Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hop to it!

Good morning, everyone! Well, I've procrastinated long enough--it's time to force myself to sit down and write a long-overdue post. Is it really the end of March already? For us Pennsylvanians, March hasn't been kind--we even had snow on the first day of Spring and I hear that we may be in for more of the white stuff tomorrow. There is nothing blooming or greening up and it is all getting rather depressing to be honest. So, in yet another attempt to hurry up Spring, I've been stitching one of my favorite Spring subjects: bunnies!

I've had this La D Da piece called "Briar Rabbit" in my stash for a long, long time, but, to be honest the photo on the leaflet (see below) scared me off a bit. It looked so dark and non-springlike to me that I kept pushing it aside for other pieces. But, I finally got up my nerve to try it on a lighter color linen than was suggested and I just love the result! I used 40 ct. antique white Newcastle with the suggested DMC threads (although I had to change the bunny tail to Week's Dye Works "Taupe" so it would show up on the lighter fabric).

To finish him off into one of my little pillows, I first took a single thread of DMC 3858 and tied a wee bow around his neck. This wasn't charted, but I thought it made him look even sweeter. I then sewed a small pillow using the beautiful floral fabric shown in the background and a yellow bow on the side.

Briar Rabbit finish

And here is a close-up of the bunny and his burgundy bowtie--what a cutie!

The original La D Da chart looks like this...  What a difference the fabric you choose can make!

Another bunny hopped into my life this month in the form of this adorable design that can be found in the April 2015 issue of "Just Cross Stitch Magazine". It is called "Primrose Maiden" and is designed by The Little Stitcher (whose designs I just love!). This looks very different from the photo in the magazine, though, as I changed all of the orange colors to blues... It is stitched on 40 ct. raw Newcastle with DMC threads (if anyone wants the color changes that I made, just email me). 

For this finish, I used some complementary blue and golden-yellow fabrics and ric rac and added a small accent square featuring one of the stitched white flowers in the lower right. At the corner where the ric rac intersects, I placed a white button topped with a cut of blue and white gingham ribbon. I'm so pleased with how it turned out! 

Primrose Maiden finish

I also finished my second Prairie Schooler Santa that I am doing in my Sunday SAL with Melissa in Canada and Hilda in Austria. This handsome guy caring for his feathered friends is from the "Kris Kringle" chart (Book No. 62). He is stitched on 40 ct. raw Newcastle with most of the suggested DMC threads (I did substitute DMC 520 for 3362, though, as it just wasn't showing up well).  I will have to set a date and get busy on finishing these Santas into ornaments as I really don't want to leave them all until December...

Prairie Schooler Santa Kris Kringle (Book No. 62)

I also received a very special gift that I'd like to show you which was sent by one of my blog readers and friends, Sylvia (no blog) from New Mexico. Sylvia  had read this post that I shared with you about the special meaning that cardinals have held for me since Dad died and asked me if I would like a copy of an old book she owned called The Song of the Cardinal by Gene Stratton Porter. Old book? Cardinal? Why, yes--I would love to receive it! I was so very touched when I opened her package to find not only the beautiful old book, but the most lovely and lovingly stitched cardinal ornament. Isn't it a beauty? It brought tears to my eyes that Sylvia would make this for me--I wish you could see it as it is even prettier in person. And she included some cardinal and Pennsylvania stickers and a pretty snowflake bookmark all wrapped up in cardinal-red tissue paper. Absolutely gorgeous!

Here is a better look at the sweet ornament and the title page of the old book. I will treasure them both, Sylvia, my friend--your generous spirit truly touched my heart... Thank you, thank you, thank you!

A special cardinal gift from Sylvia!

March has been a very noisy month around here! We have workmen putting a new floor in our garage attic and all that pounding and sawing isn't exactly conducive to relaxing with my stitching. I can't just seem to sit and relax while they're here so reading, stitching, and watching television are all out. Instead, I've been cleaning out drawers and sorting through things that should have been discarded long ago. I can't even tell you the number of bags of "stuff" we've sent on to thrift shops.  What a great feeling it is to organize your life! I've also been sprucing up the house for spring a bit. I'm just loving my new corner cupboard in the kitchen--it is such fun to decorate for the seasons!

