Tuesday, December 31, 2013

May Your New Year be filled with many hours of stitches

Already across much of the world the New Year is upon us, and here in California we have only a few hours of the old year left. As they say, 2013 is definitely in the rear view mirror at this hour.

I am starting the New Year off on a good foot: by the end of this evening I will have canvas cut for a new project and I intend to spend much of the day tomorrow starting it. I have thread, scissors, lots of new gadgets and many hours waiting for me to pick up my needle.

I also have a new toy and I am on my way to Apple in the afternoon for a lesson on using my new toy. Yes, I've at last given up my old people's phone in favor of an iPhone which I already don't know how I lived without.

Nice that I have a chance to work on both of my favorite activities on New Year's Day and hopefully it will be a harbinger of good things to come in 2014.

So Happy New Year! May your days be filled with beautiful threads, wonderful colors, perfect tension and projects you love.

Gay Ann

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Year of The Stitch has started for me

I've been neglecting everything since I finished E-Week's Mail Jail because I decided the next year is truly The Year of the Stitch for me. I need to stitch for my next E-Week and beyond, I want to stitch because my fingers twitch for time with my needle, and so guess what: I'm going to stitch. Simple as that.

I began a new design, one using threads new to me and I've incorporated some new accessories into my stitching life also. I've been auditioning stitch patterns with the new threads and for my style of stitching, auditions mean a lot of rejections, so I stitch and rip, stitch and rip, stitch and rip.

For ripping, I've been using my favorite tools: a Bohin Seam Ripper (I know, fast but dangerous), a Boo Boo Brush and a pair of tweezers. I love the Bohin Seam Ripper. I can rip an area twice as fast as with my favorite scissors and four times as fast as with a garden variety pair of scissors. Yes, I'm careful; over the years I've learned it is important to tilt up the little blade and proceed carefully.

The Boo Boo Brush helps a lot, and so do the tweezers. I have the most precise tweezers imaginable, but after half an hour or so, my hand cramps from holding them. I just learned about a new pair of tweezers made by Bohin with a long handle. Usually long handles are easier on one's hands, so I am anxious to try the new tweezers. I ordered them a while back and they should arrive shortly, I plan on trying them straight away and then reporting on them on Queendom Website.

Those are my favorite tools for ripping. If you would like to see photos of them and read more about them, visit Queendom Website and click on 'Stocking Stuffers' on the yellow navigation bar.
For quick reference: www.GayAnnRogers.com.

I've been sewing massive numbers of pearls to my new design. Pearls always come with teeny tiny holes and tiny holes always mean #12 or #15 beading needles.

I struggle with threading any needle -- after all these years, I still struggle. I live with a trusty threader nearby, but who has had a threader fine enough yet tough enough to thread a #12 beading needle.

Guess what! I found one! It is super! Glides right through the eye of a #12 beading needle, and I suspect it is fine enough too to thread a #15 beading needle. So far, as I only have a single one of these threader treasures, I haven't been willing to try it on a #15 beading needle for fear of breaking my only one.

So I've ordered 15 of these threaders (all for me), and soon as I have my new ones, I'll test the extra fine side on a #15 beading needle. Heavenly if it will work!

In addition to the threader, I have looked at small clips for hemming linen, wonderful scissors made for metal threads, gold scissors with extra large and therefore comfortable finger rings, and an array of other accessories to make my stitching life more organized and efficient.

These tools all came to my attention at the beginning of December and MacSoph and I decided we should post all of them on Queendom Website as 'Stocking Stuffers for Stitchers'. Each day we post a new one.

As time has gone on, people have been writing and asking, am I planning to sell all these accessories? The answer is no, because I'm personally all involved in The Year of the Stitch and I don't want to be in Mail Jail again.

But Kate said she would sell them all.

So if Santa leaves some money in your Christmas Stocking on Christmas Morning, save it till December 26 when all these lovely accessories will indeed be for sale on Queendom Website.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all the best for 2014, The Year of the Stitch!
Gay Ann

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving and Needlework: The Year of the Stitch

It is Thanksgiving Eve and my Website is decorated for the holiday now with a little riddle: do you know what a PPP is?
Silly game of mine. If you want to take part in guessing: www.GayAnnRogers.com

It is Thanksgiving now and time to be thankful for the blessings of our lives.
First and foremost I am thankful that DH and I are both healthy and well, busy and well occupied with our passions.

I heard the saddest story the other day about a group of women so bored they really had nothing to look forward to. A non-stitching friend was relating this to me and it made me so sad. Sad, but thankful that it's not me, nor any of the members of our stitching community. Isn't it wonderful: we always look forward to stealing time from our busy lives and chilling out with our needles. To a one we are always looking forward to our next stitch. Good for us that we have a passion we all enjoy.

I am thankful for my material possessions, the ones that matter to me: I think I have at least 100 needles in various sizes and endless baggies of threads in colors I love, drawers full of inspiration and more drawers full of drawings I look forward to stitching. Yes, I am thankful for my wonderful stash, for in it are the seeds that feed my imagination.

