Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Correction

In my last post, I said that I had completed 15 projects in 2015.  It turns out that I made a grievous error--this morning, I finished my 16th!

This was a free pattern released by Steotch.  I know the reference from a South Park episode, when Chef's father tells multiple stories about the Loch Ness monster trying to borrow $3.50 from him.  Apparently, this is a meme on Reddit now.  Happy New Year, and don't loan money to cryptids!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Year in Review

It was a big year of changes for me (most of them wonderful).  Through the midst of it all, I managed to have a very productive year.  In fact, I completed twice the number of projects that I did in 2014!

1.  First, I completed my verses for the Torah Stitch by Stitch project.


2.  I embroidered a beautiful Scrub Jay for Studio MME's e-book of patterns.


3.  I couldn't tear myself away from the cuteness of Fibery Friends.


4.  This adorable Grumpy Cat went to a very happy owner.


5.  My in-laws were touched to receive a reminder of their travels in Pretty Little Sydney.


6.  I gave Christmas Celebration to my friend Julia.


7.  I gave Christmas on Gingerbread Lane to my friend Cassie.


8.  I made Terry's Poem for my mom's friend to remember her late husband's promise to her.


9.  I made Golden Girls to thank Laura for being a friend to my mom when she needed one most.


10.  Steotchalong 2015 will make my husband the envy of everyone in his office.


11.  My brother's family loved the cute creepiness of Halloween Spooky Sampler.


12.  My husband would also take Mom with him to work if it weren't for some rules about office decorum.


13.  My friend Angela loved Cherry Blossom Festival Sampler as a reminder of sushi-related fun times.


14.  My Festival of Lights got a little brighter with the Chanukah Stamp.


15.  The year isn't officially over until I finish the yearly sampler from Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery.  With the end of Story Time Sampler, I am ready for 2016.


I finished 7 Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery projects, 4 cross-stitch projects from other designers, and 4 embroidery projects (three of them original designs).  At this rate, I completed an average of 1.25 projects per month.  I think my WIP challenge really helped me be more productive.  Creating a smaller list of projects to work on helped give me enough variety not to feel stuck, but limited the focus of my work enough to get more done on each one.  I'll keep that in mind for next year.  Can I top 15 projects?  Let's find out!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Closing the Book

"What's to-day, my fine fellow?" said Scrooge.
"To-day?" replied the boy. "Why, it's the day Jorie completed the Story Time Sampler."
December 2015--A Christmas Carol

This baby has an appointment with the framer on Thursday.  I mean that literally.  My MIL is taking me to her favorite framer, one that requires appointments.
This is the first yearly Pumpkin sampler to have a "deleted scene."  They sent out a bonus frame of The Great Gatsby.  I would like to stitch it up as a gift to someone, but I've never met someone who actually admitted to liking it.
Happy Holidays, and bring on 2016!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Happy Chanukah!

Chanukah started on Sunday night.  My family ushered in the holiday with a festive dinner of chicken schnitzel, kasha varniskhes, and latkes fried in schmaltz.  I think it might take my body a couple of weeks to recover from that.

I knew I was going to have a happy holiday when the Pumpkins released a small pattern for the occasion.  It features an adorable kawaii dreidel spinning among sparkles.  The corners include the hebrew letters Nun, Gimel, Hey, and Shin.  These letters are on the sides of the dreidel and are part of the game that children play with it.  They also stand for the words "Neys gadol hayah sham"--"A great miracle happened there."  I am really impressed that the (I assume) non-Jewish pumpkins designed the letters so well.  Hebrew letters can turn out VERY badly if they are not done just right.  Check out Bad Hebrew Tattoos if you want to see some horror stories.


I got the pattern done just in time for it to decorate the house.  


Have a happy and healthy holiday season!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bon Voyage!

Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere--but my stitching will be!  The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery has just announced their theme for the 2016 sampler, and it is Pumpkin Passport.  Every month will feature an adorably rendered version of a world landmark.  I'll admit that I am worried that it will be too similar to Satsuma Street Design's Pretty Little City patterns, but it will still be fun to work on.  


