Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Oldie but a Goodie

There hasn't been much in the way of progress to show you on my Groom this week - because there is hardly more than an inch that has been stitched all week. I worked last night on the background behind the groomsmens' skulls and thoroughly frustrated myself. I had trouble with this background on the bride but eventually "got it" but last night I stared at the chart and stared at the canvas and just couldn't seem to count anything right.  I'm going to give it another shot tonight.

I thought that since I had nothing new to show you that I would bring out something from the past. It is probably one of my most favorite pieces of needlepoint. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s I stitched Maggie Lane's Dragon and Butterflies Panel. The design is in her Rugs and Wall Hangings from 1976. I worked on this off and on for several years. It moved with me from Augusta, GA to Charlottesville, VA and back again.

The design was worked from the chart in the book and is stitched in Paternayan wool on a 14 count canvas. When I look at this piece now, I think of all the fabulous threads and stitches that I could use other than wool and basketweave and Smyrna crosses. Paternayan wool was about all that was available to me 30 years ago. There were probably some metallic threads on the market then but my LNS at the time only carried wool.

Once I had finished stitching this piece, I took it to a local framer who blocked it and framed it for me. It wasn't an exciting finishing but again, 30 years ago, I didn't have many options locally for finishing. When I visited Needlepoint, Inc in San Francisco about 10 years ago, I saw that there were some extraordinary options for finishing a piece like my dragon panel. I talked with Dianne, the owner, about the dragon and she encouraged me to send it to her so that it could be finished properly as a wall hanging. As soon as I got back to Augusta, I took the panel out of the frame, rolled it up in a tube and shipped it off to San Francisco. Several weeks later, the finished piece came back to me as you see in the photo. It is beautifully "framed" in pleated, ivory colored silk. The back is finished in the same silk and is embroidered with my initials and the stitching dates. The tassels on either side are the cherries on top of the sundae. I love the lighting in this photo. I have a white sofa under the dragon panel and it was reflecting this lovely light up onto the dragon this afternoon. 

Next time I post, I promise I'll have some progress to show on the Groom. Our bride is tired of waiting on him!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Fun Birthday Weekend

I spent my birthday weekend in Jacksonville with Andrew and Anna. We had such a good time and they really indulged me in all the things I wanted to do. Saturday night they took me to Bistro Aix for a fabulous dinner. Anna and I had seen Chef Tom at the Paula Deen event in June and I have been anxious to try his food ever since. I had a delicious summer vegetable risotto and a crispy herb polenta. Andrew had lamb and Anna had mussels (with the most delicious garlicy french fries you could possibly imagine). Andrew and Anna had arranged for a beautiful bouquet of Asiatic lilies to be placed on our table. I should have taken a picture because they were/are spectacular.

On Sunday we drove a little north of Jacksonville and took the St. John's Ferry across to Mayport Village. I've wanted to do that ever since I saw that there is a ferry. It was all of a 10 minute ferry ride but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Once in Mayport Village, we stopped in at Singleton's Seafood Shack for lunch. Look who else has been to Singleton's recently.

Guy Fieri ate there in February. We didn't see that until we left and wondered what he had chosen to eat while there. We weren't all that impressed with our lunch. I don't even eat seafood but figured that a slaw dog wouldn't be a bad choice. I'll take a Dairy Queen slaw dog any day over this one. It was a forgettable meal. Guy must know something we didn't!

The other thing I wanted to do for my birthday was to go to the beach Sunday evening and that's what we did. We drove over to Ponte Vedra Beach and stopped by the Fresh Market and picked up sandwiches and cupcakes for our beach picnic. We got out to the beach about 7:45 and found it still crowded with people. We found a peaceful spot and set up our chairs and enjoyed people watching while we ate our picnic supper. Will we Americans every get used to seeing European men in their itsy bitsy Speedos? Very distracting! Fortunately, the rising full moon was more distracting. It was so beautiful - I wish this photo did it justice.


What a beautiful evening it was - a perfect temperature, a light breeze, and the two people I love the most. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect birthday evening.

