Willing Hands Needlework Design

"She seeketh wool and flax and worketh willingly with her hands"
Proverbs 31:13

Welcome to my blog! I created this blog to keep you updated on my teaching schedule, designs, new designs, kit availability,
works in progress and other stitching related activities. From time to time I'll also be adding extra info about goings-on in my life.

To see my current teaching schedule, teaching pieces and retired designs, click on "older posts" at the bottom of each page.

Thank you for visiting!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Big Changes on the Way

First of all, heartfelt thanks to all of you who offered your condolences in the post below.  Some mornings I still find myself looking out the window to see where the horses are, but for the most part my period of grieving is winding down and I’m remembering the good times.

Now for the main news...

After losing the horses my husband and I decided to sell our farm and move south.  We are both a bit too old to start over with new horses and my husband was getting tired of maintaining all of the property.  Without the horses, there wasn’t much point in staying on the farm, so we spent the summer renovating the house and put the farm on the market in September.  No nibbles yet but we are hoping that will change soon.

We decided on the Charleston, SC area because my best friend, my sister, now lives there and we have other very close friends in the area.  Plus it puts us half the distance from my husband’s family in Florida than we are here in Virginia.  And for my husband the best part is knowing that he will probably never have to shovel snow again!

We have been to Charleston a few times to look at homes and have found several that we love.  There is also a massive amount of new home construction there, so much to choose from.  We just need to sell our farm first.  Once we move I will still be designing and teaching, just from a different home base...for a while...

The other big change coming is that I have set a date to retire.  I just enrolled in Medicare and will turn 65 shortly so it seems like a good idea.  As much as I love designing, teaching, meeting all of you and traveling, I would also love time to stitch on all of those kits and charts which are sitting in my stash.  I’d like to get back into gardening and cooking, both of which I enjoy but have neglected these last 15 years.  And then there is the potential for grandchildren to spoil sometime in the future.

I have set the date for New Year’s Eve 2020, so I will continue on for 3 more years.  At this point I am completely booked for 2018 and am booking classes for 2019.  So, if you have any desire for taking one of my classes, time is limited!

Thank you all for your support, enthusiasm and friendship all these years and as I wind down my career!  More to come as things progress....

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Sad Day at Willing Hands

Those of you who have taken my classes over the years, have been my friends and have followed my career, know that I live on a small farm in Virginia and have been blessed with two wonderful Arabian mares.

Yesterday we had to euthanize both of them. 

   I was one of those little girls who got bit by the horse bug at a very early age and never recovered.  I spent my entire childhood and early teens dreaming of having a horse of my own.  Life circumstances interfered and it was not until my family moved to Loudoun County, Virginia 22 years ago that I finally decided to make my life-long dream come true.  My friend Melissa and I spent weeks looking for just the right horse and we found her on a farm in Woodstock, Virginia.  I was leery of the price but Melissa said, "Just write the check.  She's perfect!".  I bought Roszie when I was 47 years old.  We had many years of wonderful trail rides, going at flat-out gallops across the fields of central Virginia.  She was an amazing show horse as well and she earned my daughter numerous ribbons.

Roszie had been retired for several years due to arthritis and other joint issues.  She would have been 29 years old on June 30.

When we first bought our farm we boarded two other horses for a friend.  One was a black Quarter Horse named Raven, who is portrayed on my Toy Chest Etui along with Roszie.  The other was a bay Arabian mare named Mystic.  Their owner decided to take Raven off for dressage training but didn't want to keep Mystic, so she stayed with us, became my husband's horse and lived with us for 11 years.

About 6 weeks ago, Mystic came down with Cushings disease, a very common illness in older horses.   It caused her to founder in both front hooves and she became instantly lame.  She also had developed an insulin imbalance and arthritis in her hooves.  Cushings is incurable and she was not responding to medication for both that and the insulin issues.  Her future looked bleak, she would have required daily medication, she would never have been able to graze freely again, she would have been frequently confined to her stall and, of course, she could never be ridden again.  In other words, she would have had no quality of life.

So, we made the terribly sad but completely necessary decision to relieve them of their pain.

They will always hold a huge part of my heart and I will miss them for the rest of my life.  But I will remember all of the joy they brought me and I fully expect to meet up with them at The Rainbow Bridge one day.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A new year, a new design

Happy Spring, everyone!

