Saturday, April 30, 2016

Not So Sweet Bittersweet!

Oh how we all love this pretty orange/red bittersweet vine in the Fall.  It's so pretty for decorating!'s really nasty stuff!  The vines grow fast and furious and will twist and twine around everything.

I don't know where it came from, but we have it growing all over our property and it's viciously taking over.
Hubby and I spent 5 days this past week working on clearing it out.  
The main problem is down at the bottom of our property, close to the road.  This is a picture of it after I had already removed about 15 feet of it. 

It's so difficult to remove too.  Since they are all thin vines twisted together, each stem has to be individually cut.  Then I have to build up the strength of 10 men to pull on the vine in the attempt to unwind it from all of the rest of the mess.
Think of it as a giant oversized clump of DMC floss.  Imagine trying to unravel the strands of floss from a jungled mess and you can slightly understand how evil this bittersweet vine is to remove.

I had started working on it the first day.  After hubby saw my struggles, he joined me in the battle.  
We cleared out enough of it to expose some of the main roots....

Then he got his Bobcat out...
Now let me tell you.... He's had this Bobcat forever.  Years and years it's been around and finally, after all of these years, he taught me how to use it.  
Yes indeed, I climbed into that seat and powered it up and I operated that monster machine like a true master!    Haha...actually, I was very scared but once I got used to it, wow!  I felt so powerful.  
It might just be my new toy to play with this summer!

Anyway, that Bobcat really helped.
We cleared out most of it.  There's still quite a bit yet to do and I hope to get it done this week.
The entire jungled mess was probably a good 20 feet across and a good 10 feet wide so after 4 days working on it, we're both muscle sore.

We unloaded it all up by my husband's garage and he set it afire.  It was gone within a matter of an hour.
 (yes, we're permitted to burn here in Daugherty Twp) 

 Next, I have to work on the tree that's beside it.  It's actually a dead Ash tree but the vine is so twisted up and around it, the Bittersweet is virtually responsible for holding up the dead tree.

So with the benefits of the vine giving us pretty berries in the fall, the vines, if left alone to grow for years and years can become very interesting to look at too...
This is how the Bittersweet vine looks along the edge of our woods, close to our driveway.  
The vines look like giant twisted ropes.
 This actually looks like a huge snake wrapped around a tree...but's the evil Bittersweet vine doing it's thing.

I plan to get hubby to use his chainsaw to cut the twisted parts out.  I'll use them in my garden for decorations.  
So yes, Bittersweet is a good name for this awful vine.  It's more bitter than sweet because it's taken over a lot of our trees and making a jungled mess but the sweet part is the pretty berries on the vines in the fall and also the amazing art that those big twisted vines create.  

Today and tomorrow, we shall rest our sore muscles and then Monday, as long as the day is bright, we shall go back to our battle with the Bittersweet!

Have a wonderful weekend!  
God Bless and be kind!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Taxes Of Our LIves!

It's such a gorgeous day today and my plans for this morning were to go outside and clean up around my vegetable and flower gardens.

However, that was not to be!  I had completely forgotten about paying my business quarterly taxes.
I actually panicked slightly this morning when I realized what the date was because normally they're due right on the 15th so I would have been a day late with payment.  Fortunately, for some reason, the due date is Monday.

So, yes, I spent this morning writing checks. Federal, State and Local quarterly taxes are now paid and will soon be mailed and on the way.

Anyone that has a business knows about the quarterly estimated taxes.  For many years, I did the bookkeeping and payroll for our church so I have a set routine for my business bookkeeping.  Even so, it's such a nuisance.

