Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blinded by the white...

Hello, hello! And how are all of my blogging buddies on this fine morning? Unfortunately, "fine morning" is simply wishful thinking on my part as it has been raining and raining for the past 24 hours here... Isn't it hard to believe that March is almost upon us? I can hardly wait for the grass to start greening up and for the first crocuses to peak through the soil. I really need a bit of spring color in my life right now--how about you? You see, I've been doing a lot of "snow" stitching lately--not exactly my favorite thing. Of all the colors, white seems to be the most difficult (and boring!) for me. Does anyone else feel that way? I don't know if it's the poor coverage or what, but it feels like a task rather than a joy...

Anyway, I'd like to share with you a big (for me!) finish... The Prairie Schooler February sampler. It is stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle with DMC thread and I'm so happy with how it turned out; it's such a cheerful  piece.

 Prairie Schooler February Sampler

You'll notice I made a few changes from the original (which you can see below). I substituted the pretty heart and doves for the groundhog in the upper right corner. Although the groundhog was cute (well as cute as any overgrown rodent with large yellow teeth can be!), I wanted the chart to be more about the other February holidays (Valentine's Day and President's Day) and there was already one tiny groundhog at the bottom merrily waving his American flag. The main change I made, though, was to the sun. In the original chart the sun is black (well, DMC 3371, which is nearly black!)... I mean, honestly, have you ever seen a sun that color in your life? If I had I would fear the world was ending! To me, the sun, as originally charted, looked ominous and a bit spider-like, so I used the same golden yellow that lit up the windows of the cabin for my sun and I'm  much happier with the look.

There are so many lovely details in this piece that commemorate American history. If you look closely you'll see the names of our most famous presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, along with their birth and death dates stitched into the snow. And don't you love that border of cherries and hearts? Who doesn't remember the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree and the countless "cherry-related" activities we did as children in elementary school? Well, it turns out that the whole "I cannot tell a lie" thing supposedly spoken by George as he confessed to chopping down the cherry tree was a myth! It all began with a man named Parson Mason Weems who invented that part of George's life as a way to teach children about telling the truth when he wrote an early biography of his life! Hmm...not very truthful on his part, was it? Oh, well... another childhood illusion shattered...

Prairie Schooler February Sampler

I  also have a small finish from January that I forgot to share with you last time. Again, there was a lot of white stitching involved!  I had such a hard time getting the white snowflakes to show up on the 28 ct. gray Monaco until I decided to use two threads of B5200 just for them (everything else is stitched with just one thread since I stitched it "over one)." I used the suggested overdyeds  and backed it with the pretty white on white fabric shown in the background. I really love the look of the Word Play series, but for some reason, I didn't love stitching it. I'm not sure why; being a librarian I love words, but I struggled with making myself sit down and finish it. I had planned to stitch the Word Play design for each month this year, but I don't think that is going to be happening. I'm sure I'll stitch them all eventually, just not this year.

January Word Play

Now, although that dainty white bow in the left corner looks very charming--it really wasn't part of my original finishing plan. I had a "little"--ahem--mishap when I was ironing my finished piece. You see, I had basted the thin white ric-rac on with red thread when I sewed my pillow together. After turning it right side out after sewing the pillow on my machine, I was giving it a quick pressing when all of a sudden this red blob appeared on the white--horrors!! All I can surmise is that some of the red thread that I had pulled out from the basting had stuck on the ironing board cover and the iron accidentally got too close to the synthetic ric rac and it melted the red thread right on to the white trim. Oh, I tried everything to remove it that I could think of--I even tried filing it with a nail file, but to no avail...The red was now a permanent part of my design!

 Never again will I use red thread to baste white trim!!

I was very proud of myself, though--I didn't freak out! Honestly.. I simply took a deep breath and tried to think of different ways to disguise my mistake. I thought a cute yo-yo would cover it up nicely, but I didn't have any fabric that looked just right with all of the colors in the design. I thought about buttons, but none of them seemed just right either... SO, one of my little bows came to the rescue! Oh, I could have taken the whole pillow apart and started over, but having already trimmed the seams, it would have been difficult. So, I went with the quick and easy approach, glued a bow on top of the red blob, and no one is the wiser. You wouldn't even have known about it if I hadn't told you, would you? Anyway, I'm very pleased with it and these little snow buddies seem to like their new friend in his miniature wagon, too...