I am also very thankful that I have reached the end of my E-Week sale and all its shipping. Mail Jail.DH will go to the post office this afternoon, and when he does, he will deliver my last packages and I will officially be out of Mail Jail. The end of Mail Jail, now that is indeed something to be thankful for.

And along with the official close of Mail Jail comes the opening of my year ahead:  The Year of the Stitch. I will officially open The Year of the Stitch at 4:30 p.m. California time today. This is about the time that I predict DH will hand the last of Mail Jail to the postman.

Yes, I plan to take off large chunks of the next year and stitch. Stitch and stitch and stitch. I have new threads, new projects, new pieces of canvas, and new hopes for some challenging time with my needle. I greatly look forward to the year ahead and hope that my website's followers will join me.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and I hope you will find time to join me this weekend and celebrate the opening of The Year of the Stitch this afternoon and throughout Thanksgiving weekend.
Gay Ann

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Own Brand of Needlework Magic

Two days ago I started a little story that MacSoph and I concocted to celebrate the time leading up to E-Week, my annual sale.

Our tale begins with the photo of a sunset out over our back yard. This morning the tale continues with a photo of our driveway. The driveway has a telephone pole and telephone wires. The telephone pole and wires will enter into the story in a small way.

So far our tale features ordinary photos out of the back of our house (sunset) and out of the front (driveway). Yes, the sunset was a real sunset from our living room window; yes, the driveway really is our driveway.

Tomorrow's image? Well, we would have to admit it is a bit of fanciful fiddling. Ditto the images on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday as well. Of particular interest to needle people may be the image on Sunday where shopping opportunities abound, only in a most unusual way.

From tomorrow forward: bit of techie fairy dust.

Please join MacSoph and me for our special Pre-Week Tale on Queendom Website.
For quick reference: www.GayAnnRogers.com.

Gay Ann

Monday, October 07, 2013

My Needlework Sale: the Busiest Time of My Year

It's almost here again, my once-a-year E-Week Sale and I get so busy it's al I can do to stay afloat through it.

I look forward to it each year! I have so many little tasks like deciding what to do each year to introduce E-Week. People tell me it's not necessary, that I should just post the designs and save the time it takes MacSoph and me to think up ideas to welcome E-Week. But I would miss that part of it. Each year I've done something inventive, I've learned so much!

And this year is no exception. I have 5 days of a wee story leading up to E-Week's opening this year and in it I have done some of the PhotoShop work I am most proud of. In this year's lead up to E-Week I have re-worked some of the very first scenes I ever made in PhotoShop and I am proud of how far I've come in four years.

One of the scenes is my favorite ever and I hope you will come, follow along and see if you agree.
I am excited about displaying it and if MacSoph and I didn't have so much work to do still, I would wish the day I post it were here now.

Right now on Queendom Website I have a display of my Geometrics from past E-Weeks. I am asking the people in my General Shining Needle Society Classroom to vote which two I will bring back in E-Week's Early Morning Surprise Windows on October 19 and 20. The voting will last through Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, October 10,  my little display and story will start. There will be different images to go along with the story each morning through October 15, and I am, if I do say so, proud of each of the images.

If you would like to follow along, and I hope you will, here's a quick reference:

Remember, Thursday morning, October 10.

E-Week begins at the crack of dawn on Wednesday October 16.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Some New Needlework Tools and Progress on MyNeedleworkBox.com

Yesterday was one of those wonderful days that just happen and you think ahhh, why can't life be this way all the time. Of course the answer is, if life were that good all the time we wouldn't appreciate those special days, would we.

A while back I'd learned about an ever-so-small cache of old needlework tools, just the sort I love, I had bought them and they arrived in yesterday's mail. There were three: two pairs of scissors and a needle case. I had expected the needlecase to be wonderful and ditto one of the pairs of scissors and I was indeed exceedingly pleased with them.

My expectations for the second pair of scissors hadn't been as high, so when I opened them and saw that they were gorgeous, I was knocked out! Simple Georgian-steel elegance. There is something about the tools of that time period that I love and when they arrived in the mail yesterday, they were beyond my expectations!

So what is it about something so simple that can knock one out? All designers know that the beautiful lines and proportions of something simple are a wonder and the Georgians excelled at this, probably as much as in any age.

I will post them soon on MyNeedleworkBox.com

So I was already in a good mood, I confess, but also a bit apprehensive and here's that tale.

I have already written several times about my Apple tutor Cody and how he left Apple a little over a month ago and how much I miss him. I have other tutors at Apple University that I love but it was Cody who helped me with MyNeedleworkBox.com  and I wasn't sure how I was going to carry on without him.

It's been tough, I've hit some coding walls and I've been in mourning for Cody for a month now. Till last night.

Before Cody left Apple, he taught MacSoph (my trusty little Apple MacBook Pro) how to screen-share. He was so certain that he could keep tutoring me via screen-sharing and last night was our first chance to try it.

The experience was beyond my expectations! Even farther beyond my expectations than my new Georgian-steel scissors. Cody and I spent an hour together; he talked me through my problems and together we worked on MacSoph's screen. What a way to learn! And of course now I am wondering about all the possibilities of the technique for teaching needlework on a one-to-one basis.

