Sunday, October 31, 2010

More Beads, More Fun

Guess what I did last night....

You are right, more beads and more basketweave. It's slow going, almost like those endless backgrounds each piece seems to have, but this will look spectacular and also set off what I have planned for the rest of Luna's costume.  So stay tuned.

If you get tired of watching me string beads on Luna's gown, head over to read Amy Bunger's  November newsletter.  She shows off customers' stitching, that scary eyeball she did for the Halloween House (eeek!), Tony Minieri's latest French brocade ribbons piece, and the two Home Study pieces she plans to do next year.  And more.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

More Gown Inspiration

I'm working away on Luna's gown.  Here's an overall progress photo which is not as good as the ones where I use the scanner but you can see how things are going.  I'm skipping around a little, trying to see how this will all look before I totally commit myself to solid beading at the hem.

Here's some inspiration--beaded gowns from Giorgio Armani.  The cut is similar to Luna's gown but these gowns are totally beaded or covered entirely in sequins or crystals.  This will help us better visualize how Luna would look if she came to life and walked off the needlepoint canvas.  Rachel's right, the beads will weigh down the hem if they are clustered there, but this is a velvet gown and the beads the tiniest crystals, just sparks of light.

Thinking about these lovely dresses keeps me plugging away at my beads and basketweave.

I've posted two new articles on the Chilly Hollow Stitch Guides blog.  The first is a link to Gone Stitching's stitch guides list on their website.  Since they have a wide selection of Judaic-themed pieces, this is a really good place to look for guides to such items.

The second is about Adrienne Spencer's guides.  Adrienne is a teacher and writer of custom guides for both needlepoint designers and regular stitchers like you and me.  She does lovely work so do check out her gallery.  She tells me she plans to update her website late this year with more information about her stitch guides, so bookmark this for a return later.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Basketweaving with Beads

I'm still basketweaving Luna's gown, but I've added beads to the mix.  The lower part of her gown has beads scattered here and there.  I'll basketweave around them once I work my way down that far with my Impressions.

I'm using tiny size 15 round beads in black and also gray.  So far it is hard to see a difference in the color.  I'm hoping that will be clearer the more densely the beads are clustered together.  If not, I'll have to switch to using silver beads instead of gray.

I think the hem will be solid beads but I'm not sure yet.  My beading will has to hold out!

Thanks for the interesting comments about stitch guides yesterday, by the way. I never thought of a stitch guide as a time saver but of course it is.  You have your thread list to go shopping with, and the pathway of stitches set out for you.  All you have to do is find time to stitch.

Which might be the hardest part of this whole needlepointing thing, come to think about it....

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Stitch Guides?

I've got a question for you today.  What do you want from a stitch guide?  Or do you see the point of using them?

I'm still tent stitching that amazing gown....

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Madame X

The main reason I wanted to stitch one of Leigh's Ladies of the Night series is the challenge of working a piece with so much black on it.  How on earth do you stitch a piece with black hair against a black gown with a black cloak and black birds and not have it be a blot of black ink?  Of course Leigh Designs separates these areas through the use of gray and purple, but still....

I hope the use of texture will make the black areas separate.  I'm not sure you will be able to see the differences I put into the canvas except in person but I am going to try.

This is one source of inspiration--John Singer Sargent's Madame X portrait.  Isn't that gown amazing?!

Before I forget, I updated the Chilly Hollow Stitch Guides blog with a short article on Bongo canvases which have guides available.

Jane, back to basketweaving that amazing gown and watching Sherlock on PBS

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Skin Tones and Plunging Necklines

BEFORE-Darker Neck and Face
I have pulled out the dark skin areas on Luna's face and neck and restitched them with a slightly lighter thread.  Above is the before photo and below is the after one.  Do you think the lighter shade (which is a tad darker than the shading on her arms) is a better choice?  Many thanks to everyone who chimed in with ideas on how to fix this, by the way.  Everyone agreed that the shading was too dark, so I hope I have fixed this.

AFTER-Lighter Tones
I've also started work on Luna's long black gown.  I need to do it before I work her fingers and ring and hair and I also think I should work it before I start work on her long sleeves and cloak she wears. Stitching order is determined in part by what's less important.  I like to do the receding parts first.  The cloak and sleeves are more prominent than the long gown, so I'm doing the gown first.  Luna's plain long gown will set off the more decorative elements of her jewelry and cloak because of the contrast between fancy and plain.

As you can see, I am basketweaving the gown.  I think Luna is wearing a plain black velvet long dress that clings to her curves.  I don't want anything to detract from the image of smoothness, so basketweave is the way to go.  I also need a thread that will look velvety when stitched.  It doesn't look like it but the stitching above is my third attempt to get this right.  You know from yesterday's posting how hard it is to get a black thread that, combined with other threads, still looks velvety black.  It is also hard to get the velvet effect, even from a solid black thread.

My first attempt was to use Petite Very Velvet.  It does give a very smooth, velvet look but I decided that even though I was using Petive Very Velvet which is sized for 18 count canvas, the look was too heavy.  I think PVV in basketweave is too prominent to work well with the things I have planned for the rest of the dress.  So out it came.  Then I tried Pure Palette's Empress, the wool/cashmere/silk blend I used for the tree branches.  In my test stitching, it looked very velvety but when I tried it in tent stitches, there was some variation in the black color and the stitches didn't look as velvety as I wanted. I think it gives a more velvet-soft look in long stitches.  So I ripped that out, too.  My third attempt was using black Impressions, which is the silk/wool blend from Caron.  It is perfect.  It looks like velvet, is solid black in the deep way real velvet is, and will look wonderful when I do the next step on the gown.

But first I have a LOT of basketweave in my future.  Luna's a tall girl!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Mixing and Matching Threads

Now that I have Luna's skin and face stitched (except for her hands), it is time to turn my attention to her figure.  The photo is the unstitched canvas cropped to show just Luna's figure.