I'm really OCD when it comes to bookkeeping too.  I have to have everything balanced right up to the very penny.  If it's off, the OCD in me forces me to go over it and over it and over it until I find the error.
So I'm OCD about bookkeeping but I lack the ability to actually remember when the quarterly taxes are due.  I mean, it's obvious that the quarterly taxes are due on the 15th in April, June, September and January (my PA sales tax payment is due twice a year), but I never remember until either I'm late or on the day it's due.
So to remedy that issue....
I wrote reminders to myself on every single stinkin' one of our calendars in our house this morning. This hopefully will remind me to get these quarterly taxes done at least a day ahead of time.  :)

Time will tell if it works.  Most likely it will because those reminders on the calendars will remind my husband who will then remind me.
He's pretty OCD himself about some things....won't go into that but it's just another reason why we have been married for 40 years.  His OCD blends nicely with my OCD.

Ok!  The sunshine and birdies are calling me.  I need to go outside to get some much needed work done in my gardens.
Happy Sunshine-filled Day!
"Be a Little Kinder Than Necessary"

Monday, April 11, 2016

Stitching and Weather ...The Good and The Bad !

If you live here in Western Pa, you'll understand my complaint about the weather.  This is the current weather, right now. 
Actually, 52 degrees isn't as bad as what it has been.  At least we didn't wake up to snow on the ground like the last few days.

Normally,  I don't mind a rainy cold day in the spring.  I'm usually so busy working outside with gardening, that I welcome some bad days to give me a little break.
We've not had enough good days to do anything with the gardens.
But the good thing from all of that is that I have more time for stitching and new designs!

So, I can find the good and the bad with the weather.  I'll deal with it and I can always find something that needs done INSIDE the house while waiting for decent weather to get things done OUTSIDE the house.
My husband, on the other hand, is having some difficulties. 
We were very fortunate that he was able to take an early retirement.  So he's been retired since he was 58 years old.  He's 62 now and at 62, he's pretty well set in his ways.  His "ways" is that he can't stand to sit and watch tv/do nothing all day.  He wants to be able to work outside or putter around in his garage and normally, the cold weather doesn't matter to him.  But, he's had a rather bad cold so he can't go out until he's feeling better.
To make a long story short, the guy is making me crazy with his boredom! almost perfect laid back, easy-going husband is actually getting grumpy!
 We both knew that we better do something about this boredom.  We needed to get out of this house!
So yesterday afternoon, we went to the movies!  I can't even remember the last time we've gone to a movie theater.  We have Netflix and Amazon Prime, along with all of the premium channels on tv so there is rarely a lack of something to watch for us.  But in this case, just getting him out of the house was a necessity.
We went to the movie with Sally Field  "Hello, My Name is Doris".
Loved it!

 I really loved her clothes.  My husband never noticed a thing about her clothes, so it's must be one of those weird male/female differences thing.  I wouldn't mind having some of those clothes she wore...especially the woolen coats...if you know me, you know how I love woolen coats.

After the movies, we went out for dinner.  So I didn't have to cook either!
Taking one day to get away from the business and the house is what we both needed to keep us sane.  
Good day indeed!  

My husband is back to being an almost perfect, laid-back, easy-going man. He going to venture down to his garage and putter a bit too!

I'm going to click the "publish" button and then turn on my audio-book and get back to stitching!
  I hope all of you can find some good in the bad!
Be Kind and Happy Day!

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Sheep Are In The Meadow <<----new design Pattern!

The Sheep Are In The Meadow Wool Applique Table Runner Pattern
When my girls were little, I would sit them on my lap and we'd go through different nursery rhymes, acting them out or singing them.  Itsy Bitsy Spider, Humpty Dumpty, Hey Diddle Diddle, Twinkle Twinkle and my favorite one, Little Boy Blue.
They were so cute acting that one out and I'm pretty sure once they read this, they will still remember our nursery rhyme routine.  It makes me smile just typing this.
Little boy blue!
Blow your horn...
The sheep are in the meadow and
the cow is in the corn!

This "The Sheep are in the Meadow" wool table runner measures 11" x 30" but it can be made however long you wish.  The pattern can be purchased on my website by CLICKING HERE
The wool kit, which includes the pattern and all of the 100% felted wool needed to complete the project is also available.

The Design From Start to Pattern!

