Friday, November 30, 2012

Nutcracker, moving down....

Today was the wonderful day when I got to move Gunther on the frame.  Hooray!  While I had him off the frame, I stitched the background under his armpits in basketweave.  Even I am not strong enough to count the background stitch there.  

If you click on this photo you should be able to see the basketweave inside his arms.  When I moved the canvas, I realized that I needed to keep the background wide on the left side because of his hand so I'll be doing some "over" stitching about where the top blue line is.  It's the background and will probably be in the seam and silk 'n ivory is a loose fiber so it shouldn't be obvious that I have overstitched.  We'll see.

I've been plugging away on his beard and just continuing the encroaching/interlocking gobelin on his uniform.  The two golds look good on the mouthpiece and stem of his horn.  I realized today that I have some fiber and stitch decisions to make.  Such as what to use for his belt and what texture do I want for his pants.  

Tomorrow starts the return to Saturday, Wednesday blog entries.  I'm glad I managed the discipline of daily blogging and hope y'al enjoyed it, but it'll be nice to return to normal.  Of course, I am already trying to think of topics to keep my blogging steady NEXT November!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rules, Good rules, Dumb rules, Damn rules...

Rules have been the bane of my existence my entire life.  One of my fellow librarians commented that it was appropriate that I drove a mustang since I was like a wild pony.  I thanked her--of course, she had meant it as an insult.  As a library science student, some professors would declaim that you must love this book, that book.  This book was much better than that.  If you don't like this book, something is wrong with you. One size definitely does not fit all, nor should it. 

After I became a library science professor, I taught media for children the hour after another professor taught many of the same students children's literature.  Those poor 20-year-olds.  They went from the dictator of the Western World to Ms. Free-as-the-Breeze.  I felt sorry for them.  I wanted them to understand that there were no absolutes in life, whether it applied to children's literature or "media" or just life.  But they had to figure out how to play the system and win (and I certainly didn't help--I had never had that woman, but had heard horror stories for years and could hardly be civil at faculty meetings!).
And now it's happening in needlepoint.  You must start every project with new needles, new stretcher bars, must always work on a frame, new ...who knows what else.  Come on.  This is marketing.  It's commercialism.  Think about it.  Needles are metal.  If they tarnish, use an emery strawberry to eliminate the tarnish and keep on stitching.  Stretcher bars are wood (at least most of them), they're durable.  Sure if you keep them 30 years in a closet they may dry out and split.  Then you buy new ones.  I'm not from New England, but there's a lot to be said for "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  That old perle cotton or wool is still good and stitchable 20 years later with proper storage.  It won't disintegrate with stitching.  The color hasn't changed (that only happens with exposure to strong light).  Use your leftovers for new projects.  The needlepoint gods don't become displeased when you don't throw unnecessary dollars on their altar!  They're actually grateful that you're still stitching.

UPDATE:  I just remembered that the ladies at the Royal School of Needlework when stitching on "Kate's" gown only used their sharps for 30 minutes and then discarded them, though I'd bet someone is stitching with them today.  I know embroidery needles need a sharp point but surely some projects don't require quite the stiletto.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Frosty the snowman, but smaller Part II

You can see that I have stitched the body of the snowman in the Byzantine mosaic in white fyrewerks.  The umbrella is stitched in the mosaic stitch using silk lame braid. 

I have picked out the fiber in the scarf and am currently trying to needle felt a scarf that can be attached to this canvas.  As I have discovered, it is extremely frustrating and difficult to needle felt on 13mesh canvas.  Give it up! I'm so hardheaded that I'll try a few more times.  Let you know the end result. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Photographs, photographs

Well, I'm whipped tonight.  Spent all day with Priscilla, a female sales rep, looking at photographs of needlepoint canvases.  They are to be painted and shipped to me the first of February.  Ordering them now gives the artists a chance to have the complete order ready for shipment.  But decision-making is exhausting and stressful. If I pick the wrong canvases, no one will buy them and they'll glare at me forever.  I'll still have to pay for them, I just will have to scramble for the money.  Definitely an easier job when you buy "winners" that all your customers are delighted to see.  

Reps have the photographs for each artist divided into "new" and the rest of the line.  I like to go through all of them because sometimes that old workhorse canvas is just what you're looking for and you may have forgotten all about it.  It is also helpful to remind yourself of the available canvases just in case a customer asks for one you haven't purchased.  But it contributes to massive information overload.  There are also artists whose lines don't fit the vision I have for Needle Nicely's inventory. I try to make myself look through at least 2 of my previous rejects just to ensure that they haven't altered their lines.  And some I have bought in the past haven't been liked or bought by my customers.  I often give them a second look to try to understand why my customers didn't like them.  And some lines I treat myself and order several canvases each year because I like their look, even though I know my customers won't buy them.  And, sometimes they surprise me!
This year the January market was changed to the first week in February.  My season starts ramping up the middle of January and so February is not the time for me to be gone for 5 days.  The timing also doesn't allow the artists any time to paint for delivery which means anything I order at the market will arrive at the earliest in April.  Last year the season ended early because Easter was early.  I can't afford to pay for canvases that arrive after my customers have gone back North.  Nor do I want to look at all those canvases all summer during the hurricane season.  

I placed some time-delayed orders when I went to Baltimore the first of September.  I also had one day with
Ron, my other rep, in October.  Now I'll supplement all those orders through reading blogs of artists and other shops discussing designs.  The internet is a big help in this process.  Last January I called an artist to order some canvases.  She knew I hadn't been at market and remarked that one of the designs wasn't on her website yet, how had I found out about it?  I told her whose market blog mentioned it. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Standing nutcracker, 9

Anticipation! I am so eager to move this canvas up so I can work on the rest of the tunic and Gunther's legs.

