20 October 2014

October's Pincushion

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The October pincushion for the Crazy Quilt Journal Project 2014 is finished!  I had so much fun working on this one!  

I'm not into most Halloween decor.  It's far too ghoulish and doesn't do much for me.  When I was thinking about what to do for October's pincushion, I knew I wanted to do something with pumpkins, but knew the pincushion would need something else to make it come to life.  So as the season progressed, I kept pondering it in the back of my mind.   As I was putting out my tiny collection of black cats a couple of weeks ago, it came to me that my pincushion pumpkin patch needed a black cat on it!  We always had black cats at home when I was growing up, and my Halloween decorations consist primarily of pumpkins and black cats!  With that, I was off and running! 

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This is the block I started with.  I really do love working with batik fabrics, especially if the pattern isn't too large or overwhelming.  They blend so nicely into the background.  I chose a darker, mostly brown, palette with touches of warm greens reminiscent of autumn.   I knew that orange pumpkins would really come to life on this block! 

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The view from the top.

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The first thing I did was to make the pumpkins out of some orange/yellow silk with wool stuffing and lobes created by tying with some Wildflowers variegated pearl cotton from Caron.  For stems, I used DMC memory thread.  I love the old fashioned look they have. 

The black cat was knitted from a pattern in The Knitted Farmyard, a book I used years ago when I taught my kids to knit. This book was originally published in German and the translation means that the knitted items don't quite look like the photos in the book, but they still come out very cute.  The kids knitted lots of chickens and ducks while they were learning, while I made some of the more complicated critters from the book.  When I was thinking about how to do the cat for this pincushion, I remembered the kittens I had made from this book and went searching for our copy.  I modified the directions a little to suit my needs for this pincushion.  I used some Harrisville Designs Black Shetland fingering weight yarn for the cat and stuffed him with some dark grey wool I had so it wouldn't show through so much.  The green eyes were embroidered with DMC cotton embroidery floss. 

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I knew that I also wanted to bring another dimensional element into this pincushion, so I created a cornstalk using DMC memory thread and created needle woven leaves up the stem.  

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Along one seam, I stitched a buttonhole/feather variation to mimic the stubble of a newly harvested corn field and scattered more leaves along it as well as a beaded ear or corn.  Then using a large eyed yarn needle, I pulled the cornstalk through and anchored it down.

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This seam got a stitch that I had copied into my seam inspiration book from somewhere.  It has a nice autumn feel to it and provides a nice foundation seam under the pumpkin patch! 

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Along another seam, I embroidered a flowing pumpkin vine with buttonhole stitch leaves in a variegated perle cotton ~ this one I believe is from Valdani.  Then I added some yellow/orange beads with stitching to mimic tiny pumpkins.  

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The pumpkin vines were curled and I added some stumpwork silk leaves to them.  There are 5 leaves on this pincushion and I was astonished at how long they took (over 8 hours!), but the effect was well worth it!  

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The seam visible here was another from my inspiration book and is one I copied off an antique crazy quilt. 

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From the top you can see the last seam, which is simply feather stitching with some nice big Czech glass leaf beads added.   

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The bottom has my usual signature!  The back side of the stitching is signed as well.

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Here's my Black Cat running through the Pumpkin Patch!

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Around the yard, the leaves are changing with the season.  The Spindle Bush is looking particularly lovely right now as the bright pink pods have split open into little bishop cap shapes and let their bright orange fruits dangle out!  It is just spectacular! 

Family Dinner Night
We had a nice family dinner on Saturday.  Just missing Stephen and David who both had to work.  For our family dinner, we had apple sauce, apple dumplings and salad with apples, pecans and blue cheese, all with apples from our tree!  For the rest of the meal, we had a Mediterranean theme going with tomato bruschetta, rosemary roasted potatoes, and Provincial chicken cooked with white wine, parsley and lots of garlic!  Yummy!   It's always so wonderful to have my kids around the table!  It's one of the things that makes me happier than just about anything else!  

Jessie spent the weekend so that I could teach her how to can and she did a fabulous job learning how to can applesauce from the amazingly sweet apples that came from the tree in our yard!  A couple weeks ago, we make pie filling with them.  We have one more 1/2 bushel of apples to process and they will get turned into apple butter!  We've also extracted lots of juice from the peels and cores that we'll use to make some apple jelly.  Right now it's in the freezer until we have more time to work on it.  

What a blessing this weekend was! Filled with stitching, preserving food (which is one of life's immensely satisfying things!) and time with family!  Life doesn't get much better than this!  


