Monday, September 7, 2020

Stitching Updates

 Hello, dear friends,

Once again, it has been... oh, only just over a month? Never mind then, I can hybernate a bit longer...  But I do have some updates to share, so here it goes.

After completing "Thirteen Colonies", I looked around for a new project and discovered myself desperately hooked on samplers. During Nashville Needlework market this year I loved several projects. 

"Seeking Refuge" by Scarlett House perfectly describes how I feel about needlework. Cross stitch is my therapy, it's a skill to combat my fears and anxiety about the challenges of the outside world. So - I had to have this pattern. I even got all the threads it called for. 

Next was "Heaven and Nature" by Teresa Kogut. This one was a bit more complicated. Several years ago I stitched a commission piece designed by Sandy Orton (I Believe) with words "Let Heaven and Nature Sing." For those who remember, it had a garden theme with angels wearing gardening aprons and with garden shears in the pockets. And now, seeing this same verse on the new sampler, I thought - continuity. Something about it spoke to me, perhaps reminded me of the previous project, - and I got the pattern. 

Then, there's the "monster" (because of its size) - "His Eye is on the Sparrow" by Heartstring Samplery. This one - first of the two - interested me because of the way Adam and Eve were designed. I noticed that in many (older) samplers Adam and Eve were pictured in a grotesque, very awkward way. This one makes them look... more human. Not to mention, of course, all the details. 

Finally, there's "Consider the Lilies" - another design by Heartsrting Samplery. Once again, Adam and Eve here look very much alive, not doll-like, and the snake looks like he's holding a conversation... 

Once I received the patterns, I started on kitting the samplers. Fabric was not a problem at the time, but some of the threads, due to COVID, I could not get. Now I know about substitutions and conversions and details that makes the sampler yours, so to speak, but... Truth be told, until now I often had to substitute threads - simply because I could not afford the ones called for in a pattern(s). So, I do want to know what the "original" version with all the called for threads looks like. I will wait on the (last three) threads to become available, then I will start the sampler.

In the meantime, I signed up for - and completed - "Jesus Wept" sampler by Elisabeth Cooper. It came from The Sassy Jack's Stitchery, and it was in many ways a new experience for me. 

I wanted to stitch it, first of all, because it was the first time I was going to work with silk. I learned that silk is a very pleasant material to work with, both soft - and strong. Then, there was something about this design that reminded me of the cave paintings of the ancient times. The birds and the plants, the animals - the way they were designed. It was a very interesting process. 

After this project was completed, I moved on to something more colorful. Mary Mary Needleworker from Lindy Stitches caught my eye. Once again, continuity played part in my selection - Old Witch Mary from Lila's Studio and this project definitely have some things in common. 

For me, it's got something to do with those mushrooms. I could not resist them in Witch Mary - and now I cannot say no to them in Mary Needleworker. They had to be stitched! Not to mention the thread spools, the shoes, the flowers... and the verse of course. That one is still coming, along with more details.  

Until next time, 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

A Finish!

Hello, dear friends,
With the year coming to a close, it's about time I have... a finish! Absolutely not Christmas related, but - what does it matter, right? Here it is.

"Old Witch Mary" by Lila's Studio
It was stitched with Gentle Art Sampler threads, and I so enjoyed the colors.. the toadstools were my favorite.

The verse was stitched with two threads over one, and it was a bit challenging. Also, the pattern called for "u" in "poisonous" to be stitched backwards, but the speller in me did not allow it.

Now, with this project finally finished, I ask myself two questions: how should I frame it - and.. what should I stitch next? Once I make up my mind, I will be sure to check in and share my progress here.

Until next time -

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Stitching to you, my friends!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Merry Christmas...

Hello, dear friends,
It has been, as always, shamefully long. What have I been up to? Working - of course, can't go without it. Taking a class towards a degree in our local college - online. Working out... Reading... Watching movies.... And, of course, stitching. 
School proved to be a bit more stressful than I expected, to the point that, towards the end, I swore to myself that I would not take another class for a while... Things at work got busy, quizzes and homework assignments became due one after another, life changes piled up - I thought I was going to lose it. Then, just like that, the day of the final came, so I got up, dressed up, showed up - and passed it. Now, just a week and a half after the final, I am thinking - hmm, maybe I should take another class in the spring... Perhaps, I am (secretly) a glutton for stress. 

