Small Gift

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I stitched this as a little present for my husband’s aunt.  I personalized it by adding her initials, which were not in the original design.  I need to frame it but I am not satisfied with the frame I have purchased; it seems a bit too plain.  If I can find the time this coming week, I will search for something a little more fancy.  I wish square frames weren’t so hard to find.  The fabric is Gander’s 38-count Nacre – this is the first time I am using this fabric color and I just love it!

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Pattern: Herz (free pattern)
Designer: Stickerin M.B.
Fabric: Gander 38-ct Nacre
Threads: HDF silks – Perfect Red 6209 wet sprayed w/ 6217 (limited edition)
Started: March 16, 2014
Finished: March 29, 2014

Stitch From Stash – March

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Busted my budget again!  I just couldn’t resist these samplers that were on sale for very low prices on the Facebook stash group.  These have been on my wish list for a long time and I had been resisting buying them because I am not going to stitch them right away.  But they were irresistible at these prices.  I also bought more HDF silks, but have not received them yet.

Three samplers that are not reproductions.  I love the houses in all of them.

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Three reproduction samplers:

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I started a small pattern as a gift for my aunt – pattern is from my freebie pile, and the fabric and floss are all from my stash. I will post details once I finish.

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The Birds & the Bees

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Stitching progress has been slow this past week.  A lot of time went into preparing my list of Ann Dale colors that several stitchers had requested.  What started as a spreadsheet ended up being a separate page on my blog because it was really hard to list the colors without pictures.  It’s huge relief to be done with it.

I finished the tree trunk on my CHS Birds & Bees piece.  After grappling with several ideas, I finally chose four variegated colors instead of the four solids listed on the pattern. I was a little nervous how it might turn out, but I think it looks fine. I like the shading that I was able to get with the variegated.  The variegated all had some common component colors, so they blended very well.

I am enjoying stitching this piece so much that I wonder why I didn’t start this sooner – the pattern sat in my stash for over three years!

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Pattern: The Birds & the Bees
Designer: Carriage House Samplings (Kathy Barrick)
Fabric: HDF 40ct Cream
Threads: HDF silks (BeSeeded, BeVexed, Rubbed Fuchsia, Rubbed Dark Gold, Kodiak5139/Quernstones5169/Jackalope5271, Examplar Wattle N Daub, Rubbed Chocolate Version 2)
Started: February 9, 2014

Randje Per Week – Weeks 1 to 7

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This is my WIP of the weekly stitch-along of traditional Dutch sampler bands. I am so glad I joined in (thanks to my stitching buddy for bringing it to my attention). The parts are released every Friday afternoon; so stitching these bands has become my Friday night ritual – a soothing way to wind down the work week.  So far, I have not even needed to print out the pattern because I can go on auto-stitch after one or two iterations of each band. However, this might change because the designers cryptically remarked that the borders have been simple so far, but that may change next week.

The second color was introduced last week – I settled on a royal, inky blue to complement the rich deep pink.  Other colors – gold, light blue, cream – were auditioned but rejected as they just did not seem to fit.

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Pattern: Randje Per Week (free pattern)
Designer: Simone & Annalies of Soed Idee
Fabric: HDF 36×40 uneven linen in reddish brown
Threads: HDF Blue Pink (a “failed” color), Yonder Blue 2215
Started: January 9, 2014

Stitch From Stash 2014 – February

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It’s that time of the month again. I didn’t fare too badly in terms of controlling wanton additions to stash, despite joining another stash sale group on Facebook.  This is a new group for sale of sampler patterns only.  To compensate, I left three other stash groups :-)

Here are my purchases this month – both from the aforementioned Facebook group. I could not resist the Lydia Sharp sampler in the Spring 2013 issue of the magazine. I love the colors, the slightly morbid verse, the oversized flower, the trees, birds, and the two animals below the trees. This is another sampler where I don’t like the colors in the reproduction (inside the magazine) and I will have to choose colors to match the cover photo. The second pattern attracted me because of the border, the pink house, the ribbon roses on the top, and the specialty stitches.

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I had been wanting to stitch a Carriage House Samplings pattern for the longest time. I had bought a whole stack of her patterns when she announced her retirement a couple of years ago, and they just sat there while I stitched other things. I finally started The Birds & the Bees last weekend. I am really enjoying it right now, although I am sure I will be complaining about the million leaves and fruits at some point (the full design can be seen at the top of this page).

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Pattern: The Birds & the Bees
Designer: Carriage House Samplings (Kathy Barrick)
Fabric: HDF 40ct Cream
Threads: HDF silks (BeSeeded, BeVexed, Rubbed Fuchsia, Rubbed Dark Gold, Kodiak5139/Quernstones5169/Jackalope5271
Started: February 9, 2014

Ann Dale 1827 – Finished!

