January 29, 2006

Cross Stitch Collection - Feast your eyes!

I thought I would show the contents of Cross Stitch Collection as a pictorial review this month - as they say, a picture paints a thousand words!

One of the reasons I really enjoy Collection is that there are no "gimmicks" - there are no give-aways, freeby kits or gifts on a Cross Stitch theme (you can always buy one of the other magazines if that is what you like) - although occasionally you get a poster sized chart or booklet (next month there is a 12-pager). What you are guaranteed is a magazine full of excellent high-quality designs (then you have the pleasure of going to an on-line store like Sewdiscounted and ordering up all the threads and accessories for the project stash!). In other words, Collection does not need to rely upon cover kits to market its magazine, its quality is its best selling point.

Home Sweet Home is on my to-do list (designed by Cathy Bussi) - I would love to know where the frame can be purchased. I will have to look in the frame shop next week to see if they have something similar. As the magazine suggests, the design can be adapted for Valentine's Day (although it is possibly too late now unless you can get working on it straight away). I just love the folk-art look to it - it would look pretty in our spare room to welcome guests.

If you read my blog entry yesterday, you will remember the free gift I mentioned of the Wildlife kit - it is shown below. I think it is something that would be worth taking out the subscription for, as it is a beautiful design for a gift or to keep.


Cathy Bussi's pretty and very feminine cards would be perfect for Mother's Day or even a friend's birthday.

I admit, there are a couple of designs I did not really like this month - Lesley Teare has produced a two-part set This month it is an Oast House, which is a typical style house in Kent, East England. These houses are round shaped and were typically for storing grains and hops for beer, although people lived in them too. The second in the series will be published next month and is a windmill - again a typical country style scene. Although both designs are pretty, I am not so keen on the harsh blocks of colour and lack of real dimension. In my opinion, Lesley is better at botanics (such as the lavender sampler I have on our kitchen wall) than buildings!

Diane Machin has designed a chart called Goddess of Love (the Roman goddess Venus). The border is very pretty, pillars in turquoise blue, with roses growing up round them. My problem is with Venus' face - she is meant to be beautiful, but I think she looks rather ugly, with brown "blobs" for eyes and shocking red lips rather than the softness and beauty I associate with her as a mythical icon from the sea.

Last and by no means least - the Peter Rabbit chart. I don't really need to describe it (see the photo below!), it is amazing and thoroughly deserves the prime spot in the magazine. It is designed to be made into a clock and has wonderful scenes of Peter that are too adorable for words!

January 28, 2006

What Breed of Cat Are You?

Apparently, according to the Cat Breed Quiz linked via Lili's Blog, I am a "La Perm" which I think is appropriate if only because my hair has a natural curl - it tells me "You are adventurous and known for your unique hairstyle which you are proud of"

:-D LOF (Lots of fun!!), thanks Lili

Please link to the quiz via Lili's Blog if you want to try it out and see your result - and while you are there, take a look at her lovely Craft projects !


A Nice Surprise!

A Gift in Cross Stitch!
DH is away for a few days on business so its been a very quiet time at home. I have spent today catching up on jobs around the house and also trying to progress on the Wedding Sampler as I have about 11 days to go before it has to be finished. When I got back home from University yesterday afternoon, there was an Amazon parcel on the doorstep (our postie always hides it in the porch behind a flowerpot, but no-one takes anything in our village!) "Strange" I thought "I don't remember ordering anything ...."
When I opened it, it was a book (pictured left) which DH had bought as a bit of a "cheer up" while I was home-alone. Its beautifully compiled by David & Charles, written by Barbara Hammet, full of photos and information. There are unusual projects such as a Charles Voysey clock (appropriately called TIME ENOUGH) featuring two swans in a lake with birds and deers, 3 classic Mackintosh cushions, and smaller motifs for a needle case, pin cushion, napkins, coasters etc (shown on the cover. Lots of information to browse all about this iconic and evocative era at the turn of the last Century.

I will try to do a review of the current Cross Stitch Collection in the coming days - its a great issue, with plenty to put on the to-do list for the Spring and Summer months. I am considering terminating my Q&E subscription when it comes up for renewal in 2 months, and there is rather a stunning Tiger and her Cub kit (normally £25) being offered for new subscribers to Collection ... its very tempting. Cathy Bussi has been featured frequently and I really do love her designs, so I am sure it will be worth getting.

It was a really cold but bright day in England today - very blue and crisp but so cold, the frost on the ground still had not melted by sun-down. I think its healthy to have this weather as it kills off all the bugs, and also the slugs and snails (sorry, chaps, but you really upset me when you eat all my busy-lizzies in the Summer !)