In my reading pursuits, I have discovered for myself books by Toni Morrison. I started with "God Bless The Child." It gripped me right away because of the subject - a strained relationship between mother and daughter. The daughter does not want to be in contact with her mother, save for the occasional post card or check, and she has her reasons. The mother, while respecting her daughter's wishes, believes that she has done the best she could, everything she could, for her child, given the situation they were in. 
Next, I read "Sula." The novel is about lifelong friendship between two women, - but, once again, it's the portrayal of motherhood in the story that spoke to me. Motherhood is doing what you have to do to keep your children alive, safe, and healthy. This is the job, the responsibility, the purpose of it, and everything else beyond that purpose is non-essential fluff.  I could relate to Eva, the mother, when in response to her daughter's question, "Mama, did you ever love us?" answers, "No, not the way you think." The daughter, all grown up, wants to know how come her mother never played with her as a child. Eva answers, "What would I look like leapin' 'round that little room playin' with youngins with three beets to my name?" Taking care of essentials equals love. Providing for your children equals love. Kissing booboos and playing hopscotch is good for a commercial. It has nothing to do with real life, or real love.

Next on my reading list is "Beloved," and I am gathering all my gut strength to read it. 

As for my stitching, I have turned it from a job (as was once upon a time) back into a hobby. I stitch what I want, when I want, with... what I want. 

"Pilgrim Couple" - The Primitive Hare. 
Here is a small Thanksgiving finish - a freebie from The Primitive Hare. I used specialty/variegated threads I had in my stash, and I think it turned out well. 
"Behold" by Subversive Cross Stitch
This pattern I have had in my stash for ages, always thinking, "One day..." Well, that day happened to be just a couple of weeks ago. I stitched it while thinking about the class, the test, the final... and it helped. Now, I think I will frame it and put it someplace private, just so I can look at it once a day and remind myself of what's important.
"Old Witch Mary" WIP by Lila's Studio
As you can see, this one is not quite finished. I saw the row of toadstools and simply fell in love. The threads are from Gentle Art sampler (as per pattern key), stitched on 32 ct Blue Moon Linen. 
The verse is stitched two over one, and at times I want to pull my hair out... but it's all worth it. 
"Year at Hawk Run Hallow" - Carriage House Samplings
Here's another Halloween fragment - from a much larger piece I have been working on for... oh, over a year now. I love the detail in this piece. I keep coming back to it and stitching a little bit at a time... I hope to finish it in the new year. 

Oh, I also tried my hand at baking! Quite unexpectedly. Let me tell you, I am no pastry chef, and even when it comes to everyday cooking, I prefer something "quick and easy" to anything remotely complicated. But, a friend shared a Lussekatter recipe, and it looked delicious and at the same time uncomplicated. So... I did it. By my standards, I did great - that is, the smoke alarm did not go off, nothing burned, and I did not get poisoned.

They don't have much sugar, but the raisins and the saffron make up for it... At first when I tasted one, it seemed like just a regular scone, but with every bite it grew on me. 

Finally, it looks like I have finally become that crazy cat lady I tried to run away from... Oh well. Crystal does not seem to mind. 

Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Oh Back To School...

