Needlework, Finishing, Designing, Quilting, Some Discoveries and Adventures in Stitching from Windy Ridge Designs

Sunday, October 31, 2010

There Be Dragons Here

Been keeping my eyes out for frogs and containers to fit frogs as I go out and about.  Found a really big clear glass frog early on in a foray at the Past & Present antiques shop in Winchester.  As I went through the rest of the cavernous building, I tested each pretty glass, pottery or wooden container I came across to see if the frog would fit in the top of it.

I turned and looked at this shelf that had some very posh glassware on it.  The turquoise container was sitting right there before my eyes.  It has a top - makes it a really nice candy dish - and the finial on the top is a seashell.  Very Miami Beach looking and not really my cup of tea.  But then I got a look at its legs.  Dragons!  So I put it on a nearby table and took the lid off and popped in the glass frog.  It was if it had been made to go with.  

I have put the lid safely away in the china cabinet.  My younger son loves dragons; so at some point in the future he will probably get rid of the frog and reunite lid and dish to use for something else that pleases him.  For now, my scissors are being contained very upscale.  And, like I noticed last winter, turquoise seems to go with everything.

Keeping with the dragon theme - last summer my friend gave me a bunch of her mother's old sewing things that I said I'd share over time.  Here is another one.  She kept wooden bobbins (not the same manufacturer) of waxed cotton thread in this box.

Note that they are manufactured in Fall River, Mass. and Willimantic, Conn.  Kinda cool, huh?

Now I have a quilting question - related to fabric.  Has anyone ever ordered fabric from the Connecting Threads catalog?  I have been receiving this catalog a couple of years now, but have never used it.  I think that the company is actually some offshoot of Joann's (don't ask me why, it's just a hunch).  I didn't request the catalog, nor have I used them on line.  But, they do have some interesting fabrics.  So, I was wondering if anyone knows if it's good quality quilting fabric?  I have ordered online from Hoffman's of Paducah and a few other places like Fat Quarter Shop - and been very pleased, but hesitate to use this one.

Thanks bunches!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Whitman's Sampler Boxes

Went antiquing last week with my girlfriends and found these . . .

They are the cardboard version of the boxes.  Both are in great shape inside too.  I remember when I was a kid and my mom would get these - I loved to look at the "map" to see which chocolates were which.  I think that these boxes are pretty old, because I don't remember a lot of these candy flavors - and there's a lot of pineapple; I don't remember that.  Two different sizes, the larger one in the back was $2.50 and the smaller one was $1.50.  I snapped them up, remembering that there is some project out there that uses these boxes.

The one I was thinking about was Sue Hillis' A Sweet Stitch, which chart is available from Silver Needle for $20.  I'm not sure I want that chart that much.

The other project I was able to find was by Stitching Parlor - My First Sewing Box.  But, I just don't like this one that much.  So, looks like I'll have to come up with something on my own.
The boxes are still really cute and in great shape.  Also, I don't really have to do anything with them; after all they DO have sampler designs on them.  They could just be used as they are to store threads, or tools, or whatever. 

Then I thought, wait a minute, didn't my friend GIVE me one of those tin sampler boxes back a few years ago?

Turns out, I was sort of right - it wasn't a Whitman's Sampler box, but it WAS a tin candy box, which is pretty cool.  The lid is nice and heavy too.  So, I can use my cardboard boxes for stuff that I won't be into alot (that way they won't get abused and out of shape much) and I can set the tin one aside to make one of those charming needlework tool boxes.  Love it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Fond Farewell

At the beginning of this month, our 14 year-old Jack Russell, Nehi, was diagnosed with colon cancer.  We don't believe in chemo for dogs.  They don't understand it and it is very difficult for them.  I've seen a dog go through it before and swore then that I'd never do that to a dog of mine.  We were told what to watch for and that it could be sooner or later; it all depended.  This past weekend, he began to be unable to keep food down.  I called the vet and we agreed it was time.  I kept him comfortable until my husband could be present, which was today; he'd already planned to take the day off.  The waiting was very hard.  I think I'd rather be in the moment, with a sick animal and have to make a decision then; than to wait for nearly three days before it happened.

Nehi as a Puppy

Nehi was born in August, 1996 and we brought him home when he was 8 weeks - October.  His mother's name was Pepsi and we decided that he should be called Nehi (like Nehi Grape/Orange soda).  He was a bundle of energy from the very start.  One thing he never had to be taught was how to play fetch.  When his eyesight was still good, he was incredible at catching; even taking on full-size frisbees.  He came home and played right away - a blast of fun for our then four year-old son.  And he always loved going for a ride.  I made him a doggie seat out of a dairy crate.  The bottom of it was slanted to counteract the slant of the front seat of the car.  I'd buckle it in, pop him in it and he'd go for a ride along, sometimes sticking his head out the window, sometimes not.  When we got the tractor, he fell in love.  He'd be all over us to let him out and he'd stand, wagging his docked tail until we'd pick him up and either hold him in our laps for a ride on it, or put him in the cart to go around and work with us.

