Archive for the ‘stitching’ Category

A sampler

Lacking inspiration for another project, I am re-doing Sharon Boggon’s course, “A Personal Library of Stitches”. For each lesson I intend to make a sampler. Of course, inspiration may strike at any time and I give myself permission to interrupt my coursework. Lesson 1 is on borders and the featured stitches are chain, chevron, herringbone, Guilloche. straight feather stitch, Cretan, Portuguese stem, and running stitch. I used the Guilloche stitch for my outer border, to frame the sampler. The threads are cotton pearl #8 and #5, gold metallic thread, and a heavy rayon  Edmar thread used in Brazilian Embroidery. The fabric is Aida. See the results below. Click on the image for a closer look.


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Having gotten out of the habit of frequent blogging, I’m finding it hard to get back into it. I’ve shown you the work-in-progress on Beau’s bag.  It’s finished and I’ve mailed it off to Vashon Island–the bag with the Kate Greenaway book inside. It just fits. Here you can see the front and the back. I stitched the CQ blocks to a ready-made canvas bag. The front has alphabet letters and critters on the patches. The back has numerals and flora motifs. On both sides I included shisha, thinking Beau would get a kick out of the tiny mirrors.

Front Back


Now I’m working on a sampler–just something to keep me stitching, as I’m still finding it hard to do so every day. Here’s Guilloche stitch for the border. It’s funny how putting a border on it makes the sampler feel more important–worth trying to do it well.


Counting threads is not my favorite stitching technique, but I like the even stitches it produces. This sampler is on Aida evenweave fabric.

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Though I’ve done quite a bit of crazy quilting, piecing blocks for embellishment, it is still hard for me to do by machine.  I know how much faster it would be if I used the sewing machine. So I decided to try piecing the bag for Beau on the machine. I was following directions for what was supposedly the easiest method. First, I designed a pattern. There’s a Kate Greenaway little girl on the central patch.


Well, I spent most of the afternoon yesterday trying to match the patches on the foundation fabric. It just wasn’t working. In the end, I gave up and went to my preferred method of hand basting the patches. After basting them, I stitched the seams with invisible stitching. Here’s the result.


This morning, I looked at my work and realized that I had made a mistake. I pieced the blue patch on the right over the light tan (#3) patch below the central patch. So today I unstitched three patches and corrected my mistake. Now it looks like this.


I’ve started stitching the little girl with split stitch using a single strand of DMC floss.

And I’m trying to get myself back into the habit of blogging. So even though I don’t have much to show, I’m writing anyhow.

From month to month I can’t see any improvement in my health, but looking back six months, when I was in Shepherd Pratt Hospital, I’m very much better now.




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Embellished block

During the past two weeks, I’ve finished embellishing the block I pieced. The print fabric of patch #7 gave me my palette. I chose red/pink, dark green, light green, blue, and yellow fabrics. Then I chose threads, mostly #5 pearl cotton, in the same colors. I’ve been wanting to use lace on a CQ block and for this project I chose two pieces, one of which I painted light green. Finally, I put pearl beads and buttons in the patches.  I know stitchers who could finish this block in a day.


My slowness is because I’m still having to force myself to do any needlework, and I can’t stay with it for more than a few minutes or an hour. But I’ve been encouraged to keep at it until the motivation and pleasure return. The problem is that I’m working without inspiration and the results are not truly satisfying. Oh well. What will I do next?

And how will I finish this block?  Or will it just stay in a drawer with so many other projects?

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After 28 days in silent retreat, I am feeling better but not yet recovered. I’m still spending 13/24 hours lying down, eyes closed. Unable to stitch, I haven’t kept up with TAST or CQJP.

This vermicelli couching is on a crazy patchwork pillow cover I made some years ago. Usually done with metal threads couched with silk, here I worked it with Kreinik copper metallic braid couched with a single strand of dark blue cotton floss. Can’t get a good photograph because of the metallic thread.

Couching is the stitch of the week for TAST.

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As you know, the past year has not been very productive for me, at least, needlewise. Because of my state of being and events, it was almost impossible for me to use a needle.