Hello, dear friends,
I am back with exciting news: I am going back to college!
The place I work at has a program that reimburses college students for their approved educational expenses, and my co-workers have been encouraging me to continue on with my schooling, because - education always stays with you, doesn't it? Finally, I learned of the University of La Verne program - several degrees being offered right through our local Hancock College - and made a decision. I am going for my Bachelor's in Business Administration.
Now, in the past, when I posted such announcements, I would always get responses such as, "Congratulations!" and "Go for it!" and "You've got it!" This time, I say it's too early to break out the champagne, so to speak. I am taking it very slow and very seriously - one class at a time. Right now - online, as my job is my first priority. Later, depending on the situation, I may start taking evening classes.
I am also being more pragmatic, - that is (also unlike before) I am not "throwing my all" into the goal of education. I am stating this because when I talked on the phone to my academic adviser, he was very eager to suggest I sign up for everything all at once and "get it out of the way." No, I said. I work full time. I have limits to my time and strength. Education is important, but only if it is congruent with other parts of my life, helps me understand and advance, and does not interfere with my ability to make a living. He seemed a bit bummed and irritated at the end, but.. so what. I got my SEP out of him and signed up for my first class - Algebra -  a couple of weeks later.
Algebra... I have spent most of my educational life trying to avoid it. Now, it seems, there is nowhere to escape. I am tackling it, one lesson and one homework assignment at a time. Officially, the class started Monday, but our amazing teacher gave us a two week head start by posting all the materials on the website two weeks early. Tuesday, I went to the Math Center and rented a scientific calculator, and checked the Center's hours. I know I will be coming there for help regularly, so might as well get comfortable.
Speaking of getting comfortable... I learned all over again how good the coffee is at the college cafeteria, and how tasty their muffins are. Every time I get back to school, I re-discover that fact all over again. For years, educational pursuit for me has been associated with hot strong drinks and pastries.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

JCS Publications and New Projects

Good morning, my dear friends,

As you can see, I am trying to get better at posting here: this time, it has only been a month.
My new Just Cross Stitch issue came in the mail Friday - and look what I found there!

JCS August 2018.
Design by Evdokia Nikolaeva
I stitched that (the feeling never seems to get old) and loved it. The picture does not do it justice - I remember how bright and vibrant the colors looked on fabric while I was working on it; it was like looking at the stained glass window in the sun.

A close up picture
While stitching, I could not help thinking of precious stones. When I was a child, one of my favorite books was "The Malachite Box" by Pavel Bazhov - a collection of tales about the Hostess of the Mount and her secret jeweled garden, so intricately carved out of precious stones that any mortal that ever glanced at it would lose interest in anything naturally grown ever again... This bird and her pomegranates might as well have flown out of that garden, I thought while working at it with my needle.

"Peace Angel" by Lesley Teare
JCS February 2018
This gorgeous angel was stitched by me back in... December 2017 (I think?) The whole time I worked on her, I kept calling her "The Autumn Fairy" - the green wings and the flowers suggested it for me... Somehow the doves (the international symbol of peace) did not click in the idea; among all this natural beauty they looked part of the nature set - birds that just happened to be doves.

Close up Picture
Did I like the colors, the flowers, and the butterflies? Definitely. But... look at that armband! It stands out - perfectly. Five French Knots each, two different colors - and it makes everything around it stand out.

The skirt and the doves.
I enjoy looking at the flower detail around the skirt - and the doves, of course. The back stitching gave their wings such detail, I can almost see the feathers.

The waves of the skirt, the curling flower vines, the birds - all these details give the picture the sensation of movement. She is not standing still, she is walking  - or, perhaps, dancing? In all her detailed glory, she is still hard at work - on her way... somewhere.

Recently, I have had more time to stitch for myself. The result is - better late than never - a finished "Twelve Days of Christmas."

"Twelve Days of Christmas"
by Plum Street Samplers
Maybe it's the weather and the season, but when I finished it, I could not stop thinking that it is so... red. Was it, perhaps, too much red? But then I thought - this was meant to be a Christmas sampler, it's not its fault that it has taken me three years to finish it. By next Christmas, when it's framed and displayed on the wall, it will look just the right amount of red.

Finally, I have (bravely) decided to start a new project. It will be "A Year at Hawk Run Hallow" by Carriage House Samplings. How long will it take me to get it done, I am not even going to guess. One thing is for sure, though - I am going to thoroughly enjoy it!

Until next time,

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Where Have I Been?

Hello, dear friends,

Once again, it has been a long time... This time, longer than usual. I bet those of you who still check back here wonder - where is she? Where has she gone?

