Mylo and Me

How can it possibly be 20 days since my last post!? I had no intention of letting the blog slide that far in-the-rears, but you know that road to hell...

28934547567_946fce80d0_kMylo before grooming...

Mylo after grooming

Although you may not see much change in Mylo's look before and after, there was a huge change in the amount of fur on his body. The groomer cut it to about 1/2 all over, and then, cleaned up his face but left his ears and topknot. A week later his head is a mess, a cute puppy mess and he is just TOO cute for words. Everyone (else) says so! He's has very long legs, weights 16 lbs! I do not know where my puppy went, except he left his brain in the very big dog. A dog who is losing his baby teeth and getting new (two front) teeth. My puppy is over 4 months old! My brain is always focused on him.

I wish he would focus more on me as that part of the training eludes him. We are working hard to learn all the things a puppy brain should know and do. Focusing his attention on me is something he doesn't like to do. He'd rather be sniffing the ground, chasing moths in the grass, or looking for neighborhood dogs so he can bark, but every day I can see something new sink in and he is getting better (and so am I) at all.the.things. Learning is exhausting for us both. 



I ended my Bingo run with 4 full bingos. I could have gone for two more but neither the 'Graphic novel' nor the 'Banned in a country outside the US' felt enticing enough to seek out. All the other books I'd read just fell into place. All in all, I read 19 books. I think that's a good summer of reading.  There are many new books I'm dying to read, some I am waiting for publication, others I've got on my virtual bedside table, but all have been put to the side because I have fallen in love with Middlemarch by George Eliot. What an incredibly detailed portrait of the people who lived in the 1830s on the English countryside. I have become completely entranced by their story and I can't stop reading (reading and listening both). The audio is 35 hours and the book is over 700 pages. I love it.  

I've made 4 large roasting pans full of Vicki's Roasted Tomato Sauce using our own tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, and thymegano. I always toss in several peppers (hot and mild), a zucchini and/or eggplant. Whatever comes from the garden that day goes into the pot. All winter long I use it for pasta sauce, soup, or a sauce to go over veggies. If I ate pizza it would make a good pizza sauce, too. From each large pot I get about 5 quart freezer bags of sauce. This sauce is the only reason I want to have a thriving garden. I'll be making my fifth batch today. 


There has been knitting, but it is mostly boring stockinette, in a soft periwinkle color. Soon it will be a finished sweater. But, what shows better on the blog is the beautiful sweet embroidery I just completed from Cozy Blue. It is about 6" across and wil make a cute decorative hanging for my front door. It was so much fun to stitch, to retrain my brain to work with fabric and embroidery floss, and to get my eyes to see the tiny little stitches. Stitching wasn't as easy as it once was, but I enjoyed the process and think I'll pull out my AC T-shirt and get back to stitching and beading. I'll keep my eyes open for another small project that speaks to my heart, as I enjoy this Cozy Blue kit. 


Cute big Mylo trying to figure out what that noise is I've been making with my mouth. One must be fresh and creative when trying to get a puppy brain to look at you. I swear. 

Wednesday's are for Unraveling

Around here, the puppy takes precedence, but there has been the occasional knitting and/or stitching going on. If the grocery shopping is done, the laundry is in progress (or finished), no other chores or errands have reared their heads, AND Mylo is sleeping, I'll pull out my embroidery or knitting and take a few stitches. I must be aware each time I'm interrupted and, at the drop of a hat, put it away. Puppies are wily and they will find your weak spot. 

The stitching has a lot of threads dangling from a color card and a very tiny needle is always attached to the fabric either by a thread or in the cloth. If puppy awakens, or I have reason to walk away, EVERY item must be tucked away and the carry bag put in a puppy-safe spot. One MUST think through their escape plan. If not, a puppy could end up at the emergency vet with a needle stuck in an unwanted spot or, at the very least, there could be a ruined piece of embroidery. I have learned this with my puppies of the past. Mylo is NOT an angel.

I bought this kit from Cozyblue on Etsy. The hoop, linen with a printed design, all threads, and instructions were included. (The design is also available as a PDF download in lieu of a kit.) Instruction is minimal so it might be helpful to know a little something about embroidery, but all stitches are standard to any embroidery book. I've had fun reliving my days with sharp needle in hand, but my eyesight is not as good as it once was and I admit to struggling. If I caved and used a magnifier there would be no problem. (I have also been knitting but, at this point, it's a boring sea of blue stockinette.)


