Monday, September 27, 2010

Of cats, and trees, and embroideries

Sadly, a little over a week ago, Einstein, my cat, aged 17.5, died. He was the boss cat of the four we had. So. We currently have three kitties left. Let the Battle for top cat begin. Mostly, the contest seems to be between Nero and Marie who are both a bit over 10 years old.
Nero, that crazy rat bastard who hates everyone

Marie, in whose mouth butter would not dare to melt

Berkeley mostly keeps out of the whole thing, although she will smack at anyone who comes between her and her food. Since she is only a year younger than Einstein, you would think she would be the natural choice for the succession, but she is by nature a shy and retiring sort, hence the nickname Phantom Kitty. For years, people thought we only had one cat, until we found her weakness for grilled meats. Once she found that visitors occasionally handed out grilled meat, she became much more personable, if by that you mean an importuning little mooch.

Berkeley, aka Phantom Kitty, can you believe she is 16 + years of age?
The plumeria count is up to 12, and here are pictures of plumeria seedlings, as I couldn't find any on the web at all, and believe me, I looked. Some of them are starting to grow their first true leaves, the ones that come out after the initial seed based leaflets. I have a bad record of keeping things alive over the winter, so we'll see how I do with these. Here's hoping I do better. I am keeping a record of what I do, so hopefully I won't completely forget about them.

Plumeria seedlings. The center has a nice pair of true leaves.
Tomorrow, and again Thursday, I am taking a Stumpwork class from Jane Nicholas. So you'll be seeing stuff from that here at some point.

Finally, I finished another Cats and Quilts by Diane Graebner, and a little Elizabeth Foster piece that one of my very good friends got me to comfort me over Einstein. Now I have to make a little pillow out of it, once that is done I shall post a picture here.

THE Magpie

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oriental flowers, Black cats, Beaded Cabochons and Quilts

So I have been taking pictures this morning, as promised.

This is a picture of the four Cats and Quilts by Diane Graebner I have finished. There are two more, one is in purples and the last in orange and yellow. I think I may add a bit of turquoise blue to that one as I think it will look nice.

Next up, Kats by Kelly, and Hangin' Out. I did change one thing on these, the outline and the rectangle are charted in black, but I used some of the colors in the piece to do them. Just my personal preference there.

This last of the cats picture is Silly Snobs "You are what you eat" and Springberry Kreek's "Shred your way to the top. Both amused me, and Shred was fun when I was doing the ornaments. How many ways can you do a circle in embroidery? I don't think I have even started plumbing the depths.

These are the flowers that I have finished for the oriental quilt. Clockwise from the top left, they are Tree Peony, Wisteria, Iris and Clematis. I've almost finished Chrysanthemum, but needed a break from the gold metallic cord backstitching.

These are the four vases I've finished. The leftmost one is from Mary Hickmatt's magazine, and the other three are from the kit titled Vase Row. I am using the same kit floss for all the vases, even the magazine ones, and since I am doing them on 18 count Aida rather than the 14 count that came with the kit, and also using one strand of floss rather than two, I don't have to worry about running out.

This is the fabric I will be using as sashing on the oriental quilt. The colors are not what I thought of when I went looking for fabric, but when I put the patches on the fabric it worked.

On to Beading. These are the flat glass marbles that I glued pictures on. I was surprised that as much of the picture is visible in the photo, actually.

This is two opal doublets and a teardrop lapis lazuli cabochon that I did beaded bezels around. The opal on the left I have been calling Dragon's Eye, the middle one is Night Star and the lapis teardrop is Perfect September Day.

This is the last picture today. It is a huge faceted CZ teardrop that I did a beaded bezel around and then made into the centerpiece of a necklace. This one was fun, and tricky, since the back is not flat but pointed and so I had to compensate for that. I used hex beads in size 8, red fire polished crystals, silver lined ruby red size 8 seed beads, dagger beads in antique bronze, gold druk beads, and olive brown fire polish crystals and matte metallic gold size 6 seed beads. I haven't got a name for this one yet.