It will also be a nice way to remember all the trips I've been on.  I've been to 17 different countries!  My last trip abroad was for our honeymoon in Venice and Jerusalem.  My next one will be to London, which will be free since I am going as a staff member.  I love traveling to different countries, exploring the history, sampling the food, and seeing if I can speak from the phrasebook well enough to fool locals.  I can't decide what my best moment of speaking Hebrew was--telling the bus driver that I was sick and needed to use the bathroom at Masada, or asking a soldier to move his gun so my dad could take a seat on the bus.

Join me as I stitch around the world.  I might be able to share pictures of me in the featured cities (though some of the trips were so long ago that I haven't digitized them yet.)  At this point, I think we all need a reminder that the world is a wonderful place.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

WIP Challenge Update

I've been making great progress on my WIP list.  I get a lot of satisfaction from checking things off of lists.  So far, I have been finishing an average of over one project a month.

First, here is the final result of my Steotchalong 2015 project.


This one is going on my husband's work desk.  It is definitely the most complex cross-stitch project I have made so far, and I am really happy with the results.  You can see pictures of my progress, along with pictures from other people, in this video that the Steotch designers made as a tribute.


Just in time for Halloween, I finished Frosted Pumpkin's Halloween Spooky Sampler.


This is the Halloween equivalent of the Christmas Celebration Sampler I made a few months ago.  I sent this to my sister-in-law and nephew because they love seasonal items.

I just finished this alphabet sampler for my friend Angela, who is a sushi aficionado.  I keep kosher, so this is the only way I can get involved with shrimp tempura.


We are winding down on the Story Time Sampler.  October was Anne of Green Gables.

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

The Pumpkins said they will be releasing details about their 2016 sampler in mid-November.  I am now counting down the days until "mid."  They put out a survey asking for opinions on what theme people wanted.  Some of the options were Weather, Cities of the World, Historical Women, and Fairy Tales 2.  I voted for Historical Women, because I need a kawaii Emma Goldman in my life.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mother's Day

I have been a big fan of animated sitcoms ever since I started watching The Simpsons . . . when it first started in 1989 . . . and I was five years old.

I love them for their sharp humor, colorful designs, and the way they can covertly tackle topics that live action shows can't.  One of my favorite shows is Futurama, about a pizza delivery boy who gets cryogenically frozen on the eve of Y2K and wakes up in the year 3000.  I started watching it in high school and stuck with it through two cancellations and four direct-to-DVD movies.  Indeed, Futurama is responsible for my marriage.  I met my husband at an event for Jewish grad students.  Futurama is his favorite show of all time, and he was instantly smitten with me for my ability to quote the show verbatim.  For our first Halloween together, we went as Fry and Leela, the show's main romantic couple.

But it is almost Halloween, and I am not here to talk with you about romance.  I am going to talk with you about Futurama's villain--Mom.

Mom is the CEO of MomCorp, a large corporation that she uses to amass her fortune and monopolize the world's resources.  One of the businesses she owns is Mom's Friendly Robot Company, which manufactures all the robots in the world.  She can use this to her advantage, inciting a robot revolt with the push of a button that she keeps in her bra.  In interviews, she speaks with in a sweet grandmotherly tone and wears 1890's style clothing.  In private, she wears a skin-tight catsuit and reveals her ugly personality through colorfully vulgar language.  She has three bumbling sons that she berates when they inevitably fail in their tasks.  Sometimes it looks like she will rekindle her on-again, off-again relationship with Professor Farnsworth, but the relationship always ends when Farnsworth remembers how evil she is.

A few weeks ago, &Stitches announced they were doing a "Fictional Villains Stitchalong."  I immediately had an idea--an embroidered portrait of Mom with one of her famously filthy quotes:  "Jam a bastard in it, you crap!"


I'll admit that I briefly considered a line from a deleted scene, "Make that bitch your bitch, you bastard!"  My husband felt that this one was more creative in its use of swears.  When I showed him the finished product, he said, "This is why I love you so much."  Clearly, sharing pop culture is the secret to a successful marriage.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Swap-o-Rama

Recently, I ventured into swaps.

A swap is an organized event where participants are paired up with each other so that partners can send each other objects.  You can find swaps for any interest you have--coins, postcards, books.  If it is a crafting swap, the partners make unique gifts.