10 October 2014

Stitching by Daylight, Cookbooks by Night

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Have you ever gotten so excited about something that you just couldn't wait to share it, even though it wasn't nearly ready?  That's how I'm feeling about my October Pincushion for the CQJP 2014!  So here is a sneak peak at it!  

Really though... I feel like I've had a breakthrough this past couple of weeks.  Suddenly things are coming together in a way I haven't experienced in a long time.  Creativity flows and the ideas spring up like new planted seeds in the springtime.  I just can't stitch fast enough to make it all happen!  Maybe it's been due to having enough time at home, due to having been sick, that allowed me to just sit in my studio day after day and work unhindered for the first time in a long time.  Regardless, I'm really excited about where my art is headed!  I stitch all day long from nearly the moment I rise in the morning until it gets too dark to stitch comfortably.  

Then as the night falls, I find myself gravitating towards the computer.  Not to aimlessly browse eye candy on Pinterest (though I do my share of that too at times ~ it can be so inspiring!), but rather to work on other projects.  I'm nearly caught up with getting my blog put into Blurb books.  But the big project, long in the works, has been compiling a Family Cookbook.  That project has been keeping me up late at night as I work into the dark hours until at last I look at the clock, gasp at the time and head for bed.  

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My Mom was an inveterate collector of recipes.  And a terrific cook.  She could whip a glorious meal up out of seemingly nothing in the kitchen.  If she ate something that a friend made, she'd ask for the recipe and then proceed to make it her own.  As the family historian, she also collected recipes from family members and added them to her collection.  Which means that trying to organize all these recipes and choose which ones should go into a family cookbook is quite the job.  But I'm finally nearing completion as all the organization is completed at last and the vast majority of the desired recipes have been put into the computer!  

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Not only are there boxes and boxes of recipes, but my Mother's scrapbooks to go through.  She had a knack for getting featured in the local newspaper for many different activities, including these four articles that featured her cooking and/or recipes.   The article with the red photo background was from a contest that she entered.  Out of over 15,000 entrants, she was one of 18 finalists and took 2nd place in the category of yeast breads! 

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My mother was always involved in a huge number of things and this two page spread out of one of her scrapbooks is a good indication of that.  In 1962, she started up the League of Women Voters in the community we were living in at the time.  She also was very active with the Presbyterian Women's group in the area and ended up as "Chairman" for a project called "Target Africa".  And she was featured as an up and coming hostess in the women's section of the paper.  She catered many luncheons in the area and I particularly remember her making many times, a beautiful luncheon loaf with layers of bread and ham, chicken and tuna salad on the inside and decorated outside with cream cheese frosting artfully applied in the form of spring flowers.  Unfortunately, that is one recipe I don't seem to be able to find, nor  have I found a single photo of one of these creations.  The main article here talks about how she used to make canapes for people until she had so many orders for them that she had to stop!  

So, while home sick, I've managed to stay busy, stitching by daylight, working on the family cookbook by night.  At long last, I'm finally feeling better and look forward to heading back to work this coming week.  But I sure will miss my stitching and cookbook writing time!  

08 October 2014

September Pincushion for CQJP 2014

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September's garden was the theme for the September Pincushion for the Crazy Quilt Journal Project 2014.  Originally, I was going to focus on the theme Harvest.  But then it occurred to me that I really wanted to do some type of wreath of flowers from my garden and that is how this pincushion was born.  

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This year, September was surprisingly green so I pieced a green block as the background for this pincushion.  The center fabric made me think of my green lawn.  In hindsight, I wish I'd used the lighter green and blue fabric as the center, but it still worked out. 

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For inspiration, I went out to the garden and sketched various flowers that I thought I might include.  When it came time to stitch, I plucked a few specimens for reference, especially when it came to color and leaf shape. 

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As I stitched, I used the samples as my reference.

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You'll note that I stitched all the seams, even though I didn't actually embellish them.  They still provide a good foundation for the flowers stitched on top of them.   

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All the flowers stitched are flowers present in my garden.  Here the "Lady of Shallot" English Rose and Sweet Alyssum.

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There is lobelia and marigolds...

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Guara (Whirling Butterflies), and Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower)...

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Blanket Flower, Salvia...

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And Feverfew.

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The real magic happened though when I decided to take portraits of each stitched flower with it's real counterpart. 

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I'm just thrilled with how they all turned out and that I was able to capture a bit of my garden on this pincushion!  

