Author Archives: bglmom

Winter travels

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So, I have had some fun travel adventures this winter.  I apologize for no photos, but when I get any where near new fiber/stitching sources, I lose my head and forget to do what I want to do to blog.

So in February, we spent a little bit of time on both coasts of Florida visiting with friends.  First we ventured to Siesta Key which is a barrier reef island right next to Sarasota.  My host is not a needlework enthusiast, but she indulged me.  Boy, am I glad she did!  First stop was the Needlepoint Studio of Sarasota.  What a nice, welcoming, bright shop.  There were stitching stations all over the store, with lights and magnification.  I wanted to spend the rest of my vacation there stitching, but alas, I remained polite to my hosts.  There were beautiful canvases everywhere, lots of threads and a great assortment of books.  I added to my library with a purchase of The Handbook of Ribbon Embroidery by Ann Cox.  I’m very excited to have this well illustrated reference book as I am taking some lessons from Pam at Edwardian Needle in Silk Ribbon Embroidery.  I know this book will be helpful in the hours that I am away from Pam.

Down the road by no more than a 1/4 mile was A Good Yarn.  What a great yarn shop. This shop too was very bright, with lots of knitted samples and lots of sales help.  I also did damage in there.  My friend was not much help, as she was enabling me.  I was told that the two shops used be to be located right next door to each other.  If I lived there full time, I would just bring a cot and never leave.

Next we moved on to the east coast of Florida to Palm Beach Gardens.  This host is a fiber enthusiast (along with her daily golf obsession), so there was no twisting of arms to go take a look.  The needlework shop near where she is located was not such a good one, so I will not mention it by name.  However, while we were there, we unfortunately needed to make a condolence visit with another friend.  So we took a drive further south of where we were staying.  Of course, I was furiously googling needlepoint shops near “current location”.  I found a gem in Delray Beach, called Stitches by the Sea.  The shop is small but full of life and stitchers who crowd around working on their canvases.  Lots of bright cheery motifs with lots of Kreinik in them.  This shop had a Penny McCloud trunk show.  Without any enablers around, I managed to order a canvas of a funky looking face that I can’t wait to start on, once it gets here, of course.  The sample in the shop was so much fun, but stitch guides are not written down.  However, I was allowed to take photos of what was there.  I will not publish it here because I did not get permission for that.

March brought me to what will probably turn into an annual trek to see the Woodlawn exhibit.  I stayed with my dear friends in Chevy Chase and I spent the day that I went to Woodlawn with the “other” Barbara L.  We started out at the shop in Arlington called In Stitches.  I’m pleased to report that there are many more canvases available for purchase than last year.  There is also lots of cross stitch.  I did not notice if any of the charts were for canvaswork.  Again, everyone was cheery and helpful.  I was able to reign myself in at this shop.  We had lunch at Mt. Vernon and then headed over to Woodlawn.  Of course, Barbara and I had some fun with the registration lady when she asked for our names.  She did do a double take when we both used the same name!  We got there a few minutes late for the docent led tour of the winning pieces in the exhibit, but since the “other” Barbara L is friends with the retired ANG judge, Kathy Meyers, who gives the tour, we were allowed to join in.  Although this year’s exhibit is smaller than last year’s, the work is just breathtaking.  I am always so awe struck.  Kathy’s talk was so informative.  She pointed out that not all of the winning pieces looked complicated, but that the stitching was so superb, they were awarded ribbons based on their excellence.  The judging that takes place here is based on a system called consensus judging.  (Kathy, please forgive me if I get some of this wrong.)  The three judges have their sheets on which they tally marks in many areas and then award one ribbon for first place, and many ribbons for second, third and honorable mention.  The three judges then confer and and they must agree on how to award the ribbons.  At the ANG national seminar exhibit, the three judges write down their marks, they are added together and the highest number gets the blue ribbon, etc.  Little things like a wobbly stitch, shadows of threads in the back and even how the piece is finished can affect the marks.  Like things are judged together.  In other words, the cross stitch is not mixed in with the canvas pieces.  They do separate out soft finishes (like pillows) from hard finishes (frames).  Hopefully, I got this right.  But with the little I did glean from the talk, I have added respect for our chapter winners.  Kudos to you!