Reading has been going well. Walking puppies, knitting, stitching, doing laundry, shopping, cooking, gardening, they are all made for audio books and I am taking full advantage. I will have at least four Bingos and possibly more before the summer is over. I didn't have to work at finding books for the subjects of each square. The books I wanted to read just seemed to fit into the squares I had. It was a very lucky summer of reading, as I've only read a couple of duds, although, they were still worth the time. 

Once the Man Booker longlist came out, it filled my TBR and I have been on a reading binge. Many of the authors were known to me because I'd read their previous works. If you've given up on reading Man Booker listed titles, due to unreadable tomes, this is the list for you (and me!). I have already read a number of books and found them worthy (and readable) choices.  

I'm coming undone with Kat and Friends

July 4th Unraveled - Just Another Day


You may have noticed this picture in my June collage amidst all the Mylo pictures. This is Cyd, a new needlepoint student who finished her first needlepoint piece (a small crow) and had it finished by the shop into an ornament. The look on her face when the shop owner handed her the finished piece was just priceless. I enjoy teaching people so enthused with the process, the project, and the social interaction of a class. Cyd's delight makes my heart happy. 


There has been considerable knitting and reading going on and I am nearly finished with my socks! This is quite an achievement after  six months of work! After missing my goal of a pair every two months, I had hoped for a finished pair the end of June. I'm only off by a few days, but should finish today, July 4th! I am listening to "The Cross" by Sigrid Undset, the third book in the Kristin Lavransdattor series. Over the last few months I have enjoyed this trilogy and hate to see it end. This book will give me my first Bingo! I lucked out with the books I wanted to read and found 5 places in a row which comprised the Bingo. There wasn't a bad book in the lot. In fact, all the books I've read for Book Bingo have been topnotch. 

Mylo and I will spend the day alone, but in the evening Smith and I will be playing and distracting Mylo from the exuberant number of fireworks in our neighborhood. He isn't too bothered by most of the noise, but the occasional loud boomers disturb us all! Pretty as they are, fireworks are not good for dogs. 

Speaking of Mylo...can you stand the cute!!?


November 30 - The End

Believe me, I could go on and on about my embroidery journey, as 30 years of study has filled this house with pictures, books, study guides, and books of notes and patterns. There are framed pieces on my walls, in my closets, on my families walls, and sitting on shelves. The variety of technique and design are limitless. This week of walking down memory lane has been interesting. I feel  like I have relived the life of a person I no longer know and found a life I hadn't seen in a dozen years. One thing is sure, I enjoyed sharing with you some of my best work, but I wonder how I am the one who created the amazing pieces. I certainly was another person, with a different motivation and my hands were far more capable than they are today. 


So, let me continue this last day of NaBloPoMo with my last, but perhaps my favorite phase of this embroiderers journey. In the late 1990s I became acquainted with the term "schoolgirl sampler". We all know what a sampler is, that piece of linen that may have the alphabet or a phrase like "Home Sweet Home", but finding out that museums had samplers as old as the early 1700s, and that women during Queen Elizabeth's time did exquisite embroideries, that this, the stitches of women, as our history. Women of means were taught to be good wives, to be literate, and to be poise, by way of samplers. This article from the MET site gives a brief history of American Needlework.

As my interest in Japanese Embroiery started to wan (late 1990s), the needlework shops were talking about the world of girlhood needlework. Not only were the shops filled with beautiful samplers, but more importantly, they were bringing in excellent instructor/designers, hand-dyed linens and threads, new silks and all sorts of little treasures to embroiderer. Plus, there were conventions and gatherings, and guilds, a whole accomplished community of people teaching even more people, like me, who wanted not only to stitch the treasures, but to learn about the lives of anonymous girls and women of the last 400 years.  

Let me tell you a bit about the two pictures above. The first is called The Strawberry Bag. It was designed by a local artist, Carolyn Webb. She saw a picture of a bag first created during Elizabeth the First reign and decided to create someone similar to teach. Strawberry motifs were used often in that time period, a symbol of purity, and youth. The bag is stitched in the manner of a sampler with rows of different patterns and stitches. Kept inside are a Jacob's ladder needlebook, a strawberry pinkeep, and a three demential strawberry scissor fob. Carolyn made a clay mini-strawberry for each one of us to put on the string of our bags.

The Swan Lake Bag is from a class I took in Phoenix, when I traveled with 4 friends to take the workshop from Merry Cox, the designer. We stitched the designs on our bags before the class. Two sides and a bottom fully stitched, along with each of the "smalls" that are kept inside. There is a ruler holder, a button bag (which holds the thimble and a chunk of beeswax, plus a scissor with fob. The names of each friend are stitched on the bag, along with the place and date we were there. Many memories are stitched into this project, as in all my needlework. 