My next task is to figure out what threads to use to stitch her and what order to do the stitching in.  As you know, I like to stitch the things that are in the background, then work forward.  That means I should start with her long gown, probably working from the bodice down to where it narrows and starts showing gray lines of the flare.  But what threads should I use?

I piled up all the colors I have that I'll need for her clothing and hair (black, gray and purple) and removed those that didn't look right together.  For example, a lovely skein of black Silk N Ivory revealed it had charcoal undertones when it was sitting next to all the solid blacks, so it goes back into the stash.  A spool of black Kreinik metallic had too much green sparkle in it so it was rejected, too.

This not particularly good photo shows that one of the grays at the bottom of the page looks slightly tan when put together with the other threads.  This is an essential step when choosing threads.  Color Magic happens when various threads are next to each other.  Some change colors like that gray skein did!

Once I discarded colors that wouldn't play nice with the others, I was left with a fairly good selection of blacks, some purples and quite a few grays.  The next step is choosing my stitches which will narrow down the thread selection further.  Some threads don't do long stitches well, some are going to be too fat for 18 count, etc.

Tomorrow I'll show you what I ended up with.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Too Dark?

I finished stitching all of Luna's face and arms last night down to the back of her hands where her fingers start.  However I decide to handle her fingers and long fingernails, stitching them has to wait until after her long gown is stitched.  I'll also wait to stitch her amethyst ring.

Although the shadows on the side of her face and neck are stitched as painted, they seem a little dark to me.  What do you think?

Jane, pondering pulling out those sections and going a shade lighter

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Classes and Clubs

Lani's Santa Collage Stitched by Carolyn Hedge Baird for Chaparral

Time for another roundup of classes and clubs at some of our wonderful shops!

The photo above is a Lani Santa collage canvas which Carolyn Baird Hedge will teach at Chaparral starting in January.  This will be taught in sections and the class will end in August of 2011 so there will be plenty of time to make it up for Christmas next year.  I grabbed the photo from Chaparral's latest newsletter since it isn't on their project page yet.

Nashville Needleworks has a darling Easter egg club starting in January.

Needle House in Houston has a varied selection of previous clubs to choose from and they allow you to just buy the guide or just the canvas or the guide/thread kit.  Your choice!  (Click on the photos for a better look.)

Needlepoint in Paradise (that would be Naples, Florida) is starting a boot club and a star club for 2011.,com_virtuemart/page,shop.browse/category_id,154/Itemid,28/vmcchk,1/

Several designers have series that you can stitch to make your own club.  This is more fun for folks with a big stash or who have a nice shop nearby to find threads at, but it is a good option for the adventuresome stitcher.  First up is The Nativity from Mile High Princess.

Next is the Cajun Twelve Days of Christmas.  Since the book is a special favorite of my oldest friend, I can see stitching Two Voodoo Dolls in my future!  They also offer a cross series and a fleur de lis series for other tastes.  All are by Jude Designs, by the way.

Want something classic but different?  Jane Nichols' birdhouse ornaments are said to be fabulous when stitched.

Jane also does a Heart of the Month and a Chair of the Month series, where she takes a normal object and does lovely variations of it.

I have had Cheryl Schaeffer's Halloween lightbulb set recommended to me as a great do-it-yourself monthly club, perfect for using up those excess threads and having a great unusual set of ornaments for your next Halloween party.

That's it for now.  Many thanks to my spies who clued me in about many of the above!

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Perfect Skin

Last night it was time to start working on Luna herself since the background is almost done.  (The final touch there has to wait until the rest of the canvas is finished.)  When I stitch people, I like to start with their faces but for Luna, I started with her decollete, then worked on her right arm (our right, not hers), stopping at the wrist.  I'm not quite sure whether I will pad her fingers or use bullions there so I am thinking that over while I stitch away on skin.  I hope to finish her other arm, her neck and then her face tonight.  I'm doing basketweave for these areas and the most important thing is to keep my stitches very smooth and even.  That takes time and some concentration.  Those all basketweave pieces are harder than they look!

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Moons I Have Loved

Luna's Finished Moon-Click to Enlarge
One reason I worked so hard on the moon in the background is that Amy Bunger does such a lovely job with them.  Check out the moon behind the werewolf in this Halloweenies character.

Here's another view of Herr Wolfe.  Doesn't this remind you of photographs of the cratered moon surface from NASA?

Look at the moon rising behind the house the Halloweenies folk themselves are gathered at. It's full of personality with that evil grin.

The first step in making that moon is an unusual one--Glitter Glue!

Seeing wonderful work like this is dangerous.  You can be tempted to use a terrific technique you've seen that will completely overpower the area you are stitching.  That's why I've been struggling with Luna's moon.  I want to do fancy things to it and make it as great as Amy's moons are.  But I've finally accepted the fact that this is not appropriate for this canvas.

Remember the Bridezilla clip from yesterday?  I was in great danger of making the moon the star of the show.  Believe me, it was very difficult to admire Amy's moons, then walk away from stitching any more on my moon, leaving it simple.  But that is the right thing to do for this canvas.

By the way, yesterday's close up of the moon before I finished it does a better job of showing what this looks like in person.  The photo above shows the moon in context, which helps remind us all that the moon is in the background and should remain a secondary object.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Luna's Moon

I have been struggling with stitching the moon for two days now.  I think I'm finally on the right track.  It's been hard because the moon is one of the few touches of color in the design.  I want it to stand out but not be too prominent.  Luna is the main thing in the design so the moon stitches must not detract from her.

If you've ever watched Bridezillas on U.S. television and heard the bride complain that her bridesmaids look better than she does, then you will know what I've been dealing with here.  That Luna is very demanding!

Jane, refereeing between Luna and the Moon in CH

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Although it is a pretty fall day in Chilly Hollow, I am feeling sad.  I just heard last night that Stitches By the Bay in Monterey is closing.  They've sent a note to their regular customers that starting yesterday, all their in-store merchandise is 40% off.  Anything already on sale is marked down to 75% off.  They will close for good November 20th.  If you live in the area, please head over and tell them how much you appreciated their services and how much you will miss the shop.

