Holly

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JCS 2018 Christmas ornament issue

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Categories: Christmas, sneak peeks

Yes, I realize it isn’t even July yet, but there’s a reason I’m thinking about Christmas ornaments.  The sneak peek of the Just Cross Stitch 2018 Christmas ornament issue was released, and I was thrilled to see I had made the front cover.  My ornament is the reindeer, center right on the cover.  My sister did a beautiful job with the finishing.  It’s a very special thing to be able to work with your sister in creative endeavors.

If I recall correctly, the issue comes out in August.  It’s something I look forward to every year.  When it’s delivered to my mailbox, I set it aside until I have some time to look through it.  I make it a special moment in the day; I make a cup of coffee, and read through all the stories and recipes.  If stitching smalls is your thing, it’s a great issue to have.  If you subscribe to the magazine, you automatically get this issue.  But even if you don’t subscribe, I believe it’s worth the money to purchase, especially if you find even a few ornaments you would like to stitch.  I’ve found some great recipes in the pages as well.

Even though I am more into the designing side of things, I am still a fan.  In other words, I still love looking at what’s out there, and just admiring all the talent and artistic abilities others possess.  I also find it refreshing to think of cooler days while I’m in the intense heat of summer, and reading Christmas memories and looking at Christmas stitches helps me to do so.

Hope you are having a lovely summer!

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Experimenting with a New Linen

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Categories: cross stitch

A few years ago, I came upon a post about a new line of linen, featured on a blog I visit which mostly revolves around embroidery.  I don’t embroider, but this woman makes me want to jump on the embroidery bandwagon in the most desperate way.  There is something about embroidery that is so beautifully elegant and tempts me to try my hand at it.  I haven’t succumbed yet, but the more I visit this blog, the closer I get to falling into the hole.  The blog is a very popular one – if you have not visited it, you should, as it is such an inspirational place.  The blog is Needle ‘N Thread by Mary Corbet.  It’s a great place to spend some time and learn some very interesting things (if you want to see a gorgeous stitch, look up “star stitch” while you’re there).

This is where I discovered Legacy Linen’s Provincial line.  I’ve shared before that Legacy linen is my absolute favorite linen to stitch on – it has such a sumptuous and rich feeling.  I was so intrigued after reading Mary Corbet’s post that I decided to order a few pieces.  I started with “Ivory Piano Key” and “Buttermilk Biscuit” (fun names).   Mary Corbet does such a great job of covering all the basics of this linen that I do not need to reinvent the wheel, but I can share with you some things I have observed in my stitching on this linen.  It is a 20-count linen, so there are 20 threads per inch.  I am stitching on mine over one, using two strands of DMC floss.  I’ve gotten too far along now, but realize I probably should have used three strands for better coverage.  You’ll be able to see this in my photograph.  I believe the “Provincial” title is very appropriate, as this linen just says “rustic” to me, so I designed a pattern for Christmas more in a homespun kind of flavor, with subdued colors and not the bright traditional colors of Christmas.

Here are (from top to bottom) Buttermilk Biscuit and Ivory Piano Key:

There are a good amount of slubs which you can definitely see in the above photograph, so you need to be aware of this, in case that kind of thing is bothersome to you.  Also, because the threads vary so much between fat and plump and slim, the linen seems to eat stitches.  I’m sure there are more technical terms I could be using but “eating stitches” seems to perfectly describe it to me.  I think it’s also called “disappearing stitches”, and because the threads in this linen seem to move around a lot more than others, I’ve had to fiddle with my stitches more than I usually do.  This is why I think it would be better, if you are using DMC, to use three strands to create more weight, or use something heavier like perle cotton.  So I’ve had to fiddle with the disappearing stitches a bit.  It’s a learning process, but I like the challenge of experimenting with new materials.  I took the Buttermilk Biscuit linen and put in some stitches using various threads.  First, I tried DMC Perle Cotton 815.  The first block is stitched over one, and the second block is stitched over 2.  Continuing down the fabric, I put in some stitches of DMC 902, three strands over one.  Then I finished with The Gentle Art Simply Wool (Ruby Slipper), one strand over one.  As you can see, this is a very fuzzy linen.

