Bard Dance

I am running out of appropriate Enya song titles but this one fits the bill as it is a joyful tune and I am happy as I have another finish!  Yes, Nikki’s Miami Heat is complete!  Here she is in all her slam dunk glory:

2016-11 - Nikki's Miami Heat (Copyright NBA Media Ventures, LLC)

2016-11 – Nikki’s Miami Heat (Copyright NBA Media Ventures, LLC with additional design work by Lars Davies)

And here is a close up to appreciate the texture created by leaving the white areas unstitched:


If you would like to have a look at the weekly progression pictures, they are here.  I really loved working on this piece from start to finish, including all the design decisions: which image, colour gradients, and which parts to leave blank.  I now need to get all four of my nieces’ pieces over to the Rensel Studio and see what magic she can work.  Given that Christmas is just around the corner and the extra load that entails on the postal system both in the UK and the US, I shall leave that decision to the New Year.  What I really want to do is to fly over and discuss the work in person because I think I would cry if my package was lost in the post.  This actually happened to one poor lady who stitched a Chatelaine design across 5.5 years and mailed it via priority mail with tracking.  Poof.  Gone.  Without a Trace.

Next up is Flora, who disappeared from sight at the end of August:


I managed to focus on her for a couple of afternoons once Miami Heat was finished and here is where I left her yesterday:


So, the last row is in my sights, which is all of 50 stitches deep: I reckon it’s about 8 weeks’ worth of work, depending on how much overtime I have to do at my place of work over the Christmas period.

In other news, I had to upgrade how I stored my stitching materials, as it was all getting a bit rickety and unstable by the side of my chair.  The cats were in danger of knocking it over when bombing around the place and I just know it would have coincided with a cup of tea being in the vicinity.  Here’s what it looked like before:

2016-11-07 Old Stitching Store

2016-11-07 Old Stitching Store

And here’s what it looks like now, thanks to a trip to Ikea.  Amazingly, we managed to get round Ikea without picking up loads of stuff and came out with just the drawers:

2016-11-07 - New Stitching Store

2016-11-07 – New Stitching Store

I still have four boxes holding threads not being used for any project and they are in a similar drawer by my computer.  It’s a nice feeling to know they are all safe, though.

Have a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you before the New Year!


How Can I Keep From Singing

The reason for this Enya song title is that I not only have a framed finish, but I presented it to the lovely Poppy as well!  I am so ridiculously pleased with Assad’s framing – he really knows how to enhance anything he works on:

2016-10 - AAN Owl Family Tree stitched on Zweigart 22 count Hardanger using DMC Threads

2016-10 – AAN Owl Family Tree stitched on Zweigart 22 count Hardanger using DMC Threads

And here is the happy recipient:

2016-10-16 - Presented to Poppy

2016-10-16 – Presented to Poppy

This turned out to be a giant piece: it is a full 1.22 metres (48″) tall and 71 cm (28″) wide.  I wasn’t looking forward to the task of getting a good photograph given the size of the glass; however, this You Tube tutorial turned out to be useful.   The upshot is as follows:

  • Light the picture from either side
  • Get a big matt black piece of material or board and cut a hole in it for your lens to poke through (obviously having first set up the shot).  I always use a camera stand as it means the shot should be pin-sharp.
  • Take the picture.

I didn’t have anything black to work with (next time, maybe); however, I managed to play around with positioning the lights and only had a relatively unobtrusive reflection of the camera stand (see the first picture).  The second picture with Poppy was taken in exactly the same place later on in the afternoon but with the window blinds open and there are reflections galore!

Moving on to Nikki’s Miami Heat.  This is where I left you last month:


And here is where I finished yesterday:


I am so pleased with the lettering, particularly in respect of the colour, sharpness, and that little flame on the T.  As mentioned previously the colours are 50% black, 25% a red/green blend, and 25% a blue/red copper blend.  Up close, it looks a bit weird but, when you step back, magically the letters turn into a dark grey colour.  This piece is definitely a lesson in how to confuse the brain visually.  Nothing is ever as it seems!  The lower half is complete so the rest of this month will be all about the flame end of the ball and the basketball hoop, finishing with a flourish on Nikki’s name.  Will I get it done in a month?  Who knows.  Watch this space …



First of Autumn

Thank goodness the heat of summer is over and the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us.

