Sunday, March 25, 2012

Welcome, Spring!

It  is such a  beautiful Sunday morning here in Georgia! I think the worst of the pollen is over (please, let it be over!) so now it's time to get back outside. I spent most of yesterday in the yard cleaning and pruning. My perennials are all showing signs of making their yearly appearance - Ryan's daisies, Easter lilies, black-eyed Susans, butterfly bush, daylilies, and lantana. I picked up my Kimberley Queen ferns this week along with two Painted Lady hibiscus and a magenta bougainvillea from the big plant tent that magically appears on Washington Road a few weeks before Masters week.

The blooms on the bougainvillea start out a deep orange and as they fully open become a deep pink. I haven't tried this plant in a long time so I hope it likes the full sun location I am giving it.

The azaleas are in full bloom this week and are spectacular. These are in my backyard and are so beautiful right now. I still have some work to do on the patio with many containers still to be filled with flowers. But at least the pots are emptied and just ready for me to make a trip to the nursery.

My progress on the M pear was a little slow this week but all of the stripes have been finished. Now I can move on to beading the M. I think I'll have M finished by the end of the week - just in time for the arrival of the last lesson in this Home Study project from Amy's.

Did I tell you that I am taking Robin King's Sunflower and Berries class at In Stitches in late April in Atlanta? Robin will be teaching us some wonderful techniques on a beautiful NeedleDeeva canvas that features lots of ribbons and beads and sequins. Robin is blogging about it on the Needlepoint Study Hall blog - check it out! I'm excited to get back to In Stitches and looking forward to meeting Robin!

In eagle nest news, there is still no egg in the Norfolk nest. I have not completely given up but the season is quickly passing by. It seems like the 5 year old female may still be a little young for eggs. Female eagles usually don't begin to lay eggs until they are at least five. She is still showing some juvenile feathers - a further indication that she might be too young for eggs this year. She and Dad keep trying to make some eggs but the nest remains empty. At the Richmond, VA nest, the two eaglets are cute little balls of grey fluff and you can see how they are quickly growing day by day. Mom has a hard time keeping one of them down in the nest bowl (the deeper part of the nest). At the Decorah nest, the first egg should begin to hatch any moment now. I am so glad I have the second monitor to watch as I work. Even if there is no action in these nests, I can hear the sounds of the birds in the nearby trees. Such peaceful sounds! A wonderful thing when you feel like you are chained to your desk!

I hope Spring has arrived by now in your neighborhood and that you can get out and enjoy all Mother Nature has to offer. I think I'm headed outside now. The beading on that M pear will just have to wait!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lessons Learned

This week I ordered from Amy's the three new DVDs in the How'd You Do That series - Back to Basics, Level 1, Parts 1, 2, and 3. The DVDs arrived yesterday and I have already watched Part 1 twice. Each DVD features the wisdom of Tony Minieri and the excellent stitching of Amy Bunger. Cudos to Robin King and Pat Ryan who filmed and produced the set - great job!

I am definitely a self-taught stitcher. I have had maybe two classes in my stitching life. The only reason I know how to stitch basketweave correctly is because I stitched a kneeler for The National Cathedral back in the mid 90's. The needlepoint guild there was/is adamant that basketweave be stitched in the correct method. It's the method we all know - slide down the pole (vertical threads) and climb up the stairs (horizontal threads). That's almost all of my knowledge of proper stitch technique right there. I can follow directions (for the most part) and my projects turn out fairly well. But so often I have had no idea why stitches are placed in particular ways or certain directions. In Part 1 of the Back to Basics DVD, so many light bulbs came on for me! I didn't even know you use certain types of needles for vertical stitches and others for diagonal stitches. I can't wait to see what is in store for me in Parts 2 and 3. If you're self-taught as I am, these DVDs would definitely be a worthwhile investment for you.

This week in my stitching I moved on to the M pear with all of its many stripes. Amy, as always, comes up with such unique combinations of patterns and threads. The light green stripe uses Russian interlaced weaving and just to look at it, it seems a daunting stitch but it really isn't. The compensation gave me the most trouble but I think by the time I add the beads to the M, the compensated areas won't jump out at me as they do now. I finished the Eight Ball stitch last night (the center stripe) and now understand why the stitch guide showed some specific stitch placements because just such a subject was covered in Part 1 of the Back to Basics DVD. How timely!

There is just one more thread kit and stitch guide left to come for this Home Study project and it will be concluded. My thoughts turn more and more these days to how I will have it finished. My original idea for finishing was to construct it in such a way that it could hang from my mantle (fireplace not in use!). That would work for the house I live in now, but what if I move somewhere else and there is no mantle? What if Andrew and Anna don't want to use it that way when it eventually is handed down to them? It would make an awfully long pillow so I am not thinking in those terms. I think Amy is considering having hers framed. Maybe that is the best idea but what do you think? You have been watching me stitch this for the last five months. I would love to hear your finishing ideas - please!

I think I will head outdoors for a little while despite the horrible coating of pollen on everything. We had an early morning thunderstorm today so perhaps some of the pollen has been washed away. The trees are leafing out, the dogwoods and azaleas are in full bloom, and there isn't a cloud in the sky. It's a beautiful 72 degree day out right now.

