Thursday, June 28, 2007

More vegetables and a quilt . . .

I took the time to photograph my vegetable share this week -- red kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, kohlrabi, zucchini, radish and buckwheat sprouts and garlic. Next week I will start getting fruit and flowers as well as vegetables. I love the taste and smell of fruit that has a chance to get ripe on the tree or vine. I will have to use up the rhubarb in my garden while I wait for my fruit shares to start.

I also got my first package in the quilt block of the month program that I joined. I ordered it from Keepsake Quilting. I need to felt the wool and then I can start assembling the first block. I am pleased with the colors. The pieces are blanket stitched onto the background and will form a full size bed quilt when it is completed. I can either put it in the sewing room/spare bedroom or add more fabric around the edges to make a Queen sized quilt and put it on my bed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Long and Short Stitch

It has been a week since I last posted anything to this blog -- since then I finished some samples for last week's Take a Stitch Tuesday Challenge. For this stitch, I went back to the grid of a piece of 18 count mono canvas and tried different orientations and combinations of long and short stitches using Appleton wool. The small medalion has long and short stitches rotated in different directions with double cross stitches in the center and long stitch accents.

This finished piece contains some other grid based applications of long and short stitch in different fibers -- I used a shiny rayon for the pot and cotton floss for the child's face. The hair is also a variation of long and short stitch in Medici wool. This canvas was painted by Sundance Designs. I normally have it hanging in my sewing room. I think that I completed it 18 years ago when I was living in Arizona. It is interesting that although I learned to embroider through crewel work and have quite a few books about crewel stitches and surface embroidery -- the completed pieces that I have are primarily needlepoint and cross stitch designs that are based on stitching over a grid. Maybe my mathematical background makes me more comfortable with order.

I have been making other needlework plans for the summer and recently purchased some Koigu sock yarn and yarn called Sea Silk dyed by Handmaiden to make a shawl. I tried to use a toe up sock pattern for the Koigu yarn but even after searching the internet, I could not figure out how to cast on and get started so I am going to go back to socks from the top down. Being left handed makes it even harder to follow a diagram when the written instructions don't quite make sense. The shawl will be based on a scarf pattern in the summer issue of Interweave Knits.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

1000 hits . . .

My stat counter says that I have had over 1000 visits to my blog since May 6 when I turned it on. Now that does not mean that 1000 people have visited my blog -- it counts everytime I visit as well as when anyone else does -- but it is kind of cool. It is also fun to get comments and feedback on my blog. Most of the feedback comes from people who visit to look at the needlework and the less conventional pieces from the Take a Stitch Tuesday Challenge, needlepoint pieces, and free embroidery generate the most comments.

Today I am not at home so you will be treated to more pictures of flowers from my garden and some reflections on modern art rather than photos of needlework. The photos of needlework will return. The roses in the previous post are carefully nurtured each year. The galardia in the picture volunteered from seed that traveled from a larger planting. It grew without encouragement or coddling in an unexpected place.

I found another unexpected treasure at the public library -- a book called Pictures of Nothing by Kirk Varnedoe. It is a series of illustrated lectures on Abstract Art -- the discussions of ways of seeing and conveying meaning with a work of art are challenging and interesting to read and have led me to wander to some new locations on the interet. I visited the Richard Serra exhibit at MOMA -- there is even a web version. Jackson Pollock at the National Gallery illustrates the development of his abstract, poured paint style. Even some cool looking fiber art by Susan Taber Avila found by googling "abstract fiber art".

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The dogs and me . . .

Two members of my family are on the way back from West Virginia where they spent 3 days whitewater rafting, horseback riding and playing golf. My daughter went to see Nancy Drew with her friends, and the cats are in hiding which leaves me with two large dogs who think everything I do is interesting. (Can you tell that they have pretty boring lives?)

My accomplishments for today include finishing Part 2 of the Chatelaine Elizabethan Sweetbag, doing most of the laundry and weeding the flower garden. I also cleaned out the refrigerator and am making dinner -- since both involve food, the dogs were very interested.

Instead of needlework photos that I have posted elsewhere, I am going to treat you to some pictures from my garden. The roses have not been taken over by black spot or baked in the sun yet.
We also went to see Garison Keilor last night at Ravinia. The girls got bored but I enjoyed the show -- I have listened to him on the radio for over 25 years. they did love Jon Troast, one of the guest performers. This is the second time I have seen Garison Live at Ravinia and the first time that we sat in the pavillion. The girls planned the picnic -- peanut butter and jelly or ham sandwhiches on white bread with grapes and potato chips. We went out for ice cream afterwards. So if you were listening to the live Prairie Home Companion show -- we were there!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Still Life with Vegetables

Two versions of my vegetable share this week. The real vegetables with red leaf lettuce, garlic scapes, sage, zucchini, radishes, sugar snap peas, kohlrabi, strawberries, rainbow swiss chard, and tomato puree. A quilt version with strawberries, radishes, squash, peppers, eggplant, tomato, and carrots.

