Monday, December 19, 2011

Is it January yet???

First off, congratulations to the draw winners, I hope you enjoy your packages! :)

This little giveaway made me realize that as much as I LOVE receiving stash, knowing I've helped brighten someone's day is such a wonderful feeling!

On that note, I've made some stitching resolutions for the new year.

First and foremost, it's time for a serious stash overhaul. I must go through my charts and actually figure out colour schemes, fabrics, etc. and match it up to what I have, order what I need, and get rid of that which is just taking up space. Colour sets for designing are one thing. Miscellaneous skeins because they were on sale or because they were pretty are another. Fat quarters of fabric are out - fat halves or yards are in. Must THINK before purchasing instead of impulse buying!!!

Second, I need to organize my time and resources better. I'm doing far too much at the last minute. Usually not my fault - changes in scheduling at work have been the worst culprit - but I need to allow myself more time for incidental stuff like nights that I'm too tired to stitch. It happens and I have to stop feeling guilty about it when it does!!

And some news... my son has found a tattoo shop interested in helping him finish his apprenticeship and they're even willing to PAY him for the hours he works in the shop. He starts the week after New Year. He's overjoyed at this news and I am SO happy for him. I know the guy who will be teaching him, he worked at the local shop here when Nate first started his apprenticeship, so I feel a little bit more comfortable about him moving there. My mother and I frequently argue about his career choice, she just doesn't get it. The way SHE looks at it - it's not a respectable job and she's ashamed to tell people what he's doing. My take on it? He's an amazing artist, and if he can use that talent in his career choice, I'm all for it. I've never seen him this passionate in his life (apart from his dinosaur fanaticism as a wee one) and I'd rather see him choose a career that makes him happy than one that simply makes him money. As long as his bills are paid, why should it concern her so much? Maybe it's just the generation gap.

And now I must go and attempt to finish my last Christmas present, an ornament for my grandmother, which has been the bane of my existence these past few weeks. I stitched it once as a model, stitching it a second time has been tedious at best, but it's nearing the finish line. If I can finish the backstitching tonight, I'll just have to sew and stuff it tomorrow night. See what I mean about last minute?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And the winners are...

Okay, by the time on my computer it's 4:00pm EST. And the winners are.... drumroll please.... Sherry Heron and Andrea Taylor! I will send a private message to both of you to confirm and get addresses and so on. Congratulations you two!

A little teaser....

Here is a teaser - not one but two prizes. Each pack contains:

1 HDF 4mm silk Ribbon
1 HDF 6 strand mini variegated
1 HDF 6 strand premium
1 HDF 6 strand skein
2 Dinky Dyes
1 Carrie's Creations Silks
1 Soie Perlee
1 Trebizond
1 Valdani Overdyed Silk
1 Valdani Overdyed Silk Perle
1 Gloriana Florimell
2 Gloriana Silk Floss
1 Gloriana Princess Perle Petite
1 Needlepoint Inc.
1 Thread Gatherer Silk n Colors
2 Eterna Mini Twist solid
2 Soie d'Alger
1 Crescent Colours Belle Soie
1 Silk Mill
1 Waterlilies
1 SJ Designs Metallic Beads
1 SJ Designs 2mm Pearls
10 Swarovski 5754 6mm
1 SJ Designs 14/0 beads

More may get added as I wade through my stash. :)

Giveaway - one last update

The drawing for the silks is today. I've got everyone's names who entered written down and ready to draw out of a bowl. :) Just a note though... my boss decided to have a Christmas dinner at work tonight, so I won't be here at 6pm. I will do the draw right before I leave for the party, at around 4pm instead, since I have NO idea what time I'll be home.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A giveaway - update

Well I've had a few responses here, and several on FB and I've been rummaging though my thread cabinets and pulling lots of goodies. I decided that I would probably do not just one, but two prizes, since there is just so much here I will never get to use it all. :) And still I keep buying!! If you post a link to the draw on your blog, a message board, or FB, drop me a comment either here or on FB and I will add an entry for you for each one. :)

NOW I'm definitely feeling Christmassy. :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

A giveaway....

Okay, I'm just not feeling Christmassy yet and it's December already. It could be lots of things really, my son is living away from home and all grown up, it's really warm with no sign of snow yet... who knows.

I figured I would do something to get myself in the Christmas spirit. :)

I'm going to have a giveaway!

I went through my stash and I have far too much. I often hear from people that they haven't ever tried silks, or that they love to use silks but they can't afford to buy them. So I'm pulling skeins of all sorts of different silks - Thread Gatherer, Waterlilies, Belle Soie, Gloriana, Florimell, Valdani, Carrie's Creations, Dinky Dyes, NPI, Eterna, Au Ver a Soie, Hand Dyed Fibers, Silk Mill, Splendor, Kreinik and possibly a few others if I come across them. At least one skein of each just to try out and possibly a few other tidbits of fun stuff. :) The colours will not match each other, but it's just for fun to have something to play with and maybe create a new addict. :)

To enter, post a comment either here or on the drawing announcement on my Facebook page, stating why you love silk threads or why you would like to try silk threads. I will draw a name at random on Sunday, December 18th at 6PM Eastern Time and will announce the winner here and on my Facebook page at that time. That gives everyone a couple of weeks to enter.

The rules...

1. You must be a follower here on my blog OR on my Northern Expressions Facebook page. Either or is fine. :)

2. You must have a burning desire to try at least ONE of the threads I listed. :)

That's all. :) No limitations, I'll mail them out anywhere, I don't mind. You won't get them before Christmas since I didn't think of this sooner, but it will be a fun way to start off the New Year anyway!

Just a warning... this is NOT a non-smoking household so you might notice a smell. I don't, but I'm used to it. It's not like he blows smoke directly into them or anything but it might be there. I also have two cats and while they don't sleep in my stash drawers, that may also be an issue for some.

So a Merry Christmas (or whatever you may celebrate) to everyone, and good luck!

Colds Suck.

It started on Thursday with a bit of a scratchy throat, the odd little cough and my voice disappearing at odd moments, which was a source of amusement at work. On Friday, the throat was a little more sore, the cough was getting worse and the voice was less coming and more going, but I still went to work since I didn't feel terrible, though by the end of the day I was in a lot of pain from trying to talk all day. Saturday was a different matter. The cough was constant and agonizing - each one put me close to tears with the pain in my throat and ears, my voice was gone completely, and the phlegm began it's relentless attack. I figured it might be worth staying home for the day since the ICK factor was creeping up to red alert levels and I really didn't want to gross out the customers. By Sunday, the sore throat had subsided somewhat, as had the cough to a small degree - both still there, but not constant unless I tried to talk too much. However the phlegm had started flanking maneuvers and seemed to be working on a divide and conquer plan. Not only was it appearing when I coughed, but it had decided that my sinuses were fair game and flooded those as well. Reminder: buy shares in Kleenex. And through it all I still don't feel all that bad. Dehydrated certainly, tired for sure, but thankfully no fever or chills or anything like that to speak of.

I've been dosing myself with Advil cold and sinus, Buckley's and Halls which seem to help as long as I don't try to talk too much. But nothing seems to keep the phlegm at bay, it's sneaky, I tell you. Where is it all coming from??? I swear I've expelled double my body weight in phlegm the past few days, one person cannot possibly produce this much. Is it using my wireless to call in reinforcements or something? I think so.

I'm really annoyed because I had to miss my guild meeting today, but I didn't want to aggravate my throat - I figure if I want to go back to work tomorrow I need to rest up again today. So I'm going to stitch all day again. Actually I've gotten quite a bit of stitching done over the past couple days. I decided it was time to put away the models and finish up my Christmas stitching so I could cross that off my list of things to do. I only have one ornament to do for my grandmother so I should be able to finish that up by the end of next weekend. I'd post a picture of my progress, but so far it's mostly metallics so it's kinda hard to see in pictures. I decided that since my grandmother knows nothing about threads and stuff, rather than waste my precious overdyed silks I would just do it in solid colours. Still went with silks though because I had cards of Splendor in Christmas Red and Christmas Green that matched the Delica beads perfectly. So far so good, I'm really happy with how it's turning out. Will post pics when I get it all stitched up. :)

Oooh and I got a lovely parcel from SJ Designs on Friday. Tried to take pictures but beads are horrible to try to photograph. I picked up samples of the new 2mm Glass Pearls and they're lovely! So far there are 8 colours, but more are coming. And I got samples of the new metallic beads - gold and silver plated - that are to die for. And I got an assortment of colours in the size 14/0 (which are smaller and much more regular than Mill Hill Petite). Trying to match a few colours that I can't match in Delica so I can stitch some Mirabilias on 40ct. :D Can I just say I love her packaging?? They're little screw top pots - so much easier to get into than most.

