Seven Stones to Stand or Fall

I was going to say there was no rhyme or reason to the title for this post apart from the fact I am reading this book by Diana Gabaldon; however, actually, there is.  Read on.

The first stone is stitching (both standing and falling).  The standing bit covers some progress on Watergarden.  This is where I left you in August:

After about 10 days’ work, she looked like this:

Don’t you just love those blues.  I know I could just dive straight in.  At this point I rolled up the material to gain access to the topmost part and finished here:

Now, the falling part is that I have not stitched since 3rd September.  I know!  I’m definitely going through withdrawal symptoms.  The reason for this is that our offer for the house in South Oxfordshire succeeded.  This meant that Operation Up Sticks kicked in:

Declutter – it sounds so easy, doesn’t it.  In actual fact it took us from 10th to 26th September to do this and transfer 75% of our possessions from the flat to storage.  We recycled/sent to charity/binned about 5% and I now have a new rule: if it doesn’t fit in a cupboard, then it doesn’t come in the door.  I must be ruthless when it comes to the unpacking stage.  On the plus side, it is so much easier to clean the flat.  🙂

Organise transfer of job – I had to go for a group interview and it transpired when I was chatting with our branch’s HR person that I should have only had a chat to confirm my position.  Understandably, the hours offered fit in with the new branch’s requirements but are (a) less than I now work and (b) not my ideal choice; however, once Christmas passes and the dust settles, I’ll see what I can get during the day Monday to Friday rather than evenings and weekends.  I’ll just have to wow them with my winning personality and willingness to get stuck in!  That funny feeling in the pit of my stomach has disappeared and I can now focus on the rest of Operation Up Sticks.

Decorate – our estate agent recommended a maintenance company he uses as some of the quotes we obtained privately were outrageous.  These guys were ready, willing, able and nice with it.  There are now 6 bodies in the flat beavering away.  We have decamped to my MIL’s for a couple of weeks as it would be impossible to live there for the duration: George would be under their feet all the time, getting his tail in the paint and Tiggy would be stressed and guarding the carpet under the bed.  She hasn’t yet come downstairs at MIL’s but she *has* come out of her crate.  In the meantime, I have Claire Martin and Donna Lewis on loop as these artists’ music calms Tiggy.  Baby steps …

Photographs – booked in for a fortnight hence.

Market – as soon as the photographs are taken, the estate agent will put the flat on the market.  We have gone for the private auction option, which takes four weeks from photographs to auction date.  It provides certainty and virtually guarantees that the sale will complete.  Also, there will be just one day when viewings take place: another visit to MIL’s so George and Tiggy are not stressed by strangers wandering around and, let’s face it, so we only have to hide cat paraphernalia just the once 😮 .

That leaves just one stone: organising the physical move.  I am happy to report I have selected a removals company and now I just need to make the booking.

Just as a PS, back in June I finished Milly and Andy’s wedding sampler and I had to contain myself until 8th September:

I am so pleased that Milly likes it and I wish them a long and happy marriage.

Whew, I think that’s it for now.  I know stitching will be on the back burner until we’ve unpacked in the new house as my set up was too bulky to have in the flat, taking into account decorators/viewings etc.  I have resigned myself to getting through a few books between now and then.  If you can highly recommend any, then that would be great.  I like historical fiction, mysteries, and science fiction if that helps.

See you again around Hallowe’en

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Drums of Autumn

Did I mention that Diana Gabaldon is one of my all-time favourite authors?  I picked this as a title since my little family’s focus has shifted somewhat to the next two to three months, for reasons which will become apparent shortly.  In addition, the weather has been really wet here in Blighty and the chestnut trees have already started to gain a golden hue.

I had a better month of stitching than in July, so let’s start with that.  Here’s where I left you with Chatelaine’s Watergarden:

And here is where I finished on her this month:

Not bad progress for a Chat newbie: the charts are not the easiest to read and I had to frog on a couple of occasions as some symbols are the same, but one of them is in a bold typeface.  Repeat after me: I must pay attention, I must pay attention 🙂 .  This is the furthest I can stitch vertically without winding on the material so I have decided to work across the piece, then move the material down to focus on the watery swirls, balustrade and gates above.  I love the colour combinations!

Now, on to Watch.  Here are the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs:

 

I thought progress certainly better than last month, principally because responsibility for managing the block where I live was finally passed to the new (professional management) company at the beginning of the month, which freed up a lot of my time.  Whew!

Both Dad and MIL have also made full recovery from their operations, so that was a huge relief.

