Stitching Hiatus

July 26, 2009

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted on my stitching progress recently…and that’s because I haven’t been stitching. I’m getting ready to move in less than 2 weeks, so I have been busy packing my apartment up. Today, I packed up my threads and sent them on to my staging area (read: my parents’ house).

Stitching will resume in 2+ weeks: same time, different place. Not sure how much time I will have in the next month or so, as I try to start a new job and furnish a new apartment, but I will definitely post about any progress I make. I am also excited about checking out new needlepoint shops — and I hear there are quite a few good ones in the bay area!!!

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Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!

July 15, 2009

Mario finished

Mario has been stitched, framed, and gifted!

This is the first piece I have completed on my own from a blank canvas. For a look I how I transformed a white canvas to a drawn/colored picture of Mario, check out this post.

With a completed picture, I started stitching Mario is continental with perl cotton. Simple, easy, and perfectly 2D for Mario. The background is an alternating scotch stitch. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of Mario in the making because I stitched it all over summer break when I was laid up with the flu and my camera was stuck at work.

While working on Mario, I decided that this would be a piece that I would not keep for myself. I thought it would be a great gift for Justin’s birthday. So, I had him in mind when I decided how to finish the piece. I know his walls are already pretty well-decorated, and I wasn’t sure how much he would want to display this little piece of nerdome for all to see on his wall, so I considered a few options. One option would be to finish Mario as a pillow. This was actually comparable in price to framing (which really surprised me…and since I’ve recently taken over the financial responsibility for my stitching, the cost of needlepointing is something I’ve thought about a lot more recently). However, how much does a 20-something bachelor really want with a pillow. Option 2 was to finish it in a regular frame, but with little to no matting to keep the piece small and accompanied by a stand. This gave him a lot of flexibility about how and where he wanted to display the piece. Best of all, with this framing he could still hang it on the wall if that’s what he preferred. So, I chose a simple black metal frame and picked up a simple black easel from Michael’s.(I apologize for the strange angle, but I was trying to avoid flash reflections…)

Mario on Stand

Of course,  a piece as nerdy as this requires an equally nerdy packaging. Please note, when you pull the belly tabs, you discover that the robot swallowed a 5 year-old’s birthday party decorations.

Mario with bag

Justin seemed to really enjoy and appreciate this gift. Of course, my bribe of  dinner and ice cream last night should be enough to get him to say he liked it no matter what 🙂


Pipe Dreams

July 12, 2009

My burgers were met with rave reviews from my coworkers, students, and friends. I’m glad everyone enjoyed them so much! They were so much fun to make!!!

Now, back to our originally scheduled needlepoint. I’ve been working on making a dent in my stack of books to read, so I haven’t  made much progress on my Dragon3. So today, I will share with you another older needlepoint. This piece has been the banner of my blog, but I haven’t shared it in detail yet. I call it pipes because I think the blue areas look like a pipe maze.

Pipes

I stitched this piece during the summer before my senior year of college, and I believe it was the first time I used silk. Although the price of silk is a lot higher than cotton threads, there really is a reason for it. I loved working in silk! I had a lot of fun choosing threads at the needlepoint shop, but I do remember arguing with the woman who worked in the shop about a color change I wanted to make. The outline of the blue pipes in original painting was brown. I don’t like the color brown much, and I didn’t think it added to the piece. I wanted to switch it to a grey, and the woman really fought me over this idea. Well, I won the fight (it is my piece, right?) and I love the way the grey gives a subtle depth to the piece. I still believe brown would have stood out far too much.

I stitched the quilted boxes in the middle first (while watching the first season of 24 in one weekend). I don’t know about you, but for me there is nothing better than finishing off a color in a piece and putting the leftovers away in stash. What a sense of accomplishment!

close-up

It definitely took me a while to complete the large black background, but I really like the finished look. The background is over 4, then over 2 (centered in the 4). On one level I made the stitches horizontal, then vertical in the next level.

My pipes currently hang above my couch in the living room and look great!

(Anyone else notice that the bottom right corner of my pictures seem blurry? Any suggestions?)


Hamburger Cupcakes

July 10, 2009

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My friend Justin and I have a longstanding tration of making cakes together whenever there is occasion to celebrate (birthdays, graduations, Tuesdays…). But this year, after being inspired by Bakerella, I decided I would bake Justin a cake and surprise him with it. Now, he knows that a cake is coming, he just doesn’t know what it will be. I’m seeing him tomorrow for our book club, so I spent all afternoon baking and assembling the cake — Hamburger Cupcakes!

I’m no Duff Goldman, so I started with 1 box of vanilla cake mix, one box of brownies, yellow icing, red icing, and sesame seeds.

