Monday, August 24, 2009

The thing is, my hands just don't work.

It took me a while to figure it out. I'm stubborn this way. But it finally dawned on me - why every time I pick up a cross stitch project I put it down again rather quickly. My hands hurt. See, I have fibromyalgia, and I've been having an increasingly bad time with it lately. I've actually taken this week off of work to try to get it under control, because going to work every day has become somewhat unmanageable. I'm starting a new medication...

Anyway. Maybe at some point I'll be able to pick this project up again. For now, though, I'm sad to say that it's on indefinite hold.

I've finally started a blog about the fibro stuff, if you're interested in that kind of thing:
The Plague Project.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

You all think that I've totally abandoned you...

...and I can't blame you for that. But it's so not true! My life just got sort of turned upside down - like you know how sometimes when you stand up but you forgot that your purse was in your lap, and then everything that was in your purse gets dumped out onto the floor and it takes 'round about forever to pick it all up and make sense of it again? Well it's kind of like that.

It's really literally kind of like that - moving is always kind of like that, isn't it? And I'm sure not done unpacking, and I don't yet have all the furniture I need to be organized in the new space. What's particularly lacking is the pieces I need to set up my creative wares - like my cross stitch supplies!

Eventually I hope to have a special chair - maybe even a rocking chair?! - in the sun room in the front of the apartment, with a basket next to it full of flosses and yarns and all of that wonderful goodness, so that I can sit in there and watch the sunset (it's west-facing) and stitch away to my heart's content. It seems like a dream right now, but eventually we'll get it done.

Despite it all I'm still making (incredibly slow) progress on that little butterfly-o-mine. Pictures forthcoming. Really!

I have not forsaken you, really I haven't. It's just that, as usual, I've taken up a new project during a period where I'm having difficulty even finding time to eat dinner. I'm a genius like that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Butterfly a-go-go.

Really, life is nuts. Last week at work I worked 55 hours! This week was more like 45, but still. The exciting news is that on Friday we signed the lease and got the keys to the new apartment! All the more reason for me to finish my freakin' "Welcome" butterfly, right? Gotta have something outside our door, welcoming our friends inside!

Despite crazy work hours, I have managed to get some work done on my own projects, butterfly included! Working from a kit like this is a new and odd experience, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. Here's how Mr. Flutterby has progressed over the past week.



See? His shape is really emerging! I still have a long way to go, for sure. Who knows, I might get to work on him more in the coming week... or I might just be working late and then packing! Life just really isn't conducive to needlepoint right now. Of course, if work sends me to Delaware for trial, I'll need something to do during off hours - television can only keep me so occupied. So I guess we'll see!

And onward we stitch... in spirit, at the very least. :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Why the no stitching?

Today I worked for 12 hours. Mr. Butterfly, he languishes. But now that we've rented and will be moving into a new apartment mid-month, maybe his "welcome" message does serve a purpose. At any rate, I'm much too exhausted to be handling needles... I'd likely wind up stabbing myself in the eye...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Such neglect is unfathomable - here, have a butterfly.

I've been away for so long! It's been a bad week, between work and looking for a new apartment. there just has not been a lot of time for cross stitching, or for blogging for that matter. But no one likes excuses, and I'm here to set things right.

I have started a new project, though I've barely gotten anything done on it. It's one of the bunch of kits that I purchased during my buying extravaganza, and it looks like this:



Separating all the pretty colors of floss was actually quite fun. As you can see, it's a cute lil' butterfly - because apparently I'm really into cross stitch patterns with butterflies. Who knew? The pattern wants me to make it say "Welcome", but I kinda want to make it say something else. Any suggestions? It came with a ring, so I'm working in one - so as not to end up with the lopsidedness of Mr. Owl, god love him.

Anyway, I did begin it, but I've gotten little done as you'll see here.



But whatever! A start is a start. As with all of my other creating, this too I'm sure will come in waves.

I'm now off to create some jewelery at my studio - I have a donation deadline to meet!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Meet Mr. Owl!

