Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wedding and Anniversary Gifts

Last week, we celebrated our 10th anniversary, and wedding and anniversary pieces have been on my mind.  My in-laws' 50th anniversary will be coming up in the not too distant future, so I've been thinking about something we could stitch for them.  It's also traditional wedding season - June is still big for weddings, right?  (Although it seems like October is pulling ahead in terms of popularity.)  

I've already shown you some of the Bent Creek pieces I've done for weddings in a previous post.  I thought it would be fun to go back and look at some of the pieces I've stitched as wedding gifts, or on occasion, anniversary gifts because I can't get my act together in time for the wedding.  And in the case of this first piece, a Christmas gift because we didn't even stitch at the time the wedding took place.

I like to tie what I stitch into the event whenever possible.  With weddings that don't have a specific theme, I look to the the time of year, location, even a special reading or a song from the ceremony for inspiration. 

This is a piece I modified from a Leisure Arts leaflet called Marriage Keepsakes.  I had stitched the pattern once before, as designed.  This time, I changed the text to a poem my BIL and SIL used on the bookmark favors for their wedding.  They didn't have a theme for their wedding, so I drew on the colors they used, blue and silver.




Another couple I stitched a gift for also didn't really use a theme for their wedding, so I used this Bucilla kit, "To Love and To Cherish" as a gift for my far away friend.  She and I met online while we were planning our weddings, and have remained close ever since.

I changed the pink flowers to a peachy color so they would look more like the peach colored carnations that the bride chose for her bouquet and their decor.

I've also designed pieces completely from scratch by using motifs from several books I own.    This is where cross stitch software comes in VERY handy.  I have used PC Stitch for several years with great results, though I must admit that once I upgraded, some of the functions I could do quickly and easily became more complicated, and I am still muddling my way through some of the software.  (I want to go back to the old way of doing things for some functions, and it's just not possible.




For my friend Kelly (also a fellow wedding planning site buddy), I created a piece using the Song of Solomon quote they used for their invitations.  Red roses were a big part of their fall wedding, so I incorporated that into the piece as well.  The rose motif in the middle was tricky - I wanted something symmetrical - and ended up playing with a charted rose and its mirror image to get the look I was going for.  (Names are intentionally blurred for privacy)






One of the more unusual pieces I've done was for a couple that had marigolds and cicadas for their wedding theme.  Definitely not your typical wedding theme!  In 2004, the cicadas of Brood X (the largest group of periodical cicadas that emerge every 17 years) were coming out.  The marigold part was easy - I tapped the same flower book I used for the roses in the previous piece, but the cicadas proved to be a challenge.

I ended up stitching a simple piece, and worked the cicadas into the framing.  I found some line art drawings and printed them on velum paper, then used an Exacto knife to trim away the excess and cut out the middle.  I mounted the paper to a store bought mat with spray adhesive.  It turned out better that I expected and made for a very interesting wedding record.  Working with printed velum and a store bought mat can be tedious, but it adds a whole new level of versatility and flexibility to framing pieces.


On a much more traditional note, I used a reading that was very important to the couple to stitch this Book of Ruth Sampler by Design Connection (now OOP).  The names were charted out on paper, pre-stitching software, and I would definitely move some things around were I to stitch it again.

And the last piece I have for today should be familiar to many of you, as it's Blackbird Designs I Thee Wed.  It was a commissioned piece, stitched for my cousin to gift to a friend.  You can find the details on the piece here.



 Do you stitch gifts for weddings, anniversaries or other significant life events?  How do you choose what you will stitch?  Do you have any go to designers or charts that you've stitched more than once (like my fondness for Bent Creek's I Do)?
Monday, April 21, 2014

What our stitching means

Just recently, I read a post by my friend Rachel, talking about her stash and how she regrets the amount of money she spent on it, needs vs. wants, and emotional shopping.  I think at some point, we've all been there - maybe about our stash, maybe about other things like clothes or shoes or kitchen gadgets.  In my case, as a parent, I'm trying to be more aware of money I spend on *stuff* my son thinks he wants, but doesn't really need, like all the little doo dads in the Target Dollar Spot.  Sure, it's a thrill for him to get something, and I love to see a smile on his face, but does he NEED another plastic car or novelty?  And more importantly, will those trinkets matter in the years to come?  Probably not, nor do I want to get my son in the habit of spending money on momentary rewards that are tossed aside almost as soon as we get home.

