Friday, December 30, 2016

Lessons of 2016 and a new approach for 2017

As 2016 comes to a close and 2017 approaches, I can only sense it's potential. After quite some time I feel an excitement
about the coming year, about the chance to write a happier story and dream about all the possible stitches I want to make,
trips I want to take and things I want to learn.

I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope it brings us all many moments of Joy and Inner Peace.

During these past few weeks of 'mandatory recuperation' I have finally had some insights that have brought me some peace.
Some of these points are worth sharing here since these topics reoccur in various chat groups and had been nagging issues
for me over the years.
In the past, my vast and varied 'stash' of needlework items had started to become a source of worry and analysis; I tried to see
if I could just limit my interest to one or two types of embroidery. The benefits of just sticking to one technique would be many:
I tried to convince myself to no avail that it would be simpler, more productive use of time, more focused
and easier on the pocket book. And, for years I have tried to prioritize and arrange my needlework projects, books and
accessories that way - only to have to change it all around again when I focused my thoughts and attention to another
technique that suddenly caught my fancy!

I had never considered my books to be a burden - they were a wealth of knowledge and inspiration always.
I had wondered about my need to keep all the different hoops and working frames, stands, lights, needles, and stuff I had accumulated over the years as I delved into this art form further and deepened my understanding, learned new skills, and refined others.

This 'mandatory pause' in most activity because of my broken ankle and severely sprained hands made it clear to me how much I enjoy all the various aspects of creativity with needle and thread. Initially, my books and surfing the internet gave me hours of adventure and I discovered many new techniques I will study more in the years ahead.
Then, within a few days I realized that I could just not sit still anymore. Although watching old shows and Christmas movies on TV is most pleasurable, I felt truly unproductive and realized how much TV watching for me is more about listening to it while I stitch.

As I contemplated what I could possibly stitch, I finally came to the realization that so many of my 'side projects' were started when I was not feeling well or when other aspects of life demanded more of my attention... and that having them all in my stash is a luxury I am most thankful for!
At this time for example, I knew I could not continue with any of the other projects I was working on before my fall - my hands were just not able to be that precise yet, nor did they have the strength; besides, the brace and the bandages ruled out silk work right away. So, I started slowly with a new sampler, on a lesser count of linen with larger holes in the linen to reduce the force required when pulling the needle in and out and allowing me to use a thicker needle ...

it was very slow going and not too 'interesting' but I managed to establish all the bands on Martha Salter, an intermediate level sampler by the Scarlet Letter which was quite an achievement.

Then I decided to add another project to the mix to start building more flexibility and movements into my self imposed therapy program. I needed something requiring more strength and allowing me to use various parts of my hand and fingers as I made the stitches. Martha Salter had a lot of satin stitches but in smaller areas which would require more precision; the Christmas runner I chose allowed me to test my stitching, my hands and build strength using a larger needle with more threads... the movements required were quite painful at first and not easy at all to do; I still need a lot of breaks and progress is still slow and yet, each day I could see an improvement in my stitches, each day my hands felt a bit stronger!

The orthopedic surgeon had instructed me to keep my broken ankle in the boot and my leg elevated at all times, so my Lowery floor stand and a larger hoop allowed me to recline back and stitch comfortably. The needle provided in the kit was too big and required too much force to pull through the fabric but having my stash of needles allowed me to switch to a thinner Bohin Crewel needle and continue in my self imposed therapy! I know that my needlework therapy along with the physical therapy will make it possible to resume my activities within a week or so... my leg will take longer to heal but at least my hands will be back to full function. So , having a variety of stands and needlework accessories is not such a bad thing after all!

I realize now how much I rely on my needlework to gauge when I can get back to work and what type of activities I can engage in ... it is not just one type of needlework that allows me to do this but rather the freedom to move between a variety of projects from my stash, using various types of stands and frames and paraphernalia. 

So, the biggest lesson I have learned at the end of this year is to embrace my stash of needlework items and treasure them with gratitude.
This also applies to all my other interests and 'collections'... I had not had a chance to read my German literature books for years or look at all the TIME LIFE Art books I had collected as a student by saving up for each volume. Having the time these past weeks proved to me how much I treasure books.

In this coming year, I will go through my stash and remove the projects I know I will not want to stitch at all, and I will not necessarily keep buying 'more' needlework projects; my focus will still be to work on projects I already have in my stash BUT I am finally free of 'feeling guilty' about it all... all my interests and collections bring me Joy, so from now on I will embrace them all and be thankful for my stash.