THE Magpie

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So, here is the plumeria stub I brought back from Hawaii. I planted it and one of the leaves slowly unfurled and spread. They are a very slow growing plant, as these things go. According to the instructions, I can expect more leaves for the next year or so, and then will get flowers.
These are the plumeria seedlings from the seeds I got from Tradewinds. I really didn't expect them to sprout quite so quickly. Some of the seeds I got can take several weeks to months to sprout. I just moved everything indoors as it is starting to get cold outside.
This, I am pretty sure, is the guava tree seedling. I also planted Lilikoi (passion fruit) in the same color/shape of pot, so am guessing on this, but since one is a tree and one is a vine, I am guessing this is the tree seedling. I would have checked online, but there are precious few pictures (ah, make that none) on the net. So in order to alleviate this omission, here is a guava seedling. Unless it is the Lilikoi.
This is the Eastern Empress Rose as far as I've gotten on her. I got some peach colored silver lined seed beads from Michael's and did a row around the petal beads in a peyote variant, I did a running stitch type row and then filled in. After I got the row around the petal bead, I did a sleeve across the bottom of the petal in a peyote type stitch. I have one petal bead lifted so you can see the first row of seed beads.

So, cross stitching. Having gotten tired of endless backstitching in gold metallic cord, I have put away the oriental quilt for a time and begun stitching again on the Black Cat quilt. The patch I am working on is one from a set of six by Diane Graebner, called, appropriately enough, Cats and Quilts. I also have one by Springberry Kreek started, "What Now?" of a cat hanging on the bottom of a bird house.

Which reminds me, I was thinking that I know a lot of stitchers who are also gardeners, and that maybe that is because gardens take a lot of sitting and waiting while seeds sprout etc... and stitching gives something to do while waiting. Not that I don't have plenty of things to occupy myself. But with stitching, I get to do something once, and hold in my hands something that I have made. Let's face it, cleaning house, cooking, washing clothes--they all have to be done over and over. But I never have to stitch a charted piece twice. Even if I give it away after, the memory will live on in my hands. And if I keep the piece, I can sometimes remember what I was doing when I made it. Kind of nice, that.

I am also making jewelry, in preparation for doing a couple of craft fairs. I learned how to do beaded bezels for cabochons, and got some clear flat glass marbles to use. Then I took some of the brochures we brought back from Hawaii and have cut out and glued the pictures to the marbles with some jewelers glue (it dries clear, very nice) and am going to bead around them to make pendants. I think that Jill Oxton did something of the sort in her magazine ages ago. If I recall correctly, she was using photographs.

I'll take a picture of some of the cabochons I've beaded and post them tomorrow, along with pictures of some of the black cats and some of the flowers etc...

THE Magpie

Friday, September 17, 2010

Very Sad Day

Einstein at 16
This is in memory of my cat Einstein, who passed away at 1:00 today aged 17.5.  This picture is from about a year ago, and you may notice it is the same as the one I use in my profile. I like it because it is very much the way he looked when he wanted something from you, and the something was generally food oriented. Einstein was a cat who loved his meals, and any treats or table scraps he could cadge were happily accepted. He didn't believe in running for anything, except meals. Actually, that proclivity was why I knew he was ready to go, he wouldn't eat kitty treats or deli roast beef, both of which he loved with all his heart.

Shortly after my daughter learned to walk, she started a chase game with Einstein. It ended when she caught up with him and tackled him. After she had him pinned, he would start meowing piteously. But I told him that he could walk faster than she could, and if he ran... So he got no sympathy from me there.

He loved to visit my Mother-in-law, as he could always, always convince her that he was absolutely starving to death, and no one loved him but her, which he just knew because she was going to feed him, right, and not just the pitiful amount that we gave him for meals either. She always asked if we ever fed him.

I remember when I got Einstein. We had just got the house, and were moved in and had most everything settled, and so I went to the local shelter to get a cat. Well, I filled out the survey form, gave them a check for the payment, and was told, "come back in a week to pick up your cat."

"But," I sputtered, "can't I take him home now? I have a harness and leash here, and we have food and a dish, and a litter pan and litter. We are all ready for him!"

They let me take him that day. I still think it was because I had gotten all the supplies needed for owning a cat before I went to get the cat. But I don't know for sure. Driving back with him, they put him in a cardboard carrier with round holes in it. They were big enough that Einstein could fit his leg out, so I got to see his long white legs and paws poke out the holes and wildly wave around. I finally let him out of the box, and the rest of the way home he circled from my lap, over my shoulders and down to my lap again.

