Thursday, January 24, 2019

Ten Years Ago Today...

Stitching Dreams was born! Yes, on January 24, 2009, I took a leap of faith, hit the "publish" button, and began a brand new--and very rewarding--chapter of my life.  I'd love to share the journey of the evolution of my blog with you, but first, I want to show you a few finishes...

My January ornament finish is another design from Little House Needleworks' Hometown Holidays series called "Grandma's House."  Well, Grandma, like me, loves the color blue, so I just had to change the accents to blue on the windows, her dress,  and the front door. I chose this shade of blue to coordinate with the pretty blue Woolies Flannel that I used for the finish. I love the way it turned out and I think Grandma would approve, too.

Little House Needleworks: "Grandma's House" finished up

Would you like to see a photo of all I've done in the series so far? Here are The Needlework Shop, Main Street Station, and the one that started my infatuation with this series, The Tree Lot. You can click on each shop name to find out the details on the finishes if you are interested. They are all stitched "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco with a combination of overdyed threads and DMC. Will I be stitching more? That would be a resounding.. YES! I absolutely love how these are turning out!

My finishes from LHN's "Hometown Holidays" series so far

Thank you for all of your compliments on the Christmas gifts that I shared with you in my last post. I have three more that I want to show you: two that I've stitched before and another "new-to-me" stitch.

To Robin, in Virginia, went this handsome green-robed Santa from Prairie Schooler's Book No. 43 "Father Christmas."  He is stitched on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle linen with the suggested threads. Once again, I added "snow" in the form of small white beads and finished him as an oval. This is one I don't have on my tree yet, so I'm sure you'll be seeing him again!

Father Christmas ornament finish

To Liz, in Idaho, went another Prairie Schooler from Book No. 190 "Happy Christmas."  If this looks familiar, it's because I stitched it as a gift in 2016, too! Still none to hang on my own tree--I keep giving these away for some reason... It is stitched on 32 ct. black Belfast linen with the suggested DMC threads. I did change Santa's boots and gloves to DMC 844, however. Don't you love the white checkered path through the snow on this one? Rumor has it that Santa is now living very happily at his new home in the Pacific Northwest!

"Happy Christmas" ornament finish

To my oldest son and dear daughter-in-law went this sweet ornament (which I previously stitched for myself in 2017). This is called "Kissing Cardinals" and the chart can be found in the 2014  Just Cross Stitch Ornament issue. I used 40 ct. pearl gray linen and a variety of overdyed threads and DMC and surrounded it with a pretty cherry red cording topped off with a gauzy bow. If you compare the photo below to this picture of the one I stitched for myself, you'll notice a difference... I forgot to add the beads on the mistletoe to mine! Well, the berries on mistletoe are supposed to be white, but I wanted mine to be red (just pretend it is holly!) so I added three tiny red beads to this new one and very carefully glued some red beads on to my own, too. I'm happy to say my son and daughter-in-law loved it and the birds have found a happy home out in sunny California.

"Kissing Cardinals" ornament Christmas gift for my oldest son and daughter-in-law

This next piece was a gift for my youngest son who spent half of 2018 living and working in Panama. It is not something I made... I actually found it on Etsy and I was thrilled because this is an authentic mola from Panama and will make the perfect piece of artwork to remind him of his six months there. Some of you may remember my post on molas which are reverse applique made by the indigenous people of Panama. When I was searching for a Christmas ornament that would represent his time in Panama, I stumbled across this piece on Etsy for less than $10.00. It was just a piece of cloth so I decided to frame it so my son could hang it on his wall or prop it up on a bookshelf. Luckily, I found a frame that was almost a perfect size in my box of thrifted frames. I simply painted it with black chalk paint, added a hook, and it was good to go.

A Panamanian mola for my youngest son

I'm sharing the above photo with you because I loved what the Etsy seller had written about this little guy in her ad... She wrote that she thought the "look on the little creature's face was a such a mixture of fear and bravery--something we all have in common." She went on to state that "the bravest thing we can do, sometimes, is to simply show up." And that is the perfect segue into the story of ten years of Stitching Dreams. If I hadn't gotten brave enough to hit that "publish" button on my very first blog post, I would know none of you...

