Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Flock and Framing

The sun was out while I gathered the eggs this afternoon.  We have about a dozen chickens... all hens but one rooster, the prettiest Buff Orpingtons you ever saw.

In the sun they look like gold nuggets wandering around (loud and flappy ones).

They lay wonderful eggs with bright yellow yolks and shells that range from a light pinky-tan to medium brown with dark freckles.  Of course they keep an eye on me at all times:

And they all flock together generally, except the three that are still nimble enough to fly the coop.  One of these has decided to be broody underneath the rosemary bush near the front door.  Bird, I can see you.

In other news I framed a few pieces.  Doesn't Bertie look great in her silvered frame?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Landscapes in the Fall

No, not necessarily the colorful foliage of Autumn...but when it turns damp and colder outside this time of year, my stitching habits tend to turn slightly toward two things:  Christmas ornaments, and quilts. 

I am not a good traditional quilter...putting things together using straight lines is apparently not my strength.  I tend toward small applique, like Hawaiian quilts, geometric art quilts, and landscapes.  All my little quilt experiments must be small, sadly, because of space restrictions. 

This was my first ever landscape quilt, it's about 5x8.  Don't look too close at the poor machine stitching!  It was my first attempt at free-motion stitching on my inexpensive Kenmore sewing machine.  I should have practiced more, but frankly, I'm still not that much better at it. 

I was looking vacation photos yesterday and thinking it's time for more landscapes.  These books are my favorites on the subject, and it's Valerie Hearder's titles that got me started in these.

So I think I'll pull out my little stash of fabrics later today and see how I can interpret some of my favorite places.  I'll let you all see what I work out!

Bryce Canyon, June 2010
Zion National Park, June 2010
Washington Coast, March 2009
East foothills of the Cascade Mountains, July 2009

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Mountain of Works in Progress

Whoa.  All my cross stitch works in progress by are normally stored compactly in their own project bags in a tidy tote so I can grab and go and keep the kids and dogs out of them.

My own designs and my projects with other forms of stitchery are stored elsewhere, and I rarely have a reason to take all these projects out at once.  I usually just pick up a favorite while watching tv.  Some of these I haven't worked on in too long but I am not yet ready to give up on them and place them in the sad and forlorn rubbermaid bin of abandoned projects in the closet.

Today, I decided they needed airing out.

Aiyiyi.  No wonder I never seem to finish anything.  These projects often get neglected as soon as I get a bug in my ear and need to finish one of my own designs or experiments, but I love having them around for the meditation they provide after a long day.  I resolve to finish one of these by the end of the year, but can't decide which.  The Ink Circles "Growth Rings" on the left and the fruit bellpull at the top are the farthest along so probably one of those.  Yikes! 

For the curious, these are
1.  Teresa Wentzler "Floral Bellpull" with recommended materials but finishing the squares as pockets at the request of my grandmother (this one is a pain to work on)
2.  Chatelaine "Autumn Watergarden" with silks on 32 ct Lugana
3.  Chatelaine "Alpine Garden" with recommended fibers on blue 28ct Lugana
4.  Needlemania "Jardin d'Jour", varigated DMC on yellow Lakeside linen
5.  Metta Putfarken 1848 repro sampler, but with dark green silks on 40 ct Sassy's Fabrics linen
6.  Renato Parolin "Bosco di Bengtson", brown DMC on 32 ct Silkweaver linen
7.  Ink Circles "Growth Rings" with silk on 40 ct linen
8.  Allesandra Adelaide "Madre Terra" with silk on 36 ct linen
9.  Long Dog Samplers "Do Bears" with silk on 40 ct linen
10.  Carriage House Samplings "Frederick" with silk on 28 ct linen

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mushroom study

A wide variety of fungi have popped up in our field over the past week.

Decided to take a little time today to see if I could capture essence of mushroom with simple cotton perle thread and a handful of small stitches.

Not sure if all of them were fully successful, but it was fun to try.  Which do you like best? 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Free trilobite pattern -- Phacops

I went looking for small cross-stitch patterns of trilobites, especially ones that are accurate to actual species, because I'm thinking I want a sampler of trilobites.  The variation in these little fossilized critters is so endless, it will be interesting to see how they'd work set out like the old quaker or vierlande traditional samplers, with lots of motifs that are very similar in general outline, but very very different in the details.  My google-fu is strong, so I found...

None.  Go figure, I guess the community of nerdy, cross-stitching geologists is a small one indeed.

