Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Musings...

I'm very late in posting a new blog entry.  Since Halloween, I have been on the go...designing, stitching, teaching, thinking, working, sewing, designing, stitching, wrapping, shopping, cooking, cleaning, reading, designing, stitching....it goes on and on...you know the drill!

So, here I am, 5 days before Christmas, and although I have new designs that I am very excited about, I am saving them for the January TNNA Needlework Market.  I feel bad seeing orange leaves and halloween landscapes still posted on my blog, so I decided to share a few winter images and thoughts.

Here are photos of winter scenes where I live. We typically get snow several times a season..but so far, none this year.  I've accompanied these photos with notes I wrote in 2000 when I was enrolled in a creative writing class.  I share these 'winter musings' with you and hope you find inspiration in your surroundings too.

                                                        The Garden in White

"Eight to ten inches of piled on white.  It is melting now, a little, but when I woke this morning, the world was a magical place.  The backyard fence was transformed into a netting of exquisite lacework; darning patterns, open stitches in neat rowed conformity.
  


The oak and cedar trees were laden with white as well.   No lace there among their branches; only large balled clumps, deliberately placed, as if this tree, this limb, were designated storage for the stuff.


Now birds are beginning to move about.  I saw a tiny lone bird this morning, hopping underneath the lawn chair, under the eves of the porch.   It was as if lost and not knowing where to find companionship.  Now black crows are darting in and out of trees, their blackness a magnificent contrast to the pristine white.

I measured an 8" depth with my ruler this morning. I ventured outside into the cold crispness in my bathrobe and open toed sandals.  Had to measure!  If I were a child, I would be romping about in it, but I am perfectly happy to just gaze now and take in all this beauty.


The water is still running over the rocks in the pond Ron built last summer.  The $200 pump is doing it's job, circulating water from horse trough pond, up through the rusty pump, down over the mini mountain of boulders; a cycle that delights birds and even a snake that we know of.  There are seven goldfish in the pond, cozy I hope, under their blanket of waterlilies and water hyacinth.

Today, I will relax and enjoy this white world for as long as it lasts.  We are without electricity for the time being.  Oh well...laundry has to wait.  What shall I occupy myself with first?  My book, or my stitching?"
                                                              ~The End~

I don't remember what I chose to do...but as much as I love to read, I love to stitch more.  I bet I chose stitching!  What would you do, on a snow bound day?

Happy Holidays...and whatever you do to celebrate, I wish you happiness and joy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is Halloween still here?

Today I took a walk out into the  Coronado National Forest adjacent to my home.  It is November, according to the calendar, but I had to wonder!  Everywhere I looked today, I saw evidence of October's  seasonal celebration:  Halloween! 

Did you know that Halloween designs are the best selling canvases in the needlepoint world?  Yes!  I think it is a tribute to our desire to have fun and forget the cares of the world!  There are lots of reasons for celebration, but this is the only one I know of, where children and adults alike can dress up in crazy costumes and just have crazy fun!  There isn't a serious side to this event, as far as I can tell, unlike most other holidays. 

Here is what I encountered on my hike:
Does the blue sky get more gorgeous than this?   The grasses are brittle and dry as bones!

    
I was warned, several times!


My shoe laces were untied one time too many on the trail by this guy! Mr. Cat Claw!  One has to side step his nasty swipes!

There were sharp dangerous things all around!


And wispy, ghosty things!


A charred black skeleton and orange decorations!

Oh my gosh!  Here is a skull!



More orange decor! 





This reeks of a witch to me!  A cauldron of sorts?  Lime green acid brew?
An ingredient for that Witch's brew, or is this something she brewed up?

The only wildlife I saw today were these coal black grasshoppers!

With Blood Red underwings!


And what creature was this?  Coatimundi?  Racoon? Creature from outer space?



Whew!  I'm home now!  As far as I'm concerned, Halloween is over for another year! 
Now I'm working on Christmas!
But you'll have to wait awhile to see it!



Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
PS...I'm teaching "Summer" this weekend at BeStitched in Scottsdale!  Check it out here!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Have Needlepoint, Will Travel!

Last year, about this time, I was in Florida having a grand time visiting my daughter and her family.  Florida in Fall is Fabulous!  This year, I'm going to be traveling as well, but I'll be going to Austin, TX, which I've heard, is pretty fabulous too!

Fortunately, all those wildfires are now over, and I hope the smoke in the air is gone for good!  My heart goes out to all the people whose homes were lost in that terrible tragedy.  It is hard for me to even imagine the devastation and loss.