My Groom is calling to me this evening urging me to get busy and finish him up. I just haven't gotten a lot of stitching done this past week. Some weeks are like that!

Hope you all have a good week!

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Additions to the Stitching Library

Thank goodness it's Friday afternoon greetings from Jacksonville, FL! I drove down to Jacksonville yesterday to spend my birthday weekend with the newlyweds. On my way down, I detoured over to Fernandina Beach to visit The Bristly Thistle. They have recently moved to a charming building right off the main street. There is always a lot to tempt me but this time I restrained myself and only bought two books.

The "OOOOOH" Book is a how-to book by River Silks and it came with a piece of canvas and a sample spool of their variegated 100% silk ribbon for practicing the techniques covered in the book.  The color photos of some of the sample pieces are really beautiful. There is a beautiful folded ribbon technique that I look forward to trying. I have to thank Jane at Chilly Hollow for her post about the ribbons (from River Silks) she is using on her Cha project for introducing this company to me. I wasn't looking for this book but it practically jumped into my hands yesterday and I was excited to find it.

The other book I bought is SuZy's Mini Stitches. This will be a nice companion to my copy of SuZy's small stitches.

What are your favorite needlepoint books? I'm always looking to add to my library and would love to hear your suggestions.

This afternoon I stopped in at A Stitch in Time here in Jacksonville that carries knitting/cross stitch/needlepoint supplies and picked up the latest copy of Needlepoint Now (I let my subscription lapse) and three spools of River Silk to play with now that I have some ideas for how to use it.

This morning while I put in a couple of hours of work on the laptop, I had some company:


This is Elvis and that's Buddy in the background draped over the arm of the sofa. Elvis is just a baby and kept himself busy by snuggling up next to me for the morning and trying to catch his tail. He still hasn't figured out that it's attached to his body.

There won't be any work on The Groom this weekend; he was left at home. What needlepoint projects do you take with you when you travel? I just didn't want to carry the stand, the frame, the light, etc with me for the weekend. I brought a project with me that is not on a frame and that I can roll up and hold in my hand. A very low maintenance piece! 

Hope you all have a wonderful late July weekend! Where is the summer going?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Favorite Needlepoint Shops

Our friend, Jane, in Chilly Hollow has started an interesting discussion about favorite needlepoint shops. It's sad to hear that so many people have bad experiences in their LNS. Personally, I have never had that experience in any shop I've ever visited but I know people who have. And as bad news travels fast, bad reviews travel even faster. So let's concentrate on the positive and I'll start by listing some of my favorite brick & mortar stores as well as internet stores.

The Bristly Thistle - Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida. Michele Herron is a warm and welcoming shop owner. She also has a store in Michigan. Michele put me on to Tacky Bob ( a CD-like case that holds a sticky pad on which you can place your beads without them going all over the place while you stitch) and the Stitch Zapper that is great for sealing the ends of shiny, slinky threads. Her store is well-stocked with an abundance of threads, canvases, and accessories. She has great trunk shows, too.

Amy's Golden Strand, Memphis, Tennessee - I could go on and on about the fabulous service I receive from everyone at Amy's - Amy, Jill, Robin, and Peggy. I feel like they are my LNS even though they are about an 8 hour drive from Augusta. But, they are as close as my computer and Jill is always quick to answer my questions or send me things I need or can't live without. If Amy doesn't carry it, I probably don't need it!

Needle in a Haystack, Alameda, California - I know that I can find almost any thread I could possibly need or want at Needle in a Haystack and I can do it from the comfort of my favorite chair. If, on the rare occasion, what I need is out of stock, they are happy to special order for me. Their communication with me as a customer is great. I have been very impressed.

