Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Looking Back at 2014

In January, I wrote a post about my stitching goals for 2014.  Let's see how I did . . .

1.  Finish, finish, finish!
This year, I managed to finish the following projects:

Winnie the Pooh Quote

Polar Bear

Drop Cloth feather stitch sampler

Torah mantle

FPS's Mysterious Halloween Town

FPS's Autumn Harvest Festival

Uncle Morrey's WWII Diary


Hopefully joining these will be the Once Upon a Time sampler.  I've got a week left!

Of course, this barely makes a dent in my craft queue.  Some of these projects were really ambitious due to their size and complexity.  I think that I have finished a decent number (thanks to HabitRPG!) and I have reason to be proud of my accomplishments.

2.  Submit another entry into the State Fair.
Succeeded x3!  I got two ribbon winners, and placed higher than last year.

3.  Try a new technique for transferring patterns.
Thanks to the light pad I got for my birthday, I have now transferred several patterns through the tracing method.  It really opens up the possibilities for designing my own patterns.

4.  Learn blackwork.
I bought a kit.  Does that count?

Next week, I will share my goals for 2015.  What did you accomplish this year?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Prizes and Losses

I've got good news and bad news.

Good news:  I just got all of the prizes I earned for winning 2nd place in the contest at AndStitches e-zine!

  1. The second issue of Hoopla, a modern embroidery magazine printed in the UK.  My husband calls it "Jorie's favorite magazine that she can never find."
  2. A wooden floss bobbin in the shape of a dachshund, by sugarcookie.  Dachshunds are one of my favorite dog breeds, so I'm really excited for this one.  It will look great wrapped in Weeks Dye Works thread.
  3. A pack of two tiny embroidery hoops from The Creative Muster.  These aren't for actually working on embroidery, but make the perfect frame for tiny creations
  4. A set of metallic threads from Kreinik.  They put an extra sparkle in your stitches.
I also got a nice note from the ladies who run the blog.


Now you might be wondering about the bad news . . .

I didn't expect to discuss global economics while updating all of you on my prizes, but there is a situation going on that is putting the online craft community into a tailspin.  Starting on January 1, 2015, there are going to be changes in tax laws in the European Union.  These changes were meant to target multinational corporations that exploit loopholes in the current laws.

Instead, the result is that these rules are going to make it much more time-consuming and expensive for micro-businesses to sell online products and services.  These are generally not people who are living off of their businesses.  They are doing it for the love of their craft, and have spent every spare moment working to make that business successful.  They were using the internet and new possibilities in online commerce to sell a variety of goods and services, including pattern PDFs, tutorials, and classes.  In the face of these new regulations, many of these small crafting businesses are making the decision to stop selling digital products, refocus their strategy, or close up their shops entirely.

Most of these businesses did not find out about the new regulations until the last several weeks.  When they tried to speak to authorities about how it would effect small businesses, they got contradictory answers.  This doesn't just effect European sellers--it effects every online retailer who might have a customer in the EU.

Several of the effected businesses include my favorite sellers.  Nicole of Follow the White Bunny, who lead the class where I learned to make my Polar Bear, will no longer be selling digital pattern PDFs.  AndStitches e-zine will no longer sell digital copies of its old magazine.  Sellers are giving customers one last chance to buy these items before they are gone.

Please do your part to spread the word about this change that is going to touch nearly every facet of the crafting world and cut off a burgeoning market at its knees.  Share stories on social media.  Check out the sellers that will be closing their virtual doors and buy their patterns while you can.  As globalization makes our world smaller, your actions can have a ripple effect.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Being Bi-craft-ual

"Hey, there's going to be a class in [insert craft here].  That looks fun to try."

I'm sure that at this point, these words are enough to send chills down my husband's spine.

For me, crafts are like foreign languages.  Once I learn one, it feels a lot easier to pick up another one.  Most of my friends who craft do at least two.  Many of us need to impose some kind of limit on what we learn.  Whenever a quilting class is going on in the workshop room at Home Ec, one of my friends will turn to the group and say, "Tell me I don't need to quilt."  In fact, "I don't need to [craft]" has become a kind of incantation, something we all say aloud in the hopes that voicing those words will remove the desire.