Going to go take a really hot shower now and try to clear my head out a bit. Can I just say I'm tired of constantly getting sick? This is really starting to suck.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A picture... as promised!

Finished page 4 today and had to move the qsnaps on My Mother's Garden 2, so here's a progress pic! This is in the sampler colourway - softer, muted and antique looking colours compared to the original bright version. While I'm loving the colours and how it's turning out, I really understand why I rarely stitch anything twice! This is done in Carrie's silks on 40ct Parchment from WDW. :)

Now I need sleep. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

A little vent and some sale info to pass along...

I'll start with the little vent - I can't stitch very well right now. Nor can I type very well. I sliced my left index finger but good, on of all things, a cardboard box. Stitching is sloooooow one handed - and the timing couldn't be worse, just when I'm racing to try to get masses of stuff stitched in time for Nashville.

Add to that I spent the last two days with yet another bug. Fever, major chills and body aches and tummy in a right mess. I probably should have taken the rest of the week off work to finish recovering, but since the fever was gone today I went back. You know you're sick when customers you barely know keep asking if you're feeling okay. One more day and then I get my weekend.

On to more cheerful things now....

LOTS of sales going on right now almost everywhere!! I've done well to resist most of them, however, I might just have to cave to the Silk Mill's latest sale - 45% off everything until midnight tomorrow - PLUS free shipping. So I'm guessing a few of those sets will be jumping into my cart!

AND I'm working on more new designs - these will be for release sometime next year, but after trying out the Valdani silks I just had to come up with a design to use them on. It's coming along well, and it's going to take every ounce of willpower I have not to start it as soon as I get the charting finished!

I'm plugging away at My Mother's Garden 2 in the sampler colours, and they look awesome. A big thank you to Carrie for helping me pick these out, they are really, really pretty. I'm kicking myself for choosing 40ct, because of the over one stuff. I fly through the over two parts, and then get to a line of verse and slow to a crawl. lol I love over one, just not on 40ct. But I'll keep plodding on! Will post some pics when I move the q-snaps again. :)

I'm also very excited because I will finally get to start the Antique Lace Band Sampler - I decided on Gloriana Silks for it, and Anne was wonderful and dyed up Ecru in Florimell for me. Will be happy dancing when these arrive for sure because it'll give me something else to work on and I'll be able to switch back and forth between the two.

Hmmm... it's 8:43pm, I suppose I should attempt to eat something, but I don't want to upset my tummy again. Toast and Tea? I think so. :) Then maybe I can sneak in an hour or two of stitching before bedtime. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A finish, a review and more!

Warning. Today's post will likely be a long one, since I have lots of news to share today. ;)

First, I finished Growth Rings. The task was difficult because as usual, stitching ADD set in a few days ago, and more so the closer to finishing I got. It's normal for me, and I've still not figured out the reason why. But I persevered and here it is. :) In case you're curious, the fabric is Silkweaver's Purely Primitive in 40ct linen, the floss is Gloriana in Holly Berry and Antique Black. The camera just doesn't pick up the subtle variegation in these, it's lovely in person. I've decided that a Gift Certificate for framing will be the best idea, then Jeff can come with me after Christmas and pick out a frame himself. At least that way it will still be something of a surprise, but he'll get it done exactly as he wants. :)

The biggest cause of my stitching ADD... new stash fondling and future project planning.  I've fallen head over heels for a couple of Rosewood Manor designs which I've been trying to figure out my colours for - Past and Present and Trip Around the World Quilts. The Quilts I'm going to do in Splendor since there are only a few colours, but I'll need a fair bit of each and the skeins are huge. I'd like to stay fairly close to the original colours, but I have a bit of dilemma - the fabric colour, Platinum, only comes in 28 or 32ct and that is just not gonna happen. UGH. I was thinking 36 or 40ct. Even 34 ct would work with the Splendor, it covers nicely on that too. I have a piece of 40ct Flax that is large enough, but it doesn't work as well with the colours of floss. So I either need to rethink the fabric colour or change the green flosses to something less olive. Haven't decided which yet but I'm thinking either WDW 40ct in Linen or Legacy 34ct in Oaten Scone would be nice. OR I could go with a more wintery colour of greens and change the gold beads to silver instead. That would be equally lovely. I just don't know which I'd like to do yet! So I've put that one on hold until the new year while I ponder it. Past and Present on the other hand, uses lots of different colours of floss and not a great deal of each, so I'll likely use things I have here since there is no shortage of floss around here. But I digress.... look at all this stash! These lovelies arrived mere hours before I finished Growth Rings so you can imagine the torment! I wanted to dive into the Valdani silks and play, but I was a good girl and waited until last night. The lovely pink fabric is WDW 40ct Red Pear, the white is 45ct Florence to finish the Sampler Cove Flourish pieces (so the fabric for all four matches). The Belle Soie are the newest colours that came out for Baltimore market and are yummy! The Swatch cards are from Legacy Linen and the newest ones from Wasatch Needlecraft - Lakeside #2 and Zweigart #2. These are seriously invaluable for any fabric junkie like me. And of course all those lovely little balls of floss from Valdani!! This is most of their silk colours, there are a few that are backordered and will be sent at a later date, but this was definitely enough to get me drooling!!

And with that, a review. 

What do I think of the Valdani silk floss? I LOVE IT! 

For price, it's amazing. Those little balls you see are each 23 yards of six stranded floss. (NOTE - these are NOT the three stranded balls that Valdani produces, those are cotton floss and completely different) That's a lot of floss on one little ball - nearly 3 skeins of DMC worth - and they're less expensive than most silks on the market. They retail for $6 each, so they're quite a bargain given their size. Great choice for monochromes and BAPs. 

The colours are beautiful. Really rich and vibrant. The dying is wonderful - the colour changes are soft and gradual with nice overlaps between the main colours. The picture doesn't really capture it well, but it's still pitch black here this morning so I had to use the flash. I chose H204 Nostalgic Rose, S1 Orchids and M30 Deep Waters to test with - no particular reason, just grabbed 3 at random! The only drawback is that there are only 41 variegated colours at present, though I am assured that more will be coming!

The coverage is amazing. This was done with one strand on 34ct linen and the coverage is full with very little fabric show through. Comparable to the coverage of Soie D'Alger, it's a bit thicker than a single strand of DMC. If you like delicate coverage you could definitely use one strand on 32ct and I will likely try that next time out. Myself, I like my coverage a bit heavier, but the coverage on 34ct was more than adequate for my liking.

The shine is incredible. It's got a very rich sheen for a spun silk.

How does it feel? Well it's not as soft as say, Belle Soie or Gloriana. It feels quite like Soie D'Alger actually. Soft and silky but substantial. It's got a medium twist - not as loose as Splendor but not as tight as HDF - somewhere in between (I didn't count to be honest).

And the all important question... how did it stitch? Flawlessly. I first used about an 18" strand (top picture) and had no knotting, tangling or fraying to speak of. So for the next colour I went to 24" and still no knotting, tangling or fraying. I will say that while at my guild meeting I had a little play and I did get one knot - however I was stitching one handed without my stand - big difference since that causes a lot more twisting. But stitching in my normal fashion with two hands using my floor stand there was no issue at all, I didn't even have to dangle the needle. Towards the end of a 24" strand the fraying was slight - not a significant amount. I tried both a #26 needle and a #28 needle (both Piecemakers) and with the #28 there was a tiny bit more fraying, but only towards the last stitch or two. So it performed wonderfully. I kept saying to Jon while I was stitching how impressed I was. I think I used the word WOW several times.

The company guarantees they are colourfast. I haven't put that claim through a rigorous test yet, however I did two things. Using the bright red, I rinsed it under cold water and left it overnight to dry on paper towel. There was no bleeding onto the paper towel, so this morning I tried hot water and a paper towel - still no bleeding. I can't say whether there would be or not with every single colour or using detergent. I always recommend caution when washing hand dyed threads of any kind.

One other bonus is the that the company uses eco friendly dyes for all their silks and cottons (this doesn't include their rayon threads). They do a huge range of different types of threads, and most of those have a large range of colours. I haven't tried any of the others, I'm a silk girl, so I don't know if I will or not.