I have learned to be grateful for the small things , accept the slight imperfections in my stitches as small 'victories over the challenges and struggles of life' and leave them as part of the history marking the event in my life; as a quiet reminder of that time in my life - such imperfections only being apparent to me and to those who take the time to inspect things closely anyway. 

Wishing you all a happy and productive New Year - may you all enjoy the pleasure of spending time with needle and thread. I hope that my ramblings above make some of you feel less guilty about stash and more thankful for it. People 'collect' all sorts of things and spend time doing all sorts of things that they may never ever 'perfect' - they do them for various reasons and most do not feel guilty spending their money or time doing something that brings them joy. Not sure why I was starting to attach all these negative feelings to my books and needlework stash ... perhaps because 'life's events' these past years have made my needlework time less productive... but I am finally free of all that and finally have a way on how to arrange my needlework stash so I can enjoy all aspects of it. 
  I can't wait to implement it all and do look forward to all the adventures ahead with needle and threads and projects from my stash!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Needlework wishes for great days ahead

May we all enjoy many quiet moments with needle and thread in 2017!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas,  Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa ...And a HAPPY NEW YEAR with some of my embroideries I have shared with you all over the years!

Make the most of every moment!
A fun project !

A Little Quail - lots of fun techniques!

My own design and interpretation of Schwalm techniques 
One of the Christmas lights tablecloths I have stitched over the years  
My next self imposed hand therapy : Japanese bead embroidery 
Current hand therapy project : another Christmas tablecloth/runner 

As this year closes - best wishes for the New Year !

Wishing you all a good time with friends and family and hoping that the New Year ushers in many moments of Joy.

We are busy recuperating and doing well.
The past few weeks have shown slow but steady improvements;
Still painful but good progress nonetheless....

Initial attempts at an intermediate sampler.... an inch or so of Montenegrin stitches and it took all day!

By Sunday it was already much better and I could stitch a bit longer and it seemed just a bit faster.  I was able to establish all the bands on Martha Salter,
an intermediate level sampler 

On Tuesday, I switched to a Christmas related project. Initially it took some determination to push past the pain and just pull the needle up through the fabric

But slowly my fingers are building their strength back and I hope to have this tablecloth runner finished on Christmas Day

May the New Year usher in glorious days with needle and thread for all of us !

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Life's little triumphs...

Had a good Saturday - even though I am supposed to remain inactive and keep my foot elevated and not walk, I decided that I could not let my students down and managed to make it through Japanese embroidery class as scheduled.
Many of you want me to post my Japanese embroidery pieces here - maybe one day I will .... but for now I wanted to share one of my student's pieces.
She has had some difficult 'life challenges' to overcome and it is difficult to find the 'quiet' to work with filament silk and figure out new techniques when the mind and heart are elsewhere.

I am thankful for the opportunity to show my small group of students some of the intricacies of this technique as I have understood them; thankful that they put up with all my persnickety quirks and that they strive to do the best job they possibly can at that moment in time and that even though we are all seriously engaged in learning techniques, we all still manage to have fun and share laughs and learn from each other's experiences!

Life is so rich because of all the little details!

She persevered and here is her triumphant result:

Monday, November 28, 2016

A mandatory pause ... time to think!

A fall on a hidden metal rim and an uneven surface ... assuming it was an even sidewalk.... a bit banged up and bruised and a twisted ankle so I thought initially. 

Lots of wrong decisions made - continuing on with 'scheduled activity' instead of taking a moment to pause.  Will power and focus are good up to a point ....
X-rays reveal fractures in my leg/ankle, hand etc. ... could have been a lot worse - instinctively shielded my eye with my hand.

So, mandatory 'rest' of all extremities now - time to reflect and reset my thinking and plan ahead... thankful that this lesson was not as tough and life changing as it could have been ....

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dutch Beauty and the Golden days of Fall

Thankful for many things ... the skill of many people, good friends and family and the beauty around us  are just some of   those things
Here are some pictures taken around our home last Wednesday
and continuing on with simple cross stitch - page 2 complete

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A slightly modified plan - and a new sampler start

So, I know some of you were curious to see which samplers I would start on my birthday in October.

I had them all prepared and had even picked three of them, had decided to just stay home and enjoy a
relaxed day of stitching at home after some busy weeks...

And, by the end of the day, even though I got as far as framing up and getting the starting point
figured out etc .... I did not start anything!