January 24, 2009--a chilly, wintry day not unlike today. That January had been a hard month for me (as most every January is!). But, the year before, 2008, had been even harder: my best friend moved to Chicago, my sister (and only relative in the area) moved to New York, and my dear, all-black cat of 14 years, Shadow, died. I felt pretty much alone and I think my sons could tell I was feeling down. They were the ones who first suggested starting a stitching blog. I didn't even know what a blog was back then so I began reading a few online and, lo and behold--there were other people out there who shared my passion for cross stitching! A plan began to take shape in my head and one cold, lonely Saturday when my husband was visiting his parents in Florida, I nervously hit that publish button for the first time.

In 2009, I began my blogging journey by stitching an ornament a week. Yes, that was my goal and I'm proud to say, I achieved it. These were not limited to Christmas ornaments, but included any small sized piece, most with a holiday theme. My finishing has come a long, long way over the past decade! I had no idea what I was doing back then, but with time, patience and those wonderful tutorials from Vonna, The Twisted Stitcher and Pinwheel Ponders,  I've really improved the look of my ornaments. When I first began blogging, I had no expectations of getting comments or building relationships--I simply wanted to keep track of my weekly ornaments.

2009 Ornament A Week finishes (I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that some of these were never fully finished!)

But, then a funny thing happened--I began to get comments and I was shocked... "What do I do?" "Do I comment back?" I knew nothing about blogging etiquette! The comments kept coming,  friendships formed, and gifts were exchanged. I look back at that first year, though, and get a bit sad as so, so many have abandoned their blogs and I truly miss these stitching friends. Of those first year blogging friends, only a handful are still blogging. But, along the way new blogs would appear and disappear along with friendships that came and went. 

My first posts were very short (I know you current readers can hardly believe that!), but as the years passed they grew longer and longer (often, a bit too long!). I opened up about my life a bit more and even dared show a photo or two of myself. I'm naturally a shy and quiet person so doing so was a bit out of my comfort zone! But, I have always enjoyed writing and blogging opened up that outlet to me once again.

Not only has my blog been a perfect way to keep track of finishes, it has been a genuine  path to friendship... I will never forget the support I got when we packed up and sold my childhood home in 2012 in this post. Or the outpouring of love in 2014 when my dad passed away in this post. Or that devastating day in 2015 when my husband fell down the stairs and broke his neck in this post. Do you have any idea of just how much your comments comforted me during those difficult times? 

And then there were the joyful times, as well, when you celebrated with me:  my mom's 90th birthday in this post;  our 40th wedding anniversary in this post; my 2017 retirement in this post;  my oldest son's wedding in this post. And when my blog won the British Craft Awards "Blog Of the Year" in the cross stitch category in  this post. What an honor that was--and it was all due to y-o-u!

You've even traveled internationally with me on our trips to Germany, AustriaBarcelona, Granada, Seville, Uruguay, Argentina: here and here, Patagonia, Mexico, and Panama: here, here, and here. And I've enjoyed such amazing photos of different parts of the world thanks to your wonderful blogs, too. Blogging opens up the world to all of us in such a unique and personal way!

I often get emails from people telling me they are thinking about starting a blog... very few follow through.  I'm not sure why. If a somewhat technologically challenged person like myself can put together a blog, anyone can! I think the main reason that people decide against it, is time. Simply put... blogging takes time. You have to come up with an idea, put it into words, find photos, add captions, and edit it. And then there is the commenting on other blogs, emails, answering questions... the list goes on and on! It is not the quick and easy posting of a photo like on Facebook or Instagram. But, the records are so much more complete and the memories are so much more detailed. I love being able to look back on my blog to see what I was doing at a certain month in any given year. I also love being able to tie experiences to what I was stitching at the time. It just makes things more concrete--and more colorful (to me, anyway!).

