Friday, December 27, 2013

Passport Pincushion and Christmas Cheer

I have a new project chart to release, yes on Christmas week (when ISN'T a good time for a new chart?)  It's called "Passport Pincushion" and the packet takes you through the process of making your very own Passport Pincushion.  The instructions come with full-color pictures of steps of the process as well as a page full of sampler motifs to use to create a pincushion like mine.

The beauty of the project is that you can use bits and pieces of a lot of your charts that you may already have.  You can create themed pincushions (think holidays, samplers, letters & numbers, seasons, colors, primitive, French...whatever strikes your fancy.)  The instructions include how to make the little "Stamps" to decorate your pincushion and how to affix them.  I also tips and ideas for other can see on mine that I like to include various embellishments, scraps of fabric, and even specialty stitches sewn right onto the pincushion.

You can make these pincushions any shape or size, and they can not only be used as pincushions -- make ornaments, pinkeeps, box tops, framed pieces...your project is sure to be as individual as you are. I have taught this project as a class in the past, and creative types found this to be extremely fun...and people who are more "Type A" found it challenging, but rewarding.  You have to get over the idea that it will be perfect...make it messy, make it yours.  I just hope you have fun with it.  You can purchase the chart on my Etsy site "Letters Great and Small."  I will be shipping charts to the distributors the first of the week.

Just when I thought kitten season was over, here came three more little dearhearts.  A litter of six came to the shelter the day before Christmas eve, and they saved the three in the toughest shape for me.  Little Half Pint here only weighs 8 ounces, and our vet tech did not expect me to take him, as she said he was probably near death.  He was lethargic and weak (and is half the size of the others.)  I said it wasn't fair for any creature that small to be in a cage alone at the shelter on Christmas Day, especially knowing he would probably not make it.  She was really happy that I took him home.

The good news is, that several days later (after spending a few days in my warm robe pocket), he is eating well, using the litter box, and scampering around the house.  He is not gaining weight yet, but isn't losing any, either.  While I was doing photography this morning, he found a bit of lace on the couch that he made use of as a pillow, so I couldn't resist taking a few snapshots of him.  We will have him a few months -- it will take him probably eight weeks or more to come up to weight, and I do realize that as the runt of the litter, he still is not out of the woods.  

We had a nice Christmas with my mom and dad who drove from South Carolina to spend a few days with us.  Christmas eve was time for homemade gumbo, and we had a big turkey dinner on Christmas.  I made cranberry bread, too, and peanut butter kiss cookies, as well as my grandma's crescent cookies (made with a cream cheese dough, shaped like croissants, and filled with sugar, cinnamon and chopped walnuts.)

The cats all loved playing with the leftover ribbons and boxes, and the afternoon was spent cooking and playing cards.  Time with family is what is best for Christmas.

I am ready to face 2014 with a thankful heart and a busy needle.  This year was full of changes for me, and I am ready to tackle my new challenges while devoting more time to my family and my craft.  I wish you nothing but the best for 2014.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mercy Goodehart, some pie pops and (of course) some cats

It's hard to believe the year is so quickly coming to an end -- I have dived in deep into designing, and spent a good part of this week working on a new sampler to start stitching soon (as soon as my Christmas gifts are done...I'm getting there.)  My friends Kathy and Jennifer are working on things for me, and I for them, but I'm going to have to share those projects AFTER Christmas...because they read this blog. (You're just going to have to wait, ladies!)

Mercy Goodehart design by Shakespeare's Peddler (to be stitched/released in 2014)
This will be my first big design of the new year -- I've pulled the threads and fabric, and I'm actually super-excited to start stitching on this one myself.  I've worked a lot of little secret elements into this sampler, which will come with a bit of a backstory for Mercy (she's fictitious.)  I designed the border to be more fun to stitch than the same old flower repeated again and again.  There may be some tweaking to do yet, but so far, I'm really proud of it.

Possible color palette for Mercy Goodehart
This is my color palette so far ... I will probably add an over-dyed silk or two.  I like to use at least one over-dyed (variegated) thread, because it makes the sampler look more like the real thing.  My old samplers have some neat color variations.  Too much, though, and it gets overwhelming.  I'll release an actual thread/fabric list once the design is getting ready to print.  This one will take a while, as it's big, so be patient with me.  The working title is "Mercy Goodehart."

Sampler Stocking by Carriage House Samplings
I've also been busy updating my Etsy site: Letters Great and Small.  This week, I uploaded yards, and yards of Lakeside Linens in different counts and colors, as well as a bunch of Christmas-themed charts (including a sampler stocking by Carriage House Samplings, above.)  I've got almost 300 items up already, and many, many more to go.

