Archive for the ‘Classes’ Category

Getting Back To Business

I haven’t made much of a dent in my needlework the past few months.  Since my last post, I’ve been to a quilting retreat, a needlework retreat, the EGA National Seminar, the Pacific International Quilt show, a trip to Iowa to visit family and a bunch of smaller events in between.  Last weekend was the first since August where I didn’t have any plans.  While I have enjoyed what has been keeping busy, it was nice to just stay home for a change.  It was also a good weekend to be home so I could watch the final games of the World Series.  I don’t normally watch baseball, or other sports for that matter.  But as someone who lives in the Bay Area, I got swept up in the excitement.   Way to go Giants!

I finally put some real time into my needlework this week, especially today because it was cold and wet out.  I pulled out an old UFO, my “Toy Chest Etui” by Betsy Morgan.

I finished most of the front and one side panel of the toy box.  I ended up having to rip out the two colors of arches above the horse on the side panel because I realized the chart was incorrect.  It was two threads lower than the same border on the front panel on the right.  I wish I would have notice before I stitched it the first time, but better to figure it out now.  If I hadn’t, I would have been frustrated and disappointed when I went to assemble the box and the two borders didn’t match up.  I’m going to have to let Betsy know so she make the correction, if she hasn’t done so already.  I took this class with my guild back in 2008 and we were the first class she taught this piece to.  Now that she’s been teaching the piece for a couple years, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else has mentioned it to her.

After she taught our class, Betsy designed another piece for the box after someone in our group suggested the toy box needed a doll.  She designed a scissor sheath that has an amish man on one side and an amish woman on the other…an adorable addition.  She gave us the pattern so we could add it to our Etui. I heard she also designed another companion piece, but I believe you have to purchase that one.  I’ll have to look into that later.  For now, I have plenty to do on what I already have.

To ensure I have enough linen to include the scissor sheath, I took the time to baste out the placement of all the pieces.  I don’t normally do this because it takes time that I’d rather spend stitching.  I’m sure glad I decided to this time.  To maximize my piece of linen, I spaced each piece an inch apart, so they all had a 1/2″ seam allowance for finishing.   And wouldn’t you know it, I have just enough linen to do them all.  Phew!  There’s no way I would have fit each piece on the linen without those basting lines.  Now I can stitch with some peace of mind.  The only thing I have to wonder about now is if I have enough thread from the kit.  Guess I’ll find out :^)


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Happy dance!  Tonight I finished “A Patchwork Garden Pincushion Ball” by Twisted Oaks Designs.  Here are a few pictures of the finished piece:

The lighting in my room isn’t very good at night.  I’ll have to take some more pictures during the day and post those on my album.

I changed up the finishing a bit from what was outlined in the pattern.  I won’t be teaching my EGA group how to assemble theirs until August.  So to prevent myself from forgetting anything and to provide anyone interested in how I finished my piece, I thought I’d outline it the steps here.  So here it goes:

First, I decided the piece needed more gold that just the brass medallion on the bottom. So, in lieu of perl cotton, I chose gold Petite Treasure Braid (#PH03). To make sure it would withstand the tight tension needed to pull the pieces together, I did a little sample of the assembly stitches in an unused corner of a piece. This also allowed me to test iron the corner to make sure it could handle a hot iron.
To my delight, both tests passed with the Treasure Braid.

So I moved along and worked the backstitches around all 18 pieces.  To make sure the backstitches wouldn’t come out when I went to assemble the pieces, I tied the two ends of the thread in a square knot, before whipping the tails back and forth through the back side of the backstitches.

Here are all the completed stitches.

I want to take a quick moment to tell you how much I enjoy working with Treasure Braid.  I prefer stitching with it over Kreinik.  It it more pliable the Kreinik, so I don’t get frustrating with it when I stitch on linen.  Also, I am able to use long lengths (30″) and barely shows any wear on the thread when you get to the end.  If you haven’t used it, I really encourage you to pick some up next time your at a needlework shop.  Okay, back to the finishing.

Once I had all the backstitching done, I made a paper template of the two different shapes (a square and a kite shape). I used these templates to cut out fusible interfacing and cotton batting.

So, with my templates, I cut out interfacing (I use lightweight Pellon) for all the pieces so that it fit just inside the backstitches.