It was January 2011 that Ernie moved to RGT (assisted living). During the week prior, I managed to make fabric cards for Ara and Ola and I danced at their party.

In April I collected myself enough to embellish grandson Josh’s jacket as a gift for his graduation.

In May I created Tangie’s bag.

In July I designed a needlebook cover and I pieced two crazy quilt blocks but I was unable to work on them during the process of moving to Vashon. I was too distraught, too overwhelmed–emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Finally, in October, after I’d gotten my new digs somewhat organized, I finished the needlebook cover.

In November I made a card case for DIL Carol.

And in December I finished embellishing one of the CQ blocks. Here are both of them on my portable design board at my makeshift work place.

I’m still working on the one on the left. Don’t yet know what I’ll do with them. Put them in a drawer with other studies? They were only intended as busy work. (The pattern is from Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting.)

Meanwhile, I signed up for two online challenges–TAST 2012 and the Crazy Quilt Journal Project. I was hoping they would help overcome the inertia or whatever it was that was keeping me from routinely stitching.

From a stack of white and off-white silk fabrics, I pieced the first block for CQJP, which I intended to use as a sampler or showcase for TAST stitches. Even though I was feeling rotten, I made myself work the first two stitches on the block, with this result.

I had done a trial of the nested fly stitches (on the middle seam) on an evenweave doodlecloth and thought that, if I marked the spaces between the diamonds, I could do the same pattern here. Not acceptable. The next day, I unstitched that seam and started over. Here are the seam treatments using TAST Weeks 1 and 2 stitches–fly stitch and buttonhole stitch.

Better. (But the camera is cruel.)

I worked buttonhole stitch over white sequins with silk buttonhole twist thread and added tiny beads. The fly stitches are in #8 pearl cotton and a fine wool yarn. The buttonhole and fly stitches on the lower seam are also in that fine wool.

So far, though it’s a struggle, I’m keeping up.

Now, back to the question, the larger, existential question, “What am I doing here?” I mean, why am I here? For what purpose?

I thought I was coming here so that I could fully recover and so that I could be helpful to my family. I came because son Geoff invited me, saying that I didn’t have to live out my life in misery at Charlestown. He would help and take care of me as needed if I were here. I knew daughter Nan felt the same way. Ernie also wanted me to be where I could live a satisfying, productive life.

I arrived expecting to feel instantly well. I plunged into the activities available to me here–joining Vashon Allied Arts and the athletic club, subscribing to concert and lecture series, going on tours, participating in family gatherings and just hanging out with them; and I felt worse and worse. As you know, I felt so bad that I was willing to try Chinese herbal medicine treatment.

By the end of December I knew that I had to put myself back into seclusion. It became clear to me that silence and solitude were what I needed to recover from the past two years, which have been traumatic. Instead of family and fun, I need rest and being alone.

At Charlestown I could not have solitude and silence. I was living in a community where I had to be out and about. I had to go be with Ernie at RGT every day. And my ADHD wouldn’t let me just stay at home quietly. Am I here so that I can have silence and solitude? It’s what I want and couldn’t have before I got here.

When I recovered in 2009, I regained functionality and lost contentment. I was no longer able to sit in meditation, read, and stitch–those aspects of my life that give me greatest satisfaction. Since I’ve been here, my ADHD and related symptoms have almost gone. I’ve read 14 books and, as you’ve just seen, I’ve been stitching. But being around people is another thing. I feel scared and nervous–like bad stage-fright. And I am not a fearful person. Being with people greatly exacerbates my insomnia. Only being in silence and solitude can I feel calm and well.

I don’t know how long this will last. I think I did not allow for the accumulated effect of the past months, the stress I’ve been under. Maybe I will soon be just fine anywhere. Or maybe I’m here so that I can live in silence and solitude.

I’ve come to the right place, here in the forest. And Nature piled on.

I’ve been snowed in since Sunday. Not going anywhere.

Yesterday at around 5:30 p.m. the power went out. I spent last evening in front of the little propane stove in the darkness,

resting, eating a hard-boiled egg sandwich, and occasionally reading by candlelight. Without power, it was utterly silent. I was alone and at peace.

