Sunday, October 31, 2010

Historic Connecticut Needlework

On my recent trip to Connecticut, I was blessed to see some remarkable and well preserved historic needlework. If you live in the Connecticut area or a making a trip to New England, there are currently two exhibits highlighting historic needlework that are definitely worth the visit! To read the Hartford Courant newspaper article about these exhibits, click here (thanks to Sue for letting me have this section from her newspaper!) addition, an interesting article in the New York Times that can be viewed by clicking here.

The "With My Needle and Brush: Schoolgirl Embroidery from the Connecticut River Valley" exhibit is on display at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT through January 30, 2011. This exhibition, from guest curators Carol and Stephen Huber, included approximately seventy embroideries, watercolor sketches, and portraits - most are from private collections (rarely seen) - and all in excellent collection. I was in awe as I studied the various techniques and read the histories - the use of silk was incredible and I was quite surprised at many of the materials used. Although no photography was allowed in the exhibit halls, I have a clear vision of many works in my head, as they were absolutely gorgeous. A book to accompany this exhibit will be available in late 2011. If you have a chance to visit this marvelous display of needlework and history, don't miss it - it is definitely worth the trip. The photo to the right shows the exhibit program (a six page color guide to the exhibit).

The Connecticut Historical Society Museum and Library in Hartford, CT is showcasing "Connecticut Needlework: Women, Art, and Family, 1740-1840" through March 26, 2011. This exhibit includes 82 pieces represent 32 Connecticut towns - the pieces represented range from early bed rugs to needlework samplers to clothing and accessories. The Connecticut Historical Society has released a book of the same title to accompany the exhibit - I purchased the beautiful 220 page hardcover copy with a gorgeous selection of photographs and wonderful analysis of each piece...I can't wait to delve further into this fabulous resource with a wealth of information.

Both museum gift shops have a great selection of needlework kits, books, and items that complement the exhibits. I brought home several keepsakes and another book (Samplers by Rebecca Scott) to add to my collection. I also picked up a couple of The Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin Publications that highlight historic needlework for reference (from 1959 and 1987).

One more thing today....
I know I told you I would be having a new giveaway to commemorate reaching 300 followers - and I haven't forgotten....there will be a new giveaway soon! I am working on the prize(s) and more details will be posted soon....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Just The Girls...

I'm pretty sure I have some of the best friends in the world!

We planned this day for months...a "girl day" at Kimber's house - a day of hand sewing, lunch, girl talk, and quilt shopping....and it was totally worth the wait! My friend Merry and I made the trip out to Kimber's home (a pretty perfect 1885 yellow brick Victorian farmhouse) in Adel first thing this morning...and after a cup of tea, a tour, and some treats, we got started on the hand sewing project Kimber prepared for us. We each made a wool fabric bird pincushion that uses a wooden spool for the base - this is one of Kimber's very own designs that was featured in the magazine "More Fast and Fabulous Quilting Ideas" last fall...isn't it the cutest little bird ever?!....for more information, visit her August 28th blog post, where you can see an entire flock of these adorable birds!

We had so much fun making these fact, in our creative state, we completely lost track of time....all of a sudden we checked the clock and it was past lunch time. So we headed out to a little Chinese restaurant for a delicious lunch and got refueled for the afternoon....then it was off to the quilt shop. Adel has a very charming quilt shop called Adel Quilting and Dry Goods (and they have a great blog)...I find the best little projects there (I have to do my part to help stimulate the Adel economy)...there is always something new that I haven't seen before. Today I picked-up some chalkboard cloth, some vinyl coated cotton, a couple fat quarters, and new Mac-A-Doodles embroidery project and frame. Afterwards, we stopped next door at Atherton House, a unique gift shop (where I purchased some wonderful kitchen seasonings)....then we headed back to Kimber's very special 1885 farmhouse for more hot tea and desserts!

We spent the afternoon talking, giggling, and sharing...and Merry actually did a little hand was the perfect day!

