Sunday, December 19, 2010

The SUNDAY Before Xmas

I have been busy scurrying around town. Drove out to an industrial area to buy welding wires. Read on line somewhere that they are stainless steel and about 36" long and can be used to block lace. Since I have been knitting shawls like crazy since I finished my Prairie Schooler ABC, I needed blocking wires. 

To block the shawls and scarves, I put them in my top load washer--one at a time--and each time soaked them for about 20 minutes in cold water. Then I put each one on the spin cycle. After that I have inserted the welding wires along each side--2 per side--3 along the top--and t-pinned them into my carpet under the pool table in the family room. You want to stretch them a lot in order to show off the "lace" pattern.

This is the shawl that I made for my oldest daughter, Katie. I purchased the yarn at Joanne's. It is a multi colored boucle. Am making the same shawl in a different color way for my other daughter, Linda. This is a very easy pattern called LaLa's Simple Shawl.

This is part of a scarf that I made last winter. I think I will give it to my sister-in-law. Last winter I did not know about blocking so I pinned it to the carpet over an old mattress pad this morning to block it. Really shows off the patterns.

This is the same shawl as above but in a different yarn. I made it for my mom who at 89 is pretty tiny now a days. She doesn't like dark colors. This pattern is so terrific because you can end it at any length or when you run out of yarn--very versatile and mindless to knit.

STRIP TWIST—Finally got this quilt on the wall to photograph. It is a pattern from (lots of free scrappy quilt patterns) and is not really put together on point. Just looks that way. I have made this quilt twice before (with lots of reds.) Finished this top last year, but I had not quilted it. Used a wonderful swirl pattern. Added the keyboard borders at each end to make it twin sized.

 One year I stitched these pre-finished little purses for my sampler group for Christmas. I love bargello.

In 1999 I was asked to design an ornament for the White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room. This is the photo of a duplicate that I made. My husband and I traveled to DC and were able to attend the reception for those who had stitched/made ornaments that year. The theme was "Our National Heritage." It was a wonderful experience. I designed my ornament so that it would stand out on that huge tree--and it did even though it was placed quite high on the tree. The decorations at the White House that year were lovely. We flew out to DC and then traveled to Williamsburg as I said to my husband that I could not be that close to Williamsburg at Christmas and not go there to see the decorations. He took lots of photos for me and we had a great time as early December is not a big attendance month and the weather was great. We then drove up to Alexandria and stayed there enjoying the stores and restaurants. DC was void of many tourists so we had the museums to ourselves. I had heard that in previous years the first lady would serve tea and cookies to the "tree artists" but Hillary was no where to be seen...

I knitted what seemed like a million of these huge stockings many years ago. I had purchased at least one kit of each design and then made more with the extra yarn.

I used to go with my neighbor Donna to her church on a Saturday where a former member drove in from Valparaiso, Indiana, to help us make baskets. We had a wonderful time and made quite a few different shapes. Then her children got bigger, and she became too involved with their activities to come up here. Sigh. It was so much fun. This is my Christmas card basket.

This little ornament was stitched on green congress cloth in a class with Shay Pendray at my ANG guild. Shay is the host of the only stitching show on TV and also hosts a knitting show.

I took this class from my friend Joan McAuley at my Fox Valley EGA guild. It is all pulled thread which I love to stitch. We covered our own buttons (holly berries.)

This tiny ornament has one of those buttons inside that plays a tune. 
As I recall, mine plays "Silver Bells." It is stitched with perle cotton on aida cloth--very easy.

This was supposed to be a scissor fob, but I hate scissor fobs swaying when I am trying to make an essential cut of my thread, etc. So I designated him for my tree. He was a free pattern and I can't remember where I found it.

Well, I have to go and dig up some lunch. My friend Bev is coming over this afternoon to finish quilting her doggy quilt, and I have more projects to begin/finish. Could use another 2 weeks before Xmas!! Spent the day with my mom yesterday and we visited both my daughters and shopped a bit. Since there's nothing terrific on TV, Bill and I are rewatching NYPD Blue from a set we have. We can't remember much from years ago about each episode, but think the acting is quite good compared to what is now on TV—and the actors look so young! I am knitting on the shawl for Linda every night during the show. Next I have a bunny to knit for grandson, Ryan. It's from a pattern that I saw on Knit & Crochet Today TV show. Small and cute. I downloaded it from their website. 
Talk soon. --Nancy

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Have had a busy week what with my yoga class, Tuesday stitch/knit and my Sampler Group Christmas party. I take Iyengar yoga at a local studio with my teacher Sharon Carter. It is a terrific class and I take it twice a week. It has made me more strong in both mind and body. I can even do a headstand in the middle of the room and most of the time kick up into a hand stand against the wall—very empowering at 64! Plus my yoga class friends are a terrific bunch of gals.

Every Tuesday some of my friends and I gather here around my kitchen table and stitch, knit, whatever. We meet from about 10-12:30 and I love it. It also helps me to keep my house clean! We probably average about 6 of us. There is a lot of sharing of ideas. Look forward to it every week.

My friend Bev has been over several afternoons this week quilting a small heart wall hanging for Valentine's Day and a mid sized doggie quilt for her grandson. She is using my longarm machine. We went to our local quilt guild on Tuesday and heard a lecture from an art quilter from Michigan who showed a powerpoint show on her beautiful large flower quilts. Sometimes she uses 40 shades of a color to make the petals of the flowers. The quilts were amazing. And, of course, the members' show and tell is always one of the best parts of the meeting.

