Friday, 29 February 2008

All Squared Up

Last night the most wonderful parcel was waiting for me when I got home! Marg was my partner for Fair and Square Round 5, and she stitched me these wonderful squares which are just popping with Sping-ability and cheerfulness! They are a Calico Crossroads design, and she used the most beautiful variegated thread. I think I’m going to turn these into a pincushion in Marg’s honour – she has over 100 in her collection!

Marg also treated me to a bagful of goodies – a very cool Cat’s Whiskers chart, some lovely threads, a handmade (by her!) bookmark, and a set of needles for counting stitches – which I just know I’m going to find THE MOST useful tool ever invented as H has an uncanny ability to ask me a question and distract me just when I’m right near the end of a big count. He can manage to keep quiet for 10 stitches or less, but as soon as I start murmuring ’26, 27, 28…’ it’s suddenly imperative that he knows what we are having for dinner. Here are all the lovely extra goodies (note to self, try to ensure that chocolate hangs around long enough for it to make it into photo next time!).

I managed to get my one day of Spanish Wine done earlier this week – I do really love this design, and I think I enjoy stitching it probably more than any other of my WIPs. I wish I had more time to devote to it! Maybe after the summer, as I have a lot of exchanges and secret stitching and one big secret project to finish by then… This is my progress on Band 3.

Thursday was also my weekly SAL day, so here is this week’s update – slowly progressing on page four.

A wonderful thank you also to Nicki who (more than) answered my plea for UK-based online and bricks-and-mortar quilting shops – in fact, it turns out that Nicki has truly impressive enabling skills, and thanks to her I have signed up for two Blocks of the Month clubs from Honeysuckle Cottage. I’m going to keep quiet about what they are, because I think they just might be perfect to make as gifts… Nicki, thank you (and, equally, curse you *grin*)!!

Happy stitching!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

A New Hobby! (Maybe)

After many years of being a confirmed non-sewer, I have decided, with a little encouragement from my mum, to try my hand at quilting. I’m not sure whether this is an inspired decision which will open up a whole new world to me, or whether this is just going to frustrate me and be a total disaster. My sewing machine and I are now on cautiously good terms, but that could change at any moment – typically it shows its disgust at my beginner’s antics by sewing lopsided seams, or by spewing up lots and lots of thread from the bobbin where it is not wanted. But more and more we’re getting on just fine – straight seams, good tension, even an occasional specialty stitch or two! So I’m thinking the time is right to take the plunge…

Now, I’m not going to do anything sensible like take a class. I’m just going to jump straight in – why not, after all? (Okay, there are many reasons why not, most of which I haven’t really thought about too carefully, but I work full time, and I spend a lot of time commuting, so classes are going to be difficult to fit in to my life.) My plan is to use my mum as my teacher and mentor – she’s only a few thousand miles away, but that’s why they invented telephones, digital cameras and instant messaging, right? Hmmm… :)

Mum, always keen to turn someone to the dark side happy to help, kindly sent me a very simple (so she claims) quilt pattern, which involves 9 blocks that look a bit like this:

And then a bit of sashing and a few borders (I love bandying about these terms, as if I have a good grasp of what they mean!). All very straightforward, right? We shall see :)

I’ve managed to find a colourway that I like, and bought all the fabric (hopefully – the design ‘recipe’ was based on a jelly roll, and I’m using fabric by the yard/metre). I bought them from Fabric Inspirations here in the UK (which has FABULOUS service, I could not recommend it highly enough) and the Fat Quarter Shop in the US. Here are the fabrics:

Thanks to computers and digital cameras, I can have even mocked up what I plan that the blocks will look like:

So now all I need to do is cut up a few bits of fabric and sew them all together. Couldn’t be easier?? I’ll let you know… I’m intending to start on this over the Easter weekend break, so look for an update in a few weeks’ time!

By the way, if you have any favourite shops for quilting fabric particularly in the UK, either near to Reading or on the internet, please do tip me off, I’d like to hear about them!