He is completed! And he still doesn't have a name, so he's still Mr. Owl. But that's an alright name in and of itself, I suppose. Regardless of what he may or may not be named, he is finished, and I believe him to be cute as a button. (Though I may be biased - you know how moms can be.)

So... you wanna see him? Well... ok. :)



Voila!

Of course he didn't come out quite how I had envisioned. Do they ever? The big thing is that I wanted a more drastic contrast between his face color and his wing color. If you look REAL close, you can tell that they're different shades of yellow-orange. But I wanted it to be more striking. When I started him, I only had the one pack of semi-cheapo thread to work with - and so not many colors to choose from. Ah, so it goes.

The other thing he taught me? Well, when I started him my aida was super stiff. Like it was made of plastic or something. I thought I'd maybe bought the wrong stuff! (Little did I know that this is the normal state for new aida.) So I didn't put it in any kind of frame. And of course as I worked with it it got softer. Well, I'm guessing due to the way I worked the stitches (a whole row at a time, rather than individually), he ended up kinda lopsided! Which I don't think would have happened so much if he'd been in a frame. So it goes - I'll know better next time.



From the original design I was worried he was gonna come out somewhat angular - it's amazing how much rounder the stitches really do look. I hadn't planned to do the blue accents in his belly with backstitch, but when it came time to do them it seemed the logical choice. I like how it came out; I think doing full stitches for it would have been overbearing.

So there you have it, one completed Mr. Owl. Have I already started another project? Of course I have! And soon I'll tell you all about it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Booty! (You know, as in, pirate's treasure.)

I got stuff! Lots and lots of stuff! Too much stuff, probably. But I'm like that. First a photograph, then the inventory...


I got kits! I got floss! I now have enough cross stitch to last me the rest of the year!! Probably literally. There are actually two items that I got that aren't even pictured. One of them is a beginner kit with a butterfly - that will likely be my next project once Mr. Owl is complete (any day now, I swear!). The other is way top secret, as I will be completing it as a gift for someone who reads this blog. I can say only that it is super duper extra special awesome... assuming I can make it come out right.

So, about what is in the picture. There's the hydrangeas. I love these flowers! It's a small kit, but every single square in the design is filled, and there's a lot of subtle shading and such, so I believe that it will be challenging. Maybe I'll give it to my mom for mother's day... next year.

There are the Christmas ornaments - fairly self-explanatory. But it actually is kind of meaningful - one of my big motivations for pursuing the whole cross stitch thing is that it was a favorite pastime of my grandmother. She stitched many such ornaments, which my mother continues to unearth from her parents' attic (she now lives in the house she grew up in) and give to my sister and I as Christmas presents. So when I saw these I thought it would almost be like carrying on some kind of tradition. Sort of.

And there's the dragonfly kit - that thing is gonna be a killer! It's stitched on navy aida, and there's a bunch of gold detailing and beads involved, and, and, and... the thing is though that it's both a dragonfly and it kinda looks like stained glass. How awesome is that? I got this one to make for my sister. I want it to be her birthday present. Her birthday isn't until mid-September, so I feel like maybe I have a shot? Maybe.

And of course there's the floss! Rich, luxe, high quality DMC cotton floss positively drenched in glorious color. Yessiree bob. Now that it has come, I can maybe start thinking of what colors I'll use in my fleur de lis design, which I will probably stitch post butterfly but definitely pre dragonfly...

I really do have my work cut out for me, don't I?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fleur de lis - not just a street I used to live on.

So I've been wanting to find a good fleur de lis design. Most of them... suck. I did find one that is absolutely gorgeous, but also way, way, way beyond my skill level. It's pretty much photo-realistic, and the pattern is sold but it doesn't come with floss. I'd have to figure out the colors myself!!! Take a look at this thing, and you'll know why I say no way.



Like woah, right? Right.

So, I did find a pretty little pattern for one that was ornate enough, and yet simple enough. I copied it by hand from the image I found online, and it looked like this.



But of course I wanted to change some things. I also wanted it to be twice as big. I drew and drew, and now it looks like this.



I like it! And I fear that... it's a bit over my head. But that's OK. I have a few kits that I ordered that should be coming my way any day now, and they are of varying levels. I'll get there.