Just recently, I ordered three new colors:  Sea Water Black, Silver Pine Needle, and Crimson Caroline.  They are all stunning, especially the red one, because it is truly a traditional red.  I got out my DMC color card and tried to find which colors best matched the colors of the linen, but could get no true matches.  (Side note:  this always amazes me, as there are so many colors in the DMC line.)  I pulled a few samples and photographed them to give you a better idea of the linen color.  Here they are in order:  Silver Pine Needle, Crimson Caroline, and Sea Water Black.

Have you stitched on this linen?  If so, what are your thoughts about using it?

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January Releases

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Categories: cross stitch, new releases

I hope this post finds everyone well and enjoying the winter days of January.  Four new releases this month – perhaps you’ll find something new to stitch!

Bon Appétit

Stitched on 40-count white linen using DMC threads, this is a nod to kitchen retro.  The stitch count is 69 x 82, with a finished (stitched) size of about 4-1/4″ x 3-1/4″.  As always, don’t let the 40-count intimidate you.  If you don’t enjoy stitching on it, choose another count.  You can use a cross stitch calculator to figure out the size of the piece on a different count linen.  My sister Val finished it as a flat-fold and I believe she got the little charms from that big box store which exists in about every town in America now.  I am in love with the fabric she chose (which came from the fabric big box store).

Next up … Friendship …

This piece was stitched on 32-count Zweigart linen (Lambswool), using DMC threads, with a stitch count of 98 x 158.  The infinity sign at the bottom could possibly be enlarged and personalized inside with your and your friend’s initials.  I know there are free alphabet charts online.  Just an idea for you.  I wanted to keep it generic for the model.  Stitch count on this one is 98 x 158.

Snowflake … I’ve seen enough of these around here this week!

This one was stitched on 32-count Zweigart linen (Dark Cobblestone) using DMC threads.  This linen is a beautiful color … not sure why it didn’t catch my eye before.  Stitch count is 117 x 82.

And rounding out the grouping is Tiny Shamrock Sampler.

Val finished it as an ornament – since it was stitched on 40-count linen, it was small enough to do so.  Stitch count is 83 x 73, the linen is Lakeside Linen (Flagstone), and it was stitched with Classic Colorworks silk floss.  This is the third of my tiny samplers, the first two being Tiny Daffodil Sampler and Tiny Pansy Sampler.  You can check out the gallery of my website to see them – they were released a year or so ago.  I do have three other tiny samplers already designed, waiting to be stitched.

I did make a note on the chart about this, but since this piece is stitched (for the most part) with variegated silks, a DMC conversion was a little tricky.  I found comparable alternatives except for the pot of gold.  The silk used was “Enchanted Forest” and there is no DMC alternative.  I noted on the chart that since it’s a very deep dark green, you could use black (310), or if you wanted a lighter look, you could opt for DMC 3371.

Happy stitching!

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Stitching and Cookies, Week 3

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Categories: Christmas, cooking, cross stitch

This week I worked exclusively on my “Evergreen” piece.  It’s what called to me, so I listened, and stitched on it when I had time.  I finished the polar bear square and started/finished the fox square.  This fox is just way too cute.  He (she?) was a fun stitch.

Cookie recipe for this week … Rolo cookies.  What looks like an unassuming chocolate cookie has a surprise inside.  After making the dough, you wrap it around a Rolo candy.  The candy then melts inside as it bakes, which gives you a delicious bite of caramel and extra chocolate when you bite into it.  I drizzled mine with white chocolate for the wow factor.  Since you dip them in sugar before baking, you don’t have to do that, but you might want to use a sugar which has larger crystals (I think it’s called coarse/decorating sugar) so the tops sparkle a bit.  Oh, and you have to exhibit quite a bit of willpower, as you need to unwrap each Rolo candy before making the cookies.  If you sample too many, you will have to make your cookies without the candies inside.

ROLO COOKIES

2-1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter, softened

2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

Bag of Rolo candies  (product sizes have changed so much over the years, just get a large bag)

2 tbsp. sugar, in small bowl

Heat oven to 375.  Cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Measure flour, cocoa and baking soda into a bowl; blend well.  Add flour mixture; beat well.  For each cookie, with floured hands, shape about 1 tablespoonful of dough around 1 candy, covering completely.  Press one side of each ball into sugar.  Place, sugar side up, 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 7-10 minutes or until set and slightly cracked.  Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets.  Cool completely on wire rack.

