Holly and Ivy Sampler: center section

Time for a happy dance break:  the center section is finished!

I am so glad to be done with the Celtic knots … between the fractionals and keeping track of the backstitching, the knots took a long time to complete.  By comparison, the candles and greenery were a quick stitch.

Almost all the greenery is made up of blended threads.  More beads, and more sparkle!  Also, I chose to customize the initial and date blocks to more closely match the alphabet of the carol.

This section is pretty enough to be a finished project on its own; I’m excited to see what the rest of it will look like.

I’ll work on the holly and ivy garlands next; with more fractionals and fiddly backstitching ahead, I wonder how long it will take?  To keep the whitework neat and clean, I’m saving that section for last.



2012 Puyallup Fair – woo hoo! part deux

After finishing the christening gown on time for its great occasion, I knew I wanted to enter the gown in my largest local state fair, the Puyallup Fair.   I hoped it would do well, but I was also worried about setting my expectations too high, because a piece so large and showy would be under extra scrutiny from the judges.  And after the success at the Evergreen State Fair, my expectations were high indeed.

The night before I planned to take the gown to the fair, I began to iron it, only to discover that my iron was dirty:  it had left a large brown stain down the front of the gown.  Disaster!  At this point I honestly stopped caring about the fair; my top priority shifted to restoring the dress for my brother and sister-in-law, no matter what had to be done or how long it would take.

Martha Stewart’s web site offers easy instructions for cleaning an iron, which worked perfectly; my iron was soon sparkling clean again and I resolved to clean my iron regularly (or at least before the next fair).   However, my first efforts to clean the dress stain only made it worse, so I chose to take a break and start again in the morning.

The next day I soaked the dress in OxyClean for an hour, hand rinsed it, then soaked it in Linen Wash for about half an hour, and rinsed thoroughly again.  To dry the dress, I rolled it in towels to remove most of the excess water, then ironed it until it was perfectly smooth (and mostly dry), and finished by hanging the dress outside in the sun and breeze.  Much to my relief, the dress was as good as new, no sign of any staining.  Maybe even better than new!  It’s good to know that the dress is washable (at least by hand; I wouldn’t dare put all that lace in a machine) in case future babies who wear it are not as tidy as my niece, or if it meets with another accident.

Fortunately the fair was accepting entries all weekend, so the dress was able to enter the fair after all, and the wait for the results was on.  We celebrated the Evergreen State Fair results with a traditional fair scone slathered in raspberry jam; would the Puyallup Fair yield a Scone of Victory or a Scone of Consolation?

As it turned out, the line for scones was so long that we gave up and returned home sconeless … but not ribbonless:

  • First place
  • Best in Category (gold ribbon; Needle-Made Lace class)
  • Reserve Grand Champion (lavender and white rosette; Lace/Open Work division)

At this fair, Hardanger embroidery is entered under the Lace/Open Work division along with bobbin lace, needle-made lace, tatting, lacy crochet and lacy knitting, which creates quite a bit of competition for those Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion rosettes.  I’m thrilled about the ribbons it won, and they’ve done a nice job displaying the gown.  (A cute baby to show off the dress never hurts!)  I look forward to reading the judges’ scorecard at the end of the fair.

Evergreen State Fair – woo hoo!

Dear Evergreen State Fair,

Flattery will get you everywhere:

The ribbon roundup was as follows:

  • First place
  • Award of Excellence (green and white rosette, given at judges’ discretion; Open Class Needle Arts)
  • Best of Division (purple rosette; Hardanger division)
  • Class Winner (purple and white rosette; Hardanger colorwork class)
  • Sweepstakes (green and red rosette; Open Class Needle Arts)

However, the centerpiece was displayed backwards!  I was warned that this often happens with Hardanger pieces, but when I turned it in, the entry desk pinned a label to the front, so I thought it was safe.  Somewhere in the process, the label was removed, and here we are.  It’s a little embarrassing to have all the strings and things out for the world to see, but I guess it’s a good way to stay humble.   Since I haven’t posted photos of this centerpiece before, and to show off its best side, here are a few beauty shots.