Overall I give this thread really high marks. I've added a new assignment to my agenda - come up with a design to use this stuff in - pronto! Which for me means probably sometime next year since my plate is already overloaded. lol They're not currently available in many shops, but Wasatch Needlecraft has ordered them for me, and Anita's Little Stitches carries them as well. ANY shop that carries their cotton floss can order them for you, as well as any shop that orders from Wichelt. You can also order them directly from Valdani, if it's in stock they ship within 24 hours of ordering so they're really quick. 

Tonight, if I can stay awake long enough, I'll be starting either a Christmas ornie for my grandmother or a model. Can't decide which should take priority yet. I'd love to keep playing with these Valdani threads but I do have things to get done first!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Like sparkles but hate metallic thread?

I think I may have found a thread you'll love. But more about that in just a minute. ;)

I got in some swatch cards I'd ordered from Rainbow Gallery this week. I bought the cards for Splendor and Petite Treasure Braid since I love both and would like to use both in my designs in future. I'd forgotten how much I like the Splendor colours, they're very bright and vibrant, solidly dyed with no variegation at all. I like Splendor because I get awesome coverage down to 34ct with one strand. It's not expensive - about $3.50 a card, but you get so much on a card! They're 8 yards, 12 strands, so per yard it's very inexpensive. Probably not great if you only need it for five stitches, but if you're doing a lot of a few colours it's a good choice. The Petite Treasure Braid I love. It's much nicer to use than Kreinik's metallics and it does come in some really pretty colours! I don't think it's quite as many as Kreinik. It's also less expensive. A card is about $2.75 most places, however, you get 25 yards in comparison to Kreinik's #4 which is only 12 yards and retails for about $3. Anyway, to make a long story short (yeah, I know, too late), they also sent me a swatch card and a sample of their newest product, Petite Silk Lame Braid. 

It's not a new product, they've been doing Silk Lame Braid for years in thicker weights, which are mostly for canvaswork, and cross stitch on low counts up to 14. However, this year, they released the Petite version, which is suitable for cross stitch on 16ct (or 32ct over two) and up. It's similar in weight to the Petite Treasure Braid or a #4 Kreinik. What is it exactly? It's Splendor silk woven with a blending filament of the same colour. The result is a much more subtle sparkle than using a metallic on it's own. Similar to using a blended needle with a blending filament - just much less hassle. It's single stranded on the card, use it as is without separating. It currently comes in 26 colours but there are 22 more being released in January. It retails for about $3.50 a card and you get 20 yards on each card, so it's not terribly expensive, since you're probably not going to use it for huge areas and more as an accent thread. So what do I think? I absolutely love it.

I test stitched it on 35ct and 40ct (both over two) to see how it would behave. It behaved beautifully. There was none of the twisting and tangling and knotting commonly associated with metallics. I used an approximate 18" length and only had to dangle the needle once or twice. It didn't come apart like many metallics do, and it didn't fray terribly either. It performed very well in fact. On the 35ct I used a #24 needle, and on the 40ct I used a #26 needle. It was a little bit of a squeeze getting it into the #26 eye (Bohin needle for reference) but it glided through once I did get it in there. Please excuse the obviously messy stitching - I am NOT an in hand stitcher, I absolutely hate it because I can't make nice neat x's that way. On 35ct it was perfect coverage, not crowded at all. On 40ct however... it's doable, don't get me wrong, I would definitely use it for small areas, but it is a bit of a tight fit. I would think it would cover nicely on 32ct as well, but I didn't try that out today. Maybe I will at a later date. For 14/28ct I would probably go up to the next weight, Silk Lame 18, because I don't think the coverage would be adequate. No matter what I did with the camera and scanner I could not get it to pick up the sparkle accurately, but it IS there, much more so than the pictures show.

Overall, 2 big thumbs up. I will definitely be using this for new designs in the coming years, it's seriously wonderful stuff. 

Okay on to other matters... lol 

November's Gift of Stitching magazine is now out, so I can show off pictures of my contribution finally!! It's called A Northern Christmas Expression, and it's a 15 sided biscornu ornament. I stitched it in 2 colours of Gloriana Florimell - 1 thread over 2 on 32ct linen. Just a note - the coverage of one strand of this thread on 32ct is actually quite nice! I was very impressed. It also uses Petite Treasure Braid and 3 colours of Delica Beads, so there is lots and lots of bling on this one! I included a conversion to DMC, Kreinik and Mill Hill. I have to say, I was a little bit freaked when I was asked to do an ornament. I don't DO finishing. I'm not a sewer, I'm not good at it and I don't like doing it. However, the assembly for this was really simple. It was my first attempt and won't be my last. 

And lastly, I'm adding another entry to the corrections page in a few moments. :( Thank you to Bhooma and Nadia for pointing these out to me! It's for the Antique Lace Band Sampler (yep, again). Note to self: never, ever again release a design without model stitching it FIRST! ;)

ETA - I made a mistake in the pricing of Petite Treasure Braid - it's MSRP is actually $2.75 not $3.75.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Okay, time for an update...

I've been so lax in keeping up with what's going on! I really do try to post every week, but sometimes life gets in the way.

It's been busy at work, hunting season is here so we're doing extra cutting and packing. Well not me personally, but with personnel redirected to that task, it's been busier for the rest of us. And it seems like everyone in SW Ontario is in a bacon frenzy so I've been slicing my little heart out. Okay that didn't come out the way I meant it, but you get what I mean. I swear some nights I dream about bacon. The kitties love me when I get home from work since I reek of it! Strange thing though? I still love bacon. lol

I'm still working on Growth Rings. I had hoped to have it finished by now, but I'm getting close! If I can manage a couple of non-stop stitching days this week I will be happy dancing soon enough. I'm debating whether I should just pick out a frame, or get my brother to pick it out since it's his... he already knows what he's getting so that might be the better idea. I don't know.

My trunk show/presentation at the needlework guild went fabulously well! I'm excited to say that I've joined and I'm so happy to have found a group of ladies as passionate about needlework as I am! It'll be a tight fit, getting from work to guild meetings on time, but I'll make sure I can swing it!

I'm also very excited about some silks that are on their way to me from Valdani. I will post lots of pics and do a write up when they arrive. I'm hoping one of the colours will be the perfect fit for a planned project so I can finally get started on it!! They've already got one major thing going for them, especially for someone like me, the queen of BAPs - the balls are huge. (TEE HEE, dirty minded giggle) 23M of six stranded silk - so almost 150M per ball. And they retail for $6!!! That's really inexpensive for silk, and for most projects, even the huge ones, you'd only need a few. Obviously, they're not a great fit for small projects where you only need a little of each colour, but for huge monochromes and stuff they'd be perfect. I can't wait to see the colours! I'm really hoping that I finish Growth Rings BEFORE they arrive, cause if they arrive first, I'm in BIG trouble.

Oh and just to tempt me even more? Silk Mill is having another sale. 20% off all of their sets, AND free shipping for the month of November. I must resist. I must resist. I must resist. Well maybe just one. Or two.

Hmmm... I know there was something else I meant to post about but it'll have to wait. Running off to work now!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Online Needlework Show

Wow, it's here already? Today at 2pm, the Online Needlework Show opens. :)

I will as usual be displaying through European Cross Stitch, and my newest release, My Mother's Garden 2 will be released today for the show. It's not quite "new", those of you who receive the Gift of Stitching will recognize it. For those of you who do not, here's your chance. :) The design includes thread recommendations for two different colourways, and DMC conversions for both. The brights colourway is stitched in Carrie's Creation silks on Sassy's Fabrics, the more muted sampler colourway will be stitched in Carrie's Creation silks on WDW linen. More to come on that as soon as I finish my Christmas stitching! Looking forward to it, since I've had the silks and linen for a while and they're soooooo pretty! It was a mad rush trying to get this done and out in time for the show, but I did it. YAY! :)

So how does the show work? I've seen a number of questions about it lately with it coming up and I figured I would post a little about that. It is, essentially, a wholesale show. Stitchers can't buy directly from the show. BUT, you CAN view all the "booths" and see all the latest and greatest stuff coming out. Once the show opens, you can click the General Viewing link up in the top right corner to see all the Vendor booths, and click on each one's links to see what they're offering. In a lot of cases there are door prizes and contests so keep your eyes open for these. When you see something you like, you can then contact your LNS, ONS or any of the shops listed in the Retail Shops section of the page and have them order stuff in for you. This is basically your opportunity to tell shops what you'd like them to order instead of waiting to see what they bring back, so it's a little more interactive than the average wholesale show. :)

Okay on to other things... I'm still working on Growth Rings and I made a lot of progress over the weekend. I should be able to move the qsnaps down and start working on the bottom half this week. Work has been a bit crazed, and I got slapped with a bit of a bug last week so stitching time last week was at a premium, but I spent most of my days off with needle in hand... and cleaning up my stash! It was necessary, I could no longer open and close my chart drawers.

