Category Archives: Wisdom of the ‘sisterhood’

Stitching retreat…

…is one of the great joys of my life.

Every year at the beginning of August the Needlework Guild of Minnesota hosts a teaching retreat for needlework in Buffalo, MN.  The venue is the lovely Christ the King Retreat Center, a place where many of the sleeping and teaching rooms, as well as the dining room overlook the lake and offer the chance to see amazing sunsets over the water.

The retreat is well priced and full every year–generally without even having to open it to non-guild members. This says a lot about the enthusiasm of the needleworkers who make up the membership. It also says a lot about the careful planning that goes into making every year a success.  I want to add my resounding ‘thank you’ to those involved in this year’s effort because it was fabulous.

I had the joy of going to Retreat this year with a group of friends I have fondly referred to on this blog as the ‘stitching sisters’.  They include a sister from North Dakota, a sister by marriage and several local sisters, all of whom are wonderful friends.  This talented group (both within the world of needlework and without) made this year the  best ever for me. To each one of them…dear sisters of my heart…thank you.

The Retreat is also amazing because of the instruction available to all attendees.  Each year top notch national and international teachers come for 4-6 days to share their talents, new ideas and teaching projects.  In the past we’ve had the likes of Janice Love, Tanya Berlin, Kay Stanis, Barbara Mayo-Grass, Jane Nicholas, Cayla Conn Tyler, Diane Fitzgerald and Shay Pendray (this is by no means an exhaustive list).  This year was no different.  Robin Laukhuf of Olde Willow Threads, Leslie Granbeck (teacher of all things felted) and Carole Lake were our teachers.  All and I do mean ALL the projects were fabulous.  My choice was to stitch in Carole’s class–the fabulous St. Basil’s Cathedral (needlepoint). I was joined by three of the sisters and we had a great time.  Carole is an exceptional teacher and we went home with a fair amount of canvas covered. (I will edit this to share a photo of my work in progress later.)

St. Basil's in progress 1

The pace was just right and four days flew by in a flash.

So, Retreat may be over for another year, but I have my memories, echos of shared laughter and a beautiful project.  I am…grateful.



PS: To Mom…yes, I am knitting. 🙂


The sisterhood gathers…

…and portentous signs, wonders and deeds are in the offing. Or something like that. No, we’re not the Continental Congress or even the 21 century version of that esteemed body, but when we gather things get done. (I do wish we had their budget! :-)) So let the Earth tremble as the High Test Estrogen Fest begins!

This coming weekend at approximately 10 p.m. on Thursday night the festivities will commence with the arrival of dear friend Janet on my doorstep.  She is  coming almost 300 miles just to be with us. I imagine it will be a late night as we catch up. It has been wayyyy too long since we had a chance to put our feet under the same table and have a good visit whilst knitting and sipping tea.

Friday will involve a trip to Amazing Threads, one of the finest purveyors of yarn and all manner of knitting esoterica in the country.  Because we are taking a cabled vest class on Sunday, we need to invest in yarn, needles, cable needles, pattern and all manner of fun stuff.   After shopping, I will keep my appointment with the king’s torturers (aka: trainers and cardiac rehab folks).  I gotta do it, because Ms. Janet has promised to bring her specialty…Red Velvet cake. Do you really think I’m going to say ‘no thanks’?  No, I’ll just do 25 extra minutes on something. 🙂

Friday evening the entire sisterhood, save D’Arcy (not making the trip from the east coast, but still with us in heart) will be gathering at Old Chicago restaurant in Minnetonka for a bit of dinner. In addition, to having a nicely varied menu, Old Chicago has one other great advantage as a meeting place. It is a block down from the largest needlework store in Minneapolis Can you say…CCCHHHHAAARRRRGGGGEEEE!!!  We hope a lot of the new Nashville pieces will be out and we plan to fall off the wagon together…probably with a resounding thud!

Saturday is reserved for stitching, talking and probably a bit of eating here at the house, with dinner out following. I will be making some soup and chili, cracking a bottle of good red wine and relaxing with some of the best women in the universe! We will also be divvying up the pot for the 2008 Sisterhood Challenge. I will NOT be a winner, but it was still really good for me!

Sunday is knitting class for Janet and I and Monday…well, that’s for recovery. 🙂

I am…excited, blessed and will share some photos of the event next week.

May your weekend hold both stitches and times with loved ones.



The Santa Fe Outer Borders…

…are done. All I’m going to do tonight before bed is post my progress photos from the weekend. But the textures are cool, no? It is on to filling in the middle motifs this week.