Happy stitching (and quilting!)

Friday, 22 February 2008

What a Fantastic Surprise!

After my long daily commute yesterday, I was trudging home in the chilly, damp darkness, feeling tired and completely fed up with winter. I turned the corner around the hedge near our front door, and caught sight of something sticking out of our mail slot at a funny angle. And you’ll never guess what it was – I know you won’t, because I couldn’t guess either, which made it a delightful and cheering surprise! The wonderful Deb had sent me a beautiful card and a Just Nan chart, Satin Blossoms, for no reason, just because. Isn’t that the most wonderful thing? I have to tell you, it made my whole week. It’s just so lovely meeting all you wonderful people through stitching and blogging, and I just can’t thank Deb enough for her unexpected generosity and kindness – I was really touched! Even better, I didn’t already have the chart, and I was looking for something with flowers on it in a long and narrow shape, so this is absolutely perfect! Thank you again Deb :)

I managed a good bit of stitching last night, although you wouldn’t really know it – I worked on Paradigm Lost and mainly extended the borders, which isn’t very exciting, but is one of those very necessary tasks. I did a few smaller motifs as well, but I kept getting distracted by ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ which we had put in the DVD player. We’re halfway through it, so I’m looking forward to watching the second half tonight.

I am quite pleased with myself as well – I’ve managed to get my blog reader down to…zero! Yes, I have read (well, not EVERY word, but most of them!) all your blogs and completely caught up to date. You are such inspiring people – I am constantly intrigued and amazed by what you all get up to!

Now, having grown up in small town Canada where driving is a key skill, I, along with most of my friends, rushed out to get my learner’s license at 16 and had my full license a couple of months later. H, however, spent his teen years in Dublin, where there is a pretty excellent bus service and where traffic is always heavy, parking is scarce, and insurance costs are exorbitant (think in the many hundreds if not low thousands for adding your young learner driver to your insurance). So he never got around to getting a license. Now, however, it’s all changing! He got his learner’s permit here in the UK last summer, and today he had his very first driving lesson (I am overlooking the 2 lessons he once had about 9 years ago in Dublin) and is determined to get his full driving permit. Better late than never I say! The lesson went really well, and H proudly – and apparently very cautiously ;) – negotiated a big, busy roundabout. Next lesson is Wednesday, so hopefully he’ll get a test date soon (there’s always a waiting list, sometimes of several months, for road tests). In the UK, it’s quite common to fail your test once or twice (or, in exceptional circumstances, 8 or 9 times!) before you get your license, so I hope he’ll be practicing lots and fingers crossed everything will go smoothly!

Happy stitching!

Monday, 18 February 2008

Exchanges, PL and whole bunch of other things!

Gosh, doesn’t time fly?! Here I am thinking I’ve just posted a nice long entry, along with photos, and suddenly I have a million more things to tell you! Okay, well, maybe six or seven!

Firstly, I heard from Marg down in Melbourne that she received the squares I sent her for the Fair and Square Round 5 exchange. Marg, like me, is a big fan of Drawn Thread (check out their new look website if you haven’t already!), so the confluence of DT and February made me think immediately of An Open Heart. I adapted the top heart motifs and sent it off to her with a few things in her favourite colours. As per usual, I didn’t take any photos of the whole exchange, but here are the squares (main square and signature square) that I stitched fro Marg. I used the recommended NPI silks (they are a dream to stitch with, I really like them):

Secondly, I also heard from Janneke, who was my secret exchange partner for the Crazy Exchange (more on this below) Birthday Exchange. I stitched Janneke a little pattern from Nostalgic Needle called ‘Rose Ornament’ – this was my first ever go at bullion stitches, and I’m quite pleased (and extremely relieved) at the way they turned out. I finished it as a pincushion, and stitched her initials as well as mine and ‘gelukkige verjaardag’ which I’m trusting is an accurate translation from English to Dutch of ‘Happy Birthday’! Ths was stitched on 32ct Cream linen using Au Ver a Soie Soie d'Alger threads as charted.

