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Thread and Stitch Extravaganza!

On Thursday, I got a double set of goodies! The first was a order of new embroidery flosses I'd been waiting on for a while--the items were back-ordered, so I had to wait, wondering just whether the colors would work well together. I'm pleased to say, they do!

Here is a shot of the full range of thread I plan to use. In the top row, I have spangles, gold thread, rolls of Gild Sylke Twist and one roll of Soie Gobelins. On the bottom row, it's all Soie Perlee, which will be my primary silk for color work.  Needless to say, I need to get more gold thread (my recent effort making a priest's ordination stole pretty much sucked up two rolls of the stuff). By the way, I'm still working with color choices for the blues and lavenders--I am going to draw from the colors I have, but I'm not sure I'm going to use all of them.

The threads variously came from Hedgehog Handworks, Needle in a Haystack (who also supplied me with the linen) and Thistle Threads. These are all outstanding embroidery suppliers--I recommend them highly.

There's a thing about my choice of threads. For the colorwork, I'm using Au Ver a Soie's line "Soie Perlee." This is the thread used in the Plimoth Plantation Jacket Project  (i.e., my inspiration) --and it's got a super shiny luster--and is tightly spun, rather like a thin pearl cotton thread. However, it isn't the most commonly used product Au Ver a Soie sells--it's got a limited color range--and color cards are not available. Moreover, the local needlework stores (unfortunately, slaves to cross stitch and needle point customers) don't stock it. But--on the other hand, the silk thread lines available locally weren't filament silk (cheaper silk threads are made from chopped up fibers, which are far less shiny) and they also didn't have that nice tightly spun quality which makes detached stitches far easier.

So I took a shot in the barrel and ordered Soie Perlee. I think I'm a good gambler! The colors work together--and resemble the colors of the period.

My other goodie is Jane Zimmerman's "The Art of the Elizabethan Embroiderer!" A needlework friend recommended it to me--and while it took a while to receive it (Jane self publishes this)--it's fantastic! Jane has been fortunate to inspect several Elizabethan jackets and scrutinize their stitches. In this slim volume, she's documented a bunch of different variation filling stitches besides the standard detached buttonhole stitch. Squee! New stitches! I was so excited, I brought it to work Friday and read it over my lunch!

This weekend has not witnessed much stitching. I am expecting the onslaught of a month of houseguests, starting with my friend Joanna, who returns on Monday to DC to do initial research for her dissertation. Tomorrow is graduation day for several in my EFM group. So, my focus has been cleaning. However,  I am finding it rather tough to avoid spending a little time stitching....I've got a new lamp on the project and it's working much better, though the new stitches are challenging my innate lack of direction!


A Little Background About My Coif Project

What's Done So Far 5/10/10A background on this project...About a year ago I spent a weekend stitching on the Plimoth Plantation jacket project. Since I came in at the end of the project, most of the embroidery was complete, so I split my time between sewing on spangles and stitching in tendrils with gold passing thread. However, in preparation, I'd worked on the sampler project required for participation. It seemed deceptively simple--little shapes in detatched buttonhole stitch. I managed to complete and submit my sampler, but I hadn't been happy with the results.

Since then, I've practiced in a desultory manner--but slowly my skills have improved. A week before going on vacation last month, I realized a kit project I'd ordered wasn't going to be ready before I left. So, I decided to take the plunge and come up with my own project.

Initially, I attempted to scale up a design of an original (child's sized) coif--but I discovered that the repeats weren't nearly as regular as I thought they were! When I tried to add on new repeats, the design became a mess, so I scrapped that idea.

Then I came up with the idea of designing my own, much as drafters had done so in the era. They  adapted desired elements out of common motifs, usually onto a circular vine pattern. So, I started taking out jam jars to trace out circular vines and played around with motifs.

