Friday, September 28, 2012

Stitching a Scurry of Squirrels

Good September morning to you my friends! And here we are sprinting toward the end of yet another month. I know some of you have been wondering if my September bowl of smalls would ever be done and I'm happy to say...yes, I finally finished five new little designs for it. I've stumbled upon a new "addiction" so to speak, though. I finally discovered what many of you have been raving about: Downton Abbey! Over the past week, I watched the entire first and second seasons on DVD. That is a total of 16 hours of television viewing--which means lots of stitching time, too. It was a bit harder to stitch during this program, though, as I hardly dared turn my face from the screen for fear of missing those wonderful period details and the telling expressions on the actors' faces. I am so envious of my British friends who have already had the pleasure of beginning Season Three. Are you enjoying it? I can hardly wait until January 6th, 2013 when it will be making it's way to American television! I know many of you (probably most of you!) have already seen it, but for those of you who haven't, I highly recommend it...

So, I know you're not here to listen to me prattle on about Downton Abbey, are you? No one was able to guess what my theme was for my September bowl...Many of you guessed apples or pumpkins; both good ideas, but in the end I went with...squirrels!! Here in western Pennsylvania, we have an abundance of squirrels, gray squirrels, even an occasional albino squirrel! I so enjoy sitting in my kitchen watching their antics as they try to figure out how to break into the bird feeder and scamper away with the birdseed. So, in honor of these entertaining, sometimes annoying, little are my five September squirrel creations...
September 2012 Squirrel Finishes
The first squirrel creeping into my September bowl is "French Country Squirrel" by JBW Designs. I love this design that is made up of tiny autumn-themed motifs. Can you spot the pumpkin, the owl, the acorn, the bird, the basket, the heart, and the miniature squirrels? So creative!! I stitched this one over one on 25 ct. mushroom lugana with WDW's "Sweet Potato" thread. I found a tiny brass acorn charm in my stash so I gave that to the squirrel to hold rather than stitching the acorns that were charted. I then added a pretty orange ruched ribbon, backed the circle with the fabric shown, and called it a finish!
 "French Country Squirrel" by JBW Designs

This Trilogy piece called "Autumn Tree" is my next finish. These little trees must really appeal to me because I've now stitched their "Cheer" tree as well as their Spooky tree. I used 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen with an assortment of autumn colored overdyeds for this one. I thought the leaf fabric picked up the colors of the leaves on the trees really well so I sewed a simple pillow with some orange ric rak peaking out. A very quick finish!
 "Autumn Tree" by The Trilogy

I've had this piece of gold-toned Jobelan in my stash for the longest time and I'm thrilled to finally have found something to use it for. I wish you could see the true color--in the photo it is looking a bit washed out, but it really is the loveliest golden autumn shade. Midnight Stitching is the designer of this piece called "Quaker Acorn I." I believe this is the first time I've stitched one of their designs and I truly enjoyed it.  I used WDW's "Mocha" thread and finished it with a simple edging treatment of coppery brown beads.
 "Quaker Acorn I" by Midnight Stitching

Next we come to the design that ended up taking most of my time this month! Wow! I had forgotten how much time a single block of Hawk Run Hollow pieces can take!! This block is from Carriage Hill Samplings "Autumn At Hawk Run Hollow," but if you've stitched it yourself, you'll notice a big change. In the charted design there is a big white sheep under the left side of the tree. Well, we don't see many sheep in my part of the world--let alone in the woods! So, I substituted two little squirrels sharing (fighting over?) a single acorn.  I also changed the color of the grass to a darker shade than charted and left off two of the acorns on the right side. I'm very pleased with how it turned out even though the over one stitching on this one about drove me crazy. It is stitched on 28 ct. light taupe lugana using DMC threads and the fabric shown behind it is what I used to back the small pillow.  If you look closely, you can spy a tiny heart carved into the tree with the first initials of my husband and myself...
 Autumn at Hawk Run Hollow (Fourth Block)

And finally, a design from one of my favorite designer's... Homespun Elegance, called "Joyful Autumn." This stitched up fairly quickly on 28 ct. cafe mocha linen. Again, it is stitched "over one" using Crescent Colours "Hazelnut" and DMC 3787 for the squirrel. I did make one change and flipped the squirrel so he was facing into the design rather than away from it. Using a black and tan gingham fabric I finished it into a simple pillow and adorned it with two tiny acorns hung from some gold cording (leftover from the cording on my pillow shown above). Isn't that wooden squirrel adorable--he is part of a pair that once belonged to my dear grandmother. I think of her whenever I bring them out for fall decorating...
 "Joyful Autumn" by Homespun Elegance