 January Word Play

Earlier this month, I was the lucky winner of a giveaway held by Vickie at A Stitcher's Story in honor of her 200+  followers. Vickie makes the most adorable bottlecap pincushions. Just look at this little beauty in winter blue filled with Vickie's handmade pins. I had admired them on Vickie's blog, but had no idea just how tiny they truly are until this one showed up at my house. She also sent a cute pen with the word "Stitch" stitched onto black fabric and inserted into the pen's casing--what a great idea. A charming sampler rounded out the giveaway goodies. Thank you so very much, Vickie--I am just thrilled with each and every gift!

Giveaway win from Vickie

And from my sweet friend, Catherine at Bramblewood Stitches, came a little surprise on a day when I really needed a smile. I arrived home from my last visit to my parents and found a very sweet card with the prettiest decorated pins waiting for me. I really must learn how to make these pins that you all are making. They look like such fun! The card you sent is so "me," Catherine--I think it will be a perfect one to frame for my sunroom. Thank you again for your friendship and for your thoughtfulness!

RAK from Catherine

This month has been crazy-busy at work with four of the seven librarians in our department on vacation for almost two weeks. The three of us poor souls trying to cover a reference desk that is open 69 hours a week has been exhausting. If you work with the public you know exactly what I mean!! 99% of the people are great, but there are always a few who nothing will satisfy. So, as you can imagine, I'm more than ready for March to arrive and for my work schedule to return to my normal  days a week. Hopefully, I'll be a bit more productive in my stitching next month, too...

Thank you all for stopping by today--I really appreciate your visit. And I want to give my newest followers a warm welcome--so glad you've found my blog. I'm still trying to come up with a little something for my 1000+ follower giveaway so stay tuned! Enjoy your day, my friends. Bye for now...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine Freebie Finishes

Good morning, my stitching friends! And how is February treating you so far? I know you'll all be envious when I tell you what my husband brought me back from his recent Florida trip. Why, he so generously gifted me with a lovely, lovely... C-O-L-D! Yes, after two years of being cold-free, I've been down for the count for the past five days. Luckily, from what I hear, it is on the mild side as colds have been going this winter, so I really can't complain. In the past 17 years, I have used only one sick day from work so I'm usually quite healthy, thank goodness. I am still hoping that nasty flu doesn't appear on our doorstep, though! Has anyone remained cold or flu-free this winter? It seems like almost every one of you has come down with one or the other!

I needed some bright colors after all the white and gray our winter has brought this season so I've been working on a few cheery little Valentine finishes--and guess what? All of them are freebies! I am always so grateful to the talented cross stitch designers out there who share their creativity with us in the form of freebies, aren't you? It is a wonderful way to introduce us to their larger designs, too.

When I first saw this love-letter carrying little bird, I fell in love with him! He is a freebie designed by the very creative Luli which you can find right here. He is part of a larger design of four birds, but you know me and my love of smalls--I decided to stitch him all by himself. He just looks so sweet flying his Valentine to someone's true love, doesn't he? This design is stitched on 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle with a variety of overdyeds and is finished with some white satin ruched ribbon and pearly white pins. I slightly changed the bird's body and then added the three little red hearts in the front. Every time I look at him, I just want to say--you are SO cute (well, actually, I do say that!).

 Luli's "Love" freebie

When I showed my husband my little bird carrying the love letter, he asked if it was for him and I was so surprised! I never dreamed that he would want anything stitched by me. But then I thought, well, why not? After all, if I gave him something stitched by me it would be a permanent Valentine rather than just an overly expensive greeting card that would eventually end up stashed in a drawer somewhere. So I set out to find the perfect thing and when I saw this little freebie by Cathy Habermann, I knew it was ideal. It stitched up fairly quickly and so I decided to embellish the finish and make it even more special.