Of course, the desire remains.  Why do we feel the need to pick up more skills?  Aren't there enough challenges to take on with one craft?  Perhaps it's a result of the "hedonic treadmill," the human tendency to feel a sense of accomplishment and happiness only briefly before we have the urge to move on to the next conquest.

I have definitely felt a greater need to try new crafts ever since I got more crafty friends.  On any given Saturday, as many as half a dozen crafts are represented.  Knitting, crochet, surface embroidery, cross-stitch, weaving, sewing.  A few weeks ago there was even a man with a spinning wheel, spinning yarn of hot pink and purple.  We look at others making attractive objects and feel a mixture of awe and envy.  We want to find out the secret password, to learn the magic of how they are creating something from nothing in a new way.

The physical space itself is also inspiring.  Bright, colorful fabrics in white shelves to make the patterns really pop.  Piles of scrumptiously soft yarn.  Perle cotton thread arranged in neat little rows. It makes me want to hold the materials in my hands and turn them into something wonderful.

After learning several crafts, I have a greater appreciation for the unique properties of each craft that make them better suited for some tasks and not others.  It also gives me a window into history, and the people who created "a world made by hand" (to borrow a title from a post-apocalyptic novel).  You learn to knit socks, and it hits you that there was a time when ALL socks were made this way.  You learn to embroider the with same stitches used to illustrate the Bayeux Tapestry.  All fabrics, from the finest dresses to ship sails were once hand woven.  You want to become a part of all of these legacies.

I also like having different crafts to work on so I can shift depending on my mood or circumstances.  I tend to embroider during the day when the light is better and knit at night when I can rely more on feel.  Winter calls for warm yarn, while summer demands embroidering on cool cotton.  If I am frustrated with one project, I focus on a different one for a couple days.  Knitting large or complex projects is for times when I can relax at home, while I bring portable cross-stitch projects with me when I travel.  (Yes, I know people bring knitting with them on airplanes, but I would rather avoid the uncertainty of TSA agents.)

Which ones have I tried, or want to try?  Here's my checklist:

Knitting:  Learned when I was six and kept it up.  I love learning new skills for patterns and styles.  My most recent development is knitting socks.

Gave these toddler socks to a friend with a new baby.
Crochet:  Because I learned knitting at such a young age, crochet just never made sense to my hands.   I think I have a knee-jerk reaction to crochet because it is more popular than knitting in a lot of areas.  I only know enough to be able to edge a knitted project.  I learned how to do Tunisian crochet, but I have never finished a project with it.  (Funny story--I took a class on Tunisian crochet from an author who was about to release a book of patterns for it.  It ended up coinciding with the Arab Spring uprising in Tunisia.  She kept having to tell people, "No, this doesn't actually have anything to do with Tunisia.  No, I am not doing this as a response to the uprising.")

Surface-Embroidery/Cross-Stitch:  The reason for this blog.

Needlepoint:  I never really felt like learning this because I was used to seeing bad 1970's tent-stitch pictures of rainbows and clouds.  (Bonus if it has a Hebrew word in big bubble letters.)  It wasn't until I saw canvas work at the state fair when I realized the possibilities of playing around with different stitches and geometric designs.  Now I'm interested in trying it out if I can find a good kit.

Sewing/Quilting:  I learned how to do this because, realistically, I only have so much wall space in my house to hang embroidery projects.  Sewing a pillow or a wall hanging is a useful skill.  I've made a few small things and one picnic blanket (which is technically a comfort, not a quilt).  I'm glad I know how to do it and I occasionally take a class if they are offering something I'd like to make, but it hasn't grabbed me the way other crafts have.  I prefer working with my hands, and a machine isn't quite the same.

