Tuesday, February 14, 2017

You Gotta Have Heart(s)!

This year our Guild was presented with a "Heart Challenge", a gentle invitation to stitch any design that incorporates at least one heart.  From what I hear, members have been having a good time with this, stitching without any pressure but with a common goal and with kind thoughts in mind.   I chose to stitch "Heart Collector" by one of my favourite designers, Jeannette Douglas - it's a small band sampler using at least a dozen specialty stitches.  The colours are luscious and it was such a pleasure to pick this up each day in the short dark days of January and add another heart to the assortment.  

I'll  have more stitching photos next time, but this time, here's a collection of figurines that I received many years ago - I have the supplies on hand now to stitch a reproduction sampler incorporating the same theme of the Flight Into Egypt - most appropriate at this time of Epiphany in the church year calendar.  

And here's some recent stitching after all - By the Bay's Winter Hill.  The sheltering tree on the hillside and the rabbit leaping through the snow reminds me of our own backyard.   

And finally, a reminder of one of the pleasures of cold midwinter evenings - candles on a dinner table - a pool of warmth and glowing light when it's -30 outside ......

Please don't hesitate to leave  comments or to send along a message - I enjoy hearing from you and visiting your blogs. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

And here we are at Summer into Autumn - Beatrix Potter, more samplers, and summer travels.

Today was one of those glorious September days, with moderate temperatures, clear blue skies, and leaves starting to turn gold - some of the trees were already entirely changed into their autumn splendour.  Our springtime wish for more moisture was fulfilled more than we could imagine, with record rainfalls in July, and even now our grass is green and thriving, most unusual for late summer in this prairie and foothills region.  

And stitching, of course continues :)  One highlight for me was a celebration of Beatrix Potter's 150th birthday at a summer Guild meeting.  Not only was Beatrix a remarkable artist and author, but also a keen botanical illustrator with a special expertise in fungi and mushrooms.  She was also a sheep breeder and farmer in the Lake District and an early benefactor of the National Trust.  And in addition, she not only appreciated and displayed needlework in her home, but was a stitcher herself, and researched historic clothing at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for The Tailor of Gloucester, my own favourite of all of her books.  In honour of Beatrix Potter (Mrs. William Heelis in her later life), I've included a photograph of a little figurine of Benjamin Bunny owned by a dear stitching friend. 

My project I've mentioned before, of the schoolgirl sampler originally stitched by a girl whose family were early farmers in Ontario, is now finished, but I'll include it here when I have more photographs of the area where she lived (this research is in preparation for a presentation to our Sampler Guild later this year).  Janet Burnet, the Scottish sampler reproduced by The Scarlet Letter, gets some attention from time to time when the light is especially good and I can focus on the careful counting needed for the lovely design. 

Misty Mountain
But I do indeed have several other pieces completed, especially three designed by Jeannette Douglas, the Calgary designer who's increasingly appreciated by a worldwide community of keen stitchers.  The first one here is a tiny earlier design, Misty Mountain - I love it for its evocative tones that remind me of the mountains close by, and for the specialty stitches that add the textural elements that are so essential for those of us who want our stitching to have not only beautiful colours and a pleasing design, but a tactile dimension as well.  

Appalachian Spring
Jeannette's Appalachian Spring design has become another favourite, with its title  reminder of Aaron Copland's orchestral suite, and its colour choices the cheerful hues of spring flowers.   Not quite as tiny as Misty Mountain, it's an exquisitely delicate piece - I'm still looking for the perfect frame for it, though I may yet decide to add hemstitching to it for a needleroll or pillow finish.   

Toronto Sampler
And finally, the larger-than-I'd-realized-it-would-be "Toronto Sampler" - so many motifs that remind me of my home town - some historic, like Casa Loma, some natural, like the harbour, some iconic and more modern, like the CN Tower.  And having lived in Toronto for many years, each element holds many memories too - dances and tours at Casa Loma; many many miles travelled back and forth to school and work on the "red rockets" - the streetcars and trolley buses; strolls along the waterfront and ferry rides across to The Island for picnics; the colourful markets, the beautiful public gardens - so much to enjoy and appreciate.   I'm not sure yet whether I'll frame this piece or make it into a wall-hanging or banner.  And please excuse my photographs here - I'll try for better ones in a different light before long, and the linen will smooth out in the framing or lacing process that's still to be done.     

Two other recent finishes still need beads and/or charms to complete them - Charland's Gratitude Sampler and By the Bay's Winter Hill.   

