"The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."

Thomas Moore

Saturday, October 31, 2009

About needles and backstitch...

Dearest friends, as indeed you are, thank you for the lovely emails and comments over the last few months with regards to my neat backstitch. Many of you have asked "how" do I keep my stitches so tiny and tidy, and what needles do I use, so I thought we could chat about that today.

When I first began stitching in 2005 it was like being bitten by a mosquito...I just couldn't ignore the itch the stitch! My husband had a temporary teaching position in Armidale and because it was only for a few months we moved into a tiny cabin at the local caravan park. I was homeschooling the children (aged 11 and 12 at the time) and it was mid-winter - icily cold in the Southern Highlands! We would crack the ice off the inside walls of the cabin each morning, and wait until about 10am for the water in the taps to thaw so we could shower and cook. Lots of fun! ;-)
To keep myself occupied after their lessons I had taken up sewing small blocks and embroideries. My sewing machine, previously only ever used for hemming curtains or skirts, was packed in storage with most of what we owned, so everything I made was hand-stitched while living in that cabin. This was all new to me and I loved the beauty created by my fingers through the designs I stitched from craft magazines bought, or borrowed from the local library. Mostly this was backstitch, and my stitches were simply exquisite.

When we eventually moved away and into a house again I was able to use the sewing machine at last, and discovered how quickly I could make items without hand sewing all those seams! This was wonderful, BUT, over time I began to rush through projects, wanting to do more and more faster and faster...and those lovely backstitches weren't so lovely any more. My applique stitches were getting larger and larger in my attempt to finish items quicker in order to start on new ones. How sad.

Last year I decided it was time to slow down and enjoy the journey with needle and thread once more, and soak in every stitch. I began to breathe slower and to relax my shoulders...I looked with new eyes at my work and was not afraid to unpick a row of hand-stitching to re-do over again. I started to take pride in my workmanship in a way I had not done previously.

I experimented with different needles, and found I loved the long slim ones but they bent easily and some would even break in my fingers. Eventually I found myself returning again and again to these ones...

...easily found, the lovely Birch Size 9 embroidery needle. They never let me down.

Added note: Kim asked if I used a hoop when I stitch, and I appreciate her prompt because I have been asked that before and forgot to answer on the blog.
No, I never use a hoop. When I was rushing through my embroideries I had to use a hoop because when you rush you pull, then you pucker the fabric...but I have not used a hoop for the last year. Since I took care with the stitching and slowed down to enjoy the process and rhythm of the needle and thread working together with the fabric I have had no need of a hoop. The stitches are gently woven into the fabric and I can see that I have no need to pull or tighten. As I relaxed, the stitches relaxed with me.

Diane asked, "Do you only use one thread for letters?"
No, Diane. I use one thread for certain things like the string of lights on this Christmas tree, where I'd like the finish to look as though I drew it.

On these stitcheries I used two threads...

...but on these stitcheries I used 3 threads.

I find that the fabric used has a lot to do with how many strands I use - the two photos above where I used 3 strands were stitched on Osnaburg which has a very open weave and needs to have a thicker embroidery line.
I hope that has helped?

And finally, this was the thought of the day for October 29th, but I can't turn the page yet because it is speaking to me, right where I'm at, so I need to read it often during the day.

It also speaks into this little lesson about stitching...don't hurry the stitches. Enjoy the process, love what you do, and be at peace as you sew.

Love and hugs

Friday, October 30, 2009

Only 30 hours left for the sale, and do you feel like a SWAP?

Are you enjoying the ELEFANTZ sale on Etsy?! It has been such a busy shop these last 18 hours! Thank you for shopping with me. :-)
I have been joyfully emailing your designs all over the world - I feel a bit like cyber-Santa, even have some cookies and chocolate milk sitting here at my 'parcel' station to fuel my fingers on this keyboard. So much fun!!
Only 30 more hours till the sale is over....remember all patterns in my Etsy Store just $5 or less right now - and that's a saving of up to $8 on some sets!!

The mail is delivered to our pigeon-hole at the school office every morning, and after I'd done the grocery shopping for the Home Ec Dept I rushed over to see if any goodies had arrived (I'm excitedly waiting for a parcel from my Secret Angel)...well, that parcel was not there, BUT, another one was!
The gorgeous and talented Barb, from Barb's Creations, had sent me one of her beautiful journal covers!

Isn't it scrummy!!?? It holds an A5 sketch pad, perfect to keep by my bed for those midnight design ideas!
The stitchery is Barb's very own design and I LOVE it!!
I *think* she may just share it with you if you pop over to her blog and ask nicely....
Thank you darling Barb!! {{{hugs}}}


Now - are you finding all those swaps you've signed up for are keeping your stitching fingers working overtime??
How about a Swap where you don't have to stitch a single thing?
A Swap that is small, can be posted cheaply, and will add something new to your stash?