Yesterday was our Sampler Group's Xmas party at a lovely old bed and breakfast in Geneva, IL, the Oscar Swan Inn. It is filled with wonderful antiques which was nice except for the fact that the very darling stenciled chair I sat on for 3+ hours was hard! We had a very good brunch and stitched afterwards.

Today and the rest of the weekend I have projects to complete. I am on the third of my knitted shawls for my mom and 2 daugters, and I saw a cute knitted bunny on Knit and Crochet Today TV show that I hope to make for my new grandson Ryan. Need to go out and find some yarn for it.

Enough news--back to the ornaments

I made these stockings for my daughter Katie and her husband probably 10 years ago. They were stitched on klostern fabric with cross stitch—not as fast as you'd think--6 strands of floss.

Saw these cute little nutcracker ornaments in a magazine strung right side out as a garland. Thought they'd make cute ornaments so I stitched them on 10? count clear plastic canvas with loads of floss as per directions. Then I stitched a backing and whip stitched the fronts and backs together. They took quite a bit of time. Don't recommend using the plastic canvas for any piece now as I have found that it gets brittle over time. Those little legs could snap and break in a second. Avoid plastic canvas!

Remember macrame?

This was supposed to be a standup figure but I made him into an ornament. Can't imagine why I decided to make his coat green. He is a Libby Sturdy piece made especially for our EGA guild.

We also made these at Illinois Fox Valley EGA. I finished them all myself with help from my friend Edie, a professional needlework finisher. 

This is the quilting Santa designed by the same gal as Mr. & Mrs. I think her name is Roseann Moss of Illinois. She also designed the knitting Santa below. They are needlepoint.

I added a design of my cat Smokey onto this knitting Santa. 
The needles are toothpicks and I actually knitted the piece on the needles.

This little stocking was a painted needlepoint canvas. 

Another needlepoint project from EGA.

Yet another. All were fun to do.

Promised myself I'd get back to my sewing room in the basement and finish/start my Xmas projects. Christmas is coming up much too fast.  See you soon. --Nancy

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Xmas—

Yesterday afternoon I worked on one of my "neighbor" quilts. Decided that the white white fabric that I had chosen for my checkerboard borders was too white. Brewed up some tea this morning and dunked all 4 borders into the tea bath—voila—the perfect ecru color. I ironed them and they are drying in my sewing room. The black fabric did not run because I had prewashed it as I do with all the fabric I bring into my house. Am reading the Lee Child book. It is a thriller with lots of twists and turns. 

More Ornaments—

I purchased the painted canvas for some of these ornaments probably 25 years ago and stitched them as painted. Then a friend of mine gave me some of hers that she said she would never stitch, and I made these my own. I got out my acrylic paints from Joanne--in the squeeze bottle--and repainted the canvases. This is very easy. You just have to use less paint than you might think. You don't want to clog the canvas holes. In the past I had just glued felt to the backings. A few summers ago, I pulled off the felt and finished these in the proper way under the direction of my friend Edie. Made new beautiful cording and trimmed off the excess canvas. Now they look beautiful. 

I actually cut off most of the background stitching on this little girl with the wreath. Couldn't do that with the teddy bear and cat, etc. I like her with the close-cropped look.

This is the front of an ornament that I probably learned at ANG.

This is the back of the same ornament--interesting way of finishing it! Sorry it is blurry. I just laid it on my daughter's floor to photograph it.

This little pulled thread and shadow work stocking was a class at my EGA guild taught by my friend Joan McAuley. It is a very delicate piece. I lined it with a light green fabric. My biggest error in finishing ornaments is making the hanger too long. I really should go back and fix this on many of my ornaments which have scraggly double knotted hangers. One pair of scissors would do the trick.

Several years ago I tried punch needle "embroidery." I have the word embroidery in quotes because I really do not believe that this is embroidery. It is a fun and very fast technique that uses up floss like crazy which is sometimes good if you have loads of one color or another and want to get rid of it. You need a pattern, the punch needle tool and threaders, fabric that you can purchase at Joannes--weaver's cloth—floss, and a small hoop with a lip that can be tightened very tight. It took more time to put the backing and make the cording than it probably did to punch the ornament.

I saved a copy of the pattern above and made a second in different colors.

This cone was made at an ANG meeting years ago. It is lined in red taffeta. 

This is a Kathy Shenkel (sp?) needlepoint design. Several of us made them as a group. She has them for different states. The red cardinal came with the painted canvas.

I bought the kit for this little sweater at Lizzy Ann's knit shop in Holland, Michigan. She has quite a few different patterns and they are not difficult to knit.

This Santa was a design in probably the ANG magazine several years ago. Fun and fast.

These geometric ornaments are different designs. I think they each were a free pattern from one of the thread manufacturers. Don't overlook free patterns. Sometimes they are terrific.

I made two of these Santa's last year—one for each of my daughters. They were supposed to be stitched on perforated paper—too much work for such a fragile base material. They are about 10" tall on 18 count canvas.

This is a tiny cross stitch design—also a free chart as I recall. Fast and cute.

I'm going to go now and work on my "neighbor" quilts. My tea-dyed checkerboard borders should be dry. It snowed here in the Chicago suburbs this morning, and the wind is now blowing it all around. It's a good day to stay inside and work on my projects. Tonight I'll continue knitting my second shawl. Will take pics soon of the shawls and the quilt.  --Nancy