We've travelled to some of our western destinations this summer again - to a friend's ranch in the foothills of the Rockies for the yearly gathering for cattle work in the corrals; to the Cypress Hills of southern Saskatchewan for a visit to one of our favourite places, with dear friends, flowers, bees, extensive vegetable gardens, chickens, pigeons, dogs and cats, even llamas;  and to local beauty spots closer to home - we even discovered a well-hidden botanical garden only a short distance down the road.   

Until next time, do enjoy your own stitching and other creative joys,  and please add a comment or contact me if you have any questions about the designs or anything else I've mentioned - I love to hear from my special group of readers any time! 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Winter into spring - Scott, Tennyson, violets, roses, and shamrocks.

Although it's mostly spring here now, I know there are other parts of the country where snow's still falling - and I won't discount the possibility of spring snowstorms here, either.  We're actually hoping for moisture of some kind, as the ranchers and farmers could certainly use more, and even our town gardens and lawns need extra after a winter that's been drier than usual.  So I decided that posting my latest finish, a winter one, would still be OK.  This is a contemporary piece designed by Brenda Gervais (Country Stitches/With Thy Needle and Thread) - "Heap on the Wood".  The verse is taken from Sir Walter Scott's lengthy narrative poem Marmion.  I'll finish it either as a framed piece or as a  wall-hanging and hope to have it in place by December for Christmas. It's fairly large, and I'll probably hang it over the mantel of our fireplace. 
In a more spring-like vein, I don't think I've ever posted yet a photo of my completed  "Violet Sampler" from The Drawn Thread,  stitched with silks on one of the most beautiful pieces of coloured linen I've ever had in my hands.   Not the best of images, but it gives you some idea (I'll be taking it in for framing this month).  It has a several glass pale amethyst hearts, as well as a gold-toned dragonfly charm (we're hoping that it won't be too long before we see dragonflies outside again....)  
The verse, from Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam, reads:  "Now fades the last of winter's snow, And thick by ashen roots the violets grow." 

The "quick stitch of the month" is  My Pink Rose, from Blackbird Designs - a small piece (probably for a pin-cushion or pillow) that was fun to do on a polka-dot linen:  
I'm back to more of my reproduction/historic-influenced sampler stitching now, but I'll wait till next time to show progress on a schoolgirl sampler from rural Ontario as well as Janet Burnet, an elegant Scottish sampler from the early 19th century.  
In the meantime, enjoy a cup of tea - perhaps some Irish Breakfast in a shamrock teacup.  And as usual, I love to hear from readers, either in the comments section or by email.  Till later ..... 
Dianne in Canada



Friday, February 12, 2016

All about stitching (lots!) Pour yourself some tea ......

Well, it is a little dusty around here, isn't it?   But it won't take long to set straight - just give me a few minutes to pull together a few photos of what I've been working on over the past few months.   You might pour yourself a little cup of tea first ...... 

2015 continued to be one of those "interesting" years, but in spite of various distractions and a trip across the country, I did manage to do some stitching.  Most of it still needs to have a final finish, either by framing or by sewing - plans for those are coming along, although finishing isn't my favourite part (and I know I'm not alone in that!)

This first project was a needleroll from Shepherd's Bush, personalized with family names and given as a special present this past autumn.  I finished it myself (and even learned how to do the hemstitching!).  

 Next up was an older long-out-of-print Earth Threads pattern  - Betsy Stinner was a remarkable designer and I thoroughly enjoyed following her pattern that used several specialty stitches with five shades of over-dyed cottons. 
 From a contemporary designer, Paulette Stewart (Plum Street Samplers), comes The BeeKeeper, another pattern that was a joy to stitch. 
 Continuing with bees, I continued to work on Charland's Beehive sampler, a narrow band sampler.  It's not quite finished yet, but I can tell already that it will be another favourite (perhaps they all are!)  
 Several of our Guild members have stitched La-D-Da's "Live Laugh Love" design, and I finally finished my own this year - the Gloriana silks (only three colours) were lovely to work with.   In this photograph it's still on the scroll rods that I use occasionally. 

This tiny ornament, Peace on Earth, from Olde Colonial designs, was mostly over one, and included the lovely burl frame.   I'm tempted to leave it out all year round - the frame has an easel back and is currently on top of my bookshelf.