I've tucked a few cross stitch pieces onto each shelf... The top shelf houses my newest pillow and three of my Dedham Pottery reproduction bunny ceramics. I've been collecting Dedham Pottery bunnies through Ebay auctions for a number of years now and currently have almost 50 of the blue and white pieces here in my kitchen.

The middle shelf has a vintage yellow bird that I found up in the attic which I think came from my mother-in-law many years ago. He looks quite cheerful sitting there with a bird print, some cross-stitching, and an old lace doily.

And the bottom shelf  has a larger Dedham pottery bunny, a tiny Spring pillow, and a yellow flower pot filled with dried baby's breath left over from my husband's Valentine's Day flowers last month.

I've created so many bunny / spring cross-stitched pieces over the past six years that they are flowing out of my wooden bowl so I had to come up with additional ways to display them. I put together this spring-time vignette on the sideboard of my kitchen that I'm so pleased with. I used to collect tiny bunny ceramic figurines when my sons were young and you can see some of them on top of the cake plate (which was a wedding gift nearly 38 years ago!). The opened book behind the candle is about--what else--bunnies! That bunny sampler tucked into the back corner is from an early "Just Cross Stitch" magazine; according to the date on the back, I stitched it in 1993!

The bunnies are taking over!

We celebrated my oldest son's 33rd birthday on Sunday with these yummy brownies that he found online and wanted me to bake for him. They were  gooey and scrumptious (and just "a bit" decadent!). You can find the recipe for these Chunky Cheesecake Brownies right here. The only change I made was to put half the amount of chocolate chips in the cream cheese layer as was recommended by other bakers. Unfortunately, my son had a terrible cold so he couldn't even taste his birthday treat--I'll have to make them again very soon.

Chunky Cheesecake Brownies

I hope that the next time I post, there will be warm breezes and spring flowers starting to pop up around here! That may be wishful thinking, but winter can't last forever, can it? Until then, I hope you know how much your comments, emails, and friendships mean to me--stitchers are the best!! Do you have any special plans for the weekend? I'm so looking forward to tomorrow as my youngest son will be visiting for three days and we haven't seen him since Christmas. Time to spoil him with his favorites: pot roast, grilled cheese sandwiches, and homemade cookies... Comfort food! Bye for now...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A sweet finish!

Happy March, my stitching friends! Are you all anticipating the advent of spring in just a few weeks as much as I am? Looking around outside my home, it seems that we have a long way to go until the days of green grass, blue skies, and chirping birds appear. We got another six inches of snow on Sunday--heavy, wet snow, I might add. And, wouldn't you know, my husband was away on a ski trip in Colorado so guess who got to shovel our long driveway by herself? Yep... little, old me--and my aching arms are still letting me know that they didn't appreciate those hours of lifting, throwing, and pushing the white stuff! It's snowing as I write this and we are due to get another four inches today-sigh... Oh, well, I shouldn't complain about the weather as I know we've had it so much easier than those of you in the New England states. It was a cold, cold February (the second coldest on record for our area), but winter still hasn't bothered me as much this year as it did last...

So, what did I do while my husband was off enjoying the ski slopes in Colorado? Why I stitched, of course, all snuggled up under my fluffy red-plaid blanket while watching old movies. Is there any better way to spend your time on these cold winter days?

What do you get when you stitch a beautiful pink and white wedding cake...

Add some dark chocolate mini-cakes (with fluffy, white frosting, and pink rosebuds)...

And some tasty muffins sprinkled with raisins...

Add a crusty loaf of warm bread (displayed under a lovely chandelier)...

And two delicate pink cakes iced in white...

And don't forget the cherry pies and dark chocolate cake bedecked with a pink blossom...

I'm sure you've figured it out, by now! Combine all those tasty goodies and you get...

 The Bakery!

Isn't it pretty? This is a bit of an unusual finish for me... I'm not a "pink" girl by any means--never have been, never will be. I'm not into beads or sparkles or frilly dresses. But, I was so tired of winter that I searched through my stash and pulled out the first thing that I came to that made me happy--this old Country Cottage Needleworks chart (from 2005!). It was bright and cheery and somehow--comforting. I just love the lacy edging on the shelves and the black and white checked tablecloth--and I wonder what is in that "pretty in pink" package nestled underneath the wedding cake? Most of you know that I love to bake; in fact creating sweet treats is probably my favorite hobby after stitching and reading!