With a hot iron, I pressed the interfacing to the wrong side of the linen.  I pressed my pieces on a soft ironing pad to so I wouldn’t  crush the beads.

Once the interfacing was fused on, I cut all the pieces out using a 3/8″ seem allowance.

Then using my templates, I cut batting for all of the pieces.  Because batting is thicker than interfacing, I cut the batting a tad smaller than the interfacing.

The pattern doesn’t call for either interfacing or batting, but I find the interfacing stabilizes your pieces and prevents the poly-fil from bearding through the holes of your linen. The batting I use to wrap the seam allowance around, so they don’t create a ridge on the front of the work.  It also helps smooth out the lumps that can sometime appear when you stuff something with poly-fill.
Then I finger press the seams.  I start by pressing the corners so they can be mitered.  Then I press right along the backstitching.
Once the piece is finger pressed, insert the batting and using a contrasting color of sewing thread, baste the seam allowances down.  I pierce through the batting and to the front/back.  This holds the seams down and keeps the batting in place when I stuff it later.
Then with more Treasure Braid, I whip stitched the pieces together.
Here’s how the bottom looked once the bottom 6 “kite” pieces were assembled.
Then I added the middle squares.
Here you can see it starting to take the shape of a ball.
The brass medallion that comes with the pattern is flat.  I didn’t want the bottom of my ball to be flat, so  I took my medallion to the garage and hammered it into a curve.  Then I used the Treasure braid to attach it to the bottom.  I tacked it down at each point.
Using the same DMC colors I stitched with, I made a few different color variations of cording.  It was a tough choice, but I ended up using the cord on the right.   The colors look so rich together in that particular cord.
I then assembled the 6 “kite” shapes of the top and before I sewed the last piece into the first to close it all up, I inserted my cord, this a knot to keep it from slipping through.
Here’s how it looked from the top before I closed it up.
With the cord attached, I then whip stitched the top to the bottom section.
I stuffed the ball with poly-fill and stuffed it really tight. Closing it up was tricky. Once it was all stuffed and assembled, I removed the red basting threads and , voila, it was done!

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Tote & Gardenball

Today I finished a 6 year old UFO.  Back in 2004, I bought kits for my friend (Suzanne) and I to make these totes over a weekend when I visited her.

We were both excited to make it, but soon after starting it, we both ended up frustrated.  Neither of us could get the border around the center square to fit and the instructions in the pattern were no help.  I chalked it up to being a beginner quilter back then, as I’m sure my friend did also.  So, we both tossed them in the deep recesses of our closets, to be worked on some day, when we felt we were up to the task.

So, 6 years later and now more advanced in my quilting abilities, I decided to dig it out this week.  I ripped the border off the blocks and started from scratch.  I soon discovered that I ran into the very same problem with that dang triangle border.  I sewed all the pieces together and it was almost an inch longer than the center square.  But this time I wasn’t going to let it get the best of me.  I ripped out the triangles, again, and made an adjustment to how I was aligning the triangles before sewing with my scant 1/4″ and voila, it finally worked.  The third time was the charm.  Once that hump was over, the rest came pretty smoothly.  The original pattern only specified to put one quilt square on the tote and then a solid piece on the other side, but I decided it needed a square on both sides.  So here’s a picture of the other side.

So, one ancient UFO down, many, many more to go.

Now onto a brand new project.  This week at our EGA meeting, I will be handing out pattern packets and linen for the members to make “A Patchwork Gardenball Pincusion” by Twisted Oaks Designs.  And of course I had to make some adjustments….I just can’t help it sometimes.  The model was done with various colors of 28-ct linen, primarily in the light brownish tones.  But I thought this piece needed more color and chose 6 colors of pastel Belfast linens (Angel Blush, Ice Blue, Ray of Light, Lilac, Apricot and Mint).  I also ordered the Dinky Dye silks the pattern called for, but see if you don’t agree:

I wasn’t happy with them.  The dye lots must be very different from the ones used in the original.  The dark and light purples are the biggest offenders.  The dark purple is in the cooler range whereas the lighter purple is on the warmer side.  Then I thought the light pink and blue were too pale and needed to be more of a medium shade.  The green was fine, but I mistook the brown for a deep gold at first (though the picture makes it look more brown).  Don’t get me wrong, these colors are beautiful, but they just don’t coordinate together.