I also heard that the great Texas stitcher Virginia Maxwell is dead.  She is from the first great wave of needlepointers of the 20th Century and was very influential in the 1970s.  We owe Mrs. Maxwell and stitchers like her a great debt.  We would not have the great choices of tools and designs we do today without their popularizing needlepoint.  It is very sad to have a shop and a needlepointer die in the same week, isn't it?

Rest in Peace.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Odd and Ends (with Videos)

Are you a visual learner?  Are you curious about DMC's memory thread?  (That's the thread covered wire DMC sells.)  Then you'll have fun watching these two videos that demonstrate how to couch memory thread, how to make multi-colored twisted cord from it, and how to best shape and curve it into shapes like coils and bows.  When one video ends, the other will automatically begin.  These will take just over five minutes to watch.

Are you one of those folks who just loves stitching animals in needlepoint?  Then you are going to be very happy visiting Nenah's Needle.  I've been featuring a few of her designs as the Canvas of the Day recently because I like them a lot.  Many thanks to Judy Harper, who found this site and turned us all on to the lovely work here!

By the way, Anne of ABS Designs is stitching one of the Nenah custom dog pieces.  Isn't it darling?!

Do you avoid using overdyed threads on your geometric projects because you can't figure out how to balance the color on each section?  Jeanne has a great explanation of how she handles this problem on her blog.

Finally, I have a second video for you.  This one is from the owner of The Point of It All and it shows how to hold a belt canvas in your hand as you stitch it.  This is perfect for folks who hate using frames of any kind.

While you have fun, I'm going to go play around with stitches for Luna's full moon.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Threads for Your Tree Branch

I finished the tree branches last night, but the photo shows them partly done so you can compare the wispy lower painted branches to my stitched ones.

The photo makes the branches look green although they are actually a dark gray that is a good match for the paint colors.  Mysteries of the Camera strike again!

I used Pure Palette's dark gray Empress wool/cashmere/silk blend to stitch the trees so that there would be a slightly fuzzy look to the branches, which I thought would look best.  But you could also use a #12 perle cotton or silk for a slightly smoother look.  Pliable cotton or silk floss would give you an even more delicate look.

A strand of Appleton crewel wool or one ply of Trio would look about like my Empress branches do, but plying Paternayan and using one ply would make the tree branches look a bit craggier.  Using a strand of Vineyards Silk or Impressions will make them more prominent still.

It all depends on just how close you want the tree branches to seem to Luna.

It's amazing how different something can look if you just play around with different threads in the same stitch.  I choose what I thought best brought out the slightly craggy look of the branches but there are many threads available today.  You could play around with threads from your stash and choose whatever thread brand gives you the emphasis or de-emphasis you want here.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Grass Grows Green in Chilly Hollow

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be mowed!

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Seminar and Class News

As folks slowly recover from travel, they are posting about their Seminar and class experiences.  Here's what Orna Willis has to say about her teaching at the ANG Seminar in Columbus--

While you are at Orna's blog, you may find the stitching doodles her assistant found while tidying up the studio in Orna's absence fascinating.

SharonG just taught at Bristly Thistle's Florida location.  Michele has a quick report about what happened in class.  I am jealous!

Speaking of classes, Laura Perin has taken a new step--she's going to teach a cyberclass!  The details of the project are on her blog and her website, including the exciting news that she will try using Skype to connect with students during the class.  What fun!

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Sunday, October 17, 2010


My Original Stitching
Remember Friday I posed a question about what the diagonal line of stitches on the cracked tombstone would look like if I switched the direction?  Robin King has answered my question through the magic of Photoshop.

Robin Adds a Flipped Area to See Directional Change

Robin explained how she managed the flip:

"Here's how I did it:
• In Photoshop, I made a new Layer.
• Using the Clone Stamp Tool, I sampled your Stitching.
• Then I Flipped Horizontal to get the reverse direction.
I often use Photoshop for previewing a stitch."

Thank you very much, Robin! Looks like I made the right decision after all. Here's the current state of the cracked tombstone. I was too tired to finish the bottom area last night but I hope to do that this morning and then stitch the grass tonight.

Progress to Date
If you have Photoshop on your computer, you might want to use Robin's instructions the next time you are wondering what something will look like.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010


The new owners of Pocket Full of Stitches is using their blog to highlight the canvases they have in stock.  This is a much quicker and cheapaer way to go than paying to have their canvases on their website.  Yesterday they listed all the small Melissa Shirley canvases in stock at their shop and remind you there are stitch guides written for many of these designs.

Email them for prices.  By the way, I've updated the CH Stitch Guides blog entry about PFOS with a link to the finished models of their Fab Firs club, and have also announced there that my Leigh Cha stitch guide is now ready for sale.  Read all about it at the link below!

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Friday, October 15, 2010

My Tombstones

The cemetery is starting to come to life.  (Did I just say that?!) I've completed the stone cross except for two missed stitches I found this morning as soon as I picked up the piece in the sunlight. I'll fix that later today.   I have the lettering done on the cracked tombstone and am almost half finished covering it in stitches.  As I've said before, once the tombstones are finished, I will work on the grass.

I chose a variation of cashmere stitch for the cracked tombstone.  This area slants / toward Luna's feet (actually, almost everything in this composition points to her).  So I wanted a diagonal stitch that slanted the same way and one that had some texture but not too much.  I want it more prominent than the cross but not so much that it detracts from Luna herself or the crow sitting on top of the cross.  Some test stitching lead me to diagonal cashmere.

I've just had a thought.  What would it look like if the diagonal cashmere slanted the other way?  Would that counteract the intent of the designer or make the tombstone even less prominent?  Any thoughts?  I'm not changing it, mind.  I just wondered....

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Today's Calmer

Last night I worked a bit on the tombstones next to Luna.  I'm basketweaving the cross, being careful to match the subtle shading as much as possible. I've figured out the lettering on the cracked tombstone and will be working on its background once the cross is done.  That will be a while.  It takes a lot of time to basketweave an area smoothly, particularly when you are constantly changing colors.

