Monday, January 30, 2017

Another year older...

Hello, everyone! And here we are at the end of January--can you believe it? I hope the first month of 2017 has treated you well? In the middle of the month, I hit another milestone--I turned 62. Age 62, here in the U.S., means you are eligible for Social Security benefits. But, of course, I'll be waiting to claim them as the amount you receive increases each year until you hit 70. I doubt if I'll wait that long, though... still have to figure  out this "new chapter in my life!"

And there was another birthday this month--my blog turned eight years old on January 24th! During that first year of blogging, way back in 2009, my goal was to stitch an ornament (or small design) each week for the entire year--and I did it. Thus began my love of ornaments! Back then, though, I wasn't doing much finishing--and the finishing I was doing didn't look that great. Time and practice have improved my ornament finishing greatly! I've learned to enjoy the finishing process much more than I ever dreamed I would--and I'm so thankful to all of you fellow cross stitchers who have provided inspiration, photos, and tutorials!

So, on to the ornaments that I sent to my international friends for Christmas... Most of you will recognize this first one as a Prairie Schooler. This went to my dear, long-time blogging friend, Lois in Northern Ireland, who shares a love of Prairie Schooler designs with me. This chart can be found in PS Book No. 190 "Happy Christmas" and is stitched on black 32 ct. Belfast linen with the suggested DMC threads. I did change the color of his boots, gloves, and the door to DMC 844, however.  I love this finish so much with it's cheery checked fabric and little red jingle bells hanging from the cording--I know I'll be stitching it again for myself.

Prairie Schooler "Happy Christmas" finish

Another PS Santa found a new home all the way over in Austria with my lovely friend, Hilda. I'm sure he is very happy with his new life surrounded by those snowy mountains near Hilda's beautiful home. The Prairie Schooler Book No. 80, "Old World Santas," is where this chart can be found. I changed the red to DMC 221 (as I often do with PS charts that call for red) and used a 40 ct. flax Newcastle with some handmade cording and a simple bow.  I don't think you can see it in my photo, but I applied teeny Swarovski crystals here and there to look like snow.  Another one that I "must-stitch" for myself!
Prairie Schooler "Old World Santas" finish

My sweet friend, Gabi (no blog), in Germany was the recipient of this "Be Merry" ornament. I'm sure you all recognize this as one of the delightful chalkboard ornaments from Hands On Designs "Christmas Collection: Part I." I love these little designs so much--what I didn't love was the fabric suggested on the chart. It is designed to look like a dusty chalkboard, which is great, but it was way too soft and "flopsy" for me--I prefer stitching on a stiffer fabric with more body. I doubt that I'll be using it again... I think I'll be trying a simple black Belfast or 28 ct. Monaco for future chalkboard ornaments. I used the suggested overdyeds, but think I will just use good old DMC in the future as the variegation didn't show up enough to warrent the cost of the overdyed threads.

Hands On Design "Chalkboard Christmas" finish

And, surprisingly, I stitched three of the same ornament--I enjoyed it that much!! One of these little cuties was sent to my sweet friend, Cindy, here in the U.S., another went to dear June, in England, and the third, also sent to England, appears to have gone into hiding somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly, it never arrived. Sigh... That is the first time in all the years I have done exchanges, that something not arrived at its destination. Guess I will just have to stitch another! Anyway, the chart for this Little House Needleworks cutie can be found in the 2014 Just Cross Stitch Ornament issue. I used 40 ct. country mocha Newcastle and a combination of overdyeds and DMC for this one and this is another I plan on stitching for myself (some day!).

Little House Needleworks "Snowy Day" finishes

There are a few more gifts that I also sent, but I will wait for the next post! Whew--I was very busy at Christmas time, as you can tell!

Ch-ch-ch-changes in exchanges... After many years of doing many birthday exchanges, I have decided to stop participating in them this year.  I emailed those I regularly exchange with and explained to them that I could no longer keep up with everyone and the deadlines were causing me a lot of stress. And that is not what stitching should be about, is it?  (I do hope to continue the Christmas exchanges, for now). But, a few stitchers snuck in little birthday gifts for me anyway, which I want to acknowledge...