We had some sad news this fall -- Giblet, a cat we adopted three years ago after Thanksgiving, has been missing for some time.  She was a quirky cat -- not very nice, actually, but we loved her just the same.  We had her in and out of the vet to see if she was sick (and thus, crabby), but she was healthy.  He recommended we allow her to go inside and outside, and while that helped, she was never really one you could pick up or pet with any reliability; in fact, one year for my birthday she gave me a black eye by punching me in the face with her paw.  About four or five weeks ago, I let her out when she asked, and she has never returned.  I do wish there was more I could have done for her.  We provided her love, comfort, food, and care while we had her, and we do miss her.

Ty, the amazing, crinkly-furred, wonder cat.
In the meantime, we fell in love with one of our foster kittens.  His name is Ty, and he was brought to the shelter one afternoon by a gentleman who found him next to a dumpster by a tire shop (and so, the name "Ty.")  This man had Ty fixed and got him all of his shots, then surrendered him to me at the front counter of the shelter.  He had the most unusual fur -- kinky, curly, frizzy, and kind of a mess.  He hung out at the shelter waiting for adoption for a number of weeks.

One afternoon, I came across Ty in the euthanasia room.  He had developed ringworm (a skin fungus) right up against his eye and was slated to be put down.  I had to try to save him -- he is such a nice cat, and that generous man had put so much love and effort into him already.  After careful applications of a topical ringworm treatment (with Q-Tips and a steady hand), we were able to beat the ringworm.

But of course, by then, we had fallen in love with him.  He sleeps a lot -- he's growing (you can see he's got big feet already.)  But he is gentle, affectionate, social, and has a tail that makes me laugh (it is shaggy, very long, and looks like something you might pull out of a clogged drain.)

We think he's going to be big -- would you look at those ears and feet!
He gets along with all of our other cats, universally, and although I'd love to call him Oliver (he looks like an orphan boy -- he's got very big gold-green eyes), the name has kind of stuck.

Lolly is now available for adoption at Southern Pines Animal Shelter
Lolly went back to the shelter for adoption this week.  The poor dear was terrified to be leaving home.  I have no worries that she will find a good home.  I know not all of you keep up with my Facebook page, but little Shoe passed away a week after we got her.  I think she had been out in 40 degree temperatures by herself for too long by the time she came to the shelter, so she went downhill very quickly.  More sadness, but she did have our love and affection, if even just for seven days.

Steve attended a communication department Christmas party last weekend.  We were supposed to bring something to share, and I had seen online a few places where pie pops are the latest thing.  I picked up some long lollipop sticks at the craft store, pulled out my faithful piecrust recipe, used some blueberries I had in the freezer, and oh man, were they good!  My recipe and directions follow:

Pie crust circles waiting to become pie pops
Theresa's Magic Pie Crust:
(this will yield about 24 pie pops)
1 cup unsalted butter (COLD!)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Ice water

In your stand mixer, start by mixing together the butter, flour and salt.  As soon as the butter chunks are about the size of marbles, start drizzling in the ice water while the mixer is going.  (You want everything to be as cold as possible.)  Drizzle water until the dough just comes together, then STOP!!!!  Do not over-mix.  Refrigerate while you make the filling.

Homemade blueberry pie filling.  This made the house smell amazing.
Blueberry Pie Filling (yes, you can cheat and use store-bought)
4 cups frozen blueberries
3/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed into 3 Tbsp. water
1/2+ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp. butter

Simmer blueberries on medium heat with sugar (and a splash of water, if you feel like you need it) until it's all bubbly.  Stir in the cornstarch mixture (while still simmering), and stir until the mixture thickens.  Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter.  This will make a nice healthy portion of the filling -- you could use the rest as a pancake or waffle topping, or make a smaller pie, depending on how much you use.  Pull off the stove and let cool.

Roll out your pie crust, then cut circles using an over-turned juice glass (or, if you're well-stocked, a round cookie cutter).  Lay out one layer of rounds on a cookie sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper (to prevent sticking).  Press a lollipop stick into each round (about half-way up), then spoon about a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each round.  Cut a small ventilation hole in the un-used rounds (I made V's) to prevent explosion (this is crucial...don't skip it.)  Gently lay on top of each filling-topped round, then press down tightly with your fingers all of the way around, making sure to really get that area around the stick.

Sprinkle each little pie with sugar, then bake in a 350 degree oven, until the tops of the pies start to turn golden.  These get pretty puffy and flakey.  But don't worry, the puffiness will go down as they cool.

When they're done, allow to cool, and as they do, push the lollipop stick up into each little pie as far as it will go.  They will seem really loose at first, but the sticks will become more stable as the pies cool.  I arranged them on a big platter, but I would love to find another way to display them a little more artfully.