It just did not "feel" right.

You see, during the past few weeks I could feel the tension caused from my worried mind transfer through my hands to my embroidery, as I worked initially on Frances, then Loara ...
So, on a total whim, I pulled out a sampler pattern that had been languishing
in my 'someday surely' pile, pulled 40ct sandstone colored linen and DMC threads. This was a quick
decision after my husband's surgery ( after years of wondering about if I should
change colors/use silk/which type of fabric etc etc )... and then started this new sampler on September 26th and have continued on until now because I just needed something easy during this busy time.
So, this newly started, "Stress Relief sampler is ... drumroll - Dutch Beauty by Permin - I know some of you know that it is a big one - even on fine 40 ct. but it is all cross stitch.
My goal is to work one page every month or whenever I cannot get the results I would like to see on my other embroidery. It feels good to be working on this after years of having the chart and thinking about it and so if I finish this in two or three years that is fine. The colors are soothing and muted with a quiet splendor.
Here is the progress so far

I will not start new more complicated samplers yet, and will focus on finishing Frances and Loara first. Then depending on how I feel I might start a new sampler but I think I will most likely focus on my already started samplers and spend about 20 hours each month on samplers.

My main focus will be changing over fully to my silk embroideries starting tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Well, I have been thinking ...
Last night, I went and looked at my started sampler projects and some of the projects I had moved up to start in the near future.

And today had  some time to go through most of my SANQ magazines ...also looked through just one drawer of sampler charts.

This is my plan as far as samplers are concerned ... 
I will start two samplers on my birthday in October and then I plan to continue with only two samplers each month, I am allocating 20 hours for samplers each month ... This will give me the chance to work on them alongside all my other projects.

I am also formulating a two pronged  'plan of attack' regarding my entire collection of things relating to needlework ... It is time to sell the things I know I will never need or use or work on... 
AND I am not buying anything else for a very long time....

Needlework books may be the only exception... 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Loara Standish continued

The subtlety of design is really delightful to observe on this sampler.  Figuring out the reversible pathways for the flowers and leaves was also fun.  Truly enjoying stitching the 'oldest' sampler known to exist in America.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Another band of Loara Standish

Indulged myself just once more to work on and complete another Blackwork / double running band on Loara Standish. Loara Standish' sampler is the oldest sampler to date found in the United States and the original one can be seen in the town hall in Plymouth, Massachussetts. I do love to do Double running stitch - it lends itself so well to stitch reversibly and I enjoy seeing
the patterns develop either exactly or sometimes see a different pattern evolve on the back side of the embroidery. I changed the colors and chose darker threads in the tan brown colors so that the pattern would be a bit more visible from far away. I debated if I should change the green color also and work the entire band in the darker color but then decided to work it exactly as recommended by Joanne. It was interesting also to note how Loara stitched this sampler in the truest sense - the narrower bands on top and on the bottom of the wider band are different patterns and it was interesting to note the dimensionality achieved in the center of the small flowers by simply using long armed cross stitch.

Closeup of texture and dimension

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Loara Standish and Frances Cheyney

I decided to continue on with Loara Standish by the Examplarery and continue working on Frances Cheyney this weekend. 
The subtelty of design and color in this band of Loara are a welcome change from the very repetitive stitches I have to do on Frances.  Blackwork/Holbein stitches are always enjoyable and stitching things reversibly is always intriguing.

Close up on the last section of Frances - adding my own interpretation after lots of 'thinking':

Monday, August 8, 2016

Interesting YouTube segment

Just found an excellent YouTube segment that you might find interesting too... It explains the history of samplers and shows the oldest known English sampler ....
AND it does not make me feel guilty about not having all my finished pieces all framed up anymore ! 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Continuing on with Frances Cheyney

Just an update .... All the thinking and diversional stitching was worth it - figured out how I want to stitch all the details of the last, very dimensional band of Frances Cheyney.  Hope to get this finished this coming week and will write a detailed blog post then.

This is just such an enjoyable sampler - full of excellent challenges!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Loara Standish - another WIP unearthed

I started stitching Loara years ago, reversibly and over 3. Then, because of a friend's request to stitch it together and because she disliked stitching over 3, I switched to over 2, still reversibly. I just set up the bands giving her a chance to catch up so we could stitch together and focused on other projects in the meanwhile. She gave up after multiple trials and so my projects languished in the WIP drawers for 8-10 years. Now, thanks to a Group on Facebook, I have decided to finish both next after Frances Cheyney. I will only devote 2 or 3 Sundays to this project though so progress reports will be slower and reports further apart.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Serendipity / Quaker mystery SAL

Now that I am participating in this impromptu cross stitch Mystery Quaker sampler stitch a long I have also been reading up on what 'being a Quaker' meant.
I found two ideas attributed to the 'Quakers' and thought I would share them here .... 