June included the sweet January Calendar girl chart in with her birthday card:

Birthday gift from June

Cindy included a cute Lizzie Kate chart in her card:

Birthday gift from Cindy

And, Christina, sent me some darling fabrics (aren't the little houses sweet?), a new magazine, and a  little gift tag-making kit.

Birthday gifts from Christina

So sweet of all of you--I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness! My birthday was quiet this year as it also fell on the Monday that Martin Luther King's birthday was celebrated so there was no postal service and it was a federal holiday here in the U.S. Unfortunately, my library doesn't observe many of the federal holidays so I still had to work. The day before my birthday, my middle son and his girlfriend had me over for a wonderful dinner, cake, and flowers so that made the day very special...

I wanted to share a photo that I posted on Instagram last week... I mentioned that the only snow we'd been having in January was in the form of the "snow" in my little stitched pillows! We actually did get a couple of inches this weekend, though, which has brightened up the outdoors.   I'll be replacing these snowy finishes with something more appropriate for Valentine's Day very soon, but I'll miss them--they certainly have brightened up the corner of my kitchen during an extremely grey and rainy month. I don't know about you, but I'm very happy to be rounding the corner to February!

Snowy finishes in my corner cupboard

A bit nostalgic... When I realized that my blog's birthday was January 24th, I began looking through my posts from 2009 and getting a bit nostalgic. So, so many of my old friends from those early years are no longer blogging or have stopped stitching altogether. They've moved on to Facebook, Instagram, or different creative outlets. Or have simply disappeared...  I suppose it is like anything--people move on to newer, more innovative things... Old fashioned records were replaced by 8-track tapes, then cassettes, then CDs and so on. But, then records kind of reinvented themselves as "vinyl." Will that happen with blogs? Do you suppose people will miss the more personal contacts that this media offers, and return?  I do worry about the future of blogs... I have to admit, I love the quick and easy posting format on my Instagram account, but I so treasure the friendships that I have formed through blogging. 

Anyway, I'm ever so thankful for those of you who continue to read "Stitching Dreams!" Your comments and emails and supportive friendships are always appreciated... Wishing you a very Happy February! Bye for now...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Christmas in January and a new stitcher!

Happy January! I have to say this has been the oddest January I can remember... While many of you are getting buried in snow in locales that normally receive little or none of the white stuff, we haven't had more than an inch. As I write this post--we have nothing on the ground--only green grass! We didn't even have snow for Christmas, which I always hope for. Oh well, it's made it very easy to get around, but I feel for the ski resorts, snow removal companies, and others who rely on snow for their livelihoods in the winter. It must be a very tough year for them here in western Pennsylvania!

So, how is this new year treating you so far? There seems to be a fair number of colds and flu going around the world from what I've been reading on your blogs. I'm always amazed that I'm not sick more often, considering what I do for a living and all the germ-infested things that I touch in the library on any given workday--the library cards, the computer mice, the keyboards, even the books themselves! But, so far, so good--I hope my good health holds out as it will be one busy, busy year for my family. So far, we have three family weddings (including my son's in October--can't wait!), my mom's 90th birthday in May, and our 40th wedding anniversary in July on our calendar. Lots of travel, but for such joyous occasions!

I've begun stitching a new mid-sized sampler, but don't have enough worth showing quite yet, so, instead, I'm going to share with you some of the Christmas ornaments that I sent to friends here in the U.S. There are still a couple of ornaments wandering who-knows-where in Europe and I'm beginning to worry as it has been almost a month since I mailed them... Oh dear! I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that they will show up at their new homes...

This sweet Hands On Design (from the "Chalkboard Ornaments Part 3" chart) flew across the state to my friend, Mary. I was so tickled with this finish that I know I'll be stitching it again for myself. It is stitched "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco and is so tiny that I had to scale everything down. I cut smaller leaves from felt than those that came with the chart, used a smaller button, and finished it with some miniature white ric rak. A little tip: when you finish an ornament, pay close attention to scale. If the ornament is small, use smaller prints and trims for a more polished looking finish.