WIP - Brenda Keyes Wedding Sampler (plus Little Gold Ted)

Here is an update of my Wedding Sampler. Yes, now it has both the bride and groom's name on. I am on track to complete it in time - I estimate a further 6 hours' work is needed to complete the flowers round the edges. I will be very busy at work next week, with my Project testing due to start in 10 days and lots to prepare, but I plan to stitch 3 hours tomorrow and three next Saturday. Then I have time on Sunday for stretching and framing. I am looking for an Antique Pine frame as I know it will fit in well with Matt and Trudy's home surroundings. I am planning to go to the Pine Shop near University next Friday to see what I can find.

Enjoy your Saturday, have some fun and as always HAPPY CRAFTING!

January 26, 2006

Let's Get Tagging!

Something fun to do - Tagging!
All rather new and strange to me, but then againI am :-) I have followed San's instructions, so if it all goes wildly wrong, I apologise here and now!

Casserole of my life
Recent Runes
AngelSan Creation
Ali B Creations

Here are the people I am tagging:

Here are the topics:

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was doing part-time studies in Business IT at University while working in a Telecomms company as an Office Manager - I was getting fed up of supporting everyone else's career but not getting very far in my own, so I decided to get some formal qualifications in Computing so that I could fly up through that "glass ceiling" and get into the blue sky! I have never regretted it. My DH was a DBF in those days :-) ahh, we knew back then that we would be together always - since about a week after going out together, in fact.

Five snacks you enjoy.
1 - Anything on Toast - Marmite, Baked Beans, Marmalade
2 - Banana Sandwich with brown sugar
3 - Egg salad Sandwich
4 - Cereal and milk
5 - Porridge made with jumbo oats, milk and sprinkle of brown sugar on top!

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics off your head right now.
1 - American Pie - Don McLean
2 - Everybody Hurts - REM
3 - I'm on top of the World - The Carpenters
4 - Killing me Softly - Roberta Flack
5 - Criticize - Alexander O'Neil

Five things you would do if you had one million pounds (that's the currency I operate with!)
1 - Pay off our mortgage
2 - Throw a garden party for my friends
3 - put some away for a rainy day
4 - Give some to Alderhay children's hospital and some to Cancer Research
5 - Buy DH his favourite car (Boxster)

Five bad habits.
The only one which DH can't stand is that I shove all the recycling into one bag and he has to sort it out into the different bins at the Recycle Centre - well, I don't have time for the niceties in life :-)

Five things you like doing:

1 - physical exercise: Yoga, Running, Swimming
2 - music: playing Classical Guitar (less these days while I am studying!)
3 - crafts: cross-stitch, painting, machine sewing, beadcrafts
4 - Reading - books, craft magazines, journals
5 - gardening - I love the outdoor life and watching beautiful things grow and mature

Five things you would never buy, wear or get new again.

1 - really tight jeans - even tho I am slimmer now than when I was in my 20's, I prefer comfort!
2 - Tesco's CD boxes - they use stupid peel-off labels that split and don't peel off :-(
3 - new car - 2nd hand cars are fine!
4 - software manual - too much now available on the web, and software changes too quickly
5 - TV ... this is a contentious issue, DH and I are still not sure if we want one - too much rubbish on TV, not enough time to watch the good bits!

Five favourite toys - some are more like games!

1 - Trivial Pursuits
2 - Boggle (word-game)
3 - Scrabble
4 - My digital camera - its such fun :-)
5 - collection of Harrods teddies (one for each year DH and I have been together)

January 25, 2006

Head Like Cotton Wool

Hi there everyone - well, as you can tell from my previous 'daft' posting, my brain is like pulp and I am up with the birdies in the sky!

Lili, I agree with you about Pulp Fiction, its just so ace, I really could watch it a dozen times and find something new and quirky to laugh about, that is the mastery of Tarantino's gift.

Time prevents me from doing a detailed posting today, however, I will update my blog on Friday when I have some more time. From time to time, I hop onto your blogs and leave my "footprints" where I have been, its just so hectic at the moment - I am sure we are all in the same mad situation of having too little time to spread around too many tasks. Maybe God is looking down and smiling on us like little ants dashing here there and everywhere - but in the meantime, we do have mortgages to pay, families to care for and about, and apologies to make to our friends for not keeping in touch enough.... keep coming back to me, I would miss you so!

In the meantime, big hugs, and happy crafting, all
Ali xxx

January 24, 2006

Me In 4's

Well, I am completely confused about how to "tag" but I got this from AngelSan's website http://angelsan.free.fr/blog.php (maybe just putting the url is classed as the tag ...). So if anyone can explain how it all works, then I can do it right in future.

