Sunday, May 31, 2009

They're baaack!!!

Once a year around this time, piping plovers--an endangered species--arrive on the beach of Orleans, making nests and laying their eggs. And they drive early tourists to Cape Cod crazy.

For the entire incubation period, which lasts about a month, off-road vehicles--for which folks have paid pricey access permit fees--are prohibited from the southern end of Nauset Beach, lest they disturb the eggs. When the eggs finally hatch, the beach is re-opened to vehicular traffic.

Several years ago, when I was still living in Texas, the owner of my current LNS called to ask if I could paint a custom piece. His customer wanted a piping plover doorstop--not the traditional brick, but a round piece which she planned to finish filled with sand. Easier on the toes, he explained. Here's the result. And here's to the piping plover, which arrived here two days ago--may it be fruitful and multiply!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In my "spare time"--Part II

I have to admit--I prefer stitching on 18-count canvas. My last project, the Kyrgyz pillow, was stitched on 13-count canvas because it more accurately recreated the look of the original fragment from which I adapted the design.

So now I'm reduced to stitching strictly at night only--I have a deadline. I'm painting like crazy for my next trunk show beginning June 6 at Thistle Needleworks in Glastonbury, CT.

So, to relieve my itch-to-stitch, I went back to work on my WIP--"Nellie"s Imari," a design by Judy Harper, which I realized I had last posted about almost three months ago. Then I had finished about one-quarter of the design; I'm now approximately two-thirds finished. It's stitched in Vineyard Silk Classic with hints of Kreinik #12 braid #002V.

The design is beautifully painted and stitching with the Vineyard Silk is a delight. I'd say it's too bad "work" gets in the way of my finishing this project, but I'd be telling a lie--work, for me, anyway, is too much fun!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Putting the pillow to bed

Today I finally finished my Kyrgyz pillow, an adaptation of a motif from a fragment of a tush kyiz or ceremonial bed hanging. The original was embroidered by an incredibly patient person in Kyrgyzstan in Siberia.

The seven-foot-long fragment was embroidered with cotton thread on cotton material indigenous to the area. My adaptation was stitched in basketweave using Silk & Ivory thread on 13-count canvas. I've tried to duplicate the original colors as closely as possible, and the size of my canvas is exactly the same as the original motif.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Looking at nature from a DMC perspective

Yes, I know--I'm a little bit crazy. I look at nature and see color--glorious color--and give it a DMC name. For instance, this photo of my perennial garden--just starting to come to life--I look at my forget-me-nots at nine o'clock and think--DMC #3840.

A couple of days ago, my local needlework group had its annual luncheon. It was a gorgeous Cape day, and as we left to drive home, I looked at the sky. "A DMC #334 sky!" I remarked, and my needlepointer friend who had walked out with me laughed. She knew exactly what I was thinking.

Poor DH is used to it. When we're out and about, doing errands or whatever, we often pass bodies of water. I'll say, "Wow, it's a DMC #336 today!" as we go by Crystal Lake. In winter, more often, it's a DMC #415.

A couple of years ago, someone on the ANG discussion list asked about the correct DMC number to stitch water for Cape Cod Bay. I was actually still living in Texas then, and felt a bit reluctant to answer her question. The answer, really, is simple: look at the sky.

Different parts of the country have different shades of blue in the sky. Florida has a slightly green cast to its sky; the Cape has a tinge of gray. Look at your DMC color card--a must for figuring out color families--and find your sky color. Scale down to a darker shade and--voila!--you have the shade you need for the water. Of course the shades vary with the seasons, but you get the idea!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Finally! We picked up the framed needlework adaptation of my father's Central Park pen-and-ink drawing yesterday. As you may recall, it was the first piece I blog-stitched when I started this blog exactly five months ago yesterday.

I'm very happy with the plain, flat-black frame we selected. The white matte has a black inside lip, which almost produces a double-matte effect. The photo was taken at a slight angle to avoid glare from the camera flash, as the glass is archival but not non-glare. I deliberately chose to use glass since there is so much white in the piece, and I've never aspired to winning the Good Housekeeping seal of approval!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Guardian Angel Update: Good News!

Remember these little guardian angels? I designed and stitched them for two friends who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed a little extra moral support.

I received an e-mail yesterday from the daughter of the friend who received the pink angel at the top of the photo--this angel now hangs over her bed! Her daughter was enlisting my support for her participation next month in the Rocky Mountain Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, a 39-mile trek from Keystone to Breckenridge, Colorado. She'll be walking IN HONOR of her mother, who recently completed her chemotherapy treatment. She'll be starting radiation therapy soon, but the prognosis is excellent!

In a recent phone call, my friend explained that, 10 years ago, her particular type of cancer had the lowest survival rate. But today, through advances in research, this cancer now has the highest survival rate. Isn't modern medicine wonderful?!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Running the background marathon

No, I didn't run the Boston Marathon--that was April 20--and I'm a stitcher, not a runner.

I was looking at my Kyrgyz pillow canvas recently as I passed through our dining room, where it was propped on a chair to keep it safe but not out of mind, and felt guilty. I hadn't worked on it in several weeks. I decided to work a little background, just to keep my hand in the project.