I did start on his beard in the long/short split stitch using black angora.  And I stitched his brass buttons in Kreinik metallic.  He is really looking sharp in person.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Non-stitching day

I've had the stitching blahs today.  I did work on the Greek key belt for about 45 minutes.  I usually love to stitch and watch professional football.  Not today.  Part of it is the book I picked up yesterday from the rental collection at the Vero Beach Book Center.  I usually read myself to sleep.  It takes me a long time to decompress (I try to solve all the problems of the Western world!), so I get through quite a few books in a month.  The title is "Home Front" by Kristin Hannah.  She usually writes beachy sorts of  chick lit books.  This is set outside Seattle and has a heroine who is a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter pilot.  She and her best friend (copilot) are deployed to Iraq in 2005.  The story is about how her family copes without her, how she and her friend handle Iraq and its perils and her eventual return to the US.  Lots of discussion of post traumatic stress disorder and amputations.  It's a compelling story that is heart-wrenching. 

My 2nd oldest brother did 3 tours in Vietnam flying helicopters.  The only time he'll talk about his experiences is to tell a funny anecdote or some bonehead move a superior officer made.  Nothing about the day-to-day reality.  That's too close. This book illuminates some of that, but in Iraq. 

I think a lot of needleworkers are avid readers.  I wish someone would do a study.  It could be that the personality type drawn to stitching is also attracted to reading.  You think?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Small business Saturday

This summer Needle Nicely started accepting American Express and Discover credit cards.  We have a different processor and they seem to be able to process all cards without any individual delays or excessive charges.  The summer of 2011 I paid about 5.8% for the credit cards (mc and visa) that I did accept.  Big hickey, no matter how you look at it.  This summer it has dropped to about 2.6% and that includes Amex and Discover.  The loud cheers you hear are definitely mine.  So this is the first year Needle Nicely could participate in Small Business Saturday, a great concept.  EXCEPT that Needle Nicely is no longer open on Saturdays.  Minor detail.  Someone who had never been in the shop called looking for a specific fiber.  When told I stock it, she inquired about SBS.  I said I was closed on Saturdays.  I think you should either identify yourself before starting a rant or actually be a customer of a shop before voicing an opinion about its hours or mention that you would be a customer if the hours weren't so screwy. She did none of these. 

On the other hand, I made it a point while running errands this morning to make my first stop at the Vero Beach Book Center.  They've been in Vero as long as I have and a wonderful job they do.  I know they're feeling the internet's impact, but they're still helpful and charming.  They have added a sign to each of their doors which I might add to Needle Nicely's:  "Find it here; Buy it here; Keep us here."  I like the rental collection they have of new hard covers (about 8 bucks for 7 days),  the large selection of new hard covers and paperbacks, the children's building of toys and games as well as books, the used paperback section, and the book signings by visiting authors.   

Friday, November 23, 2012

Needle felting

I haven't made much progress on Gunther, my nutcracker.  I've been spending my afternoons at the shop that I typically use for leisure stitching (like Gunther), assisting Dotty, a long-time customer who needs help with some canvases she has from various national classes.  Of course part of my willingness is my curiosity to see what other shops are offering.  And what a great opportunity to learn new skills.  

Dotty has two projects that require needle felting.  One is a Day of the Dead canvas by M. Salas with a stitch guide by Aristeiea in LA.  The other is the Thanksgiving March by Tapestry Tent with stitch guides from both Amy and Bristly Thistle.  I'm a quick learner, I thought, and I taught myself basketweave from a book back when I was learning in 1974.  My teaching philosophy is that I want to teach independence.  I will show you and show you and show you.  Then you will do it.  I will not stitch it for you.  I am very patient about repeatedly showing a stitch--I have been told this.  I personally do not feel I am patient, but if you are sincerely trying, I will show you repeatedly.  If you're a whiner, you're on your own! 

This reminds me of an instance 30 years ago when Trubey and I wanted to add knitting to the Vero Beach shop.  I was elected to be the teacher.  I called Margaret, who had a shop in a mall in Winston-Salem, NC.  I said to her that I was willing to make the 2-hour drive from Blowing Rock anytime she could give me an hour of instruction.  She refused, saying she liked her students to be closer to her.  In essence, she never wanted her students to be independent and never intended to cut the umbilical cord.  I eventually found a teacher in Charlotte.  Of course, we both eventually decided that I was a needlepointer and I should give knitting a pass!

I looked around for projects that needle felting might complement.  My 13mesh snowman was an obvious choice.  I picked out the chain stitch I had started on his scarf and made a trip to Michael's for the supplies I thought I needed.

This is the basic kit:  first, the block of styrofoam and two felting needles; second, 3 colors of wool roving.  Here I come!  Not.  I punched and punched and punched.  I went home and read entries on the internet.  I came back and put a backing behind my canvas, thinking the roving could catch in that.
Nada.  More reading on the internet and another trip out west, this time to Jo Ann's to purchase felt (not wool, but pseudo which is worse than nothing).  My aggravation level was rising.  Then I thought to call Michele at the Bristly Thistle for any hints.  She called me back and in 5 minutes explained that needle felting was very simple to do on 18 mesh canvas but impossible on 13mesh.

I grabbed a scrap of 18mesh canvas, punched away with my new tool (a multiple needle goodie), and had an Hoorah! moment.
This is a photograph of two "grabs" of wool roving that has been felted.  I next added another color.

I don't know why this mass looks pinker, trust me it is the original bunch.  I will say that I think if you do this on canvas, you must also consider applying a glue to the back.  This was on the table when a customer came in to chat.  She's curious and she started tugging at it, pulling it loose from its anchors.  This could also happen with finished needlepoint.
This is the back of the first cluster of felting.  I would do it some more to further anchor it before moving on to another area of the canvas.