In other news, I mentioned last month we were house hunting and had started to focus on looking at houses rather than areas.  We found a place we loved but were pipped to the post by another interested party.  Cue a re-start of our search.  We established that landlords have a funny idea of their responsibilities: when charging executive-rate rents, they think it is OK to present a house that is in need of redecoration and a jolly good clean.  Oh, and that it is also OK for the landlord to doss in one of the rooms on a mattress.  I think not.  The leopard print wallpaper in the room was a bit of a killer as well!  On the third weekend of travelling two hours to the area to view four properties, the very last house we viewed was The One.  We made an offer on the spot (I was determined not to lose this one!), which was accepted by the landlord (that was a nail-biting week of waiting, I can tell you).  We are now just going through the referencing process and hopefully moving in during the first week of November.

In amongst all this, we have worked on selling our property (getting three estate agents in to value it, getting quotes on redecoration/renovation and deciding what to do from there).  We have now put feelers out to the landlords who have properties in our block to see if they are interested in buying – let’s see who bites!  The next big job is to declutter, which will be more of a challenge for my lovely DH as he is the hoarder and I am the chucker (of my stuff, naturally) in our relationship.

So, everything is moving in the right direction.  September, I am ready for you.  Bring it on!

Voyager

This novel by Diana Gabaldon pretty much sums up the past month in that we have spent lots of time driving about the country for various reasons; however, before we get to that, let’s take a look at the little bit of stitching I managed to shoe-horn into my days:

Watergarden made her inaugural appearance at the beginning of July and this is what I managed to stitch on her across the fortnight allocated to her outing.

 

Isn’t she beautiful?  All the blues are from Thread Gatherer’s Silk n Colors range.  The colours are so vibrant and the thread is a joy to work with as it just slides through the material.  I really have to pay attention when stitching this piece as one stitch out could knock the whole pattern off, whereas it doesn’t matter quite so much with Watch as mistakes are easily remedied by over-sewing in the correct thread.  I feel this would be more noticeable in Watergarden.  The gaps are all waiting to be filled with beads, which I will do once all the stitching is complete.  I can’t wait to get back to her.

Now, on to Watch.  This is where I left you last month.  I’ve given it the male gender as I am stitching him for my husband and I think all the angular/mechanical imagery lends itself to the male of the species:

 

and this is the pitiful bit of stitching I managed to do in two weeks:

 

The reasons for the lack of stitching are many:  our informal block manager died in March and I volunteered to help his partner/Company Secretary of the block with the workload as she is 86 (!) until we move and/or something else could be put in place.  At the AGM in April, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm from anyone wanting to take on this role full time so me (resident) and the other two directors (landlords and not resident) had to find a suitable professional property management company at a price that all 12 owners would be happy to pay (easier said than done, believe me).  Also, given that I am resident, the majority of organizing workmen etc has fallen to me.  Anyhoo, we started the handover to the new company yesterday and I tell you, when you get to your 80s, the first words out of your mouth are usually “no” and any problem solving ability has long since packed its bags and left.  Therefore, my people-management skills from a decade ago had to kick in and gently guide said Company Secretary through the process and take as much of it off her shoulders as possible.  Unfortunately this still left her with the company paperwork to organize (all paper, nothing on the computer), but I think we are coming out the other side of it now.  This will leave both her and me to focus on our house moves.  She lives at the top of the block (4 flights of stairs – no lift) and still manages to get up and down the stairs at her grand old age.  I take my hat off to her.

My MIL had a heart valve replaced a couple of years back but the staples holding her chest bones together developed an infection so we had to get up at 4.30 am to pick her up and take her to Harefield Hospital.  I really, really don’t function in the mornings and was a grumpy monster until around 8 am and after a couple of coffees.

Dad had a bit of a scare as well but he had exploratory surgery and the shadow on his lung has proved to be benign, despite his lifelong smoking habit.  He has tried to give up smoking on many occasions but I think this will have reinforced the benefits of doing so.  He is seven weeks free of the cigarettes thus far.

Prior to all of the above going on, we decided we needed to move as we had long out-grown the flat.  Given the situation with ageing parents, our location needed to change and so our weekends have been spent house hunting.  We are currently investigating the triangle formed by Oxford, Aylesbury, and High Wycombe as this takes an hour off the journey to my parents and avoids the M25 entirely.  This road has been the bane of my life as, even on a Sunday, it is so busy and you have to allow an extra hour on your journey to take account of any jams which might occur.  The only time we had a free run on it was at 11pm.  With the shorter travel time I can do a round trip to Lincolnshire in a day if necessary.  Anyway, the house hunting is on-going and we have gone from looking at areas to specific houses within those areas.  Let’s see how it goes.