I'm going to focus on bringing some stitching joy to Austin, and The NeedleWorks, where I'll be teaching my little fall fashion icon, Pumpkin Spice.  There are so many wonderful threads, techniques, beads, colors, and embellishments to use on this piece.  I am excited to share what I have learned in designing and stitching it.

The class will be held on Oct. 1st and 2nd, and from what I've heard, the shop is nothing short of a  stitching paradise...warm, welcoming, inspiring in every way.  The owner, Colleen Church, designed it to be that way, from scratch!  I can hardly wait to get there, and hope to see you there too!


When I look at this piece, I can't help but remember my little grandson who was so captivated by the project.  I had brought it with me to stitch (one cannot leave stitching home alone!), and this child has loved 'punkins' since he was a baby.  I mean, he LOVES them!  He was by my side every moment I brought it out, helping me pull the needle through the canvas, putting a bead on when needed, helping me select the colors.   He was the best helper!


 He was so enthralled with the idea of stitching his own punkin, that I helped him do just that!  He painted his own canvas, and learned to stitch his very own piece!  I blogged about this before, but I'm posting some of the photos again because ....I Can!





 That year, we went to TWO punkin patches to find the perfect punkins to decorate the house with.  I was in punkin heaven myself!  Never have I seen so many beautiful pumpkins and so many varieties!  Arizona just does not seem to get such a bounty to choose from. 


Well, no matter......whether we ever see such a gorgeous variety of punkin produce or not in Arizona, Miss Pumpkin Spice has enough gorgeous variety and color in her own right!  She will grace my home with fall flavor...maybe I'll even catch a wiff of cooler air when I look at her.  And  of course, she will always hold my precious memories....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Summer Flowers

Teaching "Summer Flowers" at BeStitched this weekend in Scottsdale, AZ was a highlight of my summer!  Yes..I'm still counting September as Summer, although technically, it ushers Fall.  My husband told me that the temps dropped down into the 50's at our house Saturday night, while I was gone!

I think all of my students, as well as myself, were very happy with the experience we collectively shared at BeStitched.  I'm now referring to the shop as the "SPA Stitching Store" because those BeStitched ladies know how to pamper!  My oh My!  We were all indulged with little gifts, gourmet lunches, snacks, drinks, superior customer service, and a beautiful ambiance that included stunning fresh flower arrangements, bright natural lighting, plush seating, and charming, colorful decor.



My class was great!  The women who attended were eager and willing to learn new techniques,  seeming to enjoy themselves and the project.  I appreciated their positive attitudes and positive feedbacks!  There are few activites more satisfying than spending a day with friends, stitching, learning, AND being catered to, as Lisa and Jeannine were prone to do! 



Have you ever been served an upside down scrumptious cupcake?  As Jeannine remarked, "More Frosting!"



I'm sharing two videos that were filmed during my class presentation.  These are tips for techniques that can be utilized by any stitcher.  The first one shown here deals with an easy way to enlarge a canvas hole without breaking the threads.




video

 Click the link below for advice on how to choose the right decorative paper to create a custom mat for your needlework (or any artwork, I might add!).

  http://youtu.be/mPyOin8JUok

Next on the docket:  Teaching "Pumpkin Spice" at NeedleWorks in Austin, TX!  Check back next week for a new blog post on that project.  By then, summer will definitely be over, and fall will have arrived!  At least in my mind!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Wild and Lovely Neglected Garden

The summer is nearly over, and my neglected little backyard garden has gone wild!  It is overgrown with grasses and volunteers from past grown flowers.   I have abandoned it totally for the past three summers, always thinking that THIS year, I will tend it like a loving gardener would.

My garden tends itself, it seems.  It flourishes in spite of my neglect and good intentions.  The summer rains have brought color and beauty to this little patch of untended ground.   I can't complain.  I have chosen to do other things with my time.  I do pull weeds on occasion.  I even pick some of the flowers and bring them inside to enjoy.  But, mostly, I am either painting canvases, stitching my designs, designing new things, or tending to my extended family who live an hour away.





Look at that stunning bud in the above photo!  The actual little flower pales compared to that precious star!  This is a weed, but I love it!

I've always cherished a garden.  Such was the inspiration for these two canvases which I introduced years ago.  For some reason, these two canvases have never sold well at the trade shows where I've displayed them.  I've always been puzzled by this.  I see them stitched with glorious color, with lush stitches, and amazing fibers:  silk ribbons, velvet threads, transparent overlays, and of course, humble cotton flosses.  But overdyed cotton flosses!   I see them finished and framed, hanging in a hallway, leading to the back door, and out to the back yard garden.  I see them turned into charming pillows,  embellished with ruffles or pom poms, propped on a wicker settee in a sun room.  I see them as the garden I WOULD have if I were not so busy stitching!



