Monday, December 15, 2014

Spring Sampler Finish

One piece done and on its way - at last!

Last winter I used a gift certificate for amazon (one of my favorite Christmas presents, BTW) to get myself the Sampler and Antique Needlework Magazine CD-ROM collection for 2001-2010. It has been like having access to one of the best candy stores ever - and quite a time suck. I can lose myself for hours in that thing.

One of the pieces in it is the Hearts and Flowers Spring Sampler by Ruth Ann Russell. I knew as soon as I saw it I had to do it as a present for an old friend of mine. Barbara and I've been pals since junior high school, and it's got two of her favorite things on it - dogwoods and rabbits. And it's got one of my favorite things - specialty stitches.
Satin, Four-Sided, and Bosnia Stitch, Oh My!
It wasn't an entirely easy piece; the Upright Smyrna Crosses in the dogwood like to killed me. Luckily I had also used my gift certificate on a copy of Darleen O'Steen's Proper Stitch, and that helped me get myself sorted out. Though I'm still not thrilled with how they came out.

Upright New Smyrna - thanks to Darleen O'Steen.
 The rest of the "specialties" came along much better. It's the first time I used Weeks Overdyed Thread, and I'm still not sure if I like having my thread color fade in and out like that. But it's a sweet little piece.
Do not know why this image scrunched up this way.
The framing was something else. I don't have a framer this side of Jacksonville (a five hour drive) I'd trust with my needlework, so I do my own. I'd gotten a frame at the local Goodwill for another piece, Prairie Schoolers' Plant Your Seeds. The frame would have been perfect, except it was too small. But good things do come to those who wait, and more than a year later, the frame and even the mat were the just right size for this piece. Well, the frame was perfect. The mat had issues. It was just the right size, but do you remember that "Miami Vice" coral from the 80s's? The inside edge in that color.The rest was an off-white that just did not work with the linen. I thought about taking it to Micheal's and getting a new mat cut, but while they're advertising getting stuff done by Christmas, would they get this done in time to get it mailed in time for Christmas? That's an entirely different kettle of fish. And what color would I pick anyway?
Close up of frame. Pretty good for a Goodwill find!
Then I had a bit of a brainstorm. I still had some of that gold textured spray paint from when I did the frame for my friend's osprey print. What was there to lose? So I sprayed the mat the textured gold, and gave it a couple of days to get good and dry and off-gas whatever was in the spray paint. Put it against the frame, and, well, it looks about as good as anything I could find at Micheal's and I could get it shipped in time for Christmas. Get the Kraft paper backing on, and go! Yes, my framer pal in Jacksonville could have done a far, far better job, but for what it is, I'm pleased. And it will get to Georgia in plenty of time for Christmas.
Stick a fork in it and call it "Done."
And you cannot beat the price!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Where I Live

Things are different in Florida. Everybody knows that.

But things are really different here in Central Florida where I live. Really, really different. This is from today's paper. To help bring you up to speed, we have a State Forest here, and every year, they let you come in and cut sand pines for Christmas trees.Sand pines as a Christmas tree is a central Florida thing. They're cherished not because they are beautiful - sand pines could easily have been the model for Charlie Brown's little Christmas tree - but because, well, it's tradition. And they're available. They're one of the few pines thrive here in on the dry, sandy ridge. (Yes, we do have long leaf pines, but they get way too big way too fast, they're hard to cut down, and all their branches are clustered at the top. They are magnificent trees but total losers as Christmas trees.)

From today's Lakeland Ledger....

"...Sand pines ...offer a comforting bit of nostagia to many Floridians, such as Betty Ballard.

"I'm trying to get something that looks as pretty as they did when I was a child," Ballard said.

She recalls one fall morning when she was 11 and her family went to get their own sand pine for Christmas. After many hours of searching, they found the perfect tree. Her father went to their car to get a saw but it was gone. Her brother, Jim, had taken it out of the car.

"He got his gun and he shot that tree down," Ballard said.

They got their perfect tree."

Sand Pine, Pinus Clausa    

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tennessee Cross to Bear

I've been working on a table running in the overshot pattern "Cross of Tennessee." It has not been going well. I'd been worried keeping track of an 86 shot overshot would be difficult. That has not been the problem. The problem has been keeping the tabby straight! (The tabby is the plain weave, over-and-under thread that goes between the color pattern. It's what actually holds the piece together.) I've taken out repeats as many as 3 times before getting it right, all due to tabby errors.
The brown is the overshot; the off-white is the tabby and the warp.

