Sunday, September 25, 2011

Some Unfinished Rustic Ornaments!

This magazine may look familiar, and that's because it's part of my first Christmas Giveaway (now open Worldwide!). Including it in the contest loot brought to mind the very reason that I had bought this magazine in the first place, way back in December 2000. And that's the two rustic "package trims" at the bottom left!

These were the first "primitive" type of designs that I had seen, and I thought they were funky and fun. And I absolutely loved that they used buttons! Buttons are a tradition in my family; it's a subject worthy of later exploration, in fact, because it is such a Thing. The point is that we all have our button bins, or cans, or baskets, or such and I had a lot of fancy, sparkly buttons in mind when I chose to stitch these.

And yet, once I actually had them stitched, those pretty fanciful buttons looked completely wrong! With the rustic style, and the rustic looking Oatmeal Aida I chose to stitch them on (which I don't regret at all), they looked out of place and silly. So I went for simpler buttons. Which turned out well in one instance, and not the best in the other. But let me show you what I mean:

Here is the magazine model for the first project, Tis The Season:

And here is my interpretation:

I'm actually really happy with this one. Both pieces were designed by Alice Okon, and featured French knots, my Stitchy Foe, on the lettering. Naturally, I omitted them; I considered beads, but again they didn't really go with the rustic feel.

All three buttons are pearlescent, and the large coral button on the bottom was a serendipitous find. When I intended to stitch these, I had all my fancy buttons pulled out, the ones with the rhinestones and gold filigree. When I put them on the finished work and saw how terrible that combination actually was, I had to scramble to find replacements. So it was happy coincidence that this button happened to match the two tones of coral in the heart perfectly. I also like my alternate button placement; all three were supposed to be tacked to the green checkerboard, but I thought it a shame to cover up all that solid stitching!

And here is the model for the second project, Joy:

And here is my interpretation:

For obvious reasons, I'm not so thrilled with this one. I have a ton of green buttons in my stash, and not a single one of them matched the green of the tree, which is how that horrid mint-green button ended up in the middle of the star. I'm sure I had a good reason at the time, but I can't imagine what that might've been now, LOL :)

The black-and-silver button was worn enough to look rustic, and I meant it to pick up the black of the lettering. And the little white one I chose for the shape, if I can remember correctly. The reason that these wound up in My Stitchy Can Of UFOs (Unfinished Objects) is because I was never happy with this second one. But since I've made a few additions to my Button Can in recent years, I may go back and try to find something that works a little bit better. The fact that all three have different finishes, and are made with different materials, was supposed to make it look exotic - like using mismatched china - but just looks chaotic instead.

Anyway, these are a quick, simple stitch, easily finished in an afternoon or two, especially when you leave off the French knots like I did. If you fancy them, then be sure to enter my Giveaway, and you could be stitching them for yourself this holiday season! (Click on the graphic at the top of my sidebar at right to enter, or here)

I'm not keen on how the model projects were finished (and there are instructions for that method with the patterns), so I'm going to have to put on my little-used Funky Finishing Fedora and figure out what I'd like to do with these!

As usual, any suggestions are gratefully welcomed :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ES Giveaway Now Open Worldwide!

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Thank you for all your lovely comments and e-mails regarding my first Christmas giveaway! The interest has far exceeded my expectations already, and a number of comments from readers outside of the Canada-United States-United Kingdom shipping areas has caused me to rethink my Christmas Giveaway destinations.

You see, it was not cost that had made me narrow down the shipping areas, but time. Living in Canada, my mail service is governed by Canada Post,, and they release annual Christmas dates that indicate the very last day you need to mail your parcel in order for it to be received at your destination by December 25th. Some of these dates are remarkably early; the deadline for the United Kingdom, for example, which is very close to the East Coast of Canada geographically, is October 25th!

The Giveaway closes on October 12th, which will pass some of the International Christmas Post Dates here in Canada. The good news is that now, regardless of where you live, if you would like to enter, I am now enabling you to do so! But please keep in mind that you may not receive your parcel on or before December 25th, 2011. A quick summary of the deadlines, and please note that mailing on or before this date does not necessarily guarantee timely delivery as the volume of mail increases exponentially in the pre-Christmas season and can delay posting:

October 12th - Africa, Middle East, New Zealand
October 18th - Asia, Australia, Central and South America
October 25th - Europe (including The United Kingdom), Caribbean
December 8th - USA (The United States of America)
December 12th - Within Canada

Please note that all dates are for Surface Parcel shipping.