And to that point, I have been stitching wildly myself.  So many canvases, so little time! Time! 
I do love to stitch, and I also love to teach.  I'm teaching my design, Summer Flowers on
Sept. 10, 2011 at  Be Stitched in Scottsdale, AZ.  (www.BeStitchedNeedlepoint.com)

                                                         We will be turning this canvas:

                                                                       
                                                                         Into This:


I would love to see you there! 

I figure if we fill our time with that which we love, our hearts will be as a beautiful garden, don't you think?  Ok, Ok, that was corny!  How about this:  If you can't manage to find time to at least stitch a garden like Summer Flowers,  much less cultivate a real one, then, I say, BUY a flower for your lapel.  Make mine diamonds, amethyst and rubies!





Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It ain't knitting, people!

I've been wondering what to write about for my next blog stitching entry.  Today, I came up with the answer.   One of my sisters sent me a link to a very funny blog....

   This one:  http://thebloggess.com/2011/06/and-thats-why-you-should-learn-to-pick-your-battles/

I laughed my head off, and then posted it to my Facebook page.  Got several comments from my friends who also found it to be hilarious!  One friend even said I should design a needlepoint chicken.  Well, I have designed a chicken...in fact, several of them. 

Another Facebook entry today, posted by my famous friend, Sharon G, also gave me pause and ideas to expound upon.  She reported taking her needlepoint stitching along when she took her husband to his physical therapy appointments, which are quite lengthy in time frames spent away from home.  Unfortunately, she was not able to get much stitching done because of the high interest her work was generating amongst other people in the room.  "Is that knitting?" they would ask.   "Why aren't you using a hoop?"  or my favorite:  "Do  you sell those at flea markets?"

Gotta love it!  Plus, gotta educate people as to what needlepoint is all about in this fine day and age!  Certainly, as my other famous friend, Ruth Schmuff says, "It's Not Your Grandmother's Needlepoint!"  And indeed it is not!

But back to the chickens....
Here is my stitched chicken design which was released a number of years ago.  Whoops!  I guess I should clarify..this is a rooster chicken, not a hen chicken, just in case you didn't know.  He's titled:

                                                                 The Happy Rooster
                               
                                             

As you can see, he has some pretty fine feathers.  I used some non traditional fibers in stitching him, amongst them, three kinds of knitting yarns, some silk ribbons, and a needlepointer's favorite: Flair, which for those in the know, is really panty hose.  Yes..the same stuff that panty hose (does anyone actually wear those anymore?  I haven't for YEARS!  and hope I don't anytime soon, either!, but I digress...) the same stuff that panty hose is made from.  Flair, however, comes in a huge range of beautiful colors, and is so versatile for creating many beautiful effects in a stitched piece.  It has been around for years, and IS a traditional needlepoint fiber, at least, in my opinion.  

Another tidbit of information to be inserted right about now, is the fact that all needlepoint yarns and specialty fibers being used today ARE actually knitting yarns.  For instance, the tail feathers on Mr. Happy Rooster are a fine, whispy eyelash knitting yarn, repackaged (at the time) as a needlepoint fiber.  Sadly, that company is no longer doing business.  But, I'm certain there are similar ones to be found in a specialty knitting shop.  So many fibers...so many projects...never enough time!

"Knitting", it turns out, is a term that most human people who do not stitch ascribe to any kind of needlework.  Even educated ones, such as the surgeon who operated on Sharon G's husband not long ago.  Again, she had her stitching with her, and when he asked what she was 'knitting', she "tried to explain but ended up telling him, 'Look, Dr. Bob, it is like this:  We are both in the sewing business.  You sew people.  I sew needlepoint." 

Which leads me to my funny story and how my rooster got his name.  I may have written about this before, come to think of it.  But never mind, it bears repeating!

I would often take my stitched pieces to a wonderful photo copy store where they were proficient in scanning art work and capturing all the fine detail.  As I was waiting in line that day, my piece also generated lots of interest from other customers.  As I explained it was needlepoint, one elderly sweet man said he knew right where I could sell it!  "Oh? I replied.  "Where would that be?"  

"Right down the road a few miles to The Happy Rooster breakfast diner", he said. "I was just there and I know they would love it!"  

It struck my fancy that day and my piece had a title!  He is indeed a happy rooster!   I'm still laughing when I think on the innocence of the non stitching humans we encounter, whether they be surgeons or that cute little man who just came from having his coffee and most delicious eggs!





