A few things I’ve learned…

Believe it or not, I’m really enjoying working on the Amy Mitten Sampler I started at her workshop a few weeks ago. As many of you know, I was not a big fan of counted work. It was difficult and I have struggled with it in the past.

In the past week I’ve been embroidering the sampler exclusively. As with anything, practice has improved my sills.

I’ve also learned (figured out) a few things along the way.

Since I rarely work from a kit, the idea of saving the ends of threads to use again wasn’t something I’d thought very much about. Amy includes 1 and ½ times the amount of thread in each kit that she uses to stitch the model. It should be more than enough. However, I may be making more mistakes that the more experienced stitcher, so I needed a way to save those ends to use later…just in case.

I decided to use my hole punch and put a hole directly across each color on the thread card for the ends. It works a treat for me!

Of course I make mistakes, and sometimes I don’t notice them until I’m quite a few stitches along. Rats! At first I used the eye end of my needle to take out the few stitches I needed to remove. One day, I was digging around in my little work box and my “stitch fixer” popped up to the top. I had totally forgotten about it! I hadn’t used it since I’d done my Canvas Work Module at the RSN!

This is a great little tool for pulling out stitches! If you look at the left end of the tool in the photo above, you can see an angled metal piece. that’s what pulls out the stitches.

It works almost effortlessly and doesn’t unravel the thread! It’s saved me a few time this last week! I picked mine up at Stitchville USA in Minneapolis, MN but I know if you look online you will find them.

Now that I’ve made good progress on my sampler and I feel more confident about my skills (meaning I won’t forget what I’ve learned!) I’m going to begin a new crewel work project.

If anyone has any tips for me concerning counted thread work, I’d LOVE to hear them!

Amy Mitten Workshop

I’ve just returned home from the most wonderful weekend with Amy Mitten and a group of women who were so supportive!

About a month ago, my friend Deb and I gave a presentation to our EGA group about samplers. It was such fun to research the samplers I own and to hear all the information Deb had to share about the history of samplers and see ones that she and others have embroidered.

When Deb and I first talked about doing the presentation together, she mentioned that she was going to go to a workshop with Amy Mitten in Madison, Wisconsin in March. When I got home from the meeting, I looked online and decided I would take the plunge into counted work and go to this workshop. I love collecting and studying samplers, but never had tried to create a sampler. As many of you know, counted work is not my strongest skill!

After looking at the Lynn’s of Madison website, the shop hosting the workshop, I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at counted work. The worst that could happen was that I would find that I really couldn’t count and would fail; the best would be that I would learn tips to help me and would succeed.

Well, I’m happy to report that I succeeded!

Finally getting the hang of it!

For those of you who don’t know who Amy Mitten is or what she does, here is a link to her web site. I met Amy years ago when we were on a needlework tour together. When she told me she wrote mystery stories about samplers, I was intrigued! The class I took in Madison was entitled “Tour Van Holland”. The mystery is based on a trip to The Netherlands by a group of stitchers and what happens while they are there.

Amy Mitten holding the Tour Van Holland sampler that I will finish…really!

Amy structures her workshop to include reading the mystery story, extensive slide presentations that go along with each chapter of the story covering information about the kind of sampler we are stitching (in this case, Dutch samplers), stitch instructions and, of course, stitching time.

Slide show

We began with Chapter 1, read beautifully by Cathy. Then Amy showed us slides with information and details of the samplers, followed by stitch demonstrations, individual help and stitching time. Each chapter covers a particular section of the sampler. The instruction and stitch diagrams etc. are organised chapter by chapter. This helped me from getting overwhelmed at the amount of stitching to be done to complete this piece.

A display of Amy’s samplers.

Amy brought many of her samplers with her for us to see. Everyone loved to look at the wide range of work she’s produced! I particularly love the threads she uses in her kits. She dyes all of them and they are just lovely to embroider with!

Thanks to the Amy’s teaching and the encouragement of my friend Deb and all the others in the class, I learned enough to feel confident to work on this beautiful sampler on my own. I was the only one in class who had never done any counted work like this. We had an interesting discussion about how difficult I found this kind of embroidery compared to how difficult some of the ladies found surface embroidery. They said they just didn’t know where to put the needle when they weren’t doing counted work!

This is as far as I got during the weekend. It wasn’t easy – I took out one row of stitches twice and was VERY frustrated before I got it right! And then I suddenly saw the threads as squares and got the hang of counting and I was on my way.

It’s such fun to learn and be able to do something new!

I’ve missed you…

This morning I had my official “Survivorship Appointment” with my cancer navigator. It’s official – I’m a survivor! I’m cancer free and feeling great! Thank you to everyone who sent email, wrote comments and sent cards through the postal service – I’ve saved every one and read them repeatedly during my treatment and it helped enormously!

During the last few months, as sometimes things were happening faster than I could absorb, I found that picking up a needle and thread and stitching provided me with the perfect way to process the strong emotions that overwhelmed me.

Here in Iowa, we’ve had snow, more snow, even more snow, and then a blizzard followed by more snow. It’s just beautiful, especially on the trees in our woods that I look at from my studio windows. The piece below is for my City and Guilds course and was inspired by all the snow on the trees. I was fascinated by how snow covered parts of the branch and left other parts completely bare.

The branch is made from sharply creased linen. In the deep creases I couched twisted wool to highlight the crevices that were snow free. On the top is couched silk and wool threads to mimic the deep snow on the top of the branch.

I find is very peaceful to create stitched pieces that reflect the nature that surrounds me. It helps me feel grounded in my place and connected to the community in which I live, for which I am so grateful.

So what’s coming up on The Unbroken Thread? More pieces for my City and Guilds course. Work on a crewelwork piece entitled “The Queen’s Pomegranate”. Learning to stitch a sampler in a workshop with Amy Mitten in Madison Wisconsin later this month. A visit to the “Through the Needle’s Eye” exhibition in Morris, Minnesota this coming weekend. Hopefully finishing the Trevelyon’s Pocket class. More contemplative embroidering, taking time to create what my heart calls me to do, planning projects to teach so I can share the joy stitching brings to me every single day.

Oh!…And enjoying the snow!