do love to bake and always look forward to this time of year when I can bake to my heart's content! My family is always very appreciative of the cookies, the pecan, cherry, apple, and pumpkin pies, and the pumpkin-cranberry bread that I make each Thanksgiving. I think if, for some reason, they weren't on our menu each year, there would be a major revolt! It was wonderful to see so many family members, but my very favorite part of the holiday weekend was waking up each morning knowing my visiting sons were all safe and sound asleep in their childhood bedrooms. There was just something so comforting in that thought...

Well, that's about it for my autumn stroll down stitching memory lane. I've carefully packed them up and stored them away until next fall when I will delightedly "rediscover" them! I know that winter doesn't officially start until December 21st, but, for me, the first of the month always seems like the beginning of winter. I'm looking forward to decorating for Christmas and envy those of you who have already started (or finished!)... Hopefully, I can do a bit each week and now that Thanksgiving is over I will finally have some stitching time again. Oh, how I've missed it over the past week or so...

Wishing you a delightful start to December--thank you all for dropping in, saying "hi," and continuing to inspire me with your creativity and stitching. Bye now...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanks and Giving

Hello everyone! Hope you've had a nice November so far... For most of my fellow U.S. residents, November is all about Thanksgiving--getting together with family or friends, feasting, and giving thanks for our blessings. I know Canada has its Thanksgiving holiday in October, but do my other international friends celebrate a similar day during the year? Do you have any special foods or traditions for that day? I'd love to hear about them...

This Prairie Schooler Thanksgiving piece (from the "Harvest Time" chart: Book No. 93) was three years in the making mainly because I ran out of DMC 370 and couldn't find a shade to match anywhere. So, the poor turkey sat waiting and waiting for me to finish him. Luckily, my friend, Lee, rescued me (thanks again, Lee!!) and found enough of the old shade in her stash that blended perfectly. This piece was 2/3 of the way done when I took it to our stitching getaway last week and I worked on it the entire time I was there. I was just determined to finish it before Thanksgiving...

I am really thrilled with how this one turned out--love the richness of the colors and the symmetry of the whole design. Speaking of symmetry, for anyone planning on stitching this, beware that there are mistakes in the four half-leaves near the border--they are not charted the same at all. I had to rip out two of them and stitch them again. Oh, it probably wouldn't have been noticeable to anyone but me, but I just had to make them all the same or my eye would always have wandered to the differences... I think the fabric I used is 18 ct. cream colored Davos, but I'm not positive. All threads were the suggested DMC colors.

A very special friend, Mary, celebrated her birthday earlier this month and I sent her this tiny ornament along with some fabrics to help her celebrate. This one is called "Home For the Holidays" by LHN and can be found in the 2005 Just Cross Stitch Ornament issue. I stitched it "over one" on 32 ct. Twilight Blue linen, but changed a few of the DMC colors and added a beaded edge. I love how the personalization on the back turned out and Mary seemed to, also!

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a wonderful three days stitching and chatting and eating, eating, eating with five fellow cross stitch addicts at a wonderful bed and breakfast near Lake Erie in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania. The Grape Arbor Bed and Breakfast (click on the collage of photos I snapped while I was there for a closer look) couldn't have worked out any better for the retreat. Since we had booked every room in the inn we were able to simply "take over" one of the parlors--ott lights, frames, piles of charts, and stitching accessories were spread out everywhere. Luckily, the innkeeper is a stitcher, too, so she couldn't have been more accommodating.

The first thing we noticed (well, I noticed anyway!)was the big bowl of chocolates sitting there to welcome us. The inn had three resident cats and I'll tell you, having the black and white one (shown in the photo above) cuddle with us while we stitched surely tested my resolve not to get another cat (husband is very allergic). The house was so beautifully decorated it made me want to rush home and work on my own autumn decorating. We laughed and chatted and ate such scrumptious breakfasts that between them and the never-ending chocolate bowl, I ended up gaining three pounds!! I need to double my treadmill workouts for a few weeks, that's for sure. It was a thoroughly enjoyable get-together for all...

For our getaway stitching weekend, we had decided ahead of time to have a bit of an exchange. Not only were we to stitch something small, but also bring a gift representative of the part of the country that we live in. This was the first time I had stitched something for an unknown recipient and I thought it was difficult to stitch a piece that would appeal to just about anyone (we just did a simple number drawing to divvy up the exchange gifts). Anyway, I ended up stitching The Trilogy turkey called "Happy Gobble Gobble Day" and Barb ended up going home with him. I also gave her a local cookbook and a pretty Christmas ornament from Wendell August Forge which is America’s oldest and largest forge and is located right here in western Pennsylvania. The happy gobbler is stitched on 32 ct. Country French latte linen using the suggested overdyeds. I backed it in the brown/orange fabric in the background and bordered it with pumpkin colored ric-rac. I think he's so cute, I just may have to stitch another for myself!