Well…actually, I’m not…going to post photos, that is. WordPress isn’t cooperating tonight. So, I will post photos tomorrow.

I shared some wonderful time with stitching sisters today. A small group of us got together, stitched for much of the afternoon, then went out for dinner. It was very nice and these ladies are the best! (Read that…none of you who were here are slimy scumbags or whatever it was I said this afternoon. For the record. I WAS REFERRING TO CRUELLA’S HENCHMEN!)

Everyone who was here and who is a part of the 2008 Sisterhood Challenge is making progress on their planned stitching for the year. I have now created a page (found in the sidebar) where everyone’s goals are listed. This should be helpful since most of us have forgotten what we’d decided to do. 🙂

I hope everyone had a wonderful day that included friendship, family and stitches.



Finish #3 for 2008 and…

…a post with some photos. Wow….go me. 🙂

Right now I seem to be in a knitting mode. It’s easy to see, I can do it when I have a non-migraine type of headache and there’s a LOT more in the way of immediate gratification. It’s not that I’m sour on needlework, it’s more…a mood.

Given all this it seems appropriate to announce my first knitting finish of the year. A scarf/shawl. No, there’s no fancy name, no fancy pattern, just k3, p3 all the way across until you have a scarf/shawl the width you want…then keep doing it until you have the length you want. It was the perfect project to get these fingers back into shape.

The first picture is the entire scarf/shawl (boy, this is one cumbersome, not-fancy name!):

Scarf-photo one

The second is a close up of the thing that started it all back last summer. Have you ever found a must-have shawl pin…and woe is you…it’s bought and paid for but then you find you have no shawl to pin it on? Bingo. You’re feeling my pain. I had to do something. I mean…it’s just not appropriate for a crafty woman to go buy a shawl. HORRORS!

Therefore, this is my solution. One handmade scarf/shawl  for my ‘couldn’t pass up‘ pin. Yarn:  $50, shawl pin: $38, satisfaction of making it my ownself:  Priceless! In retrospect, I’m sure this is all Paula’s fault!!! (See…she was with me on this particular shopping trip and had to have this gorgeous ball of yarn. Fine.  Well, except the yarn came in a non-pull skein, so it had to be wound. No problem, the shop owner was wonderful and had a swift and ball winder. In theory I shouldn’t even have had time to shop, but aforementioned ball of yarn was tangled…didn’t come of the swift like a nice ball of yarn should…and the rest, as they say, is history. )  So…enjoy your view of my ‘return to knitting catalyst’. 🙂

Enameled/sterling shawl pin

Now…just for the record,I love my pin, I’m pretty tickled with how the scarf/shawl came out…so I’m not going to be too hard on my beloved sister-in-law. After all, we did manage to have a LOT of fun in an hour or so of shopping AND I now have something that will keep my shoulders warm and my neck at the height of fashion. Ah…life is good.

The yarn is a NORO 100% wool. I think the colors are pretty spectacular. I used four balls and the shawl/scarf measures about 15×70. There are a few boo-boos, but my hands picked up the rhythm pretty quickly. I also want to say a thank you to two other sisters in stitches…Marsha and Sue…for giving me a refresher course. Given the many hours of pleasure knitting has given me, I’m really glad to be back.

Because I don’t want to get so out of practice again, as soon as I finished Project #1, I started on Project #2. It’s an afghan kit I’ve had for a long time. It’s one of the beautiful Colinette afghans with 8 different-hand dyed yarns. I am knitting the simplest of all the patterns they give called Sideways Strips, in the Meadow colorway. Here’s my first photo:

Meadow Afghan

This photo really doesn’t do justice to the different colors and textures, but I think it’s going to be gorgeous. And…just to go on record: Mohair yarn is NOT my favorite. 🙂

Lest you think I’ve forgotten my first needlework love, rest assured I have also been stitching. I finished my Advent Sampler Rotation and this is where I’m leaving Adam and Eve until next time:

Advent Sampler by Mary Beale-end of Rotation 1

Please excuse the wonky photo…I’m still getting used to a new camera. But you can see I got a lot of the greens at the bottom finished, Adam now has hair and I’ve started the lettering.  I’m hoping to finish Adam and Eve by the end of the next rotation and be ready to move onto Noah. But for now it’s back to the Ancestral Wedding Sampler by Kingsland.

Now, before I close, I have one more thank you to say and I’m going to do it in this VERY public forum. Everyone who reads My Needle in Hand is familiar with the ladies I lovingly refer to as my ‘stitching sisters’. Theresa, Paula (who is my sister-in-law as well as a stitching sister), Susan and Janet. (We also have a junior member-Ms. Maddie, who is Paula’s daughter and my niece as well as a long-distance member, Darcy, who is my sister-in-law on the other side of the family and a knitter).