March will bring me another travel adventure since I am heading out to CA to babysit my “little people” while their Mommy and Daddy take a much needed break.  However, I start my trip with a class by Susan Portra at Luv2Stitch in San Mateo.  More about that next time!

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As many of you know, I am often traveling.  Most of the time, I head to CA to visit with those precious little ones that I call grandbabies.  However, this spring I had a rare opportunity to travel twice to Europe.  The first trip was on a Craft Cruise riverboat cruise through the Netherlands and Belgium.  For those of you not familiar with Craft Cruises, they are a company that specialize in putting together cruises (both regular and riverboat) that specialize in one’s favorite craft.  This was my second time traveling with them.  Right now, most of their offerings are knitting related.  Since this is a needlepoint blog, for any of you more interested in that trip, PM me and I’m happy to gush and share my experiences.

My second trip was with my 90 year old mother-in-law (whose energy level makes me look pretty much dead), my two sisters-in-law and a female cousin.  This trip was a regular cruise through the British Isles.  Loved the countries.  I did bug my traveling companions a bit to stop at knitting stores.  However, I was also determined this time to find something stitching related.  Although I did not have time to visit the Royal School of Needlework, I did find the time to visit a charming needlepoint shop in London, thanks to the heads up of Cathryn C.  She directed me to a charming shop call Tapisserie.  I got there about a half hour before closing, but the store clerk was charming and did not make me feel rushed at all.  Although they had some canvases, their specialty was hand painted canvases that turn into beautiful and breathtaking evening bags.  There was a whole case of samples.  What they didn’t have in stock, they were most happy to have painted up and sent to you.  Of course, they also do a finishing service of making the purse for you.  Most of the designs were executed in tent stitch with beads put on top of the stitching.  However, for those of you adept at making a stitch guide, one could easily do a more embellished piece.  I’m including some photos for you of their interior.  Please enjoy the eye candy.  The one close up of a canvas is the one that had to come back to NJ.

It is a shop well worth the visit.  The neighborhood is just charming, so the visit is a win-win.  Please let me know about any other good traveling finds.  However, after those two trips, the only place I will be going for a while is to CA to visit those grandbabies.  Of course, that does mean an afternoon of stitching at Luv2Stitch in San Mateo.  More about that another time.

Finding a Good Framer

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A long time ago on one of my visits to CA, I discovered a wonderful shop in Alameda, called Needle in a Haystack.  I remember looking at a number of wonderful charts for counted work, as well as drooling over a number of lovely threads.  Oh yes, I did end up buying a Stella lamp.  There is a lot there for the cross stitcher as well.  I’ve also dealt with the online store and have always received great service.  In addition, they send out a monthly newsletter that is quite informative.  With the owner, Cathe’s permission, I am reprinting an article from this month’s newsletter.  Given that the frame shop in Mendham is closing, I thought this information might prove to be timely.  Happy reading!

How To Find A Good Needlework Framer

Jan at Bay Stations Accents has been in school in Scotland for the past year and when she comes back this year I don’t expect that she’ll continue her framing business. Given she’s be doing my personal framing for more than 30 years I’ll be very sad, as I’m sure many of you who are local are. On my to-do list is to find a new local framer to recommend but it’s way down my priority list at the moment. So instead I thought I’d write about how to find a good needlework framer. I’m not going to cover questions about their sense of color or style since those are general framing questions.

 

Even if you find someone who has been doing needlework framing I think you should always ask questions and if possible, see some of their framed needlework. I am a very picky customer when it comes to framing so it has to been completely square or I’m an unhappy camper. Jan’s attention to detail in this regard was very important to me. So, what to ask a potential framer?

What is the base they attach the needlework to? What are the other materials used?