 Once I got that rhythm going, other problems have emerged. I've never had this problem before, but somehow when I was winding on, the warp threads got seriously crossed in the back, which is affecting the tension more and more. I've been slipping paint stirrers under groups of threads and hanging 3" S hooks off of threads until what with all the jingling and all, it is sounding quite festive back there, but I've one edge curling up, the other dropping down, and some odd things happening in the middle. When I look at the back, I see only worse things ahead as one bundle of threads is trying to go from center to right, and another is going from right to center and one group is getting downright floppy while another is getting dangerously tight. Oh my.
Sometimes I really wonder about my idea of a pass-time.
 All my books say "rewind." I've more than half-way through the project - but will I even have something worth having when it comes off the loom if I keep shoving more and more hardware under and onto that warp? There are soap operas out there without this much drama.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

There's a Treat Inside!

Every weekend I volunteer at a local nature preserve. And every weekend I do a very un-environmental thing and pull through a local Mickey D's and get breakfast to eat on the way. It's always the same order, which includes a large cup of coffee with a package of sweetener in it. Now I've made this order from Milwaukee, WI to Fort Meyers, FL. Even in Bray, Ireland, they got it, despite the fact that the whole American "filtered coffee" thing confuses the entire EU no end. But for some reason, at the Sign of the Golden Arches in this neck of the woods, they struggle with the concept of "Open package of sweetener. Add contents to coffee. Give coffee to customer."

Saturday before Thanksgiving I went to the Golden Arches Steakhouse, made my usual order, including "Large Coffee with a pack of Splenda." The kid behind the counter, not old enough to shave, asked "You want the pack of Splenda in the coffee?" "Yes."

That question was really a warning shot across the bow. I was about 2/3 of the way through my coffee when I realized there was something in it. Visions of dead rodents dancing through my head, I pulled off the lid, and this is what I found.

There was a "treat" inside, alright!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Way Overdue

Finishes from more than a month ago. Nothing like being ahead of the power curve, eh?

I put a warp on my little table loom for the first time. It was just a small warp, 1 yard total, so I could test an overshot pattern. The shed is tiny, and changing the harnesses using top-mounted levers made my shoulder ache, so I doubt I could ever do a full-scale project on this loom. But for what I got it for, to do test pieces on, it worked quite well. I think Little Loom will be well-used as time goes on.
Not to worry - that garish orange is just my "trash yarn" for spreading the warp threads. 

The pattern I was testing is an old overshot pattern called "The Cross of Tennessee." This particular version came from a copy of Original Miniature Patterns for Hand Weaving,  which tells me that the pattern gets its name because it's a cross and tab pattern that was a favorite of weavers in Tennessee. It really doesn't pay to put a lot of weight on these patterns' names. If I've learned anything from perusing Helen Bress' Coverlet Book (a massive 2 volume set that I figure can help weigh the house down if we ever get another hurricane) and my more recently acquired Brown Book of Weaving Drafts (Miller & Schillo), it's that these overshot weaving patterns' names are far less consistent than even quilt pattern names, which certainly win no awards for standardization. Perhaps it's because they've been around a lot longer, or because individual weavers can vary them so much by their choice of threads and treadling, or by moving the blocks around. But here is a photo of my test swatch of "Cross."
"Cross of Tennessee" in 10/2 off-white warp, 5/2(?) purple weft.
 Among other things I learned that a repeat of 56 threads sounds intimidating, but is quite do-able if you just take your time with it. I'm planning to weave a table runner in this pattern with the colors below - light tan for the warp, dark brown for the weft. It will be 5 pattern repeats across with  twill borders. The warp is wound and chained, so now I'm in for a long round of threading. I am not looking forward to it. While I understand there are weavers whose favorite part of the process is dressing the loom. Not only am I not in their number, I believe the right therapy would do wonders for them.
3/5 perle cotton dark brown for the weft, 10/2 perle cotton light tan for the warp.
In other realms, I finished the "Easy Lace Scarf." It looked great when it came off the needles. However, I read in the Yarn Harlot's blog that you absolutely should block all your knitted goods. Even though I doubted it needed it, I blocked the thing. Turned out it was a Very Good Idea. The scarf came out looking even better than before. The yarn is King Cole superwash. Looking at the label, I can't tell if the entire line or just the colorway is called "ZigZag." It took me a while to find a pattern for this yarn where the colors didn't pool, but once I did, it was off to the races! This was a great traveling knit; it took about 3 repeats to have it memorized. It was just the ticket for long waits in the doctors' offices.

