Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Greetings!

I hope you had as nice an Easter weekend as I did. Andrew and Anna were in town for what always seems like too brief a stay. But we packed a lot in to the weekend, nonetheless. Saturday morning we headed out to Gurosik's Strawberry Farm to pick strawberries. It was a beautiful morning with a light breeze but temperatures beginning to head up into the 80s. The field was full of strawberries just waiting for our Easter dessert.

These were some huge, juicy strawberries! We filled up two large buckets in just a few minutes. There had been a heavy rain the day before so there was a good bit of sand to wash off our berries. Once we got home we rinsed them off on the patio and put them out on the table to dry out.

Today, for our dessert, some of these were sliced, mixed with a little sugar to make a syrup, and served over angel food cake with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Delicious! We had a pleasant Easter lunch on the patio of baked ham, macaroni and cheese with 3 cheeses, roasted asparagus, deviled eggs, and a spinach, goat cheese, and strawberry salad. Anna and Andrew made the mimosas.

I don't have much to show in the way of needlepoint this week. I had a busy week after my return from Memphis and not a lot of time to sit and stitch. I put in a few stitches on the Queen's bodice and that's about it. I wanted you to see the ear lobe that Amy stitched while showing me how to work a twisted lazy daisy stitch. It's very much like a bullion stitch and can be manipulated a little to smooth out any problems that want to creep in. The Queen has some beautiful "emerald" teardrop earrings that will be added towards the end. Also, take a look at the gold ribbon that surrounds one of the red Rhodes stitches. The gathered ribbon will be repeated around the other Rhodes stitches on the "batwings".

The Queen will keep me company this week as I watch all the specials on the Royals that are on tv leading up to William and Kate's wedding. I plan to get up early on Friday to watch the wedding. Will you be watching as well? What will you be stitching?

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Dream Come True

The stars have aligned for me this year in terms of my being able to meet some very well known people whose talent and personality really speak to me. In the last ten months I have met Southern cook extraordinaire Paula Deen, blogger and cook extraordinaire Ree Drummond - the Pioneer Woman, Southern author extraordinaire Pat Conroy, and now this week, Amy Bunger, needlepoint teacher extraordinaire.

Melinda and Amy
I drove to Memphis on Sunday - eight and one half hours from Augusta - for my day with Amy Bunger at her shop on Monday. I don't know how I've lived my life in Georgia and have never set foot in Alabama or Mississippi. But now I can say I have. They are both beautiful states to drive through especially in the early Spring. I got to see (from the interstate) the spectacle that is Race Day at Talladega. Gosh there were a lot of people there!

I arrived at Amy's shop a little before 10:00 AM on Monday morning. There to greet me were Amy, Jill, and Peggy.  Although we have never met, I felt like I knew all of them and was seeing old friends. Once I was settled, Amy and I got to work. We started on my Queen Elizabeth canvas and for most of the morning worked on her. I'll take some photos later this week to share with you so you can see what we worked on. Amy showed me how to make the ribbon flowers on the "batwings" on either side of the Queen's face. She selected threads for her lips and spruced up her eyebrows for me. We worked on the Queen's breastplate. I was not happy with the way my stitches looked and wondered if the threads were too heavy. It's not the threads that are the problem, it's the way I stitched them. But, watching Amy stitch a row of the fern stitch helped me see what I was doing wrong. The Queen also needed some jewels and Amy had just the right pearls for her. Those will be a fun to add when my stitching is almost done.

During the middle part of the day we worked on my Linda Carter Holman (Melissa Shirley) canvas. There is so much detail in Linda's work but I have several pages of Amy's handwritten notes with thread and stitch selections to see me through it.

I think you would all find it so interesting to sit with someone of Amy's expertise and listen to her talk through why she chooses one stitch over another or one thread over another. I found it fascinating.  While I would defer to Amy and her choice of stitches and threads, she never failed to ask me how I saw a particular area being stitched or if I approved of a thread color.  

Jill and Peggy were working hard throughout the day helping customers who stopped by the store, or phoned in orders, or placed orders via the website. Very busy ladies! But they kindly took time to pull threads for me for a couple of canvases I brought with me. They were both so much fun to be with!