My design is mostly based off motifs in the 1608 Trevelyon Miscellany at the Folger Shakespeare Library. It's an original pattern book of embroidery designs from the Tudor period--and many of the designs in it are commonly seen in Tudor embroidered objects, especially jackets, coifs and cushion covers.  I'd seen the original book on display a couple of years ago when we'd gone to see a play at the Folger, so I returned to study the designs out of a facsimile edition the Library kept for public reference. 

To be honest, this is a big challenge for me. Those motifs are small, but they sure take a lot of time to stitch (though when I do it, I barely notice the clock)! As you can see, I've got a lot of work to do. I'm hoping that by journalling this, I'll keep a record for my own reference--a record not just for recalling the decisions and challenges I faced, but also to pull myself back to working on it once other projects seem more appealing. I figure to make my posts public--maybe it will inspire others to try it, too (if you do, friend me so I can get inspired back!

One thing I'm learning--I stitch much better by natural light. So, I have my little setup put by the sliding glass doors to the deck--it may not be south facing, but it's the best light in the house. It's a nice thing to do before heading out to work.

I held off posting this for two days due to difficulty posting the photo...it took me that long to realize LJ doesnt like bitmaps.


One Thing I've Been Up To

I haven't posted here forever, but some friends are asking what projects I'm working on. So, here is a glimpse at one thing...

I spent most of the spring working on a minister's stole (commission). After, I knew I needed another embroidery project. So, I got two. This one takes inspiration  from the Jacket Project (no, it's part of a coif, not a jacket--I may be insane, but not that insane). The other is my level one Japanese embroidery project. These are things that make me happy. :)


This is a quick post because I'm speeding off to a meeting (I'm delegate for my church to the VA episcopal annual council)...

What can I say--I hit a wall earlier this week. I started feeling a bit tired Monday, but by Tuesday, I could only manage to get to work and get to sleep. Probably a passing virus--I was able to hold work together thanks to modern medicine, but I didn't sew those days. That said, I have managed to take on the breeches (described previously) and the waistcoat of doom. Here are some quick cell phone photos of my efforts:


I'm particularly happy about the waistcoat. The wool on it is handspun and handwoven--so of course, it's hand sewn. Actually, the breeches are fully handstitched as well, since I restitched the entire thing when I modified them. With DH's home stitched shirt (sadly, a little scarred by black powder burns), he has a nice start to a farmer's outfit. Maybe I'll make him a jacket--but I think I'll let him earn that (I have too many UFOs to finish, anyhow)!

By the way, since I'm up posting piccies, here is a shot I took a week and a half ago of the inside of the child's stays I'm sewing. This was taken after I whittled out stays from oak staves (I felt crafty with that!) but before I'd tacked back the seams. It's a cool inside shot, since it captures a lot of the techniques that are unique to hand made stays (sorry guys--I'm a convert--cookie cutter patterns just don't cut it anymore).

Finally, for the heck of it, photos of my friend Amy's blizzard baby, from a week ago (aww....)

Ok, gotta get dressed and ready for today's meeting. I'm going to bag up the "Neverending Kirtle"--I think, my last large handstitching project. It will give me something to work on through today's long meeting...


My first Olympic Day

I posted a diary entry of today's effort towards my Olympic Challenge here. If you feel like boosting productivity during the Olympics--join in and share what you do!

May The Games Begin!

Two years ago, knitting writer Stephanie Pearl McPhee came up with the concept of the Knitting Olympics on her blog the Yarn Harlot. The idea was simple...Start a project during the opening ceremonies and finish it by the closing ceremonies. In 2008, I knit fast and furiously and made a tank top. This year, the Knitting Olympics returns, but while pawing through my yarn stash last night, I realized I'm just I'm not that into knitting.

I want to sew.

Then I realized...the Olympics are for all sports!

How about a Sewing Olympics? It's a fun, non-competitive way for us to take on new challenges--and to try to see them to completion. The Yarn Harlot's concept is that we document our project, challenges and foibles on our blogs (I suppose this might get me back to writing on my Live Journal). I've set up a Live Journal Community (SewOlympics2010) for anyone crazy enough to get involved to showcase their efforts.