But, not to be deterred, I decided to make my own trilobite patterns.

For those who might not have been paying attention in school that day, trilobites, early arthropods, ruled the seas millions of years ago and went extinct before the dinosaurs even existed.  They were the single most diverse group of organisms that have lived on this earth and ranged in size from a couple feet to only a few millimeters across.   In the interest of science education and encouraging our small community of scienc-y stitchers, I'll post the patterns up here as well.  If you would like to share these freebies with others, please do so, but please forward them here and do not copy or sell the patterns. 

With all that out of the way, here is numero uno, the famous Phacops!

Right click and select "save target as" to download. 

The Phacops genus of trilobites was common about 400 million years ago and is well-known because of their large compound eyes and rounded shape.  Fun fact:  phacops is latin for "lens-face".  Ha!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tiny motifs

I already enjoy my stitching so much, but I've found if I'm using lovely, perfect little things I made myself to help, its just that much more luxurious.

I'm using this little set as I stitch a gigantic reproduction sampler. The needleroll is also a pocket that holds the little spools of silk like a glove, and the design on the cover was from an antique German-language motif book.  The tiny motifs on the little fob were from a Vierlande sampler from 1848.

The fabric is 40 ct linen, Sassy's Fabbrics "Mountain Majesty" and the thread is HDF silk "Primordial Ooze".  With silk ribbon ties and swarovski accents.

The little needleroll was made a few weeks ago, the tiny fob took only a few hours the other day.  The scissors are the most tiny delicate little things, only 2.5 inches long made by Dovo, and given to me by my husband for our tenth anniversary last month.  He knows what I like!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sure, I'll make you a dinosaur cake.

Meet Bloody the dinosaur: 

Now tacked up on darling daughter's wall.  One of many many new dinosaurs she recieved for her 4th birthday on Saturday.  Boy, did she have a great day! Dinosaurs all day long AND going on rides at the fair.   Highlights:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sometimes you want something sparkly

Yesterday I finished a couple large, annoying reports that had prevented me from stitching much for a few days. When that weight lifted, I thought to myself, now I need to make something shiny.  Rooting through the stash, the silver thread and the navy fabric jumped into my hand and out came this jellyfish.

I still find it amazing how sometimes inspiration strikes and something I am proud of can be made in just a few hours, while so often the finished product takes months.

The "head" of this jellyfish is Angelina fibers and the background fabric is a gorgeous 35 ct HDF linen, which is now discontinued.  I really wish I had purchased more of this wonderful color when I had the chance.


The guts and tentacles are a big variety of silk and synthetic fibers.  With a few glass beads thrown on because there just wasn't enough sparkle.

My favorite part, besides how quickly this came together, is how it looks like a mess close-up but becomes a "thing" at arm's length.  It also really looked much more like a mushroom cloud during the middle stages but I decided not to take a picture of it at that point...maybe that could become a running game for the late-nite shows, "jellyfish or mushroom cloud?" ...maybe not, and these thoughts are a sign that I should go have that second cup of coffee... or just look at the sparkles some more...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A beautiful new stumpwork book for the shelves

Houseguests this weekend, so not much stitching was completed.  But not to worry, my Amazon preorder of the new Jane Nicholas book finally arrived! 

Stumpwork & Goldwork Embroidery Inspired by Turkish, Syrian & Persian Tiles

As always, her projects are unbelievably beautiful, and also, incredibly intimidating.   My favorite is a delicate scrollwork of grapevines

Mughal Grapevine Tile
or maybe this turquoise carnation tile

Iznik Carnation Tile

Yummy yummy yummy, this book is the very definition of eye candy.  I'm pleased to see that Jane Nicholas has also updated and improved her website as well, with better pictures and the feature that was long overdue IMHO, the ability to pay for these project kits by credit card through a secure server. 

I am still working on projects from some of her previous books.  In fact, I am ashamed to admit I've only completed one small project from her books, a small beetle about the size of a quarter from her fantastic book of beetles

I am pleased with how it turned out for a first try, and I really want to try more stumpwork. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the projects they are more difficult to drop mid-stitch and put away neatly, so my stumpwork experiments may need to wait until the rugrats are a little bigger and/or we win that big lottery jackpot and we build me that stitching studio with a comfy chair and all the storage space and the big windows...I'm sorry where was I?  Oh yes, Jane Nicholas new book-- I give it five stars!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

First stitches

My little girl Lena turns 4 in a week, and said to me this afternoon, "will you stitch me a Bloody quilt?" 

