Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hello, February!

Hi, stitching friends! I hope this finds you enjoying your February, hopefully having such wonderful weather as we are having here in Idaho. Today it was 50 degrees. Fifty! Holy Hannah.

It's been longer than I would have liked since my last post. My oral chemo has been fairly tolerable, but last week my hands and feet were pretty painful, and I just didn't feel like staging photos. But I'm much better now, and I am anxious to show you what I've been up to.

February Cottage by Country Cottage Needleworks, stitched on 32-count lambswool linen with overdyed and DMC threads.

I'm continuing with Country Cottage Needleworks' monthly cottage series, and I am really enjoying stitching these. I have to say, though, that February is not my favorite design in the series. It doesn't quite "pop" like the other months, I think because there isn't as much contrast as I'd like. But it's still sweet. I love the little details in these, especially the little birds.

I mentioned back in December that I was working on "Olde World Traveler" from Leisure Arts' Christmas Portraits (1991). I finished this guy weeks ago, but I had some wrinkles to work out...literally! When I received the fabric in the mail, it had deep wrinkles running through it. I thought they would relax as I cross stitched, but no... that was silly of me. I had never seen wrinkles this bad! I was dunning myself for not returning the fabric, and kicking myself for not trying to press it before stitching. But live and learn, right? I pressed it with a little steam, but nope. Those wrinkles were not going anywhere. Panic!

Wrinkles AFTER pressing with steam only.
Back side of stitching, wrinkles so persistent!

Thanks to a tip from Vonna at The Twisted Stitcher, I bought a product called "Mary Ellen's Best Press" from Amazon (the colorless, scent-free kind). Vonna was right. This acid-free starch alternative is AMAZING. I spritzed the fabric, with the stitching facing down, ironed it again, and voilah! Wrinkles GONE.

"Olde World Traveler" from Christmas Portraits, Leisure Arts, 1991, stitched on 32-count chestnut linen with DMC threads.

You might have noticed in the bottom left corner the faint white lines. Silly me. Those are reflections of my tripod in the glass. *slapping forehead*

The colors in this Santa are a lot brighter than I expected. The colors in the photo in the book were much more subdued. In fact, the purple looked more like a neutral than this bright lilac purple. But he is so cheery in his bright coat, and I love his eyes.

My birthday was great! My husband and son took me out for a lovely Italian dinner and bought me a cabinet for our foyer so I'll have more places to display my stitching, my mom and mother-in-law spoiled me with a gift certificate to 123stitch and money for stitching supplies, and my dear brother in Colorado put together a great gift box with a board game, gift cards, and some of those old-school, stove-top popcorn pans (the ones that explode into a giant foil bubble)! As a kid, I had begged my mom to buy those, but she wouldn't, so I'm just giddy about it. My son is excited, too.

And... my brother is so thoughtful... he sent some artifacts from my childhood. My parents purchased a small weekly newspaper in central Idaho just a couple of months before I was born, so I grew up with printers' ink in my blood. My mom retired in 2004 and sold the newspaper. My brother thought it would be cool to send me some small things he had collected from the paper. I am over the moon, so excited to have these things. Let me show you!
First up, this little bamboo pencil box. I honestly don't remember where we got this, but I hadn't seen it in years. Inside...
A stick! An old business card! And a little cloth bag...

"A stick? She's excited about a stick?" I know what you must be thinking. This little stick brought the biggest smile to my face, because I became verrry acquainted with that thing while working at the paper. You see, our little paper was just that - a little paper. When we got sales flyers to insert in the paper, they were often bigger than the paper itself. So, we had to fold them in half, one at a time. Our circulation was somewhere around 2,000, if I remember correctly, so my co-workers and I would stand around this tall, long table and fold, fold, fold..... We used thin, flat sticks like this as bone folders, to press the flyers flat once we folded them in half. You can see how well-worn this folding stick is, worn so smooth by thousands upon thousands of uses. It was a pretty boring job, but it had to be done, and it was fun to visit as we worked. My co-workers from the paper were some of the most wonderful people I've known.

The business card was my mom's. It's just a little memento, but I'm so glad to have it. She really was the world's best boss. I could write 10,000 words on that.

