Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Raggedy Ann for Christmas

We visited my daughter, and delightful granddaughter Bridget, this past July. and were very pleased to find out that her love affair with Elmo was cooling. She has now transferred her affections to Raggedy Ann - now this is something I can relate to. So of course Granny promised to make her not just a Raggedy Ann, but brother Andy for Christmas as well. I sewed on the felt nose, mouth, eyes and heart, and embroidered the rest while riding to work.

Here is Anne partially stuffed. I couldn't find fabric with solid stripes, so used red and white ticking instead. I like it, it looks homey.

Here she is, all dressed up! I'll package this tonight and get it into the mail tomorrow. Sadly, Andy isn't anywhere near finished, so that will have to be a New Year's gift. As usual, I'm way too far behind on all the Christmas preparations, and have yet to start baking.

If you haven't discovered Pattern Review, by all means please take a look at it. It is invaluable when making a sewn piece from a commercially available pattern as someone will have probably posted a review about the pattern. The pattern instructions for the hair are a bit squirrely so it was very helpful to read what others have done. I used a method in which you cut hundreds of six to eight in pieces of yarn and zig zag them onto the wig (a piece of fabric which is then attached to the head). After Christmas, I'll write my review of this pattern and post it. I may even update this post to reference it.

Some of you may remember that I made a doll from an Inspirations project, A Little Rag Doll, over two years ago. I love the curly hair, which was knitted first, washed, dried, then cut apart into strands and then sewn on the head. I'll have to figure out how to do this a bit easier next time.

Only two more days of work until Christmas break, then maybe after the big day I'll have some time for some serious sewing and organizing of the sewing room.

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends, and I'll be back to post more regularly afterwards.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Colorful Smocking

Isn't this smocking bright and gorgeous? I don't want to show the entire project, as this is for a Christmas gift. Suffice it to say that smocking on black silk dupioni isn't easy, I need to keep it under very bright light to see what I'm doing. And smocking on a small piece of dupioni is very fiddly, as it is easy to catch the floss on the ends of the fabric, disturbing the rhythm of stitching and causing the ends of the fabric to unravel.

The floss is Threadworx 1154, a cotton overdyed floss that I've mentioned before. If you remember, Threadworx took over the floss dying from Needle Necessities when the latter went out of business.

Back to smocking, only a few more rows to go, then I can start on construction. Most people I know love to smock and build up an inventory of smocked pieces waiting to be sewn together, as they generally dislike the construction. Personally, I prefer the construction over the smocking. It took me three tries to get that first row right.

Have a great week, and I hope you can get some stitching time in!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Finally, a Christmas Project Finished

Thanksgiving is now over and the Christmas Season has begun! Not that I do a great deal of Christmas sewing, but at long last I have finished this little wall hanging quilt to hang on my mother's door.

This little project was purchased at the International Quilt Festival in Long Beach this summer, and is designed by Carriage Country Quilts.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find this pattern after a cursory look at their website. It's from 2011, so maybe it's been discontinued. The kit that I bought has more of a "country" feel to it than what is shown on the package. By that I mean my kit had more shades of brown in it, as opposed to clearer reds. However, I like it. I made a few small changes, I didn't embroider the outer border, and I added a few beads here and there for sparkle. I also used several different shades of brick red for the embroidery, to try to add a bit of dimension to it. I'm not sure I succeeded.

I love quick and easy projects like this one. They seem to be made just for me. I just now need to get it to my mother's room to hang on her door.

She still has this hanging on her door, which is obviously a bit out of season. I made this in May, 2010, so it is definitely time for an update.

I'm off to Joann's today to gather materials for a Christmas gift for my granddaughter, Bridget, who is now 5 1/2 years old (I can't believe it).