What else is new... OH! I'm having a trunk show next week. :) This is my very first one and I'm really excited! I was contacted by Norfolk's Own Needle Arts Guild to host a trunk show at their next meeting (October 26th). So it will be a busy weekend preparing charts and readying models for display.

And with that, it's almost time to run off to work again, so until next time, happy stitching!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Silk Mill Review

Okay, I know I was going to do a fabric review for the 28ct I got in last week, but I figured since the Silk Mill skeins arrived first, they deserved to get reviewed first. It has nothing to do with the fact that they were for a design that I have been itching to start. Really, it doesn't. ;)

So what do I think? 

I really like them. In fact I love them. 

First, I will say, these are definitely not for the faint of heart or those that don't like to play and experiment. They do take a little bit of getting used to, there is a definite learning curve involved with using filament silks. That said, if you take the time to learn how to use them, you'll probably love the effect you get with them. They are also not really for everyday use, as in you probably wouldn't want to stitch a whole "picture" style design with them, like a Mirabilia or a HAED. However, they would be fantastic as an accent thread in these types of designs. Want to accentuate the tail of mermaid and make it shimmer? Want to make the moon glisten on the water? Want to make those wings sparkle? These are perfect. For a whole design of this type, they'd probably be overkill. However, for a sampler, anything goes, and these are wonderful for samplers.

As far as filament silks go, these are better than most. Here is a quick little review of how they performed.

Price - they're not outrageously priced. Each skein is 2.50GBP (just under $4 US, comparable to silks from Au Ver a Soie and NPI) and is 7 yards of 6 stranded silk. However, she also does silk packs with assortments of colours, which are much less expensive, especially if you just want a few colours to try out. The larger the set, the larger the discount.

Colours - they're available in 600 colours. I don't have anywhere near that many *yet* but I can say that the colours I do have are clear and vibrant and very solidly dyed. Not seeing any variegation, they're definitely solid colours. If you need help with picking colours, just email and ask, Wendy is ever so helpful.

Shine - holy cow! They're really super shiny. I put them above Eterna's MiniTwist, on par with Soie de Paris and just below Pearsall's for shine. I really tried to capture the shine in the picture and I think I got it pretty close. They sparkle beautifully, and overall give a really glossy shine.

Coverage - I'm using one strand on 40ct. The coverage is really full as you can see in the picture above. Not crowded, but defnitely dense. I think you could get away with one strand on 34ct. 32ct might be a stretch. That said they'd probably be a bit thick for something like 55ct. 45ct might be okay. For over one stitching, they're probably not your optimal thread if you like over one on 28ct and above - they're really just too thick for that. For 22ct or 25ct, they'd be really great I bet. I would also not recommend using two strands of this stuff for one reason and one reason only - they're slippery suckers. If you're wanting two strand coverage, I'd probably just stitch with one strand twice. Yes, it's more time consuming, but much neater with less frustration. Multiple strands will just slip and slide over each other and have a tendency to not lay nice and flat beside each other. I haven't tried two strands with this particular brand, but I have with other filaments and it's a learning experience, that's for sure. ;) Given that I mostly use one strand for everything, that's not a factor for me. Edited to add: The thickness of one strand is a fair bit thicker than DMC.

Fraying, unravelling - It's got a different type of twist (I don't know how to explain it, it's not necessarily tighter, but holds together much better) than most filament silks, so the thread stays nicely twisted while stitching and doesn't unravel so you don't get those flyaway bits that are normal with filaments. No fraying at all in fact. I started with a 12" strand, at this point I'm using a 24" strand and still no fraying. I'm trying to make it fray, but it just won't. :) Really stands up well to the friction of stitching. I'm using #28 Bohin needle with it, just for reference, and even though it's thick, the needle isn't wearing on it. I do recommend using high quality needles with it - something like Bohin or Piecemakers. The others I've used, like John James or DMC can have burrs in the eyes and they will cause a lot of issues with snarling up the thread. Not something I've tested with these, but I have with Eterna and you wouldn't believe the snarl ups a bad needle can cause.

Sticking - Okay if you've ever used a filament silk, you'll know the nightmare of threads sticking to the imperfections on your hands and having to scrub and use hand cream to help. Not so with these. My hands are a frightful mess - dry and flaky from constant handwashing and cleaning with bleach and lots of little nicks and hangnails and whatnot. They are NOT sticking to my hands at all. I have to admit I was really shocked by this, because filaments are notorious for it. 

Stitching - They're springy. It takes a little getting used to to get them to lay nice and flat, but it's not a terrible issue. After the first couple of strands I was right into the swing of it, and again, it's normal behaviour for filaments so it wasn't anything I wasn't expecting. 

Twisting and tangling - They do like to twist up a fair bit. When using shorter lengths (12") it wasn't that much of an issue, dangling the needle helped immensely. Since I switched to longer lengths to try and get it to fray, it's tangling and knotting a bit more. My fault though, I do know better than to use long strands, but I was trying to get it to fray! The thread is pretty curly when you first unskein it, so that is likely the reason they're doing it, and I would be willing to bet that dampening the strand would get the curls out and probably tame it a LOT. I'm going to try that today and see if it does help, which I'm sure it will. Basically, keep your strands short and dangle your needle and you'll be fine. Be careful when dangling, these are slippery and needles can slide off!

Overall, I give this thread really high marks. It's beautiful and will add some really neat texture and dimension to stitching. As far as filaments go, it's easy to stitch with. Disclaimer - there is no point in comparing it to how a spun silk thread stitches, like HDF, Soie D'Alger or Splendor because the way the thread is made is entirely different so it behaves very differently. Filaments are, by nature, more difficult to stitch with than spun silks. However, the way they gleam in the light is also very different so if you like playing with textures and effects, they're definitely worth trying. I can't wait to try some satin stitches with it!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving?

I'm thankful that it's here and I don't have to lug around anymore turkeys at work!!

But seriously, I'm mostly thankful for my wonderful family. My boyfriend is the most loving and supportive man I've ever known. My son, who is having a few growing pains entering adulthood, but seems to be overcoming them well (though he misses his mommy and tells me so almost every day). My mother for her unwavering support and encouragement. My father, who, even now worries about his little girl all the time. And my brother who has finally acheived the success that I hoped for. 

I'm also thankful for my friends, both those in person and those online, who listen to my rants and try to see past my indecisive nature (which I'm sure must be frustrating at times!). I have some wonderful friends in my life and I'm grateful for you all every day. 

Okay, so on to some less soppy stuff now. :) I've been trying to stitch as much as I can, and I have a bit of progress on Growth Rings to show. I'd have more but it's been an especially busy and exhausting week at work this week so I've been too tired to stitch most evenings. But I'm getting through it. :) Tomorrow I'll have all day to stitch so I'm going to. ;) Just a refresher, it's Gloriana Holly Berry and Antique Black stitched on Silkweaver 40ct Purely Primitive. I've been thinking about what colours I'd like to use when I re-stitch this one for myself someday, and I'm leaning towards something a little more earthy I think. Then again by the time I get around to stitching it for myself I'll probably have changed my mind ten more times. ;)

Some other stitching stuff.... I got in a yard of 28ct Dauphin fabric from HDF. It's a cotton linen blend (though I'm not sure on the percentages). The one thing I can say about it without having tested it yet is that it's stiff. I'm not generally a fan of stiff because stiff fabric is usually pretty harsh on threads, so I'm hoping a wash and dry will soften it up a bit (though I've been warned not to iron it because it will stiffen up again). I wonder if fabric softener would help? lol Apart from that, I have to say it's incredibly even and will make a fantastic fabric for over one. It's not quite white, it's almost a silver grey colour, but pretty. I might try my hand at some fabric painting with it as well. It was inexpensive, so I grabbed a yard for exactly that reason - to play. :) I'll probably give it a stitching test run tomorrow if I can drag myself away from Growth Rings for a little while. :)

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

That was fast...

Wanna know what bead heaven feels like? Here's a little glimpse...

Can you say "fast"? I emailed About Beads on the 23rd to special order these, which they did. They emailed me that they had them in on the 27th, I paid, they shipped (I paid extra for express because I wanted tracking and insurance with the way CP has been lately) and on Friday morning they were here. Jon hadn't left for work yet, so he signed for them and they were waiting for me on my desk when I got home from work. Lovely surprise, I must say!