MyNeedleworkBox.com has been languishing in the doldrums because I didn't know how to solve a couple of basic problems. Now I know at least how to solve one set of problems and I was busy into the night last night posting photos and writing descriptions. I hope you will go and visit MyNeedleworkBox.com to see my recent handiwork.

One of the pieces I posted last night was my very best piece of whitework and I hope you will take a few minutes to go and see it.
For quick reference: www.MyNeedleworkBox.com
whitework >handkerchief collection >my best piece of whitework.

The poor thing is all in tatters but see if you don't agree that the embroidery is amazing! It is quite simply the best quality embroidery I've ever had a chance to buy.

I have many more pieces to post in the next few months, including a handkerchief almost as good and in almost perfect condition. But for now I don't mind the attention on this my best piece, at least for a while.

So my lesson last night by screen-sharing has allowed me to post at least the first parts of my whitework collection. It all just takes time, but at least now I know where I was making one set of mistakes. I know others will crop up too, but best of all, I know that I can screen-share with Cody and he will help me.

MyNeedleworkBox.com is first and foremost a learning tool for me, so it will be a long time before it is complete. I hope you will follow along as I build this website quite unlike the others I've done.

A very happy day indeed!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

More on MyNeedleworkBox.com

I've been working hard on MyNeedleworkBox.com.

For those of you who have kindly visited it, I apologize for its state of disarray and hope you will remember it is a learning tool first and foremost.

Here's how it goes: I've been working quite a few hours posting photos of whitework. I think I've doubled my number of pages in the last two weeks. I love the things on them and I love the way they look, but right now, for the most part you can't see them because I can't get my links to work.

I'm missing just one tiny step somewhere, that's all.

I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. I try and try and as with most things computer, it is frustrating, but I'm tenacious and I try some more.

And then I get fed up and even more frustrated but I don't give up.
I keep trying.

This I know: I'll figure it out eventually and I still have a dream of a very pretty site. And DH tells me it is going a long way to stave off Alzheimers. And the kids at the Apple Store tell me it is so.

OK, so I'm warding off Alzheimers? What about a heart attack from frustration?

I just decided I'm through trying to master links for today. I have a particularly satisfying geometric in progress and I'm bailing on MyNeedleworkBox.com for the day. Hey Needle, where are you? Time to kick back and enjoy life!

I'll be just like Scarlett and tackle it another day.

Gay Ann

Monday, August 19, 2013

Where My Needlepoint intersects with the Geeky World

Oh my, I didn't realize a whole month had passed since I've written a post for my blog.

That's because I spent more than a month in class at Apple University. It was my way of saying good bye to a favorite Apple tutor who has been my web mainstay for 4 years. Saying goodbye is always bittersweet.

The best way to counter a bit of grief is to dream up a new fantasy and that's exactly what I decided to do. For my final lesson with my tutor, I returned to my roots with him:  I dusted off Queendom Website's e-jet  stored in a closet for nearly 4 years and for one last time we visited PhotoShop with its world of selections and layer masks and all those good things that make PhotoShop a challenge.

Queendom Website's e-jet  last flew in August 2009, four years ago this month and I don't think I have visited the images of the jet in almost 4 years. But for my last lesson we pulled the jet out of its closet, dusted it off and planned to remodel it. The first steps for a very ambitious fantasy.

And during that last class I reflected on my whole computer journey.

I bought my first MacSoph almost 6 years ago and I've been delving into the mysteries of  MacSoph's world ever since. Going on SIX years I've been trying to learn about this small machine. Patience isn't my strong suit and my appraisal is that I should know a lot more about MacSoph than I do.

Probably the most lasting impression of my final lesson with my tutor and my biggest surprise when I looked at those PhotoShop files of 2009 was indeed how far I have come.

As I worked on those old files, I remembered how difficult PhotoShop seemed then. It's not that I am a master of PhotoShop now (it's scary how far I am from fulfilling that claim), but I have come a long way. I see now that in those four years I've learned how to do things better, more easily and certainly more efficiently. It was a great way to say goodbye to my tutor and a great validation for my years with him.

So now you know that MacSoph and I have unfurled and dusted off Queendom Website's e- jet.
But why? Where exactly are we headed?

The answers to those questions will remain a secret for a while longer. Till Sunday Morning's final Surprise Window at E-Week in October.

Less than two months to go! MacSoph and I had better use our time wisely for we have a lot to do.

Goodbye, Cody, and thank you for my years with you. MacSoph and I shall greatly miss you. Go off, be your most brilliant self. Study hard, excel and live your life well.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Continuing Work on .MyNeedleworkBox.com

I have been working on MyNeedleworkBox.com and I'm happy to report that I have posted new photos. I am very pleased to say that I did the last photos all on my own. Are they perfect? No, but I am thankful for small triumphs: the links work and the pages are seeable and readable.

I will get better with time. We all do, don't you think?

Even if you are not interested in my coding struggles (and struggles they often are), I promise that what the code has helped me post is indeed worth a trip to MyNeedleworkBox.com!

and click on 'Jane Austen' on the navigation bar.