I hope you have a great weekend stitching away, putting up the Christmas tree, and eating Thanksgiving leftovers (for those of you in the US). My favorite is stuffing with turkey gravy thinned with turkey stock, sort of a stuffing soup.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Bit of Smocking on the Road

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, but have been terribly busy with all sorts of non-stitching activities. I haven't been able to accomplish enough on one project to make even a measly post until now.  My niece is getting married next June, and last weekend I took a road trip with my sister and her daughter's future mother-in-law to the Sacramento area to attend a bridal fair at the wedding venue.  Well, wouldn't you know I really needed something to do while sitting in the car as I can look at women's magazines only for so long without going crazy. At our local SAGA chapter's banquet in September, I won a lovely AS&E kit of a romper in ecru baby wale corduroy. Pre-pleated, even! The kit was for a project in Issue 40, which I don't have.

Luckily, this handy index showed up in the mail with all of the magazine's projects listed.

There were several romper patterns, but at least this one I had, from Issue 93. The garment is made up in white cotton piqué, only slightly lighter in weight than the kit fabric.  You can see the various threads I was considering in the first photo. I decided on Anchor 962, which was a perfect match for the fabric.

I found some blue batiste for the piping, matching beads, and even some baby blue rick rack. I'm undecided on whether to make piping or use rick rack, but am leaning toward the piping.

Finished smocking, terrible photo. The orange pleating threads do tend to dominate, don't they? My sister was looking at this, trying to tell me nicely that the orange sort of clashed with the ecru threads, fabric and blue beads. I finally realized she had no idea of what she was looking at and explained to her that the orange comes out before I sew the garment together. She was certainly relieved, and probably thought that older sister was losing what little design sense she ever had.

Now I'll tell you my nifty trick for adding beads to smocking while riding in a car. Take a small piece of cellophane tape, roll it into a tube and press one side into the bead package, so that many beads adhere to the tape. The stick the beadless side of the tape to the inside of a plastic zip loc bag, and you have beads safe and sound. If they fall off while you try to grab them with your needle, they stay inside the bag.

The redecorating in my house is taking much longer than I thought it would. The sewing room is painted, and I've moved back in with my sewing machine and a few other things. I've heard through the grapevine (Mr. California Stitching, actually), that my closet doors are close to being installed. Then comes carpet, closet organizer, and finally, unpacking the fabric. Someday...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Christmas Wall Hanging Update

This will be a very quick post. I've finished the embroidery on my Christmas Wall Hanging, and cut out the triangle squares for the edging. I only need 22 of these squares, but the kit included fat quarters of each of six light and dark fabrics, so there is lots left over.

Rough placement of the edging.

I added some beads to the heart ornament,

And to the birdie's scarf. I also added a beaded start in the upper right hand corner, but mistakenly deleted that photo. I'll show you a closeup in the finished version.

However, I won't be stitching this weekend. Mr. CS and I are off to Los Angeles for my 25th work anniversary dinner. We are playing museum goers this trip, visiting the Getty Villa today for a lecture, "How to Win an Election, A Guide for Modern Politicians", about an election pamphlet that Cicero's brother wrote for him over 2,000 years ago. It may not sound interesting to most of you, but I love Roman history and my husband is a bona fide Political Scientist (with a PhD, even!). I even downloaded the lecturer's book on the subject and will read it to my husband in the car.  Then tomorrow we will visit the Getty Center, which has an exhibit on Middle Age devotional art I'm looking forward to seeing.

So I got up early this Saturday morning (ugh!), had a nice latte, and am off to a brisk walk to burn off a few calories in anticipation of all the lovely restaurant meals we will be having this weekend.

Happy Stitching and I hope you all have a nice, productive weekend.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Little Bee Eater Body

The Little Bee Eater is progressing very slowly. Here I have finished the back, blending three shades of green and two of brown. As this is the end of Lesson Three, the photo was sent off to Trish Burr, our online instructor, who has told me the stitching was good! Now I can progress to the next lesson. This little guy doesn't seem to have wings, or else they are folded against his body so we can't tell they are there.

I have made a start on the body, with light browns and yellows. It's not easy trying to make the stitches deliberately irregular, or "messy", when I'm so used to try to make my stitches perfect. After all, that's what we do with virtually all other types of embroidery.