Pie Pops ready to go feed the minglers at a Christmas party.
The partiers didn't seem to care, because they were eaten lickety-split.  In fact, one graduate student I didn't really know marched into the kitchen where I was standing with my husband just to say: "Those pies...that's the best thing I've put in my mouth all day."  Then she left.  The beauty is you can use other kinds of fruit/filling -- peach, apple, cherry, raspberry.  I think they'd even be good with a savory filling like sausage, onion, rice, get the idea (just skip the sugar sprinkles on the top).

I hope you are enjoying your December so far.  Next to October, it's one of my favorite months, and I am feeling very happy (although a little behind in my preparations.)

Best to you and yours!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

December's Kittens and December's Angel

Bane says: "What? How many days until Christmas?" He's back at the shelter now and waiting for his new home.  I hope he gets there for Christmas.  What a great gift he would make! Bane and his sister Helga spent time at our home getting bigger and better.  He's cuddly, social, and happy-go-lucky.

We had four kittens go back to the shelter this week: Bane, his sister Helga, Pickle, and Pom Pom (see my previous blog post...she was immediately adopted and went to live in Jackson.)

This is a shot of Helga when she was younger.  You can tell by her ears that she's going to be a big girl.

Pickle was a tricky kitten -- we took her in six or eight weeks ago.  She was the runt of her litter and borderline feral.  She didn't trust people and hissed and hid from us the first two weeks.  Over time, though, she became more and more trusting, loving, and happy to be held.  Now, she's very sweet, purrs loudly when she's being petted, and she's looking for her home for the holidays.

Just little Lolly is left.  A few months ago, a nice older lady brought about half a dozen kittens to the shelter.  The woman was getting ready to go to Texas for some serious medical treatments, and couldn't take care of the kittens that had been born in her yard.  She had bottle fed Lolly, and was particularly concerned for her welfare.  Since Lolly was too small to stay at the shelter, I told her I'd take her home to care for her, and I have.  Lolly is oh so nice, and we have enjoyed having her here.  Another day or two, and she'll be heading back to the shelter for adoption.

December's Angel is finished -- and I've only got one angel left to go in my Raise the Roof angels series (January).  This one was fun to stitch, and it's available for purchase in my Etsy shop Letters Great and Small.  I'm printing today and getting ready to ship charts to Norden Crafts and Hoffman Distributing.

I have purchased a number of my antique samplers from Madelena in the U.K.  This is one they've got available for purchase right now, and I absolutely love it -- the colors and composition are fabulous-o.  It would not make an ideal sampler pattern, as a lot of it is specialty stitches (the sky, the flowers, the butterflies are executed in filling stitches.)  I just thought I'd share a picture of it -- if you haven't been out to Madelena, go check them out.  They've always got around 100 samplers for sale, and even if you can't afford to buy one, they are definitely fun to look at.

Christmas is much too close for comfort, don't you think?  I'm starting to pull my gifts together (I purchase some early throughout the year), and I'm busy working on pieces for my friends Jennifer and Kathy.  The 2.0+ cheaters I bought are working great, and I am blazing through the X's.  I hope you're blazing through your X's, too!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Chart: Primitive Christmas

It's so much fun to be back designing -- this is one I finished this weekend, and am in the process of printing today.  It's called "Primitive Christmas" and is stitched in Weeks Dye Works over-dyed threads (Bark, Blue Spruce, Crimson, Gold, Guacamole, Kohl, Merlot, Mocha, Peach Fuzz, Rose Quartz, Whitewash ... yes, I did provide a DMC conversion as well.)  I used 36 count Natural Edinburgh linen by Zweigart.  The stitch count is 101 by 105.  You can purchase the chart through my Etsy site, or ask your local needlework shop to get it from Hoffman Distributing or Norden Crafts.

I finished mine as a box top lid using a $4.29 paper mache box from Hobby Lobby.  Three colors of paint, some basic crafting supplies, et voila!  An inexpensive finishing technique.  I have included finishing instructions in with the pattern, for those of you who are feeling craft.  It probably took me 90 minutes to paint the box and do all of the finishing.

The bad news for me that came along with stitching this piece is that I've had to upgrade to 2.0+ cheater glasses to see the linen.  I went at least 5 months without stitching one X this year, and I feel like the time away from making my eyes work really hard has left them weakened.  Yes, I will probably need to go see the optometrist.  Drat!

This is the only decent picture I could get of Pom Pom before I had to take her back to the shelter yesterday.  Yes, she's gorgeous.  She had ringworm on the top of her head a few weeks ago, and I knew I had to take her home to get her better.  She is probably the, um, daftest kitten we've ever hosted, but also one of the very sweetest.  Lots and lots of kisses, a very swishy tail, and oh, so bumbling.  She never could jump onto something without either falling off of it or having to scratch and claw her way up after a less-than-ideal attempt.  But she never lets that stop her -- she purrs all of the time, loves people, loves other cats, and really, has just the most endearing (simple) personality.