The pattern for this centerpiece can be found in the 2010 Nordic Needle design contest book.  I stitched it on 30 count Legacy Linen in Baltic Green using DMC perle cotton.  As can be seen in the photos, sometimes this linen looks green, sometimes blue.  Either way, it’s lovely.

I thought it might be interesting to post the criteria on my scorecard to give a general idea of what judges are looking for at county and state fairs.  The Evergreen State Fair scorecard was more detailed than the Puyallup Fair scorecard I received last year, but overall both are similar:

  1. Workmanship (40 points)
    Even stitches/tension
    Consistent direction of slant
    Proper gauge of thread to cloth
    No split threads
    No hoop lines
  2. Degree of Difficulty (20 points)
    Balance of all components
  3. Suitability (20 points)
    Thread/cloth appropriate for intended use
    Appropriate choice of color
  4. Presentation (20 points)
    Finishing/no tag ends
    Blocking, mounting, hemming, matting, and/or framing
    Attractive to the eye

Hopefully this list will be of use to anybody considering giving their local fair a try.  I’m finding these ribbons quite addictive; right now I’m searching my pattern books for 2013’s potential blue ribbon winner …

Meanwhile, the christening gown I made for my niece is at the Puyallup Fair — look for a report very soon!

Minerva’s Mouse

Minerva’s Mouse by Just Nan
Limestone Belfast linen (32 count)
Stitched with DMC

Another gorgeous enamel treasure box by Just Nan, and better late than never, I finally got around to stitching this very quick and tiny mouse.

Thing Two loves these Just Nan treasure boxes almost as much as I do, but after a summer day camp activity where he dissected an owl pellet, he asked, “Are you sure that the mouse and the owl are really friends, or does the owl eat the mouse and this is really a stitched owl pellet?”



Holly and Ivy Sampler continued

After beginning the Holly and Ivy Sampler, I took a break to work on the Hardanger project I had started before making the christening gown for my niece.  I was able to finish the centerpiece in time to enter it in the Evergreen State Fair!  We’ve been driving past the fairgrounds every weekend this summer to pick up and drop off my older son, who is working at one of the Boy Scout camps in the area, and very much wants to come home on his day off for a home-cooked meal, his own bed, and fresh laundry (isn’t it nice to be needed?).   This is my first entry for the Evergreen State Fair, and as with the Western Washington (Puyallup) Fair, exhibitors must wait until the fair opens to find out how they did … not much longer to wait now!

As a result, my progress on Holly and Ivy isn’t very exciting, but it is definitely useful:

All the borders are now stitched, and ready to fill in.  Now that those are done, look for more interesting progress pictures to come in the weeks ahead.  Thanks for visiting!


Beginnings – Holly and Ivy Sampler

A very long time ago, I set a goal to stitch some large Christmas pieces …

The front frame was used for the Heirloom Wedding Sampler by Victoria Sampler, but there was something daunting about that larger frame behind it, so I kept putting it off.

After finishing my niece’s blessing gown, I finally started!  (Perhaps these Christmas samplers don’t seem quite so large by comparison any more.)

Presenting … Teresa Wentzler’s Holly and Ivy Sampler:

I started stitching the middle section to get all the over-one stitching over and done with while I was still excited about the project.

The metallic threads and beads make this a very sparkly, festive piece.

I’m hoping to have this one finished and framed in time to display for Christmas.  It may just happen this year!


Dress progress: it’s done!

I knew the petticoat lace would take the longest to finish of all the gown pieces, but I didn’t realize it would take quite so long!

My niece arrived on her February due date after a long and difficult labor.  The baby was fine and perfectly healthy, but mom had a significant amount of recovery to do, and the baby blessing day was postponed accordingly.  That worked out quite well for me, as the last piece of lace was nowhere near complete.  Finally, after four months of work, I finished the petticoat lace last weekend:

I rushed it over to my sister-in-law and her mother, who spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning putting the finishing touches on the christening gown for that Sunday afternoon.

