Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Winter Wonderbird

Over the years, Jim and I have grown quite fond of the quirks and personalities of the birds that share our backyard and sup at our seed-y smorgasbord.   I'm particularly fond of the Eastern bluebird and Jim's favorite is the Black-Capped Chickadee.



I think he sees a bit of himself in its capable, efficient manner.  Targeted in its feeding style, the chickadee avoids the food squabbles of the finches, sparrows and jays.   Waiting patiently for a break in the fray, it flies in, gets a seed, and flies away again to eat in peace before any protest is mounted.  Though the titmice are similar; the chickadee is the only bird to let us know when the feeders are empty by calling just outside our window...chick a dee dee dee, chick a dee dee dee.

They're also the only birds that escort me across the yard while I'm carrying the newly-filled feeders, taking seeds as I lift them up and before I can even get them hung.  We've seen pictures of people training chickadees to eat out of their hands and Jim has often said he wants to try that once he retires.

I mention all this as backstory so that you understand why I said "yes" without any hesitation when Pam Kellogg asked if I would be willing to make the January artwork for her annual Crazy Quilt calendar.  This year's theme was birds and would I be willing to do a Chickadee?

Jim's favorite bird and my favorite month...slam dunk...I was in.



Another reason Jim loves the chickadee is because it's with us all year round.  A fierce little bird and a scrappy forager in the worst of winter weather.

Inspired by their brazen, insistent requests, I decided to place my chickadee on the crepe myrtle branch outside of the window, winter bare but for the seed pods that are left closed until Spring...



This is the branch from where our chickadee friend, seeing us seated inside the warmth of our home, calls to us to come out and fill the feeder.



I splattered the block with Lumiere textile paint in pearlescent white, wanting the bird to be in the middle of a snowstorm. 

I envisioned snow to be everywhere so I spent some time studying photographs of snow crystals and reading up on the properties of snow in this book...



I can't recommend it enough!  Find it at the library or bookstore and spend some time looking through its pages...it's a beauty to behold.

The snowflake structures lend themselves beautifully to embroidered interpretation...


And I discovered that all snowflakes have either six- or twelve-sided symmetry...never four or eight as I've sometimes seen them depicted.

Each stitched snowflake is unique...


And I was able to use the painted watch parts and beaded snowflakes I had made a few years ago.  Evidently, their time had come...



The crepe myrtle seed pods were "stitched" by making knots of Au Ver a Soie silk chenille thread, sinking the ends, and sculpting them with needle and thread...



I found that the thread was too thick to stitch with a french knot without serious worming.

The snow on the branch was made in the same manner as my January Reflections piece.



As for the chickadee itself, I wanted to give the appearance of the feathers being fluffed out, trying to retain body heat so I stitched in a few fluffy feathers to give the suggestion of cold.


And the little blue beanie?

The inspiration for that came from none other than my son Jack himself.  He wears one pretty much every day...



And I was in the process of making a new hat for him when I dropped him off at school...



To keep him warm through those cold Boston winters.

So I knitted one for him and one for the bird...


I had to steek the bird's beanie so I could cut it in half and sculpt it with thread onto the piece.

Steeking is a method of cutting a piece that has been knit in the round.  I had never steeked anything before so I learned a new technique.

Thanks Pam for including me in your calendar.  You can see the other birdy pieces in the calendar and purchase your own here.



I know I haven't been blogging very much lately but it isn't for lack of desire.  I still love my blog like an old friend and plan to be here more regularly, life willing.

Waving to you all!

44 comments:

sunny said...

Amazingly beautiful!! You do wonderful work.

Zoe said...

That is amazing. So beautiful.

D1-D2 said...

I love this bird, I never knew it was called the chickadee. I don't I've ever seen one where I live. His hat is so cute too.

Cath said...

Fantastic. Great collection of snowflakes and a very cute bird.

Erica said...