In fact, I'd put her in the same intelligence category as our dear Zero (this is Zero when he was about the same age as Pom Pom.)  Not a lot going on upstairs ... but we love him to pieces.

Now that it's finally December, I'm getting into the mood for Christmas decorating.  And as I was sitting here, I looked up and to the right and saw my Jane Pattison reproduction.  It's one of those samplers that doesn't scream Christmas, but with the colors and pine bough border, it is one that you could definitely hang this time of year (or all year!)

To me, this area of the sampler really has a "Blackbird Designs" feel to it, don't you think?  I think it's those partially-finished bird, and the wonkiness of the motifs (I love things that aren't centered and perfect.)

You can purchase this chart on my Etsy site, Letters Great and Small at for just $15.00 plus shipping.

Keep watching my blog and Etsy site -- I am going to be releasing pieces with greater frequency, and I could not be happier about that.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Season Greetings!

Lolly, Ty and Bane were all tuckered out after a big day of turkey and fun at our house.  Dinner was, oh my gosh, so good.  (One of our guests said the dressing was the best he had ever had.)  And now I've got Christmas music on my iTunes and am thinking where I might put the tree this year, now that I've got the old tree spot loaded up with my needlework business things.

Before we eat, we go 'round the table and say what we're thankful for -- and my sweet husband said he was glad that I quit my way-more-than-full-time job at the shelter that was causing us both a lot of stress.  I said that I was thankful to be back with my family, and I can't tell you how utterly happy, relaxed and contented I feel.

Now that I'm back at it, I'm looking to clear space, so I'm starting to list some of my old shop models on my Etsy site: "Letters Great and Small."  I got a lucky 13 listed today, and am still digging through the piles.  Of course I've only got one left of each of these models -- so go look quick, before they're gone.  (The one pictured is a Ewe & Eye & Friends piece called Joyful Heart.)

Also, don't forget to look for my French Cathedral Sampler Graph, which will only be on sale through Monday for $7.

This afternoon, I'm going to try to get a new model finished and start the printing.  Tomorrow, I'll be uploading hand-dyed linens to my Etsy site.  Such fun, so good to be back, so happy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Door Buster ... and Belly Buster!

Last Thursday was my final day as manager at the animal shelter, and although I do miss my employees and the animals, I am so thankful this week to be back with my family, cooking them meals (that didn't start out frozen in boxes) and visiting with them.  I feel like I've been away for six months.

I was reading on Facebook about how large the newspapers are going to be this week, stuffed with holiday specials.  I thought it might be fun to offer y'all my own little door buster.

Euphrasier Enout's French Cathedral Sampler

This is a sampler I picked up a few years ago, one of the first ones I purchased, actually.  I am still charmed by the cathedral, the acolytes, the birds and CATS!  The saying at the top says that fortune fades, but beauty is forever.

Anyway, I still really like this one, and it was fun to stitch, so I'm offering it to you through next Monday for just $7.00 (regular price is $20).  You can find it on my Etsy shop, Letters Great and Small at  I also just listed some great holiday patterns by The Primitive Hare and Lizzie Kate, and this week, I'll be beefing up my store with lots and lots (and lots) of hand-dyed linens.

I am stitching on a primitive Christmas sampler.  I worked on it yesterday while watching Ken Burns' documentary about prohibition.  After that one was done, I started another of his films about the dust bowl.  If you've never seen any of his work, you should.  He's got great films about the national parks, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, jazz, baseball, and most famously, the Civil War.  Netflix has got them where you can watch instantly from your computer.

This morning I prepped my grocery list for the feast on Thursday.  Steve and Harrison came in and tried to see what I needed to add, but I hadn't forgotten anything.  I've been making this meal for years, and think it's the most delicious meal you can make, and it's not that hard to do.  Everything is homemade here at the house -- and I can't wait for those familiar smells: turkey, potatoes and gravy, stuffing (outside the bird), cranberry sauce (with apples and orange juice), green bean casserole, Mississippi sweet potatoes, apple pie, pumpkin pie.  

Our friends Joy and Michael will be joining us this year, and they have ordered kuchen from South Dakota.  Kuchen is sort of pie, sort of cake, sort of pastry filled with a custard-like's a dessert commonly served in areas of the country settled by the Germans.  Peach and strawberry are my two favorite flavors, but there are lots of other varieties, including fig, apple, rhubarb, blueberry, cinnamon, you name it.  If you're looking, there's a pretty authentic recipe here:

We start Thanksgiving Day with the Barefoot Contessa's favorite party starter: whiskey sours and dill dip.  The boys help with cutting up the vegetables.