When you arrive at Jane's page, you will see my biggest triumph: 3 images all lined up neatly and clickable, yes working links indeed!

Click on one of the links and I promise you photos and descriptions of some of my most-loved needlework treasures.

Under the first thumbnail: a small French box with gold needlework tools.

Under the second thumbnail: a French piano with silver needlework tools and, fitting for its subject, a music box that (on a good day) plays two tunes. (If you were 200 years old, you'd struggle to play both your tunes also).

Under the third thumbnail: an English traveling needlework box covered in black leather, with outstanding brass appointments.

For now that is as far as I have gotten. The practice is helping me learn, so my plan is to add a collection of photos each week.

So far I have been working on Needlework Tools from the era of Jane Austen and I have another two or three pages almost ready to publish.

After I finish with a few more needlework tools, I will turn to linens, where I have many more pieces of lace, at least a dozen Ayrshire Christening dresses and countless other pieces of whitework.

My Apple tutor Cody asked me the other day how many pages I thought MyNeedleworkBox would have if I were to complete it.. I thought for a while and said, 'if I do everything, probably 1000'. That means, if I post a page of photos each week, it will take me 1000 weeks. 52 weeks in a year, it will take me almost 20 years!

I'll have to rethink the number of pages, won't I. And now you understand a part of the reason our house groans under the weight of all the things I've collected. And that's before we start counting DH's books and all my needlework supplies.

But it was a big heady feeling of triumph when I got those three thumbnails to line up on Jane Austen's page. Small happinesses.

Gay Ann

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

History for Stitchers: Small Booklets on Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bess of Hardwick

DH has been busy, very busy indeed. He has been at work writing short booklets on the lives ofMary, Queen of Scots, and Bess of Hardwick and finally they are finished! Essentially the booklets are small histories for stitchers and they place the lives and needlework of these women into historical perspective.

Now, whenever I am faced with studying history, I always think of Jane Austen's memorable quote on the pursuit:

"The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all."

And when DH started writing his booklets, I reminded him of that quote. Often. And unlike husbands who sometimes tune out their wives, I am pleased to say that DH heard me.

What I've enjoyed most about DH's two small booklets is that they pay attention to Jane Austen's lament: there's only one war mentioned briefly, no pestilences and the booklets are all about women: Mary, Bess, the Grey family and others. They are also about needlework in its historical context.

So are there 'men all so good for nothing'' in DH's booklets'? That you will have to decide for yourself.

I confess, I love DH's small booklets, but then I would hardly be an unbiased critic, would I. DH is a careful scholar, he writes very well, and the booklets are both readable and charming little histories.

In recent years, DH has been Queendom Website's head shipping clerk and bookkeeper, but before he accepted those positions,  his career was as a history professor. Although Elizabethan England was not his specialty, he is well grounded in Renaissance and Reformation studies as all those years ago they were among of his doctoral fields and he has always had a keen interest.

As I started stitching my portraits of Elizabeth 1, Mary and Bess, DH started reading on the period. I stitched and he read for the better part of a couple of years and when I taught my Elizabeth portrait for Shining Needle Society, DH wrote a series of short history lessons on Elizabeth.

As I've sold kits for my miniatures of Mary and Bess, people who had taken my Elizabeth class asked if DH would do some history lessons to accompany Mary and Bess also, and he said yes.

I had expected he would finish the booklets by May when I mailed the last of my Mary and Bess kits, but life got in the way and it has taken till July. Now as of two days ago the booklets are on my website and I am proud of them. They make perfect little companions for my Mary and Bess projects.

In their honor and also in honor of the inspiration that needlework brings to my life, I have opted for a summer of 'History and Inspiration' and how the two are intertwined.

I hope you will join MacSoph and me for our summer activities on www.GayAnnRogers.com

Gay Ann

Thursday, June 20, 2013

One of My Favorite Stitching Days

One of my very favorite days of the year and certainly one of my favorite stitching days starts tomorrow morning at first light.

Yes, that's when I intend to pick up my needle and I plan to stitch the entire day long until twilight tomorrow evening.

Why tomorrow? Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and therefore more daylight stitching hours, minutes, seconds than any other day all year long! Since the Summer Solstice is on a Friday this year, I thought, why not extend my stitching days to three, right through the weekend.

So in essence I plan to pick up my needle tomorrow at first light and not really put it down again until twilight on Sunday. By then I should have aching hands and bleary eyes, but hopefully I will have accomplished a great deal!

A while ago I stitched a fantasy design. It's the first of the genre that I've tried and the whole concept is a departure for me. It has a long story that goes with it, a real one, and it also has a fantasy story that I made up. As I invented the story, I also invented two geometrics, a 'Garden Tile' and a 'Jeweled Tile'. It is my plan that by Sunday afternoon I shall have finished both 'Garden Tile' and 'Jeweled Tile'. I don't think this will be too difficult because I only have about 2 hours to go on 'Jeweled Tile'. I have a qute a bit more to do on 'Garden Tile' but finishing it is within reach.

But my plans are more ambitious than finishing my two geometrics. I am hoping to start 2 more, plus a small scissors case and needle case.

I'll be curious to see how I do and whether I can do it all. I will report again on Sunday Evening.