Monday, July 4, 2011

Everything Old is ....

You know that old saying...."Everything Old is New Again?"  Well, it just isn't true!  I'm sorry, Old is Old.  I'm old so where are my old, new knees?  Where are my old, new youthful cheeks?  My old, new slim waistline?  Gone.  All gone, and they aren't coming back! 

Sigh.  I suppose whomever said that, wasn't thinking of me.  I think they might have been thinking about fashion, or literature, or furniture, or maybe even....needlepoint designs?  You see, I'm currently painting an 'old' design for a customer.  This is a design that I created in 1993, and I have not painted it for at least 13 years..maybe longer.  But, here I am, painting what I hope is a timeless design that appeals to those who love nostalgia and the softer side of life.

Oh oh!  There I go again!  I'm definitely enjoying the softer side of life right now, and it ain't so pretty.  But this young lady is pretty, and I love painting her again. 

The canvas is quite large, as canvases go.  28"X36".  I'm painting it on 14mesh canvas.  You might say, why not #13?  Well, in my humble opinion, you just cannot get the fine detail when you produce a design like this on #13.  The original is on #18, but #14 is working out just fine. 

Do you remember when you were a child (particularly if you were a girl), of dressing your cat in doll clothes?  (The poor little things!)  What little girl didn't do that?  Oh yes...those were the good 'ol days.  In the good 'ol days, I never had hair like this little girl, but I can sure paint it.  That's the beauty of being an artist.  You can create anything you like!

I hope the stitcher will love bringing this nostalgic scene to life with wonderful threads, ribbons, and interesting stitches.  And I hope the stitcher will get busy on it right away, before I'm too old to remember that I designed and painted it!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Levels....

Yesterday, while I was wiling away some hours in two airports, I perused the internet on my iPad and the June issue of Elle Decor that I purchased in an airport kiosk.  I did not have my stitching because I packed it into my checked luggage.  The piece I took to work on is a bit large so I just packed it for the return trip home, and prayed for no lost luggage!  

The magazine had a very interesting article about an amazing artist;  Lucy Williams, a British woman whose work boggles the mind.  She is a mixed media artist, specializing in collage.  What caught my eye particularly, was this photograph of her piece entitled Diving Pool:
I hope you can see it clearly, but look closely.  The sky is all needlepointed in tent stitches!  The rest of the composition is layered and pasted cut bits of paper!  Stunning, isn't it!  And I find it exciting to see an artist incorporating stitching into a gallery piece.  I don't know what her work sells for, as each time I saw one of her works posted on the internet, (because I had to see more!) instructions were to contact the featured gallery for prices.  Wow!  That makes me think gazillions of dollars!


The Elle Decor article quoted her describing how she 'farmed' out the needlepointed sky to friends to do for her, while she concentrated on the other collage details.  She remarked how quickly each friend would return it to her, unfinished, saying how boring the stitching was, time consuming, and not something they were interested in doing.  I had to laugh, because a few years ago, Sundance 'farmed' out a piece of mine to a woman who had stitched models for them on occasion.  She also returned it rather quickly, saying the tent stitching was driving her crazy and that she hated it!

Hmmmmm.  Maybe it is because I do so many other techniques when stitching, that I find tent stitching or basketweave a 'relief' of sorts.  The mindless stitching is soothing and relaxing when one is compelled to stitch, but too tired to think.  In any case, I studied that sky for quite a while and the stitching is beautifully done.  I wonder if the artist had to rip out her friends' work, and just do it herself?  You know...if you want something done, then just do it yourself, (said the little red hen)?  And I would add,  "if you want it done right!"

My internet searches led me to another British artist, Inge Jacobsen, who takes the covers of Vogue magazines, and stitches directly onto the paper.   While she does this with cross stitches, the resulting work is rather amazing as well.  It transforms a slick glossy image into a tactile, dimensional piece of art.  Not that the photography isn't, but see what a little cotton floss and the repetition of stitches can do:


This work sort of reminds me of my own experiments with stitching paper images, that I blogged about not that long ago.  (March 21, 2011, Something New...Something Springy)  I urge you all to try it because it is really fun.

On that note, let me also urge you to take your needlework to the next level, whatever that level might be for you.  Perhaps you have not tried silk ribbon yet in your stitching, or perhaps you have yet to incorporate beads into your pieces.  Have you tried open stitches with complementary thread colors on a painted canvas rather than matching thread to paint?  Try it for some beautiful artistic effects!
 
Whatever you do, do not be afraid.  Some of the best things happen as a result of unintended occurrences  that we call "mistakes." 