"Love You More" freebie

The red and white fabric is definitely vintage--at least 40+ years old. If you wonder how I know that, it's because this is a scrap of fabric that I had saved from my sewing days in high school. Yes, I had made a top for myself (probably a peasant-style blouse which was very much "in-style" back then or it could have been a halter top--remember those anyone?!) Before you laugh--remember that this was back in the late '60s/early '70s when everything was about hearts and flowers, peace and love. That's what makes this so special;  it was something that was around when I first met my husband at the tender age of 19. I wish you could see (and feel!) the fabric in person because it is covered with red flocked hearts and flowers--so very cute! I jazzed it up with a bit of black fabric, brass heart charm, and black handmade cording. Do you think he will like it?

"Love You More" freebie

I've been asked many times how I come up with the combinations of fabrics and trims that I use in my little pillows... Well, the first step is to pull everything from drawers and cupboards in the colors used in a design and then begin eliminating things. Sometimes a print is too large or too small or the colors just aren't quite right so they are put away. Sometimes an idea I had in mind gets totally put aside when I hold up another fabric or trim and--wow--I know immediately, that that is the way I now want to go.  I found another very quick-to-stitch freebie at the Sub Rosa blog and after looking through my piles of fabrics and trims, I decided that these were the ones I wanted to use...

"True Love" freebie

Rather than stitching the design all in red as was charted, I added some color in the form of green leaves and gray birds. I also changed the four lower hearts to a checkerboard design and eliminated the words "True Love." The next step involves layering and configuring the fabrics differently to get a pleasing look. I just place them alongside my design in different combinations until I find a design that makes me smile. Would you like to see how this one ended up? Well, here it is--a bright, cheery spot of mid-winter color...

"True Love" freebie

So, now I have three quick, new smalls for my bowl of February finishes. None of them took more than a few hours to stitch and then a couple more hours to pull together for a finish.  I've also been working on a larger (for me!) piece which I hope to have finished or my next post.

I want to thank two very thoughtful blogging friends for their recent treats.  From my dear friend, Lois, came these wonderful birthday gifts. I just love the little blue scissor fob she made for me--it is so beautifully stitched and finished. And, of course, the delicious chocolate is already half-eaten. Lois also tucked in a pretty Brightneedle chart called "Something Blue," some flowery buttons, and a lovely calendar from Northern Ireland. Judging from the photos in the calendar, I've just added a new place to my "must-visit" list--the scenery from Northern Ireland looks spectacular! Thank you, Lois, for extending my birthday a bit longer and for your very special gifts and friendship...

Birthday gifts from Lois!

And from my sweet friend, Myra, came this adorable heart-shaped mug mat! I fear that it is much too pretty to use as a mug-mat, Myra, and I may use it as a candle mat in front of my February bowl of smalls. Myra's work is just wonderful and if you haven't visited her blog, run on over--you're in for a treat. Thanks so very much, my friend--your gift came on a day when I wasn't feeling my best and it certainly gave me a nice boost!

Valentine Gift from Myra!

Do you have any special plans for Valentine's Day? I'll be up in New York visiting my parents (my first two true loves!), but this time my dear husband will be making the five-hour drive with me, so that will make it special. (However, I'm still hoping for a nice box of chocolates from him--hint, hint!!). Anyway, I wish you all a happy week ahead--my thoughts are with all of you in the New England area--sure hope your power returns soon and that you can dig out from all of that snow that winter storm Nemo dropped on you.

Before I forget, here is one new honor for my city of Pittsburgh just in time for Valentine's Day... It was recently chosen by Forbes Magazine as one of the 10 Unexpectedly Romantic Cities in the entire world. Yes, the world--not just the United States!! Who knew? The link to the article and the list of the other nine cities is here. Is your city on it, too? Pittsburgh has come a long, long way from its old steel industry days--it has really blossomed as you can see in this photo.

 The city of Pittsburgh

Thanks so much for visiting me this week. Oh, one last thing--I noticed that my last post pushed my follower numbers up to (gulp!!) 1000+!!! Amazing and humbling that so many of you find my little blog interesting enough to read--truly. I think a giveaway is in order, don't you? Give me a few weeks to think of what to offer as I have a very busy two weeks coming up at work. Thank you all again for your wonderful comments, emails, and most of all--thank you for your friendships. Bye for now...

Happy Valentine's Day 
to my dear stitching friends!