I'm often asked...especially when people see me in person at quilt shows or trunk shows, how long it takes me to create something from start to finish.  
It really depends on what's going on in my life.  Usually it's at least a few weeks from start to finish.  Sometimes more, never less.  It really depends on the time of year, (business is always a bit slower for me in early spring) or if I'm reading a really good book...I put designing aside for a while.  :) 

I decided for this "The Sheep are in the Meadow" design, to keep track of my progress from the very start of the simple sketch to the finished table runner pattern. 
Beginning the evening of March 21, 2016....
I had this idea in my head for a while and finally, while watching tv, I quickly sketched out the vision that was in my head....
I have lots of sketches in this sketchbook that just sit there, waiting for me to continue but this one, with the sheep, I was anxious to get started on it.
The next step:
I draw it out onto a large sheet of freezer paper.  A good ruler and quality erasers are essential for this step.
I draw all of my design on my own.  I never ever ever use someone else's design or drawing for even the smallest details.  The flowers, the sheep, the fence, are all my own hand-drawn creations.

Once I have the rough draft drawn up of the basic measurements of the design, I put it aside and work on figuring out what colors to use.
At this point, I dye up the wool that I'll this case, I just needed to dye the yellow flower wool, since all of the other colors that I need are plentiful in my mill-dyed stash.

Ok, so now I have the basic design drawn and the wool ready.  I trace the shapes onto more freezer paper and get started with the best part of designing...the stitching part!

This is definitely the most difficult part because there's a lot of trial and error involved.  I can start off with a design that looks good on paper but just doesn't work when it's stitched.
In this case, I had some adjustments to make on the sheep positions and some wool color issues. There was some stitching and then some unstitching and restitching involved.

When I finished, I hung it up on my board in my workroom.....
I usually hang the design and look at it from a distance for a day or so.  I use that time to see if corrections need to be made.   
I knew when I was stitching this that I needed to make the next one longer.  This one measures about 26".  
I also had decided to use a lighter color gray wool for the sheep faces. Although I love the darker gray on the faces, it doesn't show up well from a distance or in pictures.  That's pretty important!  So you might notice that the lower 4 sheep have lighter faces then the top 4 sheep.   It was just too much unstitching to do to switch out the darker faces ...besides, the first one that I stitch is always the one that I keep for myself.  
Yes, I always stitch at least 2 of every design before I create the pattern to sell.

The next step in the process of creating a new design is to draft the pattern.  Now is when everything has to be measured and drawn out perfectly.  This is the most problematic for me.  For the first one that I stitched, the shapes end up not always exactly the same shape so I have to make those adjustments for the official pattern.
For this sheep design, I drew out the exact layout onto 11" x 17" paper.  I like to give customers the exact layout guide for all of my designs so that they'll easily be able to stitch the design without guessing where things are supposed to be. 
Once that's done, and that takes quite a bit of time, I break it down and draw out each individual pattern shape onto what will be the official pattern sheet.  This also takes quite a bit of time...and a quality eraser!  
I then write the instructions, getting my husband to proofread it after I'm finished.
Once that's all done, it's then that I use my own instructions and drawn pattern to stitch up the final version of the new design. 
I've learned that this is the best way to find errors in either forgetting something in the instructions or measurements, etc.
So, once I have the final design completed and stitched with backing, I go back to my drawings and work on finishing up the pattern.
For the layout guide and the pattern sheet drawings, I scanned them both so that I can clean them up on my computer.  
I have a program on my computer that I use to clean up all of the eraser marks and generally clean up the drawing.  
I go over every single square inch of the drawing to erase any spots and to darken all of the drawn lines.  Again, I remind you that all of my designs are completely drawn by hand...I just use the computer program to make my drawn lines look cleaner than just a thin pencil line.

