Monday, June 25, 2018

Hello Summer!

Hi, stitching friends!

Oh, lord, don't even get me started on how long it has been since I wrote a post. I procrastinated for a few weeks, and then my former employer reached out to me to see if I would do some at-home typesetting for them during their busy season. I agreed, and a few weeks went by with nothing, then BAM. One day I suddenly had almost more work than I could handle. Being a workaholic at heart, I told them they could send me even more if they had it (glutton for punishment). And they did. So I am taking a break from stitching, framing and typing to finally sit down and write to you.

First, and definitely not late yet, is June Cottage, by Country Cottage Needleworks. Like the others in the series, I stitched this on 32-count lambswool linen with the called-for threads. (Except for the green... somehow I managed to forget to order that one, so I substituted DMC.) I have to say, I am anxious to finish stitching this series. It is getting a bit repetitive!
I changed the two little ladybugs on the vine and the tree. I added little antennae to them. It didn't make sense to me that the flying ladybugs would have them and the walking ones wouldn't.
I started the series last October so I have July, August and September to go. I'm almost done!

Can I be honest with you? Summer is not my favorite season. I don't like to be hot and sweaty. I love fall, with the cool days and cold nights when a pot of stew warms our bellies and makes us feel good. My husband and son have gotten to the point where spring actually makes them feel depressed! For them, it's because that's when the days of ignoring the outside are over, and it's time to water, weed and mow. My husband has the added joy (misery) of getting water systems running and cattle ready to turn out on his mom's ranch in central Idaho.

On a positive note, I do love cooking outside and camping, so I will focus on that and stop complaining.
Yesterday, I put the final touches on "Simply Summer" by The Drawn Thread. I cannot tell you how much I love, love, love this pattern. From the one-over-one ladybug to the satin-stitched bees and bee skep, this was a joy to stitch. (OK... honestly, the bees weren't all that much fun to stitch, but look how cute!!!) If you click on the picture, it should open up a larger version that better shows the details. I stitched them on 32-count Wren by Picture This Plus with the called-for threads. I just adore this fabric, from the mottling to the weight and feel of it. I'm going to try to find more of it. The bee skep is stitched with TGA's "Brandy," and I think it's one of my favorite overdyed colors.
Isn't the bee skep pretty?
Beautiful bees!
This morning, while Thomas was in his math class at summer school, I finally framed "Love" by Bent Creek. I stitched this last fall, but it has been sitting in my "to-be-finished" pile. (I know you have one of those, too!) I substituted cross stitches for the plethora of French knots in the big heart at the top (life is too short...) and used the called-for overdyed threads and buttons. I don't recall the name of the linen I used, but I'm fairly sure it's 32-count. I found this sweet frame at Michael's.

I realized recently that I should change the title of my blog from "Live to Stitch" to "Live to Sit." When I first started staying home, I was a flurry of energy, going from room to room, decluttering and cleaning. Then came the June and July from hell last year, when I got really sick, started really nasty chemo, and lost my way. It dawned on me recently that I have been sitting on the couch most of the day, which really is not a good thing. So my new goal is to start tackling my "to-be-finished" pile. When I frame, I spend a good deal of time standing, so that's a good start, I think. I'm not running marathons, but it's a lot better than sitting all day.
I stitched "To every thing there is a season" sometime last year or maybe even the year before, and it has been buried in my to-do pile ever since. The pattern came from a back issue of For the Love of Cross Stitch magazine, I think, but I don't recall the designer or the actual name of the pattern. If you know it, feel free to mention it in a comment.