I made my picnic blanket in patriotic colors, since July 4th is the day when I am most in need of a picnic blanket
Weaving:  I'm getting the itch for this because one of my Saturday breakfast friends weaves.  She has made beautiful projects and samples.  Lion Brand Yarn sells some looms that seem affordable.  The local craft guild teaches a weaving class, but it is usually in the fall when it conflicts with the High Holidays.  There is also the problem that if you get really into it, looms take up a LOT of space.  Still, I'd like to try it at some point since it is one of the oldest fiber arts.  This might be one that has to wait until I move from my apartment into a house.

Spinning:  This is another craft I want to try because of historical curiosity.  I don't even want to think about the cost of a spinning wheel, but drop spindles are small AND portable.

Tatting:  Tatting is for making doilies, decorative edging, and other extremely dainty things.  The French term for this craft comes from their word for "frivolity."  I'll admit it.  The only reason I tried this is for the bragging rights.  And brag I can, because I'm actually getting decent at this.  After making a few small flower motifs, I'm on my way to making my first doily.  My friends now consider me the BAMF of crafting.

Only the beginning
What crafts do you do?  What would you like to try?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving Project Update!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Little Red Riding Hood is heading over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for a slice of pumpkin pie.



I have an exciting update--my WWII diary embroidery won 2nd place in And Stitches E-zine's Old Stitches New Tricks contest!  I have some fun prizes coming my way, which I will show later when I can.  In the meantime, you can check out their comments on me and the other winners.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stitching a Memory on Veteran's Day

AndStitches e-zine, the blog that I was a guest writer for over the summer, is hosting a contest.  The challenge:
  1. Pick something old--a vintage pattern, inherited materials, an antiquated style of embroidery, etc.
  2. Use it for a new purpose that is different from how it was intended.
There are all kinds of wacky directions a creative embroiderer can go with this.  Make a traditional crewel embroidery sampler . . . with neon colors!  Cross-stitch . . . on waffles!  I am excited to see what other participants created.  When I saw the contest rules, my mind went in a different direction.  I had a project that I have been planning on doing for a while, but the contest gave me the impetus to do it.


During World War II, nearly all of the adult men in my family served in the United States armed forces.  The one who saw the most action and survived was my great-uncle Morrey.  He was a gunner on a B-17 in the 8th Air Force.  He was stationed in Eye, Suffolk, England, and flew in campaigns over Germany to knock out Nazi oil refineries.  If you survived 25 missions, you got to go home--and he flew 35.

Morrey never had children, so my dad got his war memorabilia.  The box contains pictures of his experiences, including remarkable ones taken from the air of bombs dropping and anti-aircraft flak.  At the bottom of the box was a little notebook, every page counting up from #1.  My great-uncle had written the details for every mission he flew--targets, weaponry, casualties.  This is the stuff that history books are made of.  One page, in particular, caught our attention.  It was about a mission that had major difficulties and losses, captured with minimal yet evocative description.

I had my challenge.  The old:  the page from Uncle Morrey's diary.  The new:  use embroidery to capture this moment in history and in his life.

It appealed to me for many reasons.  Starting with my Stitching Shakespeare project, I've been fascinated by the idea of using embroidery to capture handwriting.  Just seeing someone's penmanship style can bring back memories, and it is an experience that future generations will have fewer opportunities for as most of our written communication goes digital.  I liked the challenge of trying to stitch in a way that preserves the quirks of one person's style.

I also liked the juxtaposition of portraying war, the ultimate masculine activity, through the traditionally feminine folk art of embroidery.  As I talked about in my Craftivism post, the combination of these two elements gets people's attention.  Embroidery is also a way of making this memorable page last longer.  Paper may degrade, but at least cloth and thread will preserve it for just a bit longer.


For the background, I selected an off-white fabric that has little fuzzy bits of different colors.  I think the effect is called "oatmeal."  It reminds me of the wallpaper in our old house . . . anyway, it made me think of low-quality notebook paper.  For the handwriting, I used the leftover bobbin of Weeks Dye Works in Blackberry.  It is a hand-dyed thread that subtly changes between dark blue and dark purple.  I picked this color in particular because it reminds me of the way dark blue or black ink fades overtime, taking on a purple hue.