At least one website exists to facilitate swaps.  Swap-Bot is celebrating its 10th year.  Users can start swaps and the site takes care of a lot of the administrative tasks, like sending out reminder e-mails.

I first learned about swaps while browsing the more nebulous world of Instagram.  An IG friend posted pictures of things she made and received for swaps.  I asked where she found out about them.  Due to the nature of this social media platform, there is really no central location to find out about swaps.  My IG friend gave me the names of some users that are known for starting swaps on their own, and told me about one that was going to start up soon.  There always swaps going on.  Some are specific to one craft, like sewing or knitting.  Some are very specific to one theme, like Downton Abbey or the Muppets.  I am really jealous of all the Muppets swap participants.

The way a swap works on Instagram is that the organizer posts a link to a sign-up survey (usually on Google Docs).  The survey asks for your name, mailing address, whether you are ok with international shipping, and your preferences.  A few days later, the sign-up time ends and the organizer assigns swap partners.  The partners must make each other a gift by the deadline, usually a few months later.

To insure that participants are making good on their promises, the organizer requires that people occasionally "check in" to confirm they are still participating.  This might involve posting a comment on a certain date, or taking pictures of their works in progress.  Some organizers have larger demands, like posting a Pinterest inspiration board.

By the deadline, participants must ship the gifts to their partners.  At this point, organizers usually require participants to send them tracking numbers.  When you receive your gift, it is good etiquette to post a picture of it to publicly thank your swap partner.  If someone drops out along the way, the organizer will ask someone to volunteer as a "swap angel."  This is a person who makes a gift so that the dropout's partner isn't left empty-handed.

I signed up for the "Positive Vibes" swap.  The organizer touted it as being good for beginners.  It was open to all crafts, and you just had to make something that would give the recipient "positive vibes."  I received a partner in England.  The swap began in June--back when I had unrealistic ideas about how much time and energy I would have to craft as my new job started.  As I adjusted to my new job, I had to think of something to make that would be impressive, but realistic in the time I had. I decided to make her tatted items.  She would be unlikely to get tatting from other people.  She liked goth imagery, so I figured that black, white, and purple lace would be right up her alley.  It was intricate, but small enough not to break the bank on shipping.  I made her a flower bookmark and two blank greeting cards decorated with flower motifs.  I also included some fancy and unusual chocolate items.  She posted a "thank you" and seemed to really like what I sent her.
She made me a small sewing bag with a cute design.  She also included some thread, needles, and other small items.  It is the perfect size for taking my embroidery on the go.



How was my swap experience?  I came up with a list of the following pros and cons:

Pros:
1.  You are making a gift for someone who will appreciate it.
Every crafter has at least one sad experience in which they painstakingly make a gift for a loved one, only for the recipient to give an underwhelmed, "Oh.  A hat.  Gee, uh, thanks.  I guess."  The worst story I read was from a woman on Ravelry, who made a cable-knit hat for her brother-in-law and gave it to him at the family Christmas party.  The next day, she was taking out the trash when she found the hat--wadded up and stuffed in a bush.  These experiences have given rise to the term "knitworthy"--someone who has proven themselves to be deserving of the work of your hands.  Yes, it is inspired by Seinfeld's "spongeworthy."  (Insert any craft in place of knitting.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has even proven herself to be tatworthy.)  I've frequently heard the tip that you should reserve your show-stopping handmade gifts for other crafters because they are the only ones who will appreciate the time and skill it took to make it.  With a craft swap, that is guaranteed.

2.  You can step out of your crafting comfort-zone.
We all have our preferred colors, patterns, and materials.  If you sign up for a swap, the combination of a theme and your partner's preferences mean that you can try something new.

3.  It makes mail fun again.
I love getting fun mail.  Is there any mail more fun than a package just for you?

4.  You build a connection with a far-off person.
Wether you get a partner on the other side of your country or the other side of the world, you get to exchange something with someone you would have never met otherwise.  It makes the world just a little bit smaller and friendlier.