As promised, I focussed on Miami Heat for the majority of September.  I had a couple of wobbles when I started stitching – was it too pixelated and should I stitch the white/cream blends at the edges of the ball?  I cogitated on the first conundrum during a long walk, and on my return brought the stitching pattern up on the computer to scale then walked to the other side of the room to see what it would look like when upon on a wall.  Whew!  It looked good.  During a Skype call with my lovely husband, while he was in Florida, I spoke to him about the second and all was back on track without any changes.  So, here was where I got to after three weeks and before I turned the material up:


And here is where I finished last night:



You can really see the colour changes moving from orange to red in the top photograph.  In the end, I decided I liked the speckles as it recreated the texture of the basketball.

The reason I only did a little bit of work on Miami Heat this week was because Poppy’s parents had decided which names were to go on Owl Family Tree and I spent the week planning and executing:

  • First off, it was to see if the names would fit either above their designated owl or look good beside them.  I did this by editing a PDF of the finished stitch (a bigger view is here):
Planning the Names

Planning the Names

  • Second came choosing a font.  As the names are captioned from Poppy’s viewpoint, I decided on a “learning to write” font, then did a test stitch (Auntie Tim (yes, that’s right) and Auntie Vicks), as they were the ones with the least amount of room vertically and their spacing would dictate the size of the font.


  • Finally came the game of getting the rest of the names positioned on the pattern, from which I would then stitch; even then I still had to make minor adjustments as I went.  This designing malarky is harder than it looks🙂 .  At various points during this process I had to move George and/or Tiggy as they just love to sit on paper for some reason:
2016-09-20 - Name Planning Complete

Name Planning Complete

Good luck to anyone trying to recreate the pattern from that photograph as the original pattern was so small I had to enlarge it massively to be able to stitch from it.

Anyway, may I present Poppy’s Owl Family Tree with all stitching finished!  Now to take it to Assad to be framed:

2016-09-25 - Finished with Names Added

2016-09-25 – Finished with Names Added

If you click on Owl Family Tree, you can see the close-up shots of each branch – just scroll to the bottom, then click on one to get a larger view in a carousel format.

Whatever you’re doing this October, I hope you have fun!  Happy stitching!


Willows on the Water

This song by Enya reminds me so much of the lazy, hazy days of summer and this post is all about temperature.

First off, let’s have a look at Flora, who is wandering in a Florentine garden during Spring:


Although she is in soft focus (purely because the original is life-sized and my piece is a mere 33 x 68cm/13 x 31″), Meredith at Scarlet Quince designs has still managed to capture the flowing nature of her gown.  I just love it.  I reckon I have another two days’ work on this row and then 7-8 weeks on the last row, which is about the same depth as the one I’m working on.  However, she will have to wait a little while longer as I have a new start!

Let me introduce you to Nikki’s Miami Heat:

The Pattern

We offered Nikki a choice of various logos and styles and I am so glad she picked this one as it is much more interesting from a stitcher’s viewpoint due to the colour changes.

There were some problems getting the sharpness of Nikki’s name and Miami Heat to match as the latter is taken from the team’s artwork and the former was created using the matching font from Microsoft Office.  Note, the A and T are stylized versions of the font so DH couldn’t just replace the artwork with the font.  Given this, I emailed the basketball team to see if they could help out; however, not a single reply, despite writing to two different email addresses along with a couple of polite nudges.  Hey ho, back to the drawing board.  Amongst all his preparations for the conference in Guatemala and other pressing deadlines, DH found a high-resolution image on their website and adapted it to create the image above.  Have I said he is just the loveliest husband?  I then ran the image through my cross stitch pattern maker trying out various styles to get the best blend of colours – some just came out with defined hoops of colours rather than the gentle change from orange to red and yellow you can see above.  I then took out all the white and white variations as I am going to leave the background blank, including within the ball itself.  Funnily enough, the lettering and the hoop are not 100% black but are 50% black, 25% a red/green blend, and 25% a blue/red copper blend, possibly to reflect the heat of the ball?