First, I made the vanilla cake as per directions. For burgers, I wasn’t sure whether a mini-cupcake size would be a good idea for portioning and the adorable factor, or if they would be too small to work with. To prepare for any and all scenarios, I took the batch of cake mix and filled 24 mini-cupcakes, 4 ramekins, and 3 heart cupcakes. After those came out of the oven, I went about making my brownies.

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Although Bakerella made a regular tray of brownies and then cut them into circles, my aunt suggested I simply make the brownies in the same container that I made the cupcakes, and this was a GREAT idea. With the brownie mix, I filled 18 mini-cupcakes and 4 ramekins. After the brownies were out of the oven, I put them immediately into the fridge (a trick from my great-grandmother to make them extra-fudgy). When they were cool but not cold (maybe 20 min) I cut them in half. This timing was important in my recipe because the mix I chose had chocolate chips in it. I needed the chips to still be a bit melty for the cutting process. I went ahead and pre-cut all of my brownie “burgers” in half so that the meat wasn’t bigger than the bun!

To assemble the burgers, simply place the “meat” between two halves of the “bun.”

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Next, it’s time for the condiments. Although I bought red and yellow to look like ketchup and mustard, I think the yellow looks more like cheese than mustard.

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Finally, top off your burger with some sesame seeds so it looks like a real bun. I found that the top of my cake was sticky enough that the seeds didn’t require any coaxing to stay in place. Bakerella suggested wetting the cake with a bit of water to encourage sesame seed cling, which is a handy tip if your seeds are being rebellious.

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Conclusion: I definitely prefer the burgers made from the ramekins better than the mini-cupcakes. They were easier to frost, so they look a little nicer, and they are also sturdier, so they will (hopefully) survive the trip to book club tomorrow night. I packed all 4 big burgers and a few of the small ones for book club. Then, I packed up the rest of the mini-burgers (sliders?) to bring to work tomorrow, along with the extra brownies and cupcakes that didn’t make it into burgers.

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I hope everyone enjoys the Hamburger Cupcakes! I certainly had fun planning and making this birthday surprise!

P.S. I’m writing this Thursday night, but setting it to post on Friday night so that Justin doesn’t ruin the surprise by reading the blog before he sees the cupcakes in person

P.P.S. For those interested, our book this month is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


Kumquat

July 6, 2009

Disclaimer – I am a sucker for any and all new foods.

I am an advertiser’s dream. When I see an ad for a new food, I immediately feel like I need to try it. When I see a food item that is rare or new to me, I always want to try it. I’ve talked about this a bit before when I described my excitement about the food at the wedding I went to in May, and my hunt for the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&Ms. This week, I fell victim to the random jar on the store shelf.

I was walking by the pickle aisle at my local grocery store, and saw this jar of Sweet Pickled Kumquats.

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They were calling my name, and at $1 for the jar, it was definitely a worthwhile experiment.

Kumquat, other than the pet name my mom calls me, are a delicious citrus fruit. They have the same coloring as oranges, and the fun thing about them is that you eat the whole thing – skin and all. In fact, the skin is the sweet part, and the fruit inside is a bit on the sour side. They are the perfect combination of sweet and sour.  And, I love pickles, so how could this be bad?

What surprised me when I opened the jar was that it didn’t smell at all of pickle brine. It was not vinegar-y at all. A quick check of the ingredients reveiled why —

Ingredients: Kumquats, corn syrup, water, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, FDC Yellow #5, ascorbic acid, citric acid, EDTA, and sulfer dioxide

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When I tasted it, I was also surprised. It really just tasted like a kumquat. There was obviously no pickle or vinegar taste to it. The texture was a little different because the fruit was saturated with the “pickling” solution, so it didn’t have the fun squirting effect that citrus fruits tend to have when you bite into them. The nice added benefit of this is that the seads softened, so you don’t need to worry about spitting out pits of the pickled kumquats. Because of these differences, I would definitely recommend using these when cooking, especially when it’s not kumquat season, but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to pick this up again.


Dragon Consultation

July 5, 2009

I used my day off on Friday to visit with family and consult with my family framer.

