Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Time Flys When You Are Having Fun

It has been ages since I last posted.  Would "BUSY" be an appropriate word to use here?  So much of my late spring and summer was taken up with activities involving baseball and my grandson Axel.  He is a baseball playing machine.  He was on a Babe Ruth Minors team in the Spring, made the All Stars and his team came in 4th in the state of Colorado for their age bracket (10-11 yr. olds).  Then it was on to Summer Ball.  Once school started we let him sign up for football.  This was a first for him.  Not sure he enjoyed it all that much - too much contact against his position of running back.  He also got an offer to be on a competitive traveling baseball team that will practice all winter to be ready for spring and summer tournaments in 5 states.  Of course, it was a major decision making time in our household as this requires some traveling monies, etc.  In the end, his father said OK and he began practicing with the team in September.  Football is over and we are still in baseball mode.  Did I mention I LOVE KID'S BASEBALL?  It is a thrill to watch Axel excel in the same sport his father did as a youngster.  He is actually having opportuniy now to do what his dad didn't do until he was 15.  As long as his grades hold up and he is happy to play we will let him enjoy the ride.....

We also took our annual summer trip to LasVegas.  Great fun as usual.  I waslucky and brought home some of their money.   I put the money in my STASH budget and took it with me to the CQI Retreat in Utah in September.  Got to visit with many old and new friends.  There were some great workshops held on Color Theory, flower making and such.  I taught one on how to make bracelets from strips of torn fabrics, wire, beads and funky fibers.  I also got some good buys at the vendor tables set up by the other retreat participants.  I may have picked up a couple of pouonds eating the tasty offerings of Gerry K. who acted as chief cook for the lot of us.

We went shopping one day at Shepherd's Bush and a local needlepoint shop.  I used that Vegas money wisely to buy books, books and more books.......and of course some other stash to make stuff  I saw in the books!  Connie warned me that there might not be enough room in the car on the way home to bring back what we had both bought but we managed to get that car packed and not a book, a ribbon, a piece of fabric or a bead had to be left in Utah!

In early October I took a workshop at the Pikes Peak EGA Chapter's meeting.  We learned wool on wool applique methods and made a darling candle mat.  I really liked learning about the 2 different fusible interfacings the instructor used in the project.  This was also a chance to brush up on my Blanket Stitch and French Knots.  If you have not tried the nylon tricot interfacing you really should!  It leaves the fabric just as drapable as before the interfacing was applied.  I L-O-V-E it!!  Here is a picture of my completed candle mat.

Rocky Mountain Crazy Quilters arranged for 2 workshops with Hellen Gibb.  Helen is a master at making Ribbonwork Flowers.  In the morning class we learned how to make the full blown rose out of wired ribbon with the prairie point leaves.  This is a great flower for a corsage, to put on a hat or a tote.  You could even put a stem in it and make a vase of life sized roses.  We also made the life-sized pansy and leaves from a scalloped ribbon.  Pansy is one of my favorite flowers so I will be using this many times on future CQ blocks and gifts for friends.

In the afternoon class we learned the carnation (lots of fraying of ribbon allowed), the small gold rosette with a knotted center.  I have alredy mde more of these and put them on hedbands for Grace and Belle. a really fun and beautiful flower was the flat rose made from velvet ribbon.  I have seen this flower made out of satin and similar ribbons but handling the velvet ribbon was a challenge. We put that rose into a Hanna Silk ribbon rosette on a crinoline base.  I think I am going to remove the ribbon rose temporairly to put some stamens in behind it, allowing them to lay into the gathering folds of the rosette.  Then I will place the velvet rose back where it belongs.  Not sure yet how I will end up utilizing this particular flower but I do have a hat that looks like it might be a good display place for it......h'mmm.  Here is a picture of what I made in the classes with Helen.

Of course there have been many other things taking my time away from blogging.   Wrote a new Redwork Course for StitchMAP over the summer and am curently mentoring over 15 for that course.  They are in turn mentoring another 25 between them...what a great group of ladies.  I did spend some of my late spring and early summer embroidering quite a few samples for photos to be used in that course.  I also managed to complete some embroidered some tea towels and begin basting of another EGA project which I will be taking a workshop on in the spring.  The workshop will be on how to assemble the project once it is stitched.  Hint:  It is a mathematical puzzle of construction techniques.  I will post photos and reveal that secret project next spring.  Hopefully, I can find time to post again before then........  How do the ladies who post every day or even once a week find the time???  I feel so inadequate, lol.