Have a lovely Summer and I’ll see you in August.  Happy stitching!

Magician

This was one of the early books which got me hooked into fantasy and thereafter onto the Empire Trilogy (Daughter, Mistress and then Servant of the Empire).  They also got me through the aftermath of a divorce in my mid to late twenties and for that I am grateful.

The UK has been roasting under the plume of heat pushed up from Spain over the last week and it proved nearly impossible to stitch (but not quite)!  We had fans on in every room and damp towels on the bathroom floor so George and Tiggy could get some respite.  Thank goodness we are at a balmy 21C now – whew!

I managed a couple of weeks’ work on Watch.  Here is where I left you at the end of May, and the second picture is where I left it yesterday:

 

Yellow and brown were the highlight for this rotation: I think it’s going to be a slog to get through this one.

On a more joyous note, I finished A Good Marriage and had it framed.  We hemmed and hawed about making the matting purple to match the lettering but decided discretion was the better part of valour and went with cream and off-white matting with a silver and gold frame so it will fit anywhere in the Bride’s home.

I had done their names as Milly and Andy as that’s how I know them.  It so happened I was talking with Milly on a break one day and she showed me her ring box, which had their names in full!  Cue an hour of frogging.  Anyway, I am much happier with the names now as they fill the space and the piece looks balanced.  It’s OK to post here as I’m not cross-posting to Facebook, so she won’t know 😉 .

Now I’ve finished one colourful stitch, I am in the mood for more!  I prepared the boxes for Chatelaine’s Watergarden one evening and had been waiting for the material to arrive, which it duly did over the weekend – it had been out of stock for the longest time and I’ll admit it, I was getting impatient.  See my note above about yellows and browns.

by Chatelaine Designs

Look at those lovely blues and greens.  It makes you just want to dive in.  And that’s what I’m going to do now …

Have a lovely summer and see you at the end of July.  Much stitchy love xxx

Encounters

This is an anthology of short stories by Barbara Erskine, another time-travelling author who is easy to escape into.  This month has been a series of encounters as I ditched Watch after a couple of weeks to focus on other things, things which had colour in them!

Here’s where I left you on Watch the last time and here’s what a couple of weeks’ work looks like:

 

I was getting seriously bored of the monochrome in this piece and ventured into working a Chatelaine pratice piece: A Tiny Rose Garden Mandala.

2017-05-16 – Finished

The colours are just gorgeous, although it was a little weird working on something geometric rather than the organic flow of Watch.  It only took about 24 hours to complete and is about 4.5″ square.  There was just one speciality stitch, algerian eyelets, which were easy to master.  Then came loads of beads.  Thank goodness for Google so I could research the best way to attach them.  I know I’ve worked with beads before but I thought I had to up my game when working on Chats as they are so intricate, particularly the bigger pieces.  I also started to use the pinhead stitch to finish off in order to keep the back neat and tidy.  I have been using the pinhead stitch to start for a long time.  I don’t know why I didn’t use it to finish as it is so easy.  Hey ho.

Here she is framed:

2017-05-27 – Finished Framed

The photo isn’t brilliant but the matting matches the darker green of the corner gardens.  Here are some close-ups.

The other encounter is a wedding gift for a work friend I have known for about eight years.  She loves her crafts (although she is not a stitcher) and I thought this sampler would be ideal.

Her wedding colours are the Cadbury purple and a light brown cappuccino colour.  As the original colours are quite muted, I used the Cadbury purple as the anchor colour and selected (agonised) over the others.  I found this site tremendously useful as it lists the DMC colours in order of brightness.  Once I found that it was *relatively* easy to find the other colours:

I had to make sure the green worked with both the words and the little motif colours as this tied everything together.  Designers have my utmost respect when it comes to not only creating a pattern, but populating it with colours.  Here’s where I am after a couple of weeks:

Just six more lines to go!  Now, with the Scarlet Quince pieces (Ehret, Number 5, IMP etc) the back has not really been very important; however, it most definitely is in this case.  In a whole month of upping my game, I have been doing the words individually so travelling thread won’t be visible in the finished framed piece.  Here is what the back looks like, which for a laissez faire stitcher like me, is quite an achievement:

The Back!

I have oceans of time to get it finished and framed in time for her wedding: the hardest thing will be keeping it a secret from her.  🙂

The Time Keeper

This is a story by Mitch Albom on considering our notion of time (too much or not enough of it) and to consider just how precious it is.  I am about halfway through and I am not sure what called to me first: the connection to my Watch project, that I like his stories, or that I had an impending birthday!