These are universal truths in my mind expressed in many parts of the world and seem most appropriate in this age where we are surrounded by so much 'noise'. 

A fun little break! Serendipity..

I have been having a lot of fun with all my projects but last weekend I realized that all of them are 'intricate and serious' ones...and all of them take lots of time and concentration.  
I was getting a bit envious of the 'fun little pieces' (some of which are in my stash) and 'all done' posts in various groups on Facebook.  
 I even looked through all my 'easier' projects but did not dare start any since all of them were fairly big and I did not want to add to the WIPs - just was itching to stitch a fun piece this summer.

Now,  as luck would have it, just by chance, the administrator of one of the Facebook groups announced earlier this month that she would be offering a 'Mystery sampler stitch along' and that if one is interested one needs to sign up by the deadline.  So, throwing all reason to the side, I signed up right away!  I wondered about this since I have never done a 'mystery' sampler or a stitch along yet ... Some of the details were released once the deadline had passed. I read all the posts and the color choices everyone was posting with interest. It was going to be a Quaker style sampler and I have some larger ones in my stash and I always wonder about getting 'Ann Grimshaw' from The Scarlet Letter... 
And finally today the first page was posted.  You have to finish stitching the page, email a picture to the administrator and then she will email the next page to you - kind of a neat concept!  But it pushes me out of my comfort zone big time!!!  
I had been thinking of color schemes all these days and had some ideas in mind BUT today I decided to just open up only two drawers for linen (32ct and 36/40ct.) and for silk/floss each and make a decision on the spot  and just 'go with it' since I did not need another project to spend energy 'thinking about things'.  All I knew was that this mystery sampler was going to be in the Quaker style... 
Within 5 minutes all decisions were made! 
 I found a perfect left over piece of linen in the 32 ct. drawer - antique white ; pulled a few silks out and then my eyes fell on two cards of 100% bamboo floss (in a dark taupe green - sort of 'Quakerish' don't you think?) ... I had bought these for one of my Mastercraftman designs and then decided to stick with traditional silks for the submission ... 
So, just within 5 minutes I came down with my linen, thread and hoops (!) and even pulled my book on Quaker samplers off the bookshelf.  I had not read or looked at it for ages!   
I tried convincing myself that I could just get started without too much preparation and that I should just try to make this a project that is very portable - either stitch in hand or with a hand held hoop.
Well, that started me thinking ... Mystery sampler, no preparation on the linen, stitching in hand or  holding the hoop in one hand...perfect way to 'mess up' what was supposed to be a simple and fun summer interlude!  So, you guessed it, I resolved to at least grid the linen in hand so that I could see if I could get used to it some more.... Took 'forever' or so it seemed, I tried ignoring the wrinkling  and the edges .... And right after I gridded things I marched back upstairs, put the  hoops back in their drawer, serged the edges of the linen, picked out the right size scroll rods, ironed my linen and framed up ... I wasted more time trying to 'work in hand' than just doing things the way I always do!  I will still try the hoops with this project but just wanted to get the page stitched today!
I already have a name for this sampler - I will call it 'Serendipity'; I also know how I would like to finish this ... And possibly even what may be my additions to this project... So this will remain a mystery to you for a while ....
 I love the fact that I am using items I already had... I could have used a thicker linen also - but this fit the bill as it made me use something I had opened and cut a piece from  in 2006... 

Since this is a mystery sampler I cannot post pictures here ...  Here are pictures of my materials gathered up ... And the backside of my project about 15 minutes in....I think that may be okay ... 
So now I await the second page ... 
And am going back to Frances Cheyney while I wait for the email....