Now, if that wasn't enough, there were gift bags...if you are a regular reader of my blog, then you know each time all of us girls get together, we bring each other gift bags. Merry's gift bags are always stellar (remember all the jellies and jams she gave me earlier this year?!)...well today's gift bag was another WINNER! Check out this adorable miniature dress form and the super cute aprons she made for it (yes, one is sampler fabric!) is the perfect pin cushion (and we all know how much I LOVE pincushions!) - along with it...a jar of her phenomenal apple butter, a gorgeous appliqued kitchen towel (I know, she is just too darn talented!), some pumpkin spice tea bags, and various Halloween is that for a "just because" gift bag??! Next, a total surprise...since Kimber was kind enough to teach us a project and supply all the needed materials, I never guessed in a million years she would have gift bags for us...but, yep, she did...and I was giddy like a little girl as I went though the bag...a quilt pattern, fabrics, a wonderful book, and a totally awesome wooden ruler - I was blown away, to say the least. Between the shopping and our gift bags, I had a car load of goodies to bring home!

Like I said - I have the best friends! Today was a little slice of heaven....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Bunch of Goodies!

I promised I would share some of my new stash with you once my boxes arrived from Connecticut...and they are here!! I did quite a bit of shopping on my trip...and I was given some AMAZING gifts. Here are some of the goodies I shipped back...

Several of the retreat attendees were extremely thoughtful and brought me gifts...and they sure did their research...they all knew exactly what I love! I was the recipient of stitching goodies, luscious autumn quilting fabrics, a bottle of Merlot and specialty chocolates (the yummy chocolates didn't make it home)...even a Longberger basket with beautiful stationery and a pen...I was truly blown away by the kindness and generosity of my new stitching friends...thank you all so very much!

One of the retreat attendees from Albany, NY brought me a GORGEOUS set of coordinating autumn fabrics from her local quilt shop - Flying Geese Fabrics - these beautiful fabrics were even folded like flying geese blocks and tied with ribbon (I had to take the bundle apart to show you each of these beautiful fat quarters)....I honestly can't wait to find some quilting time, so I can put these fabrics to work - I just have to pick the perfect project first...I'm thinking more applique...hmmm...

A couple students from Rochester, NY brought me a bottle of Merlot (my personal favorite) from a local winery (Bully Hill Vineyards)....accompanying the wine, a lovely assortment of chocolate from Encore Chocolates - these were so delicious, they didn't even make it back to Iowa...and they even included a chocolate frog - yep, a chocolate frog! It was such a treat to receive such delicacies from their hometown. I can't wait to share the bottle of wine with my husband....and the chocolate frog managed to hop back to Iowa - for the moment, it is too adorable to eat!

On my first day in Connecticut, Sue took me to Colchester Mill Fabrics and I managed to do some power shopping - I found these lovely fabrics and some beaded trims for a couple stitching projects. I already had some of the sampler fabric, but I can never have too much - plus I can always use a few more fat quarters of the coordinating pieces. This shop had a huge assortment of specialty and upholstery fabrics and it was quite fun to look at all the choices!

During my day off between retreats, Sue and Deb took me to a super cool bead shop in old downtown Mystic called "You've Got To Be Beading"....I loved this place! There were so many beads and charms, it was hard to make a decision. I really like silver charms, so I had to pick out some fun ones to bring home - some wonderful crowns, keys, and a really cool tree...I was looking for some bird charms, but only saw Christmas birds (calling birds, turtle doves, French hens, etc.)....other than that, they had quality charms for any project! I picked-up up some lovely coral mother-of-pearl beads and a fun salt and pepper mixture....

Next - here is a photo of my stash purchases from Chris's Collection - as I mentioned, Chris and Pam set-up an amazing shopping experience for us at the hotel (see previous post) and I managed to find quite a few items to purchase....including: several unique primitive pin cushions/strawberries, a couple tuck pillows, a hat pin, several Just Nan pieces (including the vintage Jeweled Owl thread winder), Flowers of the Field by Blackbird Designs, Red Stocking Collection II by JBW Designs (and a couple pre-made stockings), some adorable "Around The Block" JABCO pins, and a package of Handbegh hand-felted wool balls. I also picked up a new favorite thing (not in the photo) - a Handy Caddy - a clear, collapsible storage caddy for all my stitching tools - thanks to some of the attendees for using these in class, you enabled me!

Finally, I have to share the ornaments I received in the ornament exchange. Each attendee had the option to bring a wrapped, stitched ornament for a fun evening exchange. I brought one wrapped ornament for each retreat - and I am so THRILLED I did! In the Mystic I exchange, I received Donna's ornament - the Britty Kitty ornament by Brittercup Designs....isn't it adorable?! For Mystic II, I received Chris's ornament - which was a Blue Ribbon Design - I thought that was awesome - I was so excited to get one of my ornament designs stitched by someone other than me! Obviously, Chris is an over-achiever, because also included with her wrapped ornament - a q-snap cover in Christmas fabric (I have been wanting to purchase or make one of these for the longest time), a peppermint pin, and chocolate. Extra special thanks to Donna and Chris - I will treasure the ornaments you made!!