The following day, I came across this post on Positively Splendid.  In the post, Amy talks about this beautiful pillow her mom made for her, all by hand.  She says, "This pillow will always be a tangible reminder of her love for me, something that can eventually be passed on to future generations."

She also talks about the very special quilts her grandmother created for her grandchildren, and what they mean to her, and I think we as crafters need to know exactly what Amy says, "Your creativity matters."

It's really a beautiful post and a wonderful tribute to the creative women in Amy's life, and her post is well worth reading.

I also think it puts a lot in perspective.  While I can see where Rachel is coming from, and I can definitely relate to regrets about spending money on certain things (like the Dollar Spot nonsense), I think Amy really nails it.  Obviously, the greatest investment in our stitching is our time, but the materials aren't cheap either.  The cost of the floss, fabrics, embellishments, charts and finishing materials can really add up, but I can't say I regret these purchases, or the time spent stitching.

I've been asked why I don't sell my stitched pieces.  Sometimes the easy answer is "copyright issues", but usually I respond that I will never recover monetarily what I put into it, so I only stitch for gifts, for people I genuinely care about.  My time and effort is as much a gift to them as the finished piece.  Years from now, my niece, nephew and son will be able to look at the birth records that were stitched for them and know they were done with love.  Someday when my son is an adult and decorating his own Christmas tree, I hope that the ornaments I made for him will be another reminder of how much I love him.  When our friends see the wedding records we've stitched and framed for them, I hope it's a joyful reminder of their wedding day, and of our love and support for them as well.

As Amy summed up, we "use our own two hands to create a lasting legacy with those we love, both near and from afar."
Thursday, April 17, 2014

Happy 10th Wedding Anniversary!

My husband and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary today.  (And tomorrow will be 10 years to the day of our engagement).  We'll be together 22 years in June, and it's been a pretty awesome ride so far.  We are not without our ups and downs, but we have learned from the difficulties to put our faith and trust in each other.

Without getting too mushy, my husband is the best man I know and I am so proud of how hard he works for us, how smart he is, how good he is with our son, and how understanding (and wise) he is with me.  Happy Anniversary, Mr. Sweet Pea!

And now a look at some of the pieces we've stitched over the years.  I will have our 10th Anniversary piece in a few days as I got a bit of a late start on it.

We stitched this piece together before our wedding.  Our wedding colors were blue and silver, and there was a running theme of stars throughout.  (Yes, it is mostly because we are Dallas Cowboys fans, though it was far less embarrassing to admit that 10 years ago than it is now.  But let's not talk about that.)

Count the Stars - Dimensions kit

We had just started stitching, so we relied on this kit from Dimensions that we modified as a wedding record.  We changed the wording to the line we used from an ee cummings poem that has special meaning to us.  When we were in college, my scientist husband (then chemistry student boyfriend) would send me ee cummings poems as love letters, something I thought was incredibly sweet).  We used line from another of his poems on our wedding invitations, "one's not half two.  It's two are halves of one:"

Several years later, I stitched this piece as a Valentine's / Anniversary piece for him (It was stitched for Valentine's Day, but I didn't end up framing it until our anniversary that year.

It's Peas in a Pod, Me and You by Sue Hillis designs.

Sadly, the last "anniversary" piece I stitched was for our fifth anniversary, you know, five years ago.  It has yet to be framed (I do HAVE the frame, I just have to convince my framer - Mr. Sweet Pea - to get it done.  Why yes, I do make him frame his own gifts.)

This is Always and Forever, by Little House Needleworks.  You can get the details here from our fifth anniversary post.  I ordered a somewhat ornate black frame for it, and it's all ready to go.  Perhaps it will get framed AND hung up sometime this year.  Won't that be exciting!  I actually have a spot on the wall all ready to go.  We have a corner area in our front hall where we've hung some old black and white family photos, including some wedding photos.  We even have a black and white wedding photo of our own hanging up, and I'd like to hang this piece along with them.