I'm not sure what colors I want to do this in, but I know I want it to be vivid. I also want to do it on the black aida - exciting! I have zero idea what I'll do with it when it's done, but as that won't be for quite a while I'm not too worried about it.

And, in case you're wondering about Mr. Owl? He's getting there, I promise.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's a bird... It's a plane... it's... AIDA!


I got me some new aida, for all the fabulous and fascinating projects that I will no doubt be undertaking in the near future! I got white, black, and an extremely exciting blue color. I also got my first pack of DMC floss - ooohh, the excitement of quality. And it's variegated. What will I do with them? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Embellish!

I've noticed that most of the fancy advanced cross stitch designs aren't just floating there in mid-fabric. And, like, duh. Why would you take all of that time with an intricate design and then not bother to finish it off with some flourish? Especially if it's gonna be framed or go on a pillow or something. I've found some nice and interesting patterns for polishing a piece with edgework.

This page has about twenty different repeating-pattern-type boarders of varying complexities.

And there's this awesome little border that accompanied a birdhouse alphabet:



Who knows; depending on what you're working on it could be simply charming.

I found these pretty ones on a website with the coolest name ever: DragonBear.



Of course you can always do something simple, like interlocking hearts or the ever-classic checkerboard. To each piece its own fancy-pants-ness.

And onward we stitch.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Progress report - contains 100% real progress!

Just thought I'd check in and let you see how Mr. Owl's doing. He's coming along, if I do say so myself.



Depending on what kind of time I end up having, he may even get finished this week! There's really not much left, but then I'm really looking at a hectic week. So we'll just have to see how it plays out.

I think he'll be a cute little bugger when all is said and done. I do need to decide whether or not he needs some kind of decorative border, and whether or not to put him in a lil' frame. I also need to figure out whether or not I'm going to give him away. I love him, but I don't know what I'd do with him, and maybe he'd bring some joy to someone else.

And, maybe most importantly, I have to figure out what my next project will be! Exciting.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Et tu, cross stitch?

So, we know there are animal products in, like, everything. Marshmallows, shampoo, car tires - nothing is safe from animal additives. But somehow I thought that cross stitching would be clean. Alas, no.

I've been looking at the advanced pretty kits - I figure I'll never be able to design really complex charts without first delving into one that's provided to me, floss and all, to get a feel for how things get put together. And one thing I've noticed is that a lot of them come with wool thread.

It's not just in the advanced kits either. I've seen in in the crappy little kits for children - the ones that come with 6 point plastic aida and what is essentially yarn. (Side topic - why do they make those things so damn ugly?) Looking into it, I found that DMC, the most popular manufacturer of stitching floss, makes 180 colors of wool floss.

Wool? Really? I mean, why? Sure, wool can be really useful for making coats, because it is good at keeping people warm. (Of course, in this modern age we have plenty of modern substitutes.) Wool yarn, while I certainly don't like it, at least makes some sense - people make wearable garments out of yarn. But we're talking about decorative needlepoint here - objects that, when finished, will be framed and hung on a wall or maybe be put on a pillow. Wool? Completely unnecessary. Unless of course you're afraid that your pillow and/or wall is going to get really cold? Um... yeah.

Wool is one of those animal items that doesn't need to be nearly as brutal as it is. It's much in the same category as eggs or milk; we can get these products with little or no harm to the animals that produce them... theoretically. But for some reason we choose not to. For some reason? Who am I kidding, we all know the reason: profit. How can we make more? How can we make it faster? Do whatever it takes! And who cares that these "products" come from living things.

*Sigh.*

Suffice it to say that if your kit incorporates wool floss, I won't be purchasing it - no matter how gorgeous it may be.

P.S. - Just noticed - of course there's silk stuff too...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

In the neighborhood. -or- what up wardie?


So I'm a little freaked out, because in one of my nightly internet searches for free cross stitch patterns I came upon Acadian Corner's page of "free-bees". What first caught my eye was their use of the word lagniappe - ain't nobody use that word unless they come from a very specific geographical area.

