Sunday, March 31, 2019

Chicks and Bunnies and Eggs... Oh, my!

Whew! I made it! Once again, I'm down to the wire in trying to squeeze in two posts each month. In a few short hours it will be April, but at this very minute--it is still March! So, how have you been during this changeable month? I'm still (believe it or not) dealing with a bit of a cough which is hanging on from my bout with the flu. Nothing terrible--just annoying. Hopefully, in another week, it will be gone for good. It was a busy month for me with trips to both Florida (which you read about in my last post) and to New York to visit my mom last week (who is doing well, by the way--thank you to all of you who ask about her! She and I both really appreciate your kind thoughts!). 

I was able to finish up the bigger spring project that I told you about last time and I'm thrilled with how it turned out. This is a very old French chart called "Paques" (Easter) from Bleu de Chine in Paris. I've been trying to stitch some of these beauties from my stash rather than buying new things and I'm so happy to have this one stitched at last! I began stitching this with the suggested colors on natural linen, but didn't like the effect at all so I switched out all of the colors (except the greens) and stitched it on 40 ct. antique white linen. These changes gave it a brighter, springier look--much better! I wish my photos were better, but it has been four straight days of cloudy, gray weather (and even a bit of s-n-o-w this morning).

Bleu de Chine "Paques" finish

Thank goodness I learned to make colonial knots as I am a complete failure (90% of the time!) at French knots--they always seem to pull through to the other side or look way too large. But, the colonial knots were much easier and fairly uniform in size. Just look at all of those little brown eyes I had to make for the chicks and bunnies! Click here for the video that I used for the colonial knots--it might be helpful to you, too. I love the yellow chicks running too and fro, some of them falling right over their large orange feet!

Such darling chicks!

As mentioned above, I changed most of the colors in this piece, but I especially wanted to change the one suggested for the bunnies. It was charted as DMC 919 which is an orange color. What? The bunnies who hop through my yard (nibbling at my flowers!) are brown so I used Classic Colorworks "Stepping Stones." for their fur. Much more lifelike, I think, don't you?

Don't you love that gingham heart?

After I was finished with the stitching,  I pulled a frame from my Goodwill stash (which I had purchased for $1.99) and painted it white using three coats of Waverly Chalk pain in the "Plaster" color. I then distressed it with some fine-grade sand paper. I should have taken a "before" photo as it was a gold color and looked nothing like this. I'm so pleased with how it turned out with the green polka-dot fabric background and pale yellow ric-rak...The finished size including the frame is about 10" square. It makes a perfect addition to my Easter decor!

All ready for Easter!

Oldies, but goodies... I came across a couple of very old finishes all rolled up in a drawer last week and shared them with my stitching friends on Instagram. I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I still liked these even after all this time. I'm guessing I stitched them around 2002 or 2003 which is when I got back into stitching after a ten year hiatus. Who else has stitched one of these Told In a Garden Amish pieces?  I chose to stitch these because of the colorful quilts, the beautiful homesteads and barns, and the depiction of a simpler, quieter way of life. They still call to me for those same reasons... I think I will try to frame them myself and get them out of hiding!

"Blueberry Homecoming" is my favorite of all of the Told In a Garden designs

"Bird In Hand" captures Amish life in the quaint Pennsylvania town of the same name

Now, look at that Amish buggy above and just look at what passed in front of me (in the photo below) when I was visiting my mom in January! As you can see I took this from my car window--imagine riding in a buggy like this in the middle of winter... Brrrr!!! The horse and buggy were clip-clopping through the parking lot of a shopping area on a very frigid afternoon. There is a large Mennonite population up in that part of New York State (near the Finger Lakes) and many of them still use the horse and buggy method of transportation. I came across this very interesting article about how these buggies are built... If you'd like to read it, click here. They cost about $6800 to build according to the article--a lot less than a new car, that's for sure!

Waiting for a Mennonite buggy to pass on a snowy day in NY

Anyway--back to the Told In a Garden pieces. If I decide to stitch more of these, I certainly have some wonderful choices  in my own stash. The question is, should I stitch them on Aida again or use linen? They really are such sweet pieces... true comfort stitching! I've always loved "Grandmother's House" and "Grandfather's Barn" along with "Raspberry Homecoming" and "The Garden." (Oh, and "The Quilting," and "The Courting"--oh, who am I kidding, I love them all!)

