Wrapping Up Our Ukrainian Trip

I could write for several weeks about our trip to Ukraine, but it’s time to move on. I have a few final things to share, and have saved the best for last!

At one of our early stops, we were greeted with the traditional gift of bread on an embroidered bread cloth, but our director was absent having a last minute rehearsal with the soloists and we were a smaller group being welcomed. I took advantage of the smaller group to ask one of our interpreters if I could have a closer look at the bread cloth, with his assistance for the conversation.

He escorted me to the smiling young woman in her Ukrainian costume, also heavily embroidered, introduced me and asked if I could look at the bread cloth. She was puzzled, but said yes. So as I was looking at it, I explained to the interpreter that I was an embroidery designer and teacher in the US, and thus very interested in the Ukrainian embroideries. He spoke to the young woman for a bit, then she gave me the bread cloth! I tried to refuse it, but they insisted that I take it! I was completely overwhelmed, and accepted the gift.

My Ukrainian bread cloth gift!

My Ukrainian bread cloth gift!

The cloth I was given was a bit different from the others that I saw, in that it is not cross stitch, but a long stitch with some withdrawn thread work. This is one end; the other end is identical. The thread used appears to be a wool or wool blend, on an evenweave fabric that I haven’t counted to determine count. The thread is a single strand, similar in weight to Caron Collection’s Impressions, solidly dyed.

What really impressed me was the back:

Ukrainian bread cloth back

Ukrainian bread cloth back

It’s very difficult to see where the threads start and stop. The stitch used is not a satin stitch, because there is not as much on the back as on the front. The back is almost as beautiful as the front!

The withdrawn thread work is simple withdrawing of the horizontal threads, and lacing of the vertical threads, but it is a beautiful pattern and very effective. And the sides are a simple turned hem, with a fringed finish at the bottom. My bread cloth is not as elaborate as some of the ones I saw, but I treasure it because it was a gift and because it is a bit different.

I regret that I never saw a shop that sold supplies the whole time we were in Ukraine; I would have loved being in a needlework shop! Perhaps if I get to go back I can make that a priority. When our trip was planned I did not know if I would get to see any Ukrainian embroidery, but I was overjoyed to see it from the time we landed until we left.

Ukraine is a lovely country, with lovely people. It was the experience of a lifetime for Rod and me, one we will treasure forever.

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Ukrainian Embroidery!

Before we went to Ukraine I did a little research about Ukrainian embroidery. I learned that the primary colors used were black and red, that they were primarily geometric (right up my alley), and heavily cross stitch. What I didn’t know was that we would see it everywhere!

As soon as we landed in Kiev, we were greeted by our interpreters and guides, who were wearing vests with cross stitch motifs on them! Of course they weren’t cross stitched, they were printed, but I thought it was so cool that they chose a cross stitch motif to identify them as our Ukrainian hosts for the trip.

The Ukrainians associated with our trip wore these vests with Ukrainian embroidery motifs printed on them.

The Ukrainians associated with our trip wore these vests with Ukrainian embroidery motifs printed on them.

When we arrived at our host church, we were greeted with a Ukrainian custom, and more embroidery. First, the pastor’s teen-aged children were dressed in traditional Ukrainian costumes, heavily embroidered. I was just itching to examine their clothes, but managed to restrain myself!

Embroidered traditional Ukrainian costumes

Embroidered traditional Ukrainian costumes

It is traditional to welcome guests by offering bread, beautifully braided on top, on an absolutely gorgeous elaborately embroidered bread cloth. Who cares about the bread? I wanted to look at that cloth! My husband heard me gasp, and managed to grab hold of me to keep me from embarrassing myself by running up and grabbing it!

This happened at several of the churches that hosted us for dinner. At another church, this absolutely adorable family with two little boys greeted us, all in embroidered shirts, again with an elaborate bread cloth.

Whole family of embroidered shirts!

Whole family of embroidered shirts!