Here is a closeup of the acorn embellishement for you. I found these wee acorns at the library one day when I was walking into work amidst piles of normal size acorns. Aren't they cute? I never dreamed I would end up using them in a finish, but here they are! I enlisted the help of my husband who drilled a hole in the top of each acorn cap (after I separated the cap from the acorn) with a dremel tool. Then I simply slipped in the cording, tied a knot so it wouldn't pull through all the way, and glued the acorn cap back on. Simply add a wooden button and you've got a unique trim for your finished fall pillows...
 Close-up of acorn embellishment

And here are the five finishes all together? I think my favorite is the block from Autumn At Hawk Run Hollow, but the French Country Squirrel is a close second. How about yours?
September 2012 finishes

And what would a squirrel do without some acorns to keep him happy and healthy? I found this tutorial for making little fabric acorns to be most helpful. We don't have an oak tree in our yard, but, luckily, the ones on the grass at my library are free for the picking! These stitch up very quickly and I think they add a playful touch to my display.
 Fabric acorns

So, nine bowls down...three to go! When I began this "monthly bowl" journey in January, I really wondered if I could come up with enough new finishes every month to fill the bowl. Well, it looks like I might just achieve my dream... IF I can get through the next three very, very busy months. I am so appreciative of all your supportive comments and suggestions along the way. They make me want to keep creating! Below is the final September bowl along with the Prairie Schooler September squirrel that I finished and framed a few years back...
   September 2012 bowl of finishes

 Here is a closeup shot for you...

 And another...

Squirrels were even included in my gift-giving this month! One of my very first blogging friends, Myra, celebrated a birthday last week so I wanted to send her a new ornament for her lovely Halloween tree. I fell in love with Fancey Blackett and The Harvest Dance last fall when I saw it on several blogs so I chose to stitch just a portion of it for Myra. The dancing duo just make me smile each time I see them. Can't you just picture a lively group of skinny witches and giant squirrels dancing the night away in some distant forest? This Pineberry Lane design is one of my favorites and I hope to stitch the entire piece for myself next year. Myra's pillow was stitched with the suggested DMC threads on 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen. And take a look at that orange fabric on the is adorned with the cutest little black paw prints. Perfect for Halloween and for my dear friend Myra, who is a huge animal lover. I wish you a most happy year ahead, Myra, with lots of stitching time thrown in...
 Gift for Myra:
 Motif from Fancey Blackett and The Harvest Dance

A SPECIAL THANK YOU... I was so pleased to receive a copy of her new book, Cozy Wool Applique Pillows,  from my friend, Liz, who blogs over at Sunflower Fields Pattern Co.. I've been following Liz's blog since she first started it and am just enthralled with her little wool applique creations. Her book is filled with such creative and fun little pillows--I love it!! I'm not sure I have the talent to create one myself, but I hope to get up my nerve and try my hand at wool applique some day. Her book sales are doing very well and she is now planning another one for children as well. Go check out her blog and tell her I sent you--you'll love her adorable creations! Thanks so much, Liz, for sharing your book and your friendship! 
Gift from Liz: "Cozy Wool Applique Pillows"

Whew--I was certainly long-winded today, wasn't I? I'm so sorry for writing a "book" here, but I sure hope you enjoyed my "squirrely" post.  I'll be out of the loop for a while now due to our upcoming belated anniversary trip to Asheville, NC and also my trip to visit my parents up in New York State in October. I will miss all of you, but will catch up with everyone when I return. Thank you, as always for all of your wonderful comments, emails, and friendships--you fellow stitchers are the best!! Bye for now...

Friday, September 14, 2012

This and that

Good morning, my blogging buddies! I hope this post finds you enjoying September in all of it's glory. I am loving this cooler weather and the sounds and smells that only autumn can bring. I took a stroll around our yard and gardens yesterday and, even though things are slowly withering and fading away, fall has a beauty all its own, don't you think? I just love the way the light shines in autumn--there is something so appealing about the way it streams through the windows and illuminates the house in a softer, quieter way than the harsh rays of summer. The world of nature is slowing down and preparing to rest for winter and that slower pace of life is so appealing to me right now...

I've been stitching a bit--not as much as I'd like, but I've still managed to get a few things finished... I've also started on my monthly "bowl" finishes for September, too--any guesses as to what my theme will be? My Christmas ornament for August is this winsome snowman. I mean really, who can resist that face? Doesn't he resemble Winston Churchill a bit? Well, I think that is what the designer intended as the name of this chart is "Winston the Snowman." It is a Trilogy chart which I stitched on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle linen using the recommended overdyed threads with a couple of small substitutions.

I did make some minor changes to the original design; I added little snowflakes (Smyrna stitches) falling around the snowman and also added a handle to his umbrella. Winston is backed with a blue checked fabric that picks up the colors of his scarf. I then finished him off with blue cording and a wire hanger made by simply stretching out a spring--a super easy finish!