I think for my 13mesh snowman, I will be felting the scarf and surface gluing it to the canvas.  We'll see if it works.  Jane of Chilly Hollow had felted hers onto a piece of wool felt--my acrylic felt was not receptive to this.  Stay tuned to find out what eventually happened.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

flower basket director's chair

Anne of asked about why I stitch with a thimble.  Years ago, I was stitching a canvas from Lee's Needle Arts that was a flower basket on 14mesh canvas that was 16x20 inches.  It was a canvas that they had replicated as a 10mesh rug with an additional border. This canvas became the seat of a director's chair.  The back canvas is one that I counted from the rug border.  The sad footnote to this story is that while I love the director's chair and how comfortable it is to sit in, my husband, the sophisticated New Yorker, doesn't like "it's look".  So it has been relegated to Needle Nicely's back room.  Sigh.  There's a lot to be said about marrying them young and training them--marrying them old doesn't seem to work that way! 

I must confess that I don't use a thimble when I work on a frame.  I don't feel it is necessary.  However, when I stitch "in hand", I always use a thimble.  The flower basket canvas was painted on 14mesh canvas.  I stitched it with 2-ply Paternayan persian.  It was really difficult to pull through, especially when fitting colors into odd places in the design.  I tried stitching with the new-skin that athletes use to spray their skin before applying athletic tape.  It didn't work very well and gummed up the eyes of the needles.  Then I tried the rubber fingers that secretaries use to help them collate pages in reports.  The rubber kept grabbing the needle and it didn't really protect my finger.  So, reluctantly, I was forced to try a thimble.  My finger was bloody and really tender.  That was enough incentive for me to persist with the thimble.  Today it is almost an automatic response to put the thimble on.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Car theft?

Yesterday I was closing up a package to my main belt finisher when a long-time customer came in and after greeting us, turned to me and said "Why is Arthur in your car?"  I said, "Excuse me?  Arthur's at home--I think".  She said, then why is a grey-haired man sitting in your car in the parking lot.  In a small town, customers do recognize your car  and often drive on by if you are the one they want to talk with, rather than an employee.  Anyway, I walked outside and saw my car had its driver's door open and, yes, there was a little grey-haired man sitting in the driver's seat.  Not my husband.  A total stranger.  As I walked up, I smiled and said, "Hi".  He responded and then said "do you like this car?"  I said yes and then he asked if I had one like it.  I again said yes, but added that this was my car.  He hesitated and then said, "Oh, so that's why it won't start." So he got out of my car and I noticed his cane that he had put in the back seat.  We chatted some and he wandered off, still looking for his.  When I went inside Marcia and Dotty couldn't believe that I had left him to find his car by himself.  So, back out I went. 

Then I started walking him around the parking lot to assist in finding his car.  The pitifulness of the situation is only apparent later when I discover that the reason he can't recognize his car is that it is a rental.  However, my car is prehistoric (1998)and no rental company would have a car even remotely resembling it.  But as we're walking around the parking lot (with my encouraging him to hit the button on his keys so he could activate something in his car) nothing is happening and no cars look like mine.  Thank goodness, a woman approached with a little dog and he commented that his wife was coming.  I suggested they come inside and call the police who could then contact the rental company.  The wife asked if it were customary to tow cars in our parking lot.  (It's K-Mart's primarily, and no I have only seen cars towed which have dead batteries).  They refused to come inside.  I don't know where they went, but I kept look out trying to locate them--they vanished.

When I got in my car to go home last night, I noticed that an extra pair of sun glasses I always have in my cup holder was missing.  I didn't notice them on him or in a pocket.  What would he want with a pair of women's sun glasses?  But they are definitely missing! I had to run an errand, so it was dark as I drove home.  I noticed that I had no dash lights, so I made a note to stop by my mechanic when I closed today at 2.  However, driving to work this morning, inspiration struck.  He had pushed or pulled every button and lever trying to get my car to start.  So my dash lights were off, my air conditioner was on the border of cool and heat, the air vents were blowing into my face rather than toward my feet, etc. 

What is even more disturbing is the fact that many of us will end up like him--not recognizing our own vehicle.  The gentleman should never have had a set of car keys because he was really not with it.  And I and you may be there one day.  Why do we resist giving up our car keys?  And should I start locking my car?  My husband, that New Yorker, says of course not, we're in Vero Beach.  I wonder. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

cheese wafers and fudge

For years between Thanksgiving and Christmas I used to make cheese wafers and two kinds of fudge(one with pecans since many older people are forbidden nuts) for customers at Needle Nicely.  In 2004 after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne and viewing the devastation and blue tarps, it was difficult to get in the holiday spirit.  I'm sure people in New Jersey and New York will understand that feeling.  And then in 2005 we had Hurricane Wilma with her roof lifting talent.  I definitely didn't feel like celebrating, though I should have since Needle Nicely turned out to be a survivor.  But I was physically and emotionally exhausted from the "week from Hell" when we saved the inventory and moved into a new location.  I'm not as resilient as I once was.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when just before lunch the phone rang and a woman asked if I could help with the cheese wafer recipe I had written on a business card years ago.  I don't know where she was calling from or even how she knew I would understand what she was asking.  "How long does the log have to be refrigerated?"  Until it's cold and sliceable.  Then I thought to tell her not to use the same cookie sheet immediately because the heat would melt the wafers.  They must be cold when entering the oven (they spread too much otherwise).  Also, slice as thin as you can.  Of course, too thin and they'll brown too much; too thick and they'll never brown.  And most importantly, if your cayenne is freshly opened, use less.  If it is older, add a smidge more.  My husband first tasted these when I was using a new container of cayenne.  He never tasted them again because he insisted that they blew the top off his head (he isn't a spicy person).