Thirdly, I got a lovely message from Iris another Crazy Exchanger who had very kind things to say about the mattress pinkeep I sent her – this was a C Mon Monde design and seemed perfect for February and Valentine’s. It’s stitched on an unnamed bit of Silkweaver linen using Atalie threads (silk and cotton) as recommended on the chart. If you’ve never tried Atalie threads, I’d highly recommend them – their silk in particular is beautiful to stitch with. You can buy direct from the manufacturers (although they only process orders during the first 15 days of each month) or from the lovely Leena at her shop Violarium – Leena ships everywhere and really quickly. This was my first mattress pinkeep finish (with a little help from drooling over all your finishes out there, and from that special tutorial wizard, Vonna!)

So, the Crazy Exchange. You may remember me mentioning it – it is a group of assorted crafters based in Europe and the US, and the basic premise is: make something at any time, send it to anyone who is also in the Crazy Exchange, sit back and wait and within 30 days later your chosen partner will have made you something in return and posted it back to you. It’s a great little exchange, although slightly chaotic in nature (I think that’s intended, the clue’s in the name, ha ha). The group moderators have recently let us know that due to family considerations they are not going to be able to carry with the group. One of the exchangers, Jacqueline, has kindly stepped up and will take over the group, but I think I’ll hold off sending any further exchanges until things settle down a bit. I'm glad at any rate it isn't coming to an end.

Now, a Thursday has gone by since I last posted, so of course I’ve got my weekly update of Paradigm Lost which I’m stitching along with all the lovely ladies over at the Snowbird SAL. I was stitching with flying fingers this week, and I could definitely see the end was near (of the big motif I was stitching, not of the whole thing!) so I stayed up til gone midnight to finish up this motif – HURRAH! I’m so pleased with the fact that it’s now done!!

Now I’m on to page four, which is littered with little tiny and medium-sized motifs, so I should fly through that a little quicker than I got through page three!

Now, as you may remember from last month, Leena and I have a little ornament SAL between us, and this past weekend was our ornament weekend. I managed to stitch two small ornaments this month rather than one bigger one, so here is the second of Prairie Schooler’s 12 Days of Christmas, Two Turtle Doves:

And, on the scrappiest of small scraps of linen which I found in my stash, Lizzie*Kate’s ‘Joy’ ornament from the most recent JCS ornament issue.

I promised recently to show you the wonderful stacks of stash I treated myself to before Christmas and which have just arrived (long story – digressing, if you haven’t been to the LNS Report Card do go and visit, it’s a great resource for both online and bricks and mortar shops, and it gives you the low-down from other stitchers on just how good – or not – a shop is, and whether it is worth spending your hard-earned stash cash with them!). Here is the (not briliant) photo – too much to list, but essentially I treated myself to a large number of charts, some linen and some threads. Yum, I can’t wait to stitch it all! (Yes, I can hear you laughing in the background – what stitcher could ever hope to stitch everything in their hoard of stash!!)

Now this is getting to be a very long post, so just very quickly before I go, for those of you who are interested in this sort of thing, Periphaeria Designs is starting a Mystery Spanish Sampler which starts in mid-March. This could be quite fun… :)

Thanks for making it this far, I wish you a relaxing week and much happy stitching!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

A New Look for Spring!

Well, I live in hope anyway. But that grey was getting a bit dreary, and so I've gone for a new look.

Now I haven't managed to post for a few days (okay more than a week) because I've been finishing secret stitching projects - none of them have arrived, so I'm sorry but that's just going to have to remain a secret for a little bit longer. I hope to update you soon!