As I’ve tried to describe before both on the blog and to friends (and random passerby’s who see my dragon) my vision for finishing this piece is to tell the story of why the dragon in split into 3 parts. In my mind, this can be explained by the dragon hiding behind a mountain. My first thought was that this could be accomplished by finding someone to paint a mountain onto the matte. On my drive down the the framers, however, I thought it would be interesting if she could create a mountain out of appropriately colored mattes. It turns out that my beloved framer had the same idea, and as soon as I mentioned that I wanted to use mattes to separate the dragons by mountains, she came up with the same vision I had and was very excited about the piece. We easily picked a brown, tan, and green to create the mountains (and regretfully I did not bring my camera, so I can’t show you what it would look like). The sky was a bit more troublesome to figure out. I originally thought of doing a light blue, and then taking the matte sample so I could pick a background thread that matched. This seemed a little boring, however, and my wonderful framer came up with the idea of using a dark blue matte cut out in an arch shape, with the light blue background stitched into the piece. I think because of the cartoon nature of the dragon itself, this more cartoon look to the matting, combined with the angular mountains is a perfect fit. She was even generous enough to cut out some arches for me to hang onto so I can stitch the appropriate amount of background area without going overboard (Mom says she was so generous because this is going to be a very expensive framing job. Whoops! Thanks Mom!)

Note that in the pictures the dark blue is not the exact one I chose for the matte, but it’s close (and probably what she had in her scraps)

matte head close

So here is the head in the arch (doesn’t he look like he’s peering out a castle window?). We all thought that it was a little too high, so when it gets framed, the window won’t be so tall. The next picture shows it skooched down a bit, which we all prefered. The only thing to worry about when stitching and framing now is to ensure that the dragon’s head and tail windows are the same height, which probably means a little extra background stitching for me.

matte head far

matte head and tail

Of course the middle is missing here…and that’s because I’m still working on it and she didn’t cut out an arch for me.

Finally we had to choose a frame. While I think I’m pretty good at finding the right matte color, I stink at finding frames. I let my mom and the framer run around the store bringing me back options for quite a while until we found the PERFECT one! It is silver, and has 2 staggered rows of alternating triangles and circles. That description does not do it justice, but trust me when I say that it works perfectly with the angles and the smooth curves of this piece.

Now, with all the decisions made, I only need to finish the piece. I don’t expect it to be done before August, but I’m glad I made the decisions now so that I can just give it to my mom when it’s finished and she can take it to the store (which is 5 min from her house).

Oh, and for the background stitch, I think I’ll use cotton floss even though the piece is currently all in silk and matallics because I want something that will lie very flat to the canvas…but as always I’m open to both stitch and thread suggestions!


O Camera

July 1, 2009

Going back to word today meant 2 things. (1) I woke up way too early this morning, and (2) I have my camera back!!!

Of course I would love to show you the finished Mario, but he’s off at the framers. I can, however, show you pics of the finished Dragon3 Head, and the tiny bit of work I’ve done on the belly.

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Since I last shared, I stitched the belly, eyelashes, “gil,” and “webbing.” These sections were all relatively difficult for me, as I stitched and restitched them all in the fever-induced fog. First, I tried stitching them with Frosty Rays and Flair. Then I realized they were not the same and went out to replace my white Frosty Rays with white Flair, only to discover that my LNS was out of white Flair, so I picked up grey Flair. I decided that the color worked just fine for me, but the texture of the threads were still wrong. Then, while looking through my stash, I discovered a beautiful 1/16″ Ribbon from Kreinik that was white with a hint of blue running through it – color 194 (I think this is leftover from a small Christmas ornament that I made for a guy I dated 6 years ago.).  I couldn’t have found anything more perfect if I had searched for it.

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With my new/very old thread in hand, I stitched the belly in a long satin stitch, the eyelashes also in long satin stitches, but these were all angled to follow the curve of the lashes. The “gil” (still don’t know exactly what this section is) is stitched in a brick stitch over 4 when horizontal or vertical and over 3 when on a diagonal. Last, I stitched the dark blue “webbing” between the spikes in a stitch I “made up” but is actually a weaving stitch. I really don’t like the way it shows up in the pictures, but in real life it looks like a real woven area.

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I also started the middle, but I haven’t gotten far with it yet. This piece isn’t going to be too exciting, though, as all of the stitches will be the same as those used in the head and tail.

Of course, some of you may wonder why I say I’m done with the head and the tail when I haven’t stitched any background yet. Well, this is because I don’t know what I’m going to do with the background. As Janet from Nuts about Needlepoint points out, you have think about how you are going to finish your piece when you stitch the backgrounds. I am still thinking about framing these 3 pieces in one large frame, with a mountain separating them. I am also still considering finishing them as pillows. I’m also open to other suggestions if you have any! To make sure my ideas are possibilities and that I stitch an appropriate background for my as yet TBD finishing, I’m am going to go to a frame store that I really trust to have a little consultation on Friday. I am very excited to share my piece with the woman who runs the store and hear her exciting ideas for how to finish it!

But…if you have any suggestions for how to finish this piece, please let me know!