Meanwhile, I extend an invitation to everyone to come and stitch with me for a while, for as long as you have. Keep some company with your needle and share the time with my needle and me, and bask in all the lovely daylight hours.

Happy Summer Solstice and I hope to 'see' you tomorrow!
Gay Ann

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Queendom Website's Milestones and a New Needlework Site

For a while now, as my Jane Austen Sale has wound down, I have been reflecting on the past year at Queendom Website and I've realized this month we will reach several milestones.

One milestone is the first anniversary of life in Our New Castle. Yes, as of June 18 MacSoph and I will have been using our new software for a year. I am happy to report that we have made the adjustment and we are settled here and comfortable and able to run Queendom Website uneventfully -- most of the time..

In looking back, I realize we are also approaching Queendom Website's 5th anniversary. It was in March, 2008 that MacSoph came into my life and I started going to Apple's One to One lessons. By late June 2008, with much help from my first tutor, Brian, I had designed Queendom Website and we first published it.

And now another milestone: Queendom Website is approaching a half-million hits. I think the counter will roll over to 500,000 likely in 3 or 4 more days.

I've been trying to decide how we might celebrate these milestones in our online life.

In reflecting on my 5-year journey at Apple University, perhaps the most fitting celebration is a new very small website.  As Queendom Website approaches its milestones, I would like to introduce www.MyNeedleworkBox.com

www.MyNeedleworkBox.com is an experiment, mostly just to see if I could do it, and like Queendom Website five years ago, I had a ton of help.

So what is different about MyNeedleworkBox.com? With very much help, I wrote the code for it.
Yes, I've been learning html and css and how a bunch of angle brackets and curly brackets and what fits between them add up to online images and text.

So Happy Anniversary to Queendom Website, to my MacSophs and to me. It's been a great journey and I look forward to seeing where we travel in next five years.

Gay Ann

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pride and Prejudice, the Needle Book Edition

Yesterday was a fairly big day in my life, for I finally finished and posted for sale the Jane Austen needlework projects I've made to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice.

I've made quite a few little projects all to fit in a basket lined with handkerchiefs and filled with things like Jane Austen Stamps and some steel buttons from the era of Jane Austen, and of course some favorite needlework tools also from the era.

Far and away my favorite of my Jane Austen projects is my needle book called 'Pride and Prejudice, the Needle Book Edition'. It is the best and my favorite of the needle books I've made and with a lack of humility, I am proud of it.

Here are a handful of the reasons it is my favorite. First, I experimented with the form and actually made a stitched book, with spine and all. It took some engineering but it all worked and that pleased me. I'm not a very good finisher (as in 'assembling' not 'finishing the stitching) and I was happy to show a little ingenuity and still keep it simple enough for me to tackle.

Another reason I love my little needle book: I experimented with decorating the felt pages, and I enjoyed my choice of decorations: labels for the needles belonging to each of the 6 Bennets. I thought the attributions suited each of the Bennet sisters and Mrs. Bennet as well. DH helped me with these; he's a big Jane Austen fan too.

As an aside, do you find it interesting that Mrs. Bennet has no first name? She is only ever 'Mrs. Bennet'. It reminds me of the days in my own life when a woman never used her first name in signing a check (she used 'Mrs. John Doe' instead of 'Jane Doe') and we always addressed letters to 'Mr. and Mrs. John Doe'. That was a long while ago but I remember it well. Along with slips and white gloves.

Back to 'Pride and Prejudice, the Needle Book Edition'. I was pleased that the subtitle 'The Needle Book Edition' made DH chuckle and I gave myself  high marks for earning that chuckle. It is the best chuckle that one of my attempts has earned in a long while.

When I set about designing the alphabets I used for the needle book, I asked the advice of my Apple tutors who all have a geek's love of fonts and hugely pronounced opinions about them. I loved the experience because I learned about the differences and similarities in printing and stitching letters. When I spaced my lines irregularly, my tutors all questioned my decision and I realized we stitchers have a long tradition of spacing very different from that of the printed word.

I also confess, I enjoyed huffing and puffing myself up and telling my young tutors that stitched letters have as long and rich a tradition as does the printed word. Just think how far back the stitched letter and the stitched word go. One of the things I love best about needlework is its very long and rich history. We are not Janey-come-latelys, are we.

I thought of the long traditions of lettering the whole time I was designing the alphabets I used.  DH has a beautiful set of Jane Austen's novels from 1909, bound in green with gold lettering and I've always loved it. I used it as my inspiration for the needle book instead of the first edition of Pride and Prejudice. My needle book didn't end up looking like the green volumes from DH's set,  I see the seeds of the ideas of them in mine and I enjoy the reference.

I would remiss if I didn't mention how much I think my choice of ground fabrics contributed to the needle book. I am a canvasworker and usually work on congress cloth but this time I thought the design called for the tradition of linen. As an experiment  I designed for myself a small 'Pride and Prejudice' heart and stitched the heart five times on different ground fabrics. I've not worked often on linen and the hearts gave me a chance to audition possibilities. Almost immediately I fell totally in love with 25 count Legacy Linen. In the linen world this is a coarse ground and I understand why, but for a canvasworker wanting to translate her patterns onto a linen ground, this linen was a perfect step, almost interchangeable with congress cloth but more traditional in presentation.