My mom bought me a great selection of thrift-store frames. This frame was a pretty gold, but it was a cheap plastic and was coated in 20 years' worth of the previous owner's cigarette smoke and grease. After a good cleaning, I painted it with a couple of coats of white chalk paint. I mounted the cross stitch on foam core, attached some cording (not my best work, but *sigh*... don't get me started) and mounted that on fabric-covered Davey board. A natural-twine bow and a paper flower in the corner covered up a less-than-perfect frame corner. Do you like it? I'm thinking of giving it as a Christmas present.
My brother in Colorado has been going through some very difficult challenges lately. I worry about him a lot. For his birthday in April, I asked him if there was anything I could send him to make life a little easier. "Just something you made," he said. He is so sweet. My mom and I pitched in and sent him some gas cards so he wouldn't have to worry about that, and I have been working on a project for him ever since. Reaching back into my to-be-finished pile, I found this stitch by D. Morgan that I had done 20 years ago (holy moly!) in 1998. It came from a back issue of For the Love of Cross Stitch magazine, but I don't recall the date. It just seemed perfect for him.
I mounted it on foam core, added some handmade cording, and mounted it on a simple wood box I bought at Michael's. To finish the box, I sanded it (and sanded it and sanded it!), then painted it with gray chalk paint. Then I sanded it some more and painted one side at a time with Elmer's glue. When the glue was tacky, I painted white chalk paint over it. As the glue dried, it shrank, revealing the gray paint underneath and giving the box an aged look.
I love how this turned out! My brother has been building a tiny house, so I thought this little box would work better for him than something he'd have to find wall space for.
A couple of weekends ago, we went with our good friends Rob and Kristin to their family cabin in Crouch, Idaho. Rob loves to explore, so he piled us in his pickup and took us to Placerville, Idaho, a ghost town. I'd never been there before, so it was a great adventure! Placerville has a population of 53, but in its hay day in 1863, the population was 5,000! A fire in 1899 nearly destroyed the entire town. Several buildings were rebuilt, but 10 months later another fire burned many of those as well.

One of two volunteer-run museums in Placerville.

The coolest part of Placerville, in my opinion, was Pioneer Cemetery on a hill above town.
The cemetery is a hodgepodge of some of the most unique and beautiful headstones I've ever seen and newer headstones - as new as June 2018.
Many of the residents buried here came from Ireland and Scotland.
We saw far too many graves of children. Life in Placerville in the late Nineteenth Century must have been very hard on families.
Heartbreaking.
These crosses that were made to look like wood were stunning.

That's it for now, dear friends. I hope to post again soon and share with you some things that have gone neglected far too long!

I'm so lucky to have met you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

May Flowers

Happy May, stitching friends!

I have several projects in the works right now, including some fall projects. What is it with me and the seasons? When it's winter I want to work on spring projects, when it's spring I want to work on fall projects.

The design bug has bitten me HARD. I have been working on a series of little seasonal houses, but they are still not quite where I want them to be. Just when I think I have them nailed, an "Aha!" moment comes to me when I'm driving or in the shower, and back to the drawing board I go.

Here's a sneak peek....
I sketch something out on graph paper, go to my floss collection to pick out potential colors, then stitch it up, changing my sketch as I go. Sometimes when I'm finished, I think, "Meh," I argue with my internal critic, and I start over. And sometimes I gush with joy, and I think, "YES!!" Then I chart it online on Stitch Fiddle, export a PDF, fine-tune that in Photoshop, then create a pattern with instructions and a key in InDesign. It's a lot more work than I ever imagined! But fun every step of the way. I'm looking into design software for my Mac, but I haven't committed to anything yet. Do you have a recommendation?

Oh, on the stupid cancer front, I have good news! My latest scans showed some improvement (improvement! yes!) and showed that some of the bone lesions in my longer bones have actually gotten smaller. I didn't think that was even possible, to be honest. And my tumor marker, a measure of a protein that cancer cells emit, was actually in the normal range! How about them apples?

Remember the Country Cottage Needleworks monthly cottage series I've been working on? I have been using the same glossy black frame for each month, swapping out the framed piece to save money. I decided I really don't like the black frame. I adore the frames the models are displayed in, the ones by the Family Tree Framing Co., but I haven't been able to locate one. So.... I thought, "Why not make my own?"
I started by sanding down the black frame to remove the finish and to give the paint a gritty surface to cling to. I think the black frame already looks better sanded, don't you? I purchased the little ornate wood onlay from Fullretrovegas on Etsy. (I measured my frame a couple of times to make sure the onlay would fit without being overwhelming.) Because the onlay shipped from China, it took a few weeks to arrive, but it was well worth the wait. So pretty! I bought a base grey chalk paint, white chalk paint and some clear wax from Michael's, and some Elmer's wood glue.
First I painted the frame and onlay in my base grey and let them dry several hours. Next, I followed this tutorial on YouTube that showed how to distress with glue. I painted the frame with a thin layer of Elmer's glue, let it dry a little bit until tacky but not wet, then painted the white chalk paint over it. As it dried further, the glue shrank, revealing my grey base coat through little fissures and cracks. Once the white chalk paint was dry, I glued the onlay to the top of the frame. Once that was dry and secure, I brushed a layer of clear wax over everything, let it dry, then buffed it. The result?
Ta da! How do you like it?