My dad copied made an enlarged and high-contrast photocopy of the page.  I then used my light pad and a pencil to transfer the image onto the fabric.  It took me about 5 weeks to embroider the image in backstitch.


As I continued to work on it, I also found that it was a way for me to communicate with a relative who is no longer here to tell me his experiences.  I don't know how long it took him to write this one small page, but I have been living with his words every day I've worked on this.  I looked up the details surrounding this air battle as I came to them.  Where was this town?  What was going on during the war at the time?  I also thought about how Morrey experienced this event.  What was going through his mind?  How did it feel to have to write about the death of his fellow airmen?  Did he think about it often after the war?  How did he cope with it?

Line 1:  Mission #22, flown on February 6, 1945
Line 2:  Towns in Germany with Nazi oil refineries
Line 3:  Twenty 250-pound General Purpose bombs used
Line 4:  Anti-aircraft weapons used
Line 5:  Target of mission, railway yards leading to oil refinery
Casualties
I'm treating this as a "proof of concept" for a more complex project in the future.  I could turn this into an illuminated manuscript, providing footnotes to explain each line of the text.  I could print Morrey's pictures onto cloth and attach them to the larger picture, crazy quilt style.  I could make this a giant cornucopia of stitched images to illustrate the horrors of war.


For now though . . . I just didn't want to do anything to detract from my great-uncle's words that manage to say so much with so little.  Thank you for your service, Uncle Morrey, and may all those who served in the armed forces feel appreciated on this Veteran's Day.


[And thanks to my parents, who went through their closets and made all of these copies without me telling them why.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Craftivism

I'm reading a new book from my local library, Craftivism: The Art and Craft of Activism by Betsy Greer.  The book is a collection of essays by craft-makers who are conscious about sending a message through their work.  They have a variety of goals.  Some use finished objects to raise awareness of specific issues, like the AIDS quilt.  The objects themselves might be used for a greater purpose, like quilts made for returning soldiers.  For some artists, it is about the process.  They upcycle old materials as a statement against consumerism, or encourage people to sew deliberately ugly dolls to help them get over the fear of trying something new.  Some don't have any specific reason other than to bring joy to others, like activists who crochet toys and leave them in a secret spot in a city for anybody to take.  Wouldn't you have a happier day if you randomly found an arugumi cupcake at your bus stop?

The projects are sometimes beautiful, sometimes whimsical.  Some made me ask what my avant-garde theatre professor called, "the Krusty question."  (After watching a Soviet knockoff of the cartoon duo Itchy & Scratchy, Krusty the Clown exclaims, "What the hell was that?!?"  We were only allowed to ask that question once per semester).  One project made me gasp out loud, Noelle Mason's cross-stitch art Nothing Much Happened Today (for Eric and Dylan).

The essay by Mr. X Stitch describes some feelings I have about needlework that I haven't been able to articulate myself.  When someone uses embroidery or knitting for activism, it makes people take notice.  People see the item and instinctively know that it took the artist a long time to create her message.  They feel the conflict between a historically female craft, which usually invokes warm feelings, and the strident arguments that the craft is conveying.

This book is appropriate to read at this time of year, when my city teams up with my local craft store for the Treehugger Project.  Support comes from the Community Gallery program, which aims to turn the downtown district into an art gallery and public forum for ideas.  Over 120 knitters decorated 130 trees with knitted pieces.  I haven't participated yet due to an overflowing craft queue, but many of my local friends take part and I love the project.  I'm fascinated by the way knitters take the same yarn and go in all sorts of directions with the design--cables, lace, fair isle, intarsia.  It makes the downtown more cheerful, and I think it is a nice way of creating seasonal decorations that say "winter" without saying "Christmas."


And yet, as surely as winter means eggnog lattes and 4:30pm sunsets, in my town it also means people complaining about the tree huggers.  They write editorials about how they are a "waste of time and materials" and that the knitters should concentrate on knitting "useful" things like sweaters for the poor.  It doesn't matter if knitters make items for other people, including charity, during the entire rest of the year.  After all, it is cold right now!  By a strange coincidence, most of the people making the loudest complaints aren't actually knitters themselves.