The final statistics are:

  • Design: 200 x 282 stitches, 12.5 x 17.6″ on white Belfast linen (16/32 count)
  • Colours: 119 including 42 blends. This is a similar number of colours/blends to Island Mood Patchwork, so I am hoping for great things on the colour changes.  Here are the colours – sorted in number order for ease of selection when stitching:
119 Colours including 42 Blends

119 Colours including 42 Blends

I would really like to get this finished in time for Christmas; however, factoring in the framing, it might be a little later than that.  Anyway, I have put aside Flora to concentrate solely on Miami Heat for the duration.

At the end of last week, DH jetted off to Guatemala for the conference I mentioned and has now moved on to Florida for a well-deserved rest visiting my brother-in-law and his family, including my four lovely nieces.  Nikki’s Nordic Santa has been safely delivered, which completes the set of four designs.  Take a look here and scroll down to the bottom.  You can click on a picture for a larger/carousel view.

As you know, I stitch a lot, which involves a lot of sitting.  Over the years I have had to manage the various muscle pains which arise from such physical inactivity.  My method is to stitch for 30 minutes and then practice yoga for 10 minutes; however, I found it didn’t go deep enough to really address the pain in my back (created by holding my hands in front of me for extended periods of time) and the pain in my backside (from sitting down and tightening the glutes, which presses on the piriformis – otherwise known as a PITA).  Obviously, giving up stitching is a non-starter.  However, I came across these two exercises and they have improved matters massively:

First, the latissimus dorsi (don’t get hung up on the latin, it’s just a muscle in your back).  You will need a lacrosse ball, as it won’t slip when working against a wall, unlike a tennis ball.  The information you need is here: Excerpt from Davies & Davies Trigger Point Therapy Workbook.  This is just a useful book to have anyway and I commend it to you.

Finally, the glutes and piriformis.  This video shows a brilliant version of this stretch as you use a wall and body weight to create the stretch rather than using your arms.  I hold each side for the duration of a song and breathe into the area being stretched.

Is it silly to say I am beyond excited about starting Miami Heat?  Who cares!  I am!  Enjoy the rest of your Summer!

Caribbean Blue

We’ve had such lovely weather recently, it has been very much like the Caribbean (just without the sea)!

My parents recently visited so we took them to one of my favourite National Trust properties, Bodiam Castle.  It’s everything you think a castle should be and, over the course of the last 15 years I have visited three times: on each occasion they have improved the visitor experience (from nothing really the first time, to signs and boards pointing out interesting features, a short video explanation, and in-character people in various parts of the property).  Visit if you can; just make sure it’s on a fine day as Bodiam does not possess a roof🙂 .

2016-07-09 - Bodiam Castle

2016-07-09 – Bodiam Castle

In stitching news, I finished 6 out of the 8 rows of Flora:


and am now on row 7, the one which features her feet.  Talk about the slow burn of anticipation when a finish this big is in sight.


My framer, Assad, did a fabulous job of deconstructing the Santa I stitched for my new niece.  He even let me change the lettering from a “M” to an “N” in his store rather than making me take it home, do the 10 minute change and take it back into town.  He then re-framed it using the original materials and you cannot even tell it would have been a difficult job given the cut down material he would have had to work with.  The man’s a genius.

2016-07 - N's Santa (Lucie Heaton)

2016-07 – N’s Santa (Lucie Heaton)

Let me leave you with a happy, summery song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from DreamWorks Animations’ “Trolls”.  Enjoy!

The Frog Prince

“That’s a funny song title by Enya” you say.  I know it is, but is it very apt for the present in the UK, what with the Brexit elections and all the reactions to it.  My only hope is that, out of the current mess, something wonderful happens.  Here is the Brothers Grimm short story if you want to remind yourself: The Frog Prince.  I was in the Remain camp, although it took me a while to get there.  The EU does some wonderful things (not least blocking the planting of GMOs) but I just wish the UK government would stop gold plating the regulations and making life difficult for everyone (which is where you get the straight bananas myth.  For those interested, here is relevant regulation.)