Well, Vicki and I are hosting it!

This is the "Very Quick Christmas Fabric, Buttons and Trim" Swap!

All you have to send are these:

*TWO fat quarters of Christmas themed 100% cotton quilting quality fabric,
*TWO Christmas buttons OR sew-on decorations,
*and ONE METRE (yard) of Christmassey ribbon or trim!

If you'd like to participate email Vicki or I with your details BEFORE Friday 6th November. As I said, this is a quick Swap...7 days to sign up!
Once we have your names we will email you your partner's details - then you have just 7 days to post your little package!!

Yes, 7 days to sign up, then 7 days to post. There is no stitching involved so this will be a quick Swap to do before Christmas. :-)

To email me simply click on the sidebar for my profile - my email address is on that page.


My Stitchers Angel got her parcel!!

It's so exciting when your swap partner contacts you to say they have received their parcel!
My partner was Nannette in Salt Lake City, and these are the gifts I made her.....

...a bag to hold all her patterns with my Country Roses Heart embroidered on the front, a notepad holder with my Country Roses Blessings Basket to pretty it, a set of my Roses coasters (free Roses design available here), some Australian wildflower fabric, and an Australian wildflower stationary set, with matching writing pad inside the notebook cover.
Nannette was very pleased with her parcel of stitched goodies, and THAT is the most beautiful thing - putting a smile on someone's face. :-)

Both my Country Roses designs used in these gifts are on sale right now in my Etsy Store.
Only 36 hours left till the prices go back up to normal! :-)

Drop by later today....Vicki and I have cooked up something quick and fun for you to be a part of. ;-)
I wonder what it could be????
For now though, I need another warm tea as I am still fighting this head cold....


Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'm having a 48 hour sale on Etsy!!!

It's almost the end of October - where has this year gone!?
I wondered today what I could do for you, as an end of year gift...and I thought, have a really GOOD sale!!!
So I am!

Every gorgeous PDF download design set in my Etsy Store is only $5 for the next 48 hours!!!
(and there's a couple of designs that are even cheaper than that!)

$5 - now that would buy me a coffee and a cookie - gone in 5 minutes.

But $5 for any of these design packs....

... well, they'll last longer than a coffee and cookie! And there are MORE design sets in my Store too!!!

I even have my triple packs of Shabby Roses designs at $5! If you haven't started this quilt yet, now is the time to start!

Remember, this is only for the next 48 hours and then all sets revert to their original prices of between $8.95 and $12.95!
You can start shopping just by clicking HERE!

One of the pattern sets in my Etsy Shop that you can purchase is the In My Garden/Window To My Garden design pack. Allie has just completed her own version of my designs in these really funky colours and I LOVE them!!!
Remember, this design pack is a staggering low and affordable $5 for the next 48 hours - that's less than 1/2 price!

Happy days stitching!
(and shopping)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sneak peeks, Blossom designs, and the possums...

My week began with the 12th Graders Home Ec class, making Beef Roulade. These young women are just gorgeous and I feel so blessed to spend time with them each week - they embrace me with their hearts and that makes the lesson an ever richer experience for me.
I'm helping teach the same recipe to Blossom's 10th grade class tomorrow, so as bonus practice for her we made it together this evening for our family meal - it was simply wonderful. She is slowly adding recipes to her repertoire for making over the December/January summer holidays. Last week it was Chicken Parmigiana, and next week it's Coconut Chicken Curry, so we're going to have a REALLY good menu plan for those two months! :-)

Speaking of food, Maggie and her baby, Charli, feasted on tomatoes and grapes tonight. You can't see in the photo, but my husband calls the time they arrive for dinner "bat o'clock', because the sky above is almost black with a blanket of bats, flying from their caves in the hills to eat the fruit from the hundreds and hundreds of mango trees that fill the streets and yards of our little town. I wish my camera were good enough to get them on film for you - it's an amazing sight!

Blossom has been creating.
She designed these little embroideries a few weeks back. After she stitched them they were passed along to me to 'do something with'. Ah, she has such confidence in her mother!! ;-)
Tonight I began working on that 'something', and it's quite cute, but I have a few more things to add to it before I can show you the finished project. Aren't they the sweetest little designs?

And of course, I've been creating myself....

...I hope to finish it tomorrow.

I'm discovering that I really need 'time out' sewing. That's sewing things that are not my designs - things that are just totally stress-free and thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish, things that I am not questioning myself 'will they like this?'.
At the moment that special time-out is the "Sewing Circle" BOM from Robyn Allen-Waters that I've mentioned before. Here's what I did last night on the first block...

What are you sewing at the moment?
Do you give away most of what you make, or do you make sure you keep most of your work in your home?
I thought I'd ask because Blossom mentioned that I give too much away and she wants me to make more things that stay at home - things she can cherish when she's older and has children of her own to tell stories to about her sewing-crazy mother. Gosh, I love that child.