As much as I loved stitching "The Bakery," it was quite deceiving! I had no idea it would take me so long to finish this one up... Each little motif seemed to take forever for some reason. This one is stitched on 40 ct. raw Newcastle linen with most of the suggested colors, but there were a few changes along the way. The main color change was to the gray in the cake stands and chandelier--the suggested color was just not showing up on the fabric, so I went with DMC 647. The darker brown is Crescent Colors Cocoa Bean--another big change. And for the lighter green I had to use DMC 3052 as the suggested Dandelion Stem wasn't showing up either.

So, what do I plan to do with this finish? Well, at some point, I hope to stitch it's companion piece The Flower Shop and then frame each of them in black frames to hang in my kitchen.  I am SO BAD at getting my larger pieces framed. I have no trouble finishing up my smalls as I stitch them, but I just procrastinate when it comes to framing. Do any of you have that problem, too? I got tired of stuffing my larger pieces into drawers and forgetting about them so I saw an idea on the 123 Stitch Message Board last month which I loved. I purchased an 11" x 14" "Itoya Art Profolio" from Amazon for just a bit over $15.00. It is archival safe and 100% acid free and most of my "larger" finishes fit in it quite nicely and enable me to easily flip through it easily and admire them.

Here are a few photos of the portfolio itself and some of my finishes stored inside. I highly recommend this storage method and I truly think (hope!)  it will inspire me to frame more of my finishes.

My new storage system for my larger stitched finishes

I now have about half of the pages filled with
waiting to be framed finishes--embarrassing!

Why, oh why, haven't I framed these lovely Thanksgiving pieces yet?

Here you see my newest finish patiently 
waiting to be framed and hung on the wall.

My Prairie Schooler Santa Sundays SAL with Melissa and Hilda is going well and I finished up my first Santa. May I present this handsome blue-suited fellow...

This Santa (from Prairie Schooler's "Old World Santas II") was stitched on 32 ct. flax Belfast using DMC threads. I made a few changes (of course!)--the main one being the color of blue. I used DMC 3764 so it would look more like the color on the front of the chart. I also substituted a string of holly for the charted doll and stocking in Santa's left hand and stitched the border in blue. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to finish this one up yet, but I'm so pleased with how he turned out... On to a new Santa for March!

So, what's up next? Well, Spring means rabbits and you all know how much I love stitching bunnies! Here is a sneak peak of what I'm working on right now. Does anyone have a guess as to what design this is?

Belated Birthday Gift... A lovely packaged appeared on my doorstep last week from my dear friend, Mary. She stitched me this darling JBW pillow and finished it so beautifully. I loved the sentiment on it: "Within your heart, keep one secret place where dreams my go." It is just adorable and Mary also added some finishing goodies, a few magnetic bookmarks, and a box of one of my favorite candies (which, by the way is actually empty in the photo as I was a complete piggy and devoured the contents all by myself!!). Thank you, my friend--I will treasure your beautiful gifts!

Birthday gifts from Mary

Valentine's Day gift... I was so surprised to receive this cute Valentine's themed gift from my sweet friend in Germany, Gabi (no blog). Isn't it cute! Perfect for any stitcher with the little bobbin wound with a thread of hearts... Thank you, dear Gabi--I will think of you each time I display it on Valentine's Day!

Valentine's gift from Gabi

More baking... I wanted to make my husband and sons a little treat for Valentine's Day last month, but didn't want to go out in the cold weather to shop for ingredients. So, I simply made these heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies--simple and so tasty. They are even better warmed up, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and smothered in chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and toasted pecans--amazing! Here is the recipe if you care to make some for your next Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Cookie Hearts

Email problem! If you are a Yahoo or AOL email user, your comments are not coming through to my gmail account. This just recently became a problem and you can read more about it in this informative post: Yahoo and AOL email user problem. Luckily, they do appear under my blog comments, but they don't come to my email box. It appears to be a problem with gmail thinking this is spam (although, they are not even appearing in my spam folder!). So, this is causing problems for me when you ask questions as there is no way I can reply to you unless I try to track down your email address, which I honestly don't have the time for. It would help--so much--if you Yahoo or AOL users would leave your email address right in your comments if you have a question that you would like me to answer. Or you can always email me directly (my email address is in my "A Bit About Me" profile in my sidebar). 