Friday, May 27, 2016

Continuing on with the last band of Frances

It has been a while since I last posted ... 
Have been busy with life and my silk embroideries lately.
Just decided to sit down and watch some movies on Netflix and work on finishing up this sampler. Hope you all have a good long weekend (Memorial Day in USA).  It is a busy weekend with lots to do but I am looking forward to working on this sampler this weekend and enjoying some movies in the evenings.
 Here is a picture of where I left off months ago : 

Friday, March 4, 2016

A finish while 'thinking' about the last band on Frances

I had to "think" about the last band on Frances Cheyney... My gut feeling on it was that there were nuances in technique that required some thought. This also coincided with some bright,almost Spring like days so instead of just letting things sit I decided to finish the over one stitching left on the verse of Ann Bowers instead...the colors mirrored the warmer temperatures outside. I still have to decide if I want to incorporate my initials into the sampler but here is Ann Bowers by the Examplarery... The first finish of the year:

A dusting of snow outside matches the whitework of Frances ... Winter is trying to still hang on for just a bit longer. The time away from Frances was good - I was able to figure things out and returning to all the whitework on Frances while things are white outside once more.. Feels right....

Monday, February 22, 2016

Frances Cheyney - continued

Finished this band with the mother, child and cat in time to celebrate my mother's Birthday. It was an intense amount of stitching with lots of finer points to be figured out. I didn't stick to the instructions or the pictures provided and changed some elements, added others and at present I am not planning on using the colored silk to stitch the facial features ..seems a bit odd to introduce color in an otherwise all white sampler. I had contacted the museum and Margriet in hopes of getting a better picture of the original sampler but have not received such information yet. After I finish stitching the last band I will revisit some of the 'liberties' I did take and decide. This sampler is a lot of fun to stitch and I am intrigued by the various ways thread and needle have to be manipulated to give various effects with very simple stitches.

Close up 

POST SCRIPT dated February 24,2016 :
Thank you all so much for your most enthusiastic support - needlework brings a special joy into my life each day and I am glad if this small sample of my stitching brought you some joy too. 

There are a few questions that keep cropping up so I thought I would address them here:
1.  I am using the materials provided in the kit from Essamplaire (40ct. Linen and Linen threads of two weights)

2. I posted the following as a reply on another Facebook group but since this question seems to crop up often I decided to post it here  also.
This sampler  uses various whitework techniques like Drawn thread, Pulled thread and Needlelace techniques.  In this area for example I am removing the foundation fabric (linen), leaving a few threads behind which are then wrapped or woven. This grid then allows me then to put in a scaffold of sorts with thread and then using either detached buttonhole stitch, picots, needleweaving etc make a design.  There are also some other stitches like dove's eye, spiderwebs etc (hardanger techniques).  
The result of using basically a buttonhole stitch is similar to crochet - you create a new 'fabric' from thread like in knitting or crochet (which I also love) but this is all created with a tapestry needle and thread.  Hope this helps understand the process a bit more.
Thanks for all your compliments but it may look complicated and the kit may be marked as "for very advanced stitchers" but it is actually quite challenges your patience though;) I do hope you try your hand at some of the whitework techniques and suggest trying a simple band or project first if you have never done this or hardanger.

3.  I have been asked to give an opinion on this sampler /chart etc. many times now. I will address this after I finish the last remaining band of this sampler.  I am working on the last band now so I hope you understand and can hang in!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Still continuing on with Frances ...

Decided to work out some of the areas in one of the last two bands left.  I am teaching Japanese embroidery this weekend so will switch to other things after that....the really interesting parts and the reason this sampler intrigued me are left to do ... Lots to figure out which is really fun!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Another band complete

Finished up this band tonight.  Lots of picots and lots of distractions with the Australian Open Tennis championships!

At this point I will be putting this sampler aside to focus on other projects.  It is hard to do this right now when the remaining bands are the ones that are the most interesting ones, technique wise, but I do have to be disciplined about my time allocation.

Thank you for taking the time to comment here on my blog - I really do appreciate it.  Thank you all for the likes and comments on Facebook also.  Please follow my progress on my blog because I will post interim progress here    only.

Here is the recently completed band 
along with the other band.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Another band complete

This was a time consuming, intense band, mostly needle weaving, picots and Hollie point stitches.  It required some thought to make sure it was reversible.  I chose to change the orientation of the Hollie point stitched diamonds and stitched individual 'petals' so that visually they look a bit Iike petals of a flower and added a bullion knot cross stitch center.  The instructions say to stitch Hollie point stitches horizontally across the diamond and add picots to the top half.  I chose to eliminate the picots on the flower diamonds ... It was becoming a bit too frilly for my taste and did not look balanced.  I also chose to vary the number of picots in various design elements to add some interest through  repetition.
So here is the progress to date...

Would love to see your comments appear below instead of in the various groups on Facebook- will prove that some people do follow this blog once in a while!