So I spent the morning figuring out some coversions for a couple Mirabilias and Glendon Place charts I plan to stitch someday. :) I despise Mill Hill beads, they're so irregular and I can't stand using beading needles, and on the Delicas I can use a #28 no problem.

This is just the size 11/0 set, but it's a good jumping off point - from here I can simply look up the colours in other sizes and see if they're available or not. There's still a bit of guesswork when converting because Mill Hill's pictures are so horrible. I'm trying to find a sample card (a complete one that has ACTUAL samples, not just pictures) for Mill Hill but not having much luck - most are old and don't include all colours. ARGH!

ETA: Yes, Mill Hill DOES do cards. You can order them from your favourite shop as long as they have a Wichelt account. :) Have ordered the Seed Bead cards.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Growth Rings is "growing"

I finished my ornament and got it shipped out to TGOS this week. The best way I can describe it is that it's got lots of bling. :) Beads, buttons and metallics galore. Look for it in next months issue! 

That means that I got to start something new this week. :) I would have gone back to a WIP, really I would, but I have to get this stitched for my little bro as a Christmas present. Would have had it done but the thread was backordered for a couple months (see what I mean about my luck? lol) I can post pics of that one so far... not much to show yet, I only started it Tuesday night and haven't had much time since, but I'm going to work on it like crazy over the next couple of weekends. :) My brother chose the colours, and it's coming out beautifully. He doesn't know what the design looks like however, so that will be a surprise! I'm stitching it in Gloriana's Antique Black and Holly Berry, on Silkweaver's Purely Primitive 40ct linen. The good thing is that I really like the design, since I'll be stitching it again for myself someday, just in a different colour scheme. :)

Once I get this done, I have to stitch my ornament again, since I decided it would be a perfect Christmas gift for mom. She's a little miffed that I wouldn't let her see the original one before I sent it away, but that's just too darn bad. Hehe.

Then it's back to finishing the model stitching on Rose, and ordering materials for some more ornaments I've planned out for release next year. 

But for now it's off to work. :) Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lots of updates...

Has it really been nearly a month since my last post?

So lots of new and exciting news. In my last post I reported that I was working again, and all is good. My body is slowly adjusting to the heavy lifting and being on my feet for 10-12 hours a day, 4 days a week. Hubby is awesome and brought me home a whole load of new shoes to try on the other night and they've helped an immense amount with the pain in my back, knee and heels. Amazing the amount of difference shoes can make, huh? I'm still sore at the end of the day, but it's manageable pain, not crippling, want to cry pain. I'm hoping that soon I'll be able to get into my routine a little better and will be able to start doing more stitching in the evenings, right now I'm still pretty tired at the end of the day.

I've been really trying to be productive with stitching, but I keep getting roadblocks thrown at me.

I signed on a few months ago to do an ornament for TGOS. My first idea wouldn't work because the fabric colours I wanted to use didn't exist. Well that's not true, they did exist, just not ALL in the same fabric. So I changed the idea slightly and ran with it, ordered my materials in early July and then... waited. And waited. And waited. After six weeks, when the package still hadn't arrived, I contacted the supplier and re-ordered. After another few weeks, a package arrived - the second one. That was two weeks ago. The first is lost somewhere in the black hole otherwise known as Canada Post. It cleared customs, that much I know. Where it went from there, is a mystery. This is now the FIFTH package of mine that they've screwed up on this year alone. Won't go into full details, but it's to the point where I'm terrified of ordering anything anymore. I give myself months of lead time and they still can't manage to deliver properly. So my months of lead time for the ornament turned into a couple of weeks.

Had that been the only issue, I wouldn't be so grumpy. But no, the saga continues. If package #1 had arrived in a timely fashion, I would have had time to realize that the bead colours I had ordered wouldn't work. But because they only arrived two weeks ago, I had to figure out something - and fast. I did order some different beads online, but it's doubtful they'll be here until next week - given CP's speed of delivery. So I decided to do the unthinkable. I went to Mary Maxim. I stopped shopping there years ago for several reasons. First, because their staff are completely useless when shopping for cross stitch supplies - they know nothing about anything except what they keep in stock. If it isn't on their shelves, it doesn't exist as far as they're concerned. Second, because I was tired of paying double to triple suggested retail price for things I could get far cheaper elsewhere. And third, because it's a long way to go just to find out that they're out of stock on something, which they almost always are.

So back to my story. I got to Mary Maxim, and they were out of the Kreinik #4 braid in 032 I wanted extra of (surprise surprise) but they did have Mill Hill beads (which I avoid if I can but this was an emergency) so I picked up a few colours I thought might work. That was a chore in itself as they were a complete mess of mixed up colours. I then found they DID have a few colours of Delicas, so I picked up those as well (same colours I'd ordered online). I check out - a painful process. Let me just say, that ONE gram of delicas at Mary Maxim is as expensive as the EIGHT gram packs I got online. Anyway, I got home and attempted to start my beading. Lo and behold, the idiot at the checkout forgot to put the red and green delicas in my bag. I checked my receipt and I DID pay for them. Long story short (yeah right) let's just say this was my last ever trip to Mary Maxim.

Thankfully the Mill Hill beads sort of match the threads okay. The red still isn't as red as I'd have liked, it's kind of orangey, but oh well. It's the best I could do. And thankfully I had enough of the Kreinik to finish the design - I'll have to use blending filament for the rest, but that will work just fine.

So I have about 1000 more stitches to put in and then I have to assemble and mail the ornament. It may be too late at this point. If it is, I'll release it as a standalone.

So what else is new... well, while waiting for materials to arrive (I know I say that a lot, but it's always the case!!) I started Needle's Prayse Celtic Sampler. I got a little bit stitched, but not a whole lot before I put it away. It's lovely all stitched up I must say. I took a close up shot of the stitching so you could see how cool the texture the queen stitches is! I'm stitching it on 34ct Legacy Linen in Devonshire Cream - though there will be no background showing at all, it's all fully covered. I thought it was Weddigen linen at first, but then I found my piece of Weddigen in my stash drawer, and the only other thing I had in that count was the Legacy. lol It's charted for 40ct, and I did start it on that originally, on a piece of 40ct Graziano I had. But the holes in the Graziano are pretty tiny - it's near impossible to get that needle through the hole as many times as you need to with the queen stitches - in some spots where the stitches meet, you're going through the same hole as many as ten times. So I restarted it. I'm using the suggested NPI threads, which are just heavenly.

What else is new... well I bit the bullet after my bead fiasco and ordered the Delica Sample Cards. Never again will I have a bead emergency which leads me to that dreaded place again. I've found several sources online for the Delicas which are quick to ship, reasonably priced, and not terrible for shipping. BTW, Fire Mountain Gems might be great if you live in the US, but they wanted $20 some odd for shipping PLUS another $3 for handling (?) to ship $6 worth of beads. Not going to happen in this lifetime. Artbeads is good and quick, but they don't carry the full line. Beaded Images is a little more expensive, but they have all the colours and their international shipping is great. And About Beads is really good too - prices are excellent, they have all the colours and CDN shipping is reasonable, though international is pretty expensive. But those are a few good ones. :)

I got some stash over the past few weeks. The new colours from Gloriana (as well as my threads for the ornament) which are just lovely, plus the Nashville colours from Belle Soie - which are also gorgeous! And fabric for the Antique Lace Band Sampler. I didn't take pics of all of those, I should but I'm lazy. I DID take a pic of the order I received today, my sale order from The Silk Mill. The blues and mauves are for the Serenity Sampler. I will say one thing - they certainly know how to dye reds. They put DMC to shame. I couldn't get the colours accurate in the picture - I used the flash to show off how shiny they are though! I've said before, I'm extremely fussy about reds. I like the NPI reds, and the AVAS reds, Gloriana does fantastic reds, as does Carrie's Creations, and Belle Soie. HDF reds leave much to be desired next to those I mentioned. These Silk Mill reds are exquisite, and coming from me, the red fanatic, that's saying something. I'm really seriously considering kitting HAED's Butterflies Galore in these - I'm not stitching the background so it won't be TOO terrible. It'll be expensive still but OMG it'll be pretty!

Wow... this is loooooong. Didn't intend to write a novel, but I guess after a month with no updates I had lots to say! :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Are you a sucker for silk?

I know I am. In fact I'm such a sucker for silk that when I can I convert nearly everything to silk as I've probably mentioned a lot of times before.

