Getting ready for February

As I have mentioned before, I don’t suffer from a case of January start-itis when it comes to crafting. Instead, I take January to breathe in all I have finished in the preceding year and finish up a few odds and ends I didn’t quite manage to get done the year before.

And then, in February, I find myself admiring this and ooh-ing over that and before I know it, I’ve started half a dozen projects and have my eye on half a dozen more.

But this year, I found myself selling far more pieces than in previous years and I had almost more work than I could handle in the lead-up to Christmas. So much so that crafting for family was put on the back burner and crafting for myself hasn’t happened at all for almost half the year.

It’s hard to fathom.

As 2016 wrapped up, I started taking a mental inventory of all the things I want to finish, or at least make more progress on. And then I went digging through my shelves to see what I had meant to start but not gotten around to in a while, and found all sorts of buried treasures. I suspect I have enough to carry me through the entire year if not longer, especially given that I am still getting commissions for other things and will be devoting time each week to those items and have less time than usual for my own crafting. So I am determined to at least make a little progress on some projects–some that have not been touched in quite a long time now.

The first of which is a fire truck that I thought a certain young man had long outgrown a fascination for, but it turns out he remembers that I had started stitching a piece for him and he has decided he wants me to finish it for him after all.

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Working on this piece, even for a little while, made me recall a few other cross stitched pieces half done and sitting in the cupboard, so progress on those would be lovely, too. A Christmas sampler:

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A lovely witch/wizardess/goddess piece that was gifted to me partially done and our girl B instantly claimed (so I could finish it on her behalf, of course. She’s generous like that). I think it was the fact that the lady in question is reading a book that caught her eye.

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And a gorgeous Teresa Wentzler that I started many years ago and had completely forgotten about.wentzler

Of course, before I get to those, I have a mermaid tail to finish up – it’s almost done, just weaving in the ends to do. Approximately 6 bazillion ends, and you know how very much I love weaving in ends. (I don’t. At all. Why I keep taking on crochet projects built from blocks is beyond me. Remind me, would you please, to stop doing that?)

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This mermaid tail is from a pattern by The Felted Button. She has the most colourful, textural, gorgeous crochet patterns – check out her site if you never have. Here a closeup of the tail so you can get a better idea of what the triangular blocks look like:

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The tail is done in sock-weight yarn (it’s skinny!) and the yarns all have either a strand of glittery metallic thread or sequins or both woven in to them. It makes for a lovely, shimmery, fish-scale effect that’s missing from the photos above.

Another crochet pattern I want to finish up is this:

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It’s a lovely lace-weight shawl that I started on the plane to Cuba and then never found the time to get back to. As it’s for me, it’s easy to put it aside for other people, but when I look at it, it has been over a year now since I set it down. The pattern is lovely and intricate with bands of colourful lacework in various stitches in the centre and a wide strip of Bruges lacework on either edge.

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It’s going to be a couple of months at least before I get my hands back into this one, but I’m hoping to finish it by summer. Then, maybe I’ll find the perfect pattern for this lovely yarn:

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It has been sitting in my “wishful yarn bliss” pile for a few months now. I’m not yet sure what it will look like, but it will be either a scarf or a hat to keep me warm in winter.

On the embroidery front, I’ve been working on another tree skirt project. This one is from a kit, but I will be embellishing heavily with embroidery, as I did with the Peace Joy Noel wall hanging a few years ago. You can see how thoroughly embroidery-encrusted I plan to make it in the Love Letters piece I did after taking Sharon Boggon’s class.

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Last, but certainly not least, I hope to get another 2 blocks finished on my crazy quilted and embroidered wall hanging.

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The currently finished blocks are on the right in the picture above.

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The two empty blocks on the left are pieced, but not yet embroidered.

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The blocks are 10-inch squares and I think the finished piece will end up being 3×3 blocks with a border of some sort.

So, an ambitious plan for 2017, but one of progress, not necessarily completion, given how many other things are in the works both with myself and for the kids.

What do you have planned for this bright and shiny new year?

