Thursday, December 22, 2016

We used to lick stamps

We attended our first UI Theater Department play since the building was closed for repair and remodeling.  We saw "Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike."  It was billed as a dark comedy, but it really amounted to two hours of members of a dysfunctional family arguing with one another.  And for some reason, the playwright threw in multiple references to Anton Chekhov.  There was a picture of Chekhov on the wall, there were several arguments about whether the cherry trees in the backyard constituted an orchard ("The Cherry Orchard" is one of Chekov's plays), one young neighbor girl decides Vanya reminds her of an uncle, so she'll call him "Uncle Vanya" (another Chekhov play), the family is composed of two sisters and a brother (as opposed to Chekhov's "Three Sisters").  Well, you get the drift.

At one point, Vanya gets really upset and starts to rant about how the world is changing too much and too fast for him to keep up.  In his rant, he cites as an example of the changes in the world the fact that we used to lick stamps.

We also went to see "Fiddler on the Roof" at the local performing arts center.  That is one of my favorite plays, but for some reason their fiddler was never on a roof.  He walked on and off the stage periodically.  The first version of the play I saw many years ago had the fiddler sit on the roof through the entire play, mostly in the dark but under the spotlight from time to time.  Not sure why you'd have "Fiddler on the Roof" without having the fiddler on the roof.  It loses something...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

With first class you get bananas

We splurged on our trip to Richmond, flying first class.  This was our first foray into first class, other than one time many years ago when a flight was over-booked and we ended up in vacant seats in first class.  Anyway, I decided I wanted the more comfortable seats and more leg room, which were worth every penny.  And the snacks are upgraded, with an assortment of regular sized snack bags of chips, popcorn, granola bars, cookies, and fresh fruit, and we could choose two snacks.  That's where the bananas come in.  Bananas were available on every leg of our flight.  What I had not expected is that our checked bags (which were free for first class passengers) would get first class service as well. Not only were we first on/first off, but our bags were first off the plane as well.

I was able to quickly finish two pieces from Spirit of Cross Stitch.  One was "Sweet Little Christmas Stocking Ornament" designed by Jean Farish.  This was one of the classes I attended.

The second piece was from a class I was not able to attend, due to scheduling conflicts with another class.  But, fortunately, kits were available for purchase at the vendor mart.  This is a topper for a tin box, designed by Louise Henderson of Cherished Stitches.  This was stitched on 32-count linen (32 threads to the inch), which I had not attempted before. My normal choice of fabric is 25-count!  But thanks to cataract surgery, I was able to manage (under my magnifying lamp, of course).

And the third piece, not from Spirit of Cross Stitch, is something I've had in my "to do" pile for awhile. I had initially thought it was small enough to be a bookmark, but it's not quite that small.  Just a very small sampler,  "A Flower in its Pot Sampler" by Gay Ann Rogers.

I'm now working on Terry Bay's Nine Patch Tray from Spirit of Cross Stitch class.  I was waiting for some variegated threads to arrive from my favorite thread vendor, Colour Complements in Canada. As soon as they arrived, I started in.  Here are the first four patches done.  Five more to go.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Politics free Zone

In mid-October, we headed to Richmond, Virginia, for the Spirit of Cross Stitch.  This was the revival of a get-together that was very active in the 1990's.  At that time, festivals were held across the country, including in Des Moines.  Initially, we filled the Des Moines Convention Center, and busloads of people came on Saturday for the merchandise mart.  And gradually, over the years, attendance got smaller and smaller, and the festival changed hands, from Spirit of Cross Stitch, to Heart of Cross Stitch, to Creative Arts and Textiles, to Creative Arts and Teaching Shows, and lastly, Stitching Jubilee.  Then none at all... Which is why I started attending Embroiderers Guild and Needlepoint Guild seminars, though those are completely different.

Each year, Spirit of Cross Stitch had a new design for T-shirts, tote bags and commemorative samplers.  Here is my commemorative T-shirt collection.

And here is my version of the 1992 commemorative sampler, finished, framed and on the wall.

This year, attendance was pretty small (around 140), the merchandise mall had only about a dozen vendors, and classes had sparse attendance,  One class I attended had 4 students, a couple had 6, one had 2, and the biggest class had 9.  But, it's a start!

I was really surprised that several of the teachers remembered me from the early days.  Jean Farish, who created the original Spirit of Cross Stitch festivals back in the early 1990's, was a teacher at this festival.  When I sat down in her class, she took one look at me and asked if I hadn't attended the original Spirit of Cross Stitch.  Then we reminisced about those early days, including the fact that the class catalogues didn't have any pictures.  We had to choose classes based solely on the written description.