 

I prefer acid-free materials when at all possible, especially what the fabric is being wrapped around. I do my own mounting these days and I use acid-free mat board glued/taped to acid-free foam core. I almost always use a colored mat under my work since white isn’t always the best option. Typically I use a dark green or dark blue, especially on pieces with open work. Any mat on the top of the work is also acid-free. And if I use glass, it’s Museum quality. Acid-free reduces any possibility of things leaching into your fabric over time. Sometimes I use a batting to give the underside of the needlework some depth (in place of the mat board under it). For that I use a good quality polyester or cotton batting. You can always ask a quilt shop what’s the best to buy if you want something more archival quality. Many framers won’t have used batting so might not be familiar with it – so it’s a conversation to have with them.

 

How do they attach the needlework to the base?

 

If they mention sticky backed board, run away, very, very fast. Granted it has it uses for craft projects, even for things like tiny ornaments, but if you’re spending the money on framing, do not let sticky backed board get near your work. Not only is it not good for the stitching to come in contact with it, over time it will lose its hold and the project will buckle. When we were first open 18+ years ago one of our now long time customers loaned us her Dutch Beauty sampler to hang as she didn’t have room. After a year we noticed the fabric was sagging in the frame so we had Jan take it apart to fix it. She came over livid that the framer had stretched this masterpiece of a sampler onto sticky backed board. Getting it apart was a job but one we were happy to pay her to do to thank the customer for the loan (thanks Anna-Marie!). My point is, sticky backing has a very limited use but not for good quality needlework.

 

My preferred method of attaching work to the foam core is stainless steel pins and I learned this from Jan. Stainless Steel doesn’t rust so you can safely leave it in the side of the work (they go through the fabric into the side of foam core). Very few pins are made from stainless steel, most are nickel plated. I use Dritz Silk Pins or Bohin Stainless Steel pins, we sell both but you can find the Dritz ones in many fabric stores. Even with the pins in the side I either lightly lace or use acid-free tape to hold the back fabric in place. If you use just lacing to hold the work, which you can do, it many times puckers the fabric and over time can do a serious number on the fabric due to the tension on it. So I like the stainless steel pin method for a permanent hold that won’t pucker. If they want to use tape alone it won’t hold over time as the glue will eventually lose its hold, so it needs a more permanent method.

 

How do they align the project?

 

For my own work I put basting lines in my fabric where the edge of foam core would be, so I know I’ve stretched it straight onto the foam core/mat board backing. I just use sewing thread in a color I can see and can easily remove (don’t use floss since it can leave a residue when you pull it out). I rarely do this with needlepoint since typically I’m wrapping it at the edge of the stitching anyway. But you want to make sure the framer understands the importance of getting it completely square. You don’t want to get it back and find it’s off 2 threads from top to bottom, unless that doesn’t bother you – as you can guess, it bothers me :-).

 

If they use glass, do they use spacers and what type of glass?

 

I rarely use glass personally but there are times when it’s the right option. Make sure that they are using spacers so that the glass does not sit directly on the stitching. If you have a mat between the stitching and the glass you might not need spacers unless the stitching is very tall and would touch the underside of the glass. For heirloom quality work, use Museum glass, which is very clear. It’s more expensive but well worth it for those special pieces.

 

Do they block your work if it needs it?

 

It is very rare that a framer will block needlework since it involves a whole other skill set. But ask them if they do blocking and find out more about how they do that if they indicate they offer that service. Since most won’t, you might need to send it to a finishing service to have it blocked before taking it to the framer. For individual pieces that look like they need blocking, talk to the framer first to see if they think blocking is required. If it’s slightly out of shape it might not since the mounting base will help it keeps its shape. However if it’s seriously out of square blocking would likely be required.

 

How do they store your project?

 

While you might not think this is important, I believe you also want to know how your work is being stored before it’s being framed. If it’s crumpled up in some corner, perhaps you need another framer. If they wrap it up in tissue to keep wrinkles away and store it in a clean storage container, you might have more confidence in the rest of their work as well.

 

What do they charge and what is the turn around time?

 

I didn’t start with this since I think the other questions are more important to flesh out first. Custom framing is never inexpensive. And just because a framer charges a lot does not mean they will do a good job with needlework. So once you’ve determined that they might be a good framer for your projects, then is the time to find out the price of the work. Most framers will charge for mounting the work in addition to the actual framing. It’s the mounting work that’s really the hard part for needlework so don’t be shocked at seeing an extra charge for that. They might be able to do quick jobs or they might take a couple of months, but finding that out ahead of time is also useful.