Well, I've gone on long enough for today, but I can't leave without thanking you for all of your wonderful comments that you left on my last post... I'm so glad you enjoyed reading about "my" cardinal and I loved hearing from you about your own experiences with cardinals (and British robins!). Welcome to each of you who is new to "Stitching Dreams"--I look forward to getting to know you and visiting your blogs, too. Okay, have to run--it's hair cut and color day here and I have to leave a bit early due to the fact that it's snowing once again... Think spring everyone! Bye for now...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February Finishes

Good afternoon and how are my stitching friends today? We are in the middle of another very cold spell here in western Pennsylvania, but, for the most part, I can't complain about this winter. My poor sister lives in Boston and they've recently been slammed with over six feet of snow. I can't even imagine how the city is functioning! How are things in your "neck of the woods" (as Al Roker would say!)? 

Thank you for all of your wonderful comments on my last post--I'm so glad some of you were able to glean a few helpful hints from my finishing tips. None of them are unique to me--I just wanted to pass on what has helped me improve in my finishing over the years. I received so many nice emails, too, from fellow stitchers thanking me for the time I put into writing, staging, and photographing the things I put on each blog post. Do you know how much those emails meant to me? I even received the most lovely birthday gift from a complete stranger--now a friend. Someone who read my blog and wanted to thank me for the inspiration and time I took to post my finishes and stories. I'll show you that very special gift later in the post.

For now, I have my January and February ornaments to share with you. Although it may look like I'm stitching all Prairie Schooler designs this year, that's not the case (at least I don't think it will be!). For my January ornament, I actually stitched the same design that I gave my friend, Cindy, for Christmas. I loved it so much, I just had to make another one for myself. This is from Book No. 51 "Christmas Past," and is stitched "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco. 

Prairie Schooler Santa from  "Christmas Past"

My February ornament is also a Prairie Schooler design, but it is just a small portion of the sampler in Book No. 133 "Winter Wind." Stitched on gray 40ct. Newcastle linen with the suggested DMC threads, I simply used the top quarter of the chart and added red beads instead of stitching the blue "berries" that were charted as part of the design.

Prairie Schooler "Winter Wind" motif

Here is a close-up so you can get a better look at the beads:

I am so happy with how both of my first 2015 ornaments turned out, but the second one will always have special meaning for me. Do you know why? Take a look at that cardinal perched at the tip-top of the pine tree. Do you remember me showing you these photos of that bright red cardinal in this post? Well, what I didn't mention anywhere in that post was the tremendous sense of peace I felt as the cardinal and I gazed at each other as I stood in my upstairs window. He just sat there for the longest time--even while I ran downstairs to grab my camera. I couldn't explain the feeling; I just knew I felt safe and loved and less sad than I had been since my Dad died on October 31st, 2014.

That special cardinal...

The day after that post, I received an email from blogging friend, Frances, with the following words that she had found online:

"A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed. 
When you see one, it means they are visiting you.
 They usually show up when you most need them or miss them. 
They also make an appearance during times of celebration
 as well as despair to let you know they will always be with you. 
Look for them, they'll appear."

When Frances sent me those words, she had no idea that I felt Dad's presence when I spied that cardinal;  as I said, I hadn't mentioned it on that blog post. I had never heard anything about cardinals representing loved ones, but that day--and ever since--I have been more at peace with Dad's passing. And for that reason, my February stitched ornament with the cardinal atop the pine tree will forever remind me of him... I check that same grove of pine trees regularly for any sign of the cardinal, but I haven't seen him again. That's okay--he was there when I needed him most! Thanks, Dad!

Gifts stitched and sent... I also stitched a couple of gifts for friends in Wisconsin and California. To Tricia, I sent this cute "Winter" freebie pillow (available here) as a thank-you gift for a chart she let me borrow. I stitched the scene on 32 ct. slate blue linen using DMC threads 729, 869, 924, 3776, 498, 3865, and 3371. I changed the "T" to resemble a broom and used DMC 729 for that portion. I also eliminated the second row of snowflakes that was charted under "Winter" to make it small enough for a pillow finish. Tricia seemed to like it and I'm so pleased!