And that little cloth bag?
We used to special-order rubber stamps for customers from a company based in Salt Lake City, and when they would send the stamps to us, they mailed them in these little cotton drawstring bags with a hanging label. Can you imagine that? And postage to ship it was 54 cents! This one is postmarked 1985, which in my old brain doesn't seem like that long ago. Hard to believe this little bag is already 33 years old.

OK... ready for my favorite thing?
The paper printed letterpress Fourth-of-July programs on wooden slats for the community in 1941. Isn't it cool? (The photo is of the same program, showing front and back side-by-side.) You'll notice the words "under God" aren't in the pledge of allegiance - the words were added in 1954. And the program of events! Oh, how times have changed! (Click on the picture for a larger view.) I can only imagine how wild the "free-for-all race to Village Hall" was, and the winner got to raise the flag. A soap box derby, a salute to the flag via radio, led by President Roosevelt, and boxing and wrestling bouts in a ring on Main Street. Wow.... The town still has a fabulous Fourth of July celebration, with fireworks launched from a hill above town (watching the volunteer fire department put out all the spot fires is half the fun). If you're looking for the quintessential small-town Fourth of July, pack your bags for Challis, Idaho. "Idaho white pine, and plenty of it!"

Have a wonderful day, friends. Happy stitching!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Good News!

Hi, friends!

I have some very exciting news to share with you. Last week I met with my doctor to go over my latest CT scan results. (If you are new to my blog or didn't catch my last post, I have Stage IV - metastatic - breast cancer. I was diagnosed in 2013, after eight years in remission from early-stage breast cancer.) The scan showed that the current treatment I am on is working, that my tumors are stable (no new growth) and a tumor in my liver that had reared its ugly head last year is now GONE.

Yay! Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement. My doctor told me that he had been very worried last year when the cancer had gotten into my bone marrow, because apparently, when it's there, patients generally don't have long. (I had some pretty scary weeks in June and July when the cancer was pushing the calcium out of my bones into my blood stream [hypercalcemia], and I spent 12 days in the hospital over three different stays.) He said he was surprised I had been able to overcome that. When your doctor tells you something like that, the bottom drops out. It took me several days to process that information.

Starfish by Schick, morguefile.com
I think prayer has a lot to do with it. A friend told me once that she hoped I didn't mind that she would not pray for me. She said she didn't think God had time to worry about just one person, when there are so many bigger problems in the world. I had to stifle a little laugh, and resist saying, "Are you kidding me? Really?" But I love my friend, I love the way she sees the world and her courage to speak her mind, and I can see where she's coming from. I am just one person. I also, however, think about the story of the boy who was on the beach putting starfish back in the water. There were hundreds of them upside down, washed up on the shore, and they were going to die. An old man came up to the boy and said, "Why do you bother? You're not going to make a difference." The boy replied, "I can make a difference to this one," and he picked up another starfish and put it back in the water.

So thank you for your prayers, your kind words and your thoughts. We all need some good juju.

On to the stitching!

Friends & Flowers by Gail Bussi, stitched on 32-count café mocha Country French linen with DMC and The Gentle Art Sampler and Simply Shaker threads.

The first project I want to show you is from an old issue, April 2005, of Just Cross Stitch magazine. The design is by Gail Bussi. It was soooo much fun to stitch, and the overdyed threads were just yummy. I found a frame on clearance at Michael's for three bucks (score!) and actually *enjoyed* framing this myself. A lot of you awesome peeps gave me some good direction on how to solve my framing issue with the excess fabric on the back. Between some tips in old issues of Cross Stitch & Country Crafts magazine and Vonna at The Twisted Stitcher, I was able to tame that beast!
I'm new to the "lacing method" of stretching the linen to frame, so if you see some shoddy work and want to point out my mistakes, please bear in mind this was my first (successful!) attempt. Practice makes perfect!
I used 1/2" sequin pins to secure the linen to 3/8" foam core, then stitched down the corners, and finally, laced the back with quilting thread. Some say to remove the pins in case they later rust, but we live in an arid climate, and I wasn't very worried about that.