No crafter should ever have to apologize for making what she chooses to make, or have to justify her reasons for doing so.  She can make things for anyone she wants, including herself.  She can make useful items, or strictly art pieces.  She is the one with the skills, time, and materials, so she decides how she wants to use them.  If you disagree . . . there are plenty of craft tutorials on YouTube and books at the library.  Take up a craft and start your own conversation!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Supply Diet Update--Agony!

With 10 days to go in October, I am holding strong with my craft supply diet.  I have to admit that things were starting to get dicey last week, when the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery started pre-sales for its new Christmas pattern subscription.  (Obviously, I have no reason to hang these in my house, but they are so fun to stitch that I am willing to make them as gifts for friends.)  But then, something miraculous happened.  As a prize for encouraging people to submit their Frosted Pumpkin projects to their state fairs, the FP ladies are giving me the new Christmas pattern for free!  Now I just have to ignore the urge to buy the fabric and threads . . .

I've been getting more projects done.  Here is the latest Once Upon a Time Sampler square, Cinderella with her pumpkin carriage for October.



It's been fun to work on Once Upon a Time while some friends of ours were in a local production of Into the Woods.  That is the Stephen Sondheim musical about fairy tales, and what happens AFTER "happily ever after."  The wife was Little Red Riding Hood, so I hope there is a square for that in the two remaining months.  The husband was Rapunzel's Prince, and he sang my favorite song in the musical.    "Agony!  Much more painful than yours . . ."


Now that I think about it, this song is describing how I'm feeling about my supply diet.

Agony!
Beyond the power of speech,
When the one thing you want
Is the only thing out of your reach.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Torah Stitch by Stitch

In Judaism, it is a mitzvah for a Jew to either write a Torah or have a Torah written for him.  Physically writing an entire Torah is a task done by trained scribes with feather quills.  Most Jews fulfill the mitzvah by donating money to a Torah writing project, such as one to create a new scroll for their synagogue.  One artist, however, has started an innovative project to simultaneously update the task to the 21st Century while also using the ancient art of embroidery.

Torah Stitch by Stitch was started by Toronto-based artist Temma Gentles.  Her goal is to get volunteers from around the world, Jewish and non-Jewish, to cross-stitch every word of the Torah.  When you sign up, they mail you a kit with thread, needles, aida cloth, and a pattern of four verses.  You then have six months to send back your completed verses.  The completed projects will be displayed in an artistic installation.  The idea is to both find a new way to fulfill the aforementioned mitzvah, as well as a way of putting a female twist on the male-dominated scribe tradition.

Here's a kit that I got back in August.


This verse is the following:
"and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the loins, and the lobe above the liver, which he shall take away by the kidneys. And the priest shall make them smoke upon the altar; it is the food of the offering made by fire, for a sweet savour; all the fat is the Lord's. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings, that ye shall eat neither fat nor blood. And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying:" (Leviticus 3:15-4:1)

Ah yes, a very inspiring section.  Or not.  I like how it ends on an incomplete sentence.

For more information on this project, visit Torah Stitch by Stitch.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I'm Going on a Diet

Last week, I ended my post with the announcement that I would be taking a "supply diet."  I plan on it being for the month of October, but I might extend it or bring it back depending on how it works out.  For me this means no buying new supplies for crafting, which include:
  • Thread and yarn
  • Patterns
  • Books
I am doing this in order conserve several resources.

1.  Money--I got a bump in my hours at work.  Basically, it is enough to go from extremely part time to just regular part time.  Since then, I notice I've fallen into the mental trap of buying things more often on the grounds that "I can afford it."  That won't be true for long if I fail to set limits for myself!  I also have a tendency to justify purchases based on my mood.  If something good happens, I would reward myself with craft supplies.  If something bad happens . . . . I console myself with craft supplies.  I didn't think much of this until a woman at my synagogue gave a presentation on shopping addiction and how the retail industry supports this line of thinking.  (She began her presentation with a photo she took of a Hallmark card in a store that said, "It's not a shopping spree--its 'retail therapy.'")  I want to stop myself from falling into that pattern. 