Now it is time to get back to my mentoring duties and writing more Challenges and classes for StitchMAP.


Monday, May 7, 2012

April CQJP2012 BLock

I was a tad late getting my April block sent to Kathy but it is finally done. I learned, actually relearned several things while working on this block.

I wanted to do some things on this block that I haven't done for a couple of years in the way of texturizing my embroidery. I have done some needleweaving, cast-on stitches, and some needle wrapping that is traditionally done in Hardanger fillings. I also wanted to revisit bullions and shisha. For my personal "challenge" I decided to utilize some objects found around the house as a base for the texturizing to add depth.
So, here was the prep plan. First, collect fabrics to build block. Second, find some plastic 'thingys' like bone rings, washers, etc. to cover with stitches for focal points. Third, prepare a shisha mirror to be attached later. Fourth, find some long unused fibers to do the stitching with. Fifth, construct block with logical sense of order. That WAS the prep plan.

First thing I learned is to never forget the plan! I gathered together many different possible sky/space fabrics and settled on the one shown which was a batik that Kathy Shaw had shared with me when I visited her in February. The yellow planet fabric was chosen to provide a bright contrast to the sky. I knew I needed another planet to help establish a sense of depth to the block. So, I found the orange orb which had been machine stitched on a piece of organdy and given to me by a friend several years ago. There were several different colored combinations done by her on one small piece of cloth. I simply cut this one out very close to the stitching and couched it down to the sky. I thought it was fine and it was a cool complement to the blue in the sky. Mind you, I did this BEFORE placing the yellow shisha planet down....not badddd but not gooood either....out of order.

I appliqued the top planet edge down over the blue and the muslin backing. Then, I stitched the bottom edge down with the machine all the way across the block - below where the 'actual seam line'' should be. Uh oh! I forgot to do 2 things...trim out the excess blue fabric and put in my batting for giving the planet some dimension and cushion. Pull out the stitches, lift back the planet, trim out the excess fabric, clip the curves (forgot that too), insert the batting and stitch the whole thing down again with the sewing machine (which we all know is not my favorite tool). LOL.

Then, I began to choose the threads I would use for my embroidery. I started with a Caron's Watercolour over-dyed and then selected a Thread Gatherer's overdye that had some similar tones to it. I chose some Racheltte cream colored rayon tubing with a gold cord down the center for some of the accent work and a very very dark purple contrasting rayon tubing for an additional fiber to use with it. I pulled several different sizes of gold, clear crystal and brown toned beads for accents. A bright egg yolk yellow tatting thread was pulled to do the shisha with. Other fibers were tatting thread, perle cotton and DMC floss. I was good to I began with the shisha.

I should have made that sucker directly on the sky and not bothered to make it on muslin first. It was a pain to cut out and then I had to add another row of very tiny stitches around the outside of it to hold it down where it is placed now. I was forced to admit how bad my eyes are getting and how I am going to have to invest in a new pair of glasses if I want to continue to work in such small stitches. Arrggh!
The next day that I stitched on it my son was walking through the room and he noticed a brown sheer fabric sleeve on a blouse with printed lines on it laying in my thrift store clothing pile. "Wow, Mom. Are you going to add this for a gas cloud on your planet? Cool!" Well, of course I wanted to be cool so I said I was going to do just that very thing right then. I held the sleeve across the width of the block, threw on 2-3 more inches for good measure and cut the sleeve right off that thrift store blouse! I twisted it this way and that until I got the lines to swirl just the way I wanted them to go and still have some loose puffs to show it was a 'cloud'. Next, I proceeded to whip it down with the finest of stitches so as not to tear the sheer fabric. I stitched it top and bottom...tight! I am very happy at this point because I think it has solved the problem I had been thinking about - how many hours would it take for me to fill that whole piece of yellow fabric with texturizing stitches? Would I get done before the end of the month? I was feeling real smug. I had just filled over 1/2 of the planet with a gas cloud.