Anyway, here are the details:

Four Jobs you’ve had

1. IT Service Innovation Analyst (currently)
2. Interpreter for English Managing Director who spoke no Spanish, working in a Spanish electronics co.
3. Shoe shop assistant (Saturday job when I was at school)
4. Working in a bar (my friend runs a bar in the South of Spain, I was helping out so I guess maybe its not really a job)

Four Films you’d watch over and over
1. 2001, The Space Odyssey (Kubrick's masterpiece - thanks for correcting the daft mistake :-)

2. Pulp Fiction - I just love Quentin Tarrantino's black humour
3. Somewhere in Time (Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour)
4. The Deer Hunter

Four Places I Have Lived
1. Montreal (Canada)
2. Yorkshire (England)
3. Mexico City
4. South Heath (England)

Four T.V. shows you love to watch
(Lets ignore the fact that I do not have a TV!) ... Here are a few good programmes (they will be repeats by now :-)
1. Friends
2. Little House on the Prairie
3. Star Trek
4. Starsky & Hutch

4 Places you’ve been on holiday
1. Valencia, Spain
2. Guadalajara, Mexico
3. New York USA
4. Jerusalem, Israel

4 of your favourite foods
1. Any (Veggie) soup - always top of the list
2. Penne con funghi (penne pasta with mushrooms)
3. Freshly baked bread
4. Viennetta (icecream)

Places you’d rather be right now
1. Strolling along Las Ramblas in Barcelona with DH
2. In my garden
3. In a restaurant with a group of friends
4. Running around Central Park, NY

Four singers I Can’t Live Without
1. Chris Martin of Cold Play
2. Alexander O'Neil
3. Karen Carpenter - definitely has a voice like an Angel
4. Gloria Estefan

4 sites you visit daily
1. my Hotmail a/c
2. Bloglines - mine and all my friends
3. BBC News
4. Amazon

Four Bloggers you are tagging

If only I knew how!!

January 22, 2006

Update on Wedding Sampler ... and that Mystery Parcel !

I had a productive weekend's stitching - I felt fully justified in doing very little other than stitching yesterday, because I am now on very limited time to get the Wedding Sampler completed before February 13th when DH flies off the NZ! After dinner last night, I mapped out the words onto graph paper, just to ensure I centred the lines across the design. I still need to add "MATTHEW" next to TRUDY, and also a flower bud on the right of "MARRIAGE" to balance the design. I ran out of time as DH and I spent the day putting up towel rails, toilet roll holders and a blind in the shower room and downstairs toilet - it looks much more "finished" now, but we still need to order the floor covering ... have not made up our minds on that, yet!

Disaster has struck :-( I have run out of DMC 407 (pale pink) which is used for the inside flowers round the border. I have ordered another skein from SewDiscounted with some other colours I need, so it should arrive midweek. If not, I will go to Hobbycraft on Thursday as I want to buy the frame there too. Meanwhile, I can stitch the cream flowers, stems and leaves outside the border, so it will not slow me down! All being well, I will finish around 10 days ahead of schedule, with some breathing space "just in case". Phew!

As I mentioned in a previous entry, a parcel has been waiting for me at the Post Office. As I thought, it was from my brother and sister-in-law. When I got it home, DH and I opened it up and it had a large silver box inside for each of us. Excitement was not the word!! DH's box contained a beautiful velour bath-robe in lovely browns, burgundies and deep green colours and my box contained a towelling bath-robe which was softer than cotton wool. Weren't we lucky!!!

Scroll down to the next entry for the latest Cross Stitch Gold review! Have a happy evening everyone! I am off to make some Leek and Potato Soup - just the thing for a cold evening yum. xxx

Magazine Reviews Galore ;~D

Review of Cross Stitch Gold
Hoorah, lots of magazines to keep us happy during the dull days of January! Although, I must say we have had a lot of blue skies and sunshine in England since Friday ... but I won't get too excited about Springtime as apparently the Siberian sub-sub-zero conditions (i.e. -30 deg!!) will influence our weather in the coming week. No worries, its an excuse to stay warm and cosy indoors.
Here are the highlights of Cross Stitch Gold issue 37:
Maria Diaz is amazingly versatile - I have charts she has designed which range from Tigers to cute "chocolate-box" cottages, funny cartoon characters for weddings to the Pyramids of Egypt! This month her latest offering is Magnificent Venice, with a Gondolier gently travelling down the canal towards a bridge, with the old stone buildings on either side, brimming with colourful hanging baskets. The most amazing detail is the way Maria has used a wonderful blend of stone, sand, cream and grey colours to create the texture on the buildings - Amazing! Maria has also designed a Tulip Fairy, but unfortunately I think that her mouth looks a bit like she has had botox!! Sorry Maria, don't take it the wrong way, it is so incredibly difficult to get facial features right ... which is why Fay Whittaker has her characters facing away from view!
Susan Bates has created a "Flowers of the Month" Sampler showing blooms which typically flower in each month of the year - my favourites are daffodil in March, (or perhaps yellow Narcissus ? ...), water lily in July and Michaelmas Daisies in September.
Joanne Aston's "Life on the Riverbank" deserves a mention - it is an unusual elongated design which gives the feel of a panoramic view - just perfect for the natural subject matter. It shows a mother duck lovingly watching over her 3 cute chicks - the mother's expression is really proud and protective at the same time. Joanne has captured the lacy winged dragonfly beautifully and there is a frog perched on a stone - wonderful detail.
Lucie Heaton is a "Master of all things Cute"! This time she has done a colourful farmyard scene, 2 pigs looking through a blue gate, cat strutting across the gate and a chicken and sheep holding up a red banner with "All the Fun of the Farm" on it - I go AHHHHHHHH every time I see it. I think it is going on my to-do list just because of that!
"In the Spotlight" features Barbara Thompson - I have not heard of her before (or at least I cannot remember stitching her designs!), but she talks about her love of teaching others how to stitch and not to be afraid of experimenting with different colours and designs. Sounds like good advice.