Little Miss seemed to approve of her gown; after all, it was like wearing a silky blanket.

She also liked to stuff the collar in her mouth and chew on it.

As cute as my newest little niece is, this is a stitching blog not a baby blog, so it was time to give her back to her Mom and Dad, and get to work taking photos of the gown.

All that glorious, frothy lace … so much work, but so worth it.  The gown was an absolute pleasure to stitch; I loved the pattern and the materials.

One last photo of my niece and her proud mom:  welcome to the world, little one!


Dress progress: scratch and dent

Occasionally I’m asked if I make mistakes while cutting the Hardanger embroidery, and if so, if there are any mistakes which can’t be repaired.

To which I reply, Oh, yes!  Fortunately the Janice Love books have many suggestions to restore almost any kind of cutting accident back to neat, and I’ve usually had great success fixing little cuts here and there.

But while I was working on the christening gown collar — in fact, while I was cutting the excess fabric away from the finished collar, back before Christmas — I slipped and cut into the blanket stitches, front and center.  The collar began to unravel, and there was no good place in that area to reinforce or redo the cut stitches.

I want this christening gown to be perfect, and the collar is a focal point of the gown, so there really was no debate:  I had to start a new collar, and I was now the sadder but wiser owner of a “scratch and dent” or practice collar.

One month later, the second collar is done, and I’m so happy to see that it turned out perfectly:

What about the scratch and dent collar?  From certain angles or placing an object over the unraveled area, I think it will do well as a doily for taking pictures of other stitching projects.  It’s a good reminder to be careful when working on the cut parts of embroidery:  always use a bright light, sharp scissors (I love my Dovos), and take rest breaks whether you think you need to or not.  I was in a rush to finish the collar (it was so close to being done!) and haste combined with fatigue made me clumsy.  For the second collar, I cut a moderate section away from the excess fabric, took a break, then returned to the job.   It took longer but half a day of cutting was better than spending another month to make collar #3.

Now I hope I’ll have time to finish the petticoat lace!  The petticoat follows the same designs as the collar.  My little niece or nephew is due mid-February so the gown won’t be needed until March at the earliest.



Dress progress: sleeves

Wow!  The sleeves took much less time than I thought they would!  With the over skirt and both sleeves complete, my sister-in-law and her mother will be able to work on the dress over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Taking a picture of the sleeves proved a bit difficult.  Unlike the over skirt, the embroidery stops with a margin on both sides (to sew the sleeve together) which makes the sleeve look, well, unfinished.  This photo shows both sleeves, embroidered ends facing each other.  The pattern photo shows what the sleeves will look like after my sister-in-law and her mother have worked their sewing magic.  I’m excited to see the pieces put together!  Meanwhile, I’ll start working on the dress collar, which has more openwork than the sleeves.  Each piece of this gown is prettier and prettier.

Thanks for visiting!


Dress progress: over skirt

The over skirt of the christening gown is the simplest to embroider, and would make a nice enough gown on its own if I weren’t able to complete any more pieces, so I worked on it first.  Total stitching time for the skirt:  about three weeks.

I’m using 32 count Monika evenweave (a mercerized cotton/modal blend) by Ubelhor of Austria.  I love this fabric!  It’s perfectly suited for a christening gown:  silky soft with great body and a wonderful drape, holds the shape of the pulled and drawn work exactly so, and irons like a dream.  Wonderful!  I bought it from Nordic Needle where I was lucky enough to catch it on sale plus a storewide shipping discount.  The pattern is stitched with DMC white perle cotton in #8 and #12.

Next:  the sleeves.  The embroidery is more detailed than the over skirt in that there is more openwork, but of course there’s much less to do than on the skirt.  We’ll see how many weeks it takes to embroider the sleeves.

Thanks for visiting!