Ina Garten's Herb Dip:
1 brick cream cheese (8 ounces)
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. mayonaise
4 minced green onions
2 T. chopped parsley (fresh)
1 T. fresh dill (minced)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
Sometimes I run this through the food processor, or sometimes I use my beaters.  It's always good with cut up cucumbers, carrots, celery, and bell peppers.  I also add to the tray various pickles, olives, and cherry peppers.

Ina Garten's Whiskey Sours:
3/4 c. whiskey
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1/2 c. fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
2/3 c. chilled simple syrup (simmer in a saucepan 1 cup each of white sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved)

We sip these while we make the food -- the citrus flavor is so refreshing.  Make sure to serve on ice with a maraschino cherry (or two...or three).  We always make a sticky mess of the counters with all of that sugar syrup and hand-squeezed citrus juice, but it is worth it.  These put a little blush on everyone's face, and soon everyone is relaxed, chatting and having fun.

Whatever you'll be doing this week, I hope you'll be doing it with family.  Happy stitching, and I am thankful for all of you!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hannah Carter's Christmas Tree Sampler

When I found and purchased Hannah's sampler last year online, I felt really lucky.  It's always fun to add another sampler to the collection, but also, a Christmas tree on a sampler is extremely rare, especially in the 1830's.  Christmas trees were uncommon with simple folk in Britain until the 1840's -- and in fact, only royalty (and the rich) had such an extravagance.  As a teen, Queen Victoria had a Christmas tree in her room in the 1830's.

I also love that Hannah finished her sampler just a few short weeks before Christmas.  It makes me wonder if her family had a tree, or if she really just wished that they did.  Note the moth that is drawn to the tiny lights all over the tree.  How charming!

The sampler itself is fairly simple in its style -- a number of stark black alphabets against the linen ground.  The negative space around the letters and alphabets gives if kind of a Quaker feel (as do the particular alphabets chosen.)  It was typical of a Quaker sampler to be stitched in just a color, or a few, but I can't be absolutely certain that is what this is.

The linen she used is a 30-count, and it has aged nicely.  There is a little thread loss here-and-there, but overall, it's just in grand condition.  Hannah was a fairly good little stitcher -- there are some flubs here and there in the border and in the lettering (the verse is especially quirky, as a lot of the letters are different from word-to-word.)  The fibers are silks, and I am recommending Gloriana Florimell Antique Black and Needlepoint Silk 693.  Stitch count is 208 by 255.  The stitches used are cross stitch, cross over-one, Algerian eye, and four-sided stitch (MY FAVORITE!)

The verse is one found in a New England children's primer brought to America on the Mayflower by the Puritans.  The poem is called "Learn These Four Lines by Heart."  I found a charming snuff box online (from a previous auction) with this same little poem on it.  I love the idea of it -- a virtuous statement along with the purpose of the snuff box: "Please, please try to be a virtuous and Godly here, stick this up your nose."  (The box is thought to be from the late 1700's to early 1800's.)

Hannah would no doubt be proud to know that so many of you are looking at her work today.  You can purchase the chart by going to my Etsy site Letters Great and Small.  Or you can have your favorite shop order the chart for you from Norden Crafts or Hoffman Distributing, who will have their copies in the next couple of days.

In personal news, I am nearing the end of my time as manager at the animal shelter -- the 21st is my last day.  I am anxious to get back home to my family, and feel almost like I have been away for six months.  I was able to bake an apple pie and make ham soup yesterday -- how wonderful.

I also have a number of foster kittens, including dear little "Shoe" (above) who came in to the shelter late on Saturday.  A local man went out to his mailbox that afternoon and heard squawking.  He looked around and found a shoebox in the road with the lid on.  When he opened it up, there was a little cold and hungry kitten inside.  She is a Siamese/tabby mix (pale creamy grey with faint striping.)  And she would not have made it the night without his help.  She's only 10 ounces and probably 2 1/2 weeks.  But boy, is she cute and spunky.  She uses the litter box like a champion, and has a hearty appetite, as you can see by the food all over her face this morning.

She'll be with us through the holidays, no doubt, and we're glad to be able to help her out.

Happy stitching -- I'm excited to be getting ready to come back to the world of needlework!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

When I grow up

My major announcement this week is that I have resigned from my position as manager of the animal shelter.  After very long work weeks that put me home most nights between 7 and 8 (or later), nightmares, insomnia, and countless frozen pizzas I have realized that I cannot sacrifice myself or my  family for my job.  I'll be done around Thanksgiving and will continue to volunteer and help fight the good fight for an organization that has my heart.  I am very proud of my time served, and my hat is off to those who have committed their lives to this mentally, physically and emotionally very challenging work.

I have seen things and helped do things that most people will never see or do.  Every single day, I have consoled someone who was crying.  I have been yelled at, threatened, covered in vomit, urine and feces, I have tried to handle every situation with strength and grace, and when I was feeling really unsure about what was going to happen now, I would say out loud to myself: I am not afraid of anything.  Just under 3,000 cats and dogs have come into the shelter's care during my five months at the shelter, and my staff handled all of them professionally and with great heart; I am really proud of those men and women.