I understand the idea that cross stitches look wonderful on the very fine ground fabrics, 34 count and finer, but as a canvasworker I rarely if ever use a cross stitch over 2 threads. As a rule, canvasworkers use a wider variety of stitches and the 25 count Legacy Linen gave my pattern choices a robust and textural appearance. I am a person who likes sparse thread coverage and on 34 count linen and even 30 count linen, I found the thread too crowded in the holes and therefore a bit flat looking.

One final reason for loving my needle book: I was a literature major in college and the needle book brought back a flood of pleasant associations from an earlier time in my life. When I stitched the bookmark I had originally planned to use a quote from Jane Austen herself on the backside; instead I used a favorite quote about Jane Austen from Virginia Woolf: 'of all great writers she (Jane Austen) is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness'.  Oh how true her observation.

Often when I finish a project, I almost always think to myself: if only I could do it again I would make it so much better. This time I didn't. I think I did the best with this needle book that I could do. A rare feeling, as I said and one that brings me a great deal of personal satisfaction.

Gay Ann

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Stitching Journey

In the last couple of weeks MacSoph and I have been posting on Queendom Website various portraits of historical women. I was toying with the idea of stitching a portrait to pair with my Elizabeth 1. Just toying, but I thought it might make an interesting feature for a couple of weeks on my home page.

MacSoph (my trusty little computer) keeps files of portraits and paintings for me and so I rifled through the files and found first some beautiful French ladies painted long ago by Elisabeth Lebrun, herself an interesting figure.

I posted them, then asked my followers at Shining Needle Society which they liked the best and why.

Next I posted a series of portraits of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, both contemporary to her and modern and asked again for the favorites.

People liked some of the French ladies but I thought their reception was a bit luke warm. Georgiana fared less well, and many of my followers suggested, if I wanted to do another portrait, why didn't I do Henry VIII.

I replied, 'no Henry'.

I didn't hit my stride with the portraits feature till I posted five paintings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Now those my followers liked! They liked one better than the others, so I posted it and then extrapolated some colors and made a Kuler-style panel of the colors.

Yesterday I went shopping, armed with a notion of the portrait and the Kuler-style colors, and tomorrow morning (Sunday April 21) I will post the results of my threads spree. BTW, I had a great time shopping for threads!

So do I plan to make a Rossetti portrait with all these threads? No, I'm not going to make a Rossetti portrait or for that matter any other portrait. The colors did inspire me and as a result I have three designs planned for them, but none a portrait.

Did I think this is where I would end up when I started the portrait exercise on Queendom Website? No, no idea where it would lead.

Now I have grand plans and a nice stash of very pretty threads. So will my projects end up looking like the threads? Maybe, maybe not. If I follow my natural inclinations, I will in time subtract some of the threads, add others, and likely end up with a project that looks quite different. But then again, I could end up with a project that follows these colors. Who knows. We'll have to see.

One time, several years ago I came back from the framer with a newly framed piece (over time it has turned into one of my favorites), I was excited about it and showed it to a friend. She reminded me that she had seen the original drawing and the finished piece looked little like the original drawing and nothing like she had expected.

She then asked me if I knew when I started what the piece would look like in the end. I said, no of course I didn't. How would I know where it would end up? She thought I ought to exert more control over my work, and maybe so, but the charm of needlework for me is the journey and the excitement to see where the piece does end up, what twists and turns it takes along the way and what it looks like as I take the last stitch. Actually, I don't often know for certain till the piece is in its frame.

I believe I start a piece and then it takes on a life of its own. It will likely tell me the direction it wants to take and my skill comes not in controlling it but in observing and recognizing the direction it leads me. That's why I am a 'trial and error' stitcher. I want to see what my piece tells me each step of the journey and then test myself to see if I can interpret its messages.

New threads, new promises, new pieces, new directions. Time and again that's My Stitching Journey.

Gay Ann

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Queen Elizabeth's Sitting Room

There are certain refrains that seem to run through my life: I love to stitch and I try hard to understand MacSoph, my little laptop.

And right up there along with stitching and MacSoph is -- alas --- too much stash. Too many threads, too many beads, too many papers. Clutter. Yes, fussing about my clutter is almost as constant as loving to stitch and working through my frustrations on MacSoph. Year after year, it never seems to resolve itself.

If de-cluttering isn't at the top of my list of New Year's Resolutions each year, it is always close. From year to year, hope springs eternal in January, tapers off in February and by this time in March is usually a hopeless return to stashes of threads, beads and papers everywhere I look.

But this March was different. Do I mean that I succeeded in cleaning up my mess? No, not at all. So what was different?

I have a favorite English tabloid. From my London years, when DH read The Guardian and the Independent, I read the Daily Mail. I remember the year when Sarah Ferguson had her toe indiscretions. I collected all the English tabloids and brought them home to EGA's seminar. My students that year had a particularly tedious project to stitch  in class and I thought a dose of the English tabloids might prove a worthwhile distraction.