Picking up a strand of black Silk & Ivory, I started to basketweave more of the background. It was slow, but I persevered. I had a lot on my mind, and thought about endless little details of life as I worked. By the time I reached the bottom right corner, I was Inspired!!

I kept stitching, strand after strand of black Silk & Ivory, stopping only when I needed to interject another color that abutted with the background. And, just as it was time to pull the roast out of the oven for dinner tonight, I reached the bottom left-hand corner! The marathon was over, and I had crossed the finish line!!

In the process, I also managed to finish the blue and green threads needed for this project, so I only have the honey, red, pink/rose and "peanut butter" left to stitch--with a tiny tad of black in some places. Piece of cake--I see an end in sight!

Am I obsessive/compulsive about needlepoint? Maybe. But sometimes a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do to re-jumpstart a project.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Another source of inspiration

I've mentioned my father as a source of inspiration for some of my needlepoint designs, but it's time to give due credit to the other half of my "parental unit," as my two sons like to call it. My mother, the most amazing "piece of work" in the world, was my inspiration for "Born to Shop."

A petite female at exactly five feet tall, she had my six-footer father and me wrapped around her pinkie--and we loved it. She is the only one I know who ventured out to buy a pair of stockings at a shopping mall--leaving my father, listening to a Yankees game on the car radio--to return, three hours later, with the pair of stockings--period. My mother's shopping gene eluded me and passed, strangely, to my youngest son.

She taught first grade for 42 years--one of those old-school teachers who sent you back to first grade the following year if you couldn't read by June. But her failure rate was extremely low.

I was the only kid I knew who had letter, number and color charts gracing the walls of my room--all homemade--but I was also the only kid I knew who could read by aged four. At the age of 57, she went back to school for a master's degree in education. And when I graduated from college (the same day she received her master's degree), she urged me to continue my education, so I wouldn't "lose steam." I followed her advice, for which I thank her.

She was the perfect grandmother to my two boys, particularly the oldest, who was born seven months after my father died. She would arrive at our house for a visit with a huge shopping bag in tow, filled with about two dozen pairs of shoes. (She made Imelda Marcos look like a wannabe). She and my oldest son would play shoe store, with her as the customer and the two-year-old munchkin as clerk. It was an amazing game that left my son totally and completely grounded in his colors!

This same munchkin was full of himself on another visit, giving me "what-for" about what I can't remember. My mother raised herself to her full five feet and informed him that his mother was the best mother she had ever known. When I got her to one side later and mentioned her comment, she gave me The Look and said "Don't let it go to your head."

So on Mother's Day, here's to you, Ma, and all the other mothers out there!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Stitching architectural elements: Windows

I received an e-mail a week or so ago from a lovely lady who had the excellent taste (very big grin!) to purchase the "Candlelight Window" canvas from my "Eggs for All Seasons" series. She was returning to needlepoint after a hiatus of 15 years and looking forward to this ornament taking pride of place on her next Christmas tree. She sought my advice on how to "stitch it right" the first time! I had to laugh at this comment, as the photo here is my second attempt at stitching it!

My first piece of advice was: choose your comfort level. This ornament could easily be stitched completely in basketweave using DMC cotton floss. Those feeling a little more confident or adventurous could try for more realism, using a few decorative stitches and mixing different threads for added texture.

The wallpaper was a simple combination of DMC cotton floss in basketweave using four plies, with a simple cross stitch over one thread in two plies added at intervals. The swag and jabot window treatment was stitched in gobelin and individual stitches with Silk & Ivory. I used navy Petite Very Velvet and Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #032 for the individual window panes.

One of my favorite threads for windows and doors is DMC #5 perle cotton, in this case #931. All the mullions--the strips of wood separating the panes--were stitched in single rows. Each sash in the double-hung window was outlined with a gobelin stitch over two threads. Notice that the bottom sash overlaps the top sash where the lock is located. The casing that frames the sashes falls just to the window sill. Below the sill, the apron was stitched in two consecutive rows of gobelin stitches over two threads.

The chair rail, a practical as well as decorative detail in many older homes, was stitched in a gobelin stitch over two threads, with a single row of stitches above and below it. The beadboard trim below the chair rail was created by vertical rows of gobelin stitches over four threads, intersected by single rows of stitches.

Amazing how easy it is to apply a little decorative molding with the combination of a few simple stitches!

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day!

Petunia Penguin and I wanted to wish you a Happy May Day! Here on the Cape, flowers are taking their good sweet time to pop. Hopefully, by the end of this month, my perennial garden will be as lush as Petunia's!

As with all of my penguins, Petunia's body was stitched with black Petite Very Velvet and "Snow" Felicity's Garden. Her picket fence was worked in gobelin stitches with DMC #5 perle cotton, and her flowers are satin stitches in vibrant shades of Silk & Ivory. Her edger blade and watering can are courtesy of Kreinik #12 tapestry braid.

And to all you stitching lawyers out there, Happy Law Day!