Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It seems to be a slow time of year for me as far as motivation goes. I feel like the more I try to do, the farther behind I get.

But the sunshine called me outside again yesterday to sew in the good light, and I was determined to enjoy it in spite of the wind that kept sending my thread flying and the combination of sun and wind that made my eyes water.

I've finished the basic pattern on the bishop and am now putting the little cable flowers around the top and bottom. This is also a relearning thing, and I had to try a few until I was happy with the result (most of the time), but I'm still thinking about which green to use for the leaves.

If anyone has any cure for the pleats separating around the flowers, please let me know. I may be pulling too tight.

My eye kept wandering over to the back-door flower bed where only the cheerful daisy blooms alone. I need to get that bed planted, but I keep hearing people say to wait until next week - not that I need an excuse for procrastination. I wish all plants just bloomed without any care like this one. It's been moved at least five times, and maybe it needs to make sure I will take it to Texas if and when the time comes. Do daisies do well in Texas?

The neighbors' Carolina jasmine is starting to spill over the back fence. That and the magnolia behind it give me something pretty to look at while I sew.
I even have one of my own on the side fence - on a smaller scale.

The little maple is beginning to show a few leaves too.

At the end of the week, I'm getting the side door and fence bed planted. There are only pansies now and the clematis that once again made it through the winter in a pot and is ready to burst into bloom.

There are two pots of these. I'm not sure what they are, but they were pretty last summer, and they made it through the winter, so we'll see.
The sweet pansy at the side door.

This is strangely a dogwood - I think. I planted this temporarily in a pot because I didn't have anyone to dig a hole for me, and it's just done fine here. No sense upsetting it.
The bunny waits for spring too.

Unfortunately, work is there, as bad as it's become lately. I'm torn between being glad I have a job I can do at home and wanting to toss it all out. I do enjoy eating and buying fabric though.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fun Sewing Day

Yesterday was Part 2 of my smocking construction class that I decided I had to have if I was going to enjoy heirloom sewing again.

Not that that's all I need, but it was a good beginning.

So back to Sweet Treasures for another learning session - this time plackets, seams, and neck bindings.

Our homework was to smock at least a row, but I enjoyed it so much, I did as much as I had time for plus a sleeve (which I might change my mind on later).

Here's my work table. It was nice to have this whole table all to myself because I do tend to move right in and fill up every available space!

The placket method we learned was amazing. I may never make another kind. Jeanie says it's not her invention, but she's a very good instructor of it anyway.

When I found out she had 5 pages of instructions and that we had to make sample for each page, I was a little intimidated and thought it would be extra hard. But it is a simple process, and the five pages were not all filled with instructions but had big blank spaces for us to pin our samples.

I did fine on my first three but failed my fourth step! I laid yellow on top of blue instead of vice versa and made a wrong clip. But when it came time to do my "real" one, Jeanie was there to watch every step and it was perfect. Not a pucker in sight and a beautiful French seam that moved right into the placket.

While Jeanie was busy with Kathy, the other student, I asked if I could wander around their beautiful shop and take pictures. Being the bad photographer I am, most pictures are blurry, but I think they'll still give an idea of the pretty things they have there.

Jeanie showing Kathy the smocking she was doing with Swiss insertion for the sleeves.

A whole row of beautifully embroidered day gowns and dresses.

I liked this so much, I bought the smocking plate and decided I would try picture smocking next - maybe starting on something a little simpler than this.

This is an interesting pattern, not so frilly.

A lacy backdrop to ribbons and thread.
This is the batiste section and two beautiful dresses,
Bright seersucker.
This the neckband made all by myself (before turning and stitching it down), and it's NOT UGLY!

I'll finish boring the non-sewers tomorrow, but now I have to go sew a little more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Spring Surprise

I love to get packages. Who doesn't? But the ones that are surprises are my favorites.

This came today.

From Lydia, who must have known I needed a spirit-lifter. (It was packaged neatly and prettily in her usual creative way, even with a ball of soft yellow yarn that I will surely put to use! This was after I had ripped into it!)

The fabric is so cute with the little polka-dot ears. And the ribbon tail.

I just love him, and I'll find a spot for him when I get out my spring things.

Thanks, Lydia!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Smocking Progress

From this -

To this

It doesn't seem like much, but it represents several hours' work - just not all at one time. I pick it up and work on it when I get a chance, and it's working out nicely.