Needlepoint, Inc, San Francisco, California - This is the shop that started my needlepoint obsession all over again. I was in SF on a business trip in the mid-90's and looked out my hotel window in downtown SF and, lo and behold, on the second floor of the building across the street was Needlepoint, Inc. That was a fateful day when I decided to walk across the street to "just take a look". Despite being a tiny shop, it was/is filled with wonderful treasures. I think I walked out that day with two projects. Dianne, the owner, could not have been nicer and for several years they became my local needlepoint store (all the way across the country). On subsequent business trips to San Francisco, Dianne took me over to their finishing department. It was an incredible open, well-lighted space filled with any fabric you could imagine. They were finishing furniture, bags, pillows, shoes, wall hangings - you name it. I'll have to share with you in another post, the wall hanging that they finished for me.  I haven't shopped with them recently but I just visited their website and they are offering a wonderful stitching trip in August to The Grand Hotel at Mackinack Island, Michigan. Sounds heavenly!

The four stores I have listed are ones that I have either personally visited or have had numerous transactions with online or on the phone. I really hope I get to visit Amy's sometime soon. I've already plotted out how to break up the drive from Augusta to Memphis!

I look forward to seeing everyone else's replies to Jane's posting. Visit Jane at Chilly Hollow to see what others have to say.

Monday, July 19, 2010

They're Off to See the Finisher

Stirha and Frank are off to San Francisco to visit with Marlene for a while. The big brown truck picked them up this afternoon and will have them in San Francisco later in the week. I can't wait to see what sort of magic Marlene weaves with these two. Here's their "Before" photo -

I can't wait to show you the "After" photo and will as soon as they return from their trip. I've asked that they be finished as stand-ups. I've done stand-ups with my nativity figures from Melissa Shirley but have asked for a little more embellishment on this series of figures. 

The Groom now has a completed tombstone and completed skulls and bones in the lower right corner. Tonight I may work on Rhett J. Reviens and start the groomsmens' skulls in the lower border. 

If it's Monday night, it must be time for the Real Housewives of New Jersey - my guilty pleasure! It's like a train wreck every week - you can't help but slow down and watch what happens. I love it!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Puttin' On the Ritz

Dressed up like a million dollar trooper
Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper
Super Duper

Thanks to Irving Berlin for the great lyrics and can't you just hear Fred Astaire singing this about our groom?

I've made some nice progress on the Groom in the last few days. There hasn't been much to show you as the progress was not especially exciting. I was glad to be finished with the beiges and greens in the coat and move on to something a little more fun like the pocket watch and the cane head.

I think tonight I'll work on the tombstone and watch some television I DVRd earlier in the week. Maybe it will be the PBS version of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Last week I watched on PBS an interesting documentary on the modern-day Orient Express which was narrated by David Suchet who plays Hercule Poirot. The program followed him on his journey from London to Istanbul aboard the famous train. What an incredible (and incredibly expensive!) trip that was! It was and still is the height of luxury travel. It was a great lead-in to Murder on the Orient Express.

Different types who wear a daycoat
Pants with stripes and cutaway coat
Perfect fits
Puttin' on the Ritz

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Buyer Beware - Sometimes

I have purchased quite a few needlepoint canvases on eBay and been very pleased with each and every one. Last week I successfully bid on a Melissa Shirley/Linda Carter Holman canvas - "Plenty". It's a great canvas and I have been eagerly anticipating its arrival. Well, it arrived today in the mail - FOLDED! And, it smelled like CIGARETTE SMOKE! And, the seller OVERCHARGED me on postage. This would not be a good time to take my blood pressure!

I guess I should be thankful it only has one fold through the design? I am not going to send it back because I think I can put it on some Evertites and stretch it out. If any of you out there think that won't work, please let me know. As for the smoky smell, maybe just airing it out for a while will help. 

I still love the canvas despite my disappointment in the way it was shipped. I bought the canvas from a seller in Michigan. The irony is that the canvas was originally bought from Amy's (please understand that Amy's had nothing to do with my eBay transaction!)

Lesson learned on eBay needlepoint purchases. Ask how the canvas will be shipped and if it has been stored in a non-smoking environment.