He loved riding in cars. When my husband had his sedan, Einstein liked to sit in the back window on the ledge and watch what was going on. He also liked to sit in the driver's lap and rest his front paws on your arm while looking out the driver side window. He never sat on the passenger side that way.

We got a kitten when Einstein was about a year old. That was when we found out that he was a caretaker kitty. He would hold her down and wash her face for her, and at bedtime, he would curl up around her.

Anyway, I'll get back to stitching tomorrow, hopefully have something more to tell about the quilts I'm doing.

THE Magpie, sad because saying goodbye is no fun.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cats. More Cats. And, of course, stitching. And Hawaii. And quilts, but not Hawaiian quilts, not yet anyway.

So aside from the flowers and vases quilt that has grown a bit with time, I also have a long term cat quilt that I've been working on.

Cats have been on my mind today, partly because in an ongoing effort to eradicate the fleas (I have a dog. He goes on walks. He brings home fleas. Yeesh!) everyone got a bath. Yes, I give my cats baths. No, they don't like it. But after a few dozen kitty candies, they start sitting on my lap again. So. I had four cats, two children and a dog in an eight by five foot bathroom, and no, that isn't enough room. But I got it done, and everyone is much more flea free than previously, and so I could get back to my stitching and gardening.

So, I have four cats, so you can tell that I love cats. I also love humor, and there are several designers who do cat designs that are humorous. So I started accumulating them. And stitching some. And realizing that framing was _not_ an option if we wanted to keep the house, not to mention not having near enough wall space. So, the black cats quilt idea was born. The designs I have for the quilt are from several different lines, Kats By Kelly, Diane Graebner, Silly Snobs and Springberry Kreek, all of which I have located on the web doing a simple Google search, so here are a few of the designs...

I am stitching them on white aida as being something that can be washed when necessary, and using plain cotton floss and occasionally some of the Kreinik Metallics. All the various designs tend to be black and white with a few touches of color, such that when I do put the quilt top together, I plan to even up the various sizes of stitched piece with black and white calico and then use the bright colors for sashing between the mostly black and white patches. I've been collecting the sashing fabric for a while, and have been trying very hard not to collect any more cat charts, as I think I currently have enough set up to do a king size quilt,  only they are so funny! I'll put a list of the charts I am using in a later article, in case anyone is interested.

Meanwhile, I've almost finished the Chrysanthemum from the Oriental flowers series, so will have to decide which flower to do next. Actually, I think it will be another yellow one, as the metallic gold backstitch is trickier because it is harder to see.

So, Hawaii...

This is a pretty close in picture of a white and yellow plumeria tree. They smell wonderful, and the flowers look artificial to begin with, mostly because they are so perfectly formed. They sell rooting stubs at the airport in Honolulu, so on your way home from this blissful gardener's paradise, you can take a piece or two home with you. Um, I picked up two "stubs", little branches that you take home, stick in some potting soil mixed half and half with sand and wait. Well, I got one pink and one yellow, and both have leaves growing out. I'm so excited. I feel like a Mom all over again. I also got lilikoi and guava seeds, and a red ginger root thingie, all of which have sprouted and are starting to grow secondary leaves.

This, I learned, is called a Heliconia. It is formed a bit like its much more famous/well known relative, the Bird of Paradise flower

which I have pictured here. Incidentally, my fifteen year old daughter took most of these pictures. Partly because once she had the camera in her hot little hands it took dynamite to dislodge it. So I finally gave up and let her at it. She is pretty good at framing, so I think I came out ahead.

This is called a traveller's palm, because water gets trapped at the base of the leaves and so if you know about it you can get a little drink if necessary. It is also a heliconia. I didn't get a good picture of the one with the flowers on it because I couldn't get close enough to the tree. And those fronds are something like 10 or more feet long. I think they look like some of the Hawaiian headdresses the dancers wear so this might be where they got their inspiration.

This is a closeup of a poinciana, albeit not a very good one. If you want to see a good picture of what the flowers look like, try this address. Tradewinds Fruit is where I got a bunch of seeds that I am currently waiting rather impatiently to sprout. Since a lot of them can take several months!!! to sprout, this is a lesson in patience for me (although the seeds I bought in Hawaii sprouted in a couple of weeks). Still, I like gardening. It is kind of like gambling, only less chance of losing entirely.