Given the fact that I've been working on a Heaven and Earth with DMC, I've been dreaming about silks lately. lol

Well I thought I would pass along a fairly new to me silk that is just lovely. It's made by The Silk Mill and it's a filament silk of incredible quality. It's similar in looks to Pearsall's - very shiny and incredibly luxurious to the touch, but it's not quite as fiddly to stitch with as it has a slightly tighter twist to it. It still sticks to hands a little, but then my hands are horrible from years of landcaping and all the bleach and chemicals I've used at work in my lifetime. So some form of hand cream is essential. They're much nicer than Eterna - not that I don't like Eterna, because I do, but sometimes the quality is a little off - the twist of the Mini Twist changes from skein to skein and sometimes the thickness is different too. They're very similar to the Soie de Paris in the way they stitch. They're a little springy, which is normal for a filament, but you can dampen them slightly to calm them down a bit, and if you keep your lengths relatively short (12-15 inches) they don't unravel too badly. As for thickness, they're thicker than a strand of DMC - one strand covers densely on 36ct-40ct, and makes a nice clear X on 32ct without too much fabric showing. I can't attest to their colourfastness, I didn't test it yet, but as soon as I get my current order with a bunch of reds, I'll check it out. What I can say is that the colours are YUMMY.

And the bonuses... they do conversions from DMC if you send them the numbers you need, OR if you ask, they will send you a conversion list from DMC to their silks which is really handy. They come in 600 colours (yep, 600) that are very vibrant. And this week, until September 4th, they're on sale! 35% off everything on the site (including the silk sets which are already discounted) by using the coupon code "movingsale". Their regular price is about the same as AVAS or NPI, at about $4 a skein (2.50GBP), the skeins are a little bigger - 7 yards, 6 strands, and their shipping price is really good. Service is fast, most orders ship the same day or the next day. If you get one of their silk sets, the price is lower. The sets are a great way to try it out and see if you like it!

I'm ordering a bunch of different reds to try out, as well as some mauves and slate blues to stitch my Serenity Sampler with. :) Will definitely post some pictures of them when they get here!

And on another note, and another silk, I'm ordering some Valdani silk floss balls to try out. They're incredibly affordable - about $6 most places - for 23 yards of six strand silk, so they'd make a good choice for large monochromes. The hardest part is deciding which colours to order to try - there are some really yummy colours available for sure. After I do some test stitching, I'll let you know how they stitch up!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Three weeks and I'm still going strong...

This Heaven and Earth stitching is addictive. I've done a little before, but I always dumped them for one reason or another. The first got trashed because I didn't like the coverage of 1x1 on 25ct. The second got trashed because even though I had switched to 28ct, I was using HDF and the colours didn't match up with the DMC very well - they were way too light and the picture looked all washed out (which is why I learned never to trust manufacturers conversions). The third I was doing in Eterna, and the conversion was better but I decided after a few pages that there was far too much background in it, and I would rather just stitch the foreground on a hand dyed fabric (which Sassy is now creating for me!!). So this is actually my fourth HAED start.

Because there was so much black in the design, I decided it just wasn't worth stitching all that black. So I'm using 28ct black Jobelan and I'm just stitching the black in her hair and face. And because I didn't want to wait to start it, I'm using DMC - though I have to say, it's a far cry from what it used to be. For half of the colours, I'm using old skeins that I've had for a decade or more - the old black banded ones. Those stitch up beautifully and I have no complaints. The new ones I just bought are horrible. Uneven, fuzzy, not as smooth, not nearly as nice as the old stuff. Anchor really is a far superior cotton, but it's hard to find. I can get it locally on the 6yard cards, but they don't stock all the colours. Plus with this many colours to convert, I just don't think I'd want to chance it. For my next ones, I'll either go back to silk - maybe try NPI or AVAS instead (once I buy my AVAS colour card) - or I'll give Sullivan's a go. I hear the colour matches for that are really good.

Anyway.... Here is a picture of where I've gotten so far. I started her 3 weeks ago and I've gotten the top five pages done. The next rows won't go so quickly since there's not as much black to omit! lol The design is Magnificent Wings by artist Jasmine Becket Griffith. I can't wait to get to her eyes, because if they stitch up as well as the rest has, they'll be spectacular. Very full of emotion.

Lots of other changes too. I'm working again. I couldn't find a job doing office or computer work - because even with years of experience I'm not qualified to even answer phones without university (even though I RAN a help desk call centre for several years), though I'm not going to rant about THAT again. I got a job at my local butcher shop. Designing will probably drop off a lot now. I can't keep up with both since I'm working full time + (40-50 a week or so) and it's a lot of heavy work, lifting and cleaning and packing - exactly what my back didn't need since I can barely walk when I get home. Doesn't leave much time for designing apart from my days off and models will take months instead of weeks. It'll definitely get me back in shape and losing weight though! But money is money and I wasn't going to turn down the offer since we need the money so badly - and the money is good. It's a great work environment, everyone is wonderful and it's a very friendly atmophere with lots of joking around and poking fun and whatnot. The owner treats us all like family. The learning curve isn't too steep either since I've done a lot of it at the grocery stores I worked at. Tuesday will be my first kill day, and I've decided that rather than try and avoid the room - which really isn't possible since I'll need to go through it several times a day - I'm going to go in and at least watch a couple so I can get used to it. I don't have a problem with the blood, or the gutting or the skinning as I found out on Friday. Lungs, hearts, kidneys - whatever, doesn't phase me to handle them in the slightest. But I've never actually witnessed something being killed and as an animal lover it's not going to be easy to see. I figure though, the sooner I just do it and get over it, the better.

And since today and tomorrow are my days off, I'm going to stitch my heart out. :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

And here's why I love him oh so much :)

Today's post is way off topic (again) but I thought you might get a giggle.

As I mentioned previously, since my son moved out I have been tearing apart the house and doing all the cleaning and organizing one doesn't often have time to do. Things like pulling out the oven and cleaning under and behind it, taking down all the curtains and blinds to wash them, re-alphabetizing the dvds, software and music... and getting rid of masses and masses of paperwork. My shredder is getting a workout!

Jon, my darling boyfriend, is a pack rat and has taught my son this habit as well. He will not throw away any piece of paper - just in case. Because of this, we have boxes upon boxes of paperwork - bills dating back to 2005 (including the envelopes they came in), instruction manuals for dvd players that have been upgraded and replaced (three times in fact) and receipts for groceries from a store that closed in 2008. If I try and throw any of it away, I get yelled at because "we might need it".

So Thurstday, I set about starting the process of whittling down what paperwork we have here. Of course important things were kept and filed, but I got rid of bills from years past and kept only what is current and/or needed for tax purposes. When Jon came home from work Thursday night to find me sitting on the floor surrounded by stacks of paper, he looked anxious. So I asked him, "what is the purpose of keeping not only your pay stubs from four years ago, but the envelopes they came in?" His reply made me laugh so hard I had to run for the bathroom. He didn't falter or hesitate, but simply replied, "what if, one night, a Japanese man in a black suit and tie and sunglasses (looking like a member of Yakuza) comes to the door and challenges me to to an origami folding contest, the loser of which will be killed with his razor sharp Katana. BUT we must supply our own paper. You'll regret throwing away all that stuff you thought was useless then, won't you?" When I finally stopped laughing, I pointed out that there is a stack of paper next to the printer at all times, so that excuse didn't quite cut it. I then asked "is there really a reason for keeping grocery receipts from 2006?" Again, without hesitation he replied, "what if, one night, an eccentric millionaire comes to the door (seeing a pattern here?), and says that he will give us one million dollars if we can tell him how much a 475g box of Special K sold for at Sobey's in 2006? You'd feel pretty stupid knowing you threw away the answer, wouldn't you?" This continued for the rest of the night, every time he tried to stop me from throwing something away.

Now granted, he was under the influence of an "herbal supplement" at the time, however this is what he's like all the time. It's impossible to get annoyed or angry with him about things like this because he's just so funny and charming.

On another note, he's charmed my mother into complete adoration. Almost every conversation I have with my mother anymore contains the phrase "you be good to him, he's the best thing that's ever happened to you." or "don't you dare doing anything to screw this up, he's such a wonderful guy." The other night, he overheard this part of the conversation with my mother, and has now taken to calling me his "personal assistant". When he wants anything and I refuse, he will simply say, "I'm telling your mother you said that." For example, last night, I was sitting on the sofa stitching, while he was in the kitchen on the computer, and he asked me to get him a drink. I told him to get himself a drink given he was ten feet closer to the fridge than I was. He replied. "your mom said you have to be nice to me." He's threatening to go and buy a day planner to record all the times I say anything he finds mean or refuse any request he makes, and he'll show it to my mother each time we go for dinner.