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TAST Weeks 4 and 6

I’m a little behind in posting our TAST stitches.  We’ve been too busy having fun!  There are books to be read, cookies to bake, things to knit, sunrises to track and photoperiods to calculate, and if that weren’t enough, the skating rink keeps beckoning.  Despite the distractions, we have been embroidering. However, I have been informed that I cannot show you B’s work.  She doesn’t like it, you see.  Feather stitch does not look like feathers, apparently, and if that weren’t insult enough, it is entirely too easy to turn what is supposed to be Cretan stitch into an alternating blanket stitch, and that will never do.  I believe her exact words involved rolled eyes, a hand resting on one out-thrust hip, and a very loud and sarcastically voiced “Fail!”  Which really meant “No, no, no, you cannot show my work this week, Mama, or last week’s work either.”

So I won’t.

But I can share with you a little bit of what I have been working on.  I’ve been continuing to work on several different pieces, as is my usual habit.  (Why have one project on the go when you can have half a hundred?)  First, I’ve continued adding seam treatments to a felt kit project that will be a Christmas wall hanging.  Last week, it gained an embellished Cretan stitch seam treatment.

I started with a burgundy Cretan stitch, then added black bugle beads.  I then added straight-stitch flower stems and seed bead flowers in various shades of green, and then finished it up with a row of chocolate brown sequins.

I’ve also put some more work into my landscape crazy quilt block.  The green velvet patch on the lower left corner was crying out for a flower garden, so I gave it one.

I had fully intended to make something out of TAST week 5’s herringbone stitch, but it never materialized.  Instead, there are detached chain stitch flowers in pink with brown french-knot cones (they are meant to be Echinacea).  There are clusters of french knots with fly-stitch stamens in burgundy and dark green. There are blue detached chain flowers that might be crocuses but aren’t quite.  There are button-hole wheels in navy blue, along with random scatterings of french knots in the same.  And then, there are the giant fly stitched turquoise flowers with couched stems and crazy dangling pistils.  There are more flowers to come, but somehow not a one of them wound up using herringbone stitch.  They were fun to stitch all the same.

I did manage to work in some TAST week 6 stitching. The diagonal seam above the garden has a base of Chevron stitch.  I based it on a seam embellishment pattern from Sharon B’s website (follow this link to see the stitch pattern). You’ll see that it takes a base of Chevron, adds a trio of detached chain stitches, a pair of straight stitches with a bead on the end, and then a sequin in the V of each Chevron stitch both top and bottom.

Sharon B’s example has the chain stitches forming a lovely extended diagonal line which I really, really liked. Too bad I didn’t notice I started doing the bottom set of them with the wrong slant half way through!  That’s what you get for stitching while watching TV, I suppose.  I didn’t bother picking out the mistake so you can see it in the photo below if you look carefully. The seam wound up covered by the garden of flowers, so it is somewhat camouflaged.

I’m enjoying the TAST challenge.  Watching B try stitches and abandon them gleefully for a wide variety of reasons is a source of great amusement.  She reminds me of her Auntie N when she does that.  It is a tendency towards impatience and imperfection that comes from a sense of adventurous creativity, strong self-confidence, and oodles and oodles of joyful abandon. I’m also enjoying expanding my repertoire of stitches, and the weekly reminder to do something new and different. But most of all, I’m finding myself fascinated by all the stitching that is posted in the comments of the TAST website each week. There are some truly phenomenally talented and creative people taking part in this challenge, and I am both humbled and awe-struck and inspired.

My knitting has been inspired this week, too…

Tomorrow, I’ll show you pictures of the itty-bitty thing that found its way onto my knitting needles while I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office yesterday.

TAST Week 1

I’m a little late getting this posted, but here it is: my stitches for the first week of Sharon B’s TAST (Take A Stitch Tuesday) stitch-along. The stitch this week was fly stitch, and I played with it on my current crazy quilt block. The block is my first attempt at building a landscape scene in a crazy quilt block.

I chose to do the leaves of the tree using Fly stitch in several permutations. The dark green leaves are a relatively loosely spaced set of fly stitches, with a final fly stitch going in the opposite direction to create the pointy tip of the leaf.

The mid- and light-green leaves are also made fly stitch, but more tightly spaced and mostly without the inverted stitch to make a point.

After looking at all the different samples of fly stitch worked by the TAST participants, I must say I am so impressed and humbled and inspired… there are some truly spectacular stitchers out there. Every week, Sharon B is going to highlight some of her favourites from the challenge on her blog, Pintangle. It is well worth taking a peek!

