February 27, 2013

My Mom's Beautiful Needlework

I have not been blogging much or reading other people's blogs recently and I apologize for that. The reason is that my mother is in the last stages of terminal myxofibrosarcoma and I don't have any idea what I am doing most of the time.

Today though, I thought I would honor my mom by showing you some of her beautiful work that I have in my stitching room.

Reverse Applique

Wall Hanging (with matching quilt upstairs in my hope chest)

Appliqued Hearts (by me) and Quilting by my Mom

Message on the back of the hearts applique from my mom

This is only a small fraction of her work that I have in my house. Before she lost the use of her arms and hands from the cancer, my mom was an extremely talented quilter and an expert on the longarm machine, which takes up an entire room and costs about as much as an economy car. She had her own quilting business and was quite well known in Virginia and West Virginia. She had just started to get her business going again in South Carolina when they got the news that the cancer was back and was going to be terminal.

I feel very lucky that she made so many quilts for me and for her grandsons. Ben still uses the rag quilt she made for him when he was in elementary school, even though it is almost threadbare. He loves that quilt so much that he won't use the two new ones she made to replace it when it wore out! I know how much she misses her quilting and I hope that if she reads this, she will remember that even though she can no longer work at the longarm, there are quilts all over the Mid-Atlantic region that people will treasure for generations.

For right now, I am kind of turning in circles and not knowing what to do with myself when I am not crying, sleeping, or getting really angry at a God that, if he exists, took my best friend from me in October 2012 with breast cancer and now is taking my mother. The pain and suffering that goes with cancer is simply inconceivable, both for the patient and the family.

I spent two weeks in South Carolina this month with my mom and dad, just hanging out and helping as best I could. Mom and I spent a lot of quality time together and had a lot of good talks. We still talk on the phone, although now she has to be on speaker because she can no longer hold the phone. I treasure each and every conversation with her. She is such a strong, beautiful spirit and it just makes me sick that cancer doesn't discriminate between the good and the bad.

I have been doing some cross stitch and will post an update at some point soon so you can see my progress. In the meantime, I hope you are all doing well.

Happy stitching!


February 11, 2013

Stitching the Flock, January - My Crappy Sheep

I'm taking part in the Stitching the Flock year long Stitch Along from Little House Needleworks. Well, I will be once I get my act together.

I'm down at my parents' house, spending two weeks 600 miles away from my limitless stash (ha!) and the January "Hope" sheep was something I thought would be a short and easy little stitch. The pattern called for 30 count R&R Reproductions Dark Chino fabric, which of course I didn't have because I haven't built up a stash of fabric yet and I hadn't even heard of R&R Reproductions. But I checked my fabric that I did have and discovered that I had a 32 count Weichelt Lambwool that looked about the same color as the fabric pictured on the pattern. I was supposed to be using this fabric for my Country Cottage Needleworks monthly cottages from last year's SAL that I worked on up through May. But I got tired of them after I finished May and set the rest of the patterns back in my pile to go back to because I hate to commit to a project and not finish it.

So I went online and did the fabric count conversion thing and came up with what I thought was the right size piece of fabric. I cut that out of the larger piece of linen and spent a couple of hours overcasting it because I don't own a sewing machine because they hate me. Then I was all ready to get started until I realized that I hadn't cut the fabric big enough to do all twelve flock designs and that was how I wanted to stitch it.

So then I had the brilliant idea of doing it one over one and entering it in next year's needlework show at Woodlawn Plantation in the miniatures category! I haven't done much one over one stitching, but I really like the way it looks. Except I tried one over one on my HAED (which was only 25 count Laguna fabric) and I ended up tossing it into the scrap bag when I realized I hated stitching one over one because if you make a mistake, frogging it is nearly impossible.  So I switched to 16 count Aida on my blog friend Carrie's advice. I got through two pages of the 20 page pattern and put it back in the rotation box to work on something else for awhile. (Did you guys realize that the HAED patterns are stitched in EVERY hole???? Why didn't someone force feed me the fact that I had picked a 200,000 stitch project???