I’m letting the EGA members make their own decisions on what thread to use.  Maybe some of them will order the silks and get better results with their dye lots.  But I decided to go the DMC route.  I used, 3765/3766 (blues), 3803/3688 (pinks), 552/554 (purples, 367 (green) and 433 (brown).  I wanted to get as much of the pieces stitched before the meeting this Thursday to give folks an idea of what they can use.  I’m almost done:

I just need to finished the last motif on the lilac linen and stitch the final panel of mint linen.  Then I can add the gold beads to each and assemble it into the ball.

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Americana Needle Case

This year, I started my roll as the person in charge of evening programs for our local EGA.   I’ve only been a member of the guild for just under 3 years and holding an officer position is completely new and foreign to me.  But with lots of encouragement from my friends, I decided to give it a try and treat it as a learning experience.

From what I can tell about our group, it is evenly split between canvas stitchers and counted thread/linen stitchers.  I really fall into the latter category, and that’s where my comfort zone lies.  But I need to change it up a bit each month to find something appealing for everyone.

For January, I decided to teach everyone how to peyote bead (even count) a needle case.  My friend Kate had shown an interest in learning how to do it when she saw me using the technique on an amulet bag.  So I thought it would be a good technique to teach the whole group.   The project is small, so everyone could learn the technique and have something to show for it with relatively little time.  I also thought the design should be relatively simple, but not boring.  So, I designed this Americana needle case:

The piece is worked from the bottom up.  At first, you’re beading with a solid color (gold), to get the technique down.  Then after a bit of practice, the color pattern changes to the red and white beads.  By the time you get done stitching the base of the needle case, beading the blue and white pattern around the top becomes pretty simple.  The very top and bottom beading are done separately from the case before attaching them.  Doing peyote in the round for these two pieces is the toughest part of this project, but it finishes the whole piece off nicely.

I haven’t taught much, so I had some anxiety about how well the class would go over.  Would the group like the design?  Would I be able to explain the technique well?  Will my pattern and instructions make sense?  Will they enjoy it enough to finish the project?  etc….  Well, I taught the class last week and other than turning beat red for the first 10 minutes, it went over better than I expected.  Most of the night group participated in the program, so the interest was high.  And many of them continued to work on their beading even after the meeting had ended.  Last night I stitched with my group of friends, all of which are also EGA members, and a few of them brought their beading to work on.  It was really nice to see them still interested and working on a design I created. By accident, one of them (Amy) changed the beading sequence for the red and white beads and ended up with an alternate design.  It twists up the case like candy cane stripes, but with a sort of an interlocking saw tooth pattern.  You’d have to see it to understand , but it looks really neat.   Maybe she’ll read this post and send me a picture to add to my blog so you can see it 🙂 (UPDATE:  You can see a picture on Amy’s blog here).  I told her I wanted to try that pattern on a future project with some different color beads.

So, one program down and several to go.

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March Already?

It seems like Christmas was just a few weeks ago, but it’s more like a few months!  Where did January and February go?!   Before you know it, it’ll be summer.

I haven’t been getting as much stitching time in the past week as I’d like.  Work has been keeping me extra busy and most nights last week, I just vegged.  I expect this week to be just as busy.

I decided to start something new last month as my portable purse project.  I had to.  I’ve finished almost all of the small projects from my UFO pile and most of what’s left are too big to fit in my purse pocket.  Also, it’s nice to start a new project amid all the old projects.  So I dug through my small patterns and decided to start the Lizzie*Kate flip-it blocks.  They’re quick to stitch up and I already have the frames for each of them, so finishing them would also be quick.  I started with March and did manage to get all the stitching done before the end of February, but I just got around to stretching, lacing and putting it in the frame today:

"Flip-it Blocks - March" by Lizzie*Kate

Better late the never and I can still display it for another 3 weeks.  On the original design, there was a white blob behind the two blue birds (sample to the right).  I thought it might be a cloud, however, the background was green, not blue and that sort of bothered me.  So I began to ask my friends what they thought it was.  Most thought it was a cloud too, but a few thought it might be tree blossoms.  So, I went with that idea and tweaked the white to look more like little blossoms.