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My very first reproduction sampler is done!  Had I not received the pattern as a Christmas gift, I would probably have never stitched it, and only admired it from afar.  I started it on January 14, 2012 and within two weeks, I gave up because of all the things that were wrong in the pattern – outside border running in the wrong direction, over-corrections to the original that caused the centering in the reproduction to be off, wrong colors, specialty stitches in the original replaced with cross-stitch (without mentioning it in the description).  The project sat for almost one year – I did not want to frog whatever I had already stitched, and the corrections seemed monumental. I picked it up again in January 2013, determined to finish it and do it well (darn it, if an 11-year old could stitch it, so could I). In hindsight, I think I stressed too much over it.  As a dear stitching friend kept reminding me through this labor: you CAN eat an elephant, one bite at a time!

Changing the entire color scheme from the pattern was not easy. Fortunately, several detail photos are available on the website of the auction house that sold the original sampler.  Having the full range of HDF silk colors in my arsenal also helped because I could calibrate my color choices until I had the perfect shade.  Despite all the challenges, or perhaps because of them, this has been a very satisfying project, and I am happy with the end result.  Here are some photos.

See the top red border running in the opposite direction from the inside border?  I had already stitched half the top border when the error was discovered.  I decided not to correct it – just did not seem worth the effort.

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This big tree was my favorite motif until I started stitching all those pesky birds around it.  Tiny critters that needed multiple color changes and remained almost invisible after all that effort!  I resisted the temptation to brighten up their colors because they are kind of hidden in the original sampler too.

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The over-one stitching for the verse was very easy due to HDF’s super-fine thread, which is half the thickness of regular floss.  I don’t think I could have handled stitching the verse over one on 40ct fabric otherwise!

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This is another favorite motif. I especially enjoyed stitching that urn.

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Towards the end, the several small motifs in the last row drove me absolutely batty.  And every one of the had to be stitched twice!

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Loved all the ducks!  The grass around them was my mindless-stitching-while-watching-TV for several nights.

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And here she is in all her glory.  The fabric color is captured best in this last photo. I made my photographer husband take this picture with his fancy camera.

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Pattern: Ann Dale 1827
Designer: Reproduction by Shakespeare’s Peddler
Fabric: HDF 40ct Dauphin (limited release, now sold out)
Threads: HDF silks
Started: January 14 2012 (stopped in 2 weeks)
Restarted: February 1, 2013
Finished: February 2, 2014

HDF Factory – 2

In my previous post, I had shown outside photos of the HDF factory.  In this post, I will take you inside the factory and we will walk through the manufacturing process of my beloved silk.

Here are the bales of undyed silk, kept handy near the dyeing station.  There is a much larger inventory, of course, that sits in a closet elsewhere in the factory.

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Here are the dyepots (bowls, rather). These are for the dip method of dyeing, whereby the silk hank is dipped into the dyepot and left to sit for a while.  I forgot to take a photo for the splatter technique (the silk is first dipped in one or two colors, and then another color is sprayed onto the dyed silk with a spritz bottle).  The silk is first treated with acid, then dipped into the dye.

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Out of the dye pots, the wet silk goes for a spin in the washing machine to remove excess liquids (you can see a little bit of the washing machine in the foreground below); then into a baggie for a steam in the microwave.

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A front view of the dyeing station. The steel vats in the sink contain the acid bath for the undyed silk hanks:

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Then the hanks go onto the drying racks – somewhere in this contraption is a fan that blasts air and makes a lot of noise!  This machine was developed and built in-house by Bob.

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Once dry, the silk is wound on cones on an ingenious coning machine, which was also developed in-house by Bob.  Before he invented the coning machine, here is Bob at the old hand-winding machine. The wooden swift is connected to a mechanical thingy with a meter that reads the yardage on each spool. :

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No photo of the new coning machine but here are the cones:

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The coned floss is then wound around micro or mini spools at Bob’s ingenious spooling machine. The labeling is also done here (you can see one on the computer screen):

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Vikki at her computer station: printing orders, answering emails, checking forums, and still smiling after 12 hours of work!

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The printed orders then go onto this packing station. The plastic bags on the table contain spooled and labeled minis.

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If the minis/micros in the order have not been spooled yet, the order goes on a tray and onto Bob’s spooling station. He checks each tray, spools the required floss and completes the order, which is then packed and sealed for shipping. 

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The floss rack in the back room:

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During winter, all rooms at the back are shut off to conserve energy and the entire operation, from dyeing and drying to spooling and packing, is run from the front room.  The opening of the back rooms heralds the arrival of spring, longer days, more sunshine, and more space to spread out and have fun events like d-bag parties (more on that later)!

I am indeed blessed to get an inside look at such a fine example of good ol’ American ingenuity and entrepreneurship in this remote corner of Pennsylvania!