Hands On Design "Silent Night" finish

Myra, in North Carolina, received this handsome gold Prairie Schooler Santa from the "Father Christmas" Book No. 43. This is the second time I've stitched this one and the second time I've given him away so the third time will be for me (greedy, aren't I?!). I used 40 ct. flax Newcastle and the suggested DMC colors in this design.  An oval finish with hand-made cording and a simple bow finished him off quite nicely. I never get tired of stitching Prairie Schooler Santas for some reason--they are just such classics.

Prairie Schooler Santa finish from Book No. 43

And my friend Robin, in Virginia received yet another Prairie Schooler ornament from the "Evergreen" Book No. 202. I used 40 ct. country mocha Newcastle and good old DMC threads for this finish along with a bit of lace and some little red jingle bells sewn along the bottom.  I so love that dove and peace is something we surely could use a lot more of these days... I plan on stitching this one again, too, but this time, on black!

Prairie Schooler Dove of Peace finish

Speaking of stitching on black, when I was taking down my Christmas tree last week, I was surprised to see just how many ornaments I had stitched on black... I posted this photo on my Instagram page last week and it was a big hit, so I thought you blogging buddies might like to see it, too. Do you know what my favorite is? If you guessed one of the Prairie Schoolers--you're wrong! Nope--it is the one right in the middle: "Five Golden Rings" by Cottage Garden Samplings. Are you surprised? I don't know what it is, but there is just something special about those sweet angels carrying the golden rings, that I really adore. So, do you have a favorite?

Can you tell I love stitching on black?

But wait! There are more!! A couple of my Instagram friends asked me about the PS Santa with the cardinal that they remembered seeing on my blog a few years back and I realized I had totally left out not just that one, but two others, as well.  The Santas were not at all happy with me and wondered how on earth I could forget them, so I promised them their very own "photo shoot!" Several people asked about what fabric I used on this trio... Well, these are each done on something different; the Santa with the cardinal is on 32 ct. black Belfast linen, the one with the lantern is done "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco, and the Santa pulling the sled is done on 18 ct. Aida.

Three Prairie Schooler Santas on black

I wanted to stitch something special for my oldest son and his fiancée to commemorate 2016--the year they got engaged, and I thought this Little House Needleworks ornament fit the bill perfectly. I chose to use the green cording as I didn't want anything too "girly" since it is for both of them. I'm happy to say it was well-received and I hope to start a tradition of making them an ornament each year to add to their tree. We so enjoyed having her with us at Christmas--another girl in the mix was fun for me and she and my son were both a great help in the kitchen. They even got me and my husband out bowling on New Year's Eve, something we hadn't done since college over 40 years ago! (And, believe me, my poor aching body reminded me of that fact for a few days after--bowling certainly uses muscles that I don't ordinarily work out!). We won't talk about the score--let's just say I need more practice...

Little House Needleworks: "Season of Love" finish

A new stitcher! My future daughter-in-law expressed interest in my cross stitching and said she wanted to learn, too, so, of course, I jumped at the opportunity to teach her. It was just a quick lesson on 14 ct. Aida using two colors and a simple lady bug chart. I was so surprised to get this back in the mail earlier this week! Not only had she finished the lady bug on her flight home, but she added the heart and the wording all by herself... She says she has found "her hobby!" YAY!! Another young convert! I am so happy to see more of the younger generation finding the joys of cross stitching--it really does warm my heart.  I began stitching when I was in my early 20's and it has brought me so many relaxing moments. My 62nd birthday is right around the corner and I'm sure at age 22,  I never dreamed that I would still be stitching 40 years later!

First cross stitch ever from my future daughter-in-law!

And, there I go again with an overly long blog post!! I do need to work on that... I am just the worst procrastinator when it comes to sitting down and composing a post and then, when I finally do, I have way too much to share. Thanks for those of you who are still reading. I'll be back later this month with photos of the ornaments I sent to my international friends (and one more U.S. friend)--hopefully, they will have all arrived by then...  Thanks so very much for all of your wonderful comments--they truly make my day! Stay warm now and happy stitching. Bye for now...