Monday, February 27, 2017

Our Fourth Anniversary Edition

cake with four candles
It is time for our annual anniversary post. How time does fly! It hardly seems possible that we are beginning the fifth year of this blog! First of all, I want to welcome the new nations that joined our readers this past year. They are, in alphabetical order: China, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Guatemala, and Swaziland. We are so happy you have chosen to “visit” us. The little blue maps that we used previously were not doing justice to lovely small countries like Luxembourg. (I have fond memories of my visit there.) So we have put a large world map on the wall by my desk. I mark each country with a paper dot.

photo of world map from Annake's office
Photo of world map from Annake's office

Lemon balm growing in Annake's Garden
Lemon balm growing in Annake's Garden
As Spring draws closer, we are getting ready to plant vegetables and herbs for the seasonal Farmers' Markets. Annake's Garden is earning a good reputation for its fresh herbs. One of the things that we do is to supply a sheet of simple recipes and tips for using each herb to first-time buyers of that herb. We would also like to share some of these recipes with you. One of the most popular herbs we introduced last year was a favorite of mine lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). These two easy recipes got great reviews. Look for more recipes during the coming year.

Lemon Balm Simple Syrup

1 C. sugar                  1 C. water             3 C. chopped lemon balm leaves

Boil water and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add lemon balm. Simmer another 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool for 30 minutes. Strain syrup, discard leaves.* Refrigerate in a tightly-closed container.

* Leaves can make a second batch of syrup if used right away.

Lemon Balm Coolers

¼ C. lemon balm syrup                                              1 tsp. Lemon extract
½ can lime juice concentrate                                     5 ounces club soda
2 C. crushed ice

Combine the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, Serve in chilled glasses. Garnish with lemon balm sprigs if desired.

I don't know if you follow health food news, but one of my favorite vegetables is getting very favorable mention for its nutritional value. That vegetable is the parsnip. (Brassica rapa) It is one I use a lot, especially in slow cooker (crockpot) recipes. With our demanding schedule, we depend on having this kind of hot meal waiting for us at the end of the day. You can use parsnips in recipes that call for carrots, turnips, or other root vegetables. If you haven't tried them yet, I hope you will do so soon. Look for more about herbs and/or other food plants later this year.

Applique on sweatshirt
Applique on one of the sweatshirts in our Etsy shop
I am always pleased when new needlework or art topics get a good response. I was gratified by the interest in Swedish weaving, optical illusion needlework, and reverse applique. There will be more information and patterns this year for all of those topics. Another thing I hope to begin this year is a series of articles relating the characteristics of kinds of art work to their applications in needlework, starting with still life. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by the interest in a particular post. That was the case with the one about decorated sweatshirts and the follow-up post about jackets made from sweatshirts (November 30, 2016 and December 15, 2016). I will try to include more information about clothing decoration in future needlework posts.

I really appreciate the questions I get from readers because they allow me to give additional explanations and instructions that time and space did not allow me to give in the original posts. I was especially delighted with the variety of questions based on the 'Serendipity' post (January 15, 2017), which generated so much follow-up that it will take two whole posts to cover all of it (February 14, 2017, and the first post in March 2017).

Keep those questions coming,

upcoming project collage
Some upcoming project topics...

 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Winter Questions and Answers, 2017

snowflake cross-stitch pattern
A 'doodle' becomes a snowflake cross-stitch pattern
How do you develop complicated patterns like the A-B-C-D-E-F progression on the “Serendipity” post (January 15, 2017)?

I like to “doodle”; that is, to draw designs and little pictures while I take a coffee break, talk on the telephone, or watch television. A lot of people do that. The difference is that I like to do my drawing on a pad of graph paper, rather than on plain paper. I draw randomly until a combination of lines or shapes appeals to me. Then I start repeating that motif in different combinations. A geometric pattern just grows out from its center, as you saw in the example you mentioned. Curved designs are harder, as are realistic pictures, and may need to be be moved to plain paper for further development. I keep a lot of my “doodles” even the ones that didn't turn out the way that I wanted them to do. I can always return to them, revise them, and improve them. If you are a “doodler” too, get a pad of graph paper and start working on patterns of your own. In the meantime, here is another progression (what a good name for it) that you might like. Instead of showing the steps separately, I have shown the steps in different colors, starting with a simple ‘X’ in a square.

Can the border at the top of the Serendipity blog be done in Swedish weaving?

I'm glad you asked that because it is something I hadn't thought about. It can't be duplicated exactly, and the pattern will not be as bold because it is done with floss instead of yarn, but a very similar pattern can be done and the positions and placements of the colors can certainly be duplicated. The needlepoint stitches are all slanted, while the weaving stitches may be straight stitches in any direction; they may even be looped stitches. The white background on the needlepoint must be filled with stitches. This is not necessary with the weaving, where the fabric background provides the white spacing. Finally, the weaving is done entirely on the surface of the fabric, while the needlepoint covers both the front and back of the canvas. You can see my pattern below. I really like the result. It would be attractive as a border or as repeated stripes on something like an afghan. I hope you like it as much as I do. Since you asked about Swedish weaving, I assume you are familiar with the technique and have probably used it. If not, you might want to read the posts for March 11, 2016; March 31, 2016; and October 31, 2016.

Swedish weaving sample
Swedish weaving sample, after the needlepoint from the "Serendipity" post

For those of you who like step-by-step directions for this pattern, those will be in a post in early March, after our annual anniversary post. We have had so many good questions and requests for additional help that we will need to do a special “Question and Answer” post to cover all of them. I'm so pleased when I can give additional help. Just keep watching for it.

I like the little animals at the bottom of the Serendipity article, but I don't understand how I am supposed to embroider them??? HELP!

Little animal cross-stitch patterns
Little animal cross-stitch patterns
First, let me “translate” them into cross-stitch patterns with back-stitch borders. Each square in the original design represents a cross-stitch (X) or a half cross-stitch (/ or \). A quarter cross-stitch extends from a corner to the middle of the stitch area. Because white pencil does not scan well, the white stitches are drawn in standard pencil. Refer to the original pictures for more information. Work all full, half, and quarter cross-stitches including ones in black before beginning the back-stitch outlines, which are done in black. If you embroider the designs on monks' cloth, Aida, or any even-weave fabric, they will be smaller than they appear on these charts. The smaller they are, the fewer strands of floss should be used.

Tip: The eyes of the owl are done in horizontal stitches or satin stitch. The beak may also be done in satin stitch. The nostrils are tiny French knots. The cat is shown in gray, but could just as easily be white, black, orange, yellow, or brown. Whiskers might be added in single strands of black or white thread.

For those of you who wanted additional help with doing the animals in needlepoint, that will be given in the March post also.

Do four-way designs have to be geometric designs?

The short answer is: Certainly not! The long answer is: an upcoming blog post for mid-March! I hope quilters and those of you who do pencil-and-paper art will enjoy this one as much as needlepointers and embroiderers. There is a "teaser" below.

Stitch away,

penguin 4-way design
A distinctly non-geometric four-way design

 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.