I said, "what?"  

And then I remembered she named one of her toy dinosaurs Bloody.  Because her birthday is in a week, I couldn't say no. So she and I looked through my books and found a little dinosaur cross stitch motif that looks a little like toy dinosaur Bloody and found colors to match.  And she wanted pink fabric, of course.

And then she decided she wanted to do "kid stitching" while I was working on this. So I found some wide weave aida (with sparkles, that made her happy) and a wide needle, she picked out some purple thread, and I threaded the needle and showed her how to make an x.  So she went to work.

Look at the concentration on that face.  She worked at it very diligently for a long time, and even asked for more thread a couple times.

She started out very well with tiny stitches.  I was impressed.  As she became more confident, the stitches got larger. 

I think that's the back we're looking at there--hard to say.  It was fascinating watching her nimble little fingers...not bad for an almost-4-year-old.  She's a natural.

The finished work, which is now proudly pinned up on the wall:

She says it's the cliffs of the Grand Canyon.  No joke.  

Flashback a few months ago:

 Maybe the apple doesn't fall that far from the tree.

Friday, September 10, 2010

On the Oregon Trail

Yesterday, work sent me to a small town in Oregon near the Oregon-Idaho border.  I had a schedule to keep, so after leaving the airport zoomed up the highway to the little town.  Afterward, my schedule was not quite as tight and so I decided to take a "blue highway" road to loop back toward Boise.  The road smelled very strongly of onions,

but was also a section of the Oregon Trail auto tour route.  Wow!  I love serendipity.  I have always been intrigued by the Oregon Trail, not just because of this history, but because many generations back, a grandmother of mine was a little girl when she made the trip.  Family lore says she was orphaned -- her mother died of typoid of some sort and her father may have made it to Oregeon where he was killed, but the details are somewhat lost to history.  So, I couldn't pass up this stop.

There was one stop along this road (Keeney Pass) where the wagon train ruts are still visible.  Keeney Pass is about 1,500 miles from the trail's start in Missouri.

One interpretive sign said that only 15% of the wagon train ruts along the length of the trail are still visible.  It is an accident of geography and geology that these ruts are still there-- they are a depression about 2 or 3 feet lower than the surrounding ground surface. In this area the rock is a dusty sandstone, without a lot of topsoil or vegetation, and the ruts were probably about 4 feet deep when the last wagons were rolling through. 

There was also a short trail from the Keeney Pass ruts- about half a mile, to the top of a bluff overlooking one day's 15 mile journey, from Fort Boise at the Snake River on the south to the Malheur River on the north.  I wasn't wearing appropriate walking shoes but did the trail anyway, I mean, did my great-great-great-great grandmother have comfortable shoes?  So it was the least I could do to take this little walk.  And in this half mile I saw anklebiter cactus:

A big snake and three horny toads:

And a gorgeous view:

The valley in the distance beyond those cloud-shaded hills would have been day's end camp at the river.  There was no water for the emigrants along this 15-mile trail section--I am sure that they were relieved to see that slightly greener area up ahead, but I am also sure that it looked very far away when they were at this spot.

Another interpretive sign discussed the things that the emigrants brought along with them, and what they discarded along the way.  Of course it was the heavy stuff like books and china and furniture, however valuable in dollars, that got left behind when going got tough.  But the quilts and the blankets and the needles and thread, those were light and valuable for survival, and those were brought along the whole length of the trip. 

Of course I brought mine too...

WIP: Ink Circles "Growth Rings" with HDF silk thread and linen
but my day's trip of 1000+ miles was nothing compared to my great grandmother's.

"o dear if we were only in Willamette or where ever we are going for I am very tired." -diary entry from Agnes Stewart Warner, September 9, 1853

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Library of Dust

What a story, heard this  on the local NPR station this afternoon. 
These corroded old canisters hold the unclaimed ashes of patients from an Oregon psychiatric hospital.  The holding area where these canisters was kept flooded repeatedly over the years and the canisters have become corroded and encrusted by a variety of minerals.   A wonderful photographer, David Maisel, has an exhibit of these canisters, which are really quite stunning.

David Maisel photograph "Library of Dust 1210"


Last night I put the final beads in on the sand around this crab.  I've "finished" this one three times, but have kept being unhappy with the result, but I think this time it is really done!  (Largely because I don't think I can cram any more stuff onto the fabric, haha).