Going for a Ride

Nehi thought that he was a Great Dane.  Size did not matter to him.  At our old house we had a mail slot in the door.  It was very difficult to teach him not to attack the mail when it came in.  Even more difficult to teach him not the attack the mail man who Nehi perceived as a threat to me.  He didn't like it when my husband and I cuddled and horsed around - he would dance around our feet growling, whining, and barking.  He knew he liked my husband, but didn't like what he was doing to me.  We would always have to take a minute to calm him down and tell him he was a good boy. Several years ago he and I were out walking - Nehi was on his leash - when a neighbor, who owned a lab, opened their door.  The lab came bounding out and straight away attacked Nehi.  I couldn't believe it!  Nehi stayed between the dog and me, protecting me, but getting injured.  He had a separated ACL.  The problem, the surgeon later explained to me, was his congenital knee defect.  He'd been born with luxating patellas - screwy knee grooves that allowed the ligaments to pop out.  If the surgeon repaired one, the stress on the other would detach that ACL.  He'd have to have surgery on both legs, at the same time.  I found out then just how much I loved that dog.  When he came home with both hind legs in casts, I would take him out and actually lift his leg for him so he could pee.

Nehi poses as Confucious
He also had weak eye muscles - another congenital defect, they told me.  His pupils did not decrease in dialation in bright light.  So, bright light was uncomfortable for him.  And even so, he LOVED the sun.  As he aged, Nehi got arthritis; pretty bad in his wrist.  It would give him a lot of pain in the cold winter months.  He slept with me - I called him my little hot water bottle because I'd lay on my side and he'd stretch out butted right up against my back.  When we went to bed he'd wait until I pulled the covers back and then we'd get in and he'd take up his position.  He liked the heated mattress pad.  But, his favorite, between bed, sunny spot, deck, his absolute favorite was to be stretched out on the hearth of the gas fireplace.  He'd shove himself right up against the grate and go to sleep.  That sucker was too hot for me to put my hand on, but if you turned on the fireplace, Nehi would jump up on the hearth and lay down right next to it.  He literally was a HOT DOG.

He was also an escape artist.  This talent occasionally went awry.  Usually he'd paw open the sliding glass door and scoot out.  Then a neighbor would come knocking at the door - was I missing a dog?  Nehi usually escaped and went up to visit with her dog.  This happened with such frequency that we got him a tag with our phone number on it.  Once I got a call from a woman, she had my dog.  Just for an instant I thought she'd dognapped him from the sound of it.  But, actually, she'd been strolling with her baby and heard a shusshing sound that got her curious.  She'd gone over to this townhouse to check out the sound.  It was my escape artist - he'd fallen down a window well and the shusshing sound was him jumping, trying to get out.  With those bad knees though, Nehi was never much of a jumper.  If she hadn't come along, I don't know what would have happened!  When we moved out here to the country, the very first day we were here, he went off like a shot chasing a squirrel.  And disappeared into the woods.  I called and called and he didn't come back.  Oh, my goodness, I was so beside myself there were two of me!  Two hours later, as I sat and watched those woods, he popped out into the field that's beside the house and came running back to me at top speed.  He must have scared himself silly that day (or found ginormous squirrels in those woods), because he never again, in six years, did he wander off the property.

All his life, he was a very naughty dog.  Very, very smart, loyal, and naughty.  Did what he did when he wanted to do it.  He also had a highly developed pallet and sense of frugality - he ate his own poop (I guess he thought he was saving kibble money) as well as stink bugs.  Doggie kisses from Nehi was not something any of us were EVER interested in.  When he was younger, before the arthritis, he'd figure out ways to climb up on things - especially the dining room table - and help himself to whatever we were foolish enough to leave behind.

Table Games
My husband once pursued him into his kennel after a dinner roll and Nehi showed him, by biting through his thumbnail, that coming into his kennel was not a well thought out plan.  He was keeping that dinner roll and that was all there was to it.  He loved Milkbone cookies and Greenies (a weekend treat) but eschewed other dog treats as being beneath him.  Why have that crap when he could get dinner rolls and the like?

Nehi's last photo - October 2010
 I will miss this wonderful, stupid, amazing dog for the rest of my life.  Love you Nehi.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wild and Raptor - ous Day!