I created the quilt using EQ6 tonight while waiting for my daughter's karate class to end. I am not completely satisfied with the quilt but I was limited by the blocks in the library and I only had time to play with one layout.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Take a Stitch Tuesday -- French Knots

The Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge for this week is to use french knots with other stitches of the week. First, I want to show some examples of french knots or colonial knots used on their own. These examples include a free hand chalice with the flame filled in with french knots:
A french knot bee in the middle of a Lori Birminghan needleroll. Showing how french knots look stitched on a grid -- I think that they make the body of the bee three dimensional and similar to the fuzzy bees that fly around the flowers in my garden. If I stitched it again, I would do the wings differently, maybe in satin stitch to change the texture and dimension.
Colonial knot rows from Eileen Bennett's Garden Sampler -- more on the grid stitching. The three dimensional knots look like small flowers or buds and the use of more than one color of thread adds interest to the rows.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

June Ornament - in June!

I finished my June Christmas Ornament today -- Partridge and Pears 2005 by Prairie Schooler from the 2005 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament Issue. It is stitched using one strand of DMC over two on left over 40 count linen. I updated the date since it was stitched in 2007. It is brighter in person than it is in the picture and was fun to stitch.
I like ornaments, they are quick to stitch, I can imagine finishing them and using them someday and I can stitch them using leftover fabric and thread from my stash.
In addition to stitching, I have a cook book recommendation -- Joan Nathan's The New American Cooking. It was a Christmas present in 2005 -- the same year that the ornament pattern was published. I have used many recipes from it -- most recently an asian chicken salad. They are all delicious and every time I bring something from this cookbook to a pot luck or family gathering I am asked for the recipe. The Door County Oatmeal/Dried Cherry cookies are great (even with raisins) and so is the salad with the maple syrup based dressing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sometimes life takes over and stitching takes a back seat . . .

Since I last posted to my blog, my family celebrated an 8th grade graduation, school ended for the summer, our cable internet modem went out and had to be replaced, I went to a wedding reception with my daughter, my husband went to a retirement party, we skipped a dinner party, the last soccer game of the season was played (and we missed it), I hosted a church picnic to celebrate the end of the year, my son took his black belt test in karate, and we made trips to the acute care center, emergency room and Doctor's office with our daughter. Karate test results will be available this evening and more Doctor's visits and tests await but it doesn't apear that there is anything all that serious to worry about just different things show up on each test.

In terms of stitching -- here is my Take a Stitch Tuesday piece using the Wheatear stitch. I used short lengths of Gentle Art Sampler Threads on a piece of Silkweavers fabric. The bottom, earth, is stitched in detached wheatear with a cross variation in the center. The flower stems are straight wheatear. The center of the larger flower is wheatear stitched on a curve, the smaller pink flower is detached wheatear stitched in a circle, and the blue flowers are detached wheatear.

I also finished another Christmas tree ornament: Not a Creature Was Stirring by Crossed Wing Collection, published in the 1998 Just CrossStitch Christmas Ornament issue. The mouse and outer border are stitched over one and I used blending filament from Kreinik rather than the Madeira suggested in the design. I am rather proud of this ornament, it was more work than most. Now I am working on a Prairie Schooler Partridge.

Monday, June 04, 2007

This blog is sometimes about books . . .

Last year I read 60 books. This year I have finished less than ten. I still listen to books in the car but I have finished very few actual books. That may be partly because I have picked such long books to read but is may also be because I just do not feel like reading. This is unusual for me and I am sure that it will change.

In the mean time, I have set aside Founding Mothers in favor of Memoirs of Hadrian by Margerite Yourcenar. This was a selection of the bookgrouplist which has now moved on to Ayn Rand. I am sticking with ancient Rome described by the first woman elected to the Academie Francaise. I am cheating in a way, reading Yourcenar in an English translation instead of the original French but it has been 20 years since I finished my BA in French Litterature and I rarely use the language. I find that I can still read French and I can understand a newspaper or decipher a French language web site but I do not use it every day.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Why am I a CSA member?

I have mixed feelings about commercial agribusiness -- on the one hand, there is the fact that we have made huge advances in food production:

"In 1830, it took 300 hours of labor to produce 100 bushels of wheat on five acres. Today, it takes 1.5 hours to produce the same number of bushels on two acres." (Gourmet, June 2007, p. 61)

On the other hand, it is almost impossible to find tomatoes that taste like tomatoes or apricots that taste like apricots in the grocery store. I grew up with produce from Japanese farmstands and fruit we picked ourselves in the spring. The vegetables and fruit were ripe and tasted real. However, this bounty came with a price in arid Arizona. Orchards and vineyards were cropdusted and the farmers mined water in some cases causing the water table to drop 30 feet a year.

Now, I drive a few miles out of my way each Thursday to pick up my CSA share. I buy fruit and vegetables that are grown locally in sustainable ways rather than transported halfway across the country or the world. The produce types change seasonally and I am surprised every week by what is in my share. My husband has found he loves swiss chard and likes beets and turnips, my son eagerly awaits the summer tomato crop, and my daughter looks forward to fresh peas.

This week we will be eating radishes, carrots, green garlic, rhubarb, leaf lettuce in two colors, spinach, arugula, and bok choy.