Monday 31 October 2011

She's heeeeeeeere!

I was in the Morning Room today giving Clara her instructions for the usual Monday Laundry schedule when Brackett appeared at the door.  "Excuse me, Ma'am but there is a lady of advanced years at the door, carrying a travelling bag which smells slightly of sheep.  She says she is Expected".

I ignored his personal comments (he has been with the family for three generations now and can be rather familiar at times) and jumped to my feet, Madame Muriel has arrived!  Quickly I told Clara to get one of the undermaids to see to the laundry while she was to prepare a light morning coffee for myself and Madame Muriel in the Drawing Room, using the second best china (save the best for afternoon tea).  And tell the Nanny to bring the cleanest child to meet our guest too.

Brackett escorted Madame Muriel to the Drawing Room and we settled down for a lovely chat about her voyage to the Old Country and our planned itinerary during her stay.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about and are worried that you have fallen into a parallel dimension, Never Fear, all will be revealed in due course and here is something familiar - stitching pics:

This is Linda's Drawn Thread Band Sampler from the WWRR Yuku Board.  I chose three bands from Toccata No 1 and used colours from their palette although not the exact ones for each band.  I wanted my bands to blend with the other bands on the sampler.

This is the whole thing, now stitched on by 4 people, 2 to go.  I'm glad my bands are under the tree as they are more densely stitched than the others and not as floral, maybe they represent paths in the garden or formal borders rather than the flowers in the other bands.  They were certainly fun to stitch.  I have really enjoyed this RR and I'm looking forward to the new one planned for Spring 2012.  I have a little idea already....

Have to go now, must check that Clara blackleaded the grates this afternoon, we shall be requiring a fire in the guest room this evening.

Friday 28 October 2011

This week's stitching

Just a quick picture update of what I've been stitching:

That's the Gift of Stitching design My Lovely Sewing Tools which I'm SAL with Kathy, Cucki and Claire (see side bar for blog links, under the GOS picture).  This is a delight to stitch so I ought to credit the designer, she's called Marie Suarez.  She has a lovely blog but it's in French and there doesn't seem to be a translate button so I have to copy and paste into Google Translate all the time!  She has a very distinctive style, very delicate and pretty.

This is completely different, it's a San Man Original Spooky SAL freebie.  They have released a part every Sunday and we're just waiting on the final part this weekend. 

The board is very friendly and I seem to have picked up a few new followers from there and from the Brooke's Books Board too.  Hello new followers!  As usual I try to return the following but some people's following profile doesn't show their blog.  So if you're a new follower, please comment so I can find you and stalk you back!  I also have 3 anonymous followers who don't show up at all except in the number total.  I know they're there because I keep a list of my follower's blogs so I can find everyone if Google has another hissy fit like in May!

I've also finished my share of the RR but the photos are in the camera which isn't by the computer so I'll save them for another day.  We're taking names for the next Band Sampler RR (to start next Spring) and also for a Joan Elliott RR which will start in the New Year.  Hopefully.  That's where to find all the info on RRs.

Monday 24 October 2011

Giveaways Galore

Firstly, the Crafty Lil Witch is having a Brooke's Books giveaway this week.

Next, the winner of my mini-competition was drawn at random by the large boy from a pile of scraps of paper.  The person who will receive a Christmas card stitched with the skyline of her choice is.......

Kaye's comment on Coventry was very long!  She gave a complete history lesson on Lady Godiva (from memory).  I googled the story to check her facts and apart from being one century out she was spot on!  If you are interested in learning more about Coventry, here is a very interesting website: Historic Coventry.  HAED do a gorgeous Lady Godiva design too.

I seem to be on a winning streak myself, as well as Cucki's TP and Madame Muriel the Travelling Granny I have also won Sarah's PIF (aka The Crafty Moo).  I love all these mini-giveaways.  Someone somewhere was complaining about "Competitive Giveawaying" where people try to have huge expensive giveaways to outgive other people's.  I'd much rather have a small pattern or a little stitched something with a fun competition than all the razzamatazz.