The gift I received from our stitching getaway came from Linda (no blog yet) and I just love it. It is a floss-keeper from Blackbird designs stitched in the prettiest shade of greens and violets. I especially like the way she highlighted the first initial of each of the six of us who got together for that special weekend. (And, yes, if you look closely, you'll notice that there are two "Ls" since there were two stitchers whose names began with the letter "L." Don't you love it?! I wonder how future generations will interpret that one?) She also gifted me with a lovely tray (again from Wendell August Forge) which is embellished with fall leaves and a skein of "Grape Arbor" overdyed floss. How perfect is that?! The name of the floss is the same as that of our Bed and Breakfast: The Grape Arbor! And since Wendell August Forge is located in the same town where I went to college, it is especially meaningful. Thank you so very much, Linda--I will treasure your gifts and think of our stitching retreat often...

I received this cute summery chart by Ewe & Eye & Friends as a giveaway win from Chris at Tot Hill Farm Stitches. What a sweet little piece! I think the watermelons growing underneath the house are so cute and it looks like a perfect thing to stitch next summer. For some reason I have fewer summery stitched pieces around my house than any other season. I have so much autumn and Christmas /winter stitching, but spring and summer things are few and far between. So, thank you very much, Chris! It will really brighten up my house next summer...

I've been extremely busy shopping, cooking, baking, cleaning, and setting up for the nearly 25 of us who will sit down to give thanks at my table next week. One dish which always makes its appearance at Thanksgiving is the Strawberry Pretzel Salad, which is more of a dessert than a salad, but, hey--it does have strawberries! What dish is a "must-have" at your holiday table--that food that makes your family dinner special to you?

I doubt I'll be posting again until after Thanksgiving, so I want to wish each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving and thank you again for your friendship, inspiration, and kind words. I hope you know I count you all among my many blessings! Bye now...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On the homestretch...

I can hardly believe that I'm on my final row of blocks for Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow. I actually finished the cardinals block (one of my favorites) on time for a change which leaves me two months to complete the Block 11 New Year's ship (which is solid stitching)and the final Block 12 cherub and wording, which looks quite easy. I've decided to hold off on revealing the entire piece again until I am all finished up at the end of December. Perhaps, that way, you'll be as excited to celebrate with me as I will be to have finished this mammoth piece. But, that leads me to a question. I really want to stitch my name and the year 2010 in the final block instead of the name and date charted which is "Mary Crow 1801." Now, I am a novice sampler stitcher--this is certainly the biggest one I've ever done so I don't know what is considered proper. Any advice from all of you expert sampler stitchers? I am really torn as to what to do...

How was everyone's Halloween? We only had 9 trick-or-treaters and I felt a bit let down. I miss seeing the excitement and the cute costumes of more children, but we live on a street that doesn't get much traffic because the houses are so far apart. We did have one unexpected visitor that night, though. My two older sons were over for their weekly Sunday dinner (and the way my middle son eats us out of house and home, I think that may be his only decent meal of the week!) and I asked them to bring the pumpkin and decorations inside before they left to go back to their apartment. Well, as they were gathering the items up, they heard a rustling in the bushes by our front porch. Thinking it was a stray trick-or-treater, they called out "Who's there?" Out wandered, of all things, a SKUNK!! Not more than a few feet from my front door! The guys quickly ran inside and slammed the door. Of course then they were afraid that the noise of the slamming door may have caused the skunk to spray. Luckily, after waiting a while, sticking their heads out a window, and giving a sniff, the air was clear. But, now, I am seriously concerned that this skunk may be living under our front porch.

We have so many "critters" visiting our yard, you would think we live in the country. But, no, our house is in the suburbs of a fairly large city. Just look at this photo (click on it for a larger view) that I took looking out my kitchen window this summer--you can see the mama deer with her spotted baby visiting our pond for a sip of water. Now look closely at the front of the photo--why it's the friendly (??) neighborhood groundhog come to nibble our grass. Needless to say, I really enjoy the ever changing scene outside my window...unless Mr. Skunk happens to decide to visit again!

My friend, Mary at Sweet Sentiments and Stitches surprised me with a delightful package of goodies this week: two lovely JBW charts with some Christmasy floss, a bag of chocolates, and the sweet little cat figurine (so cute with his little witchy hat and a dangling star on the tip). But my favorite gift was the leaf pumpkin piece that Mary stitched for me--just look at what a unique finish it is! The plaid background in autumn colors, the wire hanger and raffia bow, and the braided raffia trim and cute buttons. It is one of the most exceptional finishes I've seen (and I'm not just saying that because you're my friend, Mary!). I truly love everything and I'm so touched by your thoughtfulness and generosity... Thank you so very, very much! I'll think of you each time I decorate with your special gifts at Halloween.

Our fall colors weren't the best due to our very hot and very dry summer, but I did photograph this tree right outside the library at it's peak. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to settle in with my stitching for the shorter, colder days ahead. Speaking of "settling in"--I'm off to a three day stitching retreat tomorrow with some fellow stitching addicts. We're all converging on a Bed and Breakfast near Lake Erie to stitch the days (and probably half the nights) away. I'm really looking forward to meeting the three stitchers whom I've never met in person and catching up with the other two whom I've already been lucky enough to meet and stitch with several times. I'll have a full report for you when I get back...