Several hours later, I received another phone call--"They're sticking to the cookie sheet.  What did you do?"
I replied that I always used parchment paper.  Anyway, here is the recipe which Louise Oberle of Charlotte and Blowing Rock gave me years ago.  That's the origin of the recipe as I know it.

10oz NY grated sharp cheddar (I actually dice the cheese by hand and a chef's knife) Cracker Barrel
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup flour (not sifted, just straight)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper ( you can increase this if your cayenne is old)
1/4 tsp salt (lots of people want to leave this out since cheese is salty--don't)

mix with hands and roll
wrap in waxed paper
slice as thin as possible
375 degree oven  9-10 minutes

It may be time for me to do this again!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Copyright--what is it?

When one (that great impersonal one) starts a blog, they must recognize that many people are not aware of the niceties of ownership.  Ownership in terms of copyright.  When I show a photograph of a canvas, I am always meticulous in stating that the design is from "...this designer."  You must acknowledge intellectual property in  terms of design ownership.  But you must also not STEAL it.  I dislike having to be so blunt, but it is necessary. 

 On my blog, one person has repeatedly downloaded magnified pictures of one of my posts.  The same one--repeatedly.  Duh!  I don't think she is a slow learner--I think she is downloading it repeatedly because she is a slow stitcher.  I want her to stop it.  I have too many things going on in my life to pursue her, but be assured that is possible.  I and other bloggers are sharing our experiences with needlepoint.  Many of us do it as a corollary to our day jobs (retail needlepoint sales).  Don't insult us so blatantly by downloading from our blogs repeatedly.  I know it's nice to be able to look closer at stitches.  Sometimes I know the copied designs are classics--as is the Greek key design for a  belt that I am currently  stitching.  However, you didn't chart it or count it or more importantly think it would work as a belt design--at least have the courtesy to pay for the design since I did.

Of course readers of blogs may not realize that the stat counter tells what town you are in, what type of equipment you are accessing the blog with, how much time you view a page, what other pages you view and even the code for your internet connection. 

I don't expect everyone to buy a canvas I blog-stitch from Needle Nicely, that's why I identify the artist.  But I do expect you to purchase the canvas/es from someone!  

 Maybe you didn't realize that you were stealing my ideas.  I hate being so confrontational, but sometimes being sweet and retiring just doesn't seem to cut it.  My income depends upon my needlepoint sales, whether through my blog or through my retail shop.  Your not paying me for a design is taking food out of my (and my husband's) mouth.  Stop it!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scissors, ah, yes, me beauties

Anna of the Stitch Bitch blog showed her scissor collection on 11/15/2012.  They are gorgeous.  I love scissors and often have scissor envy.  She reminded me of the many beauties I have in my personal collection.  My husband upon noticing some of them, asked "Should you take these to the shop?"  Excuse me, these are mine.  Not for sale.  I tried not to be too emphatic in my denial, but I carefully removed them from his vision.  They are now hidden from his sight.  But here are some of them for only your eyes to see.
I made two discoveries, though.  There are several missing in action (hmmm, perhaps I hid them too well from Arthur!).  And the points of one of my absolute favorites (the Felix pair with round gold handles and silver points) are bent as though they did a nosedive into a hard surface.   I know Gingher repairs their own scissors.  Anyone know where I could send this pair?

You'll notice that I was rather a snob and didn't show my shears and pinking shears from Fiskar.  I love them, but I don't use them with my needlepoint stitching. They are work horses, not my stylish beauties.  There seems to be a similarity in design--I seem to tend toward scrolls and sensuous curves or modern chrome.

And on another note, my alma mater Appalachian State University has once again made it to the play-offs of small colleges football.  They play Illinois State next Saturday in Illinois.  Obviously, they have the poorer record which is a pity since playing at home at 3,300 feet in questionable weather is a distinct advantage.  Especially since I have mentioned before there is no easy way to get to Boone and the journey tends to exhaust people even young football players. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thimbles, my darlings

I have been mentally counting how many times I have been to England.  Once with Trubey and her parents (on the QEII, thank you very much), once with Arthur for our belated honeymoon, twice with Trubey and once by myself.  As an aside, Trubey's daddy thought I should see Europe so he started planning a trip in the late 1980s for all of us to go to Paris and Italy and then take a ship home to Miami.  But then the Achille Laure happened.  So he decided that if the Brits could handle the IRA, we could sail on a British ship.  That's how I managed to sail both ways across the Atlantic on the QEII.  In fact, our voyage home was  during "the perfect storm".  The captain refused to change course until 2am and I don't think there was an intact teacup on board, not to mention "my" broken poker machine (and lots of seasick passengers!).  Thank you, Bill Walker.  

The reason for all my thinking and counting is:  my thimble collection.  I only have size 7 thimbles.  I prefer sterling.  Hence, the reference to England.  Every time I have gone to England I have come home with several more thimbles for my collection.  About 10 years ago, Trubey and I were in London for two weeks.  Every day we went to a different street market.  At the end of 10 days, the vendors thought we were in the business!  They recognized us--and we recognized them!  I learned how to bargain. 

I have a lucite case for some of them.  But my collection seems to have expanded beyond its capacities.  It even includes a seal (or walrus) fur one from Alaska that Trubey's mother brought me from their trip there.

 These are some of the charmers I managed to pick up at those markets.  I tried to photograph some of them individually, but my camera skills weren't up to the task.  They were just shiny blurs.  I had forgotten some of their idiosyncracies--like the one the dealer had labeled on the outside "Made in Holland" and the American-made Dorcas style one that I had left the 1 pound price tag inside.  They both were obviously not up to snuff.  The usual price on the street was from 7 to 20 pounds depending on age more than condition.  One of these has multiple holes in the sides, the dealer told me "it's Edwardian".  And another that I tried to photograph had striations on the side that the needle had broken through.  It was dated 1878.  I really should study the date markings so I can tell how old these are.  That is something for another day.