I'm so happy with how it turned out! I'm feeling more confident about something that, just a few short weeks ago, totally intimidated me.

This piece, Friends & Flowers, is for a friend who surprised me several times last year with meals and a gift card. (I am blessed with a lot of wonderful friends who have supported my family through the rough times, and I plan to do something for all of them, but this is where I chose to start.) The funny thing is, this person hasn't always been that close to me, so it really took me by surprise when she showed up with a hot meal. That's the funny thing about cancer, I've learned. People who you think will be right there next to you suddenly seem to disappear, and people you never thought liked you that much are there, bringing you food or sending you cards and notes. I think sometimes people just don't know what to say or how to act, so they stay away out of fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. I certainly fall into that category.

I have quite a few projects done, waiting to be finished, so I wanted to stitch something quick that wouldn't require any finishing. I found a package of six pre-finished bookmarks at a second-hand store for two dollars. I think these things normally sell for two or three bucks apiece, so I got a very good deal!

From "Harvest Bookmarks" by Deborah Lambein, published in For the Love of Cross Stitch, November 1998.

The bookmark design was intended for a 14-count bookmark, and these were 18-count, so the design is a little small on the bookmark, but I think it still looks sweet.

That's all for now. Happy stitching! And please know that I love and appreciate all of your kind words and your prayers. Looking forward to getting to know you!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I Love January!

Happy New Year!

I hear again and again that people don't like January. I think for a lot of people, the holiday bustle is over, the credit card bills are in our mailboxes, and the dreary winter weather sets in. But I LOVE January. I put the Christmas decorations away, vacuum and dust and make the house fresh and new again, and I settle in with some cocoa and some good DVDs and spend some great time stitching.

Good weather helps, though. Last year at this time, we were buried in record amounts of snow, so much so that I couldn't get out of my driveway, much less down the street. Our little city was so overwhelmed that the plows only cleared the main roads, and our residential streets were left unplowed. This winter, so far, has been quite the opposite. The last few days have been in the mid-forties. My dog, Scout, has spent most of the day so far lying out in the grass enjoying the sun.

Oh, and did I mention... January is my birthday month? I do not have a birthDAY. I have a month. You can blame my husband for that. He finds little ways to spoil me all the time, but more so in January. I have always loved having a January birthday because if there is something special I really wanted for Christmas and didn't get, I still have an opportunity just a month later.

I apologize for not posting again sooner. Wow... it's been a whole month. You have been on my mind, though, all of you who took time to post such nice comments. My current cancer treatment, an oral chemotherapy drug, has a yucky side effect called "hand and foot syndrome." The extra chemo ends up in my hands and feet, and if I expose them to really hot water (washing dishes, bathing) or if I walk a lot, the capillaries burst, releasing that chemo into my skin. The result is really dry, peeling, cracking skin. So, my fingertips have had little "fish hooks" next to my nails, which, oh baby, makes cross stitching SO. MUCH. FUN.

Not.

The thread catches on one of those little fish-hook-like pieces of dry skin, and before I realize it, the needle has become unthreaded or the thread is tangled or knotted. Joy.

Thankfully, Bath and Body Works had a huge clearance sale, and I loaded up on a bunch of shea butter body creams. I've been pampering these hands and feet, and it has made a difference.

Enough about that. On to the stitching!

"Cottage of the Month January" by Country Cottage Needleworks, stitched on 32-count lambswool linen with DMC, Classic Colorworks and Weeks Dye Works threads.

I have so much to show you, but only one project framed and ready. It's my January cottage by Country Cottage Needleworks. I love that little snowman! I finished this while visiting my mother-in-law at her ranch in central Idaho. I didn't have my Ott-Lite with me (love that lamp), so I was struggling with low light and fish-hook, dry fingers. Those little French knots on the snowman really threw me. Between the thread tangling and the knots looking terrible, I ended up taking them out twice, and I finally had to move into the bathroom, where the light was better, and finish making those little knots while sitting on the toilet! Haha...

I hope your January brings you lots of time to work on projects! I have loved getting to know you through your wonderful comments and emails. If you have a blog, please tell me in your comments. I read all of the comments, and I would love to get to know you better.

Happy 2018!