Archive for October, 2010

My first husband, Skip, age 75, is getting married on Halloween Eve, tomorrow. Here’s the wedding invitation I received a few weeks ago.





Note the P.S. “Halloween Finery is Optional”

As soon as I received the invitation I began thinking about what to make for them. I decided I would use their words, “Til death do us part” framed in some way.

First, I used WordArt to create the lettering I wanted to stitch:


I chose a silk damask as the ground fabric and began some practice stitching. I thought I wanted the letters to be gold.

Letters practice cloth

For padding I couched yellow #5 pearl cotton. Then I tried covering the padding, first with various gold metal and metallic threads, then with various other threads, and finally deciding on doing trailing stitch with a single strand of ivory silk floss.

Now, how was I going to surround the lettering? I pasted the printed phrase on to graph paper:


and began playing in pencil with ideas for the stitching.


Several possible kinds of filling stitches:


This is what I wanted to use, with pearls and stitches in the diamond spaces, and a border of something else immediately around the lettering.


The next step was trying out my ideas on a practice cloth, with various threads.

I had to draw the grid on the silk fabric with a water-soluble marking pen.

Practice cloth more

My first thought was to make a grid of gold metal or metallic threads, but none looked good. Next I tried white cotton pearl stitched down with gold threads. Still not good. I tried an ivory silk twist. Finally, I settled on white #5 cotton pearl, which made more stable lines, tacked down with white thread.

Now the grid design had to be transferred to the silk fabric. The silk was backed with fusible Pellon to give it stability. Then I traced the whole design on my light table.


The lettering was stitched first, in trailing stitch with a single strand of silk floss over #5 white cotton pearl. The silk stitches have to completely cover the cotton thread underneath.

When I finally began working on the grid, I used white pearl cotton for the first layer. Here’s the WIP on September 20th.

Next I positioned the diagonal lines over this grid, again with #5 pearl cotton. With nearly the last thread in place, I discovered that somehow the square grid underneath was off, and there was no way I could make the diamond pattern work. The whole thing, all that diagonal stitching, had to be unstitched. In this picture you can see how I work on this kind of delicate material that could be easily dirtied. It’s tacked tautly over a wooden frame and covered with plastic sheeting. I’ve cut “French doors” in the plastic so that I can uncover the part I’m working on. When I’m not working on it, the whole project is covered with plastic.

Willl not work

The solution to the grid problem was to make a second grid with several strands of ivory silk floss, each intersection stitched down with a single strand of silk floss.


Although I knew I was going to put pearls inside the squares, I still didn’t know how I was going to make the inner border around the lettering, and it’s always best to add beads last, if you can.

Wanting a heavy dimensional stitching for this border, to contrast with the grid, and having just learned raised chain stitch for TAST 2010, I chose a variegated off-white DMC #5 pearl cotton and stitched two rows of that as the outer edge of the border. Then I tried an idea that didn’t work:

Detail unstitching border

That was unstitched. In the end, I just stretched three lengths of white cotton pearl along all four sides and held them in place with another single row of raised chain stitch. I was very pleased with this border.

After working out a pattern, I added the cultured pearls, and I thought I was done. But no, the lettering was simply not visible enough, with everything else I’d added. To make the letters stand out, I couched a very fine gold thread around each of them. Here I’d gotten as far as the letter a in “death.”

Finally, I was finished.

After removing all traces of the blue transfer, I took the piece off the frame, mounted it over padded foamcore, and framed it. Two attempts to photograph it.

Click on the above image to see it enlarged at Flickr.


Here’s the inner border I was pleased with and the lettering before I outlined the letters.


I found it impossible to get a good photograph of this piece because of the light reflecting off the silk, the pearls, and the gilt frame. It is truly beautiful. And since I’m going to present it tonight, I can show it to you.

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Running and dancing

As promised, I’m writing more about my Big Day, October 16th, when I was running at 8:30 in the morning and dancing at 8:30 in the evening.