Cons:
1.  Deadlines and requirements are stressful.
There's deadlines for sign-ups, deadlines for check-ins, deadlines for shipping.  I was especially worried about the shipping deadline.  The last date for international shipping was the beginning of a 10-day long stretch of rain, and I went nuts trying to find the post office in a heavy downpour.  I reached a post office, only to discover that it had closed at 4:30pm instead of 5pm.  I went back the next day to ship my package.  The organizer said that we all HAD to post tracking numbers to verify that we had shipped the package.  Well, the clerk explained that the only way to get a tracking number on an international package was to send it registered mail, which would have been an extra $13 and make the package take longer to reach its destination.  Yeah.  That wasn't going to happen.  I just stuck with regular shipping and posted a picture of the postmark from my customs form.  Still, for something called a "Positive Vibes" swap, the whole thing was really stressful.

2.  It's costly, especially for international swaps.
The cost of shipping a package can be a barrier for some people.  However, there are swaps for smaller items like bookmarks and cards that can be accomplished with one or two stamps.

3.  There's a risk of public humiliation.
Yes.  You read that correctly.  Public humiliation.  The swap organizer said that good swap participants have the chance to be part of an invitation-only swap.  If you dropped out or left your partner hanging, she threatened to out you on Instagram and ban you from all of her future swaps.  I read that and thought, "Yes, it is rude when people don't fulfill their end of a swap, but we are all adults here.  Outing someone publicly?  She has to be joking."

She wasn't joking.

She did a post listing all of the people who didn't follow through on the swap.  I didn't realize that Instagram was the middle school cafeteria in a new medium.  For someone who hosted a swap focused on positivity and has Bible quotes in her profile, the organizer came across as very petty.

Will I participate in another swap?  I'll have to think carefully before I do.  Even if I have free time when I sign up, unexpected events could make my life busy.  As a first time participant, I was also very anxious over the swap's requirements.  Still, I'm glad I did it, and my partner and I ended up very happy with what we received.  In the end, that is all that matters.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

WIP It Good

After months of tiptoeing around, I can finally tell you my big news.

I got a new job!

It is my first full-time job after several years of unemployment and under-employment, and it is a job that I have always wanted in my field.  I am so happy to have this opportunity, but it also comes with many adjustments.  I have moved across the country.  I bought a new (used) car--and before that, I was in therapy to get over my phobia of driving that I have had for half my life.  Some days, I hardly recognize myself or what I have become.

All of these changes have had an impact on my crafting hobbies.  The biggest change is that I have MUCH less time to do it.  Obviously, part of that is due to my working more hours.  It is also because of my fluctuating energy levels.  Some days, I come home with enough energy to work on a project.  Other days, I come home and my only goal is to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime.  I didn't realize what a big adjustment this would be.

My new town also means that I have to work to find my crafting camaraderie.  Home Ec Workshop in my old town was a special place that embraced a variety of crafts.  I could bring knitting, embroidery, cross-stitch, or tatting and know that I'd be welcome to work there.  In my new town, there really isn't any store like that.  (And certainly none with delicious Breakfast Boats.)  Most stores and groups focus on one specific craft.  There's a knitting store with drop-in time, but I doubt I can bring non-knitting projects.  I found a tatting group of real, flesh-and-blood tatters.  They are very nice and welcoming, and I am looking forward to learning things from them that I will not get from a book.  Finding outlets for embroidery and cross-stitch is much trickier.  There are almost no stores in the area for supplies, and I couldn't find any pre-existing groups.  I actually started my own on Meetup.com, which I will talk more about in a future post.  The friends I find may effect which crafts I end up focusing on.

All of this means that the list of patterns and WIPs (Works In Progress) that I have has gone from improbable to impossible.  With my new schedule, I just can't have as many projects going at once as I used to if I hope to complete anything.

That is why I made a New Year's Resolution.  You might be wondering why I am making such a resolution four months early.  Between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and most of my jobs aligning with the school calendar, it always felt more natural for me to make New Years resolutions in the autumn.  According to this article, non-Jews can also stand to benefit from setting goals at this time.

My resolution is the following:
  1. Make a comprehensive list of WIPs I have in each of the crafts I do.  For the purpose of this list, I included both projects I have started and projects for which I have bought supplies.  I also included time-sensitive projects that I will need to start in the next few weeks (like blankets for Babies In Progress).  I am in a temporary living situation, so I am leaving off projects for which I do not have immediate access.
  2. Starting on Rosh Hashanah, I will not start a new project until all of the WIPs I have in that craft are completed.
I'm not sure what will happen when I have completed this list.  Should I make a new list?  I see this mainly as a way to reduce the amount of projects I have going simultaneously as I transition into my new life.  By the time I have completed my goal, I will hopefully be used to my new situation, and have a better perspective on my crafting needs for the future.