The 2011 ES Christmas Giveaway Is Now Open WORLDWIDE!!!

Please Help Spread The Christmas Cheer!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The First ES Christmas Giveaway!

Christmas is my favourite holiday! For me, it's a magical time to spend with family and friends, to give thanks for the many blessings the past year has brought and to look forward to the next year with hope and good will. And I love the traditions of the holiday: visiting, baking, feasting, decorating the house, decorating the tree, sending cards, making gifts (many by hand!) and exchanging presents!

And so ever since I first started thinking about the mere idea of starting a stitchy blog, I have intended to have a Christmas Giveaway, and am very excited to share my very first Giveaway, the first of what I hope will be many! I have dug deep down in my Stitchy Stash and have put together a group of cheerful seasonal items that I hope will be enjoyed in your own home this Christmas! They may not appeal to everyone, but this group of stitchy goodies was chosen with a lot of heartfelt good will and best wishes, and I hope that they will be received in kind :)

A closer view of the specialty fibres and embellishments:

And a closer view of the floss and accessories:

This Giveaway Contains:

Santa "Noel, Peace, Joy" Kit, a Counted Cross Stitch Christmas Keepsake by Vogart. (Finished Size: 5 1/2" by 6" inches, on 14 count Aida; all supplies included, including hanging dowels for finishing, as in the kit model);

Santa Ornament Kit, a Counted Cross Stitch by Plaid. (Finished Size: 1 3/4" by 2" inches, on 14 count Aida; all supplies included, including black plastic frame for finishing, as in the kit model);

The Cross Stitcher Magazine, December 2000, featuring the large "Santa Baker" cover project, along with "Isn't He Wonderful?" (Precious Moments, insert on cover), and 27 other charts, including Chrysanthemum, November in the Flower-of-the-Month Angel series (Joan Elliott), a full Ivy Monogram set (Lois Winston), three festive Row House Ornaments (Ursula Michael) and a large Bells & Candles Star Table Topper linen set (Zweigart, from the book Needlework Ideas)!;

DMC floss, in 666 (Christmas Red) and 700 (Christmas Green);

DMC Cotton Perle, #5 (skein) in Blanc/Neige (White);

J. & P. Coats Craft Thread, 100% cotton, equivalent in size and texture to DMC Perle Cotton # 8, in 1001 (White), 3046 (Red, colour match for DMC Christmas Red) and 6228 (Green, colour match for DMC Christmas Green);

Fibre Craft Metallic Elastic Thread, in Gold and Silver (which I've found very useful for making for ornament hanging loops!);

Craft World Blending Filament, a fine metallic fibre, in Red, Green and Silver;

Seed Bead Assortment, Silver Lined metallics, in Red, Green and Gold (I love to use these on Christmas ornaments, because they catch the lights on the tree and sparkle like crazy; please note that the Silver Lined finish is very delicate and may deteriorate with washing, harsh use, or over a long period of time);

Embellishment Assortment, containing sequins in various sizes and shapes (round, star, flower) and Silver Lined metallic bugle beads (long seed beads) in Red, Green, Gold and Silver; see above note on Silver Lined glass beads;

Needlework Accessories, including a magnetic LoRan Needle Case and nickel-plated Needle-Threader, a tall clear Needle Case, and six nickel-plated Tapestry Needles, size 22 (suitable for the 14 count Aida included in the two kits).


Please leave a comment, with your e-mail address, on this post!

It's that simple! I know giveaway contest rules are often more complex, but I want to make this clear: if you already a Follower, wonderful! (and thank you very much!); if you are new to the site, please consider Following only if you like my regular content and ES in general; there is no need to join if you just want to enter this contest!

Please note that since I've recently been forced to make changes to my commenting policy to combat spam, you will need to have a profile account to comment on this blog. Happily, these services are free; if you use a web-based e-mail service, chances are you already have one and don't know it! Also, OpenID is another easy way to set up a commenting profile and it's also free! If you run into trouble, please e-mail me.

For Bloggers: If you'd like to spread the word about this giveaway, you can do so using the graphic at the top of my sidebar; if you have trouble saving it, please e-mail me, and I'll send it to you directly. Please link the graphic to the URL for this post. Posting about this giveaway is NOT a requirement to enter, and I won't be giving away any "extra entries" as I'd like everyone to have an equal chance of winning, so share only if you are genuinely enthusiastic about this contest :)

Contest starts today, September 21st, and ends on October 12th, 2011!