Lizzie Kate's My Secret Garden was a gift for a special person at Christmas - Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden had been one of her favourite books growing up, and this modern interpretation was just right for her. 
Jeannette Douglas' wonderful Toronto Sampler is almost finished - just a few charms and beads to add.   I love the reminders of my hometown - the Princes' Gates at the CNE, the CN Tower, the harbour, the Canada Geese (maybe at High Park?), the "red rockets" that I often rode on to get around the city, and of course Casa Loma, as well as many other features that Jeannette enlarges on in her notes.   As usual with Jeannette's designs, the specialty stitches are outlined in clear detail.  I'm looking forward to stitching several other of her Canadian-themed designs - Pacific, Prairie, and Northern Samplers are lined up in my basket ready to start this year.  
There were a couple of other pieces too (including one entirely in Hebrew for a special international project), but I don't have photographs of those to share at the moment.   

I'm currently working on Country Stitches "Heap on the Wood", featuring a verse from Sir Walter Scott's Marmion - this primitive-style design will be just right over our fireplace for next winter.  Here's a photo of my progress on it - there's still about half of the design that remains to be stitched. 
Phew!  That's it for now - I promise not to go on quite as long the next time!    

Our winter's been fairly easy this year - although we still have snow on the ground, the cold hasn't been  intense, and we've even had record highs during the past week.  But we still have the remainder of February and March and April to come, the months when we historically have our heaviest snowfall - maybe lots more time for stitching before spring yet!  

Hope that everyone's keeping well!  Till later .......


Monday, April 13, 2015

At least I'm consistent .....

Consistency is about all I can claim at the moment - my last post was April 13, 2014, and here I am exactly a year later :) 

First of all,  for a little touch of spring, here's our table centre from a previous year. 

This past year has been, shall we say, "interesting" with several family matters that needed major attention.   However, through it all I was still able to keep stitching, albeit with some less detailed and smaller pieces than I'd started on earlier in 2014.   For a start, here's a little needlebook I stitched for our Guild exchange in March of 2015.  
We'd exchanged names back in September of 2014 and were asked to stitch a needlebook of any size and design - I chose Sharon Cohen's Sampler Name Tag (from Nostalgic Needle) as the base for mine - the person I was stitching for had expressed a preference for some blue in hers, and said she liked pomegranates and Tudor roses, and this design included all of those!  The stiches used in it were cross-stitch over 1 and over 2, long-armed cross-stitch, satin stitch, eyelet stitch, Queen stitch, straight stitch, backstitch, and double running (possibly a couple of others I've forgotten as well!).  I did like the way it turned out, and the finishing detail of a wrapped silk ribbon. 

Well, that at least makes sure I'm current on one post, and I do (really!) have plans to post more before April of 2016!  Watch this space :)   And thanks to those who emailed me to see if everything was ok - thanks for your concerns, and I hope I haven't missed answering anyone who wrote.  

Till later .....

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Photos on an April Evening

After publishing my latest post, I heard from an old friend who wondered if I'd ever taken photos of a few pieces I'd given to her many years ago.  Needless to say,  I was thrilled to be able to add the photos she sent along to my albums.  In those days, I was doing mostly needlepoint - here are some of them:

This is an eyeglass case stitched with Paternayan Persian yarn  - I'd made several of them in those days, and use my own now for sunglass holders.  The case itself was pre-made - thankfully I didn't have to insert the zipper myself! 

Eyeglass case
Union Jack pincushion

 My friend is British, and we had many happy times together when we lived in the same small town, and later during longer holiday visits, watching films and comparing British literature selections that we'd read and loved.   Appropriately enough, this needlepoint pincushion still has a place on her living-room bookcase. 
Butterfly bell pull

This bell-pull was a favourite of mine (and hers too, I know now) - done with basketweave stitch using Paternayan Persian wools.  My friend said that her grand-daughter uses it as a height measurement all the time, noticing which butterfly she's now "up to" ("Grandma, I'm up to the blue one now!")  - I was delighted to hear that this piece was still being displayed and enjoyed thirty years after I'd stitched it.

Now back to some counted cross-stich projects that I've finished up just recently.

This pincushion, from Cherished Stitches' Feathered Friends series, incorporates the thought:  "Be you to others kind and true, As you would have others be to you."  It's resting on a background of a chenille shawl woven by one of my sisters - aren't the colours gorgeous!   

Cherished Stitched Feathered Friends (September)
Little House Needleworks Snow White
 This was an easy quick stitch that I'll either frame or make up into a pillow.  The fabric is a Silkweaver evenweave (Blueberry Lugana) that I was given several years ago, and the threads are a combination of DMC and Kreinik blending filament (hard to see this one in my photo - the bunny has some of this glittery accent added). 
TeaTime Sampler - Threads Through Time

Another little quick stitch, using DMC on linen,  adapted from a Nancy Sturgeon Threads through Time pattern (originally designed for a high-count silk gauze).  This will fit into a small frame that I'll use as an accent on my tea-table occasionally.  I may stitch it again soon in another combination of colours, perhaps aqua with green.   