Now I am home in the U.S. permanently but happily MacSoph provides me with continuing dose of Daily Mail amusements. I think the Daily Mail has not improved in the last few years (too many exhibitionist actresses in too little clothing), but this March I was glad I still kept in touch with my old  tabloid favorite.

For the Daily Mail recently had an article on Queen Elizabeth's private sitting room at Balmoral, and guess what...

Queen Elizabeth's just like me!

Here's a link to the article and I hope, if you are like me and you have too much clutter from too much stash, this little article will help you feel a tad bit better.


I have no idea whether the report is accurate and as I don't know the Queen of England, I don't suspect I'll ever know.

But for a little while this month, accurate or not, I took time off from worrying about my stash clutter. If Queen Elizabeth can live that way, well,  so can I.

Gay Ann

Friday, March 08, 2013

Midnight Star, My Needlepoint Geometric

At E-Week last October I sold a geometric design of mine called 'Midnight Star'.  It is a design on dark blue canvas, in blue, silver and white threads, and I think it looks very much like its name.

It is a simple design with a lot of overstitching, and I think it would lend itself well to a lot of improvisation.

So this spring in my general classroom at Shining Needle Society I have issued a 'Midnight Start' challenge. I would love for people to play with the design and see what they come up with. The improv could be as simple as an easy color change, from, say blue to red or green. It could be a more complex color change also, and with all this in mind, I have begun a new series morphing Midnight Star on Queendom Website's home page.

The series has just begun and so far you will find what Midnight Star might look like in the aforementioned red and green, and also all white and silver on a black canvas, and then an inverted version of all black and white on a pinkish taupe canvas.

I plan to continue the series hopefully throughout March on Queendom Website. I've taken to posting a new color, leaving it as the 'headline' for a day or two and then moving it to a slideshow. When I finish, I should have a huge slideshow.

So far the color diddlings have been fairly  tame, but in the next bit of time they will grow wilder, in fact quite wild indeed!

So how have MacSoph and I diddled with the colors of Midnight Star? In PhotoShop of course. Not long ago my Apple tutor Andy taught me about an adjustment layer I'd not tried before; he also had quite a few work flow suggestions for using it. So when MacSoph and I sat down and spent a bit of time diddling with Midnight Star, the results grew quite wild and very inspiring to me. Made me want to pick up my needle pronto and start trying some of them!

Is it possible to stitch a PhotoShopped creation? Not stitch by stitch, but certainly by inspiration. I have often colorized designs of mine and then gone down to the needlepoint shop and picked out threads and colors inspired by my colorizations. They don't ever come out just like the colorizations, but the colorizations are such a great starting point. In my design life, I have always found it much easier to start with an inspiring idea than simply stare at a blank piece of canvas.

Here's the best part: often the results come out so much better than the colorizations because threads and canvas are ever so much more wonderful than pictures of threads and canvas. That's the magic of needlework: we all know that the pieces is always better than the picture.

The difficult thing about needlepoint is that so many of us are in the habit of 'stitching everything exactly the way the designer did it'. That's OK, that's the way our field goes, but I do promise this: life is ever so much more exciting if you branch out a bit and try even small changes. Since Midnight Star is basically a simple pattern, it is a great place to start.

Gay Ann

For quick reference: www.GayAnnRogers.com

To join us at Shining Needle Society: write to Kate Gaunt, KateGaunt@aol.com.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Bit of Fun: A New Website Called "My Needlework Box"

I may be a bit premature in writing about this because I'm only a couple of weeks into its birth, but I am committed to starting a new website. I even bought the domain name for it.

My Needlework Box.

It will never be more than 4-6 pages long, and I can tell you that the first subject will be 'Doilies' in 'My Needlework Box'. I am so very excited about this that I had to write a post about it even though it is still way premature to do so.

So why am I excited about a tiny website called 'My Needlework Box' when I already have 2 websites and moan about maintaining them? Because this one is different and it has a tiny story.

Those of you who follow me will remember my angst when Apple threw Queendom Website under the bus by snatching away support for its easy-to-learn-easy-to-maintain program iWeb. I know a number of you lived through the whole messy process of MacSoph and my move from our Old Castle over to our New Castle over at Adobe.

We're happy, in fact very happy in our New Castle. We've learned to run things and keep up and we aren't afraid of it any longer, but I've never stopped being wary of computer companies and their tendencies to discontinue software at the drop of a hat.

'My Needlework Box' is a very different type of website, for MacSoph and I are writing it ourselves. Yes, I took the plunge into MacSoph's real world and now my life is full of angle brackets, forward slashes, squiggly brackets and all sorts of very strange language.

When I finally publish 'My Needlework Box' you will hear me crowing from the roof tops, for I will be free and unencumbered, except for a text editor called 'Coda'.

Is it ever possible that I could write the code for my own website, one the size of Queendom Website? Not likely, but it will give me a lot more freedom in choosing a program and being able to manipulate it to suit myself if I know some html and css. So that's what MacSoph and I are up to these days.

