Cross Stitch

This is the title of the book that introduced me to the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series.  I picked it up because I had recently started cross stitching (the early 2000s) and I was intrigued by the cover picture of standing stones.  Having previously read Barbara Erskine’s books, I was into a bit of time travel and I wasn’t disappointed with the tales of Jamie and Claire Fraser.  If you haven’t yet picked up the books, give them a whirl: you’ll be delighted you did.

So, on to the actual cross stitching.  This is where I left you with Watch last month:

2017-01-29

And this is where I finished yesterday after four weeks of effort:

2017-02-26

I started on the fourth (centre) page yesterday, which is the little overhang on the top right-hand side and decided I was going to try to identify all the pieces of the watch; however, some of them are really obscure and so far I have ‘found’ a wheel (which looks like a white waterwheel) and an escape wheel, which is the spidery looking wheel next to the waterwheel.  The white bar with a diamond top next to the escape wheel is, I think, a pallet bridge.  Maybe I’ll just concentrate on the stitching.  For those interested, here is a diagram of the internals of a mechanical watch so you can see Gerald Murphy’s imagination at work when you compare it to his painting:

Gear Train Diagram

Gear Train Diagram

Watch by Gerald Murphy, Pattern by Scarlet Quince

Watch by Gerald Murphy, Pattern by Scarlet Quince

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mind blowing, huh?

So, time’s up (ha ha!) and Spring is on its way: I’ll see you again at the end of March.

 

In the Frame

Happy New Year everyone!  As you know, last year all my posts were titled using Enya songs and this year I asked my husband for ideas on what to use as a theme.  He said recipes.  After much consideration trying to find a recipe to fit this month’s post, I’ve decided on fiction book titles instead 🙂 .  This particular title is from one of my favourite Dick Francis thrillers.  For how it relates to my post, you’ll need to read on …

First of all, I had a big, big finish.  Back at the end of November last year in Bard Dance, I mentioned that I thought it might take me about 8 weeks to complete Flora and I was right!  I made it by one day.  I love it when a plan comes together.  Here she is fresh off the scroll rods, so do please forgive the fact she is not flat:

2017-01-20 - Finished

2017-01-20 – Finished

When I looked at the photo I thought that she looked a bit odd and, yes, she is a centimetre wider at the top than at the bottom (and Assad also said there was a different measurement elsewhere as well).  I realised that, as I wound up the material to start the next row, the middle got tighter as I tried to make the edges next to the unstitched areas tight enough to sew on.  On the last row I had to remedy this by inserting scrap material on top of the framing margins to even up the tension.  Perhaps I should have done this from the off.  Anyway, Assad worked his usual magic with the framing:

2017-01 - Flora by Evelyn de Morgan (Scarlet Quince)

2017-01 – Flora by Evelyn de Morgan (Scarlet Quince)

Vital statistics for Flora:

  • 101,992 stitches
  • 77 weeks between October 2012 and January 2017
  • 1325 stitches per week
  • 102 x 52 cm framed

For comparison, Ehret die Frauen was 151,487 stitches across 121 weeks (1252 stitches per week) – there was a lot more confetti stitching on Ehret and she was my first big cross stitch from Scarlet Quince.

I tried out the new method of photographing framed pictures as mentioned in this post and, although it was a bit rushed (DH had to get back to work), I only had a little bit of reflection in the bottom left-hand side – note to self: make sure the non-reflecting fabric masks all reflection in the picture.  Read the above post for more info on how to do this.

At the same time as taking Flora to Assad, I also took in an original watercolour and pastels painting I had bought in the 1980s.  Even at that time I loved the picture but thought that the frame looked too narrow for the picture.  As soon as I showed it to Assad he said the shiny gold frame didn’t go with the matt painting.  Here is the before shot with reflections galore (my photographing material hadn’t arrived when I did it):

2017-01 - Still Life with a Black Box - Original Frame

2017-01 – Still Life with a Black Box – Original Frame

Here she is in her new clothes:

2017-01 - Still Life with a Black Box - New Frame

2017-01 – Still Life with a Black Box – New Frame

The change of frame and matting has really updated the look and feel of the work and I am delighted with it.

So, on to my new start, which I started prepping in Christmas week when I couldn’t get to any actual stitching.  It is called Watch by an American artist called Gerald Murphy.  Here’s where I am after one week and one day:

2017-01-29

While I was stitching it, I was tempted to name this post “Fifty Shades of Grey” – the piece is approximately 50% grey.  When working on the white and cream coloured areas, it is really hard to keep your place as the stitches fade into the linen.  Watch is 144,396 stitches and, based on my work rate for I Saw the Figure Five (which has a similar ratio of bulk stitches to confetti stitches), I reckon it will take me 64 or 65 weeks.  Let us see what happens.

On that note, I’ll sign off and I hope that 2017 brings you what you need.

One Toy Soldier

This Enya song title spoke to me for several reasons: the beat reminded me of the ticking of a clock as we come to the end of another year, the fact that Death has been busy this year, and remembering all those serving their country away from their loved ones.  Despite all that, the lyrics also remind us that there is hope and things can be repaired.  Let’s see what 2017 brings us.

As a recap on 2016, here are my finishes this year:

December was busy as I work in retail, so I didn’t get too much done on Flora; however, I have made it over half way across the page (by a couple of feet, you might say – arf arf!):

2016-12-25

As of today, I have not stitched for an entire week and really, really feel the need to make friends with Flora again.

While I couldn’t stitch when family and friends were visiting, after they left yesterday I managed to begin preparing Watch by winding bobbins, which will be the new start once Flora is finished.  Here is the box of solid colours from which the blends will be produced.  Don’t you just love their soft hues:

Solid Threads Box

Solid Threads Box

Watch is by Gerald Murphy, an American artist who lived from 1888 to 1964 and a very clever chap by the name of Henning M Lederer has created an animated version of the painting here:

Watch by Gerald Murphy, Pattern by Scarlet Quince

Watch by Gerald Murphy, Pattern by Scarlet Quince

It will probably take about 3-4 years to complete as Watch comes in at 144,396 stitches and is slightly smaller than Ehret (151,487 stitches and 4 full years to stitch), although there won’t be so many colour changes!  Note to self – don’t just look at the lovely picture, look at the size as well!  Anyway, it is worth it as, when we brought out the Christmas pictures, I moved Ehret into the bedroom and it was just lovely lying in bed looking at it before drifting off to sleep.

Let me sign off by saying I hope you had a very merry Christmas and I wish you a happy 2017!

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:

2016-11-23b-texture

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:

2016-08-27

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

2016-11-27

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:

2016-09-25

And here is where I finished yesterday:

2016-10-23

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:

2016-09-18

And here is where I finished last night:

2016-09-25

 

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.

2016-09-25-auntie-tim-auntie-vicks

  • 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:

2016-08-27

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!