What this means to you is that I am going to go back to designing, but do it full-time from home.  After 17 years in the cross stitch industry, this last year had me feeling very burned out, because I had spread myself way too thin, and could no longer do a good job at most of it.  Trying to run a shop and a web site by myself, in addition to traveling to teach and attend shows, and designing under two different lines (Raise the Roof and Shakespeare's Peddler) had gotten to be too much for one person.

But I've missed it this past six months, and one of the reasons I left this newest job is that I had no time to stitch anymore, ever (I went probably four or five months without picking up one needle).  In the last few weeks, I've been picking it back up, and it makes me so happy.  I am not re-opening my online store, although I have a new Etsy site called "Letters Great and Small."  My son Harrison is going to be packing and shipping orders for me from there, at least for the time being while I get back to the business of the needle (Harrison attended a few trade shows with me in the last few years; he's 22 now and getting a degree in psychology to become a counselor.)

I thank you with your patience with me this past year -- I've been a bit of a flake, and this was probably some sort of mid-life crisis.  I am learning that a person cannot be all things to all people, and what I would like to do now is do three things: design needlework, help this area's animals as a volunteer, and most importantly, take care of my family.

I have a whole stack of old samplers that need reproducing, and a mind full of design ideas for original designs.  My needle is waiting.

(The picture at the top was taken about eight weeks ago.  A group of eight puppies was brought to the shelter one day; they had been saved when a woman bought them for $20 each on the side of a country road from a man who was just hoping to sell them to be bait for dogs that were being trained to fight and kill other dogs.  All eight of them found homes.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Chart to Benefit Southern Pines Animal Shelter: St. Stephen's Day

St. Stephen's Day has been celebrated in Ireland for hundreds of years and is one of the country's nine official holidays.  To this day, on December 26, merrymakers dress in old clothes and straw hats and go door-to-door with fake wrens to dance and make music.  These revelers are sometimes called "Mummers," which is how I got the inspiration for Mary's last name.

There is a wonderful song to celebrate St. Stephen's Day, and you can see an older recording of it  by The Clancy Brothers here:

I am making this graph available to you and am asking you to make a donation of any size to Southern Pines Animal Shelter by using your Paypal account.  Go to Paypal and send your donation to (Valerie is our grant writer and fund raiser extraordinaire!)  If you do not have a Paypal account, you can send a donation check directly to the shelter at 1901 N. 31st. Ave., Hattiesburg, MS 39401 (as always, I don't recommend you send cash in the mail.)  I am not requiring any particular donation, but can tell you that just $10 will feed two animals for a month.  Five dollars will buy us ten (very needed) rolls of paper towels for keeping things clean. If you're feeling extra generous, $30 pays for neuter surgery for one male cat or kitten.  Even just $2 will help us protect an animal from rabies with a vaccination.

To access this graph, you can click on the graphic below (the chart), and drag and drop it on your desktop. Then you can print it out for use; I have saved it for you 600 DPI as a jpg file.  The quality of the copy you print will depend on the capability of your printer.  If you don't have much luck printing this off, try asking a friend with a different printer to print it for you.

If THAT doesn't work, you can send me a SASE to Theresa Venette, 10 Plainview Crossing, Hattiesburg, MS 39402.

For fabric, I would choose something hand-dyed and old-looking.  I might suggest Vintage Exemplar by Lakeside Linens or Espresso by R&R Reproductions.  The key appears below the graph.

Symbol/DMC floss (over-dyed alternatives)
■ 3371 (Sampler Threads Cherry Bark)
= 831 (Sampler Threads Endive)
X 829 (Sampler Threads Heirloom Gold)
. 613 (Weeks Dye Works Light Khaki)
3 3826 (Sampler Threads Gingersnap)
w 3859 (Sampler Threads Raspberry Frost)
+ 3857 (Weeks Dye Works Rust
↑ 3031 (Sampler Threads Pecan Pie)
/// 3781 (Sampler Threads Maple Syrup)

A little bit about what we do at the shelter: Southern Pines was established in 1952 and last year accepted 5,000 unwanted, neglected, abused and lost dogs and cats from a 15-county area.  We are a non-profit organization that strives to reunite lost pets with their owners, educates the public about the importance of responsible pet ownership, adopts out thousands of animals a year, sends other animals on transports and to breed-specific rescue groups, assists with hoarding, neglect and abuse cases, offers pet food to those in need, and much, much more.  We operate a low-cost spay and neuter clinic that has done over 20,000 surgeries in the 3 1/2 years it has been open.  We also have opened a Thrift Store and Adoption Center to assist us in our mission.

