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 .......