 

The first picture is where I left you at the end of March and the second is as of last Sunday: four weeks’ work.  That means the first row took 12 weeks to complete and, by dint of extrapolation, means that it will probably take 72 weeks/18 months to finish the piece.  Given this, I might have to introduce a small rotation to keep it interesting ;-).  Chatelaine’s Tiny Rose Garden Mandala looks to be an ideal candidate so I can get used to the designer’s patterns in preparation for the bigger Watergarden at some point.

Tiny Rose Garden Mandala

I also had a breakthrough on the “pain when stitching” front this week.  Working with my physio we worked out why my glutes were tight and painful (lack of movement in the L5 vertebra, which was duly sorted out with daily exercises).  This allowed me to focus on the pain in my shoulder and back: it transpires that I have a habit of holding my head slightly to one side *all the time*.  I’m now working on training my body to habitually hold my head upright and even managed to stitch with minimal pain in the trapezius for the last weekend – yay!  Sometimes it feels really weird like I am walking around with my ear on my shoulder, but it is totally worth it!

That’s it for this month folks – have a wonderful month and enjoy the bluebells!

One of my favourite photographs, taken in 2010 in Lincolnshire

 

While the Clock Ticked

Yes, as a child, I read The Hardy Boys books by Franklin W Dixon.  I absolutely LOVED them – such a great way to escape into adventure and derring-do!

The clock has struck midnight completely on one major project which spanned 2015 and 2016: The Nieces’ Pieces.  After packing them extremely carefully (and checking with the airline that DH could take them on board – no way were they going in the hold), the pictures arrived in Orlando this month.  The entire package weighed 22 kg and here you can see George and Tiggy helping with the last bit of packing:

2017-03-05 – Mummy’s Little Helpers

Presented in order of stitching rotation, first up is Magical Mermaid, stitched in 11 weeks between January and November 2015.  You can click on a picture and it will be shown in a larger format.

What I loved about Mermaid: how the material was dyed so it looked like Hannah’s Mermaid was rising through the water column towards the sun and how the designer has captured the movement of water in the seaweed and her fins.  It also reminded me of so many lovely scuba dives in my distant past, particularly the ones with dolphins in Egypt.

Then Morgan’s Summer Geisha, stitched in 17 weeks between January 2015 and January 2016:

What I loved about Geisha: her gorgeous colours and elegance and finding the perfect font for Morgan’s name.  I realise now why I like Joan Elliot’s designs so much – it’s because she captures the flow of material so well (which was what the Pre-Raphaelite painters also aimed for, another favourite of mine).

Thirdly came Charlotte’s Magical Butterfly, stitched in 8 weeks between January and June 2015:

What I loved about Butterfly: again, her gorgeous colours and how perfect the called for dye of the material complemented the overall piece.  Charlotte’s was also the first name I planned and stitched of these four pieces.

And last but very not least, Nikki’s Miami Heat, stitched in 13 weeks between August and November 2016:

What I loved about Miami Heat: where to start as this one stretched me on so many levels – all to the good I might add.  I loved finding appropriate images, and working with Nikki to pick the right one for her.  DH mimicked the Miami Heat font and typeset Nikki’s name.  Then came the creation and tweaking of the pattern: I wanted to create some texture by not stitching the channels of the basketball.  This is easier said than done as how many shades of white are there?  Lots.  And Lots.  I also love the graduation of colours as it picks up the dimples on the basketball panels.  This one was an exercise in fooling the eye as, finally, I love the magic that are the words and the hoop.  Up close, they consist of black, red and green threads but, stand back, and it magically becomes the dark grey/black of the team’s logo.

We did the grand unveiling via Skype, which was so much fun.  I am so glad the girls love their pictures.

Now, on to the bit of stitching I did in March.  Here are the progress pictures from February until yesterday:

Just 1.5 pages to go and that’s the first row done.

Now I have learned to create pictures side by side, I am going to use it to the nth degree 🙂 .  Clue: add media, create a gallery, change the number of columns from 3 to 2.  Ta daaaa!

While meandering around some of the stitching groups on Facebook, I came across a couple of colour design websites.  So many modern patterns leave it up to you to decide what colours to use and I find that a bit daunting.  You spend so much time stitching these pieces that you really want the colours to work; however, these two sites take the legwork/guesswork out of deciding on colours by publishing a beautiful picture and then showing the five or six main colours, leaving you to match them to your favoured thread provider’s product and away you go.  One is Design Seeds and the other I have found is In Colour Balance.  Enjoy!

Have a great April and enjoy wallowing in all those lovely Spring colours!