More than enough Told In a Garden Charts to keep me stitching for years to come!

How I Attach My Cording On to a few tips that may help when you attach your cording. I've had several Instagram and blogging friends ask me about how I attach my cording so I came up with this little tutorial back in 2015 to help them. This is not how to make cording (but, here is a great video of a woman making it and using the exact method I use: cording video). In her video, Kathy only uses one length of DMC and doubles it over. I use three or four lengths of DMC and do not double it over. She and I both use the Kreinik Custom Corder, but you can make cording by using a drill, an electric mixer, or even a dowel or long pencil. There are a lot of YouTube videos on these various methods. I do highly suggest the Kreinik Corder, though--it is fun and easy!

This is how I attach my cording--yes, I use glue so if you are anti-glue, there is no need to read any further. I have never had a problem with gluing on cording, buttons, bows, etc. in all the years I've been finishing. I use a teeny tiny bit applied on the end of a toothpick so it never oozes out. In my opinion, it gives a smoother look to a final finish than if it is sewn on. Just my opinion. However, I know there are some stitchers out there who would never allow glue to come in contact with their stitching so, if you are one of them, this method is not for you... You can click on all of the photos to enlarge them for more detailed views.

I start with the finished stitching and cording (of course!):

Then, I take the cording and tie a piece of the same colored DMC to one end and wind it around and around like the end of a shoelace and tie it off: 

Here is a close-up:

I then snip off the knotted end close to the thread that I just wound up:

Your cut end should look like this:

Then you take the wound up, cut end and start gluing it to the top of the ornament. I use just a bit of Aleene's Tacky Glue on the end of a toothpick--go slowly. DO NOT glue the entire ornament at once!

Keep applying the glue and winding the cording around until it almost meets the beginning of the cording, but stop before you reach the meet-up point: 

At this point, you want to determine how long you want your hanger to be. Then do the same thing that you did in the beginning with the thread wound around the end like a shoelace end: 

Glue the last bit of cording, matching up the two cut ends, after creating a loop (see where scissors are pointing): 

Adjust the loop so it is centered and the ornament will hang straight. You can either glue the loop's cording together or tack it with a matching DMC thread: 

This is what it looks like on the back:

At this point, add a little ribbon or whatever embellishments you want to add:

This is just the way I do it--I sort of made it up as I went along! I'm sure there are other ways of attaching cording that work, as well. This is simply what works best for me. I am not a professional finisher by any means!

Most of the time the "meet-up" spot of the cording is covered by a bow or yo-yo or something, but there are times I just have the two ends meet up at the bottom like in this small pillow. 

Here, the cording meets in the middle at the bottom of the pillow

Or you can tie it into a knot in the corner like I did in this little pillow. This is very easy--just tie the end of each end of the cording into a knot and cut the threads evenly to form a little tassle:

Cording tied at the side and embellished with tiny spools

Or you could even tie it into a bow at the top of the pillow like this:

Cording tied in a bow at the top

I hope this has helped--even a little bit! I am not going to get into the habit of doing tutorials--there are so many wonderful ones out there already including those that Vonna does and also those by Pinwheel Ponders. This may just provide a few tips that might make it easier for you. Give it a try--cording does finish off ornaments and pillows in such a lovely way! But, you must be patient--good finishing takes a ton of time so do it on a day when you aren't feeling rushed or anxious.

Cording Giveaway... Now, who would like to win some of my cording so you can get started embellishing your own pretty ornaments and pillows? I've put together a little giveaway of eight pieces of cording in some pretty spring colors. All are at least 2 feet long... I used three 6 foot lengths of DMC to end up with the 2 feet of cording for four of them and four 6 foot lengths to end up with 2 feet of cording for the other four.

To enter the giveaway, you, 1)  must be a follower, 2) need to leave a comment and tell me you want to enter and what your favorite thing you've stitched for spring or Easter is, and 3)  must leave your email if I don't already have it.  One winner will be sent all eight lengths of cording... Good luck to all--I will announce the winner the next time I post so you have until April 13th to enter... 

Giveaway for eight lengths of cording

It's a standoff... I'll leave you with this funny sight that I encountered while driving to get my hair cut a while back:  a real stand-off between some giant turkeys and some even bigger cars... Traffic was stopped for quite a while in both directions as the turkeys did not want to be the first to move!

I don't think the turkeys are very happy with me!

The turkeys finally conceded and the cars moved on--aren't they huge?! Such funny looking birds!