Thank you for your help.  I hope you enjoy this design!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I'm back!

Well, to be fair, I never left. In fact, in my neck of the woods, there's been a lot more of me everywhere.  I've been putting in very long, hard hours at the animal shelter I manage. I go to bed so very tired every night, that some mornings I wake up in the same position in which I went to sleep, sore on that side, and still aching from the previous day's work.

I've still been fostering kittens, and of course my days are filled with animals.  In the last ten weeks, our shelter has taken in around 1,700 animals.  I have hired staff (and let a few go), have handled multiple crises with as much grace as I could muster, have been on the news a number of times, and really, I've just been working my butt off.

And when I get home every night around 7...or 8... I think about cross stitch.  But I haven't had the strength to even pick up a needle.  I had to close down my shop in the last few weeks, too, so that means in addition to extremely long weeks at the shelter, I've been hauling boxes, tearing down displays, and moving things back home.  I'm setting up a home office; I found a desk and chair yesterday to order, so for today, I'm on the kitchen table, and we're just going to have to eat our dinner in our laps.  I have missed you guys!

Okay, so ...

I've got Mary Bate's reproduction ready to go.  Look for it on my eBay shop.  The chart price is $20.00.  The piece is 270 by 390 stitches and can be stitched in DMC floss or Needlepoint Silk/Gloriana/Silk N Colours.  Here is a supply list, if that helps:

Needlepoint Silk 763, 993 (3), 756, 203, 693, 957, 913 (2), 333
Gloriana Silk Old Gold (2)
Silk N Colours Rye Grass
Linen: 40 count Espresso by R&R Reproductions or 40 count Vintage Light Exemplar by Lakeside Linens

Yes, I've been fostering.  But I've got a roast in the oven, so I just want to share some pictures with you real quick, hopefully to tide you over until next time.  I have lost a few kittens, but have saved a bunch this year.  I am trying to limit myself to three at a time, but right now have five (several came back sick from the shelter.)

Currently here at the house -- absolutely one of the most affectionate kittens I've ever had.
A baby doll.

Super-funny and active.  And look at those amazing whiskers.

Came in by herself, and was terrified at first.
Trying to get over a cold here at the house.
So nice.

Freddy Mercury.
Also came in by himself.
Adopted last weekend.
His new little boy has the same color hair he does!

At the house -- also with a cold.
VERY unusual coat of cocoa brown and cream.
Her eyes have become concerned-looking, but she hasn't a care in the world.

Also at the house.
Slightly cross-eyed.
Handsome, nice, and very soft.

I hope life has been treating you well.  Life is treating me well, and I'm treating it well right back.

Be good!  Hope to talk to you again real soon.

Monday, April 15, 2013


This post is going to be somewhat vague (and a little weird), but I want to be up front with an issue that pops up from time to time in our industry from a business person's point of view.

I have used eBay as a way to clear excess inventory for over ten years now and have most recently started moving most of my operations (at full retail price) to eBay.  (You can find me at

Once in a while, I hear from a distributor or designer who is upset about the way I am selling her product (whether that be on my web site or elsewhere.)  It has come to my attention that some shops are complaining to at least one of my distributors about the fact I am using eBay to sell merchandise (most of this merchandise is at full retail price; certain older items, over-stocks, or otherwise less-desirable items I am offering in auctions.)

Now, one particular distributor has told me she can no longer sell to me, since I use eBay, as other shops have complained.  I still have a number of this distributor's products in stock, and am using eBay to sell them, much of it at full retail price.  Now, this distributor has told me I have to stop selling anything she wholesales on eBay, and she offered to purchase those items back at wholesale.  (Keep in mind, I paid shipping on those items for starters, and would have to pay return shipping, which would mean I would lose money taking this offer.)

This same distributor's products are sold every day at a discount on a number of other stitching web sites.  I have never personally agreed with the "everything on sale, every day" business model in our industry.  Our mark-up is low compared to other industries, but that decision is each business person's to make.  One of the beautiful things about being a small business owner is making your own decisions.

When I started my business 17 years ago, I faced numerous complaints from other shops (and distributors) who felt that online businesses were unfair and hurtful to the industry.  However, the shops who did not get on the Internet were the first ones to go out of business.  Times change, and so businesses must change, too.  Stubbornly hanging onto the past would mean our malls would be filled with buggy whip outlets and top hat stores.  (Well, and even then, how much longer will we have local malls?)  I have found on eBay that I can reach a much larger group of stitchers world-wide, and the format makes it easier for me to fill orders by taking out a lot of the steps.

No distributor (or designer, or manufacturer) has to agree to sell wholesale (or even retail) to anyone.  However, attempting to control the way a product is sold, adherence to terms of sale, limiting discounts, or agreeing to sell something at a common "retail" price is called price fixing and is punishable under the Sherman Antitrust Act, a federal offense.  Anyone who would bring such a case before a court and win can collect up to three times the damages sustained, plus full compensation of legal and prosecution fees.