http://angelsan.free.fr/blog.php <- San has excelled herself as normal, with thorough reviews of Quick and Easy Cross Stitch and Cross Stitcher magazines, so have a read of her comments. I am most excited by Joan Elliott's fab project called Gifts of Wisdom (page 44 - 47 of Cross Stitcher). It consists of 3 medium-sized motifs depicting nature scenes and inspirational Native American sayings: "Live Strong as the Mountains", "Walk Tall as the Trees" and "Be Known by the Tracks you Leave". These have been mounted onto dark brown suede (like the American Indians wear!) and created into a wall hanger montage which would look just great in our hallway. Joan's design (taken from her new book of Native American designs) uses brown, cream and orange feathers, with bright coloured beads hanging in cascades down each side and additional seed bead embellishments on each motif. Its on my To-do list, that's for sure!

It was lovely to receive such nice comments about the Valentine's Day card I bought for DH and I hope it has inspired people to think of what to buy for their "Other Half" !

January 19, 2006

Watch this Space - what's coming soon ....

I received my subscription copy of Cross Stitch Gold today, so I will take some photos and do a full review of charts and features of interest. Its a great copy! Plenty for all tastes and preferences.

What's in "the mystery parcel"? ..... I have been trying to pick up a parcel from the post office after several attempts by the delivery van to bring it to us (poor guy, we are always out during the day!). When I got to the post office sorting office this afternoon, it had closed early (apparently, Thursdays is their afternoon off!) Frustration abounds, what is in the parcel, who is it from??? I think it must be from my brother who sent some stuff over for Christmas, but DH told me he is still waiting for a book for me from Amazon as he received a mail to say it would be 4 - 6 weeks.... either way, its going to be fun finding out. I will try tomorrow morning before going to University, so watch this space, I could have exciting news, you never know ;-D

In the meantime, here is Romantic Card for DH's Valentines Day (we buy each other 1 Romantic Card and 1 Silly or Funny Card - we do keep the card shops in business, but its just a tradition for us!). Marks & Spencer (the wonderful store where everyone buys their knickers from :-) had a special promotion yesterday. There was a lady sitting by the card section doing Free Calligraphy messages in every card purchased. So I found a nice card and she used her lovely inks to do the message. Isn't it fab?

The Lost Doll

On Harsha's blog dated 14th January, she shows her lovely Cross Stitch piece called The Old Doll -> link to her blog (http://shinyscissors.blogspot.com/). I still have fond memories of the first doll my mother gave me. It brought to mind a lovely poem from my childhood book "A Treasury of Poetry" by Hilda Boswell, which I still have and enjoy reading from time to time. I have added a couple of the illustration from the book, as the pictures are just wonderful and bring each poem to life. I am thinking of writing to Cross Stitch Gold and asking if one of their designers (Maria Diaz or Sue Cook perhaps) could create a chart for it, as I am sure they could do it justice. Or maybe, will see a designer at Olympia Stitch exhibition in March.

Isn't it a touching photo of the girl, who is overjoyed at finding her doll again, even though it is dirty and broken. I think its a lesson on how people can love each other, no matter what their outer appearance is....

Happy Thursday, all !

The Lost Doll
I once had a sweet little doll, dears,
The prettiest doll in the world;
Her cheeks were so red and so white, dears,
And her hair was so charmingly curled.
But I lost my poor little doll, dears,
As I played in the heath one day;
And I cried for her more than a week, dears;
But I never could find where she lay.
I found my poor little doll, dears,
As I played in the heath one day;
Folks say she is terribly changed, dears,
For her paint is all washed away,
And her arms trodden off by cows, dears,
And her hair not the least bit curled;
Yet for old sakes' sake she is still, dears,
The prettiest doll in the world.