 I prefer utility to design so don't have many commemorative thimbles.  You can tell from this photo that dusting isn't one of my strong points!

This is the thimble I use at home.  It is almost always resting on the coffee table ready to be pressed into action.  I have another favorite that I keep on the stitching table at the shop--its photograph was just a blur, alas.

Ironically, I have very few requests for thimbles.  I have some inexpensive ones for sale.  People tend to recoil when told a sterling thimble is worth over $50. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Frosty the snowman, but smaller

Lee's Needle Art Studio (now known as Colonial Needle) has a Snowman pillow canvas which I have stitched and blogged about.  See my blog entries dated 10/17; 10/27; and 11/4 (I'm sorry, but I haven't figured out how to put in links.  Perhaps in my next life.)  Lee's did an ornament size snowman on 18m canvas.  After I saw it, I requested that they paint it on 13mesh canvas so I could use it to teach a class. T

This is the 18mesh gentleman.  I think he is darling.  This picture is deceptive, but he really is small enough to be an ornament.  However, when thinking about classes, my students (who are older) prefer 13mesh. 

This rather portly gentleman is the one from the original snowman canvas that I requested  Colonial Needle  paint for me so I could teach a class. 

I stitched the background in the Diagonal Triple Parisian using silk 'n ivory.  The hat is done in the interlocking or encroaching gobelin with silk lame braid.  The head is the mosaic stitch using white fyrewerks.

You can see that I have started stitching the scarf using Fuzzy Stuff in the chain stitch.  However, this week a long-time customer of Needle Nicely has come to town and came in asking for assistance with about 8 unfinished canvases she has from classes with national needlepoint teachers.  The past 3 afternoons Dotty and I  have discussed which stitches are problematic for her.  She will be here for three weeks which should allow us plenty of time to solve the worst of the bottlenecks.  I think of confusing stitches as bottlenecks because they stop your stitching progress and make you feel inadequate.  Sometimes it is only one thread to the left that solves the problem.  

Anyway, one of Dotty's problem areas is something that should be felted.  I've never done that before, but I found a video on line and Michael's supposedly has beginner kits.  Guess where I'm going tomorrow morning so that I can felt my snowman's scarf?  I'm a little leery of this since I am so clumsy and everything you read about needle felting warns about the barbs on the needles.  Think kind positive thoughts about me, please!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Standing nutcracker, 8

I've been trying to rush my stitching on Gunther so that I can move the canvas on the stretcher bars.  Isn't it true that time slows to a snail's pace when you're anxious for something to happen?  

You can see that I finished his epaulets and managed to do a lot of the chest area of his uniform.  I'm just about ready to do his beard.  I also need to do more on the background Jacquard stitches.  And we must add some "brass" to his buttons. 

This is the time of year when Christmas finishing starts coming in from the finishers and when phone calls start with:  "Is it here yet?"  My ornament and belt finishers are still accepting items which is phenomenal, I think.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Festival of Trees, 2012 donations part II

Yesterday I showed you the first two items Needle Nicely gave to Vero Beach's annual Riverside Children's Theater's Festival of Trees.  Today I'll show you the remaining two donations.

I honestly do not remember who designed this cutie.  The Santa was such fun to stitch with the pom-pom in one stitch and the mustache and beard done in another.  It was a great example of how the flow of design can be shown through the use of one color and variations in stitches.  And the Ho, ho, ho was done in the mosaic stitch with red candlelight metallic.   But it doesn't do you any good to have a model if you can't buy additional canvases to sell.  Needle Nicely has its own design studio but we refuse to get lured into copyright infringement just because I can't locate the original designer.

I came up with the original idea for this canvas, handing the actual designing and painting to Needle Nicely's marvelous calligrapher.  However, the design never caught the eye of our customers.  Sigh!  So several of the canvases are on the sale table and this pretty baby has gone to find a more enthusiastic audience.  But I refuse to let that discourage me, as demonstrated by my redesign of the flamingo slides I stitched this summer on the blog.  And that is selling! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Festival of Trees, 2012 donations

Each year the Riverside Children's Theater in Vero Beach conducts a fundraiser the weekend before Thanksgiving.  It has evolved over the years into many different offerings.  The original concept was for various local businesses to decorate Christmas trees and the public would bid on them.  Of course, over time the market for predecorated trees has been saturated (or becoming so).  Last year Needle Nicely gave 3 Christmas pillows and a hot air balloon Christmas "feature" (called thusly since it was too large to be considered an ornament).  This year, I gave another 3 pillows and a discontinued Elsa Williams stocking model.

This model had a cuff with the name Ashley stitched on it.  Last week I quit procrastinating and opened up the top, folded down the name area and then hem-stitched the lining down.  Someone should be thrilled with this--I'm sorry that the company that purchased Paternayan has decided not to produce any of the kits or the tapestry yarn.  Elsa Williams had some nice, inexpensive kits.

This Joy canvas by Associated Talents was originally stitched about 20 years ago.  Then it had a red and black plaid ruffle.  Over time it had faded horribly, but the needlepoint still looked as good as new.  So this summer I sent it to my pillow finisher to have her replace that faded fabric.  Now the pillow has a pretty new look.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monotony buster

My palm frond slides redo has about exhausted my patience.  So, rather than hide them from myself, I am putting them on the next couch cushion to stare at me while I stitch a 13mesh belt canvas in basketweave for a shop model.  I saw a different way of belt finishing while I was in Baltimore--it uses the military style of buckle where the belt has no grommets but slides through, making it very adjustable. And I hope that this interlude will allow me to then attack the palm fronds with renewed vigor next week

We had painted this geometric in red on the white canvas, but I decided I wanted to show people they could change the colors.