Peggy, Melinda, and Jill

I enjoyed being able to see a sneak peek of the two upcoming Home Study projects for later this year - Melissa Shirley's Thanksgiving banner and Christmas banner. Amy is stitching the Thanksgiving banner at present. Both projects are large canvases (lengthwise) but Amy has great ideas for the mechanics of stitching a project of this size. I have signed up to stitch the Christmas banner although it was a hard choice between it and the Thanksgiving banner. You can't go wrong with either one! I also got to see the beautiful creche canvas for the current home study - it is another great collaboration between Kelly Clark and Amy.

I loved seeing all of the Halloweenies in their finished state. And, I got to see the finished and framed Haunted House - spectacular! The framing was fabulous. There is so much to see at Amy's - the threads, the rooms of canvases, the accessories, books, and DVDs. Unfortunately, my time at Amy's ran out and I had to say goodbye to Amy, Peggy, and Jill. Now that I have been there once, I know it will not be the last time. Next time I will just give myself a little more time to just look around and enjoy being in the shop.

I'll be sharing with you more about my projects that Amy and I worked on as they come up in rotation. It's too much to share in just one blog post. All in all, my day with Amy was a dream come true and it was everything that I imagined it would be. Amy is just as lovely, gracious, and warm in person as you would think her to be. I can't think of anyone more delightful to spend the day with. I highly recommend "Rent Amy" as a gift to yourself or your favorite stitcher.

I love Andrew and Anna so much for giving me this day with Amy! Andrew has already said he doesn't know how to top this gift when Christmas rolls around again. I hinted that I wouldn't be at all disappointed if he and Anna give me the same gift again this Christmas. Amy told me that my being there was the first time she had been "given" for Christmas. But she was also "given" as a wedding shower gift - how fun would that be? - having all the bride's friends in the shop for a day of stitching. Sounds like too much fun to me!

Hope you're having a great week!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Have Needlepoint, Will Travel

Needlepoint Spring Break 2011

Last Sunday was a real treat - getting to needlepoint poolside! No drinks with little umbrellas but a nice way to spend an early April afternoon in Jacksonville, FL.  I visited Andrew and Anna last weekend and we spent part of our Sunday afternoon at the pool.  Fortunately I carried a small project with me last weekend. I'm still working on the Melissa Shirley golden pear ornament - it doesn't see the light of day very often but makes for a nice small project when I'm on the road. I will finish it this year, however!

My needlepoint Spring Break really kicks into gear this week as I prepare for my drive to Memphis to spend the day with Amy on Monday the 18th. Do you think I might be a little excited? This morning I brought out the canvases that I will be taking with me and spread them out on the dining room table and made my notes on what I need help with on each one. These are three of the canvases that are making the trip with me. I like the variety.


As you might expect, they are all Melissa Shirley designs. The first one with the two women is my favorite. It is a design by Linda Carter Holman and I think it might be called "This Fine Day". This canvas has been hanging near my stitching chair for the last two years waiting for its turn to be stitched. I have been happy just to look at it all that time but now I am ready to stitch it. It has really led me to being a fan of Linda's work. I now have several small poster prints of her work hanging over my desk.

The second canvas is a lovely antique rose floral in shades of blues and peaches. I had started this a while back and had planned to just stitch it in basketweave. This was before I had been exposed to the amazing variety of stitches and threads that are available. Luckily I had only stitched a little of this piece and it will be easy to rip it out and get a little more creative with it.  I love the delicate background on this one.

The third canvas I bought on my last trip to San Francisco - quite a few years ago. The trip happened to coincide with the Chinese New Year and this seemed like a very appropriate canvas to commemorate that trip. I have stitched several other canvases from this collection and I love the bright colors and the Asian theme. It will be a nice to add this to the three other pieces I have already stitched.

Also accompanying me to Memphis is The Queen. I didn't work on her this week as much as I would have liked but I did a little shopping for her wardrobe. I found several ruffled white ribbons at Hobby Lobby that just might work for her ruffled collar. I'll look to Amy for her suggestions as this collar will be a major feature of this piece. There is also some ribbon work around the Rhodes stitches in the "batwing" areas on either side of her head that I need help with and also the ribbon to stitch it with. Last night I started work on her vest only to find that I was not happy with my work by the end of the evening. I'm not sure that the Kreinik 1/16" ribbon is not too heavy for this area. I'll see what Amy has to say about it.