Okay, really I knew that and figured I would probably work on it on and off over the next twenty years and that's okay.  (Trust me. I have a point here.)

Fast forward to the flock project (or my crappy sheep because of how badly I screwed this up).

I got a little bit of the border stitched before leaving for South Carolina a week ago and then packed up the kitted pattern to work on and hopefully finish while I was down here.

The first day when I got it out to work on, I got the border finished up and was starting to cuss at the fact that I couldn't see what I was doing and really needed a magnifier if I was going to stitch it one over one. But I didn't want to spend the money on one and have it shipped here, only to later remember how full my suitcase was and that I couldn't bring it home with me.

My mom gave me her reading glasses, which I put on over my regular glasses and that sort of helped until I realized I was getting dizzy from looking through what seemed like a really long and really claustrophobic tunnel and started getting queasy. I took off the extra pair of glasses and decided to soldier on, since it really was looking cool.

Then I got the border finished and stitched in the "Hope" and the little green thing with red berries and was really thinking it looked really good. Oh my gosh, how freaking talented am I???

Until I got to the sheep and realized that the lambswool color wasn't dark enough for the colors recommended in the kit and my poor little ewe was getting lost because the thread color was too similar to the fabric color. Mom suggested backstitching and I thought okay, cool, I will backstitch it after I finished the whole January piece.

Moving on to the snowflake in ecru, I was dismayed to see that it showed up even less than the sheep. But I thought maybe I could leave it and people could use their superpower vision when they looked at it. And that was when the serious mistake happened. I got off by one stitch. (I know you are all groaning with me if you've ever gotten off by one stitch doing one over one.) I had almost finished the snowflake and not only was it hard to see it, it wasn't going to be counted right and there would be a noticeable error, which meant trying to frog the whole snowflake, or at least back to a place where I could fudge it enough to make it work.

My dream of the needlework show was pretty much fading by now.

But I frogged it back far enough to find the mistake, adjusted for being off by one and started around the snowflake again.

I was almost finished with the snowflake when I realized the back felt kind of lumpy. Turning it over, I discovered that there was a huge tangle of thread that was not unravelable (look, I made up another word!).

Well crap! I now had spent four days off and on and I realized that (a) one over one just wasn't going to work and (b) that the fabric color was completely wrong. I made the executive decision to stop before I hurt my brain any further and order the right color fabric. Which apparently is not being made because I couldn't find it on any of the usual needlework sites.

Crap, crap, crap. Okay wait. I'll just give 123 Stitch a call for another recommendation! Um no. It was Sunday and they are closed on Sunday. After extensive research into whether or not Mom's town had a local needlework shop (consisting of my asking her and her saying she didn't think there was one here; you see how hard I work at this, right?), I made another executive decision to just order another color 123 Stitch recommended as close to the Dark Chino in a size large enough to do two over two and fit all twelve of them on one piece of fabric.

After extensive calculation (consisting of my mom and me doing bad arithmetic in our heads because I was too lazy to hit the calculator button on my iPhone), I figured out the correct size and ordered the fabric, which will be waiting for me when I get home.

And then it hit me. I was working on 32 count instead of 30 count and my original size assessment to do all twelve sheep on the piece of fabric I had cut two over two might not have been off after all. Of course, that still didn't solve my color problem, since all of my DMC floss is at home.

At least I will be able to see all the colors on the new fabric. I think. Since I haven't seen whether its dark enough yet.

So, after wasting four perfectly good sewing days on this instead of working on something and making progress, I have finally thrown up my hands and said, "Self, work on something else!"

But here is a look at what four days of trying to do one over one on the wrong color fabric netted me:

Can you see that tangled blob on the left side of the snowflake That was it for me.

I'm back to working on my sampler, hoping to finish it while I'm here. And I brought the June country cottage and two other kitted up patterns.

Mostly though, I'm spending quality time with my mom and enjoying not having to let the dogs out every five minutes.

I hope you are having happier stitching than I have the last few days!