I'm using lime green and hot pink silk 'n ivory.  You will notice that I am doing it from the top down in terms of the design elements.  And what a change of pace from 18m! 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

So much for culture....

I've been so proud of my enjoyment of opera via the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday HD transmissions in movie theaters.  This is my 5th year and I am really pleased when I look back at my mental lists of personal favorites and definite losers.  Sadly, the losers seem to all be modern operas whose conceptions have been aggressively encouraged by "the Met" and other opera companies.  They want American contemporary operas.  Well, I'm sorry, folks, but Ades and Adams ain't Verdi.  

I like melody and repetitive themes and music you can hum and remember.  Not cacophony and discord and really screechy voices and no rhythm pattern.  The Tempest as performed Saturday in HD was difficult to endure.  My hearing was tested last year when I had a persistent ear infection and so I know it is perfect.  Perhaps too much so.  I was in pain during Ariel's arias (?) in the first act of The Tempest.  And Simon Keenlyside has a marvelous voice, but his body (like mine) has suffered the ravages of time.  Put a leotard on, sweetie!  I lasted until the intermission when Deborah Voight was interviewing the singers of Ferdinand and Miranda.  When they said their favorite music was in the 2nd act (just concluded), I realized that the "best" was over.  Ta, ta.  

I lasted through "Nixon in China",  actually enjoyed the staging of huge puppets in "Gandhi"--but not the atonal chanting, and "Doctor Atomic" was at the bottom until this production of "The Tempest".  But this was the first time I actually quit mid-opus.  Ah, well!  I'll keep coming and exposing myself to different composers and singers and hopefully none will be as disappointing as this one.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ideas for a small Christmas pillow

When I was at the Baltimore market in September, I couldn't resist picking up some smaller canvases for Christmas pillows.  I haven't been able to decide which one I would like to stitch as a shop model, but I'm sure I will eventually do one.

These are all designs from Raymond Crawford.  My favorite is "Fa, la, la, la" but I'm also intrigued by the two "Ho, ho, ho" canvases.  I think it's interesting to see variations on a theme and a good designer can take the idea to amazing levels.

EDIT:  Don Lynch of Associated Talents kindly corrected me--the last "HO, ho, ho" is an AT design.  Sorry for the misinformation.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hope for the needlepoint world

Yesterday, Jane of Chilly Hollow ( had an entry from a reader who is concerned about the survival of needlepoint.  It was such an apt topic for Needle Nicely.  In the afternoon, I was visited by a family from Roanoke, Virginia.  This time last year they came into the shop.  They had seen the needlepoint done by a friend of theirs in Roanoke who also has a winter home in Vero Beach.  The children were intrigued and wanted to know more.  The father decided that he would also learn so he could help his children.  I gave all 4 family members a "learner" kit (a 5x6 square of 10mesh canvas, 2 or 3 strands of Paternayan yarn, a #18 needle, and diagrams of both the continental and basketweave stitches).  They came back in a few days to find a "real" project.  The parents were wise.  They insisted the children select their project from my $5 sale basket and then choose their fibers from some of the sale fibers I had.  The father promised that if they finished the project, then this year when they came down they could select their next project and fibers from full-priced merchandise.  

Yesterday was their first visit for this year.  It was wonderful to see how proud they were of the progress they were making on their first projects.  (Though dad didn't show his--he wasn't happy with his lack of progress).  They took some time to select the next thing to work on.  I helped with the fiber selection and they left with promises to see me again next week.

Today dad came in to check on his progress--his basketweave was beautiful, but he needed one more ply of yarn.

I also had a woman in today who had purchased a Kaffe Fassett kit advertised in the New York Times.  After she opened it, she realized she couldn't remember how to start a strand and several other small details.  She called before she came in to be sure I would help her.  I know some shops won't help unless you purchase the item from them.  I feel that causes too much ill will.  The job of a lns is to encourage all stitchers, not alienate them.  I would rather teach the continental and basketweave stitches informally in the shop and encourage people to sign up for my pattern-stitch classes.  In these tough economic times, there is only so much money for extras like classes. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

70th birthday--whoopee!

I was born 70 years ago.  I am one of 9 children.  My mother and father had 7, my father remarried and had an additional 2.  No, we aren't Catholic.  One of my mother's brothers told me when I was about 22 that my parents were not sex fiends, they were merely inept.  Not what you want to hear about your parents.  Even today I really don't want to go there.

 I remember when I was in 10th grade world history class and we were listening to Edward R Morrow's recording (this was 1957 so it was a record) "Where were you.... on December 7, 1941".  The entire class broke up.  Our teacher was a single man from Tennessee (we were in Maryland).  He was brilliant, but couldn't figure out why we were convulsed.  Then one of the braver of us (probably mouthy me) told him that our mothers were probably pregnant with us at Pearl Harbor--or shortly thereafter.  He turned crimson.  Looking back, I'd love to hear those old programs again because they were so evocative of "the moment."

My next momentous moment was when there was a ruling in Maryland about school integration.  My father's family was from Virginia and were not open-minded about race.  Our county had a miniscule minority population and had a state-of-art-school for "the negroes" ( for 1958).  The school board announced that the schools would be unified.  My father told me that his children wouldn't be attending an integrated school.   I told my father that I intended to go to college and that I couldn't not go to school.  I needed my senior year.  Honestly, I don't remember there being any black students in the 7-12 high school my last year there.  The previous year I had been a candidate for the student body president ( and didn't win), so I was aware of the demographics.  We're talking a small school--the graduating class in 1960 was a massive 53 members!