Once the cross and cracked monument are finished, I will work the grass around their base.  But first I need to find a fourth color in my stash for the shadows on the cross.

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I've been eagerly waiting for folks to get back from ANG's Seminar in Columbus, OH to hear all about it but the pickings are slim so far.  Fortunately, Melita reported in on her experience.

Melita won a first place and the Princess Grace Award (given for an all basketweave piece) for one of her original designs.

She also showed another original piece that was almost as highly rated by the judges.  Both are described on her blog.  Congratulations!

UPDATE:  Melita has added the third piece she showed to her blog.  It's great fun to read how this design evolved.

Jan is also back from Seminar and has two photos of the events in her write up.  Sounds like a great time, doesn't it?

I hope more information appears as folks get home, unpack, and are finally over whatever bugs they picked up after not enough sleep, too much excitement and the rigors of air travel.

UPDATE: Kelly has posted about her seminar experiences, including classes and the goodies she bought.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CanvasWorks and More

Today I don't have access to my bookmarks and can't post any progress photos since Beloved is downloading an update to World of Warcraft.  It's been almost 12 hours since he started the download and since WOW claims they have 12 million subscribers, all of whom are trying to download the same things, the computer is tied up for another couple of hours still.

So why don't we go look at the CanvasWorks trunk show that Nimble Needle has posted on their blog?  Canvasworks doesn't have a website so this is a rare glimpse of their work.  The top blog entry is a plea for help finding beading ribbon, but four of the next five postings are all CanvasWorks canvases.  These are lovely classic designs, perfect for all basketweave in your most favorite thread in the world.

The mathematically inclinded might like to check out this posting.  I have no idea what a Hilbert curve is, but it makes great NP!

On another topic entirely, thanks to Kathy's Unbroken Thread blog (crewel embroidery mostly), I discovered Map Muse.  It tells you where to find embroidery, needlepoint and cross stitch shops when you travel.  If you are going anywhere, check it out.  (There is also a way to add shops that they have missed, so if your favorites aren't in the system, add them to help out your fellow stitchers.)  Kathy used it to find a lot of fun places on her last trip but I'd love more feedback about whether this is useful for all parts of the U.S.  The site itself is very cluttered and full of ads but if it works, we can overlook that.

Gay Ann Roger's e-Week sale has started.  Time to stock up on her patterns because e-Week is just once a year and what is offered changes.  Some of the designs are brand new, some have been seen but never offered.  If you are a counted thread person, this is a Must Visit sale.  Make sure you read the E-Week News & Views section if you plan to buy anything, or if your favorite GAR design isn't pictured.

Because it is Halloween, how about a monster scissors fob?  The growling bead cracks me up but there is a more traditional Halloween fob at her Etsy store.

Finally, Stitcher's Workshop is having a big sale this weekend, starting Friday.  If you are in Arkansas, please visit.  If not, an Internet visit will do.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Luna Grounded

Luna Unstitched
No, Luna the Vampire has not been sent to her room.  I'm sure she has been a very bad girl indeed, but I'm not about to go there.  Passing judgement on a needlepoint canvas character is a sign of something that isn't really healthy, right?

I'm talking about how to stitch a ground for Luna to stand on.  I mentioned earlier that the canvas design already reads "ground" when you look at it.  Check out the bare unstitched canvas above.  See what I mean?

But I still wanted something there, something solid.  You may want to look at Rachel's posting about how she handled this same problem with a Paddington Bear she stitched.  She cleverly changed the color of her background stitch to indicate ground.

However, I'm not going to stitch Luna's background. I think I probably will leave the custom gray canvas with the speckles unstitched.  So that solution won't work for me.  Ok, what kinds of things do you find on the ground in graveyards?

Bad Tombstone Stitch!
Paving stones!  So I stitched block stitches.  I think they look very much like ground in an unobtrusive way.  I used a ply from the six ply Planet Earth Fibers line of silk floss.  I like how it turned out.  However, I am not happy with the stitch on the cracked tombstone.  It's too prominent.  A friend pointed out that I have two tombstones and a bird in that area to deal with and I might want to make at least one of them very muted.  So out came the tombstone stitches and I have something else in mind.  I also decided to add one more paving stone to the ground.  Here's what I ended up with.

Final Ground Treatment
What do you think?  Note that I have not added rows of compensated stitches around Luna's hem or at the very bottom of the canvas.  I decided that would not look as good as what we have here.

A suggestion of ground is sometimes enough.  But now I'm wondering if I should take that last paving stone out again....

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Thread Review: Empress

Empress merino/cashmere/silk thread by Pure Palette/Dreamhouse Ventures

Now that I've been blogging regularly since 2006, folks have started sending me products to review.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I am happy to have access to things that my local shops don't carry or that I haven't talked myself into spending money to mail order, but I am a bit worried about not presenting things fairly to you, Blog's readers.  It is all too easy to give a good review of things sent by friends or by small business owners that you know are struggling to make it in a harsh economy.  I want to be fair to all involved, so any time I am sent things to review, I'll mention they were sent to be reviewed and will cover all aspects of the items, the good and the bad points.  Just because something doesn't work well for me doesn't mean it is bad in general.  Needlepointers have a huge range of interests and stitching styles.  I don't use a lot of perle cotton, for example, but that doesn't mean that it's a bad thread.  I just happen to not use it very much.   I want to explain enough about anything I review so you know as much as possible and can decide for yourself whether you want to seek it out.

Empress Color #8454 Dry Martini
With all the above in mind, I'm going to do a short review of Empress, a new 100% merino cashmere silk blend from The Pure Palette, which also  carries Soy Luster (a floss made of soybeans) and Baroque Silk (a three ply silk floss).  Empress is brand new.  It was just introduced this year and luckily Needlewoman East has a nice selection of colors.  I bought a skein of olive green this summer to play with.  In the photo below are the test samples I played around with.