If you feel comfortable with the framer and are not able to see samples of their needlework framing, take them something you aren’t as worried about to do as a first one. And if they are not willing to listen to constructive criticism, find someone else. This needs to be a two way street for awhile until you’re confident in them.

 

Another option is to learn how to do the mounting work yourself and then only have the framer do the frame and putting it all together. This is in fact what I do these days (granted I’ve not had much to frame of late since I’ve not finished as many projects as I’d like). I do private lessons on this occasionally for people who want to learn. Hopefully when my life settles down a bit I’ll do a video on this part.

 

For those of you who don’t mind sending your work away to get framed I can recommend Deb at Stitchville USA in Minneapolis, MN and Sandy at Attic Needlework in Mesa, AZ. Both do really great needlework framing work. Many other needlework shops around the country have their own framing department so that’s another avenue to check out.

 

I hope you find this helpful information for finding a good framer for your work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – your needlework projects deserve the best!

 

 

Cathe Ray –

Needle In A Haystack

510-522-0404 phone

877-HAYSTAC (877-429-7822) toll-free

510-522-3692 fax

2433 Mariner Sq. Loop, STE 102

Alameda, CA 94501

haystack@needlestack.com

http://www.needlestack.com

Woodlawn!

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I am very excited that for the first time ever I have two pieces of my work entered in an exhibition. I was encouraged by my fellow ANG chapter members to submit an entry to the Woodlawn Needlework Exhibition and Sale. So I dove in and sent two pieces down to the exhibit with Linda M and Mr. M.

There was no doubt I would go and look at all the needlework since I have a good friend who lives in the area. Of course the only time our schedules aligned, was for opening day. So off I went. It was a beautiful, but blustery day and I had the best time ever!

Upon my arrival the day before, I met with the “other” Barbara L. for lunch and a visit to Waste Knot in Arlington. We had fun getting to know each other better and of course shopping. The shop was quite nice. They had some threads I hadn’t seen before. It was quite funny that our respective husbands reminded us not to mix up the credit cards. 😀

The next day, I set off for Woodlawn. As one pulls up the drive, the mansion looks quite majestic.

Of course once I got inside, there was the usual confusion in regard to the “other” Barbara L. There was only one Barbara L listed in the program, so I had to explain there were two of us when I checked in. That Barbara lives near Woodlawn, so she has been involved with the exhibit for many years.

So, now I was inside the exhibit and there was such eye candy! The work across all media was really breathtaking. I saw cross stitch pictures that looked like photographs and stump work that had incredible detail. The gold work was amazing. I did find amusement that the morning guides were from the local garden club and I did a bit more explaining to them than the other way around. Yet, they were quite charming and lovely to chat with. They did explain some interesting things about one or two of the pieces in each room. One thing they did explain was that the ribbons had not yet arrived. So, on the name tags, the entries that won ribbons had different colored dots, indicating their place. Of course I couldn’t tell what the different categories were. I also over heard that people who had entries could have the guides get a docent and then they could take a photograph of their own entry.

You know I was really there to see the needlepoint, dot or not. I loved it! There is a lot of talent out there. Finally, I hit the dining room and there was my hydrangea piece hanging on the wall. I was excited!

Now, I started to look for the chapter display in earnest. It was no where to be found on the ground floor. I went upstairs and I still didn’t see them. Finally I went into a bright sunny room that had no furniture, but a whole uninterrupted wall for display. There they were! I also saw my second piece, which was a Tony geometric counted piece. However, I quickly looked away because I noticed Mary D’s piece ( I believe it is her Frankie piece) had a red dot on it! I was so excited for her. I quickly tagged the guide to find out what she had won and it is a second place. Sorry that I don’t know the category. Congratulations Mary! At any rate, I began to look at the wall in earnest and it was then that I noticed that my name tag had a red dot also. I kept looking back to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. What great positive reinforcement for a first time exhibitor! I also noted with amusement that the “other” Barbara L. had a piece on the same wall. Thankfully, the two pieces were labeled correctly. I took one last look around and then I was off to In Stitches.