My Dad wonders why I keep going to stitching seminars, saying I surely must have my PhD in stitching by now!  Here's why.  In Terry Bay's "Nine Patch Tray" class, she diagrammed the double-running stitch she designed for one of the block borders, and she let us take photos with our cell phones.  That in itself was a learning experience since I had never taken photos with my cell phone before and didn't know how.  But after pushing a few wrong buttons, I found the right button, and voila, photos!  I also learned that I can take selfies from my camera, just by pushing the little camera icon, I can change the direction the camera is pointing.
I continue to learn at stitching seminars
And here is what the diagrammed stitch looks like, actually stitched.

What is the point of stitching the corner borders in such a complicated path?  Well, the double running stitch is designed to look the same from the front side and the back side of the piece.  For this Nine-Patch Tray, that doesn't matter, it's just a chance to practice the stitch.  The practical applications would be for things like embroidered towels, handkerchiefs, napkins, curtains, etc., that will be seen from both sides.

Terry Bay also announced in my first class that class would be a "politics free zone," for which we thanked her profusely!  And what was equally pleasant, Virginia is not a battleground state like Iowa is, so guess what - we saw NO political ads on TV for national or state offices.  The closest thing to a political ad was an announcement of an upcoming public forum with the five candidates for Richmond mayor.

And another round of plays we've seen.  In August, we saw something that was more than a concert and less than a play:  "South Pacific."  The orchestra sat on the stage, with the characters singing the songs in front of the orchestra.  No props, just enough dialogue to get from song to song.

And the night before we left for Richmond, we attended opening night for "The Book of Mormon," at the new Hancher Auditorium.  It was quite fun!

Fireworks in my Backyard

The Cedar Valley Chapter (Cedar Rapids/Marion) of the Embroiderer's Guild of America was able to procure the EGA's 20th National Exhibit for showing at the Marion Heritage Center.  Well worth the trip, some very interesting and unusual embroidered works.  The trip, of course, necessitated a stop at the needlework shop in Marion, to stock up on a few things.

Each year, there is a celebration the Friday before the first home football game, and my condo is in the center of the events.  There are food vendors, a merchandise show, fun and games, and a big concert in the evening.  Some years the marching band is here, and I previously posted photos of the marching band as seen from my balcony.  This year, fireworks were added to the festival, at the conclusion of the concert.

I'd never before tried to take photos of fireworks with my camera, but I managed to get several that don't look too bad, if I do say so myself.

And now back on to my English major soapbox.  A newsletter carried the announcement that free "rock corry" sand was available to anyone who wanted some.  I thought about that for a few minutes, trying to figure out what rock corry sand was, before I realized the person meant "rock quarry" sand.  And later, someone asked, on one of the Facebook stitching groups I belong to, what needlework shops there were in New York City.  Several responses came about shops in Manhattan, then someone posted that there were other needlework shops in some of the other New York "burrows." Hmmm.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ordination Milestone

This weekend we spent in Dubuque celebrating my father's 70th anniversary of his ordination.  We had a celebratory dinner Saturday evening at the Olive Garden, then church Sunday morning, followed by brunch.  The brunch was well attended, and speakers came from the Seminary, from the Synod, and the pastor shared greetings and a certificate from the Bishop.  I shared some thoughts about what it was like to grow up in this preacher's family, and lots of pictures were taken.

I had stitched some napkin rings for my sister-in-law's sister.  She had given me a tub full of DMC floss at Easter time, and had seemed taken with the napkin rings I had stitched for my brother and sister-in-law.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take a photo of the initial napkin rings, but here are the ones I gave to Nancy.

How many grocery bags does one need

I'm currently working on two on-line classes.  One is called "Daisy Chains" by Laura J. Perin.  You should recognize her name by now, she's one of my favorite designers.  I love the colors, all yellow and green, very spring-like.
Two sessions completed - halfway done
I've also started work on "18th Century Sampler" by SJ Designs.  I have struggled getting started on this one.  I first tried tone-on-tone gray, and decided that was way too blah.  Then I tried light pink on wine-colored fabric, that seemed way too glaring.  Then, another student posted a photo using overdyed  threads, and the light bulb went on.  I had initially discounted using overdyes as distracting from the lacy effect of the stitches, but the other student's work was inspiration enough.  I know have the very first block done (many more to come).  And I think, rather than distracting, the overdyed thread actually enhances the lacy stitches.

