Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stitching travels

I just love to travel! I also love needlework! Combining those two joys is something I do from time to time. There are a few “stitchy” places on my current travel wish list.

The first one is the Christmas in Williamsburg Seminar that is done by Just Cross Stitch magazine. I’ve been to Williamsburg in the summer but have never seen it all glistening with snow and frost. I watch their website to see what the projects will be that year. They always have something wonderful to stitch. The teachers include people like Jackie du Plessis, Merry Cox and Eileen Bennett. This weekend is not inexpensive and usually falls on the first weekend of December. That makes is somewhat problematic for me right now as it is also the weekend of our EGA chapter’s luncheon.

The second trip on my travel wish list is somewhat of a cheater! It’s like making a list of things you need to do for the day and writing down, “Get out of bed,” just so you can have something to cross off the list. Okay, it really isn’t quite that bad, but almost! You see, I would love to go to the FrancesLehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College to see their sampler collection. The cheat part is that Vassar is in my hometown so the next time I go back to see family it isn’t too terribly difficult or expensive to get there!

Now, getting you to see some of these samplers online is a little bit of a trick. First go to the Art Center Collection Database. You will see brief directions for accessing the database as a guest. Once you logon as a Guest you will come to a screen that has thumbnails and descriptions of their collection. Click on the Search at the top of the screen. You will see a little box that says Medium. Use the picklist to select Textile and then select Execute Search at the top of the screen. This will give you all of their textiles, many of which are samplers. It does take time for this to load, so be patient. They do not have photos of all of the samplers, but keep scrolling through the pages and you will see quite a number of them.

If you see something that interests you, click on View Full Record for details on the sampler and then View Full Image to see a larger photo. I have not linked directly to this search because you need to logon as a Guest on your computer and perform the search. The Guest status does eventually time out so if you come back to it on another day you will need to follow the steps once again.

I don’t know how easy it is to see any of these samplers so perhaps my “cheat” trip will turn out to be the most difficult of all to accomplish. I loved to hang out in the library at Vassar when I was in my teens, but I’ve never been inside the art gallery. If you want to learn more about these samplers a great place to check is the blog for the Hudson Valley Sampler Guild.

The last on this wish list is really a dream trip! I would love to go to the Royal School of Needlework and not only take a tour of their facilities, but I would also love to be a student there. They offer full degree programs as well as courses in specific techniques. Here’s the current brochure for their offerings.

They do have a couple of courses being offered in San Francisco later this year, but don’t you think being in England would be so much lovelier? For now I will have to be content with their line of Essential Stitch Guides. I have three of the four they have published to date. More are on their way this summer so I expect they will find their way into my library.

Now I just need to find a way to convince my husband that a trip to England cannot be complete without a class or two at the Royal School of Needlework!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pirates and progress...

It has been a busy week! My biggest project was sewing a pirate outfit for my granddaughter’s dress up box, a gift for her birthday. I did finish it in time for her party yesterday. She’s modeling it here. Arrrgh!

I had a little trouble getting her to keep her pirate scarf on her head and her bloomers need to have the elastic shortened so they don’t drop to her ankles, but it did turn out cute (if I am allowed to say such a thing about my own project!). Now that I know this size works I’ll make a few other outfits to add to the dress up collection.

I have made some progress on my Mary Wigham sampler. You may remember that I’m doing this on a 25 count, one over one, in Crescent Colours Steamed Broccoli. I really like the subtle color changes. If you aren’t already a member of Sampler World on Facebook you may want to join. You’ll be able to see the progress of those who are participating in this SAL (stitch along). It isn’t too late to join the SAL!

I’ve also done a small part on my Dames of the Needle project. The roof was interesting to work. It is a double running stitch. The backside shows the double running stitch and the front side gives you this nice dimensional look and feel. I tried to take a photo so you could see what this looks like.

For some reason I had an issue with the windows of the house. I took out the top row of windows THREE times! I kept miscounting by one stitch. I have no idea why. I finally set it aside for several days and went back to stitch those windows for the 4th time and was able to count correctly and make them fit the outline of the house, as they should.