When I arrived at Appalachian State Teachers College in Boone, NC, having been delivered by my father's driving down interstate 81 through the mountains of Virginia, I discovered that I was one of 5 students from Maryland.  One male was a music major, I was the sole female--a library science major--and three football players from the Maryland-side of the DC  area.  I had as much in common with them as I had with my Southern fellow students.  I remember the first placement test I took in the library, I couldn't understand anything the person administering the test said.  It was only when everyone else started writing that I realized the test had started.  I also remembered that I failed the speech test because "I spoke too rapidly".  Duh!

There were 900 students in my freshman class.  They did the usual thing of telling us to look to each side.  Only 1 in 3 would graduate and I think that was the final percentage, sad though that sounds.  Everyone knew everyone else on the campus which is a great insulating security.  And I think a plus for many of us from small towns.  

Boone was and still is (it's in the Northwestern mountains of North Carolina) in the back of the beyond in terms of transportation.  I used to have to take a Trailways bus from Boone to Washington, DC, where I had to change at about 2 am from one terminal  in the middle of the city to Greyhound to go into Maryland. Then I'd get off about 5:30am on the side of Interstate 40 outside my hometown of North East.

 One of my most startling memories is when I was going back to school from Md and we had stopped in Danville, VA, in 1962? at about 2 or 3 am. I stumbled off the bus to go to the lavatory in the bus station.  I headed for the nearest door and was stopped immediately inside by a loud voice telling me to leave and go next door.  I had entered the "colored" lounge.  I apologized and said I only wanted a bathroom--this was the day of freedom riders and the black inhabitants were terrified that I was trying to "free" them.  Out I went to find the "white" restrooms.    After yesterday's election results, these memories are even more meaningful. 

I'll have more about needlepoint tomorrow, I promise!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Palm frond slides, redesigned V

Hard to believe that it has been over a month since I showed my progress on the palm frond slides redesign.  I've been impatient about my lack of progress--and then I remembered that October was devoted to learning the basics of email newsletters with Constant Contact.  I succeeded, but there are only so many evening hours.  Part of those hours are necessarily spent preparing dinner.  I'm fortunate to have a husband who likes to cook, so he often grills or cooks the pasta.  And he is a fanatic about deciding on Saturday night what we will be eating each evening of the next week.  Sometimes too fanatic!  But it definitely simplifies life to know whether to defrost something--no frantically running to the grocery store at the last minute.  

I am stitching this sky upside down.  I like to stitch from the right side of the canvas to the left and from an area large enough to develop a stitch.  That's why I didn't start of the pattern at the top by the palm frond.  Too awkward to establish the pattern.  And the upper left-hand corner means I moving to the right--just not the way my mind sees stitches.  

I have managed to outline all the palm fronds (tedious, tedious) so now I can fill in.  

Nothing is coming to my mind for the palm fronds.  Shall just have to keep mulling over that problem.  Here's a shot of the two canvases.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Needle Nicely Newsletter

What wonderful alliteration!  And I have really done it.  Excuse me while I put my right arm out of joint by patting myself on the back.  Though my self-critic says my first edition was more indicative of my personality, my 2nd demonstrates that I am really serious about doing this as a monthly happening--I was only 4 days late!!!  Next month I'm aiming for doing a photograph and having the newsletter actually appear on the first of the month.  Pray for me.  That photograph seems to be the toughie.  But I think having my actual logo as a header has to be a real plus.  I worked hard on it.  Whew!

I look at newsletters from shops like Amy's in Tennessee and I think to myself, get over it.  You're small potatoes and a truly local needlepoint shop and don't think you can do a 17 page newsletter anytime in this life.  I'm thrilled that I am doing a blog and a newsletter and am communicating with my customers.  How great is life? 

I have lots of goals to be accomplished with the publication; the NN newsletter.  Learn how to have photographs.  Learn how to have a link to the newsletter archive on my blog/website.  I foresee many more early morning chats with the Constant Contact staff.   I also have goals that I want the newsletter to achieve.  Improve communication with customers.  Increase the NN customer base.  Spread the word about the many excellent services offered by NN.  All of those are also goals of the NN blog.  Marketing, marketing, marketing. 

If you'd like to be a recipient of the NN newsletter, just comment here with your name and email address.  Or email me at  I'll be more than happy to add you to the mailings.  It's just like building followers to this blog; rather than a groundswell, it seems to be more like a ground pimple.  But it's a beginning! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Standing nutcracker, 7

That mustache is just gorgeous!  And French-knotted to a fair-thee-well.  It is pleasing looking.  I have finished the top part of his sash and started on the encroaching gobelin on the reds of his uniform.  After I get the left side of his uniform stitched I'll be able to start on his beard.  I prefer to do the long/short split stitch after its surrounds are stitched so the fiber can overflow onto the nearby stitches and there won't be any gaps. 

I have finished his teeth using the slanted gobelin.  Notice that those teeth on top slant one way and those on the bottom slant the other.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Frosty the snowman, Finished

The scarf on this snowman is stitched in long stitches from corner to corner in a diamond pattern using fuzzy stuff.  The body is the criss-cross Hungarian with French knots.  I tried to alter the contrast so the patterns would be more apparent.

 This snowman's body is done in the Victorian step stitch.
The body to the left is stitched in the Hungarian ground stitch.  And to recap, the hat is the encroaching gobelin in silk 'n ivory.  The nose is upright gobelin in neon rays while the scarf is the cross stitch done in fuzzy stuff.  The coal buttons are the smyrna cross stitched with silk lame braid.

The background is the mosaic stitch in silk 'n ivory in a pleasant French blue.  Altogether, a fun pillow to stitch.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

An afternoon with Shakespeare

I've said this before:  It requires a different mindset to have Saturdays off.  I really wonder how long it will take my mind to adjust.  This afternoon I did blog and newsletter housekeeping (including adding another 35 addresses-yeah!).  Then I played Freecell and did the Needle Nicely weekly bank deposits--2 this week since you have to have one for the end of the month and one for the beginning of the next month.  Piece of cake.  Done.  I join my husband on the couch to watch the end of the seniors' golf tournament, when a lightening bolt went through my brain--it's NaBloPoMo! 