Both ends of the bread cloths are embroidered in matching patterns, usually in black and red. On our final day in Kiev we had an opportunity to shop, and found street vendors selling the bread cloths. All that wonderful work sold for ridiculously small amounts, about $30 to $50 US. Most of the bread cloths we saw were in black and red, although I did see some other colors. Usually the bread cloths were about 3 to 4 feet long, with about 12″ of embroidery at each end. Some of the vendors had other table linens as well, napkins or tablecloths, but mostly it was the bread cloths.

We had opportunity to walk a bit in Kiev for about 3 days, on our way to and from our hotel to our host church for lunch, and then sightseeing on the final day there. And despite seeing all of the bread cloths, all of the embroidered clothes, and all of the finished products, I never once saw a shop that sold supplies. I did see one shop window that I thought had knitting supplies, because there were balls of yarn pictured in the window, but I didn’t see a representation of a floss skein or needle. And of course, we were so busy with our concerts and our daily schedules that I had no opportunity to branch out on my own looking for embroidery supplies.

Next I’ll share a bit about something I managed to collect while I was there!

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This spring Rod and I had a unique opportunity to visit Ukraine. The next few blog posts will be about this wonderful trip, and most of them will be stitching related!

Rod and Debbie arriving in Ukraine. Our host church greeted us with a concert!

Rod and Debbie arriving in Ukraine. Our host church greeted us with a concert!

I hope it comes as no surprise to those who know me, to know that I’m a Christian. I’m an active church member, singing in my church choir. I also sing with Arkansas Master’Singers, a statewide choir of about 200 members, made up of Baptist church musicians from across the state. We have a mixed chorus, a men’s chorus, a women’s chorus and an instrumental ensemble. We sing several times a year in several venues in Arkansas, and take mission trips when the opportunity arises. Two years ago we were approached by Michael Gott International, a Christian evangelistic ministry operating primarily in Ukraine, to undertake a singing mission trip to east Ukraine. We were to be based in Donestk, and sing in several locations from there. About half of our group, including Rod and I, agreed to go, started raising funds (we all paid our own air fare, lodging and food costs) and the trip was on!

Arkansas Master'Singers in Ukraine

Arkansas Master’Singers in Ukraine

Then things got really dicey in the Donestk area, and the trip looked like a horrible idea in February of 2014. We were to leave April 21, 2014. The pastors in west Ukraine asked us to come there instead, venues got changed, concert halls booked, lodging rearranged, air travel reticketed (do you know how hard that was – for 82 people!?), and our plans changed! Instead of Donestk, we went to Zhytomir and Kiev in west Ukraine and sang 8 concerts. It was the trip of a lifetime! I’ve traveled internationally before, lived in Germany when Rod was in the Army a long long time ago. But Ukraine is completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced, in terms of language structure, architecture, food, just about everything. The people are lovely, warm and friendly. I’d go back in a minute!

Standing room only every one of our 8 concerts

Standing room only every one of our 8 concerts

Everywhere we went we sang to standing room only crowds. The concerts were free. We raised money to pay for the venues and the associated expenses before we left. We also had power points to translate our English language songs to Ukrainian. We discovered that our American-style of church music, with a lot of emotion and facial expression, was fascinating to the Ukrainian people. After each concert we met as many people as we could, and even though we didn’t speak Ukrainian, smiles were universal!

I was in the center of the back row, every night, but tried to smile to the back row of the hall!

I was in the center of the back row, every night, but tried to smile to the back row of the hall!

I’ve been in Master’Singers for about 15 years, but when the trip came up I told Rod he had to join too – I wasn’t going out of the country without him! I’m so glad he did. We had a wonderful shared experience, one we’ll remember forever. And he’s staying with the group!

Rod in the group!

Rod in the group!