I think she makes a good point,though...what do you think?


PS: Don't forget to visit the Gum Tree Designers blog every Monday for our free Christmas designs! Today the 4th design was uploaded and it's gorgeous!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

When a house becomes a home....

Challenging myself to makeover our new lodgings this month has been wonderful. We've officially been here 14 weeks tomorrow, but I was pretty slow to make this fairly run-down, generic, school-supplied accommodation *ours*. So much was happening in our life that I kept pushing it to the back of my mind, having that 'one day' conversation with myself.
Fortunately, I began reading a beautiful book that encouraged my mind to imagine the home of my dreams...not the house of my dreams, the *home*. There's a huge difference, and it's becoming evident with each day of October passing that this house is transforming, finally, into a place of welcome, rest, and nourishment of the soul. I still have a ways to go, but the journey has begun and it brings me such joy to traverse it. :-)

After I stitched the 'Life Is Special' door hanger there was quite a bit of Osnaburg leftover so I stitched Vikki's 'House In The Country' design on a piece, and today it too has become a sweet lavender filled hanger!

I added some cute prairie points to the bottom - very country! :-)

We do live in the country, so the sentiment is quite appropriate.

Tomorrow I hope to be making some more door stoppers. A few people have asked for a tutorial on a number of projects I've made recently, so over the next month I hope to do them - but first up I'll do the door stopper because I need them! :-)

I also sketched more designs today, which means I'm going to have another BOM to share with you in 2010! Hope you're excited about that - I am!

It's Saturday night so I think I'll run along now and enjoy it with my darling man. He's caught my head cold and nasty throat and I'm keeping him supplied with honey & lemon teas, jelly and custard, and cold drinks - but he doesn't want to try the brandy/milk/honey remedy (I don't blame him!).

Happy stitching days!

Friday, October 23, 2009

An abundance of creativity in our home...

Despite my head cold, which is now on the mend (thank you for all your prayers, good wishes, hugs, and remedies!) I had a frantic surge of creative energy today, which went something like this -

5 new designs sketched....

...Vikki's gorgeous design stitched and being made into a door hanger (I'll show you it finished tomorrow)...

...and two funky placemats made from some Wonky Treehouse designs of mine!

Hubby is feeling creative too.
See this big box? It arrived today.

Look what was inside!
My darling has a new project of his own. He's going to restore this retired and partially mangled Yamaha RJ1100 racing bike over the next 12 months....so he'll duck out to the shed while I duck in to the sewing room. ;-)

What have you been creating?


Thursday, October 22, 2009

~ Its The Simple Things ~

Its The Simple Things
~ an embroidered and bead-edged milk jug cover ~

I added the last stitch, and hung the final bead, this morning. Isn't it beautiful! I have really enjoyed stitching this...my heart is to simplify our life in the future, and that thought just kept cloud-rolling across my mind when I designed this on the weekend.

The fabric is from Robyn Pandolph's "Somerset Cottage"...

...and the threads are a mix of DMC and Cosmo.

The beads are 8mm glass.
I have backed the cover with white quilters muslin, so soft and it hangs beautifully.
The cover measures 10 inches across without the beads, and easily covers a milk jug, small bowl, or water pitcher. It could also be used as a doily to hold a glass cake stand full of sweet morsels for an afternoon tea.

The pattern is available in my ETSY STORE, or if you prefer, you can just click below and purchase it now. :-)

Stitching "Its the Simple Things" was my first experience using Cosmo threads. I only have a few colours (won in a recent giveaway), and only two of them were suited to this embroidery, BUT, I am really impressed with them! I guess that stitching with both Cosmo and DMC in the same project helped me to discover just how different they both are. The Cosmo threads glide through the fabric, they have a silkiness to them that is just exquisite - and not once did the thread knot or twist. I was REALLY impressed by that.
The DMC, as always, knots and twists constantly. I used to think it was the way I stitched, but not after using the Cosmo and having none of these issues occur.
Now I need to find a Cosmo distributor in Australia.

Have you tried Cosmo? How do you rate it against DMC?
Or perhaps you use Anchor or Madeira (both of which I like better than DMC)
What is your favourite thread and why?


PS: I slept wonderfully with my brandy, milk and honey, but Allie corrected me on her grandaddy's remedy - the milk bit was supposed to be lemons. Might give that a go tonight, as although my voice is returning, my head cold has stepped up a notch. Thanks for the lovely thoughts, ladies!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Something old made new, and a sneak of something pretty being made...