I've spent the winter designing and stitching and the result is a new workshop piece.  This one is a jump out of the box, color-wise, as the linen is a very pale yellow and the color palette is very Spring-like.  I suppose that, back in February, I was looking out at the bleak winter landscape and wishing for warmth and flowers.

The theme this time around is "swans" - swan eggs, baby swans, adolescent swans, full grown swans.    The title of the design is The Swan's Bower and the original inspiration came from a motif on an 1813 English Sampler which is in my collection.  Another inspiration was a motif on a sampler that I saw in a museum in Timaru, New Zealand last year.

The format for this etui comes from an antique needle book that I bought at Beating Around the Bush in Australia last year.  The original is burgundy colored velvet and is rather worn and ugly, but the construction of it fascinated me and I thought that I could take the format and run with it.  The original was commercially made in England in the early 1900's

My version is much larger and has pockets inside, made from the yellow silk Dupioni lining fabric.  There are 3 "smalls" to tuck into the pocket - a scissor holder and fob and a floss holder.  Also included is a swan beeswax thread waxer and a tiny enameled swan charm.  The center of the inside of the book has an attached needle/pin holder which has a thick piece of yellow wool felt inside to hold the needles/pins.

This design will be available as of January 2018 as a two day workshop.  The kit fee will be $180 and will include all of the supplies needed to complete the design - 32 count linen, silk Dupioni lining, interfacings, comic board, skirtex, Gloriana silk floss in 8 colors, DMC pearl cotton, needles, pins, charm, thread waxer, wool felt, full color charts and thorough instructions.

Once again, Happy Spring!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Day 100!

Kia Ora!  (Hello in Maori)

Today is the last day of The 100 Days Project which I wrote about in the post below.

I have had a wonderful time doing this project and managed to keep up with it even while teaching and traveling in Australia and New Zealand for the entire month of October.  I filled the entire piece of linen and have a 2 1/2 inch border all around the stitched area for framing.

In the process of doing this project, I quickly realized that 10 colors of floss was not enough so I added three more - gray, brown and lavender.  One of the last motifs is one I designed just for the project - a Kiwi bird with an egg sitting in a leafy nest.  Since the project hails from New Zealand, I thought mine should have a related motif included in it.

On that note, on my last day in Queenstown, before flying home, my daughter, sister, niece and I all got tattoos!  Getting a tattoo is the last thing that I ever thought I would do, but my daughter talked me into it.  I got a small Kiwi bird on the inside of my wrist as a memento of all of the wonderful visits I've made to New Zealand.

Today, on the last day, I stitched two tiny motifs to fill in a couple of empty areas and then added my initials and the date.  The completed project is below.

Now I have to come up with an idea for next year!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

100 Days Project

Greetings fellow Needleworkers!

I'm just back from a month long teaching trip in New Zealand, where I taught 3 classes at the national conference for the Association of New Zealand Embroidery Guilds in Auckland and then did a five city teaching tour of the country.

At the conference, which was held at the club house of a thoroughbred race track in a suburb of Auckland, I was thrilled to be a member of the faculty which included Jane Nicholas, Owen Davies, Christine Bishop, Allison Cole and Allison Snepp among others.

The teaching tour took me to cities on both the north and south islands where I met lots of very talented and dedicated needleworkers and stayed in the homes of some lovely women.  I got to see sampler collections in the archives of a couple of museums and even woke up to snow one morning.

While at the conference I learned of an ongoing project out of New Zealand which caught my attention and fascinated me.  It's called The 100 Days Project and its purpose is to inspire creativity by having you commit to doing one creative thing each day for 100 days.  It can be anything that you want to do - draw a bird, photograph a tree, write a poem, sing a song, etc.  I decided to sign up and commit to stitching one blackwork motif every day.

The project kicked off this year on August 24 and will end on December 1.  It runs on New Zealand time which is 16 hours ahead of where I live so I'm actually working a day ahead and began the project on August 23.

I've cut a large piece of 36 count Ivory linen and have chosen 10 Gloriana silk flosses for the project. The only other planning I've done is to create a file with lots of blackwork motifs to work from.  Some of them are hundreds of years old, some were created by other current designers and some of them I designed myself.  I'm not doing any composition or planning any placement for the motifs except for leaving 6 threads between each one, both horizontally and vertically.  I'm simply getting up in the morning, choosing a motif and stitching it.  At the end, I'll have a very large spot motif sampler of sorts.