I finished framing Country Cottage Needleworks' May cottage today (better late than never!), and I am just so, so happy with my "new" frame. The antiquey cracks aren't very big, but that's how I wanted them. If you want deep, big, dramatic cracks, just paint on a thicker layer of glue. By the way, aren't the colors in this month's cottage sweet? I just love the pop of that green ("Frog Legs" by Classic Colorworks) and the bird, the bees and the birdhouse. They make my heart happy.

Before I got back into cross stitching, my passion was cardmaking. I haven't been doing much of that lately, but in the spirit of spring flowers, I got in the mood to do a little watercoloring. Bear in mind, I am NOT a painter. I like to play around with watercolors, though. I love their unpredictability. I never know what I'm going to get when I put brush to paper.

I stamped some flowers and leaves on watercolor paper with clear ink, then heat-embossed them with white embossing powder. Then I put on some paint and waited for the results...
They're messy and wonderful!
Next I cut them out (in the papercrafting world, they call this "fussy cutting"!). I try not to stress about the cutting part. They don't have to be perfect to be pretty.
I saw a YouTube video of someone painting leaves, and she used blue. It never would have occurred to me to use blue to paint leaves. But when the blue and green flow together, don't they create a delightful palette? So unexpected.

So now I have flowers and leaves to embellish cards or make magnets or do whatever else comes to mind. I made a card for my brother...
A little luminescent gem in the middle of the flower gives it just a little bling.

Wishing YOU a day filled with happiness and a very wonderful Mother's Day. I just returned last night from spending several days with my mom. She had surgery on her ear canal (I won't go into gory detail). She has lost almost all hearing in that ear, and this surgery will hopefully restore some of it. Fingers crossed!

Happy stitching!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Oregon Coast, April and a Freebie!

Hi, stitching friends!

First, before anything else, I wanted to share with you another little pattern I designed. I know Valentine's Day was SO yesterday, but this is more of a love note to my husband and my son. It is for every day. I wanted to design and stitch something to show them that no matter what happens, I will be in their hearts. You can get the pattern here.

"Keep Me in Your Heart" stitched on 32-count country French cafe mocha linen with overdyed and DMC thread.

We're back from our Oregon Coast vacation, and I am just now starting to feel like myself again. We had a wonderful time with our friends Rob and Kristin, and we toured, ate, shopped, ate, walked on the beach, ate, and relaxed. And ate. But after just a few days of go, go, go, I was zonked!
When we left Portland and started our drive to the coast, we were hit with a huge snow storm! We left Idaho to get away from the snow! It was bad for just a couple of miles, though, but we did see someone stopped in the middle of the road putting on chains. Quite the overreaction, and definitely not safe. Rob did the driving, and he was a champ.

One of our first stops was Canon Beach. Some lovely beach photos.... but it was SO friggin' cold. We had rain every day except for a couple of hours one day. I'm glad I brought a hat, scarf and my wool coat.

Haystack Rock at Canon Beach

On the left, waaaaay out there, is the lighthouse, perched atop a lonely rock

The seagulls were feasting at low tide
On the way down Highway 101, we stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for ice cream. Then, just south of Tillamook, we spotted the huge air museum (rather hard to miss, as you can see in the photo). The museum is housed inside a blimp hangar that was built in 1942. It's 15 stories tall and covers more than 7 acres inside. You could have 6 football games going on at once inside.

