Wednesday, August 24, 2011

L is for Diabolical!

Okay - so it isn't...  But it should be!  When we started running our Dark Alphabet, we hoped people might enjoy the little pieces.  We could hardly hope that people really would stitch them!  We design gift items, but stitching design is a special skill - one we admire very much, and Julie was eager to try.  So, we began to offer our homage to Lisa Roswell, and hoped that one or two of the designs might please some.  

Much to our amazement, Jo has taken very much to heart the idea of stitching the entire series.  Unfortunately, even Julie wasn't keeping up to Jo in the stitching department, and feeling all alone, Jo's mind began to darken.  Before long, she had hatched a very diabolical plot, and began looking for someone with whom to make a pact! We thought it a great idea, and have thrown in with her!  

Stitch along with Jo and Julie on the Dark Alphabet - we're about to do L, so there's lots of time!  Write to Julie and let her know you intend to do this.  Send photos of your letters as you finish them - we'll post them in the Art of Friendship gallery.  If you finish the last letter before Jo (and you have to be quick to do this!), she is offering a prize of a $10 coupon (to which we will add a little, too) to spend any way you like at our online store.  If you finish before Julie (a MUCH easier task), Julie will give you a prize (she's still thinking what it might be).  All you have to do is "sign up" by emailing Julie and send a picture of each letter as you go.  Who knows - the winner might be you!  So come on in - stitch along with Jo and Julie and see if you don't have some dark fun!

On another note, we want to thank everyone for your interest in our new products!  

We sold out of boxes in record time!  To be fair, we started with fewer boxes than usual.  We found those little beauties after the manufacturer had stopped making them, and we scoured the internet to find all we could.  We liked them so much, we made them our Sailor's Ditty Boxes even though we knew we couldn't make as many as we'd like - but we never thought we'd sell out in less than a day!  Thank you!  We are already planning the next box, and it will be something we can make a "normal" amount of.  All our boxes are limited editions, though, so do check back to see how we are doing from time to time.  We'd hate for you to miss your chance!

We've been extra busy the last little while - one of our new interests is the Jane Austen Society of North America, which we joined, along with our local chapter.  We love Jane Austen's books, of course, but are also enchanted with the fashion of that era, so of course, any opportunity to dress up and go for tea!  

We recently attended the 20th Anniversary Dinner of the Puget Sound chapter of JASNA.  Such fun, and what friendly, charming people. They posted some pictures on their site, as well.  There's always something fun to do, it seems!

L is for Lightning Bird and Long-Armed Cross

He looks like such a nice bird. I even told Julie it looks cute, not scary at all!  But in history this bird whacks a punch in folklore.  A mythological creature in South Africa the Lightning Bird is the size of a human, black and white in coloring and it summons thunder and lightning with  it's wings and talons.  It is associated with witchcraft and has quite an appetite for blood.  Sometimes it takes on the image of a young man to seduce women. 

Another name for this bird is the hamerkop.  This bird is known to decorate its nest with anything from handkerchiefs to bicycle tires!  Quite a sight to see. 

In the Zulu culture someone who spends much time in front of a mirror is called thekwane, their name for the hamerkop, because they are like the bird that is found to spend hours beside the water's edge looking at their reflection.  

There are many stories of the evil that strikes if you harm this bird... such as your hair falling out or you dying as a result or just evil befalling you. So even though it looks kind of cute, don't let it fool you!

The long-armed cross stitch is used for the ground the bird stands on in the chart - just a little bit for you to practice.  There are many, many variations on cross-stitch, and this is one of my favorites.  
This example is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London

It lends a braided look to a design and is easy and fast to do.  Also sometimes called the Long-legged Cross, Portuguese and Plaited Slav stitch, it's a versatile border or filling stitch, perfect when texture and solid coverage are required.  

Instructions for completing this stitch abound on the internet.

Have fun with your lightning bird!  As always, click on the picture of the chart, or on "Freebies" in the side bar to download the chart.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Will and Jo with A Diabolical Pact

Oh, we've been busy the last few weeks.  We love to play, but we do love to work, too, and this spring, after our hiatus, our creative juices started to flow, and we have some new products that we think will really fly off the shelves.  

First of all, we have a whole new line of items - "Mademoiselle's Oak Tree Folly Accoutrements".  We imagined a little French girl sitting under an oak tree and stitching with all her treasures around her.  What kind of stitching treasures would she have?  We started with a glove scissors pocket, complete with stork embroidery scissors; 

moved on to a shoe etui, which holds a thimble, pretty beaded pins and, of course, needles;

and added a fan scissors pocket/needleminder/etui, which comes complete with dainty Storkette scissors, beaded pins, needles and a magnetic closure which doubles as a needle minder.  
The thread palette, a sweet horn book needle book and matching bookmark fill up her sewing basket.  Such fun!

And... ta da ta ra!  We have new boxed sets!  FINALLY!  We started working on a nautical set last summer.  As most of you know, a few wrenches thrown into the works slowed us down, but we kept at it!  