I've tried to make the threads look somewhat "feathery" where the yellows and browns overlap the green. It probably could have been better, but then that's what I always say. At the top I'm trying to blend in a bit of the darker colors, then I will move on to the neck.

I had hoped to make better progress by now, but as this post was started over a week ago and this is all I've accomplished I figured it's time to get this posted. After all, I don't want all of you to think I've fallen off the face of the earth!

The embroidery is for the Christmas hanging is just about finished, just some beads and snowflakes left, then on to sewing. So I hope to share that progress with you in a few days.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Yards and Yards of Fabric!

It's always nice to clean out a sewing room, because you come across things you don't ever remember buying. While going through the drawers in my sewing room I came across yards and yards of this fabric.

It has an assortment of butterflies,


and plums, just in case you may think it's not healthy.

Along with a couple of cute birds, five different motifs in all. But I have ten yards of the stuff! And it's nice, quilt shop quality fabric, from Northcutt. The problem is that for the life of me I can't remember why I bought it. It must be for a quilt back, but ten yards is still quite a bit of fabric. In fact, it would probably cover two or three quilts.

Having all this fabric wouldn't be such a bad thing if I actually liked it. That green/yellow part that looks like old fashioned wallpaper just doesn't do anything for me. In other words, ick. So if I can't figure out a good purpose for this stuff, off to Goodwill it will have to be.

Any ideas for this fabric?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Little Bee Eater Lesson Two Finished

My sewing room is slowly, but slowly, coming together. It's clean now so I was able to pop in and finish  Lesson 2 of the Little Bee Eater. This consisted of the branch, which was somewhat difficult.

The photo in the kit that Trish sent out had the Bee Eater sitting on a different branch from what was drawn on the fabric, so she sent out an illustration of the same branch, in different colors for us to follow.

What was challenging for me was that I was in the middle of having the popcorn scraped from the ceiling, so I could not sit in my sewing room and stitch. Instead, I would bring everything downstairs and sit outside in the evenings to try to get some of it done. This didn't work very well as the days are getting quite shorter, leaving little light to work by. My weekends were filled up with working on the house, so I didn't have much time then, either.

Now that we are just in the painting phase, things are a bit less hectic, so I was able to get some stitching time in today. I'll try tomorrow, as well, but it's a choice between putting the linen closet organizer together, stitching, or spending time with my son who is here for a short visit. I'm sure you can guess what I'll do, and it will probably involve spending a fair bit of money.

The more complicated body is next to stitch so I'll try to remember some in process photographs.

Here is a glimpse of my sewing room as it is coming together. As you can see in the background, there are no closet doors. I hope to have them installed in the next few weeks, so I can work on installing the closet organizer.

I did get some pegboard hung, with two thread racks on it. I have a third rack in a box somewhere, so this will enable me to have all my sewing thread out where I can get to it easily. Note the ipod on the left. I have a much better speaker system that the little station here, but it's packed away. I won this one in a Christmas gift exchange about three years ago and it's been sitting in the garage ever since. At least now I have a use for it. I'm still slogging through The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan, but coming to the end. The war is over, and the Spartans are trying to decide what to do with the Athenians they have so soundly defeated. I'll definitely get something a bit on the light side for my next listen.

Lots of work to go - both on the Bee Eater and the sewing room!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Organization Requirements I

Thank you for all the emails and comments about organizing. I've been searching all the links, studying every single one for any possible sources of inspiration.

There are four major organization themes to adress: 1. Embroidery Threads; 2. Sewing Threads; 3. Fabric (oh, my head hurts thinking about this one, it includes lace); and 4. Tools. First, we'll tackle Number 1 on the list, Embroidery Threads. Above you see my major challenge, DMC floss.  Right now I have them in the little baggies that DMC sells with prepunched holes and a white space for writing the numbers on them. I have them on the metal rings, but as you can see, there is a lot of wasted space in the drawer of the plastic bin. I don't like wasted space.

In the next drawer down from the floss there is the complete collection of DMC floche, along with a fairly complete collection of DMC coton a broder. And more wasted space.

Don't forget the Anchor floss, of which I'm building a nice collection.