Doing the turkey trot!

This post took an awfully long time to put together, but I hope you've enjoyed it and, perhaps, learned something, too! Wishing you all a joyful April--I hope the flowers are blooming and the sun is shining wherever you are... Thank you again for being such supportive blogging buddies--I treasure your sweet comments and emails and so appreciate the time you take to stop to say "hello!" Bye for now...

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Finishes, Florida, and Flu

Hello, hello! How is March treating you so far? Well, it's been an up and down month for me, but I think I'm finally on the upswing so all is good... As you can tell from the title of this post, March has been a month filled with stitching, traveling, and illness (something I'm not used to!).

Let's start with the fun stuff first! How sweet is this little Plum Street Samplers design called "Hello Spring?" I bought all four seasons of this series when they first came out a couple years ago, but am just beginning to stitch them. I wish my photo was better as the fabric is a lovely pure white evenweave. I changed all of the colors using overdyed cottons and Dinky Dyes silks. The big blue flower is done in Dinky Dyes "Ghost Gum"--a really  lovely color. I also used it for the cording. Many people have stitched this without the words, but, to me--the words really make this piece! I love the beautiful font and the wide spacing of the letters. And, of course, who can resist a skinny leaping brown bunny?

"Hello Spring!"

I finished this as a small pillow since the design ended up being only a bit over 3 X 5 inches on the 46 ct. evenweave... Wait--46 count?!?! Yes, you read that right! An Instagram friend, Jucus who lives in Hungary and creates lovely hand-dyed fabrics and trims, offered a free piece of 46 ct. evenweave to "brave stitchers" who would like to try it. Of course, I took the challenge... I mean as an avid 40 ct. stitcher, how much harder could 46 ct. be? Simply put:  much harder! I don't know if it was because it was evenweave and I had to use a hoop to hold it (I usually stitch in hand on linen) or what, but I really struggled to see the holes. The fabric itself was beautiful, but I'm not sure I would try such a high count again.  Here is the link to Jucus' Etsy shop--she offers beautiful fabrics in many counts and  free shipping on $50.00+ orders: xJudedesign

Stitching on 46 ct. makes for a small pillow!

The yo-yo was made with a Clover "Quick" Yo-Yo Maker  which I tried for the first time. They come in various sizes ranging from Extra Small to Jumbo and I thought it worked very well. I used the "small" size for this yo-yo, but plan on buying the medium and large sizes now that I know they are easy to use.  Clover even make yo-yo makers in heart and flower shapes!

Don't you love yo-yos?!

My other finish was my February (yes, I'm behind already for 2019!) Christmas ornament and I love it! This is a  Prairie Schooler design from Book No. 47 called "Santa Rides."  I used a scrap of 40 ct. mystery linen in a soft sage green color (wish I had more of it!) and most of the suggested colors. The main change I made was to the snowflakes which were charted to be DMC 3046 which I found very strange... 3046 is quite yellow in tone! So I changed the snow to a much more believable ecru. I also changed the color of the third tree to make it stand out from the two bordering it.

Prairie Schooler's "Santa Rides" finish

I knew I wanted to build a frame of twigs for my final finish as soon as I began stitching  this funny Santa driving his Christmas tree-filled truck. This design just demanded a rustic finish, in my opinion, so I channeled my decades old summer camp "arts and crafts" sessions! I made a twig frame, braided some simple twine for the hanger, and added some dried berries and rusty jingle bells on top. I also had the idea to use a very thick cream colored trim to represent the snow under the truck. It came on a spool and I just glued down two strips of it, side by side, to get the look I wanted. What do you think? I have to say, I think this was my most "liked" ornament ever on Instagram when I posted it on Tuesday. By the way, if you'd like to follow me on Instagram just click here! I'd love to see you there, too...

A rustic finish complete with "snow" made from trim!

I made a twig frame once before for a Christmas ornament way back in 2011. This one was done a bit differently as I stacked the twigs rather than cutting and piecing them as I did in my latest finish. I love the look of it except for one thing--there is a gap between the stitching and the twigs on the top and bottom because those twigs lie on top of the two side twigs. It is not visible in this photo, but it is there if you look down at the ornament. I do love this one, though, and it is on my top ten favorite Christmas ornaments--I just adore his little bundle of logs. If you'd like to read more details about this finish, click here. And if you have extra time, you may want to read the whole post as it contains the story of one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences I had in my career as a librarian!