Open to Residents in Canada, the US and the UK!

Rules and Disclaimers: All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m., Ottawa Time (Canada), London/Greenwich Mean Time (UK) and New York/Eastern Standard-Daylight Time (US). The Winner will be chosen from all eligible entries (comments on this post, with valid e-mail addresses), randomly, by me, at a time of my choosing, on October 13th, 2011. Winner will be notified at the e-mail address they have provided in their entry. If that e-mail address does not work when I try to e-mail you, your entry is voided and an alternate Winner will be chosen. An e-mail address must be included in your comment! The only acceptable substitute is if your e-mail is clearly available on your blog/site profile, and you leave a message to this effect in the body of your comment.

Please note that these items are being provided to you as a gift, and so they have no monetary value; neither are they exchangable for other products. What you see is what you get! All items are in new unused condition, except the magazine, which has been gently used by myself. This prize cannot be transferred to another individual; if you wish to enter on another's behalf, please have them enter themselves, or e-mail me with your reasoning and I'll see what I can do.

I will ship your parcel immediately, at my own convenience, following my receipt of your mailing address. Please note that your mailing address must be in Canada, the US or the UK. I am sorry that I cannot open the ES Christmas Giveaway to international entries at this time, but hope to be able to do so in future years. I reserve the right to chose the shipping option that is the least expensive for me.


Changing Commenting Policy

Since I've been receiving an increasing amount of spam in my post comments lately, I've been decided to no longer accept anonymous comments. This means that anyone with an account that allows blog commenting, including e-mail accounts like Google's Gmail and the universal profile at OpenID, can leave a message, but that users without such an account - or who are not currently logged in - cannot.

When I first launched ES, I deliberately opened up my comments to accept those made anonymously. Because I realize that not all readers are bloggers, and that many do not have profiles set up to comment on blogs, and I wanted my posts to be opened to anyone who wanted to express an opinion. But long lists of potentially dangerous virus-infested links to bogus designer goods, dating services, get-rich-quick-schemes and other such silliness are not helpful to anyone, and although these types of comments are mostly caught by my Blogger comment spam filter, they do appear to those that have subscribed to receive comment updates on any post.

The option I have chosen, to accept comments only from those with valid account IDs, is what I believe to be the best option at this time. I could hold all comments in moderation, and/or require verification (typing the letters and numbers symbolized in a distorted image of a text snippet into a little box, which has become standard procedure on most blogs), but as a blog commenter myself, I really like seeing my comments appear on a post immediately so that I know I haven't made a mistake, and I find the verifications fiddly and sometimes plain incomprehensible!

Hopefully, I will not have to move up to those stricter options, and this precaution should be sufficient. If you should have any problems leaving a comment with your ID, please e-mail me and let me know. And if you are new to using an account profile to comment, feel free to try a sample comment on this post to see how it works :)

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Feel free to borrow this graphic for your own site.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm Back! With A Different Monarch :)

No, not my favourite Blackwork project and the focus of my current WIP Monarch Stitching Tools, but the project namesake :) This is actually the very first time that I'd ever managed to take a photo of a butterfly with its wings fully spread. Some people do so very easily, but mine always turn out with the wings half-closed, or an antenna off-tilt, or the subject flitting away altogether! This picture is a few years old now, and taken with a very basic digital camera (oh, how far that technology has come!), so the colours are a bit dull, but I'm still inordinately proud of it, lol.

What brought this to mind now?, you might very well ask. My trip home, from which I've recently returned, to visit my Grandparents, and where I made many happy trips to the very beach where I took this photograph, lo at least five years ago :)

It actually was a bit sad, for although it is very late in the season, that area is usually all a-twitter with flutterbys (as they used to be reasonably named before a long-past person mangled the pronounciation to the curious illogical reverse we have today). There are bright yellow ones, and etheral white ones, and tiny orange-ish moths, but the Kings and Queens among them are the lovely red-and-black Monarchs, with their greater wingspan and a sort of characteristic nobility to their flight.

It's very hard to describe if you haven't seen it yourself, but there is a sort of ponderous weight, an extra elegance or grace, to the way that the Monarchs slowly settle on a target, lessening the fanning their wings on their approach, and then open themselves fully to soak up the sun. When they have decided that they have had their fill of that plant, they then repeat the slow balletic touch-down in reverse, and raise themselves up to flit leisurely from bright purple thistle to thistle, sipping at the nectar before fluttering up again. When they decide to end their meal, they lift up gradually, flying faster, and climbing higher and higher in the sky in wide lazy circles, inscribing intricate curliques in the air with their distinctively coloured wings. It is a most lovely sight to witness.