Anyway, I digress. Susan, innocently enough, invited the sisterhood over for dinner and stitching last Saturday. And…lo and behold, everyone but Darcy (who lives in Virgina and was missed!) was there. It was wonderful. A simple afternoon and evening of stitching, chatting and eating. What could be better? That’s when I found out the sisterhood could easily be drafted by any covert organization in the world. These wonderful ladies had turned dinner into a suprise birthday party for me, complete with a wonderful meal, cake, presents and even an age-appropriate (I’m going to be fifty in a week) magic wand.  It was a wonderful evening and ladies, since I know most of you read this blog, THANK YOU for making me feel so special. You are all blessings in my life!

I’m sorry I can’t share photos…but I didn’t have a camera. Come to think of it, perhaps that’s a  good thing. 🙂

Well…that’s about it for now. I have updated my pages for goals, stitching hours and my wish list. I will post another stitchy update later in the week. For right now, I’m off to do a little stitching on my Laura Perin Color Cubes. (Have I mentioned I LOVE Laura Perin designs?)

May your days continue to be warm, sunny and frogless!



Can you believe it’s already the end of January?

I can’t. It seems the days just fly by right now. It’s been a very cold month here, so I’ve spent a lot of time indoors and even better, some time stitching.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned a gathering of the sisterhood here at the house. I wanted to share a photo of that wonderful day with women I cherish: (Clockwise from back: Janet, your’s truely, Maddie Julie, Susan, Paula’s chair, Theresa)
Stitching at table

and, just so she doesn’t feel left out (which it appears she didn’t:-)): Dear Paula and Maddie…both lights in my life:

Paula and Maddie-Love the outfits!

And, lest I forget…my first finish of the year, which was started on the day we had our gathering. May I present ‘Family’ by Pine Mountain:


I know it looks a little crooked and frankly, it is because the Tula fabric is sewn in crooked. 😦 There are two full threads of difference between one side and the other and the top and the bottom…made it difficult to center.) But apart from that, I do love the pattern. I personalized it with our initials (Dan and mine), the year we were married and this year (our 25th!).

And last, but not least, I wanted to share my progress on the Kingsland Ancestral Wedding Sampler (through Band 4). This is through the first rotation.


Of course my photo didn’t capture the wonderful richness of the colors, but it’s been a fun stitch. The space you see between the lines of cross stitch will be a personalized account of a very special wedding. I am in the process of charting that now.

I’ve got to fly, in that I’m due into work shortly. Hope your day holds lots of happy stitching time.



A personal post…

–I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day. –Abraham Lincoln

(Before you start to read, be aware that, as titled, this post is largely personal and perhaps even the tiniest bit mopey. It speaks of feelings and of my personal beliefs. Join me if you choose…and welcome to my world :-)))

It’s hard to believe it’s just a few more days until Christmas. We will be with my family this year and are looking forward to that reunion. My mom e-mailed today and is busy preparing goodies, like fruit soup and hot air, in anticipation of time together. Are we spoiled or what?

It will be wonderful to spend time with my brother, my new sister, my niece and nephew, mom and even some of our extended family…for loved ones are the second greatest gift of Christmas. I look forward to times of laughter (and some tears), worship and yes, even some handwork. My new sister (actually sister-in law…but I consider that distinction meaningless!) knits. Isn’t that cool??? Together we are going to try to find our way through the mine field of knit one purl two.

Even with all the beauty of the season and the fun preparations, my heart is still heavy. It’s been a long year and, while there many, many reasons to be thankful, I am still trying to find the joy that Christmas often brings. Losses…one very, very recent, leave a great emptiness that used to be filled with two that I cherished. One of those is, I’m convinced, sharing his first Christmas with His Savior and that thought does bring a smile, even through the sorrow. I am sure that Heaven will never be quite the same now that Dad is there. 🙂

But, even though I’m struggling a bit, today I listened to a song that reminded me of the joy that cannot be shaken by circumstance. I am trying to keep my spirit centered on the blessing offered to me by these words by Don Francisco and the promise he writes of:

The center of the ages, the Lord talks with a girl
and by the words He speaks He gives a Savior to the world.
The time grows to its fullness and Mary's Son is born.
The promise's fulfillment, lies asleep now in her arms.