Well, I didn't have to look to long to figure out that this shop is, like, maybe a mile from my parents' house!

I didn't of course notice the word Acadian right away. And honestly I doubt it's proper usage anyway; just because you're from the New Orleans area and have a funny accent, that doesn't make you a Cajun. But whatev.

So, why does the discovery of this shop freak me out? Um... I can't really tell you. It just does. But, like, in a good way. Now I want to stop by there next time I'm in town! You should really go check out their site. They have a whole section of "New Orleans" stitch patterns - not cheesy crap either. Really cool stuff, like an aerial view of Jackson Square.

Ugh. Sometimes, when you go looking for something, you end up right back where you started. And sometimes that's a good thing.

* * *

p.s. - "wardie" is pronounced "woedie", or maybe "woahdee" is a better phonetic spelling. You gotta hear it to believe it. A colloquialism for "one who lives in my ward". You know. Like the ninth ward.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fun toys!

Ahh, the internets. No longer do we need a wise old aunt to show us how to make the awesomeness - we have our mac books and wifi! (Of course, I'd take a wise old aunt who knows about awesomeness any day, but we don't all have one to turn to.) Here's some cool stuff I've found that I thought you might enjoy.

This website will turn whatever phrase you give it into a "Celtic" looking font. It will do caps and lower case letters, but not punctuation. For phrases the spacing between words is a bit funny, and even the spacing between letters is a bit off in my opinion, but that's an easy fix.



Here you'll be able to generate patterns for all of the letters of the alphabet - with bluebirds attached!


This one from crosstitch.com might be the very best one - because first you choose your stitch font, and then you can enter a whole freakin' phrase! I haven't fully tested its limits, but it seems that it will take a pretty large quantity of text. Then it generates I think a PDF of your chart - pretty damn awesome. You can be a "member" of this site for something like $12 a year and have unlimited access to all of their patterns... I'm thinking about it, but since most of them are fairly advanced I'm thinking I'll wait until the patterns will be of some use to me!

So many designs to play with, so little time...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The mysteries of aida, and a progress report.

I remember this stuff being a lot... limper. Like fabric. There was no way to stitch in it without putting it in a loop. The aida I've gotten though is very stiff; I've seen no reason to put it in a frame at all. Is it just the brand that I got? Or is this what it's like now?

It doesn't particularly bother me other than that it's, uh, weird. And by weird I mean different. Is it maybe that the finer meshes are softer? Thus far I've only touched 11 and 14 point.

In other news, my Owl he grows! At least now he has a face. I wanted the eyes to be good and black, and even using three strands the white is showing through in other places in the stitching, so I went ahead and used the full six strands. It's crazy thick! I definitely wouldn't try doing that on a larger area unless I decide to use a larger adia point... Anyway, mission accomplished. The eyes are black as night, like woah.



And onward we stitch.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Props.

So, one of the reasons that I have finally gotten up the gumption to start cross stitching again is that my friend Tamara has done the same. She's extremely crafty, especially when it comes to materials like fabric and thread. She recently started up an endeavor called Brooklyn Craft, which will no doubt one day culminate in becoming the awesomest craft storefront in Brooklyn. For now though you'll have to visit her blog (and of course her etsy) to see her amazing baby clothes and sock monkeys.

She's been doing some rather advanced cross stitches: see for yourself.



See? She's fancy. I keep asking her to make a giant mermaid. We'll see if she does it. Here's one she's just getting started on:




It looks... a lot like those gorgeous kits that I see and think, wow, that's way too hard for me. I bet she'll get it done though. She's like that.

In other news, I found the best web page ever for cute tiny designs. Apparently this guy (I think it's a guy, anyway) took little uncopyrighted pictures from the internet and turned them into cross stitching charts! There are some really super adorable patterns. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Because owls are wise.

I'm a beginner; that much is obvious. And when you begin, you must begin at the beginning. With cross stitch that means pretty simple designs.