How I fit so many classes, stitched the number of hours, and completed as many pieces as I did, I'll never know. I am sharing only a few of my favorites, but I have many more treasures. I traveled the country to take classes on samplers and "smalls" the little etuis or needle cases. 


This particular piece is one of my favorite as it was stitched at the end of 1999 to commemorate the year 2000, which was the year I turned 50, and the year Smith and I would have been married for 20 years. Plus, you know, it was the turn of the century. A big WOW of a year in my life. The needlebook, 2"x3", with a linen fabric count of 34 stitches to the inch.


Inside is a pincushion (with pins), linen pages to hold needles, and a tiny pair of scissors with a tassel fob, which is held in place with a ribbon and snap. Each one of the etuis are created so a needleworker has all she needs in one neat little compartment that is always handy and at the ready. This piece is smaller than a phone and would fit into any pocket. 


The etui is closed with an antique button and a buttonhole stitch loop. The phrase used "Adorn thy life with love and goodness" is typical of what would be found on a girlhood sampler, as are all the motifs and stitches.

Thank you for indulging me this journey down memory lane, this step back in time. I am humbly in awe of myself. Did I really stitch all of that? Can this journey really be mine? I know I am a different person because of needlework, because of the people I met. Learning at the feet of so many masters and senseis has been a pleasure and an honor, and while it is no longer something I want to do, or can do, I know it is where I have been and I am better for this journey as an embroiderer. 

November 29 - Towards Perfection


I met Shay Pendray when she came to SLC to teach a class in the late 1980s. She was a great teacher, a teacher who was the best of the best. When a Japanese master came to America she had taken his classes and she loved JE so much that she worked to learn the art and his way of teaching. It took a lot of convincing, but she was able to go to Japan and study for several years, learning from the master, and then, with his permission, bring Japanese Embroidery to America. 

In the picture above, Shay is on the right in bright pink. I spent 10 years of study with the women pictured and we became a formidable class. My dear friend Evelyn is in black standing next to Shay and we still meet monthly for  sushi dinner. Evelyn still studies Japanese Embroidery, but I gave it up in 2002. But, after my first class was in 1991, I was hooked. 


The study of JE comes in Phases. When I began my lessons there were 5 intensive phases designed to teach every aspect of  Japanese technique. One had to be dedicated to learning this amazing art and art it certainly is. All our supplies came from Japan, the obi silk for our ground fabric, the flat, suga silk we used to make our own threads, and the delicate metals we used to embellish our designs. The above design is Phase I, in which I learned to twist my own silk into different weights of thread,  to stitch chrysanthemums petals, cherry blossom petals, and stitch binding cords, all very important motifs in JE. Each phase would take close to the full year we were allotted to finish our piece. 


This is Phase II, a design with many more techniques, more motifs, and more hours needed to complete. In each phase you build upon the lessons of the previous phase and add multiple techniques to your repertoire. We made all the twisted threads, in varying weights needed to stitch the motifs. Some of the techniques I remember were "shippo" (design in the blue cloud), fuzzy effect (white cherry blossoms), shibori (white and red pin tree). 



Because of the varied techniques we learned in the is phase it took almost the full year for me to complete this piece. Each section took hours and hours, maybe 800-1000 hours in all. I stitched nearly every day and dedicated myself to studying books and guides. The only true way was to learn was from the teacher and the only teacher at the time was Shay. We had class over 8 days once a year. Eventually, we decided to add a second lesson, but that meant travel expenses twice a year and even more dedication to the art, and that's what took me out.

I took Phase III, but it was just too much work, took too many hours out of my day. I stalled, but went back the next year because my end goal all along had been Phase IV. I LOVED this design. I wanted to play with color and create my own pansy piece. 


And, after 4 years of study, I did. I may have had a smile on my face with every stitch I took during this beautiful journey. The pansies are stitched with perfectly laid flat silk which creates shine. Without the shine of the silk this piece is nothing. Light changes the color, depending on direction and the laid stitches. That play of light is what brings the pansies to life.


Only one color of orange silk is used in the blue/orange pansy, but the color changes with the direction of stitch. You can also see the change in the pink pansy and the yellow one below. All the leaves were stitched with twisted thread in contrast to the sheen pansies. 


The pansy Phase was my favorite of all the Japanese Embroidery I studied. I started other pieces, and stitched for hours on many designs, even took Phase V, but I gave up on it almost immediately. I had my win, the one thing that had been my drive. The Pansies were mine. Another reason was the expense of learning this art became more than I could bear. I had spent a considerable percent of discretionary income on this journey, one I will never regret, but I knew it was time to change in direction. Shay's motto was we were "Stitching Towards Perfection". Shay, and Japanese Embroidery, taught me so much about life, about the journey, about the process of living. It isn't patience you learn when following a pursuit of this nature, you have that in spades, but it takes curiosity, joy in creation, and dedication. 