In the mists of time (last week), I did get around to doing a bit of stitching on Awake the Dawning Day, and I don't think I posted about it, so here it is: I stitched a little bit on Awake the Dawning Day! I'm aiming to stitch this at least once a month, so that is all done and dusted. Here is my progress, but you'd probably have to have the last progress photo right beside it in order to work out what has happened - essentially a lot of stitching on the house which isn't too interesting but has the plus side of being quite straightforward when you're not concentrating 100% on your stitching and devoting some of your interest on, say, Law & Order, or CSI.

Last week I also did my weekly Snowbird stitch on Paradigm Lost. It is progressing. Slowly. In fact, I believe that I started it nearly a year ago now, although I didn't seriously devote much time to it before this SAL started at the beginning of November. I am STILL stitching the endless motif on the right hand side - but the end is very nearly in sight. I should have all the cross stitches in this week - and then it's on to a sizeable backstitching job. Maybe a week or two left on it? Then, on to PAGE FOUR - Hurrah!

And, since it's February, and Nashville, I have been treating myself to a bit of stash recently - in a controlled manner! So I'm hoping for a few orders to arrive and I'll share that with you. I don't think I've shared any of my stash acquisition with you for ages. Don't worry, I haven't been neglecting my stash :)

Now, my back has been playing up most horrendously this week, but no sympathy please because the physio has given me a perfectly simple, straightforward, quick and easy set of exercises which really work and take the pain away like magic. As long as I do them every day, that is. Which I kind of haven't. So I'm off to contort myself womanfully, and hope that my back settles down very soon!

Happy stitching!

Sunday, 3 February 2008

More to Show You (Part 2)

Okay, here it is, part 2 of my very long post. This part is the exchange part - hurrah!

First, I received my Hooked on Exchanging scissor fob from Sandra all the way from Barbados! She's done an absolutely top job of the fob she sent me - not only a wonderful choice of pattern and luscious thread, but a great finishing job (check out that tassel!) AND a bunch of goodies! Thank you so much Sandra!!

Next up in the exchange category is my scissor fob that I stitched for Barbara Ana - she doesn't have a blog, but she is a designer (so no pressure there!!) and her website is here and has some really great freebies, as well as showing all her designs. Luckily, Barbara Ana took some photos of the fob I stitched her, because I finished it so late one night and then posted it first thing the next morning, and realised as soon as I dropped the envelope in the mailbox that I hadn't taken any photos of it!! So these photos are courtesy of Barbara Ana. I found out that Barbara Ana likes Prairie Schooler designs and Hallowe'en, so I found some perfect linen in my stash (Pumpkin Patch by Sugar Maple Designs) and stitched her up a fob using some small designs from Prairie Schooler 'Autumn Leaves'.

And, finally, I am so far on track for meeting my goal of initiating one Crazy Exchange per month - Virpi let me know that she received the needleroll I made her. Two firsts there - my first needleroll finish and her first needleroll received! Now I'm looking forward to what she sends me in return :) This is MTV Designs A Touch of Pink Needleroll stitched on 32ct Silkweaver 'Wandering Ivy' linen with Dinky Dyes 'Raspberry Ripple' and Kreinik metallic thread.

Right, phew, we're nearly there! Thursday has come and gone, so that means I have an update to share with you on my Snowbird SAL progress for Paradigm Lost. Getting there ever so slowly! I'm still working on the huge medallion on the right hand side, but the end is (nearly) in sight. There is a ton of backstitching to do on this particular one, so I reckon 2 more weeks and I'll be on to page 4. Yes!

And, finally, a few goals for February:

Snowbird SAL - stitch PL on Thursdays
Fair & Square Round 5 - stitch and send squares to Marg
Crazy Exchange - initiate one exchange
Christmas ornaments - stitch at least one ornament with Leena on our mini-SAL
More exchange stitching - make a start on 5 exchange projects, and send the one with the February sending date
Spanish Wine - spend at least one day stitching this
Awake the Dawning Day - spend at least one day stitching this
Gift - carry on with stitching one gift

Give yourself a pat on the back - you've reached the end! Well done and thanks for sticking with me :) Wishing you happy stitching for the coming week!