2.  Space--I live in a 2-bedroom apartment, and one of those bedrooms is being used as a computer/storage room.  Guess what percentage of that room is taken up with my craft supplies . . .

3.  Time--Because of spending #1 and #2 on crafting supplies, I feel pressure to devote more time to crafting in order to justify my purchases and relieve some of the crowding in my craft corner.  Crafting is a relaxing way to spend time, but not if it is tinged with guilt or pressure to finish things by a self-imposed deadline.
     I've also realized that devoting too much time to a project can take away time from other important things--like TV.  This might sound odd, but TV has always been a passion of mine.  I discuss it online, show TV episodes to groups to discuss different topics, and I've even presented papers about TV at academic conferences.  When I started crafting while watching TV, I felt superior somehow because TV watching was no longer "idle time."  My progress on projects improved, but my enjoyment of TV did not because I was distracted from what I was supposedly watching.  I obviously don't want to swing wildly to the other end and do nothing but watch TV.  However, I have set a daily habit on HabitRPG to make sure I watch one TV episode or movie a day without simultaneously crafting or browsing the Internet.  It is not idle time if I am focused on a good story, recharging my batteries, and sharing time with my husband.

Can I last the month?  After 7 days, I am still going strong.  Granted, 25 hours of that was devoted to a holiday where spending money is forbidden, but I think I am off to a good start.

***
The last few entries I have done have been pretty heavy, so here is a long-overdue project update!

I finished the last part of Mysterious Halloween Town.


What do you think?  Is this a future State Fair entry?

I also completed Part 1 of Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's Autumn Harvest Festival.


I liked the cursive writing combined with variegated thread.  I tried to make the stitches in the order that I would have used to write out the letters by hand, so the color changes would flow in the same way.  I am also trying out this project using the English method of cross-stitching.  That involves making each X one by one instead of completing one set of legs (///////) followed by the other set (\\\\\\\).  I can't decide if it has made a big difference.

There was also the September square for Once Upon a Time--Rapunzel.



Other updates:

  • The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery ladies decided to give me and another woman a prize for entering our projects in state fairs and encouraging others to do so.  I'll find out what it is this month . . .
  • &Stitches e-zine is holding a contest, Old Stitches New Tricks.  The goal is to take something old (vintage pattern, materials, historical stitching technique), and find a way to update it to a new purpose.  I've started a project that I've been wanting to do for a while and would be perfect for it.  Hopefully I can get it done by the November 17 deadline.  It's not complicated, but it has a lot of personal meaning for me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Too Much of a Good Thing

Sorry for the long absence.  Part of the reason was because of a bunch of doctors appointments.  A few weeks ago, I had a medical procedure and was under doctor's orders to spend 24 hours recovering at home.  No work, no responsibilities, nothing.  The post-care instructions warned that I shouldn't even "make important decisions or sign anything."  Naturally, I was overjoyed that I had 24 hours in which nothing could separate me from knitting and embroidery except some drowsiness in the beginning.  The next day, I spent several hours crafting to my heart's content.  I made so much progress on my "in-between" project, which I have been working on in between releases of the Once Upon a Time squares and Mysterious Halloween Town clues.  I ended the day happy that I made so much progress.

The day after, I got on the bus to work and brought my knitting bag.  I've been dabbling with knitting on the bus so that I have more time at home to embroider.  I took out the scarf I am making for the public library's craft bazaar and started knitting a row.

OH CRAP.

Pain shot through my back, neck, and upper arm.  I was having a muscle spasm again, one that made it painful for me to ride the bus.  I ended up not getting any work done that day because the pain was so debilitating.  The pain lasted for several days.  So much for progress.

It was entirely my fault.  That's what happens when I sit and craft for long periods of time without breaks to stretch or stand.  I haven't found a way to fix the ergonomics of how I sit to avoid it, but I should still remember to take a break about every 20 minutes.