Hope you have a beautiful day to enjoy and a great week ahead!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's Just An Hour

If it's just an hour, why is it so hard to make the adjustment to Daylight Savings Time? Maybe it has to do with whether you wake up when it's dark or you wake up when the sun has come up. This morning I did both. I woke up at 5:30 (it was still dark), fed the cat, and went back to bed. The next thing I knew it was 8:30 and the sun was shining. The cat is still asleep two hours later so I think she is confused as well. I hope your morning is off to a good start with no confusion as to what time it is!

Earlier this week I started the gold flowers on the T pear. Amy chose the most beautiful Gloriana silk to use for the first step in this flower. It is so lovely with its subtle shading. The second step in the flower is to add accents of an amber colored Kreinik. It took several nights of stitching to finish step one and two of the flowers. The third step is to add Lazy Daisy stitches on top of the satin stitches. The fourth step is to add French knots to the center.

Honestly, I think if I were stitching it again, I would not stitch the Lazy Daisies. The satin stitches in the Gloriana silk are so beautiful and take some time to stitch properly. Then you cover them up with the Lazy Daisies. I think I may have liked it better to just fill the center with the amber colored French knots.  But, the effect of the raised Lazy Daisies is very nice and I am not unhappy that I stitched it according to Amy's stitch guide.

Now, it's on to the M pear and lots of stripes and interesting stitches and threads. A nice challenge for a Sunday afternoon!

In eagle nest news, there was a dramatic turn of events at the Norfolk nest this week. Early in the week we were hoping for eggs to be laid and Female #3 was showing signs that the big event was imminent. But, out of the blue on Wednesday evening, a 4th female attempted to enter the nest while Dad Norfolk was there and quite a scuffle took place. Dad let her know in no uncertain terms that she was not welcome. Female #3 was photographed earlier that day engaged in an aerial fight with this same Female #4. Their talons were locked together in combat as they flew over the gardens. The photos are extraordinary. Territorial fights are sometimes brutal to watch and I had a front row seat this week. It is probably a blessing that no eggs had been laid because they would surely have been broken as Dad defended the nest on Wednesday evening.

Now, what is sad and so ironic is that Female #3 has not been seen since Thursday morning and it appears Female #4 has prevailed as of last evening. Dad allowed her to stay at the nest last night and mated with her this morning. I think Dad is determined that he will have eggs in that nest this year and he is, at this point, not too picky as to who will lay those eggs. I had to laugh at myself this morning because the first message I looked at on my phone when I woke up was from the Norfolk Botanical Garden alerting me to the fact that Dad had mated with #4 at 6:50 AM this morning. I signed up for the text alerts when some momentous event occurs at the nest such as an egg being laid. The arrival of this new female this week is definitely a momentous event and those of us who watch the nest (15,000 at one point this week) have been waiting to see if Dad would accept this new female. Looks like he has as of this morning! It is hard to remove human emotion from the events at the nest this year and to step back and watch Nature truly take its course knowing we have no control over what happens there. Watching the nest is hands-down better than a lot of what is on television these days!

I didn't mean to go to such lengths about the nest activities this week but it was quite a week! I watched the birds in my own backyard yesterday. The cedar waxwings are here at the moment devouring every berry they can find on the Carolina Cherry trees. I heard a strange sound while out on the patio and realized the cedar waxwings were swarming all over the Carolina Cherry next door and the berries were hitting the tin roof and making quite the racket. These birds will probably only be here a few more days before they move on but I always enjoy their brief yearly visits.

Enough of the birds, it's time to get back to some stitching!

Have a great week - enjoy being Irish even if it's only for one day this week!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Flying Needles This Week

The fifth kit for the Christmas Banner arrived from Amy's right on schedule this week. I had finished the I and the S pears ahead of schedule so, while I waited for the next kit to arrive, I went back - all the way to the C and the H pears - and worked on the silvery brackets of fly stitch that make up the third component of the background stitch. It isn't my most favorite part of the banner to stitch - it is a time consuming stitch with 4 fly stitches to each square. But, I found that as I plugged away at it and got into a rhythm of stitching, it became much less tedious. I took a photo of my progress but decided not to use the photo as it really doesn't do justice to the subtle sparkle that the fly stitches add to the background.  You really have to see it in person to appreciate what this third stitch adds to the finished look.

I wish the color of the Vineyard Silk Classic that we use in the background of the T pear had shown up better. It is called "Mojito" and is the exact color of the tiny mint leaves that are starting to appear in my herb border outside the back door. Mojito is a wonderful rich green and the perfect name for this background color. The background and the T worked up very quickly and will allow me to spend this next week working on the gold flowers. Satin stitches and lazy daisies sound like fun for the week ahead.

My other stitching project this week is Kelly Clark's Candy Corn Halloween Apple with a stitch guide by Amy Bunger. It is such a nice change to work on a 9" square frame as opposed to the 40" frame for the Christmas banner!

This project feels like it is just zipping along but it really isn't all that much different in size from that of the Christmas pears. There are just less design elements within the apple. With the black background of the apple needing to be stitched this week, I hope I can find time for some daytime stitching. I need all the light I can get when stitching a black background - the eyes just aren't what they used to be!

The sun is finally out this morning after what seems like days and days of rain - and wind! It is so hard to watch on television the destruction of lives and homes that the weather has brought over the last week. I think it's time for another donation to the Red Cross. Will you join me?

I hope you have a wonderful week ahead!