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My usual signature on the back.

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And to end this post, a look at all the pincushions I've done for CQJP 2014 except for my daughter's Ring Pincushion, which she has at the moment.  My favorite is still the sunflower pincushion.  My least favorite is the May Lilies of the Valley Pincushion.  I love having them all together like this though.  It's a lovely look at how my stitching has progressed throughout the year! 

I can't wait to get started on October's pincushion!  I have some fun ideas for it that I'm looking forward to trying out!  In the meantime, I've got a couple of round robin blocks to finish up and need to get over this bronchitis that has had me down for the past week or more.  

05 October 2014

Fall Decorating Inside

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This past week, I've been ill with bronchitis and spent the better part of the week sitting in "my" chair (with the green shawl draped over it).  After looking at all the spring/summer themed decor that was still out, it seemed terribly out of place and so I was inspired to get out the fall decorations.  It's taken me days to get it out due to low energy levels.  

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The green and floral garland on the mantel was exchanged for an autumn leaf garland.  It is accented with my small collection of squirrel and chipmunk figurines.  For a focal point, I placed my Grandmother's painting over the mantle.  I'm not sure if it was painted by my Aunt Olive or my Grandmother as it is not signed.  It hung over my Grandmother's sofa for many years and her living room was all in tones of gold.  I love having the painting, which brings lovely memories with it and a seasonal change of color from my usual green and cream theme.  

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The copper is a perfect accent to the fall decor.  The hammered copper plate was made by my adopted Grandma, Florence Scheerer.  The copper kettle was my mother's.  Lovely warm accents for the autumn season.

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I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, so I don't put out much Halloween decor.  But I do have a very small collection of black cats and of course Mr. Crow, who still makes me smile every time I see him!  I also put out a black cat on the front porch railing and when the time comes, I'll carve pumpkins into glowing kitty faces! 

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On the old music cabinet, I put out an old set of bras candlesticks and a piece of carved soapstone that once belonged to my Grandparents and then my Dad.  

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On a side table, I've placed one of my Mom's bird pieces that I kept.  So many of my fall decorations bring lovely family remembrances.  

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In the kitchen, the shelf over the microwave got a s seasonal update with a stoneware jar, a couple of carved wooden butter molds and a couple of my Mom's faux pumpkins.  I hope to do more to the main shelves in the kitchen but haven't had the energy for that just yet.  

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Over the china cabinet in the dining room, I changed the spring themed painting out for a fall/wintry one.  This one by my Mom.  It's one that won ribbons in an art show.  I put out some of my mouse collection here as well.  

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A wider shot of the dining room in its autumn decor.  It's much simpler than last year.  I found that wall of paintings to be very overwhelming in my little house after a while, so went for clean and simple this year.  

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And looking from the opposite corner out.  This has to be one of my very favorite rooms in this house.  I only wish that our varied work schedules allowed all the family to gather around the big table a little more often.  

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On the table, I've used some pottery mushrooms I found a couple of years ago along with some sweet mouse candle holder that my sister got for me one year!  I've always loved mice and at one time, had quite a large collection of mouse figurines and other items with mice on them.  I even raised mice for a long time, and sold them to a local pet shop who loved them as they were all hand tamed and so made great pets as they didn't bite! 

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On the dining room wall, I changed the paintings to a trio of autumn themed paintings that I did several years ago.  I keep thinking I'm going to sell the sunflower paintings since they are in colors that I just don't use in my home, but then I end up bringing them out and using them at this time of year and am so glad that I've kept them! 

So many years I have spent wishing the seasons would not change, of not being ready, of wishing it was sooner or later in the year than it was.  But as time passes, I learn to be more content with the season as it is.  This year especially, I am grateful for the coming of autumn.  Spring and summer were so full and busy, and we accomplished so much.  But I am ready to move on, to see what this season will bring.  Thinking these thoughts brought to mind the words from Isaiah through the apostle Peter: 

 "All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass. 
The grass withers, 
and the flower falls, 
but the word of the Lord remains forever."
1 Peter 1:24

As the season changes, and I am weary and not feeling well, to read Isaiah 40, where these words originate, brings such encouragement and one of my favorite sections of scripture.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, 
the Creator of the ends of the earth. 
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. 
He gives power to the faint, 
and to him who has no might he increases strength. 
Even youths shall faint and be weary, 
and young men shall fall exhausted; 
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; 
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they run and not be weary; 
they shall walk and not faint. 
Isaiah 40: 28-31
  



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