And now some pictures from a WIP that is winding down.  The Story Time Sampler frame for September was Black Beauty (AKA, Tina Belcher's favorite frame.)


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back in St. Olaf

I have so many projects that need to be completed (more on that in my next post).  Maybe I felt the need for a short project to get me through a long one, like a cup of sherbet used as a palate cleanser in the middle of a multi-course meal.  Maybe it's because I've been watching The Golden Girls much more than I used to.  (It's the only show that seems guaranteed to be on 24 hours a day on at least one channel.)  I used to watch it on Saturday nights with my mom, along with spin-offs Empty Nest and Nurses.  I still remember the night when they did a massive cross-over event centered on a hurricane hitting Miami . . .

Anyway, I finished this piece in a week.


I stitched this on a piece of oatmeal-colored aida cloth that came pre-stretched on a frame.  Michaels is selling them in packs of three.  They seemed like the perfect background for stitching a quick project or gift.  I love the way the finished product looks, but working on it was sometimes tricky.  The biggest issue was that they did not sand down the wood frame enough, and I was close to getting splinters from it.  If I use them again, I will have to get some sandpaper.

The pattern comes from Wee Little Stitches.  Their specialty is patterns of "pixel people" versions of characters from movies and TV shows.  I have a few of their patterns on file that I want to make as gifts for people.

This one is for my parents' friend and neighbor, Laura.  Laura and her husband have been my parents' neighbors for decades--even through several moves!  Their daughters were some of my best friends growing up, and I have so many fond (if nonsensical) memories of our families getting together.

My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year.  Her prognosis was good, but she would still need to go through treatment.  Laura was a big source of help and cheer during this time, which put my mind at ease when I couldn't come in from far away.  I wanted to show Laura my appreciation, and she is a big Golden Girls fan, so this seemed like a natural gift.  It will also last longer than cheesecake . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Project Update--8/25/2015

I am long overdue for a project update.  I am slowly plugging away on the mystery Steotch-along.  In fact, I'm so slow that it is no longer a mystery to me.  And frankly, it shouldn't be a mystery to anyone else after seeing this shot of my stitching after "Week 4."


My husband is already calling this one for his work desk.  Believe it or not, I am almost done with the cross-stitches on this.  Week 5 is completing the cross-stitches, week 6 and 7 are about backstitching for definition, and Week 8 provides a quote for a final touch.  The fractional stitches (as well as all the  endless but slightly differing shades of brown, gray, and peach) are making this one a challenge, but it is fun to see the picture slowly develop into an image with weight and shape to it.

I also completed both July and August frames for Story Time Sampler.  July is "The Lady of Shalott."  This is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson based on a King Arthur legend.  People who are more familiar with the poem were in a heated debate about whether she should be smiling, as the FPS characters usually are.  I decided to give her a more pensive look.

July 2015
August is The Phantom of the Opera.    This is my favorite frame after The Wizard of Oz.  The characters look so adorable, and I like the lush curtains surrounding them.  It brings back fond memories of seeing the musical on Broadway with my dad when I was in high school.

August 2015
Four months left!
FPS also started their latest club pattern, A Very Merry Christmas Town.  I completed Clue #1.  At this rate, I am going to run out of friends to give gifts to!

Clue #1
Things have been busy, but I am getting back into the groove and looking to new crafting adventures.  Find out more in future posts!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Moments of Embroidery Awesome

Yes, I know that I've been posting infrequently.  I don't want to leave my dear readers hanging, but I can't reveal the details yet.

I can tell you that part of what has been occupying my time is that I have been directing a production of Henry V for high school students.  The show went up at the beginning of the month, and my kids were amazing!  It's traditional for the cast to chip in and get a gift for the director.  In this case, my stage manager (and fellow stitcher) gave me a piece of embroidered art!  She stitched the names of all of the cast members on linen next to a bunny.  I believe the bunny is a reference to our favorite group game we would play for energy.  DON'T LOOK IT UP.  It will get in your head and never leave.  Anyway, I nearly cried when she presented it to me in front of the cast.