And of course, the woolen embroidery threads. most of which are Appleton with a bit of Paternayan. I also have the collection for the Royal Persian Blossom, but they are packed away somewhere that I can't reach just now. We won't even mention the wasted space in this bin!

I bought this collection of Appleton Wool to try to make a pillow for a wing chair/ottoman combo that I have in my living room. Not bad, although that purple in the middle of the lower left group has got to go.

Don't forget all the silk threads I've amassed, mostly Au Ver a Soie, Soie d'Alger, with some other types mixed in. They, too are safely sitting in a box somewhere, away from the paint and dust of remodeling.  

The big question is how to organize all these threads. I like organizing them by number, as I tend to use color cards to guide me to the right colors. I'm just not sure I like stringing the little baggies on rings as I've been doing for some. I've been searching the internet (Pinterest) for ideas, and by far the most common way to organize floss (DMC, anyway) is to wind it around the little bobbins and store them in boxes. Sorry, I won't do that. First of all, I just plain don't want to spend the time doing it, and second, many people who have done this have regretted it as it creases the floss. It seems to be popular with cross stitchers, who tend to take very small stitches and so won't notice any resulting kinky-ness in their threads.

I like this idea from Mary Corbet of Needle N' Thread, but it uses a fairly expensive drawer system from The Container Store. While I live about 1/2 hour from the store and wouldn't have to spend the money on shipping, I already have quite a few of the inexpensive plastic drawer units that are available practically everywhere. If you happen to have Trish Burr's DVD, The Long and Short of It, you can see she uses these for her floss. She organizes by color, while Mary organizes by number.

Then I found this idea from CraftStylish blog, which organizes floss by number and keeping them in the little bags so they seem to stand up better and not get too jumbled.

I've also been considering hanging the baggies on hooks suspended on pegboard, as you see in some shops. My sewing room faces north, so very little sun streams in. I'm not sure I can maintain this, with several brands of floss to sort (DMC, Anchor, Appleton, Paternayan, and the silk). It may just get way too complicated for me to maintain easily.

There are lots of choices, so I need to think about this a bit. It's worth spending the time and effort on this, as it will make my embroidery like much easier to have a system that's easy to use and maintain. Of course, any suggestions you may have are certainly welcome.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Blank Slate, Almost

The acoustic ceiling treatment (aka popcorn) is completely removed, and now we are starting to prepare the rooms for their normal lives. This is the sewing room, with plastic still everywhere, but at least the ceiling fan is installed. The two tables you see are actually one table and one countertop, both of butcher block from our first house over 30 years ago that I've carried around with me for three moves. 

The actual contents of the sewing room are stacked all nice and neat albeit inaccessible, in the dining room downstairs. The backpack on the chair belongs to my son, who is visiting for a couple weeks. But wait! There's more! I have two large plastic roll around four drawer bins, four smaller three drawer roll around bins, four large plastic tubs, four small three drawer shelf units, three under bed storage bins, and at least four medium tubs, all crammed full of fabric, threads, tools, and other necessary stuff. Where do I put all of that and how in the world do I organize it so I can find what I need, when I need it? 

I first posted about organizing the sewing room over two years ago in this post. Now I'm actually going about it. 

But first things first. I did paint the room today, choosing the lower left color, Fledgling, from Martha Stewart Home Depot paint. It went well, with just a bit of touch up left for tomorrow. I've never actually painted an entire room by myself, so it was certainly a new experience for me!  (That's what men are for, right?)

So the big question is, how do I organize all the stuff that needs to go back in there? I'm taking this very methodically. I am an engineering manager in a large US defense firm, so there is a certain way we go about things, which is very adaptable to this situation. 

First of all, list the requirements, then match budget to requirements. If the budget isn't enough to cover all the requirements (and it never is), then modify requirements to fit the budget. What are the possible solutions to the requirements? For example: Requirement - thread storage; but how? in bags by numbers? on peg board? in drawers by color? All of the possible solutions need to be considered to come to an affordable and workable answer. 