Ten years have gone by in a flash--I've learned so much about stitching and finishing and bought way more charts than I will ever be able to stitch. But, the best part of blogging has been the friendships--I'm not just saying that. It truly has! I never dreamed that I would "know" stitchers from all over the world when I first posted in 2009. So many of you have told me my little finishes inspire you and asked to copy them. I see my Christmas tree filled with stitched ornaments all over Pinterest! Who would ever have thought?  Thank you, one and all, for keeping me going--your comments and kind emails are what make me want to keep blogging even though it seems to be going out of fashion. I honestly appreciate each and every comment and kind word that you leave at the end of my posts--thank you a thousand times over...

Giveaway time... I've got a few small charts and a book to give away in honor of the 10 year anniversary of Stitching Dreams. I will ship anywhere--just please remember to leave your email address in your comment and tell me the number(s) (in order) of the giveaways you would like to enter. All items are in new or "like new" condition!  You must be a follower and you must answer one of the following questions:  "What is your favorite thing about blogging or reading blogs." or "What is your favorite post / memory on my blog (or your blog!)."

GIVEAWAY #1:  Hardcover Book "Christmas Portraits" which includes all the charts for the pictures shown--plus more!

GIVEAWAY #2:  Just Nan "Snow Faces" chart

GIVEAWAY #3:  Lizzie Kate's "A Good Night" chart

GIVEAWAY #4:  Prairie Schooler 2009 Santa chart

GIVEAWAY #5:  Sue Hillis's "Yankee Doodle Dandy" chart (with star charm)
The deadline for the giveaways will be February 8th, 2019 so please enter by that date. Only one chart per winner and please remember to include your email if I don't already have it. Thank you--and good luck to all! 

On to year number eleven of Stitching Dreams! What will the next twelve months bring, I wonder? Whatever comes my way, I hope each of you will be here with me stitching and  reading along! Bye for now...

What adventures lie ahead?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Wrapping up 2018

Happy 2019! I can hardly believe we are well into the second week of this newly minted year already... Looks like the next twelve months will be rushing by way too fast, just as last year did. I loved reading about your favorite moments of 2018 in my previous post--thank you to all who responded! As I've often said, when you blog, the readers know a lot more about the writer's life than the writer knows of the readers'. So, it's little questions like that which help me get to know you better. 

I've shared many of the gifts I sent out for Christmas on Instagram, but I wanted to share them on my blog, as well.  I've had to cut back on some of my international gift giving due to the high cost of postage--it really has gotten ridiculous! The postage often costs more than the gift itself is worth...

This sweet sheep is now residing in Northern Ireland with my friend, Lois. I also stitched "Merry Wishes" by Just Thy Needle and Thread for myself using the same colors (a mixture of DMC and overdyed threads) 'over one' on 28 ct. black monaco. However, I finished this one in a completely different manner. You can see the one I finished for myself in this December post.

"Merry Wishes" ornament finish

I made a greeting card for Gabi in Germany--a good way to send a "little something" without the high cost of postage... This is stitched over one on 25 ct. Victorian Green Lugana and is from JBW Designs "Christmas Motif Sampler II" chart. I did change the bottom a bit--stitched two bunnies facing each other rather than adding the extra deer and toy bunny that were charted. I do love my symmetry!!

"Christmas Motif Sampler II" finished as a card

To June, in England, went another ornament that I also stitched for myself back in July called "French Country Snowflake" by JBW. I used a 32 ct. blue-gray linen with DMC 3865. I did finish hers a bit differently using a pretty white bow and a silver snowflake charm along with the two-colored cording.

"French Country Snowflake" ornament finish

To Cindy, in Tennessee, went this handsome Prairie Schooler Santa (from Book No. 62: "Kris Kringle"). I love the white dove perched on his shoulder. He is stitched on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle with the suggested threads and the "snow" is made of tiny white beads. This is one I don't have on my tree yet, so I'm sure I'll be stitching him again for myself.