Today we went down to our Wild Birds Unlimited store in Winchester.  They had a rep from the Wildlife Center of Virginia (located in Waynesboro, VA) there with Raptors and Owls.

Actually, only one Raptor - her name was Kettler and she had a wing injury that never healed right.  She's been with them a long time - she's 22 years old now; about 12 years older than the maximum lifespan in the wild.  But, boy, was she pretty.  Here's the best picture of her.

There were three owls there.  The first was Buzz, a Great Horned Owl.  Buzz had a wing injury too that prevented him from going back into the wild.

Claire explained that these Diurnal owls have pigmentation in their eyes that helps them see when they fly at dusk and dawn.  Buzz was magnificent and very well behaved.

Then there was Misty.  She's only been with them for about 18 months so she can still be a bit skittish.  I'm putting in two shots of Misty; one when she was trying to fly away and the other when she's sitting still so you can see her beautiful plumage. 

Misty is a Barred Owl; named for the bar (or stripe) markings on her chest.  She flew into the side of a building and while they were able to repair her injuries, her sight was damaged enough that she cannot hunt on her own.

Finally, there was the Eastern Screech Owl.  This one, I think, was called Pinon.  It flew into the side of a train and lost one eye.  Although small, it is fully grown.  Claire said that when they are born, Screech Owls are about the size of a quarter and have to grow to full size in a month. 

She said that they have developed a lot of behaviors that protect them from preditors.  One is called "Skinnying Up" where they suck themselves all up, tall and thin and sidle up next to the side of the tree so they virtually disappear.  Boy, I'd like to have THAT particular talent!  This was a wonderful presentation.  Further information on the Wildlife Center of Virginia can be found at their website.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Take One Big Step Back

You all  have responded so wonderfully to my idea on Anniversaries of the Heart.  Thank you so much.  And thanks too for the compliments on the pictures.  Very sweet.

I hope I can live up to your confidence in me.

But someone should have ratted me out.  It's been bothering me for a few days now - I think I kinda sounded like a sewing snob when I said that you should be a confident sewer before you tried this idea.  Well, I thought it sort of sounded snobby to say that.

So I thought it might be a good idea to revisit what I said.  I AM a confident sewer - when I am working for myself, have an idea burning my biscuits - I just blaze into it with both feet.  Sometimes I don't fully think things through though.  And that is what happened in this project where I ended up not having the additional inches for framing on the outside linen pieces.  So, flying by the seat of my pants I decided that in the end I will add a border to make up for that.  It was a good save - as I call it.  But, I don't think a confident AND competent sewer would have made the mistake in the first place.  Fortunately, I've never made a mistake like this when sewing for someone else.  I think everything through, nine ways to Sunday before my scissors ever touch a thing; usually I do a little blow up sketch which is what I should have done for AotH.  Live and Learn!  And if I sounded snobby in any way, I am really, really sorry.

I have no progress to show, so will leave you with this:

Staghorn Sumac on a Rainy Day in the Fall
The above photo is of our eastern native, Staghorn Sumac.  It is not poisonous in any way.  Many years ago I saw two lovely middle eastern women near my house harvesting the berries from the sumac.  I stopped and asked what they used it for and they told me cooking.  Huh.  On Wiki-Recipies I found that the outer covering of the berry is used to make a spice powder that is deep red and "has a sour taste [that] is used in some middle eastern countries." (much like the Indonesian tree Myristica that produces a larger spice berry, the outside used to make Mace, the inside is Nutmeg).  It went on to say that "in North America, the smooth sumac, Rhus glabra, and the staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, are sometimes used to make a beverage, termed "sumac-ade" or "Indian lemonade" or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes [outer shell of the berry] in cool water, rubbing the active principle off the drupes, then straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it. Native Americans also used the leaves and berries of the smooth and staghorn sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures."  And besides all that, it is very pretty in the fall.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lots of Progress to Show and a Reveal

I may have mentioned that I was working on the Prairie Schooler Kris Kringles.  Maybe not.  I started out with these small linen samples that I just hated to throw away.  Then I realized they were just the perfect size for doing ornaments on.  Kris Kringle ornaments to be exact.

 I started out with these two, holding the small 5 x 3 pieces of linen in my hand.  But, my hand cramps up when I do that.  So, I came up with the bright idea to put four of them together so I could put them on my scroll rods.

Below you can see them sewn together.  Problem with that bright idea was that the edges raveled.  On a 5x3 piece, a little raveling can be a REALLY bad thing.  So, I was very careful and came out the other side all right.  Still needed to tweak the idea a bit.

