Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Draws Near

Preparations are underway in homes across the world for this special festival,  and ours is no exception.  Let me share with you a little of the stitching I've done for Advent and Christmas.   This needlepoint pillow has been part of our decorating for many years - I stitched it over 25 years ago and still love it, as well as the watered moire silk that the finisher used for the ruffle and the backing.  The whole piece is worked mostly in basketweave stitch with Paternayan pure wool, though I don't know the designer -  the name wasn't given on the hand-painted canvas.

This little bell-pull is a Charland design from several years ago - besides the instructions, the kit included the linen banding, silk and cotton threads, silk ribbon, and the sterling silver charm.  There are lots of lovely specialty stitches in it, including some open work that I'm just starting to try out a little more.  Most of the year it's on a soft rose wall - I can't bear to pack it away :)  The wording is from the old English carol "The Holly and the Ivy" ,sung to a lively melody - we have several versions of it on our Christmas CDs and records (and yes, we still do have LPs and a turntable on which we play them!) 

The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.

I've shown this little sampler before, "Gingerbread Garden", from The Victoria Sampler, but this year I finally found a frame for it and did a more careful job of mounting and pinning the stitched fabric on proper mat board, with archival red paper to show through in the open work section.    It's very small - the frame opening is only 4x10 inches.  The threads are a combination of cotton and silk, and there are also beads and a tiny charm on the design, so I decided to dispense with any glass.  There's also a pattern for a co-ordinating ornament, but that hasn't made it to my stitching roster yet .....

We still have enough snow on the ground for the bird-feeder to look similar to ones we have here, though the warmer weather in the forecast might melt that snow in the next couple of days.

But while we wait for Christmas, our Scripture readings remind us that it's still Advent, still a time of preparation and waiting.  This year I completed a small piece from Jane Timmers of FancyWork - it's about 4 x 6 inches, and I'll finish it soon as an ornament or miniature wall-hanging, but couldn't resist sharing it with you today.  There are a few different stitches in it, including tent stitch, long-armed cross-stitch, and several others.  The silk threads (Needlepoint Silk and Silk Mori) called for in the pattern were lovely to work with, and I used Rainbow Petite Treasure Braid for the gold - my first time to use this thread, but definitely not the last, I loved how easy it was to use as well as how beautiful the results were.   Jane's designs are very special ones, often derived from traditional hymns and carols. 

So I leave you today with this quote from the ancient Advent hymn - "O come, O come Emmanuel - Rejoice".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In the bleak midwinter .....

Perhaps not quite midwinter yet, but tell that to the weatherman - today hit its high temperature at 1 a.m., and it's been dropping since then - now into the well-below-freezing range with snow continuing.  But I'm cozy and warm here in our suburban cottage, sipping green tea with honey (from our Saskatchewan beekeeper friends), using a favorite china cup shown above :) and enjoying some fine Advent music from the first album that I've ever bought through iTunes.   I wish you all could hear the music check out Advent Promise for a selection of fine choral and instrumental music honouring this ancient season.  

I've had time, though, for a fair bit of stitching - want a peek at some? 

Here's an ornament for an exchange, though I'm sure I'll do another one for myself - the background fabric it`s resting on is the silk that I've used for the reverse side, and the pattern is one from a Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament issue from several years ago. 

A Guild stitching day allowed me to make more progress on a couple of projects - one of them is the ongoing Monasterium Four Seasons Quaker ......

After a Guild presentation about peacocks, I just had to stitch a little one for myself - this handsome fellow will become a Christmas ornament, with the same silk backing as shown with the Quaker Noel - I stitched him with dark teal DMC floss and a green Kreinik blending filament, though I'd not sure I'd include the Kreinik again - I love the final effect, but it was more than a little frustrating to stitch with  - perhaps there's a secret to it that I haven't yet figured out .....

Did you know that peacocks were sometimes included in Renaissance paintings of the Nativity, as symbols of Resurrection?  

I`ll save photos of a few older pieces that I`ve completed for another post, and in the meantime I`ll keep on stitching and sipping tea and watching the snow fall :)  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving stitching

Enough is as a Feast - from Kreinik
This little piece from Kreinik is now one of my favorites - it wasn't intended as a Thanksgiving motto, but  it applies to so many parts of our lives, not just the dinner table :)     It's stitched with Milkpaint Silk Mori threads that were included in the tiny kit, and I used a Silk and Linen fabric in Touchstone colour from  Wichelt.  After stitching the words originally, I decided that the colours for it just weren't right and didn't show up well enough, so I changed them to ones that I think work better.  Finding a frame that would work with the muted silks and the dark fabric was a challenge, but with the artistic eye of my framer Edie on the job, I think this one succeeds.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Winter sets in

We've had snow in the forecast on and off for the past couple of weeks, and though we didn't get the promised amount this week, there's at least some on the ground now, and the temperatures are sliding down steadily - this afternoon with the wind we'll be reaching into the range of -20 to -25 C (down to about 13 below zeroF) - but who's being exact, it's coooooooolllldddd, and I'm happy to stay inside and stitch by the fire.