The chickadee is a new bird to me - we don't have them here in NZ but our local library does have the book you recommend and I am requesting it! I do love the wee chickadee you have embroidered but it is your interpretation of snow flakes which have me inspired. They are so beautiful. So is your whole piece. Just gorgeous.

Lisa Boni said...

So wonderful to see more details of this beautiful and amazing block! As always, your work is so exquisite and executed to perfection! Just gorgeous!

Rachel said...

Good to hear from you, and especially to see the Chickadee, who's gorgeous!

Not to mention Son Jack, who's getting more grown up every time he appears!

Sheila Iskin said...

Oh, Susan! That's lovely! It's like a game of I-spy with my little eye, with all the snowflake arms. 1.2.3.4.5.6, 1.2.3....5.6. The chickadee really does look all fluffy. It's a lovely piece!

And who IS that guy? Wow! What a difference a few years makes...He's so changed from when I first stumbled across your blog. Where does the time go? Speaking of which, did I just notice that you had a blogoversary? Or is that tomorrow? Either way, congratulations, Plays With Needles, and thank you for years of stories! :)

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Hurray ~ You are back and with yet another beautiful creation. I am inspired by your work as always.

Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

Sonja said...

How beautiful Susan. I love your marvellous snow flakes, they really are inspirational. So nice to see you back.

Sarah Keeling said...

I love that little bird, packed chock full of character. X

Allison Aller said...

Just so wonderful. Nobody like you, Susan, for storytelling with needle and thread, camera, and keyboard. ;-)

Carol S. said...

OMG, this is the cutest thing I've seen in a long time. I LOVE chickadees, they are my favorite bird. Your depiction is just wonderful.

I will also say that I think you have the most successful of the blocks in the calendar--a theme that actually seems to fit the month, plus you can actually see the bird. My favorite by far.

Judy S. said...

Beautiful work, Susan. Your creativity is amazing!

Catherine said...

I've been out of the loop for a while ~ so glad your post popped up and I have to say, I absolutely love everything about it!!! By the way, when did the baseball cap change to a beanie!?!

Lady Locust said...

Absolutely beautiful! Those snowflakes are fabulous. The bird is precious & the work astounding!
Bravo, bravo - feel like I'm at the opera (I've never been:)

Chocolates4Breakfast (Terri Malinovich) said...

What beautiful work! The bird, his cap, the Crepe Mytrtle and those snowflakes! Absolutely fabulous!

Stitching Noni said...

I love your bird! What a beautiful finish :o)
The snowflakes are so pretty... stunning piece!
Hugs xx

Createology said...

Such a precious little Chickadee and you have given him a proper setting along with the blue beanie cap to keep hiim warm all Winter long.
As always your attention to detail and the learning process you go through to achieve accuracy truly makes your works of HeArt so incredibly beautiful. Creative Blogging Bliss and it is so good to see you post.

Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

I love chickadees ... and to find your incredible wonderful art work using the cheeky chickadee as your motif. I'm in bliss heaven! Love his cap ... what a nice pic of your son with his own cap.

I'm so glad I stopped in today ... thank you for sharing your beautiful gift with us here on your blog!

Wishing you beauty in every corner of your world...
Brenda

margaret said...

what an amazing crazy piece you have created Pam must be over the moon with this. How lucky are you to have so many birds feeding from your nuts, seeds etc. I get sparrows! blackbirds and the occassional blue tit, oh yes and a robin. Not bad I suppose for a built up area.I did have a sparrow hawk in next door`s garden the other day, the sparrows were making such a din! he flew off without catching one fortunately

Ольга Т. said...

Да, зима близко. Очень красиво.

deb* said...

Lovely work and I love your subject! Thanks for sharing.

Jane Raymond said...

So beautiful! I was delighted this morning to see you had posted. Your work is so inspirational. Thank you for sharing.

Joan said...

Glad to see you again. Cute chickadee.