"Winston the Snowman" by The Trilogy

September's ornament is a companion piece to my December 2011 ornament which you can see about in this post. This is simply the motif at the top of the "Woodland Peace" sampler from the February 1993 issue of Leisure Arts Magazine. I wish the true color came through (my camera is wonderful, but reds always tend to look a bit "off" for some reason)--it is more of a cherry red than this fire engine red that seems to be showing (on my monitor at least). I used DMC 304 and stitched it over one on 28 ct. white evenweave.

This is a perfect example of how you can turn a very simple design into something a bit more special by adding various fabrics and trims. Isn't it cute? I love those miniature bells and the engraved silver button--I think they give the piece a nice, old-fashioned appeal. So, I'm now caught up with my monthly ornament stitching--whew! This has obviously been a year of stitching smalls for me and I'm so proud to say that I've been keeping up with my finishing for a change. (Of course, I still have a drawer full of things I've stitched, but not finished, from years past--I wonder if I'll ever find the time to get to them?).

"Woodland Peace" from an old Leisure Arts magazine

I stitched a couple of birthday gifts for friends last month which were well received. For my sweet friend, Linda, I made this small pin pillow. "Blessed Be" is a freebie from Plum Pudding NeedleArt which you can find right here. This is the second time I've stitched this one and the second time I've given it away! The third time will be one I keep (I hope!). It is stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle using DMC threads. I used a gold colored fabric (from a cloth napkin) and a bit of black ric-rak to finish it off quite simply. Linda told me she'll be displaying it in her office along with some of her own lovely stitching this autumn.

For my dear friend, Lois in Northern Ireland, I made this Homespun Elegance design ("Crows Treat" from the Tiny Stuff II booklet). If this looks familiar, it's because I made another similar one for myself which I showed you in my last post. Can you spot the differences? I simply made hers into a long pillow with the gingham fabric on the bottom and mine is a wide pillow with the fabric on the side. I also stitched the buttons on Lois's with a gold thread and used black on mine. This one, like the one I showed you last month, was stitched on 32 ct. dirty linen using good old DMC threads. I'm so glad you liked your birthday gift, Lois--I wish you a most happy year ahead!

Another special stitching friend sent me a delightful package of goodies this week--all the way from England! June, one of the most generous people I know, surprised me with this fun sewing themed tote bag along with some pretty fabric (in blue and yellow--my favorite color combination, no less!!), and ribbon. The bag will be so handy for storing charts or fabric--we stitchers can never have too much storage, can we? And I just love the little handmade cards you included, June!! What a talented person you are--thank you so very much! If you haven't visited June's blog, please stop by and say "hello!" She is always so warm and welcoming...

So, are any of you beer lovers? I'm not in the least, but all the guys in my life are, so in an effort to do something as a family, we all attended the 6th annual Steel City Big Pour beer tasting event on Saturday. In addition to my husband and three sons, we were lucky enough to have my youngest son's girlfriend from Washington, D.C., my brother-in-law from Indiana, and my nephew from Kentucky joining us. I was the DD (Designated Driver), but I didn't feel like I missed out on any of the fun. There were some tasty and unusual food samples from local restaurants and even home-made sodas--the root beer was my "drink of choice" that evening. I've heard there were over 2000 people in attendance--a bit many for me as I tend to do better in small groups, but I had my "posse" of men with me so all was well!

This was a charity event to benefit a Pittsburgh organization called "Construction Junction" which recycles used building materials and household items. The beer-tasting was held in their warehouse so the decor included rows and rows of used sinks, doors, windows, and (ahem) toilets just waiting for new homes. A true handyman's dream!! I loved the names of the different craft breweries--so fun and creative: Dogfish Head, Duck-Rabbit, Flying Dog, and by far the most interesting name: Smuttynose! Who thinks of these names anyway? While most of the crowd was male, there were also a fair number of females in attendance. There were even a couple of craft booths which I missed, but my son's girlfriend did manage to stop at one and make him a cute beer koozie all decorated with his name and the Pittsburgh Steeler's logo. Hmm... now that I know she's crafty, I might just have to introduce her to cross stitch! What do you think?

I'll leave you with a little beer-themed humor (in the photo on the right) that I've seen popping up on the internet lately, but perhaps it's new to you. Apologies to the men in my life, but this just cracked me up...

Whatever you have planned for your weekend, I hope it's filled with things that make you smile. Thank you all for your comments and emails; even though I've never met most of you, I consider you true friends and I'm always so happy to hear from you! I'll be working at the library ALL weekend, but I plan on finding some time in the evenings for stitching. Hope you find some, too! Bye for now...