It's only appropriate, then, that my finish this week is Isabelle Vautier's Vive le Vent - for those of you whose French classes didn't include singing Christmas carols every December, the song she quotes is the French version of "Jingle Bells" (same tune,  though completely different words and meaning from the American song.)      I've used  two strands of DMC 815 on a light grey cotton evenweave - the backstitching is done in one thread of the same dark red.  My plans are to finish it as a pillow using a plaid cotton as a backing.  

Now off to finish an ornament for an exchange and then decide what to work on next - likely more on a WIP, but which one to choose, there are several  ...........

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Four Seasons Quaker

A week or so ago I said I'd post photos of an ongoing project - voila, here it is :)     Monasterium's Four Seasons Quaker is on my "upstairs" frame - so far I've completed the Spring section and a small part of the Summer section.  I'm using 3 Belle Soie silks and one skein of a Gloriana, on a Puritan Grey Legacy Linen in 34 count.  The colours are very different than those shown in the pattern's illustration - I've chosen to emphasize some of the unique colours that I associate with our Prairie seasons.  The Spring shade is Belle Soie's Shepherd's Pasture, a very very soft green that reminds me of those first whispered hints of the new season in the willows growing in the coulees and along the streams.  The Summer colour I've chosen is Gloriana's Baby Corn - not the bright yellow of the powerful summer suns and the canola and mustard crops,  but rather the ripening shades of the wheat and barley fields that stretch out to the horizon on the Alberta and Saskatchewan plains, and a reminder of the late summer tones of the native prairie grasses that sustained the buffalo and the antelope for so many centuries and that shelters the sage grouse,  prairie chicken, and teeming wildlife even today where the native grasslands are still preserved and thrive.

You can just see the tiny Autumn sample on the bottom rod, where I tried out the colour to see if it was going to work - I've done the  same with the Winter colour too, but it doesn't show in this photograph.  So stay tuned for progress reports, I'm enjoying stitching this immensely, but have one or two other pieces on the go at the same time - I like having a little variety!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Post and run .....

Here's what I'm stitching right now - Vive Le Vent by Isabelle Vautier, using DMC cotton thread on an evenweave cotton fabric.  Hopefully this will become a pillow in time for me to use this Christmas in our living room. 

And now off to join dh in watching a British mystery - I'll stitch at the same time :) 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back again :)

Barrier Lake in the Kananaskis
South from the Highwood Pass

Well, so much for those good intentions to post often ....... Suffice to say that we've been having some glorious fall weather here in the West, with not too much wind - here's a photo of where we went on a short drive one day  .......  We took along a picnic and enjoyed the fall colours and warm weather - very little traffic either, as we were able to travel on a Monday.  The only wildlife we saw up close was a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep who would have put his head into the car if we'd left the windows open - he was obviously quite accustomed to tourists.

Driving this highway over the Highwood Pass reminded us of a trip that we took there almost 40 years ago - this was just a gravel road then, and there were frequent signs warning of logging trucks.  But the beauty and magnificence of the mountains are still the same, and being away from the busier highway north of Banff is definitely a plus, at least in our books.

We decided at the Highwood Pass that we wouldn't go for the short hike into the surrounding Alpine meadows - this sign really decided for us. 

Entrance to the Ptarmigan Cirque/Highwood Meadows trail.
On this trip, though, we didn't see any bears - a few years ago, we were fortunate enough to see two grizzlies on one day, and even more fortunate to be seeing them at a distance and from inside the car!

I'm making fair progress on my stitching as well.  My major project of the past month or so has been Heart Note Alley, a design from Kathy Bungard of Gracewood Stitches.  I plan to finish this as a wall hanging, but haven't found quite the perfect backing fabric yet.  I loved the colours and the motifs on this one, especially  knowing something of the background for the design, the love of perfumes and scents.  Kathy outlines this on her blog - you can read of its inspiration here.

  I stitched this one on an antique white linen - I believe it was a 28 count.  And my threads were cottons from DMC, as I may want to wash this at some time. 