Empress feels great when you hold the skein or stitch with it.  A strand is about the size of a strand of Appleton crewel wool, and it looks just like crewel wool when you pull out a loose end to cut off a stitching length.  Above you see tent stitches and then rows of cashmere stitch on 18 count.  One strand covers well and looks very much like any wool thread except for the soft feel when you touch the stitches.  I am allergic to wool, particularly Paternayan, and avoid stitching with it in the summertime but I had no trouble stitching with Empress, even though it was 85 degrees in Chilly Hollow when I stitched the above.  I didn't think to test vertical stitches with Empress but I think one strand would also cover pretty well on 18 count in upright stitches, which usually need more thread to cover the NP canvas completely.  You are going to need to use two strands on 13 or 14 count to cover.

The Pure Palette's website hasn't been updated in quite a while, so only Soy Luster is listed there.  They also have a silk thread called Baroque Silk.

Fortunately, Needle in a Haystack has photos of most of the colors of Soy Luster and of Baroque Silk on their website.  Here're the links, Soy Luster first. and Baroque Silk second.

As far as I can find out, no one has posted photographs of Empress on their websites yet so when Dreamhouse Ventures sent me a selection of their Empress that might work on Luna, I laid them all out and took a photograph for you to see.  The colors are, from left to right:

Cabernet 8178, Vintage Linen 8490. Gravity 8248, Heliotrope 1168, Iris 8204, Big Sky 8240, Santa Fe 8242, Old Men 8564, Dusty Miller 8562, Soot 8566, Twister 8582, and Witching Hour 8600.  The dark gray skein above the row of the others is Tarnish 8596.  I opened it so you could see the thread texture.  The olive green Dry Martini 8454 is pictured separately above.  The colors are generally soft and muted, which is pretty much what I remember of the display of these threads at Needlewoman East which had about 30-40 colors my last visit.

It's a lovely thread, and one I will enjoy using because it feels so good when you stitch with it.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow Blogging at Archived Yahoo 360 postings at

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Luna: Choosing a Background

Leigh Designs' Ladies of the Night:  Luna
I've posted a photo of Luna again so we can look at the background.  I've already written that I decided to do some stitches around her feet and around the tombstones that looked like paving stones to "ground" the design somewhat.  But I don't have to do that.  The design itself reads that area as ground.  Our brains look at the sprigs of grass and her feet and think "ground."

I could do a background stitch.  But what stitch?  Do I want to cover up the gray splotches that remind me of fog?

I've seen a great many terrific Halloween themed backgrounds recently.  Stitch Niche's e-newsletter for August has a great photo of a witch in a fancy hat with a skull patterned background.

Here is the same piece framed from their September newsletter--in a frame with skulls!  How great is that?!

In the October Amy Bunger newsletter, Robin King shares a graphed version of the words Eek and Boo which she has used for backgrounds.  They would also make a great border.  While you are there, check out the background behind the werewolf from the Kelly Clark Halloweenies series Amy is stitching.

All these are terrific background ideas.  But are they right for Luna?   I just can't see her walking among floating skulls or words or even big Xs.  These things are not right for a more realistic canvas.  There isn't that much room on a tall, narrow canvas that has tree limbs in the background anyway.  I'd be compensating constantly, trying to squeeze in full skulls or Xs or words.   I don't even think a border of such things would look good.  They'd detract from the solitary figure.  So Luna gets boring flagstones.

The moral is don't fall in love with an idea.  Go with what is right for your canvas, not what is a clever idea.  I have a hard time with that lesson.

By the way, yesterday's Canvas of the Day is by Needle Deeva.  Thanks, Vicky!

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Odds and Ends

Robin Atkins' Blessing Book Cover

I have lots of loose ends to tie up before I actually start stitching on Luna, my vampire from the Ladies of the Night series.  First of all, yes, I changed the background color on  Blog again.  When I switched to a photo of my last finished canvas for the header, I realized that the new pink background didn't look good with it, so the background became pale pumpkin in honor of Halloween.   I think the contrast between the black and navy blue and dark green lettering in the titles and text on Blog is not too much but do let me know if this color combo is hard to see.  I want Blog to be about easy of reading above all.  That's why Blog has a plain background and fairly simple layout.  But I do get bored with the plainness and change the colors and photos occasionally.

Gay Ann Rogers has completed the uploading of photos of her samplers on her website.  It's certainly not all of her work but showcases her style and the range of charted pieces she has taught over the years.  You can start browsing 17 pages of stitching beauty here.  Just click on the Gallery number whatever button on the right side of each page to continue on.  She will be selling some of these patterns from her website starting next week so keep an eye open on the site.  She sells only once a year and the patterns available vary.  You may have to wait until next year or the next to be able to buy the one you really want.

I've got some great resources saved up for you to browse while you wait for me to get organized enough to start stitching.  Are you interested in a lovely silk ribbon flower tutorial?  Sundance shows you how to make a quick and beautiful flower for an ornament or box top with wired ribbon.  I think a wreath of red flowers for Christmas would be spectacular!

Ruth Schmuff has updated her shop class page.  There are lots of great classes from great teachers to browse and lust after.

The only thing missing from the class page are Ruth's own mystery classes.  Ruth teaches these in the shop and via mail.  Everyone knows what canvas she will teach but no one (and that includes Ruth!) knows what the end result will be.  Here are the newest canvases waiting for The Ruth Treatment.

Finally, Robin Akins is giving away copies of her first book on beading as a PDF file.  This is a great opportunity to learn how to do bead compositions.  Robin is a bead artist who makes lovely jewelry, but she is most well known for her improvised beaded scenes made from a huge assortment of bead shapes and colors.  The photo above is her Blessings book cover.  Amazing, isn't it?

I know you are thinking that you don't need another craft, but I urge you to read through her book.  It's really about creativity and drawing inspiration from your feelings, which I think will help us stitchers become more adventuresome with our stitching.  I'm actually urging everyone to become explorers with needles and thread, and I think this book might help.

