Solvang, California

In an older post, I had written about my love of fairy tales. I have the collected works of Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and even a fairy tale sampler WIP to prove it. Imagine my delight when I stumbled on a needlework store built around the concept of a fairy tale! Last month we visited Solvang, a Danish village nestled in the beautiful Santa Ynez valley of Southern California. Embroidery being such an intrinsic part of Danish culture, it was no surprise that this little town had not one, but two needlework stores within a few feet of each other.

Rasmussen’s was the first store I found. They offer a wide range of Scandinavian kitchen and gift products on the first floor, while the needlework shop is on the second floor. 

This shop was a bit disappointing for a cross-stitcher like me because it seemed more geared towards knitting and crochet. They had a few stitched models and finished items inside a glass case that I enjoyed seeing, this sampler being one of them:

My niece, who wanted to try cross stitch, bought a mini Janlynn kit for herself. Then we went looking for Thumbelina, the other needlework store. It was a little hard to find as it is situated in the rear courtyard of one of the buildings on Copenhagen Drive. I walked past it a couple of times before I found it. You have to follow that pointing finger in the photo below…

…and this is when you see 1683A:

The walls of the alley are decorated with stitched models. Look at the lovely gate below!

Expanding on the theme of fairy tales:

I fell in love with these Danish Handcraft Guild stitched pieces – they have such a clean, uncluttered look about them.

And finally, Thumbelina – the most charming needlework storefront EVER!

It’s called H.C. Andersen Hus. Everything about this store is so picturesque!

As you enter the tiny shop, to the left of the door are fabric bolts, booklets and stitched models. In fact, every inch of wall space here is covered with stitched models. It was wonderful to see all the lovely Danish designs up close and in person.

DMC floss:

I loved Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus relaxing (he with his dog and she with her knitting – note the red ball of yarn!) in this piece:

Majority of the inventory here is made up of Danish kits – if you are looking for OOE and Danish Handcraft Guild patterns and books, this is your store.

More stitched models: Danish country landscapes, birds, flowers, and ships.

I loved this design but it was a kit with Aida and DMC, so though I was tempted, I decide to pass:

Here is the shop owner. His name is Hans Christian Andersen! No wonder the cottage is called HC Andersen Hus! I enjoyed talking to him. I visited the store twice as we went to Solvang again the following weekend. I purchased a few interesting items to add to my stash – I will show them in the next post.

If you are in the area, do visit this shop. Even if Danish designs are not your fancy, Thumbelina is delightful in itself. There are other little pleasures to indulge in downtown Solvang: one-of-a-kind shops, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants. I can’t think of a better way to spend a lazy day (except perhaps in my stitching chair)!

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Jane Longstreth Update

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I took a break from this sampler because the willow trees wore me out. I love how they look but when I started this piece, I had no idea the hanging leaves were made of nasty little “slanted Holbein stitches”. Vikki’s super fine floss came to the rescue again.

In any case, I decided that to make progress, I should stitch some of the other fun motifs along the way rather than waiting to finish the trees and getting bogged down in the process. This system has worked and now I am back to enjoying the sampler again. 

Here is where it stands at the moment. 

Embroidery in Iceland – 4

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One of the many pleasures of Iceland is seeing old embroidered pieces displayed in homes, farmhouses, and hotels. Here are two works that I saw last month at Hótel Fljótshlíð on the Smáratún farm in South Iceland. I wanted to know who had stitched them, but the young, immigrant staff had no clue.

This rose was tucked behind an antique sewing machine in the reception area. Not sure how old the embroidery is but the colors seem to have held up very well.

This bird was perched in the small room at the side entrance/exit to the rooms.

Dear Jane Rine

A friend tempted me into starting this design. Dear Jane is a gigantic quilt that was converted into a cross stitch design (stitch size 695 x 695) several years ago. The large blocks didn’t appeal to me, so I had stayed away. Recently, smaller versions were published on a Facebook group and blog by a stitcher in the Netherlands. Dear Jane Rine is 295 x 295; Mini Dear Jane 185 x 185; and Micro Dear Jane is 121 x 121. I am stitching the first one in this list. Gloriana’s Peacock floss, which was sitting in my stash unused for several years because I didn’t know what to do with it, seemed perfect for this piece.

But finding a neutral color for the square blocks was a struggle. I tried four shades of Zebra Dove and one of Zinc (the greenish one at the bottom).

 

My friend suggested I try a brown or gold that resonates with the gold in the Peacock. Umbrage, Quernstones, Haywains, and Oil of Amber were the next set of candidates:

The winner was Oil of Amber: 

This is where I am as of today: 

Pattern: Dear Jane Rine
Designer: Rine Oddens (Dear Rine)
Fabric: Portuguese linen (40ct)
Threads: Gloriana silk: Peacock; HDF Silk Oil of Amber 4115
Started: September 7, 2017

Traveling WIPs – 10

I chose this little blackwork project for my recent trip to Iceland. I had a lot of fun showing Ringmus some of the beautiful sights of Iceland 🙂 Of course, some of them he could not see because I had not given him eyes yet! At Mælifellssandur in South Iceland:

At Skessugarður (the Rampart of the Giantess) in Northeast Iceland:

At Gjástykki, the beautiful lava fields in North Iceland:

And finally, the poor bird got to see some lush colors and streams instead of desert and barren rocks. At Flateyjardalur, the deserted but incredibly beautiful valley in North Iceland:

Pattern: Ringmus
Designer: Miriam (Borduurblog)
Fabric: 26-ct cotton/linen
Threads: HDF silk – Blackboard (premium)
Started: September 15, 2017
Finished: September 25, 2017

Ringmus

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For my trip to Iceland this time, I decided to take very small projects. So small that the fabric would fit into my hands without falling over my lap, and that I could finish during the trip. This bird was one of them. I wanted to try my hand at blackwork, which was another reason I chose this pattern. I really enjoyed stitching this and plan to venture into larger blackwork pieces soon.