We laugh - a lot. Even at times when life's stresses are at their worst he can always make me smile or laugh. He does little things like narrate what the cats might be thinking, mute the television and re-invent the lines the characters are speaking (especially funny on "March of the Penguins" which reduced my mother to tears), leaves little messages or videos for me on the computer screen to watch when I get home, and just all around makes life a little less serious and a little more fun.

It doesn't hurt that he's hot, and he has that English accent that makes me melt. He literally could have almost anyone he wanted, as I'm often told by friends, and he chose me. Not only that, but he moved halfway around the world to be with me. How's that for a boost of self esteem? I'm overweight, five years older than he is, and he loves me anyway. And for the first time in my life I truly believe I'm loved and wanted and have zero doubt that he's sincere. :) And in that respect, I feel like I'm the luckiest woman in the world.

This is one of the few pictures I found of him where he's not pulling a goofy face or a fake smile. Those of you who I have on Facebook will recognize it. lol

Okay, and now, a little bit of stitching talk before I go back to "the great DVD reorganization of 2011". I'm still completely engrossed in "Magnificent Wings" from Heaven and Earth Designs. I'm about half done page 4 and page 5 is only a partial page, so I'll probably have the top row of pages done this week. Not bad, huh? Tomorrow will be two weeks of stitching. I would love to show off pictures, but the camera is still in New York and won't be back until next weekend, and I really don't want to pull it off the qsnaps to scan it, but I promise I will post pics as soon as I have the camera back!!

Have a great weekend everyone. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A lot of rambling, mostly off topic

First I'll touch on stitching. I reached the halfway mark in Rose and decided to give it a rest. Jon and I had a bit of discussion and came to the conclusion that I'm suffering burnout and maybe I should give the designing a brief rest. I wasn't stitching and I'm suffering severe blocks when in the design software. So after I finish my ornament for TGOS I'm going to do just that. I'm letting my concerns over whether the designing makes money take over my enjoyment of my hobby and my enjoyment of stitching in general and I never wanted that. I want it to be fun again, so maybe it's time for a short break and working on designs and models when I feel like it again and not because I feel like I have to.

I wanted to stitch something different so I started a HAED. Thoroughly enjoying it and have already finished a page and a half in less than a week. However, I cheated a little - I'm stitching it on black and omitting the black background stitches so that's how I managed to stitch so much. lol I'm doing Jasmine Becket-Griffith's Magnificent Wings. When I get motivated to do so I'll scan it for pictures - camera is on holiday in New York at the moment.

And now on to my rambling...

Two things I want to touch on today that got under my skin and are sort of tied together. Made in China (or Vietnam, or Thailand...) and education.

I'll start with the made in China thing. A couple of days ago, one of the message boards I frequent had an old message posted about avoiding products made in China to stimulate the economy here. Last night, my mother forwarded me the same message in an email. It's a message that's been floating around for nearly a decade, so you can already see how much difference it's made!!!

Here's my take on the whole thing.

When you're talking about food products, canned goods, dry goods and the like, it's usually possible to find products that are made here, grown here, and/or processed here.

Many personal hygeine products such as soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and other toiletries can also be found that are made here.

SOME clothing products can be found that are made here. Not all, but some.

And it is still possible to find furniture made here if you are willing to pay the prices.

The fact is though, that most products made by corporations that are owned and operated within North America are manufactured somewhere overseas for various reasons. Labour costs, taxes, lower production costs in general, manpower... and you can bitch and complain about it all you want, but we've done it to ourselves and here is how.

Everyone complained about how the prices of everything were getting too high. We didn't want to pay the prices and then stores like Wal-Mart appeared to save the day. Take a walk through Wal-Mart sometime and find me something that is made in North America. Good luck. A lot of the brands in Wal-Mart were virtually unknown, but hey, $5 for a t-shirt? Why not, right?

What happened then? Well because so many customers were being lost by major brands to stores like Wal-Mart, they had to do something to stay competitive. With unions and labour laws driving labour costs through the roof with things like pensions and benefits and higher wages, and corporate taxes on the rise, these companies profits were taking a nose dive. Sales were down, demand was down, and yet workers still wanted more and more. And so they said goodbye to the factories here in favour of factories overseas, where they could manufacture the same product at a much lower cost, and thus offer it to the public at a lower cost, while still maintaining profits. The result? The bulk of higher end brand name products went down in price and people started buying them again and the health of the companies started to climb back up. In most cases without sacrificing quality - though in a couple of cases the quality went into the toilet (Levi's for example, became absolute crap - whether they still are, I don't know because I haven't bought a pair in at least a decade or more). But consumers were happy because they could get all those things they loved again without having to take out second mortgages.

Just to give an example that I actually know about - my boyfriend Jon works at Al's shoes in Simcoe. In a store that carries over 1/4 million pair of shoes, mostly name brand, maybe 200 pair are Made in Canada or USA. I initially thought that number was probably 1000, but I was informed by Jon last night that I was way off. Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Saucony, Clarks, Doc Martens... all made overseas. Quality is the same, given that my last pair of Saucony lasted me close to a year of being on my feet 40+ hours a week. But I digress. Terra workboots have gone back to being Made in Canada, with only a couple models still being manufactured overseas, and New Balance make about 1/4 of their shoes in USA (though I'm frequently told that New Balance are crap these days compared to Nike or Saucony who have kept up with advances in technology), but for the most part, you'll be hard pressed to find much made here, and many of those are are overpriced in comparison. This is just one industry, and they're not the only industry affected.

Remember the days when a new computer cost you almost as much as a car? Those were the days when computers were made in North America. Sure, lost of computers are assembled here still, but those memory sticks, hard drives, video cards, motherboards and cpus they contain are made... you guessed it, in China. So are most electronics. Not just the cheap nameless crap that you find in Wal-Mart, but the high end stuff that everyone craves.

And then there are appliances. Sure, there are still a few models of a few brands made here, but most of them are the high end, really expensive ones that the average consumer can't afford.

So tell me how you can possibly avoid buying Made in China? Give up your cell phone, your computer, your cordless phone, your television, your washer, your dryer, your refrigerator, your oven, your microwave, your video games, your stereo... not easy is it?

Another really big factor in the decision to build overseas is the stock market. A healthy company on the stock market is an attractive one to traders and the better a profit margin is, the better the trading. Got an RRSP? A mutual fund? An RESP? A GIC? A high yield savings account? Want those to keep growing? Then don't complain about companies trying to keep profits up. Those same people who complained about climbing prices, and now bitching about Made in Canada or Made in USA are really glad that their portfolios increased. (Maybe not THIS week, lol)

It's a double edged sword really. You can complain all you like about it, but if you don't want to pay inflated prices and you want to see your investments increase, then perhaps it's best to let it be?

Here's a scenario, which ties in my second gripe. Let's imagine that we successfully demand that all of these companies who are manufacturing overseas begin opening or re-opening plants in North America. Who is going to work in them?

Sure we all think that with unemployment so high, it would be easy to fill all these new jobs. But just WHO is going to fill them?

My generation and my parents' generation sort of guaranteed that factory work would fall to the wayside by doing one thing - convincing our children that education was the end all be all and that going to university or college was mandatory. That they wanted a better life for their kids. In doing that we've also convinced our children that anything involving manual labour is somehow inferior and beneath them and that the better life means not getting dirty. It's obvious when you see how many people on unemployment have degrees. They simply WON'T take a job where they might get dirty - not matter how much the job pays. They're content to wait for that perfect office job. Need some extra cash? Go and work on a farm for the season. It's money. But oh no, we can't do that, it's belittling. So the farmers' bring in Mexicans and Jamaicans to do it. Someone has to do it, but it's not going to be us. Do you think if the factories here reopened it would be much different?

At first, probably not. But as all those college and university educated people find their office jobs staff will start to dwindle and someone will have to fill the jobs. So they'll start to import workers from elsewhere because they have no choice. Not to mention the fact that the sheer number of people needed to staff all these factories to meet consumer demands is much higher than the population here can support. So look for an influx of millions of offshore workers to flood into North America to fill the demand. Then we can bitch about immigrants stealing jobs from Canadians - jobs that most of the next generations wouldn't want anyway.

When I told some friends that my son had chosen not to go to college and had instead chosen to work in construction while doing a tattoo apprenticeship, they kind of scoffed. Why? He's employed, making good money, studying to do a job he really loves. He wants to take a few courses in college to hone his drawing skills, and that's enough for him. He doesn't need a piece of paper to tell him he's a good artist, his portfolio shows that. And I'm happy that he's pursuing a career that will make him a happy, well-adjusted adult. I'd much rather he do that than waste thousands of dollars on an education that will not benefit him in the slightest. Yet that has become the expected route for all kids graduating high school and it's become taboo NOT to go. Half these kids going to college or university have no idea what they want to be when they graduate. They take a smattering of courses they think are interesting and graduate with a knowledge of lots of useless facts that will in no way help them in life.