Glory Bee "Winter" freebie

And, to my friend, Valerie, out in San Francisco went a VERY belated birthday present. A witch in February?? Well, Valerie's birthday is actually in October so I had it all stitched up back then, and then Dad passed away and I just didn't get it finished until late January. So, Valerie got a little Valentine's witch which she seems to love.  This is an older Mary Garry pattern (from the "Seasonal Mementos" booklet) that I had also stitched for myself back in this post on a different linen. I stitched Valerie's version on 40 ct. raw Newcastle with the suggested DMC threads and finished it into a little pillow that she can sit on a shelf or place in a basket.

Mary Garry "Seasonal Mementos" witch

Prairie Schooler Santa Sundays SAL update:  I am doing a PS Santa SAL with my friends, Melissa and Hilda each Sunday. Our goal is to stitch one Prairie Schooler Santa of our choosing each month (we began in February) and we hope that by stitching together this will inspire us to follow through on our goals... I've chosen one of the blue Santas from the "Old World Santas II" (Book No. 88) to stitch for February and here is my progress after two Sundays. I've made some changes (of course) which I'll tell you about when I show the final finish... I love knowing that a Canadian stitching friend and an Austrian stitching friend are stitching right along with me each Sunday!

PS Santa Sundays SAL progress

A Special Belated Birthday Gift... Now for that oh-so-special gift which a blog reader sent me for my mid-January 60th birthday. I received the sweetest email from April  in Virginia (no blog), telling me how much she liked reading my blog and how she appreciated all the time it took me to pull together a blog post  and what inspiration she had received from Stitching Dreams. She then mentioned that she had made me a gift and asked for my address. Well, just look at what arrived in mailbox on Monday...

I should have known just from the beautifully wrapped presentation that the contents would be so special... I am, I'll admit it--just terrible at wrapping gifts! So, I truly appreciate those of you who can do something like this. Notice the flower adorning the top all made of pretty blue ric rak with felt leaves. Simply lovely!

And then when I opened up the box, I gasped--literally gasped--when I spotted what she had made for me! A punchneedle bunny--isn't he adorable? He is so perfect for bunny-loving me and April's work is fabulous. I have never had a piece of punchneedle before and every time I walk by this bunny in his charming frame, he just makes me smile :) She also included a cake of soap that smells just like baby powder. Is there a sweeter, more sentimental scent in the world?

Birthday gifts from April M.

Here is a close-up of April's gift... Thank you, my new friend, I was truly touched by your kind and thoughtful gift... It will be treasured, I promise you!

Punchneedle bunny from April M.

We were invited to a Super Bowl party earlier this month and were asked to bring a vegetable or fruit. Hmmm... for you long time readers of my blog, you know vegetables and I are NOT on good terms--especially green vegetables. I've never liked them, and at 60 years old, I doubt that will change. So, I went with fruit and whipped up these cute rainbow colored fruit kebabs. They were a hit!! Such a nice treat in the middle of winter. (Just watch yourself when spearing the fruit--I drew blood at one point when the pointed end plunged into my hand!).

A rainbow in mid-winter!

So, that's it for me today. I did no Valentine's Day stitching this year, which is unusual, but I've so enjoyed seeing all of your "love-themed" finishes. I do want to share with  you a short video which you've probably seen, but it's just captured my heart and I think it's perfect for Valentine's Day. We are all different, but that doesn't mean we can't be friends! I hope this makes you smile :)

Thank you for reading, for your sweet comments and emails, and for your friendship! Bye for now...

 Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Christmas gifts and finishing tips

Good morning--and happy end of January! Did you all survive the month in good shape? I always think January days seem endless with their gray and chilly skies; I can't say I'm sorry to see the month coming to an end. But, the bright spot smack-dab in the middle of January was my 60th birthday and I want to thank each of you for helping make it a day of celebration for me! Your comments on my last post, the cards, the emails, the gifts--you certainly made turning 60 a fun (and much less painful than I thought it would be!) experience... 

I'm finally showing you the remaining ornaments that I stitched and sent for Christmas gifts. Some of you have asked how I had the time to stitch 11 gifts in the busy month of December... Well, the truth is, I try to stitch these little presents throughout the year and tuck them away to finish for Christmas gifts. But, I found myself feeling very stressed with all that finishing in December so this year I'm trying to "finish as I stitch" and then when Christmas rolls around, I'll be much better prepared. I showed you the five gifts that went out to some of my international friends in this post, so the following were sent to friends here in the United States. As alway, I'd love to hear which one you like the best!