Next time we'll talk about Luna's background.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow Blogging at Archived Yahoo 360 postings at

Friday, October 8, 2010

October Sales

I've noticed some October sales on the WWW.  First of all, I got an email from Ehrman that they are selling designs they intend to discontinue at a discount.  Here are the sale items. You may have to choose a currency before you can see the sale.

Busy Needle in Tucson has put all their in stock animal canvases, charts and kits on sale this month.  They call it their Noah's Ark sale.  Pick up animals of your choice here.

Canvases Be Gone has new items in for October, including the birdwatcher canvas above, which I think is a Charley Harper design. It seemed a perfect design for autumn here in the States.

If you know of any really good sales (25% off or more) or are a shop owner with some real bargains looking for a good home, post details in the Comments or email me directly at chilly hollowat hot maildotcom and I'll update this Blog entry.  Thanks.

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Progress on Luna: Choosing Stitches and Threads and Needles

I'm sure folks are eagerly waiting my first progress on Luna.   That's it!  Yes, that photo right there.  That's my Luna progress....

 I've been working testing stitches for two evenings now and a third evening is happening tonight.  I'm also reading my stitch books and trying to come up with ideas from them.  This pre-planning takes a lot of time but it saves ripping out.

I know SharonG can see an entire canvas from start to finish and rarely has to rip out her choices, but I don't have that skill.  So I do test stitching, auditioning stitches and when I find the right one, then I audition threads.

Just how do I choose stitches and threads?  Look at Luna again.  (Click on the photo to enlarge it if you need to.)  I look at the shape I'm going to stitch and find a stitch that is that shape, too. For example, she's got a long gown that sweeps to the left at the hem.  Long narrow vertical stitches are perfect for the body of the dress while diagonal stitches that are oriented NE to SW would be perfect for the hem.

Then I think about threads.  Is a gown like hers wooly like a fuzzy sweater? No.  So hairy wool threads are probably out.  I need something sleek--something that looks like silk or satin fabric--for the gown.  That makes a silk thread a good choice to start with, and one that has both black and shades of gray would be great.  It's easier to mix cotton brands of thread with other cotton brands, or at least the less shiny silks.  In some instances it looks great to have a wool thread mixed with a metallic (Santa's coat, for example) but often it is better not to mix thread types.  But that's getting a bit far down the road.

At this point I am looking for stitches with the right shape.

I'm also looking for stitches that convey an effect that is not there.  Look at the ground at Luna's feet and then at the background.  There's a lot of empty space there.  No designs at all.  Sometimes that makes a realistic design (ok, a vampire isn't exactly realistic, but if they existed, they would look like Luna) look odd.  Right now Luna is floating in space so I want to ground her by stitching something for her to walk on.  I decided that paving stones would be a good effect.  So I started looking for stitches that looked like irregular paving stones.  The stitches at the upper right of my sample that look like stone bricks are what I've chosen.  See how I have repeated the rows again and again in different threads?  I was testing whether the stitch looked the most like pavers using wool (100% cashmere Empress from Pure Palette) in the dark gray and olive green rows, metallic (a black-gray Kreinik) or cotton floss (light gray DMC and light lilac High Cotton).

I am alsto going to be using new needles on this piece.  My practice is to always toss my old needles after a project ends.  I have acid hands which tarnish needles.  I've also found that constant use on large projects roughens the needle eye.  I am going to switch to new needles when I pick up Stars again since she's half done.  I read an article by Amy Bunger once where she says that using old needles is the most common error she sees.  Needles are relatively cheap, so I follow her advice.

I'm going to test the Bohn needles from France and also use a new John James needle called Tweens.  The Bohns come 6 needles to a pack so I bought a package of 22s and 24s and also picked up a package of size 21 needles from John James which are three to a pack.  I use 20 and 22 needles the most on 18 count but I also occasionally use larger and smaller needles depending on the thread and stitch.  I'll let you know what I think about these as I work with them.  But if you'd excuse me for now, I have a few more books to browse and a few more stitches to try out.

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Go Read This Article

I take a lot of photos and scans of needlework for Blog.  It's not easy, so I was thrilled when I found this article by Tricia Nguyen about taking close up photos with a digital camera.  Great stuff!

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Introducing Luna

Luna, from Leigh Designs' Ladies of the Night Series

I should subtitle this "Jane Loses Her Mind".

Yes, my next project is Luna, from the Leigh Deigns vampire series called Ladies of the Night.  A friend of mine, upon seeing the canvas, said she was Sophisticated Halloween, elegant and erie.

Here's the whole series.

She's also big.  Luna is 16 inches high and 8 wide, on 18 count NP canvas.  That will enable me to do a lot of detail but there's a ton of background!  She's on 20x12 stretcher bars so I am definitely going to use my K's metal floor stand when stitching her.

Luna also has a lot of black-on-black detail.  You can see here that she has long black hair, a long black gown, a long black cloak and blackbirds surrounding her.  We've all seen how hard it is to see the detail of complex black stitches on Stars.  I am going to have to be extra creative to be able to stitch these areas in such a way that they don't all blend together in one big black blob.

Fortunately, there are some great areas that aren't basically black.  I love the cluster of fairly modern tombstones at the right corner.  This for me dates the cemetery as early 20th Century.  I wonder what Luna is doing here.  Is she visiting family?  Gloating over the grave of an enemy?  Just scouting territory for her next Halloween party and tut tutting at the shoddy maintenance?  What do you think?

I also love the atmosphere of this canvas. Look carefully at the background.  It's a custom color called Storm Cloud, which is gray with charcoal splattered dots here and there.  I think of fog and mist when I look at it.  I think it is going to be great fun to add atmosphere in the background.

As is my usual practice, I've made color and black and white copies of this canvas for reference purposes.  I'll certainly need them to help me stitch weeds at the base of the cracked tombstone and these may come in handy other places.  I make copies before I put the piece on stretcher bars, and I take lots of reference photos of various areas, too.  You can't see some detail in photos (I didn't realize Luna had an oval amethyst ring until I saw her in person) but scans and xerox copies capture everything.

The next step is to think about the canvas and who Luna is, start testing stitches, and analyze the canvas itself to figure out what I want to emphasize and how.