So there you have it - an assortment of the items I shipped home from Connecticut - that should give me plenty to admire and play with for quite some time!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stitcher's Hideaway Needlework Retreats - Mystic I and II

I am home and ready for a good night of sleep in my own bed. What a fabulous time I had teaching at Stitcher's Hideaway! It was two wonderful retreats - both filled with amazing, creative, talented, and unique students - it was so much fun to expand my stitching family. Each attendee did a great job with the class project and many, if not all, had a finished ornament to take home with them (some of my over-achievers had two!)....and some of those who took the beading class the night before even had a finished beaded ornament to take home, as well. It was a true delight spending time with each of the attendees - hearing about their hometowns, their stitching stories, and their personal experiences - I am so excited to have all of them in my stitching family! I took along a trunk show of 15 models and a bunch of my smalls...and piles of charts for shopping...and shop they Chris and Pam from Chris's Collection set-up an entire needlework shop in one of the hotel rooms which was AMAZING. I managed to purchase two bags of stash and gifts - which I will share next week - I had to ship home all my purchases, as my suitcase was pretty close to maximum capacity at 48 pounds. Several of the students brought me the most special gifts (thank you so much!) and I had to ship those, as well, so I will have a very fun post next week when UPS rings my doorbell. There was a visit from Santa Claus, goodie bags, door prizes, an ornament exchange, and a show-and-tell filled with gorgeous needlework and crafts. Overall, it was the most fabulous experience and I have many wonderful memories of my time in Mystic, CT. Thank you so much to all the attendees - for the laughs, the learning experiences, and the smiles - you are all special.

Mystic I Photos:
I wish I could share them all, but that is not an option - so I am sticking to just a few. The first couple are my hard working students...followed by Santa stopping by for a visit and a photo of him with Sue (Stitcher's Hideaway creator and my lovely, gracious tour guide). The next photo is of the ornaments for the ornament exchange...followed by a couple show and tell photos - sorry I can't share them all, these were some VERY talented needleworkers. The final photo is of Christine - she was my first deaf student with a sign language interpreter - this was Christine's first time stitching on linen and it was sheer joy seeing her eyes light up and her facial expressions each time she mastered a specialty stitch or technique - she was a shining star and all the other attendees cheered her on and assisted with her learning....she even managed to visit Mystic II for the second day to learn even more...

Chris's Collection Shop Photos:
Chris and Pam from Chris's Collection provided a great shopping experience for all. They had such a great assortment and a bunch of new items from the recent St. Charles Market. I honestly couldn't believe how they could fit so much into a tiny hotel room....they did a fantastic job! If they can make a small space this wonderful in a few hours, I imagine the shop in Southwick, MA is pretty perfect....

Mystic II Photos:
I was so extremely blessed to teach a second retreat...and this group was so much fun - they had me laughing a good amount of time and were very quick learners! The first photos show some hard at work and opening door prizes....followed by several photos from our visit from Santa. Next is a photo of the ornaments from the ornament exchange, followed by several photos from show and tell. Again, there were wonderful stories and pieces of needlework shown and I was in awe of all the talent in the room!

There you have it - my two retreats in a nutshell - I tried to show you as much as possible in a short amount of space - there were so many fun images, it was hard to pick the few to share. As you can see, I really enjoyed my visit to Connecticut....I hope I will have a chance to return soon! Next week, I will share some shopping, stash, and gift photos....I can hardly wait for my boxes to arrive....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Our Way To Mystic, CT...

Hello friends! Well, it is a good thing I had a day to play before the Stitcher's Hideaway Mystic I and Mystic II retreats, because my last week has been full of excitement. After staying up way past my bedtime to bring you last post...we departed the cottage grounds on Thursday morning....ready to make the trip to Mystic, CT and start meeting the retreat attendees.

After taking a final walk around the campgrounds, taking loads of photos...and even spotting an eagle (more on that in a later post - I took some great photos, but am waiting to find out the type of eagle from a local expert before posting the pictures), we packed up and started on our trip to Mystic. Our first stop on the way to the retreat hotel was Goodspeed's Station Country Store - right along the Connecticut River just a few moments from Sue's cottage. This was an amazing gift shop - one of the best I have ever visited - lovely - beautiful and unique gifts...and they had an amazing candy area with all sorts of special treats (we all know I love me some candy)! I managed to purchase a few gifts to ship home and then we were on our way again.