Completed "Easy Lace Scarf."

And the Blue Heron Yarn has found a project.

This is the current state of the Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief, a Ravelry download. I'm having to vary the pattern a bit because the yarn is about half the weight called for, but I was looking for something that would show off the variegation of the yarn. This is succeeding nicely. The photo does not show that there is a silver metallic thread running through it that adds a great sparkle. I was concerned about what it would feel like when it knitted up, but it turns out the whole thing is surprisingly soft. You just have to love it when things break your way.
Prickly pear cactus - and no, this was not photo-shopped in any way.
Thanks for stopping by and remember - follow your heart and the rest will follow, right? 
Of course right!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

The loom is bare, the Easily Enjoyable Lace Scarf will be done any time I decide to cast off, and the end of the Pomegranate Sampler is in sight, so it is time to figure out - what next? The question is especially important as the orange trees are in bloom, and that lovely fragrance wafting through even closed doors means that the temperate temperatures will soon be over and the time of hunkering inside becoming one with the air conditioning will soon be upon us.
All that remains of the last of the "Getting Things Done" stitchery projects.
The options are many, but I've settled on a few. I've spent considerable time reading up on and studying an overshot pattern called Cross of Tennessee. It's a venerable old pattern, and attractive to me not the least because I am a native of the Volunteer State. I've never attempted this one before, so I've wound a 1 yard warp and put it on my little table loom - which, like this pattern, I've never tried before. So all of this is going to be a learning experience.
The little loom warped, waste yarn going in, just a few more shots before I can start finding out if this is going to work.
As far as stitchery goes, I'm planning to start no fewer than 3 pieces. There is a method to my madness - I'm aiming to have something reasonably easy, something moderately challenging but not crazy-making, and something that might have me tearing my hair out.

The easy pattern is one I've had for years, the Sarah Emerson Sampler by Gloria & Pat. I've had the linen and 6 skeins of dark blue DMC for years; this one really should have been on last year's "Getting Things Done List." It has several different kinds of stitches, but I've done them all before. That coupled with the single color has convinced me that it should be reasonably easy.
  For the "moderately difficult" piece, I saved my pennies and was finally able to order the DVD of 10 years' worth of the Sampler and Antique Quarterly. It has been a veritable feast and has kept me occupied for hours as I've perused articles and studied the patterns. With such a bounty, you hardly know where to begin, but I've selected a modest pattern from 2003 to try first, the "Hearts and Flowers Spring Sampler."  The overdyed threads and fabric may well arrive today, and I cannot wait. I haven't worked much with overdyed thread, and several of the stitches will be new, so it lands in the "moderate" category. But it's small, should work up to about 3" x 7 1/5, so it shouldn't make me crazy, and the variety of stitches and happy pink dogwood in the center were just too good to pass up.

The final one will be mostly cross stitch, but it's one I've designed myself, incorporating antique motifs and a wisecrack my Grandfather made, "If everybody liked the same thing, there would be a dreadful shortage of kumquats." I think I have done a good job of designing it, and thanks to Design Seed, I think I've made good color choices, but I won't really know what's going to happen until I start stitching. If it's like my "Crows" sampler, there will be much pulling out and reworking of stitches, and even a certain amount of drama before I'm happy. (In fact, I'm more than half planning to do a complete re-design of the Crows sampler one fine day.) I've a feeling I'm going to need to go back and forth between the professionally designed ones as I sort out all the problems I've made for myself on the original one!
Such a bad case of "almost but not quite..."
And finally, I'm tackling some more knitting. I have a beautiful skein of Blue Heron Yarn, Deep Water.  I've found a pattern on Raverly, The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief, that I think will show the yarn off nicely but be simple enough that I'll have a chance of actually completing it.
Pretty colors - and sparkles too!
And that's how I plan to stay off the streets and out of the pool halls, for a while at least.

As in honor of the day, I'll leave you with my favorite Irish "blessing," which is probably as contrived as green beer, but I get a kick out of it.

"May those that love us, love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if he can't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So that we'll know them by their limping."

And in the meantime....