During this time, I had to fight the urge to pick up a project.  My annoyance and anger at not being able to do my hobbies was almost as bad as the muscle pain itself.  I just want to knit a scarf--is that too much to ask?  This was one of those times when I feel like working on craft projects crossed over from pleasant hobby to obsession.  I threw myself into it so thoroughly that it actually resulted in bad physical consequences (other than the occasional pricked finger.)

I had an epiphany related to this over the summer.  While I have a lot to be thankful for, there are also areas of my life that are disappointing.  My progress has stalled.  There are times when I put in so much work, only to receive no positive results.

When I learned embroidery, it felt like a beacon of hope in the midst of all that disappointment.  I realized that it is the only area of my life where I have complete control.  I decide the materials that go into it, and what the final outcome will be.  The progression of my skills is obvious, and gives me pride in my improvement.  When I complete a project, I feel a sense of satisfaction that is not reliant on having other people approve my work.  And yet, people love my work!  Through this new interest, I have tapped into a wonderful community of friends that accept me as I am while encouraging me to set new goals.

With so many positives, it is easy to see why I have thrown myself into crafting--why I now consider it to be a part of my identity instead of one hobby among many.  And yet, I also realize that there can be too much of a good thing.  During a frustrating meeting, it's easy for my mind to wander into "I'd rather be stitching" territory, but I can't give in to the urge to withdraw to my craft corner.

I can embroider to relax after a busy day, but not to retreat from a challenging day.
I can embroider for enjoyment, but not to avoid trying new endeavors--even if those endeavors end up not turning out the way I want.
I can embroider to sooth my anxiety, but not to distract myself when I genuinely need to see a therapist.

I need to maintain a sense of balance.  One area that I can start work on is in my crafting supplies.  I realized that part of the reason I feel so much pressure to craft long hours is because I have amassed a large number of patterns.  I felt guilty about the number of patterns I have in my "craft queue" and thought that I needed to work as much as I could in order to get through them all.

Next week, I will talk about my plan to eliminate this source of pressure--by going on a "supply diet."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Torah Mantle (Part 2)

It was a long journey, but this weekend I finally completed the Torah mantle.


I worked on the final patch over the weekend during brunch at Home Ec.  As I worked the final appliqué stitches, I actually felt myself getting choked up--because I was nearing the end of my largest and most significant project to date, and because I wished that Auntie was here to see it.

Over the several months I worked on this project, I learned a lot of important lessons that I will carry with me as I continue to hone my skills.

1.  Ingenuity
With its polyester (?) woven fabric and construction, I had to figure out entirely new strategies for stitching compared with what I had done in the past.  My solution was to embroider designs onto cotton fabric patches, then sew the patches onto the fabric.  The result was a design that was easier to stitch while adding more color, which is what my customer wanted.  You can see the individual patches in my Flickr album.  If I am open to new ideas, I can stitch with more unusual materials.

2.  Entrepreneurship
This was my first commission, and I have a much better sense of how I will deal with paid work if I choose to do it again in the future.  I learned to get as many details as I can, and to advocate for myself while also listening to the customer's needs.

During this time, I was reading a thread on "Ravelry" in which knitters and crocheters gave ideas on how to respond if someone says "you could sell those!"  Many people would answer, "I do this as a hobby.  If I sold them, that would be work, and work isn't fun."  That is a real concern when considering whether to turn a hobby into a business. Suddenly, you can't just make anything you want because you need to devote some time to the project that you are selling.  I discovered some tricks that helped me balance my crafting time.

For example, while I was in the final stages of sewing on the patches I did all of my work at Home Ec.  It was easier to sew there because I could lay the cover flat on a table and avoid distractions.  (Note:  I don't consider chai tea and mocha-frosted cookies to be distractions.)  The cover was bulky, so I began keeping it at my day job's office to avoid lugging it back and forth on the bus.  I discovered that when I kept my commission work in a separate physical location from my house, I was much happier and relaxed at home.  If it wasn't in my house, I did not feel the pressure to work on it 24/7.  Lots of artists and crafters rent out studio space in which to work.  That won't be possible for a long time, but I now understand the psychological value of maintaining separate work and home spaces.