This weekend I've been stitching the Sewing Tools Sampler from Gift of Stitching magazine and also this cute little Spooky SAL from San Man Originals Message Board:

I've actually stitched the central ghostie now and am waiting for Part 3.  The fabric is the same 28count Jazlyn I stitched Lisa Roswell's By the Light of the Moon on earlier this year.  I have loads of it left so all my Hallowe'en designs will be stitched on it!

Finally, in response to my carpet pic, Kathy has posted a pic of her similarly patterned carpet.  Could this be a new trend?  Forget cute cats and delicious cookery, show us your carpet!

Friday 21 October 2011

Lucky, Lucky, Lucky, I have been so lucky!

First I win Cucki's Travelling Pattern, then I get to host the Travelling Granny!

Cucki's Stitching Cove can be found here.  She loves following the various Travelling Patterns around the world and decided to start one of her own.  This is a Lizzie*Kate design, a first for me, which says "Love is Best when you give it away".  How appropriate for a Travelling Pattern!

It's a very sweet, very Cucki pattern and will look great with some variegated reds and maybe some of the hearts charms I picked up.

The next VIP is Madame Muriel Flat Flossie, the Travelling Granny.  This very special elder person started her journey with Anna the Stitch Bitch, travelled to spend time with Stewie and his pet spinster then went all the way to New Zealand to see Margaret.  And now she's coming to the Old Country to visit me!  I'm a little nervous as Margaret has shown her all the sites of New Zealand and MM seems to be expecting to visit with Royalty on her UK trip, we'll have to see what we can do...

Read all about Madame Muriel Flat Flossie, the Travelling Granny here:
I have just explained to hubby about Travelling Granny, he was initially under the impression that Anna's actual Grandma was coming a-visiting!  Mind you, it would be great to meet Maggie in person.  I explained it's like the Bear at Primary School, a different child has the bear each weekend and has to keep a diary of it's actitivities.  If you're lucky the previous person took it to MacDonalds and watched TV, if you're unlucky then the previous child took it pony-riding and to the museum and the theatre then fed the homeless on Sunday so you feel rather inadequate!

I finished this little stitch last week, another PIF from Erica this time.  Erica's Places.  It's been quite hard getting a decent picture of it as it's stitched on black aida with LOADS of beads.  Probably 50% of the design is beads but that's Mill Hill for you!

Erica sent me the chart, the leftover beads and the threads.  There was plenty of thread and almost enough beads.  I had some of the purple and magenta but not the green so I subbed a slightly different green for the "O".  There was just enough orange and plenty of ice.  I didn't have a tiny star but I did have a witch!  This is one of the charms I got from Ang's Attic (remember when I ordered 1 of each charm but actually ordered 1 packet of each!).

I'd like to PIF again, there's some thread left but not enough to stitch again so I'll add the extra in from my stash.  I could also add a piece of black aida unless you are violently opposed to aida or prefer to stitch it on perforated paper.  I will also pop in a witch charm (I had 10 after all!).  You will need to get more beads however.

If you'd like this little chart and extras then leave a comment telling me your favourite myth about English people, for example that we all personally know the Queen, the whole country has tea at 3 o'clock, Northerners keep coal in their bath tubs etc.  You know the sort of thing.  Madame Muriel will help me debunk some of the myths when she arrives!  If you don't know any myths think of English films and TV programmes that make you wonder "Do all English people do that?"

If you don't want the chart then say so but leave a myth comment anyway, the more the merrier!

And finally, for those bobbin users who said they put the unused strands on the table, by the side etc until they need them - this is why I could never do that:

This is not a Quaker sampler, this is my carpet.  It was in the house when we moved in and is in perfect condition.  It is also very large (covers the entire Lounge and all the Hall and Stairs.  We could never afford to replace it with the same quality.  As you can imagine it is very difficult to find dropped items on it.  Unless you are the small boy and have dropped food in which case you can spot a raisin at 50 paces!  Lego is NOT allowed on this carpet as the pattern eats Lego.  Luckily the large boy has a plain carpet in his room.  What you can of it under the Lego carpet.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

IHSW and My Lovely Sewing Tools SAL

This is what I worked on for IHSW, it's the design from The Gift of Stitching magazine which Kathy and I are stitched along with Claire and Cucki (plus anyone else who cares to join us).  See Kathy's Blog for more details.  We have the full blessing of Gift of Stitching magazine to encourage as many people to SAL with us as possible!  We're also posting pics to their FB page.