I had a very nice visit there and bought a few notions. I found a reproduction magnet with an embroiderer on it.

Keeping with the historic theme, I decided to visit Washington’s mansion at Mt Vernon. I think the last time I was there, I was about ten. Needless to say, the park service has made vast improvements. No photographs allowed inside, but here is a panoramic view of the Potomac.

For you knitting and weaving enthusiasts, here are some photos of the spinning room, which is an outer building.

Of course no day would be complete for me without a stop at a local yarn shop. I went to Fibre Space in Old Town Alexandria. What luscious yarn, some of which is locally dyed. However, I was able to stay on my yarn diet by focusing more on notions. They had a new needle that I had never seen before. It looks like a boomerang and is used in place of double point needles. Really interesting.

So my fun day came to an end. I felt really happy and satisfied. I encourage all of you, if you can, to go south and take a visit to Woodlawn.

Mid Winter Cape Cod

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One might wonder why anyone would choose to go to Cape Cod in the middle of winter. Well for the past several years that is exactly what I have done. My dear friend Susan, with whom I have been friendly for the past thirty years, has a home there and she graciously invites me. She is also a fiber enthusiast. Though she only does limited needlepoint, she is more than adept at so many other needle arts. When we load the car, it looks as if we are moving. The suitcases take up very little room. The rest is all needle art related. There is lots of yarn for knitting, her paints, weaving and quilting and of corse my needlepoint paraphanalia, stand and all.

We arrived there this year on Super Bowl Sunday. As we were rushing to buy groceries before the store closed for the big game, we discovered that the anticipated precipitation for the next day had been upgraded to a blizzard. What fun for two people who wanted to pursue their passions. So we had a glorious time since we did not lose any power.

The next day we had enough cabin fever to want to go out. One of the things we did was go to a Cape Cod institution. This of course had to do with needlepoint. We went to Town Ho Needleworks in Brewster.. This is a very interesting place. One has to climb a fairly steep flight of steps to get inside the shop. If one can see past the “interesting” filing and set up in the shop, there are some real jewels. There are charts for counted work from designers who are no longer designing or no longer with us. The owner of the shop is a huge Maggie fan. I saw many canvases I had never seen “live”before. There is a nice selection of threads and good quality notions. The owner told us that he tried to retire five years ago, but his students wouldn’t let him. So his Cape Cod institution goes on. If you go to the Cape, his shop is worth a visit.

There is one other needlepoint shop on the Cape which I did not get to visit this time. It’s a bit out of the way from where we were staying. Osterville Needlepoint Shop is under new ownership, so I don’t wish to really comment on what I saw when I was there last year.

I drove home by myself since Susan’s husband was joining her at the Cape. Of course I had to detour to do needlepoint shop hopping. I decided to go to Larchmont to see Stitch by Stitch. This is a lovely shop full of beautiful canvases. At that time they had a Labors of Live trunk show. The owner was so accommodating and went out of her way to help me find a good small battery run light for my airplane travels. There is also a wall of notions.
I highly recommend a stop there as well

So, a mid winter visit to the Cape is not so strange after all.

Final day of Jewel

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I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but I still adore this class. Today was the final day and we covered more of what to put in the diamond shapes. It doesn’t look like much but spaghetti now, but I have left the class feeling confident that I will know how to do each section of the design when I return home. Today we laid some grid work over which go more decorative stitches. There was also one section that we turned crosses into octagons.
Since most of the sections are repeated multiple times, I should be an expert by the time I’m finished!

Now I’m trying to turn myself into a weatherman. Since I am finished with classes, I could leave early and try to beat the storm. However, it looks like Friday may be the worst of it, at least in the southern regions. So leaving early may not be the answer. Now my true self of anxious Nellie comes out. Hopefully the next two days of R&R that includes stitching time, will be the remedy for that. Safe travels to all of our readers and NJNA attendees.