As I mentioned earlier, the 10th anniversary piece is currently in progress.  I had put it out of my mind for the longest time, and when I was at my LNS a few weeks ago, flipping through the racks, it occurred to me that MAYBE I should stitch something for our anniversary.  Nothing was really working for me, and then I spotted a chart I already owned (yay!) and was able to pick up the fabric I needed for it.  So now it's one of four (five, six....) projects on scroll frames sitting next to my stitching chair.  It's a fairly easy stitch (compared to the Sampler Cove and Long Dog pieces I am also working on), so it should be done soon.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Variation on a theme


A few years ago, I stitched Gabrielle Rose by La D Da as a gift for a friend's little girl.  It's pretty, with lovely muted pastel colors and an old fashioned feel.

It's a chart I really like for its simplicty, and it works really well for a little girl when the theme is more of a color scheme than a concrete theme (like butterflies or fuzzy sheep).


Since it's a versatile chart, I knew I would stitch it again, but this time I wanted to do something a little different.  Another friend of mine was having a baby, and they were going all out girly in pinks and greens for the nursery, but in more vivid hues than pastels.  They chose a bedding set from Pottery Barn called Petite Paisley for the nursery. Working from those colors, I went to my LNS and started to pull some brightly colored threads.  The owner thought I might be a little crazy, but I went for it, and it turned out even better than I hoped.  (Excuse the lines in the fabric - I know it will be almost a year, but I haven't framed it yet.  oops)



Gabrielle Rose by La D Da
Stitched 2 over 2 on 32 ct. white evenweave
with my own color selection

While I think the original is quite pretty, I'm also a little in love with the bolder colors! It's not as vibrant as the Pottery Barn bedding, but it still echos the fabrics nicely.  (The bluebirds might be my favorite part!)  The last name on the banner is blurred for privacy, but I used a lighter thread this time and it pops a little more than the grey thread I used the first time around.

If you're interested in the colors, I used GAST Dark Chocolate for the border, Presidential Blue and Fragrant Cloves for the birds, WDW Begonia, Saffron, Crepe Myrtle and Sunset for the flowers, and Meadow for the leaves and stems, CC House Wine for the banner and Magnolia Blossom for the banner lettering and white band on the birds.

Hopefully I will get this framed up soon, and perhaps gifted in its final format before the young miss turns one later this year!  (I've already shown the finished stitching to my friend and she loves it)  The plan is to frame it in a dark wood frame (to coordinate with the dark nursery furniture) so I'll update the blog once I get it framed.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I wish I may, I wish I might...

I like maintaining a wishlist on my blog, not only for my own personal use, but because it also makes it easier when I participate in an exchange.  It's nice to be able to see what your partner is interested in, so I like to make that information accessible to them.  When you can see what a fellow stitcher is interested in, choosing something they'll like is a bit easier.

I've used The Things I Want forever, but I don't think their interface has been updated since they rolled it out in 2006, and their development blog has been on hiatus since 2008.  It seems they've stopped working on it, and I don't want to lose my lists, so it's time to transition to something new.

I've experimented with several different "universal" wish lists, and so far, Whimventory seems to be winning.  There's a browser bar add-on that makes it super easy to add items from almost any site (I've had some difficulties with one or two sites, but have been able to find what I am looking for elsewhere so I can add it to the list).  The list is visual, like Pinterest, but includes more gift list functionality than Pinterest.

I also find it useful to keep an online inventory of my stash so I am able to check before I buy a chart to see whether or not I already have it.  I usually visit my LNS with specific charts in mind, or to pick up something I've asked the owner to order for me, but I will occasionally spot something that catches my eye.  If it's not a brand new release, I like to make sure I haven't purchased it before.

Cataloging my stash serves another purpose.  My very careful and meticulous father-in-law devoted some time to creating an inventory of their home and its contents for insurance purposes and encouraged us to do the same.  He took photos of everything, room by room, and gave digital copies to both of his sons.  I've been working on our home inventory as well, and realized it wasn't a bad idea to have a record of our stitching stash.  While it may not be as extensive as some other stitching stashes out there, we've still spent a sizeable amount of money on charts, fibers and fabrics, and having that all documented would be a tremendous help for an insurance claim (heaven forbid we ever need to do that).  So in addition to my online inventories, I also keep an excel spreadsheet with a backup copy in our firebox, mostly because I am tremendously paranoid that one of these websites will go away in the middle of the night, leaving me no record of what I have.  It was a LOT of work putting it together to begin with, but has become very easy to maintain just by adding charts when I buy new ones (which surprisingly isn't all that often)

Where do you keep track of your wishlists?  Do you keep track of what you own online or otherwise?
Monday, April 7, 2014

Late for St. Patrick's Day


Luck by Bent Creek

I have a fondness for Bent Creek pieces, especially their alphabet pieces like this one.  I started around St. Patrick's Day last year and finished it up sometime in November or December.  It was one of those pieces that I started for myself, then had other things I needed to work on intervene.  Since St. Patrick's Day (or HAPPY PATRICK'S DAY as Little Dude calls it) is my second favorite holiday (after Christmas), I've started working on Irish or shamrock themed pieces around that time of year.