Until then, thank you all for your wonderful comments on my previous "Favorite Freebies" post--I loved reading each one and I discovered several new-to-me blogs to add to my blog list in my sidebar. You guys are the best! Thanks for your support and inspiration and, especially, for your friendship. Bye now...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Favorite Freebie Finishes

Hello everyone! Can you believe we're down to the final week in October? I don't know about you, but I'm not at all ready for the cold and snow that will be with us before too long. It didn't hit me until I was putting this post together that each of the things I have to show you today is a freebie! I love freebies and think they're great ways for designers to introduce us to their charts. First up is a new design called Quaker 31 from San-Man Originals.

I can't remember when I enjoyed stitching a design so much--I just loved every stitch in this one! There are so many details in it--the checkered cat, the black bat with his yellow eyes, all of those pumpkins and scary words--it was just a fun, fun piece! I stitched Quaker 31 "over one" on 28 ct. summer khaki lugana using DMC threads 301, 725, 520, and 310 and made it into a little pillow with some orange and black paisley fabric, black ric-rac, and a yellow button. What do you think?

I know most of you will recognize my next finish as "Snowman's Quaker Christmas" from Midnight Stitching. It is an old freebie which you can still find right here. Since blue is my favorite color, I changed him from the traditional red/green combo to Crescent Colors "Blue Moon."

Most of you know that I've been stitching an ornament a month and this is my finish for September (yes, I'm a bit behind!). For this smiling guy, I used 32 ct. flax Belfast linen and bordered him with Mill Hill Glass seed beads (color 02087). This was only the second time I've attempted a beaded edge, but it went well and I'm very happy with the result. I think he'll make a great addition to my snowman tree this December!

Next on the freebie finishes list is my ornament for the month of October (see, I caught up!!). This design by 123 Citrouille can be found right here: Noel Freebie. Would you believe this was my first ever red and white finish? I loved it! It was also the first time I used DMC 115--what a great thread--I finally see why you've all been raving about it!

I left out the bottom band of the original chart because the ornament was becoming too big for me (plus I was getting lazy!). The finished hanging pillow is backed by the red and black patterned fabric you see behind it and trimmed with some red and white checked ribbon and those "antique" buttons (purchased at Joann Fabrics!) for accents. I think this is one of my favorite ornament finishes of the year. ..

In an effort to keep track of my favorite freebies, I've added a new list to my sidebar. Just look for this photo collage of some of my favorites and you can link to the charts yourself. And what about you? Do you have any favorite freebies? I'd love to hear what yours are--who knows, your favorites might just become some of mine, too. With everyone trying to save money in this economy, it's nice to know that with some scraps of linen and a few threads we can all create something special for next to nothing. Thanks so much to all of you designers out there who share your talents with us--we really appreciate it!

Finally--just look what appeared in my mailbox this week...this beautifully stitched RAK from dear Catherine. Now, Catherine doesn't have a blog (yet, anyway--keep encouraging her!!), but I know many of you know her as a "super commenter!" She is one of the most loyal and sincere commenters on more blogs than just about anyone I know. Catherine stitched this Sampler Girl design, called "The Empty Nest," for me after reading one of my posts about my youngest son flying the nest--and yes, her gift made me cry. She personalized it by adding a third bird to represent my three sons and even coffee-dyed her own fabric! I just love the verse on it:
"Farewell, my birds, farewell, adieu,
I happy am, if well with you."
And, isn't the verse so true? If all is right with our kids, we are happy indeed; after all, as the old saying goes: "A mother is only as happy as her least happy child." Of course, the librarian in me took over and did some research and I discovered that these are the last two lines in a poem titled "In Reference to Her Children, 23 June 1659" written in the 17th century by Anne Bradstreet. The poet is writing about her sadness at her children leaving the nest one by one--all eight of them!

I think what touched me most, besides the fact that someone I've never met stitched this lovely pillow ornament for me, is the fact that Catherine gave up her precious free time to make this gift. You see, Catherine, also the mother of three boys, is living my life of 15 years ago: the sports practices and games, the Scouting events, the music lessons, the multiple-times-a-week trips to the grocery store to feed her rapidly growing brood. Throw in the daily cooking, cleaning, laundry, counseling, homework help, refereeing the inevitable disagreements and roughhousing that a house of men includes and you have one busy mom. So, thank you, Catherine--your gift means more to me than you know and I am truly touched by your kindness...It has a special place of honor in my family room.

Well, that's about it for today... I'm not looking forward to the upcoming week. We are getting a new roof put on our house so things will be in an uproar (am I the only one who hates having workmen around?), but at least we'll have it installed before winter starts. Thanks again for your wonderful comments--I know each one takes time to write and for that reason, they mean all the more to me :) Bye now...