I've also stitched Sanctuary and Acorn Patch from Gracewood Stitches, and I'm currently choosing threads for Coromandel, a design based on the Oriental screens that Coco Chanel had in her own apartment in Paris - I plan to stitch it on black linen with a gold silk.  Also in my "must stitch" stack is Hortulus, a woodcut-inspired design - I have the thread for this one, but no fabric yet. 

On my frame at the moment is Monasterium's Four Seasons Quaker - I'll show photos of that next time, as well as a small framed piece from Kreinik.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August already?

Not only August, but almost half gone already!  I've been absent from posting for a while, with company here and other family things to take care of, but now I'm back and planning to post every couple of days.  Two pieces to show you today - the first is a finished and framed piece that's been ongoing for several years.  My mother brought this kitted pattern back from one of her trips to England, and it reminds me of the landscape in the north of England where we'd travelled at one time -  an area near to where some of our ancestors lived and where my father was stationed during WW2.   It's titled Cragside Farm, a Rose Swalwell design from Derwentwater Designs.   I stitched it on the 16-count Aida included in the kit, using the given cotton threads.  The framing was done by a great local framer here, Edie of Edie's Framing and Design - she always seems to know how to choose just the right frame and features. 

The second photo shows it mounted on the living room wall.  Sorry, the colours aren't quite true, the wall looks greyer than it actually is.   Mom also brought back a second kit in this same series, one titled "High Hill Farm" - hopefully, I'll finish it in a much shorter time than I did this first one!   Maybe I'll go out on a limb and say that I'm aiming to have it stitched and framed by this time next year, although there are several other pieces queued up first :) 

 The second project is an ongoing one with Sticklounge - an original design with the evocative title of "Heart Note Alley", by Kathy of Gracewood Stitches.  It takes its inspiration from fine fragrances - here's where Kathy explores some of the background of her design.  The Sticklounge Yahoo group is stitching it slowly, from the bottom up, so I'm able to fit in other stitching while I wait for the next part.  Here's what I've done so far in the first 5 parts that have been issued:

Our Sampler Guild has been talking about having a "UFO Challenge" this year, as members will attempt to finish up as many unfinished projects as possible.  Whether or not this is officially launched as part of our winter program, I've resolved to start on my own UFOs - some set aside for good reasons (such as not understanding the pattern or having to learn new stitches), but now it's time to complete them - watch this space ...........  :) 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A special piece

My latest finish was a special one indeed - Kathy, of Gracewood Stitches, gave me the privilege of stitching the model for her design "Acorn Patch", using some lovely lambswool linen, and silks from Vikki Clayton (Hand-Dyed Fibers), Carries' Creations, and Au Ver a Soie.  The design incorporates some of my favorite themes - patchwork, autumn, and acorns, and was a delight to stitch, with its rhythmic motifs and its symmetry.    The gold silk in particular just glowed, bringing memories of spectacular fall days.  Thanks, Kathy!  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Works in Progress

We're finally getting a taste of summer here in the Canadian West - though at the moment our summer includes some sunshine during the earlier part of the day, followed by thunderstorms later on - I snapped this photo an hour or so ago, in bright sunshine, and now heavy rain is pouring from black clouds.  

Time for a short update  - I've been doing lots of stitching, including a couple that I can't show yet!  Two of my newer photos are of "stitch-a-longs" with the Yahoo "Sticklounge" group, an internet group based in Germany that provides original patterns shared with the permission of the designer.  Group members choose which projects we want to stitch, and when we post a photo of a completed section, we receive the chart for the next section.   There are 50 English-speaking and 50 German-speaking members - my high school and college German is being dredged from the back corners of my memory! 

The first is one from Gracewood Stitches, "Heart Note Alley" - it's being stitched from the bottom up.  I'm using DMC cotton threads from France on linen (I think it's an antique white Belfast, but I'm not quite sure of that).  

And my second "stitch-a-long" is a small pattern called "Sommerherz" (Summer Heart) - I'm using two DMC shades, 800 and 472 - I've finished Part 2 of 5.  The photo is a little pale - I'll try to get a clearer photo of the next section when it's completed. 

The photo at the top of this post shows some of my wild roses in the front flower bed - we love them, and the purple sage/salvia is just coming out as well - more pictures later of these native plants.  

I think that's enough for the moment - I'll be back before long to show more of a special project that I've just completed.  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gingerbread Garden close up

I thought that some of you might like to have a closer look at the details in Gingerbread Garden - this is such a little piece, just over 2 inches wide and about 8 inches long, that it's hard to see the details in the original image I posted yesterday.  Some of the specialty stitches that Thea included in this design are Foursided Pulled Stitches, Sheaf Stitch, Half Rhodes Stitch, Satin Stitch, Drawn Thread with Hemstitching, Backstitches, French Knots, Cross Stitch over One, Kloster Blocks, and Plait Stitches. 