The pattern is Victorian Lace by Ellen McCarn. There will be a couple more rows of these little diamonds and then it will start to get a little complicated and end up with some pink flowers between the top two rows and then along the bottom.

I've had the pattern for years and have always liked it, but it seemed a little intimidating. Then when I saw a blue dress smocked with this pattern in Sweet Treasures, I knew that's what I wanted to try.

Maybe I shouldn't have put the picture here in case mine doesn't look exactly like this. (By the way, Sweet Treasures is having a sale this week. I swear the ladies listened to the things I liked and put them on sale just to tempt me. I have to be strong Thursday when I go back.)

The sleeves are pleated and will have just 3 rows of smocking with those same flowers between 2 rows of cable stitches.

I get so much pleasure from smocking - and embroidering too. I just get in my comfortable chair with a good lamp (or sunshine) and a nice CD to listen to, and I could stay there forever.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Blues Got Me

These blues, that is.

Who can work on a day like today? I abandoned my computer and took my sewing outside and didn't feel guilty a bit. I deserved it after these cold rainy days. It was wonderful just sitting there in the sunshine with a little wind blowing and the birds singing, just doing what I love to do.

When I got up to get something to drink, I lost my chair.
WHAT? There are 3 more.

I noticed Darby standing on her doghouse (nothing she does surprises me), and then I realized she was gazing longingly into the birdbath, reminding me that her water bowl was inside. I think she's experienced what happens when you stand up and put paws on the side of it. She hates baths.

The yard guys came today and neatened up and exposed a little of the green that is popping out more each day.

Tonight's the Friday Night Sew-In. I got in at the last minute. I may have used up some of my sewing time, but I'll be right back in a couple of hours, maybe with some knitting or the second row of smocking.

Spring makes me happy.

Another Nice Giveaway

I'm still here. I did things last week but nothing interesting.

More of the same - working, minimal housework, a little weeding, as much sewing as I could squeeze in.

I do want to mention another giveaway. I wasn't lucky on the pink one but we'll see how the green ones goes. Laurie at SewNso's Sewing Journal has also reached over 100 followers and is celebrating with a giveaway of a lot of neat things, including a quilting book, which greatly interests me. Can't forget quilting with the resurgence of smocking and knitting.

Winning would be nice, but it's more about showing appreciation to these talented ladies who give me inspiration every day. Not only are their sewing skills out of this world, but they are so sweet spirited and gentle and just give me encouragement every day, whether they know it or not. After reading one of their blog entries, I actually believe I can create something like they're doing.

I spent a whole day with the ladies at Sweet Treasures in Columbus in the room in the middle picture. I lived in Columbus for 2 years and never went inside their shop since I was in quilting mode at that time. I figured I needed a little more hand-holding after being out of heirloom sewing for so many years, and that's just what I got. I'll have pictures next week. I learned a lot - most of which I already knew but lots of which I don't carry out. I think I'll have something really pretty going toward the end of the week.

I had to put this in the sun to show the really beautiful color of this batiste.

It was interesting to see the changes in Columbus, but it was very familiar to me - the roads and neighborhoods. I did like living there.

I met Barbara at JoAnn Fabrics since we both knew where that was, but I was out of the fabric-shop mood by that time, and we just wandered around and talked, and I got a few skeins of white floss and some bamboo knitting needles. They are as nice as I've heard.

We then shared a little pizza at Carraba's and talked some more. I felt a little brain dead and came home and slept for 2 or 3 hours - just walked in the door, checked on Mama and the animals, and fell on the bed.

As far as reading lately, I'm reading Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn and listening to a Maeve Binchey CD - something about a heart clinic in Ireland - just starting that. The Flynn book is pretty interesting although slow reading for me, all about the CIA and the politics that get involved in their work - like stopping terrorists.... at least I think that's what it's about. I usually stay as far away as possible from things that mention torture and committee meetings and such.

So if anyone has gotten this far, you can see why I don't write everything I do on the blog. Boring! Someone else needs to have an adventure and tell me about it.

It does smell like spring this morning, and the trees are budding out everywhere. It's about to be a fun time of year.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Where's Spring

So that plan of sitting outside in the sunshine and sewing didn't quit work out last week. And to add insult to injury, I lost an hour of my already not enough time.