Thursday afternoon I left Marcia in Needle Nicely to walk across the parking lot (actually a customer saw me and gave me a ride--I don't even know how many yards;  I felt guilty for riding  but didn't want to be rude and refuse the ride!) to the Majestic Theater in Vero Beach.  There I paid $20. for a High-Definition transmission of a performance in London of Timon of Athens by Shakespeare at the National Theatre.  If you have an opportunity to see one of these performances, I highly recommend it.  It seems that British theater is financially supported by the government and the productions are more adventurous than the majority of American productions.  Yesterday's Timon of Athens was performed in modern dress and set contemporaneously; thus relating it to modern financial misdeeds and also ending with a homeless focus.  Really interesting staging and conceptualization.  Definitely not your usual sets.

I regularly attend the High-definition transmissions of the Metropolitan Opera's performances of operas at the Majestic.  Extremely inexpensive, but so memorable.  Four years ago I was an opera novice.  Today, I am a true follower.  Admittedly there are some that are not "my cup of tea".  But it is interesting to be exposed to all of them.  The singing is stupendous because that's their job; the bonus is that their acting is really just as wonderful. My favorites over the 4 years are Elena Garanca in Carmen and Karita Mattila in Salome.  Fascinating how they can climb and slither and dance while still singing on key. And Juan Diego Flores is so adorable, not to mention a magnificent tenor.  Sigh! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

troglodyte, perhaps?

I wholeheartedly accept that I am a troglodyte.  I've had a cell  phone for at least 8 years and almost no one I know has the number.  I'm rather proud of that achievement.  I had a snit-fit with AT&T years ago and cancelled Needle Nicely's  long distance  plan and went to Sam's to purchase a phone card.  Except I discovered several years after I started this program (by listening to the "prompts") that I was paying a multiple of 4 to make calls in Florida.  That's when I started using my cellphone to call customers and suppliers in Florida.  So I am always surprised when my cell phone rings.  It is usually in the bottom of my purse.  Recently I have wised up and have started placing it on the table beside me while I'm in the shop.  That guarantees that it will seldom ring.

I recently traded up to an I-phone 4S.  Pardon me if I am less than enthusiastic.  I even attended a class that Sunday at Verizon to learn about using my wonderful phone.  I know almost nothing more than I did before.  Message to Verizon--try to make your classes a bit more specific and don't group I-pads and I-phones in the same class.  Please.  My next phone call will be my first on my I-phone.  Days pass. * I just received my first call--it was a robo-call.  Multiple expletives!!!!

The one plus of my up-grade is that my perfectly nice Samsung "flip-phone" is being donated to the battered women charity in Vero Beach.  That's what I did with my last one and I see no reason to change a great idea.  

*Tonight after work I went to the mall to pick up a new pair of Ecco sandals.  From the parking lot I used my new phone to call to order a pizza for pick-up.  When I arrived at the beachside pizzeria, South Beach Pizza  (the best in town), they had no record of my order.  Is that another message?  Thank goodness they took pity on me and threw a "pie" quickly into the oven so Arthur and I will have dinner tonight.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finishing--from a customer's viewpoint

Most customers automatically assume that all needlepoint shops offer finishing.  This is not necessarily true.  There are levels of finishing that can be offered by lns (local needlework shops).  There is a great degree of variation.  Also, some shops do their own finishing.  Needle Nicely does very little.  I have about 20 professional finishers I send items to, depending on what the item is and how it is to be finished.  In-house we block all belt canvases before sending them to any of the 4 finishers we use for belts.  I make the yarn cording before I send a rug to that finisher.  We also finish Pischke Pockets, Voila's key fobs and Lee's Needle products, though with all of these we try to encourage people to try it themselves.  And yes, I'll block that Sophia purse flap and sew the lining down for you.  Frankly, I'd rather spend my time needlepointing or making orders than doing hand-sewing!  I can do it and will for money,  but my heart belongs elsewhere.

I regret to say that there are several items that I do not have finishers for.  Among these are:  director's chairs for adults and children; footstools that are upholstered, not drop-in pads; Trubey's wing chairs for children.  I have tried my usual finishers and been unhappy with the results, so I don't use them for these items. 

One of the first things a customer should consider before purchasing a needlepoint project is:  Where can I get it finished/put together?  The obvious answer is "where I have purchased it".  But the second question should be, "do I like how they have finished it in the past--by looking at their samples?"  We have lots of models in Needle Nicely to help with the finishing decision/s.  The third question is:  "Do I want to pay their price?"  All of these questions should be answered before purchasing the canvas.  I especially try to prepare people when they are considering shoe or purse canvases.  Better to get the bad news before you buy than after.  I had someone bring in a wall-hanging last week.  We had had the canvas specially painted years ago.  After I told her how much my finisher would charge and saw her shock, I mentioned that a local frame shop could probably do a job she would like for less.  And that's what she decided to do.  It never occurred to her to ask about finishing when she commissioned the canvas. 

I have many customers who simply hand over the stitched canvas and say "do what you think is best".  This makes me uneasy.  They are the ones who did the stitching and should have a vested interest in the finishing.  I may see plain and they may want embellishment.  Also, each thing a pillow finishers does to a canvas adds to the cost.  Sometimes you may just want "quick and dirty" or "plain cake".  Don't hesitate to say this to your shop owner.  Better to have the discussion before the item is finished than after when someone is unhappy with the final product.   It's easier to "do" something than it is to undo it--and a lot cheaper.