I haven’t started April yet.  I decided I needed to try and catch up on my Merry Cox class piece.  I’m still on lesson 2 (the group is at 4 now).  So, it has become my purse project and I’ve been making slow progress:

Progress on Americana Sewing Case by Merry Cox

"Americana Sewing Case" by Merry Cox - progress as of March 8th

The pattern was charted with the words “Christmas in Williamsburg” along the top of the middle section, but Merry encouraged us to change it. My plan is to change it to “Sweet Land of Liberty”. 

Also this past week, I pulled out on old UFO, “Blackstone Fantasy Garden” by Ink Circles and made a little headway on it:

Progress on Blackstone Fantasy Garden by Ink Circles

Progress on "Blackstone Fantasy Garden" by Ink Circles

I really love this piece and don’t know why I put it away so long.  I love Celtic knotwork and I just love how the areas in between on this design are filled with blackwork in different colors.

I think I’m going to work all of the cross-stitched knotwork and then go back afterwards to fill in all the blackwork.  The cross stitch doesn’t require as much concentration and can easily be done while I’m watching TV.  The blackwork will require me to look at the pattern more.  So that’s the plan now, but I could always change my mind if I get really board with the knotwork.

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Our part of the state has been getting doused with rain over the past week, so I’ve been spending most of my time indoors.  I’m not complaining though.  We really need all the rain we can get.  The past few winters have fallen short of the total rain/snow fall we need and if we don’t get several more days of heavy rain and snow before this summer, most of California will be in a severe draught and water restrictions will be imposed on everyone.  My husband and I already cut back our water usage last year when water conservation was “recommended” but not mandatory.  By just taking shorter showers and flushing the toilet less (yes, the old “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” saying applies in our household these days), saves us about 100 gallons a day!   Well, enough about that.

With all my indoor time, I’ve been making further progress on my UFO list.   First up is a piece I finished over the weekend:

It’s called “Parfait” and it was designed and taught by my friend Kei Blesch.  She taught it last year at our local EGA.  We were suppose to pick our own color-way,  but Kei had pulled together these luscious colors to make another model for herself and she put together the threads for me (and Kate) too.  I wish photos could capture how sparkly it is with all the metallic threads, but this picture will have to do.   I haven’t done much canvas work (though my piece is stitched on linen), so stitching this piece was a learning experience.  Can you see the areas where there are stitches layered over stitches?   You definitely have to pay attention to the directions and make sure you don’t stitch parts out of order.  I was also really happy to discover that the size of the stitched piece was the exact size I needed to mount onto this little box.  I had bought the box a while back, but not with a particular design in mind for it.  So I was thrilled it fit so nicely.  I’m trying to get away from framing everything I stitch.  In fact, the next piece I finished was initially going to be framed, but I changed my mind and finished it into a pincushion:

The design is “Hearts & Flowers” by The Sweetheart Tree.  I had thought about finishing this piece as a biscornu, but I couldn’t find an exact match in my stash to the linen that was in this kit.  So I settled on this simple pillow style pincushion.  I decided to try beads around the edge instead of my usual cording and I’m pleased with how it looks.  Definitely something I’ll do again.

The next two items were stitched by my friend Kate and the finishing was done by me.


The design is “Be Mine Valentine” by Lizzie Kate.  I did the finishing of the door knocker last year, when I was showing some of my stitching friends how to do the finishing.  And I just finished the fob this week.  I was going to put an edging on the fob, but decided to keep it simple.

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Last October, I attended my first Elegant Stitch retreat with Jackie du Plessis of It’s Fine-ally Finished.  I signed up for this retreat a year in advance when I found out that the design was centered around a William Morris design called “Strawberry Thief”.  I was introduced to William Morris’ style from my quilting friends years ago and have since been enamored with his designs/style.  Jackie’s theme was called “Berry Thief” and the pieces she designed were centered around birds and berries, from the birds-eye maple shaker box, to the stitched motifs, to the overall design of each piece in themselves.  I was fortunate to find out and attend this retreat because it was a one time only class.  Jackie had a very limited supply of the William Morris fabric (made by Liberty of London), which is no longer produced/available and once it was gone, it was gone.  She only had enough of the fabric for one class.  Here is a picture of the model (sorry it’s not the best picture…I took a picture of the picture):