To Robin (no blog), in Virginia, went this cute Barbara Ana design which is featured in the September 2014 issue of "Cross-Stitch & Needlework" magazine. Barbara Ana designed nine tiny Christmas/winter scenes for the September 2014, November 2014, and January 2015 issues. I fell in love with this one and knew I had to stitch it "over one" on 28ct. black Monaco and finish it as one of my little pillow ornaments. Isn't it sweet? I did change some of the colors to more of a Prairie Schooler palette. For the hanger, I simply fringed some of the same fabric that I used on the bottom and back of the ornament. I know I'll be making this again for myself!

I have previously stitched this snowflake ornament which I sent to Mary, on the other side of Pennsylvania, for myself and my finish seems to pop up all over Pinterest. The good news is that it is a freebie that is still available right here so you can stitch it for yourself. As with the finish I did for my own Christmas tree, I used DMC 115 and 40ct. white Newcastle linen. The ruched gingham ribbon adds such a nice touch to the finish--simple and classic. I know I'll be stitching this again for future gifts... perhaps in different colors.

Another Prairie Schooler ornament that you've seen a few times on my blog was sent to Shirlee, in Kentucky. In fact, this is the fourth time I've stitched it, so you know I must really like it! Unfortunately, I have yet to keep one for myself--I'll have to work on that...  This was stitched on 32 ct. sage Jobelan using the suggested DMC colors. The chart can be found in Prairie Schooler's "A Prairie Year II" (Book No. 23).

My friend, Jackie, in Texas was the recipient of this cute JBW piece called "A Very Merry Winter." If it looks familiar, that's because I stitched it last year for another friend and also received this same design as a Christmas gift from my friend Lois a few years ago.  I love how the snowman's body spells out "Have a Very Merry Winter" and the rusty bells on the bottom are a finishing idea I stole from the ornament Lois sent to me. Isn't it great how we all gain inspiration from each other?

My final finish traveled to North Carolina to a new home with my friend, Myra. I stitched just a portion of Prairie Schooler's Christmas Samplers (Book No. 63) in a finish I had already done for myself back in the 2010. I used the same linen and threads for Myra's ornament as I did for mine which you can read about right here. I did finish them differently and I can spot some improvements I've made over the past five years in my finishing process.  Here is the one I made for Myra:

And here is the one I made for myself in 2010:

FINISHING TIPS I've learned through the years... Now, they are both cute finishes, but do you notice how the newer finish is smoother and less "lumpy" looking than the one done in 2010? That is because I've learned what a huge difference using interfacing can make in the final look of your ornaments. Back in 2010, I didn't use it, but for the past few years it's been a vital step in my finishing routine. I purchase Pellon P44F interfacing from Joann Fabrics whenever they have a sale. It is fusible and very easy to apply--in fact, I found this very helpful tutorial for you right here. I apply the interfacing to both the front and the back of the ornament fabric--just think it gives it a nicer appearance and firmer feel.

More tips...  Some of you have asked what filling I use in my little pillow ornaments. I've used "A Touch of Silk" fiberfill for the past few years and love it! It is also available here at Joann Fabrics. I really stuff it well--push it into the far corners and then just keep pushing it in, layer upon layer. I use a lot more fiberfill today than I did when I made the older ornament and it makes a huge difference in the feel and look of the finished piece. When I am done filling it (but before sewing up the opening), I turn the ornament over (stitching side down) and really give the back side a good pressing with a hot iron (protect your fabric with a pressing cloth if you are worried that it won't hold up to a hot iron). I don't know if this melds some of the fiberfill together, or what, but the finished result is a nice dense feeling and not-so-puffy ornament. If you had me close my eyes, then held out my older ornaments and my newer ones to me and asked me to tell you which one was which, I guarantee I could do it just by feel... The amount of fiberfill and the pressing have made that much of a difference!