Isn't it just darling, as Dame Edna would say :-).  Mine is stitched on 40 count Newcastle which is lovely but does crease.  That tiny over 1 M was the worst bit to stitch so far but the satin stitch thread spools were great.  Sometimes I'm using 2 strands of DMC and sometimes 1, it's producing interesting results and I like the versatility while still only using 5 different colours.

I have also discovered something new to me - size 28 needles.  Old hands may laugh at me, but I've always used whatever needles came with kits and have quite a supply.  I got a pack of gold 24s free with something or other ages back and love them.  However I kept seeing reference to size 28s so got a pack - aren't they amazing!!   I love them.  And you can use the thread down to the last mm as they're so short.

I've also been stitching Green Goddess and the Periphaeria SAL which is in the final stages.  Pictures to follow.

I'm really enjoying all the answers to the Coventry mini-comp from my last post.  Yes, there is a convent there and some people believe that's where the name came from and others believe it was named after an Anglo-Saxon called Cofa and his tree which marked the boundary of his land.  A winner will be drawn this weekend so there's still time to enter.

Finally I received a belated Birthday present from the City Stitcher AKA Hannah - the JCS Hallowe'en and Christmas ornament issues!   Both of them!!  I'm so excited, now I just need to learn how to finish neatly.  I can do three sides very nicely but it's the fourth one after you've stuffed the thing I have trouble with.  I whip-stitched the first one I did but the corners look odd compared to the other 2 corners.  Maybe I should have whip-stitched all four sides?  Or just get some cord and cover them up.

Finally, does anyone spell Hallowe'en with an apostrophe any more?  I always do because it's short for All Hallows Even but no-one else seems to do so.  Maybe I'm just really old fashioned...

Saturday 15 October 2011

Famous Cities mini competition and a new SAL

This month's World of Cross Stitching magazine came with a little Christmas booklet of designs by Maria Diaz and some Madeira metallics to stitch them.  There is a lovely range of 10 city skylines each with Santa's sleigh and some reindeer above them.  9 of the cities are London, Edinburgh, Sydney, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Rome, Liverpool, Glasgow and Paris.  Can you guess what the 10th one is?  No prize for this bit, it's just for fun; the answer and the competition are at the bottom of this post.

Here is my progress on Joan Elliott's Green Goddess.  You can really see the curve of the design starting to show.  There are two gaps where the dragonflies will go, they are partly stitched in metallics so I'll leave them until later.

The new SAL is from the fantastic Gift of Stitching online magazine.  I found this magazine a while back via various blogs.  They were offering 3 issues for $3 which was too good to resist so I signed up.  The magazine pops into your email box at the beginning of each month full of tempting designs.  They are very keen on part works (encourages people to keep buying each issue!) which is great because it makes the larger designs easier to stitch.

I saw a post on Kathy's Blog A Stitcher's Heirlooms about her indecision regarding which project to start next.  I said I wanted to start My Lovely Sewing Tools myself and we went from there.  If you'd like to join us pop over to Kathy's Blog and let her know.  We're also posting our progress on FB if you're a member.  Just search for Gift of Stitching and their page comes up.

I decided to use the DMC conversion as I don't have any Valdani threads.  They are £2.29 each from SewandSo which isn't the most expensive thread but I am supposed to be on a stash diet until Christmas!  I used my Willow Fabrics' voucher to treat myself to some 40count Newcastle linen.  The service was great, I had a glitch on the computer so phoned up the old-fashioned way, had a nice chat with the lady about the project and my fabric duly arrived, nicely packaged and labelled.  It was £13something for a FQ plus P&P so not the cheapest but not bad, and the service was good.

Here is my progress after one evening.  I've started in the middle as I always do.  This is actually Part 3c of the chart.  The charts start at the top left of the piece but I like to start in the middle.  I've used an anonymous variegated thread for the darkest red.  The label is long gone but it came from my now closed LNS.  One strand is about the same as 2 strands of DMC so where the chart calls for one strand I will use the DMC 315 they recommend.