HDF Factory – 1

Over the last few years, I have had the good fortune to visit the HDF factory, also called Silk Headquarters by hard-core users of HDF floss and fabric.  It is located in Williamstown, a small valley town nestled in the hills of rural Pennsylvania.  Now, if you are looking for a “happening” place, this town ain’t it.  Restaurant options are Chinese takeout or pizza takeout; there are no hotels, no cafes, no movie theaters, no museums, no nothing, except for a few antique shops and a Friday Amish market.  And I LOVE it!  For me, this is one of the best getaways from the noise and crowd of Silicon Valley. I get to meet Vikki and Bob (the owners and gracious hosts), watch the entire manufacturing process of my beloved silk from dye pot to spool, play in the silk detritus bin, dye linen, sometimes meet other stitchers from nearby, and pick silk floss and linen from a vast array of choices.  We also visit the Amish market and talk for hours about needlework and goings-on in the industry.  I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend a weekend.

This is a front side view of the factory.  It is a huge building with an enormous amount of space.  However, only the first floor is used for operations.  That’s Vikki and Bob walking back to the factory after supper.

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Beautiful red barn by the side of the factory:

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As you walk to the back of the factory, you see the front of the barn.  Note the giant wooden spools on the side.  Imagine them fully spooled with silk!

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Rear view of the factory:

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There are lovely woods and a creek running at the back:

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During a walk at the back, I saw an elderberry bush, with gorgeous pink vines.  I asked Vikki if she could dye that color and she said, “of course”!

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More photos to follow in the next post.

Stitch From Stash 2014 – January

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This is my January post for the Stitch From Stash 2014 group.  As of now, I have busted the budget for two months already.  Hopefully, I will make it up with zero spending on stash in later months.  My January spend is on the Old Maid series of silk floss colors by HDF’s Vikki Clayton.  She is offering these limited-edition colors at a reduced price until the end of this month.  Because I had planned on buying these colors even before I joined the group, and because they won’t be available later at this great price, I went ahead with the purchase even if it busted the budget.  Here are the lovelies:

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It’s not even one full month into 2014 and I am straying from my goals already, but whatever. This is a free SAL that is being offered by Annalies and Simone, the lovely Dutch ladies at Soed Idee (read all about it here).   I could not pass it up because this was an opportunity to do a big project in just TWO colors, which is a nice change from the zillion colors in Ann Dale.  Moreover, this design is perfect to for the 36×40 uneven linen in my stash that I have been dying to use for a long time.  I auditioned a lot of floss colors for this one and finally settled on a deep, rich pink.  The linen choice was easy because I had only one piece that was long enough to fit all the 106 bands.

We are currently on week 2 of this SAL and six bands have been released so far:

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Pattern: Randje Per Week (free pattern)
Designer: Simone & Annalies of Soed Idee
Fabric: HDF 36×40 uneven linen in reddish brown
Threads: HDF Blue Pink (a “failed” color)
Started: January 9, 2014

2014 Goals

So how did I do with my 2013 goals?

  1. Finish Ann Dale.  I started this eagerly in January 2012, and then it languished as several charting errors were discovered.  Not completed but I am very close.  I tried to crank through it in the last week of 2013 but then seriously began hating to stitch on it and resenting every other thing I had to do.  So, I relaxed and decided that it was more important to enjoy the process than rush to meet the deadline.
  2. Keep up with Marquoir Elise, which is scheduled to run until July 2013.  I kinda got lazy on this piece after 8 parts because the designer released the entire design mid-way rather than run it through July 2013.
  3. Knock off one of my UFOs (WIPs that have been laying around neglected for more than a year) - Odds and Ends 4 which I had started in the Sticklounge group but never finished.  I won’t even pretend to have gotten anywhere on this one!
  4. Stitch a couple of patterns from the stack that I have purchased over the last 3 years – maybe one Carriage House Samplings or Blackbird Designs, one from Jean Louis Grandsire, one from Mango Practique’s Agenda 2012.  See above.
  5. Stitch at least one pattern from the growing pile of freebies that I have collected over the years.   Completed gazette94′s Quaker 2010 Sampler and luli’s St. Valentine.  

Based on my dismal performance in 2013, here are my goals for 2014:

  1. Finish Ann Dale or kill myself.  Completed February 2, 2014
  2. Finish at least one of the two unfinished ones mentioned above (Marquoir Elise or Odds and Ends 4).
  3. Complete the Nativity Table Runner from Blackberry Lane Designs that I started on Christmas Day 2013.
  4. Start the Icelandic sampler and make decent progress on it.  I need to paint the fabric a dark brown because I have not succeeded in finding or dyeing the dark brown color that is needed for this in 40ct linen.
  5. Stitch a couple of smalls from purchased or freebie designs.
  6. Organize my stash of HDF floss.  This will be slow going because I have to wind all the skeins onto spools, sort and wind dbag floss, print labels, update my spreadsheet.  I might not be able to finish this in 2014, but I want to at least make some headway.
  7. Keep up with the Stitch from Stash 2014 group that I just joined.  I have kept away from blog groups and SALs so far, but this is a different kind of exercise and there is a lot of flexibility because I can stitch whatever I want.  Moreover, it will keep me motivated to post more regularly here.
  8. Keep up with the Randje Per Week SAL.
  9. Last and most important, keep stitching!

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