So, here's my proposed adaptation of the Yarn Harlot's knitting rules to sewing:

The 2010 Sewing Olympics

Eligibility: Any sewer who, embracing the "Citius, Alitius Fortius" ideal, would like to challenge themselves while embracing the Olympic spirit, and is just whacked enough to play along with me. Hand-sewing, machine sewing, embroidery, beadwork, quilting, and any other construction technique using needle and thread counts--just sew! After all, there are multiple events for each sport, right?

Concept: You must initiate a project during the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, Friday, February 12, 2010 (or within the time period of the games) and finish before the Olympic flame goes out Sunday, February 28. That's 17 days. Blog it and let us know what you are up to. Re-post highlights (or links to entries) here.

1. The project must be a challenge for you to complete in 17 days.
2. There are no rules about what a challenge would be. Like the real Olympics, there are many areas to compete in. If you are a new sewer, something simple is great...If you are experienced, use your own conscience. I would also propose a "decathlon" event for anyone crazy enough to attempt multiple projects.
3. While this is intended to be somewhat difficult (like the Olympics) it is not intended to ruin your life. Don't set yourself up for failure. (Olympic athletes may cry, but they do not whine pitifully, sob and threaten members of their family with scissors because they haven't slept in five days. ) This is intended to (like the Olympics) require some measure of sacrifice, and be difficult, but it should be possible to attain.
4. No starting up before the flame is lit. 
5. Finish before the flame goes out.
6. You may drape and test fit before the games. ("training.") (sorry--not much time for that).

The Sewing Olympics has only a gold medal. (There is only do- or do not.) Finishers get a gold medal button for their blog (anyone want to design a medal?) and the joy of knowing that they are an Olympic level sewer, no matter how experienced they are. You are only competing against yourself. (Well. And the Olympic schedule.)

Who's in?
If you're just crazy enough itching to be part of the Sewing Olympics, consider carefully. Done right, this will suck up 17 days of your life and could become an epic enterprise.

17 days, multiple sewers, one dream. The Sewing Olympics.

Good luck.

An Update on David's Cats

I wanted to update everyone...

This morning we went in to the vet and finally figured out Scout's problem: he had feline leukemia. There were options for prolonging his life, but in the mind of the veterinarian, Scout was in great pain and at the point of starvation. So, we decided to put him to sleep. Scout died peacefully in our arms.

Meanwhile, Pilot (the older cat with one eye) is on the mend. His appetite is improving and he is responding to his antibiotic shot. We are very encouraged for him. By the way, the vet does not think Pilot's illness is connected to Scout--the signs are different and appear to be virally caused.

As for Scout's FLV, we believe he caught it as a kitten and it had been dormant ever since (he had been fully vaccinated for it over the whole time he'd been kept domestically). As a precaution, we had the two remaining cats tested--both Pilot and Snuggy are negative and are vaccinated. So, there is no danger to them.

Scout will be cremated and at Kathy's request, the ashes will be laid to rest in Dave's garden. That was Dave's wish, it's a place Scout loved, so that's really appropriate.

Thanks to everyone for the kind wishes. We've been truly touched by the kindness and concern. We miss Scout, but feel happy that we kept him happy for as long as we could.

Mary and Rick

Troubling Times for the Kitties

I haven't been posting here for a long while, but thought I'd drop a post, since many of David Malinak's old friends are online here. As many of you know, we adopted David's two cats Pilot and Scout after his passing. Once they resolved initial conflicts with our other cat, they settled in well. All appeared fine.

However, we'd noticed that Scout was acting slightly listless and thin of late. As it was time for his annual veterinarian appointment, we took him in a little over a week ago, along with the then healthy appearing Pilot. Because of our concern, we had the vet take a blood test. Those results showed a very high anemia score, but no other indications. The likely cause for this is either a parasite or cancer. The former is preferable, since it is treatable. Cancer may be harder to treat. We have started administering steroids and Doxycycline--a course that is prophylactic for either. Scout is not eating much, moves little, spending his days crouched in a corner, but there are signs that he is starting to respond to the steroids.