Then there are the make/buy decisions. What can I do myself, and what do I need to contract out? Obviously, I can paint, but can I install closet doors (uh, no), and how about the closet system? (definitely, yes, more on that in another post). After these decisions are made, it's time to get to specifics such as how to place existing furniture, assuming it meets the storage requirements, and what other modifications to make to the room to make it a functional and pleasant sewing room. This is a big requirement - it needs to be a place I really want to be in most of the time. Well, being a sewing room, it already satisfies about 90% of that requirement, but I do want to add some fun touches. Mind you, I have literally no imagination along those lines, but, I have a new source of inspiration.

I'm now on Pinterest. I am looking for organization ideas that I think will apply to sewing/craft rooms and posting photos on my board, Sewing Room Ideas. Pretty clever name, don't you think? So far, I have a total of four or five photos, but as I search, I'm sure to get more. If any of you have some great ideas, please let me know. I need all the help I can get. I don't know how to put the Pinterest button on my blog, but will find out how eventually. 

Enough jabbering for now. As you no doubt can tell, I plan on taking this whole reorganization thing fairly methodically. I also plan on sharing with all of you the process I will use to arrive at the final design. As I search on the Internet I find photos of finished rooms, but not the thought process that went into them, which I find frustrating. Maybe my agonizing over decisions will help those of you who are trying to figure out how to organize the huge quantities of fabric, threads, needles, and all the other stuff that we tend to accumulate.

I certainly hope so. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

More on the Christmas Embroidery

I've managed to stitch a bit more on the Christmas wall hanging I'm making for my mother's door.  It's not much, considering that it's been almost a month since I last posted on it. I get a bit done here and there while it's my carpooler's turn to drive. This past week the sun is right in my eyes both during morning and evening commutes, so I got even less done.

I'm also helping with the painting of my sewing room and my son's room. He is due to arrive home on Wednesday for a couple of weeks of R&R, so this really needs to get done.

There is a bit of weekend left, so I hope to get a few hours in on my Little Bee Eater. I've successfully passed Lesson 1, and am working on Lesson 2, the branch. I've also lost the middle shade of red, DMC 3830, so it's off to Joann's for a replacement skein.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Drawn Thread Work

I've gone and done it. I've started two new projects when I have absolutely no business doing so. But sometimes, I just can't help myself. Have you heard that excuse before? In this case, an expert embroidery teacher was scheduled to teach some classes in Portland, Oregon, and our local guilds decided to have her come teach a few classes here in Southern California and save a bit on air fare.

This is Drawn Thread Embroidery Accessories Set by Barbara Meger. Beautiful, aren't they? If you click on her name you will be taken to her classes page and can see all that she has to offer. Our kit contained enough materials to make three of the four items shows, so of course I bought an extra.

The fabric is 32 count Belfast Linen, just lovely to hold and to sew. We are using DMC Perlé No. 12 in Blanc with No. 24 tapestry needles. Nice and blunt, no pricking or bleeding with this project. And it's easy to pull the threads, and you can actually see them! Not like working with handkerchief linen or cotton batiste, which I've done before.

The linen in lined with blue silk dupioni so the blue shows through the holes caused by the withdrawn threads. I traded in my blue for rose, as I have a lot of rose silk and may make other things that may just sort of match. I did try very hard to make the little pincushion come out white, but wasn't very successful.

You can see the blue a bit better with the box cover.

The side of the box. Isn't it beautiful? The box is hand made in Suffolk, Virginia of maple from the Suffolk Shaker Shop. The little nails on the tongues are copper.

This is as far as I got. That is chain stitching at the top, and I need to add another row. Below the chain stitch is herringbone stitch, and below that is cable stitch, just like in smocking. We withdrew two threads for that, so the stitching gives it an open feeling. The next one is a stitch that Barbara found in an Italian magazine and she didn't know the name, so she calls it Van Dyke as it does somewhat look like the Van Dyke stitch in smocking. The big area at the bottom is Italian Hemstitch, worked over a gap of 10 withdrawn threads and into another little channel of one withdrawn thread three threads up. The little bundles are three threads each. As you can probably tell, another row needs to be worked on the bottom. Then I have to repeat the top five rows below the Italian Hemstitch in a mirror image. Oh, and this is just one-third of the linen. I worked the Italian Hemstitch down one side of the 24 inch piece. There's a lot left to do!