WAIT! Now I am ready to begin the planet embroidery and I realize I have neglected to put my plastic rings under the fabric and they need to be on the batting! AND....I really don't like the plastic things I have chosen anyway. So, I call my dear friend Maggie and we take a trip to the hardware store. We look in drapery/ plastic O rings is all they have. We look in the plumbing department...rubber everything! Will it deterioriate over time? Will it leach oil into the fabric? Why am I even looking at it? Most of it is black anyhow! Yuck. It will show through the fabric. So...I grab a young man by the arm and beg him to tell me where the washers are...not wash machines! He takes me to building supplies and in a bazillion little drawers back there they have all kinds of metal, rubber, wood and acrylic "thingys". He points out that I can buy them individually or by the package and how to tell what is what in the drawers for pricing purposes. I LOVED this kid! He didn't even laugh when I told him I was going to use them for sewing purposes.

About an hour later and only a couple of dollars poorer, I took Maggie home and went back to my house to finish Planet Sorry Shari (as my grandkids were now calling it). I bought acrylic because it was a light cream color and truthfully had the best selection of sizes and shapes except for the metal ones. The price range was from less than 25 cents to about $1.80 each - so it was just a matter of choosing something that would fit the area I had available to put them on. Of course, I bought extra while I was there......wouldn't everyone?

The next time I picked up Planet SS I realize I still have to sandwich those "thingys" between the fabrics. I take out the planet's top edge applique stitches and slide the rings into place, not sure at all that they will stay where I put them. I load a needle with sewing thread and try to put a tacking stitch on them from outside the ring to the inside and then tied off on the back. Pray it will stay because I already see a new problem. I don't have enough slack in my planet fabric to accommodate the rings nicely and still allow me to put the planet edge down without getting a bumpy horizon line. I have clipped the curve underneath awfully close. Talk about your nail biting efforts to get that edge turned under and as smooth as is what it is now! I am frustrated with it but my DD Moon says it looks fine, because nothing is ever perfectly smooth in space, too many crater pockmarks. I rasied this genius so she must be right! I move on.

I made a mistake with that dark purple rayon and I know it. I decide to take it out and try something else. The rayon leaves large holes in the fabric when it is removed. I have to resort to using 4 plies of embroidery floss to fill the hole. I add a bead to cover the center hole in the ring because it is pretty much useless fabric in the hole as the rayon left large holes there too and they are too close together to fill nicely. I cover the bead in floss, put it on the washer center and proceed to lay the foundation for the needlewrapped 'volcano'. By now I am sure the aliens that inhabit this planet live down that hole. They have zapped my creative juices right out of me and I just want to get done. The bullions, cast on stitches, French knots, needleweaving and beading all go fine over the next few days. I create the needlewrapped bars on the volcano as I go along and am rather proud of how that turned out.
I showed the block to Maggie and her dear mother, Dixie. Dixie is a mentor of mine. They truly seemed to like it. DONE! I ship a picture off to Kathy after adding one last flat backed bead in the sky for a third planet. I no longer have fantasies about going into space. I know it would be a difficult place to live because nothing goes as planned there! I think I will stick with more realistic landscapes for the rest of my journal pages.

I hope you like Planet SS. Remember -- Never Forget The Plan...unless you forgot to plan........

Hugs, Shari

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Butterfly Pin

Saturday I attended the Pikes Peak EGA Chapter's meeting. Our workshop was a beaded pin class taught by Caroyn Sherman. Carolyn is a member of PPEGA and she is a national beading instructor for EGA, often teaching at seminars. I am happy to call her a friend and mentor. She is always willing to help fellow stitchers and beaders.

Here is a picture of my completed project. The beading went smoothly and I really like having a workshop project that can be completed the day I start it rather than one that takes forever after the meeting to complete.

Isn't it cute? If you ever have an opportunity to take a class from Carolyn I would highly recommend that you do so.

Hugs, Shari

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Everything IS BIGGER In Texas

The last week of February DH and I loaded up the trailer with all the collected needlework stash donations and we took off to deliver them to the ladies of Bastrop, Texas. You can read about the Texas Fire Relief Effort to help the sitchers of Bastrop and the surrounding communities over on the Stitchmap blog here.