Thanks for letting me vent!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vintage Pears

I finished the Groom's pants today and decided to work a little on a piece that I put away when the Halloweenies started up in February. Tonight I'm working on a Melissa Shirley piece, Vintage Pears. I happened to see the canvas on eBay and was able to successfully bid on it and buy it at a very reduced price. I purchased the threads and the stitch guide by Beverly Churchfield of Aristeia from Aristeia. The threads are incredible and I love the way they blend with the beautifully painted canvas to create such lovely shading in the pears.


Obviously I have a long way to go on this piece. It really has taken a 5 month back seat to the Halloween crowd. 

If you follow the Aristeia link above, you can read about their fabulous stitching retreat this fall at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel at Dana Point, CA. Melissa Shirley designs a canvas for them each year for their retreat. This year it's one of those fabulous floral bags (a camellia) that we have seen photos of from the TNNA show.  That would be a dream trip! I can dream can't I?

Have a good evening -

P.S. Remember I said I was going to grill polenta last night for supper? Well, I learned a valuable lesson. Just because a recipe is posted on the Food Network website doesn't mean it is correct. There is a Barefoot Contessa recipe for Parmesan Rosemary polenta that sounds delicious but the liquid proportions are all of of whack. I thought the soupy polenta would solidify and I could cut it into squares as directed in the recipe. No such luck. It all went down the disposal. I would have had better luck if I had just cooked regular grits. I may try that tomorrow.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fancy Pants

The groom is slowly being dressed. I worked the last two evenings on his vest. It's a small area and you wouldn't think it would take two evenings to complete it. The second evening I spent a good bit of the time ripping out what had been stitched the night before. Until I worked on the vest, I thought that stitching black threads on black canvas was awful. But, then, came stitching thin gray threads on gray canvas. I had such a hard time seeing what I had stitched. That's why I spent so much time ripping out. The vest calls for a two-tone reverse mosaic. The small stitches in Baroque Silk only cover one canvas thread. The larger stitches use ribbon floss.

I like the finished vest very much. I was just surprised it was more difficult to stitch than I thought it would be. I haven't finished the buttons yet and need to add the beads.

I stitched the upper part of his pants this afternoon as well as his leg bones. Amy's tip to stitch this with a minimum of distraction is a good one. Heed Amy's tips! There are three rows of Hungarian Point pattern before the repeat with alternating rows of Neon Rays and Sampler Threads. The pattern is not difficult  but it did require frequent referencing of the stitch guide.


I may work on his coat tonight and save my stitching on his pants for daylight hours. But, then again, I may just read tonight. A few nights ago I started The Last Child by John Hart and I'm having a hard time putting it down. It won an Edgar Award from The Mystery Writers of America. It's an unusual choice for me as it is a dark, tragic story but one you can't put down.

Don't you love Friday nights? I'm going to cook a pork tenderloin on the grill tonight. I made some herbed polenta last night and may try grilling it along with the pork. It's only 100 degrees outside right now - what's a little more heat from the grill?

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Good Grooming

No, this post is not about bathing everyday or keeping your hair nice and neat. It's about my early work on Zomm B. Grum'e and a little bit about July 4th.  Just to go back a few days to the 4th, we had a lovely supper al fresco before heading to downtown Augusta for the fireworks display.

We watched the fireworks from the South Carolina side of the Savannah River looking across to Augusta. There was no way we were going to be able to park near downtown and ended up parking in the very nice River Club neighborhood across the river. We found an empty lot along the river and set out our blanket and chairs.   The nice folks who lived next to the empty lot invited us in to their front yard so that we could have a better view of the fireworks - no trees to block our view. I thought that was such a hospitable gesture. It was a great evening topped off by a really great (if I do say so myself) blackberry cobbler.

I finally began stitching on the Groom Monday afternoon. I completed all of the cross stitches on the pumpkin. The overdyed DMC floss is so perfect for this.

Yesterday and today I worked on his face, hat, and bones. I particularly like his hat - a fedora?

It reminds me of something the Phantom of the Opera might have worn. Maybe they shopped at the same Men's Warehouse? The sparkly black/purple Kreinik used as the lining of the brim doesn't show up so well in photos but is very effective in person. The purple velvet lapels are a nice touch, too. I think tonight I'll move on to the vest or coat.