January 17, 2006

Review of Cross Stitch Card Shop (Feb 2006 issue)

So, what's on offer in the Cross Stitch Card Shop this month?
Well, for starters there is a cute freeby which is a Souffle card (one of the Popcorn family) - nice for some quick Spring-time stitching - or even an Easter or Mother's Day card! Included in kit: Threads, needle, card, motifs for Mothers Day and "With Love" and mini-envelope. The chart is printed in the magazine and is fairly large and clear rather than the small pre-printed cards sometimes included in the actual kit bag.

Now, for the highlights (in order of my preference):

Furry Friends (designer: Jenny Barton) Cute cats and dogs in bright colours with bones around the border (for the dogs) and fish bones (for the cats)

Roses and Bows (designer: Susan Bates) Topiary designs, good for Mother's Day (or even a 'girlie card' for a dear friend's birthday).

Feng Shui (designer: Sue Page) These are very true depictions of flowers with traditional oriental styles 'joy', 'love', 'friendship' - an excellent idea for a general all-year-round greeting card. I think they may take quite a few hours to stitch ...

His and Hers (designer: Debra Page) Lovely bright colours, cartoon-style, good enough for your Man! i.e. not too frilly or romantic. His-and-Hers Undies, Dancing Shoes, Sunday Brunch - hey the list is wonderful!

I used to subscribe to this magazine, then the designs were not so good for a while, so I swapped to Cross Stitch Gold - then Card Shop improved - isn't it just my luck!! Mind you I love Gold - its the Best!! So now I buy Card Shop when I see something I like in it.

Project WIP Photos - with a difference!

Difficult to tell, but the paint work was green and purple - yuk!!

Before you are worried and think I am doing rather weird Cross Stitch pictures these days, this is just something for those who might be interested!! Von asked me to show some project photos of our ensuite shower room which we have just completed. I don't need to explain which ones are the "before" and which are the "after" photos as I think that is clear :-)
It has been a dream for a couple of years to have a proper shower room (which is off our bedroom) - as I believe in the 'pamper-value' for a woman to be able to have a luxury room to put all her potions creams and bubbles!! I thought it would never happen - but happily after many weekends hard work, this is the result. I am still pinching myself as I cannot quite believe we have done it.

Well, its back to the Cross-stitch now :-)

Ali xxx

January 16, 2006

First posting of a new week!

Hi there everyone - I have really missed doing my blog entries due to work being so busy last week, so I have really been looking forward to talking with you all again! I was pleased with my stitching efforts this weekend, as I continued with the Welsh sampler and also started the Wedding sampler which DH will take over to New Zealand for Matthew and Trudy in February.

I decided to make a quick calculation to work out how long it will take me to finish the Sampler based on the hours I estimate it will take and the days I have available to stitch. I believe it will take me a total of 24 hours stitching time (which is quite quick - based on what I did over the weekend) and I should complete it with about 5 hours to spare which gives me a further weekend to frame it and pack it in protective bubble-wrap and carton ready for DH's hand-luggage (definitely don't trusting it to be delivered in one piece if put in the suitcase!!)

The other main activity of the weekend was that DH and I finished the decorating in the bathroom and downstairs utility room where we have now got our washing machine and tumble drier as well as some nice cupboards to store all my washing liquids etc. I even sneaked a small bowl of pot pourris on the counter-top (DH laughed and said that he knew I could not resist "pretty-ing it up" ;-) he knows what I am like.

I hope to be able to have a more advanced photo of the Welsh sampler with most of the border completed by the end of the week. It is going in the hall, I decided last week. Just need to find a suitable frame.

Bye for now, happy crafting all !


January 10, 2006

A Quick Posting to say Hello

Hello my Crafting Friends,

I have started a new job this week and it will be difficult to get to my computer to update my blog until Friday, as I have to attend a two day team meeting and things like that - being "the new girl" will be fun! After all the new things I will have to learn, I think I will feel like Eeyore (see picture above!).

In the meantime, why not visit dear AngelSan's blog to see the update from our get-together yesterday evening. Just click here: http://angelsan.free.fr/blog.php

Come back and visit me soon, OK?

San's stir-fry was a-mazing :-) Had a lovely evening with her, chatting about our crafts, Christmas, future project plans, current WIPs! I also saw San's lovely pictures of her home town Lille, and it is definitely on my wish-list to go over there for a visit soon - it looks beautiful and historic.

Take care, keep crafting!
Ali xx

January 07, 2006

Review of Cross Stitch Collection (Feb 2006 issue)

(Apologies for the poor quality photo - I need to get a scanner!)