Now time to return to the fireside on this chilly spring night and continue stitching on Kathy's Heart Note Alley from Gracewood Stitches, a project I'm doing over a period of several months through the Sticklounge Yahoo group.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Is it Christmas yet?

In view of the hot weather in many parts of North America (although we're having cool rainy weather here in the west, interspersed with occasional bouts of sunshine), I thought I'd help you cool off by showing a recent finish of a Christmas-themed piece.  Besides which, as I was informed by a young man I know, Christmas is just over 6 months away :) 

Thea Dueck of Victoria Sampler designed this piece, Gingerbread Garden - it's a tiny piece, but took a little longer than I thought it might, as it was full of specialty stitches and a few beads too.  It also has a companion pattern for a tree ornament, but I haven't started that one yet, although I have the linen and threads all set to go for it.   I think I may finish Gingerbread Garden as a little quilted bell-pull/banner, if I can find just the right fabric for it.  But at least I have a while to do this (remind me I said this when the December snows come!). 

I've just finished stitching a model of a new design for a friend, but I won't post a photo of it until she's done that herself, and now I'm getting back to working on two or three unfinished projects - a Monasterium design, an old Drawn Thread sampler, a Derwentwater farm picture, and a couple of Sticklounge undertakings - photos to come next week .....  In the meantime, stay cool :)  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beatrix Potter Quaker Sampler

Through a presentation at one of my first Sampler Guild meetings, I became intrigued with the Quaker samplers stitched by students at the Ackworth School in Yorkshire and other similar schools.  The motifs are simple but infinitely varied, and the designs allow for a wide range of colour choices.  When Jacqueline Holdsworth of Needleprint published the chart for the Beatrix Potter Quaker Sampler, a sampler likely stitched by a Quaker schoolgirl, that had hung on the wall of Beatrix Potter's Lake District farmhouse, I knew it was one that I'd have to stitch, and all the more so after I'd seen it finished by several of our Guild members.

Before I could purchase the sampler pattern, it went out of print, but Jacqueline eventually made it available for purchase as a digital download and I was able to add it to my folder of "projects yet to come".   (You can still purchase it here.)

So finally in 2009 I started to stitch it in honour of our 40th wedding anniversary, and just yesterday I picked it up from my exceptionally talented local framer.  I'm so very pleased with the finishing she did and the frame we chose.    The fabric is an Edinburgh antique white linen and it's stitched with Amy Mitten's Fibers to Dye For silks in Madam Rose and Point Blank.  I've personalized several of the motifs to mark our anniversary,and I'll include additional information on the back of the frame about the design.

Definitely a keeper, don't you think?  

Monday, May 23, 2011


New designer Kathy Bungard, of Gracewood Stitches, was very moved by the devastation in Japan from the earthquake and tsunami.  In response, she`s donated her new pattern, Sanctuary, to anyone who requests it, and asks for donations to be sent to an appropriate agency, for this or similar disasters.  Her design, inspired by vintage woodcuts and by the natural world, evokes warmth and home as a refuge in the midst of wildness and uncertainty.  I thought it appropriate here for me to use fabric and threads I had on hand, so found a piece of linen that a friend had given to me, and paired it with several DMC colours, predominantly a terra cotta and some blue-greens (although the original pattern called for grays instead of the blue-greens).   Each time I see this piece, I`m moved to remember and pray for all those going through difficult times - not just in Japan (and the crisis there is not over yet), but elsewhere - just this weekend, we heard of the Missouri tornado. 

The pattern's available at Gracewood Stitches, and you can find out more about Kathy's creative process in her blog which outlines her sources and how she develops and stitches her designs.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On an evening in May

It's finally the time, I thought, to have a little corner to post some photos and share updates on what kind of stitching I've been doing.  Why Russwood? - that's the name of the remote log cabin in Muskoka that belonged to my family for many years, and on the floor in front of our fireplace, in our home we now call Russwood Cottage, we still have a rag rug with that name woven in wool strips, crafted by one of the original owners of Russwood in Muskoka, William Woodbridge.   I'll be posting  photos of projects completed, projects underway, and  projects that are just waiting for the right time to be started.  And who knows?  maybe even adding a few other topics as time goes on .......

This Victoria Sampler design, "Home for Christmas", by Cathy Jean,  is one that I stitched in 2010 - the cabin reminds me of Russwood ....