*If you want to drizzle white chocolate over your cookies, I find that the white chocolate bars melt best.  Four ounces is just enough to cover all the cookies.  Put a sandwich bag in a tall glass, and pull the top of the bag over the edge of the glass.  Fill bag, take out of glass, and make a small cut in the corner of the bag.  Easy way to drizzle without getting out the pastry bag.

And to balance out all that cookie eating, I made spinach soup last night for dinner.  I realize for most, this will cause you to make a face, but realize this is coming from the girl who, when asked to draw her favorite food by her second grade teacher, drew spinach.  Here’s a picture of it, since it just looks so festive.  I won’t include the recipe, as something tells me there will not be great demand for it, but if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll make sure you have it.  Honestly, it was very delicious!

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Stitching and Cookies, Week 2

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Categories: Christmas, cooking, cross stitch

Not much to report here today, as this past week was the busiest December week yet.  Between concerts, rehearsals, and holiday gatherings, I hardly had a chance to stitch.  And unfortunately, what I was able to do ended up being stitches I’ll have to frog.  Somehow I made a mistake in my little Scandinavian tree, so I’ll have to do some ripping.  That didn’t sound very appealing, so I put it aside and worked on my “Woolly Winter Wall Hanging”.  This is not the best picture, as I was not going to drag out my still life studio box just to take one photo.  The snowman is almost finished and a tree has appeared.  I don’t like the arms, they’re kind of weird.  I only stitched one arm, but I am going to take out those stitches and make the arms more simplistic.

Woolly Winter Wall Hanging

And that about wraps up my stitching progress.

Moving on to cookies …

chocolate spritz cookies

CHOCOLATE SPRITZ COOKIES

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg

2 cups flour

2 tbsp. milk

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Powdered sugar for dusting

Heat oven to 375.  In large bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg; beat well.  Alternately add flour and milk to butter mixture, mixing until well combined.  Add cooled chocolate; blend well.  Fit cookie press with desired template.  Fill press with dough; press onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 375 for 5-7 minutes or until edges are light brown.  Immediately remove from cookie sheets; cool slightly.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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Christmas Crafting

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Categories: Christmas, crafts

When you look back at all your childhood Christmas memories, which ones stand out the most?  I was thinking of this the other day, and honestly, some of my strongest and most special memories all involve creativity and things handmade.  Maybe not necessarily the things themselves, but the time it took to make them, and the time spent with a loved one to make them.  I’m missing my mother something fierce this Christmas season, and I would say it’s because so many of my memories are wrapped up in her.  She made Christmas special for me, through the little things she did, the creativity she expressed, and the time she spent in doing so.  Some things were very simple, but memorable in their simplicity.  I remember one year she drew a large Santa face on a piece of construction paper.  As sisters, we took turns gluing cotton balls to the picture to make his beard, as a way of counting down the days until Christmas.  We made paper chains to do the same thing.  Times making homemade ornaments for the tree, and times making cookies … although I know we tried her patience doing it – it was obvious by the end, as it took us forever to decorate each tray of cookies, and how she just started throwing colored sugars all over them … that is a funny memory.  (Talk about creativity … how many of you can say you decorated a Christmas tree with Fisher Price people?  Or dogs … he’s the tree topper.)

making cookies

I enjoy crafting decorations at Christmastime.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy store-bought things, but there is a certain satisfaction in looking around the house, and saying to myself that I made this, I made that.  And if I had to be honest, the perfect Christmas tree for me would be one cut from a wooded area nearby, decorated with handmade garlands, handmade ornaments, strings of popcorn, and a string of those large colored Christmas bulbs they used to make … someday, when I’m living in the little log cabin of my dreams.

This year, I decided to make some garlands just for the sheer enjoyment of it.  For some reason, I really enjoy making garlands.  I was on a garland kick a few years ago and made quite a few of them.  The fun thing about garlands is you can use most anything, even common things on hand, such as buttons, fabric, candy, etc.  You are only limited by your imagination.  Since my imagination is quite extensive, I could go crazy making garlands.