In recent months I have been very impressed with Cross Stitch Collection Magazine (Future Publications) - I bought it on and off over the years but have recently "rediscovered" it as a very worthwhile craft magazine. The magazine will appeal to a certain type of stitcher (intermediate to advanced) or for certain projects (medium to large sized - although the charts are easy to adapt and I have made smaller motifs from the larger designs). If you are looking for quick makes, you would be better buying Cross Stitch Crazy, Q&E Cross Stitch, etc. Cross Stitch Collection focuses on botanical and animal studies, human portraits etc, but there are also some really lovely samplers (modern and traditional) and projects which show originality and imagination. "A Good Read" always features something really interesting to look at over a cup of coffee! This month it is all about textile designs from South America by Carol Cathcart. The crossword is also great for lunch hour at work - and there is a prize to be won if you can re-arrange the letters to make a stitching word - since last month they have even added a Sudoku!

The Apache Wedding Blessing by Joan Elliott is just wonderful! The Blessing is dear to my heart as DH and I chose it as one of the readings at our Wedding in 2003 - so its definitely on my to-do list. It is very attractive, mainly worked in blues and rose pinks on a rustic aida fabric, with sead beads around the border. My only hesitation is that Joan Elliott's detailed style requires her to use a lot of fractionals which I do not particularly enjoy, however now that I have discovered the delights of evenweave, it may be easier. There is no back-stitching on this one, so that should please some people, although I actually enjoy it as it brings a project to life.

Other designs are a simply stunning Geisha Girl by Amy Adams, Sheila Hudson's spring-time Golden Daffodils to remind us that colour will shortly be splashed around England with those most beautiful of bulbs, Maria Diaz' Panda with a very unusual border where she has super-imposed bamboo stalks around the end of the design (stunning!), Sue Cook's series of Traditional Nursery Rhymes this month is Jack and Jill (last month was Humpty Dumpty). Cathy Bussi brings us some additional projects to sew: apart from her main chart "Love is like a Butterfly", she also shows how to make a fabric heart with cross-stitching on and a sachet for adding pot-pourri - all very romantic for Valentine's Day but I think I would be stitching it for me rather than DH :-) ... or else for a dear friend.

A big reason I have enjoyed Cross Stitch Collection magazine is that the letters page is actually very interesting!! San and I have always laughed together at some of the "corny" letters and editor's responses published in many of the Cross Stitch Magazines available, but the letters are genuinely interesting and readers often share some useful tips and experiences of stitching which I enjoy reading about!

At £3.99, it is good value and the proportion of advertising is not too much (what is advertised is interesting!).

January 06, 2006

All About Samplers!

Latest WIP of Welsh Sampler
(shows work from 5 + 6 January 2006)

Hi there Cross-Stitch Friends!

I am really looking forward to showing off my work on the Welsh sampler - its probably the quickest I have worked on a piece of this size, it has been such a pleasure to stitch! I am praying that when I join up the two ends of the inside border, that they meet :-) The book does warn about this, so I have been really careful to count 23 stitches for each "section" of the zigzags - mind you, I admit I went into a bit of a daze today and ended up stitching 33 stitches before realising that I had go way over the stitch-count! As you can see from the above, I have started the top line of the Upper Case alphabet and only have about 1 hour's work to do on that, plus the border before finishing!! I cannot wait to publish my next WIP photo as it will really take shape by then.

Lili has asked me to explain about samplers, what they are and some background. So it is with much pleasure that I give some details here:

The origin of the English Sampler dates back to the 16th Century and were often stitched by young girls of between 8 and 14 years old as part of their education. As the name suggests, they are called Samplers because it provided a means of practicing a series of different stitches (hence, from the Latin work "exemplum") and a variety of letter types. The seamstress would often incorporate their name, date of birth, and year of creation onto the work - often it was the most reliable way of recording a person's birth-date (before official records were kept).

I guess I am a bit of a "purist" as far as samplers go, so I sometimes disagree with the way some magazines describe a birth and marriage cross-stitch piece as a Sampler, when the only connection with the original concept is that it has the Marriage date and Bride and Groom's names .... I only consider it a Sampler if it has the traditional lines of letters, numbers, maybe a few motifs and an attractive border.

There are a number of styles such as Band Samplers, Blackwork Samplers, as well as the original ones in full colour! They often on domestic themes such as 'Bless This House' or commemorating a birth - Brenda Keyes even does a special sampler for Twins!