This is a major commitment of my time, given my travel schedule, which include teaching at Beating Around the Bush in Australia in October.  But I'm determined to stick with it.  If you'd like to follow the adventure with me...

Go to 100daysproject.co.nz.  Under "Current Projects" click on "sort by - name A to Z" and scroll down to my name in the "B" section.  You'll see a photo of me and my name.  Click on the photo and it will take you to my project page where you can view each day's effort.  I'd love to hear what you think of my project and the whole 100 Days Project in general!

                                                               Motif from Day One

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Virgin Queen's Stitching Wallet

Happy Spring and Happy belated 2016 stitching friends!

It has been a very long time since I posted anything here.  2015 was taken up with an insane travel schedule and this winter was taken up with travel and surgeries.  Happily, I'm fine and back to work - at the moment I'm putting together about 150 kits for a conference in Auckland, New Zealand this summer which will be followed by a 5 city teaching tour of that gorgeous country.  In between all of the above I've managed to produce a new design.

A bit of background...last spring I did a 5 city teaching tour of the South - Charlotte, NC, Athens, GA, Atlanta, GA, Hilton Head, SC and Richmond, VA.  Along the way I had a couple of days off and on one of them I stumbled on a small antique mall on a country road somewhere along the NC/SC border.  There I found a wonderful leather sewing kit which probably dates to the 1920's.  It had all of the original tools which were made of celluloid, as well as French cardboard thread winders, lots of cards of buttons and a packet of needles at a price of $25!  Needless to say, I snatched it up.  The inspiration for the new design began there with the leather folding wallet type format of the sewing kit.  But what to stitch on the outside?  What theme?

That problem was solved by a student, Lori Doty of Livermore, California.  She attended my annual classes at Elegant Stitch in Modesto and one of her stitching tools sitting on her table was a scissor sheath worked in multicolored black work on the front and white work on the back.  It was lovely and definitely Elizabethan in style.  Lori graciously allowed me to photograph it and it set my imagination on fire.  This was last October.

I spent months playing around with adapting traditional blackwork patterns and developing some of my own and the result is the design below.  A little Bargello found its way in as well with two very traditional patterns.

The photos below show the piece folded closed, the entire outside opened up and the entire inside opened up.  The silk lining fabric is my favorite acid green color but I will also have red and blue silk lining options for those who aren't fans of what my friend Lucy calls "slime green".  The design is worked on 32 count ivory linen with DMC Pearl cotton and Gloriana silk flosses.  The "smalls" are a scissor fob, two octagon shaped thread winders and a needle book with wool felt pages and silk satin ribbon spine.  The design is largely worked in my favorite stitch - double running (Holbein), but may also be worked in back stitch.

This will be a two day class and will be available as of January 2017.  The kit fee is $180.

I hope that you like it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bristol Sampler Stitching Bag

At long last I have a new design to debut!  Based on 1860's samplers from the Ashley Down Orphan Houses in Bristol England and including the new (to me) technique of English paper piecing, this design is fun to stitch and construct.
Following the tradition of the original samplers, it is stitched entirely in red floss on white linen.  The bag itself is worked with an alphabet and single motifs from the original samplers which were comprised of rows of alphabets and rows of repeating motif patterns.  The base of the bag is made of four patterns of red and white quilting fabric which have been cut into triangles and joined using the paper piecing technique.  The octahedron shaped pin cushion is constructed the same way.  The bag includes a solid red lining which forms a ruffle at the top and has sleeves to hold two striped ribbon draw strings, each of which ends in a small stitched tab with space for initials and dates on one side and tiny floral and geometric motifs on the back sides.  The bag is approximately 6 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter.
The "smalls" are: a needle book with wool felt needle pages and a ribbon spine, a paper pieced pin cushion, a scissor fob and a thread winder.
The two day class will focus on the paper pieced bag base and pin cushion, and making the red bag lining.  The kit includes Belfast linen, Gloriana silk floss, DMC pearl cotton, 6 quilt fabrics, wool felt, Gloriana silk ribbon, striped cotton ribbon, paper piecing supplies, skirtex, interfacing, sewing thread, needles, polyfil, color charts and detailed instructions.  The kit fee is $140 and the design is available for workshops beginning January 1, 2016.
Note:  kits for future classes may not include the exact red and white fabrics used in the model because I'm at the mercy of fabric companies which are prone to discontinuing designs, but I will make every effort to match fabrics as closely as possible to the original.  Thanks for your understanding!
I hope that you like it!