Sparkly things are nice at Christmas.  For my first garland project this year, I was envisioning shimmery tinsel and beads.  I took a trip to a crafts store and picked up some silvery pipe cleaners and frosty-colored beads.  This project could work with any kind of combination.  If you wanted a more country look, you could use cream-colored pipe cleaners, or just traditional green or red.  You could use buttons or beads … just make sure the hole of the bead is large enough to be strung through the pipe cleaner.  Oh, and be sure to open the bead box over a container, or your beads will end up bouncing all over the floor …

sparkly things

sparkly things

String on your beads and then twist the pipe cleaners together, connecting them in a paper chain-like fashion until you are satisfied with the length.  I used 100 pipe cleaners and ended up with two garlands, each about ten feet long.  I took them outside to pose them for pictures.  I strung one around a cedar tree in honor of Mom … her family always had cedar trees as their Christmas tree when she was a child.

Christmas garland

Christmas garland

I also made some traditional paper chains, but with a twist.  On my trip to the crafts store, I perused their scrapbooking papers.  I didn’t quite find what I wanted – I was looking for some vintage Christmas papers, or even a book that had a collection of Christmas-themed papers.  I did find red, green and cream dotted papers which I thought would work well – they are more like cardstock.  To make the papers a bit more special, I used my paper cutter with the wavy attachment.  You could also use those specialty scissors which have various edges on them to produce different cuts.  Use our old friend Elmer’s to join them, and you have a beautiful paper chain for hanging on your tree, or anywhere you need a bit of color.

garland materials

paper chains

paper chain

Garlands don’t have to be hung in traditional ways.  I gathered the sparkly one and hung it from a calendar hook in the kitchen, just to see what it would look like.  You could take down a framed picture somewhere in your house and hang a garland from the nail.  Add a bow to cover the nail so it looks more festive.

hanging garland

Last year, I made pomanders to fill a wooden dough bowl I have.  Here they are, from last year, looking fresh and brand new.

pomanders

Just for fun, I kept two and put them in the cabinet with my china dishes.  Amazingly, they still smell just as strongly of cloves, and the oranges are hard now, like they’ve been completely preserved.  The strange things I do … here’s a picture of what they look like, a year later.

pomanders

Make some time this Christmas to be crafty.  Creativity is good for the soul, and I truly do believe the best decorations are handmade.  I think this year’s efforts would have received Mom’s stamp of approval.

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Stitching and Cookies, Week 1

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Categories: Christmas, cooking, cross stitch

Holly’s Law says when you don’t put pressure on yourself to get a finish, you’ll get a finish.  (If you want to get up to speed on what I’m working on and why, click here.)  During my stitching time, I mostly worked on Brittercup Design’s “Mine!”  Here it is … so cute.

Mine!

I also put some stitches in on “Scandinavian Tree” by Scandinavian Stitches.

Scandinavian Tree

In the cookie department, I baked a batch of spice cookies.  I’ve been making these for almost twenty years … they are the perfect autumn/winter cookie, because of the molasses and fragrant spices.  They won’t be the most attention-getting cookies on your Christmas tray, but they are delicious and very addictive.

spice cookies

SPICE COOKIES

1-1/2 cups butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

4 cups flour

4 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. each ground ginger and cloves

1 tsp. salt

Additional sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add molasses; mix well.  Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well.  Chill overnight.

Shape into 1/2-in. balls; roll in sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 375 for 6 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Yield:  about 20 dozen cookies.

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Trunk Show

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Categories: cross stitch

If you find yourself in the area of Metuchen, New Jersey, please check out my trunk show at the shop Needleworker’s Delight.  It’s definitely worth a trip, even if you don’t live near the area.  The shop is large, but somehow the owners have managed to create a very cozy atmosphere.