Berry Thief model

"Berry Thief" model

Don’t you just love the beaded berries on the bag pulls?  The brown felted bird shown on the bottom is a thimble holder…the thimble fits in between the wings.  The piece the thimble holder is sitting on is an ort bag, shaped like a nest.  Next to that, is the Clover Cutter holder, made with a beautiful piece of black lace with a bird design.  The center piece, with “Berry Thief” stitched on it is the needle and scissor book. And then there’s the button bag next to it and some other little odds and ends Jackie designed.  Most of the actual stitching can be seen in this picture.  Jackie’s designs and classes focus more on needlework finishing, then anything else, but I did learn some new stitches too.  Still, it will still take me some time to complete all of the pieces.  So far, I have the stitching for the scissor/needle book done:

Progress as of January 31st, 2009

Progress as of January 31st, 2009

You can see the Strawberry Thief fabric in the upper right hand corner.  Isn’t it beautiful?!  The border around each rectangle is done with a festoon stitch.  It looks much like a four-sided stitch, but the sequence is done differently and the squares seem to have a slight slant to them, making it look a bit like rope.  During the retreat, we did some needle felting.  The pincushion is felted and then heavily beaded berries.  Actually, the model was one giant berry, but the friend I went with and I decided we wanted three smaller berries on ours.  Those of you who have done needle felting know how careful you need to be with those barbed needles…they’re sharp!  You get that fast stabbing rhythm going and if you’re not careful, a finger can get in the way and you stab yourself.  And there were quite a few band-aids handed out that day.  Lucky for me, I was careful. I actually haven’t picked up this project since November of last year.  I plan to be diligent about working on it now.  I had so much fun at this retreat, I signed up for the next retreat this April with the theme “Millefiori” (again, taught by Jackie) and I want to be able to ask Jackie any questions if I run into any trouble with this project.

The next piece I’d like to share is the new project I started on New Year’s day this year.  I joined the Shining Needle Society last year and they organized an on-line class with Merry Cox for “Americana Sewing Case”.  

Americana Sewing Case as of January 31st

Americana Sewing Case as of January 31st, 2009

This is my very first Merry Cox class and piece, so I was so excited to see it offered.  I have always admired her designs when I’ve seen pieces done by other stitchers.  I have to confess that I am behind on my stitching.  I’m still on part 1 (stitching the Montenegrin borders) of the class and I believe they are now onto part 3.  But that’s the wonderful thing about an on-line class.  I can go at my own pace and save all the information on my system until I need it.  Though this project is not that big, so I expect I’ll have it finished this year.

On a different note, I came across a blog this week that showcases various craft rooms called Crafty Storage.  Although most of the rooms pictured belong to scrapbookers/paper-crafters, there are some really great ideas for any type of craft room.  Maybe one of these days I’ll post some pictures of my room on this blog.  

I have been doing my part in stimulating the needlework economy.  Here are some of my recent purchases:


New Charts

New Charts

They are “Growing Like a Tree” and “Time & Season” samplers by Moira Blackburn, “Shores of Hawk Run Hollow” by Carriage House and two French designs, “C’etait en Decembre” & “Fees de Noel”, from A Mon Ami Pierre.  I few of these have been on my wish list for some time.  “C’etait en Decembre” is a new release from A Mon Ami Pierre and I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.   I have a few more orders on the way and will post pictures when I receive them.  

I use to joke with my husband that I stock up on my craft supplies for retirement, but now I joke that I’m stocking up in case I loose my job and this becomes a prolonged recession.  In reality, I don’t want either of us to loose our jobs.  I really hope the country can pull out of this economic mess soon.  There was a segment on 60 Minutes this week about the crisis in Wilmington OH, where most of the small town is now unemployed because DHL, the largest employer, has shut down.  And now without DHL, the town is in dire straits.  People can’t find work and therefore struggle to pay for basic necessities (food, homes, utilities) and many of the remaining businesses will likely close, including the local hospital.  And this is just one small town in this country.  It’s easy to overlook the impact of it all when it hasn’t effected you personally.  I don’t personally know of anyone who has been laid off, but at the rate layoffs are occurring now, I feel it won’t be long.  I fear it will get much worse before it gets better, but I do believe it will get better and it reinforces how thankful I am to have what I have.

I don’t mean to end on such a serious note.  I was catching up on some blogs and found a wonderful reminder from Jeanne about how we need to remind ourselves now and then about what we’re thankful for.  I am grateful for all the same things as Jeanne (substituting 1 cat for the 2 dogs 🙂 ).   Thanks Jeanne!

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