Is that what I’m supposed to be doing here?

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Happy new year, everyone!

Nan and I caroused last evening.

I took the picture with the timer on my camera–before we started drinking the wine.

There’s also work going on here. This is my improvised work station.

There are four lamps I’ve moved there and still there’s not enough light for stitching. But my portable design board is up with a completed block on it. There’s work-in-progress on the Table Mate.

Back with more soon.

I am very thankful to be here.

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Before I get into the WIP, here’s a work completed.

Card case

I made this business card case for my daughter-in-law Carol, using the logo on her card for the design,


Carol is a licensed massage therapist and she creates organic body care products. I use her lavender mist at bedtime, spraying it just above my head and inhaling the lavender fragrance as it descends (for sweet dreams).

After resizing the hummingbird on my computer, I transferred the design to ultrasuede using tissue paper. Except for the brown stem, it is all single-strand cotton floss chain-stitched.

Carol came for tea today and I gave it to her, so I can finally show you.

Back to WIP. Full recovery is still work in progress. As you know, I went to a Chinese herbalist last week and I was given an herbal formulation for sleep. It worsened my insomnia and made me feel sick when I woke up. After four days, I called the clinician and told her about my experience. She spoke with the doctor. When she came back to the phone, she told me to discontinue the herbal formulation (which I had already told her I was doing) and to return to the full dosage of my sleep medications. She said I should talk to my medical doctor about getting off them (which I have already done).

Then she said that my response to the herbs showed that I don’t have the ordinary or usual insomnia. Something else is going on. Well, Western doctors have been telling me that for 30 years. Now an Eastern medical practitioner tells me this. Maybe she can figure out what’s going on, but I’m not going back to Bastyr to give her the chance. I don’t want to risk taking something that makes me feel worse, and I don’t want to spend $50/week plus gas for treatment that may or may not work.

I’m going to continue with my regimen of self-care. I’m feeling much better than I was a few weeks ago.

Evidence of progress– I’m back to stitching.

In July I pieced two 8” square blocks and assembled threads to add to my traveling kit. I was unable to work on those projects until last month, when I finished my needlebook. Here’s one of the blocks, with seam treatments finished, I think. It took me two weeks, able to work only minutes at a time, just to do these seams. But toward the end, I got absorbed and worked more than an hour a couple of days.

Seam treatments 2

Here’s a closer look.

Closer look

Now I’m seeking inspiration for motifs to add to the blocks.

It feels good to be working again, and to be having ideas for things to make. I am a work in progress.

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Last Friday I drove off-island by myself for the first time, into Seattle. I drove on to the ferry, off the ferry, and headed north to Bastyr Center for Natural Health. Coming back, I arrived at the dock just in time to drive on to the ferry, though I was in the wrong lane for Vashon. I excused myself to the staffer, “This is my first time.”

So many firsts in 2010 and 2011.

It felt great to be driving for more than five miles at more than 25 mph, though it was no more than 40 mph most of the way to my destination. I was surprised by how liberating it felt. I wanted to go 70 mph and keep going. Since moving here in September, I’ve just driven the same route to the athletic club, my son’s home, and uptown–the same five miles and rarely anywhere else. I didn’t realize how constraining that has been until I got off-island.

Now, what was I doing at the Bastyr Center? I was consulting with Chinese herbal medicine clinicians about my ongoing insomnia and ADHD. Another first. I’ve not been treated with Chinese herbal medicine before, though I know a little bit about Chinese theory of health. Both my DIL Carol and my granddaughter-in-law Lauryth have been successfully treated at Bastyr’s Chinese herbal medicine clinic, so I decided to try it.

The consultation took an hour with two graduate student practitioners. Their supervising doctor joined us for a while and examined me–my pulses, my tongue, and especially my hands, explaining to the students what she saw there, what to look for. She asked me several questions and she wrote prescriptions for two herbal formulations. I waited while they were prepared at the dispensary.