He didn't come to terrify, to judge or condescend
to call us all His servants, but to lift us as His friends.
To save us all from Satan's power, to reign at His right hand,
Once for all eternity, God became a man.

Today the God of Majesty was given to the Earth
A gift of such magnificence we can never plum its worth.
The rudeness of the setting just ignites the Jewel's fire.
A pearl beyond the greatest price, the joy of man's desire.

What a gift!

I also was lifted by wonderful e-mails from the stitching sisters. We are planning a gathering shortly after the first of year. A long weekend filled with laughter and our group’s celebration of Christmas. I do love these ladies: Paula, Susan, Janet and Theresa…thank you for the light you are in my life!

Needlework wise, I’m trying to think through a rotation for 2008 and working like mad to get my MNA submission finished. I need to have it complete and submitted by the end of the year. I have also been working on a special wedding sampler. I will post a photo tomorrow at the end of my stitching…so you can see a bit more than a little green blob. 🙂

What else is on the agenda for tomorrow? A haircut, an eyebrow wax, packing and sending our e-Christmas greeting to loved ones near and far. Our snail mail greeting may not get finished in time, so it will be more in the way of a New Year’s missive this year. I also have a gift or two to pick up. We will be doing some shopping after we go east, simply because it’s not easy to carry much on a flight.

I hope this note finds everyone well and surrounded by those you love most.




Can it be November already?

Where does the time go? Well, I know where it goes, I just have to practice at using it better. In the time since I last posted I’ve worked on some knitting, taken two Catherine Theron classes and been to our annual fall retreat at a center here in town. But, apart from having ‘startitis’, I don’t have much in the way of progress to report.

I have to stop and pick up some batteries for my camera, then I will regale you with photos of my…less than stellar…progress.

Note to self:  GET A ROTATION STARTED!!!!!

Recently I spent time with a very dear friend who gets things done. Things like ‘And They Sinned’, Desiderata and even quilts (and the quilts are quilted and on beds!!! Can you imagine?!?) She is inspiring, so I picked her brain on rotation…and I think I’m going to give it a try after the first of the year.  The first I need to do is revisit my stash and decide what is going to get attention first!

I did update my stash sale…nothing new yet, but stay tuned. 🙂

I miss being here  and posting regularly, so I’m hoping I’m back. I hope each one of you is well, happy and stitching away.



Boy…have I been lax

I am sorry for the poor posting and writing habits lately. I’ve been re-discovering a lot of things in the wake of surgery…things like working more, rearranging and doing a deep cleaning of the house (with the help of my intrepid DH), trying to get into some kind of exercise program (rather than catch as catch can) and just…well…life.

Part of the problem is my studio/study is a MESS. M…E…S…S!!!!! I took some stash out to sell and in the process pulled most of the contents of my well-organized closet out into the middle of the floor. There they stand, looking for all the world like my own personal tower of Babel. 😦 I think just about every flat surface is covered with something.

But there is hope. This week we plan to start on the upstairs. We’re taking an old couch out of the studio/den, putting in some new bookcases and a desktop that goes over them and I am PUTTING AWAY.

I want this little project finished and order restored posthaste! While this rearrangement is necessary and will give me much better space, I find it very difficult to work in chaotic surroundings…hence not much is getting done. It’s frustrating because I have projects I’m itching to continue.

One of those projects is a quilt I started the week before last. Back at retreat in August, I invited myself to the home of my roommate who, in addition to being a very gifted stitcher, is also a quilter. I wanted to learn the basics because I have a couple of kits to put together. Janet very graciously opened her home and very patiently spent the last weekend in September having me as both a houseguest and student. I had a wonderful and productive time…I can’t wait to go back, but for now, I want to use my new-found skills before I forget them. 🙂

So…I guess I’ve got to get busy.

I did have a wonderful afternoon/evening on Saturday at the home of another one of the ‘sisterhood’. Theresa has a lovely home…beautifully decorated, and very welcoming to guest and owner alike. She also has a menagerie of wonderful furbabies…two white shepherds who are great company, two kitties and a bunny named Georgie. 🙂 It is always great fun to have a get-together and to be with each of these precious women…I am very blessed!

I am also humbled by the beautiful work each one of them has going on…Theresa is almost finished with ‘My Stitching Treasures’ by Jeannette Douglas and it’s gorgeous. Paula had her own happy dance last weekend, when she finished ‘Music is a Great and Glorious Gift’,  Susan was working on a Guild project and I plugged along on the Advent Sampler by Mary Beale.

I hope each one of you are having a wonderful, productive and invigorating autumn season.