Sue decided to take the scenic route, so I could take in the gorgeous Connecticut foliage - it was a gorgeous drive! While making our way to Old Lyme to see a needlework exhibit, we happened upon a marvelous little cemetery tucked in a grove of trees, right alongside the road. Sue was kind enough to stop so I could take a closer look and get lots of photos. Most of the headstones were dated during the 1700s and early 1800s....and many were quite well preserved. There were really interesting epitaphs and tombstone angels and I was so happy I was able to see this area of history....

Our final stop before Mystic was the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT to see the "With Needle and Brush: Schoolgirl Embroidery from the Connecticut River Valley" exhibit. Oh my goodness, this exhibit did not disappoint - it was SPECTACULAR! The exhibition included approximately seventy embroideries, watercolor sketches, and portraits - most from private collections - and all in excellent collection. I was in awe as I studied the various techniques and read the histories - the use of silk was incredible and I was quite surprised at many of the materials used. Although no photography was allowed in the exhibit halls, I have a clear vision of many works in my head, as they were absolutely gorgeous. A book to accompany this exhibit will be available in late 2011. If you have a chance to visit this marvelous display of needlework and history, don't miss it - it is definitely worth the trip.

Lasty, we pulled over at a scenic overlook as we headed into Mystic, CT - the photo below was my first vision of this historic New England town. We had reached our destination and were ready to set-up for both retreats!

I will be posting another update tomorrow with some photos from the needlework retreats....for now I am in the process of traveling home (in fact, I am in the airport as I write this) was a fabulous experience - I wouldn't trade it for the world...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Day To Play

Hello friends! Here I am posting from Haddam, CT....where I am thrilled to be staying at Sue's marvelous cottage on the Connecticut River - isn't her cottage absolutely adorable??! What a treat to be able to spend the whole day here - seeing the beautiful sights, hearing the history, and spending some one on one time with Sue from Stitcher's Hideaway - I had the most wonderful, relaxing day! We arrived last night - got a good night of sleep and spent today exploring. This morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast and chatted away...then we took a walk around Camp Bethel where her cottage is located - what a beautiful place to spend a day away - so quiet and calming. I was particularly interested in the history of the camp and the area...and was amazed that many of these cottages were built in the late 1800's early 1900's. Each cottage is fun and unique...and all have wonderful stories and histories...

The view from her cottage is AMAZING...I could gaze at it for hours!...and we enjoyed a nice lunch from her balcony sitting room overlooking the river - lovely! We were surrounded by beauty and I was able to see so many inspiring things...

Including this adorable squirrel who I managed to snap a photo of while it was peeking at us from around a tree.

I was also quite taken by the camp's quaint Boyd Memorial Chapel, nestled in with all the cottages and surrounded by nature...where generations have gathered, worshiped, and married (including Sue and her husband!).

After taking our walk and enjoying lunch with a spectacular view of the river, we headed to Eagle Landing State Park (only a few minutes away) to take a riverboat cruise of the lower Connecticut River. It was a perfect sunny day and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip down the river - and although the trees were just starting to turn colors - the view was "out of this world" we saw lots of local wildlife - including large beautiful swans. It was so relaxing and just what we both needed after preparing for the upcoming retreats.

After the riverboat excursion, Sue was kind enough to take me to Colchester, CT to visit Colchester Mill Fabrics - a HUGE fabric store with just about anything you could want or need for any sewing/quilting/crafting project. I found a few wonderful new fabrics and some beaded trims that will be making the trip back to Iowa with me.

Then we headed to the shore for dinner. We went to a marvelous place called Saybrook Point Dock & Dine in Old Saybrook, CT, where we ate in the waterfront dining room overlooking the ocean. Before heading inside, I couldn't resist taking photos of a nearby lighthouse and the seagulls that were perched so perfectly on all the dock posts.

All this already, and I have only been in Connecticut for one day - I feel so extremely blessed....and so thankful to Sue who invited me to make the trip early, shared her world with me, and showed me the area. Tomorrow we head to Mystic, CT and the retreat fun begins! We have a few really cool stops to make on the way, so I will have more to share - then the class set-up begins. I can hardly wait to meet the students and teach "Pocketful of Peppermint" - it is going to be a great week!!