The evening before the race, the school hosted a pasta dinner for the runners in the FUNd Run, our fund-raising team that was part of the Baltimore Running Festival—a marathon, a half-marathon, a relay, the 5K, and a kids run. I went to the dinner, not for the pasta, but for information. Never having done this before, I had lots of questions. What should I wear? What do I do with my wallet and camera? Which way do I go when I get off the train? After a pep talk, during which it was announced that I had BY FAR the greatest number of donors, I raised my hand and asked for another 5K runner to talk with. An experienced woman runner came up to me.

Kate and me

You can see me frantically asking my questions.

Before dinner we were given our team t-shirts. Kate, to whom I was talking, suggested that I put my name on my t-shirt so that spectators could cheer me on by my name. Okay, how could I do that so that people would pronounce it correctly? Here’s how:


First I wrote it with a permanent marker, but then I couldn’t resist stitching it. Of course. In chain stitch.

And here I am with my 5th grade partner, Queron. He had his mother bring him to the dinner, even though it meant skipping football practice, so that he could see me before the race.

Queron and me

It’s for Queron and the other kids at Baltimore Christian School that I was running.

Having found my way to the nearest Light Rail stop the previous Saturday, and learned how to buy a ticket and board the train, I had no trouble doing that on race day. What about clothes and wallet? I wore what I expected to run in, locked my wallet in my car, put keys and a $5.00 bill in my pocket, and carried change for the round-trip ticket. It was supposed to be cold and windy, so I wore one of Ernie’s thermal undershirts under my FUNd Run t-shirt, crops, and a wind-breaker, with gloves and bandana in the pocket.

Here I am at the starting point. This is a thumbnail of the official race photographer’s shot that I copied from their website but can’t enlarge.


Didn’t need the wind-breaker after all.

A church member who was not a runner walked the whole route with me so that she could take pictures of our team members. I was running. I ran the whole way, while Crystal walked beside me, occasionally dashing off to take pictures. (She’s an ex-Marine with much longer legs than mine.) My nephew took this shot with his phone. He and my brother saw me start.


The route was uphill for the first mile and a half, then back downhill.

And here we are, crossing the finish line. This is another official photograph that I can’t enlarge. I’d have to buy it. You can see it here, though.


It’s the only picture I have because my brother Don and his son Greg were running the half-marathon. It was Don who started the FUNd Run for the school four years ago. Having decided to enter the half-marathon, he then had the idea of using it to raise funds—just himself. When he saw the amount he had raised, he decided to recruit others to run the next year. Each year since, more runners have joined the team. This year there were 60 of us.

Greg and Don_edited-1

Although I look happy in the pictures, it was an awful experience for me. Nerve-wracking. The running was no problem, but the whole mob scene, the noise, the newness, being forced to make conversation as I ran, having difficulty making my way back to the train stop, all that was too much for my central nervous system. I felt under assault. The whole time until I got back home I felt disoriented and confused. I was a wreck.

But by 4:30 an the afternoon, I was dressed for the gala.


I wore the same ensemble I wore last year with the addition of the mask.

I had it on at 4:30 because I had promised the care center residents whom I visit three days a week that I would come show them how I looked for the gala. Then I took it off until 7:15, when it was time to go there.

The theme was Masquerade Ball and the decor of the lobby through which we entered was that of an elegant ballroom, complete with several couples elegantly doing formal ballroom dancing.


I took pictures of some of the masked guests.



And unmasked partyers.


And here’s one of me with my mother’s cousin, who also lives at Charlestown.


The vegetable station was the only food that interested me, It was beautiful, with roasted as well as raw vegetables, and pomegranate seeds, probably never seen at Charlestown before.


All night the dance floors were packed with dancers. The band played lots of 1950s songs—rock and roll and soul—age-appropriate music to which the 80-year-olds (and younger folks) responded with enthusiasm.

IMG_1145 IMG_1140

Tanked with vodka, I too, danced all night.

Then said good night to my good friend and mini-triathlon teammate, Ara.


The evening was a lot more fun than the morning.

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Next step

Next step

Originally uploaded by jowynnjohns

Here’s the next step in my TAST 2010 sampler. All but one of the stitches covering the seams are TAST stitches. With no ideas for further embellishing the seam treatments, as this is going to cover a little cushion behind Ernie’s back, I decided to add motifs to the larger patches. Again, no inspiration.