This time around I treated the edges of the linen pieces with anti-fraying goop.  Let it dry and THEN put them together in a set of four.  Now, no raveling edges and I'm much more confident about tightening the scroll rods.

A few weeks ago I got my first three books in the BBD Anniversaries of the Heart series.  I'll start working on those in a few weeks yet.  But, I've been rolling it around in my head, what was I going to do about fabric for those?  Do them all on individual fabric?  One big piece?  After the frustration of not ending up right when I did the 2008 Mystery Sampler, I was NOT going to do them on different pieces of fabric and then put them all together again with unclear success.  But, I really had liked that look.

THEN IT HIT ME!! Thunderation!!!!  While I was working on Kris (above) I'd thought about all the different odd pieces of linen I have.  You know us stitchers, we end up with a lot of odds and ends!  Why couldn't I put the pieces together, like that, just more permanently.  That way, I'd do each house on its own piece of linen, but the linen would be all together already and I'd avoid the anxiety of having them look higgeldy piggeldy when I put them together.

Here I've selected a field of neutrals that I hope will work with the designs.  If some design colors are too close to fabric colors, I'll just have to rearrange them.

I had to calculate the size of the pieces, plus one quarter inch for the seam allowance.  Then I treated the edges with ani-fray goop.  Let me say, I don't recommend this if you are not a confident sewer.  Also, I recommend machine stitching over hand stitching because the anti-fray goop IS visible when it dries (see closeup of Kris Kringle 3 above - there is a slight shadowing).  You have to carefully apply the anti-fray as close to the edge as possible and then when you're stitching them up, it goes into the seam allowance.

Here is a closeup where you can see I numbered the pieces - after taking so much time to lay out what color went where, I didn't want to mess up the order.  They're marked in pencil, on the back and it doesn't show through.

Then I proceeded with sewing the seams.  One quarter inch, just like in quilting.  In fact, this project is going to be a lot like quilting.

 Because of the width of all five pieces across - and because I don't like having to use my extra big scroll rods - I broke it down into two sections.  The first section has the linen pieces for January, February, May, June, October and November.

The second, larger section, has the pieces for the first Bonus, March, April, July, August, September, December and the Final Bonus.  As you can also see, I've done some double blocks for the First Bonus and March (top row in the above picture).  I also added a double block for May and June (center in the previous picture).  I am really crossing my fingers that this works out.

One big mistake I made was not calculating the extra fabric on the outer edges that I need for framing - you know the six inches each way that you're told to get?  So when all the stitching is done on these two sections, I'll have to put the sections together and THEN I'll have to do some sort of linen border all around the outer edges that will have to be decorative (if not, it would then look stupid) and also practical for framing.

Finally, I was working on my three witches from Brookes Books and I had begun first with "Polly".  We discussed what an awful name that was for a female pirate - Polly definitely IS the PARROT!!!  While Bess and Meg were good suggestions, Siobhan remembered who it was I was thinking about . . . Grace O'Malley - The Irish Pirate Queen.  So, officially, her name is Grace and I think she came out very well - - -

And I got started on her sister from the forest, Fauna - - -

She's very green-grey and mossy looking - probably Moss-Man's sister - although, saying she's related to that dummy isn't very nice.  So, let's say she's related to Legolas from Lord of the Rings; he was Orlando Bloom's character.  Hope you like!  Have a great week.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Little Progress on Tri-Witches

I've been working on Polly, the Pirate Witch.  This is one of three witch designs by Brooke's Books that I got a week or so ago.  I have to say, I don't like the name "Polly" for her.  That should be her sidekick, the parrot.  Wasn't there a book about an Irish Pirate Queen about 20-odd years ago?  And I don't mean Skye O'Malley - that strumpet! 
Until I got the Kreinik #8 Braid from Nordic Needle in yesterday's mail, she was looking pretty weird.  But, now that she's got her arms on and her skirt defined, I'm feeling better.

In the background you can see her hat and parrot that are done separately and then tacked on later to give her the 3-D look.   I think she (whatever her name is going to be) is going to look absolutely charming.

The braid I have stitched in there is #326, called "Hibiscus" and is a blend of red and purple.  It is most prominent on her sleeves, but shows up in her skirt, hat and parrot too.  Another note is that if you get these charts to stitch on fabric, the instructions note that you should use #4 braid, not #8.  The 8 is a bit thicker, although I'm going to try using it on 28 count fabric and see what happens.  I wouldn't use a larger count with it though.  Or, maybe on Tula . . . that would make Polly about 8 inches tall - almost big enough to be a doll?  Hmmmmm. . . . .