The first day on the road we stopped for dinner at a wonderful restaurant. They advertised delicious food and a fun time. We weren't disappointed on either count.

One of their claims to fame is the free 72 oz. steak. It is free IF you can eat it all and all of the trimmings, too. I sure hope this fella didn't wind up on someone's plate the next week. He would have been pretty tough!

Of course, after wrestling with that steer I had to take a leisurely swing on the front porch in the warm evening sun before going inside to eat some vittles!

I was so full from the delish dinner (chicken fried steak, yummy!)that I just had to sit for a while in this rocker to let it digest. I can't put into words how tiny I felt in this rocking chair! But, let me tell you was a good feeling, lol. Perhaps the fella (it would have to be a man) who could eat that 72 oz. steak would fill up this chair but I felt like a flea in it.

We did consider staying at the hotel across the street for the night but it was a bit too rustic looking for me! We traveled on to keep our reservations a little further up the road.

I really want to thank the ladies of the Bastrop community for their hospitality over the next few days. We were treated to a reception at the home of Debbie H., taken on a guided tour of all the lovely shops downtown by Debbie and Lyn G., and we were invited to the Best Little Quilt Show in Texas on Friday in La Grange. I bought way too much at the vendor's booths there. The area's antique shops were also wonderful. My pocketbook got a bit lighter after I visited a few of those, lol.

I was inspired by the members of the community that I had a chance to meet. Everyone was gracious and friendly. The people of Bastrop really pulled together to help each other after the wildfires and they obviously know how to fill those big boots we always hear about. I was impressed with everyone I met and everything I saw.

Hugs, Shari

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March CQJP 2012 Block

This is the third in a series of landscapes I am doing for the CQJP 2012 project. I have entitled it Last Snow on the Prairie. The inspiration came from a recent snowfall that occured here in Colorado. Our prairie is actually high desert and the snow never hangs around. Instead, it blows around in the wind and disappears almost overnight most of the time. I wanted to capture that feeling of the rolling hills prairie dusted with snow and the newly greening century plants.

The mountains are cut from decorator upholstery fabrics and singed over a candle flame. They are stitched down using gold metallic Kreinik #4 fine braid. I am fond of the way these decorator fabrics give the impression of ridges and valleys. They frequently have different areas of texture and that always intrigues me...I am a texture junkie! The 'prairie' is a piece of drapery fabric from a sample book and it is covered with a piece of fine tulle lace curtain rescued from a thrift store. The sky is an old sheet I dyed and the patches of snow are motifs cut from yet another lace curtain and placed under the first overall piece of snow lace. I did purposefully leave some puckered up fabric in the center of the prairie to work around, hopefully it was going to simulate the little drifts of sand and dirt that are out on the grassland. I think it was fairly effective.

I used 3 different types of funky yarns for the tree line at the base of the mountains. The first is an olive green wooly type that I stretched out a bit and put down in about 3 places before covering it with the dark green chenille type fiber that simulates the pine tree that border a lot of our hills. I mostly used fly stitches to hold these fibers in place. The last fiber is a brown/tan/dark brown metallic blend that sets right underneath the dark green. It adds depth to the block and begins the sparkle of the snow. I also used a blending filament from Kreinik to randomly wrap and tack the tulle lace to the foundation. It doesn't show in the picture too well, in my opinion. But, it is sparkly like ice crystals in person, I promise, lol.

The gully grass is another funky fiber that is rather 'fringey' and grasslike. I used a double row closer to the middle and front of the block. I tapered it off to a single strand nearer to the mountains to show distance and perspective.

Several people have asked where I find these fibers. Most of them are purchased at yarn shops as specialty yarns on the ball. I have also then at needlework shops on long display cards. These cards usually have 6-7 different types of funky fibers wound on one card, in about 2-3 yard lengths, which is more than sufficient for several projects. However, I like to send these fibers out in Swaps with my sister stitchers so I usually buy the balls of fibers/yarn at the yarn shop so I have plenty to share. It is amazing the collection you can acquire through swaps and you can afford to be generous by sending along a couple of yards or more because you will never use up all that is on most of those balls! On occassion I have found these fibers at the thrift stores also - for pennies on the dollar. Also available at the thrift store are scarves already knit from these fibers and I have even been known to unravel some of the wonderfully soft scarves because I could get the scarf for 50 cents - $1 and there is a lot of funk in one scarf, ROFLOL.