THE Magpie

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Photos from Paradise--so this is how Adam and Eve felt--LOL

 I have no idea what this flowering bush is. I have a book, but have yet to locate this particular plant. The flower color is typical of the plants we saw in Hawaii, they seem to go for "the brighter, the better". I want to try to do my applique stuff with some of the photos I took.

This is a fish pond at the Ala Moana Mall. To say that it is big is an understatement. I think we did about a quarter of one floor before giving up in exhaustion. The sculpture is lovely, and a later blog will have it from ground level. I have to confess that I looked at it as a wonderful shape for a jungle gym.

These are called Rainbow Showers trees. The flowers are pendulous and are colored pink and yellow. I have since acquired some seeds of the parent trees of this hybrid, which I have been given to understand is a sterile hybrid. The parents are Golden Shower tree and Pink and White Shower tree, totally unsurprisingly. I found a website that sells seeds of both, and have them planted. Once they flower, I have plans. 

The trees shed the flower petals, hence, I expect, the name. Any place that gets freezing weather requires them to be indoor plants, so cleaning may get interesting once they flower, assuming I can keep them alive that long.

I am pretty sure that this is a very short Royal Poinciana. We saw some on the grounds of the Iolani Palace that were at least 40 feet high. The leaves are similar to the tree I grew up with that we called a Mimosa tree, but is also known as a Silk tree, with flowers composed of threadlike strands of pink and white. Royal Poinciana have deep red flowers.

I loved the richness of the colors of flowers in Hawaii. Reminds me of all the silks I have to embroider flowers with, so despite putting away the other project for now, I have lots of material for other things.

Last picture of all. Little Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, the little fish with the big name and he is right in the center of the picture. He is really cute, with his blue lip and gold and black striped body. We looked up the name, and it separates into three words in Hawaiian, humu-humu means triggerfish, nuku-nuku means nose, and apua'a means like a pig, so, triggerfish with a nose like a pig. I want to do some embroidery with this guy in it, I think he will translate well into embroidery.

THE Magpie

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eastern Empress Rose, layout of base fabrics
Easter Empress Rose, with a jade button affixed to the center with magatama beads, very small drop beads. Also called fringe beads, they are about the size of size 8 seed beads. The difference is that the hole is off center. It makes them very nice for the bottom end of fringes, hence the secondary name.

The outside of the yellow petals is being satin stitched with multicolor quilting cotton in yellow, orange, pink and lavender. The outer petals are from the purple sari, this time cut from the metallic gold zari edging.

I have twisted drop beads in pale pink with the AB coating up the center of each yellow petal. I have since enclosed them in a sheath of peach silver lined seed beads. As soon as I correct/photoshop the pictures so they look like what I am working on--the pictures seemed to come out yellowed on the computer--I'll post them. I also have to learn how to work with the new camera, as the old one died sometime before I left for Hawaii and I only found out the day before.

THE Magpie

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Decisions, and quilts

Well, I've made a decision, and it wasn't easy. But it means that the altar frontal has been shelved indefinitely. Well, except for one of the flowers--actually the last one on the page, Mother's Rose, which is going to become a medieval bag for when I attend RennFest as it goes exceedingly well with the outfit I just got yesterday. More on that later. In any case, I have plenty of flowers ready to stitch if the frontal gets going again.

Meantime I will be concentrating on other projects, one of which is a long term cross stitch project with oriental flowers and vases. I had been acquiring a series of flowers put out by Madeira company and designed by Hanlyn. Sadly, after purchasing six of them (out of 12) they were discontinued :-(. About four years later, I saw an ad for a new website that was selling kits, and I totally recognized one of the kits. Yes! Happy, happy, joy, joy, they had re-released the flower kits. If you want a looksee, the flowers are at and I have done four of the 12 so far, Tree Peony, Iris, Clematis and Wisteria.

I don't frame many of my stitched pieces, and you can mark that up to being cheap or thrifty. Well, to properly frame a piece, it can cost $100 or considerably more, depending on size and accoutrements. Whereas, if I make a wall hanging, I can use a mere $3-$5 worth of fabric and some felt for stiffening, get a nice tree branch for the hanger, add a couple of ribbons to hang it from the branch, and there you are. Well.