This was Friday's class sponsored by the Long Beach Embroiderer's Guild of America. I took another on Saturday, but that's a subject for another post. There is also a smocking class going on today, which I decided to skip.

I plan on spending an hour or two out in the heat on the patio stitching this afternoon. It's been over 100 °F for the past two days, but is much cooler, only high 80's today. This is still quite a bit over the average for September and I am really looking forward to some cooler weather.

The ceiling scraping is finished, but there is lots of painting and other work to do before the house gets back to normal.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Starting on the Little Bee Eater

Thank you to Monica from Lakeview Stitching. I was wondering if I should pack up the Chinese Birds and Flowers project and switch to this one in the sit-upon hoop. Monica was very definitely in favor of doing so, and because of her encouragement, I have made a start on the Little Bee Eater, an online class taught by Trish Burr of Cape Town, South Africa.  In this photo, most of the tail feathers were completed before I remembered to take a picture.

The completed tail feathers. I've made a start on the branch, and will post photos soon.

Needle painting is fun, but I find that I really have to watch what I am doing all the time. I thought I would listen to books on tape, but that isn't working out at all. I need to concentrate on getting the shading right, and the book I'm listening to, The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan, doesn't allow me to concentrate much on anything else. While not quite exactly a history book, it is distilled for the non-historian from his academic work on the same subject, but still takes a great deal of effort to understand what is going on. I simply can't get all those Greek names straight.

My house is still in an uproar from the popcorn scraping. I still don't have any hallway lights, but I did have the presence of mind to plug in a stand Ott-lite into the power strip that somehow peeks from behind boxes in the study where we have the computer. So at least I can get in here in the dark and get on the computer without stubbing toes or falling in the dark. Soon it will be done!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Some Serious Labor Day Stitching

When I last left you with this project, I was having some trouble getting the shading right on the flower. I spent some serious time on it this weekend, and finished the upper left flower.

The third flower is a bit on the dark side,

but I did manage to lighten up the two bottom flowers. Now it's on to the leaves on the lower right hand flower.

After searching Trish's kits for a while and following a suggestion from Carol Anne in the UK, I finally decided that this flower is a plumeria, at least that is what we call it here in the US. In much of the rest of the world it's known as frangipani. I actually planted two of them two years ago, and now one is blooming.

The other one I planted is red and is due to bloom soon. I know it's late in the year for blooming, but I just haven't fed them as I should. The fragrance is just heavenly, and I should see the red one  blooming in a week or so. I did buy some special blooming fertilizer and have been giving them regular feedings to boost next year's blooms, so I'll keep my fingers crossed for a better blooming period next summer.

The removal of the popcorn on the ceilings is finished, but the new texture is being applied this week and next. What a mess! Everything in the house is coated with a fine film of dust.  I cover the embroidery and hide it in my closet with the door closed, so it escapes the worst of it. I have no lights in the hallway near the study, and there are so many boxes in here I can't reach the one lamp, making me writing this by the glow of the computer screen. After all this is finished, then we start painting. I can't wait to get my sewing room back.

I hope you are all enjoying nice fall weather without hurricanes. The daytime temperatures are still in the high 80's to low 90's, but the lows are getting lower and it's deliciously cool in the mornings.

It's now September, and I have a dilemma.  My online class with Trish Burr on the Little Bee Eater has started, and there is now way I can finish this current bird in the next week or so. To top it off, I packed away my other sit-upon hoop, so do I pack away the current project in favor of the Little Bee Eater, or finish it and start the Bee Eater later? I don't know how long Trish will allow the class to run, I'll look it up sometime when I can see what I'm doing in the study.

To close, I'll post this reference to Piece O' Cake blog. It's about cats, and if you're a cat lover, you will appreciate Henri. I've watched it several times and still laugh out loud at it.