"Kris Kringle" ornament finish

And, I made my very first Lizzie Kate sled ornament (from the "Nutcracker Sleds" chart) using perforated paper! How do you feel about perforated paper? I have to admit I really didn't enjoy having to stitch with three strands of thread. I am so used to stitching with one strand that using three really slowed me down. I do like the look of the final finish so I will probably be making more of these, but I'm not going to go crazy with them! This one went to a friend who asked us over for dinner after Christmas. She seemed quite pleased with it...

Lizzie Kate gingerbread boy sled finish

I have a few more ornaments that I stitched for Christmas gifts last year, but I will save them for my next post--after all, I want to have something to show you! 

More sweets! I showed you the cookies that I baked for Christmas in my previous post, but just look at all the other sugary treats that I made! No wonder  we each have to diet after the holidays--I don't know why we do that to our bodies every year, do you?! Clockwise from the upper left are:  Decadent Peanut Butter Pie Giant Chocolate Eclair Dessert; Pumpkin Roll; and Soft, Moist, and Gooey Cinnamon Rolls which we make each and every Christmas morning. You can click on the name of the sweet treat to be taken to the recipe itself. (I can't find the recipe online for the Giant Chocolate Eclair Dessert that I make each year for my middle son's December birthday, but I'll be happy to send it to you if you email me)! These are all tried and true family favorites so you may have seen them pictured on my blog before. Just thought I would share them again for my new readers!

Too many calories to count at Christmas time (which is why I'm eating scrambled eggs for dinner tonight!)

A peek into life in Ecuador... One of my favorite things about reading blogs is getting a glimpse into life in different countries or different parts of this vast United States. My son recently shared some photos with us from his December work trip to Ecuador (which I keep wanting to spell with a "q!").  I doubt any of you have ever visited the equator in that part of the world, have you? Well, I'm sure I'll never get there either, but here are three photos of Ciudad Mitad del Mundo and the "Monument to the Equator" which is supposed to be on the exact location of the equator (from which Ecuador gets its name). My son is sitting with his body half in the northern hemisphere and half in the southern in the bottom right photo! (Although, he said that with modern GPS mapping systems, the equator is actually 240 meters north! Oh well, it makes for a nice photo op...)

My son's photos from the equator in Ecuador: December 2018

I'll share a larger photo of the upper left photo in the collage that he took from the air (using his drone) of the water-filled caldera of the Quilotoa volcano. I just thought this was breathtaking! (you can click on it to enlarge it). There is so much beauty in this world of ours, isn't there?

On top of the Quilotoa volcano in Ecuador

An unusual food... During his time there, my son hiked into the mountains and met up with this Ecuadorean family pictured below. His guide told him that if he brought the family some goods from the market that they would show him their home. I found their living situation so fascinating and wanted to share it with you... They live in a simple thatched hut with no running water. It is quite cool up in the mountains and they have to bathe in a local stream! I can't begin to imagine... But, even more interesting--can you spot that tiny white animal on the ground in their hut? That is just one of what my son said were dozens of guinea pigs running around living with the family! Apparently, they raise them and sell them to be eaten--they are considered a delicacy. Each guinea pig can bring in $15.00 or more. I asked my son if the hut smelled and he said, surprisingly, no! So, if you are ever in Ecuador and see "cuy" on the menu--you'll know you're ordering a guinea pig. Fascinating what people in different parts of the world eat--I'm sure some of our western foods are considered pretty unappetizing to other parts of the world! What is the most unusual food you have ever tried? I am not an adventurous eater at all so I can't even answer my own question!

An Ecuadorean family raising an unusual food choice!

I love learning about different parts of the world which is one of the reasons I've enjoyed blogging so much. I'm lucky that my son travels frequently and can share stories about different customs and foods of the countries he visits. This week, he is in Argentina where we vacationed in 2015. Can't wait to see his photos from this trip! I'm sure they will bring back many memories...

So, that wraps up my first blog post of 2019--I plan to continue posting twice a month if at all possible. Thank you for visiting, thank you for reading, thank you for commenting--I appreciate each and every one of you!  Hope you'll stop in again soon. Enjoy this first month of your new year, my friends! Bye for now...