When I’m not stitching I love to volunteer at a variety of places in my community. Right now I am wishing my community was a little bit closer to the Royal School of Needlework! They are currently seeking volunteers for their studio tours. Wouldn’t that be a dream job??!! Or better yet, what about being a student there? Maybe someday…

Friday, February 3, 2012

Arizona Shops: Part Two

The needlework shops are a little rarer in Arizona, as they are in most places, but here's a little about two I visited.

On the way home from the quilt shop in Cave Creek, I stopped at a shop on 5th Avenue in Scottsdale called Old Town Needlework. Let me start by saying the woman behind the counter was very nice, greeting those who entered the shop and engaging them in pleasant conversation as they checked out. I only purchased two skeins of Crescent Colours and was treated as a valued customer. There was a small group of ladies, perhaps four or five, sitting at a table working on some needlepoint. I couldn’t tell if it was a class or a stitching group but they did seem to be enjoying themselves.

I’m afraid I have to say this one was disappointing.  There really wasn’t anything about the place that would draw someone in and make them want to stitch a project. They focused mostly on needlepoint but had only a very few samples displayed. The walls were plain and white. The cross stitch section was problematic. They have those stair step type shelves and had placed patterns in them, but the patterns were too tall and had fallen over so you couldn’t really look at the shelves and see what they had to offer without bending them upright. Most of the patterns were not current.

The fabric was rolled up and placed on end in plastic bins. I picked up a few of these and found several that had no count on them and they looked like they had been sitting there for quite awhile. 

They did offer a nice selection of threads and seemed to have a variety of needlepoint canvases, but again the canvases were not displayed in a good way. Some were hanging up but many were on top of one another on a table so it made it a little cumbersome to see them. There was a section of Southwestern designs.

What they did have that was unique was a small section in the back of deGrazia cross stitch patterns, as well as other Southwestern type charts. In addition, they had charts for the college logos (ASU, NAU, U of A). If any of these interest you, then while in the Phoenix area I would suggest a stop at this shop.

Now on to my favorite shop! You knew this was coming…

The Attic in Mesa, Arizona is by far my favorite shop. If you love samplers then you will love The Attic! Are you on their newsletter list? No???!! Well, stop reading right now, follow this link and sign up! After you sign up, come back and finish reading this post.

The shop is in a little strip mall on the northeast corner of McKellips and Center in Mesa. It is currently right next to a large Goodwill shop. I must tell you not to be put off by the outside of the shop. It doesn’t look like much and with that sun shining (and it usually is!) it may appear that the shop is closed. If you are there on a Sunday or Monday it IS closed, but otherwise check their website for their current hours and then just walk right up to that door and open it! 

As you step in you will be overwhelmed by the hundreds of samples lining the walls and in the display cases that are placed throughout the store. They do change things up from time to time, but here are the basic things to look for in the shop.
  • )      Scarlett Letter- They have a good variety of charts from this designer.
  • )      Book corner- This is the place to go to find books on samplers, alphabets, etc. Right now they have a number of copies of the Betty Ring American Needlework Treasures book. And yes, they do mail order!
  • )      French designs- My oh my! An excellent selection of charts in this area!
  • )      Holiday- there is a little nook that has Christmas and Patriotic designs as well as a section of Halloween/Fall designs.
  • )      Frame Shop- They do custom framing- and have a selection of pre-made frames as well..
  • )      Fabric & Threads- They love the high count fabrics so you’ll find a nice variety of 36 and 40 count. They also specialize in silk conversions so you will find a nice assortment of those lovely silk threads here as well.
  • )      Trunk shows- There is almost always a trunk show (or two or three) of some kind going on at the shop. Be sure to ask what is currently on display.
  • )      Alphabet samplers- Again, a very good selection of these.
a small snippet of the shop
Customer service is a plus, even when they are busy. One morning I was in the shop and two women were working. For some reason there was a rush of ladies in the shop that morning, but the two employees treated everyone with care and didn’t rush anyone. I had some fabric cut for a particular sampler and the nice young lady who helped me not only measured and cut as carefully as she would had I been alone in the shop, but she even labeled the bag she placed my fabric in with the color, count and the project it was for!

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I highly recommend a visit to this shop no matter where you are in the valley. It is well worth the drive!