First square done

First row of five squares done
The chuckle for the day occurred at the grocery store.  I had stopped by for a loaf of bread, and picked up some Twizzlers licorice, a small box of Good and Plenty candies, and a single serving of a desert.  Yes, I know, not much of a balanced diet.  Anyway, as I was checking out, the cashier asked if it was OK if she put all the items in one bag.  What?  Why would I need multiple bags for four very small and lightweight items?

What is the process involved in fiddle renting

I have signed up for an online course sponsored by the EGA.  It's called "Creating Beaded Gardens," taught by Nancy Eha.  It starts with creating a crazy quilt block, and then using beads to create a spider web and spider, vines and leaves, and assorted flowers.  I haven't actually started working on this yet, but have enjoyed watching other stitchers post photos of their progress.

One student, after seeing a bunch of different photos, left the post that all the quilt blocks were so very "fiddle rent."  I think her auto-correct got the best of her on that one!

Anyway, the reason I'm not working on creating my beaded garden is that I've been working on a number of other projects.

First is a piece I found on the "Stash Unload" Facebook page.  It brought a smile to my face when I saw it.  It's called "The Sampler Sampler" by Brightneedle Charted Designs.  I've stitched lots and lots of samplers over the years, but until now, not a Sampler of Samplers.

Second, is a piece I am doing for my pastor.  It's a Lizzie Kate design, "Time for God."  I'll be making this into a bell pull.

And my most recent completion, another Lizzie Kate design, "My To Do List."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

When is a Cardboard Box Worth $18.10

I mentioned in an earlier post about needing repair on my magnifying lamp.  When the repair was completed (with six replacement parts), I received a bill for: $20.25 in parts, $36.00 in labor, $20.29 for return shipping, and - get this - $18.10 for the shipping container!  I have never before had a company charge me for the cardboard box! Especially since I sent the lamp to them in a cardboard box that they could have re-used had they wanted to....  I can't figure out why they don't add a penny or two to each of their parts, to cover the cost of the cardboard boxes.  That would be a lot easier to tolerate than having to pay for the box.

On String and Little Dinky Scissors

Well, a number of years ago, a good friend accompanied me to a national EGA Seminar. This was his first experience with needlework.  As we reconnoitered the set-up at the hotel/convention center, we walked past the on-site needlework shop set up by a local vendor.  He asked, "Oh, is this where you buy your string."  I responded that yes, that is where we buy our floss and thread, but that string was for wrapping packages, not for needlework.  Since then we've had a standing joke about string.

More recently, I was in need of a scissors sharpener.  I had used my regular needlework scissors, without thinking, for cutting metallic thread.  Oh, did you really think we needleworkers could get by with one pair of scissors?  We have scissors for cutting regular thread, serrated scissors for cutting metallic thread, curved blade scissors, straight blade scissors, extra-sharp/extra-thin scissors for cutting fabric threads when doing hardanger, I could go on and on.  Anyway, I ended up with a curved blade scissors in need of sharpening and not knowing where to turn.  There used to be a travelling scissor sharpener in town who stopped by various locations, like JoAnn's Fabric and Crafts, on a regular basis.  But no more.  My concern was finding a sharpener who could work on curved blades.

Well, my friend went hunting and found a sharpener.  When he gave me the man's business card, he assured me that he had asked and the man could do "even little dinky scissors."

So, all is good.  My  curved-blade scissors are sharpened.  And guess what, the next time I was stitching, I automatically reached for them as I was about to cut some metallic thread and came so close to making the exact same mistake, but fortunately caught myself in time and set them down and picked up the right scissors.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Perhaps something can be done about that

I've been reading my way through the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series of mystery books by Alexander McCall-Smith.  Set in Botswana, it tells about the cases that the female detective solves.  The books give a nice glimpse into life in Botswana.

I just finished "The Full Cupboard of Life."  There's a scene where the young apprentice at a automotive shop makes a comment about it not being good for women to think too much.  Of course, he gets called on this comment, and when he tries to dig out of the hole he made, he is told:

"So now you are changing your mind.  You did not know what you were saying because your tongue is out of control.  It is always walking away on its own and leaving your head behind.  Perhaps there is some medicine for that.  Maybe there is an operation that can fix it for you."

Remind you of anyone in this election year?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My stitching comes too

I discovered a website called "Stash Unload," where people sell their unwanted needlework patterns. Of course, I'm trying to reduce my stash, not enlarge it, but it never hurts to look, does it?  LOL.  So, at the same time I'm mailing off boxes of stitching supplies to Fireside Stitchery which will post it on Ebay for me, I'm also looking at what new things I can buy from other people trying to reduce their stash!!  I did find a cute pattern for a project keeper and needle case, which I have finished stitching. This is a design called, "Travelling Stitcher" by Little House Needleworks.