My first twig frame back in 2011

A delightful random act of kindness arrived from one of my readers (and new stitching friend!), Nicole, who lives on the other side of Pennsylvania. She read of my sudden fascination with French designer, Perrette Samouiloff's designs (in this post) and wanted to send me a little book of them. Well, imagine my surprise when not only the book, but  five French magazines, five skeins of DMC floss, mini blue ric-rak, and a sweet silver charm arrived in my mailbox! Oh, my, Nicole--you truly spoiled me! I am so looking forward to stitching these charming designs and I'm even happier to have "met" such a generous and thoughtful new stitching friend! Thank you so very much ♥

Delightful surprise goodies from Nicole!

So, on to more of the "fun" stuff: Florida! Yes, I got very brave and flew by myself to sunny Florida for 5 days to visit my middle sister and her husband.  I had  only flown alone once before when I was much younger so I was quite worried. As luck would have it, I got stopped in the security line for a "random electronics screening" where they had to take each of my electronic devices: (my iPad, my cell phone, and my Kindle), swab them with something, and then test them for explosive residue. I have both TSA pre-check and Global Entry, but I guess this is completely random and happening more often to travelers no matter their security risk. Of course, my devices were fine, but it started my journey off on a bit of a nerve-wracking note! I am an anxious flyer to begin with (are any of you, too?) so that wasn't the best way to start my trip, but, thankfully, everything went smoothly from there on.

Walking into my sister's condo in Daytona Beach Shores was a bit like stepping back into time . You see, my parents had owned that same condo for many, many years and the last time I visited was in 2011 (you can read about that visit right here) when both mom and dad were still living there--the visit where I got the big speeding ticket!  My sister has changed very little and it made me a bit sad picturing  my dad relaxing in his recliner by the sunny window staring at the waves in the ocean, eating lunch at the bar counter,  and sitting on his bed as he tied his shoes. 2011 was the last time I saw him there as my parents soon moved back north to get some much needed help in dealing with his troubling dementia. But, it also brought me a feeling of home and  comforted me as well. I love remembering how happy mom and dad were there all those years during as they escaped our long, cold winter months. My sister and I simply relaxed, took long walks on the beach, and reminisced about days gone by. We had a great time!

Daytona Beach Shores is a very wide beach where you are even allowed to drive a car! My sister's condo is in the first building on the right--way up near the top.
Because the condo is on a barrier island between the Florida coast and the Atlantic Ocean, there are beautiful views of the Halifax river...

... and of the Atlantic Ocean. These photos were both taken from the condo.

I so enjoyed those warm sunny days by the water!

We also went to visit nearby Dunlawton Plantation and Sugar Mills Gardens which contains a few artifacts of a former 19th century sugar plantation along with gardens and hiking trails.

Artifacts of the sugar making process included these giant kettles used to boil the cane juice

At the center of the garden was this huge old oak tree.

The Spanish moss was draped over the boughs of the trees and swung lazily in the Florida breeze.

I love the way the American flag seems to have taken on the shape and color of the Spanish moss!

Some of the pretty flowers and ferns we saw at Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens

I can see why my sister is so happy living in Florida in the winter months! You totally forget that it is winter--no icy roads or shoveling mounds of heavy snow to deal with. It is a very easy, carefree life for her in her retirement years! I actually hated to go back north and face winter again, but it was time to go home...

This was what greeted me as I flew into Pennsylvania! Yes, it had snowed the night before. Can you see the shadow of the airplane on the ground? At least the sun was shining even if it was a frigid 10° when I landed!

And the bad -- the FLU! Unfortunately, the germs of the plane got to me and I came down with some sort of cold/flu bug on the way home. I think it was the flu (although I did have a flu shot this winter, as I always do!) because my whole body ached--even the tops of my hands were hurting. My cold wasn't horrible, but the cough was and it took a good 10 days to finally begin to feel better. I just felt so wiped out and listless... I honestly hadn't been that sick in years! 

So, if I haven't visited your blogs, responded to your comments or emails, or left comments recently, please forgive me. I will catch up--I promise!  I think I've babbled on long enough for now... I'll be back in a couple weeks (hopefully!) with a darling Easter piece that I'm stitching and my March ornament. Until then, thank you all for your sweet comments and emails--I treasure each one! Hope the rest of the month is good to each of you! Bye for now...