Peggy had a great tip at the Study Hall for working with Neon Rays. Use a small curling iron or flat iron to straighten the folds out of Neon Rays. I bought a small flat iron at Target yesterday for $14.99 - small enough to keep in my stitching bag. It worked beautifully! I've never worked with such a nice flat piece of Neon Rays. It was actually a pleasure to work with. Give it a try!

Off to cook butterbeans for supper......

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy July 4th

I wanted to share with you our trip to Gurosik's Berry Farm yesterday in North Augusta, SC. Anna and I went to pick blackberries and flowers only to find that the farm was at the end of the blackberry season. Luckily we were still able to buy a quart of huge, sweet blackberries that will find themselves in a cobbler tonight. We also bought shelled butter beans (lima beans to those of you beyond the Mason-Dixon line), peaches, home-grown tomatoes, and white acre peas (for Anna). How I missed going out to this farm all spring and summer, I don't know. But, you can be sure I will be back there next spring. They close for the year next week.

I was excited to see the long rows of zinnias, gladiolas, and sunflowers. $2 a handful. We picked at least 5 handfuls. Aren't the colors wonderful?

And, we filled up just about every vase I own!

We have a fun evening planned. Steaks on the grill, potato salad, coleslaw, pasta salad, pickled okra sandwiches, and blackberry cobbler with hard sauce. Food is prominently featured for our July 4th celebration. If we can still move after supper, we'll head downtown to the Riverwalk for the fireworks display.

Hope you all have a wonderful and safe July 4th!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Bride is Ready!

I finished stitching Bridezilla last night as I waited for Andrew and Anna to drive in from Jacksonville. How appropriate that I watched several episodes of Say Yes to the Dress as I stitched!  I wish I hadn't saved the veil for last as it was a little tedious especially at the late hour I was stitching. The effect of the silvery 4-way Continental is wonderfully subtle. I wasn't appreciating the subtlety last night but this morning in the sunlight, I see it was worth the effort.

Yesterday, Bridezilla finally got her arm and leg bones - and her fingers. I loved the slide bullion technique using the #8 Perle cotton but I wasn't crazy about the same stitch using #12 Perle cotton. If you haven't completed the bones using these techniques, a tip from me would be to use short lengths of the #12 Perle cotton in particular. The thread becomes so fragile as you slide one of the strands down the length of the thread - so the shorter the thread is, the closer the bullion is to being in place. I had many wisps of the #12 in my lap by the time I finished the fingers.

I sorted out the Groom's threads last night and placed him on the stretchers. I may sneak in a few minutes of stitching while Andrew and Anna attend a wedding this evening. I read through the stitch guide once but I think I'll read through it again before I start.

Hope everyone is having a lovely holiday weekend! We certainly are. I'll have some pictures tomorrow of a little field trip (literally!) that Anna and I took to a nearby berry/flower farm this morning.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Groom is in the House

Mr. Zomm B. Grum'e arrived yesterday afternoon right before a torrential downpour. I would have hated to see his fancy duds get soaked. I'm glad I was home when he arrived. He has a nice selection of new threads but will be borrowing heavily from his fellow Halloweenies who have arrived before him.

His coat has seen better days but he is wearing a beautiful vest that will be stitched in shades of gray in Ribbon Floss and Baroque Silk. Very handsome!

I don't know if you would say he has a "Crest smile" but he does have a smile that won't quit. His teeth will be stitched in Neon Rays so you know they will gleem!

Mr. Grum'e will be placed on the Evertites today. I don't have Evertites for Bridezilla and I have really missed them. I am easily spoiled. If you haven't had the chance to use this particular type of stretcher bar, here is a link to Jane at Chilly Hollow's review of them. They are expensive but well worth it.

I almost finished the double ring background on the bride last night. It shouldn't be too difficult to finish those up today and maybe get to her arm and leg bones or the veil.

Keep stitching....