The Tillamook Air Museum just south of Tillamook, Oregon

The hangar is 15 stories tall. Those doors (6 total) each weigh 30 tons! The plane parked out side is a "mini guppy" cargo plane designed in the 1960s. They told us they call it the pregnant guppy. The back part of the plane opens on a hinge.

The hangar is built of wood. Lots of wood. There is enough timber here to build thousands of houses.

While the hangar typically housed 2-3 blimps at a time, it could hold up to 8. The blimps were used during World War II to patrol the coast and spot enemy submarines.

Inside the hangar today, you will find lots of cool planes...

trains...

and automobiles!

I loved the drive along Highway 101. There were so many beautiful, old barns, and the daffodils were blooming everywhere - in yards and in the forest. One of my favorite things to see were a couple of free-range chicken farms. Chickens everywhere! Cluck, cluck, cluck!
After a long day of touring, we checked into our condo in Depoe Bay. Our view was amazing! We watched the whale-tour boats go out every hour, and while we did not see any gray whales up close, we could see them spouting about a half mile out.

Our view right off the balcony in our condo
We took Rob and Kristin to see the lighthouses in Newport. The first one is the Yaquina (pronounced Yuh-quinn-uh) Bay lighthouse. It was the first one built in Newport.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, built in 1871 and decommissioned in 1874
The other lighthouse in Newport is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, built in 1872. It took more than 370,000 bricks to build! It is still operating today.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse, built in 1872, still operates today.
We also took Rob and Kristin over the Yaquina Bay bridge, just south of the Yaquina Bay lighthouse.

The Yaquina Bay bridge in Newport
We went for a long walk on Nye Beach, and we found something....
Poor little guy washed up on the beach during low tide! He looked so sad and helpless (and a little gross), pleading with us with those beady little eyes to help him. I think I heard him say, "Don't eat me!" I wasn't going to touch him, but Rob wasn't afraid.
As soon as Rob picked him up, he came to life (and thankfully didn't pinch Rob).
Shawn, my husband, is such a big softie, that he walked the little fella out into the waves. I kept hollering at Shawn to get back - one of these days my dear husband is going to be swept away by a wave, I just know it. But he is stubborn! He saved the little crab, at least for another day.

On our way back to Portland, we stopped in Corvallis so I could visit Friendship Crossing, a cross-stitch store recommended to me by sweet Beth, a friend I've made through this blog. The shop was heaven on earth, and the owner, Ann, was so sweet. I could have spent the entire day there. Shawn promises me that it will be a regular stop on future trips. Yay!

Since it's finally spring (hooray!), I finally got around to framing a spring piece I finished last winter, while I was dreaming of spring. It's "Simply Spring" by The Drawn Thread. I stitched it over two on the recommended fabric, with one thread, and I have to tell you, that was a weird experience for me. I'm so used to stitching over two with two threads. I wasn't sure I liked it at first, but now I do. I picked up the perfect frame on Amazon. What do you think?

"Simply Spring" by The Drawn Thread. Frame from Amazon.
The little buds on the tree are made with satin stitches.
While we were in Oregon, I spent a lot of time stitching the April cottage from Country Cottage Needleworks. When I got home, I realized that after stitching the parallelogram (math!!!) part of the roof, I had somehow turned my fabric 180 degrees and stitched the cottage upside down!

I had stitched the entire cottage and the tree before I realized my mistake (I was getting too close to the edge of the fabric - that's when I noticed). I had to take out all the stitches except for the roof and start again. That took nearly three hours (just pulling out stitches). Three loooong, hard, heartbreaking hours. I rinsed the fabric in cold water and pressed it to remove all the holes where my thread had been, and I started over.

And you know what? Several more times I made mistakes that required a lot of "unstitching." For a simple design, this thing sure threw me! That shows you how tired I was after our vacation.

April cottage by Country Cottage Needleworks, stitched on 32-count lambswool linen with called-for threads

I love that little bunny!

When I learned to cross stitch, I was taught to start in the middle. I notice that a lot of you start in a corner. Were you taught that way, or did you change at some point? If I had started in the corner, I would have saved myself a lot of work!

Happy April, stitching friends. I have another design in the works that I'm anxious to show you. It's a Christmas ornament, and I think you're going to love it. Until next time... Happy stitching!