Sorry about the poor photo quality. My desktop computer is in the shop and I don’t have Photoshop on my laptop. The little spoon measures one gram of the granules, which I dissolve in a few ounces of warm water and gulp down. One formulation is taken in the morning and the other at bedtime. Next Friday I go back to report on my experience with them.

Giving me instructions, the senior student said, “If you feel too sleepy…..” TOO SLEEPY? I haven’t felt sleepy in 20-some years. I take drugs, lie down wide awake, and at some point I go to sleep, without ever feeling drowsy.

I’m still up for new experiences, ready to experiment.

My whole life has been experimental. I have never felt that I failed, because whatever I did was an experiment and whatever the outcome, how else would I know?

So, more experimenting: 1) will Chinese herbal medicine work for me?

And 2) can I get back to regular stitching? I’ve just signed up for TAST 2012. A few days ago I signed up for CQJP–a challenge to create a 6″ crazy quilt block each month in 2012. TAST should help me do that–ideas for seam treatments coming from the weekly stitches.

Can I do it? We’ll see.

You may remember my post about the importance of being organized. Well, I realized that one factor in my stitcher’s block might be my lack of a familiar, organized stitching place. I remedied that on Saturday by making a temporary set-up and moving my threads and other supplies closer to it. I had to move three lamps from their previous locations to get better light for stitching, and it still isn’t good enough. (I’m living in a forest and it’s rainy season.) Have to do something about that. Susan Elliott’s post on lighting for stitching made me super-aware of my need for better lighting. Here’s my temporary stitching post:

I roll my desk chair over to the Table Mate and voila.

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Fortunately or unfortunately, I require orderliness. I need a place for everything and everything in its place. Without organization in my space and without structure and routine in my daily life, I neither feel well nor function well. Since arriving on Vashon two months ago, I have been obsessed with working to achieve both. I’ve made significant progress.

Last week the seven bookcases I ordered were delivered. They arrived in boxes weighing 50 lbs each. Despite the illustration on the boxes showing that they should be handled by two people, my gracious and strong landlord carried them all up the stairs to my apartment, leaving them on the deck. I moved them into the apartment. Here’s the last box standing on the deck.

Immediately I set to work assembling them, even though the instructions showed that two people were required. Here’s the best shot I could  get of myself at work.

The bookcases were delivered Monday morning. By Friday night I had all seven of them assembled–by myself. On Saturday I spent most of the day placing and loading them. Here’s the result.

Son Geoff and I had hung the art the  previous week. There will be further re-arranging, no doubt; but having my books and art where I want them makes a huge difference. Here’s how my space looks now.

That big TV screen is obtrusive. I’m working with the owners’ furniture, you may remember and that’s pretty much where the TV has to be at present.

Here’s my office space.

I’m going to live with this arrangement until I know how I want to live. Will I be having guests? Do I want to be able to seat people around a table? Will I return to doing needlework design and execution? Will I need a design board? a work table? more storage for materials? In other words, will I want a work space? Will I want space for socializing? What about my clothes, which are hanging in the closet on the deck? At present, I have some hanging in the bathroom! Will I want to create closet space inside the apartment? What about lighting?

Wait and see.

Meanwhile, back to the point of this post about organization. Since I’ve gotten this far with making a home for myself in the barn, I have finished the needlebook project. You may remember that I made myself a traveling kit for my first visit to Vashon last July. Until a week or so ago, I had not been able to work on it. ADHD and too much to deal with. But you may also remember that I do not have UFOs. I always intended to finish this project. Now it’s done, and here’s what it looks like; the front first, then the inside, and the back.

Embroidery and crewel needles, and beading needles on the left.

Tapestry needles.

Even my scissors and needle threader.

And the back.

I’m pleased. It’s a simple design, simple color scheme, all worked in #5 cotton pearl. Mainly, I’m pleased that I was able to finish it.

Maybe now I can get back to making things. But first, my next project is going to be properly mounting my grandmother’s crewel work.

I’m not fully recovered yet, but the signs are good: I’ve read several books! I’ve written a book review! And I’ve stitched!

That’s why it’s important for me to be organized–so I can be productive. As you see, I’m blogging!

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