People are finding so many inventive ways to use embroidery--even animation!  One duo used embroidery to create an animated music video of "Chad Gadya," the song that traditionally closes the Passover seder.



Sure, it's machine embroidery, but I can forgive them because it looks awesome.  You can read more about their process on this blog.

What are you using embroidery for today?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Wind Cries Mary

Sorry for the radio silence in the last couple of weeks!  I have had a lot of exciting developments in my life that I will explain later.  (I will tell you that no, my husband and I are not expecting a bouncing baby stitch.)  These changes have left me with little time to stitch or write, but I am getting back in the swing of things.  In the meantime, my mom sent me pictures of Mary's poem, which she had framed and gave to Mary.


Mary loved it so much that she hugged it.  It will be there to remind her of her husband's promise to be there in the breeze.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Project Update 6/23/2015

At the half-way point of 2015, I have already finished more projects than I did during all of 2014!

I finished another Christmas pattern, Frosted Pumpkin's "Christmas on Gingerbread Lane."  This one is for my friend Cassie.


This was really fun to stitch, with lots of bright colors and 5 different colors of hand-dyed thread.  It also has one color from DMC's Light Effects line.  As a metallic thread it is . . . substantially less fun to work with, but I soldiered on.

I also completed the June frame for the Story Time Sampler.  This month's story is Peter Pan.



I was very excited to see this month's selection.  Peter Pan was my favorite story when I was little, and the Disney movie re-release is one of my earliest memories of going to the movies.  The first acting role I ever had was as Wendy in a children's production.  (I am not entirely on board with Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  I watched a bit of it when we were visiting a young cousin, and I think it is weird that they softened up Captain Hook to make him cuter.)

Now that I have completed several larger projects, I am happy to start some new ones.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Kick it Up a Neotch

It is summer, and that means that it's time for the Mystery Steotch-Along!

Steotch is a cross-stitch pattern company that combines old-fashioned pattern styles with pop culture references.  I love the way that they take classic motifs and turn them on their heads, showing that cross-stitch doesn't have to be dainty and proper.  Those with finer sensibilities might find their patterns to be . . . ribald.  (One of these days, I will find the courage to enter "Return to Shady Thicket" in a State Fair.)

At this point, irreverent cross-stitch companies are a dime a dozen on Etsy.  What sets Steotch apart from its imitators is the complexity of the patterns.  Until now, the cross-stitch patterns I have done have all been beginner-friendly.  They used only regular cross-stitches and some backstitch for definition.  Steotch uses what are known as "fractional stitches," which are one-quarter or three-quarters the size of a standard cross-stitch.  This requires inserting the needle in the middle of a square of aida fabric.  It takes some getting used too--you want to gently wiggle the needle between the fabric warps and wefts without piercing them.  These stitches result in images with finer details than ones that use only standard cross-stitches.

This is also my first time using an effect called "tweeding."  Instead of stitching with two strands of one color of floss, you use one strand each of two different colors.  The result is stitches with subtle color variations.

This is third time Steotch has had a mystery stitch-along.  Two years ago, they began with a picture of Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction with the (fictionalized) Bible quote from the movie.  It had the same level of complexity as their standard patterns, so people complained that it wasn't beginner-friendly.  Last year, the pattern was one of Snoopy that you could customize with a number of Snoop Dog quotes.  It was much easier for beginners . . . but people still complained about enduring weeks upon weeks of white stitches against a white background.  This year, the pattern will be more like the one from the first year, but it will be spread out over a longer period of time.

Here is how my project looks after Week #1.


I'm hoping it has something to do with Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation, whose pithy statements have become a favorite in the craft world.  ("Never half-ass two things.  Whole-ass one thing." Words to live by . . .)

For modern cross-stitchers who are looking for a challenge, Steotch provides the answer.  I love the idea of creating a project that not only matches my sense of humor, but also helps me grow as a stitcher.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

For Mary and Terry

My mom met Mary when they were both working at Children's Hospital in Chicago.  They became friends quickly, and soon my parents became equally close with Mary's husband, Terry.  For almost 40 years the two couples would get together socially, talk on the phone, and celebrate milestones.