3.  Perseverance
There were times when the project felt overwhelming, and I was so close to giving up.  After waiting for the panic to subside, I would come upon an answer that made the job easier.  My customer was depending on me, and believed that I could do a great job.  Sticking to it was worth it, and I feel like now I can accomplish anything!


As I held the finished project, I said a prayer known as the Shechecheyanu.  It is an all-purpose prayer to thank G-d for bringing us to this moment in time, and it seemed appropriate to say on a new work of creation.  May I continue to create beautiful objects and grow as an artist!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gone Bloggin (Part 2)

Check out Part 2 of my guest blogging at &Stitches e-zine, where I reveal how my fair items fared and the lessons I learned this year.

Don't Fear the Fair (Part 2)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Project Round-Up--8/26/2014

With all of the Fair preparations, it has been a while since I posted my progress on other projects.

The August square of the Once Upon a Time Sampler covered "The Musicians of Bremen," a fairy tale about a group of farm animals that saves the day.  Not very many people I've talked to have heard of this one, but I know there was a Muppet special about it.



I never did post a final picture of my polar bear, so here he is.  By now, I have gotten him framed and he is sitting on a shelf in my living room.  (If you would like to learn this shading technique, Nicole has another class starting in September!)



Mysterious Halloween Town now has a haunted house.



At some point, I felt like I needed a change from backstitch and cross-stitch, so I whipped up Dropcloth Sampler of the Month's feather stitch sampler.


And to top it off, I am making progress on the Torah mantle.  After completing this name plate, all I need to do is one more lion before I stitch the patches onto the cover.


You must be wondering how I find the time to do all of this.  I've been stitching for at least 3 hours a day, barring some other event.  Most of this is just cutting into time that I would have spent noodling around the internet, or watching TV.  (Of course, I still watch TV, but now it's productive!  The Simpsons marathon has been an awesome time to catch up on projects.)  I think it's really helped my peace of mind to keep my hands busy, and the satisfaction of completing a project lifts my spirit.

I have also been thinking about this Cracked list on ways we sabotage our lives without knowing it.  One of the points the author makes is that your life will be better in the future by way of you magically becoming someone else.  We all have ideas about what we want to do or be in the future.  "In 10 years, I want to have higher-paying job in IT."  "In 5 years, I want to be fluent in French."  And yet, we tend to not spend any time during the day actually working towards these goals.  We just think it will happen, somehow.  If a goal is important to you, start working on it TODAY.  I have a vague idea that I want to get better at embroidery and do something significant with it.  Start a business?  Put my work on display?  Teach classes?  Whatever this goal turns out to be, I know it will require me to keep improving my skills, and I'll move closer towards that goal with every stitch I make today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fair Highlights

I am working on part 2 of "Don't Fear the Fair" for &Stitches e-zine.  In the meantime, here is a photo gallery of what I saw at the fair on Sunday.

Make your kid the cuddliest shark around.
Best in Show--Hand Knitting, Crochet, Tatting
Best in Show--Counted Thread Techniques, Counted Cross-Stitch 
Knitted child's dress with ram in stranded color work 
Wonder Woman sweater! 
Peacock, cross-stitch on linen
I have a fondness for embroidery of plants with their names.
One of those entries that completely changes my ideas on needlepoint.
A Pokemon character, Chester Cheetah, and a happy turtle
This crocheted owl afghan got our attention
I'd love to do something like this with illustrations from antique Haggadahs
The Drop-Cloth Sequel Sampler, made into a bag!
A village made out of machine embroidered lace panels
I don't care what the ribbon says.  This is a winner in my book.
The T-shirt quilts get . . . interesting.  I never knew there were so many bad Christian T-shirts out there.
Sharks were a popular theme this year.  Influenced by Sharknado?
A dollhouse log cabin, complete with crafting studio.  Can I live here?
Pipe cleaners protesting the poor treatment of their brethren. 
The 4-H organizers might want to think more carefully about how they arrange the entries.