I don't use any images or clip-art to create anything...even the background scallop shapes for my candle mat designs are all my very own hand-drawn shapes.  Actually, (a little secret that I'll reveal here) it's pretty easy to tell that they aren't copied shapes from someone else's pattern because on paper, every single one of the scallop shapes aren't perfect...the shape curves are all off by about 1/8" or so simply because they are hand-drawn and not computer drafted.  The wonderful thing about working with wool is that 1/8 or even 1/4" isn't the least bit noticeable in the final product.
Some of my very first pattern printings background shapes were really husband stepped in and fixed them all for me so that now, my scallops are almost perfect in measurements.

Anyway, cleaning up the pattern drawings on the computer, takes a tremendous amount of time.  Long hours sitting at the computer screen make my shoulders hurt so I take a lot of stretching breaks.
I actually got tendinitis in my shoulder 2 years ago because I sat too long cleaning up a drawing.  That turned into what is call a "frozen shoulder" and I had to do lots of physical therapy to get it back to working.  I know better now so I take stretching breaks.

This is getting way too long and hubby is wondering why I'm sitting here typing instead of working on orders this morning so I need to finish this up.
In real life, I'm not much of a talker...I'm a listener but for some reason, my fingers like to talk!

So, the pattern drawings are all cleaned up on the computer.  I print them out.  I take pictures of the completed table runner and decide which one to use for the pattern front.   I have another computer program that I use to create the pattern front with picture.  
Once that's completed, everything gets handed over to my husband who then takes charge of getting it all sent to the printer.  Once it's back from the printer, he folds and packs each pattern and then it's ready to sell....
I will at some point tell the story of my husband's expert pattern packing technique...but that's for another time!

  I know this is long so I really appreciate you taking the time to read my words.
Now you know the long tedious process of creating a pattern from start to finish.  
Thank you for reading.  Have a blessed and happy day!  

(Love my customers and a very sincere thank you to those of you who have gone out of their way to message me with their lovely and kind comments.)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

How I Love Spring!

It's such a lovely sunny day today.  Driving some back country roads this morning, I marveled at how pretty all of the blossoming trees are.  Magnolia trees are in full bloom right now and they're oh-so-pretty!  Magnolia trees are my favorite springtime blooming trees.  I love to see the blossoms on the ground after they've fallen off the tree too.
The colors and the blossoms and the cool air with the warm sun make today just the perfect spring day for me.  
Lilac Bush!
My Lilac bushes are no where close to blooming but I'm really getting anxious to see how well they blossom this year after their trimming back last fall.  I'm hoping for more blossoms than ever.
I'm especially anxious to cut a huge bouquet of them for inside the house.  I have a crystal Waterford vase I always use for them. 
Lilac Beauty Candle mat in Black
My "Lilac Beauty" candle mat is needing a pretty vase of Lilacs right in the center of it!

Lilac Beauty Candle Mat in Natural White

If you'd like to have a pretty wool Lilac Beauty candle mat under your bouquet of flowers, just visit my website by CLICKING HERE  for the pattern.. I have the wool kits available for both the black background and the natural white background.

Geranium Pin Cushion

If you don't want to tackle making a candle mat, consider stitching just a single flower from the pattern for a pin cushion or shelf pillow.
Some designers don't want the customer to alter their patterns in any way, but I don't mind at all.  I love seeing how my customers use something of mine to create something different.  As long as the pattern is purchased from me and credit is given to me as the original designer, my customers are welcome to do just about anything they wish with the pattern design.

I used to make pin cushions to sell as finished items.  You can tell from all of my patterns that flowers are my favorite designs to create.  I've done dozens of flowers over the years.... geraniums, pansies, lilacs, violets, dogwood, daisies, sunflowers, coneflowers, lily-of-the-valley, pussywillows, queen anne lace, thistle, and even dandelions.

Pin Cushions!
The picture above is a 2006 scrapbook picture of just some of the pincushions that I made that year and sold.
Pansies were my favorite to stitch.
So consider pin cushions or shelf pillows for some quick and easy stitching projects.  They make great gifts too.

Thank you for reading!  Be happy, be kind!
Happy Day!