I should reveal that Luna was sent to me by Leigh to stitch as a model and to do a stitch guide which I'll sell.  I know there is a lot of interest in the series and hopefully some of the problems I wrestle with will give you ideas on how to stitch your own Lady of the Night.

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News from Columbus and Also St. Charles

There's a bit more news from the DMC blog about the St. Charles show and all the things that "Emma" saw there.  Click on the tiny photos and then will expand to huge, detailed shots.

Right now a great many stitchers are in Columbus, Ohio at ANG's annual Seminar.  (That's the ANG logo for the Columbus Seminar decorating this entry above.) Kelly has reported in about her experiences there.

ANG is posting photos from Seminar each day.  However, many folks (including me) can't open the photos for October 3.  It's not just you--the Mysteries of the Internet have struck many of us.
Check back daily to see new photos and to see if the Oct. 3 ones have been fixed.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow Blogging at Archived Yahoo 360 postings at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Halloween: Erie and Elegant

When it comes to Halloween canvases, there are a ton of styles and sizes to choose from.  I did a quick search this morning and picked the site below to show the huge variety of pieces available to stitch.  Many sites have even more Halloween canvases but they are spread over multiple pages and I wanted a place to show you just what a dilemma it can be to pick something to stitch if you want a Halloween canvas.  Look at all the styles, sizes and topics!

Me, I like vampires and mummies for Halloween.  If you haven't visited Amy Bunger's Needlepoint Study Hall blog, go there now and admire the witch, vampire, werewolf, Frankenstein monster and skeletons that populate the Haunted House that she is teaching via mail order.  I love her Dr. Acula and can't wait until the Egyptian mummy's turn to be stitched.  But overall, most Halloween designs are rather cartoonish.  Not really my style.

Fortunately Leigh Designs has released some fascinating adult Halloween designs in the last few years. First there were the carved pumpkins, then the witches with fancy hats.

This year the Halloween series is called Ladies of the Night.  They are vampires, but what vampires!  They are slinky, dangerous, alluring and very bloodthirsty.

I gotta stitch one of them!

Luckily Leigh agreed to let me stitch one for a model and for me to write a stitch guide for it.  Which one am I doing?  Well, I've been posting hints all week.  Here's a big one:  I'm not doing the Lady of the Night pictured above.  That's Remilia, wearing a Russian shawl around her hips and talking to her pet bats out in front of her haunted mansion.  Click on the photo to see details, like the incredible hair or the tulle sleeves.  Remilia was stitched by Beth Kindler Hendzlik of ThreadworX.  What you see above is the cover of the stitch guide Beth's written for her.  If your shop was at the St. Charles trade show, they probably saw Remilia in person.

You've heard me rave about Beth's Floozies stitch guides for  another Leigh series. (The Floozies are "ladies" bellying up to the bar to have their favorite adult beverage circa 1880.)  ThreadworX is partnering with Leigh Designs to offer a stitch guide/thread pack to stitch the Floozies.  I saw the Alehouse Annie kit at Waste Knot recently.  You get the stitch guide and a packet of at least 25 ThreadworX threads (and there were probably more as I didn't open the packet to get an accurate count) plus a selection of Sundance beads to stitch Alehouse Annie.  This was priced at $129 there plus tax, which is roughly the price you'll see in most stores I think.  Not too bad for all that thread plus a very professionally produced stitch guide.  The canvas is extra of course.

ThreadworX is going to also sell a stitch guide/thread packet for Remilia and perhaps other Ladies of the Night.  However, her next stitching project is Floozie Sloe Gin Sadie.

I'm going to stitch one of the remaining seven designs.  Will it be the vampire carving her pumpkin with a wicked dagger?  Will it be the vampire in the frilly apron stirring her bubbling cauldron?  Will I attempt to do justice to the awesome rose decorated gown of the vampire with her pet spider and web?  Will I stitch the lady in the graveyard in a purple trimmed cloak?  Will I choose to stitch the vampire with the Evil Cat, or is the one lighting the skull candle more my speed due to the lovely jewelry she wears?  Or will I choose the Lady toasting us with a glass of red wine next to an incredible chandelier?  All will be revealed, but not today.

On another topic entirely, Gay Ann Rogers has posted photographs of some of her samplers and smaller pieces on her website.  It is rare to see so many of her designs in one place as she is a teacher.  It is hard to find her charts unless you happen to know someone who has taken one of her classes who is willing to share their old class material.  Some of these will be offered for sale when her E-Week sale starts October 12 but many will not.  She is just responding to requests to see her work from her cyber class students.  More photos will be posted each day, so bookmark this and return several times this week to see her incredible samplers and delicate small pieces.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow Blogging at Archived Yahoo 360 postings at

Stars: A Final Glimpse of Deborah Kerr

I added beads to the Deborah Kerr block last night to liven up the black center star.  Since it is all black, the weaving of the oblique ovals that make up the star points isn't really visible, even in person, so I wanted to add a touch of color inside it to make it Pop! off the center.  I think these four little Sundance beads in a pink-peach do the job.  Compare this to yesterday's photo to see what I mean.

Here is the entire Stars for the New Millennium piece so far.  It has been a lot more fun to work than I expected.  I thought I would be grinding my teeth over the counting the entire time but only the last two blocks and the first one gave me enough trouble I had to rip out and restitch areas.

Sorry to have posted this late.  I had to wait until it got light enough to take a photograph of the entire piece and that wasn't until almost 8 a.m.!  Fall is definitely on the way with the dark mornings we've been having.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halloween is Coming

Two Monsters from Renaissance Designs
It's October 5 and Halloween is on the way!  I've read recently somewhere that Halloween painted canvases are more popular than any other theme.  I have trouble believing this since there are so many Christmas canvases for us to enjoy, but since I've seen a huge influx of Halloween canvases showing up at Woodlawn and online, certainly a lot of Halloween stitching is going on.  I've even stitched two Halloween designs myself.  The first was Two Monsters, above.  It turned out so well that I have it still, put away in my stitching drawer each year to wait until October rolls around.