Last winter, Terry passed away after a long struggle with colon cancer.  Part of his process for saying goodbye was writing a poem for Mary that he wanted included in the program at his funeral.  Afterwards, my mom asked me if I could make embroidered art of the poem.  I'll admit that I was hesitant at first because I had just completed my first commission.  (It's been several months, and I am still getting nightmares about my client calling me on the phone to scream, "I HATE IT!  CHANGE EVERYTHING!")  But even when I wasn't trying to think about it, I began to form ideas in my head of how this piece would look, so I agreed to do it.

These are the last two lines of the poem.  I wrote them out in swirling, flowing lines evocative of the wind imagery in the piece.  The first line is dark blue, with each subsequent line in a lighter shade of blue.  The last word is two strands of white thread with one strand of silver Kreinik.  I'm going to mail this to my mom, who will frame it.  My mom loves the final result and I hope Mary will, too.



Mary,
Develop a sensitivity to soft breezes
because if the dead do come back,
it'll be my words against your cheek.
Always remember, my love,
that walking through life with you
has been an honor and a pleasure.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Project Update--6/2/2015

I've been on quite a productive streak lately.  Here are some projects that I haven't covered in previous posts.

I had never planned on buying Christmas-themed patterns for obvious reasons.  Then last December, the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery ladies gave me their Christmas Celebration Sampler for free.  They wanted to show their appreciation for the way I encouraged people to enter their patterns in state fairs.  The pattern was just so adorable, I couldn't NOT make it.  I decided to make Christmas patterns to give to my friends.  Ironically, right after I bought the Christmas patterns, two of my friends told me that they were studying Judaism with intent to convert.  (I'm drawing the line with Christmas patterns.  I will not make any Jesus ones, even if they are references to Simpsons episodes.)


I made this one for my friend Julia.  It has a lace border made of reindeer, snowflakes, and snowmen.  The pattern shows pictures that represent each letter in Christmas.  Can you guess what they are?

Luckily, I finished this one right in time for a 50% off framing sale at a local art store.  I'm glad I waited for the sale, because I had a LOT of projects to frame.


I also finished the May frame for FPS's Story Time Sampler.  This month was Charlotte's Web.

Some pig.

I just got the pattern for June, and it is one of my favorite children's stories of all time!  What characters do you want to see?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Remember Belgium

This past weekend, my friend Julia and I went to a local historical site, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.  For my readers outside of America, Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the United States.  He began his career as a mining engineer, then organized humanitarian efforts before becoming the Secretary of Commerce.  He served only one term as president before being voted out, and he has had a less-than-stellar reputation due to the Great Depression starting in his first year of office.  However, he was the only president to be born in the state of Iowa, so his museum is a popular destination for elementary school field trips.

You might be wondering why I would devote space on my blog to this attraction, and the answer is because they are preserving a fascinating chapter in needlework history.

During World War I, the country of Belgium was disproportionately affected by German submarine blockades.  They had previously relied on importing food, and they did not have enough land to grow the amount of food necessary to support their population.  Hoover became the chair of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which organized food and monetary donations for Belgium during the war.

I don't know why I thought they had a real ship.  It was a parade float.
A large portion of the food relief came in the form of 50-pound flour sacks.  CRB organizers were concerned that the empty flour sacks could fall into the wrong hands.  There was a risk that people would fill them with inferior flour for reselling.  If the Germans got them, they could use the cotton for manufacturing ammunition.

To reduce these possibilities, organizers carefully kept track of the flour sacks, then sent the empty ones to professional schools where women were learning to sew and embroider as a trade.  Some women embellished the company logos on the bags, while others stitched elaborate messages of thanks to their American benefactors.  These embroidered flour sacks were used to raise money for the relief effort, and Hoover received many as gifts.  Today, the museum has a large collection of these flour sacks.  They have about five on display at any given time, rotating them out every several weeks.









The museum also has a display of Belgian lace.  The CRB worked to preserve this centuries-old industry by creating job opportunities for 20,000 female lace-makers.  Hoover's wife, Lou, used her connections to find buyers for the lace.



Bobbin lace
The exhibit is a reminder of the power that handmade objects held.  For every world-changing event, women were there to comment with their needles and thread.