The finished design will be a sampler with various sewing tools (as the name suggests!), the alphabet sprinkled across the sampler and some buttons and charms added.  I'm enjoying stitching on the 40 count, it doesn't feel small at all.  In fact I had to measure it to check it really was 40 as it seemed bigger.  There is some over 1 stitching which looks amazing and is quite tiny.  I'm quite accustomed to 28 over 1 but that's the smallest I've tried.

Back to the competition.  The 10th city is .......Coventry.  Yes, Coventry.  Not New York or Dubai or San Francisco or Rio de Janeiro or even Cardiff (2 from Scotland but nothing from Wales or Ireland?  I detect some favouritism, Maria!).

So the mini competition question is:

1. For my overseas followers: Have you even heard of Coventry?  If yes, then tell me a fact about the city.  If No, then say No and make something up!

2. For my UK followers: Have you even been to Coventry, or been sent there?  If yes, then tell me why, why on earth?!!  If No, then tell me something you do know about the city.

3. For anyone who lives in Coventry: please don't be offended, I'm only teasing, please tell me something wonderful about your city.  If you can't think of anything then tell me why you haven't moved!

The small prize will be a stitched City Skyline of your choice from the booklet (you don't have to have Coventry).  The winner will be plucked at random from all the commenters who mention Coventry before Saturday 22nd October.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

10 Things you might like to know about me

Idea courtesy of Jan's Thread Garden

1. What was the last film that really moved/disturbed/thrilled you and why?
Not sure about the last, but the first was High Wind in Jamaica about a group of children who get kidnapped by pirates.  At the end the girl has to give evidence against the pirate chief in court.  I was in floods!  Silkwood also moved me.

2.If you could be given ANY gift what would it be?
The ability to swap places with people and influence their actions (for good of course!)

3.What's your favourite way to wake up and what's the first thing you do?
The large boy comes in for a cuddle every school day, great way to start the day.

4. What crafts have you done?
Cross stitch (obvs), needlework, hardanger, latchhook rug making, cutting and sticking with toddlers, clay (at school).

5.  What were you doing before you started this?
Having tea, will do the washing up when I've finished this.

6. When was the last time you cried laughing?
How sad, I actually can't remember.  One time at work I was trying to tell someone about our nickname for an unpopular member of the team and had hysterics!  It's usually when I'm with a group of friends and we're just exchanging banter.

7.What did you want to be when you were little?
I still have the school book with this in - a teacher, an astronaut or a police officer.  I certainly didn't want to be an insurance broker which is what I was for 17 years!

8. What is your current favourite TV programme?
LA Ink with Kat von D, also like Miami Ink, London Ink and New York Ink - spot the connection.
Tonight I'll be watching Mary Queen of Shops and tomorrow Grand Designs.  Love both those too.

9. What would you name yourself?
Something more interesting than "Jo" but I don't know what, hence my commenting name - Jo who can't think of a clever nickname.  I would love a clever nickname.  One friend used to call me Josephine instead of Jo which was fine from her.  I loathe Joey, it's a budgie's name.

10. What characteristics do you hate about yourself?
I cannot motivate myself to do housework and I don't earn enough to pay someone else to do it!

If you enjoyed this post and want to join in then copy and paste to your blog, let me know in the comments section.  If you're too busy then pick one question and answer it in my comments section.

Happy Thinking!

ooo, can't have a post without a picture, don't think I've shared this one - it's an Emily Peacock tattoo swallow for my little cousin.  Kind of relates to Q8

Saturday 8 October 2011

Dark Alphabet - A to O

A Dark Alphabet - designed by A Note of Friendship

Here are the latest 3 blocks.  This is all that will fit onto my scanner so this is the last time you will see the whole stitched piece until it is finished.

These were fun and quick blocks, about 6 hours each.  I love the Fortune Teller and will stitch her again.  Maybe with the Ouija Board design Julie also gave as a freebie recently.

The over 1 does make it hard to do all the specialist stitches.  I did the Mummy in plain crosses and the Norwich stitch on the tombstone became tied crosses.  But the Octagonal Rhodes in Occult looks great.  Funny how the thickness of the different coloured threads affects the coverage so noticeably.