The other area I worked on yesterday was the Queen's chest. I had to laugh out loud when I read the stitch guide for this area. Amy's directions read as follows:  "Basketweave the areas above the impressive cleavage....." I hope I did the "impressive cleavage" justice with my stitching! I've never stitched cleavage before!

Here in Augusta, we're coming to the close of Masters week. I hope you have seen some pictures or watched a little of the coverage on television. It has been a spectacular week weather-wise for us although the last two days have been more like June or July than April. We had a 90 degree day on Saturday and are looking for the same today. The azaleas and dogwoods have been at their peak this week. It is always an exciting week for Augustans but I won't be sorry to see things get back to normal tomorrow. I miss "my" grocery store which is just a block from Augusta National and difficult to get to for this one week during the year. I will always be a Tiger and Phil Mickelson fan but would be happy to see Rory McIlroy win, too. If you don't follow golf, the saying goes that the Masters really doesn't start until the back 9 on Sunday afternoon. I hope you'll watch and see how beautiful Augusta National is. I'll be waving at you from my house less than two miles away!

Have a good week!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

There's A British Theme This Month

It must be the royal wedding making its influence known when it comes to my stitching projects this month. The two pieces I want to work on are definitely a nod to the monarchy. I mentioned last week that I have had Melissa Shirley's Queen Elizabeth (Wild Women Series) in my stash for the last two years.  I purchased the canvas, threads, and stitch guide from Amy's in Memphis in their after-Christmas sale in 2008.  I decided that it was time for the Queen to take the spotlight.

Cate Blanchett, eat your heart out! You've got nothing on my Queen! This week I worked on her face and hair. I loved working on her hair - French and Colonial knots - and her hair combs. I haven't stitched her lips yet and will wait until I go to Amy's to pick out  just the right threads (and stitch) to stitch those Angelina Jolie-esque lips. I also need to look for just the right jewels to attach to the larger of the two combs. The painted canvas shows "amethysts" on the comb but I am thinking that pearl drops might be a nice alternative. I always think of the Elizabeth I have seen in history books as wearing lots of pearls.  I have also started on the white area of the "batwings" around her head. The stitch is a diamond design using one strand of Splendor. It's a little tedious but well worth the effort as it really does give a lacy effect to the area. Elizabeth is a lot of fun to stitch - Amy has worked her magic again on this Wild Woman!

Last weekend I received an email from Brenda Stimpson at Unique NZ Needlepoint announcing that they were having a sale on their "Keep Calm and Carry On" canvases in honor of the upcoming royal wedding. I gave in to temptation and purchased the lavendar Keep Calm canvas and it arrived on Thursday.

It even came with a small package of Keep Calm tissues! Do you know the story behind the Keep Calm and Carry On slogan? From what I understand, the British government had Keep Calm posters printed in 1939 just as war was looming for the British. These posters were to have been displayed as morale boosters in public areas like the Underground. Stories vary as to whether the posters were ever actually displayed but a few remaining examples were found recently and now there isn't much you can't buy without the saying on it - even tissues and needlepoint canvas. I bought this canvas because this phrase really speaks to me. I've had some unexpected things come up in my life over the last few years and there wasn't much I could do about it but "Keep Calm and Carry On". I'm taking this with me to Amy's in a couple of weeks to pick out some stitches and threads. I think that crown is calling for beads, don't you?

I'm spending the weekend in Jacksonville with Andrew and Anna. Today is Andrew's 28th birthday and Anna's is coming up in a few days. We went downtown this morning to a farmer's market where we saw some absolutely beautiful produce. Look at these strawberries!

Anna couldn't pass up some of these huge berries. We saw beautiful blueberries, squash, tomatoes, and all sorts of other produce. It really looked like most of the vendors had grown their own produce and were not just selling what they had bought from a distributor. There were lots of crafts being sold as well - jewelry, soaps, sculptures, etc. The market is held in the Riverside area of Jacksonville under one of the many bridges that criss-cross downtown Jacksonville. Even though the temperature was a pleasant 75 degrees, it was still nice to have the shade of the bridge to keep things cool.

We had dinner tonight with Andrew and Anna's friends in celebration of Andrew's birthday at Cantina Laredo. The company was wonderful, the dinner was good, but the service was terrible. It will probably be a while before any of us return. Too bad!

Hope you're all having a good weekend and getting lots of stitching done! Keep Calm and Carry On....