Pirate Cat Himself

Of course I just finished Patt and Lee Designs' Pirate Cat. He was quite a lot of fun to do, wasn't he?  Now I think I want to do another Halloween design, but something a bit more sophisticated.  But you'll have to wait and see what I choose....

Two Monsters, Giggling and Teasing You
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And the Winner Is....

The Prize
This is it! I counted 19 people who entered in the drawing for the Mile High Princess Beach Angel kit, which comes with everything you need to stitch her except scissors, and also includes Ruth Dilt's Needlepoint 202 to help you figure out the next painted canvas.

The entrants range from an 11-year-old who wants to learn whose grandmother entered for her to a very experienced stitcher who collects painted canvases but is afraid to try them.  I wish I could give a kit to everyone.  I had no idea there were so many painted canvas novices lurking in my computer!

I went to and used the true random number generator box on the right side of the page, asking for a number between 1 and 19.  The result was eight, so I went to my list of entrants and counted up from the bottom (the first person who entered) and found that SueStitch was the winner.

HURRAH!  Congratulations to Sue Stitch!

Please email me the mailing address and I'll get the package in the mail to you either today or tomorrow, depending on how quickly you get back to me.  I'm at chilly hollow athotmail dot com.

Many thanks to Dale at Canvases Be Gone for donating the kit, thanks to Mimi for donating the Dilts book, and thanks to Becky for letting me use photos of her finished Beach Angel to entice you guys into entering.  You guys are The Best!

For the rest of you, the only difference between you and me when it comes to painted canvases is that I am fearless.  I don't mind ripping out and trying again.  I don't mind looking like an idiot in public here in Blog.  I am fearless when it comes to stitching.

I don't climb mountains, I don't race motorcycles, I don't do marathons, I don't do deep sea diving.  My adventure is needlepoint.  Come join me.

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Stars: Is Deborah Kerr Done?

Deborah Kerr - Is she done or not?
Last night I did the sashing borders around Deborah Kerr and am almost ready to pronounce her Done.  Don't you think that black center needs a few beads?

I've been rummaging in my stash for black and purple and copper baeds, just to see what they look like scattered on top of this square.  It was too overcast and dark yesterday to make up my mind.  It's supposed to be partly sunny this morning so I'll try again later this morning.  Tony's instructions don't call for beads but I think they might add depth to this block.  My colors are violet (A), black (B), terracotta (C), and copper (D), and I've found that using black means you don't have a lot of color variation in the blocks.  I can do texture variation but that is subtle and doesn't show in the photos.

Which means my next project is going to be a REAL challenge!  [Jane drops a hint and exits....]

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Thread Review: High Cotton UPDATED

Hyla Hurley's High Cotton
Thanks to friends who went to the St. Charles trade show, I have samples of several new threads introduced there for you to see.  The first is a new five ply cotton called High Cotton, from Hyla Hurley of Point of It All Designs.  I am told there are 74 colors now and will be 125 by January's TNNA trade show.  Vicky DeAngelis told us the periwinkles and aquas were especially gorgeous.  I haven't been able to find photographs online for you.  I am told that A Thread Garden in Ventura, CA and...

...Waste Knot in Arlington, VA have both ordered this new thread.  You'll be able to get it from them fairly soon and probably from more places as interest grows.

I'm sure you are like me and wondered why do we need more cotton floss in our stitching toolboxes?  That was before I opened the skein, removed an 18 inch length, and started stitching with it.

High Cotton (named for the very Southern phrase "being in high cotton" which means to be rich or to have things going very well) has five plies which when separated, are thicker than individual plies of the six ply DMC cotton floss.  High Cotton plies are more tightly twisted than DMC or Anchor floss.  There's a lot of shine in this thread, particularly when you strip the plies and recombine them to stitch.

The thread feels soft, but substantial.  It's not going to fray going through needlepoint canvas holes as you work unless you use a very long length.

I worked samples on 18 count canvas with all five plies.  In the photo on the left you can see that I did some basketweave, then moved down and did two rows of long couched stitches.  The messy, bumpy look is because 5 plies are too many on 18 count.  When I switched to 2 plies in the tiny cluster of mosaic stitches at the top, it looked great.  I also did a tiny vertical row of continental stitches with two plies and repeated the long couched stitches at the bottom with two plies.  This thread needs plenty of room to spread out.  When you give it that room, it is FABULOUS.  The shine is as nice as twisted silks and the thread behaves well, although you'll need a laying tool to keep long stitches flat.  The tight twist that makes each ply means each ply has a mind of its own and will turn when you want it to lay flat.  I don't see as much shine with short stitches as with long ones but using a laying tool with long stitches really brings sheen to the stitches.

Beautiful High Cotton Stitches
You probably can't tell from the photo above but in person these stitches, particularly when oriented horizontally, look like two different colors because of the light reflection. You would have thought it was a checkerboard looking at it in person.  I love this thread!

I have no idea what the retail costs will be but if you want a high sheen on a project, High Cotton will be perfect.  I hope to be able to find more colors so I can use this thread.  It looks like it will be especially good for light coverage stitches because of the shine and the fact that only 2 plies cover very well on 18 count.

Remember, the number of plies you need will vary according to the stitch and color of the thread you are stitching with, but High Cotton seems to cover well with fewer plies.

If you are interested in more information, my spies gave me Hyla Hurley's email address.  Email me privately at chillyhollow AT hotmail DOT com and I'll share it with you.  I've also been told that M's Canvashouse has High Cotton in stock at the Columbus ANG Seminar shop.  If you are in Columbus for ANG, check it out.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Hyla Hurley, I have another photo of High Cotton skeins to help show off the range of colors.

The colors are, from left to right, Raspberry 901, Cosmopolitan 902, Pacific 524, Sky 519, Adams 2 513, Lemon Drop 704, Custard 604, Creamsicle 610, Rhubarb 807, Arielle 431, and Robin's Egg 433.

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