Finally I decided to cut out shapes from print fabrics. I fuse-appliqued them to the patches. Now I’m going to stitch over, and/or around them.

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Big day

Yesterday, October 16th, at 8:30 a.m. I began running the 5K race, which I finished. Ernie took this shot after I got back home. There will be more about that when I get other people’s pictures. Couldn’t carry my camera with me.

At 8:30 last night, I was dancing at the gala. Ernie took this shot before I left home.

There will be more about this, too, after I get permission to use some of the photographs I did take there.

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Ready to run

This morning I drove to the stadium to pick up my runner’s package, which included my number bib and a $30 Under Armour technical t-shirt that’s made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles.
It was raining. An Expo was being held here in the stadium.


Since I neglected to take my camera, I had only my mobile to take pictures. Sorry about the lousy quality. They will give you some idea of the event, even so.

The Expo opened at 10:00 a.m. I got there around 10:30 and there were already lots of cars in the parking lots. Finding my way was no problem. All I had to do was follow the people, all headed for the Expo to pick up their runner’s packets.

Inside we had to walk up a series of long ramps to the top of the stadium where rows of vendors stretched the length of the area.

Sports gear

Long view

More people Crowded

At one end, we picked up our number bibs (Step 2). At the other end, we got our t-shirts (Step 3). Tremendously well-organized. This is the 10th year of the Baltimore Running Festival. The marathon last year drew competitors from all 50 states and 40 countries.

Having completed that task, I drove the 5K route. It’s uphill all the way to the turn-around half-way point.
Last Saturday, having been warned by the race organization that I should not even think about driving there as 22,000 runners are registered, I found my way via my GPS to the nearest Light Rail station where I learned how that works. Even bought a ticket to make sure I could do that, and watched people get on and off.
Ran three miles in 55 minutes on Tuesday. I think I’m ready. Sure hope the weather is good. It was cold and raining this morning.
If you haven’t already donated to the school for which I’m running, it’s not too late to do so. Click here:


JoWynn Johns’ FUNd RUN link

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Shell chain stitch

This week’s Take a Stitch Tuesday (TAST) stitch is the shell chain stitch. Though I haven’t blogged about it, I have been keeping up with the TAST challenge. Because of other projects, including a wedding gift I can’t post about until after it’s been received, I haven’t tried to be creative with most of the stitches this time. I’ve just practiced making them. A few weeks ago I decided to make a crazy patchwork pillow cover to give myself something to use the stitches on.


Here are the front and back of the pillow cover, tacked to my portable design board.

I learned how to make the stitch, using just a single length of #5 pearl cotton.

Then I wondered whether I could make it go ’round.

It might work with a heavier thread.

Today, uninspired by the shell chain stitch, I resolved to use it on the patchwork anyhow. When the basting stitches of this denim patch pulled loose, I replaced them with a row of small-scale chain stitches, just to keep the patch in place and hemmed. I decided to combine the shell chain stitch with this row of chain stitching.


First I tried placing shell chain stitching directly over the small stitching, thinking it might yield interesting texture. That didn’t work, so I did shell chain stitching beside the denim patch. Each small stitch is the length of one of the original chain stitches, and each large stitch is the length of two of the original stitches.


Well, you can recognize shell chain stitches, but it looked boring to me. After a couple of trials, I settled for lacing the two rows of chain stitching with a rusty #5 pearl cotton thread. The awkward angle I covered  with a button.


Maybe if I used the shell chain stitch for a different purpose, I would like it. So far, it doesn’t interest me.

Here’s the pillow cover thus far. I expect it will get more embellishment in addition to TAST stitches.

Pillow cover WIP_edited-1

Do take a look at the creative stitching done by other TAST participants at our group site on Flickr.

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Just look

Just look at these earrings.


Aren’t they magnificent? Crystal beads and copper charms.

They were designed and made for me by dear friend Nina to wear with my black jacket ensemble.


The feather is meaningful, as the gift was sent “from one soaring spirit to another.”

Thank you so much, Nina. I will love wearing them, knowing they came with love from you.

Now, go look at more of her work.

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