After almost a year of not finding any interesting plays to attend, I learned that Coralville's City Circle Acting Company would be performing "1776."  It was delightful!  Next season looks to be much better, with "Fiddler on the Roof," and "Annie Get Your Gun," among others.

And my latest on-line stitching course is "Patriotic Sparklers #2," taught by Margaret Bendig, sponsored by EGA.  You may remember that last year, I took the first class, "Patriotic Sparklers #1."

The Platinum Needle Odyssey

I've been stitching with platinum needles for perhaps twenty-five years.  In my early stitching days, I never thought there was a difference in the type of needle, but a teacher in one of my classes recommended platinum needles as the very best.  I gave them a try, figuring I wouldn't notice a difference, but lo and behold, they were the best!  They are also very expensive!  Instead of six needles for a couple of bucks, they started out at a couple of bucks apiece.  Then, the prices gradually increased to about $3.50 each, and most recently $4 a needle. At those prices, when you drop a needle, you go hunting for it, you can't afford to lose too many.

Where does the odyssey part come in?  Well, the story goes like this:  Supposedly the one company making platinum needles had one (and only one) gentleman who knew how do to the platinum plating process.  He retired, and no one else was able to or wanted to do the platinum plating, so they quit making platinum needles.  Quel dommage!  The stores carrying platinum needles quickly ran out, and I was thinking I would have to give gold needles a try.  In my odyssey, every time I went to a needlework vendor's website, I looked for platinum needles, without success.

Then one day, I struck gold, or in this case platinum.  I ran across a website that offered them for sale. But, one more hurdle, they were a wholesaler, not a retailer.  So I had to find a retailer.  I emailed The Fiberworks in Waverly, asking Karol if she would be willing to special order some platinum needles for me - and guess what!  Another customer had wanted some so she had already placed an order and had some in stock!  Yippee!  I'm back in business.  Apparently, the wholesaler bought all the remaining stock of platinum needles from the needle company and is now selling them.  So, since I want platinum needles I need to stock up now, because the remaining stock won't last too long.

Bookmarks and More Bookmarks

For some reason, I was in the mood to stitch bookmarks.  I found a pattern booklet of multiple bookmarks, "Read Between the Lines," by Blue Ribbon Designs.  Here are three examples.

And while I was thinking of bookmarks, I ran across a pattern from Stoney Creek, and some bright colored fabric.  Our church gives Bibles to second graders each May, and I decided I would stitch some bookmarks to be given to the children along with their new Bibles.  I picked six bright colors, and  adapted the design from Stoney Creek.  Inserted into the plastic sleeve along with the bookmark were the lyrics to "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know."  I stitched six bookmarks (neglecting to take a photo before I dropped them off at church).  Here are the first two stitched ahead for next year.

While I was in the mood for stitching small items, I also completed "This is my Joy" designed by Little House Needleworks.  A quick little nativity scene that I can make into an ornament.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Wha la, another thing coming and the Trojan Horse

Well, I have to climb on my "English major" soapbox for a few minutes.

First, someone on one of the needlework chat rooms to which I belong posted a photograph of a completed project, noting "wha la."  I think that's "voila".  Not sure how you could hear "voila" often enough to know what it means without knowing how to pronounce or spell it.

Another error I run across with some frequency is an author having a character utter the phrase, "well, if you think that, you have another thing coming."  What?  How does that make sense?  I think the authors in question need "another think coming."

And the third item: we're studying "Pericles" in this spring's Shakespeare class.  We're reading an edition that has lots and lots of notes to the point that I feel like my intelligence is being insulted.  I'm guessing the edition is designed for college students (the play wouldn't fit in high school), but if current college students need this level of explanation, we're in big trouble.

Case in point: Pericles says in Act 1, Scene 4, when he arrives in Tarsus:

"And these our ships, you happily may think 
Are like the Trojan horse was stuffed within
With bloody veins expecting overthrow...."

This text is accompanied by the explanation, complete with picture, that the Trojan horse was "an enormous wooden horse, stuffed with Greek soldiers who burned down Troy." 