The distant trees are perle cotton and/or DMC embroidery floss for the most part. They are done in feather stitch, chain stitch and wrapped chain or straight stitches. The main tree is a selection of about 6 funky fibers in browns, black, grey and tans. I believe there are some eyelash yarns, chenilles, silky ribbon types and some corded eyelash types in the mix. I also added in several pieces of #8 perle cotton. I nevercount the number of threads. I usually go for color and the size trunk I can twist with what I have pulled out. If it is too small for the project I add more. If it is too large I put a few back in the drawer. I twisted the fibers together a little like one would wring out a rag. I then pinned the trunk portion down to the block with straight pins and proceeded to splay the loose ends into roots and branches, always working the thicker threads backward into the branch or trunk when I needed to go forward with just the thinner fiber for the tapering brnaches. The outer branch/twig system is single strand overdyed embroidery floss in feather stitching. There are some things to consider when making a tree. For instance, nothing needs to be perfectly smooth because most barks are not, so feel free to tack the fibers down with strong stitches that will pull the fibers into nooks and crannies. Remember that the new growth at the end of the branches is tender and usually greener or lighter browns than the rest of the tree because they reflect the light more readily. Lastly, when adding the feather stitching try to add some along the side of the branch and not just at the ends. These would bcome next year's midsized branches.

The snow was added along the branches and into the V crevices by using tiny snippets of #12 and #8 white perle cotton couched down with white floss. In some cases, like the distant trees, I even used just floss in varying plies to add the snow to the trees. My husband suggested that the bark was rough and therefore, would catch snow in the crevices in the wind, so I added some to the trunk of the main tree and I think his suggestion was spot on. Generally, I do not stitch these snippets through the fabric bcause it wears on the fibers so much. I just snip them and couch them down and pierce them with embroidery floss to securely hold in place.

The century plants stay on the prarie year around here in Colorado. They are always in different stages of maturity. New growth is light green and as the plant ages the spike knife-like 'leaves' get darker and darker until they turn brown. The spike of white pod-like flowers are dried and turn toa woody brown by late summer. They stay dark brown throughout the winter, often falling off the plant in the wind. So, I added French knot 'pods' on a single spiked stem to some, but not all, of the plants. I also tried to make the plants seem more distant by making them decrease to a smaller size as they neared the mountains.

The finishing prairie elements are the rocks added to the gully and to the base of the tree. I began by making 3 stumpwork rocks from wadsof rust dyed cheesecloth. It was fun to stitch these in hand and then when attaching them to the block I took a couple of tight stitches on them to give them dimples/ridges. They are so small it doesn't show in the photo real well but in person, against the ultra smooth real rocks I stitched down. These cheesecloth rocks look very weathered and I really like them. I expect to use this technique again on future blocks.

The final step was to add some clear sequins and some seed beads to the snow patches to make them shine a bit like glistening snow. Again, the lighting when taking the photo, does not show this to the best effect but it is definitely there.

I enjoyed doing this block very much. I was stitching snow onto that tree all the way from Indiana to Kansas! Thank goodness DH stopped at the Russell Stover chocolate candy factory in Kansas. I got distracted and the block didn't get to looking like a blizzard had hit, lol. I think I must go get another piece from the box now.

Thanks to everyone for their kind comments regarding the series I am doing. Your support is a powerful motivator.

Hugs, Shari

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

February CQJP 2012 Vineyard Block

This is the second in the landscape series I am stitching up for the CQJP 2012 sponsored by Kathy Shaw. Click the button on my side bar if you would like to see more beautiful blocks from all over the world.

I have tried to create the feeling of looking down on the vineyards in Northern California. The scene was inspired by two different things. One was an advertisement for wine that I saw showing a landscape of vineyards. It had a large glass of wine overlaying the scene and the colors caught my attention. The ad also inspired me another way and now the glass of wine is gone, lol. secondly, I have family members that live in the northern part of California so I have visited the area a few times. This is supposed to be a composite of things I remember most from that scenic area. I hope you all get a similarly good feeling after viewing this block and that it might inspire you to visit the beautiful fields in California's wine country.