Monarchs do love wildflowers, of course. Daisies especially :) They are frequent visitors to my Grandmother's gardens, where a colourful riot of wild flowers are deliberately encouraged to flourish amongst the cultivated plants. Sometimes, if I am especially quiet and careful, I can get near to a flower and put my index finger alongside the petals where a Monarch is feeding, and if I hold very still, the butterfly will climb atop my finger and then my hand, where it flaps its wings happily for a while before flitting to another flower nearby or fluttering up into the sky. The smaller butterflies do not behave so regally, and obviously think themselves much too busy flying about to stop for a while and sun themselves on a friendly hand.

But Monarchs have a weakness for the humble purple thistle. The thistle is not an especially pretty flower. It is gangly and shoots up tall, with dark spiky leaves and sharp thorns. Even the cusp of the flower head is lethally laced with thin little sharp slivers as fine as human hair that can work their way into human skin like wooden splinters, where they are equally painful if left to fester. It is not a friendly flower; all its aspect seems inclined towards the defensive. Its only invitation comes in the form of the bright pink-purple needle-shaped petals that grow up from its crown.

These petals are mutlitude, but they are small and curled in on themselves. Each forms a sort of tubular cup, and the nectar that pools there must be especially sweet, for it draws the Monarchs in great wide flocks! And they will actually share a thistle flower. Other butterflies will often share wildflowers, but Monarchs are haughty and tend to totally take over a wildflower, whether small cornflower or large wild rose. But they will adjust their wings to keep them virtually straight up and gather them in close together while on a thistle, sharing the very small space with one or two of their fellows. And they will linger for a very long time over their meal. They seem more inclined to aerial acrobatics when they eventually lift up into the sky too.

And since so many Monarchs gather so closely together wherever the thistles are - and thistles, in turn, grow closely together in riotous profusion - the sight of dozens of butterflies fluttering up from their thistle-meals and looping around each other joyously, taking their time spinning and swirling and swanning through the air, is a most remarkable sight, especially at sunset. Then, the Monarch's vibrant wings light up like stained glass, the red brightening and reflecting the shifting colours of the clouds and the sea waves, occasionally flashing gilded-gold in the setting sun.

Truthfully, watching the Monarchs is one of my favourite things to do in the summer. I think it's absolutely remarkable that they migrate down to Mexico in the Winter and manage to find their way back to us. And the beach where I took this picture is a prime Monarch spot, as the purple thistles run thick and wild.

Or, at least they usually do. This year, most of the thistles had disappeared, taken over by the ugly stinging nettle, a hostile weed with no redeeming value whatsoever that excretes a toxin that induces severe itching, which later develops into painful burns if not immediately treated, when it chances to brush human skin. It grows widely where my Grandparents live, even in the most well-tended yards, and the only way to get rid of it is setting it afire since the roots are spindly and stubbornly set deep. But stinging nettles tend to die back when they cannot easily sustain themselves, and so usually limit their conquests to taking over easy prey, wild grasses and bushes that grow in boggy, water-logged areas.

Thistles, at least those of the purple variety, do not like their feet wet, and so alhough they live beside a beach, they root themselves high on the sandy rocks, away from the damp areas where the stinging nettles like to grow. Thus, it is very curious that the stinging nettles on this beach chose to wage war on such a notedly formidable foe, and even more remarkable that the purple thistles lost the battle.

Perhaps this indicates some sort of change in the underlying topography, causing the small patches of marshy land to spread. Or perhaps the stinging nettles have rashly taken an area that they cannot hold, and will die back by next summer, leaving the thistles to flourish again. I'm hoping for the later. Because the Monarchs do not like stinging nettles, and I very much miss the sight of them winging over my favourite beach. Everything changes, I am learning, but whether it is for good or for ill is never known until well after the fact. Hopefully, this will be one of the good ones!

I'm hoping that another recent change will have been for the better. As you know, I did not take any stitchy projects with me when I went to visit my Grandparents. This was more by practicality than design, since I knew I would be busy and that, if the weather was good, I would like to spend my time outside down by the water.

