Archive for the ‘embroidery’ Category

Today one of the books I’ve been editing, Redwork from The WORKBASKET, went to production, another step closer to being published, although the book doesn’t come out until next spring.

I’ve had a special place in my heart for this book, by contributing editor Rebecca Kemp Brent, from the start. Although it’s really a machine embroidery book, the designs are taken directly from vintage embroidery transfers from The WORKBASKET, a great old magazine I remember my mother getting back in the 60s. Twenty years later, I started buying vintage copies in antique malls for the wonderful crochet and tatting patterns. I won a lot of ribbons making projects from old WORKBASKETs.

A little over a year ago I learned that Krause Publications, an imprint of the company I work for, F+W Media, actually owns The WORKBASKET. That means we have all that content at our disposal, including those fabulous embroidery transfers.

The designs were redrawn directly from the original transfers and digitized for machine embroidery. Since I’ve always been into hand embroidery (well, nearly always – I started doing needlework regularly when I was about twelve), the part about this project that excites me is that all 100 vintage designs are in JPEG and PDF formats on the disk that comes with the book. That means anyone who’s as crazy about embroidery as me can print these designs right off the disk and create a fresh embroidery transfer.

I did the hand embroidery samples for the book, which was fun. I stitched a redwork horse head, which is an unbelievable design, on a dishtowel and two pillowcases with morning glory designs in hand-dyed and variegated thread. Rebecca has some wonderful projects in the book, but since I don’t do machine sewing either, I won’t be attempting the bed quilt very soon. But my fingers literally itch to tackle more of those embroidery patterns!


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Geez, what a month March has been! First, I’m going to be whiney about how many hours I’ve been putting in at work. And the sorry part of it is, I felt as if I wasn’t seeing any results all those nights I stayed until 7 o’clock or later, or those weekends I brought work home. I have to start cutting back because it really is all having a counterproductive effect on me. I’m worn out, in a state that’s comparable to being drunk (without the booze or the fun).

Not that it’s been great for others in the family. My mother had surgery last week. Thankfully, she’s doing okay now, although she’s still cautious about what she does and how long she does it. Tonight I took a Dewey’s pizza to her house for dinner — she ate half an 11″ pie, the most she’s eaten at one time in over a week — and we took a short ride. She doesn’t think she’ll be up to lunch out this Saturday, but we’re hoping she’ll feel like going for our weekly soda at the Loveland creamy whip.

Poor Diamondqueen. The big blizzard of 2008 struck the day before her birthday and wiped out most of our celebration plans. She and S.Hooligan and Mom did make it out for brunch that Friday, getting home just as the first snowflakes were falling. Mom had to cancel the Servatti’s cake she’d ordered — how sad is that? — but Diamondqueen had the good sense to go pick up a cake over the counter before the snow hit. She and the family weathered the storm with a chocolate sheet cake decorated for St. Patrick’s Day with walloping dollops of frosting. Diamondqueen was able to make it to Mom’s for lunch and gifts the day after her birthday, on Sunday, and we took her out for her big lunch the following weekend. But there’s just something about getting snowed in on your birthday, and by an actual blizzard at that…

Last week, the same night Mom spent in the hospital, with Diamondqueen doing all the waiting room duty plus running to Mom’s to let Rusty out and feed him, the mammoth rainstorm was moving through. I worked until 9:30 that night (Mom doesn’t like visitors when she isn’t feeling well, but I still resented not getting to stop by to see her) and drove home in the deluge, nearly turning my car over when I cut too close to a traffic island. It felt as if I was doing a Dukes of Hazzard two-wheel stunt, although I probably just bumped hard. Diamondqueen drove home from the hospital in that rain as well — and faced having to cope with a flooded basement. She and That Poor Man got up and down all night when the water alarm went off, running the dry vac and soaking up water with towels which Diamondqueen would then toss in the dryer to get them ready for the next skirmish.

When Diamondqueen first arrived home from the hospital, exhausted from the medical ordeals with our mother and confronted with the watery disaster in the basement, she sat down on the futon in the family room and sobbed. J.Hooligan approached her with huge eyes and asked, “What’s the matter? Did Grandma die?” It’s been hard for everyone.