Here are some pictures to share …

trunk show

trunk show

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Christmas Stitching

5 comments

Categories: Christmas, cross stitch

The holidays are now upon us.  Since it seems I’m always stitching Christmas-y things during wonky times of the year (like spring), I decided for the month of December to focus mostly on Christmas stitching.  Something normal people do, but I haven’t done in years.  It’s not as if I don’t have joy in stitching my own models because I do, but I wanted to slow things down a bit, and lessen the pressure I seem to put upon myself every December.  I’ve decided to scale back in other ways as well this month, which was a necessary step for me, since this has been a year of great loss.  I wanted to find the joy of the season in simpler and different ways, and one of the ways I am choosing to do that is to set aside some time for some personal Christmas stitching.  I had so much fun the other night, choosing projects I wanted to stitch from magazines and old leaflets.  I chose colors and fabrics and took pictures so you could share in my progress.  My only goal is to post every Tuesday in December so you can see what I’ve been doing.  I have no stitching plan, I will just stitch what calls to me, when I want to stitch it – no rotations or deadlines.  Remember, this is no pressure stitching.  I may or may not have any finishes to show you come the end of the month, but that’s okay.  This is not about finishing – this is about the joy in the journey.

Here are the pieces I decided to work on in December.

“Holly” by Lori Brechlin at Notforgotten Farm … I had started her 2-3 years ago.  It’s kind of a given to stitch a piece when you share the same name.  Here is my progress so far …

Notforgotten Farm Holly

“Evergreen” by Prairie Schooler … again, I had started this about two years ago.  I think the animals in this one are so sweet.  And that fox with the berries in his mouth?  Doesn’t he look mischievous?  I may change the berries to white since, to me, it looks like he’s planning to trick a lady fox into a mistletoe kiss.

Prairie Schooler Evergreen

This next one is kind of embarrassing.  It has only been a work in progress for, let’s see … maybe 25 years?  It’s from a supplemental leaflet I must have gotten when I subscribed to the magazine For the Love of Cross Stitch.  The official title is “Merry Christmas Trio” and it was designed by Polly Carbonari.  The edges are yellow because, yes indeed, I did have masking tape around them.  That’s what I used to do – isn’t that terrible?  The things I did before I knew better … I found this piece in my cross stitch trunk of goodies and since the only thing I have left to do is backstitch the windows, I may get a finish on this one.  (I just realized one of the trees is missing a trunk.)  I still love it, even though I stitched it years ago.  I think the pattern calls for everything to get backstitched, but that’s not going to happen.  I don’t even think it’s necessary – the windows need a little definition, so they’ll get it, and then I can call it done.  Better late than never.

Merry Christmas Trio

The next one … another oldie but goodie.  From the Snow Folio by Shepherd’s Bush, “Woolly Winter Wallhanging”.  This one is from 1995.  I bought it in 1996, started it then, and put it away.  Twenty-one years later and here we are.  I am stitching it on Aida cloth, which is all I used to stitch on in the beginning.  (Why were we all afraid of linen?)  I have a few stitches in, but this chart is not a large one, so it should go quickly.

Shepherd's Bush Snow Folio

The next four are all new starts, and all ornaments.  The first two are from Brittercup Designs.  I love many patterns from this company.  The first one is called “Mine!” and it’s from the 2010 Christmas ornament preview issue of Just Cross Stitch.

Brittercup Designs Mine

The next Brittercup Design is called “Consumed by Gifts” and it came out of the 2010 Christmas ornament issue of Just Cross Stitch.

Brittercup Designs Consumed by Gifts

Not a traditional ornament in any sense, but I absolutely love it – “Cool Christmas” from Fresh Threads Studio.  This one was also in the 2010 Christmas ornament preview issue of Just Cross Stitch.

Fresh Threads Studio Cool Christmas

And for my last project, a small little tree, called “Scandinavian Tree” by the company Scandinavian Stitches.  This pattern was chosen from the 2013 Just Cross Stitch Christmas ornament issue.

Scandinavian Stitches Scandinavian Tree

I also decided to include cookie recipes and pictures with my stitching progress pictures.  Because eating cookies and stitching go so well together, right?  I wasn’t sure if I was going to do as much baking this year as I usually do, but when your brother specially requests certain cookies from you, hugs you and looks at you with that sweet face you can clearly remember from when he was a little boy, well – you have to give in to doing some baking.  I’ll share some of my favorite cookie recipes with you.  And I can promise finishes on the cookies!  But if you want a taste, you’ll have to swing by for a visit.

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