I've been scouring the internets for free charts, and there are plenty. (One of the best sites I've found for free patterns is Alita Designs.) But most of them are too advanced for me, and the ones that aren't, uh, kind of suck. Of course, I'm kind of picky. There are also plenty of kits to buy, but most of them fall into the category of "advanced to expert", which I certainly ain't. Maybe one day, but not now. After spending most of Sunday looking for a pattern big enough to sink my teeth into but small enough and simple enough for me to handle (while also being kind of awesome), I decided that I should probably just design my own. So I did!

It looks like this.



He will be orange and yellow and brown with highlights of blue! He makes me happy. I don't have a name for him yet; he's currently just Owl. Maybe as he comes to life his name will reveal itself to me; that happens sometimes. Currently though, he looks like this.



You could say I have a ways to go. But that's alright with me. I'm finding the stitching very therapeutic and stress-relieving, which is awesome because I have a lot of stress in my life right now.

Yay for Owl!

Onward we stitch.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I finished one!

OK, it's tiny, and something a child could have done. But whatever. I'm picking up where seven year old me left off, after all. So let's give seven year old me a big pat on the head for finishing a beautiful butterfly! Wooo!



It was done on 11 point aida, which I guess is why the grid looks so huge. I think I'm going to work only on 14 point and higher once I'm through the sheet of 11 that I bought. I'm thinking of giving the butterfly to my mom for Mother's day. Yes, I know it's beyond corny. But it'll make her happy, and isn't that what Mother's day is all about?

The chart came from a simple little pattern I found on the internet - I believe it was one of the many you can find on about.com. (They're not very good, but they sure are copious.) But When I printed it out and looked at it close, I realized they had it all wonky! It was not symmetrical, but it easily could have been! So of course I redrew it, and everything turned out fine. Of course I added the dots, because I can never leave anything alone.



I can't decide if a) I should go back and add antennae (with backstitching), and/or b) outline the wings with backstitching. Is it finished as is? Opinions?

And now you can too!

This video is kind of awesome. If you don't know how to cross stitch but would like to start, this will give you the basic skills! In five minutes! Seriously! It was a great little refresher for me since I haven't done this in, um, over two decades? Anyway, a little video for your cross stitching edification:



Ta da!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The wayback machine.

I don't remember if my mother taught me, or if it was her mother - my grandmother, Doretha. Everyone called her Dot. Not me of course; I was a child. I just called her grandma. I was a little frightened of her, and I thought she was amazing. She never cut her hair short like the other grandmas that I saw; she left hers long and wound it into a great bun at the crown of her head. And it wasn't white or grey: it was silver, shining as if each strand had been carefully formed by a metalsmith. She sat all day long in the rocking chair in the living room, a brace around her neck (which as a child I associated with her bun, not with chronic pain) and with some bit of needlework or crochet in her lap.

At least, that's how I remember it.

She died when I was seven, of ovarian cancer. My mother said I was too young to go to the funeral; in hindsight she was maybe right, at least from the perspective that she would have had to handle two young children, my sister and I, while trying to grieve. I didn't see much of her really; twice a year at best, as with the rest of the family, since they always lived in New Orleans and we always lived somewhere else. But my memories of her have always been strong.

So whether she taught me, or she taught my mother and then my mother taught me, either way the craft of cross stitch came from Grandma Doretha. The images she could fashion were beyond compare; she had a patience and delicacy unmatched by other family members or even most storebought items. We are thrilled to still have many items that she carefully fabricated, like the Christmas stockings she made for my sister and I when we were very, very small. They are lined with flannel of a candy cane pattern and backed in the most lush velvet, and the front of each is a terribly intricate design of a girl with long curling hair holding a present. My mother still fills them with presents every year, and they are still the most beautiful stockings I have ever seen.

I was an impatient child, and more prone to climbing trees barefoot than to sit still making pretty needlework. The product never happened quickly enough for me, and after a few stitches I'd want to move on to something else. My sister was more dedicated, and completed a few pieces which my mother still proudly displays. She was, after all, a little older. Now, though, I think I have the followthrough necessary to do the work. I may never get near the beauty and intricacy of my grandmother's designs - and I might try some designs that she'd never consider, like tattoo flash - but I like to believe that she'd be pleased at my efforts. I know my mother will be.