This has led to employers demanding college or university educations for the simplest of jobs, most of which have no need for the type of education they demand but because there are so many over-educated, unemployed people out there, they can demand it. Which of course means that having actual job and life experience means nothing in the workplace anymore, and people who are actually qualified to do a job are denied opportunities because of a lack of education. Between two people, a 40 year old with 20 years of secretarial experience and a 23 year old with a bachelor of arts, the 23 year old is more likely to get the job. Yet the 40 year old could probably do the job with little to no training from day one, will likely stick with the job for a long time and be happy doing the job because it's what they want to do. The 23 year old will take the job, be lost until they are trained because they don't actually know how to do what they've been hired for, will not enjoy the work because it doesn't pay well enough, and will most likely only stick around until something in their field of study becomes available to them. And then the cycle will start all over again. It's a sad state of affairs when a degree only guarantees you a job making little more than minimum wage.

We should have left well enough alone. I know people who spent thousands of dollars on a university education that have gone on to become housewives. WHY??? Because their parents convinced them that education was necessary. Yet they've not worked a day since they graduated. A bit of a waste of money don't you think? Leave university to the doctors, the laywers, the scientists, the teachers... they need it. We're educating ourselves out of a middle class. Those that get those degrees feel that they should be making higher salaries, but because of the huge number of degrees now earned, there are no jobs out there for them. Maybe we should go back to encouraging our children to pursue careers in things they enjoy instead of insisting that they better themselves with useless facts?

Whatever happened to an honest day's work for an honest day's pay? What's wrong with getting your hands dirty? Many of these manual labour jobs pay better than the office jobs that are so desired. I remember when being a factory worker or construction worker commanded respect because it was hard work. Now all of a sudden it's looked down upon.

It also stands to reason that not every kid out there is capable of gaining a higher education. Not everyone has the brainpower to do it and they're made to feel inferior because of that. It's not right. The world needs all kinds - construction workers and CEO's. We need to stop making everyone feel that the CEO is the only choice.

To prove the point? I've worked in lots of different jobs in my lifetime. I've been a receptionist/secretary, I've been a landscaper, I've been a computer intructor and technician and I've worked in a grocery store. Out of all those jobs, the two that made me the happiest were landscaping and working in the grocery store (the first time I did it, not my last job). Sure, I made great money doing computer services, moreso as a technician working for $45 an hour. But the job stress, the commuting, the changing jobs every six months, the long hours and being on call all the time are just not worth it to me. I went home at the end of the day worrying about all the things I had to do the next day and half the time couldn't sleep. I was always mentally exhausted. Landscaping made me ache and made me exhausted, but at the end of the day I could go home, take a shower and leave work behind. Yet the people who knew me as a computer tech told me I was selling myself short and I could be doing so much better. Nobody stopped to think that maybe I enjoyed my job and I didn't care that I was only making $15 an hour. I felt better mentally, physically and emotionally. I'd still be doing it if the job still existed, but the company went under (long story which I won't get into here).

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for education when it's warranted and for those whose career choices deem it necessary. The point I'm trying to make is that we've created a vicious cycle where everyone is encouraged to reach for the stars and nobody stops to consider what will make them happy. Working hard for a living shouldn't be looked down upon. Not everyone in this world is meant to be a doctor, lawyer or CEO and we shouldn't frown upon those who aren't. We should encourage people to follow their hearts rather than the almighty dollar. Because in the end, as long as the bills get paid, it doesn't matter how they got paid, and you should be proud that you can do it whether you do it as a doctor or a ditch digger. As long as you're happy doing what you do, NOBODY should make you feel inferior for doing it.

Bottom line is we've created a society that's made it very easy for these large corporations to turn to overseas manufacturing because we've made the jobs they offer undesirable to the masses. And I think that is a big reason you're not going to see them flocking to re-institute manufacturing in North America. It's been made unwelcome.

So sure, it's wonderful to look at labels and try to buy locally grown or locally manufactured products and we should all try to do just that as much as possible. But don't kid yourself into believing that everything you buy can and should be made here, because what may be possible is not always probable. The world is evolving into a global economy and we had all better get used to it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's been a while...

So I thought I would post an update.

It's been another rough couple of weeks with not a lot of stitching. :(

First, because of the insane heat we've had (though the last two days haven't been too bad) it's been very hard to stitch because we don't have A/C and I have to wash my hands every three minutes. lol I tell you though, the weather network is full of crap. They said the high last Thursday was 37.6 - the thermometer on my porch said 42 and it's in the shade. With the humidity it easily felt like 50. Today is sticky again, the humidity is back, but it looks like we're in for some rain hopefully.

Second, my son moved out. While I'm immensely proud of him and happy that he's found his independence, I miss him terribly. He got a job doing road work, which was supposed to be a couple days a week for the summer, but after his first three days they offered him full time. The money and benefits are good, so he'd have been crazy not to take it. So he's staying at my parents' house (since it's much closer to work) while he saves up for his own place there. He's still planning on going to college next year too - part time - and he's still working on his tattoo apprenticeship, which will take him another year or so. Busy boy, huh? As I said, I'm very proud of him, but the house just feels so empty without him. We must have done something right though, since my mother and father keep telling me what a great kid he's turned out to be, how helpful he is around the house, and that he doesn't seem to mind spending time with grandma and grandpa. I'm getting better with it, the first couple of days I did nothing but cry. The tears have finally stopped for the most part, and they only return once or twice a day for a few minutes. So I'm on an upward climb and plan to continue that trend.

So to fill my time, I've been tearing the house apart, doing a thorough cleaning and re-organizing. I realized long ago that living with two men makes it near impossible to keep the house from being "messy". They both just drop things wherever, and their idea of cleaning is to stick things in whichever drawer or cupboard they can find room in. I do dishes and little things like sweep every day, and vacuum and clean the bathroom every other day, but to keep up with the clutter I'd have to follow them both around 24/7. Now, I only have to battle one of them, so I figured it was a good time to get things back in order, clearing out drawers and cupboards. I'm also pulling out extras (dishes, pots and pans, etc) to give to Nate for when he gets his own place. It's theraputic.

Oooh, and we've been overrun by spiders. I think we've had a couple of nests of them hatch somewhere in the house, because there are tons of these tiny little greyish green ones - smaller than gnats even - all over the place. Plus they're making webs all over the house, which I vacuum up daily only to find them rebuilt the next morning. I kill at least a couple dozen a day and there's always more. I don't particularly like killing spiders, they eat the mosquitoes and flies so I don't mind having a few around for that, but this is getting ridiculous.

On the stitching front, I've been working on Rose as I can. I've got the top half of the outer three bands done, so I'm nearing the halfway point. I'll have to post pictures in a few weeks - mom has the camera again for a couple of trips she's taking. If I can fit it on the scanner, I'll scan the top half when I finish it! I got the threads for MMG2 in the sampler colourway, so I may start working on that between the top half and bottom half of Rose.

I'm getting more and more annoyed with Canada Post by the day. My model stitcher mailed back Tulip almost 2 months ago and still no sign of it. The plan was to send it to JCS when it got here - which should have been about 6 weeks ago - so I may have to submit a different design in it's place. I've also got a parcel coming with fabric for the Antique Lace Band Sampler and threads for my bro's Christmas present, and no sign of that either. It's getting dire, I tell you. I still say that all of us small business people who depend on the mail system to do business should get together and file a class action lawsuit against Canada Post, the Postal Workers Union and Jack Layton for making our businesses (and our livelihood suffer). First we couldn't send or get anything at all, now we have to be "patient" while they sort out the mess. It would seem that they're sorting and delivering new things first, since Jon got several parcels from England last week that had been mailed at the beginning of July, yet my stuff that was mailed at the beginning of June is nowhere to be found. FRUSTRATING!!

Today's goal is to tackle the rest of the kitchen cupboards and the pantry... Jon is back to calling me Monica (from the TV show Friends) because once I get cleaning I get a bit silly about it. I said to him last night that the reason it takes me 3 times longer to clean than it does for them is because I actually do it right! I'm frightened of what I'll find shoved to the back of the pantry... probably boxes of KD from six years ago... I'm going in. If you don't hear from me in the next week, send search and rescue.