I have had a lot of changes in my life over the past six months. Back in November, right after my last post here, I started to feel a bit more secure, like my life finally started to stabilize, so I decided to enroll in college. Nothing big, just one class - online, so I could do it on my own schedule. Same day I enrolled, my landlady gave me notice - two months. Two months to find a new place, to pay all the deposits, to move... My sense of stability flew right out of the window, and with it so did all my academic pride. What if I fail the class? What if I get on academic probation? Who cares! I was dealing with real life - and the real problem to be solved was "how not to end up on the street by February."
Rita after her Marimba performance

Frantic online searches, phone calls, appointments to view properties... Several callbacks with "sorry, the place has been rented" and "we'll call you back if anything comes up." Two weeks in, I started to panic: what if there is nothing out there for me? What are my options? What if... - and the endless string of "what ifs" would take over my brain, spinning and swirling were the possibilities of no shelter, no place to stay, and no way out. I was there before - only a year earlier. This time, I tried my best not to think of the "what ifs", but instead make a plan - and follow it. Do a search online - check. Call the places that are renting out - check. Pick up applications - check...Step by step, bullet point by bullet point, I forced myself to focus on what needed to be done  - then, at that moment, and delay the "what ifs" torture until as late as possible in the evening - and by then, it was my hope, I would be too tired to think.
Crystal on the quilt

When I say "there was nothing out there," I mean, of course - nothing within my means. There were plenty of rentals, both apartments and houses  - for someone who could afford $1600 a month as a starting price (utilities not included). I was looking for something a bit -- less. Roommates were not an option, as I quickly learned, -- my post on about "mother with two teenage daughters looking for a roommate to co-rent a 3-bedroom house" did not get any responses. Reaching out to another mother through the online chatroom (with two smaller children), I thought we could help each other: rent a small house - maybe even a 4-bedroom, - my income plus hers... That's what I thought - until I learned that she actually did not have any income. She did not work, - she had to take care of her two toddlers, living the best she could on public assistance. My heart went out to her - I was that mother once; heck, I was still that mother (I used my EBT card at the store much more often than I did my debit card), - but I could not help her. I needed to help myself.

Two and a half weeks into the search, still with no results, I came upon a property in the center of town - for just the amount I was looking for. True, it was only a one bedroom, but it was a house. I called the property manager and left a message.. which was returned with "sorry, it was already rented. We just took it off the site." Usual assurances that they would call me should anything else come up... Right, thank you. I hope to hear from you soon. 
And then I did. Two days after the "sorry" call, the manager called me with news. It's smaller than the one I wanted, it was also only one bedroom, but it's a bit less in price and - well, it just got ready to be shown. A small, old house (a duplex, actually), built in the 50-s... would I be interested to take a look?
Now it's May, and the rose outside my front door is in bloom.

I certainly was interested. We agreed to meet at the address on my next morning off.
When I came to the address, no one was there yet, - I was early. That is the truth of the bus schedules: you are either really early - or really late. So, not to be late, I am usually about 30 minutes early everywhere I go.. I used that time to look around. The small back yard - not much greenery there, but there was a metal shed - storage.. The street was narrow (which I liked), the sun came out - and I saw the neighbors' houses.. I was in the old town - not the fancy part of it with villas and carriage houses - but the working part: small, cozy cottages, trees, gardens - and so much sunlight.. well, at least that day.
(with the neighborhood in the background).

 Then the bells of the local church started ringing - and I was sold. I knew this was a place for me. So, when the agent showed up to open up the house for me and I saw that it was small, it did not discourage me. I liked the kitchen sink, the walk-in closet, and most of all - the light. It was streaming through all the windows. It occurred to me then that I would probably not need to turn on the lamps until the sun was down. Add the central location - five minutes away from the bus station and the library, ten minutes away from college - and I said yes. The paperwork was filled out. The deposit was agreed on.. For the next few days, I had to wait, until I got the news: yes, the owners agreed. The manager also added: "We want to work with you because you have good credit." Instead of saying "really?" I chose to simply say "Thank you." And made a mental note to check my credit when I had the chance.
The field outside my window. 

And so we are here - since February. The sun is bright (unless it's cloudy or raining), the church bells ring down the street - although, I still have not figured out what they are ringing about; they ring randomly from one to thirty two bells, approximately every half hour. What time is it? I cannot tell, not by the bells. But - the sound is beautiful, and that is what counts.

P.S. If you have read my current rambling all the way to the end - thank you! Next time, I will be talking about more changes - and cross stitch pieces I have finished (or have been trying to) over the past months. If you are not bored - please stop by again... and leave a comment.
Thank you.

Until next time,