It's been rather quiet in our house the last couple of days. No-one is talking. I lost my voice, you see, and hubby won't let anyone talk to me because it encourages me to try and answer and that will not help my throat to heal...so we're all emailing back and forth. Yep, we're odd.
My daily diet at present is bowl after bowl of cold custard, tinned peaches, and jelly (jello). They are soothing on my throat, but mostly they remind me of my nana who raised me, and though she is supping with Jesus these days, it makes me feel loved and hugged to eat the foods of my childhood.

To keep myself occupied I have been playing around with a new design, and using an old design to make something new! Do you remember when I made THIS block? It's been sitting around waiting for a useful purpose ever since, and today was the day.

It's now a very happy door-stopper!

Looks as though it has pigtails doesn't it!? Actually, that's a little handle so we can pick it up and move it easily. Another home decor project completed this month! How are you going with yours?

And this is something very new...just a peek for now. I think you'll love what it's going to be!

Apart from sewing, eating custard, emailing my husband, and living with laryngitis and a head cold, the only other thing I could do without talking was to play around with my previous designs and see if I could inspire you with ways to display them.

In my Etsy Shop now, and on my ElefantzDesigns blog, you can buy some of my stitchery designs *with* a pattern for a wallhanging. I hope to find out whether you prefer to buy just the embroidery and applique designs alone, or would you like me to include a pattern for a project in the pattern packs?

You are my customers, and I would very much like to offer you the things you like best. So have a wee think about it and let me know what your preference is. :-)

Now I'm off to make a warm milk with some honey and brandy...I've been told by my buddy, Allie, that her grandfather swore by this as a cold remedy - though he used whiskey.
I'll keep you updated on this medical experiment as it unfolds...

Hugs and blessings,

Come and see....

...what I've been doing over HERE.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Life IS Special

It's a lovely relaxed Saturday morning here, and what nicer way to spend it than making something pretty for my October 'home revamp'.
I began the hand embroidery on this door hanger a few days ago and finished the machine stitching today. The thing that attracted me to Amanda's design was the message of affirmation...

...yes, life is special.
It's something I want our family to be constantly reminded of so I have hung it on the handle of the back door - each time we leave the house we can see it and carry that thought with us into the day.

In the design itself I love these little rosebuds!! A french knot for the rose, a straight stitch stem, and a lazy daisy either side for the leaves.

I had a few vintage buttons...

...and the entire hanger is filled with dried lavender flowers, such a soothing fragrance that rushes into the house each time the door opens and the wind follows.

I'm going to design some door hangers of my own now as I'd like every door to have a positive message. Do you have some favourite affirmation quotes you can share with me?

How are you going with your own October home makeover?


Friday, October 16, 2009

What do you do with all your craft magazines?

Elaine at Soggybottom Flats posed these questions on her blog - "Do you save all those craft magazines you buy? What do you do with them?"
I've been going to share my storage idea for a while, but reading her question finally prompted me to do it. You see, I hate having my precious space crowded with magazines that are at least 1/2 filled with ads. I also used to get quite frustrated at dragging hundreds of magazines off the shelves looking for one particular bag, or cushion, or table runner, or embroidery....so 2 years ago I began this system.

Firstly, you take your magazine....for my example I'll use a recent copy of Creating Country Threads.

After you've savoured all the articles, photos, ads (hmm, well, maybe not actually savour the ads), choose the designs in the magazine you'd like to keep. I choose things I'd like to make, but I also choose projects that use a technique I'd like to learn, or use a block in a size I may not yet have a pattern for.
I chose the pattern below for the centre block - it's something I've not done and I'd like to.

Cut the pages out for the design instructions, then write the name of the magazine and the issue clearly across the top - I highlight mine.

Pull out the pattern sheet from the magazine, and use a highlighter on the issue number.

These are my storage folders for all the designs I've saved over the last 4 years...

...and this is how I store all the patterns.

I have all my folders labeled for their contents (bags, dolls, cushions, wall hangings, quilts, embroideries, Christmas projects, cross-stitch, runners, sewing notions etc), so if I want to make a bag I go to the BAG folder, or if I want to make a doll I go to the DOLL folder etc. Once I have chosen the design I want, I go to the corresponding pattern sheet container and pull out the correct one. All of this takes me 2 minutes at most!

This pattern is for a quilt, so it goes into one of my two quilt folders...

...and the pattern sheet is placed in the zippered case containing all the patterns for Country Threads. I have plastic cases for all the individual magazine publishers.

Now that they are filed away I replace the display folders on my book shelf,

and the Lever Arch folders at the bottom of my fabric shelves.

This makes life so easy when I am wanting to make a gift or I remember something lovely I wanted to make. If I'm after a cushion I just go to the CUSHION folder, sit myself down with a coffee and a cookie, and browse to my hearts content. It's actually better than buying a new magazine!

What do you do with your magazines?
Elaine has a giveaway right now and you can enter just by answering her question.

Oh, and I also have a folder to store all those how-tos or tips. :-)