I think this one may be destined for our guest room, as I'm considering doing a sort of Irish theme in there.  The walls are green and the bedding and curtains are black and white, and the current artwork hanging in there is framed notecards featuing pen and ink drawings of covered bridges.

If you'd like to see the other Bent Creek pieces I've stitched, you can find them here, here and here.  Oh, and here, where I did Wedding Row for my favorite cousin.
Friday, April 4, 2014

In honor of our recently departed extended winter season

Winter Bird Delight by Praiseworthy Stitches
Stitched 2 over 2 on 32 ct. fabric with recommended threads


Here on the east coast of the US, we had a VERY long winter.  A very long one - and the second snowiest season on record for our area.  As someone who can't stand the heat and humidity of summer, I don't generally mind the cooler months, but it does get to be exhausting when you have a four year old stuck in the house because the temperatures are well below freezing.

This is a piece my husband stitched a while back, as you can tell by the date on the bottom (2010).  It's been sitting in our FUFO (finished un-finished objects) since then, and I realized I had never taken a picture or shared it on the blog.  It's one of several bird themed pieces he's stitched or has in progress, since birds are an interest of his.  I'm not quite sure where it will end up as it's slightly too big for an ornament.  Chances are it will get framed and hung somewhere in our front hall or living room since the blue fabric it's stitched on coordinates nicely with the paint colors in those areas.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I'm a little bit (French) country

Well, well, well.  With this post, I officially surpassed my post count for the ENTIRE year last year, and it's only March.  I mean April!  What?  Where did the time go?

I finished stitching on this piece a little earlier this year.  It's JBW Designs French Country Rooster, done up over 2 on 32 ct. linen with Crescent Colors Chili Pepper.  It's been sitting in my stitching box for a while, and then I got on a finishing kick.  It has yet to be framed, so into the Drawer of Unframed Pieces to wait for who knows how long.

I'm thinking about framing him for somewhere in our kitchen.  I have a ceramic rooster that my husband bought at an antique store for me because it looked exactly like one of the ceramic roosters my grandmother had in her kitchen, on a little shelf above the sink.  I'm not really a country person, and I'm not a huge fan of chickens, but I do love me the occasional rooster, probably because of that ceramic rooster of my grandmother's.

Also, because of this story.  WARNING - it does contain some NSFW language and some people may be offended by it, but it is still one of the most hilarious things I have ever read in my whole life.  Seriously.  My whole life.  Just thinking about it makes me laugh, and you can bet if I ever find a 5-foot tall metal chicken, I am going to bring it home with me.  (My husband lives in fear that this will actually happen.  This fear is not unfounded).  You know, now that I am thinking about it, I am thinking it would be HILARIOUS (to me, anyway) to pick out the word "chanticleer" and replace it with "Beyonce". (And if you want a smaller version of Beyonce, like the one hanging on my refrigerator that my 4 year old knows is Beyonce), you can get it here.

As long as we're on JBW Designs, I don't think I've ever shared this one that I finished about 5 years ago.  Yep.  5 years.  I bought the chart when found out I was pregnant with Little Dude, and finished it up right before he was born.  I had intended to turn it into a door hanger for the nursery, but I was young and naive and childless when I came up with that plan.

Stitched 2 over 2 on 32 ct. white even weave
with Dinky Dyes silk in Midnight

Pretty, isn't it?  I think this is the first JBW Design I stitched, and I LOVED the Dinky Dyes silk.  It was just lovely to stitch with, and the blue-black color of Midnight is pretty.  I might have to look for some sort of coordinating fabric and get around to finishing this into something that can be displayed before my son is a teenager.
Monday, March 31, 2014

Archiving and recording

This post has been sitting in draft format for a while.  I won't say exactly how long, but it's been a while.