I guess I just wanted to let y'all know that the kind of backstage bickering that goes on sometimes in our industry is not only meddling and counter-productive, it's also misguided, uninformed and potentially illegal.  Please know that I am not angry at anyone, nor do I wish anyone any harm.  There are so many great shop owners, customers, distributors, designers, and manufacturers out there!  And I love you guys!!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sarah Chapple 1831

Look at all of the great little plants tucked here and there on the lawn!
I'm not great at keeping secrets... but I kept this one for a couple of years.  I purchased the Sarah Chapple 1831sampler at auction online and paid a pretty penny for it (well, thousands of pretty pennies). But, oh, was it worth it!!!  Look at those cherry reds and olive greens.  They knock my socks off (first, though, they knock my shoes off...then my socks.)  I love anything with a house on it, a red house is even better.

Sarah's signature ... what a girl!
Two years ago, I taught about my sampler collecting at a Silver Needle retreat in Tulsa, and I did take this sampler there.  The gals at the retreat were pretty jazzed about getting their hands on a chart of this one, so I'm pleased the graphing is done.

Can you believe this wonderful girl was only 11 years old when she stitched this sampler?  There are over 42,000 stitches in this one.  Way to go, Sarah!  She was a diligent stitcher.  This one was tricky to graph, because there were sections of her stitching where a lot of the stitches were off by one thread this way and that way and the other way, so I was constantly having to make adjustments.  The back of the sampler is way neater than anything I ever stitch, and most of the verse is stitched over-one on FORTY-EIGHT COUNT LINEN.  I suspect she may have had super powers in order to see those tiny little stitches.

Sarah Chapple 1831
The sampler is in good shape -- very few areas of loss...not many holes.  The sampler at one point had been GLUED down to a board just along the edges, and there is some discoloration right through the center of the scene at the bottom (you can see it as a dark smudge that runs through the fanciful tree on the left of the house).  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the U-shaped border around the verse!  The urns on either side of the house (in the center) don't match, which I also LOVE!  The flowers in them are different, and I think those motifs would make great little fobs or pincushions.

Here is the verse:
                 On Isaiah c. 40th v. 8th 
And is it so that to life's journey's end
God still will prove my Father and my Friend,
To all my weakness still will bend his ear,
And my most feeble accents deign to hear?
Sweet truth _ the fading flower that blooms today,
May ere to_morrows dawn, have passed away.
The grass may wither, and the flower may fade.
Our brightest hope be wrapp'd in deepest shade,
"But God's own word for ever shall endure,"
It stands to all eternity secure!. 
                         Sarah Chapple
                             Her Work
                        Aged 11 Years
Matching the fabric was tricky. It's definitely a natural linen, 48 count, like I said, but it's got that 200-year-old grime thing going on.  It's not DIRTY, but it's not CLEAN, you know what I mean?  I actually have given stitchers a few options: 40 ct. 18th Century Rook by R&R Reproductions is my top pick, but you can also use 40 count Natural or 40 count Dirty linen by Zweigart.  Coffee-, tea-, or walnut-dyeing these fabrics before you stitch will give the fabric a more authentically grungy look.  The fabric has a definite greenish-cast to it.  The stitch count is 301 by 407.  Here are the FINISHED sizes, depending on the count of linen you're working on:
28 count: 21 1/2" by 29"
32 count: 18 3/4" by 25 1/2"
36 count: 16 3/4" by 22 1/2"
40 count: 15" by 20 1/4"
Here is the fiber list.  There are a number of colors of which you'll need multiple skeins, and that information is here as well.  All stitching is done with one strand, if you're working on 40 count.

Au ver a Soie: 2212, 3724, 3745 (2), 4525 (3)
Needlepoint Silk: 333, 336, 505 (3), 976
Gloriana: Elizabethan Green (2), Holly Berry, Spanish Moss (2), Vanilla
Silk N Colours (The Thread Gatherer): Linsey Woolsey (2)

The Sarah Chapple 1831 reproduction chart is $25.00.  There are a few ways you can get a hold of this graph.  The quickest/easiest way is through my Etsy store.  Click on this listing:  Or, have your local shop order it through Hoffman Distributing or Norden Crafts (both will have their copies in the next week).

You can also order the silks set ($113.00) or the fabric ($50.00 for a half yard of 40 count 18th Century Rook or $38.00 for a fat half of 40 count Natural or Dirty Newcastle linen).

Anyway, I hope you like Sarah's sampler.  I really do!  I purchased another new/old/antique one this week from eBay, and I think that's going to be a secret, too.  Secrets can be fun, I'm learning!