There is a touch of bronze in her earrings:

And here is the whole thing so far...

I'm really enjoying stitching this design, I love the mystery aspect and how different each block is while still having colours which go well together.  It makes you think how difficult designing really is.  Julie could easily have thought of each block as a standalone piece and make a real mish-mash of colours and styles but it really works as a whole piece.

If Lisa is looking down on us all I'm sure she is impressed by it!

The large boy is enjoying each square with me. He has a macabre sense sometimes. When we first moved house the neighbour's cat kept bringing us dead mice. One day we saw a dead snake in the road (grass snake) and the next a dead bird. He announced "I need to see another dead bird, then it would be one dead snake, 2 dead birds and 3 dead mice. I could draw them and make a book".  He was 5!

I could just imagine it - "My Dead Things Counting Book"
I'm also being inspired when I'm stitching the more methodical parts (the long rows of earth on N for example) to do creative something I haven't done since school.  Can you guess what it is?

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Coffee Fairy review

I was recently contacted by Yiota of Yiotas XStitch who asked if I would mind reviewing one of her cross stitch kits.  She sells online kits or charts, mostly designed by herself and a few by others.  There is a wide range of subject matter from animals to landscapes, fine art and fantasy.

Many of the Fantasy designs are from artwork by Erin Ewer and have been converted into gorgeous cross stitch patterns.  They are what I would call "photo-realistic" rather than hand-drawn (like Mirabilias).  As a result they only feature whole cross stitches and no back-stitch.  Ideal for people who just like to stitch!  They can also be easily stitched on aida which the kit is supplied with.

I spent a long time browsing the site which is well laid out and easy to find the different designs.  Some designs often feature in two categories, eg Fantasy and Fairies which makes it easier to find something you will like.  There are often three different ordering options - full kit, just chart or email chart which suits everyone.

After lingering over the Art Nouveau astrology fairies, I finally chose this design, the Coffee Fairy.  I liked the humour in this design and can see her completed in my kitchen near the coffee cupboard. 

The parcel arrived this afternoon, in a solid envelope marked Do Not Bend so I got to meet my new postman again as he rang the doorbell.  I bet he wishes he got paid "per item"!!  This is what was inside:

Plus the chart of course!  The fabric is plenty big enough (haven't actually measured it yet) and the colours look so gorgeous all wound onto their little bobbins clearly labelled with the Madeira numbers.  The chart includes DMC references too so if I wanted to stitch it again or pass the chart on in a Giveaway I could easily do so.

The chart itself is nice and clear, it's spread over 2 pages of A3 paper and there is a 2 stitch overlap.  I like an overlap, the larger the better.  The symbols have been well chosen so the darker colours are more solid symbols, this means when you hold the chart at arms length and squint you can "see" the design.  It's also much easier to follow when stitching.

All in all, a nice kit with a nice chart of a lovely design.  An option for evenweave would have been a bonus but at least this way I can choose my own colour and count if I want to.  Also, the biscuits are not included, you have to buy your own!

One question for bobbin users, when you cut a length off, what do you do with the strands you're not stitching with?  Usually I tie it round a piece of cut-up card thread sorter and put it back in the Floss-a-way bags I use.   I'm thinking of making a thread sorter from card while I'm working on the kit as I'll be using the holes in the top to thread all the bobbins onto a split ring to keep them in numerical order.

While browsing the site I came across this kit too, Girl with a Pearl Earring based on the beautiful painting by Vermeer.  I saw a lady stitching this recently, on 48 count over 1, can you imagine it?  The design has 55 different colours!!  How I wish I'd had my camera with me.  I'm not sure if it was this exact chart as her piece was smaller than this one would come up (about 2 x 3 inches) but it was clearly recognisable as the painting.   Amazing!

Finally, a Giveaway.  This time from Crafty Rahenna to celebrate opening her Etsy shop.  She has some lovely Christmas kits, threads and fabric to win.  Rahenna has less followers than she deserves so pop over there and start stalking following her, tell her I sent you and we'll share the prize hahaha