Day 2 of Jewel

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I love this teacher! Toni Gerdes is the perfect teacher for me at my current level of stitching. She is extraordinarily patient and builds confidence. She is able to appeal to all levels of stitchers. I highly recommend her. Today we completed the outlining. The stitches all go within the outline. We started to fill in some of the points. We used a two layered stitch using a grid and woven stitch. We also used some Smyrna crosses, This looks like a design that I might actually finish, hopefully sooner rather than later. I hope to be able to take other classes from Toni one day.

The day was complete with good company, seeing the current teaching projects of many of the teachers followed by a wonderful dinner at the Croissant restaurant. A delicious meal with great music and lively dinner companions.

Day 1 of Jewel by Toni Gerdes

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via PressSync
What a great day I had today! I had some trepidation about keeping up with the more experienced stitchers. However, Toni is an excellent teacher and classroom manager. Her handouts are superbly done and she explained everything. Toni made it easy for us by doing the pre-work on the canvas herself. She took each student’s canvas and counted out and then enlarged holes that were key intersections. She opted not to draw the design because she was afraid many of the pencil lines would show through. She also paced the class so that we had ample time to work in an area. Much of the outlining came before the other stitches. That makes one feel better because more of your canvas is covered! I chose to do my project on 18 mesh, however many of the students were doing theirs on Congress cloth. My goal is to get more adept and do less ripping out, so that next time I can use Congress cloth too. Toni is very generous in spirit and gives freely of her expertise. Her pre-work was crucial and I know it took her a lot of time for each canvas. She was very excited to hear that I would be blogging about the class and readily agreed to let me publish a picture of the finished product. She loves to come and teach local chapters.

wpid-20150928092612.jpgToni’s version

Mine, so far.

My day ended at the Cyber Pointers meeting where I won my membership for next year. All in all a great day.

I’m a “First Timer”

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I’m a little bit behind in the blogging. But here goes. With much anticipation and excitement, I set off for Myrtle Beach on Friday. My 89-year-old mother-in-law, who lives a half a mile from where the pope slept in Philadelphia, warned me to not come anywhere near Philadelphia on Friday. That left an interesting dilemma as I was taking the exact route that the pope would take later in the day. Diane came to my rescue and suggested a westerly route through Harrisburg and then head south. So, I did not have to worry about running into hordes of visitors going to Philadelphia. One advantage of taking the car is being able to take anything your stitching heart desires. Look at the pile of bags at the top of my steps.

Of course, on my way, I had to stop at needlepoint stores. My first stop was in Washington DC. I went to see The Point of it All. It was quite aesthetically pleasing. What I noticed however, was that there were far more 13 mash painted canvases then 18 mesh. I did not see any charts for counted work at all. Also, the people working in the shop, as well as the customers who came in, all worked in hand. I was surprised by these elements. Although I didn’t buy anything, I’m not sorry I went. I’ve been curious about the shop for a while.

Back on the road again, I made my way to Richmond, where I was to spend the night with a friend I had made during my Smocking Arts Guild days. We had not seen each other in well over 20 years. However, we had a great time catching up. She took me to two needlepoint shops in Richmond, across the street from each other! The first one, Jermies, has been in business for 40 years. They had lovely canvases. I noticed that just like in The Point of it All, the edges of the canvas were finished with sewn on bias tape. It was really a clean and neat way to finish off the raw edges. Jermies also had find linens. Interesting combination!

The second shop, The Stitching Studio, didn’t look like a needlepoint store from the outside. Once you got in, it resembled more of what we have in New Jersey. It was just much smaller. The store owners were quite nice.

My last stop in Richmond, was my friends own store. She used to own one of the finest antique stores in Richmond. She “retired” two years ago, moved to a new location and opened up an heirloom sewing/smocking/quilting store with the finest fabrics and laces in the area. She is starting to concentrate more on the quilting fabrics. In addition, she also had beautiful gift items. I had great fun seeing what she did with her space. Lastly, she’s an Elna sewing machine dealer. Her house had at least six sewing machines in it.

Today was a relaxing, kickback day. I became acquainted with what the seminar has to offer. Of course my favorite activity, besides stitching of course, was viewing the exhibit of all the beautiful pieces sent by ANG members.

Tomorrow I have the first day of my three day class. Wish me luck!

I am trying a different app to write this blog. If it looks or acts strange, please give me feedback. Thanks!