Actually to start with, I found a lovely kit--Vase Row, it was a kit put out ages ago, only instead of a row I am doing each of the six vases on a separate piece of fabric--aida, 18 count, as that way I could make it into a lap quilt. Only then I found the flowers, and they looked very nice next to the two vases I had finished at that point, so I started acquiring them. I found some very nice fabric to use as sashing (for those who don't quilt, sashing is the strips of fabric on a quilt that go between the bigger patches, in this case the cross stitched pieces. So, I had, when I started, six flowers and six vases. Then I bought the other six flowers, when I found they had been reissued. No problem, I figured I'd just make the sashing narrower, I could still do a lap quilt. Only then, just last Spring, the Mary Hickmott Magazine put out a trio of Oriental vases. So it was off to the fabric store for yet more ivory aida to match the stuff I already had, and realizing that the project has taken on a life of its own. I think I may be up to a twin size quilt, but hey...

Just did a quickie web crawl, and you can find Vase Row at and I think I paid about that for the kit. If the same floss is in it that is in mine, it is actually not bad floss to use. I didn't use the fabric as A) it came with 14 count aida and B) since I was doing each one separately I needed a bigger piece.

 The Stole that started it all...
 I have this image as my desk top on my computer. It really looks better in person.

So here is the Rose of Love, so called because I used some "word confetti" that I got somewhere to put up the center of the outer ring of petals. I wanted something flourishy and red to run up the center, and these were, as Goldilocks said, "Just Right!" The center of the flower is stem stitched around with deep yellow Needlepoint Inc silk, and then I did beaded seed stitch with the yellow silk and pale pink red lined beads. The inner ring of petals is done with luster coated clear flat sequins held down with random dark and light pink beads. I used a pale pink/purple/yellow overdyed silk for that. The leaves were cut from a silk/rayon sari with little gold zari woven on it. The gold up the center of the leaves is the zari, which is as I learned, what they call the fancy woven in patterns--some are metal, some are silk.

The Rose of Hope, some of which was stitched while waiting in the emergency room with a friend, hoping all would be well. I used a dyed shell button for the center, with a small flower bead on top. The silk I stitched it on with is called Witches Familiar by Silk-n-Colors. I used the same silk on the leaflets. I did  trellis stitch with Caron's Tropic Seas overdye silk, held down with little gold metallic three cut beads on the crossings. The inner petals are a piece of purple silk from a sari, and I did beaded seed stitch with purple iris hex beads that I purchased from Fire Mountain Beads.
Rose of Joy, so called because I smile every time I look at it. the outer purple petals are the same fabric as in the last rose. I held down the outer edges with gold metallic floss and matte blue iris beads. Then orange petals are held down with quilting cotton in a pink/orange/lavender/yellow blend. The center of the flower is done with eyelash yarn couched down in a decreasing spiral. I finished the center with some of the pink beads I used in the center of Rose of Love.

Mother's Rose, so called because I used a mother of pearl button that was given to me by my mother in law. With all those mothers, well, it just had to be. This picture is supplies I have gathered to start out with.

This is the same rose, only now I have added the mother of pearl button, some baroque pearls to the inner ring of petals and stick pearls dyed bronze to the centers of the outer ring of petals.
Mother's Rose a bit further along. I did back stitch in curved lines on the outer petals in quilting cotton in a blue/purple/green/turquoise colorway. I surrounded the stick pearls with opaque blue AB size 6 seedbeads, and added vintage sequins held down by clear seedbeads.

And here she is complete. I used Delica Rose Gold seedbeads between the backstitched lines, and added some 60 year old vintage branch coral beads from a necklace that (yes, again) my mother in law gave me. I thought they looked a bit bare, so I added more of the Rose Gold Delicas twining over the coral. All in all, I think this one turned out very well. This is the rose I mentioned in the beginning, the one I am going to liberate to use on a medieval bag.

My Mother in Law died of breast cancer last February. She had it off and on for longer than the 18 years  I knew her, and I miss her every day. We both liked gardening, and cats, and embroidery, and fine silks and nice jewelry, and gabbing for hours about all of those. She would have liked all the roses, and she thought the stole was gorgeous.

THE Magpie