A few other tips... I've had many of you email asking about my cording. As you know, I love adding cording--not only around an ornament, but also as a little accent across the joint between the stitching and accent fabrics. Although there are many ways to make cording (using a drill, an electric mixer, etc.) I choose to use the Kreinik Custom Corder. It is very affordable and actually fun to make! And then, I glue (yes, I can hear a few of you gasping in horror!) the cording to my finished ornament. I simply go very slowly--I mean VERY SLOWLY!!! Do not glue the entire ornament edging at one time. I put a bit of glue on the end of a toothpick and apply it sparingly to about half of one side of the ornament. Once that has taken hold, I move on, slowly doing the rest, bit by bit. The glue I use is Aleene's Original Tacky Glue. I'm sure there are many others that work just as well--that is just what I happen to prefer. The trick to it not oozing out and showing under your cording is to just use the slightest bit--a little goes a long way.

One last tip--I use invisible thread to stitch the sides of my pillow ornaments closed. Yes, it is a bit fiddly to work with, but there is never the problem of a finding a matching spool of thread to sew up your ornament with.

I am, by no means, a professional finisher--I just wanted to share with you a few things that have helped me become a better ornament finisher than I was five years ago. Most of you probably already know/use these things, but I'm sure there are a few of you who are just beginning to finish your stitching into pillows and ornaments. Many of you email me with questions and I'm hoping that the above tips will help a bit... This was not meant to be a tutorial on how to finish--there are many excellent ones out there already:  Vonna's finishing site and Pinwheel Ponders are just two that I've regularly used. But, these are just a few of the tips that have worked for me. Good finishing takes a long time--honestly, I'm embarrassed at how long I spend on some of my ornaments. But, I love making them and want them to be special so I really try to put some thought into choosing complementary fabrics, trims, and accents.

Now, I said I sent out six ornaments to U.S. friends, didn't I? And there are only five pictured (not counting my "old" finish from 2010)... Well, the truth is I loved that sixth ornament so much that I'm making it again for myself for one of my monthly ornaments so I"ll wait to show it to you in February...

60th birthday memories... I had such a nice birthday even though I spent much of the actual day on the phone talking to friends and relatives (I'm not one who enjoys talking on the phone very much!). And then that evening, my husband took me out for dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants. Being the middle of January, the weather was frigid and icy, but we were seated right next to the fireplace in a cozy corner--it couldn't have been nicer. That Sunday, my two older sons came over and baked homemade pizzas for us and gifted me with two certificates to 123 Stitch (thank goodness, because I got no stitchy gifts from my family for Christmas--they said they didn't want to "feed my addiction!" Addiction??? Me??). My  youngest son sent this beautiful basket of blue hydrangeas which have continually brightened my kitchen table for the past two weeks.
Birthday flowers from my youngest son
My husband bought me a lovely silver bracelet and the most decadent chocolate cake. I think it was the prettiest cake I had ever received--the sides were all covered with chocolate curls!  And I'm happy to say, that so far anyway, life in my 60s is going quite well!

60th birthday cake--chocolate decadence!

I also received a few more birthday gifts from blogging friends... Myra sent this quilted table mat--isn't it gorgeous? I can already picture a cute patriotic display in my new corner cupboard using your mat, Myra! Along with the mat, she sent a couple of notepads and a striped towel that I can stitch on. Thank you so much, Myra--your gifts are wonderful!

Gifts from Myra

Lois sent a package of goodies all the way from Northern Ireland. She stitched this adorable snowman fob for me and include four lovely finishing fabrics and the cute Lizzie Kate Snow kit along with it. I just love everything you chose for me, my friend--you know me well! Thank you, Lois...

Gifts from Lois

And all the way from France, and my friend, Nathalie (no blog), came this blue wool scarf with a pretty wintery scene and two little bunny ornaments to put me in the mood for spring. Nathalie thought she remembered that I love anything bunny related and she was right! Thank you so much, Nathalie--your gifts made me smile :)

Gifts from Nathalie

Western Pennsylvania got very lucky as we were only on the outer edge of the latest blizzard to hit the northeast U.S. We  got about 7" of the white stuff this week and it was absolutely beautiful--the kind of snow that looks like icing on every branch and twig. I took a few photos of our backyard yesterday as it was an unusually sunny, blue-sky type of day...

I never intended to write a post of this length--I hope at least a few of you are still awake!! I just thought you might like to know what has helped me become a better finisher over the past five years... Even if you just gleaned one useful tip from this post, I'm happy to have helped.  Happy February everyone--and thank you, as always for your friendship and your great comments and emails! Bye for now...