Monday, we noticed Pilot (the older cat) was behaving differently, lacking energy and having difficulty walking. Pretty soon, he quickly lost all energy and stopped most eating. We took him in to the vet, where he had an elevated temperature. His bloodwork only showed elevated protein levels.

Based on this, we are concerned that both animals might have a shared condition, although the indications are different. With both sick, there is concern they might have feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which can vary in symptoms, is largely untreatable, contagious and fatal. The vet ordered a titer for that disease this morning off Pilot's bloodwork. We are crossing our fingers that this is not the case.

We have isolated the sick cats, to protect them from sharing any further infection and to protect the one cat that remains well. We are trying our best to help them recover and trying to keep them comfortable. While these cats have only lived with us for a little over a year, they've become family--and are very dear to us. However, I wanted to share this news because I know that, though cats, they have touched many lives--and been meaningful in the ways that they comforted David in his darkest hours..

Mary and Rick

Iwagumi Indoors

Well, I'm in recovery from an insane month and a half. The fiscal year has changed. I got off work today at 5 pm for the first time in 9 weeks...

Last weekend, when rain, clammy coldness and the swine flu stood in the way of getting off to the Renaissance Festival, I headed to a local aquatic plant club (GWAPA) meeting. The funny thing--this started as DH's hobby--but slowly I've got engaged in it. I was truly inspired several years ago when DH organized a big convention for the hobby and I got to meet--and watch--legendary aquascaper/photographer Takashi Amano in action making an aquascape (and apparently his staff liked me too--photos of me appeared several times in his Japanese aquarium magazine <G>).
Amano's approach is drawn from the art of Japanese garden design--iwagumi. Since then, I've immersed myself in practically every Japanese gardening book I could find--and while I don't really understand the cultural/philosophical context (lots of Confucianism mumbo jumbo mixed in with deliberately esoteric Japanese philosophy references)--I have managed a rudimentary understanding of three rock design.

It involves a "father" rock, a "mother" rock and a "baby" rock, selected and positioned in an asymmetrical manner. To keep it balanced, elements are structured using a golden triangle--though in a garden, the effort is to bring this arrangement from multiple (360 degrees) viewing perspectives. It's challenging.

That's why a little tank (a "nano") is good for me. I'm just not ready for five rocks (n.b., there is never four rocks, God forbid...).
Despite my learning difficulties, I love making and viewing beautiful miniature landscapes. Interestingly, the Amano approach has not appealed as much to DH--but he loves that I dabble in it.

A year and a half ago, I bought a fancy 5 gallon rimless tank from Japan, along with what is considered a high-tech approach to growing underwater plants: a C02 system, a very good filter, a high powered light and lots of chemicals. By the way--before the fertilizers make folks squeamish, bear in mind one thing: there is no runoff, so the terrestrial concerns about contamination are different (although I would not want to eat these plants). All of these chemicals are nutrients the plants need to grow and can't get out of tap water. The art comes in getting the right balance between them.

Once I was able to assemble everything I needed to plant it, I started experimenting--and found I could get decent results. However, I'd caught a bit of blue green algae and in the work insanity this fall, I let it slide. Sunday, with a bundle of plants bought at the club auction, I realized it was the opportunity to start something totally new. So, I took everything out and replanted it all. Here is a quick snap of what I ended up with on Sunday (btw, it's clearer when you click into the actual shot):

Not bad. Yes, there are little problems I see with the rocks--but I am pretty satisfied. In a few weeks, the plants will green up and grow in...the water will settle and I can add in fish. I will have a new underwater garden. In my living room.

And in the aftermath of so much work, that is a very good thing!


Actors reproduce celebrity twitters...