There are many designers who are linked with Samplers, either because they have created authentic duplicates of original samplers or because they create their own charts. Here are just a few of my favourite people:

JANE GREENOFF - Jane has a very large (and I imagine priceless!) collection of samplers that she and her husband have purchased from travels around the world - mainly from antique or bric-a-brac shops. Jane has published many books, of which I have a copy of each, in which she has charted some truly sumptuous designs. Samplers are often displayed in stately homes owned by the National Trust, English Heritage and I often "drag" my very tolerant DH around to see them :-) He does admit that they are very charming, once I have him standing there, with his arm behind his back (or maybe its just a way of hurrying me up so that we can visit the Tea shop for a cup of tea and slice of home-made cake).
BRENDA KEYES - Brenda's book "Traditional Samplers" is full of beautiful charts of many styles of samplers dating back to the 1600's (my Welsh Sampler is one of her designs).
HELEN PHILLIPS - Helen has produced a number of really great books on Samplers and her style is very different to the above designers, because her charts are very modern and just wonderful to stitch for hanging around the home. She uses a mix of pastels and really vivid colours in her designs and usually does a line of repeating motifs with some lettering which is always very attractive

I hope that this is of interest to you.

Tomorrow I will do a review of Cross Stitch Collection - I have not seen any other reviews of this magazine on other blogs/websites so thought I would give some details - its great for large designs from a wide variety of Designers, especially Sue Cook, Maria Diaz and Joan Elliot to name a few.

Enjoy your day!

January 04, 2006

Progress on my Sampler .... Sadness in USA

WIP Photo 4th Jan 2006
(Click on Photo to enlarge)
Detail Photo
(Click on Photo to enlarge)

I was quite motivated for stitching today for some reason - I guess its because I can see my work coming to life so its a good incentive to finish it and hang it on the wall. Since yesterday I have stitched a complete line of the lower case alphabet (at the top of the sampler), plus the line and also 3 more of the green embellishments on the border. I need to finish off the border line, but its a bit boring ... so of course I keep putting it off :-( Maybe I will do some of it tomorrow, then I can add the embellishments on the other side which are in a different colour - that should spice it up a bit! The reason I added a detail photo is that when I looked at the photo on yesterday's blog entry I thought that the shapes to the right of the numbers were not very clear. I think they were added to balance the line off (rather than having a gap).


Just to offer my deepest sorrow to all US people reading this blog - it was so awful to hear the events unfold during today, with the families of the miners trapped underground firstly rejoicing because they thought their loved-ones were saved, only to have their hopes dashed when it transpired that there had been a mis-communication and all but one miner had perished.

It is unimaginable to reflect upon the pain and distress those people must be feeling right now - what a tragic way to start the New Year.

January 03, 2006

Latest on my Welsh Sampler

Here is an updated WIP photo of my Welsh Sampler which shows some progress on the alphabet part of the sampler and also the border. Unfortunately, because some of the letters are stitched in Ecru (cream to you and me!!), it looks as if there are gaps, because the definition on the photo is not great - but I have stitched them (honest! ;-) I hope that I will complete the main part of the Sampler by the end of this week and the border by the weekend so that I can get started on the Wedding present for our friends early next week, although I am quite tempted to make a start on it over the weekend. I know I am impatient, but hey, its a weakness of us all !

It has been really grey, cloudy and damp here in England all day, almost as if you could reach out and touch the clouds; a typical English January day - the daylight has been poor, but sitting by the large window in our living room, I have been able to make good progress on my stitching today. It was also helped by my DH going back to work - not that I do not like having him around, but I do find that I end up making something to eat, chatting and not stitching :-) I am not sure if I am the only one to stick with day-light for stitching - it really is limiting, I know. That is one reason I do a Happy Dance as soon as the days get longer and I know I will have many happy hours of stitching over the summer months.

I am going to do some painting in our downstairs cloakroom tomorrow - we have a friend coming over on Saturday to help us fit a counter-top over our washing machine and tumble drier and also some cupboards to store all my washing "supplies" so I have to make sure the walls have been painted ready. So maybe I will have little time for stitching, but will try to allow myself a "lunch-hour" !! I have decided on a pale moss green colour called Croquet.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Those who have visited Lili's Blog today will have seen her lovely "Five Golden Rings" Margaret Sherry design which is one of the Twelve Days of Christmas. As Lili (and probably many others!) may be rather mystified by the song and what it all means, I thought it would be of interest to have a brief explanation of it here:

The Twelve Days of Christmas song dates back to 16th Century England when Catholicism was outlawed in favour of Protestantism and it became an offence (punishable by death) to practice or even talk about it. Hence the song was thought up as an easy way for people to memorise the main principles without the need to write it down and "disguising" the true meaning in the words of a Christmas song:

A Partridge in a Pear Tree represents Christ as a Partridge who protects her young by pretending to be injured
2 Turtle Doves - The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens - Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds - the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings - The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace
6 Geese a-Laying - the six days of creation
7 Swans a-Swimming - the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids a-Milking - the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing - the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords a-Leaping - the Ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming - the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

January 02, 2006

Making Project Decisions!

Hi there everyone!

Perhaps my 2006 New Year Resolution shall be "to be more decisive" .... this is because I have decided on three cross stitch projects for the coming month(s)!

