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!

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!