November 28 - New World


The Amish Quilt Block needlepoint was first class I took and it has to be one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever stitched. Each square represents a different quilt block pattern, any you might recognize, especially if you are a quilter. I remember Flying Geese, Shadow, Log Cabin, Sunshine and Shadow, Nine Patch, and Tree of Life, to name a few.


This is when a whole new world of stitching opened up. Everything I learned was new. We had to stretch the canvas onto bars that held it in place tautly. The basic line drawing was on the canvas, no design, just lines and we were to fill each square by counting from a chart. The thread we used was embroidery floss, but we took a strand, separated the six threads and put three of them back together to thread into a needle. AND THEN, we used a tool, something with a pointed tip (I had never seen such a tool) and used it to lay each of the three threads side by side, creating a smooth flat stitch that caught the light.


Using a "laying" tool, as I learned it was called, was more eye opening than anything else I learned in that class and I learn plenty. Seeing the effect of laying stitches hooked me into the world of "art embroidery" as it was called. I couldn't get enough. As large as this piece was, I had it stitched in record time. I worked on it every chance I got and every stitch I took helped my technique. I could lay threads as smooth as glass and get the sheen that created the play of light, which is hard to detect in my photographs. 


The next step was the discovered of silk thread and the ease of laying the strands, as well as the enhanced sheen and beauty. Each teacher had more tips and ideas that made the process more interesting, sometimes easier, but always added to my building blocks of learning. I loved learning. At the same time I was taking correspondence classes, classes from local teachers, working from purchased charts, and also building my library. 


As I traveled through the world of art needlepoint I became acquainted with some of the best teachers in the country. They saw potential in me and encouraged me to take harder classes and learn from better teachers. 


This orchid was created with one strand of silk stitched in long and short technique. The shading is from light at the edge to dark in the center, always one thin thread at a time. Betty Chen Louis, the designer and teacher,  was one of my favorites, but many amazing women mentored my progress. Judy Souliotis taught me to stitch my favorite piece (below) and Shay Pendray was the sensei I who built my confidence and who took me on the most amazing journey. 

UnnamedThe Basket Man was stitched using many different techniques of goldwork and metal thread techniques. I consider it my most adventurous piece and it was certainly the most fun to do. The pictures are highly inadequate, but they can all be clicked to enlarge and you might see more detail. I am also willing to answers any questions you may have. 

Believe it or not, there is more to come, as I spent 20 years immersed in the world of needlework. 

November 27 - First Steps


As I said a few days ago, I learned to embroider at the age of eight. By my mother's hand I learned the outline and satin stitches I needed to bring the face of a happy dog to life. Mom then made my creation into a baby's bib. From there I made simple samplers, pillow cases, and handkerchiefs. My repertoire grew over the years.  

This was the start my journey into a whole new world of art, endless learning, and community. I lived in a time when you could buy needlework supplies at the finest department stores. I loved walking through the magical department of yarns, and threads, kits, and fabrics, the walls covered with beautiful things to make. Supplies could also be purchased at any 5 and dime, like Woolworth's. Also, in the 70s independent needlework stores became a popular place to buy yarns, cottons, linens and other needlework supplies. For a time I worked at a shop on Main Street in downtown SLC. Since I was also a lover of books, I bought every new book available. Over the years I collected books right along with supplies, gaining a varied needlework library. 


While I was working at the needlepoint shop a new phenomenon came about, in which artists painted right onto the canvas. I bought the tulips and without any instruction started stitching. Working at a shop does not mean you know everything there is to know. I was a rank beginner when it came to needlepoint. I was daunted by the outline around each motif and decided the lines would be too heavy if I filled every hole. Instead I tried to give the "impression" of a line and ended up with "ants" all over my tulips. I could see this was a mistake, but I didn't know what to else to do. I stuck it away and years later I found it, stitched in the yellow background, and had it made into a pillow. I thought it a good way to show my students how not to outline a motif. 

The other pillow was made following a chart and counting each stitch. The bottom right corner design shows a bit of hardanger, a technique in which an area is stitched and then threads cut away to create a lace effect. Stitching through my 70s and 80s continued along this line, trying this, self-learning that. It was at the end of the 80s I discovered the joy of taking classes from professionals and that changed my life. 


To be continued...