It has one other small consequence: it's given me a new lease on life and makes me feel a part of today. And strangely enough, it has a lot in common with my first love in life, needlework. I suspect if I asked my engineer friends who stitch if this is true, maybe they would understand why I say this. The main thing they have in common: both can be very tedious and very precise, and just about the time I think I've got it, I discover I'm off by one digit. Same as having to rip that one stitch that threw off my count.

I've been tackling it exactly the same way I tackle learning a new technique in needlework: practice every day. 10 minutes a day, just like taking 12 Stitches a Day.

Now it remains to be seen if I'm smart enough to do this. If I can't, it won't be for want of trying.

Gay Ann

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Jane Austen Needlework Basket

For some time now I have promised I would post photos of my latest project, a basket filled with needlework related to Jane Austen. I have been working on and off for about 6 months on this project and finally yesterday it came together: I posted a slide show of the basket and its contents.

To see the basket and its contents, travel to:


The slides transition fairly quickly, too quickly to read the captions. Here's my recommendation: watch the slide show through once without reading the captions.

If you want to read the captions, click on one of the thumbnails to stop the automatic feature.
Then you can click through the slides at your leisure.

I had a great time playing graphics designer and creating Jane Austen Button and Trim Cards as well as two little booklets, one for samples of ground fabrics and one the alphabets I used in my projects, but far and away my favorite pieces in the basket are my Pride and Prejudice Needle Book and its Bookmark. Maybe it is because I have always loved Pride and Prejudice that I think my Needle Book Edition is the best needle book I've made. 

Interesingly,  the inspiration for my needle book was not a first edition of Pride and Prejudice, but a 1908 edition bound in green cloth with beautiful gold tooling. My husband  bought the set of Jane Austen novels long ago in an estate sale and I've always loved it. I've meant to take photos of the books and post them on my website. I will do so very soon.

A small aside: when I put a pair of tiny Dovo scissors in the bookmark, my husband said he'd never seen a pair of scissors in a bookmark before. Said I, if it's the Needle Book Edition, it needs scissors doesn't it. Together the Needle Book and the Book Mark make a sewing case, ready to go and help me stitch. I do need to add a needle threader to the set, maybe on the end of a fob attached to the scissors.

The slide show is to say Happy Valentine's Day. I hope you enjoy it and your day -- and if you manage to sneak in a few stitches today, all the better your day will be for those stitches.

Gay Ann

Thursday, February 07, 2013

An American Doll Story

This isn't on the topic of needlework, but I can't resist writing about a recent favorite article in the New York Times. Maybe my excuse is that the article has a photo of an American Doll sitting in a basket much like my Jane Austen Stitching Society basket.

Here is the article, a story about a librarian and an American Doll. Do read it and be certain to read the note included from the little girl Flora.


A lesson about the success of  tweaking conventional ways of doing things and how the results can be wonderful.

Gay Ann

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Updates: The Jane Austen Stitching Society

I have been busy lately updating Queendom Website and most of my updates are about The Jane Austen Stitching Society. Essentially I will spend a part of the next year working on needlepoint to commemorate Jane Austen and the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice.

If you would like to join The Jane Austen Stitching Society, please write to Kate Gaunt  (KateGaunt@aol.com). Our meeting room is at Shining Needle Society; membership is free.

Our first project is to find a basket about 9" x 12" x 3", decorate it and line it with whitework handkerchiefs. With this in mind I have posted photos of the two baskets I chose and I have just started posting the handkerchiefs I decided to use. To see them and read about them, travel to Queendom Website:

for quick reference: www.GayAnnRogers. com

You will see my first hankie and both of my baskets on the home page. In the next few days I will show the other hankies and also how I folded the hankies in the baskets. There are ever so much more clever people at this and I am hoping that members of The Jane Austen Stitching Society will come up with different ways of lining and decorating their baskets and share their ideas with us.

In addition to my baskets and their hankies, I have begun to update my 'Collections' page with fairly modern handkerchiefs of my own. Travel there and you will find the first of my collector hankies and a little quiz about where it was made. I would like to use my own hankies to teach people in the Jane Austen society about distinguishing style and whether whitework from our immediate past is made by machine or by hand and how to tell the difference.

I also hope to spend some time on the whitework heritage from the time of Jane Austen. If you scroll down on my Collections page, you will see the corner of a beautiful Georgian/Regency hankie. The embroidery is of pansies and is so very fine. I photographed the corner with a dime so that you can tell the scale.

In addition to the whitework,  there's the beautiful French lace of Jane Austen's era. And of course the wonderful needlework tools of the Regency era . I can tell we will be very busy in the next months!

Busy as we will be with studying the  embroidery and needlework tools of the past also, a big part of The Jane Austen Stitching Society will be about our own stitching. I am happy to report here that I have completed four little hearts, a needle book commemorating Pride and Prejudice (this needle book is my current pride and joy), a bookmark and a name tag, all to go in my Jane Austen basket.

I have finished writing the instructions for the hearts and Kate has proof-stitched them for me. In the next weeks I hope to finish the instructions for the needle book, the bookmark and the name tag, then we will start stitching in earnest.

It will be a great winter and spring and I am excited that we are starting.
Gay Ann