As for stitching, a big catastrophe this week.  I sat down and went to position my magnifying lamp to begin stitching, only to discover that my lamp no longer was self-balancing, that is, the swing arm did not stay at the level I put it.  The lamp ended up falling to its lowest level, which meant it was literally in my lap, and there was no way to stitch under it.  Well, when there's a will, there's a way. Since I couldn't adjust the lamp, I needed to adjust the stitching area.  I raised the lamp base on a pile of books (still too low), then on a low end table (too high), and finally used a small stool I had in the closet (just right).  So I could continue stitching while I ordered a replacement lamp swing arm attachment.  It arrived today, so I can send my original lamp swing arm back to the factory for repair. What can I say but voila! (or is that wha la?), I'm back in business.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

Why am I writing Middle English, you ask?  Well, I was remembering back to High School English class, and reading the Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in Middle English, in Mrs. Ham's Senior English class.  And not only did we have to read it, we had to memorize the beginning lines.

For some reason, I still can easily recite the first eight lines, which begin, "Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, The droghte of Marche has perced to the roote...."

What brings this to mind now is that this spring's Shakespeare class started yesterday.  This year, we're studying "Pericles," which I do not remember reading previously.  As a handout to the first session, our professor gave us the source material Shakespeare used, the original "Tale of Apollonius of Tyre," written in, you guess it - Middle English.  As I first looked at the handout, I thought, oh no, this is going to be difficult. But it wasn't!

I Love Easter...

We spent Easter in Dubuque, with Dad at my brother and sister-in-law's home.   Renee's sister and brother-in-law joined us, and we had very interesting conversations around the table.  Delicious ham dinner, with choice or pie or cake for desert.  John and Renee set the table using the napkin rings I had stitched for them as a Christmas present.  Looked very nice, if I do say so myself.

I belong to several needlework chat rooms, and one day before Easter, someone posted "I love Easter," which I thought was a nice sentiment until - wait for it - she completed the sentence, "the colors are so yummy."  Of all the reasons to love Easter, the pastel colors that signify spring would not be my first choice.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

When One Cement Mixer is Not Enough

One of our local hardware stores is going out of business, and we stopped by last week (after the initial rush of customers).  I picked up a pack of 9V batteries for my smoke detectors, and a tube of super glue.  Dennis, who was on the look-out for display cases and such, ended up buying not one but two portable cement mixers, and two heavy-duty moving dollies.

My latest finish is "Jingle Bells Xmas Tree Farm" by The Victoria Sampler.

I'm now starting on my latest on-line class, this is Patriotic Sparklers Part 2 by Margaret Bendig, through EGA.  You may remember that I posted about taking the Part 1 class last year.  At that time, we students liked the class so much we persuaded EGA and the teacher to teach Part 2.

And, an update on Tidal Textures.  This was a class I took at EGA Seminar in Myrtle Beach.  I first posted a photo of the painted canvas with shells scattered on it.  I now have accomplished quite a bit of stitching on the background water and sand for the tidal pool.  Lots more effort than this photo shows since I ripped stuff out two or three times as I went along - sometimes I liked the stitch but the color was off, at other times I liked the color but the stitch wasn't quite right.  I've set this aside and been working on other things, but one of these days will get back to it.

Progress on background stitching of sea and sand on Tidal Textures

My new electric blanket came with a 20-pound weight

I like to snuggle under a heated blanket on these cold evenings, while watching TV or reading.  I had been using a heated throw which frustrated me because it just wasn't big enough.  If I wanted to cover my chest and shoulders, then my feet stuck out the bottom.  If I covered my feet, then my shoulders were cold.  So, I finally gave in and purchased a twin-sized electric blanket.

Of course, now it's way too big.  Which means the bottom of the blanket drags on the floor.  And guess who figured out quite quickly that there was now a warm spot on the floor, that he could sleep on or under, or wrapped up in.  So, when I would go to shift position, or move the blanket, there is now a nice 20-pound cat weighing it down.

My first finish of 2016 is "Stitching Feeds My Heart" by Silver Creek Samplers.  I changed the colors and the wording.  I really fell in love with this design, because stitching truly does feed my heart.

Year End

We spent Christmas Day in Dubuque, with my Dad in assisted living.  Unfortunately, he wasn't feeling well.  As usual, it was a bookish Christmas, though my brother and sister-in-law were treated to a couple of drones, and I got two Roku gizmos for my living room and bedroom TVs.  Now to figure out how to hook them up!

I did stitch a Christmas ornament, which as usual, I have yet to actually finish into an ornament.  My pile of "to finish" pieces is getting taller and taller.  One of these days....

Christmas Cardinal from the Stoney Creek Collection
A quick finish was "Bonnie Rose" designed by Louise Henderson of Cherished Stitches.  It was a free pattern provided by Fiberworks in Waverly.  I used threads and fabric from my stash.

And thus the year ended quietly.