I have a compulsion to organize and archive things. (There are more than a few of you out there that will relate to this)  It's always there, simmering just below the surface, but in the last few years, it's taken on greater importance. When my husband's dearly beloved 99 year old grandmother passed away a while back, my MIL and I pulled together many family photos from a variety of sources for her viewing and funeral. So many of them were unmarked and unlabeled.  Luckily, my MIL is very good with names and faces, so we were able to identify most of the people in the photos. (My FIL has been struggling to identify the photos he inherited in boxes from his parents, and having a bit harder of a time with it.)  It got me thinking about family history being lost in bits and pieces along the way, and I felt a need to do what I could to preserve it.

I keep fairly meticulous records of my own photos, especially digital ones. Everything's labeled and organized in my own files, as well as in the online digital albums I upload. Prints are marked with the date, location and participants when possible so that in 50 years, my son isn't wondering who is smiling down at his cute baby face in a photograph.

I've been borrowing old photos from my ILs and scanning them in as high resolution TIFF files for preservation, touch up and reprinting, and burning the files to CD as well as uploading them online. I've been making sure to have my ILs identify as many people as they can as well.  And we've also been printing and framing some of these photos so that they become part of our daily lives, and more importantly, part of our son's daily life.  We are lucky to have wedding photos of my husband's maternal grandparents and my maternal grandparents.  Both couples were married during the Depression, and the photos are a treasure.  We also have a variety of framed photos of the important people in our lives hanging on our walls so that in some small way, they are always with us.

In the spirit of this archiving and organizing, I've been combing through my own needlework photos, making sure I have designers, pattern names, dates, etc. We have photos of almost every single piece we've ever stitched and it's not entirely impossible to remember the basic details just by looking at the photos. I've had long stretches where I've only finished a piece or two, and my husband tends to take on major projects that take a year or more to complete, so I'm not looking at hundreds of pieces. But I have noticed that my pre-blog record keeping has been spotty. I didn't pay as much attention to designers or fabric or threads or things of that nature as I do now.  However, most of my pre-blog stitching came from kits, so it's not hard to track that information down.  I store everything, including the leftover kit threads, in plastic page protectors in 3-ring binders.  My charts are divided between binders and underbed storage boxes, usually by likelihood that I will stitch it again.  (I do have several charts I've stitched more than once with variations, usually smaller ones for birth records).  Once I started blogging and participating in the stitching community, I started branching out, experimenting and modifying charts for my own needs, changing colors, fabrics, etc.  Having that record in my blog posts has been helpful.

Anyway, I have instituted a way of identifying stitched pieces, at least the framed ones, and providing a bit of archival information down the road. I've started making up labels and sticking them on the back of the frame.

For gifts, this is in addition to a handwritten note. If the backing is black or another dark color, I write a short note to the recipient with a gold or silver scrapbooking marker. And if it's a paper backed piece, I write a note on a sticker and attach it to the back of the piece.  (And if you'd like to see the front of this particular piece, it's here)

What do you do to archive and record your stitching and/or crafting for yourself?  Do you keep a blog or journal?  Photos?  Do you prefer handwritten or digital records?  Do you do anything special to sign your work?
Friday, March 28, 2014

A Very Grumpy Christmas


Brooke's Books Publishing
Stitched 2 over 2 on 32 ct. unknown green evenweave with recommended colors

Continuing on with our theme of "Pieces I stitched AND finished in 2013", (Which is mostly ornaments since it's a fairly quick process and I don't have to obsess about frames) here's a little something I whipped up for a friend of mine.  She adores Grumpy Cat, and when I discovered him making the rounds on the blogs,  I knew this would be for her.  The original was stitched on a pale blue fabric, but I think the green gives it an extra pop.  This was a super quick stitch, and I got it out in time for her to put it on her tree.

I did substitute a gold metallic thread for the star and some fuzzy white Wisper thread for the trim and pom pom on the hat.  The gold metallic is prettier in person, but I did not get the effect from the Wisper thread that I had hoped for, even using one thread.

I used the same red plaid background fabric that I used for Little Dude's ornament.  It has a little bit of metallic shine to it, and metallic gold threads running through it, so it was a nice compliment to the gold star.  My friend loves anything glittery and shiny, so I went with a sparkly red tinsel-like cording for the trim (from the $1 at Joann's).  It was slightly tricky getting that glued into place without melting the bits of tinsel onto the hot glue gun, but I love how it turned out.