Although I've tried stitching "al fresco" outside in the past, sitting on my windy rocky beach (as seen, partly, above!) while birds and butterflies circle overhead is a bit too much like one of my Mother's "accidents waiting to happen" for me. She uses that phrase incessantly, whenever she can see a good chance of something awful happening in a certain circumstance. Since I do not want to get salt water on my work, or pick sand out of my thread, or have birds and insects - both of which tend to be attracted to shiny things - be drawn towards me by the flash of my needle in the sunlight (never mind the wind attempting to whip pattern and project and supplies from my fingers and lap), I have not - to date - attempted to stitch on a beach :)

Usually, by late August, I have a plan in place for my Christmas stitching. I am not much of a pre-planner, truthfully, but I often make gifts for my close family and friends, and some of those - especially since my focus has been almost exculsively on stitching lately, and not beading or crochet or other craft - will inevitably be stitched. By now I usually have pulled out various patterns for certain people, and would spend the next few weeks choosing the projects (from all the possible projects) and gathering the supplies to start and readying myself to stitch them.

I have severely startled myself by having not done *any* of this! While at my Grandparents, I retrieved the large part of my Stitchy Stash that I had left there for safekeeping, and part of that was my cache of stitchy magazines. When I got home, I sorted through them all, and separated out the ones with Christmas-themed projects and possible Christmas-gift projects. But I didn't make Possible Project lists. And although I had brought back some supplies that I had dearly missed the last little while, I did not get anything together. In short, my "stitchy mojo" seems to be gone!

And this is very strange for me. I have, in my possession, a *ton* of projects that I *want* to stitch very much. I have most of the materials, and the time. And yet, I haven't stitched anything. Nothing new, and nothing on my WIPs either. It's very perplexing, to be honest. I have watched other stitchy bloggers go through this at times, and have read a lot of helpful advice. Advice about a small new start, or a break, or starting a project that is entirely different from what you're doing. All good ideas to renew your interest! But the problem is that my interest has not waned.

I'm excited about potential new starts I found in my stitchy magazines, but I don't start them. I look at the projects I'm doing now and would like nothing more than to work on them, and yet when I pick them up, I just look at them stupidly and then put them down. And waste a lot of time doing other meaningless things. In Fall and Winter, I plan my stitching time around the sun, as the days get shorter and the light grows dimmer. Yet I find myself acutely aware that I am more or less *wasting* prime-time stitchy light and can't seem to shake myself out of it. It is rather surreal.

I'm hoping that this is temporary. That the stinging nettles have metaphorically overwhelmed the purple thistles in my mind, but that they will soon die back and leave more room for something good to bloom in their place. Perhaps I'll feel Super Stitchy soon. Hopefully well in time to work on my Christmas present planning and gifts! The funny thing is that this is not at all the post that I set out to write today.

But this just snuck up and whalloped me, as many other things are doing in my life - as fast as the Roadrunner used to take a wooden mallet to poor Wile. E. Coyote - and there's really nothing left but to try to shake off the shock, like Wile E. waiting for the cartoon stars to fade. And that I'll leap out of it as fast as he always does and be back to chasing the Roadrunner once again. Or in my case, picking up my needle and chasing my stitches, sometime soon :)

This is all to say that although I've got lots of interesting things to share with you, that I hope to be writing about in the very near future, you may not be seeing much of my personal work, at least for the next little while. And now you know why :)

On the good news front, this lovely package that I won from Agi's Surprise Giveaway was waiting for me in my mailbox when I returned home:

As you can see, there are a lot of very interesting fibres there! There is a most beautiful and shiny spool of (pink!!!) Kreinik blending filament, which I prize highly and will keep for A Very Special Project sometime in the future, and three of the DMC colour variations that I've been longing to work with, and two spools of variegated pearl cotton #8, my favourite size for blackwork filling!

It's funny how might be ordinary to one stitcher becomes extraordinary to another, by virtue of distance (the two brown pearl cotton #5 skeins are from Germany!!!) and time (the three skeins of "linen floss", which is a tightly twisted two-ply with amazing sheen, whose three different labels and places of manufacture - the first two in Scotland and the last in the United Kingdom - tell part of the no-doubt amazing 230 year history of W & J Knox, LTD.!!!).Thanks again Agi!

I'd also like to send my heart-felt thanks out to those of you who have been so very patient these last couple of weeks, both with the blog and the lack of e-mail. I'm looking forward to catching up on everything. An unexpected benefit of a missing Stitchy Mojo is an increase in reading and computer time! Here's wishing that all the changes currently happening in your life will turn out to be for the better too :)

(P.S. I've been forced to use the new Blogger Interface because the regular one wouldn't work for me, so if anything looks wonky, please let me know)