We learned so much about the Ukrainian people, about the conflict that is raging. Everything kind of blew up just a couple of weeks after we left the country. Understandable we have very strong feelings about what is happening there, due to our experiences, but we won’t go into it here. But our prayers are with the Ukrainian people, and if the opportunity comes to return, we will.

In the next few posts I’ll share about the embroidery we saw – which was everywhere!

 

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Some Happy News!

Debbie with Misty

Debbie with Misty

About a year ago I departed from stitching posts to share the news of the loss of our pet Sheltie Mandy. Today as I write my post I’m happy to announce the arrival of Misty, our new Sheltie puppy!

I know how important our fur babies are, because so many of you have shared with me your own stories. And I’ve seen your pictures of your stitching companions, and know about the accent fiber that decorates so many of our pieces! So I hope you’ll indulge me just a bit today – next week it will be back to stitching topics!

Misty

Misty

Misty is a 12 week old Shetland Sheep Dog, from Bella Rose Shelties in Ozark, MO. Her parents are champions, but she will not be a  show dog; she’s a pure pet. Her only job will be to keep us company, travel with us, play with us, talk to us (and Shelties do talk!), and live a life of luxury, at least by dog standards.  She’s sable in coloring, with a lot of “flash” – four white paws, a white tipped tail, and white collar. Even though she’s the same breed as our previous dogs, she looks nothing like them and is already exhibiting some personality!

Some will ask why we went to a breeder, and not a rescue or shelter dog. It’s quite simple – we love Shelties. My family got our first Sheltie when I was in high school, and members of my family have had 7 Shelties between us. We wanted a puppy, and breed rescues typically don’t have puppies. The breed rescue closest to us couldn’t do the site inspection they require, and only had senior dogs at this time. That’s not to say that at some time in the future we wouldn’t consider a rescue, but at this time this was right for us.

So we are delighted to welcome Misty home. We know where the “cute as a speckled pup” saying comes from! She’s quite feisty, but also very sweet. Shelties are typically very obedient, so we will see when the training begins. We’ve been going around town meeting friends, and she seems to be outgoing and friendly. We are thrilled, and ready to open our hearts to our third Sheltie love.

Next week – more stitching stuff!

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Down Time

Double Crossed

Double Crossed

What does a designer do in the long stretches of time between trade shows? Do we take that time off? I wish! Sometimes, the “down time” between trade shows is our busiest time, because that’s when we work on new designs, focus on things that we can’t when we’re pushed for trade show new releases and generally retool the business.

During my “down time”, I’m working on class projects and designs for publications. Just a tiny word about publication work – every year I’m approached by several publications for designs, and I try to do as many as I can. It’s not always possible to work these in, but I’m trying to arrange my schedule to allow for this. So on my horizon I have design work for 3 publications, which I’ll release here when I’m able. But, I can let you know that I have an ornament in the Just Cross Stitch Ornament issue, which is already out and available now in your local needlework shop and a lot of book stores, and a design in A Cross-Stitch Christmas A Heartwarming Holiday book, published by Craftways. This hard-bound book is also available now as well; my design of counted canvas gift boxes is on page 98.

This year we decided to add some exclusive teaching projects into our line. What this means is we will have projects that are only available as teaching projects, not available for sale as stand alone charts. You may see these as a cyberclass, or offered through a chapter or guild. We haven’t quite decided what we will do with these projects, just that I will be developing these as an addition to our line of charts that we sell through needlework shops.

Shell Game 2

Shell Game 2

I’ve already taught Shell Game 2 for the Cyberpointers chapter of ANG, and will be teaching Double Crossed for a local chapter in just a couple of weeks. I’m nearing completion on a third project, Explorations, and will share details about that soon. Of course we’ll keep our retailers informed about these, and I hope to be teaching these myself in one form or another during the coming year. More classes will be joining the line-up as I get them ready.

We’re excited about the possibilities of adding an exclusive teaching line to our offerings, while continuing to add new designs that we hope stitchers will love and want to stitch.

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