I also got caught in a cold windy rain while I was in the grocery store Friday and had to walk to the car without an umbrella and unload all the groceries. It put me completely out of the mood to buy plants.

That's absolutely all I can dredge up for my thoughts today. The book I'm reading, One Month to Live, is a nice thinking book, and our sermon yesterday touched on one of the chapters on loving others, patience, understanding, etc. I needed to hear it. I can't say my life has changed much yet, but I don't think it's getting any worse! I really had 2 positive experiences this week just because of changing my thinking patterns. I still have a long way to go though.

It looks nice and stormy again this morning, but I have to work, so that suits me, again thankful I don't have to go out to work. And thankful I bought some cinnamon roll coffee Saturday.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pink Celebration with Princess Priya

I mentioned yesterday about Martha's nice giveaway. It's good to celebrate that she has over 100 people who follow her blog (it's where I go to be calm and feast my eyes on the beautiful things she makes), but she has also learned she is expecting her first granddaughter. Which is the reason for the pink theme.

I personally love the color pink; in fact, I'm wearing a pink shirt today, but neither daughter much cares for it - except for their pink-and-purple phases in elementary school. But I didn't know that when they were babies, and they sure wore it a lot, gingham and batiste and smocking that Mama made, and I have the pictures to prove it.

Mike has never said the word pink.

Martha asked us to share our favorite pink item that we have made, and there are just so many in the past, but the one project I did in Meridian has to be my greatest sewing satisfaction. This was at the "senior center" which they fortunately let me be a part of although I wasn't officially a senior then. We met every Wednesday for 3 hours in the morning and sometimes even into the afternoon. There were maybe 5 or 6 of us at a given time learning from a very talented teacher - a retired English teacher who also did every kind of needlework imaginable - and did it well.

That year Mike had generously let me subscribe to Australian Smocking and Embroidery and pretended not to be shocked at the subscription price. It's a wonderful magazine, and I drooled over all the patterns and even the photography. I think it was the picture of the little girl in the pink dress (Issue 55, Princess Priya) that made me ask Teresa one day (very hesitantly) if she thought I could make something like that. She studied it a few minutes and then said, "I don't see why not."

So I took a deep breath and dove right in.

It was pretty much a sampler of everything I had learned - smocking, shadow stitching, bullion knots (LOTS of them), regular embroidery, plackets, bias binding, buttonholes, piping - and I even learned to do a scalloped hem and sleeves.

Behind the scenes. I still have the tracings and patterns I used.

The smocking is just a tone-on-tone, but it's a beautiful pattern, a little out of the ordinary, but not hard to do once we figured it out. And the piping went on fairly straight.

I love the way a dress looks at the bottom row of smocking.

The hem was fun to do. I think the enjoyment came from taking my time. I would trace and turn and press and stitch for 3 hours without interruption, all the while enjoying the funniest group of ladies ever. If I ran into trouble, I had a helping hand to get me out of it. At the top of every scallop is a shadow-stitched bow with a cluster of flowers in the middle of it. I loved the shadow stitching, but those bullions got tedious, especially since I was just learning and didn't have a knack for it. But they'll pass, all surrounded by lazy daisies and French knots.

The back of shadow stitching is pretty in itself - interesting. And very much in need of a haircut.

The sleeves are my very favorite part of the dress. Smocked, embroidered (shadow, bullion, and regular), and scalloped.

Even the neck binding lay down smoothly for me.

And the back placket didn't pucker or go all crazy like sometimes. It's straight. I'm just a bad photographer! And still can't tie a sash.

I'm even proud of my teeny French seams! It doesn't take much to make me happy.
I just realized there is not an inch of lace on this dress, so for something this complex, it was very inexpensive. I can't remember now but probably less than $25, just a few yards of batiste and lots of embroidery floss.

I'm not sure who will wear this one day. If I don't have grandaughers, I'll find someone to give it to, but it gives me a lot of pleasure just to see it when I look in the closet.

I miss those days and wonder if the ladies still meet on Wednesdays. I would love to find a group like this again one day. There's nothing like the closeness of a group of people who sew together, whether it be quilting or smocking and embroidering, or crocheting and knitting. Work goes faster, ideas are shared, and you have built-in teachers and admirers - and friends.