We have two new boxes, on the nautical theme - The Sailor's Ditty Box - a lovely box with accordion fold pages, which we've filled up with toys and charts for you.  The adorably colored fish scissors are to die for!  Both boxed sets have now sold out - thank you all so much!

A companion to the Ditty Box, or just to have for traveling, is the Itty Bitty Ditty!  Just big enough for a pair of Little Gems scissors, a needle threader, waxer and pin-keep, the box will hold your orts and the ribbon on the scissors, as well as the magnet in the lid will make sure you don't have any stray needles or scissors rolling down the airplane aisles.

Our boxes are all made of papier-mache, then grain-painted.  That's the most fun part - we mix up our colors and make each box unique and beautiful!  I just love the seafoam green we dreamed up for our nautical theme!

There are a few more new items - take a look!  

Now, just where do Will and Jo come in?  Not to mention a DIABOLICAL plot!

The last weekend in July, Becky and I traveled to Cedar City, Utah to attend a Swan Sampler Guild retreat.  During the day, we learned finishing techniques for Betsy Morgan's Toy Chest Etui, and in the evening, we attended the Utah Shakespeare Festival, which is where Will comes in.  The Swans really do things up well - we had so much fun, and met such interesting and friendly members from all over.  We stayed in a gorgeous old Victorian house turned into a B & B.  If you get a chance to go to Cedar City, you should definitely stay at the Iron Gate!

While we were there, we previewed our new items, including some we thought would be especially of interest to Swans, such as the Swan Lace Scissors Pocket, and matching Swan Lace Etui.

It's always so fun to show our "babies" to a new audience, and this was no exception!  The Swan items are now all on the website, so if you're a Swan who missed the retreat, or just like these pretty designs, go and check them out!

Okay, you say - I don't see any diabolical pacts....  But wait!

Many of you, who are following the progress of our free Dark Alphabet will know that Jo is actually stitching it!  I'm afraid, because I have been working to get things done for the Toy Box Etui, that even I have not stitched much, though I do intend to fix that now.  But Jo is getting lonely... so she has devised a nefarious plot to get you all involved!  Here it is in her own words:

"My plan is to invite people to enter into a "diabolical pact" with me to finish this first!  I'm know people are collecting the patterns and I'm sure some are stitching but not sharing so I thought I'd challenge everyone to try beat me in finishing the letters A-Z.  Not the personalised squares because not everyone will be doing those and I'm doing two!  We're not halfway through the designs yet so there's plenty of time to catch up.

People would have to let you and me know they want to enter into the pact then email you a photo of their finished project.  I will treat the first person to email you the completed A-Z in any format (sampler or individual ornaments) to something from your shop to the value of US$10 but only if they beat me to doing it first!
If I finish first then I take their soul or their first-born child.  I'm not fussy!  Seriously though, I just like the idea of having someone else to SAL with.  This will not be open to Julie or any employees/friends/family who may have early peeks at the charts  
They don't need a blog to take part!"

Even though I can't win, I do promise to try to keep up!  And of course, In the Company of Friends will also throw in a prize to whoever finishes first!  May the best stitcher win!

All that said, of course, we don't have a letter this week!  But we do, indeed, have a chart for you.  While we were in Utah, a few people noticed that I had stitched an extra "toy" for myself - a Ouija Board.  Since a number of folks asked, and since it's my own design, we're offering that up here as our freebie this week.  This is kind of an intense stitch (and of course, I did it over one to fit it into my space).  But I think it turned out great!

So, click on Freebies in the sidebar or on the picture above to take you to the freebies page for the chart of the Ouija board.  Choose your own colors, or look at my finished piece for inspiration.  I colored it to go with the rest of my toys, but if I were doing this as a stand-alone, I'd probably do it a single, dark color on a warm brown linen, or all in muted brown threads. 

Next time - back to the Dark Alphabet! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

K is for Kelpie and Kelim Stitch

The Kelpie is a mythological shape-shifting water demon in the shape of a horse from Scottish Celtic history that lures people, especially children onto it's back then takes them out into the water, where it kills and eats them. 

Usually found in lakes and rivers, but I did find a YouTube video story that showed it along the ocean shore.  What an alluring and beautiful creature with such a violent way about it.  There are also stories of Kelpies in British and Irish history.

Our special stitch today is the Kelim Stitchalso known as the Knitting Stitch or Tapestry Stitch.  It is considered to be a canvas stitch but often appears on samplers with Pattern Darning blocks and was perhaps a schoolroom exercise for repairing stockinette textiles, according to Eileen Bennett in The Red Book of Sampler Stitches.

This stitch can be affected by the weight of thread compared to the weight of ground fabric as told in Jan Eaton's book The Complete Stitch Encyclopedia.

Once again, you have just a taste of the stitch, as it is used to make the mane on the Kelpie.

Have fun with K is for Kelpie.  To get the free chart, click on the picture at the top of this page, or on Freebies in the side bar.

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