On to the stitching:  I have a finish!  Well, almost a finish as all the cross stitch of Poppy’s Owl Family Tree is complete.  Here is what the last row looked like, with the amendment of an outline for the body of the pink owl:


Then, this is what she looks like in all her glory:

2016-06-07 - Finished!

2016-06-07 – Finished!

If you go here, you can see a much bigger picture.  Poppy’s parents just now need to decide what to do about names.  I believe the options are:

  • Stitch the names on the fabric above or next to owls, then frame.
  • Leave the names off the fabric but have a PDF on the back of the frame with names on.
  • Leave the names off altogether.

Over to you now, guys!

Now, having been missing in action since November 2014, Flora has made a welcome re-appearance.  This is where I left her:


And this is where I finished her last night:


I think that was about 1.5 pages of pattern (approximately 5,250 stitches) – not bad for three weeks’ work🙂 .  Oh, by the way, I got to see Flora in person at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London via the Botticelli Revisited exhibition, the last day of which is Sunday 3 July 2016.  I wasn’t too impressed with the modern reimagined part of the exhibition but, go into the Pre-Raphaelite room, and Flora just leaps out at you:

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Here is a bigger copy where you can see darling Flora better.  You can see from the stitched pattern above the flowers on her dress are quite soft focussed; however, in the flesh she pin-sharp and oh-so-gorgeous!  This is understandable given the size of my cross stitch and the size of the painting!  At the back of the room is the Orchard tapestry which John Henry Dearle designed based on a poem by William Morris and manufactured by Morris & Co in 1890.  Given the relative size of Flora and the Orchard I am stumped as to how the lovely Meredith at Scarlet Quince would be able to turn the latter into a do-able pattern!  I live in hope that she will see fit to create such a masterpiece.

Next up are the pieces I am doing for my nieces in the USA.  On this I have two bits of news.  One is that the newest addition will be changing her name once the adoption goes through.  I therefore need to go on bended knee to Assad to get him to de-kit M’s Nordic Santa so I can change the M on his bobble to an N.  And then get him to re-frame it🙂 .



The other is that we have a potential pattern for my new niece who is a super basketball player and fan of Miami Heat.  I have put forward the following for consideration and will add her name in the same font once I have received feedback.

© NBA Media Ventures, LLC

© NBA Media Ventures, LLC

I am looking forward to doing this one in the graduated colours and imagine N’s name will be at the top above the basketball hoop in the same font.

Anyway, it’s now 5.30pm and I really need to stitch so, have a great day, do what you enjoy and enjoy what you do!



Long Long Journey

Poppy’s Owl Family Tree has been on a long 16 month journey and is now covering the last few miles.  Here’s where I left the girls and boys last month:


And here is where we are now:


That right there is the trunk finished.  That’s right: Done.  Finito.  I am so happy the sea of brown, dark brown and black is over.  I have a large owl on the left to stitch and just one more branch to the right, on which sits a small owl.  If nothing untoward happens, it’ll be finished by the end of June!  I can’t believe it.  Now, I just need to get your collective opinions on the little pink owl.  She has a white body which is stitched as directed by the pattern; however, do you think she needs some dark pink outline on that little white body?  All thoughts welcome.

The other project I had on the go this month was a Nordic Santa for my brother- and sister-in-law, who will have an addition to their family shortly.  This was the first time I have attempted an over-one face: boy those stitches are small!  I may very well do the next Joan Elliott pattern in this style if it has “skin” as it really produces a finer finish.

First attempt at an Over One Face

First attempt at an Over One Face

Assad then worked his magic by framing him in the same colourway and size as those he made earlier for Morgan, Charlotte and Hannah.  (Apologies for the reflection):

Makayla's Santa

When DH visits the US next, this little fellow will be going with him so the full set will come out for Christmas.  Here is the full set I did back in 2014.

On a musical ending, someone posted this on my Facebook timeline.  It is the Sound of Silence sung by the lead singer of Disturbed, a heavy metal band.  That genre is not my usual cup of tea; however, this rendition sends chills down your spine, it is so beautiful.  Enjoy!