Stitching in the company of friends…

I had a wonderful day yesterday…starting with a longtime stitching friend who came over just after lunch. She was working on a new Bent Creek mystery that is very cute and HUGE!!!

Shortly after she arrived two more friends (a.k.a. the ‘knitting teachers) arrived. I spent the remainder of the afternoon happily rediscovering casting on, knit, purl and casting off. After dinner, more intrepid stitchers arrived to grace my table and my spirit with their company.

Marsha (in addition to being my primary knitting instructor) was working on Glendon Place ‘Paisley Pumpkins’. THEY ARE FAB!!!!!! Sue (Marsha’s co-teacher) was working on an over one piece by the Trilogy. It was so cute…but her evening ended with a visit to the frogs 😦 I’m sure it’s because I kept interrupting her. Gloria stopped by for a while and worked on ‘Four Fat Friends’…a Guild project that’s going to be finished into a stand up next month. Brenda was crocheting a beautiful royal blue doily that will be a shower gift for one of the other of the sisterhood who will be married next month.  And Susan was working on her Workbasket peacocks…I know she will have a happy dance here in the very short term future.

It was a wonderful time (for me and I hope for them) of relaxing, sharing different forms of this exquisite hobby and even sipping a glass of wine or two.

To end the evening…Paula stopped by with Ms. Maddie. They’d come from an evening of cultural dance and fellowship to say  ‘hi’ to those of us plying needle and thread, to pick up a couple of patterns (Paula) and to eat ‘Old McDonalds’ (Maddie). I think there might have been a glass of wine shared, too. (Paula) 🙂

Today, I’m feeling much better and am off to work. I hope to spend a little time tonight casting on my new project. Marsha and Sue were REALLY good teachers!




-There is always a lot to be thankful for if you take the time to look for it. Right now, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt!-Barbara Johnson-

What an appropriate quote for today. I really am glad wrinkles don’t hurt because the rest of me is having one of those mornings: The kind of morning where I feel twice my age. I did too much of an upper body workout yesterday and I have the ‘ouchies’, particularly where my breastbone is wired back together. Thankfully the ‘ouchies’ aren’t terminal, naproxin is my friend and it’s still a beautiful, sunny day. 🙂

I am also blessed because I’m sitting in my sewing room, surrounded by silks, linens and patterns, tools of an avocation which means a great deal to me. I have the eyesight, leisure and ability to work with these gorgeous materials, good friends who share this passion and today I have the special emotional rush that comes with having another happy dance to report.

Yes, Western Skies is done, done, done. I finished at about 11 p.m. last night. I LOVED working on it and will definitely do another Laura Perin. Terrific instructions and it worked up very fast. In fact, someone probably needs to (PLEASE!!!!) talk me out of buying her entire American Quilt Series this morning.

Whew…after a few touch and go moments, I got my bad clickie finger under control without buying a thing. So…moving right along; here it is…Western Skies by Laura Perin. Stitched on 18 ct canvas with Mulberry Watercolours and #5 DMC Pearl Cotton (Ecru, #3041 and #224).

Western Skies finished. Laura Perin Designs

I was going to finish this as a pillow, but right now I’m leaning toward framing it. That way I can do more of this series, have them framed the same way and…delusions of grandeur here…have a whole wall of quilts. 🙂

As always when I finish something there’s a little restlessness built into the elation. The biggest challenge now is to figure out what I want to work on next. I’m really tempted to stay with canvas for a while. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it and how fast it works up, even with more complicated stitches. But I have so many counted thread pieces screaming…loudly! (Can you hear the voices in my head? :-)))

So, to appease those voices and stop the shouting, I’m leaning toward picking up my Papillion Creations Mystery Sampler. With a couple weeks of concentrated work, I could be dancin’ again (I would love for that to become a habit!!!).


And, speaking of next week, (did y’all like that smooth connection?) it promises to be a little bit of stitchy heaven on earth. To start things off, I’m hosting a GTG of the ‘sisterhood’ at my house this Saturday. Then next Thursday through Sunday (9-12) is Guild Retreat. I’m taking classes with Jane Nicholas and also with Cayla Conn Tyler (stumpwork and canvas).

To make the week complete, a good friend from about 5 hours away is coming for retreat a little early and will be staying with Dan and I for a few nights before we head out to the retreat center…and will also be my roommate at retreat. I am so excited, I just hope she doesn’t get tired of me. :-)))))))

So…who cares about an achy chest when I can dance the day away? 🙂 (there’s a picture!)

Happy birthday to dear Carol, and to the rest of you, peaceful stitches and frogless hours.