And finally, Monasterium's Four Seasons Quaker is finished and off the stitching frame!  The colours are very different than the ones portrayed on the pattern cover .  For my own version, I thought about what represented the seasons on the prairies for me and chose these four.  The very subtle, barely-there soft green of early spring, the paler  yellows of the ripening wheat and barley, the terra-cotta of our autumn hillsides, and the cool blues of our long frosty winters.   If anything, the colours are even  softer than this image would suggest.  The silk threads are a combination of Gloriana and Belle Soie , on a Legacy Linen Puritan Grey ground.

And that's all the photos for now - I'm currently pinning and mounting several other pieces for framing, and continuing to stitch on one or two larger projects. 

Have a blessed Holy Week, with the anticipation of a wonderful Easter Sunday.

Friday, February 21, 2014

February Potpourri

My attempts to write the Perfect Blog Post After Not Posting For Ages have been futile, so I'll just jump back in, natter on a bit, and show some photos of a few things I'm playing around with :)

 Since the summer, I've been taking care of a few family matters, travelling for a short holiday, and visiting family a couple of thousand miles away for an extended trip.   I've stitched a few pieces - finished some smaller ones and kept going on the larger projects.  Some of these have been simpler designs that I could work on without a magnifier and in less light than I'm accustomed to.  And while I was away, I was able to photograph several pieces I'd given as gifts years ago - here's one of them, a needlepoint bell pull:

 And another, a little Christmas ornament that the recipient displays year-round - the yearning for "Peace" knows no season - 

With one of our extended family currently living in Sweden, I've explored more deeply my interest in Scandinavia and the Nordic regions that dates back from high school years when I had a pen-friend in Norway.   Anne Barbro from Bergen sent me a pewter brooch - don't you love the scene? 

Vintage Norwegian pewter brooch
 Here's a little ornament (not yet finished off) with Scandinavian motifs - I stitched a couple of these while flying.
Ornament from "Scandinavian Stitches"

 I've also been reading and cooking from several Scandinavian cookbooks - Beatrice Ojakangas, of course, and also books by Andreas Vierstad,  Trina Hahnemann  and Camilla Plum, as well as one of my favorites, the Northern-themed Roast Figs Sugar Snow, by Diana Henry.   As much as I love the root vegetables and many of the flavours featured in dishes from that region,  I do draw the line at lutefisk:  at one time we lived in an area that had strong Norwegian roots, but the annual lutefisk supper was an experience we denied ourselves ....   One advantage of that area was that such cooking implements as krumkake and rosette irons were as easily available at the local hardware store as a toaster or kettle - I still make both treats occasionally with the kitchen tools bought there all those years ago.  

In other stitching, I finished a Victoria Sampler piece, Blackberry Alphabet - one of those that was easy to stitch while I was away from home.  It  will find a place in our family room where I've hung several more "rustic" pieces, some that I can change out depending on the season, using the same frame.  I'll post photos of it when it's properly mounted.   I continue to stitch a simple Quaker-motif piece that I'd set aside for several months, as well as the much more complex "10", our 10th Anniversary guild sampler designed by Amy Mitten, and also Drawn Thread's Violet Sampler - no pictures yet of those.   I've also been spending a little time finishing off some of my other pieces - here's the front and back of the Drawn Thread "First Snow" ornament:

Reverse side of First Snow
Front side of First Snow

My other major project for the year is a Scottish sampler, Janet Burnet 1830, from The Scarlet Letter.
Janet Burnet 1830 (Scarlet Letter website)

 Each month I'm re-reading the monthly chapter in The Garden Cottage Diaries, Fiona Houston's account of her "year in the eighteenth century" - she lived in an 18th century Scottish cottage, growing a garden there and  living most of her life  during the year as closely as she could to the way a woman might in that era.  
She's an historian herself and has carefully researched the time period.  Her experiences were a little different to other similar projects, as she actually lived day to day right in the cottage itself, cooking and sleeping there, and restricting her diet to what was available in her gardens and from local suppliers as near to historic products as possible.   The historical period of the book sets the backdrop leading into the time period of Janet Burnet's sampler, so I'm enjoying that glimpse into another life - yet one more reason to love historic samplers.

Instead of a snow scene, one that many of you have become very familiar with over the past few months, I'll leave you with a photo from our July holiday this past year. 
Prairie Skies
Now back to a few more hours watching the Winter Olympics and stitching during the commentary and commercials .....