Distracted By Crazy Quilting

I like having projects on the go. I like keeping my hands and mind busy. I have come to believe that when you live with chronic pain, if you wallow in it, if you allow yourself to focus on the negatives, over time your general outlook on life will change, and not for the better. And so, I distract myself with things I am capable of doing, even on my worst days. Knitting. Gardening. Embroidery. Handwork, in particular, appeals to me, and I’ve usually got at least two projects on the go if not more.

Lately, I’ve been learning an entirely new distraction: crazy quilting.

(That’s a picture of a naked CQ block before I began working on it.)

It all started a few months ago when I came across a stunningly beautiful embroidery piece that featured a dragon profile outlined by a mess of richly detailed and thickly layered embroidery. You can see it here. This led me to a new-t0-me website, Sharon Boggon’s Pin Tangle. There, I started exploring. And lusting. And wondering… could I do this sort of thing? How would one even start?

Around this same time, B started becoming seriously interested in hand embroidery, and I got distracted into helping her learn a few basic stitches, start sewing little pillows and other tiny objects of uncertain description. Next she wanted to sew on buttons, and then beads, and so we kept busy for a little while. Somewhere in the midst of this, I printed out Sharon Boggon’s wonderful stitch definition pages, and B and I explored some more, visited other websites, and played with thread and needles.

And then I saw it.

This teeny little reference to how much fun it was to take Sharon’s sumptuous surface embroidery class. And a link, to another absolutely stunning project in progress. The sort of stunning that had me printing out the picture just so I could pin it to the bulletin board in my office and stare at it a while.

I had to learn how to do this. This thing, this sumptuously embroidered concept… I was determined it would become my latest distraction.

I have a few requirements in my distractions. They must be able to be done in small bursts, and be put down and ignored for days or even months. They must be able to be done when my powers of concentration are low and my stamina for exertion is downright nonexistent. They must be able to keep my mind busy enough that I can ignore all but the worst of the pain and the most aggravating of pins and needles. And, most important of all, they must give me a sense that I have accomplished something valuable.

The idea of having a richly detailed embroidery piece that seemed to break all the known rules of embroidery… well, it sounded like exactly my kind of distraction.

There was only one problem: Sharon wasn’t offering the class again this year.

But she was offering one on crazy quilting.

I have memories of an old, vintage crazy quilt that belonged to my grandmother, I think. Or maybe it was Mom’s, I don’t quite remember. It was old, and full of lush velvets in deep, rich colours, and it was so heavy and warm that to sit on the couch with the crazy quilt on your lap was to risk smothering in warmth and heaviness.

I have fond memories of that quilt. But make one? Me? The crazy lady who quilts with only half a clue what she is doing?

So I hemmed and hawed and hemmed and hawed and then I started googling crazy quilts, and what I found was amazing. So many of the quilts were absolutely smothered in luscious, rich, detailed embroidery and bead work. Especially Sharon’s. Her quilts stood out among the many I looked at as being intricate and delicate and thick with embroidery. Really thick with embroidery and beads and buttons and more embroidery. Absolutely encrusted with it.

And she was teaching a class called “Encrusted Crazy Quilting.”

Before I could stop myself, I had signed up.

I had no intention of learning how to make crazy quilts this year. I am not a quilter. I dabble, every so often, and make quilts for the kids, but I am not a quilter. And I am definitely not a crazy quilter.

Or so I thought.

But with Sharon’s patient, detailed, and insightful teaching, I produced these:

Six weeks after starting the class, I have two finished blocks and plans for about a zillion more. What’s more, many of the things I learned in class have started sneaking their way onto other projects, like this one:

I’m having so much fun doing these complicated layers of embroidery and beading and motifs and buttons… I just can’t stop! The blocks are chock full of little surprises, like owls and toadstools and a beaded dragonfly. To see them here, they look pretty, but in person, they are nearly irresistable. People can’t stop touching them. I can’t stop touching them either. There is something about all the layers of stuff and the multitude of different stitches and the little charms and buttons that just begs your fingers to reach out and feel your way around the block. They’re just… irresistable.

Of course, all this crazy quilting has thrown me into a bit of a tizzy, since my habitual Christmas crafting got pushed to the back burner for six whole weeks while I tried new thing after new thing and found myself completely consumed by it. So, dear family, please don’t feel slighted if you don’t get a handmade gift this year. I’ve been a little distracted. In the world of pain and pins and needles that I inhabit most days, being a little distracted is a wonderful, wonderful thing.