Here is a little bit about how I went about creating this block. Keep in mind that the construction and piecing was done at home and the stitching was all done as I was traveling in a truck on my way to Bastrop, Texas to deliver the Fire Relief Donatons. I had to do some stitching that didn't require percision so the stiches used are very simple ones.

First I chose my sky and mountain fabrics. Then I placed the sky fabric down on my foundation muslin. Next I worked on developing the rows of 'dirt & grape vines'. For this block I had a minimal amount of fabric available to me to use for those rows and I had to decide how to get as much use out of it as possible. I wasn't going to be able to seam the strips together and have enough fabric to make the width of the block even. To remedy that I threw in a wider strip of fabric for the dirt road. I would have liked to have a bit more of a vanishing point for the rows and the road but my fabric shortage dictated a wider vanishing point line. I also had to plan on how low to set the strips and still get a properly placed horizon line. You will note that the horizon line tilts a bit to the left, as do the rows on the left side of the road. I hoped this would give you the feeling of being on a rolling hill side. I wonder if I succeeded?

I butted the strips up to one another (much like you would do when working with wool patches) and I basted them in place at the bottom of the block (allowing for my seam allowance) until I could figure out the mountain placements.

I cut the mountain shapes free hand with the rotary cutter from batik fabrics. Once I had a pleasing arrangement I pinned them in place and determined the direction the light would be 'coming from'. I used cotton embroidery floss throughout the stitching on this block. The mountains and the final row of chain stitches on the vines were done in over-dyed flosses. Feather stitches were used to highlight and texture the mountains and the road. I joined the rows by using a tiny blanket stitch for the first layer of stitches and at the same time I added my very fine black tulle for the shadows between rows and on the road. The vines are built up in layers of fly stitch, chain stitch, fly stitch again and more chain stitches to give some depth to their appearance. I used a varying number of plies of floss for this so there would be some texture throughout the vines.

The next step was to creat some distant trees using elongated fly stitches and some whipped backstitches for the trunks and branches. In front of those I placed some irregularly spaced long straight stitches for the hint of some fencing. Over that I laid a long strip of a funky wooly fiber that I tacked down - hoping it would look like a bank of bushes. The tree tops on the larger trees are made from a multicolored yarn that I pulled apart and distorted. It is held in place with tiny fly stitches to simulate branches. Somethought was given to placement of the lighter shades of green so the light direction would remain constant. The smaller trees have some shredded/pulled cheese cloth foliage.

when I am having a day of plaing with dyes I use snall rags/swatches of cheese cloth for wiping up any spills, cleaning out my dyeing bowls/jars, etc. I heat set the colors with the iron. I keep the rags and then use that cheese cloth for lots of things in my needlework. It is a fun and easily controlled fabric to work with in this manner. You can get some pretty ugly and dirty looking swatches but they tear off into great pieces for use on trees, as rocks, seaweed, etc.

The last element to be added to the block was the beading along the vines. I used a mixture of seed beads in golds, pinks and purples to simulate grapes ready for harvest.

I am pretty happy with the way this block turned out considering I had to do most of the actual stitching in the truck. DH was really good about letting me use his side of the cup holder for holding my scissors, needle book, etc. I used my cup to hold the floss cards. It sure made the time pass quickly on the ride to Texas.

Hugs, Shari

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Crazy Quilts Are Quilts Too

Have you visited the Crazy Quilt Show on-line at Pigtales and Quilts? There are some wonderful examples of CQ entered in a contest on this site. The creators of the CQs are waiting for you to come look at their work. You can actually vote for your favorite and help some lucky CQer win some fabulous prizes. There are also some wonderful CQ enthusiasts who have linked to the site and you can visit their blogs to feast your eyes on even more eye candy. You can win prizes yourself if you link up right away. Only a few days left.

Also of interest to those loving CQ would be the Crazy Quilting Journal Project (CQJP). Over 200 ladies and gentlemen from all overthe world have registered to participate by sharing a completed CQ block/project each month for 12 months. The works shown so far for January and February are outstanding. You will find a link over in my side bar.

Enjoy the sharing going on at both of these sites and consider participating in one or both of them next year. In the meantime, check them out and try to contain your drool.

Hugs, Shari