But! I probably missed it, but whatever happened to Mrs. Rose?????

C. Heinrichs Good Earth Quilting said...

One of the most stunning crazy work I've seen for all time. Winter is tricky and you achieved a complete success!

gracie said...

Another magnificent piece!

Véronique Coiffard said...

It's really extraordinary, I love your work, it's magnificent really. I remember your previous masterpiece, "January reflexions", another work of art of you. Thank you for telling about the book dedicated to snowflakes. I'll try to buy it. It's such a pleasure to hear again from you. Greetings from France, Suzan !
Veronique. Au Fil de Mes Jours. www.afmj.fr

SharoninStitches said...

Exquisite!!!!

lorenabr said...

I love your work! Simply beautiful!
http://inkandlacedesigns.blogspot.com.au/

Marsha said...

A few years ago I didn't feed the birds through the summer. I knew it was time to buy seed in November when a Chickadee just pestered me to no end to get a move on and get them some seed. My morning ritual is to get the seed out before the Chickadee has a conniption!
This block is just the cutest beautiful work ever. And now I will have to get a calendar just so I have a permanent record of it. As always I was so excited to see your post and I need to get busy on mine.

teacupsandstitches.com said...

Glad to see you sticking again. Exquisite design and workmanship. I appreciate the chickadee's dimension. I shall be looking for the snowflake book at my library. Best wishes for your son in college.

coral-seas said...

Dear Susan, how lovely to have a new post from you and a wonderful new block to enjoy. The details are amazing, as they always are. This one really speaks to me for two particular reasons. 1. I bought that book on snow flakes for my big brother a few years ago, knowing he would appreciate it. It is so beautiful, I could hardly bare to part with it! I absolutely love how you have represented snow in your block. 2. Jon and I feed the birds in our garden and have hours of pleasure watching them. We don't get chickadees but your little bird puts me in mind of the blue tits that are among our most frequent visitors. His knitted beannie makes me smile. YOU make me smile which is why I am always delighted to see a new post from you. (I also have not been blogging much recently but am planning to tell a few back stories, life willing :-) )

Maureen said...

I just love that little bird!! Wonderful block.

Mary Ann said...

Oh so cute. I love him:) The chickadees are my favourite to watch. Always so cheeky with a lot to say. You may not post too often but your work is so wonderful and such an inspiration.

Sherry said...

I've missed you as well, but when the work is a beautiful as this it is worth the wait. Incredible creation; in the stitching, the ephemera, and the inspiration.

Linda said...

Hi Susan! I was so happy to see you pop up in my email. Your posts always warm my heart. The Chickadee is adorable, and I'm glad his cute little head will stay warm this winter. Jack is looking more like a man, and less like a boy.......sigh. My youngest boys (twins) turned 40 in August. Where does time go? And my other two, older sons, are grandfathers now!! I love being a great grandmother, but not so much being the mother of grandfathers.......

So glad you haven't given up on the blog. You make my day

Daydreamer said...

Stunning! Brrrr..... I can feel the snowflakes on my face as I fill the feeder!!! :)

amfuller said...

Absolutely wonderful!!

stitchwiz said...

Dear Susan, Your work always inspires me, particularly the planning that goes into every piece. This one is so beautiful and so much more meaningful understanding how you created it. I'm so glad to have another post from you. Here's to a peaceful autumn. I look forward to hearing more soon. From another Susan.

Shirlee Fassell said...

Gorgeous! Loved seeing it and YOU in person at the S. Windsor CQ retreat!

KreinikGirl said...

Beautiful!!!!!!!!!

Marilyn said...

Although I like all the blocks in the calendar, your's is my favourite. I love the colours and the chickadee and the elegance of the block. THanks for sharing your process.

Texas stitcher said...


I love this!!! And I am not even a particularly 'bird person'. Your
needlework is extremely inspiring. I will probably order a calendar.
Thanks for sharing

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