Thursday, April 28, 2011

IN HONOR OF....

Today I was in a mood! After speaking briefly with Wendy of Aristeia, and she told me she was going to be watching The Wedding long distance with her good girlfriend back east, and also, because I had just subscribed to a wonderful new emag from Great Britian, I found myself 'in the mood' to celebrate too!

The magazine is called Bustle and Sew, and is truly a delightful little publication. Thank you De Selby of Spool magazine for alerting me to it! Here is a the web address to the Bustle and Sew blog. From there you can preview the magazine.

http://bustleandsew.blogspot.com

Here is a web address for the website of Spool magazine.

www.spoolmag.com

I highly recommend this publication to anyone who enjoys any type of needlework...from crochet, knitting, quilting, cross stitch, needlepoint...to name but a few! (Plus I am featured in the latest Spring issue! she modestly says...)

But I digress. On with IN HONOR OF.....
So, I printed and made a penant banner of paper flags, courtesy of Helen of Bustle and Sew mag. I hung them up on the frame of the wrought iron canopy bed in our guest room. My husband watches tv in that room, and I did this to lovingly annoy him! He is SO not interested in The Wedding!




But, to get back into his good graces, I made a batch of scones for His Grace. I don't bake often, so this was a big deal at our house. Boy, did the house smell divine! I made Butterscotch chip and walnut scones. He was very happy this afternoon when he had some for an afternoon snack! And he was reading Dickens, his favorite author in all the world, as he enjoyed his snack. He was dying to find out what happened to Little Emily!




Finally, this blogpost would not be complete unless I posted (again!) my most Princessy of Princess canvas designs ...My Princess Chandelier. One of these days, I will stitch it with all the glorious threads available to us stitchers, and embellish it with all the equally glorious beads, sequins and jewels (think Sundance Designs for your embellishing needs!). Perhaps you might decide to do so also before I can get around to it! It would certainly be a royal effort..and priceless, don't you think?



Monday, March 21, 2011

Something new...Something Springy!

Yesterday was the First Day of Spring!  That's what my calendar said anyway.  It was a cool, blustery day..and yes, it is still March, so why should I have been worrying about the wind?  This has been the strangest winter...the coldest on record for us here in Southern Arizona.  And then, last week, our temps were in the high 80's...the earliest highs on record!  Very strange indeed!  What kind of summer will we have?   Today, the forecast says there is even a possibility for rain, but our clear blue skies belie that fact!

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some springtime cheer!  I'm ready to get outside and smell the flowers, hear the birds, dig in the dirt, and eat some new asparagus!  I'm also ready for a new stitching project!

I am working on a proposal now for the San Diego chapter of ANG, but I can't show it, of course.  Rather, I thought I would share a stitching project of a different sort.  You might find this project strange too, but if you want some fun...and diversion...here you go!

Go through your magazines and pull out images that appeal to you.  I  particularly like flora and fauna, but other images like that dress form or the  little cakes sparked my imagination.
Next,  place the chosen images (or image) on one sticky side of a piece of double sided fusible webbing.  Steam a Seam2 is one I am familiar with, but there are many such products on the market.  (remove the protective paper from one side of the webbing and lay the images on that...follow manufacturer's directions for the product you use.)  Cut around your images,  leaving the back side of the webbing paper in place.  After the images are cut out, remove the remaining paper backing on the webbing and place the images face side up on the right side of a piece of coordinating cotton fabric.  Put a pressing cloth over the entire thing, and fuse the images to the fabric with a hot steam iron.  Choosing the fabric that compliments the image is part of the fun for me!  I love, love, love fabric!

Next, select your sharpest embroidery needles to accommodate different sized threads and fibers from your stash.  You need a sharp needle, not a tapestry needle, because you will be piercing through the  paper and fabric layers.   With a finger on top of the spot where you want to stitch,  place the needle underneath the image with your other hand, and begin to slowly poke through to the top, feeling your upper finger for placement.  (Wow..does that make sense?  I hope so!)  If you make a mistake in placement, no worries...it will leave a little hole, but who cares? Just keep stitching!

You can see what I have done in the following images.  I used silk ribbons, floss, boucle, and any thread that looked interesting. I even added seed beads for extra embellishment.  Often, only one ply of floss was needed and was very effective.   After all the stitching has been completed, (you can add as much or as little as you like..no rules here!) trim the piece to the desired finished size.   Frame it and enjoy.  Enjoy too, all the comments you will receive from amazed and duly impressed viewers!




                                                         Have a HAPPY SPRING!