According to Wikipedia, the ringmus ( Passer montanus ) is a songbird from the sparrows and snowmongers ( Passeridae ) family.

Pattern: Ringmus
Designer: Miriam (Borduurblog)
Fabric: 26-ct cotton/linen
Threads: HDF silk – Blackboard (premium)
Started: September 15, 2017
Finished: September 25, 2017

Enchanted

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After two years of sluggish stitching, I finally have a respectable finish! This design was an absolute pleasure to stitch. It is rare for a cross-stitch design to be both aesthetically pleasing AND fun to stitch. So many of them suck you in because they look gorgeous but once you start stitching, the attraction wears off and you have to plod on to the finish line. Others look like I would enjoy stitching them but the overall look of the piece is too simplistic or childish. Kathy Barrick’s designs achieve a lovely balance between beauty and fun.

There is enough movement and flow to the design, enough colors to keep you interested and challenged but never so much that you get fed up and wonder why you wanted to stitch the darn piece in the first place.

And I just love the whimsical charm of her patterns.

I was aiming for a brighter look than the stitched model on the pattern. I also replaced the brown flowers in the original with a variegated pale white-ish thread. Lastly, I replace the fictitious 1824 with the birth year of my beloved brother-in-law who passed away last year.

Pattern: Enchanted (Carriage House Samplings)
Designer: Kathy Barrick
Fabric: 36-ct HDF linen Zymurgy
Threads: HDF silks – BeSeeded (deer), Examplar Lark’s Tongue and Light French Artichoke (flowers), Ochre 4409 (leaves), Oil of Amber 4111 (hooves and tail)
Started: September 16, 2016
Finished: September 2, 2017

Petits Alphabets

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I had started this small piece several years ago as a travel project. It’s interesting how a simple, cute pattern can quickly become pesky and tiresome once you start stitching it. The little house was easy of course, but the alphabets were the reason this piece languished for so many years. Each one had to be started and finished separately because I am loath to carry thread over for more than 2-3 stitches. So after a while, I gave up stitching it on planes because it was so tedious. I finally finished it this week. On my couch at home.

The fabric is a scrap of Dauphin. I had stumbled upon a thick stack of Dauphin fabric scraps at Vikki’s factory; they were discards from Bob’s dyeing experiments and they weren’t going to sell them. Needless to say, I saved them from the trash bin for exactly this purpose – to stitch smalls.

Pattern: Petits Alphabets (free at PCB Dijon)
Designer: Sylvaine Lenoir
Fabric: 40ct Dauphin (scrap)
Threads: HDF pre-dyed silk
Started: March 25, 2013
Finished July 20, 2017

 

Randje Per Week – Weeks 18 to 54

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This was a year-long stitch along started by two Dutch ladies in 2014. Two bands were released each week for a total of 106 bands (the first installment had four bands). I made it up to band 52, then gave up working on it for some reason. Maybe I got fed up of the deceptive nature of the bands. Because of the repetitive motif, you are lulled into believing it’s a quick and easy stitch.

After a long hiatus, however, my mind kept going back to it, so this weekend, I worked on it again. I finished bands 53 and 54. I plan to do a little bit each week and finish it this year.

Pattern: Randje Per Week (free pattern; now on sale)
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

Jane Longstreth Update

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I have been rather sluggish with my stitching over the last year. Though I kept working on Jane, my heart was not in it and I just could not sit still long enough to focus. Moreover, it all seemed so pointless because each cross stitch project takes forever and all of my stuff and stash would become rubbish after I die anyway. Somewhere along the way, I had forgotten to enjoy the process – to lose oneself in simply creating something beautiful with color and design, and fabric and thread, without fretting about finishing and usefulness and tangible value – all those dreadful inhibitors of the artistic impulse.

Fortunately, my enthusiasm was renewed over the last two weeks when a friend took me to Stitches West – a yarn trade show held at a nearby convention center. Granted it had almost nothing to do with cross stitch but it felt very good to be among crafters and see all that fibre and color around me. And I discovered a Pat Carson’s needles, which are made by an elderly man in Japan. I like to think of them as magic needles because once I had them in my hand, I didn’t feel like putting my stitching down. Just like old times!

Some of the motifs in the Jane Longstreth are over one. The prospect of using regular thread over one was daunting but it was not as bad as I had expected. The leaves are outlined with stem stitch and supposed to be filled in with stem stitch too but I didn’t like the look (the leaf on the right).

So I stitched them with the Cretan stitch using the excellent instructions here and here. I am going to try doing the rest of them without the stem-stitch outline.

Here is where I stand on the sampler. Not significant progress since the last photo but I am happy to be just enjoying stitching again.

Pattern: The Jane Longstreth Sampler
Designer: Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College
Fabric: 38-ct Nacre by Gander
Threads: HDF silks
Started: August 21, 2015