I was fully intending to take Isabelle's great advice (from her Blog Comment - see 21/Dec/05) to start my Flower Fairy kit in order to ring the changes with my Welsh Sampler which is a fairly long term project. Then I suddenly remembered that our friends in New Zealand are getting married on 25th February, and panic set in, as there is only 7 weeks to go until DH travels over to NZ. I will be sitting some exams for my Masters the week after, so it was impossible for me to go over there (I am very sad about it). I am hoping that a hand-made gift which DH will give them from us will be nicer than something bought and will make up for me not being there (they do understand though!).

Project One will be a Wedding Sampler for them. I chose it because it will be quick to make but is very effective - it only uses 7 colours (all of which I already have in my thread drawer) and I have a nice piece of 16 count Aida in an antique cream that works well. It is a Brenda Keyes design and she suggests that it is adaptable for many occasions (not just Engagements as in the photo from my book). So I am sure I will be able to complete it in about 4 weeks, just in time! I will need to find a frame for it - actually I have a gold one quite similar to the one shown in the photo, so that's another problem solved if I do not see anything else I prefer.

Project 2 is a Christmas present ("stocking filler") which DH's mother bought me - well she asked me to choose something and this was it! The only change I will be making is that I want to use Belfast Linen (as shown in the photo below) rather than the Aida supplied in the kit. I can always use the Aida for something else! The nice thing is that I can personalise it with my initials at the base of the tree and add the date.

Project Three: Just to prove that I do sew things other than samplers (!!) ... I found a gorgeous and very cute design in a DMC Favourites magazine which I was browsing through over a Christmas glass of wine! Both DH and I are avid book readers so I thought this would be nice to hang in the living room by our bookcase - I just love the way Mouse is perched on his stairs with books spread all around - its such a lovely scene.

- oo0oo -
I have been browsing round everyone's blog's and enjoying all your latest news - I have been trying to leave comments where-ever I visit as its such a thrill to see the number of comments rising, so wanted to contribute! I noticed the latest Question of the Week is going round, so here is my input to the Question:

How do you balance your stitching time with your other obligations such as work, household chores, etc.?
For me, fitting in my Crafts at the moment is a challenge, because I find there are not enough hours in the day and unfortunately my Crafts 'suffered' most in 2005. I was looking at some of the photos that I took through 2005 and counted 15 projects (that includes both large and small pieces) which is definitely not a lot.
Weekdays are spent at work, with Friday's at University during Term-time (from October - April) so the only free times I have are evenings and weekends. When I have exams or assignments coming up, my weekends are rather manic and I can spend up to 4 hours a day studying.
DH and I always have our meals together as this is a lovely social time for us to catch up on what we have been doing in the day. We have been busy doing a lot of DIY lately, so housework has been limited to keeping all the washing and ironing done, but not too much on the dusting and hoovering until all the work is finished!
Within the next 6 months things will improve. For a start, we aim to finish the decorating by around May-June time (we have been working on the house since 2003, so it has been a long-term project!) and my University Lectures will end in April 2006, then I only have to do my MSc Dissertation which will free up a lot of time as I can fit that in over a 1 Year period until 2007.
So I think that by the summer, I will be able to be a lot more creative and will even be able to do some craft fairs which I used to do regularly before my studies stole away all my time :-(

The best thing about having limited time for crafts is that I really appreciated being able to relax over Christmas and enjoy my stitching in the mid-day light. I only stitch in natural daylight which also limits my time - I just can't enjoy stitching by artificial light (even those daylight bulbs are not the same)

January 01, 2006

HAPPY NEW YEAR for 2006!

Firstly, I would like to wish everyone the brightest, most creative year possible in 2006 as well as the normal good wishes for health, happiness and wealth (in that order!!)

This is my first opportunity since the start of the holidays to log on and check my e-mails as well as post an entry on my Blog. Tomorrow I will be posting an updated WIP photo of my sampler which has been going rather well - those who saw my previous photo in an earlier entry will notice some good progress.

It seems as if people are writing about their new year's resolutions. I have never been very keen on them myself as it always seems to me to be strange to wait until Jan 1st to decide to take an action - although I think it is sometimes a good time because it seems like an emotional "new page" on the first day of a New Year. So I guess my main objective this year is to try to start fewer projects but finish what I have started and not lose interest half way through - I am not just referring to cross stitching, but to all aspects of my life. I have so many things I want to do that I sometimes overburden myself and then end up not doing anything. So if I can achieve the aim of completing and accomplishing fewer things better in the coming year, then I will be happy. I would also like to become more patient with others and try to understand people's point of view better - it is always too easy to get wrapped up in one's own beliefs and opinions, without considering what other people feel - so I hope to display some of that greater tolerance to all my friends and family in the year.

Hope its a good one for you all !