And yet, amidst blizzards and floods and medical procedures and ruined birthdays, spring arrived. I’m sure something nasty and surprising still lies ahead weather-wise, but for now it’s warm out and the daffodils are starting to bloom. We didn’t even have crocuses popping up through the snow this year, so the sight of life and color erupting here and here and here is very hopeful. Especially after the kind of winter we’ve had this year.

And Opening Day for the Reds is Monday! Signs of spring indeed…

Note: The flowers above are a detail from an Easter embroidery I did a year ago. Oh, yeah — we had Easter, didn’t we…

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I was surprised when I found out that everyone doesn’t celebrate The Feast of St. Nicholas. It was common in our neighborhood, with the Catholic kids especially. My mother didn’t know about St. Nicholas until later in childhood when a neighbor introduced her to the holiday (she’s got a great post about that here). I’m glad it all made an impression on her so her children could enjoy the tradition as well.

Both of my parents had always gotten their gifts on Christmas Eve instead of on Christmas morning when they were children, and so our Christmases were celebrated the same way. We kids were fine with that; it was all we knew. To do it the “traditional” way of waking up on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought would have seemed unnatural to us.

That, though, was another reason to relish St. Nicholas Day. It was our opportunity to hang up our stockings and go to sleep excited at the prospect of what morning would bring.

We never had a fireplace, so some of our methods of “hanging” our stockings were inventive. The one I remember as most common was slinging the loop of the stocking over the nail that held the tiebacks to the window curtains. This worked well because it kept the stockings away from the family dog. However, on one of our early St. Nick mornings in East End, we found out that other creatures had been stirring. When one of us pulled a Nestle’s Crunch Bar out of our stocking, Mom and Grandma immediately noticed the foil wrapper had been torn away at the corner.

“Looks like St. Nick tried to eat this one himself,” they said, taking the candy bar away. At the time I didn’t understand that a mouse must have gotten into the stocking (or into the candy before it was distributed to our stockings). I thought it was pretty cheeky of St. Nick to be sampling our Nestle’s Crunch Bars (although I was very grateful to him for the magnet set he’d left me).

Sometime in the 1950s, Grandma Martha bought a cardboard fireplace and mantel. It was made of corrugated cardboard printed with red bricks, and on the chimney there was a Santa face with clock hands attached to his nose. The “fire” was cardboard flames with cutouts covered with red tissue paper. There was a contraption behind the flames consisting of a Christmas tree light bulb and a small tin propeller. The idea was the heat from the bulb would make the propeller spin, and that in turn would cause fluctuations in the light that would make the flames appear to be dancing. It didn’t work at all, but I didn’t care. That was the only “fireplace” we had in the East End house. When Grandma moved to her big gray house in Oakley, which did have a fireplace and a mantle, she passed the cardboard fireplace to us.

I know we used it at least one year, set up in the living room of our Oakley home (which also did not have a real fireplace, much to my exasperation; many of the houses on our street did have them). That year I finally got to hang my stocking up on St. Nicholas Eve on a real fireplace, or as close as I had ever come. Of course, our stockings were so heavy they pulled out the pin or thumbtack that held them to the cardboard mantel, so we came downstairs to discover our bulging stockings lying on their sides on the mantel. (That was the year I got an assortment of ten cent knickknacks from Woolworth’s, which didn’t help.)

The cardboard fireplace didn’t hold together well, and I don’t remember us putting it up much after that first year, if at all. Mom probably got tired of it and put it out for the trash one day. By then it was a stretch to imagine the fireplace was real anyhow.

I live in an apartment now, and I actually made myself a fake mantel out of an unpainted shelf, two supports I nailed together out of standard cut wood from the hardware store, and some old architectural details I’d bought on a whim. I really enjoy my little “fireplace.” I don’t even try to pretend its real; I simply decorate it for each season and enjoy the illusion.

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Note: The hanging pictured at the top of this post is from a design by Kindred Spirits. It combines rug hooking and wool crazy quilt section. As with all my projects, I didn’t plan this out ahead of time. Consequently, I kept running short of red and had to keep ripping sections out and working in other strips of wool in various degrees of red. It came out okay in the end. The hooked Santa now hangs over my mother’s piano each Christmas season.

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