Perfect Process

When I use my hands to create it is the act of creation that speaks to me. I love the process. Yes, the finished product is nice (usually) and I like using and wearing what I make, but it is the in and out of the needle, whether knitting needle or threaded needle, I enjoy most of all.

I work slowly, not by choice, necessarily, but it is the way I work in this moment. Once upon a time, I could whip through a sweater in a month, but those days are behind me -- partly because my hands and arms need a slower pace, and the occasional rest, and partly because I have found other shiny objects to draw my attention. 


This past year I found one of the processes I have enjoyed most has been the sewing of Alabama Chanin projects. I buy kits from Alabama Chanin because I do not have the desire to own all the stuff needed to do my own stenciling, nor do I have the space. The fact I can buy a ready to stitch project is a big part of the draw. I need only thread a needle to be ready to go.


The Market Bag was one of the most process heavy projects, of any sort, I have ever made. The point was to learn the different techniques used in the Alabama Chanin process and I certainly have learned that over the course of the two projects I've completed. I've also learned just how much I like it.


The first thing I did was stitch the motifs on the two larger main pieces (the front/back) of the bag.  For one side I outlined the designs using a running stitch and on the other side I used a back stitch. The back stitch took 5 times longer, and more than twice the amount of thread, than the rest of the project. After outline, the inside of the motif was cut away to reveal the color below. Joy filled my heart, as the spots of color brought the whole project to life. However, there was much more to do once the main pieces were complete. The bag had two narrow side sections, a bottom, and two handles, plus all the pieces of the lining to sew into place. Don't forget, the cute little inside pocket with the AC label, which is the icing on the cake!

To keep the bag stable I decided to only do the stitching of the bottom and side pieces and not cut them to reveal color. Three layers of fabric should give the bag the ability, as well as the stability, to carry heavier objects, like books or a computer. 

As with any long-term project I am going through a bit of a mourning period. I miss stitching my Market Bag. I started this project over Labor Day weekend of 2014, so we've been together a long time. It's now time to enjoy the next part of the journey with my Market Bag on my arm, full of my favorite things. I'm stoked.

Little Nothings

During my lifetime I've spent many hours learning various crafts and arts. I've learned at the "feet", so to speak, of many masters of any given art and had an extraordinary time doing so. For a few years I was able to afford travel to wherever it was the master might be teaching. I've been from coast to coast and border to border in the pursuit of my "art" du jour.


For several years I studied counted thread embroidery, which is not only cross stitch, but many other techniques, usually stitched on high count fabric. I believe this piece was stitched on linen with 34 threads per inch. I loved every aspect of counted thread, from the history (it goes back centuries and leaps continents), to the techniques, to the threads, and the classes. I traveled from Plymouth, MA to San Diego, from Washington State to New Orleans. It was a grand romp.


This little scissors holder is about 4" long, not including the tassel. The stitches used were cross stitch over two threads, cross stitch over 1 thread, buillon stitch, back stitch, buttonhole, eyelet, and four-sided stitch. The four-sided stitch made it possible to sew this little scissor case together with the green ribbon. The cap of the acorn slides up to reveal tiny scissors tucked inside and, when the cap is replaced, the button slides down to hold the top in place.


I made many such delicacies, tiny etuis, huswufs, sewing boxes, reticules, and needle holders. I promise to share more of my "little nothings" as we called them, in the future. 

WIPing Right Along

Every once in awhile the desire to stitch comes over me and I set my knitting aside, and the Alabama Chanin project comes out to play. Stitching this piece has taken a little longer than I anticipated, but finally I'm finished with the running stitch outlines on the front of the market bag.


Truthfully, I became a little too enamored of the knots on top feature and may have  overdone it, but once again, I am reminded of the lesson that less is more. Next time I'll work to be a little more discretionary with my knots.

The feeling of excitement I felt was quite electric, as I started to cut away the fabric of the petals. I took a calming breath and cut into the first shape, watching as the gray fell away and the color behind came into view. I felt a bit of pride, as well as relief, because I can tell this finished bag is going to be grand.


When my hands grow tired of holding tiny, sharp scissors, I stitch on another piece of the bag. I have changed techniques and instead of running stitch with knots showing, I'm using the back stitch without visible knots. Thoughts of beaded petals are running through my mind, as I think of the amazing work of Mason-Dixon's Ann Shayne. Check out this blog post where Ann tells of her trips to India and Alabama, which were truly amazing in all aspects. Her resulting AC shawl is something to behold.

My stitching time is short, although I am now committed to find more time to work on this project. It would be nice if the market bag could be finished by the end of the year. There's a whole lot of hand sewing to do between now and then if it is to happen.  I hope you'll be watching my progress, as I need a little encouragement!